Weekly Bonus Programs
This is an article from the March 13, 2000 issue
If you're a Tour pro, the meter is always running. You just have
to be smart enough to know when to turn it off. That's why
so-called tee-up programs, the weekly bonus pools of money
available to pros for playing a certain brand of equipment, can
be two-edged swords. On the one hand everyone wins. The pools
allow the pros to pocket found money, while the manufacturers
can claim the pros play with their equipment. On the other hand
they tempt the pros to compromise their games, making some of
the claims based on the weekly tally by the Darrell Survey of
what clubs the pros are playing highly questionable.
As the accompanying chart illustrates, the average PGA Tour
player can make an extra $2,000 a week simply by using a
particular driver, putter, fairway wood, wedge, and ball and
glove. Even elite players with endorsement contracts are seldom
required to play more than 11 of their company's clubs, leaving
at least three chances to pick up pool money.
Some manufacturers pay extra if players use their products for a
set number of weeks, while others will double the payment for a
year's worth of uninterrupted use. There are also incentives for
high finishes, which is how most of the bonus money in the ball
and glove category is divvied up. In addition to cash, players
are sometimes paid in stock. The most novel incentive currently
available is offered by Porsche Design Golf, which awards a
$50,000 Boxster to any player who wins using a Porsche driver.
(No one has to date.)
The count on the Darrell Survey, which companies use to support
advertising claims about the popularity of their clubs with
pros, can be misleading. In many cases all a manufacturer has to
do to increase its market share among Tour players is make its
bonus payments larger than the competition's. New companies use
tee-up programs to heighten awareness. For example Softspikes
had programs on the LPGA, PGA and Senior tours, beginning in
1996, with their biggest offer being $20,000 to any winner of a
Senior event who wore its nonmetal spikes. The programs were
discontinued this year because those spikes became commonplace.
Players must guard against mistaking the tee-up money for the
big prize. "The programs had more impact a few years ago, before
the purses jumped," says the Tour representative for one club
manufacturer. "Players are really after the best product so they
can play their best." Says Larry Ziegler, a Senior tour player
who dropped out of a wedge maker's bonus pool because he wasn't
comfortable with the club, "Why should I mess up a chance to win
$300,000 just to make $500?"
That's the feeling among players who are financially secure.
More apt to compromise are pros who are not as competitive or
are short on cash. Even on the big Tour an extra grand or two a
week is nothing to sneeze at. "It took some pressure off,
definitely," says second-year pro Rich Beem of the $1,250 a week
he made in pool money as a rookie--$500 for playing a Callaway
driver and $750 for using a Titleist putter. "Those were the
clubs I came on the Tour playing, but if they hadn't been, I
could've been tempted."
The easy money can be hard to resist. According to a Darrell
Survey staffer, one PGA Tour player carried two putters in his
bag for several weeks last year--one to play with and the other
so he could pick up $15,000 in bonus money.
Andy North at 50
BACK ON COURSE
Andy north turned 50 on March 9 and will make his Senior tour
debut in the March 17-19 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf as Jim
Colbert's partner. An ESPN commentator for the last eight years,
North will be the fourth senior to make the leap from the TV
booth back to competitive golf, following Colbert, Gary McCord
and Bob Murphy. What did North learn during his time in the
tower? "Watching a guy like [Hale] Irwin reaffirms the stuff
you've known your whole life," North says. "The game is simple
when you don't get in your own way. Of course, the minute you
get into competition, that's easy to forget."
North is one of only 18 men to win two U.S. Opens, in 1978 at
Cherry Hills and in 1985 at Oakland Hills. Because he won only
one other event, the 1977 Westchester Classic, he is cited as
the exception that proves the rule that, as Walter Hagen said,
"anybody can win one Open. It takes a hell of a player to win
Injuries ruined North's career. He has a long history of
physical ailments, starting in the seventh grade in Madison,
Wis., when he had to quit playing basketball for two seasons
because the bones in his knees stopped growing. In 1986 North
broke his right hand at a Wisconsin football practice when, as a
spectator, he slipped. Over the next seven years he had seven
surgeries, including five knee operations.
North is reasonably healthy again. How he will play, though, is
a mystery. As an Open winner, North is eligible for the four
Senior majors but otherwise will have to rely on sponsor's
exemptions. Mixed in with some television work, he expects to
play 20 tournaments. His immediate goal is to win an event or
make the top 31 on the money list, either of which will keep him
from having to attend Q school in the fall.
If there's one tournament in which North will be particularly
tough, it will be the Senior Open at Saucon Valley Country Club
in Bethlehem, Pa. "I've always been ready for whatever I
considered my major," he says. "Now the Senior Open is my major."
Tricks of the Trade
We've seen how well Tiger Woods can bounce a ball on his sand
wedge, but did you know that Chi Chi Rodriguez has hit two balls
and made them collide in midair? Or that Paul Azinger can hit
shots that go more than 100 yards but never get more than five
feet off the ground? Here are some of the top tricks and
trick-shot artists you might see at a tour event.
