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
  • Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    by Ken Bowden

Jackie Burke put it best when he said, "It’s the most tempting golf course in the world." The conditions and the problems there put you in that position where you are tempted. You can play it safe or you can really chance it and pull off a shot that is truly rewarding.
BEN CRENSHAW on Augusta National

 

   

Wednesday
Mar292017

Video And Poll: The Variable Distance Ball

In the coming months I'm going to start rolling out "Eye On Design" videos focusing on various design elements in golf that either interest me or need to be reconsidered. While it's not sexy to kick off with the "variable distance" ball topic, we might as well try to wrap our heads around what I anticipate will be a lively debate centered around golf course design.

To set this complicated topic up, here are my thoughts presented in digital video form. I flesh a few more thoughts out to (hopefully) better inform your votes...

 

For us technophobic, distance RIPer's, things have come a long way over the last decade. Just look at your reaction to the WGC Dell Match Play last week where we saw epic driving distances on fairways playing at a nice, normal firmness.

A consensus of serious golfers see that distance increases for elite players have altered the brilliance and safety of our best-designed courses. This combination of improved technology, blatant outsmarting by manufacturers and a host of other elements like Trackman and instruction, have forced the governing bodies to defend expensive and offensive alterations to works of art.

No other sport pats itself on the back more than golf for upholding its traditions and integrity. Yet no the other sport has sold its soul to protect a relationship between participation and the equipment professionals play. A relationship, which I might add, will continue even after a bifurcation of the rules.

Fast forward 22 years and the amazing synergy of athleticism, fitting, instruction and technology has produced super-human driving distances for decent golfers on up to the best. No other sport on the planet has tolerated such a dramatic change in short time, so should we see 10% taken off the modern driving distance average of an elite golfer--at certain courses and events--the sky will not fall. The players who use such a ball would restore the strategy and intrigue of most golf courses built before 1995. (That was the year, not coincidentally, when things started to change.)

Several solutions that do not fundamentally alter the sport have been offered endlessly. They've also been resisted even as the game has not grown during a technology boom that has seen golfers offered the best made and engineered equipment in the game's history. Solutions such as reducing the size of the driver head for professionals and tournament-specific golf balls have not been welcomed or even tried.

The growing sense that a first step solution is on the way arrived when the USGA’s Mike Davis suggested at the recent Innovation Symposium that a “variable distance” ball could be an alternative for select courses and select social situations.

From Mike Stachura’s Golf World report, quoting Davis:

“We don’t foresee any need to do a mandatory rollback of distance. We just don’t see it. But that’s different than saying if somebody comes to us and says I want an experience that doesn’t take as long or use as much land, can we allow for equipment to do that?”

As we know, the proposed rules of golf re-write emphasizes speeding up the game and everyone knows adding new back tees has never helped on this front. For the first time, elite golfers are suggesting they see the correlation between distance and new tees, but are also tired of walking back to such tees on golf courses where the flow of the round is fundamentally altered. 

Beyond the pace and silliness of it all, all indications suggest the USGA and R&A have also developed ways for the handicap system to address a variable distance ball that could be used in select circumstances.

Perhaps it's a club championship and is employed in lieu of extra rough or greens Stimping 13 feet. Or it's an invitational tournament played from tees other than the back. Or maybe there are golf courses experiencing pace of safety issues that will require golfers use such a ball?

On the social side, I expect the case to be made for golfers of different levels playing the same tees thanks to the variable distance ball,  Since Davis’s remarks, I have been surprised how many golfers have told me this would make their Saturday foursomes a more cohesive affair, with everyone playing the same tees and the short hitters not frightened by getting fewer shots from a scratch golfer using a shorter flying ball.

Most of all, such a ball on certain courses would return certain skills (hitting a long iron approach?) and end decades of pretending golf does not have an integrity problem.

I point all of this out because Davis’s remarks were no accident. Whether anyone likes it or not, this ball is coming. The variable ball will not be forced, just another way to play the game. The British ball did not break the sport and neither will this option. Because that's all it is, an option. Given that The Masters arrives next week featuring long fairway grain mown toward the tee to prevent roll, I believe the variable distance ball will again be on the minds of all watching.

With that in mind, your votes, please!

Question 1:

Is golf ready to add a variable distance ball?
 
pollcode.com free polls

Question 2:

Should The Masters adopt a variable distance ball instead of adding more length to the course?
 
pollcode.com free polls

Wednesday
Mar292017

Where Have All The (Golf) Writers Gone?

That's the question Ed Sherman asks for Golf World and while I think the golf media as a whole has managed to mask the issue pretty well, readers must be starting to notice just how much less in depth coverage is available.

While bloggers are again cited as the cause of all world evil--even though there aren't enough golf blogs to even count on two hands--the real issues have little to do with blogs and all to do with the death of print. With no space and the jobs for writers to possibly captivate a casual fan, the written word is not as powerful as it once was.

Selfishly, Harig says it is good for him and ESPN.com that there are far fewer outlets covering golf. But he doesn’t think it is bodes well for the overall game.

“The hardcore fans know where to go if they want to get golf news,” Harig said. “Where you are losing out are the average fans who might stumble on a golf story in the paper. They might like that story and they become more interested in reading about golf. Without those stories, you’re missing out on that person.”

Ferguson contends most of the younger players, who did not grow up reading newspapers, have little awareness of today’s media landscape. He tells of an exchange with Daniel Berger, who looked at his credential and asked, “Associated Press? So what’s that like, Bleacher Report?”

Wednesday
Mar292017

Video: The Spieth's Test Hickories

For those who saw the "Making Of Tommy's Honour" film that aired on Golf Channel and NBC, this video will be redundant.

But for the hickory lovers who didn't see the piece, the PGA Tour posted the portion involving Jordan and Shawn Spieth in vintage clothes and hitting hickories.

Wednesday
Mar292017

Brandel: Tiger's Practicing Diligently, Don't Rule Out Masters

The Golf Channel's pre-Masters teleconference call included this from Brandel Chamblee, writes G.C. Digital fresh from a two-week tour of Myrtle Beach's best courses.

G.C. writes:

“If you can believe anything that you read on social media – I know that his coach has been down there, and they’ve been hitting a lot of golf balls down in Palm Beach. The way I understand it, he’s been practicing quite diligently. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Tiger showed up at Augusta National.”

For his part, Montgomerie said that if Woods does show up, he hopes fans don’t see the 14-time major champ bowing out after “77-78 and going home from there.”

Wednesday
Mar292017

Stacy Lewis Pushing For Firmer, Faster LPGA Courses

In another I'll file under "how far pros have come" in the last five years, it was fun to see Stacy Lewis yearning for firmer, faster conditions and not just declaring today's players superior to their predecessors.

I could do without her love of rough, but two out of three is still amazing.

And it's her reasoning that may be the best part. Randall Mell reports for GolfChannel.com from Mission Hills as the ANA Inspiration is about to begin:

Three of the year’s first tournaments were won with 72-hole record scores. The average winning score this year is 20 under par. The LPGA’s last major, the Evian Championship, was won by In Gee Chun at 21 under, the lowest score by a man or woman in major championship history.

“I definitely think play has gotten better, but I’ve also noticed over the last year and a half that our golf courses have gotten a lot softer,” Lewis said. “Softer golf courses mean you don’t have to think as much. You can be more aggressive and you can go at pins. There’s not as much penalty for a bad shot.

Tuesday
Mar282017

Video: Schjoelberg's Backflop Shot

I was hitting some flip wedges today and became pretty impressed with how quickly I got those Mack Daddy's airborne off a mat.

Then I saw the latest from our old trick-shot artiste friend Mathias Schjoelberg and I realized, uh, some people just have gifted (and absurdly strong) hands.

Here's a new variation on a shot he's perfected in other ways from his knees and off a mat. But this one is off grass and he's standing, calling it the "backflop". Mind blown!

Backflops

A post shared by Mathias Schjoelberg (@mathiasschjoelberg) on

Tuesday
Mar282017

Players Try To Explain That (Pricey) Rangefinders Are Only Part Of Their Distance Measuring Process

We should all applaud the PGA Tour for testing out how distance measuring devices look and play at some of their "other tour" events.

