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Saturday
Jun182005

More Saturday Reads

The Washington Post's Thomas Boswell writes, “either Goosen is a whole lot better than most people think, or the USGA needs to do a lot more thinking about what constitutes a great test of golf. Most likely, it's quite a bit of both.” And:

Since 1974, the list of U.S. Open champions who gained almost all their notoriety from this one event is alarmingly long. And that's not a compliment to the USGA. Hale Irwin won three Opens, but no other majors. Andy North, Lee Janzen and Goosen have each won twice, but would be little noted on the basis of all their other accomplishments. Lou Graham and David Graham have won as well as Larry Nelson and somnambulistic Scott Simpson, who stayed in contention every year for eternity. Corey Pavin, Steve Jones, Jerry Pate, Hubert Green and Jim Furyk also won their only majors at the U.S. Open.

Quite a group of "greatest golfers in the world." Makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up with excitement to read that list, doesn't it? When nearly two-thirds of your champions in a 30-year period can barely fog a mirror, maybe you're really identifying the most desensitized golfer.

This AP story looks at the progress of Baltusrul preparations , with the news that holes 4, 17, and 18 would be the sudden death rotation. Back to the Open, leave it to the UK papers to get on Paul Casey and Tiger. Lawrence Donegan says Tiger's leading the field in petulance . He also writes about Phil.

Mickelson's appeal is a mystery to many non-Americans, who find him more sugary than a fridge full of cola, but when he walks around the course at least he has the decency to acknowledge the paying public, unlike some of his erstwhile rivals. He also has a gambler's approach, which makes for exciting theatre. He will be missed come Sunday's denouement, and America will have to find another sweetheart.

Mason Linker reports on what is happening to players driving the 3rd green. And John Brasier says the USGA prefers grinding to greatness .

Saturday
Jun182005

Open Saturday Reads

Thrilling day Friday. Loved it when NBC came on and a guy was syringing the 18th green behind Johnny and Dan Hicks. Personally, I got two naps in but woke up in time for Jason Gore's 362-yarder on #8, which rolled maybe 20, most of it veering left! Oh, and did you notice Goosen in the left rough on 14, with the perfect angle into that right corner hole location? You know, where there was once fairway? Lovely stuff.

I think the kid in those cheesey USGA hole-in-one promos has his college degree by now. What do you say USGA? Time to put that one out of its misery along with the "I swing like a girl" ads?

Brad Klein writes something worth your while on the USGA and their setup issues. This is not the typical "they've learned their lesson" story regurgitated by most of the scribblers relying on David Fay's media day quotes. Klein reports they are only single cutting the greens, with no post-round cutting, no rolling! One middle of the night rolling like last year, and these things would be goners! Klein also has an interesting anecdote about Mike Davis and a last minute hole location change, something that Tom Meeks could learn from since he's still learning after all these years!

The Orlando Sentinel's Steve Elling has the best overview of where things stand and why Retief Goosen is underappreciated. Former USGA Executive Director Harry Easterly passed away Thursday . USOpen.com's notes section leads with the inappropriately titled "Poulter Pouts After Round," and goes into Ian Poulter's issue with the cup liner causing a putt of his not to drop. Turns out he had asked for not one, but two rules officials to determine if the liner was too high. Apparently it was a problem elsewhere on the course, and one reader with expertise in setup believes it may be the result of the syringing causing different ground temperatures. This AP story has some more details, without the propaganda tone found on USOpen.com. Poulter doesn't sound like he's making the problem up.

Tiger drew the USGA's ire for damaging a g reen and uttering an obsenity. It wasn't pretty. However he didn't earn a disqualification under the "serious breach" of etiquette rule because NBC really wants a decent rating this weekend. Jason Gore's came off beautifully in his press conference. Must be that fine Pepperdine education. And finally, Tiger talked about #15, which appeared unhittable on TV:

Q. How tough is 16 playing right now?

TIGER WOODS: 16 I got lucky. It was playing downwind today. That's one of the reasons I drove it so far. 17 is not that hard a hole, but 15 is a joke, trying to hit the ball on that green. I mean, Luke hit such a beautiful golf shot right at it. It never even thought about stopping. That's one of the hardest greens to hit on this whole golf course. I think I saw the percentage yesterday, probably like 27 percent, probably worse by now. It's just unbelievable trying to hit the green. I luckily stayed on and two-putted for par.

