Riding Down the Wrong Road

By Kraig KannOctober 31, 2004, 5:00 pm
Here we go! The off-season for the Champions Tour is upon us. And what a great season 2004 was. Stadler's dominance, Irwin's continued high level of play, Jacobsen's energetic impact, and the great late finish by Mark McNulty.

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
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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x