Golf Course Review - Bay Hill Club Lodge

By Phil SokolFebruary 6, 2008, 5:00 pm
HISTORY: What usually happens when a group of businessmen want to build a private spot to vacation during the winter months is it develops into a world-class venue. This is exactly the case in regards to Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
 
Bay Hill Bay Hill has a wonderful tournament history dating back to 1979, when the PGA Tour moved its Florida Citrus Open to the club. Bob Byman captured the first event staged at Bay Hill, defeating John Schroeder in a playoff. Back in 1960, several gentlemen from Nashville, Tennessee, hired Dick Wilson and Joe Lee to craft a special retreat where they could enjoy their favorite hobby. Wilson designed many courses in Florida, including Doral's Blue Monster and Pine Tree and several famous courses around the United States, namely Laurel Valley in Pennsylvania, NCR in Ohio and La Costa Resort in California. Lee, known for many Sunshine State courses in his own right, such as Magnolia, Palm and Lake Buena Vista courses in Disney World, worked with Wilson on many projects, including La Costa and Cog Hill in Illinois. The duo created a remarkable course that gently rolls across 270 acres along the shores of the Butler Chain of Lakes.
 
After completion, the owners, in an effort to promote the club, invited Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Don Cherry and Dave Ragan to play in an exhibition in 1965. Mr. Palmer, who shot 66 to beat Nicklaus, fell in love with the course and the rest, as they say, is history.
 
Mr. Palmer, along with several partners assumed control of the club in 1970 and then just six years later, Mr. Palmer purchased the club outright and became the club owner, president and green committee chairman. Over the years, Mr. Palmer, along with the recently-deceased Ed Seay have tinkered with the design of the course in an effort to make Bay Hill one of the most beautiful and demanding layouts in golf.
 
The list of champions at this event reads like a who's who of Hall-of-Famers past, present and future. From Tom Kite (1982, '89), Payne Stewart (1987) and Ben Crenshaw (1983) to Paul Azinger (1988), Phil Mickelson (1997), Ernie Els (1998), Vijay Singh (2007) and Tiger Woods (2000-03).
 
Although never a winner of this event, Greg Norman enjoyed success at Bay Hill, posting a pair of runner-up finishes, making the cut in his first 12 appearances and recording six top-10s and nine top-15s. Norman was a tad snake-bitten at Bay Hill, losing in a playoff in 1983 to little-known Mike Nicolette on the first extra hole, as Nicolette won for the first and only time, and then finishing one shot back of Robert Gamez, who holed out for eagle on the final hole from the fairway. Norman, along with Andy Bean, owns the course record of 62.
 
When Payne Stewart captured the 1987 event, he posted a record total of 264 which still stands today. Stewart, who defeated David Frost by three shots, donated his entire winner's check to a local hospital in memory of his father.
Following the 1989 event, Mr. Palmer and his design team reworked the entire course, including all 18 greens and bunkers, while lengthening the course almost 100 yards, changing the par to 72.
 
The USGA made its only stop at Bay Hill in 1991 for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, where who else but Tiger Woods captured the first of his three consecutive Junior Amateur titles. Woods, the medalist with a two-day total of 140, defeated Brad Zwetschke on the 19th hole.
 
Fred Couples' eighth career title came in 1992, as he cruised to a whopping nine-stroke victory over Gene Sauers. Couples opened with rounds of 67-69-63 and closed with a round of 70 for a 269 total, second lowest in event history. Loren Roberts became the first back-to-back champion of this event when he titled in 1994-95. During those two tournaments, Roberts blistered the Bay Hill course with eight sub-par rounds, five rounds in the 60s and a total of 29-under-par.
 
