The Order of Opportunity Part 2
As the reigning Q-School medalist, Mathias Gronberg entered the 2004 PGA Tour season as the top dog inside Category 25 on the tours All-Exempt Priority Ranking.
Hes now, in a sense, feeding off of table scraps.
You better make some money on the West Coast if you want to get into tournaments (on the Southern Swing). Youre going to get passed if you dont, said Andy Pazder, director of administration/communication for the PGA Tour.
Thats because of the tours reshuffling process.
Five times a year, the tour reshuffles players inside of Category 25 ' which consists of the most recent Nationwide Tour and Qualifying Tournament graduates (not including the leading money winner and any other three-time winners on the previous years Nationwide Tour, who go into Category 23) ' based on their year-to-date earnings.
Our eligibility is based on current competition, and the reshuffling process is the best indicator of that, Pazder said.
The first of those five reshuffles takes effect at this weeks Ford Championship. A second is done the Monday of the Masters; the third the Monday of the U.S. Open; the fourth the Monday of the PGA Championship; the fifth the Monday of the Southern Farm Bureau Classic.
The reshuffling process is as simple as it is critical.
The tour uses its All-Exempt Priority Ranking to determine the fields in their open tournaments ' which are most non-major, non-World Golf Championship events.
They go right down that list until the field reaches capacity ' ranging from 132 to 180 players. Those who dont make it become alternates.
Many times, a fields final line is drawn inside of Category 25 (of 34 categories). Therefore, those ranked higher in that category are more likely to gain entry into an event.
The list (of players inside Category 25) starts with Q-School No.1, then Nationwide No. 2, then Q-School No. 2, then Nationwide No. 3, and so on until they run out of Nationwide Tour graduates. Then it goes straight down to how players finished at Q-School, explained Pazder.
Following the conclusion of last weeks events ' the WGC-Accenture Match Play and the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, the tour reshuffled those 58 players.
And Gronberg, who earned just under $60,000 in five events played on the West Coast Swing, went from No. 1 to No. 13. It's not a monumental plummet, but it could be the difference -- particularly if he continues to slide -- in getting into a tournament here and there.
Bo Van Pelt is the new No. 1.
Van Pelt has played in six tournaments thus far this season. Hes made five cuts, has three top-25 finishes, and tied for fourth in the Buick Invitational.
In an effort to bolster his position inside of Category 25, he successfully Monday qualified for the FBR Open.
I really wanted to get in and play well this week, he said at the time. That would definitely give me a leg up on the reshuffle.
And he was right.
Van Pelt, the only Category 25 player to make the field, tied for 15th in Phoenix and earned more than $78,000.
In all, Van Pelt, in his third full season on tour, has pocketed $380,209. That ranks him 28th on the money list, and first in his Category.
Mark Hensby, who tied for seventh at Pebble Beach and tied for third last week in Tucson, is right on his heels. He is 33rd on the money list with $349,647.
Among the significant positive reshuffles: Ted Purdy climbed from 27th to third; Craig Bowden from 35th to seventh; Brian Bateman from 24th to eighth; Brian Gay from 50th to 17th; 19-year-old Kevin Na went from 42nd to 19th; Roger Tambellini (41 to 21) and Russ Cochran (36 to 14) also made progress, as did Dan Olsen (28 to 10).
Danny Briggs made the largest leap forward, rocketing 36 spots. He made the most of his limited opportunities. Due to his low starting point of 52 he has only played in three events; however, he has made all three cuts, and tied for 20th in Tucson.
He's now 16th, and will have a much easier time finding work.
On the flip side, Chris Couch tumbled the furthest. Thanks to making but one cut in five starts, he has dropped from fifth to 46th.
Wes Short, who is battling injury and has two withdrawals to go along with one missed cut this season, fell from 18th to 51st; Tjaart Van der Walt from 22nd to 41st; John Maginnes was a mirror image of Cochran, going from 14th to 36th; Jason Dufner from 17th to 35th; Kris Cox from 20th to 48th; Andre Stoltz from 23rd to 40th; Guy Boros from 25th to 49th; Kevin Muncrief from 32nd to 52nd.
To find the signifcance in all this, look at Ford Championship.
This is the first week that the reshuffle takes affect.
That means players like Gay, Briggs and Na, all three of whom would have had no chance of getting into the field based on their categorical positions at the start of the year, are now in the $5 million Doral field.
Meanwhile, players like Couch, Cox and Stoltz, all three of whom easily would have made the field were it not for the reshuffle, now have no chance of playing this week -- and will have difficulty finding playing time as the tour winds through Florida.
Originally, the final line on the Ford field list was drawn right in front of Hunter Mahan's name. Mahan started the year 30th inside Category 25. But after the reshuffle, he moved to 20th, and now has a tee time on the Blue Monster; whereas D.J. Brigman, who would have been in the field due to his starting 29th position is now the first alternate after dropping ever-so-slightly to 31st.
A slide of just two spots may cost him his opportunity to compete for the $900,000 first-place prize.
One player who doesnt have to concern himself with this process is Zach Johnson.
By virtue of his topping the 2003 Nationwide Tour money list, he was positioned inside of Category 23. This assures him of being selected for a field before any of his fellow Nationwide Tour or Q-School graduates.
Thats not to say he can play anywhere he pleases.
Johnson spent Wednesday of the FBR Open practicing and Thursday eagerly waiting, just hoping to make the 128-man field.
But not enough people withdrew for him to get the call. He never made it off the Alternate list.
There are some restrictions, Johnson said of his status. Some tournaments have limited fields, and the Invitationals are different.
But I feel pretty fortunate not to have to get into that reshuffle, he added. I was in the reshuffle on the Nationwide Tour in 2000; it wasnt any fun. If you get off to a good start then youre fine.
Johnson has made four cuts in five starts this season, netting just over $90,000 Were he inside of Category 25, he would have been reshuffled from first to seventh.
Thats one of the perks of being The Man on the Nationwide Tour: you dont have to go through the reshuffling process. A slow start is not cause for alarm. Johnson can ease into his schedule much more so than players like Van Pelt.
Theres no question that if you can make some money early you can plan out your schedule a little more than if you dont, Van Pelt said. Its not an end-all, but it definitely helps to take some pressure off.
It also lets you take some weeks off when you get tired. If you dont play well on the West Coast, then you feel like you have to play whenever you can get in. And thats not necessarily the best recipe for success.
Having already put himself in great position to retain his tour card for next season, Van Pelt took off last week ' when he easily would have made the diluted Tucson Open field ' in order to rest and prepare for the upcoming Southern Swing.
There are only five more events before the next reshuffle.
TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018
ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).
Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).
Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).
Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.
This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.
-NBC Sports Group-
Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf
Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.
He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.
The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.
He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.
“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.
It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.
For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.
Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.
In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.
Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.
For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.
“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”
But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.
“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”
In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.
His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.
As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.
“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.
“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.
It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.
Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.
“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”
If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.
Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.
Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.
DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.
DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.
“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”
Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.
While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.
“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”