Fun note from Doug Ferguson on Graeme McDowell, who has stunk up Augusta National, taking notes during the weekend telecast to try and play the place better.
Golf is the Great Mystery. Like some capricious goddess, it bestows its favours with what would appear an almost fat-headed lack of method and discrimination. On every side we see two-fisted he-men floundering round in three figures, stopping every few minutes to let through little shrimps with knock-knees and hollow cheeks, who are tearing off snappy seventy-fours. Giants of finance have to accept a stroke per from their junior clerks. Men capable of governing empires fail to control a small, white ball, which presents no difficulties whatever to others with one ounce more brain than a cuckoo-clock. Mysterious, but there it is. P.G. WODEHOUSE
Beverly Hanson passed away April 12th at the age of 89 and few know her as one of the pioneering figures of the LPGA. Hanson won three majors and even covered men's tournament under the byline of Ben Hanson given to her by an editor.
Thankfully, Doug Ferguson talked to some of her peers and files a superb obituary of this LPGA golfing great.
The year the LPGA was formed in 1950, Hanson won the U.S. Women's Amateur at East Lake — Bobby Jones presented her the trophy — went 3-0 in the Curtis Cup and finished the year by beating Patty Berg in the Texas Women's Open as an amateur.
She won her first event after turning pro in 1951 by beating Babe Zaharias in the Eastern Open.
Hanson won 15 more times over the next decade, including three majors. That included the inaugural LPGA Championship in 1955 when she beat Suggs twice in one week. Hanson finished three shots ahead in stroke play in Fort Wayne, Ind., and then won 4 and 3 in match play between the top two medalists.
Brace yourselves purists who've been making great points in the Hack Golf debate.
However, I've penned a short GolfDigest.com letter asking that you keep an open mind about 15 inch cups, or at the very least, start taking your passionate views in defense of the game and focusing on the costly chase for faster greens. The chase for putting surface speed is doing nothing to make the game more enjoyable or more affordable. Nor does the speed chase retain golfers.
In a roundabout way, 15-inch cups may be the only way to minimize the absurd chase for speed. Or at least generate so discussion. Which is why I, (hopefully still considered) a purist, will not write them off. That concludes the longest-ever introduction to a 500 word letter.
Gary Williams, Charlie Rymer and I talked about the Hack Golf debate on Morning Drive today, along with many other topics including Tom Watson's Ryder Cup comments, the Masters and Michelle Wie:
From a Guardian staff report, the news that R&A Chief Inspector Architect Peter Dawson will step down in September 2015, but still will remain on the International Golf Federation board through 2016 to see the Olympic golf's debut through.
Interesting that the Guardian item notes high up in his list of accomplishments: the possibility of female Royal and Ancient Golf Club members. No mention of his architectural tinkering work at Open rota courses, i.e. The Treatment.
There was this from the official press release on the search for his successor:
The recruitment of Mr Dawson’s successor will be handled by international executive search firm Spencer Stuart and the position will be advertised this weekend. An appointment is expected to be made in sufficient time to allow for an appropriate handover period in 2015.
Expressions of interest in the role should be sent to TheR&A@SpencerStuart.com.
With his Masters performance and now a win in his Champions Tour debut, should Miguel Angel Jimenez be consideration of Captain Paul McGinley?
Jimenez wants on the team and Derek Lawrenson says the idea doesn't seem as nutty as it did last summer after a win in Hong Kong Open when Jimenez made his ambitions clear.
And now? If the match was taking place tomorrow, you'd want him in the team.
Never mind that he doesn't hit the ball very far and his Ryder Cup record isn't great.
Think about what he does bring to the party, what he'd be like in the team room, the crowd reaction when he walks to the first tee, and the fact that in the only home Ryder Cup he has played in, at Celtic Manor in 2010, he won two matches out of three.
And so, this summer, the world's most interesting golfer - to quote the headline accompanying an American magazine feature - will become the most intriguing sub-plot. Will he achieve his once-impossible dream? One thing's for sure: every overweight, 50-something club golfer from here to California will be cheering him on.
