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I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.



Finchem Asked To Take Drug Test By Policy Board?

Rex Hoggard drops this little mini-bombshell on the Golfweek Tour Blog:

According to a member of the Tour’s Policy Board, Finchem was asked to be the first person tested and before an opening ceremony for the AT&T National tournament he obliged.

I don't know about you, but I got the impression from his press conference that this was an executive decision to better understand the process, not something he was asked to do. 

Gee, I wonder who approached the Commish and said, "Uh, Tim, we think you need to be tested too."

Cink? Toms? Faxon? Ogilvie?


"Condé Nast To Close Golf For Women Magazine"

A shame...

Condé Nast To Close Golf For Women Magazine

Golf For Women magazine will cease publication with its July/August issue, it was announced today by Charles H. Townsend, President & CEO of Condé Nast Publications.

"We came to this decision because we feel the magazine will not support our long term business objectives," Mr. Townsend said. "I would like to thank Susan Reed and Chris McLoughlin and the entire staff for their efforts throughout the years. Golf For Women attracted a loyal readership and we were proud to publish it."

Golf For Women was launched in 1988. Condé Nast purchased the magazine in 2001 from the Meredith Corporation. It publishes six times a year and has a current ratebase of 600,000.



"Supporters of the course say the soul of Austin golf is at stake."

image_7266054.jpgKevin Robbins does an excellent job of detailing the fascinating (and depressing) saga unfolding in Austin where battle lines are being drawn over the fate of Lions Municipal, which sits on University of Texas land and is leased to the city through 2019.
But some supporters of Lions said they fear the lease could be broken. If that happens, the 141-acre course could be little more than gauzy memories and scrapbook pictures by 2019.

Supporters of the course say the soul of Austin golf is at stake.

They wonder where the next Ben Crenshaw or Tom Kite, who played junior golf at Lions, will learn to carve tee shots around a wooded dogleg. They ponder the civic benefit of providing a fair and inviting golf ground to people of all ages, abilities and incomes.

They question where those who play the 67,000 rounds of golf played annually — 3,200 of them by youths 18 and younger, 15,000 by people 62 and older — at Lions will go. They see a relic, worth preserving, that makes Austin Austin.
By early June, when Kemp and the other Save Muny organizers staged their rally, principals with the New York master-planning firm Cooper, Robertson & Partners had spent enough time in Austin to begin to appreciate the sentiment behind the effort to spare Lions.

But they also had a charge from the regents, who agreed to pay the firm up to $5.14 million, to explore a number of possibilities.

Including the golf-course lease, revenue from the 345-acre Brackenridge tract amounts to about $940,00 a year for UT-Austin. The land could be worth far more, a suspicion articulated in 2006 when James Huffines, the chairman of the regents at the time, ordered a 10-member task force to devise a plan "to utilize the asset to the maximum benefit" of UT-Austin.
Oh boy...
The Save Muny movement has expressed no interest in rebirth or rejuvenation. Advocates of Lions prefer to salvage the 6,000-yard course as it looks today, preserving everything from the massive tree in the middle of the No. 2 fairway to the modest green fee that gives access to anyone with a shirt, a ball, a bag of clubs and the desire to play.

"It's owned by one group, it's used by another group and you're not maximizing the value of the property. The University of Texas has basically given golf to the citizens of Austin since Muny has existed," said Kite.
image_7266058.jpgYou go Tom! You need that money!
But Crenshaw, who lives a short stroll from Lions, said: "There's no question the atmosphere would change."

Crenshaw and Kite were rivals in junior golf. They won national championships at Texas before their long and decorated careers on the PGA Tour. They're both enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame. They hold very different opinions on the future of Lions.

They tried earlier this year in Hawaii to resolve them. While playing a tournament there. Kite and Crenshaw met over lunch to talk about the new design. By that time, Crenshaw already had announced his position. He wanted to save Lions.

"I'd made up my mind," Crenshaw said.

