Leading the Charge

By Rex HoggardJune 4, 2010, 4:47 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – In four stints as a player director on the PGA Tour Policy Board Davis Love III has heard every proposal, scheme and suggestion known to man and Tim Finchem to improve the quality of fields on the circuit.

“One-in-four (which would require an independent contractor play every event at least once every four years) has been brought up every year,” Love said. “We can’t figure out a way to make one-in-four work.”

Administrators and players have also debated the merits of raising the Tour minimum from 15 events to 20 with little success. It is both the beauty and the bane of golf that the frat brothers call their own shots, without the often-clouded influence of a union or an omnipotent commissioner.

Since Tour time began the system has worked, but now, more than ever, that system has turned into a fiefdom with the have-nots left to fend as best they can. In 1997 Tiger Woods arrived, bringing with him untold exposure and the reality that he turns the Tour wheel, and two years later the World Golf Championships virtually gutted the 15-event minimum rule.

The Tour marquee will play the majors, the four WGCs and a handful of “must see” events, leaving little room for the St. Jude Classics and Wyndham Championships of the world.

As best Love could figure, there was no way to mandate a schedule without upending the independence of the contractors. That was until Tuesday night during a meeting of the Player Advisory Council at Muirfield Village.

The plan is simple, statistically feasible and historically tried and tested. Each year the Tour would designate three to five events and a top player, presumably someone in the top 50 in the World or FedEx Cup ranking, would be required to play at least one.

“It’s an attempt to improve fields at as many events as possible,” said Clair Peterson, the John Deere Classic tournament director who spoke at the PAC meeting. “There have been a lot of theories and solutions kicked around for a while and this is one that was in place some years ago and there were good productive comments.”

Whether the “designated tournament” concept would work remains to be seen, but there is historical precedent.

In 1977, just three days after Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson battled in their Open Championship epic “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry the two titans were on the first tee to play the Pleasant Valley Classic in Massachusetts, not an easy feat during the days before direct flights and automatic upgrades.

For the record, Nicklaus finished second, Watson tied for 11th and the folks at Pleasant Valley took the ultimate prize, more attention and exposure than Donald Trump could ever buy. The two made the trip from Scotland because of a similar “designated tournament” rule that was on the Tour books from 1974 to 2000.

“I’m sure they were happy this program was in place at the time because they probably wouldn’t have that,” Peterson said.

According to the Tour the last time the regulation, which was slightly different than the current proposal because it mandated where certain players had to play, was used was in 1985 and it was dropped from the regulations in 2000.

Imagine the buzz on the first tee at the 2005 Honda Classic if Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson showed up just days after the duo’s famous duel at Doral. Instead, the two didn’t play in the same tournament again until The Players Championship some three weeks later, by then the Blue Monster buzz had subsided.

Those who think the “designated tournament” concept doesn’t have legs, or a clear mandate, aren’t paying attention.

Too many good tournaments are on the ropes, from Harbour Town to Memphis, and for the first time in a long time players are willing to talk, not because of a union or Tour arm twisting but because of the need.

There is a concern that under the proposed rule players who play 23 events each year will simply remove a normal stop from their schedules to make room for a “designated tournament,” a zero-sum estimation that ignores the impact of having Woods or Phil Mickelson or Steve Stricker in a tournament that has never enjoyed a fully loaded marquee.

“If your main objective is the health of the Tour in general, all the events including the John Deeres and Renos, it’s not a big deal for me to add one event to my schedule,” said Kevin Streelman, a member of the 16-player PAC who added the reaction to the proposal was “mixed.” “If Tiger and Phil add an event they might have to take one away, but it still helps the overall product.”

There is also the notion that an event’s presence on the “designated tournament” list would somehow be viewed as a negative.

“Not for the patrons,” Peterson counters. “Fans are excited to see players that they recognize. Whatever negative there might be is outweighed by the positive effect a top player in your field could have.”

The idea that contraction, not mandated starts, is the answer, that the current schedule dilutes the product and the only answer is a Draconian reality that weeds out the weak also ignores every rule of business. The NFL is forever expanding, Major League Baseball has no problem with a 162-game schedule or the addition of the League Championship Series.

How tournaments would be picked for designation is also part of the minutia, but, as Love points out, it’s not just tournaments with historically weak fields that need an occasional boost. Harbour Town, a Tour staple since 1969, draws a strong enough field but is facing a grim future after Verizon pulled the plug as the title sponsor this year.

Perhaps the most compelling element of Tuesday’s meeting was that players are willing to talk about a problem that’s not going away on its own.

“There’s an understanding by big players that these are difficult times we are living in,” said Steve Timms, the Shell Houston Open tournament director. “Guys recognize that maybe we need to think differently about the product.”

Just ask Love, the proposal changed his mind.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.