Attitude of Gratitude

By Rex HoggardFebruary 4, 2009, 5:00 pm
SAN DIEGO ' It was the live version of the five-minute digital pep talk PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem sent out during golfs short, sleepy off-season. CBS Sports Lance Barrow spoke for about an hour and a tent filled nearly to capacity listened.
 
Tuesdays mandatory players meeting at Torrey Pines covered familiar ground ' the economy, sponsors and the media ' but it put an end to the notion that some players still dont get it. The Tour may be prepared to weather the current economic slide and flush circuit coffers may help ease all that financial anxiety, but it doesnt take a Wall Street type to read the economic tea leaves. Car manufacturers and financial institutions are the backbone of the Tours business model, the same institutions that have been hit so hard by the current downturn.
 
The Cliffs Notes version of Tuesdays meeting were these: forget the long-term contracts with television and many sponsors. Consider 2009 a contract year which means that these guys are not only good, as the Tour tag line says, but they are good corporate partners.
 
(Finchem) just doesnt want us to do anything stupid, said one player. Go the extra yard, make sure the sponsors feel appreciated. Make sure the fans have a good time.
 
Serious times. Serious messages.
 
Barrow may have been the keynote speaker, but Finchem could have plucked Ted Purdy out of the crowd had he wanted a ready-made Exhibit A.
 
Purdy is a notorious nice guy, as approachable and engaging as any on Tour, but he went off the extra mile charts at last weeks FBR Open. Purdy regained full status this year via Q-School, but he was ranked low in that category and needed a sponsor exemption to play his hometown event. Prior to the tournament, Purdy had the FBR logo put on his shirt, not as a condition of the exemption but as a simple thank you.
 
Purdy began the practice last year. For $20 to his local seamstress he showed the folks at the Wachovia Championship and Sony and FBR opens that the insular athlete cloak doesnt fit every make and model
 
Its easy to do, Purdy smiled in his signature sheepish way. Being grateful is always important.
 
If Tuesdays meeting needed a face, welcome Purdys expressive mug.
 
Perhaps the Tours wagon circling seems a bit preemptive given the overall state of the Tour. Most sponsors are signed to multiple year deals. Yet, without the aid of a financial looking glass, the timetable for recovery is unknown. To Finchem, that financial uncertainty means he and his players must start selling the Tour product now.
 
At the grass roots level, that means more engagement during sponsor events, towards the media and during pro-ams.
 
The way the economy is going, that reflects on the Tour, Pat Perez said. I love pro-ams. These guys have paid a lot of money to play, they want to have a good time, they want to leave and tell everyone they had a great day. Thats our job.
 
A component of Finchems off-season video was to ask players to consider playing events they historically have not, a concept that has rekindled the one-in-four debate. There has been little traction for the potential rule, which would require players play every event at least once every four years, but drastic times require drastic measures.
 
I would support a one-in-four rule, said Purdy, a member of the Tours 15-member Players Advisory Council. We need Tiger and we need Phil and the big names. The sponsors need them, because they are putting up the big bucks. It would be great for the Tour. Any sponsor who is entering into a three or four year deal with the Tour, he knows hes going to get Tiger at least once. It would help negotiations in the future.
 
The concept, however, has not been embraced by the Tours top players and some who cling to the circuits independent contractor ways. Truth is it is hard to criticize Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for not playing more considering how successful they have been with their current schedule.
 
I think there are things we can do to show appreciation to our sponsors and really our partners, Mickelson said. I dont know how (the one-in-four rule) would really affect anything. Pretty much everyone on Tour plays 18 to 20. Even Tiger averages over 18 events a year.
 
To saddle Woods and Mickelson with the financial well-being of the entire Tour is misplaced and whiffs of micro-management. Its not fair to make it all about Tiger because hes earned his status, Purdy concedes.
 
Perhaps, but Woods is the engine that drives the Buick, to use a timely metaphor. Asking Woods to add a Turning Stone or Zurich to his schedule is not the answer. But its not too much to ask any card-carrying member to spend some extra time with sponsors or a pro-am partner.
 
Golf, be the market bear or bullish, should be an easier sell than say the NBA or MLB. The Tours athletes are more accessible, the image much more corporate friendly and its commitment to charities unique among all professional products. The task for those on the front line is to hammer that point, now more so than ever.
 
You need an attitude of gratitude. Its the way to live life, Purdy said.
 
Barrow couldnt have said it any better.
 

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Day finishes strong, leads Aussie Open by one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 6:12 am

Jason Day birdied three of his final five holes to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand in Sydney:

Leaderboard: Day (-10), Lucas Herbert (-9), Jonas Blixt (-7), Matt Jones (-7), Cameron Smith (-6), Rhein Gibson (-5), Anthony Quayle (-5)

What it means: Day has a great shot at his first victory – in his final start – in 2017. It’s been a frustrating campaign for Day, who has dropped to 12th in the Official World Golf Ranking. A win this week, in his native Open, would be a huge boost as he embarks on the 2018 season.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: Day’s 2-under 69 wasn’t the lowest of the day, but it was the most important. Day parred his first 13 holes before birdies on Nos. 14 and 15. He bogeyed the 17th, but finished with a birdie at the par-5 18th for the outright lead.

Best of the rest: Blixt’s 66 put him in position to win. Meanwhile, Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya shot the low round of the day, a 6-under 65, to reach 4 under for the tournament.

Biggest disappointment: No one really blew it on Saturday, but Jordan Spieth was unable to make a move. His 1-under 70 has him eight shots off the lead. Herbert managed an even-par 71 but he had a two-stroke lead until an errant tee shot at the par-3 11th. Speaking of which …

Shot of the day: Not every Shot of the Day is a great shot. Herbert made a long birdie putt on the eighth and was two clear of the field through 10 holes. But he hit his tee shot long at the 11th and was not able to find it. He had to re-tee, made double bogey and lost his advantage. He’s now chasing a major champion in the final round.

Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.

 

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.