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Thursday
Jun302005

Luring the Open Doctor

Len Ziehm quotes Frank Jemsek on the bizarre mating rituals being played out between Jemsek at Cog Hill, the USGA and architect Rees Jones.

"[Rees is] already so busy doing jobs that pay him $1 million, what motivation would he have for a job that he might not want or where he might not get the work?" Jemsek said. "But he seems to be the most complimented [architect] by the USGA and the players. We'll keep on trying."

So the recruitment of Jones continues -- even though it's not a given that his hiring would bring the Open to Lemont.

"I've not been told by the USGA that [Jones needed to be hired] to get the Open,'' Jemsek said. "And if we did get him, I haven't been guaranteed that we'd get one.''

However, two friends close to the USGA and living in different parts of the country have advised Jemsek to hire Jones.

"They're people I trust, and they said that's what they've heard," Jemsek said. "I don't know if they were telling me [to get Jones] or if the USGA was telling me."

Well we know the USGA would never advocate changes to a course or recommend certain architects. Ziehm also looks at slow play on the Tour with a rundown of Tour policy. Interesting bit: Sabbatini played with Ben Crane the first three days at the Booz Allen as well. No wonder he flipped!

Thursday
Jun302005

Thursday Shorts

Monday
Jun272005

What Makes A Women's Course?

In introducting Golf for Women’s Top 50 ranking , Becky Cuniberti asks "What makes a women's course?" Now remember, I do not make this up. I simply copy and paste:

When evaluating a course for our Top 50 list, we also consider the environment for women. Are there at least two sets of tees rated for women? Are the forward tees as well tended as the others? Are they level? Are there ball washers on all the tees? If your glove has worn out, can you buy a new one that will fit you in the pro shop? Are there enough bathrooms on the course? Are there women on the teaching and pro-shop staffs? Are you treated as an equal, or does the marshal seem to stalk you (and only you) to make sure you're not holding up the half-drunken men behind you, all earnestly plumb-bobbing putts they'll miss by 10 feet?

Oh, but they don’t focus only on meaningless things, Not entirely:

We look at other things, too, such as memorability and conditioning. Is the course a visual treat? Does it offer up a varied, intriguing playing experience? Are there flowers? Do they pull the weeds? Do they pick up the trash and cigarette butts that can be spotted off to the sides?

Yes, just when you thought the Golf Digest list had hit rock bottom, here comes their uh, sister publication, Golf for Women, to make America's Top 100 Courses look brilliant. Finally, some comments on the various top 50 courses:

There aren't many flat lies, but the course is forgiving from the forward tees.

The clincher: three air-conditioned on-course restrooms and women forecaddies.

A new spa adds to the overall "ah" factor.

As our raters put it, the course is "immaculately groomed" and has "the fastest, purest greens" and an "excellent golf academy."

I think it was Tillinghast who said whatever you do, always make sure to have an excellent golf academy and most of all, build air-conditioned restrooms.

Monday
Jun272005

Misc. Weekend Reads

Great to see that quick play at Westchester. The final group was scheduled to tee off at 1:30 and finished at 6:25 by my clock. ABC must have been thrilled.

Ron Hall writes on the not-so sexy-but important topic of water conservation . Jeff Silverman on the hottest things in golf for Travel and Leisure Golf. And John Huggan writes about Michael Campbell in Scotland Sunday or whatever the Scotsman Sunday is called.

Saturday
Jun252005

Saturday Shorts

Kinda funny, but Michael Campbell has decided to WD from the Scottish Open so he can prepare for links golf. Serves 'em right for not contesting the event on a links. And according to PGATour.com, "New York This Way," produced by PGA TOUR Productions in association with ABC Sports airs before the Barclay’s Classic and captures “the on-course and off-course excitement with a unique look as the world’s best golfers tee it up at the Barclays Classic.”

Donald Trump (but who else?) gives viewers “a unique business mid-year review of the PGA TOUR season. From CEOs like Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, to rising ‘corporate stars’ like Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott, it’s a fun look at the TOUR’s exciting season.” Oh it gets better when “Len Mattiace, a native New Yorker, will join a host of TOUR players for a matinee performance of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.’” And we get to be there!

Don't stop rolling your eyes just yet. Because Cybergolf's Tony Dear has a rant on the USGA possibly taking away his right to buy the latest equipment with some hilarious comments from Taylor Made's Benoit Vincent.

“How many more useless rules need to be created?” Vincent asks. “How much more complex research will be conducted before we conclude that setting the course up correctly and designing tougher courses is the right way to go? Let technology go as far as it can, but regulate the game with the environment – tougher, but fair, conditions.”

Sometimes I wonder how golf survived nearly 300 years without rough and equipment manufacturers? It's a miracle really.

Friday
Jun242005

Golf World Open Wrap, Vol. 2

Between Brett Avery’s stat package and Bill Fields’s outstanding story “Changing Times,” there are plenty of fun stats in the Golf World Open recap. My favorite accompanies the Fields story and lists the average fairways, greens and driving distance for the top 10 players at the last 7 U.S. Opens. A sampling, and remember, the USGA drew the line on distance in 2001:

Pinehurst, 1999: Fwys 38.8%, Greens 40.6, Distance 268.0.

Southern Hills, 2001: Fwys 35.1%, Greens 44.5%, Distance 297.0.

Pinehurst, 2005: Fwys 30%, Greens 43. 3%, Distance 300.3.

Friday
Jun242005

Golf World Open Wrap, Vol. 1

Still haven’t gotten last week’s Golf World, but I did receive the U.S. Open report! Lots of interesting stuff. Ron Sirak writes about Tom Meeks saving his best setup for last, which is interesting since Meeks didn’t really set up the course.

The talented John Feinstein is relegated to writing about the USGA ad with the kid making the hole in one(!?). Well, the kid, Utah's Andy Griffin, hasn’t graduated from college as was predicted here last week. Instead he’s just about to enter Weber State. The article talks about how everyone loves the ad and how we’ll keep seeing it forever. Feinstein says that even the USGA’s David Fay, “not exactly known as a sentimentalist,” admits he “swallows hard” whenever he sees the spot.

Here's another odd thing about the Feinstein story. It includes a photo of Andy Griffin today re-enacting his hole-in-one jump. The photo was supplied by the USGA. So, does that qualify as synergy, or maybe it's cross-polinating brand platforms?

Finally, in John Strege’s Local Knowledge column, he reports that Michelle Wie can accept a chartered flight from the Women’s British Open to the Women’s Amateur in Georgia because she's a junior golfer. Strege confirms with the USGA’s David Fay that “it made no difference who paid for the private plane—even if it were a golf equipment company.”

Uh Bob Wood, B.J. Kim is in line 1. He says he needs a G5 because the G4 would require a refueling stop.

Friday
Jun242005

Callaway Going Private?

Sallie Hoffmeister in the L.A. Times (reg required) has the story on Callaway and the possible sale that would make it a privately held company again. Two parts of the story stood out:

Although the company has not disclosed the offer to shareholders, there were indications that Wall Street had gotten wind of the bid. After hitting a 2005 low in April of $10.78 a share, Callaway's stock has been drifting upward, closing Wednesday at $13.58, up 18 cents. Analysts said that rally could not be attributed to any changes in the company's performance or outlook. "Even the ratings for the U.S. Open were lackluster," said Dennis McAlpine of McAlpine Associates, referring to the number of TV viewers who watched the Open, won Sunday by Michael Campbell, using Callaway clubs.

Foley and Thomas Lee would take Callaway private, cut costs and try to revitalize its brands, sources say. Top Callaway executives back the idea because they believe that product quality and innovation have suffered because of the quarter-to-quarter growth demanded by Wall Street, insiders say. In their view, removing such pressures would revive the spirit of innovation that distinguished the company under its late founder.

Without clueless Wall Street analysts breathing down their back, might a privately held Callaway be more likely to take a chance on introducing a competition or classic course ball?

Friday
Jun242005

Friday Shorts

Another slow play debacle is in the works at Westchester. Check out Vijay's comments after his opening 68. You may recall that last year’s 5 hour weekend rounds – caused by players waiting on driveable par 4s and reachable par 5s – prompted the PGA Tour’s Slugger White to declare that something should be done about the ball. Mike Dougherty looks at ShotLink. Interesting how many players appear to be resisting the potential wealth of information it provides. The NGF's normally rosy outlook isn't so bright on the number of core golfers . Josh Thomson on how the Tour is setting hole locations, with a focus on Westchester. Bill Fields writes about the tragic passing of photographer Phil Sheldon and his many great images. Finally, it looks like 18 at Cherry Hills is just a bit over the top at 459 for the women.

Thursday
Jun232005

Misc. Thursday Reads

Lorne Rubenstein on Golfobserver looks at Michael Campbell and some of the choking that took place at Pinehurst. Chris Lewis at SI.com offers some fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the U.S. Open.

Hardly any interesting U.S. Women’s Open preview stories. Might have to chalk that up to the brilliant idea to play it the week after the men’s, all so NBC can plug it during the telecast. Here’s one story: for those of you wondering, they will be playing 18 at Cherry Hills as a par-4 at 459 yards. Even in the altitude, that'll be a long 459 for most of the contestants.

The Broadmoor will host the 2008 U.S. Senior Open , Saucon Valley gets the 2009 Women's Open, while the Ocean Course looks like it'll be getting a PGA Championship, making 2012 a very interesting hurricane season! In a complete coincidence, Roger Warren, the Director of Golf for Kiawah Island Resorts, just happens to be the current president of the PGA of America.

Wednesday
Jun222005

Wednesday Shorts

Not much time to post. Got to get to my Golf World U.S. Open PREVIEW issue that arrived in the mail Tuesday. Hey, at least it beat the U.S. Open wrap-up issue.

Tim Dahlberg of AP offers another stellar commentary , this time on how Annika’s quest is going unnoticed. Frank Hannigan's thoughts on the U.S. Open are now posted at Golfobserver. As much as I love the guy, I just can't buy into the U.S. Open being great because it's the anti-PGA Tour setup. I understand difficulty and the Open setup concept, but the talk of humiliating the players gives the impression that the USGA approach is born out of envy, not respect. It can be tough, grueling even, without being goofy. 22 yards of sloping fairway is goofy.

On that note, the kind of tough many of us would like to see more of…the tempting, grueling decision, has clearly changed as Tiger’s post round comments reveal .

“(The Open) is more of a thinking man’s game. It brings out all the different types of shots you have to play and you have to know how to play.”

But did it really bring out that many different shots last week from Tiger, besides long drives and wedges from the rough?

Seth Davis on SI.com writes a similar story about setup and appears to have spent way too much time buying into some revisionist history from the USGA spokesman Marty Parkes , especially when it came to characterizing last year’s Shinnecock fiasco as a weather-induced debacle, and a positive one at that. (“I don't deny the USGA went overboard in setting up Shinnecock Hills last year, but at least they went overboard in the right direction.”) Funny, something tells me that if play had been suspended in perfect weather and Davis had to come back Monday to report on the finish, it might not have been such a good overboard.

Speaking of Parkes, did you know the USGA doesn't hope to have par as a winning score? Here's Parkes at Cherry Hills on the even winning score outcome at Pinehurst.

"We got our wish there last week and now we are hoping to get it here this week," Parkes, the USGA's senior director of communications, "told reporters on his arrival here in Denver."

Brett Friedlander writes about Michael Campbell's ugly shirts . No explanation whether Campbell picked up those final round slacks at an Al Capone estate sale. Lawrence Donegan paints a nice picture of Campbell , who understandably withdrew from this week's French Open . And Golf Digest unearthed a 1996 Tom Callahan profile of Campbell .

Finally, an interesting statistical comparison on Pinehurst in 1999 v. 2005 by Peter McKnight is up on Golfclubatlas.com .

Tuesday
Jun212005

What's The Time Par?

Bruce Berlet Hartford Courant offers a fun slow play anecdote from Westchester:

Thursday, in the first round of the Barclays Classic at Westchester Country Club, [Paul] Azinger was in the fairway on his final hole when he signaled for a PGA Tour official."

"Need something?" the official asked.

"Not really," Azinger said, "just wondering what the time par is."

When told it was 4:20 for 18 holes for threesomes [3:45 for twos], Azinger said, "Well, we're at 5:05, so I just thought I'd call you over to pass some time."

