After you power-flip past the instruction overload, Golf Digest offers up an outstanding Masters preview issue.
Jaime Diaz compiles a must-read oral history of Seve's career highlights and struggles . Links also has a cover story on Seve by Lauren St. John. A long, entertaining and insightful interview with Jim Nantz includes his most embarrassing on-air moment, his insistence that the Augusta people do not tell them to say things like "patrons," his belief that golf is not an elitist sport and his self-nomination as defender of golf's integrity (and Titleist's!).
Nick Seitz looks at the practice round ritual of skipping balls off the lake at 16 , the only exciting thing to do on Tuesday at the Masters besides shopping. And there's this look at the underground green heating and drainage system at Augusta with photo and cool illustration.
Observations by Geoff Shackelford
After you power-flip past the instruction overload, Golf Digest offers up an outstanding Masters preview issue.
In an interview with Josha Hill of Golf Magazine (not online yet), Tom Fazio talks about the changes and other course related topics. He pinpoints #2 as the weakest hole on the course and here I was think that green complex was one of the most amazing in the world! Anyway, this riveting exchange pretty much sums things up:
Hill: Ben Crenshaw, Two time Masters champion, has voiced his criticism of the changes.
Fazio: Sure, but who would be a modern-day Crenshaw? In terms of size, wouldn't you say Mike Weir?
Hill: Weir hits it a little longer than Crenshaw.
Fazio: No, Weir hits it a lot longer than Crenshaw. But in terms of Tour average, Weir is among the shorter hitters.
Hill: What about shorter hitters like Pavin and Faldo who may no longer be able to compete at Augusta?
Fazio: They can't compete with young golfers anyway. Go to a college and look at the team's top-10 players. You won't find a player that hits it short. They don't make the team.
I would like to claim that this is a pre-April Fool's joke. But it's not.
This Doug Ferguson column looks at the TPC Sawgrass and serves up a surprisingly harsh verdict from players about the par-3 17th from Ferguson and players: “Majors test skill, patience and nerves. At times, they require luck. But they should never demand it.”
Ouch. Make sure you read to the second page for the quotes from Funk and Woods criticizing "their" course and "their" tournament, as 8 million promos reminded us during the Players.
Doug Ferguson also looks at The Players and how other majors exempt its winners .
You have to give the USGA credit. They only give the Players winner a
pass for one year! And if you haven’t had enough of Ferguson, here’s his notes column where he points out
that the setups the “last two weeks showed that certain conditions can
place a premium on accuracy.” And they also show that rough and narrow
fairways will give you automatic 5 hour rounds, stars teeing off early
and freakish golf if the wind kicks up.
Frank Hannigan is skeptical ofAlan Shipnuck's SI scoop on Tiger's new ball. Hannigan points out where Shipnuck's story may have embellished the importance of this new ball or tech guru Rock Ishi by not pointing out that the ball is a USGA conforming piece of equipment. There is still little doubt that Tiger has regained some of his distance advantage in the last year, especially in terms of carry.
Hannigan points to Tiger's minor rise in driving distance average as evidence that some of Ishii's claims are excessive, but this year's stats have been compromised by the wetter than normal conditions. The stats also don't explain some of the optimized 350-yarders he has hit in competition, some of which aren't rolling more than 10 yards.
Sunday’s taped morning round replay featured this NBC exchange as the 11th hole was on the screen:
Johnny Miller: If you think something looks different about the course this week it’s because the sand has been replaced by this gorgeous white sand. And it just really looks good. Doesn’t it Dan?
Dan Hicks: All of the sand is uniform for the very first time. They rebuilt all of the bunkers last October.
Yes, and this is why the course looks like a bad video game rendition of its former self.
In the March 26 Golfweek, Brad Klein writes about the USGA’s effort to improve the Executive Committee nominating process. He also writes about the USGA’s new policy on who can speak to the media and who’s been sent solitary confinement (Tom “Ernie gave up” Meeks). The only ones who can talk to the media: David Fay, Marty Parkes and PR-firm Powell-Tate’s two most recent graduates, USGA President Fred “they’re just better athletes” Ridley, and Walter “it was a mistaken mowing” Driver.
