I was hoping for something less level-headed, but Brooks Koepka’s good buddy Brandel Chamblee makes a solid case in refuting the World No. 1’s recent remarks. Saying he’s added “fuel to a rivalry that definitely exists,” Chamblee convinced me that Koepka’s “he hasn’t won a major in five years” jab was, in fact, disrespectful when viewed through the context of golf greats.
How the game torments the adventurous soul, even him who with a bit of rag and a hollow shell defies wind and wave! Golf beat us all, and that is the chief reason we shall never cease loving her, nor ever give up our attempt to subdue her. ROBERT HUNTER
Daniel Hicks of AFP appeared to have an exclusive with world number one Brooks Koepka on Wednesday, who took assessed a rivalry with Rory McIlroy in comments that went viral.
"I've been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn't won a major since I've been on the PGA Tour. So I just don't view it as a rivalry," Koepka told AFP ahead of his defence of the CJ Cup in Jeju, South Korea which begins on Thursday.
While Koepka’s tone tends to make people believe this is a swipe or right hook to the jaw, it seems more like his matter-of-fact approach than anything else. And he’s not wrong about McIlroy’s recent major record.
Less matter of fact was this painful effort to appease sponsors and sensors in PVB. From the interview transcript at the CJ Cup:
NICK PARKER: And honestly, this last year, getting the win started here helped you win the Wyndham Rewards and then also you had two eagles for the Aon Risk-Reward Challenge for another (inaudible.) How big is that, getting the season started right with both those and helped you along the way?
BROOKS KOEPKA: You've got to get off to a good start. To get off to a good start here is big. If you look at the Wyndham, the Aon, the FedEx, none of that happens without winning here, so you've got to play good every week. That's the beauty of the PGA TOUR. Every round does mean something whether you believe that or not. Even if you're back in 30th, 40th place, there's always something to play for and that's why I think Aon and Wyndham have done an incredible job of making every round, every shot mean something. That's important and that's what as pros you should be doing anyways. But it makes it fun for us coming down the stretch never really knowing what's going to go on, we've always got something else to play for.
Koepka, as you may recall, passed on the Wyndham Championship, as did most other top players, winning the Wyndham Rewards without actually playing the final event.
The world No. 1 returns to action this week in Las Vegas, and Brooks Koepka is profiled by Golfweek’s Steve DiMeglio.
He’s still brutally honest, though I’m not entirely clear what being a true athlete means…
“I’m not going to be someone else just to be more popular,” Koepka said. “I’m not your typical golfer, definitely not a golf nerd. I have an athlete’s mentality, a true athlete, and if that rubs people the wrong way, tough.
“I’m just going to say what I feel, I’m going to be honest and I’m not going to hold back. That’s who I am.”
In a contract year with CBS and rebelliously teeing it up during all-important NFL regular season, former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo opened the Safeway Open with a 70, his best PGA Tour round by far.
The possibility of a made cut has him potentially playing the weekend and missing his Vikings-Bears NFL assignment with Jim Nantz.
According to the New York Post, Boomer Esiason is slated to replace Romo.
While this is an awkward situation for CBS given Romo’s popularity as a broadcaster and his obvious passion to play golf over watch film of the Bears, imagine how the 74 PGA Tour pros who were beat by Romo feel? Granted, the field includes a few retreads and folks you didn’t know have tour status, but Romo’s T28 position has him well ahead of several major winners.
From Adam Schupak’s Golfweek report in Napa:
That would prevent him from doing his day job commentating for CBS Sports on the Chicago Bears-Minnesota Vikings game on Sunday.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Romo said with a smile.
Romo is playing this week as the lone amateur in the 144-man field, and had players buzzing about his round.
“It’s bloody impressive,” said Adam Scott, who held a share of the lead after shooting 65. “I ain’t ever going to throw a pass in the NFL, that’s for sure, so I think it’s unbelievable that he can do that.”
Romo tees off at 1:25 Pacific, putting him in a good portion of Golf Channel’s broadcast window.
Just a few weeks ago, the FedExCup’s $15 million first prize reached a level of excess that appeared to not resonate with fans as expected.
The original Skins Game, a really important event for many years as a the dreaded “grow the game” staple, but also simply as good entertainment. Don’t forget, in the 1984 Skins, Jack Nicklaus made a putt for $240,000 and threw his putter to the sky.
“Even old unemotional Jack got excited,” a smiling Nicklaus said. “I threw my putter high in the air because . . . well, it was exciting.”
While purse strength is rarely of interest to fans, dollar figures are vital in Skins because the amounts can add up. That builds tension and the entire point of Skins is to have carry overs and big putts for big dollars. The format also ends up having players take different rooting interests in the name of friendly competition.
In other words, Skins is dependent on a purse that gets the attention of players. This is no easy task in today’s game and likely why the annual Thanksgiving weekend event stopped attracting top stars.
So it was a little strange to read that the first real stab at Skins from “GolfTV Powered By The PGA Tour” will feature a lower purse than the 1983 Skins Game. Given that the “golf Netflix” international streaming channel has committed to a multi-billion investment in distributing the PGA Tour internationally, the Tiger-Rory-Jason-Hideki launch event is their first high profile property in eight countries. Playing for $350,000 over 18 holes is modest, at best. With the last hole worth $100,000, that leaves only $10,000 per hole for the first six.
Furthermore, the head man at Discovery, purveyor of GOLFTV Powered By The PGA Tour, enjoyed a compensation package valued at $129.4 million in 2017. That means David Zaslav made more per-day in 2018 than the four players will compete for in this new Skins.
Zaslav’s 2017 compensation totaled $42.4 million in cash and stock options, meaning his pay every three days is the same amount as GOLFTV Powered By The PGA Tour’s initial Skins Game purse.
Tiger is there as part of his GOLFTV Powered By The PGA Tour deal. The other players are undoubtedly earning some nice appearance money, but GOLFTV Powered by the PGA Tour will not be televising movement of that money from their coffers to the players. Nor do we tune in to watch a wire transfer.
When it’s a Skins Game, we want to see them facing putts that prompt putter tosses and excitement.
A year ago the longest driver in professional won the Sanderson Farms and returns this week having struggled most of the time since due to back issues and a balky short game.
GolfDigest.com’s Brian Wacker profiles Cameron Champ, who has plenty of interesting things to say about his experience since being the breakout player of fall 2018.
Rarely is the road so smooth for seasoned players used to navigating it, never mind a rookie suddenly thrust into the spotlight while still trying to learn new courses each week not to mention the rigors of treating a game like the job it had become. Over his next 19 starts after a T-11 at the limited-field event Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, Champ missed the cut 10 times and withdrew once.
“Expectations,” Champ says when asked as he gets set to defend his title this week in Mississippi what the most difficult thing was for him in his first year. “Whether you realize it or not, they’re always going to be there.
“Once you get to a certain point—and Matt and Collin are going through this now—it’s all new. You’re suddenly playing in featured groups, have a lot of people following you, you’re dealing with crowds and comments. It’s not anything I ever played in.”
While he has picked the third weakest PGA Tour field of 2019 with only four world top 50 players and no one inside the top 40, Akshay Bhatia is still moving into bold territory leaping from junior golf to professional play.
The 17-year-old turns up fresh off a Walker Cup appearance to debut in the PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms. He’s got a new Callaway deal, new woods, maybe a new putter and high expectations for a player jumping from the junior circuit to a PGA Tour event.
“Akshay is one of the most prolific amateurs the golf world has seen in a long time, and we’re thrilled to have him join our Professional TOUR Staff,” said Tim Reed, Senior Vice President of Global Sports Marketing at Callaway Golf, in a press release.
Bhatia has one previous appearance in a Tour event and one Korn Ferry Tour cut made as an amateur, but has long targeted a pro debut in lieu of college golf.
