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Japan to California for record-chasing Tiger: golf talking points

Big names, wild weather and a steady slide feature in AFP Sport’s golf talking points this week:

– Eye of the Tiger on 83 –

Tiger Woods achieved his record-equalling 82nd PGA Tour win at the Zozo Championship in Japan 11 months ago, but he won’t have to travel as far to defend the title.

Woods this week committed to playing at the 2020 Zozo Championship which has been shifted to Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, beginning October 22, because of coronavirus-induced travel restrictions.

The 15-time major winner triumphed at the first PGA Tour event to be held in Japan last year to tie Sam Snead’s all-time wins record, and Woods will be back on familiar ground for his defence.

Woods hosted the World Challenge event at the Sherwood layout from 2000 to 2013, winning five times.

If he is to add to that tally he will have to overcome a Zozo Championship field that is shaping to be even tougher than last year’s, the PGA Tour announced Tuesday. 

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who pushed Woods all the way in finishing runner-up last year, and Rory McIlroy, who finished third, have entered again.

They will be joined by the world’s top two Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm, plus Phil Mickelson, Tommy Fleetwood, Ricky Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose for the no-cut, 78-player shootout.

– Scotland for the brave –

The European Tour this week returns to semblance of normality, at least in terms of prize money, with the Scottish Open carrying a $7 million purse — big enough to attract several big names back from playing for the riches on offer in the US.

Moved back from its traditional slot, a week before the Open Championship in July, the North Berwick venue will see top names braving the October elements on what looks certain to be a blustery week on the coast just east of Edinburgh.

Tommy Fleetwood, Ian Poulter, Matt Fitzpatrick and 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett will be among the luminaries arriving from America armed with handwarmers, mittens and rain gear as they go in search of winning one of the European Tour’s “Rolex Series” of mega-money events. 

Good luck to them — the forecast for the weekend is bleak, to say the least. Maximum temperatures might only nudge 11C (52F) with rain and 30 kilometres per hour (20 mph) wind thrown in on the exposed links edging the Firth of Forth.

At least it should be slighter more clement the following week when the tour heads south for another big-money event — its flagship PGA Championship at leafy Wentworth near London.

– Falling Garcia –

Sergio Garcia dropped out of the world’s top 50 this week, ending a remarkable run at the top.

The Spaniard broke into the top 50 as a 19-year old in 1999 and, apart from one form blip between August 2010 and July 2011, had been there ever since.

He is one of only five players in history to have spent more than 1,000 weeks in the top 50, though never reached the summit, with being second-ranked in 2008 the closest he got to number one. The other four are Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk

Since winning his sole major at the Masters in 2017, Garcia has been on a steady slide. He dropped out of the top 20 in late 2018 and fell to 51st from 48th in the new rankings revealed Monday.

Garcia is entered this week at the US PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms Championship, where a good result could see only his second fall from golf’s top table in 21 years be very short-lived.

– World rankings –

Top 10s, week beginning September 28, 2020:

Men

1. Dustin Johnson (USA) 10.11 

2. Jon Rahm (ESP) 9.90 

3. Justin Thomas (USA) 8.72 

4. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 7.90 

5. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 7.60 

6. Collin Morikawa (USA) 7.59 

7. Webb Simpson (USA) 7.21 

8. Xander Schauffele (USA) 6.69 

9. Patrick Reed (USA) 5.80 (+1) 

10. Brooks Koepka (USA) 5.80 (-1)

Women

1. Ko Jin-young (KOR) 7.97 

2. Nelly Korda (USA) 6.68 

3. Danielle Kang (USA) 6.28 

4. Brooke Henderson (CAN) 5.42 

5. Minjee Lee (AUS) 5.35 

6. Park Sung-hyun (KOR) 5.26 

7. Kim Sei-young (KOR) 5.24 

8. Nasa Hataoka (JPN) 5.14 

9. Park In-bee (KOR) 4.99 

10. Lexi Thompson (USA) 4.77

dh/th

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