Dell Match Play Sunday Ratings Plummet Without Tiger; How About A Monday Finish?

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 9.25.42 PM.png

Austin Karp reports on Saturday’s 2.4 rating for the 2019 Dell Match Play featuring Tiger Woods in the round of 8.

Sunday’s final day on NBC featuring the Kevin Kisner-Matt Kuchar final saw it’s lowest last day rating since 2010 Karp reports, a 1.6. However, that all time low was against the Vancouver Olympic Games. This year’s 1.6 was only slightly down from the 1.8 Sunday drew the last two years.

Still, there is a sense that Sunday is anti-climactic, whether due to player fatigue (and so-so-golf) or just the limits of only have two matches.

I proposed on Morning Drive a Thursday start, with Saturday’s broadcast bringing us elimination day while Sunday shows us the round of 16 and round of 8. This would get the final match away from the NCAA Regional Finals and let golf get some limelight with a Monday finish, perhaps late in the day on Golf Channel. The current sponsor is said to not be pleased with the small crowds and small field on Sunday’s.

My chat on this with Morning Drive’s Damon Hack:



Kuchar, Sergio Film PSA: Stop Obsessing About Our Match Play Dust-Up

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 8.54.40 PM.png

I’m all for any kind of match play drama and the Matt Kuchar-Sergio Garcia negotiation over a short miss by Sergio before Kuchar could concede was fun. But it was not the stuff of the attention it’s getting since Garcia acknowledged mistake, took full responsibility and Kuchar wisely held his ground.

Well the two combatants put the whole thing to rest (maybe) with this PSA filmed Monday at Austin Golf Club, with Kuchar doing all the talking.


Got To Gram Before Wheels Up: Rory McIlroy Apologizes For Storming Out Of Match Play

Screen Shot 2019-03-30 at 10.24.34 PM.png

Nice of Rory McIlroy to realize the error of his ways in blowing off the assembled scribblers after his fun—except for the 16th hole—battle with Tiger Woods in the 2019 WGC Dell Match Play.

His almost unimaginably long drive followed by six shots at the par-5 16th might have had something to do with it, as Steve DiMeglio notes for Golfweek.

Moochgate 2 Never Hits Theaters: Sergio Takes The Blame For Raking Ball Before Kuchar Can Concede

Screen Shot 2019-03-30 at 10.04.48 PM.png

We were so close to having a fabulous squabble on our hands, but Sergio Garcia eventually came to his senses after some mid-round tension in the WGC Dell Match Play. Our dreams of Moochgate 2 were dashed when it went straight to video (long story, under 20 year olds).

Bob Harig of ESPN.com on the negotiation between the green vandal and the mooch.

It was after that hole where Garcia suggested to Kuchar that he concede a hole to make up for what happened on the seventh.

"I thought about it and said I don't like that idea, either," Kuchar said.

"Typically there's an acknowledgement," he added of a conceded putt. "I understand how the concession needs to be vocal and I try to do a really good job. I hate it when guys sort of mumble something. I always try to be very clear, very vocal. This is one where I was on the back of the green. It happened so fast. I knew I hadn't conceded it. But it was never a tactic or anything."

Despite the apparent tension within the match, Garcia backed away from any controversy after it.

"It's quite simple: I screwed it up, it's as simple as that," he said. "Obviously I missed my putt and I kind of tapped it with the back of my putter before he said anything. It's a loss of hole. I understand that.

"There are many options that you can do if you don't want to take the hole, even though I've already lost that hole. But obviously he didn't like any of the options that were there. It's fine. At the end of the day, I'm the one who made the mistake."

Boo!

The mistake by Garcia that likely cost him his match in Saturday’s round of 8:

Tiger Hits A Stellar Lefty Shot From The Bushes, Loses To Snedeker

Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 5.56.32 PM.png

Tiger may have lost to Brandt Snedeker, setting up a likely elimination unless he beats Patrick Cantlay and Aaron Wise takes out Snedeker (or Snedeker ties, Tiger wins).

Anyway, he only briefly stopped to talk to a PGA Tour staff member so we didn’t get to ask him about this spectacular recovery shot:

Golf Gods At Work, Files: Poulter And Mitchell Face Off After Sharing Flight, Discussing The Art Of Match Play

Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 11.20.54 AM.png

Ian Poulter might want to wheel out some gamesmanship against Keith Mitchell in Thursday’s WGC Dell Match Play contest—maybe a Kevin Mitchell for kicks—except that his opponent might see through it.

The two played Augusta National recently, decided to share a flight to the match play and as Ben Everill reports for PGATour.com, discussed the art of match play. To some extent anyway.

