Notes: Match Play one of Tour’s moving parts
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
MARANA, Ariz. – The World Golf Championships, which used to actually move around the world, have been in the same U.S. cities for the last five years. That could change with a new television contract.
For now, most of the attention is on the Match Play Championship.
It moved to the high desert north of Tucson in 2007, and the four-year contract with Dove Mountain ended in the sleet and snow at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. There is an option for another year, and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said speculation that the Accenture Match Play Championship is moving for 2012 would be “inaccurate.”
“I’d say right now that the most likely scenario is going to be it stays here,” Finchem said.
So much depends on the rest of the schedule.
The Tour is about to enter negotiations on a new television contract, which expires in 2012. Tour executives have been hammering out various models in recent months and are close to presenting a proposed schedule of events.
“We’re not uncomfortable here,” Finchem said. “It’s worked well and we have a good partnership with the people here. The facilities are great. It’s just that as we get into television later this year, it forces us to look at the overall calendar and make sure the calendar works. As you know, there’s a lot of moving parts to that.”
Chief among them is whether the NFL schedule expands and pushes the Super Bowl deep in February. Another part of the equation is the Fall Series and the Tour’s interest in adding tournaments in Asia. It already has one in Malaysia, along with the WGC in Shanghai.
“Then you have the traditional part of it, which is tournaments wanting to move in certain situations,” he said. “Right now, this tournament is at the end of the West Coast, and that appears to be a strong possibility that would continue.”
Finchem said the Tour would decide on the Match Play venue within three months to give local organizers time to prepare. Then again, that’s also true for all the PGA Tour events on the West Coast swing, and even some in Florida.
It’s all about the calendar.
“Like here, if we wanted to play this a lot earlier, it gets to be a struggle weather-wise,” he said. “All the WGCs, China included, you’ve got to be careful in terms of player movement and making sure it fits with the different tours. We’ve already created problems with ourselves globally with the expanded season. It’s complicated.”
Part of the headache this year is the South African Open being held the same week as the Presidents Cup, especially with the top five players in the International team standings from South Africa.
As for the Match Play Championship?
“I’d say we’re going to review it, and the likely conclusion is we stay here,” he said. “But it’s not about here. It’s about the calendar.”
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WESTWOOD ON TIGER: Lee Westwood knows about slumps, having slipped to No. 253 in 2003. He recalled a favorite adage Tuesday when talking about Tiger Woods, one that his friend Darren Clarke once said about Westwood.
“Having played with Tiger since 1997 ... there’s an old saying that class is permanent and form is fickle,” Westwood said. “He’s the classiest player I’ve ever played with. I’d be wise enough to know not to write him off.”
There has been chatter that Woods should try to play more tournaments to help get his game on track, especially after losing in the first round a week ago at the Match Play Championship.
Westwood had some perspective on that, too.
“When I went through a bad patch, it was a juggling act whether to stay home and practice or go play and risk not playing well and taking another confidence knock,” he said. “It’s very much up to the individual. Tiger has to do what he feels is right.”
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RAPUNZEL REYNOLDS: This is one bet Chad Reynolds doesn’t mind losing, no matter how he looks.
Reynolds, the caddie for Nick Watney, was due for a haircut about a month ago. At Torrey Pines, he made a wager with the boss before the final round. He would cut his hair when Watney failed to finish out of the top 10.
That seemed reasonable, since Watney was 11 shots out of the lead.
“I’m thinking about driving to Phoenix and getting my hair cut Monday morning, and he drops a 63 on me,” Reynolds said.
Watney had a tournament-best 63 to tie for sixth. Then came a tie for fifth at the Phoenix Open. A week later at Pebble Beach, he was eight shots behind going into Sunday and closed with a 67 to tie for sixth.
And the hair kept growing.
Watney needed to win two matches for a top 10 at the Match Play Championship. He beat Anthony Kim in the first round, then beat Lee Westwood before losing in the third round.
Watney is off this week, then plays at Doral, where two years ago he lost by one shot to Phil Mickelson.
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CINK COACH: Among the changes for Stewart Cink this year was leaving Butch Harmon.
Cink had gone to Pat O’Brien for his putting, and now uses the Dallas-based O’Brien as his only coach. Cink said the main reason for leaving Harmon was scheduling.
“If you look at all of Butch’s players, I was the one who was the most tied up with stuff,” said Cink, who lives north of Atlanta. He said he wasn’t willing to give up his family time by taking trips to Las Vegas.
Harmon also works with Phil Mickelson (San Diego), Nick Watney and Natalie Gulbis (Las Vegas), and Dustin Johnson, who lives in South Carolina but makes frequent trips to Las Vegas.
Cink said he was energized being around O’Brien, describing his philosophy as “new school” compared with Harmon.
“But I love Butch,” Cink said. “We’re good friends.”
Harmon keeps a limited stable of clients these days and did not say if he would add one now that Cink has departed.
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DIVOTS: The Golf Channel averaged 771,000 viewers for its three days of Match Play Championship coverage, up 84 percent from the previous year. NBC Sports said it had an average of 2.5 million viewers for its weekend coverage, up from 1.5 million a year ago when it was on CBS Sports while NBC was in Vancouver for the Olympics. ... Jordan Spieth has accepted a sponsor exemption to play in the Byron Nelson Championship. A year ago, the Texas prep star tied for 16th, the best by an amateur in the tournament’s 43-year history. ... Only one American has won the Honda Classic in the last six years – Mark Wilson in 2007, who is not playing this year.
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STAT OF THE WEEK: PGA Tour members have won 34 of 38 World Golf Championships.
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FINAL WORD: “We never gambled growing up, only because I didn’t have any money to gamble with. And I would lose it, anyway.” – Bill Haas, on playing with his father, Jay Haas.