World Tour Anniversary
This week's Andersen Consulting Match Play at La Costa Resort
and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., marks the first birthday of the
World Golf Championships (a.k.a. the World tour), and although
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem's baby is already a financial
giant, the four-tournament circuit has some serious growing up
to do. Here are a few irrefutable facts: These events are $5
million money grabs devoid of historic import; they have done
nothing but harm the Tour's old-line tournaments; and they've
thrown the money list all out of whack.
Moreover, each WGC tournament is flawed. For example, it is
almost preordained that two no-names will participate in a
one-sided final in the Match Play. Outrage over the European
tour's recent decision to change its qualification criteria for
the NEC Invitational has exposed that tournament for what it is:
a payoff for playing in the Ryder and Presidents Cups, and last
year the American Express Stroke Play stepped all over the Tour
Championship. Added to the rota this year will be the EMC2 World
Cup, a funky event with 24 two-man teams that will be played in
Buenos Aires for unofficial money during the silly season. Think
Shark Shootout on steroids.
Still, the World tour is in good shape. Here's why. Tiger Woods
won two of the first three events, giving the WGC instant
validity; the top golfers like to play against one another; and
the International Federation of PGA Tours, which sanctions the
World tour, is willing to fix its mistakes.
The most important correction to date has been moving the Stroke
Play from November to mid-September, beginning next year. That
means the event isn't locked into a warm-weather location and
can be moved to the classic venues that give tournaments heft.
Playing at a Winged Foot or a Ballybunion is important if the
World tour is to fill a niche just below the majors.
Some of the WGC's other problems will be tougher fixes.
Designating the World Cup as a WGC event just because a computer
and software maker writes a big check is a reach. Finchem argues
that the 43-year-old World Cup fits the WGC profile because it
promotes golf internationally, but the tournament's new format
excludes noncompetitive teams from countries such as Finland and
Pakistan, killing the venerable event's old-world charm. Also,
even on its best day the World Cup lacks the sizzle that the
World tour needs. The bottom line: Sticking a WGC label on this
tournament dilutes the brand.
A larger headache happens when WGC events aren't held in the
U.S. Last year's Stroke Play in Spain was a disappointment and
is likely to be one again this year, when it returns to
Valderrama. A real disaster, however, could come next January,
when the Match Play is held in Melbourne. Colin Montgomerie and
Jose Maria Olazabal have already said they won't make the trip,
and some Americans, including David Duval, are iffy.
Can a few players sabotage the entire World tour? Probably not.
Only one player can, so as long as golf keeps growing,
corporations keep paying and Woods keeps playing, whatever
difficulties the World Golf Championships have will be fixable.
Last week's GTE Classic convinced me of a few things about the
Senior tour. First, Bruce Fleisher isn't going to go away
anytime soon. For that matter, neither are a lot of his
low-profile but highly skilled brethren, guys like Allen Doyle
and Dana Quigley who still feel they have something to prove.
Second, never before has the 50-and-over circuit had this kind
of depth and as many players capable of winning. Finally, this
year's rookie class won't automatically take over, as has
happened so often in the past. Here are two words of advice for
Messrs. Kite, Wadkins and Watson: Play hard.
What do these players have in common?
They were the semifinalists in last year's Andersen Consulting
Match Play Championship, won by Maggert, and none have won a
Tour event since.
What is the greatest feat in golf history?
Byron Nelson's 11 straight victories. . 31%
Bobby Jones's Grand Slam . . . . . . 17%
Jack Nicklaus's 18 majors . . . . . . . 52%
--Based on 2,195 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Which tour are you most interested in: LPGA, PGA
Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
SYNONYMS for a FADE
Bender, bleeder, blocker, boomerang, Boston carver, buttercut,
carp, carver, Chiquita, cropduster, curver, cut, cutie, cutter,
Cutty Sark, floater, heeler, hold shot, leaker, masse, necker,
Patty Berg, Rick Flair, saute, sawoff, softy, slicer, slider.
What's the secret to success on the PGA Tour? To find out, we
took the last 20 season leaders in each of five statistical
categories and averaged where those leaders finished on the
FINISH ON MONEY LIST
Greens in regulation 22nd
Putting average 47th
Driving accuracy 67th
Sand saves 74th
Driving distance 99th
HEIGHT 5'8" WORLD RANK 134
WEIGHT 185 pounds AGE 29
FAMILY Wife, Kyun Jung Kim; son, Ho Jun (5-9-97)
DISTINCTION First Korean-born player to earn PGA Tour card. A
two-time winner in 1999 in Japan, he earned the last fully
exempt spot at November's Q school with a three-under 67 in the
2000 RECORD Missed cut at Hawaiian Open, Pebble Beach and Buick
BEFORE GOLF Teen powerlifter. Could squat 350 pounds as a
95-pound 13-year-old. No longer lifts heavy weights.
SWING MODEL Ian Woosnam
PLAYING STYLE Shortish off the tee (257.6-yard average, ranks
141st) but normally straight, although he's only 133rd in
driving accuracy in '00. Steady iron player. His caddie, Casey
Kerr, calls Choi "the Korean Fred Funk." Short game needs to
SWING FLAW "I bend too much at the top, a bad habit from doing
so many squats as a weightlifter."
FAVORITE TIME TO PLAY Early morning, "when the fairway is
covered with dew, shining like pearls."
BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JAPANESE AND U.S. TOURS Speed of greens
MOST DIFFICULT ADJUSTMENT TO U.S. "The United States is very
large, and touring the entire country is not an easy job. Asians
need strong character to endure."
ON MEDIA COVERAGE (More than a dozen Korean reporters routinely
cover the tournaments in which he plays.) "It's better than
being unknown. I know all eyes are on me. I feel some burden,
but it is starting to settle down."
GOAL To be top 100 on money list this year, top 30 in three
years and eventually to win.
ON MEETING SE RI PAK "We were both taking physical tests at the
Korean Physical Science Research Institute in 1997. We didn't
talk much, but Se Ri left a very strong impression. I could feel
that she wasn't an ordinary golfer."
WHY HE LIVES IN JACKSONVILLE To be close to the TPC at Sawgrass
practice facility, where "being around great players like David
Duval and Vijay Singh motivates me to work hard."
FRIENDS AMONG U.S. PLAYERS Fred Couples, Matt Gogel and Jerry
FAVORITE AMERICAN FOOD Egg McMuffin
FAVORITE AMERICAN MOVIE Rambo: First Blood