Friday
Jun172005

The National Golf Links of Shinnecock?

Friday
Jun172005

Two Fun Reads Friday

The best quotes of the day, thanks to the BBC. Ernie Els is a big fan of the USGA according to this Guardian article.

***Updated: The USGA's Ron Read didn't get the message. He announced Els's home as South Africa on Friday. Els smiled and shook his head.

Friday
Jun172005

Open Press Conference Bits, Round 1

Boy, sure glad Phil put that 9-iron in the bag. What would he have done from 175 yards out? Seriously, it was fun to see that an 8 iron will get you 180 yards these days, 7 iron from Luke Donald. You gotta love all the drives reaching crosswalks. Here's a suggestion to the USGA: try moving the crosswalks closer to the tee, not closer to the greens.


Man that rough was brutal. A reader in the media center wanted to point out that a drive landing in the rough cost a whopping .385 strokes. Better narrow the fairways to 15 yards!

Here's Tiger's way of saying the first round was boring (and he didn't have to listen to Chris Berman all day): "I tell you what, Steve and I were talking about this today. I'm glad you mentioned it, because there's no roars out here. Think about it, who is going to hole-in-one off the sides of these greens. At Augusta you hear eagle roars, you hear the big putts being made. Out here guys are just trying to make pars. That's the nature of this golf course. We heard one roar today and that was Chris holed out on 2. Other than that you didn't hear anything."

And you believe there's no such thing as a dumb question?

Q. Did you [Tiger] and Chris talk about your Masters?

TIGER WOODS: We didn't say one word, not about that. We talked about how well he was putting. He had 23 putts out there. I mean, come on, that's impressive out here. And I felt good. I felt very much in control of my ball flight. I hit a good amount of fairways, a good amount of greens.

And today was a very satisfactory day. I felt if I could have three more days like this, I'm going to be close to where I need to be on Sunday.

And here's Phil on the course that the USGA's VP says is set up the same as it was in 1999:

PHIL MICKELSON: It's totally different than '99. '99 we had six or eight yard wider fairways and we had rain, so the ball was stopping. Now, our fairways, we've taken 30 percent away, and they're brick hard, so the ball is just running right on through. The greens are a lot harder than they were in '99. '99 we were able to fly shots and get it close and shoot at pins. I think we're in for a tough three more days.

Here's the link to the first round stats. Driving distances were pretty long for a set up that is designed to force players to throttle back. Doesn't look like it's working. But the scoring is high, and really, what else is there?

Thursday
Jun162005

Johnny, Johnny

Johnny Miller's patriotism is touching, but once again it got in the way of common sense. Fed a stat by someone at NBC on the most majors won by a country, Miller mentioned that the United States has 173 and the next highest total is South Africa with 18. So I looked at Daniel Wexler's forthcoming Book of Golfers and after counting 29 Scots winning the first 29 British Opens, well, I stopped.

Thursday
Jun162005

Thursday Open Reads

USOpen.com has some media picks. Find out who has a sense of humor, and who doesn't. David Shefter writes about the longshot qualifiers and also has notes where he says the greens will be receptive to well-struck shots . Of course, he's quoting Walter Driver on that. Speaking of the Vice Prez, Jerry Potter writes that “On or off the course, Driver is the man in charge.” Funny, I thought Mike Davis was setting up the course. Or wait, is it Meeks? Moraghan? Fay? Golfweek’s Jeff Rude previews the event and he seems to think things are on the edge already.

Thursday
Jun162005

Your Host, Walter Driver

Another dynamic USGA press conference. Lousy question after lousy question, and almost all answered by a (standing?) Walter Driver as Executive Director David Fay and President Fred Ridley’s offered their dual impersonations of Marcel Marseau.

President, err, Vice President Walter Driver, seems to be running the organization, letting Ridley step in for his standard inner-city-kids-stuff and 49 words from Fay.

The setup, we learn from Driver, is exactly the same as 1999 even though we've been told all week that greens are a foot faster on the Stimp, the course is longer (the numbers vary), the rough has sprouted in the miserable heat and fairways are narrower.

