PGA Tour Sends Web.com Tour Championship Out Of Headquarters' Hometown For Next Decade

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Say what you want about the PGA Tour’s pursuit of every penny imaginable but deserting their own community for a few more bucks?

Impressive devotion to maximum activation!

Garry Smits with news of the Web.com Tour Championship, played in the Ponte Vedra/Jax Beach area for the last five years at TPC Sawgrass Valley and Atlantic Beach CC getting shipped off to Victoria National over the next decade.

Budding golfers and their families will want to read all of the Smits story, but this was also a nice buried lede to help us prepare for yet another name change potentially coming.

Another factor in the move was the future of Web.com as the tour’s umbrella sponsor. Web.com, a Jacksonville-based firm that specializes in internet services for small businesses, was sold earlier this year for $2 billion to Sirius Capital, an equity firm. The sale closed in October.

The current sponsorship deal with Web.com runs through 2021. The tournament was a good fit in the same area as the headquarters of the umbrella sponsor but there have been no signs as yet that Sirius Capital wants to continue the relationship beyond the current terms.

Country Singer Owen Posts 86 In Web.com Tour Event, Gets Into Twitter Spat Mid-Round

I'm usually a defender of sponsor's invites and the silly scores that have come with them. But I'm not sure if country singer Jake Owen (Nashville Open first round 86) taking to Twitter mid-round is the look a tournament or the PGA Tour was hoping for since Owen was pushing back at a player unhappy at seeing a spot wasted. How Owen saw the mention among his 2.28 million followers is unclear, or when he found the time to bang out a Tweet as he was racking up a huge score is also not clear.

Either way, he fired off a less-than-gentlemanly reply to Doug Walker:

Walker challenged Owen to some charity fundraising via birdies--of which Owen made zero in round one--and it appears all are on board with others pledging money to Brandt Snedeker's foundation, the beneficiary of the event, reports Golf World's Christopher Powers. 

One of Walker's many follow-ups:

Southgate Speaks: "I take full responsibility"

James Corrigan of The Telegraph talks to Matthew Southgate about the heartbreaking penalty incurred during the Web.com Tour Playoffs that cost him a PGA Tour card.

From Corrigan's story:

“It was poor from me to not know the rules of a game I’ve played since I was two. I take full responsibility. ­People say it’s bad luck but it’s not bad luck because I should have replayed the shot and could have made four. But I didn’t and it became nine, and that ­became me missing my card. I’ve only got myself to blame. I’m not annoyed with anyone else.”

The best wishes of his peers have not assisted much either; and neither has their collective ignorance. I asked 10 different pros at the Dunhill Links if they were aware of that particular rule and all admitted they were not.

PGA Tour Misses "Golden" Opportunity: Steph Curry Shoots 74, No One Sees It Live

Steph Curry, with his nine million Twitter followers, his MVP statue, his two championship rings and rare crossover talent he's willing to show off on a Web.com Tour stage, posted a first round 74 in the Ellie Mae Classic.

No one saw it live.

No one could. They had to follow social media postings like it was 2008 all over again.

On a busy day of golf that included the Women's British, a WGC in Akron and a secondary PGA Tour stop in Reno, the Ellie Mae was never on Golf Channel's schedule. Yet, as one of the world's most beloved and fascinating athletes in his prime attempted something bold, Curry's appearance on an exemption understandably got the most social media attention despite the lack of television coverage.

Imagine if The Logo, Jerry West, had decided to put his scratch handicap up against the pros in 1972 after winning 33-straight and the NBA title? It would have been an epic attention-getter but there was no option to televise such an event then. Now there is, and the PGA Tour missed a chance to show it's serious about becoming a broadcaster and serious about its minor-league equivalent, the Web.com Tour.

Golf Channel was criticized on social media for not showing Curry's round, but this one wasn't on them. So what an ideal opportunity for the PGA Tour, partners with Twitter and eager to show The Valley that pro golf is a product worth streaming on their burgeoning PGA Tour Live, right?  Imagine the chance to stream the Web.com Tour to the hoodie set, who could watch their beloved Golden State Warrior play in a professional golf tournament as they sip Philz and cranked out world-changing code?

Yet the PGA Tour passed up a, gulp, "golden" opportunity to show that they are serious about getting in the broadcasting business. Was it cost? Was it too much work? Was it an oversight? Or some rights issue?

Those should not be stumbling blocks since the Tour has made clear it wants, at minimum, an ownership stake after 2021 while opting out of its network deal very soon. The goal, apparently, is to either move some tournaments to the burgeoning PGA Tour Live or bring in new bidders, perhaps Amazon or YouTube.

Lofty and ambitious dreams!

And it's a fantastic concept to focus on streaming until you tell a CEO paying $8-12 million for a tournament sponsorship that they'll be reaching 171,000 folks via streaming. Oh, and yourr logo will be hard to see because the viewer is watching on a tiny screen. One last negative? Those eyeballs who are currently seeing golf in the 19th hole grill or the local Yard House? Not happening (yet) when you go to streaming.

The possible erosion in already eroding audience sizes by moving some events to digital has not deterred the Tour from sending out signals that they are somehow a wronged party under Deane Beman's brilliant model. After all, they help networks sell 80% of their ads without lifting a finger while possibly making less than they should if they were owners of the airwaves. And the Tour makes clear on a daily basis they are in the millennial business with PGA Tour Live as the way to this future. 

Commissioner Jay Monahan has wisely tried to walk some of this talk back by reiterating the importance of the "linear product" (network TV), while still dangling his fascination with new media. But way too many of his lieutenants and players haven't gotten the message: it's nice having people write you rights checks instead of writing the checks yourself as owner of the product. 

Which brings us back to the Ellie Mae Classic.

With no way out of its Golf Channel arrangement until 2021, the tour started PGA Tour Live as their way of carrying action during earlier hours or to create a "product" to possibly break free from the Comcast-owned network. At the very least, PGA Tour live would help them negotiate an ownership stake that they once reportedly passed on when they originally negotiated the 10-year Golf Channel deal. The "they" in that sentence no longer work for the PGA Tour.

The PGA Tour Live app gives them both leverage in the next negotiations, but also, theoretically, a way to cover action not currently in Golf Channel's rights windows.  So I can't fathom a more opportune moment than Steph Curry's Web.com Tour appearance to show Featured Group coverage of the Warrior and his playing partners, Sam Ryder and Stephan Jaeger. Talk about a chance to reach the supposedly young and influential digital audience paying $39.99 a year.

Or, what a swell chance to join forces with San Francisco-based Twitter on coverage since they are a new PGA Tour partner and, presumably, big Warrior fans.

Instead, we got video highlights:

 

Live televised golf is expensive and difficult. Especially when you know the player in question is only likely to play two rounds. But there are new and cheaper ways to provide something that would have been enough to get the job done for those wanting to track this very unique appearance in a pro golf tournament.

And yes, the egos of other Web.com Tour players would have been bruised having a special broadcast of non-member Curry's round, but it might have also brought in new fans or generated intense buzz had he done something special. The failure to capitalize on this situation should be noted the next time the PGA Tour tells us how serious they are about getting in the business of entertaining paying customers.

(End of rant.)

There was some nice coverage of Curry's admirable performance, starting with the SF Chronicle's Ron Kroichick Tweets and his game story on Curry's opening round.

A great image gallery from the Chronicle's Michael Macor accompanies the piece.

Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler wrote "our Little Steph hung with the big boys" and noted:

Bad news for the Warriors. One more good day out here, even if Curry misses the cut after Friday’s round, and the Warriors are going to have to drag him off the golf course when training camp opens.

Make no mistake: For Curry, playing the Web.com Tour event — the pro golf equivalent of triple-A baseball — was no lark. He’s realistic, he knows he can’t really compete with full-time pro golfers, but Curry does not lack for quiet confidence. He’s closer to these guys than logic would dictate, and he’s got something to prove.

So there was tension all around Thursday. On the practice range before the morning rounds, I could see a thought balloon over the head of every golfer: “Beat Curry.”

For 155 golfers, their honor and dignity was at stake.

For Curry, there was something to prove, and a huge opportunity for embarrassment and disappointment.

BTW, fun note: Curry's caddie is Jonnie West, son of Jerry.

The Web.com Tour's Twitter account may have sensed the lack of live coverage and went all out on Twitter, with this nice video and also a great retweeted photo after that.


