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Links they may be worthily called, for the golf at Royal Porthcawl is the genuine thing—the sea in sight all of the time, and the most noble bunkers. True to its national character, the course also boasts of stone walls.   BERNARD DARWIN


    

Tuesday
May012007

Ferguson On Tour's Double Standard

Doug Ferguson examines the Mickelson pro am situation and reminds us of recent embarrassing moves by the PGA Tour:

In 2005, Chad Campbell wanted to play the 84 Lumber Classic – the tournament even had his wife sing at one of its functions – but he asked out of the pro-am Wednesday to attend his grandmother’s funeral. The Tour made him choose between the pro-am and the funeral, and Campbell withdrew from the tournament.

And...

Wes Short Jr. wanted to skip out on a pro-am because his father was about to have quadruple bypass surgery, but he had to choose between the pro-am and spending time with his father.
Love this from Jim Furyk...
His solution was to fine a player $100,000 for missing a pro-am – if he still wanted to play. Furyk suggested making anyone who missed the pro-am for whatever reason make it up by attending a two-hour corporate function.

“If it boiled down to me going out and playing for four or five hours ... or sitting in a room with a sports coat on for two hours, I think I’d take the outdoors,’’ Furyk said.
Tuesday
May012007

"At the end of the day, this is not an issue about Phil."

Buried deep in Andrew Both's excellent summary of the Mickelson situation:

Indeed, Mickelson sought out Pampling after learning of the Australian's comments, in order to give his side of the story. Lefty need not have bothered, because Pampling was unmoved.

"He explained he was there (in Arkansas) not making any money out of it, which helped the (tour's) decision making," Pampling said. "At the end of the day, this is not an issue about Phil. I explained it's not personal and he understands that. It's the tour's decision. He was just the guy given the pass. I still don't think he should have been in the field."

Tour executive vice president Henry Hughes and tournament director Slugger White made the decision to allow Mickelson to play. One player speculated that the ruling has so riled the rank and file that there will be calls for Hughes's head.

 

Monday
Apr302007

Fifth of Four Majors Watch

So I try to start the second annual fifth of four majors watch--that's when we watch for a golf scribbler to declare the TPC The Players Championship THE PLAYERS The PLAYERS a major--and then we have Scott Verplank making a mess of things by declaring the Byron Nelson a fifth major.

But we must focus on to the real fifth of golf's four majors. The Players. And oh does this year figure to be the prime year for major championshp declarations.

Golf Digest featured Jerry Tarde listed five reasons it's a major:

tarde3.jpg

 

 

 

 
Sorry Jerry, but to win our watch, you have to actually leave humor and those traces of skepticism out of the equation.

No, to win our coveted prize, our judges here looking for that special scribe who in some delusional moment after a particularly good press room meal actually sits down, skims past Jodie Mudd and Craig Perks's names, and by golly, declares the Players a major. Preferably designating it the fifth major...of golf's four.  

sawgrasscomp2.jpgWhich makes Ron Whitten's feature story in the May Golf Digest a near winner. Ron starts humping away on the fifth major concept, but cleverly actually avoids making that inane sweeping declaration we so enjoy.

If ever the Players Championship is to be elevated to the status of a major golf championship in the mind of the players, the media and the public, this is the year. 

He also manages to get in a few interesting points.

For greens, Dye selected the latest turfgrass innovation, MiniVerde Ultradwarf Bermuda, as fine-bladed as any bent-grass green, so it can be mowed as short as bent. It’s never grainy, and it’s also the rare Bermuda that keeps its green color throughout the winter.

That's right, they're playing the fifth of four on Bermuda greens this year. Not something you see your run of the mill fifth major. Should be fun to see what the players say about this exciting new turfgrass development.

This is now a golf course, and a championship, that combines attributes of all four majors.

And isn't that precisely the problem? It borrows a bit too much from everyone? Oh, sorry, I interrupted. 

If the tour wants, it can grow U.S. Open- and PGA-style rough, because the May dates provide extra growing time. The Players’ finish is akin to Augusta National’s Amen Corner, only in reverse: a short, gambling par 5 followed by a treacherous little par 3 before the long, hard par 4. And it will surely play British Open firm and fast. The Players Stadium Course will play much like Royal Liverpool did for the British Open last year, forcing players to calculate roll, maneuver shots and invent strategies to avoid hazards and hit targets.

That’s the best of all worlds. Not even a major championship can say it has that. 

So close, but still, no fifth major declaration.

Readers, please help me keep a watch for our first declaration. I feel this is the year we're going to here a record number of declarations for fifth major status!

Monday
Apr302007

"Nobody is talking about it."

ESPN.com's Jason Sobel had better make sure he starts UPS after this column, because I think his Priority Overnight's might find themselves on the first plane to Darfur.

Chances are, he hasn't been hearing much lately, because nobody is talking about it. Halfway through the seasons of most other sports with a year-end playoff system, predictors and prognosticators try to interpret how first-half results will equate to those at the end of the season, how the standings may be rearranged in coming months.

Let's face it: Too many players will reach the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs this year. Luckily, the format is still a work in progress. At this time next year, perhaps, we could be discussing the race for the playoffs.

 

Monday
Apr302007

"They've opened a can of worms...it wouldn't surprise me to see a few players taking advantage of some of the loopholes..."

Shaun Micheel, quoted in an unbylined Sporting Life story:
"I would say 100% of the players, except for Phil, think he shouldn't be here," said Micheel, joining the growing chorus of condemnation at the tour's decision to let Mickelson play, even though he broke a tour regulation by missing Wednesday's pro-am.

"I'm really upset by it. A lower ranked player like myself would be (home) in Memphis right now. I'm not going to criticise Phil, but his responsibility is to be here. If that means he has to skip what he's doing to make sure he gets here, then he has to be here.

"He's a name player, but we have rules for a reason, on the golf course and in the regulations book, that we all have to play by. He did not met those rules, and he should not be allowed to play in the tournament."

Micheel, the 2003 PGA Championship winner, is speaking from bitter personal experience, because he was disqualified from the 2004 Bay Hill Invitational for missing the pro-am.

He did not realise the pro-am was scheduled for Tuesday, instead of the usual Wednesday, but the tour cut him no slack, banishing him from the event.

And just last year in Reno, Micheel missed the pro-am because he was vomiting in the locker room shortly before his tee time. The tour in that case allowed him to play in the tournament but, he says, penalised him financially.

"They docked $7,600 out of my retirement for that," he said. "I just wish they'd let me know that before, because then I might have gone out and played one hole. That would have been within the rules."

Micheel is so upset that he has already fired off an email to the PGA Tour, and he expects the matter will be the subject of heated debate when tour commissioner Tim Finchem hosts a players' meeting in Charlotte on Tuesday.
Oh but they'll get to hear how great the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse is!
But players are questioning why Mickelson was even playing a Tuesday outing in another state when bad weather was forecast.

"They call it an act of God (but) he could have flown here at six o'clock (Wednesday) morning," Micheel continued.

"A friend of mine playing the pro-am flew in (from Memphis) at 1.30 in the morning. Memphis and Little Rock are 100 miles apart.

"They've opened a can of worms. It's huge problem and it wouldn't surprise me to see a few players taking advantage of some of the loopholes in the rules in the next few months."
Monday
Apr302007

Colt Qualifies

Thanks to reader Jim for this nice story and even better reminder why Monday qualifyings and larger fields enhance the overall PGA Tour, uh, "product."

Sunday
Apr292007

"This is not Tiger’s issue, but a Tour management flaw."

That inevitable commentary you've been waiting for that analyzes the strange relationship between Tiger and the PGA Tour?

Naturally, just as she did with the technology issue, you finally get to read about it in provocative and fresh fashion from the New York Times' Selena Roberts.

Either way, Tiger is in charge. How do you please the host with the most? No event is cheap. As it is, the Tour donates about $240,000, according to tax documents, to Tiger’s Target World Challenge, an unofficial event. To co-sanction official Tour stops, PGA officials supplement the purses. The AT&T National and Deutsche Bank could run the PGA about $8 million this year, according to industry experts.

The payoff for Tiger is tucked in the pocket of his charity. Last year, his foundation received an estimated $1.5 million from the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Is there a money trail to Tiger’s heart? What’s wrong with buying Tiger’s affection, anyway?

It contradicts every tenet of golf’s righteous culture of integrity. “This is golf,” Finchem said repeatedly during an interview last week, as if the sport’s virtue inoculates it from scrutiny.

The PGA Tour doesn’t drug-test, because that would imply a steroid problem exists. Who knew willful ignorance was a marketing strategy? The Tour applies this see-no-evil approach to glaring conflicts of interest, too.

Whoa. Roberts didn't get the memo that you are no one in golf unless you have a conflict of interest!

More tough stuff...

Tiger has played only five events in four months. This weekend’s Byron Nelson is not among them. For years, Tiger played out of deference to Nelson. Now Nelson is dead and Woods is a no-show.

Woods is a schedule recluse, the J. D. Salinger of golf.