Phil Mickelson's 10th career victory came in 1997, as he closed with a sizzling seven-under-par 65 for a three-shot win over Stuart Appleby. After missing the cut the first two times he played the tournament and failing to break par in his first five rounds at Bay Hill, Mickelson responded with rounds of 65-70-65 to finish at 16-under. Lefty has recorded three top-five finishes in his last five appearances.
No player over the years, however, has dominated this event like Woods. The No. 1 player in the world claimed four consecutive wins (2000-03) and has never missed the cut at this event as a professional. When he captured the 2003 tournament, he snapped Couples' winning mark by posting an 11-shot victory. During that four-year streak, Woods was a combined 65-under par with 12 rounds in the 60s and 15-of-16 rounds under par.
 
For the 2007 tournament, Mr. Palmer changed the course to a par of 70 at 7,137 yards. Vijay Singh, at 44 years old, won for the 31st time in his Hall of Fame career, defeating Rocco Mediate by two shots. Singh, who has never missed a cut at this event in 15 starts, has six top-10 finishes. Trailing by three heading into the final round, Singh made seven birdies and despite back-to- back bogeys on 16 and 17, was able to shoot his second straight 67 for the win. 'It means a lot,' said Singh after the win. 'This was my first ever tournament in America. I love this place.'
 
REVIEW: Most courses start you off with a gentile par five or routine par four, not Bay Hill. The first hole is a robust 441-yard dogleg left gem that features a tight landing area and several fairway bunkers down the right side. To make matters worse, thick rough lines both sides of the fairway, not to mention out of bounds down the left. After a successful tee ball, a medium-to- long iron remains to a slightly uphill and shallow green, just 22 paces deep. Two traps front and two rear will see plenty of action and can make an up-and-down virtually impossible.
 
There is not let up when you reach the second tee, a lengthy par three that can be stretched to 238 yards from the Palmer tees. Another miniscule green, this putting surface slopes hard from right to left and is surrounded by a trio of bunkers. The front pot bunker is quite diabolical, so avoid it at all costs. During the 2007 tournament, Dean Wilson aced this hole during the first round.
 
Bay Hill
The third is a sharp dogleg left that boomerangs around a lake.
One of just three par fours under 400 yards, the third is a sharp dogleg left that boomerangs around a lake. Three-metal off the tee is the prudent play, avoiding water left and a pair of trench-like bunkers down the right. Just a medium-to-short iron should remain to a very long and narrow putting surface. There is sand short and left, right and deep, not to mention the water guarding this undulating green. For we mere mortals, the fourth hole plays as a nice, uphill par five, but for the big boys during the Arnold Palmer Invitational, it's a solid 460-yard par four. With a creek meandering up the entire right side, the play is to favor the left, although a pair of bunkers, 50 yards in length, occupy the area. Reachable in two with a big second shot, the player must slip past the bunkers guarding the entrance to the promised land. The smart play would be to layup short of the sand and pitch it close for birdie. The green is a small target and well guarded by bunkers.
 
The fifth is a routine par four, just 384 yards in length. Bending slightly to the left, the key is the tee shot, which must dissect the quartet of fairway bunkers around the 130-yard mark. Just a short iron remains to a receptive green which features a crown in the center. Once again, sand plays a predominant role around the putting surface.
 
With today's technology, the par-five sixth is reachable in two, but the risk outweighs the reward. Wrapped around the lake, a draw aimed at the center of the three fairway bunkers would be the smart start. The landing area is generous, but the water is just a few paces away. A long iron or fairway metal layup will leave a short pitch to the longest green on the course, a whopping 50 yards in depth. Water left and two bunkers right will keep you honest, but if you play sensible, birdies can be had on the No. 1 handicap hole on the course.
 
The most straight-forward hole on the course, the seventh is also the shortest at 197 yards. Six bunkers surround the putting surface, which slopes from back to front. With a calm breeze, this hole can provide plenty of scoring opportunities.
 
One of my favorite holes on the course, the eighth is a tough dogleg right par four that reaches 459 yards in length. Not only does the drive have to be straight and true, it needs to be long enough to get past the trees down the right avoiding a blocked approach to the green. From the fairway, a medium-to-long iron remains to an elevated putting surface fronted by water. The green itself is just 23 paces deep, but quite wide with bunkers in the rear and right. The slope runs hard from back to front and is very slick. Anything short will most certainly run back into the drink, so club wisely.
 
