Golf on the Nationwide Tour: A Study in Contrasts
Let’s start by saying a minimum of 25 Nationwide Tour members will replace guys who are currently playing on the PGA Tour. And as the saying goes, These Guys Are Good. Having attended a Monday qualifying event way back in the non-exempt 1970s, I learned then that golfers I never heard of are incredibly good and sometimes brilliant. Other than the top 20 or so very best players in the world, everybody else’s game is virtually indistinguishable from day to day. The line is really quite thin. This past Sunday at the Arnold Palmer designed Woodmore CC, I walked along with a couple of club members while watching D.J. Brigman and Spencer Levin for the entire final round of the Melwood Prince Georges County Open. These young men could not have presented us with 2 more different pictures. Starting the day 9 shots out of the lead, both played very well, had to deal with disappointment and finished within a shot of each other.
Brigman has a strapping physique, somewhat resembling Nick Faldo with the same broad shoulders. He hits it a long way with an effortless swing. Starting the week at 19th on the NT money list, Brigman is definitely in the running for a year end promotion back to the Big Show, where he has played 3 of the previous 4 years. After a short miss for birdie on the 1st hole, he made a great chip-in birdie on the 2nd and that got him going on a nearly flawless run of tactical golf resulting in two more birdies which got him to 3 under for the front nine. Saving par despite a chunked second at the 10th seemed to invigorate Brigman as he knocked it to about 5 feet at the par 5 11th and par 3 12th for simple birdies. Sitting at 5 under par, a few more birdies on the closing stretch would have gone a long way to help with the ultimate goal. But Brigman was derailed by failing to get up & down from in front of the green on the brutish 16th for his lone bogey. Missing that 10 footer for par drained his mojo for the day as he proceeded to miss 6 and 8 footers for birdie on the final two holes. It was a real good round of 4 under par that could have easily been great.
Levin brings to mind the diminutive Corey Pavin in stature, although he doesn’t play the same shot-shaping way. Although not long by Tour standards, he gives it a mighty lash off the tee and rarely uses anything except the driver. Levin was the 2007 Canadian Tour Player of the Year and is working towards his first crack at the PGA Tour, where his father played in the early 1980s. Levin started his round like a ball of fire with four birdies on the first seven holes, all from inside ten feet. He got a horrible break on the par 3 9th after playing too much club off the tee, winding up with a horrendous lie on a downhill slope and water lurking just past the pin. The first gentle flop wound up in an even worse lie, next was the old flop-whiff and the 4th gouge went off the other side of the green. Two to get down from there made for a hard-to-take triple bogey and it took a few holes for Levin to calm himself down. But fight back he did, nearly acing the par 3 12th and narrowly missing an eagle 2 on the par 4 17th to finish at 3 under par. All in all, it was a very good round and Levin did himself proud.
Finally, besides the incredibly high level of play, here are some other contrasts that are immediately apparent. The Nationwide Tour plays on very good, PGA Tour-caliber golf courses in excellent condition. Ticket prices are much lower than a PGA Tour event. (Natch.) Attendance is also much lower and that allows you the opportunity to be very close to the action all the way around the course – including the leaders. There are very few grandstands to hamper movement or viewing spaces. And lastly, they don’t stick it to you at the concession stands. I bought a 20 oz. bottle of soda for $1.50. How about that?
|« Greg Norman is Now a Very Sad Figure, Indeed||Annika Sorenstam Will Retire at the End of 2008 Season »|