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Posts from January to February 2005
Observations by Geoff Shackelford

Tuesday
Feb012005

The Valiant Competitors Tour

Golf World's Ron Sirak gives a big thumbs up to the PGA Tour for banning carts on the Champions Tour.

“The decision to ban carts in competitive rounds of the Champions Tour - they can still be used in the pro-am - is part of an intelligent effort to re-establish the glory of a tour that started 26 years ago with Sam Snead and was nurtured along by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.”

Of course, this ignores the fact that the Senior Tour became popular with cranky old geezers whizzing by in their carts. So how will losing the carts (and likely entertainers like Chi Chi) return glory that was built with the help of carts?

Sirak also writes, “Prior to the cart decision was the name change - another shrewd marketing move. Senior Tour sounds a little too much like a senior moment - which is not a good thing. Champions Tour creates the image of valiant competitors who have earned their way onto the circuit.”

If these valiant competitors are so boldly earning their way on to the Tour, then they be pushing for larger fields, a more generous number of Q-School exemptions and in general, more competition from non-PGA Tour all-time money list winners?

Speaking of the Valiant Competitors Tour, Gary Van Sickle sits down with Greg Norman and some lug from MacGregor to plug his new endorsement deal. Norman talks about his schedule on the Valiant Competitors tour and it's basically relegated to the Valiant Competitors majors. All five of them.

Monday
Jan312005

Royal Melbourne Week on TGC

Monday
Jan312005

Misc Weekend Reads 

A New Zealand paper has the scoop on the serious hand injuries sustained by Steve Williams, and more important to the Nissan Open in two weeks, the story says Williams will be back on Tiger’s bag when he returns in “two weeks.” Woods remains uncommitted to the event.

Al Burleson of the Huntsville Times is sick of receiving mailers from the USGA soliciting money for a membership, even though he’s already a member. The Scotsman's John Huggan looks at David Duval’s struggles, which included a back nine 49 during the third round of the Hope. And Golf World’s take on the pending Champions Tour lawsuit is now posted online, with this stellar quote from Champions Commish Rick George, who couldn't comment on any potential litigation.

"I would just say that we're looking to the future, which is more important than lingering about things in the past."

Uh, Rick it's dwelling. Dwelling on things in the past.

Friday
Jan282005

Golf News Network Interview

Geoff's interview with Ryan Ballengee on The Golf News Network is now posted. Topics on the January 25 show

include Torrey Pines, future U.S. Open sites, Whistling Straits, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo's ABC commentary.

Friday
Jan282005

Business of Golf Circle...Err...Conference

Appearing before a tiny crowd (Fred Ridley: “You might want to do this a little later in the day next time, hopefully get a few more people here, but thanks to all of you who did come out”), some of golf’s big wigs got together at the PGA Show to discuss the state of the game.

Naturally, after they got done thanking one another and admiring their devotion to minorities, women and their fellow governing bodies, the panel turned to messier topics like technology. This allowed PGA Tour Commish Tim Finchem to plug ShotLink and state for the record that he’s relying on the USGA to get him out of this mess. The discussion gave USGA President Fred Ridley a chance to make a ridiculous statement in defense of the USGA.

Ridley: “We really haven't seen the types of increases in the past couple of years that we saw back in the 90s.” (1999 Tour avg.: 271 yards; 2004 Tour avg.: 287 yards)

But Ridley sees golf coming back. Corporate tent sales at Pinehurst look good: “I think we've seen corporate involvement, corporate spending starting to come back. I know in our environment that has certainly been evident at our championships. Certainly the U.S. Open we are going to have a terrific year this year at Pinehurst.”

These guys are good!

Thursday
Jan272005

Different USGA Spin on Tourney Ball

Different USGA Spin on Tourney Ball
January 27, 2005

Vartan Kupelian in the Detroit News takes an in-depth look at the golf ball distance debate. He offers some of the most extensive quotes to date from Callaway spokesman Larry Dorman, whose company supports the idea of a tournament ball, while the USGA technical director Dick Rugge spins the debate in a new way.

"We don't believe that would be fair," said Rugge. "Any ball (and set of specifications) you pick will be good for some golfers and not good for some golfers. You create a non-level playing field. We wouldn't favor that any more than we would favor one standard club or one standard pair of shoes or glove. Those are all personal choices."

Of course, none of the folks supporting a tournament ball concept advocate only one cover design or one manufacturer making such a ball. Nor is the tournament ball idea any more unfair than the current launch monitor driven nonsense approved by the USGA, and which has widened the gap between those at the high end of the clubhead speed spectrum, and those who are merely average.

Meanwhile, Dorman outlines how the ball would work.

"Based on what I've heard the tour say, what they would focus on would be a ball that essentially was a slower ball. The overall distance would shrink by reining in the initial velocity. You could maintain the same flight characteristics. Each manufacturer could meet those specifications. If the tour would say tomorrow here are the specs and you have to meet these specs in order for your ball to be approved, everybody could come up with a ball that met those specifications."

Wednesday
Jan262005

Misc. Reads***

Ernie Els writes about going to the Titleist test center to find a new driver for the soft fairways at Torrey Pines. So with little roll and heavy fog, he still averaged 313 yards off the tee. I say it's all the time he put in at the punching bag! Also, Tod Leonard reports on the dismal ratings for the Buick. And there's confirmation of a new NBC-USGA TV deal extension to 2014. Finally, Jeff Babineau has the scoop on the impending Champions Tour lawsuit over carts, which promises to be one of the dumbest battles the PGA Tour has ever taken on.

***Update: Terry Vassey advocates 12-hole courses in Golfdom. Richard Hack's outstanding look at the life and golfing times of Howard Hughes is now posted at golfonline. Curtis Strange's "My Shot" in the February Golf Digest is also worth reading.

Wednesday
Jan262005

More Whistling Analysis 

John McGrath in the Tacoma News Tribune points out several oddities in the PGA's decision to drop Sahallee, including why they award the events so far in advance. The best jab: he points out that Oak Hill hosted the 1980 PGA when the Winter Olympics were held in nearby Lake Placid.

The AP's Doug Ferguson weighs in skeptically as well and reports that the USGA’s David Fay offered his congratulations to Jim Awtrey in a congratulatory concession call (can we all say, oy vey!).

"I commend the PGA for identifying Whistling Straits early, taking the bold step of taking the PGA there last year and buttoning it up," Fay said. "Once they got what seems to be a winner -- clearly, it's a winner in the eyes of the players, press and public -- it was a good move on their part."

To which Ferguson wrote, “The USGA will move on with no shortage of great courses available. Then again, the U.S. Open doesn't need a golf course to establish its identity.”

Not the way they set up courses!

Finally, the Seattle Times reports that the PGA claims to be considering Sahallee for one of the 2012-2014 open dates. We're on the edge of our seats here!

Tuesday
Jan252005

Two PGA’s and a Ryder Cup For Kohler!

Well, the PGA failed to do the world a favor by yanking the 2008 Ryder Cup from Valhalla. But they did hand Whistling Straits the 2010 and 2015 PGA Championships along with the 2020 Ryder Cup, “subject to sufficient guaranteed quality hotel rooms,” whatever that means.

The fortuitous 2010 opening came about because the February 12-28, 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver presented "obstacles” with the August, 2010 PGA Championship slated for totally forgettable Sahallee.

Interestingly, the USGA’s annual winter meeting takes place in a few weeks and likely would have been a nice time to approve a 2012 U.S. Open at Whistling Straits. But Jim Awtrey and crew beat out David Fay and the Executive Committee. Fay has recently shown Tagliabuesque connivance when it comes to the venue leverage and negotiation game. (Making one wonder what good is he if he’s been outdueled by the PGA of America?).

Well, the good news for Olympic Club, Olympia Fields, Pumpkin Ridge, Riviera, Pinehurst and others hoping to be included in the 2012 Open fray: your main competition is locked up. And all thanks to the Winter Olympics!

Tuesday
Jan252005

Callaway Struggles?

“Callaway Golf Company (NYSE:ELY) today announced it has engaged the services of the Chicago-based global executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles to assist the Company in its search for a new Chief Executive Officer.”

A struggling company looking to a firm named Struggles to find a new CEO? Is this a Dan Jenkins novel? Will Hazard, Tweed and Risk be handling their accounting?