But as someone who has followed the issue from the day the USGA mysteriously started advocating for another costly device, I've always been a bit amazed at the lack of statistical backing for these devices as pace enhancers. So again, we must have good players kindly explain how the devices are essentially a backup tool to them in real championship conditions. Or when they blow one into the next fairway.

Will Gray surveyed players at the Shell Houston Open and only Bryson DeChambeau saw a pace of play improvement by introducing rangefinders. The rest, including Jon Rahm, don't see any change coming. There was this from Justin Rose:

“I don’t think it’s going to make any difference to speed of play,” Rose said. “We don’t play ‘one number’ golf. We want to know what it is to the back edge of the green; we want to know the distance over a bunker. We want to know what the distance is to a certain slope.

“So it’s not as basic as, ‘I have 179 to the pin.’ You kind of make decisions out on the golf course based on what’s around the pin.”

Rose’s sentiment was echoed by multiple other players, who added that the utility of rangefinders will hinge on how players choose to use them.

I'm happy to wait out the experiment, but unless the PGA Tour is willing to subsidize the cost for juniors, advocating these devices means they will encourage young and aspiring golfers to believe they need such pricey devices. And just like that, the entry barrier to golf that any sane individual says we must break down, become $300 more expensive.

I mean, that's money they could use to subscribe to PGA Tour Live! For seven years!

But back to the issue of pace, Brad Fritsch added this on Twitter with some fun back and forth after the initial Tweet:

Tuesday
Mar282017

Videos: Getting In The Irish Open Mood

Thanks to reader PG via Golfweek's Marty Kaufman in spotting the Portstewart aerial teaser below.

The Irish Open is played there in July with a $7 million purse as part of the European Tour's new Rolex Series and Rory McIlroy hosts, as this teaser piece by BBC Sport explains (with help from tournament director Michael Moss).

But getting to a brief teaser Portstewart from above is a nice treat, as is the reminder that we have a full links golf season this summer to look forward to:

 

Tuesday
Mar282017

PGA Tour Set To Test Rangefinders On Three Tours

The good news? The PGA Tour is using the Web.com Tour to experiment with something new. The reluctance to do so has always been a surprise at how little this tour, the other satellite tours or the Champions Tour are not used to test formats or rule changes.

Allowing the use of rangefinders on such a stage will, once and for all, allow us to see if they speed up play on the professional level and how they "look" to a television audience. I suspect, as we've seen with other elite golf where players use rangefinders as a way to double check what they learn via traditional yardage books, that play will not speed up.

There will also be the dreadful optics of watching someone looking through a device, which is about as fun as watching people test virtual reality devices. Perhaps the rule will allow caddies to use them but not players?

But now we'll have data and visuals so that we can remember how rangefinders really only help when a player hits their tee shot into the other fairway.

For Immediate Release: 

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (March 28, 2017) – The PGA TOUR has announced that it will begin testing the use of distance measuring devices during competition at select tournaments this year on the Web.com Tour, Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada and PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Each of the three Tours will allow use of the devices by players and caddies at four consecutive tournaments, including Monday qualifiers. For these events, the PGA TOUR will temporarily enact a Local Rule in accordance with Decision 14-3/0.5 of The R&A/USGA Rules of Golf, which stipulates the device can be used to measure distance only (use of functions to measure slope, elevation or wind will not be allowed).

The Web.com Tour tournaments are: the BMW Charity Pro Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation, May 15-21 in Greenville, S.C.; the Rex Hospital Open, May 29-June 4 in Raleigh, N.C.; the Rust-Oleum Championship, June 5-11 in Ivanhoe, Ill.; and the Air Capital Classic, June 12-18 in Wichita, Kan.

PGA TOUR Latinoamérica will do its testing at the last four tournaments of the schedule’s first segment: the Essential Costa Rica Classic, April 20-23; the Quito Open, June 1-4 in Ecuador; the Puerto Plata DR Open, June 8-11 in the Dominican Republic; and the Jamaica Classic, June 15-18.

The Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada will test at: the GolfBC Championship, June 15-18 in Kelowna, British Columbia; the Players Cup, July 6 - 9 in Winnipeg, Manitoba; the Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel, July 13 - 16 in Thunder Bay, Ontario; and the Mackenzie Investments Open presented by Jaguar Laval, July 20 - 23 in Mirabel, Quebec.

“For years there has been significant discussion and debate about whether distance measuring devices would have a positive or negative impact on competition at the highest levels of professional golf,” said Andy Pazder, Chief Tournaments and Competitions Officer of the PGA TOUR. “The only way we can accurately assess their impact is to conduct an actual test during official competition on one or more of our Tours. We look forward to seeing how these tests go and carefully evaluating the use of the devices over those weeks. Our evaluation will consider the impact on pace of play, optics and any other effects they might have on the competition."

Once the test and comprehensive evaluation is completed, the PGA TOUR will share the results with its Player Advisory Council on all of its Tours for additional review and discussion.

Monday
Mar272017

For The Love Of (LPGA) Looping

Ron Sirak hung out for a week with a group of LPGA caddies to understand what makes them so devoted to weekly traveling on a tour where the No. 74 player on the LPGA Tour money list probably made less than most PGA Tour loopers.

Complicating matters is the tour's increased international presence.

A teaser from Sirak's Golf World piece:

The days of the hard-living bag-toter who would close the bars at night and work the next day through bloodshot eyes are mostly gone. These loopers are more than mere porters lugging around a 45-pound staff bag. Caddies have evolved into a mix of mathematician, psychologist, cartographer and bodyguard, all while remaining a Sherpa.

“Oh, my, those early days,” says Killeen, smiling. “At our house in Oakmont in 1992 [for the U.S. Women’s Open] we had empties stacked up this high,” he said, holding his hand over his head. “What do I like the most about this job? The people. The travel. The fact I have half the year off.”

And Killeen clearly relishes his role as house father of the group.
“You should have smelled it this morning,” Castrale says about their shared house in Phoenix on Thursday. “At 5 a.m., he’s already got the Irish stew simmering. John sent out a group text telling us where the car was parked and saying, ‘Early guys, when you get home, don’t forget to stir the stew.’ ”
Monday
Mar272017

DJ Out At Houston, Day To Play Masters But Hasn't Touched Club

As the Masters approaches I'm not sure there is much to read into Dustin Johnson's WD from the Shell Houston Open following his WGC Dell Match Play, citing fatigue that surely wasn't helped by those 2-a-day Soulcyle classes last week.

Bob Harig reports for ESPN.com:

"After a great deal of thought and consultation with my team, I have decided to withdraw from this week's Shell Houston Open,'' Johnson said in a statement. "Having played seven rounds of competitive golf in the last five days, I feel it is best to give my mind and body a much-needed rest heading into Masters week.''

Meanwhile Jason Day says he hasn't touched a club since his match play WD and a Masters appearance will depend on his mom's prognosis.

From an AP story:

“It’s very, very difficult to even think about playing golf when a loved one is going through such a traumatic experience,” Day said. “Once I get past this initial stage, hopefully I’ll find some balance and I’ll be able to kind of move on and really focus on getting my game back.

“Unfortunately, I’m human. I like to feel like I’m always on it, I’m always … ready to go and trying to compete and I want to get back to that stage but sometimes it’s very, very difficult.”

Monday
Mar272017

Poll And Wrap: Match Play's Renaissance, Two Small WGC Tweaks & What Is Next?

Tim Finchem's greatest legacy may be his support of match play despite annual consternation over a format that literally grew the game. After three years of round robin guaranteeing players three matches, there is still some kvetching about the loss of knockout dramatics, but even after a year where two WD's had the potential to issue a fatal blow, the WGC Dell Match Play was an enormous success: high energy, international intrigue and so much great skill on display.

As I wrote for Golfweek's weekly issue, match play is enjoying a renaissance through some strange combination of Finchem's devotion to saving the format, the move to round-robin play, the increased affinity for team match play events and the high risk, huge reward alternation in NCAA team format. 

