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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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.