I don't have to tell you the 2011 PGA Tour season is on the verge of being referenced in past tense, but surprisingly, there's still a little bit of golf to be played before we get to that point.
On tap this week is a citrusy blend from Naples, FL known as the Franklin Templeton Shootout. With a name like Franklin Templeton, you'd expect something more along the lines of a high-noon tea and crumpets gathering, but I digress. Golf is golf at this point, no matter how misleading the name might be.
The tournament has taken many a different name. From 1989-1990, it was called the RMCC Invitational. A Google search could help define that acronym, but it didn't last long so let's move on. In 1991, the PGA Tour got a little bold and renamed it the Shark Shootout Benefitting RMCC. Before I come up with some crude and sarcastic name for the RMCC, let's actually do that search and make sure I don't offend anybody. *Searches Google*.... well search results were not conclusive, so let's move on.
If you didn't guess already, the Shark in the title refers to Greg Norman himself, who hosts the tournament at one of the courses he designed, Tiburon Golf Club. From 1992-1994 the tournament was christened Franklin Funds Shark Shootout. Either the turtle from children's books, inventor Ben Franklin, or some investment bank must have infiltrated the naming rights to the tournament over this two year stretch.
There was a five year stretch from 1995-1999 in which the tournament had another name change, this time adopting Templeton to make it the Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout. As is the trend with this tournament, from 2000-2006 another name change was in store, but this time it kicked the Shark completely out of the naming rights club and found itself simply titled: Franklin Templeton Shootout.
Whether it was for monetary reasons or something else, it seems as though the Shark may have been a little too aggressive for Mr. Templeton and released it from its name hosting duties. It wasn't long before a complete coup de tat took place with the naming rights, as Merrill Lynch swooped in and knocked Franklin Templeton out, thus claiming the tournament for itself and naming it to Merrill Lynch Shootout.
Six years later, it appears as though Franklin Templeton built up a strong enough army to take back the tournament in the year of 2011 and aptly renamed it the Franklin Templeton Shootout. Quite a battle for a tournament in December, no wonder it dons the name of Shootout. It's like every five years a contender comes in and has a 10-pace duel with the current name holder for the naming rights.
Seems as though Greg Norman has been the only constant throughout the 23 year history of the shootout, and the guy no longer gets to have his name in the title anymore. Makes sense.....
In 2010, the duo of Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter (both good Twitter follows by the way) won the Merril Lynch Shootout with a total score of 186. Which of course brings us to 2011, and the lineup looks pretty good:
Scott McCarron & Greg Norman
Jerry Kelly & Steve Stricker
Keegan Bradley & Brendan Steele
Charles Howell III & Justin Leonard
Rickie Fowler & Camilo Villegas
Anthony Kim & Webb Simpson
Stewart Cink & Bo Van Pelt
Jason Dufner & Sean O'Hair
Chad Campbell & Chris DiMarco
Rory Sabbatini & Jhonattan Vegas
Mark Calcavecchia & Nick Price
Scott Stallings & Kenny Perry
I like the McCarron/Norman pairing, but I wish Norman was playing with the partner he won with in 1998, Steve Elkington. I'd be happy to have the cameras fixed on that pair all day with each of them mic'd up, but then again, I don't imagine the PGA Tour would be happy about bleeping out their conversations at such a high rate.
The Bradley/Steele young-gun duo is intriguing, as is Fowler/Villegas and Kim/Simpson. However, if Sabatini/Vegas get on a roll I could easily see them pulling this off. In fact, that's going to be my pick... Sabatini/Vegas - so long as Sabatini doesn't get ejected during the match or suspended before hand.
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