International Feel at Target

By Associated PressDecember 13, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Target World Challenge pres. by CountrywideTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- For golf at the highest level, the Target World Challenge is the final tournament of the year in the United States. It also happens to be a popular hangout for international players.
They have flown across oceans and time zones to spend a week at Sherwood Country Club as part of the PGA TOUR's silly season, although there is nothing silly about the money. Only four regular tour events have a larger purse ($5.75 million), with $1.35 million going to the winner and $170,000 for last place. That means John Daly is assured of his highest paycheck of the year.
But there is a serious picture painted in these foothills that separate concrete freeways from the Pacific Ocean.
The 16-man field is determined largely by the world rankings, and it no longer is surprising to see so few Americans.
'I don't see it changing any time soon,' Tiger Woods said Wednesday morning after a brief session on the range next to U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and Tour Championship winner Adam Scott, both from Australia.
'I see it as world golf getting more dominant than the U.S.'
Woods is the tournament host and No. 1 player in the world. The only other Americans at Sherwood are David Toms, Chris DiMarco, Davis Love III, Fred Couples and Daly. The latter two received the two sponsor invitations.
The United States is 1-2-3 in the world rankings, with Jim Furyk at No. 2 and Phil Mickelson at No. 3, both of them choosing not to play this week. That doesn't skew the numbers, because four international players from the top 10 also opted for time off around the holidays.
Americans still own the majors, having won 28 of the last 40. The depth, however, comes from overseas.
'It all goes in cycles,' Scott said. 'In the '80s and probably the '90s, the Americans dominated the game. I think you're seeing the other side of the cycle now. The foreign players have a stronger presence. I don't know why that is. It's role reversal almost.'
A generation ago, the best two players were from England (Nick Faldo) and Australia (Greg Norman), while American golf was strong because of its sheer numbers.
Consider the world rankings. When first published before the 1986 Masters, the top three were Europeans (Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle), but there were 31 Americans in the top 50.
Now, the top three are Americans, but there are only 14 Americans in the top 50.
This is not necessarily an indictment of American golf. The reason for this global balance is the strength of the PGA TOUR, which attracts the best from around the world because a routine event can pay twice as much as tours anywhere else.
True, the United States only has 14 of the top 50 in the world, but no other country has more than six players (Australia).
'Golf is a global game, and this year in particular, there are more foreigners and less Americans,' said Michael Campbell, the 2005 U.S. Open champion from New Zealand. 'I think it's a good thing. It's good for the game. The only thing is, they all play here. The best golf is still in America, but it's filled up with nationalities.'
The Target World Challenge starts Thursday, the first time Woods has played on the U.S. mainland since he won the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston on Labor Day.
And while it is an exhibition in the purest sense, it serves as a barometer for the shift in power.
The first tournament had nine Americans in the 12-man field in late 1999. There were nine Americans in the 16-man field in 2002, and half the field was from overseas last year. This is the first time in the eight-year history of Woods' event that Americans were in the minority. Had everyone played who was eligible, there would have been only three Americans (not counting two invitations).
Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who won this event four years ago, says it is no coincidence that most of the top players seem to be coming from England and Australia.
'Norman and Faldo, both in their own areas, definitely encouraged more players to play and younger players to choose golf as their sport,' he said. 'All the guys we have now are a result of guys winning the majors in the '80s and '90s. That's why they're coming out now.'
No European has won the U.S. Open since 1970, and the PGA Championship since 1930. But they won the British Open seven times during a 14-year span from 1979 to 1992, and the Masters 11 times in a 20-year period from 1980 to 1999.
Norman only won two majors, but no one was in contention at the majors more often during the height of his powers.
'I know why Europe is strong now,' Harrington said. 'I don't know why the U.S. isn't.'
Woods believes the U.S. college system is one reason behind the shift. Americans are taught to finish high school and go to college, which could be anywhere from one to four years. Then it's off to qualifying school, which could take a few years to pass.
'Other countries, they start playing professional golf at an early age,' Woods said. 'Look at Langer. He turned pro at age 15? You don't do that here. You go to high school, college, then you turn pro. Most of the guys from outside the country already have got one or two years under their belt.'
If this is a cycle, one has to wonder if it will ever change. The borders in golf are more blurred than ever. Not only are the best in the world coming to the United States, many of them are making this their home. And while Harrington says Europeans were inspired by major champions from a generation ago, he doubts that will happen again.
The best player is an American citizen with global appeal.
'The whole world is influenced by whoever is playing well at the time,' Harrington said. 'Tiger has changed everything. Everybody -- Europeans and Americans -- want to play like Tiger.'
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    Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

    Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

    Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

    Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

    "I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

    Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

    Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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    Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

    A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

    The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

    There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

    But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

    As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

    This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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    Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

    There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

    Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

    Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

    Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

    The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

    Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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    Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

    Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

    Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

    Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

    This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

    Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

    The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.