Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer

The permanent residents of Palm Springs are every bit as scenic as the petrified forest. Most are skinny as one-irons and have better tans than beef jerky They don't walk, they shuffle.
DAN JENKINS as Bobby Joe Grooves



   

Thursday
Jan192017

IOC Expresses Concern Over 2020 Olympic Golf Venue 

The Guardian's Justin McCurry reports that while the IOC has "reportedly expressed concern" and has contacted the International Golf Federation over Kasumigaseki's male-only and no-Sunday play membership policy.

The club's GM told McCurry that they are prepared to review their policies if asked by the IOC. However, a non-profit launched last year to "modernize" the game in Japan is calling for the event to move.

The Japan Golf Council, a non-profit organisation launched last year with the aim of modernising the game, is lobbying to have the tournament moved from Kasumigaseki to Wakasu Golf Links, a public course near Tokyo Bay. Wakasu was initially proposed as the 2020 golf venue, but was replaced by Kasumigaseki in early 2013, several months before Tokyo was chosen to host the Games.

The council’s vice chair, Yutaka Morohoshi, said staging the golf competition at Kasumigaseki made no sense given its distance from Tokyo, and the availability of an alternative course that could be used by members of the public after the Olympics had ended.

“The Olympics is all about legacy, but we won’t have that if the golf tournament is played at a private club,” Morohoshi told the Guardian. “The ban on women at Kasumigaseki is certainly a problem. It runs contrary to what the IOC stands for in spirit.”

Established in 1990, Wakasu was designed by Ayako Okamoto and is 6881 yards with a tiny 20-stall, 200-yard deep driving range. Judging by the aerial, it's a fantastic location severely landlocked and design deficient to handle the competition.

Thursday
Jan192017

Whicker On Scoring, Distance And A Changing Game

Mark Whicker talked to players at the Careerbuilder Challenge about Justin Thomas' record scoring in Hawaii and what the increase in 59s all means for the game.

Many things stood out, so I'm just clipping the most intriguing. The entire piece is worth your time.

From Jason Dufner:

“Larry Nelson won the U.S. Open at Oakmont (in 1993),” Dufner said. “He told me that on the first hole, he’d hit four-iron into the green. Last year I hit pitching wedge three days, sand wedge the other day.”

William McGirt has many great insights about distance and Trackman.

In 1998, John Daly led the tour by averaging 298 yards. Last year, there were 27 pros who topped 300. This year, Smylie Kaufman leads with an impossible average drive of 322.

Any course with mundane par-5s is helpless. Luke List is already 50-under-par on the long holes this season.

“People will say the golf ball doesn’t go any farther, but they’re wrong,” McGirt said. “The drivers can’t get hotter. The ball is the only common denominator with all the shots.

“They’ve basically taken an old two-piece, hard-brick ball and made it spin. That benefits the bombers. They can get to the core and compress it better than anyone. I can’t do that, but I have a ball I know I can control.”

Oh boy, blaming the ball. That'll get you sleeping with Luca Brazi and the fishes!

But as I noted this week on Golf Central (below), Trackman is now an underrated element in the overall improvement of player skill and distance.

“It detects a flaw before it gets out of control,” McGirt said. “If your swing is a degree and a half steeper than it should be, you can fix it before it becomes four degrees. You look at it and scratch your head and say it looks the same, but it’s not. Video doesn’t pick everything up.

“Because of this, I don’t have to have my teacher (John Tillery) with me all the time. I can hit 40 shots and e-mail them, and he can pull the numbers and say, here’s what the problem is. But some guys get caught up in it. They might start playing numbers instead of playing golf.”

John Feinstein and I discussed this very topic on Golf Central, including the Trackman component in today's improved scoring.

Thursday
Jan192017

NYT: Sam Saunders Reflects On His Grandfather

The New York Times' Karen Crouse catches up with Sam Saunders, who had a dreadful fall when he lost both of his grandfathers while also having to withdraw from the Web.com Tour Playoffs to care for his ill child, Ace.

But Saunders is back playing the Web.com Tour and able to reflect with great strength about what must be such a tough topic: his unexpected last call with grandfather Arnold Palmer.

