Skins Game Your Take

By Mercer BaggsNovember 29, 2006, 5:00 pm
If you want to rile up readers then write about Tiger Woods or Michelle Wie ' or a long-standing golf tradition.
My column this past Sunday on possibly putting an end to the Skins Game garnered quite a huge and emotional response from readers.
I knew that I was in for an interesting few days when one of the first e-mail responses I received began: What a condescending sexist blowhard you are.
Stephen Ames
Stephen Ames was the big winner, but ratings were down for Sunday's telecast.
That was from Eva Richardson in London, Ontario. She felt that my comments about adding sex appeal to entice viewers made me seem like well, well use her words: a real sleaze-bag chauvinist
Another issue some readers took was with my perceived bashing of Stephen Ames. Many believed that I was too harsh on the first-timer. My point was that the Skins Game is a made-for-television event, which is meant to attract the casual golf fan. The casual golf fan doesnt know Stephen Ames and he doesnt have the personality to make them care about him.
I have nothing against Ames. Hes a wonderful talent, but he doesnt have the name recognition or charisma to attract a television audience. And this is not a serious competition for the best players in the world; its a made-for-TV showcase.
While some defended Ames appearance ' Stephen Ames made us Canadians proud, said Mary Lewin ' many more, including golf enthusiasts, were not entertained.
I know hes a good player, but cmon ' how boring, wrote George from Kentucky.
San Franciscos Jennifer Alexander spent Sunday playing golf in the rain instead of watching the Skins Game. Glad I missed it, she said.
Surprisingly, Ames wasnt the player against whom most viewers took issue. Rather, it was John Daly.
Once a fan favorite who could be forgiven for all of his many transgressions; there seems to be growing anti-sentiment in relation to Daly. Readers berated him for his apparent apathy, his poor play this season, his obesity, and his many quips this past weekend about yet another divorce.
John Daly should be eliminated from consideration (for the Skins Game) forevermore!!! His alimony whining comments reminded me of being around junior high kids that never take responsibility for their choices, wrote Marcia Chaney.
Said John Lawson: John Dalys life is a train wreck. No taste ' no class.
John Huttenlocker suggested that we Move anything about John Daly to the NASCAR Channel.
All-in-all, the majority of people who responded felt like the Skins Game was well past its prime and already had one foot in the grave. But there was an opposing view, even if there werent quite as many of you who sat and watched with enjoyment this past weekend.
I watched it and found it to be a fantastic TV event; full of both great and poor shots and lots of good humour, wrote Dave Harris from Calgary, Canada.
'Don't try and ruin something that a lot of people enjoy!' said Bernie Gowen.
Judging by those of you in dissent of Mr. Harris and Mr. Gowen ' like Dan Hemauer from Wisconsin, who said, This event has exhausted all interest. The golfers are not funny or entertaining. The unbelievable number of ads make it even more impossible to watch. ' it wasnt that you necessarily wanted the Skins Game to go away altogether; instead, you wanted some serious alterations to be made in order to restore excitement.
And plenty of you had plenty of suggestions on how to make it better.
Art Williams from Pennsylvania wanted to get Faldo and Zinger out there.
Steve Olsen from Wisconsin suggested: How about three tour guys and an unknown, but very talented golfer like myself taking these guys on!
Many, like Jim Fredrickson, liked the idea of players putting up their own money: Make the event a $4,000,000 game with each player having to write their own check for $1,000,000 to enter, he said.
Others were in favor of moving the event to famed or exotic locales. Others believed that adding sex appeal ' maybe even having good looking tour wives team up with their husbands, suggested Steve Plyler ' might add a little intrigue.
And yet, still others believe, as do I, that the major problem is that there is a serious lack of showmanship in the game today. As Richard in Muncie said, there is a dearth of entertainers out there.
The PGA TOUR just does not have players with a great deal of personality ' at least not the kind of personality it takes to carry an event like the Skins Game. And, many of you agree, this most recent foursome was evidence of that.
Daly is getting tiresome to watch. Funks comedy routine is getting old, Ames I couldnt relate to, and Freddy had a nice swing to watch but after an hour that gets old, said Loren Peterson.
Others, of course, disagree. If you want star power go to a movie. Quit looking at faces and start looking at shots, said Steve Reaves from Charleston, S.C.
What needs to be remembered, however, is that this is not a regular event where the best man or woman should prevail because of their score, not their Q rating. This is a contrived event created for the specific purpose of entertaining an audience of people who both watch golf all the time and rarely watch it at all during a holiday weekend.
The Skins Game still draws the largest television audience during the Silly Season, but, judging by the numbers, people didnt watch as much this year as they did a year ago, when Woods and Annika Sorenstam joined Funk and Couples instead of Daly and Ames.
Saturdays telecast had a 2.3 overnight rating (one rating point equals 1,102,000 households), the same as it did in 2005. But Sunday drew a 1.6 rating, down from 2.7 the year before.
Most likely, the Skins Game will continue for a 25th year in 2007. And some will watch happily regardless of the foursome, some will watch begrudgingly, and some wont watch at all.
Id like to thank everyone who wrote to me in response to this previous column. I try to respond to as many as possible, and I appreciate everyones opinion ' even if you do think Im a condescending sexist blowhard.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
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  • Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

    By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

    Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

    Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

    What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

    Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

    Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

    Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

    Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

    Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.

    Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

    While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

    Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

    By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

    The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

    The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

    Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

    Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

    ''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''

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    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

    Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

    Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

    ''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

    The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

    Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

    ''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

    If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

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    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.