Tag:pga tour
Posted on: January 11, 2012 11:57 am

Finchem to stick around for longer haul

After expressing some initial hesitation last fall about whether he wanted to stick around as the captain of the PGA Tour ship, Tim Finchem was offered and accepted a four-year extension as commissioner by the tour's Policy Board, it was announced Wednesday.

Finchem has piloted the tour through a record growth era, fueled in large part by Tiger Woods' popularity, and last fall helped secure a 10-year TV rights contract with CBS and NBC, the tour's primary non-cable broadcasters.

“We have accomplished a lot, but there remains a great opportunity to continue to grow over the next four years,” Finchem said in a tour release. “It's an honor to work in such a wonderful sport with the world’s best athletes and a terrific management team. I look forward to continuing to work closely with them in the future.”

Finchem, 64, is signed through June, 2016. He took over as commissioner in 1994 when Deane Beman retired.

Among the items left on Finchem's plate is to re-sight the title sponsor of the FedEx Cup, whcih is an annual deal with an estimated price tag of $35 million.

Finchem's old deal was set to expire after the 2012 season.
Posted on: January 9, 2012 8:24 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 8:28 pm

Stricker bobs, weaves and wins -- as usual

ORLANDO, Fla. -- As nearly everybody knows, a certain greeting has two meanings in Hawaii, both of which seem to fit veteran Steve Stricker's highly entertaining, slightly unnerving golf style to the letter.

Aloha means both hello and goodby in the native lingo, which also happen to be the words in English that often happen in quick succession when Stricker takes the lead into the back nine of PGA Tour events these days.

Stricker, the top-rated player in the field at the tour's season-opener, again found a way to nearly make a big lead into a bigger story in the final round at Kapalua on Monday night, where he again hung on to win by three strokes, despite some ups and downs that made the hillside course seem monotonous.

"I felt it kind of slipping away, but I was patient," he said. "Frustrated, but patient."

It felt kind of familiar.

He entered the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions with a five-stroke lead, a figure that should ring familiar for fans of the genial Wisconsin native. In fact, Stricker had a comparably cushy margins in the final hours of both of his PGA Tour wins last year, only to make a meandering, stomach-churning mess out of both before holding on, if not staging comebacks, to ultimately win.

Stricker, who turns 45 next month, led the John Deere Classic by five shots with nine holes left in the final round before he started piling up bogeys and found himself two shots behind rookie Kyle Stanley late in the round. Stricker eventually salvaged a victory with what many called the best clutch shot of the year, delivering a rollicking birdie from an awkward stance in a fairway bunker on the 18th.

A few weeks earlier, when he seemed poised to win the Memorial Tournament with relative ease thanks to a four-shot lead at the turn, his momentum was slowed by a 2 1/2-hour weather delay in the final round. He scraped his way through the trees and sand on his way home, saving par from bunkers on the 16th and 17th, before making a cautious bogey on the 18th to win by a stroke.

"It wasn't pretty," he cracked to tournament host Jack Nicklaus afterward.

This time, Stricker's overnight lead had been quickly pared to a single shot by the time he finished the sixth hole, where he fatted a pitch shot and made a bogey, missing his second putt of the day from four feet. As he did at the Memorial and Deere, though, the resilient veteran found a way to stop the swoon. He rolled in a 23-footer on the eighth, nearly holed a chip shot on the ninth and made a 15-footer on the 12th, all resulting in birdies, to extend the lead to three, giving himself some breathing room.

"I never let up today, but it was tough," he said. "It gets even more tough when you have lead like I had. Overall, I am very proud of what I did today and this week."

He usually makes in interesting. Stricker missed some time last year with a herniated disc in his neck, which wasn't an issue this week. Maybe it was the whiplash of watching his name jumping around on the scoreboard.

With his 12th career win, Stricker moved up one spot to No. 5 in the world. The victory marked the fourth straight season in which he has amassed at least one win, leaving him tied with Dustin Johnson (2008-11) and four behind Phil Mickelson (2004-11) for the longest string of consecutive winning seasons on tour.

Amazingly, the two-time Comeback Player of the Year has amassed seven of his victories in the last three seasons, plus one 2012 start. Moreover, he has eight wins in his past 50 starts, the most of any player.

