What We Learned: CIMB Classic

By Damon HackOctober 28, 2012, 11:37 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the week. This week, our writers weigh in on the difficulty of watching late-night golf; the underrated talent of Bo Van Pelt; the unsatisfactory nature of exhibition golf; the continued improvement of Tiger Woods and the loneliness of being Stacy Lewis.

You really want to know what I learned this week? Fine. I'm old. That's what I learned. Overnight golf – well, at least overnight in my time zone – used to be an excuse to sit around with a big bag of pretzels and a few cold ones. (As opposed to most other nights, when I had no excuse.) This week, I was the viewing equivalent of Nick Watney before the final round. That's right – a sleeper. Either somebody spiked my pretzels or I don't have what it takes to stay up anymore. Which is a shame for a few reasons. One is that it promoted random dreams about random PGA Tour players. That's not a good thing. Another is that in between snores I was able to catch only a few glimpses of really good players playing really good golf half a world away. I don't think Watney will win a major next season because of his victory in Malaysia, but I do think those who were able to stay awake Saturday night received a look into why he'll win one. As aloof as he is off the course, Watney is calm, confident and in control when he’s in contention. I wasn’t one of those who was able to watch his entire final-round 61, but there is some good news: Coverage of the WGC-HSBC Champions begins at 11 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Pass the pretzels – and a wake-up call. – Jason Sobel

Bo Van Pelt may be the most underrated player in golf. For those who are less than impressed with Van Pelt’s win-place combo the last two weeks at the Perth International and CIMB Classic, consider that he finished inside the top 25 more times than not (16 times out of 24 starts) in 2012, has finished inside the top 30 in FedEx Cup points the last three seasons and is 49th on the career money list. Not bad for a one-win (official) afterthought. – Rex Hoggard

Like sweet potato soufflé on Thanksgiving, I’ve had my fill of exhibition golf. A pair of Rory McIlroy comments this week pinned my needle. First, McIlroy said of his Turkish boondoggle that it was a nice, relaxing week with his girlfriend and that he didn’t “take it too seriously.” He then said of his impending one-on-one against Tiger Woods in China, “it will be hard to get myself up” for the match. Meanwhile, he’s making millions of dollars off both events he’s deemed meaningless. This isn’t a mini-McIlroy rant. I don’t blame him for taking the cash and appreciate him not blowing smoke up our keisters. I just prefer competitive golf or no golf at all. – Mercer Baggs

Time was, a 63 by Tiger Woods on a Sunday meant curtains for everybody else. The other players would hear those Tiger roars and start hitting shots into trees and tributaries. That is no longer the case, as Tiger’s closing kick at the CIMB Classic (similar to his 62 on Sunday at the Honda Classic while chasing Rory McIlroy) left him short of victory. Nick Watney was the man in Malaysia. He shot 61 on Sunday.

Tiger is still one of the two best players in the game, an awesome force who remains a heavy favorite to break Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins and may find a way to catch Jack’s record of 18 majors, too. But his biggest haymakers don’t leave scars like they used to. His opponents have learned to parry them. Tiger, no doubt, will keep on punching. – Damon Hack

Any quest to return American women's golf to prominence is beginning to look like a lonely proposition for Stacy Lewis. Lewis still holds the lead in the Rolex Player of the Year standings in her bid to become the first American to win the honor since Beth Daniel in 1994, but her fellow Americans have quietly continued to slip way down in the world rankings.

Lewis leads the Player of the Year race with 184 points, though Inbee Park moved within striking distance of seizing the honor with her second-place finish Sunday at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. Park is second to Lewis, trailing by 28 points with three events left in the season. A win is worth 30 points.

While Lewis leads the POY race, the next best American is Angela Stanford at 13th in points. Lewis is No. 2 in the Rolex world rankings, but no other American ranks among the top 10 anymore. One year ago, four Americans ranked among the top 10 in the world. The 2012 money list also has a similar look of diminishing returns for Americans. Lewis is second on the money list. You have to go all the way down to No. 14 to find the next American (Paula Creamer). Just last year, five Americans ranked among the top 10 on the final money list. – Randall Mell

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Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 6:32 pm

Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

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Watch: Thomas saves par from impossible position

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 5:18 pm

Luke List was just hoping for an opening in his Day 1 match against Justin Thomas at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Thomas cracked the door on the par-4 ninth, but then quickly slammed it shut. Thomas, 3 up through eight holes, was in terrible shape after two shots at No. 9. But his third shot was a beauty, and a heartbreaker for List.

