Now posted is my Golfobserver.com column complimenting Hootie Johnson on (some) of his foresight and wisdom. Oh, and in the "let's get Hootie signed up for Shotlink department": reader Josh noticed that Tiger's long drive for the week (and seemingly every other player's) came on the fourteenth hole. Tiger's longest is listed as 315 yards. Considering he had at least two in the 375 range that we saw on live TV (#2 Sat., #1 Sunday), plus at least 10 more during televised coverage that pushed the 320 range, I'd say it's time for Hootie Johnson to bring ShotLink to Augusta. On second thought, if it leads to more tree planting....maybe not.
Seth Davis of SI has an excellent report on his day following Tiger from start to finish. The m ost hilarious (or disturbing?) note came from his time in the press lookout tower on 18 .
“Even though I was surrounded by several dozen of the most dedicated golf writers in the world, nobody could say for sure where the playoff was going to take place. Just when I was wondering how I was going to beat the crowd to the 10th hole, I hear that the playoff will actually begin on the 18th. What luck!”
Rudy Martzke in the USA Today explains why CBS couldn’t show coverage on USA during the weekend mornings , then pretty much writes about the brilliant job the CBS announce team did. He must have flipped over to a baseball game when Verne Lundquist went on about the vibrating 6th green or when no one at CBS seemed to know what was being said between Chris DiMarco and Masters officials on the eighth hole. And then there were the times Bobby Clampett opened his mouth...still, they have Feherty and Oosterhuis to save the day.
For a superior CBS coverage review, check out Peter McCleery’s piece on GolfDigest.com . Not only does McCleery point out that NBC and the USGA added morning round completion coverage at Pebble Beach in 2000, but he also notices just how close (again) the Masters came to running out of sunlight Sunday evening.
I didn’t see the coverage on this, but last week Dan Bickley in the Arizona Republic looked at rumors of Mickelson's gambling addiction. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that “this week’s most outrageous rumor for the caddie clique," said Mickelson switched from Titleist to Callaway “because he has run up considerable gambling debts.”
Which led to this comment from radio talk show host Jim Rome : "Callaway officials angrily deny this saying they did an intensive background check on Mickelson’s gambling history. Look, the fact that Callaway felt it necessary to do an intensive background check or that Mickelson even has a gambling history to speak of, tells you something right there. Look, it’s always dicey to comment on rumor and innuendo, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire and there’s an awful lot of gambling smoke coming off of Phil Mickelson right now."
…Tim Finchem grinning like never before during the closing ceremony? As he should be.
…That Bobby Clampett still calls the Hogan Bridge “Hogan’s Bridge,” like it’s an amusement park ride?
…The Golf Channel’s flashback piece with Chris DiMarco from 1997? The man had a full fledged mullet!
…According to DiMarco, Tiger had 65 yards into #1? Thank you optimization.
…That Phil Mickelson tried to make Bill Macatee out to be the bad guy along with the rest of the media for making something of spike-gate? Uh, Phil, you were the one that issued a press release, otherwise it probably wouldn’t have been a story.
It is, however in the forthcoming edition of The Future of Golf (subtle plug I know): “I think you should put a limit on the speed of a golf ball, the spin rate of a golf ball. You can increase the spin of the golf ball and make it so that we don't hit the ball as far. You can decrease the speed of the core. There's different ways you can get around it so that we're all playing under certain speed limits. Hopefully that will be the answer to a lot of the problems that we're having with golf course design around the world.” This prevents the bifurcation issue. The only complication is that it requires the USGA to admit it made mistakes. Since they are still struggling to admit Shinnecock went bad, don’t count on it.
Not too many thrilling questions from the scribblers, but at least the bizarre situation on 17 came up. If you were listening closely, you heard Steve Williams tell Tiger he had 126 to the hole, and then said all he had to do was hit it 115 yards. Peter Oosterhuis didn’t comment because like most of us, he probably thought he didn’t hear the comment right. But it turns out, Tiger was laying up on this approach there. Here’s the entire transcript link:
Q. I don't wish to sound negative, but what on earth happened on 17 and 18?
TIGER WOODS: I hit just a block on 17. What do you call it, the second shot, I got too conservative with it and tried to putt the ball short of the green and overdid it. I just had one of the worst lies you could possibly have for that shot. My ball mark was just behind my golf ball, so I could not make contact with the golf ball flush.I thought about, you know, could I put the ball up there and leave it short right of the green, but, you know, just try, more than likely you're probably going to fat it and put it short of the green. Just make sure you don't blink it, and that's what happened. I hit it pretty decent but it was pretty fat because of the golf mark right behind my golf ball, spun up and made my putt.
This Fox Sports Australia story looks at Bernhard Langer's comments on the Saturday tee-time debacle.
...Tiger rolled off 7 straight birdies (well, four added on to yesterday's 3), DiMarco stumbled, and it's looking like it'll be #4 for Woods. He birdied 7-13! Wonder if he would have birdied 10 if he had to play yesterday's mud ball? But here's what I want to know: can we just follow the Phil-Vijay pairing with updates on Tiger?
