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West Virginia Golf Resorts and Tennis Guide West Virginia Golf Resorts and Tennis Guide
West Virginia Golf Resorts and Tennis Guide
West Virginia Golf Resorts and Tennis Guide
Golf News

Thu, 29 Oct 2020 04:59:38 GMT
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Interesting that R&A Chief Martin Slumbers felt the need to justify his organization’s cancelling of the 2020 Open Championship given the leeway most organizations have gotten during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From John Huggan’s GolfDigest.com discussion with Slumbers about the decision to postpone Royal St. George’s:

“The situation here was very different to that in America,” Slumbers said. “The United States is so much bigger than the U.K. All the messages we received from government were prompt. We were getting very clear steers that this virus was not going to go away in four weeks. Having said that, I can’t be happier for my colleagues at the USGA and the PGA of America and Augusta National who have found ways to get their events done. Do I have a slight tinge of jealousy? Yes, I do. Having no Open rips the heart out of the R&A. Our rhythm of life, as it has for so many, has been disrupted. I didn’t enjoy what should have been Open week.”

There was one more piece of ammunition for potential critics. Did the financial safety net provided by the presence of the R&A’s “communicable disease” insurance policy play too much of a role in the eventual decision?

“Although it would be wrong to say that having the insurance in place was not linked to what we came up with, all the decision-making was done through the lens of being uninsured,” Slumbers said. “We would have come to the same conclusion, irrespective of that. We were fortunate to have insurance. That protects part of our expenses, and we are working though all of that with the insurers at the moment. But it was independent of the final decision. [Slumbers would not say how much the insurance cost, how much the R&A has or will receive as payment or what it covered.] The All-England Tennis Club at Wimbledon was in the same position. They had an identical policy, and they canceled their championship, too.”

Yes we know.

While I know some fault them, I don’t sense many question the call and look forward to a return next year.

Thu, 29 Oct 2020 03:33:01 GMT
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Bubba Watson spoke to USA Today’s Steve DiMeglio about anxiety issues that have crippled his game at times and sent the former world No. 2 to dark places he never imagined.

It’s an important read so hit the link. But the happy setup:

But Watson has emerged on the other side, saying he’s feeling as good as he has in a very long time. And helping him battle the anxiety is talking about it.

“I’ve sought help in many different ways, many different forms, trying to overcome it,” Watson said. “It really comes down to me being nuts. I’m trying to make light of it because using humor helps. But it’s all in my head. It’s all anxiety.

“I think more people are speaking out about mental issues and I want to be one of them. I think it’s the only way to get through it. We’re designed to talk to people, to air it out, and get help. I am old enough now to realize my life is a waste if I don’t share, if I don’t try to get better myself so I can help other people.”

Over the years, Watson has often said he needs help, that he fears many things, including flying, crowded spaces, the spotlight, and now COVID-19. He worries about being a good father, good husband, good Christian, a good friend.

Pure golf obervation here: Watson’s tee to fringe game looks to be in fine form. He was incredibly focused at the recent ZOZO Championship, noticeably calmer in demeanor and moving the balls in ways no other player can. Look out if the two-time Masters champion continues this trend and finds his touch on the greens in a couple of weeks.

Thu, 29 Oct 2020 03:00:08 GMT
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Jack Nicklaus has endorsed Donald Trump again for President of the United States and four years later, is issuing a stern warning about the upcoming election and urging folks to vote for his candidate.

Offhand, I’m not sure that I recall a famous golfer wading this deep into ideology since the threat of world war.

The full post is pasted below just in case someone wakes up in the morning and reads the responses, but in the meantime here are the Twitter and Instagram versions.

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Thu, 29 Oct 2020 00:12:05 GMT

While the market pounded Callaway’s stock price—down 18.83% on news of an all stock merger with Topgolf—Yahoo’s Daniel Roberts notes that Callaway diversified its business for less than half of Topgolf’s $4 billion valuation as it eyed an IPO.

But there is the pandemic and Roberts suggests the market is less bullish on a return to groups gathering for Topgolf fun as soon as Callaway may be thinking.

CEO Chip Brewer joined CNBC’s ‘Closing Bell’ to talk about what the merger would do for its golf entertainment business.

Wed, 28 Oct 2020 04:56:00 GMT
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With this week’s Bermuda event featuring around 500 spectators and next week’s Houston Open selling 2000 tickets a day, it’s unclear if this is an aberration or the beginning of fan attendance.

GolfDigest.com’s Brian Wacker reports on the safety protocols planned in Bermuda and the view of some that it’s not worth having spectators back just yet.

Scott Stallings, who is in the field this week in Bermuda and will play in Houston next week, believes it’s too soon to have fans in attendance. Privately, others also expressed similar concerns.

“It’s not worth the risk with only three events left in the U.S.,” Stallings said. “We’ve made it this far without issue, why rush back?”

A not unreasonable point though at 500 spaced well outdoors, let’s hope there are no issues both of the viral sort or on the optics front.

