USGA Increases Purses, Including $1 Million To This Week's U.S. Women's Open Champ

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With all the player whining about USGA purses in Golf Digest’s U.S. Open confidential, it’s noteworthy that the U.S. Open’s will both have the largest prize funds in championship golf (the $12.5 million for the men ties the Players). The PGA Championship did not increase its purse this year, sticking with $11 million, while the R&A has not announced an increase to the 2019 Open fund that will already be low with a weakened pound.

On the women’s side, the KPMG LPGA jumped to $3.5 million in 2017 and has seen bumps each year, now sitting at $3.85 million in 2019.

For Immediate Release:

USGA Solidifies Largest Purses Among All Major Championships

Prize money to be raised by $500,000 for 2019 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open

 LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. (May 28, 2019) – The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced that it will increase the purse for both the 119th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links and the 74th U.S. Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston by $500,000, furthering its commitment to provide competitors with an unmatched championship experience.

The purse for the 2019 U.S. Open will be $12.5 million, making it the largest of all major championships. This year’s U.S. Women’s Open purse will total $5.5 million, positioning it as the largest in women’s golf and ensuring that its champion – provided that she is a professional – will receive $1 million for the first time.

The announcement builds on substantial investments the USGA has made in all of its Open championships. Along with the debut of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2018, which provides the largest purse in senior women’s golf at $1 million, the organization hosts the U.S. Senior Open, which also leads its demographic with $4 million in total prize money.

The USGA also provides a portion of the purse to all professionals who miss the cut at all four Opens. Amateurs in the field, a number that nears 30 in this week’s U.S. Women’s Open, receive reimbursement for travel expenses incurred during the championship week.

“The USGA is committed to providing an unparalleled experience to every player competing in its championships,” said John Bodenhamer, senior managing director, championships. “Through strategic investments in our player relations program, we are continuing the effort to create a competitor experience commensurate with the game’s most prestigious championships, and that includes an increased purse and a continued commitment to make playing in an Open championship unforgettable for the world’s top amateur players.” 

In March, longtime PGA Tour player and four-time U.S. Open competitor Jason Gore was hired as the association’s first senior director, Player Relations. His primary role focuses on interacting with professional and elite amateur players across the game, particularly competitors in the USGA’s Open and amateur championships. He also leads a full-time staff dedicated to player relations, including Liz Fradkin, who in her new role primarily focuses on women’s championships.

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

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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%.

Is Golf In Danger Because Intent Is Not Addressed In Every Rule?

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We have many rules where intent is now considered and many others that are not.

According to Webb Simpson, he was penalized because he moved the ball when it was off the green and only intent is considered on a ball accidentally moving on a green. The 2019 Players final round penalty cost him nearly $60,000.

“My ball’s on the fringe, and I was seeing if I was standing in the rough or if I was going to get both feet in the fringe or whatever and the end of my putter just got stuck on my shirt and it moved the ball about a quarter of an inch,” he said after the round. “I thought it might be a penalty, but we called anyways, and if it’s on the green it’s not a penalty. So this is where I’m going to be loud and clear, like we have to get intent into the rules. We have to. Because it’s killing our game when it comes to these kind of things.”

While I understand his point—seemingly arcane rule violations causing the game to look bad—I’m not sure this is one of them? Or close.

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.

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

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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:

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

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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…

Bermuda On Rye: Attack Of The TPC Sawgrass?

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Let’s face it, cautious golf at The Players can be a bit of a snooze, and while I’m all for firm and fast most of the time, the design here lends itself better to aerial golf, encouraging aggressive play and penalizing the overzealous. With the March date’s different winds and softer ground, it seems like we will see more drivers, more risk taking and a little more fun to the proceedings.

My story for Golfweek on this and the possible dent this may put in the hopes of plodders.

Plus, Brooks Koepka added this today:

I think you're definitely going to have to have a few more drivers in hand. Going back to your question, I think it was, I hit driver, 6-iron into 7 yesterday. And I've hit 3-iron and 9-iron off that hole. So you can't hit 5- and 4-iron out of this rough and you can't play it the way you used to. You've got to be more aggressive. With it being soft it kind of widens the fairways a little bit, the ball isn't going to roll as much, so I think it definitely plays into the longer hitters' hands and you can definitely have driver out quite a bit more.

As a side note, as much as I love the chance for recoveries from the rough, this pine straw right on the 16th fairway edge looks even better…

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Tiger At The Players: "Everything is headed on track towards April."

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As The Players prepares for its March return, Tiger Woods confirmed his work with short game instructor Matt Killen and explained the state of his neck issues.

And mostly, he assured his worried fans that he’s got this all under control for that very important tournament in April.

Q. The other one, you've always talked about finding a rhythm for a season. You've had the 72 holes in L.A. and elevation struggles in Mexico and the putting, the WD last week. Any concern that you're behind schedule as far as finding a rhythm before you get to Magnolia Lane?

TIGER WOODS: No. I've played three tournaments this year so far, and that's about right. I was going to play three or four. If I would have gotten my rounds in last week, it would have been four tournaments, so I'm right there where I need to be. My finishes are getting a little bit better each and every time I've gone out so far this year, and I've gotten a little bit more consistent with my play, and I think that everything is headed on track towards April.

Eh em…toward the second week of March we know you meant.

Players: Will The Flyer Lie Make A Comeback?

I’m not sure how exactly players will react to the 2.5 inch ryegrass overseed, but after surveying the rough at TPC Sawgrass Monday, I explain the possibilities here for Golfweek. So while the rough may be playing shorter and less problematic—in theory—the design here could punish the excessively aggressive.

Personally, I miss the flyer lie in golf and hope it makes a nice comeback here at The Players. Either way, anything but hack-out rough will suffice.

Video explanation as well:

The Players Is Getting New Theme Music, For Some Reason

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Next week’s Players Championship marks a return to March and a tradition unlike any other: PGA Tour execs trying lots of new things instead of just letting a great tournament be a great tournament. So, we have a new trophy that appears to be an upgrade, but in a world where it’s hard to establish theme music, the stellar Players theme is out.

That music, a movie score hybrid from the excellent Man From Snowy River, as Jeremy Schilling discovered, did what you hoped: reminded you of The Players, didn’t annoy you and even added to the proceedings.

While the new theme or the reason behind it is not clear—tired of paying Bruce Rowland royalties?—it appears no expense was spared in documenting the recording of this important moment in golf history.

Phil's Fighting Words: The Players Is Not A Must-Play For Me

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With The Players moving to March, fresh rye grass growing and Phil Mickelson targeting only courses he can win at, his rationale for possibly skipping The Players Championship is sound. Except that in Ponte Vedra, these are fighting (and fining) words!

From Will Gray’s GolfChannel.com item:

“It’s not one I feel like I have to play,” Mickelson said. “It’s not a must-play for me because I’m 48 and I’ve played it 25 times and I’ve already won it. If I were young and early in my career, I would say yes because I think it’s as close to a major as it can get. But it’s not the best course for me.”

That’s a no, he’s passing.

It's Alive! The Dreaded Fifth Major Debate Briefly Resurfaces...

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Poking around Google News, I found one story from the last four years wondering about possible major status for The Players Championship. Or, as we knew it many years ago before seemingly disappearing from all known radar screens: the fifth major debate. 

Today's resurfacing was the first I've seen or heard outside of Monday's Live From segment devoted to whether golf's Grand Slam should expand by one. Both Brandel Chamblee and David Duval declared the event a major (already), while Frank Nobilo was the dissenting vote over the course of nine minutes. 

This debate seemingly died several years ago from fatigue and almost no demand for major status. The tournament has never actively campaigned for the status and in recent years, millions have been poured into improving the fan experience and course.

Furthermore, when The Players moved to May it gained an enhanced, stand-alone identity that will carry over to a new, one-week earlier March date.

Perks were added for the winner, including a huge purse.

The World Golf Hall of Fame now gives Players wins special recognition. It is one of the most prestigious titles in golf. And as the LPGA's Evian event has learned the hard way, forcing major status can actually do damage. 

Which is why I argued on today's Morning Drive with Damon Hack and Eamon Lynch, that even suggesting this is a major undermines the case that could be made some day for a major new place in the record books.

Irma Impact: TPC Sawgrass Loses 200 Trees

With millions impacted in various ways by hurricane Irma, the status of golf courses is pretty far down the list of priorities.

Nonetheless, with the huge hit to Jacksonville, the TPC Sawgrass is on many minds. No photos have emerged--just a fake from a few years ago as noted by Joel Beall and Alex Myers at GolfDigest.com--but in two items Garry Smits has updates on Jacksonville golf.

In this item Smits notes that First Coast courses took the greatest hits, with an image of a huge lost tree at Timuquana and this on TPC Sawgrass:

Among the courses sustaining the most damage were the two at the TPC Sawgrass, the Players Stadium Course and Dye’s Valley. Although the PGA Tour said on Thursday that it was still assessing the situation, it did report that 18 inches of rain fell on the property between late last week and Monday, with 200 trees lost on the Stadium Course and 100 at the Valley

The TPC did post this statement on Twitter:

Alice Dye Slams New TPC Sawgrass 12th: "It doesn’t fit the course."

I've been mulling the new 12th at TPC Sawgrass in the aftermath of this year's Players and in thinking back to the golf I watched out there, my admiration for its intricacies has grown.

Did it achieve perfection on the first attempt? No. But few of the great short par-4s were perfect from the get-go. Shoot, Riviera's 10th only ascended to its current place atop most lists when technology (and all of that core work) allowed more players to go for the green.

Did the new 12th achieve the goal of adding intrigue to the early back nine holes and some much needed nuance at what was previously not a good hole?

Definitely.

Did it take one of the most one-dimensional, unimaginative and strange short par-4s on a great course and improve it?

Absolutely.

The Dyes, apparently, do not agree. Tom Weiskopf also chimed in from afar with some astute and bizarre remarks. I believe had they watched some of the golf in person and witnessed the strategy sessions at the tee box, or have seen some of the player shotmaking that the hole elicited, they might judge the new 12th less harshly. 

Matt Ginella writing for GolfAdvisor.com quotes Alice, who watched much of the coverage and came away unimpressed.

"It’s an awkward hole," says Alice Dye. "It doesn’t fit the course. He OK’d it, but it’s not a Pete Dye design."

But many would counter that as much as we love a good Pete Dye design, interesting short par-4s are not of interest to him. Even Alice confirmed this.

"Pete has never believed in drivable par 4s," says Alice. "If a player is supposed to reach the green from the tee and you’re always allowed two putts, well, that’s a par 3."

Alice, who watched the tournament with Pete all week, on a course that is one of the most iconic of the Dye’s 100-course portfolio, was not impressed with the new 12th.

"Even for the players who laid up, they were left with an awkward shot to a target that was angled across their body, the pins were hidden and weren’t accessible and the green sloped away from them, towards the water. The players who laid up weren’t able to be on the offensive. Either TV didn’t do a good job of presenting it or the hole didn’t create the excitement or the drama they were hoping for."

Actually, the visibility issues were for those who played back in the fairway. Those who sneaked their lay-ups closer to the green got better views, a great nuance to the hole that developed as players got to know the features better.

As for any issues, I think there are two small tweaks that would encourage more aggressiveness without turning it into the automatic-driving situation that Alice laments: keep the lake bank at a higher cut and flip the tee over to the left so that the angle better fits the right-hander's draw-show eye. Currently the players are hitting across themselves a bit. The angle probably accentuates the narrowness of the hole opening and the lefthand lake bank that was declared too severe by many.

A move of the tee so that the hole to set it up more like a long Redan could mean more enticement to attack.

But to suggest the hole was a failure is to look past the intrigue, interest, variety and skill sets the new 12th hole introduced.

Ratings: Players Down, Second Best Overnight Of 2017

The leaderboard's lack of star power was expected to hurt ratings and it delivered!

Paulsen at SportsMediaWatch.com points out the good news first: Si Woo Kim's 2017 Players win was the second best PGA Tour overnight rating of the year. Unfortunately it's a year that has seen a ratings decline, with this year's Players the lowest (2.6) since a rain delayed 2005.

Final round coverage of the PGA Tour Players Championship earned a 2.6 overnight rating on NBC Sunday afternoon, down 16% from last year (3.1), down a third from 2015 (3.9), and tied as the tournament’s lowest Sunday overnight since at least 1998.

And if you're hunting for the positive...

It ranked second for the weekend among sporting events behind Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals on ABC (5.6).

 

 

Distance Constrictions And Compelling Tournament Golf

Because Brandel Chamblee can be a divisive figure, discussion based off of his post-2017 Players commentary seems like a kneejerk reaction to the person making the remarks instead of the substance of his point.

There is also the precariousness of making your case off the back of someone like Si Woo Kim who won the tournament fair and square, with clutch scrambling and little choking. But Brandel's "distance constrictions" commentary should not be thrown out simply because you don't care for Brandel's style or views on other topics.

I happen to agree with him that the TPC Sawgrass still needs to encourage the use of the big stick more to be a more complete modern test. A great deal of money and effort has been put into improving the course as the ultimate tournament venue. That effort this year was mostly a huge success, but it was disappointing that in moving the course forward, a decision was made to not go back with new tees at holes like 1, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 14. (The 7th and 15th had new tees this year.)

