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 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.

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon: