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Firestone hosted the event since the inception of the old NEC World Series of Golf in 1962. Sahalee Country Club was given the event this year because Firestone hosted the Senior PGA Championship in June.
Finchem also said the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship would be staying at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., for the next few years. The event has been contested at La Costa three of the four years of its existence. In 2001, it was held at The Metropolitan Club in Victoria, Australia.
The 2003 American Express Championship will be played at the Capital City Club in Atlanta. This year, the event is being played at Mount Juliet in Ireland, and will return to Europe in 2004, although Finchem did not say where.
Vista Vallarta in Puerto Rico will host this years EMC-World Cup. It will move to The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island the following year. Finchem said, We will be announcing the 2004, 2005 and 2006 locations in the next few months.
There is concern, however, that the World Golf Championship events are lacking in the world department.
Next year, all four WGC tournaments will be played in the U.S.
I would ask all of those interested people just to stand back and look at the broader scheme. Dont focus too much on one year, and give us a chance here to work it out, Finchem said.
In the long term, I think well have a mix that everybody will be reasonably comfortable with.
As for Sahalee, Finchem said a return to the Pacific Northwest might be possible.
There are four or five markets in the United States where we dont play that wed like to on a regular basis, he said. Portland and Seattle are on that short list, along with probably St. Louis (which was to host the 2001 American Express before it was canceled due to the terrorist attacks), Minnesota (which hosted last weeks PGA Championship) and Boston.
Funk Fest Continues
Fred Funk solidified himself as a fan favorite with his fist pumps and gyrations in last weeks PGA Championship. He also solidified the final spot in this weeks World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational with his tie for fourth at Hazeltine.
'It was the highlight of my career, the atmosphere last week,' Funk said.
Funks performance moved him to 50th on the Official World Golf Ranking, which gained him the final spot in the 78-man field this week at Sahalee Country Club. The top 50 after the PGA Championship earned an invite into the NEC event.
Dudley Hart fell out of the top 50 by missing the cut in the seasons final major.
The NEC is one of only five official events on the PGA Tour without a cut (Mercedes, WGC-Match Play, WGC-American Express, Tour Championship). That means guaranteed money for all 78 players in the field.
First place pays $1 million, while dead last still gets you $25,000.
The field has increased dramatically this year as opposed to the first three years of the WGC-NEC. The sizes for the first three events were 41, 37 and 40 players.
The top 50 ranked players in the world are now eligible to compete ' as opposed to just Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team members ' but you might not recognize everyone in the field. Since tournament officials now allow players who have won select worldwide events, there are four players ranked outside the top 200 in attendance.
Tobias Dier is in on the strength of his European Tour Dutch Open victory. Ricardo Gonzalez won the 2001 Omega European Masters to qualify. Nicolas Lawrence, ranked 398th in the world, is in because he won the 2002 Southern Africa Tour Championship. Japans Nobuhito Sato and Korean Charlie Wi are also playing because they won designated worldwide events.
Including the U.S., 20 countries are represented in the field.
Justin Rose made his American debut last week in the PGA Championship and is making it two in a row in the States this week outside of Seattle.
Im really, really enjoying myself, said Rose, who is among 14 players making their maiden World Golf Championships start at the NEC.
Rose, who has won four times around the world this year, including twice on the European Tour, is still getting accustomed to American golf.
I think theres possibly a bigger emphasis on short game. I think you need to play a bigger variety of shots around the green. I wouldnt say tee-to-green its any more difficult or any more testing (than in Europe), he explained.
The 22-year-old Englishman is also trying to acclimate himself to the U.S. galleries.
They were very vocal (last week in Minnesota), start to finish. What struck me really was the crowds on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday ' I thought it was amazing, really, to have three practice days where you have 25,000 people.
Rose, who also said he was surprised at the level of recognition he received at the PGA Championship, added he would like to one day get his PGA Tour card.
Im not going to (Q-School) this year, he said. But Id like to get (his card) by playing well in the majors and the World Golf Championships.
Full coverage of the WGC-NEC Invitational
Down seven pounds, Thomas can gain No. 1
AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.
In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.
“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”
Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.
After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”
Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana
PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.
Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.
''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''
Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.
A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.
''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''
The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Web.com Tour.
''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''
Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.
''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''
McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.
''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''
Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.
Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner
AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.
“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’
“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”
Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.
“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”
Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar
AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.
“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”
By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.
“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.
Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.