Players Stepping Up to Please Sponsors
a) a courtesy car waiting to whisk him away.
b) the edge of the 18th green to jump off a cliff.
c) a hospitality tent for a meet-and-greet session with corporate sponsors.
Having already suffered through six hours on the course at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the former U.S. Amateur champion spent nearly an hour with guests and clients of Franklin Templeton.
Kuehne has plenty of company this year.
PGA Tour players are going to greater lengths to make sure the people footing the bill -- corporate sponsors -- are getting their money's worth.
'We started working with our players last year in terms of the need to over-deliver for our sponsors,' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'In an era when costs have gone up, we need to generate more value. We want the strongest possible customer satisfaction.'
The pleasant surprise is that the tour isn't having to twist arms.
The four major champions -- Mike Weir, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel -- attended a corporate reception at the Mercedes Championships, along with defending champ Ernie Els.
Peter Jacobsen and Fred Funk were the featured guests at a pro-am party during the Sony Open.
Chad Campbell, Steve Pate, Jay Delsing, Olin Browne and David Morland were among nine players who went to a cocktail reception for Chrysler and its VIPs during the Bob Hope Classic.
Texans Mark Brooks and J.L. Lewis took part in a cooking competition during the FBR Open in Phoenix.
Zach Johnson, the Nationwide Tour player of the year, joined Weir, Kuehne and Mark O'Meara for a Wednesday night cocktail reception at Pebble Beach, as CBS analysts roamed the room and allowed guest to ask questions.
Players receive nothing extra from sponsors for their participation.
'We all have a responsibility to help out,' Weir said. 'We're lucky to be playing for a lot of money. The sponsors are putting up a lot of money, and they want a little value out of it.
'You don't want to take, take, take all the time.'
It's called the 'Player Involvement Program,' and it comes at a time when everything appears to be running smoothly on and off the golf course.
Last year, an annual report compiled by the Sports Business Journal ranked the PGA Tour No. 1 in overall sponsor satisfaction.
Finchem wants to make sure it stays that way.
'He's always trying to make the players realize - and he should - that making sure sponsors are happy is a very big priority out here,' said Brad Faxon, who is on the PGA Tour Policy Board. 'He likes the fact we're either No. 1 or No. 2 in all the surveys for sponsor satisfaction.
'The answers he's getting (from sponsors) is, 'We need to be closer to the players.''
Corporations pay about $7 million for the rights to sponsor a PGA Tour event, and Finchem believes they deserve more than having their name in the title and a good location to wine-and-dine clients.
Most times, the closest they get to the players are in front of a plasma TV in the hospitality tent.
'Other sports have lost their relations with the fans and sponsors,' said Olin Browne, another policy board member. 'We're simply stressing that we need to interact more with the people who foot the tab.'
Fred Couples understood the importance before there was such a thing as a Player Involvement Program. Chatting with reporters five years ago, he was asked what he thought about Bernie Williams signing an $87.5 million deal with the New York Yankees.
'If I signed that contract, I would walk and hold hands with everyone in the gallery,' Couples said at the time.
That might be going to an extreme. Still, Couples joined Weir on bar stools during the FBR Open and took questions from the audience in a corporate tent for an hour.
'It was easy,' Weir said. 'It's not like they're asking us to spend the whole day in a corporate tent.'
Finchem said the players are not required to do anything. The tour has a list of two dozen ideas for players to get involved, such as going to a pro-am draw party, visiting headquarters of a sponsor located in town, or meeting corporate clients at a cocktail reception.
There was some concern that the next generation of players might not realize what goes into their paycheck. As Faxon said, 'Some players feel like just coming out here to play, they're doing everyone a favor.'
Finchem said that hasn't been the case, much to his surprise.
'The last three years, the rookie classes we've had have been very strong in terms of guys who really get it, who want to do the right thing,' he said. 'And they want to market themselves.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational
Tiger Woods teed off at 12:15PM ET alongside Justin Rose for Round 3 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We're tracking him at Bay Hill.
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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play
ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.
Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.
As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.
Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.
This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.
The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.
Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain
PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.
She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.
“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.
Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.
“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”
She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.
“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”
Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.
“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.
She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.
“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”
Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.
While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.
“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”
Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead
PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.
In fact, she named her “Mona.”
For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.
While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.
And that has her excited about this year.
Well, that and having a healthy back again.
“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”
Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”
Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.
She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”
Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.