Stadler Staying With Champions

By George WhiteMarch 10, 2005, 5:00 pm
Craig Stadler is totally happy where he is, thank you. Home is on the Champions Tour, and thats where hell stay, with only as occasional foray thrown in to the PGA Tour.
The old boys head out to the LA area this week to compete at the SBC Classic at Valencia. Stadler, of course, is front and center. The juniors will be playing the Honda Classic and its a reasonable bet that he could be there with a sponsors exemption if he so desired. But he doesnt. Even if he could play the PGA Tour, he is perfectly happy playing with the seniors.
Stadler, you know, has played the three regular-tour events this year. Done quite well, too. While waiting around for the Champions Tours MasterCard Championship in Hawaii, he came over early and entered the SONY Open. And he beat a whole lot of the kids, finishing in a tie for ninth and taking $124,800 out of the cookie jar.
And the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was having its 45th anniversary and wanted to get as many past champions as possible. So Craig, who won in 1980, said sure. And then he wound up finishing in a tie for 14th, taking out another $82,250. A lot of people jerked their heads at that one.
OK now, say he gets another $400,000 or so and he could get his PGA Tour card for 2006 - he could play any old time he wants. Maybe he could ' would? ' emulate Jay Haas, or Peter Jacobsen, or Tom Kite and play a bunch of regular tour events this year. After all, he will be only 52 this year, and obviously he could be very competitive playing with the boys ' even after he missed the cut at Pebble Beach.
The speculation only got a chuckle from Stadler. No, he isnt even tempted to try the PGA Tour full-time. Yes, he is going to play the Champions, even if it costs him money ' the PGA Tour is much more lucrative. But thats all well and good. Case closed.
Stadler started the noise last year, when he made the cut in four of the six tour events. But he was at the top of the Champions money list, making $2.3 million, upping the cash won to $3.5 million in his year-and-a-half with the seniors. He figures hes going to make much more money than he can ever spend competing on the Champions, so why even think of rejoining the regular tour?
Stadler confesses that one reason he did so well in the regular-tour events is because there was absolutely no need to make a cut on the regular tour. I dont look at it as being my livelihood for the year, he explained. I look as it as going back to play some events (on the PGA Tour) that I enjoy playing, having some fun.
My home is the Champions Tour, Ive got that to drop back on the rest of the year. And, you know, its no big deal if I make the top 10 (in a regular-tour event), no big deal if I miss the cut. I just go to a few places that I enjoy playing. It HAS taken the pressure off, because I dont rely on making my living on the PGA Tour.
He has heard the talk, though. He could be a solid regular-tour player, most of them say. A reformation of Stadlers skills has occurred on the Champions Tour, and he now clubs the ball quite well, averaging 293 yards on his drives. And, most of all, he once again putts with remarkable consistency. Last year he was third on tour with 1.749 putts per hole.
And the scuttlebutt is intriguing, he concedes, but there is nothing to it. Son Kevin plays on the regular tour and he will play occasionally with the young pup. But he loves the old boys, he loves playing just three days without a cut, he loves making his million or two on the Champions and then going over to the PGA Tour, just when he feels like it.
After I left the Bob Hope, somebody said to me, Boy, youve got $220,000 now, another $400,000 and you will have your card for next year, said Stadler.
I looked at him and said, So?
But then, you stop and think, Itd be kind of nice to be exempt next year.
Lets see now, hes still playing the Masters. And hes playing at Hilton Head. Hmmm
Naw, he said, if I make $400 grand at Hilton Head, so be it.
Stadler isnt even going to be tempted. Hes Champions Tour all the way.
Email your thoughts to George White
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - SBC Classic
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Els: Tiger playing well validates his generation

    By Doug FergusonMarch 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Tiger Woods has come close to looking like the player who ruled golf for the better part of 15 years, and Ernie Els is happy to see it.

    Never mind that Els was on the losing end to Woods more than any other player.

    He speaks for his generation of Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and others. Els keeps hearing about the depth of talent being greater than ever, and he has seen it. But he gets weary listening to suggestions that Woods might not have 79 PGA Tour victories if he had to face this group.

    ''I'm just glad he's playing like I know he can play to validate me – validate me, Phil and Vijay,'' Els said. ''We weren't bad players. This guy was a special player. To see him back, playing special stuff again ... is great for the game.''

    Generational debates are nothing new.

    Every generation was better than the next one. Then again, Jack Nicklaus used to lament that Woods was lacking competition from players who had more experience winning majors, such as Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros.

    Mickelson, Els and Singh combined to win 12 majors. Els says Woods won 14 on his own because he was that much better.

    Does it get under his skin to hear fans rave about this generation's players?

    ''It doesn't (tick) me off. Can you imagine how it must (tick) Tiger off?'' he said. ''He was leaps and bounds the best player. People forget very quickly, and then you see special players like we have now, the younger generation. But I know what I played against. You can't take anything away from anybody.''

    Doug Ferguson is a golf writer for The Associated Press

    Getty Images

    Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

    The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

    “I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

    Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Tee times

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

    “I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

    Getty Images

    Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

    Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

    “I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Tee times

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

    “[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

    Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

    “He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

    Getty Images

    This week, let the games(manship) begin

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

    What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

    During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

    “Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

    Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

    “There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

    Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

    Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

    “Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Tee times

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

    “I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

    While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

    But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

    “It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

    It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

    McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

    It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

    “Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

    Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.