Peter Dawson, the retiring chief executive of the R&A, had helped make possible a postal vote of the roughly 2,500 members rather than require them to be present at the annual Autumn Meeting. And instead of a two-third vote in favor of a bylaw change, all that was needed was a simple majority. As it turned out, this latter measure wasn't necessary, as the R&A revealed the bylaw passed with an 85.5-percent approval (1,581 voting yes, 268 voting no).
While certainly historic, exactly what does the Royal and Ancient's decision mean for the organization -- and golf -- moving forward? Here's are some takeaways:
For several years external pressure on the golf's governing body outside the United States and Mexico to allow women members had grown more vocal. In turn it moved beyond merely disappointment over the unseemliness of not allowing women into the Royal and Ancient clubhouse to larger, financial implications. In January, Gil Morgan, global head of sponsorship and events for HSBC, one of the biggest corporate sponsors of the Open Championship, stated that his company was "very uneasy" with the Royal and Ancient's all-male membership policy.
"We would like to see it solved so we don't keep talking about it," Morgan said at the time. "When you are showcasing one of the world's greatest tournaments it would be much more palatable if it were played where there was not a sense of segregation."
Meanwhile, with Augusta National G.C. having admitted its first female members in 2012, the Royal and Ancient's position seemed to lose even more credibility.
How big a factor was Dawson in this?
The timing of the membership vote and Dawson's retirement, which he announced last April and goes into effect in September 2015, are hardly coincidental. Having overseen the R&A for 16 years, Dawson had guided the organization toward becoming a more progressive operation, helping with the creation in 2004 of "the R&A" as a separate entity from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club to oversee the administrative operation of the Open Championship. Dawson (below) had seen the membership issue as the final significant hurdle in his tenure, hoping to have it be a part of his legacy as well as to have the matter put to rest when his successor takes over.
What does this mean practically?
While women work for the R&A and are involved in the day-to-day operation of the governing body, committee and board roles are filled by Royal and Ancient Golf Club members. Opening up the membership to females allows women to begin to take leadership roles in the organization, which previously had not been the case.
In addition to voting on adding female members at all, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club also agreed to allow the club to let in as many as 15 to join as Ordinary Members. The timing for when specifically first female members would join is expected to be within the next few months.
Who might be among the first female members?
Various names have been speculated, including Condoleezza Rice, Annika Sorenstam, Carol Semple Thompson and Lady Angela Bonallack (wife of former R&A secretary Sir Michael Bonallack). Louise Richardson, the principal of the University of St. Andrews, also would seem a logical choice to be among the first to join. THe last two principals (or presidents) at the school has been extended honorary membership into the Royal and Ancient, and Richardson (shown) has publicly criticized the club for not having female members.
"The first women members," Dawson previously said, "are likely to have made a significant contribution to the development of our sport."
So all clubs that host the Open Championship will now allow female members?
No. The Sept. 18 vote applied only to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. All-male memberships remain at Royal Troon, which hosts the 2016 Open, Muirfield and Royal St. George's.
Dawson has said previously that the membership practices at these clubs would not impact their status on the Open rota. However, with the Royal and Ancient having changed its stance and presumably sponsors such as HSBC still looking unfavorably toward being associated with clubs that don't have female members, this stance might potentially change.
Isn't there some other vote going on in Scotland?
On the same day of the Royal and Ancient vote, all Scots go to the polls to decide whether Scotland should leave United Kingdom and become an independent nation. Suffice it to say, the outcome of that measure is far more unclear.
Brian Stuard went 395 straight holes without a 3-putt and 7 other eye-popping stats from the PGA Tour season
-- Brian Stuard went 395 holes without a three-putt. That's more than five full tournaments without a three-jack. Perhaps, just as incredible is the fact that the PGA Tour average is 80 holes or more than one full tournament. These guys are ridiculous.
Odds are, Brian Stuard didn't three-putt this green.
-- Speaking of incredible putting streaks, Gary Woodland made it through a second straight season without missing a putt from inside of three feet. He made all 770 of his short putts and has converted 1,641 out of 1,641 the past two years. Maybe to speed up play, the tour should allow him to pick it up when he's inside the leather.
-- Not everybody on tour putted great, though. There were four recorded six-putts at tournaments this year. We won't mention those players' names because we don't want to embarrass them. Eh, they're big boys. Graham DeLaet, David Gossett, Mark Wilson, and Jeff Maggert.
-- Speaking of embarrassing, John Daly wins first place in the "obvious leader in a stat category." There was one score of 12 recorded during the season. It was by Daly at the Valspar Championship. You may remember that as the time John Daly shot 90 on the PGA Tour.
-- Runner-up in the "obvious leader in a stat category" is David Toms. The accurate driver hit 36 consecutive fairways at one point during the season. As predictable as it was for Toms to have the tour's longest such streak, it's still pretty impressive.
-- The best streak of hitting greens in regulation goes to another short hitter, Tim Clark, who gave himself a birdie putt on 28 straight holes. You may be surprised to know that Chad Campbell led the tour in GIR for the season at 72.4 percent.
