Turning Stone offers Tour lifeline for many
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2007 Turning Stone Resort Championship | Preview | 18 Sep 2007
The PGA Tour returns to a level of normality this week when the Turning Stone Resort Championship is played in Verona in Upstate New York. After four consecutive weeks of FedEx Cup playoffs, the Tour drops a level or two but for many this week, and the six remaining events that follow, could well mean the difference between having USPGA Tour status or not in 2008.
Many players on the cusp of the top 125 have an opportunity over the next few weeks, while many of the game’s leading players take a break after the rigours of an extended period of intense competition, the make progress on the money list.
The Turning Stone Resort is owned and operated by the Oneida Indian Nation and the Atunyote Golf Club is a five minute drive from the Resort itself. First used for this event last year when the En Joie Golf Club in Endicott was weather damaged in the lead up to the tournament, the course is a Tom Fazio designed layout which has already received significant accolades since its opening in 2004. Large undulating greens, steep faced bunkers and generous landing areas from the tees feature on the 7315 yard layout.
This event is effectively replacing the long running BC Open which was held at the nearby En Joie Golf Club in Endicott over a period between 1971 and 2006. The tournament took a different direction as a result of the damage caused by storms to the En Joie Golf Club and with double the prizemoney (US$6 million), it appears the change will be permanent.
The defending champion is John Rollins who edged out Bob May after both players had recorded rounds of 64 on the final day last year but the increased prizemoney has attracted a much stornger field and Rollins will find the task of defending this year a much greater one. His most recent form has been less than convincing and a successful defence would be somewhat of a surprise.
The highest world ranked player in the field this week – in fact he is the only player from the top 30 – is Henrik Stenson, who like Rollins, has not been at his best in the past three months. His wins in Dubai and at the Accenture highlight just how much talent the Swede posseses but he will need significant improvement if he is to win this week.
Despite caddy troubles in recent weeks, Robert Allenby appears to be back to the sort of form he was in earlier in the year when he was producing top tens in regular succession. His 8th place at the Deutsche Bank Championship and 11th at the the Tour Championship last week gives an indication that his game is in good enough shape to win here. Allenby and his caddy, Matt Triton, went their separate ways two weeks ago in a rather heated exchange but Allenby did not seem all that bothered when he finished as the leading Australian last week in Atlanta.
Left hander Steve Flesch did not play in either Chicago or Atlanta but he had been playing well in the weeks prior. He won in Reno and finished 5th in Milwaukee which, given the manner in which he had been performing for all of 2007, was a marked turnaround.
Shigeki Maruyama played well in this event last year when third and in recent weeks has begun to play nearer to the level we have come to expect of him than that he was showing for all of the 2007 season. His 7th place at the first of the FedEx Cup series in Greensboro was impressive and it might be that a retrun to this venue might further assist. He finished 13th in Japan two weeks ago at his last start.
Carl Petterson has played with mixed results in recent weeks but overall he is in the middle of another very solid season on the PGA Tour. The two time winner on the PGA Tour finished 10th at his last start at the BMW Championship in Chicago and a similar effort against this field might have him in the thick of things on Sunday.
There is a long list of Australians taking advantage of the weaker field and significant prizemoney on offer this week. Some are reaching the point of desparation in terms of their standing on the 2007 money list and their hopes for 2008. Others are here for a variety of reasons.
Stuart Appleby, Nick O’Hern, Nathan Green, John Senden, Peter Lonard, Steve Allan, Mathew Goggin, Andrew Buckle, Gavin Coles, Jarrod Lyle, Michael Sim, Mark Hensby and Paul Gow all have a chance to improve their standing and, for some, to move inside the top 125 by season’s end but for some the task is significant. Nick Flangan on the other hand gets his first start on the PGA Tour as a bona fide member and has less concern.
Flangan has had a three week break back in Australia preparing for what promises to be a a very enjoyable few weeks as he plays five of the next seven USPGA Tour events before returning to the Nationwide Tour for their season ending championship. Flanagan will not play the tournament in Las Vegas but he plays with the glorious certainty of having a very strong status on the 2008 PGA Tour irrespective of whatever happens this week. His three victories on the Nationwide Tour in 2007 have given him that right.
Flanagan played ten PGA Tour events in 2004 as a result of invites and his US Amateur win in 2003 but made only one cut. He has played only one further event on the PGA Tour, when he finished 23rd at the British Open in 2005, a performance he still considers the equal of his wins this year. His progress over the next few weeks will be watched with interest.