Not many early Sunday reads, but still a few on ball manufacturers favorite subject. Alan Blondin in the Myrtle Beach paper has plenty of fun insights and a nice overview, with quotes from Dick Rugge, Bob Combs and Larry Dorman. Does the USGA seem to be positioning themselves to do something by pointing to the near completion of their three year study? Len Ziehm in the Chicago Sun Times has some fascinating revelations about the Masters ball talk, including a tour Hootie and Jack took around the course, ending with Hootie asking, "what are we going to do about the ball?" And John Huggan writes about the Masters and talks with European Tour head George O'Grady.
Did you notice Augusta’s Billy Payne wearing sunglasses when play was called because of darkness? Strange sight watching them blow the horn (well no one at CBS seemed to hear it) as sunlight was hitting the trees. Tiger, naturally, couldn’t wait to mark his muddy ball on 10, and he wasn’t shy about taking advantage of the situation.
Q. Could you talk about the mud ball on 10 and if that made it an easy decision?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, it was a no-brainer. It was a great break that they blew the horn and they said it was going to either blow at 7:45 or whenever the last group finished 9, whatever happened first. When we saw that down there,it was nice to know I could put the tee in the ground.Tiger also addressed the apparent tee-time boondoggle after the completion of the second round, which had players going to the wrong tee and going out with the wrong players and CBS totally confused.
TIGER WOODS: Well we didn't know what time we were going to go off. There were no tee times. They were calling guys to the tee. No one had a clue. I don't know what happened, but I guess it was computer failure or something like that or no tee times were written. So guys were on the putting green going, "What time do you play? I have no idea." So I'm standing around, putting around, so we don't have a clue. So I went on the range, warmed up, thought I had 55 minutes or so, according to the math we did if we're going eight-minute intervals because that's what it looked like starting out. All of a sudden, I had an hour and 15 minutes, so I had to shut it down and laid on the bag and rested. Thomas went over and did it and same thing with David.
…Augusta’s Billy Payne walking Tiger off the course Saturday and speaking into his secret service cuff link mike? These Augusta guys are too hi-tech for me.
…Scott Verplank taking a nice big chunk out of the 12th green as Bobby Clampett chalked it up to his competitiveness?
…Tiger driving it 375 on #2 in the afternoon? Must be all that working out, and of course, modern agronomy. That ball must have rolled 10 yards!
…The number of spikemarks in Ben Crenshaw’s line during the 1995 Masters flashback? Was Phil playing ahead of him?
Joe Gordon explains that the unusually late start to Friday’s play was caused by the club’s desire to mow fairways, which hadn’t been cut since Wednesday. And there’s this wacky Augusta Chronicle story about a rare piece of Sarazen memorabilia washing up in a nearby creek.
Here’s the introduction and top 50 of the Digest 100. Here’s the 2003 list so you can see what happens when they still had Tradition points (editorial tinkering) to save the panel from embarrassing itself. And this takes you to a PDF of the Top 100, while here’s the PDF of the Top 100 public list (viewer discretion is advised). There’s a link to the actual ranking numbers for each top 100 course, while this link takes you to the criteria and listings of new and former courses from the list. The best in each state are here. And finally, the Golfclubatlas.com discussion.
Nominations for most bizarre: A) Top 50 classics Baltimore and Wannamoisett dropping off the list, B) Flint Hills National debuting ahead of Riviera, Garden City and Kittansett (C) Rich Harvest Links making the list with some artificial turf tees, (D) Dallas National making it even though it finished 2nd in the 2003 Best New competition while #1 Black Rock and #3 Friars Head don’t cut it, (E) Mayacama (?!) over Valley Club and Pasatiempo, (F) The National Golf Links making the top 10, (G) The National Golf Links on the same list as Trump International.
"All along, we thought the changes we made were appropriate and necessary to maintain the integrity and shot values of the golf course," Hootie said. "We wanted to adhere to the design concepts that Bobby Jones, Cliff Roberts and Alistair [sp.] Mackenzie had envisioned.”
Yep, they loved narrow fairways guarded by trees alright!
"Last year certainly was thrilling, as the best players in the world responded. The course setup for Sunday was consistent with previous years, allowing the players the opportunity to try for an eagle or birdie when necessary.”
Oh and Golf Digest’s May issue features their latest top 100 ranking, but the list isn’t posted yet (sorry to tease). Included are two VERY interesting looking features by Ron Whitten: "Can you buy your way onto our list” looks at the cost of courses and another titled “Is Tom Fazio good for the game,” with a sub header that says: Golf's leading designer is beloved by many, yet his courses have lifted expectations—and costs—to troubling levels.” Speaking of Fazio, his strange interview with Golf Magazine is not posted.
No April Fool’s joke: The Ladies’ British Amateur now has a presenting sponsor. The Tropicana Essentials Ladies’ British Open Amateur. Succinct. And how long before the USGA or R&A take this idea and run? Click on this link if you don’t believe me.
