PGA Tour takes big step toward qualifying change

By Doug FergusonJanuary 26, 2012, 1:11 am

SAN DIEGO - The PGA Tour is one step closer to eliminating Q-School as a path to earning a Tour card, a significant overhaul that would include starting the official season in the fall instead of waiting for the next calendar year.

At the heart of the proposal is making the Nationwide Tour the primary means of getting to the big leagues.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem presented the basics of the plan Tuesday night during a mandatory players meeting at Torrey Pines ahead of the Farmers Insurance Open.

The biggest change involves Q-School. The plan is for the top 75 players from the Nationwide Tour and the top 75 players who failed to keep their PGA Tour cards to play a three-tournament series. Players would be ranked based on how they fared on their respective money lists, and the top 50 after that series would earn cards.

The rest would have the option of going to Q-School, where only Nationwide Tour status would be available.

The proposal was not much different from what The Associated Press first reported in December. There were a few tweaks, and there might be more to come as Tour officials get feedback over the next few weeks.

The 16-member Player Advisory Council plans to meet in three weeks at the Northern Trust Open. The earliest the overhaul could be approved by the policy board is in March, though it likely will be later.

Reaction predictably was mixed.

Dustin Johnson, who made it through Q-School on his first try out of college and has won in each of his four years on the PGA Tour, said on Twitter, “Just left the player meeting here in San Diego!!!! I don’t like any of the ideas about changing the tour!!! There is NO reason to!!!!!!!!!”

Rod Pampling, who had to rely on low status and sponsor exemptions to regain his card last year, said he needed more information before he could figure out why such a big change was needed.

“I guess they’re looking for a new direction, but I’m still on the fence,” Pampling said. “I understand both sides. We just need to get more information. We were told how last year was one of the greatest years on tour. So why are we reinventing the wheel? Obviously, it’s forward progress. But is this the right way? I don’t know.”

Geoff Ogilvy also said he liked the way the PGA Tour was now.

“But I quite liked the way the Tour was before the FedEx Cup, and I actually like the tour better now with the FedEx Cup,” he said. “I thought it was ridiculous having the FedEx Cup, but now it happen, and I’m like, 'This is pretty good.’ Every year it’s gotten better. So the Tour hasn’t made that many missteps in the last 20 or 30 years.

“It’s probably going to end up the right thing to do.”

One according to one manager involved in meetings, the Tour said total compensation to PGA Tour players - including items such as their pension plans - was $205 million in 2010, which increased to $319 million in 2011. That figure is expected to be $377 million this year.

The manager spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

But such prosperity prompted several players - including Brandt Snedeker during a Q&A portion of the meeting - to ask: “If everything is so good, why risk change?”

One reason for change is to make the development tour attractive to a title sponsor - Nationwide’s sponsorship ends after this year.

When the FedEx Cup began, the regular PGA Tour season ended with the Tour Championship in late September. Then, there were as many as six “Fall Series” events, which gave players a chance to earn their cards by being in the top 125 on the money list.

Those fall events have smaller purses, and are not part of the FedEx Cup.

There are indications, however, that at least two title sponsors of the Fall Series might not be willing to renew contracts unless they are part of the FedEx Cup. That would lead the Tour to starting the new season in October, and why it would no longer work to have Q-School in December for players to earn their way onto the big tour.

“It looks likes to me they’re wanting to have a non-calendar year, which means you’ve got to change Q-School,” Phil Mickelson said. “You always have to have change to have growth.”

Finchem has said he not looking to add tournaments in Asia. What he presented to the players was a start of the season that included the Frys.com Open, Las Vegas, the McGladrey Classic, the Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia, the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, with the year (but not the season) ending at Disney.

There also was a tournament “to be announced,” which might not be on American soil, but not far away.

One of the arguments against the plan is that it eliminates the long shot that plays six great rounds at Q-School and fulfills a dream by reaching the PGA Tour. Now, such a player would only get to the Nationwide Tour, where he would have a year to prove himself.

Another is that it would hamper a young college player from going straight to the PGA Tour. Johnson and J.B. Holmes are among those who recently have gone from Q-School to winning in one year, while Rickie Fowler went from Q-School to playing in the Ryder Cup.

Among the biggest issues still to sort out is how to seed the 75 PGA Tour players who finish out of the top 125 on the money list with the top 75 from the Nationwide Tour money list.

Currently, the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour automatically get PGA Tour cards.

The original plan was for players to be alternately seeded from each tour - No. 1 on the Nationwide and No. 126 from the PGA Tour would be jointly seeded No. 1, for example. Feedback over the last month, however, indicated that because the top 25 players from the Nationwide Tour got cards, they should be given preferred status.

Now under discussion is how to seed them. One idea was to take the top 25 seeds off the Nationwide Tour, and then alternate between the two tours. Another was to put the top 15 from the Nationwide Tour atop the rankings for the three-tournament series.

Nationwide Tour earnings would be the used to keep score in the series. No matter how much money a PGA Tour player made, he would be assigned the money equal to his counterpart on the Nationwide Tour.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.