World Golf Hall-Of-Famer Greg Norman Kicks Off Golf Channel's 2014 Season of Playing Lessons, Premiering Tuesday, April 29

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 25, 2014, 3:30 pm

Playing Lessons, Golf Channel’s instruction series hosted by Holly Sonders returns for a new season, premiering on Tuesday, April 29 at 7 p.m. ET with World Golf Hall-of-Famer Greg Norman. With episodes expanding to an hour, the new season kicks off with the Shark, as he and Sonders board Norman’s private plane bound for Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Club in Great Exuma, Bahamas. While walking the course that he designed, the Aussie shares the keys to a swing that guided him to a Hall-of-Fame career, and discusses his own dramatic experiences in the majors.

Norman joins a lineup of guests that include PGA TOUR stars Jonas Blixt, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker and Lee Westwood, as well as LPGA Tour stars Sandra Gal and Jessica Korda, among others. Sonders takes viewers inside the ropes and inside the minds of the game’s most elite players through a one-on-one conversation and practice round as the pros offer swing tips and advice on shot selection and course management. In addition to providing instruction insight from tee-to-green, the pros reveal some perspective on their lives away from the course.

“This season on Playing Lessons we’ll give viewers an up-close perspective of proven winners, who are armed with a wide variety of tips and advice for the amateur golfer to apply to their own game,” said Sonders, who also serves as a co-host for Golf Channel’s Morning Drive and School of Golf programs. “In each episode, I strive to give viewers the opportunity to walk the fairways alongside some of golf’s biggest stars to not only get a lesson on how they strategically make their way from tee to green, but also to learn about their personalities and lives outside the ropes that isn’t often seen on TV.”

The new season will feature 16 episodes, each including a series of rapid-fire questions for the featured player, including: an ideal foursome, the one shot that keeps him or her awake at night, and the best golf joke or funny story. Each guest also is challenged to a friendly competition. If the pro wins, Sonders is faced with a wide range of scenarios (i.e. shining Kuchar’s shoes, enlisting as a flight attendant on one of Norman’s private excursions, and eating an unusual Swedish dish from Blixt).

A new element debuting this season will showcase Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offering in-depth evaluations of each pro’s swing, incorporating graphics and animation to provide the viewer with comprehensive analysis. Chamblee also will present a historical perspective on each swing, examining its roots and citing examples from current and former players as a basis of comparison.

2014 Playing Lessons Episode Schedule

Tuesday, April 29: Greg Norman (Premiere)

Course: Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Club, Great Exuma, Bahamas

In the season premiere, Holly Sonders and Greg Norman board a flight to the Bahamas to tee it up at one of the Shark’s favorite courses he designed. Norman shares the secrets to his game that were instrumental in shaping his Hall-of-Fame success, and the two discuss the Shark’s major championship triumphs and shortcomings.

Tuesday, May 13: Matt Kuchar

Course: The Vintage Club, Indian Wells, Calif.

Coming off a victory at the RBC Heritage, Matt Kuchar joins Sonders to provide the keys to his consistent approach on TOUR, and how he continues to succeed with such an unconventional swing. Kuchar also discusses his best wins to date, admits to a practical joke played on Tiger Woods at the 2013 Presidents Cup Opening Ceremony, and offers perspective on family time away from the course.

Tuesday, May 20: Billy Horschel

Course: Ritz-Carlton Golf Club (Grande Lakes Orlando), Orlando, Fla.

One of the  more excitable and passionate players on the PGA TOUR, Billy Horschel discusses the golf skillset that helped him become a four-time All-American at the University of Florida. Horschel also looks back on his dramatic victory at last year’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Tuesday, June 3: Jessica Korda

Course: Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club, Bradenton, Fla.

One of the best up-and-coming Americans on the LPGA Tour, Jessica Korda provides insights on her short game and ball striking. The 20-year-old and two-time winner also talks about her journey that has translated into her becoming one of the best young players in the game.

Tuesday, June 17: Lee Westwood

Course: Old Palm Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

A three-time European Tour Player Of The Year, Lee Westwood joins Sonders at his home course of Old  Palm Golf Club to offer his keys to pure ball striking with irons, how to improve driving, and the steps to building a swing from the ground up. Westwood and Sonders also duel it out in a flop shot challenge.

