Finchem happy to see strong European Tour

By Doug FergusonJanuary 6, 2011, 5:59 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – The European Tour is stronger than ever, and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says he’s glad to see it.

The new golf season begins Thursday with the balance of power shifting toward Europe, which has the new world No. 1 in Lee Westwood and seven players among the top 11 in the world.

Westwood, PGA champion Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy have decided not to take up membership in America, and the European Tour over the last two years has increased to 13 the number of events required of its players.

All three were eligible for the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, but chose not to attend. British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, meanwhile, has chosen to play at home in the Africa Open.

“This recent focus on three or four players, particularly as it relates to Europe, does not cause us concern,” Finchem said. “We see the need for these players to support the tour in Europe. We feel like a strong European Tour is in everybody’s interests – in our interests.”

The PGA Tour remains the strongest in the golf – 36 of the top 50 in the world ranking are members. Beyond Europe, it attracts the top players from South Africa, Australia and South America.

Finchem acknowledged making it tough on Europe and chief executive George O’Grady four years ago when he moved The Players Championship – the richest event in golf – to May and created the FedEx Cup with its four-event playoff system in late summer.

That meant European Tour players who also are PGA Tour members abandoned their home circuit at critical times in the May and September.

“The European Tour has been under a lot of pressure, and we didn’t help their cause,” Finchem said. “So the fact that they have worked hard to encourage their players to play more … is understandable. And we don’t complain about that. We think that those steps are reasonable, and we support players playing more over there, even though it might cost us some starts over here.

“We feel like we are strong enough and we like the balance of international players.”

Finchem said the tour has 75 international players this year, and he likes that balance. He said it would not be good for the PGA Tour to be populated by 90 percent of players from outside America because “we need to appeal to the market in the United States.”

“It’s a balance that allows us to be very successful in the United States, and at the same be very successful in distributing our television product around the globe,” he said. “As long as those two things are working, we don’t have any concerns about this other stuff.”

Finchem said there was no plan to change its rule granting international players to play more than 10 or 12 tournaments a year on the PGA Tour if they are not members.

McIlroy and Westwood, who gave up their memberships, can only play 10 events (not including The Players Championship), while Kaymer, Francesco Molinari and Ryo Ishikawa can play 12 because they have never been members.

Finchem also said the FedEx Cup points system will stay the same for 2011.

There had been several complaints that a player far down in the standings only needed one good tournament – without winning – to advance to the Tour Championship and become eligible for three of the majors.

Martin Laird started at No. 95 and Kevin Streelman was at No. 102. Laird finished second at The Barclays and Streelman tied for third, and that was enough for both to advance to the final playoff event at East Lake.

Some players complained that eight months of work leading up to the playoffs was not as important as one good week, especially without winning a tournament.

“We just felt it was a little quick to react to that. We would rather watch it another year,” Finchem said. “I do think it’s an issue that clearly deserves watching. And then the other side of it – a smaller reason – was that we just felt we wanted a solid continuity to get more fans involved in the process without a distraction of explaining a change.”

On drug testing, Finchem said he is not ready to cut back on testing to save money, even though only one player – Doug Barron – has tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in three years.

“The upshot of the amount of testing we have done, which is significant, is that we certainly don’t have any kind of widespread problem,” Finchem said. “I think that’s due to the nature of the sport to some extent, but also to the diligence of the players in paying attention to the program, doing their homework, being careful, calling and asking questions.”

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.