News

No debate:  FBR leaves Dubai in the dust

   
By BILL HUFFMAN
        When it comes to comparing various tournaments in professional golf, it’s hard to look past the Official World Golf Rankings, which are measured by strength of field and change weekly. As proof I offer the FBR Open vs. the Dubai Desert Classic, which tee off this week on opposite sides of the Earth.
      When the season started, Dubai clearly had the edge in the World Rankings with six players in the top 10 (not counting the rehabbing Tiger Woods) compared with just two players for the FBR Open. But four weeks into the season and a lot has changed already, with the FBR now boasting four players in the top 10 (not counting the rehabbing Vijay Singh) compared to three for Europe.
      That comparison can be taken a tad further by noting that the FBR Open has eight in the top 20 – No.4 Phil Mickelson, No. 6 Geoff Ogilvy, No. 9 Anthony Kim, No. 10 Camilo Villegas, No. 15 Kenny Perry, No. 16 Steve Stricker, No. 17 Stewart Cink and No. 20 Mike Weir. Ogilvy and Kim are new to the top 10, while Stricker, Cink and Weir all got into the top 20 lately.
     Dubai, meanwhile, had No. 11 Lee Westwood and No. 12 Ernie Els fall out of the top 10, and No. 3 Padraig Harrington withdrew. (Maybe the $500,000 appearance fee wasn’t enough?) That clearly makes No. 2 Sergio Garcia the biggest draw in the “other’’ desert.
     Does that make the FBR Open the clear winner for once when it comes to strength of field against Dubai? Well, what if I told you the FBR always beats Dubia, hands down, whether Tiger players there or not, and regardless of the rankings.
    Yes, while the world rankings don’t lie — and are more accurate than the money lists — the truth is the FBR Open is the exception to the rule. It’s because strength of field can’t always measure the true marquee value when it comes to this early season event. (That, and our weather is usually the best on tour!)
      Besides, you won’t find crowd favorites like Michael Allen, Woody Austin, Paul Azinger, Aaron Baddeley, Mark Calcavecchia, Chris DiMarco, Tim Herron, Jerry Kelly, Tom Lehman, Justin Leonard, Billy Mayfair, Rocco Mediate, Arron Oberholser, Ted Purdy, Jeff Quinney, Chez Reavie, David Toms, Kirk Triplett or Scott Verplank in the top 20 – or in Dubai.
     The FBR also has the three hottest sticks in the game right now in Ogilvy, Zach Johnson and Pat Perez, who have won the initial three PGA Tour stops in 2009. That takes nothing away from Europe’s recent winners in Paul Casey and Alvaro Quiros, who won against weaker fields.
    Everybody knows that “chicks dig the long ball,’’ and two-time champ J.B. Holmes and big-hitting Bubba Watson will certainly add some punch to the FBR’s lineup.  Of, course, the ladies probably will be more focused on Villegas, especially if he dips down a couple of times into the “Spidey’’ pose.
   Add the notorious Birds Nest and the equally infamous 16th "stadium” hole to the FBR equation, and no wonder the Dubai Desert Classic eats the dust of over 500,000 fans at the TPC Scottsdale each year. Seriously, how much would the presence of Tiger Woods really tip the scale this time around when everyone already will be wearing red – Cardinals red — on Sunday?
   For once, I’d have to say not one little bit.
Bill Huffman has covered golf in Arizona for over 20 years for the Arizona Republic and East Valley Tribune as well as writing the book Arizona’s Greatest Golf Courses. He co-hosts Backspin the Golf Show on XTRA Sports 910 AM each Wednesday (6-7pm) and Saturday (9-11am).  To reach Bill directly please email him at [email protected] or call 480-540-1780.