Notes TOUR Ballots Mailed Out for Awards

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PGA Tour (75x100)PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Tiger Woods was half-joking a few months ago when he suggested that Steve Stricker would be his pick as comeback player of the year, even though Stricker won the award last year.
 
It could happen.
 
The TOUR award ballots went in the mail last week to players, and Stricker is one of three candidates as comeback player of the year. The other two are Rocco Mediate, who finished 82nd on the money list after starting the season with a minor medical exemption; and Brian Bateman, who earned the final card out of Q-school and won the Buick Open.
 
Stricker won the award last year by starting the 2006 with limited status and finishing 34th on the money list. He followed that by winning The Barclays for his first victory in more than six years, finishing second to Woods in the FedExCup, and moving to No. 4 in the world when his season ended.
 
Woods and Phil Mickelson were the two choices for PGA TOUR player of the year, while the candidates for rookie of the year were Greensboro winner Brandt Snedeker, Las Vegas winner George McNeill, and Anthony Kim, who was 60th on the money list.
 
Players have 30 days to cast their votes, and the winners are expected to be announced on Dec. 11.
 
PLAYING TIME:
The second stage of PGA TOUR qualifying school starts this week, while 25 players from the Nationwide Tour already have their cards. As always, the real chore is keeping those cards during the 2008 season.
 
But if one year of the FedExCup was any indication, they'll at least have a fighting chance.
 
One of the concerns about the revamped season was whether Q-school and Nationwide grads would get enough starts. Based on a review of 60 players in that category, they averaged about 25 starts on the PGA TOUR this year. The list does not include Jonathan Kaye or Carl Paulson, who did not play because of injuries.
 
Players in this category are ranked by alternating order from the Nationwide Tour money list and Q-school. The top spot went to George McNeill, who played 30 times and won in Las Vegas. The last spot went to Tom Byrum, who had 20 starts and finished 195th on the money list. Ten players from that category had at least 30 starts.
 
For all the focus on whether Tiger Woods and the big names played more or less under the FedExCup system, what really got the TOUR's attention were the guys on the lower end of the food chain.
 
'It means we were able to improve the strength of fields without affecting the stars of tomorrow,' said Henry Hughes, the TOUR's chief of operations.
 
That's not to suggest guys from the bottom category could play whenever and wherever they wanted. While the Q-school and Nationwide grads averaged 25 starts, the average during the FedExCup season was 20 starts, and 31 of the 60 players wound up playing all seven events after the TOUR Championship.
 
Even so, Hughes was pleased to see that this category was not kept from playing.
 
'We're always focused on the Q-school and Nationwide guys to make sure they have ample opportunity to attain exempt status for next year,' he said. 'And we think we did that.'
 
Financially, it's more attractive to play in the majors and the World Golf Championships, not to mention elite fields like Memorial and Bay Hill. But for the most part, FedExCup points distribution does not discriminate against strength of field. The winner of a WGC event, for example, only received 225 more points than the winner of a regular PGA TOUR event.
 
Two more noteworthy items from that category:
 
Five players won tournaments -- Mark Wilson, Boo Weekley, Brian Bateman, Brandt Snedeker and George McNeill, the Q-school medalist and the only winner whose victory came during the Fall Series. That's up one from the previous year.
 
Nineteen of the 60 finished inside the top 125 on the money list to earn full status for next year, while 11 others earned conditional status by finishing in the top 150.
 
TOUR CUTS:
One policy board decision came two weeks too late for players who languished through a long weekend at Disney, where 89 players made the cut.
 
The board approved a change in 36-hole cuts to avoid such a large field on the weekend. Starting next year, the cut after two rounds will remain the top 70 professionals and ties. But if more than 78 players make the cut, only the closest number to 70 will make it to the weekend, and the others would be paid official, last-place money.
 
The board first discussed this policy in change in May, and two names that came up during the discussion were Brad Faxon and Jose Maria Olazabal. Both have made the cut on the number and went on to win the tournament -- Faxon in 2005 at Hartford, Olazabal in 2002 at Torrey Pines.
 
At Hartford, 77 players made the cut so Faxon would have kept playing on his way to a 65-61 weekend. In Olazabal's case, however, 89 players made the cut. He would have gone home with last-place money instead of shooting 67-65.
 
RANKIN AWARD:
Judy Rankin has been honored with the LPGA Komen Award for her work in preaching the importance of early detection in the battle against breast cancer.
 
It was a testimonial for Rankin, who was diagnosed in April 2006 and was sidelined from her job as a golf analyst for five months.
 
'Women everywhere are very fortunate that the Komen Foundation exists to coordinate all the things involved for their good,' Rankin said. 'So many people raise money and awareness on a daily basis. I only hope my story will make it a little easier for someone else and that we can see an end to this disease in the near future.'
 
POLICY BOARD CHANGES:
Vic Ganzi took over Monday as chairman of the PGA TOUR Policy Board with the retirement of longtime chairman Dick Ferris. Ganzi is president and CEO of Hearst Corp., and the person largely responsible for the tour's retirement plan.
 
Ed Whitacre, chairman emeritus of AT&T, also joined the policy board as an independent director.
 
Brad Faxon and David Toms return to the policy board as player directors, replacing Davis Love III and Joe Durant.
 
DIVOTS:
Fred Couples was entitled to a major medical exemption for 2008, but instead elected to take his one-time exemption for being in the top 25 in career money. Couples is at No. 20, and might not be in the top 25 much longer. ... The Golf Coaches Association of America has selected Arnold Palmer for its Lifetime Achievement Award. Palmer will be only the third non-coach inducted into the GCAA Hall of Fame, joining Karsten Solheim and Byron Nelson. ... The 2011 U.S. Senior Open will be held at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Only one American finished among the top 5 on the Nationwide Tour money list.
 
FINAL WORD:
'Golf to me was just another sport until I was about 19. When I won the National Amateur at 19, I finally said, 'Hmmm, I must be a little better than I think I am.'' -- Jack Nicklaus.
 
Related Links:
  • Playoff Changes for 2008
  • Drug Test to Hit TOUR in 2008
     
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