Things Change Remain the Same at PLAYERS

By Associated PressMay 7, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 THE PLAYERSPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- What some bill as the fifth-best golf tournament looked more like an open house Monday.
 
One by one, players pulled their courtesy cars to the front of the 77,000-square-foot clubhouse at THE PLAYERS Championship and were pointed in every direction. Volunteers guided them to the locker room, to a players-only dining room where not even their agents were allowed, and to the ``Tunnel of Champions'' that led them out a back door to the refurbished Players Stadium Course on the TPC Sawgrass.
 
TPC Sawgrass
Workers in March get the course ready to host THE PLAYERS Championship. (WireImage)
Most of them didn't know where they were.
 
``I'm a little lost,'' U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy said. ``It's such a big building.''
 
And despite the new look at THE PLAYERS Championship, one thing hasn't changed: No one is quite sure what it is.
 
The fifth major?
 
That won't get too many arguments because the golf course is superb, the field is the strongest and deepest of the year and the purse for this year's tournament will be $9 million, the richest of any tournament in the world.
 
But there are only four majors, which is why Jeff Sluman's famous line from four years ago still holds true.
 
``When you go to Denny's and order the Grand Slam breakfast, they don't give you five things, do they?''
 
One reason THE PLAYERS moved from March to May was to give golf a major event every month, starting with the Masters in April through the PGA Championship in August and even the FedEx Cup finale in September.
 
But even with a new clubhouse and a refurbished golf course meant to play firm and fast in any weather, there is still enough evidence to suggest that one of these is not like the other four.
 
Tiger Woods, coming off a two-shot victory at the Wachovia Championship, won't arrive until Tuesday. Woods arrives no later than Monday for majors, sometimes even Sunday.
 
Major championships attract fans from all over the country who come to watch. THE PLAYERS largely remains a local event, drawing most of the crowd from county limits, and a lot of them come to be seen. The PGA TOUR is starting a campaign to attract more fans from outside the state of Florida, although this will take time.
 
And it probably doesn't help that THE PLAYERS is held a week after the Wachovia Championship, which drew seemingly endless comparisons with a major championship last week, especially after Woods said he was ``ecstatic'' to have won considering the quality of the golf course against the strength of the field in such difficult conditions.
 
More than one player was asked at Quail Hollow what the difference was between last week and this week.
 
In every case, there was a pause for contemplation before a nod was given to THE PLAYERS.
 
But they had to think about it.
 
All this feeds into a broader problem at PGA TOUR headquarters: THE PLAYERS is its showcase event, but the conversation seems to always be what the tournament is not, rather than what it is.
 
``I think enough fun has been made of their place in the golf kingdom,'' Sluman said over the weekend. ``There are still only four majors, but it is an unbelievable golf course with bar-none the best field in golf.''
 
Shouldn't that be enough?
 
PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem has said that he only wants THE PLAYERS Championship to be the best it can be, and he has stopped at nothing to accomplish that. The TOUR wants the tournament to be known as ``THE PLAYERS,'' similar to ``The Masters.'' Television coverage will include only four minutes of commercials every hour, just like the Masters.
 
The winner of THE PLAYERS gets as many FedEx Cup points as the winner of a major. In the World Golf Hall of Fame ballots, THE PLAYERS is listed in bold print alongside the four majors.
 
``Nobody likes being force-fed,'' Sluman said. ``I think everybody associated with the tournament needs to let it take its course. It will find its spot wherever that ends up in five, 10, 15 or 50 years. But just let it happen.''
 
Ogilvy called it the fifth-best tournament in the world, which probably is what THE PLAYERS Championship is. But what inevitably followed were more examples of what it's not.
 
``It's not a career-defining win,'' he said.
 
Fred Couples and Davis Love III often get labeled as underachievers for having so much talent and only one major championship to show for it, even though both have won THE PLAYERS twice. Ogilvy also felt that while winning THE PLAYERS was as physically challenging as winning a major, it was not as psychologically demanding.
 
``I've gotten so tired of that six, seven, eight years ago,'' Jim Furyk said. ``Is this a major? Is it not a major? My answer was simply, 'Does it matter?' It's a good, strong field. I would say it's by far the strongest field in golf, year in and year out. And it's probably the best way to market it.''
 
Carl Petterson offered the best answer when asked his definition of THE PLAYERS.
 
``It's our championship,'' he said.
 
That should be enough.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - THE PLAYERS Championship
  • Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

    By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

    Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

    Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

    What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

    Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

    Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

    Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

    Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

    Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.

    Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

    While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

    Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

    By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

    The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

    The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

    Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

    Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

    ''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


    DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

    Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

    Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

    ''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

    The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

    Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

    ''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

    If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.