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by Kevin Currie
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Too little, too late for PGA Tour?
Kevin Currie, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
A week after Jim Furyk overslept and missed his pro-am tee time, the PGA Tour suspended its own rule that disqualifies a player for missing a pro-am.
But has the damage been done? Furyk would probably argue that it has.
We have all been there before. You wake up a few minutes after a final started, or 10 minutes before a job interview, or five minutes before you are supposed to be at work and the office is 20 minutes away.
It happened to Furyk last week. He was doomed by a dead cell phone battery and woke up less than 10 minutes before his scheduled pro-am tee time.
Furyk raced to the course and got there no more than five minutes after he was scheduled to tee off, but was deemed to have missed his tee time and disqualified.
"I overslept. I always use my phone as an alarm and it had no power this morning," Furyk explained.
After plenty of criticism over Furyk's disqualification, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem suspended the rule for the remainder of the year. The rule that says players must compete in the pro-am to play in the tournament was originally put into place so that players couldn't just skip the pro-am for no reason.
But, as Phil Mickelson pointed out, the rule applies to only some of those entered in each week's tournament.
"The rule itself applies to only half the field. So if you're going to have a rule that does not apply to everybody, because not everybody played the pro- am, you cannot have it affect the competition," explained Mickelson. "It's got to be a different penalty. It can't be disqualification if it only applies to half the field.
"I cannot disagree with it more. I have no idea how the commissioner let this rule go through. It's ridiculous. I made my viewpoint very clear to him."
Strong words from the No. 2-ranked golfer in the world, who previously had a run-in with this rule himself. In 2007, Mickelson was stuck in Arkansas due to heavy rain and flooding. The airports around him were closed and he was unable to get to Texas for his pro-am tee time.
The tour made an accommodation for that, but if you're 10 minutes away catching some extra shut-eye as Furyk was, no dice. Not only are you out of the pro-am, you are disqualified from the tournament.
Furyk has made nearly $50 million in his career on the course. Being kicked out of an event with a $1.35 million first-place paycheck might not be a big deal for him. At the same time, missing the tournament did drop Furyk from third to eighth in the FedExCup playoff points standings. Entering this week's second playoff event, the Deutsche Bank Championship, Furyk is 2,246 points behind points-leader Matt Kuchar. If the disqualification ends up costing Furyk the top spot at the end of the FedExCup points race, there will be even more consternation, not least due to the $10 million first-place paycheck that comes with winning the trophy.
To his credit, Finchem heard the complaints and responded quickly. In a statement on Tuesday, Finchem called for the Player Advisory Council to evaluate the current pro-am regulations.
"Hereafter, should a player be late for his pro-am starting time, the situation will be handled as a matter of unbecoming conduct," said the commissioner's statement. "Such player will be required to participate in the remainder of the pro-am round and may be required to perform additional sponsor activity. A player who misses his pro-am obligation in its entirety will still be ruled ineligible for the tournament unless he has been excused in accordance with the provisions of the regulations."
The players realize the importance of the pro-ams. They get paired with three players that forked over a nice chunk of change - $8,500 or more in some cases - to have the chance to compete alongside the best players in the world.
No one ever knows what opportunities could arise from these pro-ams. There's a chance that a tour player could find a new sponsor for himself through a pro- am.
Mickelson had this one right. If the rule only applies to half the field, change it or get rid of it.
GOLF EN FUEGO
I've been golfing for nearly 25 years and have caddied for over 10. Suffice it to say, I've seen a lot of things on a golf course.
However, one thing happened last week that most people have never seen before. A golfer at Shady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine, Cal. sparked a fire with a single swing.
The poor soul has remained nameless, and who would want to be connected with that? Said player was hitting a shot out of the rough and clipped a rock with his swing.
The golf club/rock connection created a spark which lit the rough on fire.
Nearly 150 firefighters and 12 burned acres later, the fire was finally extinguished.
Who knows, maybe someone yelled 'Noonan' while the guy was swinging. Though in this case, he didn't hit his ball into the lumber yard - he burned it down.
- At one point in his career, Matt Kuchar had just 10 top-10s in 149 starts. This year, he has 10 top-10s in 22 starts. He should be under consideration for PGA Tour player of the year.
- People always talk about golf being a gentlemen's sport which polices itself. Junior golfers are taught the rules growing up, and start policing themselves at a young age. Zach Nash, a 14-year-old in Wisconsin, disqualified himself after winning a recent tournament because he had too many clubs in his bag. He realized the mistake after the tournament and turned in his winning medal. He could have gotten away with it, but showed maturity beyond his years in giving up the victory.