Happy Ending: Worst Player Ever To Win Major Confronts Writer

SI's Alan Shipnuck named Shaun Micheel the worst player ever to win a major and, well, it did not go well to start.

But as Shipnuck writes, after a nice angry manspat, there is a happy ending to this run-in. Get your hanky out...

I can't make 1.4 million copies of GOLF disappear but I'll certainly be rooting for Micheel going forward. After telling him I think his journey would make a compelling feature story, he gave me his cell number so we can keep in touch. I've looked at our DM string a couple of times and Micheel's parting thought still makes me laugh out loud: "Certainly an unusual start to a relationship."

3.6: 2017 PGA Ratings Lowest Since '08: What's Up?

We have an off-season in golf to now explore the reasons for ratings slides in majors. With SBD's Austin Karp sharing the 2017 PGA overnight, we have a matching 3.6 final round average for the U.S. Open, The Open and PGA to ponder.

I have last year's final round number at 3.4, but I'll defer to Karp with his claim of lowest since '08:


Some eyeballs went to cable news coverage of the events in Charlottesville.

That the U.S. Open and PGA drew the same final round number as The Open's morning telecast is fairly remarkable, unless you factor in changing viewing habits, the broader appeal of Jordan Spieth and the marketing approaches of the three networks.

As for this PGA my theory on why the numbers were poor for what, in the last 90 minutes, was very compelling viewing with many players making a run at the title:

1. Lack of incentive: Brutal Saturday viewing and lack of mega-star power on leaderboard did not make Sunday appointment viewing.

2. Long telecast lowers the average audience size.

3. Commercial breaks. There was little incentive to sit in front of the television and watch due to relentless interruptions.

3. Eyeballs elsewhere: streaming coverage, cable news viewing

There is one other element raised here before but it again begs the question: is there a kumbaya effect? Do people find things less compelling when the protagonists like each other? My Golfweek colleague raised this point:

Roundup: Justin Thomas Wins 99th PGA Championship

Steve DiMeglio of USA Today captured what made this one somewhat thrilling even as Justin Thomas took control: would he be able to corral his energy.

Many times throughout his young career, Justin Thomas has been his own worst enemy.

Much like his high-octane swing that makes him pound-for-pound the longest player in professional golf — he tips the scales at about 150 — Thomas doesn’t hold much back on the inside, either. He’s a demonstrative player with a big personality who rides the highs and lows with equal intensity, often to his own detriment as he quickly can’t shake bad moments.

Doug Ferguson of AP played off Thomas's life as the son of a PGA pro.

Justin Thomas remembers hearing the roar before he ever saw the shot.

He had access to the clubhouse at Valhalla in 2000 as the 7-year-old son of a PGA professional, and the thunder from the gallery reached his ears before the TV showed Tiger Woods making the most important putt of his career at that PGA Championship.

Thomas was barely big enough to dream of playing against the best that day. Now his name is on the same Wanamaker Trophy.

There were memorable birdies at 13 and 17, but the putt at 10 will stand out for man. Kevin Casey with the video and story behind the putt at Golfweek.com.

Here it is, hit the link if the embed is frozen.

Michael Bamberger at Golf.com has a fun account of a weird day and while Thomas ultimately pulled away down the lane, he reminds us...

At 5 p.m., the air still and warm, the Wanamaker Trophy hanging out, waiting for a kiss, Thomas was one of five men who stood at seven under par on the difficult Quail Hollow Club course, with its Bermuda greens and wet, snarling rough.

Thomas drank champagne after the win and following a toast from PGA President Paul Levy of, uh, Indian Wells...

ESPN.com's Bob Harig considers the evolution of Thomas's game, the role of envy in motivating him and talks to his bagman.

"I think what he learned is that he has to play his game and not force it,'' said veteran caddie Jimmy Johnson, who left Steve Stricker to work for Thomas full time two years ago. "Let the course come to him, and play a little smarter. He was trying too hard, maybe. I don't think he was so much frustrated as he was playing too hard. He's just letting his potential go through now.''

Mike McAllister at PGATour.com dives deep (with some rich details) on the three turning point moments for Thomas on Sunday.

Brian Wacker at Golf World talks to Thomas's grandfather about his grandson's win.

“I told him this week when we talked that he was good enough to win anywhere. He hits the ball as well as any guy out there, and he has shots that other guys don’t have.”

Jason Sobel has the full story on Thomas's life as the son and grandson of PGA of America professionals.

David Dusek with the winner’s bag, a whole bunch of Titleist clubs!

Dave Kindred on Thomas's mastery of the Green Mile as a key to his win.

PGATour.com with this photo gallery of the best shots from Thomas's win.

Kevin Kisner gave it a great run all the way to the Green Mile, where he was six over on the weekend, writes GolfChannel.com's Will Gray.

Gray also writes about Jordan Spieth's inability to figure out the greens.

Patrick Reed secured his first top 10 in a major and came away frustrated (ok, downright cranky), reports Golf World's Dave Shedloski.

David Duval speaks from experience when he sees Rory McIlroy swinging around his injury and says it's time to shut the game down until he can get healthy.

"He needs to go home. He needs to stop playing right now. He's hurt and I am watching his golf swing deteriorate," he said. "If only I could go back and tell myself 18-20 years go when I started having those problems, 'Stop, get healthy.' He could do himself a big service. He's always had a little bit of a hitch with the driver in terms of flattening out a little but it is getting a lot more pronounced right now and I think that is due to that rib injury."

Ian Poulter threw quite the fit Sunday and it’s still unclear who was right in the argument with a rules official.

Runner-up Louis Oosthuizen will never look quite the same to you ever again.

2017 PGA Final Round This And That

The forecast is improving after some more overnight rain softened things up, but landmines still linger in Sunday's forecast. Given Saturday's multiple pile-ups that appeased those who saw too many birdies at the U.S. Open, I'm hoping the players get a chance to attack some on Sunday.

Kevin Kisner's driver has been the key so far, and his Zurich Classic partner Scott Brown isn't surprised that he's kept the lead going into Sunday (Romine/Golfweek).  He's also embracing the difficulty of Quail Hollow (Lavner/Golfweek).

This is Hideki Matsuyama's best shot yet heading into a final round, writes Dan Kilbridge at Golfweek.

Jeff Babineau on the potential 2-for-291 run of Chris Stroud, the biggest longshot in some time with a chance to win a PGA Championship.

Webb Simpson is a member at Quail Hollow and thinks the setup is too much for a PGA. Someone's going to get a letter from Johnny! (Casey/Golfweek).

Jordan Spieth acknowledged that the PGA will be his toughest major to win, but Michael Bamberger says he can look to...Vijay Singh for inspiration. Though I'm pretty sure when Spieth wins his PGA, he will attend the Champions Dinner.

Luke Kerr-Dineen explores the six letter name theory in handicapping the final round.

Graham DeLaet had one of the greatest stretches of play you'll ever see Saturday, in sharp contrast to much of the field. (Maguire/ESPN.com).

The shot, hole and quote of the day (Ahern/Golfweek).

Rory McIlroy is thinking about shutting down his game again due to continuing rib issues. (Gray/Express)

I looked at the merchandise center vibe set by a DJ this year! (Morning Drive)

Phil Mushick is just loving it when Peter Kostis mentions the importance of line and speed.

The weather forecast.

Your live streaming, TV Times and groupings from PGA.com.

Golfweek's listing of times and groupings.

Final round hole locations:

 

Follow Golfweek's Live Blog for the fastest and best updates on the action.

2017 PGA Third Round This And That

The second round was completed early Sunday 75 players advancing to the weekend at Quail Hollow. Play commenced at 9:50 with co-leaders Kevin Kisner and Hideki Matsuyama set to tee off at 2 pm ET.

The course took on more rain overnight and figures to be susceptible to scoring, especially with high humidity and more rain forecast throughout the day.

Jaime Diaz on why Kevin Kisner is ready for his big moment and this would be a doozy given his South Carolina roots and connections to the host site.

Dan Kilbridge on Hideki Matsuyama positioning himself for a weekend run at his first major champioship.

Jeff Babineau on a resurgent Jason Day, who enters the round two back.

Jordan Spieth made good use of the rules again in an otherwise lackluster showing so far, notes Jeff Ritter at Golf.com.

Spieth also has written off the career slam hopes this week, writes Brentley Romine at Golfweek.

There were several Phil Mickelson takes, starting with

Dave Kindred wonders if father time is catching up with Lefty.

Alan Shipnuck tried talking to Mickelson's current and former caddies for insight but didn't have much luck.

Players were in a hurry to get out of town Friday night and avoid a Saturday return, even though this is a major where they're treated like kings here at Quail Hollow. Kevin Casey with a roundup at Golfweek.com.

