Rory: "It's all about world ranking points" And European Tour A "Stepping Stone" To PGA Tour

We’re off to quite a start! We’ve got players whining about the prospect of on-course interviews—as if they’re being asked to do their own laundry—and now Rory McIlroy goes all Bobby Joe Grooves on the European Tour while professing the vitality of world ranking points. These guys know how to pull at fan heartstrings!

From Dave Shedloski’s Golf World story at the Sentry Tournament of Champions:

“It’s so one-sided,” McIlroy pointed out. “Look, you can talk all you want about these bigger events in Europe, but you can go to America and play for more money and more ranking points. I think as well with the world ranking points, everyone out here, all of their contracts with sponsors, it's all about world ranking points. If players are getting paid more and earning more world ranking points, why would you play over there?”

It sounded harsh, but he was only speaking the truth, and he continued.

They might play there because they play the game for the love of it, with the riches coming from that passion? Oh there I go again!

And this won’t be in any European Tour slogans this year…

“The ultimate goal is here,” McIlroy added. “The European Tour is a stepping stone. That's the truth. The European Tour is a stepping stone. That's the way it is. It's tough. I still want to support the European Tour, and I talk about this loyalty thing with Europe. … [But] it's not as though I'm just starting out and jumping ship. I've done my time. I've done everything I feel like I need to do to say OK, I’m going to make my own decisions and do what I want.”

I’ve done my time.

Looking forward to what his cheering section in the UK has to say about this! Happy New Year!

The HSBC-WGC, 72-Hole Stroke Play Oversaturation & An East Lake Cup-Inspired Alernative

The World Golf Championship concept brings an international together four times a year, including the PGA Tour's lone match play event, so it's hard to criticize a concept forcing the best players in the world to show up.

HSBC pours a lot of money in golf, generates discussion about the industry of golf with its business forum, and wants to see the game expanded beyond its current borders, so it seems unfair to blame a company going above and beyond the normal sponsors.

And top players did show up in Shanghai at the end of a year when they've been asked to play even more weeks than normal, so there is no way they can be criticized.

Yet in trying to watch the WGC-HSBC Champions, won in resounding fashion by Hideki Matsuyama for his third PGA Tour win, there may be no finer example of the oversaturated product that is elite professional golf. A limited field, no-cut rankings and cash extravaganza watched by few people in person or on television is the product of...too much "product."

The recent analysis suggesting oversaturation and over-extension of the NFL and Premier League should serve as a reminder that unless a pro golf tournament this time of year has something fresh and entertaining to offer the fan base, it should not be played. Too many events are serving the needs of players, executives and sponsors, and needlessly denying the fans a chance to be entertained.

Consider this week's 72-hole, no-cut WGC-HSBC. To say it was lifeless would be an insult to life. The competing Sanderson Farms PGA Tour stop in Mississippi offered a more compelling event because the players, who genuinely need these dollars and points to retain their tour status before the next re-shuffle, appeared more engaged. The event exuded a certain small-town charm lacking in Shanghai. (Left-hander Cody Gribble won and added his name to the list of emerging young players.)

And it's not as if alternatives are unavailable.

This week's collegiate East Lake Cup, while obviously a made-for-TV event highlighting top Division I teams, at least promises to entertain thanks to the team match play format. What if the WGC-HSBC did something similar, offering two or three days of stroke play to determine an individual winner and to make some seedings. But instead of binding players as a team by their country, allowing them to play for a corporate alliance?

Might we stand a better chance of watching and being entertained by seeing Team Nike featuring Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey and Jhonattan Vegas, taking on Team Srixon with Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Knox and J.B. Holmes.

Team Callaway's Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed and Thomas Pieters could take on Team Taylor Made's Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Daniel Berger in another early tournament match? And why relegate it to manufacturers? If the RBC-endorsees are going to get appearance fees elsewhere on the schedule, let them field a team based on having enough players high enough in the world ranking.

Some sort of twist on existing formats are presumably squelched in the name of FedExCup points and world ranking points prioritization, which reminds us once again: too often professional golf tournaments are played at the pleasure of the golfers, executives and sponsors, and not for the fans.

