Class of '14 adds talent to Champions Tour
Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.
Just like that, yesterday’s kids are tomorrow’s seniors. The Champions Tour rookie class of 2014 not only is large and impressive, it might make you feel old.
I mean, Davis Love III, Scott Verplank, Billy Andrade and Lee Janzen turn 50 next year, and I’m fairly certain I remember watching them before they could shave.
The new crop also includes Woody Austin, Jeff Maggert, Joe Durant, Stephen Ames, Paul Goydos, Kevin Sutherland and Skip Kendall.
It’s an uncharacteristically big infusion, perhaps the deepest group yet. All 11 are expected to be able to walk onto the Champions Tour with full exempt status based on career earnings.
The question is: How much will they play? The answer is: A varied amount.
Twenty-time winner Love says he doesn’t have plans to play the over-50 Tour yet, that he wants to win more on the junior Tour, but he might re-evaluate after his April birthday. Love finished in the top 100 of the Tour money list every year since 1986 until 2013.
Austin, based on a 2013 victory, is exempt on Tour through the 2014-15 season. Maggert also might want to keep playing the PGA Tour after a 2013 season in which he placed second at The Players and earned more than $1 million.
The Champions Tour also will get five fully exempt graduates from next week’s Q-School in Scottsdale, Ariz. Willie Wood, a two-time winner in 2012, and Steve Pate are entered in an attempt to improve their conditional status.
Others Q-School hopefuls include past winners Jim Gallagher Jr., Gary Hallberg, Steve Jones, David Peoples, Mike Reid, Eduardo Romero and Stan Utley. Romero has five Champions titles, including the 2008 U.S. Senior Open.
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Remarkably, one-time ballstriking ace Robert Allenby has made a long fall since playing in the Presidents Cup in late 2011 and losing an eight-hole Mayakoba Golf Classic playoff to rookie John Huh in February 2012. The four-time Tour winner returns to Mayakoba this week hoping to recapture form he had there last year.
Allenby, 42, clearly was distracted while going through a divorce in 2011-12 after 11 years of marriage. His pain extended to the golf course: since the Mayakoba playoff, Allenby has missed the cut in 33 of 49 Tour starts and finished better than 27th just twice, both in Memphis. His streak of 13 consecutive years in the top 125 ended last season.
He has succeeded over the years on the strength of ballstriking and despite a subpar short game. As recently as 2008 and ’09 he ranked fourth and seventh, respectively, in Tour ballstriking.
But in a mess of a 2013, he could no longer rely on good contact, for he ranked 164th in ballstriking to go with poor putting (157th) and scrambling (168th). He ranked even worse in putting and scrambling the year before.
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Huh, 23, earned more than $4.2 million during his first two seasons on Tour. On top of that, he has perhaps golf’s best nickname: The Question Mark.
Having given out hundreds of nicknames over the years, most of them featuring two words and a name (i.e., Rush Street Robert), I am jealous of the person who gave Huh that moniker. I mean, my best probably was for a divorced woman named Teresa a buddy took Christmas tree shopping a few years ago:
Single Mother Teresa.
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Maybe the golf gods heard Briny Baird at the McGladrey Classic.
Baird, 41, had negative swing thoughts on the 72nd tee Sunday, hit a couple of bad shots and made a watery bogey in suffering a heartbreaking one-stroke loss to Chris Kirk.
Three days earlier, after an opening 63, Baird said he probably would rather be the player who has “won the most money and not won than the guy who has won the least amount and won once.”
Baird has the double-edged distinction of leading active, fully exempt Tour players with most starts (365) and money won ($13.18 million) without victory.
His take after the first round also included this continued candor:
“I can’t say, but ask someone who’s won once if they would trade their win for six more million? I don’t know. ... It’s not all about trophies. (It) does drive you a little nuts (hearing) that we’re only out here playing for trophies. I kind of cringe at that because that’s not true. Otherwise we’d just be donating our money to charity and living out of huts. And not flying private planes everywhere.”
This much would appear to be true: People who say it’s not about the money have plenty of it. And those who say they play only for trophies probably have more than plenty of money.