Azinger! NBC/Golf Channel Introduces New Analyst

Screen Shot 2018-10-22 at 9.59.46 PM.png

Paul Azinger hit the airwaves and the teleconference lines to discuss his new role as NBC’s lead golf analyst replacing Johnny Miller.

Here is the full release announcement from G.C. Digital.

Steve DiMeglio reports on Azinger’s excitement over getting to call Tiger Woods’ comeback.

The most interesting reveal of the day came on Morning Drive when Azinger confirmed what was long suspected: he lobbied for a Ryder Cup return gig after the victorious 2008 gig. Rex Hoggard reports for GolfChannel.com.

As The Forecaddie notes, there were a few surprises in the volume of events and other non-tournament moments the 1993 PGA Champion will work.

Azinger at the table with Gary and Damon on Morning Drive today:

U.S. Mid-Amateur Champ Postpones Turning Pro For A Second Time

Screen Shot 2018-10-22 at 9.39.43 PM.png

I’m guessing when folks who ask why no one in golf pays much attention to the amateur golf scene, a quick case study of the new U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion will be an easy example to cite.

According to Golf World’s John Strege, a looming Masters invitation and U.S. Open exemption for Kevin O’Connor means he’s unlikely to take a second crack at pro golf after once regaining his amateur status.

O’Connell, 30, a Cary, N.C., resident, was similarly not conflicted, though in the other direction. The Masters and U.S. Open, as well as a U.S. Amateur exemption and possibly playing on the U.S. Walker Cup team, prevailed without an internal argument. “I think those were definitely the primary reasons,” he said. “Secondarily, just the idea of another year of elite golf at the amateur level, it’s a good proving ground as well.”

The concept of the mid-amateur was started in part to not be a proving ground for professional golf, but instead a proving ground for those who just want to be amateur golfers and not compete against those who play every day while earning a scholarship. But when even mid-amateur golf is just a place to house former and budding pros—or both, the appeal is significantly dented.

Then again, when they all get free equipment and wear the branding of the companies supplying the goods, is anyone even an amateur anymore?

"GOLFTV Powered By The PGA Tour" Is Launched For Eight Countries

Screen Shot 2018-10-22 at 9.03.21 PM.png

The PGA Tour and Discovery have partnered for all international streaming coverage but due to existing deals, it’s going to be a five year rollout of the newly branded GOLFTV Powered By The PGA Tour. The UK and Sweden, for instance, won’t be able to live under par until 2022 (see other rollout dates above).

The press release is heavy on self congratulatory praise for the “distinctive” brand, but without any mention of star talent signed to helm the coverage or a compelling story to share with all but eight countries. Golf having its Netflix, as the cable cutters hoped, seems a long ways off still. At least to Americans.

NEW YORK - Discovery and the PGA TOUR have today revealed GOLFTV, powered by the PGA TOUR, the distinctive brand for the destination that will unite the community of golf fans around the world.  The brand will underpin the new live and on-demand international video streaming service, which will launch globally outside the United States* on Jan. 1, 2019.

GOLFTV will offer fans a one-stop destination to access the widest range of golf content.  With a growing portfolio of content, it will feature many of the sport’s most exciting moments, superstar players and tournaments on every screen and device.

Serving golf fans with an enhanced experience to both entertain and inform, GOLFTV will present more than 2,000 hours of live action each year as well as extensive premium content on-demand.   Live coverage* will include the six Tours operating under the PGA TOUR umbrella and nearly 150 tournaments annually - including THE PLAYERS Championship, the FedExCup Playoffs and the Presidents Cup.

Alex Kaplan, President and General Manager, Discovery Golf, said: “Our long-term goal is to create a must-have experience that truly enhances the way global fans watch, play and engage with the game every day.  Unveiling the new GOLFTV brand is an exciting next step in our journey.

“Building on Discovery’s heritage of real-life storytelling and direct-to-consumer platform experience, we’ve already established a world-class GOLFTV team.  With work well underway, our carefully considered plans will allow us to continually enhance GOLFTV as we roll-out and further develop the product.”

The launch of the GOLFTV brand follows the pioneering strategic alliance between Discovery and the PGA TOUR, announced in June.  In addition to the GOLFTV service, the 12-year alliance will manage the PGA TOUR’s international multi-platform rights including linear TV rights.

Discovery is already working to execute on a robust distribution and broadcast partner strategy for the portfolio, optimizing reach across free-to-air, pay-TV and digital, and will explore partnering with existing PGA TOUR and golf broadcasters to continue to grow the game.  Live PGA TOUR coverage will become available via GOLFTV in line with the market-by-market rights activation date (see below).

