The world golf championships of America

By Doug FergusonMarch 10, 2010, 4:33 am
2010 WGC-CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. – On his way to the practice range Tuesday at Doral, Padraig Harrington stopped to sign autographs for three fans. One was from Puerto Rico, another from Colombia, the third from Peru.

So at least it sounds like a World Golf Championship.

And there is little doubt that events like the CA Championship look like a World Golf Championship, with 19 countries represented in a field of 68 players.

But there is no getting around the dateline, which is strictly American – Arizona, Florida, Ohio. The PGA Tour, which is the managing partner of these world events, now can point proudly to another WGC that is held each fall in Shanghai, although it’s hard to recognize the HSBC Champions when the PGA Tour still doesn’t count it as an official victory.

“That’s inside baseball,” commissioner Tim Finchem said in a recent interview. “What’s important is what the fans see, and they see tournaments designed to attract all the best players in the world. And by and large, that’s what they’ve done.”

To that point, the WGCs have done well entering their 12th year.

What continues to disappoint, however, is how these world championships remain concentrated in the United States.

They once traveled to countries like Spain, Australia and Ireland. Momentum began to slow when the all the WGCs were held in America in 2003, and it didn’t help that one of them was played on a new golf course located so deep in the woods that it was either in northern Georgia or southern Tennessee, maybe both.

This is the fourth straight year the original three WGCs are in America. And they aren’t going anywhere soon.

The title sponsorship at Doral expires this year, and there is no indication Computer Associates will renew. That would seem to be a ripe time for this WGC to travel abroad, except that Finchem says the tournament is tied more to the TV contract than a sponsor contract. The network television deal is through 2012.

“I think we’re a little bit away from that question,” Finchem said. “We’re not going to make any changes until we’re through ’12. We have a television schedule to meet. What happens after ’12 with the WGCs is a function of a variety of factors.”

Ideally, the tour could release Doral from its WGC status and return it to a full-field event that it had been since 1962. The Blue Monster once bustled with activity from the first ray of sunlight until darkness, with 144 players split up into morning and afternoon tee times. Under the WGC structure of a limited field and no cut, the 68 players tee off in a span of two hours.

The WGC event then would be free to move. And without a new title sponsor, it might do that.

It just won’t go very far.

Even if CA doesn’t renew its sponsorship, or if the tour can’t find a replacement, Finchem said this WGC event will stay in the Eastern time zone of the United States.

“We don’t see any reason to move right now,” he said. “It meets our television requirements and air times.”

The potential for these World Golf Championships living up to their name could come after 2012, and the Olympics could be the catalyst. Harrington is among those who believe South America – Brazil, in particular – could be the next big growth area in golf.

The Irishman went to Brazil in 2000 when the European Tour had consecutive tournaments. He lost in a playoff to Roger Chapman in Rio de Janeiro, then won the following week in Sao Paulo.

“It is an untapped market for golf,” Harrington said. “South America is the next big growth area.”

The Nationwide Tour just finished its first tournament in Colombia, and Finchem indicated more tournaments could follow to help build interest ahead of the 2016 Olympics.

“We will be looking for some opportunities to play some PGA Tour, Champions Tour, some golf in Brazil leading into ’16 to create some interest in that country, particularly Rio for sure,” he said. “I can’t tell you what form that would take. But we definitely want to play.”

Finchem has mentioned taking the Presidents Cup to South America in 2015. Argentina is among countries interested, although that might not move the needle in Brazil.

Another possibility?

“It could be a World Golf Championship one year,” Finchem said. “It could be just to play a winter event. There are a number of things we can do, but we need to do some stuff.”

The sooner the better. Golf was voted into the Olympics for 2016 and 2020, but it faces another vote in 2017 to determine whether it stays beyond two games. The sport essentially has one shot to show it’s worth keeping, which means it desperately needs a good tournament, a strong gallery and a solid TV presentation.

“We’re playing essentially in a fledgling golf country,” Finchem said. “We need galleries from one of two sources – either people who live in Brazil who can become golf fans, or people who are coming to Brazil for the Olympics. That would be a broader percentage of golf fans, but there’s all kinds of stuff going on.

“We’ve got to build some interest in Brazil,” he said. “To do that, we need to do a number of things. And one thing is to play.”
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Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

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Spieth vs. Reed random? Hmm, wonders Spieth

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Monday’s blind draw to determine the 16 pods for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play didn’t exactly feel “blind” for Jordan Spieth, whose group includes Patrick Reed.

Spieth and Reed have become a staple of U.S. teams in recent years, with a 7-2-2 record in the Ryder and Presidents Cup combined. So when the ping-pong ball revealed Reed’s number on Monday night Spieth wasn’t surprised.

“It seems to me there's a bit more to this drawing than randomness,” laughed Spieth, whose pod also includes Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel. “It's not just me and him. It's actually a lot of groups, to have Luke List and Justin [Thomas] in the same group seems too good to be true. It might be some sort of rigging that's going on, I'm not sure.”

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Spieth will play Reed on Friday in the round-robin format and knows exactly what to expect from the fiery American.

“I've seen it firsthand when he's been at his best. And we have history together in a couple of different playoffs, which is a match-play scenario,” Spieth said. “I've got to take care of work tomorrow and the next day for that day to even matter. But even if it doesn't matter, trust me, it will matter to both of us.”

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U.S. Open champ Koepka (wrist) to miss Masters

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:12 pm

Reigning U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka will miss the Masters, according to a USA Today report.

Koepka has been battling a left wrist injury since late last year, and he hasn't played since finishing last at the limited-field Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January. Weeks later he revealed that he had a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU) tendon but hoped to return in time for the season's first major.

According to the report, Koepka only started putting this week and plans to begin hitting chips next week.

"They said I would be about 80 percent, but I can't play 80 percent," Koepka said. "I either have to go full bore or not at all. I don't want to risk getting it re-injured and then be out a long time."

Koepka has finished T-33 or better in each of his three prior Masters appearances, culminating in a T-11 result last year.

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Spieth's agent leaving firm, but keeping Spieth as client

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Jay Danzi has stepped down as COO of Lagardère Sports U.S., and will take one of the game’s most marketable players, Jordan Spieth, with him.

In a press release, Danzi said, “after careful consideration I feel that it’s time for a new adventure.” Danzi will represent Spieth independently.

“It’s been a privilege having Jordan be part of the Lagardère Sports’ family for the last five years and watching him grow from a promising young player to someone who transcends the game,” said Steve Loy, Lagardère Sports president of golf. “We are also grateful for Jay’s contributions over the years, in golf and other areas of our business.”

Lagardère Sports underwent an aggressive expansion in recent years, acquiring numerous boutique firms including Danzi’s business and Crown Sports Management.

Although losing Spieth, the world’s fourth-ranked player, and Danzi, who took over as Lagardère COO in February 2017, is a setback, the firm still has a number of high-profile clients including Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Patton Kizzire, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.