The entire story is excellent and worth your time, but this stood out:

He was caring for Ace on Sept. 25 when Kelly reminded him to check in with Palmer, who was in a hospital in Pittsburgh preparing for surgery.

Saunders knew his grandfather would appreciate hearing from him. Since the death in 2003 of Mark McCormack — Palmer’s friend and business manager, who slipped into a coma after going into cardiac arrest while having minor surgery at a dermatologist’s office — Palmer had stubbornly resisted any medical procedure that required anesthesia, including hip replacement.

“For a guy who seemed so tough, he was scared of that,” Saunders said.

Palmer answered on the first ring, and their brief conversation sounded no alarms with Saunders, who said he was caught completely off guard when his father called a few hours later to relay the news that Palmer, 87, had died.

Thursday
Jan192017

Palmer's "Sweetest Win Ever" Came At The Hope 

Really fun deep dive read here from Jim McCabe, in a special to PGATour.com, writing about Arnold Palmer's final PGA Tour win.

It came at a special Bob Hope Classic that brought Jack Nicklaus to the desert and one that Palmer would call "the sweetest ever."

A teaser:

Palmer and Nicklaus were together on the tournament’s eve to break ground on a golf course project they were co-designing (now Ironwood Country Club), but they were miles apart in Round 1 at Indian Wells.

In the Los Angeles Times, the great Jim Murray called Palmer and Nicklaus “the prime minister and emperor of golf,” but it didn’t appear as if they were competitors any more, at least not until Palmer outscored Nicklaus, 66-70, in the second round at Tamarisk Country Club.   
     
That left Nicklaus at 134, three ahead of Palmer and a Monday qualifier named Allen Miller. Joked Miller: “What are all those unknowns doing up there with me?”   
     
“The Hope” was competing for space in the L.A. Times with the legendary Steve Prefontaine, who beat Marty Liquori in the mile at the Times Indoor Games.

Thursday
Jan192017

WSJ On Costco Ball: Probably Doomed By Low Price

Thanks to reader JacksonWharf for the Wall Street Journal's Brian Costa effort backing up reports by MyGolfSpy and this site suggesting the Costco Kirkland ball is likely done for now due to a one-time, ultra low dump of cores.

I kept the analogy at Trader Joes $6.99 and $12.99 bottles, but Costa went for the Two-Buck-Chuck metaphor. He says the suppliers of the cores allowing Costco to sell the ball for so little are now unhappy because of golfers' changing expectations.

According to a Nassau executive based in Europe, the company believes the expected retail price for the ball would be closer to $45 per dozen, all costs considered.

This executive said that both Nassau and TaylorMade, its biggest client, are unhappy with the rise of the $1.25 golf ball and that the company won’t sell excess supply in such large quantities again. A TaylorMade spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Thursday
Jan192017

Ratings: Sony Open Puts Up No Fight Against NFL Playoffs

Thanks to the postponement of Sunday's Chiefs-Steelers game originally slated for an early Sunday start, ESPN's presentation of the Latin America Amateur Championship was the top rated golf telecast last weekend. The LAAC averaged 550,000 viewers over a 2:37 window from 1 pm-3:37 pm ET.

According to SportsTVRatings.com, the next highest rated golf telecast came from Florida, where the Diamond Resorts Invitational drew an incredible average of 350,000 viewers over three hours.

As the epic and hugely-rated Packers-Cowboys game was played on Fox and as the hugely-rated Chiefs-Steelers began on NBC, the Sony Open averaged  282,000 viewers on Golf Channel from 5:58 pm ET to 10:17 pm. Matters were not helped by Justin Thomas's runaway win (even though he was pursuing history). Multiple replays got the "cumulative audience" well up from that, but the message is fairly clear: live golf has no chance against the NFL.

On Saturday against more NFL playoff action, the Sony (7-10:42 pm ET) drew an average of 283,000 viewers while the Diamond Resorts, also on Golf Channel but not up against Atlanta-Seattle from 1:20-4:30 pm ET, averaged 252,000 viewers.

Thursday
Jan192017

50 Years Ago This Week A Club Pro Won On The PGA Tour

Granted, he was the legendary Tom Nieporte of Winged Foot, but as Tom Cunneff writes for Golf.com, he is believed to be the last legitimate sweater-folder to beat the flatbellies.

Cunneff writes of the 1967 Bob Hope Classic:

After all, Nieporte wasn’t even a tour pro when he won the Hope at age 37. He was the head pro at Piping Rock Golf Club on Long Island when he outplayed the likes of Palmer, Nicklaus, and Floyd at La Quinta Country Club. After opening with a 76 that left him 10 shots off the lead, Nieporte carded three 68s to trail defending champ Doug Sanders by one shot heading into the fifth and final round. With an estimated 30,000 spectators on hand enjoying a perfect day in the desert, Sanders was still a stroke ahead after nine, but Nieporte’s 25-foot birdie putt on 11 pulled him even. Another birdie on 18 from 12 feet gave him a one-shot lead at 11 under par. Playing a hole behind Nieporte, Sanders had a chance to tie him on 18 and force a playoff, but his long birdie attempt just missed.

Wednesday
Jan182017

Cheape's: Restoration Of The Legendary Old Course Bunker

The Cheape’s bunker between the second and seventeenth holes was named after James Cheape, ended the rabbit wars in 1821 by buying back Old Course land, saving the links. He is credited with saving the links for golf.

His namesake, a strategically important bunker, had shrunk and lost shape in recent years, but based on this restoration explanation from the Links Trust site, the restoration will improve one of golf's landmark hazards.

Positioned on the 2nd fairway, this is the first significant bunker acting as a bearing point. ‘Cheape’s’ defines the leftmost side of the hole, sitting on the corner of the dogleg of the 17th. Named after the family who once owned the land on which the Old Course sits, players are mindful to steer right of this hazard from the tee.

Through time the shape of Cheape’s bunker has changed many times from the original layout of this strategically positioned bunker, from long & narrow in 1836 to round and small in 1990, which is how it has remained until we undertook this work.

Wednesday
Jan182017

Critics Consider The Golf Media's Objectification Of Women

Golf.com's fourth annual Most Beautiful Women in Golf "shines a light on some of the game's most dynamic personalities: LPGA sensations, golf-loving celebrities, TV stars and more." It almost appears to be the biggest budget golf photo shoot of the year, though some will wonder given the much-circulated image of Jan Stephenson posing in a bathtube featuring geriatric shower handles only are seen at Mayo Clinic Courtyard's.

Not that there's anything wrong with Courtyards at the Mayo Clinic. But back to the main point...

Anya Alvarez pens a guest piece for The Guardian on the golf media's complicated relationship with women. As a former Big Break contestant who was spray-tanned to look like a Jersey Shore star. She calls out all of the major publications and television, then writing:

I played on the LPGA tour for one season and the developmental tour for two years before that. During my time on tour I felt better coverage for female golf pros could actually help grow the game for women. Since golf is male dominated, and the recreational golf population is only 20% female, golf media focuses on appealing to men. Perhaps magazines and websites think that if they started providing real coverage on LPGA golfers men would lose interest. Maybe they’re right, but they would no longer be marginalizing women. Women make up 50% of the population, so in business terms it does not make sense to completely undermine us by only viewing us as bodies to be objectified and gawked at.

The Telegraph's Oliver Brown was also inspired to write after the Golf.com package appeared, and specifically targeted Holly Sonders.

Sonders, predictably, took to Twitter to say she was “humbled” by the accolade. My colleague James Corrigan countered, quite rightly, that she ought to feel insulted. For if Sonders postures as a progressive force for women for golf – and she does, openly – then she should perhaps question, firstly, why not a single top-50 active player merits a mention in this risible list and, secondly, why an influential magazine insists upon ranking according to aesthetic rather than athletic virtues.

The crassness is overwhelming. In football, Sepp Blatter was all but flayed alive, with some justification, for suggesting that women’s matches could be more enticing if the protagonists deigned to wear tighter shorts. Golf, however, makes a veritable industry out of this casual objectifying.

Brown also goes after Golf Digest.

In May 2014 it decided that, all things being equal, it was high time to find a female cover star. There was an eclectic array of contenders: teenage phenomenon Lydia Ko was on the rise, while Lexi Thompson had just electrified audiences in America by becoming the second youngest women’s major champion in history. Instead, the brains trust in residence alighted upon the figure of Paulina Gretzky, whose towering contribution to this great game was that she happened to be the fiancée of Dustin Johnson. Plus, she was glamorous – and amenable to the idea of seductively bending over her club in a sports bra.

The specious flannelling that Jerry Tarde, the editor-in-chief, used to justify this selection was priceless.

“Paulina ranks at the high end of the golf celebrity scene today,” he argued. “She has a compelling story to tell.”

Seriously, Jerry? A compelling story? You might care to study what one of your own writers said about Miss Gretzky, in another hit parade headed 'WAGs of the US Open’, to form a fuller sense of her exotic hinterland.

“She is known for posting scantily-clad photos of herself on Instagram,” the caption reads. “And, well, that’s really it.”

The WAG's slideshows do way more hits for the sites than any actual golf coverage, so they aren't going away. 

However, given the harrassment Paige Spiranac receives and the privacy concerns that have PGA Tour WAGs wearing credentials identifying them by number, at some point the objectification situation will become a security issue.

Wednesday
Jan182017

Twitter...Give And Take Files: Rory And Brandel At It Again

They last manspatted almost a year ago over the purpose of Rory's conditioning work and given the recent injury news, it's a tad surprising McIlroy is pushing back at Chamblee's assertion that the best players hit down on the ball.

Maybe Chamblee's Twitter reminder upon this week's injury news started the latest squabble?

Anyway, McIlroy counters that they hit up on the ball and given what Trackman tells us, and the way Rory drives the ball, his pushback Tweets made sense.

Of course, this is reminscent of the days when Jack Nicklaus used to feud with Jim Flick over backswing footwork, or when Lee Trevino once nearly came to blows with Harvey Penick over the true meaning of Take Dead Aim. Just kidding!

For The Win's Luke Kerr-Dineen on the latest flare up.

Rory's measured reply to the photo analyzed by Chamblee:

McIlroy's young online army declared an 8&7 win and came through with some fun GIFs. This took the prize:

Wednesday
Jan182017

State Of The Game Podcast 70: Dottie Pepper

The former LPGA star turned star television commentator joins us to discuss the upcoming 2017 season, including her work for CBS, her recent trip to Panama and various issues in the game.

Don't miss Mike Clayton's stellar tweak suggestion for the two-man team formats after taking in the recent World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath. Take note, Zurich Classic!

The show's permalink and the iTunes page where you can listen/subscribe. Or check out the player below:

Wednesday
Jan182017

Debuting Tonight: European Tour's First Tee Walk-Up Music

Check out Steve Douglas' AP story on the European Tour debuting music this week. Namely, music on the range for all to enjoy, and music as players walk to the first tee.

It's what the kids want, say people who are not the kids.

Douglas paints a picture of players practicing to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Calvin Harris before talking to Chief Executive Keith Pelley.

"There will be a time in five years when you'll say, 'You mean there was a time when music wasn't on the range?'" said Pelley, his eyes lighting up. "I think the range represents a great opportunity that we have not explored in this game. It is a great opportunity for fans to sit and watch players and this unbelievable talent that they have."

Most players are embracing it, but they didn't get off to the best start, bothering Paul Lawrie.

"I didn't like it on Tuesday," said Paul Lawrie, a 48-year-old Scot who won the British Open in 1999. "When they turned it down, it was fine. But before that, you couldn't hear your caddie."

Lawrie is on the tour's committee that approved music on the range.

"You need to try (these ideas) to see if they work or not," he said. "Everyone seems to quite like it but I'm just old. I'm old-school."

Over/under on the first inappropriate song selection controversy?

Anyway, we may get a glimpse of the new musical additions when the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship kicks off at 10:30 pm ET on Golf Channel.

DJ Reggie Yates kicked the proceedings off with some range spinning and an appearance with DJ, Rickie, Henrik and Ian Poulter.  On the awkward scale, I'd call this one a 6 out of 10.


