Greg McLaughlin Leaves Champions Tour To Head World Golf Foundation, First Tee, Golf's Hall

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Hard to know what exactly is going on here but the timing suggests that someone decided it was time for a change related to the World Golf Foundation’s direction. In particular, The First Tee lost its last CEO after almost a year and the World Golf Hall of Fame isn’t exactly earning plaudits these days.

Garry Smits with some details on the shake-up from the Florida Times-Union perspective.

For Immediate Release…with news of the new PGA Tour Champions head buried at the end.

Greg McLaughlin named World Golf Foundation CEO & President of The First Tee 
Newly consolidated role to bring together direction and leadership of World Golf Foundation,  The First Tee, World Golf Hall of Fame;
Miller Brady named PGA TOUR Champions President as McLaughlin’s successor 

ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida, and PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida (November 28, 2018) – The World Golf Foundation Board of Directors announced today that Greg McLaughlin will assume the combined roles and responsibilities of World Golf Foundation Chief Executive Officer & President of The First Tee.  McLaughlin most recently served as President of PGA TOUR Champions, since January 2015; prior to his role at the TOUR, he was CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation for 14 years.

McLaughlin will strategically direct the World Golf Foundation, The First Tee and World Golf Hall of Fame, expanding the reach, impact and global prominence of each and ensuring financial performance and sustainability. McLaughlin will serve as a leader among the world’s top golf organizations, and a key ambassador and spokesperson for the game of golf.

“We are thrilled to welcome Greg to this incredibly important new role,” said Jay Monahan, World Golf Foundation Chairman and PGA TOUR Commissioner.  “I’m not sure we could have asked for a more qualified, passionate leader, considering his deep level of experience and executive leadership success within the golf world and beyond.  Given the scope of this newly consolidated role – to further the World Golf Foundation’s mission and build upon the vision of The First Tee – his proven ability to build relationships at the highest level of the sports, business and not-for-profit communities is unique and will be invaluable.  This restructure represents an exciting evolution for the World Golf Foundation, and Greg is the perfect person to take the mantle.”

World Golf Foundation Board Member and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan added, “Greg will be a perfect fit in this new role. He is an authentic, proven leader who delivers on so many important attributes – he’s experienced, passionate and a visionary. Specifically, I think Greg will instantly connect with The First Tee chapters, donors and participants. With Greg at the helm, and given his ability to build lasting partnerships, this will be an exciting time for The First Tee and the World Golf Foundation.”

“As a member of the greater golf community for more than 30 years, I have always been proud of what the collective efforts of our sport have done and continue to do to inspire communities and change lives, especially for young people who can learn and grow through the values of golf,” said McLaughlin.  “This is an exciting time in the evolution of the World Golf Foundation and, specifically, The First Tee, and I am humbled by and excited for the opportunity to lead our industry’s efforts to increase participation and global awareness of golf as a sport that is welcoming to all.”

McLaughlin joined the PGA TOUR in 2014, initially as Senior Vice President of the TOUR’s Championship Management division; he was promoted to PGA TOUR Champions President in 2015 and Executive Vice President of the PGA TOUR in 2018.  McLaughlin has been instrumental in the success of PGA TOUR Champions, overseeing a record-setting 20-year marketing partnership with Charles Schwab & Co., the implementation of the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs and the addition of several new title sponsors and markets.   

Prior to joining the Tiger Woods Foundation in 2000, McLaughlin was the Vice President of Tournaments at the (now-named) Genesis Open, Honda Classic and BMW Championship.

McLaughlin graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Economics. He also received his Juris Doctor from Chicago-Kent College of Law. 

Ten-year World Golf Foundation CEO Steve Mona will assist McLaughlin with the transition, as Executive Director of WE ARE GOLF and Senior Advisor, before retiring later next year.  In addition, 25-year golf industry veteran, Jack Peter, who has made significant contributions including overseeing the design, build out and operation of PGA TOUR Entertainment and most recently, helping to bring the World Golf Hall of Fame to global prominence in his role as President, will retire from his position at the end of the year.

“I’d like to thank Jack for his incredible leadership through the years, specifically his success in raising the profile of the of the World Golf Hall of Fame Museum,” added Monahan.  

Brodie Waters, World Golf Hall of Fame Vice President of Business Affairs, will lead the Hall of Fame structure, funding and operations with McLaughlin’s oversight, and will also oversee PR/communications activities for the World Golf Foundation.