Tuesday
Jun212005

Open Wrap-Up

Not much on Michael Campbell in the way of interesting reads. This win definitely caught the media off guard. But Cameron Morfit filed a fun and original Golfonline column about two young standard-bearers and the grief they got from their walking rules official. Luke Decock in the Raleigh News Observer on the course setup lovefest, particularly from Jerry Kelly who is suddenly the USGA’s biggest fan. Is he trying to win the Bobby Jones Award, or was he simply humbled by drawing the @#$%& pairing?

Fascinating that no one other than Tiger (at least publicly) had an issue with hole locations where missed putts could roll off greens. And perhaps the players have become so used to 25-28 yards of width, but still odd no one had an issue where fairway contours designed to encourage precision, instead led to flogging.

Here's another Tiger "bites back at critics" article in the Washington Post. "I've come a long way," said Woods. "And for all the people that have slammed me for making the changes, now you understand why I did it."

Naturally, the ideal follow up questions would clarify what exactly was wrong with the old Tiger swing that has been improved by the new Tiger swing. I'm still not clear what has improved, unless his mission was to create a swing that takes advantage of technology and allows the "flogging" approach on major championship setups. If that was his goal, then he’s right. The approach has been vindicated.

Finally, a couple of fun U.S. Open facts from the PGA Tour:

The win by Michael Campbell gave him just his second top-10 finish in 29 major starts. His previous best was a T3 during the 1995 British Open Championship, his second start in a major. It was the 12th time in the 29 starts that he had made the cut.

Tiger Woods led the U.S. Open in Greens in Regulation (54 of 72/75%) for the third time in 11 starts at the tournament. This is the first time he did not win the tournament as he did in 2000 and 2002. In his career, Woods has won 12 out of 20 times when he has led a tournament in GIR. It’s the ninth time he has led a major in GIR and the third time he has not won (1999 Masters/T18, 2001 British/T25).

The par-4 469-yard second hole became the third most difficult on TOUR in 2005 with a scoring average of 4.458. The toughest to date was the par-3 192-yard 14th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links during the MCI Heritage. The par-4 492-yard 16th hole became the 7th toughest with an average of 4.426 and the par-4 472-yard fifth hole became the 10th most difficult (4.395).

For the week, just 27.1% of the players were able to hit the 16th green in regulation.

Monday
Jun202005

Final Open Reads, Vol. 2

Peter McCleery reviews the telecast for Golfobserver. He noted the cozy NBC-USGA relationship:

Miller patted USGA president Fred Ridley on the back Sunday (symbolic of the NBC-USGA relationship) and gushed: "Hats off to you!'" The first day, he greeted championship chairman Walter Driver by saying: "Pat yourself on the back.'' Miller repeatedly referred to the setup as "perfect'' throughout the week. When the leaders began to struggle and scores rise on Saturday, Miller insisted it wasn't the course biting back. "They're hitting bad shots.'' If he isn't careful, ole Johnny may become known as a USGA shill.

David Barrett says the course was the big winner , and has some interesting quotes from players. Michael Grange in the Globe and Mail writes your basic "you still have to get the ball in the hole" take on the technology argument. Nothing too fresh here except for an interesting quote from Peter Oosterhuis and some complete nonsense from Frank Thomas, who has gone from trying to stop optimization at the USGA to saying it's A-okay as a Golf Digest consultant.

Monday
Jun202005

Telecast Notes

Note to NBC: great idea to cut away from the event as the excitement was peaking just for that silly pre-sold "sports update" and the Annika interview to plug next week's Women's Open.

Note to David Fay: the pink shirt and bow tie for the requisite First Tee piece was a big no-no, at least on my red-amped signal that turned Tiger's ugly shirt a glowing shade of tangerine.

Note to Fred Ridley: nice job congratulating Walter Driver and his committee for not screwing up the setup, oh and "the staff" too, whoever they are! Way to build morale. The staff guy who saved your rear is Mike Davis. Imagine if Meeks was on his own this week? I'd rather not. Note to NBC production: where were the bells and whistles? No crane shots, no bunker cams, nothing innovative that you are generally known for. What gives? Note to Pinehurst and Rees: what's with those wire grass nurseries down the sides of a few holes with the bad hair transplant planting schemes. Not exactly a rustic sandhills feel.

Monday
Jun202005

Weird Numbers, Vol. 2

The Golf Channel's Sunday postgame posted a slightly different set of numbers than NBC, but the basic point gets across:

                        1999                             2005

 

Fairways Hit       68.8%                           51.6%
GIR                    43.6%                           49.8%
Putts Per GIR      1.63                             1.89

 


TGC's Kraig Kann asked NBC's Mark Rolfing to explain this stat. Rolfing replied that the greens in regulation number went up because "the rough was much tougher this time." Uh okay. Mark, they hit MORE greens, and FEWER of the narrowed fairways. Could it be that they were hitting many more SW's and PW's this time?

Here's what Tiger said about flogging after the round to NBC: “Because of the hole locations, even if you put the ball in the fairway, its still unbelievably difficult to get close to, so even if I drive it in the rough it’s no big deal, I have sixty-degree sand wedge in my hand and figure I can hack it up there and make birdie.”

The Tiger par-4 approach yardages I remembered to write down: 83 yards to #1, 55 yards to #7's back pin, 126 yards to #11, 49 yards to #13.

Monday
Jun202005

Final Open Reads, Vol. 1

"For all the people who slammed me for making the changes, now you know why I did it," Tiger said, not hiding his decision to go to a flogging approach. Tiger's full interview is here. The home page for all the stats is fun, especially the stats showing the "precision" play by the final leaders. And here's Michael Campbell talk . Like Jason Gore, a class act who is well spoken and genuine. What do they have in common? They don't play on the PGA Tour.

MICHAEL CAMPBELL: The 17th hole will always be in my mind, forever. I played it in I think 9 shots, three birdies and a par. So it's going to be if I ever design a golf course, 17 will be in it. It will be exactly the same distance, same dimensions of the green, same I just love the 17th (laughter).

Cameron Morfit on Lewis Pullar, Jason Gore's quirky caddy (is that redundant?). Adrian Dater in the Denver Post writes about Cherry Hills, with information on the tough setup and conditions. Here's Art Spander's Saturday column on why Tiger Woods wouldn't win Sunday . Even the legends almost get it wrong sometimes!

In non-Open reads, Ron Whitten pays tribute to Mike Strantz . Will Shanley writes about the course being built in Holyoke, outside Denver. And thanks to reader Jim for this great column by Neil Clark in The Australian that looks at the demise of tennis, and the role the power game has played.

Sunday
Jun192005

Open Sunday Reads

Sunday
Jun192005

Fast Train Going Nowhere

On the Saturday telecast, NBC looked at the USGA’s cutting edge research into technology impacting the game. Dick Rugge likened the ball to a train that has stopped at many stations, and said “we think we’ve stopped it in the right station right now.” David Fay made sure to let us know that we’re 2 1/2 years into this research project and that things haven’t changed. He also reminded us that 2002 is the “benchmark,” because the USGA and R&A came out with their joint statement of philosophy then, and basically said that was the point they drew the line.

But here’s my question: why did they draw the line there BEFORE embarking on their research project?

Johnny Miller uttered a few truly ridiculous remarks after the feature aired. He insisted that someone in the field using “old 70s equipment” would be 2 under par right now. And then, repeated twice, “the scoring has not changed that much.”

No Johnny, just the courses. Watching leaders at Pinehurst approaching some of the hole locations from ideal angles out of rough is just sad to watch. But I guess that school of design is not up Johnny's alley.

Sunday
Jun192005

Weird Numbers

Here is the link to the USGA stat page. And some fun ones: Tiger Saturday: 339 yard drive on 11, 334 yards on 13, 348 yards on 14. 16 of 18 greens in regulation, 36 putts.

“Unbelievable hole locations. Unbelievable,” Tiger said. “You can’t take a run at any of these putts.”

And NBC had this one: Pinehurst has the most par-4’s over 460 yards in U.S. Open history. But remember, Walter Driver says it’s not long for a U.S. Open course, even though it's the longest in history! Finally, 4th place, Michael Campbell: 4 fairways Saturday, 71. Mark Hensby, 4th place, 11 of 42 fairways. As Johnny Miller said ad nauseum, the U.S. Open is all about precision!