JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — As tournaments scramble to provide courtesy cars for PGA Tour players, the Texas Open not only created a partnership with the Ford Motor Co. officials in its region, it found a way to match its theme of being “Unapologetically Texas.”
Players won’t get courtesy cars in San Antonio. They’ll get courtesy pickup trucks.
Ford provided a mixture of vehicles last year when the Texas Open first moved to its May date, and that included a couple of trucks.
“We heard some favorable comments that they thought that was neat,” tournament director Craig Smith said. “One of them called me ahead of time and said, ‘Can I get one of those trucks to drive?’ I said to tell him it would be an extra 15 minutes so they can finish installing the gun rack.”
That got tournament officials wondering if they could add a local flavor to the oldest PGA Tour stop in the Lone Star State.
Smith met with Ford officials and asked about the chances of providing pickup trucks to the players. Ford liked the idea, and didn’t flinch when Smith asked about getting the King Ranch truck, named after the largest ranch in the United States.
“We’ll have all King Ranch pickup trucks,” Smith said. “Obviously, we’ll have Expeditions and other SUVs for guys traveling with their families. But unless you’ve got a bunch of kids, these big-boy trucks are all you need.”
Smith hopes the big truck is one of those small touches that could help distinguish the Texas Open as it tries to find its way amid a crowded spring schedule. The tournament follows the Quail Hollow Championship and The Players Championship, and it’s before the Byron Nelson Championship and Colonial.
The Texas Open has a title sponsor (Valero) signed up through 2012, and it once raised more money for charity than any other PGA Tour event despite being put opposite the Ryder Cup.
It should help that the Texas Open is leaving La Cantera and moving to its own course – the AT&T Oaks Course – this year, with a hotel on property. It has a distinctive military theme, and Smith said Randolph Air Force Base has offered to take players up in a T-38, while caddies will have access to flight simulators.
“We’re excited about getting to the next level,” Smith said. “The dates are still a little tricky. We’ve got a couple of great events stacked up before and after us, and we’re doing everything we can. We feel like we’ll have a good field, and we’re going to hear great things, not only about the hotel but the golf course.”
Not to mention the pickup trucks.
BEEM’S BACK: Former PGA champion Rich Beem hasn’t felt right most of the year, and it really got bad last week when he felt a burning sensation from his right shoulder down his arm. A trip to the neurosurgeon revealed damage to the C-6 and C-7 vertebrae.
Beem will have surgery Thursday in Austin, Texas, and be out about six weeks.
“I didn’t want to do surgery, but I need to have surgery to get back to my profession,” Beem said. “I have no power in my right arm, and you can’t play golf that way.”
Beem said doctors told him he would be able to chip and putt after three weeks and hit balls after six weeks, although he believes it won’t be that long.
“I’m hoping to get out there sooner rather than later,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”
MASTERS CHAMP: Phil Mickelson didn’t go to the top of the Empire State Building or make an appearance on any of the talk shows after his Masters victory. He was too busy going to a Taylor Swift concert and a San Diego Padres game.
“It’s been a great week since we returned from Augusta, and a quiet one,” Mickelson wrote on his Web site Tuesday. “I haven’t taken advantage of any of the media offers or made any special appearances. Some of them were really cool but family time was more important, especially after being on the road for the two weeks leading up to the Masters.”
He took his oldest daughter, Amanda, to the Taylor Swift concert in Los Angeles. Mickelson took another trip to Los Angeles to watch his middle child, Sophia, in a dance competition. On Sunday afternoon, he took Amanda and son Evan to the Padres game.
He also had a few dates with his wife, Amy, the co-star of his third Masters title.
“We loved the 2004 win because we had worked so hard and waited so long to win a major championship,” Mickelson wrote. “But as I said, to get this win with Amy and the kids there, to share that joy, is a moment we’ll look back on for all of our lives.”
GOLF CROWD: It appears some people are getting old watching the Masters.
According to a report in the Sports Business Journal, the median age of people who watched ESPN’s coverage of the Masters’ opening two rounds was 57.8, up from 55.6 a year ago.
ESPN and CBS Sports combined to attract the most viewers at the Masters since Tiger Woods won an unprecedented fourth successive major in 2001. This time, Woods was returning from five months of scandalous headlines over his extramarital affairs.
That didn’t do much to attract a younger crowd. According to the SBJ story, the percentage of viewers between the ages of 18 and 34 was 12.5 percent, down from 15.7 percent a year ago.
DIVOTS: Matt Kuchar is the only player among the top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings who has yet to win a tournament this year. … U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Brad Benjamin has been given an exemption to the John Deere Classic. … The PGA Tour has signed an extension through 2016 with two supporting sponsors, Coca-Cola and Southern Company, for the Tour Championship. That means the FedEx Cup finale will be at East Lake in Atlanta for the next seven years. It has been at East Lake every year since 2004.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Vijay Singh was the only player in his 40s to win a major last decade. He was 41 when he won the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
FINAL WORD: “As long as I get up on the first tee on Sunday and the guy I’m playing with knows that he’s going to have a tough day because he’s playing with me, I’m happy.” – Jim Furyk.