Every year, the players outside of the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list get kicked to the curb, forced to either retain their Tour card by other methods (prior tournament wins, all-time money list exemptions, etc.) or enter Q-School. Some of them are up-and-comers, still on the cusp of being a full-time Tour player, and some are older guys, struggling to stay relevant. Either way, here are nine (well, 11) of the guys that struggled on the PGA Tour in 2011.
Jamieson Weiss's Archive
Parity is the name of the game in sports these days. Many leagues do everything they possibly can to make sure that any team can do well any year. The NFL, in particular, prides itself on this.
Thanks to aggressive revenue sharing, a hard salary cap, the importance of drafting, and the nature of a 16-game schedule, the NFL is set up so that a team like the Kansas City Chiefs can go 4-12 one year (2009), hire a few new coordinators, and finish 10-6 the next year to win their division. By that same token, a team like the Minnesota Vikings can go 12-4 in 2009 and then 6-10 in 2010.
Golf has none of that. It's an individual sport, so there is no regulation to spread out the finishes. Each player effectively controls his own destiny. If there is to be parity in golf, it has to come about because of the players, not because of the PGA Tour.
That's the problem golf is facing now. With a wealth of relatively equally-spaced talent, the PGA Tour is becoming increasingly, well, boring. Without a few polarizing superstars, dynasties, if you will, many of the golf tournaments this year have been downright bland. And, at least in near future, it's only going to get worse.
The 18th hole can make or break your round. It's where you finish off your opponent, come from behind, or claim the trophy. When the leaderboard is crowded it can be the most stressful hole in golf, but with a big advantage it's a time to bask in the glories of victory, the one and only time you will ever see a professional golfer take off his hat and stride towards the green, arms waving in acknowledgement of crowd.
The best 18th holes combine risk and reward, and are the crown jewels of the course that architects dream about. You want to leave the golfer with a good taste in their mouths, because 17 lackluster holes can be forgotten thanks to one great one (which is probably why I always seen to hit the fairway on the last hole when I've played an entire crappy round). You want to offer the golfer a chance to make a birdie (or even an eagle), but you also want to punish bad shots, and make double bogey possible as well. On the PGA Tour this is all the more important, as multi-million dollar tournaments typically come down to the 72nd hole.
One of the more frequent thread topics that pops up in the forum is the question, "If you could have any company to sponsor you as a professional golfer, who would you choose?" Because most of us don't have a prayer of ever being sponsored by a major golf company, it's interesting to hear the responses. The great thing about this question is that the answers don't have to be rational or well thought out. You can be a huge Nike fan simply because they sent you a free bag tag when you made a hole-in-one. Or you can be a fan of Callaway because you're a big Phil Mickelson guy. Many people like a certain brand because of their other product, Nike running shoes, for example. I even know some people who are fans of certain brands because of the colors (not a phenomenon that's confined to golf either, I have a friend from New Jersey who is a die-hard Miami Dolphins fan because he liked the team's colors as a kid).
It's no secret that all brands have strengths and weaknesses. Mizuno is known for their great irons, but their woods have traditionally been nothing special (though they have made strides the last few years). TaylorMade lays claim to the number one drivers in golf (if you believe the marketing), but they haven't customarily offered much in the way of irons for low handicappers. Cleveland's wedges have long been some of the best sellers in the business, but the rest of their clubs have lagged behind.
Then there are all of the smaller companies. Scratch Golf specializes in wedges, though they also offer hybrids. Adams is the most popular hybrid brand on the Champions Tour, but they have yet to made huge inroads into the rest of the industry. Furthermore, there are droves of boutique brands who'll charge you an premium just for their name and some smooth lines.
I set out to see what five brands I would chose if I was a pro and had to play with just one company, and to answer this oft-asked forum question once and for all (for me at least). I neglected money, so that smaller companies without the resources of Titleist still had a shot. As to not eliminate about 80% of brands right off the bat, I decided not to include apparel as a requirement, but as more of a bonus. Here are my top five.
