Golf's year-long schedule not likely going away

By Jason SobelOctober 28, 2013, 11:30 pm

It happens every April. Golf fans who have spent months eagerly anticipating the year’s first major championship wake up before the opening round of the Masters like it’s Christmas morning – only they’re told they can’t open their presents until mid-afternoon.

That’s because the telecast traditionally doesn’t start for some seven hours after the first tee shot is struck. It’s enough to send the collective golf fanbase into an unequaled rage over the inability to witness everything, all the time. Some would call it emblematic of our need-it-now society; others would say it’s just a natural reaction.

Either way, this happens despite limited commercial interruptions during the broadcast, despite increased coverage over the years and despite availability on various other multimedia platforms.

Every April. Like clockwork.

And yet, the Masters remains not only the most prestigious tournament for the world’s elite players, but likewise the crown jewel of any fan’s annual viewing schedule. The limited broadcast windows remain must-see TV because of – not in spite of – this lack of oversaturation.

That’s an important distinction – and therein lies a lesson for the rest of golf’s organizing bodies, one which they all continually struggle to comprehend.

The less-is-more philosophy that permeates the Masters each year isn’t a favorite of those watching from the living room couch, but it’s an inarguably successful business model. Unlike the other three majors, which feature live sunrise-to-sundown coverage, fans often feel like they can’t miss a minute of the action from Augusta due to its limited nature.

This same theory can be invoked in other areas of the game.

As you may have noticed, the PGA Tour is already three events into its new 2013-14 wraparound schedule, which started just 18 days after the 2013 campaign had concluded. Then again, you may not have noticed, as some admittedly entertaining tournaments have faded into the background of a sports landscape already deluged domestically with postseason baseball, professional and college football and the start to hockey and basketball seasons, not to mention even greater conflicts internationally.

The PGA Tour may reside as a Field of Dreams for its membership, but the pervasive “if you build it, they will come” mentality toward the consumer base is flimsy at best. Beginning three weeks ago, 49 of the next 52 weeks will host a PGA Tour-sanctioned event, whether official or not.

At the risk of sounding like a country singer crooning over a lovelorn relationship, we can reach this conclusion: You can’t miss something that never goes away.

That less-is-more philosophy of the folks in green jackets is continuously usurped by a more-is-more fundamental during the rest of the year. Can’t watch a tournament? Don’t worry, another one is just a few days away.

Let’s compare this to, oh, the NFL, which seems to have built a decent business model for growing its product. Speak with any football fan these days – and without question, you can’t walk out your front door and fail to find one – and ask how they feel about their passion in July and August. During these months, nearly a half-year since the last game that actually counted for something, the obsession has already morphed beyond withdrawal and past depression, now taking the form of anticipation once again, completing the cycle that lured them into such fandom in the first place.

If the PGA Tour wants its fans to witness these highs and lows, they’ll have to come between the hours of Sunday night and Thursday morning.

Don’t confuse this column, though, for one of those close-minded foot-stampings that invariably fail to see the other side. The truth is, the PGA Tour’s schedule is the ultimate Catch-22 situation.

While there are too many annual tournaments to ever force us to truly miss ‘em, there still aren’t enough opportunities for those with full-time membership. Even in the season’s first few weeks, with most of the elite players electing to take an extended vacation, there were plenty of Tour graduates who failed to get into the fields.

But that’s only scratching the surface of this paradox. The PGA Tour has contractual obligations to sponsors for every tournament. Even if it was in favor of contraction, the contracts would currently prevent it from contracting. Got it?

Then there’s the charitable aspect within each community. Take the Valero Texas Open, for example, which is hardly amongst the upper echelon in the PGA Tour’s hierarchy of events. The tournament has raised more than $50 million for local charities during its lengthy history, making it one of the more impactful in the yearly rotation. Is the governing body supposed to shut off that kind of support simply because there are too many tourneys on the calendar? Let’s hope not.

We’re past the point of no return. As those who run the Masters understand, purveying a less-is-more philosophy is something that has to be cultivated from the beginning as opposed to forged later on.

In 2006, when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem first introduced the impending FedEx Cup to debut the next year, he spoke about the need to give players an offseason while also not competing against football season. When it began, though, the final playoff events were directly opposite football and have been ever since.

All of which leads to another lesson: It’s ultimately difficult to indulge a less-is-more philosophy when we live in a more-is-more kind of world.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

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

Former 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 Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted 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