ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Fans may still be trying to wrap their heads around the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule, but the fourth edition of the fall experiment shows signs that the players are starting to get a feel for what could be a crucial portion of the calendar.
East Lake or bust. Initially dismissed as secondary events, the fall portion of the Tour’s wraparound schedule has taken on a unique importance since it began in the 2013-14 season.
This week's defending champion Kevin Kisner finished runner-up at last year’s WGC-HSBC Champions and broke through for his first Tour title at Sea Island Resort, virtually locking up a start at the Tour Championship. Kevin Na had a similar run, finishing third, second and second in the fall to pave his path to East Lake. Justin Thomas has put together a similar run this fall, with a victory and a tie for eighth to move to No. 2 on the FedEx Cup points list.
While a number of the game’s top players will probably always view the fall as a reason to rest, many Tour types are starting to appreciate the fall for what it is – an opportunity.
Feeling the Love. He missed the cut at the RSM Classic, which won’t make him happy, but having the weekend off will allow Davis Love III to spend some time working the BBQ grill at Sea Island Resort and generally embrace the role of host.
In Love’s defense, he’s not 100 percent healthy following hip surgery in July and along with this week’s hosting duties have come a series of press conferences and social functions to celebrate his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame next year.
Oh, and there is still that Ryder Cup thing to deal with.
It’s Love’s week to watch over the Ryder Cup, and the golden chalice is getting plenty of attention.
“It has a little bit of a smell of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon right now for some reason from last night,” Love smiled on Wednesday.
Following the most eventful year of his career, maybe a little time off this weekend isn’t a bad thing.
Tweet of the week:
Volunteers couldn't find my name... solid replacement... Even they know pic.twitter.com/pzFbGqypAs— stevenbowditch (@bowdo83) November 18, 2016
The Australian continues to struggle through a prolonged slump, posting rounds of 77-87 to miss the cut at the RSM Classic, but there is something to be learned from the humor and grace he’s shown throughout all of his tough times.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Buggin’ out. As proof that it’s never too late to turn things around, Rory McIlroy closed his PGA Tour season with a pair of playoff victories and the FedEx Cup hardware.
Compared to the rest of his season, with just one other worldwide win, it was an 11th-hour save that will make the holidays much more enjoyable.
Like many top players, McIlroy also came under fire for his decision to skip the Olympics, citing, among other things, concerns over the Zika virus. This week at the European Tour’s finale in Dubai, the Northern Irishman had an interesting take on that decision.
“I think when I get older and I want to have kids, then it might have been a good decision,” McIlroy said. “Everything that happened in the Olympics went well, and I’m glad that it did go well, but a few people used that excuse [Zika] and I sort of jumped on the bandwagon.”
It was a playful interview with a boy named Billy and was largely tongue-in-cheek, but McIlroy’s honesty, if not his motivations, is worth a respectful nod.
Transatlantic tilt. This week, the European Tour unveiled its new Rolex Series, a seven-event slate to boost the circuit’s appeal with key tournaments.
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley called the initiative a “critical game-changer,” and the plan dovetails with the CEO’s plan to target specific week’s to go head-to-head with the PGA Tour, with larger purses at marquee events.
Among the seven Rolex events are the three Race to Dubai stops, including this week’s DP World Tour Championship, last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge and the Turkish Airlines Open, which already rival or exceed the strength of field for events on the U.S. tour during the same week.
By picking his spots, Pelley has created an interesting dynamic to challenge the PGA Tour. Your move, Ponte Vedra Beach.
Playing favorites. Remember that feeling back in school when teams were being picked and someone got left out? Lee Westwood does.
Westwood planned to spend next week in Australia, playing with partner Danny Willett at the World Cup of Golf, but when Willett withdrew to nurse a nagging back injury, the top spot for England fell to Chris Wood, who had other plans.
As allowed under the rules, Wood picked Andy Sullivan to be his partner at Kingston Heath Golf Club, a snub that didn’t sit well with Westwood, who had already booked his travel to Australia.
“I haven’t spoken to Woody yet, but frustrated would be one word you could use to describe how I feel about it,” Westwood told The Sun in Dubai. “It’s not great when it all happens at the last minute, especially as I’d geared all my end of season plans around playing in the World Cup.”
Just a hunch, but it doesn’t seem likely we’ll see a Wood-Westwood pairing at the new team event in New Orleans next year.