Questions still abound about new playing privileges

By Rex HoggardApril 18, 2012, 8:59 pm

The news that emerged from last week’s Player Advisory Council meeting on Hilton Head Island, S.C., was that the current fall series events that will join the FedEx Cup fold in 2013 likely will be awarded full points.

That the circuit had no update on the new Nationwide Tour/Q-School qualifying system was not news, at least not to anyone with at least a passing interest in the dramatic makeover.

When the Tour announced in March its plan to nip/tuck the current competitive calendar and the decades-long process of earning playing privileges there was no shortage of concern or commentary, particularly for the latter.

Why, for example, would the Tour – which preached for decades that the Nationwide Tour’s yearlong race was a better judge of long-term ability over the capriciousness of a three-week Q-School – seemingly reverse course and revert back to a three-week sprint?

Even more concerning was how the Tour would devise a system that would adequately pair the top 75 players off the current Nationwide Tour money list with Nos. 126 to 200 in PGA Tour earnings, which would be the basis of the circuit’s three-event finals series which will become the primary avenue to Tour membership in 2013?

“There is no comparison between No. 26 (in Nationwide Tour earnings) to No. 126 (in Tour earnings),” reasoned one Tour type, who requested anonymity.

“The only comparison is that they don’t have a PGA Tour card. But at least 126 (currently) has conditional status. In their mind that makes them a better player. They spent all year playing against tougher competition. How can you compare apples to oranges?”

Heavy stuff. By comparison awarding the Frys.com Open full FedEx Cup points must have felt like low-hanging fruit to the 16-man PAC.

“(Seeding) seems to be the $64 million question and I don’t know the answer to that,” said Bill Calfee, president of the Nationwide Tour. “We looked at several different models and the PAC rejected a few different concepts. One of the thoughts was to use the Nationwide Tour money list and just deciding where the players were comfortable in seeding players into that money list (For example, granting No. 126 in Tour earnings with the amount No. 26 on the Nationwide Tour made and so on).”

According to Calfee the PAC largely rejected the idea of creating a FedEx Cup-type points system for the finals series as well as a “jump ball” model that would feature every player starting the series at zero.

That, Calfee explained, would ignore the season-long body of work of the top Nationwide Tour players. But how many secondary circuit players should be assured Tour cards also remains a topic of much debate.

“The players do feel there will be some seeding, but it’s a question of whether we use money or points. (Do we) give the top 10 or 15 or 20 Nationwide Tour players a head start based on their season?” Calfee said. “I think we’re getting close to coming up with a solution.”

The Tour may be close to a solution, but not a consensus. Nor does such an accord seem likely considering that a player’s point of view on finals series seeding is normally based on where they are in their careers.

Players on the PGA Tour contend that playing against the world’s top competition every week is more grueling than a Nationwide Tour schedule, while top money winners on the secondary circuit would argue that they’ve proven themselves worthy of elevated status.

For Calfee, a former Tour player who forged his career the traditional way through Q-School but has become an advocate of the secondary circuit as the Nationwide Tour chief, it’s a double-edged sword.

“If I wear my Nationwide Tour hat I’d like to see No. 25 (in earnings) safe,” said Calfee, echoing a theme that would guarantee Nos. 1-25 off the Nationwide Tour money list entering the finals series a Tour card. “If I wear a PGA Tour hat I’d have a different number. There should be some seeding and I think players agree with that.”

Ultimately it will be the Tour Policy Board that will decide the numbers game, likely when they meet in June at the AT&T National. But the pressure is mounting considering that the new system will begin in 2013 and there is a growing undercurrent among player directors and Tour officials to get this right the first time.

A misstep, like the variety that haunted the FedEx Cup points process the first few years, could be devastating to potential pros and possibly the Tour.

There are already concerns in some circles that the new system could have the unintended consequence of driving young American players away from the PGA Tour and toward the European circuit.

When asked how he would advise an up-and-coming college underclassman – a player like super UCLA sophomore Patrick Cantlay – to proceed given the realities of the new system one longtime player manager offered a chilling glimpse into what the developmental process may look like in coming years.

“I would definitely go to (Q-School) this year. If I didn't make it, I would go back to school until I graduated, then try to get a card in Europe through the Challenge Tour, build my world ranking and walk onto the PGA Tour without ever going to Tour School or playing the (Nationwide Tour),” he said. “I hope this plan helps the (Nationwide Tour) as much as it will help Europe and hurt college golf.”

Calfee said the Tour has considered the “European” option but officials are “comfortable we won’t be pushing players toward Europe.”

Given the complexities and competing interests of the issue it’s understandable why the Tour is slow-playing the process. There will be news, just don’t expect it anytime soon.

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 GolfChannel.com 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.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.