"What I'm looking forward to most is the team atmosphere. I remember that at the Walker Cup, and that was like nothing else, and I know it'll live up to the same standard. Maybe even better, too. So a lot of ping-pong going on over there, I know that for me. I just actually bought a ping-pong paddle last night, another new one. I needed a new rubber, so..."
The only question: has he tested his new rubber on his launch monitors? With mist simulation?
Six years ago Golf Digest’s Max Adlerprofiled and co-wrote a piece by Valentino Dixon, convicted of killing Torriano Jackson and an avid painter of golf scenes even though he’d never played the game in his life. (He was also profiled in this excellent Ryan Griffiths-produced piece for In Play withJimmy Roberts.)
Fast forward to this week where Dixon, serving 39-to-life, had his murder conviction vacated after Golf Digest’s story and several others worked to get Dixon freed for a crime he insisted he did not commit.
Although Dixon has never hit a ball or even stepped foot on a course, the game hooked him when a golfing warden brought in a photograph of Augusta National’s 12th hole for the inmate to render as a favor. In the din and darkness of his stone cell, the placid composition of grass, sky, water and trees spoke to Dixon. And the endless permutations of bunkers and contours gave him a subject he could play with.
“The guys can’t understand,” Dixon has said. “They always say I don’t need to be drawing this golf stuff. I know it makes no sense, but for some reason my spirit is attuned to this game.”
Dixon leaving the courthouse and understandably grateful to Adler for helping his cause:
I’m not sure I’ve read a more horrific, dismaying or heartbreaking story than the murder of recent Iowa State golfing great Celia Barquin Arozamena of Spain. Thanks to all who sent the initial news reports.
Two pieces worth your time in trying to appreciate her life taken by a sick vagrant as she simply practiced at Coldwater Golf Links.
The PGA Tour faced one major dilemma in trying to improve the FedExCup: how to make sure FedEx gets full value for their sponsorship.
Players make a lot off the cup race, as do executives when bonus season comes around. In theory, it makes sense as a way to bind the season together.
Had the FedExCup continued next year as expected—three events down from four, with points awarded based on finishes—no one would have called that weird.
Throw in a bonus fifth round at East Lake, a day after the “third” playoff stop produced a Tour Championship winner before advancing a top four or six players to a final day shootout for the big (FedExCup) prize, and no one would have called that weird.
Maybe unfair to the season points leader, but playoffs aren’t fair.
So to have recent FedExCup champion Justin Thomas calling the new 2019 system “weird” right out of the chute, with the social media reaction suggesting he gave the perfect summary of how most feel, comes off as pretty weird given all of the brainpower put into the latest FedExCup overhaul.
"It's something that is very, very weird and going to be hard to get used to,'' Thomas said. "We talked about it, and it's ... never going to be perfect.''
Thomas, the reigning FedEx Cup champ, is part of the tour's players advisory committee. It means he has a voice in how business is conducted. And yet he doesn't seem sold.
Weird, however, is not fatal, and as I noted in our Golf Central chat today, the new format is a huge improvement. Granted, the bar set by the current format was low. As in, the worst playoff format in all of sports and has been over eleven years despite all of the efforts to defend it.
Still, as weird as the new format may seen, there are many positives…
The USGA/R&A distance survey is a bit like a Robert Trent Jones design: needlessly long, seemingly takes longer to get through than you think, isn’t the most rewarding experience and you’d never do it again.
But unlike some tired old RTJ effort, this one really won’t cost you a dime and will entertain at times if you are intrigued by reading between the lines or general survey construction.
If you have a few minutes, please share your thoughts no matter your place in the game. In fact, the governing bodies have made a special point to let every day golfers know their input is most valued.
It took me about 12 minutes to complete, sparing them of any Max Behr copy and pasting or Statement of Principles jabs. I figured those would not be productive roads to take.
Here’s my translation but feel free to read the press release below:
—The FedExCup leaders at -10 and -8 should have Atlanta-area food tasters in place.
—If those leaders get off to a nice Thursday start, they could create one very unsatisfying finale. That’s fan engagement too. We all need naps.
—Wyndham has to bribe players with a bonus pool to show up at the final “regular season” event now that the top seeds at the FedExCup get a lovely reward for their season-long efforts.
—You get an official win on your resume with a handicap system in place (no word yet on world ranking points yet, but let’s hope not). Silly.
—This will be easier to follow than the current system where algorithms proved consistently boring to follow. This has to be better. Low bar, yes, but it only took 11 playings to confirm what we all knew: the FedExCup as we knew it, did not work.