How wacky is the USGA these days? According to Klein, at a mid-March superintendents meeting CO-SPONSORED by the USGA Green Section, the USGA’s Tim Moraghan had to cancel his planned talk on “What Makes A Successful Open” because of the new media policy!
If…the PGA Tour just took the money they've spent on developing ads for the "Drive To A Billion" campaign and donated it to charity, they'd already be at a billion.
And...isn't there something wrong when it only takes two years to be eligible for the U.S. Women's Open after a, gulp, "gender reassignment,” yet it takes three years to regain your amateur status?
You don’t want to miss this audio presentation by Rees Jones for a project in Iowa. The article with this audio link says: "Golf course designer Reece Jones has agreed to design a golf course for a gambling casino complex planned for Riverside, which is just south of Iowa City in Washington County."
In the presentation, Jones talks about the Open Doctor mantel being passed on to him in the "family business" and how he learns from these Open Doctoring jobs. The wisdom picked up is passed along to new projects like this one. And here I thought he did it for the love of REEstoring!
The article states that “Jones says casino golf resorts give him a chance to help take golf to a new plane as there's a 'new age of golf' in which more high-quality, public courses are being built.”
"Public golfers are now part of our national heritage," Jones says.
Meanwhile, you’ll be glad to know Vijay’s getting into the design
business (well, IMG is) and he’s not going to build ‘em easy! The Cleveland Plain Dealer has the gory details.
"I think golf course designing needs a new hand in it,” the new press-friendly Singh said. “You've got [the Jack] Nicklauses and [Greg] Normans and Pete Dyes. I think a new name would change the character of golf courses. I'm lucky I have the opportunity to do some of that.
"A lot of guys build golf courses now for member play, member friendly. I keep telling guys that you go to the top 100 best golf courses in the world and they're all very tough golf courses. You don't see a member-friendly course in the top 10 in the world."
Thankfully, the course will be in Fiji, so none of us will have to endure it.
Tiger at the Players following round 1:
Q. You also had apparently a very long round. Does that bother you at all? It was close to five hours.
TIGER WOODS: You expect it. I mean, our Tour is so slow. Welcome to the PGA TOUR, five plus. We're lucky we didn't have inclement weather. If the wind had been blowing it would have been five and a half, easy. It's one of those things where it's just a slow march around the golf course. You get used to it playing on the Tour, and it doesn't really surprise you.
Keep adding more rough, more length and we can these rounds up to 5 and a half on average, 6 on a tough day!
This week's SI features Rick Reilly ranting about Mark McGwire and SI's cover story on the steroid issue in baseball. Then there's an exclusive from Alan Shipnuck on how Tiger
(sub. req.) has picked up 10-12 yards by simply changing to a new,
top-secret Nike ball due out in May. And then there was Jim Herre's
Trust Me comment: "It's only a matter of time before there's a
baseball-like drug scandal in golf."
Which made me wonder why everyone is so bent out of shape about steroid usage in baseball, when it isn't a surprise and some of McGwire's admitted-to use was legal at the time. Meanwhile in golf, performance-enhancing equipment which has and will continue to work around USGA rules, that's A-OK? I know, I know, all the health stuff and "the children" have something to do with it. And reliance on consumerism is an okay thing to ingrain in the kids. Sorry, I forgot.
Bob Harig in the St. Petersburg Times looks at flogging and has some interesting quotes from architect Brian Silva , as well as the same Johnny Miller quote that appeared only in my Golfobserver.com column .
SI’s Chris Lewis wins the award for most creative (and probably not well received in Ponte Vedra) fifth major reference, writing that The Players is as “near to a major as you can get without a dead guy's name on the trophy.” He also mentions the flog approach to Tour golf and the Johnny Miller line.
