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


    

Wednesday
Jul302014

"Has golf's demise been greatly exaggerated?"

Check out Mike Stachura's defense of the state of golf which will stir many emotions with you as it did for me. But this is not personal, it's business Fredo.

Still, it's hard not to get annoyed at the mention of the Real Sports report on golf's "nosedive," interviewing former Taylor Made CEO Mark King, who is discussing everything wrong with the sport except one mistake that happened under his watch.

Mr. King, who signed off on the idea to introduce three drivers in one year, something his parent company lamented in its quarterly report and which has since been blamed for Dick's Sporting Goods layoffs and cited as irrefutable evidence of golf's demise, was reassigned in the Adidas corporate structure. Real Sports left this out.

Reader Blue Ridge Pro laments Stachura using "data going back to 1960 to come up with a growth in number of golfers" and that he "has to go back 17 years to get a positive equipment sales stat."

Perhaps, but couldn't we also be accused too often of focusing on year-to-year figures as if golf is a stock? Shouldn't some long term perspective enter any of these discussions?

Stachura goes through many equipment numbers and then this on rounds played:

On the front lines, the news of rounds played can be viewed in two ways. Certainly, the sheer numbers of rounds are down and weather has been a large factor. This June was one of the six wettest Junes in the United States in the past 120 years. But a look inside those down numbers shows an increase in golf being played when the weather cooperates. The average rounds-per-day-open through June 2014 was up 2.7 percent compared to 2013. Twenty-one states reported rounds played were up in June.

Ultimately, golf's most serious issue is the notion that rich old guys want to force the game on young people, instead of helping them find it naturally. The golf bug needs to be caught organically, not because of an ad campaign, initiative or other method to seem cool.

From hippest Commissioner in sports.

In his 20 years at the helm of the PGA Tour, Finchem has seen the professional game through incredible growth and challenging economic times. He cautions about focusing an assessment of the game’s strength on “a pinpoint piece of data.” He talks a more positive game than the stories of last week might have you believing.

“I think we have to work harder in today’s world to get people to try the game and get into the game, and we have to do some things that we really haven’t done in the past to help with that,” he said. “Really, it comes back to the youth, reaching out to youth. You can’t expect youth to come to the game, you have to bring the game to young people. We’re dealing with it -- we’ve got to get better at it -- but I see a lot of bright spots. I’m very bullish on the future of the game both here in the United States and globally, where it’s growing quite nicely. And with golf going in the Olympics, that’s going to be accelerated.”

Not really. Top Golf is probably a lot more important to introducing youngish people to golf. Some may not like it because it's a bowling alley on steroids, but if people have fun and are intrigued, that's going to be a lot more powerful than seeing a one-minute clip of golf highlights on an Olympic telecast before they send it back to the women's Pommel horse prelims.

Wednesday
Jul302014

Not Everyday Topics: Johnny Talks X-Games Announcing, Fireside Church Chats With Casper & Of Course, Tiger

The Plain Dealer’s Bud Shaw posts a fun Q&A with Johnny Miller who is in Akron this week to accept the Ambassador of Golf Award. Johnny says that he brought the word choke to golf telecasts, brought X Games attitude to golf announcing, how he learned to talk at church firesides with Billy Casper and, ultimately, has done it all for the kids. And, he’s kind of right in an immodest sort of way.

Shaw’s excellent Q&A that is embellished with some great YouTube moments from Johnny, at least until the Ponte Vedra censors discovered the brand sabotaging moments they haven’t scrubbed!

BS: Aside from your playing days, what do you consider your biggest contribution to golf?

JM: Obviously, what I've done at NBC is a pretty good body of work. I sort of changed in a lot of ways the way golf was covered in that it was a little bit more X-Games (with me), a little bit more "with it," so I hoped the younger people would enjoy the telecast. I wanted to give them the real deal instead of the watered-down White House version.

I try to really say what I think is happening and I'm pretty forthright.

