The first PGA Tour event of the year at least will sound like a big tournament.
The Tournament of Champions at Kapalua will be hosted on the Golf Channel by Dan Hicks of NBC Sports, and for the first time will feature the dual commentary of Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller. Faldo, the main analyst for CBS Sports, also works for the Golf Channel. Miller is with NBC Sports, which along with the Golf Channel is under the new ownership.
Miller and Faldo one year were in the booth together briefly at The Players Championship. For the Tour’s season opener, they will be together all four days.
“It’s great repartee when Nick and I are together,” Miller said. “It’s kind of an older brother-younger brother dynamic. We’re not afraid to challenge each other.”
Faldo has six majors. Miller is the only player to shoot 63 in the final round to win the U.S. Open.
“I was really looking forward to a stress-free start to the new season,” Faldo said. “Now this news. Oh well, never mind. At least I’ve got two weeks in Hawaii watching the PGA Tour, and let’s just say some lively debate. Should be fun.”
FUNNY MONEY: If ever an award in golf needed an asterisk, it would be for Ai Miyazato winning the Ladies European Tour money list.
She played in only two tournaments – both part of the LPGA schedule – winning the Evian Masters and missing the cut at the Women’s British Open. Because the Evian Masters purse dwarfs everything else on the LET, the Japanese star earned $487,500, which easily beat out Melissa Reid and Carolina Hedwall.
Reid won twice in 19 starts on the LET, while Hedwall won four times in her 20 tournaments.
“To be honest I have mixed feelings because I’m receiving the award from just winning one event on the LET,” Miyazato said. “But I’ve never won the money title on any tour, so I’m really happy.”
The LET does not require a minimum number of tournaments to be a member, and that’s where it gets really curious.
Yani Tseng chose not to become an LET member this year, or she would have easily won the money title. Tseng, the No. 1 player in women’s golf, won four of the five tournaments she played on the European schedule.
Tseng won the Women’s Australian Open and the Australian Masters to start the year. She captured her second consecutive Women’s British Open at Carnoustie, and then won a fourth LET event at the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open in China. Had she been an LET member, she would have won the money title by about $160,000.
Tseng won the LPGA money list with $2.9 million, more than the next two players behind her.
Ernie Huang, her agent in California, said Tseng was automatically eligible to become an LET member when she won the Women’s British Open last year.
“She elected not to be a member,” he said. “Somehow, she feels she doesn’t want to be a member there. Maybe down the road she will.”
Luke Donald became the first male to win the money title on the European and American tours in the same season, though both tours require a minimum number of starts – 15 for the PGA Tour, 13 for the European Tour.
If not for the minimum requirement in Europe, Tiger Woods would have won its money list five times.
That the LET does not require a minimum for its members makes the money title somewhat of a farce. Making it worse is that the Evian Masters purse, along with the Women’s British Open purse, is significantly higher than everything else.
The money Hedwall earned for her four victories would not even be the equivalent of third-place money from the Evian Masters.
“It’s a shame it works like that because you should have to play a certain amount of events to be on this,” Laura Davies said before the season-ending Dubai Ladies Championship. “I know Ai has only played two events, and she is going to win the money list. But it’s a bit ridiculous. If one of the regular European tour players wins it and plays 20 events, 15 events, then it has more behind it.
“But it’s just a shame that one tournament can dominate the money list like that.”
The LPGA does not count the U.S. Women’s Open – its biggest event – toward the money list for non-members because the prize money is so skewed. That’s why Stacy Lewis did not automatically earn her card when she tied for third at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open.
There is no greater disparity in prize money than on the LET.
The schedule released Tuesday has 15 regular LET events with combined prize money of just over $6 million. Three other tournaments that are co-sanctioned by the LPGA – the Women’s Australian Open, the Evian Masters and the Women’s British Open – have a combined purse of nearly $7 million.
THREE FOR THREE: Luke Donald made it a hat trick of awards Tuesday when he won the Golf Writers Trophy from the British-based Association of Golf Writers. Donald previously was named European Tour and PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Padraig Harrington, a double major winner in 2008, is the only other player to sweep the three honors.
“Any award you win gives you a great amount of pleasure, and for the golf writers to consider me as their Player of the Year means a lot, it really does,” Donald said. “These are the people who really understand golf and appreciate all that I have achieved this year.”
Donald won four times around the world, became the first player to capture the money title on the U.S. and European tours and held the No. 1 world ranking for the final 31 weeks of the year.
DIVOTS: For the first time, the Nordea Masters in Sweden on the European Tour will have a Saturday finish. It will be played June 6-9, giving players more time to get to San Francisco for the U.S. Open the following week. … Emiliano Grillo has signed with IMG. The 19-year-old Argentine is the second-youngest player to have a European Tour card, behind Matteo Manassero. He earned his card through Q-school.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Nineteen of the top 20 players in the world ranking will be PGA Tour members next year. The exception is Martin Kaymer of Germany at No. 4.