We've got a society now looking for answers anywhere. They might go to a car wash to take a lesson. JACK BURKE Jr.
It’ll be heavily scripted, Nike will somehow get some mentions for arranging this historic meeting and awkward jokes will be made about the ascension of Rory and the decline of Tiger’s game.
And most of us will watch, then wonder why we gave up those 10 minutes of our lives. Matthew Fitzgerald with quite possibly the first ever Tonight Show segment preview.
11 pm ET on NBC, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
**This preview may be enough for most. Is Tiger not hitting shots at all?
Rory McIlroy's suit selection for his Manchester United trophy celebration Saturday drew out the retired (six days) Tweeter extraordinaire Ian Poulter, who wore the same suit to Wimbledon earlier this year. Minus the Manchester red socks. The Independent with a round-up of the "jibe" taken by Poulter and Amanda Ferguson reports on the Twitter outrage, which went so far as to blame McIlroy for Manchester's 2-1 loss.
But it was the Telegraph's Frances Burscough who took Rory to task for his fashion sense because as a golfer, he can't be loud on the course and off.
Once he's handed his irons back to the caddy, shaken up a magnum of bubbly and kissed his silverware for the cameras it's time to step away from the clown outfits and slip into something more comfortable.
Instead, he turned up to a personal appearance at Old Trafford on Saturday, doing a lap of honour with his famous Claret Jug looking like he was on his way to audition for the parish hall production of Toad of Toad Hall.
So what was he thinking? Well, I suspect he read somewhere that bold black, white and grey Prince of Wales check was making a comeback in menswear. But, being a golfer and therefore blissfully unaware of the rule that less is more, he just ordered everything in that one design. I wouldn't be surprised if his underwear was checked too.
The Poulter Tweet with the Rory comeback...
**We talked Rory and Ian's suit antics on Morning Drive.
The strange thing about Sunday's U.S. Amateur final featuring two lightly-decorated finalists: the quality of the golf was incredibly good.
On an abhorrent Rees Jones redesigned course with massive mounds, utterly artificial nonsense around everywhere you look and a fake lake thrown in too often to appease the EA video game crowd, the absurdly difficult Atlanta Athletic Club should have been a nightmare for Gunn Yang and Corey Conners. Yet they kept hitting bold and clutch shots, so all five of the people watching NBC's final USGA telecast were having a grand old time. Count me in, I was glued!
Ryan Lavner puts the absurdity of Yang's ascent into perspective:
Consider the odds: 6,803 entrants were whittled down to 312 qualifiers who advanced to the 64-man match-play bracket that was trimmed to two finalists, and the player who emerged victorious was Yang, a little-known 20-year-old from South Korea. This is a player who has played only four college events and lost his golf scholarship at San Diego State because of poor performance; who is only 15 months removed from back surgery; who withdrew from an event only three weeks ago because of shoddy play; and who, incredibly, is ranked No. 776 in the world, the lowest ever to hoist the Havemeyer Trophy.
“Obviously I want to go crazy,” he said, “but I’m doing an interview right now. I can’t go crazy right here. But I’m really happy about it.”
Nick Masuda says the SDSU scholarship issue has already been addressed.
Needless to say, Donovan's tactics worked to the tune of an improbable U.S. Amateur title Sunday afternoon at the Atlanta Athletic Club, holding off Corey Conners, 2 and 1, to become the second Korean-born champion in the last five years.
"Obviously the scholarship will be signed on tomorrow," Donovan said.
"(It) better. Or else I'm going to transfer," joked Yang, who will enter his sophomore collegiate campaign in just two weeks.
Yang is a tad rough around the edges, as this trophy handoff from USGA President Tom O'Toole demonstrated. Though in Yang's defense, once they hand you the trophy and you aren't very accomplished, you do want to keep both hands on it! Not the Billy-Bubba missed shake, but a nice runner-up.
Adam Schupak on winner Yang's bag, which includes a nice mix of clubs.
