Cut Line: Court for Vijay; Rest for Rory

By Rex HoggardMay 19, 2017, 8:35 pm

Saturday is Moving Day in golf, but there’s already been plenty of movement this week, including the PGA Tour’s season-long points race entering its second decade with momentum, Vijay Singh finally get his moment in court and distance-measuring devices making their professional debut.

Made Cut

FedEx future. Lost within the frenzied happenings of what turned out to be a busy week at TPC Sawgrass was the PGA Tour’s announcement that FedEx had signed on to sponsor the circuit’s season-long points race through 2027.

When that current contract is completed it will mark 21 years for the playoffs, which means there’s a good chance there will be a Tour player whose only point of reference in professional golf is the season-long competition.

Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said last week there’s already 68 percent of the Tour whose earliest memories of pro golf involve the playoffs, and as the event inches toward that 21-year mark that association is only going to grow.

“What we forget, here we are at The Players after 40-plus years, you go to other events that have been around a long, long time, the cup is only in its 11th year,” Monahan said. “It’s still embryonic, but you get out 20 years and look at the trajectory of big events over time and it starts morphing and growing. That’s where strength is created. We always knew it would take time.”

After last week’s announcement, time is certainly on the Tour’s side.

Tweet of the week: @Lexi (Lexi Thompson) “Honored to announce my partnership w/ [SEAL Legacy Foundation] by fulfilling a lifelong dream & skydiving w/ 4 Navy SEALs into my Pro-Am.”

Although Thompson’s entrance from 10,000 feet for her pro-am on Wednesday at the Kingsmill Championship was impressive, her decision to team with the SEAL Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support to families of wounded and fallen U.S. Navy SEALs, was truly inspired.



Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Down Range. In March, the USGA and R&A unveiled a list of proposed changes to the Rules of Golf that included the possible use of distance-measuring devices (DMDs) in competitions.

At this week’s BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Web.com Tour, players are being allowed to use distance-measuring devices during competition rounds. The rule maker’s reasoning for the proposed change was that, “distance is public information a player may get from anyone; and on most courses, this information is found on sprinkler heads, markers, posts, etc.”

Officially, the idea that by allowing the use of DMDs it will also help speed up play, which has become a particularly hot take in recent months, is not mentioned in the USGA’s announcement, but it has been implied.

This week’s event on the Web.com Tour will be an interesting test of that theory, but if player reaction to the concept of DMDs speeding up play is any indication the powers-that-be shouldn’t have high expectations.

Holding court. On the same day Vijay Singh moved into contention at last week’s Players with a second-round 68, a New York Supreme Court judge ruled that his lawsuit against the Tour should go to trial.

Four years after suing the Tour for what Singh claimed was the circuit’s reckless administration of its anti-doping program, judge Eileen Bransten paved the way to a possible legal showdown when she partially denied the Tour’s request for summary judgment regarding Singh’s claims the circuit breached its implied covenant by suspending him for his use of deer-antler spray before consulting with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

“We are very pleased. We think this is a great victory for Vijay and all the members of the PGA Tour,” Singh’s lawyer Jeff Rosenblum said. “I think it’s a victory for all pro golfers and future pro golfers that the Tour will be held accountable for its actions when it acts unreasonably and unfairly.”

At the heart of this issue is the damage that Singh claims was done to his reputation by the Tour’s decision to suspend him, a sanction that was later withdrawn after the circuit consulted with WADA.

Any time golf ends up in court it’s not great, but as Rosenblum points out, the lawsuit is a chance for the Tour to refine an anti-doping policy that – without the protections provided athletes in other sports by unions and collective bargaining agreements – probably needs some tweaks.


Missed Cut

More rehab for Rors. When he bolted TPC Sawgrass last week following a tie for 35th, Rory McIlroy was cautiously optimistic the rib ailment that slowed him at The Players was nothing serious and an MRI on Monday confirmed that there was no new injury.

But news on Friday that McIlroy, who missed seven weeks because of a rib injury earlier this year, would skip next week’s BMW PGA Championship was still unsettling.

“Having had a reaction to my earlier rib injury, I have been advised to take a conservative approach to my recovery . . .,” McIlroy said in a statement. “It’s a disappointing decision to have to make, but I have to ensure I make a full recovery. I will now continue the process of preparing my game for the U.S. Open and the rest of the season.”

Although the cup still seems half full for the world No. 2, back injuries have taken a toll on the game’s best this season, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson missing the Masters with an ailing back and Tiger Woods announcing in April he’d undergone his fourth back surgery. If the collective isn’t as calm as McIlroy we’ve certainly come by our anxiety honestly.

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.

 

-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.


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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.

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DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.

DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.

“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”


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Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.

While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.

“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”