Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • 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
  • Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    by Matthew Futterman

Some of the most interesting holes are those where the best line to the flag is not direct. A.W. TILLINGHAST


    

Friday
Aug262016

Video: Jordan vs. Jairam! Two Majors Vs. Spelling Bee Co-Champ

Great work by AT&T and others to get Jairam Hathwar to The Barclay's as promised to meet his favorite athlete, and to set up a very enjoyable mini-spelling bee with Jordan Spieth.

Besides having a very nice putting stroke, Jairam reminds us it was no fluke that led to his epic showdown with Nihar Janga.

Jordan, for his part, misses one rather unbelievable word, gets thrown a very passively-aggressive one to spell, but in the end, nearly pulls off the equivalent of holing out from 200 yards on the Road hole.

Enjoy...

And a fun outtake...

Thursday
Aug252016

Casey On Ryder Cup: "Rookies aren’t what they used to be."

While it's tempting to study the FedExCup standings for deep, hidden meaning, I'd say hold off through round one of The Barclays.

In the meantime, the Ryder Cup roster dramas are far more interesting, especially on the European side where Captain Darren Clarke is thought to be leery of adding more rookies with his picks, making some wonder if Russell Knox will get passed up for a deserving Ryder Cup sport.

So Paul Casey, who is passing up the chance to play for Europe, clarifies that the rookie label is overrated these days. Given the performance of Spieth and Reed in 2014, he may be right.

From Jim McCabe's Golfweek.com report:

“Let’s face it, he would have been qualified had he been a member when he won the HSBC (Champions in China),” said Casey.

And to suggestions that adding Knox, who has never played in the Ryder Cup, to a European side that already had five rookies earn automatic berths, Casey brushed it aside.

“I don’t see Russell as a rookie,” Casey said of the 31-year-old Scotsman who has had a breakout season. “He’s been out here long enough and besides, rookies aren’t scared anymore. Rookies aren’t what they used to be.”

In the U.S.A. chase to be in the top eight after The Barclays, McCabe kindly calls it a tournament within the tournament. For Rickie, this week is all about Ryder Cup points...

“One hundred percent, all of it,” Fowler said, when asked how much of his mind is focused on making the U.S. team.

Thursday
Aug252016

Sean Connery Was A Millennial Before Millennials

Happy 86th Birthday Mr. Connery.

Those rolled up pants and the almost Jones bag are coming back in style.  Thanks for the Chris Ware image Esquire:

Happy Birthday, Sean Connery. 📷: Chris Ware

A photo posted by Esquire (@esquire) on

Thursday
Aug252016

Will Bethpage Finally Get Its Chance To Shine?

The forecast--minus a possible Friday evening disruption--looks encouraging for The Barclays at Bethpage Black. You may recall that the two U.S. Opens and one Barclays played at the rejuvenated Tillinghast course have been tainted by excessive rains and really terrible course setups.

According to John Mutch, advance man at Bethpage for the PGA Tour, the course is in superb condition and the forecast finally offers hope that we'll get to see four days of golf where the only drama is created by the players. I could do without 3 1/2 inches of rough, but hey, we don't have to play it!

Of course, there is also the FedExCup playing out. In celebrating its 10th anniversary, Brian Wacker reminds us of this momentus anniversary (players who cash in remain the only known passionate supporters). 

I still can't think of a major competition in the sports world that instills less passion or interest. But as long as FedEx wants to pony up $40 million or so a year for a non-playoff that could be oh-so-dramatic if it were an actual playoff, we at least have three fun upcoming courses to watch on TV (Black, TPC Boston, Crooked Stick).

Given the success of the Olympics and the many suggestions for intriguing Olympic formats offered over the last year, coupled with soft PGA Tour ratings of late, this year's playoffs may be in for a rough ratings ride. Perhaps the viewing public making an even stronger statement than normal about an algorithm-based competition will force changes that make this an actual playoff with actual tension.

Thursday
Aug252016

Tweaking The Olympic Golf Format: Golf Needs More Disciplines

Even if you have disdain for the Olympic golf concept or discussion of the Games at this point, the issue of what to do going forward in Tokyo 2020 is important for all to consider.

Why? Because the fallback excuse for golf not broadening its format horizons is consistently lame: 72 holes of stroke play is the most recognized format for deciding a champion. Therefore, we're stuck with it in the Olympics even though even the most casual fan can see it's not very Olympian.

Stroke play is only the most recognized because any effort to introduce new formats has been strangled, trampled and bemoaned by players, who are paid not for their creativity and vision, but to display their golf skills. Yet as the Ryder Cup reminds us every two years when played with formats that most modern players would have torpedoed in a policy board meeting, the event produces consistency entertaining spectacles.

