Notes Big Easy trying to mix golf and business

By Doug FergusonJanuary 12, 2011, 5:20 am

PGA TourHONOLULU – Ernie Els has reached a point in his career where he will not be traveling as far, and making decisions based as much on his business ventures as the golf itself.

One of the first tournaments to go is the Scottish Open, which he has won twice and played the last nine years.

Els signed an endorsement deal with the Royal Bank of Canada, the title sponsor of the Canadian Open. The third-oldest national championship in golf falls at an awkward time in the PGA Tour schedule – one week after the British Open, two weeks before the start of a grueling stretch that includes a World Golf Championship, the PGA Championship and four FedEx Cup playoff events.

The Big Easy said he would be there.

“Yes, but I’m changing it up,” he said. “I’m not going to play the Scottish Open.”

Els said he wants to focus more on America, where he now spends most of his time, and where his children are in school. He also is trying to raise money for an autism center in Florida.

“I’m going to play less in Europe, play a bit more in Asia,” he said. “That’s good for the personal brand and stuff we do out there.”

On the list of tournaments he likely will play is the Asia-Pacific Classic in Malaysia, where he is designing golf courses. He said his wine label is doing well in South Korea, so he will be at the Ballantines Championship at the end of April.

“Then you look at China,” he said. “China is quite a big market in just about everything. You’ve got to show your face there every now and then. I’d like to do that at the end of the year.”

Els is taking a four-week break from golf after the Sony Open this week. He said he hasn’t done that, except for injury, since before he had children when Els and his wife would go home to South Africa. That means missing the Middle East swing on the European Tour. Els said his next event when be the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.

Keeping an eye on business would seem to indicate a shift in his priorities, although Els said this has been going on for a few years.

“I’m just trying to position myself,” he said. “Obviously the world has changed the last few years. We used to have quite a bit of business in the U.S. That’s a little bit out the window now. You’ve got to look for work where it is. Asia is where it is.

“I’m definitely not thinking of retirement,” he said. “But I’m definitely positioning myself for when that day comes.”


 

ON AIR: It looks like Golf Channel’s plans to put a microphone on a player will get its first test at the Sony Open. Defending champion Ryan Palmer said he has agreed to be heard and seen during the first or second round at Waialae.

“I think it’s good,” he said with a slight hesitation.

Golf Channel does not plan to air the comments live, but package them in features as part of its spotlight on a player. The concern from some players has been private talk that can be heard by someone, even if it doesn’t make the broadcast.

“I think it’s good they can hear the talk between our shots and the green. Obviously, the only one listening is the guy in the truck, but who’s to say. But I’ve talked to them all. I’m confident they have to protect us and themselves.”

Television officials couldn’t find a volunteer among players they asked at Kapalua, and when Jonathan Byrd agreed, there were technical problems Friday. On the weekend, Byrd declined.

Palmer said he has never worn a microphone except when conducting a clinic.


 

FOOTBALL INTEREST: Matt Kuchar is the latest American to dip his toes in the Middle East. He said he will be playing the Qatar Masters the first week of February, which already has attracted Steve Stricker.

“I’ve never been to the Middle East,” Kuchar said. “You get an opportunity, and what the heck? It’s a place in the world I want to see.”

But there could be one problem.

Kuchar, who went to Georgia Tech and only recently moved from Atlanta, thinks the Atlanta Falcons have a good chance to get to the Super Bowl, which is Sunday of the final round at Qatar.

“That’s the one thing,” he said. “I think the Atlanta Falcons have a shot at the Super Bowl. I’ll be bummed if I’m in Qatar and I can’t see the Super Bowl.”


 

BIG BROTHER WATCHING: The disqualification of Camilo Villegas at Kapalua renewed outrage in some quarters that television viewers are able to report violations. But they don’t have to be watching from home, as Ryan Palmer learned.

In the opening round, Villegas hit a chip up the slope to the 15th hole and flicked away a few loose pieces of grass near his divot when he saw it rolling back. That violates Rules 23-1, and he was disqualified before the second round for an incorrect scorecard.