John Lombardo of Sports Business Daily reports on the unlikelihood of crowds in Hawaii and California, where virus numbers are down and restrictions are toughest. Some galleries are possible at the Waste Management Open (but likely without the usual 16th hole arena build-out).

Florida is the most likely stretch where large galleries are a possibility.

Tour executives said they are looking at the March 2021 Florida swing as the time when more fans may be allowed at events, since Florida has been less restrictive on gatherings during the pandemic. The Florida stops in March include the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Players Championship and the Honda Classic.

“As we look to January, it is a case-by-case basis,” Dennis said. “As we look to Florida, we have time and that allows us to focus on what we would do. We know that in Florida there is an opportunity to have spectators and it is evaluating how we do that in a thoughtful way. Certainly, in Florida and well into the spring in Texas, we see an opportunity to build out a model and reintroduce things.” 

Tue, 27 Oct 2020 21:26:46 GMT

Thanks to reader for Cara Lombardo’s Wall Street Journal story breaking the shocking news: Callaway is buying the remainder of Topgolf after owning 14%. The all-stock deal marks a stunning turn of events after Topgolf had long eyed an IPO. However the company has seen its business decline during the pandemic with struggles ahead due to issues with public gathering places.

“Topgolf is the best thing that happened to golf since Tiger Woods,” Callaway Chief Executive Chip Brewer said in an interview. “It’s going to be the largest source of new golfers for our industry.”

That was certainly a 2019 view of Topgolf but I’m not sure that’s still the case.

This statement from Lombardo is also strange:

Topgolf’s outdoor driving ranges have been a big draw during the coronavirus pandemic as people look for ways to safely socialize out of the home.

Calling them “outdoor” is partially accurate but I’m not sure about the statement that they are safer places to socialize than, say, a golf course. Or a park.

That said, this seems like a steal for Callaway and CEO Brewer given several factors: Topgolf’s popularity, the likelihood of the facilities bouncing back in better times, and the ability to introduce new golfers to Callaway clubs, or sell directly to avid golfers.

Tue, 27 Oct 2020 15:49:39 GMT

There is much to unpack here so naturally we kick off with the 2020 Masters news you needed the least: ESPN’s College Gameday will broadcast from the Par 3 course.

Can’t wait for Herbstreit’s take on Ike’s Pond, a Rinaldi tearjerker on where Clifford Roberts called it a career, Geno on the MacKenzie par-3 course never built and of course, Coach Corso making his Masters pick by in caddie coveralls.

Anyway, the important stuff comes after the Gameday news.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, announced today the 2020 Masters Tournament, scheduled for November 9-15, will provide an expansive slate of content across multiple platforms, including ESPN’s College GameDay airing live from Augusta National on Saturday, November 14.

“Given the circumstances brought about by the pandemic, the delivery of quality content is as important as ever to the storytelling of the Masters Tournament,” said Ridley. “While we will dearly miss our patrons at Augusta National this fall, we are excited to showcase what promises to be a truly memorable Masters in a variety of ways for viewers around the world.”

One such way is the addition of College GameDay, which is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. – Noon before the live CBS broadcast of the third round. The studio will be staged overlooking Ike’s Pond and the 9th green of the Par 3 course.

“When exploring ways to showcase a fall Masters, we were drawn to the concept of hosting College GameDay at Augusta National to introduce the Tournament to a new audience and provide even more anticipation and excitement to the event,” Ridley continued. “We appreciate the collaboration with ESPN, our longtime broadcast partner, for this first-of-its-kind opportunity.”

And hopefully last of its kind. Now that we’ve made up for the Par-3 Contest cancellation…

In addition, the global television audience of the Masters will experience new and enhanced views of the unique November Tournament, as Augusta National has worked with CBS Sports to showcase distinctive angles and shots from around the course.

Live drone? New camera angles? More tracer? Hmmm…guess we’ll wait to see what that means.

Throughout the week, live coverage of the Masters will be broadcast to more than 200 countries and territories. The American Forces Network will also broadcast the event to U.S. military installations throughout the world.

In the United States, live coverage of Tournament play will begin Thursday, November 12, from 1 – 5:30 PM ET on ESPN and continue at the same times Friday, November 13. CBS will again provide weekend coverage on Saturday, November 14, from 1 – 5 PM ET, before airing the final round from 10 AM – 3 PM ET on Sunday, November 15. The Par 3 Contest, which is traditionally played on the Wednesday prior to the Masters Tournament and broadcast by ESPN, has been canceled.

And there is the bad news.

“The fun and excitement of watching Masters competitors with their friends and family is what makes the Par 3 Contest such a special part of Masters week,” stated Ridley. “We know that experience could not have been replicated without guests and patrons at Augusta National, and we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to bring back this signature tradition.”

For the fourth consecutive year, the Masters will air a live 4K broadcast of the Tournament in the United States, featuring action from Amen Corner – the 11th, 12th and 13th holes of Augusta National – as well as the 15th and 16th holes.

