Match Play provides snapshot of the world of golf

By Doug FergusonMarch 2, 2011, 2:02 am

2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayMARANA, Ariz. – The PGA Tour could have skipped the West Coast swing and gone straight to the Match Play Championship, which provided a perfect snapshot of everything going in the world of golf.

Europe looked as strong as ever.

Martin Kaymer showed why he is No. 1 in the world ranking. Lee Westwood made people wonder why he was.

Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, when they’re not making videos for Twitter, offered more evidence that their homemade golf swings are just as compelling as their fashion accessories.

And has anyone seen Tiger Woods?

Europe has been the strongest continent in golf over the last year, and Dove Mountain was no exception. Luke Donald of England and Kaymer (Germany) reached the championship match, the second straight year for an all-European final.

Donald was so good that he never trailed after any hole in any of his six matches, and wound up playing fewer holes (89) than the winner of the Bob Hope Classic (92). Who would have guessed that?

After winning, Donald said European golf was going through a “purple patch.”

For the Americans, it’s more black-and-blue.

Only two Americans have reached the championship match in the last five years – Woods and Stewart Cink in 2008. One year ago, Americans were Nos. 1-2-3 in the world ranking. Europe now occupies the first four spots in the ranking for the first time in nearly two decades. Woods is the highest-ranked American at No. 5, his lowest position since the week before he won the 1997 Masters.

Before anyone writes the Americans off too quickly, they have had six winners on the PGA Tour this year. Then again, their average ranking when they won was No. 171. Watson at Torrey Pines was the only winner inside the top 75.

The best American at the moment? Good question.

Mark Wilson has won twice, at the Sony Open and Phoenix Open, which doesn’t exactly make him a favorite at the Masters, where he will be playing a major for only the fourth time.

Wilson advanced to the second round of the Match Play, and that was noteworthy for whom he beat – Dustin Johnson.

There was little debate that Johnson was the most promising young American going into 2011, if not one of the emerging talents in the world. Two months into the season, however, he has only made news because of Natalie Gulbis and Jim Gray.

He was linked romantically to Gulbis until the LPGA star said that Johnson was handling their PR. Meanwhile, Gray was sent home by the Golf Channel for asking Johnson in the middle of his round why he was late to the tee for a two-shot penalty.

Speaking of tardiness, the Match Play Championship renewed talk about the pace of play.

One week after Kevin Na nearly turned Riviera into a five-day tournament, J.B. Holmes took some of the shine off a riveting match because he was so deliberate. Watson rallied from 5 down with eight holes to play to square the match on the 18th and win it on the 19th. But the match took nearly five hours to play, and not all of that is down to rulings from the desert on the final two holes.

The opening match of the tournament between Cink and Ian Poulter took over four hours before it reached the 18th hole. Part of the delay was when they each made double bogey on the par-3 sixth, prompting rules official Stephen Cox to tell Poulter on the next fairway, “Look, I realize you’ve both taken a trip to In-N-Out for a double-double, but I’d appreciate it if you would pick up the pace.”

Watson and Fowler won’t get accused of slow play.

Both of them bring old-school qualities to the game, and both are reaching the point where they can move the needle.

Watson, with the pink shaft in his driver and a $525,000 watch he sported from a Richard Mille endorsement, came within one hole of winning the PGA Championship last year. He held off Phil Mickelson to win at Torrey Pines, and showed off his tremendous shotmaking at Dove Mountain. He’s always had raw talent. Now he is getting comfortable with the spotlight.

Fowler, dressed in pink from his shoes to his cap, hit two of the most impressive shots all week with his 4-iron to 15 feet for eagle on the 11th and a 4-iron to 2 feet for eagle on the 13th to hand Mickelson is worst loss ever in the event.

Fowler went down the next day, not unusual at this tournament. He has all the tools to be a star except the most important asset, which is a trophy. But as Mickelson said in defeat, “I think he’s going to do a lot for American golf.”

Mickelson remains an enigma. He played six straight weeks, from Abu Dhabi to Dove Mountain, with only one chance at winning.

That’s still one more chance than Woods, who remains the biggest mystery in golf.

There is not much to say about the former No. 1, although that didn’t stop TV commentary from gushing that swing coach Sean Foley said Woods’ spin rate and launch angle were leveling out. Good to know.

He lost on the 19th hole to Thomas Bjorn with a swing Woods had to rehearse too many times and a 3-wood into the desert. It wasn’t as awful as it looked, for the right side of the fairway is the best angle to make birdie. Even so, he would have been better off missing the 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that forced overtime than losing the way he did.

Johnny Miller compared Woods with Mike Tyson, not because of Iron Mike’s criminal behavior and outrageous comments, but because he was never the same after losing to Buster Douglas.

The longer Woods goes without winning, it’s not unreasonable to wonder about that.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.