PGA TOUR announces changes that will further fan engagement, understanding and drama of FedExCup
Revamped TOUR Championship format will simplify FedExCup, highlight competition; Wyndham Rewards Top 10 will continue to elevate “every shot matters” thematic leading into the FedExCup Playoffs
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – With the upcoming 2018-19 PGA TOUR schedule reflecting previously announced, significant structural changes, PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan today unveiled further innovations that elevate the entire FedExCup season – from the Regular Season through the FedExCup Playoffs and ultimately, at the Playoffs Finale, the TOUR Championship. These changes include a simplified scoring system at the TOUR Championship that will determine the FedExCup Champion and a new $10 million program for the FedExCup Regular Season sponsored by Wyndham Rewards: the “Wyndham Rewards Top 10.”
The FedExCup Playoffs – which have been reduced from four to three events beginning next season and will conclude before Labor Day, allowing the TOUR to compete to own the August sports calendar – will feature fields of 125 for THE NORTHERN TRUST, 70 for the BMW Championship and 30 for the TOUR Championship, where the FedExCup Champion will be determined. While the points structure for the first two events will remain the same (awarding quadruple points compared to FedExCup Regular Season events), there will be a significant change to the format for the TOUR Championship.
Instead of a points reset at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, beginning with the 2018-19 event the TOUR is instituting a strokes-based bonus system related to the FedExCup standings through the BMW Championship. The FedExCup points leader after the first two Playoffs events will begin the TOUR Championship at 10-under par. The next four players will start at 8-under through 5-under, respectively. The next five will begin at 4-under, regressing by one stroke per five players until those ranked Nos. 26-30 start at even par.
With the implementation of this change, the player with the lowest total score will be the FedExCup Champion and be credited with an official victory in the TOUR Championship competition.
“This is a significant and exciting change for the PGA TOUR, our players, our partners and – most importantly – our fans,” said Monahan. “As soon as the TOUR Championship begins, any fan – no matter if they’ve followed the PGA TOUR all season or are just tuning in for the final event – can immediately understand what’s going on and what’s at stake for every single player in the field. And, of course, players will know exactly where they stand at all times while in play, which will ratchet up the drama, consequence and volatility of the competition down the stretch.
“Compared to the current system, the beauty here is in the simplicity. Fans are very familiar with golf leaderboards in relation to par, so they will have a clear understanding of the impact every shot makes during the final run for the FedExCup – ultimately leading to a singular champion without conflicting storylines.”
“It has been gratifying to witness the growth, popularity and importance of the FedExCup since its launch in 2007,” said Davis Love III, a current Player Director on the PGA TOUR Policy Board who also served on the Board during the development and launch of the FedExCup. “Several important refinements have been made along the way to help accelerate the FedExCup’s universal acceptance as a tremendous achievement in professional golf. However, I believe this new strokes-based bonus system for the TOUR Championship might well be the most important of them all, as it will lend absolute clarity to where everyone in the field stands and what exactly they must do to win the FedExCup. It will make for a very exciting and dramatic four days.”
Meanwhile, the new $10 million Wyndham Rewards Top 10 not only will add drama to the Wyndham Championship as the final event before the FedExCup Playoffs but will also put an even greater premium on excelling over the course of the FedExCup Regular Season. The top-10 Regular Season finishers in FedExCup points through the Wyndham Championship – also sponsored by Wyndham Rewards – will reap the benefits of the Wyndham Rewards Top 10. The leader will earn $2 million, followed by $1.5 million for the runner-up with the 10th-place finisher earning $500,000. Additionally, each player in the top 10 will be invited into Wyndham Rewards at its most exclusive Diamond level, unlocking all the travel perks and unique Wyndham benefits that go along with it.
And while the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 will be recognized at the conclusion of the Wyndham Championship, the impact of the program will be felt throughout the season; a player’s performance every week becomes more critical than ever before, elevating the significance of each tournament on the schedule and producing drama for PGA TOUR fans at every turn.
“We are excited to unveil the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 next year, which will place an even greater premium on excelling over the course of the Regular Season,” said Andy Pazder, Chief Tournament and Competitions Officer for the PGA TOUR. “Season-long success is tantamount to qualifying for and advancing through the FedExCup Playoffs, and this is an exciting way to reward the best of the best and provide an added layer of drama for our fans in each market and around the world.”
In addition to the $10 million Wyndham Rewards Top 10, the existing FedExCup bonus pool will increase by $25 million, to $60 million. The FedExCup Champion will receive $15 million, versus the $10 million prize from previous years.
