Sunday, January 21, 2018
Golf

Players adjusting to early start to PGA Tour season

SAN MARTIN, Calif. — The chill of the morning air in California. Veteran players discreetly looking at golf bags on the practice range so they can put names to the faces they have never seen. Young players concerned about getting into enough tournaments. A parking lot filled with Mercedes-Benz courtesy cars.

Everything about the Frys.com Open looks and feels like a new season on the PGA Tour.

Except for the calendar.

Just 18 days after Henrik Stenson tapped in for par and collected the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus at East Lake in Atlanta, the new PGA Tour season begins at CordeValle. It's the first time the tour starts its season in one calendar year and finishes it in another.

"I'm back to zero," Stewart Cink said. "I like the fact I don't have to be No. 76 anymore. I can hopefully establish something new."

Cink was No. 76 in the FedEx Cup playoffs last month until he failed to advance to the next round after the Deutsche Bank Championship. He had been home for five weeks — his offseason — before packing his bags and heading to the airport. And to his surprise, it reminded him of heading off to Hawaii or California in the winter, just like the old days on the PGA Tour.

"The last six or seven years, I went to fall tournaments and didn't have that amped-up feel. I didn't feel like I was in the heat of things," Cink said. "I had my charity event, this and that. My mind was so elsewhere. I went to play just to play. You hit a lot of shots; you play a lot of holes. Coming here, I feel a little bit more of a hunger."

Since the FedEx Cup began in 2007, the tour had a half-dozen events that were nothing more than playing opportunities for the restless or a time for others to make enough money to secure their cards for the following season. Winning didn't come with an invitation to the Masters. It didn't count toward the FedEx Cup. Now it does.

To avoid losing sponsorship of the fall tournaments (and some $25 million in prize money), the tour made them part of the FedEx Cup season.

"This new system has given these fall events greater credibility," John Senden said.

As always, a golfer's offseason is as long as he wants it to be.

Tiger Woods won the clinching match at the Presidents Cup on Sunday. He's not expected to play another PGA Tour event until Torrey Pines in January. Adam Scott won't return to the tour until Kapalua the first week of January. Phil Mickelson will be in Asia later this month for two tournaments now part of the official 2013-14 season.

Then there's Marc Leishman.

On Sunday, he holed a 15-foot par putt to win his singles match against Matt Kuchar in the Presidents Cup. He flew to California, got reacquainted with sunshine and felt remarkably refreshed.

"I thought I would be stuffed," Leishman said Wednesday morning before his pro-am round. "I got here and I'm feeling good. You want to try to get off to a good start."

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