The Life of an Alternate Part 2

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 2, 2003, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series on the life of an alternate on the PGA Tour. Read Part 1
 
NORTON, Mass. -- When Michael Clark missed the cut at the Deutsche Bank Championship, played Friday through Labor Day Monday, he did so at great personal expense.
 
He was the 14th alternate to make the field, and didnt find out there was a spot available for him until Thursday evening. He forked over $1,500 for a plane ticket and hotel and made the trip from Orlando to the Boston area, leaving behind his wife and two children.
 
With only two hours sleep in reserve, he set out blindly on the monstrous 7,415-yard, par-71 TPC of Boston course Friday morning. He grabbed a local volunteer as his caddie, shot 72, and then shot 74 Saturday to miss the cut by four.
 
In two weeks, Clark will be assured of a spot in the John Deere Classic. Its a tournament he won just three years ago.
 
He was in his sophomore season on the PGA Tour when he defeated Kirk Triplett in a playoff at the TPC at Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. That victory guaranteed him a two-year exemption on tour, and immeasurable security.
 
He finished 56th on the 2000 money list; dropped to 162nd in 01; and was 167th last year.
 
The descention meant he was no longer fully exempt on tour. He was relegated to the Past Champions category.
 
He was an alternate.
 
Each PGA Tour player earns a position on the priority ranking system that is used to select tournament fields.
 
The Past Champions category is position No. 30.
 
That means those who have won tour events over the last two seasons have priority over you. And so do those who finished in the top 125 on the money list the season before. And Q-School qualifiers. And Nationwide Tour graduates. And those with major and minor medical extensions.
 
And if a regular tour field ' which is usally around 156 players in a given week ' can not be finalized with all those players ' and with whomever the tournament might offer invitations ' then officials dig further: To those who finished between 126 and 150 on the previous years money list, and to past winners beyond the top 150.
 
When youre in these latter categories, there are no guarantees. Youre often reduced to the role of an alternate. You have to wait and see. Wait and see if others dont want to play, or cant. Wait and see if somehow, some way you can try and earn a check ' and possibly gain or regain that security blanket.
 
Its very hard to schedule; it makes it hard on the family, Clark said. Some guys have tons of money; we watch our money a little bit. To book four tickets at the last minute is very expensive.
 
So we havent traveled as much as a family together, which makes it tough.
 
There is structure and order within this alternate world. The tour reshuffles a player's priority periodically over of the course of a season.
 
Even those who make it through the Qualifying Tournament and the developmental tour to get their PGA Tour card go through the reshuffling process. Over a period of time you can be near the top of the list; another near the bottom.
 
It doesnt matter what youve done throughout your career. Youre now a number.
 
Just ask David Frost.
 
Frost is a 10-time tour winner. He finished inside the top 100 on the money list from 1985-97. But last year he fell to 126th in earnings, missing the magical number by less than $6,000.
 
You have no position at all. Youre no consideration because you just missed it, Frost said of his status. I thought Id get more invites, because of my time Ive spent out here, tournaments Ive won. But its just amazing how little consideration I actually got.
 
The 43-year-old South African was first alternate at the Deutsche Bank. He easily got in, and managed to collect $25,400 with his tie for 32nd; thus moving him to 139th on this years money list.
 
Frost said he banks on playing roughly 20 tournaments a year without full exempt status. This was his 19th start of the season, and the ninth cut he has made.
 
Theres certainly tournaments that you will definitely get in, because of the whole structure, Frost said. The 126-to-150 (from the previous seasons money list) have their events that they will get into based on the history of the tournament. This one, no one knew, because we havent played here before.
 
Kent Jones, who was 131st in earnings last year, was the fourth alternate to get the call this week. This is his fifth year on tour, and he has never finished inside the top 125.
 
Jones has twice played the waiting game onsite at an event. He tried to get into the Byron Nelson Classic and the Western Open, but was unsuccessful in both attempts.
 
The 36-year-old New Mexican was at home Wednesday morning when the tour phoned to tell him he was eligible to compete.
 
This year the schedule is a little different, he said. Its been a strange year. Some of the tournaments early I thought I would get in and I didnt. A couple of tournaments late, like (The International) and here, I thought I wouldnt have a chance to get in, and Ive gotten in.
 
Jones tied for 13th to move to 138th on the money list.
 
The next month is crucial for those trying to crack the top 125. Many of the games higher-ranked players will be taking time off until the WGC-American Express Championship in early October.
 
Jones said he anticipates playing the next five weeks, and will hope for spots in the Las Vegas Invitational and the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro.
 
Its coming down to the last few events of the year, and these few I know Im going to get in, he said.
 
The only full-field events after Greensboro are the Funai Classic at Walt Disney World and the Chrysler Championship.
 
The last two, I dont think I have a chance, he said.
 
Outside of the John Deere, Clark isnt really sure when and where he will play.
 
After tapping in for bogey on his 36th and final hole at the Deutsche Bank, Clark disappointingly signed his scorecard. But instead of sulking off into the sunset ' and with every reason to do so ' he pulled a red Sharpie from his bag and graciously penned his name to some hats, flags and programs.
 
After putting the marker back in the bag, he thanked his caddie ' the same volunteer ' for the two days' work. He'll have to pay him out of his own pocket seeing as you don't make a dime when you miss the cut.
 
From there it was off to the locker room to call his wife to see whether or not he should head home or stay in the Boston area and take his scheduled flight north of the border.
 
Clark is the third alternate for this weeks Bell Canadian Open; he knows hell most likely get into the field.
 
But, again, nothing is guaranteed.
 
Worst case scenario, fly up Tuesday mid-day some time. I dont know. Well have to wait and see, he said.
 
Waiting and seeing is the life of the unenviable alternate.
 
Read The Life of an Alternate, Part 1

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.