Courtesy cars at PGA Tour events might go away
Weve already started scrambling to try to approach local dealers or national suppliers to see if theyre interested, said Clair Peterson, tournament director of the John Deere Classic. The car industry as a whole is in a tough spot. Weve already had one company tell us everything has been frozen in 09.
Other tournaments that Buick will no longer supply include the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, the AT&T National in Washington and the Transitions Championship outside Tampa, Fla. The Shell Houston Open remains hopeful of keeping its Buick courtesy car deal.
The Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles had a deal with Nissan, its previous title sponsor, that expired last year. Tournament director Tom Pulchinski said he tried to arrange a deal with Buick and was turned down.
The business model has changed, Pulchinski said. Its definitely going to be an expense. We probably would provide cars, even if its a rental deal where we pick up the cars and foot the bill. We talked to Buick, but they could not swing it.
Buick is the official car of the PGA Tour and for years has provided courtesy cars to a majority of tour events. But General Motors posted a $2.5 billion quarterly loss earlier this month and has said its cash burn has reached the point where it could have the minimum amount required to operate by early next year.
Were taking a hard look at everything right now, said Larry Peck, golf marketing manager for Buick.
He declined to discuss which tournaments have lost courtesy car arrangements because nothing has been finalized or announced.
Most of those deals are regional offices, which are in a similar position with everyone else, Peck said. There are budget cuts. Every line item where a dollar is spent is getting a lot of scrutiny. I can tell you it has not all been finalized. But some will be cut back. We have to look at things differently.
One tournament official, speaking on condition of anonymity because Buick has not made an announcement, said four tournaments will continue its deal with the company, including the two Buick-sponsored events.
PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said that number was not consistent with the tours conversations with Buick.
Other tournaments have their own deals, such as the Memorial (Lexus), the Wachovia Championship (Mercedes-Benz) and Colonial (Cadillac), along with those tournaments that have automakers for a title sponsor (Mercedes, Honda, BMW, Chrysler).
That leaves other tournaments in a precarious spot. They compete with each other for the best field, but having to provide courtesy cars is another expense in their shrinking budgets, which likely means less money for their local charities.
Were looking at alternatives, said Dan Croak at the U.S. Bank Championship. Its certainly great if tournaments that dont have them come up with a suitable solution. But it becomes someones expense.
Twenty years ago, it was not unusual for most players to arrive in town and rent their own cars. Joey Sindelar, who now plays on the 50-and-older Champions Tour, recalls dragging his golf gear through the airport to get a rental car, paying for practice balls on the range and getting concession coupons for meals.
Players now have a car waiting at the airport, and a tournament volunteer drops them off at the airport at the end of the week.
Weve been so lucky out there, Sindelar said. I hope this is an attention-grabber.
Kym Hougham at the Wachovia Championship, which has some of the biggest perks of any event, has had a deal with Mercedes-Benz since its inception in 2003, first through a local dealership which has become a regional contract.
Even so, he can see other tournaments having to tighten their finances.
We all had it good for awhile and it was on cruise control, Hougham said. Now weve got to get creative. We all try to do as much as we can for the players, and theyve come to expect it. Like anything in life, its hard to take something back.
The deals with Buick varied with tournaments.
In some cases, the company provided 180 courtesy cars and a cash donation, receiving spots in the pro-am for Buick clients, car displays throughout the golf course and hospitality tents on the 18th green. At the John Deere Classic, Peterson said Buick donated a car for auction in its Birdies of Charity program.
Gerald Goodman, tournament director at the Transitions Championship, said Tampa Bay is the 10th-largest market for Pontiac-GM-Buick dealers and he usually had more than 200 cars. Now he is working with 14 local dealers, hopeful that GM might still offer incentives for the dealers to provide them to the tournament, then advertise them at reduced prices with minimal mileage.
Otherwise, he might try to strike a deal with a rental company, especially with the tournament coming less than two months after the Super Bowl in Tampa.
Were searching, Goodman said. Im completely positive I can get us a car deal. I havent thrown in the towel.
How the players respond to the changing economic climate is what concerns these tournaments. All the younger players know is being catered to from when they get off the plane to when they return to the airport.
The pendulum is swinging in the other direction, Peterson said. How far it goes is the unknown.
Kevin Sutherland finished a career-high 18th on the PGA Tour money list this year with just over $2.5 million. He has been on tour a dozen years and can remember times when he rented his own car at an airport.
I expected some of the perks weve gotten in the past are going to be cut back, and it only makes sense, Sutherland said. Its easy to take this for granted. You show up, you get your car. You bring in your dry cleaning, they do it for you. Some of this stuff is over the top, and you get spoiled over time. But so many companies are struggling.
McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54
Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.
McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.
McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.
McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.
Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.
“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”
Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.
Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.
''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''
First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.
''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''
David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.
The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.
Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.
I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.
One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.
So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?
You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?
Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?
I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.
This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.
Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.
The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:
“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”
Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.
Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.
Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.
Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.
In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.
Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.
After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth.
Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.