Time for Players to Quit Whining

By Associated PressSeptember 11, 2007, 4:00 pm
2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaATLANTA -- Robert Allenby was among those who feared the worst when he showed up Tuesday at East Lake.
The greens were said to be in such miserable shape that the original edict was for no one to set foot on them until the opening round of the TOUR Championship. When conditions slightly improved, the ban was lifted to allow for practice on all but three holes.
'Not too bad,' Allenby said as he inspected the ninth green.
These days, that constitutes a compliment.
There was grass on the green, so that was good. Some of the barren patches around the edges had been filled in with green sand. The putting surfaces looked more like a municipal course than home to the tour's showcase event. Still, it wasn't as bad as they thought.
'It's not good, but it's not horrific,' Allenby said.
The conversation then shifted to a fourth consecutive week of a $7 million purse, and the finale of a FedExCup that would pour $35 million into retirement accounts for 144 players, with $10 million for the winner and 10th place getting $500,000.
'For that kind of money, we should play on anything,' Allenby concluded.
That's good advice for all.
The inaugural year of the FedExCup has worked about as well as can be expected. Going into the TOUR Championship, an argument can be made that the three players with the best chance of capturing the cup are the best three players in golf this year -- Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson.
Woods has six victories, including a major.
Mickelson has three victories, including THE PLAYERS Championship, despite losing 10 weeks with an injured wrist.
Stricker only has one victory -- in round one of these PGA TOUR Playoffs -- but he has six top 5s and seemingly has been on the leaderboard ever since the U.S. Open.
Even so, most of these guys have found some reason to complain.
Woods and Mickelson have been the most critical about making the FedExCup bonus money deferred compensation instead of a pile of cash waiting for them on the 18th green at East Lake. Some have said the playoffs began with too many players. Others have said it's too hard for guys at the bottom to move toward the top. A common complaint is that four weeks in a row is too much golf.
Stop for a minute.
Woods and Mickelson were the ones out front in asking for a shorter season. They got it. Players were invited to a half-dozen meetings to look at the new model and offer suggestions. Most of them didn't bother to attend.
It must be hard for fans to stomach the thought of these guys playing for $63 million over four weeks, in tournaments that have produced some of the best golf of the year, yet going out of their way to nitpick every detail.
And it's a comical coincidence that the FedExCup was patterned after NASCAR, where 12 drivers qualify for the final 10 races that comprise 'The Chase' to see who wins the Nextel Cup. Those dozen drivers will be in New York on Thursday doing promotional blitzes on everything from ESPN Zone to Letterman to Regis.
Can you imagine PGA TOUR players going out of their way to do that?
It was no small victory for the tour when it got Woods to do a couple of commercials, one in which all he does his lace up his shoes while whistling 'Eye of the Tiger.'
If the players aren't behind this FedExCup, how can the fans expect to embrace it?
'But if we complain about it and we say, 'Too many tournaments in a row, deferred payment,' ... then the fans are going to be turned off and it's not going to be a very good television show,' Stewart Cink said Tuesday. 'Let's see how good we can make it, instead of driving it into the ground.'
Being a team player doesn't have to mean playing every event.
It didn't help when Woods skipped The Barclays to kick off these playoffs, but he said he wouldn't be at his best if he played, and all he has done since then is tie for second at the Deutsche Bank and win the BMW Championship. K.J. Choi missed Boston, Mickelson missed Chicago, but all 30 are gathered in Atlanta for the conclusion.
Surely, there are ways to make it better, although complaints far outweigh solutions.
The one change that gets the most attention is having to play four straight weeks. Even some of the soldiers who have played them all are feeling exhausted, none more than Mark Calcavecchia. His tank is so empty that he has played as a single on Sunday the past two weeks, his only goal to finish in time for brunch.
'I'm wrecked. I'm destroyed,' he said. 'Tiger is tired after two weeks? I've got him by 80 pounds and 17 years. How do you think I'm doing after (playing) eight out of nine? He could run from here to downtown. I couldn't run out of a burning house.'
Calcavecchia has been on tour so long that he played in the first TOUR Championship in 1987. He tied for fifth and earned $68,800. Fifth place now is worth $280,000.
He is still happy to be here, as are most players who always viewed the TOUR Championship as a reward for a great season.
Late afternoon thunderstorms brought concern for the greens, and the tour risks great embarrassment if their 'Super Bowl' is played on a track that looks as though it hosted a tractor pull.
But everyone plays the same course. And odds are in the tour's favor that the final FedExCup event will be as compelling as the other playoff events. Someone will be $10 million richer Sunday. Heck, everyone will be richer.
Whether they're happy is up to them.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.