Giving new definition to being on tour
MELBOURNE, Australia – Tiger Woods first made his move in the Australian Masters in the middle of the opening round, getting his name on the leaderboard next to a player named “Jordan” whom even some of the local fans did not recognize.
Damien Jordan, the last player to get into the field, was worth getting to know.
The 29-year-old rookie fulfilled one part of his dream by making it through Q-School last year on the Australasian Tour, a goal that had been put on hold when he enlisted in the Australian army and served two tours in Iraq.
The first tour was for five months in 2002, and he returned in 2005 for a seven-month tour of more heavy combat. He left the army a year later, and took two years to polish his game. If anything, it has given him a different perspective than most.
“Regardless of what happens, I know I’ll go home at the end of the day and have a hot shower, have a good feed,” he said. “Half the time you’re over there, you’re thinking, ‘This could be the time when an IED goes off and I’m not going home.’ ”
Jordan’s parents introduced him to golf at a young age, and he was slowly developing into a decent golfer when he felt compelled to join the army, serving in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment.
“A lot of people before me have given their lives for the country, and I thought, ‘Why should I be different and not put my end up?’ ” Jordan said. “That’s what I did. I met a lot of good mates, a lot of friends for life, and it made me stronger out here.”
Even now, he faces a struggle different from most.
He said his time in the army cost him his marriage, which Jordan said was one of the untold statistics of army life. He spends as much time as he can with his two daughters, ages 2 and 3.
Jordan said he will take medication the rest of his life to cope with the dreams, and he continues to see a psychiatrist twice a month.
“Even smells can bring it back,” he said. “I walked into a fruit and vegetable shop, and there had been an Iraqi shop that had the same incense going,” he said. “That made it tough. It was exactly the same. I’m trying to get away from stuff like that.”
Jordan mostly played the pro-am circuit this year in Australia, in which amateurs put up the purse while playing with the pros. It would be comparable to a mini-tour in the United States, and Jordan won eight tournaments.
The Australian Masters was his first event that counted on the world ranking. He opened with a 69 before falling well back and finishing toward the bottom of the leaderboard.
Asked for his greatest moment in golf, he smiled.
“Playing here, mate,” he said. “It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my golf career. To make the cut, and to be out here, is just brilliant. And I got to see Tiger. To play in the field with anyone of that stature is phenomenal.”
Jordan was not sure if he would get into the Australian Open or the Australian PGA Championship next month. Asked for his ultimate goal, he did not mention winning or even playing a particular tournament.
“Just keep living the dream, doing what I’m doing,” Jordan said. “Every day is a win for me.”
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RACE TO DUBAI: The European Tour has four players in position to win the Race to Dubai, which features a $7.5 million bonus pool in addition to the $7.5 million purse this week at the Dubai World Championship.
Rory McIlroy, the 20-year-old from Northern Ireland, moved atop the standings with his runner-up finish last week in Hong Kong, putting him about $190,000 ahead of Lee Westwood. They are followed by Martin Kaymer and Ross Fisher.
Paul Casey is fifth in the standings, but has withdrawn with a recurring rib injury.
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PRESIDENTS CUP: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the tour has agreed to look into the possibility of staging the Presidents Cup in China in 2019, which he said might be enough time for China to set a goal of having a player capable of competing in the matches, or worthy enough to be a captain’s pick.
If that’s the case, it would leave 2015 open for an international venue.
Finchem is intrigued by the idea that the Presidents Cup head to South America in 2015, one year before golf returns to the Olympic program in Brazil. Golf is only guaranteed the 2016 and 2020 Olympics before another vote of confirmation. It is important that golf put on a good show in Rio.
“We can’t just show up and say, ‘We’re here,’ ” Finchem said.
The Nationwide Tour is headed to Colombia next year, home country of Camilo Villegas. One problem is that the best players from South America are coming from Argentina – two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, Andres Romero, Ricardo Gonzalez, Daniel Vancsik and Estanislao Goya. Argentina held a wildly successful World Cup, won by Tiger Woods and David Duval, in 2000.
“Will that help with an Olympics in Brazil? I don’t know,” Finchem said.
He said the first priority before South America – perhaps Brazil, in this case – can be considered for a Presidents Cup is getting more golf courses built.
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TIGER’S CHECK: Depending on the exchange rate when the check was written, Tiger Woods earned a little more than $250,000 for his victory in the Australian Masters, which was the sixth-lowest winning check of his career.
Two of those checks came on the PGA Tour.
Woods earned $216,000 for winning at Disney in 1996 and the Mercedes Championship at La Costa to open the next season. The tour negotiated its new TV deal later that year, and prize money took off a few years later.
The smallest check was $48,450 in 1997 for winning the Asian Honda Classic, followed by $190,798 for winning the Johnnie Walker Classic in 2000. Woods also received only $223,061 for winning the Johnnie Walker in 1998.
Of course, he received appearance fees that dwarfed the total purse in those overseas events.
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DIVOTS: Tiger Woods earned 28 World Ranking points with his victory in the Australian Masters, the fewest for any victory since he received 24 in the 2000 Johnnie Walker Classic. ... There were 91 players who earned over $1 million on the PGA Tour, the fewest since 78 players in 2005. ... The PGA Tour had 13 playoffs this year, three short of the record last set in 1991.
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STAT OF THE WEEK: Adam Scott tied for third in Singapore and tied for sixth in Australia. It was the first time he had top 10s in consecutive tournaments since May 2008.
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FINAL WORD: “I’m definitely playing well. I haven’t missed a cut since Tiger invited me to his tournament. But unfortunately, it’s not about missing cuts out here.” – Chris Riley, who failed to finish inside the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list to keep his card.