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G4G Year in Review: The Pros and Cons of Pro Golf

For professional golf, it turned out to be a year where the status quo rules. Tiger and Elin had a baby, but it didn’t distract him as he continued proving he’s the best player ever, while those who chased him — Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson — played as well as ever but couldn’t catch him.

For Canadians, on the other hand, it was a pretty quiet year, at least until the Presidents Cup.

Mike Weir

[photopress:weir_wins.jpg,full,alignleft]Over the course of the year, I spent more time interviewing Mike Weir than ever before, strange considering he entered the year having not posted a win since 2004 and with a rebuilt swing to boot.

I interviewed him at length in London in July, and again in PEI in early August and Weir seemed very comfortable — though there was little in his stats that suggested he should have been optimistic. He played well at the British Open at Carnoustie and then missed the cut at the PGA Championship. At that point few would have expected Weir to completely turn around his year.

But he did — and it all started in September.

He made the Presidents Cup team as a controversial captain’s pick — one many disagreed with, including many who felt either Stephen Ames should have been on the team.

That led to an incredible run — taking Tiger Woods on in singles competition in the Presidents Cup and winning on the final hole, and then a win on the PGA Tour at the woefully named “Fry’s Electronics Open,” a title that reminds me of a stereo shop up Kingston Road in Scarborough.

What struck me most about Weir following the win was how he felt some people — apparently close to him at one time — didn’t stand by him in the three years between wins:

When youre doing great everybody jumps on the bandwagon, Weir said on a conference call. When youre not doing so good you find out quickly whos on your side and whos not. You find out a lot about different people.

The win came at a great time — just as his sponsorship deal with Bell Canada was ending. That allowed him to sign a new sponsorship deal worth a reported seven figures annually from Thomson/Reuters. Bell, on the other hand, dumped golf pretty much altogether, only holding on to commitments it was forced to — like the small one with the Canadian Open. A lot of this has to do with a huge sponsorship deal with the 2010 Olympics — though “Bell Fan” (apparently there is one) took me to task for my take:

Care to tell your readers how you know that bell overpaid for the olympics sponsorship deal? Or is that just your opinion? When is the last time you did a sponsorship deal in the millions? How did you do your valuation? And yes, Sandra did win majors. More evidence of how little care you take when you write. Is there anything in your head other than fat cells?

The only issue was I didn’t write anything about Sandra Post in the Weir sponsorship post, proving my troll continues to haunt the site, popping up every so often.

Despite not making the Presidents Cup team, Ames had a pretty typical year — a win, a jab at the Canadian Open and despite his success he was still regularly ripped by the Canadian media.

His put down of Angus Glen’s North Course once again led some to call out Ames for his perceived constant complaining:

(Angus Glen) wasnt designed for a major championship or a national championship altogether, he said. Conditions-wise, and everything else, it hosted the event wonderfully. But other than the fact that 90 per cent “ well, all of us (players) “ basically didnt enjoy what it had to offer, just because of the nature of the golf course, the way its designed.”

I actually find Ames to be generally affable in interviews, but man he rubs some people the wrong way. And what’s he going to say now that the Canadian Open is going to Glen Abbey — another course he dislikes — for not one, but two years. Ouch.

In truth, I wonder how long Ames can keep up his strong play — he’ll be 43 this year and given his history of back problems, it is a question mark whether he can excel at the game’s top levels.

Others: Beyond Ames and Weir, and Jon Mills’ success on the Nationwide Tour, it wasn’t really a banner year for Canadian golf. The young guns — Andrew Parr, Richard Scott and James Lepp — have failed to make any big impression, and veterans like Ian Leggatt and Jim Rutlege was a bomb on his rookie year on the PGA Tour. Chris Baryla was hurt on the Nationwide Tour, though London’s Alan McLean (married to a Canadian) is on the European Tour full-time. On the LPGA, Alena Sharp looked, well, sharp, while Lorie Kane looked to be on her last legs.

 

Tiger

 

[photopress:TWDesignDubai_Red_tnfeat.jpg,full,centered] After Woods announced his foray into design, commensurate with a reported design fee of more than $10 million (with some suggesting it was as high as $20M), I wrote one of my favourite columns, a one act play starring the world’s greatest golfer:

The Setting: Aboard the $20 million yacht Privacy docked in the calm waters of Jebel Ali, about 35 miles south of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The Cast: Mark Steinberg, IMG agent to the stars, along with Brit Stenson, head of IMG Golf Design, carefully step onto the boat and proceed to its main board room. There sits Tiger Woods and Saeed al-Muntafiq, the CEO of Dubai development company Tatweer, the firm that has hired the worlds best golfer to build a course for them as part of a sprawling real estate project. Woods and al-Muntafiq are carefully examining a massive diagram that is spread across the table as Steinberg enters and greets Woods.

Steinberg: Way to go Mr. Chairman! The entire golfing world heard about the launch of your golf architecture business, TW Design, and now everyone knows that your first course will be part of an immense real estate project in the desert. How can it get any better than that?

Woods: Thank you very much, Steinie. As you know there are golfers everywhere that may never get a chance to play a links course in Scotland, a tree-lined course in America or the sand belts of Australia. I want to bring them that experience, except this time its in Dubai as part of a billion dollar real estate development.

Not everyone thought it was funny. The Canadian marketing director of a large golf equipment company that just happens to have a deal with Woods found the column so insulting that he wouldn’t speak with me for the rest of the year. Oh well.

One reader commenting on Score, and missing the allusion to the movie Syriana that was not so subtly inserted into the column, had this to say:

RT…I just hope that the Human Rights Commission doesn’t read the above comments.

Reader James thought the column to be “unfair” and cynical. Who me?

This is just plainly unfair. More than a bit cynical and i suggest hypocritical, as I am sure YOU will be venturing to Dubai and will be ready to chop someones head off or whatever it takes to play Tigers course or just get through the gates to have a look at it.

Later in the year, after Woods was defeated by Mike Weir in the singles competition during the final day of the Presidents Cup, several comments were posted to the site suggesting that Woods could never have actually lost straight-up to Weir.

Reader “Wayne Grow” thought Tiger dumped the match to give the Canadian lefty from Utah the win:

Call it what you want, but the Woods loss to Weir was suspect. Tiger has been unbeatable this year, wins his last tournament by how many, and Weir beats him, come on. The Cup was already won, theyre playing in Canada, and everybody wants to see Weir win, like I said.. suspect. When was the last time Tiger came back from being four down and lost? Lets not forget, it was the marquee match and it was better than watching Tiger win by 10, it is a business, why did Tiger play Weir who didnt even play his way onto the team and not the big gun like Ernie or Adam Scott?
A little strange.

However, the almost always rational “Weekend Enthusiast” cut to the chase:

Sorry, letting Weir win with poor play is not being a class act, it is an insult. Woods did not let Weir win¦Woods is too much of a competitor to let Weir win. Weir beat him.

Amen to that.

Tomorrow: G4G’s 2008 Year of Predictions

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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