Not: This Week's World Cup As Olympic Golf Preview

Dennis Pasa says this week's World Cup at Royal Melbourne offers a "glimpse of what to expect when golf returns to the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in 2016." Until it doesn't. Which Pasa points out.

First, there is the Britain/Ireland mess in 2016 that the PGA Tour's common sense deals with. Take note IOC and friends.

At the Olympics, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete as Britain. But at the World Cup, England, Scotland and Wales will compete as separate countries. To muddy the waters a bit more at the World Cup, the tradition is for Ireland and Northern Ireland to compete as Ireland. McIlroy is not competing at Royal Melbourne this week, and is confident he still retains the selection choice for the Olympics.

As for the format...it's almost Olympic-like.

Players in the top 15 on the Official World Golf Ranking gain access to the World Cup, with the exception that there will be no more than four players for any country.

After the top 15, up to two players are allowed per country until the field of about 60 is filled.

It's still largely an individual event even though the old World Cup was more about the team. I say, we'll live. We get another week of great players at Royal Melbourne and the Olympic format is a lost cause anyway! 

You can follow the action online here at the PGA Tour's World Cup page. In the USA, coverage starts Wednesday night on Golf Channel at 9 pm ET.

PGA Tour: Will Sportsmanship Impact Player Of The Year Voting?

If it hasn't been obvious by now, I could care less about the "Player of the Year" award as voted on by the players, though it will be interesting to see if Tiger Woods does not win only because it will mean players have issues with his recent rules run-ins (five wins normally would carry the day, even if he didn't win a major in stirring fashion the way Adam Scott or Phil Mickelson did.)
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Driving Distance Intervals Over The Last Thirty Years...

The 2013 PGA Tour driving distance average was 287.2 yards, down from 289.1 and no doubt will be spun by the USGA and R&A that all is well. Of course, that number leaves out four fall events where guys traditionally hit the ball a long way, and also will continue to look past the damage done by the stunning change from 270 yards serving as a tour average to the bottom rung of the tour.
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Tour Championship Ratings: 1.6 Overnight, Down 27%

From SportsMediaWatch (thanks reader Irwin):

Final round coverage of The Tour Championship, the final event in the PGA Tour FedEx Cup, earned a 1.6 overnight rating on NBC Sunday afternoon — down 27% from last year (2.2), but up 14% from 2011 (1.4).

The 1.6 overnight is the third-lowest for final round coverage of the event since the FedEx Cup began in 2007.

In addition, the 1.6 is the third-lowest for any FedEx Cup telecast on broadcast this year (eight telecasts). Only Saturday’s third round (1.4) and last week’s Sunday rainout coverage of the BMW Championship (0.9) earned lower overnights.

Speaking of Saturday’s third round, the 1.4 overnight marked a 36% decline from last year (2.2) and a 27% increase from 2011 (1.1).

For some context, the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, which probably cost the sponsor 1/4th of what the Tour Championship costs Coca Cola, delivered a 1.3 on a Sunday morning in July!

At least they aren't Houston Astro numbers.

A New Low: The FedExCup Rap

The word pathetic comes to mind annually when watching the PGA Tour attempt to make FedEx feel like they are getting their $50 million or so dollars for sponsoring the lamest "playoff" in sports, but rarely are the attempts in any way awkward, brutally annoying or disturbing in the amount of man hours so clearly devoted to the cause.

Until now.

Alex Myers posted the video of the agonizing "FedExCup Rap" put together by the PGA Tour, perhaps in conjunction with NBC because I do think I remember waking from one of my Tour Championship naps to the frightening image of Charl Schwartzel attempting to be cool, then turning the channel.

If you want to feel the agony of the entire sad spectacle, Ryan Ballengee has transcribed the lyrics.

FedEx this baby down to Guantanmo. Priority Overnight!

Tour Championship Win: Henrik Stenson's Amazing Resurgence

There's a lot about to admire in Henrik Stenson's Tour Championship and ResetCup wins, but mostly it's his resurgence that Doug Ferguson highlights in his game story from Atlanta.

Including this:

Stenson, who two years ago was outside the top 200, moved to No. 4 in the world.

Bob Harig noted this about Stenson's summer and early fall.

Starting with the Scottish Open in July, Stenson's results read as follows: T-3, 2, T-2, 3, T-43, 1, T-33, 1. That's six top-three finishes, including two victories, in eight events. Stenson was runner-up at the Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, third at the PGA Championship, then won two of the four playoff events.

And while there is a sweet justice in Stenson replenishing bank accounts wiped out by fraudster and former PGA Tour sponsor Allen Stanford's Ponzi Scheme, John Strege puts that in perspective:

To what degree money became an issue after his losses in the Stanford Financial scandal are not known. What we do know is that he kept his pants on this week, its pockets are now flush with cash, and he again ranks with the best players in the world.

"Life is ups and downs -- stock market, golf," he said recently. "Everything kind of goes in cycles. I think when you're not getting what you want and you have to work hard for it and then you get the reward, it's going to feel better than if you get it all the time, I guess. But it's life in general. It's going to be highs, it's going to be lows, and we move on."

The highlights:

2013 Tour Championship Final Round Open Comment Thread

The final day of the Tour Championship is mercifully upon us. The points reset has done its job, preventing season-long points leader Tiger from winning the FedExCup after a lousy few days at East...wait, what?

Breaking: Steve Sands reports a scenario in which Tiger could still win if Henrik Stenson were to break all of the clubs in his bag and have to finish with his putter, posting something in the 80s. The tension is killing me already.

Good news: sources say the algorithms are well rested, so let the code do it's job and enjoy the final official PGA Tour event of 2013...until they start again in a little over two weeks.

Tiger Runs "Out Of Gas" & Schedules Only Get Worse From Here!

It was a pretty shocking admission for physical specimen Tiger Woods to say his Tour Championship second round fell apart because he "just ran out of gas" and calling the ResetCup series of events (even with a week off) "a long grind." (Mark Lamport-Stokes reports.)

And guess what? The 2013-14 season starts in three weeks and next year's playoffs do not include a week off. But there is a week after the playoffs so you can rest for the Ryder Cup in Scotland.

In 2015 the Presidents Cup, presumably soon after the FedExCup, will be in Korea on the moundiest looking course you'll ever see.

And do we even want to talk about the mess that is 2016? Ewan Murray did in assessing (and agreeing) with Woods' complaint about fatigue.

Woods was right to point to a condensed schedule from the Open Championship to this, the climax of the FedEx play-off events. He also predicted that matters will become even more hectic in 2016, when golf returns to the Olympic Games in Rio.

It's going to be fascinating to watch the stars getting older while Commissioner Blankfein's vision for non-stop golf plays out.

A Caller Tries To Save Stenson From Penalty

Jim McCabe with the story of Tour Championship 36-hole leader Henrik Stenson possibly spared a penalty for playing a broken 4-wood.

While it he (and his "physio") knew something was amiss and dealt with it before the round, Stenson was greeted by tour officials who were on the case after--you guessed it--a viewer called in.

This time, however, PGA Tour rules officials – in this case, Mark Russell and John Mutch – were there to speak with Stenson. It seems that Golf Channel showed the practice-range scene with Stenson looking at his club and a viewer called in to raise the possibility that the tournament leader had a broken club in his bag.

Doing the prudent thing, Russell approached Stenson before the Swede, who was in the final pairing with Scott, could sign his card.

“We just wanted to see (that Stenson didn’t have the club in his bag),” Russell said. When they discovered that he did not, in fact, carry the 4-wood and had but 13 clubs in his bag, it was case closed.

Stenson posted a 66 with the 13 clubs to open up a four stroke lead over Adam Scott.

The highlights:


East Lake Lockers Sleep Easy On News Of Stenson's 64

Henrik Stenson, scourge of cherry-wood paneled lockers across the land after going ballistic at Conway Farms on the innocent storage space rented by some member probably hoping the Swede merely left behind a sleeve of balls, turned his anger to East Lake with an opening 64.

Stenson is playing with a sore wrist--what could have caused that? Jeff Rude reports on Stenson explaining last week's tantrums.

“I’ve always been a bit of a hothead,” said the Swede, who apologized and awaits a bill for damage. “It kind of builds up and eventually goes over the limit. For me, it comes down to being tired. I played so much golf (and) haven’t been able to get rest.”

On top of that mental state, Stenson came to East Lake with a bad left wrist that he figures he inflamed by hitting balls and sleeping on it wrong last week. It was so bad that on Wednesday he hit just a “couple of shots on the range” and didn’t play a practice round – even though he had never played East Lake before, save for the front nine Tuesday.

“Wednesday morning, just holding a toothbrush was painful,” said the winner of the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of the four FedEx Cup playoff events.

The first round video highlights courtesy of Tiger's good friends at PGA Tour Entertainment:

"Now there is potential to doubt that Woods will keep protecting the field above his own self-interest."

Two very tough (and similar) commentaries from respected writers on Tiger's rules situations, starting with AP's Doug Ferguson reviewing Woods' 2013 rules run-ins and suggesting that he risks "losing the locker room":

A few players privately mocked him during the final round at Conway Farms. ''Oscillation'' became a punch line.

Was it worth it?

Whether he likes it or not, Woods is held to a different standard, just as Greg Norman, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were before him in the television era. He gets more attention. He draws the largest crowds. He's on TV more. His every move is scrutinized.

There's no point complaining any longer that it's unfair to use television footage to determine penalties. Everyone is expected to play by the rules – whether there's a TV camera there or not – and accept the penalty, even when players unknowingly break them. It's already in the rule book under Decision 34-3/9: ''Testimony of those who are not a part of the competition, including spectators, must be accepted and evaluated. It is also appropriate to use television footage and the like to assist in resolving doubt.''

What's worse? Someone calling in a possible violation from the couch, or an official ignoring evidence of a violation?