Tuesday
Jan252005

Misc. Reads From The Bunker

Golf World’s Bunker runs down (and basically celebrates) the likely USGA amateur status changes, while Ron Sirak seems to bemoan the entire notion of allowing some amateurs to act like pros.

“The wink and a nod given to Woods, whose father worked at one point during Tiger's amateur career for International Management Group and who walked the course at the 1996 U.S. Amateur decked out in a Titleist hat and Nike clothing - two companies with which Tiger eventually signed - seems to be on its way to becoming a total blind eye. No one, it seems, wants to blow the whistle on a top amateur who may be getting money under the table, so the alternative is to remove the table.”

Also in this edition of the bunker is word of a review at Venice, California’s legendary Penmar links, where two course employees have allegedly stolen thousands and given out free play passes (isn’t this a way of life at all L.A. City courses?). But don’t worry, our crack Mayor, James Hahn, who himself is the subject of at least three corruption investigations, “has requested an audit of "all golf course admission processes."

Monday
Jan242005

Weekend Reads***

In the wire service game story covering Tiger’s Torrey Pines win, I couldn’t help but notice this: “When it was finally over, he had his 41st career victory and ended an 0-for-21 streak in stroke-play events.” Forty-one wins…scary!

Also, don’t miss Steve Elling’s Golf World profile of Tour rookie Sean O’Hair and his struggle to succeed with an absolutely insane father, who appears to be like all of the bad tennis fathers combined into one egomaniac. Makes you really want to root for O’Hair to make it.

Also the San Diego Union Tribune’s Jay Posner has the story on Charles Howell’s horribly unlucky break on 18 Sunday, while Tod Leonard and Ed Zieralski in the same paper write about Tiger’s good fortune on the same hole, along with some other interesting notes, including the touchy 2006 Ryder Cup captaincy issue.

Friday
Jan212005

Herb, We Found An Excuse to Return in 2010!***

The PGA of America found an excuse to not play the 2010 PGA Championship at dreadful Sahallee, claiming that the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver will create a [corporate tent sales] conflict. But even better, this looks like another open date to wave at Herb Kohler, who wants majors at Whistling Straits and wants them now.

My vote would be for dropping Valhalla as 2008 Ryder Cup host and replacing it with Whistling Straits. Of course, Whistling Straits hosts the much anticipated 2007 U.S. Senior Open, which might force Kohler to drop that highly sought after championship.

***Update: Shocker of all shockers, the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal's Gary D'Amato reports that the PGA of America appears primed to announce Whistling Straits as the 2010 PGA replacement site, messing up the USGA's plan to possibly award the 2012 U.S. Open to the course. And it looks like Kohler will keep the 2007 Senior Open.

Friday
Jan212005

NGCOA Column

Thursday
Jan202005

Amateurism’s Demise, Vol. 93

On golfobserver.com, Frank Hannigan outlines the latest USGA changes to amateur status rules (also reported in the new Golf World). Basically, the USGA is working hard to render itself irrelevant, and once again, to match tennis when it comes to compromising what little integrity is left in the concept of amateurism.

Speaking of amateurs who aren't really amateurs, this AP story outlines how Michelle Wie’s likely jump to the professional ranks could happen at the end of this year.

In a different realm of governing body shenanigans, Golf Magazine's Peter Kostis writes about the barely reported Q-school debacle in Texas, and blasts the Tour for not treating the qualifying school with more respect. Sadly, most Q-School contestants will tell you he's right.

Wednesday
Jan192005

Dude, Where's My Torrey?

Tuesday
Jan182005

Misc. Reads…

Golfweek reports that the PGA Tour’s effort to unload some of the really lousy TPC’s has fallen through. ESPN.com has this story on the LPGA selling out its membership by adding an amateur spot in the field to get Michelle Wie in their formerly all-professional LPGA Championship. And Golf World’s Bunker includes Stu Schneider’s excellent telecast reviews and a note about "Sideways" and "American Splendor" star Paul Giamatti, who it turns out is the voice of Frank, Tiger’s always entertaining headcover.

Tuesday
Jan182005

Casey Apology Tour 

Paul Hayward in the (UK) Telegraph offers a provocative commentary on Paul Casey’s recent Nike-coordinated apology campaign.

“For piety, nothing quite beats Nike's decision to consult Tiger Woods and senior US Tour officials before offering Casey a contract to wear their gear,” Hayward. “The world is off its moral axis when a company who have been accused of employing cheap labour in sweatshops become the moral arbiters on a golfer's personal opinions.

“This little display of corporate self-righteousness has sent the thought police scuttling through sport. The message to young athletes is now clear: Nike will control not just what you wear but what you think. If Woods did not have the swoosh tattooed on his soul, he would have told the suits from Nike to get lost.”

Meanwhile in SI a couple of weeks ago, Alan Shipnuck offered an excellent profile of Casey (subscription required). And it included this claim from Wally Uhlien, CEO of Acushnet, who issued a press release to announce that the company was severing ties with Casey over his comments, even though the sides had already agreed to go their own separate ways.

"We were receiving 25 to 50 e-mails per hour from U.S.-based customers threatening to boycott our products unless we clarified our position with Paul Casey. Players want to be independent contractors, free to say what they want to say. But they also want to be paid for representing the company. When any personal-opinion comments are made by a player, it is possible that those comments can put the company they are associated with in a lose-lose situation.”

Uh, 25 to 50 emails per hour? Were there 25 people in the United States who knew Casey was with Titliest before the press release?

Sunday
Jan162005

Anyone got the balls to change? 

The Scotsman’s John Huggan sums up the distance issue quite nicely in this lengthy and interesting column.

“The bottom line is that golf at the highest level today is far less interesting to watch than it was even ten years ago. An almost- constant diet of 3-wood/wedge holes on the PGA Tour has inspired viewers to switch off in droves.”

Huggan talks to R&A secretary Peter Dawson, who says the distance problem is merely a matter of opinion. Well, sort of.

"I don’t think anyone was clever enough [certainly not at the USGA or R&A] to foresee the technological advances we have witnessed in the last decade or more," Dawson said, winning the early 2005 award for more ridiculous comment by a governing body head.

"And I don’t think we are clever enough today to see what they will be like 20 years from now.” But a few minutes later…

"Besides, we have reached a technology plateau. There is next to nothing more that can be done with the ball.” Well, if that’s the case, then how come you can’t predict the future?

Dawson later poses a rhetorical question and answers himself lamely.

"Should players gain 20 yards just from equipment? Well, it is a fact that they have. Would I rather golf be played 20 yards shorter than it is now? Probably. Do I think it has damaged the game? Not so sure about that. Not in a big way, anyway.

"For me, fitness will be the only factor from now on. If that proves to be wrong, then something will be done. And I think something will be done anyway.”

Say what? Which is it?

“If I am right and distance continues to increase at around one yard per year for players continuing to get bigger and stronger, in a decade the best will be ten yards longer. Which is more than we would like to see."

So it’s not a problem, but any small increase at this point is a problem?

"We would need acceptance from golf as a whole about what to do. But some things are, for me, set in stone. We totally believe in one set of rules. It would be a huge mistake to split them between elite golf and the rest. It is a central pillar of the popularity of the game that you think you can play the same game as Tiger.

"If you split the rules, who would make them? I worry that the result would be the thin end of a wedge where, 40 years from now, you’d have two golfs, one played with a tour ball and one played by the rest of us. The tours would want to make their own rules. Then, as an example, a television company might think that 18 holes doesn’t quite fit its scheduling, and wouldn’t 15 holes be better? Or someone might say that two-foot putts are bit boring; let’s do away with them.

"I know I’m exaggerating to make a point, but I worry about that sort of thing creeping in. I don’t think we should be taking such risks with the game of golf, and it doesn’t have to be now. I feel very strongly about this: not on my watch."

Gee, that’s a shocker.

Friday
Jan142005

Apocalypse Now Trump Edition, Vol. 29 

The L.A. Times (reg.required) looks at Donald Trump’s real estate venture at Ocean Trails…err…Trump National at Palos Verdes…errr…Los Angeles. The registration is worth it to see the photo of Donald, backed by a steep bunker face defying the laws of gravity. Favorite lines from the story:

“The course has been reconfigured to meet Trump's high standards as a six-handicap golfer.”

“The 45,000-square-foot clubhouse has been revamped in Trump's ornate decorating style. Crystal chandeliers costing $85,000 apiece replaced California Mission-style wrought iron fixtures and travertine marble went in over the terra cotta floors.”