Colonial's fall from grace

By Rex HoggardMay 23, 2012, 9:05 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – Less than a chip shot from Colonial’s 18th green looms an oversized statue of Ben Hogan, a bronze testament to what makes the club special that glares stoically across the property as only the “Hawk” could.

As Wednesday’s pro-am at this year’s Colonial inched its way around the tree-lined layout one could only imagine what the often aloof Hogan would make of the field assembled for his invitational.

If half the stories about Hogan are true, his reaction to this year’s tee sheet would likely be curt and largely unprintable.

It’s not as though Colonial officials are reaching for the “eject” lever. Truth is they like the field and cozy Colonial’s spot on the Tour dance card.

With two of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and six of the top 10 on the current FedEx Cup points list some tournaments would give up a full house of sponsor exemptions for that kind of problem. But Colonial isn’t just some tournament.

Hogan’s Alley dates to 1941 and the list of past champions is a Hall of Fame roll call – Hogan (five times), Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Tommy Bolt, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson are all etched into the Wall of Champions adjacent the first tee.

But somewhere along the way the tournament that is tied directly to Hogan, who lived his life in search of perfection, has lurched into inexplicable mediocrity. A middle-of-the-pack stop wedged between the Masters, U.S. Open and a May Players Championship that, along with the creation of the World Golf Championships, likely expedited Colonial’s fall from grace.

For decades there has been an unwritten Tour hierarchy, headlined always by the majors but altered in recent years with the advent of the WGC events.

“It was always the majors and then these events, Colonial, Memorial, Bay Hill, the (Byron) Nelson,” said 2004 Colonial champion Steve Flesch. “But now the WGCs are in the second tier and these have slipped.”

In many ways the Legend’s Slam, at least the two Texas legs, have become victims of a global game and crowded schedule.

The invention of the WGCs in 1999 supplanted many tournaments on Tour, but particularly previously considered must-stop events in Dallas, Orlando, Columbus, Ohio, and Fort Worth. Nor did it help that when The Players made the move to May it created scheduling issues for both the Colonial and Nelson.

“The Nelson had a great date and a big-time feel to it when it was the week of The Players,” said Harrison Frazar, referring to the post-May Players era when the Nelson was held in late April and early May. “Sandwiched between The Players and the Memorial it’s just going to struggle.”

Frazar is more than just a curious Tour bystander when it comes to the Texas two-step. The Dallas native hasn’t missed a Nelson, as either a spectator or competitor, since 1995 and began attending that event in 1985.

“Both of these tournaments have a real special place in my heart,” he said.

As the current chairman of the Tour’s Player Advisory Council bound for a spot on next year’s Policy Board, Frazar also is in a unique position to enact change, but in this case there is no quick fix.

Because of heat concerns it would be impossible to move the Texas swing later in the year and there is little, or no, room earlier in the season.

“That’s the age-old question around here, ‘What do we do?’” Frazar asked. “For some reason the young guys don’t want the shotmaker’s courses anymore (like Colonial). They want the bomber’s courses. I think that’s part of it.

“It’s not that anybody thinks they are bad tournaments or puts them on their schedule as a place they don’t want to go. When they started laying it out and you have the lead up to Augusta, the lead up to The Players and the lead up to the (U.S.) Open these two spots are in a ‘no-man’s land.’”

The Nelson and Colonial flipped dates this season, with the Dallas stop following The Players which seemed to help the field at TPC Four Seasons Resort, but when asked if a similar swap next year or beyond would help the Colonial tournament director Michael Tothe balked.

“Our title sponsor is a hotel and likes the Memorial Day slot,” Tothe said. “And if you flipped the dates I think it would just confuse the players.”

Compounding the Texas two-step’s field issues is this week’s BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event that virtually guarantees that neither event will ever woo the Continent’s best to the heart of Texas.

That Mickelson, a Colonial winner in ’00 and ’08, hasn’t played the Fort Worth stop since 2010 and Tiger Woods has been AWOL since 1997 also doesn’t help the event’s curb appeal.

In short, this leg of the Legend’s Slam has a problem without a ready fix, a reality that wouldn’t sit well with Hogan, a man who overcame a nasty hook and near-fatal car crash with hard work. But this time there may not be any answers, no matter how hard you look for them in the dirt.

