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Opinion & Analysis

Is Global Turf War Looming in Professional Golf?

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For the past few years, there has been continuing talk and speculation of the formation of a global golf tour, encompassing the major professional tours of the world, namely the behemoth PGA Tour and the lesser European Tour. For all intents and purposes, it has just remained as chatter with no one stepping up to confirm or refute the birth of a super global tour.

In the last few months, however, there seems to have been some stirring, and whether this is related to the start of a global tour cannot be confirmed. This has been brought about primarily due to both tours bulking up their presence, particularly in Asia where there is room for growth insofar as the professional game is concerned.

With the shrewd and wily Tim Finchem no longer at the helm of the PGA Tour, a younger commissioner in the form of Jay Monahan will be a good bet to bring about change. The Americans have beefed up their presence and geographic footprint in Asia. The PGA Tour has an established beach-head in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and a rich tournament in the US$7 million dollar CIMB Classic, which has now been extended till 2020.

The next market is South Korea where the PGA Tour is growing its presence. It has teamed up with the CJ Corporation and has announced the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges, an event with a $9.25 million purse that’s scheduled for October 16-22, 2017 in Korea.

In making this official, Monahan said, “This announcement is a historic landmark for the PGA Tour as we add another tournament in Asia. We had such a phenomenal experience in Korea last year at The Presidents Cup, and we hoped an official, permanent event in this great country would be the result of that success.” He went on to add, “Partnering with a respected business leader like the CJ Corporation means this tournament will be on the Korean sports landscape for years to come.”

“The addition of the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges to our schedule gives us three strong tournaments in consecutive weeks in Asia, and they will play a significant role in shaping the early part of the FedExCup season and the FedExCup chase overall,” Monahan continued. Footnote: The tournaments are the World Golf Championship in Shanghai, CIMB Classic and the Korean tournament.

In 2016, 20 players from Korea had membership on either the PGA Tour or Web.com Tour. On the PGA Tour’s international-player roster, the 12 Korean members for the 2016-17 season is exceeded only by the 15 from Australia.

Completing the “Asian Swing” is the establishment of the PGA Tour’s Champions and the Japan Airlines Championship, the first ever PGA Tour-sanctioned event to be held in Japan to be played at Narita Golf Club in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, Japan the week of September 4-10, 2017.

One of the PGA’s early beach-heads in Asia was in China, but that relationship which was brokered by Finchem back in 2014 seems to have turned sour. The PGA Tour was partnered with the all-powerful China Golf Association, which operates the China PGA Tour. With this partnership in limbo, China is off the table temporarily.

In recent weeks, the PGA Tour flexed its muscles by opening a base in England. This is a strong affront to the European Tour, although the Americans have been quick to point out that its London office’s “prime focus will be on media rights and tournament sponsorship.” If this does not point to the PGA Tour flying solo, what else can it be?

The move toward the globalization of golf does not stop at the thrust toward Asia. In 2016, a strategic alliance was formed between the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour. This agreement is designed to further promote the growth of golf and the partnership between the leading men’s and women’s professional golf tours and it will include areas such as schedule coordination, joint marketing programs, domestic television representation, digital media, and exploring the potential development of joint events.

Commenting on the strategic alliance, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, “We look forward to working with the PGA Tour team to deliver a positive impact for our sport.” This is a dynamite partnership and it will be a tough act to follow and to beat!

What sort of a conclusion can we draw from all this activity in Asia? The answer really is simple – there is absolutely no doubt that the PGA Tour has taken off big time in Asia, and from all indications, it looks like the Americans are going it alone in their initiative to start up a global tour.

Speaking for Asia, we welcome this development because it only means that good things can happen for the game of golf. The PGA Tour has deep pockets, a tremendous depth in its field of players, and it has powerful media in tow. No one can do a better job than the PGA Tour when it comes to growing the game of golf and expanding its influence on a global scale. Remember that slogan that the PGA Tour used to use some years ago to promote its tour: THESE GUYS ARE GOOD! Well, you better believe them; they are darn good!

So, where does that leave the European Tour insofar as their dream to start a global tour is concerned? Well, Keith Pelley, the tour’s chief executive officer, has not been idling all this time. He has been actively dreaming up plots of his own to expand and take a hold of the global game. In his bid to “conquer” the world, he has sought to be allies with the PGA Tour of Australasia (what a silly term, you are either Australia or Asia but not Australasia!), and the “baby” of the alliance, the Asian Tour, which incidentally has problems of its own.

