The Content Committee: Lee Westwood's Light-Speaking Role Shines In Another Stellar European Tour Production

Lee Westwood had one good line, well, really just one line, but it was a gem. However its Tommy Fleetwood and Eddie Pepperell who display the acting chops. (Though nothing against the work of Henrik Stenson and Thomas Bjorn.)

Great work again from the European Tour content team…


Phil's 60 Comes At The "Easiest" Of The Desert Classic Courses

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I’m going to sound old here, but there was a time that La Quinta Country Club was where Bob Hope Desert Classic scores went to die. It was the hardest of the Hope rota courses and the ones players had to survive.

So I hiccuped when reading Ryan Lavner’s GolfChannel.com account of Phil Mickelson’s opening round, 12-under-par 60 at La Quinta CC in the 2019 Desert Classic.

Mickelson again played down his chances in his 2019 debut, but it clicked so well at La Quinta Country Club – the easiest of the three courses in the rotation at the Desert Classic – that he gave himself a chance to break 60 for the first time in his Tour career. He went out in 30. Then he birdied Nos. 10, 11, 13 and 14. Then came the birdie on 16, and all of a sudden, he realized that he needed to birdie each of the last two holes to finally shoot golf’s magic number. On 17, he tried to hook a sand wedge into a tight pin and left himself 18 feet. He missed low, but still finished with a flourish: With a chance to card the third 60 in his career, he spun a wedge to 10 feet and buried the putt.

I pulled out George Peper’s 1986 book, Golf Courses Of The PGA Tour to feel really old just to make sure my memory of La Quinta as the one non-pushover course. Peper writes:

At 6911 yards, La Quinta is the longest of the five Hope courses, and with lakes bordering seven of its fairways this tropical layout can be as difficult as it is beautiful.

The other rota courses: Indian Wells CC, Bermuda Dunes, Tamarisk and El Dorado. I swear doesn’t seem like that long ago!

Mickelson’s first round highlights:

This week on Golf Central, we discussed Mickelson’s chances of winning in his 50s (he’s 48) and his chances of being the oldest winner in PGA Tour history:

2020 Latin America Amateur Headed To Mayakoba Where Caddies Live In Constant Fear Of Being Paid Full Fare

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Poor Matt Kuchar.

Just when you think the story of your substandard payment to your Tour-event winning stand-in caddie was about to disappear from headlines, the good folks at the Masters, R&A and USGA had the gall to announce Mayakoba’s El Camaleon GC as the site of the 2020 Latin America Amateur.

This is the same course where Kuchar won. The news dispelled one mythological view on why Kuchar might have severely underpaid El Tucan after winning last fall’s Mayakoba Classic: because the area is so dangerous that any looper getting a proper 10%-of-$1.3 million-check would be in imminent danger, as would his family.

Apparently, the Five Families don’t agree.

For Immediate Release!

2020 LATIN AMERICA AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP TO BE HELD AT MAYAKOBA

Renowned amateur championship will make its debut in Mexico for the sixth edition

17 January 2019, La Romana, Dominican Republic: The Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) will be held in Mexico for the first time next year at Mayakoba’s El Camaleón Golf Club on Riviera Maya, January 16-19, 2020. Championship organizers made the announcement today during the 2019 LAAC currently underway at Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic. 

Founded by the Masters Tournament, The R&A and the USGA, the LAAC was established to further develop amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The event moves to top courses throughout Latin America and showcases the sport’s rising talent in the region, including Chilean Joaquin Niemann, who competed in the Masters last year as 2018 LAAC champion and is currently playing on the PGA Tour.                                                                                           

Along with an invitation to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club awarded to the champion, the winner and the runner(s)-up are exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open Championship. The champion is also given full exemptions into The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible. 

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “The Latin America Amateur Championship has quickly established itself as a key date on the golfing calendar for elite men’s amateurs throughout this region. I’m sure there will be many players who will be aiming to secure a place in the sixth staging of the championship next year and play at Mayakoba, which is a fantastic test of golf. We are looking forward to taking the event to Mexico and to a venue with such an excellent championship pedigree.”  

Opened in 2006, Mayakoba’s El Camaleón Golf Club was designed by two-time Open Champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member Greg Norman. In 2007, it became the home of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, the first official PGA Tour event to be contested outside the U.S. and Canada, with notable winners including 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and top-100 ranked players Matt Kuchar, Charley Hoffman and Pat Perez. The course also hosted the World Amateur Team Championships in 2016.

El Camaleón plays along a stretch of crystal-clear freshwater canals surrounded by mangrove and limestone walls. The 18-hole layout features paspalum grass, two holes along the Mexican Caribbean Sea and distinctive hazards, including cenotes (sink holes) and extensive bunkers. 

“Mayakoba looks forward to hosting the Latin America Amateur Championship and the region’s premier amateur golfers in 2020,” said Borja Escalada, CEO of Mayakoba. “El Camaleón was built as a true test for competitive play and this is a wonderful opportunity to represent Mexico as the backdrop for Latin America’s best and brightest young players. We are grateful to the Masters Tournament, The R&A and USGA for their selection and are excited to deliver hospitality of the highest caliber offered at our resort.”  

Double-Hit Loophole Artists: Nice Try, But USGA Confirms Penalties Await!

I know you all saw our Morning Drive chat about this on Monday, but as much as I’m enjoying the creativity and skill of trickshot artists who think they found a loophole in the new Rules of Golf, they have not.

As I outline here for Golfweek, the trick shot that spawned a European Tour social video attempting the double hit ignores the very simple word “accidental” in the new more relaxed Rules. The story explains the penalty players will enjoy if they use such a ploy to get around a tree.

Still, nice handwork here by all…


Latin America Amateur Reminder: Casa De Campo Again Hosting, ESPN Televising

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Ryan Herrington breaks down who the top hopefuls are in the Latin America Amateur Championship, where a spot in the Masters is on the line.

Ron Driscoll writes about the legendary Pete Dye “Teeth of the Dog” design returning as host of the LAAC.

ESPN’s telecast times:

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You can check out the scoring here.

A nice teaser video of the course:

Euros Turn On Each Other Too! Fernández-Castaño Cites Dyson The Tapperer While Highlighting Oddity Of Legal Spike Mark Repairing

I love these new rules of golf!

While Tom Gillis researches and reports on what Matt Kuchar underpays his caddies, things on the European Tour turned chippy as Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño highlighted the oddity of legal spikemark tapping, then threw one of his colleagues under the bus.

Dyson’s offending moment:

Besides a few of the player replies to the Tweet (Eddie Pepperell’s GIF selection was splendid), Dyson chimed in:

Seems that was not visible to Castano, however.

Gillis Tracks Down Duped Looper El Tucan: Kuchar Actually Paid $5000 After Mayakoba Classic Win

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The bad news for pro golfer Tom Gillis is that he has been in contact with Matt Kuchar’s caddie El Tucan from last fall’s Mayakoba Classic and it was not $3000, as he accused while Kuchar was contending in the Sony Open.

The good news for Gillis is that the number El Tucan shared was $5000, incredibly low for a winning caddie effort in a PGA Tour event where the winner took him $1.3 million.

Good news for Kuchar! His quote after third round play is accurate: “It’s wasn’t 10 percent. It wasn’t $3,000.”

Take that Gillis!

Of course, $5000 could be viewed as a worse story because that is certainly more than the agreed-upon fee for a week involving a last-minute pickup. But it’s still painfully little as a fee plus-win-bonus amount.

Because as far as win bonuses go, it’s below the minimum, especially when you had not won in years.

Let’s just say if you’re a waiter and Matt Kuchar is in your section, don’t count a little extra something for the, you know, the effort. Or total consciousness.

Amateur Status Update: Mike Davis Talks Lucy Li As USGA Conducts Ongoing Investigation

Those curious about the ramifications for amateur status will learn a lot form USGA CEO Mike Davis’s comments to Golf Central regarding the status of Lucy Li’s case after starring in an Apple Watch ad: she’s adorable, she’s a Curtis Cupper and she’ll be around a long time according to Mike Davis.

Translation: she’s not losing her status. Script those Nike outfits, wear that watch and book that flight to Augusta!

Euro: “We base our decisions on what the players who will be playing want, not on a circle of friendship"

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Juicy quote from a former European Ryder Cupper to Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch about team USA’s Task Force buddy pod system for captain selection.

The occasion? The inevitable naming of Steve Stricker as the 2020 USA captain in the coming months. Not that the Captain’s hit shots, but Stricker’s loyalty to the TF versus what’s best for the team will make his job tough.

The captain doesn’t hit a shot, but he decides who does and who gets on the plane. Furyk reserved a seat to Paris for Mickelson, his task force buddy who was out of form and played poorly. Like his two immediate predecessors, Stricker will be crowdsourced into the captaincy from a select group of pals and invariably will face the same questions about whether his decisions are based on merit or loyalty, on sense or sentiment.

Golf.com Anonymous (European Tour) Player Survey: Dinner With Tiger Or Phil?

