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    Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
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A ball will always come to rest halfway down a hill, unless there is sand or water at the bottom. HENRY BEARD


    

Sunday
Apr202014

Video: Kuchar's RBC Heritage Winning Bunker Shot

After contending multiple times over a recent run, Matt Kuchar finally picked up his first win of 2014 by holing a bunker shot at Harbour Town's 18th. (Unbylined AP game story here.)

The shot came just moments after three-putting the 17th and just before an awkward exchange with Nick Faldo in the booth following the round. (Golf Central Daily sums up that encounter. Here is the one little oddity in the Faldo-Kuchar history, though there isn't much there. There.)

The shot and exuberance from Kuchar:

Saturday
Apr192014

Aloha: Michelle Wie Wins For First Time In Four Years

While it's her third career win and third top 10 of 2014, this Michelle Wie win in the Lotte Championship comes after changing her putting stroke to something unconventional and landing an undergraduate degree at Stanford. Way to hang in there.

From an unbylined AP story:

''I'm just having fun out there,'' said Wie, who grew up in Honolulu. ''I was out there and nervous. Every time I felt nervous out there, I was looking around, I felt there was no place I'd rather be.''

Stanford had her worst round of the tournament, shooting a 1-over 73 that put her at 12-under 276 and two shots behind Wie. Top-ranked Inbee Park finished third with an 11-under 277.

''Today, just didn't make the putts that I've been making,'' Stanford said. ''I wasn't hitting it great today. Just mis-clubbed a couple of times. Just didn't make good decisions.''

Saturday
Apr192014

Simple Poll: Without Tiger Woods Playing An Event...

You're less, more or just as likely to tune in?

I see from the spirited discussion about The Atlantic piece and Masters ratings that his place in the game now and going forward generates many opinions. I'll plead guilty to falling into the category of less likely to watch without Woods.

While I believe this is a pretty simple question, I could see some distinctions. But with it being a slow news week and his presence so hotly debated, why not just ask?

I suspect we'll discuss on Monday's Morning Drive as the post-Masters analysis shifts to big picture questions like this and what year-round golf is doing to player schedules leading into the Masters.

Without Tiger Woods playing an event, you are...
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Friday
Apr182014

Video: Larrazabal Makes Birdie Even After Hornets Attack!

Hornets attack, jump in a lake and make birdie.

Pablo Larrazabal had to run "like a crazy guy" and jump in the water to escape hornets that stung him 20 times at the Maybank Malaysian Open.

The Daily Mail's Chris Cutmore writes up the incident, and the story includes Getty Images of Larrazabal going in the water to avoid more stings.

'I've never been so scared,' admitted Larrazabal afterwards.

Larrazabal eventually emerged from the lake, dried off and received several injections to treat the 20 stings he suffered.

Incredibly, Larrazabal then resumed his round and he shot a remarkable score of 68 - four under par - which included two birdies after the terrifying incident.

'I hit my tee shot just right of the bunker and chipped it out quite well,' Larrazabal said of the incident, which occurred on the fifth hole at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

'So I'm walking along and suddenly I felt something on my nose. I swatted it away and suddenly...they were not bees, they were three times the size of bees.

His post round interview at GolfChannel.com you'll want to check out.

From YouTube:

Friday
Apr182014

State Of The Game Podcast 37: '14 Masters Wrap-Up

Mike Clayton, Rod Morri and yours truly convened to talk about The Masters, Bubba, Augusta National as well as Clayton's caddy gig in the Kraft Nabisco the week prior.

You can download the MP3 here, check it out on iTunes or listen via the embedded player here:

Thursday
Apr172014

This Week & Last Week In Golf Channel Ratings: Masters, Arnie

Son of the Bronx posts last week's Masters ratings for Golf Channel and while the network was down from a year ago (186,000k average prime time viewers vs. 250,000), the numbers for the Live From The Masters coverage look pretty impressive by cable sports studio show standards, especially when the big draw in question is on another network and there is no CBS promotion of GC's all-day coverage.

Check out the other network ratings on the same link and you'll see what I mean.

