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NBC and Golf Channel will broadcast 150 hours devoted to THE PLAYERS Championship

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By Travis Duncan

A fifth major? Not quite, although THE PLAYERS Championship has the highest total purse at $12.5 million dollars in Golf, it’s not a major. But it’s a pretty big deal due to the field which includes every top golfer in the world.

As expected the Golf Channel and NBC are going all in on coverage.

Between NBC and the Golf Channel, the two networks will have 22 hours of live tournament coverage and 150 total hours devoted to the tournament at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

The goal in moving THE PLAYERS from May to March is to spread the Championship calendar around a little, with the Masters in April, the PGA Championship in May, U.S. Open in June, and The Open (also known as the British Open in some circles) in July.

With some early season excitement in February with bigger profile names committing to tournaments in California, the American Pro Golf Calendar can viably extend from February to August when the Tour Championship takes place. Technically the PGA Tour schedule extends October to September.

Here is the schedule for THE PLAYERS on NBC and Golf Channel:

Thursday, March 14

PGA TOUR LIVE – Featured Groups                                  7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (NBC Sports Gold)

THE PLAYERS Championship (First Round)                      1-7 p.m. (Golf Channel)

Friday, March 15

PGA TOUR LIVE – Featured Groups                                   7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (NBC Sports Gold)

THE PLAYERS Championship (Second Round)                  1-7 p.m. (Golf Channel)

Saturday, March 16

PGA TOUR LIVE – Featured Groups                                   8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (NBC Sports Gold)

THE PLAYERS Championship (Third Round)                     2-7 p.m. (NBC)

Sunday, March 17

PGA TOUR LIVE – Featured Groups                                   8 a.m.-1 p.m. (NBC Sports Gold)

THE PLAYERS Championship (Final Round)                      1-6 p.m. (NBC)

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Golf

Rory McIlroy is still underrated

Rory cashes a check for $15 million by winning Sunday’s PGA Tour Playoff Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, he seemed more satisfied with winning his second Tour Championship than the $15 million

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Rory cashes a check for $15 million by winning Sunday’s PGA Tour Playoff Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, he seemed more satisfied with winning his second Tour Championship than the $15 million. (He’s made something like $83 million in his career just in tournaments and $24 million this season just on the PGA Tour). It’s not about the money.

Rory is probably my favorite golfer in the world. One he’s a nice guy but he has a backbone and is perpetually honest with the media and just a very down to earth in a not-so-down to earth world. Some of that is a product of professional golf, where everyone but Tiger Woods is still not quite as recognizable as the biggest stars in the other major sports. Still, Rory is just a likable person and just a great golfer. He arguable is the best driver of the golf ball in the world off the tee.

Even his competitor Brooks Koepka revels in watching some Rory, “His game is in great form right now,” Koepka said via the USA TODAY.

“It’s really impressive to watch. Like I’ve said multiple times, he’s the most fun to watch when he’s playing well. He hits it so good, he putts it really well, and when he’s on, man, he’s tough to beat. I enjoy competing against Rory. He’s a tough competitor. He grinds it out, man. Even when you’re playing with him, it’s fun to watch him.

Rory didn’t win a major this season but he played solid. He won The PLAYERS and the Canadian Open in addition to Sunday’s Tour Championship. He had 14 Top 10 finishes in a year he devoted almost entirely to playing on the PGA Tour.

But it’s about the majors of course. T21 at Augusta, T8 at the PGA, T9 at the U.S. Open and missing the cut at the Open Championship.

That’s the same standard for any of the best golfers in the world and it won’t change anytime soon. Rory has the ability but in the past, the pressure he has put on himself has been self-defeating. Psychologically Rory is taking a more mindful positive approach to his game. Still, it’s about the majors.

Still, Rory is underappreciated. He took out the No. 1 player in the world and it’s ho-hum. Some of that has to do with the way the PGA Tour season has come to a grinding halt to make room for NFL Sundays.

So we must wait eight months to watch Rory go for the gold again.

