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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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.