Early portion of season is important for those trying to retain cards

By Jason SobelJanuary 10, 2013, 1:47 am

HONOLULU – There’s an old trick that college presidents have been using for years during freshman orientation. It’s less cautionary tale than scare tactic.

Look to your right. Look to your left. One of these people won’t be here next year.

The Sony Open represents the first week at school for new PGA Tour professionals. If someone was to give a speech to each of the groups of three that will tee off in Thursday’s opening round, it would probably sound eerily familiar to one they’ve heard before.

Look to your right. Look to your left. One of these people won’t be here next year.

It’s no secret that getting a PGA Tour card is only half the battle. Keeping one is the hard part. And it may be even harder this season.

Photos: 2013 PGA Tour rookies

With a one-year shortened schedule that ends with the Tour Championship, there will be an added emphasis on making the most of opportunities. No longer is there a Fall Series on which to fall back and the Mayakoba Golf Classic, once an opposite-field event, has been shuttled to the 2013-14 early season.

That may not sound like much of an impact, but it should have a profound effect on journeymen and young players trying to keep their cards. Players who previously got into 24 events may now only get 20 starts; those who played 20 may now get 16; those who played 16 may now get only 12.

Meanwhile, the Sony Open remains an anomaly. Every single player who earned his playing privileges for this year through the Web.com Tour or Q-School was able to qualify for this event if he committed. That won’t be the case for much of the season, where fewer opportunities will mean more pressure to perform.

In other words, these pros can’t just play early and often, they’ll need a modicum of success early and often.

“It’s funny – you do get your card, but you’d better go play well or sit on your couch in July,” explained Scott Langley, who qualified through Q-School. “But thankfully, any events that I have this year are more than I had last year, so I’m happy for that. I hope to play well and move up the list and get into many more.'

“Obviously with the shortened schedule you’ve got to play well early,” Donald Constable added. “Being in my position where I just made it through Q-School, I need to play well early so I can get in the reshuffle and kind of climb up the ladder a little bit.”

Ah, yes. The reshuffle. Consider it the seedy underbelly of newfound PGA Tour privileges. At various points during the season, those playing from the Q-School and Web.com categories will be renumbered based on their FedEx Cup points standings.

This year, though, there will be more of a squeeze than ever. The reshuffle will take place after the eight West Coast tournaments. However, that includes the Hyundai Tournament of Champions (which obviously didn’t include any players from this category) and the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship (which likely won’t – and if it does, they won’t need the reshuffle by that point anyway).

That leaves six events. After this week’s Sony Open is the Humana Challenge, which has expanded from a 144-player field to 156. In other words, everybody in the pool. If you’ve got a card and a pulse, you should be able to play. The Farmers Insurance Open will be a little tougher; same goes for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. After those comes the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, another easy entry for most players, but it’s followed by the much more difficult Northern Trust Open.

And then? Well, young players had better have a decent enough standing going into that first reshuffle or it could be a long season almost before it really gets started.

“I think it’s important every season,” Andres Gonzales explained about his second tour of duty in the big leagues. “Everybody is going to have the same opportunities, but everybody wants to get up in the reshuffle in our category. But I’m fortunate enough to play in [the Sony]. A couple of years ago, I wasn’t able to get into this. But I’m in this, I’ll be able to play next week, so I have better opportunities to at least move up in the reshuffle.”

“Everybody says, ‘Learn to love the West Coast,'” said Web.com grad Robert Streb, “I’m just trying to play all I can get into right now. If the West Coast works out well, maybe I’ll figure it out after that.”

When it comes to scheduling, that word “maybe” is currently permeating many minds. For those trying to find PGA Tour success, the focus isn’t just on playing or even playing well, but playing well early.

If it doesn’t happen, well, you know what they say at orientation.

Look to your right. Look to your left. One of these people won’t be here next year.

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Ryu wins Meijer Classic by 2 shots

By Associated PressJune 17, 2018, 9:46 pm

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - So Yeon Ryu won the Meijer LPGA Classic on Sunday for her first victory of the season and sixth overall, closing with a 5-under 67 for a two-stroke margin.

The 29-year-old South Korean player birdied the par-5 16th and par-4 17th and parred the par-4 18th to finish at 21-under 267 at Blythefield Country Club.

Two strokes behind Anna Nordqvist and Lee-Anne Pace entering the round, Ryu had six birdies and a bogey in the final round.

