| 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

HK Golfer - - Contents - By Mike Wil­son

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.”

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