Notes The End of Doral as They Know It

By Associated PressMarch 7, 2006, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)MIAMI -- For some players, there is no better feeling than getting off the plane at Miami International Airport and feeling a blast of tropical air, a warm signal that the Florida swing is starting and the Masters is not far away.
Billy Mayfair has played at Doral every year since he was a rookie in 1989.
Ive always loved this place, Mayfair said. Youre coming off California, where youre used to wearing sweaters and turtlenecks. You come here and its 90 degrees and perfect greens.
But as he finished the Ford Championship at Doral, Mayfair could only wonder if his tradition would continue.
Doral will be home to a World Golf Championship next year, a limited field for only the top 50 in the world ranking and leading money-winners from six tours around the world. There were only 69 players at Harding Park last year, including Warren Abery, Neil Cheetham and Jyoti Randhawa.
If I dont play well the rest of the year, I might not be here, said Mayfair, who is No. 78 in the world. That probably was the most disappointing thing I saw on next years schedule.
Its the first time a regular PGA Tour stop has been converted into an elite tournament with a small field. La Costa Resort near San Diego hosted the Mercedes Championships until it got the Match Play Championship in 1999, but the Mercedes (winners only) has an even smaller field.
The PGA Tour has been going to Doral since 1962. Only two other courses'Augusta National and Pebble Beach'have had the same tournament longer without interruption.
Two-time Doral winner Steve Elkington has come to the Blue Monster every year since 1988, and he remembers seeing all the champions on the wall'Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, Greg Norman, Tom Weiskopf, Lee Trevino.
I figured they played this course for a reason, and theyve played it well for a reason, Elkington said. Ive always like this tournament. I hope Im in the top 156 next year.
Elkington, who is No. 61 in the world, apparently confused it for a 156-man field in the late spring.
Isnt it top 156? Its top 50? he said.
He paused, then added, Theres not much we can do about it. I dont think theyll let you in a World Championship as a past champion.
Others who have never missed a year since 1989 are Bob Tway, Paul Azinger and John Huston. None are likely to be back next year unless they play well and get into the top 50 in the world or the top 30 on the PGA Tour money list.
I think its awful, Azinger said. You build a history, you build a tradition at a site, then change it all up. I think its a really sad day when an exempt player cant play at Doral.
The Zurich Classic at New Orleans will be played in seven weeks, and help is on the way to the Big Easy. Steve Sarro, the superintendent at Vail Golf Club in Colorado, is leading a group of 30 golf course management professionals and students to help four golf courses recover from Hurricane Katrina.
They will be in the area all next week, working on bunkers, spraying herbicides and helping restore English Turn and three other courses'TPC of Louisiana, Audubon Golf Course and Brechtel Golf Course.
English Turn will host the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on April 27-30.
What is nice about this industry is we are used to helping each other out. We are all friends and want to help, Sarro said. Our peers have faced significant challenges. Labor is in short supply, so we saw this as a means to provide expertise in helping golf courses get back open.
Sarro said he was looking for a way to help, and figured manpower would be as effective as writing a check to the Red Cross. He is not sure how much they can do in one week having not seen the damage.
What we hope to accomplish is to instill hope in these guys, he said. We want to support them.
Tucson is regarded as merely an opposite field on the PGA Tour, only this year it turned into something a little more'a qualifier for a $5.5 million tournament at Doral.
The PGA Tour has a policy that anyone finishing in the top 10 is exempt for the following week as long as that tournament is not an invitational. So when six players not otherwise eligible for Doral finished in the top 10 at Tucson, Dorals tournament director was left scrambling.
We had five or six players that would have been in the tournament, but werent in the tournament, Eddie Carbone said. There seemed to be a lot more changes this year.
The start of the Florida swing usually is messy because players ranking out of Q-school and the Nationwide Tour are reshuffled depending on how they fared on the West Coast. Bubba Watson went from 38th to second in the pecking order, and would have gotten into Doral anyway.
The other top 10s from Tucson who got into Doral were Duffy Waldorf, David Branshaw, Cameron Beckman, Gabriel Hjertstedt, Charley Hoffman and Mark Wilson. Only two of them made the cut.
Thats a record for number of players coming out of one tournament into the next one, said Andy Pazder, vice president of competition for the PGA Tour. Usually its one or two, if any. But given the makeup of the field in Tucson, and the way the tournament finished up, we had that large number.
Hunter Mahan slipped all the way to fourth alternate, no chance of playing. He spent the rest of the week on the range when everyone else was on the course.
Ive never had this issue before, Mahan said. I was boarding a plane in Tucson and they told me I was going to be fourth alternate. It was a little odd.
Camilo Villegas, 24, was the youngest player to finish second to Tiger Woods since 19-year-old Sergio Garcia at the 99 PGA Championship. ... If anyone questions the support in Charlotte, consider ticket sales for the Wachovia Championship'a sellout on the first day for Saturday tickets, a sellout on the second day for Friday tickets, and a sellout the first week for Sunday tickets.
Tiger Woods has a larger lead over Vijay Singh in the world ranking than Annika Sorenstam has over Michelle Wie in the womens world ranking.
Its just a fancy name for a $10 million event.'Steve Elkington on the World Golf Championships.
Copyright 2006 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.”