Weekly 18: World Ranking

By Jason SobelMay 23, 2011, 1:11 am

Here’s everything you need to know about professional golf in the 21st century.

After defeating Luke Donald in the final of the Volvo World Match Play Championship, Ian Poulter reported that he would celebrate by drinking champagne on a private flight from Spain back to the U.K. with a friend.

That friend? Luke Donald.

Call it a case of strange bedfellows or a terrific nod toward camaraderie, but either way it’s a sign of the times. Just like the ever-evolving World Ranking – for so long an afterthought, but now at the forefront of so many debates on a weekly basis.

Or is it? The Weekly 18 begins with an examination as to whether the number next to a player’s name is important or not.

1. WORLD OF IMPORTANCE

Welcome to the latest edition of “As the World Ranking Turns.”

Entering the Volvo this past week, Lee Westwood was in danger of losing his No. 1 ranking yet again, with both Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer capable of usurping the man at the top.

“I just learn to live with it,” Westwood said before the event. “And I'm not really worried about it. We are all out here with the purpose of trying to win golf tournaments, really.”

He’s right. And yet, the increasing volatility of the OWGR makes it a continuing subplot within the game, even overshadowing actual tournament results at times.

One of those times occurred on Sunday, when it could be argued that Donald’s journey toward the No. 1 ranking may have been of more importance than the match play victory needed to secure that title.

In the end, neither happened. But it raises a question that’s been asked with more frequent regularity in recent months: Does a player’s World Ranking even matter?

Well, I suppose it depends on your definition of “matter.”

No, the number next to someone’s name shouldn’t supersede things like his victory total and the ol’ eyeball test. But yes, it matters in a way that it puts into some form of mathematical context how players are faring in comparison with each other.

Consider what Kaymer had to say about Donald after losing to him in the Volvo semifinals: “He never really opens the door for you and it felt a little bit impossible. He really deserves to become the No. 1.'

There’s a difference, though, between a fellow player believing someone should be No. 1 and actually getting there. We’ve seen Phil Mickelson repeatedly fail to reach the top spot during the past two years and now Donald has been unsuccessful in a playoff at Harbour Town and in the Volvo final against Poulter.

Being ranked as the best in the world isn’t as important as winning tournaments, but it still matters. It matters to the players and it should matter to the rest of us, too.

2. IAN POULTER

Quick: Who is currently the best match-play competitor in the world?

For years, the no-brainer answer was Tiger Woods, but that response obviously doesn’t apply for the time being. And so in their final match at Finca Cortesin, Poulter and Luke Donald were not only battling for the tournament title, but this figurative one, as well.

With his victory, Poulter should now be considered the game’s preeminent performer in this format.

The truest barometer of how proficient a player is at match play may be how much better he fares than in stroke play events. This isn’t meant as a backhanded compliment to Poulter, but there’s no mistaking the fact that he’s a much more ruthless competitor when going to head-to-head against a single opponent rather than an entire field.

Poulter is now the first player to have won both the Volvo and Accenture match play titles and his 5-2-0 career Ryder Cup record includes an unblemished mark in singles matches.

If needing one player to win a match, there are more talented and accomplished players from which to choose. You won’t find a grittier competitor than Poulter, though, and that makes him the obvious selection right now as the best match-play guy in the world.

3. DAVID TOMS

At the 2001 PGA Championship, David Toms laid up on the par-4 final hole, then got up-and-down to win the tournament.

Two weeks ago, Toms decided to go for the green on the par-5 16th hole at TPC-Sawgrass, finding the water hazard and eventually losing in a playoff.

On Sunday, he laid up at Colonial’s par-5 11th hole, then holed his wedge shot for eagle to win the tournament.

Anyone else see the moral to this story?

Those equipment commercials urging us to “never lay up” preach about being macho in order to win, but strategy can still beat blindly going for it every time.

Of course, first discussing the technical aspect of Toms’ course management is to bury the lede, which is the ultimate story of redemption after his near-miss at The Players Championship one week earlier. It may have been the perfect bounceback scenario for Toms, who not only unabashedly loves Colonial, but had a superior career record on the course without ever previously winning there.

Actually, it was a rare double-bounceback. After opening with scores of 62-62, he lost a seven-stroke 36-hole lead on Saturday only to regain it one day later en route to the victory.

And much like the guy for whom Hogan’s Alley is named, the latest champion did it his way.

4. SUZANN PETTERSEN

As far as droughts go, Suzann Pettersen’s didn’t last that long.

She last won an LPGA event in late-2009, but it’s not the time between wins that had taken its toll. It was the close calls.

Since winning the Canadian Women’s Open two years ago, she compiled a half-dozen runner-up finishes on the circuit and 10 other top-10s. She finally broke that streak by defeating Cristie Kerr in the final of the Sybase Match Play Championship.

“It’s been a while. Finally!” she told me when we spoke via telephone Sunday evening. “I work hard, but I never thought it was going to come in match play. I always thought it would be a stroke play event.”

Pettersen won by outlasting Kerr in cold, wet conditions in New Jersey – a matchup between friends and frequent practice round partners.

“It was all game-face today,” Pettersen said. “She’s a great friend of mine, we practice together a lot. But today it was game on, no chit-chat.”

If that doesn’t tell you everything about Pettersen’s famous intensity, consider this. I asked her if playing Kerr in this format got her into the mood for the upcoming Solheim Cup. She simply replied with a two-word answer: “Game on!”

5. TIGER WOODS

It’s easy to pile on.

Woods has endured both scandal and injury, each of which are now taking a statistical toll on his numerical status. For the first time since the week of April 6, 1997 – one week prior to winning his first major championship at The Masters – he is now outside of the top-10 on the Official World Golf Ranking, placing 12th on the latest list.

He’s going to keep dropping, too. If – as expected – Woods is forced to skip next week’s Memorial Tournament, at least one estimation has him at somewhere around 17th by the time he intends to make his next start at the U.S. Open.

And while it’s now easy to discuss how fall the mighty has fallen, we should also take a minute to celebrate the accomplishment.

Woods remained in the top-10 for more than 14 full years, serving as the No. 1-ranked player for nearly a dozen years combined, closing this part of the streak at 623 weeks. That’s nearly twice as much time as Greg Norman, who ranks second all-time for most weeks atop the list.

Don’t expect Tiger to bounce back into the top-10 immediately once he’s healthy, though. Over the next four months, he will lose five victories from the 2009 campaign. Obviously, those are weighted less than any recent results – which basically means he doesn’t need to replace those five titles with five more in coming months simply to tread water – but anytime a player has wins dropping from his ledger, he will lose valuable ranking points.

There have been many “end of an era” sentiments in regard to Woods over the past year. Like those, his failure to remain in the top-10 is yet another symbol of the recent fallout, but that doesn’t mean we should forget that era, either.

6. BELEN MOZO

“I don’t even know her. I’ve never played with her.”

That was Belen Mozo prior to her second-round match with Cristie Kerr at the Sybase.

Yes, that would be the same Cristie Kerr who owns 14 career LPGA victories. The same Cristie Kerr who won last year’s LPGA Championship by a dozen strokes.

And the same Cristie Kerr who defeated Mozo by a 7 and 6 margin on Friday.

Well, at least Mozo knows her now.

7. MCCORMACK, LARSON AND GABIELSSON

There was a time when allowing your company to sponsor a golf tournament would secure a spot in the pro-am and a comfy chair in the hospitality tent.

It comes with so much more now.

The Volvo World Match Play Championship featured groups named for Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman and Ian Woosnam. The other three were a bit more, well, curious.

There was the McCormack group, in honor of the late Mark McCormack, founder of IMG. In case that little piece of information didn’t clue you in, yes, this was an IMG-run event.

At least McCormack is a major name in the golf game. Gustaf Larson and Assar Gabrielsson? Gotta admit: I needed to Google their names, because I had no idea. Turns out they were the cofounders of Volvo, which happens to have a little hand in this tourney, too.

Hey, I guess when you put your hard-earned dollars into an event, you’re free to do what you like with it, but this reeked of unnecessary and pointless self-aggrandizement.

