You would have to say that the changes in the Franklin Templeton Shootout were successful.
The biggest one was they decided to move the scramble format to the first day from the last. The idea was to give chasing teams two days to catch teams that took it very low in the scramble. Before this year, if a warmed up team got really hot, they’d run away and hide in the final round.
Jason Day and Cameron Tringale got off to one of those great starts on the first day taking the lead at 17-under. And at 8-under, they had the second lowest round on Friday. But they got flat on the final day shooting only 7-under while the chasers shot 10- and 11-under. It was close, but defending champions Harris English and Matt Kuchar came up just one shot short at the finish. We got the excitement they were hoping for.
As all winners are, Day was effusive about his partner and talked about how he was able to feed off of his good play:
“Yeah. You know what, it was a team effort out there. Without Cam we definitely wouldn’t have won. To be able to step up there and hit a great shot into 17 and walk away with birdie with a one-stroke lead was nice. I was kind of going back the other way, so I’m glad that he stood up coming down the stretch and hit a lot of clutch putts.”
“But with a guy that putts it as good as he does, for some reason I just didn’t have a lot of stress on my shoulders. I just felt that I knew I was going to play well coming down the stretch, so I’m happy for him.”
For his part, Tringale had equal praise for Day and talked about the ebb and flow their rounds:
“We got off to such a great start Thursday that I was comfortable out there. I was confident in the way I was hitting my driver. For me just getting it in play was really important to the team and I was able to do that, and Jason just hit some unbelievable shots and really like pushed us when we were a little bit slow in the middle of the round.”
“Today, kind of a slow start and Graeme [McDowell] and Gary [Woodland] looked like they were just going to be rolling early. We both hit a lot of good shots and Jason made some nice putts there in the middle of the round to really just get us back in front where we needed to be.”
In fact, McDowell and Woodland faded when Woodland’s back issues began to flair up. That meant that McDowell was essentially playing one against two and they just sort of lost their momentum shooting just 6-under.
Tringale talked about the need for patience when that can sometimes be the hardest thing to call up:
“You know, golf’s a game where you’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to wait. You might not hit your best golf until the last few holes. Really, as a team I think we just stayed, keep doing what we’re doing, we’re playing well, it’s only a matter of time. Thankfully we had enough time to stay ahead.”
While Day was able to enjoy this win, he was already looking forward to its implications:
“This is great to obviously win this tournament. I can obviously enjoy it. That’s the one thing about wins, you have to really enjoy it and soak in the moment because, you know, just as quick as you can win one, it may be your last if you don’t really stay on top of it.”
“This next two weeks is going to be fantastic. I’ll be back home in Columbus [Ohio]. My mom’s coming over and my sister and nephew are coming over from Oz and I’ll be able to see them. But soon thereafter I’ll be headed to Palm Springs to prepare for Maui [Hyundai Tournament of Champions].”
“I was telling Greg Norman earlier, yesterday actually after the clinic, I’ve never been more motivated to play and compete and try to win tournaments than I am right now. I’ve just got to keep taking that and working hard and doing the little things right and hopefully it will happen a lot next year.”
The way he was powering his way around the Tiburon Golf Club all tournament long, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to visualize him in the winner’s circle as the year unfolds.
The other big change that I think it’s fair to say worked out was Fox taking over the final round broadcast. It gave them a chance to practice for their coming USGA events, most notably, the U.S. Open, and it gave us a chance to see how the Joe Buck and Greg Norman team would handle the booth. Buck was easy to listen to and knowledgeable and Norman did a good job of blandishing the colorfulness the professional game.
That tandem did fairly well, but things got a little awkward in the early going as they tried to work in Brad Faxon, Steve Flesch and Scott McCarron and then figure out which of them was going to handle the next camera shot and next commercial break.
Top 100 teacher, E.A. Tischler, had some pretty snazzy graphics to good effect in demonstrating three different swing planes of three different players and the implications for their downswings. But he seemed a little stilted and too earnest rather than relaxed and exuding warmth as he surely does in his one-on-one lessons.
Former USGA Executive Director, David Fay, was there to take the lead on any rules issues but some of the initial throws to him were also a little clunky. He did an adequate job of refereeing an issue with a stationary Fox camera on a squat scaffolding that was in the line of play of Ian Poulter and Billy Horschel, but it didn’t seem that he was particularly leading the conversation. Perhaps it was just his gentlemanly style that made him seem subdued.
The highlight of the innovations was Fox’s use of a drone with a camera mount to illustrate the actual flight of the golf ball on two holes; a tee shot through a chute of trees into what turned out to be a wide fairway you couldn’t see from the tee, and a second shot into par 5 that was across the water hazard that ran all the way down the right side of the fairway. Great job of illustrating the reality of “all carry.”
The other noticeable change from a pro forma golf broadcast was their bumper music in and out of the commercial breaks. I don’t follow the music scene — I’m a news junkie — but they chose energetic tracks that seemed all by themselves to freshen up and modernize the de rigueur music we’ve grown accustomed to.
All in all though, Fox did a good job on their maiden voyage of making the case that they will be good custodians of our complicated, addicting and sometimes sacred game.