Can 'hack' concept save golf?

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2014, 11:45 pm

“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”

- Linus Pauling, world-renowned chemist

ORLANDO, Fla. – Behind the bright lights and big words, ideas are what this night was all about.

Before a packed house on the eve of this year’s PGA Merchandise Show, TaylorMade Adidas Golf CEO Mark King unabashedly announced that the answer to golf’s dwindling participation numbers rests among the collective and not the caverns of power that have for years tried, and largely failed, to stem the ebbing tide.

First, King – with the aid of National Golf Foundation CEO and statistician Joe Beditz – outlined the stark reality. Golf has lost an estimated 5 million players in the last decade. Even more concerning, 25 percent of the game’s core golfers have made their way to the exit.

“We’re leaking golfers,” Beditz announced to a crowd of mostly PGA professionals and golf course operators.

And like any good intervention, King – never one to shy away from a fight – offered the ultimate haymaker to any in the old guard who wish to cling to the last stages of denial.

“Our great game has been in a state of decline and a lot of people don’t want to acknowledge that,” King said.

The issue, as Beditz crunched it, is partly perception, partly relevance. “Research says they are just not having fun,” he said.

While “fun” may be a buzz word on Beditz’s surveys, it seems cost, time and degree of difficulty also factor into the game’s diminishing participation numbers, but now doesn’t seem like the time to get caught up in semantics.



Besides, as King sees it the “why” is not as relevant as what it will take to improve golf’s appeal to a wider audience, which is where Gary Hamel, who was recently called the world’s most influential business thinker by the Wall Street Journal, joins the conversation.

Hamel talks fast, eschews ambiguity for the frontal assault and views golf’s participation problem no different than if the game were a Fortune 500 company with a creativity issue.

“We have to listen to the canaries in the coal mine,” Hamel said.

To do that Hamel has been picked to help spearhead a new grow-the-game initiative called “Hack Golf.” King admits he’s not crazy about the name, but the concept is revolutionary.

Much like the tech companies that had hit innovation walls in the early 2000s, Hamel contends golf is ripe for crowd sourcing, or, as he explains, extended online brainstorming sessions.

“We need hundreds of mind-flipping ideas, not dozens,” he said.

Whereas golf “think tanks” have historically consisted of industry insiders who seem to have been mired in the flawed participation models of the past, Hack Golf will attempt to collect ideas from every corner of the golf universe and beyond.

Via the initiative’s web site, HackGolf.org, and Twitter, @HackGolfOrg, King & Co. plan to take the best ideas and put them in play with a surprisingly specific plan.

Until April, which organizers are calling the beta phase, Hack Golf will cherry-pick the very best ideas, with no constraints from equipment and format changes to new technology and rules.

We have seen these types of “game-changing” initiatives before. From Golf 20/20 to Get Golf Ready to Golf 2.0, the industry has tried and largely failed, if Beditz’s numbers are to be believed, to stem the steady participation declines.

For his part, King has committed up to $5 million in funding for whatever ideas, or “hacks,” the concept produces and has dedicated an entire team of TaylorMade employees to lead the collection of data and implementation of ideas.

In fact, King seemed to begin the dialogue with his suggestion on Tuesday that golf’s current “pyramid of influence” should be redefined, with the PGA of America assuming the top spot over the U.S. Golf Association, PGA Tour and Royal & Ancient because, he points out, PGA professionals will ultimately decide if the game is able to break free of its current participation malaise.

This will ultimately come down to a confrontation between tradition and innovation. Breaking down preconceived notions that were centuries in the making is no easy task and this kind of outside-of-the-box thinking has not exactly been embraced by golf’s power brokers.

King, however, is convinced it is the only path forward.

“They are not mutually exclusive; tradition and innovation can coexist,” Hamel said.

Only time will tell if the old game can survive a new makeover, but as Pauling figured out long ago there is only one way to assure the creation of a good idea.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.