Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Golf's New Era is Here

Golf fans awoke sometime last weekend and realized that the page had been officially turned on the Tiger Woods era. It was rather painless and not nearly as bad as all the naysayers had predicted. The good news is that the dawning of this new era had nothing to do with Woods. It was all about a host of other greater and younger players.

When did this transformation start? Rory McIlroy laid the foundation for the process last year with his stellar play late in the season including two major championship victories. He rose to #1 in the World Golf Rankings, a spot he still holds despite his ankle injury which could sideline him for the remainder of the 2015 season.

Jordan Spieth caught everyone’s attention with his win at The Masters. Rickie Fowler proved that he could win a big one with his phenominal finish in May at The Players Championship. Spieth’s second major title at this summer’s U.S. Open put him in a class few 21-year olds have ever seen. Guys like Jason Day and Dustin Johnson keep knocking on the door of golf’s biggest prizes.

In the meantime, Woods continues to flounder after another comeback. His play has been so pitiful that fans have lost interest making it easy to migrate to golf’s five hotshots- McIlroy, Spieth, Fowler, Day and Johnson.

“When he took off his hat on the 18th green to shake hands with Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen, he looked as close to broken as I've ever seen a truly great athlete look. He entered this event thinking he had a real chance to contend. He wasn't even close to making the cut,” said Kevin Van Falkenberg of observing Woods after missing the cut.

John Huggan, another golf writer said, “Right this minute, Tiger is not capable of winning major championships. Nor is he capable of winning a regular tour event. He is, in reality, a well-below average PGA Tour player.

“The numbers are instructive. So far in 2015, Tiger has hit 52.86 per cent of the fairways he has aimed at. That would make him the 194th most accurate driver (out of 199) on the PGA Tour. In ‘greens in regulation’, his percentage is 61.11, “good” enough for 190th spot. But the most egregious figure is his stroke average of 72.796. Only former Masters champion Mike Weir is worse. Little wonder then, that Woods is ranked the 241st best golfer on the planet,” concluded Huggan.
Enough of the negative.

Zach Johnson won the Open Championship and he is now a two-time major champion who solidified his position in the World Golf Hall of Fame. He is 39-years old and hails from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Johnson is too old to be considered a young gun, but not old enough to be looked at as an old veteran. He is Midwest through and through. Loaded with guts and determination, Johnson should be an inspiration to anyone who ever attempted to play the game.

Few golf fans were not rooting like crazy for Spieth to win the Open Championship and continue his quest for the elusive Grand Slam- winning all four majors in the same season. But, he failed and joined Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as the only players in the history of golf to win The Masters and the U.S. Open and lose the British Open by a single shot. That is an impressive club for Spieth to join.

Uncharacteristically, it was the putter that betrayed Spieth. He had five 3-putt greens in the third round and 4-putted the 8th hole in the final round. St. Andrews has fourteen double greens and players can find themselves with very lengthy putts, especially in windy conditions.
“My stroke was good. I had really good practice. On these practice greens you're not able to get a good feel for the touch. It's tough to get pace practice because they're so small, so I didn't have much of it this week, and I kind of had to go off my feels, when typically you've got enough room -- I did plenty of work on the golf course”, said Spieth.

“It's no excuse, but as far as right before the round getting a pace for that day and the conditions and how the greens are cut, it's tough. You have to kind of go with it after you have one long putt. That was the struggle for me in this tournament was what my -- I think my biggest advantage over anybody in the world is, and that's my first putt proximity, and that was -- I think on the lower half of the field this week, and it certainly cost me at least a couple shots,” Spieth concluded.

There are many impressive things about Spieth besides his abilities on the course. He speaks in a tongue well beyond his years. He has earned the respect of his peers and everyone in the game.
Jim “Bones” Mackay is Phil Mickelson’s caddy. When his final round with Lefty was completed, Bones went back to the 17th hole to watch Spieth finish.

"I just think the kid is special," Mackay said. "I think he's gifted between the ears. When I say gifted, I mean like Jack Nicklaus-gifted. Jordan is going to do amazing things because he's such a killer between the ears."

This is a special time for professional golf. Who would ever imagine that the Open Championship would provide such drama without McIlroy- the defending Open champ and top player in the world? This current cast of characters could be a legendary list in a couple of decades. Tiger who?

