PGA TOUR in Search of a Big Bang Theory

By Associated PressOctober 31, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaATLANTA -- Davis Love III and Lucas Glover were hitting balls next to each other Tuesday when a few more players showed up and started making arrangements to join them for a practice round at the TOUR Championship.
 
Love wanted to make sure Glover didn't mind a crowd.

'Did you want to go off as two, or do you want three, four?' he asked quietly.
 
Glover said a foursome was fine, and as Love walked back to his spot on the range, he smiled and said, 'That's a fourth of the field.'
 
Not quite, but it sure seems that way.
 
For the second straight year, the talk at the TOUR Championship is more about who's not at East Lake than the 27 guys who decided to show up for free money and a BMW courtesy car. The field is the smallest in the 20-year history of the season-ending event.
 
Most noticeable is the absence of Tiger Woods.
 
Citing fatigue after an emotionally taxing year in which his father died and he won just about every week he played, Woods skipped the TOUR Championship for the first time.
 
The timing could not have been worse for the tour brass.
 
It has been touting its new FedExCup competition that starts in 2007 and will culminate with three big tournaments leading to the TOUR Championship, where the winner of the points race earns $10 million. The idea is to get most -- if not all -- of the big stars competing every week at the end of the year.
 
Some will jump to the conclusion that this is a bad sign for the future of the FedExCup. After all, how can the tour expect to get the stars to come out every week at the end of next season when Woods and Phil Mickelson won't even show up for the TOUR Championship?
 
There is cause for alarm, but not for that reason.
 
Woods said on his Web site he was 'extremely excited' about the FedExCup, and for the most part, the feeling is universal among his peers. Golf had been getting stale, and commissioner Tim Finchem did the right thing in searching for a solution.
 
The FedExCup will only help golf, although it's debatable how much.
 
The only drawback is the seven tournaments in the fall after the FedExCup, but let's face it -- those events were bordering on insignificant already. They didn't get any top players, the galleries were sparse and the ratings were abysmal. At least now those tournaments have a purpose for those trying to get their cards, get into the Masters or start their year at Kapalua.
 
The question is how long before the FedExCup generates as much excitement as this year's TOUR Championship.
 
Finchem said he was looking for a finish line in golf with the FedExCup. Football has the Super Bowl, baseball has the World Series and golf ... well, golf never has had a season that is easy to define.
 
It starts with the Mercedes-Benz Championship in January, but some believe it really doesn't start until the first major is played at the Masters. It ends with the TOUR Championship, but some might argue -- Mickelson comes to mind -- that it really ends at the PGA Championship when the majors are over.
 
Remember, the tour has been down this road before.
 
This is the 20-year anniversary of the Vantage Championship, which was created to add some pop to the end of the season. The $1 million purse was enormous in 1986. There was a $500,000 bonus to the winner of a season-long points competition, along with a $25,000 bonus to the player who led each of the nine statistical categories.
 
That was the precursor to the TOUR Championship.
 
'It was done to help the fields at the end of the year,' Curtis Strange once said. 'The top players didn't play any more than they would have, but guys from (Nos.) 25 to 50 did everything in their power to get into it.'
 
Sound familiar?
 
The success of the FedExCup depends on how it is received not next year, but the following years when the novelty wears off. Does it go the route of the TOUR Championship and take on an air of insignificance? Does it reach a point where $10 million is chump change?
 
No matter how the tour promotes the FedExCup, greatness in golf is defined four weeks out of the year. And those four weeks are in April, June, July and August, not the tail end of the season with a $10 million prize that likely will be deferred.
 
'It's not just about the majors now,' Stewart Cink tried to explain on Tuesday. 'We're talking about the whole season, where you're trying to beat your peers. To me, that means a lot.'
 
So, Stewart, would you rather win a major or the FedExCup?
 
'I probably would rather win a major,' he said, 'because I've never won one yet.'
 
Don't read anything more into Woods missing the TOUR Championship. It has been an extraordinary year of highs and lows, and he indicated to a couple of players at the American Express Championship that he was done for the year. If not for previously signed contracts in Asia, he probably would not have played again until his Target World Challenge.
 
Expect to see Woods nearly every week during the FedExCup 'playoffs' next year. For one thing, he owes it to the tour as much as he barked about the need for a shorter season that ends in late September. He likely will skip a few tournaments he normally plays the first half of the year to get ready for a big finish.
 
And even if misses one of the 'playoff' events, will that mean the FedExCup is a flop?
 
Hardly.
 
Those tournaments will still get enough top players to have accomplished its mission of trying to keep golf compelling after the majors.
 
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    Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

    Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

    Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

    Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    "I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

    Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

    Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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    Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

    A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

    The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

    There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

    As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

    This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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    Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

    There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

    Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

    Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

    The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

    Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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    Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

    Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

    Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

    Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

    This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

    Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

    The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.