Bunker Shots Money Talks

By Randall MellSeptember 29, 2009, 6:01 pm

With finance the main theme again, we set the storylines for the week with some money quotes.

Now the real work begins

“Money is power, freedom, a cushion, the root of all evil, the sum of blessings.” Writer and poet Carl Sandburg

We take the express elevator from the PGA Tour penthouse to the basement this week.

Money’s the focus again, there’s just a lot less of it up for grabs with the Fall Series beginning at the Turning Stone Resort Championship in Vernon, N.Y.

A week after Tour pros played for $42.5 million in prize and bonus money at the Tour Championship, the pros at Turning Stone will play for a paltry $6 million. Still, the money may mean more. A couple thousand bucks can make the difference between exempt status next year and a dreaded return to Q-School this fall.

The Tour Championship had the No. 1 player in the world to trumpet. Turning Stone will sell the story of No. 125. Harrison Frazar starts the run of five Fall Series events on the bubble. When the series ends after the Children’s Miracle Network Classic at Disney World, the top 125 on the money list secure exempt status for 2010, Nos. 126-150 win a safety net with non-exempt status getting them into a limited number of events and everyone else is out in the cold.

Frazar, 38, knows how mercurial this game can be. In 12 seasons on the PGA Tour, he has never won, but he won medalist honors at last year’s Q-School, winning in an eight-shot runaway. He shot 59 in the fourth round at PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course. After that confidence builder, he probably didn’t expect to be riding a bubble into the fall.

Robert Allenby is the highest ranked player in the field at No. 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking, but the real action is bunched around No. 125 on the money list. Every player from No. 123 to No. 137 is teeing it up this week. That grouping includes PGA Tour veterans Stuart Appleby (No. 129), Tim Herron (No. 133) and Chris DiMarco (No. 136).

Whatever happened to . . .

“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” Speaker and author Jim Rohn

A little more than three months ago, Ricky Barnes and David Duval found their games at the U.S. Open. They made exciting runs into contention before tying for second. Whatever magic they rediscovered that week, they failed to hold onto.

Barnes and Duval will tee it up at Turning Stone 114th and 116th, respectively, on the PGA Tour money list.

Duval has played four PGA Tour events since the U.S. Open and missed the cut in three of them. He tied for 63rd at the Buick Open. Barnes topped that, barely, with a tie for 59th at the Travelers in his first start after the U.S. Open. Barnes has missed the cut in his last four PGA Tour starts.

Duval is playing on a top-50 all-time money exemption this season. He played last year on a top-25 all-time money exemption. He’s out of career money exemptions. If he doesn’t finish among the top 125 in money at season’s end, he’ll have to return to Q-School to earn exempt status.

A gifted Aussie’s long-awaited promotion

“Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” Author Oscar Wilde.

With three Nationwide Tour titles this year, Australia’s Michael Sim won a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour, becoming just the ninth player in history to do so, but his timing wasn’t so good.

Sim won his third Nationwide Tour event on Aug. 23, the week before the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs. That meant he had to wait until the playoffs were over to act on his promotion. He’ll do just that at Turning Stone. Sim is the first Nationwide Tour pro to earn the in-season promotion since fellow Aussie Nick Flanagan two years ago.

Scott desperately seeks momentum

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.” Actress Bo Derek

Adam Scott is making his first PGA Tour start since Greg Norman made him a controversial captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup International squad.

Notably, Rory Sabbatini and Jeev Milkha Sing also are playing Turning Stone.

Sabbatini got bumped in the final week from automatic qualification for the team and finished 11th on the International team points list. Singh finished 12th. Norman skipped over both of them to pick Scott.

Scott has a challenge finding his game with the Presidents Cup a week away. He’s sure to feel pressure trying to justify Norman’s confidence. Scott has missed the cut in 10 of his last 14 starts in PGA Tour events.

