Playing the image-conscious game on the PGA Tour

By Rex HoggardJanuary 18, 2012, 9:21 pm

It is a curious coincidence that within the same news cycle that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was awarded a four-year contract extension, the golf world was offered a rare glimpse at the seedy side of the circuit’s rabbit hole.

Within days of Finchem’s new deal Matt Every all at once embraced and dismissed a scrape with the law over a drug-possession charge and subsequent Tour suspension; a pair of the game’s original bad boys, Rory Sabbatini and Vijay Singh, played “what’s your sign?” at the Sony Open; and a fringe senior tour player was rolled up in an online underage sex sting.

It was all enough to make Finchem’s perfect world, a place where one doesn’t have to make the distinction between marijuana's legality and its perceived legitimacy in some circles, seem inexplicably flawed, as if the Tour owned exclusive rights to the moral high ground.

But that defies logic and simple statistics.

The idyllic pay-for-play world is, for all its flawlessness, no more or no less a slice of society at large, complete with cads and crooks and cleverly concealed con men despite Camp Ponte Vedra Beach’s Utopian claims.

To think otherwise would be naïve, yet when Every went rogue last week in Hawaii alarms were activated across the game’s pristine landscape.

“I just got three months off. It’s just golf. I don’t think I was doing anything wrong. It happened. I’m the same person, I have the same friends and I don’t think it’s that big of deal,” Every said of the drug charge that was eventually dropped. “There’s a lot worse stuff that goes on out here than what I got in trouble for and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”

That Every would speak of a suspension is bad enough, but to besmirch his frat brothers with his “a lot of stuff worse” comment is heresy in Tour circles.

Robert Garrigus made a similar faux pas last year when he told Golf Digest that “there were plenty of guys on the Nationwide Tour who smoked (marijuana) in the middle of the round.”

Both incidents qualified as news for even the casual sports fan not because the revelations were particularly scandalous, it’s not a sports-cast these days without a mug shot or two, but because we’ve been led to believe that somehow golf is above it all. That marijuana use on Tour is, at worst, an inconvenience that is best handled in house despite a recent Time magazine study that revealed 42 percent of Americans have tried marijuana and 16 percent have tried cocaine.

In its quest for legitimacy the Tour has created an image that is both unrealistic and unsustainable.

Unlike most other professional sports leagues, it is Tour policy not to release fines or punishments for violations of the circuit’s “conduct unbecoming” standard, which is the catch all for most infractions.

The rare exception to this rule are violations of the performance-enhancing drug policy, of which there has been just a single case in the example known as Doug Barron, who is, by the way, now taking many of the same medications he was suspended for using in 2010.

But that exception to the grand plan only applies to drugs considered performance enhancing. Positive tests for recreational drugs, like marijuana, are not disclosed.

The don’t-ask-because-we’re-not-telling policy is for Tour types a non-starter, grail written in stone and tucked safely away in a TPC Sawgrass tower.

“The biggest reason is that 90 percent-plus of the disciplinary matters we deal with the public is not aware of them. We see no reason to advise the public of when one of our players does something silly. Why should we do that?” Finchem said last spring. “That's why 92 percent of Americans think that our players are role models, because the conduct on our Tour is very good.”

Perhaps, but that logic is strained to the boundaries of legitimacy when one of the independent contractors colors outside the lines and suggests that the Tour is, like society in general, something well short of perfect.

The Tour would have you believe tee sheets are filled with choir boys, so when Every or Garrigus suggest otherwise it somehow feels like the end of Camelot. When a never-was named Steve Thomas is arrested in an undercover internet child sex sting in Florida we wring our hands and wonder how this could happen? When Singh and Sabbatini exchange four-letter unpleasantries we lament the loss of innocence all the while ignoring the facts.

Every office in America has its share of Everys and Singhs and, sadly, maybe even a Thomas. That doesn’t make it a bad business, just a business.

That’s not to say the Tour is a hotbed of ignominious activity, particularly when compared to other sports, but to bury one’s head in the rabbit hole Finchem has created leads to dangerously inflated expectations.

For 16 years Finchem has skillfully guided the Tour through dramatic times, but it may be time to lose the Teflon image. No one is that perfect.

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.