The Saturday Live From coverage airing at 9:30 am until the Masters start on CBS at 3 pm averaged 585,000 viewers. Sunday's similar Live From coverage averaged 556,000 viewers. Those were the network's top two shows, followed by Sunday night's first airing of Arnie, whic drew a 0.3 and averaged 471,000 viewer. That's with Live From lead-in of 331,000 average viewers.

As for Arnie's other two airings, not included in last week's ratings, Golf Channel says "1.75 million unique viewers tuned into all or part of Arnie." And: "each installment of Arnie was Golf Channel’s most-watched program of the day and each bested its previous year’s timeslot by no less than 100 percent and up to 295 percent."

Thursday
Apr172014

The Atlantic: "When Tiger Woods is competitively irrelevant, what happens to golf?"

The Atlantic's Jake Simpson files a mostly reasonable consideration of golf's prospects post-Tiger in light of the recent Masters played without the most compelling player of the last 15 years. Thanks to By-The-Minute Golf's Lawrence Donegan for Tweeting this.

While the 10% ratings drop computed for years Woods isn't within five shots of the lead doesn't seem that catastrophic to me, Simpson's take here resonates:

The sport is never going to match the global popularity of football, soccer, or basketball, and it’s never going to resonate with the American masses like baseball or NASCAR. But millennials like me—and people who otherwise wouldn’t know Augusta National from Augusta, Maine—have followed golf because of Woods. Sure, there was his adultery and his messy divorce and his reams of steamy texts with women other than his wife. But even after all that, Woods remained the one golfer who could generate moments so special that a five-year-old watching him on TV could fall instantly in love with the game. Grantland founder Bill Simmons saw that light in his son’s eyes after the 2011 Masters, when Woods made a front-nine final round charge before finishing fourth.

I don't need Tiger to teach my child how to behave. I need him to teach my son that it's fun to watch golf. Yesterday was the first lesson. There was a putt, and a roar, and a fist pump, and then my son screaming "Again!" Only Tiger Woods could have made it happen. It's a gift.


Simmons is right. Only Tiger Woods can make those moments happen. And if Spieth or McIlroy or some other budding star can’t duplicate his success on the course and his persona off it, those singular golf moments will disappear with him.

Thursday
Apr172014

Big IMG Cuts, Golf Client Expansion Coming

Tripp Mickle of SBJ reports on William Morris-Endeavor's plans for new acquisition IMG and the news for golf sounds decidedly mixed with huge cuts as well as an expansion of client representation in the cards.

From Mickle's story:

According to the documents, WME is confident it can achieve the $151 million in cuts because IMG historically has been focused on “growth and expansion over margin and profitability” and has a “siloed, decentralized” corporate structure. AlixPartners and Accenture, whom WME hired to evaluate IMG’s business, agreed, the report says.

Siloed? Paging Dr. Freud...go on...

The Moody’s analysts said they anticipated the cost savings would “be difficult and could impact performance for a specific division or even overall results” at the new company, but they added that Endeavor’s ability to eliminate costs after acquiring William Morris Agency gave them “a degree of confidence” that WME could effectively cut costs at IMG.

The documents don’t go into great detail about WME’s plans for increasing revenue at WME/IMG. It plans to reinvigorate IMG’s client representation business in golf, tennis and other areas by leaning on WME’s track record in client representation, and it plans to consolidate sales forces and develop a bonus structure that improves sales results.

Thursday
Apr172014

Good Read: "Masters continues to shine as golf's bright star"

Bob Harig steps back from another compelling week of golf to consider the state of the Masters and what the club is doing with all of the money that flows in. Nearly all of the improvements are outstanding in improving the fan experience, including the tastefully done new Gate 9 entry area (I should have taken photos early in the week when cameras were permitted...sorry!).

There was this from Chairman Payne's press conference about loaning the city money to help move along the city desire (eh-em) to move Berckman's Road, which should open up the opportunity to re-imagine the main fan entry and maybe even impact the 5th hole's tee shot.

"It's no secret; we have significant economic success," Payne said. "And if in the case of the city [of Augusta], it being their decision to relocate the road; and once that decision was made, we were of course anxious for it to begin because it improves the traffic flow dealing with our tournament.

