Twitter: GeoffShac
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  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
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  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
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  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
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  • Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
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  • Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
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  • The Art of Golf Design
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  • The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
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Sunday
Jan072018

Sentry TOC: Leave The Format, Take The Trophy

Hey, how about that new trophy from the new sponsor! The Sentry Tournament of Champions wheeled out a candidate for best non-major trophy and a runaway winner in Dustin Johnson.

Everything else was, I'm sad to say, pretty boring.

With the PGA Championship move to May 2019 in coordination with the PGA Tour, we know everything should be under review from the calendar to formats to the FedExCup.

An essential starting place for setting a new tone should commence in emergency fashion with the moribund Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Because this is the sensitive world of golf where the slightest critique brings an outpouring of defensive responses, hate mail and Twitter trolls, let me get the apologies out of the way. I apologize in advance to, among others, Kapalua resort, Maui, the Governor, the people of Hawaii, Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw, new sponsor Sentry, longtime ambassador Mark Rolfing, the Golf Channel, the 2018 field, Rickie's Hawaiian shirt, anyone who has ever played a tournament of champions, and most of all, the humpback whales.

No offense, but the 2018 Sentry TOC was drool-on-the-pillow, dull. The kind of power-nap material you wake up from and feel like you've been sleeping for days. I can attest from actual 2018 experience the first three rounds. And this is coming from someone who enjoys the course, the setting and the concept of starting the season with an all-winners field.

Outside of it's place as a calendar year starter with the previous year's tournament winners, the Tournament of Champions needs more than an infusion of tweaks. The event needs an entire re-imagining. A Keith Pelley-like intervention, minus the pyrotechnics.

Some thoughts:

—Format. As match play is normalized and more revered by fans and network execs, the longtime calls to move this to a match play format look more prescient than ever. The small field size is crying out for some sort of match format leading to a championship matches by finalists. Smart executives can figure out how to deal with a different field size each year, but an obvious remedy would be to exempt players from round one who win multiple events from a round or two. Or maybe pool play where those with more wins than one receive benefits. Hey, how about pool play divided by West Coast, Fall, Playoff, and other seasonal winners? Anything but 72-holes of stroke play where limited fields are more likely to give us runaway winners!

—Course. Kapalua’s Plantation course has gradually lost its bite. Whether a change in wind patterns, the softer turf, negative effects of various renovations, modern distances or our excess familiarity, the course no longer seems to induce the shotmaking and as many crazy ball-rolls that made it so much fun to see shot-shaping. I don't know the answer here.

—Playing window. The Monday finishes designed to avoid NFL Playoffs were tried and fizzled when contested up until just minutes before the Monday national title game in college football. (Or when they spilled into the game if there was a playoff.) Hawaii golf in January, on cable television, means prime time viewing flexibility that should allow for the PGA Tour to consider the calendar and adjust. This year would have been an interesting one to from Tuesday to Friday. Some years might force a Saturday start and Tuesday finish. Take advantage of prime time golf and more flexible sports viewers. Ponte Vedra, here is the future schedule of CFP playoff games.

—Broadcast. Many things have been tried over the years, from more profound first tee announcements (complete with videoboard intros) and extended interviews. Given the small field, the TOC seems ideal for more review of last year's winners or more previewing the upcoming season. Some experimental elements should be doable given the field size, particularly if it moves to match play. Understandably, the Hawaii location precludes some technical elements, but maybe strong second-set experience that reviewed the great moments of 2017 or included pundits analyzing things to look for in 2018 would liven things up. Shoot, why not use the opening week to do deeper dives into player bags when players are either using new stuff, or endorsing new brands?

Ultimately the event may forever lack energy and excitement because of the relaxed Hawaii vibe or the never-ending season or the wealth of strong events. But given the field quality in 2018 and the current opportunity for schedule re-imagination, the PGA Tour's “opening day” event desperately needs a bold intervention.

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Reader Comments (28)

I think the location and format are good. Winners only and medal play are about the only way to do this thing. Also, would want a match play event ending the Championship match on the 14th hole!!

However, I think the deep dive in the season behind, ahead, at detailed what’s in the bag segment, etc would be great.
01.7.2018 | Unregistered CommenterAbu Dhabi Golfer
Maybe it's the limited field, free money tournament, beginning of the season, or just a combination of all of these factors that makes this tournament what it is. Once in a while, the hot hand totally runs away from the field. Jordan won by 8 in 2016 with a winning score of 30 under. Want higher ratings? Have Tiger in the field :-)
Leave it as is. Love everything about the TOC. Or move it to match play and let me know how you like the finals when it’s, say, Grayson Murray/Pat Perez.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterSEC
Yeah leave this one alone. Unlike certain small field events that give out ranking points(coughWoodseventcough), this one has a legitimate entry. Win a PGA Tour event. I have no problem with an event that rewards that.

As for Plantation course, I think it's fine. People know it a bit better sure, but there is a lot to be said for familiarity. I know I want to see the tee shot on #6 on this course, for example. Not many courses I can say I care about that.

Maybe what's needed, instead of more tweaks, is a step back from the sensory overload. The event isn't just about a straight golf tournament. And that's ok.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterPat(another one)
I don't know that a tweek will do anything to change the vibe at this event. It was boring because DJ lapped the field...the time of year kind of dictates that it is going to be fairly low key.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterBDF
The tournement is boring. I forgot to watch yesterday eventhough I wanted to, because I was watching the NFL Playoffs. I looked forward to all day Thursday and Friday. I wasn’t that disappointed when I realized I missed it. Why compete against the playoffs when you don’t have too. Play the whole thing during the week, or whenever you can fit it in with the football games. Invite, the ladies and Champions Tour guys to add something more, they don’t even need to directly compete. Don’t change the course. More on course interviews, individual hole contest, and sponsor time for the players. Watching practice rounds at the PGA Champsionship is more enjoyable.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterKip
A person with knowledge is right about better ratings, provided he wins to get in. Rich Lerner believes because he said this twice: "The best of Tiger Woods is yet to come." I'll bet Erica Herman believes, too. Only in her case it's related to either nuptials, a will or being named beneficiary on an insurance policy. She shouldn't be so confident. Steiny might be marriage counselor, executor and insurance broker.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
Total yawn fest. I’m with GS. Do something different.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterGinGHIN
TOC was THE COURSE in the 19th Century – all wanted a copy of TOC including its 18 Holes. Golf was exported around the world based upon TOC design.

Now look at it – Even Geoff has posted a comment: - “No offense, but the 2018 Sentry TOC was drool-on-the-pillow, dull. The kind of power-nap material you wake up from and feel like you've been sleeping for days. I can attest from actual 2018 experience the first three rounds. And this is coming from someone who enjoys the course, the setting and the concept of starting the season with an all-winners field”.

What an indictment to make about the Governing Body and The Links Trust who do the R&A’s bidding. What’s more, it was right under the nose of The R&A who have been responsible for many of the course changes over the years.

Yet the R&A still do not see, do not understand, listen or apparently just don’t give a F@&K

The R&A create and fester like parasites carrying plague driven rats, doing great damage to the game, courses, clubs and right down to the majority of honest golfers. They urgently need to be reformed, more for the sake of golf than the R&A itself.

TOC should be allowed to show its penal face again, that once made it The Course most designers and golfers wanted to recreate all around the World. A Golfer’s Course, A Duffer’s Course, A Designer’s Course while A Course for all Golfers and Players alike.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
Melvyn,

That is such a classic post. I love absolutely everything about it. Just so awesome in so many ways.
The
It somehow encapsulates everything that is wonderful and simultaneously unhinged about your singlemindedness. I say that with great affection for your curmudgeonly crusade.

Happy New Year!

TS
This event flat lined years ago. Round robin match play would be fun, not sure if this is the right place, but where else are you going to have a small field to try? Love the idea that multiple winners might get points or exemptions. Seems innovative to reward a great season somehow.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterDavidC
Guys driving 433 yard holes bores me to tears.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterShivas
Hmm Tom, TOC = Tournament of Champions......
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrad
I watch a lot of golf (at least it's background tv)...fact is 90% of it is really dull. Aside from the majors and courses I've played, I'll generally only pay attention during the last few holes on Sunday IF it's a close tournament.

