PGA Tour widening gap in world ranking points

By Doug FergusonDecember 29, 2015, 7:35 pm

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley laid out ambitious plans with hopes of becoming a ''viable alternative'' to the PGA Tour.

That starts with an increase in prize money, and he went so far as to say that it would make more sense for the European Tour's flagship event to be the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai ($8 million purse) instead of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth ($5 million purse) because of the money.

Another measure of the mountain he has to climb is the world ranking.

The gap continues to widen in the average ranking points for PGA Tour events compared with Europe - up an average of one point this year, two points from 2012.

Including the four majors and the four World Golf Championships, the PGA Tour averaged 56.4 points for the winner compared with 42.2 points for the European Tour. That's a difference of 14.2 points, up from 13.3 points a year ago.

Throw out the majors (each worth 100 points) and the WGCs, and the PGA Tour offered an average of 49.5 points compared with 32.9 points for the European Tour.

The European Tour had six regular events that offered 50 points or more, including the BMW PGA Championship, which is guaranteed 64 points as the flagship event. The PGA Tour had seven events that offered 60 points or more, including The Players Championship, which is guaranteed 80 points (The Players actually has a stronger field by raw numbers than three of the majors).

The four events in The Finals Series for the Race to Dubai offered an average of 53 points to the winner. The four FedEx Cup playoff events on the PGA Tour awarded an average of 68.5 points to the winner.

Pelley is aware he needs time to become a viable option, and his target is the next generation of players.

''That's not going to happen necessarily in 2016,'' Pelley said last month in Dubai. ''You'll start to see it happen in 2017. You'll start to see it come to fruition in 2018. We definitely in three to five years will have a viable alternative, so that 17-, 18-, 19-year-old doesn't necessarily need to go to America to be able to make as much money as they possibly can.''


SETTING THE BAR HIGH: Jordan Spieth and caddie Michael Greller have made a bet each of their three years. Greller sets a number of times Spieth must hole out from off the green, and if he surpasses the number, Greller has to take him for dinner. Of course, Spieth gets to invite anyone he wants, and last year in San Diego there were about 20 guests on Greller's tab.

Based on what he did last year, the new number for Spieth to beat is 20. Only it doesn't start next week at Kapalua.

''He talked me into starting in Australia,'' Greller said, shaking his head.

Spieth holed out with an 8-iron on the 17th hole at the Australian Open. A week later, Spieth made a hole-in-one at Albany Golf Club on his second hole of the Hero World Challenge.

Alas, there was one sliver of good news.

''He wanted anything over 100 yards to count as double,'' Greller said in the Bahamas. ''So it would be four if I had gone for that.''

Holing out in the majors, however, still counts double.


HORSCHEL'S OUTLOOK: Billy Horschel wanted to be the first player to win the FedEx Cup in consecutive years. Not only did he fail to make it to the Tour Championship, he didn't make it back to Kapalua for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Horschel is known as a streaky player. He had a big run in the spring of 2013 when he won in New Orleans, and then had only four top 10s in his next 39 events. He had a great run in September 2014 when he won the BMW Championship and Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup, and he has had only three top 10s in 30 tournaments worldwide since then.

He thinks he knows the fix.

''We played a lot with Jordan (Spieth), a lot with Zach (Johnson). We see them hit it 10 to 15 feet on average, and I'm hitting it 20 to 30,'' Horschel said. ''For me to be a more consistent player and have those runs last longer than a four- to five-week stretch, my short game and wedge play need to be more consistent.''

Horschel said he has worked so hard on his short game the last few months that ''I'm sick of hitting wedges.''

''If we look back at 2016, the reason I'll have had a great year is because I put in all the time on my wedge play, and it's a result of it,'' he said.


IT'S ALL ABOUT TIMING: Imagine if Rickie Fowler could blend his last two seasons.

Last year was all about the majors. Fowler in 2014 joined Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to finish in the top five at all four majors (Jordan Spieth did it this year). The only problem was Fowler didn't win any of them. In fact, he didn't win at all.

This year, he won a career-high three times - The Players Championship, Scottish Open and a FedEx Cup playoff event at the Deutsche Bank Championship. But the majors were somewhat of a bust. He shot 81-73 to miss the cut in the U.S. Open, and he finished a combined 37 shots behind in the other three majors.

So how do you have a year of big wins and big chances in majors?

''No clue,'' Fowler said with a smile. ''I've been trying to figure that out. I don't think there's a justifiable answer. It's just timing, when you get hot. You can only prepare so much and be ready to play. But actually getting it to happen at the right time?''

So which year would he rather have? He was plenty happy with this one.

''Holding trophies feels a lot better,'' Fowler said.


BACK TO TORREY? Adam Scott wants to play two times during the West Coast swing. One will be the Sony Open because Honolulu is on his way back from Australia. He loves Riviera, where he won in 2005 when it was reduced to 36 holes because of rain. Then again, Torrey Pines makes more sense because of the schedule. He could hang out in Hawaii an extra week and then tee it up the next week in San Diego.

Scott hasn't been to Torrey Pines since the 2008 U.S. Open. And he hasn't seen the North Course since he was a teenager.

He played the 1994 Junior World Championship and tied for 20th. Trevor Immelman was the runner-up that year, losing in a playoff to a kid named Ben Flam.

Also in the field that week: Jose Luis Campra, who now caddies for Emiliano Grillo, and Joe Skovron, the caddie for Rickie Fowler.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Of the 14 players who have won the Masters and British Open, two are not yet in the World Golf Hall of Fame - Tiger Woods and Zach Johnson.


FINAL WORD: ''They weren't like Jordan and Rory, winning multiple majors in their early 20s. There was really only Tiger doing that at the time.'' - Adam Scott, comparing young players today with his generation.

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After Further Review: Nelson lost in the shuffle?

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 3:40 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the Nelson's future ...

If the goal was “different” by bringing the AT&T Byron Nelson to Trinity Forest, consider it achieved. But bringing a world-class field south of Dallas could still be tricky.

Yes, the tournament can always rely on local resident and AT&T spokesman Jordan Spieth to throw his hat in the ring. But even with Spieth strolling the fairways this week, the field strength was among the worst all season for a full-point event.

The debut of the sprawling, links-like layout likely did little to sway the undecideds, with only the third round offering the challenging conditions that course co-designer Ben Crenshaw had envisioned. And the schedule won’t do them any favors next year, as a revamped itinerary likely puts the Nelson right before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

The course will inevitably get better with age, and Spieth expects positive word of mouth to spread. But it might be a while before the stars truly align for an event that, for the moment, feels lost in the shuffle of a hectic schedule. – Will Gray


On Jordan Spieth's putting ...

Jordan Spieth’s putting is plainly bad right now, but it isn’t going to stay this bad forever.

He is the second ranked player on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, just like he was last year. This putting slump has lingered, but it’s unfathomable to think this guy just forgot how to putt.

Sooner rather than later he’s going to remember he’s Jordan Spieth and the 40-footers are going to start pouring in. He’ll be telling Greller to go get the ball because he’s too far away and the tee is in the other direction.

Bottom line, the ball striking is for real and the putting slump will pass. He’ll win soon – maybe even as soon as this week. – Nick Menta


On golf and gambling ...

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court over tuned a federal ban on sports betting in most states, a move the PGA Tour and many professional sports leagues embraced as a tool to both build fan interest and grow revenue.

Experts estimate sports betting could become a $150-$200 billion annual industry, and even a small piece of that could be significant for golf, but there will be risks.

Unlike any other sport, golf is played on multiple fields simultaneously, which inherently creates risks when gambling is introduced to the equation. Although the Tour has gone to great pains to head off any potential problems, like all bets gambling comes with great rewards, and great risks. – Rex Hoggard

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Wise continues whirlwind ascent with first win

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 3:13 am

DALLAS – Still shy of his 22nd birthday, Aaron Wise continues to prove himself to be a quick learner.

Wise went from unheralded prospect to NCAA individual champ seemingly in the blink of an eye while at the University of Oregon. After eschewing his final two years of eligibility in Eugene, he won in Canada on the Mackenzie Tour in his third start as a professional.

He continued a quick learning curve with a win last year on the Web.com Tour to propel him to the big leagues, and he didn’t flinch while going toe-to-toe with Jason Day two weeks ago, even though the result didn’t go his way.

Faced with another opportunity to take down a top-ranked Aussie, Wise made sure he got the job done Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson – even though it took until dark.

With mid-day rains turning a firm and fast layout into a birdie barrage, Wise seamlessly switched gears and put his first PGA Tour title on ice in impressive fashion with a bogey-free 65. Deadlocked with Marc Leishman to start the day, Wise made six birdies in his first 10 holes and coasted to a three-shot win as the leaders barely beat the setting sun to avoid an anticlimactic Monday finish at Trinity Forest Golf Club.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


As it turned out, the hardest part of the day was enduring the four-hour weather delay alongside his mother, Karla, as his afternoon tee time turned into a twilight affair.

“She was talking to me in the hotel about what a win could mean, what a second could mean, kind of taking me through all that,” Wise said. “I was like, I’ve got to calm down. I can’t just sit here. I said, ‘You’ve got to go.’ I kind of made her leave the room.”

Wise displayed some jitters right out of the gates, with a nervy three-putt par on the opening hole. But with several players going on birdie runs to turn what seemed like a two-man race into a much more wide-open affair, Wise went on a tear of his own with four birdies in a row on Nos. 7-10.

