A Shorter Season Hold On

By Kraig KannMarch 4, 2005, 5:00 pm
MIAMI, Fl. -- Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson spoke their minds on Wednesday here at Doral Resort & Spa. They want a shorter PGA Tour season. Actually, theyd like PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to make it happen in the next television contract (negotiations begin later this year) which slides into place in 2007.
Woods says hed like to see the season end on Labor Day, arguing that a PGA Tour season that wraps up alongside the football season is a battle thats not worth losing. And his schedule reflects his feelings. Woods played just two official stroke-play events last year after Labor Day.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods suggests a shorter season will lead to more meetings between the world's top players.
If you had a shorter season, wed (the top-ranked players in the world) be forced to play more against each other, Woods said. Its something Ive really been trying to get into Finchems ear about.'
Mickelson feels much like Woods, stating that history shows us the best players have never played more than about 22 events on average in any given season. For the record, Mickelson played 22 events himself in 2004, including four official tournaments after Labor Day.
As the argument goes, a current PGA Tour schedule that gives us 48 official events in a span of 44 weeks (dont forget the doubleheader weeks like Accenture Match Play and Chrysler Classic of Tucson) doesnt give golf fans the desired collection of true stars more than about half the time.
Lets be real. Woods and Mickelson are very important in all of this. They realize their position as the PGA Tours top two drawing cards, and thus their consistent presence is a big part of the network television puzzle. Network dollars, tournament purse dollars ' it all comes back to them. And theyre trying to protect their interests.
Also give them credit for efforts to try and bring up the level of competition among the games elite on a more regular basis.
You can bet Finchem ' whos rarely made a bogey in negotiations on behalf of his stars ' will have their thoughts in mind.
But Tiger and Phil, in my opinion, are being a bit selfish on this one. Lets step back a bit, fellas ' youre not the only guys on the PGA Tour. So heres a devils advocate viewpoint:
1. A shortened schedule makes it look like theyre playing more. Twenty or 22 events out of 32 sounds a lot better than 20 or 22 out of 44.
2. No matter how many anyone else plays, Woods and Mickelson neednt play more than 20 or so events to guarantee a run at the money title and about three to four to lock up playing privileges as a top-125 money list man for the next year. (Heck, each could win two of those starts.) They choose their schedule as they see fit anyhow, so what do they care?
3. Playing 20 events out of a possible 44 is already baseballs equivalent to a Barry Bonds playing just 75 of 162 games. Or Shaquille ONeal saying he only wants to play home games for the Miami Heat. Yes, the MLB and NBA schedules run shorter in weeks or months but the players are ' for the most part ' in uniform more often during their sports respective seasons. Some would argue that membership in golfs top league should require a player to travel and compete each and every week.
4. What happens to Q-School or the Nationwide Tour graduates? A shortened season ultimately means far fewer starts and less opportunity to play. What am I graduating to? Youre telling the young up-and-comers that while they own a PGA Tour card, the chances of actually keeping it, given a tour schedule reduced to, say, 32 events, are diminished.
5. Bottom line - a shortened schedule requires dumping tournaments off the schedule, and it will no doubt be the events that they dont regularly play anyhow. So why hurt the events they already dont support?
All this said, I just cant see Tim Finchem lopping off perhaps a quarter of the season in such dramatic fashion. During tough economic times, theres been plenty of hospitable goodwill and a good amount of corporate cash tossed the way of the PGA Tour over the years by smaller cities who realize a good thing when they have it. And while business is businesstelling tournaments to go pound the sand in your bunkers would be cruel.
Go ahead; try telling folks in Tucson (Chrysler Classic of Tucson) or Milwaukee (U.S. Bank Championship of Milwaukee) or Moline, Ill. (John Deere Classic) or Endicott, N.Y. (B.C. Open) that theyre being squeezed out of the tour schedule. It wont be pretty. Trust me; Ive been to all four of those events. Even without a strong showing of the games superstars each year, youd be hard pressed to find a more supportive foursome of events on the entire schedule.
By no means am I saying those events I mentioned would be the first to go under the Woods/Mickelson Plan for 2007 and beyond. But the comments made this week only add to an inferiority complex that some events have to begin with.
Didnt Tiger say Hello world in Milwaukee? Didnt Phil Mickelson ' the amateur ' put on the conquistador helmet as champion in Tucson?
Dont forget ones roots. And if, dare they say, youre going to take away their tour stop maybe you ought to think about giving those cities the WGC events. Hey Milwaukee ' Heres the Accenture Match Play. Or, Hey Tucson ' Heres the American Express Invitational. After all, doesnt each city in the league at some point get the MLB, NBA or NHL All-Star games? Spread the wealth; dont cash in a tournament citys enthusiastic existence.
For now, it seems to me that what Woods and Mickelson are pulling for is an exclusive tour for stars only. A Worlds Best Tour if you willa la what Greg Norman was talking about and harshly criticized for years ago.
Hey, Im all for Tiger and Phil having the chance to go head-to-head more often, but at the expense of your very own players and most supportive communities? The PGA Tour is about charityso lets be charitable while reasonable.
And who says things are so bad any how? Not me. How about you?
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

“I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

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As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

“I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

“I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

“[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

“He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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This week, let the games(manship) begin

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

“Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

“There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

“Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

“I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

“It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

“Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.

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Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Web.com Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.