NEW YORK – With the PGA Tour getting closer to a sponsor for the World Golf Championship at Doral, that leaves only three tournaments – Memphis, Hilton Head and the Bob Hope Classic – without title sponsors after 2010.
Seth Waugh, the CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas whose company just extended its deal for two years, understands better than most that the tour is emerging from a tough economic climate in amazing shape.
He recalls a phone conversation with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in the fall of 2008.
“This crisis was really bad,” Waugh said last week. “I said, ‘Tim, I know everybody thinks it’s bad, but I’m in the middle of it. And this is really bad. You need to start rethinking a lot of things.’ I wasn’t asking for anything, just giving him advice about being prepared.’
“They’ve done remarkably well,” Waugh said. “I think it’s a great reflection on the game and their own work ethic.”
Finchem said signing up sponsors takes longer than it once did, and that there’s far more scrutiny by companies when it comes to spending discretionary dollars. “But the scrutiny helps us, because compared with other sports, we pencil out pretty good.”
That’s not to suggest the tour is all clear.
The next big piece of the puzzle is a new television contract, with a six-year deal with the networks expiring after 2012.
“The first stage, they’ve done a good job,” Waugh said. “The big one is going to be TV.”
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JACK’S RECORD: The rules have changed, meaning this is one record that most likely will never be broken in golf.
Jack Nicklaus won seven majors before playing in his first Ryder Cup.
“I’d say you could put that one in granite,” Justin Leonard said with a laugh.
“That is quite outstanding,” said Ian Poulter, searching for the right words until he settled on “Wow.”
Jeff Overton and Rickie Fowler will make their Ryder Cup debut this year having not won any event on the PGA Tour, just as Oliver Wilson did for Europe two years ago.
Told about Nicklaus winning seven majors before his 1969 Ryder Cup debut, Hunter Mahan jokingly replied, “I won the Bridgestone Invitational. That’s my biggest win.”
Before tour players broke away from the PGA of America, they had to be a PGA member for five years before they were eligible for the Ryder Cup. Nicklaus won his 18 majors over 24 years, yet Phil Mickelson already has played on more Ryder Cup teams (seven).
“I was fortunate to play on six teams,” Nicklaus said. “However, because of the way the rules were at the time, I was not eligible for the Ryder Cup until I became a Class A PGA of America professional.”
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MAGIC NUMBER: For Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby, shooting a 59 was the highlight of their careers.
What followed? Not so much.
“I haven’t even made a cut,” Goydos said last week at the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he ended that dubious streak.
Goydos opened with a 59 at the John Deere Classic and wound up second to Steve Stricker. He then missed the cut in the British Open, The Greenbrier Classic and the PGA Championship before finishing 70th at the TPC Boston.
Appleby is getting better results, just not better scores. Since he shot 59 in the final round to win The Greenbrier, he has yet to break 70 in his last 16 rounds.
This was news to the Australian.
“The only thing I know is I shot the only 59 of my career,” Appleby said after closing with a 70 on Monday. “And that’s the only stat I’m likely to remember.”
Appleby has made the cut every week, but hasn’t cracked the top 50.
“I just haven’t been able to get the magic with the putter,” he said. “I can’t get to that point where I’m tipping my cap. But I’m happy with the way I’m playing.”
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VERPLANK WAITS: Scott Verplank won an NCAA title, a U.S. Amateur and a PGA Tour event while attending Oklahoma State, and he remains one of the Cowboys’ biggest boosters. So what was he doing catching up on the Oklahoma Sooners on Sunday?
Verplank had to withdraw from the Deutsche Bank Championship with a left wrist injury so severe that he couldn’t control his club through the swing. He wanted to get an MRI on Sunday, when the offices are closed. Because his doctors also are aligned with the Sooners, his only hope was for injuries to the football team that required tests. That way, doctors could squeeze him in.
“No one from OU got hurt,” he said Monday night. “And today was a holiday.”
Verplank wound up 70th in the FedEx Cup standings, which made him eligible for the BMW Championship. He was to take a cortisone shot Monday night to try to play, then hope the MRI showed no structural damage.
“I might be able to play, but I won’t know until Wednesday afternoon,” Verplank said. “I’ve had quite a few cortisone shots, and I haven’t had one make a difference for the first two or three or four days. This is a last-ditch effort to see if I can get one to work.
“I’m not going to tee it up if I can’t grip the club.”
Verplank was outside the top 70 until Charlie Wi birdied the last hole to go from a four-way tie for 21st to a four-way tie for 18th. Kris Blanks, who had been tied with Wi, slipped into a three-way tie for 22nd and finished two points behind Verplank.
“I texted Charlie and told him I owe him a steak dinner,” Verplank said.
Maybe more than that. The bonus money for 70th place in the FedEx Cup is $110,000, up from $80,000 for 71st place.
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DIVOTS: Oklahoma State junior Peter Uihlein has won the Mark H. McCormack Medal for being the No. 1 player in the world amateur ranking, which is decided after the European Amateur and U.S. Amateur. It caps off a strong 12 months for Uihlein, who went 4-0 at the Walker Cup at Merion a year ago and won the U.S. Amateur last month at Chambers Bay. … With his victory in the European Masters, Miguel Angel Jimenez has won 11 times since turning 40. … Robert Allenby, recovering from a knee injury when he slipped on his boat, now believes he has a case of vertigo from bumping his head during the fall. He felt dizzy at times after bending over to pick up his tee at the TPC Boston.
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STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods has lost more world ranking points than any other player has gained this year.
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FINAL WORD: “I’ve been on more teams than I have wins.” – Hunter Mahan, with three PGA Tour victories. He has been on two Presidents Cup and two Ryder Cup teams.