2016 Olympics affects players' fall scheduling

By Rex HoggardOctober 21, 2015, 3:00 pm

For Butch Harmon, this week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open doubles as an impromptu mini-camp for his stable of high-profile PGA Tour players.

The Tour’s nonexistent offseason has led players and coaches to make the best use of what little off time there is, and this week’s stop for the Las Vegas-based Harmon is a perfect chance to multitask with a few of his clients, including Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Jimmy Walker.

For Harmon, it’s a chance to focus on what went well in 2014-15 and what needs to be refined for the 2015-16 season, which got underway last week at the Frys.com Open.

Harmon explained that Fowler needs to improve his proximity to the hole from 140 yards and in, while Walker’s slow finish to the season - he had just one top-10 after the Florida swing - had more to do with his schedule than any type of swing issue.

“We talked about what happened at the end of the year,” Harmon said. “He ran out of gas a little and we talked about picking our places to play. He starts fast and then pushes real hard at the end of the year to make sure he makes the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.”

Harmon’s observations will become a familiar theme next season when an already condensed schedule is squeezed even more by the addition of the Olympics in August.

The Rio Games made officials dramatically overhaul next year’s schedule, moving the PGA Championship to late July, just two weeks after the Open Championship.

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In a 16-week span to close next season, beginning with the U.S. Open in June there will be 10 tournaments that would normally qualify as must-play stops, including three major championships, a World Golf Championship, the Olympic Games, four FedEx Cup Playoff stops and the Ryder Cup in early October.

The schedule will be particularly hard on those players who split their time between the Tour and the European circuit, like Rory McIlroy.

“It's tough the way a couple of the tournaments clash before the Olympics, like the French Open and the Bridgestone [Invitational],” McIlroy said last week. “Then having the Olympics in there and playing the PGA Championship in July is going to be sort of strange. But they had to accommodate for it somehow.”

The championship congestion will lead to more last-minute scrambling for players vying to maintain status on both tours, like Ian Poulter, who this week was an 11th-hour addition to the Hong Kong Open field to assure his 13-event minimum after he failed to qualify for the WGC-HSBC Champions in two weeks.

Even Patrick Reed, who took up membership in Europe this season, had to add to his schedule this season after missing two starts earlier this year (BMW PGA Championship and Irish Open) because of a death in his family.

Reed plans to play this week in Hong Kong, the HSBC event in China and the BMW Masters the following week to meet his minimum.

“It's tough. After I play [the Hero World Challenge] and Shark Shootout, I'll be at 35 or 37 weeks of the year I'll be gone,” Reed said. “It's a lot.”

The inevitable crush that awaits players next season likely explains what appears to be much more active schedules this fall for some of the game’s top players.

Fowler hadn’t played the Las Vegas stop since 2010, and although McIlroy's participation last week was based on an earlier agreement with the Tour, he had never played the Frys.com Open before.

Any gain this fall, however, will likely result in a net loss early next year for events on the West Coast swing - which will not include a World Golf Championship for the second consecutive year - and as the Tour heads through Florida toward the Masters.

Most players polled over the last few weeks said they plan to add a start in the fall, like this week’s Las Vegas stop, in exchange for a week they would normally play in the spring or early summer next year as a result of the condensed schedule and the addition of the Olympics to golf’s landscape.

“The sponsors and the tournaments understand the value of why we are in the Olympics,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said at last month’s Tour Championship. “In the short term everybody has contributed. There is some awkwardness to some of it, but in balance they understand the bigger view.”

That bigger picture is the impact golf’s return to the Olympics will have on the game globally and the reality that this is a fire drill players will have to endure just once every four years. But in the short term, like Harmon, players should get used to multitasking for the next few months.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.