Notes PGA Tour Approaches $1 Billion in Charity

By Associated PressFebruary 8, 2005, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Money is the easiest way to illustrate overwhelming growth on the PGA Tour.

Vijay Singh earned more money last year than the combined career earnings of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Palmer. Prize money from the three World Golf Championships this year will be about the same as the total purse on tour 20 years ago.

But here's one number that should get everyone's attention:

The PGA Tour is expected to surpass $1 billion in charitable giving early next year.

'It's a big number,' commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'What this represents is that slowly but surely, charitable giving is more than something we do. It's part of our culture. It's what the players think about, the staff thinks about and the tournaments think about.'

The first donation was $10,000 in 1938 from the Palm Beach Invitational, a tournament that no longer exists. The tour hit the $100 million mark in 1987, and it went over $500 million just six years ago.

A campaign called 'Drive to a Billion' will start Wednesday morning at Pebble Beach. A commemorative tee shot will be hit at every tournament until the tour reaches $1 billion. The special driver, made in 1938, will serve as the torch for the campaign.

The tour also plans a public service campaign in print and broadcast that will start this month, and players will be asked to wear commemorative pins that will be sold at tournaments and online, with proceeds going to PGA Tour Charities, Inc.

The PGA Tour has the perfect paradigm for giving. Most of its tournaments are run independently, allowing them to contribute net proceeds to various charities in their communities.

One reason for the accelerated growth in charity was Finchem's decision five years ago that any new tournament had to be set up as a non-profit organization.

'Culturally, we wanted to be married with giving back,' he said. 'And if we wanted to be culturally married, then it was important to be structurally married to giving back. The only way to do that was to have as many tournaments as possible in that situation.'
Tom Lehman's golf course design business, and the age of his four children, could alter his long-range plans.

Lehman turns 50 in 2009 but said he has no interest in playing on the Champions Tour.

'The design (business) is part of it. But it's also the age of my kids,' said Lehman, noting that they will be 18, 16, 14 and 7 when he is eligible for the 50-and-older circuit. 'At that point in time, enough will be enough. That's the way I'm thinking now.'

The Lehman Design Group already has 15 golf courses that are opened or under construction. His latest project is to build a desert-style course at the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa, along with redesigning two holes on the course used for the Chrysler Classic of Tucson.

Lehman is not a big proponent of making golf courses longer because of technology, and he has some interesting ideas on the short par 4s, such as the 350-yard third hole at Augusta National, the 301-yard 10th hole at Riviera, and the 305-yard eighth hole at Royal Melbourne.

'My whole theory about short par 4s is that it makes you want to hit driver,' he said. 'It looks so benign, so enticing, that you can't lay off. It's sitting right in front of you. It looks easy, but plays tough.'

So what will he do off No. 10 at the Nissan Open next week?

'If I feel the wind is just right, I'll be going for it,' he said.
The 60 that Phil Mickelson shot in the second round of the FBR Open goes down as his lowest round on the PGA Tour. His 59 at the Grand Slam of Golf in November was unofficial -- although that sure doesn't matter to Mickelson or anyone else who hits golf's magic number.

'If I shot 59 in the PGA Grand Slam or if I shot 59 in the Buick Invitational or if I shot 59 at home, it would not matter to me,' Mickelson said two weeks ago. 'The fact that I shot that number is pretty cool.'

Jason Bohn knows the feeling.

He shot a 58 in the final round of the 2001 Bayer Championship on the Canadian tour, which counts in the Canadian record books but not on the PGA Tour.

'I don't think Phil or anyone who breaks 60 really cares whether it's official or not,' Bohn said. 'It's an incredible round of golf. You're not going to do that many times.'

Others with sub-60 rounds that didn't count include Doug Dunakey and Notah Begay on the Nationwide Tour, and Shigeki Maruyama (58) in a U.S. Open qualifier. Dunakey three-putted from 20 feet on the 18th hole for his 59.

Bohn can relate to that, too.

He had 228 to carry the water on the par-5 18th at Huron Oaks, but his caddie talked him into laying up to protect his two-shot lead. Bohn hit wedge for his third shot, but it spun back to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

'We give him smack about that all the time,' Bohn said. 'His paycheck was bigger for a win.'

Bohn doesn't think any sub-60 round should be recognized unless it's on tour.

'It would be like throwing a no-hitter in Triple A,' he said. 'The golf courses on the PGA Tour are more difficult and they're set up harder.'
Ernie Els will be spending plenty of time over the ocean between the Masters and the U.S. Open. He plans to play twice in China, then in Texas for the Byron Nelson Championship, then in England for the Volvo PGA Championship, before returning to the United States to play the Memorial and Booz Allen Classic. ... The FBR Open was the seventh PGA Tour event Phil Mickelson has won multiple times. All but one of them -- Hartford -- are west of Denver. ... Vijay Singh will try to become only the sixth back-to-back winner of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am since it began in 1937. The others are all multiple-major winners: Sam Snead (1937-38), Cary Middlecoff (1955-56), Jack Nicklaus (1972-73), Tom Watson (1977-78) and Mark O'Meara (1989-90).
The European PGA Tour will have more tournaments in China (5) than Scotland (4).
'I was once No. 2 in the world, and it got to the stage if I'd won the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and Greg Norman had missed the cut in America, I would have got to No. 1. He didn't, I didn't and Tiger Woods was born. And it's been downhill ever since.' -- Colin Montgomerie.
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After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the horrifying car crash involving Bill Haas ...

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Bill Haas. He was the passenger in a car crash that killed a member of his host family. That man, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, was a successful businessman in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a new friend.

Haas escaped without any major injuries, but he withdrew from the Genesis Open to return home to Greenville, S.C. When he’ll return to the Tour is anyone’s guess. It could be a while, as he grapples with the many emotions after surviving that horrifying crash – seriously, check out the photos – while the man next to him did not.

The entire Haas clan is some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Wish them the best in their recovery. – Ryan Lavner

On TIger Woods' missed cut at the Genesis Open ...

After missing the cut at the Genesis Open by more than a few car lengths, Tiger Woods appeared to take his early exit in stride. Perhaps that in and of itself is a form of progress.

Years ago, a second-round 76 with a tattered back-nine scorecard would have elicited a wide range of emotions. But none of them would have been particularly tempered, or optimistic, looking ahead to his next start. At age 42, though, Woods has finally ceded that a win-or-bust mentality is no longer helpful or productive.

The road back from his latest surgery will be a winding one, mixed with both ups and downs. His return at Torrey Pines qualified as the former, while his trunk slam at Riviera certainly served as the latter. There will surely be more of both in the coming weeks and months, and Woods’ ability to stomach the rough patches could prove pivotal for his long-term prognosis. - Will Gray

On the debate over increased driving distance on the PGA Tour ...

The drumbeat is only going to get louder as the game’s best get longer. On Sunday, Bubba Watson pounded his way to his 10th PGA Tour title at the Genesis Open and the average driving distance continues to climb.

Lost in the debate over driving distances and potential fixes, none of which seem to be simple, is a beacon of sanity, Riviera Country Club’s par-4 10th hole. The 10th played just over 300 yards for the week and yet yielded almost as many bogeys (86) as birdies (87) with a 4.053 stroke average.

That ranks the 10th as the 94th toughest par 4 on Tour this season, ahead of behemoths like the 480-yard first at Waialae and 549-yard 17th at Kapalua. Maybe the game doesn’t need new rules that limit how far the golf ball goes, maybe it just needs better-designed golf holes. - Rex Hoggard

On the depth of LPGA talent coming out of South Korea ...

The South Korean pipeline to the LPGA shows no signs of drying up any time soon. Jin Young Ko, 22, won her LPGA debut as a tour member Sunday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and Hyejin Choi, 18, nearly won the right to claim LPGA membership there. The former world No. 1 amateur who just turned pro finished second playing on a sponsor exemption. Sung Hyun Park, who shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last year, is set to make her 2018 debut this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And Inbee Park is set to make her return to the LPGA in two weeks at the HSBC Women’s World Championship after missing most of last year due to injury. The LPGA continues to go through South Korea no matter where this tour goes. - Randall Mell

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Nature calls: Hole-out rescues Bubba's bladder

By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 2:20 am

LOS ANGELES – Clinging to a one-stroke lead, Bubba Watson had just teed off on the 14th hole at Riviera Country Club and was searching for a bathroom.

“I asked Cameron [Smith], ‘where's the bathroom?’ He said, ‘On the next tee there's one. Give yourself a couple more shots, then you can go to the bathroom,’” Watson recalled. “I said, ‘So now I'm just going to hole it and go to the bathroom.’”

By the time Watson got to his shot, which had found the bunker left of the green, his caddie Ted Scott had a similar comment.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

“When he went down to hit it I said, ‘You know you haven’t holed one in a long time,’” Scott said.

Watson’s shot landed just short of the hole, bounced once and crashed into the flagstick before dropping into the hole for an unlikely birdie and a two-stroke lead that he would not relinquish on his way to his third victory at the Genesis Open and his 10th PGA Tour title.

“I looked at Teddy [Scott] and said, ‘You called it.’ Then Cameron [who was paired with Watson] came over and said I called it. I’d forgotten he and I had talked about it,” Watson said.

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Bubba Golf takes long road back to winner's circle

By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 1:55 am

LOS ANGELES – Bubba’s back.

It’s been just two years since he hoisted a trophy on the PGA Tour, but with a mind that moves as fast as Bubba Watson’s, it must have felt like an eternity.

Since his last victory, which was also a shootout at Riviera Country Club in 2016, Watson was passed over for a captain’s pick at the 2016 Ryder Cup, endured a mystery illness, lost his confidence, his desire and the better part of 40 pounds.

He admits that along that ride he considered retirement and wondered if his best days were behind him.

“I was close [to retirement]. My wife was not close,” he conceded. “My wife basically told me to quit whining and play golf. She's a lot tougher than I am.”

What else could he do? With apologies to his University of Georgia education and a growing portfolio of small businesses, Watson was made to be on the golf course, particularly a golf course like Riviera, which is the canvas that brings out Bubba’s best.

In a game that can too often become a monotonous parade of fairways and greens, Watson is a freewheeling iconoclast who thrives on adversity. Where others only see straight lines and one-dimensional options, Bubba embraces the unconventional and the untried.

For a player who sometimes refers to himself in the third person, it was a perfectly Bubba moment midway through his final round on Sunday at the Genesis Open. Having stumbled out of the 54-hole lead with bogeys at Nos. 3 and 6, Watson pulled his 2-iron tee shot wildly right at the seventh because, “[his playing partners] both went left.”

From an impossible lie in thick rough with his golf ball 2 feet above his feet, Watson’s often-fragile focus zeroed in for one of the week’s most entertaining shots, which landed about 70 feet from the hole and led to a two-putt par.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

“His feel for that kind of stuff, you can’t go to the range and practice that. You can’t,” said Watson’s caddie Ted Scott. “Put a ball 2 feet above your feet and then have to hold the face open and then to swing that easy. That’s why I have the best seat in the house. That’s the essence of Bubba golf.”

There were plenty of highlight moments on Sunday for Watson. There were crucial putts at Nos. 11 (birdie), 12 (par) and 13 (par) to break free of what was becoming an increasingly fluid leaderboard, and his chip-in birdie from a greenside bunker at the 14th hole extended his lead to two strokes.

“It was just a bunker shot, no big deal,” smiled Watson, who closed with a 69 for a two-stroke victory over Kevin Na and Tony Finau.

