Masters Preview – BUY/SELL

Hello Friends…. Is there any more iconic line in golf? Seriously, I can’t believe that Masters Week is here. The official start of golf season, all the disrespect to the player’s championship. College Basketball is over. The NBA and NHL regular seasons are done. And, people need to find places to light money on fire. I’ll be here to stoke the flames all summer. Continue reading “Masters Preview – BUY/SELL”

PLAYERS Preamble

Welcome to PLAYERS week – a celebration of the TOUR as a whole and a melting pot of golf media controversy. There’s plenty of places to find sleeper picks or players in good form, we’ll be focusing on some deeper thoughts on golf’s “Gold Standard”.

The TOUR’s marketing machine has obviously been at full force for this tournament for months now. While some may say a massive rebrand is on the cusp of coming to fruition, I think the TOUR’s vision is just getting started. Let’s delve into why I believe that to be the case.

What they had:

  • Fantastic field with incredible depth (more on that later)
  • Course with a recognizable/challenging home stretch, including arguably the most famous hole in golf
  • Consistent venue that viewership will get to know better with each rendition – that also happens to provide spectator friendly views
  • Massive purse (2.25 mill to the champ – think about that)

What they’ve changed:

  • The course itself
    • 12 was completely redone and is now the token short par 4
    • The 4th and 7th greens were overhauled
    • Strategic front nine redesigns
  • New practice facility
    • There are few things more awe inspiring than watching top pros mash golf balls at the range. It is wildly impressive to hear the contact they make with the ball, but also wildly depressing to see just how inadequate your own game is. The dichotomy of those emotions is the crux of why a PGA TOUR range is so awesome, and overall great for fans. The other top range on tour? TPC River Highlands. And think about just how strong their niche has become.
  • Venue changes for better “on grounds experience”
    • Check out the TOUR’s twitter – they’ll tell you everything you need to know
  • Over-seeded with rye
    • This new look will present well on TV. It will intrigue the larger “non golf enthusiast” audience that this tournament is supposed to gather. The fact that green = good for those folks is a massive issue in and of itself, the impetus for the name of this blog, and an ongoing dialogue that we will continue to push. I digress……

These updates and the entire rebrand are going to need some soak time. We’re now past the up front investments – the infrastructure is in place, the media blitz has done its job. These are all good things, just hoping that the TOUR exerts some patience. It’s going to take multiple iterations of this new presentation for them to achieve their ultimate goal. Good things take time – and that is perfectly okay.

That being said – the thing that will best expedite this process is a solid broadcast. That means show the best golf, but more importantly show more golf. Give this wider audience a view into the shots that’ll stick with them. Now that there is this incredible background/perfect setting, impress the hell out of viewership with how players navigate the track. With limited corporate sponsorships akin to The Masters, and an incredibly deep field, there’s simply no excuse to not be captivating this weekend.

Zinger has been good thus far and NBC does the best job presenting golf on a consistent basis – but I’d be interested to see how The TOUR approaches their main event behind closed doors. Do they make special requests, do they push for any changes at all?

Side note***  this is prime time for LIVE as a service – I hope they bring their A game and impress the true junkies out there.

STATE OF THE UNION:

I like Jay – he seems knowledgeable and obviously has the business acumen to elevate the TOUR’s status. I think the schedule changes (albeit years in the making) have been very solid all around.

It was a breadth of fresh air when he defended the governing bodies against the vendetta players pushed against the rules. Think of this in terms of Roger Goodell – Roger serves the owners, clear as day. Well the PGA TOUR is run by the players, Jay represents those guys. Him sending a clear message, and reaffirming it in his presser today was comparable to Goodell publicly railroading ownership complaints. Little perspective never hurt – Good for Jay.

The presser leads me to another thought: it really stood out to me that Augusta was involved in the 2 hour discussion this morning on rules changes. Subtle inclusion in Jay’s response to a question, but damn if that doesn’t show you Augusta’s power. Wild to think a single club, hosting a single tournament (2 now I know) has become the invisible hand pulling all the strings of the game.  I have no issues with that, but with great power comes great responsibility. Augusta has done good things in recent years to “grow the game”, the mantra they peddle. The Women’s Am + Drive, chip, & putt finals are fantastic steps, but there is plenty more that can be done. Sponsor global golf academy’s, develop youth amateur circuits, or subsidize youth rounds in golf deprived communities. If they have earned the right to influence rules and have a seat at the table with the USGA, R&A, and TOUR – then let’s keep raising our expectations. Those other bodies need to step up their game no doubt, but none of those organizations have the capital or short term agility compared to ANGC.