Details Emerge From Golf's Equivalent To The Camp David Accords: Kuchar, El Tucan Clear Air Over Orange Juice

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 5.37.57 PM.png

Michael Bamberger scored the exclusive details of last month’s secret reunion between Matt Kuchar and his Mayakoba Classic-winning fill-in caddie El Tucan to settle any misunderstanding over Moochgate.

Not only has he been paid, Ortiz and Kuchar met in a clubhouse dining room in late February, when the Tour went to Mexico City for a World Golf Championship event. Over a 40-minute glass of morning orange juice on Feb. 23, the Saturday of the tournament, each apologized to the other, Ortiz said in a recent phone interview and through an interpreter.

“Matt said, ‘Hey, David, how are you?’” Ortiz said. “I apologized for the [difficulty] the situation created. I told him it was never my intention to embarrass him, but I felt eventually I had to tell the truth. Matt also offered an apology. He said it was all a misunderstanding. He asked me how my family was. He showed me a picture of his family and a video of a hole-in-one made by one of his sons.”

Ortiz said there were four people at the breakfast table, including a sports psychologist “who is very close to Matt.”

And a good time was had by all!

Match Play Moodsetters: Ames/Tiger, Miguel Angel/Keegan Clips

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 5.23.00 PM.png

As I noted for Golfweek, a little bit of a shine was taken off the pre-match play proceedings with word surfacing of Dell’s desire to change the format. As an unabashed fan of this format, I did not take this well as much as I admire what the company has done to save this stop.

Thankfully, the action begins Thursday and impressively drew a field of every top player in the world, minus Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott. Several pools standout, and you can view them all here along with TV times and other info.

But if you need any inspiration to get ready for the fun, Skratch has done a nice job digging up the old reliable spats for all time. It was especially fun to see the rarely-shown Tiger-Stephen Ames execution. Enjoy!

I just wish we also could see Keegan with the lapdog in the parking lot after. Oh wait, that’s why we have YouTube.

Players Reject Turning WGC Match Play Into The WGC Match Play-Stroke Play

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 12.01.41 PM.png

Rex Hoggard with the details on what appeared to be an asinine suggestion to use match play to qualify for a weekend of stroke play.

Although the PAC didn’t seem to have much interest in that format change, it appears the PGA Tour continues to search for a way to tinker with the Match Play format, which went to group play for the first three days in 2015.

“There’s really only two formats. If you want to introduce stroke play then you make it as it is in a lot of amateur match-play events and have a stroke-play qualifier and then a match-play knockout,” Casey said. “Or go straight knockout, 64 guys. To me, that’s my thought on it and the vast majority of players seem to think that way.”

Match Play Arrives With Strong Field, Most Eyes On Tiger And Spieth

Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 8.24.44 PM.png

With Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson playing golf at the highest level imaginable heading into the Masters, expect the focus this week to turn to Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.

Woods has not played in the WGC Dell Match Play since its move to Austin and as Dan Kilbridge notes for Golfweek, seems due to take things up a notch in his Masters prep.

The Golf.com gang debates whether this is good prep for Woods and Alan Shipnuck wonders if the new format guaranteeing three matches will dull Woods’ senses.

I think Tiger would have more adrenaline for the old win-or-go-home format. For him this is all about getting reps ahead of the Masters — actually winning matches will be a bonus.

For Spieth the UT grad returning the friendly confines of Austin, the struggles are on the course, not on the range, as he explains to Steve DiMeglio for Golfweek.

The lowdown on this week’s field where Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott are the two star players passing:

Star-studded field finalized for 2019 World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play

64 of the top 66 players in the Official World Golf Rankings are committed to play at Austin Country Club

AUSTIN, Texas – Sixty-four of the top 66 players from the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) have officially committed to the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, which will take place March 27-31 at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. The tournament will feature the game’s biggest stars from around the globe in a rare match-play format.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, 2018 FedExCup champion Justin Rose, reigning PGA TOUR Player of the Year Brooks Koepka, THE PLAYERS Championship 2019 winner Rory McIlroy, 80-time PGA TOUR winner Tiger Woods and former Texas Longhorn Jordan Spieth are among the notables heading to Austin. Woods, a three-time winner of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, is making his first start in the event since 2013.

The field includes players representing 17 different countries from across the globe. Final seeds for the 64-player field will be determined on Monday, March 25 when the week’s Official World Golf Rankings are released.  

Rank    Player                        Country

1          Dustin Johnson          USA

2          Justin Rose                ENG

3          Brooks Koepka          USA

4          Rory McIlroy              NIR

5          Justin Thomas           USA

6          Bryson DeChambeau  USA

7          Francesco Molinari   ITA

9          Xander Schauffele    USA

10        Jon Rahm                  ESP

11        Tommy Fleetwood   ENG

12        Jason Day                  AUS

13        Tiger Woods              USA

14        Tony Finau                USA

15        Paul Casey                 ENG

16        Patrick Reed              USA

17        Bubba Watson          USA

18        Marc Leishman         AUS

19        Patrick Cantlay          USA

20        Webb Simpson         USA

21        Phil Mickelson           USA

22        Matt Kuchar              USA

23        Gary Woodland         USA

24        Hideki Matsuyama    JPN

25        Cameron Smith         AUS

26        Sergio Garcia            ESP

27        Louis Oosthuizen      RSA

28        Alex Noren                SWE

30        Jordan Spieth            USA

31        Rafa Cabrera Bello    ESP

32        Ian Poulter                ENG

33        Keegan Bradley         USA

34        Matthew Fitzpatrick ENG

35        Matt Wallace            ENG

36        Eddie Pepperell         ENG

37        Tyrrell Hatton           ENG

38        Haotong Li                CHI

39        Henrik Stenson         SWE

40        Billy Horschel            USA

41        Kiradech Aphibarnrat  THA

42        Branden Grace          RSA

43        Kyle Stanley              USA

44        Charles Howell III      USA

45        J.B. Holmes               USA

46        Brandt Snedeker       USA

47        Shane Lowry             IRE

48        Justin Harding           RSA

49        Thorbjorn Olesen     DEN

50        Kevin Kisner              USA

51        Byeong Hun An         KOR

52        Lucas Bjerregaard     DEN

53        Andrew Putnam        USA

54        Emiliano Grillo          ARG

55        Si Woo Kim               USA

56        Chez Reavie              USA

57        Jim Furyk                   USA

58        Keith Mitchell           USA

59        Abraham Ancer         MEX

60        Kevin Na                    USA

61        Tom Lewis                ENG

62        Kevin Na                    USA

63        Aaron Wise               USA

64        Lee Westwood          ENG

65        Satoshi Kodaira         JPN

66        Luke List                    USA

The bracket will be unveiled live on Golf Channel Monday, March 25 from 4-5 p.m. CT.

USGA Addresses Intent Question, Status Of Justin Thomas Peace Talks

Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 8.23.06 PM.png

Andrew Both of Reuters talks to the USGA’s Thomas Pagel gives us an update on the broken club rule that inspired Justin Thomas’s Honda Classic outrage at 2019’s new rules. The spat spilled onto Twitter.

The new rule allows players to continue using a damaged club, even bending it back into shape if possible, but not to replace it during a round.

"You can just add that one to the list of rules that don't make any sense," Thomas told reporters.

"If you break or bend the club in play, I don't see where the harm is in replacing it."

Pagel disputes the new rule does not make sense.

"That rule used to be so complicated (determining) when a club was damaged, unfit," Pagel told Reuters in an interview.

"We said let's simplify it. You can start with up to 14 (clubs) and if one becomes damaged you’re not able to replace it.

"Justin and I have connected. I thought it was very positive conversation. I want to keep the nature of it private."

Michael Bamberger was also afforded phone time with Pagel for a Golf.com item on the new rules and notes this following Webb Simpson’s unfortunate freak Players penalty, prompting Pagel to remind why intent cannot drive the rules.

Pagel expressed sympathy for Simpson’s bad luck and then dutifully explained why the rulebook gives a player a one-shot penalty if you’re off the green and no penalty if you’re on it. The latter, the so-called Dustin Johnson Rule of 2016, allows for that fact that you might have already had your hand on a ball on the green, that greens are more closely mown, and that a random outside agency – most notably wind – can move a ball on a green more readily.

“As much as possible, the rulebook tries to keep the question of ‘intent’ out of the discussion, because intention is hard to define,” Pagel said.

One person, for instance, could claim an exemption from a penalty because of intention while another, in those same circumstances, might not. That’s not a level playing field.

2019 Valspar Another Beneficiary Of Strength Of Field Rule

Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 8.48.07 PM.png

Gary Van Sickle at MorningRead.com explains how the Valspar Championship managed decent star power despite a tough post-Players date, with 37 top 100 players, including Dustin Johnson.

Johnson played only 20 tournaments in the 2017-18 season. So, he owed the PGA Tour an appearance at an event that he doesn’t regularly play. Johnson chose the Valspar Championship.

“I had a few to pick one, and this fit the best in my schedule,” Johnson said. “Of the courses I had to choose from, I like this [Copperhead Course] the best, if you’re playing well. The golf course is tough, but I feel like my game is in good form, so it’s a good course for me.”

Johnson nearly avoided the Valspar on a technicality. When he won in Mexico, it was the 20th victory of his career. Twenty is the threshold to become a PGA Tour life member, and the strength-of-field rule doesn’t apply to life members, or to players 45 or older.

The timing coincided nicely with Valspar announcing a sponsorship extension through 2025. Included is a better date next year.

Akshay Bhatia (17) On Valspar Sponsor's Invite: "I’m here to win.”

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 8.35.11 PM.png

Current top ranked junior Akshay Bhatia is playing this week’s Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour. And despite a sponsor’s invite and his lack of experience in PGA Tour events, is setting lofty goals.

From Rodney Page’s Tampa Bay Times report:

“It’s another tournament to me,” said Bhatia, who received a sponsor’s exemption. “I’m not here to just show up and make the cut. I’m here to win.”

He also reiterated—with a little humor—his desire to turn pro instead of playing college golf.

“I’ve never liked school,” Bhatia said. “I’ve never been very smart. I have the worst attention span when it comes to it. I love being outside, playing golf and competing. So my dad just said, ‘Ya know what, let’s not go to college.’ I said ‘Yeah, that’s fine.’ I’m in eighth grade, of course I’m going to say no to school.”

2019 Players Ratings: 3.3, Down 21% From Tiger Contending Last May

2019Playerslogo.jpg

With only some conference title games and the NCAA Selection Show, the Players stood a good chance of matching last year’s stout ratings when Tiger Woods was in contention at the 2018 Players.

Didn’t happen.

According to Sports Media Watch with a full weekend sports numbers wrap up, the rating reverted to pre-Tiger for from a 4.2 to a 3.3, with Saturday’s 2.4 down 8%.

Roundup Of McIlroy's Players Win: “I needed to show a lot of character out there”

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 8.09.17 PM.png

The 2019 Players finale was a doozy, with the finishing holes magically weeding out a fascinating mix of characters, as Steve DiMeglio notes in his Golfweek game story.

McIlroy explained his Saturday range session that ironed out issues with his driving, explains GolfChannel.com’s Will Gray.

For the aficionados of more rough to offset distance advances, this was not a poster child week. McIlroy was 2nd in strokes gained driving even as he was T49 in accuracy, hitting just 33 of 56 fairways.

His putting stats were also a tad misleading, as McIlroy was 45th in Strokes Gained putting, yet was T3 in putts per green in regulation. He hit 58 of 72 greens.

McIlroy gave several post round interviews, though none was as compelling as his Live From appearance. Here is all 15 minutes of it if you missed the show:

TPC Sawgrass' 12th Hole Has Gone From Not Drivable To A Long Par-3

12th hole scatter chart in 2019

12th hole scatter chart in 2019

And that’s not a good thing.

Astoundingly, no double bogey was made the entire tournament. While that is definitely not a barometer for architectural merit, the lack of a big number suggests that the cooks, wait staff, busboys, hostesses and even valet parkers in Ponte Vedra have overcooked architect Steve Wenzloff’s effort to inject life into the back nine.

As I explain here for Golfweek, the fine line between drama and just playing as a long par-3 can be remedied with a simple grass tweak and better mixing up of tees. Please pass along to the locker room attendants at TPC Sawgrass, they may get a say too. Actually, they have a much more informed view than most.

BTW, how amazing is all of this data from ShotLink for the cooks to ponder? An impressive 76% of the field took a go at the green, with 23% successfully hitting the green. It was just a couple of years ago that players and caddies were declaring how no one would bother to go for it, much less keep their ball on the green.

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 8.21.57 PM.png

Video: Jon Rahm's Caddy Really, Really Tried To Talk His Boss Out Of A Blunder

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 7.29.51 PM.png

Adam Hayes tried, he really, really tried to talk Jon Rahm out of a 220-yard hooking 8-iron from the 11th hole fairway bunker.

It was a pretty startling moment in the 2019 Players final round picked up by NBC’s Emmy-winning audio team and would have to rank with the all-time great player-caddy discussions that will hopefully not haunt Rahm. Yet it’s tough to look at the circumstances, read Rahm’s post-round remarks in this Will Gray GolfChannel.com story, and easily visualize how Rahm’s substandard thinking will hurt his ability to win big events.

Kudos to the PGA Tour too for posting:

Brooks Koepka Losing Weight And Losing Distance...

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 7.21.57 PM.png

The winner of two majors last year admitted at The Players he is out of sorts after intensifying training and implementing diet restrictions, losing 22 pounds and with it, distance.

From Ryan Lavner’s GolfChannel.com report:

“When you go from 212 pounds to 190, there’s not as much weight going forward through the ball,” he said. “I don’t have as much feel. I just feel out of sorts.”

Koepka says the sacrifice has been worth it, that it’s “only four months of my career.”

Betterer Than Most? Vegas Sets New Mark For Longest 17th Hole Putt

JonnyVegasPuttStat.png

In the ShotLink era, Jonny Vegas’s absurd putt from the 17th hole’s lower front shelf to the back right location, helping him move to -14 in the 2019 Players, is easily the longest putter ever made there since stats have been kept (2003, Tiger’s better than most putt was in 2001).

Nice use of ShotLink by ShotLink and great reaction from Vegas…