Also on SI.com, the wacky lists just keep on coming, with Scott Wraight’s look at the best “non-majors.” The dreaded AT&T lands third! Wraight says you “gotta like a tournament in which Bill Murray, Ray Romano and Kevin James yuck it up with fans while hitting balls all over creation.” The players love it so much, most stay home. Even Roger Maltbie gets in the field!
Miracle of all miracles, my March 25 Golf World arrived today (still waiting on those 3-18 and 3-11 issues!). David Fay is quoted on the USGA's progressive stance regarding the "gender reassignment" movement.
"The movement in this direction is inexorable," said Fay. Sorry, what movement? Uh, and only Bobby Jones can use that word without sounding like a blowhard.
***Update: David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel (reg. requird) writes about the issue , quotes a few male players and in general is like the rest of us: shocked that this is an important issue. Meanwhile, Fay tells Whitley that "this subject is quite disquieting for a lot of people." No, it's ridiculously funny. He also states that gender reassignment is" more a matter of human rights than the science."
Eager to read Tim Finchem’s annual Player's song and dance act in front of the media? Don’t, it’s brutal, even with decent questions and follow-ups from the assembled gazetteers. A few highlights:
We ran the numbers this morning, and this is, strength-of-field-wise, our strongest field in history.
Finchem says this every year at the Players and Jim Awtrey does the same at the PGA. What does it mean? How do you really know it’s the strongest field? And who cares?
This year we're very pleased that we have a couple of new sponsors -- well, one new sponsor in UBS which joins PriceWaterhouseCoopers as our proud supporters.
Isn’t UBS having a special outing Monday after the tournament? No, no one asked that juicy follow up.
You know, the major leagues are investing $400 or $500 million in new stadia [SP.] around the country, whether it be baseball or basketball or football, and they're doing it for the purpose of being able to create an overall fan experience to be able to compete in today's world for some of that time, and we have to address at our tournaments the same kind of competitive needs, and that requires some infrastructure renewal that you'll be seeing us get into over the next five years.
Q. Does that impact your newer courses that you're building?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, yes, but it also -- you'll see some of that in San Antonio if we finish up and get going down there, but you'll also see us reinvesting in older clubs starting right here in a couple of years to make that transition to be able to compete in a different kind of environment than we had 15 years ago.
Tim, just say it. You need to renovate some of the TPC’s to deal with the ball, err, better athletes. Oh, and some of them really stink as stadium golf courses.
Q. There was some comments made by Nissan, the sponsor, comments to the effect that the PGA TOUR is one of the only places you know where you can work two days a week and get paid for a week's work. Is there any thought to giving sponsors a break in the event the tournament does not complete three or four rounds?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Did they really say that?
Q. It was printed.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Oh, it was printed.
Looks like the Commish isn’t reading the LA Times (and other publications) where remarks by Nissan’s John Gill were featured prominently.
Q. How much are you talking about investing, and are you looking at perhaps liquidating some of the TPC courses that don't show positive cash flow?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I'm not looking at liquidating anything, and what we may or may not spend is a matter we would discuss on a case-by-case basis at the appropriate time.
Uh, Tim, the liquidating thing that fell through made it in, like, every golf publication. You tried a mini-fire sale of the real dogs of the TPC network. Everyone knows. Sign this man up for a "PGA TOUR(C)" Google News Alert!
Tom Hanson in the Naples News (reg required) repo rts that the TPC Sawgrass is playing soft and slow. And he quotes Tiger, who seems to be joining the list of players not so fond of the U.S. Open set up at Sawgrass.
"It would be a lot better if there was no rough at all," Woods said. "When we first came here there was no rough and that's how it's meant to be played, but they've kind of changed since then and gone more to a U.S. Open-type setup."
thing you know, they'll say they don't like the Augusta-like flowers,
the Augusta-like pin striping, the Augusta-like theme music, the
Augusta-like maintained pine needle patches, the Augusta-like jacket
ceremony or all of the other not-so original ideas designed to take the
character right out of the place. Brats they are, I tell you!