Match play is cool again.

Considering that the sport was built on match play centuries ago its little wonder that Jordan Spieth said last week it should be deciding a major. Television ultimately put the kibosh on a return of the format, making it ironic that television now embraces match play because of the faster pacing, raw emotions and overall excitement it brings.

In our ADD world, each match has stories to tell and each hole produces a result. And in our crowded sports landscape, worrying about filling 33 minutes of post-match dead time takes a back seat to putting forward an event generating buzz.

This long post will try to resolve how the WGC Dell Match Play can get better and how can we work more match play into the schedule?

Two Small WGC Tweaks

The first is simple: lose the halves. Fans and media are asked to work too hard during the round robin play trying to figure out pod scenarios which include half-points for halves. They are not interesting and sudden death playoffs add much-needed tension to the first three days.

The second solution would not have had a huge impact in 2017, but should be considered and was suggested to me by fine souls not seeking credit: reseeding after round robin play by world ranking. The NHL seeded its playoff teams for several years and then reseeded after each round to reward top seeds. But due to travel-planning issues, the practice ended in 2014.

Given the randomness of the initial bracketology in the WGC Dell Match Play, the emphasis should be on giving higher seeds some reward for their standing while giving fans hope for the occasional dream match up. Consider what the weekend bracket would have looked like after a reshuffle of the group winners by their tournament seeding, not the placement of their bracket pools:

Dustin Johnson (1) vs. Soren Kjeldsen (62)

Alex Noren (8) vs. Charles Howell (61)

Paul Casey (12) vs. Hideto Tanihara (54)

Bubba Watson (13) vs. William McGirt (48)

Phil Mickelson (14) vs. Ross Fisher (47)

Brooks Koepka (20) vs. Kevin Na (46)

Jon Rahm (21) vs. Zach Johnson (44)

Marc Leishman (28) vs. Bill Haas (42)

Again, this is for years when the ranking form holds better and seems like an easy solution.

More Match Play Options

As I noted in the Golfweek piece, European Tour Commissioner Keith Pelley is all-in on match play due to its faster, edgier elements as well as providing tangible results to chew on during Thursdays and Fridays. He is said to be quite protective of the new Perth stop and has introduced a team match play event called Golf Sixes this May.

So before you vote, I'd like to nominate some other fomats. Naturally I want to see them all but realize it's likely unrealistic on a crowded schedule. Then again, after Zurich enjoys much admiration for its new better-ball format this May, other sponsors may be looking to alternative formats. Here are the five I could come up, though I'm sure there are others.

--Four ball. Imagine the fun of two-player teams, only at match play. The players pick their partners ala the new Zurich Classic format. I'm suggesting best ball instead of some combination including foursomes play because...yep, it's for the stymie!

Imagine the intrigue of teammates nursing a putt up to stymie the opposition! The strategic and dramatic possibilities would make this must see TV, and it would be good to see players play the ball down again on the green. Shoot, we'll let you clean your golf ball even, but then you must replace so that the fun can begin.

--9-hole round-robin and 9-hole matches. Why not just cut the entire thing in half? Shorter matches with more urgency legitimizing the 9-hole round.

--Stroke play, followed by knockout. This is a solution suggested to remedy the WGC Match Play when it was under fire would give players two rounds of stroke play qualifying that determine seeding. Matches are then played in a traditional single elimination bracket.

--Corporate or nationality. Team match play is beloved, so why not have an event that is a miniature version of the major international events or the NCAA team format? The European Tour's GolfSixes is using two-person teams by country. How about three or five person teams by corporate affiliation of some kind? Team RBS, Team Titleist, Team Mercedes, etc...

--PGA Championship. What if the top 32 players are exempt from two rounds of qualifying? Perhaps as with the Ryder Cup, there is a PGA Championship points race that determines the exemptees and helps build excitement for the event. Once the matches start, every now and then a club pro might qualify and face a top player in round one. Better yet, the PGA would have an epic identity.

Ok, vote away!

What other type of match play events would you like to see?
 
pollcode.com free polls

Monday
Mar272017

Q&A With Steve Timms, Houston Golf Association

As the PGA Tour leaves Austin and the spotlight on the dire Lions Muny situation there--Adam Schupak at MorningRead.com filed a nice look at the place and the fight--we at least get to hear a happier story in Houston this week.

Rendering of renovated clubhouse at Gus Wortham ParkUnder the leadership of Steve Timms, President/CEO of the Houston Golf Association, the organization has turned the Shell Houston Open into a must-play tour stop for many pre-Masters. They are behind the effort to save Gus Wortham Park Golf Course, a potential model for other communities.

In year 16 as tournament director, I asked Steve to answer a few questions about how they structured the effort to save Wortham and also the upcoming end to Shell's run as sponsor. Timms also oversees the largest First Tee chapter in the U.S.

Given the importance of this topic in so many cities across the land, we all know how important it is to hear from those successfully tackling this vital issue for golf. Oh, and to see the project underway!

GS: Explain how the Houston Golf Association got into the management and renovation effort at Gus Wortham, and the role Shell Oil Company played?
 
ST: In 2014, Houston Golf Association (HGA) assumed operations of F.M. Law Park Golf Course, taking over maintenance and turning the public golf course into a dedicated The First Tee (TFT) Facility. That same year, we learned about a proposal to turn the historic Gus Wortham Park Golf Course into a botanic garden. As advocates and stewards of the game, we felt it was our duty to help save this golf course and restore it to its former glory.
 
Houston Golf Association, backed by the financial engine of the Shell Houston Open (and Shell Oil Company), was in a position to pursue a solution to manage and operate the courses, raising private funds as a nonprofit self supporting enterprise to maintain facility quality for years to come. Given our proven track record maintaining F.M. Law Park Golf Course, City Council unanimously approved a resolution that Gus Wortham would remain a public golf course operated by the HGA. As we approached our second fundraising milestone needed to initiate the construction start, Shell Oil Company stepped up to provide funds needed for the proposed community center.
 

The Gus Wortham Park property has much potentialGS: Is the non-profit model for this much-needed work something you see as repeatable in other cities with tired courses or is this unique to Houston?
 
ST: The original non-profit model was implemented in Baltimore in the late 80s. We feel that this model is applicable in other cities because it has six main benefits:
 
1) Lessens the financial burden on the government
2) Sets up a sustainable business model (long-term operating lease agreement in our case)
3) Allows for private fundraising to upgrade the facilities
4) Allows cash flow generated from the facilities to be reinvested back into the facilities (by design as a nonprofit)
5) Improves accessibility of affordable golf, and in our case, extends our youth programs (The First Tee of Greater Houston and HGA Junior Golf) into more underserved communities
6) Acts as economic development stimulus in the surrounding communities (in our case, Houston’s East End)

 
GS: Are you looking at ways to revitalize the other city courses?
 
ST: Yes. We have developed an overall master plan for four additional facilities that’s currently being evaluated. We are also proposing the establishment of a new The First Tee location on an old golf course property, Inwood Forest, whose land is owned by the City of Houston.
 
GS: What has been the most difficult aspect for your organization in getting this restoration/revitalization effort going?
 
ST: In January 2015, we signed the contract with the city and were required to raise $5M by the end of that year -- a time period that was challenging for fundraising. Now, with our fundraising needs met, we are experiencing the normal challenges of any organization involved in a major, multi-phase construction project. We are seeing great progress though and are excited about the project’s eventual completion later this year.
 
Construction underway at Gus Wortham ParkGS: From your perspective, what are some of the best ways to “grow the game” and attract new junior golfers?
 
ST: We think it’s important to attract young people and pique their interest in golf at an early age. Through The First Tee of Greater Houston, we reach almost 300,000 students in 455 schools throughout Houston. Access and affordability are also important in trying to foster interest. Public golf courses serve as a key expansion of our The First Tee program into underserved communities. These courses, when revitalized, can provide kids from every walk of life with a place to practice, grow their skills and move into competitive opportunities like our HGA Junior Golf program.
 
GS: Have you seen any impact from the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship in the Houston area?
 
