|A 1-week break for the Ryder Cup next year|
|Thursday, August 08, 2013 12:05 AM|
PITTSFORD, N.Y. — For the first time in five years, PGA Tour players will face four straight weeks of golf in the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2014.
The tour has been scheduling a week off between its four playoff events since 2010, mainly to keep players in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup from too much competition. The last two times in Ryder Cup years, the matches were held a week after the Tour Championship.
The PGA of America, on behalf of Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, asked PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem to consider giving players a week off before the matches.
“Our captain felt like that it was imperative that our players had a week off prior to the Ryder Cup,” PGA president Ted Bishop explained Wednesday.
The tour acquiesced; during the course of more conversations, the PGA of America decided to drop “Glory’s Last Shot” as its slogan for the PGA Championship. While the PGA Championship is the final major, the rest of the calendar year featured the FedEx Cup playoffs and even the Ryder Cup itself.
The PGA Tour is not releasing its full 2013-14 schedule until next month but this means there will be four straight weeks of playoff events in August and September, followed by a week off before going to Scotland for the Ryder Cup.
Bishop said Finchem was “provocative” in stating the PGA Championship had the strongest field among major championships and could stand on its own merit without a slogan.
“I think that we feel that our championship does stand on its own merits and there is other golf that’s played after this championship, albeit not major golf,” Bishop said. “And so that was just one example of some of the many things that I feel like we have been able to work together and accomplish hand-in-hand with the PGA Tour.”
The last time the PGA Tour had four straight playoff events was in 2009, when Tiger Woods won the $10 million bonus.
Bishop has been concerned about the energy level of the American team since last year at Medinah, where Europe staged a record-tying comeback. That would go against another school of thought, however, that the matches have been close ever since the FedEx Cup began because all the top players are in form.
So does the tour’s big bonanza at the end of the year hurt or help?
“I don’t think that it’s probably impacted the Ryder Cup that much one way or the other,” Bishop added. “I know Tom was very emphatic about this in my discussions with him that he did think that due to number of weeks in a row — or six out of eight weeks that these guys play leading up to the Ryder Cup — that he had some concerns that our players, particularly when we were playing a foreign Ryder Cup and you had to deal with the time change and the travel, that there was a fatigue factor.”
RICKIE’S FRESH SET OF EYES: The only swing coach for Rickie Fowler was Barry McDonnell, who taught him on the Murrieta Valley Golf Range in southern California. McDonnell died at age 75 two years ago.
Fowler still doesn’t have a coach, though he did seek some help.
Butch Harmon told reporters he was asked to take a look at Fowler’s swing during the British Open, during which Harmon recommended the club going back a little more straight so that Fowler doesn’t have to drop it back into position on the downswing.
Harmon did not classify it as a formal teacher-pupil relationship.
Nick Watney, meanwhile, was seen twice on the practice range working with Todd Anderson, the Sea Island swing coach whose clients include Brandt Snedeker. Watney worked with Harmon for years and lately had been seeing his son, Claude Harmon III.
WHAT’S FOR DINNER: A tradition like one other took place Tuesday night when defending champion Rory McIlroy hosted a dinner for past winners of the PGA Championship. McIlroy was in charge of the menu, similar to the Champions Dinner at the Masters, the difference being he didn’t have to pay for it.
So what was for dinner?
A goat’s cheese and beet root salad for a starter. Irish tenderloin as the main course. Sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
“It was good,” McIlroy said, speaking at least for himself. “Everybody definitely enjoyed the last two courses. I don’t know how the appetizer went down.”
He also gave them each Bose speakers that were personalized. McIlroy signed a deal with Bose earlier this year.
Keeping with the tradition, McIlroy asked two former champions to make speeches. He selected 2-time winner Dave Stockton, who coaches McIlroy on his putting; and Keegan Bradley, who won the PGA Championship prior to McIlroy winning last year at Kiawah Island.
“It was cool,” McIlroy added. “You have the most recent PGA champions like myself, Keegan Bradley, Martin Kaymer. And then you have someone like Doug Ford. It was his 91st birthday yesterday.”
NO SOUVENIRS FOR YOU: Watson tried to do some advance scouting during a visit to Gleneagles, the famed Scottish resort that will be the site of next year’s matches.
While his hosts couldn’t have been more gracious showing Watson around, the hospitality dried up pretty quickly when he asked to see the pin sheets from a previous tournament. By seeing where the putting cups were located during the Johnnie Walker Championship, played over the same Centenary Course, Watson was hoping to make an educated guess where they might be when the U.S. and European sides clash a year from September.
“I looked at them with a smile and said, ‘You’re not going to give it to us?”’