***Update: Thanks to reader Tim for this debate between Bob Harig and Ron Sirak, where Sirak says 17 at Sawgrass isn't the most exciting hole in golf because there are no options or decisions to make. Love it that he's talking options and decisions, but what hole is he watching? Watch the players try and decide if they are going to flirt with any of the traditional hole locations.
…To forget about driver testing. Turns out Tiger had to get his
Nike driver tested at the request of Tom Pernice. Excuse me, that's Tom
Pernice Jr. (the Tour hopes we’ll confuse these Jr.'s and III's with
English gentry by tacking that onto their names, even if the players
don’t like it…I wish I was making that up).
AP's Doug Ferguson has all of the details of Tiger driver test and reiterates the following anecdote related to another recent anonymous equipment check:
Tour officials tested the grooves in Phil Mickelson's wedges two years ago because someone saw him hit a shot out of the rough with an extraordinary amount of spin. Before long, Mickelson figured out it was Michael Clark, and left him a note in his locker thanking him for his concern and wishing him well at Q-school.
And you didn’t think Phil had a sense of humor?
Douglas Lowe of The Herald gently rolls his eyes at the notion of the Players as a fifth major, while Mark Lamport-Stokes of Reuters repeats the fifth major line like he’s working off a PGA Tour press release. Not a full fledged call from Reuters for the fifth of four majors to become the fifth of five, but a nice start to a week of always tedious press coverage.
Just typing out loud here..if the Players becomes a major, will it count as the sixth major for the Champions Tour players in the field who already play five on their own Tour?
Oh, and TGC's Brian Hewitt reports the rough is up and that the players refer to this as the TPC, which the Tour, err, TOUR(C) brass hates.
Golf World’s Ron Whitten wrote a great story on Pete Dye’s original
design and why many players believe the rough is rather un-Dye like .
***Update: James Corrigan of The Independent refers to the “so-called fifth major.” What’s this sarcasm stuff? Surely someone is desperate for a column this week and will declare the TPC the fifth major. Or could it be that the Tour's push for "major status" has worn everyone out?
Golfobserver's Frank Hannigan addresses the Travel Golf and Leisure nomination
of Tiger for president with several hilarious anecdotes about various
golfers and politicians. Don’t skip the part describing Hope Classic
sponsor’s parties and getting seated with Hall of Fame baseball player
turned loopy senator Jim Bunning.
...To sit in on the USGA Executive Committee discussion establishing a gender policy. According to iseekgolf, “Under the USGA's new policy, transgender athletes will be eligible to compete two years after having gender reassignment surgery, subject to certain proof of gender guidelines. The USGA will appoint a medical committee to advise the Association in developing these guidelines and implementing the new policy.”
Those medical committee meetings ought to be lively, though not as captivating as say, the World Amateur Golf Council Committee or the Advisory Committee of Past Women's Committee Chairmen.
The Florida Times-Union's Garry Smits writes like, a million stories previewing the fifth of golf’s four majors. One of them is a look at Tour wives and how they are not all just retired flight attendants. They do amazing charity work, and Smits quotes the head of PGA Tour player relations to back up this assertion!
Also this weekend… John Huggan is really down on the US majors , except The Players Championship. He says it should be a major. Unfortunately, Huggan’s piece will not qualify for GS.com’s first ever “inane golf writing watch” because it’s way too interesting and funny. This contest will search long and hard to find the first and subsequent stories by bored newspaper columnists reciting the wordy mantra of PGA Tour Vice Presidents: “the Players should be golf’s fifth major.” To win, Huggan needed to make the ridiculous assertion that golf needs a fifth major (and the TPC is it!).
Also, Golfweek's Rex Hoggard celebrates the crop, err, rough at Bay Hill
becuse it returned sanity to the flogging that took place at early Tour
stops (of course, with this ridiculous rough come 5 hour rounds, an
inspiring Kenny Perry win and peace on earth).