New tour season same as the last
The second week of the PGA Tour season is about to start and we're still trying to knock away the rust from that long offseason.
OK, so there have been a million of those lame one-liners as it relates to the new PGA Tour season beginning so soon after the conclusion of the last one. Just 18 days after Henrik Stenson putted out for par at the Tour Championship, the "new" season was kicking off last week at the Frys.Com Open. Throw in the Presidents Cup, and golf barely left us.
But while it's easy to make fun of the new wraparound setup, the truth is the PGA Tour has been playing golf tournaments into November for decades. Even the start of the FedEx Cup format in 2007 saw the tour play eight events following the Tour Championship. This year, there are six, including two overseas that for the first time count as official events.
As crazy as it seems to begin a new season less than three weeks after the last one, how ridiculous was it to have tournaments that counted for a season that supposedly just concluded? That was the case prior to this year, where the tournaments that followed the Tour Championship counted on the money list. It was awkward.
Now, at least, these tournaments give FedEx Cup points and the chance to earn a spot in the Masters. Those are two of the biggest perks earned by Jimmy Walker following his victory at the Frys.com Open. That event has been on the schedule every year during the FedEx era, so it's not as if this is a new tournament. It just has some added value for those playing in it.
The best solution, obviously, would be to shut down for a while and give players and fans a chance to rest. One of the reasons the NFL and college football are so popular is the sport leaves you wanting more. You can't wait for the next season to get underway. That is hardly the case in golf, which has a hard time keeping the casual fan interested through a season that virtually never stops.
But that is not going to change. The PGA Tour, first and foremost, is about giving playing opportunities to its members. It is not going to contract. These tournaments are going to be played.
That is not to say there can't be improvements. The logjam of tournaments between the Open Championship and the end of the FedEx playoffs is concern and had players gasping. There needs to be some space between the PGA Championship and the first FedEx event, something that could be accomplished by moving some of these fall events into the late August time period.
Contractual obligations and television commitments do not make that an easy scenario, but it is something to explore.
In the meantime, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem will hope he and the tour brass can coax some of the bigger names to partake in these fall events. Zach Johnson is the highest-ranked player this week in Las Vegas. Phil Mickelson will play next week in Malaysia and the following week in China.
As for the rest? Camilo Villegas seemed to put it best last week at the Frys.com Open.
"You can't complain about it," Villegas said. "There are more tournaments that count. There is more money. That is more opportunities for us out here. So if you look at it from a business point of view, Finchem is doing a great job to keep growing this tour and giving us players and sponsors more opportunities."
At The Turn
Last week marked the halfway point between the end of the 2013 Masters and the start of the 2014 version at Augusta National. For those counting, the start of the Shriners Hospital for Children Open is 186 days since Adam Scott won the green jacket; and 175 days until the opening tee shot on April 10, 2014.
Rory McIlroy's lost season doesn't appear to be getting any better. He's having to fend off queries about his personal life, still answering questions about his switch in equipment, and is now embroiled in a court case with his former management company Horizon Sports. There was a lawsuit, a countersuit and the whole thing appears ugly, especially when you consider the parties are arguing over a substantial sum of money.
That situation promises to linger into 2014, and is not expected to be resolved for perhaps a year, as a trial date is set for next October -- unless the two sides decide to settle.
Meanwhile, McIlroy said at a news conference Tuesday in Seoul that part of his problems this year stemmed from being "under golfed for the first three or four months."
McIlroy began his season in Abu Dhabi, where he missed the cut. Then he didn't play for a month, losing in the first round at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The next week was the Honda Classic, where he withdrew in the middle of the second round.
Nine weeks into the new year, and McIlroy had played all of 4½ rounds of golf.
But if he was under golfed then, perhaps he is about to be over golfed now.
Starting with this week's Kolon Korean Open, McIlroy is playing six of the next eight weeks. He heads to Shanghai next week for the European Tour's BMW Masters, then the WGC-HSBC Champions, which counts on both the European Tour and the PGA Tour. In between, he has a one-day exhibition with Tiger Woods.
