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It's a boring course. You can fall asleep on it because you're always hitting the same kind of shots--woods or long irons.  JACK NICKLAUS on Firestone



State Of The Game Podcast 43: Scott Macpherson & Royals

Golf architect and author Scott Macpherson joins us from his holiday to talk about his impressive new book, Golf's Royal Clubs. Macpherson previously analyzed the Old Course and now publishes the definitive tome on the select group of clubs worldwide holding "Royal" status.

We also talk about the Old Course, this year's Open Championship and more. You can listen or download the MP3 here. Find a permalink to the show here. Listen to the episode on iTunes here or subscribe to the podcast here.

And if you're interested in the book, a limited run has largely been sold to the royal clubs. However an email to the R&A's Catherine McGirk should allow you to order a copy of this outstanding addition to golf libraries.

Here is the R&A press release on the book.


Tiger Grants Fox Sports "First-Ever" Exclusive...

...and the only revealing thing appears to be that he granted Fox Sports an interview.

Colleen Dominguez
lobbed the questions. I can't find a video on their site or YouTube page, but these clips should give you an idea of what you missed...

On what goals are motivating him at this stage of his career:

“I think there are probably two goals that are pushing me right now which one is to get the all-time [tournament] wins record. I’m only three back of Sam [Snead] on that one and obviously the major record, you know, being four back of Jack. So, those two are pretty synonymous with the greats of the game of golf, to be number two and on both lists is not too bad. And that means I’ve had a pretty good career.”
On his disappointing weekend at the British Open after an encouraging first round:

“Well, I didn’t hit the ball very well; that’s just plain and simple. I made so many mistakes. When I first came back at Congressional I made a ton of mistakes there as well. My thought process was off. I missed the ball, like wrong sides. I was too passive at certain points and too aggressive at others. Just my feel was off for how to play at that level, at the tour level, even though I hadn’t played. You know, it's only been three months, but I don't know, there’s a build-up process that I kind of skipped and it's one of the things that I normally play my way into shape at home and play a ton of golf. I didn’t really play a lot of golf because I was just given the OK to go ahead and go.”


Video: Jack On Trends In Golf Architecture

I'm not sure about the origins of this but it's on a Jack N YouTube account and posted this month. With all of the focus on Jack Nicklaus designs coming up (Valhalla/PGA, Gleneagles/Ryder Cup) it's fun to hear where the Golden Bear is coming from these days.

I'm not sure about his reference to wildness and wild greens, but I suspect he's suggesting minimalism has run its course because such designs have scared off people due to difficulty. Can't say I'm buying that one!

The clip:


Wow: Rory's Ball At $5558 And Climbing

So much for the collectibles market drying up.

Yesterday when I read Luke Kerr-Dineen's item on Rory's final Nike ball from Hoylake going up for sale at Green Jacket Auctions it was at $2852.

Now? $5558 and going up with the bidding ending August 9th.

If you were thinking of bidding and sending me the ball for Christmas, I'd prefer some more nostalgic stuff from the auction.

This painting would look nice in my office. Or this set of Tom Stewart irons would look mighty spiffy in my bag. Just thinking out loud.


Barring WD's, PGA To Have 100 Of World Top 100

It would be the first time to have 100 for 100 since the rankings have been gracing us with their presense. That's what Louisville in August will do!

From the press release:

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – (July 29, 2014) The PGA of America announced today that the top 100 players in the Official World Golf Ranking have committed to play in the 96th PGA Championship, Aug. 7-10, at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Barring any withdrawals before the opening round, this would be the first time any major championship would feature every one of the top 100 world-ranked players.
Perennially touted by many as the strongest field in golf, the PGA Championship has featured the most top 100 world-ranked players of any event in golf since 1994. The field for the 96th PGA Championship includes 29 major champions, 70 international players representing 24 countries, and all three of the year’s major championship winners. They will compete for the coveted Wanamaker Trophy as Valhalla hosts the PGA Championship for the third time.
The PGA of America announced 154 members of the 156-player field for Valhalla, with two more completing the field based on the results this weekend of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and the Reno-Tahoe Open. (Click here for the current field for the 96th PGA Championship.)


