Player-of-the-Year puzzle

By Rex HoggardSeptember 28, 2011, 8:14 pm

Sometime next month, ballots for the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year award will hit electronic mailboxes and, if an informal and highly unscientific straw poll of the circuit’s rank-and-file last week at East Lake is any guide, the collective may opt for an “all of the above” option.

Not since the pre-Tiger Woods era has the Tour’s POY race been this clouded or closely contested.

“Five or six guys had a great year but none of them had a standout year, so I really don’t know,” Phil Mickelson reasoned late Sunday at the FedEx Cup finale.

In Cliff’s Notes form, the leading candidates are Luke Donald, who currently leads the money list, won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and posted a mindboggling 13 top-10s; Webb Simpson, a two-time winner who also added a pair of runner-up showings and could overtake Donald for the money title if he plays a Fall Series event; Keegan Bradley, who won a major (PGA Championship) to go along with his Byron Nelson breakthrough; Bill Haas, who has just one victory this year (Tour Championship) but may get extra credit for winning the FedEx Cup; and Nick Watney, a winner in the spring (WGC-Cadillac Championship) and summer (AT&T National) who didn’t finish outside of the top 15 in his first five events of 2011.

When asked last week his thoughts on the POY race, Geoff Ogilvy, one of the circuit’s most thoughtful types, gazed blankly at your impromptu pollster and sighed, “Player of the Year is pretty interesting now more than it was for about the last 10 years. There's actually a discussion,” he said.

In East Lake exit polling, most players gave the POY nod to Donald, noting his machine-like performance on Tour this year as well as his record in Europe (two wins) and his stranglehold on the No. 1 spot in the world ranking.

“Does (Donald) ever finish out of the top 3 or 4? I mean, every single week, he's there. Last week (at the BMW Championship), he went over par in the first round and he still finds a way to finish fourth,” Ogilvy said.

Since 1997, Woods has clipped all comers for the Jack Nicklaus Trophy 10 times, and on the rare occasions he didn’t win there was a clear-cut Plan B in the form of Mark O’Meara (two majors in 1998), Vijay Singh (nine wins in 2004), Padraig Harrington (two majors in 2008) and Jim Furyk (the FedEx Cup champion and a three-time winner last year).

Yet this year’s vote goes beyond a race that’s too close to call. For players, this year’s contest is a philosophical debate between the value of winning versus consistency.

In short, would you rather have Bradley’s year, complete with that life-changing week at Atlanta Athletic Club, or Donald’s?

“Part of it is consistency over the course of a year,” Charles Howell III said. “(But) winning is the most important thing out here . . . that’s a hard one, especially this year, but I think you have to take a hard look at Keegan. He won a major and that’s such a hard thing to do.”

However, Matt Kuchar – who, interestingly enough, was the only player with a mathematical chance to hoist the FedEx Cup without having won this year – had a different take. “Keegan Bradley, having won the PGA and having won another tournament as well, has thrown his hat in that conversation,” he said. “But I think Luke Donald being so consistent and taking over the No. 1 spot in the world and retaining it, proving that he's been the best player in the world.”

It is telling that a player’s take on this debate was so closely based on his own strengths and weaknesses.

“Consistency to me is always very impressive because it's hard to do that. It's not easy to win one week, but it's probably easier to win one tournament than it is to be consistent,” Ogilvy said. “It blows me away, maybe because it's never been me, but the people that play well every week are incredible. But saying that, we don't play golf to be consistent, we play golf to win big tournaments, so I guess the successful guy is the guy who wins big tournaments.”

Ultimately Donald’s road to the Player of the Year award may be influenced by timing – his lone Tour victory came in February – and a sign of the times in American golf.

When asked his thoughts on the POY race, Chez Reavie began rattling off statistics: “Nick (Watney) is up there, but I’d vote for (Simpson). Two wins and two second-place finishes, a boat load of top-10s. Every time he’s teed it up this year it seems like he could win . . .”

Reavie paused for a moment before finally asking, “What has Luke won this year?” Be it unfortunate timing or the WGC format, Donald’s Match Play victory is often overlooked.

Nor have Tour voters demonstrated an immunity to outside influences.

Last year’s Rookie of the Year award went to Rickie Fowler, who earned a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team but failed to win, over Rory McIlroy, who posted the year’s most-commanding performance (non-major division) to win the Quail Hollow Championship. Some speculated that McIlroy’s snub was player reaction from his decision to forgo membership in 2011.

Donald, who may not play again in the United States this season, could suffer a similar fate in 2011 through no fault of his own.

The Tour Championship may have decided the FedEx Cup, but the POY race may come down to a Fall Finish start (Simpson may play Disney and Watney is playing this week in Las Vegas).

Or maybe the esoteric debate will come down to what players truly value – consistency or major championships. It’s so close, not even CNN would call this race early.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.