BuyCom Class of 2001 Holding Their Own
Perhaps the most prominent instance of a Buy.com Tour player making an impact is Pat Perez, who graduated to the big dance by earning medalist honors at the grueling Qualifying School.
Perez held a one-shot lead over Matt Gogel standing on the majestic 18th tee at Pebble Beach Golf Club in the National Pro-Am. His drive landed out of bounds, under a hedge and forced him to take the lonely walk back to the tee to hit his third shot. That found the fairway but his fourth found the Pacific Ocean and crashed his hopes for the title like the waves that crashed into the rocks where his ball splashed.
'I don't know what I'll learn out of it,' said Perez, immediately following the bitter defeat to Gogel at Pebble Beach.
Perez, now 12th on the tour's money list, may not have needed to learn anything out of the miscue at the 18th because the Buy.com Tour has proved to be more than a minor league golfing tour.
Perez is not the only story so far in 2002. Rod Pampling, an Australian who played the Buy.com Tour in 2001, has made four out of five cuts and is currently 38th on the money list. While that ranking may not sound high, consider it is higher than such names as Justin Leonard, Davis Love III, Mark Calcavecchia, Jesper Parnevik and perhaps the Buy.com Tour's two most respected graduates: David Duval and Tom Lehman.
Two other players, Deane Pappas and John Rollins, who entered the tour through the top-15 on the 2001 Buy.com money list, have also netted top-10 finishes on tour this year. Pappas tied for sixth at the Bob Hope Classic while Rollins shared eighth at the Buick Invitational.
With foreign players coming from all over the world to compete on the PGA Tour, there is not the same room in the fields for alternates and lesser talented players.
Fields that are now filled by Jose Maria Olazabal, Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Bernhard Langer and a laundry list of other top-notched international players mean that there is no place on the big tour for players with solid games but unrecognizable names. In years past, these players were content to play on the other side of the pond but now, thanks in part to Tiger Woods' dominance, the European Tour players know they have to compete on the best tour to best prepare themselves for major championships.
That is where the Buy.com Tour comes in for the Pat Perezs of the world. It gives players who may not have exactly what it takes currently a venue to perfect their craft for the future. The level of competition is high because for every young player on the course, there is a former PGA Tour veteran who may have lost his card but certainly did not lose the experience he received on the PGA Tour.
Here is an indictment as to how the Buy.com Tour has come along. David Sutherland missed several months on the PGA Tour last year due to a shoulder injury. When he was able to come back, he went to the Buy.com Tour to get back into a competitive spirit, not right to the big tour.
In the end of August, Sutherland matched the tour's record for lowest opening 36-hole total with 127 and opened a six-shot lead halfway through the event, also tying a Buy.com Tour record. When the tournament was over, Sutherland did win - by one shot over Danny Briggs.
A final factor that can not be overlooked when it comes to the Buy.com rise to respectability is the determination factor. It is simple, if you win three times in one Buy.com Tour season, you go to the PGA Tour and are exempt for one year. Your professional dreams are realized.
If you finish in the top-15 on the money list after the Buy.com Tour Championship, you go to the show. If you succeed in the Buy.com Tour, you will make it to the PGA Tour, golf's showcase.
Success on the Buy.com Tour does not automatically translate into success at the highest level. For every Duval, Lehman or David Toms you see winning majors, there is Rob McKelvey, Andy Morse or any other Buy.com player who wallows in obscurity, never making the grade.
Don't be surprised, however, if one day Chad Campbell or Heath Slocum is hoisting a PGA Tour trophy over his head.
Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?
Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.
Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.
Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.
Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.
Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.
Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.
Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.
Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.
Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.
Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.
Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.