Dave Shedloski talks to Conners, who has something more closely resembling a golfing resume, about the issues he faces returning to school or turning pro. His part in the Canadian National Team makes it an easy choice and Conners hopes to enjoy exemptions into the Masters and U.S. Open, then start building toward an Olympic berth in 2016.
The telecast, which ended rather meekly on NBC Sports Network, included this farewell to 12 years of NBC-USGA partnership. Thanks to reader Phil for the link to this YouTube clip of the modest send off.
**Excellent game story from Steve Hammer in the AJC on Yang's improbable win. There was this:
“I never heard of him before, I guess, but it didn’t really surprise me because there are a lot of great players out there,” said a resigned Conners.
It was Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans, the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur, who put it a little more succinctly after Yang eliminated him Thursday: “Who is this guy?”
Yang was the guy who packed only three pairs of shorts and four shirts for this trip, which would seem to indicate even he didn’t think he’d be make it very far past two practice rounds and two days of stroke play. Either that or he really likes to do laundry.
“I didn’t want to make my luggage too heavy. Yeah, that was it,” Yang said.
**Yang receives a sponsor's invitation to the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, less than 24 hours after winning.
“When you look at the field assembled at the U.S. Amateur Championship including the top collegiate players and now the world’s top amateurs through the USGA’s format, to win is an incredible accomplishment. To have a Torrey Pines High School alum and now a San Diego State Aztec makes it even more special to our community. The Century Club’s goal is to identify the world’s top players to compete in the Farmers Insurance Open. U.S. Amateur champion fits that criteria, as does Gunn Yang in his victory. We are pleased host Gunn next February for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines,” added Peter Ripa, Farmers Insurance Open/Century Club Chief Executive Officer
Bob Harig reports on the rather remarkable act of sportsmanship by Cameron Tringale, who felt he may have broken a rule at the PGA and called in to report himself a week after the championship.
Ryder Cup standings would not have been impacted by his DQ.
"We are very appreciative of Cameron coming forward to inform us of this situation," said Kerry Haigh, chief championships officer of the PGA. "It again shows the great values and traditions of the game and the honesty and integrity of its competitors."
Thanks reader Jim A for John Paul Newport’s WSJ column where he considers the recent run of high-profile injuries in golf and wonders if the modern workout ethos of top players is catching up to them. But he also considers the impact of wraparound golf and the modern swing which I respectfully nominate over the number of bulked up athletes in golf.
This from Greg Rose of the Titleist Performance Institute stood out:
The new wraparound schedules that top international pros follow don't help, either. Even if they don't play in many more tournaments than they used to, many pros now have essentially no off-season and continue to train year-round.
Rose at TPI has worked extensively with professional long drivers like Jason Zuback. Their swings, designed for maximum distance, more closely resemble old-fashioned swings. They lift their left heels off the ground, rotate their hips more, and "jump" at the ball, relying far less on the lower back for power.
"The modern swing, with fewer moving parts, is designed primarily for accuracy," Rose said. "When you take that technique, and add power to it, as the modern pros have to do, you put extremely high stress on the body."
One shot off Nick Watney's Wyndham Championship lead, Brad Fritsch used the opportunity of the last regular season event to point out that as a Web.com Tour Finals grad (14th), he's gotten just 18 starts with absolutely no rhyme or reason to them and as with many players who've tried to make it to the PGA Tour this way, he's wondering how his year would look with just a few more starts. Or getting in an event after a top ten but finding no room because of the PGA Tour's incredible number of major medical exemptions.
Will Gray reports.
“Felt like I played one on, off three, played one, off four,” Fritsch said. “I think if the field sizes were the same as they were last year I would have gotten in four, five more events. That’s just frustrating.”
This week marks Fritsch’s 18th start of the season, and he is vying for his third top-10 finish of the year. While he began the season No. 14 out of 50 on the priority list among Web.com Tour Finals graduates, he is now No. 162 on the FedEx Cup points list and likely needs at least a top-three finish Sunday to secure playing privileges for 2015.
The lowlight for Fritsch came back in February, when a T-10 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open failed to gain him entry into the following week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. A top-10 finish typically earns a player an automatic spot in the subsequent PGA Tour event, but a limited field and an influx of players using major medical extensions meant Fritsch never got to tee it up at TPC Scottsdale.
**Commissioner Leno says all is well, except that minor issue with new graduates not even getting in the fall events that were meant to be a great place for the rookies to get their headstart.
Will Gray reporting from the Wyndham Championship.
The one shortcoming Finchem identified is one that has been brought up by players throughout the year: a lack of playing opportunities for players coming out of the Web.com Tour Finals.
“The only weakness, if you could call it that, is that with all the fall events strengthening, it’s put a little pressure on access for the Web.com Tour graduates,” Finchem said. “That’s kind of a good problem to have, actually, but we’ll watch that because we want to make sure we’re providing enough access to players coming off the Web.com Tour.”
I was feeling bad for the Commish after Rob Manfred survived a battle to become MLB Commissioner and in comparing baseball's new leading man to other overpaid suits, Tim Finchem’s name never once came up. Blasphemy!
Yet something tells me Manfred would not take the Ice Bucket Challenge, which I thought needed to go away for a while now. Watching that GIF, I was so, so wrong.
Points to the Commish for doing this. Points for the PGA Tour branded bucket (ok, an office trash can, hopefully sterilized before this stunt). Points for setting. And big points for putting the beloved royal blue jacket back on over the shirt at the risk of it never quite smelling the same again.
Nice work to Len Mattiace for challenging the Commish too. You may even avoid a fine for that. And good luck to Johnny Miller, Dan Hicks and the FedExCup Champion, who were called out by the Commish and have no choice but to carry on this otherwise absurd challenge.
Charity really is the heart of the PGA Tour...the clip!
**For the record, I was challenged today and declined, choosing instead to take the easy way out and donate $100 to ALS, as is the custom in this bizarro viral thingy.
I hope my fellow grown-ups...errr...cowards will join me in pledging over wasting precious water.
**Tom Watson has issued a challenge to his Ryder Cup team...in his Birkenstocks. You can take boy out of the country but you can't...
Ryan Ballengee with the video and rather scary use of a mini-skip loader.
**We talked about the Commissioner's effort on Morning Drive.
Just an incredible piece of work by Ryan Lavner to put together Frederick Wedel's story on the eve of the Pepperdine junior's semi-final U.S. Amateur match after a resounding victory over Nathan Smith.
Besides rooting for Wedel because he's a Pepperdine Wave, it's worth nothing he's seen the darkest, strangest sides of life. Wedel carries a strange kind of burden playing for himself and his dad, who started him in this crazy game and who now is bedridden because of a freak, and heartbreakingly innocuous incident.
He was 10 when his dad (also named Fred) kept itching what he thought was a mosquito bite on his neck. It turned out to be a staph infection in his spinal cord, and a few weeks later he was paralyzed from the neck down.
A normal childhood was no longer possible. For three years, Fred spent most of his days in a car, driving an hour to and from the hospital, where sometimes all his dad could do was listen.
“I really didn’t handle it well,” he said. “I just kept having hopes that maybe one day he’d walk again, that we’d figure it out. Eventually I realized he wasn’t going to walk again. It threw me into a dark place for a while.”
An eighth-grader without a father figure, Wedel rebelled. His family split apart. He got kicked out of private school. His golf game suffered without the man who taught him how to play with a cut-down 7-iron at age 3.
And now he's in the semi-finals of the U.S. Amateur.
NBC picks up the weekend coverage from 4-6 p.m. ET. You can follow the matches at the official website. Pete Kowalski previews the two semi-final matches here.
