Still plenty to play for on tour
Much of the drama is missing, thanks to Vijay Singh.
A year ago, as the PGA Tour season concluded, a handful of players were still in contention for PGA Tour Player of the Year honors, as well as the money title. Singh already has both wrapped up.
But that doesn't mean there isn't plenty at stake as the last four full-field events unfold during the next month beginning with this week's Michelin Championship at Las Vegas.
Ask any of the players hovering outside the top 125 on the money list.
Ask any of the players not in the top 40, or the top 30, or the top 20.
As the long season winds down, dozens of players will be fighting for any number of things. It might not get the attention of the No. 1 ranking, or the No. 1 spot on the money list. But to them, it might be just as important.
|Where they're playing|
TPC at Summerlin (7,243 yards, par 72), TPC at The Canyons (7,193 yards, par 71) and Bear's Best Golf Club (7,381 yards, par 72).
$4 million (Winner: $720,000)
Thursday: 4-6 p.m. ET (USA)
Friday: 4-6 p.m. ET (USA)
Saturday: 3-6 p.m ET (ABC)
Sunday: 3-6 p.m ET (ABC)
While Singh and Ernie Els, the new No. 2 in the World Ranking, do battle this week at the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland -- the first of four expected head-to-head matchups between the two to end the season and determine who is No. 1 for the near future -- many of the PGA Tour's rank and file are assembled in Las Vegas, hoping to take advantage of the opening.
And now, every advantage is key.
What's at stake?
The Tour Championship: The top 30 on the money list through the Chrysler Championship on Oct. 31 earn a spot in the prestigious season-ending event. There is no cut at the tournament to be played at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, meaning a big payday for those who qualify for the event with a $6 million purse.
U.S. Open and British Open: For those not already exempt, a finish among the top 30 money winners gets a spot in the U.S. Open. A top 20 finish is required for an invite to the British Open.
Masters: For players not already invited to Augusta National next spring, finishing among the top 40 money winners is another way to get in the year's first major.
Invitationals: Those who finish among the top 70 money winners assure themselves spots in the speciality events such as the Bay Hill Invitational, Colonial and Memorial. Top 125: This is where jobs are at stake. In order to be fully exempt next season and able to gain entry into any full-field event, a player must finish among the top 125 money winners. Scott Hend is in 125th position right now, just $7,000 ahead of Dean Wilson. A strong finish this week gives them some security.
Top 150: For those who don't finish among the top 125, ending up between 126th and 150th is a small consolation. Those players get a free pass to the finals of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, where they can attempt to earn one of 30 tour cards and improve their ranking. And players in this position will still have limited status next year.
Out of the top 150: These players will have no status on the PGA Tour in 2004, unless they are past winners of a tournament. And in order to regain their cards, they will have to make it through two stages of the qualifying tournament.
And time is running out.
And you couldn't ask for better venues. The European version of Pebble Beach, the Dunhill is played at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. St. Andrews, of course, is the home of golf and will be the site for the 2005 British Open. Carnoustie hosted the championship in 1999 and will do so again in 2007. Kingsbarns is a five-year old venue located a few miles from St. Andrews with views every bit as stunning as those at Pebble Beach.
The format calls for pros and an amateur to play each of the three courses, with a cut made after 54 holes. Those who advance to the final round will play St. Andrews again on Sunday.
Several PGA Tour regulars are in the field, including Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Fred Couples, Nick Price and Adam Scott. European Ryder Cup players Lee Westwood, the defending champion, along with Colin Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Luke Donald, Paul Casey, David Howell and Thomas Levet are also entered.
It should be some tournament.
|Got a question about the PGA Tour? Ask ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig, who will answer your inquiries in each installment of This Week in Golf.
Q. After watching Tiger Woods from 2000-'02, have we witnessed the best golf will ever offered? The 1980s and early 90s were the best of times for the NBA (Bird, Magic, Jordan), but it has since seen a huge dropoff. I am a huge Vijay Singh fan, but it seems that golf is not as compelling as it has been in recent years?
A. Television ratings proved that Woods made it compelling, even when he was winning big. His run from 1999 through 2002, when he won seven of 11 majors and captured nine tournaments in 2000 alone, was the stuff of legend. It might very well be that we don't see that type of golf again.
Q. Do you think that Fred Couples will ever be a Ryder Cup captain? It is said that he is in the running but they are favoring Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, Mark O'Meara or Paul Azinger. I think that his laid back attitude, but exceptional play in Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, and other team events (with Davis Love III) would be a perfect combination of experience and attitude.
A. Couples fits the U.S. Ryder Cup captain profile. He is in his mid-40s, but still competitive and playing on the PGA Tour. He has a major championship, the 1992 Masters. And he has double-digit PGA Tour victories. Couples is well-liked by the players and his laid-back style might be the perfect choice for the PGA of America. But he's up against a lot of competition. Paul Azinger, Mark O'Meara, Tom Lehman and Corey Pavin are also worthy candidates. And Larry Nelson has been getting plenty of attention lately.
Q. Why do golfers complain of "unfair" conditions on the golf course? The course could be extremely difficult, but if they all play the same course, so how can it be unfair? Am I the only one that feels this way?
Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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