Is it any wonder so few were paying attention this week, even with a leaderboard like this?

Kingston Heath! World Cup Returns To Team Format, Epic Course

One of the world's premier designs will host the World Cup this November with 28 two-man teams comprising the field.

While any format that's not individual stroke play is exciting, the Sandbelt return is the best part of the announcement, as Kingston Heath is easily one of the world's great designs and arguably the best outside of St. Andrews on flat ground.

World Cup of Golf returns to team format
at Kingston Heath Golf Club, November 21-27, 2016
 
Melbourne, Victoria, AUS – Tournament officials announced today that the 58th edition of the World Cup of Golf will be played at Kingston Heath Golf Club, with the format returning to team play (two-man teams) from 28 different countries squaring off on November 21-27, 2016, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.  One of the most historic global events in the game, the World Cup of Golf has been played 57 times in 25 countries and will carry an $8 million (US) purse with the first-place team splitting $2.56 million. The event boasts an impressive and prestigious list of winners that includes the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Davis Love III, Fred Couples, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Arnold Palmer, Bernhard Langer, Sam Snead, Peter Thomson, Ben Hogan, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Jason Day, among many others.
 
Kingston Heath is one of Australia’s best golf courses and consistently ranked among the top 50 courses in the world. The course is renowned for its natural charm and strategies created by its superbly crafted greens and bunkers.  The signature par-3 15th hole is one of the classic short holes in Australia, if not the world.
 
Kingston Heath has hosted numerous prestigious events over its history including the men’s Australian Open, (1948, 1957, 1970, 1983, 1989, 1995, 2000), Women’s Australian Open (2008), Australian Matchplay Championship (1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992) and the Australian Masters (2009, 2012).  Winners of these events include names like Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Ian Baker-Finch, Greg Norman, Peter Senior, Karrie Webb and Gary Player.
 
“The World Cup of Golf has a long and storied history as one of the true international events in our sport,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “On behalf of the International Federation of PGA Tours, we are thrilled that a course with the reputation and standing such as Kingston Heath will serve as the tournament’s host venue in 2016. The fans in the Sandbelt region of Australia are some of the best in the world and our players consider themselves extremely fortunate every time they are able to play in an event of this stature in the Melbourne area. Our thanks go out to the Victorian Government for their partnership in both the past and future events.”

Mike Davis Tabbed Chair Of World Golf Foundation, World Asks: What's The World Golf Foundation?

It's a collection of older, well-compensated white men who gather and table most if not all of the pressing issues in the game while ensuring their cronies are elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

They do, however, have one heck of a museum in St. Augustine that you every golfer must visit.

Anyway,For Immediate Release...

USGA Executive Director Mike Davis Named 2012 World Golf Foundation Chair                                                                                            
 
St. Augustine, FL (January 11, 2012) – Mike Davis, Executive Director of the United States Golf Association (USGA) has been named Chairman of the World Golf Foundation’s Board of Directors for 2012.  Davis succeeds The European Tour’s Chief Executive, George O’Grady, who served as the 2011 Board Chairman.
 
Davis, who was named USGA Executive Director in March, 2011, has been with the Association for over 21 years.  He joined the organization in April 1990 where he served in various capacities in Rules & Competitions, including as U.S. Open Championship Director and later as Senior Director of Rules & Competitions, until being named Executive Director.

“I am both delighted and honored to assume the Chairman’s role for 2012,” said Davis. “The game of golf continues to be presented with challenges and opportunities around the world. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Foundation’s Board and the organization’s talented staff to ensure that the Foundation continues to play a leadership role in fostering the health, growth and development of the game.”

“Mike, with decades of experience organizing and managing national championships, will bring a rich perspective as Chair of our Board,” said Steve Mona, Chief Executive Officer of the World Golf Foundation. “His extensive knowledge and leadership in the golf industry will benefit our mission of supporting the growth of the game worldwide.”
 
In addition to Davis and O’Grady, the other World Golf Foundation Executive Committee members are Jim Armstrong, Executive Director of The Masters Tournament; Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A; Tim Finchem, Commissioner of the PGA TOUR; Joe Steranka, Chief Executive Officer of the PGA of America; and Michael Whan, Commissioner of the LPGA.

