Im On Ernies Side

By Kraig KannOctober 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
In case you dont know the situation ' here it is. Ernie Els received correspondence from the PGA Tour letting him know that if he plans on keeping his PGA Tour membership in the coming years he will need to re-think his schedule of international competition (Read the news story).
The PGA Tour requires members to play a minimum 15 tournaments each year. Els, to date, has played in 15 and plans to play two more before years end, making for a total of 17.
Apparently, the PGA Tour wants more than that. Els says the PGA Tour wants 20 (appearances) and nothing abroad. And that has Els a bit miffed, to say the least.
Els feels that he more than supports the PGA Tour and plays golf on a global scale supporting the game on many tours and many continents. And he isnt about to change his line of thinking.
No, why should I? he said. Ive been doing this all my life. You cant start telling me, 'Hey, come over here and leave the rest of the world.' Its not going to happen that way.
Here are the facts which Els will no doubt bring up in discussions he has planned with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem: On the European Tour Order of Merit (which Els leads and has clinched the money title for the year), Ernie is listed as having played 15 events to date. Nine of those are strictly European Tour sanctioned events, the other six are events that count on both tours (four major championships and two World Golf Championship events.)
The PGA Tour allows a player three unconditional releases to play around the world. If another release is asked for and granted for a tournament that is played on the week of a PGA Tour event, the player must then play an additional PGA Tour event.
So by the numbers, according to a well-known agent, 15 events on the PGA Tour gives a player three chances to play overseas. After that, one additional release is granted for every five PGA Tour events played; i.e. 20 events equals four releases.
All of the rules and regulations aside, it seems quite clear to me that the PGA Tour has much more to lose here than it does to gain by attempting to strong-arm Els.
As a South African who has homes there, in England, the Bahamas and Orlando, and has membership on the South African, European and PGA Tours, he has always been about what is good for the game. If anything, Ernies been criticized for globetrotting a bit too much for his own good at the expense of proper preparation for major championships.
Take nothing from other superstars in the game, but Ernie Els is different than most. Sure, he gets his fair share of appearance money to play overseas, but money doesnt guarantee character. Hes a class act in nearly every way. Hes approachable, amicable to reasonable requests and quite personable in interview settings. He knows how to play to the sponsors as well.
Speaking strictly from my work with TGC and the Sprint Pre/Post Game shows and Golf Central, Els has made more on-set appearances than any big name player I can think of. And if choice A doesnt work for him, hell provide a choice B.
Ive watched him sign autographs, joke with fans and face the media when things are good and bad. Bottom line, Ernie Els gets it. And he gives the PGA Tour plenty when he does show up.

Since 1997, Els has competed in 141 PGA Tour events. Tiger Woods has played 155. And while tournament directors are left looking for other draws and other star appeal when Tiger doesnt show, youd have to believe they dont want chances of landing Ernie diminished.
In that phone conversation Thursday with the above-mentioned player agent, he made it fairly clear that this letter that Els received from the PGA Tour is all about trying to help the sponsors of PGA Tour events.
And keep in mind, the PGA Tours network television contract is set to be re-negotiated in the coming months and the tour wants every assurance it can deliver its top draws.
What confuses me so much is that both sides continually refer to this idea of tour pros being independent contractors. Well, are they or arent they?
The way I see this is simple. Its about money for the PGA Tour. Ernie Els makes them money. Happy sponsors makes for more money. Happy networks makes for more money.
For Ernie, theres money at stake too. as in appearance fees. But since 1995, hes always played at least the minimum 15 required events. Els has made it clear on more than one occasion to me that he simply likes to travel. He enjoys playing around the world, and he wants to keep it that way.
Id like to see Ernie play more in the U.S. too, but if you want the PGA Tour to attract the best players from around the world, then youd better keep things attractive to them.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

“I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

“If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.

12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.

1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.

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Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 5:30 pm

There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $7 million

Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)

Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

Notables in the field

Jordan Spieth

• Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week

• 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)

• Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)

Brooks Koepka

• Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)

• First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)

• First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)

Justin Thomas

• Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)

• Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)

Rory McIlroy

• Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)

• Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)

Jason Day

• Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)

• Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season

Patrick Reed

• Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018

• Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)

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Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:16 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.

The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.

Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.

“It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

“It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.

Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.

“It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”