Thats a Wrap - BuyCom Season Complete
And so, after a week of brutal conditions and immense pressure in Prattville, Ala., on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, 15 of the best players you might not know about have donned the cap and gown and are headed to the PGA Tour. Some appear to be 'locks' for success, while others still have some things to prove.
It was a year for the rookies, as three parlayed their maiden voyage on the Buy.Com Tour into a promotion to the big tour. Chad Campbell, Brenden Pappas and Jason Hill all graduated with honors.
It was also a year for the veteran. Canadian Richard Zokol earned a victory in his native Canada and returns to the PGA Tour full-time as a man in his 40s.
It was a year for perseverance as Matt Peterson turned nine years of hard work on this circuit into a promotion to the PGA Tour for the first time.
And don't dismiss the 'comeback kids.' Pat Bates returns to the big leagues after a near career-ending neck injury and Heath Slocum, who like Bates and Campbell, won three times to rebound from an illness that kept him off the course for months. Like Bates, the thought of the PGA Tour was a distant second to health and happiness when the year began.
All that said, here are my thoughts on the graduates and their chances for success at the next level:
1)Chad Campbell - Three-time winner and leading money winner on the Buy.Com tour. His $394,552 came because of 21 of 23 cuts made and eight top-10 finishes. The Texas native arrived on this tour after making some $800,000 in four years on the Hooters Tour. He's won at every level and in my opinion is the best player on this tour. A 'certainty' at the next level and possible rookie winner on the PGA Tour. You won't see him back in the minors.
2)Pat Bates - Three-time winner including the Buy.Com Tour Championship. He made 18 of 24 cuts and a victory in his last two starts. $352,261 in earnings because he's solved his bad habit of wildness off the tee. Not as long as he used to be, but he's accurate and man, can he putt! Back on the PGA Tour for first time since '95. Winning at the next level might take a while, but he may now have what it takes to keep pace with the very best.
3)Heath Slocum - Three-time winner and the first to earn the 'Battlefield Promotion' this year. $339,670 in just 18 starts. Straight as an arrow off the tee and a very smart player. He went 106 holes without a bogey during a stretch this summer. Played a handful of PGA Tour events after his mid-season 'promotion,' but didn't make much of the green stuff. Chances of keeping the card next year are about 50-50.
4)Rod Pampling - The Australian is about as consistent as they come. He didn't win in 2001 but with $306,573, he was right there just about every week. 21 of 26 cuts made, nine top-10s including three seconds. I like his chances of playing well next year. He reminds me of fellow Aussie Paul Gow, who lost a playoff at this year's B.C. Open.
5)Deane Pappas - The South African is about as good a putter as you'll see. Winner on the Buy.Com Tour in 2001 and had eight top-10s. 19 of 24 cuts made and $271,169. He played the PGA Tour in 1999, but like Bates has struggled at times with accuracy. A seasoned veteran who doesn't get rattled easily. I like his odds if he rolls it with the same consistency. My only question is the swing, which is still a work in progress.
6)John Rollins - Winner at the Buy.Com Hershey Open. He won at one of the toughest courses on tour. The native Virginian earned his PGA Tour card at Q-school in '99 but couldn't keep it. Now he's back after making 17 of 25 cuts and posting six top-10s. Earned $242,841 and is a tough customer. Very focused and businesslike on the course. Certainly has the ability, but not a lock. Still, I think he'll have some big weeks.
7)Tim Petrovic - Like Pampling, he didn't win, but what a start to the year. He began 2001 without fully exempt status but posted seven top-10s. Qualified for the U.S. Open and played well at Southern Hills. The Massachusetts native collected $239,010 and led the tour in scoring average at 69.68. He's easygoing, easy to get along with and just loose enough to surprise some people.
8)Jonathan Byrd - Rookie winner who earned $222,244. The South Carolina native made 16 of 20 cuts and posted five top-10s. He is long. Very long. But also very talented. Very talented! Not many players have his practice habits and dedication. Like Campbell, Byrd has a long list of supporters who think he's a sure-hit. I'm one of them.