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Woods' probation for reckless driving ends one month early

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 18, 2018, 9:00 pm

Tiger Woods' year-long probation stemming from last year's DUI arrest has been terminated a month early.

According to Sam Smink of WPTV, Woods, 42, was let off probation early for successfully completing all regular and special conditions of his probation after pleading guilty to reckless driving and entering a diversion program last October.

Under the conditions of the program, Woods was required to pay a $250 fine and court costs, attend a DUI school and undergo a substance abuse evaluation and treatment program. He was also subject to random drug and alcohol testing under the program.

The 14-time major champ was arrested on charges of DUI in May of 2017 after he was found unconscious behind the wheel of his parked Mercedes-Benz in Jupiter, Fla.

Although tests showed Woods was not under the influence of alcohol at the time, he admitted to taking several pain and sleep medications to cope with his fourth back surgery which was performed in April.

Since his arrest, Woods has returned to competition, rising to 21st in the Official World Golf Ranking after a pain-free campaign in 2018.

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Players wrapping their heads around FedEx changes

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2018, 8:01 pm

ATLANTA – Even players who have known the details of the PGA Tour’s plan to dramatically change the way it crowns a FedExCup champion were still digesting the details on Tuesday at the Tour Championship.

“I think it’s maybe easier to follow for people at home. Kind of definitely strange and very different to be on 10 under par starting on the first tee,” said Justin Rose, who begins this week’s finale second on the points list.

Next year when a new strokes-based system will decide the season-long race, Rose would begin his week at East Lake 8 under, two strokes behind front-runner Bryson DeChambeau and eight shots ahead of Nos. 26-30 on the points list.

Most players said the new format will be an improvement over the current model, which is based on a complicated points structure. That’s not to say the new plan has been given universal support.


Current FedExCup standings

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Under the current format, the 30th-ranked player has a .4 percent chance of winning the cup, while the first player on the points list has a 27 percent chance. Those odds remain virtually identical under next year’s strokes-based format.

“I’m not saying the 30th guy should have the same shot as the fifth guy, but just make the odds a little bit better. Give them a 5 percent chance,” Billy Horschel said. “The strokes could be distributed differently. Maybe put the leader at 6 under [instead of 10 under] and then you go down to even par. Five or six shots back, over four days, you still have a chance.”

There will no doubt be a period of adjustment, but after more than three years of planning, most players were pleased with the general elements of the new plan if not all of the details.

“It's never going to be perfect,” said Justin Thomas, last year’s FedExCup champion and a member of the player advisory council. “No system in any sport is ever going to be perfect, and the Tour has done such a great job of talking to us and trying to get it as good as possible. But it's just hard to understand the fact that you could be starting behind somebody else and still somehow win a golf tournament or an official win.”

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Tour Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 18, 2018, 7:26 pm

The top 30 players in the FedExCup standings are back at East Lake for the Tour Championship. Here's the key info for the 48th and final official event of the 2017-2018 PGA Tour season.

Golf course: East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga., was opened in 1908 and designed by Tom Bendelow. East Lake was redesigned by Donald Ross in 1913, George Cobb in 1959, and Rees Jones in 1995 and 2008. The course will play as a par 70 at 7,362 yards. East Lake first hosted the Tour Championship in 1998. This year marks the 15th consecutive year and 18th overall that it has played host to the season-ending event.

Purse: $8.75 million ($1.575 million to winner)

TV and live streaming schedule (All times Eastern): Thursday, 1-6 p.m. on Golf Channel (live stream); Friday, 1-6 p.m. on Golf Channel (live stream); Saturday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. on Golf Channel (live stream), 2:30-6 p.m. on NBC (live stream); Sunday, 2:30-6 p.m. on NBC (live stream)

Notable tee times (pairings adjusted after each round): Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm, 12:10 p.m.; Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods, 12:30 p.m.; Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele, 12:40 p.m.; Francesco Molinari and Phil Mickelson, 1 p.m.; Justin Thomas and Keegan Bradley, 1:40 p.m.; Tony Finau and Dustin Johnson, 1:50 p.m.; Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Rose, 2 p.m. Click here for full tee times.

