Who Gets To Play In the World Golf Championships?

WGC LogoWell, of course, that depends on which WGC we are talking about. Two weeks ago at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships, the Top 64 golfers were eligible to compete as determined by the Official World Golf Rating (OWGR) as of February 15th, a week before the tournament started. No exceptions, either you make the Top 64 list at that appointed time or you do not play. If you make the list and choose to not play you are not replaced and your first round opponent automatically wins. In August, at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone CC, it will be only the Top 50 golfers as determined by the OWGR. In addition, playing members of both teams from the 2007 President’s Cup and 2008 Ryder Cup are included in the field as well as tournament winners since the prior year’s tournament. That is, tournament winners on the Asian Tour, the European Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the PGA Tour, the PGA Tour Australasia, and the Sunshine Tour (South Africa) were eligible. There is a caveat; however, that in order to be eligible the tournament winner must have an OWGR point total of 115 points or more. This is equivalent roughly to an OWGR of No. 75 today. No rift-raft or one-time Charlie’s in WGCs. At this week’s WGC-CA Championship held on the Blue Monster at Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami, Florida, the field is basically the world’s No. 1 golfer Tiger Woods and the other Top 50 golfers as determined by the OWGR. There are some important distinctions and additional qualifying criteria which make a huge difference to those golfers on the bubble. In the end you are in or you are not. If you are into the $8M tournament with no cut, there is guaranteed money if you finish all four rounds. Last year that amounted to $35,500 for last place. So being in or not is a big deal. One of the distinctions about the top 50 OWGR golfers is when you make that distinguished list. There are two opportunities: one week ago after the WGC-Accenture Match Play on Monday, March 2nd and this past Monday after the Honda Classic. Boo Weekley was in the top 50 one week ago, last week he was not. One week ago Davis Love was not in the top 50, but with his joint 13th place finish at the Honda last week he moved up to No. 50. Both are playing at Doral starting today. Stuart Appleby also fell out of the Top 50, but is playing based on his 2008 No. 17 FedExCup points finish. An additional qualifying criterion is this year’s FedExCup point list, the Top 10. Similar to the OWGR in that is takes two snapshots one week apart mainly to capture the best golfers either going up or down the list. Making it into the WGC-CA on the latter list were Honda Champion Y.E. Yang (South Korea) and runner-up John Rollins. This year’s European Tour Order of Merit Top 10 also qualifies for this WGC. Since there was no European Tour tournament this past week there was no movement in or out of the Top 10 and all these golfers were ranked in the OWGR Top 50. Oops typo there this year’s European Tour Order of Merit is called the Race to Dubai. Wonder if they use Fed Ex? The other qualifying criteria were based on last year’s performance: namely the Top 30 in the 2008 FedExCup points list, the Top 20 European Order of Merit, and the Top three Order of Merit from each of the four other Federation Tours, which come together to conduct the WGCs-the Asian Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the PGA Tour Australasia, and the Sunshine Tour (South Africa). These golfers knew they were in the tournament for sure before last year before anybody else, although it is hard to drop out of the Top 50 OWGR especially if you are Tiger Woods. Easier if you are Boo Weekley. Golfers who qualified only on their 2008 Top 30 FedExCup points are Briny Baird, Chad Campbell, Ken Duke, Dudley Hart, Ryuji Imada (Japan), Billy Mayfair, Carl Pettersson (Sweden), Kevin Sutherland, D.J. Trahan, and Bubba Watson. They may not be off to a great start in 2009, but they earned their way here with a great year in 2008. All it takes is a dream and an entry spot. Similarly for those who qualified only by virtue of their 2008 Top 20 finish on the European Tour are Darren Clarke (Northern Ireland), Richard Finch (England), Soren Hanson (Denmark), James Kingston (South Africa), Soren Kjeldsen (Denmark), and Pablo Larrazabal (Spain). Okay time to test your knowledge of international golf. The Top three qualifiers from the Asian Tour? They are Jeev M. Singh (India), Lin Wen-tang (Taiwan), and Mark Brown (New Zealand). From the Japan Golf Tour, we have Shingo Katayama (Japan), Azumo Yano (Japan), and Prayad Marksaeng (Thailand). Likewise from the PGA Tour Australasia coming to play are Mark Brown (also No. 3 in Asia), Rod Pampling (Australia), and Geoff Ogilvy (also No. 4 in the world ranking). Finally from the Sunshine Tour and all from South Africa also teeing it up this week at Doral are Richard Sterne, Garth Mulroy, and Thomas Aiken. Looking at the field by country of origin there are 27 golfers from the United States, 10 from South Africa, eight from England, six from Australia, and four each from Spain and Sweden. In total there are 80 golfers from 20 countries—the best in the world competing in the same tournament. All the familiar names are there, in all the familiar places… Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia (Spain), Geoff Ogilvy (Australia), Vijay Singh (Fiji), and Padraig Harrington (Ireland) are all playing the Blue Monster at Doral. Then there are some unfamiliar names becoming familiar to us like Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), and Alvaro Quiros (Spain) may end up winning. Enjoy the competition!