Move to May Wont Solve All the TPC Problems
And even that only lasted about 12 hours.
Standing on the 18th green late Sunday afternoon, his name on the richest first-place check on the PGA Tour, Ames was asked about the three-year exemption he received to the Masters. In a rare moment of indecision, he wasn't sure he would play. His kids were starting their spring break, and Ames had plans to take them to his native Trinidad.
'I'd rather go on vacation, to be truthful,' he said.
Ames changed his mind Monday morning, telling a Canadian radio station that he had talked it over with his wife and two sons, and 'we are going to go.'
No wonder the PGA Tour wants its showcase event moved to May.
It's hard to embrace The Players Championship as a major when all anyone wanted to know about Ames was whether he was going to play in a real one - the Masters - two weeks away.
Not that next year will solve everything.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was asked where The Players Championship would fit into the pecking order of majors when it moves to May in 2007, and he quipped, 'We already think it's No. 1.'
Finchem has a background in politics, although this was more tongue-in-cheek that all-out lobbying. He has said the last several years, and repeated in an interview last October, that his only focus for The Players Championship is making it the best it can be - a great course, the best field, largest purse and a TV presentation with limited commercials that rivals the Masters.
In that respect, The Players Championship is a huge success.
But it cannot be perceived as a major based on the calendar alone.
The Stadium Course will be torn up next week and refurbished with high-tech gadgets and agronomy that will allow it to be firm and fast even if conditions are soggy and slow. It might be the closest thing to indoor golf.
Next year, golf will have a big tournament in April, May, June, July and August.
But golf in May is hardly lacking now.
The Wachovia Championship is held the first week of the month, and Quail Hollow is such a superb golf course that in its inaugural year, 2003, players deemed it worthy of a PGA Championship - that week. Some even mentioned a U.S. Open, although the consensus was the USGA would ruin it.
The Memorial is at the end of May, another world-class golf course (Muirfield Village) that is run with impeccable taste by the tournament host (Jack Nicklaus).
As good as they are, both are links between the Masters and U.S. Open. There is no guarantee The Players Championship will be much more than that.
But what hurts The Players Championship - beyond the fact a grand slam means four items, whether it's breakfast at Denny's or runs scored in baseball - is the aura desperately lacking in what otherwise is a local event.
And that starts with the gallery, and why they go to Sawgrass.
The first clue came Thursday, when the Stadium Course was surprisingly quiet. Go to any other major, and thousands of spectators are gathered around the first tee or already staking out positions on the golf course when the tournament begins.
David Duval, who grew up in Jacksonville, and Davis Love III, a quasi-neighbor who makes his home at Sea Island, were among the early starters Thursday. There was no more than about 500 spectators milling between the first two fairways or camped out in the bleachers. Even when Tiger Woods teed off Friday morning, there were only about 300 people ready to enlist in his army.
Even when the crowd swelled in the afternoon, and especially on the weekend, it was easy to distinguish between The Players Championship and a major.
Most of the spectators were not at Sawgrass to watch golf.
They were there to be seen.
The atmosphere at The Players Championship is closer to PGA Tour stops in Phoenix or Dallas than major championships at Olympic Club or Hazeltine.
Ernie Els was three shots off the lead, standing steady over a 10-foot par putt on the 14th hole on Sunday, and must have felt like he was in the middle of a cocktail party. On a mound just beyond the green were a half-dozen people, sipping beer and sharing laughs, unaware there was a golf tournament going on.
The 17th hole is a natural attraction because there is no other hole like that in championship golf, and everyone loves to see a train wreck. Thousands cram onto the hills to the left of the green and behind it, and behind the tee as space allows, creating a theater not unlike the par-3 16th hole at Phoenix.
But it becomes the main event, instead of a pivotal hole during an 18-hole test on a brilliantly designed course.
The reason most fans go to a major is to watch golf. You don't get that sense at Sawgrass, where golf is a diversion to pass time while standing in the beer line or waiting for the next ball to miss the island-green 17th.
Maybe the move to May will help in one respect. Along with refurbishing the golf course and rebuilding the clubhouse, Finchem is embarking on a national marketing campaign with hopes of The Players Championship becoming a golf tournament that fans around the country, or the world, will want to come watch.
That could be a pivotal step in making it feel like a major, if not look like one.
It deserves that.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Spieth shares Hartford lead; Rory 1 back
Just a few miles north but light years removed from the difficulty of Shinnecock Hills, the PGA Tour returned to week-in, week-out normalcy with the Travelers Championship. Here's what happened in the first round at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.:
Leaderboard: Zach Johnson (-7), Jordan Spieth (-7), Rory McIlroy (-6), Peter Malnati (-6), Brian Harman (-6)
What it means: The two biggest names in the field, Spieth and McIlroy, are looking for a boost of confidence after missing the cut in the U.S. Open. Their scores look good, but McIlroy won't be happy about closing with a bogey.