WALTER DRIVER: First, it is almost identical in setup to 1999. The length is 92 yards longer. The fairways are approximately the same width. There are a couple that are two to four yards narrower, and the setup was designed to be the same as 1999. Now, this means that this course is not a terribly long U.S. Open course. The game here is around the greens.

Iit’s “not a terribly long U.S. Open course?” Uh, Walter, it ties Bethpage Black as the longest course in U.S. Open history.

WALTER DRIVER: Every green will have a position where you can have a very good makeable birdie putt, but you need to put the ball on the proper side of the hole location to take advantage of that. And if you miss it on the wrong side, you're going to be welcome at the Donald Ross gym here at Pinehurst No. 2. We hope everyone appreciates the creativity that calls for from the players and recognize that that is really the nature of the game here.

The Donald Ross gym? Is that where the guys go to work out to pick up tee shot yardage?

Q. Have advances in technology, the fact that the ball flies farther and straighter, has that made it more difficult to make par a good score? Has that maybe made you push the envelope more on setups?

WALTER DRIVER: This course is set up almost exactly as it was in 1999. We do not try to protect par or push par as a score, good or bad. What we try to do is set it up to make the golf course the most difficult test in championship golf, and we want the players to be tested, but they're going to shoot whatever it is. And if it's 10 under, it's 10 under. If it's 10 over, it's 10 over. I don't know what's going to be the winning score. So the answer to that question is no, although we do know players hit the ball further. You go out in the practice rounds and watch where they're hitting the ball, they're hitting the ball a good deal further than in 1999. But it didn't change our course setup at all.

But you changed the setup? No? Yes? Get this man some talking points.

Q. What exactly in hindsight did you learn last year at Shinnecock that you don't want to repeat?

WALTER DRIVER: Well, we learned that a golf course can change a lot between 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning and how it plays later in the day when you have a strong wind that's a very dry wind. When I personally putted every hole location at Shinnecock on Sunday, I thought they were all playable, and that was at 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. in the morning. But through the day, the conditions had continued to have a very hot, dry wind, coming from not in the prevailing direction, and we learned that we should have gotten ahead of that wind condition more than we did. But we did put water on every green at Shinnecock through the course of the day.

Oh, so it wasn’t that extra rolling that was the problem after all?

Q. I'm not sure who is best to answer this, but I want to find out what convinced you guys to go back to Olympic and how much they needed to change some things there, specifically the 18th green. Sort of a related question, there will be three Opens in five years on the West Coast; what drives that, if TV is a factor? Why so many on the West Coast?

WALTER DRIVER: First, Olympic is a great venue, has a wonderful history of national championships and it's a fine golf course, and the membership and the community are very much in favor of having The Open there. I don't remember who it was, but another member of the press found me in February and asked if it was a condition going back on the Open that they change the 18th green. And I said it's never been discussed in the USGA that I heard of. We're pleased with the changes they made at the golf course in terms of opening it up for air movement and crowd movement. But we don't dictate changes in the golf course usually as a condition for having the Open.

Let’s see, the 18th green was redone for the USGA. But Walter, we know to get the Open, Olympic had to, I repeat, had to add length, specifically on holes 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12 and 16. It's even in writing Walter!

Q. Vijay was here earlier and gave quite a lecture on golf course and golf course setup. And one of the things that he said was that basically he didn't think you guys could break 100 on the golf courses that you're setting up.

Now, I'm betting on Mr. Ridley on that to do that. But I'd like to get his comment and Mr. Driver's comment about that. I guess the idea is, it seems that there are players who think you guys don't understand what you need to do to make the golf course work.

WALTER DRIVER: Fred and I will take that bet that we can break 100 (laughter).

FRED RIDLEY: Jerry, you haven't seen me play a lot recently.

What humility. It gets better.

FRED RIDLEY: I think you need to go back to the setup philosophy, the elements that all of you have now seen, and that's really what we go back to. Clearly a number of people in the Championship Committee, Walter included, are highly accomplished golfers, but I think more importantly, we have a championship staff who are the best in the business, Tom Meeks, Mike Davis, Tim Moraghan, our Championship agronomist, and these people are truly professionals. I think the combination of that team work together with the philosophy, which we've tried to be consistent with over the years, I feel very comfortable with that.