Bhatia generates plenty of speed:
I would agree with Morning Drive’s Damon Hack that too many cautionary tales are getting lost in the rush to push players into cashing checks at a young age.
There is plenty of great stuff from the latest Rory McIlroy podcast with Carson Daly in the latest installment of his Golfpass contributions.
Golfweek’s Roxanna Scott highlights his comments on creating a rivalry to raise his game at the 2019 Tour Championship.
Finally, it seems maybe McIlroy has met his rivalry match after years of flirtations.
“Brooks has been undoubtedly the best player in the world for the last couple years. I’ve been lucky that my career and my consistency level has been good for the last 10,” McIlroy said. “I feel like they’ve tried to create a rivalry between myself and Tiger, myself and Jordan (Spieth), myself and Dustin (Johnson), myself and Brooks, myself and Jason Day.
“It’s nice there’s a common denominator and it’s usually me, which means that I’m doing something right.”
As for the rivalry mindset, this was interesting:
“I needed that mentality going into East Lake because, you know, there was a little bit of revenge in there. He talked about trying to be the dominant player in the game and that was said to me in the media and I said, ‘He’s going to have to go through me first.’
“If that’s both of our mentalities going forward, I think that’s good for the game.”
Daly responded, “I love that. That’s what you should say. If you didn’t say that, you’ve got a problem. As a fan, that’s what you want to see.”
You can listen to the Rory & Carson podcast wherever fine pods are given away for free. Here is the iTunes store link.
The PGA Tour is pushing back at transparency deficiencies, including this from Alex Miceli noting that we even know vote totals in Russian elections but not in the PGA Tour Player Of The Year race.
Josh Berhow at Golf.com contacted the Tour and was provided the Player of the Year ballot and was told the voting process by the PGA Tour’s Laura Neal. Why this wasn’t disclosed before, I have no idea.
Neal said the ballot is delivered electronically to eligible voters — players who have played in at least 15 events. The completed ballots go directly to the Tour’s accounting firm, Grant Thornton.
Employees there tabulate the votes without Tour supervision and send the results to the Tour. The process is broadly similar to how Academy Award votes are tabulated.
“Feel free to debate whether the PGA Tour membership should have voted Rory or Brooks as Player of the Year,” Neal wrote in an email Friday. “What’s not up for debate is the Tour’s integrity — in this process or otherwise.”
While the southeast United States was quickly back up and running after its brush with Dorian, parts of the Bahamas are gone as documented by GolfDigest.com’s Brian Wacker and photographer Dom Furore , just back from the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
They report on that and the golf scene which is devastated at a few high-end locations, but that’s not stopping all involved from raising money to help the islands ravaged by Dorian. Tiger and Justin Timberlake are stepping up to endorse a fund with lofty fundraising goals.
Amazingly, the home of Woods’ World Challenge, Albany, was spared, writes Wacker.
Albany, on New Providence and site of Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge, meanwhile, was unaffected by the storm and a tournament official told Golf Digest the event, scheduled for Dec. 4-7, will go on as planned.
Michael Bamberger weighed in on the surpise vote by PGA Tour players to give the Jack Nicklaus Award to Rory McIlroy over Brooks Koepka, despite Koepka winning a major and nearly two others.
He seized on the possibility that players voted to validate the huge financial rewards of the Players and FedExCup.
But the Tour players, in voting for McIlroy over Koepka, were shunning history in favor of money. That’s their prerogative. They are professional golfers, after all. “Show me the money” works as well for them as it does for anybody else, if not better. “Follow the money” does, too, when trying to figure out their motivations.
The two biggest paydays on the Tour schedule are two Sundays owned by the PGA Tour: the final day of the Players Championship and the final day of the FedEx Cup. McIlroy earned $2.25 million at the former and $15 million at the latter.
What kind of message would the players be sending if they didn’t put their stamp on all that?
Perhaps because fans increasingly are uncomfortable with hearing what athletes make?
As you may recall, I was in the minority in not being taken aback by the FedExCup purse increase but heard from many who were uncomfortable with the amount. Given how much the PGA Tour does for charity and what athletes in other sports make, I believe golfers are a value at the current pay scale.
