New-look Tour Championship approved for world ranking points

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

By DOUG FERGUSON

AP Golf Writer

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) The player who takes the fewest strokes might not win the Tour Championship because of the radical scoring change for the FedEx Cup in which the top seed will start at 10-under par with a two-shot advantage.

The PGA Tour will continue to keep a traditional score, even if it won't be published, so that world ranking points can be awarded.

The Official World Golf Ranking board met last week at the Masters and approved a PGA Tour proposal that awards full ranking points based on where players would have finished without the staggered start.

The No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup starts the tournament at 10 under, with the No. 2 seed at 8 under, and then 7 under, 6 under and 5 under. The next five players start at 4 under, all the way down until Nos. 26 through 30 begin at even par.

Last year at East Lake, Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship at 11-under par, and Justin Rose, who finished tied for fourth at 6 under, won the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus.

Under the new system, Woods would have started at 2 under as the 20th seed, and thus finished at 13 under. Instead of winning and getting 62 ranking points, he would have finished second. Rose was at 6 under, but he would have started at 8 under as the No. 2 seed and finished at 14 under.

The world ranking could not have given Rose points for "winning" when his real score had him tied for fourth.

The Tour Championship has such a strong field that not awarding ranking points could have cost players endorsement money, because most contracts have an incentive tied to the world ranking. It's even more critical now because of how tight it is at the top.

Brooks Koepka finished the year at No. 1 by an average of 0.02 points.

Already this year, there have been four changes at the top of the ranking among Dustin Johnson, Koepka and Rose.

Tiger Woods officially resumed his chase of Jack Nicklaus and his 18 professional majors when he won the Masters for his 15th major title, and his first in nearly 11 years since the 2008 U.S. Open.

His better chance is a race no less prestigious - Sam Snead and his record 82 career PGA Tour victories.

The PGA Tour already has begun preparing for such a moment by publishing "Tiger Woods, Chasing 82" on its website. Along with a look at various segments in Woods' career - when he held all four majors, through swing changes, returning from various injuries - the tour goes deep in explaining how Snead reached 82 victories. He was once credited with 84 and then his total was reduced to 81, before the British Open was added.

It should come into view the next time Woods plays, which could be the Wells Fargo Championship the first week in May.

Woods first was asked about Snead's record in 2012, when he was at 73 victories. For so much of his career, the topic was always Nicklaus and his 18 majors.

"I was aware of it, but at the time, everyone focused on Jack's record," Woods said at Congressional in 2012. "But as I delved more into the game and was probably in high school, I started understanding Sam's contributions to the game of golf and his consistency. The fact that he won at age 52, when he won Greensboro, and to do it for that long is amazing. Truly amazing."

Lost in all the excitement over Tiger Woods winning the Masters for the fifth time was a battle to the end to be low amateur.

Viktor Hovland of Norway, a junior at Oklahoma State, made bogey on his final hole, the par-4 ninth. That dropped him into a tie with Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico, who finished his college career at Arkansas.

Ortiz then finished with a bogey at No. 9 to finish one back of Hovland.

They were among four amateurs who made the cut and were vying for the sterling silver cup, and a spot in Butler Cabin for the green jacket presentation to the winner, which turned out to be Woods.

"I'm pretty happy with my performance, just making the cut and showing that I can play out here," said Hovland, who finished at 3-under 285 and shot par or better all four rounds.

Ortiz thought 4 under was required to be low amateur, and after a birdie on the par-5 eighth to get to 3 under, he played aggressively to a left pin and went into a bunker, failing to save par. He shot 69 and finished at 286.

"At the end of the day, I know that I played great golf and I gave myself a chance and I'm just proud of the way I came back from the round yesterday and played some excellent golf," Ortiz said.

He congratulated Hovland and said, "I really like that guy and I think he's going to go far in his career."

The other two amateurs to make the cut were Devon Bling and Takumi Kanaya, who shot 68 on Saturday and 78 on Sunday.

The last time four amateurs made the cut at the Masters was in 1999, and two of them went on to wear green jackets - Sergio Garcia, who was low amateur that year, and Trevor Immelman.

Now it's the women's turn to take on Erin Hills, the site of the 2017 U.S. Open that was built for wind and held during a week without much of a breeze.

The USGA announced Tuesday the 2025 U.S. Women's Open will be played at Erin Hills, where Justin Thomas shot a 63 in the third round and Brooks Koepka won his first U.S. Open title at 16-under 272. Scores were so low that week that a record seven players finished at 10 under or better.

The U.S. Mid-Amateur also is going to Erin Hills in 2022. Previously, the U.S. Amateur in 2011 and the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links in 2008 were at Erin Hills.

"To bring these championships to a public facility all golfers can enjoy is especially exciting for us," USGA chief executive Mike Davis said.

It will be the third time the U.S. Women's Open goes to Wisconsin. The other two were at Blackwolf Run, where Se Ri Pak won in 1998 and Na Yeon Choi won in 2012.

Still to be determined is whether Erin Hills gets back on the map for a U.S. Open.

It was the second time in three years the U.S. Open went to a new course open for public play. The other was in Chambers Bay outside Tacoma, Washington, in 2015, where unseasonable weather and fescue greens led to uneven putting surfaces.

Chambers Bay is getting the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship in 2021.

Tiger Woods became the ninth player to win major championship in his 20s, 30s and 40s. The others were Ernie Els, Hale Irwin, Raymond Floyd, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, J.H. Taylor and Harry Vardon. ... Leona Maguire of Ireland has received a special exemption to the Women's PGA Championship this year at Hazeltine. Maguire was an All-American all four years at Duke and tied for 21st in the 2016 Olympics. She also played three times in the Curtis Cup. ... Woods has gone 22 years between his first and most recent major victory. It's an even longer drought for his caddie, Joe LaCava, who went 27 years from when he was on the bag for Fred Couples in the 1992 Masters and Woods this year. ... The PGA Tour Champions has two former Major League Baseball pitches in the field this week outside Atlanta - John Smoltz and Shigetoshi Hasegawa, who pitched for the Mariners and Angels.

Tiger Woods' victory in the Masters guarantees that he will be fully exempt into every major championship for the first 27 years of his pro career.

"What happened during the last year for Tiger is an inspiration for everyone. He's a good example of passion for sport, discipline in terms of hard work. And love for the game, no?" - Rafael Nadal.

More AP golf: https://apnews.com/apf-Golf and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Updated April 16, 2019

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