All Over the Map

By Rex HoggardMay 13, 2011, 10:00 am

If ever there was a reason to embrace contraction golf’s dizzying late-season line-up certainly deserves consideration. For all those who view this month’s Tour Championship in Atlanta the end of the 2011 road for golf we give you Andres Romero.

Angel Cabrera was the top-ranked Argentine when the teams for this year’s World Cup were set, but he declined the invitation, forcing Romero to attempt qualifying, but the qualifier will be held the same week as the Tour Championship in Venezuela. Currently the affable Argentine is 59th in FedEx Cup points and will be forced into a difficult decision if he plays his way into East Lake.

It’s a scheduling tale of woe that’s become familiar for international types in recent years, but at least Romero has a choice. Jason Day and Adam Scott were never even asked to play the team event Nov. 24-27 in China despite being the top-ranked Australians – Nos. 9 and 17, respectively – on July 18 when the teams were set. There was no reason to ask considering the World Cup conflicts with the Australian PGA, an event both players were sure to play.

“Honestly it’s a tough date for us,” Scott said. “I would love to play (the World Cup) but if we do we would get crucified at home.”

And it’s not just the Australians who have been crossed up by the game’s version of scheduling sudoku. The South Africans also were faced with a difficult decision to either play the Presidents Cup or the South African Open the same week in November.

“The European Tour wants to end their season at the Race to Dubai. The South African Tour, we used to start the next season in December. And now they have got all those tournaments that they need to move to before the Race to Dubai, and so they have run out of weeks,” Els said earlier this year at Doral when asked about the Presidents Cup-South African Open conflict.

“Obviously (Tour commissioner) Tim Finchem put his slot in there first, but you know, with all of these tournaments that they need to shuffle around, they were going to overlap some tournament over the Presidents Cup and it happened that the South African Open is the one. So it's a bit of a problem.”

The powers that be scrambled and the South African Open date was pushed back a week, but the likes of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel still had to choose between playing the World Cup or their national championship. They picked the World Cup.

When is more less? When players are forced to make decisions based on perceptions rather than pure competitive considerations.

The last two months of the year have become a competitive chess game for global players. Players like Graeme McDowell, who will skip this year’s Chevron World Challenge, which he won in a playoff last year over Tiger Woods, because he will  be in China playing the World Cup the week before and is scheduled to play the European Tour’s season-ending event in Dubai the week after the Chevron.

The world may be shrinking, but three weeks on three different continents (Asia, Middle East and North America) is more than even the most well-traveled player can stomach.

The victims, of course, are not the players. Scott, Day and McDowell will all survive the free-for-all that has become the game’s “off-season.” We’re not so sure, however, about events like the World Cup, which has been played since 1953 when it was called the Canada Cup.

Instead of a Day-Scott two-ball, a tandem that would likely be a prohibitive favorite considering both players’ current form, World Cup officials get Richard Green and Brendan Jones, your Nos. 69 and 86 in world, respectively.

It’s a similar conflict that will keep young star Ryo Ishikawa out of the World Cup, which is played opposite the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour. Yuta Ikeda and Tetsuji Hiratsuka will represent Japan, both fine players but neither can match the marquee of the Bashful Prince.

In this case, too much of a good thing is anything but good, and the situation only promises to get worse as tournaments vie for better spots on the calendar to attract stronger fields.

The solutions are simple enough but not likely because it would require that the PGA Tour and European Tour condense there seasons to leave room for the world’s lesser circuits. That would require the globe’s top dogs to give ground, and, as we’ve learned, they just don’t do that.

Which brings the conversation back to the prospect of a global tour to cure the late-season mishmash and put some order into the world of chaos that currently rules the year’s final months.

Perhaps Greg Norman was right, maybe a world tour is inevitable, but at this juncture it doesn’t seem imminent. Until then the likes of Romero, Day and Scott will have to make tough choices, and tournaments like the World Cup and South African Open will inevitably suffer.

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Asia offers chance for players to get early jump on season

By Rex HoggardOctober 17, 2018, 6:00 pm

When the field at this week’s CJ Cup tees off for Round 1 just past dinner time on the East Coast Wednesday most golf fans will still be digesting the dramatic finish to the 2017-18 season, which wrapped up exactly 24 days ago, or reliving a Ryder Cup that didn’t go well for the visiting team.