Randall Mell reports on U.S. Open media day from Pinehurst where the scribes mooched off the USGA for a free round of golf in return for spellbinding stories of Scotty McCreery sightings or, on occasion, something to whet our appetite for the upcoming Opens. (We pause for this Wikipedia entry on Scotty in case you were like me and just couldn't place the name.)
That came in the form of Mell's report on Bill Coore making an appearance to talk about No. 2's restoration and the first U.S. Open of modern times without a rough crop.
“This is going to be the first U.S. Open played without a maintained rough,” Coore said during Monday’s media day. “Yes, the fairways will be bigger, but the uncertainty of shots that are going to be played from the natural rough, we think that is going to be one of the most interesting stories of the week.”
Of course, Coore said, the diabolical turtle-back greens will remain Pinehurst No. 2’s primary defense, but the shots into them will be more intriguing this year. Coore and Crenshaw began restoring the course in May of 2010 with the course re-opening in the spring of 2011.
The restoration means a player who misses a fairway this year may find his ball in a sandy waste area, in wiry grass or in pine straw, or in some combination of all of the above.
“We think you’re going to see some of the most spectacular recovery shots in U.S. Open history,” Coore said.
Will Gray takes us through the delineation between Pinehurst's bunkers and waste areas. This will be the first of many times we decipher the distinction between now and June.
The 31-year host to the Wyndham Championship until 2008 (a.ka. the Greater Greensboro Open) has been closed due to the bankruptcy filing of owners ES2 Sports & Leisure, reports Kim Wynne.
(Thanks ol Harv for this.)
“It is with sincere sympathy and a heavy heart that we update you all on the status of Forest Oaks. Although I still can not give details as to what lead us to this point due to pending legal matters, I need to inform you that as of Today, 4/15/14 Forest Oaks has closed.”
“All employees including department heads are no longer employed by ES2 Sport & Leisure.”
“ES2 Sports & Leisure has elected to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy protection and will not be able to help with any questions or concerns.”
In the email, the company said all employees of ES2 Sports & Leisure have been terminated effective April 15.
“Obviously nobody is going to get paid today,” said Garrett Smith, who worked at the club’s pro shop.
The News Record also posted a story with shocked member reaction and more photos of the facility. And there was this local Fox 8 news report from Kim Wynne:
The tears are going to flow when Rex Hoggard profiles Jarrod Lyle and his efforts to return from cancer treatments for the second time, but there will no doubt be plenty of laughs in the segment remembering Caddyshack director Harold Ramis, including rare insights from Bill Murray talking about the role that made him famous.
LA Times Water Story: "It's the same fatal error being repeated all over the Southwest--there is no new water"
John M. Glionna's front page LA Times story is generating a lot of attention today and it's interesting to see the many ways the look at Las Vegas's water situation has been interpreted. While The Strip sounds like it's to blame, the story makes very clear that it is not, but instead the watering of turf.
And though we all know from David Owen's Golf Digest story a few years back that the efforts to minimize turf irrigation have been the most progressive in the country, it still sounds like the takeaway from the story will be that golf is still a huge part of the problem.
The real water hog is not people, many say, but grass: About 70% of Las Vegas water goes to lawns, public parks and golf courses. A rebate program has already ripped out 168 million square feet of grass, enough to lay an 18-inch-wide roll of sod about 85% of the way around the Earth.
But is Las Vegas ready to ban grass entirely? "Well, at that point you're seriously impacting quality of life. We're not being complacent. We're just not ready for draconian cuts," said Davis, the spokesman for the water authority.
John Paul Newport considers himself a purist and his weekly WSJ column backs that up, yet he couldn't help but rave about the Hack Golf 15-inch round he played, where time on the greens was slashed in half.
He called it "fast, fun and liberating" and says it would be a fun alternative now and then.
But we dispensed with the lion's share of the short-game choreography that not only slows down the game, but can intimidate newcomers.
Among the things we never or rarely did in the round: remove the flagstick; mark our balls; study the line of a putt for more than 15 seconds; wait a long time for someone else to putt, because whoever happened to be ready played next; and agonize over second putts. No one three-putted all day.
Newport also reports that Taylor Made, backers of Hack Golf, will be shipping big-hole kits to 100 courses free of charge. Par Aide will be selling them at $700 for kits that include cutter and cups.
