Can 'hack' concept save golf?

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2014, 11:45 pm

“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”

- Linus Pauling, world-renowned chemist

ORLANDO, Fla. – Behind the bright lights and big words, ideas are what this night was all about.

Before a packed house on the eve of this year’s PGA Merchandise Show, TaylorMade Adidas Golf CEO Mark King unabashedly announced that the answer to golf’s dwindling participation numbers rests among the collective and not the caverns of power that have for years tried, and largely failed, to stem the ebbing tide.

First, King – with the aid of National Golf Foundation CEO and statistician Joe Beditz – outlined the stark reality. Golf has lost an estimated 5 million players in the last decade. Even more concerning, 25 percent of the game’s core golfers have made their way to the exit.

“We’re leaking golfers,” Beditz announced to a crowd of mostly PGA professionals and golf course operators.

And like any good intervention, King – never one to shy away from a fight – offered the ultimate haymaker to any in the old guard who wish to cling to the last stages of denial.

“Our great game has been in a state of decline and a lot of people don’t want to acknowledge that,” King said.

The issue, as Beditz crunched it, is partly perception, partly relevance. “Research says they are just not having fun,” he said.

While “fun” may be a buzz word on Beditz’s surveys, it seems cost, time and degree of difficulty also factor into the game’s diminishing participation numbers, but now doesn’t seem like the time to get caught up in semantics.

Besides, as King sees it the “why” is not as relevant as what it will take to improve golf’s appeal to a wider audience, which is where Gary Hamel, who was recently called the world’s most influential business thinker by the Wall Street Journal, joins the conversation.

Hamel talks fast, eschews ambiguity for the frontal assault and views golf’s participation problem no different than if the game were a Fortune 500 company with a creativity issue.

“We have to listen to the canaries in the coal mine,” Hamel said.

To do that Hamel has been picked to help spearhead a new grow-the-game initiative called “Hack Golf.” King admits he’s not crazy about the name, but the concept is revolutionary.

Much like the tech companies that had hit innovation walls in the early 2000s, Hamel contends golf is ripe for crowd sourcing, or, as he explains, extended online brainstorming sessions.

“We need hundreds of mind-flipping ideas, not dozens,” he said.

Whereas golf “think tanks” have historically consisted of industry insiders who seem to have been mired in the flawed participation models of the past, Hack Golf will attempt to collect ideas from every corner of the golf universe and beyond.

Via the initiative’s web site,, and Twitter, @HackGolfOrg, King & Co. plan to take the best ideas and put them in play with a surprisingly specific plan.

Until April, which organizers are calling the beta phase, Hack Golf will cherry-pick the very best ideas, with no constraints from equipment and format changes to new technology and rules.

We have seen these types of “game-changing” initiatives before. From Golf 20/20 to Get Golf Ready to Golf 2.0, the industry has tried and largely failed, if Beditz’s numbers are to be believed, to stem the steady participation declines.

For his part, King has committed up to $5 million in funding for whatever ideas, or “hacks,” the concept produces and has dedicated an entire team of TaylorMade employees to lead the collection of data and implementation of ideas.

In fact, King seemed to begin the dialogue with his suggestion on Tuesday that golf’s current “pyramid of influence” should be redefined, with the PGA of America assuming the top spot over the U.S. Golf Association, PGA Tour and Royal & Ancient because, he points out, PGA professionals will ultimately decide if the game is able to break free of its current participation malaise.

This will ultimately come down to a confrontation between tradition and innovation. Breaking down preconceived notions that were centuries in the making is no easy task and this kind of outside-of-the-box thinking has not exactly been embraced by golf’s power brokers.

King, however, is convinced it is the only path forward.

“They are not mutually exclusive; tradition and innovation can coexist,” Hamel said.

Only time will tell if the old game can survive a new makeover, but as Pauling figured out long ago there is only one way to assure the creation of a good idea.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”