**A heartbreaker of a loss, but still a fine performance to go 19 holes. Ryan Lavner's account.
Sarah Lyall files a NY Times front page story on this weekend's U.S. Open Miniature Golf Tournament and some of the characters who will be vying for the $3500 first place check, including 19-year-old Czech sensatino Olivia Prokopova.
The mysterious young women has been dominant of late and Lyall shares some fun stuff about her popularity back home, her entourage and her rigorous training schedule.
Prokopova has been playing miniature golf since she was 3 years old, she said. Because there is so little money in it, she relies on fees from exhibitions and on corporate sponsors. “My mum and my dad must also give me money,” she said.
She sometimes finds it lonely. “Because I play all the time, I haven’t got many friends, but I like the players here — they are like my second family,” she said. “I’ve been coming here since I was 7 years old, and I know everyone.”
She trains so intensely that she has had operations on a wrist and on both knees. She would not reveal her training methods — “It’s our secret, how we practice,” she said — but did allow that she takes 14 vitamin and herbal supplements a day, and that “I have to eat light food before I play, or else I can’t bend down and pick up the ball.”
She was the picture of modesty. “I haven’t got any talent; I just practice every day,” she said. Explaining her approach, she punched some words into Google Translate and then read aloud what appeared on her phone. “Diligence,” she said.
This video piece also accompanies the story:
With demised of Taylor Made's crowd-sourcing effort Hack Golf designed to help solve the game's ills and find more people to buy drivers, the effort to make golf less stuffy turns to Golf Channel's "Relaxed Rules of Golf" debuting on Friday's Morning Drive. The first of several Charlie Rymer-Matt Ginella segments explaining the rules can be seen here.
I got a firsthand look at the list (the exclusives I score for you!). If asked I would have led off with "Play It As It Lies" as a not-so-subtle message to the governing bodies that drifting from that initial rule of golf has given us an inch-thick Decisions book telling us how not to play the ball as it lies. But the effort here is to unite the sport behind both the current rules and also a more accessible way to the game for the masses. Shoving Play It As It Lies in everyone's face might have detracted from the effort and I get that.
I'm told as part of the launch this will very much emphasize the importance of the current Rules for the competitive game. So rest assured USGA and R&A folks, all is right in your worlds. Study up for those rules quizzes. A 100 on the test will make you a God or Goddess!
For all who play golf just to have fun, we offer 7 rules to govern all play.
1. MAXIMUM SCORE Double par (i.e., 6 on par-3s, 8 on par-4s, 10 on par-5s).
2. PENALTIES All are 1 stroke, including out-of-bounds, water and lateral hazards, lost balls and unplayable lies. Drop a ball near where the original was lost and play on.
3. SEARCH TIME Two minutes to look for your ball. If lost, proceed under Rule 2.
4. UNFORTUNATE LIES With your playing partners’ consent, balls may be dropped out of divots or footprints, away from tree roots and any other dangerous lies.
5. CONCEDED PUTTS Putts may be conceded with your playing partners’ consent.
6. EQUIPMENT No restrictions, including number of clubs.
7. COMMON SENSE When in doubt, use common sense and fairness.
Speaking of Play It As It Lies, this memo from architect Max Behr was written to his fellow members at Lakeside Golf Club in 1925. The whole idea of playing the ball down in the sandy natural areas wasn't going over too well with the Hollywood types of the era. A little context was required.
Apologies I don't have a larger sized file of this...because it really is such a brilliant smackdown...
**Discussing the "Relaxed" rules on Morning Drive here. Rymer makes some great points about more welcoming courses.
Lexi Thompson overpowered Donald Ross' 6,700 yard Monroe Golf Club in round one of the LPGA Championship, posting a 6-under 66 and she wasn't shy in noting the advantage she gained based on the LPGA Tour notes.
