We are planning and building not to penalize very poor strokes, but rather those which are nearly good. A.W. TILLINGHAST
Connell Barrett talks to Stevie Williams about caddying for Tiger Woods, Phil's complete understanding of the media spinning the truth and the epic wedge shot at Torrey's 18th.
This Golf Magazine piece follows his touching release of a rare bird that just happened to include a cameraman nearby and an NBC announcing gig.
On how he got to carry Tiger's luggage:
Then, in March 1999, Williams' phone rang again. It was someone claiming to be Tiger Woods. Woods had recently fired Mike "Fluff" Cowan, and Tiger wanted a veteran caddie who, in Williams' words, "could stimulate and extend him."
I knew they were close, but geeze. That description coupled with this photo accompanying the article might give some the wrong impression. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
Williams expects pandemonium when Woods returns, and he's ready to resume his role as the Tour's resident tyrant. "People have this image of me as a bully, but my job is to give Tiger a level playing field against 150 other players. We have more photographers and press following us than anyone. To those who criticize me, I say come walk with us through practice rounds, pro-ams, the whole week, and then tell me I'm a bully." Williams regrets kicking a photographer's lens at the 2004 U.S. Open and tossing a camera into a pond at the Skins Game. But be warned: If your shutter click-clicks in Tiger's backswing, your camera may join Luca Brasi. "Heaven help anyone who bothers my boss," Williams says.
On behalf of the blogosphere Stevie, we thank you in advance!
On calling Phil a prick and making up a story about a spectator making a comment that never happened:
"I made a mistake in a fun atmosphere," Williams says. "It was a joke taken the wrong way. I was having banter with a writer. I should not have said it. Tiger was not happy. I called Phil and spoke to him to clear the air. He was very sympathetic. He said, "Steve, I totally understand.' He's had his own problems with the media. So the matter is settled."
Isn't it always the media's fault?
I was going to bellow on about the corporatization of the tournament and how that is subsequently draining life from a once well-attended event and suggest ways to breathe new life into the L.A./Northern Trust Open, but really why bother? When the PGA Tour takes over tournament operations next year they'll whip out the Championship Manual and do their clean, sterile, boring thing. Crowds will continue to dwindle, the event will look just like a WGC minus Tiger, and I'll still be begging for an 18th hole scoreboard because the folks in Ponte Vedra don't ever actually go to a golf tournament on their own dime to experience it like a fan.
Instead, I thought it would be more productive to post the final ShotLink data and a more manageable plea to the far more agreeable and savvy folks who operate this wonderful technology. Could we revisit the 10th hole's "Going for the Green" stat? I think 3% of the field taking a crack is just slightly off!
For those of you shot dispersion junkies, here's this 2009's four round scoring from the location of the tee shot. (Right)
And finally, reader Steve emailed to ask how my prediction that the newly restored but poorly shaped short grass on No. 10 played out. You may recall that I noted how the poorly reshaped slope off the green, restored as short grass this after the brilliant idea to take one of the best features away, needed no help after surviving 81 years of play. Still, it was steepened and the Mickelson Mounds added to discourage drives near the 11th tee. However, the new area was collecting balls in the same small spots instead of a more diverse distribution that the gradual slope would have allowed.
Well I figured I had it wrong because the area looked splendid Sunday. Then I walked on it while trailing the leaders and noted that the stellar Riviera maintenance staff has been ably masking the modern architect's failed shaping with very discreet Kikuyu patches where divots were created. Yet again, the superintendent makes an architect look good.
Suicide prevention hotlines in South Florida, greater Wilton and pockets of Manhattan reported an uptick in calls Monday as the Golf Writer's Association of America handed out its annual awards for golf's Kleenex-assisted-required reading most compelling writing of 2008. Notably absent this year were any winning entries that originally included a phone number and contact number. A nice improvement over last year.
As lousy as the PGA Tour's week was with the Stanford Financial and UBS news, you have to think the chinks in Dubai's armor might actually be more embarrassing. Granted, neither was tied to golf, but as John Strege seems to be suggesting, it may only be a matter of time before Dubai shames the game.
I make a guest appearance on this week's SI/golf.com/Golf Mag/Time Inc./People Magazine mass market paperback to discuss all things golf.
I'd like your thoughts on the content of this exchange, starting with my comment:
It's also fascinating how the win here, the Match Play and everything else are clearly secondary to him behind The Masters. He's just repeated at Riviera, which used to mean something, and all he can talk about is how it was great to be in contention to prepare him for Augusta. And the Match Play? He says it's like six final rounds, which is great preparation for The Masters. I don't ever remember someone winning here and viewing it that way. Got to love his focus on the big prize, but it's not like this is a silly season event.
