Sun not setting yet on Finchem as Tour commissioner

By Rex HoggardJune 10, 2015, 3:41 pm

During a ceremony last week at the Memorial, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem effortlessly worked the room in his signature understated style, mixing easily with both players and powerbrokers.

Although the event was held to honor Doc Giffin, Arnold Palmer’s longtime assistant, the moment did serve as an impromptu milestone for Finchem.

The 68-year-old began his 22nd year as commissioner on June 1 and, at least according to various observers and assorted tealeaves, his final year in the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., big chair.

Finchem signed a four-year contract extension in 2012 and many figured it would be the former White House deputy advisor’s swansong tour.

“We haven’t made any final decision yet. The transition planning is coming along very nicely,” Finchem told “We have a really strong group so I don’t think there is any down side to any particular time that I step aside.”

The transition Finchem referred to gained momentum last year when Jay Monahan was appointed the circuit’s deputy commissioner, making the former tournament director Finchem’s heir apparent.

In quintessential Finchem style, the commissioner has been carefully and meticulously laying the groundwork for his potential exit.

Earlier this season he convinced Davis Love III, who turned 51 in April and is making his own transition to the Champions Tour, to run for chairman of the player advisory council which has paved the way for the veteran to become a member of the policy board next year.

“I was chairman of the PAC the year [1994] he was brought in to be commissioner, and it’s just to see the transition go back the other way. It’s important to me and to [Finchem] to have guys on the policy board that have experience in a transition time,” Love said. “Everyone assumes it’s [Monahan], but whoever is picked it will be nice to have some guys with experience [on the policy board].”

For all of Finchem’s planning, however, he didn’t exactly sound like a man poised on the precipice of his golden years last week at Muirfield Village.

“There are a couple of things I’m working on that I’d rather get a little further down the track and they are big things, so it’s a little early to say where they are going to be,” Finchem said.

“I don’t have to see them through, but I’d like to get both of them on the right track and I want to work with Jay in a couple of areas, so how that pans out in terms of time I’m not quite certain yet.”

Although Finchem would not say what those “big” projects might be, it seems likely his primary focus the next few months will be on resigning FedEx as the umbrella sponsor of the Tour’s season-long race.

In February 2012, the logistics firm agreed to a five-year contract extension through the 2017 season and given Finchem’s involvement in the circuit’s move to the season-long competition which began in 2007 it’s likely he would want to assure its future before stepping down.

It’s unclear what other projects might keep Finchem at the helm through next June. The Tour’s current television contracts with NBC, Golf Channel and CBS all run through 2021 and golf’s spot in the Olympics, which the commissioner oversaw, is assured through the 2020 Games in Japan.

Although Finchem’s current contract was for four years, he said the nine-member policy board, which would need to approve any extension and includes four player directors, would not be bound by any time requirements.

“I might stay another year or so after next year, I might move on next year. We’ll have to wait and see,” said Finchem, who added that a decision would likely be made by the end of the year. “I think the board would be comfortable with whatever Jay and I recommend.”

Perhaps the most telling sign that Finchem may not be ready to step down just yet came when he was asked what he would consider his legacy after more than two decades as commissioner.

“I’ve never really thought about it in those terms,” he said. “If Peyton Manning is the quarterback and you go to the Super Bowl, he had a great season but there are 48 guys on the team.

“I’d like to think that when I get done, people look at me and say, ‘OK, he worked his butt off, a lot got done and the players and the stakeholders looked at his time and thought a good job was done for them.”

And it appears the man who is already scheduled to stay in the job two years longer than his mentor, Deane Beman, whom he succeeded as commissioner, might not be done working his butt off just yet.

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

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Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.