Panic: Golf Is Losing The Millennials It Might Never Have Had!

Sara Germano of the WSJ first wrote about the millennial crisis striking golf, or at least, those who think there is only one generation of people who matter, even if they are saddled with student loan debt and working for Baby Boomers with money and an affinity for golf. Because why go for the folks with money when you can get the ones looking at their phone all day?

Matt Powell of Forbes, who writes about the "culture and business of sneakers,” took the WSJ story and said golf lost the millenials and therefore, is pretty much doomed. By the way, just to recap, the sport is also doomed because two companies got a little greedy, made some bad projections, made even worse decisions, and didn't meet their numbers. This is what accounts for deciding the fate of a $76 billion industry and its future these days, even if the management of a course has nothing to do with the aforementioned behaviors.

Anyway, the structure of the Powell follow up to the WSJ item and complete lack of acknowledgement of golf demographics over the last century--skewing ancient--makes this almost comical reading except that Forbes readers are just as likely to believe this as the fictional athlete earnings nonsense the publication puts out.

With all the bad news in golf, this kind of stuff just doesn't improve the discourse:

The Golf Industry failed to attract Millennials to the game. The National Golf Foundation said there were 400,000 fewer golfers in 2013, with 200,000 of the decline coming from Millennials.  Since Millennials represent 25% of the nation’s population, this decline is devastating to the sport.

So, why don’t millennials play golf?

Golf is too time consuming

Millennials value ease, speed and efficiency in their endeavors. Raised on the internet, “instant gratification” is the expectation.  4+ hours essentially doing the same thing over and over is against the idea of Speed and efficiency.

Golf is exclusive

Millennials are the most inclusive generation.  They want to share their experiences with as many friends as possible.  Golf says, “All of you can play, as long as it no more than four.”  Boomers value exclusiveness. The idea of paying to have the privilege of exclusive membership to play golf is counter to millennial values.

Actually, it's counter to the values of anyone who is not in the upper class with abundant spare time. Sorry, that's not a millenial issue, but an economic one. The rich are richer, the poor poorer.

And when is someone going to write about golf's positive prospects because millions of Baby Boomers are about to retire and need a recreational pursuit to enhance their free time?


Tiger's Playoff Hopes: Without A Win, "Things Get Murky"

The only real intrigue in whether Tiger Woods makes the ResetCup Playoffs lies in how Commissioner Finchem spins the inconceivable notion that the player of his generation is barely eligible for the Tour Finals.

Because as Kevin Maguire explains, Tiger is going to have to play way better than he has to date if he's going to make the ResetCup playoffs.

Coming into this week, Woods has 45 FedEx Cup points. That means he needs some combination of at least 358 points just to squeak into the field at the Barclays. A victory at the WGC-Bridgestone or the PGA Championship should get him a tee time at Ridgewood Country Club. Without a win, though, things get murky.

There are many permutations as to what could happen the next few weeks. For example, say Woods finishes solo 10th in Akron; that'd be good for 78 points, which would leave him 280 shy of the 403-point mark. He likely would need a second-place finish at the PGA Championship (worth 330 points) to make the playoffs.

Granted, the use of ResetCup points as a barometer of anything is pretty silly, as John Hawkins reminds us that the calendar-year schedule's points leader hasn't been in contention for six months and the world top-5 last played great in March.

Just as the snarkiest of cynics feared, the PGA Tour’s 11 ½-month golf season has become a long walk to a small house. Jimmy Walker hasn’t contended on a Sunday in almost six months, yet he still leads the FedEx Cup points derby by a comfortable margin – Bubba Watson is the only player within 500 points of Mr. Dy-No-Mite.