I'm guessing this did not go over well in many executive quarters:

 

 

TNT ratings were up Thursday

Turner Sports’ multi-platform coverage of the 2017 PGA Championship generated substantial audience increases across television, digital and social platforms.  TNT’s exclusive first round telecast – Thursday, from 1-7 p.m. ET – averaged a 0.8 U.S. HH rating and 1.1 million total viewers, increases of 14% and 9% over last year’s comparable coverage.  Thursday’s first round telecast on TNT also garnered huge increases across all core demos including a 107% lift in Men 18-34 and 93% growth among People 18-34 over last year.
 
TNT’s opening round telecast peaked with an average of 1.3 million viewers and a 0.9 HH rating from 5:30-5:45 p.m. ET, based on Nielsen Fast Nationals. Top rated local markets for Thursday’s telecast include Orlando, Oklahoma City and Fort Myers, all tied with a 1.9 HH rating.
 
Thursday’s first round coverage also scored for PGA.com, managed by Turner Sports, with a 64% increase in live video views and 29% growth in time spent watching live video over last year.

The weather forecast? Still concerns about finishing Sunday night.

Your live streaming, TV Times and groupings from PGA.com.

Golfweek's listing of times and groupings.

Follow Golfweek's Live Blog for the fastest and best updates on the action.

Tee Times:

Get this one a lefty set now, and dad a proper seat!

Getting in some practice swings at the #pgachamp.🏌🏼

A post shared by PGA Championship (@pgachampionship) on

2017 PGA: Round Two This And That

We're off and sweating here at Quail Hollow, where another enormous gallery has turned out early to watch the marquee Rory-Rahm-Rickie pairing.

Day one proved to be tricky for most of the field,

The greens were noticeably slick Thursday, I explored that for Golfweek with comments from Koepka and Spieth.

Jaime Diaz looked into the difficulty of Quail Hollow as arguably the season's toughest major test (so far).

Media notes from Golfweek's Martin Kaufmann.

The weather forecast? Still ominous but Thursday was perfect and Friday is better than had been expected earlier in the week.

Your live streaming, TV Times and groupings from PGA.com.

Golfweek's listing of times and groupings.

Media Roundup: The PGA Of America's Turner Problem

Martin Kaufmann of Golfweek addresses the good and bad of PGA Championship day one and he's understandably pleased to see more tracer and hole graphics incorporated into the broadcast.

Not so pleasing, as many of you noted on Twitter and in messages, were issues with crashing app's every time the ad ran. And the traditional commercial overload was noted by many of you along with Kaufmann:

The big problem with the PGA Championship, with the exception of the bigger technology package, is that it often feels less like a major than an extended version of the Quicken Loans National. The PGA Championship has a great field – arguably the best of the year – but its stature is lessened by the way it is presented on TV. It’s difficult for a tournament to feel like a major when the network has a commercial break after every four or five shots.

It’s easy to criticize CBS for this, but I suspect the PGA of America, as the rights holder, has some responsibility. At the Masters, CBS’ agreement is to air no more than four minutes of commercials every hour. At the PGA, we might see that many commercial in the space of 15 minutes.

It should be noted that Kaufmann and I had better luck with TNT's app. The PGA app, which I received numerous crashing complaints about, is supported by Turner's technology.

Alex Myers noted what TNT was showing instead of morning golf. 

The frustration with TNT and CBS commercial/promo inventory is an annual affair at the PGA Championship, and because of current (ironclad) contracts, won't be remedied until a new deal begins in 2020.

Oak Hill Prez: “We get a bad rap. It’s not like a British Open on the coast of Scotland.”

While we wind down the PGA in August with this week's event in Charlotte and next year's barnburner at Bellerive, thoughts turn to how weather will impact northern venues.

Golf World's Tim Rosaforte investigates and finds most northern venues pointing to their positives (No thunderstorms! Thick rough!), with Whistling Straits' Herb Kohler all but conceding he's hosted his last PGA Championship.

Besides the stellar quote from the Oak Hill club president Tim Thaney suggesting Rochester in May isn't nearly as bad weatherwise as a British Open in Scotland--unless it snows--there was this, uh, chilling Rosaforte reminder about Bethpage in May.

Bethpage experienced winterkill damage three years ago that caused the Black Course to remain closed until after Memorial Day. If that happens in 2019, it could create logistical and public-relations nightmares for the PGA. But given that was one of only two conditioning issues like that in the last 20 years, golf-course superintendent Andy Wilson doesn’t see the one-in-10 chance as a deal-breaker. “It’s up to Mother Nature more than anything else,” Wilson says. “If she wants to beat us, she’ll beat us and we’ll recover.”

2017 PGA: First Round This And That

It's Glory's Second-To-Last Shot Before The Move To May!

The 2017 PGA gets underway at Quail Hollow, which was renovated in 89 days and, at least architecturally, conveys the feeling of a rush job lacking design permanence. Insipid two-dimensional bunkering, overzealous green contouring and several discreet anti-scoring touches explain why you've heard so few players offering praise for what is otherwise a world-class facility.

Michael Collins at ESPN.com with a fun caddie confidential on the player/caddie griping and plans to already fix one of the greens here.

Mercifully, superintendent Keith Wood's team is providing exceptional conditioning, the Charlotte fan energy is off-the-charts and more elite players seem to be on form heading into this major compared to the first three Grand Slam legs.

The weather forecast? Still ominous but Thursday is perfect and as Kyle Porter notes, it is expected to be a part of this championship.

Your live streaming, TV Times and groupings from PGA.com.

Golfweek's listing of times and groupings.

The renovated first hole is a nice par-5 in the minds of players (Casey/Golfweek).

The Green Mile is still the biggest part of the Quail Hollow test. (Romine/Golfweek).

Jason Day is trying to salvage his season, if he can get the putter going. (Menta/GolfChannel.com)

Phil thinks the winning score will be close to even par (Lavner/GolfChannel.com)

Josh Berhow at Golf.com puts a bow on the early week shorts discussion, with comments from Gary Player endorsing the relaxing of rules.

Michael McCann with legal analysis on Tiger's DUI arraignment and plea.

Golfweek's live blog will keep you updated.

And as for the story of the week, Jordan Spieth, Brian Wacker says the Champion Golfer of the Year's resilience is noticed by his peers.

Gary Williams and I discussed why Spieth is so confident and may be able put his great iron play to extra-special use this week.

And on trying to become the youngest to achieve the greatest feat for a golfer, he's not feeling the pressure. From his Wednesday press conference:

JORDAN SPIETH: How? There will be pressure. This is a major championship. I mean, this is one of the four pivotal weeks of the year that we focus on. So there will certainly be pressure. I'm simply stating, there won't be added expectations or pressure.

How? I don't know. I just don't feel it. I just -- it's not a burning desire to have to be the youngest to do something, and that would be the only reason there would be added expectations. The more years you go on playing PGAs, and if I don't win one in the next ten years, then maybe there's added pressure then, and hopefully we don't have to have this conversation in ten years. But if we do, then it might be a different.

But it was only two weeks ago that I was able to get the third leg, and that's so fresh in my mind. I'm so happy about that that I can't add pressure to this week. I'm free-rolling. And it feels good. I'm about as -- I'm about as kind of free and relaxed at a major than I think I've ever felt. Maybe since Chambers Bay, arriving at Chambers Bay after the Masters and just, you know, almost like I've accomplished something so great this year that anything else that happens, I can accept. That takes that pressure, that expectation away.

Now, you get into the heat of things, certainly that changes things, because I recognize where we are and what it would mean to win a major. Not anything else other than that. And so getting into position this week, this is a very, very, very tough course, and it's one that I need to drive the ball better than I've been driving it to have a chance to win this week, and I've been working hard on it and seeing some improvements. So as long as I can do that, then I should have chance.

Ball Goes Far Files: Rory's Driver Carries Render Quail Hollow's Range Too Short

There is some truly blissful viewing here watching the Toptracer techology track Rory's monster carry yardages and his range balls bounding through the trees 350 yards away.

Note the drive that carries 365! (Link here if embed does not work.)

CBS All In On Technology At The 2017 PGA

If you listened to this week's ShackHouse, you know we're excited to learn from guest Amanda Balionis that CBS is emptying the bucket and giving us lots of technology on this week's PGA Championship telecast.

Martin Kaufmann explains at Golfweek.com what to expect, including this:

For the first time CBS will have Trackman on all 18 holes, cranking out data such as ball speed and curvature, and wireless Toptracer technology to track approach shots.

“I’m most excited that we can use the technology on all 18 holes,” Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, said during a conference call last week.

CBS also plans to use: ARL Virtual Eye, which shows Trackman tracing of ball flight over a hole graphic adjacent to live shots of players hitting tee shots; bunker cameras; a cable-mounted camera tracking action on the practice range and 4K coverage on DirecTV of the final three holes.

This is clearly a response to good feedback the network has received to its efforts this year, and even if some of the technology is useful only to a hardcore fan, the high-tech look helps modernize the telecast. It's also no coincidence that CBS's contract for the PGA is up after the 2019 event at Bethpage, and discussions about the next deal are expected to start later this year.

