Birth of a Tradition
My first trip to Desert Mountain was unforgettable. The main road from the entry gate wasn't yet completed. The Seventeen million dollar Cochise-Geronimo clubhouse was impressive, if only in the blue print phase and the temporary clubhouse, known as the 'Log Cabin' was among the most spectacular vistas I had ever seen in golf. Surrounded by mountains and looking down into the Valley of the Sun over largely undeveloped desert landscape, the panorama from the summit at Desert Mountain was equal to any view you might find at Augusta National or Pebble Beach.
I was immediately in love with the place and the people. Lyle Anderson had developed Desert Highlands and was instrumental in launching the first Skins Game at that very site. His course designer at Highlands was Jack Nicklaus and the two became fast friends. Sharing an uncompromising respect for the traditions of the game, the two men began brainstorming about the ingredients of a premium golf event. Jack was a few short years removed from the Senior Tour and Lyle decided that the over 50 set needed an event which would celebrate all the good things in the game; a senior version of The Masters, if you will. With his typical combination of foresight and moxie, Anderson named his new event The Tradition.
With a keen understanding of the game, Anderson knew there would never be a senior equivalent to the early April masterpiece, but he went about securing the talent he needed to stage the best possible senior tour event, and he spared no expense. He hired Western Golf Properties, headed by past Presidents of the PGA of America, Joe Black and Mark Kizziar to consult on all facets of the Club and event. He scoured the industry for the best club and tournament staff he could find to throw a shindig that could not be over looked. The inner sanctum of Anderson, Schneider, Nicklaus and Western Golf developed a structure that would ensure a wonderful tournament and a spectacular week.
The recipe was as follows: start with a terrific site; Desert Mountain has more natural beauty than a Victoria's Secret catalogue. Give them a tough, but fair test; Western Golf worked with the Senior Tour staff months ahead of time to create course conditions voted best on tour each of its first five years. Respect your forbearers; The Tradition field has special exemptions for Tradition Honorees, who are invited each year to Desert Mountain for a week of reminiscing, whether or not they compete. Focus on the event; no pro-ams or other obligations to detract from the pursuit of the trophy over four championship rounds. Corporate involvement was strictly limited; the pursuit of the trophy was all-important. Finally, throw a good party; crab claws in the locker room and filet on the buffet table (some honorees stayed until the following Tuesday).
The first event of the week was Tuesday's Honorees' Dinner. Anyone who has won a major championship on the Senior or PGA Tour is a lifelong Tradition Honoree. The dinner is attended by major championship winners and only a very small handful of Tradition/Desert Mountain executives and organizers. Wednesday marked the most wonderful, unpublicized day in golf. The few spectators who skipped work and drove the length of Pima Road were treated to a golf fantasy. In the morning, Honorees who would not be playing in The Tradition, would compete in an event known as the Grand Tradition, and was it ever Grand. Sam Snead, Billy Casper, Charlie Sifford and a host of others played the Cochise Course for a payday greater than some of their major championship victories, and thrilled the crowds once again. In the afternoon all the honorees, Tradition, Grand Tradition and non-competing, were invited to the Champions Clinic. Fourteen honorees would select a club and each would give the audience 3-5 minutes on how to hit certain shots. Imagine spending 45 minutes listening to Chi-Chi talk about wedge play, then Sam Snead hitting the 5 iron followed by Nicklaus with a one-iron and Arnold on the Driver. I've witnessed some of the greatest moments in the history of our game, and my Wednesday memories from the Tradition will always be among my most favorite.
So, the game plan was set, and in 1989 an oxymoron hit the Senior Tour the week after The Masters, the inaugural Tradition was played. Don Bies beat Gary Player by a stroke, and over the next 7 years the event was won by Jack Nicklaus (back-to-back twice), Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd and Tom Shaw. All the effort and pedigree paid off. When the Senior Tour declared the four major championships, The Tradition was on the list. The Senior Open and PGA Seniors were no-brainers and the Senior TPC was the Tour owned and operated major that the Ponte Vedra crowd had always craved. The final tournament had to be one that stuck out of the crowd, and the Tradition answered the call. It was the classiest, purest, most picturesque tournament on the Senior Tour. The only drawback was actually one of its charms; the remote location made for a somewhat difficult trip, but the destination was absolutely worth it.
Most of the early ingredients of The Tradition remain. Desert Mountain is still a breathtaking venue; even with a somewhat more developed landscape. Corporate sponsorship exists, but only where they don't impact the feel of the event. The course remains a challenge and the operation is still exquisite. If you see a multi-colored tent or sagging gallery rope, email me. I'll refund the cost of your badge.
There is a golf gem hidden in the slopes of the mountains of North Scottsdale. It is The Tradition, and it is still the best event on the Senior Tour.
Editor's note: David Marr III was the Executive Director of The Tradition from 1993-1997.
Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings
Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.
Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.
As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.
"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."
Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.
Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.
Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut
If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.
Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.
But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.
Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.
Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:
Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180
Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70
Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5
Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450
Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200
Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.
Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.
“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.
“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”
Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.
“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.