Far East Could Be Golfs New Frontier

By Associated PressApril 19, 2005, 4:00 pm
Five of the top 15 players in the world are competing this week at Pine Valley, which shoots down the notion that golf goes into hibernation for three weeks after the Masters.

Then again, this isn't a PGA Tour event.

And it's not the Pine Valley in New Jersey that perennially is rated the best course in America.

The Johnnie Walker Classic is being played at Pine Valley Golf Resort and Country Club, which is about an hour outside the central business district in Beijing and offers wondrous views of the Great Wall of China. The field includes Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Luke Donald.
 
'Golf is really taking off here in Asia, and events like this can only help raise its profile and appeal to an even wider audience,' Els said on his Web site.

This might be golf's next frontier.
 
Perhaps the best evidence comes from the European PGA Tour schedule. It has more tournaments this season in China (five) than in Scotland (four), the so-called home of golf.

And that could be just the start.
 
IMG is close to announcing details of a tournament this November in Shanghai that will be the richest in Asia and will be limited only to tournament winners outside the PGA Tour. The field will include Tiger Woods, who won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan late last year.

Along with being Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg is co-president of IMG's golf division. He has taken several trips to the Far East, and he can't help but notice a market that is ripe with opportunity.
 
'I see major, major multinational conglomerates that want to establish a business presence now in hopes of what could happen, especially in anticipation of the Olympics,' Steinberg said Tuesday. 'Golf has been a pretty strong ticket so far. It is really booming there. It's really remarkable.'

Jack Nicklaus has designed 12 golf courses that have opened since 1993 in China, and he has eight more being built. He recalls meeting with a group of businessmen some eight years ago who wanted to put together a professional tour.

'It never materialized,' Nicklaus said. 'There was not enough support. It wasn't quite there.'

It's getting there more quickly than most realize.
 
And the PGA Tour has noticed.

Tour officials are expected to announce this fall that the 2006 World Cup will be held in China. Last month at The Players Championship, they hosted a delegation from the Chinese Golf Association that wanted to see how a tournament is properly organized.

'They have decided they would like, at this time, to develop golf and start a professional tour,' said Ed Moorhouse, co-chief operating officer at the PGA Tour. 'We're talking with them about how they might go about doing that. Developing the game on a global basis is of interest to us.'

The European tour has been out front in joint-sanctioning tournaments in Asia, starting with the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand in 1992, and moving into China for the first time in 2002 with the Hong Kong Open.
 
Is the PGA Tour far behind?

'I think China is one territory that they're going to look at,' Steinberg said. 'And look at strong.'
 
The tour dabbled in Asia late last year by staging a silly-season event in Korea. The top 20 players from the PGA Tour money list were eligible for the Thanksgiving week tournament, and not surprisingly, the tour had to go beyond the 100th spot to find enough takers. Arron Oberholser wound up winning the $1 million first-place prize.

Whatever overseas plans the PGA Tour has depends on its schedule.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Moorhouse are sorting through various models to present to the networks later this year when negotiations on a new TV contract get under way.

One possibility is to end the official season in September and start the following season late in the fall. Another option is a final two months of tournaments that count toward the world ranking, but not toward a money list.

Either case would allow for joint-sanctioned tournaments overseas.

'We'll probably do more joint-sanctioned events in the future,' Finchem said in an interview earlier this year. 'We'd like to play some more golf in Asia. We'd like to get down south a little bit. I don't know how it plays out.'

The tour is not close to figuring out what its schedule will look like in 2007, or where it will play. Even talk of moving The Players Championship to May requires a half-dozen other pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.

But when asked if there was room for the PGA Tour in the Far East, Moorhouse left little doubt.

'Absolutely,' he said. 'Our challenge is to work things out TV-wise and sponsorship-wise. It's an emerging market in the world with a major population base. It's a good place for the growth of golf.'

This week, that's where most of the stars can be found.
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”