Golf Buzz

December 30, 2012 - 9:00pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Tiger Woods
Getty Images
Tiger Woods turned 37 on Sunday, and will be looking to build on his three-win 2012 in the upcoming season.

Today has been a bittersweet Sunday in our house. For one thing, it's the final day of the NFL regular season, which means the last day of my wife's favorite TV show – the NFL Red Zone. I can't help but chuckle at how much she loves it, even as I'm frowning over how my home-state Houston Texans nuked my chances of winning this final week of the office football pool.

But I'm also happy because today is the second and final Sunday without pro golf on TV for the year. Yes, after two whole weeks of no golf, the PGA Tour kicks off its 2013 season with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions out at Kapalua in Hawaii, and our global tournament golf cup will runneth over for 50 straight weeks all the way up to the middle of next December.

The Tournament of Champions runs Friday through Monday, in part to give the players a bit more time to get out to Hawaii and also to give us a Monday finish. The TV times for the first three rounds give us plenty of prime-time golf, while play is ending earlier on Monday so as not to run into the BCS National Championship college football game.

Seeing as how Monday is a work day, I'm a little disappointed that most golf fans won't get to see much of the final round. If it were up to me, I think I'd go ahead and play the final round in prime time, even opposite the big game – there are so many starts and stops and commercial breaks that it'd be easy to flip back and forth and not miss much of anything. But, hey, this is no time to be critical. I'm just happy golf is back.

And, oh yeah, today is Tiger Woods' 37th birthday. Happy birthday, Tiger, and we look forward to seeing what you have in store for us over the coming year.

December 29, 2012 - 2:34pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Adam Scott
Getty Images
Adam Scott lost a heartbreaking British Open and then saw golf's governing bodies propose a ban on his anchored putting stroke.

Over in the "lead story" area of PGA.com, I have just posted a column by Dave Tindall of the British wire service PA Sport in which he looks back on 2012 and offers up his picks for the top 10 moments of the season just past. I don't agree with all of his choices, but I posted his piece because Europe had such a big year and it's always fun to see what people from different vantage points have to say about the big happenings in our sport.

Offering a different perspective is Jake Mann over at Bleacher Report, who put together his own list of not only the winners of 2012 but also the big losers.

The winners, obviously, are pretty easy to pick, starting with Rory McIlroy and including the likes of Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson. More interesting to me are his picks of the losers. Some of golf's biggest names suffered some of the year's biggest setbacks – and some of them made his list for reasons other than losing on the game's biggest stages.

I encourage you to click on over, take a look at his choices and tell us what you think.

December 28, 2012 - 2:19pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Caroline Wozniacki
Getty Images
Caroline Wozniacki sported a shiny diamond ring on her left ring finger on Friday as she warmed up for her first tennis tournament of the 2013 campaign.

Not to get all TMZ on you or anything, but tennis star Caroline Wozniacki showed up in Australia this morning with a big new diamond ring on her left ring finger. That has sparked plenty of speculation that she and Rory Mcilroy might have gotten engaged.

Wozniacki, who is playing in the Brisbane International as a warm-up to the Australian Open, had the ring on at the airport and as she prepared for her afternoon practice session at the Queensland Tennis Centre, according to the Australian Associated Press, but took it off before she played.

McIlroy, by the way, is with her in Australia. The two have been dating for about a year and a half, and speculation that an engagement might be in the cards began when Wozniacki playfully interrupted McIlroy’s press conference at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai about a month ago to ask him: "If you win this week, am I going to get a really nice Christmas present?"

"Have you not already got a lot of nice presents?" McIlroy replied. "I have been looking, I have been looking. But it won't take winning this week to buy you a nice present – I'll get you a nice present anyway."

I'm not completely convinced just yet. For one thing, Wozniacki is a bit of a practical joker, and this could all be a ruse to get a rise out of the media. Also, lots of European women wear their engagement and wedding bands on their right hands, not their left. So I guess we'll have to wait and see if there's an official announcement anytime soon.

Update: Now that I think about it, this ring might have made its debut in a photo that McIlroy and Wozniacki tweeted out on Dec. 24. Take a good look at the photo, and tell me if you see a diamond barely visible on her left hand.

December 27, 2012 - 6:36pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
The PGA of America
A total of 89 percent of recently surveyed golfers said it was nice to see juniors playing golf.

