"Silly Season’’ events, those 10 made-for-TV tournaments that come after the season-ending Tour Championship, are a mixed bag.
Sometimes, they appear to have star quality that rivals the major championships. At other times, they can’t draw the interest of flies.
Take this week’s World Cup in Portugal — please!
The two-man teams, which represent 24 countries competing for $4 million in prize money, have more no-names than players you would recognize.
Yeah, it’s hard to fathom golf enthusiasts getting excited about China’s dynamic duo of Wang Ter-Chang and Chang Tse-Peng. The same could be said of Holland’s Maarten Lafeber/Robert-Jan Derksen or Venezuela’s Carlos Larrain/Manuel Bermudez.
Even Japan, which has a stable of well-known pros, has thrown together a pair of claimers in Yasuharo Imano and Takuya Taniguichi.
Of the 48 players involved, I recognized 22 of them. And I cover golf for a living!
The U.S.? Oh, sure, most of us know Stewart Cink, who is ranked No. 25 in the world, and his partner, Zach Johnson, who currently sits at No. 40. It’s just hard to believe that eight higher-ranked Yanks turned down the invitation to the World Cup before Cink said "yes,’’ and subsequently asked Johnson to be his partner.
Apparently all of those "regrets only’’ were lost on PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who recently told pgatour.com: "The World Cup has held an esteemed position within the golf world for decades. It has done as much to promote golf around the world as any event in the sport.’’
Obviously, this is not the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, where jingoism is alive and well.
It would seem like a patriot act would be needed to get Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson to ever play in the World Cup again.
Sure, that’s silly, but how about ABC and ESPN devoting 16 hours of coverage to the World Cup? No wonder ABC is losing $15 million to $50 million (depending on whom you believe) on golf this year. A couple more World Cups, and the network will be bankrupt.
It wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, the World Cup was a prestigious event with a history of champions that would make any tournament puff its chest. Believe it or not, the Americans even dominated, winning 12 of the first 20 events.
Among those early winners were Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Jimmy Demaret. Or how about this: Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus each won the event a record six times, four with each other (1963-66).
Others who have held the trophy over the years include Hall of Famers Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Seve Ballesteros, Hale Irwin, Ben Crenshaw and Bernhard Langer.
In the 1990s, Fred Couples and Davis Love III resurrected Team USA after a three-year drought, registering a four-peat beginning in 1992. More recently, Tiger Woods won with Mark O’Meara in 1999, and then with David Duval the following year, when he and "Double-D" were 1-2 in the world. Heavyweights Ernie Els and Retief Goosen were the champs in 2001.
But the past few years, the cream of the U.S. crop as well as the best among the rest of the world seem to have lost interest. This is especially true for the Americans, as last year journeymen Scott Verplank and Bob Tway finished seventh, extending the U.S. slump to a record four straight years.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia is the star this year in Portugal, and at No. 6 in the world he is the only player from the top 10. Apparently the $1.4 million that goes to the winners — $700,000 each — is chump change these days. Despite the hard times for the World Cup, the silly season still appeals to some golf junkies. Next week, we’ll be blessed with Thanksgiving and the Merrill Lynch Skins Game, which features Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Fred Funk and Couples, who has been dubbed "King of the Silly Season’’ for all the extra money he has won. Too bad Michelle Wie turned down the Skins. Her presence would have been the perfect fit.
There’s even some merit to the upcoming PGA Grand Slam of Golf, which features the major championship winners — Woods, Michael Campbell and Phil Mickelson — and Vijay Singh, who got in on points when Woods won both the Masters and British Open. The following week, Woods hosts his Target World Challenge, which always has a strong field because it’s not nice to turn down Tiger. (Just don’t tell Lefty!) In between, we’ll skip the World Cup, the Father/Son Challenge and the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge, simply because sometimes golf’s postseason gets a little too silly even for the game’s most loyal fans.
Dunlop Phoenix When: Today- Sunday
Where: Phoenix Country Club (6,901 yards, par 70), Miyazaki, Japan
Purse: $1.7 million, $340,000 to the winner
Outlook: In last year’s event, Tiger Woods won his first stroke-play title since October 2003, finishing with a 16-under 264 for an eight-stroke victory. Woods is coming off consecutive second-place finishes in the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship and the HSBC Champions last week in China. Jim Furyk also is in the field along with U.S. Open winner Michael Campbell, Colin Montgomerie, Robert Allenby, David Duval and Thomas Bjorn.