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Shoving large quantities of dirt around back then was difficult and arduous undertaking, whereas these days designer can just roll in an army of earth-moving machines and remake nature virtually overnight. Add to that the huge improvements in golf equipment since the golden oldies were built, plus the developer syndrome that big yardage denotes "championship" quality, and you have the answers to why the game becomes even more power-oriented.  JACK NICKLAUS



"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.


“We could even name the first hole after you"

I've been part of and seen some awkward group site visits, but this one at Trump's site in Scotland described by Emma Christie takes the prize.

The group stopped to listen to the Trump Organisation’s project director, Neil Hobday, who said the spectacular view towards the sea from the green would remain “unchanged” if the course was built.

Pausing to admire the dunes, Mr Trump’s right-hand man George Sorial shared a light moment with Martin Ford, the councillor whose casting vote scuppered the US tycoon’s plans.

Mr Sorial asked Mr Ford if he played golf – he does not – before saying he could be made an honorary member of the club, should it get the go-ahead.

“We could even name the first hole after you,” joked Mr Sorial, a suggestion Mr Ford said would make him feel uncomfortable.

The 13th hole, a par three, crosses the vast swathe of mobile sand dune known as a ‘sand sheet’ or ‘the dome’.

The vast majority of the sand sheet would be planted with marram grass in order to stabilise it. Golf course architect Martin Hawtree pointed to some existing grass growth on the dome, which he said had appeared naturally over the past year.

“This dome wants to be green,” said Mr Sorial, in reference to the same site.

But Mr Ford disagreed, and said the beauty of the sand sheet reconfirmed why the decision of the infrastructure services committee was the right one.

He said: “This has simply reminded me that this is a magical wild place with a real sense of wilderness. That’s something we don’t want to lose.”

There goes the honorary membership.


"The only thing that could have helped me was to win"

Doug Ferguson addresses and explains the odd rule that prevented Stacy Lewis' U.S. Open winnings from counting toward  LPGA Tour earnings.
In a policy that no longer makes sense, Lewis will not get credit for her tie for third in the U.S. Women's Open as she tries to earn enough money to get her LPGA Tour card without going to Q-school.

"The only thing that could have helped me was to win," Lewis said at Interlachen, where she had a one-shot lead going into the final round and closed with a 78 to finish five shots behind Inbee Park.

Lewis earned $162,487, which would have been enough to finish the year equal to 80th on the LPGA Tour money list. She is playing in the Northwest Arkansas Championship this week, one of a maximum six events she can play to earn enough money.

She also will play the Jamie Farr Classic next week, and on Tuesday received a sponsor's exemption to the LPGA Kapalua Classic on Maui. Her agent, Jeff Chilcoat of Sterling Sports Management, said he is working on three other tournaments.

"I think it should be revisited," he said of the policy. "And frankly, I'd love to have it revisited retroactively. But I don't anticipate it being changed for her."

Starting in 2003, the LPGA expanded the maximum number of sponsor exemptions for non-members from four to six tournaments, and counted only domestic tournaments with at least 75 players in the field toward the money list. The U.S. Women's Open didn't count, because it is not co-sponsored by the LPGA.
Come on Commish B, you like to change platform-damaging rules. Why not go after this one?

"I want our golf tournament to be there for perpetuity"

I don't! And I suspect a number of players with more discerning taste would agree. From Doug Ferguson's weekly notes:

The board of directors at Congressional Country Club has recommended a three-year contract to host the AT&T National starting in 2012, with an option for three more years that will take it to 2017, The Washington Post reported.

It still requires approval from the full membership, but tournament host Tiger Woods liked the development.

"I want our golf tournament to be there for perpetuity," Woods said. "It is an unbelievable golf course, and in our nation's capitol, on our nation's birthday. The stars couldn't get aligned even more than what it is. Hopefully, we can keep it there."


"It took DeBock five tries; the reporter finally found it on his 15th."

Not to dwell excessively on the U.S. Open with THE Open lurking, but several moments keep flashing before my eyes and none sticks out more than Tiger's putt on 18 Sunday. I remember looking at downhill putts here after learning that front right would be the likely location, and it just never looked like an easy putt to read with the slope coming off the bunker.

Well, Ed Zieralski reports that others have had that putt in mind and tried it out.

 A student of U.S. Open history with a terrific collection of memorabilia from past events, Torrey Pines head pro Joe DeBock was prodded by a reporter to return to the South's 18th green on June 18, two days after Woods beat Rocco Mediate in a thrilling 19-hole playoff.

Of all the putts Woods made during the Open, the reporter told DeBock he was most impressed with a 15-footer that had about eight inches of right-to-left break, which Woods gingerly jarred for birdie to tie Mediate after 72 holes of regulation. DeBock found the hole placement used for Sunday's final round, and he and the reporter took turns trying to make it.