Full-field scores from the Meijer LPGA Classic

Caroline Masson was second after a 68. Lydia Ko shot a 67 to finish third at 18 under.

Nordqvist and Pace each shot 73 - after each had a 64 on Saturday - to tie for fourth at 17 under with Jacqui Concolino (66), Azahara Munoz (68) and Angela Stanford (70).

U.S. Women's Open winner Ariya Jutanugarn shot a tournament-record 62. She birdied five of the first seven holes, eagled No. 8 and added three more birdies to finish 12th at 15 under.

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Fleetwood fires 63, waits to see if score is enough

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2018, 8:52 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Tommy Fleetwood became the sixth player to shoot 63 at the U.S. Open, and just the second to do it in the final round. Now he waits.

Fleetwood teed off almost 2 ½ hours before – and six strokes behind – the leaders at Shinnecock Hills on Sunday, but stormed into the hunt thanks to four consecutive birdies starting at the 12th hole. The Englishman’s round was even more impressive considering he didn’t birdie either of the layout’s par 5s.

U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

Fleetwood finished at 2 over par – after missing a 9-foot putt for birdie and 62 at the 18th – which was tied for second place and one stroke off the lead held by Brooks Koepka when he completed his round.

After speaking with the media, Fleetwood went to the locker room to await a possible playoff, which was changed this year from an 18-hole overtime to just two holes of aggregate play.

“We'll go and relax a little bit and just see,” said Fleetwood, who rolled in 159 feet of birdies putts. “Only time will tell what's going to happen today at the course. If it was like yesterday, I'd feel a little more comfortable than now.”

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Fowler follows 84 with 65, praises Shinnecock setup

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2018, 5:44 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – As promised, the USGA dialed back Shinnecock Hills for Sunday’s final round, watering the greens overnight and deferring to more user-friendly hole locations.

The evidence of this was on the leaderboard, with four early finishers having shot under-par rounds, including Rickie Fowler, who closed with a round-of-the-week 65. There were just three under-par cards on Saturday.

“That's the golf course I enjoy playing. Obviously, pin placements were a lot safer,” said Fowler, who had just one bogey on Sunday and opened his day with a 4-under 31 on his opening nine. “The pins today will definitely allow for the greens to firm up and get fast, and we'll see how much they dry out. It was definitely more receptive this morning than yesterday, that's for sure.”

U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

It was a 19-stroke turnaround for Fowler, who ballooned to a third-round 84 on Day 3 during what most contend were the week’s toughest conditions. Fowler had put himself into contention going into the weekend thanks to a second-round 69, but struggled on Saturday afternoon like much of the field.

Fowler said the setup was vastly different to what players faced on Saturday and that even if the winds increase for the afternoon tee times the course will remain playable, unlike Round 3 when many players said the USGA “lost” the golf course.

“They did a good job of staying safe,” Fowler said, “because if it does dry out, it will still be very playable.”

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Phil celebrates par on 13, ducks media after round

By Ryan LavnerJune 17, 2018, 5:35 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Phil Mickelson didn’t have another meltdown at the U.S. Open.

Back on the 13th green Sunday – less than 24 hours after taking a two-shot penalty for hitting a moving ball and recording a sextuple-bogey 10 – Mickelson poured in a 10-footer and raised his arms in mock triumph, as if he’d finally won that elusive major title.

Not quite.

He’d simply made par.

“It looked like he won the Masters,” said playing partner Rickie Fowler. “He didn’t jump, but he had a little celebration there.”

U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

The par save and the final-round 69 were one of the lone bright spots during what was an adventurous week for Lefty, even by his unpredictable standards. Mickelson’s shocking swat was still the talk of this Open, especially after USGA executive director Mike Davis revealed Saturday night that Mickelson had called him to ask for more clarification on the rule he said that he knew he’d broken.

Despite some calls for him to withdraw from the tournament, Mickelson displayed his usual cheerful demeanor inside the ropes with Fowler.

“He joked about it right as we went down the first hole,” Fowler said.

Fowler said that he didn’t know “if I would have had the wits like Phil to run after it” on 13, but added that it never should have come to that in the first place.

“He could have saved himself a shot by just letting it go and taking unplayable, but then that would still look pretty funny too,” he said. “The course shouldn’t play that way.”

If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”