The 93rd PGA Championship concluded nearly one week ago, and Tour-rookie Keegan Bradley walked away the victor. Bradley is the first player since Ben Curtis in 2003 to win a major in his first appearance, and only the second in over 90 years. Bradley is also the first player ever to win a major with a belly putter, and his late-round five-stroke comeback was one of the best finishes of the year. In fact, despite declining ratings mainly due to the demise of Tiger Woods, this year's PGA has continued a streak of exciting PGA finishes, and it's refuting the assertion of the PGA being the least of the four majors.
Bridgestone golf might not have the notoriety or the reputation of a big company like Titleist or Nike, but they are quickly making significant inroads into the big business of golf balls.
Bridgestone's dedication to innovation has put them at the forefront of technological advancements, and they are often the first to come out with new ideas in the golf ball industry. Although they aren't always at the top of the "Buzz" column, they consistently put out quality golf balls that are poised to compete with new offerings from the likes of TaylorMade, Nike, and Titleist.
Bridgestone currently offers two main line of golf ball: the Tour B330 line, and the "e" line, in addition to their xFIXx golf ball. The Tour B330 line consists of four different golf balls, with each one fitting a different type of golfer. The Tour B330 line further breaks down into the regular B330 group, and the B330-RX group, which offer golfers of all swing speeds a tour-quality urethane-covered golf ball that promises unmatched performance. Bridgestone is the truly only manufacturer to cater to golfers of all levels.
Although the Open Championship was an exciting tournament, with a thrilling final round and a great background to the winner, a lot of the story is of what could have been. Throughout the week we saw players make runs, but inevitably all but Darren Clarke fell back.
Phil Mickelson earned just his second top-10 finish in the Open with a T2. Rickie Fowler, no one's pre-tournament pick to be much of a bad-weather player, fired a third-round 68, putting up possibly the round of the tournament in a driving rain storm. Tom Watson shot four solid rounds near par, and recorded another strong Open finish. Thomas Bjorn, only several months removed from the loss of his father, managed a first-round 65 and was in contention until the end. Bearded Lucas Glover, a player who seems to rise only for the big occasions, was also in contention after a strong first day. Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, both former major-championship chokers, made strong runs on Sunday, but both fell just short. Finally, a long-haired Anthony Kim made a strong push on Sunday, hopefully giving him a kick in the rear substantial enough to get him to the driving range every once in a while.
In this edition of Trap Five, we take a look not only at what went down, but what could have happened. What might have been if the bounces had gone the other way, or if the sun had shone at a different time? We examine how the competitor's lives could have changed had they pulled out the Open Championship.
We're halfway through the 2011 major championship golf season, and already it's proving to be a good one. Even though Tiger Woods was at home on the couch, Rory McIlroy gave us one of the most thrilling weeks of golf in history. Bouncing back from what had been a painful pedigree in past majors, Rory steamrolled the field on Thursday and Friday, and kept up a steady pace over the weekend en route to a eight-stroke victory. This time around there were no meltdowns, no final-round charges, and no broomsticks (though Robert Garrigus did finish T3 with a putter half the size of Adam Scott's), but what we did get was four great days of golf on a rain-soaked course that became vulnerable to low scores. In many respects, this year's U.S. Open was about as different from the Masters as possible, but equally as impressive.
Thanks to John Feinstein, everyone knows Mark Twain's famous quote. You know, the one where he famously called golf a "good walk spoiled." Sometimes golf is beautiful game between you, nature, and your sandbagging buddies who constantly assure you that inside the leather is inside the leather, even if their belly-putter has a grip that puts Adam Scott's broomstick to shame.
But sometimes golf really sucks. Everybody has those kind of days once in a while. You go to the range beforehand and you're hitting frozen ropes straight out to center field, but the minute you step onto the tee it's like the driver is a foreign object, and the fairway become a mythical place that should never be disturbed. More than maybe any other game, golf can bring any even the more experience players to their knees, at any time.
In this edition of Trap Five, we take a look into those moments on the course when it feels like the golf gods smack you right in the face.