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Tour schedule: Big changes will lead to tough choices

By Rex HoggardJuly 10, 2018, 12:57 pm

This began as a typical brainstorming session, an opportunity to take a hard look from 30,000 feet at a sprawling business.

“It wasn’t a schedule conversation, it was a product conversation,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan recently explained. “The question was, are we producing the best possible product for our fans? One of the things that we realized is, 11 years in, the FedExCup Playoffs continue to grow. We felt like ending Week 1, Week 2 of the NFL [season], that was a big issue and we needed to solve it.”

That conversation began in early 2016 and the answers to those tough questions were officially given on Tuesday when the Tour unveiled the dramatically overhauled 2018-19 schedule.

From thousands of iterations, competing interests, and moving parts was born a lineup that now features five consecutive months of marquee events starting with The Players in March, the Masters in April (come on, you knew the spring member-member wasn’t going anywhere), PGA Championship in May, U.S. Open in June and Open Championship in July. This major Murderers’ Row will give golf clear ownership of a portion of the sports calendar.



The new schedule will also feature an earlier finish to the season, with the Tour Championship scheduled to be played Aug. 21-25, two weeks before the start of the NFL season, which has always cast a wide shadow over what was supposed to be the Tour’s big finish.

Although it took more than two years to get here, there’s no denying the need and success of what is essentially a condensed schedule. The new dance card will certainly make the Tour better and it will also make golf better, but like most extreme makeovers there has been and will continue to be a cost.

After a dozen years of hearing how much better The Players is in May, transitioning back to March will be awkward at best; and the PGA Championship’s relocation to May could take some of the event’s more storied Northeastern venues out of the rotation.

But if The Players and PGA moves are the highlights of the new schedule, the devil really is in the details.

Gone from the 2019 schedule will be The National, Tiger Woods’ event in Washington, D.C., which began with so much promise in 2007, and the Dell Technologies Championship, which had been the second playoff stop.

Although TPC Boston, site of the Dell Technologies event, will host the first playoff event, The Northern Trust, every other year starting in 2020, it’s still a hit for one of the Tour’s largest markets.

Though many observers liked the idea of a condensed schedule, in practice it’s going to take some getting used to.

Essentially, the Tour had to shed four weeks off the season to move out of football’s shadow. Losing the Boston playoff event and the post-season “bye” week was half the bill. The Houston Open was relocated to the fall portion of the schedule, and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was replaced by an existing event in Memphis.

If that all sounds clean and easy, consider that the run up to the post-season will now feature a major (The Open), a World Golf Championship (Memphis) and the Wyndham Championship. Including the three playoff stops, that’s five must-play events in a six-week window.

There’s also a question of how the 2020 Olympics, which will be played in Tokyo from July 24 to Aug. 9, will fit into what currently is an already hectic portion of the schedule.

Similarly, the spring line up heading into the Masters will now feature two World Golf Championships and The Players. The game’s stars will likely continue to play either the Honda Classic or Arnold Palmer Invitational, which means five starts in eight weeks.

How this congestion impacts events like Bay Hill or the AT&T Byron Nelson, which will now be played the week before the PGA Championship, remains to be seen, but there will be tough choices made.

Consider the RBC Canadian Open, which has been mired in a post-Open Championship vortex, will now be played the week before the U.S. Open. Depending on where the American championship is played, the move could give the field in Canada a boost, but it’s hard to imagine how it’s going to lead to long-term improvements.

Give Monahan and his team credit, from a thousand different variations and moving parts has come a schedule most of the circuit’s constituents, and eventually the fans, can embrace.

“Let’s look at the overall schedule and the flow and a thousand different versions on how to make it work, along with looking at the overall landscape of sporting events,” said Monahan when he was recently asked to explain the schedule process. “You think about what other leagues might do and you look at their schedule, you’re trying to balance what you know now with what you think others might think about.”

Throughout this complicated process, the commissioner and Co. never lost focus on the ultimate goal, ending before football season began, and although it wasn’t painless it did turn out to be change with a purpose.

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1

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Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”