NASSAU, Bahamas (AP)Tiger Woods left little room for interpretation when it comes to Greg Norman’s latest attempt at a competing tour or other proposed leagues offering guaranteed riches to players to compete in team formats.
He made his history on the PGA Tour and that was enough for him.
”I’ve decided for myself that I’m supporting the PGA Tour. That’s where my legacy is,” Woods said. ”I’ve been fortunate enough to have won 82 events on this tour and 15 major championships, and been a part of the World Golf Championships, the start of them and the end of them.”
Woods has 18 titles in World Golf Championships, which now have only one event on this season’s schedule.
”So I have allegiance to the PGA Tour,” Woods said.
Woods said he disagrees with any comparisons to when Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus helped lead a breakaway from the PGA of America in the late 1960s by creating a division for tournament players to better serve their needs. That became what now is the PGA Tour.
He also praised PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan for getting the tour through the pandemic.
”I think the tour is in great hands,” Woods said. ”They’re doing fantastic, and prize money is going up. It’s just not guaranteed money like most sports are. It’s just like tennis, you have to go out there and earn it.”
Meanwhile, the PGA Tour still hasn’t granted releases for its members to play in the Saudi International on Feb. 3-6. It’s part of the Asian Tour, though not one of the 10 new events Norman plans as part of his LIV Golf Investments, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
The tournament said it had commitments from 24 players who are PGA Tour members, including defending champion Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Xander Schauffele. The PGA Tour said its regulations allow for a decision on releases to be made up until 30 days before the first round.
Schauffele confirmed he is playing but did not know the status of his release. He is leaving that up to his management team to sort out.
”Me trying to be my own agent or handle problems off the course … I realized I try to be good at one thing, and that’s golf,” he said. ”I let someone else handle it.”
MASTERS ON THE MIND
Golf is close to wrapping up for the year, meaning the field for the Masters next April will get some additions from the top 50 in the final world ranking.
Two tournaments that could have a bearing on that are in Japan and South Africa.
Takumi Kanaya closed with a 67 for a tie for fourth in the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour last week, moving him to No. 54 in the world. Kanaya is playing the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup this week, giving him a chance to move into the top 50. He made the cut in the 2019 Masters as the Asia-Pacific Amateur champion.
The South African Open will be the final event of the year on the Sunshine Tour (and DP World Tour) because of the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in the country. Christiaan Bezuidenhout is No. 48 and entered to play at Gary Player Country Club, so he can nail down a spot.
The Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas offers world ranking points, though it will not affect who secures a spot at Augusta National. Everyone in the field is already exempt except for Henrik Stenson, and he couldn’t get into the top 50 even if he were to win.
That leaves the Australian PGA Championship next week at Royal Queensland. Min Woo Lee is No. 49 in the world and is not among the early entries, though projections indicate he would stay among the top 50 by the end of the year. The Scottish Open champion has never played the Masters.
At least nine players are likely to be added to the field, three of whom primarily play the PGA Tour – Matthew Wolff, Mackenzie Hughes and Ryan Palmer. Hughes locked up his spot with a tie for fourth in the Zozo Championship and a runner-up finish at Sea Island.
That likely means no more than 84 players in the field, making it virtually certain the Masters will keep its field under 100 players.
The week before Thanksgiving gave Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler plenty of gratitude as both became first-time fathers.
Annie Spieth gave birth to a boy, Sammy, on Nov. 14. Spieth waited until Nov. 18 to post on social media a photo of the baby with their Black lab looking on. That was the day Alison Fowler gave birth to a girl, Maya. The Fowlers posted a photo of them with their daughter outside the back of their house.
Spieth is playing this week in the Hero World Challenge, his first event in six weeks.
Thriston Lawrence is the first player to say it was a lifelong dream ”to win a DP World Tour event.” The Joburg Open was the first event on the schedule for a European Tour that has been rebranded as the DP World Tour. By any name, the timing was ideal for Lawrence.
He opened with 65-65 for a four-shot lead, and that stood when the omicron COVID-19 variant in South Africa shortened the event to 54 holes, and bad weather shortened it to 36 holes.
”It’s a life-changing moment for me,” he said.
Lawrence not only got one of three spots at St. Andrews for the British Open next summer, he is exempt on the DP World Tour. That looked bleak over the last two years because of the pandemic, which eliminated qualifying series to gain access outside South Africa.
The victory comes three weeks after he missed a Korn Ferry Tour card by one shot in final qualifying.
”I had my card on the Sunshine Tour, but I really wanted to move on to the next step,” he said. ”You want to see yourself up there but the last year-and-a-half of COVID, it’s been tough, so you sort of see your dreams fade.”
Fresh off becoming the first American to win Europe’s top tour award, Collin Morikawa is playing twice on the DP World Tour early next year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic. … NBC Sports Next has a sponsorship deal with the U.S. Army to provide tee-time distribution and promotions for 33 golf courses on U.S. Army installations through GolfNow, TeeOff and Military Tee Times. Some of those courses on the mainland and Hawaii include West Point Golf Course in New York and a 36-hole facility at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. … Justin Thomas is engaged, proposing earlier this month to girlfriend Jillian Wisniewski.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Tom Hoge, Sepp Straka, Peter Malnati and Sung Kang played eight of the nine tournaments on the PGA Tour fall schedule. Hoge (No. 27) is the only one in the top 60 in the FedEx Cup.
”To see some of my shots fall out of the sky a lot shorter than they used to is a little eye-opening, but at least I’m able to do it again. That’s something that for a while there it didn’t look like I was going to.” – Tiger Woods.
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