The world golf championships of America

By Doug FergusonMarch 10, 2010, 4:33 am
2010 WGC-CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. – On his way to the practice range Tuesday at Doral, Padraig Harrington stopped to sign autographs for three fans. One was from Puerto Rico, another from Colombia, the third from Peru.

So at least it sounds like a World Golf Championship.

And there is little doubt that events like the CA Championship look like a World Golf Championship, with 19 countries represented in a field of 68 players.

But there is no getting around the dateline, which is strictly American – Arizona, Florida, Ohio. The PGA Tour, which is the managing partner of these world events, now can point proudly to another WGC that is held each fall in Shanghai, although it’s hard to recognize the HSBC Champions when the PGA Tour still doesn’t count it as an official victory.

“That’s inside baseball,” commissioner Tim Finchem said in a recent interview. “What’s important is what the fans see, and they see tournaments designed to attract all the best players in the world. And by and large, that’s what they’ve done.”

To that point, the WGCs have done well entering their 12th year.

What continues to disappoint, however, is how these world championships remain concentrated in the United States.

They once traveled to countries like Spain, Australia and Ireland. Momentum began to slow when the all the WGCs were held in America in 2003, and it didn’t help that one of them was played on a new golf course located so deep in the woods that it was either in northern Georgia or southern Tennessee, maybe both.

This is the fourth straight year the original three WGCs are in America. And they aren’t going anywhere soon.

The title sponsorship at Doral expires this year, and there is no indication Computer Associates will renew. That would seem to be a ripe time for this WGC to travel abroad, except that Finchem says the tournament is tied more to the TV contract than a sponsor contract. The network television deal is through 2012.

“I think we’re a little bit away from that question,” Finchem said. “We’re not going to make any changes until we’re through ’12. We have a television schedule to meet. What happens after ’12 with the WGCs is a function of a variety of factors.”

Ideally, the tour could release Doral from its WGC status and return it to a full-field event that it had been since 1962. The Blue Monster once bustled with activity from the first ray of sunlight until darkness, with 144 players split up into morning and afternoon tee times. Under the WGC structure of a limited field and no cut, the 68 players tee off in a span of two hours.

The WGC event then would be free to move. And without a new title sponsor, it might do that.

It just won’t go very far.

Even if CA doesn’t renew its sponsorship, or if the tour can’t find a replacement, Finchem said this WGC event will stay in the Eastern time zone of the United States.

“We don’t see any reason to move right now,” he said. “It meets our television requirements and air times.”

The potential for these World Golf Championships living up to their name could come after 2012, and the Olympics could be the catalyst. Harrington is among those who believe South America – Brazil, in particular – could be the next big growth area in golf.

The Irishman went to Brazil in 2000 when the European Tour had consecutive tournaments. He lost in a playoff to Roger Chapman in Rio de Janeiro, then won the following week in Sao Paulo.

“It is an untapped market for golf,” Harrington said. “South America is the next big growth area.”

The Nationwide Tour just finished its first tournament in Colombia, and Finchem indicated more tournaments could follow to help build interest ahead of the 2016 Olympics.

“We will be looking for some opportunities to play some PGA Tour, Champions Tour, some golf in Brazil leading into ’16 to create some interest in that country, particularly Rio for sure,” he said. “I can’t tell you what form that would take. But we definitely want to play.”

Finchem has mentioned taking the Presidents Cup to South America in 2015. Argentina is among countries interested, although that might not move the needle in Brazil.

Another possibility?

“It could be a World Golf Championship one year,” Finchem said. “It could be just to play a winter event. There are a number of things we can do, but we need to do some stuff.”

The sooner the better. Golf was voted into the Olympics for 2016 and 2020, but it faces another vote in 2017 to determine whether it stays beyond two games. The sport essentially has one shot to show it’s worth keeping, which means it desperately needs a good tournament, a strong gallery and a solid TV presentation.

“We’re playing essentially in a fledgling golf country,” Finchem said. “We need galleries from one of two sources – either people who live in Brazil who can become golf fans, or people who are coming to Brazil for the Olympics. That would be a broader percentage of golf fans, but there’s all kinds of stuff going on.

“We’ve got to build some interest in Brazil,” he said. “To do that, we need to do a number of things. And one thing is to play.”
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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”