Questions abound about new qualifying structure

By Rex HoggardJuly 11, 2012, 4:33 pm

Give the PGA Tour style points for brevity, if not ambiguity. In some 400 words the circuit outlined the most dramatic shakeup to its qualifying process since professional golf emerged from the “rabbit tour” days.

Tuesday’s release outlining the dramatically reconfigured Web.com Tour/Q-School process was vague by design. In broad strokes the secondary circuit will maintain a level of regular-season relevancy, awarding 25 Tour cards to its top money earners, while creating a season-ending “finals series” that appears to be more than a nip/tucked version of Q-School.

By most accounts the Tour and its Policy Board slow played themselves into a winning plan without breaking any major china with players or fans, but to gloss over commissioner Tim Finchem’s “new deal” in a 400-word Cliff’s Notes version ignores how much energy and emotion actually went into the new qualifying system.

Earlier this month at the AT&T National four-time Policy Board member Davis Love III called the plan the most difficult thing he’d ever did as a player director and one official could only laugh when asked if he thought it would have taken so long to reach a consensus, “No way,” the official smiled.

Two-years of debate, endless models and an assortment of scenarios led to Tuesday’s announcement and a late-to-the-dance plan that ultimately merged variations of different options.

“This (plan) came up very recently,” said Paul Goydos, who is serving his first term on the Policy Board. “It was kind of a byproduct of the NASCAR (model). The first thing that went away was the seeding (model). It’s too hard to compare play on different tours.”

The “NASCAR” plan included the top money winners on the Web.com Tour playing the three-event finals series although they had already secured their status for the following season; while the seeding model would have attempted to marry the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour money lists for the final three tournaments.

“No way that people would agree on (a seeding model),” Goydos said. “Under that type of scenario No. 126 (in PGA Tour earnings) was basically going to get the same money as No. 26 on the Web.com Tour. But that means my seeding was going to be impacted by how I played and how someone on another tour played. It was going to be difficult to accept that another player who was playing (on another tour) was going to decide where you were going to be seeded.”

Which led to the NASCAR model and a debate over how many players from the secondary circuit should be awarded Tour cards based on regular-season performance.

“What number on the Web.com Tour should be guaranteed cards? It bounced between 15 and 25,” Goydos said. “The idea was that under the old system a player ranked between 18th and 19th on the Web.com Tour money list with three tournaments remaining was virtually assured of finishing inside the top 25 and earning a card.”

If the Tour lowered the number of guaranteed cards after the regular season on the secondary circuit, “we would be admitting that (the Web.com Tour) was not as strong as we thought it was when I would argue that it’s getting stronger every year,” Goydos said.

The four player directors (Love, Goydos, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk) ultimately settled on the top 25 players earning Tour cards and a “jump ball” model for the finals series which featured Nos. 1-75 on the secondary circuit and Nos. 126-200 on the FedEx Cup points list playing the last three events for the final 25 Tour cards.

Although guaranteed a card the top 25 players from the Web.com Tour could hurt their status for the following year with a poor performance in the final series, which in theory gives the secondary circuit’s big finish an added level of drama while maintaining the integrity of the regular season.

Confused?

You’re not alone.

“To me, at first, I thought it was very confusing, but when they showed it in chart form on a money list it is better visually,” Goydos said.

The Tour’s abridged release also left an assortment of unanswered questions. Why, for example, would the winner of the Web.com Tour’s money list, who will be awarded full Tour membership for the following season, play the finals series?

“He doesn’t have to,” Goydos said. “The sponsor would probably like to have him in there playing.”

It also remains to be seen where and when the finals series will be played. Because of cross-over between the two tours officials expect field sizes between 135 and 140 players and all three events will feature 36-hole cuts to the top 60 players and ties.

Under the current scenario but still undecided, the first finals series event would be played opposite the BMW Championship, the third FedEx Cup playoff event which is followed by an off-week. The second finals event would be played during that off-week and the qualifying finale would be held the week after the Tour Championship at East Lake.

All three finals series events would be Web.com Tour tournaments and there appears to be an undercurrent of support for a geographic rotation across the country.

But the essential question is how this change will impact a particular player’s ability to earn Tour status. Would a player fresh out of college, like Patrick Cantlay who recently turned pro after his sophomore season at UCLA, have the same chance to play his way onto the Tour without the benefit of Q-School?

“It’s going to be easier for a Patrick Cantlay to earn a card, it’s going to be harder for a Paul Goydos when he first came out on Tour because I would not have gotten the sponsor exemptions,” Goydos said.

Maybe it’s best the Tour opted for brevity to unveil its new qualifying plan – which, by most accounts, deftly bridges the gap between old and new – because the only thing detailed analysis creates is more questions that won’t be answered for at least another year.

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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up

 

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.

 

-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.


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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.