As you return towards the clubhouse, your work is hardly complete. At the difficult ninth, your tee shot must reach the fairway for you to have any shot at getting on in regulation. A long trap and out-of-bounds guard the left side and a pair of bunkers and trees protect the right. As the hole doglegs to the left, a long iron or fairway metal will be needed to reach the putting surface. Three bunkers surround the green, which is one of the longest on the course. The final hole on the Challenger nine also happens to be the longest par four on the course.
 
The Champion nine opens with a forgiving, but clever, dogleg-right par four. This short par four is quite deceiving, as the fairway, which is fairly wide, is tightened by the trees and a 35-yard long bunker down the right, as well as a duo of traps down the left. Take three-metal off the tee and set up a longer, but easier, approach from the fairway. Make sure you add a little extra to your second, as the green is slightly elevated and guarded by three bunkers.
 
Similar to the third, the 11th is another dogleg-left par four that sweeps around a lake towards the green. Longer than its predecessor, this hole features a more forgiving fairway with a pair of bunkers down the right side, with the water coming into play at the 168-yard marker. A mid-to-short iron approach needs to be spot on, as the green is long and narrow with sand short and right. The putting surface plays a half club longer with its elevated stature. If you think left is bad, long is out-of-bounds.
 
The real test of the inward nine begins AT the 12th, the longest hole on the course. At 580 yards, this straightaway par five is rarely reached in two, as it plays uphill from tee to green. The danger here really is in the narrow fairway, which is guarded by thick rough. Sand comes to the forefront with your layup at the 130-yard mark down the right and two massive traps on either side of the landing area at 65 yards in. The putting surface is fairly large with a handful of bunkers surrounding the promised land. A real birdie chance.
 
Another sensational hole, the 13th is the shortest par four on the course at just 364 yards. Three-metal or less is the play off the tee, as the pond fronting the green is reachable with the big stick. Be wary of the bunkers guarding both sides of the fairway, as they can produce a very scary approach. Just a wedge should remain to attack this hole, however the green is just 26 paces deep and it slopes from back to front. A precise shot will be rewarded, but too much spin will end up in a rocky grave. By the way, the bunkers in the rear are no bargain either.
 
Bay Hill
Two ribbon-shaped traps guard the entrance to the green on the 14th.
The first par three on the back side, the 14th is rated as the easiest on the course. Hardly. At 206 yards and playing uphill and into the wind, this hole requires pinpoint accuracy off the tee. Two ribbon-shaped traps guard the entrance to the green, which is just 30 paces in length. You'll really have to work the ball with a back-right pin, especially when you're trying to make par.
 
The final four holes are as good as they get in Florida. For starters, the 15th is a sharp, dogleg right that necessitates the player cutting the corner. That means hitting 250 yards over the two bunkers, trees and homes to leave the shortest approach in. Bailing out left will leave a very long second shot to a small and well-guarded green. Just 31 paces in depth, the putting surface, which has five traps surrounding it, has four distinct sections, making a two-putt very difficult.
 
Converted to a par four for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the 16th for us mortals is a solid, 517-yard par five reachable in two shots with a couple of conditions.
First, the tee shot is semi-blind from the tips and must be threaded between the numerous fairway bunkers and the trees. The longer, but better angle to get home is the left side. However, the water fronting the green must be avoided, otherwise your chance at birdie is gone and the possibility of double-bogey or worse is conceivable. Sand short-right and deep protects one of the must undulating greens on the course. A front pin could be the most difficult, as it brings the slope of the green into play and any ball not landing on top will certainly spin back towards the water. No one said it was going to be easy. During the 2007 tournament, this hole produced a stroke average of 4.411, 21st most difficult on the PGA Tour.
 
