Place on Tour schedule hurts Quicken Loans field

By Rex HoggardJuly 29, 2015, 6:27 pm

GAINESVILLE, Va. – Professional golf is often considered the most democratic of all sports.

There are no guaranteed contracts, no rookie minimums, no franchise tags to create competitive safety nets that can ease the transition through bouts of less-than-stellar play. In golf, a player is what his record says he is regardless of name recognition and star power.

That’s not to say, however, all PGA Tour players are created equal, with status determined by a detailed priority ranking based on 37 categories.

Similarly, Tour events are relegated to a less defined yet very real pecking order, although those calling the shots at Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., would be reluctant to concede that point.

Of the 47 Tour events there are varying shades of “haves” and “have nots,” starting with the majors atop that pyramid of influence and working down through the World Golf Championships and assorted invitational events to rank-and-file tournaments, which is where the wheat and the chaff are often separated by the slimmest of margins or, in some cases, a date on a calendar.

As one former tournament director once opined, “I’m just the redneck between the Golden Bear [Jack Nicklaus’ affiliation with the Honda Classic] and the King [Arnold Palmer’s annual stop at Bay Hill].”

Quicken Loans National: Articles, photos and videos

While this has been a reality for some time it’s arguably never been as evident as it is this week as the circuit gathers for Tiger Woods’ own Quicken Loans National just outside Washington, D.C.

In its ninth year, the Quicken Loans has become, if not a “must play” stop, then a mid-summer Tour staple. 

While the event maintained solid fields early in its development, an awkward date combined with an increasingly crowded schedule has eroded the tournament’s competitive turnstile.

Consider that in 2007, the first year the event was played, winner K.J. Choi received 62 world ranking points.

That number hovered around 50 for the next three years before dropping to 44 in 2011. Two years later officials had the Quicken Loans National moved away from the Fourth of July weekend and the field, at least according to the world ranking math, improved.

But this year that number has dropped to an all-time low, with Sunday’s winner projected to earn 34 world ranking points. To put that in context, that’s the same number of points awarded to Fabian Gomez for winning last month’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Or, put another way, that’s less than the winners of the Greenbrier Classic or RBC Heritage or Travelers Championship received, and well below the points awarded at the Memorial and Arnold Palmer Invitational, events the Quicken Loans National would be immediately compared to given Woods’ status as the event’s host.

Just two of the top 10 players in the world, defending champion Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler, are in this week’s field at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, and only three of the top 20.

Some will point to the first-year course as a possible reason for the relatively weak field, and while RTJ is no Congressional, the event’s normal Washington, D.C., area home, it has hosted three Presidents Cups and has received widespread praise from players this week.

“I want to thank Robert Trent Jones Golf Club for having us here this year for the first time,” Woods said Tuesday to open his media meet-and-greet.

The real culprit here seems to be math.

When the Tour transitioned to a split-calendar schedule last year it condensed a handful of high-profile events into a small window, leaving top players having to make tough choices.

Consider the plight of Fowler, who took last week off to prepare for a run that will include seven starts in nine weeks, a lineup that includes a major (PGA Championship), World Golf Championship (Bridgestone Invitational) and four FedEx Cup playoff events.

“Really just making sure that I’m well rested,” Fowler said. “It’s going to be a tough little stretch of a lot of golf.”

It will be similar for Rose, who returned from the United Kingdom on Tuesday to ready himself for the grueling closing leg of the Tour season.

“It’s a condensed schedule right now. You’re trying to think about your rhythms and when you play well and what times of year you play well,” Rose said. “It’s about winning tournaments and playing places where you feel you can win.”

Historically, the standard Tour line when it comes to setting a schedule is that the quality of the golf course is the most important element when deciding what events to play. But with the advent of an increasingly busy lineup a new litmus test has surfaced.

For many players, it’s a question of diminishing returns, which largely explains this week’s field at the Quicken Loans National. And it’s a phenomenon that won’t be rectified anytime soon considering an even more crowded schedule with golf’s return to the Olympics next year.

Nothing else would explain how an event that checks off all of the right boxes – high-profile host, endearing golf course, large purse ($6.7 million) – has suddenly been boxed into the wrong corner of the Tour schedule.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.