After some months of relative silence, Pelley seems to have emerged from a deep winter slumber to announce a “game changer.” The head honcho of the European Tour generated some tremors on the golf landscape with the announcement of a new format for the professional game, “GolfSixes”, which made a successful debut at the Centurion Club north of London on May 6-7. This format featured two-man teams from 16 different countries competing for a prize fund of $1.06 million.

What Pelley has done represents a part of the European Tour’s aggressive move to introduce innovative formats to broaden the appeal of the sport. As stated earlier, in trying to bring about change, Pelley has started a romance with new bedfellows: the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour. Both these tours have bought into the new format lock, stock, and barrel.

Pelley wants to “emulate the national fervor” of the Ryder Cup in GolfSixes, which will feature amphitheatre-style stands around the tees and greens, music and pyrotechnics on the first tee and at various points around the course, and all players will be miked up. Sounds like a great deal of fun and this is precisely what golf needs to grow spectator support.

In an interview, Pelley said: “It is not about wholesale changes in the game. We need to be more entertaining for the younger generation so they can experience the wonderful game and the great athletes.”

Well, it looks like Pelley has something with which to go after a global golf tournament. Maybe, there’s a special “Sixes” global golf tournament league in the offing and perhaps this is what Pelley hopes to use as his thrust toward occupying the global game space. It’s anybody’s guess right now because amid all of this activity, there seems to be some clear battle lines emerging. The European Tour with its allies is going one way, while the PGA Tour seems to be the quiet 1000-pound gorilla in the arena. There has been no word or reaction from the PGA Tour on Pelley’s new “Sixes” format.

Another measure of the adversarial status between the PGA Tour and the European Tour relates to the relative attraction of the PGA Tour to many of the European Tour’s top stars. Because of the massive purses that are involved, there has been a migration of Europe’s top stars across the Atlantic in search of greener pastures. It goes without saying that star quality is very important in any professional sport, and Pelley has been very concerned about his tour becoming a secondary tour with a whole bunch of journeymen playing for second-rate rewards. He swung into action and cut a deal with Rolex to fatten up the purses for some marquee European Tour events in a bid to keep his top players on home soil. The European Tour’s Rolex Series, will mean enhanced prize funds for certain tournaments, which kicked off with the recent BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

All indications point to both the tours being intent to gain more traction on the global scene, but there seems to be no signs of working together to bring about the realization of a true global tour. Both sides have their own agendas, and the PGA Tour is very active in Asia looking for new sponsors to support new tournaments. The same is true of the Europeans and with this go-it-alone posturing, one can only conclude that each side has resolved to fight for market share and dominance on its own strengths and merits.
It doesn’t take rocket science to figure which side will win in this show-down. The PGA Tour just has too much fire-power in its arsenal in terms of cash, corporate clout, media exposure, and player quality. For the Europeans, it would be like going up against Goliath, ill-armed to do battle.

Whatever the case, let us all hope that the two tours can find some common ground to come together and work together for the greater interest of the game. Pipe dreams? Probably, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed nevertheless.

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Mike is the owner and publisher of ASIAN GOLF, published by the Asia Pacific Golf Group headquartered in Singapore. It is the only English language golf magazine that is pan-Asian in its distribution and readership. He is also the owner and producer of the Asia Pacific Golf Summit, the region’s top conference on the business of golf and the highly prestigious Asian Golf Awards, widely recognised as the “Oscars” for the Asian golf industry. e-Mail: mike@asiapacificgolfgroup.com Web site: http://www.asiapacificgolfgroup.com

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Rano

    Aug 8, 2017 at 8:17 am

    “what a silly term, you are either Australia or Asia but not Australasia!”

    What a silly and ignorant comment to make. New Zealand (among others) isn’t in either Asia or Australia. It’s in Australasia.

  2. CB

    Aug 7, 2017 at 9:27 am

    @ John: Thumbs up.
    @ Mike Sebastian: D- for Geography.

    “Australasia, a region of Oceania, comprises Australia, New Zealand, the island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. Charles de Brosses coined the term (as French Australasie) in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes[1] (1756). He derived it from the Latin for “south of Asia” and differentiated the area from Polynesia (to the east) and the southeast Pacific (Magellanica).[2] The bulk of Australasia sits on the Indo-Australian Plate, together with India.” Wikipedia.