8. STAT OF THE WEEK

With his victory, David Toms has now hit for the cycle at Colonial.

He finished second in 2002, third in 2005 and fourth in 2000.

Here’s guessing he’d rather win again next year than get one for the thumb.

9. STAT OF THE WEEK II

For the geeks – and I use that term admiringly – who get revved up over WAR, OPS, VORP and other acronyms in baseball, this new statistic will serve as hours of endless entertainment. The rest of us will simply live in confusion.

If the PGA Tour season ended after THE PLAYERS Championship, John Cook would have kept his card.

Going into this week, the 53-year-old was exactly 125th on the money list with $251,600 -- all for finishing third at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in his only start of the season.

That paycheck placed him ahead of the likes of Sean O'Hair, Ben Curtis, Louis Oosthuizen, Camilo Villegas and Boo Weekley.

10. VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Ian Poulter may have won his 11th career European Tour title on Sunday, but his final round may be better remembered for this fall while trying to hit a difficult shot on the hillside.

Interesting to note that while Poulter didn’t injure himself on the swing, he was very concerned about possible grass stains on his wardrobe.

11. TWEET OF THE WEEK

@WestwoodLee Well -19 for 45 holes and off home . You've got to love matchplay .

As of column deadline, that was the final tweet for No. 1-ranked Lee Westwood, who recently threatened to close his account due to abusive tweets from followers.

12. QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“It's on the rocks. Too bad there's no gin and tonic to go with it.’” – European Tour announcer, describing Luke Donald’s tee shot on the fourth hole of the Volvo final match landing on the rock wall bordering a water hazard.

13. FROM THE INBOX

I’ve been asked the following question so many times in recent months that I can smell it coming from a mile away: “Who is the next American superstar golfer?”

The truth is, I have no idea. Bubba Watson? Rickie Fowler? Peter Uihlein? Don’t hold your breath on an answer. It may be some third-grader who hasn’t even picked up a club yet.

Instead of prognosticating’s version of pulling a name out of a hat, I’m going to defer on this one and answer another question instead: “Who is the next Belgian superstar golfer?”

Glad you asked.

Nicolas Colsaerts already has the Volvo China Open title under his belt this season and the big hitter nearly pulled off another Volvo win this weekend, leading Ian Poulter late in their semifinal match before losing in extra holes.

Trust me: This guy is good.

His rise reminds me a little of that of Martin Kaymer, who was firmly entrenched on the radar screens of most golf insiders for years, but didn’t reach mainstream fans until the last year or two. Don’t be surprised if Colsaerts – who was 108th in the world before last week’s event -- enjoys a similar progression in the next few years.

One thing is for sure: He’s definitely the best Belgian out there.

Three Wishes

14. I WISH THERE WAS MORE CREATIVITY IN GOLF

Not suggesting we completely revamp the game in order to try and bring a few more people aboard, but I’ve always been an advocate of not being afraid of change.

A few things – both subtle and otherwise – popped up in the past week that would certainly qualify for creativity.

I enjoyed the ingenuity at both the Volvo World Match Play Championship and Sybase Match Play Championship. The Volvo featured a World Cup-style group format, meaning players who traveled from halfway around the world would at least be guaranteed two matches. Meanwhile, the Sybase allowed the top-ranked half of its field to select golf balls with an opponent’s name as a way of determining the brackets.

And then there was the not-so-subtle, as Jack Nicklaus discussed instituting 12-hole rounds and even producing 12-hole scorecards at Muirfield Village and Bear’s Club.

'It's the health of the game, the growth of the game, keeping people in the game, that I'm interested in,” he told reporters last week.

You may not like the idea. But the point is, at least it’s an idea. Even a game that’s been around for centuries still continually needs new ones.

15. I WISH THERE WAS A BETTER OPTION FOR MODERATELY INJURED PRO GOLFERS

I recently heard about one PGA Tour player who will remain anonymous because I haven’t been able to confirm his story. It’s a familiar refrain, though: This guy is hurt, but not that hurt -- which is to say, he could play if he needed to. And yet, he isn’t 100 percent, so instead of trying to compete through an injury and risk losing his card, he’s issued himself the ol’ DNP-CD for the time being.

Why not try to “gut it up” and compete? Because for players who don’t own exemptions past this season, staying home is actually more beneficial than trying to play through an injury.

I spoke with Gary Woodland recently about his personal Catch-22, when he tried to play through a rotator cuff injury during his rookie season two years ago. As an athlete, he wanted to keep giving it a try, but those close to him convinced him to call it a season in June after missing the cut in 10 of 18 starts. Doing so allowed him to receive a medical extension for the next season.

Of course, it’s difficult to point out a problem without also proffering a solution, but I’m not sure there’s an appropriate one here. Really, the only other option is for the PGA Tour to stop offering medical extensions to injured players, thereby forcing them to play through any maladies. Such a proposal mirrors treatment of athletes in team sports, but remember, there’s one major difference: Those guys get paid no matter what; golfers get paid what they earn.

And so the result is that players who may only be moderately injured force themselves to sit out until fully healthy in order to be awarded with the largest possible extension. It’s not a great option, but there may be no better ones that exist, either.

16. I WISH RORY SABBATINI'S MOTIVES WEREN'T SO TRANSPARENT

Here’s a dirty little secret about the PGA Tour’s resident bad boy: He’s actually a pretty good guy.

Sabbatini may detest slow play (who doesn’t?) and had some issues with fellow competitors, but he does more charity work than most other pros, often donating time and money to many military-related causes.

He should be applauded for such efforts as much as he is criticized for any boorish behavior.

And yet, with Sabbatini reportedly appealing a potential suspension, his recent actions seem more than a little disingenuous.

First he reached out to Sean O’Hair, one of those aforementioned competitors with whom his dustup is the reason for the possible disciplinary measure. Then on Sunday, it was announced that Sabo would pay for the furnishing of a home that was recently donated to a Wounded Warrior.

As if those weren’t enough, Rory was shown on the telecast raking a bunker for his playing partner’s caddie – almost a comical display of good intentions.

I could be wrong here, but it all reeks of a schoolboy attempting to stave off detention by cleaning off his teacher’s erasers after class

17. ON THE HOT SEAT ... BUBBA WATSON

I recently wrote that every time Bubba Watson cashes a nice paycheck, he should send a thank you card to Jason Gore.

For those who don’t know the story, back in 2005 the Nationwide Tour only graduated 20 players to the big leagues. Gore won three times, receiving an in-season battlefield promotion, and so the tour went 21 deep instead and offered a card to one extra player.

That player was Watson.

When I sat down with Bubba last week, I asked if he ever thanked Gore. He knew exactly what I was talking about.

“I sent his wife flowers,” Watson said, “and I sent him chocolates – because I knew he’d eat them all!”

The rest is history, as Watson played his rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2006, kept his card and has since won three times and played in The Ryder Cup. He sat down on the Hot Seat to discuss the maturity process over those years.

Q: When you first came onto the tour, you were thought to be a bit arrogant. Is that a fair description?

A: I wouldn’t say arrogant; I would say angry. Thinking I was better than I was. Not mad at people, just mad at why I wasn’t winning, why I wasn’t playing better, why I wasn’t top-tenning. Things like that, things that everybody thinks about – it’s human nature. But I let it bother me too much. I didn’t care who wins the tournament; I just thought I should be there. I’m not saying I was better than anybody else. That’s what psychologists want you to think; they want you to think you’re better than you are. But it was affecting me on the course. Off the course, I’ve never had a problem. I’ve always been a fun person – that’s why my wife married me. On the golf course, she probably wouldn’t have married me. It’s slowly learning and realizing that golf or whatever your job is doesn’t mean anything. You know, it’s friends and family, it’s my faith, it’s the other stuff. Because my job and golf is not going to define who I am as a person. It took me a while to understand that and realize that the media, the fans, all the people are pulling for me. It took me a while to realize that no one is trying to hurt me. They just want to watch some good golf.

Q: Was there a eureka moment when it all kicked in for you or was it more gradual?

A: It was very gradual, really slow steps. It was a rough year last year because of my dad. You think your dad is invincible; you don’t think he’s ever going to pass away. With him going through the cancer and knowing they couldn’t treat it and he was just slowly withering away, my caddie knew I was having a rough year. I was reading my Bible and trying to grow, even though I was having a tough time. We also had a scare with my wife, thought she had a tumor in her brain, but she didn’t. There was just a lot of stuff going on. For me to come out ahead and play good golf, even though my dad and all of those situations were going on, I learned a lot. But when my caddie told me that, as a friend, he was going to leave, that hit home. If he left, there are other caddies out there. But it just hit home that a friend would say that to me. So for him to tell me that he was going to leave because he couldn’t stand to see a friend go through this emotion, that took a big man to step up and say that. Knowing that he was getting paid pretty good, that he could lose his job, it was a big thing. My wife had been telling me that, but I was taking slow steps. It helped me take a big leap forward when he said that to me.

Q: Was your victory at last year’s Travelers Championship sort of the culmination of all of that coming together?

A: You know, it was. That was a weird week. Instead of playing a practice round on Tuesday, we went to a water park. I hit balls for 10 minutes and said, “This is boring. Let’s go to the water park.” So we went and goofed around for four hours. I was dead tired the next day, my arms were hurting from swimming around. But we decided to just start having fun on the golf course – and off the golf course at tournaments. Let’s not think of it as a tournament; let’s make it a fun adventure. I was six back starting the day and shot 68. On that golf course, you don’t think that you’re going to catch the leader at six back, but somehow I did. I wasn’t thinking about the lead or anything until those last two holes. It was just all of that coming together – not worrying about golf, not worrying about how you’re doing, not worrying about my dad and my mom. Just trying to have a better attitude and not worry about golf. It somehow all came together there. It made my caddie look right; I needed to have more fun.

18. PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Enjoy this special edition Top Photos of the Week from around the world in golf

Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

Woods' initial comeback short-lived, leads to another back surgery

Article: Woods undergoes "successful" fourth back surgery

Article: Woods (back spasm) withdraws from Dubai

Article: Players disappointed Woods withdraws from Dubai

Really, again: Tiger undergoes fourth back surgery

Begay on Tiger: Future is 'extremely uncertain'


Woods arrested for DUI, enters diversion program after getting "professional help"

Article: Woods arrested for DUI in May

Article: Police say Woods had 5 drugs in system when arrested

Article: DUI affidavit states Tiger asleep in parked car

Dashcam video released of Tiger's DUI arrest

Begay, Rolfing: Tiger's arrest needs to be wakeup call

Photos: Tiger Woods' car during DUI arrest

Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

Photos: Tiger Woods in court for DUI hearing

Article: Tiger gets 'professional help' for prescription meds

Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

Article: Woods pleads in court guilty to reckless driving


Woods goes from unsure of his pro golf future to resuming full golf activities

Article: Doctor clears Woods for full golf activity six months after back surgery

Article: Tiger doesn't know what future holds

Article: Woods back to making full swings

Woods admits he might never return to competition

Making progress: Breaking down Tiger's driver swing


Woods returns to competition for first time since February at Hero World Challenge

Article: Hero comeback a success for healthy Woods

Article: Woods discusses his back: 'No issues at all, none'

Tiger Tracker: Woods finished T-9 in return to competition

Chamblee: 'I was wrong' about some of my Woods skepticism

Tiger, if you were hurting, would you tell us? 'Yeah, I'd tell you'


Woods out and about in 2017

Article: Video, images of Tiger's round with Trump

Article: Woods posts photo as 'Mac Daddy Santa'

Article: Tiger at U.S. Open sitting in Nadal's box

Article: Shirtless Tiger holds up a massive lobster

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

NBC Sports' Coverage of LPGA Tour in 2017 Most-Viewed Season Ever for NBC Sports

By Golf Channel Public RelationsDecember 13, 2017, 8:45 pm

NBC Sports’ LPGA Tour Coverage Ties 2013 for Most-Watched Year Since 2011

NBC and Golf Channel Boast Top-6 Most-Watched Women’s Golf Telecasts in 2017

Beginning with the dramatic playoff finish at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and concluding with Lexi Thompson winning the $1 million Race to the CME Globe, nearly 22 million viewers tuned in to LPGA Tour coverage across Golf Channel and NBC in 2017. This makes 2017 the most-viewed LPGA Tour season across NBC Sports since Golf Channel joined the NBC Sports Group in 2011. Additionally, 2017 tied 2013 as the LPGA Tour’s most-watched year across NBC Sports since 2011. Coverage drew an average of 221,000 viewers per telecast in 2017 (+24% vs. 2016), according to data released by The Nielsen Company.

NBC SPORTS GROUP CLAIMS TOP-6 MOST-WATCHED WOMEN’S GOLF TELECASTS IN ‘17

For the first time ever in televised women’s golf, Sunday’s final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open (Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 1.1 million viewers) delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast of the year. NBC’s Saturday (Day 2) coverage of the Solheim Cup in August placed second with 968,000 viewers, followed by Sunday’s Solheim Cup coverage on NBC with 946,000 viewers. Golf Channel’s live coverage of Sunday’s final day of the Solheim Cup drew 795,000 viewers, the most-watched women’s golf event on cable in eight years.

Rank

Network

Event

Day

Avg. Viewers P2+

1

NBC

RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

Sunday

1,100,526

2

NBC

SOLHEIM CUP

Saturday

968,202

3

NBC

SOLHEIM CUP

Sunday

946,387

4

NBC

KPMG WOMEN'S PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Sunday

839,983

5

NBC

RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

Saturday

808,578

6

GOLF

SOLHEIM CUP

Sunday

795,000

ADDITIONAL VIEWERSHIP MILESTONES FOR WOMEN’S GOLF IN 2017

  • ANA Inspiration - The LPGA’s first major championship delivered thefifth most-watched LPGA final round in Golf Channel history with 551,000 viewers when So Yeon Ryu defeated Lexi Thompson in a playoff following Thompson being assessed a four-stroke penalty earlier in the final round.
  • KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – The LPGA’s second major was seen by 6.6 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the largest audience for the event on record (2006-17). Sunday’s final round on NBC, which saw Danielle Kang win her first LPGA Tour event over defending champion Brooke Henderson, also was the most-watched telecast in the event’s history with 840,000 average viewers.
  • RICOH Women’s British Open – NBC’s Sunday coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast in 2017 (.78 U.S. HH rating, 1.1 million viewers). In total, 7 million unique viewers tuned in to coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, the most-watched RICOH Women’s British Open in the past 10 years and the most-watched among the five women’s major championships in 2017.
  • Solheim Cup – Seen by a total audience of 7.3 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the Solheim Cup posted the largest total audience for women’s golf since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open on ESPN/NBC. Golf Channel’s live coverage of the final day drew 795,000 average viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s golf telecast on cable in the last eight years, since the final day of the 2009 Solheim Cup.

GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL POSTS RECORD STREAMING CONSUMPTION

Golf Channel Digital posted record numbers of LPGA streaming consumption with 11.9 million live minutes streamed across LPGA Tour telecasts in 2017 (+563% vs. 2016).

  • Solheim Cup – Three-day coverage of the Solheim Cup saw 6.3 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports’ Digital platforms, trailing only the 2016 Rio Olympics (9 million) as the most-ever for a women’s golf event airing on Golf Channel / NBC.
  • RICOH Women’s British Open – Four-day coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open saw 2 million minutes streamed, +773% vs. 2016.

NBC Sports Group combined to air 31 LPGA Tour events in 2017 and a total of 420 hours of coverage, the most in LPGA history. The exclusive cable home to the LPGA Tour, Golf Channel aired coverage of four of five women’s major championships in 2017, with three majors also airing on NBC: the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, RICOH Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship. The biennial Solheim Cup also returned to network television for the first time in 15 years with weekend coverage on NBC.

Source: Nielsen 2017 Live+Same Day DVR vs. prior available data. Persons 2+ avg 000’s and/or Persons 2+ reach w/six-minute qualifier. Digital Metrics from Adobe Reports & Analytics. Details available.

Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

“The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

“At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

“Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

“I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

“I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

“This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

“To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

“I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.