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.

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: Articles, photos and videos

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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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.