And it may just be that many agree, but so blatantly celebrating money over majors could expedite the queasiness some fans feel.
Here was the poll result of that post-FedExCup question about money, linked and screen captured.
Despite getting smoked by Brooks Koepka in the 2019 majors, the PGA Tour’s player vote for Player Of The Year went to Rory McIlroy.
It’s the first time since 1991 that the players differed from the PGA of America’s POY, which is based on a points system. Brooks Koepka won that award by six points over McIlroy.
As I wrote for Golfweek, without knowing how many players voted or how close it was, the award lacks credibility compared to other sports leagues or even other POY awards in golf. It’s too bad, too, as McIlroy had a super year and the case for him to be right there with Koepka is a strong one—until you use the majors as a tiebreaker.
Speaking of majors, you know, the four events on the calendar not owned by the PGA Tour and which always supersede all tour events in magnitude, 2013 was the last time a player won the award without winning a major. Tiger Woods posted five victories that year and two top-6’s in majors.
McIlroy’s best finish in the 2019 majors? A T8 at the PGA. He was 21 strokes worse than Koepka in the three majors he did make the cut in, though he never really contended at any point in the Grand Slam events.
Joel Beall at GolfDigest.com had similar issues with the Tour’s lack of transparency and even the sense that a media conference call ended as soon as the questions about process started.
Or, apparently, privately release them either. Given the election's concealment, the Associated Press' Doug Ferguson asked McIlroy during Wednesday's media conference call if he knew how close the race had finished. "I inquired," McIlroy said, "and they are keeping tight-lipped on that." The call, just seven questions deep, was ended.
Golf.com’s Jessica Marksbury rounded up the Twitter reaction to the news and naturally, there was surprise and some outrage.
And finally, there was the scene of Commissioner Monahan showing up at the Bear’s Club with McIlroy’s trophies, social media helpers, a satellite truck and heaven knows what else for a surprise photo-op with the awards’ namesake, Jack Nicklaus. There is even a photo with McIlroy and the Commish hoisting the FedExCup, cup.
Would Brooks Koepka and his landmark major season—18 strokes better than the next player—have gotten the same attention had players voted for him event without “landmark victories” in the Players and Tour Championship? The overall effort seems desperate to validate a high-priced sponsorship. Too bad that was the only transparent thing about this award.
In early August Jack Nicklaus appeared on BBC’s Radio 5 Live and his criticism of the new condensed major schedule was noted by Golf Monthly.
The comments came after Justin Rose pointed out concerns about the shortened major season and before Rory McIlroy joined the fray last week.
“I don’t like the new Major schedule, from the stand point that if you have an injury, or if you’re struggling with one tournament, all of a sudden the other one follows too closely, to get it back,” 18-time Major winner Jack Nicklaus told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I’m not sure that that’s really a good thing for the game of golf, to have all your tournaments in about three and a half months. And I don’t think it’s good for the other tournaments on the Tour.
“The guys have got to skip a lot of tournaments – you saw that this year – guys weren’t playing in between Majors. And I think that’s a shame for the Tour.”
As host of the Memorial, Nicklaus is clearly monitoring the impact and not liking what he sees.
“I know that the all-mighty dollar is important, but I don’t think it’s so important that you really lose out on the tradition of the great tournaments that have been played for years and years and years.”
Nicklaus worrying about those surrounding non-majors events is admirable and something that the PGA Tour will have to examine before locking in the schedule long term.
The interview is not available online but a BBC site posting about Nicklaus’s comments focused largely on Tiger Woods. And included this:
"I think it will work against Tiger - unless he's really healthy," Nicklaus said.
Since the new schedule was announced, I’ve long moaned about the lack of a Labor Day Monday finish as a strange abandonment of a solid day for sports watching. Networks generally concede the day to travelers and vacationers trying to get back home, and yet the ratings tell a slightly different story.
