Spanning the Globe

By Rex HoggardMarch 17, 2011, 12:04 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Maybe Greg Norman was right. Maybe the World Golf Championships experiment was little more than a stalling tactic to the inevitable – a true world circuit.

At least that was the second sentence to Sunday’s sit-down at Doral between PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and his European counterpart George O’Grady. Insular types need read no further, because if body language is any indication, Norman’s outrageous concept of a world tour may be closer than the “Great White Prognosticator” could have ever envisioned.

Not that Finchem or O’Grady seemed anywhere near ready to sign off on a global tour, but they are talking about it and that’s a start.

On Sunday at Doral, Finchem said he wouldn’t expect a world tour for at least 10 or 20 years. O’Grady was a tad more optimistic. Reality, as it always is, is probably somewhere in between.

Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood would be one player that would likey welcome a world tour. (Getty Images)

“George and I have talked about this I think a fair amount, it may develop over the years that golf just becomes integrated,” Finchem said.

“We clearly recognize that the global presentation of the sport and the broadcast that's tied to that has changed and evolved over the last 15 years, and to leverage that properly, at some point in the future, at least in my view, integration will become a very viable alternative.”

Interesting, but then “integration” doesn’t feel two decades away and Finchem’s view from 30,000 feet doesn’t dovetail with the reality down in the weeds.

At the moment, the world Nos. 1, 2 and 8 players in the world are not PGA Tour members. Two of those non-members – second-ranked Lee Westwood and eighth-ranked Rory McIlroy – have already said they will not play this year’s Players Championship. Conversely, there aren’t a lot of Americans heading over to play the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.

Ernie Els, and probably other top South Africans, will have to decide between their national championship, the South African Open, and the Presidents Cup, scheduled the same week in November on the other side of the world in Australia.

As the game continues its global growth, expect more fragmentation and turf tussles unless golf’s power brokers can find some middle ground.

Not that consensus, or a global tour, will come easily.

“The idea (of a global circuit) sent a chill up my spine,” said one tournament official this week in Tampa. “Where does that leave us?”

But Chubby Chandler – whose International Sport Management team represents Westwood, McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen, among others – doesn’t envision a 30-event global schedule. Instead he suggested last week at Doral that a global tour consist of as few as 10 events.

Consider a world docket that would include the four major championships, four World Golf Championships, The Players, BMW PGA and two or three others – with a keen eye toward Asia and the Middle East.

Years ago a Tour player was driving through Palm Springs, Calif., and noticed a yacht dealership. When he asked his swing coach why they would have such an establishment in the middle of a desert the response was, “You don’t sell a boat where the water is. You sell a boat where the money is.”

And the money, at least right now, is trending toward Asia and the Middle East.

Imagine a 15-event international schedule spread across the calendar that would guarantee the game’s best on the grandest scale.

The concept is not without problems. Entry into these events would be based on the World Golf Ranking, theoretically, and that arithmetic is not without its problems. A global tour also runs the risk of becoming a closed shop, a self-perpetuating system that leaves little room for up-and-coming players.

Nor have the top American players shown much interest in globe-trotting, but a money and ranking-points rich circuit may be what finally draws them out of the Lower 48.

“For us, I think it doesn’t really change a lot because we are travelling anyways, a lot,” world No. 1 Martin Kaymer said this week when asked about a possible world tour. “It will be difficult for the American players, especially the ones with families. At the moment it’s pretty easy for them to travel only inside the country, but if they have to travel overseas . . . that’s going to be difficult.”

And, of course, there is the concern of what will come of the dozens of other events that would be left out of the global picture. The PGA Tour calendar is checkered with plenty of events that don’t draw “top” fields but are successful nonetheless. Would those events, with fields that would likely change little, still be considered viable if they were suddenly reduced to Triple-A status?

At the highest level perception is reality, and if the game suddenly became a world circuit followed by everything else it could be catastrophic for stops like the Honda Classic or Waste Management Phoenix Open, which have both carved out a healthy niche without the marquee of a Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson.

At the moment the devil outnumbers the details, but the tumblers continue to fall in the direction of a world tour. It may be 20 years away, it may be closer. What seems certain is it is coming.

“I don't think it's as simple as somebody writing out, here is a new world tour and it's all done with a blueprint tomorrow,” O’Grady said. “It evolves to avoid some of the clashes that are going on at the moment, which are not really in anybody's best interests.”

 

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below:

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Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

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Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

Made Cut

Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.



Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

Tweet of the week:

Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

“No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”


Missed Cut

Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

“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.”

Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.

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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 1:19 pm

After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.

Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.

Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.



Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.

It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath.