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
  • Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    by Kevin Robbins

Golf is a game to be played with two hands. Your left guides the club and keeps the face in the desired position for the hit, and the power pours through the coupling of the right hand and the club. TOMMY ARMOUR

 

   

Wednesday
Feb222017

"It may go unsaid, but Donald Trump wants something from the PGA of America." 

Michael Bamberger profiles PGA Of America CEO Pete Bevacqua but as a lot of things go these days, the story has to consider the relationship between President Trump and the PGA of America.

Writing for Golf.com/SI:

Bevacqua, with his staff and board, is considering moving the PGA Championship from its customary August date to May, which would give the golf calendar a different rhythm. Oh, and Donald Trump has Bevacqua on his contact list, as he has for some years—and he's been in touch.

The two met at Trump Tower in New York City shortly after the election. They played golf in late December at Trump International. More recently, Bevacqua received a call from Trump—that is, President Trump—while ferrying his young children around Palm Beach Gardens.

"It was kind of a strange situation," Bevacqua said recently. "Three kids in the car and then there's a call, 'Please hold for President Trump.' The kids just kept doing their thing. They're singing, oblivious. But at the end of the call, my daughter says, 'Was that the president?'"

So where does this all head? Bamberger opines:

The PGA of America has two of its events scheduled for Trump courses, the Senior PGA Championship in May and the PGA Championship in 2022. Trump and the Trump Organization would gladly welcome more PGA of America events. A great golf prize for the Trump family would be a Ryder Cup on one of its courses on either side of the Atlantic. (Venues have been selected through 2024. The '26 Ryder Cup appears to be headed to Ireland. Trump has two Scottish courses, in Turnberry and Aberdeen.) Eric Trump—now in charge of running his family's golf business in conjunction with Larry Glick, a Trump Organization executive—would naturally love a U.S. Open, a British Open or a PGA Tour event at any course bearing the Trump name. Long before Trump was elected, the USGA awarded Trump National Bedminster with the 2017 U.S. Women's Open. But given some of the extreme language used by Trump as a candidate and some of the positions he has taken as president, it seems unlikely that the PGA Tour, the USGA or the R&A, administrators of the British Open, will be eager to choose another Trump venue anytime soon.

I disagree. Should the PGA Championship move to May, Trump Doral is a no-brainer as either a future venue or replacement for one of the northern venues currently on the PGA Championship schedule.

Wednesday
Feb222017

6,000 Cycle Through Safeco Field Topgolf's Pop-Up

Callaway and the Padres pioneered (Actual) Stadium Golf but it was great fun to see Topgolf take the idea and incorporate their concept at Safeco Field.

Sean Quinton reports for the Seattle Times. I could have done without this quote from CEO Erik Anderson, who sounds desperate invoking the M word.

“We are the place where millennials hit golf balls,” said Erik Anderson, Topgolf’s Co-Chairman and CEO. “You get to play the game, you can compete and trash talk with your friends, flirt with your girlfriend.”

Music blaring on the loudspeakers, the next shot lands squarely in the middle of a yellow target. The screen tracks the ball in realtime, adding 40 points to the score. This is not your grandpa’s version of golf.

Wednesday
Feb222017

Ready Golf Makes A Difference? The R&A Says So And Plans To Show How

Major League Baseball is threatening to fundamentally change a small but occasionally comical element of its sport in lieu of telling batters to stay in the box, which makes the R&A's gentler push for a speed-up tactic more appealing.

Martin Dempster reports that "ready golf" is going to be implemented at The Amateur's stroke play proceedings this year after other trial runs.

He quotes R&A Chief at Martin Slumbers at length, who also scolds players for not yelling fore in response to Pat Perez beaning a spectator Sunday at Riviera after not yelling fore (the landing area on that hole can't hear or see the tee, but I digress...)

On the topic of ready golf...

“When you get to the professional level, there’s no doubt in my mind that the professionals are role models, and they are fantastic role models for young people. They’re healthy, they’re fit, they’re strong 
and they’ve got unbelievable skill. “But part of that role model is pace of play, and there is no doubt that younger generations take a steer from them. So I think I would just encourage the Tour pros to realise that pace of play is part of them being that role model, and it’s not helpful to growing the amateur game when the youngsters are slowing down.

Interestingly, the R&A has guidelines for proper ready golf.

And at the Irish Close Championship last year, they reported a 45-minute round improvement when ready golf was implemented.

While this doesn't address distance, green speed and the refusal to penalize (where hath you gone Keith Pelley?), ready golf is at least something and the R&A is going to earn huge points for being at the forefront of the slow play issue.

Tuesday
Feb212017

When It's Okay To Be Slow vs. Just Plain Rude

After getting to see some solid PGA Tour action and some not-so-solid pace of play, I have read with interest Karen Crouse's New York Times story from Riviera on the topic. Leadership in golf has generally--with exceptions--signalled a desire not to act. 

Going forward I believe we need to separate the issue a few ways so as to not allow the issue to be clouded by excuses.

1.Length of round for the everyday game.

WSJ's Jason Gay included golf in this humorous roundup of what sports are doing to speed things up for an increasingly distracted younger generation.

It isn’t just the big leagues that are worried. It’s every sport. And it isn’t only the sports we watch on TV—it’s the sports we all play, too. Every game needs to be fast. Golf, in particular, is in a high panic that asking anyone under 80 years old to play 18 holes is like asking them to take a month-long canoe trip down the Amazon.

Are you kidding me? Eighteen holes of golf? What do you think I am, dead?

Speed is the rage, we’re all constantly told. People want experiences that are quick and effective and capable of being packed into a torrent of life events. My Journal columns, for example, are now mostly read on mobile phones by readers who are parachuting out of airplanes while using Instagram, fighting robot dinosaurs and making lunches for their kids.

2. Consistently slow golfers who disregard the 45 second rule and fail to play ready golf. There are some--like Ben Crane--who has spent over a decade taking too long to play even a basic shot. Because they're "nice guys" or they make light of their pace in lame videos, they get a pass. When their play is so disproportionately slow compared to their peers, the behavior is unbecoming of a professional golfer. From an in-person spectator view, such play will make people stay at home instead of coming to pro golf tournaments. And its rude to a player's peers.

John Feinstein and I tackled this question on Golf Central today. While I agree with those who say penalty shots are the only solution, I'm increasingly of the view that the only way to make people speed up is to shame in the form of huge (published) fines, reporting each week's bad times and/or having a bonus pool that rewards faster golfers based on ShotLink data.

3. Golfers taking their sweet time in a high-pressure situation. This is the issue Crouse considers in her piece, with Jason Day as the centerpiece. While he is perpetually slow, I think we all understand his view that he should not rush a key shot down the stretch. He even cites the support of Tiger Woods.

However, Day's argument falls flat because he is slow all of the time. Tiger plays at a normal clip, buying some political capital when he has set up shop over a key shot. Same deal with Phil Mickelson. And from what I saw of Jordan Spieth last week when paired with rabbits Bubba Watson and Bill Haas, he's moved into the same category as Tiger and Phil.

Crouse writes:

The movement to speed up the game is driven by the fear that it will not appeal to today’s youth with their increasingly short attention spans or older golfers with limited free time for recreational pursuits. “Is there a way to take 25 minutes off the average round, and is that necessarily going to make for a better product or presentation?” Monahan asked. “It’s not apparent.”

It's also not apparent what the bonus is of watching any round of golf take 25 minutes longer than is necessary.

He noted that events not affected by weather delays or extra holes were being completed within the telecast window, which, like airline flight schedules, is padded to allow for lag time.

“So much of the beauty of what you see week in and week out is what a player faces and how they deal with that,” Monahan added. “Do they change their mannerisms? Do they change their preshot routine? How are they handling that situation?”

Which speaks to the last point: such slow play is interesting when it's a leader down the stretch. But on Thursday to Saturday, the sport is turning people off who come to golf tournaments and watch people stand around.

Tuesday
Feb212017

Bonallack: USGA And R&A Ignoring Legends On Distance

John Huggan reports that in comments related to Royal St. George's getting the 2020 Open Championship, R&A Chief Martin Slumbers said he has worked "very carefully" with high-profile critics of the distance explosion that isn't happening.

Except that in a disturbing but not shocking twist, former head R&A man Sir Michael Bonallack says he and other longtime players and leaders with Jack Nicklaus' Captain's Club a

“I am on Jack Nicklaus’ ‘Captains Club,’” said the five-time British Amateur champion. “We meet at Muirfield Village every year. At one of those we had Jack, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Bill Campbell, myself, Charlie Mechem from the LPGA, all with huge experience in golf. Jack was talking about the ball. We all agreed it was out of control and going too far. It had to be pegged back. So a letter was composed and sent off to the R&A and the USGA, signed by all of us.

“The only reaction we got was an acknowledgement. But I happened to see a copy of the memo that was passed from David Fay to Peter Dawson. “Have you got this?” it asked. “Please note the average age of those who signed it!” And that was the end of it.

While that was a few years ago and Slumbers may have a different view than his predecessors, no evidence suggests that the wise old guard will be listened to.

Bonallack goes on to recount a conversation with a golf dignitary defending the governing bodies in which he is told that all distance gains are from fitness. Apparently this person isn't watching much PGA Tour Champions golf, where the gains have been largest both off the tee and around waistlines.