Miller Brady, a 19-year veteran of the PGA TOUR, will succeed McLaughlin to lead PGA TOUR Champions.  Brady steps into the role after most recently working under McLaughlin as Senior Vice President & Chief of Operations, where his responsibilities have included direct oversight of tournament business affairs, operations, competitions and player relations as well as scheduling. In previous roles at the TOUR, Brady gained valuable experience within the Corporate Marketing department and as Special Assistant to the Commissioner (Tim Finchem) during the development of the FedExCup.  Brady began working in the sports industry in 1996 with Advantage International (now Octagon), overseeing BMW’s grassroots golf program and eventually Bank of America’s PGA TOUR Sponsorship of the West Coast Swing.  He is from Atlanta and is a graduate of Georgia Southern University.

PGA Tour Adds Japan's ZOZO Championship Backed By Grow The Game Mantra

Growing the game in Malaysia is out, growing the game in Japan is in.

Why we have to keep hiding behind this empty phrase—except that it’s a phrase to hide behind—proved to be the motive for a very wealthy Japanese man to open up his checkbook. In this case, it’s a man who is willing to pay Elon Musk to fly him around the moon.

From PGATour.com:

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The PGA TOUR and ZOZO, Inc. – which operates the largest Japanese online fashion website “ZOZOTOWN” – today announced a six-year agreement that establishes the first annual, official PGA TOUR tournament in Japan. The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP, which will be co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO), is set to debut at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club the week of October 21, 2019, during the opening segment of the 2019-20 PGA TOUR FedExCup Season.

The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP, with a Japan-record purse of US$9.75 million, will become part of the TOUR’s swing through Asia, joining THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in Korea and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in China. The CIMB Classic in Malaysia no longer will be on the PGA TOUR schedule, as CIMB is realigning its sponsorship with the TOUR.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the first annual, official PGA TOUR event to Japan through our partnership with ZOZO, Inc.,” said Ty Votaw, PGA TOUR Executive Vice President, International.  “Japan’s passion for golf is widely recognized and something our stars have experienced first-hand through various events held here and the support of standout PGA TOUR players like champion Hideki Matsuyama. Today’s announcement further strengthens our presence in Asia and certainly comes at an opportune time with golf set to follow its highly successful return to the Olympics in Rio when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Games.”

“I’ve been inspired by golf as a player and as a fan for nearly 10 years now. Opportunities such as going on rounds with my 73-year-old father, and practicing with my sons who are now in elementary school, all came from my love for golf,” said Yusaku Maezawa, ZOZO Inc. CEO. “ZOZO, Inc. has celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and we have launched our private fashion brand ZOZO, which is designed, developed and distributed by us. The concept of the brand is to create the perfect fit for every unique body by using body measurement technology.  Just like golf has the power to motivate and connect people all over the world, regardless of nationality, gender, age or body shape, we hope to grow our private brand ZOZO into a brand that is loved all over the world, regardless of big, small, tall or short.”

Well okay then!

And You Think Tiger And Phil Are Doing Well This Week: PGA Tour And Vijay Singh Announce Settlement

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Anyone care to guess what the final dollar figure was? Maybe during The Match, Tiger and Phil can wager what they think Vijay got…for their charities of course.

Given that Singh won an appeal in June and the case—summarized beautifully here by SI’s Michael McGannwas headed to a trial that might have gotten ugly, I like Vijay’s chances of having exceeded The Match’s winner-take-all purse.

The PGA TOUR and Vijay Singh are pleased to announce that we have resolved our prior dispute. 

Well, prior being the last five years…

The settlement reflects our mutual commitment to look to the future as we put this matter behind us. 

Cha-ching!

The PGA TOUR fully supports Vijay as he continues to be a true champion on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions. 

Not a champion. A TRUE champion. Caps would have been a nice touch, in hindsight.

Either way, looks like we know who had final edit say on this statement.

The PGA TOUR recognizes that Vijay is one of the hardest working golfers ever to play the game, and does not believe that he intended to gain an unfair advantage over his fellow competitors in this matter. 

Whoa big admission there given the recent finding.

Vijay fully supports the PGA TOUR’s Anti-Doping Program and all efforts to protect the integrity of the game that he loves so much.  The parties will make no statement concerning the settlement terms resolving this matter.

Tour Slow Play Wars Taking On Added, Enjoyable Dimension: Chipping Away At Field Sizes

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For those who’ve watched the various Tours and players defend the pace of today’s game and fight to preserve the rights of entitled, selfish daily repeat-offenders, I have good news!

Field sizes are about to take start taking hits. If there will ever be one thing to make players actually stop defending slow pokes, the loss of playing opportunities might do it.

Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com reports on the continued player chatter after Corey Pavin—not known as a super slow player like Bernhard Langer—got zapped with a PGA Tour Champions penalty last weekend.

On the PGA Tour, the inability to finish at tournaments in the winter and spring months is putting pressure on officials to reduce playing opportunities. As it should be. The players can’t play fast enough? Time to start reducing fields!

The Tour’s policy board approved a plan to reduce the field size in Las Vegas from 144 to 132 players. According to a memo sent to players, the decision was made “to give the tournament a better chance of completing Rounds 1 and 2 on schedule.”

To be fair, part of this problem was driven by the event’s move from mid-October to early November, when the daylight window is slightly larger. But there’s no denying the fact that if threesome rounds didn’t regularly stretch past the five-hour mark, this would not be an issue.

Correctorama!

This was a fun fact. Television masks this, but think of the fan in attendance who can expect to lose valuable minutes of their life watching a player prepare for a shot.

Perhaps more eye opening are the Tour percentages. Eighty percent of all players took between 31 and 44 seconds to hit shots so far this season, while only 40 percent took between 35 and 40 seconds, which in theory should be the goal given the fine print of the circuit’s policy.

Which means a very large percentage took more than the Rules of Golf allow for. Charming.

But hey, they take their hats off at 18 to shake hands and call penalties on themselves!

Fingers crossed the Genesis Open at Riviera is next on the chopping board. 156 players used to get around there in January. Now at 144 in February, that’s too much for today’s turtles even with almost no rough. Let’s cut those playing opportunities so the serial slow pokes are protected!

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

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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).

Go Figure: PGA Tour LatinoAmerica Finale Headed To Trump Doral

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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.

Win PGA Tour Player Of The Year, Gets Subjected To Torturous Social Media Rollout

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As the European Tour continues to set the bar with fun, inventive and clever social media stunts, the PGA Tour offered another under par counter for Brooks Koepka’s 2018 Player of the Year rollout. Mercifully, he was spared having to pose with Like-inducing animals, as far as we know.

Warning, this video contains extremely awkward content:

Maybe this is why Brooks didn’t bother to vote, as reported by Will Gray at GolfChannel.com.

The trainwreck continued with not one, but two photobomb videos involving Jack Nicklaus and Koepka. Note to the legion of VP’s: one photobomb a day with the same two people is the max. Two means at least one is not technically a photobomb. Have your kids explain if this is too confusing.

As for his media interviews, they were pretty deadly until Koepka received questions from both Morning Drive’s Cara Banks and Dan Patrick on the reported Versailles dust-up with Dustin Johnson. Koepka denied a fight with Johnson in both cases. The Dan Patrick Show chat:

Phil: Le Golf National Almost Playable, Waging War On Courses With Rough By Scheduling Accordingly

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After his Safeway Open second round Phil Mickelson made clear he’s going to play less in 2018-19.

Reason one, as reported by PGATour.com’s Cameron Morfit, centers around fatigue and managing his energy levels as a 48-year-old.

Then there was layer two of his views, expressed after experiencing light rough in Napa following the excess of Le Golf National where silly wedge-out, injury-inducing nonsense was harvested successfully to mess with Team USA. Kevin Casey at Golfweek with the quotes:

“It’s a unique situation in that the way the Europeans did a great thing, they did the opposite of what we do when we have the Ryder Cup here. The fairways were 14 to 16 yards wide. Ben Hogan, who is the greatest ball-striker of all time, had a five percent margin of error. So if you hit the ball 300 yards, which we all hit it more than that, you need to have a 30-yard fairway to be able to hit it.”

Let’s put the breaks on here for a minute. I don’t recall many 14 to 16 yard wide areas in the main landing areas, or anything under 20 yards. I paced off about 10 landing areas and the Europeans generally gave one are of width, though they also engaged in chintzy (perfectly kosher) tactics of rolling an area like the left side of the first fairway to reduce a swatch of 30 yards to effectively playing 25.

Here’s where Mickelson and Team USA do deserve some credit: the setup was structured so that an extremely errant drive—except down across the 7th hole OB as Patrick Reed found out—could find the spectator areas.

They very easily could have taken tee shots on multiple holes at the chalets and spectator areas well off play, taken a free drop on the hardpan, and shown up the European setup. Thankfully, they did not in the interest of sportsmanship and given the horrible injury suffered by a spectator.

The second point by Mickelson is a gift. For those who have explained how distance gains are a burden on golf courses, he effective explains how more width is needed to accommodate drives over 300 yards. More width means more acreage for turf, more acreage means more cost.

As for his scheduling around high rough, this does not bode well for a Torrey Pines start to the 2019 season given that it has some of the highest on the PGA Tour:

“And I’m 48. I’m not going to play tournaments with rough like that anymore. It’s a waste of my time. I’m going to play courses that are playable and that I can play aggressive, attacking, make a lot of birdies, (the) style of golf I like to play.”

