Woods, McIlroy could headline Frys.com in 2015

By Will GrayOctober 13, 2014, 6:00 pm

NAPA, Calif. – With a new venue and a new tournament host, the Frys.com Open boasted one of the strongest fields of its eight-year history.

Thanks to some lingering paperwork, there’s reason to expect an even stronger gathering next year.

This year marked the Tour’s return to Silverado Resort & Spa for the first time since 1980. The field included Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood and Hunter Mahan, all of whom made a detour to wine country on the heels of the Ryder Cup in order to fulfill a make-good tied to their appearance in an unofficial event in 2012.

The trio was among eight players who competed in a match-play exhibition in Turkey two years ago, an event played opposite the Frys.com Open and was not sanctioned by either the PGA or European tours.

The players signed releases to participate in the event, and while PGA Tour officials declined to comment on the situation, Frys.com Open president Duke Butler explained that he signed off on the arrangement with a caveat.

“We agreed not to block the releases of those eight players to play in a conflicting event,” Butler told GolfChannel.com on Sunday. “In exchange, those eight players agreed to play in the Frys.com Open at least once in the next three years.”

None of the eight played in 2013, and while Kuchar, Westwood and Mahan fulfilled obligations this year, there are still five players left on the hook. They combine to have won 21 majors: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson and Charl Schwartzel.

A quid-pro-quo arrangement is nothing new on the PGA Tour, and the scenario for the “Turkey Eight” is one that remains fluid. According to Kuchar, it also may be less than binding.

Kuchar was slated to play in the inaugural America’s Golf Cup later this month in Argentina, but when that commitment fell through, he added a stop in Napa – although the Turkey situation did play a role in his decision.

“It’s one of those things where they’d like you to (play the Frys.com),” Kuchar said. “They’d like you to, and understandably. I get it.”

Fresh off a Ryder Cup win and a fan of red wine, Westwood said that he “probably” would have played this week even if he had not played in Turkey and could envision a return in 2015.

“It obviously was one of the factors,” he said. “There was no sort of penalties put on us or anything like that, but it was said that if you’re going to play in Turkey, we would appreciate it if once in the next three years you play Frys as a sort of make-way.”

Mahan’s T-3 finish at Silverado was the best of the three Turkey participants. He was the only one to indicate that he would “probably not” have played this past week without the implications from the Turkey event, citing the short offseason.

“You know beforehand what the deal is going to be,” Mahan said. “You have to sign a release from the PGA Tour to play an event like Turkey. Those are the rules, and those are the same for everybody.”

Whether those rules extend to everybody – even 14-time major champions – remains to be seen.

Woods has a history with this event, having played the Frys.com Open in 2011, when he tied for 30th at CordeValle after an injury-plagued season. While Johnny Miller, co-owner at Silverado and the 2014 tournament honoree, told the San Francisco Chronicle that next year’s event will be “almost like a different tournament” with both Woods and McIlroy competing, Butler didn’t share his level of certainty regarding Woods’ participation.

“Tiger, we wish him full health and a charge back to the top of the leaderboards,” said Butler, who added that tournament officials are optimistic all five remaining players will play in 2015. “We’ll probably know a lot more about Tiger’s participation around June 1 or so.”

The travel and fatigue issues felt by the Turkey trio this past week could be amplified next year for Woods, Simpson and Schwartzel. All three are potential participants in the Presidents Cup which will be played in South Korea in early October.

While the 2014 schedule included off weeks on both sides of the Ryder Cup, the bye weeks in 2015 will come after the Deutsche Bank Championship and the Tour Championship, meaning players would have to go from the Presidents Cup in South Korea directly to San Francisco to kick off the new season.

McIlroy, however, would not be affected by Presidents Cup travel, and is someone who all parties involved expect in the field next year. The Ulsterman verbally committed early to play in this year’s event, but after winning the Open Championship and PGA Championship, he deferred his commitment to 2015 so he could play in this week's PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

“The schedule sets up better for Rory next year,” Butler said. “The Presidents Cup precedes the Frys tournament and the start of the season, and the Dunhill Links Championship, which he likes to play, is two weeks prior to the Frys. In concept, Rory will have the week off prior.”

Three names have been cleared off the list, and five remain. Whether all of them make it to Silverado next year remains to be seen, but signs point to a star-studded kickoff to the 2015 season.

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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.