Controversy, tumult top golf world in 2013

By Doug FergusonMay 29, 2013, 2:26 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Ernie Els flashed that easy smile when he saw a reporter walking toward the clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass earlier this month.

''This must be great for you guys,'' he said through his laughter. ''Come out to the PGA Tour and every week they hand you another story.''

And he wasn't talking about Adam Scott winning the Masters.

The debate over anchored strokes and long putters. Deer-antler spray. Rule 33-7. A player cleared of an anti-doping violation on a technicality, and then suing his own tour. Players hiring an attorney over a new rule related to the long putter.

And this was before the public spat between Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods took an ugly turn that brought overtures of racism back into golf.

''It's been quite a controversial year for golf,'' Lee Westwood said.

Woods has won four times on the PGA Tour going into the Memorial, a tournament he has won five times in his career. So when someone asked Westwood on Tuesday if there was a sense that the No. 1 player was on the verge of going on a big run, Westwood looked mildly perplexed.

''I think he's on one, isn't he?'' Westwood said. ''How many tournaments has he played this year? He's won more than 50 percent.''

But any talk of Woods is sure to include the illegal drop he took at the Masters, the two-shot penalty he received the next day, the incorrect scorecard with his signature on it and Augusta National invoking Rule 33-7, which gave it discretion to disregard the penalty of disqualification for the incorrect scorecard.

That debate lost steam when Vijay Singh sued the Tour the day before The Players Championship began at TPC Sawgrass, where the Fijian spent years honing a game that brought him nearly $70 million in earnings and a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Lawsuits against the Tour are rare, but the details of this one were bizarre.

''Nobody has ever sued the Tour for being cleared of getting a drug violation,'' Padraig Harrington said.

WADA warned against deer-antler spray. Vijay Singh used deer-antler spray. The Tour proposed a six-month suspension. Singh appealed. WADA said deer-antler spray was no longer the same concern. Singh was off the hook. And then Singh sued the Tour.

The good news for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was the lawsuit was largely forgotten three days later. The bad news for the Tour was why it was forgotten.

Singh vs. PGA Tour felt like an undercard compared with Garcia vs. Woods.

The Spaniard threw a sucker punch during a rain delay by suggesting Woods was the cause of a commotion in their final group of the third round. Woods fired back by calling out Garcia for his constant complaining, which led Garcia to say Woods wasn't the nicest guy on tour. And with no interest by either side in a truce, Garcia tried to make a joke about having Woods over for fried chicken, and he wound up with egg on his face.

Garcia threw out the racial stereotype the same day that the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and U.S. Golf Association introduced Rule 14-1b, effective in 2016, that would ban the anchored stroke used for long putters - like the one Scott used when he won the Masters, or the one Els used at the British Open, and Webb Simpson in the U.S. Open, and the ones used by Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson their entire pro careers.

Players, including Scott, have retained a lawyer as they wait to see whether the PGA Tour goes along with the new rule. The Tour met with its Player Advisory Council on Tuesday at Muirfield Village, the first step toward figuring out which direction it will go.

According to one PAC member at the meeting, there was passion on both sides of the debate, which was not surprising. And there was no consensus, also not surprising. This was only a conversation, and from all indications, no one called anyone names.

So much for golf's reputation as a genteel sport.

''Is it bad for golf?'' Nick Watney said Tuesday afternoon. ''It depends on your theory of publicity. If you had the Kardashian feeling that any publicity is good publicity, then it's good. If you're a purist in terms of golf, then it's bad. The lawsuits, the rule change, the little feud going on. My view is that it's bad. This is supposed to be a gentleman's game. We're different from a lot of other pro sports.''

This isn't the first time golf has gone way beyond birdies and bogeys.

There was the lawsuit involving Ping and the square grooves in the 1980s. There was Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, leading the breakaway from the PGA of America to start what is now the PGA Tour at the end of the 1960s. Imagine if Woods and Phil Mickelson did something like that today.

''It's not a perfect game,'' Curtis Strange said. ''Some people believe there's no such thing as bad press, but it seems like we're still having growing issues. We're learning how to handle doping issues, although nobody has learned to do that yet. I'm been reading about Lance Armstrong all day.''

It always seemed like some other sport's problems, and now some of those problems belong to golf.

''It's been great on the golf course – fantastic, really,'' Geoff Ogilvy said. ''Tiger has won four times. The Masters was amazing again. Any time golf is in the newspaper, it's a good thing for us. Obviously, the Sergio-Tiger thing wasn't good. But it has been a tumultuous year.''

And it's not anything Finchem can make go away with a wave of his hand. Considering that golf is a niche sport, maybe that's not the worst thing.

''Outside the ropes, golf is probably more interesting than it ever has been,'' Robert Garrigus said. ''I don't think it's all that bad if it makes our sport more interesting. There might be a few more people come out to the U.S. Open.''

That would be good for golf. Maybe not so much for Garcia.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

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.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

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

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

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.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

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.