On the eve of the 2016 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, Paige Spiranac, discusses the abuse she received after her sponsor's invite to the 2015 event. Things get emotional...
Golf architecture is not a science. Creatively it is not amenable to measurable knowledge. The failure to understand this is one reason responsible for the dilemma in the minds of most golfers who try to come to a logical understanding of golf architecture and get nowhere. MAX BEHR
On the eve of the 2016 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, Paige Spiranac, discusses the abuse she received after her sponsor's invite to the 2015 event. Things get emotional...
Bob Harig has all sorts of tidbits in this ESPN.com about Tiger's schedule in the wake of his respectable showing at the Hero World Challenge.
There was this gem of a quote from Mark Steinberg, who no doubt has seen some UAE numbers pop up on his phone screen and is enjoying .
"My phone was pretty heated this week leading up to the first round,'' Steinberg said Friday at Albany Golf Club, where the second round of the Hero World Challenge was underway. "But it went from heated to hot.
Heated to hot!
Tiger seems likely to start 2017 in Abu Dhabi or the Omega Dubai Desert Classic (January 30-February 5th) depending on the appearance fee winner and other dynamics (can a Rolex man take Omega's money, or does Shaikh Mohammed have final say?).
There is also the question of Tiger's willingness to fly across the world to reach Torrey Pines in time for the Farmers while asking a lot of his surgically repaired back.
With the Woods Foundation running and benefiting from the rebranded Genesis Open at Riviera, the Dubai option would allow for a week off after Dubai and more sensible start to the season. Tiger would also be able to make his return to Los Angeles even grander by making it his first domestic start.
Harig makes this point about scheduling influences and differences for Woods.
Regardless of what Woods chooses to do, it is unlikely he will be eligible for the WGC-Mexico Championship or the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship, meaning he might play in some events he normally does not play. Woods is likely to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he has won eight times.
The story also delves into Tiger's more promising leverage in negotiating equipment deals, with Harig predicting Bridgestone as his first choice for a golf ball.
Finally, there is the timing of Tiger's return and the big ratings that came with it: the PGA Tour is believed to be ready to re-open their weekend television rights. Commissioner Ironclad steps down December 31st and hands Jay Monahan the keys to the PGA Tour Citation, re-working the weekend television rights may be priority number one. A resurgent Tiger certainly improves their leverage after dreadful fall ratings and mostly flat or down weekend numbers in 2016.
But will the major networks or potential new blood in the streaming world be enticed to pay more given Tiger's spotty playing record?
Here are highlights from the traditional Tiger ratings bump, 2016 Hero World Challenge edition.
The Thursday numbers are off the charts given how many Americas have jobs.
The third round overnights coming in as the highest since the Memorial are eye-opening too...
Thursday (Golf Channel, final numbers)
Golf Channel’s Round 1 coverage delivered a .86 coverage rating / 782,000 viewers: +190% year over year and +74% over 2014, the last time Tiger Woods was in the field at this event.
Most-watched Round 1 this year since The Open Round 1 in July (excluding Day 1 of the Ryder Cup).
Most-watched Round 1 at this event on Golf Channel (2007-16).
Excluding Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, most-watched 4th quarter Round 1 in Golf Channel history (2006-16)
Friday (Golf Channel)
Friday’s live coverage of the Hero World Challenge delivered a .45 US HH overnight rating, a 200% increase year over year and a 61% increase from 2014.
Second highest round 2 overnight at this event on Golf Channel (2007-16).
Saturday (Golf Channel and NBC, overnights)
NBC: Saturday’s live coverage on NBC delivered a 1.59 US HH overnight rating, a 92% increase year over year and 73% over 2014. Highest Round 3 overnight at this event since 2011. Highest PGA TOUR Round 3 overnight since the Memorial round 3 in June (1.63), excluding the Majors and Ryder Cup.
Golf Channel: Saturday’s live lead-in coverage on Golf Channel delivered a .68 US HH overnight rating, a 162% increase year over year and a 51% increase over 2014. Highest Round 3 lead-in coverage at this event (2011-16).
Sunday (Golf Channel and NBC, overnights)
NBC: Sunday’s live coverage on NBC delivered a 1.08 US HH overnight rating, a 54% increase YOY and a 30% increase from 2014.
Golf Channel: Sunday’s live lead-in coverage delivered a .43 US HH overnight rating, a 126% increase YOY and a 48% increase from 2014. 2nd highest final round lead-in at this event (2011-16).
He's paid his dues by tolerating Monty, he hasn't run over anyone at previous Ryder Cups, and Thomas Bjorn deserves to be Europe's captain in Paris in most minds (except Ian Woosnam's.)
Still, with Europe getting beaten pretty handily and many questions about their eligibility system, a little more infighting, controversy and overall petty bickering would have been nice...in the holiday spirit.
John Huggan with the exclusive report.
As we noted today on Morning Drive in assessing the reation to Tiger's week, the views on his return seem to be split between respectful empathy celebrating the obvious positives, to continued apathy over an imperfect performance. But how could any golfer expect perfection after surgeries, yips and even signs of stage fright?
Both Doug Ferguson and Steve DiMeglio worked the red shirt into their ledes and then assessed.
Ferguson for the AP:
Woods showed no stress in his swing or in walking five straight rounds, starting with the pro-am. He had plenty of length, at times going after his driver with a little more pop to clear a bunker. He holed a few long putts . He missed a few short ones. At times, he looked like he had never been away for that long.
And at times it did.
After a lede with Rickie Fowler celebrating the return of the red shirt, DiMeglio for USA Today in nearly identical words to Ferguson's:
His return to competitive golf after an absence of nearly 16 months — which included two surgeries to his troublesome back — was a success on nearly all counts as the positives far outweighed the negatives. This despite the final-round 76 and the final-hole double bogey as he finished 15th in the elite 17-man field, 14 shots behind Hideki Matsuyama, who won at 18 under and was two clear of Henrik Stenson. It was Matsuyama’s fourth victory in five starts and he was a staggering 90 under during that stretch.
Bob Harig for ESPN.com offered a measured tone in an overall positive take that also included assessments from Tiger's last two instructors pre-Chris Como:
"I really like how much longer his backswing is -- especially with the driver,'' said Sean Foley, Woods' former coach. "I like that his lower body and pelvis are moving more. The movement is not restricted; it is much more free. He looks great.''
Another former coach, Haney Haney, said: "The swing is smooth; there are no apparent issues.''
Golf World's Jaime Diaz offered this:
Most of all, there was a palpable and overdue ease to his game. Woods looked leaner, which seemed to aid in more swinging of the clubhead and less straining of the body. Along with his speed, he had rhythm and flow and balance. Technically, his stance was narrower, posture taller, hip turn bigger and his once rigid left leg softer through impact. There seemed to be less thinking over the ball, and more of a subconscious freedom.
Jeff Babineau in Golfweek's on-site assessment was broken into five areas of interest related to Woods' game:
But he showed he has plenty of game. Sure, four rounds isn’t very much to go on. But with more chances to compete and if he can get back to some semblance of a normal schedule, Woods should be able not only to contend again, but win again.
Mark Cannizzaro in the New York Post:
Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, had a modest goal for his man for the week.
“I thought it was good, a lot of positives,’’ LaCava said. “He’s upright, No. 1. Seriously. You laugh, but I think that’s good. I love the fact that he was hitting a lot of shots that he was kind of picturing in his mind. There were a few loose ones, obviously, but he hit plenty of good shots, plenty of good things to take away from it. And he made some putts.
“The fact that’s he’s making birdies is a good sign. I wasn’t going to compare him to the rest of the field. It’s a great field, they’ve been playing all year and they’ve all been playing great.
Michael Bamberger writing for Golf.com:
No player made more birdies than Woods over the four rounds -- he had 24 of them -- and nobody had more double bogeys than Woods, who had six, half of them on the par-4 18th. Woods's has been the greatest closer in golf history, but those three doubles suggest a certain mental frailty.
That's golf. You can say whatever you want to yourself and to reporters and to your caddie but the little boxes on a scorecard leave no room for self-talk.
Gary Koch broke down Tiger's swing on the broadcast and it's worth a look.
From the detractor side, Brandel Chamblee on Golf Central (16 minute mark) didn't see an improvement in the swing or chip yips Woods has suffered.
**A couple of longtime Tiger observers with different views:
I must have missed something. Tiger beat two out of 17 players, but I kept reading that he was winning another major.— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) December 4, 2016
Probably where I thought #TigerWoods would finish before the week started, but not the way it happened. -4 but led the field in birdies, 24— Robert Lusetich (@RobertLusetich) December 4, 2016
I forget how much I enjoy reading Q-School stories this time of year, with the event at LPGA International included no shortage of good ones.
Golfweek's Beth Ann Baldry talked to England's Melissa Reid about getting her card after losing her mum to a 2012 car accident and missing the entry deadline in 2015.
“It’s a unique event,” said Reid. “I hope to never come back here again.”
As for her longtime agent, well, she might be more relieved than anyone.
“She’s a bit off the hook,” Reid laughed.
Earlier this week, Allen read somewhere that she was the top-ranked player in the field at Q-School at No. 63.
“I just thought, oh wish I hadn’t seen that,” said the honest Allen, who has played full time in Europe since 2009.
On the collegiate side, USC is losing Karen Chung to the LPGA Tour while UCLA says goodbye to Bronte Law, who obtained partial status, writes Baldry. This is notable on several levels, including the perk of having a year-end Q-School that allows college players to make a go of it and return to school if they do not succeed.
This European Tour page has a nice roundup of the various (amazing) wildlife videos shot during last week's Alfred Dunhill Championship.
With Leopard Creek Country Club on the border of Kruger National Park, the wildlife stood out as Brandon Stone took the title. In fact, Stone can be seen here taking in the majestic creatures during the final round:
A video posted by European Tour (@europeantour) on Dec 4, 2016 at 3:10am PST
Welcome the busy and talented design firm of Ebert and Mackenzie to Instagram by following and checking out the first glimpse of their Royal Portrush renovation.
The firm is adding two holes to a course currently ranked 13th by Golf Magazine's esteemed panel.
We saw a preview of the planned changes here. While many of us feared tinkering with a classic to create a tent city on the current 17th and 18th, adding two holes was the only way for The Open to cone to Northern Ireland. Furthermore, losing the 17th hole's massive fairway bunker was a shame but it seems "Big Nellie" has surfaced at the new 572-yard 7th:
The best players in the world will encounter two new holes at Royal Portrush in 2019. Pictured is the new 572 yard 7th, which features the relocated 'Big Nellie' bunker. Safe to say we can't wait to see how the world's best tackle this hole in a couple of years! #portrush #theopen #linksgolf
A photo posted by Mackenzie & Ebert (@mackenzieandebert) on Dec 4, 2016 at 10:18am PST
**We discussed on Morning Drive.
With Verne Lundquist working his last SEC game, huge college football fan Jack Nicklaus joined the long list of those serenading the veteran CBS announcer.
Nicklaus even threw in a "Yes, sir!" to end his salute. Though I still feel the "maybe" is essential to the call:
As his world ranking slipped into the triple-digits--and would have moved to a four-digit number if not for the Hero World Challenge--lost was Tiger Woods' ability to intimidate a leaderboard by his mere presence.
While he has a ways to go in getting his game in peak shape, Tiger's already shown flashes of brilliance and putting prowess not seen in years. Another early run Saturday in the Bahamas may have already restored his good name. Or, at the very least, the Tiger brand known for its ability intimidate by mere leaderboard presence.
I note this because of two post round comments. The first was from Karen Crouse's New York Times game story, which quotes the hottest player on the planet, Hideki Matsuyama, World Challenge leader by nine.
“Only Tiger could take a year and a half off and put up the numbers that he’s putting up this week,” Matsuyama said. “I don’t care how many strokes I’m leading over him, I still worry about him, fear him.”
And this from Jordan Spieth in Jeff Babineau's Golfweek.com story:
“I’m pumped to see what he’s doing this week. We heard a long roar at 5 – a putt, or a chip-in – when we were on 4, and I looked at the board, and they flipped him to 4 (under) through 5, and I’m like, ‘All right,’ you know? … Today, in those conditions to be 4 or 5 under par, that’s as low as anyone is going. So it’s there, and if he wasn’t rusty, he’d be winning this tournament.”