Remember Patrick Reed? He's been missing in action since the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March, yet he just slipped out of the top 10 and remains one spot ahead of British Open champ Rory McIlroy. Same goes for Jim Furyk, who doesn't have a victory in almost four years, yet remains four spots ahead of Martin Kaymer, who won The Players and U.S. Open.

As for Tiger's 15-1 odds this week, Luke Kerr-Dineen tries to explain the inexplicable: why that price for a guy who hasn't registered a top 20 in 2014?

The answer has to do with incentives. Bookmakers do factor in things like recent form when they set odds, but mostly they're just trying to set prices that will entice people into placing a bet.

Put him at 100-1 and I'm enticed!


Clark Won After He Stopped Worrying About Looming Ban

Ryan Lavner with Tim Clark's candid comments after winning the Canadian Open.

The putter anchorer said he's been tinkering too much with his 2016 options and forgot about the present.

“I’ve kind of put it to the back now, and I’m going to just do with what I’ve got now and maybe give it more thought sometime next year,” he said.

That’s the same philosophy adopted by world No. 1 Adam Soctt, who said earlier this month that he hasn’t practiced with the conventional stroke at all since the anchoring announcement last May.

“I thought I’d worry about that when I have to change,” he said.


Reps: Tiger Undefeated In Putt-Putt Against Charlie

Brian Wacker, reporting on Woods' press conference for the Deutsche Bank Championship, which benefits his foundation and which he's not currently eligible for.

The preparation for the next two weeks that will either rescue his season or seal it as his worst ever, included getting in reps against young son Charlie at a Putt-Putt.

“We had a good little time,” he said Monday during a press conference for the Deutsche Bank Championship, which Woods won in 2006 and benefits his foundation. “We toured a little bit and even played a little Putt-Putt, which I won every single time.”

Take that kid!


Poll: Why Not Bernhard Langer For A Ryder Cup Pick?

On Morning Drive today we had a lively chat inspired by Bernhard Langer's record 13-stroke victory in the Senior British Open. I'm of the view that he should be considered for a Captain's pick by Europe's Paul McGinley, Gary Williams scoffed at the notion because of Champions Tour field strength. Bill Fields, a huge admirer of Langer who put the win in perspective here, also thinks it's a reach. (Monty also continued to make a case, Martin Dempster reports here.)

Yet consider the options the Captain has for his three selections among those currently on the outside looking in:

Graeme McDowell - with his French Open win, probably a lock

Thomas Bjorn - playing very well, currently in but could be bumped

Stephen Gallacher - Scotland's hope having a steady year

Miguel Angel Jimenez - great run this spring, has cooled off since

Ian Poulter - Ryder Cup master hasn't had a top 10 since April

Lee Westwood - since Malaysia win, form hasn't been there

Francesco Molinari - T15 at The Open first sign of life in a while

Jonas Blixt - second at the Masters, quiet since

Bernhard Langer - tons of experience, top 10 at Masters, just won a tournament by 13

Remember, you get three votes!

If the Ryder Cup selections were made today, which three would you select? free polls 


Duf: "I wonder what the old-timers think as they're looking down."

As the PGA Championship run-up officially begins, check out Jason Dufner's Golf Digest My Shot with Guy Yocom. The unassuming defending champion displays a much deeper side than you might have imagined based on how he carries himself.

Random choice here from many great bits...he believes in ghosts.

IF YOU LOOK BACK on the remarks of players after they've won tournaments, you'll notice they often mention someone looking down on them from heaven. I believe that. I've definitely felt my grandfather and my father—he passed away in 2001—looking down on me, experiencing what I'm experiencing. Sometimes I wonder what the old-timers think as they're looking down. Is Bobby Jones cringing about technology? What does Ben Hogan think about slow play? Something tells me they're bemused, but not losing sleep over any of it.

Jerry Tarde's Editor's Letter includes some fun insights from Yocom on working with Dufner, from photo editor Christian Iooss on Duf as a model, and Jaime Diaz asked to compare Dufner to Fred Couples. Thankfully, Couples probably won't read this.