The par threes at Bay Hill are rated the four easiest holes on the course, but let me tell you first hand, as a player, this is not the case. A back-right flag on the 17th can stretch this one-shotter to 230 yards from the tips, over water and over sand. A high, well-struck long-iron or fairway-metal will be needed to negotiate all the trouble that this hole dishes out. Don't forget the water hazard that wraps around the right and rear portion of the green, as any low shot into this miniscule putting surface will end up wet.
 
How difficult is the closing hole at Bay Hill? During the 2006 tournament, it ranked as the toughest hole of the event with a 4.319 average. It's best not to know that going in, otherwise you'll be shaking in your shoes.
Bay Hill
The 18th is a great par four that demands length and accuracy off the tee.
One of the most exciting finishing holes in golf, the 18th is a great par four that demands length and accuracy off the tee. No fairway bunkers to contend with, just thick rough and out of bounds left. A medium-to-long iron will remain to a boomerang-shaped putting surface that wraps around a lake and rock wall. Three deep bunkers cover the rear of a green that slopes hard from back to front. It's one of the most thrilling finishing holes on the PGA Tour -- just ask Robert Gamez, who sank his 7seven-iron in 1990 from 176 yards into the hole for eagle to defeat Greg Norman by a shot.
 
FINAL WORD: Just a stone's throw from downtown Orlando and Disney World, Bay Hill Club & Lodge is certainly worth the price of admission.
The Lodge features 70 newly-renovated rooms, with a full service salon and spa, dining and aquatics. The pro shop is completely stocked for both men and women, not to mention trinkets with Mr. Palmer's signature. Yes, it's a bit expensive to stay and play at Bay Hill, but not only do you get a chance to play one of the best venues in the state, you have a real good chance at meeting the host.
 
With five sets of tees, ranging from 5,235 to 7,267 yards, Bay Hill is for all types of players. The Challenger and Champion nines make up the tournament course, but a third nine, the Charger, is also very competitive. How tough is Bay Hill? During the 2007 Arnold Palmer Invitational, the scoring average for the four days was 72.054 (the course played to a par 70). All four rounds were over par, including the final day (74.513). For the year, Bay Hill was the seventh most difficult on the PGA Tour.
 
Over the years, Bay Hill has been ranked as one of the top golf resorts in North America, one of America's 100 Greatest Public Courses by Golf Digest and one of the top-10 public access courses in the state of Florida.
 
To host an annual stop on the PGA Tour, courses must go through rigorous upkeep for the standards of today's professional and Bay Hill absolutely measures up. Most people believe that when the event concludes in the spring, the site conditioning slips. I'm here to tell you that even in mid-summer, Bay Hill is in mint condition. From tee to green the course is immaculate and the landscaping sensational. The staff was also very gracious and accommodating, making my stay that much more enjoyable.
 
Would you expect anything less from the king of golf? I think not. I definitely will be back.
 
Phil Sokol writes for the Sports Network, and periodically contributes to GolfChannel.com. Send your thoughts on this article to Phil Sokol at psokol@sportsnetwork.com.
 

LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

Parity reigned.

Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


Vare Trophy
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

“Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


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Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

How did she evaluate her season?

“I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

“It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

“Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

“I think everybody has little ups and downs.”

For Ariya, Lexi, finish was fabulous, frustrating

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 12:47 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lexi Thompson can take a punch.

You have to give her that.

So can Ariya Jutanugarn, who beat Thompson in the gut-wrenching conclusion to the CME Group Tour Championship Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

They both distinguished themselves overcoming adversity this season.

The problem for Thompson now is that she’ll have to wait two months to show her resolve again. She will go into the long offseason with the memory of missing a 2-foot putt for par that could have won her the championship, her first Rolex Player of the Year Award and her first Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Thompson took home the CME Globe $1 million jackpot and Vare Trophy for low scoring as nice consolation prizes, but the Sunday finish was a lot like her season.

