WGC events gaining some traction

By Doug FergusonMarch 6, 2012, 11:09 pm

DORAL, Fla. —Tiger Woods already has left his own mark in world golf.

History will decide what it means.

The number that defines greatness in golf is 18. It has been that way since 1986, when Jack Nicklaus won his 18th professional major at the Masters. And it will stay that way unless—or until—Woods wins the five more majors he needs to pass him.

“While he has been gone for 2 1/2 years, these guys who have all learned how to play, or all learned how to win, are probably no longer afraid of Tiger,” Nicklaus said. “In my opinion, I still think Tiger will regain what he does. He will come back and play very, very well. Whether he breaks my record is another issue. I still think he will. But he still has to go do it.”

If not, Woods might have to settle for another standard.

The next step below the majors are the World Golf Championships and Woods has amassed an amazing record. When he last won a WGC at Firestone in 2009 that gave him 16 world titles out of the 32 he played, at an astounding rate of 50 percent.

What does that mean?

For one thing, he has padded his bank account. Woods has made more than $22.2 million in the WGCs alone, which is nearly 25 percent of his career PGA Tour earnings. His official WGC money is more than all but 25 players have made in their careers.

More than money, and more than trophies that probably are packed away in a box, it means that Woods won 16 events against the best players in golf. The fields are small, and they tend to include players from overseas who are just getting started (Louis Oosthuizen) or might never be heard from again (Shiv Kapur). But for most of their 13-year existence, they have included at least the top 50 in the world.

The World Golf Championships are still not what they should be.

Along with bringing together the best players from all corners of the globe, it would help to take the tournaments around the world. And if they are mostly going to be in America, it would be better to move them to iconic venues instead of merging them with former PGA Tour events, which is what happened at Doral.

They deserve a higher status based on the players they attract and the winners they produce.

Hunter Mahan joined elite company two weeks ago when he won the Match Play Championship and became only the sixth player to win multiple WGC events. The others are familiar names—Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy and Darren Clarke.

Martin Kaymer won the HSBC Champions last November and became the 10th player with a WGC title and a major. He joined Woods, Mickelson, Els, Ogilvy, Clarke, Mike Weir, Stewart Cink, David Toms and Vijay Singh.

The WGC event this week at Doral used to travel to Europe every other year until 2006. Woods has won it six times on six courses in four countries. That gives it a little more punch than winning the Bridgestone Invitational seven times, all at Firestone.

“I think Tiger gave them credibility by winning 14 of the first 20, or whatever it was. He won almost every one of them,” Ogilvy said. “If you do look at the list of guys who have won them, generally, at that time they were one of the best in the world.”

That’s because the best in the world are there.

In that respect, it can make them the most difficult events to win next to the majors. The majors have history and prestige, and with that comes pressure that cannot be compared with other events.

Paul Azinger is famous for saying cash and prestige are the only things that made him choke. The WGCs are heavy on cash.

These aren’t the best 74 players in the world at Doral, rather 74 top players who qualified through the world ranking of the money lists on the six major tours.

Then again, the majors have their share of players who can’t be considered serious contenders —aging champions at the Masters, amateur qualifiers at the Opens, club pros at the PGA Championship.

What might boost the credibility of the WGCs is to expand the field and introduce a cut. To some, the WGCs have the appearance of free money. The courses? No one can argue with Firestone, which once hosted a PGA Championship. And while Doral has produced a winning score of at least 16-under par the last four years, a course doesn’t have to have high scores to be a good test.

“I don’t think Doral is close to being a top 100 course, but it finds good players,” Ogilvy said.

Asked the difference between majors and World Golf Championships, Clarke said there was “absolutely no difference whatsoever,” except for the title.

One is a major. One is not.

“The title is the obvious thing,” he said. “As players, we are judged by major championships. We’re not judged by World Golf Championships. We’re not judged by regular tournaments. We’re judged by majors. It’s easy for me to say now that I’ve got one, but I would have told you the same if I hadn’t got one.

“It means more because of tradition and history. There’s added pressure because of that.”

The notion of how many world titles Woods has won doesn’t grab anyone’s attention beyond the fact it reflects the dominance he once had in this game. Over time, that might be a standard behind the majors.

“People that speak to me, especially Europeans, say, `You’ve won the Open, and you’ve won two WGCs.’ So there is an importance placed on it,” Clarke said.

Perhaps another example is the joking reference to Phil Mickelson when he won his first world title at Doral three years ago: He no longer was the best player to never win a World Golf Championship.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.