No Major for The Players

The article below is an one I wrote two years ago expressing my concerns about the golf course at TPC Sawgrass and how worthy it is of hosting a "major championship".  My sentiments have not changed....

When was the last time the top 10 players in a major were a combined 55 under par after one round?  When in a major have 57 players shot under par on any day?  The PGA Tour is trying to buy their way into a major championship by touting The Players as the "5th Major".

Not many people are aware that the PGA Tour does not operate or run a single major championship. The Masters is run by Augusta National, The US Open by the USGA, the British Open by the Royal and Ancient and the PGA by the PGA of America.  With the Players Championship the PGA Tour is making a vain (in my opinion of course) attempt to get into the mix.  From the monstrous clubhouse, to the monstrous purse, to the monstrous public relations spin they put on the event - they are eagerly attempting to join a closed club.

My primary reason for voting out the Players is the golf course!  Sure the holes we see all look frightening, with tremendous risk and reward, but what about the rest of the course.  Ever notice how much the Tour focuses on the closing holes?  Please don't get me wrong - you must be a ball striker to do well here, but this is simply Harbourtown where rough has replaced trees.  Distance does not make a great course , but give the best in the world ten opportunities from inside 140 yards and look out.  There are 10 short, legit birdie opportunities on the course (holes 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17).  Holes where every player in the field, from the longest to the shortest, should be thinking birdie or par at worst.

I have taken the rounds of two players, the longest and the shortest, namely Bubba and Fred Funk and broken them down for your perusal.  Let's start with Fred Funk who played earlier this morning.  When it comes to driving distance Fred Funk is currently 62nd on the Champions Tour with an average drive of 265.9yds.  That would leave him at 183 out of 185 on the PGA Tour ahead of only Faxon and Pavin.  His driving distance was 260 today and he scored a +1 /73.  The following numbers indicate the yardage he had into each of the 10 selected holes in regulation:(They include all four par fives and a par three)

1-156yds, 2-82yds, 4-115yds, 6-115yds, 9-87yds, 10-146yds, 11-101yds, 12-81yds, 16-4yds, 17-137yds for an average of 102.4 yards.

The shortest player in the field averaged just over 100 yds into 10 holes on a major championship course?

Now let's check in with Bubba Watson who played nicely and shot -5 /67.  He is currently the longest hitter on the PGA Tour at 313.8 yards per poke.  Today he averaged 318 yards off the tee.  His yardages into each of the ten selected holes were:

1-90yds, 2-53yds, 4-91 yds, 6-104 yds, 9-76 yds, 10-139 yds, 11-29 yds, 12-92 yds, 16-3 yds, 17-137 yds for an average distance in of 81.4 yards.  I wonder how many drivers Bubba used on these holes?

The facts indicate that every player in the field is faced with 10 holes on a supposed "major championship" course where the longest shot they are required to hit is approximately 140 yards.  And this is with a rainy night before the tournament got under way.  What major course has a four hole stretch (9-12) where no approach shot of over 125 yards is required?

In 2008 the greens had just been reshaped and surfaced and as a result were rock hard.  The wind blew between 15 and 25mph each day starting at 10 am.  In other words conditions were as tough and challenging as they could get and yet, the playoff number was -5.  Can you imagine conditions being brutal at Winged Foot or Carnoustie and -5 playing off...?

Grow all the rough you want, make the greens rock hard and roll at 13 on the stimp, but my belief is this - if they have soft conditions and windless days the winning score will be lower than -15.  You heard it here first - this is no major, just an over-sized, over-hyped attempt by Tim Finchem to create a PGA Tour major.  Sorry Tim, I vote NO!

That being said it should be a fun-filled event with a fantastic field - enjoy!

A Note to Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour....

