By Ken MacLeod
A few topics of interest as golf season stretches its legs.
First, a big congrats to Rhein Gibson of Edmond for his successful debut last week on the Web.com Tour. Playing in the Panama Claro Championship, the former Oklahoma Christian standout shot a 4-under 66 in the final round, which fell on his 29th birthday. He tied for sixth, which on the Web.com Tour means a payday of $19,563.
Gibson will likely need every dime of whatever the IRS leaves him for expenses to help kick start his career. The Web.com Tour plays six of its first seven events south of the U.S., including stops this week and next in Columbia, followed by Brazil, Chile, back to the U.S. in Louisiana and then to Guanajuato, Mexico, before the U.S. centric schedule begins April 23 at Midland, Texas.
We realize that the PGA Tour always flows to where the sponsors are, but this seems unduly punishing, particularly for first-year Web.com players. Most anyone who made any significant money on the Web.com Tour in 2014 has moved on to the PGA Tour. First-year players like Gibson are coming off mini-tours where even top-10 finishes can be a losing proposition balanced against entry fees and travel costs. To ask them to purchase international plane tickets, then spend six weeks on the road where they have to pay for all living expenses, seems ridiculous.
If the PGA Tour cannot find domestic sponsors in any warm-weather states to begin the season, could it not foot the bill itself from the massive television contracts it commands. We often wonder where all the PGA Tour revenue goes anyway, since sponsors pay for the purse and "charitable donation," leaving the ticket sales, merchandise, concessions and television revenue to cover everything else, which we guess mostly means staff and operations at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra. Most of the workforce at each event are volunteers who pay for the privilege. Seems like there would be plenty left over to sponsor a few U.S. sites in February and March for its developmental tour.
Purses for the Web.com Tour run between $600,000 to $800,000. The terms of the PGA Tour’s long-running contracts with CBS, NBC and The Golf Channel have never been disclosed, but to think the Tour couldn’t find a few million to bring three of those six events stateside is laughable. That way the more well-off players could compete internationally and the rest would have a more modest alternative.
As it is, some of the young players or their sponsors are going to be in a deep hole financially by the time the tour finally gets going in the U.S.
More Happy Days for Robert Streb and family
Congratulations are also in order for Robert Streb, who along with wife Maggie became a proud papa to daughter Catherine Joye on Feb. 3.
Streb, an Edmond North graduate and native of Chickasha, left to join Maggie after finishing tied for 10th in the Waste Management Phoenix Open Sunday. It was his fifth top-10 and sixth top-25 finish in eight starts, including a victory in the McGladrey Classic. He has made all eight cuts and remains second in the FedEx Cup point standings.
The travails of Tiger
The term "glute activation" is a buzzword among workout mavens and you can find a lot of references to it on Google. Essentially it means doing exercises that make your large glute muscles strong and active enough to take pressure off other areas, including your lower back.
Tiger makes it sound like it’s something you turn on and off like a light switch. He’s probably fooling himself. Tiger has equated great golf with incredible fitness so long now he may not remember he was the world’s greatest golfer long before he looked like one of the warriors on the video games he loves.
His obsession with swing speed, ball speed, "explosion" and other TrackMan numbers is all misplaced. At age 39, with a body beat down internally by millions of violent swings, he needs a stable, rhythmic swing that puts the ball consistently in the short grass even if it means giving up 20 to 30 yards of distance. He’s no longer going to be the guy lashing it 230 yards from a bunker over a lake to a back right pin. We will always remember that Tiger with awe, but those days are gone.
There’s a great column here by Joe Posnaski about the inevitable victory of time that Tiger is struggling against. It doesn’t mean he can’t retool his swing and become a better golfer and less of a bomb-and-gouger. From what we saw at Phoenix and San Diego, it looks like the time spent since the back operation last summer was wasted in a defiant attempt to flail even harder at the ball, with a head dip of six to eight inches and a swing that appears painful even when executed successfully. We’re certainly not surprised that the back injury has flared up again and can only see it getting worse until he loses his obsession with length, stays tall and begins finding the fairway.
Paul Azinger said he can fix Tiger in five minutes if he would listen. Nick Faldo says Tiger’s excuses about his short game are rubbish and just a result of inattention to that aspect. Perhaps because so much of Tiger’s success was based on intimidation, he doesn’t think he can win unless he’s outdriving everyone. But the intimidation came from everyone in the field seeing that red number on the board in the first round and knowing it was just going to go lower from there. It doesn’t matter how it’s achieved.
With his body of today, the only way I see him achieving anything going forward is transitioning to a swing that doesn’t stress his back and will result in a reasonably straight drive. He may have to give up 40 yards to do it. So he’s 200 yards out on a 490-yard par-4. Hit a 5- or 6-iron, make a par and move on, birdie the par-5s and the shorter par-4s or par-3s. But until his mindset changes dramatically, we can’t see the swing changing either and that may mean his career is essentially over.