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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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm