Notes Micheel Victim of New Policy
Micheel had been skiing the week before the Bay Hill Invitational, and he had planned to spend Monday paying bills, working on taxes and playing with his son.
One problem: Bay Hill's pro-am is Tuesday.
Tour officials offered Micheel the latest tee-time for the pro-am, but that would have meant flying Tuesday morning, arranging his transportation, getting registered and rushing to the tee.
Instead, Micheel called tournament officials and told him he was pulling out.
'It's a policy I don't necessarily agree with,' Micheel said. 'To say you can't play in the golf tournament because you don't play in one pro-am, that's absurd to me.'
The policy received unanimous approval by the board, and took effect Jan. 1.
'We had a concern that a number of missed pro-ams by players was growing,' said Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour. 'Our goal is to reinforce to the players that the pro-am is a part of the tournament. It's important to sponsor interaction and promotion of the event.'
What further irritated Micheel is that John Daly pulled out of the pro-am that morning and was allowed to play, eventually finishing in a tie for 10th. However, Daly didn't know he was in the pro-am. He was selected by tournament sponsors to play, and Bay Hill officials never told him, so he was allowed to skip.
Worse yet for Micheel -- the pro-am was rained out after two hours.
Hughes said PGA Tour officials can excuse players from the pro-ams under special circumstances -- sudden illness, family emergency, or working through an injury. But players must have traveled to the tournament, and they can't practice on the course the same day.
Bay Hill is one of only three tournaments that have pro-ams Tuesday instead of Wednesday. The others are the Memorial and the Tour Championship.
The good news for Micheel: There is no pro-am at The Players Championship.
The leaders won't be the only players with something on the line Sunday at Sawgrass.
The Players Championship is the final tournament for players not already eligible for the Masters. The top 50 in the world ranking and the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list next week qualify for the first major of the year.
Most of the attention is on John Daly.
His triple bogey on the 18th hole at Bay Hill cost him a chance to secure his spot at Augusta National. Daly is No. 9 on the money list and No. 53 in the world ranking. If he gets passed on the money list, Daly would need to finish no worse than 19th at The Players Championship to move into the top 50.
No one is on the bubble quite like Loren Roberts, who could be this year's poster boy for Augusta heartache.
He was No. 47 in the world at the end of last year, but the final world ranking in December -- another cutoff for the Masters _ dropped him to No. 51.
Roberts is No. 48 this week, but he will drop to No. 51 if he misses the cut. Roberts needs to finish about 23rd this week to get into Augusta.
John Huston (No. 56) needs to finish about 14th at The Players Championship. Those farther down the list -- Scott Hoch, Scott McCarron, Tom Lehman and Mark Calcavecchia -- would have to finish as the runner-up.
The easiest way to qualify for the Masters? A victory this week comes with a three-year exemption.
WATSON'S LAST HURRAH
Arnold Palmer will be playing in his 50th and final Masters at age 74.
Tom Watson might not be far behind.
Watson, who won the Masters in 1977, said he has 'really toyed with the idea' of not returning to play, especially after the changes that strengthened Augusta National.
'With the golf course getting so long, if I'm not in good shape where I'm ... not competing against these kids from a reasonable standpoint, I'm not going to play,' the 54-year-old Watson said.
The trick is figuring out when that time has arrived.
'You'll know when I don't show up for Augusta,' he said with a smile.
LONG DAY AT THE OFFICE
Brad Faxon used to make his Florida home in Orlando, not far from Bay Hill. There must be plenty of guys who were sorry to see him move away.
'A bunch of friends of mine were members here,' Faxon said last week at the Bay Hill Invitational. 'For some reason, we'd be out there all day, and their wives thought a round of golf took nine hours. They didn't know. They just thought, 'Brad, he's a tour player, it takes longer.'
'We'd be out there playing 36 holes,' he said. 'They loved it when I called.'
Annika Sorenstam has played several casual rounds with Tiger Woods in Orlando. She might get a shot at him on national television. While plans have not been finalized, Sorenstam is expected to get a return invitation to the Skins Game, along with Woods and defending champion Fred Couples. The Swedish star finished second last year. ... Juli Inkster is now the official tour pro of Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif. Inkster, one of five women to have captured the career Grand Slam, was introduced to golf at age 14 as a cart attendant and snack shop assistant at Pasatiempo. She also met her husband there. The club is celebrating its 75th anniversary. ... Sorenstam has signed a deal to represent Upper Deck, the first female athlete to be a spokesman for the trading card and collectibles company. ... Former U.S. Amateur champion Bubba Dickerson won his first professional event last week on the Hooters Tour.
STAT OF THE WEEK
John Daly has finished ahead of Tiger Woods in all three tournaments they have played in this year. Going into the season, Daly had not done that in his previous 16 events, dating to the 2002 Buick Invitational. He tied for fourth, while Woods finished a stroke behind.
'Close your eyes and hit it quick.' -- Darren Clarke, on his strategy for playing the island-green 17th at The Players Championship.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018
ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).
Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).
Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).
Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.
This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.
-NBC Sports Group-
Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf
Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.
He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.
The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.
He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.
“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.
It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.
For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.
Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.
In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.
Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.
For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.
“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”
But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.
“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”
In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.
His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.
As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.
“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.
“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.
It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.
Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.
“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”
If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.
Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.
Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.
DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.
DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.
“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”
Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.
While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.
“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”