Tour players rank awards, wins

By Rex HoggardOctober 15, 2011, 7:59 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – It is shaping up to be the “Showdown in O-Town,” a mano-a-mano title bout for all the cash and historic considerations complete with a smidge of trash talking.

“There was never really a decision to be made, I have a chance of making history. See you all at Disney next week,” Luke Donald tweeted on Friday after news surfaced he would join Webb Simpson next week at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. The post came complete with a hash-tag kicker, “bring it on.”

Donald and Simpson have turned the often foregone race for the PGA Tour money title into something worth watching because both have proven the cash crown is something worth wanting.

Where, however, the money title ranks on Tour types' “to do” lists depends almost entirely on who you ask. On Saturday at the McGladrey Classic an impromptu poll of players resulted in an eclectic mix of opinions.

Asked to rank the importance of winning a major championship, the FedEx Cup, the money title, the Player of the Year Award and taking over the top spot in the World Golf Ranking, every player began their list with Grand Slam glory.

“If you’ve had a really good career but when you’re done if you look back and don’t have (a major) you’d probably have some regrets,” Shaun Micheel said.

That Micheel already has his Grand Slam keepsake (2003 PGA Championship) speaks to the divergent motivations that are the basis of players’ “bucket lists.” Despite his major victory Micheel has finished inside the top 80 in earnings just twice since 2000, which would at least partially explain his affinity for the money title, which he ranked second.

“The (FedEx) Cup winner is kind of like the winner of the Super Bowl, but at the end of the year winning the money title shows how consistent you were,” he said. “There’s a reason Luke is coming back: He wants that money title.”

Combined, Donald and Simpson have 23 top-10 finishes this year, three victories and just five missed cuts. Although both came up short in the race for the FedEx Cup the allure of the money title has drawn both players to next week’s finale.

“I was talking to my wife about it; if you win the money list you're probably added to a list of maybe 50 guys,” said Simpson, who trails Donald on the money list by about $69,000. “So it would be a pretty prestigious list to be a part of.”

Actually, there have been 37 players who have claimed the Tour money title since 1934, a club almost as exclusive as the 10 players who have won the Jack Nicklaus Trophy for Player of the Year since it was first awarded in 1990.

Most players, however, don’t share the would-be cash king’s desire for green gold. In fact, the money title was a middle-of-the-pack entry on most players’ lists.

“A major is No. 1, being No. 1 in the world is 1B . . . if you ask my accountant the FedEx Cup would be 1A,” Charles Howell III smiled. “Fourth would be the Player of the Year and fifth would be the money title.”

It’s telling that the rank and file preach consistency, particularly when asked who may get their vote for Player of the Year, but based on unofficial polling it’s the quick hit (a major) that is the most coveted accolade.

To win a major a player needs to have a great week, the FedEx Cup requires a great month, the Player of the Year Award may come down to a great news cycle, the money title is the result of a great year and the top spot in the World Ranking requires two solid years.

“We base everything off how many times we get in contention,” Robert Garrigus said. “The money title is a five-year exemption, a major is a 10-year exemption and the FedEx Cup is a lot of money, and that’s all good, but I’d rather win a major, preferably the Masters.”

Although the Player of the Year Award – which is an even more crowded race than the money title with five legitimate players vying for votes – was often at the bottom of many players' “bucket lists,” Jonathan Byrd ranked the Nicklaus Trophy second on his list. Having won the 2002 Rookie of the Year Award Byrd considers a nod from the frat brothers something that should not be taken lightly.

“With the Player of the Year you’d look back and say you’re the best that year,” Byrd said. “If I were to win that I’d consider it very special.”

Similarly, the convoluted nature of the World Golf Ranking – combined with Tiger Woods’ stranglehold on the top spot for the better part of a decade – relegated the No. 1 ranking to also-ran status on most lists.

Byrd, for example, ranked the top spot in the world third on his list “because the (points) system is not perfect.” But Kevin Streelman and D.A. Points had a much greater affinity for the perception, if not the points, of being world No. 1.

“If you don’t want to be No. 1, if that’s not high on your list then why are you out here?” Points figured.

While Streelman took the long view, factoring in the two-year window needed to climb to the top of the global heap and the need to be consistent throughout to stay atop the pack.

