The last three months on the calendar are known as golf's silly season, with the game's best players trotting all over the globe fulfilling promo duties and raking in appearance fee cash at non-traditional events. The PGA Tour has attempted to bring some order to the fall season, assigning their new wraparound schedule with full FedExCup points and larger purses. But the biggest superstars are still scattered all over the world, or at home preparing for the 2014 season.
The last couple weeks have been a perfect example of the disjointed nature of this season, with players popping up at both official and unsanctioned events all across Asia. There was the Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy one-on-one cash-and-giggles game at Mission Hills, Euro Tour events in Korea and China, and PGA Tour events in Malaysia and Shanghai. Of course, there were plenty of promo spots peppered in as all the tours and sponsors try to capture the game's most rapidly growing audience (Brandt Snedker, unfortunately, didn't make it out of these promo activities unscathed).
This week, it's more of the same with overnight and early morning golf from Australia and Turkey, and then the official PGA Tour stop back on U.S. soil in Georgia at that bastion of American wealth -- St. Simons and Sea Island.
Tiger Woods, the biggest draw, is in Turkey for the second straight year. This season, however, the event is an officially sanctioned Euro Tour tournament, the Turkish Airlines Open. Tiger is undoubtedly cashing a hefty appearance fee check (reportedly around $3M), and also carved out plenty of time for promo work, most notably with a drive across two continents.
As for his play in an actual competitive event, well...that's a work in progress. Tiger has not teed it up in a competitive stroke play event since September at the TOUR Championship. The one-on-one match against Rory was as unserious and uncompetitive as it gets for the world No. 1, so he hasn't had a ton of reps. On Thursday at the Montgomerie Max Royal, Woods could not find the fairway and his form from tee-to-green was off throughout his opening round. Tiger had to call it a day early, with delays pushing the later groups into darkness. But even with that poor form, he still managed to walk off the course in red figures at 1-under.
The 1-under mark puts Tiger in a tie for 50th place, with only 17 players in the field posting a worse number. Even though he's down the leaderboard, it was one of those vintage Tiger stretches where you can't recall a single good shot and yet he somehow remained competitive and within striking distance. He'll have eight holes tomorrow to make a run at leader Paul Casey, who is 7-under through his first 14 holes in Antalya. Some highlights of Turkey's inconsistent round (via GolfChannel):
One American abroad who's not chasing the field is Rickie Fowler, leading the Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast at Royal Pines Resort. Fowler had another up-and-down 2013 season and was mediocre during the two Asian PGA Tour stops last month, but he lit it up on Thursday with an 8-under round of 63. Fowler is the most notable American in a field that's not as deep as the one in Turkey, but Aussie favorite and Masters champ Adam Scott is chasing just two shots back at 6-under.
And rounding out the Thursday golf from disparate parts of the world is the McGladrey Classic on Sea Island. This first round got a late start due to fog on the Georgia coast, but Brian Gay jumped to an early lead at 5-under. Webb Simpson should be the favorite, but as we saw last year, anyone, including Tommy Two Gloves, can go super low here and win the tournament coming out of nowhere. After the two limited field events in Asia, this is a great opportunity for those lesser-known players and rookies to get some reps, make an early season mark and improve their status on the Tour going forward.
While it doesn't have the uniformity or cache of the regular PGA Tour season, this exemplar fall golf weekend does offer a wide variety of options. Here's hoping for a Tiger charge in Turkey, a Rickie-Adam duel in Australia, and... a shootout in Georgia?