It was so close to being spectacular.

She was so close to dominating this year.

That last 2-foot putt Sunday would have put Thompson in the clubhouse at 15 under, with a one-shot lead, which would have added so much more pressure to Jutanugarn as she closed out.

Instead of needing to birdie the final two holes to force a playoff, Jutanugarn only needed to birdie one of them to assure extra holes. She went birdie-birdie anyway.

Thompson was on the practice putting green when she heard the day’s last roar, when Jutanugarn rolled in a 15-foot birdie to beat her.

“It wasn’t the way I wanted to end it,” Thompson said of the short miss. “I don’t really know what happened there. It just happens. I guess it’s golf.”


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Thompson was asked if the weight of everything at stake affected her.

“No, honestly, I wasn’t thinking about it,” she said. “I putted great the whole day. I guess, maybe, there was just a little bit of adrenaline.

“We all go through situations we don’t like sometimes.”

Thompson endured more than she wanted this year.

She won twice, but there were six second-place finishes, including Sunday’s. There were three losses in playoffs.

There was the heart-wrenching blow at the ANA Inspiration, the season’s first major, when she looked as if she were going to run away with the title before getting blindsided by a four-shot penalty in the final round. There were two shots when a viewer email led to a penalty for mismarking her ball on a green in the third round, and two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Thompson was in tears finishing that Sunday at Mission Hills, but she won a legion of new fans in the way she fought back before losing in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

There was more heartache later in the spring, when Thompson’s mother, Judy, was diagnosed with uterine cancer, requiring surgery to remove a tumor and then radiation.

For Thompson fans, Sunday’s missed 2-foot putt was a cruel final blow to the year.

This time, there were no tears from Lexi afterward.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds . . . it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said. “This won’t either.”

After Thompson bounced back from the ANA loss to win the Kingsmill Invitational in May, she acknowledged how the loss motivated her.

“I'm as determined as any other person out here,” Thompson said. “We all want to win. I have a little bit more drive now.”

She was so close this year to elevating herself as the one true rock star in the women’s game. She will have a long offseason to turn Sunday’s disappointment into yet more fuel to get there.

Thompson will prepare for next year knowing Jutanugarn may be ramping her game back up to dominante, too.

Jutanugarn looked as if she were going to become a rock star after winning five times last year to claim the Rolex Player of the Year Award and then rising to No. 1 with a victory at the Manulife Classic back in May, but it didn’t happen.

Jutanugarn struggled through a summer-long slump.

She failed to make a cut in six of seven starts. It wasn’t as miserable a slump as she endured two years ago, when she missed 10 consecutive cuts, but it was troubling.

“Even though I played so badly the last few months, I learned a lot,” Jutanugarn said. “I’m growing up a lot, and I’m really ready to have some fun next year.”

Her surgically repaired shoulder was bothering her again, but it was more than that.

“This time it was more about becoming No. 1,” said Gary Gilchrist, her coach. “I think all of the responsibilities got to her.”

Gilchrist said he could see a different focus in Jutanugarn this week. He credited Vision 54s Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott for helping her deal with all the pressure that has mounted with her growing status.

“It’s been a long process,” Nilsson said. “She’s felt too much expectation from everybody else, where she loses focus on what she can do.”

Marriott said they asked Jutanugarn to come up with something she wanted to do to make herself proud this week, instead of worrying about what would please everyone else.

It worked.

“I told my caddie, Les [Luark], that thinking about the No. 1 ranking wasn’t going to help me be a better golfer,” Jutanugarn said. “I wanted people to say, `Oh this girl, she’s really happy.’ That was my goal, to have fun.”

Late Sunday, hoisting the trophy, Jutanugarn looked like she was having a lot of fun.

Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:40 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.

The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.

Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.

The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.

Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.

Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


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They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.

A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.

With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?

“I have no idea,” he laughed.

Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.

The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.

The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.

“So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”

While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.

Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.

Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.

All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.

Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.

Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.