Archive for January, 2010

Welcome to The PGA Tour on MTV

January 31st, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

I hope all those people who call golf “boring” are taking notice now.  It seems like this season would be more at home on MTV following The Jersey Shore than it does on The Golf Channel.  I can see the commercial now.  You want excitement, controversy, drama and sex? Forget Snooki and The Situation! We have Phil and The Situation, we have Tiger and The Skanks, we have Daly on suicide watch, and we have McCarron in the witness protection program.  We are The PGA Tour Shore!

We all knew that when Phil started playing there would be more interest in the game.  We all knew that he would have to carry the tour for awhile.  But, come on Phil!  Don’t you think you’re over doing it?  I know there are probably a few thousand new lawyers watching the game, all hoping their phone rings when Phil sues Scott McCarron for slander.

What a season already!  Here’s a quick recap, or as they say in the ratings biz, a tease.

Phil Mickelson, playing The Rebel with a Cause, is using the square-grooved Ping Eye 2′s  in his bag this week. The PGA Tour says the club is legal even though new clubs with square groves are not.  That’s good enough for Phil (and a few others) so he is playing it.  Phil is really pissed off at The USGA because they keep turning down his Callaway clubs for approval. He is making his point here, and doing a pretty good job.  Let’s hope he wins and see the s**tstorm that follows that.

John Daly wants to quit golf, he can’t compete he says.  So he missed two cuts this year, big deal he’s been missing cuts for ten years.  Then he backtracks on quitting. I’m sure after he realized that his Golf Channel reality show is based on him playing golf and that’s how he gets his checks.  “Oh yea, I’ll play now I was just kidding” he must have been thinking.  So maybe he was just trying for a little ratings boost for his show? Do ya think?

Now we have players on the Tour going after each other.  Scott McCarron has come out and said that Phil is violating the spirit of the new groove rule and is a cheater. There is no more hated word in golf as cheater. Those are fighting words and Phil is fighting back.  His last comments on the subject were kind of a “no comment.”  When pushed for further comment on McCarron, Phil said other people are handling it now.  Translation: my lawyers are on this baby now.

Let’s not forget the number one poster boy for drama on the tour: Tiger Woods.  He is taking heat also, even though he is still hiding out.  Tom Watson has taken Tiger to task for his on course behavior and says he needs to put that behind him when he comes back.  Watson says this is a gentlemen’s game and we all need to act that way.

Oh yea, the golf, how can we forget the golf.  It looks to be an exciting Sunday.  Ryuji Imada has a two stroke lead, but Phil, Ping wedges in hand, is four strokes back.  Scott McCarron missed the cut.  Maybe he is trying to make his point.

Drama, excitement, intrigue… The Tour has it all this week. They said they needed better ratings and they might just get them. Somebody better check on Tim Finchem.  He might just be smacking himself in the head with one of those Ping Eye 2’s.  Call back those guys from CSI and have them check his office, quick!


Mickelson Ready for a Shootout, Daly is Being Daly, Perry Welcomes Tiger Back

January 30th, 2010 No comments

Chip Shots

Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for and that is the case for the PGA Tour this week.  The Farmers Insurance Open (we’ll call it Torrey Pines) was going to be the tournament that started people watching golf and talking about players other than the invisible man, Tiger Woods.  With world number two Phil Mickelson leading the way and fan favorite John Daly pursuing his 129th comeback attempt, Torrey Pines was the place we could all concentrate on golf, real golf.  Well so much for that idea.

Phil Mickelson, the Mr. Clean, All-American Hero and family man has been called a cheater by his fellow players for using a wedge older than Rickie Fowler.  Scott McCarron has called Phil out and it looks like there could be a “Shootout at the PGA Corral.”

John Daly seems to have self destructed again.  After missing the cut Friday at Torrey Pines, John said he is done with golf. “I can’t do it anymore…I’m tired of embarrassing myself.”  He later said he simply needs time to work on his game,” Simply saying I need my time and am working through these bad times.”  Maybe John is trying to make lemonade out of the lemon of a tournament he just played.  After all his Golf Channel reality show, Being John Daily starts up in a few weeks and this could be a way of generating some buzz.  Daly is always good for some buzz.

Back on the course, D.A. Points and Ryuji Imada share the lead at eleven under.  Phil and his outlaw club are four back.  Wouldn’t it be great if Phil won using a club that some say makes him a cheater (the club is legal by the PGA Tour).  Talk about opening his season with a bang!  Go Phil!

The resurgence of English golf continues at The Qatar Masters.  Four of the top eight places are held by Englishmen including Paul Casey who is tied for the lead with Bradley Dredge.  Lee Westwood has found the right clubs this week and is in third place.

We must not forget our daily dose of Tiger, and today it come from an unlikely source.  Kenny Perry looks to be the polar opposite of Tiger Woods.  Perry has been quite open about all his families’ medical problems over the past few years and he has tailored his playing schedule to accommodate more time with his family.  Perry says, “Tiger needs to come back for himself rather than his golf and when he does I’m going to give him a hug and shake his hand and tell him if he needs to talk or if I can help in any way, I will,” Perry told reporters. (See story.)


Phil Mickelson’s a Cheater?…John Daly Quits?… What the Hell?

January 29th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Just when we thought the pros would concentrate on playing golf and not the controversies and scandals surrounding golf all hell breaks loose at Torrey Pines.  The much anticipated debut of fan favorite Phil Mickelson has stirred more controversy then ever expected.  Phil and a few others are playing the twenty year old Ping Eye 2 that was grandfathered in under a lawsuit settled by Ping and the USGA.  Under the lawsuit even though the groove design is illegal according to the new rule change, the club has been approved for play forever.  By the terms of the settlement the club is legal.

So now, some players, led by Scott McCarron, have called Phil a cheater. From the San Francisco Chronicle, “I think it’s cheating…All those guys should be ashamed of themselves for doing that. … As one of our premier players, (Mickelson) should be one of the guys who steps up and says this is wrong.”

Phil took the high road when asked about McCarron’s remarks and says he agrees that the rule is “ridiculous.”   He even said he agreed with McCarron about the loophole but still feels he is within the rules and indeed he is right.  Phil has been peeved about this change for a year.  He said he has “sent in legal grooves and they have not been approved for play.”  He states that the problem is we have two standards: Legal and conforming clubs and approved for play and they are not the same thing.

Personally I think Phil is trying to put it to the USGA and force them to clean up this mess of a loophole which has given golf another black eye at a time when they need it the least. Phil in the role of bad guy? Are you kidding me?  This weekend should be fun!

Another revelation occurred at Torrey pines when John Daly told his producer from the new Golf Channel show, Being John Daly that he was done with golf. After missing the cut at Torrey, Daly was so depressed with his play that he said, “I’m done” and when asked with what, he responded “golf, I can’t compete.” (John’s interview.) Daly appeared solemn and on the verge of tears during a clip shown on The Golf Channel when he said, “I just can’t do it anymore,” Daly continued. “I can’t keep taking spots from guys out here playing this bad.”  We’ll see if Daly retires or gets a new perspective when he is able to put this week’s poor play behind him.  I don’t think we’ve seen the last of John Daly, not by a long shot.


Slappy Magee Makes the Cut

January 29th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Each week we watch the pros on The PGA Tour play at beautiful locations throughout the season.  They play for million dollar checks on a weekly basis. The PGA Tour is a walking millionaires club.  Ninety one tour members earned over a million dollars on The PGA Tour last year and the top fourteen earned well over three million each, led by Tiger Woods with $10,508,163.  One win usually gets you a million bucks and a bunch of perks, like exemptions and endorsements.  But there are many tour players that toil all year and never get a sniff of a first place check.  There are lunch pail guys out there on tour that are grinding each week trying to make the cut and cash a check.  You can still earn a good living by just making the cut.  Let’s see what making the cut and finishing last in each tournament can do for your bank account.  That’s right, make the cut but finish last.

Let’s say for example there’s a golfer who’s been out on tour for awhile and he has some status on tour.  He can get in to most of the weekly tournaments and will play as much as he can. We’ll call him Slappy Magee.  Now Slappy has been around and has some connections and the crowd loves him and the tournament directors do too.  So he can get into most any tournament he wants on a sponsor’s exemption but he really has enough game to pull his own weight.  Slappy has a strong constitution and being on the road doesn’t bother him so he plays all he can.

