Tour Championship a Mixed Bag of Tricks and Treats
Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is close to announcing a massive change in the schedule that would make the heart of the season shorter and the Tour Championship more meaningful.
Mickelson showed how little it means now.
Lefty decided to skip the tour's version of the All-Star game -- only the top 30 on the money list are eligible -- so he could spend Halloween with his kids. At least that was the reason making the rounds on the practice range Tuesday, and confirmed later by a tour official.
Yes, but did he wear a costume?
No one should be terribly surprised that Mickelson is a no-show at East Lake, even though the Tour Championship is one of only two tournaments he has won after the majors have ended.
``It's not the first time,'' Tiger Woods said with a shrug as he headed upstairs to the locker room. ``We all know he doesn't play a lot at the end of the season. Go look at his record. He doesn't play much after Firestone.''
Mickelson marches to his own beat, and this indeed is a familiar path.
He thought he had an outside chance to win the money title or perhaps even player of the year if he finished 2001 with a flourish, but when that didn't materialize -- and with the impending birth of his second daughter -- he didn't play another event the final two months of the season.
Mickelson made it clear in late February that the Tour Championship wasn't a priority, adding that a chance to win top awards, such as the money title, would be ``things that need to be considered.''
But toward the end of the interview at La Costa Resort, he spoke volumes about the Tour Championship.
``It's late in the year,'' he said that day. ``It's anticlimactic.''
But that are other issues at work here.
On the surface, Mickelson appears to be the first player in history to let a night of trick-or-treat get in the way of a $6.5 million tournament featuring only the very best players of the year.
Lefty won't say this publicly, but what annoys him is the PGA Tour's policy that players must take part in the pro-am to play in the tournament. He already cited that as the reason he didn't play at the Memorial, which also has a Tuesday pro-am. Mickelson had plans to be at Pinehurst No. 2 to prepare for the U.S. Open that week.
The pro-am for the Tour Championship was Tuesday, a good reason for him to pull out. Mickelson reasoned that he couldn't possibly get from San Diego to Atlanta for the pro-am after such a big night for the kids.
Of course, that didn't stop Scott Verplank.
``I can't say I agree with the rule, but I got to my hotel at 1 a.m.,'' Verplank said. ``I went trick-or-treating, left Oklahoma City at 9 p.m. But I wanted to play in this tournament.''
Defending champion Retief Goosen considers the Tour Championship a notch below the majors and a notch above the World Golf Championships. He's not sure why Mickelson doesn't feel the same way, but figures that's his business.
``He's got to have some sort of excuse not to play,'' Goosen said. ``I mean, serious excuse.''
Goosen didn't celebrate Halloween. Then again, this guy doesn't say boo.
But he knows about the pro-ams all too well. He wasn't allowed to play the Nissan Open at Riviera in February because he overslept and missed his pro-am tee time by 10 minutes.
``I think this pro-am thing is being revisited,'' Goosen.
Mickelson's absence has minor ripples. Lucas Glover, the last guy to qualify, will have to play alone in the first round. The tournament lost a fair chunk of change from the pro-am considering it cost nearly $40,000 for each three-man team of amateurs, and one team didn't have a pro.
But these guys set their own schedules. They have their own priorities. The phrase the tour throws around is that its players are independent contractors.
Halloween was a convenient excuse for Mickelson not making it to the pro-am. But ultimately, the pro-am was a convenient reason for what's truly behind Lefty skipping the Tour Championship.
Maybe he just doesn't want to play.
Mickelson made that clear earlier in the year, when he talked about pouring all his effort into winning the four majors and still having enough gas left for the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup. He won the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, his second year with a major. And while he was a flop at the '04 Ryder Cup, he managed to have enough game left to go 3-0-2 in the Presidents Cup.
As for the rest of the year?
Mickelson tied for 29th at the American Express Championship, then missed the cut at Las Vegas. He probably won't show up again until the Bob Hope Classic, the third event of 2006.
When the Tour Championship ends in September, only five weeks after the majors, maybe Mickelson will be interested in playing. But his absence this week should make tour officials realize that a shorter, stronger schedule won't solve everything.
Golf will always be about the majors.
``This is a great tournament,'' Verplank said. ``But it's not ever going to get more important than the four majors. That's the fundamental problem.''
It's not a big problem.
There are 29 other guys at East Lake this week, and one of them will get $1.17 million.
Mickelson doesn't need the money.
Full Coverage - The Tour Championship
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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88
MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.
Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.
Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.
The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.
On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.
Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.
He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.
In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.
Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.
Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M
In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.
This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.
Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.
Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.
The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.
Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout
CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.
Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.
Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.
“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”
Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.
“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”
Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break
Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.
Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.
Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.
“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”
Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.
“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”
Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.