WGC events gaining some traction

By Doug FergusonMarch 6, 2012, 11:09 pm

DORAL, Fla. —Tiger Woods already has left his own mark in world golf.

History will decide what it means.

The number that defines greatness in golf is 18. It has been that way since 1986, when Jack Nicklaus won his 18th professional major at the Masters. And it will stay that way unless—or until—Woods wins the five more majors he needs to pass him.

“While he has been gone for 2 1/2 years, these guys who have all learned how to play, or all learned how to win, are probably no longer afraid of Tiger,” Nicklaus said. “In my opinion, I still think Tiger will regain what he does. He will come back and play very, very well. Whether he breaks my record is another issue. I still think he will. But he still has to go do it.”

If not, Woods might have to settle for another standard.

The next step below the majors are the World Golf Championships and Woods has amassed an amazing record. When he last won a WGC at Firestone in 2009 that gave him 16 world titles out of the 32 he played, at an astounding rate of 50 percent.

What does that mean?

For one thing, he has padded his bank account. Woods has made more than $22.2 million in the WGCs alone, which is nearly 25 percent of his career PGA Tour earnings. His official WGC money is more than all but 25 players have made in their careers.

More than money, and more than trophies that probably are packed away in a box, it means that Woods won 16 events against the best players in golf. The fields are small, and they tend to include players from overseas who are just getting started (Louis Oosthuizen) or might never be heard from again (Shiv Kapur). But for most of their 13-year existence, they have included at least the top 50 in the world.

The World Golf Championships are still not what they should be.

Along with bringing together the best players from all corners of the globe, it would help to take the tournaments around the world. And if they are mostly going to be in America, it would be better to move them to iconic venues instead of merging them with former PGA Tour events, which is what happened at Doral.

They deserve a higher status based on the players they attract and the winners they produce.

Hunter Mahan joined elite company two weeks ago when he won the Match Play Championship and became only the sixth player to win multiple WGC events. The others are familiar names—Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy and Darren Clarke.

Martin Kaymer won the HSBC Champions last November and became the 10th player with a WGC title and a major. He joined Woods, Mickelson, Els, Ogilvy, Clarke, Mike Weir, Stewart Cink, David Toms and Vijay Singh.

The WGC event this week at Doral used to travel to Europe every other year until 2006. Woods has won it six times on six courses in four countries. That gives it a little more punch than winning the Bridgestone Invitational seven times, all at Firestone.

“I think Tiger gave them credibility by winning 14 of the first 20, or whatever it was. He won almost every one of them,” Ogilvy said. “If you do look at the list of guys who have won them, generally, at that time they were one of the best in the world.”

That’s because the best in the world are there.

In that respect, it can make them the most difficult events to win next to the majors. The majors have history and prestige, and with that comes pressure that cannot be compared with other events.

Paul Azinger is famous for saying cash and prestige are the only things that made him choke. The WGCs are heavy on cash.

These aren’t the best 74 players in the world at Doral, rather 74 top players who qualified through the world ranking of the money lists on the six major tours.

Then again, the majors have their share of players who can’t be considered serious contenders —aging champions at the Masters, amateur qualifiers at the Opens, club pros at the PGA Championship.

What might boost the credibility of the WGCs is to expand the field and introduce a cut. To some, the WGCs have the appearance of free money. The courses? No one can argue with Firestone, which once hosted a PGA Championship. And while Doral has produced a winning score of at least 16-under par the last four years, a course doesn’t have to have high scores to be a good test.

“I don’t think Doral is close to being a top 100 course, but it finds good players,” Ogilvy said.

Asked the difference between majors and World Golf Championships, Clarke said there was “absolutely no difference whatsoever,” except for the title.

One is a major. One is not.

“The title is the obvious thing,” he said. “As players, we are judged by major championships. We’re not judged by World Golf Championships. We’re not judged by regular tournaments. We’re judged by majors. It’s easy for me to say now that I’ve got one, but I would have told you the same if I hadn’t got one.

“It means more because of tradition and history. There’s added pressure because of that.”

The notion of how many world titles Woods has won doesn’t grab anyone’s attention beyond the fact it reflects the dominance he once had in this game. Over time, that might be a standard behind the majors.

“People that speak to me, especially Europeans, say, `You’ve won the Open, and you’ve won two WGCs.’ So there is an importance placed on it,” Clarke said.

Perhaps another example is the joking reference to Phil Mickelson when he won his first world title at Doral three years ago: He no longer was the best player to never win a World Golf Championship.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.