Notes Majors Treat Players Championship Differently

By Associated PressMarch 29, 2005, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The PGA Tour believes it needs backing from the players and the media for The Players Championship to be regarded as a major, even if its the fifth one.
But it also requires support from the other major golf organizations, and that remains divided.
Augusta National offers the winner of The Players Championship a three-year exemption to the Masters, saying that reflects the importance the PGA Tour and its players place on their showcase event. The other three major champions get a five-year exemption to the Masters.
The British Open gives a five-year exemption to the other major winners, and a three-year exemption to the winner of The Players Championship and the BMW Open, the flagship event in Europe.
We think its a wonderful event, magnificently organized with a great field, Royal & Ancient secretary Peter Dawson said over the weekend. So, its well worthy of its status.
The U.S. Open gives five-year exemptions to major champions, and it recognizes The Players Championship by giving its winner a one-year exemption from qualifying. Players not otherwise eligible must win two PGA Tour events to be exempt from qualifying.
USGA executive director David Fay said a longer exemption has not been part of any discussion over the last several years, and he doesnt know what would happen if the topic was broached.
Lets face it, how an event is perceived requires a number of components, Fay said. What the players think, what the press thinks, and whether the public buys into what the players and press are saying, which is not always the case. At this point in mens golf, youre talking about four (majors).
The PGA of America treats The Players Championship no different from any other PGA Tour event. Every winner on tour is exempt into the PGA Championship, which perennially has the most players from the top 100 in the world ranking.
Chief executive Jim Awtrey is quick to point out that the PGA Championship is the most accommodating to PGA Tour players because its the only major that recognizes any tour victory, and it takes the top 70 from the money list, more if needed to fill the field.
When you look at that, theres no other reason to give anything (to The Players Championship winner), Awtrey said. The champion is always in.
Awtrey said it is not the role of other majors to define what a major championship should be.
We shoot for the top 100 (in the world ranking). We ensure we get the top 70 (on the money list). We invite a player that might not otherwise qualify, he said. Its the media and the players and history that must decide what the final status is.
If the Big Four dont slug it out in the final round of the majors this year, there is always the illustrious Battle at the Bridges.
In what could be the final year for the made-for-TV exhibition, management sources say IMG is trying to get Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson for the July 25 match at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe.
Two sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Woods and Mickelson already are confirmed and might even be partners in the better-ball match. Els played at the Bridges two years ago when he and Woods lost to Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. Singh has never played in these exhibitions.
Television ratings have plunged since Monday Night Golf began in 1999. The highest rating was 7.6 in 2000 when Garcia beat Woods, but that was the end of singles matches because Woods felt he had nothing to gain. Since then, ratings have slipped all the way to 3.6.
This is the final year of the contract with title sponsor Lincoln Financial.
There was plenty of discussion early this season about power dominating the PGA Tour, and no one will ever dispute that big hitters always have an advantage.
But the last two weeks showed that certain conditions can place a premium on accuracy.
Kenny Perry won the Bay Hill Invitational because he kept it out of the 6-inch rough most of the week. And while the TPC at Sawgrass is not particularly long, it was important to put the ball in the correct spots on the fairway, especially since players were allowed preferred lies in the wet conditions.
Plus, wind and water make every course more difficult to play from the rough.
Fred Funk, the most accurate driver on tour, won The Players Championship. He is No. 181 in driving distance. In fact, the biggest hitter among the top seven at Sawgrass was Tim Herron, who is ranked 59th in distance. Three others'Scott Verplank, Luke Donald and Steve Elkington'are ranked out of the top 100 in driving distance.
AUGUSTA GREENS: Peter Lonard knows how difficult it can be for a newcomer to read the green at Augusta National. He made his Masters debut in 2003 and three-putted the first four greens.
But the real proof came on the ninth hole. Lonard played the first two days with Phil Mickelson, and both missed the green to the right. Lonard was slightly inside him.
The pin was in the back left corner, and we hit it over the back and to the right, Lonard said. I walked around his ball to come over and take a look at the green. I looked over and said to myself, Ive just been standing on his line for the last five minutes.
It worked out fine.
Lonard said Mickelson hit his third shot to within inches of the cup, and never said anything to him.
There are a lot of things there you have to see to believe, he said.
Jay Haas tied the record for most starts at The Players Championship by competing for the 28th year, joining Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite. ... Phil Mickelson will make an appearance at Borders Books in Augusta, Ga., on Monday of the Masters to sign copies of his book, One Magical Sunday (But Winning Isnt Everything). ... Tiger Woods now has gone eight consecutive rounds without breaking 70, his longest streak on the PGA Tour since he went he went 14 straight rounds in the 70s in 1999.
The last time Florida hosted a top golf tour in May was the 1999 Titleholders on the LPGA Tour. The tournament was not finished until Monday because of rain delays.
If its this breezy, I dont go out. You dont even hit balls when its this windy.'Vijay Singh, after playing in 35 mph gusts during the final day of The Players Championship.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.

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Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

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Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”