Mickelson Defends Tiger Over Field Size

By Associated PressMarch 14, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. -- Rivals on the golf course, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson sounded like allies Wednesday in promoting the concept of Woods' new tournament in Washington being treated like an invitational.
The field size for the new AT&T National has caused a great divide on the PGA TOUR, the lines drawn between prestige and opportunity.
PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem suggested that the tournament likely would be considered an invitational, similar to events hosted by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, which have reduced fields. Some players have argued that the tour should not make the event exclusive, which would take away spots in a season already made shorter by the FedEx Cup.
'We're trying to put on the best possible field and the best tournament we possible can, and I think ultimately that's what we've decided on,' Woods said Wednesday, his first comments since the flap became public last week in Tampa, Fla. 'Field size is still up in the air. It's not finalized yet. But we are certainly looking at a reduced field.'
Woods said Finchem had already talked informally with players on the policy board.
Left in the dark were members of the 16-man Players Advisory Council, such as Rich Beem, who said in an interview last week that the idea of a smaller field was 'insulting.'
'I think it's great that Tiger is involved and we're going to Washington. We need that,' Beem said. 'But we're trying to get back more spots throughout the year, and all of a sudden we have a limited-field tournament? It's the most totally wrong thing I've heard of in a long time that's sticking in to the players.'
The PAC scheduled a conference call for March 28 to discuss the field size.
Mickelson said he has tried to stay out of 'tour politics' the past few years, but quickly rose to Woods' defense. He said it was important for the tour to be in the nation's capital, and important for the tour to have a strong relationship with Woods.
'And that tournament does both,' he said.
Mickelson has long argued against opposite-field events held the same week as World Golf Championships, saying the TOUR has to subsidize purses to give lower-ranked players a chance to earn money. The tour already has three conflicting events, and plans another one next year in Puerto Rico.
'All of the conflicting events cannot support themselves financially, and all of the excess revenue from the tour goes to support those tournaments, and most of that money is driven by Tiger,' Mickelson said. 'So if you're looking at 450 spots that Tiger is creating, and if he wants to take 20 away because he wants to have a prestigious event, I think we should not, as players, be narrow-minded.'
Woods is responsible for the massive increases in prize money on TOUR because of his popularity, which has led to stout TV contracts. Total prize money was $80 million his first full year as a pro, and now is about $265 million.
'If we look at the big picture, he does a heck of a lot more in this tournament ... and it does an incredible amount for the tour and the game of golf,' Mickelson said. 'I think we need to be careful on that.'
Stirring the debate is that the AT&T National replaces the International, which had a 144-man field.
While Woods and Finchem favor a reduced field in Washington, they have not proposed a number. The tour has studied making all invitationals the same size, although it could face a struggle getting Nicklaus to go along at the Memorial. His field has a minimum of 105.
'It's always a concern,' former U.S. Amateur champion Jeff Quinney said. 'If I was a rookie and had limited starts and I hadn't made too many cuts, you want to have as many starts as you can. Luckily, I probably won't have to worry. I don't think it's significant -- maybe 20, 30 spots. It wasn't like a huge cut like Doral is next week.'
Doral for years had a 144-man field until it was folded into a WGC event and likely will have a field of just under 100.
'Obviously, there's 50 percent of the TOUR that thinks it's a great idea; 50 percent don't,' Rod Pampling said.
Woods' foundation runs the tournament and will get the charity money, which he will use to build a Tiger Woods Learning Center in the Washington area. Still to be determined is a golf course -- all signs point to Congressional the first two years.
Woods favors a shorter field.
'Play moves along a lot faster,' he said. 'You get around in a much more rhythmical pace. I think that's important.'
Woods has played Bay Hill every year and missed Memorial for the first time last year after his father died, and he has liked the way Palmer and Nicklaus run those tournaments. Both are invitationals, meaning the field is smaller.
Palmer said the benefit of a smaller field is 'it attracts interest.'
'If you're able to do a good tournament -- and we like to think that we do a good tournament -- it creates an interest among the players who want to come and win this golf tournament,' he said. 'If we had a number that was perfect, that would be ... 120.'
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    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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    Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

    Hoylake in 2006.

    That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

    So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

    With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

    “The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”