PAC getting closer to deciding road to the PGA Tour

By Rex HoggardMay 29, 2012, 5:06 pm

Later this afternoon deep within the bowels of Muirfield Village Golf Club, 16 different personalities – complete with sometimes competing interests – will meet to hash out the details of the PGA Tour’s proposed makeover of the Nationwide Tour/Q-School process.

This won’t be the last meeting for the dramatic change, but we’re getting close. Tour officials hope to have the new system in place by the end of the year but an informal poll of a few Player Advisory Council members last week at Colonial suggests they are still a few doglegs away from a consensus.

There are currently two models on the table for the PAC to consider. The first plan, called the “jump ball” option, would give the top 15 or 20 players from the Nationwide Tour money list a head start heading into the three-event finals series that will decide who earns 50 PGA Tour cards, and all others – Nos. 126-200 in Tour earnings and Nos. 21-75 on the secondary circuit – would begin the series at zero.

The second option would combine the two money lists using a divisor and would feature all players starting the finals series with money commensurate with their regular-season earnings using some sort of divisor.

If your scribe’s poll of a handful of PAC members last week is any indication what comes out of today’s meeting will likely be a combination of the two plans.

“I’m in favor of taking the top 10 guys off the Nationwide Tour and giving them preferred status. Just go ahead and give them their card. Don’t make them play in the (finals series),” said Harrison Frazar, the chairman of the 16-man PAC. “Then have a slightly prorated system for the 11 or 15 and then go down to 30 or 25. After that let it be a jump ball.”

But in a room filled with 16 players from all walks of competitive life, if Frazar’s take seems a tad overly optimistic it’s because it probably is. In fact, some members of the PAC are not entirely sold on the Draconian adjustment to the traditional path to Tour status to begin with, although change seems inevitable.

“They want to make those three tournaments (the finals series) part of the Nationwide Tour to help sell it (to a new umbrella sponsor to replace Nationwide),” said Ken Duke, a first-year PAC member. “Why? Is it going to help sell it? They think it will, but they don’t know that.”

There is also the culture shock of making the new system the only avenue to Tour membership and relegating Q-School, the traditional path to a Tour card, to feeder-tournament status for the secondary circuit.

“I’m a fan of keeping a few spots for Q-School,” said Frazar, but he quickly concedes that option doesn’t seem likely at this moment.

Tuesday’s primary debate will center on how to slot players into a playoff-like system from two vastly different tours, but unless the Policy Board, which will have the ultimate say in the system, uses the “jump ball” model some sort of hybrid money list will have to be created.

“I don’t think you can rank them together,” Frazar said. “It’s comparing apples to oranges, really. Maybe not even that, maybe apples to bananas. The golf courses are completely different, the quality of play is different top to bottom. I don’t think you can ever put a guy who finished 126 (on the PGA Tour in earnings) and No. 26 (on the Nationwide Tour money list) together and say you are even.”

Of course, Frazar points out he hasn’t played the Nationwide Tour since 1997. Duke, who won the secondary circuit’s money title in 2006 and has graduated from the Nationwide Tour twice, had an understandable different take.

“I think you can compare them because some of those guys who are 126 to 150 (in Tour earnings) are probably off the Nationwide Tour the year before,” Duke said. “If you finish in that area you might not have had a better year than a guy who finished No. 5 on the Nationwide Tour. “

While Mark Wilson, something of a pragmatist on the PAC, had a slightly different take which dovetailed with a career that has seen success on the PGA Tour and Q-School, but not on the Nationwide Tour.

“The best way to do that is to convert PGA Tour money into Nationwide Tour money. Figure out what No. 126 was and what No. 26 was,” Wilson said. “But I’m leaning the other way. Should the guy who finished 126 on the money list have an advantage over the guy who was 26th? In the old days they didn’t. The other way is a whole new deal because you’re taking your year with you.”

And you thought you had to travel to Washington D.C., to find political gridlock. The PAC will reach some sort of accord on this, but it won’t be pretty nor will it likely be unanimous.

Everybody loves a good cookout, but few, if any, want to see how the bratwurst is made.

“Ultimately there are going to have to come up with some sort of agreement. The guys who are going to make that decision right now are going to have to get really close because you’re dealing with guy’s livelihoods,” said Frazar, who, as PAC chair, will become one of four player directors on the Policy Board next year. “I’m glad I’m not on the board right now.”

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Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.

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Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

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Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”