During Tournament week, Masters Digital will feature exclusive live video, scoring, interactive player tracking, groupings, video highlights, in-depth Tournament news coverage and more. The site will also feature a new live feed in November, highlighting the action from the 4th, 5th and 6th holes. Featured hole coverage will also be available on ESPN+.

I’d have preferred the more interesting 1st, 2nd and 3rd holes, but we’ll take what they give!

Building upon the Emmy Award-winning “Every Shot, Every Hole” technology from 2019, Masters Digital will unveil the “My Group” feature for the 2020 Tournament. Similar to a personally tailored Featured Group, “My Group” allows fans from around the world to build a personalized feed of every shot from their favorite players, ensuring they won’t miss any of the action during the Tournament.

Now that will a fun toy to play with.

In an effort to share the latest news from the Tournament, the Masters has launched a free daily email newsletter for fans. Delivered directly to their inbox from Augusta National, this newsletter will provide fans with exclusive content and highlights of the day’s action, while also helping them plan their viewing schedule for the day ahead.

Returning in 2020 is the official Masters podcast "Fore Please! Now Driving..." which invites patrons and fans to follow along as host Marty Smith explores Tournament storylines and visits with notable guests across sport, entertainment and pop culture. Episodes will be published daily from this year’s Masters Tournament.

For iPhone®, iPad® and Android phones, the Masters Tournament will release free apps designed to complement the television broadcast or to be used independently to follow Tournament action.

Golf fans can also stay informed of Tournament news by following @TheMasters on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. On Snapchat, the Masters will feature a new augmented reality experience on the platform, allowing users to scan the iconic Masters logo and bring it to life inside the Snapchat app, using Snapchat's Marker Technology, where Masters fans can use their Snapchat camera to unlock unique virtual experiences.

Snapchat? What is this 2017? TikTok is where the kids are today, FYI.

The 84th Masters is set to begin on Thursday, November 12 with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player acting as Honorary Starters. Tee times will be announced at a later date, but players will be scheduled to start off the first and 10th tees in two waves the first two rounds.

Now that’s what you call, late lede though clearly the right move given long waits on par-5’s, modern green speeds and the potential for light issues with a 96-player field.

Tue, 27 Oct 2020 04:34:00 GMT
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The Return To Golf needs to start thinking about a Return to Sound.

After taking in this week’s ZOZO Championship at Sherwood Country Club and watching how other sports have adapted to the times, it’s clear professional golf needs to keep adapting to the bizarre times. Quickly.

The PGA Tour has kept their business going but it’s begun to feel like just that: doing enough to keep the doors open and cash flowing. And I realize this will be a big ask while the main focus is on keeping things safe. But as an entertainment “product” (gulp), it’s losing ground. Broadcast enhancements are needed. Immediately.

With the ongoing pandemic likely meaning 2021 golf will be played, at best, with very limited galleries, the natural melatonin that is a golf broadcast requires immediate rethinking to retain fans and sponsor interest.

To review: pro golf was the first major sport back and without fans, managed to make a broadcast work. That was thanks primarily to CBS going all in on extras, particularly in the sound department. Credit also goes to the players who were willing to wear a microphone. Since only the last nine holes felt like golf in the time of a contagious virus without crowds, the “Return to Golf” worked.

But those return events were in July and August before the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball came along and used recorded sound effects and other visual tricks to simulate a full house vibe. Golf tournaments have fallen behind.

From a television viewing perspective, the ambient noise piped in to offset the dystopian sight of empty seats and fan cut-outs has made sports watchable. Piped-in roars and even the boos take games back to a level of viewing normalcy that only feel strange when the camera pulls back to reveal and empty stadium.

Set against these modifications, golf telecasts now feel as uncomfortably quiet as they do in person. At best, I’d call the in-person experience at the two events I’ve been to as feeling akin to a college tournament. At worst, the vibe is funereal. (Note: both events I’ve attended as a media member were played in California with limits on volunteers, “hosted experiences” and family members, which undoubtedly added to the somber sensibility.)

Justin Thomas confirmed after Sunday’s final round that the silence impacts his on-course mojo.

“I've got to find a way to kind of just stay a little bit more focused out there,” he said. “It's crazy, but sometimes it's hard to just kind of keep the killer instinct and stay in the zone when it's as quiet as it is out there.”

After walking around Sherwood at last week’s ZOZO and August’s PGA Championship, it’s clear that outside of events welcoming back small crowds the next two weeks, any audible solutions benefitting the vibe will have to come from television. Piping in noise at the venues would be downright controversial and bizarre.

Take the first tee announcements where players have generally been introduced to silence or the kind of strained applause normally reserved for lame-duck politicians. Imagine a DJ piping in larger ovations for stars, but mere smatterings of claps for lesser-knowns? Nope.

How about going all Kelly James and creating a 21st welcome to the round?

The scenarios are uncomfortable to even ponder: would the players awkwardly waive to the non-existent crowd? Could they take a joke if James inserted an edgy line into his amazing schtick before starting out in a significant tournament?