In all, for a tournament that needed both some CPR and positive PR as a sputtering season opener, Stricker, who at No. 6 in the world is the top-ranked American in the world, was perhaps the ideal winner and the biggest name in the 27-man field.

Stricker had won five of the last six times in which he held at least a share of the lead entering the fourth round, but his lone fumble came at Kapalua two years ago. He'd flirted with winning the season opener twice previously, finishing fourth last year and second in 2008.

Category: Golf
Posted on: January 9, 2012 1:51 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 4:05 pm

TaylorMade ad creates 'bleeping' issue

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Even if he did hit the bleep out of the shot, it's hardly the mode or message traditionally communicated to the conservatively staid golf audience by the world's most image-conscious sport.

Firstly, manufacturer TaylorMade golf began airing a television commercial this week for its new line of equipment, the name of which is sure to cause a few rolled eyes. The new clubs are called RocketBallz, which has prompted some schoolboy giggles.

Yet in an ad airing last week during the Golf Channel telecasts of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions from Kapalua, Hawaii, one of the clubmaker's staff professionals on the PGA Tour, veteran Sean O'Hair, makes an obviously profane remark after hitting a practice ball on the range with one of the new clubs.

O'Hair smiles broadly after smashing a shot and drops an F-bomb, which is bleeped out in the commercial, but the timber and tone are convincingly made clear. A Golf Channel spokesman said Monday that he was unaware of any complaints logged from viewers about the spot, which might speak as much for the low ratings and late-night TV viewing slot as any offense it might have caused.

Here's the link: http://digital.globalgolfpost.com/g

PGA Tour communications chief Ty Votaw said Tuesday that tour "discussed" the ad content with TaylorMade.

Coincidentally or not, the ad apparently didn't air on Monday night during the final-round broadcast from Kapalua.  

"We have communicated with each other today and yesterday," Votaw said Tuesday afternoon. "Like hypotheticals, I cannot comment on coincidences, either."

Interestingly, though the tour has never made its disciplinary policy public, it is believed that players who swear on the golf course -- especially when picked up by microphones in the network broadcast -- have been subject to fines from tour headquarters when the language is overheard and complaints are lodged by fans or marshals.

While the language from O'Hair is mostly implied, it's not exactly the content the tour tries to convey about its product, although it is unclear what sort of leverage the tour could apply if it ultimately wants the advertisement yanked for any reason.

Posted on: January 6, 2012 2:32 pm

Cursed Casey heads to doctor yet again

ORLANDO, Fla. – Paul Casey is utterly uncertain how long he’ll be on the shelf, but if it’s a couple of months, he might want to spend the time dreaming up a more entertaining story on how he injured himself this time around.

Casey on Friday announced that because of a dislocated right shoulder sustained in a snowboarding fall on Dec. 24 in Vail, Colo., he will be out for roughly two months, though that’s admittedly just a guess.

For those envisioning a spectacular crash with a blaze of glory, flash and panache, Casey actually hurt himself while wearing all of his precautionary gear, including a helmet and wrist protection … while taking a lesson.

With snowfall levels down in Colorado this winter, the Englishman fell when he hit an icy patch of snow.

“I wish I could say I did it while perfecting my double backflip on the halfpipe,” Casey cracked Friday via phone, after finishing a rehab session near his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Perhaps the laughter keeps him from weeping. Casey has had a miserable run of luck over the last three years, sustaining an intercostal rib injury when he was ranked a career-best No. 3 in the world, followed by nagging foot and thumb injuries in 2011. The foot issue forced him to play with a rigid insert in his spikes, cost him to miss several planned starts and he skidded to No. 136 on the PGA Tour in earnings.

In actually, as far as his four major appendages, the only body part he hasn’t banged up recently is his left foot.

“I have MRIs of most all of my body parts,” he said.

The timing of the fall was awful, since he was seemingly primed for a nice comeback season after enduring both physical and personal setbacks in 2011, which included a divorce from his wife of 2 1/2 years last fall. Casey was set to defend his title in the European Tour’s relocated Volvo Golf Champions on Jan. 19 in South Africa, but now will stay home and work on regaining strength in his shoulder.

When Casey fell, it didn’t take long to realize that something was very amiss.

“Within five minutes, I couldn’t move it,” he said. “The lesson was obviously over.”

He’s got some heavy hitters on his medical team, including three guys with ties to Phoenix’s NFL, MLB and NHL teams.

“They did say that if you are going to dislocate your shoulder, I did it with the least amount of damage you could possibly do, which is good, I guess,” Casey said.

Casey said he won’t be able to hit balls for at least two weeks and has no idea when he will be cleared for actual play.

“I honestly can’t give you a time frame,” said Casey, who is ranked No. 20 in the world this week.

Missing starts in a Ryder Cup year – he didn’t play in the event in 2010 – will certainly have him pushing to return as soon as possible. At 34, he is the same age as countryman Luke Donald, who had a career year in 2011 and was named player of the year on two major tours.

“It can still be a great season,” Casey said optimistically, “but now it’s going to start a few weeks later than I intended. At least I won’t miss any of the majors.”

He might want to avoid coaches, too. The rib injury of two years ago came while he was working on a drill with his swing coach.

Posted on: November 9, 2011 11:19 am

PGA Tour top-player ballot gets a 'nay' vote

ORLANDO, Fla. – They took another two weeks to flesh out the season and this was the best the PGA Tour could do with regard to its top honor?

After an embarrassing scheduling mistake precipitated the delaying of ballot distribution for the 2011 Player of the Year until this week, the nominees were finally announced Wednesday.

As it turns out, maybe they needed more time.

The ballot lists five candidates and a brief thumbnail bio of each’s 2011 accomplishments. The ballots, mailed this week to tour members and due back by Dec. 9, isn’t notable for what’s included, but rather, what isn’t.

Three players – Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson and Mark Wilson – are not mentioned among those listed on the ballot.

Each of the trio won twice this season. In all, seven players won twice in 2011 on the U.S. tour, and nobody won thrice. Yet, while the threesome was omitted, Bill Haas was included, even though he won only once, against the smallest field of the year.

Haas won the 30-player FedEx Cup finale in Atlanta in a playoff, his lone victory of the season. Presumably, a certain company based in Memphis will be happy.

Sure, the race is realistically a three-horse affair with world No. 1 Luke Donald, major winner Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, who had a breakout season, but would it have hurt to list all seven of the guys who won twice this season?

The tour said the nominees were determined by the player-members of the tour Policy Board and Player Advisory Council. PAC member Ben Crane said Wednesday that he did not recall specifically discussing the ballot issue.

“I agree that we needed Mark, Bubba and Stricker on there,” Crane said.

The tour can surely afford the paper and postage.

Here’s the full alphabetical listing of nominees and their performance thumbnails as distributed by tour brass Wednesday:

Keegan Bradley
Entered 29 events during the 2011 season featuring playoff victories at the HP Byron Nelson Championship and the PGA Championship.  Four top-10 finishes.  Ranked 20th on the final FedEx Cup points list and 13th on the money list with $3,758,600.

Luke Donald
Entered 19 events during the 2011 season featuring victories at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.  Led the tour with 14 top-10 finishes including a playoff loss at The Heritage. Ranked third on the final FedEx Cup points list and topped money list with $6,683,214, earning the Arnold Palmer Award. Earned Byron Nelson Award and Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average.

Bill Haas
Entered 27 events during the 2011 season featuring a victory at the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola that clinched the overall FedEx Cup title. Seven top-10 finishes including playoff losses at the Bob Hope Classic and Greenbrier Classic. Ranked first on the FedEx Cup points list and seventh on money list with $4,088,637.

Webb Simpson
Entered 26 events during the 2011 season, featuring victories at Wyndham Championship and a playoff victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Twelve top-10 finishes including playoff losses at the Zurich Classic and The McGladrey Classic. Ranked second on the FedEx Cup points list and second on money list with $6,347,353.

Nick Watney
Entered 23 events during the 2011 season featuring victories at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the AT&T National. Had a total of 10 top-10 finishes. Ranked ninth on the final FedEx Cup points list and finished third on the money list with $5,290,673.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 6, 2011 10:33 am
Edited on: November 6, 2011 10:40 am

World tours pay lip service to Williams slur

What, you were expecting swift justice, some semblance of accountability, or at least a measure of transparency?

Slow learners, we are.

Sunday night in Shanghai, after the big-money HSBC Champions event concluded, the commissioners of the PGA and European tours offered a joint statement about the weekend’s other hot-button matter, the perceived racial slur uttered at an off-site banquet Friday night by controversial caddie Steve Williams.

In at apparent attempt at humor at the off-color awards banquet, the longtime bagman of Tiger Woods described his over-the-top celebration after new boss Adam Scott won in August as an attempt to “shove it up his black arse----.”

Williams was denigrating about Woods, his boss for parts of 13 years until he was sacked at midsummer, leaving the caddie feeling bitter and betrayed.

Given the game’s history as it relates to racial issues -- Woods is the lone player of African-American blood with exempt status in 2012 -- the condemnation was swift from all corners of the globe. However, it took two days for the tours to offer any formal comment, and when the wrist-slap was issued, it implied that zero punitive measures were taken.

The PGA Tour is empowered to sanction caddies, but implied that no action had been taken, other than to toss out a few late, hollow words.

“The International Federation of PGA Tours feels strongly there is no place for any form of racism in ours or any other sport,” the statement began.

Just not strongly enough to offer any sanction, apparently.

“We consider the remarks of Steve Williams, as reported, entirely unacceptable in whatever context,” the statement said. “We are aware that he has apologized fully and we trust we will not hear such remarks ever again. Based on this, we consider the matter closed, and we will have no further comment.”

This clears a path for Williams to caddie for Aussie-born Scott at the Australian Open later this week and next week at the Presidents Cup matches, where Williams, a New Zealander, will be a sideshow to the story – Woods is playing in both events.

Just another reminder that when it comes to discipline, the sport is long on talk and short on corrective action, especially the U.S. tour. John Daly had an inches-thick disciplinary file that was released in 2010 as part of a lawsuit, and it was learned that despite more suspensions and sanctions than any player in tour history, he had been fined approximately $100,000.

Faced with yet another chance to do the right thing, the professional game’s top officials did what they have done best for years – talked the talk, but skipped the walk.

Williams will get off Scott-free with the new boss, pardon the pun gymnastics. The world's No. 8 player said after his final round at HSBC that he would not suspend Williams for the Aussie Open or Presidents Cup matches and refused to be dragged further into the afffair.

That decision was ar least as disappointing as the non-action taken by the professional tours, given Scott's sterling reputation as a classy player who has rarely, it ever, made such a perceived public misstep. Bluntly asked if the tours were condoning racism by failing to take action -- a charge that could rightly be leveled at Scott himself -- the player blanched.

"Look, I don't [think] digging for a story out of me on this is a good idea," he told reporters.

Posted on: October 24, 2011 6:36 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 7:17 pm

Oh, wait, Luke: Tour season's not over after all

ORLANDO, Fla. -- After a season of utter parity, most of us thought we finally had a grip on the PGA Tour’s wide-open Player of the Year thing.

Not so fast.


Because the tour ain’t so swift.

Last week at the season finale at Disney World, news outlets were told that the tour would be mailing ballots for Player of the Year voting either today or Tuesday, since the money title had been clinched and the last official event had ended.

Well, turns out, there’s official, semi-official, and just plain embarrassing.

On Monday, the tour brass in Ponte Vedra Beach instead elected to wait another two weeks after realizing it had made a scheduling oversight, and will now postpone sending out the ballots until next month.

While that is arguably the most prudent course of action given that the season really isn’t over after all, it certainly raises the question of who’s minding the store, doesn’t it?

The confusion mostly stems from the fact that there are more false endings to the U.S. tour season than on the entire Beatles White Album, and this season, the last event on the ledger left the tour in a red-faced position.

The gaffe apparently was pointed out to the tour by a beat reporter on Monday who noted that because two quasi-official Asian events set for the next two weeks were moved back after Disney on this season’s lineup card, a handful of players still in the mix for top-player and top-rookie honors should be given the opportunity to make a last splash before ballots were mailed. A tour communications official said he could not speak to "the timing or what prompted the change." 

So now we get two more weeks of the season that never ends, a full fortnight of more hype, last-ditch Hail Marys and potentially ballot-bending accomplishments. Against fields that are one-half and one-third the size of a regular-season event.

This week’s event in Malaysia and next week’s HSBC Champions event in China are sanctioned by the PGA Tour, but fall into weird classification cracks. The money on the two limited-field cash grabs is unofficial, but the tour last year designated the HSBC as counting as an official tournament victory … if it’s claimed by a member of the PGA Tour.

Got it?

That means that for entrants like Keegan Bradley, one of seven players tied with a tour-high two wins this season, will get another chance to become the first player to collect a trio of titles. Masters winner Charl Schwartzel is also expected to play, and a victory could mean he gets a few PoY votes, too, or closes in on Bradley for the tour’s top-rookie honors.

Nothing wrong with that – though it should have been noticed and noted before Monday.

Beyond that central point is another concern. Frankly, anybody familiar with the thin attention span of the average tour player won’t find this prediction wildly off-base: The delay in mailing the ballots won’t help world No. 1’s Luke Donald much.

In the minds of many, Donald nailed down the Player of the Year award on Sunday when he shot 30 on the back nine at Disney to win his second U.S. event of the season, clinching the money title as well as two separate trophies for having the season’s best adjusted stroke average.

Based on the recency theory alone – and the fact that Disney World is still echoing with calls of Luuuuuuke -- it’s not a huge stretch to assume that a player with a ballot in hand by mid-week would have been much more likely to recall Donald’s Disney heroics than if the voter is asked to wait 2-3 more weeks to cast a vote.

The earnings title aside, the consensus was that Donald nailed down the PoY award, which was a huge reason he added the Disney tournament to his schedule in the first place.

Now we wait until the HSBC event in China ends on Nov. 6?

The first fake ending came at the FedEx Cup finale in Atlanta in September. You know, the one routinely marketed as the “season-ending playoffs.”

Yeah, except for the four events in the Fall Series.

Oh, and two more in Asia. Note to Ponte Vedrans: When it comes time to order 2012 office supplies from Dunder Mifflin, buy a couple of calendars.

This rant is officially over. Though just to level the field, that notion is subject to further review.

Posted on: October 17, 2011 10:00 am

Donald, Simpson paired for O-town showdown

ORLANDO, Fla. – There were obvious fairness issues.

The two players are slugging it out for the PGA Tour’s top-player and money-list awards, so it only seemed proper that they should play the same course in the same time period, to experience comparable conditions. But this was as much about feeding the fans’ appetite as anything.

Everybody wanted the 1-2 punch, and on Monday, they got it.

The PGA Tour confirmed that it has paired world No. 1 Luke Donald and money-list leader Webb Simpson in the first two rounds of the season finale this week at Disney World. The event begins Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

“Why did I do it?" tour rules official Jon Brendle said Monday, laughing. “I did it for golf.”

The tour groups players by their classification category, though at Disney, which is a pro-am event for the first two days, Brendle has wide latitude and often pairs players in fun duos, often by country of origin, alma mater, or other ties.

Yet Brendle paired Donald and Simpson, who both added the Disney event to help bolster their chances of multiple winning postseason honors, because it’s what everybody wants to see.

“God bless ‘em, they did it for us by coming here to try to win the money title and all,” he said. “It’s the right thing for us to do. Besides, if I was a player, I think I’d want to see what the other guy was up to.”

Over the first two rounds, Disney is contested on two tracks, the Palm and Magnolia courses. So pairing Donald and Simpson on the same venue on the same day was the right call from a fairness standpoint, too, because the Palm usually plays several shots easier.

As he attempts to pass Simpson for the money title – he needs to finish T2 or better to have a chance -- Donald will be using a new caddie this week. With regular looper John McLaren unavailable because he got married over the weekend in London, Donald has hired Gareth Lord as a temp.

Lord has recently worked for Robert Karlsson, Alvaro Quiros and Thomas Bjorn. The latter has three wins this season on the European Tour.

Simpson lost the PGA Tour event on Sunday at Sea Island, Ga., in a playoff to surge past Donald for the money lead, taking a margin of $363,029 into the official season finale this week.

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