Tour notes: Travel travails; winter wish list; more
If you’re going to play the PGA Tour from the periphery, you need to keep the clubs and passport within easy reach. You never know when you’ll need to catch a flight.
That reality was driven home this week when Jim Renner determined on Tuesday that he had best make plans for a trip to the Cancun region, just in case.
Sitting 44th on the priority list out of the Web.com Tour Finals, Renner didn’t figure to get into the OHL Classic in Mayakoba. Late last week, he knew he was well down the alternate list, so he was prepared to practice and be ready for the Sony Open in Hawaii (Jan. 9-12). Then, the withdrawals started coming in – Angel Cabrera, Roberto Castro, Russell Henley – and when Daniel Chopra called to say he wasn’t coming, Alex Prugh got a spot, elevating Renner to first alternate.
Of course, you can’t get in if you’re in Orlando, so Wednesday morning at 9, Renner flew from Orlando to Miami, then on to Cancun. Somewhere en route he received word that his efforts were going to be rewarded. Troy Merritt had withdrawn, so Renner was in.
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NO PLACE TO PLAY: Six of the bottom 10 in the list of 50 who earned 2013-14 PGA Tour cards through the Web.com Tour Finals failed to get into even one of the first six tournaments.
Daniel Chopra, No. 41, did qualify for this week’s tournament in Mayakoba, Mexico, but he opted to stay on the other side of the world for the Manila Masters on the Asian Tour. Mark Anderson, No. 45, did not play, either, nor did Nos. 47-50 – Kevin Foley, Matt Bettencourt, Will Wilcox and Ben Alvarado, respectively.
For them, good news will arrive in the form of larger fields at the Sony Open (144 players) Jan. 9-12, the Humana Challenge (156) the following week, then the Farmers Insurance Open (156).
Of the bottom 10, only No. 46 Kevin Tway (three sponsor exemptions) got into three tournaments. Alex Prugh got into two, once as a sponsor exemption, once on his number, while No. 43 Miguel Angel Carballo will play this week for the first time and Jim Renner for the second.
Of course, none of these 10 players will be affected much by the upcoming reshuffle after this week’s Mayakoba; their priority ranking will remain low. But given the likelihood of playing at Sony, the Humana, in San Diego and at Pebble Beach, they have a short window to show their stuff before the next reshuffle, Feb. 24.
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IF ONLY IT WERE THIS EASY: Taking time as winter settles in to put together my “wish” list for the world of golf:
• Oh, to put an end to these gimmicky pre-tournament publicity photo opportunities. Last week, Tiger Woods hit a golf ball on a bridge in Turkey. This week in Dubai, Lee Westwood & Co. hit balls off the roof of a Dubai hotel. In the past, players have hit balls off of ships, over gorges and onto floating targets. By now, they’re cliches.
• Even if they say it, let’s not write that players “have worked hard” on their golf games. They’re supposed to; they’re professionals. Millions of people work hard at what they do for a living, too.
• Tom Watson favors a world without captain’s picks in the Ryder Cup? Let him walk the walk. Tell the boys, “Top 12 make the team.”
• As of Jan. 1, caddies no longer can stand behind players and “line them up,” be it a tee shot, an approach, a putt or to get through the buffet. My rule.
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MR. CONSISTENCY: As he goes on his annual November global adventure – this year featuring a double-header at Royal Melbourne, the Aussie Masters and World Cup – Matt Kuchar remains a consistent marvel. At his hometown Sea Island event last week, Kuchar ran his streak of consecutive cuts made to a PGA Tour-best 28.
He hasn’t missed weekend play since the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah. Even more impressive, Kuchar has missed just three cuts in his last 70 tournaments, a stretch of golf that has featured three victories and a whopping 27 top-10s.
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ROUGH STRETCH: You won’t hear Scott Verplank laughing about tournaments routinely categorized as “silly.” From his participation in the 2012 Shark Shootout and 2013 Tavistock Cup, Verplank earned $131,250.
On the other hand, in 25 PGA Tour starts since 2012, Verplank has earned $94,073.
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TURNED THE CORNER? Making the cut in back-to-back tournaments hardly seems to be a celebratory occasion in the mega-rich PGA Tour world, but it was for Aaron Baddeley. When he got into weekend play at the CIMB and McGladrey events, it marked the first time since last April (Valero, RBC Heritage) that he made two straight cuts.
The McGladrey also put a halt to a long stretch of pedestrian play by Scott Langley and Seung-Yul Noh.
Langley wound up T-22 at Sea Island, halting a streak of 25 tournaments in which he had not been inside the top 25. That skid began right after his T-3 at the Sony Open in his debut as a card-carrying member.
Noh was T-27 at the McGladrey. Doesn’t sound like much? Well, since finishing T-16 at the Northern Trust last February, Noh had played in 21 full-field PGA Tour stops with his best effort a T-46.
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NO. 5 SUITS HIM: Not that he repeated the feat when the tournament officially began, but Jason Kokrak showed that his pro-am effort in the McGladrey Classic was a good omen. Kokrak aced the 409-yard, par-4 fifth hole at the Seaside Course at Sea Island GC.
Improbable that he would do that again, but in the fourth round of the tournament, Kokrak did eagle the hole, and in Round 1 he made birdie. In between were two pars, so all in all, safe to say that the big man will take the fifth – at the Seaside Course, that is.