Olympic golf offering more disciplines and team fun should be our immediate priority, while weaving in other formats beyond the Games should also become a focus of the IGF. Showing fans the many ways golf can be played beyond card-and-pencil stroke play will do more good than any grow-the-game initiative.

Doug Ferguson of the AP declared Olympic golf a success in this story, quotes Peter Dawson mentioning how the IOC doesn't want a "trial format," and then gets to a possible solution that gets team play into the 2020 games.

The Summer Youth Olympics nailed it in China two years ago, though the field size was 32 players instead of the 60 players for the men's and women's competition in Rio.

The boys and girls each played the first three days for a 54-hole individual medal. Then, they played mixed team the next three days — 18 holes of foursomes, 18 holes of fourballs, and two singles matches to reach a 72-hole score. Sweden won the gold in a playoff over South Korea, while Italy won a playoff for the bronze over Denmark.

One idea being kicked around is to stage a mixed-team event the last two days between the men's and women's competitions. That could be either fourballs and foursomes on the same (long) day, or a 54-hole event with foursomes one day, and two singles the next day. That way, every shot would count.

My colleague Jaime Diaz made a valid point: the men’s event was such a success, that this actually frees the IGF to propose a bolder format tweak to Olympic golf instead of merely trying to keep it in the Games as is.

My polling of IGF officials, players and Olympic veterans suggests the following parameters must be kept in mind:

—60 player fields will probably not change. Even though many golfers, as expected, stayed outside of the Olympic Village because they traveled with family and spouses, golf still most can’t exceed that number.

World Ranking points will likely remain for qualifying. But it sure would be fun to hear of a more creative way that introduces a "play-in" element that serves as a great way to create excitement going into the games. If team play is introduced, shouldn't players be able to pick their partners ala beach volleyball?

—Individual stroke play will remain, and it'll be 72 holes.
A 36-hole final day could be interesting, but with five hour rounds that would be a long day for players, volunteers and the course maintenance crew.

--The IOC doesn't like competitions within competitions. Therefore three days of stroke play that determines a two-person team medal, followed by a one-day stroke play event, does not work for them. Unless its gymnastics.

—The Olympic format should be recognized in some international event of significance
. Pointing to the Ryder Cup for Four-ball and Foursomes play makes our task easier. The WGC Match Play has added pool play, so that’s covered too. However, proposing rounds of less than 18 holes become an issue in this scenario.

—Mixed Events Are Big With The IOC.
I haven’t thought of a way that a mixed doubles event works outside of the one outlined above by Ferguson, but the mixed team concept appeals to many. Though it would appeal more if players could select their partners and qualify (think Martin and Gerina Piller!). Golf would need to have a mixed event added to the PGA Tour, LPGA and European Tour schedules, something that is long overdue anyway.

—One week is enough for each gender. Keeping the golfers at the Games for all two weeks would be excessive. As would too many 36-hole days. Let them go enjoy the Olympic spirit. As we saw with Rickie, Bubba and the other golfers last week, having our game’s stars interacting with the other athletes not only gave a great impression, it positively changed their perspectives.

As I discussed with
Gary Williams on Monday's Morning Drive, we have to get a two person team competition. Based on the feedback of those in Rio and in watching, I'd like to see one of two ideas considered (neither incorporates the mixed element).

--72 holes of stroke play, with the three low two-person teams awarded medals after 54 holes for best aggregate scores. Yes, some countries only send one player, but enough send two (or four) that world rankings could determine teams. Not a perfect concept and it's not introducing match play, but it's a competition that would spice up the first three days significantly.

--72 holes of stroke play, followed by two days of team match play. Award medals for individual performance and use the medal play days to whittle the match play down to the best 8 teams from the first four days. This gives players something to play for if they are out of the individual medal race. From the 8 teams qualifying,  play a four-ball or foursomes match play event over two days to determine three more medals.

Wednesday
Aug242016

Rory May Go Without An Equipment Deal For A While

With the luxury of multiple endorsement deals, Rory McIlroy is going the route many have thought a few other players with the means should go with their sticks: deal-free and play what you want.

Speaking before the Barclays, Joel Beall reports on a putter switch from Nike already, with the rest to be sorted out in time after Nike decided to end its clubmaking business.

"No reason to start changing just because I can. I'm comfortable with everything," McIlroy said. "I've got them to save me three years' worth of golf balls, so at least I've got a golf ball that I like and that I know that I can play well with.

"I'm not going to commit to anything. I wouldn't be surprised to see me not go with a manufacturer for a year or two, just sort of play with what I want to play, play with what I'm comfortable with, and go from there."