ST: We are proud of our two The First Tee participants, Ariana Saenz and Bella Saenz. Ariana qualified for the Drive, Chip and Putt in 2015. Now her sister is following in her footsteps. Bella is headed to Augusta to participate in the 2017 competition. The fact that they are sisters has certainly generated a lot of buzz and excitement in our community.
 
GS: What is the hoped-for best case scenario for the Shell Houston Open going forward as it looks for a sponsor and the PGA Tour potentially juggles the schedule in a few years?
 
ST: As our 26-year partnership with Shell wraps up, we are continuing to work hard to secure a new title sponsor that will help us continue to do so much in our community. We have enjoyed success with our date before the Masters and hope to keep that date on the schedule, which is dictated by the PGA Tour. 

Sunday
Mar262017

WGC Match Play Wrap: Dustin Johnson Wins, Masters Next Up

Not since Tiger Woods--with Jordan Spieth's 2015 possibly in the mix--has a player been so expected to win, as Doug Ferguson noted in his 2017 WGC Dell Match Play lede:

The final day lasted longer than Dustin Johnson wanted. The outcome was what everyone expected.

After beating Jon Rahm 1 up despite a valiant comeback by Rahm, Steve DiMeglio notes for USA Today that even the opponent is in awe.

"It's amazing how he's able to keep cool the entire round," said Rahm, who beat Bill Haas, 3 and 2, in the semis. "He's just a perfect, complete player."

In addition to beating Rahm and Tanihara, Johnson topped major champions Webb Simpson, Martin Kaymer, Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson. He also beat Alex Noren in the round of 16.

Not a bad roster of players he knocked off!

Rex Hoggard says that Johnson is insisting it's not as easy as it looks:

Dominant? Sure, just don’t call it easy.

“I mean, some days it does [feel easy],” Johnson said. “But about 95 percent of the days it does not. But some days, yeah, it's easier. I feel like when you're rolling in putts, that's when the game gets pretty easy.”

Hoggard also notes this on Johnson's run:

Since winning the U.S. Open last June, Johnson has won six of 17 starts, including the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in dominant fashion. That’s a 35 percent winning clip that includes a major and three World Golf Championship keepsakes to become the first player to claim all four WGCs

ESPN.com's Jason Sobel pointed out arguably the most impressive stat of the week in considering how easy Johnson makes things look:

These are the words of a player who went 112 holes this week and never trailed. A player who competed against seven world-class opponents and, one by one, watched them retreat like he was playing a five-day-long game of Whack-A-Mole.

Todd Lewis's interview with Johnson for Golf Channel immediately after play:

Johnson takes home a nice check, but also some sweet loot:

Check out the player gift from Dell that Johnson Tweeted: 

The final round highlights from PGA Tour Entertainment.

Sunday
Mar262017

Instant Poll: Did You Love The Long Ball At WGC Match Play?

Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson put on a great show in the WGC Dell Match Play final but it was hard not to notice the ways they were playing a game few can relate to.

Several times their ability to turn normal holes into drivable ones appeared to add intrigue, but they also rendered par-5s and several long par-4s into drive-wedge affairs that seemed to diminish the potential for Austin Country Club to interject risk-reward fun.

So for the purposes of asking and for some Morning Drive discussion tomorrow, I ask...

How did the prodigious driving distances impact the quality of Sunday's WGC Dell Match Play final?
 
pollcode.com free polls

Sunday
Mar262017

Video: Hideto Tanihara Aces Austin CC's 7th Hole

Hideto Tanihara collects the fourth ace in Dell Match Play history and continues an epic week in Austin on his way to a visit to Augusta.

Saturday
Mar252017

Roundup: Intriguing 2017 WGC Match Play Semis Set

I really love this final group of four in the 2017 WGC Dell Match Play and here's why:

-Dustin Johnson, the best player on the planet.

-Jon Rahm, Spaniard trending to become the best player faster than even his biggest cheerleaders expected.

-Bill Haas, immensely talented veteran who plays quickly, yet overcame Kevin Na's horrific pace and is also peaking in time for Augusta.

