The Infamous Move to May

By John FeinsteinMay 10, 2011, 4:23 pm

The Players ChampionshipIt sounded like a good idea at the time: Move The Players Championship from late March to mid-May so it wouldn’t have to compete with the NCAA basketball tournament for TV ratings or media attention. Those in Ponte Vedra wanted to create a ‘once a month’ mentality when it came to important golf events starting with the Masters in April by slipping The Players into May, prior to the U.S. Open in June, the British Open in July and the PGA Championship in August.

It was a good idea on paper, the same way the Chicago Cubs so often look good on paper in February.

In reality, it was a bad idea. It was another attempt by the PGA Tour to create major championship aura around what is its premiere (or at least most lucrative) event. Well, that just isn’t going to happen. Not now, not ever.

The fact that The Players is not a major has been a thorn in the side of some who work in the offices down the road from the fancy new TPC Sawgrass clubhouse since Deane Beman first took up residence there more than 30 years ago. Beman was a brilliant commissioner and he understood from Day 1 that he had a serious problem when it came to negotiating TV rights and convincing people that the organization he was running was important: He didn’t control one of golf’s major events.

The Masters is run by the membership of Augusta National Golf Club, the U.S. Open is run by the U.S. Golf Association, the British Open is run by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the PGA Championship is run by the PGA of America. Even the Ryder Cup, which became an important event while Beman was commissioner, is run by the PGA of America.

All five events needed Beman’s players. Sadly for Beman, his players needed the four majors – and later the Ryder Cup – more than the tournaments needed the players. And so he was left to negotiate TV deals that highlighted Pebble Beach, Bob Hope, Houston, Hartford and Hawaii. All were fine golf tournaments at nice places with good people in charge, but no one ever made history winning at Doral or in Denver.

And so Beman decided that his tournament would be the crown jewel, the one that would be different than all other tournaments. Pete Dye built a golf course that was unique and the event became known as The Players. The prize money was huge and the TV partners were instructed to never call it a tournament, but rather a championship.

For a good long while the Tour pushed the notion that The Players was the fifth major. No one bought it. If there is a fifth major in golf it is either the Ryder Cup or Q-School. It is not The Players.

“There’s a reason why the Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s has four items and not five,” Jeff Sluman, the 1988 PGA champion said year’s ago. “A Grand Slam is four. There’s no such thing as a five-run homer either.”

Nowadays, comissioner Tim Finchem and his staff are careful not to publicly push the fifth major idea. They do it in more subtle ways. If you open up a PGA Tour media guide, in each player’s bio is a “top tournament” summary. A “top tournament,” according to the Tour includes the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship, The Players and then all WGC events and playoff events.

This is, of course, ludicrous. Does anyone put The Barclays or the Deutsche Bank Championship in the same sentence, paragraph or book as a major? The PGA Tour does.

The last straw for the Tour with the March date may have come several years ago when Greg Norman, who still holds the course record at the TPC Sawgrass for 72 holes, was forced to withdraw. In his statement announcing that his client couldn’t tee it up, Norman’s agent Bart Collins said: “Greg truly regrets not being able to play. He has always looked forward to The Players as a great warm-up for the Masters.”

One can almost see Finchem throwing the press release across the room: “Warm-up! Warm-up! He called The Players a warm-up! Get thee to May!”

Okay, here’s why May is a bad idea. First, the weather is almost always hot and humid in north Florida in May and that’s the weather report for this week. The crowds last year looked sparse compared with the old days in March when snowbirds were still around and others came down to combine spring training trips with a couple days of watching golf.

Sure, Phil Mickelson won in 2007, the first year the tournament was played in May. Since then? Sergio Garcia won in 2008 and hasn’t won on Tour since. Henrik Stenson won in 2009 and hasn’t broken an egg since then. Tim Clark got his breakthrough win a year ago and nothing since then. At this rate The Players is going to become to the Tour what the Masters Par-3 Tournament is to the Masters. Guys will be three-putting 18 on purpose to try to finish second.

Hyperbole? Of course. But the March date was better. Sure, it rained sometimes, but overall it was cooler and more comfortable for everyone. It fit right in at the end of the Florida Swing on Tour. Maybe it was a warm-up for the Masters but now, well, it’s an early warm-up for the U.S. Open. The always politically correct Phil Mickelson slipped for a second Sunday afternoon on TV when he said he was trying to make progress, “going forward towards the Open,” before catching himself and saying, “and of course The Players next week.”

More and more of the NCAA basketball tournament is played at night these days so there is less TV competition from basketball and in May there are still the NBA playoffs to deal with; baseball in full swing and good weather in most of the country that has people outdoors on the weekend.

The Players should move back to March. It still won’t be a major but it will be a better golf tournament. That should matter.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.