The biggest party in golf begins anew this week with the Waste Management Phoenix Open at fan-friendly TPC Scottsdale.
The Coliseum-like par-3, 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale is one of a kind. It's the rowdiest hole in golf and one the players have truly come to embrace because of the craziness.
As usual, TPC Scottsdale is a track that is going to require loads and loads of birdies.
For that reason, here are five players who are capable of taking it really deep that you'll want to keep an eye on this week.
5. Ryan Moore
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T10 at the Frys.com Open and the CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: After a long layoff, Moore returns this week to a place where he has not finished outside of the top 20 in the last three years. TPC Scottsdale clearly fits his eye. That's a strong recent track record that can't be overlooked.
4. Ryan Palmer
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T13 at the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: With as often as he's in contention, it's hard to believe that Palmer hasn't collected a PGA Tour victory since the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii. Alas, that's life on the PGA Tour. TPC Scottsdale is a place where Palmer has tallied three top-10 finishes -- two of those of the runner-up variety, including a year ago. He seems to feed off the crowd well, which is an absolute must at the frat-party that is the Waste Management Phoenix Open. If the putter can get hot for Palmer, look out.
3. Bubba Watson
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T10 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: In his last four starts at TPC Scottsdale, Watson has finished no worse than a tie for 15th. That includes being the runner up in the last two straight. Over the last 12 months, few players in the game have been as consistently good as Watson. He always seems to be sniffing the first page of the leaderboard no matter where he plays. It's hard to imagine that would be any different this week in Phoenix on a course where he's proven he's exceptionally comfortable.
2. Brooks Koepka
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T3 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Koepka made his first start in the Waste Management Phoenix Open a year ago... and won. As the defending champ and as won of the game's brightest rising stars, it would be silly not to include Koepka as a favorite this week. With the new season, Koepka has also undergone an equipment change. That can be a big deal for a lot of players. But, in his first and only start so far with the new sticks, Koepka had that T3 in Maui, which had to give him a confidence boost. Having not played since then -- nearly an entire month -- one would assume he's had plenty of time to get even more comfortable with the new gear.
1. J.B. Holmes
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T6 at the Farmers Insurance Open
Reason to watch: It's funny what you find sometimes when you go looking at a player's record at a certain venue/tournament. That's the case at TPC Scottsdale in the Waste Management Phoenix Open for Holmes where it has been an absolute feast (he's won twice there) or famine (a few missed cuts and a bunch of T43 or worse finishes). Coming off the heels of his best finish this season at Torrey Pines, I'm going to lean toward a feast for Holmes this week in Phoenix. That T6 last week moved Holmes up to No. 12 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list and he'd love to get to Hazeltine. In his only Ryder Cup start at Valhalla in 2008, Holmes went 2-0-1. That was the last U.S. victory.
SLEEPER PICK: Jamie Lovemark
Reason to watch: Once considered to be a future star of the PGA Tour, Lovemark has been derailed by injury. The 28-year-old is showing some of that once serious promise early on this season with three top-10 finishes in his last four starts. Is a win right around the corner? The first-time winner-friendly Waste Management Phoenix Open wouldn't be a bad place to start.
Here's how my five to watch fared at last week's Farmers Insurance Open:
5. Scott Stallings -- T25
4. J.B. Holmes -- T6
3. Rickie Fowler -- Missed cut
2. Phil Mickelson -- Missed cut
1. Jason Day -- Missed cut
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (Feb. 2, 2016) -- New cutting-edge research entitled “Business Golf: The Gender Puzzle,” conducted by Sports and Leisure Research Group (SLRG) for the PGA of America unveils new insight into the evolving realities of today's corporate environment. Some of the specific workplace examples identified in the study, as well as how men and women executives each perceive the opportunities and barriers of business golf, were highlighted during a lively panel discussion at the 63rd PGA Merchandise Show.
On the panel were: PGA Secretary Suzy Whaley, Troon Golf Chairman and CEO Dana Garmany, Whirlpool Corp. Director for Corporate Reputation and Community Relations Deb O’Connor, and ESPN Senior Vice President of espnW and Women’s Initiatives Laura Gentile. They presented ideas on gaining an understanding of the magnitude of the corporate opportunity; building the right environment to facilitate the optimal business golf experience for both men and women; and learning how to get in the door at corporations, and speak their language.
