Of David Goliath and Business
At a variety of points over the Tours history, concepts for limited-field, exhibition tours or series have been advanced by various individuals, said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement Thursday night. In each case, although leading PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour players have had the opportunity, they nevertheless opted not to support such proposals. They withheld their support largely because such proposals are not in the best interests of the game, or even the long-term interests of the players themselves.
Over the years, the growth and success of professional golf has been directly tied to the fundamental structure of the PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour.
Translation: Its our show. Stay off the stage.
Before you get too deep into the David-and-Goliath thing, keep in mind what Finchems declared mission has been. He and his Tour strive to increase playing ' and therefore income ' opportunities for tour members. Finchem and his predecessors, Deane Beman and Joseph C. Dey, worked long and hard to build a top-drawer sports league from a group of players that broke away from the PGA of America in 1968. Finchem is not about to let anyone chip away at that.
And as one source told Tim Rosaforte of Golf World, Finchem would never let Fox, who is said to be sniffing around the TV aspect of the new tour, back-door its way into golf with PGA Tour players without paying the price CBS, ABC, NBC, USA Network, ESPN and The Golf Channel have paid to be part of the latest Tour television rights package.
As a sports commissioner, why then should Finchem be blamed for trying to squash this idea like a palmetto bug? Wouldnt the NHLs Gary Bettman or Major League Baseballs Bud Selig do the same? Hasnt the NFLs Paul Tagliabue actually done it?
While its tempting to root for the little guy, its wrong to assume that the underdog is always put upon, or even correct. But it is instructive to look at the idea from its creators point of view.
So far, the only creator to go public in a big way is Fred Couples, the perennially popular and reputedly laid-back PGA Tour star who charmed the world of golf when he won the 1992 Masters. Its unlikely that the easygoing Couples had any intention of ruffling the feathers of the tour that founded his feast, so to speak.
Word from those inside is that Couples asked friend and TV producer Terry Jastrow to Christmas dinner to discuss an idea that Couples and some other players had come up with during a rain delay at the Memorial Tournament. Wouldnt people pay to see 20 major winners with graying temples in big-money events? Supposedly Couples was so excited at Christmas dinner that people didnt recognize him.
The bare fact is, the tournaments probably would attract some attention. So Couples has asked Jastrow to check into the feasibility of the idea. Word is that Jastrow, the former chief of Jack Nicklaus Productions who is now out on his own in Los Angeles and armed with one of the best Rolodexes in the worlds of entertainment and sports, is many steps down the road with Fox, which has been coveting golf TV for some time.
Business hurdles remain, largely because of what Finchem has built. PGA Tour players ' and almost all the potential players are members, except for Greg Norman and Nick Faldo ' need the Tours permission to play in a non-Tour event in any week in which the member would be eligible for a Tour event. (There arent many weeks left uncovered.) And the Tour owns the rights to the images and likenesses of its members, and would charge a hefty fee for their use ' if it allowed it at all.
And getting back to the role of the commissioner: Why should he?
David and Goliath arent tour members. So even if it seems personal, dont be fooled: Its just business.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.
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."