Off the course, she's also getting some great endorsement time in Puma ad campaigns, something noted in this piece by Randall Mell on the 19-year-old Dinah Shore winner's ideal place in life right now. And there was this, which caught my technophobic eye:
Thompson is the LPGA’s longest hitter, leading the tour in driving distance with an average of 271.2 yards per drive. With Monroe Golf Club’s generous fairways, Thompson pounded drivers into 10 of 14 fairways, leaving her mostly short irons into all the par 4s on a course playing long at 6,717 yards. She hit 16 greens in regulation.
For a little FYI on where Lexi's 271.2 would put here in a PGA Tour historical context...
4th in 1980
13th in 1985
19th in 1990
31st in 1995
T126th in 2000
197th in 2005
191st in 2010
T185th in 2014 (ahead of Mike Weir, Justin Leonard, Tim Clark and Paul Goydos!)
Wonderful leap backwards there from 1995 to 2000! Amazing what all that working out did for the men!
Matt Brennan of Deadspin files a 6,220 word gem for the normally ADD-driven site of sports info with a well-researched piece considering the impact Tiger had on golf and where the sport is headed. It's the kind of story you'd like to read in print at a coffee shop to savor some of the reporting and quotes, but alas, those days are gone.
So Instapaper this one or just set aside a few minutes in front of your screen, because it's a thought-provoking look at where the game is headed in the wake of Tigermania and Tigergimpia. Brennan's primary conclusion, drawn in part from talking to the likes of Bishop, Mona, Jerris and others is that the sport relies much more on the overall economy than any one player.
Economics are important, and upswings or downturns in three key sectors— employment, home values, and investment portfolios—are an indicator of golf's success, Mona told me. In this, he echoed the USGA's Jerris, who emphasized that the sport's fortunes have fluctuated with the broader economy since the Roaring Twenties gave way to the Great Depression.
"Here's what we know from 100 years of data about golf," he said. "The only real metric that matters in determining participation in the game is household income."
While Jerris, Mona, and Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America, all described golf's exclusivity as a "misperception"—80% of golf courses in the United States are accessible to the public, and the median green fee is an affordable $26—income, and therefore class status, is a workable proxy if you're trying to determine whether golf appeals to someone. This may explain why the sport's rarefied image remains so tenacious, even among regular players.
I know that Smith v. Wedel sounds like a dreary precedent-setting tax law case, but it's actually the most intriguing U.S. Amateur quarterfinal match at Atlanta Athletic Club Friday.
Alex Miceli writes about mid-Amateur legend Nathan Smith reaching his first U.S. Amateur quarters and while the focus will be on the most famous remaining player, Pepperdine's Frederick Wedel is a superb story in his own right. You may recall this spring's post recounting the emotional visit paid by Wedel's dad with photos posted on Pepperdine Golf's Facebook page. Fred, who started his son in the game but had not been able to watch him play for years because of severe health issues.
Anyway, about old geezer Smith, who faces Wedel at 11 a.m. ET, with Golf Channel showing tape delayed coverage from 8:30-10:30 ET:
At that point, Smith looked tired walking from the 18th green to the first tee, but in the three playoff holes he hit the ball where he wanted, giving himself easy two-putts.
After a solid 19th hole, Meth had to scramble out of the trees on the 20th hole to save bogey, but missed a 20-foot downhill par putt on the 21st hole, sending Smith into Friday's quarterfinals, where he will face Frederick Wedel of The Woodlands, Texas, at 11 a.m.
“I haven't thought about it a lot, but it's nice to have some success in this tournament,’ Smith said of his 21-hole marathon. “I haven't had too much through the years. It's nice to win a few matches and get deep and see you guys and just be here. It's exciting for me and everybody back home. It's been fun.”
USAmateur.org has a nice "meet the quarterfinalists" roundup here.
Will Gray writes about the return of Justine Reed to Patrick's bag to defend his Wyndham Championship title after giving birth to the couples' first child, replacing her brother Kessler Karain.
While Reed posted a 1-over 71, the 15 of 18 green performance left Patrick pleased as he tries to find his game heading into the Reset Cup and Ryder Cup.