There are several interesting questions and several serious ones as executed by Adam Schupak, but these two on the lighter side were fun:

WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE DINNER WITH TIGER OR PHIL?

Tiger: 79%
Phil: 9%
Table for one, please!: 12%

HOT TAKES

“Table for one because Tiger would probably stick me with the check.”
“I’ve had dinner with Phil and I didn’t enjoy it.”
“I’d like to pick Tiger’s brain on how he overcame his suffering. That could really help me.”
“Phil. He’s got more to say.”

12% for neither!? They’re legends! Suck it up Euros!

WHICH AMERICAN PLAYER MOST IRRITATES YOU?

Bryson DeChambeau: 16%
Bubba Watson: 11%
Several tied (including Mickelson): 5%
Declined to answer: 68%

HOT TAKES

“Any of them that act like babies.”
“Wait, I can only pick one?”

Hmmm…tension between the tours!

Market Research Group: Golf Sales Up 8%

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Market researchers NPD Group put out a release saying that golf retail “experienced a significant uptick in sales over the last 12 months.” Thanks reader JA for catching this bit of good news for the golf business:

Golf sales in the mass/sporting goods retail space generated $2.6 billion and grew by 8 percent in the 12 months ending November 2018, after facing declines the year prior, according to The NPD Group.

"The macro environment for golf has been in a turbulent state, fueled by Golfsmith's bankruptcy, major brands cutting back on their golf business, and courses closing. But today, we're starting to see normalization in the market as those deep holes are now being filled," said Matt Powell, vice president and senior industry advisor, Sports, The NPD Group. "Major sports retailers are now investing in golf to pick up some of the business, and brands are also placing emphasis on the category to spur innovation."     

All golf product categories grew in the last 12 months. Comprising around 50 percent of total market sales, golf clubs grew by +7 percent. Sales increases were also seen across balls (+6 percent), gloves (+7 percent), accessories (+21 percent), and training aids (+13 percent).

Yes, someone tracks training aid year-to-year sales.

PGA CEO Waugh On Natural Cynicism, Becoming The United Nations Of Golf And Dropping The Pine Valley Membership

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New PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh sat down with Morning Read’s Adam Schupak to discuss his vision for the PGA as a the United Nations of golf and several other topics. He may have said too much, oh, throughout most of the chat.

There's a natural cynicism of the members about HQ. There's this feeling that we get to drive our courtesy cars and we're sitting down there in Florida and all this money is rolling in and, What's in it for me? I've got three kids going off to school, and my lesson book is going down, and I don't have any health care and whatever. They're right.

Well that’s why that cynicism has been natural all these years.

We have to figure that out if we want this to work. We have an army of 29,000 people who are the best army in the game to make it better. We need to figure out how to make their lives better and incent them to do the things to make that all happen. The selfish thing is, if we figure it out, we'll have a more passionate group to get it done for us. That's what I'm hoping, and that's why I'm here.

Don’t worry, the board will put a stop to this wonderful outlook! A little later on…

I think the PGA is in a unique position to be that United Nations of golf, if you will, the Switzerland of golf. We're for the game at every level. We just want everyone to play and like and have as much impact as we can. Being that objective observer on things and uniter around the game and sort of thinking at the end of the day we just need to cook the biggest turkey so we can all eat the most meat, right, and that's what we're about rather than, do we get the breast or the thigh or the leg? That's certainly how I'm approaching it.

We’ll remember that when the PGA of America and PGA Tour oppose any action by the USGA and R&A.

This wasn’t so hot…

AS: Anything you would've done differently handling former PGA president Paul Levy's being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol?

SW: I don't think so. I know everyone wants to compare it to Ted Bishop. I wasn't there for Ted, so I don't really have an opinion about that one. But for the one I was there for, I don't think it was a capital crime. He went out on a Saturday night, not on PGA business, wasn't representing the association, shouldn't have driven home, and he did. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, including himself. It's horrible. I'm not trying to justify a DUI.

Eh you kinda did.

It's totally unacceptable, but are you supposed to lose your life and job?

Actually, he’d already lost his job. The only PGA president to ever serve without one.

I don't think it's a capital crime. His reaction was one of total humility, total contriteness, total embarrassment, and threw himself on the cross with no excuses, no anything, and I think that's important, too.

Actually the organization hid him from public view until a trophy ceremony resurfacing at the PGA Championship.

I think our reaction was appropriate, not an overreaction, but a significant one to give him time to figure it out and come back a period of time later with what he learned with a chance to apologize, and so I think it was appropriate. I do.

The PGA membership is still waiting for that apology, or even an acknowledgement of what happened. That’s hardly contrite.

AS: I wouldn't term Ted Bishop's actions a capital crime, either. Do you agree?

SW: Having not been there and having taken a little time to try to understand it, I think the difference was it was an accumulation of things, No. 1, and No. 2, was his reaction was very different. He was not humble about it. He was aggressive about it, and he was representing the PGA. He was using his pulpit to say something, and while we may not judge it to be a capital offense, a lot of the world was judging it to be a capital crime in this environment. Not being there, it wasn't something that just blew over, and maybe it could've. He did a lot of great things for the association. I've never met him, but there are a lot of people who think the punishment didn't fit the crime.

So much for “I wasn't there for Ted, so I don't really have an opinion about that one.”

This was newsworthy given that many other golf executives and leaders are members at Pine Valley:

AS: What is your current roster of golf memberships?

SW: Seminole, Lost Tree and Old Marsh down here. I guess I'm a member at PGA National, too. Then there's Old Town in Winston-Salem [N.C., where his son played college golf, at Wake Forest]. I voluntarily gave up Pine Valley and Garden City because of the single-sex thing. I didn't think that would be fair to the clubs or the association if that came out. Deepdale, Westhampton, Quogue [Field Club], National [Golf Links], Shinnecock, Cypress Point and San Francisco Golf Club, Boston Golf Club, Lahinch in Ireland and Royal Aberdeen in Scotland. Too many.

Interesting to see the single-sex club issue impacting his thinking and noteworthy. Will others follow suit?

Kuch The Mooch: "Does This Constitute A Story?"

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That’s the question GolfDigest.com’s Joel Beall asks and does a nice job answering after a fellow golf pro called out what he saw as Matt Kuchar’s substandard pay to a caddie last fall.

Now, while the list of athletes indiscretions is long, being tightfisted spurs a special kind of fury. Ours is a culture that implores the rich to spread the love; those failing are branded. Michael Jordan, Scottie (“No Tippin”) Pippen, Pete Sampras and, yes, Tiger Woods are some of the alleged stars with alligator arms.

Kuchar's case, however, felt different, for it wasn’t a tip as it was wages owed. The optics alone—a veteran with $46 million in career earnings low-balling a man who makes less than $46,000 a year—were damning. That Gillis’ previous blast of Ben Crane over an unpaid bet to Daniel Berger proved accurate wasn’t helping, nor was Australian pro Cameron Percy’s reply of, “It’s not out of character if true.” 

The irony in this escapade like other recent episodes cited by Beall: this was started and fueled by one of Kuchar’s peers, not a media outlet.

As players have increasingly shunned media for social media to break news or tell their story, it’s fascinating how many examples we’ve already seen of players calling out fellow players on social media in ways more harsh and reputation-damaging than a traditional media outlet would dare.

After all, few in the golf press dared to touch the story until Kuchar had a chance to play his round, collect his thoughts and chat with press. Some of his peers were judging before he’d had a chance to comment. It’s a phenomenon worth nothing as players increasing view traditional journalism as “out to get them” even as, at least in Kuchar’s case, the damage was done before he even reached the media center.

Take That Phoenix: Pebble Beach The First To Exempt Internet Sensation Hosung Choi

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They tried to get him to the Waste Management Open but the shrewd folks at Pebble Beach took the very minor risk in welcoming Hosung Choi to his first PGA Tour event.

Ron Kroichick on the reports out of Korea that the zany World No. 200 has revealed he’s coming to Pebble this February. Choi’s amazing swing and varied follow-throughs provide a sight unlike anything modern pro golf has seen. While he won’t be as popular to watch as world 869 Vijay Singh, Choi figures to have a large following in a field often filled out by people you were surprised to learn are still active professional golfers.

Now maybe we can get him one more exemption in California while he’s in the land of the free? Say, the Genesis Open?

LA would love this! It never gets old!

Titleist Wins All Club Counts At Sony On The Back Of...Speed? TaylorMade?

There’s a little something for everyone in Jonathan Wall’s Golf.com story on Titleist winning the driver and every major club category at the 2019 Sony Open. It was Titleist’s first PGA Tour week win since 2000. These counts don’t mean much to everyday golfers but are of interest to hardcore club junkies and the golf business.

While Wall cautions this is just one week and it’s a long season ahead, the Darrell Survey results did allow Wall to explain a key factor in the surge of Titleist usage. With claims of more speed using the new TS3, players looking for more distance were understandably intrigued. But here’s why players were able to consider the club:

TaylorMade, which won every PGA Tour, World Golf Championship and major driver count during the 2017-18 season, is unlikely to repeat the feat this year due to the significantly reduced Tour-player staff the brand now employs — only five staffers are listed on its website.