Slappy starts playing at The Sony in January and pauses at the start of The Fed Ex Cup.  That’s twenty seven weeks of weekly PGA Tour events and five other weeks where the majors and The Players take place.  If Slappy makes the cut and takes last in all twenty seven starts he’ll have pocketed $278,821, not bad for a journeyman.

Now if Slappy can qualify for some majors he’ll pocket some more cash.  Playing in the four majors and The Players Championship and still bringing up the rear in all five will get The Slapster $79,496 (we deducted the cash from The Reno-Tahoe Open, played opposite The Open Championship).  So far Slappy has a total of $358,316 in earnings and he’s feeling pretty good about earning ten times the average income in the United States.

Since Slappy didn’t qualify for any World Golf Championship events and didn’t earn enough FedEx Cup points to play in the Playoffs he is feeling fresh and plays in the Fall Series.  As usual he takes his familiar spot at the bottom of the list but still cashes three checks and adds another $26,801 to his stash.  Slappy can be proud of his effort and the $385,118 he earned from the thirty five tournaments he played.

Yes, I know thirty five tournaments is a lot.  The iron man of the tour last year was Brian Davis ($1,874,318) and he played in thirty two.  So if Slappy needed a break during the year let’s say he only played in twenty five weekly tournaments and earned an average of $10,187 each week.  He only qualified for two majors for an average $17,088 (they pay well) and he still plays in The Fall Series.  That’s thirty events and a grand total of $315,631.  The Slapster played in no FedEx Cup or WGC events and still earned a pretty good buck.

Slappy can rest up during the off season and work on his game. He’ll have to if he wants to play again next year.  In all of the scenarios that we just examined Slappy falls short of the magic number, 150.  The top 150 in earnings get to play next year but for all of Slappy’s hard work, even in his best thirty five tournament season he misses last year’s cutoff of $454,510 by a pile of money.  Slappy will have to try and do it all over again next year.  It’s not as easy as it looks out there on tour.


Phil Gives His “State of Phil Address”

January 28th, 2010 No comments

Phil Mickelson spent about thirty minutes in the press tent yesterday giving the media a “State of Phil Address.”  He took the upfront approach and shot right from the hip.  “I’m excited to get the year started,” Mickelson said. “But before we talk about that and the tournament, there’s a few other areas I’d like to discuss before we go into that.”  He then went on to touch on Tiger, Amy and his mom, his schedule, the Tour, his support team and the groove debate.  He seemed open and honest but was consciously diplomatic on Tiger.  Phil says he is ready for the year to start and is confident that this could be ”an exceptional year.”

It’s a great day for watching golf if you can.  The European Tour’s Qatar Masters is on The Golf Channel at 9:30am EST and Phil and the boys are live from Torrey Pines at 3:00pm EST.  Check out Phil’s interview.


All You Need to Know on Banned Grooves; The USGA

January 27th, 2010 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

Ok, be honest.  Who knows what the real story is with all this “banned groove” stuff?  I know I’m not.  But I figure I know enough to get by and I know where to go to find out.  You’ve got to go right to the source: The USGA.  They set the rules so that’s the place to go to see if your sticks are legal or if you’re playing with some outlaw clubs.

The USGA website is a great place to read up on the game and the “Equipment” page gives you all you can handle on equipment standards, testing, research and the dreaded “Conforming Club and Ball List.”  I wouldn’t recommend surfing this site at work.  You’re bound to get hooked and spend all day on it.  So surf at your own risk.

For the heck of it I checked all the clubs in my bag against the “Banned List” and the results were just as I thought.  My Cleveland CG14 wedges were on the banned list.  No biggie, I don’t plan on playing in any real legit competition anyway.  I love my wedges and as a recreational player I can use them with no problem.  But I was shocked to see that the new Cleveland CG15’s were approved and do meet the new groove rules.

Have you seen the faces on those wedges?  Cleveland calls them “laser-milled” and there are grooves on the face of the club in addition to the “Zip Grooves” that are the same grooves that the CG14 has (but are banned).  To the untrained eye, mine, they sure look illegal, but no, The USGA has approved them. It goes to show you, when in doubt, go to the list, the USGA Conforming Club & Ball List.


