Pandora's Box

By John FeinsteinJanuary 26, 2011, 2:24 am

There was a lot of re-shuffling in the world rankings this past week, especially in the top 10. Even though it is still January, many of the world’s best players – including all four of last year’s major champions – were teeing it up.

There was just one problem: Not one of them was playing on the PGA Tour.

They had all deserted the California desert to play in the desert thousands of miles away in Abu Dhabi. Rather than make a short drive from San Diego to Palm Springs to play in a tournament he had won twice in the past, Phil Mickelson flew halfway around the world. Then he flew back to play at home this week in San Diego.

Was Mickelson drawn by the quality of the golf course? No. The course where the Abu Dhabi event was played is strikingly ordinary. It was blistered by Martin Kaymer, who shot 24 under par to win going away and it may not be used again next year. Was it the purse? Did the oil-rich sheiks put up so much prize money to make it impossible to say no to their event? Again, no. In fact, Kaymer’s first prize take of a little more than 333,000 euros was less than half of what Jhonattan Vegas received for winning the Hope. Total purse: $2.2 million. Total purse at the Hope: $5 million.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson made a run for the (appearance fee) money last week at Abu Dhabi. (Getty Images)
The answer is much simpler than that: guaranteed appearance money. When Mickelson or Tiger Woods or any star plays overseas – other than in the British Open – it is all about being shown the money in advance. Mickelson’s going rate to play overseas is reportedly in the $1 million range, a nice week’s work if you can get it although it is dwarfed by Woods who in the past has been paid as much as $3 million just for walking on the first tee in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Players not quite as luminous as the current world No. 3 (Woods) and world No. 6 (Mickelson) can get well into six figures to play overseas. The going rate for a non-Woods/Mickelson major champion is usually in the $200,000 to $400,000 range – higher if a Euro Tour player is in his home country. There are no FedEx points involved but the money spends just the same.

All of which has created a serious problem for the PGA Tour. For years, the Tour has been golf’s lone holdout against the ever-increasing wave of guaranteed money. The Tour has even stymied backdoor attempts to pay players appearance money.

A few years ago, a sponsor for a big Tour event began offering players big bucks to play in a Monday outing the week of its event. Technically, the players weren’t being paid to play in the tournament but in the outing. When the Tour got wind of what was going on it put a stop to the outings, which was both admirable and the right thing to do.

Appearance fees are a pox in sports. They have virtually killed tennis in this country the last 25 years. Once upon a time there were tennis tournaments played in the U.S. almost year-round much the way the PGA Tour operates now almost all year. Then, promoters overseas began to pay players – even though it was against the rules – to play in their events. All of a sudden the tournaments in the U.S. went from having John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors as their top seeds to John Sadri and Jimmy Arias.

You can imagine what that did for ticket sales and sponsorship.

Golf isn’t going to go down the drain the way tennis did, especially as long as Commissioner Tim Finchem holds the line against appearance fees. They are a Pandora’s Box. Once you open it too wide you will have tournaments bidding for players and stars refusing to show up unless there’s appearance money on the table. You also might have another issue that seriously damaged tennis: tanking. Often players with a check already in their pockets played half-heartedly in the first or second round so they could get on a plane and go home. If a player has $200,000 in his pocket already and he’s on the cut line Friday, why should he grind to play early Saturday morning?

Sadly, because no one acted sooner, appearance fees are now an accepted part of the golf culture. One thing the Tour could do is this: Insist that if an event pays appearance fees it may not give out world rankings points. By definition, an event that pays individuals regardless of performance is an exhibition. At the very least, players whose appearance fees are often based on their world ranking might think twice before getting on the plane.

A year ago there were 35 PGA Tour events that went head-to-head with European Tour events. In 29, the PGA Tour had more ranked players (and thus, more ranking points available) than the European Tour event. In all likelihood those numbers will come down slightly for the PGA Tour this year.

To be fair, one thing Woods has always done is give people their money’s worth when playing for a guarantee. Most golfers will do that. But the more you pay people in advance, the more you risk having them mail in a performance if they aren’t feeling 100 percent.

Last year, after Woods’s fall from grace, Finchem asked him – in return for the unwavering support he gave him – to please start committing to tournaments earlier than the Friday beforehand (which is the deadline) so the events he was playing in could promote his presence earlier. Woods did do that, at least for a while.

As of this moment, he’s committed to two events in 2011: San Diego, which he committed to last Wednesday and next month’s Dubai Desert Classic, which he committed to last August. Why did Woods, always so reticent about revealing anything to anyone a minute sooner than need-be, commit to a tournament almost seven months in advance?

They showed him the money. Lots of it.

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.