Mothers, Don't Let Your Sons And Daughters Grow Up To Be Average Length Straight Hitters

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 9.21.15 PM.png

If there was any doubt that learning speed and launch is vital to future PGA Tour survival coming off a season when the driving distance average jumped from 292.5 to 296.1 yards, Golfweek’s David Dusek provides all of the analysis (and charts) you’ll need to know that the money is in distance. There was a day when this kind of imbalance bothered the USGA and R&A and maybe even the PGA Tour:

As a group, the 20 longest hitters on the PGA Tour averaged more than $3.5 million in prize money last season, which was 164 percent more than the Tour average.

As massive as that percentage may seem, it falls within a range that goes several years. In 2017, the 20 longest hitters on the PGA Tour averaged 123 percent more prize money than the PGA Tour average. In the three seasons before that, they earned about 150 percent more, which tells us that as distance off the tee has increased over the last few years, the longest hitters have maintained an edge in terms of earnings.

There should be an advantage to hitting the ball a long way, but one would hope the numbers also show some kind that the game also still rewards those who show other skills besides an ability to hit the ball supreme distances. Right?

Tom Doak Seems Determined To Be Different Than David Kidd

Eamon Lynch of Golfweek talks to Tom Doak about the golf architect’s plans to build a much shorter but also demanding course at Sand Valley resort where David McLay Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes was recently unveiled.

Given that the course is years away from opening, it’s odd that Doak seems more obsessed with countering Kidd’s design than quietly going about building a great course and letting the results speak for themselves. But maybe this faux drama is what the “retail golfer” clamors for.

“The hardest part will be to convince them to let me make it somewhat challenging,” Doak said. “I don’t think they think that’s a really important part of their business model, and the feedback on Mammoth Dunes says maybe they’re right. I don’t think that’s a difficult golf course and people love it.”

Mammoth Dunes was designed by David McLay Kidd, with whom Doak has had a robust rivalry since they built the first two courses in Bandon. Kidd had lobbied for Doak to get Sand Valley’s third job (Coore and Crenshaw preceded Kidd).

“He’s really competitive with me and he really wants to beat me head to head, which he can’t do if I don’t do a golf course there,” Doak laughs.

Kidd cheerfully dismissed his rival’s tweaking. “You can still have challenge but allow recovery,” he said. “Nobody is shooting 58 just because I built a course that’s fun.”

TaylorMade Passing On The 2019 PGA Show

The Forecaddie has all the details and corporatespeak from TaylorMade CEO David Abeles regarding to-be-announced initiatives to compensate for his company passing up the annual gathering of overpriced quarter-zips.

What this means for the future of the show remains to be seen, but barring some sort of change in pricing or positioning of the show (Orlando every year!?), it feels like this could be the beginning of the end for a trade show past its prime.

Is "World No. 1" Status Enhanced Or Diminished By Recent Revolving Door?

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 8.56.12 PM.png

Brooks Koepka won the limited-field CJ Cup Sunday in Korea and while no one noticed in the United States due to interest in many other sports not named golf, I do wonder if Brooks Koepka’s move atop the Official World Golf Ranking is impacted by the recent changes at the top.

As Dan Kilbridge at Golfweek notes, Koepka is still very much grinding to bring his major championship consistency to regular PGA Tour events and is proud of the honor. But given that Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose (ever briefly but long enough to cash some bonuses), held the title of No. 1 in recent weeks, does that lessen the impact of the achievement or speak to unprecedented parity and therefore the difficulty of reaching the top ranking?

Video: Distance Debate And Your Percentages

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 12.42.54 PM.png

Morning Drive was joined by Paul Stankowski and debated with the gang—Rymer, Diaz and Ginella—about driving distance gains. In particular, what percentages they would ascribe as asked by the governing bodies in their Distance Survey (which you too can vote on!).

Of course it was an honor to be called out by Rymer for being the only person howling about the ball going too far since his heroes Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have been a tad more visible in sharing a similar stance. But love to see him pinning most of the gains on the ball! Roll it back, baby!

 

Tiger Gets His Calamity Jane, Takes To Social To Share The Spoils Of Win No. 80

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 9.20.49 PM.png

One of the coolest—dopiest to the kids reading out there—trophies in golf arrived at Tiger’s house and he promptly posted multiple shots of the 2018 Tour Championship’s Calamity Jane trophy.

Because the world revolves around FedEx and the gobs of money they are paying for the FedExCup, the Calamity Jane may be a 2019 casualty of the Tour Championship shifting to a handicap tournament resolving only the FedExCup.

So enjoy!

Go Figure: PGA Tour LatinoAmerica Finale Headed To Trump Doral

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 9.15.08 PM.png

Last I heard the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica was played in…drum roll…Latin America.

Also, multiple sources have reminded me that the PGA Tour was one of several organizations to scold the now President Of The United States for his comments about Mexican immigrants.