Jim McCabe reports that McIlroy was happy for the success of the Olympics and to have been proven "somewhat wrong."

Tuesday
Aug232016

The "Playoffs" Highlight Chase For...Ryder Cup Spots

The PGA Tour Playoffs are certainly captivating to accountants, caddies, wives and others with a stake in the ResetCup's bonus pool. Otherwise, the only intriguing chase this week is for a Ryder Cup team spot.

T.J. Auclair
does a nice job laying out the scenarios American players are facing as they try to make the top 8 on points. The first five are already set. Barring an upset win at Bethpage in The Barclays, it's looking six people for four spots: Holmes, Reed, Watson, Kuchar, Fowler, Furyk.

Tiger will apparently be watching, as Davis Love notes in his diary that Tiger doesn't sleep much and loves the tactician side of things. I'm not sure if this is setting Tiger up for very limited cart driving and lots of clubhouse white board work on pairings, but nonetheless, an interesting revelation.

On the European side, you all voted Russell Knox, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer on to the team.

John Huggan speaks to Knox about his sense of whether a captain's pick is coming after just missing out on points. Knox senses Clarke will be focusing on adding veterans.


“I hope the rookie thing is not enough for him not to pick me,” Knox said. “But they do seem to be making a big thing of it. I think maybe too big a thing. I look at it this way: If you put, say, Matt Fitzpatrick and I together in foursomes we’re going to be tough to beat. Against anyone. We are hitting it down the fairway 80 percent of the time. I get that he is looking at all the stats though. And it’s a tough decision to make. If he feels like he needs more experience with Graeme McDowell or Luke Donald or whoever, then fair enough.”

 

Tuesday
Aug232016

Bellwether? Reed Breaks Gavel At NYSE's Closing Bell

Is this a statement about his stroke?

The markets?

The Playoffs(C)?

Watch the after-hours trading numbers. They do not lie. (H/T Alex Myers for spotting, Will Harrelson for posting.)


Tuesday
Aug232016

Feherty: "I saw one mosquito the whole time...it was at the bar at the Hilton drinking a Jack Daniels because I don’t think it trusted the water."

Erik Matuszewski of Forbes interviews David Feherty on a host of topics, including his time in Rio in a prominent role on NBC's broadcastsand his upcoming shows.

Feherty's take on the Games:

When tennis returned to the Olympics, there was a slow buy-in from the top players, with only two of the top-10 playing in 1988. Do you anticipate more of the world’s top golfers will look at this going forward, in Tokyo in 2020 and perhaps beyond, and say this is something we should embrace?

 

“There are a couple of things that will really make the difference. Word of mouth is one and scheduling is the other. The schedule will have changed by the time they get to Tokyo. I don’t think we’ll be playing three majors and this in the space of two months. I imagine it will be spread out a little better. Between that, the FedExCup (playoffs) and the Ryder Cup coming up, it’s a really tough spell, and not physically. These are tremendous athletes and they’re young, but there’s a mental strain to play in these four-day golf tournaments and perform at your best all the time. A lot of the decision — never mind the Zika virus, that was partly an excuse, I think. Hell, I saw one mosquito the whole time I was down there and it was at the bar at the Hilton drinking a Jack Daniels because I don’t think it trusted the water. So I think the next U.S. team will be harder to make because of that.”

Feherty has Bob Costas on tonight's show at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT. Turns out, Bob was once a bookie of sorts, but the story turns in a surprising way!

 

Tuesday
Aug232016

Zach Johnson Is Irritated By The Olympics Putting A "Kink" In Golf's Major Championship Schedule

I give Rory McIlroy a bit of a pass on his only-watching-Olympic-sports-that-matter jab because (A) he at least supported Olympic golf at one time, and (B) may have been annoyed by Peter Dawson's comments the day prior. But now Rory can send Zach Johnson a big thank you note!

Why would the veteran Johnson unwisely go down the "matter" path that so scarred McIlroy and caused the lad unnecessary grief? Especially after two sensational weeks where the golfers who went to Rio reported emotions ranging from life-changing to mentioning new perspectives on their sport?

Anyway, let's let Zach dig this hole with the NY Post's Mark Cannizzaro, taking copious notes and also sharing positive views about Olympic golf from many others.

“Oh, I didn’t watch golf,’’ Johnson said. “I’d rather watch the sports that should be in the Olympics. I’d rather watch the athletes who train for four years for that one week. I’d rather watch swimming and diving, track and field — the athletes that are relevant for one week. All of our [golf] athletes are relevant 24-7, 365. I just don’t see the need for golf to be in the Olympics. Same thing with basketball. It’s relevant all the time. LeBron James, Kevin Durant? They’re relevant all the time.’’

"All of our [golf] athletes are revelant 24-7" eh?

Speaking of relevance, I'm fairly certain that Zach could have walked through the Olympic Village with his caddie wearing a name-labeled bib, the Claret Jug in hand, all while singing the Star Spangled Banner, and still would have been guessed by most as a masseuse for the USA sailing team. But go on...

Johnson said he’d rather see amateur golfers play in the Olympics if golf continues to be an Olympic sport.

“Make it a team format and give amateurs and college players, who don’t have the relevancy [pros do] a chance,” he said. “That would have been more interesting. For those guys who played, any time you can represent your country, it’s a pretty awesome endeavor. But we have so much international golf as it is. And the fact that it put a kink in our schedule this year irritates me. To mess with the four tournaments that matter most [the majors] because you’re at the Olympics, I’ve got a strong, strong disdain for that.’’

Those pesky Olympics putting kinks in schedules with their millions and millions of viewers messing with the relevancy of golf's majors.

Johnson comments speak to a level of distance from the situation that sadly reinforces the pre-Games view of grossly-out-of-touch and spoiled PGA Tour players. Perhaps he'll address his views in more depth during his pre-tournament press conference. Wait, those are for relevant golfers only, sorry.

Tuesday
Aug232016

The Politics Of Paralympics Golf

Great work by Golf News Net's Ryan Ballengee to lay out the issues involved in getting golf as a Paralympic sport.

I'm fairly certain that golf's inclusion in the Games will only be strengthened by the effort--by no means an easy one as Ballengee presents--to have a Paralympics presence. Sadly, there is no opportunity now until 2024 and the IGF did not respond to Ballengee's requests for comment. In their defense, it has been a busy few weeks.

However, para-golf lacked some key baseline organizational infrastructure that the IPC demands of any sport before it gets into the Paralympics. In para-golf's case, the sport hadn't organized a continuously-run world championship, had never published a world ranking for disabled golfers and had yet to develop a clear classification code for para-golfers to compete under in the program.

Four years later, para-golf could again bid to get into the 2020 program in Tokyo. However, no bid was even made. The International Golf Federation didn't submit a bid, according to Matsuda, claiming a lack of integration among the world's leading disabled golf associations. In other words, things had not dramatically improved in the intervening four years since the initial bid to merit going through the political process of making a bid, defending and lobbying for it, then hoping for inclusion.

Monday
Aug222016

Roundup: You Can Really Feel The Love For Olympic Golf

So moving to see so many coming around after months of moaning about golf in the Olympics.

As we get ready to not talk about it much until next fall when votes take place (and we are overcome with ResetCup fever!), I offer you an assortment of the glowing takes on the last two weeks in Rio.

Jaime Diaz in this week's Golf World:

In essence, Olympic golf has become the closest thing to the Ryder Cup: Worth it to play for free. A place—especially if it becomes, as expected, more of a team event—to deepen friendships. Something worth sacrificing for and not to be missed. Amid the distortions that come with professionalism, commercialism and politics, on the field at least, a chance for pure golf amid what aspires to be pure sport.

Linda Baker of Reuters in a piece that'll get picked up in plenty of places, declares golf a success and pushes the format-tweak narrative.

"I would like to see a two-man team. I think you should still have an individual medal, but I would like to see a team format to make things more exciting," said the United States' Stacy Lewis, who ended the women's tournament tied for fourth.

The golf industry pushed for the sport's inclusion to help boost participation, which has been slipping. Organizers were hoping that the newly built golf course designed by Gil Hanse could also help boost the game in Brazil.

For Gary Player, the legendary golfer who has been a vocal proponent of golf in the Olympics, the tournament had succeeded in cementing golf's status as an international sport. He tweeted at the conclusion of the Olympics, "Fantastic for six #golf medals going to six nations - Britain, Sweden, USA, South Korea, New Zealand & China... #growth."

I don't know about the growth part, but having a medalist from six countries is another one of those you-can't-script-it sidebars to the Rio golf experiment.

Bob Harig at ESPN.com on a post-Games narrative of athletes who contended or medaled: lots of new friends or old friends coming out of the woodwork.

"The reception globally has been astonishing,'' said Mark Steinberg, who is Rose's agent. "The reception he is receiving locally within the UK, it's astonishing to even Justin who is wearing a gold medal around his neck. He just can't believe the amount of people who are reaching out to him that maybe don't sit and watch golf on a Saturday and Sunday.

"Maybe you attribute that to the Olympic rings. Anything you want to attribute it to. It's been an astonishing appeal. It's just so great for these guys to get that type of response.''

Steinberg also represents Kuchar, and his phone has been ringing with potential endorsement possibilities for both medal winners. He also had three other players in the men's tournament.

Speaking of Kuchar, who didn't even know the format a week prior to the Games, he received a hero's welcome and is taking his bronze everywhere, writes Tim Rosaforte.

Kuchar kept it together on the Olympic Golf Course and flew home on Aug. 15 to a hero’s welcome. There were more than 100 people greeting his plane when it landed at Malcolm McKinnon Airport on St. Simons Island in Georgia. Chants of “Kooch!” and “USA, USA!” rang into the night when the Olympian appeared at the door of the plane, wearing his bronze medal.

If only Big Kooch had been around to see it, as he was when Matt won the Players Championship in 2012 and the WGC-Match Play and the Memorial in 2013. Or if he could see his great-grandsons, Cameron and Carson, show off his dad’s medal last week on St. Simons Island, whether it was going table to table at the local Starbucks or the grillroom at Frederica Golf Club.

“They got a big kick out of doing that,” Kuchar said. “They love checking it out, showing it off. I’ve pretty much kept it with me wherever I’ve gone. Most people want to see it and hold it.”

The Golf.com gang hailed all things Olympic golf, with a couple of strong points, including this from Josh Sens:

Personally, what I enjoyed most was seeing the women get an equal share of the spotlight as the men, playing on the same venue, with the same stakes. It was another reminder of how much fun the best women players are to watch. And unlike the men, pretty much all of the very best were actually there.

And this from Alan Shipnuck:

That we didn't miss any of the players who weren't there but, based on the longing in their texts and tweets, they know they missed out on something special.

Michael Bamberger wrote about the women's game getting a profile raise, even if weather wiped out chances of an even larger audience on network coverage.

I couldn't tell you what the man's level of interest in women's golf was before the Olympics. Whatever it was, now it's deeper.

Teddy Greenstein reviewed his Rio stay and highlighted the various sports covered for the Chicago Tribune, including this from golf's fourth place finisher:

Of all the wisdom dispensed over the last 17 days, my favorite came from a fellow Olympic newbie: Thomas Pieters, a Belgium golfer who played at Illinois.

Pieters described radios going off and cameras clicking during his backswing but shrugged off all the distractions, saying: "You deal with it. It's the Olympics. It's special."

Steve DiMeglio interviewed the IGF's Ty Votaw, instrumental figure in the entire Olympic golf pursuit and execution, who continues to credit players and caddies for their effort. But the crowds, which could have been disastrously small in Rio given attendance at some venues, brought an intangible element to both final rounds that should not be discounted.

Q: What stood out in Rio?

A: “The reception of the crowds for both the men’s and the women’s competitions. And the way the men and women embraced the Olympic experience. It was phenomenal to see their interaction with other athletes, their experiences in the Olympic Village, and how they responded to the crowds and the crowds responded to them, in a country that doesn’t have a lot of golf history.”

What also stood out? The ticket price was kept absurdly low, something golf tournaments looking for energy should keep in mind more often.

Iain Payten of the Daily Telegraph covers all things Rio with Australian team leader Ian Baker-Finch, whose most famous golfers (Day, Scott, Leishman) passed on Rio. He would would like to see a format tweak either way based on his three weeks in Rio.

Changing the format will help too, believes Baker-Finch. Instead of individual strokeplay, an element of a teams format will be attractive to athletes who play for themselves every week.

“I hoped all the way through the process that they’d go to the World Cup format of a singles and a doubles,” he said.

“I think you’d have had a stronger representation in the mens had theire been a two - man team. So still 72 holes but let’s have a singles and have a team, let’s add up the two scores.”

Payten's piece also includes this:

US RATINGS FOR GOLF MAJORS v OLYMPICS
Masters final round – 12.4 million
Olympic final round – 8.8 million
US Open final round – 5.4 million
PGA Championship final round – 5.3 million
British Open final round – 4.9 million

Monday
Aug222016

WaPo On Extreme Trump Golf Course Valuations

Thanks to reader Scott for sending Drew Harwell's Washington Post look at the ultra-low valuations Donald Trump's lawyers give for his properties in court, as compared to his election disclosure forms.

The differences are staggering but defended by Trump's lawyer this way:

In rural Iredell County, N.C., for instance, Trump’s lawyers have argued successfully to shrink the taxable value of his course there since he bought it in 2013. The $167,000 annual reduction in revenue to the county is a “pretty big chunk,” said Wes Long, an appraiser there, adding that the money comes from “whatever taxable money goes toward: salaries, raises, roads, schools, police.”

Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s executive vice president and general counsel, defended Trump’s tax disputes as a legal, prudent way of doing business and saving cash. The higher values listed on the federal form reflects the unique merit of the Trump brand, he added, which can boost the courses’ sales value in a way that won’t be reflected on local tax rolls.

“When you’re talking about properties that are owned by Mr. Trump, there is an intrinsic value associated with those properties because he is associated or owns those properties,” Garten said. “There’s never been anyone like Mr. Trump, with his net worth, to run for the highest office in the land.”

No one will argue with that last point!

Monday
Aug222016

Columnist Says Oakland Hills Will Get Another U.S. Open

Carlos Monarrez says he doesn't know for certain, but from speaking to folks at the U.S. Amateur last week, he's confident "that our national championship will return to Oakland Hills for the first time since 1996."

The U.S. Amateur looked spectacular on TV if crowd size and conditioning were a barometer. However with 2027 the earliest open date and the club having vetoed a restoration plan that would have bolstered its chances, a U.S. Women's Open or a PGA seems more likely.

Monarrez writes about general chairman Lee Juett's response from the USGA:

Last month, Juett said the club had extended an invitation to the USGA to host its seventh U.S. Open. During the tournament, Juett and club leaders met with USGA executives to further that process, which included strengthening those relationships. And it yielded something else: an understanding that Oakland Hills would love to host another USGA championship while it waits for a U.S. Open.

This brings me to my next prediction. Oakland Hills also will host a U.S. Women’s Open. The next available date is 2022, and it makes perfect sense.

Monday
Aug222016

Nine For Hazeltine: Team Europe Suddenly Looking Very Strong

With Matt Fitzpatrick clinching the final spot for European Tour qualifying, the youngest Englishman to make the team in 30 years (reports James Corrigan)

It wasn't long ago many were wondering how strong the European team would be heading to Hazeltine National for next month's Ryder Cup. With recent play on the European Tour and PGA Tour, as well as the Olympics, Captain Darren Clarke appears will have some tough decisions to make for his final three captain's picks.

The team as it stands now, with the top two points earners actually the least compelling games at the moment.

The nine 👥 #Repost via @rydercupteameurope

A photo posted by European Tour (@europeantour) on Aug 22, 2016 at 4:48am PDT

On the outside looking in: Russell Knox, Lee Westwood, Soren Kjeldsen, Thomas Pieters, Martin Kaymer, Shane Lowry and Andrew Johnston.

I would think Knox and Westwood are locks, while the Pieters v. Kaymer decision provides intrigue given Pieters nearly winning last weekend's Czech Masters on the back of finishing fourth in Rio.

According to this Sky report, Beef has said he would pick himself, so I didn't include him in the poll.  Vote for three!

Who would be your three captain's picks right now for Team Europe 2016?
 
pollcode.com free polls

Sunday
Aug212016

Luck Will Have It! Aussie Curtis Wins U.S. Amateur

Lucky because even Curtis Luck is a tough name for USGA President Diana Murphy to rearrange as only she can!

Not that he cares, as Luck wins golf's most prestigious amateur title and all of the perks that go with it. He becomes the third Aussie (Travis, Flanagan) and first wearer of a manbun to win the Havermeyer Trophy.

Sure, Luck dashed hopes for a trophy ceremony Grand Slam by President Murphy, but alas, the damage on the USGA leadership front has been done.

Ryan Herrington at GolfDigest.com writes about Luck's secret weapon on the bag, dad Curtis, who kept things light, allowing for a turnaround of epic proportions.

Rather than risk doing more damage with his putter, he conceded the par putt of his opponent, Brad Dalke, and walked off 1 down.

At that moment, Luck heard a voice offer some meaningful, albeit straightforward, advice.

“OK,” said Stuart Luck, Curtis’ 46-year-old father who doubled this week as his caddie, “now we need to play some good golf.”

The brief moment of levity—“He usually likes being very obvious with his statements out on the golf course,” Curtis would say later—helped the No.7 ranked amateur in the world shrug off the stumble and re-set himself.

Jeff Babineau at Golfweek.com notes in his game story that Luck will remain an amateur to enjoy the scheduling benefits that come with the title.

Luck, who will now stay amateur, can fill out his 2017 schedule with starts at the Masters (traditionally, the U.S. Am winner gets invited), U.S. Open and British Open, as well as traditional starts in PGA Tour events such as the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Memorial.

As for holding off on turning pro? As they say back home in Australia, no worries, mate.

“It was something I always was thinking might happen,” Luck said. “I’m very happy with staying amateur.”