“Our players and fans have invested in the FedExCup over the past 12 seasons, and with these enhancements, we are reinvesting in the FedExCup in order to raise the stakes, so to speak, for their benefit,” said Monahan. “We are able to grow and diversify our fan base because we have the best athletes on the planet competing on the PGA TOUR. Now is the time to make these changes, and thanks to significant input in the process by our players, partners and fans, I believe we’re making exactly the right moves.
“To that end, these changes wouldn’t have been possible without the full support of the TOUR Championship’s outstanding Proud Partners – Coca-Cola and Southern Company – as well as longtime partner FedEx and an enhanced partnership with Wyndham Rewards,” he added. “They shared our vision for how we can challenge ourselves to raise level of excitement and fan engagement throughout the season up until the moment our FedExCup Champion is determined.”
Pencil in a trip to D.C. eighteen years from now for a Ryder Cup, another east coast PGA Championship in 2031, and yet another construction project at Congressional, this time by Keith Foster. At least the last bit of news offers some encouragement.
But once again going where the USGA no longer wants to take future championships, joining the been-there-done-that collective of Baltusrol, Olympic, Hazeltine, Bethpage, Southern Hills and Oak Hill, the PGA of America’s release:
PGA of America partners with Congressional Country Club to host Championships
BETHESDA, MARYLAND (September 18, 2018) – The PGA of America announced today that Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, will host eight of its championships and events over the next two decades.
The landmark agreement will route the Ryder Cup (2036), PGA Championship (2031), KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (2022, ’27), KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship (2025, ’33), PGA Professional Championship (2029) and the Junior PGA Championship (Girls and Boys, 2024) to the Nation’s Capital and Congressional’s Blue Course during a 15-year stretch from 2022 to 2036. Congressional will also host an annual PGA HOPE national event, introducing golf to veterans, for the duration of the contract.
Conceived in 1921 so that Members of Congress could meet socially with business leaders, Congressional boasts a vaunted golf history that includes the 1976 PGA Championship won by Dave Stockton and a trio of U.S. Opens (2011/Rory McIlroy, 1997/Ernie Els, 1964/Ken Venturi). Congressional has also staged the 1995 U.S. Senior Open, the 1959 U.S. Women’s Amateur, the 1949 U.S. Junior Championship and three PGA Tour events a total of 15 times.
“This partnership with Congressional Country Club and its membership is monumental in scope and stature, and we are excited to showcase the range of championships and events that the PGA of America has to offer,” said PGA of America Interim CEO John Easterbrook. “We’re also looking forward to building a lasting relationship with the legions of knowledgeable golf fans from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia and believe they will enjoy their time with us and marvel at the talents we will bring to Congressional in the coming years.”
“Congressional Country Club is proud to be partnering with the PGA of America and looks forward to creating future championship history,” said Bev Lane, President of Congressional Country Club. “The PGA of America and its nearly 29,000 professionals represent the very best that golf has to offer. We are excited to bring major championship golf back to Congressional and to represent our country and the Nation’s Capital as the host of the 2036 Ryder Cup.”
I was curious about one of this three suggestions beyond the usual bifurcation options.
I’ll credit Tom Watson with Option One, and he concedes that he heard it from golf analyst and entertainer David Feherty: make the golf ball bigger. It’s already been done once. Golf in the U.S. used a ball 1.68 inches in diameter versus the ball used by the rest of the world, 1.62 inches. The British Open switched to the bigger ball in 1974, and the United Kingdom’s small ball finally went away in 1990 for recreational golfers.
Watson said that .06 inches may have made a 20-yard driving decrease. What would another .06-inch increase mean, and would that be enough? I’d love to see some research on that.
Indeed research is needed. Because we need another study in this game!
While it seems so logically simple, this option has the potential to be costly for manufacturers and more difficult to implement due to patents. Our old pal Max Behr swore by the old floater ball and still played it when others had moved on to more advanced pellets. As anyone who has hit shots with a ball different than the weight of the modern ball, is typically not enthralled in the way many of Max’s contemporaries loathed the floater. Whether this was a matter of resisting change, struggling to adapt or legitimate complaints about the feasibility of such a ball, we’ll never know.
Either way, when writing your governing body, do not hesitate to ask for a golf ball size study. We’ve waited this long, what’s another…year.
If you need some inspiration, here was Behr’s 1937 petition to the USGA to require the "floater” the official ball for golf.
From an unbylined New York Times story, Behr’s resolution:
“Whereas, it is out opinion that golf as pursued today no longer reflects its ancient and honorable traditions which it is out wish to protect; and, in that the ball manufacturers, not the player, dictate the sort of golf that is played which, instead of reflecting its honorable past, in a sense has become dishonorable in that mere brawn off the tee receives an unfair reward at the expense of ancient ways of skillfully maneuvering the ball—no longer required to win—we protest against the perilous state that golf has fallen into.
“Therefore, we respectfully petition the U.S.G.A. that it decree its amateur and open championships henceforth will be played with a ball that floats in water. We firmly believe that in this way only may its ancient and honorable traditions be re-established and preserved for future generations to enjoy.”
David Dusekof Golfweek explores a topic with questions similar to those asked by may intrigued by the idea of a Tour Championship rota. With Coca Cola no longer a full sponsor—Proud Partners along with Southern Company—the PGA Tour would seem free to perhaps move the event around.
Furthermore, according to reports, the 2019 edition will only be about ending the FedExCup. That means only one winner will be crowned and that winner will be the final points chase winner. Having an allegiance to Atlanta or the Tour Championship or East Lake would seem less important.
But as we’ve seen in recent years, rotas are hit-and-miss propositions on the attendance, weather, intrigue and corporate support fronts. The Tour Championship’s rota years even remind us of this, despite the marquee value of certain sites.
Most golf fans probably forget that the first Tour Championship, which was won by Tom Watson, was contested in 1987 about 1,000 miles to the Southwest of Atlanta, at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio. The following year at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Curtis Strange won the Tour Championship in a playoff over Tom Kite, but Kite would win the next year at Harbour Town Golf Links in a playoff over Payne Stewart.
The Tour Championship then made two-year runs at Pinehurst No. 2, The Olympic Club and Southern Hills Golf Club before alternating between Champions Golf Club in Houston and East Lake starting in 1997. Since 2004, all Tour Championships have been played at East Lake, the course Bobby Jones grew up playing.
But this diplomatic answer on the USGA is worth noting.
What’s your take on what’s going on with the USGA?
Well, they’ve made it so easy to pick on them. The greens at Chambers Bay [in 2015]. How they handled Dustin Johnson’s situation at Oakmont [in 2016]. Then, with that gal [Anna Nordqvist] that same summer, in the Women’s Open. That was a travesty. Some of the pin placements at Shinnecock, on Saturday, on 13, 15 and 18. Plus, they changed the course so much from the last time we were there. The anchored putting ban. Now the green maps. But it was the USGA that let putting get there, let the maps get there. Then they want to turn it back. So it’s tough. But what I think people don’t realize is that they’re trying. They’re trying to do what’s right for the game. I know [USGA CEO] Mike Davis. I like Mike. But I don’t have a good relationship or a bad relationship with the USGA. I just don’t have much of a relationship. I’m not trying to be critical of the USGA. They have the best interests of the game at heart. They really do.
A glance at the list yielded one quibble for me—Furyk’s backward cap year is only 6th!?—and mostly sympathy for Porter’s plight in trying to find the beauty in what has to be one of the drearier sets of championship-concluding memories.
The stars are aligned for a grand finish this year regardless of format, so keep those fingers crossed!
Perhaps starting in 2019 we’ll get a new format that yields something more satisfying. I’m confident it won’t take much of a change to get there, but still unsure about the floated concept. From Morning Drive:
How about our good buddy and Scottish golf travel podcaster Ru Macdonald, “budding social media content creator” for the European Tour getting thrown into the Thunderdome for the European Tour’s “Beat The Pro” and makes very nice contact!
Maybe they heard the early week discussion about what an awful year Americans were having on the LPGA Tour, because six Americans finished inside the top nine of the Evian Championship, led by the feel-good story of long time major contender Angela Stanford.
A pair of weekend 68s and a rough finish from Amy Olson allowed Stanford to become the second oldest player to win an LPGA major.
That’s the question Alistair Taitasks for Golfweek as the new rule book has come off the press and the strangest new rule in golf is just months away from debuting. I figured it would take a few years but given the scenarios presented by Tait, it’s easy to envision a revision sooner than later rescinding the right to “repair damage” in your line.
Rest assured, this new rule will unreasonably delay play. It won’t affect the pace of play of fast players. What it will do is allow the snails to slow down even more. Imagine the slowest player you can think of who takes an eternity on the greens. Imagine how many blemishes said player is going to find in his or her line. I can see a situation where players will make four or five repairs on a 15-foot putt. It’s not that long ago I saw a major champion repair three ball marks on a 10-foot putt.
Given the widespread improvement of putting surfaces in golf, perhaps the golf course superintendents of the world will save the governing bodies.
Then again, it could take just one or two weeks where greens are not ideal and the sight of players setting up shop to primp and repair a line will send fans looking for their remotes and TV executives to pick up their red phones.
But since this blog leans toward course setup, architecture, history and distance debates, the obvious questions of note for yours truly:
ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT TOUR PLAYERS ARE HITTING THE BALL TOO FAR?