It’d all end as soon as the first nearby player has to back off a putt.

Attempting to gauge which applause level to pipe in at the 18th green would be even trickier. Television could pull off some of these effects unbeknownst to the players. But the engineer in charge would have to be keeping up with changes to various holes or the player’s popularity. This would also require a sound effects person or two would have to be added to the team. Given the aggressive spending cuts at NBC/Golf Channel, an improbable move. 

So how about a recording of normal ambient crowd conversation around the clubhouse? Won’t work.

And music on the range—remember that European Tour experiment?—would seem weird and insensitive in a time of pandemic.

With PGA Tour players already over the wearing mic’s or doing mid-round interview ideas cooked up to improve their “product”, broadcasts have grown flatter than Matt Kuchar’s backswing. The situation has worsened since CBS ended an 11-week run where we enjoyed some great moments thanks to enhanced sound and other attempts at innovation. A few suggestions free of charge:

--Putting mic’s on players, their bags, tees and in cups (as Fox did), should continue to be a top priority. Hearing player conversations makes up for so much of the lost ambiance and almost makes us wish the crowds stayed away.

--Encourage more announcer conversations and debates centered around issues in the game to break up the rather monotonous role they play now as traffic cops and cheerleaders.  The NBC team broke off into a few chats about the way Bryson DeChambeau was approaching Winged Foot and the discussions were fascinating.

--Use on-course reporters to do a “forensic” on an incredible recovery shot we’ve seen. Encourage them to say why the would have played a certain shot differently if warranted. Again, anything to break up the quiet moving from shot to shot or showing what seems like a neverending stream of three-footers for par.

--Go to a third party source to discuss betting odds. Former players and traditional broadcasters are not well positioned to say much of interest on the topic of odds or prop bets. Even if a viewer is not a bettor or interested in the topic, betting debates can inject energy into the broadcast if they are willing to take a stance on a proposed bet.  Factors like course design and setup, or a player’s tendencies based on ShotLink data, liven up the “product” regardless of bets placed.

--Bring in third party voices to offer instruction tips. This is hardly a new suggestion, but given the spike in rounds played during COVID-19 and the sad end of most Golf Channel original programming, what better time than now to use telecasts to be more interactive for regular golfers? How about interviewing instructors who are out following their players about what they are seeing? Or asking them to give an impromptu tip?

--Birds are great and I’m sure they’ll be chirping at Augusta in two weeks. With surround sound, work those nature sounds, just make sure the mic’s are placed on property and not in the wrong region. (Years ago CBS was believed to be piping in bird sounds at Augusta and at Valhalla and it’s been a running joke ever since. Another reminder that little gets by viewers.)

—Put announcers in different places. Have them work as a range attendant, on a tee of a key hole as a marshal, as a ShotLink volunteer or as a group’s scorer. Put a microphone on them and instead of having them toss it to 16 from an on-site studio (not that towers are too expensive too), let’s hear what they are seeing and highlight the volunteer jobs that make a tournament tick. If Mike Whan can step in and work as an on-course reporter, golf broadcasters can try some different things too.

We all get that pro golf commissioners have plenty on their plates just keeping tournaments and sponsors going right now. But golf cannot afford to forget that broadcasts must evolve with the bizarre times. The Tours must demand more sound, more innovation and more creativity before its too late.

Tue, 27 Oct 2020 03:02:17 GMT
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While reading how this week’s PGA Tour stop in Bermuda will earn the winner a 2021 Masters invite—even though the headliners couldn’t get in the ZOZO Championship or don’t hold a Tour card or can’t get in Champions Tour events or were not known to be playing golf still—this seemed like a good time to revisit this year’s Masters daylight issues.

Daylight and field size pose some issues for the committee. That’s where Craig Dolch has done the work for us and all I can say is: play fast robust field of 96, you have over two hours less of daylight and the potential for some chilly mornings. And please, no rain delays.

But, with spring turning to fall and Daylight Savings Time ending on Nov. 1, that number shrinks to a daily average of 10 hours, 27½ minutes from Nov. 12-15.

That will be the only day of a traditional first-hole start of twosomes. CBS will be off the air by 6 to prepare for its Alabama-Auburn telecast.

Sunday’s final round becomes even more problematic because of the possibility of a sudden-death playoff and CBS is committed to televising an NFL game at 4:05 p.m. The Masters would likely shoot for a 3 p.m. regulation finish, but there’s not enough daylight in the morning to move the tee times as earlier as needed.

The Masters thus would have to go back to a double-tee start of threesomes for the final round, a single wave, with the first group likely at 8:40 a.m. and the last group at 10:20 a.m.

Two tees and threesomes and the guy who could fix this is a member!

Mon, 26 Oct 2020 16:14:08 GMT
Sherwood’s slightly uphill range is dreamy

Sherwood’s slightly uphill range is dreamy

The ZOZO Championship’s move from Japan to Sherwood gave players a prime opportunity to prepare for the upcoming Masters. It also offered a chance to see how the whole golf-in-a-pandemic thing is working. This and that from Sherwood:

--The PGA Tour gets an A-. They’ve gotten the whole precautionary steps and protocol thing down at this point in impressive fashion. The attention to safety detail is mighty impressive. The “bubble” largely works and players are more diligent about mask-wearing compared to when I last saw them in action at August’s PGA at Harding Park. The report card is not showing an “A” for just one reason: the peculiar sight of six-or-so men at a time cramming in a fitness trailer to huff, puff and stretch before their rounds. I just don’t get it.

—One other quibble. Caddies and face coverings? Still not a thing. With branded gaiters and other ways to print logos on masks, you’d think some might make a little extra money working as billboards. Or, just want to show up, keep up and mask up in the name of job security.

--Thank heavens for the pro-am. I small-talked with a few Wednesday pro-am participants on the way to their cars. They used regular or electric push carts and appeared to have the time of their lives. Of course was 80 and sunny with a great field, too. But without caddies and galleries, the experience seemed no less enjoyable and maybe more intimate? Players also seemed chipper: the nine-hole format was in use. With the infusion of excited amateurs under sunny skies, Wednesday was easily the most upbeat day of the week.

The Wednesday pro-am

The Wednesday pro-am

--About that on-site vibe. It was funereal at times but mostly just bizarre and a touch sad in a first world way. Maybe with three pretty big name players testing positive in as many weeks and Tony Finau sharing his story, the virus earned newfound respect inside the bubble. One player confided that he’s ready for the season to end. He’s uncomfortable traveling and playing as the virus continues to cast a pall over much of the country. That said…

--The Sunday range scene was…intense. If you ignored the lack of fans and just watched players warm up, you sensed big money, a nice title and pre-Masters momentum was on the line. Matthew Wolff and instructor George Gankas engaged in a spirited putting lesson up to his tee time. And I mean, right up to his tee time. Eventual winner Patrick Cantlay’s instructor Jamie Mulligan was shuttling from his Virginia Country Club member-guest duties to keep a watchful eye on his student. The overall intensity seemed like the old days, minus too many range volunteers and agents blocking your view.

--Sherwood’s amazing range. It’s slightly uphill with realistic targets and short game facilities nearby. You’d never get tired of practice there.

--Less launch monitoring and pre-round music. Maybe it was the drizzle? But not every player warmed up with a Trackman or Flightscope or whatever to study their numbers. A few who did appeared to have them there more as a security blanket than a reference point. Then again it was a Sunday and if you’re a professional golfer and don’t have things sorted out by then, maybe you should be elsewhere. As for losing themselves in music, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Jon Rahm were wearing headphones and doing their thing. Most others warmed up without musical assistance.

--Sherwood Held Up Well. Yes the scoring was absurdly low, but none of the five par-5’s are converted to par-4’s, the place is immaculate, the wind stood down and grey skies mean no shadows. The players should light it up (and also thank the club for standing in as a last-minute venue). The place always looks superb on television and produces compelling finishes in part because two of the par-5’s actually play like them. Granted, that’s only because the 13th and 16th holes cut off drivers and leave long seconds in from uneven stances. Good prep for the 13th and 15th in a bit over two weeks.

Sherwood’s 16th green

Sherwood’s 16th green

--Agents are still not missed. Amazing how much nicer the players are after their rounds without the ten-percenters around to scowl at press and give over-compensating bro hugs as if their man just returned from deployment in Afghanistan.

--So much for those live odds. When I was inside and not rebooting my tablet following NBC Sports app crashes and freezes, I noticed last week’s so-so rollout of on-air live odds was abandoned. Perhaps because the Tour moved from Nevada to California where sports betting is not legal? Or maybe with all of the tech issues in a Golf Channel show led by the A-team of producer Tommy RoyJeremy Schilling details the admirable transparency by the broadcasters here—the odds got shelved?

--The Hoodie. Rory McIlroy did not close the roof on his more than a time or two that I saw. But he also was wearing a hat. Hoodie and hat? Redundant? Anyway, the hood was large enough for two heads and Baby Yoda riding along in the back. It looked better suited for Happy Hour at Mos Eisley Cantina than a golf tournament.  But, it is super soft as Rory noted to anyone who asked. So Nike got the fabric right.

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Mon, 26 Oct 2020 04:30:56 GMT
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Both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are working as hard as ever to prepare for the 2020 Masters.

At the 2020 ZOZO Championship and played at Sherwood Country Club, Mickelson was his usual gale force of energy working his coffee/launch monitor/intense warm-ups. Each ZOZO day Tiger was visible in the fitness trailer (doors open for ventilation!) preparing his body ready for play.

Still, Sunday’s late back nine grouping with Adam Long featured plenty of mediocre golf by their lofty standards and a sense that weekend groups featuring the two legends will be rare.

Rex Hoggard writes for GolfChannel.com:

It was a starkly unceremonious end for the two legends who were grouped together in a PGA Tour event for the 38th time. Sixteen strokes off the lead to start the final round of the Zozo Championship, this was a formality. It also was likely the anti-climactic end to a largely anti-climactic head-to-head history between the two titans.