Sunday, July 12, 2015


It’s been another eventful week for golf and the action has unfortunately again been off of the golf course. Donald Trump, who inside of golf, is viewed as a successful golf course developer and owner of premier golf facilities. He is also highly connected to all of golf’s major organizations as a host of events ranging from major championships to PGA TOUR events.

Trump is now a 2016 Republican candidate for President of the United States. He recently created a firestorm of controversy and criticism for the following comments he made a couple of weeks ago regarding illegal aliens entering the U.S. from Mexico.

“The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump was referring to illegal aliens, not Mexican-American citizens who earned their right to live in this country. A few days after the highly controversial remarks, Trump tried to clarify his position.
“I like Mexico. I love the Mexican people. I do business with the Mexican people, but you have people coming through the border that are from all over. And they’re bad. They’re really bad,” he said. “You have people coming in, and I’m not just saying Mexicans. I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re coming into this country.”

Interestingly, Trump has risen in the polls since speaking out on the immigration problems that face the United States. Currently, he is second in the Republican polls with 12% voter approval. He trails Jeb Bush who has 19%. If Trump fails to get the GOP nomination, there is a good chance that he might run as an Independent candidate. He claims to be worth $8.7 billion which gives him the financial foundation to complete the race.

This week, USA Today explored the Trump political appeal. Several things surfaced. “He says what everyone else thinks but is afraid to say because they want to be politically correct. For every candidate who is pushed and prodded by political consultants and polls, there is a Trump sound bite. Trump is not in it for the money. He doesn’t have to pander donors, because he is paying for his campaign himself. He just wants to fix the country.”

But it wasn’t all positive. “Trump will eventually say something destructive to his candidacy. Trump mocks and insults his opponents, from Mitt Romney (who he says is worth less than Trump’s Gucci store) to Rosie O’Donnell, whom Trump called “Fat Little Rosie” during a feud.

Safe to say, in many ways that you never know what you are going to get with Donald Trump. I was the President of the PGA of America when it entered into a business deal with Trump. That included the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, the 2017 Senior PGA at Trump National GC Washington DC, as well as a four-year Trump sponsorship of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf beginning in 2015. We were all happy to do business with Trump.

During my PGA Presidency I spent time with Trump. I have been in his office at 725 5th Avenue in Manhattan. We have discussed renovation plans and looked at blue prints for Turnberry GC in Scotland which Trump acquired over a year ago. We played golf together at Trump National in Bedminster and I had the privilege to be his guest at Trump International in Scotland a year ago this week during the Scottish Open. I have spoken on the phone with Trump numerous times on a variety of subjects. I feel like I know the man and understand him- as much as anyone can.

I do not believe that Donald Trump is a bigot. I do believe that he shoots from the hip at times and he is certainly a polarizing individual. Trump is generous and well-liked by the people who work for him. He flaunts his successes which turns a lot of people off. Can he be the President of the United States? Voters will make that choice.

This week the PGA of America yanked the upcoming Grand Slam of Golf from Trump Los Angeles. However, it decided to let Trump properties continue to host the remaining three Grand Slams and both Majors. That is a curious reaction from the PGA who has been all about political correctness, diversity and inclusion. It’s surprising that the PGA’s approach to Trump was not “all or nothing at all.”

Trump was fired last week by NBC after his Mexican remarks. No more “The Apprentice” or any of the Trump-owned beauty pageants. In turn Trump is suing NBC for $500 million and he has banned network employees from the Doral resort which he owns. NBC/Golf Channel has the television rights to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. NBC is also a major media partner with the PGA of America stemming from the Ryder Cup TV rights through 2030. NBC means more to the PGA than does Trump. Stayed tuned to see what eventually happens with the last three years of the Trump sponsored PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

Trump has certainly put the PGA Tour, USGA, PGA of America, the LPGA and the R&A in a tough spot. Some are saying that Turnberry may now be dropped from the Open Championship rotation and that would be a shame. The PGA Tour faces tough decisions with its WGC event at Trump-owned Doral. That event is sponsored by Cadillac which has factories in Mexico. The USGA is scheduled to play the U.S. Women’s Open at Trump Bedminster in two years.

Can Donald Trump be a Presidential candidate and stay active in professional golf? It doesn’t appear that will be the case. But knowing Trump, he has that figured out, too.