The day after Villegas was knocked out of the tournament, Palmer had a delicate chip up the hill to the 14th green. He hit it fat, and tamped down his divot as the ball was rolling back down the hill. It rolled about 6 feet away, nowhere near his previous shot. But given the Villegas incident, Palmer thought for a second that he might have broken the same rule.

A spectator thought the same thing and told PGA Tour rules official John Mutch, who met Palmer in the scoring trailer.

“The guy didn’t know what he was talking about,” Palmer said. “He saw me hit a shot and tamp down my divot. It rolled 6 feet away, not even close to my lie. I knew I hit it fat, and I knew it was coming down.”

Mutch asked him what happened, Palmer told him, and that was that.


 

MAHAN’S BIG WEEK: Hunter Mahan shot a 67 in his last PGA Tour round as a single man.

He tied for 25th in the Tournament of Champions, not bad considering it was a week before his matrimony. He is to wed Kandi Harris on Saturday in Dallas. The couple will go to Aspen, Colo., for their honeymoon, a popular place to ski.

This is where it gets interesting, because Mahan doesn’t ski.

“I’m going to take lessons,” Mahan said. “I wouldn’t say I have a desire to ski, but I’ve never done it and I’m looking forward to experience it.”

He plans to return at Torrey Pines, assuming he doesn’t get hurt on the slopes.


 

DIVOTS: Ten players who were at Kapalua to start the year have decided not to play the Sony Open. Among them is Bubba Watson, who plays a heavy West Coast schedule but added two events this year by winning – Maui and the Match Play. Three of the European players on Kapalua are going to Abu Dhabi next week. Bill Lunde is playing every other tournament on the West Coast. … The LPGA Tour said the Safeway Classic on Aug. 19-21 will be the final qualifying event for the Solheim Cup, to be held Sept. 23-25 in Ireland. … Joseph Bramlett, the first PGA Tour player of black heritage since Tiger Woods, has signed an endorsement deal with Nike.


 

STAT OF THE WEEK: Jonathan Byrd was the first PGA Tour player to win consecutive starts in a playoff since Tiger Woods, who won the 1999 American Express Championship and 2000 Mercedes Championship.


 

FINAL WORD: “You walk around on that range, you feel like you’re on a different tour.” – Ernie Els on the number of rookies making their first PGA Tour start at the Sony Open.

Cut and not so dry: Shinnecock back with a new look

By Bradley S. KleinMay 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - The last time the USGA was here at Shinnecock Hills, it nearly had a train wreck on its hands. The last day of the 2004 U.S. Open was so dry and the turf so firm that play was stopped in the morning just to get some water on the greens.

The lessons learned from that debacle are now on display three weeks before Shinnecock gets another U.S. Open. And this time, the USGA is prepared with all sorts of high-tech devices – firmness meters, moisture monitors, drone technology to measure turf temperatures - to make sure the playing surfaces remain healthy.

Players, meanwhile, will face a golf course that is 548 yards longer than a dozen years ago, topping out now at 7,445 yards for the par-70 layout. Ten new tees have assured that the course will keep up with technology and distance. They’ll also require players to contend with the bunkering and fairway contours that designer William Flynn built when he renovated Shinnecock Hills in 1930.

And those greens will not only have more consistent turf cover, they’ll also be a lot larger – like 30 percent bigger. What were mere circles averaging 5,500 square feet are now about 7,200 square feet. That will mean more hole locations, more variety to the setup, and more rollouts into surrounding low-mow areas. Slight misses that ended up in nearby rough will now be down in hollows many more yards away.



The course now has an open, windswept look to it – what longtime green chairman Charles Stevenson calls “a maritime grassland.” You don’t get to be green chairman of a prominent club for 37 years without learning how to deal with politics, and he’s been a master while implementing a long-term plan to bring the course back to its original scale and angles. In some cases that required moving tees back to recapture the threat posed by cross-bunkers and steep falloffs. Two of the bigger extensions come on the layout’s two par-5s, which got longer by an average of 60 yards. The downwind, downhill par-4 14th hole got stretched 73 yards and now plays 519.

“We want players to hit driver,” says USGA executive director Mike Davis.

The also want to place an emphasis upon strategy and position, which is why, after the club had expanded its fairways the last few years, the USGA decided last September to bring them back in somewhat.

The decision followed analysis of the driving statistics from the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where wide fairways proved very hospitable to play. Players who made the cut averaged hitting 77 percent of fairways and driving it 308 yards off the tee. There was little fear of the rough there. “We didn’t get the wind and the dry conditions we anticipated,” says Davis.

Moving ahead to Shinnecock Hills, he and the setup staff wanted to balance the need for architectural variety with a traditional emphasis upon accuracy. So they narrowed the fairways at Shinnecock Hills last September by seven acres. They are still much wider than in the U.S. Opens played here in 1986, 1995 and 2004, when the average width of the landing areas was 26.6 yards. “Now they are 41.6 yards across on average,” said Davis. So they are much wider than in previous U.S. Opens and make better use of the existing contours and bring lateral bunkers into play.

This time around, with more consistent, healthier turf cover and greens that have plenty of nutrients and moisture, the USGA should be able to avoid the disastrous drying out of the putting surfaces that threatened that final day in 2004. The players will also face a golf course that is more consistent than ever with its intended width, design, variety and challenge. That should make for a more interesting golf course and, by turn, more interesting viewing.

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys Documentary Series Continues Tonight at 8 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMay 21, 2018, 8:27 pm

Monday’s third installment in the four-part series focuses on the Big 12 Championships and NCAA Regional Championships

Reigning NCAA National Champion Oklahoma Sooners and Top-Ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys Prepare for Showdown Friday at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships

ORLANDO, Fla., May 21, 2018 – Tonight’s third episode of the critically-acclaimed documentary series Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys (8 p.m. ET) wraps up the conclusion of the 2017-18 regular season and turns to post-season play for the top-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and reigning NCAA National Champions Oklahoma Sooners.

Drivenwill take viewers behind the scenes with the conclusion of regular season play; the Big 12 Conference Championship, where Oklahoma captured their first conference championship since 2006; and the NCAA Regional Championships, where Oklahoma State and Oklahoma – both No. 1 seeds in their respective regionals – were both victorious and punched tickets to the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

The episode also will set up the showdown starting Friday at the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships, where Oklahoma State will attempt to dethrone Oklahoma as national champions, all taking place at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Oklahoma State’s home course. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be paired together for the first two rounds of individual stroke play Friday and Saturday.

Driven’s fourth and final episode will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16 at 5 p.m. ET, recapping all of the action at the NCAA Golf National Championships and the two programs’ 2017-18 golf seasons.

Golf Channel is airing back-to-back weeks of live tournament coverage of the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. Golf Channel’s coverage begins today (4-8 p.m. ET) to crown the individual national champion and track the teams attempting to qualify for the eight-team match play championship. Golf Channel’s coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22-23 will include all three rounds of team match play, ultimately crowning a team national champion. Next week (May 28-30), the same programming schedule will take place for the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

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Mann's impact on LPGA felt on and off course

By Randall MellMay 21, 2018, 8:00 pm

Just a few short hours after winning the U.S. Women’s Open in 1965, Carol Mann was surprised at the turn of emotion within her.

She called her friend and mentor, Marlene Hagge, and asked if they could meet for a glass of wine at the Atlantic City hotel where players were staying.

Hagge was one of the LPGA’s 13 founders.

“I’ll never forget Carol saying, `I don’t mean to sound funny, because winning the U.S. Women’s Open was wonderful, but is that all there is?’” Hagge told GolfChannel.com Monday after hearing news of Mann’s death.

It was one of the many defining moments in Mann’s rich life, because it revealed her relentless search for meaning, within the game, and beyond it.

Mann, an LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer, died at her home in Woodlands, Texas. She was 77.

“Carol was a very good friend, and a really sincere and good person,” Hagge said. “She was intelligent and insightful, the kind of person who always wanted to know the `why’ of things. She wasn’t content to be told this is the way something is. She had to know why.”

