World Golf Championships Losing Buzz
Take away the $7 million purse, and the American Express Championship felt like a European tour event.
And its not much different when the World Golf Championships come to the United States. Even with the inflated prize money, its getting hard to distinguish between them and most other PGA Tour events.
Ernie Els earned $1.2 million for winning his first World Golf Championship at Mount Juliet.
Sergio Garcia got nearly $1.05 million for winning his first Byron Nelson Championship in Dallas.
Theyre like big American events, Nick Faldo said. The problem is, there are so many good events in America worth $5-to-$6 million, that to jump on a plane and fly here for $7 million is whoop-dee-doo. Its almost like they need to make these $15 million to get everyones attention.
It didnt help when six players from the top 50 decided not to play for a variety of reasons, most of them sound.
Nick Price stayed home because Hurricane Jeanne was on its way as his family was still recovering from Frances. Vijay Singh checked out when he found his Florida home without power from the hurricane (several players figured it was the Fijian who was out of gas from winning so much).
Phil Mickelson pulled out for personal reasons, although hes playing this week in Las Vegas.
Something needs to be done to resurrect the World Golf Championships, which just finished their sixth official season and already have become stale.
We just have a few issues that need to be corrected, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.
Money isnt the answer, although an argument can be made.
When the World Golf Championships began in 1999, the prize money was $5 million with $1 million going to the winner, the only seven-figure payoff at an official tournament. The only events that offered more than $3 million in prize money were the majors, The Players Championship and the Tour Championship.
Now, there are 25 tournaments worth at least $5 million, and 11 players already have cashed checks worth at least $1 million (with one more to go at the Tour Championship).
Why go to Ireland for a chance to win $1.2 million when a player can almost get that much in Dallas?
I honestly dont think money is the factor that will drive intensity, Finchem said. Its what players hear about the tournaments, how fans feel about them. The fans want to hear its an important tournament.
The courses havent helped.
A year ago, the American Express was played somewhere north of Atlanta, south of Tennessee and so far in the middle of nowhere that watching for the blimp was the easiest way to find Capital City Club. Mount Juliet is hidden in southeastern Ireland, two hours from both Dublin and Galway.
Finchem has reason to be optimistic.
It will be held at Harding Park in San Francisco next year, and outside London at The Grove in 2006. Those are cities that can get enthused about any golf, let alone one that brings together (most of) the worlds best players.
Finchem also says he would like to get back to Bellerive in St. Louis, which was shaping up as the grandest of WGC events until the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks canceled the tournament.
If youre going to try to make this stand out in the fall, everything has to be a hit, Finchem said. You have to have a golf course everyone is excited about. There needs to be some intensity, not just competitively, but also in terms of the feel of the event.
Creating a buzz is no small task, and Finchem can only hope it helps.
Since the commissioner is accused of stealing the idea of a World Golf Championship from Greg Norman, perhaps he should go back to the Sharks original concept of small fields for only the elite players.
The NEC Invitational at Firestone began as a tournament for only Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup players. When too many players complained they were being left out, the NEC added the top 50 in the world ranking and certain tournament winners, nearly doubling the size of the field.
Im a big believer that the best players in the world have to get some perks. I believed that even when I wasnt in the NEC, said Brad Faxon, who last played in a cup in 1997. Too many players complained about it. Well, tough luck.
The only thing that has helped the WGC is the quality of winners ' Tiger Woods in eight of the 16 he has played, Darren Clarke twice, Mike Weir, Els, Stewart Cink after being picked for the Ryder Cup team, and a collection of lower-ranked players at Match Play, a product of the fickle format.
One suggestion was to devise a points system from WGC events and crown a world champion at the end of year.
That would be making something up, Faxon said. And thats still not going to get Phil here, is it?
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.
Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign
A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.
Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.
Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.
And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”