Round of the day: Johnson and Spieth both put up 7-under 63s. Johnson, after a relatively pedestrian 2-under front nine, caught fire on the back, making six consecutive birdies on holes 11-16. A three-putt bogey at the 17th ended the run, and he parred the last for his 63. Spieth, the defending champion, put up two birdies and an eagle on the front and four more birdies on the back. Like Johnson, he had only one blemish, a bogey-5 on the drivable par-4 15th when he hooked his drive into the water.
Best of the rest: McIlroy, Malnati and Harman each shot 64. Malnati eagled the 15th and followed that with birdies at 16 and 17 and a back-nine 29. Harman had a rare birdie on the 444-yard 18th for his 64, but McIlroy threw away a shot at the closing hole to fall out of a share of the lead. His right foot slipped as he was hitting his approach shot, and he missed the green. After taking a drop to get away from a sprinkler head, he was unable to get up and down.
Biggest disappointment: Bubba Watson, a two-time winner of this event, could manage no better than an even-par 70. Two-under through 11 holes, he bogeyed three of the next four.
Shot of the day: Can we safely say that Spieth likes the bunkers at River Highlands? Last year he got up and down from one at the 18th hole to get into a playoff, then he holed out from the same bunker to win the playoff. On Thursday he worked his magic at the par-5 sixth hole, sinking his sand shot for eagle.
Biggest storyline going into Friday: Most eyes will be on Spieth and McIlroy, to see if they're over they're U.S. Open funks and gearing up for The Open Championship.
NBC Sports Group to Showcase Top Players in Women's Golf With Comprehensive Coverage of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, June 25-July 1
Golf Channel and NBC to Combine for More Than 40 Hours of News, Tournament and Instruction On-Site from Kemper Lakes Golf Club, Most in Tournament History
KPMG Ambassador Phil Mickelson to Join Golf Central on Monday, June 25 Live from Soldier Field
Condoleezza Rice and Olympians Nancy Kerrigan, Hilary Knight and Maia Shibutani to Headline KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Wednesday, June 27
ORLANDO, Fla., June 21, 2018 – Featuring one of the strongest fields of the year, NBC Sports Group will dedicate more than 40 hours of comprehensive on-site news, tournament and instruction coverage of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – most in tournament history – Monday, June 25 - Sunday, July 1. Taking place at Kemper Lakes Golf Club near Chicago, the third LPGA Tour major of the season will be headlined by World No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn, No. 3 Lexi Thompson, ANA Inspiration champion Pernilla Lindberg and defending champion Danielle Kang. In 2017, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was the most-watched women’s major championship of the year.
“Through the partnership with KPMG, the PGA of America and the LPGA Tour, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship has been elevated to become one of the most impactful weeks of the year in women’s golf,” said Molly Solomon, executive vice president of content, Golf Channel. “As the broadcast partner for the championship, we strive to elevate our coverage each year to celebrate not only the best players in women’s golf but also female leaders in the workplace through the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit.”
BROADCAST TEAM: Live tournament coverage of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will be anchored by Dan Hicks, joined by Paige Mackenzie and Gary Koch in the broadcast booth. Tom Abbott will report from an on-course tower, with Kay Cockerill, Jerry Foltz and Mark Rolfing walking the course. Steve Sands will conduct player interviews.
NBC SPORTS GROUP TO IMPLEMENT POPULAR “PLAYING THROUGH” ENCHANCED COMMERCIAL BREAKS: Making its debut on NBC at the Ryder Cup in 2016, Golf Channel and NBC will implement the popular “Playing Through” enhancement in an effort to elevate the viewing experience for fans tuning in to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. NBC Sports Group is partnering with several national advertisers to present select commercial breaks in utilizing “Playing Through,” which will employ a split-screen model for a select number of national commercial breaks. This enhanced break will display both the commercial with audio as well as a continuous feed of the tournament action.
COMPREHENSIVE ON-SITE NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel’s signature news programs, Golf Central and Morning Drive, will provide comprehensive, wraparound news coverage throughout the week, produced on-location at Kemper Lakes Golf Club. In addition to daily shows, Golf Central will present special player news conference shows Tuesday and Wednesday, June 26 and 27, at 5 p.m. ET.
Rich Lerner will anchor Golf Central’s live coverage alongside LPGA major champion Karen Stupples and Arron Oberholser beginning Wednesday, June 27, with Lisa Cornwell reporting and conducting player interviews. Chantel McCabe will set the stage each day on Morning Drive with on-site interviews and analysis, with Paige Mackenzie joining her Monday-Wednesday.
PHIL MICKELSON TO JOIN GOLF CENTRAL LIVE FROM SOLDIER FIELD MONDAY, JUNE 25: Kicking off KPMG Women’s PGA Championship week will be the KPMG Windy City Skills Challenge, taking place at Soldier Field in Chicago on Monday, June 25. KPMG Ambassadors Phil Mickelson and Mariah Stackhouse along with athletes from the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Fire, Red Stars and Skywill be conducting a special clinic and skills challenge event with local youth organizations. Mickelson will join Golf Central live from Soldier Field on Monday following the conclusion of the skills challenge.
