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Opinion & Analysis

How to liven up pro golf

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Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the PGA Tour is in the process of being handed quite an opportunity to grow by rival sports and their leagues. It might sound crazy, with the NFL dominating our Sundays and making the PODS championship, or whatever it is called next year, a distant second on even an avid golfer’s list of priorities. But I believe this to be the case. The tide might be ready to turn again, and the sports we choose to watch could be ready for another momentum shift.

Crazy right? Four major sports have dominated television ratings for a while now — the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, with golf hoping to sneak in during majors or whenever Tiger Woods is playing. But these things tend to be a bit more fickle then we give them credit for. The NFL has ruled the last 15 years, led by shorter seasons than most, neatly bunched games on Sundays, parity keeping every fan base interested and fantasy football drawing even people who didn’t play football into watching it. But this wasn’t always the case.

Before free agency kicked in and fans in places other then Dallas or New York had reasons to watch games, the late 80’s and early-to-mid 90’s saw many people praising basketball as “America’s new game.” It was a time where Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s battles captivated Americans, where Michael Jordan’s struggles against the Piston’s Bad Boys and his eventual championship three-peat (capped off with a win against the outspoken media darling Charles Barkley) brought the NBA to being arguably the hottest sport in the U.S. Before that, it was pretty much standard practice to call Major League baseball “the national pastime.” But drawn-out, boring games in the Internet age and the decrease in American stars shifted it to the back burner.

Football will soon have issues to deal with. Player health and safety concerns could cause some problems, either legally or by cutting out the natural funnel of talent as children stop playing it (this is more realistic than you think right now). Pro hockey is mired in a lockout that no one seems to care about. Major League Baseball is still limping along as it has the last 10-to-15 years — still pretty boring to watch for the casual fan. Think about it, I’m guessing your girlfriend would rather watch golf with you than baseball, right? And the NBA? Well, the NBA is actually in a pretty great spot.

What about golf? It’s a sport that is safe to play and becoming more and more affordable every year, as courses fight for our dollars in a struggling economy. Can golf capitalize on some of its young stars in conjunction with the struggles of other sports? I believe it can, but it starts at the top.

The PGA Tour needs to become more compelling. It needs to make people want to watch and want to play, because there are a lot of fans out there waiting to be wooed. And with the young talent on Tour right now, it doesn’t seems crazy to implement some fresh ideas. Here are a few things that could give golf a boost:

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

All-Star Weekend

The most puzzling thing to me about the PGA Tour is the lack of an all-star weekend. How on earth has this one been missed? I mean, does Tim Finchem not watch any other sports on TV? Not only should the PGA Tour have an all-star weekend — I’m convinced it could be the BEST all-star weekend of any sport. Between the Masters and the Open Championship, there are some great tournaments – the RBC Heritage, the Wells Fargo Championship, The Players Championship and The Memorial. But other tournaments, such as the Zurich Classic, HP Byron Nelson Classic, Crowne Plaza Invitational and the FedEx St. Jude Classic don’t pack much of a punch. You’re telling me those sponsor wouldn’t rather be a part of something as cool as a PGA Tour All-Star Weekend.

Fans would go nuts to see Bubba Watson face off against J.B. holmes in a long drive content. And Phil Mickelson in a flop wall contest or Luke Donald in a skills competition? That’s must-see TV.

You are probably thinking that a lot of pros wouldn’t show up, but I beg to differ. There’s nothing the pros like more then easy money. The purse this year at The Greenbrier Classic was $6 million, which is why the second-tier PGA Tour event attracted golf’s two biggest names, Tiger and Phil. That proves that when big money is on the table, the pros take notice.

As far as actual golf, I’m thinking 27 holes with 9 on Saturday afternoon and 18 on Sunday. You could use a modified Stableford format that greatly increases points for birdies and eagles. You think these guys are good? You would surely see that watching them flag hunt for 27 straight holes. I’m convinced this would do as well in the ratings as anything other than the majors. Plus, it would help grow the game.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

Country club-style tournaments

Another thing I don’t really get about the PGA Tour is the lack of diversity in its tournaments. Fans scream and scream for match play for example, and that seems to get shot down because the sponsors want some assurance that the television cameras can show Tiger on Sunday. I get it; I mean, I guess I do. But does that really mean we have to watch 30 tournaments every year using the exact same format?