Love is in the fall air

“It's a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money.” Author and philosopher Albert Camus

Davis Love III gives this week’s PGA Tour stop a top name if not a top ranking.

With 20 PGA Tour titles, he’s the most decorated player in the Turning Stone field. Love won the Children’s Miracle Network Classic during the Fall Series a year ago, but he’s looking for his first top 10 this season since the Memorial in early June. He played the first three FedEx Cup playoff events before being eliminated and ranks 49th on the money list.

0 for the LPGA summer

“Money, if it doesn’t bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.” Writer Helen Gurley Brown

Lorena Ochoa should have some good vibes working in a bid to break her five-month winless streak when she tees it up at the Navistar LPGA Classic at Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Senator Course at Capitol Hill in Prattville, Ala.

Ochoa’s the defending champion. She knocked off Cristie Kerr and Candie Kung on the second hole of a sudden death playoff there last season. Ochoa had a chance to win at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge on Sunday, but she was outplayed in a head-to-head final round duel with Sophie Gustafson. Ochoa’s looking for her third title on the season, her first since April. She’s 0 for her last 11 starts.

Ochoa has some work to do if she’s going to win her fourth consecutive Rolex Player of the Year award.

Ochoa’s sixth on the points list in what remains a wide open race with just five events left. Jiyai Shin leads in points with Cristie Kerr second. Shin’s not in the field this week after withdrawing from the CVS/pharmacy due to illness. Kerr is scheduled to play this week.

Navistar’s field doesn’t include Paula Creamer, who’s taking a breather. It does include Michelle Wie, making one of just three planned starts in the fall now that she’s back in school at Stanford. Suzann Pettersen, Angela Stanford, Morgan Pressel, Natalie Gulbis, Christina Kim and Gustafson also are scheduled to play.

LPGA hopefuls poised for breakthroughs

“Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.” Developer Donald Trump

Tiffany Joh and Maria Hernandez get second shots at advancing through LPGA Sectional Qualifying beginning Tuesday at Plantation Golf & Country Club in Venice, Fla.

Joh, a two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Champion and UCLA All-American who finished second at the 2008 NCAA Championships, failed to make the 36-hole cut in the first sectional two weeks ago in Palm Springs, Calif. Hernandez, the 2009 NCAA champion from Purdue, tied for 32nd in Palm Springs, two spots removed from qualifying. This week’s field also includes France’s Gwladys Nocera, a 10-time Ladies European Tour winner and the top point winner from this year’s European Solheim Cup team.

The 72-hole sectional features 114 players. The top 30 and ties advance to Q-School finals Dec. 2-6 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Former Duke standout Amanda Blumenherst won the first sectional.

Getty Images

Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 12:41 am

ROGERS, Ark. – Since its first year on the LPGA Tour in 2007, the crowds at the NW Arkansas Championship have belonged to Stacy Lewis.

Another former University of Arkansas star staked her claim as the hometown favorite Friday when Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 to take the first-round lead at Pinnacle Country Club.

Like Lewis, the two-time winner of the tournament, Lopez starred as a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks before joining the LPGA Tour in 2016. Despite flashes of potential, Lopez had yet to join Lewis among the ranks of the world's best - missing the cut in her last two tournaments and entering this week ranked 136th in the world.

For a day, at least, the Mexican standout felt right at home atop the leaderboard in her adopted home state.

''I feel like home,'' Lopez said. ''I feel so, so comfortable out here, because I feel that everyone and every single person out here is just rooting for us.''

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok. Six others finished at 6 under on a day when only 26 of the 144 players finished over par, thanks to some mid-week rain that softened the greens and calm skies throughout the day.

Jutanugarn finished second at the tournament last year and is trying to win for the second time on the LPGA Tour this year. Her younger sister, Ariya, is already a two-time winner this year and shot an opening-round 66.

Lewis, the former world No. 1 who won the event in 2007 in 2014, finished with a 66. She's expecting her first child in early November

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.

