Notebook: Tour Championship field down to 29 for first time since 2006

Dustin Johnson
Getty Images
Dustin Johnson's absence means the Tour Championship will tee off with only 29 players.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, September 09, 2014 | 7:46 p.m.
ATLANTA – Dustin Johnson made it to the Tour Championship even though he's not playing. 
 
Johnson announced six weeks ago he was taking a "voluntary leave" from the tour to seek professional help for "personal challenges." Johnson was at No. 6 when the FedExCup playoffs began and fell to No. 30 despite missing the last three playoff events. 
 
That means there will be a 29-man field at East Lake for the first time since the FedExCup began in 2007. The last time the Tour Championship did not have all 30 players was in 2006, when Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Stephen Ames did not play. 
 
Johnson is not entitled to unofficial, last-place money of $128,000. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said that would require an injury or a family emergency, and "neither one of those two things happened here." 
 
Tour spokesman Ty Votaw did say Johnson would get his FedExCup bonus of $175,000. 
 
KEEPING HIS COOL: Chris Kirk keeps his emotions in check, even when he's not playing golf. Asked the craziest thing he ever did, Kirk told of going bungee jumping with his brother when he was 11. 
 
"I didn't weigh 100 pounds, so they wouldn't let me," Kirk said. "The guy running the thing was about as nonchalant as I am, so he was like, `Go have some lunch and put some rocks in your pockets and come back.' And so I did. My older brother and my dad and I went, and it was a blast." 
 
And did he scream on the way down. 
 
"No," he deadpanned. "Would you expect me to scream on the way down?" 
 
Uh, no. 
 
STAR STRUCK: Russell Knox played the BMW Championship pro-am last week with former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway. The good news for the Scottish-born Knox is that he's been in America long enough to know about Elway. 
 
That wasn't always the case. 
 
Knox played college golf at Jacksonville University and had met Fred Funk through a colleague. Funk was out of town one week when a Manny Pacquiao fight was available on pay-per-view. They decided to watch at Funk's house. Knox said another person was staying at Funk's house while his home was being remodeled. 
 
"I remember sitting on the couch going, `Wow, I'm in Fred Funk's house,'" Knox said. "My friend said to me, `Do you realize who you're sitting next to?'" 
 
That's when he was introduced to Christian Laettner. 
 
OPEN FOR PLAY: Nearly three months after Michelle Wie won her first major, Pinehurst No. 2 is open for business again. 
 
The famed Donald Ross course closed a week after its back-to-back U.S. Opens to convert its greens from bent grass to a strain of Bermuda that will allow Pinehurst No. 2 to stay in peak conditions throughout the year, particularly in the summer. 
 
Other courses that have converted to this grass include Atlanta Athletic Club ahead of the 2011 PGA Championship and East Lake in 2008. Quail Hollow plans to convert its greens prior to the 2017 PGA Championship. 
 
DIVOTS: The Masters already has 71 players in the field (including two amateurs to be determined) going into the Tour Championship. The Masters had 71 players at the same point a year ago. Among the first-timers will be Cameron Tringale, Erik Compton, Brooks Koepka, Brendon Todd, Brian Harman and Hoffmann. ... Golf Digest has another woman on the cover, and this time she actually plays golf for a living. U.S. Women's Open champion Michelle Wie is on the cover of the latest issue. The magazine was criticized earlier this year when Paulina Gretzky, Johnson's fiancee, was on the cover. ... Harris English lost plenty of momentum at the end of the year. In his last six tournaments, the only cuts he made were at tournaments that had no cut (Bridgestone Invitational, BMW Championship, both a tie for 31st). He was No. 17 to start the FedExCup playoffs, the highest seed not to make it to the Tour Championship. 
 
STAT OF THE WEEK: The Tour Championship is without Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for the first time since 2006. 
 
FINAL WORD: "Retirement would happen a lot quicker if I won the FedExCup." – Bubba Watson.