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Professionals complain a lot, I’ve found. They seem to want fairway traps from which they can reach the green, holes that are not too long, rough that is not too deep, greens that are dead-flat…perhaps if I made my living playing golf I would feel the same, but the fact is that if we turn golf into a putting contest, nobody will care and there won’t be a living.



Holly Sonders Jumps To Fox Sports!

Nice scoop by Martin Kaufman that Holly Sonders is leaving Golf Channel for Fox Sports in a deal that will have her appearing on the new USGA package and NFL Sundays.

Kaufman writes:

Sonders was in the midst of contract discussions with Golf Channel and “we didn’t come to terms,” according to a spokesman.

“We wish her the best in her future endeavors,” he said, declining further comment.

My sources say Sonders wanted to be reunited with husband Erik Kuselias, who was living in Connecticut and will be leaving his gig at NBC Sports Network.


State Of The Game Podcast 42: The Other Tom Watson

En route to the UK, I couldn’t be part of Episode 42 of State of the Game but Mike Clayton and Rod Morri thankfully caught up with Tom Watson, caddie to So Yeon Ryu, a couple of hours before the pair hit off at Royal Birkdale in the Ricoh Women's British Open.

Watson is a golf course architecture junkie and goes out of his way to play as many great courses as he can while he’s on the road looping and says he’s even started to get the 2011 US Women’s Open champ interested in the subject. His list so far this year includes Sand Hills, Ballyneal and Bandon Dunes and he also shares some great insights into the recent US Women’s Open at Pinehurst.


“That’s another Friday out of the way. Thank God."

Some have seconditis, Rory has second rounditis.

Ewan Murray reports on Rory' McIlroy's shocking second round 78 at the Scottish Open where another Friday blow-up took him from the lead to struggling to contend. 

From Murray's report:

McIlroy’s woes began with a bogey on the opening hole after his approach shot missed the green. Having reached the turn in 38, two over, he went on to bogey the 10th and double-bogey the 12th after taking two to get out of a bunker. McIlroy was seven over for the day through 14 holes and suddenly flirting with the cut.

The 25-year-old parred in from there and thus avoided what would have been an ignominious exit but he still cut a dejected on-course figure. “That’s another Friday out of the way. Thank God,” McIlroy said with a laugh.

In Bob Harig's account of the round, he noted this about McIlroy:

Worldwide, McIlroy has played his first rounds in 51 under par this year, but 9 over in the second round.

Rory certainly didn't go the route of Monty, as James Corrigan recounts this classic from 1996 when Carnoustie played tougher in the Scottish Open than Open host Lytham.

Following his first-round 70 in benign conditions, Montgomerie said: “This place is fantastic. It’s the best links course I’ve ever seen — I can’t find a detrimental thing to say about it.”

Following his closing 81, in which the elements howled, Montgomerie said: “That course has completely destroyed my swing for the Open. The conditions were far too severe to play golf. This event deserves better.”

Ricardo Gonzalez and Kristoffer Broberg lead at -6, one clear of Justin Rose, five ahead of Phil Mickelson and six ahead of McIlroy. And don't forget the coverage is split between Golf Channel and NBC this weekend.


Azinger: Tiger Made Himself Worse Trying To Get Better

Tiger has bulletin board material for his Hoylake house!

John Strege with Paul Azinger's intriguing comments about Woods to promote ESPN's coverage of The Open Championship next week.

"And Tiger's quest to get better, I think he's actually gotten a little bit worse. Most golfers have made the same mistakes in some weird way about changing their golf swing . . . and I think Tiger has done that to his detriment. Jack never made those mistakes. Jack understood that if he could stay the same, he would still dominate. Tiger didn't need to get better. He just didn't need to get worse. He needed to stay the same and he could still dominate, and in his quest to get better, it's kind of backfired on him."

Speaking of ESPN, during next week's Open they are going to show ONLY Tiger on their internet streaming channel, ESPN3. Strege has that too.


Birkdale: American Resurgence Continues, Wie Has Work To Do

Ayako Uehara of Japan shot a four-under-par 68 to take the first round lead at Royal Birkdale, but as Ron Sirak points out, the American contingent got off to a nice start. (With the exception of Michelle Wie, who posted a 75 playing conservatively.)

More interesting is that Sirak reminds us it wasn't long ago that the Americans were not so great, and maybe it was that Solheim Cup loss that turned things around.

 Pretty much everyone traces the resurgence to the stinging defeat by Europe in last year's Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club outside Denver, the first time the U.S. squad lost a home game in that competition.

"I think all of the Americans are very motivated," Wie said. "We kind of got our butt kicked [at last year's] Solheim and I think after that, I think a lot of us just really looked into ourselves and kind of just re-evaluated what was happening. It was a good reality check."

Round one highlights courtesy of Golf Channel.


ESPN's OTL Tackles Golf Addicts & Those That Tolerate Them

The Open Championship always helps get ESPN's attention in other programming areas as well (synergy!). You can hardly miss it on the refreshed Sportscenter, which could also be a product of golf folks like Rob King and Mike McQuade having a bigger say in the show. We'll see if that continues when Johnny Manziel is first spotted wearing something orange or brown.

For now, Outside The Lines is taking a look at golf addicts and it sounds like a reach. The last time OTL took on golf it was the PGA Tour's charitable giving and the report misfired.

The preview for Sunday's 9 a.m. ET show.


Video: Phil Clips One Off The Royal Aberdeen Asphalt

Alex Myers sets up up the backstory of this Mickelson doozy on the 436-yard 13th during round one Scottish Open play. This is also the hole where Rory McIlroy drove the green.


Definitive Video Evidence Surfaces Confirming Lack Of Synergy Between Pro Golfers And Segways

Brandt Snedeker is just now finding his game again after last fall's Segway mishap which was not caught on video.

Jesper Parnevik was courageous enough to Instagram this public service message to all golfers...and maybe all people. Stay off the Segway.

John Strege with the explanation and broken rib report that will keep Parnevik out of action for the immediate future.


"Eyebrows will be raised if the winning score at the Scottish Open is higher than that at the Open Championship"

Because Royal Aberdeen is short by modern standards it has remained relatively tight since the 2012 photos I posted, which isn't necessary, especially when the forecast calls for rain and three different wind directions during Scottish Open play.

Ewan Murray with the player takes on whether such a severe test will defeat the purpose of the Scottish serving as a firm-but-sane warm-up to The Open, as Castle Stuart did the last two years.

Murray writes for The Guardian:

A strong field are looking in part to prepare for a tilt at the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool. They are unlikely to do so the easy way. “There’s two schools of thought,” Justin Rose said. “I think that’s why I thought Castle Stuart was a great course for us; because it was links golf and it was pretty authentic but it wasn’t too demanding and too tough. So you weren’t going to get destroyed the week before an Open Championship. This course is the opposite to that. Hoylake might seem a gentle test compared to maybe what we face here, depending on the weather.”

Bob Harig at on defending champ Phil Mickelson's press conference and plans going in for the event, where he played Trump International earlier in the week. Mickelson is embracing the forecast and even the severity of the setup.

And his attitude appears to be: Bring it on.

"I'm looking forward to it; tomorrow is supposed to be terrible weather," Mickelson said Wednesday at Royal Aberdeen. "I hope it is, because I would love to be able to get out in that stuff and play in that stuff that I never get a chance to back home, and have actually started to play pretty well in over the years. It's fun, and it's a great opportunity."

A whopping eight hours of Golf Channel coverage runs from 5:30-1:30 ET Thursday and Friday, with Golf Channel and NBC splitting the weekend.


Davies On Caddies Lining Up Players: Time To End It

Alasdair Reid on Laura Davies telling the assembled scribes at the Ricoh Women's British Open that it's high time for the governing bodies to end the credibility and time-killing act of caddies confirming player alignment.

Reid writes:

“It shouldn’t be allowed,” said Davies, who acquired her title in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last month. “It’s a basic part of golf, alignment. You’re not allowed to get a grip that’s perfectly set for you, so why should you have someone stand behind you and tell you where to aim?

“I don’t understand why the USGA and the R&A haven’t sussed that one out yet because it just seems basic to me. And it slows the game down.”

As speed of play is a common criticism of the women’s game, Davies’s final point could yet make the sport’s authorities sit up and take note. However, actually framing the legislation would be difficult, as the caddie’s role as an adviser has long been an accepted part of golf.

Oh they can find a way!


Ranking Unveiled To Remind Us Olympic Golf Is Happening

Rex Hoggard first broke it and now he explains in further depth the new ranking to be officially released next week which will essentially keep a week-by-week listing of who will make the 2016 Rio Games where they hope to play golf for the first time since 1904 and hopefully, on the golf course constructed for the games by Gil Hanse. Hopefully.

Hoggard wonders:

The idea is to provide players, media and fans a weekly update of the Olympic field, but the rankings may leave some wondering if golf will be playing for gold in Rio or some watered-down World Golf Championship trophy.

By design, the selection process to earn a spot in Rio casts a wide net. A country can have up to four players qualify for the ’16 Games if they are ranked within the top 15 on July 11, 2016, the deadline for both fields. After that the fields will be filled out with the highest-ranked players with a maximum of two players per country.

While infinitely inclusive, the process promises to create fields that will cause a few double takes.

Naturally, I'm all for the attempt to get more countries involved. I'm not for then turning them loose in 72-hole stroke play. Because of No. 320 where to give No. 1 a run, suddenly you have something compelling. Over four days that's less likely.

