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Could There Ever Be a Golf World Tour?; Is Matt Fitzpatrick Ready for the Masters?; ASU's Life Lessons for Budding Golfers; Golf Mythbusters: Spinning with the Wedge

Aired March 6, 2014 - 05:30:00   ET



SHANE O'DONOGHUE, CNN HOST (voice-over): A World Golf championship, players, sponsors, the tours and TV, the four cornerstones of the professional game. Of course, there are the fans, too, but without the talent and the money, there would be precious little to watch.

It's big business, but is the current model sustainable?

Welcome to LIVING GOLF and a look into the future.


O'DONOGHUE: On this month's program, what price a world tour?

IAN POULTER, PRO GOLFER: Whether any of the tours get together and hold each other's hands and become one big one is -- we'll have to wait and see.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): The young master, World number 1 Matt Fitzpatrick prepares for Augusta and beyond.

Tim Mickelson, coaching those who just love to follow in his brother's footsteps.

TIM MICKELSON, PRO GOLF COACH: It's the coolest part of the job because you know that you're helping shape the future and you're helping turn an 18-year old into a 22-year old man.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): And short game mythbuster Edoardo Molinari.


O'DONOGHUE: Golf, always the same, always changing. The main sponsor here is leaving and it's likely that this will be the last time that this World Golf championship will be played here, too.

But how much closer are we to a more fundamental shift in the way that the professional game is run? And like here, will it be match play with head-to-head and winners and losers?



O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Rory, Westwood, Poulter, three of the biggest European stars in a sign of the times all now based here in the States, less traveling, more money.

JIM FURYK, PLAYER DIRECTOR, PGA BOARD: The goal for us in the United States is to get the best players around the world to be members of our tour.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): And the American based PGA tour has the richest to attract them. Last year, its total prize money amounted to $306 million. At current exchange rates, the European Tour's prize money totaled $182 million.

And to those playing outside the States, spend a lot of time on long haul flights. Until two years ago, Lee Westwood was based in England.

LEE WESTWOOD, PRO GOLFER: I traveled a lot less the last couple of years, mainly played around the States where you only get a three-hour time change and only traveled abroad 2-3 times during the year because you know, the jet lag was really starting to take a toll of me.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Of course, most top players here, particularly the newcomers, do travel to at least some of the bigger tournaments in other parts of the world.

But for those who try to keep up membership on both the European and PGA tours, that means having to juggle competing schedules.

POULTER: I feel I need to be a global player. You know, whether that can in the long run works out, I'm not sure. Whether any of the tours get together and hold each other's hands and become one big one is -- we'll have to wait and see.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): In fact, last summer, there were reports that the PGA Tour was looking to buy out the European Tour, reports quickly dismissed by both sides.

But one seasoned observer thinks the status quo has at least one flaw.

BOB HARIG, SENIOR GOLF WRITER, ESPN.COM: I think they've got some things they've got to work out. It does seem to be spread a little bit thin right now. Maybe especially on the European Tour. You know, you've got too many events that don't get the top players.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Which is one reason given by those who support an official World Tour. In fact, recently there have been rumors someone outside the game is looking at setting one up. The idea itself goes back at least 20 years.

So could there ever be one?

NICK FALDO, SIX-TIME MAJOR WINNER: Well, I wish there was. I really do, because we nearly -- we could have done it back in the '90s. And if you actually came up with a schedule around the world, so you're going to play 20 or 24 events. But it's over 12 months. Whether we could make it happen now, I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's so many things you'd have to work out, you know, would the top players actually keep that kind of schedule? Would they jump all over the world to play?


O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Dubai, where the notion of jumping around the world started, at least in the modern era. This year, at least, 27 European Tour events will be staged outside continental Europe. One of the main challenges is getting Europe's stars, especially those based in the States, to travel and keep the big sponsor happy.

GEORGE O'GRADY, CHIEF EXEC, EUROPEAN TOUR: These are big tournaments and you've got to make quite big commitments to the companies putting up the money and the countries putting it up and to give them a confidence to go with it.

O'DONOGHUE: So how much change will there be in the next 20 years as you look into that crystal ball?

O'GRADY: Well, what the outside world would say is we're going to be one big tour traveling around the world, a World Tour. Because an unofficial World Tour at the moment, now whether it's called a World Tour by name, I think it's going to move towards that.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Dubai helped change the European Tour. Could develop and spur the least narrow reshape (ph) the global game?

Singapore, host of the women's champions. One of the world's top100 ranked women, nearly two-thirds are from Asia. And in the men's game, there are more top players coming through every year and higher grade tourists.

Since 2005, there has been an HSBC World Golf Championship in China. And later this month, the PGA's new China Tour kicks off.