"So we kind of told them, don't worry about the money, that we will advance it, loan it to you, and so it helps us because the road gets built more quickly."

Think about that. A golf club lending money to city government.

What does it all mean? Well, simply, the Masters and Augusta National are a unique sporting experience. And while big-money is the rage in all of sport, the people there put it back into the game and their tournament.

Many of you have asked what Berckman's Place looks like. The $6000-7500 enclave (depending on what Bode Miller and his quesadilla say) is not accessible to the media, perhaps because of its rather un-Masters-like emphasis on conspicuous consumption. I would, however, love to see the replica greens that were built for the beautiful people to play. I've heard those are pretty spectacular.

Thursday
Apr172014

Mark King Named President Of Adidas North America

Don't know what this means if anything, I just hope he doesn't give up his task force gig because I have such high hopes for its findings.

For Immediate Release:

adidas Group appoints Mark King as President of adidas Group North America
 
adidas Golf Executive Vice President Ben Sharpe Named CEO of TaylorMade-adidas Golf
 
Carlsbad, Calif. (April 17, 2014) – The adidas Group has appointed TaylorMade-adidas Golf CEO Mark King as President of adidas Group North America effective June 1, 2014. In his new role, King will be in charge of all adidas and Reebok operations in the North American market.  Together with adidas Group CEO Herbert Hainer, King will continue overseeing the TaylorMade-adidas Golf business and will serve on an Advisory Board for the company.  Ben Sharpe, currently Executive Vice President of adidas Golf and Ashworth, will become the new CEO of TaylorMade–adidas Golf, reporting into Herbert Hainer.
 
“Mark King’s appointment underlines our clear commitment to the North American market-place”, says Herbert Hainer, CEO of the adidas Group. "Mark has a proven track record of success and leadership excellence. In turn, TaylorMade-adidas Golf is in best hands with Ben Sharpe who has been part of the successful TaylorMade leadership team since 2006. I am convinced that Ben will lead our golf business into the next era of growth.”
 
King started at TaylorMade in the early 1980s as sales representative. Under his leadership TaylorMade–adidas Golf has become the largest and most profitable golf company in the world, when King was appointed President in 1999 the business was $349 million (€327million) and has seen significant growth to $1.7 billion (€1.3 billion) in 2013. King has been named the industry executive of the year, former chairman of the National Golf Foundation, Founder of Hack Golf and most recently appointed to the PGA of America task force.  King will continue his involvement in Hack Golf and remain on the PGA of America task force.
 
Ben Sharpe (40) currently holds the position of Executive Vice President of adidas Golf and Ashworth. Prior to that role, Sharpe spent six years as TaylorMade-adidas Golf’s Managing Director in Europe, where his work doubled the company’s business and made it the largest and most successful golf company in the region. Sharpe is also an acclaimed athlete, having represented Great Britain at the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games as a member of the country’s field hockey team.
 
“Ben’s business savvy, vision, charisma and competitive drive make him the right man to lead TaylorMade-adidas Golf into the future,” said King. “My role on the board will allow me to stay connected with the golf business while focusing my efforts on ensuring adidas Group reaches its full potential in North America.”

Wednesday
Apr162014

Historic Atlantic City Country Club Sold

Jennifer Bogdan reports that the historic Atlantic City Country Club has sold to the Ottinger family, with current owner Caesars Entertainment continuing a partnership with the new owners. Thanks to reader Martin for this.

Atlantic City has undergone various redos and restorations, but remains interesting and the place where birdie and eagle were coined.

The club, which spent more than 100 years as a members-only facility before opening to the public, has hosted six national championships, and a host of celebrities and legendary golfers have walked on the greens. Among them are Sam Snead, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Howard Everitt, Nancy Lopez and Jack Nicklaus.

The par 70 course that measures 6,577 yards and has a slope of 133, rose to prominence after local golf legend Leo Fraser purchased it in 1946. He was responsible for bringing the first PGA Senior Tour event to the club in 1980.

Caesars said the sale will benefit members of its Total Reward program, who will now have access to preferred tee times and discounted pricing at all three courses owned by the Ottinger family. Details of the discounts were not released Wednesday.