Herrington also wrote about a fun touch by the Oakland Hills chef Dan Vallone.

Here are the USGA highlights.

And an interview with the winner.


Sunday
Aug212016

Women's Olympic Ratings Wrap: Nice Final Day

In spite of a forecast-driven tee time change that killed chances for a lengthy NBC look-in, viewers tuned in to Golf Channel for the medal day of women's Olympic golf. Hopefully some international numbers will trickle in at some point like they did with the men.

For Immediate Release...

Golf’s Return to the Olympics Posts Record Viewership for Women’s Golf
 
Golf Channel schedule for the Olympics featured the most live coverage ever for a women’s golf event (34.5 hours), which was bolstered all week with an additional 35.5 hours of live news coverage with Golf Central’s Live From The Olympics and Morning Drive. In total, Golf Channel dedicated 124 hours of programming to this week’s women’s golf competition and as a result, generated record-breaking viewership. Wrap-up of Men’s Final Round is below.
 
Saturday, August 20: Final Round

Golf Channel’s coverage of the conclusion of the Olympics’ women’s final round is the highest-rated and most-watched in more than six years for peak 90-minutes of coverage from any women’s stroke-play event on cable in any daypart, including primetime (11:15 am-12:45 pm ET; 0.54 US HH rating, 803,000 average viewers), dating back to the 2010 Women’s British Open on ESPN (8/1/2010; peak 90 minutes, .59 US HH rating, 824,000 average viewers).

Coverage peaked with 924,000 average viewers (12:15-12:30 pm ET), the most-watched peak finish for any women’s golf event on cable in more than six years since the 2010 Women’s British Open on ESPN (8/1/2010; peak finish, 1.275 million average viewers)

Despite leaders teeing off earlier than plan on the account of potential bad weather, average viewership for the final round (691,000 average viewers) was +77% vs. Friday’s comparable 3rd round coverage (390,000 average viewers)
 
Friday, August 19: Round 3

Golf Channel’s afternoon coverage of the third round is the most-watched third round in more than five years for any women’s stroke-play golf event on cable in any daypart, including primetime (Noon-3:36 pm ET; 0.28 US HH rating, 390,000 average viewers), dating back to the third round of the 2011 Women’s British Open on ESPN (7/30/11; 476,000).

Golf Channel’s Friday afternoon coverage of the third round was up 212% among average viewers and up 180% for U.S. household rating vs. the same Friday in 2012 opposite the London Games.
 
Thursday, August 18: Round 2

Golf Channel’s second-round coverage is the highest-rated live weekday round of any women’s golf event (at the time, now second behind Olympics Round 3) in more than two years in any daypart, including primetime (Noon-3:14 pm ET; 0.23 US HH rating, 316,000 average viewers), dating back to the second round of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst (6/20/14; 0.44 U.S. HH rating on ESPN2).
 
Wednesday, August 17: Round 1

Golf Channel’s coverage tied as the highest-rated round one of any women’s golf event in 2016 (Noon-3:54 pm ET; 0.17 US HH rating, 217,000 average viewers), matching the rating for coverage of the ANA Inspiration Major Championship, which aired in primetime (3/31/16, 7:12-9:12 pm ET).

In general ratings news, New York's Eric Levit considers the fall in overall Olympic viewership numbers by the most important generation to have ever live, and wisely notes that even they get it wrong sometimes.

Sunday
Aug212016

Six Ways To Make Olympic Golf Better

With our attention spans soon putting Olympic golf aside until Tokyo in four years, now is the time to consider a few tweaks, enhancements and bold ideas to make the next Olympic golf competitions better. My colleague Jaime Diaz made the shrewd point that things went so well, the IGF will have more wiggle room with the IOC to propose improvements.

It should be noted that organizers ran a golf tournament that professional in nearly every way to the players. Officials from all over the world contributed, though it was largely a PGA Tour operation.

Media and scoring issues were expected, partly a Rio situation and mostly a first-time-for-golf-in-the-Olympics situation. Some of the telecast issues were also related to the Olympic Broadcast Services following IOC guidelines, perhaps combined with telecast windows that were incredibly long given the field size.

But in the name of making golf more interesting to more people, here are a few suggestions:

—Introduce A Team Format. Golf wants to “grow” but how about a more modest goal of trying to sustain and entertain? In randomly polling those who were in Rio attending other sports, two words came up most when considering golf's four-day 72-hole format in the context of Olympic competition: team format. Since the IOC does not want to give up more than 60 spots to prevent Olympic Village overpopulation, we are likely needing to keep the format at two-person teams consisting of the current fields. Another word that came up repeatedly: “disciplines” that expose skills other than playing 72 holes for oneself. The consensus for team is there, now we have to find the best format.

