The McGladrey Classic returns to the PGA Tour schedule for the fourth time, but there are some differences between this year’s tournament and the first three played at Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside course.
For the first time in the event’s brief history, the McGladrey Classic is part of the FedExCup, the season-long competition that leads up to the Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club.
Previously, the tournament was part of the Fall Series, a small group of events played after the Tour Championship and not part of the FedExCup. Although the money was official and the 2011 tournament was a big part of a late-season battle for the number one spot on the money list, the Fall Series tournaments did not attract a great deal of attention, and the winners did not receive invitations to the Masters, as the champions of FedExCup tournaments did.
The PGA Tour made the decision to put the Fall Series events on the same footing as its FedExCup tournaments, changing to a non-calendar year schedule that shifts the start of the season to October, with the Tour Championship in September now the season finale.
The Frys.com Open in early October was the first event on the 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule, with the McGladrey Classic now the fifth of six tournaments that will be played before the tour takes a break for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The schedule will resume in early January with the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, the season-opening event for more than 20 years.
The McGladrey Classic will be played Nov. 7-10, the latest it has been played in its four years as a PGA Tour event. The tournament was played Oct. 7-10 its first year in 2010, just two weeks after the Tour Championship, and moved to mid-October the next two years before assuming its new dates for the 2013-14 season.
As part of the FedExCup schedule, the tournament will boost its purse from $4 million to $5.5 million, with the winner’s check increasing from $720,000 to $990,000. Tournament director Scott Reid says the McGladrey Classic is looking to increase its charitable contributions as well, setting $500,000 as a goal. That would put the tournament over the $1 million mark since it debuted just three years ago.
For the first time this year, the tournament will open its gates to the public on Monday, Nov. 4, with no entry fee charged. There will be a pro-am that day with a 10 a.m. shotgun start, and special “Youth Day” activities scheduled for the afternoon, including a clinic conducted by defending champion Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey and another PGA Tour pro after the conclusion of the pro-am.
“We’re trying to get people out to the tournament who haven’t been out before,” Reid says.
The Tuesday practice round will be closed to the public, with spectators allowed for Wednesday’s pro-am. The pre-tournament concert will be held at 7 p.m. that night with Toby Keith performing.
Military Appreciation Day has been moved from Thursday to Saturday, which should also be a big day for Georgia Bulldogs fans in attendance. The tournament added a “Dawg House” to its on-site features last year, placing an open air pavilion between the 16th and 17th holes as a gathering place for UGA alumni and fans.
Georgia fans can gather in the Dawg House, talk Bulldogs football and watch some golf, with the possibility of also catching the Georgia-Appalachian State if it is televised locally. With at least eight ex-UGA golfers expected to be in the field, golf fans can look forward to some of them dropping in during the tournament, along with a special guest or two.
You can see the 16th green and the par-3 17th from the pavilion, and Reid says the tournament is “looking to get more people to experience the Dawg House. It’s a great partnership with UGA.
Both Georgia and Georgia Tech will have a strong presence among the tournament field, which could have as many as ¼ of its 132-player field with ties to Georgia.
There will be plenty of ex-Bulldogs (Chris Kirk, Harris English, Russell Henley, Brian Harman, Brendon Todd, Kevin Kisner, Hudson Swafford and Erik Compton), as well as ex-Yellow Jackets (Matt Kuchar, Stewart Cink, Roberto Castro, Troy Matteson, Cameron Tringale, Nicholas Thompson and Chesson Hadley.
Kuchar, Kirk, English and Harman are among the sizeable contingent of PGA Tour players that live on St. Simons, with that group including Davis Love, Zach Johnson, Lucas Glover and Jonathan Byrd. South Georgia native Will Claxton (Vidalia) will be in the field, along with former Georgia Southern golfer and Swainsboro resident Blake Adams, who is returning to action after missing the entire 2013 season with an injury.
Augusta natives Charles Howell, who has an excellent track record in the tournament, and Scott Brown will also tee it up at Sea Island’s Seaside course, along with recent Augusta State golfer Patrick Reed. Jason Bohn and Heath Slocum, the 2010 McGladrey Classic champion, reside in metro Atlanta along with Cink, Castro and Todd.
