Latest From GolfDigest.com
Twitter
Feedblitz
To Get GeoffShackelford.com Posts Delivered To Your Inbox Enter Email Address Below:


Powered by FeedBlitz
Books
  • Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
  • The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Art of Golf Design
    The Art of Golf Design
    by Michael Miller, Geoff Shackelford
  • Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Golden Age of Golf Design
    The Golden Age of Golf Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
  • The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    by Geoff Shackelford
Current Reading
  • Men in Green
    Men in Green
    by Michael Bamberger
  • Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Professional Golf 2015: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    Professional Golf 2015: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    by Daniel Wexler
  • The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream
    The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream
    by Dan Washburn
  • Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    by Bill Fields
  • Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    by Dan Jenkins

    Kindle Edition

  • The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    by Gil Capps
Classics
  • Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    by Geo. C. Thomas
  • The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    Treewolf Prod
  • Reminiscences Of The Links
    Reminiscences Of The Links
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast, Richard C. Wolffe, Robert S. Trebus, Stuart F. Wolffe
  • Gleanings from the Wayside
    Gleanings from the Wayside
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast
  • Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    by Darius Oliver
  • Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    by Darius Oliver
Writing And Videos

There is always a way at St. Andrews, although it is not always the obvious way, and in trying to find it, there is more to be learned on this British course than in playing a hundred ordinary American golf courses.  BOBBY JONES


    

Tuesday
Jun302015

Update On Jordan Spieth's Pre-Open Championship Preparation

The people have spoken, the polls have closed in California and after 656 votes, 64% believe Jordan Spieth is doing the right thing playing the John Deere Classic, while 36% of you agreed with my view that he needs to get to St. Andrews as early as possible. Clearly you were not swayed by my comments or our Morning Drive debate.

The main premise for advocating an early arrival over the Deere is based on the utmost admiration for his ability to process information. The Old Course presents more to process than any other course on the planet, assuming a player can soak it in. Many players are better off not thinking too much, but at the mind-boggling age of 21 Spieth has shown he not only can take in the info, but use it to his advantage. A case could be made that his game has room to improve and that he just won a U.S. Open with a little less than his best. But his drive, intelligence and approach to Chambers Bay (arriving early) paid off.

Put his current game, golf smarts and fine caddie on the Old Course for a couple of extra days, get weather-lucky with the tee time draw, and Spieth has an excellent chance of going to Whistling Straits with a Grand Slam on the line.

Spieth's plans headed to The Open include a Sunday launch to the AJGA event played under his name, a Monday charity event in Iowa for Zach Johnson and then, off to the Deere. Yes, the loyalty is admirable, but at his Hall of Fame induction will he be remembered for his loyalty to the John Deere Classic, or perhaps for having made a run at easily the greatest accomplishment in our sport: winning the modern Grand Slam?

Tim Rosaforte reported the latest on Spieth for Morning Drive:


Besides passing up a chance to study the Old Course (he has played once), there is another more practical reason to arrive early: jet lag.

Sunday night, Spieth will be a red-eye charter flight commissioned by the Deere, arriving at St. Andrews in the afternoon after a less-than-restful night. Reader Tom is a doctor and expressed concern about this approach after seeing our Morning Drive discussion:

The elephant in the room was lack of discussion of the major physiologic effects of jet lag, especially travelling West to East. All best players address this by arriving 1-2 WEEKS prior if they expect to play well and/or WIN. Examples, Tiger fishing trips with O'Meara, Phil playing Scottish and arriving 10 days or more prior, etc. It is impossible to understand why Jordan and his advisers would not be aware of, and address this. Out here we all love Jordan and pray for his success. I think it is tragic for him, with this great chance at history, to not take every precaution in protecting his ability to play his best golf ever.

We tried Tom, we tried!

Tuesday
Jun302015

USGA Says Fox Criticism "Consistent with what we got in the past"

John Ourand & John Lombardo of Sports Business Journal wrap up Fox's U.S. Open debut in a story titled "Fox Sports defends coverage of U.S. Open after criticism." (Subscription required.)

Fox executives, forgetting that other than a brief show of humility to kick off Shark Shootout, had set a high bar for innovation. John Entz, president of Fox Sports production:

Other than a few events this summer, like the U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Women’s Open, Fox does not have the rights to professional golf tournaments. NBC and CBS share the PGA Tour’s rights until 2021.

