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Testing times for Arron Oberholser in the Web.com Tour Finals

By Tim Rosaforte

From the September 3 edition of Golf World Monday:

Arron Oberholser was just back in his hotel room in Fort Wayne, Ind., watching Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel throw touchdown passes Saturday afternoon, when his phone rang.

"What's it like being a tour player again?" was the question.

"In all honesty, it feels weird, kind of," was the response.

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When we spoke, Oberholser was five strokes off the lead at the Hotel Fitness Championship, the first of the four-tournament "Finals" on the Web.com Tour that take the place of Q school as a qualifier for the PGA Tour. Oberholser was just one of the many familiar names on the tee sheet using Sycamore Hills GC as a means to scrape out exempt status on the PGA Tour when the wrap-around 2013-14 season commences in October.

Related: Journeymen become stars on the Golf Channel

Oberholser, 38, has played just four events in the last four seasons, mostly due to recurring issues from four surgeries to his left hand, along with one to his right hip. In April, after missing the cut at the Shell Houston Open, he called Golf Channel inquiring about a job as an analyst. At one point he went 27 straight months without playing an event and has been on a major medical extension since 2009.

"Five years is a long, long time in the world of golf," he said. When Oberholser went to the sidelines, he was 33, technically entering his prime. He had only recently married his wife, Angie. Their two boys, Ethan, 4, and Ryan, 2, became accustomed to having Dad at home.

"Angie told me, 'Oh, the boys saw you on TV. They won't nap because they want to see the rest of the round,' " he said. "I definitely have a different perspective."

That perspective was also honed by his work in studio and in the booth -- especially the long days at Merion for the U.S. Open. Breaking down the stats, looking at the world's best players and what they do best, pointed Oberholser toward what to work on in his own game.

It took a special glove, approved by the PGA Tour (after the USGA deemed it non-conforming), to make a comeback possible. Even with that accommodation, he was still icing down the hand and taking Advil to reduce the swelling and pain.

"The glove isn't the cure-all by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "That's why if it doesn't hold up over the next three weeks, then I'll probably see a lot more of you in the studio."

Related: Why you should be watching the Web.com Tour

On Sunday, Oberholser bogeyed his final hole to shoot 71 for a T-18 finish. He felt pain at the top of his backswing and at impact, most of it caused by a bone spur discovered with an MRI earlier this year. With that, I asked Oberholser to put on his broadcaster's cap and analyze the chances of his own comeback.

"If I'm a guy sitting back having the same kind of problems I've had, I'd feel for him," he said. "It's not going to be the smoothest of roads back and everything is going to be day to day with him, but you never know."

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News & Tours

Why you should watch the Web.com Tour for the next month

By Alex Myers

When was the last time you watched a Web.com event? Be honest, did you even remember it's now called the Web.com Tour?

That could change in the coming weeks, though, as the PGA Tour's developmental tour will combine forces with the PGA Tour for its own playoff. Confused? Don't worry, the system is far less complicated than the FedEx Cup.

Related: 9 pricey moments in FedEx Cup history

Essentially, the top 75 players from the Web.com Tour and Nos. 125-200 off the PGA Tour's regular season FedEx Cup points list (those who didn't qualify for the PGA Tour's four-event playoff that began last week at the Barclays) are eligible to tee it up. The four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals, in which earning a PGA Tour card for next season is the goal, begins Thursday with the Hotel Fitness Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind. It will end with the Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass (Valley Course) Sept. 26-29. All four $1-million-purse tournaments will air on Golf Channel.

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Ryo Ishikawa is among those fighting for his job in the Web.com Tour Finals.

In the new system, 25 cards are up for grabs in addition to those already earned by the top 25 money earners during the Web.com's regular season. Those 25 players will still compete in the Web.com's Tour Finals, though, since where you finish overall (standings will be based on money earned) after the four tournaments will determine a player's positioning on the PGA Tour's eligibility list for the 2013-2014 season.

This new system takes the place of Q School as the year's final feeder system to the PGA Tour. Q School still exists, but now, entrants are only playing for status on the Web.Com Tour next season.

While the true out-of-nowhere-to-the-PGA-Tour stories produced by Q School over the years are a thing of the past, this group of tournaments will still have a rags-to-riches feel. Have you heard of Scott Parel? How about Bhavik Patel? We didn't think so.

Related: 2013's major championships in review

These lesser-known names from the Web.Com Tour will compete with guys like Trevor Immelman, a major champion, and Chad Campbell a former Ryder Cupper. Struggling veterans like Ricky Barnes and Robert Karlsson will vie against potential future stars like Ryo Ishikawa and Bud Cauley. Move on, and you get a chance to play on golf's highest level next season. Fall short, and it's down to the minor leagues. 

For some, they'll experience that disappointment for the first time. For others, it will be for the first time in a long time. Either way, it should for some pretty good reality TV.

