Monday Scramble: Major competition at Erin Hills

By Ryan LavnerJune 12, 2017, 3:00 pm

U.S. Open week arrives, Phil Mickelson keeps an eye on the forecast, amateur Braden Thornberry shines in his PGA Tour debut, Ariya Jutanugarn makes a statement and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

It’s an important week for the USGA. The blue blazers need to get this U.S. Open right, after they had a few setup issues at Merion, after they destroyed the greens at Chambers Bay and after they interfered during Dustin Johnson’s final-round comeback at Oakmont.

Adam Scott has put the USGA on notice, and players on social media have already made reference to Erin Hills’ "unique" design, with severe slopes that will turn what should be 20-foot putts into 40-yard pitch shots, and the fact that there is knee-high fescue just five yards off each fairway.

“Why can’t we have a lot of the past U.S. Open winners get together and set up a major?” Kevin Na said Sunday. “I’d like to see that happen one day.”

Let's be clear: Regardless of what happens this week in Wisconsin, players will continue to show up for the year’s second major. But the past few years have significantly damaged the USGA’s credibility, and if this year isn’t any better, there’s a chance the players’ tone will only get more pointed. 


1. Why mess with what works?

Just like last year, Daniel Berger stayed in Room 44 at the Hyatt Place in Germantown but thought there was little chance that he’d be able to defend his title at the FedEx St. Jude Classic – especially after he cracked the face of his driver earlier in the week.

Then he shot back-to-back 66s on the weekend to win for the second time on Tour.

2. It’s been a mediocre year for Boog, who had only two top-10s in 12 starts. With this victory, however, he moved to No. 10 in the season-long standings, making him a virtual lock for the Tour Championship and freeing him up for the rest of the year. He also jumped to No. 5 in the Presidents Cup standings. 

“It means I can go out there and have a little more fun,” he said. “It’s been a battle.” 

3. At one point Sunday, it seemed as though half of the city’s population was tied for the lead. Absent among that massive group: The three 54-hole leaders.

Rafa Cabrera Bello, Stewart Cink and Ben Crane were a combined 7 over par in the final round on a day when the rest of the field averaged 70.6.  



4. Mickelson made two doubles and a triple bogey last week and still finished the week only three shots back. It added up to a ninth-place showing, his fifth consecutive top-11 finish at TPC Southwind.

On Sunday, Mickelson was cruising along, 4 under through 11 holes and tied for the lead, when he sent his tee shot on the par-4 12th hole miles right, out of bounds. Compounding the error, he rinsed his fourth shot and made a 10-footer for triple.

5. The 42-time Tour winner admitted that a leaderboard behind 11 green that showed he was tied for the lead “shook” him.

“It was as if I had never won before, as if I was a rookie,” he said. “I was not as mentally focused as I needed to be.”

And that right there explains why Mickelson, who has played some of the best golf in the world over the past 12 months, is still looking for his first title since July 2013.

“The physical game is as good as it’s been when I’ve won a bunch of tournaments,” he said. “But mentally I’m not as sharp. I’ve made some mistakes.”

6. Common sense eventually prevailed, and Mickelson said on the CBS telecast Sunday that he needs a four-hour delay Thursday in order to attend both his daughter's high school graduation and the first round of the U.S. Open.

Graduation begins at noon CT. His first-round tee time is 2:20 p.m. It’s a 3-hour, 20-minute trip. The numbers don’t add up, and, poor Phil, the forecast for Thursday is projected to be the best of the week: 87 and mostly sunny.

It might be for the best, anyway. Mickelson would arrive on the first tee without having seen the course and would be relying on caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay for every shot. 

“It’s not looking good,” he said, “and that’s totally fine.” 



7. If there was any doubt whether Braden Thornberry and his funky swing could translate to the pro game, his performance in Memphis answered that.

The rising junior at Ole Miss improved every round, going 71-69-67 and capping his week with a bogey-free 65 that briefly gave him a share of the clubhouse lead. He tied for fourth, which matched Justin Rose (1998) and Lee McCoy (2016) for the best finish by an amateur in a non-opposite-field event in the past 20 years.

“Amateur or pro, the ball doesn’t know,” Thornberry said, “so that was my philosophy coming in: just play as good as I could and see what happens.” 

