Easy on the hype

By John FeinsteinSeptember 13, 2011, 4:09 pm

There’s an old saying in sports: 'Sometime the key to success is learning how to try easier.'

The folks who run the PGA Tour may want to give that notion some consideration. They’re just trying too damn hard a lot of the time.

The Players Championship is a fine tournament played on a good golf course. It always has a strong field even when two of the top players in the world – Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy this year – take a pass. It is high on the list of second-tier events that fall just below the majors in importance.

It is also not the fifth major. The Tour often insists it hasn’t tried to claim it is the fifth major but there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. The move to May was made so that it could have its own month when nothing like the NCAA basketball tournament was also taking place. It was an attempt to imply that there was now an important tournament in five straight months.

When a player wins a major championship he is granted a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour. When a player wins The Players he is granted a five-year exemption as well. If you pick up a PGA Tour media guide there is a separate listing for each player’s record in “top tournaments.” Included are the majors and The Players, not to mention World Golf Championship events and playoff events.

That brings us to the playoffs. There is much to like about them. Even though they exist in large part because PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem had to find a way to get Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to show up for the Tour Championship, they have got most of the top players to show up for four straight events after the majors are over.

This never happened before the playoffs. Throw in the fact that several top guys added Greensboro to their schedule this year to get into the playoffs and there’s no doubt this has been a good thing for golf.

But please – PLEASE – can everyone stop screaming about the drama? Can we get the TV guys to stop calling the FedEx Cup golf’s “ultimate prize?”

It’s nice to win the FedEx Cup and it is certainly enriching with a $10 million first prize, not to mention the four $8 million tournaments that decide who wins the $10 million. But if you offered a player with any sense of history one major or five FedEx Cups, he’d take the major.

The points system needs to be overhauled and the Tour really should sit down with its “TV partners” and convince them that match play in the Tour Championship would be far more dramatic. TV people will scream that you need a chance to have Tiger and Phil on Sunday. This will be the third year in the last four they haven’t had Tiger so let’s get over that. And the ratings wouldn’t get much worse even if it was Paul Goydos vs. Kevin Sutherland in the championship match. (Sutherland is Goydos’s best friend and once won the WGC-Match Play title).

I’d watch that match. So would most golf geeks. And they’re about 95 percent of the people watching September golf regardless of who’s playing.

And finally, there is the Presidents Cup. This event exists because the Tour didn’t want to let IMG jump on the back of the Ryder Cup’s success in 1993 and create a similar event involving non-European stars like Greg Norman and Nick Price, who were the top two players in the world.

In 1994, American players were so eager to compete in the first Presidents Cup that Finchem, the new commissioner, had to fly into Tulsa the week of the PGA Championship to convince several of them to play. The best description of the Presidents Cup came years ago from Lanny Wadkins: “Why are we flying to Australia to play against a bunch of guys who live in Orlando?” he asked.

Good question. Is anyone going to get seriously excited about beating the rest of the world?

The European Tour and the PGA Tour have a healthy rivalry that helps fuel the Ryder Cup going back to 1927. Even at that it took Seve Ballesteros, a change in the rules allowing all of Europe to play and the Euros winning regularly to make the Ryder Cup important.

The Presidents Cup is never going to matter as much as the Ryder Cup. It doesn’t have the tradition; the U.S. has only lost it once and most of the guys on the evil Rest-of-the-World team play on the PGA Tour.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with the Presidents Cup. Some players would still rather not play it – it was rumored that one star player considered faking an injury a few years ago but was talked out of it – but the younger ones especially do like it. And it is good experience in team play for those who will play Ryder Cup in the future.

So here’s to the PGA Tour for holding a fine golf tournament in May, for creating the playoffs which gives us very good golf in September and for adding the Presidents Cup to the calendar so Fred Couples could have an excuse to hang out with Michael Jordan.

It’s all good. We just don’t need to be told over and over again that it is great.

The key is to try easier.

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USGA receives more than 9,000 U.S. Open entries

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 4:31 pm

The field of contestants for golf's most democratic major has been set.

The USGA announced that it received 9,049 entries for this year's U.S. Open, with the deadline for entry expiring at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. That total includes 515 applications on the final day, 115 in the final hour and a buzzer-beater from Drew Caudill, a 32-year-old pro from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who beat the entry deadline by only 23 seconds.

This marks the seventh straight year that the USGA has received more than 9,000 entries, but the total marks the second straight year of a decline in applications. At least 9,860 players entered each year from 2013-16, topping out in 2014 when 10,127 applications were received. But last year there were 9,485 entries for Erin Hills, and this year's return to Shinnecock yielded only one more application than the USGA got in 2005.

For the vast majority of entrants, the next step is a spot in 18-hole local qualifying which begins April 30 and runs through May 17. The fortunate few advance from there to 36-hole sectional qualifiers, played May 21 in Japan and June 4 across 11 other sites in the U.S. and England.

A total of 54 players are already exempt into the 156-man field, including 12 former winners. The only remaining ways to earn an exemption from qualifying are to win either The Players or BMW PGA Championship next month, or be ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which is hosting the event for the first time since 2004.

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Report: Houston Open may move to Memorial Park in '19

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

Still without a permanent spot on the PGA Tour schedule, the Houston Open appears to be on the move.

According to a report from the Houston Business Journal, there is a proposal in place to shift the tournament downtown in 2019, returning to Memorial Park Golf Course which previously hosted the event from 1951-1963.

While formal relocation plans have not been announced, the tournament officially reached the end of an era this week when the Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the event since 2003, informed the Houston Golf Association that it would no longer serve as tournament host moving forward.

"We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club's decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event," read an HGA statement obtained by GolfChannel.com. "Currently, the HGA's focus is on securing a long-term title sponsor. The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club."

Such a move would be a win for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who has expressed an interest in returning the tournament within city limits. The Golf Club of Houston is located in Humble, a suburb 20 miles northeast of downtown.

"This move would place the tournament on center stage in downtown Houston, creating a central location for the city to rally around," read marketing materials cited in the Business Journal report. "Houston Proud Partners of the Houston Open would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Houston Golf Association on this historic move and make a lasting statement that would be seen for generations."

The Houston Open's lineage dates back to 1946, but its future remains in question. Shell Oil ended its 26-year sponsorship of the event in 2017, and this year it was played without a title sponsor and financed in part by the HGA.

The tournament has also carved out a niche with its pre-Masters slot on the schedule, where it has been played every year but once since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. But next year that coveted position will go to the Valero Texas Open, leaving Houston's place on a revamped 2019 schedule in question.

The Houston Open remains one of only two tournaments on the current Tour calendar without a title sponsor. Earlier this week Charles Schwab signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019, and a report this week indicates the other unsponsored event, The National, may be on the verge of moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Detroit.

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With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

He didn’t even make it that far.

Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.