Twitter may help Gore get sponsor exemption

By Jason SobelJanuary 12, 2012, 1:08 pm

This is a story about what happens when kindness intersects with social media, when a relationship forged on the golf course extends to the outer reaches of cyberspace.

The roots of this story can be traced back to last September. As part of his comeback from shoulder surgery, Jason Gore was competing in the Nationwide Tour’s Boise Open. Once called the “Prince of Pinehurst” for his three-day contention at the 2005 U.S. Open, the burly Gore earned legions of supporters not only for that unlikely jaunt through the venerable links, but for his ensuing three victories on the developmental circuit and one more once joining the PGA Tour for good.

Maybe that’s why Eric Magidson was drawn to him at the driving range that week. A golf fan from Bend, Ore., Magidson initiated a conversation with Gore early on and – being the gregarious, outgoing sort that he is – Gore was more than happy to engage in what became an ongoing discussion throughout the week.

After the tournament was over, Magidson and Gore kept in touch through Twitter, with the former – a computer science instructor at Central Oregon Community College who is aspiring to compete in this year’s Monday qualifier for the Boise Open – often seeking advice from the latter.

Gore has plenty of it to offer, from a lifetime of experience. After failing to earn his PGA Tour card for the 2012 season by a single stroke at Q-School, he now owns status only as a past champion, which he expects will be enough to get him into only about a half-dozen events this year. He understands and appreciates the predicament, but as a Southern California native and longtime fan of Riviera Country Club, there’s one tournament that means more to him than all others.

All of which was the impetus for the following tweet on Sunday:

@JasonGore59: Just signed up for the @ntrustopen qualifier, but you have NO IDEA how stoked I'd be to get a sponsors invitation! #myhometown #mymajor

Gore considered the post simply a public attempt at levity. Magidson considered it an opportunity to take action.

Since the pro had never disappointed his new fan, Magidson took it upon himself to lend a hand – or at least a couple of thumbs. He almost immediately started a grassroots campaign to support the cause, asking anyone he could find to re-tweet their advocacy.

“I’m simply attempting to pay back his kindness,” Magidson says. “Kindness earns kindness. It is who he is.”

Apparently he’s not the only one who believes that. Within days, Magidson had generated hundreds of re-tweets of support from the masses, including from NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick and fellow professional golfers such as Pat Perez, Geoff Ogilvy, D.A. Points and Christina Kim.

“People love Jason. He’s a good man and it’s his backyard,” Kim says. “Getting an invite will show just how much of an impact the world of Twitter has in everyday life. The world has shrunk to the size of a golf ball on Twitter. It’s the American dream, what Jason is trying to achieve.”

A dream that began as one innocent tweet, but has since turned into a viral campaign for a cause.

“I was just going to throw out a hint-hint kind of thing and it just blew up,” Gore explains with a laugh. “It’s crazy. I had no intention of doing this.”

Actually, he hasn’t done anything. While some players have been known to get creative with requests for sponsor exemptions, Gore went the old-fashioned route, simply writing a letter to Northern Trust officials prior to his tweet heard ‘round the world.

What has transpired is the power of social media at its best. To the uninitiated, Twitter can be a vast wasteland of faceless handles all arguing politics or divulging what was on today’s lunch menu. When used more efficiently, though, the medium can be used for good more than evil – from generating donations for cancer research to aiding in kidnapping cases and other crimes.

By comparison, an effort to get one player into one golf tournament should be viewed as trivial, but it may be a groundbreaking campaign within the industry.

As the Twitterverse sounds off about the movement, their 140-character voices are being heard by Northern Trust Open officials. The tournament’s own Twitter account recently posted a response on Tuesday:

@NTrustOpen: Hey @JasonGore59 fans...we do hear you! Exemptions decisions are coming soon. Stay tuned...

In fact, exemptions will be issued by the tournament committee sometime next week, with Gore eligible for one of two spots. The groundswell of support through social media can only help his cause.

“I would be surprised if it hurt him. I don’t see how it could hurt him,” says Mike Bone, general manager for the tournament. “We have such an incredibly strong field that we’re in a position of possibly being able to give the people what they want.

“There are a few hundred tweets from what I can see. If half of them buy a ticket, I think that would be pretty cool.”

Therein lies the biggest benefit for tournament title sponsors. One of the main priorities for such corporations is pleasing the consumer base. If a large percentage of that base is requesting a specific decision, isn’t it simply good business to acquiesce to the masses?

This could be a new frontier in the way sponsor exemptions are administered. Instead of silently offering a spot in the field to whomever tournament officials deemed worthy, such cases could go to a popular vote, with the leading candidate being issued the free pass.

As for Gore, he remains both baffled and humbled by the social media reaction to his cause.

“I did not mean for this to happen,” he says. “It just kept snowballing and snowballing.”

The result is that he now has more than a snowball’s chance in Southern California of receiving a Northern Trust Open exemption. It would be a fitting conclusion to this story, one which is about kindness and the power of social media – and what happens when those two forces work in conjunction.

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”