“The bottom line: This crew is going to be under the gun every year and won’t have the benefit of doing 20 events a year and getting better,” Entz acknowledged. “There’s no doubt that we would benefit from having more events in the lead-up to something as big as the U.S. Open.”

Most fun though was the USGA's assertion that the heavy criticism on social media and in major publications was par for the broadcasting course.

“We hear feedback every year — positive, neutral and negative,” Hirshland said. “That is not new. … The feedback was consistent with what we got in the past. We don’t feel like there was anything atypical about it.”

Nothing?

But the criticism seemed more prevalent and harsher this year, much of it amplified by social media and blogs. Many anticipated a stronger debut from a network that has a history of big-event production.

Still, Entz found much of the criticism to be unfair.

“For someone like [The New York Times] to come in and say, ‘Here’s all the things that went wrong. You need to get better at this,’ it’s like, ‘Oh, really? You think? You thought we were going to be perfect on our first show, which happens to be the size of the Super Bowl?’ Being realistic would go a little way for people that are out looking for blood.

“The part of the criticism that does bother us a little bit is that we felt that people were going in looking for it, and over the course of that many hours of TV, they were going to find things that they didn’t like or things that went wrong.”

But the searching started because the bar was set high by...Fox Sports and the USGA from day one.

Monday
Jun292015

St. Andrews Videos: Bobby Jones Wins In 1927

The Open's official highlights from Bobby Jones winning in 1927 includes some great shots on the course and era-approprirate music. What a time and place!

The weather wasn't so hot in 1927, so if you're going this year this ought to be a reminder to pack that umbrella:

Check out this Critical Past footage and note the crowd stampeding over the Road green.

Finally, and my favorite of the clips, the footage of the crowd rushing the Home green after Jones clinches. If you watch carefully at the 0:49 mark you can see the epic moment when the crowd lifts Jones and carries him away. That moment produced quite possibly the greatest golf image ever, and it leads off this GolfDigest.com slideshow.

The AP game story from the time (unbylined) makes for fun reading because it describes the reaction to Jones finishing his round and says he was in the ninth of 27 pairs to go out (yikes playing behind that stampede). The story that ran in papers across America includes this epic description of the R&A clubhouse when pointing out how Jones was leaving the Claret Jug behind for safe keeping. Someone had WiFi issues! Excuse me, typewriter ribbon problems...

The announcement was made before a crowd of several thousand persons jamming the spacious St. Andrews eighteenth green and terraces around the drab old stone pile which houses the potentates of the royal and ancient game, awaiting the presentation ceremony.

Jones posted a 285 total to beat Aubrey Boomer and Fred Robson by six strokes.

Monday
Jun292015

Peter Oosterhuis Reveals He Has Early-Onset Alzheimer's 

The golf commentary world has missed his solid presence on broadcasts since the start of the year, and as Jaime Diaz wrote in Monday's Golf World that longtime CBS and Golf Channel commentator Peter Oosterhuis has admitted to stepping away due to early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Diaz writes:

Oosterhuis is revealing his story publicly because he wants to do what he can to help Alzheimer’s treatment and research. That means joining the major fundraising efforts of Nantz, who in 2011 founded Nantz National Alzheimer Center at Houston Methodist Neurological Center. Nantz’s father, Jim Jr., was afflicted with Alzheimer’s for 13 years before he died in 2008, an ordeal his son chronicled in his 2009 tribute book, Always By My Side.

Since December, Oosterhuis has been treated by specialists at the center and has been in a program for an experimental drug in its third trial that is designed to break down the formations of plaque in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s, and which has given scientists hope that a breakthrough might be near. Last month, at a fundraiser for the center played at Pebble Beach, the Oosterhuises each took the microphone during a Saturday-night gathering of 140 invitees and revealed that Peter was suffering from the very disease they were all there to fight. (Click here to watch a video of their announcement.) They received a standing ovation, and Nantz was later told that the money raised represented the most ever by a private fundraiser at Pebble Beach.

Here is the video of the Oosterhuis' revealing Peter's condition.

Monday
Jun292015

Video: Frustrated Golfer Gets Stuck In Trash Can

Sophie Jamieson of The Telegraph (nice spot Jason Crook at GolfChannel.com) reports on the embarrassingly funny plight of 49-year-old Dave Sayers, who threw his clubs away after a frustrating round, then tried to stick his head in a trash can to retrieve them.

