Notes Skins Game Stale Haney Rumors
The last name is who turned most heads. Wetterich qualified by finishing 10th on the PGA TOUR money list last year, and the nine guys ahead of him all turned down the invitation. Even he was surprised.
'I couldn't believe it,' Wetterich said. 'I thought my agent was (kidding) around with me.'
Wetterich, one of the biggest hitters on the PGA TOUR, said he plays some variation of a Skins game with his buddies, but he figures the most he ever played for was $20 a skin.
'So it's going to be quite a difference,' Wetterich said.
Money might be one of the issues that has caused the LG Skins Game to lose so much luster over the last decade or more. Even when Tiger Woods played, what used to be the premier event in the silly season became an afterthought.
The Skins Game began in 1983 with a $1 million purse, when the average purse on the PGA TOUR was $390,000. This year, the average PGA TOUR purse is over $5.6 million, and the four players are still competing for $1 million at the Skins Game.
'We have thought about that,' said Mark Steinberg, global managing director of golf for IMG. 'The problem is, what to do you do? Does it matter? These guys get paid astronomical amounts of money.'
Ames won eight skins last year to earn $590,000. Third place at the British Open paid more than that.
Nearly two dozen players already have earned more than $2 million this year on the PGA TOUR, so maybe it might add some entertainment value if they played for their own money.
'We have thought about them putting up their own money,' Steinberg said. 'Obviously, it hasn't gotten very far.'
He also said there might be gambling issues with the PGA TOUR that would have to be sorted out.
'There are a bunch of minds talking about how to invigorate it,' he said.
Money isn't the only reason the silly season is starting to lose its appeal. With golf being played around the world, not to mention around the calendar, there are plenty of alternatives. The Skins Game is being held opposite the World Cup this year. Phil Mickelson, who qualified for the Skins Game by winning THE PLAYERS Championship, will be in Asia earlier that month.
Hank Haney was with Tiger Woods early in the week at the Bridgestone Invitational, where Woods won by eight shots, but was conspicuously missing at Southern Hills when his prized pupil captured his 13th major.
That led to some scuttlebutt that he was on his way out.
Far from it.
Haney was home in Dallas tending to his wife, watching Woods tie a major championship record with a 63 in the second round that sent him to a two-shot victory over Woody Austin and his first major of the year. Woods now has gone three straight years winning a major.
'My man seems to be doing pretty good,' Haney said Sunday morning.
Haney has kept up a frenetic schedule over the past several years, and he likely will spend less time on the road, especially since Woods requires less maintenance with his swing. Woods has won 19 times and five majors since the start of 2005 season.
Tiger Woods' victory at Southern Hills ended what might have been a statistical rarity. For the first time in the majors this year, the winner came out of the final group.
Zach Johnson played in the third-to-last group at the Masters, Angel Cabrera was in the fifth-to-last group at the U.S. Open and Padraig Harrington, while he won in a playoff at the British Open, also was in the third-to-last group in the final round.
It should be no surprise that Woods won from the final group. Not only is he 13-0 when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round, every PGA champion has come out of the final group dating to Steve Elkington in 1995.
The best major for a comeback? Lately, that would be the U.S. Open. The last winner to come out of the final pairing Sunday was Retief Goosen at Shinnecock Hills in 2004.
Tiger Woods has won the PGA Championship in August more than any player in history, a quirky fact that shows how much the majors used to move around the calendar.
Five-time champion Walter Hagen won the PGA three times in September, once in October and his last in November. Jack Nicklaus, the other five-time champion, won his first PGA Championship in July 1963 when it was held in Dallas, three in August, and one in February when the 1971 PGA was held in Florida.
The PGA Championship once was held in December, and the British Open was routinely held in October and November, and one time even in May. The first Masters was held in March.
That leaves January as the only month no one has won a major.
Davis Love III has missed the cut in the majors (11) more times than he has made the cut (9) since 2003. ... International captain Gary Player probably wasn't aware of this when he announced his two picks for the Presidents Cup team. Monday was 'International Lefthanders Day,' and he wound up taking Nick O'Hern and Mike Weir. ... Woody Austin, John Senden, Simon Dyson and Boo Weekley all recorded their first top 10 in a major at the PGA Championship.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Tiger Woods was in the top 10 in every major statistical category at the PGA Championship except for driving distance (14th).
'Emotion. I don't know whether Woody will bring golf or bang himself in the head.' -- U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus, on what Woody Austin brings to the Presidents Cup.
<Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta
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.
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.
Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA
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.
Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic
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.
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.
Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe
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.
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.”