Robert Grant writes about the lengthening of the Old Course and Peter Thomson’s input that included suggesting the embracing of land outside the existing course to gain some extra yardage.
Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian reports on the latest flare up in the Monty scandal. John Hopkins in the Times says the European Tour should put together a blue ribbon committee to determine what happened, as if there is much doubt at this point.
Alan Ross has the story of Pinehurst looper Willie McRae, who once caddied for Donald Ross. As well as many others over a long career. Mike Aitken reports that St. Andrews is being pushed as the Olympic golf site if London receives the 2012 bid. Another sport must be dropped though, and golf will be competing with rugby, squash, karate and roller sports for any opening.
Thomas Bonk in the LA Times talks to Johnny Miller about the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Miller has many interesting things to say about the “big 4.” And Bonk writes that Miller said Pinehurst “should be a good U.S. Open setup, not like last year's too-tough Shinnecock Hills in New York. Last year, the setup was over the top, said Miller, who admitted he kept his mouth shut about it on the air. There's your upset. Johnny Miller without an opinion is like John Daly without a driver.”
Johnny, don’t be so hard on yourself. You did say that the course was “unplayable” at one point Sunday. That’s pretty strong.
This Telegraph story reports Gary Evans' remarks on the Monty incident. And this story reports on a call from European Tour director George O'Grady for Evans to apologize. Alan Campbell writes about the Els IMG departure and the demise of the agency.
Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian has one of many reports on Paul McGinley's BMW comments about course setup, lengthening the Old Course and the need to tuck European Tour hole locations in order to help their players in the majors. It seems that McGinley wants to see more European events featuring the American approach of tucked holes on firm greens. Not sure how much American golf presents firm greens, but the tucked locations seemed to be part of a movement toward low score prevention, not necessarily an effort to enhance strategy as McGinley hopes would happen.
Speaking of hole locations and low score prevention tactics, Colin Montgomerie had this to say after round 2 at the BMW:
Q. How about some of the pin placements?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I've seen a few today that I haven't seen before. 7 for five, I don't know where that came from; it was dark, I suppose. And then there was one, a few others I think that were very near, cutting into slopes, but I suppose that's okay. Don't get me wrong. Technology is making it that way that the pins are a lot, lot closer to the edges of the green than I've ever found before. There used to be a rule that it used to be three paces, three paces on the greens, but they don't seem to be adhering to that rule anymore. Technology I suppose says that. You can stop the ball quicker, the balls are stopping quicker, so there's no problem there. It's preventing scoring around here, that's for sure.
In the May 20 issue of Golf World (not posted), Stu Schneider’s always entertaining TV Rewind column featured this gem: "After Lanny Wadkins talked about how great it was to have dinner with Byron Nelson, 'without corporate people,' Jim Nantz quickly added, 'Not that there’s anything wrong with corporate people.'"
The excellent issue also features John Strege’s outstanding piece on the Big Stakes Match Play even in Nevada that airs next week on The Golf Channel, while John Hawkins explains the bizarre TPC Avenal/Booz Allen Classic situation.
Jeff Rude has some fun Tour notes and observations on Golfweek.com, while Golfweek.com also breaks the news of Ernie Els’s decision to leave IMG after only one year. And Frank Nobilo has some interesting comments on his web site, including a nice mention of The Future of Golf.
Golf architect Brian Curley spoofs the Village People’s Y.M.C.A. with his new single, U.S.G.A, which you can hear and read the lyrics to on SI.com. It's a classic.
…That the first of oh, six or is it seven senior majors, is being played this week!? Anyway, Chico Harlan in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes about changes to Champions Tour golf, and offers several interesting anecdotes.
“John Jacobs averaged 246.5 yards off the tee in 1988. Now, at 60, Jacobs' average drive travels 286.0. In 1990, Tom Purtzer led the PGA Tour with an average driving distance of 279.6. Now, as he moves farther away from his athletic prime, he's also moving closer to the pin: Last season, his usual drive flew 294.8 yards.”
And these quotes from Dana Quigley stood out: "I hit one ball 338 yards last week. I hit one 346 [one month ago] in Austin, Texas. Used to be, I couldn't hit it that far with a driver and a pitch."
"I won the first tournament this year, came in second in the next, and I don't have any of the 14 clubs I used in those tournaments," Quigley said. "There's always something better. Always. I come here every day and, honestly, it's like Christmas. Like, what new thing can I have?"
Remember the good old days when players had favorite clubs they wouldn’t dare take out of the bag?
Did you catch Stu Schneider's recent Golf World TV column where he cited ESPN2's amazing stat? Here goes: Annika Sorrenstam's driving distance average in 1994 was 229.2 yards. 2005: 272.9.
Tod Leonard writes that the Tour is considering moving the match play to Innisbrook in Florida, possibly the second least interesting course in America for match play, right behind La Costa. David Feherty answers mail at Golfonline. Alistair Tait at Golfweek writes about Colin Montgomerie's character being called into question, while Mike Aitken provides some very interesting details about the brewing storm with European Tour players . And now posted at Golfdom.com is my May column on course setup's gone awry .
Bill Pennington writes a front page New York Times story (reg. required) on how hi-tech equipment isn’t helping golfers score any better. My initial impression of the story was a good one, however, reader Blue Blazer set me straight (as usual). The story is just not front page NY Times worthy. Even a Fort Worth Light and Shopper editor might have asked a few questions about why Pennington tries to equate PGA Tour golf with everyday golf.
“On the PGA Tour this year, the average score of players has risen, by 0.28 strokes, compared with the average 10 years ago.”
Accompanying the story is a graph showing that scores have remained consistent over the last ten years. So this year’s rise just might have something to do with the horrid weather or fairway widths at 25 yards or holes cut 4 feet from the fringe. Nor is it clear what Tour scoring has to do with the premise of the piece, which is the relationship between average golfer scoring and high-priced equipment.
The story points out that the average handicap has only dropped a half-stroke in the last five years, but he doesn’t point out that there’s been a 1.5 average drop over the last 10. Another curious portion of the piece involves comments from Rick Martino, the director of instruction for the P.G.A. of America, who suggested that three factors had influenced the lack of change in average scoring, which actually has changed.
"The golf courses are much harder than 20 years ago - longer, more bunkers, more water," he said. "Also, the average age of the average golfer has gone up considerably because people are living longer and baby boomers are retiring and taking up golf. But these golfers are less fit and less accomplished at the game. And, there are more golfers who play fewer rounds per year. If you only play two to seven times a year, what's your average score going to be?"
Another overall message of the story is that instruction hasn’t done much to help golfers either because no one wants to talk about the short game. Oh and “what of the PGA pro? Why isn't his score declining?”
Pennington writes, “Unquestionably, most courses on the professional tours are longer, and greens are mowed to be faster.” Oy. How about 400 inches of rain this year?
Overall, it’s refreshing to read something not blatantly celebrating consumerism and proclaiming the USGA evil for daring to look at the effects of equipment deregulation, but it would be nice to see a front page New York Times story with a little more clarity and context.
Paula Creamer’s historic win seems to be getting the attention it deserves. ESPN.com had her on their home page most of the day, with an accompanying Ron Sirak article pointing out that Creamer is approaching her career quite differently than Michelle Wie.
On the freak show news front, check out the story of 14-year-old Carmen Bandea who is playing in the men’s U.S. Open qualifying. Like Creamer, she goes to the IMG/Titleist/Polo Acade…err, The Pendleton School in bucolic Bradenton . According to the wire service story – and I am not making this up - Bandea likes playing with the men because, according to the writer, “it gives her a chance to pair up with someone cute. She was especially eager to check out her two playing partners Monday.”
"She's very mature in some ways, but in some ways she's very immature," her mother said. "She's kind of acting her age right now." Then what better time to enter the U.S. Open qualifying!
And for those searching for the gift that keeps on giving, check out the Tour wives charity wrist bands for charity. These are bound to go over well in the men's card room. How long before we see players having to wear these to appease the wife?
Cary Estes on TCPalm.com (reg. required) talks to Tom Kite about his return to the regular Tour and got some interesting comments on PGA Tour course setup.
The PGA Tour is pushing the limits as to what they can do out there," Kite said. "The pin placements are so hard right now. The (PGA Tour regulars) told me, 'You will shake your head at some of the pins.' "They are doing on a weekly basis what you'd expect to see in a major championship. They're maxing out the golf courses as far as length, so they're setting up the courses hard.
Simon Khan's 8,000-pounds ($14,720) fine at the Irish Open first round on Thursday was the highest financial penalty for slow play imposed on a European Tour professional. Dollar figures like that might actually get the attention of players who seem to think 5 hours is the norm. Also, Sandy Tatum's story on the new Bandon Trails course is posted at GolfDigest.com .
The Houston Chronicle's Steve Campbell has a fun story on Steve Flesch and his revolving door of putters .And Jeff Rude of Golfweek writes on the same subject.
James Dodson’s Hogan biography won the USGA Book Award . I had such high hopes for The Future of Golf too. And this link will take you to the trailer for “The Greatest Game Never Played.” It actually looks pretty good.
Thanks to reader Marty for sending the May issue of the USGA’s wannabe shareholder rag. You can learn all about what goes into the U.S. Open. Scintillating merchandise anecdotes are featured. Beanie-bag bears “became a hot item in 1998” and at Pinehurst they sold 10,000 lanyards in 1999.
The real fun is in the “Championship Countdown” section. "Six to seven years out" from the event they explain the selection and final negotiation process. Next to the text is a photo of a very dark hand shaking a very white hand. Yeah, that goes on a lot. And beside the “five years out” section, there’s a picture of a guy rolling a green. Wow, they start early! Finally, in the “six months before” section, the text mentions “construction of grandstands, tents and other facilities begins” and “final preparations are made to the golf course.” That must be interesting at places like Shinnecock and Winged Foot, since six months out is the middle of January.
Walter Driver’s banal setup philosophy statement is printed to help those USGA members with sleep deprivation issues, while the summary of the Shinnecock debacle is priceless: “By Sunday, Shinnecock’s greens had become extremely tricky even for the world’s best players.” Extremely tricky? Oh and “criticism was leveled at the USGA. Players felt conditions were too severe.” You think?
Driver has a couple of keeper quotes on setup: “If there was a mathematical formula that we could use, that would be great.” And my favorite, “We want to force players to hit some clubs they wouldn’t normally hit.” Force, or ask? Kind of a difference isn't there?
Yep, the Donald is calling Ocean Trails his. This Fairways and Greens review looks at the soon-to-open course, which Jim Fazio had been linked to.
It’s simply a new golf course, and that brings up a vital point: This is no longer the work of Pete Dye or even Tom Fazio, who laid out Trump’s three East Coast courses.
“Is it a Pete Dye design? No. Is it a Tom Fazio design? No. It’s a Trump Signature Design golf course,” Van der Goes says. The man himself concurs, then explains why he went from design apprentice to the project’s lead architect.
“I could have just fixed it up a little bit and opened it a year ago, but I decided not to do that,” Trump told Fairways & Greens in April. “It’s a Donald J. Trump design, you know. Frankly, no architect would tell you to do what I did, especially on the first hole. Like using Palos Verdes stone to put that No. 1 tee box 40 feet up the hill. It’s too expensive, but I did it anyway, I did the right thing. That tee used to be down in a well; now it’s almost 100 yards farther back and high up, above the ocean.”
And we can’t overlook the waterfalls. After all, they’ll be overlooking us: After hitting right into them from the No. 1 fairway or No. 17 tee, golfers will drive their carts under their upper reaches, á la Disneyland, and marvel at the manmade wizardry of it all — of pumping 8,000 gallons per minute into a pond below the green, and somehow making it look natural enough to fit in with the rest of the landscape. Some people will find it kitschy, but we call it cool.
I’d joke about this,but you’re already laughing.
Vartan Kupelian is skeptical that Nicklaus is really calling it quits. The Electric Newspaper comments on the golf ball issue. Early reviews of Monty's new course and it's 16-yard wide fairway aren't so hot. And Steve Elling has all sorts of fun stuff in his Orlando Sentinel notes column (reg. required). On Tiger’s cut streak: “The streak officially lasted 87½ months. According to one accounting, Woods played 532 stroke-play rounds in that span, averaged 69.26 shots, finished 1,158 strokes under par and won 37 tournaments.”
On O’Hair: “Rookie Sean O'Hair, a 22-year-old whose overbearing father used a distressing mix of corporal punishment, psychological warfare and Draconian training methods to put his son on the golfing fast track, finishes second at the Nelson, authoring the feel-good story of the year. O'Hair's twisted upbringing was first detailed in the Sentinel last December and father Marc O'Hair hasn't forgotten. Phoned Sunday night at his home in Lakeland, he unleashed a string of high-octane, high-profane epithets and angrily slammed down the phone.”
Thanks to reader Josh for this story on a review of “the laws and regulations governing the manufacture of cricket bats” for the host of reasons you’d hope golf would draw the line.
If spats are your thing, Walters Golf issues a press release on “The Real Truth Behind The TravelGolf.com Attacks.” Or if dull is your thing, there’s Arnold Palmer’s commencement address at Wake Forest.Gary Player vents about technology. Nothing too new here, but still some interesting quotes. Steve Elling's excellent Golf World piece on Sean O'Hair is worth another look if you didn't see it before. Using OHair's story as an example, Ron Sirak says there should be age limits in sports. Ty Tryon comes up, but no mention of Michelle Wie. Garry Smits has an excellent and lengthy overview of the coming TV negotiations and the possibility of a Tour schedule change.
"Clearly, everybody has a self-interest here. Somebody saying they've got some altruistic concern for the game, that's just hard to buy."
Hmmm…come on, not everybody has sold out!
In the same article, Robert Trent Jones Jr., who recently endorsed Titleist's NXT ball, said, "It's the tyranny of TV and TV's red numbers are changing this. We change the game just for them?”
"I can't imagine people buying a shorter ball."
Some stats to consider from an reader who would like to remain anonymous. First, from the most recent Golf Datatech Consumer Survey:
37% surveyed say distance is threatening the integrity of the professional game. 59% say it isn't. In 2004, 31% said the pro game was being harmed.
49% say advances in the driver and the ball are equally responsible for distance gains. 32% say it is primarily the ball, 20% say it's primarily the driver. In 2004, just 19% said the golf ball was the primary culprit.
45% say they would support limits on equipment for the pros only
Regarding E. Michael Johnson’s April 29, 2005 Golf World commentary on equipment (still not posted online), Johnson pointed to the number of courses on the Tour rotation now that were also in use in 1994 (to show they are not obsolete). Regarding the number of courses and the change in their yardages:
Number of courses shorter: 3
Number of courses the same: 4
Number of courses +1 - +50 yards: 7
Number of courses +51 - +100: 7
Number of courses +100 - +200: 5
Number of courses +201 - +300: 5
Number of courses +301 - +400: 2
Number of courses more than 500: 1
Did you wonder why Monty recently donated his Indonesian Open winner's check to charity? The details are coming out, and it's not pretty. Lawrence Donegan of The Guardian explains the entire episode and the background on Soren Kjeldsen, who figured out that Monty was, uh, cheating. A second story details how Monty was rebuked this week by a player committee. Mike Aitken in The Scotsman also looks at the issue.