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Monahan, the man with the plan

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2017, 7:35 pm

ATLANTA – Jay Monahan settled into his chair with an easy smile and slight hunch, giving the commissioner’s annual State of the PGA Tour news conference a fantasy football draft feel.

Of the litany of things that have changed the last year since Monahan took over for Tim Finchem, however, friendly body language doesn’t begin to accurately portray the differences between the old and new bosses.

As metaphorical extremes go, maybe the easiest way to judge the gulf between current and former regimes was Monahan’s socks, a flowery pattern that fit playfully with the predictable loafers and blue blazer, which firmly announced there is new management now calling the shots in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Finchem didn’t own flowery socks. As best anyone can tell, he didn’t own flowers, just a stoic, B-to-B pragmatist who, in fairness, oversaw unprecedented growth during his tenure as commissioner.

A year ago at East Lake, Finchem gave his final State of the Tour less than two months before giving Monahan the keys to the kingdom. Finchem, as was normally the case, gave a lengthy explanation of the Tour’s reach across multiple media platforms and the coterminous, he actually used that one in 2006, of the circuit’s reach.

That’s not Monahan.

Instead, the commissioner spent his time talking fondly of Arnold Palmer, who passed away a year ago during the Tour Championship, and family.


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“We all make a lot of sacrifices along the way where we're not home as much as we would like to be. That's a part of being dedicated to your craft and that's not lost on us,” he told the assembled scribes.

It wasn’t all warm and fuzzy with a side of flowery socks.

Monahan is currently in the process of the largest schedule makeover since the Tour introduced the postseason in 2007. The new dance card will include a post-Labor Day finish, the PGA Championship in May and The Players in March, to touch on just a few of the highlights.

But before Monahan and Co. can dig into that puzzle of a hundred moving parts, he must shore up next year’s schedule, a 49-event line up that looks largely the same as this year’s with a few concerning issues.

The Tour’s event in the Washington, D.C., area and Houston Open are both on the ropes and currently don’t have title sponsors. In the case of The National, which is run by the Tiger Woods Foundation, the event also doesn’t have a golf course since the Tour recently terminated its contract to hold the tournament at Congressional Country Club in 2018 and ’20.

“So we think that we'll be successful [in Houston] but obviously we haven't been yet and [Hurricane] Harvey is not an excuse,” he said. “I think that we'll continue to work our way through that and hopefully we'll have some positive news as we go forward.”

Monahan’s commitment to an event that has been a Tour staple since 1946 is admirable and understandable. The National, which debuted with much fanfare in ’07 thanks to Woods’ association, is another story.

The Jenga game that is the ’19 schedule and beyond is a factor here.

An indication of how profound those changes in ’19 will likely be could be gleaned from Jordan Spieth’s reaction to the 2017-18 schedule, which is virtually unchanged from this year’s line up.

“I'm not surprised that next year's similar and then after that we'll see what happens,” said Spieth, who has been involved with the ongoing schedule talks. “I wouldn't necessarily be quick to judge on how the Tour's saying that based on a short-term view of next year. Wait and see what happens after that.”

For Monahan, that means maintaining the status quo. If, for example, Quicken Loans, the title sponsor of The National since 2014, wanted to move the event to, say, Detroit, where the company is based, it would leave the Tour in a curious position.

“We’re focused on D.C. and we’re hopeful we can find a solution. There are a lot of markets that want to have a PGA Tour event, but that’s not where we are. It’s a matter of trying to be in a market that has been very good to us,” he said. “If we get to a place where we can’t accomplish that, then you’ve got to look at what those alternatives are and what fits best, but we’re not there yet.”

Perhaps, but if the Tour is going to end it’s season before the start of meaningful football, that means events will either have to be shifted to the fall portion of the schedule or removed, with the former the likely preferred outcome.

Although it’s become a popular topic in recent years, neither Monahan nor the Tour has any interest in an extended off-season. It was little surprise that the commissioner had a ready answer when the idea came up again on Tuesday, explaining that in 1967 the Tour had 47 events on its schedule, the same as this season.

Above all else, the Tour is a business and as a rule businesses don’t contract without a reason, which means whatever form the schedule takes in ’19 and beyond it will simply be rearranged, not reduced.

“If you get to that point and you're ending prior to the NFL and you're not going to the offseason, then you're ending at an earlier point and you're probably starting at an earlier point,” Monahan simply.

And that, more so than the flowery socks and easy smile, may be the biggest difference between the circuit’s old and new. Monahan may not have all the details of the new schedule, but he doesn’t need 10-dollar words and fancy business speak to explain the big picture.

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USGA receives more than 9,000 U.S. Open entries

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 4:31 pm

The field of contestants for golf's most democratic major has been set.

The USGA announced that it received 9,049 entries for this year's U.S. Open, with the deadline for entry expiring at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. That total includes 515 applications on the final day, 115 in the final hour and a buzzer-beater from Drew Caudill, a 32-year-old pro from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who beat the entry deadline by only 23 seconds.

This marks the seventh straight year that the USGA has received more than 9,000 entries, but the total marks the second straight year of a decline in applications. At least 9,860 players entered each year from 2013-16, topping out in 2014 when 10,127 applications were received. But last year there were 9,485 entries for Erin Hills, and this year's return to Shinnecock yielded only one more application than the USGA got in 2005.

For the vast majority of entrants, the next step is a spot in 18-hole local qualifying which begins April 30 and runs through May 17. The fortunate few advance from there to 36-hole sectional qualifiers, played May 21 in Japan and June 4 across 11 other sites in the U.S. and England.

A total of 54 players are already exempt into the 156-man field, including 12 former winners. The only remaining ways to earn an exemption from qualifying are to win either The Players or BMW PGA Championship next month, or be ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which is hosting the event for the first time since 2004.

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Report: Houston Open may move to Memorial Park in '19

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

Still without a permanent spot on the PGA Tour schedule, the Houston Open appears to be on the move.

According to a report from the Houston Business Journal, there is a proposal in place to shift the tournament downtown in 2019, returning to Memorial Park Golf Course which previously hosted the event from 1951-1963.

While formal relocation plans have not been announced, the tournament officially reached the end of an era this week when the Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the event since 2003, informed the Houston Golf Association that it would no longer serve as tournament host moving forward.

"We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club's decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event," read an HGA statement obtained by GolfChannel.com. "Currently, the HGA's focus is on securing a long-term title sponsor. The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club."

Such a move would be a win for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who has expressed an interest in returning the tournament within city limits. The Golf Club of Houston is located in Humble, a suburb 20 miles northeast of downtown.

"This move would place the tournament on center stage in downtown Houston, creating a central location for the city to rally around," read marketing materials cited in the Business Journal report. "Houston Proud Partners of the Houston Open would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Houston Golf Association on this historic move and make a lasting statement that would be seen for generations."

The Houston Open's lineage dates back to 1946, but its future remains in question. Shell Oil ended its 26-year sponsorship of the event in 2017, and this year it was played without a title sponsor and financed in part by the HGA.

The tournament has also carved out a niche with its pre-Masters slot on the schedule, where it has been played every year but once since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. But next year that coveted position will go to the Valero Texas Open, leaving Houston's place on a revamped 2019 schedule in question.

The Houston Open remains one of only two tournaments on the current Tour calendar without a title sponsor. Earlier this week Charles Schwab signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019, and a report this week indicates the other unsponsored event, The National, may be on the verge of moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Detroit.

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With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

He didn’t even make it that far.

Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.