Woods' event remains atop new fall schedule

By Jason SobelOctober 15, 2013, 11:01 pm

Feel free to believe the PGA Tour is more powerful than its most prominent member. Keep thinking that should a power struggle ever exist, the organization would overrule the individual.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, but there is some sizable proof toward the counterargument.

Unlike years ago, the autumn months are no longer golf’s Silly Season, replete with hit-and-giggle, rich-get-richer exhibitions. Nor is this even like recent campaigns, with journeymen and youngsters alike attempting to retain status before the calendar turns.

Instead, the PGA Tour has deemed this time of year the beginning rather than the end, starting its next season just weeks after the last one has finished. The irony hasn’t been lost on those potentially impacted.

“I'm still wrapping my head around it,” Tiger Woods said of the wraparound schedule in a delicious bit of unintentional wordplay.

At first blush, it appears that these tournaments will receive the same star treatment as when they followed the FedEx Cup instead of started it. Which is to say, not much at all.

Last week’s season-opening Frys.com Open featured just one player, Hideki Matsuyama, ranked in the world’s top-30. This week’s Shriners Hospitals Open will quadruple that number, with Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson and Nick Watney joining Matsuyama, but four of the top-30 still pales in comparison.


Video: Woods talks World Challenge, new Tour schedule


In comparison to what? Glad you asked.

The fields for each of these official PGA Tour events pale are pithy compared with that of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, Woods’ late-year tournament which is equal parts Silly Season event (it hosts an 18-man field with no cut and guaranteed money) and official event (it doles out world ranking points to every competitor).

This year’s entry list for the 15th edition of what is usually referred to simply as “Tiger’s tournament” will read like a who’s who of elite golfers. Woods will compete, of course, as will five others in the current top-10 (Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner); six more in the top-20 (Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk, Keegan Bradley, Jason Day and Lee Westwood); and four in the top-30 (Ian Poulter, Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson).

With two players yet to be named to the field, that gives the World Challenge a perfect 16-for-16 in getting top-30 players to commit to the tournament.

If you’re scoring at home, that’s a first-round TKO for the PGA Tour’s most prominent member in any potential power struggle with the organization itself.

Granted, it’s always been this way, with Tiger’s tournament drawing better fields than anything officially contested in the autumn months, but never before has it come in direct competition with the start to the PGA Tour season.

“Word has spread,” Woods said in a Tuesday conference call to promote the tournament, which will be held Dec. 5-8. “We've always treated players well there. They've had a great time. It's close enough to the following year where some of the guys want to try and experiment with a few things equipment-wise, club deal-wise. They want to get a tournament in before they play Kapalua, the Hawaiian Open. Some of the guys have done that in the past.”

Peyton Manning doesn’t skip the first six NFL games, then play a star-studded flag football contest. LeBron James can’t eschew the beginning of the NBA season, then show up for a televised pickup game.

In effect, though, that’s exactly what many of these elite players will do this year. And the strength of this field has even dazzled the tourney host.

“I think we're all very surprised that we've got as many international players playing this year,” Woods continued. “The American players have supported our event throughout the years. Obviously it's easier travel if you're based in the States. The guys who are playing in the Race to Dubai, it's a bit more of a challenge to try to get them to play. 

“But for some reason this year we've had guys wanting to play and have probably the best field we've had.”

That fact won’t be lost on those in Ponte Vedra Beach executive offices. Not that the purveyors of the new wraparound schedule expected the elite players to jump aboard immediately and start competing in season-opening tournaments that still own a reputation of being third- or fourth-tier events. But the simple fact that their most prominent member can host a tournament around the same time and receive such an entry list should be alarming, if not troubling.

Tiger Woods might not wield more power than the PGA Tour itself. Without question, such a statement must take into account much more than late-year fields at their respective tournaments.

Even so, a simple comparison of these events must be a source of consternation for the PGA Tour – and undoubtedly a source of pride for Woods.

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

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Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.