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News & Tours

PGA Tour pros support inaugural charity event for Todd Anderson's son Tucker

By Roger Schiffman

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- On Monday of the Players Championship, nearly 20 PGA Tour and Web.com Tour players put on a great display of friendship for Todd Anderson, Sea Island's director of instruction, and more importantly, support for Anderson's son Tucker.

Last September, Tucker--a first-semester freshman at the University of West Florida on a golf scholarship--was seriously injured in a horrific automobile accident, leaving him in a coma for weeks. He suffered traumatic brain injuries and was in critical condition with head and neck injuries, but miraculously pulled through and is on his way to making a full recovery.

Davis Love III, Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson, Jonathan Byrd, Harris English, Johnson Wagner, J.J. Henry, Lucas Glover, Chris Kirk, Dicky Pride and a number of other tour players, most of whom make their home in Sea Island, played in the inaugural TA4Life Pro-Am Invitational, a two-person shamble format (each with an amateur partner) over the Seaside Course, also site of the McGladrey Classic (Nov. 4-10). 

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A number of tour pros participated in the inaugural TA4Life Foundation's inaugural event. 

Snedeker (currently No. 2 in the FedEx Cup points standings), along with his teacher Anderson, opened the event with a putting clinic in front of more than 100 interested observers. The event raised thousands of dollars for a new charitable foundation set up by Todd and his wife, Stacey, named TA4Life. The foundation's mission will be dedicated to brain-injury research and to help those like Tucker who are recovering from issues related to brain trauma.

Related: Tim Rosaforte: Snedeker carrying on after Tucker Anderson's accident

Tucker has improved dramatically since the accident, but it has not been easy. He still has significant issues with his speech, and he's undergoing constant therapy to correct problems with his right eye. His sense of humor, however, keeps everyone around him upbeat.

"I see double out of that eye, which causes me to see two golf balls at address," Tucker said in his improving, but still slurred delivery. "I have a new pair of sunglasses to correct that. It's a lot easier to hit the ball when you don't have to guess which one to swing at."

One of Tucker's goals was to actually hit shots during the event, and so he hit to the par-3 sixth hole with each group.

In addition to the tour players who participated, wounded veteran Tim Lang was invited to attend. Lang lost his right leg and suffered serious brain trauma while serving in Iraq six years ago, then turned to golf for his recovery. He's now a 6-handicapapper and a motivational speaker overcoming significant problems with his speech. He spent several hours with Tucker after the event, offering advice on how to handle the physical as well as mental hurdles that come with traumatic brain injury.

"It meant a lot to me that I could speak with Tim," said Tucker, who expressed his deep appreciation to the Sea Island family and all of the tour players who participated. "I'm overwhelmed by your generosity, love and support," he said.

For information on how to donate, log on to TA4Life.org.

Photo: Courtesy of Roger Schiffman
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News & Tours

New cardholders: The 25 newest PGA Tour members

By Stephen Hennessey

Starting the week at No. 44 on the Web.com Tour's money list, Justin Bolli needed to make a big move to jump the 19 spots required to earn his PGA Tour card.

How about winning the Web.com Tour Championship outright?

Bolli, 36, made his PGA Tour rookie debut in 2005, and has been a PGA Tour member for three seasons, never once keeping his status for the following year. His best PGA Tour finish was a T-5 at the 2008 AT&T Classic in Georgia.

This is the last year the top 60 on the Web.com Tour money list will play the Tour Championship in attempt of getting into the top 25. Next year, as part of the changes to the PGA Tour schedule, the top 75 from the Web.com Tour will compete in "The Finals", along with 75 PGA Tour players who don't qualify for the FedEx Cup, for another 25 spots. The top 25 players on the Web.com money list at the end of the 2013 season will clinch a card.

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Justin Bolli fired a final-round 65 to clinch his fourth season on the PGA Tour. Photo by Stan Badz/PGA Tour.

Two of the more unlikely stories to earn a card out of TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas include Luke Guthrie and Ben Kohles. Both 22-year-olds and recent college graduates--Guthrie from Illinois and Kohles from Virginia--won two Web.com Tour events to lock up their cards early in the season. Kohles won two events in a row, lucking into a spot at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational, then winning the Cox Classic the next week.

Another good story is Morgan Hoffmann, who was struggling to Monday qualify for Web.com events early in the season. The former All-American at Oklahoma State finished in the top-10 in six of the last seven events of the year, including a T-3 at the Tour Championship to earn his card. A roommate of Rickie Fowler and Cameron Tringale in Jupiter, Tringale said he hadn't seen Hoffmann in months with their differences in schedule. Now the trio will be on the same schedule in 2013.

Casey Wittenberg had locked up his PGA Tour card early in 2013, winning two events before June. The 27-year-old Memphis resident also qualified for the U.S. Open, and was paired with Tiger Woods in the final round at the Olympic Club.

Fifteen of the 25 newly-minted PGA Tour cardholders will be first-time PGA Tour members.