Phil Carries the Tour this Week

January 27th, 2010 No comments

Chip Shots

Tomorrow is the coming out party for The PGA Tour as their number one 2010 attraction makes his first appearance.  Phil Mickelson tees it up in his own backyard at Torrey Pines and starts this season with a good portion of the weight of The PGA Tour on his shoulders.  With Tiger sitting the season out so far and sponsors looking for a bit more bang for their buck, the heavy lifting has been left to Phil.  Good thing Phil has been working out even more than usual to get in top condition this year.  He hopes to pick up where he left off with back to back wins last year.

Don’t tell me that Tim Finchem and the PGA brass aren’t hoping their marquee player comes out with guns blazing.  With three wins in his pocket at Torrey Pines and a revamped support team of Butch Harmon, Dave Stockton and Dave Pelz, and his family in good health, Phil is ready to make his assault on the number one spot in the World Rankings.  It will be all Phil all the time on The Golf Channel and CBS this week, but you know something, I’m not going to mind.

The “Farmers Insurance Open,” as they call it this year will have plenty of other interesting golfers to watch.  John Daly is back in the field looking as slim as ever but still trying to find his swing.

Rocco Mediate is back at the scene of his most memorable tournament.  It’s Rocco’s first trip back at Torrey Pines since his sudden death playoff with Tiger at the 2008 US Open.

Paul Goydos, who isn’t afraid to call Tim Finchem on the carpet, is playing and I’m hoping he’ll keep up his analysis of the Tour’s policies.

Jesper Parnevik is playing but he’ll spend as much time deflecting Tiger questions as he will playing this week.

David Duval continues his quest to climb back into the top of the World Rankings.

Ernie Els is looking for a big year from himself and is convinced he has it and another major in him.

Fran Quinn makes a return to the big tour after having played on the tour in 1992.  The forty four year old earned his way back through the Nationwide Tour.  If Quinn can perform well on the tour he could be the feel good story of the year.

One of the more interesting players on tour is Ryan Moore and his unconventional approach to the game suits him well: he has two top tens in two starts this season.

PGA Tour rookie, Matt Every makes his debut this week and you may remember him from The Golf Channel’s Big Break.  He has more game than you think: he was a three time All-American at Florida and won the Ben Hogan Award as the premier collegiate player of the year in 2006.  The last Ben Hogan Award winner to win on tour?  Bill Haas, last week’s Bob Hope Classic champion


Big Names Need to Help “The Hope”

January 26th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

I spent some time Monday afternoon watching some young (cheers to Bill Haas) and not so young faces battle it out down the stretch at The Bob Hope Classic and while the golf playing out on the television was exciting and interesting, I’m am sure the casual golf fan could not have cared less.  That is not a knock on the golfers that were playing; they were a mixture of fine, experienced tour players and youngsters trying to make their mark.  But they aren’t household names to the casual fan or tour superstars and that is what is needed for television ratings that can be translated into a new tournament sponsor.  The Hope has no title sponsor since Chrysler begged off from the tournament and it may be awhile before a sponsor is willing to fork over the millions it takes to become a title sponsor on the PGA Tour.

One of the guilty parties to the decline of The Hope may be the PGA Tour itself.  The Tour likes to think of its players as a bunch of “independent contractors” that come together each week to play their tournaments.  There are requirements the players have to follow to remain on tour.  After the players qualify for the tour they have to play in at least fifteen PGA tournaments to maintain their playing privileges.  If they want to play in another event that is sponsored by another golf tour on the same weekend that a PGA Tour event is taking place they have to ask the Tour for a “Conflicting Event Exemption” in order to be released from their PGA Tour commitments.

This past week the PGA Tour let plenty of big, household names out of The Hope to play on the European Tour at Abu Dhabi.  Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas and Geoff Ogilvy are all top names that opted for the Euro Tour instead of The Hope.  Add Rory McIlroy to that list as a new PGA Tour member that played there also but hasn’t made his debut on the PGA Tour yet as a member.  That’s a lot of star power that The Hope could have used a little bit of.  Many of those players and Kenny Perry have committed to the next European Tour event, The Qatar Masters.

The PGA Tour, like everyone else is not immune to difficult economic times.  The poor economy, the sponsor’s reluctance to part with millions of dollars and Tiger Woods missing in action has placed an even heavier burden on the players.  If the PGA Tour allows many of its top names to play all over the world while missing PGA Tour events those events are going to suffer.

