| WGC – A Distinctly Weary Golf Concept
The opening World Golf Championship event of the 2017 season moves to Mexico, the first time a WGC event has been staged in South America. But as Mike Wilson points out, the noun ‘World’, in World Golf Championships differs significantly from the interpre
The noun ‘World’, in World Golf Championships differs significantly from the interpretation of the rest of the world.
As they enter their 17th season as the so-called flagship series of the International Federation of PGA Tours (IFPGAT), the World Golf Championships (WGC) events, of which just eight have ever been staged outside the USA, how ironic it is that the first to be staged during the Trump presidency will not be at one of his glitzy, high-profile resorts, but in Mexico, the country he has vilified over recent months?
Trump’s Blue Monster course at Doral in Florida had been host to the opening WGC event of the season ever since he acquired the resort in 2012, but, by all accounts, the PGA Tour and WGC officials deemed the prospect of an ugly belligerent by Candidate Trump caused them queasiness, forcing them to to look elsewhere.
To Mexico, the first time a WGC event has been staged in South America, the country of whose citizens the now President Trump saying days after his inauguration, “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” and whose border with the USA he plans to build a 2,000km, 12m-high wall and make the Mexicans pick up a bill that has been estimated to be between US$20m 40m.
So, the first ever WGC event in South America should exude bonhomie and munificence, especially with the PGA Tour in the vanguard and 75% of the competitors representing the Stars & Stripes, all sitting awkwardly with the IFPGAT mission statement, which reads, “The mission was to grow interest in the game by focusing on the global aspects of the game.”
But, back to the world of golf, and away from a geopolitical world that is changing before our very eyes, in WGC La La Land, virtually nothing changes - same venues, same players, same formats - same bloated prize funds and a world ranking points system designed, it would seem, to perpetuate the status quo.
And, as Mexico prepares to become just the sixth nation to host what purports to be a, ‘World Championship,’ the leading 50 players in the world have systematically filled their boots with ‘Greenbacks,’ almost US$40m on
offer this year, a staggering three-quarters of a billion dollars since it all began back in 1999.
More than half the WGC events have been won by American golfers, Tiger Woods allpowerful with 18 wins in all, remarkably, given his present plight down amongst the dead men and in danger of falling out of the top 750 in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) two of them as recently as 2013, a staggering WGC victory-to-appearances ratio of 32%.
The inexorable rise and subsequent fall of the man who has spent 683 weeks at world number-one on the OWGR – a remarkable 281 of them unbroken between 12th June 2005 – 20th October 2010 has gone handin-glove with the WGC concept, which has earned him a cool US$26million in prize money alone, plus appearance money, which should not - but was - have been paid to golf’s golden boy turned fallen idol.
But, apart from the WGC Champions in China, which was accorded WGC status from 2009, the WGC concept, which started life as the showcase for the discredited and PGA Tour-dominated International Federation of PGA Tours has become a self-serving and largely self-selecting vehicle for the PGA Tour elite, the prize funds on offer on the US Tour all-but guaranteeing a place in the four multimillion-dollar events for its members.
Qualification criteria almost assure a place in the three US-based WGC events for the top 50 on the OWGR, alternating Ryder Cup or President’s Cup team members, tournament winners with an OWGR ‘Rating,’ of 115 or more, plus one token tournament champions from each of the Japan Tour Championship, the Australian PGA Championship, the Dimension Data Pro-Am and the Thailand Golf Championship.
A meritocracy it may appear, but a heavily-loaded one, with all but a privileged few excluded, unless they get lucky, and it has been said that the only thing that’s harder than getting into the WGC fold is to get out of it again, one event, the WGC Bridgestone unashamedly named, the, ‘Invitational’; it is estimated that, in recent years, around 25% of players have played 75% of the WGC events, nice work if you can get it.
Meanwhile, and forgive me for being pedantic, but for this observer at least, the term ‘World Championship,’ is a singular as opposed to a plural concept, ideally, even
in those discredited sports of athletics and football, neither four each year or every single year, diluting the brand, spreading the cream too thinly on the cake.
And, when Woods, who quaintly described himself as, ‘An independent contractor,’ and free to choose where and when (and for how much) he played skipped the US$7.5million WGC HSBC Champions in Shanghai and was followed by Rory McIlroy, with whom he played a US$5million winner-takes-all exhibition at Mission Hills instead of the official WGA PGA Tour/European Tour event, the early writing was on the Great Wall, player power exercised with impunity, the WGC concept all-but holed below the waterline, proof-positive that everything that shines is not made of gold.
Indeed, the only two vaguely imaginative developments the WGC has conjuredup was to embrace the ailing World Cup of Golf between 2000 - 2006, eventually forced to drop that by PGA Tour player power as there was - shock, horror - no individual prize money on offer and the illfated WGC US$10million Tournament of Hope, scheduled for South Africa from 2013 onwards, but which never saw the light-of-day as it was to clash with Tiger’s vanity project, the Chevron World Challenge.
The orchestrator of the PGA orchestra, ex-Commissioner Tim Finchem has repeatedly said the World Championships are meeting their aim of enhancing “The competitive structure of professional golf worldwide while preserving the traditions and strengths of the individual tour and their events,” adding, “I think that mission is being met as well. We would like to see World Golf Championships played around the world and we have seen that.”
Try telling the to golf fans in all of Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia, Japan, Canada, South America and Australasia.
So insipid and predictable has the three stroke-play and one match-play series become that the FedEx Final Series looks dramatic and dynamic by comparison, the, ‘Majors,’ with their authenticity, history, heritage and competitive edge not so much the jewel in golf’s crown, but the crown itself.
Therefore, what’s to be done with the pale, stale and male World Golf Championships, when everyone, other than TV viewers and several bigbrand sponsors see no reason for change?
That’s way beyond this correspondent’s pay grade, but reform of the obsolete and undemocratic International Federation of PGA Tours would be a start, perhaps hand the WGC concept over to the International Golf Federation, possibly even using them for Olympic qualification, consider the recently trumpeted closer collaboration between the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour as an agent for change, and, please, please, please, reduce the dominance of the avaricious USA in any reformed format.
But, in a country where its domestic baseball league play-offs are called the, ‘World Series,’ the definition of, the noun, ‘World’, in World Golf Championships differs significantly from the interpretation of the rest of the world, and, besides, whilst the American electorate voted for Trump and his infamous, “Big beautiful wall,” just like golf and golfers, turkeys have a habit of not voting for Christmas.
So, the WGC bandwagon rolls on down Mexico way, and let’s hope the Mexicans are more hospitable and welcoming to a mostly American extravaganza, than the country’s President has been towards their hosts.
More than half the WGC events have been won by American golfers, Tiger Woods all-powerful with 18 wins in all
Tim Finchem, exCommissioner of PGA Tour has repeatedly said the WGC are meeting their aim of enhancing “The competitive structure of professional golf worldwide while preserving the traditions and strengths of the individual tour and their events.”