A golfing season that never ends

By Doug FergusonOctober 14, 2009, 2:02 am

PGA Tour (75x100)SAN FRANCISCO – Tiger Woods sure could use a break from golf.

He played eight times in the last 11 weeks, his busiest stretch in nine years, and achieved more than some players do in a career. Woods won three times, was runner-up in three other tournaments and capped it off by winning all five of his matches at the Presidents Cup.

And after all that? He goes back to work in three weeks.

Such is the never-ending season of golf, which has a sanctioned tournament every week until five days before Christmas.

Two weeks later, another season begins.

Tiger Woods Presidents Cup
Fresh off the Presidents Cup and the FedEx Cup playoffs, Tiger Woods' schedule remains very busy. (Getty Images)

Next up for Woods is a World Golf Championship in Shanghai, where he will be joined by the likes of Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia. That is followed by the Australian Masters and a $3 million appearance fee. Woods calls it a year with the Chevron World Challenge, a silly-season event only in name because it now awards official world-ranking points.

“I think that it’s certainly one of the longer stretches I’ve had,” Woods said Sunday at Harding Park. “The only other stretch this long was back in 2000 at the end of the season – or end of the year.”

That stretch was daunting, indeed.

Woods played eight times in eight weeks, a schedule that began in Virginia with the Presidents Cup, took him south for Disney and the Tour Championship, then to Spain for the final PGA Tour event and over to Bangkok for the Johnnie Walker Championship. He stopped in Hawaii on the way home for the PGA Grand Slam, then hosted his tournament in California before going to Argentina for the World Cup.


Still, it’s worth paying attention to the words Woods chose and how he corrected himself.

Golf no longer is measured by the season, rather the year. Golf really doesn’t end until it’s ready to start. The only time the world is without an official golf tournament is the last weekend of December and the first weekend of January.

When do these guys ever get a vacation?

Whenever they want.

Camilo Villegas simply was expressing a popular sentiment on Twitter a few weeks ago when he wrote, “I still dont get it, every sport has an offseason but i guess we dont.”

He knows as well as anyone that the season is only as long as a player wants it to be. Villegas wants to be a global player, which is why he’ll be getting his passport stamped in Spain, China, New Zealand and Dubai over the next six weeks.

Good for him.

Steve Stricker? He once took off so much time in the fall that when he arrived at the Tour Championship, Woods asked him why he came out of retirement. Stricker was probably in a deer stand Tuesday and might not come down until Thanksgiving.

Good for him, too.

Such is the benefit of being an “independent contractor.” Make your own schedule. Create your own financial opportunity. And considering the economic climate, be thankful you can continue to play tournaments wherever and whenever.

There is still value in winning the FedEx Cup or the PGA Tour money title (Woods won both), or the Race to Dubai in Europe or the Order of Merit in Asia, Japan, South Africa and Australia. That’s not likely to change.

But as the Asian market matures, it would not be surprising to see more players competing year-round.

The PGA Tour has its fingers in only one tournament at the moment, converting the HSBC Champions – Asia’s major – into a World Golf Championship. Perhaps it won’t be long before the U.S. tour creates another tournament in Asia, with or without help.

Global travel is nothing new. A generation ago, top players would spend the early part of the season overseas taking appearance money, and some of them didn’t think the PGA Tour started until the Florida swing.

Now, the time to travel is the fall.

Nick Watney is going to China twice, for the World Golf Championship and the World Cup. Ogilvy is playing Shanghai and Singapore, along with three weeks in Australia, concluding with the Australian PGA on Dec. 13.

Masters champion Angel Cabrera is playing the PGA Grand Slam next week in Bermuda, which ends on a Wednesday. Then, he’s boarding a private jet to Spain for a European Tour event that starts Thursday. He likely will end his season Dec. 20 at the South African Open.

When does a player take his break?

Jim Furyk last year played the PGA Grand Slam, then only teed it up in one tournament (Chevron World Challenge) over the next four months until starting his season at Pebble Beach.

Woods takes his breaks in pockets. After his charity event the first week of December, he probably won’t show up again until Torrey Pines, the last week in January. That’s his vacation. And remember, he has only played 18 times so far this year. That comes out to $152,292 for every official round of golf, including the five rounds for free at the Presidents Cup.

Woods was among the loudest proponents of shortening the season when the FedEx Cup was created. One can only guess he was referring to the anchor event – the Tour Championship – stretching into November.

Because even after the season is over, Woods is staying awfully busy.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”