Tournament: World Golf Championships - Workday Championship at the Concession
Course: The Concession Golf Club, par 72, 7,474 yards. Just outside of Sarasota (south of Tampa, FL).
Purse: $10,500,000 total, $1,820,000 to the winner. 24th place is $103k, and dead freakin’ last will get $32,000. Not too shabby.
Defending Champ: Patrick Reed, kinda sorta (more on that below). The
cheater former Masters champion came from behind to overtake Justin Thomas and held off Bryson DeChambeau.
Fun Fact: The golf course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. Why those two? Because at the 1969 Ryder Cup (biennial US vs. Europe team competition), Brit Tony Jacklin had a 2 foot putt on the last hole. If made, Europe would tie the US; if missed, the US would win outright. Jacklin’s opponent, Jack Nicklaus, conceded the made putt to Jacklin before he could attempt, and hence the club name. It is a much lauded example of sportsmanship in golf, but would probably set golf Twitter afire in these times. Supposedly, Nicklaus told Jacklin at the time “I don’t believe you would have missed that, but I’d never give you the opportunity in these circumstances.”
TV Times: Thursday-Friday, 1 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 12 p.m.-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel). Saturday, 2:30 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 12 p.m.-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel). Sunday, 2:30 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC)
‘Dawgs in the Field: 4. Brendon Todd, Harris English, Kevin Kisner, Bubba Watson.
We have truly entered the run-up to the Masters. And in this “super-season” of 50 events, the pro golf world is really starting to hit a sweet spot. Counting this week, 4 of the next 7 weeks will be top tier events: WGC Workday Championship, The Players Championship, WGC Dell Match Play Championship, then the Masters. Throw in Arnold Palmer’s Invitational, and the Honda Classic at PGA National in between, and it really is a golf lover’s dream. And this is coming off back-to-back weeks of Pebble Beach and Riviera.
May has Quail Hollow and the PGA Championship, June has Memorial and the US Open, July has the British Open and the Summer Olympics (golf is scheduled at the moment), and August has another WGC and the FedEx Cup playoffs. There is very little of a soft spot in the calendar for the next 6 months.
So about this week’s WGC (and yes, that’s World Golf Championship). See, it used to be played at Doral in Miami. Then it was moved to Mexico City in an effort to grow the international game (I almost believe that is the real reason. Almost.) But due to COVID 19 travel restrictions, the event was moved this year to Florida. I think the reasoning is that most top touring pros are already in the US, and having to fly in and out of another country presents logistical challenges with mandatory travel quarantines and such.
So we start the Florida swing, just with a different tournament. The Mexican version had Mexican title sponsors which didn’t translate to south Gulf Coast golf, so the WGC was lucky enough to land Workday as a replacement sponsor. Get ready for totally played out Workday TV commercials featuring Phil Mickelson. Folks, you’ve been warned.
The top 15 players in the world ranking are teeing it up this week, and every invitee is world-class, but I think the real star of the tournament will be the course itself. A private club opening in 2006, this isn’t your typical parkland style course. There’s lots of water and it’s super long. That may not make much difference to today’s bomb-and-gouge style, but if 4 of your toughest holes are par 5s, then something is different. In today’s game, a par 5 is regarded as an easy birdie, so I’m anxious to see what the world’s best can do on these big holes.
There are fairways bunkers, perhaps deeper than we’re used to seeing. The sight lines from the tee are apparently intimidating; a departure from many Nicklaus courses, which are inviting from the start and really bite you in the britches as you approach the green. Forced carries, doglegs, and lots of acreage make this one of the best private clubs around. Locals swear there’s a 10 foot plus alligator patrolling the water on the 17th hole - it’s seriously a hazard for those not paying attention. And now we get to see it on TV.
Truth be told, it’s been on television before and I was one of a scattered few who watched. Concession hosted the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship. Why did I watch? Because your Georgia Bulldogs were one of 30 qualifiers. The 2015 UGA squad was pretty loaded: current PGA pro Sepp Straka, conditional PGA member Greyson Sigg, mini-tour winner Lee McCoy, and squad stars Zach Healy, Spencer Ralston, and Trevor Phillips were all on campus at that time. That team won the SEC Conference Championship that season and won the NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa. The team didn’t fare as well at Concession, finishing 14th. It is remember as somewhat of a breakout moment for Bryson DeChambeau who took medalist honors, and later that summer joined an elite list by also capturing the US Amateur.
This is an elite field, and a small one. Only 73 total players, and 4 of them are former Bulldogs. It is essentially limited to the top 50 in the world, and top 10 in FedEx Cup points, plus top players from Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Brendon Todd is #46 in the OWGR (Official World Golf Rankings), Harris English sits at #20 (and #5 in FedEx), Kevin Kisner is #34 and just welcomed a new son February 4th, and Bubba Watson slips in at #52. I think Bubba’s entry is due to other players withdrawing (Tiger Woods being an obvious one due to his back surgery and now the car accident this week).
If you’re a Georgia golf fan and enjoy podcasts, a couple of former Bulldogs were hosted recently and recorded for posterity.
Kevin Kisner was a guest of DJ Shockley and Wes Blankenship on their pod which you can find here.
And Chip Beck is on the No Laying Up podcast this week. If you don’t know who Chip Beck is, you should. He played at UGA from 1975-79 and is still all over the Georgia Men’s Golf record book. He played on 3 Ryder Cup teams, won 4 PGA Tour titles, and had several runner-up finishes in majors.
Since Georgia beat LSU in basketball, and Savhir Wheeler fooled around and got himself a triple-double, I think we all know what that means for this weekend’s tilt against South Carolina. If, like me, your cardiologist and your therapist both advise against watching Georgia basketball**, you are now armed to make an informed sports-watching decision. Still and always...
**I’ll watch anyway. I can’t turn down pulled pork and I can’t quit drinking either.