Notes Vardon Trophy Hinges on Phone Call from Tiger
That's the deadline to enter the Funai Classic at Disney, and Woods might consider playing for no other reason than he needs to reach 60 rounds to be eligible for the Vardon Trophy, awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average. Woods has 55 rounds on the PGA TOUR, so playing only in the season-ending Tour Championship would leave him one round short.
It was quite clear two weeks ago in London that Woods either had not made up his mind or wasn't about to tell anyone. During a practice round at the American Express Championship, he was asked what he was thinking about Disney and offered the following insight:
'Big company. They make some good movies. A lot of theme parks.'
Woods has won the Vardon Trophy six times already, more than anyone since it began in 1937. Rounds played became an issue this year because he withdrew after two rounds from the Nissan Open with the flu, missed the cut for the first time in a major at the U.S. Open, and missed nine weeks coping with the death of his father.
Even if Woods skips Disney, he still will be recognized as having the lowest scoring average.
The PGA TOUR gives out the Byron Nelson Award for lowest scoring average, which is the same thing as the Vardon except the tour only requires a minimum of 50 rounds.
Whatever he decides to do, Woods' pursuit -- or lack thereof -- has shed light on a couple of oddities involving the award. For example, the PGA Tour counts rounds played at the Accenture Match Play Championship and the International (with its modified Stableford system), even though neither format relates to posting a score.
'I didn't know that,' Woods said, and when asked whether Accenture should count, he added, 'No. It's match play.'
And no one is sure how the PGA of America, which administers the Vardon Trophy, came up with a 60-round minimum in 1988. When the PGA TOUR began keeping statistics in 1980, it settled on 50 rounds as a minimum to be eligible for its award for lowest scoring average.
'The 50-round rule is loosely tied to participation in official money events,' said Andy Pazder, vice president of competition for the PGA Tour. 'So rounds at the Accenture -- much like the International, where we don't keep scoring stats -- those count toward meeting a participation level.'
Jack Nicklaus played only 13 times in 1980 and missed one cut, giving him exactly 50 rounds. Maybe that's how the PGA TOUR devised its minimum, for Nicklaus rarely played more than 15 times in those days.
Whatever the case, Woods already has locked up the Byron Nelson Award for lowest scoring average at 68.11. If he skips Disney, the Vardon Trophy most likely would go to Jim Furyk (68.88), who had a comfortable lead over Adam Scott going into Las Vegas.
One trend points toward Woods not playing Disney. He missed the cut last year, and he has never returned to a PGA TOUR event the year after missing the cut. He did not go back to the Canadian Open in 1998, or to the Byron Nelson Championship this year.
DEAN'S BIG YEAR
The Colonial helped put Dean Wilson on the map in more ways than one.
He was best remembered for playing with Annika Sorenstam in 2003, but a more personal landmark occurred this year when he tied for 12th, earning enough money to secure his PGA TOUR card. Wilson had never been in such good shape so early in the season.
Even more impressive is what he did from there.
'It freed me up where I could be more aggressive and try to win,' Wilson said. 'And lo and behold, that's what happened.'
Hawaii's best player beat Tom Lehman in a playoff at the International, and he was runner-up at the Texas Open. Going into Las Vegas, where he lives, Wilson is 19th on the money list and not ready to stop.
He already is a lock for his first Masters (top 40) and first Tour Championship (top 30). His next target is to finish in the top 20, which would make him eligible for the British Open and U.S. Open.
'There's always something,' Wilson said.
Wilson has played Augusta National once before. Mike Weir, one of his best friends and former teammate at BYU, brought Wilson as a guest in 2004 after the Canadian won the Masters.
For all the talk about the PGA TOUR rookies this year, from J.B. Holmes to Bubba Watson to Camilo Villegas, the favorite to win Rookie of the Year is a familiar face -- Trevor Immelman, who played on the Presidents Cup team last year.
Immelman is at No. 7 on the money list with nearly $3.5 million, already a PGA TOUR record for rookies, and the 26-year-old South African has the most significant victory of his peers by holding off Tiger Woods to capture the Western Open.
Holmes (FBR Open in Phoenix) and Eric Axley (Texas Open) were the only other rookies to win this year with three full-field events left.
The last rookie to finish in the top 10 on the money list was Jerry Pate, who was 10th in 1976 after winning the U.S. Open. David Duval finished 11th on the money list in 1995 without winning, although he finished behind Woody Austin for Rookie of the Year.
Immelman is barely eligible for the award.
The PGA TOUR defines a rookie season as the year a player competes in his 10th tournament as a tour member, or earns official money the equivalent of No. 125 on the money list, whichever comes first. Immelman did not join the PGA TOUR until the week after the '05 PGA Championship, and his official prize money last year ($614,867) were $11,869 short of Nick Price at No. 125 on the money list.
Sergio Garcia is done playing the PGA TOUR the rest of the year, so David Duval is assured of staying inside the top 25 on the career money list. That means Duval will be able to take one-time exemptions the next two years (top 25 and top 50) to keep his card if he doesn't finish in the top 125 on the money list. ... Setanta Sports is launching a 24-hour golf channel in the British Isles, and it already landed its first prize. Setanta, one of Europe's leading international fee-based sports outlets bought exclusive rights to PGA TOUR events, which had been shown on Sky Sports.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods has earned $662,771 per start on the PGA TOUR this year, an amount that would put him No. 120 on the money list.
'Our tour is strong enough now to sustain people going to the States if they really feel they have to.' -- Colin Montgomerie, on whether the FedEx Cup on the PGA TOUR will hurt the European Tour.
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.
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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.
Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.
But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.
“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”
Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.
“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”
After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.
In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.
No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.
Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.
“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”
And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.
Let it go.
Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.
“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”
It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.
During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.
Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.
“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.
McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.
It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.
“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”
The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.
Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.
The only thing left to do?
Let it go.
Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.
Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.
Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.
There is, however, one running wager.
“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”
Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.
Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.
“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.