“We were coming to the end of the day and I had been losing it a bit with a few bad shots. We’d all had a few beers," he told The Telegraph. "I said, ‘I’m going to bin these clubs’ but they wouldn’t fit. I decided to go a step further ... I went to put my head in the bin, but then I couldn’t get it out.”

The painful video replete with Vaseline jokes:

Monday
Jun292015

Video: Watch Victor Dubuisson Adjust His Lofts And Lies

As we lead up to St. Andrews, I've been dipping into old books reading about the craftsmanship of Allan Robertson and Old Tom, master clubmakers that they were. So it was fun to see how Victor Dubuisson rearranges his lofts and lies after a particularly unenjoyable 73 in the BMW International Open final round.

Thanks to Steve Elling at GolfBlot for spotting this. My favorite part? The pre-tantrum look down at the clubs while Michael Hoey putts out. Oh yes, this was premeditated...

Monday
Jun292015

Punters Beware: Tom Watson Ready For His Final Open

Our friends at Ladbrokes and William Hill tend to not offer the most scintillating odds on low senior, but Tom Watson's effort at the U.S. Senior Open has set him up well for a send off at St. Andrews that should include (at least) a made cut.

Bill Fields on Watson's amazing play at 65 and his need to improve long-iron play heading to the five-time Open Champion's finale at St. Andrews.

“My iron game’s got to be more than decent, it’s got to be in good shape,” he said, anticipating the Old Course at St. Andrews.

“If I get the iron game in good shape and I’m putting well, I give myself a fair chance to at least make the cut and to do well there.”

The five-time British Open winner will certainly be able to use putts like the 33-footer for birdie he holed to loud applause on the 18th on Sunday – the second straight day he sank a long one on the hole.

“You’re going to have a lot of long putts,” Watson said. “It’s imperative that week to have really good speed with your putts, good weight, and keep it out of the bunkers. The bunkers are death. If you add strong wind in there, that’s a tough golf course to handle."

Monday
Jun292015

ESPN's OTL: Phil Transferred Large Sums To Gambling Operation

ESPN's Mike Fish and David Purdum reported that Phil Mickelson allegedly transferred nearly $3 million to an illegal gambling operation whose principal figure has pleaded guilty to money laundering charges.

Gregory Silveira of La Quinta faces up to 60 years in prison for his actions though he is expected to face much less time.

Although the final plea agreement reached between Silveira and the U.S. Department of Justice does not name the "gambling client," an initial plea agreement signed last month by Silveira and his attorney, James D. Henderson Sr., contained a reference to the "money laundering of funds from P.M." After Outside the Lines inquired about Mickelson's potential role in the case, the U.S. Attorney's Office on June 17 filed a motion to have the original plea agreement stricken. The next day, it filed an amended version minus any reference to "P.M."

ESPN's Lester Munson says with the information available, he sees no charges coming against Mickelson.

Monday
Jun292015

What Will The Golf World Do After NBC Says To Trump: You're Fired!

Business Insider's Maxwell Tani reports on NBCUniversal's severing of all ties to presidential candidate Donald Trump following his assertion that most Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug runners (except, no doubt, for the ones working at his businesses). This means no more Miss USA, Miss Universe and "The Apprentice" reality shows.

But what will happen to the Grand Slam of Golf, headed to Trump National Los Angeles this fall and next March's Cadillac Championship at Doral?

Tani writes:

Trump responded quickly at an appearance in Chicago, and hinted that he was the one who ended the relationship.

"They didn't want me to run because they wanted me to do the Celebrity Apprentice," Trump told reporters. "They were not happy," Trump said.

"I think as far as ending the relationship, I have to do that, because my view on immigration is much different than the people at NBC," Trump said.

Following Univision's announcement last week, Trump slammed the television company. The real-estate mogul banned network executives from his Miami golf course and said that he would pursue a breach-of-contract lawsuit.

The saga seems like an inevitable and potentially problematic by-product of Trump's effort to appeal to extremists after having built considerable credibility saving and rejuvenating multiple high-end properties.

How will golf's various organizations who are in business with Trump or are threatening to do business with him--PGA of America, R&A, USGA, European Tour and the PGA Tour--respond? Stay tuned...

Sunday
Jun282015

Poll: Should Spieth Play The Deere Or Get To St. Andrews ASAP?

This Friday, the John Deere Classic field becomes set in stone at 5 pm. ET.

Jordan Spieth, taking a much-needed Bahamas vacation this week, plans to commit to the Moline, Illinois event and then take the tournament charter to St. Andrews for the Grand Slam's next leg.

This means the reigning Masters and U.S. Open Champion will arrive to the most complicated course on the planet having played it once, with only the opportunity to play two, maybe three practice rounds. Not to mention the whirlwind nonsense that comes with being an in-demand superstar and nice guy.

For someone who has succeeded at a shockingly young age at times with less than his A-game, Spieth has thrived on impeccable decision-making and support from his support team. With the right preparation and the luck of the draw, he has an incredibly strong chance of winning at St. Andrews. Spieth already has the right attitude about the place, which, as we know from history, is half the battle. The other half is knowing how to play the Old Course. And rolling in Monday afternoon with your excellent caddie and hoping to do the necessary preparation in a very short window is a tall ask for anyone, even Spieth.

Sure, Tony Lema rolled into Great Britain for the first time in his life and won at St. Andrews, as Bill Fields wrote for Golf World. Topping that, Jordan Spieth has been there, played a Walker Cup on a links and, according to this excellent Art Stricklin piece for golf.com, took notes on the Old Course with fellow young gun Patrick Rodgers as they stopped in pre-Walker Cup.

That’s exactly the same pattern he followed in 2011 when he was part of the U.S. Walker Cup team, heading directly from the Edinburgh Airport to the Old Course for golf. It was Spieth’s first visit to the Home of Golf and a trip American captain Jim Holtgrieve remembers well.

"The guys were all wide-eyed and fired up about playing a course they had heard about all of their lives," Holtgrieve said.

"What blew me away about Jordan and Patrick Rodgers is they took notes and carried a yardage book. I’m sure he (Spieth) still has that today and has already looked at it."

Spieth certainly learned those lessons well, as he stood 5-under-par on the 12th hole at The Old Course under sunny skies and calm winds, according to Holtgrieve assistant Robbie Zalzneck.

"He played great there," Zalzneck said.

So did Rory McIlroy. He posted a 63 in a T3 finish in the 2010 Open at St. Andrews. That was four rounds, plus multiple practice and competitive Dunhill Cup rounds on the Old Course.

In Spieth's case, for a golfer who thrives on knowledge, preparation and details to come in having to work so hard to prepare in a short window is risky at best. No course on the planet rewards those who learn its intricacies more, which is why I'm perplexed at the decision to play the Deere and risk a late arrival at the Home of Golf with a Grand Slam on the line.

Your thoughts and vote please...

Should Jordan Spieth Play The John Deere Or Go To St. Andrews?
 
pollcode.com free polls

Sunday
Jun282015

Cheyenne: The Tiger Questions Are Getting "Old"

Tiger Woods took to The Players Tribune to complain about Dan Jenkins. And now niece Cheyenne, rising talent that she is, uses the player-friendly outlet to write about how old the Tiger questions are getting.

I'm not sure about you, but this was actually kind of painful reading in the sense that if Cheyenne is taking to a site known largely for fluff to share her frustrations with the constant Tiger questions/comparisons, that what she's revealing here is only a small part of the relentlessness of the questioning.

She writes:

The very first time I was compared to Tiger, I think I had to be like nine or 10 years old, right around when I first started playing in golf tournaments. Tiger was getting huge at that point — he was really starting to dominate. At that age, I thought it was really cool that people would talk about it with me. My junior golf coach even nicknamed me Tigress. I loved it because, like a lot of kids, I wanted to be just like my uncle when I grew up. I would dress like Tiger, wearing Nike head to toe. Then, as I got older, people would compare our progress or assume things about me as a person because of who my uncle was, and that’s when it started to get old.

I mean, I get it — he’s one of the most famous human beings on the planet and we share a last name as well as a profession. But let me clear something up once and for all: I love my uncle, and I treasure the advice he gives me when we speak every few months, but I am not Tiger Woods.

Every few months! Even with so many weekends off?

Sunday
Jun282015

St. Andrews Video: Open Wins By Hutchison, Wethered

The build-up to St. Andrews has begun and there is no more sobering reminder of how long people have been playing, loving and wondering about this crazy game than a return to the Old Course. It's overwhelming and even can get quite emotional pondering what St. Andrews has meant to so many lives.

Thankfully, we have the archive of British Pathé films to remind us how long St. Andrews has influenced lives.

Note in this first how much the Claret Jug means to Jock Hutchison, 1921 Open Championship winner, who defeats Roger Wethered(a) in a playoff.

And here is the great Joyce Wethered, sister of Roger, beating Glenna Collett Vare in the finals of the 1929 Ladies Open Championship at the Old Course. Check out the size of that gallery and the rush to the first green!

Sunday
Jun282015

PGA Tour Still Sorting Out The Messy 2016 Schedule...

Joe Morelli of the New Haven Register looks at the various options for next year's Travelers Championship as golf in the Olympics makes a complete mess of the schedule. The event, normally played after the U.S. Open and popular with players, does not want to be played opposite the Olympics.

Of course, why any golf has to be played opposite the Olympics is beyond me and sadly will give critics just the evidence they need of Olympic golf's sillyness.

Anyway, Morelli writes:

The PGA Championship has already moved backward from its traditional August spot to July 28-31 in order to accommodate the Olympics. So with the U.S. Open June 16-19, there will be three majors and a World Golf event in a seven-week stretch. Bessette indicated the WGC event, likely the Bridgestone Invitational, will be held in between (June 30-July 3) the U.S. Open and the British Open (July 14-17). The FedEx St. Jude’s Classic has already announced its dates as well (June 9-12).

“I don’t want to play against the men in the Olympics or play against the women in the Olympics (Aug. 17-20),” Bessette said. “Somebody has to be between the British and the PGA. Who wants to be in that spot?”

Apparently, the RBC Canadian Open will fill that spot July 21-24. That leaves three open weeks not against the Olympics: June 23-26, the Travelers’ traditional position behind the U.S Open; July 7-10 and Aug. 4-7.

Also competing for spots on the calendar are the Quickens Loans Invitational, Tiger Woods’ tournament, the Greenbrier Classic and the John Deere Classic. The FedExCup playoffs follow the Olympics.

And fans will care even less than ever following four majors and the awarding of a gold medal.

Saturday
Jun272015

Ian Baker-Finch, Connecticut And The Claret Jug

The Claret Jug made a surprise visit in Cromwell Sunday, where Open Championship spots are on the line in Sunday's Traveler's Championship.

As Brian Wacker notes, some intriguing names are in the mix, as Brian Harman leading. (BTW, nice touch on the PGATour.com leaderboard to note who is already in The Open.)

To promote the The Open, golf's oldest trophy made its way to Connecticut and surprised former Open Champion Ian Baker-Finch as he was beginning a talk to the First Tee gathering.

Brad Klein on the emotional address that followed.

Baker-Finch looked down at that the trophy that May had set down, and just as he talked about the event making him feel like part of a family, he choked up, lost his focus for a second and gave way to the tears welling up in his eyes. It was so touching to watch. The audience suddenly quieted and gave Baker-Finch a few moments to gather himself. And when it became obvious that he needed more time, the crowd stood and applauded in appreciation of how sincere and revealing a gesture they were witness to.

Saturday
Jun272015

Bernhard Langer Still Miffed By The Anchoring Ban

As he heads into the U.S. Senior Open final round tied with Jeff Maggert for the lead, Bernhard Langer nears the end of his ability to anchor the long blade against his torso. And he's still unsure why it's happening.

The Sacramento Bee's Mark Billingsley reports.

“I just don’t understand,” said Bernhard Langer, who shot a 4-under-par 66 in Friday’s second round at the Del Paso Country Club and is 3 under for the tournament. “I’ve been using (the long putter) for 18 years, and it’s a real issue. If it’s easier, then why are we not seeing more players use it? I don’t see anyone using persimmon woods. And who is using hybrids now? Everyone.”

Saturday
Jun272015

Jordan Spieth's Winning Moment, In Sepia

As noted in this item for The Loop, the moment we've sometimes come to know at the U.S. Open where a player realizes he's won and is embraced by family, appeared lost behind a scoring trailer door at Chambers Bay.

But Darren Carroll was working for the USGA and explains in this item how he decided to slide in just in case Spieth's moment happened. The rest is history, as this excellent slideshow reveals.

Friday
Jun262015

State Of The Game 58: Geoff Ogilvy And Chambers Bay

Geoff Ogilvy finished T18, +3 after a final round 67 at the 2015 U.S. Open. The 2006 champion joins us to talk about a wild and weird week at Chambers Bay.

As always you can enjoy below, or go to iTunes for Apple users. Here's a permalink to the show. Or you can download the MP3 here. As always, I encourage the use of Overcast for you podcasting needs (I get no money from them, just love the app).

