Matteson making his usual late run

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This is the way it was supposed to be for Troy Matteson. Instead of trying to jump into the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list and keep his card when he plays this week in the Viking Classic, Matteson will be playing for the first time on the two-year exemption he earned Sunday by capturing the Open in a playoff. "It's just an unbelievable feeling," Matteson said after winning on the second extra hole over Rickie Fowler (Oklahoma State) and Jamie Lovemark (USC), who were playing college golf earlier this year. Like them, Matteson once seemed to be on the fast track to PGA Tour stardom, following in the footsteps of fellow Georgia Tech alums Stewart Cink, Larry Mize, David Duval and Matt Kuchar — not to mention the great Bobby Jones. But after three solid seasons on the PGA Tour, Matteson found himself on the bubble to retain his playing privileges for next season at 131st on the money list heading to last week's tournament at Scottsdale, Ariz. "I haven't played good all year," said Matteson, who for the first time in four seasons on the PGA Tour did not have a single finish in the top 10 in 29 tournaments this year. "But there are obviously a lot of guys in my situation. I have not played very well up to this point, but that's golf, and you don't know when you're going to play good." It did not seem that this would be the time when Matteson opened with a 2-over-par 72 last week on the Raptor Course at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale. He was outside the projected cut-line when he started his second round on Friday afternoon. "If you would have told me that I could get into a playoff to try to win this tournament, I would have said you're absolutely out of your mind," Matteson said on Sunday night. However, he put up scores of 61-61-68 and eventually earned his first victory since winning what is now the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open in Las Vegas in 2006 and climbed to 55th on the money list. That's the type of golf that was predicted for Matteson when he was a two-time All-American at Georgia Tech and captured the 2002 NCAA individual championship in addition to earning the 2003 Byron Nelson Award and the 2002 Arnold Palmer Award. Of course, he always seems to rise in the fall. In 2006, Matteson reeled off five consecutive top-10 finishes in October, including his victory in Las Vegas by one stroke over Ben Crane and Daniel Chopra. In winning the Open, he earned his ninth top-10 in September, October and November over his four seasons on the PGA Tour. "I don't know, I just kind of like it in the fall," said Matteson, who was the leading money-winner on the Nationwide Tour in 2005, when he captured the Virginia Beach Open and the Mark Christopher Charity Classic. "I've always liked the fall, maybe (because) it coincides with the start of school every year for me when I was in college. I wasn't much of a summer golfer. I didn't play good in the summer. I've somehow managed to play pretty decent in the fall. It's just a good time of the year for me." Matteson seemed to be headed for another high finish in the Fall Series when he shot 9-under-par 62 to share the first-round lead in the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open two weeks ago and still was tied for the lead after a second-round 67. However, he went 70-73 on the weekend and slid from a tie for eighth after 54 holes to a tie for 27th at the finish. The culprit, as it has been for most of the season, was his putter. Matteson needed a total of only 55 putts in the first two rounds but took 65 in the last two. "I haven't putted well all year," said Matteson, who ranks 134th on the circuit with an average of 29.42 putts per round. "I've putted terrible. I have had a day or two where I putted well. I made a few changes (recently) and just holed some putts (in the first two rounds in Las Vegas). You see that first one go in from 15 feet, the next one is easier, the next one is easier. "It's nice to see that ball drop when it gets around the hole rather than miss or lip out. When you have a good putting day, you just don't have to do too much right from tee to green. That putter is really the great equalizer. "All year, I've been trying to stroke the ball. What that means (is), I'm trying to keep a good even pace to my stroke. Sometimes if you're not careful, if you get tentative, you get to pushing the ball on the green. A putt is just like an iron shot — you still have to hit it." The putter told his story last week, too, as he took 33 putts in the first round and 31 in the last but needed only 52 in the middle rounds. That was enough for him to burst through the bubble.

Immelman on the mend

Trevor Immelman underwent surgery last week to repair a nagging injury to his left wrist and could be ready to play early in the 2010 season after undergoing rehabilitation. Dr. Andrew Weiland, who has done similar procedures on Luke Donald and Jim Furyk, performed the operation at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Immelman will begin strengthening exercises in six weeks and should be able to begin chipping and putting after three months. "This past season was a frustrating one as I dealt with this recurring injury, and after attempting all other treatment options and consulting with Dr. Weiland, surgery was the right option," Immelman said. "The timing was very important to me as I want to put this season behind me and be ready for 2010. I appreciate Dr. Weiland's experience and guidance through this and look forward to a healthy and productive season next year." The recurring wrist injury caused Immelman to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament in June and flared several times during the season, forcing him to miss three of the four majors. Weiland said Immelman had a severe case of tendinitis that impacted other areas of the wrist. "After exhausting all other treatment options this season, surgery was the recommended course of action," Weiland said. "I'm extremely pleased with how the surgery went, and I'm confident Trevor will make a full recovery in time for the 2010 season." Immelman's best finish in 13 events on the PGA Tour this season was a tie for 20th in the Masters as defending champion.

