Lessons From Down Under

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 7, 2001, 5:00 pm
Once again the game has risen above its critics. The much-maligned WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship this past weekend in Melbourne, Australia, proved to be entertaining, competitive and even informative - despite the absence of many of the world's top-ranked players.
 
So, what did we learn this week?
 
Well, first of all we learned that there are many talented players outside of the United States and Europe. For years we've known of the Ozaki brothers - Jumbo, Jet and Joe. A couple of years ago we were introduced to their Japanese compatriot, the affable Shigeki Maruyama. Late 2000 we discovered Hidemichi Tanaka, who challenged for the season-ending WGC-American Express Championship before tying for 11th. Now we've been made aware of yet another gifted Japanese golfer - Toru Taniguchi.
 
Taniguchi not only outshined his more famous countryman, Maruyama, defeating him in the quarterfinals, he also bettered third-seeded Vijay Singh along the way. For the week, Taniguchi earned a career-best $400,000, or roughly 47 million yen.
 
We also know there's more to the Australian golf scene than just Norman, Parry, Appleby and Allenby. There's also Nick O'Hern, a 29-year-old lefty, whose mechanical swing and meticulous manner carried him past an ailing Hal Sutton and into the quarterfinals.
 
Speaking of Sutton, we also learned this week that the burly Louisianan's every bit as tough as his reputation would have you believe. Despite injuring his back prior to arriving in Australia, Sutton honored his commitment and fought through the apparent pain to challenge a game O'Hern, before falling in 21 holes.
 
In terms of reputation, Ernie Els has always been known for his laid-back manner. The Big Easy, nicknamed for his attributes as well as his attitude, proved in his third-round match against Jean Van de Velde that he isn't without emotion.
 
In an exhaustive and tightly contest match, Els rolled in a match-saving birdie putt at the 18th hole, complete with fist pump and a meaningful glare directed toward his opponent. One hole later he emphatically finished the Frenchman. Of course, as is his nature, Els downplayed the incident post-match.
 
We've also learned that the beauty that is the Metropolitan Golf Club is quite deceptive. Sans water, only wind and sand protect the luscious layout, requiring a player to display patience and precision. Should he fail to master either of the two, bogeys abound. Though not as treacherous to the sense as are the pot bunkers encompassing St. Andrews, the traps at Metropolitan proved to be equally as perilous.
 
This week taught us how minute the line is between good and great professionals. How equally talented players are throughout the world.
 
Sixty-four matches were contested this week, including the consolation match. Of those 64, the lower-seeded player won 33. In addition, 10 matches went into extra holes; that's three more than the previous two years combined.
 
We know Pierre Fulke is one of the hottest golfers on the planet the last six months. After missing the first five months of the 2000 season due to a disc problem in his back, Fulke captured the Scottish PGA in August and the Volvo Masters in November. He now adds a half-million dollars to his bank account, which not only increases his position in the tax bracket, but also guarantees him a spot on the 2001 European Ryder Cup team.
 
We learned that life offers opportunities, and it's up for us to take advantage of them. Steve Stricker did that this past week. Ranked 90th in the world, Stricker made the daylong trip to Australia only after 26 higher-ranked players withdrew.
 
Stricker arrived in Melbourne just trying to 'win a couple of matches' and take it from there. But one win turned to two, and then three and four. By Sunday afternoon, Stricker had six victories under his belt, a million dollars in his pocket and enough confidence to carry him through the upcoming season.
 
After winning the Kemper and Western Opens in 1996, the 33-year-old Stricker fell on difficult times, slipping to 130th on the money list the following year, narrowly missing out on a major championship in '98; and in his words: 'Fall(ing) off the golf map,' the past two years.
 
What Stricker lacked in confidence he more than made up for in self-doubt. A devoted father and husband, he questioned the Tour life. He questioned his place in the game.
 
More than anything, this week has taught us that perseverance pays, and in this case it pays greatly. And every now and again, even nice guys finish first.
 
What do you think of Stricker's win at the Match Play?
Share your thoughts!
 
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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.