TaylorMade’s decision to partly back out of the driver arms race helped Callaway and Ping pick up one “win” apiece during the fall portion of the season; TaylorMade still logged six wins.

Still, just five players?

Coupled with Nike getting out of the club business not too long ago and TaylorMade out of the everyday Tour player endorsement business, it seems there are more free agents than ever. At least when it comes to what’s in the (tour pro) bag.

Nike Teases New (Artificial) Grass Golf Shoe...

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Oh we enjoyed the slaughtering their Cousin Eddie/nurse/lawn bowling shoes took when Rory unveiled his 2019 pair last week, but come on, you have to love the originality here from the Swoosh folks! If nothing else, they are not white. Golf has enough shoes in Pat Boone’s favorite color.

Expected retail price is $140 with no release date yet set.


Bad News Winning Pro Golfers: Fans Think Your Caddies Are 10 Percenters

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In light of Matt Kuchar possibly stiffing his celebrated caddie at last fall’s Mayakoba Classic, Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch posed the question of what constitutes proper payment for a winning bag week loop.

Impressively, 10% is dominating while the $3000 Kuchar possibly paid his man brings up the rear.

ANWA Invitations Have Arrived, Including Lucy Li's

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The glorious (and big!) Augusta National Women’s Amateur invitations have started arriving in mailboxes of the players who have earned exemptions to the inaugural event. Beth Ann Nichols with Anna Redding’s story of opening the big invite.

Of special note is the glee with which Lucy Li celebrated her invitation as the USGA weighs the 16-year-old’s amateur status following an Apple Watch ad appearance.


Mooch? Former PGA Tour Player Gillis Says Kuchar Paid Local Caddie Only $3k After Collecting $1.3 Million Check

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Former PGA Tour player Tom Gillis took to Twitter suggesting Matt Kuchar, 2019 Sony Open leader, former Players Champion and winner of $45 million in his PGA Tour career, might want to pay his caddie this week more than the $3000 he claims Kuchar paid “David” upon winning last fall’s Mayakoba Classic.

The win garnered Kuchar a $1.3 million winner’s check plus presumed bonuses. You may recall that David was a local caddie Kuchar used when he entered last minute and his normal looper, John Wood, had a previous engagement.

Gillis’ Tweet:

To his credit, Gillis answered and Tweeted questions from skeptics unsure of his sources or motivations.

Following his third round at the Sony, Kuchar denied the amount quoted and said it was not a story. From Rex Hoggard’s GolfChannel.com story:

“That’s not a story,” Kuchar said. “It’s wasn’t 10 percent. It wasn’t $3,000. It’s not a story.”

You may recall that the euphoria over David’s effort prompted Michael Bamberger to dig a little deeper, writing this following up for Golf.com back in November 2018:

10. In a qualifier for the tournament, Ortiz caddied for a Mexican golfer, Armando Favela, who made it into the tournament and finished in a tie for 16th, making him the low Mexican. Favela earned $108,000.

11. Asked if he made more money than Favela last week, Ortiz said, “I hope so!” He had not yet received or discussed his pay with Kuchar. He knows the standard caddie bonus is 10 percent of the winner’s share. Kuchar earned $1.3 million for his win, his first since 2014.

So far just Brandel Chamblee has come to Kuchar’s defense, suggesting the pay was legitimately fair for a local caddie.

"Golf-Home Owners Find Themselves in a Hole"

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While the PGA Tour Commissioner sees golf as “growing and thriving,” the Wall Street Journal’s Candace Taylor details a growing crisis in the golf course real estate community world. (Thanks reader JB for sending.)

As younger generations do not take to golf or have little interest in golf course-fronting homes, values are plummeting and closures are commonplace.

“There are hundreds of other communities in this situation, and they’re trapped and they don’t know what to do,” says Peter Nanula, chief executive of Concert Golf Partners, a golf club owner-operator that owns about 20 private clubs across the U.S. One of his current projects is the rehabilitation of a recently acquired club in Florida that had shut one of its three golf courses and sued residents who had stopped paying membership fees.

More than 200 golf courses closed in 2017 across the country, while only about 15 new ones opened, according to the National Golf Foundation, a golf market-research provider. Florida-based development consultant Blake Plumley said he gets about seven phone calls every week seeking advice about struggling courses, from course owners or homeowners’ associations. He said most of those matters end up in court, and predicted that the U.S. is only about halfway through the number of golf-course closures that will eventually occur.

Growing and thriving…