Ryan Armour is starting another PGA Tour season at the Fortinet Championship, a surprise on so many levels he doesn’t know where to begin.
Having already missed a month in the spring with a back injury, the 46-year-old Armour had to shut it down after the 3M Open in July because of a stress fracture in his ribs. The early prognosis was getting back around Halloween.
He still had past champion status. And while he finished at No. 166 in the FedEx Cup standings, Armour would at least have conditional status because 16 players would wind up signing with Saudi-backed LIV Golf, moving him up to No. 150.
And then a funny thing happened when the postseason began — coughing and sneezing no longer caused great pain. His strength was returning. He had a cortisone shot and then hit balls for the first time in nearly a month.
He hit wedges and when he woke up the next day, he felt sore but was not in pain. He put in a full session and felt OK the next day. He repeated the process. And then he called his caddie and said, “I’m going to Columbus.”
The Ohio stop was the second of three Korn Ferry Tour Finals spots. Armour tied for 22nd and then closed with a 65 at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship to get one of the 25 full PGA Tour cards available.
“I even surprised myself,” Armour said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
A little help from LIV Golf, a lot of help with an early return from injury and a clutch two weeks after not having played for more than a month got Armour on a plane Monday morning from Florida to Napa, California, to start a new season.
The timing was critical because this was the last year of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. Starting next year, the only way back to a full card is to finish in the top five at Q-school. His injury would have given him one spot in the fall and then probably not another until Pebble Beach in February. It was that or try the last two Korn Ferry Tour Finals events.
“Do I want to go to Q-school for five cards?” Armour said. “I’ve been down that road before. I didn’t feel like doing that against 20-year-olds for five spots. I thought it was better to give yourself two chances to play great instead of one.”
Armour was 186th in driving distance and led the tour in driving accuracy (74%), a tough recipe in the modern game of power. That he even made it through two KFT events against players who were driving 400-yard greens was impressive, especially his 67-65 weekend in the final tournament.
The last obstacle was bad weather that forced a stop-and-start final day, leaving Armour mildly concerned that having to warm up three times might not be ideal.
“I went out and played really, really well,” Armour said. “I don’t think I’m very good at giving myself credit. But what I did … I even impressed myself.”
Armour has had to make some last-minute arrangements, and not just booking flights and lodging.
His caddie, Jim McGurk, figured Armour would be out until late October, so he booked a vacation to Italy. He leaves Friday. Armour’s wife, Erin, will be caddying for the first time.
The Ryder Cup is just over a year away at Marco Simone in Italy, and it’s hard to envision Sergio Garcia there in any capacity.
Garcia was among LIV Golf players who entered the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last week, peculiar because he has rarely supported the European tour’s flagship event. It was only the fifth time he had played since his rookie year in 1999.
In 2009, Garcia came over to England for the European Open a week after Wentworth. He was at the BMW PGA Championship in 2013, two weeks after his public spat with Tiger Woods, when he made racially insensitive comments.
A year later, he withdrew after a 73 in the first round because of a sore knee. At least then, he offered a medical reason.
Most disturbing about his most recent appearance was his contentious behavior toward the European tour since joining LIV, and then pulling out after a 76 in the first round. He posted an image on Instagram from the sideline at the Alabama-Texas football game on Saturday in Austin, Texas, where Garcia lives.
The Daily Telegraph reported Garcia faces a fine from the tour. Garcia has three weeks to provide a reason for the WD, which could include “reasonable medical evidence.”
KO ON THE MEND
Jin Young Ko is not defending her title this week at the Portland Classic, and Golf Digest says she will be taking time off because of a wrist injury. Ko’s manager told Digest it’s the same injury Ko was dealing with a year ago.
The LPGA says Ko, the No. 1 player in women’s golf, has entered only three of the remaining eight tournaments on the schedule, starting with the BMW Ladies Championship in South Korea at the end of October. The others are the Pelican Women’s Championship and CME Group Tour Championship the final two weeks of the season.
Annika Sorenstam now has her own LPGA Tour event in Florida.
The LPGA and the Pelican Women’s Championship said Tuesday that Sorenstam will be host of the November tournament in the Tampa Bay area starting in 2023. It’s official name will be “The Annika driven by Gainbridge at Pelican.”
The tournament is the final event before the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship down the coast in Naples.
Sorenstam called it an “incredible honor.” She is the only player who serves as an official host on the LPGA Tour. Lorena Ochoa hosted a tournament under her name in Mexico for nine years ending in 2017.
The tournament expects to announce the prize fund and additional details at the Pelican Women’s Championship the week of Nov. 7-13.
Gainbridge has been title sponsor of an LPGA tournament in Florida at the start of the year, twice in Boca Raton and at Lake Nona in Orlando in 2021. Sorenstam played the event at Lake Nona because she lives there.
The Asian Tour is taking its International Series to Egypt for the first time. It will be played at Madinaty Golf Club on Nov. 10-13 with a $1.5 million purse. … Scottie Scheffler and Justin Thomas are the only players to rank in the top 10 in birdies in each of the last three seasons. … Rory McIlroy makes his debut in the Italian Open, site of the Ryder Cup next year. He has won six national Opens, two in European nations. … Jimmy Walker returns to the PGA Tour for the first time since April with a friend as his caddie — John Hill, who has a card on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Nelly Korda, who missed four months earlier this year with a blood clot, and Lexi Thompson are the only players from the top 10 in the women’s world ranking who have not won on the LPGA Tour this year.
“It’s not the job of the rankings to encourage pathways for players to get through and get on in the game. That’s a matter for the tours themselves. It’s the job of the rankings to be accurate as they can possibly be.” — Peter Dawson, chairman of the Official World Golf Rankings board.
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