Notes PGA Tour Approaches $1 Billion in Charity
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.'
DESIGN ON THE FUTURE
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.
WHAT'S IN A NUMBER?
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).
STAT OF THE WEEK
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.
Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer
In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.
The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.
Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.
“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”
Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.
Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.
This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.
Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.
Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.
The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.
Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”
Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”
The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.
First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.
“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”
A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.
“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.
For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.
Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.
“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”
Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?
“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”
Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.
Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.
Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.
Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.
“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”
Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.
While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.
Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ
Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET
An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.
Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.
President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
After Turkey call I will be heading over to Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, to play golf (quickly) with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. Then back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.
Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong
HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.
Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.
''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''
Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.
Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.
''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''
Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).
''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''
Day (68) just one back at Australian Open
Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.
Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)
What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.
Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.
Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.
Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.
Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.