Golfs Big World Getting More and More Crowded
'It's a bit crazy,' he said. 'Why call them World Championships if they're going to be played in the same place all the time? World Golf Championships are meant to promote the game all over the globe.'
The idea behind this series was to bring together the best players in the world. A year before it started, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said he wanted 'to see this World Golf Championship flag raised in all the major golf markets in the world over time, and we think we have enough events now that we can effectively do that.'
Starting next year, the flag will be raised over major golf markets of Tucson, Ariz., Miami and Akron, Ohio.
But the Big Easy can rest easy.
Finchem said in an interview Monday that officials are working on a new World Golf Championship in Asia to be played as early as the fall of 2007. Among the details to be sorted out is whether it counts toward official money, a tricky maneuver since Finchem is still trying to figure out points for the FedEx Cup competition that ends in September.
'We're in the planning process,' Finchem said. 'We would like to play a full-fledged World Golf Championship in the fall in Asia. It's premature to say where, but our intent is to do something next year.'
This might be the only avenue Finchem has to Asia, a market he covets.
The PGA European Tour planted its flag in Asian soil 14 years ago when the Johnnie Walker Classic was staged in Bangkok. For the last five years, the European season has started the previous fall in Asia, and this year there are more tournaments in China than England.
The PGA Tour tried to bully its way into Asia two years ago when it held a silly-season event in South Korea during the week of Thanksgiving. It ran opposite an Asian Tour event that week, which didn't sit well with those executives.
Global golf is expanding rapidly, and with that comes growing pains. It has not reached a level of 'turf wars,' although cooperation among the six major tours around the world has never been more crucial.
'We've been going through a transition phase for a few years,' Finchem said. 'We have Europe trying to find more playing opportunities for its members, sanctioning tournaments here and there, picking up half of their playing opportunities for members. It raises as many questions as there are answers.'
Australia has some questions.
With the PGA Tour season ending in September next year, there was hope that some American stars -- Tiger Woods, for one -- might go Down Under and help revive the Australian Open. Now there is talk about the PGA Tour staging a WGC event in Asia around the same time.
Will it help or hurt?
Europe has plenty of questions, too, starting with the Americanized version of the World Golf Championships.
'We are obviously not very comfortable with the fact that all of them are played in the United States,' said European tour chief George O'Grady, who will meet with Finchem in the next few months.
O'Grady also plans an informal chat with some of his players, and there will be more than 20 of them at La Costa for the Accenture Match Play Championship in two weeks -- yet another sign that golf is no longer ruled by Americans.
Then again, O'Grady found himself in the role of a bully a few weeks ago.
The European tour, working with promoter Parallel Media Group, scheduled the Indonesian Open and the Singapore Masters in consecutive weeks in March. Those generally are co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour.
However, the Asian Tour has a new tournament in India -- the Amby Valley Masters -- the same week as Europe scheduled the Indonesian Open. Asian Tour chief Louis Martin said he was insulted.
'Can you imagine the media feast if the Asian Tour went ahead and announced the staging of an Asian Tour event in continental Europe?' he said.
They worked out the problem last week, with the Asian Tour agreeing to move the new event in India to May.
Next up for O'Grady is how the PGA Tour's tighter, stronger schedule in 2007 is going to affect tournaments in Europe. Els, Retief Goosen, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Sergio Garcia are among the top players who keep membership on both sides of the Atlantic.
If all of them make the FedEx Cup championship series -- four big tournaments after the PGA Championship that concludes with the Tour Championship -- what does that do for European events like the HSBC World Match Play and the BMW International Open in Germany?
It's easy to make the Americans look bad for staging all the official World Golf Championships at home, but it's a problem everywhere. And don't be naive about the money. The TV ratings suffer outside the United States, and title sponsors are looking for the biggest return on their investment.
'I do think it's a transition phase,' Finchem said. 'In general, we're moving in the right direction. That's one reason we brought Ty Votaw aboard, to allow us to get some top-level energy for these international questions. I think it will sort itself out.'
Votaw was hired last month by the PGA Tour as executive vice president of international affairs. The running joke was that he had one of the toughest jobs in sports as LPGA commissioner because he had to keep 150 women happy.
His latest gig might be even more challenging -- keeping the world happy.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME
NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.
A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.
In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.
“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”
Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.
“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.
Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.
“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”
How does she feel?
“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”
Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.
New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title
NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.
Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.
She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.
“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”
Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.
Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.
Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.
Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.
“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.
Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.
“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”
You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios
NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.
Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:
Race to the CME Globe
Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.
Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.
The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.
Ariya Jutanugarn is also one shot off the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.
Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.
So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.
Rolex Player of the Year
The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.
Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.
Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.
Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.
It’s simple math.
The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.
1st - 30 points
2nd – 12 points
3rd – 9 points
4th – 7 points
5th – 6 points
6th – 5 points
7rd – 4 points
8th – 3 points
9th – 2 points
10th – 1 point
Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.
Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.
Rolex world No. 1 ranking
World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.
Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.
At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.
Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.
Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.
''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''
Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.
''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''
Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.
''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''
J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.
''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.
''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''
He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.
''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''
Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.
''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''