Reader KD reminded me of this odd abandonment today, writing:
So let me get this straight the PGA Tour thinks its a better idea to end its Fed Ex Playoffs the week before Labor Day? I am looking at the TV offerings on the east coast this afternoon on the major channels---they include a strong man competition, some non-descript Indy Car race and X Games. Granted the US Open is being shown on ESPN but it is being contested by a couple of lesser known players.
Yep, the offerings are slim and Monday has networks showing their usual weekday shows when in the recent past, the Dell Technologies (formerly the Deutsche Bank Championship) was finishing on Labor Day Monday. The day’s primary competition come from Flushing Meadows and Louisville, where Notre Dame is visiting at 8 pm ET.
The ratings from the last two Dell’s:
2017: 1.8 for Saturday’s third round, 2.2. for Sunday’s final round
2018: 1.8 for Saturday, 2.3 for Sunday
The 2019 Tour Championship played one week ago drew a 2.9 overnight and 1.5 for Saturday’s rain-suspended round. All broadcasts were on NBC.
While the ratings were higher for this year’s tour finale played a week prior to Labor Day, it’s easy to picture this year’s format, stars and promotion drawing a similar rating on Labor Day Monday (and a higher rating if played on the west coast).
Buying an extra week would make players happier after a pretty compacted finish following The Open.
And yes, Labor Day weekend in Atlanta means competing with other things, and the combination of sponsors and proud partners need to be on board (a big if). But reclaiming the last free Monday of summer still seems worth exploring in the next television contract.
I’l leave the last word to reader KD:
Even if they stay in Atlanta how can they not play on the last holiday weekend of the summer when many people will be home tomorrow either sending their kids off to the first day of school or preparing to start the work week. Is Atlanta that small of a sporting city that they cannot handle two major sporting events on the same weekend (happens here all the time here in New York).
They can own the "end of summer" by just pushing things back one week and starting the Fall Season a week later.
I know Labor Day is supposed to be a day off, but a funny thing has happened since the Tour Championship ended at East Lake: I keep hearing from people how offended they were that the winner received $15 million and that it was such a prevalent part of the broadcast.
Frankly, either I’m numb to the figures or naively thought fans would love see what happened with that kind of money on the line. Because I’ve been stunned not only by the volume of complaints about the portrayal of this year’s increased purse, but from the sources: folks who get all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking of Gordon Gekko utterly “greed is good” and abhor anyone daring to suggest golfers are overpaid.
I’m still collecting my thoughts on what this means for the sport, Tour Championship and parties involved, but would love to put you all to work and tabulate some votes for help crafting this column (and to see if I’m just hearing from an annoyed minority).
With so much attention given to the driver and it’s place in the game, Golfweek’s David Dusek uses the year-end down time to look at who made the biggest gains in strokes over their PGA Tour peers.
There is a fun interactive chart for mouse users, but this was really a standout stat:
Conversely, Phil Mickelson finished the year ranked T-165 in strokes gained off the tee with an average of -0.307. That means the 49-year-old, five-time major winner’s driving cost him about one-third of a shot against the average player. But over the course of a 72-hole tournament, if everything else were equal, McIlroy would typically beat Mickelson by about six shots because his driving was so much better than Lefty’s.
McIlroy made the sixth best improvement in 2019 strokes gained off the tee. And it’s not like this was a weakness in his game.
Justin Rose was the first to voice concern about the spacing of golf’s majors, and now Rory McIlroy wisely left the country before suggesting he agrees with Rose’s concerns.
Nick Menta reports on McIlroy’s pre-Omega Masters press conference where the comment was made.
“If they are spaced so closely together will fans only care from the second week of April to the third week in July?” he added to the BBC. “I’d like to see them spaced out like tennis does. With the Australian Open in January and the US Open going on now, they’ve a nice nine-month window of relevancy.”
To now have two of the top players in the world essentially declaring the new schedule not working—and two players who think long and hard before they speak—the new tighter schedule is showing signs of cracks before the PGA Tour enters television contract negotiations that will lock in the schedule for a decade or more.