It took DeBock five tries; the reporter finally found it on his 15th.



"Getting to $1 million is a psychological threshold that makes an important impact"

With the Nationwide Tour about to hold its first $1 million purse event, Brett Avery reviews how far it has come.

But the guts of the thing, the players, have changed appreciably. In early years PGA Tour players, obsessed with their status, equated demotion to a Siberian gulag. In a classic chicken-and-egg equation, the more PGA Tour players competed on the Hogan and Nike, the more robust those competitions—and the stronger the abilities of those reaching the big tour. Stewart Cink, one of the first to become a household name, was Nike player of the year in 1996 with three wins. By 1997 he was hoisting the Greater Hartford Open title on the PGA Tour, a victory he duplicated last month at TPC River Highlands.

The Nationwide test is far different now. The season begins with four foreign events, requiring 17,000-plus air miles, or about 30 percent more miles than the 1990 players drove for the entire year. Now few weeks allow driving so players hopscotch on flights. Success does not come cheap; even misers encounter $70,000 in expenses while equipment, apparel and visor contracts pay a fraction of the big tour.

Reid Edstrom, who competed on several mini-tours for a decade before reaching the Nationwide Tour this season, realizes the finances pale compared to the PGA Tour. He won a spot in Monday qualifying for the AT&T Classic outside of Atlanta, made the cut, "finished dead last and earned [almost] $10,500." An equivalent payout in a Nationwide-minimum purse of $500,000 is worth $1,200.


"Since I was given to understand the actual collection procedure was where the technician may be in imminent danger of being shot in unmentionable places by Frank Lickliter II..."

Jim Moriarty submits himself to a drug test, does his best to fail, but isn't faced with the horror that Tour players are howling about: drug technician supervision in the loo.

"Doctors to Woods: Stay away from AT&T"

Not sure if this headline is quite the brand builder that AT&T was looking for when it signed on to sponsor Tiger's D.C. event:




Women's Open Beats Buick

It was a showdown for the ages...from Thomas Bonk's online column:

The overnight rating for Kenny Perry's victory in Sunday's final round of the Buick Open on CBS was 1.5, down 12% from a 1.7 rating in 2007, when Brian Bateman won. The final round Sunday of the U.S. Women's Open on NBC had an overnight rating of 1.6.


"Seeking ace Editor with go-to attitude"

Thanks to the reader who spotted this USGA want ad:

Company:  United States Golf Association
Position:    Seeking ace Editor with go-to attitude
Location:    Far Hills, New Jersey
Job Status:   Full-time
Salary:  More than $100,000
Ad Expires:  August 4, 2008
Job ID:   945089


Position Summary: Responsible for overseeing all aspects of publishing, editorial, design and production for the department.

Principal Duties: - Prepares editorial and production schedules and ensures that the flow of material proceeds as scheduled.

- Oversees writing, rewriting and editing of text and coordination of photography and illustrations and ensures desired level of quality is maintained.

- Oversees development of ideas and in planning of long-range content of projects.

- Proofreads, copy-edits.

- Editing responsibilities to include collaboration with New Media department as well as Media Relations. - Functions as reporter to cover internal activities including championships and other events and writes features.

That means you better be ready to get your nose browned!

- Prepares budget and oversees financial requirements.

- Supervise vendor in all production areas.

Working Relationships: - Other Communications Staff including New Media, Media Relations. - Contributing writers - Appropriate USGA staff members concerning information to be published/communicated - USGA Communications Committee

Knowledge, Education, Skills & Abilities: - Comprehensive knowledge of the game of golf, especially as it relates to USGA activities and mission. - Editorial project management. - Writing, editiing, proofreading & copy editing skills; understanding of photography. - Knowledge of production processes - Proficient computer skills which may include Photoshop, Quark, InCopy, InDesign, DxO Optics Pro and experience in the on-line environment.

TO APPLY: Please email letter of interest/cover letter and resume to

"I decided to make the U.S. Open my last event, whether I made the cut or not"

Tiger Woods teleconferenced with the scribes to kick off the AT&T National and filled in a few gaps in the injury timeline. 

For press summaries, you have plenty of options: Melanie Hauser (here), Larry Dorman (here), Bob Harig (here) and Steve Elling (here).


"I rationalized this by thinking of drug testing like testing a driver."

Bob Harig talks to several of the PGA Tour's finest about drug testing and it's wonderful to see how little has changed. They police themselves, the only positive test will be an "accidental positive" and it's really going to stink that they can't use Vick's Vapor Rub anymore.

The Commish of course, is all over the map:

"My position hasn't changed. We have to work hard through that. The idea of testing doesn't change the culture of responsibility of players knowing the rules, playing by the rules, calling violations on yourself. I rationalized this by thinking of drug testing like testing a driver. You're testing it because somebody put it in a player's hands. Drug testing, you are testing a player because maybe they put something in their body. In both cases, I don't expect or anticipate situations where players intentionally violated.

"If that were to happen, it's a bad situation. But we're worried about it happening by mistake. We're not presuming guilt here. If we look at it that way, I think we can maintain the culture of the sport."
Here's the we-can't-catch-colds-anymore stuff...

"I think the first time somebody tests positive for something, it'll be something like Vick's cough syrup," said Brandt Snedeker, who as a college golfer at Vanderbilt was subject to random drug testing by the NCAA. "We've all turned into label readers in the last few months. Guys take supplements, and there are certain things you can't have."

"The only thing that irks me a little bit," said tour player J.J. Henry, "is I had a cold three weeks ago and I had to go look through this little book and was wondering if I could take this cough suppressant or if I can't. There are things like that you can't take. I guess we'll get adjusted. It's sort of like taking your shoes off now when you go through security at the airport. Unfortunately, you just have to do things.

"I'd like to think our sport is clean, and I'd like to think as golfers we appreciate the integrity of our sport. I'm not worried about it, but there is a little gray area that we are going to have to deal with."

Yada, yada, yada. 


"It's been so bad at Golf Channel that instead of providing live coverage of the Fall Series, the network ran an endless loop of Woods's 2006 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

For my money (which isn't much), Alan Shipnuck should win the GWAA Award For Best Non-Daily What-Will-Golf-Do-Without-Tiger Column division. From last week's SI Scorecard:

He is said to have added 17 pounds of muscle, most of it in his left leg. Gone will be the trademark swoosh on his cap, replaced with mayo clinic, which took advantage of golf fans' newfound interest in medical issues and became his newest big-ticket sponsor. Woods will also unveil a reconstructed swing designed to reduce the torque on his left knee: After carefully studying a sequence of photos of Charles Barkley taken at 1999's American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, Woods has incorporated a pronounced hitch in his downswing.

It is a testament to his tremendous athletic ability that he is still able to drive the ball up to 210 yards. To chronicle the return of the world No. 1 — yes, Woods had piled up enough points to retain his lofty perch while idled — ESPN and CBS are planning wall-to-wall coverage.

(A tiny camera has been embedded within Woods's knee, so viewers can gauge how well his surgically repaired ACL holds up during the Masters.)

Television executives are giddy about Woods's return, since ratings have plunged 93% without him. It's been so bad at Golf Channel that instead of providing live coverage of the Fall Series, the network ran an endless loop of Woods's 2006 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.



Annika's Grand Finish

It's 8:37 PM PST and no YouTube posting yet of Annika's final shot in U.S. Open play (until she's back in three years). So until then, we at least have Rob Matre's shot along with other images from Sunday of the all time great.



“It was a bet for the city of San Diego, because the city didn't have the money to put up for this bet"

While I enjoyed Brent Schrotenboer and Eleanor Yang Su's look at the complex relationship between The Friends of Torrey Pines and the city of San Diego that left the city out of profiting from the U.S. Open, it was hard not to wonder why this question wasn't raised before the Open.

And while I'm happy for Jay Rains and the "Friends" who pulled off a stunning success in the face of many hurdles, it was always quite clear that appearance of conflict was there. Only now that the Open was a huge success do the city advocates want a piece of the pie. I say, too late!

Anyway, the key numbers, which would seem to back up the Sports Business Journal estimate of a $50 million profit, which David Fay refuted last week

The USGA projected in November that it would generate about $58.3 million in revenues from the 2008 Open, according to a city permit application filed by the association. That includes ticket sales, hospitality, concessions and merchandise. Television rights are not included. Sports Business Journal recently approximated those at $40 million and suggested total revenue might approach $100 million.

The USGA estimated its expenses at $51.5 million.

To sum up the projected revenues:

 For the USGA, at least $58.3 million, plus TV deals.

 For the Friends, $5.37 million from rent and hospitality shares, interest and a $950,000 reimbursement from the city for some of the course renovations.

 For the city, about $500,000 in rent from the Friends, plus cost recovery up to $350,000 and another $350,000 for other golf course work.

The city also derived other benefits, many of them hard to quantify, such as five days of national television exposure. Additionally, the Friends said they would give the city $300,000 to $500,000 to improve the irrigation system at its golf course in Balboa Park.



"Is it really necessary to do anything at this point? Just asking."

The WSJ's Tim Carroll profiles Dick Rugge and the USGA equipment testing, writing:

But for all the hand-wringing over all the booming tee shots on the Tour these days, the distance wars are actually waning. In the past couple of decades, the USGA has introduced limits on the lengths of club shafts (48 inches) and the size and volume of clubheads (no more than 5 inches square and 460 cubic centimeters), as well as the overall distance that a tested ball can fly (320 yards). At the time those rules came into effect, some of these parameters seemed generous, and there was room for equipment manufacturers to exploit them to make the ball go farther. But it's getting much harder to eke out more distance from a ball and club and stay within the rules.