It's okay Damon Hack, Tiger'll talk to you again sometime this century! When you've won your Pulitzer, retired from the Times and write lucrative books!

As disturbed as Roberts is by Tiger's selective schedule, it's the PGA Tour she blames.
Now Woods is a Beltway power broker. He already legislates to the PGA.

“It’s only leverage if you use it as leverage,” Finchem said, adding, “I don’t have a concern about that.”

And Tim it's only murder if you kill someone!

But Tiger does exploit his sway, if passive-aggressively. Other voices are ignored on issues, but a suggestion by Tiger is processed as a demand. In 2000, Tiger complained that the Tour was taking financial advantage of him, that Finchem ignored him. Voilà, Finchem and Woods met and love was in the air.

Tiger wanted a shortened season. Tiger received a FedEx Cup race that ends in September. Tiger wanted a tournament like Jack’s. Tiger received the D.C. gala, which was delivered, as desired, with a reduced field of 120 to enhance its prestige, and, as Woods mentioned, to speed up play.

Don't forget driver testing.

Wasn’t Tiger supposed to bring inclusion to the game? Instead, the Tour is more polarized than ever, between the haves and the have-nots. Several tournament officials say privately that they are tempted to barter for Tiger with a donation, but others refuse to abandon their community aid.

“You have to ask, how long is Tiger going to be out there?” said Dave Kaplan, the tournament director for the AT&T Classic in Duluth, Ga. “Is it till he’s 50 or 35? Who knows? If he catches Jack Nicklaus, does he say, ‘That’s it’? And you’d hate to think it, but Tiger, like anyone, could get hurt tomorrow. Stuff happens.”

Stuff makes it a lateral hazard for the Tour to wrap itself in one player. The Tiger Boom could vanish as quickly as the dot-com high. Sports wither all the time, from American pro soccer after Pelé, to boxing after corruption, to a National Hockey League with a puny television deal.

For the Tour to empower Tiger above all is to create a petri dish for an abuse of fame, to lose the ability to tell its rock star no, to sanction its own tumble from virtue.

This is not Tiger’s issue, but a Tour management flaw. What is best for Tiger is not necessarily a 2-foot gimme for those below. It was, after all, a tiny turtle squeezed beneath the pond king that, with a wiggle, toppled Yertle.

Sunday
Apr292007

"I know the golf course is the only reason they're not coming. That's the only reason."

Kevin Sherrington features that quote from Jerry Kelly and many others about the TPC Las Colinas greens and design situation, which will soon see a D.A. Weibring redo. I was at the LA Times Festival of Books all weekend and didn't see a second, but it sounds like they rivaled Riviera's greens in 1995?


Sunday
Apr292007

Ron Rhoads, R.I.P.

ronrhoadsFrom today's LA Times obituaries (no link) (link here, thanks reader Kevin), sad news about one of the game's great gentlemen who I feel privileged to have known and taken lessons from:

Rhoads, Ronald Harrison

Ronald Harrison Rhoads (Ron) passed away peacefully on April 12, 2007. He leaves his wife, Martha, his daughter, Carolee, her husband John, and grandaughter Nancy. He is also survived by his brother Roger Rhoads (Linda), brother, Rick Rhoads (Joan), sister, Lorraine Greenburg (Ray) and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Virginia, in 1996.

A native Southern Californian, Ron graduated from Beverly Hills High School and The University of Southern California. He married his high school sweetheart, Martha. Ron was able to spend his career playing the game he loved; he was the head golf professional at Sahalee, Riviera, Sherwood and North Ranch Country Clubs, as well as the golf coach for his alma mater, U.S.C. Ron was devoted to the game of golf and touched many people with his expertise, work ethic and caring attitude. Ron also enjoyed fishing and hunting and divided his time between homes in Whitefish, Montana and Malibou Lake, California. He was a wonderful husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, brother and uncle and will forever be missed by family and friends alike.

A private memorial will be held on May 12th. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation would be appreciated. 

Sunday
Apr292007

Who Goofed I've Got To Know, Vol. 375

I didn't want to distract from Selena Roberts's piece on Tiger and the Tour by pointing out this NYTimes.com snafu which was not repeated in the print edition, mercifully for Tim Finchem's dermatologist and his hair stylist Marcel, who in between coloring some of Jacksonville's richest trophy wives...oh anyway, the caption and photo:

When Tiger Woods talks, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is likely to listen closely. The Tour often adjusts its schedule to accommodate Woods

29roberts.1.600.jpg

Saturday
Apr282007

"A lot of players are not happy"

Robert Allenby, on the Tour not DQ'ing Mickelson for missing the Nelson pro-am:
"A lot of players are not happy," world No 19 Allenby said after the first round.