And even the majors I'll tune off except for the Masters unless it's close.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterManku
The tournament might bore a Californian, but the star is Hawaii to someone looking outside at darkness, a foot of snow and temps in the teens.
I don't have a problem with the concept -- you win a PGA Tour event, you should get the right to play in something like this. But I can't get excited to watch because it's devoid of drama by definition. Shack is right, you have to create drama with a better format. Or be content for it to be what it is, which I highly suspect is exactly what the Tour will do. As long as it has a sponsor (i.e., executives happy to take a week in paradise and play in the pro-ams), this event won't change one iota.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
If they want better ratings they need to have less commercials. I watched for a few minutes, but after realizing the commercial time was seemingly greater than the golf telecast time, I gave up.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
I love it in the middle of winter, promises of spring, great vistas, humpback whales, a course that I have played and enjoyed....All makes for a break from single digit temperatures in Chicagoland. Candidly, the golf is secondary.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterSari
NBC had Figure Skating Championships (not Trials) https://www.golfdigest.com/story/how-the-tournament-of-champions-can-become-a-marquee-event-again-john-feinstein
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterPG
It was fine viewing, a runaway W doesn't help anything but the setting is what makes this a fun event. As for match play- does anyone think having 2 or 4 players on the course on Sunday would have made more interesting viewing ? MP is worse for TV, worse for on-site, frankly worse for just about all reasons. And no, the Ryder Cup doesn't count as a basis for comparison, since that is TEAM matchplay, there is no elimination format. 100% different.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
I like the idea of a weird format
Then more guys will skip it and there’ll be something else to complain about
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterSpoilt
Take the Sony Open and make it a LPGA-PGA event, mixed teams different tee boxes..Men can head back to US mainland and the ladies head to Far East for their early season
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterPrairie Golfer
Never had any doubts about DJ being #1 and continuing to make it better all the time. Early on in his career; so much doubt and never really a sharp focus on his stats and his steady rise up.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered Commenternancy
Am I jaded, but is DJ incredibly boring except for the incredible talent, spitting and stupid-ass refusal to smile anytime? I just wish he had personality to match the talent.
I agree the tournament was boring and the timing is bad with the NFL playoffs on at the same time. I like the Tuesday - Friday idea. I also would like to see the purse divided up so that money is awarded at the end of each round. Each day the players start fresh trying win that day's pot .... money is given out based on that days score. The player with the most money at the end of round 4 (last day) is awarded an additional grand prize. This would keep each day interesting and meaningful. Nobody is out of the tournament as each day the scoring starts fresh and there is a change to come in first to win big money.
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterDave C
Don't know what the fix would be cuz I'm not sure it's broken. But whatever it is, match play isn't the answer. Only thing more anticlimactic than this year would be only two players on course with DJ winning 6 & 5.

One thought though... Run 2 winners only events on the same course concurrently. PGAT & LPGA. Thur, Fri & Sat go 1 & 10 tee starts, LPGA on one side, PGAT on the other. Sunday do the same except last 4 LPGA groups, immediately precede last 4 PGAT groups off #1. Double the chance of some compelling competition while bringing some eye candy to the event as well...

Gosh... Hope I didn't break some PC code with that last line... :-)
01.8.2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobopz
Dave C might be on to something.
01.9.2018 | Unregistered CommenterPat(another one)
Sentry TOC trophy is bizzaro. Don't like it much. It might be creative and reflect Hawaii, but it's bizzaro. It seems like a chatske at a road-side shop.

Sentry TOC kapalua course is not a standard golf course, nor a standard Hawaiian golf course. Seems like they're playing on the side of a mountain. Is it called the Mauka Kapalua Golf Course? Ridiculous rolls after drives. DJ's 430 was aided by 100 yds of roll.
01.9.2018 | Unregistered CommenterBunker Dweller

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