Defending champion: Xander Schauffele defeated Justin Thomas by one stroke to earn his second career PGA Tour win and the second win of his rookie season. Schauffele became the first rookie to ever win the Tour Championship and he finished third in the season-long race for the FedExCup while runner-up Thomas joined Vijay Singh in 2008 and Tiger Woods in 2009 as players to win the FedExCup without winning the Tour Championship.

Notables in the field: The field has been cut to the top 30 in FedExCup points. The field includes 23 of the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking, four FedExCup champions (Woods, Horschel, McIlroy, Thomas), five previous winners of this event (Woods, Mickelson, Horschel, McIlroy, Schauffele) and 13 major champions. Click here for FedExCup title scenarios for all 30 players.

Key stats:

• All 30 players in field have mathematical possibility of winning $10 million bonus

• Only two players have won the Tour Championship more than once: Woods (1999, 2007) and Mickelson (2000, 2009)

• In the last 11 years, eight players have won both the Tour Championship and FedExCup in the same year: Woods (2007), Jim Furyk (2010), Bill Haas (2011), Brandt Snedeker (2012), Henrik Stenson (2013), Billy Horschel (2014), Jordan Spieth (2015), and Rory McIlroy (2016)

• The defending champion is Schauffele, who played his way into the top 30 in the BMW Championship for a second consecutive year. No player has ever successfully defended his Tour Championship title

• Players in the field this week will earn a minimum of $395,000 combined ($144,000 for 30th place at East Lake and $175,000 for 30th place in the FedExCup) with the potential for a $11,620,000 payday for winning both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup.

• For the 10th consecutive season, points are reset going into the Tour Championship. That guarantees that if a player in the top five (DeChambeau, Rose, Finau, Johnson, Thomas) wins at East Lake, he will also win the FedExCup

• Seven of the last eight winners of the FedExCup have also won the Tour Championship. Five of the last six FedExCup winners have been a top-five seed coming into the week – the only one not was Rory McIlroy at number six in 2016.

• The FedExCup points leader going into the Tour Championship has gone on to win the FedExCup just three times – all in the competition’s first three seasons: Woods in 2007, Vijay Singh in 2008 and Woods in 2009.

(Stats and information provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit)

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Punch Shot: Hits and misses from FedExCup changes

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 18, 2018, 6:42 pm

GolfChannel.com senior writer Randall Mell and staff writer Will Gray examine the recently announced changes to the FedExCup and Tour Championship, and weigh in on the pros and cons.

GRAY: We've got some more changes for 2019 to digest, both with the FedExCup and how the Tour Championship will be determined. No more points reset, no more scenarios ... but, instead, a staggered start at East Lake with the top seed beginning the tournament at 10 under. What's your biggest takeaway from all of these changes?

MELL: Love it and hate it. I love that there's definitive clarity to the FedExCup finish, that the winner doesn't need a slide rule or calculator to know he's over a putt to win. I love going to a traditional leaderboard to determine who wins the Cup. I hate that the Tour Championship was sacrificed at the altar of the FedExCup. It's no longer a tournament in the traditional sense.

GRAY: Fair points on both sides. This is certainly going to take some getting used to, and it goes against a lot of the underlying principles of individual and team sports. No other league determines its overall champion by offering a head start. But I do think that once play begins, it'll be a lot easier to keep track of everything – especially for the casual fan.

MELL: Yes, that's the great upside. Fans didn't really tune in to the Tour Championship to see who would win the FedExCup. Not really. They tuned in to see the best players in the world playing to win the tournament. Now, it's all about the FedExCup. The Tour fixed that. Still, there's a big problem. The Tour hasn't solved its "playoffs" problem. These still aren't playoffs. Choosing to sell the FedExCup as "The Playoffs" continues to complicate golf's postseason. It's why people who don't like today's news hate hearing a guy is going to start the Tour Championship with a 10-shot lead on some of the field. If fans can get their heads around the fact that the Tour Championship isn't really a tournament anymore, that it's the FedEx Cup "finale," they could embrace it. But they think of it as the Super Bowl finish to the PGA Tour playoffs. It ain't that.



