World Golf Championships Still Growing

By Associated PressOctober 8, 2003, 4:00 pm
WOODSTOCK, Ga. (AP) -- Brad Faxon could be excused for not realizing he was in a $6 million tournament for the world's best players. The World Golf Championships logo adorned tee markers and caddie bibs, but the practice range was full of faces Faxon didn't recognize and names he couldn't pronounce.
Anyone ever hear of Jyoti Randhawa?
There was no mistaking the guy playing ahead of Faxon in the first round of the American Express Championship - Tiger Woods. But even then, the sparse gallery following the No. 1 player in the world caught him by surprise.
'It's the least amount of people he's probably ever had following him, besides in Hawaii,' Faxon said.
Not many people watch Scott Hoch, although that's not unusual for a guy who tied for 70th out of 72 players.
Still, the lack of buzz was obvious at the Capital City Club, a course somewhere north of Atlanta, not quite in Tennessee and best located by looking for the blimp.
'This has the atmosphere of a Tour Championship, which doesn't have much of an atmosphere,' Hoch said. 'It's a nice get-together, where you have four or five top guys battling it out and the rest of us are saying, 'Let's just pad the pocketbooks.''
The World Golf Championships were supposed to be more than that.
More often than not, they are.
Remember, the WGC is only five years old. That little invitational at Augusta National wasn't called the Masters until its sixth year, and a green jacket wasn't awarded until 10 years after that.
'From a stature standpoint, these should take a position right behind the major championships and The Players Championship, and we think that has happened,' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Sunday in the clubhouse, where he watched Woods win his seventh WGC title since the series began in 1999.
'The major objectives are being accomplished,' Finchem said. 'But in golf, you never have finished. There are ways they can be improved.'
There was no shortage of ideas last weeek.
Faxon suggested a permanent home for each WGC event, much like The Players Championship held at Sawgrass, and the Tour Championship locked in a long-term deal with East Lake.
Thomas Bjorn of Denmark said the United States should get two tournaments, Europe the other official-money WGC and the World Cup should move around the rest of the world.
Bjorn also wondered, as did other Europeans, what happened to the gallery.
Golf is a tough sell once the calendar reaches September. Atlanta is not the best market, and it didn't help that Georgia, Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Falcons were in town, or that the Braves returned home for a decisive playoff game with the Chicago Cubs.
'They're great events,' Bjorn said. 'But they need to put them in places where people will come and watch. It seems like any time you play over here, they're not very successful. Any time you have a World Golf Championship outside of America, they draw the biggest crowds.'
There's some truth to that, except for Firestone (NEC Invitational), which had 25 years of history behind it from the World Series of Golf.
The American Express Championship was a huge hit in Ireland, although it was positioned for phenomenal success in St. Louis before it was canceled because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The best WGC crowd of all was in Japan for the World Cup, and Argentina wasn't too far behind. Then again, how often do those places see the best players in the world?
Success at the Accenture Match Play Championship in La Costa depends on who's playing, especially with only one match that means anything on the final day. There were big crowds when Woods beat David Toms this year, and when Darren Clarke beat Woods in 2000.
Television ratings are not as good when the tournaments are played overseas, and neither is player attendance.
When the American Express was played in Spain (1999-2000), and the Match Play Championship went to Australia (2001), some wondered whether WGC really stood for 'Who's Gonna Come?'
'We've got to be real careful with where they're going,' Davis Love III said. 'Some places we've gone haven't had the sizzle they thought they would. I can understand that foreign guys say, 'Why don't we play them overseas?' Well, the money is coming from over here.'
No one argues about the money ($7 million next year) or the format (no cut, guaranteed money) or the concept (bringing together the best players in the world).
'Any time you get to play against the best players ... that's when it's the most challenging,' Woods said.
The World Golf Championships is not perfect, but give it time.
'The Presidents Cup is 10 years old. When does it mature?' Finchem said. 'The Players Championship is almost 30 years old. When does it fully mature? We're off to a great start. And we have a lot of work to do.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing> Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

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"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.

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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a tournament.

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"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.

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Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.