Analysis of PGA Tour Season Changes 0 8

(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) Feb. 4, 2012 — Here’s quick analysis of Tim Finchem’s plan to reshape the PGA Tour season and eliminate Q School as an immediate launch pad to the PGA Tour:

Vertical product integration: Finchem’s plan makes the Nationwide Tour (or its name successor, if it’s not called the Nationwide Tour in a future year) the only gateway to the big tour.

De-Democratization: No longer will a golf phenom be able to shoot lights out over the course of six rounds of PGA Tour Q School and step directly onto the world stage. Under the Finchem plan, if you don’t have PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour status, you must go to Q School to get status on the Nationwide Tour first, then play your way onto the big tour from there.

No fall layoff: While the top 125 players will advance to the fall FedEx Cup playoffs like they do now, the other 75 will no longer be idle. Instead, they and the top 75 players on the Nationwide Tour list will basically begin a combined three-event fall Q school. Of these 150 players, only the 50 top finishers will get PGA Tour cards for the new season.

Play well or go home: The 100 players who don’t advance to the PGA Tour through the three-event fall series must go to the December Q School to retain Nationwide Tour status, play well there and win their way back to PGA Tour status.

Start the season in the fall: Instead of January events in Hawaii and California marking the start of a new PGA Tour season in terms of points and rankings, Finchem wants the season to start in the fall, right after the FedEx playoffs conclude. This lets several late fall events become part of the Fed Ex Cup race.

It also may serve as a disincentive for PGA Tour players who travel overseas in late fall for appearance money — because they’ll lose out on earning points back at home as the new FedEx Cup points season is starting up.

“So the fall events would apply toward the following year in terms of Player of the Year, FedEx Cup points, Arnold Palmer Award and those kind of things,” Finchem said in late January.

Reading between the lines: Finchem’s people apparently have tracked the success (or lack thereof) of PGA Tour Q School grads, especially repeat Q School grads, who keep going back and re-qualifying over and over again and then doing nothing on the PGA Tour year in and year out. He’s essentially saying the seasoning that occurs on the Nationwide Tour may eliminate the two-tiered PGA Tour we have now — the guys at the top who win or place most often and the guys at the bottom tier who miss cuts, who don’t make money and who aren’t really competitive week in and week out.

Timing: Fall of 2013.

The impact in Finchem’s own words: “It has the effect of strengthening the Nationwide Tour, and it has the effect of strengthening the fall events, as well. It also has the effect of strengthening the FedEx Cup, and it has the effect of bringing to a tighter conclusion what a season is of the PGA Tour competitively. This year we had the FedEx Cup champion, then six weeks later we’re still talking about the money title, and it would bring all that together, and then the votes for the Player of the Year would come right on the heels of the end of the actual season.”

— Dan Vukelich

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PING CEO: Change the Golf Ball, Save the Courses 0 4

(PHOENIX) Jan. 3, 2012 –The chairman and CEO of Ping says three different balls should be approved by rule-makers — one longer, one the same as and one shorter than balls currently approved for play.

Shorter balls could then be mandated as a condition of play on classic courses hosting PGA Tour events — keeping them competitive. Longer balls could be allowed for amateur play. Ball distance could even be factored into handicaps — like course slope ratings, says PING head John Solheim.

The proposal is a radical departure from the principle underlying the Rules of Golf that a single ball with a single distance limit be played by players at all levels, even though many golf authorities believe the length of the modern golf ball is the single biggest factor in making some of the great courses of the 19th and 20th centuries obsolete for professional play.

In a letter to the USGA and the R&A, Solheim proposed  a “Ball Distance Rating System” to categorize balls into three distance categories. “This concept addresses the unique talents of the top 0.1 percent of the world’s golfers without hurting the other 99.9 percent,” Solheim said.

A “silver dot” rating could apply to balls that conform to the current distance limits, a “gold dot” rating to balls that are longer (perhaps 30 yards longer), and a “bronze dot” rating for balls that are shorter than today’s ball limit (again, maybe 30 yards shorter),” Solheim said.

“More BDR levels could be added, if needed, to address future increases in driving distance by Tour professionals,” he said.

“Most courses hosting professional tour events were built with, or have added, sufficient length to challenge the world’s best golfers. Perhaps a small number of tournaments, those played at some of the game’s classic courses, would find it exciting to put the original design elements of the layout back in play by requiring shorter rated golf balls,” he said.

Higher handicappers could play a longer ball to make them competitive against longer courses, Solheim said.

Click here for John Solheim’s complete statement.

Lobos’ Davie to Get Golf-Club Membership 0 15

(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) Dec. 2, 2011 — Bob Davie, the University of New Mexico’s new football coach, will get a country-club membership has part of his compensation package — but local golfers are asking, at which one?

There are only three country clubs  in Albuquerque: Four Hills Country Club, Tanoan Country Club and Albuquerque Country Club.

Which one would be a good fit for the former Notre Dame coach-turned-broadcaster charged with turning around the worst team in Division I football? You decide:

Four Hills Country Club, in the far Southeast Heights, is by far the best club layout in town. Hilly, surrounded by rambling ranch-style 1960s and 70s homes, it lies in a fashionable area. Four Hills has all the amenities, tennis courts, swimming pool and formal dining room.

The downside is that Four Hills has a declining golf membership, driven by a tsunami of debt that past managers  took on to pay for a new irrigation system and to rebuild two golf holes — right before the economy tanked.

Albuquerque Country Club, nestled south and west of downtown, is the city’s oldest and is home to Albuquerque’s “old’ money.

It is surrounded by old, majestic housing stock in the Country Club and Huning Castle neighborhoods. The club’s main dining room was recently renovated to keep up with the bustling coat-and-tie business-lunch crowd from nearby Downtown. ACC is  heavy with old-school perks and service staff.

The downside is that while ACC’s tree-lined fairways make for a pleasant walk, its 18-hole layout is pancake-flat. Its members were once indisputably the movers and shakes of the city, and many still are, but demographically ACC’s membership is significantly older.

The no-brainer is Tanoan Country Club, the city’s newest club,  up in the far, far Northeast Heights and home to the city’s “new” money. Tanoan, built in the 1980s, lies within the walls of a gated community. Its 27 holes sprawl across significant elevation changes, making Tanoan tough, tight and challenging. Great views abound.

Tanoan’s housing stock is large and spacious, tending toward columns, arches and vaulted ceilings befitting the city’s newly anointed football royalty. Its clubhouse has the bustling feel of a center of the city’s club-related commerce.  Its membership is heavy on brokerage, real-estate, insurance and financial services professionals who inhabit the glass buildings of Uptown Albuquerque — the very people the new football coach likely needs to cultivate as boosters.

But there is a dark horse: The struggling University of New Mexico Championship Golf Course near the airport.

Recently, a focus group comprising friends of the golf course, including a past UNM president, asked why UNM doesn’t insist that its alumni and UNM athletic fundraising events bet held at the UNM course, which is under the gun from the regents to reduce its operating deficit and start showing a profit.

Although it is a daily-fee course, with sketchy food service and infrastructure problems, UNM has one of the best layouts in the state and has a history with the NCAA.

If Davie were to become associated with the UNM golf course it would go a long way to plugging him into the soul of Loboland, and would help UNM stave off pressure to sell or close the golf course. It could be the kind of win-win that would hasten Davie’s acceptance into his new community.

— Dan Vukelich