International Feel at Target

By Associated PressDecember 13, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Target World Challenge pres. by CountrywideTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- For golf at the highest level, the Target World Challenge is the final tournament of the year in the United States. It also happens to be a popular hangout for international players.
 
They have flown across oceans and time zones to spend a week at Sherwood Country Club as part of the PGA TOUR's silly season, although there is nothing silly about the money. Only four regular tour events have a larger purse ($5.75 million), with $1.35 million going to the winner and $170,000 for last place. That means John Daly is assured of his highest paycheck of the year.
 
But there is a serious picture painted in these foothills that separate concrete freeways from the Pacific Ocean.
 
The 16-man field is determined largely by the world rankings, and it no longer is surprising to see so few Americans.
 
'I don't see it changing any time soon,' Tiger Woods said Wednesday morning after a brief session on the range next to U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and Tour Championship winner Adam Scott, both from Australia.
 
'I see it as world golf getting more dominant than the U.S.'
 
Woods is the tournament host and No. 1 player in the world. The only other Americans at Sherwood are David Toms, Chris DiMarco, Davis Love III, Fred Couples and Daly. The latter two received the two sponsor invitations.
 
The United States is 1-2-3 in the world rankings, with Jim Furyk at No. 2 and Phil Mickelson at No. 3, both of them choosing not to play this week. That doesn't skew the numbers, because four international players from the top 10 also opted for time off around the holidays.
 
Americans still own the majors, having won 28 of the last 40. The depth, however, comes from overseas.
 
'It all goes in cycles,' Scott said. 'In the '80s and probably the '90s, the Americans dominated the game. I think you're seeing the other side of the cycle now. The foreign players have a stronger presence. I don't know why that is. It's role reversal almost.'
 
A generation ago, the best two players were from England (Nick Faldo) and Australia (Greg Norman), while American golf was strong because of its sheer numbers.
 
Consider the world rankings. When first published before the 1986 Masters, the top three were Europeans (Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle), but there were 31 Americans in the top 50.
 
Now, the top three are Americans, but there are only 14 Americans in the top 50.
 
This is not necessarily an indictment of American golf. The reason for this global balance is the strength of the PGA TOUR, which attracts the best from around the world because a routine event can pay twice as much as tours anywhere else.
 
True, the United States only has 14 of the top 50 in the world, but no other country has more than six players (Australia).
 
'Golf is a global game, and this year in particular, there are more foreigners and less Americans,' said Michael Campbell, the 2005 U.S. Open champion from New Zealand. 'I think it's a good thing. It's good for the game. The only thing is, they all play here. The best golf is still in America, but it's filled up with nationalities.'
 
The Target World Challenge starts Thursday, the first time Woods has played on the U.S. mainland since he won the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston on Labor Day.
 
And while it is an exhibition in the purest sense, it serves as a barometer for the shift in power.
 
The first tournament had nine Americans in the 12-man field in late 1999. There were nine Americans in the 16-man field in 2002, and half the field was from overseas last year. This is the first time in the eight-year history of Woods' event that Americans were in the minority. Had everyone played who was eligible, there would have been only three Americans (not counting two invitations).
 
Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who won this event four years ago, says it is no coincidence that most of the top players seem to be coming from England and Australia.
 
'Norman and Faldo, both in their own areas, definitely encouraged more players to play and younger players to choose golf as their sport,' he said. 'All the guys we have now are a result of guys winning the majors in the '80s and '90s. That's why they're coming out now.'
 
No European has won the U.S. Open since 1970, and the PGA Championship since 1930. But they won the British Open seven times during a 14-year span from 1979 to 1992, and the Masters 11 times in a 20-year period from 1980 to 1999.
 
Norman only won two majors, but no one was in contention at the majors more often during the height of his powers.
 
'I know why Europe is strong now,' Harrington said. 'I don't know why the U.S. isn't.'
 
Woods believes the U.S. college system is one reason behind the shift. Americans are taught to finish high school and go to college, which could be anywhere from one to four years. Then it's off to qualifying school, which could take a few years to pass.
 
'Other countries, they start playing professional golf at an early age,' Woods said. 'Look at Langer. He turned pro at age 15? You don't do that here. You go to high school, college, then you turn pro. Most of the guys from outside the country already have got one or two years under their belt.'
 
If this is a cycle, one has to wonder if it will ever change. The borders in golf are more blurred than ever. Not only are the best in the world coming to the United States, many of them are making this their home. And while Harrington says Europeans were inspired by major champions from a generation ago, he doubts that will happen again.
 
The best player is an American citizen with global appeal.
 
'The whole world is influenced by whoever is playing well at the time,' Harrington said. 'Tiger has changed everything. Everybody -- Europeans and Americans -- want to play like Tiger.'
 
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  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.