Golf requires only a few simple Rules and Regulations to guide the players in the true nature of its sporting appeal. The spirit of the game is its own referee.
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.
“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.
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."
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, 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.
Have you driven a fjord lately? Putted on tundra bentgrass? Blomqvist has. For whatever reason, the Finnish development in the game has lagged behind the other Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden, which has produced two different U.S. Women's Open winners, while another Swede, veteran Helen Alfredsson, is among the leaders this week.
Blomqvist offered a theory on that front.
"I always tell a story about why the Swedes are so good in golf," she said, laughing. "Because in golf, you need an empty mind, and there's nothing going on in their heads, so that's why they play good."And...
That Blomqvist is among the leaders comes as a middling surprise, since she has never won an LPGA event and hasn't finished better than third this year. She wasn't expecting such scrutiny, either.
"I'm upset because I didn't put my makeup on today," she cracked as a phalanx of TV cameras zoomed tight. "I didn't think I was going to play that well. I should be looking nice for the media."Her entire interview can be viewed here.
Wie made a series of mistakes on No. 9, the first being that she elected to hit driver off the elevated tee instead of 3-wood. Wie has struggled with the driver for nearly two years now -- missing shots low and left as well as high and right -- and she blocked this one into the right rough.
She compounded the mistake off the tee by being too aggressive with her second shot, trying to advance it too close to the green instead of opting to pitch out sideways. The second shot ran through the fairway and into the rough at the base of the steep hill leading up to the ninth green.
Playing from the rough, she hit a shot that came out low, skidded across the green and ended up in the rough about two yards over the green. That's not a good place to be. It's virtually impossible to keep the ball on the green from there, without some luck or trickiness.
Trying to barely nudge the ball onto the fringe, Wie moved it only about 30 inches and left it still in the rough right on the edge of the fringe, now laying 4. At this point it was Julieta Granada's turn to play from the rough also behind the green. It was also at this point that Wie's brain shut down and she stared at her feet waiting for her turn to hit again.
What she missed while looking at her toes was that Granada played her shot sideways and it trickled down onto the safe shelf. Wie then took her putter and played her fifth shot straight down the sliding board, across the shelf and off the false front.
Her first chip from below the false front was not hit hard enough and rolled back to her feet. Her second pitch ended five feet from the hole, from where she two-putted for a 9.
I missed Annika's round today in the U.S. Women's Open but caught her post round interview where she explained an apparently not-so-hot decision to use driver on No. 17 despite a tee being moved up. After the round, look what she had to say about the setup of Interlachen:
It's just, it's very, very fair, but you have to hit the ball well and there are a lot of tees out there where it's, there's so many different strategies. I mean, I've hit 4-irons off the tee, I hit 5-irons, I hit 5-woods, 4-wood, driver. I mean that's five different clubs off the tee other than par-3s. I can't think of any other golf course like that. And it's just strategy and it's just there's not a right way to play it, it's just depending how feel and how you want to approach the greens and with which clubs.
I think this Bakersfield Californian headline and story was trying to nicely say that McAllister Ranch has been let go maintenance wise due to the housing crisis, not because of poor grassing choices!
This is what happened to me Friday afternoon at a public course in Western Pennsylvania I won't mention. Was the glacial pace acceptable? Absolutely not. Was it understandable? Of course, because too many players don't understand the first thing about etiquette and pace of play.
But, someone needs to explain to me how a threesome of talented young golfers, none older than 29, can take nearly three hours to play nine holes and five hours to play 18 holes on a perfectly sunny day? And in a tournament staged by an organization whose purpose, among other things, is to enforce the rules?
That, though, is what happened Tuesday in the final round of the West Penn Amateur, the oldest tournament in Western Pennsylvania that was celebrating its 108th year. But, after the final group started at 9:13 a.m. and finished at 2:15 p.m. at the wonderfully restored Bedford Springs Resort, the tournament felt as though it had morphed into year No. 109.
"The officials can only do so much," said Jeff Rivard, executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association. "The players need to say, hey, we need to pick it up."
So while many hope Woods returns for next year's Buick Invitational, or even the 2009 Masters, he may not be back until daughter Sam is close to her second birthday -- or just in time to defend his U.S. Open title at Bethpage Black. What will it be like for him to miss that much time? "Anybody who's a warrior is going to have trouble taking a [sustained] break from competition," says sport psychologist Bob Rotella. "It is not only the winning they miss, it's the way they feel starting out Thursday, or being in contention on Sunday."
Woods already is restless. After filming a Buick commercial last week, he called Haney requesting a list of areas that he could improve upon during his time away from competition. The instructor tried to tell Woods that he hadn't even had surgery yet, but Tiger pressed. "I want to think about it," he said.
