SAN DIEGO – Nick Faldo wanted his “Faldo Series” to have a global reach, and he thought he achieved that last year when he took four juniors from his program to South Africa to play against four juniors from the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation.
Turns out that was just the start.
One year later, he is in the final stages of the “Major Champions Invitational,” which will have close to 20 teams represented by major champions. Each team will have two boys and two girls from their junior programs, each wearing team colors with their champions’ name on the side of the sleeve.
It is scheduled for March 12-14 at Bella Collina, not far from Orlando, Florida, where the Arnold Palmer Invitational is being played.
Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy are among those who will be sending juniors, along with Annika Sorenstam and Justin Rose. The Seve Ballesteros Foundation is supporting a team representing the great Spaniard, while Southern Company will have a team in honor of the late Payne Stewart.
Faldo ran into McIlroy last year in South Africa during the early stages of planning. He said McIlroy asked him the age limit, and Faldo told him it likely would be between 16 and 21.
“He said, ‘I’ve got a really good 15-year-old.’ And I said, ‘Guess what? The age limit is now 15,’ ” Faldo said. “The bottom line is they have a player they think should be there, then they should be invited.”
Faldo said the players in town for Bay Hill likely will come by for the 54-hole event that ends on Wednesday, or at least for a dinner. He said Stenson has agreed to do a clinic, and Sorenstam and Scott also have offered help.
“The idea is there’s no heavy lifting,” Faldo said.
He said the tournament will offer world amateur ranking points.
“What I think is cool is we all do our bit for communities in our areas of the world,” Faldo said. “This is a carrot of the kids. ‘Hey, you impress me, we’ve got this event going on.’ Our goal in one year is we get this established. We will have hand-picked some of the best amateurs in the world.”
Faldo said the ultimate goal is for the participants to make a name for themselves down the road. He referenced Hideki Matsuyama, who twice won the Asia Pacific Amateur, which awards a spot in the Masters. Matsuyama made the cut both times he played as an amateur.
“That gets on the radar very quickly,” he said.
A 1-hour show of the tournament will be broadcast on Aug. 11, on CBS Sports, preceding coverage of the PGA Championship.
Golf has a short history of having a large audience fall into its lap only for the product to be far from appealing.
The most recent example was the Farmers Insurance Open. The final round at Torrey Pines was supposed to go off the air at 3:30 p.m. PST, a half-hour before the Grammys on CBS. The round took longer, mainly because of 25 mph Santa Ana wind; C.T. Pan having to go back to the tee twice on the par-3 third hole because of a tee shot into the hazard (he was two shots behind and made 8); and the final threesome hitting it off the map, which required rulings and drops on the 14th hole.
That set the stage for J.B. Holmes, who likely will be remembered more for taking 4 minutes to make a decision in the 18th fairway than for his four PGA Tour victories or the two winning Ryder Cup teams on which he played. Torn between a 3-wood (too much) and a 5-wood (not enough) to get over the water for a chance at eagle to get into a playoff, viewers tuning in ahead of the Grammys saw Holmes stand at his bag and do nothing. And then he laid up.
It wasn’t a good look.
It was reminiscent of the final round of the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open, the only compelling sporting event on TV that Sunday with three teens in contention – Michelle Wie (15), Morgan Pressel (17) and Paula Creamer (18). The rough was so nasty at Cherry Hills that Wie shot 82 and Creamer shot 79. Lorena Ochoa duck-hooked her tee shot into the water on 18. Pressel shot 75 and had to watch from the 18th fairway as Birdie Kim holed a bunker shot to win.
Go back a little further. Ty Votaw, then commissioner of the LPGA Tour, was in the media center an hour before the “Battle at Bighorn” on Monday night in 2000 that featured Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam against David Duval and Karrie Webb.
He said – and he was right – there would be more eyeballs on the LPGA Tour than ever.
Thirty minutes before it began, a vicious Santa Ana wind arrived without warning and Bighorn turned into a brute. The golf wasn’t pretty, and it finished 80 minutes over schedule.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open is among at least eight PGA Tour events that is keeping four amateurs for the Wednesday pro-am and switching to a new model that the tour hopes will lead to a more productive time for players and their amateurs.
For tournaments that have four amateurs in a group, players can sign up to go only nine holes, and then swap out the other nine with a different player. Players still have the option to play all 18 holes with four amateurs if they don’t mind the long rounds (five-plus hours) or need to see the entire course.
The format was tested last year at the FedEx St. Jude Classic and was deemed a success.
“We think the amateurs are going to enjoy getting to spend time with two professionals,” said Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief of operations.
So what happens if the amateurs get Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth or another big star? Pazder said that during the test run at the St. Jude Classic, Mickelson and Rickie Fowler were among those who went 9 holes before switching out and the amateurs had no complaints.
The two players who are splitting up the pro-am are packaged that way during the draw party.
Fowler at Torrey
Rickie Fowler is the star of plenty of commercials for Farmers Insurance. It’s been a different story in the Farmers Insurance Open.
Fowler grew up an hour away from Torrey Pines – it’s the closest PGA Tour stop to his hometown of Murrieta – and was one of only three amateurs to make the cut there in the 2008 U.S. Open. In his rookie year, he tied for fifth at Torrey. The next three years, he never finished out of the top 20.
But with rounds of 72-72, Fowler missed the cut on Friday for the third straight year, and the fourth time in the last five years. The exception was a tie for 61st.
KPMG, Dow, Kia Motors America and XL Catlin have pledged support to launch the LPGA Women’s Network, a digital platform to help nurture female interest in the game for golfers of all skill levels and backgrounds. … This was the eighth consecutive year that the winner at Torrey Pines began the tournament on the South Course. … Golf’s only true mixed event is in Australia this week. Men and women tee off alternately at Beach Golf Links in the Vic Oates Open and play for equal money. … Phil Mickelson makes his 29th start at the Phoenix Open, breaking the record he shared with Gene Littler.
Stat of the week
Five of the seven winners from the fall earned a spot in the Masters. The four winners to start 2018 were already exempt.
“I’m very motivated to get back to the No. 1 spot, and I know that the only way to get back to the No. 1 spot is win.” – Jason Day.
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