Friday
Jun262015

Under Armour CEO Is Really Liking His Jordan Spieth Deal

The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg sums up the post-U.S. Open comments of Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, executive Ryan Kuehl and Spieth in the wake of a second straight major.

Spieth's rise is only encouraging the company to expand their golf offerings as the industry shrinks.

“He’s a special guy,” Plank said. “He’s going to win a lot of golf tournaments, and that’s going to end up costing us a lot of money at some level, but I’d say it’ll probably be some of the best money we ever spent.”

Plank, in the interview with WJLA, also says this. Translations welcomed.

“Look, culture eats strategy for breakfast,” he said. “Culture isn’t something you just wake up and decide you’re going to be one day. It’s like trust; it’s built in drops and it’s lost in buckets. And you know the kind of people that will help add to that, that will add drops. And Jordan was one of those special, unique people who was a team sport athlete.

“When him and his father came up…two or three years ago, and we sat there having a conversation about how would you like to turn pro and be an Under Armour guy, he just said look I am an Under Armour guy. I am an athlete. He goes, ‘I’m your golfer.’ “

Spieth is the cover boy and center of Golf Digest's July issue, with a pre-U.S. Open profile by Jaime Diaz worth a look. Especially now.

Like all game-changers, Spieth benefits from timing. Just as Palmer was a welcome change from the grim excellence of Ben Hogan, so is Spieth a respite from the distant reign of Woods.

"Tiger's time of domination was overall great for golf but difficult in terms of interaction with fans, sponsors and media," says Seth Waugh, former CEO of Deutsche Bank, sponsor of the Deutsche Bank Championship. "In his defense, as the biggest guy on the planet, he felt he needed a shield to protect himself from an invasive world. Everybody assumed that because he was winning everything, the model of focusing only on your game and not really engaging with people was necessary to be a champion. From a player's perspective, it was the perfect excuse not to do the harder stuff, like stick around to sign autographs. But then the financial crisis hit, and it became clear that the harder stuff was a big part of why a corporation would spend $10 million to put on a week of golf. When Tiger and the notion of universal entitlement simultaneously fell from grace, players realized another model might work better, not just for themselves, but for the game."

Friday
Jun262015

Golf Is Dead Files: A Decent Read (For A Change)

I hate to start the weekend off with a negative piece about the game, but Karl Taro Greenfeld in Men's Journal (thanks reader Lee) has talked to a lot of interesting people, visited closed courses and fleshed out some key facts. While "The Death Of Golf" headline is a bit strong if you read the entire piece, that's merely the work of a headline writer.

Unlike many of the recent golf-is-dead stories, Taro Greenfeld likes the game and has a daughter who is intrigued, but the time and difficulty issue is at the core of his examination, and he gives plenty of time to the development model of the 80s and 90s which left us with no shortage of bad, long, unsatisfying courses.

Lake Las Vegas could be the poster development for an entire era of American excess — the real estate boom, the subprime mortgage crisis, and the exuberant overinvestment in golf courses as bait to sell property. The 3,600-acre community built around a 320-acre artificial lake in Henderson, Nevada, featured two Jack Nicklaus–designed golf courses and one Tom Weiskopf course, the primary selling points for homes ranging from $500,000 to $5 million. Ritz-­Carlton opened a resort on the lake, which was declared a "Hot Spot" in 2004 by the Washington Post.

One of those three golf courses has since closed, the Ritz-Carlton is long gone (it's now a Hilton), and some of the luxury houses have hit the market for as little as $150,000. The golf course has been converted to scrubby trails, and it turns out that homes on a desert are a lot less desirable than homes on a golf course. "For so many years, golf was a tool for developers to sell property," says Phil Smith, a golf course designer who worked with Nicklaus and Weiskopf during the boom. "There wasn't a sense of long-term viability in some of these developments."

And this...

By now the various attempts to "save" golf by making the game faster, cheaper, and easier to play have all taken on an air of desperation. There have been a number of initiatives and innovations designed to lure younger players onto the course — most of them attempts to speed up the game. "Golf is losing fans because of time," says Phil Smith. "We need to provide for that." That means shorter courses, some three- or four-hole loops that can be played "through" existing courses, or bigger holes or short-game areas — anything so that a player can go out and swing a club and get back before sundown. "We have to shorten the courses and change the equipment," Gary Player says. "Your average golfer will have a much better experience if he or she doesn't feel the need to hit a driver off of every tee box."

