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What we learned: Valero Texas Open

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Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events and news developments. This week . . .

I learned that the PGA Tour needs to allow tournaments to offer appearance fees. I've never been on either side of the fence with this issue but this week's event pushed me to the greener side. The Texas Open is in an unenviable slot between the Masters and The Players. If it needs, or sponsor Valero wants to pay top players to entice them to compete, they should be allowed to do so. It's ridiculous that an event on the PGA Tour should battle the Indonesian Masters for attention because the latter is allowed to buy Lee Westwood's services for a week. The PGA Tour needs to embrace a capitalist mindset and allow tournaments all avenues to compete against one another. This isn't Russia. Is this Russia? No, because the Russian Open allows appearance fees. – Mercer Baggs


I learned that Branden Grace is much more than a two-week flash in the pan. After he won the Joburg Open and Volvo Golf Champions in back-to-back weeks in January, some contended that the 23-year-old from South Africa simply got really hot at a really good time. His victory at the Volvo China Open this week, though, proved the youngster is no two-hit wonder. He now owns as many worldwide titles this year as the top three players on the OWGR combined – or one more than Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Much like countrymen Trevor Immelman, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, Grace is a major up-and-coming talent. Speaking of major, those three all own major championships – and it may not be too long before Grace joins 'em in that exclusive club. – Jason Sobel


I learned very successful men sometimes do too much talking. Tiger Woods' current teacher, Sean Foley, wants the media to lay off a 'good dude,' but has never been at a loss for words to critique Woods' work with past instructors to provide chum for a good piece.

Butch Harmon thinks Foley should be shown the door and Hank Haney might used have the golf equivalent of the Nixon Tapes to write his 'The Big Miss.' Harmon said he would never write the book Haney did, but did not mind disclosing some of Tiger's gamesmanship tactics to Phil Mickelson and the press.

Harmon and Haney seem to agree Woods should go find the secrets in the dirt instead of in the digital camera of his current teacher. Then again, Woods completely revamped his swing with both of them at a point in his life when his knee was somewhat healthier and his personal life was less complicated. All three men were or will likely be successful with Woods. The side-show love quadrangle played out in the press will not decide who has been the best of them. Soap operas are dying and this one should, too. – Ryan Ballengee


I learned the LPGA should schedule every event Wednesday-Saturday. Every event. Even majors. This guarantees the tour more coverage on Wednesday (it's opposite nothing) and Saturday (crowing a champion when no other tour does) and is precisely the type of outside-the-box thinking that can only provide dividends. I covered the LPGA for six years in the early 2000s and the idea never occurred to me. Of course Annika Sorenstam was doing her thing and created tons of headlines for the tour. Sadly, that's not the case any longer. Time to mix it up. – Jay Coffin


I learned that maybe it’s a good thing Bubba Watson doesn’t have a swing coach for reasons that go beyond his swing.

Swing instructors are so much more than coaches these days, and that’s not always a good thing for the player. Swing coaches can be muses. They can be confidants. They can be sports psychologists. They can be TV tour analysts, or host their own TV shows. They can be kiss-and-tell authors and defense attorneys.

We’ve seen it all in the past month with Hank Haney, Butch Harmon and Sean Foley making larger headlines than any player not named Tiger or Bubba. Of course, the common denominator in the intensity of interest in the news they are generating is that they’re all connected to Tiger Woods, through past association or present.

Haney created a furor writing his book about Tiger Woods, “The Big Miss.” Harmon stirred sentiments saying he believes Woods’ swing has become “very robotic” and that he has “lost his nerve putting.” Foley made headlines defending Woods, telling radio show host Matt Adams on the PGA Tour Network that the “tearing down” of Woods is “out of hand” and Woods deserves better. All three coaches are fascinating personalities with unique gifts and insights into the biggest star the game has ever seen. That makes them bigger stars than most players today. – Randall Mell


I learned that Mark Twain was spot on; there are lies, damn lies and ShotLink statistics, or something like that. Exhibit A is Ben Curtis’ pedestrian strokes-gained putting standing before the Texas Open (183rd) and where he ended up after his first victory since 2006 (second). And you thought the world golf ranking was skewed. – Rex Hoggard



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