A year ago yesterday the San Bernardino shooting took fourteen lives and impacted countless others.
Rich Lerner narrates an incredible piece produced by Sarah Chovnick on the Paez family. Asian Tour professional golfer Nick's mother, Julie, was shot twice in the terrorist attack.
We know players make club switches to appease sponsors and face bag requirements. But most club companies ultimately trust a player to do what is best for their game if they are struggling. Tiger Woods has never been woeful on the greens. But before his layoff, he wasn't as good as he once was.
Given that Tiger Woods won 13 of 14 majors with his trusty Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter, his response to a question about switching back to it today prompted an uncharacteristically blunt answer.
From Will Gray's full item on this fascinating insider issue.
“The day that we (Nike) were no longer a part of the hard goods side,” Woods said when asked when he put his old putter back into play.
Brandel Chamblee was asked about his expectations for the weekend but instead noted that Woods has moved into a unique place where he can pick whatever he wants in his bag. But the question may now linger: why didn't one of the greatest players of all time and richest golfers in history have the freedom to putt with his trusty flatstick?
If you were watching today's Morning Drive you saw all of Tiger's pre-Hero Challenge second round warmup. Now, that might seem like overkill but a student of the game would have quickly realized they were seeing something fascinating.
The contrast with his day one warm-up was striking. Friday, Woods was joking, smiling, twirling and warming up like someone who has won five World Challenges merely enjoying a relaxed silly-season day. Yesterday, his first-round preparation mirrored his pre-major championship round routine: precise number of shots, specific order of pre-round practice and not much banter. Few other players were chatting it up with him, but they sure were keeping an eye on him.
The contrast in moods spoke to the enormous and understandable burden carried by Woods. Whether the joviality would translate in round two remained an open question.
But a workmanlike bogey-free 65 not only proved Woods once again has the fire to compete, but it also raised the golf writing bar amongst those on site.
Steve DiMeglio nailed his USA Today lede:
NASSAU, Bahamas — Well, he is Tiger Woods.
Doug Ferguson's AP story seized on a wacky, Seve-esque 16th hole par, one we will always remember because of the surreal reaction in front of no playing partner (due to a Justin Rose WD) and almost no crowd (due to the tournament location).
NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Tiger Woods saved par from the dunes with a shot so good that two spectators ran over and scooped up sand for a souvenir.
It also served as motivation Friday at the Hero World Challenge. The tee shot on the par-3 eighth that landed next to a bush was so bad that Woods said he told caddie Joe LaCava after his par putt, "I'm not dropping a shot."
And he didn't.
Golfweek's Jeff Babineau got right to the point:
NEW PROVIDENCE, Bahamas – Well, that was a little better, don’t you think? Tiger Woods, on Day 2 of the great comeback trail, showed us what we’ve been missing since, oh, maybe 2013, when he won his last five PGA Tour titles.
Jason Sobel worked his way into his ESPN.com story of Tiger's great day more deliberately, trying to pinpoint the key moment that signaled signs of the old cat's presence.
No, the moment he truly started evoking memories of the guy who's won 14 major championships occurred on the next tee, the par-3 eighth, when his impact through the ball was immediately followed by one of his first audible exhortations during the round.
"One yard!" he shouted, a command he often gave when he was hitting his best shots.
The ball listened, nestling just a few feet from the hole en route to a fourth birdie and a share of the lead.
Karen Crouse focuses her New York Times story on caddie Joe LaCava, who has stayed on the sidelines and out of the limelight while Woods prepared to come back.
His joints were stiff and his muscles were sore after two rounds of carrying Tiger Woods’s bag at the Hero World Challenge. But, he said, “I’m lucky to feel it.”
For 466 days, Woods’s back operations left LaCava in loopers’ limbo. He was neither employed nor unemployed. His financial arrangement with Woods, for whom he has worked since the end of 2011, freed him from having to seek temporary employment.
“He’s taken good care of me since the first day I’ve worked for him,” said LaCava, who politely declined to divulge any specifics.
Bob Harig wonders if Tiger's new non-free safety physique has led to more flexibility, better tempo and a better golf body.
Woods has also apparently learned to stay off the heavy weights. He said his weight is less than 180 after a recent illness, though he looks leaner through his upper body as well.
Perhaps that has allowed him to swing more freely. Woods has mostly seemed under control here, without the violent swings that sometimes would creep into his game in recent years. No matter his weight, Woods has always been able to hit the ball plenty far, and that might be among the most encouraging things he's showed this week. His power is back.
"I can't do what I used to do -- weights, running,'' he said. "My first probably five, six years on tour, I ran 30 miles a week. I would run five, six miles almost every day, at least four. Before a round, after a round, it didn't matter. There's no way in hell I'm doing that now. That's just aging. That's just having four knee surgeries, three backs. My body's been through it.''
Woods made one positively jaw-dropping admission following his round. Mark Cannizzaro reports for the New York Post.
Asked when he went back to using the Scotty Cameron, Woods said, “The day that we were no longer a part of the hard goods side,’’ referring to his main sponsor, Nike, getting out of the club and ball business.
Currently T9, Tiger tees off at 12:24 pm ET Saturday with Rickie Fowler.
Always great to see two-time cancer survivor Jarrod Lyle on the golf course, but especially when he aces the 5th at Royal Pines.
From the Australian PGA first round:
This comeback was definitely different in tone. Just look at Doug Ferguson's list of previous Tiger Woods comebacks and you recall how many were forced, premature or just downright edgy.
This time around anyone with an ounce of soul did not want to see another boondoggle. Mercifully for golf and Tiger, the 14-time major winner put on a strong early show before succumbing to the fatigue of a hot day, enormous pressure and a lack of tournament seasoning after a long layoff.
Of course, in classic Tiger fashion, he refused to admit to fatigue. That might just be the best evidence he's his ownself again.
Jason Sobel noted this classic stubbornness in his account for ESPN.com:
This was a textbook round for someone who hadn't played in a while: Make a few nervy pars just to ease away the tension; ride the wave of adrenaline up the leaderboard; get overtaken by fatigue down the stretch.
If we needed further proof, though, of Woods' return to familiarity, it came after the round, when he wouldn't acquiesce to that last observation.
He was asked a reasonable question about whether he'd run out of gas before making those two doubles.
"I wouldn't say that," he offered. "I just made some mistakes."
Michael Collins, talking to Sportscenter, also pointed out that post-round, Tiger did not come across as someone physically compromised.
Will Gray at GolfChannel.com makes the shrewd point that the strong start to the round makes this a much better feeling 73 than one in which Woods was just so-so all day.
Had Woods more evenly dispersed his scorecard, had one of his closing doubles instead come amid the three-birdie run that highlighted his opening nine, perhaps the tinge of disappointment might have evaporated. But he didn’t, and they didn’t, and a 73 is more difficult to stomach after Woods appeared on his way to something in the mid-60s.
In case you have a real job and missed it, here is Golf Channel's highlight package.
Alan Shipnuck, writing for Golf.com, offers his overall assessment as a long time Tiger observer, some more elaborate comments from former swing coach Hank Haney and this on the first tee mood scene:
He was dressed in a badass all-black ensemble, befitting the high noon tee time. The World Challenge is a mostly meaningless hit-and-giggle event, but the tee was crowded with reporters, cameramen and assorted rubberneckers. The most dominant golfer of all time does not have the luxury of easing back into competition. The mood was tense, even fraught. As Woods settled over the ball, waggling his discordant new TaylorMade driver, it was so funereal quiet you could hear decorative flags flapping in the distance.
Former swing coach Haney also offered this Tweet:
From what I saw today I see Tiger winning more tournaments and at least one more major, lot's of positives today.— Hank Haney (@HankHaney) December 1, 2016
Steve DiMeglio of USA Today saw enough to declare more wins in Tiger's future.
As long as his body — and especially his back — holds up, Woods will lift championship hardware again. Doesn’t matter if he’ll turn 41 on Dec. 31. The game’s needle will trigger appreciative cheers in trophy ceremonies on the 18th green in the future.