With the increasing trend of seeing pros line their schedule with WGC’s, the Majors, the Middle East tournaments, The Players and the FedExCup (that’s half your schedule or more right there), there seems to be a real struggle from some of the lesser-known tournaments to attract sponsors and draw a field. Maybe they could get a bit creative you know? Country clubs all over the world have several different formats for tournaments that get members excited. Why couldn’t these work on the PGA Tour? Why couldn’t there be a team best ball event early in the season, like at Kapalua for example? Four rounds playing with a partner would be a good way to work on the game early in the year with less pressure, plus it would offer something different for fans to watch.

But to me, the biggest head scratcher of all is the lack of a “big money” Vegas tournament. HOW ON EARTH DOES THIS NOT EXIST? Every single club in America has a big money Vegas, and it’s usually one of the most fun weekends during the entire year. You couldn’t replace a tournament with this? There are 15 tournaments before the Masters! 15! If you are a fan, would you rather watch the Tampa Bay Championship or a three player team Vegas event? Maybe make 20 teams of three, one player ranked between Nos. 1 through 20, another from Nos. 20 through 40 and another from Nos. 40 through 60. You know, something like that. Have it be a two-day event with the pro-am Friday and throw a big purse at it. Cha-ching!

Again, I think there would be a good turnout since the field would be limited and there would be a greater chance to earn a bigger paycheck. Plus, it would be really great to watch and analyze. You know how golfers at country clubs spend hours analyzing the teams in the bar with everyone else, talking trash? You’re telling me a big-money team event wouldn’t lead off Morning Drive every day for a week and spawn countless threads about which team meshes together the best?

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

Fix the FedExCup

OK it’s been a few years now, and I’m yet to be convinced that the FedExCup is actually a playoff. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a big supporter of the FedExCup and think it has a lot of potential. But it was pretty obvious the format was screwed since Jump Street. With Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh winning early on so convincingly, the Tour Championship became irrelevant. The reaction from the Tour was more predictable then the ending to a Night Shyamalan movie (No, I don’t mean that it’s a trick, I mean that it’s going to be bad). To combat the lack of volatility of the earlier years, the PGA Tour made the FedEx cup so volatile that it basically was reduced to being won by whoever won the Tour Championship. Congratulations Brant Snedeker and Bill Haas. It kind of takes some of the credibility away from the whole “Season-Long playoff event,” doesn’t it?

I understand the Tour has a problem in that they don’t want the thing over before East Lake, and they also want a way of guaranteeing they can show some Tiger and Rory on the weekend (so long pure match play), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t better ways to do this.

Here is my suggestion — Have the Tour Championship come down to an eight-person match play on Saturday and Sunday. To guarantee that there will be some big names, break it down is as follows:

Top-4 point getters from the regular season are automatically given byes to the weekend at East Lake as the top 4 seeds. This guarantees that the regular season, you know, counts for something and also that guys like Tiger, Rory and Phil could earn their way in without having to perform well only in the Playoffs. They would have the option of playing in The Playoffs to warm-up or just to pick up a check, but their spot is guaranteed at East Lake.

The winners of each playoff event are also given a bye into the match play portion at East Lake (Barclays winner gets the  No. 7 seed, Deutsche Bank winner gets the No. 6 seed, etc). If one of the already exempt players wins a playoff event, then no one gets the spot and it gets delayed until the Thursday-Friday portion of the Tour Championship.

