Rise and fall of WGCs

By Rex HoggardMarch 11, 2010, 4:20 am
 DORAL, Fla. – One can pinpoint the precise rise and fall of the World Golf Championships experiment just as surely as ShotLink can cull the good putters from the bad.

It began in October 1997 with the promise of globalized golf born of altruistic motives and misplaced optimism. It was build it and they will come stuff.

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Tiger and Phil marched step for step in 2005 at Doral, before Tiger prevailed by one shot. (Getty Images)
While the end – which may be at hand or off-handily off the mark, depending on who you ask – can be traced to a glorious spring Sunday in south Florida when the cosmic tumblers aligned and even dogs and cats paused to enjoy the proceedings.

What the world wanted Doral delivered – a mano-e-mano showdown between Alpha Dog No. 1 (Tiger Woods) and Alpha Dog No. 2 (Phil Mickelson) when it mattered, on a Sunday at what was then the Ford Championship.

“2005 was like the last day at Augusta,” recalled Jim McLean, who has been fixing swings at the far end of the Doral practice tee for 20 years. “They were 15 (people) deep down both sides of No. 1. It was the most people I’d ever seen at Doral. The most I’d ever seen at a golf tournament.”

It was the day when Woods and Mickelson shared a Sunday tee time with Tour gold on the line. When the game’s best were at their best and the ending wasn’t written until Mickelson’s chip at the last hole rolled to a climactic stop.

It was the perfect storm and as one walked the property late Wednesday afternoon it seems like a lifetime ago. Less than 24 months after the Tiger-Phil Doral bout, the south Florida Tour stop was pulled into the neatly packaged WGC brand and things have never been the same.

“It’s a different tournament as a world event,” McLean said. “They want it to be a major, before it was like a South Beach party.”

Make no mistake, this week’s CA Championship offers plenty of promise – even without Woods and, as of late Wednesday, Mickelson. Solid field, respected golf course, South Beach, but it’s not the same.

David Toms was there in 2005, 45 minutes and eight strokes clear of the Woods-Mickelson show but that was close enough to get a taste of something special.

“I was playing really good and looked around and there was nobody,” Toms said. “They were all on No. 1 watching. At the time the Tour had been waiting for that showdown for a long time.”

Toms, who played his first event at Doral in 1992 and has missed whatever version of the tournament was on the calendar just four times since, has watched the event transition from “the unofficial start of the Tour season” to, well . . . something else.

“When I used to come here it was like a Sony Open feel to it,” Toms said. “I’d bring my family and really enjoy the week. It certainly has a different feel to it now.”

Which cuts to the essence of the WGC dilemma. The question is not whether the experiment – which has evolved into four events that stretch from Shanghai to south Florida – has delivered on the promise of a brave new world, but whether the four WGCs are better off with the prefix than they were without?

Doral certainly draws a consistently stronger field as a WGC, but ask any player the $1 million question and the answer is almost always the same – it’s just different.

The Bridgestone Invitational has been a Tour staple since 1962 whose list of pre-WGC winners includes Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman. All the WGC did for Firestone is clear room for the likes Yuji Igarashi, who I’ve been told is a household name in Nagano.

The HSBC Champions was won by Mickelson its first year in the WGC fold (2009), the same guy, by the way, who won it in 2007 before its title went alphabet soup (WGC-HSBC) and its purse through the roof.

While at Doral the local flavor has fallen victim to a Tour that, unlike Ben & Jerry’s, offers just a single option – vanilla. The international field may look good on paper, but 90 percent of the golf public couldn’t tell Soren and Anders Hansen from the Hanson Brothers of “Slap Shot” fame.

The Match Play Championship, however, may be the lone exception to the WGC rule, having technically replaced the second-tier Tucson Open, albeit on a less-than-renowned golf course located some 30 miles southwest of the middle of nowhere.

Of course, the measure of success or failure at any Tour event comes down to sponsorship dollars and this Sunday when CA’s four-year deal ends the word around campus is they plan to take their check book and go home.

Accenture recently extended its sponsorship of the Match Play through 2014, but given the company’s high-profile parting with Woods late last year it’s not a stretch to say Tim Clark’s days of taking down the world No. 1 and busting brackets in the Arizona desert have come to an end.

The WGC shingle comes with a $12 million annual price tag and for what? A field heavy on passports at venues that were just as good, if not better, before the circuit pulled its WGC eminent domain?

And what of the original WGC mission to bring the game to the four corners of the globe, but have largely found only the four corners of the continental United States? The Tour will stress that the images from Doral this week will be broadcast across the globe, thus growing interest in the game. So was last week’s Honda Classic.

Of the 34 official-money WGCs played since 1999, the first year of the experiment, six have been played outside the United States. Proponents will argue that Tour players and big sponsorship dollars don’t travel well.

“It’s certainly easier with all (the WGCs) here for us because we all live here,” said Clark, an Arizona resident by way of South Africa. “But I felt they should move around. It would mean a lot to any country. Look at what the (2003) Presidents Cup did for golf down in South Africa.”
Woods’ cameo at last year’s Australian Open is perhaps the most compelling reason for Tour types to open the atlas. Galleries lined every hole at Kingston Heath and, more importantly, interest in the game peaked.

“Since Tiger came to Australia last year tee times at public courses are through the roof,” said Dale Lynch, a U.S.-based Australian swing coach. “It was huge because golf in Australia had been in decline since Norman went into decline.”

It was the great WGC promise, an idea with unlimited potential co-opted by the low-hanging fruit of great events turned into good events. It is the Achilles’ heel of the WGC project, and in many ways it all started at Doral five years ago when a great clash marked the beginning to the end.
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Watch: Tiger birdies 3 of 4, then goes OB

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 8:30 pm

Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off in his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and another birdie at No. 10.

He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

And with this roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, the charge was officially on, with Woods just one back.

Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and sniped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 to drop back to 11 under, three behind.

(More coming...)

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.