Monday Scramble: Golf changes, Langer persists

By Ryan LavnerNovember 14, 2016, 4:30 pm

Pat Perez shrugs off an injury, Bernhard Langer collects more hardware, Alex Noren joins the OWGR top-10, the rules undergo a makeover and more in this week's edition of the Monday Scramble:

Perez underwent shoulder surgery in March. It was his first break he had taken – physically, mentally, emotionally – in 18 years as a pro.

“I’m so stubborn,” he said, “that I needed a forced break.”

And so a guy who is known mostly for his on-course outbursts returned to the Tour with a new dose of perspective. “I just try to stay aggressive and try to think of the right shot and a good shot and not worry about what happens,” he said.

It worked – he won in just his third start since coming back.

The grind of a 30-event season doesn’t offer much time for self-reflection, so it’s possible Perez wouldn’t have discovered that new attitude without being sidelined.

Now 40, he's in the midst of a career resurgence. 

1. Perez was playing this season on a major medical extension, after missing the last six months of the 2015-16 season with a shoulder injury. He needed to make $670,050 in 15 starts to retain his card for next season.

He earned $1.26 million in Mexico.

2. Perez was on such a heater that he played his last 10 holes in 1 over par – and STILL won by two shots.

Over the weekend, he played a 26-hole span in 14 under. That allowed him to surge past third-round leader Gary Woodland and coast to his first victory since 2009. 

3. Woodland, meanwhile, dropped to 1-for-6 with the 54-hole lead after posting a final-round 70 at Mayakoba.

He had a one-shot lead heading into Sunday, but he got off to a rocky start, bogeying two of his first three holes in what was going to be a final-day shootout. He birdied the last two holes just to shoot 70, which matched the highest Sunday score of anyone in the top 14. 

4. They can change the format. They can add a playoff system that, in theory, creates some unpredictability. But each PGA Tour Champions season still ends the same way – with Langer holding the most important trophy.

For the third consecutive year, and the fourth time overall, he claimed the Charles Schwab Cup title. 

Remarkably, he has never won the season finale (he does have three runners-up), but he never has needed to. Paul Goydos won this year’s event, in wire-to-wire fashion. 

5. This was supposed to be the beginning of the end for Langer. He wasn’t supposed to survive without his trusty anchored putter.

All he did this year was win four times and finish in the top 10 in all but three of his 21 starts. All he did was contend at the Masters. All he did was top the money list, at $3,016,959. All he did was finish second in putting average, even while moving the long wand a few inches from his sternum. (Oh, by the way: He has finished second or better in that category every year since 2012.) 

6. In EACH of the past three years, Langer has been ranked No. 1 in the following categories:

  • Schwab Cup points
  • Scoring average
  • Earnings
  • Greens in regulation
  • Ball-striking
  • Birdie average
  • Par breakers
  • Par-3 scoring

At 59, he continues to defy the odds. 

7. Of this year’s many breakout stars, perhaps none has been as meteoric as Noren. 

The 34-year-old Swede, who was ranked 108th in the world as recently as the U.S. Open in June, just won for a European Tour-best fourth time this season. Now, when he checks his world ranking, he’ll notice he’s above Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler and Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson – at No. 9 in the world. 

His most recent victory, at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, had his peers begging for mercy. Starting the final round six shots back, he won by the same margin after a closing 63 – the best round of the day by four shots. 

8. By the way, Darren Clarke’s captain’s picks for the Ryder Cup look even worse now. 

Gotta love hindsight. 

Thomas Pieters is an absolute star, but Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer were disasters, combining to go 1-6. It’s foolish to speculate how Paul Casey, Russell Knox and Noren would have fared at Hazeltine, but it’s clear (as Rory McIlroy and others have stated) that the Europeans should put politics aside and have the best 12 players, period. 

9. Henrik Stenson finished eighth in Sun City to create even more of a cushion at the top of the Race to Dubai standings.