The debate underscores a broader issue affecting municipal golf in many American cities. Around the time of the Save Muny concert and auction last month at Lions, Golfweek magazine published a report describing a crisis in municipal golf.

The report suggested that many of the trends coloring the Brackenridge tract situation have been responsible for a slow decline in the number of municipal golf courses.

It cited factors such as "strained city budgets" and "increased real estate development pressures."

"You just can't continue to lose these inner-city golf courses," argued Kemp, who rallied supporters at the concert and auction in June.

Kemp, the Austin developer, served more than 30 years as chairman of the city golf advisory board, which helps set policies governing Austin's five municipal courses. Kemp said the goal of Save Muny is to acquire Lions — with the help and authority of the city — once and for all.

"We can pay cash. We could trade land," he speculated. "We don't want to penalize the university. We just want to save the golf course."

Monty Wants To Reach Out To Scottish Youth And Show Them How A Professional Acts

Douglas Lowe finds Monty in a chatty mood as he ponders out loud why the youth of today--namely young Scottish amateurs Callum Macaulay and John Gallagher--have not come to him for advice.

"They need help," said Scotland's top world-ranked player, who has more than two decades of experience as a tournament professional on which to draw. "There is a big, big difference between what they are doing in amateur golf and the professional game.

"Very few make that transition easily. It is a tough one. If it was easy we would all be doing it," said Montgomerie, who was never a shrinking violet when it came to picking other players' brains.

"I was wise in many ways. I was asking questions of players who were better than me and I am surprised that more people have not asked me about the transition and how it was done, what happened and how you felt.

"There are a lot of golfers who hit the ball better than I do but can't get the ball round the golf course. There is a lot more to it than hitting the golf ball straight a long way and I hope they realise beforehand I am going to be there and can think about the questions they are going to ask me."

About diet, about marriage, washing your own car, about playing in front of large crowds. Just think of what they can learn!

"I have played in the Walker Cup and Eisenhower Trophy so I know how they are. It's the same in your own family; your own kids don't see you as children but they forget I was their age once and I know exactly what they are thinking," he said, adding with a laugh: "I just didn't like rap music."

Your own children don't see you as a child, Monty? They obvious haven't watched you interract with a gallery!


"Barely registered"

Thomas Bonk with Monday's overnights for the AT&T National and the worst titled LPGA event ever:
In a word: bad. The overnight ratings for Sunday's fourth round of the AT&T National on CBS were down 48%, from a 2.9 to a 1.5. The third-round overnight ratings were down 35%, from a 2.0 to a 1.3.

Meanwhile, the overnight ratings on CBS for the weekend's LPGA event, the P&G Beauty Northwest Arkansas Championship, barely registered. Saturday's rating was a 0.7 and Sunday's rating was a 0.6.

"You're targeting an affluent crowd, a computerized crowd."

This isn't golf related, but you know how I just love to share MBAspeak at its finest.

From Dylan Hernandez in today's L.A. Times, writing about the Dodgers latest ticket promotion to bump up their attendance numbers:

Steve Shiffman, the Dodgers' vice president of ticket sales, said the method of distributing tickets wouldn't attract the kind of fans who misbehaved and prompted the cancellation of the once-popular promotion that included $2 right-field pavilion seats on Tuesday nights.

Because this promotion is Internet-based, Shiffman said, "You're targeting an affluent crowd, a computerized crowd."

Does that you make you feel good? You're reading this on a computer and therefore you are affluent!

I knew it would brighten your day.


"Do you know who Titleist's top salesman is? This guy right here."

asset_upload_file278_5159.jpgEarly reviews are in on Pete and Perry Dye's Pound Ridge and other than questions about difficulty (see the headline quote), Sam Weinman seems to like it while Hunki Yun appears very impressed.


“You know, it’s interesting, nobody has ever told me I don’t know how to buy property before. You’re the first one. I appreciate your advice.”

06sqft-span-600.jpgFred A. Bernstein in the New York Times looks at The Donald's "Adventures in golf" and shares some fun new anecdotes from the recent hearings in Scotland.

