PGA Tour changes inevitable, details uncertain

By Doug FergusonFebruary 21, 2012, 8:21 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – No one is quick to embrace change until money is involved.

That’s one reason the Players Advisory Council gave its blessing last week to the concept of the Nationwide Tour being the primary path to the big leagues, PGA Tour cards being awarded in a three-tournament series and a new season starting in October instead of January.

It now goes to the policy board on March 27.

The details – and there are many – remain very much under discussion.

This is not just about making the developmental tour attractive to a new title sponsor. It’s about making the fall tournaments relevant, and the only way to do that is to include them in the FedEx Cup season. Otherwise, the likelihood is they would go away. That equates to as much as $24.3 million in prize money, not to mention the loss in charity money, the backbone of the PGA Tour.

“We’d be the first professional sport to vote down money,” said Joe Ogilvie, part of the 16-member PAC. “That’s what we would be doing if we voted it down. When you put it in those terms, a lot of guys went from, ‘We shouldn’t do this’ to ‘You kind of have to.”’

Change appears inevitable.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem suggested as much last week in an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News when he said that while the system is not broken, “we feel there’s a better way to do it.”

Even more telling was what followed.

“We’ve had so much success with the FedEx Cup that we feel it’s important to get everything oriented to the FedEx Cup,” he said.

Change will not be easy.

The original plan was to take the top 75 players from the Nationwide Tour and players who finished from No. 126 to No. 200 on the PGA Tour money list and have them play three tournaments, with the top 50 getting their Tour cards.

The one detail causing the most consternation is how to blend players from two different tours.

As it is, the top 25 from the Nationwide Tour earn their cards. The PGA Tour is trying to make sure that most, if not all, of those 25 players are ranked in a way it would be virtually impossible for them not to earn cards in the three-tournament series.

But how to merge the others?

Did the player who was No. 126 on the PGA Tour money list – competing every week against the top players – have the same season as someone who was No. 26 on the money list while competing in the minor leagues?

“I’ve played the Nationwide Tour twice. I finished second and third on the money list,” Ogilvie said. “I haven’t finished second or third on this money list.”

Ogilvie’s best finish on the PGA Tour was 37th in 2004.

Tom Pernice Jr. has a solution that sadly is not getting much traction from Tour officials. His idea is to give the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour their cards without having to play in the three-tournament series. Everyone else starts from scratch.

Think about it. Under the current model of Q-School, No. 126 on the money list has no advantage over No. 168. It’s not like the higher-ranked player is given a pair of 68s and told he doesn’t have to tee off until the third of six rounds.

“It seems like everyone is a little unsure how to seed the guy who’s 126 on the money list,” said Matt Kuchar, another PAC member. “These are tough decisions. Trying to figure out where everyone fits in this is awkward. I think it’s going to be trial-and-error.”

Unlike the FedEx Cup points system, this is one model the Tour has to get right the first time.

But this is only one piece of the puzzle. There will be several moving parts to a new schedule, just as there was when the FedEx Cup was created five years ago.

One of the components might involve this week.

According to two people apprised of the conversations, one option is to move the Match Play Championship to Harding Park in San Francisco – and move it from late February to October as part of the fall start to the season.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss negotiations. Both stressed that the option was in the early stages of consideration.

If that were to happen, it would give the fall start to at least two World Golf Championships (HSBC Champions in China is the other), which would be hard for players to turn down. Also, the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico – held opposite the Match Play this week – is getting its own spot on the calendar, most likely toward the end of the year – again, in the fall start to the season.

However, such a move might create problems for the West Coast Swing, a key stretch in setting the tone for the year. Four of the West Coast events don’t conflict with the NFL, and all of them are prior to March Madness.

When is the offseason? Whenever the players want a break. It’s always been that way. Even in the shorter FedEx Cup season, players were going overseas to play in Asia, Europe and Australia.

Still, if players add tournaments in the fall, some could take time off in the early part of the following year. Kuchar played the Australian Open and the Presidents Cup in Australia, the World Cup in China, and then the Chevron World Challenge in California.

“I like my time off,” Kuchar said. “This year on the West Coast, I’ve just been getting my feet wet. I’ve only played two events. I just didn’t think I had much of an offseason.”

There could be plenty of others like him.

These are the issues that still have to be sorted out. And while the PAC sent the concept of a fall start to the policy board, there’s still a long way to go and much to consider.

But change is coming, and that’s nothing new.

Remember, it was 30 years ago when only the top 60 earned Tour cards. The rest had to Monday qualify, and anyone who made the cut that week got into the next tournament. The next year was the start of the all-exempt Tour.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”