Coming Down to the Wire

By Jerry FoltzOctober 21, 2003, 4:00 pm
The looks run the gamut. From the confident gleaming eyes of a player destined for greatness, to the ghostly blank, emotionally vacant stare of a player wondering if his days are numbered. Those are the stories that are told with just a glance.
 
At this time of year on The Nationwide Tour, with the final chapter about to be written, a simple look into a players eyes reveal just how desperate things might be. On the other hand, that same glance can show the powerful confidence of youth in a rising star on the verge of accomplishing his lifelong dream and venturing ahead with excitement, having outgrown apprehension of the unknown.
 
The eyes are the window to the soul. One look in that window and it's obvious that 'crunch time' is upon The Nationwide Tour.
 
The big story every year is obviously those who will graduate directly to next year's PGA Tour; however, the subplots might be even more compelling--players trying to finish in one of the categories that improve their lot for next year and make Q-School less arduous.
 
  • Top 20 graduate to the PGA Tour.
     
  • Top 35 advance directly in the final stage of Q-School.
     
  • Top 55 qualify for the Nationwide Tour Championship where the limited-field and enlarged purse means that the winner is a sure thing to graduate as well. And each of the 55 is fully exempt on the Nationwide Tour in '04.
     
  • Top 70 advance directly into second stage of Q-School.
     
  • Top 100 retain conditional membership for next season.
     
  • Outside the top 100 and return to the starting gate--the first stage of Q-School with no real success to draw upon from this season.
     
    There's been some shuffling in recent weeks as those who play best with their backs against the wall can definitely feel the texture of concrete rubbing their microfibers.
     
    At the Monterey Peninsula Classic, Scott Gutschewski solidified his title of 'best player to come from oblivion to prominence in less than half a season' and continued to perform in an awe-inspiring manner. He won the tournament and moved to 23rd on the money list. He is now back at 23rd two weeks later.
     
    Lucas Glover won the Gila River Golf Classic to solidify his place amongst the rookies on next year's PGA Tour. Considered by many, myself included, to be the player from the class of 2003 to have the best chance to someday win a major, Lucas made it suspenseful by not locking it down until the last minute. Nonetheless, Glover is a star in the making that isn't likely to be intimidated next year on the PGA Tour. He's my early front-runner for Rookie of the Year in 2004. The excitement around him, and some of the younger players of similar ability, is that they dont know how good they can be'the skys the limit.
     
    Tommy Tolles finally moved into the top-20, albeit the tenuous position of 19th, and now looks poised to finally get back to exempt status on the PGA Tour. Tommy has some of the better credentials of those players that utilize the Nationwide Tour to reignite that fire within and earn their way back. Hes also the one player that I find myself pulling for in a biased manner just because of the person he is'a generous, genuine, kind soul.
     
    And then, last week, D.J. Brigman conquered the odds and rewrote his story of the year. Entering the Permian Basin Charity Golf Classic, D.J. was in 85th position on the money list and mentally preparing himself for the prospect of starting over at the first stage of Q-School. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he crafted a masterpiece on Sunday, a bogey-free 66, and grabbed his first Nationwide Tour title. Now at 31st in earnings, he has an outside chance at the top-20, but more importantly, he now knows that hes good enough to win at this level and, at the very least, will have another year of fully exempt status to prove that he can make it to the next level.
     
    Most of those players with blank looks in their eyes wont be at this weeks final full-field event'the Miccosukee Championship. Thats because Q-School starts this week. Some will play anyway, hoping beyond hope for that one magical week that has eluded them all year. Anything short of last minute heroics and theyll tee it up at one of a select few first stage sites that begin next Tuesday. The rest will be in Miami, and then in Prattville, Alabama, for the Nationwide Tour Championship trying their hearts out for a shot at a dream come true'a spot on next years PGA Tour.
     
    For the next two weeks, the drama will play out and the stories will tell themselves. The final chapter will be written, and the epilogue will then take place at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament finals. Everyone will then go home for the holidays and get ready for what I think is the true beauty of professional golf. It will all begin anew next year.
     
    Email your thoughts to Jerry Foltz
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    Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 12:55 pm

    NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

    Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

    1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch.


    Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

    Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

    1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

    Getty Images

    Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

    Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

    “We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

    Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

    “It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

    It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

    Getty Images

    Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 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.


    Getty Images

    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.