Niche Tour Idea Raises Some Middle-Aged Eyebrows
MIDDLE-AGED MAJOR WINNERS, UNITE: The idea for a new eight-event tour featuring mens major championship winners between the ages of 37 and 55 sounds like a crowd-pleaser. But there are some business hurdles to overcome first.
The Major Champions Tour, first reported in Golfweek, has the support of 1992 Masters winner Fred Couples and other players in pro golfs midlife set. More important than the notion that the relevant ages are a competitive no-mans land is the idea that people will pay to see storied competitors go at it in showcased tournaments, organizers believe.
Theyre probably right. But what about fields and television, two crucial elements in the picture?
Active PGA Tour players need a release from the Tour to play in non-Tour events during weeks in which they would be eligible for a regular Tour event. Such releases, while not unreasonably withheld, arent given lightly. The Tour usually gives releases to allow players to enter a reasonable number of overseas events (such as when Tiger Woods plays at the Deutschebank event in Germany, for example). Its not likely the Tour would give releases for domestic events that compete for attention with its own tournaments.
Would Tour players actually resign their memberships to be in this new venture? It seems unlikely ' but recall that it seems harder every year for some of the middle-agers to compete against the Tours younger stars, such as Woods, Charles Howell III and others.
And for at least two participants, Tour membership isnt a problem. Nick Faldo (six major wins) and Greg Norman (two major wins) let their PGA Tour memberships lapse by not playing the 15-event annual minimum.
Another problem: the PGA Tour is entitled to a rights fee whenever one of its members plays golf on television in a non-Tour event. Its not yet clear who would pay this, or even how much it would cost to satisfy the Tour. Again, from a competitive point of view, no amount may be satisfactory for the Tour, which works hard to position its product among the myriad choices available to television sports watchers.
This isnt the first time another tour has tried to create a derivative product. In the mid-1990s, Norman got behind the idea of organizing a world tour of elite players, but the idea never left the drawing board. The advent of the World Golf Championships some years later prompted some critics to accuse the Tour of using Normans idea, leading to allegedly chilly relations between Norman and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. The Tour has said often that the WGC idea was developed separately.
ACHOO!: When you see those Official [insert product name here] of the [insert sports league name here] designations, do you sometimes wonder why a sports league would need, say, an official moving van company? Still, league endorsements are a popular marketing tool.
The PGA Tour now has an official allergy medication. Aventis Pharmaceuticals, makers of the popular allergy medication Allegra, have taken on the Tour as a marketing partner for the 2002 season. Aventis has also secured the endorsement services of Steve Elkington, who, alas, has been something of a poster boy for allergy and sinus trouble at various times in his career.
An informal poll of PGA Tour players shows that many of them suffer from seasonal allergies, Aventis says.
By the bye, an Aventis doctor predicts a tough allergy season this spring because of the mild winter in many areas. (Just hold that sneeze during my backswing, OK?)
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.