Tuesday, June 24: Jonas Blixt

Course: TPC Sawgrass (Stadium course), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Developing a reputation as one of the best putters on TOUR – Jonas Blixt – runner-up at this year’s Masters, welcomes Sonders to his home course of TPC Sawgrass. The young Swede provides tips to making putts, the tools necessary to develop a reliable short game, and how to drive it like a TOUR player. Sonders also challenges Blixt to a closest to the pin contest at the famed 17th island-green par-3.

Tuesday, July 1: Sandra Gal

Course: The Golden Bear Club, Windermere, Fla.

One of the most talented European players on the LPGA Tour, Sandra Gal offers advice on how to hit it long and straight, and shares two simple steps to become a great putter. Gal also talks about life away from the course, and the future of the game.

Air Date - TBA: Jimmy Walker

Course: Cordillera Ranch Golf Club, Boerne, Texas

Already a three-time PGA TOUR winner in the 2013-2014 wraparound season, Jimmy Walker welcomes Sonders to his home course of Cordillera Ranch outside of San Antonio. Walker discusses all things instruction, including the changes he chose to make with his own game that helped him go from a relatively unknown professional to a PGA TOUR star, as well as his outlook on the Ryder Cup.

**Additional Guests TBA**

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Still missing the PLAYOFF part of the playoffs

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 18, 2018, 5:10 pm

The PGA Tour huddled for 3 ½ years, consulted with the geniuses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and ran countless simulations for its strokes-based system.

It still didn’t get it right.

In a move that surely will alienate many of its hardcore fans, the Tour on Tuesday unveiled its new format for the Tour Championship. Beginning next year, players will begin the week at East Lake with a predetermined total based on their position on the points list, the leader starting at 10 under par.

In an age of points and projections, the Tour’s desire for simplicity is understandable – RIP, Steve Sands’ whiteboard – but its new-look finale violates the spirit of competitive sports.

There are no head starts in sports. That’s the beauty of them.  

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots don’t open the Super Bowl with a 7-0 lead.

Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors don’t start the best-of-7 NBA Finals with a one-game advantage.

Lindsey Vonn doesn’t begin the Olympics with a three-second lead.

Roger Federer doesn’t automatically take a 1-0 lead on his Wimbledon opponent.  

But the PGA Tour has essentially created a handicapped tournament for its grand finale, for the 30 best players of the season.

What a missed opportunity.


Current FedExCup standings

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


No system is perfect, but this is exactly the kind of contrived idea that emerges when the Tour continually tries to conflate season-long performance with a season-ending “playoffs.”

It’s messy and unnecessary.

The most common criticism of the current FedExCup model is that the best players are rarely rewarded for season-long success. (Example: Brooks Koepka, a two-time major winner this season, starts this week as the No. 7 seed.) That’s taken care of with the new Wyndham Rewards Top 10, which will pay out $10 million in bonus money, including $2 million to the top points-earner, after the regular-season finale at the Wyndham Championship.

Perfect.

End it there.

Celebrate Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas or Bryson DeChambeau for their season-long excellence.

Then start the playoffs – a real playoff – where everyone starts at zero and where past performance guarantees nothing but a spot in the elimination tournament.

Only those who make the cut in the 100- or 125-man Northern Trust advance to the 70-player BMW Championship. If Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth play poorly and miss out, well, tough luck. Play better. Survive and advance.

At the BMW Championship, it’ll be a fight to finish inside the top 30 on the leaderboard, and it’s easy to imagine a 5-for-2 playoff at the conclusion of play for those attempting to crack the Tour Championship field.

Once the top 30 is finalized, there’s no need for a staggered stroke start.

Play a three-round stroke-play qualifier (Wednesday-Friday), then cut to the low 16 players and have a knockout match-play bracket over the weekend for $15 million.

Sure, some of the stars will have been cut in the previous two playoff events.

Others will fail to make the top 16 at East Lake.

But even if the final is whittled down to Kyle Stanley vs. Patton Kizzire, how cool would it be to watch two players go head to head for the richest prize in all of sports?

At least they’d have earned their spot in the championship.

At least the event would have stayed true to what it really is – a well-run tournament at the end of a long season that is a glorified cash grab.

The Tour wanted to create a unique end to the season, but that shouldn’t mean turning its big-money finale into a net tournament.

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Spieth's schedule violation 'resolved' and a 'win' for fans

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2018, 4:15 pm

ATLANTA – For the first time in his career Jordan Spieth failed to qualify for this week’s Tour Championship, an unexpected turn that also found him on the wrong side of a new PGA Tour regulation.

Under the circuit’s strength-of-field requirement, which began last season, a player must add an event to their schedule that they haven’t played the last four years if they didn’t play at least 25 events in the previous or current seasons.

Since he didn’t qualify for the finale, Spieth will finish the season with 24 events (including the Ryder Cup) and under the policy he “shall be subject to a major penalty,” which is a fine of at least $20,000 or even suspension.


Current FedExCup standings

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


What that means specifically for Spieth remains unclear, but on Tuesday at East Lake Andy Pazder, the Tour’s chief of operations, said the matter has been addressed.

“I have talked to Jordan and we’ve resolved it,” Pazder said. “We have come to a resolution. I’m not going to be able to share the details of that, [but] I will say the result is something that you will see next season. It’s resolved in a way that’s going to be a win for our tournaments, our fans and golf in general.”

Pazder’s response suggests that Spieth will likely add at least one new event to his schedule next year.

Spieth was not the only player to violate the policy the season. Ian Poulter only played 20 events in 2018, the same as he played last season, and he did not add a new event to his schedule. Pazder said that after the Englishman won the Houston Open in April he justifiably shifted his focus to qualifying for the European Ryder Cup team and played five events this summer in Europe, which kept him from reaching his 25-event minimum or adding an new event.

“We’ve come to a resolution on how he is going to address that,” Pazder said.

Spieth and Poulter are the first players to violate the policy.

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How the new Tour Championship format would look this year and last

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 18, 2018, 2:39 pm

The PGA Tour announced on Tuesday plans to change the FedExCup format for the 2018-19 season. Part of that plan is to assign pre-tournament strokes to players in the Tour Championship based on their playoff standings in the first two events. 

Per GolfChannel.com senior writer Rex Hoggard:

The No. 1 player on the post-season points list will begin the finale at 10 under par. The next four players will start at 8 under through 5 under, respectively, while Nos. 6-10 will begin the tournament at 4 under par with the total regressing by one stroke every five players with those ranked 26th through 30thstarting at even par. The winner at East Lake will also claim the FedExCup.

Here's a look at where players would start this year's Tour Championship under the new format (through the three events already contested):

1 Bryson DeChambeau 10 under
2 Justin Rose 8 under
3 Tony Finau 7 under
4 Dustin Johnson 6 under
5 Justin Thomas 5 under
T-6 Keegan Bradley 4 under
T-6 Brooks Koepka 4 under
T-6 Bubba Watson 4 under
T-6 Billy Horschel 4 under
T-6 Cameron Smith 4 under
T-11 Webb Simpson 3 under
T-11 Jason Day 3 under
T-11 Francesco Molinari 3 under
T-11 Phil Mickelson 3 under
T-11 Patrick Reed 3 under
T-16 Patrick Cantlay 2 under
T-16 Rory McIlroy 2 under
T-16 Xander Schauffele 2 under
T-16 Tommy Fleetwood 2 under
T-16 Tiger Woods 2 under
T-21 Aaron Wise 1 under
T-21 Kevin Na 1 under
T-21 Rickie Fowler 1 under
T-21 Jon Rahm 1 under
T-21 Kyle Stanley 1 under
T-26 Paul Casey Even par
T-26 Hideki Matsuyama Even par
T-26 Gary Woodland Even par
T-26 Marc Leishman Even par
T-26 Patton Kizzire Even par

Here's a look at how last year's Tour Championship played out, with Xander Schauffele winning the event and Justin Thomas claiming the overall FedExCup title, and how it would have looked, all things equal, under the new system (in which Jordan Spieth began the finale as the No. 1 seed and would have started the event at 10 under par). In the new system, Thomas would have been the FedExCup champion.