“DEEPEST FIELD IN GOLF”:

Yes it is true that from a player quality perspective this is the best field all season. I 100% understand why the TOUR touts this, it is a great selling point and an easy mass market pitch. I just want give folks some perspective on exactly why that is.

  1. The Masters – The masters is an invitational tournament that annually provides the smallest major field. A relatively tiny number of exemptions exist – the best being past champions and the amateur qualifiers. These special exemptions dilute the quality of the field a touch – and with only the top 50 OWGR being invited automatically, pro depth is top heavy. At the end of the day this is simply a small field with small subset of unique exemptions.
  2. The US Open/Open Championship – OPEN CHAMPIONSHIPS. Any player in the world is invited to qualify for these events. If you work hard enough as a pro or an am you have a shot, one of the most beautiful things in all of golf. Again these spots dilute the field.
  3. The PGA Championship – A portion of the field is dedicated to PGA Professionals. The pro down the street that teaches young players the game, gets a 25 handicap down to a 15, and represents their clubs with great pride has a shot at this tournament. They’re a driving force in the game, and they deserve a chance at the spotlight once a year.

Each of these tournaments has unique traditions – all of which I think should be respected, honored, and revered. Yes these traditions provide fields that aren’t as “deep” as THE PLAYERS, but in all honesty they’re amongst the reasons these tournaments are more special. Again this is not an indictment against Sawgrass or the TOUR – I would be hyping the same thing if I were in their shoes. Just wanted to add some context to it. (Side note – deepest field does not equate to most difficult to win – shoutout to the guys at DataGolf. Follow them @DataGolf on twitter).

5th Major:

Rhetoric around the 5th major is a common talking point. Golf media is pushing the narrative, and golf twitter is fighting back. I’m not here to sway the conversation one way or another – but I find it interesting to think that the majors have adjusted over time, and that people are so against them being adjusted now. Let me be clear in saying I don’t think THE PLAYERS is a major, I just don’t think either side of the argument should be so quickly dismissed. 4 seems like a magical number – but is really only compared to tennis from a slam perspective (please forgive me if I’m missing other individual sports with quad set ups). 

My personal opinion? The real meat of this discussion that nobody seems to bring up is that subconsciously this boils down to Tiger & Jack and how to historically view PLAYER’s champions. If there weren’t two generations of thought consistently at each other’s throats about the major chase/GOAT, the public would be more willing to accept this discussion as valid. But we live in a world of comparison/ultimatums – and most people want all things equal when making those judgements. So what we end up with is not a debate on golfer’s merits, but rather the definition of golf merits themselves. We want simple answers to complex questions in regards to who is better than who (take Tiger and Jack out of it, apply this to anyone). Even ostensibly obvious arguments across different sports get dragged through the media cycle endlessly – I actually think that’s a good thing because debate drives discussion. Regardless, we need to come to terms with the fact that there is no right or wrong. I don’t think adding a fifth major changes a whole lot of the story surrounding Jack and Tiger’s career arcs, but nonetheless the indecision surrounding what to make of this event is fascinating.

I’ll say this – kudos to the TOUR’s PR team, the players for pumping both sides, and the media for not letting it die – it is driving clicks and hopefully it ups viewership.

My advice? Take a deep breath, don’t read too much into what this tournament is or isn’t. Enjoy what will be a great weekend of golf. For those of you in the Northeast – the season is close, consider this your kickoff.

Stay tuned – Friday night we’ll release some potential storylines after a few days of play.

Long Live The King – API Recap

Wild to think the story that left Orlando this week is Rory not being able to finish off the API as opposed to Francesco taking this thing by storm with a Sunday 64. That’s just what star power does – Rory will drive clicks and Francesco is sadly viewed as just another golfer by the general public.

 

Well that golfer put together the round of the week – and on Sunday no less. Unfortunate that it took away from some of the drama of

the telecast, NBC’s slot peaked about 2 hours before prime time but you simply can’t control that. Headed into Sunday I was fired up that so many guys were within 3 shots, but those waning groups just brought no juice to the table (RCB and Wallace gave us glimmers of hope towards the end but those pushes never felt realistic.)

 

Francesco putted like an absolute maniac on Sunday – that was the difference. All in all he ended up 1st SG off the tee at the API and 4th in SG putting. The driving stat lends credence to the difficult conditions at Bay Hill – longer rough placing a larger premium on finding the fairway. Pundits everywhere made the Le Golf National/Euro leap and I don’t think they were far off, but I think it needs to be said that SG off the tee is going to be a great indicator of success no matter what the venue.

