Tour Champ. is overlooked stepping stone to success

By Jason SobelSeptember 18, 2013, 6:22 pm

ATLANTA – One hundred thirty-eight miles of open road separate East Lake Golf Club from Magnolia Lane and the front gates of Augusta National, but the connection is much closer. This can be credited directly to Bobby Jones, the legendary career amateur who called East Lake his home course and later helped found the famous club to the east.

But there’s a modern day connection between the clubs, too. Any player who qualifies for the Tour Championship at East Lake is rewarded with, among other perks, an invitation into the next year’s Masters Tournament. For the usual suspects with singular household names like Tiger and Phil, it doesn’t matter. They’ve already qualified for next April’s festivities a dozen times over.

For others, though, reaching this week’s field is a means to an end.

Graham DeLaet, Brendon De Jonge and Roberto Castro will each make their maiden pilgrimage to Augusta next year based on inclusion within the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings entering the season finale.

Call it a domino effect – or at least the next step in progressing to a higher level in golf’s hierarchy.

This week, these three players will compete for the $10 million grand prize for prevailing in the playoffs, where even last-place reaps a guaranteed paycheck. Indirectly, there are unforeseen benefits. In addition to qualifying for the Masters, players are also guaranteed a spot in the U.S. Open, Open Championship and WGC-Cadillac Championship fields, meaning they are able to set a schedule prior to the season and prepare for it. If nothing else, it helps a guy’s comfort level.

For DeLaet, de Jonge and Castro, three players still seeking a first career PGA Tour victory, such an advantage can prove invaluable. These are their stories.

When it comes to the perks of reaching his first Tour Championship, Graham DeLaet doesn’t mince words about which one means the most.

“It’s been a dream since I was a kid,” the Canadian says of qualifying for his first Masters. “I remember watching Weirsy [Mike Weir] win the Masters in ’03. I was at an Idaho State tournament in Pocatello, Idaho, and it was the coolest thing. That’s always been my favorite sporting event of the year to watch, over the Super Bowl or Stanley Cup playoffs. There’s something special about it – and to be playing in it is going to be unreal.”

He didn’t waste any time getting in, either.

DeLaet all but assured himself a berth in the field at East Lake with a share of second place at The Barclays, the first of four playoff events. He added a solo third for good measure one week later at the Deutsche Bank Championship and now finds himself ranked 33rd in the world and in prime position to join the game’s elite level.

“More than anything, I can pick a schedule next year, which will be really nice,” he explains. “There will be no surprises that pop up, like when I got into the Open Championship this year. So I can kind of plan around that a little bit more. Obviously all the majors and if I can retain my world ranking, the World Golf events. Hopefully that can snowball into big things for me.”

If it does, he’ll remember that it all started with getting into this week’s event, part of a season-long plan to set himself up for the future.

“This is kind of the goal coming into the year. Make it to Atlanta. To have a chance to win the FedEx Cup is even better.” 

Brendon de Jonge understands the importance of qualifying for some big-time events.

Now in his sixth PGA Tour season, de Jonge has made the cut in every major championship he’s played. That’s the good news. The downside is that his entire major career has included four starts in the PGA Championship and one in the U.S. Open.

That will change next year, thanks to him squeaking into the Tour Championship at No. 27 in the current standings.

“This sets up a lot of things for next year, it opens up a lot of doors,” he says. “You get into a lot of tournaments that you wouldn’t have necessarily gotten into. That’s the biggest thing.”

For a guy who owns 22 career top-10 finishes without claiming any hardware, being able to plot a schedule around tournaments he picks rather than ones which are essentially picked for him could be the difference-maker.

“I hope so. It feels like it, it feels like my career is heading in the right direction. I haven’t won yet, I’ve had a lot of chances, but yeah, it does; it feels like it’s all building up to something.”

More than perhaps anyone else in this week’s field, Roberto Castro isn’t looking ahead.

A product of Georgia Tech who now makes his home 15 minutes from East Lake, he maintains that competing here means as much as playing in the Masters.

“It’s kind of hard to say, but I think playing in this tournament is at least as big an accomplishment,” Castro explains. “Only 30 players and no invitations, straight off the points, earn your way in. But it might be different when I roll down Magnolia Lane.”

He laughs at the insinuation that he could make that 138-mile trip eastward more frequently than many of his fellow competitors.

“I guess that’s how it works, right? If you want to – within reason – play a few practice rounds, you can do that? I don’t know,” he says. “I’ll put some miles on that car. I’m not scared.”

And yes, like DeLaet and de Jonge, he knows the ability to plan ahead should serve him well.

“It’s going to be very nice,” he continues. “This year, I got to play in a lot of great tournaments, but some of them were uncertain at the beginning of the year, so I was kind of chasing it a little bit. Next year I’ll be able to know my schedule.

“When you first get on Tour, it’s so exciting. Then you start to see, OK, next step is to get into the majors and WGCs, then hopefully start contending and who knows. But it is a big step.” 

Neither DeLaet nor de Jonge nor Castro may win the Masters next year. Or the U.S. Open or Open Championship, for that matter.

Landing in the field at East Lake doesn’t directly guarantee success, but it does clear the path to a successful journey.

