The Starter: Golf World Order Restored, the Coliseum Awaits, and Whatnot

Hideki Matsuyama
Hideki Matsuyama celebrates a birdie putt on the 18th hole as Rickie Fowler looks on during the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on Feb 7, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

This week’s edition won’t leave you in the dark, as opposed to the finishes on the PGA Tour and LPGA circuits. Didn’t they have lights installed somewhere last weekend? Oh yeah, Dubai. Anyone care to shine some light on Tiger’s comeback? This week, the spotlight turns on the Coliseum.


THREE HEADLINES

1. Tiger Woods, despite wildness off the tee, ties for 23rd in his first PGA Tour start in a year. Call it a perfect spot for fans to run the gamut on what that means. It’s Tiger’s first top-25 on Tour in 127 weeks!! Conversely, he still hasn’t broken 70 in a Tour round in 890 days (and counting). More

2. Darkness reigns as both the PGA Tour and LPGA finish (or not) in Sunday’s gloaming. Five sunset holes couldn’t settle a Torrey Pines playoff, despite one entrant named Day. In the Bahamas, winner Brittany Lincicome and others jogged the final fairways of the wind-delayed LPGA opener. More

3. J.B. Holmes takes 4 minutes, 10 seconds to hit a shot from the fairway at Torrey Pines. Granted, he had a chance to get into the Farmers Insurance Open playoff. Then again, a good high-school miler could have finished in less time. The Twitter blowback was no doubt speedier. More


AROUND THE TOURS

PGA: Waste Management Phoenix Open
Course: TPC Scottsdale (Stadium)
Where: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Defending: Hideki Matsuyama

European: Maybank Championship
Course: Saujana G&CC
Where: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Defending: Fabrizio Zanotti

Web.com: Panama Championship
Course: Panama Golf Club
Where: Panama City, Panama
2017 champion: Andrew Putnam


RANKINGS REPORT

Hard to imagine, maybe, but it was just 50 weeks ago that Jason Day’s name sat atop the world rankings. It’s been a short 2 ½ years, too, since Rory McIlroy’s name was there. Thus it was a little perplexing at year’s end to see both players outside the top 10.

Their performances this weekend, though, restored a little more sense of order. Both are back in the top 10, thanks to Day’s win at the Farmers Insurance Open and McIlroy’s second top-3 finish in as many weeks in the Middle East.

1 Dustin Johnson (1) 10.72
2 Jon Rahm (2) 9.54
3 Jordan Spieth (3) 8.79
4 Justin Thomas (4) 8.01
5 Hideki Matsuyama (5) 7.40
6 Justin Rose (6) 7.39
7 Rickie Fowler (7) 6.65
8 Rory McIlroy (11) 6.09
9 Brooks Koepka (8) 5.99
10 Jason Day (14) 5.79


HISTORY SPOTLIGHT

With Phoenix Open crowds testing the limits of Phoenix Country Club, the host Thunderbirds organization began in the mid-1980s to explore a new location for the tournament. PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman had joined the effort when Scottsdale’s mayor called.

Herb Drinkwater offered a swath of land in far northeast Scottsdale – a good 8 miles from the city’s northernmost populace – that could be molded into the stadium-style layout Beman first conceived at TPC Sawgrass. Construction on the new TPC Scottsdale began in 1986, with local resident Tom Weiskopf leading the design team.

The Phoenix Open relocated in 1987 and immediately drew 257,000 fans – some 70,000 more than PCC’s best year. In 31 years, only eight times has attendance failed to exceed the previous edition. The locale is far from remote now, too, thanks to expanding development.


STAT OF THE WEEK

As has become routine, last year’s TPC Scottsdale crowds of 655,434 easily surpassed the Arizona Cardinals’ 2017 home attendance (513,741). The Cardinals were far from alone, though – TPC Scottsdale packed in more fans than every NFL team’s home turnstile count except the Dallas Cowboys.


HOLE OF THE WEEK

No.16, TPC Scottsdale (Stadium Course)
Par 3, 163 yards
2017 average: 2.98 (12th toughest)

Officially known as the Coliseum in WMPO lingo – and “Thunderdome” in more casual parlance – Scottsdale’s 16th remains the only fully-enclosed hole on the PGA Tour and the trendsetter others look to emulate.

Corporate skyboxes first showed up alongside No.16 in 1995, and it was just two years later that Tiger Woods’ famous ace cemented the hole’s reputation as the rowdiest in golf. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 2009 that No.16 was completely surrounded by grandstands.

Depending on tee and pin placement. No.16 plays anywhere from 115 to 180 yards. Bunkers guard three of the green’s four corners, plus one alongside the green’s left middle. It’s a fairly stock short iron or wedge – except for the 20,000 folks looking down ready to cheer or jeer.

2017 Phoenix Open: No aces, 60 birdies, 302 pars, 48 bogeys, 2 double bogeys, nothing higher


DID YOU KNOW?

For those who aren’t inclined to argue with trends, it might be worth a fiver to throw on China’s Li Haotong to win the Masters in April.

The newly crowned Dubai Desert Classic champion is next man up after two men who parlayed Dubai’s title into a green jacket – Sergio Garcia last year and Danny Willett in 2016.

Working against Li: He’ll be making his Masters debut.


MIXED MOMENTUM

It’s been 18 years since the old JC Penney Classic mixed-team event went dormant, but it may not be that much longer before some sort of joint effort.

In early January, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan expressed an openness to some sort of collaboration, though that centered more on adding a winners-only LPGA event parallel to the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Last week, LPGA chief Mike Whan added his take.

“I’d be surprised if we were not doing something with the PGA Tour by 2019,” Whan told an informal roundtable at the LPGA opener. “I don’t know exactly what that means, but when there are two parties who want to do it, things usually get done.”

Whan’s vision is more along the old JCPenney format, featuring duos of one PGA Tour pro and an LPGA partner. The problem there is trying to get calendars to match. The PGA Tour takes just one week off between New Year’s and Thanksgiving.

“Jay doesn’t have 26 weeks of availability, and we’re in different parts of the world a lot of the time,” Whan said. “But given that, I really think it’s possible.”


END QUOTE

“I fought hard for these scores. They weren’t like drive down the middle, hit it on the green, two-putt, one of those yawners. This was a lot of fight.”
Tiger Woods, assessing his performance over four days. He hit just 17 (of 56) fairways at Torrey Pines, a personal worst in PGA Tour competition.

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