The Order of Opportunity Part 2
As the reigning Q-School medalist, Mathias Gronberg entered the 2004 PGA Tour season as the top dog inside Category 25 on the tours All-Exempt Priority Ranking.
Hes now, in a sense, feeding off of table scraps.
You better make some money on the West Coast if you want to get into tournaments (on the Southern Swing). Youre going to get passed if you dont, said Andy Pazder, director of administration/communication for the PGA Tour.
Thats because of the tours reshuffling process.
Five times a year, the tour reshuffles players inside of Category 25 ' which consists of the most recent Nationwide Tour and Qualifying Tournament graduates (not including the leading money winner and any other three-time winners on the previous years Nationwide Tour, who go into Category 23) ' based on their year-to-date earnings.
Our eligibility is based on current competition, and the reshuffling process is the best indicator of that, Pazder said.
The first of those five reshuffles takes effect at this weeks Ford Championship. A second is done the Monday of the Masters; the third the Monday of the U.S. Open; the fourth the Monday of the PGA Championship; the fifth the Monday of the Southern Farm Bureau Classic.
The reshuffling process is as simple as it is critical.
The tour uses its All-Exempt Priority Ranking to determine the fields in their open tournaments ' which are most non-major, non-World Golf Championship events.
They go right down that list until the field reaches capacity ' ranging from 132 to 180 players. Those who dont make it become alternates.
Many times, a fields final line is drawn inside of Category 25 (of 34 categories). Therefore, those ranked higher in that category are more likely to gain entry into an event.
The list (of players inside Category 25) starts with Q-School No.1, then Nationwide No. 2, then Q-School No. 2, then Nationwide No. 3, and so on until they run out of Nationwide Tour graduates. Then it goes straight down to how players finished at Q-School, explained Pazder.
Following the conclusion of last weeks events ' the WGC-Accenture Match Play and the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, the tour reshuffled those 58 players.
And Gronberg, who earned just under $60,000 in five events played on the West Coast Swing, went from No. 1 to No. 13. It's not a monumental plummet, but it could be the difference -- particularly if he continues to slide -- in getting into a tournament here and there.
Bo Van Pelt is the new No. 1.
Van Pelt has played in six tournaments thus far this season. Hes made five cuts, has three top-25 finishes, and tied for fourth in the Buick Invitational.
In an effort to bolster his position inside of Category 25, he successfully Monday qualified for the FBR Open.
I really wanted to get in and play well this week, he said at the time. That would definitely give me a leg up on the reshuffle.
And he was right.
Van Pelt, the only Category 25 player to make the field, tied for 15th in Phoenix and earned more than $78,000.
In all, Van Pelt, in his third full season on tour, has pocketed $380,209. That ranks him 28th on the money list, and first in his Category.
Mark Hensby, who tied for seventh at Pebble Beach and tied for third last week in Tucson, is right on his heels. He is 33rd on the money list with $349,647.
Among the significant positive reshuffles: Ted Purdy climbed from 27th to third; Craig Bowden from 35th to seventh; Brian Bateman from 24th to eighth; Brian Gay from 50th to 17th; 19-year-old Kevin Na went from 42nd to 19th; Roger Tambellini (41 to 21) and Russ Cochran (36 to 14) also made progress, as did Dan Olsen (28 to 10).
Danny Briggs made the largest leap forward, rocketing 36 spots. He made the most of his limited opportunities. Due to his low starting point of 52 he has only played in three events; however, he has made all three cuts, and tied for 20th in Tucson.
He's now 16th, and will have a much easier time finding work.
On the flip side, Chris Couch tumbled the furthest. Thanks to making but one cut in five starts, he has dropped from fifth to 46th.
Wes Short, who is battling injury and has two withdrawals to go along with one missed cut this season, fell from 18th to 51st; Tjaart Van der Walt from 22nd to 41st; John Maginnes was a mirror image of Cochran, going from 14th to 36th; Jason Dufner from 17th to 35th; Kris Cox from 20th to 48th; Andre Stoltz from 23rd to 40th; Guy Boros from 25th to 49th; Kevin Muncrief from 32nd to 52nd.
To find the signifcance in all this, look at Ford Championship.
This is the first week that the reshuffle takes affect.
That means players like Gay, Briggs and Na, all three of whom would have had no chance of getting into the field based on their categorical positions at the start of the year, are now in the $5 million Doral field.
Meanwhile, players like Couch, Cox and Stoltz, all three of whom easily would have made the field were it not for the reshuffle, now have no chance of playing this week -- and will have difficulty finding playing time as the tour winds through Florida.
Originally, the final line on the Ford field list was drawn right in front of Hunter Mahan's name. Mahan started the year 30th inside Category 25. But after the reshuffle, he moved to 20th, and now has a tee time on the Blue Monster; whereas D.J. Brigman, who would have been in the field due to his starting 29th position is now the first alternate after dropping ever-so-slightly to 31st.
A slide of just two spots may cost him his opportunity to compete for the $900,000 first-place prize.
One player who doesnt have to concern himself with this process is Zach Johnson.
By virtue of his topping the 2003 Nationwide Tour money list, he was positioned inside of Category 23. This assures him of being selected for a field before any of his fellow Nationwide Tour or Q-School graduates.
Thats not to say he can play anywhere he pleases.
Johnson spent Wednesday of the FBR Open practicing and Thursday eagerly waiting, just hoping to make the 128-man field.
But not enough people withdrew for him to get the call. He never made it off the Alternate list.
There are some restrictions, Johnson said of his status. Some tournaments have limited fields, and the Invitationals are different.
But I feel pretty fortunate not to have to get into that reshuffle, he added. I was in the reshuffle on the Nationwide Tour in 2000; it wasnt any fun. If you get off to a good start then youre fine.
Johnson has made four cuts in five starts this season, netting just over $90,000 Were he inside of Category 25, he would have been reshuffled from first to seventh.
Thats one of the perks of being The Man on the Nationwide Tour: you dont have to go through the reshuffling process. A slow start is not cause for alarm. Johnson can ease into his schedule much more so than players like Van Pelt.
Theres no question that if you can make some money early you can plan out your schedule a little more than if you dont, Van Pelt said. Its not an end-all, but it definitely helps to take some pressure off.
It also lets you take some weeks off when you get tired. If you dont play well on the West Coast, then you feel like you have to play whenever you can get in. And thats not necessarily the best recipe for success.
Having already put himself in great position to retain his tour card for next season, Van Pelt took off last week ' when he easily would have made the diluted Tucson Open field ' in order to rest and prepare for the upcoming Southern Swing.
There are only five more events before the next reshuffle.
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.
Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.
“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.
In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.
Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday
SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.
“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”
So was Woods.
DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.
“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”
Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.
“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.
“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”
Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.
“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.
“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”
Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time.
With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey
SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.
The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.
Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.
It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.
“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”
Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.
According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.
“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”
Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.
And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.
As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.
He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.
“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.
Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.
“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”
Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.
Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.
“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.
Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.