Again Optimism About What
Ha ha. Brings up a good point, though. The PGA Show looks pretty much the same every year. There are aisles of shiny things, which upon close inspection vary slightly from year to year. But on the whole, the 2001 scene was hard to distinguish from that of 2000.
That should give golf industry leaders a fresh case of agita. As I wrote after last year's show, there seems to be a lot of unjustified optimism in the golf business. Some people persist in believing there's a golf boom.
Well, there is, if you're in television. Providing Tiger gets off the schneid soon and wins the first of his dozen victories this year, TV ratings for golf should beat last year's healthy numbers.
But participation numbers have to be massaged to be encouraging. The number of players in the United States holds steady at about 26 million, according to the National Golf Foundation. But industry observers counsel against placing too much stock in that number because it counts even golfers who play as few as one to seven rounds per year. That segment of players doesn't drive much activity in the equipment and greens fees categories.
Another oft-heard criticism is that as many players leave the game each year as players who come to it for the first time.
Rounds played rose to a record 564 million in 1999, the last year for which figures are available. But more than 494 million of those rounds were played by so-called core golfers, who typically play more than eight rounds per year. (The NGF considers core golfers to be a conglomerate of moderate players, who play eight to 24 rounds per year, and avid players, who play 25 or more rounds annually.)
Bottom line: Although the NGF sees moderate players as the best bets for growth, everyone is still worried that in the net analysis, golf can't retain its new players.
Which brings us to the annual optimism about the shiny things at the PGA Show. The 700,000 square feet of exhibit space in the Orange County (Fla.) Convention Center was jam-packed with quality new products. And it's hard not to be optimistic when surrounded by all that glittering steel and shiny urethane.
But if the expected recession slows the economy, which until recently has been popping exuberant wheelies every time the leading indicators are announced, leisure spending will be the first to go, as it always is. How, then, will premium equipment makers drive upgrade behavior? How will moderates become avids? How will steel owners move up to titanium? And how will value line equipment companies convince people not to put off the decision to take up the game?
Worse yet, what if the flow of sponsorship money to worthy programs, such as The First Tee or Kids on Course, were to slow?
Meanwhile, members of the steering committee for golf's plan to become as popular as NFL football in 20 years met in Orlando during the show, and no concrete news of an execution plan emerged. In fairness, the initiative will need time to take shape. But already, some industry leaders have said privately that they are getting impatient.
Sobering stuff. Could make for a glum plane ride home from the Show. But there's no escaping the issue.
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.
It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.
McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).
Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).
Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.