I'm not sure what Tim Finchem will find more alarming in this YouTube video ID'd as John Daly at the Buick Open pro-am: Daly hitting a tee shot off of a beer can or Kid Rock dressed in a denim "bib" overall.
We didn't play by all the rules, at times we weren't complete gentlemen, and we didn't always hit great shots, but this group had a blast. It never ceases to amaze me how the game of golf can be the common denominator. Regardless of the fact that we didn't know each other and came from different backgrounds, professions and generations, for a little more than six hours, with an assortment of alcohol, hot dogs and a $100-per-man side-bet between two foursomes, we had the game of golf.Really Darwinesque, don't you think?
It seemed like on every tee box we were greeted by a new form of alcohol, served by a young, scantily clad representative of the liquor company. The Hawaiian Tropic Zone Girls attended this function, also scantily clad, and we had an occasional visit on the course by a rogue cart full of marinated members of the gallery. Was THIS what they meant by "the spirit of the Hamptons?" Other than that, we had razor-sharp focus on the side-bet.And for those of you counting at home, that's 3 "scantily clad" mentions in 1200 words.
I'll condense the day of competitive golf down to the fact that my team won. I use "competitive" loosely here, and it's always a relative term. Each group and each player had good shots, clutch putts, lucky breaks and cold-tops that made you want to bury your head in the bottom of your bag. We had an above-average amount of smack-talk, change-shaking, chest-bumping and fist-pumping, but a portion of that has to be attributed to the "swing-oil" and an unusual number of pit stops.
AP's Larry Lage follows Rocco Mediate around Warwick Hills and shares some fun anecdotes about his return to the tour following the U.S. Open showdown with Tiger.
Mediate's approach from 115 yards at No. 6 sailed to the right and landed in rough thick enough it almost hid the ball, an errant shot just 46 fans standing along the ropes saw at the sparsely attended event.
Instead of cursing at himself, Mediate conversed with fans and joked about how many of them say "That's a gimme,'' any time a ball is remotely close to the cup.
"You need to come up with something else,'' Mediate joked.
Several interesting items in the USGA press conference at Interlachen where David Fay, Roberta Bolduc and Mike Davis faced the inkslingers who miraculously asked some great questions (offsetting the point missers lobbing stuff about a U.S. Senior Women's Open). After Davis talked at length about Interlachen's design attributes and Brian Silva's restoration work there, he shared this about the bunkers at Torrey Pines:
The bunkers like we have been doing the last few years, we did stir up the bottoms to try to make the bunkers a little bit softer so that the player can't get as much spin. And I was telling somebody the other day, one of the best things I heard at Torrey Pines, it just -- I almost wanted to do a cartwheel is when a player actually said, we were trying to avoid bunkers at Torrey Pines. Because we haven't heard that in who knows how long.
Davis, on driveable par-4s this week at Interlachen and in future USGA course setups:
You have to have enough risk but you've got to have the reward with it. They have to match. And in fact David and I talked about it before Sunday of Torrey Pines, that I thought it was going to work well for the reasons I kept going through in my mind, but you don't really know. And if only ten players out of the 80 went for it I would call it a failure but I think there was 57 or 56 or whatever that went for it. And it's, you know, there was a blend of scoring.
But when we did it at Oakmont it worked. Because those holes were architecturally set up for it. We did it the one hole at Winged Foot. But, no, we will not force it. So it won't necessarily be a trademark. But I think when you get that opportunity, it's really neat because you do make the players think. And we want -- we don't want this to be gimmicky, but at the same time we want it to be the hardest championship of the year, whether it's the U.S. Girls Junior, the Women's Open, the U.S. Open or the Senior Men's Amateur, but at the same time there's nothing wrong with introducing more risk, reward and making the players think, giving them opportunities, and taking a hole and really saying if you play it great you can make birdie, eagle, but if you don't play it so great, if you try something and don't pull it off you're going to pay the price.
And look at this troublemaker with the killer follow up about those R&A lollygaggers.
Q. David, could we get an update on the groove situation? Wasn't that due for some sort of roll out in January, I think, in theory? Has there been any developments on that front or are we going to have to all change irons?
DAVID FAY: The latest update is there's no update. We are still on track, we hope. There are a number of components that we have to get everything resolved. A number of -- and we're moving ahead on that. But to give you a timetable at this time, it would be premature.
Q. R & A still a part of the equation in getting them signed up for the same time?
DAVID FAY: Well the R & A, it's a change in equipment, a change in any rule will not happen unless both sides support it. Fully. The fact that you've not heard anything should not be construed as meaning there's a problem. It's just that we -- anything dealing with equipment, particularly these days, is complex. You deal with the specifications, manufacturing tolerances, I think that one thing I would say that we have never, at least in my experience at the USGA, researched and done the lab testing and the player testing to the degree that we have with this subject of grooves.
Just not enough for the R&A!