PGA Tour does about-face on pro-am policy


NORTON, Mass. – Retief Goosen knows what a lousy feeling it is to oversleep and miss a pro-am time on the PGA Tour.

The reigning U.S. Open champion recalls hustling to Riviera, arriving when his group was on the first green. Because of a new Tour regulation, Goosen was ineligible for the 2005 Nissan Open. It was a blow to the sponsors because Goosen was among only three players from the top 10 in the world that week.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem heard the outcry and said officials would take another look at the rule, although he didn’t expect a change. “The rule was put into effect, and it accomplished its mission. And you can’t argue with that,” Finchem said.

Jim Furyk did the same thing last week at The Barclays. The reaction was entirely different.

Less than a week after Furyk, the No. 3 seed in the FedEx Cup, overslept and missed his pro-am time, Finchem announced he was suspending the regulation that led to Furyk being unable to play.

For the rest of the year, any player missing his pro-am starting time will be subject to punishment under “conduct unbecoming a professional.” What that means is unclear, for the Tour does not discuss disciplinary action. The player will be required to finish the pro-am round and may be required to do additional sponsor activities.

Anyone who misses his pro-am entirely is out of the tournament, unless he was excused.

“Certain players have a higher stature than other players,” Goosen said Tuesday at the TPC Boston. “Some players make a noise and nobody listens, and other players make a noise and everyone listens.”

Goosen thought it was unfair for Furyk to miss the tournament, just as he did at Riviera more than five years ago.

Nick Price went to bat for Goosen back then, suggesting that every player get one absence during the year. That’s what Goosen would like to see now.

“You should have at least one chance a year that something like this happens. At least you’re not disqualified,” he said. “Furyk being up there in the FedEx Cup, there was great sadness he wasn’t there. It was a great golf course for him. I’m sure he would have been up at the top with the leaders.”

Most peculiar about last week? Furyk wasn’t nearly as outraged as some of his colleagues. He blamed no one but himself when the charge on his cell phone – which he uses for an alarm clock – became disconnected and his phone went dead.

It was only the second time he had overslept for a pro-am in his 17-year career. The Tour did not adopt the pro-am regulation in 2004 because of players such as Furyk.

Phil Mickelson was among the most outspoken last week, noting that the rule only applies to those players – 54 out of 122 at The Barclays – who were in the pro-am. “I have no idea how the commissioner let this rule go through. It’s ridiculous,” he said.

Pat Perez said the Tour suspending the regulation was “long overdue,” and not many would disagree. In the case of Furyk and Goosen, both made a spirited attempt to get to the golf course. Furyk didn’t even take time to put on a belt or tie his shoes.

In a statement provided by the tour, Furyk said he was glad the PGA Tour has changed the rule, pleased that Finchem and his staff reacted swiftly.

As for conduct unbecoming? That suggests a fine would be in order, and that left Goosen skeptical.

“Certain players with so much money, they’ll pay $5,000 10 times a year not to play in the pro-am,” he said. “At the end of the day, you should get one relief a year for accidentally missing a tee time.”

Finchem has asked the Player Advisory Council and board to evaluate the rules to be discussed at the November board meeting.

The question is why the tour chose to suspend the regulation after Furyk was eliminated from the tournament, yet did not see a need to do anything after Goosen was suspended.

Furyk’s case brought more attention to the regulation because of his No. 3 ranking and the start of the playoffs, where every tournament helps a player get in position for the $10 million prize. A player has been knocked out of a tournament seven times for missing his pro-am, but this is the first time in happened in the playoffs.

As for Goosen?

Since missing his pro-am time at Riviera, he has requested afternoon pro-am times at every tournament.
Despite wild rumors on the Internet, Deutsche Bank is expected to pick up the final two years of its option this week, which will keep it as the title sponsor of the Deutsche Bank Championship through 2012.

It would continue an impressive run by the PGA Tour in a tough economy, the 19th piece of business – either a new title sponsor or an existing sponsor – since the start of 2009.

The tour is closer than ever to finding a sponsor for the World Golf Championship at Doral. That would leave only Hilton Head, St. Jude and the Bob Hope Classic as regular events without sponsorship.
Steve Stricker is golf’s version of “Mr. October,” even though he’s usually in a deer stand that month. Golf’s version of the playoffs are in August and September, but that’s when Stricker seems to play his best.

He is the only guy to have played all 52 rounds of the 13 playoff events since the FedEx Cup began in 2007. Stricker has won twice (’07 Barclays, ’09 Deutsche Bank), has one runner-up finish and has twice tied for third.

His earnings from the playoffs alone are $5,142,790 – or 19 percent of his career earnings on the PGA Tour. And that doesn’t include more than $5 million in FedEx Cup bonus money.

Stricker’s scoring average in playoff events is 68.9.
Tiger Woods is a combined 1 over par in 37 rounds he has completed this year. Not that it matters – he became ineligible for the Vardon Trophy when he withdrew in the middle of the fourth round at The Players Championship. … Woods was No. 1 in driving accuracy at The Barclays, hitting 79 percent of the fairways. In his previous two tournaments, he was last among 71 players at the PGA Championship, and 79th out of 80 players at the Bridgestone Invitational. … U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, runner-up David Chung and Scott Langley will represent the United States at the World Amateur Team Championship, which will be Oct. 28-31 in Buenos Aires. … Along with going atop the PGA Tour money list, Matt Kuchar now leads the race for the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average.
Cameron Beckman, Derek Lamely, Matt Bettencourt and Bill Lunde are the only PGA Tour winners this year who did not advance out of the first round of the playoffs. They all won opposite-field events, which award only half of the points.
“Our decision is based on 14 1/2 .” – European captain Colin Montgomerie on his three wild-card picks, referring to the points required to win the Ryder Cup.