Friday, November 28, 2008

Skins Game? So What

The annual Skins Game, the first big money silly season event, will be played again this weekend but Mr. Fairway suspects very few golf fans will bother to tune in. Why should they with a field that is low on the excitement scale? Defending champion Stephen Ames, Phil Mickelson, Rocco Mediate and the effervescent K.J. Choi don't excactly make for compelling golf. How did Ames, who is ranked 34th in the world, get into the event in the first place? We like Phil and Rocco, who is living off his dramatic duel with Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open, but will they offer any real excitement? Probably not. In the old days, it was fun to watch Nicklaus and Trevino and Watson compete for gobs of money. Today, these guys can make $250,000 for wearing the patch of a dog food company on the sleeve of their shirt. The format is old and outdated. Perhaps if they were playing for their own money it might be interesting. It's time to pull the plug on this Thanksgiving weekend turkey. Mr. Fairway will be watching football.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Steve Lamontagne.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Buick Bails on Tiger

General Motors announced today that it will end its estimated $7 million a year endorsement deal with Tiger Woods, who was sponsored by Buick for the past nine years. The news should not come as a surprise given that the auto makers were in Washington, D.C. last week looking for a government bailout. Perhaps GM would have more luck asking the largest revenue producer in sports for financial assistance. Or, as my golfing partner John suggests, a reverse sponsorship in which Tiger pays Buick. At least golf fans won’t be subjected to those cheesy Buick commercials.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Russ Cochran.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

J.P. Hayes Calls DQ on Himself

Here’s another example of what sets golf apart from other sports. During the second stage of the PGA Tour’s qualifying competition, J.P. Hayes disqualified himself for using a golf ball not on the USGA approved list. The move ended his bid to obtain his tour card for next season. Hayes unwittingly used the prototype Titleist ball for two shots on the 12th hole in his second round in McKinney, Texas and reported it to a tour official who assessed a two-stroke penalty. After initially thinking he had violated the tour’s one ball rule that requires a competitor to use the same brand and model of golf ball in competition, Hayes realized that the ball was a prototype that was not on the USGA approved list. To that point, Hayes, who shot rounds of 74 and 71, was in good shape to advance to the Q-School finals. Hayes, a two-time winner, played in 28 events last year winning just $312, 152, ranking him 176th on the money list. His best finish was T-9 at the John Deere Classic. I hope tournament sponsors recognize his honesty and that into cnsideration when awarding exemptions next year.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Taylor Smith.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Q-School Update

This is the season when the has-beens and wannabes find themselves at the PGA Tour Qualifying School in attempt to win a coveted pass to big money. Although two more second stage qualifying events are being played this week, quite few former players have already learned their fates by missing the cutoff to advance to the six-round final. The most heartbreaking story -- pun intended -- was that of Erik Compton, who is the recipient of two heart transplants. Compton missed going to the finals by one shot after he hit the 16th green in two in his final round and three putting. He mistakenly believed he needed an eage to make the number.

Among those who might consider finding real work were: Grant Waite, Joel Kribel, J.L. Lewis, Clark Dennis, Omar Uresti, Tom Byrum, J.P. Hayes, Dicky Pride, Skip Kendall, Ryan Armour, Bobby Clampett, Nolan Henke, Len Mattiace, Tom Scherrer, Jim McGovern, David Peoples, Danny Briggs, Trevor Dodds, Jim Gallagher Jr., Mike Heinen, Tipp Isenhour and Billy Andrade.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Wes Ellis.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Golf Industry Tries to Grow the Game

The fact that economy is in the toilet and getting worse with each passing government bailout has not gone unnoticed by those in the golf industry. As a result, a new program was introduced earlier this week with the lofty goal of attracting 700,000 new golfers and enticing them to play 5.7 million rounds in the next five years. The ambitious program is called “Get Ready to Golf” and will enlist nearly 5,000 golf courses across the country that will offer a package of five golf lessons covering basic skills, rules and etiquette for the low price of $99. Cindy Davis, president of Nike Golf, said the program will be rolled out next spring and if successful could generate $700 million for the golf industry. The ambitious program comes at a time when the National Golf Foundation reports that rounds in the United States dropped to 26 million in 2005 compared to 30 million in 2000. The NGF estimates that 3 million people quit playing golf each year and that several hundred of the 3,000 golf courses built between 1990 and 2003 have closed. The core of the “Get Ready to Golf” program is a grass roots effort targeted at getting new golfers out on a golf course and entice them to stay with the game with lessons, golf leagues and family programs.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Tommy Nakajima.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sergio is No. 2

In case you missed it, Sergio Garcia moved into the No. 2 spot in the world golf rankings behind Tiger Woods. Garcia’s victory in the HSBC Champions tournament in China was enough to make him No. 2 and drop Phil Mickelson to No. 3. Garcia’s ranking is the highest of his career. The last European to be ranks as high was Colin Montgomerie in 1996. Wood has held the top ranking for 521 weeks. The rest of the top 10 are: Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington, Robert Karlsson, Camilio Villegas, Lee Westwood, Anthony Kim, and Henrik Stenson.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Pierre Faulke.