Sign 'o the times: PGA Tour not the destination it used to be

By Doug FergusonAugust 2, 2011, 10:51 pm

AKRON, Ohio – There was a time when Martin Kaymer couldn’t get to America fast enough.

First came the inspiration from Tiger Woods’ incomparable 2000 season, when he won three straight majors among his 10 titles around the world. It was enough for the 15-year-old German to start dreaming of the PGA Tour, a chance to compete against Woods and the rest of the best players, to show them that he could play.

Then came a chance to go to PGA National in South Florida with his German national team.

“At that stage, I was still in school and couldn’t go,” Kaymer said Tuesday. “I said to my dad, ‘I really want to go there. Is it not possible you can take me out of school for a week or two weeks?’ He said, ‘Just keep working and you will play on the PGA Tour one year and then you will be there all year long.”’

Now that he’s a major champion, which comes with a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, Kaymer no longer is in such a hurry.

And why should he be?

Golf has changed so much over the last 10 years that America, once the ultimate destination for the best players from all corners of the globe, now is no more than an occasional detour for so many Europeans.

The World Golf Championships, such as this week’s Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, used to offer a taste of the PGA Tour with enormous prize money, impeccable conditions and a chance to compete against the best in the world.

Kaymer now gets enough of that while based in Europe.

He can play 12 times on the PGA Tour, which includes four majors and three World Golf Championships. That leaves him five other events to play, which is ample. He can still pick the best events to play in Europe and other parts of the world.

It’s a formula that appears to be working.

Kaymer, who won the PGA Championship last year and already has nine wins at age 26, stayed at No. 1 in the world earlier this year for two months. And while he lives part-time in Arizona, he has no immediate plans to join the PGA Tour.

“I can’t tell when it’s going to be,” he said. “At the moment, I like my position that I can play a little bit in Europe, a little bit in America. I play all the tournaments I want to play, so there’s no need to join only the European Tour or only the PGA Tour or both. I don’t need to join the PGA Tour.”

He is not alone. Three of the four major champions are not PGA Tour members.

The PGA Tour is not as strong without them, though it remains the strongest tour in the world, and that isn’t likely to change any time soon. It’s easy to get swept up over Europeans dominating the world ranking – 11 of the top 25, including Nos. 1-2-3 – by overlooking the fact that America still attracts most of the best players from Asia, Australia, South Africa, South America and its fair share of Europeans.

That’s why it has the strongest fields each week, with about a half-dozen exceptions.

Europe, however, has more than held its own since it looked to be doomsday five years ago. It was in 2006 when the PGA Tour announced its new FedEx Cup competition, complete with $35 million in bonus money and $10 million to the winner. It also made plans to move The Players Championship to May.

European Tour chief executive George O’Grady gathered two dozen players at La Costa during the Match Play Championship in 2006 to figure out how to proceed. The message that emerged from that meeting was that the European Tour was worth fighting for.

It is more than holding its own.

The FedEx Cup has not been enticing to all. Lee Westwood, who has joined the PGA Tour a couple of times, found no point in playing a full American schedule because the bonus series is right about the time his kids are on summer vacation. U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy tried the PGA Tour last year, then decided it was too much golf at the wrong time of the season at this stage in his career.

Darren Clarke, fresh off his popular British Open win, hasn’t made up his mind about returning to America, but he said enough Tuesday to indicate that he was better off at home in Northern Ireland to spend more time with his two sons.

Clarke is 42 and has been around long enough to notice a change in the landscape of golf.

“I was a member of the PGA Tour, and I was proud to be a member of the PGA Tour, and I wanted to be a member of the PGA Tour,” he said. “Now with the way that game is on a much more global basis, the European Tour is pretty good, as well. We in Europe have got the majority of the top 10 players in the world right now. We’re pretty fortunate, and we have some players who deserve to be in those positions.”

A decade ago, Clarke figured the only way to move up in the ranking was to play more in America because that’s where all the best were playing. Now, there is ample opportunity to pick up big ranking points in Abu Dhabi, Scotland, Shanghai and Singapore.

“The necessity to be a PGA Tour member is not quite there like it used to be,” Clarke said. “A lot of guys will take up opportunities to be members, but at my stage in my career when I’m 42, do I need to join the PGA Tour again?”

Kaymer is only 26 and asking the same thing.

“I just don’t want to play tournaments because I have to play,” he said, alluding to the PGA Tour’s minimum requirement of 15 events. “If I go there, I want to play well. I want to enjoy being there. And if you travel to some countries or if you play too many tournaments, I don’t think that you can enjoy every tournament you play.”

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry