All about the Benjamins for Simpson

By Rex HoggardOctober 13, 2011, 8:32 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – At East Lake it was $10 million that haunted Webb Simpson, an amount so inconceivable that his initial thought on what to do with such riches was to buy more diapers. This week at Sea Island Resort it is $69,000 that is shadowing the third-year PGA Tour player.

That’s how much separates Simpson from Luke Donald, the English machine who turned the Tour into his personal ATM machine this year with 13 top-10 showings that propelled him atop the money list with $5.837 million.

The cash crown comes with a five-year Tour exemption and, more importantly to Simpson, a spot in the circuit’s history books.

“I was talking to my wife about it, if you win the money list, you're probably added to a list of maybe 50 guys. So it would be a pretty prestigious list to be a part of,” he said on Wednesday.

On Thursday the would-be king raced out to an opening 63 and the first-round lead at the McGladrey Classic, an impressive feat of competitive focus and compartmentalization considering Simpson’s primary motivations.

Following four rounds at East Lake Simpson was toast. Six tournaments in six weeks – not to mention two victories along the way – and the weight of the FedEx Cup’s riches took a toll on his normally machine-like game. He carded rounds of 69-70-70-73 and finished second on the season-ending points list.

At the time he was exhausted and said he was unsure if he would play another official event in 2011, but two weeks of R&R and the prospect of the money title pushed Simpson off the couch and back into the fray.

“As soon as what happened at the Tour Championship happened, I kind of, in the back of my head, said I’m going to play one or two (Fall Series events),” said Simpson, who adjusted his off-season schedule to make room for the McGladrey.

On paper, a top-15 finish at Sea Island, the minimum paycheck he would need to slip past Donald, is low-hanging fruit for a player that’s managed to post in 15th place or better in 14 of his 24 outings this year.

But that kind of competitive complacency almost always delivers disappointment. Just ask anyone who has faced a two-putt from 25 feet at the last hole for victory. In golf there is no prevent defense.

So Simpson set out on Thursday with money on his mind. He’s not going to attempt to sugarcoat it or trick himself into thinking that it is “just another event.”

“When guys say they block it out, I mean, I don’t,” he said. There’s no way I can go play this golf tournament without thinking about the money title. I’m thinking about it every day. But I’m not over every shot thinking this is the money title. It’s more I’m just trying my best to get focused on winning.”

Not exactly one shot at a time.

Simpson’s level of acceptance is something of a new trend on Tour with various sports psychologist stressing the need to embrace the pressure, not hide from it.

“It’s not a problem to have result thoughts,” said Dr. Morris Pickens, whose Tour stable includes Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Stewart Cink. “The problem is finding a way to get back into your routine afterward. If you don’t know where to go after having results thoughts then you’re in trouble.”

A victory this week would likely lock up the money title for Simpson. It’s not a foregone conclusion only because various sources have indicated Donald, who suggested at the Tour Championship that he was done with the Tour this season, will play Disney, creating an entirely unexpected cash clash at the finale.

If Donald, who is trying to lock up both the PGA Tour and European Tour money titles, commits to Disney it seems certain Simpson would join him at the Magic Kingdom for a money title shootout as well as an opportunity to collect some much-needed Player of the Year style points.

Ballots for the Player of the Year vote go out to Tour members in late October and will be due in mid-December, which means a potential transatlantic earnings double for Donald could influence the voting.

Simpson, however, seems fixated on making the Player of the Year decision as clouded as the current race for the Republican presidential nomination. And he’s doing so honestly, without gimmicks or misplaced priorities.

He’s playing for the money title, he’s playing for $69,000. Lessons learned from East Lake, no doubt.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

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PGA Tour Latinoamérica moving season finale to Doral

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

“We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

“We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

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Im wins Player and Rookie of the Year awards

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

Im won twice on the this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

“My first year on the Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.