  3. CB

    Aug 7, 2017 at 9:22 am

    The PGA Tour is American – which americans benefit from a global tour?
    The European Tour is European – which europeans benefit from a global tour?

    The fans not – bad viewing times on TV and can’t watch the tournaments live
    The players not – agonising travel and jet lag

    I smell greed in the boardrooms of the tours…

  4. John

    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:47 am

    Australasia refers to “Oceania” or, nations like Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and other surrounding countries. Calling it the Australian tour could be insulting to the other countries’ tournaments. A PGA TOUR event at Royal Melbourne annually would (with the right purse) be a massive boost to the region as the hilariously tiny purses on the Australasian Tour aren’t attracting any players.

  5. Joe

    Aug 7, 2017 at 12:11 am

    I wonder if Mr. Sebastian actually read the “Goliath” account. Goliath lost.

    So now I’m left scratching my head. Either he didn’t understand his own metaphor, or meant it to mean that he is pulling for the European Tour (and not the PGA Tour) to be the ones to be successful.

  6. Bert

    Aug 6, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    +1 Tom1

  7. xzx

    Aug 6, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Terrible idea for us who watch PGA every weekend in the evening UK hours 🙂

  8. H

    Aug 6, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    This articles says so much without saying anything at all.

  9. Chris B

    Aug 6, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    The European Tour has basically been a global tour for years. The problem for it now is that the PGA Tour is trying to tap in to other markets.

    You can see the attraction of playing the PGA Tour because the ease of getting from one tournament to another. It also has a massive advantage of hosing 3 of the majors.

    Years ago Greg Norman tried to get a world tour going, it never happened. The players will have to be happy to travel. Money talks so it’s possible.

  10. Tom1

    Aug 6, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    connect the dots and complete the picture. Golf is a global sport with competitors from all over the globe. It’s a good thing.

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Golf Hall of Fame resumes—what does it take?

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We are back from last week, and Knudson is finally a father! Steve asks what it takes to get into the Golf Hall of Fame, how much do majors count? Knudson talks about his last round and how much fun he had. Finally, we talk about the Rory and Keopka beef that is starting to play out.

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

The Wedge Guy: Getting more out of your wedges

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When I started SCOR Golf in 2011 and completely re-engineered the short end of the set, I took on “the establishment” and referred to our line of clubs not as “wedges” but as “scoring clubs”—I felt like the term “wedge” had become over-applied to clubs that really weren’t. While I’ve tempered my “respectful irreverence” a bit since then, I still think we are shackled by the terms applied to those high-loft clubs at the short end of our sets.

Think about this for a moment.

It all started with the invention of the sand wedge back in the late 1930s. This invention is generally credited to Gene Sarazen, who famously had metal welded onto the bottom of a niblick to give it bounce, and introduced the basic “explosion” sand shot. Over the next few decades, the sand wedge “matured” to a loft of 55-56 degrees and was a go-to staple in any serious golfer’s bag. In his 1949 book, “Power Golf”, Ben Hogan described the sand wedge as a very versatile tool “for certain shots” around the greens, and listed his maximum distance with a sand wedge as 55 yards.

Even into the 1970s, the pitching wedge was considered the ‘go-to’ club for short recovery shots around the greens. And because the typical pitching wedge was 50-52 degrees in loft, it was very versatile for that purpose. I remember that even as a scratch player in the 60s and early 70s, I would go days or weeks without pulling the “sand wedge” out of my bag—we didn’t have bunkers on that little 9-hole course so I didn’t feel like I needed one very often.

Fast forward into the 1980s and 1990s, people were hitting sand wedges from everywhere and the wedge makers began to add “lob wedges” in the 60-degree range and then “gap wedges” of 48 degrees or so to fill in for the evolutional strengthening of iron lofts to a point where the set match pitching wedge (or P-club as I call it) was 44-45 degrees typically. Along the way, the designation “G”, “S”, “L” and “P” were dropped and almost all wedges carried the actual loft number of the club. I think this was a positive development, but it seems we cannot get away from the pigeon-holing our wedges into “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” nomenclature.

So that history lesson was a set-up for suggesting that you look at all your wedges as just “wedges” with no further limitations as to their use. I think that will free you up to use your creativity with each club to increase your repertoire of shots you have in your bag…more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

For example, long bunker shots are much easier if you open the face of your 50- 54-degree wedge so you don’t have to swing as hard to get the ball to fly further. You’ll still get plenty of spin, but your results will become much more consistent. Likewise, that super-short delicate bunker shot can be hit more easily with your higher lofted wedge of 58-60 degrees.

