By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
CBS Sports begins its 66th consecutive season covering the PGA Tour with only its fifth lead analyst in Trevor Immelman and one of its busiest years, with 11 of the 17 “elevated” events with the biggest names.
It starts in prime time on Saturday night from Torrey Pines, an early finish to avoid the NFL conference championship games. Jim Nantz will call the action from Kansas City, Missouri, where CBS is televising the AFC title game.
And for the first time, CBS will have the entire FedEx Cup playoffs as part of an alternating schedule with NBC. CBS, which for years has carried the most tournaments, this year will have 23.
“It feels a little different, like having more light shining on it,” Nantz said. “Twenty-three in ’23. We’ve never had the full playoffs. You take our two majors (Masters and PGA Championship) and 11 of our 23 events are going to have magnificent fields. I think it’s going to be a blast.”
That means 12 of the 23 will have the best of the rest, though Torrey Pines has Jon Rahm in his pursuit of a third straight win, plus Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa in his first start since losing a six-shot lead at Kapalua.
Sellers Shy, the lead golf producer for CBS Sports, points to the Wyndham Championship.
“We’re bullish on this opportunity,” Shy said. “One of the big storylines that came out of last year was Tom Kim, who surfaced at the Wyndham Championship. We’re also fortunate enough that designated events are spread through the year. We’re seeing some players at standard events have a chance to showcase themselves.”
Immelman takes over for Nick Faldo, who retired. The 2008 Masters champion got started last year. This will be his first full season and it makes him the youngest lead analyst in CBS history at age 43.
“I think he and Jim are going to be contemporary, animated and have opinions,” said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports.
Coming off its first season of offering $1 million in total prize money, the Advocates Professional Golf Association Tour gets going this week with the Farmers Insurance Invitational.
The opening round will be Saturday on the North Course at Torrey Pines as the final round of the PGA Tour event is held on the South Course. The final round of the APGA event will Sunday on the South, using the same final-round pin positions as the Farmers Insurance Open.
The final round will be televised on Golf Channel.
The 18-man field includes Kamaiu Johnson, who won three times on the APGA last year, including the Tour Championship. That earned him 12 events on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica series.
Johnson is one of three APGA players who earned status for 2023 on various tours. Tim O’Neal made it through PGA Tour Champions qualifying, while Willie Mack had status on the Korn Ferry Tour.
The APGA began in 2010 and is geared toward developing Black golfers and other minorities in golf careers.
JT THE BOOK WORM
Justin Thomas makes a list of golf goals for the year that he won’t reveal until the end of the season. But he did share a New Year’s resolution.
“I want to read a book a month,” Thomas said.
Don’t get the idea Thomas is a voracious reader. He doesn’t like fiction — “I have a hard time reading something if it’s just not true,” he said — and no, the books don’t have to contain pictures.
“I like to read, but I’m not consistent at reading,” he said.
Thomas said he’ll get into a book, but then find himself sharing a house with friends on tour for a few weeks so he doesn’t touch it. And he said he’s not very disciplined when he’s at home.
“So I really would like to do that,” he said of his book-a-month goal.
The January book: “Why Buddhism is True,” by Robert Wright, recommended to him by a friend.
“I can’t read too many self-help books in a row,” he said. “But whether it’s about athletes or … I read a really good one a couple years ago about the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ lead singer. That was wild, fascinating.
“Again, I do not read very often,” he said. “When I do it, I have enjoyed it.”
ASIA TOUR CARD
The 29-year-old son of Davis Love III now has a tour card.
Dru Love posted a 62 in the third of five rounds in the final stage of Asian Tour qualifying. He hung on with weekend rounds of 72-72 in Thailand and tied for 26th, avoiding by one shot a nine-man playoff for the final two cards.
The Asian Tour anticipated its biggest year ever now that Saudi-funded LIV Golf Investments has poured $300 million into the circuit. Love has made 10 cuts in 33 starts on various tours since turning pro in 2017.
A few former PGA Tour players were not so fortunate. Two-time Bay Hill winner Matt Every missed the 36-hole cut, while Steve Marino and Sangmoon Bae failed to advance to the fifth and final round.
Steve Stricker has won a “comeback” award for the third time in his career — back-to-back years on the PGA Tour, and now the Ben Hogan Award from the Golf Writers Association of America for staying active in the wake of a physical handicap or serious injury.
Stricker, just weeks after leading the U.S. to a Ryder Cup victory, developed a mysterious illness that caused his white blood cell count to spike, his liver count to plunge and inflammation around his heart.
He was hospitalized around the holidays, didn’t start last season until May and went on to win four times on the PGA Tour Champions, including a senior major.
The GWAA also chose distinguished club professional Bob Ford (Oakmont and Seminole) for the William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to golf; and Peter Jacobsen for its Jim Murray Award for his access, words and cooperation with the media.
They will be honored April 5 at the annual GWAA awards dinner in Augusta, Georgia.
Marcus Byrd, who led the APGA Tour’s fall series, was awarded the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption to play in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera. The exemption began in 2009 and represents advancement of diversity in golf. … Davis Thompson became the seventh player in the last 40 years on the PGA Tour to make five eagles in one tournament. Dustin Johnson was the only player from that list who won the tournament (2020 FedEx St. Jude Championship). … Here’s an anomaly in the world of professional golf: Chandler Phillips won the Korn Ferry Tour opener in the Bahamas last week using only four golf balls — one for each round. … Ron Green Jr., who has spent 34 years covering golf for The Charlotte Observer and Global Golf Post, has won the PGA of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. Stephen Szurlej, a senior staff photographer at Golf Digest for nearly 30 years, is this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Photojournalism. … The R&A has expanded its partnership with IMG to create commercial opportunities. Endeavor-owned IMG previously helped with the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific and the AIG Women’s British Open. Now its support will extend to all R&A championships.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Steve Stricker’s victory rate on the PGA Tour Champions is 25% (12 wins in 48 starts). That’s the highest of anyone on the 50-and-older circuit with at least 10 wins.
“If I had to choose, I would rather lead. You learn a lot about yourself in 18 holes. Because it’s four to five hours of a lot of stress.” — Jon Rahm.
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