During his two-and-a-half-hour appearance, Mr. Trump praised the site — which is in Balmedie, 13 miles north of Aberdeen — for its natural beauty. But when the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds argued that the landscape should be preserved, according to accounts in the British press, Mr. Trump said that 25,000 birds were being shot each year over his property and that residents were dumping garbage there.

“It’s a total mess,” Mr. Trump was quoted in The Guardian as saying. “When you walk on the site right now it’s sort of disgusting. There are bird carcasses lying all over the place. There are dead animals all over the site that have been shot. There may be some people that are into that. I am not.”

Mr. Trump later added: “It’s a killing field. They’re shooting birds. And all we’re going to do is shoot birdies and eagles.”

According to British press accounts, David Tyldesley, a planner hired by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, asked Mr. Trump about Scottish “rambler laws” that would allow birdwatchers and hikers to walk across the site.

Mr. Trump told the inquiry that golfers “would have a problem with people walking all over the course.” Ramblers, he added, could get hit by a golf ball, or break a leg and sue him. (Back in New York, Mr. Trump said, “We go by the laws of Scotland.”)

He was perhaps most combative when he was asked by Martin Ford, a member of the Aberdeenshire Council and an opponent of the project, how he had managed to buy the land without knowing it had been classified by Scotland as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. “You have little understanding of the property you bought or the environmental status of it,” Mr. Ford told him, according to a report by The Associated Press.

According to the Guardian account, Mr. Trump, who said he did know about the site’s designation, replied: “You know, it’s interesting, nobody has ever told me I don’t know how to buy property before. You’re the first one. I appreciate your advice.”

According to reporters at the hearing, Mr. Trump provoked guffaws when he told the inquiry that his proposed golf resort would “enhance” rather than harm the sand dunes. “I consider myself to be an environmentalist in the true sense of the word,” Mr. Trump said.

"Athletes screening their urine for steroids are more than likely doing so to monitor their use of steroids."

Thanks to reader Tony for this Andy Martino story from the New York Daily News that takes a much tougher look at the PGA Tour's testing procedure than any I've read.

A couple of highlights, starting with this from the PGA Tour's Ty Votaw.

Asked why golfers would be less prone to temptation than athletes in other sports, Votaw cites etiquette. "We think the culture of our sport is such that if a rule exists it is adhered to," he says. "It is a culture that has served us very well - athletes who call penalties on themselves, etc. Other sports don't have that same sort of cultural value system."
And that's why the product delivers such value. A core values and skill set mention would have been nice Ty.

Okay, here's the part that's going to ruffle some feathers.
While some players are applying for exemptions, one big name seems eager to prove he is clean. Tiger Woods said Monday that he had himself tested twice in the last six months to make sure that his nutritional supplements were free of banned substances. Woods did not say when or in what lab the testing took place. But BALCO founder Victor Conte is skeptical that an athlete would feel concerned enough about his or her nutritional program to conduct a self-test.

Hey, the man does know a thing or two about cheating! Sorry, continue...

"Most nutritional supplements have a two-year expiration date," says Conte, who says he has no knowledge of Woods' nutritional program or his self-tests and is speaking in general terms, "so there are far less contaminated supplements on the market at this time. It seems that it is now more likely that athletes screening their urine samples for steroids ... would be doing so to confirm that the steroids they previously used had cleared their system. Athletes screening their urine for steroids are more than likely doing so to monitor their use of steroids."

And there's this from Dr. Gary Wadler of the WADA:

For example, the drug salbutamol, found in asthma inhalers, is anabolic and can build muscle. Salbutamol is banned in the Olympics, but allowed in golf. Also, though human growth hormone is prohibited, neither tour administers the blood tests that would possibly detect it. All 33 WADA labs worldwide test for HGH, although the efficacy of the tests are in question.

Wadler also takes issue with the language used to describe the testing process. The PGA Tour manual says: "Once notified, you should report to the designated testing area as soon as possible. The collector may allow you to delay reporting ... however, you may be monitored."

