Hope and Heritage

By Rex HoggardApril 14, 2010, 11:40 pm
2007 Verizon HeritageHILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – It’s less than three hours as the crow flies from Augusta National to Harbour Town Golf Links, but as Stewart Cink decompressed on Wednesday in the warm Lowcountry sun the two poles in the golf universe might as well be Venus and Mars.

“It's always one of my favorites, if not my very favorite tournament of the year,” Stewart Cink said. “It's like the anti-Augusta – flat, everything is very small and closed in, whereas Augusta is so large and rolling hills. Everything here is the opposite. When you come here the intensity seems to melt away.”

Augusta National has Magnolia Lane. Harbour Town has Lighthouse Road. One gives you goose bumps, the other is a cure for road rage. Augusta National has pimento cheese sandwiches. Harbour Town has shrimp and cheese grits. One is nasty, the other is shrimp and cheese grits. Augusta National has green jackets. Harbour Town has tartan. One is every kid’s dream, the other is every fashion guru’s worst nightmare.

You get the idea. For 42 years the Heritage has scratched an itch and filled a niche like no other stop on the Tour circus. Simply put, it’s a reason to go to work. A boutique stop on an idyllic slice of Lowcountry coast played on a quirky course that defies the Tour norm. All of which makes the next sentence difficult to pen. The Heritage’s days may be numbered.

Late last year Verizon, the title sponsor since 2006 when Verizon Business purchased MCI, pulled the corporate plug after this week’s cocktail party, and despite the best efforts of tournament director Steve Wilmot, a cozy home and a unique slot on the schedule, no one in corporate America has come buying.

“We have a unique product and a special event, a lot of things on our side but it’s a difficult economy,” Wilmot said.

Last month Wilmot said he’d pieced together enough zeroes, between $7 million and $8 million, to assure the tournament’s existence through 2011 but the Tour seems lukewarm to stopgap measures. Even the South Carolina legislature got into the act, earmarking a $10 million loan to keep the event going through next year.

“It’s there, but we don’t want to use it,” said Wilmot, torn between a tournament he loves and the complexities of a political process that hasn’t been very kind to tournament golf in recent years.

There is no deadline for a new sponsor. Wilmot points out that officials at Torrey Pines received a last-minute reprieve from Farmers Insurance this year a week before the event, but he plans to meet with the Tour after this week to discuss his options.

Although Rick George, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations, stood by Wilmot earlier this week to meet with the press and pledged the full weight of the circuit’s selling machine to run down a new title, the word around Harbour Town is that without a long-term corporate deal Heritage’s April home is too attractive to settle for a patchwork solution.

Simply put, find a sponsor or find yourself the Champions Tour’s newest stop. As difficult as it may be to see a storm approaching on a sun-splashed spring day Wilmot & Co. know rough waters are coming. The Buick Open was played for the last time last year. The Milwaukee stop became a footnote in 2009. Seems the modern Tour has little use for charm when cash is king.

“You don’t get a smile at every event,” said Boo Weekley, the circuit’s quintessential son of the south and a two-time winner at Harbour Town. “This week and next week in New Orleans . . . they were put together. You’ve got the camaraderie of the south. To me it’s about playing the game. It’s not about how much money you can make.”

Bless his deep-fried heart, but it is likely Weekley is in the minority in this respect. Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has been clear on this, there will be no retreat in purses. Not on his watch. All of which means the cruel combination of a bear economy and a Draconian business model could cost the circuit one of the most-looked-forward-to stops of the year.

It is a concerning testament to today’s Tour that an event with 42 years of tradition, a list of winners that was plucked straight from the World Golf Hall of Fame, a golf course that rewards precision over power and one of the most compelling television snapshots this side of Pebble Beach’s 18th hole seems in need of a standing “10” count.

As Yankee great Yogi Berra once mused, it’s getting late early for the Heritage, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile what is best for the circuit’s bottom line with what is best for the Tour.

“To me it kind of stinks the Tour won’t help them out,” Weekley said. “How come they can’t come in and say, we’re gonna help you do this?”

Good question. Now, please pass the shrimp and cheese grits.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.