“It’s great golf consistently,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk about the way they do the points system, but if you look at the guys who have held it over the past couple of years it’s pretty tough to debate.”

In short, majors rule, but we already knew that. It is telling that the FedEx Cup has 10 million reasons to inspire the masses but is still considered something of a result, not a reason to work harder.

It is the money title, the historical benchmark for greatness, and World Ranking, reviled by many as convoluted, that are still highly coveted by Tour types. Just ask Donald and Simpson.

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Landry turns close calls into maiden win at Valero

By Will GrayApril 22, 2018, 11:15 pm

After years of close calls and near-misses, Andrew Landry now has a signature victory.

Sharing the lead Zach Johnson, the 30-year-old was hardly considered a favorite heading into the final round of the Valero Texas Open. He certainly lacked the pedigree of a two-time major champion, and the other player in the day's final group, Trey Mullinax, had just set a new course record at TPC San Antonio the day prior.

But thanks in part to the lessons he learned from close-but-not-quite finishes in the past, Landry got over the finish line in convincing fashion.

"I was playing some good golf, and I knew that I was going to be in good shape this week," Landry told reporters. "We just came out and had some fun, and that was kind of the strategy this week is just have some fun and be patient, because this golf course can bite you in a hurry."

Landry didn't grow up at a country club like many of his PGA Tour peers. He described the rugged nine-hole course where he learned the game in Port Groves, Texas, affectionately known as the "Pea Patch," as a "goat ranch." But he displayed plenty of game there, and was a three-time All-American at Arkansas.

It was during his time in Fayetteville that Landry had his first brush with near-greatness. Pitted against Texas A&M's Bronson Burgoon in a match that would decide the 2009 NCAA title, Landry rallied back from a 4-down deficit to square the match heading to the final hole. But he could only watch as Burgoon stuffed his final approach, sealing a memorable win for the Aggies.

The feelings were similar in January, when Landry believed he had played well enough to earn his maiden victory at the CareerBuilder Challenge. But that week in Palm Springs he ran into a buzzsaw named Jon Rahm, who finally ended things with a birdie on the fourth extra hole to break Landry's heart as darkness crept over the Coachella Valley.

"We're all here for reasons, because we worked really hard and we're really good at what we do," Landry said. "I think that all of those kinds of things really help every player, whenever you get in a situation and you fail and you continue to fail, you're learning every single time that you do something."

Then there was the 2016 U.S. Open, which to date remains Landry's only start in a major. His opening-round 66 at Oakmont sent reporters shuffling through their media guides to learn more about the unheralded leader. He earned a spot in Sunday's final pairing alongside Shane Lowry, but tied for 15th after a final-round 78. Another lesson.

According to Landry, his brush with major glory taught him to focus on pace: with his swing, with his stride, and with his breathing. Faced with another opportunity Sunday, this time in his home state with plenty of family support, Landry didn't blink.

He birdied the opening hole, then the next, and the next. Birdies on four of his first six holes proved to be all the margin he needed, as he played the remaining holes in even par but still finished two shots clear of Trey Mullinax and Sean O'Hair.

"I mean, whenever I play good golf, I think I can win out here," Landry said. "Obviously I just showed that, so it's fun that I'm in this situation right now."

Following his playoff loss to Rahm, Landry missed four straight cuts. He then took a break as his wife gave birth to the couple's first child, Brooks, last month. He didn't get back to work until last week at the RBC Heritage, where he tied for 42nd after playing his final nine holes in 4 over to tumble out of contention.

This time around, his wife and newborn son were both on hand to watch as he finished the job, making only one bogey over his final 36 holes while playing in the final group both days.

"Andrew played great, specifically the start, and yesterday was obviously very solid, too," Johnson said. "You have a worthy champion, clearly."

Despite his stunning performance at Oakmont, Landry wasn't able to keep his card in 2016 and spent last year back on the Tour. He quickly earned a promotion back to the big leagues, and after a breakthrough performance in San Antonio he's exempt through 2020.

That stat of one career major start will soon triple, as he's exempt into both the 2018 PGA Championship and 2019 Masters. He's also got spots in The Players, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and Sentry Tournament of Champions. It's an impressive haul for a player who can now point to a trophy instead of a string of close calls.

"It just shows that it doesn't really matter where you come from, it just matters the determination and hard work," Landry said. "Anything that you put your mind to, you can accomplish."

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Niemann finishes sixth at Valero in pro debut

By Will GrayApril 22, 2018, 10:40 pm

Joaquin Niemann wasted little time in making his mark as a professional.

Having turned pro this week at the Valero Texas Open, the former top-ranked amateur made the most of a sponsor invite by closing with rounds of 67-67 over the weekend at TPC San Antonio, including birdies on each of his final three holes during the final round. At 12 under, he finished the week alone in sixth place, five shots behind Andrew Landry, and took home a check of $223,200 in his pro debut.

"I mean, I was playing good. I never thought I was going to finish how I played this week, but I can't be more happy than this," Niemann told reporters. "Just try to keep it up and hope to play well for the next weeks."

The 19-year-old Chilean had plans to turn pro earlier this year, but then he won the Latin American Amateur which brought with it a spot in the Masters as long as he remained an amateur. But now he's off to a fast start on the play-for-pay scene, having finished the week ahead of noted veterans like Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Brandt Snedeker.

Only days into a blossoming pro career, Niemann is hardly short on confidence.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

"I feel like a veteran right now, I feel like a Tour player now," Niemann said. "I know I can beat these guys, and just going to wait for my week and try to win."

In addition to the six-figure check, Niemann also earned 100 non-member FedExCup points which will help in his quest to earn status for the 2018-19 season. He needs at least 269 non-member points to unlock special temporary membership, which would allow him to accept unlimited sponsor invites for the rest of the season.

At worst, his current point total likely guarantees him a spot in the Tour Finals this fall where he can vie for a PGA Tour card. Niemann has sponsor invites lined up for the Wells Fargo Championship, AT&T Byron Nelson and Memorial Tournament, but thanks to his top-10 finish in San Antonio he won't have to use the second of his allotted seven invites at Quail Hollow in two weeks.

"I think this is going to give me a lot of confidence to try to do my card for this year," Niemann said. "Thing is I've got a couple more tournaments coming, and I just can't wait for it."

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Landry prevails in Texas for first Tour win

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 10:39 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Andrew Landry won the Valero Texas Open on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory, pulling away with early birdies and holding on with par saves.

The 30-year-old Texan parred the final seven holes for a 4-under 68 and a two-stroke victory over Trey Mullinax and Sean O'Hair. Landry finished at 17-under 271 at TPC San Antonio.

Landry took a two-stroke lead to the par-5 18th after Mullinax chunked a flop shot and bogeyed the short par-4 17th. Landry hit a 55-foot putt over a ridge to 3 feet for par on 17 and made an 8-footer on 18 after running a 50-foot downhill birdie try past.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Mullinax closed with a 69 a day after breaking the AT&T Oaks Course record with a 62. O'Hair shot 66.

Tied for the third-round lead with Zach Johnson, Landry birdied the first three holes and added two more on Nos. 6 and 10. He bogeyed the par-4 11th before the closing par run.

Landry won in his 32nd PGA Tour start. He earned his Tour card last year on the Tour, and lost a playoff to Jon Rahm in January in the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Landry played at Arkansas after starring at Port Neches-Groves High School east of Houston. He now lives in the Austin area.

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Watch: 'Statue' hilariously scares celebs at Jeter's event

By Grill Room TeamApril 22, 2018, 10:05 pm

The Derek Jeter Celebrity Invitational usually provides the golf world a highlight or two; it's no surprise with that much star power gathered in Las Vegas.

But this year's best moment came at the expense of the celebrities themselves, courtesy of a “statue.”

The Players Tribune captured the living statue scaring everyone who decided to pose for a picture near it, including former pro athletes Ray Allen and Ed Reed, news anchor Leeann Tweeden, anti-bullying advocate Paige Spiranac and even Jeter himself.

The DJCI benefits the Miami Marlins CEO's Turn 2 Foundation, which works to help young people reach their full potential by creating and supporting initiatives that promote leadership development, academic achievement, positive behavior, healthy lifestyles and social change.