A Cup Divided

By Associated PressNovember 25, 2003, 5:00 pm
GEORGE, South Africa -- Nick Price got more than he hoped for at the Presidents Cup.

Following big victories by the International team in Australia and the United States in Virginia, Price said it was critical that these matches be closely contested.

'Everybody wants to see it come down to one game, one shot on Sunday,' he said earlier in the week. 'If that happens, then there will be a lot of interest in the event.'

Price nervously smoked a cigarette as he walked down a winding dirt path toward the second green Sunday evening. The pressure was stifling, and he didn't even have his clubs.

The one game?

Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, the best two players in golf for this occasion, in a sudden-death playoff to decide the Presidents Cup.

The one shot?

A dozen of them, all equally important, starting with the tee shots on the first of three extra holes and ending in darkness with two of the most pressure-packed putts ever hit.

Price was asked if he would like to be in that position.

'Not at this time,' Price said as he watched Els and Woods approach the green. 'When I was in my prime, it might have been different. But I'll tell you this: Everybody on our team, all 11 of us, want Ernie Els to be the one playing.'

The captains, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, ultimately felt it was too much pressure for any two players to shoulder, and they decided to call it a tie and share the cup.

Relief washed over everyone's faces on the green, International and U.S. players smiling and hugging each other at the end of four marvelous days of golf.

'The perfect decision,' Woods said.

Still, the tie left some with a feeling of unfinished business.

When the Ryder Cup or the Solheim Cup ends in a tie, the defending champion goes home with the trophy. The Presidents Cup rules stipulate that the matches are decided by a sudden-death playoff between two players whose names are placed in an envelope.

Nothing was decided.

Logistics have to be considered. Nicklaus and Players were hashing out a plan as they walked down the fairway of the second playoff hole, realizing descending darkness would allow for only two more holes.

Return on Monday?

'These people will be absolutely angry,' Player told Nicklaus, waving his head to thousands of fans who raced along dunes lining the fairways to see every shot.

Nicklaus and Player and most of their players spoke all week about sportsmanship and the betterment of golf, and a tie only seemed logical.

'We're playing for goodwill,' Nicklaus said later. 'We're not playing for blood. The Ryder Cup should be played for exactly the same reason. The game is bigger than this. The game is better than Gary, it's bigger than me.

'We're just pawns in the game of golf.'

Given the spirit of these matches and the quality of golf, a tie was acceptable.

Nicklaus and Player said they would urge the PGA Tour to do away with the playoff format.

That would be a mistake.

Els and Woods playing for more than just themselves is no different than what Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer faced in the final match of the 1991 Ryder Cup, when Langer ultimately missed a 6-foot putt that gave the Americans victory.

Jay Haas was in a similar situation in the '95 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill, when he came to the 18th hole tied with Philip Walton, the trophy hanging in the balance.

Haas tried to guide his tee shot and popped it up into the right rough. He wound up making a double bogey, and Europe won the cup.

At the start of this week, Haas was asked if he would like to be in that position again.

'To have your match by the deciding match? Yes, I do,' he said. 'I probably didn't want that in '95. I wasn't prepared mentally, and it showed.'

Every player dreams of such moments. They aren't champions if
They feel otherwise.

Woods and Els, predictably, rose to the occasion.

Woods has faced his share of pressure putts. The biggest might have been a 6-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole of the 2000 PGA Championship, which he made to force a playoff with Bob May during his unprecedented sweep of the majors.

The 15-foot par putt Sunday on the third extra hole -- over a ridge, down a slope and breaking 10 inches to the right -- was far different.

'You let everyone down with one putt,' Woods said. 'That's a lot of pressure.'

Els felt it even more.

No one has finished second to Woods more often than the Big Easy. Els was playing before his home crowd, and already had been whipped by Woods in their marquee singles match earlier that day.

He made two huge putts in the Presidents Cup playoff -- from 12 feet on the second extra hole, and 6 feet in the gathering darkness, which turned out to be the final shot.

They were asked to compare the pressure with anything else they had faced.

'I'd like to hear what Tiger says first,' Els said, breaking into an easy smile. 'You were very calm, weren't you?'

'Man,' Woods said, shaking his head. 'That was one of the most nerve-racking moments I've ever had in golf.'

They shared laughs, just as they shared the cup.
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LPGA's new Q-Series to offer deferrals for amateurs

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 4:36 pm

The LPGA’s new Q-Series, which takes the place of the final stage of Q-School beginning this year, will come with a revolutionary new twist for amateurs.

For the first time, the LPGA will offer deferrals that will allow amateurs to win tour membership in December but delay turning pro until the following June or July, tour commissioner Mike Whan told GolfChannel.com.

It’s a notable change, because the deferral will allow a collegiate player to earn tour membership at the end of this year but retain amateur status to finish out her collegiate spring season next year, before joining the tour.

“We haven’t done that in the past, because we didn’t want an onslaught, where every player in college is trying to join the tour,” Whan said.

