Got Cash -- and Game

By Adam BarrOctober 8, 2004, 4:00 pm
Big Stakes Match Play.
 
You gotta love how straightforward it is. There will be a match. You will play. There are stakes. They are big.
 
Sticks, sharks and hustlers from former mini-tour players to feverish muni course flayers are talking about Big Stakes Match Play, a new tournament planned for next May 11-17 at the CasaBlanca Golf Club in Mesquite, Nev. Its a non-handicap, two-man team event, straight match play. There will be 128 teams, and if you win your first two matches, you make back the $100,000-per-team entry fee. Then youre onto a concept well known in Nevada:
 
House money.
 
And if you win the whole shootin match, you and your partner split $3 million. Thats more than twice what Tiger, Ernie, Vijay and his pals cash on their best Sunday. As long as youre 25 years old by May 1 and you havent played on a pro tour within the last three years ' and you are among the first 128 who can get together a partner and enough scratch ' youre in. And youll be playing for a purse of $9.75 million, bigger than any pot on any tour.
 
Of course, the dollars are huge, but when you talk to former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski, who is developing the tour with his friends Jim Thomas and Jim Thompson, you can see the gleam of competition in his eye.
 
Its kind of like Survivor meets Who Wants To Be a Millionaire on the golf course, Bartkowski says with a smile. Its just, who can stand up and compete?
 
What does Joe Pesci say at the end of Casino? Always the dollars, always the dollars. And even though purists may think its crass to measure performance in the noblest game by money, its really quite natural.
 
Think about it: Its an individual sport, and people who play it for a living prefer something more liquid than pro shop credits. So the better you play, the more you should winand therefore, the money list is more a sign of good play than great greed.
 
Its just as natural that good golfers who arent pros would want to test themselves in a money-lined head vise. If you can hack this, you are one tough m
 
BACKUP SINGERS: Shut your mouth.
 
But Im talkin about golf betting.
 
SINGERS: Then we can dig it.
 
The Golf Channel will be televising the event, and I hope I get assigned to cover it. For me, the personalities who answer the clarion call of cash will be what gives the event more texture than a pizza with everything plus an air bubble in the crust. In Nevada especially, youll get gamblers and golf hustlers galore, the kind of guys who used to play big-money games with Evel Knievel.
 
Were already getting calls like that, said Thompson from his Atlanta office. Guys who say, You cant get back to me at this number, and things like that.
 
Not that this will be a shady affair at all. Bartkowski says the Rules of Golf will govern, and none of the old hustler dodges, such as Vaseline-ing the clubface, will be tolerated.
 
Also expected are country clubbers, plenty of pro-tour almosts, and former pro athletes known for their deep love of the game and matching ability: Dan Quinn, former NHL star, and Billy Joe Tolliver, Bartkowskis colleague in the Brotherhood of the Pocket, are on the list already. Look for ex-Major Leaguer Rick Rhoden, a perennial favorite in celeb events, to tee it up as well.
 
Already, people are coming up with novel ways to raise that formidable entry fee, Thompson says. For instance, a number of clubs are getting 20 people to chuck in $5,000 each to back a pair of elite club horses. Or better yet, once the money is up, some clubs are holding a tournament to let potential heroes play for the coveted spots.
 
One company got its customers to sponsor a pair of employees (its an industrial company, and four customers came up with 25 large apiece). And a bar owner in California has been holding all kinds of fund-raising events, and hes looking for a couple of likely players.
 
The run-up to gathering the $12.8 million in entry fees could be as interesting as the tournament. But not likely, when that last putt is being lined up in the final match.
 
Thompson says the entry fees will cover the purse, and the remainder may just handle the advertising, accommodations, and other costs (once you pony up the $100 K, you need never touch your wallet again; room, board, etc. are covered. Man, imagine some of those parties). If there are any profits, theyll come from sponsorships, which Thompson, Thomas and Bartkowski are hawking furiously now.
 
I think this is going to be the biggest event in golf next year, Bartkowski says.
 
Theres an undeniable Everygolfer spin to this that might make Bartkowski right. No courtesy cars, no pro-ams, no press room battles with spoiled tour pros. Just the match, the tee '
 
And all that jing.
 
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.