Golf's year-long schedule not likely going away

By Jason SobelOctober 28, 2013, 11:30 pm

It happens every April. Golf fans who have spent months eagerly anticipating the year’s first major championship wake up before the opening round of the Masters like it’s Christmas morning – only they’re told they can’t open their presents until mid-afternoon.

That’s because the telecast traditionally doesn’t start for some seven hours after the first tee shot is struck. It’s enough to send the collective golf fanbase into an unequaled rage over the inability to witness everything, all the time. Some would call it emblematic of our need-it-now society; others would say it’s just a natural reaction.

Either way, this happens despite limited commercial interruptions during the broadcast, despite increased coverage over the years and despite availability on various other multimedia platforms.

Every April. Like clockwork.

And yet, the Masters remains not only the most prestigious tournament for the world’s elite players, but likewise the crown jewel of any fan’s annual viewing schedule. The limited broadcast windows remain must-see TV because of – not in spite of – this lack of oversaturation.

That’s an important distinction – and therein lies a lesson for the rest of golf’s organizing bodies, one which they all continually struggle to comprehend.

The less-is-more philosophy that permeates the Masters each year isn’t a favorite of those watching from the living room couch, but it’s an inarguably successful business model. Unlike the other three majors, which feature live sunrise-to-sundown coverage, fans often feel like they can’t miss a minute of the action from Augusta due to its limited nature.

This same theory can be invoked in other areas of the game.

As you may have noticed, the PGA Tour is already three events into its new 2013-14 wraparound schedule, which started just 18 days after the 2013 campaign had concluded. Then again, you may not have noticed, as some admittedly entertaining tournaments have faded into the background of a sports landscape already deluged domestically with postseason baseball, professional and college football and the start to hockey and basketball seasons, not to mention even greater conflicts internationally.

The PGA Tour may reside as a Field of Dreams for its membership, but the pervasive “if you build it, they will come” mentality toward the consumer base is flimsy at best. Beginning three weeks ago, 49 of the next 52 weeks will host a PGA Tour-sanctioned event, whether official or not.

At the risk of sounding like a country singer crooning over a lovelorn relationship, we can reach this conclusion: You can’t miss something that never goes away.

That less-is-more philosophy of the folks in green jackets is continuously usurped by a more-is-more fundamental during the rest of the year. Can’t watch a tournament? Don’t worry, another one is just a few days away.

Let’s compare this to, oh, the NFL, which seems to have built a decent business model for growing its product. Speak with any football fan these days – and without question, you can’t walk out your front door and fail to find one – and ask how they feel about their passion in July and August. During these months, nearly a half-year since the last game that actually counted for something, the obsession has already morphed beyond withdrawal and past depression, now taking the form of anticipation once again, completing the cycle that lured them into such fandom in the first place.

If the PGA Tour wants its fans to witness these highs and lows, they’ll have to come between the hours of Sunday night and Thursday morning.

Don’t confuse this column, though, for one of those close-minded foot-stampings that invariably fail to see the other side. The truth is, the PGA Tour’s schedule is the ultimate Catch-22 situation.

While there are too many annual tournaments to ever force us to truly miss ‘em, there still aren’t enough opportunities for those with full-time membership. Even in the season’s first few weeks, with most of the elite players electing to take an extended vacation, there were plenty of Tour graduates who failed to get into the fields.

But that’s only scratching the surface of this paradox. The PGA Tour has contractual obligations to sponsors for every tournament. Even if it was in favor of contraction, the contracts would currently prevent it from contracting. Got it?

Then there’s the charitable aspect within each community. Take the Valero Texas Open, for example, which is hardly amongst the upper echelon in the PGA Tour’s hierarchy of events. The tournament has raised more than $50 million for local charities during its lengthy history, making it one of the more impactful in the yearly rotation. Is the governing body supposed to shut off that kind of support simply because there are too many tourneys on the calendar? Let’s hope not.

We’re past the point of no return. As those who run the Masters understand, purveying a less-is-more philosophy is something that has to be cultivated from the beginning as opposed to forged later on.

In 2006, when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem first introduced the impending FedEx Cup to debut the next year, he spoke about the need to give players an offseason while also not competing against football season. When it began, though, the final playoff events were directly opposite football and have been ever since.

All of which leads to another lesson: It’s ultimately difficult to indulge a less-is-more philosophy when we live in a more-is-more kind of world.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

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

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”