Everyone who's been paying attention lately knows that the golf industry is trying hard to grow the game – meaning, essentially, increase the number of people participating in golf. But, the National Golf Foundation wondered, do the people who already love golf want more company out there on the course? Or do they prefer not having to share the fairways with so many other folks?

The NGF put these questions to a panel of core golfers -- and discovered that most avid players believe that it's "the more, the merrier" when it comes to their fellow duffers.

"Industry stakeholders have long theorized that there might be a segment of golfers who would like nothing more than to see fewer people playing golf – however, we really never had any insight as to the possible size of that group," the NGF said. "This research, although a limited window into that phenomenon, shows evidence that this group of 'golf hoarders' is small – 5 to 6 percent."

The vast majority of core golfers approve of both juniors and women playing golf – 89 percent agree that "it's nice to see juniors playing golf" and 80 percent agree "it's nice to see women playing golf” – though the enthusiasm isn't universally overwhelming. Specifically, 41 percent of core golfers surveyed said they strongly agree that growing the number of golfers is good, while 38 percent somewhat agreed.

Another 15 percent of the respondents had no opinion on the question, while about 5 percent disagreed.

All in all, though, that is excellent to hear. I echo the BGF's conclusion that "it's good to know that our consumer base understands what is good for the game."

December 27, 2012 - 8:50am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Steve Stricker
Getty Images
Tired of travel and with a desire to spend more time at home with family and developing his new foundation, Steve Stricker plans to play a lot less on the PGA Tour in 2013.

Steve Stricker, a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour who most recently won almost exactly one year ago at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, plans to see a lot more of home in 2013, which means he'll be seeing a lot less of the PGA Tour over the next 12 months.

Golfweek's Alex Miceli reports that the 45-year-old Stricker intends to play only 10 PGA Tour events in 2013, opting to spend more time with his family in Madison, Wis. and to, "work with a recently established foundation that likely will benefit college-bound students."

Miceli notes that Stricker is exempt in all four majors and the three U.S. World Golf Championships in 2013 and plans to focus on the big events. Stricker will be in Maui to defend his title at Kapalua next week, but may not be seen from again until late February for the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.

"I'm not quitting," Stricker told Miceli. "I want to spend more time here. I still enjoy playing, but I don't enjoy the travel."

To read more about Stricker's decision to spend more time at home and developing his foundation, "Driven For A Dream," click here.

December 26, 2012 - 7:19pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Pachinko parlor
With revenue at pachinko parlors across Japan trending down, some of their owners are looking to add golf to their mix of activities.

We don't really have pachinko parlors here in the United States, but they're huge in Japan. Pachinko parlors there gross around $378 billion a year, according to the Japanese government – that's about four times the gross of all the world's legal casino gaming combined.

Pachinko machines are the Far Eastern equivalent of slot machines, and pachinko parlors have hundreds or even thousands of them all lined up like slot machines. A pachinko machine is like a stand-up pinball machine -- you shoot balls up into the machine, and the balls then filter down through a series of pins. Instead of paddling the balls like in pinball, the goal of pachinko is to capture as many balls as possible.

Japan's big pachinko parlor operators are hungry to expand their revenue, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper, and they're increasingly turning their attention to golf courses to help them become more all-round purveyors of leisure activities. Some companies are really getting aggressive, and it's having a significant impact on the golf business in Japan.

How significant? Well, PGM Holdings K.K., Japan's second-largest golf course operator, is currently pursuing a takeover of Accordia Golf, Japan's largest. This medium-sized-fish-eats-big fish-scenario is possible because PGM Holdings is a subsidiary of Heiwa Corp., which makes pachinko machines and wants the industry to grow so it can sell even more machines.

PGM is believed to be trying to buy a 50.1 percent of Accordia shares worth about 42.5 billion yen (about $381 million). If the takeover is successful, says Yomiuri Shimbun, the combined company would own about 240 golf courses – about 10 percent of all the courses in Japan. That would make it six times larger than the country's third-largest golf course operator.

Another factor driving the pachinko industry's interest in golf, the newspaper says, is that Japan is engaged in a serious national debate about legalizing casinos. Across Asia – as in the United States – golf courses are a key component in many leisure and resort complexes, and the pachinko parlors believe golf can help them compete with these casinos, and perhaps even join them.

Pachinko machine maker Universal Entertainment Corp. has begun building a casino resort in the Philippines that is expected to open in 2014, while Heiwa Casinos across Asia includes golf courses, and is considering a new casino resort development in South Korea. Gaming no doubt will be the focus of those resorts, but it's a sure thing golf will also play a key role in their success.