Stop laughing! We haven’t even gotten to the race stuff, always a joy. And Fred Ridley was grateful for the question.

Q. I'd like to ask you about the USGA Executive Committee. Currently there are no African Americans on the Committee, there's only two women on the Committee, and yet the USGA proclaims its motto, "For the good of the game." Do you think that's for the good of the game not to have more diversity on that committee and in your office ranks?

FRED RIDLEY: Thank you for that question. Certainly the USGA believes, like all you have believe, that golf needs to look more like America . We acknowledge that. You're correct, there are currently no minorities on the Executive Committee. There have been in the past. We've had, during my tenure, our general counsel was an African American. As you noted, there are two women on the Executive Committee. I can assure you in the process of recruiting future Executive Committee members that that is a high priority.

Beyond our Committee, though, there are a number of other committees within the USGA and the USGA staff; we currently have minorities on our staff. We have over 1,300 volunteers; a number of minorities contribute greatly to those efforts or those committees.

The PGA of America, the PGA TOUR, the World Golf Foundation, The First Tee Program, USGA is proud to be the largest single contributor over the history of The First Tee to that program. So we have more work to do. But I'm encouraged that we're joining together, Golf 20/20 is bringing golf constituencies together, and we're working hard, but we have more to do; we acknowledge that. It's going to take some time, and hopefully some of the seeds we're planting today will pay off and we'll be happier on this issue in 5, 10, 15, 20 years. But it's a great question, and I'm glad you brought it up.

Reader Gray Slacks wrote in to let me know that the highest ranking minority above the administrative level is, well, Gray Slacks couldn't think of one. But I wrote back and assured Gray Slacks that the First Tee program is going to deliver Executive Committee members someday!

Q. Last year after the first group went through, I believe, the green on No. 7 was watered. And there were players who felt that it changed the it changes the competition because they're playing under different conditions. Has the USGA addressed that issue in terms of keeping the conditions the same or will they if they have a problem like that, will they continue to do the same thing?

WALTER DRIVER: Well, let's take a step back and look at it in perspective, because many golf courses, whether in championship play or not, you need to syringe the greens in order to keep the greens healthy. Shinnecock aside, that is not abnormal.

Hmmm…I believe Roger Maltbie said it was unprecedented last year when the watering happened. Turned out syringing had happened a few times to keep grass from dying, but it is an abnormal practice during play of any tournament to keep balls on greens.

Thursday
Jun162005

Vijay's Press Conference Highlights

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I don't remember it being this tough, that's one thing I know. I know that when we played on Sunday, it rained in the morning, and the greens were very receptive, and we could actually play our shots. Honestly speaking, I think this is the hardest U.S. golf course I've played from tee to green and around the greens. It's going to be one hell of a test. I don't really remember that many holes, playing here in '99, but I do remember one thing that this is the rough this year is a lot more harder than it was last time I played here.

Q. What's the concern among the players, especially if it doesn't rain; you could have a repeat of last year, and the course could get away from the USGA?

VIJAY SINGH: I spoke to Tom Meeks yesterday and the day before, and I had a few words with him. But he said he likes the golf course just the way it is right now, and I told him it's great, I like it the way it is. If you just left it the way it is, that's the way it should be played. It's tough, it's hard, it's going to get firmer. They're watering the greens in between right now, also. I'm a little concerned if it doesn't rain we all thought it was going to rain this week. If it doesn't rain, you can't stop the ball on the greens. I've been hitting wedges and it's not spinning back. It's taking one big hop and stopping. If it gets any firmer I don't think the greens are going to get as fast as Shinnecock, but it's going to get as firm, and the roll offs are a lot harder than Shinnecock was. I think it's a tougher setup than Shinnecock.

Q. It seems like a lot of what will happen to the golf course will depend on if it rains or doesn't rain. Wouldn't you think it would make more sense to kind of err on the side of caution, rather than let maybe water as needed and if it ends up raining more, you just end up with a softer golf course; is that such a bad thing?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't think so. That's why we got away with it; last time we played on Sunday in the morning. The golf course played difficult, but it was very fair. Right now if you go out there, if you're not careful you can make bogeys on every hole with the good shots. Off the tee it's a very demanding golf course, and then you have to hit your approaches to the green which is even more demanding. They are watering it, Tom Meeks said they're going to try to leave it as it is right now, but that never happens. I agree with you, they should keep watering it and not let nature take its course. But they have the means to maintain whatever it is right now. But this is U.S. Open, so we just have to deal with it.