What diversity!

Olympic Format Claims Another Victim

Bernie McGuire gets confirmation from Mission Hills' Ken Chu that the two-man World Cup will go to 72-holes of stroke play and world ranking points starting in 2013.

"The World Cup will change format, and it will begin enjoying world rankings points, and it will still be held biennially and at around this time of year," he told Reuters.

"But with golf to be in the 2016 Olympics the equation in golf changes, and these changes to the World Cup will be having the Olympics in mind."

Chu, along with his younger brother Tenniel, Mission Hills vice chairman, held meetings earlier this week at Haikou with the Federation of Golf Tours heads, including PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and his European Tour counterpart, George O'Grady.

Chu indicated the Federation would release a joint statement shortly confirming the changes.

Ah no need now!

"By clinging to the “home tour” rule officials have unnecessarily narrowed the global playing field and skewed the World Ranking."

Rex Hoggard reminds us why there should be consternation about the USGA and other organizations relying so heavily on the Official World Golf Ranking to determine fields for major events. He speaks to currently injured by always thoughful PGA Tour player Arron Oberholser who reels off a solid list of glaring problems with the rankings.
Read More

"This is the biggest bogey Finchem has ever made."

The surprisingly chipper talk of Tiger coming back unblemished meant this exchange from the SI Confidential went unnoticed:

Anonymous Pro: The thing that we thought would drive the Tour was the World Golf Championships. If anything, those events are killing the other tournaments. Why? The WGC tournaments draw top players away from regular Tour events, which we need now more than ever.

Bamberger: The Tour basically oversold Tiger, and in the end it's an uphill slog when he doesn't appear. The Tour's long tradition is about local events and local charities. They tried to join the big leagues and were somewhat successful but found that golf is still a niche sport, although it can break out from time to time. The WGC events haven't connected with anyone and at the same time have ruined the real heart of the Tour, stops like L.A. or Hartford or Colonial that are now unfairly perceived as second-rate.

Anonymous Pro: Tiger and Phil wanted the season to end sooner. They weren't playing after mid-August, sometimes not even in the season-ending Tour Championship. Now that the FedEx Cup concludes the season in September, they're taking advantage of the downtime they asked for by playing overseas for big appearance fees. Didn't Finchem know that was going to happen? I'm not blaming Tiger or Phil. I'd play in a dress for $3 million. It is the Tour's fault for allowing it, and it really rubs me the wrong way. This is the biggest bogey Finchem has ever made.

Short term I think it's terribly wrong to call the WGC concept a bogey. But in the post-Tiger accident and Great Recession economy, long term the events appear to bring as many complications as solutions.

I'm guessing that hard questions internally about the value of WGC events will be forbidden as long as Finchem is commissioner. But the combination of increased animosity outside of the U.S. toward the America-centric concept and the inability of stops like San Diego to draw sponsor interest, could mean 2010 will lead to a closer examination of the World Golf Championship concept. Long overdue.

"11. Four Chinese players"

They finally got around to satisfying IMG's deal points to announcing the WGC-HSBC event in China and the field qualifications offer what I think may be a couple of buried ledes:

3. Winners from 23 PGA TOUR cosponsored events in 2009, which shall be identified as those 23 PGA TOUR events from 2008 with the highest Official World Golf Ranking Strength of Field Rating, having a rating of 40 points or more.

Bear with me. First this:

11. Four Chinese players

And? Nothing else? Just "Four Chinese Players" as a category?

So stringent!

Alright here's what I found interesting:

13. If necessary to fill the field to 78 players, additional Tournament Winners from the 2008 HSBC Champions through the event preceding the 2009 WGC-HSBC Champions, which shall be identified as those winners of events from the 2007 HSBC Champions to the 2008 HSBC Champions with the highest Official World Golf Ranking Strength of Field Rating, having a rating of 40 points or more, not listed in an above category:

2008/2009 Events    Winner
Bob Hope Chrysler Classic     Perez, Pat
Buick Open
Justin Timberlake Classic
John Deere Classic
Wyndham Championship
RBC Canadian Open
Fry's.com Open
Valero Texas Open
Turning Stone Resort Champ.
Casio World Open           Oda, Koumei
Viking Classic
BMW Italian Open
Madrid Masters
Estoril Open de Portugal           Hoey, Michael
Mitsubishi Diamond
US Bank Championship
Munsingwwear Open
Japan Tour Championship

World Ranking gurus out there, I'm wondering if this is the first time that the line has been so publicly drawn with event winners needing to come from events "having a rating of 40 points or more?"