They’ll find themselves in a manufactured group for Rounds 1 and 2 at an event starved for attention somewhere down the road, but the chances of the duo landing together in a meaningful weekend tee time is about as likely as the two sharing a plane ride home.

Tiger was pleased with his putting that did look infinitely more relaxed on the greens as of late, though he still has a tendency to put a pop stroke on the ball. That, combined with really sporatic iron play, will need serious work if he’s to defend his Masters win.

From Steve DiMeglio’s Golfweek account of the Woods/Mickelson grouping.

“The only thing I can take out of this week that I did positively I feel like each and every day and pretty much every hole is I putted well,” said Woods, the defending champion who finished with rounds of 76-66-71-74 and 22 shots behind winner Patrick Cantlay. The 76 and 74 were two of the three worst rounds he’s ever shot at Sherwood in 52 rounds. He won five times here and finished runner-up five times in 12 starts heading into this week. “I feel like I rolled it great. Unfortunately, most of them were for pars and a couple for bogeys here and there, but not enough for birdies.”

Woods has just one top-10 this year in eight starts.

Mickelson’s drive remains admirable but on-course swing looks strained and way too long at times. After the round, he gave an assessment and schedule plans heading to Augusta.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I have some pretty good direction on where I need to go with my game and I'll take this week to work on it and try to apply it the week before. I'll go home, talk to Amy, see what course is sort of best suited to get me ready, which one allows me to hit more drivers maybe. Like to hit some mid irons, but also like to chip and putt. I'm not sure. I know nothing about Memorial Park. I have played Phoenix Country Club quite a bit, but I'll see what course is best to get ready and I'll do that. But this week I'll take to work on a couple of things and, you know, see if I can get my game sharper.

Mon, 26 Oct 2020 04:23:00 GMT
Volunteers and security watch Patrick Cantlay finish off ZOZO Championship win

Volunteers and security watch Patrick Cantlay finish off ZOZO Championship win

A season review of major winners and this year’s November Masters may look back kindly on Patrick Cantlay’s ZOZO Championship win. Coming in his native southern California at Sherwood Country Club, Cantlay held off Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm, two other very likely Masters favorites in 17 days.

While we normally look to play at Riviera, Bay Hill, Honda and TPC Sawgrass for signs of Masters readiness, 2020 left the PGA Tour with a sense of responsibility to give players the chance for a legitimate tune-up. Sherwood checked all of the boxes as a sensational and proven tournament venue. A nice mix of playing styles were in contention and while the softened green contours, five par-5’s and immaculate conditioning produced incredible scoring, the ZOZO field was adequately separated.

Cantlay heads to Augusta as a 25-1 shot and with a big win to go with strong play there last year. He finished T9 in the 2019 Masters after briefly leading Sunday.

And as Ben Everill notes at PGATour.com, his final round 66 came on a course he had never played until this week despite going to college nearby.

He went to college at UCLA and had a glittering amateur career where he was the world’s best. During those years Tiger Woods hosted his Hero World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club.

But until this week, Cantlay had never played at Sherwood despite being in close proximity his entire life. So winning the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP for his third PGA TOUR win, but first in his hometown, was just a tad surprising. Even more so as he had to overtake Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm to do so.

Mon, 26 Oct 2020 02:38:00 GMT
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CNBC’s Alex Sherman takes an in-depth look at how major media companies are preparing to lose another 25 million cable subscribers and why that may be expediting the demise of several channels.

The story is of particular note for golf given the references to Comcast (NBC, Golf Channel) and Discovery (GOLFTV). But also because all signs point to streaming becoming the required way to get your tournament viewing. Given that the platform is not the preferred way to watch for golf’s older demographic and is still remarkably clunky, it would appear golf’s major organizations relying on cable arrangements have a lot to lose.

As always please hit the link and read the entire story. Here are a few highlights for discussion purposes, starting with this

Moreover, a vicious cycle is settling in that could accelerate cable bundle defections. Distributors like Comcast and Charter no longer care that much whether or not a customer buys traditional pay-TV. The price of a video bundle has gotten so high, there’s little margin for them -- especially compared to broadband internet service.

“You get to that point of financial indifference, then you’re seeing the EBITDA margins go in the right direction and continue to increase,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said last month at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference. “That’s one of the big pivots of Comcast the last decade.”

So instead of threatening blackouts to lower rates, pay-TV operators are accepting rate hikes, passing them along to subscribers, and accepting the fact that price-sensitive customers will cancel TV and go to internet only.

Meanwhile, media companies are shifting their best content to their new streaming services. The result for consumers is higher and higher prices for lower and lower quality.

If that wasn’t disturbing enough there is this:

And certain networks, like ESPN, which keep millions of Americans hooked to cable today, may need to pull back on programming costs if too many people cancel. That will only cause more people to cancel.

Stabilizing at 50 million (or 55-60 million, as AT&T CEO John Stankey said this week) may be a pipe dream.

