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Bunker Shots The Final Countdown

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Blasting into the week ahead, from Tiger’s last chance to win in 2010 to Q-School pressure and an LPGA free-for-all ...

PGA TOUR

PGA Tour (75x100)Chevron World Challenge

Seven of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking are in the limited field at Sherwood Country Club.

No. 1 Lee Westwood, No. 3 Martin Kaymer and No. 4 Phil Mickelson are the only top-10 players who won’t be teeing it up in the field of 18. Kaymer was a late withdrawal, opening the door for Nick Watney to compete as an alternate.

Though an official victory and official money can't be won this week, world ranking points can be won.

Bunker shot: Tiger Woods can avoid going for “0 for 2010” with a victory this week. It wouldn’t count as an official victory, but winning would be a meaningful boost to Woods anyway. A victory would be his first in 54 weeks. It would be meaningful in aiming attention at what may lie ahead next season while shifting focus away from what miserably lies behind him this past season.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Paul Casey. Contender – Tiger Woods. Dark horse – Anthony Kim.

  • Course: Sherwood Country Club, Thousand Oaks, Calif. (Par 72, 7,027 yards).
  • Purse: $5 million (winner’s share, $1.2 million).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 4-7 p.m. (ET); Saturday-Sunday, NBC, 3-6 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Jim Furyk defeated Graeme McDowell by a shot.
    PGA Tour (75x100)PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament’s final stage

A field of more than 160 players will endure six days of hell (a.k.a. Q-School) at Orange County National.

The top 25 and ties win fully exempt status on the PGA Tour next year, with the next number of finishers closest to 50 earning fully exempt Nationwide Tour status. Everyone else takes home conditional status on the Nationwide Tour.

Of the 25 players who won Tour cards at Q-School last year, 11 retained their status this year. Rickie Fowler was the highest ranking Q-School grad on this year’s PGA Tour money list, finishing 22nd in money. In case you’re wondering, just eight of the 25 Nationwide Tour grads retained their status. Michael Sim led the Nationwide Tour grads, finishing 65th on the PGA Tour money list.

Bunker shot: Troy Merritt won last year’s PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. He needed every bit of momentum and confidence that gave him to hold onto his PGA Tour card this year. He finished 125th on the money list. There are no guarantees for the Q-School medalist. Three of the last 10 winners failed to keep their cards the following seasons (Steve Allan, 2000; Mathias Gronberg, ’03; Frank Lickliter, ’07). By PGA Tour standards, a victory this week doesn’t even come with much of a prize. The winner takes home $50,000. The guy who finishes dead last at the Chevron World Challenge this weekend will earn $100,000 more than that. But Q-School champions have used their momentum to win bigger events. J.B. Holmes followed up his Q-School title in ’05 by winning the FBR Open in ’06. George McNeill followed up his Q-School title in ’06 by winning the Frys.com Open in ’07. You don’t get rich winning Q-School, but you get the chance to win riches. That’s what this week is all about. The chance.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Will MacKenzie. Contender – Pablo Martin. Dark horse – Jeff Klauk.

  • Course: Orange County National’s Crooked Cat (Par 72, 7,277 yards) and Panther Lake (Par 71, 7,152 yards) courses, Winter Garden, Fla.
  • Purse: $1,057,500 (winner’s share, $50,000).
  • TV times: Golf Channel – Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m.. (ET); Monday, 12:30-4 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Troy Merritt was medalist at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., finishing at 22 under, a shot ahead of Jeff Maggert.

LPGA


LPGA Tour _newLPGA Tour Championship

LPGA fans could be treated to the most head-spinning finish in tour history.

The No. 1 world ranking, Rolex Player of the Year, the LPGA money title and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average could all be up for grabs Sunday in the final round of the LPGA Tour Championship at Grand Cypress.

The top five players in the Rolex world rankings have a chance to end the season atop those rankings: No. 1 Jiyai Shin, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, No. 3 Cristie Kerr, No. 4 Yani Tseng and No. 5 Na Yeon Choi.

Five players have a chance to be the Rolex Player of the Year. A victory is worth 30 points this week, with 12 points for second and nine for third. There are points for everyone who finishes in the top 10. Here are the point leaders: 1. Tseng, 188; 2. Miyazato, 179; 3. Choi, 174; 4. Kerr, 173; 5. Shin, 170.

Two players have a chance to win the money title: Choi leads the money list with $1,814,588 in earnings. Shin trails by $34,790. The first-place check this week is $225,000.

Choi is locked in a tight battle for the Vare Trophy. Her 69.77 scoring average is just .09 points better than Kerr’s.

Bunker shot: Choi could go from a pro flying too much under the radar to an LPGA superstar overnight this week. Choi is the only player in the field who has a shot to win all four of the tour’s big prizes: the No. 1 world ranking, Rolex Player of the Year, the LPGA money title and the Vare Trophy.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jiyai Shin. Contender – Na Yeon Choi. Dark horse – Christina Kim.

  • Course: Grand Cypress Golf Club, Orlando, Fla.
  • Purse: $1.5 million (winner’s share, $225,000).
  • TV times: Golf Channel – Thursday-Friday, 1:30-3:30 p.m. (ET); Saturday-Sunday, 7:30-9:30 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Rookie Anna Nordqvist swept the LPGA’s flagship events, adding to her LPGA Championship title by winning the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship.