PGA Tour wrapping up a not-so-wild West Coast

By Associated PressMarch 3, 2009, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)MARANA, Ariz. ' Heres all anyone needs to know about a most peculiar West Coast Swing: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem played more rounds than Tiger Woods.
 
Finchem played three rounds at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which has a 54-hole cut. Woods only made it through two rounds at the single-elimination Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
That was Woods first tournament in eight months because of knee surgery, the longest break of his career, and it didnt take long for the worlds No. 1 player to see what he had been missing.
 
He walked off the ninth green at Dove Mountain during a practice round and saw the FedEx Cup standings on a large video board. Someone suggested that Woods had better get a move on it or he wouldnt be eligible for the first playoff event at The Barclays.
 
Woods stopped and laughed.
 
Even as the top seed, he hasnt shown up at the New York playoff event, and probably wont this year.
 
Alas, losing in the second round only earned him 47 points. That left Woods at No. 142 in the FedEx Cup standings, right behind Colt Knost, tied with Jimmy Walker, one spot ahead of Kirk Triplett. Those are four names you dont often see in the same sentence.
 
But this was a West Coast Swing like few others.
 
Four of the top five players in the world ranking hardly played the first two months of the season, starting with Woods, who was recovering from knee surgery and awaiting the birth of his second child.
 
Sergio Garcia played only 16 holes before he was beaten in the first round of Match Play. Vijay Singh played one tournament before taking a one-month break for minor knee surgery, and then he missed the cut in back-to-back tournaments before blowing a lead to lose in the second round at Match Play.
 
British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington entered four straight tournaments and played only 10 rounds.
 
Phil Mickelson was the exception, turning around his West Coast by defending his title at Riviera. He opened with a 63, a score that was quickly forgotten because of six words that Woods posted on his Web site that afternoon.
 
Im now ready to play again.
 
The hype didnt quite match the result.
 
Woods tied for 17th at Match Play, the first time as a PGA Tour member that he failed to crack the top 10 in his season debut. That put him at No. 117 on the money list, his lowest position since he was a 20-year-old trying to earn his card through sponsor exemptions. Woods was 128th after the B.C. Open in 1996, then won the next week in Las Vegas and everything worked out OK for him after that.
 
If those are the only big oddities to come out of the West Coast, the Tour will survive. Before heading to the Florida Swing, here are a few items worth noting from the not-so-wild West.
 
  • In a video message to players last December, Finchem encouraged them to show support by adding an event they dont normally play.
     
    Four players competed in every tournament for which they were eligible ' Pat Perez, Alex Cejka, Brendon de Jonge and Dean Wilson. Those probably werent the players Finchem had in mind.
     
    For his part, Finchem showed up at every tournament on the West Coast except for Phoenix and Mexico.
     
    This is a critical year for the commissioner as he works to extend title sponsorship at some 20 tournaments that expire in 2010. Results have been mixed. Accenture and Travelers (Hartford) have renewed through 2014, but FBR (Phoenix), U.S. Bank (Milwaukee) and Ginn Resorts (Fall Series in Florida) already are out.
     
    Im losing my voice and people ask me if Im sick, Finchem said. Its because Im on the phone all the time.
     
  • Kenny Perry won the FBR Open at age 48, but the talk on tour is geared more toward youth.
     
    Rory McIlroy is only 19, yet he already is No. 16 in the world ranking. Anyone scoffing at such a high ranking should probably sit down with Geoff Ogilvy, who had to play some of his best golf to beat him in the quarterfinals at Match Play.
     
    Driving back to the clubhouse after the match, Ogilvy said his caddie told him, If you want to be the second-best player in the world, youve got to be better than Rory.
     
    Thats how good he is, Ogilvy said. It might take a couple of years to be like that. But thats what its going to be.
     
    McIlroy will have two more weeks ' Honda and Doral ' to become the youngest PGA Tour winner in history. The record belongs to Johnny McDermott when he won the 1911 U.S. Open.
     
    McIlroy wasnt even the youngest player to make his U.S. debut out West. That honor went to 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, who missed the cut at Riviera. Ishikawa will play three times in Florida before going to the Masters.
     
    They will be joined at Augusta National by U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee, the 18-year-old who won the Johnnie Walker Classic on the European Tour two weeks ago.
     
    Anthony Kim must feel old. Hes 23.
     
  • The United States had only 17 players in the 64-man field at Match Play, a record low. One reason might be the timing.
     
    When the Tour Championship ended last September, there were 22 Americans in the top 64. Most of them were idle during the final three months of the year, when the best tournaments were held in Asia and Australia. If they didnt play the Fall Series, they had only six weeks at the start of his year to make up ground.
     
    So eight Americans dropped out of the top 64 after the Tour Championship, and three moved in ' Davis Love III, Dustin Johnson and Pat Perez, all of whom won tournaments.
     
    As always, winning takes care of a lot of things.
     
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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.


    Updated Official World Golf Ranking


    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.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “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.”