Assessing Where A Spieth Career Slam Fits In Golf History

When you break down the career Grand Slam winners and the many legends who have won three of four legs, the opportunity facing Jordan Spieth becomes impressive. 

Mention that he can do this at a younger age than Woods and Nicklaus and it becomes, as Jim Nantz noted in the piece I wrote for Golfweek, one of the great accomplishments in the history of the game.  

Jaime Diaz assesses where this feat would fall in the game's history and notes that Grand Slam is not a perfect measure of greatness.

Walter Hagen, who won 11 major championships, didn’t have a real shot at what evolved into the Grand Slam because the Masters wasn’t even played until he was well past his prime. And what of Bobby Jones’ “original” Grand Slam in 1930, winning the U.S. Open and Amateur and their British counterparts in one year, which has never been replicated by any golfer over an entire career? That feat, or the still unattained the calendar professional Grand Slam, or even the Tiger Slam of 2000-’01, would all have to be more exalted than the career Grand Slam.

Ryan Lavner reminds us that Tiger Woods, the last in the modern era to achieve the feat, didn't have much time to ponder the possibilties but pulled off the slam in his first try.

Not only was Woods, at 24, the youngest to win the career Grand Slam, but he was the fastest, too – needing only 93 starts, compared with Nicklaus’ 125.

“They’ve been the elite players to ever play the game,” Woods said that day. “And to be in the same breath as those guys, it makes it very special.”

Besides Woods, the only other players to complete the career Grand Slam in their first attempts were Gene Sarazen (age 33) and Ben Hogan (40).

Jack Nicklaus narrated this tribute:

 

Shorts Give The PGA Championship A Member-Guest Vibe

Not that there's anything wrong with the member guest!

I bring you great news from soggy Charlotte: now you can come to a major and not discern the players from the spectator.

Baba-booey!

Allowing the players to wear shorts in the practice round--a policy already adopted on the European Tour--screams Bushwood member-guest.

I realize I'm in the minority on this one, as every poll and every player declares how much they enjoyed letting their underexposed skin breath. And yes, pro golfers are real athletes these days, confused almost daily with linebackers, decathletes and boxers, so why not let them show off their physiques? Says the theory.

For me, the casual look reaffirms the fourth major as the fourth major.

 

 

I at least have one person agreeing with me...

Quail Hollow PGA Mood Setter: Rosaforte Profiles Harris

Johnny Harris is mentioned pretty relentlessly when the PGA Tour annually visits Quail Hollow Club, so it'll be interesting how center-stage he becomes during next week's PGA Championship.

Tim Rosaforte helps us get to know Harris so that when you hear players rave about Johnny or preface criticisms of any course changes as, "I love Johnny, but..."

Speaking of the constant updates and tweaks to the property since being awarded the PGA:

“That was $10-15 million ago,” says Harris, who is famous for taking care of the little things like personally overseeing changes to the service roads to a major decision of re-designing the opening three holes just after the final round was played of the Wells Fargo in 2016. This one took some selling with Bevacqua and Kerry Haigh, Chief Champions Office for the PGA. With a 90-day window and rotating crews working around the clock, club members were playing the new holes on the 89th day. More improvements are planned for the Presidents Cup in four years.

DVR Alert: Trevino & Nicklaus In 1974 PGA At Tanglewood

As the PGA Championship returns to North Carolina for the first time in 33 years and just its third playing in the state, Golf's Greatest Rounds airs a 1974 final round rebroadcast.

Hugh Quinn filed this excellent primer three years ago on the 40th anniversary of Tanglewood's big moment.

Golf Channel airs the 2.5 hour show at 8:30 pm ET.

A preview:

Latest Twist In UK TV Deals: BT In Talks To Carry Masters

Sky Sports lost the PGA Championship on short notice and appears headed toward also losing the Masters, and as James Corrigan explains in this Telegraph exclusive, BT is now in talks to carry the Masters.

Not only is it an issue for Sky, but as Corrigan explains, could have ramifications for the European Tour and USGA.

BT sees this as the ideal avenue to enter golf, but there are nervous faces not only at Sky but also the European Tour.

Without Sky’s backing the Tour would not operate its present guise, if at all, and the last thing the powers that be at Wentworth HQ would want is for Murdoch Towers to become disillusioned with the sport and walk away.
Yet any sense of ingratitude on Sky’s behalf would be totally understandable, especially with rumours circulating that the USGA, which runs the US Open, is ready to look elsewhere in the quest for bigger viewing figures when its deal runs out in 2018.