“The only thing left holding the bundle together today is sports,” said former AOL CEO Jonathan Miller, who stepped down from the board of AMC Networks in July. “There is nothing any of the networks can do about it. The only question now is how far does it fall and how fast, and is there a bottom. And I don’t know if there’s a bottom.”

Regarding Discovery, home of GOLFTV…

Maybe media companies won’t have to worry about how to replace revenue from each cable subscriber with a corresponding streaming subscriber. Perhaps simply showing there’s a new growth engine that looks more like Netflix will push investors toward valuing the entire industry higher.

Right now, the market doesn’t seem to think existing media companies are capable of this. Discovery’s enterprise value/EBITDA multiple is 3.5. AMC’s multiple is 2.3. Those are terminal values. The average S&P 500 company typically has a multiple between 11 and 15. Netflix is valued at 33.5.

The possibility of cable profitability still stands a chance if some companies were to merge, though Sherman suggests that window may have passed.

Instead, what’s likely to happen in the next five years is the systematic consolidation and elimination of cable networks. NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS are both considering shuttering networks, though nothing is imminent or particularly close given current distribution deals, according to two people familiar with the matter.

“Media companies can consider consolidating underperforming networks with core channels, hoping to extract additional carriage revenue from a beefier network,” said Kirby Grines, founder and CEO of 43Twenty, a consultancy and marketing firm that provides streaming video strategy advice. “Consumers have loyalty to content and perhaps the companies they transact with. I’m not sure where networks fit into that equation, but it’s somewhere in a meaningless middle.”

Golf Channel joins NBC Sports network?

Either way, the decision will be made by the people who care the least about what viewers enjoy.

The forcing function on change will be Wall Street. If valuations keep declining, media companies will have to act.

LightShed’s Greenfield recommends a ripping-off-the-band-aid approach: Divest the networks now.

“Disney should divest its broadcast and cable networks, Comcast should divest the NBCUniversal cable networks, and there’s no reason why AT&T needs to own the Turner networks,” Greenfield said. “Cable networks are structurally broken.”

Divested and merged media companies will lead to more robust streaming services. This is why Disney agreed to buy Fox’s entertainment assets, including “The Simpsons” and movies such as “The Shape of Water” and “Avatar.”

But it may also accelerate the death of cable TV.

This would all be fine for golf’s various pro tours and majors if streaming worked better. But the same problem remains: golf watching is passive. Like baseball or tennis, it’s a sport we love to have on in the background. Basketball and football games are more active viewing pursuits where people sit down and watch most or all of the action. Each has their place in sports, but if streaming is the required platform, a move before the technology and viewers are ready will be deadly for golf viewership.

Sun, 25 Oct 2020 06:06:00 GMT
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Approved in 2015, the 44-room extension to the historic Rusacks hotel on historic links road is looking anything but historic. Or befitting the Auld Grey Toon.

Approved and expected to use “traditional” materials, it appears the scale and blond sheen will be an eyesore for decades. Maybe by the 200th Open in 2072 it’ll take on the aged patina one would have expected the planning commission to have demanded from the outset for this sacred real estate.

The Scotsman’s Martin Dempster posted these photos today, October 24, 2020. So much for the grey ole

Sun, 25 Oct 2020 04:47:24 GMT
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A tradition we sincerely hope is unlike any other: the October run-up to a rescheduled Masters culminates for most players with the ZOZO Championship final round at Sherwood Country Club.

Normally we get the West Coast and Florida swings to build up to Augusta. This year, we have a collection of fall events that are not the usual building blocks to Augusta, though at this week’s ZOZO, a fun test rewarding all types of player.

The leaderboard heading into Sunday’s finale features several expected Masters leading contenders and any number of possible upstarts with a shot. Eleven players are within four strokes of Justin Thomas’s one-stroke lead over Jon Rahm (63).

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Adding to the intrigue: cooler and breezier conditions forecast for Sunday at Sherwood, which nobly stood in as the host venue for the Japan-based event. After three days of fairly benign conditions, players may face a bit more on top of hoping to capture a PGA Tour title so close to the Masters.

Key notes from the PGA Tour:

  • In search of his 14th PGA TOUR victory, Justin Thomas holds the 54-hole lead/co-lead for the 14th time in his PGA TOUR career

  • World No. 2 Jon Rahm starts 6-under through his first seven holes en route to a 9-under 63, his fifth round of 63 or better in his PGA TOUR career

  • Rahm seeks his sixth PGA TOUR title and third in the state of California

  • Lanto Griffin birdies his first four holes to tie his 54-hole career low and sits two back through 54 holes

  • Patrick Cantlay is bogey free through 54 holes

Third round highlights:

Sun, 25 Oct 2020 04:36:45 GMT
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Phil Mickelson was seven-under through eight of his ZOZO Championship holes Saturday before posting 67 at Sherwood, but more noteworthy was the way he walked back his early week comments on Houston. Or was that some post-Commissioner-text-message breakdancing?

