Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos

The name Pebble Beach might suggest a seaside course in the manner of the links of Britain. But It is far from that. I can think of no approximate parallel.
PAT WARD-THOMAS

 

    

Tuesday
Feb022016

Old Guys Get To Play The Old Course in 2018

The Old Course at St. Andrews will host the 2018 Senior Open Championship, as revealed by the R&A and European Tour in a joint announcement.

The Senior Open has never been played in St. Andrews.

Tom Watson, who thought he'd played his last competitive round at the Old Course this year, now gets another shot.

From the press release:

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, and European Tour CEO, Keith Pelley, welcomed the decision to bring the Senior Open to an iconic location with which many of the world’s greatest senior golfers have a strong affinity.

The announcement also received unanimous support from several golfing greats, including five-time Champion Golfer of the Year and three-time Senior Open winner, Tom Watson, of the United States, who was a prime instigator behind the event heading to St Andrews for the first time.

Although he never claimed the Claret Jug at The Home of Golf – famously finishing tied second behind Seve Ballesteros alongside another European legend in Bernhard Langer in 1984 – Watson spoke today of his desire to compete one last time over the famous links.

The 66-year-old made what he believed would be his final flourish on the Old Course during The Open last year, when he bade an emotional farewell to the Championship, which defined him as a golfer, on the Swilcan Bridge.

Watson is now set to return for one last hurrah, however, alongside a number of champions who can boast victories at St Andrews, including Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and John Daly, who turns 50 this year and is set to make his Senior debut at Carnoustie this July.

Watson has completed all four rounds in every one of the 14 Senior Open Championships in which he has participated. In those 56 rounds he has recorded 20 scores in the sixties and twice carded rounds of 64 on his way to victory in 2003 and 2005, earning just under €1 million in prize money from that Championship alone.

He said: “I am thrilled at the news that the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex will be staged over the Old Course for the first time in 2018. Only last July, I played what I believed would be my final competitive round of golf at The Open, and the reception I received as darkness fell on that Friday evening will stay with me always.

“However, The R&A, the European Tour and the St Andrews Links Trust have shown the spirit of cooperation that exists in the game. By agreeing to bring this wonderful Championship to the Home of Golf in July 2018, they have allowed not just me, but many other great champions, an opportunity to return to a venue that means so much to everyone who plays the game.”

Sir Nick Faldo, who captured the second of his three Open victories at St Andrews in 1990, also bade farewell to The Open on the same Friday as Watson in 2015 but he is already thinking about dusting down the clubs to compete in the Senior Open Presented by Rolex in 2 ½ years’ time.

The six-time Major Champion and Britain’s most successful golfer, said: “It is absolutely fantastic to see the Senior Open Championship going to St Andrews in 2018.  This certainly gives me another golfing goal and I only hope my game is good enough to give it a go on the Old Course!   

“It’s a great image, even now, to visualise so many legends of the game gathering again in that famous setting. As a golfer, and a golf fan, I will look forward to it enormously.”   

Tuesday
Feb022016

Only One Direction For Niall To Go: 10 Percenter

The Sun reports that One Direction boy bander and Rory McIlroy bromancer Niall Horton is going to spend his free time going into player management.

With the band on hiatus, maybe permanently, The Sun says the golf nut is seeking British and Irish talent for his golf-focused management firm, brining in a former Taylor Made executive to to help recruit players.

Hey, isn't Rory about due to fire another agent? Oh...right, he can't fire himself.

I wonder if agent Niall would have advised his client against this pre-Dubai Desert Classic publicity stunt...

See you on the other side @xdubai

A video posted by Rory McIlroy (@rorymcilroy) on

Tuesday
Feb022016

From Kickstarter To The Herb Wind Book Award!

Less than two years ago Roger McStravick was looking to kickstart his magnificent collection of images and information titled, St. Andrews: In the Footsteps of Old Tom Morris.

Now a year-and-a-half later, the book has won the USGA's Herbert Warren Wind Book Award. You can see my Q&A with Roger here and also get book ordering info in the link.

The USGA's press release on the 2015 Wind award winner:

“Roger McStravick’s St. Andrews: In the Footsteps of Old Tom Morris is an outstanding achievement and a major contribution to the literature of the game,” said Michael Trostel, director of the USGA Museum. “The level of research undertaken to breathe new life into this subject is extraordinary. McStravick’s writing, along with the previously unseen photos of St. Andrews, Old Tom and others from that era, make this a magnificent, one-of-a-kind book.”

“Living in St. Andrews, there is so much history here, but much of it is invisible,” said McStravick. “People know St. Andrews is the ‘home of golf,’ but you wouldn’t know it as you walk through town. I wanted to bring some of these stories to life and help people understand why it’s so prestigious.”

McStravick’s careful curation allows readers to experience the undercurrent of Old Tom’s life and provides a unique perspective on the entrepreneurs, golfers and friends who made a living in the historic town.

Considered the best golfer of his time – he won The Open Championship four times, all at Prestwick between 1861 and 1867 – Morris was also a prolific designer, credited with work on approximately 70 golf courses, including the Old Course at St. Andrews, Muirfield, Prestwick, Carnoustie, Royal County Down and Cruden Bay.

In addition to being a strong supporter of women’s golf, Morris is often credited as being the key proponent of spreading the game worldwide.

St. Andrews: In the Footsteps of Old Tom Morris is the third book in the past decade to win the Herbert Warren Wind Book Award with Morris as the subject matter. Tommy’s Honor, by Kevin Cook, was recognized in 2007, and Tom Morris of St. Andrews: The Colossus of Golf 1821-1908, by David Malcolm and Peter Crabtree, was honored in 2008.

It took McStravick three years to research, write and collate the images for the book. Many people helped in the effort, including descendants of the great golf families and landowners of St. Andrews. The majority of the images came from The R&A, the St. Andrews Preservation Trust, Master Works of Golf and the University of St. Andrews. The book’s foreword was provided by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.

“This is like winning the Oscar for golf writers,” said McStravick. “It really is the ultimate and I’m extremely delighted. It’s without doubt the greatest thing I’ve achieved but it could not have happened without the creative genius of book designer Chic Harper and the guidance of historians Peter Crabtree, David Hamilton, Dr. Eve Soulsby and David Joy. I am truly grateful to the USGA and those who supported the book from day one, including my family in St. Andrews and Lurgan.”

Tuesday
Feb022016

No Green Room Syndrome For Golf's Youth Movement, Yet

Two listens are worth your time if you love basketball and golf. Both have helped me better realize why golf's recent explosion of young talent is so impressive: Charles Barkley discusses the demise of fundamentally sound players driving down the quality of NBA basketball (with Bill Simmons), and Roy Williams venting about ESPN deeming "Green Room" caliber players and further damaging the already beleaguered college basketball.

As you know from reading here or hearing us talk on Morning Drive, the age minimum for males winning a significant pro golf tournament has seemingly dropped from late 20s to early 20's. A number of players have been able to seal the deal at an age that was almost an unthinkable winning age in pro golf not long ago.

No one knows the exact cause of this youth onslaught, but some mix of technology, coaching, physical fitness, junior golf, college golf, social media, worldliness and access to equipment has played a role. While this could be a phase and some of the hype is driven by marketers hoping to appeal to ad buyers desiring millennial-friendly enterprises, there does appear to be a paradigm shift. (Though I will always insist golf is at its best when players of varied ages populate a leaderboard.)

Contrast the state of golf with college basketball, where leading voices continue to lament the skill decline of young players.

Charles Barkley discusses this with Bill Simmons on last week's podcast. As with all things Barkley, it's a fantastic listen if you love college hoops or the NBA.

And then there was legendary coach Roy Williams, wheeling out countless golf analogies in his weekly North Carolina press conference before shifting to a rant about ESPN and their use of the "Green Room" label to discuss certain NBA Lottery-caliber players. Williams makes pretty clear that his sport is damaged by its television partner viewing their game merely as a stepping stone to the NBA.

Here is the short version related to the Green Room rant from The Big Lead, though some of you will enjoy (and question) his golf analogies in the full press conference.

I highlight this contrast between basketball and golf because,

(A) it should make you feel better about golf's youth movement if you were understandably uneasy about the rush to anoint young people the next great things, and

(B) it's a cautionary tale for golf if there becomes an insistence on pushing young players too far with silly Green Room-like labels instead of allowing the players to evolve naturally or accepting that not everyone matures quickly, and

(C) both listens are about a sport viewed as in great shape, yet here are two of the most respect minds in that sport openly lamenting the quality of play just as we've seen in golf. The difference is, golf's youth rush has been more organic and the star status earned by the players thanks to their playing prowess.

Monday
Feb012016

The Golf Gods Stick Up For Brandt Snedeker's Epic 69

As the 2016 season progresses, Brandt Snedeker's final round 69 at Torrey Pines may be the barometer for great rounds going forward, particularly given how well he scored in brutal conditions.

It seemed like the overnight delay might allow Monday's finishers to have better conditions to hold off Snedeker's clubhouse score, but as John Strege notes, that didn't happen:

“At 10 o'clock, I think [the wind] almost hit on the nose and started blowing about 15 to 20 miles an hour,” Snedeker said. “And it blew a complete different direction than yesterday and made those last five holes play absolutely brutal.”

Walker bogeyed four of his final eight holes to drop out and K.J. Choi missed a long birdie effort at 18 to tie. The final-round scoring average was 77.9, nearly eight strokes worse than Snedeker’s score. Twenty-three of 71 players failed to break 80.

“I feel bad for them,” he said. “They got the raw end of the stick this morning. But that’s just the way golf goes.”

Some fun stats from the crack ShotLink gang putting Snedeker's comeback into perspective:

The highlights lack shots from the winner or of a crowd. Strange day indeed.

Monday
Feb012016

Forward Press: The Wasted, Dubai And Coates

I'm not sure what which event will give traditionalists a bigger headache: the annual party that is the Waste Management Open or the Omega Dubai Desert Classic celebrating the 2-year anniversary of...you know...the commercial.

In this week's Forward Press I talked to Tommy Roy about NBC's plan for the TPC Scottsdale and Feherty's debut. Oh, and while elements of the old Phoenix Open give us all reason to cringe, I ask whether it's time for golf to just let it go?

Also, just in case the dreaded Omega ad does not resurface during the Dubai telecast, a handy link sits below in case you missed hearing will.I.am or want to sort out this week's complicated but fun TV golf viewing schedule.

Here it is.

Monday
Feb012016

Spieth Has Learned His Lesson On Global Check Cashing

With his trips to South Korea, China, Australia, the Bahamas, Hawaii, Abu Dhabi and Singapore complete, Jordan Spieth admitted to the AP that the pursuit of world branding and appearance fee grabbing days may be a thing of the past, even though "we" never finished worse than 7th.

From the unbylined AP report:

"It's been a wild schedule," he said. "And what I've learned is that I won't bounce back and forth from the States over here as often as I did. It's just tough."

Spieth won the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January and despite not always playing at his best as the effects of jet-lag took their toll, he finished no worse than seventh in any of the events he contested.

"I'm very pleased with how we performed with all of this travel," he said. "But there's a lot of people on the European tour and the Asian Tour who do this every single year, so for me to sit here and complain is tough."

Sunday
Jan312016

Snedeker And The (Historic?) Winds Of Torrey Pines

Brandt Snedeker's final round 69 at Torrey Pines South should have won him the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open, and it still may depending on the winds for Monday's delayed finish (11 am ET Golf Channel) where Jimmy Walker leads by one, while veterans K.J. Choi, Kevin Streelman and Freddie Jacobsen lurk.

Snedeker earns a prize for best line to describe a wacky day that include no shortage of entertaining (and not so entertaining) descriptions. From John Strege's account of a strange Sunday at Torrey:

Snedeker, who said it was “like playing a British Open on a U.S. Open setup,” completed play at six-under par 282, one behind leader Jimmy Walker, who still has eight holes to play. Play was halted for the third time on Sunday at 1:57 p.m. (PST), and 90 minutes later it was suspended until Monday morning.

A Sunday finish probably represented Snedeker’s best chance at winning, given the strength of the wind and the intermittently heavy rain. “I want them out there playing, since I had to play through this all day,” he said after his round.

Monday's final round will be played without spectators due to more forecasted winds that could render tents flying objects. Though as Eamon Lynch noted, the players will be used to it after last year's U.S. Open at Chambers Bay where they could go holes without seeing another human.

