Seniors Face Disturbing Dilemma
Oh, how professional golf is changing. And the change is felt by the over-50s more so than anywhere else. The youngsters who are coming up routinely rake in $1 million a year. Last year the number who achieved the millionaire mark reached 45, and that number is bound to grow every season. That is not particularly good news for the gents who run the Senior Tour.
Look at the players who will turn 50 in the next few years. Greg Norman. Nick Faldo. Ian Woosnam. Mark OMeara. Bernhard Langer. Hal Sutton. Seve Ballesteros. Nick Price. Fred Couples. All are financially set for life. Unfortunately for the Senior Tour, they dont need the dough. They might play a tournament here and there, but you can forget them playing 25-to-30.
Those days are long gone. It was customary for Miller Barber or Don January or Chi Chi Rodriguez or Lee Trevino to put in those kinds of weeks playing with the Seniors. Those guys could use the money. They played their golf before the boom hit, and the winners checks did make a difference.
But Greg Norman? Nick Price? They may play here and there, but they are far too comfortable to worry about where their next jet is coming from.
The guys who won the tournaments of the 90s are in the same situation. They are rich already. They may get out to play a little social golf, but tournament play will no longer be their occupation when they reach 50. They wont have an occupation ' or need one.
This change actually began a decade ago, about the time Jack Nicklaus reached the magic age. He was the first to play less than 10 a year. Then came Tom Weiskopf. The last couple of years brought Tom Watson. Now the big money on the regular tour is really big.
The point being, the multi-millionaires are not going to play much on the Senior Tour. I didnt really believe it until I saw Watson. Norman has said over and over that he doesnt plan to play much. But why should they? A million dollars just doesnt mean what it used to. No, not when youve got 20 of them.
I know, I know, the top names have been saying that for years. And when it came time to blow out 50 candles, they couldnt resist the siren call of dollar bills. But its different now. The pension plan, for one thing, ensures that no one goes without their Porsche having plenty fuel. Thats if the money they have socked away should run below five mil or so.
Meanwhile, the Mike McCulloughs, the Allen Doyles and Dana Quigleys are going to rule more and more. Somewhere, theres a 47-year-old club pro whos practicing every day now whos going to whomp the daylights out of Ben Crenshaw. There are plenty of guys who can play this game, guys who didnt have a chance to belly up to the money trough when they were younger. Bens won a couple of majors, 19 over-all. He has a lovely wife and a couple of daughters. Meanwhile, this anonymous chap has no children running around the family foyer and he has yet to make $100,000 in a year. Who do you think is going to put in more time getting ready for this second swipe at the money jar?
A lot of the guys have eased up considerably as they approach 50. Bad move, particularly if they have Senior Tour designs. Rodriguez was lamenting just last week the Tours decision this year to make the courses tougher and longer. No longer can you come out, smile and wave and sign autographs and collect your checks. Add another big plus to the side of Mr. Anonymous. He will be ready for the 6,900-yard courses. Some of the guys in the final years of the regular tour are getting short-short-shorter.
That, of course, assumes the status quo, and the status quo of the Senior Tour isnt real bright at the moment. You need to pipe in the light to find the television numbers, now that the Senior Tour brass has decided to tape events and show them for an 8 oclock end. And the lack of real star-power is worrisome, particularly when the stars already have it all and just dont need another golf tournament to nail down a couple hundred thousand.
The next four years look bleak indeed. Mac OGrady turned 50 this week, but hes a walking MASH refugee. Same with Mark McCumber and Fuzzy Zoeller, who also turn 50 this year. Bruce Lietzke might change the landscape a little, but he doesnt play more than 15 a year.
Next year? Crenshaw turns 50, but it appears he has better things to do. In 2003 theres Craig Stadler and Jay Haas. In 2004 you have Peter Jacobsen, who has had a laundry list of injuries. A lot of other guys are going to join them. Undoubtedly some will make it big, a Doug Tewell or Bruce Fleisher, but there will be no one to carry the Tour like an Arnold Palmer or Trevino or a Rodriguez.
The landscape the next 10 years or so looks a little bleak. A decision must be made how many tournaments will survive, and what the main emphasis will be as far as players are concerned. Does the Tour want names? Or do they want players? Who will shape the future of the senior game? Tewell, McCullough, Fleisher and Doyle are unquestionably great guys, but they cant sustain enough interest to keep the Tour healthy.
Norman, Langer, Faldo, Price et al could, but they just arent interested. Is there an answer?
What do you think of the future of the Senior PGA Tour?
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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday
SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.
“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”
So was Woods.
DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.
“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”
Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.
“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.
“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”
Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.
“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.
“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”
Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time.
With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey
SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.
The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.
Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.
It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.
“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”
Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.
According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.
“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”
Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.
And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.
As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.
He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.
“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.
Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.
“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”
Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.
Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.
“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.
Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.
Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1
SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.
After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.
With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.
“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'
SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.
“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”
On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”
Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”
Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.
“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.”