If so, seems it could set an interesting precedent for other world events or majors?

"I'm sure they're thrilled in China"

WGCNEC05logo.gifDoug Ferguson considers the state of the World Golf Championships and it isn't pretty.
The longer the "World" Golf Championships are anchored in America, the more they look like any other tournament. As more PGA Tour events keep raising their standards, the more they rival WGC events that were meant to be special.

"I don't see them moving forward," Adam Scott said, an opinion shared by many of his peers. "It's not different for the money.

"They're not playing them on great golf courses. It's just another event. They've lost some of the lustre they once had."

How could he say that about The Gallery or Mount Juliet Conrad or Valderama or The Grove or Bellerive or Capital City Club?
"It would be great if, like their name, they actually were held around the world," Lee Westwood said. "It's a disgrace.

"You might as well call them the World Golf Championships of America. They're just like any regular U.S. tour event. It's a good way for getting players to come to the states more regularly. But they're not World Golf Championships."

Doug's being charitable here...
The WGCs lost their momentum the first time all three were held in the United States, in 2003, particularly an atrocious site north of Atlanta that delivered all the excitement of an NFL preseason game. A rotation that once featured Spain, Ireland and Australia now has settled into Arizona, Miami and Ohio.

There is a practical side to this. The corporate sponsor footing the bill gets more value from the U.S. market. TV money comes from America, and ratings shrink when a tournament is held five times zone away, if not more.

"While it's called an international golf series, it probably hasn't represented that in terms of venues," said Gary Beckner, a senior marketing director for Accenture. "But for the most part, the players have been truly international."

Accenture suffered when Match Play went to Australia in 2001. It was held a week after the Christmas holidays, and some two dozen players didn't bother going.

"The contiguous U.S. works well for us," Beckner said.

Finchem will argue that the "world" component of this series comes from the players in the field and television beaming their birdies and bogeys into homes of golf fans around the globe.

"I'm sure they're thrilled in China," Westwood said.

"Sadly, he doesn't pay much attention to that, and never has."

In his Scotland on Sunday column, John Huggan lets Greg Norman rant about the usual stuff. I still enjoy reading it even if he's made many of these points before. Well, he's taken it up a notch on the topic of his good buddy, Tim Finchem.

"I can't fault Finchem in some respects," said the two-times Open champion in Dubai. "You have to say he has done a good job in getting prize- money up in America, so that players from all over the world are going there to play. But when you are the leader of the free world, as the United States is, you have responsibilities beyond that. President Bush has global responsibilities on his shoulders, whether he likes it or not, because of the power of the position he is in. It is the same for Finchem.
Ouch, a Bush-Finchem analogy. Has Greg turned on 43 too?
"He has a responsibility not to forget the rest of the world. He must support the likes of the European Tour, the Australian Tour and the South African Tour. Which has not been happening. Finchem has to be aware that every decision he makes has an impact around the world. Sadly, he doesn't pay much attention to that, and never has."
Now now, he $ee$ great potential in China!
On the subject of the world No.1, Norman is just one of a growing number of informed observers despairing of the fact that, Woods and one or two others apart, the sharp end of the professional game is populated by an ever-growing number of golfing robots devoted to hitting basically the same shot, time after tedious time.

"Because I grew up in an era when we could manoeuvre the ball maybe 60 feet in the air either way, I wonder at the game today," he sighed. "You don't see that any more. There were a lot of shot-makers in my day. And now, even though the very best players still come through, technology has bunched the players up. Tiger, of course, is the exception that proves the rule.

