Golden Goose Is Finally Squawking
The tour, you see, is merrily going about the business of choking the goose that lays the golden egg. The goose is squawking now for the first time in history. Purses have gotten so large, the cost of a tournament sponsorship is so huge, that several corporations have finally had to back out.
The tour couldnt possibly have continued as it did in the glory years of 1998, 99, 2000 when the economy was roaring along. The bubble had to burst. And when it finally did, when the economy finally got to the point of breaking, it was so predictable that problems would spring up all along the front lines. Now, of course, its going to take a whole cadre of creative geniuses to shore up the cracks.
The tour has been applying the squeeze for about 10 years now. In 1993, the total purses broke through the $50 million barrier for the first time. In 10 years, the tour has shoved the purses upwards to where they were just under $200 million last year.
This year, 61 players each earned $1 million or more and Tiger Woods earned almost $7 million. Thats not so out of line, you say, when compared with football, baseball or basketball.
But those are all team sports, meaning you theoretically must show up for every game. Baseball, for example, starts with spring training in February and runs though the World Series in October. You punch in and then you are on call for the duration, day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out, month-in and month-out.
Golfers are independent contractors, meaning each guy shows up when he feels like it. Tiger plays less than half the tournaments ' around 20. The average golfer plays ' oh, say 25. And the average salary was about $950,000.
Woods has caused the average to go up and up. He was the first to make $2 million, in his first full season on the tour in 1997. His $2 million season was more than the entire tour made in 1963. When he won nine times in 2000, he topped the $9 million mark, which would have been the tours purses in 72.
It isnt Tiger, though. His only crime has been to win too many tournaments. The tournaments themselves are obligated to raise the purses by so much each year or drop out, and so far each year the tournament would gulp and then pony up. This year ' finally ' there have been defections. A few have been forced to drop out, cut bait instead of fish, and the horizon suddenly doesnt look so bright for the tour.
Tiger, you see, is only going to play in a limited number of events. His number is reduced to the four majors and three World Championship of Golf events, the Players Championship and the Tour Championship, and normally the Mercedes Championship ' not this year because he is recovering from knee surgery. Hell play Arnies get-together at Bay Hill, Jacks at Memorial, the Byron Nelson, and one near his home in Orlando (Disney). Throw in the ones which are named for his personal sponsor ' the Buicks 'and you get to around 15 or 16. Throw in two or three more and thats his schedule.
The Milwaukee Open could have a $10 million purse and it wouldnt get Tiger again ' ergo the B.C. Open, Houston, John Deere or the Texas Open. But the rising waters float all the boats, and the purses that have hit stratospheric heights in one venue have affected tournaments all the way down the line. They may not have a snowballs chance in Orlando of ever getting Tiger, but Tigers enormous presence has hit them with the same force that it has hit all those fortunate venues.
An argument could be made, actually, that the bloated purses have caused a lot of the big-name players to be a lot more stingy with their appearances. After all, do you think a Phil Mickelson who has won, say, $3 million, would possibly pencil in a Pennsylvania Classic?
Twenty years ago, the size of the purse was hugely important and Mickelson would probably have been tempted to look closely at Pennsylvania. Nowdays, they are all big. It matters little HOW big. The top guys play their 20 tournaments, make their $2 mil, and go drink rum punch in their lawn chairs at home.
And I dont blame them. It isnt their fault that they arent playing the XYZ Open, even though they could make $500,000 if they entered and won. Theyll make the $500 though at their leisure, where they want to make it, and the rest of the tour goes begging for the top stars. What they dont make in purses, they will make in endorsements. Dont sweat it, they will easily make it.
Meanwhile, the tour keeps pushing. And theyve just about reached the top of the hill. If this purse thing clears the top and then starts rolling down the other side ' help! Players will have to play in a few more events, and the tour will have to swab its black eye.
Golf as a whole, however, has vastly overestimated itself. The number of $150-per-round courses is growing at an alarming rate. Drivers and irons are ridiculous, and so are balls. And we dont understand why kids havent picked up the game, despite all our good efforts at junior golf and instruction in the schools. Really, now. Just look in on the checkbook and youll see the reason.
Some day, though, golf will come back to reality. A round will once again cost $10 or less, as it does in so many places in Scotland. And maybe the tour will realize that you dont gouge the tournaments toward higher and higher payouts. Golf will again belong to the little guy, and this world will be a much more sane place.
Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME
NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.
A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.
In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.
“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”
Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.
“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.
Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.
“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”
How does she feel?
“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”
Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.
New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title
NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.
Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.
She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.
“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”
Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.
Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.
Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.
Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.
“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.
Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.
“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”
You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios
NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.
Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:
Race to the CME Globe
Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.
Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.
The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.
Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.
Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.
So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.
Rolex Player of the Year
The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.
Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.
Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.
Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.
It’s simple math.
The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.
1st - 30 points
2nd – 12 points
3rd – 9 points
4th – 7 points
5th – 6 points
6th – 5 points
7rd – 4 points
8th – 3 points
9th – 2 points
10th – 1 point
Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.
Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.
Rolex world No. 1 ranking
World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.
Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.
At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.
Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.
Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.
''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''
Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.
''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''
Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.
''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''
J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.
''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.
''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''
He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.
''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''
Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.
''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''