Notes Ryder Cup Race Silly Stats

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The Omega Masters in Switzerland this week is the starting line for Europeans to earn Ryder Cup points, although some players again face tough decisions about how much they want to make the team.
 
Jesper Parnevik, Justin Rose, Greg Owen and Fredrik Jacobson are among those who will not be listed in either of the Ryder Cup standings -- money and world ranking points -- because they do not plan to play the minimum 11 tournaments to retain their European tour membership this year.
 
Parnevik is 130th on the PGA Tour money list, and his first goal is to keep his card. Rose moved up to 66th on the money list with his tie for third at the Buick Championship, although at No. 93 in the world he would be better served playing on the PGA Tour to help improve his ranking and get into the majors.

``I'm going to join the European tour as of the end of the season,'' Rose said. ``That'll make me eligible for the Ryder Cup, but then I'll obviously have to play fantastically well to force my way onto the team. I'll be a little behind the guys, but if you play well ... you can do it.''
 
If they had played well this year, it might have been easier.
 
Top players such as Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke and Luke Donald have an easier time keeping membership on both tours because they are eligible for the four majors and three World Golf Championships. That means they have to play only four European tour events.
 
Parnevik played in the Masters and PGA Championship, leaving nine European events he would have had to play.
 
Harrington sees nothing wrong with Ryder Cup players having to keep membership on the European tour.
 
``Eleven isn't too much to ask, is it?'' he said. ``You only have to play four extra events, and if you're good enough to be on the team, you'll be in the top 50 in the world ranking.''
 
Jacobson has played just five European Tour events this year. He is 77th in the world ranking and has two months left to try to get into the top 50, which would make him eligible for the majors next year. Plus, Jacobson's wife is expecting their second child in January. They live in south Florida.
 
``I need to focus on this place and be with my family,'' he told England's Press Association news agency. ``It's disappointing, because I'd love to play in the Ryder Cup. But I can't see myself changing everything for one week.''
 
SILLY STATS
Here's another reason the only statistic that means anything in golf is winning.
 
Roland Thatcher leads the PGA Tour in greens in regulation at 72.3 percent, but he is last among 206 players in putts per round. That might explain why he is 155th on the money list and in jeopardy of losing his card.
 
Or maybe not.
 
Sergio Garcia ranks third in greens in regulation at 71.3 percent. He is next-to-last in putts per round. And he is ninth on the money list with $2.6 million, having won the Booz Allen Classic.
 
SPARKLING DEBUT
Michael Putnam was at Merion to get ready for the U.S. Amateur. A week later, he tapped in a par for a final-round 63 at the Buick Championship and earned $177,733 in his professional debut.
 
``It worked out perfectly,'' Putnam said.
 
Putnam, the NCAA runner-up from Pepperdine, didn't even qualify for match play last year at the U.S. Amateur, so there wasn't a huge incentive to stick around Merion. When he got a call that he received a sponsor's exemption to the Buick Championship, he jumped on a train for Hartford and saw the TPC at River Highlands for the first time Monday.
 
``The tight holes really looked good to me,'' he said. ``The open holes, obviously they're open, so they didn't have to look good to me. It fit my eye, and I felt comfortable out here.''
 
He opened with a 65, but more impressive was a bogey-free 63 his first time in contention. He wound up tied for fourth, two shots out of the playoff, which gets him in the Deutsche Bank Championship this week. He hopes to get more exemptions, although expectations remain modest.
 
``Realistically, I didn't know what to expect,'' he said. ``I'm just trying to play well, and I did it this week and shot 12 under. I was just trying to get my feet wet, and I jumped in over my head.''
 
SILLY SEASON
With all the talk about a shorter year, the silly season is getting bigger.
 
The latest addition is the Bard Capital Challenge, which will offer amateurs from 250 local American Cancer Society charity events the chance to qualify for a team competition with PGA Tour players Dec. 1-4 in Las Vegas.
 
The amateur portion runs through Oct. 15 and is expected to attract 30,000 players with a handicap index between 3 and 27. Those who qualify compete at the TPC at The Canyons, with the eight best two-player teams joining up with eight tour players in the 54-hole final. Scoring will be a better ball of the amateurs, plus the professional's score.
 
Prize money is $750,000, with $150,000 going to the American Cancer Society.
 
FUTURES GRADUATES
Two years after winning the U.S. Women's Amateur, Virada Nirapathpongporn is finally headed to the LPGA Tour.
 
Nirapathpongporn was among the top five players on the Futures Tour money list, earning LPGA Tour cards for next year. The others were Nicole Castrale, and the South Korean trio of Seon-Hwa Lee, Kyeong Bae and Sun Young Yoo.
 
The next 10 players on the Futures Tour money list get into the final stage of qualifying school. That group includes former U.S. Junior Girls Amateur champion Julieta Granada, and Cristina Baena, the sister of Marisa Baena.
 
DIVOTS
Brad Faxon became the first player since Jose Maria Olazabal at the 2002 Buick Invitational to make the cut on the number and win the tournament. Faxon was 12 shots out of the lead going into the weekend at the Buick Championship. Olazabal was eight shots behind at Torrey Pines. ... Faxon's 61 was the best closing round by a winner since David Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic in 1999. ... Daniel Chopra has missed only one PGA Tour event for which he has been eligible this year, the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. He has played 27 times and is 100th on the money list.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Four of the top six players in driving distance on the LPGA Tour will play for Europe in the Solheim Cup -- Sophie Gustafson (No. 2), Annika Sorenstam (No. 3), Laura Davies (No. 4) and Maria Hjorth (No. 6).
 
FINAL WORD
``I didn't really think about the money until I kind of tapped in my putt on 18 ... and I realized I just made 100 times what's in my back account.'' -- Michael Putnam, who tied for fourth at the Buick Championship and earned $177,733 in his PGA Tour debut.