Masters highlights growing pains of global golf

By Doug FergusonApril 13, 2011, 2:16 am

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Masters champion Charl Schwartzel first showed his potential on a big stage last year in the World Golf Championship at Doral when he went toe-to-toe with Ernie Els until losing ground at the end.

As the two South Africans shook hands on the 18th green, Els took note of the $850,000 that Schwartzel received as runner-up and said to his protege, “Congratulations. That’s your Tour card for the U.S.”

Schwartzel became a PGA Tour member this year, as did U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. For all the talk about Americans being without a major for the first time in 17 years, their tour remains as strong as ever.

 

Charl Schwartzel
Charl Schwartzel reacts to winning the Masters Tournament. (Getty Images)
With few exceptions – including Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, the top two players in the world ranking – the PGA Tour continues to attract the best from all over the world.

 

That much appears to be lost on the commissioner of the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.

“The internationals now hold the power in golf,” Gareth Tindall said Tuesday in announcing a new World Golf Championship for South Africa. “For how long, we don’t know.”

Part of Tindall was speaking from national pride, and rightfully so.

South Africans historically have had to travel the most and the greatest distance to develop their games on a worldwide scale. Yet they now have won two of the last three majors, and they have five major champions in the last nine years, a list that includes Els, Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman.

All of them are PGA Tour members now, but it’s important to remember where they started. So when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says it’s good for golf that other tours are strong, that’s because it makes his tour even stronger.

There is speculation that a new WGC for South Africa was the product of a compromise.

The global schedule in golf is getting so crowded that the South African Open was placed during the same week as the Presidents Cup in Australia. This became a problem when five South Africans occupied the first six spots in the Presidents Cup standing – all five placing among the top 10 in their national open, with Els as the defending champion.

That led to threats the South Africans wouldn’t play the Presidents Cup.

Some questions remained unanswered.

The Presidents Cup announced its dates – Nov. 17-20 – more than a year before the South African Open said it would be played the same time. Why would the South African Open take that spot on the schedule unless it knew it could use that to its advantage in trying to land a World Golf Championship?

Els was furious in January when he learned of the conflict. Why wouldn’t South Africa have spoken to him first?

The date clash was resolved last week at the Masters when Sunshine Tour officials agreed to move the South African Open one week later, swapping dates with another South African event.

It also picked up a World Golf Championship, although some critical details have yet to be filled in. One is the sponsorship of a tournament with a $10 million purse. The other is when it would be played.

The International Federation of PGA Tours met last week at the Masters to sort out this mess.

“The sense was that a World Golf Championship event in South Africa would be a good thing if it could be worked out in terms of sponsorship and a date, and we gave them the OK to look into it,” said Ed Moorhouse, the PGA Tour’s co-chief operating officer. “There’s no secret it’s a pretty busy time of the year. We still have a lot of elements that need to be worked out, not the least of which is the date.”

Tindall said he was looking at the first week of December, which presents only more problems. That’s the date of Chevron World Challenge that Tiger Woods hosts in California, not to mention the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.

“They will have to move it, unfortunately for them,” Tindall said, referring to the Chevron. He said Woods’ event moved opposite the Nedbank last year without anyone speaking to South African officials, “so I suppose it’s a bit of payback time.”

Most new tournaments try to attract Woods. Tindall sounds like he’s doing all he can to keep Woods away.

Greg McLaughlin, who runs the Chevron World Challenge, said he would consider a date change, though the options are limited.

“It’s a very ideal date for us, the first weekend in December, and it works well for the network, our sponsor and all the players,” he said. “We’d look at other options, but there’s really not many options around that time frame.”

This is where golf has to be careful.

It’s great to see the game moving around the world, especially with so many great players coming from so many countries. Sunday at the Masters was a snapshot of modern golf – players from every continent where golf is played atop the leaderboard at some point during the final round at Augusta National.

But it won’t work without cooperation.

The last two months of the year are busier than ever. Europe concludes its season in Asia with the Race to Dubai, Australia is in the prime of its season, Japan has some of its biggest events, and the World Cup is held every other year in China. Is there room for two World Golf Championships a month apart separated by 7,000 miles on opposite sides of the hemisphere?

Schwartzel said last week that while America is big, “the world is bigger.”