He is nearly 300,000 points ahead of Danny Willett, who finally showed signs of life, going 67-69 on the weekend to tie for 11th. Noren is now third in the standings, followed by Rory McIlroy. All four players have a mathematical chance to win the big prize this week in Dubai.

10. Might we see wholesale changes to the golf calendar in 2020 and beyond? Here’s hoping.

PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua said last week that “to make sure golf is in the Olympics for the next century, the whole schedule needs to be adjusted.”

What that likely means is that, in four years, The Players would move to March, the PGA to May and the Tour season would end on Labor Day.

This revamped schedule could pose a few issues. After all, The Players was pushed from March to May because the weather is more unpredictable in the spring, it was too close to the Masters and it competed against college basketball. And putting the PGA in May might impact some of the northern courses, like Rochester’s Oak Hill, which could struggle to get ready in time after a harsh winter. 

But this move would be praised by almost everyone, especially the players. Most importantly, it would alleviate the logjam that occurred this summer, with some players forced to choose which events they’d skip in order to survive the marathon stretch. 

11. For the first time since 1981, the PGA Tour will have a team event on the schedule, with the Zurich Classic of New Orleans changing from a regular 72-hole stroke-play tournament to a two-man team competition.

No complaints here. 

The only thing memorable about the past few editions has been the weather. That could still be a problem next year, regardless of format, but it’s cool that the Tour is willing to shake things up in what is otherwise a third-tier tour event that struggles to attract a deep field. Partnerships of Rickie Fowler-Jason Day and Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson already have added some buzz.

For our money, charbroiled oysters and crawfish remain the favorites.

12. The LPGA season ends this week at the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida – and there is still plenty at stake.

After a rousing battle this year, Ariya Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson all can capture the season-long prize with a victory this week at Tiburon. 

As for Rolex Player of the Year honors, Ko needs a victory to overtake Jutanugarn. The money title (Jutanugarn leads by $17,305) and Vare Trophy (at 69.611, Ko has a slim lead over In Gee Chun) are also up for grabs. 

A new draft of the Rules of Golf – one that, thankfully, is “simpler,” in “plain English” and “easier to apply” – is set for release next year.

Sure, we’re still skeptical – this is the USGA, after all – but any attempt to bring more common sense back into golf should be considered a step in the right direction.

Enough is enough. 

Still on Fire: Hideki Matsuyama. He won again in Japan over the weekend. These are his last five results: 5-1-2-1-1. He is also 72 under over his last 14 rounds. 

Random Thought of the Week: Why isn’t the Charles Schwab Cup Championship a four-round event? The entire season comes down to this event, and they can’t even trot out the seniors for a fourth round, like the majors? Weak. 

Not What He Had in Mind: Ollie Schniederjans. This scribe’s pick for Rookie of the Year, Ollie is off to a rough start this season, missing his third consecutive cut while shooting a combined 20 over par. 

Feel-Good Story: Aditi Ashok. Fans might remember the name, after she briefly took the second-round lead at the Olympics. On Sunday, the 18-year-old became the first player from India to win a Ladies European Tour event. 

This Will Cheer Up Your Girlfriend: Adam Blyth. After starting 65-63 at the New South Wales Open, he “fired” his girlfriend/caddie at the halfway point of the tournament, opting for his usual looper, his dad. The move didn’t cost him the victory – he still won by four shots, at 24 under par for the week – and they'll all enjoy the first-place check. 

Do You Even Lift?: Greg Norman. Dude's seriously jacked. And he's 61!

Makin' It Rain: John Peterson. For the first time in 54 weeks, he cashed a PGA Tour paycheck, with a tie for 15th in Mexico. He missed all of last season because of a hand injury. 

Where's Golf Channel Cameras When You Need Them?: Charley Hoffman, going HAM on his golf bag.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Harris English. A former winner here (2013) … the owner of the tournament record (21 under) … coming in off 13 consecutive made cuts … including a T-4 in Vegas … and then he missed the cut. Sigh.  

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.