Nationwide Tour Extreme Makeover Edition

By Rex HoggardMarch 31, 2011, 12:24 am

Bill Calfee is a rarity, a true stick among the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. suits. Amid the corridors of PGA Tour power Calfee knows what it’s like to put a score next to his name and to play for his rent. He also knows the sting and satisfaction of Q-School.

“Five times,” Calfee laughs when asked how many trips he made to the Fall Classic. “Made it (to the Tour) on the fifth time and never went back.”

Within that historical context Calfee, the Nationwide Tour president, concedes the proposed change to the current Q-School/Nationwide Tour system will take some getting used to. “There’s a bit of a cultural change, no question. I was part of it. But it’s a better system now,” he said.

Maybe it’s best to call the proposed restructuring of the current Nationwide Tour/Q-School model an extreme makeover because if the plan is ultimately approved by the Policy Board the new system will look nothing like the old.

The concept in CliffsNotes form is to take the top players from the Nationwide Tour, probably the top 75 to 100, and the bottom off the PGA Tour money list, somewhere between Nos. 126 and 200, and send them out for a three-event free-for-all that will ultimately dole out 50 Tour cards. The plan elevates the Nationwide Tour to the primary avenue to the big leagues and relegates Q-School to, well . . . something less than that.

Mathematically the concept works. Nationwide Tour grads historically perform better than their Q-School counterparts, although 2010 was the exception with 32 percent of the Nationwide Tour class retaining their cards compared with 44 percent from the Fall Classic. Yet consider that there are currently 17 players inside the Tour’s 125 who either graduated from the secondary circuit or played at least 10 Nationwide Tour events in 2010, while there are no players inside the 125 right now that played fewer than 10 Nationwide events last year.

But if perception is indeed reality, Calfee & Co. have a tough sell ahead of them. Many Tour types see the proposal as another step toward a closed shop, one going so far as to use the term restraint of trade, a legal volley normally uttered just before the lawyers arrive.

During a 30-minute phone call earlier this week that felt like the first of many, Calfee explained that the restructuring can actually benefit young phenoms.

“A college player can play his way into these events if he plays well enough,” he said.

Future Rickie Fowlers only have to earn enough money via sponsor exemptions or Monday qualifying to crack the top 175 or so in Tour earnings or the top 100 on the Nationwide Tour to earn a spot in the Finals Series. From there, it’s professional Darwinism at its finest.

Still, one can’t shake the lingering disconnect between the old and new. The Nationwide Tour has always extolled the virtues of a full calendar over the capriciousness of Q-School’s three-week sprint, yet isn’t the Final Series – which will likely be a combination of current Fall Series and Nationwide events culminating with the secondary circuit’s Tour Championship – Q-School with a slightly hipper rap?

On this Calfee and your correspondent had to agree to disagree, just as we debated the ability to create a seeding system for the Finals Series. There is no apples-to-apples comparison between the player that finishes 26th on the Nationwide Tour money list and 126th in Tour earnings, nor should one expect a consensus on that question.

“That’s where a lot of the discussion and details will be,” Calfee conceded.

The working model seeds the first 25 players off the regular-season Nationwide Tour money list first followed by No. 126 in Tour earnings, No. 26 in Nationwide Tour earnings, No. 127, No. 27, etc., Calfee explained.

Calfee also said he expects the Nationwide Tour’s “battlefield” promotion to the PGA Tour to remain for any three-time winners and for the leading money winner after the Finals Series to be fully exempt and excluded from the periodic reshuffle for the other 49 card winners.

Calfee took exception to the widely held notion that the proposed restructuring is a response to the Tour’s need for a new umbrella sponsor for the secondary circuit after Nationwide steps down following the 2012 season.

“A lot of people are making assumptions this is about attracting an umbrella sponsor and I don’t want to say this has nothing to do with that, but it is part of a bigger picture to elevate the Nationwide Tour,” said Calfee, who doesn’t expect the change to come before 2013.

Perhaps, but it’s hard to imagine such a dramatic shift if Nationwide were signed on for another five years.

Give Tour commissioner Tim Finchem credit. He made magic during the last television contract negotiations with his FedEx Cup concept and like any executive he’s going back to the high-percentage shot.

The only thing that seems certain is that the proposal will be picked apart in the coming months like a national health care bill.

“Let’s put it this way, big things that we’ve floated like this on the PGA Tour have never made it through the process without getting changed,” said Davis Love III, a player director on the Tour’s Policy Board. “It’s a good idea, and it’s a good starting point.”

Where the conversation ends is anyone’s guess, but the debate promises to be lively. But then Calfee is prepared, the proposed restructuring is theoretical and those five trips to Q-School were real. At least it used to be.


Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard 

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."