8. Thornberry’s auspicious debut on the big tour was a reminder of the Tour’s shortsighted policy regarding amateurs.

Obviously, the 20-year-old could not receive prize money, so he forfeited $241,280 in earnings. But as an amateur, he also does not get into the next available field (next week’s Travelers) even with a top-10 finish, nor is he able to collect any non-member FedExCup points. That’s important, because he’d be able to stockpile those points and qualify for the season-ending Web.com Tour Finals.

The Tour's main purpose is to provide playing opportunities for its members, but this a rule that needs to be changed ASAP. Thornberry (and the others before him) have earned the chance to keep playing.

9. When will Thornberry turn pro? That's the question that many already are asking. He is exempt into The Greenbrier, by virtue of the Haskins Award, and he should get more looks from tournament directors this summer.

With nothing left to accomplish in college, there has been talk that he will join the play-for-pay ranks after the Walker Cup in September. 



10. Here are one man’s 10 favorites for this week’s U.S. Open:

1. Dustin Johnson: A course that rewards length and strong wedge play plays right into DJ’s strengths.

2. Rickie Fowler: Hasn’t played this major well in the past, but his game is better across the board than it’s ever been.  

3. Jon Rahm: Has a great game for the year’s second major – prolific driver, tidy short game, loves to grind.  

4. Jason Day: Been just a touch off all year, but his Open record is too good to ignore – five top-10s in six career starts.  

5. Jordan Spieth: Last week should have given him time to work on his putting, and if he can stay away from the big number, he should be in the mix for another Open title.

6. Sergio Garcia: Decent finishes since the Masters, but with three majors to go, he seems determined to build on that breakthrough and make it an epic year.

7. Justin Rose: One of the game’s best ball-strikers is surprisingly hit-or-miss at the Open (six made cuts, five missed), but when he plays the weekend he’s almost always in contention.

8. Thomas Pieters: Big, brawny player already has a top-5 this year at the Masters. The Illinois product should be comfortable up north, too.

9. Adam Scott: Four top-20s in his last five Open starts. Whether he can contend will come down to his shaky putter.  

10. Rory McIlroy: Gotta include him, because he's Rory, but he has played just two tournaments in the past 80 days, he's breaking in new clubs, a new ball and a new putter, and he hasn't had any range sessions because of his lingering rib injury. 



11. It could be another eventful major week for DJ.

He didn’t play the Masters after injuring his lower back when he slipped on a set of stairs.

This time, it’s the arrival of his second child – Paulina Gretzky was due to give birth to a baby boy on Monday. Johnson likely won't arrive at Erin Hills until Tuesday, at the earliest, but he already logged two rounds last week. 

12. Having covered the 2011 U.S. Amateur – found my Golfweek gamer in the archives here – your trusty correspondent probably has more experience at Erin Hills than most. Six years removed, here’s what I can tell you: I don’t remember much, other than the prevalence of mosquitos. The course itself was unmemorable. I even played it the day after, too.

Kelly Kraft won that Am. He stunned Patrick Cantlay, who in the summer of 2011 was the best amateur in the world. Alas, they both failed to qualify for this year’s Open.

In all, 18 players from that Am will be at Erin Hills, a group that includes Spieth, who reached the quarterfinals, and Justin Thomas, who lost in the Round of 32.  

13. It will be the rare U.S. Open that has the potential for fireworks, not implosions.

Why?

For starters, it’s a par 72, the first at an Open since 1992. The fairways are huge, by U.S. Open standards. And over the last five holes, there are two par 5s (14 and 18), a drivable par 4 (15), a par 3 that can be set up with a blind tee shot (16), and a beefy, 500-yard-plus par 4 (17).  



14. There was no need for the LPGA to issue a clarification this week: Jutanugarn is the clear No. 1 player in the world.

A week after she was supposed to move to the top spot before a projections error, the 21-year-old left little doubt with a playoff victory at the Manulife LPGA Classic. She buried a 25-footer on the first extra hole to beat Lexi Thompson and In Gee Chun (both of whom are in the top 5 in the world ranking) for her first victory after last season's five-win, Player of the Year campaign.

15. Even Jutanugarn admitted that it was a shocker to hoist the trophy, for two reasons:

At the beginning of the week, she was “scared” to hit her tee shot, a problem that has surfaced in the past and is a big reason why she doesn’t use a driver. “I feel a lot better now,” she said.

And then there was Thompson, who had a one-shot lead entering the final round and at one point on Sunday ballooned her advantage to four shots. Then she made four bogeys in her last seven holes, including short misses on the last three holes (and a 4-footer to win!), and chunked her approach after a 340-yard drive on the first playoff hole. 

16. Golf will get at least two more opportunities to show that it belongs as part of the Olympic schedule.

The IOC executive board’s decision means golf will be in the Olympics through at least the 2024 Games. (It was already guaranteed for 2020.) That’s good news, after all of the handwringing last summer over who would or wouldn’t make the trip to Rio. Big-name winners (Justin Rose and Inbee Park) undoubtedly helped confirm the sport’s participation, even if some stars opined that it had no business being part of the Olympics. It would have been interesting to see if this vote would have been different if, say, Marcus Fraser and Harukyo Nomura had gone on to win the gold medal in a dull final round ... 


Paul Azinger, who will appear on Fox’s U.S. Open coverage, got into the gossip game when he was asked about Tiger Woods on the Open pairings show. He said that pain medications have been a long-term “problem” for Woods.

“I know firsthand there are some players that think there’s a problem there with Tiger,” he said. “I haven’t been around him much the last few years. But there are some players out there that are saying this has been a problem for a while.”

Even if that’s true, it was wildly irresponsible for Zinger to pass along those secondhand comments.   

This week's award winners ...


Common Sense: USGA allowing alternates to play U.S. Open practice rounds. While good in theory – you don’t need any more congestion with a 156-player field – anyone who has attended an Open knows that the course is virtually empty on Monday, Tuesday and especially Wednesday afternoons, thus providing these alternates a chance to get in their hacks. 

Bound for the PGA Tour: Stephan Jaeger. He won his second Web.com event on Sunday, which secured his card for next season. Now it’s just a matter of whether, like Wesley Bryan a year ago, he can win title No. 3 and earn an instant promotion to the big tour before the season is over. 

When You Don’t Tee it Up Properly: Charl Schwartzel. Flipping off a divot, when you have the option to place your ball anywhere you like, is a new level of weird.

No Open Hangover: Travelers Championship. The Hartford-area stop will have its strongest field in years, with Spieth, McIlroy and Day all scheduled to tee it up, thanks to the Tour’s new strength-of-schedule rule. 

He is Human, After All: Bernhard Langer. Trying to become the first player in seven years to win three consecutive starts on the senior circuit, Langer coughed up a first-round lead and eventually finished fourth. 



Not Just a Good College Team: 2012 Texas. The team that won the NCAAs at Riviera has now produced 16 individual pro titles. That number is skewed by Spieth, of course, but Cody Gribble has won on Tour and now Dylan Frittelli, the player who clinched the national title, captured his first event on the European circuit.

Get Your Paper Up: All but 16 professional athletes. Tiger Woods ($37.1 million) landed at No. 17 on Forbes’ list of the highest-paid athletes … ahead of guys like Neymar and Usain Bolt and Conor McGregor and Clayton Kershaw … despite playing no official events in 2017 and being irrelevant on the course for the past couple of years. 

Not As Fun As They Used to Be: U.S. Open pairings. Unveiling the groupings on Skip Bayless’ show was just the latest insult to golf fans. With only a few marquee groups and little creativity, it’s clear these just haven’t been the same since the blue blazers got called out for the “fat guys” group in 2014.  

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Fowler. The Tour’s leader in strokes gained-total, coming off a tie for second at the Memorial, Rickie shot 74-70 to miss the cut. On the plus side, he was able to get in some extra prep at Erin Hills, where he should be a factor. 

LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

Parity reigned.

Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


Vare Trophy
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

“Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

How did she evaluate her season?

“I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

“It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

“Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

“I think everybody has little ups and downs.”

For Ariya, Lexi, finish was fabulous, frustrating

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 12:47 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lexi Thompson can take a punch.

You have to give her that.

So can Ariya Jutanugarn, who beat Thompson in the gut-wrenching conclusion to the CME Group Tour Championship Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

They both distinguished themselves overcoming adversity this season.

