World Golf Championships Nice Without the World

By George WhiteJanuary 8, 2001, 5:00 pm
Go ahead and give Steve Stricker his props. He deserves it for winning six matches in one week, each one coming with just a little more pressure than the one before. He beat a whole bunch of guys who were better than his No. 90 ranking, and you've got to give him a whole lot of credit for that.
 
Stricker went for the big money after his big year in 1996. That's not unusual. Lots of players have done it. He was offered a small fortune to change clubs. So he dumped the old standbys that had shot him to No. 4 on the money list and agreed to play the new ones. It doesn't matter what the clubs were - golfers have switched from them and taken a huge bath, just like others have switched to them and emptied out their wallets.
 
Fred Couples, Mark Brooks, Mark Calcavecchia, Lee Janzen, the late Payne Stewart come immediately to mind as millionaires who wanted to become multi-millionaires. They change clubs and then something doesn't work quite the same way. The difference in hitting a ball 15 feet from the pin or 25 feet is enormous. And it takes two or three years to learn that little trick. Meanwhile, you become just yesterday's news when it comes to all those top-10s. Sometimes you lose touch with the flag trying to hit the new sticks, and awaken to find your old skill is gone forever.
 
Stricker changed not just once, but twice. In the space of three or four short years, he was hitting the ball so wildly he could have done better using a tennis racket. But that didn't apply in Australia. This year, he put together a mixed bag of his favorites and dropped the club contract. He put together Callaways, Cobras, Pings and Titleists along with a putter by Odyssey, and together they made magic.
 
The venue was one of the World Golf Championships, the one that the big names seemed to ignore. Even Ernie Els, at No. 2 the highest-ranking player attending, wasn't concerned enough to come in for a practice round or two. Ernie enjoyed Christmas and New Year's until the last possible moment, then jumped on a plane and scurried over to Australia to work in a few practice holes the day the tournament started. That was plenty good enough to beat most of the guys. He got by with smoke and mirrors until the semi-finals, when he lost to Pierre Fulke. Then he had to play the consolation match and he didn't like it.
 
I don't blame a guy who has enough dough already to want to get on to the next stop. That was Els. Please don't make us sit through the antics of someone who doesn't really care who finishes third and who is fourth. It seems as if the only one interested is television, who would be forced to show a ton of replays, old tournaments and commercials if there were only one match. Showing Frick and Frack up head of the real match helps pass the time for the Big Eye.
 
That would be fine if you were showing Stricker and Fulke in the consolation match. They would be ecstatic playing for third place. But Els - if he is not going to win, what's the sense in going through the motions? Do YOU care if Ernie finishes third, or if he finishes fourth? I didn't think so. Neither does Els.
 
These World Golf Championships are a success only when they are played in the United States. Here's a little secret - the big dogs wouldn't have been in Australia no matter what time of year it was. The fact that it was New Year's merely fit nicely into their list of excuses.
 
Oh, I know the guys who were there put on a good show. The matches were tight, etc. etc. The matches for your club championship are probably tight, too. But there was a definite absence of big names. And it's big names that bring the big interest.
 
The WCG events played in the U.S. are a success because they draw all the top players. Well, cross Jumbo Ozaki out of that equation. He won't leave Japan, regardless. But everyone else in the world will come. They've shown it over and over in the past.
 
Of course, an American will probably win. Occasionally a Darren Clarke will jump up and score one for the Auld Sod. But by and large, the top Americans aren't going to budge if they have to cross the borders.
 
There's a very good reason - they have all the money they could ever want. Mister Finchem has only himself to thank on that one. Last year 15 on the U.S. tour made at least $2 million, and that is prize money alone. You can probably say that 15 made at least $5 million, and it is awfully hard to spend more than $5 mil per annum.
 
World Championships are nice. But they are not really world championships, because they are either played where the world's top players will not attend, or they will be played where the top players have left their games at home. The World Golf Championship is merely the American championship. Or it is really not a world championship.
 

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 25, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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Hahn jabs USGA over possible ball rollback

By Will GrayFebruary 25, 2018, 4:43 pm

As debate continues to heat up over possible sweeping changes to the golf ball amid distance concerns, PGA Tour pro James Hahn chimed in to question the merits of a potential rollback.

The ball and distance debate gained traction earlier this week when Jack Nicklaus offered that the ball should be rolled back to the approximate distances achieved in 1995, and he put blame for the current situation squarely at the feet of Titleist. That drew a response from former Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who put the onus back on the governing bodies.

It's an issue that will likely be discussed for months to come, but Hahn took to Twitter to throw a jab toward the USGA and play devil's advocate on some key arguments related to a possible rollback:

Hahn, who has two career PGA Tour wins and lost in a playoff last month at the Sony Open, ranks 55th on Tour this season in driving distance with an average of 301.2 yards off the tee.

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Na fires back over slow play criticism from cricketer

By Will GrayFebruary 25, 2018, 4:00 pm

Kevin Na fired back over recent criticism he received about his purported slow play at last week's Genesis Open.

Kevin Pietersen is a retired English cricketer with more than 3.6 million followers on Twitter. He tweeted a video of Na, known as one of the slower players on the PGA Tour, taking more than a minute to line up and hit what he described as a "Tap In" during the final round at Riviera:

He then added another video of himself on a green in Dubai, where he again called out Na and showed how long he believed it should take for a player to brush in a short putt:

Na has faced his fair share of slow play criticism, but this time he decided to defend himself. Na isn't on Twitter, but he took to Instagram to tell Pietersen to "stick to your own sport," pointing out both the length of the putt in question and the stakes that were involved during the final round, when Na went on to tie for second behind Bubba Watson:

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Pepperell wins his first European Tour title in Qatar

By Associated PressFebruary 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

DOHA, Qatar - Eddie Pepperell survived a tense finish to win the Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club on Sunday for his maiden European Tour title.

The 27-year-old Englishman held off a spirited challenge from compatriot Oliver Fisher, who needed a third successive birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff, but had his putt from six feet slip past the hole for a par.

Pepperell shot a 2-under-par 70 for a four-day tally of 18 under 270, while Fisher, who started the day tied for the lead, could only manage a 71.

Sweden's Marcus Kinhult (68) finished third at 16-under.

The No. 154-ranked Pepperell made things difficult for himself with a bogey on the 15th hole, but hit a superb wedge to three feet on the next to get back to 18 under again.

Fisher, who appeared to have fallen out of contention with three bogeys starting on the third hole, stormed back with birdies on the 14th, 16th and 17th holes.

On the last, Pepperell laid up with his second into the thick rough, made wet and unwieldy by rain in the Qatar capital, but found the green in three and two-putted for the win when Fisher missed his birdie putt.


Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters


''I did the things I needed to do, I didn't play fantastic but I won ugly and for the first win to be ugly is good. Hopefully, I'll have some prettier ones in the future,'' said Pepperell.

''I knew I was playing well, especially tee to green, so I expected a lot of myself this week and I guess to pull it off is amazing. When Oli birdied the 17th, that was when it really caught up with me that I was only one ahead. I was in my own zone, I knew I had a couple of shots of lead but Oli did great. It was a tough front nine for him and I had to stay right in my own way and out of the two guys' way because they were struggling a bit and it's sometimes easy to get dragged into that.''

Fisher was disappointed, but saw the silver lining in the way he fought back.

''It went all the way to the last hole which, after my front nine, was what I was hoping for on the back nine,'' said Fisher, who won the 2011 Czech Open, but recorded his first top-three finish since the 2014 Africa Open.

''I hit a lot of good shots coming down the back nine and gave myself a lot of good chances, but there were just too many bogeys today, four in total, so you're never going to win a tournament making that many mistakes on a Sunday. But at least I pressed him all the way.''

Italian Renato Paratore (66) had the low round of the day and finished tied for fourth place at 15 under par, where he was joined by the Spanish pair of Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Pablo Larrazabal along with Gregory Havret of France.