Notes Ford Championship Garners Big Ratings

By Associated PressMarch 8, 2005, 5:00 pm
As expected, NBC Sports scored big with a Sunday showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The 5.9 overnight rating and 16 share was the highest at Doral in 15 years, and the biggest in golf since the U.S. Open last year at Shinnecock Hills got a 6.3 overnight rating.

The final round peaked with an 8.1 rating over the last 30 minutes, when Woods surged ahead to win the Ford Championship at Doral and return to No. 1 in the world.
 
FORD OUTING
The four players who took part in a corporate outing for a reported $150,000 on the Monday before the Ford Championship at Doral were not there by coincidence.

Golf World magazine reports this week that IMG sent a letter to tournament directors offering to help put together a 'unique' Monday outing, in which the agency would try to secure five players who do not have a history playing that event. The letter also said the players 'will look favorably upon staying for the
tournament.'

The IMG letter, obtained by Golf World, included a menu of players.

In the $100,000 to $200,000 price range were Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, John Daly and Davis Love III. The second tier, for a meager $50,000 to $100,000, included David Duval, Todd Hamilton, Charles Howell III, Mike Weir, Ben Curtis, Fred Couples and Jim Furyk.

Singh, Goosen, Garcia and Padraig Harrington played in the Ford outing. All are IMG clients.

Tour regulations prohibit players or their agents from soliciting or accepting compensation to guarantee their appearance.

The IMG letter pushes that policy to the brink, and the PGA Tour is looking into it.

'We will review this recent solicitation and take whatever steps we deem necessary,' the tour said in a statement.

CANADIAN GRIT
Mike Weir could do without his results the last two weeks, getting ousted in the first round of the Match Play Championship and tying for 52nd at Doral.

Still, the Canadian showed plenty of grit when it might not matter to others.
 
Trailing by one hole on the 18th at La Costa, with Kirk Triplett some 8 feet away for birdie, Weir made a 20-foot birdie putt to keep alive his chances. Triplett knocked his in to win the match.
 
Then at Doral, Weir needed a par to make the cut and fanned his drive into the water. He had 5-iron into the green, then made a 12-foot par putt with severe left-to-right break.
 
'I think it's just my attitude. I don't give in,' Weir said. 'Those help big-time. It was just to make the cut, but at least I was playing. Any momentum you can get leading into Augusta is good.'
 
THINKING AHEAD
In the twilight at La Costa Resort, after the Match Play Championship was over for the day, a lone figure was on the practice range working on his swing.

'Colonial is three months away and I'm already nervous,' Ian Baker-Finch said with a smile.
 
Baker-Finch is a past champion at Colonial and plans to play in May, which would be his first PGA Tour event since he missed the cut at Colonial in 2001.
 
The congenial Aussie won the '91 British Open, but then suffered so badly off the tee that it drove him away from golf after he shot 92 in the first round of the 1997 British Open. Baker-Finch, who works for ABC Sports, has been encouraged enough at his home club in Florida that he has hinted at playing a few tournaments.
 
That might also include the British Open at St. Andrews.
 
Baker-Finch has not entered, and said he probably won't make up his mind until the last minute.
 
'I don't expect to be able to compete,' Baker-Finch said. 'But I at least want to believe I can compete, instead of hoping I don't play poorly.'
 
EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM?
The final pick in the NFL draft is known as 'Mr. Irrelevant,' and he gets a paid trip to Newport Beach, Calif., for a week of festivities. Maybe something should be done for the first guy to sign up for the U.S. Open.

That would be Ed McDugle, a high school golf coach in Memphis, Tenn., who sent in his U.S. Open entry a mere nine minutes after applications were made available online March 2.

'I just happened to check that morning,' McDugle said. 'I had an open period after teaching honors economics, I clicked on and it was there. I wasn't even thinking about being the first.'
 
Alas, there is no free trip to sectionals or any other such perk.
 
McDugle will go to 18-hole local qualifying May 17 for the ninth consecutive year, and he already has signed up for East Lake to play the 36-hole sectional if he makes it that far.
 
McDugle, 43, is the Memphis city public links champion and the epitome of what the U.S. Open is all about -- amateurs who are allowed to dream big about competing against Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson & Co. at Pinehurst No. 2.
 
U.S. Open entries have averaged about 8,000 the last couple of years, making McDugle a long shot.
 
He made it to sectionals his first year in 1997, and it required no small amount of work. He was coaching softball and raising young children, putting them to bed at 9:30 p.m. and going to the driving range until it closed.
 
'I ended up in a playoff and beat a couple of the local pros,' he said.

He also learned a lesson about the big time that year.
 
'Teachers don't make a lot of money, and I was using some knockoff clubs,' he said. 'I was playing with the No. 3 player on the Nike Tour, and he was sponsored everywhere. I learned that second-rate clubs don't get it done at that level. His technology was brand new, and I was losing 30 yards off the tee.'

The good news is that McDugle has upgraded to some Titleist 690 irons, the Pro V1 ball and a new V-Foil putter.

'But I'm still lacking in the driver,' he said. 'I've got an Orlimar Tri-Metal, but I hit it dead straight.'
 
DIVOTS
Jim Furyk tied for eighth at Doral and became the seventh player on the PGA Tour to surpass $20 million in career earnings. ... Greg Norman had to withdraw after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic because of a recurring back injury. His manager said he tried to hit 60 balls on the range, but felt numbness and couldn't make a turn. He hopes to be ready for The Players Championship.

STAT OF THE WEEK
Bart Bryant has 29 consecutive rounds at par or better, dating to Las Vegas last year. He has only one top-10 finish during that stretch.

FINAL WORD
'He was just on the Ed Sullivan show the other day.' -- Jack Nicklaus, told that Tiger Woods was in his 10th season on the PGA Tour.
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry