Seniors Have to Get More Pizzazz

By George WhiteNovember 9, 2006, 5:00 pm
I don't watch the 'senior' tour anymore. When the tour first started it was quite a novelty, watching great names of golf that hadn't been seen in awhile. Now the tour is dominated by 50-year-old mediocre golfers or, even worse, by 50-year-old duffers who never were good enough to play the PGA Tour. Hopefully the Senior Tour will one day simply fade away.
That e-mail, Im afraid, has become all too common to those who look into this space from time to time. The Champions Tour has come to a crossroads. This is not necessarily my opinion ' judging by the majority of comments of you the sporting public, its YOUR opinion.
Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer's retirement is a loss for the Champions Tour fans.
Lets face it ' the Champions Tour lives and dies by nostalgia. And lets face it ' Arnold Palmer is gone, Jack Nicklaus is gone, Lee Trevino is almost gone, Chi Chi Rodriguez is gone. The nostalgia is slowly being sapped right out of the senior tour.
The regular tour would be in the same situation if there were no Tiger Woods, by the way. So its not just the seniors who are being met with a vast chorus of who cares And the women, who started the year with all kinds of interest ' theyve slipped back somewhat on the wow meter with the second-half winners. This is not by any means the golfers fault ' it is the fault of the golf equipment manufacturers who have largely removed skill from the game, who have largely reduced it to a sport of bash-it ball. And it is the fault of teachers who have told their students that to succeed, you have to have a grim, no-nonsense attitude with no room for personality.
Which brings us to the seniors ' I still have not grown comfortable calling it the Champions Tour. And the seniors are currently in the midst of an identity crises. The PGA TOUR ' the Champions Tour governing body ' seems to insist that it be an association of the most skilled senior golfers. And the people seem to insist that they want their Arnies and their Chi Chis and Gary Players, scores be damned.
In their place, the tour has instituted players such as Dana Quigley and Allen Doyle , Tom Jenkins and Bruce Fleisher and David Eger. These guys might be real crowd-pleasers, but the sad reality is the people wont buy a ticket to see them if Trevino or Nicklaus or Arnie isnt around. Some are getting too old to participate (Palmer), some are too banged up (Trevino), some simply no longer have an interest (Nicklaus, and to a lesser extent Tom Watson). Slowly but surely, the Champions Tour is running out of Peoples Champions.
A mini-generation was bypassed when Greg Norman declined to play in no more than two or three events and Fuzzy Zoeller proved to be simply too hamstrung by injuries to be more than an also-ran player. The best players this year were Jay Haas and Loren Roberts, and both are great people and extremely capable players for their age. But neither is going to get people excited about hopping in the family sedan and hanging out at the golf course for six or seven hours.
The tour may get some help from next years class of rookies. Nick Faldo and Nick Price will turn 50, and so will Seve Ballesteros. Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer join this group, as does Mark OMeara and John Cook. For that matter, so does Italys Costantino Rocca, a real crowd-pleaser in Europe for a period of about five years.
But alas, Faldo probably wont play more than four or five events because of his TV obligations. Ballesteros would like to play, but his spine simply wont let him. Woosnam simply does not enjoy playing outside of the UK. Sam Torrance, who has great crowd presence, played the Champions for half a year and then retreated back to Scotland. And Rocca probably wont survive the stringent Champions rules for players who didnt make much money on the PGA TOUR.
How do you make this tour relevant again? Well, the answer is apparent that you dont do it by selling great golf. You do it by selling great names.
How do you do that? Ill confess, I dont know. But I would somehow arrange to get Chi Chi into the mix, and I would arrange to get Seve out to the tournaments, and I would have Arnold show up at every possible event. Norman has a beef with the commissioner, Tim Finchem, and probably wouldnt be interested in playing more often. But something has to be done to incorporate more of the big names, and that can only be done by acknowledging that all the big names dont necessarily play the best golf. Some are of great public interest by simply being who they are.
Keep the Haass and the Roberts and the Brad Bryants, by all means. But something has to be done to make this tour what it once was. If there isnt, it will one day just pass away, no one interested enough to come out and watch a Bobby Wadkins or a Gil Morgan or a David Edwards.
Is there a way to integrate the names people recognize with the names of the people who play the best golf? For the sake of the Champions Tour, I do hope so.
Email your thoughts to George White
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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.