World Golf Championships Losing Some Sizzle
Even some of the players at the Bridgestone Invitational wondered who he was.
Instead of checking out his swing -- a dead giveaway that Kapur was a player -- they looked on his bag for a name.
That didn't help, either.
Kapur is a 24-year-old from New Delhi, polished and polite. He plays primarily on the Asian Tour, where his victory late last year in the Volvo Masters made him eligible for a World Golf Championship that included 48 of the top 50 in the world.
He checked in at No. 192.
But it's players like Kapur who make these different from run-of-the-mill PGA Tour events.
With so much money on the PGA Tour, and so much global competition everywhere from Torrey Pines to Warwick Hills, the identity of the World Golf Championships now comes from players no one can identify.
'There are a lot of guys I've seen this week that I didn't know who they were,' David Toms said. 'But that's part of world golf now. And it is a World Golf Championship. More power to them. If they can qualify, everybody else on our tour has a chance to qualify, too.'
A year ago, the mystery man was Mark Cayeux of Zimbabwe.
He qualified for Firestone by winning the Tour Championship in South Africa, and his first trip to America was unforgettable. He barely had found his locker when the pairings were released, and Cayeux was in the first group off No. 10 with Tiger Woods.
It wasn't nearly as nerve-racking for Kapur, nor was it his first trip to the United States.
'I spent four years at Purdue,' he said. 'I'm a Midwestern boy.'
How he got from India to Purdue is another story, although it was amusing to hear Shapur tell how he expected to go a few months during the winter with limited golf, only to find out his first year that the ground didn't thaw until April.
'It was a bit of a rude welcome,' he said with a laugh. 'But it was OK. I was able to catch up on my studies.'
Kapur kept a bad start from getting worse with birdies on his last three holes in the first round for a 72, but that was his best score of the week. He wound up at 13-over 293 and finished 65th out of 78 players, earning $35,000.
His next stop is the European tour, with the ultimate goal of joining the PGA Tour.
Chances are, you will hear from him again.
As for the international players with more cache -- Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie, Thomas Bjorn, Trevor Immelman -- they have become part of the PGA Tour landscape.
And they don't stand out at the World Golf Championships the way they once did.
There were 25 international players who had their PGA Tour cards in 1999, the first year of the World Golf Championships. Now there are 69 foreign players on the PGA Tour
Prize money was $7.5 million at Firestone. It was $6 million at the Wachovia Championship.
There are times when it's hard to tell the difference between the two.
Sure, the WGC events are top-heavy with the best players because at least the top 50 in the world are eligible for them. But with limited fields, that means fewer players for Woods to beat. And you have to wonder how hard some of them are trying, especially since there is no cut and the money is guaranteed.
Mark Hensby withdrew from the PGA Championship with a foot injury. A week later, he managed to tee it up in the Bridgestone Invitational, finished 19 shots behind and took home $39,500.
The acronym is WGC. Maybe it should be ATM.
The Bridgestone Invitational still feels important, for no other reason than Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and all the best players were in the field. The buzz came from Woods winning his fourth straight tournament, and from a course like Firestone South, universally accepted as one of the best tracks on tour.
But the WGCs no longer feel as unique as they once did.
'We've got more top players here on a regular basis. Everybody in the world is wanting to get here,' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'That has changed the face of the tour a little bit. The number of times during the year the vast majority of players are competing against each other is different than it was eight years ago. That was one of the purposes.
'From a player perspective, I could see why it's a little less unique,' he added. 'But that's what they wanted. Tiger talks about it all the time. We're getting our mission accomplished.'
Finchem sees no decrease in support or interest, and the 5.9 TV rating in the final round was the highest of any event this side of a major.
Woods says it's easy for him to get fired up for the WGCs because the best in the world are competing. Or maybe because it has become his annual annuity. He has played in 23 of them (including two World Cups) and earned more than $15 million.
The next one is the American Express Championship outside London the last week in September (Woods is the defending champion), and if the trend continues, expect a number of Americans to decide that's either too far away or too dangerous.
Next year, Amex becomes the CA Championship and will be played every year at Doral.
Think that won't look and feel like a regular PGA Tour event?
And with so much emphasis on the FedEx Cup next year, the WGCs are likely to slide even further into obscurity, notable only because of a large purse, a small field and players like Shiv Kapur.
If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
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.
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.
National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.
The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.
Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.
These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:
Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.
This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.
“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”
Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.
In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.
If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.
“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”
Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.
Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.
''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''
The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.
The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.
''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.
''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''
First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).
Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.
''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.
''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''