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Justin Thomas is probably right but is wasting his time criticizing the USGA

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By Travis Duncan

Justin Thomas has become one of my, and about everyone else’s, favorite golfer on Tour.  He’s got a down to earthness to him, a quality that has made pro golfers famous for many decades.  In general we like guys we can relate to in some fashion, or in some cases admire.

I first saw Thomas at the BMW Championship in Indiana and he was just different, no arrogance, no country club air about him. Just a regular dude beyond the sense of about every other golfer on the tour, not excessive in really anything. Then you find out he’s probably one of the Top 5 golfers on the planet right now and it all comes together where this guy is fun to watch and fun to follow.

I don’t like how he’s gotten outspoken. He’s got a great personality and it’s fun to really get to know these guys a little bit through the lense of social media. But going down the road of worrying about the USGA, the PGA Tour, the PGA, or really any of these big, many times corporate bodies is just a waste of time.

It’s not because he shouldn’t speak his mind, but simply put it’s not worth the trouble. Golf has always and will always be run by a bunch of guys who really want to protect the sport and might not be quite as down to earth and they are worried about the next generation of golfers and revenue streams.

This week the USGA and him got into a Twitter fight. Justin kinda started it, but somehow the USGA accused him of refusing a meeting. Which turned out to be totally not true.  A worse look as it turns out for the USGA than Thomas. The USGA made a public apology for their Tweets. A bad look for a national organization of the stature of the USGA.

I get where Thomas is coming from. Criticizing greens, criticizing course layouts and the like is kinda like a right of passage in pro golf. Rookies don’t get to do this. Thomas is just 25, but he actually played his first PGA Tour even when he was 16 and made the cut! The kid is no stranger to competitive golf.  He probably has the pedigree at this point to criticize.

It’s the cool thing to do.

Guys like Phil Mickelson, Tiger and can blast a USGA course layout with ease and no one thinks much of it. But for Thomas it seems like it caused more controversy than was warranted.

The thing about the rules is, golf is a business. Changing the golf rules is a business strategy in someways. Most if not all decisions are business decisions either directly or indirectly. It’s not solely about sport when you put the P in PGA. Even the USGA has to worry about keeping people buying golf equipment, booking golf vacations, everything. Golf is a great game. But it’s a business. Golf was probably ok with the current rules. But making the rules of golf less complicated and less intimidating will keep all the so-called stakeholders with money in their pockets if they do it right. They want more people playing and taking up golf, it’s as simple as that. It’s not personal against any golfer really.

The game has survived centuries. The people who are affected most by incidental rule changes are probably the pros who have played golf everyday for the last 10-20 years or pretty much every waking moment of their lives.  Most pros really don’t need a whole lot of help with the rules or making them simple, but in the spirit of uniformity they apply them to the pros as well.

The fact is that part of the thrill of the PGA Tour is that they are playing pretty much the same game that you and I are playing on a Saturday afternoon. Granted better equipment for the most part, private courses, physical therapists, nutritionists, lawyers, the whole nine…but in general its the same game.

I like Justin Thomas when he gives opinions and likely it does draw attention to the sport but personally I think he’s wasting his time trying to get the USGA or any of the pro golf organizations to really listen.

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Golf

Doing too much: The legend of Ho-Sung Choi continues

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Rory McIlroy, probably one of the more honest superstars in the world of golf, was asked Wednesday his thoughts in internet sensation Ho-Sung Choi.

Choi has gained some notoriety for his unusual post-swing finish, known as the “Fisherman swing” to the amazement of millions of viewers on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Ho-sung, the South Korean native is 45-years old who turned pro late in life on the Asian tours.

When McIlroy was asked for his reaction Wednesday leading up to this week’s Farmers Insurance Open he smiled and laughed “I’m not sure a golf shot should mean that much to you that you’re doing that after you hit it, like it’s just trying a little too hard.”

“You have to try hard at golf, but that’s taking it to an extreme.”

In fact, overswinging and trying too hard creates the nervous tension that many golfers try to avoid both at the pro and amateur level.

Choi has received a special sponsors exemption invitation to compete at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am next month.

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