Notes: Why Pebble is a PGA Tour major

By Doug FergusonFebruary 28, 2012, 4:10 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The definition of a star on the PGA Tour can go beyond trophies, career money or Ryder Cup teams.

Tour officials were looking for a couple of players to be partners with two important clients during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am two weeks ago. They settled on Ryan Palmer and Jason Bohn, two personable characters with five career wins between them.

The amateurs?

Mike Glenn, the executive vice president of market development of FedEx, which was in the final stages of renewing its sponsorship; and Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast, which owns NBC Sports and Golf Channel.

“I was pretty honored when the Tour called me and Bohn,” Palmer said. “I guess they knew how outgoing we’d be. They said they wanted us to play with clients, but they didn’t tell us who. We got there and found out we were playing with two of the biggest check-writers in the business.”

Bohn took the unusual step of emailing their amateurs and inviting them to play a practice round on Wednesday. Teams typically don’t hook up until the tournament begins Thursday, but they figured it would be time well spent instead of spending the first hour or two in competition getting to know each other.

“We had a little game with them,” Palmer said. “We made sure we kept it small. We can’t afford what they can. We had lunch in the Tap Room afterward and we hit it off.”

It got even better.

Bohn and Palmer played to grill steaks Friday night. They made a deal that if one of them shot 7-under 65, and they combined to post a 10 under par, they would splurge on a magnum of Caymus Special Selection cabernet sauvignon. They talked about it all day Friday, but they failed to get it done.

“We show up Saturday morning at Monterey Peninsula, and the bottle of Caymus is sitting between the tees on No. 1,” Palmer said. “Brian had done it. It was in the morning, cloudy, real cool, and we get to the tee box and bam! A magnum of that Caymus. He had one of his assistants take care of it, and when we got done, he gave it to me. I’m holding it like a baby.”

Two weeks later, the Tour announced a five-year extension of the FedEx Cup, although the contract was close to being completed even before the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

It was another example of why Pebble remains one of the most important events on the PGA Tour, with so many corporate heavyweights that are valuable to Tour affairs. And it can lead to relationships with players, never a bad thing.

Roberts is a member at Augusta National, and Palmer said he already has arranged a game this spring with Palmer, caddie James Edmondson and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.


THE JOURNEY: During weeks like the Match Play Championship, when Mark Wilson drives a courtesy car to The Ritz-Carlton to play for $8.5 million in prize money, it’s easy for him to remember how far he came.

After reaching the semifinals last week at Dove Mountain, he talked about his early days out of North Carolina when he began his journey on the mini-tours and played for money to pay the rent. OK, that was a slight exaggeration, but only because he lived at home.

“I was living with my parents and out of my Volkswagen,” said Wilson, who drove a 1998 Jetta. “That’s life on the mini tour. I was chasing my dream. I wouldn’t change my story at all. Those three or four years on the mini tour makes me appreciate more what we have out here. I remember the days of the loneliness out there and trying to find your game.”

There were not many five-star hotels. Some were lucky to have a street lamp.

“There was a place in Jacksonville, Ark.,” Wilson said when asked about the low point in his lodging. “There were a lot of critters in the room with me and my roommate. There was certainly no ironing board – not only in the room, but at the front desk. It makes me appreciate, like I said, the Ritz-Carlton.”

Wilson won the consolation match to finish third. He earned $600,000. That pushed his career earnings to over $12.6 million. He also went to a career-high No. 24 in the world ranking.


RESHUFFLE: One big week in the desert was all John Mallinger needed to help his schedule over the next month.

Mallinger tied for second in the Humana Challenge, which wound up moving him from No. 24 to No. 1 in the priority ranking of Q-School and Nationwide Tour grads. The list is reshuffled after the West Coast Swing, and it will not be changed until after the Masters.

It’s the pecking order for which players get into tournaments. Mallinger is in the Honda Classic this week, which would not have happened if he had stayed at No. 24.

Sang-Moon Bae, who lost in the quarterfinals at Match Play, went from No. 20 to No. 2.

The road to the Masters is a tough time to be getting into big tournaments, for it includes a World Golf Championship next week at Doral and the Arnold Palmer Invitational (120-man field) at Bay Hill.

Bae was among the top 50 from his success on the Japan Golf Tour last year, and was in Doral, anyway.

The biggest drop was Stephen Gangluff, who went from No. 3 in the priority ranking to No. 41 after the reshuffle. He played six times and made two cuts, finishing 77th in Phoenix and tying for 73rd in Mexico.


NO SPRINGBOARD: Winning an opposite-field event comes with a two-year exemption, though the FedEx Cup points are cut in half, and prize money is the smallest of the year.

Winning doesn’t always guarantee a change in status, as the Mayakoba Golf Classic has shown.

Four of the last five champions were in Mexico last week – defending champion Johnson WagnerCameron BeckmanBrian Gay and Fred Funk. The exception was Mark Wilson (2009 champion), who has won three times in the last four months. Wilson finished third at the Match Play Championship in Arizona and earned $600,000 – $66,000 less than what John Huh earned for winning in Mexico.


DIVOTS: Hall of Fame member Judy Rankin lost her husband of 45 years last week when Walter “Yippy” Rankin, a popular figure on the LPGA as his wife played and later worked in television, died after a long battle with cancer. They had been married 44 years. The memorial service was Monday in Midland, Texas. … A Champions Tour player has finished in the top 10 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic the last two years. John Cook was third in 2011, and Michael Allen tied for ninth this year. … Johnson Wagner donated $12,500 to The First Tee of Greater Houston. Wagner won the Houston Open in 2008.


STAT OF THE WEEK: American-born players have won the opening nine events on the PGA Tour, the longest such streak since 1991 when the list of winners included Phil Mickelson, who was an amateur at Arizona State. Americans won the first 11 events that year, a streak that Ian Woosnam ended at New Orleans to go to No. 1 in the world.


FINAL WORD: “This is the Tiger Woods in the now time. (We) can’t keep going back and comparing where he was.” – Nick Faldo.

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Norman to pose in ESPN's 'Body Issue'

By Grill Room TeamJune 19, 2018, 2:05 pm

Professional golfers have, from time to time, appeared in ESPN's "Body Issue," which features athletes strategically posed in the nude. The list includes: Belen Mozo, Carly Booth, Gary Player, Camilo Villegas, Sandra Gal, Christina Kim, Anna Grzebien, Suzann Pettersen and Sadena Parks.

And now, Greg Norman.

Modesty has never been an issue for Norman, who has an affinity for posing without a shirt (and sometimes without pants) on his Instagram account.

He joins a list of athletes, in this year's edition, ranging from professional wrestlers (Charlotte Flair) to Olympians (Adam Rippon) to WNBA stars (Sue Bird). Click here for a full list of the athletes to appear.

 

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DJ listed as betting favorite for The Open

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 2:00 pm

With the U.S. Open officially in the books, oddsmakers quickly turned their attention to the season's third major.

Minutes after Brooks Koepka holed the winning putt to successfully defend his title at Shinnecock Hills, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published its first set of odds for The Open. Jordan Spieth, who opened at 14/1, will defend his title as the tournament shifts to Carnoustie in Scotland for the first time since 2007, when Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff.

Joining Spieth at 14/1 is 2014 Open champion Rory McIlroy, but they're both listed behind world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Johnson, who was a runner-up at the 2011 Open at Royal St. George's and just finished third at the U.S. Open, opened as a 12/1 betting favorite. Koepka, now a two-time major winner, is listed at 20/1 alongside U.S. Open runner-up Tommy Fleetwood.

Here's a look at the first edition of odds, with The Open just five weeks away:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

14/1: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy

16/1: Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas

20/1: Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Phil Mickelson, Branden Grace, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Marc Leishman

50/1: Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Tyrrell Hatton

60/1: Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick

80/1: Tony Finau, Zach Johnson, Thomas Pieters, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson, Shane Lowry

100/1: Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker

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Golf Channel, Loch Lomond Partner on Claret Jug Tour Ahead of 147TH Open

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJune 18, 2018, 9:35 pm

Award-Winning Independent Scotcb Whisky Sponsoring Tour to Select U.S. Cities; Will Include Special Tastings and Opportunities for Fans to Engage with Golf’s Most Storied Trophy

Golf Channel and Loch Lomond Group are partnering on a promotional tour with the Claret Jug – golf’s most iconic trophy, first awarded in 1873 to the winner of The Open – to select U.S. cities in advance of the 147TH Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. Loch Lomond Whisky’s sponsorship of the tour further enhances the brand’s existing five-year partnership with the R&A as the official spirit of The Open, initially announced in February.