But the more golf grows around the world, the more crowded it gets.

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Snedeker joins 59 club at Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:19 pm

Brandt Snedeker opened the Wyndham Championship with an 11-under 59, becoming just the ninth player in PGA Tour history to card a sub-60 score in a tournament round.

Snedeker offered an excited fist pump after rolling in a 20-footer for birdie on the ninth hole at Sedgefield Country Club, his 18th hole of the day. It was Snedeker's 10th birdie on the round to go along with a hole-out eagle from 176 yards on No. 6 and gave him the first 59 on Tour since Adam Hadwin at last year's CareerBuilder Challenge.

Snedeker's round eclipsed the tournament and course record of 60 at Sedgefield, most recently shot by Si Woo Kim en route to victory two years ago. Amazingly, the round could have been even better: he opened with a bogey on No. 10 and missed a 6-footer for birdie on his 17th hole of the day.


Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Snedeker was still 1 over on the round before reeling off four straight birdies on Nos. 13-16, but he truly caught fire on the front nine where he shot an 8-under 27 that included five birdie putts from inside 6 feet.

Jim Furyk, who also shot 59, holds the 18-hole scoring record on Tour with a 58 in the final round of the 2016 Travelers Championship.

Snedeker told reporters this week that he was suffering from "kind of paralysis by analysis" at last week's PGA Championship, but he began to simplify things over the weekend when he shot 69-69 at Bellerive to tie for 42nd. Those changes paid off even moreso Thursday in Greensboro, where Snedeker earned his first career Tour win back in 2007 at nearby Forest Oaks.

"Felt like I kind of found something there for a few days and was able to put the ball where I wanted to and make some putts," Snedeker said. "And all of a sudden everything starts feeling a little bit better. So excited about that this week because the greens are so good."

Snedeker was hampered by injury at the end of 2017 and got off to a slow start this season. But his form has started to pick up over the summer, as he has recorded three top-10 finishes over his last seven starts highlighted by a T-3 finish last month at The Greenbrier. He entered the week 80th in the season-long points race and is in search of his first win since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.

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Woods' caddie paid heckler $25 to go away

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:05 pm

Tiger Woods is known for his ability to tune out hecklers while in the midst of a competitive round, but every now and then a fan is able to get under his skin - or, at least, his caddie's.

Joe LaCava has been on the bag for Woods since 2011, and on a recent appearance on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" he shared a story of personally dispatching of an especially persistent heckler after dipping into his wallet earlier this month at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

According to LaCava, the fan was vocal throughout Woods' final round at Firestone Country Club, where he eventually tied for 31st. On the 14th hole, LaCava asked him to go watch another group, and the man agreed - under the condition that LaCava pony up with some cash.

"So he calls me a couple of names, and I go back and forth with the guy. And I said, 'Why don't you just leave?'" LaCava said. "And he goes, 'Well, if you give me $25 for the ticket that I bought today, I'll leave.' And I said, 'Here you go, here's $25.'"

But the apparent resolution was brief, as the heckler pocketed the cash but remained near the rope line. At that point, the exchange between LaCava and the fan became a bit more heated.

"I said, 'Look, pal, $25 is $25. You've got to head the other way,'" LaCava said. "So he starts to head the other way, goes 20 yards down the line, and he calls me a certain other swear word. So I run 20 yards back the other way. We’re going face-to-face with this guy and all of a sudden Tiger is looking for a yardage and I’m in it with this guy 20 yards down the line.”

Eventually an on-course police officer intervened, and the cash-grabbing fan was ultimately ejected. According to LaCava, Woods remained unaffected by the situation that played out a few yards away from him.

"He didn't have a problem," LaCava said. "And actually, I got a standing ovation for kicking the guy out of there."

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Highlights: Snedeker's closing blitz to 59

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

Brandt Snedeker's first round at the Wyndham Championship began with a bogey and ended with a birdie for an 11-under 59.

Snedeker made four consecutive birdies on his opening nine holes and then raced home in 27 strokes to become the ninth different player in PGA Tour history to break the 60 barrier.

A very good round turned historic beginning when he holed a 7-iron from 176 yards, on the fly, for an eagle-2 at the par-4 sixth. Playing his 15th hole of the day, Snedeker vaulted to 9 under par for the tournament.