Cabrera misses his tee time

Masters champion Angel Cabrera was disqualified from the Castello Masters last in Castellon, Spain, because his flight was delayed from Bermuda and he missed his tee time by a little more than 10 minutes. Cabrera was runner-up in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda last week against winner Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Y.E. Yang, and he was scheduled to take an overnight flight to Spain. Tournament officials made it easier on him with an afternoon tee time for the first round of the European Tour event. However, a series of flight delays and strong wind that slowed the plane once it took off could not get him to the course on time, even though a private helicopter whisked him from the airport in Valencia, Spain. "I did my best and I never once thought about not coming," said Cabrera, who was hoping to improve his position in the Race to Dubai standings. "My son (Federico, who tied for 71st) is playing, so I wanted to be playing, too. "And it's such a pity that I missed my chance by about 10 or 15 minutes in the end." Caberera's bad timing continued at the course. His playing partners, Martin Kaymer and Gonzalo Fernando-Castano, made it through only one hole before play was temporarily stopped because of high wind. Had play been stopped minutes earlier, before they teed off, Cabrera could have joined them.

Notes and quotes

  • Ryo Ishikawa, the 18-year-old from Japan who was impressive while playing for the International team in the Presidents Cup in San Francisco, has committed to the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions Tournament next week in Shanghai. Ishikawa, who has won four times in Japan this season, was scheduled to play in a smaller event on Japan's domestic tour but was given permission by his sponsors to instead play in the WGC event against the best players in the world, including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. "I'm looking forward to seeing how I perform in such a strong field," said Ishikawa, who missed the cut in four of his six tournaments on the PGA Tour this season, including the Masters and the Open Championship. His best finish was a tie for 56th in the PGA Championship. Sergio Garcia is defending champion for the HSBC at Sheshan International Golf Club, where the tournament will be played under the WBC umbrella for the first time.
  • Another 18-year-old, Tadd Fujikawa of Hawaii, has finished high school, and instead of college he is moving on to PGA Tour Qualifying School. Fujikawa, who has played in more than 20 tournaments on several tours since turning pro two years ago, is in the field for the first stage of Q-school this week at St. John's Golf and Country Club in St. Augustine, Fla. "It's really hard to say if I am where I expected myself to be," said the 5-foot-1 Fujikawa, who qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot when he was 15. "I'm very pleased with what I've done thus far. But I also wish I could have done more." Until now, most of his professional success has come at the Sony Open in Hawaii, his hometown event. In 2007, at the age of 16, he became the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut in a PGA Tour event and went on to tie for 20th by shooting 66-66 in the middle rounds at Waialae Country Club. Earlier this year, he made it into the Sony field as a Monday qualifier and shot 62 in the third round but slid 26 spots in the leaderboard to tie for 32nd after closing with a 73. Fujikawa did achieve two milestones this year: getting his driver's license in April and graduating from Moanalua High School in June. "It was nice to be done with that," he said. Fujikawa is among more than 900 players who have signed up for the first stage of the PGA Tour Q-School, which will be played out over the next two weeks at 13 sites. That group includes Gary Nicklaus, son of Jack Nicklaus, and Sam Saunders, grandson of Arnold Palmer. Of the more than 1,200 players who signed up for Q-school last year, only eight made it through all three stages, a total of 252 total holes, to earn a PGA Tour playing card.
  • The PGA European Tour announced in Wentworth, England, the addition of two tournaments on the 2010 schedule, but as a sign of the economic times, three other events have disappeared. The Africa Open in South Africa and the Hassan 11 Golf Trophy in Morocco were added, but the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia, the Malaysian Open and the Indonesian Open fell by the wayside. Those three events had a combined prize fund of more than $4 million in 2009. Tour officials said that the Race to Dubai, the European tour's money list bonus scheme, will be in place for a second consecutive season. The Race to Dubai took a hit in its first season earlier this year when Leisurecorp, the original backer of the format, was taken over by Nakheel Leisure, which negotiated a $5 million reduction in the prize fund. The second Race to Dubai will start in South Africa with the Alfred Dunhill Championship from Dec. 10-13, followed a week later by the South African Open Championship — both won by Richard Sterne of South Africa in December. The Africa Open, co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Golf Tour, will be held at the East London Golf Club in East London, South Africa, the first week of January. In March, the Hassan 11 Golf Trophy, which dates to 1971 and is being upgraded to European Tour status, will be played at the Royal Dar-Es-salam Club in Rabat, Morocco. The three-event desert swing again will be played in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai in January and early February.
