What the Masters Ball Proposal Really Means
SPECIAL BALL FOR THE MASTERS?: Its all over the golf and mainstream media: Augusta National Golf Club, which presents The Masters Tournament, is considering controlling the length of invitees drives by insisting that they use a uniform, limited-distance golf ball.
Before anyone gets too excited, lets see this announcement for what it really is. Masters chairman Hootie Johnson and his colleagues dont say things lightly. If push came to shove, they would do it. As a private club answerable to no particular golf organization, Augusta National could do what it pleases, and would. The club feels it has done all it can with the real estate by lengthening the course by 285 yards. If players are still hitting short irons into greens that architect Alister MacKenzie meant to receive longer shots, the club will consider itself backed into a corner and forced to limit the length of tee shots.
But thats not whats really happening here. Sources close to the Masters say that between the lines of Johnsons announcement is the desire for golfs ruling bodies to get off the dime on the golf ball issue.
The U.S. Golf Association is working on a new overall distance standard to replace the one developed in 1975, but it could be months before the regulation comes out. And its unlikely the number would be less than the current standard of 291.2 yards of carry and roll (plus a 2 percent measurement tolerance) when a ball is tested on USGA equipment. In other words, balls may not get longer, but they wont get shorter ' and that doesnt solve Johnsons problem.
In any event, say sources close to the Masters, nothing would change for this years tournament.
Nobody in the sport argues with the idea that uniform rules would be best. But Johnsons call for some sort of golf ball regulation is the second equipment-concern announcement this year from a major tournament power. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has publicly stated he may need to make special PGA Tour rules if the USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews Cant get together on spring-like effect of drivers, probably with the same goading intent as Johnson. But Finchem, too, can be counted on to walk the walk should the need arise.
And if it does, presumably manufacturers would be given specs to adhere to. And that begs the question: Who will watch over their shoulders in the plant? And if the ball is to be vanilla no matter who cooks it up why should the manufacturers even do it?
NICE BALANCE SHEET, EH?: Annual results look strong for ClubLink, Canadas largest owner, operator and developer of high-end golf clubs and resorts. In 2001, revenue was up to Can$118.2 million ($74.78 million) from Can$105.7 million ($68.67 million) in 2000. The company got to keep a fair amount of it, too. Earnings before income tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was Can$36.7 million ($23.22 million) in 2001, versus Can$25.4 million ($16.07 million) in 2000.
ClubLink shareholders will now get semiannual dividends. The first, Can$.05 ($.03) per share, will be paid in May.
TMaG POSTS NUMBERS: A mostly-metalwood year lifted TaylorMade-adidas Golf annual revenues 24 percent, the company said, from $386.6 million in 2000 to $477.8 million in 2001. Parent company adidas doesnt break out the exact numbers, but TMaG operating profit is up 43 percent year to year, the golf division said.
TMaG credits the 300 Series of titanium woods with the market penetration that led to the big numbers, as well as the good reception for the 200 Series, which are made of stainless steel. TMaG spent heavily in 2001 to get a foothold on the PGA Tour with the 300s; this year theyre following a similar plan for irons.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."