Tuesday
Feb212017

Unauthorized And Harmless Genesis Videos Emerge! Pieters Tee Shot Clips His GF And Spieth's Unusual Club Flick

I've been enjoying Golfballed's video posts from the Genesis Open. All of this was against the tournament rules (for spectators too), though enforcement was non-existent due to the marshal force being severely depleted (weather and the amazing idea that a new sponsor means volunteers must buy a new uniform).

Anyway, Golfballed has 85.4k followers who got to see some nice shots from Riviera not shown on television to the best of my knowledge.

 

Note to Ponte Vedra Police: I just copy and paste...twelve years running. I do not condone this egregious violation of the fine print.

Tuesday
Feb212017

SI Roundtable On The Distance Report: "Nothing about this study rings true."

I'm continuing to savor the skepticism aimed at the USGA and R&A's latest distance report suggesting all is stable. A growing group of "truthers"--probably a majority of golf observers--are struggling to believe insignificant changes have occurred since 2003.  Especially when the non-flatbellies are seeing big gains.

This week's SI roundtable includes rebuttals from Ritter, Shipnuck, Bamberger, Sens and Passov, but it's the lengthy answer from longtime tour caddie John Wood that is worth diving into.

Here's a snippet related the role Trackman has played in recent years:

Then, there’s Trackman. The launch monitor leaves nothing to chance. Every driver built for these guys won’t make the lineup unless it shows optimal launch conditions. Launch angle and spin rate and landing angle and ball speed aren’t left to chance or feel anymore, but achieved and optimized scientifically. I could go on and on but, mercifully I won’t. The bottom line is that "study" isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Maximum drives are significantly longer than they were 10-15 years ago. That’s obvious. And in my opinion, while the R&A, the USGA and the PGA Tour may say they’re keeping a close watch and controlling the distance professionals drive it (and providing statistics and studies to back up their claim), I think they’re probably doing so with a wink and a nod.

Not to always slip back into a baseball analogy, but in the midst of the home run binges of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, etc. it’s well known that other players, managers, GM’s and owners had an inkling of what was going on, but it was in their best interest to let things proceed as they were. Why? Because fans loved it. Attendance and ratings soared. So, why would the golf establishment want to restrict or roll back the golf ball? As Greg Maddux once told us, "Chicks" (and fans) "dig the long ball." Simply put, more people will pay to watch DJ power his way around a golf course hitting 360 yard drives than would pay to watch another player plot and strategize their way around shooting the same score.

It's fascinating that with something like Trackman, which has become mainstream well after the Statement, offers an opening to admit a discussion must be had. And yet, they pass...

Monday
Feb202017

What Tiger Missed At The Genesis Open

Of course Tiger was missed. But the genesis of the Genesis turned out just fine.

While the Genesis Open’s “tournament host” was mostly holed-up somewhere in Santa Monica staying “horizontal” (according to his agent), the ailing Tiger Woods could have seen how happy the LA market was to welcome back the one-of-kind buzz only his cache delivers. But he stayed away. Except for a site visit to Hillcrest Country Club early in the week.

Horizontally speaking, the Genesis Open feels like it is headed for a bright future even after the host withdrew from the field and could not fulfill the same duties he has admirably carried out at other tournaments benefiting The Tiger Woods Foundation.

Unlike when he crashed his car in 2009 and cast a pall over his Foundation’s World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club, the Genesis Open went on with no shortage of intrigue. While a brutal storm halted play Friday and led to a discombobulated weekend, 72-holes were completed and a new lower-maintenance superstar ascended to World No. 1 status. The 91-year-old tournament played on a masterful design maintained its place as an elite PGA Tour stop without Tiger's presence.

Had Woods played the role of host, however, it would have helped.

Had Woods come to Riviera for a few hours and just sat in the locker room, he would have seen how many players were here this week to support him and all he’s done for the game. A few qualifiers and exemptees would have reminded him that he is a hero to them.

Had Tiger been here Friday and Saturday, he would have been astounded at the job superintendent Matt Morton’s volunteer army did getting the course playable for that weekend finish adding to the Foundation’s coffers. Tiger also passed on Sunday’s trophy ceremony and missed Sunday crowds overwhelming the course vendors with long lines in spite of the so-so weather.

Tiger’s dented psyche and strained back certainly would have benefited from a few minutes around the infectious joy of Kevin Hall, the 34-year-old former Big 10 Champion. Deaf since age 2, the inspirational Hall raised the bar to possibly insurmountable heights for future invitee’s receiving the tournament’s Charlie Sifford Exemption.

Fond memories from Tiger's famous L.A. Open debut twenty-five years ago might have been conjured up watching the impressive PGA Tour debut of Pepperdine’s Shahith Theegala, who qualified in Monday’s Collegiate Showcase and rewarded the tournament by attracting a boisterous local following. Making the cut made for an ever better story, as Mike James noted in the LA Times. Tiger might have even observed that the Showcase needs to get more attention going forward. Maybe he'll read the press accounts.