The ranking is a splendid idea for building interest and debate, however, and while Hoggard is right that it may undercut the credibility of golf in the Games, I suspect the debate will actually spike interest that has been lacking because it feels like the WGC South Of The Equator Bridgestone.


Butch's Stable Signs Off On Snedeker Addition To The Barn

I'm not sure where this came from, but it's always fun to read of players leaving longtime teachers and going to another teacher only after the approval of the other "stablemates." Why any instructor should have to get the approval of his pupils to work with another player is beyond me. Maybe a limited supply of barn carrots? Either way...

Rex Hoggard on Brandt Snedeker entering stall seven in the Butch Harmon portfolio of brands:

“You know me I don’t make overhauls, but he had gotten into some bad habits and I just showed him the way we could fix it,” Harmon said. “The big work as far as the changes is there. We did some work today on his ball flight going into the British and he took to it very easily.”

Harmon said Snedeker called him about 10 days ago to ask if the two could work together permanently and after running it by the other members of his stable Harmon said it was an easy decision.


Youngest Ever: 13-Year-Old Qualifies For U.S. Amateur

The Buffalo News' Keith McShea on Will Thomson of Pittsford, New York becoming the youngest U.S. Amateur qualifier.

He writes:

Thomson shot rounds of 68 and 66 on the par-71 course for a total of 8-under-par 134. Thomson finished four shots ahead of Gavin Hall (69-69-138), a Pittsford-Mendon graduate who will be a sophomore for the University of Texas golf team this fall.


Getting Ready For Three Weeks Of Links Golf

Thursday's kick-off of the Ricoh Women's British Open and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open will be followed by The Open and finally, the Senior British Open.

With the Ryder Cup headed to an inland Jack Nicklaus design, this is our first and only chance to soak up links golf. I set up the next three weeks in this Loop post and add some pithy lines from the great Bernard Darwin to whet your appetite. I also added this short post on the wackiest entrance drive I've ever seen, the one-lane road to Royal Aberdeen's next door neighbor, Murcar.

As for Royal Aberdeen's Balgownie course, it's a sensational links with a brutal outgoing nine and a more reasonable incoming nine that is marred slightly by a modified 12th green (Martin Hawtree) and a bland 17th hole. The penultimate hole is not poor, it's just that the club's shorter Silverburn course's sporty 17th sits next to the Balgownie 17th and easily could be confused as the hole you are supposed to go to after the 16th. I've included it at the tail end of this slideshow from 2012 when the course was especially lush from spring rains.

Coverage of the Scottish Open starts Thursday on Golf Channel in the U.S., with 90 minutes each weekend day airing on NBC.


NY Times On "Buyers Market" For Golf Course Purchases

Sarah Max filed an interesting look at the state of golf course ownership, sales and investment, and though the story oddly left out the high-profile Donald Trump's various moves in the sector, it still includes some good information.

Thanks to readers Brian and JB for this.

Before the financial crisis, buyers were paying the equivalent of 11 to 14 times net income, he said. Now, the going rate for a well-run course is in line with other businesses, typically six to eight times net income, he said — assuming there is income.

The change is warranted, Mr. Woolson said, because most courses left on the market have deed restrictions that preclude developing them for other purposes. “Where people got into trouble was thinking golf is a real estate investment,” he said. “Golf courses are a real estate asset only insomuch as they use real estate in association with their business.”

In fact, golf courses typically cost more to build than they are worth. “They’re like new cars,” Mr. Hirsh added. “They’re worth less the minute you drive off the lot.”

Of course, the new car depreciation only happens because the architecture, uh, is lacking permanence.


Flashback: "Please give the kid a break.”

Ahhhh, nostalgia!

After the reports out of the new A-Rod book have Tiger Woods was getting three times as many house calls from Dr. Spaceman Galea  than everyone first admitted, I went back in the archives (four years!) to re-read about the old Doc Galea days.

I forgot about this from Don Van Natta Jr., Michael S. Schmidt and Ian Austen's original New York Times story outting the doc.

The doctor said he flew to Orlando, Fla., at least four times to give Mr. Woods the platelet therapy at his home in Windermere, Fla., in February and March of this year. When asked for comment about Mr. Woods’s involvement with Dr. Galea, Mark Steinberg, of I.M.G., responded in an e-mail message: “I would really ask that you guys don’t write this? If Tiger is NOT implicated, and won’t be, let’s please give the kid a break.”


Wanted: Two Humana Challenge Courses For 2016

Larry Bohannan reports in the Desert Sun on PGA West's decision to end its hosting duties after the 2015 Humana Challenge, leaving the event the loss of the Palmer and Nicklaus private courses. It sounds like they'd be happy to see the event move to the development's two resort courses.

He writes:

Members at PGA West have received a newsletter from officials of the six-course complex saying that the tournament will not be played on the Palmer Private or Nicklaus Private courses after next January's event.

"PGA West has told us they are not in a position to continue with support of the tournament going forward," said Bob Marra, CEO and tournament chairman for the Humana Challenge.

The Palmer Course has been part of the tournament since 1988, with the exception of a three-year absence from 1995 through 1997.

Bohannan also writes a column suggesting this is a blow for a tournament enjoying momentum and having to contemplate a return to the maligned Silverrock (but The Classic Club only gets a brief mention, not a nomination for a return).

It may not be full-on scramble mode at the Humana Challenge offices, but certainly they have a new priority to deal with.

Speculation on the new courses will center on SilverRock Resort in La Quinta and the TPC Stadium Course, one of PGA West's resort courses. But the tournament might find a better fit with another desert layout that might decide holding a PGA Tour event is the right thing to do.

If the Palmer Private and Nicklaus Private courses truly are done after 2015, there will be laments about the disappearance of the Palmer Course. People will talk of David Duval's 59 on the course in 1999, or remarkable performance by Tom Kite and Joe Durant in years of the Palmer Course hosting the tournament, and of the bighorn sheep sightings on the course in the mornings of the event.


New Book: Tiger Paid Dr. Galea $76K for 14 Visits

Sam Weinman reports some swelling numbers coming from the highly anticipated book on A-Rod and MLB's handing of steroids that reveals a much more active doctor-client relationship between Tiger Woods and Dr. Anthony Galea than the two had admitted to previously, including the number of visits from Galea's fellow Canadian Mark Lindsay.

Weinman writes:

Although previous reports had Galea treating Woods just four or five times as he recovered from his 2008 knee surgery, the book, Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era, said Galea visited Woods 14 times between January and August 2009 for a charge to Woods of $76,012. In addition, the book, citing a Florida Department of Health Investigation, said Galea's associate and fellow Canadian, Dr. Mark Lindsay, visited Woods 49 times between September 2008-October 2009 for a charge of $118,979. Both doctors, authors Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts write in Blood Sport, also treated Rodriguez.

Weinman also reached out to Hank Haney, who is quoted in the book as saying "who knows" when asked whether Dr. Galea was possibly administering something more than the blood platelet spinning Woods was receiving.

"I was there three or four of the times Anthony Galea was there, and I didn't see anything," Haney said. "I can only talk about what I saw. I never saw Tiger do anything like that. Even if he did, I'm not sure how it would help him. He's bigger and stronger from all the working out he does, but he's not faster or longer because of it. And it's not like he's avoiding injuries."


Corrigan On Rhys Enoch, Butterflies And A Shot At Hoylake

Thanks to reader Moises for James Corrigan's excellent story on Open Championship qualifier Rhys Enoch carring the spirit of his late younger brother Ben, killed in a car accident and a fine golfer in his own right.

Please go read the story, it's powerful. Just one of the great passages:

In fact, Ben’s influence was certainly a positive force at Woburn. In a three man play-off for one spot, Enoch holed out from just over the back of the first extra hole. “I had this strange feeling I was going to chip in,” Enoch said. “I can’t explain it, but when I looked up, it was dropping into the centre of the hole – perfect. Initially, I was like: ‘Wait a minute, does that mean I’m going to Hoylake?’. It was surreal.

“But then, I had the feeling I’d make it all day. My mum is quite a spiritual person and since his death has associated Ben with butterflies. On the 11th, which was my second, just as I was about to hole a long putt a butterfly landed by the cup and sort of perched on the edge. Obviously, that made me think of Ben and spurred me on.”


Rory: "Nonsense" That "Strained" GMac Friendship An Issue

Martin Dempster reports on Rory McIlroy shooting down any tensions with Graeme McDowell over his claims against Horizon Sports Management. He also denies that the lawsuit's timing was orchestrated to put a damper on GMac's wedding.

However, he needed to come up with a more believable excuse than this...

It is also claimed McIlroy’s team referred to McDowell’s marriage in emails as “D-Day”. McIlroy’s team has denied this, insisting the “D-Day” references related to the day when the lawsuit would be filed and that the date was selected due to a “simple gap” that emerged in his busy schedule.

McIlroy did use the strained word, so take his assurances that this is not a tension-creator with a grain...

“I am still as close to him (McDowell),” said McIlroy on a visit to East Lothian yesterday to officially open the world’s first Nike’s performance facility at Archerfield Links, where he stayed during last year’s Open Championship at Muirfield. “There’s obviously been a few things that have gone on that have strained the relationship, but I still talk to him regularly and catch up with him.

“He has stayed out of everything as much as he can and there’s no ill feeling towards him in any way from my side. He’s been one of my best friends on Tour and showed me the ropes. I will always be grateful for what he’s done and for going out of his way to make me feel comfortable out here.”

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