"A Golf Hazard on the Way to a Tournament"

Revealing admission here: I've waited until my luggage made it safely out of Heathrow to post Karen Crouse's NY Times story on the perils professional golf bags face when they hit the tarmac at London's major airport.

Crouse writes:

The golfers’ stress level is heightened this time every year because the British Open brings into play London’s Heathrow Airport, which Hunter Mahan’s caddie, John Wood, described as “the Bermuda Triangle for bags.”

On the advice of his caddie, Woodland bypassed London, “and they still didn’t make it,” he said of his clubs. Allowing time for any mishandled bags to catch up was also a factor in Woodland’s decision to move his travel plans up a day.

Now, for professional golfers, shipping clubs via service is not practical, and for many golfers saying goodbye to your close friends for 5 days prior to a big Scottish golf trip is not easy. But after two weeks of dealing with the bag rules and enforcement in Europe, apparently devised and still enforced by old SS officers, moving large luggage to and from has become an entirely miserable, expensive and stressful experience. And that's before finding out if your clubs made it.

While the cost is in the $244 range for a U.S.-to-Scottish journey, Ru Macdonald of the Scottish Golf podcast tells me that Luggage Forward has been getting strong marks from golfers who've used the service for trips to the home of golf.


New Yorker Opens Archives, Golf Related Beach Reads Free!

You never know when the New Yorker might change its archiving policy, but for now everything back to 2007 from the magazine is available online for your reading pleasure

Luke Kerr-Dineen finds some great reads worth opening and pulling up for some summer reading, including David Owen's excellent piece on Askernish.

Three I would endorse, as linked by Kerr-Dineen:

The Ghost Course, By David Owen

Owen, a Golf Digest Contributing Editor, describes the far-flung scene he finds at Askernish Golf Club in South Uist, Scotland.

Rip Van Golfer, By John McPhee

This one might be considered slightly too long for some tastes, but McPhee travels to Oakmont for the week

The Yips, By David Owen

Owen takes a coldly analytical look at the thing that golfers everywhere dreads the most: The yips.


How To Subscribe To Golf World For Free

Golf World ended this week as a print publication after 67 yeras and while the sad nature of that news will not soon go away, the opportunity to receive a free digital version will hopefully help ease the pain.

The sign up is here.


What Strain? Rory’s Lawyers Get Access To Key GMac Details

Rory says there is strain but nothing that can't be overlooked. Graeme McDowell doesn't quite agree. But as Tim Healy reports, Rory McIlroy's lawyers do not care about Ryder Cup team tension as they win a key ruling accessing details of GMac's details with Horizon Sports Management to help make McIlroy's case that his terms were not comparable to his buddy.

From Healy's story:

The golfer alleges the agreement resulted in his paying more than $6.8m (€5m) based on "unreasonable" fee rates and the defendants are not entitled to be paid fees into the future related to his Nike deal.

The Commercial Court heard Mr McIlroy claims undue influence, and alleges Conor Ridge of Horizon made representations to him that he would get similar terms to Graeme McDowell.

Barrister Rossa Fanning said his client had relied on those representations which turned out to be untrue as his client's terms were significantly inferior to Mr McDowell's.

Mr McIlroy was also unaware, either when discussing the representation agreement with Conor Ridge in October 2011 or signing it, that Mr McDowell had a shareholding in Horizon.

The judge yesterday ruled Mr McIlroy was entitled to all documents held by the defendants related to McDowell's involvement with Horizon, including concerning Mr McDowell's shareholding in that company.

Fun times!


Royal & Ancient Opens Woman Vote To All Members

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews will now open the vote on female members to postal ballot instead of to only those at their Club Business Meeting on September 18th.

The statement:

25 July 2014, St Andrews, Scotland: A postal ballot among members of the Club on a motion to admit women as members will be conducted prior to the announcement of the result on 18 September 2014. This replaces the vote that was previously scheduled to take place at the Club’s Business Meeting on that day. By taking this decision all members can take part in this historic vote.


