Top players may skip one elevated PGA Tour event this season as their calendar has more events in a tighter period. How that will plays out will be interesting.
The PGA Tour’s plan to have 12 elevated events for top players in addition to the four major championships, the Players Championship and three more of their choosing has already seen a change.
The Associated Press reported that the PGA Tour Policy Board has voted in favor of allowing players to skip one event outside of the majors for personal or professional reasons. The PGA Tour confirmed this opt-out. The board is also allowing players to count a fall event as one of the three additional tournaments, although that aspect won’t be available in 2024 when a condensed schedule will feature January-to-August play.
When commissioner Jay Monahan announced the plan that would bring the best players together more often—in return, that is how they qualify for the season-ending Player Impact Program and $100 million on bonus money—there was bound to be some fallout.
Part of it is simply scheduling, which will become easier in 2024 when the Tour can move events around a bit more. The 2023 schedule was already set and the PGA Tour had to work within that framework to find for more elevated tournaments.
Among the issues players will face in 2023 are seven events in 10 weeks, starting with the WM Phoenix Open and concluding with the RBC Heritage. Among the elevated events in that stretch are the Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Players Championship, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and the Masters.
It’s a lot of golf, but now a player has the option to skip one. Or he could skip the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Or elect not to play the Travelers the week following the U.S. Open.
Where a problem exists is if too many players choose the same place to skip. Or perhaps it won’t happen at all. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see it all play out as the best players come together more often.
Steven Alker uses late birdie streak to win Schwab Cup opener
RICHMOND, Va. — Steven Alker said he tries not to look at the leaderboard when he’s in contention.
The golfer from New Zealand did glance at the board at the 15th hole, then put together the surge that left his name alone on top of it.
Alker birdied three straight holes to break out of a late four-way tie for the lead on Sunday and won the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, the opening event in the Charles Schwab Cup on the PGA Tour Champions.
“It was a kind of a dogfight down there at the end,” Alker said. “I was trying not to look at the leaderboard because there’s so many guys just trying to win this golf tournament.”
Alker, who started the tournament as the Schwab Cup leader in the three-event finish to the season, made birdies at Nos. 15, 16 and 17 and beat K.J. Choi by one shot for his fourth victory of the season. That ties Steve Stricker for the most on the tour this season.
It was a birdie at the par-4 10th hole, Alker said, that actually put him in a frame of mind to win. Kelly, playing in the same group, made bogey on the hole, dropping into a tie.
“So that kind of changed my mindset a little bit, and then, you know, there’s a couple of tough holes before we start on the shorter holes,” Alker said. “So just get through those and then, you know, try and sprint to the finish.”
Drawing even helped him put going 1 over on the last three holes on the front nine behind him.
“Maybe just kind of freed me up a little bit, you know, just kind of relaxed a little bit because I just had the struggles on kind of seven, eight, nine,” Alker said. “It just didn’t wasn’t happening and then hit a quality shot on 10 and to be tied, I wasn’t chasing anymore.”
Kelly, who led after each of the first two rounds on the James River Course at the Country Club of Virginia, had the lead until the par-4 15th hole, when a slight drizzle and temperatures around 60 changed the conditions and his birdie try stopped on the edge of the cup. Playing partners Alker and Padraig Harrington made their putts to pull even at 12 under, and moments later, in the grouping ahead, Choi also got to 12 under.
“I’m not very strong in those conditions right now,” Kelly said. “And, you know, he played pretty well in those conditions. Could have played better. But, you know, if the weather would have stayed the same, who knows what would have happened?”
Alker said it reminded him of home, which was just fine.
“It was kind of like New Zealand weather. Overcast, a little bit of drizzle, and we’re just waiting for the fog to come, and I would have felt right at home,” he said.
Alker added birdies on the par-5 16th and the par-3 17th, then closed with a tap-in par on the par-5 18th, raising his arms in triumph as it fell, making Choi’s closing birdie good enough only for a runner-up finish.
Kelly, who closed with an even-par 72, Harrington (69) and Doug Barron (69) shared third, two shots behind, with Ernie Els (67) and Brian Gay (69) sharing sixth. Els was one shot back after a birdie at the par-4 11th, but finished with seven consecutive pars.
Zozo Championship: Keegan Bradley ends four-year PGA Tour title drought as Rickie Fowler fades
Keegan Bradley wins fifth PGA Tour title of his career and first since 2018 with one-shot triumph over Rickie Fowler and Andrew Putnam at Zozo Championship in Japan; overnight leader Fowler fades and remains without a victory on the PGA Tour since February 2019
Keegan Bradley secured his first PGA Tour victory in four years at the Zozo Championship as fellow American Rickie Fowler’s title drought extended.
Bradley – previously winless since the 2018 BMW Championship – shot a two-under-par 68 to end on 15 under for the tournament and scoop close to $2 million.
Overnight leader Fowler finished on 14 under after a level round of 70, with Andrew Putnam also on 14 under after a final-round 68 at the Narashino Country Club in Japan.
It is closing in on four years since Fowler claimed the most recent of his five PGA Tour successes – the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February 2019.
The 33-year-old led Bradley by two strokes and Putnam by one going into the final round and the trio each headed the field during different stages of Sunday’s action.
Bradley surged two clear following a 20-foot birdie putt at the 11th before Putnam moved level with his countryman at the 16th.
However, Bradley – the 2011 PGA champion – re-established a two-stroke advantage at the 17th as he bagged a birdie and Putnam recorded a bogey.
Putnam’s birdie on the last was not enough as Bradley made par to earn a fifth PGA Tour crown.
Bradley said afterwards: “It’s why I practice so hard. Things aren’t easy for me normally, so the birdie on the 17th was one of the best holes of my life.
“This is so special. I played in the final group here when Tiger Woods won here [in 2019]. I’m so proud to win this tournament.”
Fowler’s hopes of a sixth PGA Tour victory faded when he bogeyed the 15th before wasting a birdie chance at the next with another disappointing putt.
He did birdie the 18th, though, to finish tied for second with Putnam – one shot ahead of Emiliano Grillo (13 under) and two above Viktor Hovland, Sahith Theegala and Hayden Buckley (12 under).