When one of them – or all three – breaks through for his first PGA Tour win, then starts contending for majors, very few people will look back on competing in the Tour Championship as what spurred such growth. With players of this caliber, it’s often an underrated checkpoint on that road toward greater progression.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 9:20 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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First-, second-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Three-time champion Tiger Woods is playing in The Open for the first time since he missed the cut in 2015 at St. Andrews. Woods will begin his first round Thursday in the 147th edition at Carnoustie at 10:21 a.m. ET, playing alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Russell Knox.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth delivered the claret jug to the R&A on Monday at Carnoustie. He will begin his title defense at 4:58 a.m. ET on Thursday, playing with world No. 2 Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Other notable groupings:

  • Rory McIlroy will look to capture his second claret jug at 7:53 a.m. Thursday. He goes off with Marc Leishman and Thorbjorn Olesen.
  • World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is playing with Alex Noren and Charley Hoffman. They will play at 8:04 a.m. ET in the first round.
  • World No. 2 Justin Thomas goes at 8:26 a.m. with Francesco Molinari and Branden Grace.
  • Masters champion Patrick Reed will play with Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Casey at 5:20 a.m. ET.
  • U.S. Open champion and world No. 4 Brooks Koepka is grouped with Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith (9:59 a.m. ET).
  • Phil Mickelson, the 2013 Open champion, will begin at 3:03 a.m. ET with Satoshi Kodaira and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Here's a look at the full list of times for Rounds 1 and 2 (all times ET):

1:35AM/6:36AM: Sandy Lyle, Martin Kaymer, Andy Sulliva

1:46AM/6:47AM: Erik Van Rooyen, Brady Schnell, Matthew Southgate

1:57AM/6:58AM: Danny Willett, Emiliano Grillo, Luke List

2:08AM/7:09AM: Mark Calcavecchia, Danthai Boonma, Shaun Nooris

2:19AM/7:20AM: Kevin Chappell, Oliver Wilson, Eddie Pepperell

2:30AM/7:31AM: Ross Fisher, Paul Dunne, Austin Cook

2:41AM/7:42AM: Tyrrell Hatton, Patrick Cantlay, Shane Lowry

2:52AM/7:53AM: Thomas Pieters, Kevin Kisner, Marcus Kinhult

3:03AM/8:04AM: Phil Mickelson, Satoshi Kodaira, Rafa Cabrera Bello

3:14AM/8:15AM: Brian Harman, Yuta Ikeda, Andrew Landry

3:25AM/8:26AM: Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson, Nicolai Hojgaard (a)

3:36AM/8:37AM: Stewart Cink, Brandon Stone, Hideto Tanihara

3:47AM/8:48AM: Gary Woodland, Yusaku Miyazato, Sung Kang

4:03AM/9:04AM: Ernie Els, Adam Hadwin, Chesson Hadley

4:14AM/9:15AM: Pat Perez, Julian Suri, George Coetzee

4:25AM/9:26AM: David Duval, Scott Jamieson, Kevin Na

4:36AM/9:37AM: Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer, Retief Goosen

4:47AM/9:48AM: Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Peter Uihlein

4:58AM/9:59AM: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Kiradech Aphibarnrat

5:09AM/10:10AM: Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Chris Wood

5:20AM/10:21AM: Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed

5:31AM/10:32AM: Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jhonattan Vegas

5:42AM/10:43AM: Yuxin Lin (a), Alexander Bjork, Sang Hyun Park

5:53AM/10:54AM: James Robinson, Haraldur Magnus, Zander Lombard

6:04AM/11:05AM: Kodai Ichihara, Rhys Enoch, Marcus Armitage

6:15AM/11:16AM: Sean Crocker, Gavin Green, Ash Turner

6:36AM/1:35AM: Brandt Snedeker, Sam Locke (a), Cameron Davis

6:47AM/1:46AM: Patton Kizzire, Jonas Blixt, Charles Howell III

6:58AM/1:57AM: Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Tom Lewis

7:09AM/2:08AM: Alex Levy, Ryan Moore, Byeong Hun An

7:20AM/2:19AM: Michael Hendry, Kelly Kraft, Lee Westwood

7:31AM/2:30AM: Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, Jimmy Walker

7:42AM/2:41AM: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Russell Henley, Jovan Rebula (a)

7:53AM/2:52AM: Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen

8:04AM/3:03AM: Dustin Johnson, Alex Noren, Charley Hoffman

8:15AM/3:14AM: Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Brendan Steele

8:26AM/3:25AM: Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari, Branden Grace

8:37AM/3:36AM: Jason Day, Shota Akiyoshi, Haotong Li

8:48AM/3:47AM: Todd Hamilton, Beau Hossler, Jorge Campillo

9:04AM/4:03AM: Ryuko Tokimatsu, Chez Reavie, Michael Kim

9:15AM/4:14AM: Kyle Stanley, Nicolas Colsaerts, Jens Dantorp

9:26AM/4:25AM: Tom Lehman, Dylan Frittelli, Grant Forrest

9:37AM/4:36AM: Lucas Herbert, Min Chel Choi, Jason Kokrak

9:48AM/4:47AM: Padraig Harrington, Bubba Watson, Matt Wallace

9:59AM/4:58AM: Ian Poulter, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka

10:10AM/5:09AM: Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Shubhankar Sharma

10:21AM/5:20AM: Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Knox

10:32AM/5:31AM: Jason Dufner, Ryan Fox, Keegan Bradley

10:43AM/5:42AM: Ryan Armour, Abraham Ander, Masahiro Kawamura

10:54AM/5:53AM: Jazz Janewattananond, Fabrizio Zanotti, Jordan Smith

11:05AM/6:04AM: Brett Rumford, Masanori Kobayashi, Jack Senior

11:16AM/6:15AM: Matt Jones, Thomas Curtis, Bronson Burgoon