The then-candidate Donald Trump then assailed the PGA Tour when it moved the WGC at Trump Doral to Mexico City.

Voila! We have a match made in heaven: Ponte Vedra is jumping at the obvious natural fit by bringing the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica finale to Trump National Doral’s “Golden Palm” course.

Brentley Romine with the confusing details for Golfweek. Did I say confusing? I meant synergistic fit.

Rounds Played Down A Bit Due To Weather, USA Has 24 Million Or So Golfers Still

Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 10.08.51 PM.png

It’s been a while since we’ve heard much on rounds played or the number of golfers in the United States, so I enjoyed the various numbers dropped by CNBC’s Dominic Chu during a Morning Drive appearance.

The growth fanatics won’t be pleased to see golf is stuck on 24 million or so numbers, but 82% of those players consider themselves committed. As Chu notes, there is no longer a sense that the sky is falling on Wall Street or anywhere else that people obsess about the numbers.

Anyway, good stuff from Chu’s chat with Cara Banks:

Tiger Admits Lack Of Conditioning Caught Up With Him At The Ryder Cup

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 10.44.20 PM.png

Speaking at an exhibition in Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods reflected on win No. 80, the Ryder Cup and next year’s Presidents Cup captaincy.

While his haters will gripe, I admire his willingness to admit the heat, stress and thrills of his playoff play took on him physically after not being prepared physically to play as much as he did. From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek story:

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Turns Out The Tiger Woods Foundation Is Secretly Working To Combine Art And Science To Make More Putts!

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 10.33.50 PM.png

We always knew those special kids supposedly studying everything but golf at the Tiger Woods Foundation’s learning center were really just plotting to combine art and science to help Tiger make more putts.

Just look on Instagram!

Is Brexit To Blame For The Apparently Impending (Re)Demise Of The British Masters

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 10.08.37 PM.png

With Sky Sports ending its four-year run of the rejuvenated British Masters, Global Golf Post’s Colin Callander considers the various reasons for this historic tournament’s demise (again).

In light of the incredible state of English golf, a Ryder Cup win and moderate success of the event with its revolving host concept, Callander ultimately wonders if uncertainty over Brexit is scaring off potential sponsors.

Not explored but another potential factor: tax implications of appearing in multiple sporting events in England.

Her Majesty’s Corgies must eat well!

Johnny "Could make golf more fun to hear than to watch"

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 10.28.00 PM.png

Great stuff from AP’s Doug Ferguson on the retirement of Johnny Miller, including this gem on Craig Parry that lit up the switchboards.

''The last time you see that swing is in a pro-am with a guy who's about a 15-handicap,'' Miller said. ''It's just over the top, cups it at the bottom and hits it unbelievably good. It doesn't look ... if Ben Hogan saw that, he'd puke.''

Parry got the last word, of course, holing out a 6-iron from 176 yards in a playoff to win.

Except that wasn't the last word.

''I was in Ponte Vedra going back to the Honda Classic, and my phone is blowing up,'' said Tommy Roy, the longtime golf producer at NBC. ''It started percolating down in Australia, and you had radio stations demanding Johnny Miller be fired.''

Jaime Diaz looks back on Miller’s career in this Golf Central essay:

Miller joined Golf Central Wednesday to discuss his impending farewell at the 2019 Waste Management Open:

On Golf Central we debated his greatest legacy: player or broadcaster. I said player. Matt Adams said broadcaster. You decide!

"Is it a Hall of Fame or a mausoleum?"

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 10.49.32 PM.png

That’s the very appropriate question posed by Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch a week after we learned of the latest inductees, including one who was worthy long before she passed away.

From Lynch’s column:

The tardy selection of Peggy Kirk Bell isn’t the first time the Hall has soured what ought to be a special achievement.

Last year’s ceremony was in New York, a lavish affair so tedious and drawn-out that I feared some older Hall of Famers present might make the “In Memoriam” list before the evening ended. Earlier that day I met with Ian Woosnam, one of the inductees. Woosie won the Masters, was ranked World No. 1 and had more than 50 career victories. I asked if it rankled that he didn’t get the call to the Hall until he was almost 60 years old, after years of seeing others with less impressive careers cut in line.

“What do you think?” he answered with a thin smile.

Part of the problem lies in the vetting and selection of candidates. That is determined by two committees, both stacked with officials from various Tours and governing bodies. Honorable people all, but it stretches credulity to assume that every decision is free of institutional or personal bias toward particular candidates.

From there he goes into the selection that expedited the Hall’s ongoing run-ins with credibility: Monty.

We discussed all of this silliness on Morning Drive today, including the reason to even care about having a great HOF, the oversights, the issues with voting politics caused by shifting away from writers as voters, and, most of all the ongoing issues with having a Hall full of too many oversights to ever just enjoy the current class.

