Mark’s View


Biggest Challenge on the PGA Tour…the schedule!

Make no mistake about it, less than three months into the job, new PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan is facing some extremely difficult challenges. In my estimation, the most complicated and potentially most important is the PGA Tour schedule and sweeping changes that are likely to occur over the next few years. There are a number of different factors and forces that will impact scheduling…not the least of which will be the long term television rights negotiations that the PGA Tour is currently undergoing with both incumbent networks and potential new media platforms.

The schedule change just this month to the former Florida Swing that relocated the WGC from Doral to Mexico is a great example of the domino effect that can be created by a single tournament site change. Going forward, there are many circumstances that will have a huge ripple effect on the PGA Tour schedule.

As I see it the three most complicated and potential impactful stretches of the schedule are as follows:

  1. Beginning of the calendar year/early January. The Tournament of Champions on Maui is one of the PGA Tour’s most important and prestigious events and will not be sustainable (currently looking for a sponsor) in the existing date so close to the Christmas/New Year holiday.
  2. March…trying to squeeze two WGC events into the month before The Masters has dramatically impacted scheduling thoughts for top players. This could become a gigantic puzzle if the much discussed move of The Players back to its original March dates were to occur.
  3. August…currently this month is crammed full of strong PGA Tour events and the seasons fourth major, the PGA Championship. Also on the discussion table is a scheduling overhaul that would move the entire FedEx Cup Playoffs out of September….with the goal to finish before the NFL season begins. Wow!

There is no doubt that Jay Monahan will be a terrific successor to Tim Finchem….but  he is being tested very early on with a Rubik’s Cube puzzle….that is the PGA Tour schedule!”

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Justin Thomas at Sony Open in Hawaii 2017

Is 59 the new normal on PGA Tour? 

It wasn’t that long ago, that a round of 59 or better was a rare achievement on the PGA Tour. In the month of January there have already been two rounds of 59… emerging star Justin Thomas torched SONY Open’s Waialae Country Club’s normally difficult driving layout with an 11 under par 59 in the first round. And then last week, Adam Hadwin blazed through the desert at the Career Builder Challenge with an amazing third round score of 13 under par 59.

So why this proliferation of incredibly low scoring on the PGA Tour? In my view the answer is simple…

  1. The equipment – for the best players the golf ball is going farther and is more easily controlled… but more importantly the new hybrid clubs make the longer approaches much easier than hitting long irons, and the phenomenal recovery potential from short distances that has come with the introduction of high loft (60-64 degree) wedges.
  1. The condition of the course – The pristine condition and lower grass lengths of the fairways and green surrounds result in increased spin potential and much more control for the game’s best. And the putting surfaces? Well they are typically extremely fast, true and consistently more conducive for tremendous amounts of putts being holed…..even from what are considered to be only mediocre to good putters.
  1. The condition of the players – this particularly applies to the younger generation coming out on the PGA Tour as they are simply better athletes than even a decade ago. They are stronger, which helps not only with distance, but also with playing out of any rough and manufacturing high spin short shots. They also, because of their physical condition, can perform better not only later in individual rounds, but also deeper into 72 hole tournaments.

Get used to this low scoring trend on the PGA Tour….I believe it’s here to stay!

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Arnold Palmer

2016’s most impactful stories in GOLF

Here are my thoughts on the six most impactful stories in golf this year…

Arnold Palmer is the greatest golfer that ever lived, maybe not the best, but in terms of overall impact on the game the greatest. His passing on the Sunday leading into the Ryder Cup week in September, created a celebration of his life unlike any golf has ever seen. Arnold had a truly profound effect on my career and my life and for that, I will be eternally grateful. There will never be another Arnold Palmer…

After nearly two decades of European domination, the US retools its commitment and plan and wins back the Ryder Cup. From beginning to end, the quality of competition, and enthusiasm at spectacular Hazeltine C.C. was incredible….almost surreal. This was simply the greatest sporting event I have ever witnessed.

The Open at Royal Troon was aired for the first time on Golf Channel and NBC Sports. On Sunday, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson delivered a duel that many are saying was one of the best in major championship history. In the end, Stenson prevailed, and the two left us all with tremendous anticipation for 2017 at Birkdale.

After nearly a decade of major championship close calls, bad fortune and frustration, Dustin Johnson finally claimed his at the US Open at Oakmont. Shaking off an unbelievably distracting rules snafu that plagued DJ and the television viewers for much of the final round, Johnson persevered and established himself as a major championship favorite for many years to come.

In a major breakthrough regarding the Rules of Golf, the USGA announced the implementation, beginning on Jan. 1, 2017 of a local rule that eliminates the penalty for a player that accidentally causes a ball to move on the putting green. This is an extremely significant step that was instigated primarily because of the Dustin Johnson fiasco at Oakmont. I believe this will be a big step by the USGA and R&A toward the very important process of simplifying the Rules of Golf.

There is no player in the history of the game that “moves the needle” for fan interest like Tiger Woods. For over two decades, Tiger has attracted audiences both on site and on television like no player we have ever seen. His return to competitive golf in December, after 15 months off, produced gigantic ratings and captured the attention of fans worldwide….a great sign for the game over the next couple of years.

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Mark Rolfing and Arnold Palmer shake hands

Rolfing Reflects on Arnold Palmer

Mark Rolfing reflects on Arnold Palmer, a friend and idol.
View  on Golf Channel…

panel for The 145th Open

Sunday at The Open

The Open, this past Sunday, was an epic day in golf. Even the great Jack Nicklaus has said that he watched it all and tweeted that the clash between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson at Troon, might have been better than his famous “Duel in the Sun” with Tom Watson at Turnberry in 1977. This past week it was major championship golf at its finest, and Champion Golfer of the Year Henrik Stenson’s final round of 63 will go down as one of the best in history. Runner-up Phil Mickelson’s bogey-free 65 will not soon be forgotten either.

It had been over two decades since I last covered The Open for ABC, and my biggest takeaway from the week will be my renewed impression that The Open is the greatest championship in golf. The Masters may be the most prestigious tournament, but The Open is truly the world championship. Already I’m looking forward to next year at Birkdale! And by the way, on Golf Channel last Tuesday, after walking around Troon that day, I picked Henrik Stenson to win…