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Big purses, big doings: PGA of America and PGA Tour announce joint initiatives

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On Wednesday, while the PGA Tour geared up for the first round of the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside Course on St. Simon’s Island, Ga., the Tour and the PGA of America made a number of announcements of programs aimed primarily at further broadening and deepening golf’s influence across the country.

The centerpiece of that list of programs was the announcement that the purse of the PGA Championship would increase by an impressive 25 percent for 2014, from $8 million to $10 million. This purse increase vaults the PGA into a tie for the honor of richest single PGA Tour event with The Players Championship, whose purse has been increased by $500,000 for its 2014 edition.

Now, the PGA Championship, the only major that has struggled over the decades to carve out an indelible identity, has a massive dollar figure to lean on, which is sure to help it prestige-wise. This move builds further momentum for the image of the event in the wake of speculation that the PGA Championship may start looking to introduce some venues outside the United States in future years.

Though the announcement of purse increases for the PGA Championship and The Players constituted the main “wow” factor of the announcement, the other three key aspects contain most of the meat of what appears to be a closer partnership between the Tour and the PGA. First of all, both organizations announced that a number of PSA-style ads will air during Tour events—on television and on the Sirius/XM PGA Tour Network Radio’s golf coverage—that will foreground PGA professionals as instrumental factors in the growth of golf.

Members of the PGA of America will also take a more visible position on the Golf Channel show “Inside the PGA Tour.” Each week will highlight the ranking PGA rofessional at the next Tour venue, with the goal of providing the audience extra insight into the host golf course.

Lastly, the PGA Tour will facilitate increased interaction between fans at events and PGA professionals in attendance. Special emphasis will be placed in The Players, the three World Golf Championships held in the United States (the Accenture Match Play, the Cadillac Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational), The Barclays, the Tour Championship, the Northern Trust Open and the Presidents Cup.

This move is significant in both overt and subtle ways. In the first case, it is a positive step to see the two organizations take a bit more mutually snug stance, especially given their light disagreements with regard to the USGA and R&A’s impending tournament ban on anchored methods of putting. And given that the PGA Tour is the primary driver of casual viewing interest in the game, for Tim Finchem and the rest of the Ponte Vedra crowd to give an promotional platform to the PGA of America constitutes a show of confidence that should make those of us on the outside who yearn for golf’s further growth more hopeful.

The subtlety that one might draw from this announcement is the omission of the likes of the USGA and the R&A. Does the PGA of America and the Tour drawing somewhat closer necessarily mean that both bodies are marginalizing the game’s main amateur organizations? If so, is this intentional? There is no clear answer to either of these questions at the moment, but those who follow the politics and business of high-level golf might want to monitor the situation going forward. The economic downturn of recent years has certainly caused those who care for the game to reassess key aspects of their philosophies, and it a chess game of sorts may be starting to play out before the golf world.

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Tim grew up outside of Hartford, Conn., playing most of his formative golf at Hop Meadow Country Club in the town of Simsbury. He played golf for four years at Washington & Lee University (Division-III) and now lives in Pawleys Island, S.C., and works in nearby Myrtle Beach in advertising. He's not too bad on Bermuda greens, for a Yankee. A lifelong golf addict, he cares about all facets of the game of golf, from equipment to course architecture to PGA Tour news to his own streaky short game.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: TrackMan’s Tour Operations Manager Lance Vinson Part 1 of 2

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with TrackMans Lance Vinson on an all things TrackMan and its presence on Tour. It’s such a deep dive that they needed two shows to cover it all.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

An open letter to golf

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Dear golf,

I know it has been some time since we last spoke, but I need you to know I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.

It was just a few months ago I walked crowded isles, stood shoulder to shoulder, and talked endlessly with likeminded individuals about you and your promising future in 2020 at the PGA Show. At that time, the biggest concern in my life was whether I had packed the perfect dress-to-casual pant ratio and enough polos to get through the mayhem of six days in Orlando. Oh, how the times have changed.

On a professional level, what started with the LPGA Tour a few weeks prior progressed quickly at The Players Championship, when you ground to a complete halt within days. As much as it was a tough decision, it was the right decision, and I admire the judgment made by your leaders. Soon after, outside of the professional ranks followed suit and courses everywhere began shutting doors and asked golfers to keep away.

This is the right decision. For now and for the foreseeable future, as much as I don’t like it, I understand how important it is we let experienced health medical professionals make choices and craft policies for the wellbeing of people everywhere. Although, judging by the indoor short game trickery I have witnessed over the last 10 days, handicaps could be dropping when you finally return.

As a game, you are over 200 years old. You have survived pandemics, wars, depression, drought, and everything else that has been thrown at you. Much like the human spirit, you will continue on thanks to the stories and experiences others passed down and enjoyed.

I know you will survive because I also plan on surviving. As long as there are people willing to tend to your grounds and maintain your existence, I will also exist ready to take on your challenge.

When you are able to return in full, I will be here.

Sincerely,

Ryan Barath (on behalf of golfers everywhere)

 

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The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact

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One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.

As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.

I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.

So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.

So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.

I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.

I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.

If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.

[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]

It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.

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