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.

Getty Images

Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. 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.

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

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.