Here is part of Curry's post round interview courtesy of GolfChannel.com, discussing how he could barely feel his hands on the first tee:

And great comments here from Sam Ryder, playing partner and recent Web.com Tour winner who was a shot worse than Curry.

Last note: Curry beat ten Web.com Tour players Thursday, including three winners of Web.com Tour events in 2017!

Steph Curry After Practice Round: "My head was spinning"

His odds of winning stink but the point of Steph Curry receiving a sponsor's invite to play the Ellie Mae Classic this week has little to do with winning.

Instead, for anyone sports fan, there is the incredible intrigue of seeing how one of the top three basketball players on the planet pursues his passion for golf against future PGA Tour pros on the Web.com Tour. Unfortunately, with too much golf on the schedule this week and the Web.com playing a traditional Thursday-Sunday tournament, we'll have to rely on Golf Central and social media for reports.

Either way, maybe seeing Curry discuss what he picked up during the practice round and his admiration for Nick Rousey that will help ease the pain for those grieving at the loss of a field spot and the child starvation that will inevitably ensue.

"Stephen Curry, the golfer: As comfortable on links as on court"

Steph Curry tees up in this week's Ellie May Classic, a Web.com Tour event and Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles the basketball stars' passion for golf.

Kroichick writes:

In competing against those players for the first time, Curry will climb into uncharted territory. This is completely different than his good-natured outings with famous friends, from former President Barack Obama and Michael Jordan to Tom Brady and Justin Timberlake.

Last month, during the American Century Championship, a celebrity tournament near South Lake Tahoe, Curry at various times played alongside Timberlake and NFL quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo (since retired). Their rounds included several playful moments, such as Curry catching footballs thrown by Rodgers and Romo.

Beneath the frivolity, Curry took his golf seriously. He shot a final-round 68, the best score any player posted in the three-day event, and finished fourth in a field of 89.

Steph Curry's Web.com Tour Event Exemption Draws Inevitable Complaints From Pros

It's a debate that will forever dog the sport and has arisen since the days when Babe Didrickson, a priest and George Zaharias got LA Open sponsor's invites. (Didrickson later married Zaharias thanks to that round!)

Thanks to social media, swelling entitlement of players who haven't made a cut in a major (much less won one), and it should not come as a surprise that a few complainers surfaced on news of Steph Curry's Web.com Tour event exemption.

The Ellie Mae Classic (July 31-Aug. 9) gets to invite any player they want with their exemptions, including college players like Maverick McNealy, who are also taking away a playing opportunity. For 2017 they've chosen a hometown global superstar and low single-digit handicapper that will bring enormous attention to a tournament that otherwise would have gone largely unnoticed. Yes, they probably reached too far when Jerry Rice played given his abilities, but Curry is a both a legitimate golfer (2.0 index) and at the height of his allure.

He's also, as Ron Kroichick notes in this SF Chronicle exclusive, humbled by getting to be around the talented players of the Web.com Tour.

He played alongside Justin Thomas (now ranked No. 12 in the world) at Silverado Resort in October 2015, and with Harold Varner III (now No. 135) this past October. After the Varner round, Curry acknowledged the disparity between tour pros and accomplished amateurs.

“These guys are ridiculous,” he said. “Their misses are good shots for me. It’s just a different type of expectation. You see their ball flight and it’s something you’re not used to."

There is also an opportunity to highlight the Warriors Foundation, and while we should always suspicious of sports teams and their foundations, this one seems more active and player-supported than most.

From an unbylined wire story at CNN.com:

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to play with the pros in the upcoming Ellie Mae Classic, not only to be able to compete against some of the best golfers in the world, but to also help bring light to the tournament’s charitable footprint of giving back to the Warriors Community Foundation,” Curry said in a release.

Oh and did I mention this may get the Web.com Tour more eyeballs and recognition than any other event they play all year?

With that stated, let the whining begin!

Brentley Romine at Golfweek.com sides with those who took to social media to gripe about Curry taking food off their tables.

The unrestricted sponsor invite given to Curry could just as easily have gone to a pro golfer trying to make a living. It could be a player with no status on any tour who has just a few hundred dollars in his bank account. It could be a player who could catch fire for 72 holes and change his career and life forever. (Ask Beau Hossler what finishing second at the Air Capital Classic earlier this month did for him.)