"I like Phil, but when the tour set a precedent, they've got to stick with it," said Allenby. "He [Mickelson] checked into the hotel here when I checked in on Monday. He came here, was on site, and he elected to go somewhere else, knowing the weather was going to be crappy. He took the risk. Take the risk and you pay the penalty."
Saturday
Apr282007

Another Lucky Journalist

The WSJ's John Paul Newport was also there for Tiger's impromptu AmEx/Oakmont clinic. Do you believe in miracles?

Saturday
Apr282007

"Just about the only list they haven't done is a list of the 100 best courses that have not yet appeared on a list."

John Huggan uses his Scotsman's Sunday Edition Scotland On Sunday takes issue with the Hall of Fame and his beloved Golf Digest's lastest world course ranking.
Golf Digest's "100 Best Courses Outside the United States," is but the latest in a long list of lists that contains the likes of America's 100 Greatest ... Best New Public ... Best New Private ... America's 50 Toughest Courses ... America's Best Resorts ... America's Best Golf Cities. Just about the only list they haven't done is a list of the 100 best courses that have not yet appeared on a list. Maybe next year.

Top of this year's rankings is the links of Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, which has bumped the Old Course at St Andrews down to second. Third is Royal Dornoch, with Royal Portrush fourth. Muirfield is a surprisingly lowly fifth, with the top ten rounded out by Royal Melbourne's composite course, Ballybunion, Turnberry, Carnoustie and New Zealand's Cape Kidnappers.

Having played nine of the magazine's top ten (not Ballybunion), I am somewhat qualified to comment on the real order, which should read: 1) Muirfield; 2) St Andrews; 3) Royal Melbourne; 4) Royal Dornoch; 5) Carnoustie; 6) Royal Portrush; 7) Royal County Down; 8) Morfontaine; 9) Sunningdale; 10) Portmarnock.

Elsewhere, there are even more outstanding examples of the inexplicable. Loch Lomond is as high as 11th. It's a good course and the scenery is lovely, but how anyone not addled by either old age or an excess of alcoholic beverages could rank it above the likes of Sunningdale (12th), Morfontaine (13th), Kingston Heath (15th), Portmarnock (24th), Hoylake (33rd) or Barnbougle Dunes (57th) is a mystery on a par with the current location of Lord Lucan. Perhaps the voters meant to say that Loch Lomond is the best course in the world hardly anyone from Scotland ever gets to play; that makes more sense.

Then there is dear old North Berwick. Many of the self-proclaimed experts on a favourite architecture website (golfclubatlas.com) of mine are quick to extol the virtues of this eccentric East Lothian course - they love what they love to call "quirk" - but to rank it 50th in the world outside of America is more than a bit of a stretch. Only if the thought of hitting over improbably placed walls or to impossibly contoured greens is even remotely appealing could one rank North Berwick above Walton Heath or Melbourne's Metropolitan, to name but two.

Other oddities leapt to my attention. Most Australians will be wondering at the admittedly stunning New South Wales finding a spot above the cunning Kingston Heath. Had it not been for the tragic and wholly inappropriate redesign of a couple of greens on the back nine (what were you thinking, Donald Steel?) I have no doubt that the always fun Royal Aberdeen would be a lot higher than 56th. And that Royal St. Georges - where someone called Ben Curtis was singled-out as the best player in the 2003 Open - is apparently the second-best course in England will lift more than just a few eyebrows skyward.

Some rhetorical questions came to mind, too. Porthcawl is better than Troon? Cruden Bay is better than Hoylake? And Kingsbarns is better than Birkdale, Troon, Lytham and Portmarnock? Come on!

My last shakes of the head came upon discovering some courses that have no business being in the top 500 never mind 100. I'm talking about the beautiful but architecturally flawed Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand; Spain's overrated Valderrama (ask almost any of the competitors in the Volvo Masters); Old Head in Ireland - a caricature of a links; and the nice but hardly memorable Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda.

Saturday
Apr282007

"Production Error"

Friday
Apr272007

It's A Practice Round!

Thanks to the readers who forwarded this email making the rounds following the 2007 Masters.

I think I saw the photo below in print somewhere, but can't remember where.

Anyhow, according to the email, the gentleman in the photo...

...thought that his practice round badge allowed him to “play a practice round” at the Augusta National.  The Grounds Maintenance guys in the background actually stopped and took the picture.  As you can see I am struggling to restrain from laughing totally out loud.  My partner, Sgt. Ken Rogers, is not in the picture because he is actually just out of the left side of the frame rolling in the pine straw, from laughter.

masterspracticeroundguy.jpg 

Thursday
Apr262007

Johnny: "just burning a hole through my L-5 with the pain running down into my lower legs."

