A different view for Stricker

By Doug FergusonFebruary 17, 2010, 6:21 pm
2007- WGC-Accenture

MARANA, Ariz. – Steve Stricker begins the Match Play Championship as the No. 1 seed, which speaks to two developments.

Tiger Woods is not playing golf at the moment, and Stricker is playing it very well.

Stricker tees off Wednesday in the first round at Dove Mountain at two minutes past high noon in the Arizona desert, the time that traditionally is reserved for the top player.

Even now, Stricker has a hard time realizing how far he has come.

He is a past champion of this World Golf Championship, winning in 2001 under far different circumstances. His game was in such poor shape that Stricker slipped to No. 90 in the world ranking, and the only reason he got into the 64-man field is because a host of top players didn’t want to fly across oceans so soon after the holidays, especially knowing they could be eliminated in one day.

Stricker was looking for a caddie. Everyone turned him down.

“Maybe that tells you what state my game was in,” he said.

He wound up taking a friend from home, Tom Mitchell, then delivered a stunning victory. He mowed down Padraig Harrington, Scott Verplank and Justin Leonard, make a clutch putt to get past pesky Nick O’Hern, then won his last two matches. He was the No. 55 seed, at the time the highest seed to win the Match Play Championship.

Expectations are different these days. He’s more nervous than desperate.

“First of all, you have to play well,” he said. “And second of all, you have to dodge a player potentially that comes and plays really hot. I believe anybody in this field can beat any other player. That’s what makes this tournament very challenging. It scares me a little bit, too, to tell you the truth. Just because you never know what you’re going to get, or who you’re going to run into.”

The Match Play seedings are one way to measure the peaks and valleys of a career.

Michael Campbell of New Zealand has seen both extremes. He was the No. 64 seed in 2000 when he lost in the first round to Tiger Woods, and the No. 5 seed a year later. Lee Westwood played in the inaugural Match Play Championship as the No. 5 seed, and four years later was No. 59. He starts this year at No. 2.

Stricker made it all the way to the top, with an asterisk.

He will face Ross McGowan of England in the first round, and it’s worth noting that only one time in the 11-year history has the bottom seed won. That was Peter O’Malley of Australia beating Woods in 2002.

The talent gap is so razor thin this high in the world ranking that even on paper, some matches are impossible to predict.

Ian Poulter is the No. 9 seed, and for that he gets a first-round match against Justin Leonard, a former U.S. Amateur champion. Jim Furyk, the No. 3 seed, plays Scott Verplank, a teammate in two Ryder Cups.

Dustin Johnson, coming off a victory at Pebble Beach last week, takes on Camilo Villegas.

Perhaps the most intriguing is a battle of two youngsters with seemingly bright futures – 25-year-old Michael Sim of Australia against 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan.

The matches will be tight. Most of them will be tense.

And the reward for the winners is to repeat the process on Thursday. There’s a reason they only play this format once a year.

Getty Images

Notah: Driver is Tiger's No. 1 pre-Masters concern

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 5:49 pm

Tiger Woods mounted a Sunday charge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sending shockwaves through Bay Hill when it looked as though he might finally claim PGA Tour victory No. 80.

But the charge came to an end at the par-5 16th, where Woods had missed wide-right three days in a row before going OB-left on Sunday en route to bogey.

Woods’ API performance featured just a handful of drivers each day, as firm and fast conditions allowed him to make frequent use of a 2-iron off the tee.

That strategy led to a second top-5 finish in as many weeks, but if Woods wants to win again, if he wants claim another major, he is going to sort out his issues with the big stick.

A guest Monday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, Golf Channel’s Notah Begay believes the driver will be a focus for Woods in his pre-Masters preparation.

“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver. … Any time he has to turn a shot right to left with trouble on the left, he struggles a little bit,” Begay said.

“Off the sixth tee, off the ninth tee, there was some errant shots. And then we saw the really horrible tee shot yesterday at 16. He talked about in the post-round comments. He just didn’t commit to a shot, and the worst thing that a professional athlete can do to themselves to compromise performance is not commit.

“And so he made a terrible swing, and that’s the miss that is really difficult for him to recover from, because the majority of his misses are out to the right. So, when you eliminate one half of the golf course, you can really make your way around … a lot easier. When you have a two-way miss going, which sometimes creeps into his driver, it really makes it difficult to take out some of the trouble that you’re looking at when you’re standing on the tee box.

“So he has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

Getty Images

McIlroy trails only Woods in Masters betting odds

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 5:47 pm

After rallying for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy is once again among the betting favorites for the upcoming Masters.

