Change in criteria creates opportunity for 3 players

NAPA, Calif. (AP) The HSBC Champions made a significant change to its criteria this year, which was good news for Daniel Summerhays, Justin Thomas and Matt Jones.

The World Golf Championship in Shanghai previously placed an emphasis on winning tournaments, taking 20 winners from PGA Tour events (based on the strength of the field) and 10 winners from the European Tour, along with winners from the other tours. The final category was the top 50 in the world ranking.

This year, the world ranking was moved up to No. 3 in the order of criteria. That was followed by the top 30 from the FedEx Cup, with a caveat. At least five players had to come from the FedEx Cup list, even if that meant going beyond 30th place.

Only two players who made it to the Tour Championship - Steven Bowditch and Harris English - were not in the top 50 in the world. Summerhays (31), Thomas (32) and Jones (33) were next in line and are headed to Sheshan International to play for a $9.5 million purse with a big ranking in points.

Ian Poulter, meanwhile, slipped out of the top 50 at the Monday cutoff, bumped out by Andy Sullivan and Emiliano Grillo winning. Poulter narrowly finished behind Hunter Mahan, who made the cut at the Frys.com Open and then shot 67-72 to tie for 32nd.

It will be the first WGC event for Summerhays and Thomas.

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BUCCANEER MCILROY? And to think Rory McIlroy was nearly a Buccaneer.

There was a time when McIlroy contemplated coming to America for college. Graeme McDowell went to Alabama-Birmingham. Colin Montgomerie was at Houston Baptist. Adam Scott spent one semester at UNLV (though it is believed he never did find the library).

McIlroy was lined up to play for the Buccaneers of East Tennessee State.

''I signed a letter-of-intent to play for ETSU, did my SAT, did everything like that, so I was fully ready to come over and play college golf,'' McIlroy said last week at the Frys.com Open. ''But at that point, I knew that I really wanted to turn pro earlier. I had no intention of graduating at all, so I thought it was just better to play amateur golf.''

It worked out for him. He played in the Walker Cup, turned pro and effectively wrapped up his European Tour card in his second start as a pro.

''By the time I was probably just getting out of college, I had just won my first major,'' he said. ''It was a good decision in the end.''

McIlroy didn't mention who else recruited him out of Northern Ireland.

''I wasn't that good back then,'' he said.

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WHO'S NO. 1? Jason Day became the latest player to reach No. 1 in the world ranking without even playing. That's a reflection of how close it is at the top among Day, Jordan Spieth and McIlroy.

Day became the 12th player to reach No. 1 without playing. It happened three times to McIlroy, twice to Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods. Spieth remains in a class of his own, the only player to reach No. 1 after missing the cut (Deutsche Bank Championship).

The Official World Golf Ranking, aware of the skeptics because of moments like these, put out a tutorial on the ranking to explain that while neither Spieth nor Day has played since the Tour Championship, players lose points every week - full value for 13 weeks, with a gradual reduction each week beyond that.

And it made sense why Day was No. 1.

He has earned 333.38 points over the last 13 weeks, more than double what Spieth has earned (161.71).

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GOLDEN TICKET: Valspar has taken over an incentive program for caddies that pays them for wearing its logo on the cap during PGA Tour events. The program previous was run by Nature Valley, and the payout is based on rounds and performance (the better the player's score, the greater odds of being on TV).

Valspar has added a wrinkle.

Each week, it will offer what amounts to two or three ''golden tickets'' for each caddie wearing the hat. The ticket could be anything from a gas card to dinner for four at a restaurant. The company, title sponsor of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook during the Florida swing, also will offer a grand prize of a trip to a resort.

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PRO V1 ANNIVERSARY: The PGA Tour stop in Las Vegas always brings back happy memories for Titleist, which had a game-changing moment 15 years ago.

After a year of what it called the ''100 Man March'' - getting 100 players to test its new golf ball - the company launched the Pro V1 at what then was called the Invensys Classic. More than Billy Andrade winning with the new product and avoiding a return to Q-school, 47 players switched to the solid construction golf ball that week.

Titleist chief Wally Uihlein said at the time he had never seen a greater pluralistic shift in equipment on the PGA Tour. And it led to another rare occurrence - Titleist led the field in solid balls (47) and wound balls (41).

At that point, Tiger Woods already had switched to a solid ball made by Nike (May 2000) and Mark O'Meara had won two majors in 1998 using the Strata.

Two other anecdotes reflect on the Pro V1 buzz.

The following week at the Presidents Cup, a couple of media members were so curious about all the talk that they asked a Titleist representative if there was any they could try. The official finally relented. He brought over a white box of a dozen balls. Then, he removed a sleeve of balls from the box. Lastly, he opened the sleeve and dropped one ball into this hand.

The next year at Riviera, club officials began keeping an eye on volunteers who were helping to retrieve balls from the range. Turns out after one day, there was a vast shortage in Pro V1 range balls.

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DIVOTS: Tommy Bolt, Charlie Sifford, Payne Stewart and Lee Trevino are among seven inductees for the PGA of America Hall of Fame. Tom Watson turned down his offer, still disappointed in how the PGA ousted Ted Bishop, who selected Watson as Ryder Cup captain. ... Hyundai began a sweepstakes last week through Nov. 30 in which one random winner will receive a trip to play in the pro-am at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, the CareerBuilder Challenge in the California desert, and the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. The contest (www.HyundaiGolf.com) ends on Nov. 30. ... By finishing in the top 10 at the Frys.com Open, Jhonattan Vegas and Luke Guthrie made it into the field in Las Vegas. Both were playing Silverado on sponsor exemptions.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Four members of the high school class of 2011 finished among the top 20 at the Frys.com Open - Emiliano Grillo, Justin Thomas, Patrick Rodgers and Daniel Berger.

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FINAL WORD: ''I don't know what just happened.'' Amy Yang after a birdie on every hole of the back nine at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship in South Korea. She is believed to be the first player to birdie all nine holes on a side in Europe or any of the U.S.-based tours.

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