SCHOOL OF GOLF ON-SITE AT KEMPER LAKES: School of Golf will air Tuesday at 7 p.m. from on-site at Kemper Lakes Golf Club, with Martin Hall and Blair O’Neal hosting a special short-game episode. Scheduled guests include 2018 U.S. Women’s Open champion Ariya Jutanugarn and her coaches, Golf Channel Academy coaches Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, as well as LPGA major champion Morgan Pressel.
KPMG WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP SUMMIT: Golf Central will offer news coverage of the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit, which will be hosted on-site Wednesday, June 27, featuring an assembly of accomplished leaders in sports, business, politics and media to inspire the next generation of women leaders. 66th Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Olympians Nancy Kerrigan, Hilary Knight and Maia Shibutani will headline the gathering. NBC Sunday Night Football sideline reporter Michele Tafoya will serve as master of ceremonies. The summit will be streamed live on Wednesday on Golf Channel Digital. In addition, portions of the summit also will be streamed via Golf Channel’s Facebook Live.
DIGITAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Golf Channel Digital will feature expanded editorial content during KPMG Women’s PGA Championship week. GolfChannel.com senior writer Randall Mell will report from Kemper Lakes Golf Club with columns and daily blogs, and Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will contribute to Golf Channel’s social media platforms with exclusive behind-the-scenes content throughout the week. Golf Channel and NBC also will integrate social media throughout the telecasts, incorporating social media posts from players and fans using the hashtag #KPMGWomensPGA.
News and tournament action surrounding the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship can be accessed at any time on any mobile device and online via Golf Channel Digital. Fans also can stream NBC Sports’ coverage of live golf via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports app.
GOLF CHANNEL / NBC LIVE TOURNAMENT AIRTIMES(all times Eastern):
Thursday, June 28
11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Friday, June 29
11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday, July 30
Sunday, July 1
The PGA of America and KPMG joined forces with the LPGA Tour in 2015 to create a world-class major championship that not only sustains the 60-year legacy of the former LPGA Championship, but also aims to elevate women on and off the golf course. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship provides a platform to inspire the next generation of women leaders through the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit and the KPMG Future Leaders Program.
-NBC Sports Group-
Garcia (73), Fleetwood (74) off to slow starts at BMW
PULHEIM, Germany – Sebastien Gros carded a 4-under 68 in windy conditions to lead by one shot after the opening round of the BMW International Open on Thursday.
The Frenchman had four birdies to take the lead before the turn, and a six-footer on the 15th hole moved him two ahead. But a bogey on the next hole left the 28-year-old Gros just one ahead of Jorge Campillo, Scott Jamieson, Aaron Rai and Henric Sturehed.
Sturehed eagled the par-5 No. 13 to take the lead in the morning at the Gut Laerchenhof club.
Christofer Blomstrand, Nico Geyger, Mark Tullo, Victor Perez, David Howell and Nicolai von Dellingshausen are a further stroke back on 2-under 70.
Defending champion Andres Romero was among a large group at 1 under, including 2013 winner Ernie Els and three-time European Tour winner Andy Sullivan.
Romero is bidding to be the first player to retain the title.
Local favorite and 2008 champion Martin Kaymer shot 72, ahead of Sergio Garcia (73) and Tommy Fleetwood (74).
Ryu thriving again after simple advice from Inbee Park
So Yeon Ryu shared Rolex Player of the Year honors last year.
She reigned as world No. 1 for almost five months.
So when she couldn’t keep her momentum going at year’s start, she got frustrated. She wasn’t happy with two top 10s in her first 11 starts.
“I lost a lot of confidence at the beginning of the year,” Ryu said Thursday as she prepared to lead a strong field as the defending champion in Friday’s start of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. “My expectation level was way too high.”
So she sought the counsel of her pal, world No. 1 Inbee Park, who gave her some plain-spoken advice.
“Get over it,” Park told her. “You know what to do. You’ve done it, so it’s not really a big deal. Don’t worry about it. You were No. 1. You’ve achieved a lot of things as a professional golfer. Just don’t be too hard on yourself.”
Ryu got over it winning the Meijer LPGA Classic last week, the sixth LPGA title of her career, her third in 15 months. She’s feeling good again leading a stellar field this week at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark., a strong tune up before next week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the year’s third major championship.
World No. 1 Park, No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson are among the top nine players in the world scheduled to compete this week. Twenty-four of the top 30 are in the field.
“When you come to defend your title, you obviously have a lot of pressure, but after I won last week, now I sort of think, maybe I have a chance to defend my title,” Ryu said. “So I've got total confidence, by last week.”