Leading the Charge

By Rex HoggardJune 4, 2010, 4:47 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – In four stints as a player director on the PGA Tour Policy Board Davis Love III has heard every proposal, scheme and suggestion known to man and Tim Finchem to improve the quality of fields on the circuit.

“One-in-four (which would require an independent contractor play every event at least once every four years) has been brought up every year,” Love said. “We can’t figure out a way to make one-in-four work.”

Administrators and players have also debated the merits of raising the Tour minimum from 15 events to 20 with little success. It is both the beauty and the bane of golf that the frat brothers call their own shots, without the often-clouded influence of a union or an omnipotent commissioner.

Since Tour time began the system has worked, but now, more than ever, that system has turned into a fiefdom with the have-nots left to fend as best they can. In 1997 Tiger Woods arrived, bringing with him untold exposure and the reality that he turns the Tour wheel, and two years later the World Golf Championships virtually gutted the 15-event minimum rule.

The Tour marquee will play the majors, the four WGCs and a handful of “must see” events, leaving little room for the St. Jude Classics and Wyndham Championships of the world.

As best Love could figure, there was no way to mandate a schedule without upending the independence of the contractors. That was until Tuesday night during a meeting of the Player Advisory Council at Muirfield Village.

The plan is simple, statistically feasible and historically tried and tested. Each year the Tour would designate three to five events and a top player, presumably someone in the top 50 in the World or FedEx Cup ranking, would be required to play at least one.

“It’s an attempt to improve fields at as many events as possible,” said Clair Peterson, the John Deere Classic tournament director who spoke at the PAC meeting. “There have been a lot of theories and solutions kicked around for a while and this is one that was in place some years ago and there were good productive comments.”

Whether the “designated tournament” concept would work remains to be seen, but there is historical precedent.

In 1977, just three days after Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson battled in their Open Championship epic “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry the two titans were on the first tee to play the Pleasant Valley Classic in Massachusetts, not an easy feat during the days before direct flights and automatic upgrades.

For the record, Nicklaus finished second, Watson tied for 11th and the folks at Pleasant Valley took the ultimate prize, more attention and exposure than Donald Trump could ever buy. The two made the trip from Scotland because of a similar “designated tournament” rule that was on the Tour books from 1974 to 2000.

“I’m sure they were happy this program was in place at the time because they probably wouldn’t have that,” Peterson said.

According to the Tour the last time the regulation, which was slightly different than the current proposal because it mandated where certain players had to play, was used was in 1985 and it was dropped from the regulations in 2000.

Imagine the buzz on the first tee at the 2005 Honda Classic if Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson showed up just days after the duo’s famous duel at Doral. Instead, the two didn’t play in the same tournament again until The Players Championship some three weeks later, by then the Blue Monster buzz had subsided.

Those who think the “designated tournament” concept doesn’t have legs, or a clear mandate, aren’t paying attention.

Too many good tournaments are on the ropes, from Harbour Town to Memphis, and for the first time in a long time players are willing to talk, not because of a union or Tour arm twisting but because of the need.

There is a concern that under the proposed rule players who play 23 events each year will simply remove a normal stop from their schedules to make room for a “designated tournament,” a zero-sum estimation that ignores the impact of having Woods or Phil Mickelson or Steve Stricker in a tournament that has never enjoyed a fully loaded marquee.

“If your main objective is the health of the Tour in general, all the events including the John Deeres and Renos, it’s not a big deal for me to add one event to my schedule,” said Kevin Streelman, a member of the 16-player PAC who added the reaction to the proposal was “mixed.” “If Tiger and Phil add an event they might have to take one away, but it still helps the overall product.”

There is also the notion that an event’s presence on the “designated tournament” list would somehow be viewed as a negative.

“Not for the patrons,” Peterson counters. “Fans are excited to see players that they recognize. Whatever negative there might be is outweighed by the positive effect a top player in your field could have.”

The idea that contraction, not mandated starts, is the answer, that the current schedule dilutes the product and the only answer is a Draconian reality that weeds out the weak also ignores every rule of business. The NFL is forever expanding, Major League Baseball has no problem with a 162-game schedule or the addition of the League Championship Series.

How tournaments would be picked for designation is also part of the minutia, but, as Love points out, it’s not just tournaments with historically weak fields that need an occasional boost. Harbour Town, a Tour staple since 1969, draws a strong enough field but is facing a grim future after Verizon pulled the plug as the title sponsor this year.

Perhaps the most compelling element of Tuesday’s meeting was that players are willing to talk about a problem that’s not going away on its own.

“There’s an understanding by big players that these are difficult times we are living in,” said Steve Timms, the Shell Houston Open tournament director. “Guys recognize that maybe we need to think differently about the product.”

Just ask Love, the proposal changed his mind.

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.