Going Through the Alphabet in 2007
A is for ... Australians. There are seven Aussies inside the top 50 in the world rankings, second only to 15 Americans. They won five tournaments on the PGA and European Tours' 2007 schedules, and they have probably the most promising newcomer in golf: Nationwide Tour grad Nick Flanagan.
B is for ... Balls. The most important part of a golfer's equipment, according to Phil Mickelson's latest commercial, because 'we need them to do so many different things.' (Hey, not every letter is going to be a home run.)
C is for ... Commissioners. They're becoming more recognizable, outspoken and important on a yearly basis. Consider the PGA's Tim Finchem and the LPGA's Carolyn Bivens and their involvement in the soon-to-be implemented drug- testing policies for golfers.
D is for ... Dubai. Already a player in the golfing world, this emirate in the Middle East is where Tiger Woods has chosen to build his first golf course. It will also be the site of the world's richest golf tournament, the $10 million Dubai World Championship, on the European Tour's 2009 schedule. The European Tour's Order of Merit will be renamed The Race to Dubai, an overseas answer to the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup.
E is for ... Europeans. They finally won another major championship -- Padraig Harrington at the British Open -- and will be going for another win at the Ryder Cup in 2008.
F is for ... FedEx Cup. The PGA Tour's Policy Board voted to make several changes to the FedEx Cup beginning in 2008, including the addition of an off- week following the third playoff event, the BMW Championship. The winner will no longer have to wait until his 40s to collect the $10 million payout (a maximum of $1 million will be deferred).
G is for ... Golf Channel. 2007 marked the first season of the Golf Channel's 15-year commitment as the PGA Tour's home on cable television. Rocky at the beginning, the coverage grew steadier by the week.
H is for ... Hybrids. The clubs are affecting decisions golfers make on the course in every round, professionals and amateurs alike. More than half of the pros now carry at least one in their bag.
I is for ... Inside. It is becoming more and more important to be 'inside' certain designations in golf, especially when they pertain to money lists and rankings. Inside the top 144 on the FedEx Cup points list will get you a mathematical shot at winning $10 million, the biggest prize on the PGA Tour. Making the 32-player field at the ADT Championship will give you a chance to win the biggest paycheck on the LPGA Tour, $1 million. Inside a certain number on the money list means you don't have to grind your way through Q-school.
J is for ... Jack Nicklaus. Relevant as ever in the world of golf, Nicklaus led the United States to another win at the Presidents Cup while keeping a team full of American stars looser than John Daly at a wedding reception. Even Woody Austin. His name is still mentioned every time Tiger Woods wins another major, and then there's this: He should be the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain. That's a fact.
K is for ... Koreans. There are 32 players from South Korea inside the top 100 on the women's world rankings, including 15 in the top 50 and six in the top 20. Their relevance in the women's game can be traced to the impact of Se Ri Pak, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame this year as a 30-year- old. Pak joined the LPGA Tour full-time in 1998 and won two majors in her first season. When she claimed her 24th title at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in July, there were around 50 more Korean players competing on the LPGA Tour than there were during her rookie season.
L is for ... LPGA Tour. Dominated for so many years by Annika Sorenstam, the tour now has a new No. 1 in Lorena Ochoa and a host of burgeoning stars like Suzann Pettersen, Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis who are helping to drive prize purses up. Women's golf is alive and well, and you should be paying attention.
M is for ... Majors. Before Tiger Woods won the PGA Championship in August, each of the seven major winners on the PGA and LPGA Tours had been first- timers: Morgan Pressel, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr and Lorena Ochoa on the LPGA Tour; and Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera and Padraig Harrington on the PGA Tour. Among them, the wins for Kerr, Ochoa and Harrington stood out as long- overdue.
N is for ... Nationwide Tour. The graduating class of 2006 produced mixed results on the PGA Tour this season. Two players claimed their first PGA Tour wins: Boo Weekley and Brandt Snedeker, who both finished in the top 25 on the money list. Eighteen Nationwide Tour grads posted top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour in '07, but they combined for only 39 of them. Twenty-one came from Weekley, Snedeker, Ken Duke and Jeff Quinney.
O is for ... Ochoa, Lorena. The new force in women's golf, Ochoa grabbed the No. 1 ranking from Annika Sorenstam early in the season, then vindicated her position with an eight-win season that included her first major championship at the Women's British Open. On the way, the Mexican star became the first player in LPGA Tour history to pass the $3 million plateau in single-season earnings. Then she broke the $4 million barrier. She has won 14 times since April 2006.
P is for ... Performance-enhancing drugs. Every major golf tour in the world will implement a drug-testing policy in 2008 with the hopes of proving that their sport is clean. And it probably is -- for the most part. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't demand assurance that the players we watch on a weekly basis are competing fairly, which is why the drug-testing policies are a good thing for the sport. (Don't be surprised, however, if a positive test comes from someplace like one of the many developmental tours. Those are the players who would be looking for an edge.)
Q is for ... Q-school. The last two winners at PGA Tour Q-school -- George McNeill and J.B. Holmes -- both won the next season on tour. The 2004 champion, Brian Davis, joined McNeill in winning more than $1 million this season.
R is for ... Ryder Cup. The U.S. team has lost each of the last three Ryder Cups by a combined 21 points, including the last two by nine points apiece. The Europeans, while mostly absent from the winner's circle in major championships over the last eight years, play better as a team than the Americans (see the 'J' entry for our proposed solution). This year's Ryder Cup will be played on American soil at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky, where Tiger Woods won the 2000 PGA Championship.
S is for ... Sorenstam, Annika. When Sorenstam lost a three-way playoff for the last two spots in the second-round cut at the season-ending ADT Championship, her streak of 12 consecutive years with at least one win on the LPGA Tour came to an end. Next season will be one of the most critical of her career: Either she bounces back and challenges Lorena Ochoa for her old No. 1 ranking, or she recedes a little more into the shadows. Competitive as she is, that latter possibility may not be the worst thing for the recently engaged- again Sorenstam, who could be nearing a point in her career when she decides to concentrate on starting a family of her own. Although if there is one female athlete who could have kids and win golf tournaments at the same time, wouldn't that be Sorenstam?
T is for ... Time off. It became increasingly rarer to see stars like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson play tournaments near the end of the season, which is one of the reasons the PGA Tour created the FedEx Cup. A funny thing happened when they got their time off anyway. After many players -- especially Mickelson -- went public with their disdain for playing four weeks in a row during this year's playoffs, the PGA Tour's Policy Board inserted a week off into the schedule for next year. It's good to be one of the kings.
U is for ... Universality. The top of the men's world rankings, while dominated by Americans, also features players from South Africa, Australia, Ireland, England, Fiji, Korea, Spain, Argentina, Sweden, Canada, Japan, Denmark, Wales, etc. Asians and Americans feature prominently in the women's rankings, but the No. 1 player is from Mexico, and there are also top-50 players from Australia, Sweden, Norway, Scotland, Brazil and Paraguay.
V is for ... Vibe-Hastrup, Mads. A European Tour staple from Denmark with our favorite name in golf. (Sports Network golf office joke: 'Who's your favorite Vibe-Hastrup?' Maybe you have to be here to appreciate it.)
W is for ... Woods, Tiger. My friend was on Jupiter Island for Thanksgiving, staying at a house down the street from the property Woods purchased for $38 million last year. The compound doesn't have an address. It has something like 12 addresses. In one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the country, Woods is the top dog. Sound familiar?
X is for ... X factor. The biggest X factor in golf? Physical fitness. When Tiger Woods hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship in August, it was early evening in Tulsa and still more than 100 degrees. Woods was sweating along with the rest of them, but it was clear that his tip-top shape gave him an advantage during a sultry four days at Southern Hills. Lorena Ochoa climbs mountains in her free time, and is one of the fittest golfers of either gender.
Y is for ... Youth. As in: where are the good, young American players?
Z is for ... Shane Zywiec. The last golfer in our alphabetical player database here at the Sports Network, Zywiec played two rounds on the Nationwide Tour last year. We're guessing he's played caboose in every yearbook he's ever appeared in, so he should be used to this by now.
Watch: Dechambeau simulates dew on East Lake range
Bryson DeChambeau has certainly lived up to his nickname of "Mad Scientist" since joining the PGA Tour, using his eccentric style to win four events, including the first two tournaments of this year's FedExCup Playoffs.
And he's staying on brand at the season-ending Tour Championship, where he enters as the favorite to capture the FedExCup title.
The 24-year-old was spotted on the East Lake range Tuesday, preparing for potential morning dew on the golf ball this week - by having a member of his team spray each golf ball between practice shots:
Simulating moisture on the ball.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 18, 2018
Bryson being Bryson. pic.twitter.com/uXNadkxTOP
Bryson is using two launch monitors. Hitting brand-new balls straight out of the box. Someone scrubs his clubface before every shot, then spritzes the ball with water to simulate morning dew.— Sean Martin (@PGATOURSMartin) September 18, 2018
While this type of preparation might come off as a little excessive to the average golfer, it's rather mild for DeChambeau, considering that in the last two weeks alone he has discussed undergoing muscle activation tests and measuring his brain waves.