On that Thursday-Friday, the remaining spot or spots for the Match Play segment are decided by a play-in tournament that rewards the highest cumulative FedExCup points score of any non-exempt player in the playoffs. It would be points in the first three events, as well as the Thursday and Friday stroke play at East Lake combined. And there you have it, a mix of big names and hot players, dueling it out in match play on the weekend at East Lake. Try and tell me that wouldn’t be more compelling than what we currently have, and that sponsors could legitimately complain about it. You can’t convince me that would happen.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

Scrap and replace the Presidents Cup

I am Canadian, so the Presidents Cup is supposed to be relevant for me. But I can pretty much tell you that it isn’t. I attended the Match Play portion of the Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal about 10 minutes from where I live in 2007. I watched Mike Weir defeat Tiger and watched the fans go nuts for that. But the fans didn’t care who won the actual event.

It was cool to watch golf, and fans overall showed a bit more preference to the international squad, but I think that it boils down to it being more of a fun jab at our neighbors to the south more thn anything, who we trade barbs with on occasion. But no one was hurt when the Internationals lost. I don’t think anyone playing or watching REALLY cares about the Presidents Cup, so why not replace it with someone genuinely interesting? Here is my suggestion:

There’s too much history and too much sports rivalry involved between Europe and the U.S. for the Presidents Cup to rival the Ryder Cup, so don’t try and compete with it. Change the format to something a little more fun.

Why not have the top-2 ranked players in the world get selected as captains and have them each draft a 12-man squad. No rules or country alliances, just straight drafting. Anyone is eligible anywhere in the world. Captains would pick teams, come up with a team name and then they would play against each other in the same manner as the Presidents Cup format. As with the Vegas tournament I proposed, how much fun would this be to analyze? How much discussion would spawn over why Rory picked this guy or that guy? You wouldn’t want to watch this more then the boring Presidents Cup? And of course, as with the other suggestions, forget the history or honor associated with playing in the event. Sell out to corporate sponsors and offer $5 million to the winning team. I’m pretty sure that will keep the competition fierce.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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Jeff Singer was born and still resides in Montreal, Canada. Though it is a passion for him today, he wasn't a golfer until fairly recently in life. In his younger years Jeff played collegiate basketball and football and grew up hoping to play the latter professionally. Upon joining the workforce, Jeff picked up golf and currently plays at a private course in the Montreal area while working in marketing. He has been a member of GolfWRX since 2008

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Nathan W

    Jan 2, 2013 at 10:49 am

    How about a tournament or Fedex Cup tiered along the lines of the world cup. You have groups of players playing against each other to get out of their groups. You could do it match play or stroke play. So you could actually play better than someone, but because of the group strengh you could get left behind. Base this on pre tournament rankings. It also allows for cinderella’s.

  2. Jon

    Dec 27, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Great stuff. I like your ideas. I have always thought the Tour Championship should be like the US Amateur event.

  3. Ty

    Dec 27, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Personally, I think the whole “Sportstainment” concept that ESPN so blatantly pushes on its audience to be disgusting. I think real fans enjoy sports for the beauty of the game itself. We do not enjoy having our sports reduced down to a collection of highlight reels with sophomoric commentary.

    NFL games now last over 3 hours because of all the stoppages for advertising etc.

    Golf would do well to avoid as much of this “entertainment production” formula as possible. Its already embarrassing how much they show Tiger on TV at the expense of other players who are actually in contention for the tournament.

    People like to watch golf because they play golf and like to see it at the highest level. Golf also has great history and traditions which will suffer if major structural changes are made to the way the season quantifies champions.

  4. Pingback: GolfWRX.com – How to liven up pro golf | Golf Products Reviews

  5. pablo

    Dec 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Good ideas – I like them all!

  6. patrick

    Dec 19, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    You have some great ideas! That all star weekend end and the president cup replacement reminds me of the nhl all-star weekend. I live in montreal to just down the street from Royal. When the presidents cup came, i watched Wier and Tiger but couldn’t care less who won team wise. I would love to see some of your ideas come into effect. That would be awesome!!

  7. sean_miller

    Dec 19, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    The President’s Cup is boring because 1.) there’s no one team feel for the International side and 2.) the outcome is basically a foregone conclusion. Make it co-ed and the internationals would have a much better chance.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: From “secret” to 5 basics for a better wedge game

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First of all, thanks to all of you who read and gave last week’s post such high marks. And for all of you who have sent me an email asking for me to address so many topics. Keep those coming and I’ll never run out of things to write about.

