A new season: Can you start if you never stopped?

By Ryan LavnerOctober 14, 2015, 12:16 am

NAPA, Calif. – So, fellas, how’d you spend that 424-hour offseason?

“A wedding and a Royals game,” Robert Streb said.

“Two charity events,” Roberto Castro added.

“[PGA Tour] orientation,” Harold Varner smiled. “Oh, and then I went to Vegas.”

“Didn’t touch a club,” Brooks Koepka shrugged. “Didn’t do anything and relaxed … for all five days of it.”

It’s already time to get back to work.

It’s Year 3 of the wraparound schedule, and it still feels strange.

There were 19 days between the end of the Tour Championship and the beginning of a new PGA Tour season. In between? Oh, not too much … only a Web.com Tour Championship in which 50 PGA Tour cards were handed out, and then a Presidents Cup that featured 17 top-30 players.

“It’s almost comical,” Patrick Rodgers said, “like, ‘How was your offseason?’ It was two weeks.” 

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No two American sports build up to a new season quite like the NFL and MLB, with around-the-clock coverage from the owners’ meetings, free agency, training camp and spring training. When opening night – sorry, Opening Night – finally arrives, it’s practically a national holiday. A whopping 27 million viewers tuned in for the NFL opener.

Here at the Frys.com Open, you can feel a buzz only in the winery tasting room.

Posters around Napa showed Rory McIlroy and the slogan, “It All Starts Now.”

It’s fair to wonder whether that elicits more groans or cheers.

Does this feel like a fresh start?

“Well, it has to,” Streb said, “whether you like it or not.”

Indeed, there’s no going back now.

The Tour may have diluted its product, but it isn’t about to turn away seven sponsors. And besides, players enjoy a $1 million-plus first-place check in all but one of the seven fall events, and they've realized the added benefit of playing more in the fall during a long FedEx Cup season. Last year, for instance, Streb won a fall event, had two other top-10s and eventually played his way into the Tour Championship.

The hard-core golf fans – the ones reading this story on a golf-centric website – likely don’t mind the seemingly never-ending schedule either; it’s more action at the end of a transformative year for the sport. The long-term concern is that those same fans will eventually grow weary of the nonstop global schedule, with upcoming events from California to China to Mexico to Dubai to Thailand. The only time they can exhale – the only time they can even think about missing the sport – is a two-week break before the New Year.

It’s worth noting that this season opener should have had a bit more sizzle.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy committed to play this year’s event as part of an agreement with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem when he allowed the two stars (and six others) to participate in a lucrative exhibition in Turkey in 2012. Woods will miss the Frys, and the rest of his scheduled events this year, after undergoing back surgery last month. Justin Rose, Webb Simpson and Schwartzel are also in this year’s field, part of the Turkey Eight. Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar and Lee Westwood have already honored their commitment within the three-year window.

The Frys field could suffer next year though, when the summer schedule becomes even more condensed and top players will look for weeks off anywhere they can get ’em.

But forget the stars for a moment. The so-called offseason is a particularly quick turnaround for the rookies, some of whom learned only a week and a half ago that they had status this season.

In 2012, when Castro was a newcomer, he had about two months to work on his game, plot a strategy and mentally prepare for the long year ahead.

“We had all of the holidays and a couple of months to think about it,” he recalled. “Then we started on the West Coast and cut our teeth out there. It’s definitely different now.”

Consider the case of Varner, who played in all 25 events on the Web.com circuit and now is in line for five more events this fall. The 25-year-old had eight days to process what is a massive career achievement – and part of that time was spent in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., for rookie orientation.

He said his desire to succeed outweighs any late-season burnout or fatigue.

“I’m ready to go to work,” he said.

That view stands in stark contrast to a top player like Koepka, the Phoenix Open winner who has already logged 23 PGA Tour starts this season. After playing here in Napa, he’ll tee it up at next week’s stop in Vegas, the WGC event in Shanghai, the Race to Dubai overseas and then Woods’ event in the Bahamas.

With his extended break still two months away, he spent his 424-hour PGA Tour offseason doing, well, absolutely nothing.

Is this the start of a new season?

“No,” he said. “This just feels like the continuation of a long year.”

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DJ, McIlroy, Spieth listed as PGA betting favorites

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 1:38 pm

Three majors are in the books, but there's still one more trophy up for grabs in two weeks' time.

While next year The Open will signal the end of the 2019 major season amid a revamped calendar, this is the final year that the PGA Championship will be held in August. The tournament returns next month to Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis, which last hosted the PGA when Nick Price won in 1992 and hasn't hosted a PGA Tour event since Camilo Villegas won the 2008 BMW Championship.

Oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published PGA betting odds shortly after the final putt dropped at Carnoustie and Francesco Molinari left with the claret jug. Topping the board are a trio of major champions: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, all listed at 12/1.

McIlroy won the PGA in both 2012 and 2014, while Spieth needs only the Wanamaker Trophy to round out the career Grand Slam. Johnson has recorded four top-10s in the PGA, notably a T-5 finish at Whistling Straits in 2010 when a few grains of sand kept him out of a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.

Fresh off a T-6 finish in Scotland, Tiger Woods headlines the group listed at 16/1, behind only the three co-favorites as he looks to win a 15th career major.

Here's a look at the betting odds for a number of contenders, with the opening round of the PGA just 17 days away:

12/1: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth

16/1: Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

18/1: Justin Rose

20/1: Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day

30/1: Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Paul Casey

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson

80/1: Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner

100/1: Ian Poulter, Thomas Pieters, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell, Brian Harman, Brandt Snedeker, Charley Hoffman

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Molinari moves to No. 6 in world with Open win

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:31 pm

After breaking through for his first career major title, Francesco Molinari reached some rarified air in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Rankings.

The Italian's two-shot win at Carnoustie moved him up nine spots to No. 6 in the world, not surprisingly a new career high. But it's also a quick ascent for Molinari, who has now won three of his last six worldwide starts and was ranked No. 33 in the world after missing the cut at The Players Championship two months ago.

A share of second place helped Xander Schauffele jump from No. 24 to No. 18 in the updated standings, while the same result meant Kevin Kisner went from No. 33 to No. 25. Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy both went up one spot after T-2 finishes to No. 2 and No. 7, respectively - a new career high for Rose.

The drama in the rankings unfolded at No. 50, as Tiger Woods moved up 21 spots to exactly No. 50 following his T-6 finish. While some projections had him moving to 51st, Woods was able to sneak into the top 50 just in time to qualify for a return to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as the top 50 in the rankings both this week and next qualify for Akron.

That includes Zach Johnson, last year's runner-up who was not yet qualified but moved from No. 52 to No. 49 this week. It also includes Kevin Chappell, who went from 61st to 47th with a T-6 finish in Scotland.

Despite missing the cut at Carnoustie, Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for another week followed by Rose, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Molinari is now at No. 6, with McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day rounding out the top 10.

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Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:09 pm

A T-12 finish at The Open allowed Webb Simpson to move past Bryson DeChambeau into the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race with just three weeks to go.

Simpson finished the week at 3 under, five shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. Adding another strong result to his win at TPC Sawgrass and T-10 finish at the U.S. Open, he's now edged in front of DeChambeau by less than 41 points. But with players earning one point per $1,000 each of the next two weeks and 1.5 points per $1,000 at the PGA Championship, the race is far from over.

Jordan Spieth's T-9 finish strengthened his position at No. 6, as the top six players are essentially assured of qualifying automatically. Rickie Fowler held onto his spot at No. 7, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner both moved onto the bubble following T-2 finishes at Carnoustie. After a T-6 finish, Tiger Woods jumped from 31st to 20th.

Here's a look at the updated American standings, with the top eight after the PGA qualifying automatically and captain Jim Furyk adding four picks in September:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Bubba Watson

6. Jordan Spieth

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Webb Simpson


9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Xander Schauffele

12. Matt Kuchar

13. Kevin Kisner

14. Tony Finau

15. Brian Harman

On the European side, Molinari was already in position to qualify automatically but is now assured of a spot on Thomas Bjorn's roster this fall. Fellow major champs Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy also solidified their footing with runner-up performances.

Here's a look at how things look for the Europeans, with the top four from each list after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

European Points

1. Francesco Molinari

2. Justin Rose

3. Tyrrell Hatton

4. Tommy Fleetwood


Thorbjorn Olesen

Russell Knox

Eddie Pepperell

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Alex Noren

3. Rory McIlroy

4. Paul Casey


Matthew Fitzpatrick

Sergio Garcia

Ian Poulter

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.