After a week off, it's the season-ending European Tour event in Dubai, followed by another week off, then the Australian Open and then to Southern California for the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, Woods' charity event.
At the very least, McIlroy's travels will be lucrative. He is getting appearance money in Korea, the first Shanghai event and Australia, while the other tournaments have minimum payouts. A conservative guess is this six-tournament jaunt will be worth at least $5 million, not counting any big prize-money hauls that are certainly in play.
McIlroy is understandably looking at these events as a chance to get his game on track. He's got three tournaments to conclude his European Tour schedule, which could at least put a better spin on that season. And the WGC event gives him a chance to get off to a good start on the 2013-14 PGA Tour.
It's a lot of golf, but perhaps that is the best thing for McIlroy at this point.
Jack Nicklaus recently unveiled a golf ball that his company is marketing with a very simple concept: white, blue, black. The type of ball you choose is based on the tees you play.
The Nicklaus White is for the player who plays the forward tees, is more of a high handicapper; the Nicklaus Blue is the for middle handicap player who would typically play the blue tees or middle tees; and the Nicklaus Black is for the single-digit handicap player or pros.
To keep the price down, the balls are being sold only at Nicklaus.com or at Nicklaus Design golf courses.
Three balls, three tees. And there is also a charitable component: A percentage of all sales will go to the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.
The golf balls are being made by Bridgestone and Nicklaus said he is trying to "simplify the decision-making process of selecting the right golf ball."
1. Jimmy Walker. It has been a long time coming, but his first PGA Tour victory at the Frys.com Open gets him in the Masters as well as a nice head start in the FedEx Cup standings.
2. Lexi Thompson. It took a while, but Thompson, still just 18, added her second LPGA Tour title with her victory in China.
3. Vijay Singh. After a year filled with bad golf and controversy surrounding his lawsuit against the PGA Tour, the 50-year-old Singh contended for his 35th PGA Tour title at the Frys.com Open before settling for second place.
1. The season opener. The reason for going to a wraparound schedule is clear, but that didn't mean there was much buzz at the "first" tournament of the year.
2. Brooks Koepka. It was an impressive debut on the PGA Tour for Koepka, who played the Frys.com Open on a sponsor's exemption. But four bogeys on the last 10 holes when he had a chance to win will hurt.
3. Rory McIlroy. On top of all that has occurred this year, the dispute with his former management company looks ugly.
Jimmy Walker's victory at the Frys.com Open came with numerous perks, perhaps the best of which is an invitation to the Masters. But he'll also get a spot in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January, as well as the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Memorial Tournament if he was not already eligible. Walker is also exempt on the PGA Tour through the 2016 season. ... Vijay Singh's runner-up finish at the Frys was the 27th of his career. Among active players, Davis Love III is first with 30 runner-up finishes in his career, followed by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson with 29 each. ... The PGA Tour is no longer using money earned as a criteria for non-members to attain special temporary status, so FedEx points are the key for Brooks Koepka, who earned 134 non-member points for his third-place tie at the Frys. He needs to get to 278 points (the number earned by last year's 150th-place finisher) to attain special temporary status, meaning he could then accept unlimited sponsor exemptions. After that, the hope is to earn enough money or points to be among the top 125 for full status in 2014-15. ... Former Cal star Max Homa made his pro debut at the Frys.com Open and his top-10 finish earned him a spot this week in Las Vegas. ... Kevin Na played for the first time since the Masters, where a bulging disc in his back sidelined him. He finished tied for third and is playing on a major medical extension. Na will play this week at his home course, TPC Summrelin, and site of his only tour victory in 2011. … Hideki Matsuyama, with a tie for third, has now not finished worse than T-21 in six starts on the PGA Tour. … The Portugal Masters, won by David Lynn, was the final European Tour event of the year in continental Europe. The tour has moved to Australia this week for the ISPS Handa Perth International, the last full-field event in which players can retain their cards for next year.
"I like the way that sounds." -- Jimmy Walker, after his Frys.com Open victory, when someone said they'd see him in Augusta -- a perk for winning on the PGA Tour