Fixing Whats Not Broken
When the Player Advisory Council meets at the Memorial Tournament this week to discuss the Tour’s most pressing issues, the poor health of its weak-field events will be at the top of the list. Why doesn’t Woods ever play in Memphis? Can’t something be done to improve the product in key markets such as New Orleans and Dallas? Despite cutting the number of regular-season events from 47 to 41 in a dubiously schemed attempt to repackage itself under the FedEx Cup banner (2007), the Tour continues to deal with reality pangs.
The Tigers and Phils show up only half the time. Take away the four majors, which are run by other governing bodies, and the separation between the Haves and Have-Nots becomes far too obvious. How to fix? Well, uh, you can’t. The PAC’s latest plan is to designate five third-tier tourneys each year as “special” and make everybody in the top 50 play at least one of the five. This is an offshoot of the previous bright idea, which would mandate Joe Tour Pro to appear at every Tour stop over a five-year period.
By theory or application, neither proposal would work. Both rules are designed for – and aimed at – one guy, fostered by a mentality that reflects the downside of the Tiger Effect. Woods is the Only Player Who Matters? How dare he skip the Honda Classic every year! Besides, you can’t call them independent contractors one minute, then tell them where to stick their peg in the ground the next. Not the player who spends every fall fighting for his card, not the guy who makes $2.5 million for a pile of T-8s, and most certainly, not the Hand That Feeds, the one holding 14 major titles.
Since winning the Masters by a dozen strokes in 1997, Woods clearly has held up his end of the deal. He still doubles the size of a TV audience and vaults the Tour into the first block of the 11 p.m. SportsCenter. Is some contrived, play-‘em-all provision a real solution, or is it actually a penalty imposed on the world’s best golfer? We’re talking about potential legislation that could do a lot more harm than good.
Do you really care whether Trevor Immelman plays in the Shell Houston Open? After Woods and Mickelson, which Tour stars move the proverbial needle even a tiny bit? The problem isn’t how often the superstars play, but how poorly the would-be stars have performed. Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott head the ample list of post-Tiger phenoms who haven’t done enough to secure the mainstream public’s attention, and thus, remain largely incapable of carrying a tournament’s promotional campaign, selling tickets or getting people to drop what they’re doing to watch CBS on a Saturday afternoon.
Yes, it would be nice if Woods altered his schedule to include a few Have-Nots. It would be nice if Mickelson committed to the Travelers Championship near Hartford, an event he won in 2001 and 2002 but hasn’t played in since ’03. “The hard thing is figuring out how to do it without pushing too hard,” PAC member Paul Goydos said last week. Of course, perfect-world scenarios are hard to come by, if there is such a thing as a perfect world at all. In the NBA, teams play an 82-game schedule, more than half of which can seem almost meaningless.
Major League Baseball deals with lengthy stretches of insignificance over the course of a six-month season – only in the NFL does every game matter. The PGA Tour? There are the four majors and The Players, three WGC tournaments and the FedEx Cup Playoffs – those 12 weeks stand out above all the rest. Add another half-dozen or so strong fields and you come up with what amounts to four solid months of premium competition. That sounds about right for a niche sport, a niche in which the landscape has barely changed since April 1997.
Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open
IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.
Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.
Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.
Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.
Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.
Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way
Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.
Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.
And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.
Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.
Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.
Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.
Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.
“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.
Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.
A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.
It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.
There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.
Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.
The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.
Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.
“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”
Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why
In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.
Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.
With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.
"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.
So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.
"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.
Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away
Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.
On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.
And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship.
"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.
"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."
Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.
He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).
Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.
With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.
But he isn't celebrating just yet.
"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.
"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."