Thanks to reader Blue Blazer for this. And for pointing out that I grossly exaggerated the silliness of gender reassigned golfers getting their reassigned status acknowledged within 2 years, while amateur status reinstatement takes 3 years. You’re right Blue Blazer, the golfer has two chances at regaining their amateur status. Whereas gender reassignment is definitely a one-time deal, thus explaining the shorter window for the reassigned to gain their eligibility. This is why you have a Blue Blazer, grey slacks and a red tie, and I just own beach attire.
Dan Gleason’s Golf Business Monthly analysis of name architects includes some eye opening quotes and notes. Gleason writes that a South Carolina-based golf research firm Sportometrics has conducted intensive quantitative research on the value of name designer.
“There were 80 variables that went into a study that took into consideration the green fees charged at the courses designed by high-profile names and included both public green fees and private club guest fees. Ben Crenshaw’s name generated the highest added value in the study.
“If you have a signature course and are charging a $90 fee, for example, and there is an equally dazzling “no name” course down the road charging $70, are golfers going to pay the extra $20 for the name? Not likely!”
Gleason also reports on the intimate Curley and Schmidt project in China where they “completed perhaps the biggest single project in the history of golf, Mission Hills in China,” where some of IMG, err, golf’s finest lent their name to courses they couldn’t describe if they had to: Annika Sorenstam, David Leadbetter, David Duval and Jose-Maria Olazabal.
David Fry of WCI Communities puts the celebrity designer debate into perspective. “I can’t forecast the true value of the celebrity name of an architect,” he says, “even after the course is operational and all the homes and memberships are sold. The bottom line is building a quality product, regardless of the name you put on the course. That’s where the rubber really meets the road.”
No April Fools joke here. Mike Stachura of Golf Digest has the scoop on the USGA sending out a memo notifying manufacturers that the men in blue are going to be undertaking research that may lead to new equipment rules. Key word, may.
"The USGA," writes Stachura, "is apparently concerned that manufacturers may be able to design a ball that on one hand passes the USGA overall distance standard under the stipulated launch conditions, but under different launch conditions actually exceeds the standard."
This phenomenon had been addressed in the test formerly known and scrapped by Rugge called optimization.
"If players are able to achieve those launch conditions (of which ball spin is a key component), then they are able to launch tee shots that fly farther than the 320-yard limit as specified in the USGA overall distance standard."
However, the USGA's Dick Rugge told Stachura that he "would advise those who are trying to predict the future to base that prediction on our past history," he said. In other words, we've rolled over and cowered in the past, we can certainly do it again.
Thomas Bonk in the L.A. Times (reg. required) pens an interesting U.S. Open course setup preview. In “Don’t Expect Apologies,” Executive Director Fay says the USGA won’t back off after Shinnecock Hills.
"A kinder, gentler U.S. Open?" said Fay, the USGA's $485,000-a-year frontman said with his usual drab, err, dry wit. "Huh?"
"The Open has long had the reputation of being the world's toughest golf tournament. I would hate to see the U.S. Open lose that imprimatur. We want to make it as hard as possible, but won't go over the edge as goofy golf."
They certainly know all about goofy golf. Patent pending?
Bonk writes that according to Fay, “the problem with the seventh at Shinnecock had to do with the slope of the green, but it was also mowed differently. It was fast, very fast, Fay said, and the USGA also didn't have any rough on the left side of the green that might have prevented balls from rolling off.”
Uh, does this mean we're back to the mystery mower farce again? And rough at the green edge would still not fix the issue of balls rolling off a green, it would only mean they don't go down to the chipping area!?
Bonk reports that “in hindsight, the only thing the USGA did wrong was not watering the green before the weekend rounds began, he said. And that "the bottom line is that there will be no Shinnecock after-effect at Pinehurst. There's no way in North Carolina that Pinehurst will resemble a payback, or an invitation to par, or just a big, green welcome mat. In fact, Fay said there was nothing even to say sorry about.”
"No apologies necessary,” said Fay. “I don't want to sound smug about it, because we did feel badly about Shinnecock. I have told our people, mixing sports metaphors, that we took one high and inside, a little chin music, so don't dust yourself off and dig in like Willie Mays."
And if you can figure out what all that means, you are one smart reader.
Here’s an eye-opener: “Fay promises the same pin locations as the 1999 U.S. Open and basically the same course” and “narrowing the fairways by an average of about four yards.”
In 1999, the USGA said fairways were 24-30 yards wide, meaning a drop to 21-26 yards this year? Wow. In 1999, a freak cold front and drizzly conditions prevented a 7th at Shinnecock disaster on several holes. Good thinking to go back to those same hole locations then!
Fay says, "I'm not one to say what could have been, but if Phil had not double-bogeyed 17, the story line would have been different. … 'Phil and [Retief] Goosen solved the riddle.' That's a classic U.S. Open type of finish, when a handful of players figure out how to play the course."
Uh huh. Yep, it's all Phil's fault!