Punch Shots: Moving the Match Play
Punch Shots is a collection of stories that I didn’t get around to earlier or didn’t fit into another article. I’ll give a link to a larger story and have some quick thoughts below.
Accenture is done sponsoring the WGC-Match Play after 2014. Can we change the venue now?
Alex Miceli has the story at Golf Week that Accenture has decided that 2014 will be the last year that it sponsors the WGC-Match Play, so the PGA Tour will have to start looking for a new company to fork over millions for the naming rights. In that same story, he mentions that the tournament could also be looking at not only a new date on the calendar, moving from February to later in the year, but also at a new location. Dove Mountain has played host to the tournament since 2009, and has consistently ranked as one of the worst venues as voted by the PGA Tour players.
I’ve been on the record several times about the need to move the event, and thankfully, that looks to be possible now. From the awful weather that you see in the Sands/Maltbie GIF, to the uninspiring layout that causes many players to not even want to show up, the event is in desperate need of a change. Just about anywhere will do, but I’d love to see it taken overseas to say, Royal County Down and you wouldn’t have to twist my arm to watch the event at Royal Melbourne, either.
Hideki Matsuyama is joining the PGA Tour full time
He had to pull out this week with a wrist injury, but Jason Sobel has the good news that the 21-year old Matsuyama will essentially be playing a full schedule in North America on the PGA Tour this season. He doesn’t seem to be picky either when asked about where he’s looking to play the most:
“All the tournaments are courses that I’ve only seen on TV,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to playing all of those.”
Clearly he hasn’t watched the Humana.
If he stays healthy, I’ll be pretty surprised if he doesn’t win a tournament this year on the PGA Tour, and like I’ve said before, this guy is every bit as good as Jordan Spieth with nowhere near the amount of press, which I’m hoping will change in 2014.
Sobel on scaling back and Billy Horschel
Two good pieces from Sobel over the past few days. First, he tackles the idea of golfers like Brendon de Jonge, who is still looking for his first PGA Tour win, scaling back their schedules in order to focus on getting that first victory.
Secondly, Sobel takes a look at Billy Horschel, one of golf’s most fascinating characters. Profile pieces like this don’t get written very often, and there are several quality stories in there about who Horschel is and how he got to this point. Interestingly, the story that Sobel shares about Horschel and Boo Weekley at the Greenbrier led me to look back at my GIFs from that week and I had two of Horschel. If you read the piece, you’ll understand why these are interesting.
I’ll reiterate once again that seeing Horschel take on Ian Poulter at the Ryder Cup is one of my wishes for the 2014 season.
From the links I’ve seen and read, nobody is really quite sure of what this deal really means, outside of the promise that golf fans will be getting some form of extra access this season at the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup, which is obviously never a bad thing, but the whole idea still seems hollow to me. First, the exclusive deal with Samsung definitely cuts out a good portion of users who aren’t on Samsung devices and products, plus the fact that only two events are getting extra coverage in a season that spans the entire calendar makes this completely meaningless on a near weekly basis.
I will continue to harp on it until it happens, but a real, tangible plan for digital platforms is what’s actually needed and until that happens, golf will continue to lag behind and not provide their fans with the best possible experience in a new, digital world.
Harrington: “It was like an electric eel in my hand”
Joe Molloy has an interview here with three-time major championship winner Padraig Harrington on his struggles over the last couple of years, and as usual, Harrington is fantastic to listen to. In the podcast, he mentions how bad his putting was last year, likening it to having an electric eel in his hand.
Steve Williams details how Tiger fired him
Brian Wacker of PGATour.com posted a very interesting Q&A with legendary caddie Steve Williams last week, and it’s definitely worth checking out. They cover everything from how he got his start, to working with great players like Greg Norman and Tiger, as well as the details surrounding his firing back in 2011, which apparently, we had gotten wrong the whole time.