A player that can often appear handcuffed by the most straightforward of shots was at his best at Riviera, withstanding numerous challenges to win the Genesis Open for his 10th PGA Tour title.

That he did so on a frenzied afternoon that featured four different players moving into, however briefly, at last a share of the lead, Watson never appeared rattled. But, of course, we all know that wasn’t the case.

Watson can become famously uncomfortable on the course and isn’t exactly known for his ability to ignore distractions. But Riviera, where he’s now won three times, is akin to competitive Ritalin for Watson.

“[Watson] feels very comfortable moving the ball, turning it a lot. That allows him to get to a lot of the tucked pins,” said Phil Mickelson, who finished tied for sixth after moving to within one stroke of the lead early in round. “A lot of guys don't feel comfortable doing that and they end up accepting a 15 to 30 footer in the center of the green. He ends up making a lot more birdies than a lot of guys.”

It’s the soul of what Scott calls Bubba Golf, which is in simplest terms the most creative form of the game.

Watson can’t explain exactly what Bubba Golf is, but there was a telling moment earlier this week when Aaron Baddeley offered Watson an impromptu putting lesson, which Bubba said was the worst putting lesson he’d ever gotten.

“He goes, ‘how do you hit a fade?’ I said, ‘I aim it right and think fade.’ How do you hit a draw? I aim it left and think draw,” Watson said. “He said, ‘how do you putt?’ I said, ‘I don't know.’ He said, ‘well, aim it to the right when it breaks to the left, aim it to the left when it breaks to the right,’ exactly how you imagine your golf ball in the fairway or off the tee, however you imagine it, imagine it that way.”

It’s certain that there’s more going on internally, but when he’s playing his best the sum total of Watson’s game can be simply explained – see ball, hit ball. Anything more complicated than that and he runs the risk of losing what makes him so unique and – when the stars align and a course like Riviera or Augusta National, where he’s won twice, asks the right questions – virtually unbeatable.

That’s a long way from the depths of 2017, when he failed to advance past the second playoff event and dropped outside the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking. But then, Watson has covered a lot of ground in his career on his way to 10 Tour victories.

“I never thought I could get there,” he said. “Nobody thought that Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Fla., would ever get to 10 wins, let's be honest. Without lessons, head case, hooking the ball, slicing the ball, can't putt, you know? Somehow we're here making fun of it.”

Somehow, through all the adversity and distractions, he found a way to be Bubba again.

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Spieth: 'I feel great about the state of my game'

By Will GrayFebruary 19, 2018, 1:43 am

LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth is starting to feel confident again with the putter, which is probably a bad sign for the rest of the PGA Tour.

Spieth struggled on the greens two weeks ago at TPC Scottsdale, but he began to right the ship at Pebble Beach and cracked the top 10 this week at the Genesis Open. Perhaps more important than his final spot on the leaderboard was his standing in the strokes gained putting category – 12th among the field at Riviera Country Club, including a 24-putt performance in the third round.

Spieth closed out the week with a 4-under 67 to finish in a tie for ninth, five shots behind Bubba Watson. But after the round he spoke like a man whose preparation for the season’s first major is once again right on track.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

“I was kind of, you know, skiing uphill with my putting after Phoenix and the beginning of Pebble week, and really just for a little while now through the new year,” Spieth said. “I just made some tremendous progress. I putted extremely well this week, which is awesome. I feel great about the state of my game going forward, feel like I’m in a great place at this time of the year as we’re starting to head into major season.”

Spieth will take a break next week, and where he next tees it up remains uncertain. He still has not announced a decision about playing or skipping the WGC-Mexico Championship, and he will have until 5 p.m. ET Friday to make a final decision on the no-cut event.

Whether or not he flies down to Mexico City, Spieth’s optimism has officially returned after a brief hiccup on the West Coast swing.

“For where I was starting out Phoenix to where I am and how I feel about my game going forward the rest of the year, there was a lot of progress made,” he said. “Now I’ve just got to figure out what the best schedule is for myself as we head into the Masters.”