Q. David Fay has said this week that he wants the course to play tough but fair. What in your opinion makes it too tough or unfair? Secondly, if all the golfers play the same course, like last year, why is there so much complaining or belly aching about the course conditions, if everybody is playing the same course?

VIJAY SINGH: I just hope David Fay knows what is fair and what is difficult, you know. It's fine, being on the outside and talking about it. But we are the ones that are playing it. I'm all for having a fair and a tough golf course, but impossible, I don't think I don't think I enjoy playing it. We still have to go out and play the best we can and enjoy what we're doing. Last year I did not enjoy that.

Wednesday
Jun152005

More Wednesday Reads

Tod Leonard in the S.D. Union Tribune has the story of qualifier John Mallinger, who sounds like one of the qualifers worth rooting for. Dave Hackenburg in the Toledo Blade remembers Mike Strantz, and also says Inverness isn't looking good for another Open. Hackenburg also doesn't fall into line with most of the inkslingers who are writing that the "USGA has learned its lesson from last year," an odd thing to write since the tournament has event started. Hackenburg takes the Mickelson angle that every green is like #7 at Shinnecock, and it could get ugly again.

Peter McCleery, Golf World's excellent television analyst (along with Stu Schneider who provides those entertaining weekly notes), joins GolfObserver and previews NBC's coverage. Lots of fun tidbits here, as well as the television times, which are mysterious buried on USOpen.com. Also on GolfObserver, Frank Hannigan checks in with a litte of this and that. Writing about Michelle Wie's private jet option from the Women's British to the U.S. Women's Amateur, Hannigan says, "In the event, I think the pilots of the Nike-owned or leased private jets ought to be looking up the nearest runway to Royal Birkdale capable of handling jets."

He also says that the international qualifiers were a huge failure. "The overseas players took the places of many excellent golfers who were trying to make it into the Open at qualifying sites here. The losers were big-time tour players of the likes of Jeff Sluman and Jose Maria Olazabal."

Lynn DeBruin has a nice retrospective of Tom Meeks, with his usual quotes that mistakes come with the job. Funny, but you don't hear about the many course setup blunders by Kerry Haigh, David Eger and PJ Boatwright. In a non-Open article, Jim Achenbach of Golfweek writes about a course that is the solution to the technology issue. It's got lots of rough and trees. Sounds real fun. Nothing like reading about the game turning inward on itself, and having writers tell you it's a wonderful thing because it allows you to keep consuming. Mike Steinberger in the Financial Times looks at the USGA setup approach and warning, I'm quoted .

Wednesday
Jun152005

USGA Story in Washington Post

Finally, a major newspaper takes a hard look at the USGA, and as expected, it's not pretty. As I read Leonard Shapiro’s Washington Post piece (reg. required), I thought, wow, it's like he's read a certain book on the topic! Turns out, he has. Some highlights:

"The USGA executive committee and the past presidents have a lot of very smart and successful people, but there's not a single one of them who would run their own businesses the way they run the USGA," said Jack Vardaman, a Washington attorney, highly regarded national senior amateur golfer and a former general counsel and member of the USGA executive board.

The debacle at Shinnecock may well have been symptomatic of what Vardaman and others believe truly ails the organization -- a classic case of too many chiefs at the top with no one in position to make a final decision.

"I believe the organization has totally lost its way," said another former executive committee member who did not want to be identified because he still has friends and business associates in the organization.

Vardaman has his own solution to what he believes ails the USGA.

"I would do it just like a regular corporation," he said. "I'd have the executive director be the CEO and chairman of the board for five or ten years. You'd still have a board as an executive committee that would help determine the policy issues. But the person at the top would be the equivalent of a Jack Welch [retired CEO of General Electric].

"There is no question these are well-intentioned, good people trying to do the right thing. They volunteer. They pay most of their own expenses. They want to bring the game to the people, make it affordable and accessible. The USGA is a big, important organization with an important mission. But they have an organizational model in place now that's destined to make it mediocre. And that's a terrible shame."

Wednesday
Jun152005

Championship Philosophy: Par is Ideal

Here’s my June Golfdom column, which has an exclusive early draft of championship philosophy statement. In the final edition, Walter Driver and friends write, “There is no USGA target score for a U.S. Open. While the final score at some U.S. Open sites will be at or near par, the USGA does not try to formulate a course set up that will only produce a winning score of at or near even par.”

Chip Alexander writes about speculation on the winning score and naturally, Tom Meeks comes through with a beauty.

"I think 4, 5 or 6 under probably will win," said Meeks, senior director of rules and competitions. "In a perfect world, yeah, we'd like to see even par win it, but we're not going to do anything funny to get that score. We want it fair, and we think we have it set up fair."

They don’t try to produce a winning score near par, but in an perfect world, par would be the winning score!

Wednesday
Jun152005

Pros Say The Funniest Things

From Tuesday’s U.S. Open transcripts we learn all sorts of fun stuff about the course.

Q. Is there anything specific difference from last year to this year on the greens?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, the greens I think are quite similar, or they will become quite similar once they start drying out a lot more. At the moment there's still a little bit of moisture in them, but they're getting rock hard. There was a couple of holes yesterday that I hit a couple of short irons in, like No. 2 yesterday, I hit a wedge into the green and couldn't stop it on the green. In '99 I hit a driver, 3-iron into No. 2, and yesterday was a driver and a wedge. Obviously the weather was a lot different the first couple of rounds in '99.

Uh, yes the weather was different, but not that different! And here’s Phil, explaining why he will flog driver this week.

PHIL MICKELSON: I feel like the driver is a key club because, yes, you want to be in the fairway, but you need to hit driver because if you do miss the fairways, you've got it get it far enough down where you can wedge out close -- or maybe get a 9-iron on it and get it close enough to the green where you can have a reasonable chance at par. So I think that distance will actually be an element here at Pinehurst, even though the rough is tough and you've got to put it in play, I think it's important to get the ball far enough down where if you do hit it in the rough you can get it close to the green and make par.

And Padraig, on flogging .

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's a certain amount of pressure on every tee box to hit the fairway. I know players are saying that even on holes where they might have an option of hitting a layup with a 3-wood off the tee that they might as well hit driver down there because they have some chance of hitting the green if they miss the fairway with a driver where if they lay up and miss the fairway they'd have no chance.

Sergio Garcia is worried about the bunkers .

SERGIO GARCIA: Probably the thing I'm most worried about is the bunkers. So much sand on them, you're going to get so many plugged lies, and coming into these greens from a plugged lie around the greens is going to be almost impossible. It's something to worry about, and it's unfortunate that the bunkers are in that shape because they don't need to be that soft, but other than that, I think the course is looking really nice.

And finally, what would the day be without a rally killer? Chris DiMarco was starting to open up about the Masters and the shots he has been reliving since the final round. One of the scribblers popped a question vital to only David Fay and Peter Dawson.

CHRIS DiMARCO: A couple days after The Masters, it was tough. I relived that chip a lot in my head, my chip, not so much his but my chip on 18, knowing that that could have gone in and could have changed everything. I was proud of myself that I put myself in position to win.

Q. As someone who's played in the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, do you think there is a place for golf at the Olympic games?

CHRIS DiMARCO: Absolutely. I don't know why we're not there. Just have a 72 hole tournament and winner wins gold. I mean, it would be great. I know that I'd be in line to go wherever it would be to play for our country, whether it's anything, Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup, Olympics, I'm there.

Wednesday
Jun152005

Open Reads Wednesday

Players say the rough is brutal and the course looks great. As Chip Alexander in the Raleigh paper points out though, that was also the case last year at Shinnecock early in the week.

Brian Hewitt offers some eye-opening stats about Pinehurst in 99, which combined with the early stories and the weather, raises a few questions:

“Pinehurst No. 2 played to 74.55 average in 1999. Shinnecock played to an average of 74.08 at the U.S. Open last year. Kind if surprising, no?

“Four under par won at Shinnecock last year, one under won at Pinehurst in 1999.

