Economy hurting players sponsors

By Doug FergusonMarch 17, 2010, 2:25 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Some golfers are losing that NASCAR look on their apparel with fewer sponsorship deals. Geoff Ogilvy and Vijay Singh are among those with no visible logo on their shirts.

Chalk that up to the economy. Without question, players are getting paid less even when they do have endorsement deals.

Chubby Chandler, head of London-based International Sports Management with players such as Ernie Els, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy in his stable, has discovered that during recent negotiations. What looks like a substandard offer turns out to be more than fair.

“If you get 50 percent of what you had two years ago, you’re doing pretty good,” Chandler said during the CA Championship.

That makes the PGA Tour’s next TV negotiation even more interesting, especially with key industry officials suggesting that the golf market has shrunk by at least 30 percent.

“We’ve all had to realign our expectations,” Chandler said.

WGC ADDITION?: The PGA Tour proudly points to Shanghai as an example that not all of the World Golf Championships are staged in America. That would be easier to accept if the tour actually counted the HSBC Champions as an official event.

Phil Mickelson received $1.2 million and 66 points toward the world ranking, although he was mildly annoyed that this WGC event didn’t count toward his PGA Tour victory total.

The status of the HSBC Champions as an official PGA Tour event could be changing.

“I do think it’s something we should look at it, and we are looking at it,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “I can argue that it’s not a big deal, and I think that’s probably the case. But still, it does raise the questions, ‘Shouldn’t there be a consistent approach to the WGCs?’ We are in the process of taking another look at that.”

Finchem said the International Federation of PGA Tours, which oversees the WGCs, is meeting during the British Open. He said the PGA Tour policy board would have to approve Shanghai as an official event, as would the other tours.

“It might not be resolved until the July board meeting, if there’s going to be a change,” Finchem said. “It’s under discussion now. To get it finalized would be the middle of the summer.”

One option could be to count it as official PGA Tour victory provided the winner is a PGA Tour member.
Among the more popular golf tournaments in Florida – one without much notoriety – is the Pro-Member at Seminole, the renowned course where Ben Hogan and others used to prepare for the Masters. Bubba Watson won in his debut this year with a 63, noting on Twitter that his team shot 61.

Another such event is in the works with just as much cache – the Pine Valley Pro-Member.

Pine Valley, perennially atop most lists of greatest American courses, plans to stage its first Pro-Member on July 28. The date makes sense because it’s the Monday of the AT&T National at Aronomink, a short drive away in the Philadelphia area.

But that’s bad news for Brad Faxon, a Pine Valley member who won’t be playing this year. It’s the same day as the CVS Charity Classic, which he hosts with Billy Andrade. The event has raised more than $4 million for New England charities.

Faxon said the Pine Valley Pro-Member won’t have any bearing on which players he can attract to this tournament because the CVS Charity Classic already has 12 of the 20 players, and he is in the market for three LPGA players.

Besides, Faxon said such Pro-Members are not always about tour players. Some of them are PGA professionals, and he said the Philadelphia section is among the best in the country. Chubby Chandler, the agent for Ernie Els and Lee Westwood, played as a pro at Seminole last week (he played the European Tour long ago).

“I just wish it wasn’t the same day because I want to play,” Faxon said. “It’s a wicked cool thing.”

Faxon said he hasn’t been a member long enough, nor has he had the time, to arrange for several PGA Tour players to come to Pine Valley for no other reason than he’s curious how they would play.

Faxon said his best score is a 67 from the member tees, although on a soft day with easy pins, he suspects a 63 or 64 is out there.

“Ben Crenshaw once said it was made more for match play than stroke play,” Faxon said. “Pine Valley is hard.”

Some pros might get a chance to find out for themselves.
Imagine the surprise of Adam Scott to learn about Sam Snead winning back-to-back at Pebble Beach – not that Snead wasn’t a capable golfer, but that the first victory was only 18 holes.

Scott does not get credit for his victory at Riviera in 2005 because rain shortened the tournament to 36 holes over five days. He won in a playoff over Chad Campbell.

The PGA Tour in 1998 stopped counting as official any victory that was not at least 54 holes. The policy board determined that 36 holes was not enough to clearly identify the best player that week.

Neal Lancaster still gets credit for winning the Byron Nelson in 1994 and Michael Bradley won the old Buick Challenge in 1996, both contested over 36 holes, both ending in a playoff.

“It’s kind of funny,” Scott said. “Maybe if I were to win a few majors before the end of my career, they’ll count L.A.”

Probably not. The Tour traditionally does not add or remove victories retroactively, except for the British Open.
The PGA Tour now has 12 winners in 12 tournaments this year, the longest stretch without a multiple winner since 2004 when Phil Mickelson picked up his second victory in the 15th event. … European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie is among who received exemptions to the Arnold Palmer Invitational. … Despite winning a PGA Tour event last week (Puerto Rico), Derek Lamely is still third in the FedEx Cup standings among rookies, behind Rickie Fowler and Alex Prugh.
Robert Allenby last week at Doral made an eagle on a par 3, a par 4 and a par 5.
“Tiger was thinking about the Grand Slam when he was a kid. Angel was thinking about food.” – Charlie Epps, swing coach for Angel Cabrera of Argentina, who grew up in poverty.

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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”