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'Journeyman' is not a bad word

By Phil BlackmarDecember 6, 2017, 7:20 pm

It’s really hard to get to the PGA Tour, and even if you’re lucky enough to earn a ticket to the show, the line of players trying to take that ticket away from you and use it for themselves is seemingly endless.

We evaluate careers on money and wins, but how should the career of a player who didn’t win often or at all but was able to play the Tour for a long time be measured? Should a piece of respect be reserved for the player who competes for 10, 15 or 20 years on Tour?

FIRST YOU HAVE TO GET TO THE TOUR

College

The majority of PGA Tour players have at least some collegiate golf experience. When you combine DI and DII men’s golf, you get around 4,500 players in any given year. If one quarter of those graduate annually, there is an influx of over 1,000 young golfers who could seek a life in professional golf. 

While many may not play, consider last year there were 87 All-Americans between DI and DII men’s golf. Good players are coming out every year. 

Professional Tours

The Web.com Tour is the direct feeder system to the PGA Tour. On average 140 players compete full time during the regular season for 25 Tour cards and another 25 are handed out in the finals series. It’s not easy to get onto the Web; in fact, it’s really hard.

Feeding into the Web.com Tour are the Mackenzie Tour (Canada), PGA Tour Latinoamerica and the PGA Tour-China. The “mini-tours” are still kicking as well. Remember the gut wrenching Q-School for the PGA Tour? Well, that experience has moved to the Web, where in excess of 1,000 players each year try to get onto the tour that is the route to the PGA Tour. 

Other prominent tours around world include the European Tour, the Australasian Tour, the Korean Tour and the Japan Golf Tour. While these tours succeed in their own right, many of the best players from these tours either move to the PGA Tour or share time between their home tour and the U.S.

There are literally thousands of players each year aspiring to a life on the PGA Tour.

NOW THAT YOU GOT THERE, CAN YOU STAY THERE?

PGA Tour Makeup

The PGA Tour is made up of about 130 exempt players each year (top 125 and a few other exceptions), plus the conditionally exempt group which includes the 50 card winners from the Web. About 70 players from this group compete in 15 or more events, trying to steal an exempt spot from the 130. A spot won for one player is a spot lost for another. 

Basically you have to stay in the top two-thirds on Tour each and every year.

Games are much more fragile than most would think. All it takes is a minor injury, the wrong focus on mechanics, a change in an equipment deal, a change in workout regimen which unknowingly alters the swing, a diet, trouble at home or even just a few missed putts at the wrong time and an exemption can be lost. Tenure on the Tour is not assured and players are lined up trying to take it away from you. Lose your nerve at the wrong time, don’t take advantage of the good week and all of a sudden you’re gone, fighting your way back. 

It’s hard to get to the Tour, but it’s also hard to stay on the Tour:

Years playing Tour Career starts (assuming 25/year*)
10 250
15 375
20 500

*Exempt players averaging 25 PGA Tour starts per year.

As you can see, it takes a while to amass a lot of starts. 

In all, 324 players have played 250 or more Tour events since 1980. Since it takes so long to accumulate career starts, players who began their career in 2008 or later likely have not made this threshold, yet.

Let’s take a look at some numbers regarding 1980-2008.

How many players were able to get their card during this 28-year period?

The average number of rookies on Tour each year is about 22-23. The remainder of the 70 conditionally exempt players trying to get one of the exempt spots have had their card before. 

In an effort to be conservative, I will use 175 players with a card in 1980 and 22 rookies per year since. This means about 791 or roughly 800 players have had their card since 1980.

That’s 800 out of the thousands and thousands to have tried over that 28 year period to get a PGA tour card. This alone is an accomplishment; they’ve been to the show.

With respect to the 800 card holders, consider the following graph: 1980 to the present, ranked by career starts:

Number of career starts Number of players (N) Percentage (N/800)*
250 324 41%
300 269 34%
400 161 20%
500 86 11%
600 35 4%
700 8 1%
800 1 0.1%

*Represents the percentage of the 800 card-bearing players with this many career starts or more.

# Note: This does not include other major tour starts.                                                                

## Note: Several of the older players competed prior to 1980; these starts are not included

Click here if you want to see the full list of players, Nos. 1-324, who have made 250 career starts during this 1980-2008 period.

I'm proud to be Journeyman No. 123.

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TT postscript: Tiger (E) survives difficult day

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 6:40 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Here are some observations after watching Tiger Woods’ even-par 70 in the first round of the Honda Classic:

• Whew, that was tough. Like, by far the most difficult conditions Woods has faced this year. The wind blew about 20 mph all day, from different directions, and that affected every part of the game, especially putting.

• And though the stats aren’t necessarily pretty – half the fairways hit, just 10 greens – this was BY FAR his best ball-striking round of the new year. He even said so himself. When he walked off the course, he was just four off the lead.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


• Woods had only one bad hole Thursday. It came on the par-5 third hole, his 12th of the day. He blew his driver into the right bunker. He had to lay way back, to clear the lip of the bunker. And then he tugged his third shot just barely in the greenside trap. And then his bunker shot didn’t get onto the green. Then he chipped on and missed a 4-footer. A truly ugly double bogey.

• The driver is still a concern – he found the fairway only once in five attempts. But only one of those misses was way off-line. That came on the 12th, when he double-crossed one way left.

• Though the driver is uncooperative, he has showed a lot of improvement with his 3-wood. The four times he used it, he controlled the ball flight beautifully and hit it 300-plus. His 2-iron is making a comeback, too, in a big way.



• After this round, he should have a little wiggle room Friday to make the cut, barring a blowup round. It’s playing tough, and the 36-hole cut should be over par. Tiger needs four rounds of competitive reps. If he plays like this Friday, he’ll get them. 

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 5:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.


Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters


Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET


Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.


Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.


Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 


Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13).