1. Opportunistic at "opposite" event
With the world's top-ranked players some 12 time zones away in China, PGA Tour rookie Cody Gribble took advantage of the circumstances Sunday by winning the Sanderson Farms Championship, known as one of the PGA Tour's "opposite'' events.
There are four such tournaments on the schedule, and they don't offer a spot to the winner in the Masters, don't offer as many FedEx Cup points as a regular tournament (300, compared to 500 at regular events) and typically come with less than a $1 million payday -- although Gribble is surely not quibbling about his $756,000 first-place check.
But there are other valuable perks, not the least of which is the two-year PGA Tour exemption which means Gribble has a place to play through the 2018-19 season (it is two years beyond the current season). He also will get a spot in the winner's-only Tournament of Champions in January, where there is a guaranteed paycheck, and sets himself up for a shot at the WGC-Mexico Championship by virtue of his place in the FedEx Cup standings.
And those 300 points come in handy as it relates to getting in the FedEx Cup playoffs next August.
A win is huge no matter the player or circumstances, but for someone in Gribble's position, it is especially so. Gribble, who played college golf at the University of Texas with Jordan Spieth and was making just his eighth PGA Tour start, earned his spot through the Web.com Tour, where he was 40th in the priority rankings. That number can change based on performance, so there was no guarantee he would get the playing opportunities necessary to keep his status.
Now he's got it -- and for another two seasons -- along with a big check and a good head start on his rookie season.
2. No guarantees
Gribble does not have to do much research to find that others who have won opposite events have not necessarily prospered. In fact, Peter Malnati, who won the Sanderson Farms Championship last year, has missed 20 cuts in 32 events since. That is the beauty of having the two-year exemption. Malnati still has time to work out any issues. Nick Taylor, who won the event in 2014, had just a single top-10 in 2016, missed 10 cuts in 24 events and has slipped to 410th in the world.
Tony Finau, who won the Puerto Rico Open last year played opposite the WGC-Dell Match Play, has probably had the most success, although he's had no top-10s in 18 tournaments since his victory. He is ranked 80th in the world.
Greg Chalmers won the Barracuda Championship in July opposite the WGC-Bridgestone. He has placed no better than a tie for 33rd in seven events afterward and missed nine cuts on the PGA Tour in 2016. J.J. Henry, who won the Barracuda a year prior, has played 30 tournaments since, missed 13 cuts and had no top-10s.
So while these tournaments provide an excellent opportunity, they are not necessarily an indication of future success.
3. Should there be more or less?
Currently, the opposite events are Sanderson Farms (WGC-Bridgestone), Puerto Rico Open (WGC-Match Play), Barbasol Championship (The Open) and the Barracuda Championship (WGC-Bridgestone).
Some believe there shouldn't be any, that if you can't qualify for the PGA Tour event being played that week, so be it. But that is a minority view; the bulk of PGA Tour players want playing opportunities, and the PGA Tour's mission is to provide them. Hence, the schedule that seemingly never ends.
That does not help the overall product, however. The calendar is saturated with golf events and if anything, there needs to be less, not more.
So as crazy as it might sound, why not add some "opposite'' events? They would be played at the same time as some of the bigger tournaments, offer more playing opportunities, possibly affording the PGA Tour the ability to somewhat contract its schedule.
Now there are 47 tournaments spread across 43 weeks, including the FedEx Cup playoffs.
There is no movement to cut back, so why not have a few more tournaments opposite the big ones and shrink the schedule that way? There could easily be eight opposite events -- the same week as the four majors and four WGCs. (The Sanderson Farms used to be known as the "Mississippi Masters'' as it was played the same week as the Masters from 1969 through 1993.)
You could play the same week as the Players Championship, too, and maybe the same week as one of the invitationals where there are limited fields, such as the Arnold Palmer Invitational or the Memorial.
The negative for the sponsor, of course, is playing the same week as a bigger more prominent tournament means less exposure. But many get little attention, especially some of those this time of year such as this week's Shriners Hospital For Children's Open, or the OHL Classic next week or the RSM Classic in two weeks.
Make the FedEx Cup points and the purse half of a regular event. Those who play in these tournaments will have the benefit of less competition but will have to play well in a couple of them to earn the same number of points and money. More players get a chance, a sponsor potentially gets a break in fees and the tour can offer more playing opportunities while cutting back on tournament weeks.
Because the Shriners tournament in Las Vegas was moved from October to November this year, those few extra weeks mean even less daylight. Hence, the tournament requested a reduction in field size from 144 players to 132 in order to better be able to complete the first two rounds. Alas, a clerical error at the PGA Tour led to players committing to the tournament under the previous 144 provisions, leaving the tour no choice but to go with the larger field size -- and the likelihood of rounds having to be completed the following day.
5. Congrats from a fellow Longhorn ...
Gribble got a shout out from his more famous former Texas teammate.
6. ... and a former college rival
Justin Thomas, who played college golf at Alabama, congratulated Gribble by noting his eligibility for the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii at Kapalua.
7. Japan's finest
Hideki Matsuyama won for the third time on the PGA Tour and became the first Asian player to win a WGC event with his seven-stroke victory Sunday at the HSBC Champions. It followed a victory two weeks earlier at the Japan Open and moved Matsuyama to a career-best sixth in the world -- just one spot below the best ever by a Japanese player, Jumbo Ozaki.
Masahi "Jumbo'' Ozaki, now 69, was quite a character in his day, wearing colorful clothes and flying in a sushi chef for tournament appearances outside of Japan.
Ranked among the top 10 in the world for nearly 200 weeks, Ozaki had little success outside of Japan. His record was often criticized for that very reason; he had 94 wins on the Japan Golf Tour -- including 12 money titles -- and more than 100 in his career -- but just one outside of Japan at the 1972 New Zealand PGA Championship. Ozaki was highly-ranked into his early 50s and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2010. But he had just three top-10s in major championships among his 48 appearances.
8. First-world problems
Matt Kuchar thought he had won a Cadillac when he made an ace at the par-3 17th hole Saturday at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China. A car was placed at the hole for just that purpose, but there was some fine print in play. For insurance reasons, the car was being offered only if the tee shot measured 200 yards or more. For weekend play, tournament officials moved up the tee due to conditions and noted the change to the prize being offered as well. Kuchar's shot was from 193 yards.
"I was teased by this beautiful car sitting there that's not to be mine,'' Kuchar said.
9. Look, there's a tee back there
They are really doing this at the Turkish Airlines Open this week. This is the 16th hole, which has a back tee atop a villa at the European Tour's first of three Final Series events.