Donald Miralle Instagrammed this clip showing the media never having been seen to be moving so quickly upon learning it was time to evacuate:

 

 

Sunday
Jan312016

Wentworth Row Heating Up: Members Threatening Legal Action

Storied Wentworth Club, host to the annual BMW Championship on the European Tour and once home to an H.S. Colt-designed course, has seen major changes announced by new Beijing-based owner Chanchai Ruayrungruang (bless you control C and V). But not since October have we heard where the fight might be headed.

After having brought in the Foreign Secretary to no avail, the old guard membership that new owner Reignwood wants to move out to be replaced by 800 or so mostly international members, has received a 15-page letter, reports The Guardian's Nazia Parveen (thanks reader Tom).

The letter claims the planned changes to the club’s membership would breach a legal trust agreement in place for 50 years, contravene consumer and equality laws, and possibly even break Chinese laws on joining golf clubs.

Wow. Invoking the Community Party ban on golf club membership. Digging deep!

Lawyers also argue that the proposed “exclusive membership” could be in breach of Chinese law. Campaigners have claimed that such practices are forbidden in China.

Sunday
Jan312016

Video: Knost Drains Crazy Putt After Trying To Get Play Stopped

Easily the highlight of a rough day at Torrey Pines (where 2016 Farmers Insurance Open play will restart Monday morning): Colt Knost trying to convince PGA Tour rules official Brad Fabel that his ball was oscillating, requiring a play stoppage. Fabel declined, and television stayed with Knost.

Then this 39-footer happened:

Sunday
Jan312016

Video: The Best Three Putterer Ever Just Got Better

Pinehurst Golf Academy's Kelly Mitchum, the only golf instructor proud of his ability to three-putt, is back at it again.

The clip, courtesy of Alex Podlogar:

Sunday
Jan312016

Spieth Will Need Extra Day To Go For Coveted Sing Open Crown

Jordan Spieth's quest to be the historic Singapore Open's first winner after the event took a three year world tour of Europe, Scandinavia and the sub-continent, now spills into Monday after yet another weather delay. Spieth had an 18th hole putt remaining when the horn sounded.

As the Asian Tour's game story notes, Spieth's last hole putt could put more pressure on leader Younghan Song, World No. 204 seeking his first win. Also in the mix is World No. 199 Liang Wen-chong and World No. 1030 Masanori Kobayashi, whose name reminded the television announce team of Keyser Soze.

The storylines! The drama!

On a serious note, at least the exhausted Spieth gets one more night in his Singapore bed, followed by one more day to discuss with agent-turned-caddy-this-week, Jay Danzi, the joys international travel in your run-up to the Masters title defense.

The almost-completed fourth round highlights from Golf Channel, if you're so inclined.

Saturday
Jan302016

Twitter Tantrum! DeLaet Calls Out Reed After WD

Just this week I heard Bill Simmons lamenting the lack of NBA Twitter spats, so maybe he'll take note of this nice one from Saturday at Torrey Pines.

With an ominous weather forecast for Sunday's Farmers Insurance Open final round, 82-shooter and Grizzly Adams impersonator Graham DeLaet was set to go out last off the 10th tee with 81-shooter Patrick Reed and 79-shooter Scott Piercy.

Reed withdrew after his round with an ankle injury, which means he was likely checked out by the tour's physio staff. Nonetheless, DeLaet called out Reed, suggesting he quit due to the ominous forecast. Who said all Canadians are nice?

 

 

 

Saturday
Jan302016

Albatross Day! Jang In Bahamas, Gore In San Diego

Here's something you may never see again...

Ha Na Jang with the first albatross in LPGA Tour history, 8th hole, Pure Silk Bahamas Classic:

 


And her priceless reaction:



And on the PGA Tour, Jason Gore at the Farmers Insurance Open, sporting his Pepperdine gear, with a 2 on the par-5 18th from 250 yards out. According to Bob Harig at ESPN.com, Gore was talked into hitting three-wood by his caddy.

 

Friday
Jan292016

Ryan Ruffels Makes Cut In PGA Tour Debut, Phil Doesn't

What a strange day at Torrey Pines, as Phil Mickelson, fresh off a great opening round on the South, missed the cut following a North Course 76.

