Newsmaker of the Year: No. 9 PGA Tour

By Rex HoggardDecember 12, 2012, 3:30 pm

It’s worth noting that during a year littered with potential pitfalls it wasn’t his Ryder Cup picks or pairings or a desire to rekindle his game that consumed U.S. captain Davis Love III in 2012.

For Love, who served his fourth and final term as a player director on the PGA Tour’s Policy Board, the real pressure awaited at the board’s regular meetings throughout the summer and an ongoing debate over a litany of sweeping changes to the circuit’s schedule and qualifying system. These radical alterations make the Tour ninth on GolfChannel.com’s annual list of newsmakers.

“I was the (Player Advisory Council) chairman when they hired (commissioner Tim Finchem in 1994), so I would say that was as impactful for the Tour as anything we’ve ever done,” Love said in June. “(But) this change has been stressful for the player directors to say the least. We’ve put more time and effort and thought and worry into this as anything we’ve ever done.


Newsmaker No. 10: Stacy Lewis


“We just don’t want to go in the wrong direction . . . A lot of pressure.”

The result of all that angina is a qualifying system that relegates the current model (Q-School) to a feeder tournament for the Web.com Tour (a new sponsor for the secondary circuit, landed in 2012) and will feature a four-event series beginning next fall that will combine Nos. 1-75 on the secondary circuit’s money list and Nos. 126-200 in PGA Tour earnings playing for 50 cards.

While most players agree the new system will be a better gage of long-term Tour potential, the loss of direct access to the Big Leagues via Q-School sparked plenty of debate at the Fall Classic earlier this month.

“Everything is going to be lost from the romantic standpoint,” said Patrick Sheehan, a member of this year’s 16-man PAC. “They’ve completely taken it all away. You’re telling me No. 76 on the Web.com Tour money list can’t get his Tour card next year? No. 201 (in Tour earnings)? That’s horrible.”

Yet while the rank-and-file come to grips with the new qualifying system the Finals Series is little more than a byproduct of the circuit’s move to a split-calendar season.

For the first time since 2006, the year before the Tour introduced the FedEx Cup playoffs, the 2013 Tour Championship will be the season’s last tournament. No longer will a handful of fall events be played after the finale to decide who finishes inside the top 125 in earnings, and keeps their Tour card, and, at least in 2011, the Player of the Year race.

Instead, the 2013 season will end on Sept. 22 at East Lake, followed two weeks later by the Frys.com Open and the start of the 2013-14 season. It’s a scheduling corner that at least partially necessitated the creation of the Finals Series which will end on Sept. 29 at the Web.com Tour Championship.

As a result, the move gave the former Fall Series, which began with seven events in 2007 but had dwindled to four official-money starts this season, a spot in the FedEx Cup portion of the schedule and some much-needed cachet.

It also allowed the Tour to elevate two lucrative stops in Asia – CIMB Classic and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions – to official-money status next year, a move that had been resisted because it would have upended the money list too late in the season under the previous scheduling model.

Another less-publicized change will be a conversion to the FedEx Cup points list to establish status for the next season. Since time began on Tour, the money list has been the ultimate arbiter of whether a player keeps his card, with the top 125 in earnings being the benchmark in the modern era.

Beginning next year, the top 125 in points through the Wyndham Championship will retain their status for the 2013-14 season, as well as advance to the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Although the circuit will make adjustments next year, and perhaps beyond, to recognize discrepancies between the money list and FedEx Cup points – Brendan Steele, for example, was 112th in earnings through this year’s Wyndham and 130th on the points list, but would have secured his status for 2013-14 under next year’s exception – the transition will have a dramatic impact on players and tournaments.

“It will strengthen our field,” said Wyndham Championship tournament director Mark Brazil. “It will be a bump for us, no doubt. It’s about keeping their job, because in the past they were able to keep their cards via the fall events.”

It will be one of many adjustments players and fans will have to make beginning next year, which will be a season of change by any definition. Just ask Love.


Newsmaker of the Year schedule
No. 10: Stacy Lewis
No. 9: PGA Tour
No. 8: Dec. 14
No. 7: Dec. 16
No. 6: Dec. 19
No. 5: Dec. 21
No. 4: Dec. 23
No. 3: Dec. 26
No. 2: Dec. 28
No. 1: Dec. 31

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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Web.com Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a Web.com tournament.

"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to GolfChannel.com that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.

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Handing out major grades: From A+ to F

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 5:00 pm

The Masters is 237 days away, which means these definitive major grades will hang on players like a scarlet letter for nearly eight months.

OK, maybe not.

Brooks Koepka, obviously, gets an A+. He won two majors, and became just the fourth player to take the U.S. Open and PGA in the same season, and did all of this while overcoming a career-threatening wrist injury at the beginning of the year. Very impressive.

Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari – you passed with flying colors, too. Reed showed that he can access his best stuff in an event other than the Ryder Cup, while Molinari’s three-month heater culminated with him surviving a wild final day at Carnoustie to hoist the claret jug. Welcome to the major club, gents.

As for everybody else? Hey, you’ve now got plenty of time to recover, reassess and round into form in hopes of improved marks in ’19.


