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Breaking down “The 25” — 2012 Web.com Tour Grads

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Sunday was one of the most dramatic days of the golfing year. It’s a day that often gets lost in the shuffle of NFL football and, this year, World Series baseball. But for the following 25 young (and not-so-young) men who claimed the top 25 spots on this year’s Web.com Tour money list, it’s a colossal achievement. Some have been where they’re going—the PGA Tour—before, some have had tastes of it here and there, and still others have no experience with what lies ahead. But for all their differences in age and professional golf pedigree, they’re all part of the fraternity of golf’s promoted minor leaguers. Who are they?

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

No. 1: Casey Wittenberg, 28

United States; Oklahoma State

Wittenberg, the runner-up in the 2003 U.S. Amateur, won twice this year on the Web.com Tour, coasting through much of the summer toward his Tour card. He qualified for and notched a top-10 in the 2012 U.S. Open, so he has the potential to be successful at the game’s highest level.

No. 2: Luke Guthrie, 22

United States; Univ. of Illinois

One of two Web.com Tour graduates born in the 1990s, Guthrie made the most of only 10 starts, which included two wins and 7 top-10 finishes. Coming from Illinois, the explosive Guthrie is a longtime Steve Stricker fan. He couldn’t have picked a better potential mentor. Look for big things from Luke.

No. 3: Russell Henley, 23

United States; Univ. of Georgia

Henley’s fellow Bulldog Harris English has found success early in his own PGA Tour career. Henley should as well, having become only the second amateur to win a Web.com Tour event in 2011 and adding two victories as a professional in 2012. The newest Sea Island Mafia member should be up to the task of winning on the PGA Tour.

No. 4: Luke List, 27

United States; Vanderbilt University

List took a little time ascending to the PGA Tour after a storied college career, but better late than never. He won once and finished second 3 times in 2012, so it looks like he’s putting everything together. He’s only made two cuts in 11 tries on the PGA Tour, but he’s well-primed to improve that batting average.

No. 5: James Hahn, 31

United States; Univ. of California-Berkeley

Hahn was born in South Korea but attended college in the United States and lives in the Bay Area. He won once and finished second twice this year, bringing home over $337,000 for his good work. He stands to earn a great deal more if he can continue his momentum into 2013.

No. 6: Shawn Stefani, 31

United States; Lamar University

Stefani had a mediocre first half of the year, with only one top-10 before mid-August. Then he took the trophy in two of his next six events, locking up his Tour card for 2013. That means he’s streaky, which also means he’ll need all the self-belief he can muster to weather cold spells on the PGA Tour.

No. 7: Robert Streb, 25

United States; Kansas State University

Streb will be a “true rookie” on the 2013 PGA Tour—one who has never before played in a PGA Tour event. His 2012 Web.com season was solid, but that highest level is a different animal. Nonetheless, he had considerable promise.

No. 8: Ben Kohles, 22

United States; University of Virginia

The second “90s kid” in this year’s edition of The 25, Kohles won his first two professional starts, which turned out to both be Web.com Tour events. He was able to coast the rest of the year. Kohles’ youth and streakiness can be as much a benefit as a hindrance; it will be interesting to track his progress in 2013.

No. 9: Justin Bolli, 36

United States; Univ. of Georgia

Bolli is one of eight Web.com Tour graduates who are 35 years of age or older. A career journeyman, Bolli stormed into the top 25 on the tour money list by winning the Web.com Tour Championship. He picked a great time to play some of the best golf of his life. Will it continue? 

No. 10: David Lingmerth, 25

Sweden; University of Arkansas

Lingmerth is another “true rookie” and the lone European on this list. What he lacks in PGA Tour experience he recoups in talent and potential. He had a streaky 2012, but he has the ability to go low at any time, which can bear fruit at the game’s highest level.

No. 11: Justin Hicks, 38

United States; University of Michigan

Hicks celebrated his 38th birdie by notching a top-5 finish at the Web.com Tour Championship and locking up his 2013 PGA Tour card. Not a bad birthday.

No. 12: Paul Haley II, 24

United States; Georgia Tech

Though Haley made just over half his cuts in 2012, a win and two runner-up finishes along with three other top-25 finishes were enough to earn him his card. His only PGA Tour start, at the 2012 Byron Nelson Classic, resulted in a missed cut.

No. 13: Cameron Percy, 38

Australia

Percy missed nine of 24 cuts this year but three 2nd-place finishes were enough to give him his card. He finished third in Greens in Regulation on the Web.com Tour, which should serve him well at the next level.

