All over the map

By Rex HoggardSeptember 7, 2011, 7:39 pm

If ever there was a reason to embrace contraction golf’s dizzying late-season line-up certainly deserves consideration. For all those who view this month’s Tour Championship in Atlanta the end of the 2011 road for golf we give you Andres Romero.

Angel Cabrera was the top-ranked Argentine when the teams for this year’s World Cup were set, but he declined the invitation, forcing Romero to attempt qualifying, but the qualifier will be held the same week as the Tour Championship in Venezuela. Currently the affable Argentine is 59th in FedEx Cup points and will be forced into a difficult decision if he plays his way into East Lake.

It’s a scheduling tale of woe that’s become familiar for international types in recent years, but at least Romero has a choice. Jason Day and Adam Scott were never even asked to play the team event Nov. 24-27 in China despite being the top-ranked Australians – Nos. 9 and 17, respectively – on July 18 when the teams were set. There was no reason to ask considering the World Cup conflicts with the Australian PGA, an event both players were sure to play.

“Honestly it’s a tough date for us,” Scott said. “I would love to play (the World Cup) but if we do we would get crucified at home.”

And it’s not just the Australians who have been crossed up by the game’s version of scheduling sudoku. The South Africans also were faced with a difficult decision to either play the Presidents Cup or the South African Open the same week in November.

“The European Tour wants to end their season at the Race to Dubai. The South African Tour, we used to start the next season in December. And now they have got all those tournaments that they need to move to before the Race to Dubai, and so they have run out of weeks,” Els said earlier this year at Doral when asked about the Presidents Cup-South African Open conflict.

“Obviously (Tour commissioner) Tim Finchem put his slot in there first, but you know, with all of these tournaments that they need to shuffle around, they were going to overlap some tournament over the Presidents Cup and it happened that the South African Open is the one. So it's a bit of a problem.”

The powers that be scrambled and the South African Open date was pushed back a week, but the likes of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel still had to choose between playing the World Cup or their national championship. They picked the World Cup.

When is more less? When players are forced to make decisions based on perceptions rather than pure competitive considerations.

The last two months of the year have become a competitive chess game for global players. Players like Graeme McDowell, who will skip this year’s Chevron World Challenge, which he won in a playoff last year over Tiger Woods, because he will  be in China playing the World Cup the week before and is scheduled to play the European Tour’s season-ending event in Dubai the week after the Chevron.

The world may be shrinking, but three weeks on three different continents (Asia, Middle East and North America) is more than even the most well-traveled player can stomach.

The victims, of course, are not the players. Scott, Day and McDowell will all survive the free-for-all that has become the game’s “off-season.” We’re not so sure, however, about events like the World Cup, which has been played since 1953 when it was called the Canada Cup.

Instead of a Day-Scott two-ball, a tandem that would likely be a prohibitive favorite considering both players’ current form, World Cup officials get Richard Green and Brendan Jones, your Nos. 69 and 86 in world, respectively.

It’s a similar conflict that will keep young star Ryo Ishikawa out of the World Cup, which is played opposite the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour. Yuta Ikeda and Tetsuji Hiratsuka will represent Japan, both fine players but neither can match the marquee of the Bashful Prince.

In this case, too much of a good thing is anything but good, and the situation only promises to get worse as tournaments vie for better spots on the calendar to attract stronger fields.

The solutions are simple enough but not likely because it would require that the PGA Tour and European Tour condense there seasons to leave room for the world’s lesser circuits. That would require the globe’s top dogs to give ground, and, as we’ve learned, they just don’t do that.

Which brings the conversation back to the prospect of a global tour to cure the late-season mishmash and put some order into the world of chaos that currently rules the year’s final months.

Perhaps Greg Norman was right, maybe a world tour is inevitable, but at this juncture it doesn’t seem imminent. Until then the likes of Romero, Day and Scott will have to make tough choices, and tournaments like the World Cup and South African Open will inevitably suffer.

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LPGA's new Q-Series to offer deferrals for amateurs

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 4:36 pm

The LPGA’s new Q-Series, which takes the place of the final stage of Q-School beginning this year, will come with a revolutionary new twist for amateurs.

For the first time, the LPGA will offer deferrals that will allow amateurs to win tour membership in December but delay turning pro until the following June or July, tour commissioner Mike Whan told

It’s a notable change, because the deferral will allow a collegiate player to earn tour membership at the end of this year but retain amateur status to finish out her collegiate spring season next year, before joining the tour.

“We haven’t done that in the past, because we didn’t want an onslaught, where every player in college is trying to join the tour,” Whan said.

The way it worked in the past, a collegian could advance through the final stage of Q-School, but if that player earned the right to a tour card and wanted to take up membership, she had to declare after the final round that she was turning pro. It meant the player would leave her college team in the middle of the school year. It was a particularly difficult decision for players who earned conditional LPGA status, and it played havoc with the makeup of some college teams.

Whan said the revamped Q-Series format won’t create the collegiate stampede that deferrals might have in the past.

“It will take a unique talent to show up at the first stage of Q-School and say, ‘I’ll see you at Q-Series,’” Whan said. “There won’t be a lot of amateurs who make it there.”

Under the new qualifying format, there will continue to be a first and second stage of Q-School, but it will be much harder to advance to the final stage, now known Q-Series.

Under the old format, about 80 players advanced from the second stage to the Q-School finals. Under the new format, only 20 to 30 players from the second stage will advance to the Q-Series, and only a portion of those are likely to be collegians.

Under the new format, a maximum of 108 players will meet at the Q-Series finals, where a minimum of 45 tour cards will be awarded after 144 holes of competition, played over two weeks on two different courses. The field will include players who finished 101st to 150th and ties on the final LPGA money list, and players who finished 11th to 30th and ties on the final Symetra Tour money list. The field will also include up to 10 players from among the top 75 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and the top five players on the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Rankings.

“We feel if you make it to the Q-Series finals as a college player, you are probably among the best of the best, and we ought to give you the opportunity to finish the college year,” Whan said.

University of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said she would prefer amateurs not be allowed to compete at Q-School, but she called this a workable compromise.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mulflur said. “It’s better than the way it’s been in the past. That was hard, because it broke up teams.”

Mulflur said she disliked the tough position the former policy put college players in at the final stage of Q-School, where they had to decide at event’s end whether to turn pro and accept tour membership.

“I can’t imagine being a kid in that position, and I’ve had a couple kids in that position,” Mulflur said. “It’s hard on everybody, the player, the family and the coaches. You hear about coaches standing there begging a kid not to turn pro, and that’s just not the way it should be, for the coach or the player.”

Mulflur agreed with Whan that the new Q-Series format should limit the number of collegians who have a chance to win tour cards.

“I believe it’s a good compromise, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward,” Mulflur said. “Kudos to the commissioner for giving kids this option.”

Whan said collegians who take deferrals will be counseled.

“We will sit down with them and their families and explain the risks,” Whan said. “If you take a deferral and start playing on July 15, you might find yourself back in Q-Series again later that year, because you may not have enough time.”

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Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 4:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.

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“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”

Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.

Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.

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Monahan addresses alcohol, fan behavior at events

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 3:53 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Fan behavior has become a hot-button topic on the PGA Tour in recent weeks, with Rory McIlroy suggesting on Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the circuit should “limit alcohol sales on the course.”

The Tour’s policy is to stop selling alcohol an hour before the end of play, which is normally around 5 p.m., and on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play commissioner Jay Monahan said it’s something the Tour is monitoring.

“When you have people who aren’t behaving properly and they’ve had too much alcohol, then I agree [with McIlroy],” Monahan said. “In those incidences those people who are making it uncomfortable for a player alcohol sales should be cut off.”

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Fan behavior became an issue with some players when Tiger Woods returned to competition at last month’s Genesis Open. During the final round of the Honda Classic Justin Thomas had a fan removed when he yelled for Thomas’ tee shot at the par-4 16th hole to “get in the bunker.”

Monahan declined to address Thomas’ situation at PGA National specifically, but he did seem to suggest that as interest grows and the Tour continues to attract more mainstream sports crowds, vocal fans will continue to be the norm.

“I believe that there was more that went into it that preceded and in a situation like that we’re hopeful our players will reach out to our security staff and they can handle that,” Monahan said. “[But] yelling, ‘get in the bunker,’ that’s part of what our players have to accept. In any sport, you go to an away game, in any other sport, and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”

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Senden playing first event since son's brain tumor

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 3:03 pm

John Senden is back inside the ropes for the first time in nearly a year at this week's Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Tour.

Senden took a leave of absence from professional golf in April, when his teenage son, Jacob, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He didn't touch a club for nearly four months as Jacob endured six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, a gauntlet that stretched from April until mid-November.

But Senden told that his son's tumor has shrunk from the size of a thumbnail to the size of a pinky nail, and after a promising MRI in January he decided to plan his comeback.

"I haven't really played in 12 months, but in that time Jacob has really, really hung tough," Senden said. "His whole body was getting slammed with all these treatments, and he was so strong in his whole attitude and his whole body. Just really getting through the whole thing. He was tough."

Senden was granted a family crisis exemption by the Tour, and he'll have 13 starts to earn 310 FedExCup points to retain his playing privileges for the 2018-19 season. He is allowed five "rehabilitation" starts as part of the exemption, but will reportedly only make one this week before returning to the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage, followed by starts in San Antonio, Charlotte and Dallas.

Senden, 46, has won twice on Tour, most recently the 2014 Valspar Championship.