Oh, and about Justine shedding her WAGs gear for a possible looping gig at Gleneagles...
Justine said that Karain would return to caddying duties next week at The Barclays, but Patrick indicated that the assignment for the balance of the year – including the Ryder Cup – is still undecided.
“All of that’s up in the air,” he said. “You’ll know as soon as I know.”
John Swantek talks to Joe Ogilvie, making the final start of his career this week in the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield CC this week near where the Duke grad started his pro career. The clip is about 12 minutes but is an enjoyable chat with Swantex about why he's moving on.
A longtime favorite of writers and sponsors for his accessibility and thoughtful answers, the fast-playing Ogilvie is going to go into money management but plans to stay connected to the game.
Barring a big week at the Wyndham, Ogilvie will end his career with one win, 26 top 10s and just over $10 million in earnings.
**Will Gray on the end for Ogilvie.
After closing with a bogey to complete his round of 3-over 73, the magnitude of concluding a professional golf career that started in 1996 began to sink in.
“Yeah, that was the last hole,” he said. “I held it together pretty well until the 18th green, and then I was like, ‘Man, that was hard.’”
“Are you really going to turn on to 72-hole stroke play in Rio when Usain Bolt is running the 100m?”
Roger Blitz of the Financial Times files this week's "golf is in a rut" story and while he doesn't break a whole lot of new ground, the quotes from IMG's Guy Kinnings about the disparate number of governing bodies and this about the missed opportunity with Olympic golf were worth reading.
Golf is crying out for innovation: its return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 was a heaven-sent opportunity. Yet the format at Rio 2016 will be the traditional four rounds of stroke play. “The Olympics was a huge opportunity to create a whole new audience, a chance to create an exciting new format,” bemoans Marc Player.
“Are you really going to turn on to 72-hole stroke play in Rio when Usain Bolt is running the 100m?”
Innovation is regarded with suspicion in golf’s establishment. It is of only limited concern to the professional tours who are more interested in amateurs watching the game on TV rather than playing it.
As one tour official said: “Is participation crucial? To manufacturers and golf courses, but not to us.”
Continuing the final major mop up, Doug Ferguson wrote that the PGA Championship salvaged the major season in the excitement department after the first three delivered resounding and deserving winners.
Kyle Porter featured the list of best scores in the majors of the 13 golfers who made the cut in all four. Not only did Rickie Fowler win at a staggering 32-under in the majors, but look at the separation he had from the last place finisher of the elite list.
Looking beyond the main numbers, Alex Myers notes this among other factoids.
With an aggregate score of 1,108 in the four events, Fowler matched Mickelson's total from 2001. Remarkably, the two are tied for the third-best combined score in major championship history and yet neither player took home one of golf's most coveted titles during those seasons.
Tiger wins! Of course, not at the thing he wanted to win at, but it's hard to knock his decision to put an end to any speculation and withdraw from Ryder Cup consideration even though he could have kept his name in the news for two more weeks. Even better, from keeping his old Stanford buddy Tom Watson uncomfortable trying to deal with a tricky situation.
Jason Sobel says Tiger Woods and Tom Watson played a game of chicken over the possibility of a Ryder Cup appearance and mercifully, "Woods flinched first."
Alex Miceli calls Woods' move a "magnanimous gesture" and says Tiger saved Watson "from making a terrible mistake."
And Bob Harig notes that Woods has made a wise move for long term well-being but shutting it down. He also quotes agent Mark Steinberg who says this announcement was sign of Tiger's devotion to country.
"It was a big decision for him to place a call to Tom and take himself out of consideration," Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said. "Often times people have questioned Tiger's commitment to the Ryder Cup, to team events. Nobody should question his integrity when it comes to play for his country. I think this says a lot about his feelings toward the event and team competition."
**Luke Kerr-Dineen dissects the public back-and-forth between Woods and Watson over the course of 2014 and concludes it was best that the back and forth has come to an end!