 

Johnny Miller Really Is Retiring To Spend More Time With His Family

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 10.05.06 PM.png

I’m getting weepy just thinking how weepy Johnny Miller will be at the 2019 Waste Management Open when he hangs up his IFB, questions his last club selection and takes his well, well, well earned retirement to really, truly genuinely spend more time with his family.

From G.C. Digital’s item and Golf Central where Miller will be talking more extensively on Tuesday’s show about his plans after nearly 30 incredible years as the most concise, prepared and opinionated analyst golf television has known.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Johnny To Retire, Azinger To Replace While Still Working For Fox

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 12.13.41 PM.png

The Forecaddie with fantastic news for golf fans grappling with the thought of Johnny Miller retiring and no standout, no-brainer replacements.

Except one.

Will we get a Paul Azinger-Tirico-Faldo cameo of their old ESPN days on some weekday telecast on Golf Channel (Faldo can’t work on NBC, I don’t believe)? Maybe at The Open?

Golf Lives: A Look At Genuine "Grow The Game" Courses

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 11.53.07 AM.png

As golf’s leaders fuss over their PSA’s and other feel good grow the game efforts, we all know the sport will only really sustain players and passion if there are fun, relaxed and maybe a tad quirky facilities.

Callaway and Vice’s collaboration on Golf Lives is highlighting three “Home Courses” in Washington D.C., Portland and Gothenburg. This is just Season 1, so if you have nominations for similar places to highlight, please post in the comments here or message me.

Each piece, around 6 minutes, highlights the best of these places. I’m particularly enamored with Edgefield’s vibe and character, though having been to Wild Horse can attest to what a perfect golf facility they’ve created (and maintained).

The series can be seen on CallawayGolf.com or on Callaway TV on Apple TV and Roku. And below.

The description for volume 1:

“Opened in June 1939, Langston is steeped in a rich history. Known for its triumphant role in the desegregation of public golf, the course has been integral to the growth of the game’s popularity amongst African Americans. With its celebratory feel, Langston shows us golf is not only a uniter of people, but of generations.”

Beer drinkers and golf bag inventors will especially love Edgefield, described here but not mentioning the “Cartender” and the home-made bags created by a local:

“The air is fresh, the beers are cold and the vibes are electric at Edgefield. You'd be hard pressed to find a more laid back, approachable and enjoyable environment for a round. Overlooking stunning panoramic views of Northeast Portland, two par-3 pub courses (12 holes and 20 holes) wind through vineyards, thickets of blackberry bushes and a vintage distillery bar. All are welcome at Edgefield, especially those who have never swung a club.”

And the final film from Dave Axland and Dan Proctor’s Wild Horse design in Nebraska is explained this way:

“In 1997, the locals and farmers living in the tight-knit town of Gothenburg decided to build a golf course. A bank loan, a couple of tractors, and a whole lotta sweat equity later, their prairie land masterpiece is now considered one of the best in the country. Wild Horse is the soul of the community, providing unforgettable memories for all who play it.”

USGA, R&A Budge In Final Green Reading Book Ban

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 10.18.07 AM.png

The full release is here. Golfweek’s Brentley Romine has the highlights of the final announcement.

Here is what was gleaned from the feedback period of the green reading book limitations presented this summer:

Some of the changes made to the original proposal following the feedback period include the removal of: (1) the proposed minimum slope indication limit of 4% and (2) the prohibition against using handwritten notes to create a copy or facsimile of a detailed green map.

Additions to the original proposal include: (1) a new size limit for the printed book/material (restricted to pocket-size), (2) a new prohibition against magnification of putting green information and (3) a new requirement that any hand-drawn or written information must be in a book or on a paper meeting the size limit and must be written by the player and/or his or her caddie.

Reading Mike Stachura’s Golf World account, the author sounds pretty skeptical of Thomas Pagel’s claims on behalf of the USGA suggesting that the limitations will still limit these books in competition.

The new interpretation, however, seems to shift from some of the original proposal’s fundamental convictions. In July, Pagel said, “Basically, the books are giving them a recommended line, and that goes too far. The skill of reading a green was diminishing, quickly going away. And we wanted to make sure it was retained.” But there were two factors that seemed to sway the decision away from specific restrictions on the information in any green-reading book. One was history, and the other was enforcement.

“First, we know the ability to take notes has been part of the game for a very long time, and we did not want to get away from that,” he said. “I also heard loud and clear about the challenge of enforcing the rule. Players were asking, How do I know if my notes are OK? and How do I know if the notes another player has on the other side of the fairway are OK?

Will this turn out to be another anchoring ban that ultimately leaves people wondering if players are skirting the rule? I hope not.