I guess you can’t blame the players if they look to make a little extra cash but this is one of the big problems facing the tour.  The European Tour pays appearance fees to many of the players in the field.  Tiger Woods is supposed to have been paid $3 million for a single appearance and since Tiger is not playing that leaves a few million available to pay other players. Hello Kenny Perry!  The PGA Tour forbids its tournaments from paying appearance fees so the players are left with a choice.  They can enter the PGA Tour event and try to win some cash or they can take a little vacation and pick up a big check whether they make the cut or not.  The past few weeks there have been many European Tour checks made out to full time PGA Tour players.

The problem here for the tour is that if they never say no to any Conflicting Event Exemption then they really have no control over a good amount of their players.  If a Tour Member plays in fifteen tournaments he can have three exemptions, if he plays in twenty events he can have four.  It is more lucrative for the foreign players.  If they declare that the European Tour is their home tour they can have unlimited exemptions as long as they play in a fifteen PGA TOUR events.  So for example, Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia or Ian Poulter can play in any European Tour event they choose and not have to worry about The PGA Tour events and still reap the rewards of playing as a member on The PGA Tour.  If a player plays in the four majors and the four WGC events, that leaves only seven more PGA Tour events for him to play in to keep his membership on The PGA Tour.

It hardly seems fair that players can play almost a part time schedule and still reap all the rewards of full time membership.  The PGA Tour will never pay appearance fees but it may be time it examined its conflicting events exemption policy.  There are too many tournaments looking for ways to keep their sponsors and too many players using the exemptions.  The players built their name, records and reputation while playing on the best and highest paid tour in the world and it’s only fair that they take care of the tour that made them so wealthy.


Bill Haas and The Family Business

January 25th, 2010 2 comments

by Jeff Skinner

Bill Haas made two birdies on the last two Holes of The Bob Hope Classic to win and finish one stroke ahead of Matt Kuchar, Tim Clark and Bubba Watson.  It was Haas’ first win on The PGA Tour but not the first time he has held a championship trophy.  His dad, Jay Haas, won The Hope in 1988 and eight other PGA Tour victories and fourteen Champions Tour wins.  Jay was there to see Bill win his first after flying in from The Champions Tour event on Hawaii.  If The Hope isn’t delayed by rain and forced to finish on Monday a father doesn’t get to see his son’s first win.  There’s a silver lining in every cloud, even those at La Quinta.

The Haas family is one of the better represented families in American Golf.  Bill Haas is a former three time All-American and won the Ben Hogan award at Wake Forest University.  Bill’s great uncle Bob Goalby won the 1968 Masters.  Jay is still playing on the Champions Tour and has won two Charles Schwab Cups.  Bill’s uncle Jerry, Jay’s brother, is a former tour player and All-American at Wake Forest and is now the Men’s Golf Coach at Wake Forest, and Bill’s brother played golf for Augusta State.  That’s a fairly healthy family tree.

I saw Bill play in The 2004 US Open and was shocked to see such a skinny kid pound the ball like he did. Even from a distance his looked mature for his years and seemed like he belonged on tour.  When I talked to his uncle Jerry last year for some insight on Webb Simpson, another one of Jerry’s Wake Forest boys, we spoke briefly about Bill and the “Golfing Haas Family.”  Jerry said he had the best job in the world at Wake Forest and loved teaching his kids.  He commented on the maturity of Webb and Bill and how he knew both would succeed on tour.  One of the threads that connect all the Haas’ in addition to golf is the class and decency they display.  I’ve watched Jay be interviewed many times and he is always gracious and considerate.  I’ve spoken to Jerry and he was more interested in promoting his players then he was in talking about himself.  And I watched Bill say he was “nervous” coming down the stretch at The Hope.  Jay and Jerry have to be thrilled that their “kids” are continuing the family tradition of good golf and great people.


Bubba Watson Goes “Tin Cup”

January 25th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

I know I go a little stir crazy when my round of golf gets rained out and I guess the pros go through the same thing.  Bubba Watson gets creative during the rain out at The Hope this week.  He starts going “Tin Cup and Roy McAvoy” on us as he hits balls out of his house into a bucket.  It’s a pretty good trick and Bubba seems like a real character here.  He should bring that personality to the course and maybe we would all have some more fun. Check it out.

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