A strong field, a weak decision for Pate to play PGA

By Doug FergusonAugust 10, 2011, 12:00 am

JOHNS CREEK, Georgia – There was a charm about John Daly winning the PGA Championship that was more than just his awesome length.

It was his opportunity.

Daly was the ninth alternate 20 years ago, a PGA Tour rookie and the last man in the field when Nick Price withdrew to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. It was an example why the final major of the year might be the toughest to win because it has the strongest field. Even the alternates are good enough to win.

What a coincidence that Daly and Jerry Pate will be in the same group this week at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Pate asked the PGA of America for a special invitation this year as his “farewell to golf” in his home state, where he won his only major back in 1976, when Gerald Ford was still in office.

The PGA of America for some reason obliged.

And because of that invitation, an alternate – like Daly was in 1991 – won’t have a chance to win.

This is ceremonial golf at its worst. The 57-year-old Pate confirmed as much Sunday when he finished the 3M Championship in Minnesota on the Champions Tour, where he tied for 73rd.

“I’m not going there with high expectations about my golf game as far as being competitive in the field,” Pate said. “But I’m going there for the enjoyment of just seeing old friends and playing the golf course.”

Paul Goydos, who shot 59 on the PGA Tour last year, is the first alternate. A little bit farther down the list is Chad Campbell, who tied for fifth last month in the British Open at Royal St. George’s.

Pate isn’t the oldest player at the PGA Championship this week.

Larry Nelson is 63, hasn’t won a Champions Tour event in seven years and stands little chance of making the cut. He didn’t ask for a special invitation because he didn’t need one – Nelson is a two-time PGA champion who is exempt for life, although he stopped playing this major five years ago.

This is the 30-year anniversary of his PGA win at Atlanta Athletic Club. And on Wednesday night, he is being honored with the Distinguished Service Award, the group’s highest honor.

Pate not only didn’t win a PGA Championship, the last time he made the cut in this major was in 1983, the year Herschel Walker left Georgia and signed with the USFL.

The PGA Championship, and to a lesser extent the U.S. Open, is known to celebrate major champions if there is a special connection with either the tournament or the course. There’s nothing wrong with that. What seems out of place with this invitation is that the PGA already gave one to Pate the last time it was in Atlanta.

That was 10 years ago.

“There are a few times in the history of the championship that we’ve looked at players who have won majors connected with a certain venue,” said PGA chief executive Joe Steranka.

He mentioned Hale Irwin in 1999 at Medinah, the Chicago area course where Irwin high-fived his way to a U.S. Open title in 1990 when he was 45. Irwin was four shots off the lead going into the weekend and tied for 41st. When the PGA returned to Medinah in 2006, Irwin did not merit another invitation.

So why is Pate back at Atlanta Athletic Club?

“Jerry asked,” Steranka said. “He said he’d like to make this his farewell to major championship golf, and do it at a place where he had a special relationship. We thought it was a good idea.”

A farewell to major championship golf.

Even in Atlanta, it doesn’t quite evoke the same image as Jack Nicklaus crossing the Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews.

When asked if he went to the PGA for an invitation, Pate said, “No, they invited me to play,” and then he shared tales of his U.S. Open win that would have made Johnny Miller proud.

“It was a pretty historical event, being 22 and hitting a 5-iron to 2 feet on the last hole,” Pate said. “They got a plaque out there in the fairway. I would say it’s a historical event for the club. I was born in Georgia. My family moved to Georgia in the 1800s, so I’m a Georgia. It’s like going back home to Atlanta.”

Pate had Hall of Fame talent and never had a chance to fulfill his potential because of injuries to his shoulder and back. Despite his short time with good health, he won eight times, including the U.S. Open and The Players Championship, famous for Pate using an orange golf ball and shoving former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman and TPC Sawgrass architect Pete Dye into the lake on the 18th.

Let’s be clear about a couple of things.

The PGA of America can invite anyone it wants, and past champions who have achieved great things can be more appealing than a tour player hardly anyone knows.

And the alternates – Goydos would be the first to agree with this – have no one to blame but themselves for not being in the field. Of all the majors, the PGA Championship is the most accommodating to PGA Tour players. The PGA uses invitations to make sure it has the top 100 in the world (100 out of 102 this year), it uses what amounts to a PGA Tour money list to take the top 70 players and beyond.

The 156-man field includes 20 top club pros, who also belong in the field. That’s the PGA’s heritage.

But a former U.S. Open champion who already was given a chance to soak up the memories 10 years ago? For a major that promotes the strongest field in golf, that was a weak decision.

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Paisley (61) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

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“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”

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Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:01 pm

ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.

Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.

Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.

Current FedExCup standings

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“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”

Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.

“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.