Wednesday
Apr162014

WTF: One Graduate Has Exactly One 2013-14 PGA Tour Start

Rex Hoggard says it's the players on the PAC who are asking questions about playing opportunities now, instead of PGA Tour brass coming to the PAC with instances like Benjamin Alvarado, has one PGA Tour start despite graduating at the Web.com Tour Finals (WTF).

From Hoggard's GolfChannel.com story:

“It’s an imperfect storm,” explained one PAC member, who asked for anonymity because players are advised not to discuss ongoing policy discussions.

At issue is a larger-than-normal number of Tour members playing on medical and career money exemptions and increased participation by higher-ranked players as a result of the new split-calendar schedule.

Let's focus on those medical and career exemptions. Those extra starts from high-ranked players haven't been noticed enough.

Wednesday
Apr162014

Tom Watson Now Not As Sure Tiger Is A Ryder Cup Lock

James Corrigan questioned Tom Watson's declaration last week that Tiger Woods would be on the Ryder Cup team no matter how few points he accrues in whatever starts he might make this year. Bob Harig wrote about the Watson guarantee here, which was lost in some of the pre-Masters hype.

So a nice catch by Corrigan who noticed Captain Watson softening this stance during a pre-RBC Heritage press conference where Watson is paired with Jordan Spieth Thursday.

From the transcript:

Q.  We can't stop thinking about the Ryder Cup.  If Tiger Woods only played in one more tournament the rest of the year, because of his injury, would you consider picking him?

TOM WATSON:  One more tournament?  I'm not going to answer that.  Tiger I hope just basically gets well and starts playing well again.  If he gets well and is playing well, I'll pick him.  But one more tournament, I don't know.  I can't answer that. 

Wednesday
Apr162014

15-Inch Cups Cut 45 Minutes Off Rounds?

Larry Olmsted summarizes the most salient points from Monday's HackGolf/TaylorMade event with Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose where the two were summed to promote 15-inch cups, 9-hole rounds and outside the box ideas...at the six-course, name brand architect driven Ritz Carlton Reynold's Plantation.

This was fascinating:

Two weeks ago HackGolf debuted the new oversized holes for the first time at Southern California’s Pauma Valley Country Club, ands says that the new cups reduced the length of an 18-hole round from 4:30 to 3:45, while many golfers saw a 10-stroke improvement in scores.

I've putted to a big cup before and it's certainly a lot easier. In terms of skill, it's not much of test nor nearly as interesting. However, since no one seems to want to turn the clock back on slow greens, our silly, wasteful addiction will apparently go unabated.

So perhaps 15-inch cups have merit as a way to offset the pace impact of faster greens?

Thoughts?

Wednesday
Apr162014

Finchem: Golf Really Grows A Lot Without Tiger, Too

Not Deputy Commissioner Tim Finchem was asked on Morning Drive from TPC Sawgrass about Tiger-less golf and he managed to even weave in a dreaded growth reference. Forget that it doesn't make much sense, just admire the ability to work in the mantra under the worst of circumstances.

Ryan Lavner reports.

“Last week at Augusta was a good indication,” he said, “of when Tiger is not in the field – because everyone wants to watch Tiger – it opens the door for exposure for other players.”

He cited runners-up Jonas Blixt and Jordan Spieth as examples.

“The attention that they got, the focus that they got, it helped build them into stars for the future. It really grows a lot without Tiger.

“I’d much rather have Tiger playing, don’t misunderstand me, but there is that benefit to creating stars, and creating stars is our future.”

Or the present?

It really grows a lot without Tiger? Tell that to CBS.

I'm going to give the Commish the benefit of the doubt on this one. He's still reeling from seeing Roger Goodell in green.

Wednesday
Apr162014

Players Moves To Three-Hole Playoff Format

A big improvement to The Players Championship, where playoffs had begun on the 17th, effective immediately. Garry Smits with the backstory and Finchem quotes.

And For Immediate Release:

THE PLAYERS Championship announces change to playoff format
Tournament will use three-hole, aggregate playoff instead of sudden death beginning this year

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. – PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem has announced that beginning this year, in the event of a tie at THE PLAYERS Championship, there will be a three-hole, aggregate playoff as opposed to a sudden-death playoff to determine the champion.

The playoff holes will be 16-17-18, combining a player’s score on those three holes to decide the winner.  If the players remain tied after the aggregate playoff, the playoff reverts to sudden death starting on 17, followed by 18-16-17-18 and so on until a winner is determined.  This is the first time in tournament history that a three-hole playoff system will be used.

Tuesday
Apr152014

What To Do With Augusta National's Back Nine & Poll Results

Thanks for the 650 votes to date on the question about what hole would first get your design attention, and not surprisingly the 15th at Augusta National took the prize. A total of 16% of you would not touch anything on the back nine.

I thought about last week and while I couldn't think of any ways to improve the Masters fan experience, an indirect improvement would take place if three key areas were fixed architecturally. I write about those for GolfDigest.com. My Easter gift to the Chairman.

As for the Ike's Tree situation, I wrote a feature story about that for this week's Golf World. You might be surprised by the suggested solution.

Tuesday
Apr152014

Bubba Wins The Masters: The Print Covers

It's always fun to see how great art director minds think alike when it comes to Masters covers, the one cover a year we really notice (well...in a typical year). The last time Bubba won proved that.

This week's Golfweek (Jason Lusk) and Golf World (Tim Carr) working with images by Andrew Reddington and Brian Snyder.

Tuesday
Apr152014

SBD: Buck & Norman To Helm Fox's U.S. Open Telecast

John Ourand of Sports Business Daily reports.

Neither has had a regular announce job in golf, though I'd be surprised if anyone is too worried about Buck's chances of doing anything but a stellar job. He's reportedly a low single-digit golfer and adapts to all sports he covers for Fox. Unfortunately, he's friends with USGA President Tom O'Toole so that'll get a little nauseating in year one, but he beyond that we'll be spared.

Now, the Shark...that's another story.

Norman has known of Fox's interest in him from early on, so early Fox might not have even had the contract. He will be glib and brings a big name, but having not won a USGA event or had ties to the U.S. Open like Johnny Miller, will he have the same cache?

Tuesday
Apr152014

Bubba's Next & Last Surprise Visit: Morning Drive

Only the Masters champion's agent was scheduled to come by Golf Channel Drive to map out a future Bubba visit with talent coordinator extraordinaire Courtney Holt. At around 4 am, producer Aaron Bearden had confirmed via phone that a typical Tuesday show was a go with coordinating producer Jeff Neubarth. Around the show's 7 am start in front of the studio, a rental car pulled up with Bubba Watson and agent Jens Beck arriving in Beck's rental. Moments later, Neubarth got the call from Holt to come in on his day off because Bubba was on Golf Channel property and wearing the Green Jacket.

Neubarth raced to the studio while Bubba hung out in the control room with the production team. He made no demands and just waited for the show to throw out their playbook, rearrange some chairs, pay a few bills and put a mike on the Masters champion. They sent him down the hall at 7:15.

"You always have to be ready in live TV," said Neubarth. "It's why we love our jobs."

Ryan Lavner summarizes the best insights from Bubba's multiple segments, including how he needed help putting on 18, the story behind his high-five fest en route to the scorecard signing, the reasoning for no further media tour beyond today's appearance on Morning Drive, his defense of Jordan Spieth's behavior Sunday and another reference to the inspiration he took from the Drive, Chip and Putt.

“This is an inspiration. The game of golf, it grew on Sunday. It grew when these kids were there. … It’s going to grow more when families get involved, when parents spend more time with their child (on the course). It’s going to grow y’all closer together. The game is frustrating, but they’re learning together.”

Here's his sit-down with Damon Hack and Kelly Tilghman (note neither has cards with questions or notes…confirmation this was spontaneous!).

The sitdown segment:

Talking Greenbrier, Drive-Chip-Putt and Bagdad.

The inevitable tears, induced by Rosaforte.

The gang talking to Bubba about a few more topics, including video shot of his son whapping a drive.