Notes Careful for What You Ask Q-School Update

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It was six years ago when PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem brought together leaders of the industry for a conference aimed at taking advantage of golf's growing popularity. Tiger Woods had just completed one of the greatest years in golf with nine victories and three straight majors.
 
Finchem outlined some bold goals at 'Golf 20/20: Vision for the Future.' One of them was aimed at the NFL.

'We should consider as our first goal to become the No. 1 sport in fan base, surpassing the NFL by the year 2020 and reaching 177 million fans,' he said in November 2000.
 
He has 14 years left, but the goal looked more out of reach when the PGA TOUR revamped its schedule and one of the reasons was to avoid competition with the NFL. Finchem either underestimated the power of football or overestimated the mainstream popularity of golf.
 
The next commissioner who might fall into that trap is LPGA boss Carolyn Bivens.
 
During a news conference last week at Trump International, the commissioner talked about moving the LPGA into the mainstream, then defined what she considers her peer groups. She mentioned the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, NHL -- then pausing for effect -- 'and yes, the PGA TOUR.'
 
Careful.
 
The LPGA Tour is arguably the best women's sports organization because it has succeeded on its own for more than 50 years without any outside help, the way the WNBA leans on the NBA, for example. To compare it with the PGA TOUR was not a fair fight.
 
But if that's what she wants ...
 
The total prize money on the LPGA Tour this year was about $54 million. Total prize money on the PGA TOUR was $260 million.
 
The PGA TOUR will get about $1 billion from its six-year contract with the television networks next year, along with a 15-year deal with The Golf Channel to broadcast weekday rounds. The LPGA Tour has to buy most of its television time, and some tournaments could not be found anywhere on TV.
 
There were a record 11 millionaires on the LPGA Tour this year. The PGA TOUR had 93.
 
And the list goes on.
 
Q-SCHOOL UPDATE
Five years ago, Ty Tryon became the youngest player to earn a PGA TOUR card when he made it through all three stages of Q-school at age 17.
 
Tryon would be a senior in college had he stayed an amateur, and it's safe to say he has endured a hard education. He again failed to make it past the second stage of Q-school last week, finishing last in Dade City, Fla.
 
Youth was not served in other qualifiers.
 
Casey Wittenberg, who left Oklahoma State two years ago and tried to earn his card through sponsors' exemptions, has yet to get his card. He bogeyed five of his last six holes in Panama City, Fla., and missed advancing by one shot.
 
Former PGA winners didn't have much luck. David Gossett, Len Mattiace, Neal Lancaster and Chris Smith failed to reach the final stage.
 
Among those who did well were Anthony Kim, who was medalist in McKinney, Texas; and Jason Day of Australia, who was medalist at the qualifier in Beaumont, Calif.
 
The six-round final stage starts Nov. 29 in Palm Desert, Calif.
 
MINOR REPRIEVE
Steven Bowditch attributed his dismal showing on the PGA TOUR to clinical depression. After getting a report from his doctor, the PGA TOUR is ready to give him another chance.
 
The tour has offered Bowditch a minor medical exemption, meaning he will have five tournaments next year to earn the equivalent of No. 125 on the money list ($660,898). The Australian will need to earn $649,708, for he made only two cuts in his 24 starts, finishing 76th in the Reno-Tahoe Open and 78th in the Southern Farm Bureau Classic.
 
It is believed to be the first time a player was granted a medical exemption without physical injury.
 
Bowditch had only two rounds in the 60s. He withdrew twice and was disqualified four times while going 0-for-14 in paychecks at the start of the year. But he appears to be gaining control of his health. He tied for seventh last week in the Australian Open.
 
His next big event will be Q-school in two weeks in California, where he will try to earn his card in case he struggles in his five events under the medical exemption.
 
LOST YEAR, BUT NO LOST CLAUSE
Mark Wilson agreed to donate a percentage of his PGA TOUR earnings this year to the MACC Fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer). Wilson finished 156th on the money list, and he was to donate $9,800.
 
Instead, Wilson and his wife Amy gave $30,000, the highest donation by an athlete in the 30-year history of the MACC Fund.
 
'The greatness of Mark Wilson extends far beyond the golf course,' MACC Fund executive director John Cary said.
 
Wilson could use some greatness on the golf course next week. He goes to the final stage of Q-school, trying to earn back his card.
 
END OF THE DEBATE
Scott Verplank was asked for his thoughts on the new Ryder Cup selection process, and was told that points were only available next year in the majors.
 
Digesting this for a second, he asked, 'Is The Players Championship a major?'
 
Sorry.
 
One point for every $1,000 will be awarded at the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship.
 
Another pause from Verplank.
 
'Well, I guess that confirms it then,' he said. 'There's only four majors.'
 
DIVOTS
Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa and the rest of the players at the Women's British Open won't have to worry about any 'No Women Allowed' signs greeting them in the clubhouse or locker room at St. Andrews. R&A chief Peter Dawson told The Daily Telegraph last week that they will be allowed wherever the men are at the British Open. 'They can use the facilities to whatever extent they wish,' Dawson said. 'There will no restrictions. And if they want any of the rooms for special functions, they can have them.' It will be the first time the Women's British Open is held on the Old Course. ... Sophie Gustafson earned life membership on the Ladies European Tour by accumulating 20 points through 12 victories, two money titles and five Solheim Cup teams. ... Billy Casper is returning from a five-year hiatus and will play the Father-Son Challenge on Dec. 2-3 outside Orlando, Fla.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Three players shot 60 on the PGA TOUR, the most in any one season, but none of those players went on to win the tournament: Pat Perez (Bob Hope Classic), Arron Oberholser (Byron Nelson Championship) and Justin Rose (Disney).
 
FINAL WORD
'To be a professional (golfer), you have to spend five years on the practice tee hitting balls. If you're a golf architect, you have to spend at least five years in the dirt and on a bulldozer.' -- Robert Trent Jones Jr., on Tiger Woods getting into the golf course design business.
 
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