Lets Let the Skins Die a Merciful Death

By George WhiteDecember 1, 2003, 5:00 pm
The Skins Game has just about taken its last gasp of air. Turn out the lights and softly close the door ' its finished. R.I.P., you see, and all that.
The 2003 edition was worth a peek only because it matched Annika Sorenstam against the men. And the men?
Well, there was Fred Couples, a lovable figure battling a shaky back ' but still a retread. There was Phil Mickelson, who probably looked pretty good when this Skins was put together at the beginning of the year ' but at seasons end just hanging onto the ropes. And there was Mark OMeara, who now is a long-lost shadow of the O'Meara of five years ago.
Couples was moderately compelling because he had rebounded from the depths the last two seasons ' seasons in which he finished 131st and 108th on the money list. This year, at age 43, he actually won a tour event and finished 31st in cash won. But he has long since passed his prime, and his presence alone isnt nearly enough to make you want to leave the football games and tune in to golf.
Mickelson is even less a reason, considering that in his last 16 events, he cracked the top 10 only twice. He is in the midst of a dreadful slump ' and his play in the Skins was a clear indication.
And OMeara ' well, OMeara is winding down a career that has seen a multitude of ups and downs. In 1998, he won two majors. In 1999, he still played well enough to finish 45th on the money list. Then he turned his attention to other things ' including the tragedy of his mothers death and the excitement of a budding design career ' and basically tuned out of active golf. He was in here solely because he happened to win it last year ' and he was in it then largely because of his association with Toyota, one of the Skins sponsors. A nice guy, OMeara, but he was totally out of place here. But, so probably was Mickelson.
Then there was Sorenstam. She alone made it worth dropping in on the telecast occasionally, just to see how she would do against the gents. Is that reason enough to drop the lawn mover or snow blower, or to change channels from your Sunday pro football game? As it developed, Annika won two holes, one with a hole-out from a bunker on a par-5, another with a 15-foot putt. That gave her five skins with the carryovers, good for second place behind Couples.
The telecast by ABC was anti-climatic, too. Because it was tape-delayed, it was chopped Sunday to fit the time slot. Therefore, you knew it was going to extra holes when they were on No. 18 with 30 minutes still remaining.
But then came a ridiculous shortening of the three playoff holes, showing only a shot or two of each before Couples winning putt on the third. Much better to have some other means of playing off a tie than to grind it out in hole-by-hole competition. The playoff holes should have been the most exciting part of the day. Instead, they were summarily kissed off to fit neatly into the time package.
Lets face it, after T. Woods, there isnt another compelling face in the sport that could draw us away from other mundane activities. And then he is compelling only if he has competition. Ernie Els would have been a reason to watch. So, possibly, would have been Vijay Singh. And Annika certainly was reason. But the field that was there last weekend? No way.
That, though, is the big problem with having to pick a field long before November. There originally was no dearth of interesting subjects ' the first Skins back in 1983 had Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson. Im not so sure that that field wouldnt have more interest today than what was served up to us last weekend.
Curtis Strange, Ian Baker-Finch, et al tried mightily to make it sound interesting and captivating. But it wasnt. Not even remotely. Couples won and piled up more cash on his already money-leading total. Annika won her two holes and was in the mix for a couple of others. Other than that little bit of drama ' zilch!
Its hardly fair to criticize the participants ' after all, they didnt request to be here. And its hardly fair to criticize the announcers ' they get paid to do this one, just the same as they get paid to do the majors. But its more than fair to criticize the event. Lets let the Skins Game die a merciful death, at least as far as a big-time television event is concerned. It has run its course.
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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x