That gave him a window over Leishman and the rest of the chase pack, and he never looked back.

“I talked to myself and kind of made myself trust my putting,” Wise said. “These greens out here are really tricky, and for me to roll those putts in on 8 and 9 really kind of separated things.”

Leishman had held at least a share of the lead after each round, and the 34-year-old veteran was looking for his third win in the last 14 months. But a bogey on No. 10 coincided with a Wise birdie to boost the rookie’s advantage from two shots to four, and Leishman never got closer than three shots the rest of the way.

“He holed putts he needed to hole, and I didn’t,” Leishman said. “Hit a couple loose shots where I could have probably put a bit of pressure on him, and didn’t. And that’s probably the difference in the end.”

Instead of sitting next to a trophy in Dallas, Wise could have been closing out his senior season next week with an NCAA appearance at Karsten Creek. But the roots of his quick climb trace back to the Master of the Amateurs in Australia in December 2015, a tournament he won and one that gave him confidence that he could hold his own against the best in the world. He returned to Eugene and promptly told his coach, Casey Martin, that he planned to turn pro in the spring.

The same dogged confidence that drove that decision has been the guiding force behind a whirlwind ascent through every rung of the professional ladder.

“I just have a lot of belief in myself. I didn’t come from a lot. A lot of people don’t know that. I didn’t get to travel a bunch when I played junior golf,” Wise said. “Kind of all along it’s been very, very few moments to shine and I have had to take advantage of them.”

Despite that belief, even Wise admits that he’s “shocked” to turn only his second real chance to contend at this level into a maiden victory. But fueled by the memories of a close call two weeks ago, he put the lessons learned at Quail Hollow to quick use while taking the next step in an increasingly promising career arc.

“It was awesome, everything I dreamed of,” Wise said. “To walk up 18, knowing I kind of had it locked up, was pretty cool.”

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Grace celebrates birthday with final-round 62

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:51 am

DALLAS – Branden Grace celebrated his 30th birthday in style, making the biggest charge of the final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Grace closed out a 9-under 62 as the sun began to set at Trinity Forest Golf Club, moving from outside the top 10 into a share of third place, four shots behind Aaron Wise. It equaled Grace’s career low on the PGA Tour, which he originally set last summer at The Open, and it was one shot off Marc Leishman’s course-record 61 from the opening round.

“Good birthday present. It was fun,” Grace said. “Little bit of imagination, little bit of luck here and there. You get more luck on the links golf course than maybe on a normal golf course.”


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


Weeks after Grace’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, he now has his best result on the PGA Tour since winning the RBC Heritage more than two years ago. As a world traveler and former Presidents Cup participant, the South African embraced an opportunity this week to go off the beaten path on an unconventional layout.

“It feels like a breath of fresh air coming to something different. Really is nice. I really enjoyed the golf course,” he said. “Obviously I think we got really lucky with the weather, and that’s why the scores are so low. It can bite you if it settles in a little bit in the next couple years.”

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Scott barely misses qualifying for U.S. Open

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:33 am

DALLAS – A birdie on the 72nd hole gave Adam Scott a glimmer of hope, but in the end even a closing 65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson wasn’t enough to earn an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open.

Scott entered the week ranked No. 65 in the world, and the top 60 in next week’s rankings automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills. The cutoff was a big reason why the 2008 tournament champ returned for Trinity Forest’s debut, and midway through the final round it seemed like the Aussie had a shot at snagging a bid at the 11th hour.

Scott needed at least a solo ninth-place finish to pass an idle Chesson Hadley at No. 60, and while his 5-footer on the 18th green gave him a share of sixth place when he completed play, he ultimately ended up in a three-way tie for ninth at 15 under – barely short of a spot in the top 60.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“I tried to make the most of really favorable conditions today, and I did a pretty good job of it. Just never really got a hot run going,” Scott said. “I feel like I struggled on the weekend reading the greens well enough to really get it going, but I think everyone but the leaders did that, too. They’re not the easiest greens to read.”

Scott has played each of the last three weeks in an effort to earn a U.S. Open exemption, and he’ll make it four in a row next week when he returns to the Fort Worth Invitational on a course where he won in 2013. Scott still has another chance to avoid sectional qualifying by earning a top-60 spot at the second and final cutoff on June 11 following the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Scott has played 67 majors in a row, a streak that dates back to 2001 and is second only to Sergio Garcia among active players. While he’s prepared to play each of the next three weeks in a last-ditch effort to make the field, he’s taking his schedule one event at a time with the hope that one more good result might take care of business.

“I’ll play next week and hopefully play really well, and give myself a bit of cushion so I can take a week or so off and try to prepare the best I can for the U.S. Open,” Scott said.