ST. LOUIS (AP) — Padraig Harrington was about the only one not complaining that a double major champion could not qualify for the Tour Championship, blaming only himself for missing consecutive cuts at the start of the PGA Tour Playoffs.
His biggest letdown? Realizing he couldn’t win the Vardon Trophy.
Harrington figured he was safe playing the minimum 15 events on the PGA Tour. But he missed the cut three times, and finished the year with only 52 rounds. Players must complete 60 rounds to be eligible for the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average.
“I didn’t know that,” Harrington said with a mixture of surprise and disappointment. “I was trying to win that award. I would consider that a big deal to have the lowest scoring average.”
At least there will be one compelling race at the end of the year.
Going into the Tour Championship next week, Phil Mickelson leads with a 69.52 scoring average, with Sergio Garcia one-hundredth of a point behind at 69.53. Right behind are Vijay Singh and Anthony Kim, tied at 69.62. Harrington, who was leading until he tied for 55th in the BMW Championship, slipped to fifth place at 69.67, but it’s a moot point now.
Mickelson has never won a major postseason award, and this might be his best chance. So even though Singh has effectively wrapped up the FedEx Cup, Lefty will have something at stake at the Tour Championship.
Tiger Woods ran into the same problem as Harrington in 2006, when he won two majors then cut his season short after a long year off the course dealing with his father’s death. Woods withdrew from Riviera, missed the cut in the U.S. Open and wound up playing only 59 rounds. The Vardon Trophy went to Jim Furyk.
But it raises a question the PGA of America might want to consider.
Harrington is among several players who compete around the globe and often play only the minimum on the PGA Tour. That means they cannot miss a cut and be eligible for the Vardon Trophy.
“It’s been 60 rounds for quite a number of years,” said Kerry Haig at the PGA of America. “That’s still a good, reasonable number to judge a yearlong competition. It’s a fairly stringent, fairly consistent criteria. But when you look at the competition now out there, is it reasonable to make 15 cuts out of 15 tournaments for players to reach the minimum rounds? We’ll continue to look at it.”
The PGA Tour has its own version of the Vardon Trophy – the Byron Nelson Award – and it requires only 50 rounds to be eligible.
DEFINITION OF A ROOKIE: Depending on what happens the final two months of the season, Andres Romero figures to be a lock for PGA Tour rookie of the year.
Romero and Chez Reavie are the only rookies to have won this year – Romero in New Orleans, Reavie at the Canadian Open – but the Argentine is among 11 players to have made the cut in all four majors this year, including top 10s in the Masters and the PGA Championship.
Reavie only played in one major, a tie for 60th at the PGA Championship.
Strangely enough, Romero didn’t even become a PGA Tour rookie until one week ago. The policy board approved a new definition of “rookie,” and Romero was an example of why the old definition didn’t work.
Previously, a player was deemed to be a rookie if he finished in the top 125 on the money list or had earnings equivalent to the top 125. Romero played only three times last year – a tie for fourth in the British Open ($596,414) and a tie for seventh in the Bridgestone Invitational ($202,000). He did not take up membership until this year.
The new policy defines rookies as the year they become a PGA Tour member, play in at least 10 events as a member or finish in the top 125 as a tour member, whichever occurs first.
So this is Romero’s rookie year – and it’s been a good one.
FINAL TUNE-UP: The PGA Tour has gone dark this week – the first time since 1989 that there was a week off during the season – but that doesn’t mean everyone in the Ryder Cup is taking a breather.
Four players from Europe are in the field for the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Germany – Soren Hansen, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Graeme McDowell and Robert Karlsson.
Padraig Harrington left St. Louis for his home in Ireland after spending the last six weeks in the United States, five of those playing in tournaments. Sergio Garcia, however, decided to stay in the United States.
“I’m trying to rest, so I didn’t want to go all the way back to Spain and then come back only for one week and be in the Ryder Cup,” Garcia said. “If it was any other tournament, I’d probably do it. But I think the Ryder Cup is too important to do that.”
THE NEXT STEP: Martin Laird, the rookie from Scotland, had his playoff end run at St. Louis when he tied for 54th in the BMW Championship. Guaranteed only one start, he competed in three playoff events and earned $235,620 to finish at No. 67 in the final standings.
One wrinkle to this volatile new points structure?
By finishing in the top 70, Laird now is eligible for tournaments like the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial and AT&T National. But he might not be able to keep his PGA Tour card.
Laird’s playoff push put him at No. 115 on the money list with $725,720. The 125th position on the money list last year belonged to Mathias Gronberg, who earned $785,180.
It’s not clear what the figure will be this year, but Laird might have to play a couple of more times to make sure he has a card next year. Otherwise, he’ll have to settle for tournaments some card-carrying members can’t get in.
DIVOTS: This is one time Tiger Woods really was “beatable as ever.” Rory Sabbatini finished at No. 69 in the FedEx Cup standings, 177 points ahead of Woods at No. 70. Then again, Sabbatini played in three playoff events and made two cuts. Woods has not played at all since the U.S. Open. … This will be the first time in his career Woods was not eligible for the Tour Championship. He still earned $110,000 for finishing 70th in the standings. … Eleven players have reached the Tour Championship both years of the FedEx Cup – Vijay Singh, Camilo Villegas, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, K.J. Choi, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan, Robert Allenby and Ernie Els.
STAT OF THE WEEK: South America (Andres Romero, Camilo Villegas) has produced as many PGA Tour winners this year as Australia (Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott).
FINAL WORD: “Hopefully more tomorrow than today.” – Camilo Villegas, when asked how many people in Colombia played golf.