New Name New Time Slot for Tampa

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 6, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 PODS ChampionshipA new name and a new date welcome the PGA TOUR to the Tampa Bay area for this week's PODS Championship.
And K.J. Choi is in the unique position of defending a title he won little more than four months ago.
During the last week of October the Korean-born veteran pasted the field for a four-shot victory at the Chrysler Championship, earning his fourth PGA TOUR win (second in the event) and enough money to gain entry into the Tour Championship the following week.
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh is the highest ranked player in the field this week in Tampa. (WireImage)
The Chrysler Championship is now the PODS Championship, and Choi will back to defend the title he won at Innisbrook the weekend before Halloween.
Not since 2000, when the U.S. Open and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am were played within three months of each other, has the PGA TOUR seen such a short turnaround between events at the same course.
Putting it into perspective, Tiger Woods has played only four times worldwide since Choi's win, and just twice in PGA TOUR-sanctioned events.
Following a strict schedule in which he only plays in the world's biggest tournaments, Woods is skipping the second leg of the TOUR's Florida swing. Among the top golfers, he's not alone: world No. 9 Vijay Singh and No. 13 Sergio Garcia are the highest-ranked players in the field.
But Choi will be back, as will 2006 runners-up Paul Goydos and Brett Wetterich and a host of other players with good records in the event. Players like Jesper Parnevik, who owns three top-25 finishes and is 4-for-4 in cuts made here.
The GOLF CHANNEL will broadcast the first two rounds, with NBC taking over for the weekend.
Next week the TOUR continues its Florida swing with the Arnold Palmer Invitational (formerly the Bay Hill Invitational), where Rod Pampling picked up his second career win last year.
But, as for this week, here are our five favorites for the PODS Championship:
Vijay Singh
Despite sitting in the No. 3 spot on the FedExCup points list and already with a win under his belt, there's a sense that Singh is off his game a little bit. Of the six events in which he has teed it up, only twice has he finished in the top-10. But the big Fijian comes into this event with great credentials having taken home the trophy in 2004 and a runner-up finish the season prior.
Charles Howell
Howell has already missed the cut two times in his five starts here in Tampa, but not to worry; that was the old Charles. Since the beginning of the 2007 season, the 27-year-old has started showing the golf world the new and improved Charles. He's first on the aforementioned FedExCup points list, first on the money list, and he has risen all the way up to 15th in the world rankings. He took last week off and should be well rested and ready to continue his roll toward Augusta.
Trevor Immelman
The up-and-coming South African really has showed his mettle the past year, especially against strong fields. The 2006 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year beat Tiger at last year's Western Open to go along with another seven top-10s. He started off this season with a tie for third at the Mercedes-Benz Championship and is closing in on becoming the highest ranked South African with his current rank of 13th, just seven spots below Ernie Els and five behind Retief Goosen.
Camilo Villegas
The young gun had a decent if not yet impressive debut in this event in 2006 with a tie for 31st. But playing his college golf at the University of Florida, Villegas knows the area well and is coming off a big week at The Honda Classic. Although he missed a short putt in the playoff, the Columbia native will be riding a wave of confidence into the Innisbrook Resort.
K.J. Choi
When South Korea's Choi returns this week to Tampa, not only is he returning as the defending champion, but he is also returning to the site where he has earned half of his four career PGA TOUR victories. The man they call 'Tank' obviously likes what he sees at this course. In last year's four-shot win, Choi finished in the top-10 in both putting stats and in greens in regulation, and his 19 birdies led the field for the week. He started the year with an eighth-place showing at the Mercedes and followed it up with a fourth at the Sony.
Another foursome to keep an eye on this week in Tampa:
Chad Campbell
Campbell had an impressive run at the WGC-Match Play Championship, where he was the lone American to make it to the weekend before bowing out in the semifinals to Geoff Ogilvy. He has two top-4 finishes here in Tampa in the last four starts.
Jesper Parnevik
Jesper came close to notching his fifth career PGA TOUR win here in 2004 when he finished second to Singh. He had another good run last year, closing with a 66 to tie for sixth.
Bill Haas
Haas is starting to come into form in his sophomore season with five top-30 results, including a solo fifth in Mexico. He currently stands 40th on the money list.
Carl Pettersson
After missing the cut in his first go around at the PODS Championship in 2003, the 'Redneck Swede' came back with a top-10 in '04 and then captured his maiden TOUR title the following year with his one-stroke win over Campbell.
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    Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

    According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

    The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

    The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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    Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

    By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

    Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

    The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

    "As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

    Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

    Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.

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    Notah: Driver is Tiger's No. 1 pre-Masters concern

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 5:49 pm

    Tiger Woods mounted a Sunday charge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sending shockwaves through Bay Hill when it looked as though he might finally claim PGA Tour victory No. 80.

    But the charge came to an end at the par-5 16th, where Woods had missed wide-right three days in a row before going OB-left on Sunday en route to bogey.

    Woods’ API performance featured just a handful of drivers each day, as firm and fast conditions allowed him to make frequent use of a 2-iron off the tee.

    That strategy led to a second top-5 finish in as many weeks, but if Woods wants to win again, if he wants claim another major, he is going to sort out his issues with the big stick.

    A guest Monday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, Golf Channel’s Notah Begay believes the driver will be a focus for Woods in his pre-Masters preparation.

    “Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver. … Any time he has to turn a shot right to left with trouble on the left, he struggles a little bit,” Begay said.

    “Off the sixth tee, off the ninth tee, there was some errant shots. And then we saw the really horrible tee shot yesterday at 16. He talked about in the post-round comments. He just didn’t commit to a shot, and the worst thing that a professional athlete can do to themselves to compromise performance is not commit.

    “And so he made a terrible swing, and that’s the miss that is really difficult for him to recover from, because the majority of his misses are out to the right. So, when you eliminate one half of the golf course, you can really make your way around … a lot easier. When you have a two-way miss going, which sometimes creeps into his driver, it really makes it difficult to take out some of the trouble that you’re looking at when you’re standing on the tee box.

    “So he has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

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    McIlroy trails only Woods in Masters betting odds

    By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 5:47 pm

    After rallying for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy is once again among the betting favorites for the upcoming Masters.

    McIlroy was available at 16/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook last week, listed behind six other players. But after his three-shot win at Bay Hill, his odds were trimmed to 10/1, leaving him behind only betting favorite Tiger Woods.

    Next month will mark McIlroy's fourth opportunity to close out the final leg of the career Grand Slam by slipping into a green jacket. Here's a look at the current betting odds, with the first round only 17 days away:

    8/1: Tiger Woods

    10/1: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas

    14/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose

    16/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm

    18/1: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson

    25/1: Paul Casey, Bubba Watson

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama

    40/1: Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman

    50/1: Alex Noren

    60/1: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters

    80/1: Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay

    100/1: Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner