Disney event not fun and games for bubble boys

By Rex HoggardNovember 7, 2012, 9:25 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – That cool wind that swept across Walt Disney World on Wednesday had nothing to do with the nor’easter roaring its way up the coast, although the chill certainly added to the atmosphere on the eve of the year’s final event.

The 400-pound elephant perched in the middle of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic standing room was about shrinking margins and rapidly dwindling playing opportunities.

Normally players arrive at Disney for the season finale with options no matter how poorly they’ve played over the previous 10 months. Finishing inside the top 125 in earnings is good for a bona fide Tour card, but the historical alternative was finishing somewhere between 126th and 150th in winnings for conditional status.

Great things have come from limited status which made Disney something of a soft deadline in the past, but in 2013 that safety net is much smaller. The condensed reality of next year’s transition to a split-calendar schedule means that there is no more “plan B.”

“It’s not like 125 (in earnings) is great and 126 is pretty good,” David Mathis said. “One (hundred) and twenty-five is awesome and 126 to 150 is terrible. That’s how the players view it because you can’t just pick and choose where you’re going to play from that category.”


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Next year’s number’s crunch is the byproduct of the loss of the four Fall Series events and the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which will all become part of the 2013-14 season. It’s a net loss of over 650 playing opportunities or, as one Tour official figured, five fewer starts for all but the top players in 2013.

It’s a reality that leaves those players who finish between 126th and 150th, which has been good for 15 to 20 starts in the past, adrift in a barren wasteland. Estimates vary, but many observers believe players with conditional status in 2013 will probably be limited to 10 or fewer starts.

“You’re begging for starts (with conditional status),” Steve Flesch said on Wednesday at Disney. “If you’re counting on (finishing) 126 to 150 you’re in trouble, big trouble. If you’re thinking of (No.) 140 getting in events you’re dreaming.”

All of which makes this week’s finale, which could be the Tour’s last trip to Disney unless officials find a replacement sponsor for the Children’s Miracle Network, an exercise in crisis management.

For the first time in more than a decade, No. 125 in earnings is every bit a hard salary cap and nobody knows that better than Gary Christian. “It’s all gloom and doom out there,” the Englishman said. He was talking about Tour player reaction to Tuesday’s presidential election, but it was an apropos take on the mood across Disney’s Palm and Magnolia courses on the eve of the 2012 finale.

“A lot of people will have a couple of grey hairs, maybe a few ulcers this week,” said Christian, who at 127th in earnings likely needs a top-20 finish to crack the top 125. “Hopefully I’m not one of them.”

Although the final stage of Q-School remains for those who fall short this week, a sense of urgency hung over the Magic Kingdom on Wednesday.

Last year it was James Driscoll who arrived at Disney perched on the abyss at No. 125 in earnings and he spent more time in the clubhouse bathroom to . . . well, clear his head, to put it delicately, then he did on the practice tee prior to his final round before closing with 68 to retain his Tour card.

“I think I had food poisoning,” he smiled on Tuesday at Disney when asked about his final round in 2011. He has the luxury of smiling this year. At 120th in earnings his $687,000 is likely enough to maintain his status.

Billy Mayfair wasn’t so cheerful. At 125th in earnings the veteran is this week’s bubble boy, with Rod Pampling at 124th and Kevin Chappell at 123rd.

Just $32,500 separates No. 130 D.J. Trahan, who clung to the final Tour card last year (No. 125) following his tie for 46th at Disney, and Mayfair. Or, to put that number in context, it is the difference between a tie for 25th (Trahan) and a missed cut (Mayfair).

Estimates vary, but according to Scott Hamilton, a Georgia-based teaching professional who works with numerous Tour players, it will take about $632,000 to finish inside the top 125 based on this week’s purse and how the “magic number” has tracked over the last few weeks.

“I kept hearing $700,000, $700-something (to finish inside the top 125), but I looked at it before the Frys.com Open and how it changed every week,” Hamilton said. “It seems the number has been moving between $10,000 to $15,000 depending on the purse.”

If that math holds, No. 123 (Kevin Chappell) through Mayfair are all in jeopardy of sliding into the money list no-man’s land and booking a trip to PGA West for this month’s Q-School. That next year’s condensed schedule will only squeeze those margins and add pressure to an already anxiety-filled environment.

For this week’s bubble players, Disney is a sports psychologist’s worst nightmare, a Draconian existence where the result and the process are virtually inseparable and an entire body of work is bottlenecked into a single start. A place where the only comfort is in the clichés.

“It's all clichés now,” Christian said. “One shot at a time. It’s a process. You know, I could probably write a golf psychology book that encompasses everything you need to know.”

Perhaps, but then all one really needs to know is that one of pro golf’s toughest week’s is suddenly a little more challenging.

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...


2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia


And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

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Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

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Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

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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.