Punch Shot: Pros, cons of PGA, Players moves

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 8, 2017, 11:13 pm

It was officially announced on Tuesday that the PGA Championship will be moving to May and The Players Championship to March, beginning in 2019. Did the PGA of America and the PGA Tour make the right call? Are these all the right moves? Chatting back and forth on Slack, a real-time messaging system, GolfChannel.com senior writers Ryan Lavner and Rex Hoggard weighed in and debated the issue:

Ryan Lavner
OK, Rex. So the news that we've been anticipating for months finally became official Tuesday: The Players is returning to March, and the PGA is moving from August to May. What's your immediate reaction: A good move, or a mistake?

Rex Hoggard
Good move, but like most good moves there are some issues. The PGA is giving up some northern venues with the new date and what has been the event's identity - the year's final chance to win a major.

Ryan Lavner
And that's my ONLY problem with this move: What will the PGA be known for? Having the most top-100 players? The only major with 20 club pros? It now falls into a weird spot, as the second major of the year. As for eliminating the northern venues, I'm not buying it – yet. Yeah, maybe this rules out Whistling Straits and Hazeltine going forward, but let's get past Bethpage (2019) and Oak Hill (2023) first. That will tell us more.

Rex Hoggard
And it adds new venues in the south and southwest, which may end up being a good trade off; but the best thing about this move is it keeps the PGA from becoming an afterthought every four years during the Olympics. It was their only option.


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Ryan Lavner
One other thing, before we move on: It's another month of torture for golf fans. Now they have to wait from late July to early April to get their major fix. The diehards reading this website will still care about the playoffs and the European Tour's postseason, of course, but aren't you worried about an even longer break between the events that sports fans care about most?

Rex Hoggard
Aren't you the guy who wanted to dig into the "no off-season" idea today? Which way do you want it, a condensed season with five consecutive months of marquee events, or an extra month to drag things out? This is a big piece to solving the Tour's most concerning issue, going head-to-head with college and pro football.

Ryan Lavner
I have no problem with the pre-Labor Day finish. There's no sense competing against football, and players, for the most part, would seem to agree. But the biggest complaints I've seen from fans about this – if my ravaged Twitter account is any indication – is the extended break.

Rex Hoggard
This afternoon Rory McIlroy was asked about the possibility of an "extended" break and talked about how that "exclusivity" makes it more special, much like you look forward to spring training in baseball. There will still be golf in the fall for diehard fans, but not major championships.

Ryan Lavner
Let's move on to the second piece of this announcement: The Players is going back to its mid-March date. Having any flashbacks to pre-2007?

Rex Hoggard
Couldn't help but go back to '07 when the Tour would tell anyone who would listen that TPC Sawgrass would play better in May because of better weather. Now they will have to convince folks it will be fine in March. Good fun.

Ryan Lavner
Oh, you must be talking about the EXTENSIVE analysis the Tour types did. Right. Back to March it goes, but it’s once again the centerpiece of the Florida swing – where it belongs.

Rex Hoggard
The PGA and Players’ moves were simply a part, albeit a big part, of a larger schedule shakeup for 2019 and beyond. The Florida swing will look much different – with the Tampa stop likely going to the fall portion of the schedule – as will the rest of the season.

Ryan Lavner
The only "meh" part of this move, to me, is where will players get a true Masters tuneup? It's not gonna be at PGA National. It's definitely not at Sawgrass. Or Austin CC. Or TPC San Antonio. Ugh. Bring back Doral.

Rex Hoggard
I would contend that moving The Players back to March will prompt players to get into "mid-season form" a little quicker. There are guys who show up at Augusta National that are playing their third or fourth event of the season. That won't happen with the schedule change.

Ryan Lavner
My biggest takeaway from this whole thing is that the Tour is waving the white flag, saying that it's tired of going up against football. That's a big concession ... but it's the right move.

Rex Hoggard
It's the right move, but it will be interesting to see the rest of the pieces fall into place over the next few months. There is a clear plan in place at Tour HQ, but I've been told that many of the players don't like how the circuit wants to head down that road. You may not want to know how this meal gets made.

Ryan Lavner
And that's what we call a cliffhanger.

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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.

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Wise wins first Tour title at AT&T Byron Nelson

By Nick MentaMay 21, 2018, 1:22 am

On the strength of a final-round 65, 21-year-old Aaron Wise broke through for his first PGA Tour victory Sunday, taking the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest. Here's how Wise beat the field and darkness following a lengthy rain delay:

Leaderboard: Wise (-23), Marc Leishman (-20), Branden Grace (-19), J.J. Spaun (-19), Keith Mitchell (-19)

What it means: This is Wise’s first PGA Tour win in just his 18th start as a member. Tied with Leishman to start the final round, Wise raced ahead with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 4-10 and never looked back. He'd make eight straight pars on his way into the clubhouse and the winner's circle. The 2016 NCAA Division I individual champion just locked up Tour status through the 2019-20 season and guaranteed himself a spot in the PGA Championship.

Best of the rest: Leishman reached 20 under par but just couldn’t keep pace with Wise. This is his second runner-up of the season, following a solo second in the CJ Cup in October.

Round of the day: Grace carded a 62 – where have I heard that before? – with eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey to end up tied for third, his best finish of the season on Tour.

Biggest disappointment: Adam Scott looked as though he had done enough to qualify for the U.S. Open via the Official World Golf Ranking when he walked off the golf course. Unfortunately, minutes later, he’d drop from a four-way tie for sixth into a three-way tie for ninth, narrowly missing out on this week's OWGR cutoff.

Break of the day: Wise could very well have found the hazard off the tee at No. 9 if not for a well-placed sprinkler head. Rather than drop a shot, he took advantage of his good fortune and poured in another birdie putt to extend his lead.

Quote of the day: "It's a dream come true to win this one." - Wise

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Otaegui wins Belgian Knockout by two

By Associated PressMay 21, 2018, 1:20 am

ANTWERP, Belgium – Adrian Otaegui beat Benjamin Hebert by two shots in the final of the Belgian Knockout to win his second European Tour title.

The hybrid format opened with two rounds of stroke play on Thursday and Friday, before the leading 64 players competed in nine-hole knockout stroke play matches.

Otaegui and Hebert both finished three shots off the lead at 5 under after the first two days and worked their way through five matches on the weekend to set up Sunday's final at the Rinkven International Golf Club.


Full-field scores from the Belgian Knockout


''I'm very happy, very relaxed now after the last nine holes against Ben that were very tight,'' Otaegui said. ''I'm just very proud about my week.

''I just tried to play against myself. Obviously your opponent is just next to you but I just tried to focus on my game.''

Scotland's David Drysdale beat James Heath of England by one shot in the playoff for third spot.

Herbet said he was ''just a little short this week.''

''Adrian is a very good player, especially in this kind of format,'' he said. ''He's already won one tournament in match play last year. This format is fun, it puts you under pressure almost every hole because everything can happen. I think it's a great idea.''