Featured Golf News
The Month Ahead - October
The long wait is over. Now, after some mildly entertaining golf over the last few weeks, it's time to sit back, strap yourself in and enjoy the part of the PGA Tour season we patiently anticipate all year long - the Fall Series, and its big curtain-raiser, the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
I'm joking, of course.
This is the time of year golf traditionally loses the fans it has picked up along the way. After four thoroughly absorbing FedEx Cup playoffs and one pulsating Ryder Cup, it had no doubt attracted a large number of sports enthusiasts otherwise indifferent to golf who, up until a few weeks ago, probably hadn't suspected the game could be so exciting. But now they flood back to the developing football season, less than intrigued by the prospect of late-season 'B-list' golf tournaments in which the only carry-overs from that amazing Ryder Cup are one non-playing captain, a charitable organization that not only supports this tournament but founded the club at which last week's drama unfolded, and one U.S. Team ambassador who, they fear, might take the opportunity to recite questionable golf poetry again.
To be fair, the field for Justin Timberlake's event at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas isn't at all bad. It might not be full to the max with members of the game's elite and big enough to retain the casual fan that drifts in and out of golf like people who enjoy water polo or beach volleyball at the Olympics and then go four years before catching another game. But there should be plenty to keep the avid (really avid) golfer interested.
Davis Love III will surely be the main attraction, four days after his team went into the final-day singles at Medinah looking unbeatable and came out the other side battered, bruised and . . . beaten. It would elevate the tournament's position on ESPN's SportsCenter if the 48-year-old American captain was to actually win, but he surely won't be in a fit mental state to contend. Or maybe, just maybe, with the stress of 18 months' preparation and three days of intense competition now behind him, he will be motivated to play as best he can and channel the form that saw him finish in a tie for third in Memphis in June. How cool a story it would be, in fact, if Love were to record his 21st Tour win this week.
Others worth watching at the Timberlake tournament will be the five players who made it through the FedEx playoffs to reach the Tour Championship at East Lake and thus finished in the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings - John Huh (29th), Scott Piercy (27th), Robert Garrigus (23rd), Ryan Moore (11th) and Vegas resident Nick Watney, who won the Barclays in August, led the standings for a week and must have been in the reckoning for a spot on Love's Ryder Cup team at some point.
John Daly is also in the field as is Jason Day who, a year after finishing runner-up at both the Masters and U.S. Open and finishing the season 14th in the FedEx Cup standings with nearly $4 million in earnings, has done no better than a tie for eighth in 2012. The 24-year-old Aussie was forced to withdraw during the second round at Augusta National in April due to an ankle injury, and the second half of the season has no doubt been impacted by the arrival of his first child, a son named Dash, in July.
The Fall Series moves to California the second week of October for the Frys.com Open where, you'll remember, Tiger Woods made a surprise appearance last year. Despite playing only eight official events through August in 2011 because of Achilles tendon and knee injuries, Woods was handed a wild-card spot in Fred Couples' Presidents Cup team and needed some competitive action before Melbourne. He finished tied for 30th at CordeValle after having a hot dog thrown at him in the final round, and then won two out of five points in Australia.
This year, Woods will have no need for the Fall Series and, instead of CordeValle, will be in Turkey for the eight-man Turkish Airlines World Golf Final at the PGA Sultan Course at Antalya GC, where he will play for a $5.3 million purse along with Hunter Mahan, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson and Rory McIlroy, who the Turkish Airlines website calls Rory "McLLorroy" and notes is an excellent athlete "according to observers" and "has a bright future" (wow, they must have some pretty astute, eagle-eyed observers in Turkey).
From the Middle East, Woods heads to Southeast Asia and the CIMB Classic at the Mines Resort & Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur, where Bo Van Pelt will be defending the tournament he won by six shots last year. Now in its third year, the PGA and Asian Tour co-sanctioned Asia Pacific Classic is growing in stature as the PGA Tour seeks to establish a presence in that part of the world. Not only will Woods and Van Pelt be playing, Rickie Fowler, Watney and Woods's Ryder Cup teammate Jason Dufner have also committed.
Before that though is the McGladrey Classic in St. Simons Island, Ga. Ben Crane won the event last year even though he was seven shots out of the lead with 11 holes to go. Eight birdies in a final-round 63 put the Oregonian in a playoff with Webb Simpson, which Crane won when his good friend made a bogey on the second extra hole. Louis Oosthuizen and Trevor Immelman also finished in the top five. Love will be out again this year with the rest of the "Sea Island Mafia" - Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Jonathan Byrd, Lucas Glover, Brian Harman and Harris English.
In Europe, there are nine tournaments remaining to see who will follow Luke Donald as the winner of the Race to Dubai. October sees the Portugal Masters in Vilamoura, the Perth International in Australia and the BMW Masters in China. But before heading off 'round the world, the Tour goes to more familiar ground and the Alfred Dunhill Links at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, where returning Ryder Cuppers Martin Kaymer, Peter Hanson and Paul Lawrie will undoubtedly be given a hero's welcome.
The women of the LPGA Tour also have some traveling to do this month with three events in Southeast Asia. Two weeks before the men arrive Na Yeon Choi will be in Kuala Lumpur to defend her Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia title. From there, the Tour heads to Incheon in South Korea for the HanaBank Championship, and then Taiwan for the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, where Yani Tseng will be trying to repeat her 2011 victory in front of home crowds. In fact, Tseng, who has endured a very mediocre patch of form since her last top-10 finish in May, and her last win in March, will be desperate to revive her form at this time last year when she had two wins and a second-place finish in this trio of Asia events.
And October sees the finale of the Web.com Tour, which has three full-field events leading up to the 60-man Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Craig Ranch October 25-28. Doug LaBelle currently holds the all-important 25th position on the money list (the top 25 qualify for next year's PGA Tour), with Camilo Benedetti in 26th, about $8,000 behind.
The majors, playoffs and Ryder Cup may be over for the year (there is still one WGC event in China in November), but devoted golf fans, and those looking to earn spots on their intended Tours for next season, know there is still an awful lot to play for in October.
Tony Dear is an Englishman living in Bellingham, Wash. In the early 1990s he was a member of the Liverpool University golf team which played its home matches at Royal Liverpool GC. Easy access to Hoylake made it extremely difficult for him to focus on Politics, his chosen major. After leaving Liverpool, he worked as a golf instructor at a club just south of London where he also made a futile attempt at becoming a 'player.' He moved into writing when it became abundantly clear he had no business playing the game for a living. A one-time golf correspondent of the New York Sun, Tony is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, the Pacific Northwest Golf Media Association and the Golf Travel Writers Association. He is a multi-award winning journalist, and edits his own website at www.bellinghamgolfer.com.