Now, I know some people will argue that Curry’s spot would’ve just gone to someone who couldn’t even earn a spot via a Monday qualifier, someone who is a “bottom feeder” that will miss the cut or finish T-75. But isn’t that what these developmental tours are about? The point of tours like the Web.com Tour is to provide players a path to the PGA Tour.

Joel Beall at GolfDigest.com is less sympathetic, particularly to the plight of Lee McCoy who lamented on Twitter, “So many great players could use that chance. Sad.”

Beall writes:

For the former Georgia Bulldog's highlight of his fledgling career was spurred by an invite to the 2016 Valspar Championship because, well, he grew up at Innisbrook. He ultimately proved his mettle, finishing T-4 as an amateur. However, a lot of viable, established tour veterans sat at home that week, and though McCoy may ultimately become a presence at golf's top level, he's failed to produce anything of note at the tour outside Copperhead.

PGA Tour Set To Test Rangefinders On Three Tours

The good news? The PGA Tour is using the Web.com Tour to experiment with something new. The reluctance to do so has always been a surprise at how little this tour, the other satellite tours or the Champions Tour are not used to test formats or rule changes.

Allowing the use of rangefinders on such a stage will, once and for all, allow us to see if they speed up play on the professional level and how they "look" to a television audience. I suspect, as we've seen with other elite golf where players use rangefinders as a way to double check what they learn via traditional yardage books, that play will not speed up.

There will also be the dreadful optics of watching someone looking through a device, which is about as fun as watching people test virtual reality devices. Perhaps the rule will allow caddies to use them but not players?

But now we'll have data and visuals so that we can remember how rangefinders really only help when a player hits their tee shot into the other fairway.

For Immediate Release: 

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (March 28, 2017) – The PGA TOUR has announced that it will begin testing the use of distance measuring devices during competition at select tournaments this year on the Web.com Tour, Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada and PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Each of the three Tours will allow use of the devices by players and caddies at four consecutive tournaments, including Monday qualifiers. For these events, the PGA TOUR will temporarily enact a Local Rule in accordance with Decision 14-3/0.5 of The R&A/USGA Rules of Golf, which stipulates the device can be used to measure distance only (use of functions to measure slope, elevation or wind will not be allowed).

The Web.com Tour tournaments are: the BMW Charity Pro Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation, May 15-21 in Greenville, S.C.; the Rex Hospital Open, May 29-June 4 in Raleigh, N.C.; the Rust-Oleum Championship, June 5-11 in Ivanhoe, Ill.; and the Air Capital Classic, June 12-18 in Wichita, Kan.

PGA TOUR Latinoamérica will do its testing at the last four tournaments of the schedule’s first segment: the Essential Costa Rica Classic, April 20-23; the Quito Open, June 1-4 in Ecuador; the Puerto Plata DR Open, June 8-11 in the Dominican Republic; and the Jamaica Classic, June 15-18.

The Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada will test at: the GolfBC Championship, June 15-18 in Kelowna, British Columbia; the Players Cup, July 6 - 9 in Winnipeg, Manitoba; the Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel, July 13 - 16 in Thunder Bay, Ontario; and the Mackenzie Investments Open presented by Jaguar Laval, July 20 - 23 in Mirabel, Quebec.

“For years there has been significant discussion and debate about whether distance measuring devices would have a positive or negative impact on competition at the highest levels of professional golf,” said Andy Pazder, Chief Tournaments and Competitions Officer of the PGA TOUR. “The only way we can accurately assess their impact is to conduct an actual test during official competition on one or more of our Tours. We look forward to seeing how these tests go and carefully evaluating the use of the devices over those weeks. Our evaluation will consider the impact on pace of play, optics and any other effects they might have on the competition."

Once the test and comprehensive evaluation is completed, the PGA TOUR will share the results with its Player Advisory Council on all of its Tours for additional review and discussion.

Bryson Earns Tour Card With New Driver, Plenty Of Energy

Noted in Adam Stanley's recap of the clubs in Bryson DeChambeau's winning bag, the 2016-17 DAP Chamiponship winner revealed that his tour-card clinching victory came thanks to advice from Phil Mickelson.

Stanley writes:

DeChambeau got a new driver this week – his previous one broke last week – and it clearly benefited him. He hit 16 fairways Sunday, counting the two playoff holes. He admitted Sunday that he could “go play again tomorrow” as he still had a lot of energy. Conserving that energy was part of some advice he received from Phil Mickelson earlier in the year about how to approach a tournament.

