Notes: PGA Tour looking south of the border

By Associated PressJune 7, 2011, 7:35 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Florida – The PGA Tour has been spending a lot of time in South America, and not just because of the Olympics.

For the last 18 months, officials have been meeting with golf federations of several countries with hopes of starting a PGA Tour-branded circuit in South America, Latin America and the Caribbean. It would help develop local talent and provide another avenue for any player to find his way to the big leagues.

Think of it as a tour that would be one step below the Nationwide Tour.

And while there remain significant details to work out – not only finding an umbrella sponsor, but the number of tournaments and eligibility criteria – the plan is for this series to begin as early as 2012.

“If you look at the top 500 in the world ranking, only 14 players are from South America and eight of those come from Argentina,” said Ty Votaw, executive vice president of international affairs who is spearheading the Olympic effort for the PGA Tour. “It’s a part of the world where the development of elite players is something that we see as being an opportunity.”

With golf returning to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, a series that would provide access to the Nationwide Tour and might offer even minimal world ranking points could increase the number of players in the world ranking from South America and help give golf some momentum on that continent.

Votaw said the plan is not entirely driven by the Olympics, although it has sped up the process.

The plan would be for open competition not restricted to local players. If the purses could be raised to $175,000, and if the top players on a money list (the number to be determined) were offered a spot on the Nationwide Tour, it could provide an attractive alternative to playing the mini-tours in which players have to put up their own money.

Keegan Bradley played mini-tours out of college, then made it far enough through Q-school to get onto the Nationwide Tour, a path that took him to victory two weeks ago on the PGA Tour. If a tour in South America were available then, Bradley said he would have gone.

“If there was access to the Nationwide? That would be a no-brainer,” Bradley said.

South America is seen by some as fertile ground for young players. It has produced two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, and PGA Tour winners from Argentina (Andres Romero), Colombia (Camilo Villegas), Venezuela (Jhonattan Vegas) and Paraguay (Carlos Franco).

Cabrera has started a foundation with hopes of funding some of the young players. He is aware of the tour’s plan and loves it.

“I hope it succeeds,” Cabrera said. “We have a lot of strong players on the PGA Tour already, and it would be very good for South America to have this. We could develop some players. It would be good for the young players to give them an opportunity.”

This would not replace the Tour de las Americas, but work alongside it. One of the difficulties is working with the various countries, which have their own agendas, and coming up with a right number of tournaments that gets the entire continent involved. Also to be considered is the climate in South America, with countries on both sides of the equator.

Votaw said the idea is for about 12 to 14 tournaments from eight countries.

The tour involvement would be important to give the series an identity, a path to bigger things and consistent standards in how the tournaments are run and promoted.

Votaw said a Nationwide Tour event in Colombia would continue, and serve as somewhat of a carrot.

“With the Nationwide Tour in Colombia, it gives an understanding of what the Nationwide Tour is, and provides an even more tacit example of the brass ring,” he said.

BUBBA’S WORLD: With three wins in the last year and growing notoriety, Bubba Watson plans to take his game around the world.

Watson already has signed up to play in the French Open and the Scandinavian Masters this summer, with the Swedish tournament one week after the British Open. Then comes three weeks in Australia toward the end of the year, with the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship sandwiched around the Presidents Cup.

For next year, Watson said he would consider playing the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, which would endear himself to a European Tour nation that wonders why no Americans bother playing.

“I’ve heard it’s a good course,” Watson said. “I talked to Luke Donald about it the other day. He seemed to like it. I don’t know. I think it would be a cool thing to do.”

Watson is not a newcomer to traveling. Before his rookie season on the PGA Tour, he spent three weeks in Australia, along with playing the Dunlop Phoenix and Taiheiyo Masters in Japan.

GAY’S PLEDGE: Brian Gay made 25 birdies when he won the St. Jude Classic two years ago. Now he wants them to count in other ways.

Gay and his wife Kimberly are donating $100 for every birdie he makes in this week’s tournament to support the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and he has enlisted four other players to join him.

Bryce Molder, Tom Pernice Jr. and Texas Open winner Brendan Steele also will donate $100 for each birdie they make. Phil Mickelson isn’t playing Memphis, but he will pitch in $100 for every birdie Gay makes.

All are Gaylord Sports Management clients, and the company has agreed to match all the contributions.

AWKWARD CELEBRATION: As he contemplated a possible PGA Tour-branded series in South America, Jim Furyk recalled the time he won the Argentina Open in 1997 in one of the more awkward trophy presentations.

Furyk wound up tied with Eduardo Romero. Before the playoff began, however, it was discovered that Romero and Vicente Fernandez forgot to exchange their scorecards before the final round. By rule, the two Argentines playing in their national open were disqualified, and Furyk was declared the winner.

“It was really strange,” Furyk said. “I was in the scoring tent for 20 minutes with everyone speaking Spanish, and no one told me what the hell was going on. It was awkward. It was really strange. It was good to get out of Dodge at that point.”

Leave it to Roberto de Vicenzo to save the day.

Along with winning his lone major at Royal Liverpool in 1967, De Vicenzo is famous for signing a higher score in the 1968 Masters than he actually shot, which kept him out of a playoff. “What a stupid I am,” was his memorable quote.

Alas, what a gentleman he was that day in ’97.

“De Vicenzo prepared this great speech about the honor of the game, and it was the right thing to do and ‘Jim is the champion and we need to embrace him,”’ Furyk said. “It was nice.”

STAT OF THE WEEK: Rickie Fowler had 26 birdies and an eagle last week at the Memorial. He shot 4 under 284 and tied for 22nd.

FINAL WORD: “I’m not much of a historian. I have read all the names on the claret jug. If he had won that, I might have heard of him.” – Stewart Cink, asked about the 100-year anniversary of John McDermott winning the U.S. Open.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.