A Tale of Two Tournaments

By Associated PressOctober 12, 2004, 4:00 pm
Both tournaments have only 16 players and offer six figures just for showing up. The World Match Play Championship in England, which starts Thursday at Wentworth, has a roll call of champions that rivals any tournament. It is four days of 36-hole matches, the purest form of golf. There is no such thing as a fluke, which explains why all but four champions since it began in 1964 have won a major.
The Target World Challenge in California, an end-of-the-year event Tiger Woods created five years ago, is four rounds of stroke play and sunny weather, usually capped by an exciting finish.
But that's not what really separates these two limited-field tournaments.
The World Match Play Championship has credibility, earned more by its spot on the calendar than its 40-year history. The European tour added it to the schedule, meaning a portion of the earnings ($1.8 million for the winner, $107,000 for first-round losers) counts toward the money list.

And for the first time since anyone cared, all 16 players will get world ranking points - more points than are available to the 144 players competing in the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro on the PGA Tour.
Is that fair?
'That's a joke,' Fred Couples said. 'Sixteen guys? Come on.'
Thomas Bjorn sees it differently.
A year ago, he beat Len Mattiace in the first round, Masters champion Mike Weir in the quarterfinals, British Open champion Ben Curtis in the semifinals, and lost to five-time World Match Play champion Ernie Els in the finals.
'It was the most draining week of my golfing life,' Bjorn said. 'You stand there on Sunday, you've given so much of yourself, and in the world ranking you have nothing to show for it. But there are players in America and somewhere else getting ranking points.'
No one can question the field assembled at Wentworth - five of the top eight players in the world, featuring No. 1 (Vijay Singh) and No. 2 (Els).
And no one can accuse this of being the IMG Invitational. IMG owns the tournament, used to invite whomever it wanted and - this may come as a shock - most of those players turned out to be IMG clients.
But when HSBC became title sponsor, it created strict criteria for getting in - the defending champion, the No. 1 player in the world, the top 10 players available based on their major championship performance, the top two players from Europe's money list, and the top two players from a points-based ranking of four European events.
Target is played the second week of December, a month after the PGA Tour season. It cannot and should not count as official money.
But is there any reason players should not earn world ranking points?
'I think they should, absolutely,' said PGA Tour policy board member Brad Faxon, who has never played at Target.
Reminded that Target had only 16 players, Faxon added, 'Good players deserve that.'
Woods' tournament also has criteria for qualifying - the defending champion, the next 11 players available from the world ranking and four sponsor's exemptions. This year's field includes five of the top nine from the world ranking, with the exemptions going to Jay Haas, Fred Couples, John Daly and Colin Montgomerie.
Both tournaments had eight guys who chose not to play.
'Wentworth is about the same as us,' Woods said. 'With it being a world ranking event now, I think we have a good shot. They're setting a precedent, so we can possibly get ours now, as well.'
Maybe not.
For a tournament to get ranking points, it must be an official event on one of the six tours around the world. The other criteria is that the field - no matter how small - must be determined by performance.
'Target would meet the objective field eligibility,' PGA Tour spokesman Andy Pazder said. 'Where it gets tripped up is with official money.'
Among those in Woods' corner is Els, even though the Big Easy has never played at Target.
'It should go down as an official win,' Els said. 'It's not like Tiger invites 12 of his friends. They qualify for his event, and they play for a hell of a lot of money. It's a tournament. You play four rounds. You still have the same pressure to win that tournament.'
Els had to beat only three guys last year at Wentworth.
Davis Love III had to beat 15 other players last year at Sherwood Country Club, including the tournament host, who nearly made up a 10-shot deficit with 10 holes to play.
'When he birdied five holes in a row, I knew the game was on,' Love said. 'And I had to play hard.'
It might be the finale of the silly season, but the desire to beat the best can outweigh the $1.2 million given to the winner.
'I don't go there for the handshakes,' said Couples, the undisputed king of the silly season.
Then again, more than half the golfers at Target play as if they're on a working vacation if they get off to a bad start, knowing there's still $150,000 for last place.
And when half the eligible players don't show for either tournament, it raises the question about whether these elite fields deserve any ranking points at all.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Getty Images

Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

Getty Images

Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

Getty Images

Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

Getty Images

Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.