 

You can find great recaps all over the internet – so let’s get into what caught my attention.

 

PGA TOUR LIVE THOUGHTS:

 

Leaving live coverage to show me a stream of Scott Langley walk to the range at TPC sawgrass is downright egregious. Phil I can live with. Even Nick Watney chipping I can tolerate. Scott Langley’s strut from the parking lot? Stop. Please Stop. (No offense given Scott – not one bit).

 

JT Poston was in the morning featured group along with Rickie Fowler. Getting paired up with Rickie attracts a lot of fan fair, bigger crowds. I think normally JT would have been juiced up to get some TV coverage, but yesterday was just a rough day for the man. He was getting crushed, mental errors and some bad luck – started putting up big numbers. What really impressed me was how JT handled himself out there. No he wasn’t smiling at every turn – and yes there were some looks of exasperation – but he never for a second lost control. He held his head high, and made some birdies on the back nine. A lot of players in that scenario can quickly lose their minds, they’ll start swearing off camera and go full dickhead. JT rose above that – all capsulated perfectly on the 15th tee when a fire truck and ambulance made the rounds right in front of the tee box. I wish LIVE caught exactly what he said to the crowd, but he had them chuckling. In what must have been one of the tougher rounds of his career, the kid showed his true character. Good luck at The Players this week JT, I hope this post makes it to your inbox.

 

Keith Mitchell played his ass off again. I know he probably wanted more down the stretch but based on what we’ve seen over the past two weeks this guy isn’t going anywhere. Funny what getting back to bermuda and having the length he has can do to a player. With minimal rough this week at TPC Sawgrass keep an eye out for the former bulldog.

 

Gmac had a rough Sunday. Like a really rough Sunday. The ejection on 4 was particularly rough to watch. A popular narrative headed into round 4 was Graeme’s ability to qualify for the Open at Portrush with a good round, but it simply wasn’t in the cards yesterday. I hope he continues to play good golf (he made the cut, posted some good numbers, has shown a touch of form lately) – and if you can’t rally around a guy like Gmac then you’ve got issues.

 

BEST SHOTS FROM SUNDAY (I WAS ABLE TO WATCH)**:

 

  1. Molinari’s chip in for birdie on 8 after relief
  2. Molinari’s putt on 18 to get to -12
  3. Sungjae’s approach from the bunker on 18

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS:

 

As I watched Hovland putt in with the flagstick on 18 yesterday I was wondering if any major college rules incidents had transpired thus far in the spring season? Don’t really have the means to investigate, but if anybody has any good stories please pass along. I imagine golf twitter would have brought any transgressions/issues to light – so that leaves me wondering if the amateurs/student athletes have their shit together more than the pro’s?

 

This isn’t anything new – but JaniKing absolutely owns the player towel market. I’ve noticed this for a while, and yesterday I finally did my first google search (in all honesty with intent to make a purchase), only to realize this is just a well orchestrated corporate marketing caddy strategy. Learn something new every day. JaniKing incepted me, I’ll admit it.

 

Streelman’s backwards/tilted adidas sunglass look is absolutely absurd – just crazy enough to work.

 

Mizuno is fully back. Between Kirk going low yesterday to Lucas Glover’s resurgence – I’m not sure any brand has had a better year than Mizuno. Lot of rumblings they designed Francesco’s blades that he just put in the bag this week (and won with) – check the twitter archives. Oh and lest we forget Abe being on the precipice of greatness. It’s obvious that Mizuno dumped more dollars into sponsorships, but just from my naked eye view I feel like they’ve gotten the best ROI.

 

Jeff Maggert losing by 1 shot this Hoag Classic might be the story of the weekend. I’m sure if you found your way to this site, and to the end of this review – you’ve seen his 5 putt on the 18th green Friday afternoon. We’ve all been there, just absolutely broken. Difference between us and Maggert is he goes out on the weekend and shoots 63 and 65 to earn a T3 finish.

 

In regards to Arnie it’s great to see this event get the credit it deserves. There were rumblings after the king passed that players would start to skip the API. With a strong corporate sponsorship, elevated status, and some scheduling favoritism – this event is set up for long term success. I’m glad NBC continues to make Arnold’s memory a focus of the telecast. His legacy is something I think we all understand from a high level – but something I as a golf fan need to learn more about and pay respect to.

 

We’ll fire up a Players preview this week – thanks for reading.