Being in a pro-am without playing golf
The PGA Tour is starting a “Sponsor Value Program” this year in which it assigns as many as 20 players to mingle with sponsors in some capacity for at least an hour.
Daniel Chopra will be giving a clinic to sponsors. Scott Piercy, Ted Purdy and Matt Bettencourt are among those having breakfast with sponsors. Ben Curtis and Justin Rose will be going to a park to talk up the Sony Open, do radio interviews and sign autographs.
“At the end of the day, it’s a good thing to help out the sponsor any way we can,” Curtis said. “The only bad thing about a week like this is you’d probably rather be at the beach.”
For years, only the top players from the previous year’s money list took part in the Wednesday pro-am. Everyone else didn’t have access to the course that day except for blocks of time on the practice range when everyone was on the golf course.
Doing what it can to give sponsors access to more players, the Tour came up with a new program away from the course.
Roughly the same batch of players will be glad-handing most of the year on Wednesday, depending on the size and strength of the field. The value program also can apply to players like Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk.
Rick George, the Tour’s chief of operations, said each tournament can ask that five players in the pro-am be shipped to the “Sponsor Value Program” for a clinic or breakfast, moving up the next players available on the money list. Also, top players twice a year can elect to do something other than play in the pro-am.
In both cases, there must be a mutual agreement with the tournament and the player.
KAPALUA SPONSOR: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced last May that Seoul Broadcasting Systems (SBS) had agreed to a 10-year deal as the title sponsor at Kapalua for the winners-only tournament.
The plan now is for SBS to find a commercial sponsor.
Finchem said last week the “likelihood” was for the Tour to have a commercial company serve as the title sponsor of Kapalua, keeping SBS in the picture in some capacity.
“We are having conversations with potential sponsors, but like everything else in this economy, it’s slow,” Finchem said. “I couldn’t answer that question. I would be guessing.”
Finchem said the contract with Kapalua is through 2011, although he doesn’t see any reason why the tournament would not continue to be played on the Plantation Course, where it has been since 1999.
FALL SERIES: For those wondering if the Fall Series on the PGA Tour is about to go away, it might be expanding.
The Tour has been talking about a new tournament at Sea Island on the Georgia coast for more than a year, and it appears officials are closer than ever to a deal that could be announced by the end of the month.
“Positive rumblings,” said Zach Johnson, who is involved as a policy board member, a resident at Sea Island and with a sponsor, RSM McGladrey, whom the tour has courted as a title sponsor.
Since the creation of the seven-event Fall Series in 2007, one moved to the spring (Texas Open) and another ended its contract early (Ginn) and now faces a lawsuit by the tour. A new tournament might quell the notion that the Fall Series eventually will end.
“That would be big,” Johnson. “I would like to see that (a new tournament) come to fruition.”
DIVOTS: Jack Nicklaus will be celebrating his 70th birthday on Jan. 21 as early as possible. That’s not because he’s excited about turning 70, rather it was a planned fishing trip to a spot where only that can happen – Christmas Island, one of the easternmost spots before the International Date Line. … Industry Hills Golf Club in California was tabbed the “Golf Course of the Year” by the National Golf Course Owners Association. The group honored Firestone Country Club with its “Golf Course Excellence” award.
STAT: After one week, Lucas Glover leads the PGA Tour with three eagles. He made only two eagles in 26 tournaments last year.
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.
Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.
"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."
Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.
"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.
"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18