YES: 32% NO: 76%
“I just wish I hit it farther.” “Equipment has taken a ton of skill away from the game.” “The problem is that the ball goes too straight.” “Yes — 300 yards doesn’t cut it anymore.”
32% is a steady number given that 100% believe they are paid to say all distance, some manufacturers are actively pressuring players to preach distance and the PGA Tour and PGA of America leadership believes more distance will grow the game.
Three years ago, the number was at 29%, so the slight increase is amazing given the pressures exerted on players to brag about that athleticism and declare the joys of modern technology advances.
As for bifurcation:
SHOULD THERE BE TWO SETS OF EQUIPMENT REGS: ONE FOR PROS, ANOTHER FOR EVERYONE ELSE?
YES: 39% NO: 61%
“It would ruin the golf industry.”
Amazing to think the golf industry is seen as dependent on what the players play, not on how much people are enjoying the sport or buying equipment based on need or design intrigue or something other than pro golfers.
This one is a huge win for the PGA Tour Rules referees. Huge!
TOUR SETUPS ARE GENERALLY…
…TOO SHORT: 0% …TOO LONG: 7% …ABOUT RIGHT: 93%
“Tour setups are typically, well, too lame.” “Fact: No one bitches when they’re leading the tournament.”
That 44% thought Phil should have been DQ’d does not suggest much admiration from the PGA Tour set for the USGA rules committee.
SHOULD PHIL HAVE BEEN DQ’D AT SHINNECOCK?
YES: 44% NO: 54% NO COMMENT: 2%
“He acted like an idiot. If it were me, I’d be out.” “He should’ve been praised.”
As Joel Beall notes in this Golf World op-ed, the line between struggle and success in today’s game has grown ridiculously thin given the ascension of younger players and lofty standards set by the likes of Jordan Spieth.
In considering Spieth’s failure to make the PGA Tour’s top 30 and a spot in the Tour Championship field, Beall points out the ways Spieth toed the line between success and struggles in a 2018 he’ll ultimately try to forget.
And there's the rub. Spieth has fumbled away his share of titles—the '14 and '16 Masters, the '15 and 18 Opens, darn-near the '17 Open—proving he's no stone-cold assassin. They're falters that warrant criticism. Continuing to put himself in positions to win, though, also deserves a share of acclaim.
Especially at his age. Arnold Palmer, after all, didn't win his first major until 28. Phil Mickelson, 33. Though arguments can be had when a golfer "peaks," there's no debate that careers, thanks to training, medical and equipment advancements, have been extended longer than ever. Also in that vein: unlike the game's of his fellow young guns, Spieth's is predicated off precision, not power. While that occasionally works against him, his attributes should age gracefully in the next two decades. The sport has cruelly proved that you can't count on anything as a guarantee for the future … but save for injury or off-the-course issues, Spieth is on pace to be one of the greats.
Which, unfortunately for him, is part of his current problem.
The forces are strong, contrasting and fascinating: no American has won a major in 2018 and barring a miracle, the fifth and final LPGA major teeing off this week will produce just the fourth year ever when at least one American prevailed in a major.
Matt Adams and I debated on this week’s Golf Central and with all due respect to the many fine players, the struggles of American women is the top storyline for me. My expression in the screen capture summarizes the fixed nature of the topic, but I digress.
Clearly, next spring’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur will add another bit of incentive for aspiring American women, and we are about to start seeing if the Drive, Chip and Putt produces elite talent, but there appears to be some disagreement about the role college golf has (or has not) played in developing talent.
Or as she writes, “Junior girls can’t pluck a full ride to college like an apple from a tree.”
From the story:
“I think it’s a very common assumption that full rides are readily available,” said Kelly, whose program does not have six full scholarships. “I hear this frequently … ‘You are at a wealthy institution. Your school has the money.’ ”
Brandi Jackson hears it too. For nearly 10 years the former LPGA pro has guided players and their families through the recruiting process.
“There’s a big chunk of your better academic schools who may only have one scholarship among the whole team,” Jackson said. “Eight girls on the team … the majority of those girls are paying to be there.”
Something to keep in mind…
A) when you wonder why Americans are falling behind in a sport they once dominated
B) when donating to the athletic department’s general fund
C) when wondering why your alma mater’s women are not attracting the best players
But hey, on that bright note, the scenarios for a new No. 1 and other highlights going into the fifth (gulp) and final LPGA major played for the last time in September.
Speaking of LPGA majors, one of the American rally killers earlier this century spoke of the new Augusta National Women’s Amateur and it’s potential influence today on Morning Drive: