Top 50 in the world the golden ticket in golf

By Doug FergusonMay 24, 2011, 11:54 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Golf has a new magic number.

This one is found in the world ranking, not on a scorecard. For all the talk over the last six months about who’s No. 1, what really matters in this era of global golf is being safe within the top 50.

Chad Campbell understand that as well as anyone.

For the better part of four years, Campbell was a regular among the top 50 in the world, and it made life easy. He could count on playing the four majors, three World Golf Championships, the invitation tournaments hosted by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. With few exceptions, he could play wherever and whenever he wanted.

It’s no longer that simple.

Campbell has not won since the end of 2007. Worse yet, he has plunged to No. 174 in the world.

“This year, I wasn’t in anything,” he said. “I’d like to play better so I can get in the top 50 and pick where I want to play, and build my schedule around the majors. It’s key to be exempt for them and to avoid the qualifiers, which are brutal, and which are fresh on my mind.”

Campbell made it through one qualifier Monday with a 65 that earned him a spot in the British Open. Next up is a U.S. Open qualifier on June 6. Such is the life of those who aren’t entrenched in the elite in the world ranking.

Sergio Garcia is getting a taste of what it’s like outside the top 50.

He wasn’t eligible for the World Golf Championships this year for the first time in more than a decade, and he might miss the U.S. Open and British Open for the first time in a dozen years. PGA Tour officials were prompted a month ago to make sure the Spaniard was going to add enough events to satisfy his minimum requirement of 15 events.

What’s the value of being in the top 50?

“That’s kind of the golden ticket these days,” Justin Leonard said.

Leonard joined the PGA Tour in 1994, when the world ranking was just another statistic and the World Golf Championships were only a concept that Greg Norman was trying to push through. For PGA Tour players, the money list was second in importance to winning.

“Really, you wanted to be in the top 60 or top 70, because then you knew you were in Bay Hill, Memorial and Colonial,” Leonard said. “Not a whole lot was made about the world ranking. All the criteria to get in events was off the money list or winning tournaments.”

Leonard was part of the top 50 as recently as two years ago. Now he is at No. 178 and can count on only two big events this year – the British Open as a past champion and the Bridgestone Invitational as a member of the last Presidents Cup team.

“It makes a huge difference,” Leonard said. “I don’t always know what tournaments I’m going to get in. I’ve played some events I haven’t played in a while because of that. It makes scheduling a lot harder.”

It didn’t take Rickie Fowler long to realize how the better half lives.

He played only 19 tour events as a pro before cracking the top 50 for the first time after a runner-up finish at the Memorial, and the 22-year-old has been there ever since. Even though he hasn’t won a tournament yet, there are times it feels like he has.

“In a way, it’s like you won a tournament and get status for two years,” Fowler said. “If you’re in the top 50, you have status.”

The majority of the big events are still in America – three of the four majors, three of the four World Golf Championships and The Players Championship – although the world game is reflected by who is in the tournament, not where it is played.

When the Masters changed its criteria in late 1998 to include the world ranking, 33 out of the top 50 were Americans.

Now there are only 18.

And now it’s more important than ever to be in that elite group.

“It’s pretty much everything,” said Scott Verplank, another player who has been on both sides of 50. “It’s all the majors, all the WGC deals. It’s an invitation to any tournament around the world. If you want to go play Qatar, they’re going to pay you to come over, so you can get more world ranking points. The thing has evolved into the most important ranking for eligibility for tournaments.”

Most of the players in the top 50 end up getting into the majors through other means, whether it’s winning or a money list. For example, only three players had to rely strictly on the world ranking to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

One of them was Peter Hanson at No. 49.

The Swede has been just inside or just outside the top 50 for the last several years. This was one of the rare times when Hanson was on the right side of 50 with a major championship berth on the line.

“To me, it’s been a barrier,” Hanson said. “We all want to play the biggest events, the majors. We want to compete against the best.”

One issue for Americans – at least those who don’t travel much – is that the meat of the PGA Tour season ends in September. What follows are three months of big events just about every week in Europe and Asia – Scotland, Shanghai, Singapore, Dubai.

Verplank ended his FedEx Cup season in 2008 at No. 48 in the world. By year’s end, he had dropped to No. 63. Campbell wouldn’t be surprised to see a change in the American way of thinking. He said if he finished a FedEx Cup season just inside the top 50, he would consider adding international events to try to stay there.

“If it meant top 50 in the world, and it came down to the last few weeks, I think I would go,” Campbell said. “It’s that important.”

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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, 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.