Return to the Golf Today Home Page All the latest golf news Coverage of all the worlds major tours For all your golfing needs Golf Course Directory Out on the course Golf related travel Whats going on, message board, links and more!
 
Worldwide Feature Articles
 
Top Stories
PGA: Stephen Ames coasts to six shot win
PGA: Tiger Woods ends difficult week with 75
Euro: Van de Velde ends 13 year victory wait
Stephen Ames vaults to World No. 27
Boost for the Philippine Open
Tiger Woods misses practice to be with father
Network News
Amateur:Hole in One Golf Society

Go-Golf:XtravagaNZa New Zealand

Industry:Portable Driving Range Covers
Golfpro:Swing Speed Meter
Ecology:Interview with STRI

13 players make WGC debut at Matchplay

Joe Durant remembers hearing about the formation of the World Golf Championships in 1996. He wasn't sure what they were, only that they offered a $5 million purse, with $1 million for the winner.

And they were not for guys like him.

Durant was on the Nike Tour, on his way to earning enough money -- $159,386 -- to finish third on the money list and earn another ticket to the big leagues.

On Wednesday, Durant will be among 13 players making their debut in a WGC event, and it's no mystery how that happened.

``I knew if I played well, I could play myself into those tournaments,'' Durant said.

It wasn't as simple as he made it sound, but progress paid off. Durant got his card, kept his card, won the Western Open in 1998, then broke through last year by winning twice to qualify for his first Tour Championship and his first WGC event.

John Daly is another newcomer. Starting last year at No. 507 in the world ranking, he shot up to No. 51 by year's end with solid, steady play and a victory in Germany. Daly now is at No. 40, which not only earned him a spot in the Match Play Championship, but also a return to the Masters.

The list goes on.

Jerry Kelly. Rory Sabbatini. Matt Gogel. Charles Howell III. Billy Andrade. All of them are in the field for the Match Play Championship, replacing major championship winners like Steve Elkington, Mark O'Meara, Steve Jones and Greg Norman.

Amazing what kind of perks come with a little hard work and a lot of good play.

``I was on the outside looking in when the world rankings meant something,'' Andrade said. ``If you play well, you rack up (world ranking) points and you're going to get in these All-Star events. And that's what everyone wants to get into.''

What this year's tournament proves is that everyone can.

The concern three years ago was that WGC might be the ultimate acronym for exclusivity in the world of golf.

The top 64 in the world at Match Play would get the most ranking points for playing the best field in golf. The $5 million purses, especially at a time when those were by far the biggest in golf, meant only the top guys played for the most money, allowing them to keep their positions on the high end of the money list.

What about the little guy? What about the player stuck at No. 100 in the world ranking or on a money list who found himself spinning his wheels?

The answer is as old as golf. Keep spinning, and those wheels soon will hit solid ground, not to mention paydirt.

Consider this: Of the 64 players in the field for the inaugural WGC event in 1999, half of them were nowhere to be found Tuesday at La Costa.

``You're kidding,'' Tiger Woods said Tuesday, then grabbed a copy of the world rankings and went down the list -- Ian Woosnam, Bob Tway, Loren Roberts, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jeff Maggert, who won the first Match Play Championship.

Twelve of those players didn't make it back the next year, a combination of their poor play throughout the year and strong performances by guys like David Toms and Mike Weir.

``I can remember players complaining that guys who got into these events had a much better chance to win the Order of Merit, and it seemed a little unfair,'' said Phillip Price of Wales. ``I suppose my thought was to do what you can to get into the top 64 so you're playing for that kind of money.''

He got into the NEC Invitational at Firestone in 2000, tied for second behind Tiger Woods and earned $437,500, the largest paycheck of his career.

It should be noted that only three players in the 64-man field have never won on their home tour -- Howell, who only earned his PGA Tour last year; Kevin Sutherland, who finished 32nd on the money list a year ago; and Steve Flesch.

Hal Sutton was outside the top 100 in the world when the WGC was created. By the time they started, he had won twice and was the 26th seed in the first Match Play Championship.

``I think it says that if you go play, you'll get yourself in,'' Sutton said. ``It's easy to play yourself into it, and it's easy to play yourself out of it.''

What helped was a reconfiguration to the world ranking system in September that put a greater emphasis on current results. That explains why Chris DiMarco was No. 66 in the world ranking at the end of the 2000 season, and this week is the No. 10 seed.

Or why Gogel was ranked outside the top 100 just three weeks ago, won at Pebble Beach and is the 53rd seed this week.

``That's the way golf has always been,'' Gogel said. ``If you play well, everything takes care of itself.''


Email this page to a friend | Return to top of page