KAPALUA, Hawaii – The Golf Channel came to the PGA Tour opener with hopes of putting a microphone on players for the Tournament of Champions. The trick now is to find a few volunteers.
Jack Graham, executive producer for the Golf Channel, said it has been approved to put mikes on players for the year. The player must agree to wear the mike, and with two days left, it appears it might not happen at Kapalua.
Some players don’t want to do it. Others are interested, just not in the first tournament of the year. Graham said at some point he expects players will get comfortable with the idea.
But he believes it’s an idea long overdue.
“If you look at where we are compared with other sports, we’re pretty far behind,” he said.
The Golf Channel miked players on the LPGA last year.
Given the economy and growing entertainment choices – and especially with a new television contract to be negotiated this year – the PGA Tour is doing what it can to make broadcasts more interesting.
There already is some live chatter at tournaments from the “shotgun mike” held some 10 yards away from players in the fairway. That can’t get anywhere near the green. When players are miked, it will not be live, rather repackaged during the telecast.
“I think it will work if we get some cooperation,” Graham said. “But it’s problematic. Some players will do it. Some won’t.”
Meanwhile, the Tour is allowing some flexibility in the pairings to help with TV.
The groups for Thursday and Friday rounds are determined by Tour winners and those who have won recently, players from the previous money list and those with lesser status, such as Q-school and Nationwide Tour grads or other nonmembers.
Now, there will be some 20 featured players from the “A list” that can be moved around to accommodate television. That means certain players from that group would be chosen to tee off from No. 1 in the afternoon on Friday so Golf Channel could feature them on the back nine – where most of the TV towers are located – in the peak hours of the telecast.
It’s possible that one player could be pulled out of his group and placed in another group to create a story line. Slugger White, the vice president of rules and competition for the Tour, said such movement would be rare.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the same group? That hasn’t happened on a Thursday and Friday in a regular PGA Tour event, although it could happen. Then again, there’s some thinking it is best to split them up over two days to maximize TV time.
There was a push to allow those who have never won – Rickie Fowler is more than just an example in this case – to move into the winner’s category. The Players Advisory Council shot that down, believing that spot should be earned.
However, Tour officials could move Fowler to a group next to the winner’s category to more easily feature him.
“We’re just trying to take care of our TV partners,” White said. “We’re all in this together. We’re trying to promote our sport.”
WORLD MONEY LIST: PGA champion Martin Kaymer won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour, but that still wasn’t enough for the 26-year-old German to rank among the top 10 in worldwide earnings for 2010.
In a list tabulated for the annual “Year in Professional Golf,” U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell was No. 1 with $7.37 million. He was followed by Lee Westwood of England ($6.5 million) and Ernie Els ($6.3 million).
The world money list does not include bonus money from the Race to Dubai or the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour. It counts money at events that have at least four players and is contested over at least 36 holes.
The top American on the list was Dustin Johnson at $5.54 million, while FedEx Cup champion and three-time winner Jim Furyk finished seventh at $5.1 million.
Kaymer was 11th at slightly more than $4.6 million.
HAWAII NEWCOMER: No one figures to have less experience at the Tournament of Champions than Ian Poulter.
He had been on holiday with his family in the Bahamas when he flew out to Hawaii on Monday. Poulter showed up on the Plantation Course for the first time Tuesday with the intention of hitting balls, and playing the course for the first time on Wednesday in the pro-am.
He could be in for a surprise.
“I know nothing about the course,” Poulter said. “All I can tell you is the 18th is a par 5. That’s it. I know nothing else.”
Poulter has seen TV promotions of players hitting their second shots on the 18th, down the hill toward the ocean, one of the more spectacular views in golf. He knows that shot, but nothing else.
He usually is on holiday this week of the year, and that doesn’t include watching a golf tournament.
GWAA AWARDS: Jack Burke Jr. will be honored by the Golf Writers Association of America with its William D. Richard Award for his outstanding contributions to golf.
The GWAA also voted Steve Stricker as the winner of the ASAPSports/Jim Murray Award for his cooperation with the press, while USGA Women’s Committee chair Barbara Douglas won the Ben Hogan Award for remaining active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness.
They will be honored April 6 at the GWAA’s annual awards dinner in Augusta, Ga.
Burke has been a passionate supporter of golf as a player and a teacher. He co-founded with Jimmy Demaret the Champions Golf Club, which has hosted a U.S. Open, Ryder Cup, U.S. Amateur and Tour Championship. Douglas, diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009, has served on the USGA women’s committee since 1993 and remains a strong proponent of junior golf in Arizona.
MUSICAL CLUBS: Typical of a new season, some players arrived on Maui with new clubs after their previous deals expired. The most noteworthy, perhaps because of the monstrous year he had, was U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell switching from Callaway to Srixon.
He will use Srixon irons and golf balls and Cleveland wedges. McDowell will wear a Srixon hat and glove and carry the logo on his bag.
Players champion Tim Clark, meanwhile, has left Srixon for Titleist.
Jim Furyk, who had an endorsement deal with Srixon, will continue using its irons. But he has switched to a TaylorMade bag, as the FedEx Cup champion will be using the TaylorMade driver and ball.
Not in the field is former Masters champion Trevor Immelman, who has left Nike for Callaway. Kevin Streelman signed with Wilson.
DIVOTS: Geoff Ogilvy showed up at Kapalua with grips on his golf clubs that are unlike any other – they were made from the hide of kangaroo in his native Australia. … Graham DeLaet and Alena Sharp have been voted players of the year by the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. DeLaet finished 100th on the PGA Tour money list in his rookie season, while Sharp was 56th on the LPGA Tour money list. … The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines will allow fans to bring cell phones to the course in an ongoing experiment. They must be switched on silent, and designated areas are set aside for phone calls. Fans can send texts and e-mails, but they cannot take video or pictures during competition days.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The Tournament of Champions features 19 of the top 40 players in the world. Nine of the 19 are Americans.
FINAL WORD: “I would like to play with him every Sunday afternoon in the last group for the rest of my life. I guarantee I’m going to beat him every once in a while. Guarantee it.” – Rocco Mediate, on playing with Tiger Woods.