Players skipping TOC overshadowing those playing event

By Jason SobelJanuary 2, 2013, 11:38 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – There’s trouble in paradise. And it isn’t the blew-out-my-flip-flop, stepped-on-a-pop-top kind of trouble.

This week marks the beginning of the PGA Tour season, with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions taking place here on the island of Maui, against the backdrop of breaching whales, resplendent rainbows and abundant palm trees. If that doesn’t sound appealing enough, players are shuttled back and forth from the nearby Ritz-Carlton, which isn’t exactly a Motel 6.

“I was walking around near the hotel yesterday and I looked around and told my wife, ‘I want to be here every year,’ said Webb Simpson, who finished in a share of third place last year. “To be able to start your year in Hawaii, it doesn’t get any better.”

Even aesthetically challenged competitors can find beauty in the tournament’s format. After many of them had shut it down during the holidays, they can now enjoy the relaxed nature of this week’s four-round, no-cut, guaranteed money setup. Consider it the Tour’s version of a holiday bonus.

So where’s the trouble? Check the numbers.

Of the 37 players who qualified for this event by winning in 2012, only 30 are here, leaving the rest to cruise on back home.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions tee times | Featured pairings

That number may provide an above average percentage for greens in regulation, but it denotes a problem for what should – or at least could – be one of the crown jewels of the annual schedule. In effect, those here are being overshadowed by those who chose to stay away.

Especially because the Magnificent Seven is a who’s who list of special talents: Rory McIlroyLuke DonaldTiger WoodsJustin RoseSergio GarciaPhil MickelsonErnie Els.

If you’re scoring at home, that’s the top four players in the world ranking and three others who are 24th or better. They have accounted for 156 career PGA Tour victories and two dozen major championship titles.

In other words, they’re really good.

And none of them are here.

Aloha really does mean goodbye.

It’s easy to place blame on the players themselves for being too greedy/lazy/apathetic/inflexible. Choose your favorite adjective. But that is too narrow of a view. Many of those seven were competing into December and five retain membership on other tours, which requires widespread travel throughout the year.

The fact is, there are many other tournaments throughout the season for which all seven of those players will technically be eligible – including next week’s Sony Open – but won’t play due to other commitments or family priorities or simply needing a week of rest.

It’s also not as if this is a new issue, either. This tournament has been losing superstars on an annual basis for the past decade, yet has continued in its current form. All of which could translate to the Tour being labeled more inflexible than any of the players.

If anything, it’s a shared blame here, but there is no apparent solution.

Change the date? Change the venue? Offer more prize money? Increase the field size? Decrease it?

Quite frankly, none of those factors would ensure the A-listers return to this event. It says less about the TOC, though, than it does the rest of the schedule. When the likes of Woods and Mickelson first played this tournament, there were no World Golf Championship events, no FedEx Cup playoffs and less of an importance on other late-season global events.

“It is far to come,” Simpson explained, “but so is Abu Dhabi, Qatar – those places are pretty far, too. So I don’t know. I think the way the game is changing, it’s becoming more global. Guys are playing around the world more than they used to.”

As if to further complicate matters, this tournament will remain in its current slot going forward, despite the impending wraparound schedule. What it means is that PGA Tour winners during each calendar year will earn invitations to an exclusive event that will now fall as the seventh tourney of the season, but first of the actual year.

Still, it doesn’t solve any of the issues about getting those Magnificent Seven to the Aloha State.

“Our season is so long now. You basically play all year, right to the end of the year and I think guys need some time away,” said defending champion Steve Stricker. “It’s just a tough spot for some guys. Others, we love being here. I hear the field is better this year, so I think it’s going in the right direction.”

There’s still trouble in paradise, with so many elite players skipping the festivities. The other 30 who are here will just have to make do with four rounds earning guaranteed money adjacent to the mighty Pacific.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods teed off at 12:15PM ET alongside Justin Rose for Round 3 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.