Friday was Lopez's long-awaited day to standout, though, much to the delight of the pro-Arkansas crowd.

After missing the cut her last two times out, Lopez took some time off and returned home to Mexico City to rest her mind and work on her game. The work paid off with two straight birdies to open her round and a 6-under 30 on her front nine.

Lopez needed only 25 putts and finished two shots off the course record of 61, and she overcame a poor drive on the par-5 18th to finish with a par and keep her place at the top of the leaderboard. Her previous low score was a 64 last year, and she matched her career best by finishing at 8 under.

''(Rest) is a key that no one really truly understands until you're out here,'' Lopez said. ''... Sometimes resting is actually the part you've got to work on.''

Getty Images

Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:28 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – There are plenty of big names gathered for the Travelers Championship, and through two rounds they’re all chasing Brian Harman.

Harman opened with a 6-under 64, then carded a 66 during Friday’s morning wave to become the only player to finish the first two rounds in double digits under par. The southpaw is currently riding a hot putter, leading the field in strokes gained: putting while rolling in 12 birdies and an eagle through his first 36 holes.

“Putted great today,” said Harman, who ranks 22nd on Tour this season in putting. “Got out of position a couple of times, but I was able to get myself good looks at it. I started hitting the ball really well coming down the stretch and made a few birdies.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Harman, 31, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. While he doesn’t have a win this year, he started his season in the fall by reeling off five straight finishes of T-8 or better to quickly install himself as one of the leaders in the season-long points race.

Now topping a leaderboard that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, he realizes that he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s going to leave Connecticut with trophy No. 3.

“The putter has been really good so far, but I’ve been in position a lot. I’ve had a lot of good looks at it,” Harman said. “I’m just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice.”

Getty Images

10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:06 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Zach Johnson heads into the weekend one shot back at the Travelers Championship, but he was a matter of seconds away from being tied for the lead.

Johnson had an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3 at TPC River Highlands, his 12th hole of the day, but left the ball hanging on the lip. As Johnson walked up to tap the ball in, it oscillated on the edge and eventually fell in without being hit.

Was it a birdie, or a par?

According to the Rules of Golf, and much to Johnson’s chagrin, the answer was a par. Players are afforded “reasonable” time to walk to the hole, and after that they are allowed to wait for 10 seconds to see if the ball drops of its own accord. After that, it either becomes holed by a player’s stroke, or falls in and leads to a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had hit it.

According to Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, Johnson’s wait time until the ball fell in was between 16 and 18 seconds.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Once he putts the ball, he’s got a reasonable amount of time to reach the hole,” Russell said. “Then once he reaches the hole, he’s got 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the ball is deemed to be at rest.”

Johnson tried to emphasize the fact that the ball was oscillating as he stood over it, and even asked rules officials if marking his ball on the edge of the hole would have yielded a “bonus 10 seconds.” But after signing for a 2-under 68 that brought him within a shot of leader Brian Harman, the veteran took the ruling in stride.

“The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree,” Johnson said. “The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”

While Johnson brushed off any thoughts of the golf gods conspiring against him on the lip, he was beaming with pride about an unconventional par he made on No. 17 en route to a bogey-free round. Johnson sailed his tee shot well right into the water, but after consulting his options he decided to drop on the far side of the hazard near the 16th tee box.

His subsequent approach from 234 yards rolled to within 8 feet, and he calmly drained the putt for an unexpected save.

“I got a great lie. Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over the grandstands and drew in there,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed, or performed.”

Getty Images

Travelers becoming marquee event for star players

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 11:29 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Get lost in the throngs following the defending champ, or caught up amongst the crowds chasing the back-to-back U.S. Open winner, and it’s easy to forget where this tournament was a little more than a decade ago.

The Travelers Championship was without a sponsor, without a worthwhile field, without a consistent date and on the verge of being jettisoned to the PGA Tour Champions schedule. The glory days of the old Greater Hartford Open had come and gone, and the PGA Tour’s ever-increasing machine appeared poised to leave little old Cromwell in its wake.

The civic pride is booming in this neck of the woods. Main Street is lined with one small business after the next, and this time of year there are signs and posters popping up on every corner congratulating a member of the most recent graduating class at Cromwell High School, which sits less than two miles from the first tee at TPC River Highlands.

Having made it through a harrowing time in the event’s history, the local residents now have plenty of reason to take pride.

The Tour’s best have found this little New England hamlet, where tournament officials roll out the red carpet in every direction. They embrace the opportunity to decompress after the mind-numbing gauntlet the USGA set out for them last week, and they relish a return to a course where well-struck shots, more often than not, lead to birdies.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Ten years ago, this tournament was also held the week after the U.S. Open. Stewart Cink won, and for his efforts he received a paltry 36 world ranking points. But thanks to a recent influx of star-power, this week’s winner will pocket 58 points – the same amount Rory McIlroy won at Bay Hill, and two more than Justin Rose got at Colonial. Now at the halfway point, the leaderboard backs up the hefty allocation.

While Brian Harman leads at 10 under, the chase pack is strong enough to strike fear in the heart of even the most seasoned veteran: McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, they of the combined eight major titles, all sit within three shots of the lead. Former world No. 1 Jason Day is one shot further back, and reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas will start the third round inside the top 20.

Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau, both likely participants at the Ryder Cup this fall, are right there as well at 8 under. Casey lost a playoff here to Watson in 2015 and has come back every year since, witnessing first-hand the tournament’s growth in scope.

“It speaks volumes for what Travelers have done and how they treat everybody, and the work that Andy Bessette and his team put in to fly around the country and speak highly of this event,” Casey said. “And do things which matter, to continue to improve the event, not just for players but for spectators.”

Part of the increased field strength can be attributed to the Tour’s recent rule change, requiring players who play fewer than 25 events in a season to add a new event they haven’t played in the last four years. Another portion can be attributed to the short commute from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands, a three-hour drive and even shorter across the Long Island Sound – an added bonus the event will lose two of the next three years with West Coast U.S. Opens.

But there’s no denying the widespread appeal of an event named the Tour’s tournament of the year, players’ choice and most fan-friendly in 2017. While Spieth’s return to defend his title was assumed, both Day and McIlroy are back for another crack this year after liking what they saw.

“Anyone that I talked to could only say good things about the tournament about the golf course, how the guys are treated here, how the fans come out, and how the community always gets behind this event,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I witnessed that for the first time last year, and I really enjoyed it.”

After starting the week with all four reigning major champs and five of the top 10 players in the latest world rankings, only Masters champ Patrick Reed got sent packing following rounds of 72-67. The remaining top-flight contingent will all hit the ground running in search of more low scores Saturday, with Spieth (-4) still retaining a glimmer of hope to keep his title defense chances alive, perhaps with a 63 like he fired in the opening round.

The Tour’s schedule represents a zero-sum game. Outside of the majors and WGCs that essentially become must-play events for the game’s best, the rest of the legs of the weekly circus become victim of a 12-month version of tug-of-war. Some players like to play in the spring; others load up in the fall. Many play the week before majors, while a select group block off the week after for some R&R far away from a golf course.

But in an environment where one tournament’s ebbs can create flows for another, the Travelers has continued a steady climb up the Tour’s hierarchy. Once in jeopardy of relegation, it has found its footing and appears in the process of turning several of the Tour’s one-name stars into regular participants.

Rory. Jordan. Bubba. JT.

It’s been a long battle for tournament officials, but the proof is in the pudding. And this weekend, the reward for the people of Cromwell – population 14,000 – looks to be a star-studded show.

“All the events are incredible,” Thomas said. “But this is kind of one of those underrated ones that I think until people come and play, do they realize how great it is.”