Anyway, a few days after questioning a pre-Masters Houston Open appearance because 2000 spectators were going to be allowed, Mickelson has had a change of heart. Maybe.

From Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com:

He told GolfChannel.com this on Saturday: “That’s not a deciding factor. I’m sure the Tour will do a great job of making it safe.”

He went on to mention a bunch of first world dilemmas he faces in this all important scheduling decision. They involve rye grass. Carts. Other things. In case you care.

Sun, 25 Oct 2020 03:59:00 GMT
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Another strong month for rounds played, this time up 25.5% according to Golf Datatech.

From their summary:

Entering October, play was up 8.7% nationally versus the same period a year ago. That reflects a year-to-date increase of about 29 million more rounds, even with the loss of about 20 million rounds during the spring due to Covid-related shutdowns.

Every state in the continental U.S. has seen increases in play of at least 2% for each of the past three months. A major drop in precipitation helped fuel a 46% September rounds-increase in Minnesota, while other Midwest states also saw notable increases: Illinois (+35%), Wisconsin (+29%), Michigan (+27%), Indiana (+27%) and Ohio (+26%).

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 06:25:00 GMT
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Tony Finau has returned to action after a positive COVID-19 test and what sound like the worst known symptoms experienced by a PGA Tour player since the pandemic has begun.

After carding a second round 64 at Sherwood to land T6 (-11) in the 2020 ZOZO Championship, Finau spoke to reporters about the experience.

I was present for much of Finau’s chat and he’s both a testament to the PGA Tour’s testing program, but also to the role players who have tested positive can play in spreading an enlightened message about mask wearing and distancing.

From Bob Harig’s ESPN.com story on Finau that is very much worth your time.

Finau, 31, said he started to experience flu-like symptoms on Oct. 3. Two days later, he drove from his Salt Lake City home to the tournament in Las Vegas. He was tested the following day, with the positive result forthcoming.

"For the first five days, it got worse," said Finau, who was required by the PGA Tour to quarantine in Las Vegas for 10 days -- with a $75,000 stipend provided. "I had massive headaches, body aches. I didn't feel like doing anything. It got me really good -- fatigue-wise. I'm very active. Work out quite often. Always playing golf or with my kids and quite active. It knocked me down. There's no question about it.

"For those 10 days, I didn't feel like doing anything. I obviously didn't get to practice. I lost my taste and smell after about four days. Still don't have it back. That kind of sucks; I'm quite a foodie. It was not the experience I thought I was going to have. Most guys are asymptomatic. They say if you're young and healthy, it's not a big deal. I think I gained some respect for the virus."

Finau has been diligent about face covering after finishing his rounds and reiterated that he thought he had been careful enough with distancing and mask wearing. He also reiterated the importance of both practices going forward.

Overall, I was struck by his willingness to speak and what an asset he is both to validate the Tour’s testing and leadership role athletes can play after experiencing this dreadful virus.

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 03:56:07 GMT
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It was the coolest day in months around southern California but still comfortable enough for short sleeves.

Sherwood Country Club is immaculate.

There are five par-5’s.

The ball goes forever and there isn’t a snap hook in sight.

Oh, and the players have never been more athletic, intelligent, etc...

But you have to admire the quality of play at Sherwood Country Club after two rounds of the ZOZO Championship. The Jack Nicklaus-designed course still offers plenty of trouble, the rough is up, the greens remain tricky (but toned down since the pros were last here) and are firm enough to differentiate between good and bad shots.

Yet, an astounding 18 of 77 players posted bogey-free rounds Friday, including new course record holder Richie Werenski (61).

Here they are courtesy of the PGA Tour notes:

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The round two scoring average was 67.870.

After two rounds Justin Thomas leads at -14.

In 14 World Challenge’s played at Sherwood, the average winning score was -15.6. Those were played over four rounds.

There is one key difference between this October event Sherwood and those December playings of the World Challenge: the chance to win a green jacket looms in just over two weeks.

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 03:31:36 GMT
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TT has he/she/it/they have been known—aka Tiger Tracker—has become a staple of GolfChannel.com’s presence on social media. The 8-year-old account had become the go-to for fans to track Woods’s every move and could even, at times, become a tad cultish as those who questioned the anonymous Tweeter’s wisdom.

Nonetheless, at 438,800 Twitter followers, it was Golf Channel’s second most-followed account but easily its most beloved. While not profitable, TT was quite good at the whole “engagement” thing MBA types mention as vital to their businesses.

But with the channel laying off most staff and sending a small number to Connecticut to put a bare bones channel on the air until an inevitable move of PGA Tour coverage to Peacock, layoffs have apparently eliminated those behind the beloved Twitter follow.

Tiger Tracker has not posted since September 23rd and sat out Tiger’s opening two rounds in his 2020 ZOZO Championship defense. Fans have been inundating both the official account and folks like myself wanting answers.

How revered is the Tracker? Even Golf Channel’s official account briefly wondered where TT was during Thursday’s opening round before the delete button was struck.

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