He certainly is wise to schedule that way.

Algorithm And Reset-Decided FedExCup Goes Out With A Resounding Thud

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For over a decade we were annually told that what we saw before us was not as bad as most suspected: the FedExCup was wonderful and not the most poorly constructed competition in sports. It was even exciting—Bill Haas!—and beyond the massive bonus money, was so much better than merely ending the season with a fall Tour Championship.

Which was true, if you were a PGA Tour player or executive cashing a bonus check.

Mercifully, the final version of the points-reset, algorithm-decided iteration ended with Justin Rose’s clinching 73 Sunday at East Lake. Rose made just 18 starts in 2018, killing the notion that season-long play starts were rewarded.

Questions loom about the purity of the next format with $15 million now on the line, but Tiger Woods thankfully helped everyone forget about that issue until we get to next August. But in reading David Dusek’s Golfweek account of the 2018 conclusion, it’s pretty easy to envision a scenario where anything will be better than what we’ve long been told was so exciting and fun to follow.

I explain more in this column for Golfweek on the pros and cons of the new format, one that sadly keeps clinging to attempts at rewarding season-long play in an effort to get players to tee off more often.

Also, The Forecaddie chimed in on the math behind the new Wyndham Rewards program and figures most will have to play six weeks in a row to get stars to the Wyndham Championship. Good luck with that!

"Our modern wink-wink culture is at odds with what golf is supposed to stand for."

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After reading Golf.com’s Anonymous Tour Pro survey, Michael Bamberger came away disturbed by the suggestions of cheating or bending the rules on the PGA Tour. Bamberger was particularly annoyed with the assertion by one anonymously quoted player that officials are letting the players down.

But the job of enforcing the rules is fundamentally on the players. If the rules officials see a drop going awry, it is their job to step in and make sure it’s done correctly, and that is what they generally do. If one player says the ball crossed at point A and the other point B, the rules officials have to adjudicate, and they generally do. They are not the police. They’re not trying to catch players. Their first job is to help players turn in the most accurate scorecard they can. It is each individual player who serves as a police officer. He should be doing an ongoing and continuing and intense investigation of his own play and the play of the others in his group.

Weird: Justin Thomas Sums Up New FedExCup Format

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The PGA Tour faced one major dilemma in trying to improve the FedExCup: how to make sure FedEx gets full value for their sponsorship.

Players make a lot off the cup race, as do executives when bonus season comes around. In theory, it makes sense as a way to bind the season together.

Had the FedExCup continued next year as expected—three events down from four, with points awarded based on finishes—no one would have called that weird.

Throw in a bonus fifth round at East Lake, a day after the “third” playoff stop produced a Tour Championship winner before advancing a top four or six players to a final day shootout for the big (FedExCup) prize, and no one would have called that weird.

Maybe unfair to the season points leader, but playoffs aren’t fair.

So to have recent FedExCup champion Justin Thomas calling the new 2019 system “weird” right out of the chute, with the social media reaction suggesting he gave the perfect summary of how most feel, comes off as pretty weird given all of the brainpower put into the latest FedExCup overhaul.

From Bob Harig’s ESPN.com story:

"It's something that is very, very weird and going to be hard to get used to,'' Thomas said. "We talked about it, and it's ... never going to be perfect.''

Thomas, the reigning FedEx Cup champ, is part of the tour's players advisory committee. It means he has a voice in how business is conducted. And yet he doesn't seem sold.

Weird, however, is not fatal, and as I noted in our Golf Central chat today, the new format is a huge improvement. Granted, the bar set by the current format was low. As in, the worst playoff format in all of sports and has been over eleven years despite all of the efforts to defend it.

Still, as weird as the new format may seen, there are many positives



If They May Say So Themselves Files: "PGA TOUR announces changes that will further fan engagement, understanding and drama of FedExCup"

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Here’s my translation but feel free to read the press release below:

—The FedExCup leaders at -10 and -8 should have Atlanta-area food tasters in place.

—If those leaders get off to a nice Thursday start, they could create one very unsatisfying finale. That’s fan engagement too. We all need naps.

—Wyndham has to bribe players with a bonus pool to show up at the final “regular season” event now that the top seeds at the FedExCup get a lovely reward for their season-long efforts.

—You get an official win on your resume with a handicap system in place (no word yet on world ranking points yet, but let’s hope not). Silly.

—This will be easier to follow than the current system where algorithms proved consistently boring to follow. This has to be better. Low bar, yes, but it only took 11 playings to confirm what we all knew: the FedExCup as we knew it, did not work.