Thomas made the putt to halve the hole and make the turn 3 up.

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LPGA's new Q-Series to offer deferrals for amateurs

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 4:36 pm

The LPGA’s new Q-Series, which takes the place of the final stage of Q-School beginning this year, will come with a revolutionary new twist for amateurs.

For the first time, the LPGA will offer deferrals that will allow amateurs to win tour membership in December but delay turning pro until the following June or July, tour commissioner Mike Whan told GolfChannel.com.

It’s a notable change, because the deferral will allow a collegiate player to earn tour membership at the end of this year but retain amateur status to finish out her collegiate spring season next year, before joining the tour.

“We haven’t done that in the past, because we didn’t want an onslaught, where every player in college is trying to join the tour,” Whan said.

The way it worked in the past, a collegian could advance through the final stage of Q-School, but if that player earned the right to a tour card and wanted to take up membership, she had to declare after the final round that she was turning pro. It meant the player would leave her college team in the middle of the school year. It was a particularly difficult decision for players who earned conditional LPGA status, and it played havoc with the makeup of some college teams.

Whan said the revamped Q-Series format won’t create the collegiate stampede that deferrals might have in the past.

“It will take a unique talent to show up at the first stage of Q-School and say, ‘I’ll see you at Q-Series,’” Whan said. “There won’t be a lot of amateurs who make it there.”

Under the new qualifying format, there will continue to be a first and second stage of Q-School, but it will be much harder to advance to the final stage, now known Q-Series.

Under the old format, about 80 players advanced from the second stage to the Q-School finals. Under the new format, only 15 to 25 players from the second stage will advance to the Q-Series, and only a portion of those are likely to be collegians.

Under the new format, a maximum of 108 players will meet at the Q-Series finals, where a minimum of 45 tour cards will be awarded after 144 holes of competition, played over two weeks on two different courses. The field will include players who finished 101st to 150th and ties on the final LPGA money list, and players who finished 11th to 30th and ties on the final Symetra Tour money list. The field will also include up to 10 players from among the top 75 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and the top five players on the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Rankings.

“We feel if you make it to the Q-Series finals as a college player, you are probably among the best of the best, and we ought to give you the opportunity to finish the college year,” Whan said.

University of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said she would prefer amateurs not be allowed to compete at Q-School, but she called this a workable compromise.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mulflur said. “It’s better than the way it’s been in the past. That was hard, because it broke up teams.”

Mulflur said she disliked the tough position the former policy put college players in at the final stage of Q-School, where they had to decide at event’s end whether to turn pro and accept tour membership.

“I can’t imagine being a kid in that position, and I’ve had a couple kids in that position,” Mulflur said. “It’s hard on everybody, the player, the family and the coaches. You hear about coaches standing there begging a kid not to turn pro, and that’s just not the way it should be, for the coach or the player.”

Mulflur agreed with Whan that the new Q-Series format should limit the number of collegians who have a chance to win tour cards.

“I believe it’s a good compromise, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward,” Mulflur said. “Kudos to the commissioner for giving kids this option.”

University of Miami coach Patti Rizzo, a four-time LPGA winner, applauds the deferral option. Two years ago, Rizzo lost her best player, Danny Darquea, who turned pro in the spring. It hurt Miami’s team.

“That was probably our best chance in seven years to win the nationals,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo said her concerns seeing a player turn pro go beyond how it affects her team.

“What all these girls need to realize now is that a degree is more important than ever,” Rizzo said. “In my day, it was like, 'My chances are pretty good. I will get my card.’ But it’s so much more competitive now. And financially, it’s hard to make it. I think it’s so much harder than it ever was. So many girls aren’t making it, and they need a backup plan.”

Darquea is playing the Symetra Tour now, but Rizzo said she is also back in Miami taking classes to finish up her final semester and get her degree.

“It’s great she is doing that, but it would have been better if she could have stayed in college three more months and got her degree and then turned pro,” Rizzo said. “I think this deferral option is great, and I would think all the college coaches will think so, too.”

Whan said collegians who take deferrals will be counseled.

“We will sit down with them and their families and explain the risks,” Whan said. “If you take a deferral and start playing on July 15, you might find yourself back in Q-Series again later that year, because you may not have enough time.”

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Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 4:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.

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“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”

Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.

Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.