Franklin Templeton Shootout Begins Friday

The last PGA Tour-sanctioned event of the 2013 calendar year kicks off Friday morning in Naples, Florida, at the Tiburon Golf Club. Formerly known as the Shark Shootout named after its founder, Greg Norman, the Franklin Templeton Shootout looks to extend the model let-your-hair-down, end-of-the-year, charity fundraiser, that attracts big names looking for fun.

The format over three rounds is:

  • Friday – Modified Alternate Shot
  • Saturday – Best Ball
  • Sunday – Scramble (where they go so low, you never know who’s going to win)

To be sure, not everyone in the field is a big name. For example, Chad Campbell has sort of faded from the limelight as he continues to plug along on Tour, but good play and willingness to show up is often rewarded in events like this; Campbell has played in six previous Shootouts. His teammate this year is Mark Calcavecchia who plays mostly on the Champions Tour and has played in nineteen previous Shootouts winning it twice. 

And then there’s the notion of catering to the Canadian fans wintering in South Florida. They have a special treat in the team of Graham Delaet and Mike Weir. Delaet has been all over the leaderboards in 2013 with a 2nd, two 3rds and seven more top-10s. Oh, and he racked up $2.8 million in the process. In just three events in 2013-2014, he’s had two top 10s and pulled down $.450 million. Mike Weir is the 2003 Masters champion who has fallen on hard times chasing swing improvements. He’s still working his way back, but he’s had his moments recently and is a fan favorite because of his earnest, solid-citizen demeanor. How can you not love the boy scout?

We have the opposite of boy scouts in the British team of Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood. Poulter is 17th in the world and Westwood in 24th. Poulter is known more for his boiling-cauldron emotional play, particularly in the Ryder Cup, while Westwood, more for his ball striking and understated sense of humor always delivered with a quip and a smile.

Sean O’Hair and Kenny Perry are the defending champions, Perry for a record-tying third time. He is now one of the stars on the Champions Tour. O’Hair made $4.3 million in 2009 and never less than a million in his nine-year career…until 2013. In the midst of coaching and swing changes, he was able to retain his card with a T8 at the Tour Championship. Playing well on demand is a good sign.

Then there’s the joined-at-the-hip, Wisconsin duo, Jerry Kelly and Steve (Part-time) Stricker who have played together for six consecutive years. Kelly won it twice before that run began. Stricker just seems to quietly stride along magically producing top 10s. In his first year as a part-time player, he made $4.4 million in just 13 events.

Greg Norman has picked off a rising talent for himself in Jonas Blixt; host’s prerogative. Blixt graduated from Florida State and has already won twice in his two-year career earning more than $2 million each year. Norman has 20 PGA Tour victories, including two British Opens, and another 57 International victories. Working on his 12th partner in 24 starts, Norman won the event back in 1998, but doesn’t play enough now to be as sharp as he was when he was World No.1.

You gotta love the duo of Jason Dufner and Dustin Johnson. Both of these guys are playing at full throttle right now and would have to be one of the favorites. Dufner got even with the PGA Championship last year to reach three victories while Johnson has quietly won eight times on the Tour including this year’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. And he won the Shootout with Poulter in 2010, so he knows how.

Then you have the University of Florida pairing of Chris DiMarco and young Mr. Firecracker, Billy Horschel, who notched his first win this year. DiMarco’s career has been in the doldrums since 2008, he was unable to improve his position in the Tour Championship and is now trying to recapture the strong play he exhibited in the early 2000s where he played four consecutive years on Presidents and Ryder Cup teams. While he works on that, he plays on a Past Champion exemption.

Harris English and Matt Kuchar marries an up-and-coming star with a superstar. English won a 2011 Tour event as an amateur playing out of the University of Georgia, earned his Tour card for 2012 with a T13 in Q-School and has won twice since then. Kuchar’s Exempt Status is: Winner 2012 The Players Championship, 2010 leader in official earnings, multiple tournament winner (through 2017-18). And on top of that, he is currently No. 7 in the world.

Charles Howell III and Justin Leonard make a good team in that they’ve both played in a number of the Shootouts. Howell is 2nd in Scoring Average on Tour right behind the aforementioned Harris English, while Leonard had a resurgent 2013 missing just 5 of 24 cuts and made the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Retief Goosen and Freddie Jacobson pair up nicely in Goosen’s stoic stability and Jacobson’s otherworldly short-game that was so ridiculously good in one tournament, Gary McCord couldn’t stop laughing in admiration in the booth. He’s 16th in Strokes Gained – Putting and in Scoring Average. Goosen is playing on a Major Medical Extension and made six of nine cuts in 2013 in his comeback from back surgery.

Rory Sabbatini and Scott Verplank will be interesting to watch just for the differences in their personalities. Sabbatini’s is mercurial while Verplank’s is staid. Sabbatini’s game, however, is on cruise control winning over $1 million ($2 million thrice and $4 million once) almost every year since 2000. Verplank is on a Major Medical Extension from a battle with his left wrist over the last two years.

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