Mixed Reviews on the WGC

By Kraig KannOctober 7, 2005, 4:00 pm
So just how great are the events reserved for the greatest players in the world? Thats my question this week, and I trust Im not alone in some of my thoughts.
 
Weve now spent six years covering, hyping and typing stories regarding the World Golf Championships events. Do you remember how it came to be in the first place?
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is the undisputed king of the WGC events, with 10 career victories.
In 1996 at the Presidents Cup, golfs five world governing bodies - PGA Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour Organization, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour (South Africa) - joined together with designs on a new stable of international events that would begin in 1999. In that year of 1999 the Asian Tour also jumped aboard.
 
Together, the International Federation of PGA Tours created the Accenture Match Play Championship, the NEC Invitational, the American Express Championship and the World Cup ... providing a place for the best in golf to compete against only the best in golf.
 
After six years time, Tiger Woods is the only player to capture all four World Golf Championships titles in his career. And thus, the best of the best has proven himself as the best of the best.
 
Including this years NEC Invitational at Firestone Country Club, Woods has 10 victories in 20 World Golf Championships starts. Iincluded in the total are three at this weeks American Express Championship, lending credence to the belief that -just like the major championships ' when only the best get together, Woods is a good bet to get the best of everyone involved.
 
How can you not get up for tournaments as big as these? Woods has said about playing in the WGC events. These are the best players in the world and youre going head-to-head against them. Thats why these tournaments were started.
 
Then-No. 1 in the world Greg Norman called the idea his own before the concept was finalized. Point being ' the best players wanted more than just four opportunities (Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship) to go head-to-head.
 
Yet six years into this, Im just not as excited about these events as I feel Im supposed to be. Yes, I work at The Golf Channel and Im paid to cover it with enthusiasm. But work aside, Im also a huge fan of the sport who is being targeted just like you as a potential viewer or ticket buyer. And I just dont see the majority of these events as anything more than weeks for world ranking points, no cuts and big paychecks.
 
The Accenture Match Play Championship? Love it. Plenty of star power, yet completely unpredictable. Even the marginal golf fan can find reason to watch. But thats where my consistent allegiance to the WGC ends.
 
To me, the WGC events have truly created the Haves and the Have Nots. For the players - if youre in the tournament, youre doing great. Great world ranking, big money season. If youre not, youre wishing you were there.
 
And for the tournaments ' well, weve definitely given a reason for fans to lose a bit of interest in the regular tour stops. Sorry, but youve cut those events down to size. And if you happen to be set up against a WGC event, youre telling potential customers that theyre not seeing the best. How good is that?
 
Four major championships and three WGC events mean seven stops for Woods and three fewer chances that he would play in another regular tour event. Tell me that doesnt hurt Greensboro or Memphis or Canada? And its not Tigers fault. He plays a set number of tournaments, which happens to be his right.
 
Still, there has to be something to sink our teeth into ' right?
 
I think Ive found it.
 
Little known Jason Bohn feels like a giant this week after making birdie on Sunday at 18 to find enough money to move to 23rd on the PGA Tour money list and qualify. Hardly the young gun hotshot, it has taken him some time to find success. The journeyman pro earned his spot on the PGA Tour last year and won for the first time at this years B.C. Open. The WGC event, for him, is a grand stage to be included.
 
Sean O Hair is in the field as a fresh-faced rookie on the PGA Tour whose win this year at the John Deere Classic followed up a near win at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship and proves that great play is rewarded ' period.
 
Bart Bryant has been around the block at least as much as anyone in the field. A win last year in San Antonio earned him a spot at the Mercedes Championships where he was the happiest man in the field. This years win at the Memorial was the ultimate validation. And now, to truly be included with the games stars, is the bonus he wondered if hed ever get.
 
Feel free to disagree that the WGC-NEC and this weeks AmEx are hardly tournaments with a lasting importance like we get from a major championship.
 
In short, my argument is this: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh are among a group that knows theyll always be invited to a WGC party. And Ill enjoy watching them because it truly is a treat to watch the best.
 
But for now, Ill reserve the right to pull for the collection of players like Bohn and OHair and Bryant that hopes theyll have a chance to find their way onto the invite list and pull the upset.
 
For me, that would be something to remember.
 
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Getty Images

Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

Getty Images

With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

Getty Images

Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.


Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

Getty Images

Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”


Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.”