Finchem The Grinch who Stole Golf

By Brian HewittJuly 11, 2006, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)NEW YORK -- Tim Finchem plans to stay on as PGA TOUR commissioner for six more years, and judging from the media bashing he endured in Washington and Chicago the last few weeks, you can be sure there are some who would prefer he take early retirement.
In those two major markets, he is the Grinch who stole golf.
The nation's capital has been host to a PGA TOUR event since 1980, when former commissioner Deane Beman brought the Kemper Open to Congressional, th e home course of presidents, powerbrokers and Ken Venturi's famous U.S. Open victory. Then it moved to the TPC at Avenel, bringing a slow and certain death. The tournament didn't learn until a couple of hours before the PGA TOUR's grand announcement in January that it was not part of the illustrious FedEx Cup competition; rather, it was being dumped into the junior varsity portion of the fall schedule. And with Avenel going through renovation, there likely won't be any golf in Washington next year, and maybe not for awhile.  Reality Golf Show Roundtable DiscussionTiger Woods says he was not fined for commentPlayer: John DalyReality Golf Show Roundtable DiscussionPlayer - Tiger Woods
At least Chicago didn't lose the PGA TOUR every year -- just every other.
The Western Open, the second-oldest golf championship in the United States and once considered a major, now will be called the BMW Championship and played in Chicago in odd-numbered years. One of the four 'playoff' tournaments at the end of the year, it will be held in even-numbered years at major venues such as Hazeltine, Crooked Stick and Bellerive.
That means no golf at the highest level in a golf-crazedmarket every other year.
Finchem was a convenient target, the czar behind these changes aimed at making the golf season shorter and more interesting.
But it's not all his fault.
If anyone has complaints, look no further than Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. They were the catalysts who first started barking about the PGA TOUR season being too long. All the commissioner did was respond to his two biggest stars.
Mickelson, who prefers to shut it down after the majors, was among the first to suggest the season was too long and too dull.
'I think for us to compete against football, and for us to continue our season after the PGA Championship as long as it does, I just think it kind of loses its luster,' Mickelson said at La Costa in February 2005. 'It's just not exciting. I'd love to see a lot less tournaments on tour, so the top players play in a greater percentage of those events.'
Woods and Mickelson are not the best of friends, but it sounded as though they were in cahoots on this one. For it was only two days later that Woods also argued for a shorter season.
'End it Labor Day,' he said.
A week later at Doral, Woods was more expansive on his wish for an early end to the regular season, which would allow top players to compete against each more often besides the eight biggest events -- four majors, The Players Championship and three World Golf Championships.
'It would be more exciting for the fans, and I'm sure the sponsors and TV and everybody, if we did play more often together,' Woods said. 'The only way you could do that is if we shortened the season, which I've really been trying to get into Finchem's ear about.'
And when Tiger speaks, Finchem usually listens.
The commissioner had his own concerns. The sports market is changing rapidly, and the fear was that golf would be left behind if it didn't shake up a model that has been working since the PGA Tour was formed.
The idea of a shorter, more compelling season sounded like a good idea at the time. And while Woods didn't finish his last two years at Stanford, he learned enough math to realize what a January-September schedule would mean.
'Unfortunately,' he said, 'you're going to have to lose some tournaments.'
Finchem did his part, delivering a season that ends on Sept. 16 next year at the Tour Championship, preceded by three $7 million tournaments that attempt to give the PGA Tour a Super Bowl.
(Actually, golf has four Super Bowls known as the majors. This is more of a Pro Bowl).
It might not be perfect. The FedEx Cup points system might not make sense.
But the season will end before the Heisman Trophy watch is narrowed to five players, before the NFL season takes shape, before NASCAR crowns its champion.
Did it have to lose Washington in the process? Not necessarily. But did anyone outside the Beltway care about the Booz Allen Classic until it was knocked off the schedule? There's usually enough blame to pass around Washington on matters of national interest, and golf is no exception.
Memphis got the spot on the schedule that Washington wanted. But the PGA TOUR has been in the land of Elvis since 1958, and it was the scene of the tour's first 59 by Al Geiberger, and its roll call of champions includes Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Trevino.
As for Chicago?
Remember, the Western Open once moved around the Midwest -- even going out to San Francisco one year -- until it stayed in the Chicago area starting in 1962. As part of the playoffs, the tour thought it was important to create a rotation of great golf courses. The Barclays Classic will no longer be held at Westchester every year, and the tour is still looking at alternative sites in the Boston area.
Woods and Mickelson didn't draw up the plan, they simply were the strongest voices.
And until the PGA TOUR goes through its first season under the revamped schedule, no one can be sure it's a bad idea.
If it is, blame them.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Getty Images

Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

Getty Images

Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

Getty Images

McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

Getty Images

Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.