Another longtime Tiger watcher who has seen his share of antics, also had a positive assessment.
Jeff Babineau at Golfweek includes a lot of Tiger playing partner Patrick "Pat" Reed, as well as this:
Cool to see, yes. Tiger Woods, back in action, the round moving like a movie reel, giving us glimpses of the familiar. He pounded a drive 20 yards past Reed, a long knocker, at the third, and roped a 5-iron from 235 yards on the same hole that soared through the air on a string. He enjoyed that one. The ball would run out over the green, but it gave Woods some confidence. When he poured in a 16-foot left-to-righter at the short 14th to save par after being in a sandy area AND a bunker, there was a fist pump. The adrenaline was pumping.
And for Tigerphiles, in case you missed it, Mike Johnson filed an interesting GolfDigest.com look at what it's like to work with Tiger when he's club testing.
Tiger tees off at 11:12 am ET Friday, with Morning Drive and Golf Central bringing early play highlights before the 1 pm telecast.
You may recall the wild and crazy antics of A-listers Rickie and Jordan, joined by B-listers Smylie and Justin last spring. The sport declared an inevitable, but untraceable "grow the game" factor stemming from their semi-naked romps at Bakers Bay. The super-exclusive resort loving the free publicity and bridge to the vaunted millennials. I disagreed and certainly understood the hostile "get off my lawn" reaction, but stand by my view that it was all a bit much.
The #SB2K16 group reconvened in New York this fall to little acclaim for reasons unclear, and now the B-listers have been joined by some youthful wannabes for the "winter meetings" that no shortage of folks lauding those wild and crazy antics shared on Snapchat (and then screen-grabbed somewhat creepily wishing they could join in the fun, even though 99.9% of golf courses would eject you for the behavior).
So I ask, in the spirit of discussion: if PGA Tour players running around on a green and leaving a cake behind for others to clean up is kosher, should the sport do a little soul searching? Or at the very least, bring the stymie if all hell breaking loose is so darned cool?
A video posted by GolfBalled.com (@golfballed) on Nov 30, 2016 at 11:49am PST
Euphoria, multiple eagles and high-level anticipation! it's all in the Bahamas air as Tiger is finally back! Shoot, the first birdie back may lower his Masters win odds to 5-1. Even the jargon (ballistics!) has been sharp and the almost-funny one liners are back.
All is right with the world!
Oh sure there is a long way to go. The body looks understandably tight (see Tripp Isenhour's breakdown at the 6 minute mark of today's Golf Central). But the swing rhythm and reports like this one from Jeff Babineau sound promising:
Maybe more impressive were some of the low, laser-like long irons he hit into the teeth of the wind on a few of Albany’s difficult par 3s, such as the eighth, playing about 230 yards, where he knocked a tee shot 12 feet past the flag and missed the putt.
As Tiger prepares to launch what is apparently been dubbed "Phase Two", Will Gray notes at GolfChannel.com that there will be entertaining mood swings that may prove more entertaining than the golf.
Sure, some feedback will be gleaned. His swing will inevitably be dissected from all angles, and the short game that bogged him down so often last year will be on full display, for better or worse.
And given such a small sample size, dangerous levels of extrapolation are sure to follow. Every made birdie will mean a 15th major is a fait accompli; every flubbed chip will lead others to question if his career has officially run its course.
Tiger is feeling the good vibes of his time at Hazeltine, as the U.S.A. Ryder Cup team wore onesies and red t-shirts emblazoned with "Make Tiger Great Again" to honor their assistant captain, writes Jason Sobel at ESPN.com. More fascinating may be how much the players want to see him play well again:
"We want our champion back," Bubba Watson said. "We want our Tiger Woods back. We want him playing again."
"He's still just turning every head when he walks into the dining area," added Spieth. "Or if he's on the driving range, I mean, everybody's looking up to see him hit some shots. I was doing it this morning, interested obviously."
Given how long he's been away and how many surgeries Tiger has been through, expectations probably need to be tempered though, as Paige Mackenzie and I discussed today on Morning Drive with Whit Watson.
Tiger will pass 150 or so players just by finishing the Hero World Challenge, even if he finishes last, Bob Harig notes at ESPN.com. Shouldn't there be some sort of ranking points penalty for tournaments of a certain (miniscule) size?