"What do you mean, 'should' and 'may?'" asks Wadler. "These things have to be required. What if the player goes to the bathroom after being told to report? That's no good."

The soft language continues in the manual's section on penalties. The PGA Tour policy states: "Sanctions may include disqualification, forfeiture of prize money/points and other awards, ineligibility, and fines. Sanctions for drugs of abuse (marijuana, cocaine, etc.) ... may include rehabilitation or medical treatment."

In other words, the word "may" - rather than the more definitive "will" - opens a window for Finchem to exercise his own judgment about sanctions if a player tests positive. The policy later defines specific penalties for first, second and third violations, though once again under the heading "sanctions on the players may include."

Hey, just looking out for the product!

In terms of public disclosure, the policy states that "the PGA Tour will, at a minimum, publish the name of the player, the anti-doping rule violation, and the sanction imposed" - a statement that is contingent on Finchem having sanctioned a player in the first place. Clearly, if a star player were to test positive for steroids, that player "may" face a punishment and public embarrassment - or he may not. Wadler also points out that amphetamines, commonly used as performance enhancers, are classified under the tour's policy as drugs of abuse, meaning that players, if caught using these PEDs, could be quietly sent to rehab. All of these shortcomings, Wadler says, could be cleared up if both professional golf tours would cede control of their programs to WADA.

"But I'm on the good side now and I can start sleeping more than an hour at times..."

One of the real highlights of today's AT&T National final round was a captivating 5-minute chat with Tiger Woods via satellite (transcript here). 

First, we learned that Tiger's been only sleeping an hour at a time (ugh!) and believe me, he looked the part.

More importantly, we learned that he actually keeps the FedEx Cup trophy in his home, not locked up in that storage facility where they stashed the Ark of the Covenant. I thought it was wonderful that he has the trophy there available for satellite interviews such as today. Special thanks to Verne Lundquist for pointing that out and eliminating all Cialis usage in the greater Ponte Vedra area tonight.


"If you think about some of the shots Lee Trevino hit in his lifetime it breaks your heart to see what goes on today."

John Huggan catches up with instructor Bob Torrance who joins the list announcing that shotmaking is almost gone from the game.

"As someone who has spent a lifetime in and around golf, it is a great sadness to me that the game at the highest level is so much less interesting than it used to be," he sighs. "It is that way because of the modern equipment and the ball, of course. I rarely see anyone shaping shots any more. Instead of hitting high shots, low shots, fades and draws, most players now hit the same shot time after time.

"I don't blame the players for that necessarily. Varying your shape of shot is just too hard with the modern ball. It goes straight almost no matter how you hit it.

"If you think about some of the shots Lee Trevino hit in his lifetime it breaks your heart to see what goes on today. He had all the shots, the modern player has only one.

"The whole thing is pretty depressing, if I'm honest. But it hasn't affected what I teach. What I teach today is exactly what I taught years ago. Maybe I'm just stubborn."
I'm surprised more hasn't been written about this, then again...

"The European Tour is getting more and more like America, where conditions are all but identical every week. They hit the same shots from the same lies all the time.

"I have to admit, I hanker for an era that is long gone and doesn't look as if it is coming back. I think of players like Christy O'Connor senior. He could hit any shot with almost any club in the bag. Sadly, we will never see his like again."


"The Ryder Cup is a little more than two months away and there is no buzz."

Gary Van Sickle breaks down the 8 Americans most likely to qualify for the Ryder Cup team and speculates on possible Captain's picks. After looking at the uh, elite eight, you have to wonder if Azinger is going to regret giving himself so many picks.

And while Van Sickle detects no buzz, Steve Elling sees Kenny Perry's decision to skip the British as setting up a fun showdown between the British press and Perry come September.


"Why isn't the PGA Tour and Tim Finchem stepping to the plate and using our own rules?"

