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'Journeyman' is not a bad word

By Phil BlackmarDecember 6, 2017, 7:20 pm

It’s really hard to get to the PGA Tour, and even if you’re lucky enough to earn a ticket to the show, the line of players trying to take that ticket away from you and use it for themselves is seemingly endless.

We evaluate careers on money and wins, but how should the career of a player who didn’t win often or at all but was able to play the Tour for a long time be measured? Should a piece of respect be reserved for the player who competes for 10, 15 or 20 years on Tour?

FIRST YOU HAVE TO GET TO THE TOUR

College

The majority of PGA Tour players have at least some collegiate golf experience. When you combine DI and DII men’s golf, you get around 4,500 players in any given year. If one quarter of those graduate annually, there is an influx of over 1,000 young golfers who could seek a life in professional golf. 

While many may not play, consider last year there were 87 All-Americans between DI and DII men’s golf. Good players are coming out every year. 

Professional Tours

The Web.com Tour is the direct feeder system to the PGA Tour. On average 140 players compete full time during the regular season for 25 Tour cards and another 25 are handed out in the finals series. It’s not easy to get onto the Web; in fact, it’s really hard.

Feeding into the Web.com Tour are the Mackenzie Tour (Canada), PGA Tour Latinoamerica and the PGA Tour-China. The “mini-tours” are still kicking as well. Remember the gut wrenching Q-School for the PGA Tour? Well, that experience has moved to the Web, where in excess of 1,000 players each year try to get onto the tour that is the route to the PGA Tour. 

Other prominent tours around world include the European Tour, the Australasian Tour, the Korean Tour and the Japan Golf Tour. While these tours succeed in their own right, many of the best players from these tours either move to the PGA Tour or share time between their home tour and the U.S.

There are literally thousands of players each year aspiring to a life on the PGA Tour.

NOW THAT YOU GOT THERE, CAN YOU STAY THERE?

PGA Tour Makeup

The PGA Tour is made up of about 130 exempt players each year (top 125 and a few other exceptions), plus the conditionally exempt group which includes the 50 card winners from the Web. About 70 players from this group compete in 15 or more events, trying to steal an exempt spot from the 130. A spot won for one player is a spot lost for another. 

Basically you have to stay in the top two-thirds on Tour each and every year.

Games are much more fragile than most would think. All it takes is a minor injury, the wrong focus on mechanics, a change in an equipment deal, a change in workout regimen which unknowingly alters the swing, a diet, trouble at home or even just a few missed putts at the wrong time and an exemption can be lost. Tenure on the Tour is not assured and players are lined up trying to take it away from you. Lose your nerve at the wrong time, don’t take advantage of the good week and all of a sudden you’re gone, fighting your way back. 

It’s hard to get to the Tour, but it’s also hard to stay on the Tour:

Years playing Tour Career starts (assuming 25/year*)
10 250
15 375
20 500

*Exempt players averaging 25 PGA Tour starts per year.

As you can see, it takes a while to amass a lot of starts. 

In all, 324 players have played 250 or more Tour events since 1980. Since it takes so long to accumulate career starts, players who began their career in 2008 or later likely have not made this threshold, yet.

Let’s take a look at some numbers regarding 1980-2008.

How many players were able to get their card during this 28-year period?

The average number of rookies on Tour each year is about 22-23. The remainder of the 70 conditionally exempt players trying to get one of the exempt spots have had their card before. 

In an effort to be conservative, I will use 175 players with a card in 1980 and 22 rookies per year since. This means about 791 or roughly 800 players have had their card since 1980.

That’s 800 out of the thousands and thousands to have tried over that 28 year period to get a PGA tour card. This alone is an accomplishment; they’ve been to the show.

With respect to the 800 card holders, consider the following graph: 1980 to the present, ranked by career starts:

Number of career starts Number of players (N) Percentage (N/800)*
250 324 41%
300 269 34%
400 161 20%
500 86 11%
600 35 4%
700 8 1%
800 1 0.1%

*Represents the percentage of the 800 card-bearing players with this many career starts or more.

# Note: This does not include other major tour starts.                                                                

## Note: Several of the older players competed prior to 1980; these starts are not included

Click here if you want to see the full list of players, Nos. 1-324, who have made 250 career starts during this 1980-2008 period.

I'm proud to be Journeyman No. 123.

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Quiros takes 1-shot lead in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 8:22 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Alvaro Quiros shot a solid 2-under 70 in windy conditions to push into a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco on Friday.

Quiros fought the elements, carding seven birdies and five bogeys to move to 7 under overall and take the outright lead at the halfway point of the European Tour event.

The Spaniard was one clear of Andrew Dodt, who moved into contention with a 4-under 68 at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course. Dodt dropped two shots in his first six holes but the Australian recovered from that shaky start to collect four birdies and an eagle.


Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II


Erik van Rooyen of South Africa was another shot back in third on 5 under after his 71.

Bradley Dredge of Wales, who shared the first-round lead with Quiros, slipped off the pace with a 1-over 73. He's tied for fourth with Austin Connelly of Canada (71), 4 under par and three shots behind Quiros.

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Bogey-free Moore shares Valero lead

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 8:20 pm

Amid the swirling winds on a difficult track at the Valero Texas Open, Ryan Moore has yet to blink.

Moore was one of only two players among the 156-man field to go bogey-free during the opening round at TPC San Antonio, and he's now the only player still boasting a clean scorecard after a second-round 67 that included five birdies and the rest pars. At 9 under, the veteran shares the lead with Zach Johnson and was three shots clear of any other player at the end of the morning wave.

"Really, around this golf course what matters is the right distance," Moore told reporters. "You can get in some pretty tough spots if you're long and short. So I kind of hit it the right distance all day, gave myself plenty of good birdie opportunities and didn't stress myself out too much with too many up-and-downs."

While many players struggle to find a true offseason, Moore took nearly three months off between starts at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and Waste Management Phoenix Open. During that time he shed nearly 20 pounds thanks to changes to his diet and teamed up with a new swing coach, Drew Steckel, in December.

The results have been solid if not spectacular, as Moore tied for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and finished T-16 last week at the RBC Heritage.

"It's been solid golf, especially the last few weeks. I haven't got a ton out of it," Moore said. "The putter just wasn't there. So this week, just got a little more comfortable with the putter and knocked a few putts in that kind of matter early in my rounds, and it's going in. That's kind of what's been missing lately."

Moore had a breakthrough season in 2016 that included his victory at the John Deere Classic and spot on the Ryder Cup team, but he hasn't sniffed career win No. 6 since a T-3 finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions 16 months ago. Should he keep a clean card this weekend in San Antonio, his chances to end that victory drought appear bright.

"I played some really nice golf yesterday, I just controlled the ball nicely all the way around and was bogey-free yesterday, so thought, 'Let's go try and do that again,'" Moore said. "So to play in tough, windy conditions, to go bogey-free (again), it was some good solid golf."

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Former champ Z. Johnson surges at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 7:31 pm

Midway through his opening round at the Valero Texas Open, Zach Johnson appeared far closer to a missed cut than a spot on the leaderboard.

Johnson initially struggled in the winds at TPC San Antonio, playing his first 13 holes in 3 over. But he eagled No. 14 and closed with three more birdies to post a 2-under 70, then went unconscious during a second-round 65 where he made six birdies over his first 10 holes.

It added up to a 9-under total at the halfway point, and instead of packing his bags the two-time major champ now shares the lead with Ryan Moore.

"You just never know. That's the beauty of this game," Johnson told reporters. "I didn't have anything going putting-wise. I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. Shoot, I made some good pars all while being 3 over. You just never know."

Johnson won this event in both 2008 and 2009, but that was when it was held across town at La Cantera Golf Club. Since the switch to TPC San Antonio in 2010, he has only one top-10 finish and two missed cuts, including last year's early exit with consecutive rounds of 74.

But Friday he played like a man unaware of the venue shift, with four straight birdies on Nos. 12-15 and a hole-out eagle from the greenside bunker on the par-4 fifth hole. His closing bogey on No. 9 was his first dropped shot in the last 25 holes.

"The confidence is there, and when you can step on the tee with this kind of wind, you trust your clubs and trust your ball, that's pretty important," Johnson said. "I felt good. It was hard, I'm not going to deny that. That was one of the better 27-hole stretches that I've had in a long time."

Johnson's 65 was his first sub-70 score since an opening-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a span of 12 stroke-play rounds. The veteran has made every cut in 11 starts this season, but his T-8 finish at the RSM Classic in November remains his only top-10 finish.

"I felt really good coming into the week," Johnson said. "Confidence was there, it just wasn't showing up on the scorecard."

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U.S. Open champ Koepka (wrist) to return at Zurich

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 7:04 pm

U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka will make his first start in nearly four months at next week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Koepka injured his left wrist late last year, finishing last at both the 18-man Hero World Challenge and 34-man Sentry Tournament of Champions. He hasn't played since Kapalua, having been diagnosed with a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU) tendon in his wrist, and earlier this month missed the Masters for the first time since 2014.

But according to an Associated Press report, Koepka will return to action at next week's team event where he will pair with veteran Marc Turnesa, who lives near Koepka in South Florida and whose lone PGA Tour win came at the 2008 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

"It feels like I've been out for six months," said Koepka, who reportedly didn't touch a club for 91 days. "I still have confidence. I feel like I can win next week."

Koepka's return means TPC Louisiana will be the first course to host all four current major champions since the Tour Championship in September. Patrick Reed will make his first start since winning the Masters when he pairs with Patrick Cantlay, while Open champ Jordan Spieth will team with fellow Texan Ryan Palmer and PGA champ Justin Thomas joins with his former Alabama teammate, Bud Cauley.