"I see so many players making a lot of prize-money without ever winning a tournament. In my day, you could make the cut, and still not win any money. You had to play hard to get anywhere. I realise people don't like hearing the old war stories about what we went through, but the powers that be in golf - the USGA, the R&A and the PGA Tour - should put some restrictions on the equipment used by the best players in the world."
They should, but that would require an ounce of integrity!
"I would rule the golf ball back to 1996 specifications, number one," he declared. "It's a crying shame that so many of the world's great courses have been lengthened by 400-500 yards for one week a year. The cost of that is just ridiculous, especially when you multiply it 30 or 40 times. That money could be better spent elsewhere. Golf is too expensive, and getting more expensive.

"I look at the Open at St Andrews two years ago. There were four tees there not even on the golf course. And I think of golf courses like Merion or Inverness. There is a long list: Royal Melbourne and Royal Sydney in Australia. The men who designed those great courses must be rolling over in their graves. I know I would be, in their position."

 

World Golf Championships Now Concentrated In World's Center

That new WGC event in China is no longer a WGC...

That means all the WGC events this year will be played in the United States — the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona next month, the CA Championship at Doral in Miami and the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in Akron, Ohio.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and European tour chief George O'Grady said last fall that Mission Hills would host the World Cup for two years, then get a World Golf Championship the following 10 years.

It was not immediately clear how the announcement Monday affects those plans.
Oh I think it's pretty clear!

 

Finchem Is Talking Bunkum...!?

Alan Campbell in the Sunday Herald may have to pay for a Tour media guide after this little WGC inspired column:

...what is despicable is the conduct of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Not content with ruling the roost over a circuit which is the Premiership to Europe’s Coca-Cola Championship, this myopic golf controller has annexed the so-called world golf championships for the greater good of Uncle Sam. Next year all three WGC events will be staged in the United States, just as they will in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Finchem’s defence? “They’re staged at a level which can pay significant prize money,” said the PGA Tour commissioner. “That costs money.”

Pausing only to let this staggering sliver of logic sink in, Finchem continued: “The American marketplace is best suited to generate those kind of resources. I think that’s why, historically, three of the four Major championships are in the United States.”

Finchem is talking bunkum, as the American marketplace wasn’t involved in the evolving of the Majors. He compounds his error by inviting the question: given that the United States already has the cream of world golf’s championships, why does it need to selfishly syphon off the next tier?

And...
The unwillingness of the Phil Mickelsons and Davis Loves to rack up transatlantic air miles is, along with the financial muscle of US corporations and the dictates of the American television networks, the reason why the world golf championships have become almost as big a misnomer as the World Series in baseball.

John Daly and Woods are just about the only two high profile Americans prepared to leave the country for anything other than the Open Championship. While both are paid handsomely in appearance money, they see the bigger picture. “There should be at least one [WGC] every year somewhere other than America,” said Woods. “Obviously the market is huge here, but it is a world game and any opportunity to get the best players to other parts of the world is a great way to grow golf.”

The PGA Tour have cemented the WGC events into their revamped schedules, which start from next year. It stinks, but then money usually does.

More WGC Talk

An AP story on the lack of world in World Golf Championships.

 "We're in the planning process," Finchem said. "We would like to play a full-fledged World Golf Championship in the fall in Asia. It's premature to say where, but our intent is to do something next year."

This might be the only avenue Finchem has to Asia, a market he covets.

Covets it so much that I understand from a reliable source that they've already signed on with a site in Asia.

So why are they waiting to announce it? 

WGC's and World Cup of Golf

wgc_logo2.gifA thought/question.

In all of the 2007 PGA Tour schedule hoopla, I don't recall any stories about the reduction to three World Golf Championship events with the apparent elimination of the World Cup of Golf.

The World Cup had been played every year (but one) since 1953. Granted, it had not been much of an event lately, but it's another longtime event given back burner status in the new setup. More importantly, it offered a format other than 72-holes of individual stroke play, which is way too common in professional golf.

The WGC's were considered one of Commissioner Finchem's brilliant moves. The only casualty to date appears to be the loss of Greg Norman from Champions Tour events, otherwise they have served their purpose.

Yet, in the new deal the Tour appears to have gone from four WGC events to three, and more importantly, the remaining WGC's seem anchored in Miami, Tucson and Akron for the foreseeable future.

Did anyone write about this? Notice? Care?