“In 1999 the field averaged about 46 percent in greens in regulation at the Pinehurst U.S. Open. The tour average is typically about 20 percent higher.

“You might also be interested to know that less than 40 percent of the green surfaces at Pinehurst No. 2 are deemed “pinnable” by USGA set-up people.”

Less than 40%, the rough has popped (and will be more difficult unless the USGA tops it off), the weather will be warmer (with the forecast calling for downright dangerous heat Wednesday to bake the greens out even more) and finally, Tom Meeks is involved in the course setup. Déjà vu all over again?

For you Fantasy buffs, I come clean about my addiction and offer some suggestions for this week in a Golfobserver.com column. Scott Michaux reviews Pinehurst #2 and has plenty of interesting quotes about the course, including some from the late Mike Strantz. Steve Elling looks at slow play and the incredibly early starting times at Pinehurst in anticipation of 5 1/2 hour rounds.

Tim Dahlberg comes to Rory Sabbatini's defense and shares a great Fulton Allem story about slow play. At USOpen.com, Kevin McManemin writes about the USGA's testing device, set up on the 2nd tee, while David Normoyle and Kimberly Erusha offer a primer on bermuda grass. David Shefter writes about amateurs in the field hoping to impress the Walker Cup Committee. Naturally, Pepperdine's Michael Putnam should be a lock, but as west coast man, he gets an automatic point deduction.


Ron Whitten in Golf World reminds us how difficult Pinehurst was last time and how close it was to going over the edge. And finally, Lorne Rubenstein writes about the village of Pinehurst. It’s enough to make those of us staying at home envious that we aren't there. Unless we read the weather forecast for Wednesday.

Tuesday
Jun142005

The @#$%& Pairing

This is a family values website after all, so I won't refer to the USGA's alliterative nickname for the annual pairing of their not-so-favorite players, as revealed by John Feinstein and confirmed by many longtime USGAers. I'm undecided if we have one true @#$%& pairing, or two. Here are my nominations, based on their not-so-kind sentiments expressed at Shinnecock or their general prickly nature:

7:55 a.m.-1:10 p.m. - Jeff Maggert, Paul Casey, Jerry Kelly
12:37 p.m.-7:22 a.m. - Spencer Levin, Fred Funk, Robert Allenby

Tuesday
Jun142005

Rory and Ben, Ben and Rory

Rory likes Ben and Rory's sorry he watched Ben's approach to 17 from the green. Ben likes Rory and Ben's sorry too for being so slow. Ben admits he needs help with his problem. Rory and Ben are going to play a practice round together to show that in fact, they really don't hate each other. Damon Hack in the NY Times (reg required) has the apology news. Gene Wang in the Washington Post (reg. req.) has the original story on the Sabbatini-Crane episode.

Tuesday
Jun142005

Open Tuesday Reads

Turns out the mysterious disappearance of GolfDigest.com content was in preparation for a new look. The most recent Golf World "Bunker" is online, and features a John Huggan commentary on slow play (with some classic lines) and Lorne Rubenstein's obituary of Herbert Warren Wind.

Golf World wondered if U.S. Open course setups have affected the championship's image, and John Hawkins provides many fascinating comments from players. Jerry Kelly, yes, Jerry Kelly, is about the only saying anything nice. Jim Furyk is not so forgiving. And Steve Jones sums it up best: "I guess there's a learning process involved, but it's not that hard. This isn't brain surgery." Also at the end is a sidebar on Tom Meeks’s uh, “understudy,” Mike Davis.

Here's the link to Golf Digest's interactive course map, where you can look in on any hole, see stats from 1999, read a description by superintendent Paul Jett and look at George Lucas's yardage book details from '99, with comments from Chuck Cook, Payne Stewart's teacher. And Ron Whitten's "Donald Ross Wouldn't Recognize These Greens" is now posted.

Tom Kensler in the Denver Post writes that the USGA has learned its lesson . "The main lesson I learned at Shinnecock is, when you get the golf course as firm and as fast as we had it on Saturday, and you have a strong wind forecast coming in, you'd better get some water on that golf course and slow it down a little bit," Tom Meeks said. You think?

