Riding Down the Wrong Road
With names like Haas, Roberts, Strange and maybe even Norman set to make their marks in the coming years, the future of the tour has some added promise.
But the issue of carts has come up again. Since the inception of the Champions Tour, carts have been available to those 'in need.' It should also be known that not only have the tour's biggest stars taken a pass on the carts, but they've also tried to pass a 'law' that carts find a place somewhere else.
The Champions Tour has taken notice. And Rick George, who heads the tour, and has designs on taking the tour to a higher level of competition and also a higher level of respect, appears ready once and for all to send carts into the sunset.
Boy, oh boy! The rumblings are louder than ever from a select few who say the cart is the only thing keeping them competitive, and the only thing allowing them to maintain a living.
Ed Fiori, who's made a nice living on both tours with multiple victories, has a bad back, and now a bad vibe about what might be coming down the Champions Tour pike.
'Arrogant, that's what they are,' Fiori said in this week's GolfWorld. 'My doctor told me, 'Eddie, you keep walking, you're going to have to have major surgery, and it's going to be career-ending.''
Tom Purtzer is on Fiori's side. 'They (Champions Tour brass) couldn't care less about our opinion,' Purtzer said. 'We thought logic would take over. But there doesn't seem to be any logic to the leadership of this tour.'
Champions Tour pro Kermit Zarley, a 63 year-old who says he's fighting an 'advancing, degenerative hip' has gone as far as writing a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice saying that the Champions Tour has discriminated against him under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The same act, by the way, that Casey Martin challenged on his way to earning a cart. Zarley's earnings this year were less than $25,000 in 10 events.
For his part, George knew that there would be some publicity that went against his wishes for a more attractive product in what he and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem realize is a 'crowded sports marketplace.'
Here's my take: I think Fiori and Purtzer are nice guys. No bull. They've had nice careers. But times change. Even one's body. Those who succeed in sports today are usually the fittest of the fit and the healthiest of healthy.
Mark Lye's been with me at the Chrysler Championship this week as our analyst on the Sprint Pre/Post Game shows. And after playing much of this year's Champions Tour schedule and spending the rest as an on-course announcer he believes that carts shouldn't take the place of fitness and endurance. He's on my side.
Golf is about competition. And competition at the highest levels that golf has to offer has to have a degree of fitness to it. I've said it before when this issue first came up earlier this season - go ahead and keep the carts for the Super Seniors. As for the younger set - allow carts ONLY Monday - Thursday during the three-round events. I have no issue with giving them carts for the pro-ams so their bodies are fresh for the competition we see on television. And to take it a step further, when carts are around for pro-am days, make the tour professional take one of his paying amateur partners along for the ride and a great experience. Sure couldn't hurt the Champions Tour image as a whole now could it?
When television lights go on for Round 1 it should be about hoofing it, hitting shots, holing putts and holding trophies.
If the back's going out or the hip's acting up or the feet are hurting, so be it. Maybe it's time to count the money that's been made during the healthy days of tour golf and call it a career.
And in writing this, I'm sure those of you over the age of 50 will have your say about the problems with advancing age. No problem. I've got my issues as well. And I know the topic of getting older is unsettling. This, though, is about competition and the perception of a tour with tremendous star appeal. I just want it to be a walk toward late career glory, not a ride into a pot of money that should be 'earned' in every sense of the word.
Rick George is the president of the Champions Tour with a job to do. The mission is about competition, not corruption. Nothing is forever. Weren't we all told that at one time or another?
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.
It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.
McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).
Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).
Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.