Other prominent players who had committed to the tournament prior to the 2013-14 PGA Tour season opener in California included Tim Clark, 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke, 2011 McGladrey champion Ben Crane, Presidents Cup participant Brendon de Jonge, Jim Furyk, defending tournament champion Tommy Gainey, two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, former Masters champion Trevor Immelman and David Toms, who won the 2001 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club. Other former major champions in the field are Ben Curtis, Justin Leonard, Mike Weir and Mark Calcavecchia, who joins Fred Funk to give the tournament a pair of Champions Tour regulars.
More of the tour’s top players will enter prior to the deadline of Nov. 1, the Friday before tournament week.
The McGladrey Classic will be played the week after a WGC event in China, which will impact the field for the St. Simons tournament.
Reid says this will be “a learning year for the tournament. Players have to get used to starting right after the season ends and adjusting their schedules. We see this as nothing but a positive.”
Due to the schedule changes, the elevation of the tournament to FedExCup status and the Masters invitation to the champion, Reid believes “we will see some players who have not played much in the Fall, but will now play some events.”
The tournament will again make a slight move on the calendar for 2014, which will place it before the two Asian events that precede it this year. The 2014 McGladrey Classic will return to October as the third tournament on the 2014-15 schedule, two weeks prior to the WGC event in China. That will make it considerably easier for the game’s best players to compete in both tournaments.
Both Kuchar and Johnson are eligible for the WGC event in China, but are likely to bypass it to play in the McGladrey. Kuchar, who played in the HSBC Championship last year, says he has settled into an “every other year kind of thing,” regarding overseas trips during what used to be the off-season.
“You want to kind of dial it down, but there are a lot of important tournaments late in the season. It’s a struggle at the end of year because there are a lot of opportunities to go overseas. But you want to support your hometown tournament.”
For Johnson, who represents McGladrey, the late-season scheduling decisions “are not that hard. The McGladrey has become the best tournament in the Fall.”
Johnson turned down a spot in the field of the WGC event last year and may do so again, to provide himself a bit of a break after a long and successful stretch of golf spanning the Summer and early Fall.
The first three years for the McGladrey Classic have featured beautiful weather and exciting finishes, with all three decided by either one stroke or in a playoff.
Slocum won the inaugural tournament in 2010, closing with a final round 68 for a 14-under 266 total, one stroke ahead of Bill Haas, who shot 66 that day, and two in front of Toms and Robert Allenby. Howell shot a tournament low 62 on Sunday to tie for 6th at 269. Slocum secured his victory by holing a 60-foot birdie putt from off the green on the 16th hole.
The 2011 McGladrey Classic went to a playoff, with Crane winning on the second hole of a playoff over Webb Simpson, who was battling for the money title. Crane carded a 63 in the final round, highlighted by two runs of four consecutive birdies, will all eight coming on the final 11 holes.
Crane and Simpson, who shot 66 in the fourth round, finished at 15-under 265, one ahead of third round leader Michael Thompson, who closed with a 69. Major champions Louis Oosthuizen (267), Immelman (268), Angel Cabrera (270), Furyk (271) and Glover (272) were all near the top of the leader board, along with defending champion Slocum and Kuchar.
Gainey produced one of the finest rounds of 2012, firing a 10-under 60 to overtake major champions Toms, Furyk and hometown favorite Love. Gainey, who trailed Love and Furyk by seven shots after 54 holes, won by one at 16-under 264 over Toms, whose 63 was not quite good enough. Furyk wound up two back of Gainey after closing with a 69, with Love and DeJonge tying for 4th at 268.
For the first time, the Georgia PGA will be represented in the field by some other than Tim Weinhart. Craig Stevens, an instructor at Brookstone G&CC, will have that honor this year, and will look to at least match Weinhart’s efforts in the tournament the past three years. Weinhart made a strong run at making the cut in all three of his efforts, posting scores of either 141 or 142 for 36 holes in all three of his starts in the McGladrey Classic.
For information on the tournament, call 912-634-3268 or visit www.mcgladreyclassic.com.