The way it worked in the past, a collegian could advance through the final stage of Q-School, but if that player earned the right to a tour card and wanted to take up membership, she had to declare after the final round that she was turning pro. It meant the player would leave her college team in the middle of the school year. It was a particularly difficult decision for players who earned conditional LPGA status, and it played havoc with the makeup of some college teams.

Whan said the revamped Q-Series format won’t create the collegiate stampede that deferrals might have in the past.

“It will take a unique talent to show up at the first stage of Q-School and say, ‘I’ll see you at Q-Series,’” Whan said. “There won’t be a lot of amateurs who make it there.”

Under the new qualifying format, there will continue to be a first and second stage of Q-School, but it will be much harder to advance to the final stage, now known Q-Series.

Under the old format, about 80 players advanced from the second stage to the Q-School finals. Under the new format, only 20 to 30 players from the second stage will advance to the Q-Series, and only a portion of those are likely to be collegians.

Under the new format, a maximum of 108 players will meet at the Q-Series finals, where a minimum of 45 tour cards will be awarded after 144 holes of competition, played over two weeks on two different courses. The field will include players who finished 101st to 150th and ties on the final LPGA money list, and players who finished 11th to 30th and ties on the final Symetra Tour money list. The field will also include up to 10 players from among the top 75 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and the top five players on the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Rankings.

“We feel if you make it to the Q-Series finals as a college player, you are probably among the best of the best, and we ought to give you the opportunity to finish the college year,” Whan said.

University of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said she would prefer amateurs not be allowed to compete at Q-School, but she called this a workable compromise.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mulflur said. “It’s better than the way it’s been in the past. That was hard, because it broke up teams.”

Mulflur said she disliked the tough position the former policy put college players in at the final stage of Q-School, where they had to decide at event’s end whether to turn pro and accept tour membership.

“I can’t imagine being a kid in that position, and I’ve had a couple kids in that position,” Mulflur said. “It’s hard on everybody, the player, the family and the coaches. You hear about coaches standing there begging a kid not to turn pro, and that’s just not the way it should be, for the coach or the player.”

Mulflur agreed with Whan that the new Q-Series format should limit the number of collegians who have a chance to win tour cards.

“I believe it’s a good compromise, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward,” Mulflur said. “Kudos to the commissioner for giving kids this option.”

Whan said collegians who take deferrals will be counseled.

“We will sit down with them and their families and explain the risks,” Whan said. “If you take a deferral and start playing on July 15, you might find yourself back in Q-Series again later that year, because you may not have enough time.”

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Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 4:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.

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“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”

Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.

Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.

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Monahan addresses alcohol, fan behavior at events

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 3:53 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Fan behavior has become a hot-button topic on the PGA Tour in recent weeks, with Rory McIlroy suggesting on Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the circuit should “limit alcohol sales on the course.”

The Tour’s policy is to stop selling alcohol an hour before the end of play, which is normally around 5 p.m., and on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play commissioner Jay Monahan said it’s something the Tour is monitoring.

“When you have people who aren’t behaving properly and they’ve had too much alcohol, then I agree [with McIlroy],” Monahan said. “In those incidences those people who are making it uncomfortable for a player alcohol sales should be cut off.”

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Fan behavior became an issue with some players when Tiger Woods returned to competition at last month’s Genesis Open. During the final round of the Honda Classic Justin Thomas had a fan removed when he yelled for Thomas’ tee shot at the par-4 16th hole to “get in the bunker.”

Monahan declined to address Thomas’ situation at PGA National specifically, but he did seem to suggest that as interest grows and the Tour continues to attract more mainstream sports crowds, vocal fans will continue to be the norm.

“I believe that there was more that went into it that preceded and in a situation like that we’re hopeful our players will reach out to our security staff and they can handle that,” Monahan said. “[But] yelling, ‘get in the bunker,’ that’s part of what our players have to accept. In any sport, you go to an away game, in any other sport, and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”

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Senden playing first event since son's brain tumor

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 3:03 pm

John Senden is back inside the ropes for the first time in nearly a year at this week's Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Web.com Tour.

Senden took a leave of absence from professional golf in April, when his teenage son, Jacob, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He didn't touch a club for nearly four months as Jacob endured six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, a gauntlet that stretched from April until mid-November.

But Senden told PGATour.com that his son's tumor has shrunk from the size of a thumbnail to the size of a pinky nail, and after a promising MRI in January he decided to plan his comeback.

"I haven't really played in 12 months, but in that time Jacob has really, really hung tough," Senden said. "His whole body was getting slammed with all these treatments, and he was so strong in his whole attitude and his whole body. Just really getting through the whole thing. He was tough."

Senden was granted a family crisis exemption by the Tour, and he'll have 13 starts to earn 310 FedExCup points to retain his playing privileges for the 2018-19 season. He is allowed five Web.com "rehabilitation" starts as part of the exemption, but will reportedly only make one this week before returning to the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage, followed by starts in San Antonio, Charlotte and Dallas.

Senden, 46, has won twice on Tour, most recently the 2014 Valspar Championship.