Spanning the Globe

By Rex HoggardMarch 17, 2011, 12:04 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Maybe Greg Norman was right. Maybe the World Golf Championships experiment was little more than a stalling tactic to the inevitable – a true world circuit.

At least that was the second sentence to Sunday’s sit-down at Doral between PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and his European counterpart George O’Grady. Insular types need read no further, because if body language is any indication, Norman’s outrageous concept of a world tour may be closer than the “Great White Prognosticator” could have ever envisioned.

Not that Finchem or O’Grady seemed anywhere near ready to sign off on a global tour, but they are talking about it and that’s a start.

On Sunday at Doral, Finchem said he wouldn’t expect a world tour for at least 10 or 20 years. O’Grady was a tad more optimistic. Reality, as it always is, is probably somewhere in between.

Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood would be one player that would likey welcome a world tour. (Getty Images)

“George and I have talked about this I think a fair amount, it may develop over the years that golf just becomes integrated,” Finchem said.

“We clearly recognize that the global presentation of the sport and the broadcast that's tied to that has changed and evolved over the last 15 years, and to leverage that properly, at some point in the future, at least in my view, integration will become a very viable alternative.”

Interesting, but then “integration” doesn’t feel two decades away and Finchem’s view from 30,000 feet doesn’t dovetail with the reality down in the weeds.

At the moment, the world Nos. 1, 2 and 8 players in the world are not PGA Tour members. Two of those non-members – second-ranked Lee Westwood and eighth-ranked Rory McIlroy – have already said they will not play this year’s Players Championship. Conversely, there aren’t a lot of Americans heading over to play the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.

Ernie Els, and probably other top South Africans, will have to decide between their national championship, the South African Open, and the Presidents Cup, scheduled the same week in November on the other side of the world in Australia.

As the game continues its global growth, expect more fragmentation and turf tussles unless golf’s power brokers can find some middle ground.

Not that consensus, or a global tour, will come easily.

“The idea (of a global circuit) sent a chill up my spine,” said one tournament official this week in Tampa. “Where does that leave us?”

But Chubby Chandler – whose International Sport Management team represents Westwood, McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen, among others – doesn’t envision a 30-event global schedule. Instead he suggested last week at Doral that a global tour consist of as few as 10 events.

Consider a world docket that would include the four major championships, four World Golf Championships, The Players, BMW PGA and two or three others – with a keen eye toward Asia and the Middle East.

Years ago a Tour player was driving through Palm Springs, Calif., and noticed a yacht dealership. When he asked his swing coach why they would have such an establishment in the middle of a desert the response was, “You don’t sell a boat where the water is. You sell a boat where the money is.”

And the money, at least right now, is trending toward Asia and the Middle East.

Imagine a 15-event international schedule spread across the calendar that would guarantee the game’s best on the grandest scale.

The concept is not without problems. Entry into these events would be based on the World Golf Ranking, theoretically, and that arithmetic is not without its problems. A global tour also runs the risk of becoming a closed shop, a self-perpetuating system that leaves little room for up-and-coming players.

Nor have the top American players shown much interest in globe-trotting, but a money and ranking-points rich circuit may be what finally draws them out of the Lower 48.

“For us, I think it doesn’t really change a lot because we are travelling anyways, a lot,” world No. 1 Martin Kaymer said this week when asked about a possible world tour. “It will be difficult for the American players, especially the ones with families. At the moment it’s pretty easy for them to travel only inside the country, but if they have to travel overseas . . . that’s going to be difficult.”

And, of course, there is the concern of what will come of the dozens of other events that would be left out of the global picture. The PGA Tour calendar is checkered with plenty of events that don’t draw “top” fields but are successful nonetheless. Would those events, with fields that would likely change little, still be considered viable if they were suddenly reduced to Triple-A status?

At the highest level perception is reality, and if the game suddenly became a world circuit followed by everything else it could be catastrophic for stops like the Honda Classic or Waste Management Phoenix Open, which have both carved out a healthy niche without the marquee of a Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson.

At the moment the devil outnumbers the details, but the tumblers continue to fall in the direction of a world tour. It may be 20 years away, it may be closer. What seems certain is it is coming.

“I don't think it's as simple as somebody writing out, here is a new world tour and it's all done with a blueprint tomorrow,” O’Grady said. “It evolves to avoid some of the clashes that are going on at the moment, which are not really in anybody's best interests.”


Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.