When you get out further, and are facing mid-range shots of 40-75 yards, don’t automatically reach for your “sand wedge” out of habit, but think about the trajectory and spin needs for that shot. Very often a softened swing with your “gap” wedge will deliver much more consistent results. You’ll reduce the likelihood of making contact high on the face and coming up short, and you can even open the face a bit to impart additional spin if you need it.

Around the greens, your lower-lofted wedges will allow you to achieve more balance between carry and roll, as almost all instructors encourage you to get the ball on the ground more quickly to improve greenside scoring. For the vast majority of recreational/weekend golfers, simply changing clubs is a lot easier than trying to manipulate technique to hit low shots with clubs designed to hit the ball high.

Finally, on any shots into the wind, you are almost always better off “lofting down” and swinging easier to help make more solid contact and reduce spin that will cause the ball to up-shoot and come up short. Too often I watch my friends try to hit hard full wedge shots into our all-too-common 12-20 mph winds and continually come up short. My preference is to loft down even as much as two clubs, grip down a bit and swing much more easily, which ensures a lower trajectory with less spin…and much more consistent outcomes. It is not uncommon for me to choose a 45-degree wedge for a shot as short as 75-80 yards into a breeze, when my stock distance for that club is about 115. I get consistently positive results doing that.

So, if you can wean yourself from referring to your wedges by their names and zero in on what each can do because of their numbers, you will expand your arsenal of shots you can call on when you are in prime scoring range and hit it close to the flag much more often. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

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Opinion & Analysis

Autumn golf is the best golf

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For many, golf euphoria occurs the second weekend of April when the flowers start to bloom, courses begin to open, and the biggest tournament of the year is on television. But I believe the absolute best season for golf is the fall.

Let me explain.

SPRING

Spring is the season of hope and rebirth, and for most golfers, it’s the first opportunity to break out new clubs or take the game you’ve been working on all winter to the course for the first time in many months. Depending on where you are in North America or around the world, golf courses are just opening up and the ground is drying out from a winter filled with snow and ice.

Yes, spring is fantastic, you can shrug off the occasional mud ball since it’s probably your first round in four months and you’re willing to cut “the super” some slack for the slow greens, because you’re just happy to be out on terra firma chasing around a little white ball. Your game is rusty. Courses aren’t quite there yet, but it’s golf outside, and you couldn’t be happier.

SUMMER

The dog days. This time of year is when golf courses are the most busy thanks to the beautiful weather. But high temperatures and humidity can be a real deal-breaker, especially for walkers—throw in the weekly possibility for afternoon “out of the blue” thunderstorms, and now you’re sweating and drenched.

Unless you are a diehard and prefer the dew-sweeping pre-7 a.m. tee time when the sun breaks on the horizon, rounds tend to get longer in the summer as courses get busier. And you’ll often find more corporate outings and casual fairweather golfers out for an afternoon of fun—not a bad thing for the game, but not great for pace of play. Summer makes for fantastic course conditions, and with the sun not setting until after 9 p.m. for almost two months, the after-dinner 9 holes are a treat and you take them while you can.

FALL

As much I love nine holes after dinner with eight clubs in a Sunday bag and a few adult beverages in June, nothing compares to the perfect fall day for golf.

The sun’s orbit, paired with Mother Nature, allows you to stay in your warm bed just that little extra, since you can’t play golf when it’s still dark at 6:30 a.m. The warm, but not too warm, temperatures allow you to pull out your favorite classic cotton golf shirts without fear of the uncomfortable sweaty pits. We can’t forget that it’s also the season for every golfer’s favorite piece of apparel: the quarter zip  (#1/4zipSZN).

Courses in the fall are often in the best shape (or at least they should be), since player traffic and corporate tournaments are done for the season. As long as warm afternoons are still the norm, firm and fast conditions can be expected.

Last but not least, the colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—frame the green fairways and dark sand to make them pop in the landscape. Fall is the final chance to get in those last few rounds and create happy thoughts and mental images before the clubs go away for the inevitably cold, dark days of winter.

Fall is meant for golf! So take pictures, smell the smells, and make great swings, because golf season is quickly coming to a close, and now is the time to savor each moment on the course.

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