  • The first awards of the PGA Tour season have been determined, and the winner, no surprise, is Tiger Woods. Woods captured the points-based Player of the Year award from the PGA of America. He virtually was assured to win the award after the Tour Championship, but it did not become a mathematical fact until last week. The No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings earned 10 points for each of his six PGA Tour victories, 20 more points for leading the money list and an additional 20 for compiling the lowest adjusted scoring average of the season. Woods earned the PGA of America award for the 10th time and added the Vardon Trophy from the PGA of America and the Byron Nelson Award from the PGA Tour by compiling the lowest adjusted scoring average at 68.05. This is the eighth time he has won the Vardon. Woods also collected the Arnold Palmer Award by claiming the money title for the ninth time, earning a little more than $10.5 million. Still to be decided is the Jack Nicklaus Trophy as the PGA Tour's Player of the Year, which is a vote of the players. Should Woods be voted player of the year, it would be only the fourth time since it began in 1990 that a player won the award without having won a major. The others were Woods (2003), Greg Norman (1995) and Wayne Levi (1990).
  • Jim Furyk made a run in the final round of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open by shooting 9-under-par 62 two weeks ago in the final round at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. However, he finished in a tie for fourth, one stroke out of the playoff among winner Martin Laird of Scotland, Chad Campbell and George McNeil — leaving Furyk winless in two consecutive seasons for the first time in his career. "I would be lying if I said it didn't bother me," said Furyk, whose last victory came in the 2007 Canadian Open. "Not that it's brought up. ... It's only my fault. I didn't get it done." Furyk finished in the top 10 on 11 occasions this season, second to Tiger Woods, and earned nearly $4 million. He has gone 54 starts without winning, his longest drought since he went 62 tournaments at the start of his career before winning for the first time in Las Vegas in 1995. "I'm just not doing enough to keep those rounds going," he said. "When you win a tournament, you always have that one day where you're not really clicking on all cylinders. But you've got to find a way to scratch it out." Furyk posted three rounds of 67 or better in Las Vegas, where he has won three times, but stumbled to a 73 in round three.
  • The Nationwide Tour, the PGA Tour's Triple-A circuit, will play in its hometown for the first time next October when the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open is contested on the Dye Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla. TPC Sawgrass, where the Players Championship is held on the Stadium Course in May, is home to PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour headquarters. "This event not only brings another first-class golf event to our hometown, it also provides much-needed financial support to hundreds of local non-profit organizations," said Peter Lynch, chairman and chief executive officer of Winn-Dixie. "In these challenging economic times, Tickets Fore Charity is an innovative way for the charities to raise a significant amount of money all year long." All of the proceeds from public ticket sales will be donated to Jacksonville area non-profit organizations through the PGA Tour's Tickets Fore Charity program. The tournament will be played the second or third week of October next year. Specific dates will be announced when the Nationwide Tour's 2010 schedule is finalized, which is expected to happen within the next few weeks. "We view the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open as a strong complement to the Players Championship," said commissioner Tim Finchem of the PGA Tour. "Many of the Nationwide Tour players that fans will see at this event will return to Sawgrass as participants in the Players, joining distinguished (Nationwide) Tour graduates such as Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink and others." Nearly two thirds of the players on the PGA Tour once played on the Nationwide Tour, which began as the Ben Hogan Tour in 1990 and also has been known as the Nike Tour and the Tour. Graduates of the satellite tour have won 257 PGA Tour events. Ponte Vedra Beach is home to several players on the Nationwide Tour, including Jeff Klauk, Bubba Dickerson, Aron Price, Frank Lickliter, Len Mattiace, Tim Wilkinson, Matt Every, Steve Wheatcroft and Josh McCumber. The Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open will have a purse of $600,000, with $108,000 going to the winner, and all four rounds will be televised on the Golf Channel.
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