Sheesh, Hogan got his by a bus and I don't think he was this much of a mess.

Bill Fields writing about Johnny Miller's cameo at the Legend's of Golf: 

Sixty might be the new 40, but Miller, who turns 60 April 29, feels his age. Before he started getting cortisone shots, his right elbow had been so painful he was reduced to swinging one-handed in corporate outings. "I was pretty good at that, but that isn't very impressive," he said. "It's nice to be healed enough that I can at least play with [my] kids. I didn't realize how much I missed at least having the option of playing versus not being able to play whether I [wanted to or not]. I'm grateful for that."

But his knees still ache, and he can feel a slipped disc from his back to his shins. "My back is totally killing me right now," Miller said after the first round, "just burning a hole through my L-5 with the pain running down into my lower legs." Said his wife, Linda, "I think if his body would let him, he would like to play more. It's shot."

Miller's back was so tight when he woke up Friday morning he thought he was going to have to withdraw, but 10 hot towels and 1 1/2 Lortabs for the pain and a driver loaded with 12 strips of lead tape--"It was already F-0, and I probably made it about a G," he said, "so it would do all the work and I wouldn't have to use my body that much"--got him through the day.

Uh, I'm trying not to envision Johnny wrapped in 10 hot towels.

Thursday
Apr262007

Torrey Pines Here We...Sit In Gridlock

According to Golf World's John Strege, we might as well leave now if we want to see the weekend rounds at Torrey Pines for next year's U.S. Open. The culprit? The San Diego County Fair and oh, the fact that we have about 10 million too many residents.

The USGA is trying to work out a compromise with the fairgrounds, which has as a negotiating chip--12,000 parking places the USGA covets. At this stage the two sides are at a stalemate; neither can reschedule its event, though the fair is willing to delay its start--for a price.

"We would give them seven days of parking and start the fair a little late, but we would be making a huge concession," Fennell said. "We would have to be kept whole financially."

Fennell noted if the fair forfeited its opening weekend, lost revenues would exceed $800,000, a sum the USGA steadfastly refuses to pay, according to Bevacqua. Fennell argues the USGA could recoup its investment by charging for parking. He also pointed that giving up the USGA presidential jet would also help cover the cost while also allowing the organization to restore the recently reduced staff benefits.

 Just checking to see if you were reading! I of course, am responsible for that last sentence.

 

The USGA offers free parking and already has an arrangement to use Qualcomm Stadium (home of the San Diego Chargers) for parking.

"We're not overly concerned about it," Bevacqua said. "But we have every intention of working with the fair, and if we could work a compromise, that's our hope."

 

Uh, forget the fair. Have these people ever seen the 5 on a Saturday? Not pretty. 

 

Thursday
Apr262007

Golf.com Poll

Caught this poll on golf.com. Naturally, you can guess what I voted for (sorry Mr. Nelson).

We want to know...

Byron Nelson won 11 tournaments in a row in 1945, a record that may never be matched. Which of the following records do you think is the most impressive?

    * 30.5% Nelson's 11-straight victories
    * 4.8% Hank Aaron's 755 career home runs
    * 9.2% Jim Brown's record of eight NFL season rushing titles
    * 37.7% UCLA's run of 10 NCAA basketball titles in 12 years
    * 15.3% Wayne Gretzky's 2,856 career points

I think the only thing more amazing than the inclusion of Wayne Gretzky's 2,856 career points was that 15.3% actually voted for him!  

Thursday
Apr262007

Pampling Speaks!

At least one more player besides Stuart Appleby was willing to go on the record about Phil's missed pro-am.

"He could have still made it here," [Rod] Pampling told reporters after carding an opening-round 68 on Thursday.

"The (PGA Tour) rules say you have to play in the pro-am to play in the (main) tournament so in my opinion he shouldn't have been allowed to play."

Thursday
Apr262007

Newsflash: TPC Clubhouse To Open!

Golf Channel's Brian Hewitt scores a major exclusive by finding out when they'll be dedicating the TPC SawgrassThe Players Stadium course clubhouse:

Sources at The TOUR confirmed today they have scheduled the dedication for the new 70,000 square foot, $32 million clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass for the Tuesday before next month’s PLAYERS Championship.

Uh, $32 million? Oh I think we have our first question for the commissioner!

In this 2005 Ryan Herrington item from Golf World, the tab was penciled in at $16-18 million

Hey, it's not our money!