“They said, ‘No.”’
Watson laughed off the exchange, saying it was “no big deal. … I’ve been assured that the golf course will be set up not with any particular bias in mind.”
But that doesn’t mean the Europeans won’t enjoy a significant home-court advantage.
“At that time of year,” Watson added, “it can get cold there.”
GREEN SPEED: The PGA Championship took a page out of Augusta National when asked about the speed of the greens at Oak Hill.
Kerry Haigh, chief championships officer for the PGA of America, offered a different twist.
“Championship speed,” he said.
Asked for a number, Haigh replied he didn’t believe it was appropriate to give a number on the Stimpmeter.
OH, BROTHERS: The sons of famed teaching pro and former Masters champion Claude Harmon — Butch, Craig, Billy and the late Dick — were known to give each other the needle. Nothing has changed over the years.
Butch Harmon is the most famous of them having worked with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and a host of other major champions. Billy Harmon once said the oldest brother wasn’t a great teacher, he just had the best students. Craig Harmon is the longtime head pro at Oak Hill.
That led Billy Harmon to offer this nugget Wednesday: “Best thing about being at Oak Hill this week is that I’m Craig’s brother, not Butch’s brother.”
To which Butch replied smugly, “When you’re the oldest, you don’t have to do much talking.”
Matsubara advances in US Women’s Amateur
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Qualifying medalist Yumi Matsubara won her opening match Wednesday in the U.S. Women’s Amateur, beating Italy’s Bianca Maria Fabrizio 2 and 1.
Matsubara, the 14-year-old Japanese player making her first appearance in the event, had a tournament-record 7-under 64 on Tuesday at the Country Club of Charleston in the final round of stroke-play qualifying.
In the second round today, Matsubara will face Lauren Diaz-Yi of Thousand Oaks, Calif. Diaz-Yi beat Desiree Dubreuil of Santa Ana, Calif., 4 and 3.
Lydia Ko, the winner last year at The Country Club in Cleveland, is skipping the tournament.
Fox Sports gets US Open in 12-year deal
PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Fox Sports is in as the broadcast partner for the U.S. Open starting in 2015. Johnny Miller appears to be out.
In a surprising announcement Wednesday evening, the U.S. Golf Association said it has signed a 12-year multimedia deal with Fox network and Fox Sports 1 to be the domestic broadcast partner for the U.S. Open and other USGA championships.
NBC Sports had been televising the U.S. Open since 1995 at Shinnecock Hills, with Miller as its shoot-from-hip analyst who became as much of the show as the golf itself.
“It was a big bummer,” Miller told The Associated Press from his home in Utah. “For some reason, I told Dan Hicks at the U.S. Open this year, ‘I don’t think we’re going to keep the U.S. Open.’ I just had a hunch it would be ESPN or Fox that stepped in and made a high bid. I know we tried.
“I feel bad for the USGA in a way that money was more important than basically a good golf crew.”
The deal is for 12 years and runs through 2026. The first U.S. Open for Fox will be from Chambers Bay outside Seattle.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
NBC’s last U.S. Open will be next year at Pinehurst No. 2 — the U.S. Women’s Open will be played on the same course the following week.
“This is an exciting and remarkable day for the USGA, as our partnership with the Fox Sports is a game-changer for our organization and for the game of golf,” USGA President Glen Nager said. “The game is evolving and requires bold and unique approaches on many levels and FOX shares our vision to seek fresh thinking and innovative ideas to deliver championship golf. This partnership will help us to better lead and serve the game in new and exciting ways.”
Along with NBC Sports televising the final two rounds — and 2-hour segments on Thursday and Friday — ESPN showed the two opening rounds. NBC is under the same umbrella as Comcast, which also owns Golf Channel.
Under the deal, Fox Sports will deliver 146 hours of USGA golf. That includes at least 70 hours of its three biggest events — the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open. The other hours will be spent on amateur competitions, such as the U.S. Amateur and the new U.S. National Fourball Championship.
“It was the highlight of my year of work for me,” Miller said. “The U.S. Open has always been the tournament. It’s a big bummer for me and Dan Hicks.”
Fox did not say what kind of broadcast team it would have for the USGA championships. Miller added it was unlikely he would go to Fox even if offered a chance, noting his contract with NBC runs through 2015.
NBC has three FedEx Cup playoff events, the Ryder Cup, the Florida swing and Houston Open leading up to the Masters, and The Players Championship.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Miller added about Fox. “You can’t just fall out of a tree and do the U.S. Open. I guess the money was more important than the performance. No way they can step in and do the job we were doing. It’s impossible. There’s just no way. I wish Fox the very best.”