Taro Greenfeld isn't all gloom and doom, visiting a TopGolf and examining its appeal.

Thursday
Jun252015

Last U.S. Open Thought: Streaming Model Better Than Network?

Every year after the Masters, most of us talk about how satisfying the Amen Corner Live coverage was because the digital/DirecTV feed comes on well before network coverage, offers a more immersive experience and features announcers well informed about the holes they are covering all day. Yes it helps to have the most compelling three-hole stretch, as does the novelty of getting to see Augusta National for the first time after a long winter. Nothing has come close to matching the intrigue of Amen Corner Live until this year's U.S. Open, in part due to production values, and in part because the USGA allowed Fox to make adjustments on the fly.

This year's U.S. Open featured three streams. As the network broadcast struggled to keep up with live golf or embed innovative touches, the streaming options of Featured Group, Featured Hole and 360 largely delivered on Fox's pledge to deliver fresh twists on golf coverage, with only the 360 lacking a little clarity in what it was trying to accomplish.

The difficulty of the network to match the streaming's use of fun stuff was predictable to longtime TV folks who warned that certain graphics and effects would be too difficult to incorporate into a network broadcast that is trying to show many players and pay bills too. But when the focus is on two holes, one group or one topic, the digital feeds deliver a more satisfying and up-to-the-minute experience.

Could this mean that the entire concept of trying to cover a golf tournament must be re-thought? We hear all of the time how golfers just want to see shots like the CBS Chirkinian days and show as many players as possible, etc.  Yet for serious golf fans, the European Tour feeds and Australian coverage often resonate because they focus on a few groups and incorporate more course graphics that allow us to follow the anatomy of a round.

Fox's digital offerings proved to be more compelling watching an elite group work their way around Chambers Bay or to seeing how the field tackled one hole while the network tried to tell so many different stories.

The first day of the digital coverage was rocky and even entertaining in a Best In Show way. The Featured Group's Tim Brando and Mark Brooks sounded like two Fred Willard's talking over each other, but by round three they and Natalie Gulbis had meshed to deliver enjoyable, insightful and opinionated analysis. Buddy Marucci sounded like he was lost the entire time. On the Featured Hole coverage, Shane Bacon brought a confident but relaxed presence lacking in May's Four-Ball telecast, while folks like Debbie Doniger, Morgan Pressel and Joe Ogilvie all stood out with the kind of candor and energy that was lacking on big Fox. Robert Lusetich should have been used more to break up Fox's overuse of players and under-reliance on reporters.

Announcers aside, the storytelling really worked best because of the bells and whistles that the different feeds had time to employ. Below are a few screen grabs from the week starting with Fox's best contribution to golf coverage, the use of small graphics to show you some of the key numbers golfers and their caddies faced.


A similar graphic showing of drives, yardages and hole graphics can be found on Australian and European Tour coverage, Fox seemed to make excellent use of VirtualEye's information best. The hole flyovers were the most accurate and artistically attractive I've seen, and the player drives were incorporated into a flyover for better context.
From the landing zone, those flyovers seemlessly brought us to the green, where contours were revealed. Again, nothing entirely new here, but it all seemed to work better in the telling of a group's story compared to the network where these graphics were seldom seen.
Finally, scatter charts of where players were making pars and birdies came in handy at the wild and weird "featured" 12th hole.
There were also some experimental uses of drone flyovers with scatter shots that I didn't screen capture, though I must say the 3D graphics were especially useful this year as Chambers Bay baked out and the graphics captured the course with the right blend of colors.

In contrast to the Masters "featured groups," which tend to be set in stone and sometimes avoiding the groups the network wants to hog, the U.S. Open coverage shifted to tell the more relevant or developing stories. For instance, Sunday's final round included Rory McIlroy's run as the network coverage had to focus on the leaders. Watching someone charge on closing holes (set up by the USGA for dramatics) made for more compelling and informed viewing. But it required either DirecTV or having a streaming feed on in addition to the network coverage.

As with the Masters, it was also surprising how often the network coverage was well behind what we'd already seen on the streaming coverage and how much this could taint views of the Fox network product. Perhaps unfairly so since each feed has such different goals.

Which brings this back to the original point. I'm curious if you all agree that perhaps we've overrated the model of trying to show as many shots and players as possible at the expense of better telling the story of the course, developing rounds and leaders?