Van Sickle: That's more of the Tiger Effect. Only the majors matter to him, and therefore to the rest of us. The Hogan history at Riviera, and also at Colonial, has very little meaning for the players two generations removed. Too bad.
Evans: The more Phil talks about Masters buildup, the more golf will become like tennis. Can anybody remember watching tennis outside of the Grand Slams? Golf is headed in that direction, despite reports to the contrary from the Golf Channel.
Now I may be misinterpreting Phil's reaction because he gets very strange in the media interview room depending on who asks a question. And I will say his caddy Jim "Bones" Mackay was visibly thrilled by the win and made sure to grab the flag on 18 for his collection of winning 18th hole flags.
But what do you think of what Van Sickle and Evans had to say about the bigger picture issue of majors overshadowing tour events?
The general malaise displayed by Sunday's Northern Trust field resulted from a return of the dreaded Beef Stroganoff cream-of-too-much-butter pasta in the media center dining room following a week of stellar menu options. Players could sense post round interviews would come before a refluxing band of scribblers and therefore played tentatively throughout Sunday's gloomy but warm finale.
That's my theory anyway.
You can look at his win two ways.
Behind door number one, you could say his ball striking is a mess and he was lucky to win. After all, how many times of you heard of a Hall-of-Famer hitting balls after a 62?
And behind door two, you could say that much like Tiger, Phil's a man among boys. He can be shaky with the ball striking, still post two over-par rounds, and go on to win a big time event on a course that exposes the slightest miscues.
I'm definitely voting for option two.
A similar conclusion could be drawn about Fred Couples, only his problems were on the greens (well, until the shank on 18). He outdrove Phil and Andres Romero several times and his overall iron play was stellar. Not bad for a 49-year-old part-time golfer.
As for the media center reports, Doug Ferguson does a nice job encapsulating a bizarre final day.
John Bush at PGATour.com shares some pretty impressive "With This Win" deals, including this one which should give Phil slightly more satisfaction than the 500 FedEx Cup points he picked up:
The win moves the left-hander out of a tie with Vijay Singh and into solo possession of 13th place on the all-time wins list.
Fred Couples, the 2009 United States Presidents Cup captain, made his 27th start at the Northern Trust Open a good one, finishing tied for third. His amazing record here includes wins in 1990 and 1992, as well as 25 made cuts, 19 top-25 finishes and 13 top-10 finishes.
Helen Ross wonders if in spite of the win, if this is really the confidence booster Phil had hoped for.
Ferguson also notes that Couples was playing with a heavy heart, making his play that much more impressive.
Jim Achenbach does a beautiful job explaining why Riviera is such a great spectator course.
This reminds me how much I detest modern courses that are virtually unwalkable because they sprawl from one housing segment to another. Sometimes the ride from green to tee is longer than the ride from tee to green. In my mind, there is a disconnect in this design scheme. One hole never seems to flow naturally into the next.
Unless you are Walter Driver and Fred Ridley looking for validation of the change-courses-not-the-ball philosophy, don't read the rest of the column where Jim says that it's time for the governing bodies to start looking out for the Riviera's of the world, and then advocates...oh I can't even type it. And to think we could have bickered about this Jim!
Speaking of the ball going too long, I had heard from a marshal that Shigeki Maruyama was nailed in the back by an incoming range ball Saturday while he was in the 11th fairway...past the barranca. For those of you who don't know the course, this requires about a 330 yard carry. A reliable source says Shigeki is still awaiting a show of concern/acknowledgment of pulse from the culprit, the one and only J.B. Holmes.
That's all for now, but I have a few more NTO posts to mop up with this week. For now, hope you enjoy the black and white images and other iphoto distorted stuff. As someone who loves the old imagery of L.A. Opens past, I thought it'd be nice to see 2009 the way tournaments used to look. And besides, it was a B&W kinda day Sunday, don't you think?
Before we crown another winner here in L.A., I wanted to post this item from Jill Painter that ran earlier this week in the L.A. Daily News and earning huge eye rolls from the assembled scribes. Quoting Rick Waddell of Northern Trust on the chances of luring Tiger back to the Northern Trust Open:
"I fully expect he'll play in the Northern Trust Open in some years ahead," Waddell said. "When he does, I hope I'll present him the trophy like I did with Phil last year."
Mickelson had taken the Northern Trust Open off his schedule for five years before returning in 2007, when he lost in a playoff.
Woods isn't playing the event for the third consecutive year. He's played 11 times at Riviera, including two as an amateur, but has never won here. It's Woods' longest tenure at a tournament without a victory.
This is essentially a home tournament for Woods, who grew up in nearby Cyrpess, so Waddell has good selling points.
"This is a golf course that's very familiar to him," Waddell said. "We gave him his first exemption."
A 5 a.m. wake up call afforded me the chance to:
(A) watch John Mutch set up the back nine so Phil Mickelson could torch it in 30 for a 62 to follow his 63-72
(B) check out the huge sucker hole location on No. 10 that Mutch thought might be too easy but, for a second year in a row, proved way too deceiving for the majority of today's bomb and think about the consequences later
(C) think long and hard about the need to compliment the first rate media food service with a small nap area here in our media hanger for these soft, overcast, muggy days after a nice hot lunch. I'm thinking clear booths like the radio people passed on using this week so we can all see who just couldn't stay away any longer and had to lie down.
The chances are slim since last year's pleas to restore the manual scoreboard on 18 were ignored. The chances will dim even further next year when PGA Tour Championship Management steamrolls over any semblance of non-corporate aesthetics and local flavor in favor of sterility, so I guess I'll just curl up under a tree next time sleep beckons.
Thankfully the golf was lively today, with the overcast skies apparently making it easier for players to see, as Fred Couples talked about in his enjoyable post round press conference. The cloud cover added a little "stick" to the greens in Mutch's word as we drove around and boy did the players respond. Mind you the greens were still pretty firm but just a shade slower and receptive.
Now, I know I beat this 10th hole thing to death, but watching today and witnessing the nearly endless stream of mindless shots reminded me why it is so fun and vital in gauging a player's ability. Because Riviera's 10th consistently shines a big nasty light on the course management ineptitude of today's modern golfer (look how few layed up left with a sucker front hole location in the ShotLink image right).
Ah but you'll say, note that Couples hit it way right off the tee, a big no-no for a veteran. I asked about that and he explained after the round. His comments might shed some light on why he has so much success at Riviera:
Q. Talking about your love of the golf course, and the great architecture, on 10, you laid up very far to the right. Can you talk about how you approach the 10th hole all the time, and why you played that shot today?
FRED COUPLES: I shanked that shot today. (Laughter).
But to be honest with you, every day I try and go further left than people think. And very rarely do I hit driver there.
But over the years, I've played it really, really well. And I try and go this way.
And today in my mind, I knew where the pin was and I tried to go further to the right and then I told myself even further, and I just kind of luckily was in the fairway. If it had gone another yard to the right in the rough, I would have had no shot. But I hit a great little 75yard shot in there to stop it. But that's a tough, tough hole.
To recap for the 8 milionth time, the strategy is simple: play left in some way, either driving the green or laying up and you will be okay. Right is DEAD!!
As for Mickelson's incredible round, the 7 one-putt day on the back side was nice but I was most astonished by just how far he is hitting his tee shots. Since the USGA and R&A keep saying distance has been capped, Phil's comments were interesting:
Q. How much longer are you hitting it with your new driver than previous drivers?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a noticeable difference for me. When I say noticeable, it's 12 yards. I mean, that's a big difference for me. Being able to get eight, nine yards for carry, that's a really big difference. I mean, usually it would be two or three yards and you would notice a difference. This is a big difference for me.
The biggest thing, though, is that I'm able to work shots, hit cuts, draws, low shots, rather than just one standard shot.
And finally in media center news, the turnout was cut by more than half with Ryo's departure, but that still didn't stop a modified sign from being posted for those who apparently chose to smoke in the portable toilets.
I wonder what PGA Tour Championship Management would make of that handmade sign?
I was the lone (impartial) witness to this heated encounter--as you can tell by the intense stare down from Phil Mickelson--between renowned white belt wearer Phil and his top critic, Golf Digest fashion guru Marty Hackel following Saturday's third round.
It went something like this:
Phil: Marty, Bones tells me you were critical of my white belt.
Marty (gesturing wildly): Love the belt! I just think you should wear white shoes with it.
Phil: Oh that would be way over the top!
From there it spiraled with no-on-the-white-belt votes from Jim Mackay and Butch Harmon, who were supervising the rare post-round ball striking session. (Yes, he was hitting balls after a 62.) Mickelson then explained to Hackel where the white belt concept came from, and if I shared the story (A) you'd never in a million years believe what he said and (B) it would violate the writer-player driving range off-the-record agreement that I'm sure I signed off when I autographed my PGA Tour media regulations form.
But naturally, you are welcome to offer your fictional versions of this encounter. Tastefully, of course.
...By Bill Dwyre in the L.A. Times, writing about Rocco's determination to play Riviera this week and about his incredible start.
Thursday, Mediate teed off quietly, walked slowly around the Riviera course while managing a one-under-oar 70. Friday, he walked it again and turned in a three-under 68.
The good news, for Mediate, is that he made the cut at four under and will play two more rounds today and Sunday.
The bad news, for his physical therapist and surgeon, is that Mediate made the cut and will play two more rounds today and Sunday.
Only 18 days ago, after he dragged the knee around the Sunday round of the FBR Open in Scottsdale on Feb. 1, Mediate had surgery done by Dr. Tom Knapp of the Santa Monica Orthopedic Group. Immediately thereafter, his physical therapist, Cindy Hilfman, took over.
The goal was to get him ready to play at Riviera, his "favorite track," according to Hilfman.
Asked Friday what it would have taken to keep him out of this tournament, Mediate said, "Death."
Just another warm, sunny day with Junior Chamber of Commerce weather at Riviera.
Question: will we still get these glorious days when PGA Tour Championship Management takes over operations from the Junior Chamber?
Crowds were larger Friday, though still not nearly the size or exuding the energy level of past Friday afternoons. Players continued to respond with excellent play despite firming greens and a little afternoon wind. Phil Mickelson suffered from the usual post-incredible-round blues, posting a 72 and struggling most of the way. Still, he's only three back heading into the weekend with a nicely stocked leaderboard.
The sponsor exemptions played admirably but not well enough for the weekend. Sifford exemptee Vincent Johnson impressed many, Pepperdine's Jason Gore is positioned for a nice check, and most observers feel Ryo Ishikawa has a ways to go in the course management department. In other words, he's no Rory McIlroy. ;)
I bounced around the course and took in a variety of groups, mostly hovering near the 10th hole when possible. Naturally it did not disappoint even with more guys laying-up today, but they still don't seem to want to lay-up left, meaning there were still plenty of things just won't see anywhere else in golf. Look for a juicy hole location Saturday to spice things up even more.
It was great seeing Peter Kostis, CBS analyst, former Titleist something-or-other and overall fan of all things this website, reunited with a Titleist bag while shooting some segment that most will TiVo right on by.
A strange, you-had-to-be-there highlight of the day came while watching Johnson Wagner in the trees off No. 13, asking marshals to fuss with ropes, lemonade stands, pretzel cards and anything but the trees themselves. After a host of requests for the team of marshals on No. 13 and changing his mind on where to pitch out, Wagner finally decided on a simple chip out (therefore rendering all previous requests pointless).
After the shot he smiled sheepishly, blushed and said "So sorry" to the devoted volunteers. They of course said they were happy to oblige, but it was just one of those nice little gestures you don't see enough of from today's pro: an acknowledgement of the men and women in green who make the tournament a reality.
Defiant to the end, Phil Mickelson appeared Friday in his all black, white belt/hat ensemble that just weeks ago drew an all caps "DO NOT HAVE CONTRAST" observation from intrepid Golf Digest fashion guru Marty Hackel. I say the white belt does a wonderful job bringing out his upper arm-tan lines. Frankly, more offensive than the white belt may be the mariachi polo.
AP's Curt Anderson explains how the IRS is claiming that UBS, sponsor of several events including The Players, Arnold Palmer Invitational and several other events around the globe, "created hundreds of sham offshore entities and lied to U.S. officials in an elaborate scheme to conceal the overseas accounts of wealthy Americans, the Internal Revenue Service claimed in federal court documents."
"IMG is so deeply involved with Stanford that it has a one-man office in Memphis to assist with the local Tour stop."
Alex Miceli shares all sorts of fun tidbits about the Stanford situation, the PGA Tour and IMG. First, regarding the state of the Memphis stop:
The Tour could attempt to find another sponsor or draw upon its sizable financial reserves – about $200 million, sources said – to underwrite the event on its own.
There is a precedent for such intervention: In 2000, the first year of the Tampa Bay Classic, the Tour contributed a part of the $2.4 million purse.
It was unclear whether the Tour or the event has received any monies from Stanford for the 2009 sponsorship. Finchem would not discuss payment details, but sources familiar with sponsorship deals say such agreements typically are handled in one of two ways: a large, usually 50 percent payment up front, and the balance paid before the event week – or nearly a complete payment just weeks before the event.