“We are proud to partner with Golf Channel to support this tour of golf’s most iconic trophy,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group. “Whisky and golf are two of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world, and following the news of our recent partnership with the R&A for The Open, being a part of the Claret Jug tour was a perfect fit for Loch Lomond Group to further showcase our commitment to the game.”

“The Loch Lomond Group could not be a more natural fit to sponsor the Claret Jug tour,” said Tom Knapp, senior vice president of golf sponsorship, NBC Sports Group. “Much like the storied history that accompanies the Claret Jug, Loch Lomond’s Scottish roots trace back centuries ago, and their aspirations to align with golf’s most celebrated traditions will resonate with a broad range of consumers in addition to golf fans and whisky enthusiasts.”

The tour kicks off today in Austin, Texas, and will culminate on Wednesday, July 11 at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe one week prior to The Open. Those wishing to engage with the Claret Jug will have an opportunity at one of several tour stops being staged at Topgolf locations in select cities. The tour will feature a custom, authentic Scottish pub where consumers (of age) can sample Loch Lomond’s portfolio of whiskies in the spirit of golf’s original championship and the Claret Jug. The Claret Jug also will make special pop-up visits to select GolfNow course partners located within some of the designated tour markets.

(All Times Local)

Monday, June 18                    Austin, Texas              (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, June 19                    Houston                      (Topgolf, 5-8 p.m.)

Wednesday, June 20               Jacksonville, Fla.        (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Monday, June 25                    Orlando, Fla.               (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Wednesday, July 4                 Washington D.C.        (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m. – Ashburn, Va.)

Monday, July 9                       Edison, N.J.                (Topgolf, Time TBA)

Wednesday, July 11               Lake Tahoe, Nev.       American Century Championship (On Course)

Fans interacting with the Claret Jug and Loch Lomond during the course of the tour are encouraged to share their experience using the hashtag, #ClaretJug on social media, and tag @TheOpen and @LochLomondMalts on Twitter and Instagram.

NBC Sports Group is the exclusive U.S. television home of the 147TH Open from Carnoustie, with nearly 50 live hours of tournament coverage, Thursday-Sunday, July 19-22. The Claret Jug is presented each July to the winner of The Open, with the winner also being given the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year” until the following year’s event is staged. The Claret Jug is one of the most storied trophies in all of sports; first presented to the 1873 winner of The Open, Tom Kidd. Each year, the winner’s name is engraved on to the trophy, forever etched into the history of golf’s original championship. It is customary for the Champion Golfer of the Year to drink a favorite alcoholic beverage from the Claret Jug in celebration of the victory.

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USGA-player relationship at a breaking point?

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 8:00 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For seven days each year, the American game’s preeminent governing body welcomes the best players in the world with open arms. They set up shop at one of the premier courses in the country, and line it with grandstands and white hospitality tents as far as the eye can see.

The players arrive, first at a slow trickle and then at a steady pace. And once they’ve registered and clipped their player medallions over their belts, they’re told how this year is going to be different.

How this time around, be it in a Washington gravel pit or on a time-tested piece of land on the tip of Long Island, the USGA will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That the process of identifying the best players in the world will not veer into the territory of embarrassing them.

Like a college sweetheart in search of reconciliation, the powers-that-be preach a changed attitude and a more even-handed approach. Then, inevitably, they commit the same cardinal sins they promised to avoid.

So year in and year out, the scar tissue builds. Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football and, for most of the players not named Brooks Koepka, he ends up on his butt in a cloud of dust and fescue.



After letting Shinnecock Hills plunge into avoidable yet all-too-familiar territory over the weekend – before being doused back to life – one thing is clear: in the eyes of many players, the USGA can’t be trusted.

“When are they going to get it right? I just feel like they disrespect these historic golf courses,” said Scott Piercy, a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open who got swept away this week during a crispy third round en route to a T-45 finish. “I think they disrespect the players, I think they disrespect the game of golf. And they’re supposed to be, like, the top body in the game of golf. And they disrespect it, every aspect of it.”

Piercy, like several players in this week’s field, had a few specific gripes about how Shinnecock was set up, especially during the third round when USGA CEO Mike Davis admitted his organization lost control in a display that echoed the mistakes of 2004. But this was not an isolated case.

