Niche Tour Idea Raises Some Middle-Aged Eyebrows
MIDDLE-AGED MAJOR WINNERS, UNITE: The idea for a new eight-event tour featuring mens major championship winners between the ages of 37 and 55 sounds like a crowd-pleaser. But there are some business hurdles to overcome first.
The Major Champions Tour, first reported in Golfweek, has the support of 1992 Masters winner Fred Couples and other players in pro golfs midlife set. More important than the notion that the relevant ages are a competitive no-mans land is the idea that people will pay to see storied competitors go at it in showcased tournaments, organizers believe.
Theyre probably right. But what about fields and television, two crucial elements in the picture?
Active PGA Tour players need a release from the Tour to play in non-Tour events during weeks in which they would be eligible for a regular Tour event. Such releases, while not unreasonably withheld, arent given lightly. The Tour usually gives releases to allow players to enter a reasonable number of overseas events (such as when Tiger Woods plays at the Deutschebank event in Germany, for example). Its not likely the Tour would give releases for domestic events that compete for attention with its own tournaments.
Would Tour players actually resign their memberships to be in this new venture? It seems unlikely ' but recall that it seems harder every year for some of the middle-agers to compete against the Tours younger stars, such as Woods, Charles Howell III and others.
And for at least two participants, Tour membership isnt a problem. Nick Faldo (six major wins) and Greg Norman (two major wins) let their PGA Tour memberships lapse by not playing the 15-event annual minimum.
Another problem: the PGA Tour is entitled to a rights fee whenever one of its members plays golf on television in a non-Tour event. Its not yet clear who would pay this, or even how much it would cost to satisfy the Tour. Again, from a competitive point of view, no amount may be satisfactory for the Tour, which works hard to position its product among the myriad choices available to television sports watchers.
This isnt the first time another tour has tried to create a derivative product. In the mid-1990s, Norman got behind the idea of organizing a world tour of elite players, but the idea never left the drawing board. The advent of the World Golf Championships some years later prompted some critics to accuse the Tour of using Normans idea, leading to allegedly chilly relations between Norman and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. The Tour has said often that the WGC idea was developed separately.
ACHOO!: When you see those Official [insert product name here] of the [insert sports league name here] designations, do you sometimes wonder why a sports league would need, say, an official moving van company? Still, league endorsements are a popular marketing tool.
The PGA Tour now has an official allergy medication. Aventis Pharmaceuticals, makers of the popular allergy medication Allegra, have taken on the Tour as a marketing partner for the 2002 season. Aventis has also secured the endorsement services of Steve Elkington, who, alas, has been something of a poster boy for allergy and sinus trouble at various times in his career.
An informal poll of PGA Tour players shows that many of them suffer from seasonal allergies, Aventis says.
By the bye, an Aventis doctor predicts a tough allergy season this spring because of the mild winter in many areas. (Just hold that sneeze during my backswing, OK?)
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.
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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.
Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.
But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.
“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”
Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.
“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”
After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.
In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.
No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.
Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.
“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”
And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.
Let it go.
Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.
“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”
It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.
During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.
Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.
“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.
McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.
It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.
“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”
The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.
Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.
The only thing left to do?
Let it go.
Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.
Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.
Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.
There is, however, one running wager.
“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”
Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.
Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.
“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.