For Immediate Release:

PGA TOUR announces changes that will further fan engagement, understanding and drama of FedExCup 

Revamped TOUR Championship format will simplify FedExCup, highlight competition; Wyndham Rewards Top 10 will continue to elevate “every shot matters” thematic leading into the FedExCup Playoffs  

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – With the upcoming 2018-19 PGA TOUR schedule reflecting previously announced, significant structural changes, PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan today unveiled further innovations that elevate the entire FedExCup season – from the Regular Season through the FedExCup Playoffs and ultimately, at the Playoffs Finale, the TOUR Championship.  These changes include a simplified scoring system at the TOUR Championship that will determine the FedExCup Champion and a new $10 million program for the FedExCup Regular Season sponsored by Wyndham Rewards: the “Wyndham Rewards Top 10.”

The FedExCup Playoffs – which have been reduced from four to three events beginning next season and will conclude before Labor Day, allowing the TOUR to compete to own the August sports calendar – will feature fields of 125 for THE NORTHERN TRUST, 70 for the BMW Championship and 30 for the TOUR Championship, where the FedExCup Champion will be determined. While the points structure for the first two events will remain the same (awarding quadruple points compared to FedExCup Regular Season events), there will be a significant change to the format for the TOUR Championship.

Instead of a points reset at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, beginning with the 2018-19 event the TOUR is instituting a strokes-based bonus system related to the FedExCup standings through the BMW Championship. The FedExCup points leader after the first two Playoffs events will begin the TOUR Championship at 10-under par. The next four players will start at 8-under through 5-under, respectively. The next five will begin at 4-under, regressing by one stroke per five players until those ranked Nos. 26-30 start at even par.

With the implementation of this change, the player with the lowest total score will be the FedExCup Champion and be credited with an official victory in the TOUR Championship competition. 

“This is a significant and exciting change for the PGA TOUR, our players, our partners and – most importantly – our fans,” said Monahan. “As soon as the TOUR Championship begins, any fan – no matter if they’ve followed the PGA TOUR all season or are just tuning in for the final event – can immediately understand what’s going on and what’s at stake for every single player in the field. And, of course, players will know exactly where they stand at all times while in play, which will ratchet up the drama, consequence and volatility of the competition down the stretch.

“Compared to the current system, the beauty here is in the simplicity.  Fans are very familiar with golf leaderboards in relation to par, so they will have a clear understanding of the impact every shot makes during the final run for the FedExCup – ultimately leading to a singular champion without conflicting storylines.”

“It has been gratifying to witness the growth, popularity and importance of the FedExCup since its launch in 2007,” said Davis Love III, a current Player Director on the PGA TOUR Policy Board who also served on the Board during the development and launch of the FedExCup. “Several important refinements have been made along the way to help accelerate the FedExCup’s universal acceptance as a tremendous achievement in professional golf. However, I believe this new strokes-based bonus system for the TOUR Championship might well be the most important of them all, as it will lend absolute clarity to where everyone in the field stands and what exactly they must do to win the FedExCup. It will make for a very exciting and dramatic four days.”   

Meanwhile, the new $10 million Wyndham Rewards Top 10 not only will add drama to the Wyndham Championship as the final event before the FedExCup Playoffs but will also put an even greater premium on excelling over the course of the FedExCup Regular Season.  The top-10 Regular Season finishers in FedExCup points through the Wyndham Championship – also sponsored by Wyndham Rewards – will reap the benefits of the Wyndham Rewards Top 10. The leader will earn $2 million, followed by $1.5 million for the runner-up with the 10th-place finisher earning $500,000.  Additionally, each player in the top 10 will be invited into Wyndham Rewards at its most exclusive Diamond level, unlocking all the travel perks and unique Wyndham benefits that go along with it.

And while the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 will be recognized at the conclusion of the Wyndham Championship, the impact of the program will be felt throughout the season; a player’s performance every week becomes more critical than ever before, elevating the significance of each tournament on the schedule and producing drama for PGA TOUR fans at every turn.

“We are excited to unveil the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 next year, which will place an even greater premium on excelling over the course of the Regular Season,” said Andy Pazder, Chief Tournament and Competitions Officer for the PGA TOUR.  “Season-long success is tantamount to qualifying for and advancing through the FedExCup Playoffs, and this is an exciting way to reward the best of the best and provide an added layer of drama for our fans in each market and around the world.”

In addition to the $10 million Wyndham Rewards Top 10, the existing FedExCup bonus pool will increase by $25 million, to $60 million.  The FedExCup Champion will receive $15 million, versus the $10 million prize from previous years.

