Drastic Measures

By Rex HoggardFebruary 3, 2011, 4:31 am

The move to May seemed mindless in retrospect. TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course has certainly flourished outside of the perpetual March rain shadow and The Players Championship no longer serves as an “unofficial” Masters media day.

The move to May did not transform The Players into the “fifth major” – there are only four Grand Slam events until the players, no one else, decide otherwise – but it was an unmitigated upgrade. At least it was until Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy decided to make it a “bye” week on their 2011 schedules.

Whatever their motivations, Westwood and McIlroy have, at the least, exposed a flaw in the May Players, as well as a concerning byproduct of an ever-increasing global game.

As former PGA Tour members who forfeited their cards, Westwood and McIlroy, Nos. 1 and 8 in the world, respectively, are limited to 10 U.S. starts plus The Players, a last-minute deviation that failed to lure the two stars back to TPC Sawgrass this spring.

Tim Finchem
PGA Tour membership will likely remain a pressing issue for Tim Finchem. (Getty Images)

That’s down from the normal 12 exemptions most non-Tour members are allowed and although circuit officials say the regulation was not intended to be punitive it sure felt like a swat on the wrist. And The Players move to May is no longer the no-brainer it was originally thought to be.

“Playing the TPC in May puts it in the meat of Europe's schedule, with only one week between it and the BMW PGA, the most important tournament on the European Tour,” one long-time player's manager said.

But then a congested calendar is only a symptom of the greater ailment, at least for players looking to play both tours full time.

“Playing (the PGA Tour minimum) 15 events in the States and 13 in Europe is a big ask,” Justin Rose said last week at Torrey Pines. “The European Tour doesn’t make it easy for me to play so I think (the Tour) needs to stick to your guns.”

Rose should know, he did it as successfully as any in 2007 and has the SkyMiles to prove it. Four years ago the Englishman bounced across the Atlantic Ocean to play both tours, won the European Order of Merit and finished 16th in FedEx Cup points in just 22 total events thanks to co-sanctioned stops like the World Golf Championships and majors.

But since then the European Tour minimum has been raised from 11 to 13 and players have learned that to be competitive in the Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, unlike college football, the regular season matters.

Balancing a two-tour schedule is not impossible, but neither is it conducive to Transatlantic success which may be the most important lesson learned from the Westwood-McIlroy Players miss.

“I'm not troubled by it. I'm disappointed that they're not playing, but I'm not troubled by it,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said last week. “My only message to those guys is you're always welcome, and we'd love to have you back.”

Finchem may publically “welcome” Westwood, et al, but his words don’t necessarily dovetail with Tour policy. Even the circuits’ Qualifying School Tournaments have conflicting dates that make earning a card on both almost impossible.

Whether Westwood and McIlroy’s Sawgrass snub is a one-off event or the seeds of a larger problem remains to be seen, but even an aberration, at least one that includes the current world No. 1, is concerning.

Last week Finchem was asked what was stopping the Tour from exempting all top-10 players from any rules that would limit the number of Tour events they can play, a move that was supported by many long-time observers who pointed out it’s in the entire Tour’s best interest to have the best possible fields.

“The rules that we have as it relates to how many (events) a player has to play to be a voting member, 15. How many can you play if you're not a member? How many sponsor exemptions can you accept as a non-member? And all those rules are something that we look at every year. Isn't any right or wrong to it,” Finchem said.

“We're not going to try to juggle the rules to try to make this right now as a result of this. It's a long-term thing. We'll analyze it from a long-term standpoint.”

And the long view is certainly on Finchem’s side considering that even without Westwood and McIlroy The Players will still sport one of the year’s deepest fields. It may, however, ignore an emerging trend at the game’s highest levels.

Six of the top 10 players in the current World Ranking are from Europe and emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East are making it increasingly unlikely a top player will be content plying his trade exclusively in the “Lower 48.” Even Steve Stricker, a confirmed homebody, is starting his season on the other side of the globe this week at the Qatar Masters and Phil Mickelson kicked off 2011 two weeks ago in Dhabi.

“There is so much to balance in world golf and we need to appreciate there are many good places to play,” said Rose, a newly named member of the Tour’s 16-member Player Advisory Council.

Unfortunately for the Tour, May’s Players doesn’t count itself on that list, at least not for Westwood and McIlroy. It’s a reality that may make another drastic move, not on a calendar but in policy, necessary.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

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. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

Playing with the pros

Tiger, DJ and Faxon

Article: Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

Rory faces criticism

Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'

President at the Presidents Cup

Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump

Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73

Cart on the green

Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green

Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open

Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National

Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open

Trump golf properties


Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers

Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover

Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up

Pros comment on the president

Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm