The construction of hazards, their place in the scheme of the hole, the artistic blending of their contours with the character of the ground and their relation to the scenery as a background are things of the first importance if a harmonious and satisfactory result is to be obtained. TOM SIMPSON
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!
It's mostly the same except the bizarre sight of the sponsorless WGC Match Play in late April the week before the Players Championship, the Quicken Loans National after The Open at St. Andrews and the Farmers at Torrey Pines shifting to the week after Scottsdale.
From the press release. Schedule in box to right or at this link.
PGA TOUR Announces 2014-2015 Season Schedule
47-Tournament Schedule Features Two Additional Events
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (August 13, 2014) – The PGA TOUR today announced the schedule for its 2014-2015 season, which features 47 FedExCup tournaments. This represents two more than the current season, due to the addition of tournaments conducted the same week as the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in November and The Open Championship in July.
The biggest change in the schedule, as previously announced, is the World Golf Championships-Match Play shifting from February to April 27-May 3, one week prior to THE PLAYERS Championship. That spot in the schedule traditionally has been held by the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., which for 2015 will be held the week after THE PLAYERS. The two Texas tournaments that immediately follow, the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial (May 18-24) and AT&T Byron Nelson Championship (May 25-31), also switch places in the schedule.
One other significant move is the Quicken Loans National near Washington, D.C., switching from late June to the week of July 27-August 2.
The Match Play’s move to TPC Harding Park in San Francisco also is among several high-profile venue changes, including those for three major championships and two FedExCup Playoff events. The U.S. Open will be held for the first time at Chambers Bay in Washington; The Open Championship will be played at St. Andrews, Scotland, and the PGA Championship will be held at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
Jeff Hager of Classic TV Sports broke down the shots shown by CBS during the PGA Championship as he does for all of the majors and reveals that all of Phil Mickelson’s shots were shown, while five of eventual winner Rory McIlroy’s were not.
Before the chart showing how many shots each player had shown, Hager writes:
CBS showed all but 5 strokes by winner Rory McIlroy, skipping some tap-in putts. CBS televised all 66 shots by runner-up Phil Mickelson. Playing partner Rickie Fowler got air time for all but 2 swings. With several players in contention early in the round, CBS spread its coverage out. But once the eventual top 4 finishers created separation from the field, CBS focused almost exclusively on that quartet including Henrik Stenson who was seen for 52 strokes. Ernie Els made an early birdie run and appeared on screen for 28 strokes. The highest finisher not shown was Hunter Mahan who tied for 7th.
Alex Myers crunched Hager's numbers a bit more and found a weird network bias against Adam Scott and that CBS shows more shots than NBC or ESPN, though they are obviously aided by the Masters with its limited commercial interruptions.
CBS crushed the competition when it came to showing action. The network aired 1.18 shots per minute during the Masters (Yes, having limited commercials helps) and 1.16 shots per minute during the wild final round at the PGA. In comparison, NBC showed 1.12 shots per minute at the U.S. Open and ESPN came in a distant fourth place with just 1.02 shots per minute at the British Open.
After Tom Watson's comments Monday suggesting it was up to Tiger to determine whether he could go for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Woods took himself out of consideration and broke the hearts of media hoping to milk the next two-plus weeks of speculation that this could be Tom Watson's version of Greg Norman's confidence-boosting pick of Adam Scott for the 2011 Presidents Cup, minus the respect and support.
For Immediate Release from the PGA of America and the mutual admiration here is just so very, very touching:
Tiger Woods has informed the PGA of America and United States Captain Tom Watson that due to his current health situation, he has taken himself out of consideration to serve as a Captain’s Pick for the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Team.
“While I greatly appreciate Tom thinking about me for a possible Captain’s Pick, I must take myself out of consideration,” Woods said. “I’ve been told by my doctors and trainer that my back muscles need to be rehabilitated and healed. They’ve advised me not to play or practice now. I’m extremely disappointed that I won’t be ready for the competition. The U.S. Team and the Ryder Cup mean too much to me not to be able to give it my best. I’ll be cheering for the U.S. Team. I think we have an outstanding squad going into the matches.”
“My primary wish is for Tiger to be healthy and competitive, and I hope that he’ll return to the game very soon,” said Watson. “Of course, I’m disappointed that Tiger Woods has asked not to be considered for the U.S. Ryder Cup Team, and that his health is not where he would like it to be. However, I think we can all agree that we need Tiger Woods in this great sport, and he has taken the high road by informing me early on in the selection process. My focus will remain on identifying three players to join the U.S. team and give us the best chance for success at Gleneagles.”
Woods has appeared on seven U.S. Ryder Cup Teams between 1997 and 2012. He did not compete in 2008, due to injury.
“By making this decision, Tiger has put the U.S. Ryder Cup Team and his health first,” said PGA President Ted Bishop. “And although we’re disappointed that he will not be part of this year’s Team, we respect Tiger’s decision, and wish him all the best for a speedy and successful recovery. This is a classy and respectful move by Tiger that allows Captain Watson plenty of time to formulate his team plans accordingly.”
**According to a post on his website, Woods says he’s not playing until his World Challenge event in December, which sounds like a great move on his part even though it’ll be costly. He had committed to a new event in Argentina.
Need ammo? Guns? Looking for a car audio sale this week? Stewart's Pawn Shop of downtown Louisville has you covered!
Maybe some "duds"? Or catch a high-quality, uh, independent film? The Love Boutique has all your needs!
But thanks to readers John Mayhugh and Josh, I had a splendid time experiencing the resurgent parts of downtown Louisville, where outstanding, world-class farm-to-table restaurants await as do several very enjoyable tourist spots.
Most impressive was the East Market District, referred to around there as NuLu, an unofficial-official district situated along Market Street between downtown to the west and the Highlands area to the east. Standouts included the exquisite Harvest restaurant and the uber-hip Garage Bar that would make SoHo types feel like time has passed them by.
Just outside NuLu is Varanese, set in an old car garage and serving John Varanese's exquisite local farmer-inspired Italian food.
Closer to the city center's new arena is Milkwood, a Southern-Asian-Bourbon inspired small plates spot set in a basement of the Actor's Theatre building and home of Top Chef's Edward Lee and Chef Kevin Ashworth.
Fun tourism opportunities await at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, where an operating artisanal distillery allows you to see bourbon being made.
Just down the street was the highlight of the week for me: the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, where you can see Major League Baseball bats being made. The attention to detail in bat quality, in production efficiency and the smell of wood is a reminder of what has been lost with persimmon woods exiting golf. Even if you aren't a huge baseball fan you'll want to go here.
As for Valhalla Golf Club, that's a less compelling revitalization story.
Ignore the high power lines, because at one time this was an excellent site for a golf course with varied terrain and some truly beautiful features. The design, however, is severely overbuilt with some downright offensive stadium mounding that turned unsafe for fans when the rains and mud emerged.
Oddly, two holes at Valhalla resonate with nearly everyone--15 and 16--and not coincidentally, they have the least amount of shaping and mounding, perhaps because of their proximity to the natural creek separating the two long par-4s. Either way, it's a study in how nature-based design resonates so much more than manmade.
Several other design elements annoy, like the 10th tee set about 20 yards right of an ideal looking spot from the parking lot. A hideous mound backing the otherwise beautiful par-3 third. The par-4 sixth plays over a beautiful creek but somehow got worse after the most recent redo. And several of the front nine par-4s are so utterly devoid of strategy that Kerry Haigh had no choice but to move the fourth tee up to what was probably too short of a yardage.
And those mounds! Instead of making spectating easier they added nothing but headaches. They compete with nice in places where the property is genuinely pretty, such as on the third, fifth, sixth and seventh holes.
As a tournament venue the site certainly fulfills all of the PGA's needs thanks to space and the course's ability to produce consistently exciting golf. The fans there are real troopers, coming from all over the region and bringing outstanding energy to the proceedings. As dreadful as I find many of the holes due to such excessive man-made shaping, the ability to hit driver and the variety of shot shapes called upon elevates the course just enough to produce quality winners and exciting finishes.
I just wish Valhalla contained more of the character, coolness and craftsmanship found in Louisville's resurgent downtown scene.
Ron Kroichick reports that Rory McIlroy, who was slated to play the 2014 Frys.com Open as part of an agreement with the tour for a release to play in Turkey, has asked to put off his Frys.com appearance until 2015 and the tournament said ok.
Tiger Woods is still thought to be on tap to play this year as part of a similar agreement though no official announcement has been made for the October 9-12 event.
Judging by the hours Rory’s keeping in New York City—at least according to Page Six—he’s going to need some time off to recuperate.
Excellent read from Randall Mell on site at the Wegman's LPGA Championship, played for the final time in Rochester as this event before it becomes the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next year at a variety of venues.
Having seen what a great golf town Rochester is, I can imagine what a bittersweet week this is for both players and fans.
The emotion is understandable from a local perspective, from folks who have poured so much into hosting an event since 1977. Looking at the bigger picture, though, this was a terrific move for the LPGA. Wegmans commitment was uncertain. It’s a regional company, and it’s been operating with a year-to-year agreement with the LPGA. The new PGA deal was a chance to lock in this major’s long-term future.
“The PGA told me point blank, 'We are going to go to our board, and we’re going to say, 'Let’s not commit to do this unless we are going to commit to it for the next 50-plus years.'' That’s how they entered this agreement with us,” Whan said.
The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will be played at Westchester Country Club in its first year. The purse will jump from $2.25 million to $3.5 million. A new network TV deal will be in place.
“Sitting on the LPGA board, there’s not a lot wrong with that scenario,” Hall of Famer Karrie Webb said.
If you had any concerns about the vacation schedule of PGA Tour executives, not to worry, their Oxfords and leather folios are getting a break. I know his based on the Tour response to Jimmy Fallon's bit poking fun at PGA Tour headshots was rebutted in perfect fashion. Naturally, this doesn't happen if the VP brigade and his Commissionership are floating around the offices with their red pens and killjoy ways.
PGATour.com also provided a nice roundup of player tweets, including some of those who made Fallon's roasting.
The good news in all of this? Fallon is a golfer and the game will welcome his attention any time he'd like to roast it. Here is Fallon's Golf Digest cover interview with Craig Bestrom from a few months ago.