Actionable strategies for PGA Professionals and facility operators seeking to grow revenues by better engaging with the corporate community were shared.
“Women have the money to spend at your facility,” said Whaley. “They’re making over half-million dollar deals. Creating that opportunity for them is what they really value. Golf just needs to think about how we can fit in their world and not vice versa.”
Below are some of the key findings from the study. For additional information click here.
- Both men and women golfers rank golf as the most effective of all networking activities with peers, clients/prospects and suppliers/vendors. Even non-golfing executives rank golf as the No. 1 most effective way to build business relationships.
- 78 percent of women believe playing golf in a business environment is a great networking tool. Both men and women executives rank golf as the most effective of all networking activities with peers, clients and suppliers.
- Nearly 60 percent of business golfers have closed a deal on the golf course or at the golf club. Women are just as likely as men to have done so. Both genders say that there is significant volume and value of deals closed at golf facilities.
- More than a quarter of the women who closed a deal through golf did so with deals valued at more than $500,000. Both men and women golfers report closing an average of five deals through golf.
- The strongest agreement among golfing men and women is that golf is quality time that helps businessmen and businesswomen de-stress from their jobs, and helps them get to know their peers and colleagues better.
- Nearly 60 percent of women executive golfers agree that playing the game has made them feel more included, while 58 percent of women golfers felt that playing golf has contributed to their professional success. In addition, 75 percent of golfing women executives expressed strong interest in after-work corporate golf activities.
- Women are significantly more likely than men golfing executives to agree that business golf builds confidence and is an important part of the culture in their organization.
- More than half of businesswomen golfers strongly agree that golf has helped make them more assertive (51 percent); more disciplined (56 percent); and more risk-taking (52 percent).
“In companies today, employee engagement is a focus, and just getting together and creating relationships within the company is important,” said O’Connor, whose company will host the 77th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid in May. “It’s really important to where you’re going to find your next job...It’s really important for women to get to know [male] executives on a level playing field, and golf can really help.”
“We’re progressively trying to get to the tip of the spear, trying to say we have people who want to play golf and want to participate,” said Garmany. “So, let’s do everything we can to find a way to get them involved.”
There are still barriers to entry. For example, businesswomen golfers say they are significantly more likely than men to feel that the game is not as accessible to women than men within their own companies. Only 30 percent of male golfing executives’ business rounds are played with mixed gender groups, yet 79 percent of women prefer to do so. Golfing businesswomen are also 25 percent more likely than men to feel that business golf is more stressful than social golf. Meanwhile, nearly half feel that men on the golf course are often trying to teach them what to do.
“It’s about making golf hospitable…It’s about the culture of the game and everyone feeling equal,” said Gentile. “Golf has certainly helped me as an executive, make relationships, foster deals and build a good reputation.”
“Golf and business have always had an intrinsic connection,” said Moderator and SLRG Founder and President Jon Last. “Yet, the magnitude of this relationship has only been sporadically studied. It has been approximately a decade since the market was analyzed. We found that companies are looking for bridges to create cultures of inclusion and positive intra-firm and client relationships. Golf is highly valued in this regard.”
When Stewart Cink says he's going to show off his driving skills, he usually pulls a club out of the bag instead of the keys out of his pocket.
But this week at Torrey Pines, Cink moonlighted as a TaylorMade shuttle cart driver, transporting fans between holes. He even had the official chauffeur's license tucked in the slot next to the cart's roof.
You can watch the adventure -- and some great ad-libbing by Cink -- from the video posted to this tweet:
Hopefully these fans' memories will last longer than my trip to Torrey Pines this year!https://t.co/iplt7wz98s?
— Stewart Cink (@stewartcink) January 31, 2016
Based on his ability to converse while keeping the cart headed in the right direction, it's obvious that Cink grew up in suburban Atlanta and attended Georgia Tech. Where else would you get that kind of real-live accident-avoidance practice on a daily basis, if not for Interstate 85 and Georgia 400?
At least he knows a steady volunteer position is waiting if he ever hangs up the golf spikes.