Nicolas Colsaerts looking to expand his horizons on PGA Tour

Nicolas Colsaerts looking to expand his horizons on PGA Tour

Just 18 months ago, Nicolas Colsaerts had little reason to believe he could be going so many places. He was No. 179 in the world and had yet to win on a major tour.

Now, the big hitter from Belgium has a chance to have the best of two worlds. Colsaerts received a sponsor exemption this week to the Open, and what might be last chance to secure a PGA Tour card for 2013.

He has $652,886 and needs to finish the equivalent of No. 125 on the tour money list to earn a full card. That's the equivalent of No. 120 with three events remaining.

“When you get a chance to play this tour with all these players, the course you play on such a big stage, it would be stupid not to consider it,'' Colsaerts said Tuesday from CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, Calif. I've always played in Europe for a lot of years. It's an unbelievable tour to play on and get your grades up. But once you get a taste of what the possibilities here are, they get you pretty excited.''

Colsaerts broke through last year by winning the China Open, and he picked up another win this spring at the World Match Play Championship in Spain. Throw in a tie for seventh at the British Open, where he opened and finished with a 65, and it carried him onto the Ryder Cup team where he had a 63 on his own ball – eight birdies, one eagle and one bogey – to single-handedly beat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.

It's already been quite a year, and the Belgian Bomber is looking for more.

“I've been to the U.S. quite a lot,'' he said. “But when you realize how many unbelievable golf courses you have around the country, it's quite unbelievable for somebody like me coming from such a small country to have a chance to play golf around an unbelievable country like and you have play these fantastic courses.''

OK, so he likes it America. But apparently his affinity goes beyond the golf.

“I have to say, I have a little thing for Five Guys burgers,'' Colsaerts said.

RORY HONORS: Rory McIlroy already is assured of at least two more awards this year.

McIlroy officially has wrapped up the Arnold Palmer Award for leading the PGA Tour money list at $8,047,952, the seventh-highest total in tour history. He also has clinched the PGA of America's player of the year award, which is based on points. McIlroy had four wins this year, including the PGA Championship.

Still to be tabulated is the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average, although McIlroy is a lock for that, too, because he has more than a half-stroke lead over Jim Furyk (68.87 to 69.41). Tiger Woods is ineligible for the Vardon because he withdrew in the middle of the final round at Doral this year.

The Jack Nicklaus Award for PGA Tour player of the year is a vote of his peers. Those ballots won't go out until after Disney, though it's hard to imagine anyone topping McIlroy winning four times, a major, and the money title in just 16 tournaments.

He would be the second straight European, and the third in the last five years, to win that award. Luke Donald won in 2011 and Padraig Harrington won in 2008.

FAST TRACK TO TOUR: For all the fretting that college players have to spend a year in the minor leagues under the PGA Tour's new qualifying system, Luke Guthrie already is the second player to show otherwise.

Guthrie won his second straight Big Ten title at Illinois, turned pro after the NCAA Championships and can bank on PGA Tour membership for 2013. He has won twice on the Tour and is No. 2 on the money list, assuring he will be finish among the top 25 to earn a card.

Already this year, Ben Kohles finished up at Virginia and won his first two starts on the Tour to assure getting a card. He is No. 4 on the money list.

Guthrie gets another taste of the future this week in the Open.

“I believed I could compete at that kind of level out here,'' Guthrie said. “I didn't know how I was going to handle that amount of golf. You don't play that many four-round tournaments until you get out here, which it's fine for a couple weeks because the adrenaline is going. But after a couple months to keep playing well was nice, and to keep it rolling. I'm happy with how I've responded to it that.''

Guthrie is pursuing more than just golf at the moment. He's still taking classes so he can graduate in December.

“It's hard, because you come out to a site like this and you just want to practice all day long and hang out here all day long,'' Guthrie said. “You have to go back and do an assignment. It's hard to do, but I worked for four years toward a degree and it's silly to stop now.''

THE CLINCHER: Martin Kaymer and Jose Maria Canizares share a peculiar piece of Ryder Cup history.

Both delivered the cup-clinching point for Europe, Kaymer with a 6-foot putt on the 18th at Medinah to beat Steve Stricker, Canizares with a 3-foot putt on the 18th at The Belfry in 1989 to beat Ken Green. What makes both moments unusual is that Kaymer and Canizares had played only one match all week, and went into the Sunday singles without having contributed a point.

And they wound up delivering the point that mattered.

“A little strange,'' Kaymer said last week at the Dunhill Links Championship. “It was such a fine line between being the hero or the biggest idiot. And fortunately, it went the right way. Obviously, I made the last putt, but it's a little bit of a … I wouldn't say uncomfortable situation, but a little strange. Because it was not only me. I had the pleasure to make the last putt, but at the end of the day, I got only one point, even though I played only twice.''

Kaymer and Justin Rose lost a Friday afternoon fourballs match to Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, and Kaymer sat out all day on Saturday. Canizares didn't play until the final team session, when he and Bernhard Langer lost a fourballs match to Tom Kite and Mark McCumber.

Kaymer said he already has watched video of the cup-clinching putt nearly a half-dozen times.

“It's a good thing, and you should watch it more often,'' he said. “Because it makes you happy.''

DIVOTS: Phil Mickelson will make his debut on Monday Night Football with a wedge in his hand and at $1 million to provide new books to needy children through a nonprofit called “First Book.'' Mickelson's 100-yard shot in the “KPMG Chip4Charity'' will take place next Monday at Qualcomm Stadium at halftime of the San Diego Chargers-Denver Broncos game. He will be in one end zone, aiming at a target in the other end zone that has a green ($50,000 that will buy 20,000 books), three rings (the outer ring worth $100,000) and a bulls-eye worth $1 million. … Mexico has been selected as host of the 2016 World Amateur Team Championships, the 50-year anniversary of when it first hosted the event. It joins the United States, Australia, Argentina and Fiji as countries that have been chosen to host the event twice. … Patrick Reed, who made it through Monday qualifying six times this year for PGA Tour events, is playing the Open as a sponsor exemption.

STAT OF THE WEEK: There have been eight rounds of 61 on the PGA Tour this year, all on different golf courses.

FINAL WORD: “I asked the scorer when I got done if there was a chance I could get my amateur status back.'' – John Daly after an 86 in the third round at Las Vegas.

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