The Order of Opportunity Part 1

By Mercer BaggsMarch 2, 2004, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the first of a two-part series explaining the PGA Tour's All Exempt Priority Rankings and the reshuffling process inside of its Category 25. Read Part 2
PGA Tour (75x100)Congratulations, Nationwide Tour/Q-School graduate! You are a member of the PGA Tour. Millions of dollars are there for the taking, and the opportunities are as limitless as your imagination.
Or are they?
I was under that impression when I got through Q-School, right out of college ' you know, you just kind of play whenever, said Bo Van Pelt.
'I found out quickly thats not the case at all.
Van Pelt, now in his third full season on the PGA Tour, is a learned man in the way the tour fills a field.
The tour has its own Priority Rankings system. Players earn a position on that ranking, and where they place determines their likelihood of getting into tournaments.
There are 34 categories in all. Categories range from select tournament winners to those receiving medical extensions to veteran members -- and everything else in between.
PGA Tour's All-Exempt Priority Rankings; Categories 1-34
We just basically go down that list, draw a line when we reach field capacity, and the rest are alternates, said Andy Pazder, director of administration/communication for the PGA Tour.
And often that line is drawn inside of Category 25, which consists of the most recent Nationwide Tour and Qualifying Tournament graduates.
Not Open to All
There are two types of tournaments on the PGA Tour: Opens and Invitationals. In an open,' as Pazder said, the tour determines the field based solely on their Priority Ranking.
For an invitational,' there are different criteria ' differing event to event. Invitationals include the four majors (even though two of them are called an 'open' due to their qualifying process), the three World Golf Championship events, and tournaments like Bay Hill; the MCI Heritage; Memorial; Colonial and the International.
In determining the difference between an open and an invitational take, for example, Bay Hill.
Players eligible for the Bay Hill Invitational include, among others: past tournament champions; the top 50 players from the Official World Golf Ranking through this week's Ford Championship; 18 sponsors exemptions (as opposed to the maximum of eight in an open event); the top 70 players from the seasonal money list through the Ford Championship.
In other words, invitational tournaments have more control as to who is in their field.
For those players in Category 25 ' which this year numbers at 58 ' their best opportunities to compete are in open events.
But, just because these fortunate cap-and-gown grads have full exempt status in the Big Show, that doesnt mean they are always guaranteed an opportunity to display their talents on stage.
Players in the top 20 categories will almost always get into an open field. However, there may not be enough spots remaining to satisfy all of those Q-School and Nationwide Tour graduates.
Van Pelt, who finished fifth on the 2003 Nationwide Tour money list, started his season by playing in the Sony Open and Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. He had to Monday qualify to compete in the FBR Open.
The FBR Open is an open event, but, according to Pazder, We have a lower number at Phoenix due to limited daylight and frost delays in the mornings; we can only accommodate 132 (players).
Certain situations ' given time of year and location ' we can play anywhere from 132 to 180.
Pazder says that outside of Daylight Savings Time, the standard field size is 144. During the summer months, or during DST, it is 156.
Obviously, the greater the limitation on admittance the less likely those players inside Category 25 are to gain entry.
At the FBR Open, Van Pelt was the only Nationwide Tour or Q-School graduate to compete ' and only because he Monday qualified. Zach Johnson, who due to topping last years Nationwide Tour money list is in the more desirable Category 23, was even forced to sit out as an alternate.
This weeks Ford Championship has 144 players in the field. Twenty-nine of the 58 Category 25 players were on the orginal commitment list -- prior to the start of the week. The only player eligible to compete who declined was Tjaart Van der Walt. His absence opened the door for D.J. Brigman, who would have been first alternate -- instead he temporarily became No. 144.
First alternate would have been Hunter Mahan, who was ranked 30th inside of Category 25.
'Would have,' being the operative tense.
The stop at Doral serves as a second beginning to the season: It is the first week following the first reshuffle among the Category 25 members.
Read Part 2 Wednesday, which explains the reshuffling process.
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Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.

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Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

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Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”