“Our players and fans have invested in the FedExCup over the past 12 seasons, and with these enhancements, we are reinvesting in the FedExCup in order to raise the stakes, so to speak, for their benefit,” said Monahan.  “We are able to grow and diversify our fan base because we have the best athletes on the planet competing on the PGA TOUR.  Now is the time to make these changes, and thanks to significant input in the process by our players, partners and fans, I believe we’re making exactly the right moves.

“To that end, these changes wouldn’t have been possible without the full support of the TOUR Championship’s outstanding Proud Partners – Coca-Cola and Southern Company – as well as longtime partner FedEx and an enhanced partnership with Wyndham Rewards,” he added. “They shared our vision for how we can challenge ourselves to raise level of excitement and fan engagement throughout the season up until the moment our FedExCup Champion is determined.”

Why The Tour Championship Likely Isn't Leaving Atlanta

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David Dusek of Golfweek explores a topic with questions similar to those asked by may intrigued by the idea of a Tour Championship rota. With Coca Cola no longer a full sponsor—Proud Partners along with Southern Company—the PGA Tour would seem free to perhaps move the event around.

Furthermore, according to reports, the 2019 edition will only be about ending the FedExCup. That means only one winner will be crowned and that winner will be the final points chase winner. Having an allegiance to Atlanta or the Tour Championship or East Lake would seem less important.

But as we’ve seen in recent years, rotas are hit-and-miss propositions on the attendance, weather, intrigue and corporate support fronts. The Tour Championship’s rota years even remind us of this, despite the marquee value of certain sites.

Most golf fans probably forget that the first Tour Championship, which was won by Tom Watson, was contested in 1987 about 1,000 miles to the Southwest of Atlanta, at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio. The following year at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Curtis Strange won the Tour Championship in a playoff over Tom Kite, but Kite would win the next year at Harbour Town Golf Links in a playoff over Payne Stewart.

The Tour Championship then made two-year runs at Pinehurst No. 2, The Olympic Club and Southern Hills Golf Club before alternating between Champions Golf Club in Houston and East Lake starting in 1997. Since 2004, all Tour Championships have been played at East Lake, the course Bobby Jones grew up playing.

Ranking The 11 FedExCup Finishes: Kyle Porter Deserves Time-And-A-Half

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Maybe he just wanted to inflict pain upon himself during the bye week or maybe some editor was annoyed with Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com, because I can’t fathom anyone wanting to relive the eleven FedExCup finishes in much detail. Though Porter has provided a service to anyone wanting to know why the format will be changing.

A glance at the list yielded one quibble for me—Furyk’s backward cap year is only 6th!?—and mostly sympathy for Porter’s plight in trying to find the beauty in what has to be one of the drearier sets of championship-concluding memories.

The stars are aligned for a grand finish this year regardless of format, so keep those fingers crossed!

Perhaps starting in 2019 we’ll get a new format that yields something more satisfying. I’m confident it won’t take much of a change to get there, but still unsure about the floated concept. From Morning Drive:

Golden State National: Is This A Bad Time To Mention That We Need More Golf Tournaments In California?

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Let's establish three very simple facts:

--Rain rarely occurs in California from May through October.

--When a golf tournament is played in California, it finishes in prime time for more than half the country and garners a much bigger rating, no matter who is contending

--Golf is played outdoors. It is much better when rain does not interfere with the proceedings.

Ok, technically I've presented four simple facts.

As we were reminded again last week after what has actually been a good-weather season in golf, the sport features many overpaid individuals who continue to sign up their major events on the east coast at times of year when rain can (will) be an issue. The PGA Tour set its playoffs for midwest and northeast venues, with a finish in Atlanta at a boring culmination architecturally that will be even less glamorous in 2019.

(In his defense, Commissioner Moonbeam was said to have been trying for at least one major west coast market in his original playoff plans, but players complained about travel issues and the PGA Tour could not find a sponsor/venue fit out west.)

As you know, ratings have never been very good for the FedExCup Playoffs. The list of reasons is long, from a confusing and unsatisfying format, to the time of year and the time zone of the venues, to overall golf fatigue once the majors have been played. The numbers may not improve next year when the playoffs are contested by late August, soon after the major season has ended and at more eastern venues. 

Meanwhile, the PGA Championship moves to May 2019 and while this meant the PGA of America could open up new regions like Florida or Arizona, they've got mostly a who's-who of venues similar to those they've always gone to--Kiawah, Valhalla, Quail Hollow, Baltusrol, Southern Hills, etc...), with just two California stops scheduled through 2030--Harding Park in 2020 and Olympic Club in 2028. Weather could be an issue for most of the future PGA venues, particularly the New York area stops at Bethpage, Trump Bedminster and Oak Hill. 