Jaime Diaz in this week's Golf World says Tiger digging in even after the evidence was presented does not bode well:

That Woods disputed the visual evidence in the scoring trailer, to the point of admittedly getting "pretty hot," evoked the image of Michelle Wie's petulant and feeble self-defense at the 2010 Kia Classic, when she said she had grounded her club in the water to balance herself. It was a claim that video replay clearly refuted.

At the BMW, Woods had a chance on Saturday to wipe the slate clean by saying that he had been in error and accepted his penalty as proper. Instead, his unbending denial in the face of such strong evidence hurt his good name. Now there is potential to doubt that Woods will keep protecting the field above his own self-interest. It means all the respect he has earned is unofficially under reassessment.

Oh Do Tell: Woods, Finchem Meet For An Hour

GolfChannel.com Digital, whose parents, Mr. and Mrs. Digital, were visionairies in naming their first born, reports that Tiger Woods and Commissioner Tim Finchem met for over an hour Wednesday. An hour, for Tiger preparing to tee off the next day in a big event and listening to the Commish bellow on, is the equivalent of a 24 hour meeting for the rest of us.

Here's guessing they were not comparing notes on the G650 or working a Steve Sands-branded whiteboard over how to revamp the FedExCup points (again) or discussing how to televise all of Tiger's shots in SD to avoid future rules mishaps.

Digital speculates that it had to do with "call-in" violations based on Tiger's press conference remarks.

“There are certainly a lot more viewer call-ins,” Woods said. “I get it from the first time I step on the range on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, all the way through, and virtually every shot is on something, and some of the top players are getting it. Most players don't get it until they're in the leader groups on Saturday or Sunday.”

Bob Harig zones in on Tiger's assertion that there needs to be a time-limit on call-ins, though what that has to do with any of the situations he was involved in is beyond me!

"There needs to be a time limit, and I think there needs to be a discussion obviously where is that time limit? Where is that line of demarcation? You've got to start with disqualification and then work our way back from there.

Commish Talks Player Utilization Ratios Of FedEx Opportunities

Numerous stories noted the big takeaway from Commissioner Tim Finchem's state of the tour presser: the tour will be taking yet another look at caller-inspired rules violations even though (A) it's the one bit of controversy Commissioner Monk embraces, and (B) it's the one sign an audience of any size is watching the playoffs.

So nothing will change. Players will commit violations.  HD will reveal violations they didn't know happened. Players will pat themselves on the back for calling penalties on themselves. And Tiger will have more run-ins with the rules because he's on television more than anyone.

Finchem is smarter than most of us and he knows the second you put a rule that says no outside observer can point out a rules violation, the integrity of the rules will be undermined because we'll have a long list of penalties that should have been given out, but were not.

In other words, a situation much more toxic than the one we have now.

As for Tuesday at East Lake, you are more than welcome to read 4855 words of the Commish and press questions--and that's just the part before Peter Jacobsen arrived to collect his Payne Stewart Award.

Or you can take Helen Ross's summary of the state of the tour, which as you might suspect, is very upbeat, with loads of numbers from the Commissioner except those top-secret playoff ratings (they're so big they keep them secret to avoid a nationwide outbreak of aneurysms).

But since we can't get those TV ratings, we can at least get some numbers confirming that the players do indeed believe in the FedExCup and its $40 million in bonus money. Shocking stuff here.

On how the FedExCup has been accepted by the players: "99.1 percent of the (Playoffs) starts by players that were available to players have been actually utilized. Of the 975 opportunities, 966 have been filled. It's an indication of the very robust interest, support, and enthusiasm the players have for this competition. And I think, as with the fans, it continues to grow."

Not that anyone is counting or anything.

On the debut of the Web.com Tour Finals: "I must say in this first year we're off to, I think, a very, very solid start. The quality of the golf courses in the finals, the juxtaposition of the 126 to 200 from the PGA TOUR against the top 75 off the Web.com Tour money list has, I think, proven to be very interesting to fans. Our galleries have been good at those events, and we've gotten good results on television."

Uh, how many more weeks do we have of the Web.com Tour Finals?

And the Commissioner's tortured take on fans phoning in rules violations:

On whether the TOUR would ever decide to not take calls from fans about potential penalties: "Well, we've been talking about it and looking at it over the years. I think twice we've actually got pretty serious about it. It's not just one thing. It's sort of three or four different ways to look at it starting with one fundamental, which is disqualification reasonable for signing a card wrong when you didn't intentionally do anything?
 


"Going from there to what's a reasonable point to accept outside information? Is it better to have some sort of limit on it? If you don't learn about something before X time. All the other sports close their books a little quicker than we do, so to speak. But there's two sides to the story. I mean, it's not an easy argument one way or the other.  I think it's cumbersome and difficult and awkward sometimes. On the other hand, sometimes it's pretty interesting to the fans. ... But we seem to have three or four of these things this year. So we'll probably be taking another harder look at it after we get done with the season."

Eh ehmmm...Tim, the season starts again in a few weeks.