With Sedgefield being a par 70, Snedeker needed two birdies over his final three holes to shoot 59 and he got one of them at the par-3 seventh, where he hit his tee shot on the 224-yard hole to 2 feet.



Snedeker actually had 58 in his crosshairs, but missed an 6-foot slider for birdie at the par-4 eighth.



Still, 59 was on the table and he needed this 20-foot putt to shoot it.


At 11 under par, Snedeker led the tournament by five strokes.

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Rosaforte Report: A tale of two comebacks

By Tim RosaforteAugust 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Comeback (noun): A return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they have formerly been successful.

Even by definition, the word comeback is subjective.

There is no question that Brooks Koepka has completed his comeback. With two major championship victories that encompassed wins over Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, Player of the Year honors have all but been locked up for the 2017-18 season.

But knowing Koepka, he wants more. A No. 1 ranking, topping his boy D.J., is a possibility and a goal. A Ryder Cup is awaiting. By all rights, Koepka could be Comeback Player of the Year and Player of the Year all in one, except the PGA Tour discontinued its Comeback honor in 2012. Even without an official award, the conversation comes down to the two athletes that hugged it out after finishing 1-2 at Bellerive.

What Woods has recovered from is remarkable, but not complete. He hasn’t won yet. With triumphs in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Koepka has completed his comeback from a pair of wrist injuries that could have been equally as career-ending as the physical issues that Woods had to overcome just to contend in the last two majors.

“There was a question on whether or not I’d ever be the same,” Koepka said Sunday night in the media center at Bellerive, following his third major championship victory in six tries. “Whether I could do it pain-free, we had no idea.”



The wrist traumas occured five months apart, with the initial issue, which occured at the Hero World Challenge in December (in which he finished last in the limited field), putting him in a soft cast with a partially torn tendon. That cost the reigning U.S. Open champion 15 weeks on the shelf (and couch), including a start in the Masters.

His treatment included injecting bone marrow and platelet-rich plasma. When he returned at the Zurich Classic in April, Koepka revealed the ligaments that hold the tendon in place were gone – thus a dislocation – and that every time he went to his doctor, “it seemed like it got worse and worse.”

Koepka’s second wrist injury of the season occurred on the practice grounds at The Players, when a cart pulled in front of Koepka just as he was accelerating into the ball with his 120-plus mph club-head speed. Abruptly stopping his swing, Koepka’s left wrist popped out. His physio, Marc Wahl, relayed a story to PGA Tour radio in which he advised Koepka before he reset the wrist: “Sit on your hand and bite this towel, otherwise you’re going to punch me.”

Koepka admitted that he never dreamed such a scenario would threaten his career. He called it, “probably the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through, setting that bone back.” But, testament to Koepka's fortitude, four days later he made an albatross and tied a TPC Sawgrass course record, shooting 63.

Woods’ physical – and mental – recovery from back surgery and prescription drug abuse was painful and career threatening in its own way. As he said in his return to Augusta, “Those are some really, really dark times. I’m a walking miracle.”

As miraculous as it has been, Woods, by definition, still hasn’t fully completed his comeback. While he’s threatened four times in 2018, he hasn’t won a tournament.

Yes, it’s a miracle that he’s gotten this far, swinging the club that fast, without any relapse in his back. As electric and high-energy as his second-place finish to Koepka was at the PGA, Woods has made this winning moment something to anticipate. As story lines go, it may be better this way.

Coming off a flat weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone, Woods was starting to sound like an old 42-year-old. But instead of ice baths and recovery time, the conversation was charged by what he did on Saturday and Sunday in the 100th PGA.

A day later, there was more good news. With Woods committing to three straight weeks of FedExCup Playoff golf, potentially followed by a week off and then the Tour Championship, that moment of victory may not be far away.

Scheduling – and certainly anticipating – four tournaments in five weeks, potentially followed by a playing role at the Ryder Cup, would indicate that Woods has returned to the activity in which he was formally successful.

There were times post-scandal and post-back issues, that Woods stuck by the lines made famous by LL Cool J:

Don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years
I’m rocking my peers

Not this time. As he said Sunday before his walk-off 64 in St, Louis, “Oh, God. I didn’t even know if I was going to play again.”