The PGA Tour has problems. And while I am no Albert Einstein I do have opinions. Here is a brief run down on what I believe the problems to be: What were the folks at the Northern Trust Open thinking? They went from $30 per ticket to get on the grounds during the event in 2009 to $50 in 2010! That might have something to do with the sparse crowds around the 18th green on Sunday. (Okay, it was Superbowl Sunday, but the gate for the whole week was significantly down.) Would you rather have two people paying $25 or one paying $50? The answer is clearly two, as they would have far greater spending power when it came to concessions and souvenirs. Not to mention that the event is now 'touching' twice the number of people and the buzz for the event is dramtaically increased. I thought golf needed to grow... There are certain long standing events on the PGA Tour that have not seen more than a mere smattering of top 50 golfers for over 10 years. Hagen, Nelson, Snead, Hogan, Palmer and Trevino all won the Texas Open at some point in their illustrious careers. During the last decade the event has seen winners like, Bart Bryant, Robert Gamez, Eric Axley and Tommy Armour III alongside the big names of Justin Leonard and Zach Johnson. I take nothing away from these golfers, but they would not be mentioned in the top 100 golfers of all time. Jack Nicklaus actually won the Disney event three years running! Can you imagine the greatest golfer in the world playing in Milwaukee three years in a row? The PGA Tour has created a major problem for events like the Texas Open (GMO, GHO, Heritage, Hope, Pebble etc.) by inflating the purses, points and value (in sponsors eyes) of the WGC events, the crock FedEx Cup and it's very own darling little event The (non-major)Players. These events have detracted so greatly from the 'regular' events that players, fans and sponsors now, unfortunately, regard them as (dare I say it) second class citizens.

Tiger Woods won more money in the few events he played in 2008 (prior to taking more than half the year off with a broken leg) than Jack Nicklaus won in his entire career! That's not to mention endorsement money. The purses have increased so dramatically that they are a major reason for the loss of sponsors for tour events around the country. It was only 21 years ago when Curtis Strange defeated Tom Kite in the Tour Championship to be the first player to earn over $1 million in a season. It only took 18 more years for a player to get to somewhere around the $10 milion mark! I have attended many PGA events and it does not take long to realize that the tour has more than their fair share of whiny, spoilt millionaire brats. Now appearing at a tour event near you: Mark Calcavecchia; Tommy Armour III; Steve Lowery; Scott McCarron; Billy Andrade; Jeff Maggert and Harrison Frazar! Wow! The advent of "fourth" tier tour events has allowed names like this to remain on tour for years and pick off just enough prize money to sustain a very pleasant existence. There is currently a huge crop of excellent young talent waiting for a chance to tee it up against the big boys, and unless they Monday qualify or get an invite from a sponsor they have one chance a year to get to the dance. There are currently too many "fat cats" hanging around the fringes of the tour for my liking. Here are my solutions:

Okay, so we've got the majors, the (non-major) Players and the Tour Championship, which should be a limited field, final event of the year affair in the upper echelon of events. I say get rid of all the other high-brow WGC and FedEx events, make the purses the same at every event ($750k to the winner) and let sponsors sign on for a three year term. The gate fee at every event is $25 (kids under 14 are free) - every day, every event other than the upper tier tourneys. Get people excited to watch the greats! Now, you make a rule whereby every player who has been on the tour for 3 consecutive years must play every regular event at least once. That way every sponsor gets a shot at hosting TW or Phil at least once. There is obviously an injury loop-hole clause along with this rule. If you finish in the top 90 money winners you get to keep your card! 30 from the Nationwide and 30 from the Q-School also get in. Monday qualifiers are increased to 8 spots, sponsors get 4 spots and any golfer who finishes in the top 20 from the previous regular event gets in too. The best will always get in no matter how the system is set up, but this gives the young set a glimmer of hope and keeps the golden oldies on their toes. The PGA Tour needs to stop trying to be something it is not - they simply cannot compete with Nascar or the NFL. Start treating all your events and sponsors fairly, open the doors so that as many people as possible can come out to see the best players in the world and stop babying millionaire golfers. Make them play for what they get - they'll be fine!

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