Notes: Who wants to be a millionaire? Fans can be

By Doug FergusonMay 21, 2014, 12:46 am

Quicken Loans didn't waste any time getting fans involved in its PGA Tour event.

The new title sponsor of the Quicken Loans National will pick one person to receive $1 million if a PGA Tour player makes a hole-in-one on the 10th hole at Congressional during any of the four rounds of the tournament.

Registration for the Quicken Loans Hole-In-One Sweepstakes began Monday at www.pgatour.com/QuickenLoans.

''First impressions are important, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate our first year as sponsor of the Quicken Loans National than to create even more excitement for an already world-class tournament,'' said Jay Farner, the company's president and chief marketing officer.

Odds are long, though they're still better than picking a perfect bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament for $1 billion.

Quicken Loans is extending its sweepstakes beyond the June 26-29 tournament. For every hole-in-one on the PGA Tour for the rest of 2014, the Detroit-based company will pay a year's worth of mortgage payments to randomly selected entrant. And even if there are no aces, the company will randomly picked 60 names to receive one monthly mortgage payment on their home.

There were 11 aces on the PGA Tour from Congressional through the end of 2013. The only one at Congressional was by John Merrick - on the seventh hole.


OPENING UP: The USGA has tweaked the criteria for U.S. Open exemptions over the years without giving up two important objectives. It wants the most deserving players to be at the U.S. Open, and it wants to remain the most democratic of all majors.

The formula appears to be working.

At least half the 156-man field - usually a little more - has come through qualifying nine of the last 10 years. The exception was in 2006 when 80 players were exempt, and that was because of a few unusual circumstances. One of them was David Toms finishing bogey-bogey in 2005 to create an eight-way for 15th place. The top 15 and ties were exempt the following year, and 16 players got in through that category.

With two weeks remaining before sectional qualifying, the U.S. Open is headed toward another split - half the field will be exempt, the other half will have to qualify.

''Any time we consider an exemption change, that's the first thing we look at it,'' said Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director of rules and competition. ''We want to exempt those players deserving as such. But the democratic nature of the U.S. Open is very important to us.''

Any proposed change goes through a series of models to make sure the majority of the field is exempt from qualifying.

Assuming that Tiger Woods does not play at Pinehurst No. 2 - he hasn't even been cleared to swing a club yet after March 31 back surgery - 49 players are exempt. There's a spot open for the BMW PGA Championship winner at Wentworth this week. And the top 60 in the world after each of the next two weeks will not have to qualify.

From the top 60 in this week's ranking, 25 players would be exempt.

The following week - after the Memorial - is the last cutoff, and it's loosely known as the ''Justin Rose Rule.'' Rose won the Memorial in 2010 and moved to No. 33 in the world, one week after the ranking exemption was closed. In the three years since the extra week was added, no more than two players were added to the field.

''We'll take that risk,'' Hall said. ''There's some duplication, generally, with the world ranking and the Tour Championship field. Those people tend to stay in the top 60.''

Everyone on the bubble going into this pivotal week is playing either Colonial or Wentworth except for Richard Sterne (57), Charles Howell III (66) and J.B. Holmes (72). Howell tied for third at the Byron Nelson, but that was his fifth straight week. He is taking this week off.

The U.S. Open is June 12-15 at Pinehurst No. 2. The last time the Open was played at Pinehurst, the winner (Michael Campbell) came through sectional qualifying.


NEXT STOP: Now that Adam Scott has become No. 1 in the world for the first time, the next question is how long he can keep it.

Scott and Matt Kuchar (No. 4) are playing at Colonial. Henrik Stenson (No. 3) has his best chance at rising to No. 1 because he is playing in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, which effectively offers bonus points as Europe's flagship event. Stenson should be able to reach No. 1 if he places higher at Wentworth than Scott at Colonial. Kuchar would have to win Colonial.

With five players separated by an average of one point, golf could see its own version of musical chairs with the No. 1 ranking.

That wouldn't be the first time, of course.

The early summer of 1997 featured the most dynamic stretch in the 28-year history of the ranking when No. 1 changed five times in five weeks. Greg Norman was No. 1 until Tiger Woods replaced him. Woods lasted one week until Ernie Els won the Buick Classic and went to No. 1. Norman won the FedEx St. Judge Classic the following week to return to No. 1, and then Woods won the Western Open and reclaimed No. 1 for the next nine weeks.


HOGAN AWARD: The superb spring season of Patrick Rodgers got even better when he was selected to receive the Ben Hogan Award as the nation's top college golfer over the last 12 months. It was hard to argue with what the Stanford junior has done.

Rodgers was medalist at the NCAA regional in Oregon last week, an amazing run in which he has won five of his last six tournaments and was runner-up in the other. His 11 career victories ties Tiger Woods for the most in Stanford history. Rodgers was part of winning American teams in the Walker Cup and the Palmer Cup, and he has replaced U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick at No. 1 in the world amateur ranking.

By winning the Hogan Award, he received an exemption to the Colonial this week. It will be the fourth PGA Tour start for Rodgers, who has announced he is turning pro after his junior season. He tied for 15th in the John Deere Classic last summer.


DIVOTS: U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick is turning pro after the U.S. Open. He has signed with International Sports Management and will make his pro debut in the Irish Open. ... BMW strengthened its relationship with the European Tour by announcing a four-year extension through 2018. The agreement means BMW stays on as title sponsor for tournaments in England (BMW PGA Championship), Germany (BMW International Open) and Shanghai (BMW Masters), and it remains the official car of the European Tour. ... The RBC Canadian Open returns to Glen Abbey in 2015. It will be the Abbey's record 27th time to host golf's third-oldest national championship. ... The LPGA is returning to Portland for the 43rd year with its original name - The Portland Classic. Cambia Health Solutions has signed on as a presenting sponsor. It will be played Aug. 28-31 at Columbia-Edgewater Country Club.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Brendon Todd became the eighth player this year to be outside the top 100 in the world ranking and win a PGA Tour event.


FINAL WORD: ''There is no secret. Good food, good wine, good cigars and some exercise.'' - Miguel Angel Jimenez after winning a European Tour event at age 50.

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Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.


8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.


8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.


12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.


12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

We hope it isn’t his back.

Or his neck.

Or his knees.

Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

Competitively, it’s all that matters.

Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

The game soars to yet another level with that.

A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

"Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

"It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.