-- What about the bombers? Bubba Watson led the way in driving distance in 314.8 yards per poke and had the longest drive of the season with a 424-yard blast at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Rory McIlroy's 334.8-yard average at that event, though, was the best average by anyone in a single tournament.
-- Back to the more distance challenged, Jim Furyk proved yet again that you don't need to be long to be a success on tour. Furyk's scrambling average of 69.33 percent led all players and was the fourth-best mark in tour history. Furyk also wound up earning the most money ever in a PGA Tour season by a non-winner ($5,987,395). Not a distinction he was hoping for, but not the worst thing to happen to a tour pro, either.
Fans attending this year's Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas will need to adjust their pre-tournament checklist. On Wednesday, the PGA Tour announced the addition of six swimming pools to viewing areas on the grounds at TPC Summerlin during the event.
This will be the first time the PGA Tour will feature public pools at an event. Here's a sketch of what it will look like:
Two of the pools will be part of Zappos.com Fan Experience between the 17th and 18th holes and will have free admission. The other four will be part of the tournament's hospitality area and promise to offer more of a Las Vegas pool-party feel.
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? Perhaps not, if the experiment runs smoothly. Who knows, maybe the winner will even want to take a dip.
Alan Shipnuck has a fantastic story on the vanishing Kim in this week's Sports Illustrated. While reading the piece in its entirety is well worth your time, one part of Shipnuck's reporting really jumps out.
Apparently, Kim is sitting on a potential payout that could be bigger than the FedEx Cup bonus. And to collect it, Kim doesn't have to do anything -- which just might explain his prolonged absence from the game.
The answer very well may lie in an insurance policy Kim has against a career-ending injury. An IMG source pegged its value at $10 million, tax-free. Kim's friend, who has had financial discussions with him, says, "It's significantly north of that. Not quite 20, but close. That is weighing on him, very much so. He's trying to weigh the risk of coming back. The way he's phrased it to me is, 'If I take one swing on Tour, the policy is voided.'"
Assuming the friend's figure is accurate, Kim would have to earn some $35 million on and off the course to match the amount he would collect by never playing golf again. (That's factoring in taxes; agent's commissions; private jets; diamond-encrusted belt buckles; salaries for a caddie, swing coach, short-game specialist, trainer, nutritionist and osteopath; and other expenses of the modern Tour pro.) For context, his career Tour earnings are $12.2 million, $9.2 million of which was accumulated between 2008 and '10. Kim signed a blockbuster deal with Nike following the '08 season, and his annual endorsement income peaked the following year at $6 million. If he can again be the player he was, he could make his $35 million nut with four or five good years. But that's a very big if. "To say that he won't come back because of money, that doesn't ring true to me because he's the most competitive kid I know," says Knost. "I can't imagine that's what he's thinking, unless something's changed and he doesn't want to play anymore."
Competitive or not, that's a lot of easy money to turn down -- assuming, of course, Kim could prove injuries ended his career. Not that he doesn't have a history of being hurt.
After contending at the 2011 Masters, Kim injured his thumb and had surgery a month later. Then came wrist tendinitis and a ruptured achilles tendon in 2012. Phil Mickelson told Shipnuck that Kim was still recovering when he randomly bumped into him practicing at the Madison Club in California early in 2013.
"He was still getting over the Achilles injury," Mickelson says. "He wasn't walking much, so he was playing only nine holes at a time in a cart. But he was hitting it great -- long and straight. He looked ready for the Tour. I expected to see him out there in a couple of months."
But despite rumors of Kim returning to the PGA Tour -- where he still has status on a medical exemption -- he hasn't played since withdrawing from the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship. Kim had more WDs than made cuts in the 10 events he entered that year.
Earlier this year, Kim's agent, Clarke Jones, told Golf Channel's John Hawkins that Kim wasn't even playing golf recreationally. According to an anonymous friend Shipnuck spoke to, though, that isn't the case.
"AK's not injured," says the friend. "He can play, he can walk. His swing looks good, the strike sounds solid, his ball flight is good. His physical health is not the issue."
Hmm. If Kim is hoping to collect on that disability settlement, that's probably not information he wants spread around.
So what else is he doing during his extended break from being a tour pro? Shipnuck investigated some of Kim's noted hangout spots and discovered the 29-year-old Dallas resident hasn't been frequenting those of late either.
In other words, Anthony Kim is still a mystery. But at least we have one, well, millions of possible reasons for why he's remained out of the spotlight.
So, what is the Web.com Tour Finals?
It's a series of four events that's comprised of the top 75 players on the Web.com Tour's 2014 money list and Nos. 126-200 (another 75 players) on the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup points list for 2013-14. These 150 golfers are essentially playing for their 2014-15 PGA Tour cards, although the top 25 players from the Web.com regular season money list have already locked up a card.
Wait, so why are those 25 guys still playing?
At the end of the Web.com Tour Finals, 50 PGA Tour cards are awarded based on a priority list. That list is a mix of the 25 players who have already earned their cards and the other players and affects what type of status the players will have on the PGA Tour next season. The higher you are on the priority list, the better chance you have of getting into the tournaments you want.
Do the PGA Tour guys dominate this thing?
