Finchem balancing Trump, politics, new sponsor at Doral

By Rex HoggardMarch 7, 2016, 10:05 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Before Donald Trump ever arrived at Doral last week, Adam Scott – the eventual WGC-Cadillac Championship winner – wistfully hoped that golf could stay above the political fray.

“Hopefully they don't intersect at all,” he said on Wednesday after being asked about the intersection of golf and politics. “Should be the beauty of sport.”

Scott did his part to maintain a separation of sport and state, closing with a gritty 69 for a one-stroke victory, but as a surreal Sunday unfolded it became increasingly clear that the game’s apolitical aspirations might not be possible.

With apologies to Scott and the world’s other top players, the biggest buzz last week was created when Donald Trump’s helicopter settled onto the adjacent golf course just before the final group went off on Sunday.

The GOP front-runner worked the crowd, both inside and outside the ropes. He stopped to speak with third-round leader Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson moments before they teed off. Trump smiled for fans and subtly reminded those in golf that you may or may not like his politics, but you do have to work with him.

McIlroy said as much on Wednesday when asked about the possibility of not playing a Tour event next year at Doral. After a thoughtful pause, the Northern Irishman showed an impressive level of political savvy.

“This time next year if [Trump] is president it would be silly for the Tour not to keep some sort of relationship with him,” McIlroy said.

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PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who is no stranger to politics after working for the Jimmy Carter administration, seemed to acknowledge as much on Sunday – both in his words and his actions.

“Our relationship [with Trump] is good,” Finchem said. “We try to compartmentalize these things, but in terms of his focus on the game, on some of the facilities around the country and internationally, he brings a lot of energy to it. He's done a lot of good things.”

Following his news conference on Sunday, Finchem met with Trump at Doral to discuss the future of the south Florida stop. Cadillac’s sponsorship of the event ended last week and there were no indications the Tour was poised to name a new sponsor.

According to various reports, the Tour’s contract with Doral runs through 2023, but there is a stipulation that a new title sponsor would have the right to take the tournament elsewhere.

But then Finchem has been to the mat numerous times in his career with sponsor issues, and more often than not he finds a way to grind out a victory – much like Scott did at Doral.

For the Tour and Finchem the task at hand goes well beyond saving the circuit’s south Florida stop or even “making Doral great again,” a tongue-in-cheek line circulated by players and caddies last week.

Trump, in his not-so-subtle bombastic way, also suggested as much.

“My relationship [with golf’s ruling bodies] is very good, I’m also the front-runner [for the Republican presidential nomination],” Trump said. “Being the front-runner people like you more than if you were No. 12.”

Last year when Trump’s presidential campaign was just getting started, golf’s ruling bodies – including the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA of America and USGA – took a stand when the businessman-turned-candidate made derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants.

In a joint statement the governing bodies said Trump’s comments were, “inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf.”

On Sunday, however, Finchem appeared to make the distinction between distancing the game from a particular candidate and simply keeping golf outside of the political landscape.

“We work very hard to not be involved in presidential politics, not be involved in partisan politics generally,” Finchem said. “We don't think it's in the interests of what our fans want to see us do or be. The same thing with our players and candidly, we don't think it's smart.”

But walking the fine line of abstract objectivity becomes more complicated for an organization like the Tour when a potential commander in chief has become such a large part of the golf universe.

Distancing yourself from derogatory remarks is understandable. Distancing yourself from a sitting president is unacceptable.

“I would be very good for golf [if he were elected] because, very simply, I love the game,” Trump said. “If you had a president who didn’t like golf that would be a very different thing, but I’ve been good for golf.”

How a Trump presidency would help golf is unclear, particularly considering there is a long line of golfers who have occupied the White House.

But much like that larger-than-life helicopter that stole the spotlight on Sunday, Finchem recognized the obvious.

“For any head of state to show an interest in golf is a positive thing,” Finchem said.

Finchem may be able to remain above a contentious campaign cycle, but he understands better than most that he can’t sidestep political realty.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.