“Payment schedules are a function of a lot of different things with companies,” Finchem said. “A lot of companies account differently; they want to pay differently. There is no rhyme or reason to it.”
And on IMG:
The firm manages the Stanford St. Jude Championship; and sponsorship contracts to IMG clients Villegas, Pressel and Singh. Stanford also is affiliated with IMG’s prized client, Tiger Woods, with a three-year founding sponsorship of AT&T National, a Tiger Woods Foundation event.
IMG is so deeply involved with Stanford that it has a one-man office in Memphis to assist with the local Tour stop.
"Since 1974, Ms Wade has benefited from financial advice from her management company, International Management Group"
A reader took exception to IMG's Mark Steinberg and insistence that IMG does not provide financial advice to its clients and therefore, could not have been intertwined with Stanford Financial, as the New York Post is claiming. I'm really not sure how the reader drew this conclusion because...wait, what was it that tennis great Virginia Wade said in a 2005 Telegraph story?
Since 1974, Ms Wade has benefited from financial advice from her management company, International Management Group "We are in touch regularly, maybe once a month. If you are interfering all the time it gets hard for them."
Hilariously, the article details how she owned a building with the late Mark McCormack, invested in a Cleveland based insurance company where IMG hapens to be located, and well, there's that quote.
Let's get the important stuff out of the way on what was an otherwise slow news day: media dining has taken a considerable leap this year. I know you were worried.
After years of mystery meats on beds of kikuyu cream sauces, the vaunted Riviera chef's best creations have made their way to our little hanger between the first and second fairways. Today's superb Butternut Squash soup topped yesterday's Chicken Gumbo, something I never could have imagined.
The players took advantage of breathtaking 75 degree weather and no wind to light up Riviera. The course setup saw only 3 hole locations four paces from the edge and just five-five pacers. The rest were all sixes and sevens, a far cry from recent years when threes and fours dominated and round 1 never came close to finishing. Pace of play was still wretched Thursday, but most afternoon groups got around in under five hours, allowing the near completion of first round play.
More disturbing for the future of the event was the Nationwide-like feel to the day. Even with amazing weather fans are staying away. And while the economy is in part to blame for the dearth of spectators, I would also chalk the low attendance to increased ticket prices ($30) and the disappearance of the various ticket giveaways that brought such great crowds out in year's past (test drive a Nissan, spent $25 on Vons groceries, etc...). Hopefully PGA Tour Championship Management will consider bringing back some of these fan friendly issues next year when they take over, but from what I've seen with things like the 18th hole scoreboard and the overall obsession with trying to make the event more upscale via sterile signage, I'm not optimistic.
In pressing fashion news, Ryan Moore won the day's prize for strangest shoes (I'm sparing you the rest of the outfit details). So are these actually sold or did he have Softspikes specially installed? If the latter, that's impressive.
In Ryo news, I followed the young lad for a few holes and he certainly has a nice game. Even more impressive, he handles all of the hoopla gracefully. Keep in mind that he's dealing with photographers who were seen clicking away at his image on the press-room televisions. These people are disturbed!
In 10th hole news (where they desperately need a grandstand), there was the usual mix of birdies and bizarro bogies, with all sort of strange plays and a few more lay ups left!). After his 63, I asked Phil Mickelson about his approach to the 10th. He's pretty high on his strategic approach...
Q. Back on No. 10, where are you trying to hit it off the tee? What is your actual strategy there from the tee?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I've played that hole very effectively the last couple of years, and have played it under par and bettered the field average and I would rather not say what I'm trying to do there. (Laughter).
Thanks to reader Andrew for this Darren Rovell story quoting Mark Steinberg on IMG's relationship with the troubled Stanford Financial.
"The suggestion conveniently made by "unnamed sources" about IMG's business affairs involving our clients in today's New York Post is complete fiction, designed to benefit the people making the claims, and is completely irresponsible.
"IMG's 50-year history of success is built upon staunchly protecting the professional interests of our clients. IMG does not give investment advice to our clients...period. Our agreement with Stanford is only to provide consulting services in the area of sponsorships and activation in golf. We do not now, nor have we ever had, a 'quid pro quo' agreement with Stanford or anyone else where IMG would be compensated in exchange for directing our clients to invest with them. We could not have maintained our near half century lead in the industry if we had done anything else. For 'unnamed sources" to imply otherwise is simply reprehensible."