WGC-Mexico success is something to build on

By Rex HoggardMarch 6, 2017, 5:02 pm

MEXICO CITY – Early last week, Rory McIlroy couldn’t contain his enthusiasm that officials had finally put the “world” back in World Golf Championships with the move to Mexico City.

Of the 61 WGCs that have been played since the concept was launched in 1999, just 14 had ventured outside the friendly confines of the Lower 48. That was until the PGA Tour uprooted the annual stop at Doral for Club de Golf Chapultepec.

“I've been quite vocal in the fact that I think we've got the name ‘World Golf Championships’ in there and it's great to be able to take them around the world,” McIlroy said. “It's great to have one in South America. Yeah, I've been looking forward to this event for a while.”

That play for four days at the WGC-Mexico Championship followed a similar script, with more flags then a Benetton commercial atop the leaderboard, only added to the international appeal.

Among the top 15 finishers on Sunday, there was a threesome of Englishmen, a pair of Spaniards, a Belgian, a Paraguayan, a Northern Irishman and seven Americans.

It was a United Nations of golf, which was exactly what one would expect from a WGC, and what local officials had hoped for.

But Benjamin Salinas, the CEO of TV Azteca who led the move to bring the event to the world’s fourth-most populated city, wants more than a showcase event to add to his country’s sports portfolio. He wants something to build on.

WGC-Mexico Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Officials launched a Mexican branch of The First Tee last week and Salinas said he hopes to use the interest generated by the WGC to fill what he considers a gaping hole in his nation’s golf landscape.

“We are starting from scratch and it is a dream that we hope will grow. In Mexico we only have 200 golf courses, which is not very much considering we have 120 million people, and of course none of those are public,” Salinas said. “We have spoken about the first public golf course being close to Tijuana, with the help of the state government and businessmen who are ready to pay for it.”

Having the kind of finish tournament organizers dream about certainly helped increase the game’s exposure, with large and enthusiastic crowds filling Chapultepec.

There were, however, a few curious moves if the primary goal of golf in Mexico City is to grow the game, as opposed to catering to the well-to-do. A single-day pass for Sunday’s final round was $170, which is about 20 percent of the average household income ($843) in Mexico. Children were allowed free admission, but that was with a ticket-holding adult, which is a financial stretch for most families.

Even Tuesday’s First Tee clinic hosted by Jordan Spieth seemed to be dominated by young faces of the country club variety who were already interested golf, not would-be juniors who had never been exposed to the game.

Salinas’ commitment to the event is evident. The deal to move the WGC from Doral - where it had been a Tour staple since 1962 - to Mexico is for seven years and reportedly worth $12 million per year, although Salinas said in a recent interview with Golf.com that it would cost around $25 million per year to hold the championship.

All along, the Tour said the move to Mexico City was a financial decision and that’s at least partially true, but as fans filled the course to watch Dustin Johnson hold off Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood, it was clear the move to Mexico was much more than simply a business decision.

On Wednesday, Tour commissioner Jay Monahan spoke of the potential impact of having an event with a World Golf Championships field – let’s not forget there has been a Tour stop in Mexico (OHL Classic) since 2007 – could have on the potential growth of golf in Mexico.

“When the World Golf Championships were formed it was an opportunity to come together, bring the world's best players and take them to great markets around the world to showcase the game played at its highest level,” said Monahan, who brokered the deal with Salinas to move the WGC to Mexico. “Hopefully to inspire young people and future generations because this is one of the very few global games and we felt like that was our responsibility.”

To a man, players marveled at how well the event was run, particularly considering officials had just eight months to organize the logistics and prepare the golf course. And with the exception of a few players dealing with bouts of a stomach virus, the event exceeded most expectations.

However, that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.

Shifting the championships’ place on the schedule so it’s played after the Genesis Open, which was the original plan according to various sources, would make it more appealing to players and restore the continuity of the Florida Swing.

Officials could also work to bring juniors from more limited backgrounds to the tournament to truly fulfill Salinas’ mission to grow the game in Mexico.

But as far as experiments go, putting the “world” back in World Golf Championship was an unqualified success.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”

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Kisner not expecting awkward night with Spieth

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:33 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It might get awkward in that star-studded rental house Saturday night.

Two of the three Open co-leaders, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner, are sharing a house this week near Carnoustie. Though it’ll be late by the time they both get back to the house Saturday night, they’ll have plenty of time to kill Sunday morning, with their tee times not until nearly 3 p.m. local time.

“Everybody is probably going to get treatment and eating and trying to find a bed,” Kisner said. “I’m sure there’ll be some conversations. There always are. Everybody has a few horror stories or good laughs over something that happened out there. That will probably be the end of it.”

One thing they’re almost certain to discuss is the weather.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

After three days of mostly benign conditions, Sunday’s forecast calls for warm temperatures and wind gusts up to 25 mph.

“When you watch any TV, that’s all they talk about – how Sunday’s coming,” Kisner said. “It’s going to be a true test, and we’ll get to see really who’s hitting it the best and playing the best.”

Zach Johnson is also in the house – along with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner – and he rode to the course Saturday with Kisner, with whom he played in the final group, at 4 p.m. It’s unclear whether the co-leaders Sunday will have a similar arrangement.

This is the third year that Spieth and Co. have shared a house at The Open, though Kisner is a new addition to the group.

“It’s the end of the week,” Kisner said. “Everybody’s got a lot of stuff going on. Everybody’s going their separate ways tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we’ll all sit around and laugh on the couch and talk about why that guy’s making so many birdies.”