Not really. Bud Cauley won the first playoff event, but the next two were won by guys who played full-time on the Web.com Tour this season: Adam Hadwin and Justin Thomas. In 2013 -- the first year of this four-event series -- the results were also pretty split, with Trevor Immelman (PGA Tour), Andrew Svoboda (PGA and Web.com Tours), Seung-yul Noh (PGA Tour), and Chesson Hadley (Web.com Tour) winning and John Peterson (Web.com Tour) claiming the overall title for the Finals despite not winning a playoff event.
Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer's grandson, is closing in on a PGA Tour card.
Oh, so it really is like the FedEx Cup?
Yes, except the winner doesn't get a $10 million bonus. He does, however, earn fully-exempt status on the PGA Tour the following year, including a spot in the Players. The player with the most combined money earned between the regular season on the Web.com Tour and in the Finals is also fully exempt. Carlos Ortiz already locked up that spot with his three Web.com Tour wins this season.
So, what Web.com Tour names should we expect to see big things from next year?
Again, Carlos Ortiz won three times this year, earning more than $500,000 in the regular season. That's a lot of money on the Web.com Tour. Ortiz is 23 and played his college golf at North Texas. Then there's Justin Thomas, who just won the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship, the third leg of the Web.com Tour Finals. A former standout at the University of Alabama, the 21-year-old Thomas impressed many when he and Jordan Spieth took down Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in a U.S. Open practice round at Pinehurst.
Who are some of the other intriguing names to keep an eye on?
Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer's grandson, has all but locked up his PGA Tour card for the first time. Saunders has finished T-4, T-16, and T-12 in the first three playoff events and will enter the Tour Championship at No. 13 on the priority list. John Peterson and Colt Knost are former college stars who have already locked up their return to the PGA Tour next year, but are trying to improve their status. Finally, Patrick Rodgers, the bubble boy this week at No. 50 in the standings, has been hailed as a can't-miss prospect out of Stanford.
What happens if guys miss this week?
There's always Q School. Regardless of how they finish in the Web.com Tour Finals, Nos. 126-200 on the FedEx Cup points list and Nos. 26-40 on the Web.com Tour money list are automatically in the field for Web.com Tour Q School in December. The rest can try to qualify for the field. With the switch to the Web.com Tour Finals schedule, Q School isn't a direct path to the PGA Tour anymore, but it is the best way to get back to the developmental tour. Do that and a year from now, you could be the next Carlos Ortiz.
“St Andrews, like every other place in the nation, will be in the grip of a referendum vote that has split opinion,” James Riach writes in the Guardian. “Yet as the sun sets on the famous links of the Old Course another saga dogged by controversy may finally be resolved. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club could, by the end of the day, allow women to become members for the first time in its 260-year existence. It is expected to pass a motion put forward in March, when the R&A’s general committee wrote to its 2,400 male contingent and said ‘now is the time to welcome females’ into the club.”
Yes is the only option on the R&A vote, Martin Dempster writes in the Scotsman: It is important for its future. And, for the R&A, it will determine its credibility as the game’s governing body. Put simply, this vote has to be ‘yes’. If it is anything else, it will be the biggest own goal in sporting history.”
“A High Court judge today ordered the world’s number one golfer Rory McIlroy and his former management company, Horizon Sports Management, to engage in peace talks over the next four weeks,” Ray Managh writes in the Irish Times. “McIlroy’s legal battle with Horizon also involves the affairs of his Ryder Cup team mate Graeme McDowell and Mr Justice Brian McGovern said it involved such sensitive matters that the sides should engage in mediation.”
The return of golf to the Olympics has been widely heralded. Not so much the Rio de Janeiro course under construction to host Olympic golf. “It is mired in controversy,” the Associated Press writes. “A Brazilian court is set to decide the future of the golf course for the 2016 Olympics The city of Rio de Janeiro and the course developer are defendants in a lawsuit that alleges environmental laws were broken in authorizing and building the course. Earlier this month, Rio judge Eduardo Klausner gave them until Wednesday to say if the design can be modified to offer concessions to environmentalists.”
Former LPGA player and model Laura Baugh now lives in Augusta, Ga., and is opening a golf school there, David Westin reports in the Augusta Chronicle. “I’ve done clinics with Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer, who I have known since I was 16," Baugh said. "I’ve done clinics with Annika (Sorenstam), with (Nancy) Lopez. We do them all the time at Pro-Ams. No, they said when you have students and really teach, you feel like you’re giving back to the game. You really feel good. You enjoy it. I came back and I thought that would be a good move for me to make.”
On Tuesday, Thompson Instagrammed a montage of photos from a steamy shoot she did with GolfPunk Magazine:
Here's the opening photo from the interview with the 19-year-old LPGA star, dubbed "Sexi Thompson" by the publication:
Despite Thompson displaying a grown-up golf game for some time, we're still getting used to seeing the golfer who burst onto the scene as a pre-teen behaving like a grown woman. But after a recent commercial for Puma, titled "Calling All Troublemakers," in which she's shown hanging out with two men in a hot tub, and now this photo shoot, it appears Thompson isn't holding back when crafting her public image.