2017 Tour Championship Player Final score   2017 in new system Player Final score
1 Xander Schauffele -12   1 Justin Thomas  -19
2 Justin Thomas  -11    2 Jordan Spieth  -17 
T-3 Russell Henley  -10    3 Paul Casey  -13 
T-3 Kevin Kisner  -10    T-4 Jon Rahm  -12 
5 Paul Casey  -9    T-4 Brooks Koepka  -12 
6 Brooks Koepka  -8    T-4 Kevin Kisner  -12 
T-7 Tony Finau  -7    T-4 Xander Schauffele   -12
T-7 Jon Rahm  -7    T-8 Justin Rose  -10 
T-7 Jordan Spieth  -7    T-8 Russell Henley  -10 
T-10 Sergio Garcia  -6    T-10 Dustin Johnson  -9 
T-10 Matt Kuchar  -6    T-10 Matt Kuchar  -9 
T-10 Justin Rose  -6    12 Tony Finau  -8 
T-13 Patrick Reed  -5    T-13 Daniel Berger  -7 
T-13 Webb Simpson  -5    T-13 Webb Simpson  -7 
15 Daniel Berger  -4    T-13 Sergio Garcia  -7 
16 Pat Perez  -3    T-16 Pat Perez  -6 
T-17 Jason Day  -2    T-16 Patrick Reed -6 
T-17 Dustin Johnson  -2    18 Marc Leishman  -3
19 Gary Woodland  -1     T-19 Kyle Stanley  -1 
T-20 Patrick Cantlay    T-19 Gary Woodland  -1 
T-20 Jason Dufner    T-21 Jason Day 
T-20 Kyle Stanley  E   T-21 Adam Hadwin 
23 Adam Hadwin  +1   T-21 Patrick Cantlay 
T-24 Brian Harman  +3    T-21 Jason Dufner 
T-24 Marc Leishman  +3    25 Brian Harman  +1 
T-26 Rickie Fowler +6    T-26 Rickie Fowler  +2 
T-26 Hideki Matsuyama  +6    T-26 Hideki Matsuyama  +2 
T-28 Kevin Chappell  +9    28 Charley Hoffman  +6 
T-28 Charley Hoffman  +9    29 Kevin Chappell  +7 
30 Jnonattan Vegas  +10    30 Jhonattan Vegas  +8 
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Stock Watch: Up or down for FedExCup changes?

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 18, 2018, 2:20 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Angela Stanford (+9%): In this era of youthful dominance, Justin Rose and now Stanford offer reminders that sometimes the long, winding journey is even more rewarding. It took Rose 20 years to reach world No. 1; for Stanford, she needed 76 major starts (and 15 years after a major playoff loss) before she finally became a Grand Slam winner, at age 40.

Sang-Moon Bae (+6%): The next time you complain about losing your game after a few weeks away, remember that the two-time Tour winner shelved his clubs for TWO YEARS to fulfill his South Korean military obligations and then regained his card. That’s a heckuva achievement.

FedExCup changes (+5%): Though the Tour Championship shouldn’t count as an official victory – come on, the playoffs leader has a TEN-SHOT head start over No. 26! – the strokes-based system is no doubt easier to follow than the various points fluctuations. RIP, Steve Sands’ whiteboard.

Tyler McCumber (+3%): Maybe he’s on his way to challenging his famous father, who won 10 times on the PGA Tour. A three-time winner this season in Canada, McCumber clinched Mackenzie Tour Player of the Year honors and will be one to watch next year on the Web.

Matthew Wolff (+2%): The reigning NCAA Freshman of the Year is now 2-for-2 this season, winning at both Pebble Beach and Olympia Fields with a 67.2 scoring average. He’s a primetime player.  


FALLING

Amy Olson (-1%): To win a major most need to have their heart broken at least once … but that ugly 72nd-hole double bogey could linger for longer than she probably hoped.  

Lexi (-2%): As heartwarming as it was to watch Stanford snap her major-less drought, keep in mind that the best U.S. player – the 23-year-old Thompson – next April will be five years removed from her lone LPGA major title.

Web final (-3%): Twenty-five Tour cards will be on the line this week at the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship, but here’s guessing you won’t even notice – for some reason, it conflicts with the big tour’s season finale. Why couldn’t this have been played last week, when the Tour was dark and the Web could get some much-needed exposure?

Player of the Year debate (-5%): As much as the Tour might promote otherwise during its big-money conclusion, Justin Thomas said it best on Twitter: Majors trump all. It’s Brooks Koepka’s trophy this year.  

Repairing damage (-6%): Golf’s governing bodies are confident that the new rules (out Jan. 1!) will speed up pace of play, but it’s hard to see how that’s possible when they now will allow players to tap down spike marks on the green. With $1 million and major titles on the line, you don’t think guys will spend an extra minute or two gardening?