No. 14: Andres Gonzales, 29

United States; Univ. of Nevada-Las Vegas

Gonzales is one of the more colorful characters in golf. A former college teammate of Ryan Moore’s has a lot of game, as well as the most impressive Fu Manchu mustache in golf. The Washingtonian made 14 of 23 cuts this year.

No. 15: Scott Gardiner, 36

Australia

With six top-10 finishes and eight missed cuts in 25 starts, Gardiner was one of the more consistent players on this list. A veteran of the mini-tours, Gardiner has yet to play in a PGA Tour event.

No. 16: Lee Williams, 31

United States; Auburn University

Williams only missed six cuts in 25 events in 2012, notching eight top-25 finishes. The only major statistic in which he wasn’t in the Web.com Tour’s top 60 was Driving distance, meaning Williams has a very complete golf game. Having won in 2012 in Mexico, he hopes to add a PGA Tour victory to his resume in 2013.

No. 17: Darron Stiles, 39

United States; Florida Southern College

Stiles, the oldest of “The 25,” will return to the 2013 PGA Tour as a fully exempt member for the first time since 2009. He carries the somewhat dubious distinction of being the all-time Web.com Tour money leader, with over $1.8 million in career earnings on the tour with five victories spanning three decades.

No. 18: Brad Fritsch, 35

Canada; Campbell University

Fritsch has played in 95 Web.com Tour events in his career. He hopes that the 2012 Web.com Tour Championship was his last—a tie for ninth place. He has made one cut in five-career PGA Tour starts, but has all of 2013 to make sure he never toils in golf’s minor leagues again.

No. 19: Morgan Hoffmann, 23

United States; Oklahoma State University

Hoffmann followed a successful junior golf career with an accomplished college career. His 2012 Web.com season was the most consistent of anyone on this list, as he made 12 cuts in only 13 events, with a second, a third and five other top-10s. Look for him to have a great PGA Tour rookie campaign in 2013.

No. 20: Brian Stuard, 30

United States; Oakland University

Stuard ranked fifth in the Web.com Tour’s All-Around ranking in 2012, meaning his game has few weaknesses. What he lacks in distance off the tee he recoups in literally every other category. Will he put it together at The Big Show in 2013?

No. 21: Andrew Svoboda, 33

United States; St. John’s University

Svoboda joins fellow St. John’s graduate Keegan Bradley on the PGA Tour in 2013. The New Yorker had two runner-up finishes early in 2012, giving him the ability to more or less coast into “The 25.” He’ll need to do more than coast, though, in 2013 to avoid a return trip to the Web.com Tour.

No. 22: Nicholas Thompson, 30

United States; Georgia Tech

Nick Thompson, the older brother of LPGA Tour standout Lexi Thompson, has bounced between the PGA and Web.com Tours the last few years. He’s on an upward trend once again after leading the Web.com Tour in Total Driving in 2013.

No. 23: Alistair Presnell, 33

Australia

Presnell had two thirds and a second place finish in 2012, but he also missed the majority of his cuts. The streaky Aussie will need to find some consistency in order to hack it on the PGA Tour in 2013. The good news: he has made the cut in both PGA Tour events he’s played, including a top-10.

No. 24: Doug LaBelle II, 37

United States; Univ. of New Mexico

LaBelle II had a solid final three weeks of the year—T26, T15, T13—to squeak into The 25. His year also included a win in Utah in July but a slew of missed cuts as well. He hit the third-highest percentage of fairways on the Web.com Tour in 2012, but ranked 111th in Driving Distance.

No. 25: Jim Herman, 35

United States; Univ. of Cincinnati

Herman was exempt on the PGA Tour in 2011 but made less than $200,000 to lose his card. He missed his last four of six cuts in 2012 on the Web.com Tour to barely hang on to the 25th spot and avoid Q School by less than $1,000. Will he make the most of his opportunity this time?

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Chances are that at least one of these players will win, a few will turn in solid years to maintain their PGA Tour membership and a number of others will be back on the Web.com Tour in 2014. Such is the drama of golf. Who will never look back, and who will need to struggle some more before finding the security of a prosperous Tour career?

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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Tim grew up outside of Hartford, Conn., playing most of his formative golf at Hop Meadow Country Club in the town of Simsbury. He played golf for four years at Washington & Lee University (Division-III) and now lives in Pawleys Island, S.C., and works in nearby Myrtle Beach in advertising. He's not too bad on Bermuda greens, for a Yankee. A lifelong golf addict, he cares about all facets of the game of golf, from equipment to course architecture to PGA Tour news to his own streaky short game.