Of course, Tiger’s ego might have taken a bruising given that his TGR Ventures showed they didn’t need him. The business side operation of the Woods empire has plenty of experience running events like this one and the operation got through the week despite a late start cooking up tournament plans. They incorporated elements for kids and probably underestimated how much the 15-year-old and-unders here thanks to free entry also enjoyed the minuscule Learning Lab set up on site.

Even without Woods, the marketing effort in the finicky LA market improved in year one. But compared to other PGA Tour events, the overall experience has a long way to go. Merely relying on Riviera as a draw for players and fans will not be enough.

The second-year of an Uber operation helped get fans to a tournament location so cumbersome that this three-time major site has not hope of hosting future majors because of its small scale. Once on site, the event needs to get with the times. This is a city with all but its NFL team playing in a state-of-the-art facility. Standards have been elevated. Opening an outlet of Woods Jupiter on the 10th hole was a nice start, but given where modern tournaments are going with concerts and other fun events, TGR Ventures will have to be more aggressive going forward.

Woods should be pleased that few will remember his absence thanks to new World No. 1 and LA fan-favorite Dustin Johnson overpowering Riviera.  Having Johnson already locked in for next year and a likely spot on the 2018 schedule before the WGC Mexico City, will only continue the strong-field trend that had eight of the world top 10 at Riviera.

While DJ’s play over the final holes was a little loose, reaching 20-under-par and opening up a nine-stroke lead made him a worthy addition to Riviera’s legendary list of champions. It’s a list that likely will never include Woods based on his current trajectory. But Tiger’s legacy in southern California has already been solidified with his Foundation’s two decades of work.

Taking the Genesis Open to another level as a premier PGA Tour stop—a status it long enjoyed as a foundational tour event won by legends—would be something Woods will savor for his business future and community legacy.  That legacy starts with showing up. Because first and foremost, he would have learned that he was missed in whatever capacity he could serve.

Monday
Feb202017

Sigh: Royal St. George's Lands 2020 Open Championship

The Open venue most desperately in need of some restoration after some dodgy changes through the years, lands the 2020 championship. While the southeast English links sports plenty of fine holes and is a beautifully maintained club, the course once revered decades ago for its uber-natural features has lost some appeal due to a bit too much man-made quirk.

That said, they may surprise us, and for fans of next door neighbor Royal Cinque Ports, it gives reason to return to one of the most underrated links on the planet.

Meanwhile Trump Turnberry is still on the R&A radar, reports John Huggan, but reading Alistair Tait's item on Muirfield's upcoming vote, Martin Slumbers makes it sound like they will be penciled-in ahead of Turnberry.

Fun times!

Oh and The Old Course will inevitably host in 2021.

For Immediate Release:

THE 149TH OPEN TO BE PLAYED AT ROYAL ST GEORGE’S IN 2020

20 February 2017, St Andrews, Scotland: One of the world’s great sporting events will return to the south east of England in 2020 when The 149th Open is played at Royal St George’s.

The Open will return to the historic Kent links for the 15th time. It was last played at Royal St George’s in 2011 when Darren Clarke showed his mastery of links golf in challenging weather conditions to hold off Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson to become Champion Golfer of the Year.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to lift the Claret Jug and know that my name was displayed on the trophy alongside so many of the greatest players ever to play the game,” said Clarke.

“The Open is what it is all about for me as a golfer and it is the championship I always dreamt of winning from when I first took up the game as a kid. I have so many wonderful memories from that week at Sandwich and I will be thrilled to go back there for The Open in three years’ time.”

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We are very much looking forward to the return of The Open to Royal St George’s in 2020. The Open is a true celebration of sport and the global spotlight will fall once again on Sandwich.

“Royal St George’s has produced a series of outstanding Champion Golfers over the last 120 years and it is a thrilling prospect for golf fans to see the greatest players competing on one of the world’s finest links courses.”

James Furber, the Captain of Royal St George’s, said, “We are delighted and honoured to be invited to host The Open in 2020. This is tremendous news for the Club and a wonderful commercial opportunity for Sandwich, Thanet and Kent.

“The Club is most grateful to all those in the local authorities and the local MP’s who have worked so hard with us over the last few years to bring this about.  We look forward to working with The R&A and others over the next three years to deliver one of the world’s most prestigious championships in 2020.”

Royal St George’s first hosted The Open in 1894 and it was the first occasion on which the Championship was played outside of Scotland. The 35th Open was won by JH Taylor, who became the first English professional to win the Championship.

Over the years, the historic links at Sandwich has seen some of golf’s greatest players lift the Claret Jug including Harry Vardon, Walter Hagen, Henry Cotton, Bobby Locke, Sandy Lyle and Greg Norman, who secured a two-shot victory over Sir Nick Faldo in 1993.

Paul Carter CBE, Leader of Kent County Council, said, “We are absolutely delighted that we have secured The Open in 2020 at Royal St George’s. In 2011 there were over 180,000 visitors to The Open, and an extra 37,000 passengers travelled on the special High Speed train service from London St Pancras.

“The benefits to the tourist economy was massive, amounting to over £64 million.  Significant transport improvements were needed to improve spectator flows in and out of Royal St George’s and KCC has played a leading role in facilitating partnership funding with the Local Enterprise Partnership and District Councils.”

Cllr Paul Watkins, Leader of Dover District Council, said, “We are delighted to be welcoming The Open back to Sandwich in 2020.  It’s the biggest sporting event to come to the region and provides the perfect showcase for Dover and the wider East Kent area.  

“We’re proud to have some of the world’s finest links courses and The Open always provides a huge boost to the local economy.  We look forward to working with The R&A and partners to deliver another outstanding event in 2020.”

Christian Brodie, Chairman of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, added, “The Open is one of the country’s iconic sporting events and it’s fantastic news that Royal St George’s will host it again.

“The Open in 2016 was worth an estimated £110 million to Troon and Scotland and in 2020 it will present us with an opportunity to highlight the economic opportunities for business to invest in East Kent to a global audience.”

The 149th Open will be played from 12-19 July 2020.

Monday
Feb202017

Rory Answers The President's Call!

No Laying Up podcast co-host Rory McIlroy reports to NLU that he teed up with President Donald Trump Sunday.

McIlroy expedited his return to play a week early for the Trump International round that also included ISM agent Nick Mullen and Trump friend Rich Levine. More intriguing than the President is the golf with Mullen, who works for the agency that first represented McIlroy (photo on right is not the full foursome).

Score was not kept but McIlroy said the President played well:

“He probably shot around 80. He’s a decent player for a guy in his 70’s!”

The White House initially said the President only played a few holes, then clarified that it turned into a full round, reports the AP's Catherine Lucey.

Monday
Feb202017

Increasing Athleticism! Then How Are Geezers Picking Up Yards?

With the tour in town I haven't had a chance to read the USGA/R&A distance report, so I'm relying on Mike Stachura's take at GolfDigest.com. It's fascinating to see that those suggesting distances are changing were labeled distance "truthers", implying a conspiratorial element.

That description is even more peculiar given this:

To clarify, the PGA Tour driving distance average has grown by 2.8 yards from 2013-’16, or 0.7 yards per year. In that same time frame, the PGA Tour Champions has seen a 5.7-yard increase, or nearly 1.5 yards per year, while the Web.com Tour is up 2.1 yards since 2013, or better than half-a-yard per year.

So the not-flatbellies of the PGA Tour Champions have picked up five yards in four seasons--once an eye-opening number--yet we are to believe athleticism is driving many increases as opposed to the manufacturers and Trackman out-maneuvering the governing bodies?

The Distance Report specifically breaks down distance into several groups, including the percentage of 300-yard drives as tracked by the European Tour and PGA Tour. Most notable is how the PGA Tour with 31.2 percent of its drives longer than 300 yards in 2016 shows nearly a 17-percent increase since 2003.

When the 2003 Joint Statement of Principles was issued by the organizations it discussed the skill word, the significant word and the statement did not care what caused increases. A 17 percent increase is, apparently, not significant.

As well, the number of players averaging more than 300 yards for the season has increased. In 2003, that number was nine. That figure was 13 in 2008, 21 in 2011 and 25 in 2014. By 2016, it had tripled to 27. This year’s number (38) is actually about 20 percent fewer than a year ago (47).

But back to increasing athleticism. From the USGA's John Spitzer:

“We do not have a trigger and there’s no contemplation of one, but clearly even if you look at this slow creep of one foot a year and attributed that to athleticism, in 20 years you’re going to have a seven-yard increase,” he said. “Athleticism is still going to increase and at some point it may need to be addressed, just not as an equipment issue but as a pure distance issue long term.”

How did the Joint Statement of Principles fail to address the long term?

Saturday
Feb182017

Genesis Open Second/Third Round This And That

It'll be a 36 or so hole grind on Sunday at Riviera, with Dustin Johnson leading Pat Perez and Cameron Tringale by one.

Riviera drained beautifully after three inches of rain, but given the pristine conditioning and benign weather forecast for Sunday, the 72-hole record could be in jeopardy. Players will be playing the ball down for the final 36 holes, speaking to just how well Riviera has drained.

Still, it seems like the early/late side of the draw got a huge advantage weather-wise, Rex Hoggard writes.

The early wave scoring average for Round 2, those who played through the worst of Friday’s tempest, was 72.86 (including just 29 of 72 rounds in the 60s), while the afternoon draw was more than two strokes better with a 70.47 average.

There were several WD's, including Bubba Watson (two holes to go after morning restart), and Bryson DeChambeau (injury). Hoggard reports.

Sahith Theegala has made the cut and the Pepperdine sophmore is getting to play with Phil Mickelson for the final 36 holes. My Golfweek.com story on Theegala.

For leader Johnson, it's another chance to win at Riviera.

From the ShotLink team:

Cameron Tringale with the shot of the day:

 

 

Phil Mickelson with the recovery of the week, by far:

 

 

Friday
Feb172017

Monty's Back! Wouldn't Trade His Career For Tiger's And How Technology Deprived Tiger Of Majors

It wasn't all about Monty. In fact, he said some pretty interesting stuff about the de-skilling of elite level golf due to technology, which was once a concern of the governing bodies (they even put it in writing!).

Speaking to golf.com's Michael Bamberger, who wisely just turned on his tape recorder and let Colin Montgomerie talk. After reminding us repeatedly that he predicted Tiger's success at the 1997 Masters--he was villified!--Monty offered this assessment of technology and Woods.

“What might Woods have done had the game never moved off the balata ball and the wooden wood? Many golf fans would say he would have won less. I believe he would have won far more. He has the 14 majors. Without the equipment changes, I believe he’d have well into his 20s now. Because now everybody has clubs where they can do what he could do.

“Two others lost out hugely to technology. Greg Norman was one. He was the best driver of the ball with the wooden club ever. He lost out when drivers went to metal and suddenly we could do what he did. He lost his asset. And the other was Seve. When Ping developed its L-wedge, with box grooves, we could suddenly do what Seve could do with a 52° club. He lost his asset too. Tiger had all that, in spades. And then we were given equipment that allowed us to do what he could do."

But driving distances are steady, so all is well.

The line that is getting all the attention.

“I never won a major. Tiger won 14. But would I trade my career for Tiger’s? No. I started out this game a pretty good golfer and finished in the Hall of Fame. I feel I have overachieved. So how could I say I wish it were better? People will say, `Well, he didn’t win a major.’ And, yes, I would have liked to shut them up by winning one. But that’s my only regret, really. Great that I have won senior majors, which has quieted the odd person.

Odd, indeed.

Thursday
Feb162017

"Are pro golfers losing their longevity?"

That's the topic tackled by the WSJ's Brian Costa in light of injuries to top players, huge purses, wraparound calendars and signs that we may see shorter runs by tour players.

After setting up the premise, Costa includes this:

Of course, no one wants to end up exactly like Woods, no matter how many tournaments they win along the way. His present is painful and his future appears increasingly bleak. And there are plenty of ways today’s stars can avoid the same fate.

Day said he is making a slight swing change this year that will make it easier on his back even if it is likely to cost him a few yards off the tee. Players are becoming ever smarter about the way they approach fitness. And if more of them break down at earlier ages, their peers can draw lessons from that.

“If these guys only have 10-year careers, that will be more learning for golf,” said 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy. But if they have 20-year careers, that might well be enough for some of them.

Thomas Pieters, a 25-year-old Belgian who is one of golf’s rising stars, said for as much as he wants to win major championships now, he wants to do something else by the time he is in his mid-40s. He has thought about joining some of his friends in the real estate business one day.

“There is more to life than golf,” he said.

Thursday
Feb162017

Fog Lifts, Riviera Gets Lit Up, And Now Here Comes The Storm

Riviera's never been in better condition and the players took advantage of the perfection on a windless, beautiful day for golf. A staggering 73 players were under par when play was suspended.

Following a 75-minute fog delay, play resumes Friday at 7:10 am PT but an expected storm may cut play short in Genesis Open round two.

The first tee view when fog persisted after seemingly moving out:


Sam Saunders posted a bogey-free 64 and did something his grandfather never could: dominate Riviera.

Nice Tweeted photo by the Genesis account of Arnold Palmer and Sam Saunders teeing off on the first decades apart.

Billy Hurley (67) is grappling with many emotions after releasing a letter to his late father.

Here is Hurley's Players Tribune piece.

Phil Mickelson hasn't lost a step on Riviera's greens after a three year hiatus from LA, also posting 67 despite an un-Phil-like day with his irons (10 of 18 greens).

Sergio Garcia nailed a cameraman with his 8th hole tee shot.

Dustin Johnson was stung by a bee on the first green and because he can all but sleep walk his way around Riviera at this point and still break par, Johnson posted a 66 (Rex Hoggard reports).

Kevin Hall struggled in round one but as Ben Everill notes, he still inspired.

PGATour.com's round one slideshow.

Thursday
Feb162017

Oops: "Neglected" Rio Olympic Course Actually Looks Perfect!

Reuters' Gabriela Milian files a report on the Rio venues falling apart, with this piece focusing on aerial shots.

Reinforcing that the minimalist, sustainable maintenance aesthetic intended for the course may not be everyone's cup of tea, the January 15th, 2017 actually shows the course looking...perfect!

