When TGC Turns 20 Then What
Its been a wild ride. I remember working as a sports anchor in the Kalamazoo/Grand Rapids/Battle Creek, Mich., television market. The call came in about a start-up Golf Channel, which I thought was a great idea.
Without a completed studio to show off, but with a January 17, 1995, launch date as the target, TGC flew me down for an interview that went very well. Apparently liking what they heard and had seen from me, they offered me the job as reporter-anchor.
I had come by myself (on their first class ticket, which was impressive), and stayed at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. But given their urgency to keep the process moving, they needed a quick answer. I remember calling my wife from a Chilis restaurant in Orlando and trying to make a decision. I needed a couple days, I told them.
Two days granted, I flew home (on their coach ticket, which was a bit unnerving) to talk it over with my wife. Ill never forget it. We stayed up all night searching for pros and cons. Ultimately the risk of uncertainty and the fear of TGC failing was outweighed by the potential for being a part of something spectacular ' from the ground floor up.
Decision made, I was on board. I remember telling my news director in Kalamazoo, Mich., about the job I had been offered and had accepted. The Gulf Channel? Whats that? he asked. I laugh about it to this day. His name was Mike ' one of the best bosses Ive ever had. And he could play the game, too. He thought it was some sort of Gulf Coast news station searching for a sports anchor.
In the end, it was nothing but support. And now, 10 years later, those friends and family that wondered where we were headed, have a lot to look back on.
So all that as a backdrop - and with 10 years of great golf to cover and talk about - lets look ahead to what we MIGHT just be talking about when The Golf Channel turns 20.
Heres 10 years of TGC experience and my LUCKY 7 as to what might be on January 17, 2015:
1. The Golf Channel reaches as many homes as any other cable network. Also carries numerous PGA Tour events, along with being the dominant home for every other professional tour.
2. Tiger Woods about to hit 40 years of age (I know this to be true). Hes tallied at least eight more majors. Hard to believe he wouldnt average close to one a year. Dont be fooled, however, those eight or so majors will not again include 15-shot runaways.
3. Ernie Els, whos 45 years old, has five more and also the career Grand Slam. Vijay Singh hits the Champions Tour with three more majors, still racking up PGA Tour titles in big numbers. Phil Mickelson has three more major victories, at least one more Masters. Adam Scott proves the best of the current young guns collecting three major titles. Chad Campbell and Zach Johnson have two majors apiece. Surprise, surprise David Duval earns one more. And someone we dont even know yet will have four! And, by the way, well see a tournament, somewhere, pay $5million to win.
4. The European Tour brags about Padraig Harrington. He dominates like no other player in Europe and wins two majors. Europe also continues its Ryder Cup success, winning more that it loses.
5. Annika Sorenstam has a change of heart on retirement, making a strong push at the 88 titles amassed by Kathy Whitworth. Shes got plenty of talent behind her, though.
6. Which brings me to Michelle Wie. Shell be 25. And for all you skeptics, shell have 15 LPGA wins including four majors ' at least.
7. The game of golf is stronger than ever. A huge growth in total players, fueled by years of hard work paying off from the First Tee program and also a leveling off of costs to play the game. The next Tiger Woods is out there somewhere.
Who really knows? Not me. Not any of us.
But the beauty of sport and golf in particular is that its nearly impossible to predict. Im certain of that. Actually, Ive been lucky enough to be living proof. The Golf Channel? Who knew how great it could really be?
And thanks, too, to all of you for being as big a part of the success as anyone or anything!
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course
ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.
McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.
“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”
This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.
A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.
McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.
“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”
As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.
“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”
Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders
PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.
She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.
Her confidence is high.
“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”
Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.
Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.
“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”
Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.
“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”
Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.
“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”
That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.
Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead
PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.
While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.
But then . . .
“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”
In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.
She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.
With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.
At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).
Park’s back with a hot putter.
That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.
“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.
“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.
Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.
“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.
Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.
Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.
They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.
Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.
“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.
“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”
Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.
“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”
Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.
“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”
Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers
PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.
It came on St. Patrick’s Day.
“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”
Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).
One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.
“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.
Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year. Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.