Canceling Web.com finale could have been avoided

By Rex HoggardOctober 6, 2016, 12:45 pm

When the PGA Tour introduced the wraparound schedule for the 2013-14 season it always had the feel of the lesser of various evils.

Essentially, the new schedule allowed the Tour Championship to be the big finish the circuit so desperately needed and wanted, and it also allowed the fall events, which had been relegated to an inconsequential wasteland, to create an ever-improving niche on the schedule.

There was an issue with timing, however.

Because there would be virtually no offseason between the Tour Championship and the new season, the circuit’s qualifying system had to be streamlined with the creation of the Web.com Tour Finals.

For two seasons, that system has worked well with a new slate of Tour cards doled out in time to begin the new season, but with Hurricane Matthew closing in on the east coast of Florida this week officials on Wednesday canceled this year’s Web.com Tour finale.

“Our first priority is the safety of our players, fans, volunteers and staff,” said Bill Calfee, the Web.com Tour president, noting that Florida governor Rick Scott declared a statewide emergency this week.



Cancelling the event was the right thing to do. Getting everyone out of Jacksonville, where the event was scheduled to be held, was a priority; but that doesn’t mean there will be no Wednesday morning quarterbacking.

You can’t plan for hurricanes, but luck has a tendency to favor the prepared. In this case, the prepared would have played the finale last week, albeit quietly in the Ryder Cup’s shadow but with the competitive integrity of the qualifying system intact.

Some suggested the Tour should attempt to move the Web.com Tour Championship out of Matthew’s path. “Relocate. It matters,” Olin Browne Tweeted.

But that doesn’t seem very realistic considering the logistical realities of such an event.

In retrospect, the better option was to have played the finale last week. Although that would have meant less exposure for what has turned into a compelling championship, it would have assured all four Finals events were held and every player given a chance to keep their jobs. 

Hindsight can be an unfair judge and jury, and who is to say holding the event last week wouldn’t have brought its own set of challenges, but if the Web.com Tour had planned to finish their schedule a week early and the event was delayed there would have been the option to play this week.

Instead, officials had no other options, and those players, players like Rob Oppenheim who will now finish the season 33rd on the money list, will have to wait another year to return to the PGA Tour.

There is some irony that it was at last year’s Web.com Tour Championship where Oppenheim secured his PGA Tour card. After making the cut by two shots, Oppenheim closed with a pair of 67s to finish tied for 12th place to earn his 2015-16 Tour card. He won’t have that option this year.

The last two seasons since the creation of the wraparound schedule the final two events of the Finals series have been played in back-to-back weeks, but this year officials built in an off-week between the penultimate event and the finale, ostensibly to avoid a conflict with the Ryder Cup.

But this isn’t the Web.com Tour’s first brush with hurricanes. In 2005, the circuit canceled the Miccosukee Championship in South Florida because of the impending threat of Hurricane Wilma. It was the penultimate event of the season and cost players a chance to either reach the finale or improve their position on the money list.

Golf is an outdoor sport and Mother Nature is not always a cooperative partner. Getting players, caddies, officials and fans out of harm's way is always a priority, but in this case it seems like a conflict could have been avoided, or at least mitigated, by some proactive scheduling.

The window between seasons is exceedingly thin. Sometimes circumstances beyond anyone’s control dictate a change of plans, which is why when officials concoct future schedules they should consider the need for some wiggle room.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.