Questions abound about new qualifying structure

By Rex HoggardJuly 11, 2012, 4:33 pm

Give the PGA Tour style points for brevity, if not ambiguity. In some 400 words the circuit outlined the most dramatic shakeup to its qualifying process since professional golf emerged from the “rabbit tour” days.

Tuesday’s release outlining the dramatically reconfigured Tour/Q-School process was vague by design. In broad strokes the secondary circuit will maintain a level of regular-season relevancy, awarding 25 Tour cards to its top money earners, while creating a season-ending “finals series” that appears to be more than a nip/tucked version of Q-School.

By most accounts the Tour and its Policy Board slow played themselves into a winning plan without breaking any major china with players or fans, but to gloss over commissioner Tim Finchem’s “new deal” in a 400-word Cliff’s Notes version ignores how much energy and emotion actually went into the new qualifying system.

Earlier this month at the AT&T National four-time Policy Board member Davis Love III called the plan the most difficult thing he’d ever did as a player director and one official could only laugh when asked if he thought it would have taken so long to reach a consensus, “No way,” the official smiled.

Two-years of debate, endless models and an assortment of scenarios led to Tuesday’s announcement and a late-to-the-dance plan that ultimately merged variations of different options.

“This (plan) came up very recently,” said Paul Goydos, who is serving his first term on the Policy Board. “It was kind of a byproduct of the NASCAR (model). The first thing that went away was the seeding (model). It’s too hard to compare play on different tours.”

The “NASCAR” plan included the top money winners on the Tour playing the three-event finals series although they had already secured their status for the following season; while the seeding model would have attempted to marry the PGA Tour and Tour money lists for the final three tournaments.

“No way that people would agree on (a seeding model),” Goydos said. “Under that type of scenario No. 126 (in PGA Tour earnings) was basically going to get the same money as No. 26 on the Tour. But that means my seeding was going to be impacted by how I played and how someone on another tour played. It was going to be difficult to accept that another player who was playing (on another tour) was going to decide where you were going to be seeded.”

Which led to the NASCAR model and a debate over how many players from the secondary circuit should be awarded Tour cards based on regular-season performance.

“What number on the Tour should be guaranteed cards? It bounced between 15 and 25,” Goydos said. “The idea was that under the old system a player ranked between 18th and 19th on the Tour money list with three tournaments remaining was virtually assured of finishing inside the top 25 and earning a card.”

If the Tour lowered the number of guaranteed cards after the regular season on the secondary circuit, “we would be admitting that (the Tour) was not as strong as we thought it was when I would argue that it’s getting stronger every year,” Goydos said.

The four player directors (Love, Goydos, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk) ultimately settled on the top 25 players earning Tour cards and a “jump ball” model for the finals series which featured Nos. 1-75 on the secondary circuit and Nos. 126-200 on the FedEx Cup points list playing the last three events for the final 25 Tour cards.

Although guaranteed a card the top 25 players from the Tour could hurt their status for the following year with a poor performance in the final series, which in theory gives the secondary circuit’s big finish an added level of drama while maintaining the integrity of the regular season.


You’re not alone.

“To me, at first, I thought it was very confusing, but when they showed it in chart form on a money list it is better visually,” Goydos said.

The Tour’s abridged release also left an assortment of unanswered questions. Why, for example, would the winner of the Tour’s money list, who will be awarded full Tour membership for the following season, play the finals series?

“He doesn’t have to,” Goydos said. “The sponsor would probably like to have him in there playing.”

It also remains to be seen where and when the finals series will be played. Because of cross-over between the two tours officials expect field sizes between 135 and 140 players and all three events will feature 36-hole cuts to the top 60 players and ties.

Under the current scenario but still undecided, the first finals series event would be played opposite the BMW Championship, the third FedEx Cup playoff event which is followed by an off-week. The second finals event would be played during that off-week and the qualifying finale would be held the week after the Tour Championship at East Lake.

All three finals series events would be Tour tournaments and there appears to be an undercurrent of support for a geographic rotation across the country.

But the essential question is how this change will impact a particular player’s ability to earn Tour status. Would a player fresh out of college, like Patrick Cantlay who recently turned pro after his sophomore season at UCLA, have the same chance to play his way onto the Tour without the benefit of Q-School?

“It’s going to be easier for a Patrick Cantlay to earn a card, it’s going to be harder for a Paul Goydos when he first came out on Tour because I would not have gotten the sponsor exemptions,” Goydos said.

Maybe it’s best the Tour opted for brevity to unveil its new qualifying plan – which, by most accounts, deftly bridges the gap between old and new – because the only thing detailed analysis creates is more questions that won’t be answered for at least another year.

Getty Images

Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

Getty Images

Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

Getty Images

Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

Getty Images

Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.