36 Holes and a Sunday Snooze

By George WhiteMarch 2, 2006, 5:00 pm
Cold statistics bear out what I firmly believed after trying to watch a full 36 holes of match-play golf Sunday. You the golfing public have spoken with your TV remotes, and what you said isnt very pretty: can you say, 2.4 on the Nielsens?
That, friends, is definitely not good for ANY golf telecast for this time of year. The average golf tournament in the winter months will generate around 3-3.5 Nielsen on Sunday. For an event in which Tiger figures prominently, expect something in excess of 5. For a World Golf Championship, which the PGA Tour touts as one of the most important events of the season, a 2.4 is in no way a good number.
Geoff Ogilvy and Davis Love III
Few golf fans tuned in to see Geoff Ogilvy defeat Davis Love III in the WGC-Match Play.
I sat down Sunday morning with the intent of watching Geoff Ogilvy vs. Davis Love III, all 30-something holes, for a couple of good reasons ' No. 1, it was chilly and wet outside (well, at least by Florida standards), and No. 2, my wife is a gigantic Davis Love fan (and I must admit that, to a little lesser degree, I am, too).
I made it for about 15 minutes. Thats when the remote began getting its workout. Sunday mornings round was excruciating ' someone would hit a shot, the other player would hit a moment later, and then either the program would be interrupted by five or six commercials, or the telecast would drag on forever with the announcers frantically reaching for something, anything to fill time.
As it was, I had plenty of time to watch every shot and still catch the European Tour on the Golf Channel, Meet the Press on another channel, and still had time to leisurely tune in to Sunday Morning.
And that was with the WGC event showing one participant in whom I had a casual interest. I cant imagine what it would have been like if the Nos. 34 and 56, say, had been playing.
Well, that is match play. And thats what happens when you get the top 64 in the world ' over 18 holes ' and maybe over 36 holes ' any golfer can overcome any other golfer. Even if you have Tiger Woods playing Chad Campbell. Even if you have Tiger Woods playing Nick OHearn. Even if you have Tiger Woods playing Peter OMalley or Jeff Maggert. A big name in no way guarantees a big-name winner.
I have always believed, as have many of my fellow scribblers, that the tour should definitely have a match-play event. The Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, after all, is great theater. But then, those two events have always got action ' four matches in the morning and four in the afternoon, or 12 singles matches the final day.
Thirty-six holes in a day? Eighteen of those holes played by itself in one match, before the consolation match joins the finalists in the afternoon? It just doesnt move the bar as far as interest is concerned. I want to read about it after it is over, certainly. I want to watch the end of the telecast, maybe even the final nine holes if its a close match. But there is nothing more boring than, say, a persons third shot on the sixth hole of a 36-hole match.
Would it have been better viewing if Woods had gotten to the finals? Well, marginally. But the morning 18 is a snoozer, regardless. Woods or Love, Mickelson or Els or Singh, the morning 18 is just a set-up to when the real action begins in the afternoon.
Ogilvys inclusion into the finale was a downer, admittedly. He may very well be a star someday, maybe rather quickly. And he may very well win another event or two before the year is over. But if he does, he will at least have three or four competing against him on Sunday. There will be several names to watch, several players to mull over and root for or against. One - or two ' players with no other compelling competition ' it may sound like a good idea, but in reality it just turns into an interminable snoozer.
So - does the tour need a match play event? Yes, unquestionably. Does it need a 36-hole finale? Im not so sure. Of course, it is a better gauge of a real champion than the 18-holers which are in effect the first four days. But showing all 36 holes? No way.
Is there some way to make it more interesting? Well, for me, making the finale the same length as the previous five matches ' one round of 18 holes and its over ' would make for more interesting viewing. Im just a product of this instant-gratification age, I guess.
Thirty-six holes ' yeah, go ahead and play it, and then show me the highlights. In fact, show me the highlights of the last 18, as long as you throw in all the strokes from the final, say, three holes.
What could be done to make the final 36 interesting? I honestly cant say. But I do know that a whole lot of golf fans agree with me. After all, two-point-four says something.
Email your thoughts to George White
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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."