In response to so many of those who asked for more on the basics, I want to start a series of articles this week to address some of what I consider the basics as you move your wedge game from greenside chipping, back to “full” wedge distances.

While I certainly do not want to try to replace the skills and contributions of a good instructor, what I hope to accomplish over the next few posts is to give you some of what I consider the most sound and basic of fundamentals as you approach shots from the green back to 100-130 yards, or what you consider “full” swing pitching wedge distance.

So, to get this series kicked off, let’s take the most basic of greenside chips, where the ball lies in a reasonably decent lie 3-10 feet from the edge of the green. I know there are many theories and approaches to chipping the ball, from a “putt-stroke” to hitting them all with a lob wedge, but I’m going to focus on what I consider the most simple and basic of approaches to chipping, so here we go:

Club selection. For golfers who are not highly skilled in this shot and who do not yet want to try to exhibit tons of creativity, my theory is that it is much easier to master one basic technique, then choose the right club to deliver the appropriate carry/roll combination. Once you have done a little practice and experimenting, you should really understand that relationship for two to four different clubs, say your sand wedge, gap wedge and pitching wedge.

Geometry. By that I mean to “build” the shot technique around the club and ball relationship to your body, as those are static. Start with your club soled properly, so that it is not standing up on the toe or rocked back on the heel. With the ball centered in the face, the shaft should be leaning very slightly forward toward the hole. Then move into your stance position, so that your lead arm is hanging straight down from your shoulders and your upper hand can grasp the grip with about 1-2” of “grip down” (I hate the term “choke up”). I’m a firm believer that the lead arm should not angle back toward the body, or out toward the ball, as either compromises the geometry of the club. The stance should be rather narrow and a bit open, weight 70% on your lead foot, and the ball positioned just forward of your trailing foot.

Relax. This is a touch shot, so it needs a very light grip on the club. Tension in the hands and forearms is a killer on these. I like to do a “pressure check” just before taking the club back, just to make sure I have not let the shot tighten me up.

The body core is key. This is not a “handsy” shot, but much more like a putt in that the shoulders turn away from the shot and back through, with the arms and hands pretty quiet. Because of the light grip, there will, by necessity, be some “loading” as you make the transition at the end of the backswing, but you want to “hold” that making sure your lead shoulder/forearm stay ahead of the clubhead through the entire through-stroke. This insures – like I pointed out last week – that the club stays in front of your body through the entire mini-swing.

Control speed with core speed. I think a longer stroke/swing makes for a smoother tempo on these shots. Don’t be afraid to take the club back a bit further than you might otherwise think, and just make the through-stroke as s-m-o-0-t-h as possible. Avoid any quickness or “jab-iness” in the stroke at all. Once you experiment a bit, you can learn how to control your body core rotation speed much easier than you can control hand speed. And it is nearly impossible to get too quick if you do that.

Again, I am certainly not here to replace or substitute for good instruction, and I know there are a number of approaches to chipping. This is just the one that I have found easier to learn and master in relation to the time you have to spend on your short game practice.

Next week, we’ll move back to those shorter pitches up to about 30 yards.

And keep those emails coming, OK? [email protected].

 

 

 

 

 

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Reviewing TaylorMade’s NEW SIM2 woods and hybrids!

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TaylorMade’s new SIM2 woods and hybrids are out and I have had them on the range to test. SIM2 seems to offer better shots on mishits throughout the line, keeping those shots in play better than last year. Everything seems to be improved in one way or another and I personally love the SIM2 Max driver and fairway!

 

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: What’s your takeaway waggle?

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Two wonderful examples on the PGA Tour are Sung Jae Im and Justin Thomas. We explain how this takeaway waggle brings your awareness full circle to how your backswing matches the direction you want to start the ball on. With awareness and confirmation that the backswing fits and that you don’t have to rush through it. You get a sense of calm that you can accomplish the task you set out and your chances at consistency have increased exponentially.

 

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