DeChambeau goes off with Justin Rose on Thursday at 2 p.m. He could finish as low as T-29 and still have a mathematical chance of winning the season-long FedExCup.
Fewer goals but more consistency for Thomas in 2018
ATLANTA – After winning last year’s FedExCup, Justin Thomas was asked about his goals for the season and he quickly went to his phone.
A list of 13 “goals” had been typed in, a rundown that ranged from qualifying for the Tour Championship to finishing in the top 10 in half of the circuit’s statistical categories. Nearly every goal had a “Y” next to it to denote he’d accomplished what he wanted.
Thomas was asked on Tuesday at East Lake how his goals are shaping up this season.
“I haven't looked in a while. I really haven't. I'm sure if I had to guess, I'm probably around 50 to 60, 70 percent [have been completed],” he said. “I definitely haven't achieved near as many as I did the previous year. But we still have one week left to knock a big goal off.”
Thomas pointed out that although he didn’t add to his major total this season or win as many times as he did last year, he still feels like he’s been more consistent this year.
He has more top-25 finishes (19) than he did last year (14), missed fewer cuts (two compared to six last season) and has improved in nearly every major statistical category.
“It's been a really consistent year, and I take a lot of pride in that,” Thomas said. “That's a big goal of mine is to improve every year and get better every year, so if I can continue in this direction, I feel like I can do some pretty great things the rest of my career.”
Woods' probation for reckless driving ends one month early
Tiger Woods' year-long probation stemming from last year's DUI arrest has been terminated a month early.
According to Sam Smink of WPTV, Woods, 42, was let off probation early for successfully completing all regular and special conditions of his probation after pleading guilty to reckless driving and entering a diversion program last October.
Under the conditions of the program, Woods was required to pay a $250 fine and court costs, attend a DUI school and undergo a substance abuse evaluation and treatment program. He was also subject to random drug and alcohol testing under the program.
#UPDATE: The PBC State Attorney ends #TigerWoods' probation one month early, as of 9/12. Woods was in the first time DUI offender program. While in the program, Woods had random drug/alcohol testing and was not able to consume alcohol. @wptv #wptv https://t.co/bkt3jC3Pfe pic.twitter.com/XASPJFVQtx— Sam Smink (@samsminkWPTV) September 18, 2018
The 14-time major champ was arrested on charges of DUI in May of 2017 after he was found unconscious behind the wheel of his parked Mercedes-Benz in Jupiter, Fla.
Although tests showed Woods was not under the influence of alcohol at the time, he admitted to taking several pain and sleep medications to cope with his fourth back surgery which was performed in April.
Since his arrest, Woods has returned to competition, rising to 21st in the Official World Golf Ranking after a pain-free campaign in 2018.
Players wrapping their heads around FedEx changes
ATLANTA – Even players who have known the details of the PGA Tour’s plan to dramatically change the way it crowns a FedExCup champion were still digesting the details on Tuesday at the Tour Championship.
“I think it’s maybe easier to follow for people at home. Kind of definitely strange and very different to be on 10 under par starting on the first tee,” said Justin Rose, who begins this week’s finale second on the points list.
Next year when a new strokes-based system will decide the season-long race, Rose would begin his week at East Lake 8 under, two strokes behind front-runner Bryson DeChambeau and eight shots ahead of Nos. 26-30 on the points list.
Most players said the new format will be an improvement over the current model, which is based on a complicated points structure. That’s not to say the new plan has been given universal support.
Under the current format, the 30th-ranked player has a .4 percent chance of winning the cup, while the first player on the points list has a 27 percent chance. Those odds remain virtually identical under next year’s strokes-based format.
“I’m not saying the 30th guy should have the same shot as the fifth guy, but just make the odds a little bit better. Give them a 5 percent chance,” Billy Horschel said. “The strokes could be distributed differently. Maybe put the leader at 6 under [instead of 10 under] and then you go down to even par. Five or six shots back, over four days, you still have a chance.”
There will no doubt be a period of adjustment, but after more than three years of planning, most players were pleased with the general elements of the new plan if not all of the details.
“It's never going to be perfect,” said Justin Thomas, last year’s FedExCup champion and a member of the player advisory council. “No system in any sport is ever going to be perfect, and the Tour has done such a great job of talking to us and trying to get it as good as possible. But it's just hard to understand the fact that you could be starting behind somebody else and still somehow win a golf tournament or an official win.”