Tuesday
Jan172017

Four Captain's Picks: European Tour Unveils Membership Regulation Changes Impacting On Ryder Cup, Rolex Series

Thanks to reader ST who stumbled on this middle-of-the-night, past-deadlines European Tour posting of major membership regulation changes that will impact the Ryder Cup and many players who juggle time on multiple tours.

The key element: four (instead of five) European Tour sanctioned events outside of the majors and WGC's must be played to qualify for Ryder Cup eligibility. There is more.

Firstly, there will be a greater weighting for points earned in tournaments in the latter stages of the process to help ensure the European Team reflects those players in form nearer the time of The Ryder Cup itself.

Race to Dubai points and World Ranking points earned in these tournaments will be multiplied by 1.5 for the two respective qualification lists with the first counting event to benefit from this increased weighting in the 2018 season being the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. 

With the 2018 schedule not as yet finalised, the last counting event in the quest to make Thomas Bjørn’s team bound for Le Golf National in Paris in September 2018 is not confirmed, but the starting point will be the D+D Real Czech Masters at the Albatross Golf Resort in Prague from August 31 – September 3, 2017.

This is an obvious reaction to so many players not sniffing the 2016 team while playing so well, or, in the case of Thomas Pieters, requiring a captain's pick.

Secondly, following the introduction of the Rolex Series, no Ryder Cup qualification points will be available from tournaments staged anywhere in the world played in the same week as these events in both 2017 and 2018.

Pelley!

Nice move by the Chief to protect his newly-announced series of events and to offer a little more incentive. Now the bad news...

While this change takes into account the significance of the Rolex Series for the European Tour, it also recognises it will mean fewer qualification points being available globally outside of these tournaments, hence Captain Bjørn will have an extra wild card pick at his disposal for the 2018 team – the third change.

 It means the 12-man European Team for The 2018 Ryder Cup will comprise the first four players from the European Points List, followed by the leading four players from the World Points List and completed by four wild cards. 

This is the most disappointing concession to the increasingly absurd glorification of captains. It's hard to imagine after the first two improvements that many players will be heartened by better qualifying rules while one less qualifying spot is offered.

Darren Clarke reluctantly took Thomas Pieters over Luke Donald. With a fourth pick, is he taking Donald over Russell Knox? If I were betting I'd say yes.

Here's a fun little back room preventive measure for an unforeseen scenario:

Furthermore, the committee also introduced a new regulation stating that players cannot be a European Ryder Cup Captain or a Vice-Captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfil their minimum event obligation in any season, from 2018 onwards.

Tuesday
Jan172017

Costco's Disruptor Ball Appears Dead, What Did We Learn?

Kudos to MyGolfSpy for reporting the likely demise of Costco's Kirkland ball sold for so little and performing so admirably.  I've been trying to track down details on the Kirkland story and my reporting mirrors that of MyGolfSpy in all but one key area. This we agree on: it's unlikely we'll see Costco replicate such a ball at the same price.

To recap, the $15-a-dozen ball is no longer even pictured on Costco's website after supplies became constrained, largely after MyGolfSpy's rave November 7th, 2016 review comparing the pellet favorably to Titleist's Pro-V1.

Tony Covey writes:

Our source inside Costco has not responded to our calls, however, a source familiar with the situation has told us that Costco has suspended production of the Kirkland Signature until further notice. Whether you want to call it a shortage or a total outage, the lack of Kirkland golf balls available to the consumer is being blamed on supply chain issues.

We're told that, internally, Coscto is saying that production will resume at a later date (and that an email will be sent to customers when stock is available), but we have good reason to believe that is an unlikely scenario.

Essentially Costco was the recipient of a one-time bargain-buy on golf ball cores that allowed them to produce the ball inexpensively. Any Trader Joes shopper knows that vineyards with extra stock but not wanting to taint their brand selling their wine at a lower price will sell otherwise nice product to the chain. Trader Joes then slaps their label on what amounts to limited editions, tells us where the grapes were grown and teases us about its heritage without ever outing the vineyard. Some of the wines are better than others, but they are almost always an excellent value.

So which vineyard dumped these cores on Costco at a low, unlikely-to-be-replicated price? Covey writes:

A representative of Nassau Golf (originally listed as the manufacturer of the Kirkland Signature Ball on the USGA conforming list) has told MyGolfSpy that Costco purchased overruns of Nassau's European-market-exclusive Quattro ball. There is some indication the sale was made through a third party, and that Nassau may not have been directly involved in the deal. The same source confirms that while the Costco balls have a different core color, the material composition and layer thickness are absolutely identical to the Quattro.

With the initial supply of overruns exhausted, Costco effectively has nothing left to sell.

Multiple sources I contacted felt that cores were from an overrun of Taylor Mades that needed to be disposed of when Adidas demanded that their subsidiary squeeze cash out of anything they could. The intent was not to disrupt the industry, but instead to cash in however they could on unused inventory. When GolfWRX noted the initial frenzy and MyGolfSpy's review hit, the ball became a disruptor.

Covey does note that the Kirkland ball's manufacturing location is now back to its mission of making Taylor Made golf balls and that a similar situation to the 2016 "K-Sig" is unlikely anytime soon, if at all.

I mention TaylorMade in particular because the company's tour balls are produced at the same factory as the Costco/Nassau balls, and there are some indications that production of new TP5 has pushed smaller companies to the back of the production line. Even if Costco otherwise had the capability to produce balls immediately, which it appears it doesn’t, the K-Sig wouldn’t be given priority over larger brands and long-term customers.

So what have we learned from this brief disruption of the ball market?

--MyGolfSpy's review was incredibly powerful, GolfWRX once again fueled interest in a product and the tide may have turned for golf equipment reviews. As other sluggish traditional publications sat on the sidelines, perhaps for fear of upsetting major manufacturers or simply because Costco is not a potential advertiser, independent internet reviews fueled the frenzy. (GolfWRX first posted about a "frenzy" on October 28th and while Mark Crossfield only posted a review three days ago, internet influencers established even greater power thanks to the Kirkland ball.)

--A lot of people don't like Titleist. There was much behind-the-scenes joy at Titleist facing a scary competitive hit around the time of their IPO. Some of the hostility could be chalked up to their longtime spot atop golf ball sales. Some of the glee was over the incredible brand loyalty Titleist inspires. Some of it related to their hostile position toward distance rollback advocates. But most hostility centered around about the price of a dozen ProV's compared to others and was aired on forums. However... 

--A lot of people don't know what goes into the cost of a golf ball. The anger ignored how much Titleist and other major manufacturers spend on R&D and manufacturing in the USA. That's right, unlike the Costco ball, we are talking about an American made product. I was amazed how many golfers were not aware that ProV's and Callaway Chrome Softs are made in Massachusetts by American workers. If you like to buy "Made in the USA" products, this episode was an eye-opener.

--Costco now looms as a potential market disruptor under the right conditions. Yes, it took some luck and timing, but they do have the ability to inflict temporary damage on major manufacturers. On the other hand, the episode may have legitimized them as a seller of golf equipment of any kind.

--Golfers and their brand loyalties were tested. Many pushed back on Twitter at my intial skepticism over the long term success potential of the ball. I questioned whether golfers could announce they were playing "a Kirkland 3 on the first tee." While I'm all for anything that lowers prices and increases competition, common sense says most golfers are attracted to their favorite brands for reasons both sane and insane.

--The episode did at least include one fun viral video. And look at it this way Wally, there were much worse clips they could have used!

Tuesday
Jan172017

Bighorns Taking To La Quinta Courses, Fence Proposed

As we get ready to see the PGA Tour head to La Quinta, longtime viewers know that a curious thing has happened: the bighorn sheep, once so rarely seen, now regularly come down to hang out on the Santa Rosa-adjacent courses. In recent years they've been lounging, bathing and eating as the Hope/Clinton/Careerbuilder has been concluding on PGA West's Arnold Palmer course (the Stadium Course now hosts the final round).

But as Louis Sahagun notes for the LA Times, La Quinta golf courses are resisting calls to install a fence that would stop the majestic creatures from setting foot on golf properties.

It's a bizarre and refreshing twist to see golf embracing the invasion of wildlife while environmentalists understandably want to protect the animals--even as they appear mostly content and safe. Except when they cross streets.

But the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club recently filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the city of La Quinta for failing to implement the barrier fencing requirements of a conservation plan designed to protect the endangered bighorns.