So if you like the permutations of weather-delayed event planning, then check out Nick Menta's GolfChannel.com story on the many possibilities for the 2018 BMW Championship as play spills into Monday.

But if you are a dreamer, consider Golden State National. 

It's an as-yet unbuilt (or not-yet-remodeled) facility somewhere south of San Francisco and featuring 36-holes of golf, enough hotel rooms within 45 minutes to support the traveling golf circus, a luxury hotel on property for not-important VIP's, a G5-friendly landing strip, and of course, at least 8,500 yards of golf to deal with the distance explosion.

More vitally, Golden State National can host major events from March to November, deliver ratings and finish on Sundays. The ground will be firm. Fans will enjoy themselves. Television executives won't have digestive issues.

But here's the catch: to build or remodel an existing facility into GSN, it costs money. A lot of money when you have to build a course for the modern game where 250 acres is the new 150, meaning we need 500 acres potentially.

The non-profits of golf, devoted to funneling every penny possible to charity--ok, that's slightly sarcastic--have resisted even considering such a facility due to a lack of vision or a lack of funds, even though GSN could also host some NCAA Championships, LPGA majors and other special events. And hackers the rest of the year eager to pay $250 to play where the pros play. 

It'll probably take about $150 million to pull off the facility from scratch, maybe less if we can find a lesser property where dynamite and architectural ingenuity will be the greatest expenses and a local airport handles the Wheels Up crowd. I can think of two San Diego area properties that fit such a bill, and that's just off the top of my head. 

So how do we go about raising the funds for Golden State National since golf's Five Families resist the desire, vision or courage of convictions to do what is right? Which is, to create a facility dedicated to the modern game, modern weather, and modern sports audience? 

Kickstarter anyone?

Golf's Annual List Of Overpaid Non-Profit Executives Is Out!

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As we near the final quarter of 2018, Golf Digest has compiled the salaries of golf leaders from 2015, the most recent year posted on various Form 990s. Tack on a safe 10% since and you can visualize how much golf's non-profit leaders are making.

John Paul Newport was charged with making sense of the numbers and noted the spike down in Ponte Vedra, but as he points out it's a large operation generating revenue on many fronts compared to other golf organizations making most of their money off one or two major tournaments. 

If Davis and his colleagues in golf's top nonprofit jobs deserve what they earn, why the big jump in pay for PGA Tour executives? Primarily because, practically speaking, the tour functions more like an entertainment business than a trade association.

PGA Tour Inc. qualifies as a nonprofit because it exists not to make money for itself or for owners and shareholders, of which there are none, but primarily to organize, support and create opportunities for its members, independent contractors that we commonly refer to as tour pros.

Eh eh, that's TOUR.

Anyway, the real standouts on this year's list include Mike Whan crossing the two commas line, a bevy of PGA of America C-level salaries climbing nicely, the NGF's Joe Beditz raking in $448k and of course, AJGA head Stephen Hamblin making over $500k now. Who knew junior golf could be so lucrative? Oh right, we learn that around this time every year. 

Live Under Par (Error) Files: Does Bryson Have Air Tolerance Issues?

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Since rolling out the Live Under Par campaign, the PGA Tour's social accounts have relentlessly pushed the cumbersome and vapid slogan on nearly every post at the expense of hashtags that might prove useful. Or even promotional ones for a company (#Fedexcup) ponying up millions of dollars to support the #playoffs.

The doltishness behind the Live Under Par effort and that has overtaken PGA Tour social media accounts, including forcing players to pose with any animal within fifty miles of a tournament venue in the name of likes, took on a new level of silliness today.  

Apparently, Bryson DeChambeau has a complicated relationship with the air he breathes. 

The PGA Tour posted an incorrectly transcribed quote with the word air supplementing "error" in sharing a Bryson DeChambeau quote following Monday's Dell Technologies win. Perhaps this was a subtle message from social media workers tired of living under water--where I hear air is limited--but multiple sources have confirmed to this website that Bryson said the word error, was understood by most who were listening to be using the word error, and has no known sensitivities to oxygen, clearing the way for him to be a Captain's pick on the 2018 Ryder Cup team. 

Now, mistakes are made all of the time, especially on this website, and transcripts are tricky business. Still, at some point the combination of reader feedback and the overall notion of struggling for air, probably should have gotten someone's attention once this went live.  Yet even after many users corrected the PGA Tour in the Instagram comments section, the post remains in place for 3 hours now without correction, as does the original transcript with the air, err...error.

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It might be wise for the PGA Tour to remove the post and apologize to DeChambeau, who has been lambasted in the comments section for his sensitivity to air. 

