Marketing Ploy Greg Should be Thankful

By George WhiteFebruary 5, 2004, 5:00 pm
Greg Normans comments brought it up again, two weeks after Michelle Wies appearance at the Sony Open caused the golf world to erupt in an awful ruckus. Because shes female, because shes 14, a line was drawn in the sand and everyone got on one side or the other. Either Sony was correct in giving her an exemption, or it was a shameful act which some tsk-tsked all the way back to the Honolulu school where Michelle attends in the ninth grade.
Norman lined up solidly with the antis this week, calling Wies appearance a marketing ploy. Tuesday night on the Golf Channel, Rich Lerner interviewed a couple of tournament directors for their views on sponsors exemptions, in light of the firestorm which has occurred. And he also got the opinion of 39-year-old tour veteran Scott Verplank.
Verplank started by saying he watched the Sony closely on Thursday and Friday, but hardly at all on Saturday and Sunday after Wie missed the cut by one stroke.
I dont care ' man, woman or child, if youre good enough to play out here, come on! If youre not, I dont think a man, woman or child or anything (should be given an exemption). But if you can play ' and she (Wie) proved she can play
His voice trailed off as he realized he was saying something not widely favored by a lot of PGA Tour fans. But his meaning was as clear as if he had stepped right up and said it like this: I know shes a female and shes only 14, but she just came within one stroke of making the cut in a PGA Tour event. I say, Let her play!
The truth is ' it WAS a marketing ploy when Wie was invited. But the truth also is, that certainly doesnt make the Sony Open unique. Remember when the old Kemper Open gave one to NFL quarterback Mark Rypien? And remember that he didnt come within a country mile of making the cut? Marketing ploys are used every day in the business world, and theres not one thing wrong with most of them.
In a way, the players have no one but themselves to blame if they dont like the women invading their turf. The purses have become so huge that it routinely costs $6 million for a company to become a title sponsor, with the accompanying ad buys on television that is foisted upon the business. And companies have begun demanding a little something extra for that huge outlay.
The Sony Open got a 27 percent boost in television audience when it invited Wie. That, people, is a gigantic hike for the Sony corporation. Bank of America got a similar increase in television ratings last year when it invited Annika Sorenstam to the Colonial.
And rarely has anyone benefited from the increased sponsors purses like Norman has. He has taken home $14 million during his career in purse money. He has planes, a yacht, several expensive cars ' and he more than anyone except Tiger Woods should be humbly thanking tournament sponsors for their largesse.

Marketing ploy? Last week, the FBR Open in Phoenix utilized a marketing ploy when it invited Ricky Barnes to play. Barnes was a U.S. Amateur champion, and the sponsor knew it made good business sense to have the former University of Arizona golfer to tee it up in the tournament. FBR received a huge bonus when Barnes played well enough to finish in a tie for 11th.
We want field, and we want buzz, conceded FBR tournament director Greg Hoyt. And, we got it. I mean, Ricky Barnes, near the lead, was following Phil Mickelson. Thats huge ' I mean, I feel pretty good about that pick.
Mark McGwire, the former baseball player, is being bantered around as a plum sponsors pick this year, says the Golf Channels Brian Hewitt. You think that isnt a marketing ploy? Cmon, get serious! But ' lets hear it for astute marketing!
Kym Houghton freely admits he made one of those marketing ploy picks in 1996 when he was the tournament director of the John Deere Classic. I gave one to Tiger, and it revitalized the golf tournament, he flatly states.
Houghton is now the tournament director for the Wachovia Championships, a second-year event played in Charlotte, N.C. While the Wachovia probably could not use Wies help ' We got 115 exemption letters last year ' there are a number of tournaments that certainly could.
Theres certain tournaments that have less than a marquee field that she could make a real difference in the gate and the TV ratings ' and the bottom line for charity, says Houghton. And there are a lot of events that would use her.
Oh course, a lot of people say they are opposed to Wie playing in an adults tournament solely because of her age. Now, Im sure that she is thankful that so many people are concerned about her welfare as a 14-year-old. But come on now, did you hear anyone say anything when Tiger Woods played in the Los Angeles Open when he was a 16-year-old? Or when Ted Oh played in the same tournament when he was the same age? Or did you hear a great groundswell of racket when Ty Tryon was appearing in the Honda Classic as a 16-year-old?
No, Im sure you didnt. Lets face it, its not Michelles age that bothers so many males. Her parents have accompanied her every step of the way, and if it gets to be too much for her, theyll sit her down for a couple of years. Its Michelles call ' she chooses her schedule. And if neither her, nor her parents, nor her teachers object, then she must be doing something right.
If people are honest, theyll tell you its because Wie is female. Thats OK if they feel that way. But unfortunately for them, the PGA Tour has no prohibitions against females. So all this fuss is just so much hot air.
And Norman is way out in left field on this one. The sponsors have got to have a little sizzle to go with their steak, and Wie certainly has given them that. As Hoyt says, We want field, and we want buzz. The sponsors demand a little something for the $6 million, and apparently they feel that Michelle Wie gives them just that.
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

Getty Images

McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

Getty Images

Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

Getty Images

The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.