GILES MORGAN, GLOBAL HEAD OF SPONSORSHIP, HSBC: If we look ahead to 25 years from now, I think you'll see that the landscape of maybe where that the most significant events are in golf will have to look more to the east simply because they'll be such appetite for both fans and from emerging golfers.

MIKE KERR, CEO, ASIAN TOUR: I'm not sure whether there's going to be a World Tour. I certainly believe there's going to be consolidation in the long term. I don't necessarily see an external body coming into the game of golf and revolutionizing it.

And, again, with golf being a player-led, player-managed sport, all of the tours working on behalf of our members, I think it's going to be the players that ultimately make that decision.


O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Back in Arizona, everyone around the PGA Tour is understandably bullish. The domestic tour is in good health. So with new PGA Tours in Canada, Latin America and now China, what's the global strategy?

TIM FINCHEM, PGA GOUR COMMISSIONER: We want to, in the developing areas, where golf is now taking hold, middle class is growing, we want to do everything we can to help move that along.

So I think it's challenging in the longer term about how we go about global competitions. But for right now, I think we should help build these other tours and create more lead players. I think the steps we've taken are focused on where we're going to be 25 years from now, not three years from now.

O'DONOGHUE: Do you think in the future there's going to be a World Tour per se?

Is there going to be one body, for example, running golf or --



O'DONOGHUE: -- healthy at the moment?

FINCHEM: -- I think there's a good chance that sometime in the future -- won't be on my watch -- that golf will become more integrated. I do think that there's just too much value in leveraging the collective assets of the tours.

But I'm not so sure people think of a World Tour as, OK, we've got the top players they're going to play all over the world. I'm not so sure that's the model. I think that you could have a model with spears. They'd come together every three or four years like the World Cup in soccer. I think professional golf, globally organized, in some fashion, will make some sense at some point in time.


O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Most believe that change there will be. But what and when? It's a little less clear.

Next on LIVING GOLF, the amateur with an invitation to the Masters, the U.S. Open and the Open Championship.



O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF in Arizona. Now we've come a couple of hours north of Dove Mountain to Tempe, home of Arizona State University.

Every year, hundreds of talented young players from across the state and abroad come to colleges such as this to study golf and get themselves an education.

Now until Christmas, the reigning U.S. amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick was one of them. But then he decided to head home from Northwestern where he was studying to the rather grayer skies of his native Sheffield, to prepare for the biggest four months of his life.



COLIN HANCOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Matt's rise has been rapid. British boys' champion in 2012, he then managed to qualify for last year's open chairmanship at Muirfield straight his A levels. The youngest player, he won the silver medal for Best Amateur. The following month, he traveled to the states and became the first English man for 102 years to win the U.S. amateur championship. (INAUDIBLE) the next four months, he gets to play in the Masters, the U.S. Open and the Open Championship.

MATT FITZPATRICK, PRO GOLFER: I joined here when I was 9. I had plastic clubs and I was about 2. I was quite scared to think that I've been a member nearly 10 years.

HANCOCK: You got better quite quickly, didn't you? I mean, from when you first joined to I think 13 you won the club championship.

MATT FITZPATRICK: So I started working with Graeme Walker (ph), who was my old coach and just practiced. And I think it was a case of during that time I was just getting good coaching and just playing a lot, really.


TONY WATKINS, JR. ORGANIZER, HALLAMSHIRE GC: The one thing Matt always had was he had the right sort of attitude for golf. He always had the ability to remain cool and he always seemed to have this ability, which is a great help that if he needed to hold the putt, he usually got it.

IAIN MACKENZIE, FORMER YORKSHIRE CAPTAIN: Great head on his shoulders for a young lad, you know, and always went to play safe, keep it in play, make sure it hits the green, doesn't show outside himself.

So I think that one of his great attributes is that his thinking is good brain on his shoulders.

MATT FITZPATRICK: I'd say that's definitely true. And I'd say mainly it comes from Dad. Dad's always been -- I always remember, like just from coming back from tournaments or something, where he'd say, well, why did you hit that club there? There was no need and I'd look back and think, well, he's right.

HANCOCK: I suppose the next big thing, really, where you came onto people's radar, was when you won the British Boys'.

MATT FITZPATRICK: Actually, it was a very good win at the time. But the way I looked at it, it was boys' golf. Everyone get such a fantastic win at boys' golf and I'm not -- I love -- I loved winning at boys' golf but in terms of professionals there, I mean, they're -- and that's the level that you've got to get to.


GEOFF TICKELL, HEAD PRO, TALLAMSHIRE GC: He starts off with natural talent. Then, in his case, it's hard work. And he's also got a very supportive family. Obviously, the golf club as well. I mean, they've done an awful lot to promote the juniors here.

HANCOCK: The first time I saw you was at Muirfield, when you were practicing. And I hope you don't mind me saying, but you didn't look 18.


MATT FITZPATRICK: It's funny; I got that a lot that week, yes.


RUSSELL FITZPATRICK, MATT'S FATHER: So he went on the range and parked themselves here and unbeknown to Matt, who had walked towards where the practice balls were, Tiger Woods had come onto the range behind him.

So Matt walked toward, picked the balls up, picked his probe ones up (ph), walked back. And this guy walks to him and said, "Oh, it's all right, you know. He doesn't play Titlist, Tiger."

So he actually thought he was just -- it was some kid who was fetching Tiger's golf ball, you know.

So that was the story there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said when he played it was bad serve (ph).



MATT FITZPATRICK: I think it's one of those that you want to go and hit balls next to Tiger Woods or Padre Kenton (ph). And you almost feel like you're not allowed to go and hit balls next to them when I went up to collect. So when I don't use really and there's a really good picture there. And I definitely need to get, Henrik (ph) and Phil Mickelson to actually have that is pretty nice.


MATT FITZPATRICK (voice-over): I don't know whether you could sell it but definitely one of the best I'll ever experience, even though I was playing men's golf, I still felt that I'm -- I was a junior playing in men's golf.

HANCOCK (voice-over): A couple of months after the U.S. Amateur, Matt took up his place at Northwestern College near Chicago, Luke Donald's (ph) old place. Matt had been offered a scholarship there after winning the British Boys. But a lot had happened since then. The chance to play in three majors for a start.

Something didn't feel quite right. He came home for Christmas and didn't go back.

MATT FITZPATRICK: The last couple of weeks of university was reading (ph) week and exam week and that -- during that time, I had a lot of time to think. I was just studying in my room, in the library and I was just -- I was just ready to go home, really. I never thought that it would actually come to not going back, if I'm honest.

But it wasn't like I came home, that I spoke to my coach and parents and friends, came to me that it really wasn't the right thing anymore with the opportunities that I've got this year.

You know, me, I wanted -- I wanted to take my golf as far as I can go.

I'm never been a tourist (ph). And I'm excited to go for the first time. Hopefully, I've got practice round with Ian Poulter. Hopefully Lee Westwood will be able to join us as well, get a practice round with Henrik Stenson, got the same coach, so hopefully my coach can sort of arrange that.

And then it's a long shot, I guess, but even if just playing one hole with Tiger might be -- might be quite nice. So I certainly wouldn't mind it.


HANCOCK (voice-over): And of course after the Masters, Matt gets to play in both the U.S. Open and Open Championship. So when does he turn pro?

MATT FITZPATRICK: I don't know if I'm ready yet. I've played in -- obviously played in the Open and I made the cut. That's when I finished, tied 44. So I think but finishing tied 44 every week isn't probably going to make you enough money to keep your card.

So I think I've got a lot of room for improvement and this is the first year I've ever just had full golf and I've always had school in the background. So it'll be interesting to see where I am after this year. Probably need to grow a little bit more as well. So don't look like 12.


MATT FITZPATRICK: If you have a top 10 at the U.S. Open or the British Open, then you can't not -- you have to sort of reevaluate, I guess.


O'DONOGHUE: Matt Fitzpatrick on the verge of an incredible few months at the Majors.

Now he may have decided that the college route wasn't for him. But for many gifted amateurs, it is the path to life as a tour professional.

Next on LIVING GOLF, Tim Mickelson and the potential stars of ASU.



O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF at Arizona State University. This is where a whole host of future tour players honed their games, including Phil Mickelson. Phil's younger brother, Tim, also played here and now he's been hired back as their head coach.



O'DONOGHUE: Tim, there's a wall of fame here. I mean, the names jump out at you.


O'DONOGHUE: Incredible. This is amazing.

MICKELSON: Three years in a row.

O'DONOGHUE: Three years in a row, Paul Casey.

Always a great player.

MICKELSON (voice-over): He and I were teammates here for one year. And he was a great player. He dominated when he was here.

One of the cool things about this wall of honor is every single day our kids come to practice ,they have to go by it before they get into the locker room. And so they walk by and they see that we've won two national championships. They see we've got the six individual champions. Every day they see the history. It's a constant reminder of what's expected of (INAUDIBLE).

I think they naturally know that what my expectations are. I don't say this is your expectation; you must do this. They know that we've won national championships in the past and they know that there's been $146 million won on the PGA Tour by our former players.

And they know that the expectation is high? They don't know exactly what I expect on a day-to-day or tournament-by-tournament basis.


NOEMI JIMENEZ, ASU STUDENT (SPAIN) (voice-over): My coaches have been great with me. They help me a lot. When you're not playing that well, you always have the support of them. So you can become better and better.

MATHIAS SCHJOELBERG, ASU STUDENT (NORWAY) (voice-over): You know, I get goose bumps every time I come in here because it has such a great history and that's why one of the reasons why I chose ASU.

JON RAHM, ASU STUDENT (SPAIN) (voice-over): Any time I major, I need to take my communication degree and then after that we'll just improve. I'm really in a hurry. It's just four years. You can play golf until you're like 60 years old.

MICKELSON: My belief is if you're going to stick it out for four years and you have four more months, get your degree. Golf is such a different sport than anything else. You can play it until you're 60 and make money and be competitive. It's not like football or basketball, where you're very injury prone or you have to take advantage of your opportunity when it strikes.

I think it's tremendously valuable for anybody to be able to have the opportunity to go university, improve their golf game, get an education, because after college, you never really know if they're going to make in sport or not.

I couldn't have told you 20 years ago that I was going to be back as the golf coach. But I'm thrilled to be back here because not only are we trying to make these kids better in their golf to hopefully turn professional, but we're making these kids prepared for life after college. So whether or not they play golf or not, they're ready to go to the business world. They're getting those little intangibles to be prepared.

GRAEME MCDOWELL, 2010 U.S. OPEN WINNER, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: I was a British and Irish player, college here in the States was kind of a no- brainer, I think, for me, October through sort of you know, April-May, let's be honest, you know, Britain and Ireland, it's not conducive to working on your game and it's not conducive to competitive golf and college golf to me really filled that void. You know, I was able to go out there and play September through May, 12-13 times a year, top-level golf, working on my game in the sunshine and come home to Ireland in the summer and play my full schedule. And I felt like I was a semi-professional player.

RICKIE FOWLER, WORLD NUMBER 37, OKLAHOMA STATE: It's just a great stepping stone in between junior golf while playing some amateur golf, play college golf, help develop the game, get to play some tournaments. Get to play against the best amateurs throughout the year and then from there, you can make the next jump to play professional golf.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): We put academics very high on our list and our team knows that I mean business when I want them to do well. My dream job was to play professional golf. I got to do that and then the reality of being injuries and being single on the road started to take its toll. And then it was like I've got my college degree, thank goodness, because it opened some doors for me. But what am I going to do? I speak of the great things about the tour and I also speak of the pitfalls. And so I try and make it very real.

MICKELSON (voice-over): The most rewarding part of the job for me has been watching these kids mature. It's the coolest part of the job because you know that you're helping shape the future and you're helping turn an 18-year old into a 22-year-old man. And after that, he's got another 60 years to make an impact on society.


O'DONOGHUE: Tim Mickelson and the students of ASU.

Well, back down here at Dove Mountain, those already in the world's elite know only too well that short game is what wins matches. They clearly know what they're doing, but do we? Right now it's time for our very own mythbuster, Edoardo Molinari.



EDOARDO MOLINARI, TWO-TIME WINNER, EUROPEAN TOUR: Today, getting more speed with the wedge.


MOLINARI (voice-over): To me, it's the deeper you hit down on the ball, the more speed you get.

So here we are, 60 yards from the flag. The penny's on the right game and we should throw the ball quickly.

Most people think that to get the next game you have to act swiftly down on the ball. Now I'm going to play two shots, one hitting simply down and one how we normally play. And then we see what's true.

First we're going to hit the 60-degree (INAUDIBLE).


MOLINARI (voice-over): And now, how I normally hit it.


MOLINARI (voice-over): So this was a good shot. Let's see the facts now.

EMANUEL FRAUENLOB, TRACKMAN (voice-over): Indeed, Edoardo, that was a very high spinning 45 yards chip shot that had a spin of 7,700 revolutions per minutes, so very high spin for that distance. And there was not a lot of stavy (ph) so the attack angle was not that steep.

Now if you compare that one to the first one, where you were -- where you have been hitting feet down on the ball, you actually had 2.5 thousand less spin on the one with the steep angle, track angle, compared to your normal chip shot.

MOLINARI (voice-over): So next play is what's going on (INAUDIBLE).

FRAUENLOB (voice-over): Yes. I mean, most people think you have to hit the steep down on the ball to generate spin. But actually it's not about the attack angle, how steep you hit down on the ball. It's more about the loft that you deliver to the ball at moment of impact. The optimal loft for a maximum spin is 45 degrees.

MOLINARI: So hitting down on the ball doesn't necessarily give you more spin. What give you the spin is good contact with the ball, and the right amount of loft at impact.



O'DONOGHUE: Well, that's all from us here in Arizona. Don't forget, all our reports are online. And you can keep across what we're up to on Twitter. And as this World Golf championship rolls out of town, who knows where it's going to be next year, let alone in 10 years down the line?

Well, next month, it's the first major of the year, the Masters. Until then, from all of us here in Tucson, goodbye.