Focus Group-Tested, Players-Approved FedExCup For 2019 Still Lacks A Certain Something

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Let's establish a few things for those who might have forgotten: the FedExCup has been a resounding success despite lackluster ratings and constant tweaking over the years.

Which, of course, is why something so good, so brilliantly conceived, and so universally adored by the masses will be blown up in 2019. Despite years of great suggestions from all corners of the golf watching world, it should be noted the PGA Tour chose to cook up an internal idea that has some merit but also potential holes.

 AP's Doug Ferguson says the vaunted points system, resets and algorithms will be tossed in favor of a scoring bias system that starts the FedExCup leader at -10 and works its way down from there.

The problem was splitting attention on two trophies. A year ago, Xander Schauffele won the Tour Championship by one shot over Justin Thomas, who won the FedEx Cup. Thomas said later it was a “weird” moment to lose the tournament and win the $10 million prize.

This means we have a weird 72-hole stroke play event where one player starts with a 10-stroke advantage, the next guy 8 strokes, and on down for the top 5. Presumably after those top 5 everyone else will start from scratch. 

After legions of great suggestions over the years ranging from aggregate stroke play playoffs to points systems that produce a one-day shootout any sports fan can understand, we have something crafted by focus groups. Literally.

From Brian Wacker's GolfWorld.com story with more details on the concept:

According to multiple sources, the organization gathered statisticians and focus groups to help flesh out the format and gauge how well the changes would be received. Roughly 80 percent of the focus groups grasped the concept and said it was easier to understand, according to one source.

This handicap tournament will count as an official win despite the stroke-weighted structure. 

No doubt, Cialis prescriptions went unused for days when the statisticians and tour executives were told the new format would have produced a one-stroke Justin Thomas win over Jordan Spieth in 2018.  (Spieth held the FedExCup lead over Thomas heading to East Lake, so this presumes he started -10 to Thomas's -8).

That duel surely would have made for some great theater, but the year before, Dustin Johnson would have played just a so-so final tournament and have beaten Rory McIlroy by three strokes. That McIlroy win in a playoff was confusing but also possibly the most exciting in the Tour Championship's FedExCup era despite the confusion over scenarios.

Ultimately Sundays at East Lake should get better and maybe even make more sense in this scenario. But before you say Billy Horschel, the PGA Tour's Playoffs(C) have always lacked the dramatic potential for wild upsets, surprise eliminations and an underdog component. 

The final four days at East Lake will still be just like before: three days of ho-hum golf with fingers crossed the numbers add up to make Sunday work. Which begs the question: what so has the players, execs and focus-groups still afraid to cut after 36 holes, reset the points, cut again for an exciting Saturday, then feature a Sunday shootout with just a few playing-for-the-big-check?

I guess we still will never find out.

Poll: Are 59's Losing Their Luster?

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I was at a golf course snack bar when the Golf Channel was showing highlights from Brandt Snedeker's 59 at the Wyndham Championship. It was the 10th such round in PGA Tour history and when some golfers looked up and asked if he'd shot 59, I said yes and they went, "ah that's great" and then went about decorating their hot dogs.

A decade ago, I'm pretty sure we all would have stopped what we were doing to watch all of the highlights and regale in the history playing out before our eyes. 

Throw in a 58 by Jim Furyk and it seems like the 59 has gone from golf's equivalent of a perfect game to a no-hitter. Still an amazing feat and worth dropping what we're doing to see a player break the barrier, but also not quite as satisfying as it should be.

Is this because of how many have occurred since Al Geiberger broke golf's sound barrier, perhaps coupled with the 13-under-par nature of the first three when par-4s sometimes actually required a long-iron approach?

Or has the role of distance, improved technology, amazing agronomy and golf courses put in a strategically untenable position played a role in making them a little less magical?

First, our Golf Central discussion, followed by a poll...

Are 59s Losing Their Luster?
 
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First World Alert: Players Looking To Abolish The Secondary Cut, Reduce 36 Hole Cut Size

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Instituted to help pace of play, Saturday cuts on the PGA Tour occur when more than 78 make the weekend. Players, reports GolfChannel.com's Rex Hoggard, have decided they don't like the Saturday cut and are looking for an alternative. That alternative seems like a bizarre solution given the incentives to make cuts and the "playing opportunities" mantra of the Tour. 

The alternative that’s being studied is to reduce the cut at all Tour events from the lowest 70 players and ties to the lowest 65 players and ties. This would allow the circuit to eliminate the secondary cut at all events.

So they would eliminate as many as five (and often more players) on the weekends because they don't like a few people who post a big score to be cut on Saturday? 

Don't be surprised if a year from now they are revisiting a solution to a problem only the first world could have found.