Cut Line Details Devils of Restructuring

By Rex HoggardMarch 25, 2011, 10:45 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s important not to underestimate the significance of the two-page memo that landed in PGA Tour types' email boxes last Monday. At issue is a 45-year-old institution, not to mention the relative sustainability of the circuit itself.

The only certainty at this point is nothing is certain, but the details, as fluid as they are, seemed filled with possible demons. So much so this week’s Cut Line is dedicated to what we know and don’t know about the Tour’s proposed restructuring of the Nationwide Tour and Q-School.

Made Cut

Ready for prime time. Since its inception, the Nationwide Tour has regularly proven itself a better gauge of possible success than the six-day sprint that is Q-School.

The thinking goes that 12 months plying your trade from Boise to Valdosta better prepares a young player for the rigors of Tour life and the statistics agree. Nationwide Tour graduates have consistently been more successful than Q-School grads in the big leagues and kept their cards much more regularly.

Which makes last week’s memo, which elevates the Nationwide Tour to the lone avenue to the PGA Tour, a theoretical victory of reason. But at what cost?

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A closed shop. Making the Nationwide Tour the only reliable access to a Tour card will guarantee that top college players will have to spend a year in Triple A.

“If this Q-School change was in effect 20 years ago Justin Leonard, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods would have been in the ‘minors’ for a year,” one Tour player said this week. “I’m not sure we need our future superstars hanging there for a year.”

Nor does the current system offer the same chance that players like Woods and Leonard had to play their way onto the Tour via sponsor exemptions because of the scheduling of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Because of the condensed season and the exclusivity of the playoffs, Rickie Fowler managed just four Tour starts in 2009, including the rained-out Viking Classic, compared to Tiger Woods who played eight times in 1996 and onto the Tour fresh out of Stanford.

The Tour has been accused in the past of eating its young and this doesn’t help.

The hard sell. Tucked into the second-to-last paragraph in the memo from commissioner Tim Finchem is the “why” behind the proposed restructuring.

“The integration of the Qualifying Tournament into the Nationwide Tour when combined with the proposed Finals Series increases the attractiveness of the Nationwide Tour for the umbrella sponsor,” the memo read.

Nationwide is out as the secondary circuit’s umbrella sponsor in 2012 and the restructuring is a not-so-veiled attempt to move product. But this is more than a fresh coat of paint on a fixer-upper. A Finals Series “playoff” model would undermine the competitive integrity of the Nationwide Tour’s regular season and the long-held notion that 12 months is better than three weeks.

Missed Cut

Europe or bust. The restructuring also has the potential of benefiting the European Tour if, as one player manager predicted this week, young Americans forego Q-School and, at best, a year in the minors and try their luck across the pond.

Consider the alternative to the secondary American circuit: a slot in the lucrative Race for Dubai, at least by Nationwide Tour standards, and a chance to earn enough World Golf Ranking points to crack the top 50 and play many of the PGA Tour’s largest events without a card.

What Greg Norman couldn’t accomplish with his world tour concept, the restructuring of Q-School and the Nationwide Tour may make a reality.

No more Cinderellas. Those who play in it probably don’t agree, but count Q-School among the year’s most drama-filled events.

“Look at guys who went through Q-School fresh out of college,” Charles Howell III said. “I love the story of Rickie Fowler going through Q-School and playing the next year’s Ryder Cup. There are plenty of kids ready out of college and I really don’t like the idea of taking that away from them.”

Among the recent “fast track” players who went directly from a campus to the big leagues was Fowler, Dustin Johnson and the circuit’s most recent winner Gary Woodland. For a Tour fixated on promoting its youth this seems counterintuitive.

More questions than answers. Maybe the biggest concerns surrounding the restructuring is the collection of unknowns.

-Will the Nationwide Tour still award “battlefield” promotions to three-time winners?

-Will the 50 players who earn Tour cards via the secondary circuit be reshuffled like they currently are?

-Will the Tour review the other 33 exempt categories to assure their will be enough starts for all the Nationwide Tour graduates?

-Will the Finals Series be structured in such a way to give a marked advantage to the regular-season Nationwide Tour money winner over, say, the guy who finished the year 175th in Tour earnings?

-Do we really need to change?

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.