NAPA, California — Scott Pinckney had played only two PGA Tour events before making his debut as a member in the Frys.com Open. One was the U.S. Open at Congressional. The other was the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
That's not to say the 25-year-old Utah native doesn't get around.
Pinckney is another American who spent his early years traveling the world as part of the European Tour or Challenge Tour. He didn't get as much attention as Peter Uihlein, who earned his European Tour card by winning, or Brooks Koepka, who won three Challenge Tour events to reach the European Tour.
That's mainly because he didn't have a lot of success, though it would be wrong to assume it was a waste of his time.
"It toughens you up," Pinckney said after he tied for 31st at Silverado. "When you're over here and play bad, you can say, 'I'll just go home, sleep in my bed.' You go back to your comfort place."
There is no such comfort place after missing the cut in Spain or Norway or Russia.
"You go back to your hotel room and figure it out," he said. "I couldn't hop on a flight and be home in 15 hours. I just had to figure out a way to get it done and better. It toughened me up and made me a more mature player."
Pinckney didn't travel by choice.
He qualified for the 2011 U.S. Open, where he ran into an old friend — more on that later — and then played the U.S. Public Links Amateur before turning pro and getting a few sponsor invitations in Europe. Pinckney failed to get to the final stage of Q-school on the PGA Tour, but he shot 65 on the last day in Spain to earn his European Tour card.
Because he was low on the priority list, it wasn't long before he stopped getting in tournaments. Pinckney stayed overseas and played the Challenge Tour the rest of 2012 with limited success, but no regrets.
"I had to get two passports," he said. "They were full from stamping it every week. But you go to some cool places."
Pinckney made it to the finals of Q-school at the end of 2012, which gave him limited status on the Web.com Tour. He finished second at Q-school last year for full status, and came through in the Web.com Tour Finals to earn his shot on the PGA Tour, which is where he wanted to be all along.
Pinckney, who graduated from Arizona State three years ago, was in the middle of the pack in the priority ranking coming out of the Web.com Tour Finals. He plans to play everything he can in the fall, and his tie for 31st wasn't a bad start.
As for that friend of his?
Pinckney rarely gets through an interview without someone bringing up Rory McIlroy, who won that U.S. Open at Congressional with a record score (268). They met at the Doral Junior Public Links when both were 9 — Pinckney was runner-up to McIlroy. Two years later, when McIlroy spent a summer in America, he stayed with Pinckney in Utah.
Fifteen years later, they're both on the PGA Tour and traveled some distance to get here.
PAULA MEETS THE TROOPS: Paula Creamer spent Monday with the 2nd Infantry Division of the Army in South Korea on her way to the KEB-HanaBank Championship this week in Incheon. Along with touring several camps, Creamer hosted a short clinic and answered questions on the driving range. She even threw a hand grenade, and "not many people can say they've done that," she said.
She also competed in a closest to the pin competition with three soldiers on the "most danger hole" at Camp Bonifas, which is only 192 yards but is located about 400 meters from the Demilitarized Zone and is surrounded by land mines on three sides.
"I don't know how they do it being so far away from their families and keeping your country safe and fighting for us," Creamer said. "Their faces light up when you talk about sport in general, but being a female golfer coming in there and being able to hit chip shots or balls on the range and play the toughest par 3 in the world, that's pretty cool."
TIGER'S FIELD: The Hero World Challenge that Tiger Woods hosts each December almost has enough players for a Ryder Cup reunion.
And no one has to call it a task force.
Keegan Bradley and Steve Stricker were awarded sponsor's exemptions to fill out the 18-man field on Dec. 4-7. The tournament moved this year to Isleworth outside Orlando, Florida, from Sherwood Country Club in California.
Twelve players will be competing who took part in the Ryder Cup, which Europe won handily at Gleneagles. That doesn't include Stricker, an assistant captain. The only three Americans from the team who will not be at Isleworth are Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed.
The winner gets $1 million from the $3.5 million purse, along with world ranking points.
They were among the 24-man field announced Tuesday for the popular team event hosted by Greg Norman. The Shark won't be playing Dec. 11-13 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Florida. He will be making his Fox Sports broadcast debut with Joe Buck.
The teams will be determined later.
DIVOTS: Doc Giffin, the longtime press assistant to Arnold Palmer, has been selected to receive the Memorial Golf Journalism award. Giffin will be honored next year at Muirfield Village. ... Hunter Mahan will have a busy start to the new year. He and wife Kandi are expecting their second child in early February. Mahan left the Canadian Open while leading in 2012 when she went into labor with their first child, Zoe. This child is due the week of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. ... Inbee Park can finish in a three-way tie or better in South Korea to return to No. 1 in the world. Lydia Ko also can get to No. 1 if she wins and Park doesn't finish in a two-way tie for second. Stacy Lewis is taking the week off.
STAT OF THE WEEK: According to ShotLink, Bae Sang-moon became the first player in five years to win a PGA Tour event without making a putt longer than 15 feet.
FINAL WORD: "My problem was the majors were never in January and February." — Two-time major champion Johnny Miller. Of his 25 victories on the PGA Tour, 13 were in first two months of the year.
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