Doral is de facto Opening Day of PGA Tour season

By Rex HoggardMarch 3, 2015, 9:56 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Schedules have changed, from the cleanliness of a single calendar to the confusion of a fall lineup followed by the creation of the circuit’s new wrap-around edition, but some things always remain the same.

Although the PGA Tour is some 15 events into the 2014-15 season, for most top players Thursday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship is opening day.

With apologies to the folks at the Open, where the season “officially” started last October, and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, which kicked off the new year on Tour in January, Doral has been the real start of the season for some time.

Consider that Adam Scott will tee off in just his second Tour event of the season, and his first in 2015 and on U.S. soil, on Thursday. That he does so 1,046 points behind leader Jimmy Walker on the FedEx Cup points list doesn’t change that fact.

Consider that world No. 1 Rory McIlroy will play his first weekend on the Tour this season at Doral. That's all the proof one needs that for all the realignment, for all the tinkering and adjustments made by the Tour in the name of progress, this is the week the players atop the marquee circle on the calendar.

“I’ve been off four weeks,” Matt Kuchar smiled broadly as he worked off the rust on Doral’s practice tee late Monday.

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While that might not be what officials at Tour headquarters would like to hear, the alternative is unrealistic.

For players like McIlroy and Scott and even Kuchar, who played six times this season before taking his pre-Masters hiatus after the Waste Management Phoenix Open, year-round golf is not exactly a best practices option when it’s the four major championships that demand peak performance.

In fairness to the modern professional, it’s hard to argue with the less-is-more strategy when it comes to what is virtually a yearlong schedule.

Many credit Tiger Woods for the approach. Even before he was sidelined with injury in recent years he played at least 20 events in a single season just five times and never more than 21.

But Woods didn’t pioneer the idea. From 1971 until he retired Jack Nicklaus never played more than 19 Tour events in a single season and Greg Norman teed off in fewer than 19 Tour events every year of his Hall of Fame career.

Which has led players, the headliners who top everyone’s list of major contenders, to adjust accordingly.

While most players say the quality of golf course is their No. 1 factor when deciding to play an event, Doral, which was redesigned by architect Gil Hanse before last year’s event, largely defies conventional wisdom.

“Last year was rock hard because of a brand new golf course. I happened to just survive it, make a few putts,” said Bubba Watson, who finished second to Patrick Reed in 2014 at Doral.

“I look forward to the challenge. When you come here, the challenge of the wind, the challenge of the golf course, the speed of the greens are really, really quick right now, and so you get here, you get excited about the challenge.”

In short, Doral is a long way from Palm Springs, which was the traditional starting point for Tour types, something of a soft opening considering the easier conditions in the Coachella Valley, before the advent of what has become the major championship season.

Yet while the new and improved (Black and) Blue Course may not be an instant classic in many players' minds, its position on the schedule a month before the Masters has made it the Teflon Championship when it comes to participation.

For Scott, who hasn’t hit a shot that mattered anywhere in the world since December’s Australian PGA, it’s a question of location, not on the map but on the schedule.

Scott plans to play the next three weeks before taking a two-week break after the Arnold Palmer Invitational to make his final preparations for the Masters.

McIlroy, who missed the cut in his 2015 debut last week at the Honda Classic, will follow a similar routine, trading a start at the Shell Houston Open, which he has played the last two years, for Bay Hill in two weeks.

“I feel like I've got a nice schedule going into Augusta,” McIlroy said last week. “I'm not playing too much, but I'm playing just enough that I should be as sharp as possible going in there.”

While the idea of a top player missing nearly one third (Doral is the 16th of 47 Tour events this season) of a season would seem outlandish in other sports, it is golf’s new reality.

However the Tour decides to break down its season, for players like Scott, Thursday at Doral is opening day.

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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.