Wells Fargo lacking buzz despite Phil, Rory in field

By Randall MellApril 29, 2014, 10:55 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A major championship-like test awaits this week at the Wells Fargo Championship.

You draw that conclusion looking at Quail Hollow Golf Club’s refortified defenses.

You don’t draw the same conclusion, however, looking at this week’s field.

This pretty much looks like the field list for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, not a bad field at all, but not the elite turnout you would expect for the caliber of can’t-miss event this was blossoming into.

Just two of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, and four of the top 20, are in this week’s field.

In 2007, every player in the top 10 in the world was here, with 18 of the top 20 showing up.

The OWGR strength of field rating is 341 this week, which projects to be the lowest since the event made its debut in 2003.

“There are some scheduling issues,” said Kym Hougham, executive director of the Wells Fargo Championship. “We aren’t a brand new tournament anymore. Guys play where they think they can play the best, and there are some players who don’t think this course fits their eye, whether it’s too long, or you have to hit it right to left, or hit it high, whatever. We’ve matured into that kind of golf tournament, where they’ve decided I’m only going to play 20 times, and I don’t play very well there.”

The numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the entire story.

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Tiger Woods was expected to return to Quail Hollow this week, but, of course, he’s out recuperating from back surgery. Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are playing this week. If Woods were here with them, nobody would care what the OWGR strength of field numbers said.

“If Tiger plays, we aren’t having this conversation,” Hougham said.

Jason Day would likely be here this week, too, but he’s out with a thumb injury. Jason Dufner and Ian Poulter played in China last week, and they’ll be in The Players Championship next week. Jordan Spieth will tee it up at The Players Championship next week, and then he has two Texas events around his hometown, with the Memorial to follow. He isn’t going to play five events in a row.

There are some other complicated issues, as well. The RBC Heritage and Zurich Classic are played the two weeks leading into the Wells Fargo Championship. They’re all banks. RBC has endorsement deals with Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk. Els and Furyk are the only players among them teeing it up at the Wells Fargo Championship. Zurich has an ambassador program. Are endorsement loyalties a factor? Maybe, maybe not.

While problems with the greens last year also may be a factor in this year’s turnout, the changing nature of worldwide scheduling is definitely a factor.

“It’s clearly a global sport,” said Joe Ogilvie, who’s in this week’s field. “There are just a lot of opportunities now. Europe pays [the equivalent of appearance fees]. The strength of tournaments has just gotten better and better, and guys have to take a week off. Traditionally, they don’t take this week off, but when there are a lot of changes to a golf course, they may be waiting to see how the changes work. I think guys are going to rave about the changes here, and I think next year you will see a stronger field, more typical for Charlotte.”

The Quail Hollow Golf Club has invested $6.5 million in club renovations as it prepares to host the 2017 PGA Championship, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. The changes over the last year include significant course work by architect Tom Fazio, who also oversaw the original renovations in ’03.

“It’s the best I’ve seen it,” said Webb Simpson, who has been a member at Quail Hollow since 2009. “The greens have come a long ways.”

A year ago, Quail Hollow’s greens were in poor condition, damaged by an unusually cold winter. As part of the renovations, all 18 greens were rebuilt, with MiniVerde Bermuda grass planted. Some of the more severe contours were softened.

“This year, the greens are unbelievable, and they’re only going to get better and better,” Hougham said.

There were also changes to Quail Hollow’s “Green Mile,” the three famed finishing holes. There’s a new 16th green, built 80 yards left of the old one, with a new fairway configuration. There’s also a new 17th tee box at the par 3 there, allowing the hole to be played from 217 yards.

Simpson expects it all to add up to a major championship test.

“I think it's going to play really tough,” Simpson said. “My guess would be single digits wins this year, even if we have good weather, just because the rough is a little longer and thicker than I've seen it, and the greens are, like I said, really tough to hold.”

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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.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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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.

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“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.