Believe it or not, the phlegmatic Ed Dougherty was Woods's
trick-shot inspiration. While attending the L.A. Open as a teen,
Woods noticed that Dougherty not only could dribble a ball on
his Bulls Eye putter but also could spin it. "That really
impressed me," says Woods.
Know what happens if you bet Tom Jenkins, a Senior tour player,
that he can't bounce a ball with his wedge at least 1,000 times
without a miss? You lose.
The master at hitting from his knees, Seve Ballesteros has
another specialty: a lofted, spinning sand shot with a two-iron.
Dead Hands Dick
You might see Tom Kite try this one in a tournament. He takes a
slow but full swing with a 61 1/2-degree wedge, never breaking
his wrists. The ball goes about four feet up and four feet
forward, then drops straight down without a bit of spin.
Everyone agrees that Phil Mickelson is the father of the flop
shot. One of his favorite tricks is having a fellow pro stand
five feet in front of him with his back turned and his hand out.
Mickelson flops the ball over the player's shoulder and into his
hand. Another Mickelson favorite is putting a ball on an extreme
uphill lie, then flopping it backward over his head. His most
impressive bit, though, is when he takes a full swing with his
L-wedge, then reaches out with his right hand and snags the ball
on its way up.
Using only his left arm, Johnny Miller can hit full shots that
fly nearly as far as those he hits with both hands on the club.
Miller's secret? He's a natural southpaw.
Like Miller, Stuart Appleby plays righthanded, yet he likes to
turn over his three-iron, switch to the port side, toss a ball
into the air and hit it just as it touches the ground, like a
dropkick. The ball soars high and goes 125 yards.
Paul Azinger can choke down on a two-iron and punch darts that
go 100 yards without ever getting more than five feet off the
Up Against the Wall
When he was on the Senior tour, Bob Brue would put a ball two
feet from a wall, then stand sideways with his right foot
touching the wall's base. From that position he would lift a
four-iron straight up, cock his wrists and hit a 150-yard shot.
The One and Only
Chi Chi Rodriguez does things that Tiger only dreams about. One
of Chi Chi's favorite wedge routines is bouncing a ball with
glancing blows to impart spin. He catches the ball on the club
face, where it spins like a basketball on the end of one's
finger. Chi Chi's piece de resistance is his colliding ball
trick. He places two balls close together and, with a five-iron,
hits the first with a slice and then, in the blink of an eye,
the second with a hook. One out of 1,000 times, the balls
collide in midair.
Fairway Wood (a year)
Glove and Ball
PGA $20,000 a win;
$100,000 major win
Senior $5,000 a win;
$10,000 major win
LPGA $5,000 a win;
$10,000 major win
$10,000 a win;
$25,000 major win
$2,500 a win;
$5,000 major win
LPGA $200-$300 ;
$2,000 a win;
$5,000 major win
Unless it is reversed by the Supreme Court, Casey Martin's
resounding victory over the PGA Tour in a U.S. Court of Appeals
will open the floodgates. Expect more carts to appear on the
Tour because other handicapped pros, such as Bill Glasson
(arthritis) and Scott Verplank (diabetes), will take advantage
of this landmark decision.
What do these people have in common?
They have eponymous tour events. The Kathy Ireland Greens.com
LPGA Classic, the First Union Betsy King Classic and the GTE
Byron Nelson Classic.
Should a victory in a Tour event automatically qualify a player
for the Masters?
--Based on 1,032 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Who does the best job of televising golf: ABC,
CBS, NBC, ESPN or the Golf Channel? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
SYNONYMS for a WATER BALL
Cement shoes, Charlie Waters, damp, fish food, in the soup,
Jacques Cousteau, Lusitania, moist, rinsed, swimming, tiny
Among active players, these pros top their respective tours in
career winning percentage.
Karrie Webb 19-102 18.6%
Annika Sorenstam 18-127 14.2%
Se Ri Pak 8-62 12.9%
Tiger Woods 17-75 22.7%
David Duval 11-140 7.9%
Phil Mickelson 13-171 7.6%
Sarah Johnson, Littleton, Colo.
Johnson, 30, an assistant pro at Foothills Golf Course in
Denver, shot an eight-over 224 to win the PGA Women's Stroke
Play at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., by four shots
over Shawn Durocher, Suzy Whaley and Trisha Ziegel. The Stroke
Play was the first tournament for women pros ever sponsored by
the PGA of America.
Todd Barker, Taylorsville, Utah
Barker, 46, the owner of Fore Lakes Golf Course in Taylorsville,
won the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
championship for the second time in six years, in a playoff
with Paul Jett of Pinehurst. Barker and Jett tied at five-over
149 in regulation. A +0.7 handicapper, Barker won the 1997 Utah
Shauna Estes, Orangeburg, S.C.
Estes, a senior at Georgia, shot a one-under 212 to win the TRW
Regional Challenge at Palos Verdes (Calif.) Golf Club by a shot
over Candie Kung of Southern Cal and Miriam Nagl of Arizona
State. The TRW, which featured eight top 10 teams, was Estes's
seventh collegiate title, matching the school record set by
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