The Coachella Valley Multiple Species Conservation Plan requires that fences be installed within two years if bighorns roam onto urban places where they are subject to injury, or even death, from vehicle strikes, drowning in canals and swimming pools, eating toxic plants, exposure to respiratory diseases and ingestion of intestinal parasites present in watered lawns.

“How could it be that a wealthy capital of gated communities is balking at putting up relatively inexpensive fences to save these magnificent animals?” Ileene Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “All this obstinance by officials, agencies and golf club managers is heartbreaking.”

Twelve sheep have perished since 2012, with four drowning in the canal and one ingesting oleander leaves at PGA West.

Part of the resistance to the fence has to do with an affinity for the sheep, which indirectly creates interest in helping them survive and creating greater appreciation of a rare species.

The dispute hinges on a concern that barrier fences could destroy the ambience of sagebrush and steep slopes rising up from the fairways, and violate private property rights to reject the structures. Beyond that, bighorns are adored by golfers, golf club managers say, and benefit from the abundance of nourishment.

In an interview in his office on a rocky outcropping, Randy Duncan, general manager at SilverRock, smiled and said, “Golfers love these guys. Two weeks ago, we had 50 bighorns on the property happily eating and drinking.”

Rams have been seen bucking horns during mating season. However, “to my knowledge,” Duncan said, “no one has ever hit a bighorn with a golf ball.”

Tuesday
Jan172017

FanDuel Adding Golf Offering, PGA Tour May See Opportunity

Thanks to reader Glenn for Daniel Roberts' in-depth consideration of FanDuel entering the golf fantasy world as they eye a merger with DraftKings.

Despite issues with legality in several states, they are forging ahead, writes Roberts. FanDuel even think they can help golf ratings the way fantasy has hooked people on the NFL.

Golf Channel, owned by NBCUniversal, recently released numbers suggesting that 2016 was a banner year for the network, especially with digital streaming, and especially among millennial viewers. DFS insiders like to theorize that if golf ratings are on the rise, it’s thanks to DFS golf. So far, there has been nothing to prove that, but Eccles buys it: “I could see it driving golf,” he says. “Because now I have a reason to watch all day, because I’ve picked my team.” When DraftKings added golf back in 2015, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins told Golf Digest, “The setup is perfect for what we do. There are these four mega events every year. Everybody stops what they’re doing to pay attention to the Masters and the U.S. Open.”

To deal with legal issues, FanDuel is taking a different approach than DraftKings and the PGA Tour's fantasy game.

FanDuel players, when they enter a golf contest, will select two different group of golfers, one for rounds 1 and 2 of a tournament and one for rounds 3 and 4—perhaps an attempt to satisfy the “multiple events” concern. On DraftKings, players draft one roster of golfers for the full length of a tournament.

This looks problematic to me give that pesky thing called a cut. Or, better things to do on a Friday night should they be letting you make those round 3 and 4 picks after the cut has been made.

Interesting, gambling came up in Rich Lerner's sitdown with incoming Commish Jay Monahan. The Big Lead's Michael Shamburger noted the key quotes.

“Is it something we look at? Absolutely, we always look at something that other sports are doing, having success with, trends in the industry. It’s something we’ve spent a lot of time on up to this point in time. You look at DraftKings and FanDuel, you look at gaming in the international markets, there’s a lot of opportunity there.”

“There’s some complexity, and that complexity has held us back from moving forward. But we will look at it and have an open mind towards it.”

Tuesday
Jan172017

Dr: Minimum Of Six Weeks To Heal For Injury Like McIlroy's

Golf Channel's Matt Adams spoke with an orthopedic surgeon who has served as an independent examiner for the NFL and who says Rory McIlroy's stress fracture is extremely rare for a golfer.

More ominous is his prescription for recovery and healing.

“They are typical in rowing or upper body weight bearing athletes,” Kunkel said. “Stress fractures are caused by an accumulation of micro-trauma. They are tiny fractures or cracks in the bone. Usually the body just heals them. If you do not give it time to heal, it can result in a full fracture. Typically, an injury of this sort will take a minimum of six weeks to heal.”

Kunkel noted that the only way to ensure that an injury of this nature does not reoccur is to stop engaging in the activity that caused the injury and to strengthen the muscles around the core and spine.

“The modern golf swing is hard on the body,” he said. "To have athletes in their 20s experiencing these types of injuries is very concerning for the long-term.”

Dr. Ara Suppiah explains more in this Golf Central phone call with Lisa Cornwell:

Tuesday
Jan172017

Club Corp Headed For Breakup?

Greg Roumeliotis and Lauren Hirsch of Reuters report that investors are pushing for ClubCorp to be broken up and that the company has formed a committee to carry out a review.

They write:

It is a serial acquirer in the golf course industry, buying 12 new clubs in 2015 and 2016. It looks to buy locally-owned golf courses and then refurbish them by adding or improving amenities such as up-scale dining and event rooms.

Shareholder FrontFour Capital Group LLC in September published a letter highlighting ClubCorp's low trading multiple as compared with leisure industry peers such Six Flags Entertainment Corp (SIX.N). It questioned some of its business decisions such as ClubCorp's model to pour money into refurbishing its golf course acquisitions.

"It is obvious to us that ClubCorp's reinvention capital expenditures are transformative in nature and are in no shape or form 'maintenance,'" the letter wrote.

How dare they try to transform their properties for a new generation!

Private equity firm KSL Capital bought ClubCorp for $1.8 billion in October 2006 before taking it public in 2013. The company operates more than 200 properties but it saddled with major debt issues.

Monday
Jan162017

More On Justin Thomas' Ascension, Stunning Sony Stats

Now that Justin Thomas has won both Hawaii events and moved into the world top ten, his backstory is probably a lot more interesting to most.

Brian Wacker does a nice job recapping how Thomas got to this point and highlighting the role of his golf instructor dad Mike.

The older Thomas said he often asked Justin if he wanted to go to the swimming pool or to play basketball. He was not interested.

“When he was 7 or 8 years old, he’d call me on his way home from a tournament and say, ‘I’ll be home by 7:30, do you want to play nine holes?’ ” Mike Thomas said. “We’d eat dinner at 9 or 9:30 every night. Selfishly, it allowed me to play more golf.”

The older Thomas taught his son the fundamentals, but he was cautious about pushing him too hard. Most of their lessons would last 10 or 15 minutes, in part because Mike Thomas had a busy schedule teaching and competing, but also because he did not want to be overbearing.

“I’ve seen it done wrong so many times,” Mike Thomas said. “It was more important that we were friends than he was a good player.”

The crack number-crunchers at ShotLink provided these stats from the Sony Open, which show a driving and putting performance that easily explains how the new PGA Tour scoring record occurred.

The divide between Thomas and his next closest competitor in approach distances is a real eye-opener.

Monday
Jan162017

Careerbuilder: Mickelson On Creating An Identity

Larry Bohannan talks to Phil Mickelson in advance of his new role as "ambassador" to the Careerbuilder Challenge, formerly known as, well, The Hope.

Mickelson says it's a three-year plan to build the tournament into a more stable and significant event.

"The idea is to create an identity. Our identity is a chance for players to build a foundation for the rest of the year. We want to get a few top players in the field as the year starts.”

As the desert tournament evolved in the 1960s and 1970s, it always had top-name pros from Arnold Palmer to Jack Nicklaus to Gary Player to Johnny Miller to Mickelson himself. Getting at least a few names like that back in the field could help push the CareerBuilder to bigger heights, Mickelson said, and maybe even bring back a little of what the tournament was decades ago.

“If we get a few top players, get some top amateurs and in the future some top celebrities out to the tournament, the tournament will be something fans want to come to,” he said.

It's interesting to see that Mickelson has singled out "top celebrities" given that Commissioner Finchem shifted the event away from celebs just as he did with the Wednesday pro-am here in Los Angeles. Whether Moonbeam was focused on squeezing more revenue out of paying customers over spectator draws, or just a general fan of watching briefcases play golf instead of celebs, I don't know.

Either way, tip of the cap to whoever secured Fitz and The Tantrums for the first Careerbuilder Challenge concert. Can't wait to see the fans free let go of their walkers to dance to The Walker!