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Monday’s Photos from the 2018 Honda Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2018 Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion course (par 70: 7,110 yards) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The field this week is stacked at the top, and it includes defending-champion Rickie Fowler, 2017 FedEx Champion Justin Thomas, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who’s making his first PGA Tour start of 2018. Also in the field is Tiger Woods, who committed to play in the event just last week. Woods is coming off a disappointing missed cut at the 2018 Genesis Open.

Last year, Fowler won by four shots over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland, despite playing his final round in 1-over par.

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Tour Rundown: Bubba is back (from near retirement)

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The California cruise on the PGA Tour came to an end at Riviera, as it always does. Tiger Woods played poorly over the George Thomas classic, as he always does. Oh, and Bubba Watson showed why he is not in the ranks of ballers Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland. Big wins were earned from Australia to Florida, by 22 year olds and 41 year youngs. Our tour rundown runs gathers results from five unique tours, and breaks each triumph down for you. Have a glance at this week’s Tour Rundown.

Watson returns to form with third Genesis Open win

There are too many ledes to unearth for this one: Horses for courses or Mercurial Watson, or how about My wife’s the hoops star, I’m the golfer? Whatever was in that Tracy McGrady rejection on Friday night was the medicine Bubba Watson needed to return to the winner’s circle. Along the way, Watson schooled the 20-somethings (and even the other Lefty) on how to close the deal in Hogan’s Alley.

How Watson came back from near-retirement

While the siren song of the candy store, car dealership and baseball team might have been strong, Bubba Watson wanted to be a champion golfer again. After nine, up-and-down holes (3 birdies and 2 bogeys) on Sunday, Watson was looking up at Patrick Cantlay, Kevin Na and even Phil Mickelson. Not to worry, as the Florida portsider had played the inward half under par all week. Watson closed with 3 birdies and 0 bogeys over his final 9 holes, sealing a 2-stroke win over Na and Tony Finau.

See the clubs Bubba used to win the 2018 Genesis Open

How a quartet missed out

Let’s summarize: Na played the back side in 1-under par and needed Watson’s 3-under for a playoff; Tony Finau was 2-under on the closing half, but needed double that for extra holes; Phil Mickelson bogeyed 15 and 16 when he knew that birdies were needed; Patrick Cantlay played 1 over in his final 9, when 2-under would have meant playoff. All the also-rans and almost-weres didn’t do what Watson did: close the deal.

Jin Young Ko secures Australian Open on LPGA Tour

It’s a stretch to call Jin Young Ko an LPGA player, as her first 9 wins came on the LPGA of Korea tour. In October and now in February, Ko bested world-class fields to win co-sanctioned events, and is now a two-time LPGA champion. At this rate, it might be difficult for her to remain tethered to the Korean tour.

How Ko won the week

A 7-under 65 on Thursday was the fuel Ko needed to take a lead that she would not relinquish. Although Katherine Kirk matched that number on Sunday, no one was able to wrest the advantage from the 22-year old Ko. Two rounds of 69 and one of 71 brought her to 14-under on the week. On day four, Ko started quickly with two opening birdies. A pair of bogeys on the outward half kept her within sight of the field, but birdies at 9, 13 and 17 were the recipe for re-establishing her three-shot margin of victory.

How she kept the field at bay

The challenging Kooyoonga golf club was not very free with low rounds this week. Ko’s compatriot Hyejin Choi, posted a flawless 67 on Sunday to move up one spot, into solo second at 11-under. In third and fourth were a pair of Australians, Hannah Green at 10-under and the aforementioned Katherine Kirk, at 9-under. Marina Alex was the low USA golfer at 7-under, tied for fifth spot with Minjee Lee.

Oman Open on European Tour

Joost Luiten began the fourth day at Oman in a three-way tie for first spot, but asserted himself early on Sunday with birdies on holes 2 through 4. It was enough to separate from the field, and he was able to hold off Chris Wood to earn his 8th European Tour title, by two strokes.

How Luiten claimed victory

After the fiery beginning, Luiten cooled off in the later stages of the opening nine holes. Bogeys at 7 and 8 brought him back to the field, but he wasn’t done for the afternoon. Luiten birdied 12 and 13, then added the clincher on a tricky birdie putt on the 16th hole. That final birdie gave him a 2-shot separation on Chris Wood, and he held on for pars at the final two holes for a 68 on the day and 16-under for the tournament.

