Notes: Maggert says WGCs 'have really hurt' Tour

By Doug FergusonDecember 11, 2012, 11:45 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two of the golf tournaments Jeff Maggert once considered his favorites were part of the Fall Series that didn't attract any of the top players. One of them was Disney, which began in 1971 and was played for the final time last month.

Having finished his 22nd year on the PGA Tour, Maggert says the introduction of the World Golf Championships, the FedEx Cup and the influx of so many top international players have changed the landscape.

''When I started, the tournaments were very consistent week to week,'' Maggert said. ''Now there seems to be a real up-and-down on strength of fields. That's just the way the Tour has evolved. The World Golf Championships have really hurt the consistency of the rest of the tournaments out here.''

The exceptions when he was a rookie would have been the four majors, the invitation events like Memorial, Bay Hill and Colonial, and even Las Vegas, which back then had a higher purse than all the majors and every tournament except for the Tour Championship. It led Maggert to do some math. Throw out the World Golf Championships, the four FedEx Cup playoff events, the four majors, and that leaves only a dozen tournaments for the top players.

He figured they all migrated to the same regular Tour events, and while some stops are predictable, there is surprising balance.

Here's the drill: Take the top 20 Tour members from this week's world ranking (that goes down to Dustin Johnson at No. 21). Throw out the majors, WGCs, playoff events and The Players Championship.

The strongest tournament not on that list was the Memorial, which attracted 15 of the top 20 players in this week's world ranking. The only other regular tournaments that had at least 10 of the top 20 were the Northern Trust Open at Riviera (12) and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill (11).

The surprise was that nine players were at the Transitions Championship outside Tampa, Fla., which is in dire need of a title sponsor. The Copperhead course at Innisbrook is one of the best-kept secrets on Tour, and some believe it's the best tournament course in all of Florida. The other tournaments drawing at least nine players were the Phoenix Open and the Zurich Classic, which has a separate ambassador program that compensates some players in the field.

The Greenbrier Classic also offers ''incentives'' – it got Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson this year – so perhaps it's not surprising that it had more players from today's top 20 (eight) than the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow (seven).

Three tournaments in the Fall Series – the Frys.com Open, McGladrey Classic and Disney – were the only ones on Tour that did not have anyone from today's top 20.

Narrow the group to the top 10 in the world, and Memorial still had eight of those players in its field. It was followed by four tournaments that had five players from today's top 10 – Tampa, Riviera, Bay Hill and the Honda Classic.

Even so, the Tour is deeper than ever, especially while going through a generational shift. There were 18 tournaments (besides the WGCs, majors and playoffs) that had at least five of the top 20 at their events. The seven tournaments in the regular FedEx Cup season that did not attract at least five of the top 20 were the Sony Open, AT&T National, Wyndham Championship, St. Jude Classic, Canadian Open, John Deere Classic and Texas Open.

Most of those are products of their spot on the calendar – four are immediately before or after a major. The AT&T National, despite being played at Congressional, is two weeks after the U.S. Open, when the European Tour gets its players to come home for the meat of its schedule.


LAST CHANCE: Geoff Ogilvy is down to his last chance if he wants to head into the offseason assured a tee time at Augusta National in April.

The former U.S. Open champion began the year at No. 36 and has fallen to No. 56. This is the last week of golf that counts toward the world ranking, and the Masters takes the top 50 at the end of the season.

Holding down the 50th spot is Thorbjorn Olesen, who is not playing this week. Neither is Alex Noren, who is at No. 51. George Coetzee is at No. 49 and playing the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

Besides Ogilvy, the only other player from No. 51 through No. 60 playing this week is Marcus Fraser of Australia, who is at the Johor Open.

If there are no changes in the world ranking, 14 players would be added to the field, bringing the total to 85 players going into the new season. Any winner of a Tour event gets in (except for Puerto Rico), along with the top 50 after the Houston Open.


WORLD CUP RETURN: The World Cup of Golf returns this year, and it could have an old look – with a new wrinkle.

The International Federation of PGA Tours is considering a proposal to return the two-man competition to 72 holes of stroke play, which would allow for an individual champion, along with the lowest team score. The last time the World Cup used that format was in 1999, when the Americans won with Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara, and Woods won the individual medal.

The new wrinkle? With an individual competition, the federation is looking into offering world-ranking points.

''We're still in discussions about that,'' PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said. ''Those discussions do include the possibility of converting it into stroke play with a team element and ranking points.''

The Tour got involved after 1999, briefly turned it into a World Golf Championship and changed the format to a pure team competition, with two rounds each of foursomes and fourballs.


DIVOTS: Scott Hoch, who turned 57 last month, has taken his one-time exemption from the top 50 on the career money list to be exempt on the PGA Tour this year. Hoch never had to use the exemption while active, and he's only $760,907 from falling out of the top 50 in career money, so he might as well. Jerry Kelly, Mike Weir and Justin Leonard are using exemptions from the top 25 on the career money list. Stuart Appleby is using his exemption from the top 50, even though he is at No. 19. Appleby used his one-time exemption from the top 25 in 2010, the year he closed with a 59 to win The Greenbrier Classic. ... B.F. ''Bev'' Dolan of North Palm Beach, Fla., who in 1954 introduced the E-Z-GO golf car, has been selected by the PGA of America for the Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contributions to the golf industry. ... The Ladies European Tour has chosen Ivan Khodabakhsh as its new CEO. He had been head of the World Series Boxing in Switzerland. He replaces Alexandra Armas, who is stepping down after eight years.


FINAL WORD: ''I'll play golf wherever I can.'' – Heath Slocum, who doesn't have full PGA Tour status for the first time since 2001.

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”