WGC Events Should Be Global
The exception is the World Cup, which is an oddity composed of two players from 24 countries, rather spottily represented by the golfing powers. Last year the U.S. had to go down to world No. 23 (the ninth highest American) to find someone who would play ' Stewart Cink. And he chose Zach Johnson as his partner. Not bad players, mind you, but hardly what you trot out there as the best your country can muster.
Anyway, the other three events ' the Accenture Match Play, the Bridgestone (formerly NEC) Invitational, and the American Express ' all are primarily U.S. tournaments and will be for the foreseeable future. The American Express is to be played in England this year, and it has bounced around to different countries in the past.
But the rest ' red, white and blue, baby. They tried to put the Match Play in Australia one year, but they slapped it right over the New Years holiday. Obviously, it flopped ' you remember Steve Strickers 2 and 1 win over Pierre Fulke, dont you?
The Match Play high-tailed it back to the U.S. the following year and thats where its stayed ever since. This fascination with America is wonderful for the U.S. - not so wonderful for the rest of the planet.
This week the Dubai Desert Classic is going on in the Middle East, and a couple of players were queried re: their views on this phenomenon. One was from South Africa ' Ernie Els. And the other was an American ' Mark OMeara. But both said it was a pity that the WGC powers have made the schedule so U.S.-heavy.
I think it's a bit crazy, Els said in a Dubai media conference. You know, why call it World Golf Championships if it's played in one country all the time? I thought that world championship events were to promote the game of golf around the world.
Hes exactly right, of course. But of course, there are a couple of other factors at work here ' one is American television, the other is the corporate sponsors of the WGC events. And, third, to a lesser degree, it must be taken into account how many American players will get up off their haunches and travel across the ocean.
I can understand from an American point of view that the money for these events are all out of American companies, conceded Els, and I'm sure those American companies sponsoring those events want it on primetime television on NBC, ABC or CBS; I can understand that. But to play it in one country is kind of strange.
Originally, these championships were meant to move more around the globe. But it was what it is, and what it is is a game controlled by American corporate sponsors and televised largely by the American networks. And if, for example, a tournament held in Australia or South Africa must be televised live when its the middle of the night in America, then not many eyeballs in America are going to see it. And tape-delay has never been a very good solution ' Americans already know what has happened in most instances. Gung-ho golf fans are going to watch it, but not many other people are.
So, admit it, everything is not going to be rosy for Americans when these events are played elsewhere. Thats what happens when Americans are interested in a game which has top world-ranked players from around the planet.
It's a global game now, explained OMeara. Maybe at one time 20 years ago or 25 years ago, the Americans tended to dominate the game. But that's not the case anymore. We've obviously seen that in the Ryder Cup, we've seen that in the Presidents Cup, we've seen the international flavor on the PGA Tour.
I mean, when I came on the (PGA) Tour 26 years ago, there were maybe two international players - not even that, I don't think - playing the PGA Tour full time. And now, you know, maybe almost a third of the players that are on the PGA Tour are international players.
So that is the tour that I think everybody wants to look at, and you know, it's a difficult thing, and probably a lot of pressure from the sponsors, this or that, from the primetime TV slot.
To change the trend, of course, will require a change in thinking by the corporate sponsors ' and that would probably sacrifice some potential revenues. Would American companies be willing to do that?
It would require a change in television networks ' would the networks be willing to sacrifice some viewers? That, too, would mean a sacrifice of revenue potential.
And, it would require a change in the attitudes of some top American golfers ' would they be willing to forego a few days sitting on their porch, all for the good of the game?
I doubt it, on any of the three points. But lets wait and see. If the good of the over-all game is the bottom line, its a no-brainer ' the WGC will move around a little more often. But if its the money ' and lets be honest, the only reason the sponsors are in this is for the money ' then its probably a losing proposition.
The odds are definitely against it ' the American cities are good, safe bets. And that, unfortunately, is probably where the vast majority of the World Championship events will stay. But it would be a pity. A world-class field, a world-class audience, deserves a world-class venue.
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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.