Tom Pernice livens up the lagging groove change discussion just in time for the best of British golf writing to give Peter Dawson a free pass when they lob Nerfballs at the Open Championship's R&A press conference!

Doug Ferguson reports on this and other Pernice venting:

"Why isn't the PGA Tour and Tim Finchem stepping to the plate and using our own rules?" Pernice said. "Tim's been against it all the time. We should have our own rules, and this way we could use V-grooves and everybody can have the same set, and driving the ball in the fairway might make a difference."

Or, make firm greens mean something? Well, we'll quibble over that later. You go Tom!


"I hope Gatorade Tiger passes the test"

Doug Ferguson reports on the initial drug testing and talks to one of the first to get a "pink slip," Charles Howell, who had to get rehydrated after stomping around steamy Congressional for 5+ hours.
"I hope Gatorade Tiger passes the test," Howell said. "Because I put two bottles in me."

"Being current shouldn't have to mean jumping into currents."

Lorne Rubenstein taps his inner-curmudgeon (I knew he was one of us!) and delivers a nice rant about the now-all-too-common and silly practice of jumping into a nearby pond after winning a tournament.


“It’s a one-dimensional hole"

Thanks to reader Chris for this AP note on Fred Funk and Congressional's 6th hole.

When a par 5 become a par 4, the result can be, in the words of Fred Funk, “downright stupid.”
No. 6 at Congressional Country Club is this week’s prime example. It is listed as 518 yards for the AT&T National—the third longest par 4 on the PGA TOUR so far this year—and the large water hazard around the right front of the green makes it even more daunting.
“I don’t like their mentality with that hole,” said Funk, who double-bogeyed the hole to mar his even-par round of 70. “I think it’s downright stupid, actually.”
The hole produced one adventure after another during Thursday’s first round. Defending champion K.J. Choi and Jim Furyk both landed in the front bunker yet saved par. Bo Van Pelt’s 40-foot putt provided one of only two birdies among the morning rounds. Corey Pavin, one of the shortest drivers on the tour, had no chance at all: He laid up despite hitting a tee shot that landed in the middle of the fairway.
“That green’s designed for a par 5,” said Rich Beem, who parred the hole after missing a 15-foot putt for birdie. “That’s the problem with par 5s turning into par 4s.”
“It’s difficult,” added Furyk. “You’ve got to get the ball in the fairway, or you’re going to be struggling.”
Choi said he was so concerned about the hole that on Wednesday he practiced the very bunker shot he ended up hitting on Thursday.
“It’s a one-dimensional hole,” Funk said. “If you hit the fairway and you’re a long hitter, you can get your shot to fit in there. The shorter hitters are going to have a long, long, long shot in there with a green that’s really designed for a wedge.”

What an interesting contrast in course setup approach we're seeing between the PGA Tour and USGA. (I'm guessing based on what we saw at Torrey Pines that the 2011 U.S. Open tees would be moved up a bit to prevent the situation described above, or perhaps even see the hole played as a par 5.)


"Social media and technology are being leveraged to make the game of golf more accessible..."

According to this press released turned CNN news item, IBM is offering a series of podcasts contemplating how technology will change everyday life (not their technology, mind you, since it doesn't work that well).

Check out this recent issue you can get on itunes (link at the bottom of the release/story):

Future of Golf: Social media and technology are being leveraged to make the game of golf more accessible to new groups of players and new audiences, including in emerging markets like China and India. Hosted by Tim Washer, with Peter Bevacqua, USGA Chief Business Officer and Rick Singer, Director, Worldwide Sponsorship Marketing, IBM.

Please, someone spare me the pain of listening to this thing and report back with the single most obnoxious use of MBAspeak.


"In recent weeks, everyone except for Dr. Seuss, it seems, has been quoted in stories regarding Woods's knee"

Jim McCabe on the peanut gallery commenting on Tiger's knee:
Instead of keeping to themselves and their patients, they're reaching out through hospital PR machines to offer free consultations and observations of Woods's condition to any reporter willing to call. And guess what? The reporters have been taking the easy way out and lining up to get quotes from doctors who offer "expert" opinions, analysis, and a prognosis - though, of course, it's always accompanied by the disclaimer that the person being quoted isn't close to the case, has never met the patient, and is merely "speculating," but, hey, it's a good way to get their names in the paper, right?

