Where the top 20 in the world tend to play

Where the top 20 in the world tend to play
December 11, 2012, 6:45 pm
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Two of the golf tournaments Jeff Maggert once considered his favorites were part of the Fall Series that didn't attract any of the top players. One of them was Disney, which began in 1971 and was played for the final time last month.

Having finished his 22nd year on the PGA Tour, Maggert says the introduction of the World Golf Championships, the FedEx Cup and the influx of so many top international players have changed the landscape.

``When I started, the tournaments were very consistent week to week,'' Maggert said. ``Now there seems to be a real up-and-down on strength of fields. That's just the way the tour has evolved. The World Golf Championships have really hurt the consistency of the rest of the tournaments out here.''

The exceptions when he was a rookie would have been the four majors, the invitation events like Memorial, Bay Hill and Colonial, and even Las Vegas, which back then had a higher purse than all the majors and every tournament except for the Tour Championship. It led Maggert to do some math. Throw out the World Golf Championships, the four FedEx Cup playoff events, the four majors that leaves only a dozen tournaments for the top players.

He figured they all migrated to the same regular PGA Tour events, and while some stops are predictable, there is surprising balance.

Here's the drill: Take the top 20 PGA Tour members from this week's world ranking (that goes down to Dustin Johnson at No. 21). Throw out the majors, WGCs, playoff events and The Players Championship.

The strongest tournament not on that list was the Memorial, which attracted 15 of the top 20 players in this week's world ranking. The only other regular tournaments that had at least 10 of the top 20 were the Northern Trust Open at Riviera (12) and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill (11).

The surprise was that nine players were at the Transitions Championship outside Tampa, Fla., which is in dire need of a title sponsor. The Copperhead course at Innisbrook is one of the best-kept secrets on tour, and some believe it's the best tournament course in all of Florida. The other tournaments drawing at least nine players were the Phoenix Open and the Zurich Classic, which has a separate ambassador program that compensates some players in the field.

The Greenbrier Classic also offers ``incentives'' - it got Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson this year - so perhaps it's not surprising that it had more players from today's top 20 (eight) than the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow (seven).

Three tournaments in the Fall Series - the Frys.com Open, McGladrey Classic and Disney - were the only ones on tour that did not have anyone from today's top 20.

Narrow the group to the top 10 in the world, and Memorial still had eight of those players in its field. It was followed by four tournaments that had five players from today's top 10 - Tampa, Riviera, Bay Hill and the Honda Classic.

Even so, the PGA Tour is deeper than ever, especially while going through a generational shift. There were 18 tournaments (besides the WGCs, majors and playoffs) that had at least five of the top 20 at their events. The seven tournaments in the regular FedEx Cup season that did not attract at least five of the top 20 were the Sony Open, AT&T National, Wyndham Championship, St. Jude Classic, Canadian Open, John Deere Classic and Texas Open.

Most of those are products of their spot on the calendar - four are immediately before or after a major. The AT&T National, despite being played at Congressional, is two weeks after the U.S. Open, when the European Tour gets its players to come home for the meat of its schedule.

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LAST CHANCE: Geoff Ogilvy is down to his last chance if he wants to head into the offseason assured a tee time at Augusta National in April.

The former U.S. Open champion began the year at No. 36 and has fallen to No. 56. This is the last week of golf that counts toward the world ranking, and the Masters takes the top 50 at the end of the season.

Holding down the 50th spot is Thorbjorn Olesen, who is not playing this week. Neither is Alex Noren, who is at No. 51. George Coetzee is at No. 49 and playing the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

Besides Ogilvy, the only other player from No. 51 through No. 60 playing this week is Marcus Fraser of Australia, who is at the Johor Open.

If there are no changes in the world ranking, 14 players would be added to the field, bringing the total to 85 players going into the new season. Any winner of a PGA Tour event gets in (except for Puerto Rico), along with the top 50 after the Houston Open.

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JONES AWARD: Davis Love III goes from one prestigious honor to another. Unlike the Ryder Cup captaincy, the Bob Jones Award won't take two years out of his life.

The USGA selected Love to receive its highest honor. The Bob Jones Award began in 1655 and recognizes an individual who demonstrates the spirit, personal character and respect for the game that was reflected in Jones, golf's greatest amateur and a nine-time USGA champion.

Love has won 20 times on the PGA Tour, along with the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot. The reason for being chosen for the Bob Jones Award perhaps was summed up best by longtime friend Tom Kite.

``Davis has conducted himself with such style and grace that everyone in the game respects and admires him,'' Kite said. ``And Davis respects and admires those who make our game so rich. The big thing Davis has in common with Bob Jones is that as much as he loves golf, he loves the people in golf more.''

Love previously won the USGA International Book Award for ``Every Shot I Take,'' a tribute to his late father. He also received the Payne Stewart Award from the PGA Tour in 2008. Love will receive the Bob Jones Award on Feb. 2 in San Diego during the USGA's annual meeting.

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WORLD CUP RETURN: The World Cup of Golf returns this year, and it could have an old look - with a new wrinkle.

The International Federation of PGA Tours is considering a proposal to return the two-man competition to 72 holes of stroke play, which would allow for an individual champion along with the lowest team score. The last time the World Cup used that format was in 1999, when the Americans won with Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara and Woods won the individual medal

The new wrinkle? With an individual competition, the federation is looking into offering world ranking points.

``We're still in discussions about that,'' PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said. ``Those discussions do include the possibility of converting it into stroke play with a team element and ranking points.''

The PGA Tour got involved after 1999, briefly turned it into a World Golf Championship and changed the format to a pure team competition, with two rounds each of foursomes and fourballs.

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DIVOTS: Scott Hoch, who turned 57 last month, has taken his one-time exemption from the top 50 on the career money list to be exempt on the PGA Tour this year. Hoch never had to use the exemption while active, and he's only $760,907 from falling out of the top 50 in career money, so he might as well. Jerry Kelly, Mike Weir and Justin Leonard are using exemptions from the top 25 on the career money list. Stuart Appleby is using his exemption from the top 50, even though he is at No. 19. Appleby used his one-time exemption from the top 25 in 2010, the year he closed with a 59 to win the Greenbrier Classic. ... B.F. ``Bev'' Dolan of North Palm Beach, Fla., who in 1954 introduced the E-Z-GO golf car, has been selected by the PGA of America for the Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contributions to the golf industry. ... The Ladies European Tour has chosen Ivan Khodabakhsh as its new CEO. He had been head of the World Series Boxing in Switzerland. He replaces Alexandra Armas, who is stepping down after eight years.

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FINAL WORD: ``I'll play golf wherever I can.'' - Heath Slocum, who doesn't have full PGA Tour status for the first time since 2001.