9)Jeff Gove - The Seattle native is among the best at the Buy.Com level. 18 of 25 cuts and six top-10s. He's a streaky player who can get hot for a couple months. And isn't that what it takes at any level? Gove had his card last year and couldn't keep it. No guarantees this time either, but along with his $198,812, he proved that he's mentally tough. That should serve him well in 2002.
10)Brenden Pappas - Deane's younger brother finished second at the Buy.Com Tour Championship. Huge week as he was the only player to climb into the Top-15. Earned $188,152 with two runner-up finishes. A rookie on the Buy.Com Tour, he's a smart player whose seasoning comes from the South African Tour where he played dating back to 1994. He was also the leading money-winner on the 2000 Teardrop Tour. The Tour Championship proved a lot to me; next year he needs to prove some more.
11) Bo Van Pelt - Back to the big tour for the big hitter from Indiana and Oklahoma State. It was just a couple years ago that Van Pelt earned his big tour card in his first try at the Qualifying School. He couldn't keep it, but did have some nice weeks. 17 of 24 cuts made and $175,947 with five top-10s, including two runner-up finishes. I like Van Pelt's game and his maturity. A young player with a wife and baby, has plenty to play for.
12)Matt Peterson - The Chicago area native spent nine seasons on the Buy.Com Tour and has finally made it! Earned $169,947 after making 19 of 21 cuts and posting six top-10s. The feel-good story in 2001, the 34-year old is smart and straight, having led the tour in accuracy in 1999 and 2001. What a story if he could keep his PGA Tour card. We'll see how much nine years and just one win helps.
13)Richard Zokol - A Canadian veteran who's been a professional since 1984. Zokol's won on the PGA Tour and this year proved he still has it in him. Won in his native Canada at the CPGA Championship. Earned $167,192 after making 18 of 21 cuts. First full year back on the PGA Tour since 1994. A true 'professional' and tactician on the course. He's smart, he's dedicated and after talking with him a lot, I think he's determined to make the most of his mid-40s.
14)Jason Hill - The Texas rookie starred on the Lone Star Tour before joining the Buy.Com. Won the Steamtown Classic this year on a very tough track. Made 17 of 26 cuts to the tune of $166,899. This guy played nine weeks in a row, including the season-ending Tour Championship. He's a lot like John Rollins in that he's tough and focused. Hill's not a guarantee at the next level. Not yet anyway. Just don't tell him that.
15)Michael Long - The New Zealander won the Boise Open, which made up a large chunk of his $161,665. Made 15 of 23 cuts with three top-10s. Doesn't appear to be a lock, but he's played on World Cup and Dunhill Cup teams for his country. Won in New Zealand and played the European Tour. Quietly could come up with big year on the PGA Tour. He's seasoned.
It was a great year. We saw three 'Battlefield Promotions,' a few rookie surprises and a record number of men earning $300,000-plus. This tour is as strong as ever and just as Garrett Willis proved this year in Tucson, just because someone didn't finish in the top-15, don't count them out at Q-school where they'll get another chance at the PGA Tour and winning as well.
One thing that is a lock - it won't be called the Buy.Com Tour next year. That agreement has come to an early end. Whatever it's called, there are many who'd love the chance to play it next year!
See the final Buy.Com money list
Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'
WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.
It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.
Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.
''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''
The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.
It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.
''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.
''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''
A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.
The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.
''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''
Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.
''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.
''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''
Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.
Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.
''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''
Romo rallies to win American Century Championship
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.
Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.
''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''
Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.
The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.
Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.
''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''
Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.
Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.
Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.
Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.
The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.
Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.
Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.
Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.
Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.
He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.
His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.
The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.
His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.
McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.
He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.
Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship
Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.
The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.
The week was more than nostalgic.
It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.
In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.
“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”
Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.
“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”
Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.
The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.
“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”
Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.
“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”
She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.
“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.
At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.
With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.
This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.
“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”
Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.
“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.
In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.