In recent weeks, everyone except for Dr. Seuss, it seems, has been quoted in stories regarding Woods's knee, as if we were dealing with something rare. But it occurs to me that the knee injury has been a part of the sports landscape since David stunned Goliath, 3 and 1, using a putter and 5-iron - or maybe it was a sling and five stones; it's so hard to keep track.

"You want things to slow you down.”

I thought Rex Hoggard was trying to be funny with this column, but he's definitely serious in saying that no one will test positive in the next five years and all this drug testing is an enormous waste of time.

The Tour’s not doing it wrong. Instead, maybe a sports world bent on bending or breaking the rules prompted the Tour to do the wrong thing.
Or maybe it's the fault of a tour that said players who were hitting the ball longer enjoyed gains thanks to their improved athleticism?

This bit backing up the argument was strange...
“People assume every sport is the same and that steroids will make you better. But it’s not the same,” said Greg Rose, a co-founder of the Titleist Performance Institute, the sport’s leading center for golf fitness.

“There are so many components to golf. This isn’t the long-drive Tour where all that matters is how far you hit it. The short game is more important, and things like steroids can affect your flexibility, your attitude and your personality. Bad things. You want things to slow you down.”
Right, and last I heard they're testing for those things that slow you down, too.



Finchem Takes One For The Team: Undergoes Drug Test, Results Not Pending

finchem.jpgHelen Ross provides the overview of the big day, while you can read the spellbinding Finchem transcript here.

Let's go to the script...

Q. Is it important for you to go first?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: No, I don't think it's important to go first. I think it's important for me and certain of our executives who are involved with the program to understand exactly what the procedure is, because by doing that, you can kind of see what player reaction will be, what players questions will be, and it's just a good, healthy learning experience. I don't view it as anything meaningful from a symbolism standpoint, but just I think it's important that we understand it in the detail of it.

Q. Did it go as efficiently as you thought it would?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: It did. I was very pleased with the way it went, and I think that we have every reason to be optimistic that we're not going to have logistical problems; that it's not going to be a big disruption and it's not going to take much time.

The people that are doing it are quite professional, well organized, buttoned up, and that also conveys a sense of integrity to the process; because as we all know in this area, the integrity of the process is very, very important.
I'm glad they're buttoned up. That could cause problems if they weren't.
Q. Do you know how long it took you?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Nine and a half minutes. And I asked some questions.

Questions? You mean like, "Have you ever seen..." oh I better stop.

Q. Yesterday or today?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Let's just say I've been through it. I don't know that it's necessary to get really specific.

Yeah, TMI could get ugly here, especially if you had asparagus for lunch.

Q. Secondly on drug testing, do you think that when this is up and running for a year, that if there are no positive tests, as it relates to performance-enhancing that this will take care of any naysayers?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Any naysayers? That's impossible. I think the thing in the whole world of drug testing and anti-doping is that if you're not getting positive tests, somebody is going to write a blog that says your testing is screwed up: How can that be?

Write a blog? Such hostility to the blogosphere Commish. We're hurt. It's also possible someone will write a column, or an essay, or even a Haiku wondering why everyone is so clean and yet, throwing so many more clubs than they did prior to July 1.

You have a testing program; you must have had a problem to begin with or you wouldn't have done it. There's going to be naysayers regardless of what happens.
But on balance, among people who follow the sport and know these athletes, I think a rigorous testing program will add credibility to the general notion, which I think we all recognize, there are not that many people who believe that there is any significant issue here prior to this rule going into effect. Credibility requires that we have the program.

Thatta boy, that's a better answer! And hey, how about a comment that you're doing this testing stuff for the kids? Big family values Q rating points in that.