Welcome to the new job, Mr. Commissioner

By Rex HoggardNovember 2, 2016, 6:56 pm

Dear Jay . . . sorry, Mr. Commissioner,

The keys to the kingdom await on Monday, though not that many beyond the ivory walls in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., will notice. It will happen quietly in what is essentially a procedural vote that has been preordained for months, if not years.

Tim Finchem has been ready to step down as commissioner of the PGA Tour for some time, lingering just long enough to clean up some “loose ends,” presumably the new fall event in South Korea and the early stages of the television negotiations.

In September at the Tour Championship, when Finchem sat in for what was billed as his last time addressing the media as commissioner, it was the circuit’s cryptic way of saying the time has come for you, Jay Monahan, to take over the game’s most lucrative product. On Monday when the year’s final policy board meeting is held, the nine player and independent directors will rubber-stamp the new normal.

But you know all that. You’ve been groomed for this, having served as the Tour’s deputy commissioner and chief operating officer since 2014. Prior to that you tried your hand as the chief marketing officer, executive vice president and executive director of The Players.

Finchem’s uncanny ability to turn lemons into lemonade on the sponsorship front will not be easily duplicated. Whatever your opinion of the outgoing boss, his business acumen is nothing short of All World.

In 2007, the Tour had 47 official events. In ’09, in the wake of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the circuit had 47 official events. While other businesses scrambled to withstand the economic headwinds, Finchem & Co. maintained the status quo. He did this despite a competitive swoon by Tiger Woods, who played the Tour-minimum 15 events just three times since 2008. He did this despite declining participation numbers and struggling equipment sales.

But you were hand-picked as Finchem’s successor because of your ability to handle just those kinds of tough lies.

“I've worked with him closely now for a good period of time, and he's absolutely the right guy to deal with all that,” Finchem said in September. “He doesn't have a negative moment in his day. He is a total glass-is-half-full individual, and I think you'll see that as we go forward.”

No, the real challenges for you, Mr. Commissioner, will be much more nuanced.

You’ll have to embrace an evolving media landscape that delivers the product, your product, in vastly different ways – from social media content to live streaming and fan interaction.

You’ll also face evolving dogma.

Where Finchem clung deeply to the notion that the fans weren’t interested in dirty laundry, recent examples in other sports suggest otherwise.

Although it’s an extreme comparison and we’re not saying this sort of thing occurs on Tour, the media maelstrom caused last month when New York Giants kicker Josh Brown admitted to abusing his wife is an interesting lesson in transparency. While Finchem has long held that the public didn’t much care that the Tour didn’t announce fines and suspensions (other than those associated with the circuit’s performance-enhancing drug policy), the “don’t ask, don’t tell” game plan just doesn’t work in a hashtag society.

Along those lines, it might also be time to break with the notion that slow play isn’t a Tour problem. Although officials will say the circuit’s pace-of-play policy works, rounds that regularly approach 5 ½ hours beg to differ.

And this is a problem beyond the confines of Tour events as recreational players model their games, their pre-shot routines, after what they see on TV; and what they see are rounds that last far too long and are hurting the growth of the game.

Speaking of growing the game, although it’s not specifically mentioned in the Tour’s mission statement it’s time for you and your lieutenants to take a more active role in bringing new players to the game and keeping them playing.

The Tour is the engine that moves all wheels in golf, at least in the United States, and the circuit’s continued success and growing the game are not mutually exclusive concepts.

People who play golf are more inclined to watch golf, and vice versa, which would make a more detailed, more dedicated, more focused grow-the-game initiative in the Tour’s best interest.

Finally, you’ll need to address the emerging transatlantic elephant. Your European Tour counterpart Keith Pelley has been aggressive in his plan to make his circuit the center of the golf universe on certain weeks, and most agree that a stronger European Tour is good for everyone involved.

In his media farewell, Finchem mentioned globalization, or global, a dozen times in a not-so-subtle nod to the impending reality of a world tour. It won’t be easy, it won’t be seamless, but it will be something that needs to be addressed. Just saying.

By all accounts, you’re the right man for the job – thoughtful, focused, energized. But then what else would one expect considering Finchem’s attention to detail in everything else he’s accomplished?

Welcome to the new office, Mr. Commissioner. Now get to work.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x