GRAY: It's certainly contrived, but I have no problem with getting a little creative to cap a champion in a way that ensures some drama. My biggest issue in all of this might just be counting this as an official victory. How can a player add this to his resume, and potentially use it as a tally down the road in a Hall of Fame discussion, if his raw 72-hole score isn't the lowest even among the smallest field of the year?

MELL: I agree. I don't see it as a tournament anymore, but a "finale," a finish to the FedExCup series. If they have to credit it as a victory, they ought to give credit for one-and-a-half wins, because it's harder to win the FedExCup than it is to win a PGA Tour tournament. And it isn't like the winner of the finale won't know what he's putting for in the end. There will be more pressure to close out than anything outside a major.

GRAY: And perhaps that's a scenario that the Tour had originally envisioned, especially now that it will all play out before football crowds the sports calendar. But given the significant changes afoot, do you see this as a net positive? It will certainly make for a more streamlined product on the final day of the season.

MELL: Yes, and I was half-kidding about one-and-a-half wins, because closing out is easier if you're spotted a lead, harder if you're trying to catch a guy who was spotted a lead. There will be fans who are offended by the lead players will be given at the Tour Championship, but I like the clarity. I like it better than the confusion we've endured at the end of every FedExCup finish. It's not perfect, for sure, but I think it's a lot better.

GRAY: Well let's look at the bottom of the barrel. If you're the No. 30 seed at East Lake, I think it's easier to pull off an epic comeback under the new rules. Currently Patton Kizzire would need to win AND have Bryson DeChambeau finish almost last, among other things. That's a big element out of his control. But with a staggered start, he could control it all himself with one amazing week at the right time. Plus, keep in mind that only a handful of players will start more than four shots ahead of Nos. 26-30. So I think it's doable and could create some fun storylines. Agree?

MELL: Yes, as controversy and second-guessing always do. The only way to make it fair from start to finish is to use cumulative scoring all the way through, from the first FedExCup "playoff" event through the Tour Championship, but it would make for some boring finishes with runaway victories. There has to be some reset to make the Tour Championship meaningful, if not totally fair.



GRAY: A promising idea, but good luck keeping track of all those moving parts during the third round of the BMW. To me, it still feels like the best way to settle things and still retain a "playoff" element would be a 32-man match-play bracket, or perhaps 36 holes of stroke play before trimming to eight (or 16) for match play. It's the game's ultimate drama! But, alas, I fear that ship has now sailed.

MELL: Match play? Now you're talking playoffs! True playoffs! But that ship's beyond the horizon. Ain't coming back. We know how exciting the start of match play is, but how ponderous a dull finals matchup can be.

GRAY: I suppose the ghosts of Andrew Magee and Kevin Sutherland still linger. But with the top 30 players from the season, would there really be that many possible duds for the final? Oh, well. Let's look at this new $10 million bonus for the top 10 players at the end of the regular season. Incentive for some guys to sprint to the finish line and maybe add the season-ending Wyndham Championship, or simply an example of the rich getting richer?

MELL: The Tour must be counting on that "integrity fee" from legalized gambling being a real gold rush ... I've lost track of what incentive means on Tour. They're playing a game with which I'm not familiar. The rich ain't getting poorer.

GRAY: With the bonus pool doubling to $70 million (including the Wyndham bonus), there will be multiple players banking in excess of $10 million in a single season when it's all said and done. Good luck explaining that to players 20 years ago, let alone 50. But I digress. Let's leave with this ... if you could tweak only one aspect of the new setup, what would it be?

MELL: It's your idea, but it's more than a tweak. It's finding that ship beyond the horizon and bringing it back to port. It's a match-play finish at the Tour Championship. With that, it truly becomes FedEx Cup Playoffs. It's a pipe dream, for the reasons I mentioned above, but it's a true and right and fair path to a playoff champion.

GRAY: Happy to bring you aboard Team Match Play, even though it seems less likely to come to pass. Maybe one year we can stage an alternate match-play event in Atlanta among 32 writers where we all play for $70 instead of $70 million. Until then, get ready to do some extra math next year at East Lake.

MELL: OK, I'll start saving up!