Put another way, the third event of the new season will slip by largely unnoticed, the victim of a crowded sports calendar and probably a dollop of burnout.

What’ll be lost in this three-event swing through Asia that began last week in Kuala Lumpur at the CIMB Classic is how important these events have become to Tour players, whether they count themselves among the star class or those just trying to keep their jobs.

The Asian swing began in 2009 with the addition of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, although it would be a few years before the event earned full status on Tour, and expanded in 2010 with the addition of the CIMB Classic. This week’s stop in South Korea was added last season and as the circuit transitions to a condensed schedule and earlier finish next year there are persistent rumors that the Tour plans to expand even more in the Far East with sources saying an event in Japan would be a likely landing spot.

Although these events resonate little in the United States because of the time zone hurdles, for players, the Asian swing has become a key part of the schedule.

Consider that seven of the top 10 performers last year in Asia advanced to the Tour Championship and that success wasn’t mutually exclusive to how these players started their season in Asia.

For players looking to get a jump on the new season, the three Asian stops are low-hanging fruit, with all three featuring limited fields and no cut where players are guaranteed four rounds and FedExCup points.

For a player like Pat Perez, his performances last October virtually made his season, with the veteran winning the CIMB Classic and finishing tied for fifth place at the CJ Cup. All total, Perez, who played all three Asian events last year, earned 627 FedExCup points - more than half (53 percent) of his regular-season total.

Keegan Bradley and Cameron Smith also made the most of the tournaments in Asia, earning 34 and 36 percent, respectively, of their regular-season points in the Far East. On average, the top 10 performers in Asia last year earned 26 percent of their regular-season points in what was essentially a fraction of their total starts.

“It's just a place that I've obviously played well,” Justin Thomas, a three-time winner in Asia, said last week in Kuala Lumpur. “I'm comfortable. I think being a little bit of a longer hitter you have an advantage, but I mean, the fact of the matter is that I've just played well the years I played here.”

Perhaps the biggest winner in Asia last season was Justin Rose, who began a torrid run with his victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions, and earned 28 percent of his regular-season points (550) in the Far East on his way to winning the FedExCup by just 41 points.

But it’s not just the stars who have made the most of the potential pot of Asian gold.

Lucas Glover finished tied for seventh at the CIMB Classic, 15th at the CJ Cup and 50th in China in 2017 to earn 145 of his 324 regular-season points (45 percent). Although that total was well off the pace to earn Glover a spot in the postseason and a full Tour card, it was enough to secure him conditional status in 2018-19.

Similarly, Camilo Villegas tied for 17th in Kuala Lumpur and 36th in South Korea to earn 67 of his 90 points, the difference between finishing 193rd on the regular-season point list and 227th. While it may seem like a trivial amount to the average fan, it allowed Villegas to qualify for the Tour Finals and a chance to re-earn his Tour card.

With this increasingly nuanced importance have come better fields in Asia (which were largely overlooked the first few years), with six of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking making the trip last week to Malaysia and this week’s tee sheet in South Korea featuring two of the top 5 in world - No. 3 Brooks Koepka and No. 4 Thomas.

“I finished 11th here last year and 11th in China the next week. If I can try and improve on that, get myself in contention and possibly win, it sets up the whole year. That's why I've come back to play,” Jason Day said this week of his decision to play the Asian swing.

For many golf fans in the United States, the next few weeks will be a far-flung distraction until the Tour arrives on the West Coast early next year, but for the players who are increasingly starting to make the trip east, it’s a crucial opportunity to get a jump on the season.

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Watch: Woods uses computer code to make robotic putt

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 3:10 pm

Robots have been plotting their takeover of the golf world for some time.

First it was talking trash to Rory McIlroy, then it was making a hole-in-one at TPC Scottsdale's famous 16th hole ... and now they're making putts for Tiger Woods.

Woods tweeted out a video on Tuesday draining a putt without ever touching the ball:

The 42-year-old teamed up with a computer program to make the putt, and provided onlookers with a vintage Tiger celebration, because computers can't do that ... yet.

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Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:35 pm

There was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.

Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.

“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”

While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.

When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”

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Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2018, 12:03 pm

Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.

Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.

Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.

"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."

The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.

While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.

"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."

For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes: