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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?



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 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 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.


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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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.