Here's the full list:

1. Casey Wittenberg, $433,453

2. Luke Guthrie, $410,593

3. Russell Henley, $400,116

4. Luke List, $363,206

5. James Hahn, $337,530

6. Shawn Stefani, $307,371

7. Robert Streb, $305,591

8. Ben Kohles, $303,977

9. Justin Bolli, $300,924

10. David Lingmerth, $287,148

11. Justin Hicks, $277,159

12. Paul Haley II, $263,841

13. Cameron Percy, $256,238

14. Andres Gonzales, $235,505

15. Scott Gardiner, $234,145

16. Lee Williams, $223,468

17. Darron Stiles, $213,031

18. Brad Fritsch, $212,168

19. Morgan Hoffmann, $207,540

20. Brian Stuard, $205,711

21. Andrew Svoboda, $203,717

22. Nicholas Thompson, $192,751

23. Alistair Presnell, $190,567

24. Doug LaBelle II, $186,320

25. Jim Herman, $182,001

... Read
News & Tours

Golf World Monday: The PGA Tour's new feeder system

From the Oct. 22, 2012 edition of Golf World Monday:

By Ryan Herrington

The phrase "next logical step" was a popular one from Canadian Tour officials at last week's press conference announcing the PGA Tour would be taking operational control of the 42-year-old circuit and rebranding it PGA Tour Canada for 2013. Despite a proud history that saw the likes of Mike Weir, Steve Stricker, Chris DiMarco and Tim Clark compete in its events, the Canadian Tour faced crippling financial issues without assistance from Ponte Vedra Beach.

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Photo by Getty Images

In the end, losing your autonomy is better than becoming extinct -- although the 133-yard hole-out eagle that won Eugene Wong (above) the Canadian Tour Championship in August would have been a memorable way to go out. Less discussed, however, is the strategic sense the acquisition makes for the PGA Tour.

As with the recently created PGA Tour Latinoamerica, which began its first season last month, the top five money leaders in Canada will earn status on the Web.com Tour.

Related: The 10 best players to come from the developmental tour

The schedules for the two tours will complement each other, Canadian events (a minimum of eight are expected in 2013) to be played in the summer and Latin America stops in the fall. More importantly, they help establish a structured feeder system to funnel young international talent toward the United States -- and away from the PGA Tour's chief rival, the European Tour. Next logical step, indeed.

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News & Tours

PGA, Web.com Tours get closer on settling schedule changes

The Tour Championship is, at last, the final official event of the PGA Tour season -- starting in 2013. Yet many PGA Tour players will have another week of work ahead of them at that time next year. That's because the finale of the proposed three-tournament Web.com Tour series is going to be the following week.

Golf World has learned that the playoff series in which Web.com players and PGA Tour players vie for 25 PGA Tour cards is scheduled to end on Sept. 29, the week after the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Furthermore, that "playoff" event has a strong chance of being staged in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., at PGA Tour headquarters.

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It's all part of evolving developments on the PGA Tour as it gears up for a set of sweeping changes to the sport starting next year, changes that include the commencement of a split-calendar season and the elimination of Q School as a direct route to the PGA Tour.

Related: Jaime Diaz's five most historic Q School grads

This year's Web.com Tour ends Oct. 28 with the Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, meaning there's work to be done to rearrange the junior circuit to finish just two weeks before the new PGA Tour season starts Oct. 10 at the Fry's.com Open.

"That is one of the real challenges," Bill Calfee, president of the Web.com Tour, said by telephone. "We have to cut the season by a month, which is proving to be difficult. But we're getting there."

Tour officials also are making progress in identifying the three sites for the playoff series, each which offers a $1 million purse. Those events will be open to the top 75 on the Web.com Tour and 75 more from the PGA Tour who finish 126-200 on the regular season FedExCup points list.

Calfee said five sites are under consideration, and he confirmed that existing events in Columbus, Ohio, and Ponte Vedra Beach are in the mix. The latter currently is the site of the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open presented by Planters at Dye's Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Related: Check out Golf Digest's new course finder

"I don't think it would be any surprise that we'd love to have the season-ending event be here at PGA Tour headquarters and home to our sponsor, Web.com," Calfee said.

He added that officials of the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational have approached the tour about hosting the first playoff event in mid-September. The six-year-old tournament is staged at Ohio State University's Scarlet Course.

As for the remaining contenders, not all are at existing sites. Web.com Tour sources told Golf World that one site under consideration is the Neediest Kids Championship presented by Under Armour at TPC Potomac at Avenal Farms in Potomac, Md. Geography might dictate the final selections.

"There was a push to have at least one event on the west coast, but the logistics are pretty tough," said one player. "The main idea is that you can't have three events all in the same geographic location. You want to give them different kinds of courses, different grasses, etc."

Calfee said no decisions on sites have been finalized, but an announcement could come in the next 5-6 weeks.

-- Dave Shedloski

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July 28, 2014

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