Then there was his young (old) pal Ryan Ruffels, who made the cut in his pro debut. Here is my GolfDigest.com report on a player who has been deservedly touted as a future superstar. He's a joy to watch not only because of his talent and good nature, but also due to his speediness.

It wasn't all horrible for Phil, as he added to his list of epic, are-you-kidding-me shots with this one from under a fence. Yes, he made double bogey, but the shot was still brilliant and one only Phil could pull off.

Friday
Jan292016

Videos: Lewis Black As A Curmudgeonly PGA Tour Leaderboard

Granted, Lewis Black is at his best when sculpting in words you won't hear in church, but this is a monumental upgrade over recent player campaigns.

The three latest PGA Tour promos to be unveiled during this weekend's Farmers Insurance Open telecast and starring the one-and-only former Daily Show contributor.



Friday
Jan292016

Golf On TV's Generational Shift?

Doug Ferguson looks at the generational shift in golf on television, which is in motion with David Feherty moving to NBC, Dottie Pepper to CBS and some notables beginning to cut back their schedules (Maltbie, Koch).

The question is, who is next or will stars of the recent past bother to go into broadcasting after making a lot of money on the course?

“It’s going to be interesting,” Kostis said. “I don’t see very many guys who want to work hard enough to do a good job.”

Golf Channel executive producer Molly Solomon referred to the Feherty hire as a “bridge to the next generation.” The biggest hole to fill is Miller whenever he decides to step away, although Solomon said getting the British Open has rejuvenated him.

Greg Norman will not be part of that shift, probably because he wasn't willing to make the effort. Though Fox's Mark Loomis, who just fired Norman, insisted to SI's Michael Bamberger that Norman was great to work with.

Loomis was most disheartened to hear about the tone with which the Norman firing was being reported, and he said Norman was great to work with and a hard worker.

"He gave us a month of his life," Loomis said of The Shark. "If anyone doesn't have a month [to give] in his life, it's Greg."

Thursday
Jan282016

Clippings: 2016 PGA Show This And That

Thursday
Jan282016

European Tour: Slow Play "Monitoring" Worked

In the aftermath of Jordan Spieth's monitoring for slow play, I'm still trying to understand how the policy works for a full field event without an official for each group.

But leaving that aside, The Guardian's Ewan Murray reports the European Tour's numbers of successful "monitorings" at Abu Dhabi's HSBC.

In round one, 18 groups were monitored. By rounds two, three and four, that figure had been slashed to eight, four and six, respectively. The message, it seemed, hit home. When Daniel Brooks was issued with a warning on Friday after taking excessive time over a tee shot, he embarked on a run that saw him take 20 seconds or fewer – in one occasion just nine – before hitting.

But as Murray points out, the entire affair seemed silly on a course with slick greens and some of the most obnoxious hack-out rough we've seen in some time.

There are other ways in which golf’s ruling bodies could quicken tournament play. Abu Dhabi is an example of a course with ridiculous rough just a short hop from fairways, which is necessary to keep scoring down because, simply, equipment allows the ball to travel far too far. If that scourge was properly looked at, there would be a knock-on effect and courses could be set up differently.

Thursday
Jan282016

R&A Chief On Match-Fixing, Shorts, Olympics, Trump

In his most extensive interview to date (unbylined BBC story), new R&A Chief Martin Slumbers acknowledged that the group is monitoring the potential for betting irregularity issues coming to golf, is open to considering shorts for practice rounds, is excited about golf's Olympic moment, and is continuing the organization’s effort to punt on the issue of an Open at Trump Turnberry.

Interestingly, just last week new European Tour head (and fellow fast play advocate of Slumbers) Keith Pelley, said there was no concern betting scandals like those in tennis could find their way to golf. (He's sounding a bit like Tim Finchem a decade ago suggesting there was no need for drug testing in golf.)

Slumbers doesn’t agree even though no evidence has surfaced suggesting anything has taken place like tennis has seen. Still, with bookmakers offering daily wagering on head-to-head play in groups, the opportunity is there for match-fixing.

"I think the events of the last few months will bring it more to the top of those agendas, yes," he said.

"If there was evidence starting to build of inappropriate betting, the game is run by some very responsible and sensible people who have the game at heart and I'm sure will do the right thing. We are certainly keeping this under careful attention.