Jack: "Absolutely" You Must Pick Tiger For Ryder Cup

Sam Weinman on former Captain Jack Nicklaus' take regarding the dilemma (or not) facing Captain Tom Watson as Tiger Woods struggles to regain his form following back surgery.

From Weinman's Loop item:

"Oh, absolutely," Nicklaus said on a conference call Thursday with reporters to promote the PGA Championship. "I couldn't imagine [Woods] not being on a Ryder Cup team, unless he does absolutely nothing in recovering from his game between now and then."


Not April Fools: SI Puts Actual Golfer On Cover!

As the trainers start prepping unis and lockers for the arrival of NFL stars (that's a cover!), July is close enough to NFL Training Camp Preview time that the first of this year's six Johnny Manziel covers could have been used.

But mercifully Sports Illustrated appears to have remembered their heritage of great Open Championship covers and put Rory McIlroy on the front of the "book."

Thomas Lovelock has captured him looking trim and very 21st century. 

Ed Sherman thought the cover took a jab at the PGA Championship by already hyping next year's Masters and Rory's run at the career Grand Slam.


Are The Dick's Layoffs A Statement About The Health Of Golf?

It's been a brutal week for golf industry news and while I'm saddened for the PGA pros losing their jobs at Dick's Sporting Goods, the lede from Darren Rovell's story says the move was made because the retailer was "faced with a decline in the golf equipment industry." 

And while certain sectors of the business are undoubtedly flat or down, the story eventually suggests that the layoffs were in part related to the actions of a company that has since admitted in its own reporting a serious mistake was made:

Dick's said it sold only 2 percent fewer drivers in the first quarter this year compared to the first quarter of 2013 but that the average price of those drivers was down 16 percent. On average, the golf business accounts for about 15 percent of Dick's overall revenues.

As TaylorMade's largest retailer, Dick's was hit hard after it bought all four models of the driver TaylorMade released last year. The glut of merchandise forced Dick's to sell at under the suggested retail price.

Four drivers in one year.

Reckless speculation here, but I'm going out on a limb that Old Tom Morris didn't tell his customers the Long Spoon they bought was outdated just three months after they picked it up at the shop.

Anyway, the PGA of America is taking the news seriously and this is a letter forwarded to me (with name cropped out) of one of the laid off employees of Dick's:


International Crown: Audition For A Possible Olympic Format?

I desperately want to see a team event succeed to pave a path for Olympic golf to get a better format in 2020, and while the LPGA's International Crown debuting this week at Caves Valley is promising, on paper it seems just a tad too complicated for the world to fully understand.

Ron Sirak does a great job telling us all we need to know about the event and explains the two-woman team pool play, with the winner ultimately decided by total points on Sunday after singles matches.

The first three days, each country plays two best-ball matches against every other country in its pool. Points accumulate over the three days: Win = 2; Halve = 1; Loss = 0. The top two countries in each pool advance.

Skipping the playoff stuff here because you need a law degree to understand it...

On Sunday, the five countries will be seeded based on their total points from the first three days. If countries are tied, the following tie-breaker will be used:
    ◦    Total points earned in head-to-head match-up (if they were in the same pool)
    ◦    Total number of matches won in all six four-ball matches
    ◦    Highest-seeded team entering competition

Each country will play one singles match against every other country for a total of 10 matches. Points carry over to Sunday. The team with most points over the four days wins.

Got that?

Anyway, the LPGA is still to be admired for trying to give us something beyond 72-holes of stroke play, so if you have the chance, tune in.

Golf Channel has over 30 hours to explain the format, with Terry Gannon and Judy Rankin anchoring.

Thursday, July 24        11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. ET (Live)
Friday, July 25            11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. ET (Live)
Saturday, July 26        3-7 p.m. ET (Live)
Sunday, July 27          3-7 p.m. ET (Live)