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Who's in, who's out after emotional Web.com Finals?

By Ryan LavnerOctober 2, 2017, 7:45 pm

Those who miss the now-or-never vibe at Q-School must have enjoyed the tense final round of the Web.com Tour Championship. 

For every success story of a player moving inside the top-25 bubble to earn his PGA Tour card, there was a corresponding tale of frustration and disappointment Monday at Atlantic Beach Country Club. 

Five-time PGA Tour winner Jonathan Byrd won the tournament title by four strokes, but as usual the more compelling action was found further down the leaderboard. 

In all, five players went from outside to inside the magic number, as the top 25 money earners after the four-event Web.com Tour Finals secured their playing privileges for next season (which begins Thursday in Napa, Calif.). 

Seamus Power earned the 25th and final card by $2,688 over Adam Svensson, who missed the cut this week. 


50 players who earned 2017-18 PGA Tour cards

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


One of the feel-good stories Monday was Steve Wheatcroft, who began the week at No. 23 on the money list but was projected at 29th after a third-round 73. It’s been a difficult year for the 39-year-old, who broke his finger in his first tournament and played through a chipped bone and torn cartilage in the back of his hand ... but returning to his home course helped calm his nerves. “I’m in the back nine of my career,” he said, “but man, I don’t want it to stop yet.”

Wheatcroft is guaranteed at least one more year on the big tour, after he shot a bogey-free 67 Monday. 

“It’s been a long year and it’s been a struggle,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over.”

There were plenty of other heroics, too. 

Chad Collins made eight birdies in the final round to lock up his card. 

Tom Hoge made the cut on the number, then came home in 31, including a 15-foot birdie on the last, to return to the Tour. 

“The feeling is really hard to describe,” he said. “In golf, there are so many downtimes, but it was a pretty cool day today.” 

Byrd, meanwhile, wasn’t even sure whether to tee it up this week. At No. 66 on the money list, he needed a pep talk from his wife earlier in the week just to enter the event, then shot 24-under 260 to head back to the big leagues. 

“I had nothing to lose this week,” he said, “and that helps.” 

Sam Saunders, who on Thursday became the seventh Web.com player to shoot a sub-60 score, tied for second to return to the Tour. He shared runner-up honors with Shawn Stefani, who broke down in tears afterward. 

“Just relief,” Stefani said. “Tears of joy.”

Most heartbreaking was the plight of Matt Harmon, who had worked his way inside the top 25 heading into the final round. With three early birdies Monday, he maintained his position, but he bogeyed the 13th, missed a 3 1/2-footer for birdie on 17 and then three-putted from long range on 18 for another bogey. That left him at No. 32, and he took out his frustration on his putter, bashing his club into the side of his bag and snapping it into two pieces. 

Also on the outside looking in after the Finals were Ryo Ishikawa, Cameron Percy, Matthew Southgate (who was hit with a four-shot penalty in the penultimate event) and Roberto Castro, who reached the Tour Championship in 2016. 

Ben Crane began the season finale in the 18th position, but he decided to skip the Web.com Tour Championship. Crane has been dealing with a back injury, his manager told GolfChannel.com, and he headed to New York City to see his doctor. (He also attended a sponsor outing at the Presidents Cup.) Crane is listed in the field this week at the Safeway Open, and he is hopeful to play about 20 events this year on Tour, after finishing 147th in FedExCup points. 

If the pressure to compete for a PGA Tour card wasn’t enough, the 55 players remaining at the Web.com finale needed to wait another day to learn where they’ll be playing next season, after inclement weather wiped out play Sunday

Former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein topped the Finals money list. Here is the full list of the 25 players who earned their card via the Web.com Tour Finals:

1. Peter Uihlein

2. Jonathan Byrd

3. Nicholas Lindheim

4. Rob Oppenheim

5. Ryan Armour

6. Sam Saunders

7. Shawn Stefani

8. Jonathan Randolph

9. Bronson Burgoon

10. Keith Mitchell

11. Tyler Duncan

12. Denny McCarthy

13. Troy Merritt

14. Tom Lovelady

15. Martin Piller

16. Alex Cejka

17. Matt Jones

18. Cameron Tringale

19. Brett Stegmaier

20. Corey Conners

21. Steve Wheatcroft

22. Chad Collins

23. Tom Hoge

24. Joel Dahmen

25. Seamus Power

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”