TIGER WOODS

Grade: A

Why: Sure, a few shots from his major season will linger for years – his too-cute pitch shot on Carnoustie’s 11th hole and his sliced drive on Bellerive’s 17th immediately come to mind – but let’s not forget how far we’ve come: Two years ago, Woods could barely walk because of debilitating back pain; at this time last year, he’d just exited a treatment facility for overusing his pain/sleep medications, following an embarrassing DUI arrest. Now, he’s top 30 in the world, with a pair of top-6s in the majors and undoubtedly the most stirring final round of the year, in any event, with his career-best Sunday 64 at the PGA. If you still think that Tiger doesn’t have what it takes to win another major, you’ve lost touch with reality.


JUSTIN ROSE

Grade: B+

Why: 

Why: He was one of only two players (Webb Simpson) who finished top 20 in all four majors, and he’ll probably look back at 2018 as a year in which he easily could have bagged a second title. At the U.S. Open he was only one shot off the lead after 54 holes but stumbled on the final day. A month later, he tied for second at The Open, but only after a weekend rally once he made the cut on the number. Across all four majors he had the best cumulative score to par of any player (12 under). This was a what-could-have-been year.


RICKIE FOWLER

Grade: B

Why: His 65-67 finish at the Masters left him one shot back of Reed, but it felt like the final obstacle had been cleared. Nothing was stopping Fowler now – he proved he could go low when it counted. Except then he imploded with an 84 in the third round of the U.S. Open and shot over par in both weekend rounds at The Open, before again getting into the mix at the PGA. Alas, battling an oblique strain, he regressed each round after an opening 65 and tied for 12th. Maybe next year …


JORDAN SPIETH

Grade: B

Why: Give him credit: He played better in the majors than he did the rest of the season. He shot an electric 64 on the final day at the Masters (though he’ll rue his tee shot on the 72nd hole) and grabbed a share of the 54-hole lead at The Open, despite not having his best stuff. That he shot a birdieless 76 on the final day was more a product of his form this year than succumbing to major pressure. Like Kopeka, he’s figured out how to perform when the lights are the brightest.


JON RAHM

Grade: B

Why: With the completeness of his game, it’s a little surprising that he hasn’t given himself better chances to break through. But he’s still only 23, and the chances will come in bunches before long. His fourth-place showings at the Masters and the PGA are steps in the right direction. 


Rory McIlroy on No. 18 on Saturday at the 2018 Masters.

RORY MCILROY

Grade: B-

Why: Asked Sunday how he’ll remember the major season, McIlroy replied bluntly: “Probably won’t. I don’t think there was anything all that memorable about it.” Of course, we’ll remember plenty, such as when he played his way into the final group at Augusta, only to fade over the course of the day, thus squandering another shot at capturing the career Grand Slam. And we’ll remember his tie for second at Carnoustie, where he eagled the 14th hole but then, with a chance to apply pressure on Molinari, couldn’t hit a wedge within 20 feet on the 18th green. He’s fallen into bad habits with that majestic swing, but there are holes in McIlroy’s game that need filling – holes that some of the other top players don’t have. And until he refines his wedge play and putting, that majorless drought (now four years and counting) will continue. 


JUSTIN THOMAS

Grade: C+

Why: No one has been better than Thomas over the past two seasons, but he’s likely frustrated by his major performance in 2018 – three top-25s, but only one realistic chance to win. Four shots off the lead heading into Sunday at the PGA, he had erased his deficit midway through the front nine but made critical mistakes on Nos. 14 and 16 to dash his hopes of defending his title. Of all the big-name players, he’s probably the best bet for a major rebound in 2019.


JASON DAY

Grade: C

Why: This has been a resurgent season for Day, with a pair of wins, but he didn’t bring it in the year’s biggest events. It’ll look good on paper, with three top-20s, but the only time he had a chance to win was the PGA, and he was one of the few to back up on the final day, carding a 1-over 71 when he sat just four shots off the lead.


DUSTIN JOHNSON

Grade: C-

Why: The floodgates were supposed to open after the 2016 U.S. Open, and it just hasn’t happened. Yet. He top-tenned at the Masters but was a non-factor, then jumped out to a four-shot lead halfway through the U.S. Open. He couldn’t make a putt during a Saturday 77, then got worked on the final day, head to head, against Koepka. He backed it up with a missed cut at The Open (where he blamed a lack of focus) and finished outside the top 25 at the PGA at a soft, straightforward course that suited plenty of other bombers. He can – and should – fare better.


PHIL MICKELSON

Grade: D-

Why: His series of lowlights at the U.S. Open – where he bizarrely whacked a moving ball on the green and then staunchly defended his actions – underscored that his window is all but closed at the majors. His major results since getting demoralized by Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open: T33-T22-MC-MC-T36-T48-T24-MC. ’Nuff said.


SERGIO GARCIA

Grade: F

Why: No doubt, marriage and fatherhood are massive adjustments for everyone, but he’s missed the cut in his last five majors (and didn’t break par in any major round this year), plummeted down the world rankings (to 25th!) and put European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn in a difficult position of deciding whether to burn a pick on the slumping Spaniard. Memories of that breakthrough Masters victory are already drifting further and further away.

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Watch: Furyk throws out first pitch at Yankees-Mets

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 12:59 pm

As part of a a New York media tour to promote the Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Jim Furyk threw out the first pitch at Monday evening's game between the Yankees and Mets at Yankee Stadium.


Here's a look at some more photos from Captain Furyk's Ryder Cup Trophy tour.