The problem for Thompson now is that she’ll have to wait two months to show her resolve again. She will go into the long offseason with the memory of missing a 2-foot putt for par that could have won her the championship, her first Rolex Player of the Year Award and her first Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Thompson took home the CME Globe $1 million jackpot and Vare Trophy for low scoring as nice consolation prizes, but the Sunday finish was a lot like her season.

It was so close to being spectacular.

She was so close to dominating this year.

That last 2-foot putt Sunday would have put Thompson in the clubhouse at 15 under, with a one-shot lead, which would have added so much more pressure to Jutanugarn as she closed out.

Instead of needing to birdie the final two holes to force a playoff, Jutanugarn only needed to birdie one of them to assure extra holes. She went birdie-birdie anyway.

Thompson was on the practice putting green when she heard the day’s last roar, when Jutanugarn rolled in a 15-foot birdie to beat her.

“It wasn’t the way I wanted to end it,” Thompson said of the short miss. “I don’t really know what happened there. It just happens. I guess it’s golf.”


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Thompson was asked if the weight of everything at stake affected her.

“No, honestly, I wasn’t thinking about it,” she said. “I putted great the whole day. I guess, maybe, there was just a little bit of adrenaline.

“We all go through situations we don’t like sometimes.”

Thompson endured more than she wanted this year.

She won twice, but there were six second-place finishes, including Sunday’s. There were three losses in playoffs.

There was the heart-wrenching blow at the ANA Inspiration, the season’s first major, when she looked as if she were going to run away with the title before getting blindsided by a four-shot penalty in the final round. There were two shots when a viewer email led to a penalty for mismarking her ball on a green in the third round, and two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Thompson was in tears finishing that Sunday at Mission Hills, but she won a legion of new fans in the way she fought back before losing in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

There was more heartache later in the spring, when Thompson’s mother, Judy, was diagnosed with uterine cancer, requiring surgery to remove a tumor and then radiation.

For Thompson fans, Sunday’s missed 2-foot putt was a cruel final blow to the year.

This time, there were no tears from Lexi afterward.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds . . . it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said. “This won’t either.”

After Thompson bounced back from the ANA loss to win the Kingsmill Invitational in May, she acknowledged how the loss motivated her.

“I'm as determined as any other person out here,” Thompson said. “We all want to win. I have a little bit more drive now.”

She was so close this year to elevating herself as the one true rock star in the women’s game. She will have a long offseason to turn Sunday’s disappointment into yet more fuel to get there.

Thompson will prepare for next year knowing Jutanugarn may be ramping her game back up to dominante, too.

Jutanugarn looked as if she were going to become a rock star after winning five times last year to claim the Rolex Player of the Year Award and then rising to No. 1 with a victory at the Manulife Classic back in May, but it didn’t happen.

Jutanugarn struggled through a summer-long slump.

She failed to make a cut in six of seven starts. It wasn’t as miserable a slump as she endured two years ago, when she missed 10 consecutive cuts, but it was troubling.

“Even though I played so badly the last few months, I learned a lot,” Jutanugarn said. “I’m growing up a lot, and I’m really ready to have some fun next year.”

Her surgically repaired shoulder was bothering her again, but it was more than that.

“This time it was more about becoming No. 1,” said Gary Gilchrist, her coach. “I think all of the responsibilities got to her.”

Gilchrist said he could see a different focus in Jutanugarn this week. He credited Vision 54s Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott for helping her deal with all the pressure that has mounted with her growing status.

“It’s been a long process,” Nilsson said. “She’s felt too much expectation from everybody else, where she loses focus on what she can do.”

Marriott said they asked Jutanugarn to come up with something she wanted to do to make herself proud this week, instead of worrying about what would please everyone else.

It worked.

“I told my caddie, Les [Luark], that thinking about the No. 1 ranking wasn’t going to help me be a better golfer,” Jutanugarn said. “I wanted people to say, `Oh this girl, she’s really happy.’ That was my goal, to have fun.”

Late Sunday, hoisting the trophy, Jutanugarn looked like she was having a lot of fun.

Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:40 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.

The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.

Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.

The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.

Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.

Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.

A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.

With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?

“I have no idea,” he laughed.

Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.

The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.

The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.

“So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”

While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.

Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.

Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.

All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.

Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.

Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.