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Major changes for post-major media tours during pandemic

November 24, 2020 GMT
Tiger Woods helps Masters' champion Dustin Johnson with his green jacket after his victory at the Masters golf tournament Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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Tiger Woods helps Masters' champion Dustin Johnson with his green jacket after his victory at the Masters golf tournament Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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Tiger Woods helps Masters' champion Dustin Johnson with his green jacket after his victory at the Masters golf tournament Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Bryson DeChambeau polished off his six-shot victory in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and followed the script of winners. The trophy presentation. A series of interviews with various media. What typically follows for major champions are promotional appearances, especially being in New York.

Except this isn’t a typical year with COVID-19.

“He did ask, ‘What do we have tomorrow?’” said Brett Falkoff of GSE Worldwide, who manages DeChambeau. “I said, ‘If you want to be on your phone all day, that’s your option.’”

DeChambeau loves to talk about what he’s done and how. In this case, he headed to Denver to meet with trainer Greg Roskopf and get back to work.

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The trophy, along with the title as major champion, is ample. What’s lacking this year are those media opportunities that raise the profile of the champions and doesn’t hurt the exposure for their sponsors.

The PGA Tour often arranges media tours in New York, even photos atop the Empire State Building if the player is willing (not all of them are).

The tour still put together plenty of options, just none in the studio. In some cases, it helped with exposure because some shows might only be interested if the player could be in the studio. Now, everything is virtual.

Collin Morikawa stayed plenty busy the day after the 23-year-old won the PGA Championship in August.

Attention was high beyond his age and the shot he hit that set up the victory at Harding Park, a driver to 7 feet for eagle on the 16th hole. The PGA Championship was the first big event since the Daytona 500 in February with the Final Four being scrapped, the Masters moving to November and the NBA and NHL stretching into the fall.

Morikawa never had to leave home, however.

Andrew Kipper of Excel Sports Management said existing sponsors still got involved in the wake of his victory, and that would be the case even without a pandemic.

“The only thing that was different was instead of flying to New York for a media tour, he did it from his living room,” Kipper said. “It was having the ability to still gain interest and time with media outlets from home.”

That meant seven appearances on Monday after his victory, including “CBS This Morning,” “Good Morning America,” the “Today” show and CNBC’s “Power Lunch.” He had nine more appearances the next day, two on Wednesday. That included CNN International and a few national radio hits.

Nothing really changed for Masters champion Dustin Johnson, who doesn’t have media tours at the top of his priority list, especially when the Caribbean is calling.

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David Winkle, his manager at Hambric Sports, said Johnson had set aside the week after the Masters for a vacation to St. Barts, and that wasn’t going to get interrupted even without a pandemic. Johnson didn’t do much after his U.S. Open win in 2016, either, but that’s another vacation that falls around his birthday.

“He appreciated the interest but said, ‘I’ll stick to my plans,’” Winkle said. “I think at some point he’ll consider doing that. But I don’t ever see him doing 24 stops in two days as part of a whirlwind media tour. That’s not too much his style. I think he’d some day take advantage of a select key opportunities.”

When that happens next, the question is whether it would be in a studio or in front of a computer at home.

POULTER PLANS

Another example of time moving quickly is the fact Ian Poulter’s oldest daughter is now a freshman at Clemson.

That also was a reason time seemed to stand still.

Poulter typically plays the Houston Open before the Masters, but he had back spasms that were acting up and he decided to practice at home. But then daughter Aimee decided to come home .

“I decided to get out of the home because she came home from Clemson,” Poulter said, alluding to a one of the more important COVID-19 tests he faced later in the week. “I went to Augusta on Tuesday, practiced at the country club a couple of days, practiced at Sage Valley. It was a long nearly two weeks.”

He shot par or better all four rounds at Augusta National for the second time in 15 appearances, this during a soft year of record showing, so it netted him only a tie for 25th.

SURGING SEI YOUNG

Sei Young Kim made the richest putt in LPGA Tour history last year, a 25-foot birdie on the final hole to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the $1.5 million prize.

That was the start of a stretch that was interrupted by the pandemic, kept her in South Korea for an additional month after the LPGA Tour resumed and now leaves her on the cusp of reaching No. 1 in the world.

Kim has won her last two LPGA events, starting with the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Aronimink, and then last week in Florida. Next up is the U.S. Women’s Open in three weeks at Champions Golf Club in Houston.

Dating to the CME Group Tour Championship, Kim has three victories in her last 12 starts on the LPGA Tour and Korean LPGA, along with nine top 10s.

Jin Young Ko has been No. 1 for the entire year, even though she didn’t return to the LPGA Tour until last week. Ko is playing next week in the Volunteers of America Classic, and then the No. 1 ranking likely will be up for grabs in Houston.

Ko is trying to become the first woman since Lydia Ko in 2016 to stay at No. 1 for an entire year.

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

The PGA Tour Champions have a 25-event schedule for 2021 that concludes a “super season” because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 15 events this year, and points earned in the Charles Schwab Cup will carry over to 2021 with a champion being determined in November.

Missing from next year’s schedule are overseas tournaments in Morocco and Japan (the latter was canceled this year), along with the tournament in Mississippi.

Added to the schedule are new tournaments in St. Louis (which was canceled this year) and a tournament at Timuquana in Jacksonville, Florida, that will be hosted by Jim Furyk.

Also, the Chubb Classic in Naples, Florida, moves from February to a week after the Masters in April. The majors not run by the tour are at Southern Hills (Senior PGA), Omaha Country Club (U.S. Senior Open) and Sunningdale (Senior British).

The Charles Schwab Cup playoffs feature three tournaments, though the second one has not been determined. This year it was in Boca Raton, Florida, with TimberTech stepping in as a title sponsor.

DIVOTS

The BMW Championship is going to Wilmington Country Club in 2022, the first PGA Tour event in Delaware. That will make it seven golf courses in seven years for what began as the Western Open — Crooked Stick, Conway Farms, Aronimink, Medinah, Olympia Fields, Caves Valley (2021) and Wilmington. ... U.S. Amateur champion Tyler Strafaci and Davis Thompson, the No. 2 amateur in the world, are among 16 players invited to a Walker Cup practice session Dec. 16-18 at Bay Hill and Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida. The Walker Cup is scheduled for May 8-9 at Seminole. ... Corey Conners won $300,000 for the charity of his choice by having the most sub-par holes over the first 11 events of the season in the “RSM Birdies Fore Love” competition.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Dustin Johnson is the fifth player to surpass $70 million in career earnings. Total prize money on the PGA Tour in 1996 when Tiger Woods turned pro was $65.9 million.

FINAL WORD

“World ranking No. 1 is my wish list in this year, so that’s my biggest goal. Before, Olympic gold medal was my biggest goal in this year, but it was canceled.” — Sei Young Kim.