The subdued energy level from his post-pro-am round interview could be read one of two ways: this is just another Hero World Challenge and I've been doing this too long, or, I'm trying to make it sound like this is another Hero World Challenge and that I've been doing this too long.
"I'll be focused. I'll be ready." https://t.co/gewHmhNdui— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) November 30, 2016
Tiger tees off at noon ET Thursday. Golf Channel will present Morning Drive starting at 10:30 am. The show will include live shots of Tiger warming up, along with more of our Design Week coverage. At 11:55 Golf Central will take over and provide bonus coverage before the regularly scheduled 12:30 ET start.
The momentum of the LPGA Tour's business side continues under Commissioner Mike Whan's tenure, with purse increases at the majors and 22 events in the United States (but three domestic events disappear, including the Swinging Skirts at Lake Merced).
Randall Mell notes the new events for GolfChannel.com as well as the purse increases.
The new schedule features four new events, the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Ladies Open, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open, the Indy Women in Tech event at Brickyard Crossing in Indianapolis and the Thornberry Creek Classic in Green Bay, Wis.
This Golfweek report notes the return of match play in a revamped Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the USGA's $1 million purse increase at the U.S. Women's Open.
On the match play event and the dying events.
The biggest surprise of Wednesday’s announcement is that match play will return to the LPGA schedule for the first time since 2012. The Lorena Ochoa Invitational, a tournament that struggled to get a strong field in recent years, will transition into the Lorena Ochoa Match Play and will feature a field of 64. The event will also move from the fall to the spring and will be held at Club de Golf México in Mexico City, the tournament site since 2014.
Three domestic events, the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic (Prattville, Ala.), Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic (Daly City, Calif.), and Coates Golf Championship (Ocala, Fla.) will not return. 2017 will mark the first time the LPGA hasn’t competed on a Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail property in 19 years.
Though most of the world can barely stand to hear about Rio and its Olympic golf course woes, the attention from AFP's recent story has at least prompted a response from the Brazilian Golf Confederation.
Writing to GolfChannel.com, Brazilian Golf Confederation president Paulo Pacheco said the course is enjoying a “soft opening” and says “the maintenance of the course will continue at the same quality level.”
Rex Hoggard writing for GolfChannel.com:
Pacheco also said the Confederation has not requested any financial assistance to help maintain the course from the International Golf Federation or any other international agency.
The IGF has offered Pacheco and the Confederation support in the Olympic course’s transition to a public course, according to a statement released this week.
“As has been the case since the very beginning of this project, getting an accurate picture of the current situation on the ground and the best parties responsible for the short- and long-term success of the Olympic Golf Course has been difficult,” the IGF statement read. “The current economic and political situation in Rio has contributed to this difficulty.
“We have been disheartened by the recent reports regarding the status of the Olympic Golf Course and can only hope that the [Confederation], Rio 2016 and the city of Rio can work together to find both a short-term and long-term solution.”
But the crux of the initial AFP story--that the maintenance contractor is about to walk away due to unpaid bills--remains the most pressing issue and was not definitively answered by the latest response. Given the incredible job done by Progolf and Neil Cleverly to grow the course in and present it so ideally for the Games, this is a sad state of affairs.
A little lost in all of the Tiger talk this week: the resounding success of the World Cup of Golf. As we discussed on Morning Drive, the format seemed to work well. But it was Kingston Heath that stole the show.
Mike Clayton filed some thoughts on what made the week such a sucess in spite of silly driving distances and also offered this observation about the course's best moments.
More interesting and entertaining to watch was how the field played the short par 4 4th hole (the club’s normal 3rd) There was a wide variety of clubs played from the tee in Saturday’s foursomes play with Rickie Fowler leaving Jimmy Walker a full nine iron to the flag while Soren Kjelsden, the shortest of the top players last week, left his partner Thorbjorn Olesen with barely anything more than a chip from the perfect angle.
A few matches ahead the New Zealanders Ryan Fox and Danny Lee made a comedic mess of a seemingly simple hole by playing it completely the wrong way despite hitting two perfectly good looking shots.