McIlroy was available at 16/1 at the Westage Las Vegas SuperBook last week, listed behind six other players. But after his three-shot win at Bay Hill, his odds were trimmed to 10/1 leaving him behind only betting favorite Tiger Woods.

Next month will mark McIlroy's fourth opportunity to close out the final leg of the career Grand Slam by slipping into a green jacket. Here's a look at the current betting odds, with the first round only 17 days away:

8/1: Tiger Woods

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas

14/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose

16/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm

18/1: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson

25/1: Paul Casey, Bubba Watson

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman

50/1: Alex Noren

60/1: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters

80/1: Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay

100/1: Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner

Getty Images

NBC Sports' Final Round Coverage of Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard Scores Highest-Rated Overnight at Event in Six Years

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMarch 19, 2018, 5:42 pm

Arnold Palmer Invitational and Valspar Championship Post Two Highest-Rated Final Round PGA TOUR Telecasts (Non-Majors) on Any Broadcast Network since the 2015 Wyndham Championship

ORLANDO, Fla., March 19, 2018 – Record viewership of the PGA TOUR continued this weekend for NBC Sports Group at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. Sunday’s final round coverage on NBC (2-6:45 p.m. ET) delivered a 3.6 overnight rating, +136% vs. 2017 and the highest-rated final round at this event in six years. Combined with last week’s final round viewership at the Valspar Championship (5.1 overnight rating) these rank as the two highest-rated final round PGA TOUR telecasts (non-majors) on any broadcast network since the 2015 Wyndham Championship. Golf Channel’s Sunday final-round lead-in coverage earned a .97 overnight rating, the highest at this event in five years. Across NBC and Golf Channel’s coverage, more than 12 million minutes were streamed, +683% vs. 2017.


  • Sunday’s final round coverage on NBC peaked to a 4.89 from 5:15-5:30 p.m. ET.
  • Golf Channel’s lead-in coverage peaked to a 1.24 from 1:30-2 p.m. ET.


Saturday’s third round coverage earned a 2.29 overnight rating on NBC (2:30-6 p.m. ET), +92% vs. 2017 and the highest-rated at this event in five years. Golf Channel’s lead-in coverage (Noon-2:30 p.m. ET) earned a .95 overnight rating, +126% vs. 2017. Nearly 5.3 million minutes were streamed, +511% vs. 2017.


Friday’s second-round coverage on Golf Channel generated a .81 overnight rating, +153% vs. 2017 and the second highest-rated early round at this event on Golf Channel (2007-2018), just slightly behind the 2012 second round (.84). More the 4.2 million minutes were streamed on Golf Channel Digital, +682% vs. 2017.


Final numbers from Golf Channel’s opening round coverage on Thursday: .42 U.S. HH rating and 593,000 viewers, +56% vs. 2017 and the most-watched opening round at this event since 2011. More than 1.4 million minutes were streamed, +163% vs. 2017.


Four of the top-20 players in the world, Jon Rahm (No. 3), Tommy Fleetwood (No. 11), Tyrrell Hatton (No. 16) and Pat Perez (No. 19) are scheduled to join the live World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play Bracket Special tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. The 90-minute live primetime special will originate from Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, Texas, and feature golf’s own version of a March bracket-style tournament selection format under the guidance of PGA TOUR competition officials.


NBC Sports Group will feature nearly 35 live hours of tournament coverage from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Golf Channel will carry live coverage of round robin matches Wednesday-Friday, March 21-23. On Saturday, March 24, Golf Channel will provide coverage of the Round of 16, followed by the Quarterfinals matches airing on NBC. On Sunday, March 25, Golf Channel will showcase the Semifinals matches, followed by the Championship and Consolation matches airing on NBC.


-NBC Sports Group-

Getty Images

Love to play first Champions major at U.S. Senior Open

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 4:00 pm

Davis Love III turned 50 in 2014, but he’s been a part-time participant on the PGA Tour Champions.

Since turning 50, Love – who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last fall – has played 73 tournaments on the PGA Tour, but just nine on the over-50 circuit.

Although his competitive dance card might not be changing any time soon, Love is expanding his schedule, adding the U.S. Senior Open to his line up this year.

The U.S. Senior Open will be played June 28-July 1 at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The championship will be Love’s first senior major, and his third event this year on the Champions circuit; but he’s not prepared to leave the regular tour behind just yet.

“The Senior PGA is against Colonial [Fort Worth Invitational], again. I want to play Colonial. I love Colonial, I’d like to play there another time or two,” Love said. “But the timing for the Senior Open worked out and it’s at the Broadmoor, which is really nice.”