How Wood and others came up shy

Matthew Southgate and Julien Guerrier began Sunday in a tie with Luiten, but the day turned sour early for Southgate. The Englishman had four bogeys in a five-hole stretch. Two more miscues on the inward half dropped him into a three-way tie for ninth at 9-under par. Guerrier held the wheel a bit steadier: two bogeys at the turn were offset by three birdies coming in, and the young Frenchman was able to coax a solo third-place finish out of the week. It was Chris Wood who gave the greatest chase to Luiten. Wood had four birdies on the day, and was in a tie at the top at 15-under, when he yanked a drive at 17 and found a hazard. Although he was able to play his ball, the ensuing bogey was the mistake he could not afford. A par at the last placed him at 14-under, one shot clear of Guerrier and two behind the champion.

Durant welcomes second PGA Tour Champions title at Chubb Classic

Technically, it’s his third, but the first was a two-man win with Billy Andrade. Durant probably caught wind that Billy Mayfair and Tim Petrovic were going super-low (8-under on Sunday) and that David Toms was at their heels (7-under on the day.) Each of those three earned a top-four finish, but Durant took matters into his own hands over the closing seven holes. He left Naples as the 2018 Chubb champion.

When Joe Durant woke up

Durant was 1-over through 7 holes on Sunday, headed in the wrong direction. Birdies on 8 and 9 reminded him that he still had a chance, but the eagle on 13 kicked his game into a higher gear. Birdies at 14, 17 and 18 were enough to offset a bogey at 15, and Durant cruised home with a four-stroke victory over Mayfair, Toms, Petrovic, Lee Janzen and Steve Stricker.

How that quintet fell away

After eight birdies through 14 holes on day 3, Mayfair had zero over his closing four. Toms did the opposite-He played the outward half in 2-under, but came home in 5-under to reach the podium. Petrovic had 4 birdies on each half, but also simply ran out of holes. Janzen threw an early scare into the eventual champion, but two bogeys and not enough chirps were his undoing. Stricker’s finish was the most painful. Within site of Durant and needing birdie at the last for 18-under, Stricker was forced to go for the flag, and instead got wet. His double-bogey finish dropped him from solo second to the five-way tie.

Daniel Fox surprises at Australian PGA championship

Daniel Fox had one previous victory on the Australasian circuit, but he made the most of opportunity’s knock on Sunday. The 41-year old played error-free golf over his final 14 holes, counting 6 birdies for a one-stroke victory over Matthew Millar and Steven Jeffress.

How Fox found the winner’s platform

Fox might say he was the last man standing, and none would argue. The runners-up had chances at birdie at the final hole, but neither one could convert. Fox counted three rounds of 65 and one of 67 on his card.  On the week, he had three bogeys and one double, against 21 birdies and one eagle. In an event where the margin ‘twixt victory and not-victory was razor-thin, Daniel Fox shaved the final whisker.

How Millar and Jeffress came up short

The easy answer would be: they didn’t birdie the 72nd hole. Jeffress had the low round (63) of the week, but his 67-67-66 lost ground on the other three days! As for Millar, one might point to his last two, outward nines. On both weekend days, he made nine consecutive pars to open his round. Against a par of 33, it wasn’t bad, but he gained no ground on the leader. Millar’s stat line for the week read: one eagle, 21 birdies, six bogeys. Yup, nearly identical to Fox, but nearly is the operative word.

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Tiger Woods fires second-round 76, will miss Genesis Open cut

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Tiger Woods’ trip to Los Angeles is over sooner than he’d hoped. Woods fired a 5-over 76 during the second round of the Genesis Open to miss the presumed cut at Riviera by four strokes (the second round won’t be completed until Saturday morning due to darkness).

Hopes were high Woods would continue to build on a T-23 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, as the driving woes that plagued him at Torrey Pines followed him to the Riv, despite changing shafts in his TaylorMade M3.

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Wayward off the tee, Woods made eight bogeys Friday, unable to grind out a decent score as he did with his opening-round 1-over 72. He was unable to rely on his putter the way did in this first round, three-putting back-to-back holes (No. 11 and 12). A stretch of three straight bogeys sunk Woods’ hopes of hanging around for the weekend.

(c/o PGATour.com)

We won’t have to wait long to see the Big Cat back in action, however, as Woods committed to next week’s Honda Classic at PGA National in Florida. Woods most recently put a peg in the ground at the course in 2014, where he ultimately withdrew due to back spasms.

The 79-time PGA Tour winner hasn’t teed it in back-to-back weeks since 2015, so while fans may not be encouraged by his play, at least he continues to be free from any issues with his surgically repaired back.

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