Andy Ogletree was the U.S. Amateur champion without a place to play when he took part in the first LIV Golf event last year and was shut off from the PGA Tour. He didn’t have a contract with LIV and still doesn’t.
But he found his place on the Asian Tour, particularly the “International Series,” a series of $2 million events with funding from LIV.
Ogletree shot 64 at Close House in England on Sunday for his third International Series victory, and second this year.
He has earned $887,370 in five International Series events this year. By comparison, Ben Kohles leads the Korn Ferry Tour with $504,828. Ogletree has practically locked up a spot in LIV Golf for 2024 by leading the International Series Order of Merit by a large margin.
“I think the incentive to play well is pretty good. Getting a chance to play LIV Golf is what everyone’s here to do,” Ogletree said. “I want to be out there and feel like that’s where I want to be right now in the next phase of my life. So I’m doing all I can to secure that spot.”
Without LIV or the International Series, Ogletree would be on the Korn Ferry Tour at best, possibly Latin America or Canada. Now he has learned to build a schedule, to travel, and he’s making a decent living.
“There’s a lot of great things that have come from it and I wouldn’t be standing in front of you guys if it weren’t for LIV,” Ogletree said.
But then he took note of the fact that 22 LIV players were in the field in England, and Ogletree won by seven shots. He is an alternate this year at LIV Golf.
“It has been frustrating and I do think that a contract will be coming at some point,” Ogletree said. “I think I’ve proven that I should be out there and I think I’ve proven that my game matches up against those guys very well. So I don’t know when that time will be. But I’m looking forward to conversations that I’ll have with LIV Golf.”
Of course, the future of LIV Golf is a little murky as the PGA Tour, European tour and Saudi Arabia’s national wealth fund work on finalizing an agreement. The PGA Tour ultimately could be in charge of LIV.
And there is still no avenue to the majors except for open qualifying.
There were 22 players from LIV Golf in the field for the Asian Tour event last week — including Ogletree, the alternate. None was among the top 100 in the world ranking. When LIV Golf began in June 2022, 12 of those players in the International Series-England were among the top 100.
Ogletree’s third victory in nine months took him to No. 214 in the world ranking.
One of the concerns about the PGA Tour’s schedule of signature events is the head start that 50 players will have on everyone else — even though everyone starts from scratch in 2024.
The 50 players who made it to the BMW Championship are assured of getting in the eight $20 million events, which offer more FedEx Cup points (700). Everyone else can play their way into the big events, but it’s a bonus to be able to plan for them and have time off.
The PGA Tour says it has run simulations and has found it will get roughly a 62 per cent retention rate, similar to what it is now. It also found through simulations that 70 more players — beyond the top 50 — would get into signature events.
“So we think we found a great model between all those pieces of the puzzle, including the FedEx Cup points system, to keep that meritocracy and that pipeline of new players strong out here on tour,” said Tyler Dennis, the PGA Tour president.
Adam Schenk can start searching for housing at Augusta National for next April. He was among 10 players who secured a berth in the Masters by reaching the Tour Championship.
The other 20 already were exempt from winning PGA Tour events since the Masters, finishing high enough in the other majors or winning majors in the last five years.
Schenk is the only one on that list who is going to the Masters without ever winning on the PGA Tour. There is still time, and he’s certainly not the first player. Abraham Ancer made it to Augusta in 2020 without having won — he won a World Golf Championship the following year.
Others who have played the Masters without ever winning on tour include Roberto Castro, who reached the Tour Championship in 2013 and 2016.
Schenk also picks up another award, this one with no bonus or trophy. The Tour Championship will be his 33rd start of the season, the most of any PGA Tour member — all in a season in which his wife gave birth to their first child.
The 50 players who reached the BMW Championship are assured of being in the $20 million signature events next year, meaning they don’t have to play anything in the fall without losing any ground because the FedEx Cup standings don’t start until January.
Some might want to play if there’s a tournament they like, whether that’s Sea Island of Las Vegas or the new tournament at Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.
And then there’s Patrick Cantlay.
Cantlay left the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in 2021 and didn’t compete for three months until showing up at Kapalua. That meant skipping Las Vegas, which has been an annuity for him. A year ago, Las Vegas was the only time he played in the fall (he lost in a playoff).
What would entice him to play after the Ryder Cup in Rome?
“Probably not a lot this year,” Cantlay said. “I feel like with the way the new major schedule is and with all the signature events, it feels like there’s a lot of big tournaments. So I feel like it’s easier to gear up for those and stay on for those if you know you have an offseason coming.
“I’m just going to rest after the Ryder Cup and then get ready probably for Maui.”
Justin Thomas has signed up to play the Fortinet Championship in Napa, California, on Sept. 14-17. That’s two weeks before the Ryder Cup, perhaps an indication he will be a captain’s pick. Or it’s a chance to get into early signature events next year. ... The LPGA Tour and South Korea-based Lotte, the title sponsor of the LPGA event in Hawaii, are contributing $125,000 to support relief efforts from the devastating wildfires on Maui. The LPGA and Lotte have staged a tournament on Oahu since 2012.
In the previous 16 years of the FedEx Cup, only three players who had the No. 1 seed at the Tour Championship have gone on to win. Tiger Woods did it twice. The others were Vijay Singh in 2008 and Dustin Johnson in 2020.
“As a tour pro, we talk about distance and all those things, but the thing that we can’t do is hit it through trees. So when you start taking a bunch of trees off a property it definitely can change how it plays.” — Xander Schauffele, on the trend of reducing trees on championship golf courses.
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