I obviously hold back some things. But pretty much what I see and feel I say on the air. I hope if I say it's a great shot, people say, "Wow, if he thinks it's a great shot it must've been a great shot." I don't throw that (word) around as loosely as (they did) in the old days. I've tried to educate people on the swing and tips and why guys do what they do. I hope I grow the game. NBC says no doubt about it, people tune in to hear my commentary. A lot like John Madden was (in football) and John McEnroe (in tennis). I'm not saying I think that. I'm saying that's what they tell me.

This on Tiger was interesting:

He just can't resist trying new things. He gets bored with one way of doing things. He's always looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Nicklaus never changed. I don't know how he did it. But he didn't change his putting stroke, his golf swing, his way of doing things, the way he practiced.

Tiger, if he could try to swing more like he did in year 2000 and pause at the top ... if I was working with him I'd basically go back to him being quieter at the top of the backswing. Go back a little to 2000. I thought it was the best swing and the best golf he's ever played.

Wednesday
Jul302014

Langer: "I’m not sure I’m on the radar screen of Paul McGinley."

Lost in his 13-stroke victory in the Senior British, several came to Bernhard Langer's defense as a possible Ryder Cup selection, including former lead cart drivers Jacklin and Montgomerie, along with 2014 U.S.A. Captain Watson.

But more intriguing was Langer his ownself not shying away from his desire to be considered. These 57-year-olds and their youthful ignorance!

Tom Hayward of Reuters reports:

“We’ve been talking about it for a number of years now because I’ve been playing some really good golf the last six or seven years,” Langer said. “But I’m not sure I’m on the radar screen of Paul McGinley.

“It’s up to the captain. I certainly feel my golf is worthy of playing in the Ryder Cup.”

Jacklin, Europe’s most successful captain of all time, said he would be considering Langer for a wildcard pick if he was in charge.

“Bernhard’s a great team man...and I’d be thinking very seriously indeed if I was Paul McGinley because even if the young guys had been here they wouldn’t have beaten his score,” said Jacklin who was working as a TV commentator at Porthcawl.

In this week's SI Golf Plus digital package, Michael Bamberger makes a definitive case for Langer and against Tiger for Team USA with plenty of common sense for why you make captain's picks (to win!). Like he says, not a real reason to pick Langer, but how fun would it be to see a Langer (57) vs. Spieth (21) singles match?

Wednesday
Jul302014

State Of The Game Podcast 43: Scott Macpherson & Royals

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

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

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

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

Wednesday
Jul302014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday
Jul292014

Video: Jack On Trends In Golf Architecture

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

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

The clip:

Tuesday
Jul292014

Wow: Rory's Ball At $5558 And Climbing

So much for the collectibles market drying up.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday
Jul292014

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

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

From the press release:

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

Monday
Jul282014

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, why don’t millennials play golf?

Golf is too time consuming

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

Golf is exclusive

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

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

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

Monday
Jul282014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday
Jul282014

Clark Won After He Stopped Worrying About Looming Ban

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

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

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

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

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

Monday
Jul282014

Reps: Tiger Undefeated In Putt-Putt Against Charlie

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

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

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

Take that kid!

Monday
Jul282014

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Gallacher - Scotland's hope having a steady year

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

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

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

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

Jonas Blixt - second at the Masters, quiet since

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

Remember, you get three votes!

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

Sunday
Jul272014

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday
Jul262014

"A Golf Hazard on the Way to a Tournament"

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

Crouse writes:

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

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

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

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

Saturday
Jul262014

New Yorker Opens Archives, Golf Related Beach Reads Free!

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

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

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

The Ghost Course, By David Owen

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

Rip Van Golfer, By John McPhee

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

The Yips, By David Owen

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

Saturday
Jul262014

How To Subscribe To Golf World For Free

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

The sign up is here.

Saturday
Jul262014

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

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

From Healy's story:

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

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

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

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

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

Fun times!

Friday
Jul252014

Royal & Ancient Opens Woman Vote To All Members

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

The statement:

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

Thursday
Jul242014

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

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

From Weinman's Loop item:

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