“The strategy is the strategy. Once I become comfortable with a golf course, that’s all I need. I learned I don’t need to be there Sunday before the tournament and play three or four practice rounds. That’s one thing I learned from Phil,” DeChambeau said.

Will Gray explains what DeChambeau's win means for his status in the Web.com Tour playoffs and 2016-17 PGA Tour.

Bryan Bro Wesley Within One Web.com Win Of PGA Tour

Wesley Bryan did it with Hashtag Chad Coleman on the bag in Mexico, beating our old friend Brad Fritsch in a showdown of the Web.com's two best players this year.

Royce Thompson on the trick shot master's second win of 2016, setting him up for a battlefield promotion with one more.

A.J. Voepel on a Callaway social media challenge that turned into a looping gig while Bryan brother George was off pursuing his own golf career.

Trick Shot Artist To Web.com Tour Player: Wesley Bryan

Web.com Tour Staff sums up the top qualifiers from Q-School in an event played well under the radar (here's guessing that if the first place finisher got a PGA Tour card, or the top three did, this event would get more attention).

This wire story did note the impressive accomplishment of Wesley Bryan, part of the Bryan Brothers trick shot duo, finishing T9 to earn full Web.com Tour status. Brother George was on the bag at PGA National.

And there was this tweet from the Bryan Bros account:




Van Sickle's Letter From Web.com Tour Second Stage Q-School

SI/golf.com's Gary Van Sickle checks in from Web.com Tour second stage Q-School where his son Mike was paired with former U.S. Amateur Champ Bubba Dickerson and 2014 NCAA individual champion Cameron Wilson.

While we enjoy the glitz and glamour of big time PGA Tour golf, it's nice/sobering/interesting to hear from the trenches and Van Sickle collects a mix of anecdotes about Dickerson and his son. There is also this, in case you have any ideas...

Mike, 28, and a Pittsburgh resident, is a big hitter and said his drivers typically last less than a year before the face caves in.

"Who makes Thor’s hammer, I don’t remember that ever cracking," Mike joked. "I check my driver pretty closely during the year because of that and I try not to hit too many range balls with it. Because of that, I had a backup driver ready to come in from the bullpen, or the back of my car. The one that broke today made it well past the ‘best by’ date so I’ve been checking it pretty carefully."

He’ll be trolling online to see if there are any more 9° Classic 290 drivers on the market. Other than that, he had a quiet day. The pins at Southern Hills Plantation were in the toughest spots in three days and a stiffening breeze made the closing holes a little more challenging.

Congrats And Enjoy Web.com Tour Grads (For One Week)!

The worst-conceived sports calendar on the planet wrapped up Sunday with Emiliano Grillo taking the Web.com Tour Championship to earn a PGA Tour card in 2015-16.

Tim Finchem's brainchild of finishing the season in October and starting it again in October, as $upported by his employers (the players), now has a week off. That's before the madness begins at the Frys.com Open, where the newest members of the PGA Tour would be wise to appear, even if they've played something like 11 of the last 13 weeks.

"I've played 11 tournaments in 13 weeks and I'm tired," Tom Gillis said Friday after withdrawing midway through the Web.com Tour Championship. "I want to see my family. I'll be back for the tournament in Jackson (Mississippi)."

Gillis, who lost to Jordan Spieth in the John Deere Classic playoff, did not have to complete the Web.com Tour Championship to ensure his 2015-16 card. Nonetheless, when players are burning out and being asked to turn around and start all over again, or pulling out of the playoff championship, is this really a quality product being put out by the PGA Tour?

Not that emotion was lacking, as John Strege noted, but compared to the annual event that was Q-School, the Web.com Tour Championship is not really coming close to registering.

BTW the 50 who are..."slotted in the Web.com Tour eligibility ranking (1-50)":

Remember, instead of a natural January to October calendar, the PGA Tour went to this calendar-year debac;e to supposedly save the four fall events, none of which will be seen by more people than before when they were off-the-radar tour events. As we head into a cramped 2016 calendar, it's worth remembering that the only reason to have gone to this model is for the enrichment of players and executives. Nothing about it makes sense if making the PGA Tour a better viewing "product" is the goal.