Major season not a good one for GOLF

By Joe PosnanskiAugust 3, 2016, 6:07 pm

As a golf fan, you might not care one bit if the professional game grows beyond its already sizable circle. That’s cool. And if you’re one of those golf fans who is happy to simply enjoy the professional game, then 2016 was a magical major champion season. We had great winners. We had drama. We had a duel for the ages.

It has been great for golf.

But — and here’s where we probably differ — I don’t think it’s been as great for GOLF, all capital letters.

What’s the difference between golf and GOLF? I guess I’d put it this way: It’s the difference between the Stanley Cup and the NHL regular season. It’s the difference between the Kentucky Derby and every other horse race. It’s the difference between the Indy 500 and other open-wheel races. Golf is a great sport. GOLF is a cultural phenomenon.

Yes, there are a few times in the game’s history when GOLF transcends its usual place in the American landscape and becomes something bigger. This happened for a time in the 1950s after Ben Hogan survived a horrible car crash and then came back to win the U.S. Open (and, a short while later, three majors in one year). They made a movie about that, threw a ticker tape parade for him, all that stuff.

GOLF became cool in the 1960s because Arnold Palmer was cool, the way he smoked his cigarettes and lashed at the ball and charged from behind at the finish. GOLF was titanic when Jack Nicklaus dueled with Palmer and Lee Trevino and Tom Watson.

And, of course, Tiger Woods took GOLF to unprecedented heights, unheard of ratings, impossibly high purses and all that. Tiger’s chase of “greatest player ever” masked his overwhelming accomplishment of becoming the most famous player ever. He made golf as important to sports fans as just about any other sport.

It seemed to me going into this major championship season that there was a chance for golf to once again skyrocket into America’s imagination. And, as great as 2016 was, I don’t think that happened. Don’t misunderstand: It was fantastic for golf fans. At the Masters, we watched Jordan Spieth’s first encounter with doubt and uncertainty. He collapsed down the stretch, and a fine English player, Danny Willett, played brilliantly and took the green jacket.

At the U.S. Open, we watched Dustin Johnson — a massive and star-crossed talent who can do things that no other player can — finally put it together and win even as the USGA clumsily mishandled a penalty ruling.

Photo gallery: Best moments from the 2016 major season

At The Open, we had perhaps the greatest duel in golf history — certainly right there with the Watson-Nicklaus Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977 — as the superb Henrik Stenson somehow out-birdied Phil Mickelson while they both left the rest of the world far behind.

And finally, at a weather-flattened PGA Championship, a game Texan with the plain name of Jimmy Walker held off the world’s No. 1 player, Jason Day, to win his first major championship. All four of the champions, in fact, were excellent pros and first-time major winners.

But GOLF, the grand version of the game, is driven by superstars. And some of us came into this year with the hope, even the expectation, of having more than one superstar drive the sport on to the front pages and magazine covers and lead stories on TV.

As the year began, the top three players in the world were:

1. Spieth: Magical putter; winner of two major championships and the FedEx Cup in 2015; likable Texan, who doesn’t only play well, he serves as he own analyst on the course.

2. Day: Friendly Australian; record setter for lowest major championship score at the PGA Championship; inspiring story who overcame various troubles and built a near-flawless game.

3. Rory McIlroy: Powerful Irishman; perfect swing; probably has the highest ceiling of any player in the world — at his best, he might be unbeatable.

You couldn’t get three more perfect candidates to have a shootout for golf’s top billing. They are friendly with each other, but there’s an obvious rivalry between them. They have very different styles and games. They all have charisma. No one player can ever be Tiger, but together the three have a chance to give us a tension and sense of surprise that The Woods Era could not provide. This was a chance for something great.

And that just didn’t materialize. Spieth, after his meltdown at Augusta, wasn’t a factor in any of the other majors. Day certainly has had a good year — winning The Players Championship and WGC-Match Play and finishing second at the PGA — but he returned to his close-but-not-quite ways in the majors. And McIlroy was all over the place, finishing top 10 at two majors (though not really in contention for either) and missing the cut in the other two.

So that just didn’t come together.

Of course, golf fans will tell you, that’s no surprise. Golf is a game of disappointment. Day had an amazing year, even if he didn’t win any majors. Spieth won twice this year and led for all but the last nine holes at the Masters. McIlroy won in Dubai. It’s not fair to expect those guys to just compete at every major championship.

And it isn’t fair. But this is how Woods spoiled us and lifted GOLF to such great heights. He brought his game week after week after week. He didn’t miss major championship cuts (or, really, any cuts). He didn’t blow leads in the fourth round. He didn’t miss the putts that win and lose championships. There was never even the slightest doubt who the No. 1 player in the world was, and this made golf fascinating to people like my mother who would not even know which end of the golf club with which to hit. He gave order to the game — you could root for him or against him and it was just as fun.

Now, who is No. 1 in the world? The rankings say it’s Day. He’s had the best year, but without a major championship the year is incomplete. Johnson moved up to No. 2 in the world, and he certainly could become that big star that draws people to golf — he’s a thrilling player, there’s the Gretzky connection, etc. — but he has proven to be unreliable for various reasons, and he just had a stink bomb of a PGA Championship. Spieth? McIlroy? Rickie Fowler? The ageless Mickelson? Tiger himself? How about Beef?

There’s a lot of excitement in all that, and if you’re a golf fan, these are good times.

But if you’re not a golf fan, I suspect 2016 didn’t change your mind. And that’s the lost chance.  

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Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

"This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

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LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.


Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish


U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)


The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself


PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


AT&T Pebble Beach

Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

Travelers Championship

Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts



Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret


Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 12:30 pm