Milian wrote:

"The sweeping Olympic golf course has also been neglected."

Wednesday
Feb152017

Euro Tour Chief Wants Thursday-Friday "Payoff"

Alan Shipnuck talks to European Tour Chief Keith Pelley and commissioner Elton is questioned about his eyeglasses and other fun stuff, but it's his comment on Thursday-Friday play that intrigued me.

The "payoff" quote:

"Because in the way that people live their lives, they want immediate gratification," he continued. "They want to be able to get immediate results. And they want to follow things that are meaningful, because there is such a saturation of content. Our Thursday-Fridays are not as meaningful as they need to be. Yes, they position you for the weekend, but there is no result. There is no payoff at the end of Thursday or Friday. So what I'm turning our attention to internally is what are we going to do in 2018 to address Thursday-Friday? Because we need more engagement. We need higher ratings. I think that is a worldwide challenge for every tour. You're the only person I've ever said that to."

Lucky Alan! His poor staff.

This is the nature of a golf tournament, unless the formats create more volatility. Can't wait to see what they come up with!

Wednesday
Feb152017

USGA & R&A Declare Distance Gains Not Happening, And Positively No One Is Taking Them Seriously At This Point

These kids today? So cynical!

I remember the good old days when the USGA and R&A would dump one of their heaping piles of horse manure on our laps and it would be me, a few architects and the late, great Frank Hannigan calling them out. Well, thankfully while I was busy chasing some fun stories around Riviera today, others gave away time they'll never get back in their lives to point out just how absurd our governing bodies' latest report appears.

Before we get there, For Immediate Release:

USGA and The R&A Publish Research on Driving Distance in Golf

FAR HILLS, N.J. and ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (February 15, 2017) -  The USGA and The R&A have published their annual review of driving distance, a research document that reports important findings on driving distance in golf.

Introduced last year, the review examines driving distance data from seven of the major professional golf tours, based on approximately 285,000 drives per year. Data from studies of male and female amateur golfers has also been included for the first time.

Key facts noted in the paper include:

Between 2003 and the end of the 2016 season, average driving distance on five of the seven tours has increased by approximately 1.2%, around 0.2 yards per year.

For the same time period, average driving distance on the other two tours studied decreased by approximately 1.5%.

Looking at all of the players who are ranked for distance on the PGA TOUR and PGA European Tour, the amount by which players are “long” or “short” has not changed – for instance, since 2003 the 10 shortest players in that group are about 6% shorter than average, while the 10 longest players in the group are about 7% longer than average. The statistics are not skewed toward either longer or shorter players.

The average launch conditions on the PGA TOUR – clubhead speed, launch angle, ball speed and ball backspin – have been relatively stable since 2007. The 90th-percentile clubhead speed coupled with the average launch angle and spin rate are very close to the conditions that The R&A and the USGA, golf’s governing bodies, use to test golf balls under the Overall Distance Standard.

Mike Davis, executive director/CEO of the USGA, said, “We appreciate the collaboration we have received, industry-wide, to access and review this data to benefit the entire golf community, which can be used to both educate golfers and advance the game.”

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said, “In the interests of good governance and transparency it is important that we continue to provide reliable data and facts about driving distance in golf.

“Driving distance remains a topic of discussion within the game and the review provides accurate data to help inform the debate.”

Furthermore, Governor William J. Lepotomane chimed in: "Gentleman, this study is the finest of its kind ever published!"

Now, I write to you from Riviera where, when I started hitting balls on the driving range tee in the late 80s, a 10-12 foot fence was in place. Then it went to 40 or so feet in the 90s, 80 feet in the 2000's and since 2012, for the PGA Tour's annual February visit, a special extension is added to raise the driving range fence to 120 feet.

The same fence extension will be needed this August when the U.S. Amateur comes to Riviera. Here's guessing the USGA would not appreciate an invoice to cover the cost of installing a temporary addition since, after all, today's report says recent distance gains are a figment of our imagination.

Reading today's report, GolfChannel.com's Will Gray writes more presciently than he probably realizes given that the USGA leans so hard on its outside PR firms to spin certain news:

As any PR firm can attest, statistics are a versatile tool. Choose the right data points, frame the right time period, and you can quantify support for nearly any argument. Such is the case with this study, the second in as many years released by the game’s governing bodies and one that simply continues to miss the point.

And I enjoyed this key point by Gray:

The study’s data focuses not on distance outliers, but instead on the large swath in the middle where, for the PGA Tour, the average drive reportedly lingers around 290 yards. But those top-end outliers have become increasingly noticeable in recent years as more and more marquee players launch towering drives.

A whopping 27 players cracked the 300-yard average last season on Tour, 15 more than the 2010 season and 18 more than in 2003. Individual drives over 300 yards, which made up just 26.56 percent of tee shots in 2003, accounted for 31.14 percent last season.

