Bobby Jones as a Business
Bob Jones (he preferred Bob to Bobby, say the experts) has been on my mind a lot lately as we approach the 83rd PGA Championship, which will be held at his old club, Atlanta Athletic. Were it not for Babe Ruth, Bobby Jones would have been the most popular sports figure of the first half of the 20th century. Some say that by any fair measure, Jones did eclipse Ruth. But Ruth ' warts, hot-dog-eating marathons and all -- was the media star Jones never tried to be.
Therein lays some of the appeal of the Jones legend. Although we in the game often lapse into the mistake of thinking of Jones as a career golfer, in truth, he was a career lawyer and World War II veteran who happened to have been the best golfer in the world when he was young. He loved the game, he wrote eloquently about it, and he helped build one of its most revered clubs and tournaments.
But he was not a range rat. He hardly touched his clubs in the off-season. He didnt play golf at all after 1948, when he was 46 and an advancing spinal disease made anything physical too tough for him.
In this era of trash-rapping NBA stars, overpaid baseball players, TV deals and agents, there should be a clamor for the likes of Jones. Except there does not appear to have been a likes of him. A self-refereeing gentleman (You might as well congratulate a man for not robbing a bank, he said when lauded for penalizing himself on a rules call) who avoided scandal, provided an untrammeled life for his family, and fought his way through the thick and thin of golf to reach the games pinnacle: Name his like. Lou Gehrig, maybe. But no one today.
Thats why it makes me wonder that so few people have really tried to capitalize on Jones life. Is the Jones legend that sacred?
There is a new website (www.golfspast.com) that will concentrate on selling some high-priced Jones memorabilia, some autographed or otherwise authenticated. (Example: A framed letter from Jones to golf writer Charles Price is available for $3,500.) So far, it looks as if the effort is being handled with dignity.
A company called Jonesheirs, Incorporated -- which, as the name implies, was set up by the great man's heirs -- diligently protects Bob Jones' name, image and likeness from uses it considers inappropriate to his ideals and memory. Jonesheirs reviews license requests for various uses, and in the past has entered into agreements with Callaway Golf (the late Ely Callaway was a distant cousin of Jones) and Hickey-Freeman, which makes Bobby Jones sportswear. (The Callaway relationship ended amicably this year.)
Just to show how little I know about Hollywood (a friend encapsulated his advice this way: Be afraid. Be very afraid.), I asked an in-the-know person at Callaway why no one has made a serious effort to make a feature-length movie about Jones.
It wouldnt even need to be presented as a golf movie. Jones life was poignant enough on its own. Sickly kid finds golf, becomes a player, overcomes seven years of disappointment to surpass anything the game has ever seen, founds a landmark club and a major tournament that the sports world treats as the closest thing to heaven this side of St. Andrews, for the second half of his life stoically bearing a disease that slowly eats away his spinal cord and reduces his once athletic form to something he couldnt bear to let the world see near the end ' what a story! Whats it missing?
Bank. Thats a movie term for the quality Nicholas Cage, Bruce Willis and Angelina Jolie add to celluloid.
But if it could get made, try not crying in your popcorn during that film.
Perhaps its good that Jones legacy lives in a kind of bubble, safe from exploitation from careless business interests. I suspect golf likes Jones just as he is in our memories. Hes in that pantheon that includes the young Mantle, the proud Clemente standing on second after his 3,000th (and little did we know, final) hit, and the strong Gehrig, before his reluctant goodbye speech.
Not every profit is profitable. Have a good week, Mr. Jones, wherever you are.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.