-Hideto Tanihara, hard-swinging Japan Golf Tour vet who puts the world in World Golf Championship. Oh, and he's going to the Masters now, Rex Hoggard notes for GolfChannel.com.

Doug Ferguson's AP game story has Johnson and Rahm trending toward the final based on their stunning dominance.

Ron Green Jr. for Global Golf Post delves deeper into the ways Johnson and Rahm have dominated.

Rahm has a chance to be the event's youngest winner, writes Ben Everill.

The 13th hole will figure prominently in Sunday's matches, but Dustin Johnson won't be driving it, writes Hoggard.

The 12th hole has proved pivotal again and it's one of the better holes Pete Dye has designed. I can't wait to see where the flag is placed on the double plateau-ish green Sunday. However, beware of bailing right, as I noted for Morning Drive in this short on-course segment.

In the ShackHouse bracket, Mike.E.Jensen takes a slim lead into Sunday. I'm at 168th with no hope after picking Spieth to win it all.

The quarterfinals highlights from PGA Tour Entertainment.

Friday
Mar242017

Dan Jenkins Medal For Sportswriting Announced & Visiting With The Little Red Book

Paul Harral explains in detail what UT's new Dan Jenkins Medal For Excellence in Sportswriting means and talks to His Ownself about the honor.

Writing for The Fort Worth Business Press, Harral notes:

Jenkins is known from here to Baja Oklahoma as one of the best sports journalists to ever grace the pages of a newspaper or a magazine and both fiction and non-fiction books.

“I get a tie with Red Smith and Ring Lardner, who have awards for sportswriters,” Jenkins said. “In fact, I've received the Red Smith from the AP sports editors and I am receiving the Ring Lardner from the Union League of Chicago the week after the Masters. Usually, you don't get these things when you're still vertical.”

The event also exposed many of us non-Horns to the Stark Center, a stunning collection of sports memorablia and papers stored in a huge, impressive archive. Jenkins pledged during the evening to leave some of his papers at the same place Harvey Penick's Little Red Book is housed.

I discussed with Gary Williams what it was like to see the book and read some of its contents, and Tweeted a few pictures from the night:

Friday
Mar242017

If Ben Hogan Met Trackman...

Guy Yocom wonders if Mr. Secrets in the Dirt Ben Hogan would have embraced Trackman and what his numbers might have said about his swing.

Talking to top instructors like Chuck Cook, David Leadbetter, Sean Foley, Charlie Epps and Joe Mayo,

The near-universal belief that Hogan swung the club slightly to the left through impact requires that his clubface not be open relative to the target. An open clubface combined with a leftward path, is a lethal combination—slice city. Thus, the teachers who voted for a -1 path, all combined it with a clubface that was at 0—perfectly square to the target line. This indicates that Hogan was, above all, a “path fader.” The very slight left-to-right fade he imposed—again, we’re talking a few yards here—was the result of his path, not an open clubface. One teacher (Leadbetter) suggested that Hogan’s clubface could have been -1, or closed to the target line. But he combines it with a path that was possibly -2, making it a safe and reasonable opinion.

I think another fun question for the group: how much would Hogan have used a Trackman? Before and after every round, or just on occasion? Or not at all?

Thursday
Mar232017

DraftKings Rolls Out Golf Push On Significant Growth Signs

The ramifications could be significant for golf on television and its appeal to a broader audience, therefore the DraftKings push this spring will undoubtedly be watched closely. How successful it all becomes could even influence television negotiations, fan interest and the overall health of professional golf. (You may recall Golf Channel's Rich Lerner asking new PGA Tour Commish Jay Monahan about this in January and receiving a surprisingly open-minded response.)

Dustin Gouker at League Sports Report notes the pre-Masters push DraftKings is making to go all in to grow their audience via enhanced app and site, uh, games. 

According to DraftKings, fantasy golf on its platform has “experienced a 23x growth and more than 15 million entries” since launch.

Gouker explained the difference in DraftKings and rival/future partner Fan Duel's approach to fantasy golf here.

The ad campaign is clever. Though how much of this is real, I don't know. But it's entertaining and of course, will lure many of us to make a donation to their cause!