The USA Today's Tom Spousta puts Michelle Wie's 2nd place finish into perspective by reminding us in the lead that she's still learning to drive . Mike Clayton looks at the Aussies in the field and points out that Nick O'Hern may be the best player in the world that most Americans have never heard of. Art Spander isn't a bit fan of the USGA setup philosophy . And finally on a non-Open note, for those into playable hickories, Louisville Golf is now making some. No prices are listed, so they probably aren't cheap.

Monday
Jun132005

Open Reads Monday

Plenty of Payne Stewart tributes, as usual, John Huggan’s is probably the only one worth your time. Peter McCleery's lengthy but gripping oral history recounting of the 99 Open is posted on ESPN.com. Joe Logan writes about the USGA taking courses to the edge , and how difficult it is to turn them around once they go over the edge (that light syringing is very difficult, and we know how difficult modern irrigation systems are to handle). The article features this nugget from the Executive Director and Senior metaphor man of Far Hills, David Fay.

"In attempting to get to that tough edge - that mythical edge - sometimes we fall over on the other side," Fay said. "It's not by design. You know, as expert as the agronomic work is today, trying to adjust a U.S. Open course on the fly from one day to the next, it's not like bringing a Boston whaler into a pier, it's like bringing the QE II."

Nothing like a nautical analogy to discourage those classic USGA stereotypes. J erry Sullivan in the Buffalo News writes that "the USGA has instructed Meeks to tone it down as he prepares for the 105th U.S. Open," which is an interesting way to say that Mike Davis and Jeff Hall are handling the setup this year. John Huggan remembers all of Meeks's boondoggles and says he won't be missed. AP's Doug Ferguson profiles Meeks. He recounts the story of the '99 setup. And he includes this nice jab from Davis Love: “I think he's ... um ... what's a good word? Very testing," Davis Love III said. "He wants you to be tested. The only problem the USGA has is that they think we're better than we are."

Bryan Strickland in the Herald-Sun of somewhere goes to Joe Ogilvie for a Pinehurst quote, and as usual, the last quotable Tour player comes through. "If it doesn't get 'USGAed' too bad, it should be a great course," Ogilvie said. "That is a verb. Take a wonderful golf course and ruin it. That's the definition."

Johnny Miller talks to Art Spander about who he likes this week. And finally, if you are shopping for a Father’s Day book and you have a Borders nearby, here's a printable 25% off coupon that will ease the pain of some of today’s book prices.

Thursday
Jun022005

Pinehurst Test Drive

Michael Bamberger in SI (subscription required) writes about Nick Price's "Test Drive" to help the USGA pinpoint potential Pinehurst problems (take that alliteration!). Bamberger is skeptical about the USGA's insistence that winning scores around par are not the goal.

If there's a great pleasure in being a volunteer USGA committeeman these days, it's not obvious to outsiders. This year the USGA has prepared a sober position paper, available at usga.org, titled U.S. Open Championship Philosophy, a 14-point list describing how the USGA sets up an Open course. The document concludes with a statement that sounds true only in theory: "There is no USGA target score for a U.S. Open. While the final score at some U.S. Open sites will be at or near par, the USGA does not try to formulate a course setup that will only produce a winning score at or near even par." Can you hear the advice of counsel in the preceding two (2) sentences?

USGA officials may have target scores in informal rounds on Open courses in the weeks preceding the championship, but the USGA does not -- we repeat, does not -- have a target score in mind for the world's best players in the championship itself. It says so right on its website.

The story gives some indication that the USGA’s Fred Ridley and Walter Driver are concerned about a Shinnecock repeat. That's in sharp contrast to the recent remarks of Executive Director David Fay.

Thursday
Jun022005

Thursday Shorts

The Pilot has the story of Pinehurst closing with quotes from Paul Jett about conditions. And here's an AP story on Pinehurst's iffy conditions, with a quote from yours truly about how much more sensitive Pinehurst is when it comes to course setup.

Jim Gorant in SI (subscription required) wonders if the Montgomerie saga has jeopardized Monty's chances to be the 2010 Ryder Cup captain. E.M. Swift writes in SI about golf's Olympic prospects, and includes this headspinner from the USGA's David Fay: "The Olympics should be the pinnacle of a sport, and no one could say that about golf without having his nose grow. But if tennis is in, golf should be in."