Rose felt the time to reset between majors wasn’t long enough, while McIlroy may feel that way as well, but his primary point that golf is truncating the main focus of fans would suggest he agrees that surrounding events have no been strengthened, nor is there a sense that it works for players.
Both players were not reared on American football, so their interest in the American sports viewing calendar is not high.
I’m not sure what the tipping point is, but if more top players suggest that new schedule is dysfunctional, will there be a reconsideration of he calendar going forward? Golf certainly can’t spread out to a nine-month window due to available daylight, unless it moved the PGA Championship on occasion to Australia or Asia in January or February. But an expansion back to April to August would restore at least some of the spacing. Developing…
As a fan of The Players in May, I had doubts the new tighter PGA Tour schedule would flow well and protect the place of the majors. Yet a rejuvenated Florida swing and more balanced spacing of 2019 majors seemed to strengthen golf’s four majors.
I’m not really sure how such a thing is measured, but on anecdotal evidence, the majors are stronger than ever.
Justin Rose did suggest the downtime between majors was too short—and he may have been speaking for many of his peers—but the fan perspective seemed to relish the new tighter pacing between the big four.
Check out this fine ratings wrap for 2019 from Robopz that confirms, even with some numbers down, the strength of the big four stands out in an overall (slightly) down final round ratings year (like all sports):
Another sign of majors as the most important events in golf came in Doug Ferguson’s AP case for Rory McIlroy as player of the year over Brooks Koepka.
It's a strong case for McIlroy.
Except for the majors.
Along with winning the PGA Championship for the second straight year - Woods is the only other play to win back-to-back at the PGA in stroke play - Koepka finished one shot behind Woods at the Masters and chased Gary Woodland to the end at Pebble Beach before finishing second at the U.S. Open.
He tied for fourth in the British Open, nine shots behind Shane Lowry.
McIlroy had only a pair of top 10s in the majors, and the biggest blow was missing the cut at the British Open at Royal Portrush in his native Northern Ireland.
Majors matter. All four of them.
This is not to downplay the enjoyment derived from other weeks of the year or the great efforts of players in non-majors. It’s just a reminder that players, fans and media care a lot more four times a year. Maybe more than ever thanks to the new schedule.
We did all of this debating on Morning Drive today and there is still hope for the poor souls trying to make the FedExCup the next Masters, but for now the PGA of America has given their player of the year award to Brooks Koepka on the back of its points system. How civilized.
Congrats to both players on sensational seasons. But as I’d like to reiterate from today’s debate below, Brooks got Rory by 21 strokes in the three majors where Rory made the cut.
The 2019 Tour Championship moved up the schedule a month to avoid the NFL and college football, while the PGA Championship moved to May.
In year one of the revamped schedule, both events lost ground in the ratings chase.
May’s 2019 PGA at Bethpage drew a 3.9 and was down 36%.
The 2019 Tour Championship’s final round 2.9 overnight was down substantially from last year’s Tiger Woods return to glory (5.1 overnight), but up from 2017, reports SBD’s Austin Karp. The Tour Championship was played in late September last year against NFL football.
While the 2019 Tour Championship was played a little later than a typical August PGA Championship, it’s worth noting that PGA’s in August drew some big numbers in recent years:
2017: 3.6 and lowest since 2008
2016 3.4 but still one of the bigger golf ratings of the year
2015 5.1 at Whistling Straits
Going back later, you’ll find plenty of 6’s, 7’s and 8’s for PGA Nielsen numbers and there is certainly the chance a PGA in May will have some big years.
But in year one of the new schedule, the PGA lost a lot of eyeballs—but kept audience sizes similar to the Players it replaced—and the Tour Championship/PGA Tour Playoffs essentially held it’s own against late summer Tour broadcasts of the past.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s Tour Championship suspension of play meant the Little League World Series’ USA final (2.1) easily beat the golf (1.5), while Sunday’s championship game drew a 2.0 to the Tour Championship’s 2.9 while going head to head.