Typhoon, visa flap send Kuchar’s fall schedule into rough
SHANGHAI (AP) — The fall schedule didn’t work out the way Matt Kuchar imagined.
Kuchar signed up for three straight tournaments overseas, starting with a working vacation with his family in Japan for the Bridgestone Open, followed by the HSBC Champions and then the Turkish Airlines Open.
He made it through two rounds of the Bridgestone Open before he evacuated ahead of Typhoon Lan. And he withdrew from the Turkish Airlines Open when relations between the U.S. and Turkey reached a point that both countries suspended nonimmigrant visa services for travel between the two countries.
“It looked like things were getting to a point where it was better not to go,” Kuchar said. “I did some homework with a U.S. senator friend of mine who checked with the State Department. When the U.S. stops issuing visas, there’s an issue.”
Kuchar played in Turkey five years ago as part of an exhibition that included Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. His strongest memory was figuring out to celebrate his son Cameron’s birthday.
“We didn’t know what to do for a 5-year-old in Turkey, so everyone got in bathrobes in our room and turned it into a Turkish bath party,” he said.
In Japan, Kuchar arrived early with his wife and two sons, took the bullet train, went to a Sumo wrestling match and toured a Ninja training studio. That was great. And then the weather arrived, and they struggled to get in two rounds on Friday and Saturday as the typhoon approached.
“It was my first time to the Bridgestone Open. I was excited to be there. They’ve been a great sponsor for me,” Kuchar said. “And I had to evacuate because of a typhoon. I’ve had to evacuate twice in the last two years from Georgia (from hurricanes). It was strange. But I was able to get out safely, arrive here early and the wife and kids headed home.”
So the HSBC Champions will be his only four-round tournament.
“It wasn’t quite what I was planning for the fall,” he said.
Kuchar will take the next month off and then end his year at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas and the Greg Norman’s QBE Shootout in Florida.
AMERICAN THREE: By winning the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea, Justin Thomas rose to a career-best No. 3 in the world and gave the Americans the top three spots in the world ranking for the first time in more than seven years.
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker were at Nos. 1-2-3 from the start of 2010 until the middle of May. Lee Westwood won the BMW PGA Championship to break up the American party, and he eventually got to No. 1.
Now it’s Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Thomas. One difference is their ages. Woods was 34, Mickelson was 40 and Stricker was 43 during most of that reign. Johnson is the old man of this group at 33, while Spieth and Thomas are 24.
How long will this one last?
Thomas and Spieth are not playing for another month (Spieth in Australia, Thomas at the Hero World Challenge). Hideki Matsuyama is at the HSBC Champions to defend his title and could take back No. 3 this week. Jon Rahm can’t reach No. 3 this week, though he also is playing in Dubai in three weeks.
TEXAS TROUBLE: The Houston Open is not the only Texas stop on the PGA Tour looking for a title sponsor. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Dean & DeLuca is on the verge of pulling out just two years into its six-year commitment as title sponsor at Colonial.
The Star-Telegram obtained a letter the Colonial Country Club president sent to members informing them that Dean & DeLuca has notified the PGA Tour that it may not be able to meet its financial obligations in 2018.
The board is to meet with Dean & DeLuca about possibly renegotiating terms of the contract, but the newspaper said at this point Colonial is prepared to start looking for a new title sponsor.
The tour said in a statement, “It’s important to note that Dean & DeLuca is still the title sponsor of the event, and we are in continuous conversations with them on their position with the event going forward.”
ON THE CLOCK: The European Tour is taking pace of play to a new level next year with the “Shot Clock Masters” in Austria, which will be the first tournament at the professional level to use a shot clock.
The clock will be set at 50 seconds for the first player hitting a shot and 40 seconds for the others in the group. Any player going past the limit will get a one-shot penalty, which will be reflected by a red card by their name on the leaderboard.
Each player will be allowed to call two timeouts during a round, giving them twice the amount of time they are allotted for that shot.
“Not only will it help us combat slow play and reduce round times, it is also further evidence of our desire to embrace innovation,” said Keith Pelley, the chief executive for the European Tour.
The Shot Clock Masters in Austria will be June 7-10 at Diamond Country Club, which is one week before the U.S. Open and likely won’t include the top players. The tour hopes it will shave 45 minutes off a round of golf.
ROOKIE RACE: It wasn’t much of a race in the first place, but now it’s mathematically over: Sung Hyun Park of South Korea is the LPGA Tour rookie of the year.
Now she has a month left to try to add LPGA player of the year.
Park has two victories this year, none bigger than the U.S. Women’s Open. The 24-year-old Park has six other top 10s. She has a 798-point lead over Angel Yin, which at the moment is the third-largest margin since the award began in 1962. Karrie Webb holds the record with a 1,030-point lead in 1996, followed by Se Ri Pak, who won the award by 929 points in 1999.
Going into the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, Park lead the LPGA Tour money list at just over $2 million. She also leads the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average and she is No. 2 in the world. In the points-based LPGA player of the year, Park is in third place.
Park, who had 10 victories on the Korean LPGA, will receive the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award during an awards ceremony on Nov. 16 at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
DIVOTS: Derek Sprague, the former PGA of America president, is leaving Liberty National after two years to become general manager at TPC Sawgrass. ... Sergio Garcia has been awarded honorary life membership of the European Tour in recognition of winning his first major at the Masters. ... The Players Championship generated $8.7 million for local charities in northeast Florida, breaking by $200,000 a record established last year. ... Paula Creamer said on Twitter she had surgery on her left wrist and is out of the rest of the year. Creamer, who went 3-1 in the Solheim Cup, had only one top-10 finish this year and was 86th on the money list.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Six players who made it to the Tour Championship are playing all three events on the PGA Tour’s Asia swing — Xander Schauffele, Paul Casey, Pat Perez, Kyle Stanley, Adam Hadwin and Jhonattan Vegas.
FINAL WORD: “They must have a lot more money than I do.” — Pat Perez, on the players who chose not to play the three Asian events on the PGA Tour that offered a combined $26 million in prize money.