—Alternate the order of play. That means women go first in 2020 and men first in 2024 should golf return to the Games. Cases could be made for either order having benefits for both genders, fans and the global tours. However, the IOC will pick the order based on scheduling demands*.

—Do not schedule competing tournaments by tours during Olympic week. Every tour complied on this front in 2016, except the PGA Tour. The John Deere Classic, an event that has grown in prominence, took an unnecessary backseat this year.  Two players skipped the Games for the Deere because their careers were on the line, and they didn't regret the decision, but also lamented not being in Rio. The FedExCup “race” was even impacted, as Justin Rose lost ground in this points race because he played in the Olympics. The LPGA's Commish noted that this was a concern for his tour, and his tour set aside a nice window for Olympic golf. If the PGA Tour wants the world to take a competition they worked hard to successfully produce, next-Commish Jay Monahan has to tell his members, sponsors and TV partners he'll be shutting down his tour one week every four years.

—Convince the IOC to allow for the latest cut-off date possible.
The Tokyo games in 2020 will be played just two weeks after The Open. This means there is no chance of that Open impacting the field. But hopefully the U.S. Open will be allowed to count toward ranking points prior to a cutoff. 


—Even more blatantly patriotic uniforms. Seeing the Rio golf course dotted with splashes of national colors made for an unusual sight. Some of the uniforms were quite distinctive, like H&M’s subtle stamping of Sweden on Henrik Stenson’s final round shirt. The Adidas effort was distinctive for the Great Britain team, downright strange for the USA women. Let’s see even more color, nation branding and emphasis on athletic cuts. How great was it to see the golfers looking like athletes in official team medal tracksuits?

—Get Golf In The Paralympics. We’ve seen what the game has done for wounded warriors and how heroes like Dennis Walters inspire. It’s somewhat mind-boggling that the Paralympics, contested next month in Rio, do not include golf. Get on this IGF. Chop chop!

—Start making the case for Long Drive as a separate sport for inclusion by 2024.
If you want higher, stronger, faster then long drive is the sport. Imagine Long Drive under the lights in an exotic locale. Say, the Champ de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower or in a refashioned portion of the soon-to-be reimagined L.A. River facing the downtown skyline? Long drive would be the beach volleyball to traditional golf’s indoor volleyball. Music, screaming, athleticism and a strength-meets-skill discipline that would appeal to an entirely different audience.

Sunday
Aug212016

Remembering The Late Photographer Jules Alexander

There are a couple of fine reads on the passing of photographer Jules Alexander, best known for his images of Ben Hogan seen in The Hogan Mystique.

Sam Weinman at GolfDigest.com on the iconic image that captured Hogan's style and gravitas.

The most celebrated picture in the Alexander collection is the one above of Hogan leaning against his putter on the green, head turned to the side, a cigarette in his right hand. When Alexander told the story of that photo, he recalled Hogan holding his position just long enough for the photographer to make it work.

"I sit at my desk and I can see the picture every day, and just recently I began to think, ‘Why did he stand there just long enough for me to take all these frames with three different cameras?’” Alexander said in 2006. “You can’t do that in two minutes. But he’s looking across the green at Claude Harmon. And I’m going to have the temerity to think that he posed for me by saying to himself, ‘I’m going to give this guy a shot.’ ”

Adam Schupak at Golfweek files a very personal remembrance of Alexander, who he profiled in 2007.

In August 2007, I spent the day shadowing Alexander as he photographed the third round of The Barclays at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y. But we had become friends several years earlier. He could spin a story, and I loved to listen to them. He told me that when he flew, he never checked his camera – he loved the Leica – and always booked a window seat and kept his camera on his lap, just in case he ever saw something good, “like a UFO,” he said, before adding, “I just like to have a camera in my hands.” Whenever he booked a hotel, he asked whether it had a pool so he could swim laps. That was his secret to keeping in such good shape.

That day at the tournament was a 90-90 day — 90-plus degrees, 90-plus-percent humidity — and still ranks as one of the muggiest days I’ve had to cover golf. Yet Alexander lugged his equipment like a man half his age. He said to me after we sat down for a drink at the tail end of the day, “It’s as hot as I remember, but not as hot as Okinawa.”

Saturday
Aug202016

Inbee Park Wins Olympic Gold!

Lydia Ko takes silver and Shanshan Feng the bronze on an intriguing final day, where no shortage of players had a chance to medal.

We can kick around winners, losers and format soon enough, but for now congratulations to the women who played the Rio Olympic course with class and who did their part to make golf's return to the Games a success.