Bill Pennington also wrote about the day for the New York Times and included this about the PGA of America's star task force member, Bode Quesadilla Miller, who needs to have it explained to him that there is no local, state or federal law forbidding manufacturers from making non-conforming equipment.
Mr. Miller said he wanted to lift the rules governing the use of juiced golf clubs or golf balls.
“A nonconforming club or ball does not corrupt the game,” Mr. Miller said. “Not if it encourages people to try a very intimidating game. That will be beneficial to golf for 50 years.”
Pennington also shares a range of opinions from golf industry folks, including this from Curtis Strange.
“I don’t want to rig the game and cheapen it,” said Curtis Strange, a two-time United States Open champion and an analyst for ESPN. “I don’t like any of that stuff. And it’s not going to happen either. It’s all talk.”
We'll be talking 15-inch cups on Monday's Morning Drive at around 8:20 a.m. ET.
I've tried to figure out Josh Sens' item on golf.com asserting that the $68.8 billion golf industry could see a $15 billion hit from a prolonged Tiger Woods absence.
I want to give Sens the benefit of the doubt because he does fine work, but this really makes no sense as far as I can tell:
According to Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of research for Horizon Media, a New York-based media services company, the 25 – 30 percent ratings drop we’re accustomed to seeing at Tiger-free events threatens to translate into similar percentage losses the board.
Adgate and other analysts say it’s impossible to a put a precise price tag on Tiger’s absence. But if we do the math and arrive at a ballpark number in a golf industry valued at around $68.8 billion, it pencils out at roughly $15 billion. Gulp!
Key word, pencils.
Meanwhile thanks to all here who voted in the Friday poll on tournaments without Tiger. With just over 900 voters, 38% says they're less likely to watch a tournament without Tiger and 51% said you were just as likely to watch.
Luke Kerr-Dineen with the details of Patrick World Top Five Reed pull-yanking a hazard recovery shot at Harbour Town further into the hazard and right at the base of a yacht named Top Five.
Here's the video if you don't believe it:
After contending multiple times over a recent run, Matt Kuchar finally picked up his first win of 2014 by holing a bunker shot at Harbour Town's 18th. (Unbylined AP game story here.)
The shot came just moments after three-putting the 17th and just before an awkward exchange with Nick Faldo in the booth following the round. (Golf Central Daily sums up that encounter. Here is the one little oddity in the Faldo-Kuchar history, though there isn't much there. There.)
The shot and exuberance from Kuchar:
While it's her third career win and third top 10 of 2014, this Michelle Wie win in the Lotte Championship comes after changing her putting stroke to something unconventional and landing an undergraduate degree at Stanford. Way to hang in there.
From an unbylined AP story:
''I'm just having fun out there,'' said Wie, who grew up in Honolulu. ''I was out there and nervous. Every time I felt nervous out there, I was looking around, I felt there was no place I'd rather be.''
Stanford had her worst round of the tournament, shooting a 1-over 73 that put her at 12-under 276 and two shots behind Wie. Top-ranked Inbee Park finished third with an 11-under 277.
''Today, just didn't make the putts that I've been making,'' Stanford said. ''I wasn't hitting it great today. Just mis-clubbed a couple of times. Just didn't make good decisions.''
**Back in January, Tim Rosaforte had some great backstory info on Wie's move to Palm Beach and her newfound energy and independence.
You're less, more or just as likely to tune in?
I see from the spirited discussion about The Atlantic piece and Masters ratings that his place in the game now and going forward generates many opinions. I'll plead guilty to falling into the category of less likely to watch without Woods.
While I believe this is a pretty simple question, I could see some distinctions. But with it being a slow news week and his presence so hotly debated, why not just ask?
I suspect we'll discuss on Monday's Morning Drive as the post-Masters analysis shifts to big picture questions like this and what year-round golf is doing to player schedules leading into the Masters.
Hornets attack, jump in a lake and make birdie.
Pablo Larrazabal had to run "like a crazy guy" and jump in the water to escape hornets that stung him 20 times at the Maybank Malaysian Open.
The Daily Mail's Chris Cutmore writes up the incident, and the story includes Getty Images of Larrazabal going in the water to avoid more stings.
'I've never been so scared,' admitted Larrazabal afterwards.
Larrazabal eventually emerged from the lake, dried off and received several injections to treat the 20 stings he suffered.
Incredibly, Larrazabal then resumed his round and he shot a remarkable score of 68 - four under par - which included two birdies after the terrifying incident.
'I hit my tee shot just right of the bunker and chipped it out quite well,' Larrazabal said of the incident, which occurred on the fifth hole at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
'So I'm walking along and suddenly I felt something on my nose. I swatted it away and suddenly...they were not bees, they were three times the size of bees.
Son of the Bronx posts last week's Masters ratings for Golf Channel and while the network was down from a year ago (186,000k average prime time viewers vs. 250,000), the numbers for the Live From The Masters coverage look pretty impressive by cable sports studio show standards, especially when the big draw in question is on another network and there is no CBS promotion of GC's all-day coverage.
Check out the other network ratings on the same link and you'll see what I mean.
The Saturday Live From coverage airing at 9:30 am until the Masters start on CBS at 3 pm averaged 585,000 viewers. Sunday's similar Live From coverage averaged 556,000 viewers. Those were the network's top two shows, followed by Sunday night's first airing of Arnie, whic drew a 0.3 and averaged 471,000 viewer. That's with Live From lead-in of 331,000 average viewers.
As for Arnie's other two airings, not included in last week's ratings, Golf Channel says "1.75 million unique viewers tuned into all or part of Arnie." And: "each installment of Arnie was Golf Channel’s most-watched program of the day and each bested its previous year’s timeslot by no less than 100 percent and up to 295 percent."
The Atlantic's Jake Simpson files a mostly reasonable consideration of golf's prospects post-Tiger in light of the recent Masters played without the most compelling player of the last 15 years. Thanks to By-The-Minute Golf's Lawrence Donegan for Tweeting this.
While the 10% ratings drop computed for years Woods isn't within five shots of the lead doesn't seem that catastrophic to me, Simpson's take here resonates:
The sport is never going to match the global popularity of football, soccer, or basketball, and it’s never going to resonate with the American masses like baseball or NASCAR. But millennials like me—and people who otherwise wouldn’t know Augusta National from Augusta, Maine—have followed golf because of Woods. Sure, there was his adultery and his messy divorce and his reams of steamy texts with women other than his wife. But even after all that, Woods remained the one golfer who could generate moments so special that a five-year-old watching him on TV could fall instantly in love with the game. Grantland founder Bill Simmons saw that light in his son’s eyes after the 2011 Masters, when Woods made a front-nine final round charge before finishing fourth.
I don't need Tiger to teach my child how to behave. I need him to teach my son that it's fun to watch golf. Yesterday was the first lesson. There was a putt, and a roar, and a fist pump, and then my son screaming "Again!" Only Tiger Woods could have made it happen. It's a gift.
Simmons is right. Only Tiger Woods can make those moments happen. And if Spieth or McIlroy or some other budding star can’t duplicate his success on the course and his persona off it, those singular golf moments will disappear with him.
Tripp Mickle of SBJ reports on William Morris-Endeavor's plans for new acquisition IMG and the news for golf sounds decidedly mixed with huge cuts as well as an expansion of client representation in the cards.
From Mickle's story:
According to the documents, WME is confident it can achieve the $151 million in cuts because IMG historically has been focused on “growth and expansion over margin and profitability” and has a “siloed, decentralized” corporate structure. AlixPartners and Accenture, whom WME hired to evaluate IMG’s business, agreed, the report says.
Siloed? Paging Dr. Freud...go on...
The Moody’s analysts said they anticipated the cost savings would “be difficult and could impact performance for a specific division or even overall results” at the new company, but they added that Endeavor’s ability to eliminate costs after acquiring William Morris Agency gave them “a degree of confidence” that WME could effectively cut costs at IMG.
The documents don’t go into great detail about WME’s plans for increasing revenue at WME/IMG. It plans to reinvigorate IMG’s client representation business in golf, tennis and other areas by leaning on WME’s track record in client representation, and it plans to consolidate sales forces and develop a bonus structure that improves sales results.