16 September 2010

    PGA Tour: Taking A Week Off

    Tiger Woods: driven to drink

    The Tour, not me.

    The PGA Tour concedes this weekend's television viewing to Football, NFL and College varieties, and we have to wait until next weekend for the Tour Championship at Atlanta's East Lake GC.
    And then, when the Atlanta dust has settled and $10M has been won, not to mention the $295K minimum bounty that goes to each of the 30 combatants, we'll be back for the final five events of the season, the Fall Series and lots to play for.

    Although next week's field are secure with their "playing privileges" for 2011, there are a number of well known golfers striving to reach the magic top 125 on the money list. Assuming this year's threshold to be about $800K, the following are among those who still have money to make:
    Duval, Imada, Curtis, Baddeley, Sutherland, Baird, Austin, Stenson and Stroud are currently inside the top 125.
    And these are on the outside looking in:
    McCarron, Byrd, Weir, RS Johnson, Quinney, Quigley, Goggin, MacKenzie, DiMarco, Pampling, Jeev Milkha Singh, Owen and Chopra. Oh, and Daly of course.

    The first Fall Series event, the same weekend as the Ryder Cup, is the Viking Classic in Mississippi, to be followed intermittently by stops in Georgia, Las Vegas (Martin Laird's title defence), California and Orlando.
    But some of these players have been sharpening their games on the Nationwide Tour, Daly and Chopra, MacKenzie and Mallinger, Stroud, Goggin and Quinney, while others are using the Nationwide as a rehab stop prior to returning to Tour business. Rich Beem for one. And Carl Paulson for another.

    You don't remember Paulson? Only six years ago he was a Tour regular, the 54-hole leader of The Players. But back injuries have kept him off Tour for more than five years now. He has a Major Medical Exemption for 2010 which will doubtless be carried over to 2011, but it's become a different game in his absence and we'll watch his progress with interest and best wishes.

    Some other thoughts on recent events:

    *Those disparaging the validity of a World Ranking system based on 2 years' results that still has Tiger Woods at #1 will have been interested to see Vera Zvonareva climb from 8 to 4 on the one-year WTA Rankings following her defeat in the US Open Tennis final. Meanwhile, winner Kim Clijsters slipped from 3 to 5.

    *Paul Casey's case for inclusion in Montgomerie's Ryder Cup Team has earned a lot of ink. Given that support of the European Tour was clearly a factor in the Team "picks", it is worth noting the number of 2010 "European Tour" qualifying events played by some golfers:
    Casey and McIlroy: 12
    Donald and Poulter: 11
    Harrington: 9
    Rose: 6

    *There will be continuing arguments about qualifying for the European Team, but there is surely a case for remembering that some European Tour golfers who have seldom played in the States have played pivotal roles in earlier European wins.
    Mike Cowan was caddying for Fred Couples when Christy O'Connor Jnr laced his 2-iron 200 yards to the Belfry's 18th in 1989: "One of the most phenomenal shots in the history of the game," said Fluff, whose man Fred flared a 9-iron wide of the green.
    Rafferty, James and Canizares were among others to win that day, and the recent list of successful Euro-only players is well known.

    Is it possible that the esprit de corps, so famously a part of European victories of the past, is less a force when the contestants are playing against those they play with week in, week out on Tour? The Presidents Cup effect??
    Regardless, it will be interesting to measure the relative successes of the Molinaris, Fisher and Hanson in Wales.

    Past year's Nationwide Tour events have featured European golfers enjoying success, Richard Johnson leading money-winner just three years ago, the same year Martin Laird "graduated". Gronberg and Bjornstadt earned Tour cards on the back of Nationwide success last year, but few Europeans have competed this year, Jonas Blixt and Gary Christian the only full-timers and neither close to their card at present.

    But you know that the stars of tomorrow's PGA Tour will mostly come from the Nationwide, and Chris Kirk, Kevin Chappell and Jamie Lovemark are certain to be Tour regulars next year, likely all making quite a splash.
    As is Tommy Two Gloves Gainey, third in money won and who would bet against him following in the footsteps of Boo Weekley a few years ago? Both earned their cards perhaps before they were ready, went back to the Nationwide to consolidate their earlier success and, in Boo's case the rest is history. Gainey's coming to a tournament near you. Or at least me.

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