At the same time, a number of Tour players are gaining a greater appreciation for the value of the control game and are beginning to emphasize finesse over distance. The Tour pro who most consistently hit the farthest off the tee last year, Bubba Watson, averaged 315.2 yards, but that was down from 319.6 yards in 2006. It was the first year-over-year decline in distance in a long time.

Carroll's piece serves as a nice table setter for E. Michael Johnson's questions in this week's Golf World about the need for a groove rule change.

The USGA points out that nearly half the shots hit from the rough find the green, and that's true (it's currently 48.64 percent). But what it doesn't say is that number rises to 74.68 percent from the fairway. In other words, over 14 holes (throw out the typical four par 3s), if a player hits it in the rough every hole he would hit seven greens on average. If he hits it in the fairway every hole he would hit 10.5.

Accuracy, in fact, is key to how players such as Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk compete for titles. From the fairway Mahan makes birdie 21.28 percent of the time. From the rough it's 9.60 percent. Furyk goes under par 21.10 percent from the fairway and just 9.82 percent from the rough. The correlation between accuracy and success is zero? Perhaps for some of the bombers, but not for everyone.

Distance is not increasing. Playing from the rough is appreciably more difficult than playing from the fairway. Is it really necessary to do anything at this point? Just asking.

I used to believe Johnson's point made above was largely correct, but at this point a change in the groove rule would do two things (in theory): restore the importance of firmness and return the flier lie to its rightful place in the game. And (in theory) this would make deep hay lining fairways something we see less often in tournament golf, replaced by flier lie rough. That would be a great thing for the game, even if it means changing equipment.

Oh, and it establishes the precedent of a major equipment "rollback."


"This much-ballyhooed addition to the Home of Golf's portfolio is ultimately disappointing."

John Huggan pens the second Castle Course at St. Andrews review and it's not pretty...
Quite apart from the air of mystery surrounding the final resting places of so many tee-shots, the most striking aspect of this picturesque layout high above the Auld Grey Toon becomes apparent once the golfer is lucky enough to have found his ball after driving into seeming oblivion. The architect, David McLay Kidd, calls them 'spill-offs'; my four-ball came up with a few other names – some of them printable – for the peculiar rough-covered mounds we discovered dotted indiscriminately about the fairways.

'Hairy mound' was the first, albeit rather prosaic offering. I myself favoured 'clumpy hillock'. Then there was 'Abe Lincoln chins'. But the most imaginative member of the group came up with 'enormous hoof-prints left by enormous horses'.

Whatever, these mysterious affectations – for they appear to have no immediately discernible architectural or strategic purpose – are intensely irritating. While golf, as someone once said, is a game never meant to be fair, searching for one's ball after striping one up the middle very quickly gets old. The always-tricky-to-locate line between luck and skill has been crossed here and crossed too often.

"When the men of the Phoenix Country Club saw their feeding ways in peril..."

club_190.22.jpgJennifer Steinhauer in the New York Times profiles Phoenix Country Club and it's exclusionary men's grill.  I feel like I've read this story before...oh and thanks to reader Steven T. for this bit of deja vu all over again:
When the men of the Phoenix Country Club saw their feeding ways in peril, they did not tarry. Some sent nasty e-mail messages, hectored players on the fairway and, for good measure, urinated on a fellow club member’s pecan tree.
And I suppose why this is getting the time of day...
But here in Arizona, where the governor, secretary of state, chief justice and Senate minority leader are women, it has rankled more than a few women that nonmember men have more rights than paying female members at the Phoenix Country Club, a century-old fixture in the city’s social and business life where it costs tens of thousands of dollars a year to belong.

Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, is not a member of the club, but Dennis Burke, her chief of staff, is. Mr. Burke has publicly opposed the separated dining rooms, and in an interview called them “indefensible.” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, does not belong to the club but has spoken there. (The McCain presidential campaign declined to comment on the separate dining rooms.) According to a 2007 club directory, Mr. McCain’s son, Andrew, is a member, along with scores of other notable Phoenix residents, including the rocker Alice Cooper.

Women at the club are not permitted to have lunch in the men’s grill room with their husbands after a round of golf; they have been barred from trophy ceremonies after tournaments, even ones they have sponsored, and may not participate in one of the most sacred rituals of the men’s grill room — sealing a deal over a beer with a client.


"I thought I was done playing golf forever"

img10880992.jpgSteve Elling has the amazing Stacy Lewis story, which you might want to read if you are going to watch the final round of the U.S. Women's Open. Just don't read it over breakfast if medical details aren't your thing...