Golf can point to a long list of famous tournaments where driver and aggressive play at select times gets taken out of player hands. More often than not, those events have produced awkward finishes with the best scrambler winning. While scrambling is an art that has been mastered by some of the greats, the best courses and setups do the least amount of discriminating against playing styles.

Throughout much of the game's tournament history, the ability to use driver to great effect has differentiated the elite players (stars) from the merely great. Tournaments where players can attack at key moments deliver a different energy. But when there is the sense that constrictions are in place--either accidentally or intentionally--the audience and the actors sense something is amiss.

Before the 2017 Players, I wrote about the sense that less severe rough, more short grass around the greens and the inclusion of a new drivable 12th would reduce some of the course's tendency to constrict and stifle talent. But the brutal, varied winds conspired with the firm, fast and immaculate conditions to present the fastest TPC Sawgrass imaginable. With that speed, the corridors played narrower and the distance advantage was lost. Without the option to extend some holes, the constrictions played more of a role than is ideal.

Again, this does not take away from Si Woo Kim's win. He posted the lowest score and perhaps played TPC Sawgrass more fearlessly because he wasn't saddled by baggage that those with longer histories there cope with. But given that this is one of golf's most significant championships with significant investments made in making it the best venue possible, a little lengthening would go a long way towards ensuring that The Players is constriction-free.

Brandel Questions Poulter's Tactics Down Stretch

Fast times at Ponte Vedra High!


Better Than Most! The 2017 Players Is Here

I genuinely believe we're going to see a little more aggression, a little more creativity and more Players Championship energy thanks to some fun course setup and design tweaks. All without disrupting the fundamental character of TPC Sawgrass.

We'll know early on with PGA Tour Live coverage beginning at 7:30 am ET and going until, gulp 7 p.m. PGA Tour Live Coverage of the 12th and 17th holes begins at 9 am.

Golf Channel Times for Thursday, May 11

Morning Drive  7-9 a.m.
Live From THE PLAYERS  9 a.m.-1 p.m.
THE PLAYERS Championship (Round 1)  1-7 p.m.
Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS      7-9 p.m.

As for The Players...

Sergio Garcia was in fine spirits as he looks to win a second Players, writes Jeff Babineau. And as Ryan Lavner notes for GolfChannel.com, Garcia has a different caddie for a few weeks and he's a former European Tour winner. Oh, and he and Padraig are still fine.

Jason Day fans will want to read John Turner's Golfweek investigation of why there have been no back-to-back winners here.

Closer Look At TPC and Players Championship Changes

I believe the overall effect of changes at TPC Sawgrass--both manmade and Hurricane induced--will make for a livelier, better golf tournament, as I detailed here for Golfweek.com.

While No. 12 is getting all of the attention--players are saying it's too much risk and not enough reward reports Golfweek's Jeff Babineau--it's the short grass around greens and lighter rough that should induce a little more aggression and creativity.

Here's a prime example at No. 11 where one pot bunker remains, but the area is otherwise all tight turf. It's tad over-shaped in my view, but instead of thick-rough-covered mounds that had as much as 3 inches in recent years, the player may now be more enticed to go at the green because of the tight turf.

The recovery shots should also add viewing interest:


Now on to the 12th, where the Groupthink mentality of players and caddies has declared this an automatic lay-up hole. I'm pretty certain by Sunday that this will not have been an automatic layup hole and in fact, a pretty interesting risk-reward hole.

A few things to look for, starting with the view just above the tee (a prime spectator spot btw). The layup area is pretty distinct and notice the lower elevation of that area, which sets up an obstructed view approach shot.


The view from the layup shows how much the TPC Sawgrass mounding impairs the view.


Here's the reward for those who carry the fairway bunker about 270 off the tee.


The TV tower rear view shows off the tight mow that leads to the lake. Lots of griping about the slope so far, but I think we need to wait and see.

The photo here doesn't show it, but there are two rear and right upslope bumps reminiscent of old Donald Ross greens (nice touch!).

The slope and hazard:

Getting In The Mood For Changes At The Players

You'll hear about the new 12th, revamped 6th and 7th, a new entrance drive and revitalized driving range at next week's Players Championship.

But to get a good for feel for those changes and to see things presented in new, fun ways, check out this PGATour.com feature from Sean Martin and the photo/video team in Ponte Vedra.

After seeing all of this, the new grass lawn effect to the first tee struck me as the most interesting for players. The overall effort seems to be a simplication and toning down of some bombast, but obviously most of the attention will be given to the new risk-reward 12th replacing the old risk-risk 12th.

Jason Day and others also contribute thoughts to the package.