For years, it was not unusual for players on the lower end of the priority list to bounce between the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour.
To get an idea of how much has changed, consider Harrison Endycott of Australia.
Endycott narrowly lost his PGA Tour card only to gamely earn it back by winning Q-school, which offered only five cards. He now has a schedule that has him playing four straight weeks on two tours, separated by a mere 8,000 miles.
Two weeks in California on the PGA Tour. Two weeks in the Middle East on the European tour.
Endycott is among those taking advantage of the alliance with the European tour that offers up to five spots for players who finished between Nos. 126 and 200 in the FedEx Cup.
Only 19 of the 30 Korn Ferry Tour graduates got into the Sony Open — usually all of them do. Endycott got into The American Express last week, but he wasn’t confirmed for the 156-man field at the Farmers Insurance Open until the weekend.
“It’s a very new system the tour has never faced before. It’s all up in the air,” Endycott said.
The new system is eight signature events with limited fields primarily for the top 50 from the FedEx Cup. The uncertainty is where else they might play and how much room that leaves for everyone else.
Endycott believes, based on several conversations with players and tour officials, that the top 50 is so important that those players are competing more often on the West Coast to give them the best chance at staying in the top 50.
“I think it will bleed out as the season goes on,” Endycott said. “Once we get the early stretch out of the way, I think we’ll get to see more of the members in the field list go deeper. I’m right on that line, so it will be a mixed year of PGA Tour and DP World Tour.”
Ryan Palmer, Matthias Schwab, Sung Kang and Dylan Frittelli also are in the Bahrain Championship. Frittelli has used the exemption to play European tour events in South Africa already, while Schwab, Kang and Frittelli are playing this week in Ras Al-Khaimah.
Travel is nothing new for Endycott, an engaging 27-year-old from Sydney. In his first year as a pro, he split time between the PGA Tour of Australasia, the European tour and the PGA Tour Latinoamerica.
“I had quite the frequent flyer account,” he said.
Meanwhile, Endycott is not one to panic. He will have the Mexico Open and the start of the Florida swing. There are opposite-field events. And he thinks as the FedEx Cup standings develop, more room in the fields will become available for Korn Ferry and Q-school graduates.
“For me having a year on and seeing how it all pans out, the panic is a lot less,” said Endycott, a PGA Tour rookie in 2023. “I’m not as concerned as I would have been last year.”
Judy Rankin earned her spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame for her play on the LPGA Tour. Her second career was in television, and Rankin is being honored with the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism.
She is the 33rd recipient and the first woman to receive the award from the PGA of America.
Rankin, the first woman to surpass $100,000 in LPGA earnings and a 26-time winner, began her broadcasting career in 1984.
“Following a remarkable playing career, Judy has delivered insightful commentary as a broadcaster for nearly four decades,” said PGA President John Lindert. “She has made an everlasting impact on the broadcast industry as she paved the way for countless women to follow in her footsteps.”
Rankin, who started with ABC Sports, was the first woman to work full-time broadcasts at men’s events.
“I do take a certain satisfaction that so many women are accepted in golf and men’s golf today and how good they are,” Rankin said.
Rankin retired from full-time work in 2022, though she returned for special occasions like the Solheim Cup.
“Quite honestly I am a little overwhelmed that it’s for journalism,” said Rankin. “It really makes me feel good as though I did something slightly more meaningful than just playing a game. I am really honored that they think there was some journalistic value to what I’ve done all these years.”
She will be honored April 10 in Augusta, Georgia, at the Golf Writers Association of America annual dinner.
ROSE AND THE PUTTER
Among the struggles Rose Zhang had last summer after such an amazing start to her pro career was losing her putter.
Turns out that’s not a figure of speech.
“I physically lost my putter,” Zhang said last week at the Tournament of Champions.
She was on a train in London on her way to the Women’s British Open when her father took the putter out of her golf bag and then accidentally left the putter on the train.
“I could not putt because the specs were wrong, putter was an inch shorter, wrong shaft, every weight was wrong,” Zhang said. “So I just did not know where the putter was going to go.”
Now she’s had some time to get a new putter in the bag and it’s slowly started to come around.
As for the whereabouts of her original putter, Zhang has no idea.
“If it’s not on eBay, it’s probably in someone else’s hands,” she said.
J.T. Poston played three straight tournaments to start the year and now has a week off.
But not for long. His schedule has him playing nine of the first 11 weeks to get in as much golf as he can. His wife is expecting their first child in March, with the due date the week of the Valspar Championship (a week after The Players).
“She took a test at The Open and the first thing she looked at was what week,” Poston said. “She knew it would be around the week of Augusta.”
The Masters is three weeks after the due date.
Adam Schenk knows the feeling. He played 10 straight weeks to start 2023 ahead of his wife giving birth in April. Schenk went on to have his best season, reaching the Tour Championship for the first time.
The JM Eagle LA Championship might have one perk to attract a strong LPGA event on April 25-28 in Los Angeles. Tournament sponsors are providing complimentary hotel rooms in Hollywood for the entire 144-player field, along with a VIP shuttle service to Wilshire Country Club. … The World Champions Cup had such a strong debut in December that it agreed to return to The Concession in Bradenton, Florida, in 2024, 2025 and 2028. The other two years are being kept open in case the unique tri-match — U.S., Europe and International teams playing nine-hole matches — wants to go overseas. … The Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational is changing its name in a move that should thrill typesetters. The new name of the LPGA’s team event in Michigan is simply Dow Championship. … The R&A is offering three spots in the British Open to leading players at the Malaysian Open (Feb. 15-18), three spots at the Mizuno Open (May 23-26) and two spots at the Korea Open (June 20-23).
STAT OF THE WEEK
Ryan Palmer was among five players at The American Express who posted three rounds in the 60s and still missed the cut.
“I’ve never played with him before. I probably would have preferred our first time in a practice round.” — Justin Thomas on playing the final round with Alabama sophomore Nick Dunlap in The American Express. Dunlap became the first amateur in 33 years to win on the PGA Tour.