The Nationwide Tour Year in Review

By Sports NetworkDecember 28, 2007, 5:00 pm
Nationwide TourAs a golf writer, one thing I am hardly ever prepared for is an obscure question. You tell somebody you're a golf writer, and they respond with something like, 'Who was that amateur golfer back in the '60s who everyone thought was going to be great, the one who was arrested for killing his neighbor's cow?'
OK, so that never actually happened, but you get the idea. These obscure questions are often posed during a round of golf -- mostly they're about golfers, records, majors, etc.
It happened recently when a colleague and I were paired with another twosome in the middle of a round: one quiet and dutiful, the other as loud as his red shirt. Well, Loudy McTalksalot wanted to know if we'd ever heard of 'that golf writer who ...' Which ended up turning into a conversation about the great Grantland Rice, of whom this golf writer was apparently a contemporary. Sue me. I didn't know the golf writer from Adam.
But this type of thing has happened a lot since I began writing about golf 2 1/2 years ago. So I have prepared myself to answer certain questions that might arise randomly when I tell a stranger or a friend-of-a-friend that I am a golf writer. It doesn't hurt that I spend more than 40 hours a week writing, watching and talking about this stuff.
I thought of this potential question recently: 'Who is the best golfer I don't know?' Which led to this challenge: 'Name a golfer I don't know now, but who I will know soon.'
My answer to the second question is Nick Flanagan, the Nationwide Tour breakthrough star who won three times on the developmental circuit this past season to earn a promotion to the PGA Tour.
He's our pick for Nationwide Tour Player of the Year.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Nick Flanagan
The week Flanagan made his debut on the PGA Tour, all three Sports Network golf writers agreed that he would fare well. Which he did when he tied for 18th place at the Turning Stone Resort Championship to earn a $73,029 check -- more than the second-place finisher claimed that same week on the Nationwide Tour.
One of the biggest advantages of making the jump to the PGA Tour at the end of the season is that, like Flanagan, the golfer will inevitably crash the party with so much momentum and confidence that a good finish is very likely, if not almost guaranteed. Especially against lackluster fields in the mostly-middling tournaments that made up the Fall Series.
Remember when Jason Gore shot a 59 at the Cox Classic in 2005, won the tournament for his battlefield promotion, then walked away with victory at the PGA Tour's 84 Lumber Classic?
In golf, confidence mostly begets good play. And good play can get you a long way when Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson & Company are taking time off. So it wasn't surprising that Flanagan made a good debut, and it wasn't shocking that he followed it up with a T17 the next week at the Viking Classic for $49,000 more.
What was surprising was the way the young Australian stormed the Nationwide Tour for his three victories in a span of less than four months. From his playoff win at the Henrico County Open on April 29 (when he was just 22) to his one-shot victory at the Xerox Classic on August 19 (two months after his 23rd birthday), he was clearly the most exciting player on tour.
Flanagan finished third on the Nationwide Tour's 2007 money list with $369,952 even though he played in only 17 events. Money leader Richard Johnson played in 25 and Roland Thatcher, second on the list, made 28 starts. Both of them won twice -- but Flanagan gets our automatic nod for Player of the Year for his three wins.
There's no doubt he would have held the money title at the end of the year had he played a busier schedule and a full season. There's also a good chance he would have won again.
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR - Eight was enough.
That Brad Adamonis escaped a four-way playoff to win the WNB Golf Classic in October was hardly the story. That he needed eight holes to do it was the big news.
Adamonis made a par at the eighth extra hole to knock off Tjaart van der Walt for his first Nationwide Tour win. Adamonis and Van der Walt played six playoff holes head-to-head after Ron Whittaker was eliminated on the first sudden-death hole and Vance Veazey was knocked out on the second.
It matched the second-longest playoff in Nationwide Tour history, and Adamonis made eight consecutive pars to come out on top as darkness fell in Midland, Texas.
'I don't care -- any way I can get a win is great,' Adamonis said. 'I just kept on grinding. That's kind of the way I've always played my game. I just hung in there and finally got a break in my career.'
SHOT OF THE YEAR - 'Things just went right for me.'
Flanagan needed an improbable finish at the Xerox Classic in August to become the first player in two years to earn a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour. He began the final round seven shots off the lead, then made an eagle and five birdies to shoot a 63 on Sunday.
The shot that got him the win? A 30-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to move one shot ahead of third-round leader James Driscoll. Flanagan said all he wanted to do was fulfill his potential. Check.
'I can't believe I won today, that's for sure. I didn't think I could quite get there from seven back,' he said. 'Things just went right for me.'
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - Tie goes to the professional.
Nineteen-year-old Jason Day -- like Flanagan, an up-and-coming Aussie -- won the Legend Financial Group Classic and finished fifth on the money list after making 14 cuts in 19 starts during his first full season on the Nationwide Tour.
In addition to his win, Day collected one runner-up finish, a third-place finish and seven top-10s in 2007. He gets the nod over surprising 23-year-old Daniel Summerhays.
Summerhays became the first amateur ever to win a Nationwide Tour event when he shot a final-round 69 on Sunday at the Children's Hospital Invitational. He was one of 10 All-Americans invited to play that week at Ohio State's Scarlet Course, one of the toughest on the 2007 schedule.
After turning professional a week later, Summerhays made 10 cuts in 12 more starts and earned $46,000 for the season. It would have been considerably more had he been able to collect his first-place check at the Children's Hospital Invitational.
'I'm still trying to get used to the feeling,' the first-time winner said.
Richard Johnson - He won the Nationwide Tour Championship to take over the money lead on the last day of the season, closing out a strong 2007 with a 20- under 264 over his last four rounds to win for the second time in his last four starts. In between those two victories, Johnson missed two cuts in a row. But it doesn't matter. He's off to the PGA Tour next year.
Roland Thatcher - Johnson's win at the Tour Championship knocked Thatcher out of the No. 1 position on the money list, where he'd been perched for more than three months. He had partly himself to blame. Thatcher managed scores of only 73-70 in the last two rounds of the Tour Championship and took home $5,425 for a tie for 29th place. The difference between Johnson's first-place windfall ($139,000) and Thatcher's 29th-place check was more than enough to give Johnson the money title.
Kyle Thompson - Behind Flanagan, Johnson and Thatcher, Thompson was the only other player to win at least twice this season. His victories helped him finish 14th on the money list. He missed 16 cuts in 28 starts and only had four top-10 finishes -- hardly a consistent presence near the top of the leaderboard -- but if you win twice on the Nationwide Tour in one season, you make this list.
Jon Mills - Nobody had more top-10s on the Nationwide Tour this season than Mills, who collected nine of them. He won once, finished runner-up once, and posted five top-fives. He finished fourth on the money list behind Johnson, Thatcher and Flanagan.
David Ogrin - Nobody made at least 20 starts on the Nationwide Tour this season and collected less money that Ogrin. In his 20 starts, he made just five cuts and $7,320 without posting a single top-10 finish. Ogrin won in 1996, but at almost 50 years old, his professional career has probably seen its last days.
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.