Rickie Fowler is now working with Butch Harmon
It’s no secret that Fowler didn’t exactly have the best season in 2013, so his decision to ask Butch Harmon for help should come as no surprise. Tim Rosaforte broke the story, and also mentioned that Harmon actually asked his star pupil, Phil Mickelson, for permission before taking Fowler on as a client. There’s a couple of great quotes in there too, from Fowler talking about how he wants to be known for more than his apparel to Mickelson suggesting that the game of golf needs Fowler in the spotlight. Their official work began ahead of last month’s Thailand Golf Championship where he finished tied for 8th, and apparently the focus of Harmon right now is on shortening Fowler’s swing.
I’m honestly of the opinion that outside of Tiger, there is no more important player in the game right now than Fowler, who is exceedingly popular with a younger audience of fans that can’t relate to many of the older players that they see every week. If he can have some more success, and get some wins under his bright belt, it’s for the best of everyone in the golf industry.
The LPGA Race to the CME Globe
Randall Mell has the details of the LPGA Tour’s new FedEx Cup copy, the eloquently titled Race to the CME Globe. I’m not one of the people who hates the FedEx Cup, so I get why the LPGA Tour would want to mimic it, and the players have to be happy with the chance to receive an additional $1 million bonus if they can come away victorious. The biggest problem with the whole thing is that awful name.
Matt Fitzpatrick leaves Northwestern
The big story yesterday was one that came completely out of left field, as the world’s number one ranked amateur, Matt Fitzpatrick, is leaving Northwestern University after one semester to go back home to England so he can focus on golf full time. From Ryan Herrington’s article above:
“Based on the opportunities I have right now from a golf perspective, I feel it is important to dedicate 100 percent of my time to the game and have decided to withdraw from university in the U.S.,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick was looked at as the big reason for Northwestern’s success last season, and was being counted on to deliver once again, so obviously Pat Goss and his crew are disappointed, but from Fitzpatrick’s perspective, if this is what he thinks he needs to do, that’s really all the matters. Perhaps the success of Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Matteo Manassero played a role in his decision, who knows, but what is interesting is the quick change of heart from last year to now from both him and his family. Ryan Lavner shares this quote from Fitzpatrick’s father Russell from back in August:
“Whatever he eventually wins,” Russell Fitzpatrick said at the time, “that’s the best prize he’s got. A great education. … If he decides to play professional golf someday, he has no pressure because he knows he has a fallback option. If he turns pro after one year and it doesn’t work out, and he doesn’t have a degree, if he’s just a flash in the pan, then what’s he go with?”
I won’t tell Fitzpatrick what to do because that just isn’t my place. I just hope that he knows what he’s doing.
So, Rory and Caroline aren’t done?
Not a whole lot to say here, but I had to laugh when I saw this tweet come across my timeline on December 31st:
What happened to that breakup that we kept hearing about? I’m looking at you, The Independent.
Big names changing equipment
Ryan Ballengee has the full list that we’ve heard about to date at Golf News Net, and there have been some pretty big switches entering 2014. Ernie Els is moving to Adams Golf, and will attempt to win his fourth major championship with four different manufacturers, while after losing Els, Callaway made some big splashes, most notably with Harris English, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Matteo Manassero and Henrik Stenson. Stenson’s the big name, and after playing with all kinds of different gear over the last few years, he’s going all Callaway.
Also, Graham DeLaet is staying with Titleist, but moving from Sligo to Puma for his apparel. He announced it in the video below, where you definitely cannot tell that he’s Canadian.
The Ian Poulter/Steve Elkington Twitter fight
The least surprising thing on this edition of Punch Shots is definitely that Steve Elkington is still pissing people off. After his mouth got him into trouble a few weeks ago, Elkington decided to go after Ian Poulter for some reason, and you can find the details with Kyle Porter at CBS.
I saw Poulter tweeting about it that day, and was quickly reminded once again why I don’t follow Elkington. Some people just can’t be helped.
A reminder that the Masters isn’t that far off
It seems like everything that Augusta National does is pretty classy, and we were reminded of that fact again recently when Graham DeLaet tweeted out his invitations to this year’s event.
Only 89 days away, folks.