Notes Finchem hints at an Asian series

By Associated PressJuly 6, 2010, 10:33 pm

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – The PGA Tour already has the West Coast Swing, the Florida Swing and now the Texas Swing. It might not be long before it has an Asian Swing after the FedEx Cup portion of the season is over.

In two years, the PGA Tour already has grown to two events there. It returns to Shanghai on Nov. 4-7 for a World Golf Championship, this time treating the HSBC Champions as an official victory if a tour member is holding the trophy. A week earlier is the inaugural Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia, which is co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour and offers a $6 million purse.

And after that? Stay tuned.

“We’re looking at possibilities in Japan, Korea, China,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “I’m not saying we will, but we may very well do a short series over there in the fall in the next two or three years. If we’re going to get serious about a presence in Asia, it would probably argue for a short series.”

The Malaysia event was not a critical building block in such a series. It has a short field – the top 25 players available from the FedEx Cup standings to fill a 40-man field at The Mines Resort and Golf Club – and Finchem said the Asian Pacific Classic “predated what might developing into a serious strategy.”

“If it continues, it will be part of it (an Asia series) in some fashion,” he said.

Finchem, who took an 18-day working vacation through Asia last fall, said he will be returning this year. However, Finchem didn’t make it sound like any series was around the corner. Asked if the tour was close to arranging an event in Japan, he flatly replied, “no.”

“I don’t see us announcing any details on that by the end of the year,” he said.


CRYSTAL BALL: Tiger Woods has not returned to defend his title eight times on the PGA Tour – once when the tournament changed dates (BellSouth Classic), once after his daughter was born (Buick Open), five times recovering from knee surgery and once this year as he made his return from a sex scandal.

He has never failed to defend a title because he wasn’t eligible, and odds are it won’t happen.

Still, with the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs only seven weeks away, Woods is No. 105 in the standings. He still has two majors and a World Golf Championship on his schedule, and his game seemed to be improving at Aronimink. But this year, nothing is certain.

Woods is the defending champion at the BMW Championship outside Chicago, which is for the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings after two playoff events.


CAPTAINS SPEAK: Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin has been talking to his predecessors to learn what he can, and that group finally includes the immediate past captain, Paul Azinger.

Azinger revealed as much in a tweet last week: “Talked to Pavin about RC. Sent him book Cracking t Code, $24.95. Shipping $7.50, texts $2.00, my advice 2 cents, another U.S. victory PRICELESS.”

“He text messaged me in May that he wanted the book,” Azinger said about “Cracking the Code,” in which he explains how he tried to create accountability and teamwork by grouping his teams into pods of four players. “He texted me when he got the book and said, ‘When are you going to play again?’ I told him I wasn’t going to play until I got my handicap below 3.”

They met last Thursday. Azinger said the new criteria assured that Pavin would have the hottest eight American players, and that how Pavin wanted to pick one-third of the team was up to him.

“I told him I valued the wives’ opinions about their husbands,” Azinger said. “I said, ‘If I could have you any advice, it would be to create what you feel is the best environment for them.”’

Azinger also said he told Pavin that once the week of the Ryder Cup arrived, it was better to say nothing to a player than to risk saying the wrong thing.

“I micromanaged for two years,” Azinger said. “And when we got to the Ryder Cup, then I let go.”


EVERY SHOT COUNTS: In another example of how every shot can matter in golf, Jeff Overton is headed to the British Open at St. Andrews, and he might have Charlie Wi to thank for that.

Overton and Wi were tied for third place as they played the final hole of the AT&T National. Wi hit through the 18th green, chipped on and missed his par putt to finish alone in fourth.

With third-place points, Overton moved to No. 62 in Monday’s world ranking, which is used for the alternate list at the British Open. He was awarded a spot Monday, with first alternate being Ricky Barnes at No. 64. If Wi had made his par putt on the last hole at Aronimink, Overton would have tied for third and gone to No. 68 – and Barnes would have secured a spot at St. Andrews.


GOING HOME: Former Masters champion Zach Johnson returned to his roots to create a foundation designed to help children in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the seven-time PGA Tour winner grew up.

The Zach Johnson Foundation, announced on Monday, wants to further develop a program in which children who have a parent in the judicial system are linked with a mentor. To support the foundation, he plans an annual pro-am tournament that will start next year with at least four PGA Tour players at Elmcrest Country Club, where Johnson learned to play.

Johnson said he hopes to raise $250,000 for his foundation during the first year.


DIVOTS: Tiger Woods wrapped up the Mark H. McCormack award for the 13th consecutive year since it was created to honor the player at No. 1 in the world ranking for the most weeks in a calendar year. Phil Mickelson, for his fifth straight tournament, will have a chance to overtake Woods atop the ranking if he were to win or finish second at the Scottish Open. … Robert Allenby led the field with 20 birdies at Aronimink, and still tied for 41st at the AT&T National. He made 14 birdies in the second and third rounds combined – along with 10 bogeys and a double bogey. … The PGA Tour’s scoring system includes a “T1” for Justin Rose in the Tavistock Cup. Seriously.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Five of the top six Europeans on the world points list for the Ryder Cup have won in America this year – Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.


FINAL WORD: “I think it’s more of a Cal Ripken thing than a Tiger Woods thing.” – Bob Estes, on making his 400th career cut on the PGA Tour.

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Spieth admits '16 Masters 'kind of haunted me'

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:38 pm

Two years ago, Jordan Spieth arrived at Colonial Country Club and promptly exorcised some demons.

He was only a month removed from blowing the 2016 Masters, turning a five-shot lead with nine holes to play into a shocking runner-up finish behind Danny Willett. Still with lingering questions buzzing about his ability to close, he finished with a back-nine 30 on Sunday, including birdies on Nos. 16-18, to seal his first win since his Augusta National debacle.

Returning this week to the Fort Worth Invitational, Spieth was asked about the highs and lows he's already experienced in his five-year pro career and candidly pointed to the 2016 Masters as a "low point" that had a lingering effect.

"Even though it was still a tremendous week and still was a really good year in 2016, that kind of haunted me and all the questioning and everything," Spieth told reporters. "I let it tear me down a little bit. I kind of lost a little bit of my own freedom, thoughts on who I am as a person and as a golfer."


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Spieth went on to win the Australian Open in the fall of 2016, and last year he added three more victories including a third major title at Royal Birkdale. Given more than two years to reflect - and after nearly nabbing a second green jacket last month - he admitted that the trials and tribulations of 2016 had a lasting impact on how he perceives the daily grind on Tour.

"I guess to sum it up, I've just tried to really be selfish in the way that I think and focus on being as happy as I possibly can playing the game I love. Not getting caught up in the noise, good or bad," Spieth said. "Because what I hear from the outside, the highs are too high from the outside and the lows are too low from the outside from my real experience of them. So trying to stay pretty neutral and just look at the big picture things, and try and wake up every single day loving what I do."

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Spieth offers Owen advice ahead of Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:22 pm

As country music sensation Jake Owen gets set to make his Web.com Tour debut, Jordan Spieth had a few pieces of advice for his former pro-am partner.

Owen played as a 1-handicap alongside Spieth at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and this week he is playing his own ball on a sponsor invite at the Nashville Open. Owen joked with a Web.com Tour reporter that Spieth "shined" him by not answering his text earlier in the week, but Spieth explained to reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the two have since connected.

"We texted a bit yesterday. I was just asking how things were going," Spieth said. "I kind of asked him the state of his game. He said he's been practicing a lot. He said the course is really hard. I mean, going into it with that mindset, maybe he'll kind of play more conservative."

Owen is in the field this week on the same type of unrestricted sponsor exemption that NBA superstar Steph Curry used at the Web.com's Ellie Mae Classic in August. As Owen gets set to make his debut against a field full of professionals, Spieth noted that it might be for the best that he's focused on a tournament a few hundred miles away instead of walking alongside the singer as he does each year on the Monterey Peninsula.

"Fortunately I'm not there with him, because whenever I'm his partner I'm telling him to hit driver everywhere, even though he's talented enough to play the golf course the way it needs to be played," Spieth said. "So I think he'll get some knowledge on the golf course and play it a little better than he plays Pebble Beach. He's certainly got the talent to be able to shoot a good round."

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Presidents Cup changes aim to help Int'l. side

By Rex HoggardMay 23, 2018, 6:20 pm

In March when the PGA Tour announced the captains for next year’s Presidents Cup there was an understandable monsoon of attention for one element of that press conference.

Tiger Woods being named the captain for the U.S. team that will travel to Australia late next year was just not news, it was a monumental shift in how many view the 14-time major champion.

Although he’s slowly played his way back to competitive relevance, his decision to lead the red, white and blue side was the most glaring example to date that Woods is beginning to embrace a new role as a leader and a veteran.

Newsy stuff.

In that blur of possibility, however, were a few other nuggets that largely went overlooked but may end up impacting the biennial team event much more than the two high-profile captains (Ernie Els was named the International side’s front man for 2019).

Among these subtle changes is a new rule that requires every team member to play at least one match prior to Sunday’s singles session, instead of the two-match minimum in previous years. In theory, this would allow a captain to “hide” a player who might not be at the top of his form.

The Tour also announced each captain will have four, up from two, captain’s picks and they will make those selections much later than in previous years.



Officials would understandably be reluctant to admit it, but these changes are designed to give Els and Co. a chance, any chance, to make the ’19 matches competitive.

Following last year’s boat race of the International team at Liberty National in New Jersey – a lopsided rout that nearly ended late Saturday when the U.S. team came up just a single point short of clinching the cup before the 12 singles matches – most observers agreed that something had to change.

The International team has won just one of the dozen Presidents Cups that have been played, and that was way back in 1998, and has lost the last five matches by a combined 20 points.

Giving Els and Woods more time to make their captain’s picks is a byproduct of the timing of next year’s event, which will be played in Australia in December; but giving both captains a little more flexibility with the addition of two picks should, in theory, help the International side.

The Tour also altered how the points list is compiled for the International team, with a move to a 12-month cycle that’s based on the amount of World Ranking points that are earned. The previous selection criteria used a two-year cycle.

“That was a change that was important to Ernie Els to make sure that he feels like he has his most competitive team possible,” said Andy Pazder, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations. “That in conjunction with having four captain’s picks instead of two, which had been the case prior to 2019, he feels that’s going to give him his best chance to bring his strongest, most competitive team to Australia.”

The 12-month cycle will start this August at the Dell Technologies Championship and end at the 2019 Tour Championship, and puts more importance on recent form although had the new selection criteria been used for the 2017 team, there would have been just one player who wouldn’t have automatically qualified for the team. That’s not exactly a wholesale makeover.

“It didn’t seem to be a dramatic change in the makeup of the team,” Pazder conceded.

Still, a change, any change, is refreshing considering the one-sided nature of the Presidents Cup the last two decades. Of course, if the circuit really wanted to shake things up they would have reduced the total number of points available from 30 to 28, which is the format used at the Ryder Cup and as a general rule that event seems to avoid prolonged bouts of competitive irrelevance.

Perhaps these most recent nip/tucks will be enough to break the International team out of a losing cycle that doesn’t help bring attention to the event or motivate players.

There’s no mystery to what makes for a compelling competition, look no further than the Ryder Cup for the secret sauce. History makes fans, and players, care about the outcome and parity makes it compelling. What history the Presidents Cup has is largely one-sided and if last year’s loss is any indication the event is no closer to parity now than it was when it was started in 1994.

Els has been a part of every International team since 1996 and if anyone can pull the side from its current funk it would be the South African, but history suggests he might need a little more help from the Tour to shift the competitive winds.

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Rahm ready to bomb and gouge around Colonial

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 3:40 pm

Faced with one of the PGA Tour's most traditional layouts, Jon Rahm has no plans to take his foot off the gas pedal.

Rahm is one of four players ranked inside the top six headlining the field at this week's Fort Worth Invitational, where the Spaniard dazzled with bookend rounds of 66 to share runner-up honors in his tournament debut a year ago. Set to make his return, Rahm explained that Colonial Country Club is similar to the narrow, tree-lined course in Spain where he first learned the game with driver in hand.


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So while many other players in the field will play for position, Rahm plans to employ the same strategy he did on his boyhood course by letting it rip off the tee and taking his chances.

"I felt like if I am going to miss the fairway, I would rather be 60 or 70 yards away than laying up and having 130, especially with this rough being unpredictable and these small greens," Rahm told reporters Wednesday. "The closer you are to the green, the easier it will be to hit the green. That's kind of the idea I have."

Rahm struggled in his most recent start at The Players, but otherwise has had a strong spring highlighted by a win in Spain and a fourth-place showing at the Masters. The 23-year-old added that he feels "a lot more comfortable" off the tee with driver in hand than a fairway wood or long iron, so expect more counterintuitive strategy this week from a player who had no trouble solving one of the Tour's oldest riddles a year ago.

"I like traditional golf courses," he said. "You know, everything that says it shouldn't be good for me, in my mind, is good for me."