Players went with skepticism to Chambers Bay three years ago, only to encounter greens that were largely dirt and got compared to produce. Mismatched grass strains, they were told. Whoops.

The next year the USGA threw a dark cloud over a classic venue by allowing much of the final round at Oakmont to play without knowing the leader’s actual score as a rules fiasco reached a furious boil. Last year’s Erin Hills experiment was met with malaise.

At this point, the schism runs much deeper than a single error in setup. It threatens the core competency of the organization in the eyes of several of the players it looks to serve.

“They do what they want, and they don’t do it very well. As far as I’m concerned, there is no relationship (between players and the USGA),” said Marc Leishman. “They try and do it. They do it on purpose. They say they want to test us mentally, and they do that by doing dumb stuff.”



By and large, players who took issue with the USGA’s tactics had a simple solution: put more of the setup choices in the hands of those who oversee PGA Tour and European Tour venues on a regular basis. While some of those personnel already moonlight in USGA sweater-vests for the week, there is a strong sentiment that their collective knowledge could be more heavily relied upon.

“I know (the USGA) takes great pride in doing all this stuff they do to these golf courses, but they see it once a year,” Brandt Snedeker said. “Let those guys say, ‘Hey, we see this every week. We know what the edge is. We know where it is.’ We can’t be out there playing silly golf.”

That’s not to say that a major should masquerade as the Travelers Championship. But the U.S. Open is the only one of the four that struggles to keep setup shortfalls from becoming a dominant storyline.

It all adds up to a largely adversarial relationship, one that continues to fray after this weekend’s dramatics and which isn’t helped by the USGA’s insistence that they should rarely shoulder the blame.

“They’re not going to listen, for one. Mike Davis thinks he’s got all the answers, that’s No. 2,” said Pat Perez after a T-36 finish. “And when he is wrong, there’s no apologies. It’s just, ‘Yeah, you know, we kind of let it get out of hand.’ Well, no kidding. Look at the scores. That’s the problem. It’s so preventable. You don’t have to let it get to that point.”



But this wound festers from more than just slick greens and thick rough. There is a perception among some players that the USGA gets overly zealous in crafting complicated rules with complex decisions, a collection of amateur golfers doling out the fine print that lords over the professional game on a weekly basis – with the curious handling of whatever Phil Mickelson did on the 13th green Saturday serving as just the latest example.

The gripes over setup each year at the USGA’s biggest event, when it’s perceived that same group swoops in to take the reins for a single week before heading for the hills, simply serve as icing on the cake. And there was plenty of icing this week after players were implored to trust that the miscues of 2004 would not be repeated.

“To say that the players and the USGA have had a close relationship would be a false statement,” Snedeker said. “They keep saying all the right things, and they’re trying to do all the right things, I think. But it’s just not coming through when it matters.”

It’s worth noting that the USGA has made efforts recently to ramp up its communication with the top pros. Officials from the organization have regularly attended the Tour’s player meetings in recent months, and Snedeker believes that some strides have been made.

So, too, does Zach Johnson, who was one of the first to come out after the third round and declare that the USGA had once again lost the golf course.

“I think they’ve really started to over the last few years, last couple years in particular, tried to increase veins of communication,” Johnson said. “When you’re talking about a week that is held in the highest regards, I’m assuming within the organization and certainly within my peer group as one of the four majors and my nation’s major, communication is paramount.”



But the exact size of the credibility gap the USGA has to bridge with some top pros remains unclear. It’s likely not a sting that one good week of tournament setup can assuage, even going to one of the more straightforward options in the rotation next year at Pebble Beach.

After all, Snedeker was quick to recall that players struggled mightily to hit the par-3 17th green back in 2010, with eventual champ Graeme McDowell calling the hole “borderline unfair” ahead of the third round.

“It’s one of the greatest holes in world golf, but I don’t really know how I can hit the back left portion of the green,” McDowell said at the time. “It’s nearly impossible.”

Surely this time next year, Davis will explain how the USGA has expanded its arsenal in the last decade, and that subsequent changes to the 17th green structure will make it more playable. His organization will then push the course to the brink, like a climber who insists on scaling Mount Everest without oxygen, and they’ll tell 156 players that this time, finally, the desired balance between difficult and fair has been achieved.

Whether they’ll be believed remains to be seen.