Major Battle to Secure Strong Fields
The weather is good, the course is better than average, the amenities are good and the purse is certainly OK. But the John Deere still struggles to get the games elite.
No fault of John Deere, certainly. But the British Open is next week, and the trip across the Atlantic takes a time adjustment. John Deere is unfortunate to fall into a time slot where many of the top players are going overseas. The tournament just moved into this spot, but the event has been saddled with a less-than-desirable date since its beginning.
So, how do the biggies pick their schedules? Money doesnt have much to do with it. The purse, a tournament director once told me, is down about fourth or fifth on the list. Much more important is your location on the schedule.
Somewhere behind that is your course. Then the amenities you are able to give ' child care, things for wives, and outside activities ' thats pretty important. But the purse ' all of the tournaments pay so much money nowadays that there are no bad purses. Theyre all in the neighborhood of $5 million, so regardless of where you play, if you make the cut, you know you are going to make some real money.
But where does your tournament fall on the schedule? You can strike off 10 or 12 tournaments that, through no fault of their own, have the misfortune of wrong timing. That means Honda, Houston, FedEx St. Jude, Booz Allen, John Deere, Milwaukee, the International, Hartford, and just about any tournament in September and October. Those events are either adjacent to majors, fall directly in front or directly behind key stretches during the year.
Sometimes your tournament is opposite an event elsewhere that pays big bucks in appearance fees. The Ford Classic at Doral goes up against an event in Dubai that, because of the cash, is always going to get the worlds top players.
Another thing that riles some players is having to play during the tournament with amateurs. That eliminates the Bob Hope, the AT&T and the Funai at Walt Disney. AT&T has the added disadvantage of having terrible weather almost every year.
The courses? Some have found Doral to have too much sand, Colonel to be too short, the International to be too long and hilly. Some courses are very good ' this week at John Deere, the Chrysler near Tampa, Pebble Beach, the 84 Lumber Classic in Pennsylvania, to name a few ' but their placement on the schedule dooms them.
In September and October, the big names have put it on cruise control and gone on vacation, aiming for two or three big events ' the Ryder Cup, the WCG-American Express, the Tour Championship. That means tournaments such as the Bell Canadian, the Valero Texas Open, 84 Lumber, Greensboro and the Chrysler in the Tampa area are going to fight it.
Purses, like the tournament director said, are already so lucrative that most of the biggies have already made their two million by September, leaving the small fish to battle over the end-of-the-year events.
Nick Price is one who showed up this week for the John Deere. He, like most of the big names, hasnt come in several years. But this year he has returned.
More than anything else, it was the golf course that got me back here, said Price, because, like most guys on tour, I like to play good golf courses. And you can see it's been designed by a golfer (D.A. Weibring), which is - he's done a great job, he really has.
Price doesnt mind playing in the States the week before the British Open ' the reason most of the top 10 has passed this up.
I've toyed with the idea of going over to play in Scotland the week before, he said, but the problem is that if the weather is poor, it really ruins your practice going in there. And there's really no better practice than playing a week before, I don't think.
Price has tried it both ways ' playing the week before a major, and resting the week before a major. Now - he has his own plane, which makes flying to Royal Troon decidedly less complicated. But he has decided that it doesnt make any difference ' playing or resting.
You've just got to go with what you feel best, and the way my scheduling worked out this year, it was a perfect fit for me, he said.
I sort of balk at going to play overseas this time of year because if the weather conditions - we're almost guaranteed good weather here. We may have a few rain delays, but that's not anything uncommon this time of year to play in the States. But I want to get a good solid four rounds in. There's nothing better than getting a win under your belt and going to the British Open.
So Price will be at the John Deere, along with a lot of solid, very capable players who just havent made a name for themselves yet. But tournament organizers live the life of the unfortunates on the PGA Tour. They are obliged to have this date. It doesnt mean the John Deere isnt a great tournament. It only means that a lot of the big names wont ever have the chance of knowing about it first-hand.
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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