Mann’s search for meaning in the sport took her outside the ropes. She was a towering presence, at 6 feet 3, but her stature was more than physical. She won 38 LPGA titles, two of them major championships, but her mark on the game extended to her leadership skills.

From 1973 to ’76, Mann was president of the LPGA, leading the tour in challenging times.

“Carol was a significant player in the growth of the LPGA,” LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “She was involved when some big changes came to the tour. She was a talented woman beyond her golf.”

Mann oversaw the hiring of the tour’s first commissioner, Ray Volpe, a former NFL marketing executive. Their moves helped steer the tour out of the financial problems that threatened it.

“Carol was willing to do something nobody else wanted to do and nobody else had the brains to do,” Hagge said. “She loved the LPGA, and she wanted to make it a better place.”

At the cost of her own career.

Juggling the tour presidency with a playing career wasn’t easy.

“My golf seemed so secondary while I was president in 1975,” Mann once told author Liz Kahn for the book, “The LPGA: The Unauthorized Version.”

That was a pivotal year in tour history, with the LPGA struggling with an ongoing lawsuit, a legal battle Jane Blalock won when the courts ruled the tour violated antitrust laws by suspending her. With the tour appealing its legal defeats, a protracted battle threatened to cripple LPGA finances.

It was also the year Mann led the hiring of Volpe.

“I could barely get to the course in time to tee off,” Mann told Kahn. “There was so much other activity. I burned myself out a bit.”

Still, Mann somehow managed to win four times in ’75, but she wouldn’t again in the years that followed.

“I had launched a ship, and then I had to let it go, which was not easy,” she said of leaving her tour president’s role. “I was depressed thinking that no one on tour would say thank you to me for what I had done. Some would, others never would, and 10 years later players wouldn’t give a damn.”

Mann’s reign as a player and a leader aren’t fully appreciated today.

“A lot of players in the ‘60s haven’t been fully appreciated,” Rankin said.

Mann won 10 LPGA titles in 1968, the same year Kathy Whitworth won 10. Mann won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year. She won eight times in ’69 and was the tour’s leading money winner.

“Those were the toughest times to win,” Hagge said. “You had Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright, who is the best player I ever saw, and I saw them all. You had so many great players you had to beat in that era.”

Mann’s good humor came out when she was asked about her height.

“I’m 5-foot-15,” she liked to say.

After retiring from the tour at 40, Mann stayed active in golf, working as a TV analyst for NBC, ABC and ESPN. She found meaning in her Christian faith, and she was active supporting female athletes. She was president of the Women’s Sports Foundation for five years. She wrote a guest column for the Houston Post. She devoted herself to the World Golf Hall of Fame, taught at Woodlands Country Club and became the first woman to own and operate a course design and management firm.

“I’ve walked on the moon,” Mann once said. “I enjoy being a person, and getting old and dying are fine. I never think how people will remember Carol Mann. The mark I made is an intimate satisfaction.”

 

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Nelson win moves Wise to 12th in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 7:12 pm

Aaron Wise received plenty of perks with his title Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but the victory also brought with it a healthy bump in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings.

The 21-year-old notched his maiden win at Trinity Forest in impressive fashion, holding off Marc Leishman in near-darkness. After starting the week at No. 46 in the points race for Paris, Wise is now all the way up to 12th with the top eight players after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically for the team.

Jimmy Walker moved from 18th to 15th with a top-10 finish in Dallas, while an idle Tiger Woods dropped one position to No. 32.

Here's a look at the updated standings, as the top 11 names remained in order this week:

1. Patrick Reed

2. Justin Thomas

3. Dustin Johnson

4. Jordan Spieth

5. Bubba Watson

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Brooks Koepka

8. Phil Mickelson

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9. Webb Simpson

10. Matt Kuchar

11. Brian Harman

12. Aaron Wise

It was also a quiet week on the European side of the race, where the top four from both the European Points and World Points list in August will join a roster rounded out by four selections from captain Thomas Bjorn.

Here's a look at the latest European standings:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Jon Rahm

4. Ross Fisher

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5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Rory McIlroy

2. Tommy Fleetwood

3. Sergio Garcia

4. Alex Noren

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5. Ian Poulter