Then there’s Rory McIlroy tweeting out other-worldly Trackman data, Dustin Johnson bending Oakmont to his will and Henrik Stenson lifting the claret jug by relying not on his driver, but instead his trusty 3-wood.

And don’t forget about Ariya Jutanugarn, who powered her way to LPGA Player of the Year honors while barely touching her driver in 2016, mostly hitting 2-irons off the tee.

Those are data points that the study fails to address, although the findings insist that PGA Tour players hit driver on “measured” driving holes more than 95 percent of the time last year.

James Hahn even took to Twitter to agree:

Rex Hoggard talked to players and equipment reps at Riviera and noted the skepticism about the USGA/R&A launch conditions take.

According to multiple equipment representatives from various companies, the average golf ball spin for a driver on Tour is down about 500 rpm from ’03, while the average launch on drives is up between 2 and 4 degrees. Without getting lost in the science of the golf swing and new technology, lower spin and higher launch means more distance and it’s the players with the highest clubhead speed that enjoy the greatest benefit from this evolution.

Put another way, more clubhead speed is the byproduct of better athletes, not better equipment, and modern technology can be maximized for these players, which at least partially explains why the number of players averaging 300-plus yard drivers has tripled since 2003.

“You have kids like Justin Thomas who are using their bodies in ways that we weren’t taught and they swing for pure distance with their drivers,” said Johnson Wagner, who only half-jokingly refers to himself as a “dinosaur.”

“I think it’s working out, it’s launch monitors, it’s coaching. I don’t think it’s equipment; the clubs are what they are and have been for the last 10 years. It’s just everything and there’s nothing you can do.”

Oh don't be so sure!

Wednesday
Feb152017

Take A Few Minutes To Watch Kevin Hall's Press Conference

Hopefully you've become acquainted with the basics of his story, but if you haven't I give a Golfweek.com overview of Sifford exemptee Kevin Hall's Genesis Open debut and press conference. The deaf-since-2 pro golfer's personality was on full display in his pre-tournament press conference. It had to be one of my top 5 favorite press conferences ever. What an inspiration.

Jason Sobel on Hall's infectious ways:

"We enjoy watching Kevin compete," his mother said. "We enjoy watching him overcome the hearing loss. We enjoy watching him not let that be a handicap. He was taught to just use that as a positive and use it the best you can. He's never allowed deafness to stop him."

She calls her son's sense of humor "second to none," and if his laughter that penetrated the interview room throughout his answers didn't prove it, then some of his stories should.

Carve out a few minutes to watch Kevin Hall's press conference posted by PGATour.com.

And nice work by PGATour.com to dig up Kevin's 2005 profile that earned an Emmy:

Wednesday
Feb152017

Preview And Quick Roundup, 2017 Genesis Open

The tournament formerly known as the Los Angeles Glen Campbell Presented by Nissan Northern Trust Open kicks off with a new sponsor, new identity and same old classic course. Riviera, though mildly defaced by a few too many plastic surgeries, remains a stellar test and fantastic venue.

The forecast remains bleak but we'll just wait and see. In the meantime, the strongest field in recent memory has assembled to tackle a perfectly-groomed course. So sit back and enjoy!

A few pre-tournament stories and videos:

Tournament favorite Jordan Spieth revealed that players are watching him to figure out the mystery of putting poa annua greens. Wes Bryan even Tweeted some video as part of his research.

Thomas Pieters returns to the site of his 2012 NCAA Individual title and kicks off a PGA Tour portion to his 2017 schedule.

Lost ball rough has been added on the ninth hole to prevent players who are said to not be hitting the ball longer from bombing and gouging. I report for Golf Central:

Tournament host Tiger Woods cancelled his press conference but is in LA. Jason Sobel tries to read into the latest matter.

In lieu of Tiger regaling us with stories today, here is my chat with him from media day a few weeks ago about the change in touranment operations to his TGR Ventures and foundation.



Michael Shamburger with a swell round up of TV Times, key tee times and odds. The main TV times here:

CBS coverage (ET):

Saturday and Sunday: (3:00–6:00 PM, ET and 3:00-6:30 PM, ET)

Golf Channel coverage (ET):
 
Thursday         2-6 p.m. (Live) / 7-11 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              2-6 p.m. (Live) / 7-11 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday          1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 7-9 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 7:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)
 
Golf Central Pre and Post Round Coverage on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         1:30-2 p.m. (Live) / 6-7 p.m. (Live)
Friday              1:30-2 p.m. (Live) / 6-7 p.m. (Live)
Saturday          Noon-1 p.m. (Live) / 6-7 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            Noon-1 p.m. (Live) / 6:30-7:30 p.m. (Live)

My first ever Golfweek video preview: