Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    by Matthew Futterman

I may be wrong, but I believe that the golfers of today want originality. Even those who are not particularly analytical sense the difference between a purely natural hole and one which suggests the artificial.  A.W. TILLINGHAST


    

Saturday
Mar072009

Barney Frank: Order Up More Golf Sponsorship, Go Easy On The Excess

Ron Sirak pulls an interesting clarification out of Congressman Barney Frank regarding the Northern Trust/TARP situation.

"No one is saying they shouldn't sponsor golf tournaments and honor existing contracts," Frank, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, said in a telephone interview. "It's the spending on luxury hotels and limousines they should not be doing. Now, if they weren't getting federal money it would be up to them to decide if that's how they want to spend their money."

That's an improvement from Frank's original outburst in which he implied running a golf tournament was a waste of corporate money. But it still means the tour has some work to do in getting its message across to the power brokers in Washington.

"It's certainly good news that Congressman Frank understands the title sponsorship partnership component, but we also need to do a better job explaining the charitable aspects, the economic impact and the marketing benefits it creates for the companies involved," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said by telephone when told of Frank's clarified position. "We have to work harder to make sure the business model is being understood."

Suggestion Commish: start by not saying that you have to work harder to make sure the business model is understood. It'll go a long way toward gaining support from people who are tired of hearing jargon-laced corporatespeak as a substitute for straightforward talk.

Friday
Mar062009

"The plot at the Honda Classic, which already features its best field in years, just took a decided turn for the spectacular."

Mostly thanks to Erik Compton and a few other intriguing storylines. Certainly not the golf course.

Amazingly Compton posted two 69s with a double and a triple on his scorecard.

Friday
Mar062009

Northern Trust Hostage Crisis Not Over Yet

John Kerry wrote a Bloomberg column this week and Steve Elling parses it in a CBSSports.com blog post.

Friday
Mar062009

Butch: No Love For My Man

Thomas Bonk talks to Butch Harmon about the state of Phil Mickelson's game and like the swallows returning to Capistrano or Gary Koch uttering "just a moment ago," the talk predictably turns to his former student.

While Harmon is encouraged by Mickelson's progress, he's not so happy with Mickelson's critics, especially after Riviera. It's all about comparisons, Harmon said.

"When Tiger wins and doesn't play as well, or wins with his 'B Game' or 'C Game,' everybody talks about how courageous he is," Harmon said. "Phil wins the same kind of way and everybody says how lucky he is. Different strokes for different folks, I guess."

Obvious Butch does not read this site since I explored the very question of luck vs. courageous play at Riviera, and came down on the courageous side.

Thursday
Mar052009

New Quail Hollow Logo Cleverly Reflects Shedding Of Corporate Sponsor

With a fallen dove feather metaphorically reminiscing about Wells Fargo's decision to shed visible ties to the sixth of golf's four majors, Eric Spanberg writes about the new logo unveiling and buries a lede revealing that we will see no corporate ties for the foreseeable future:

Johnny Harris, Quail Hollow Club president, says 85 percent of the signs, brochures and other materials for the upcoming tournament will feature the new name and logo. Tickets had already been printed with the Wachovia name and could not be changed in time for the 2009 tournament. By next year, everything will be the Quail Hollow Championship. Since Wachovia buyer Wells Fargo is under contract to serve as title sponsor through 2014, the bank remains a key stakeholder in the tournament even without its name on the event.

Oh, and about the logo. Because I know how much brand dynamics mean to you:

The tournament's new logo, a navy blue and copper stylized "Q," now prominently features the feather of the Bobwhite Quail, a popular game bird in the Southeast region.

"We challenged ourselves to create a mark that's reflective of both the unparalleled spectator experience as well as the challenging, classic course design the TOUR's top players have come to love," said General Tournament Chairman Mac Everett.

You know, that's exactly what I thought when I saw it.

Thursday
Mar052009

Kostis: Fire Up The Hybrids, Commissioners!

Wait, does BMW even make a hybrid?

Anyway, Peter Kostis and I agree, golf's leadership needs to get to Washington fast and start fighting back before any more damage is done. He writes:

It is time for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens, PGA of America president Jim Remy and executives from the USGA to drive to Washington in hybrid vehicles and let every representative, senator and government official know about the good things that golf—and the companies involved with the game—do for local communities.

The local economies in places like Scottsdale, where I live, are hurting because companies are shying away from corporate entertainment and travel for fear of sending the wrong message. It's a shame that the attack on the elite is costing people like hotel workers, restaurant waiters and golf maintenance workers their jobs. Barney Frank needs to be better informed about the good that golf does, not just the TMZ version of the "elitist game."

Finchem sent a video message to members of the PGA Tour earlier this season, encouraging them to be especially supportive of the Tour's sponsors this season. Golf needs him and the other powerbrokers in the game to step up too.

Thursday
Mar052009

Rocco: "You can show a little class when you shoot 75. People respect that."

Tim Carroll interviews Rocco about the U.S. Open, Augusta, the state of his game and asks what players can do for their tour.

WSJ: With the economy struggling, what do players need to do to soften the economic impact of the recession?

Mr. Mediate: I enjoy what I do. I smile a lot. We all get mad when we play bad and you're not going to smile as much, but you try to. You can be happy when you shoot 65, but you can show a little class when you shoot 75. People respect that. You have a guy watching PGA Tour golf at home making $60,000 a year. If you see guys complaining, well, if that's me watching television, I'm changing the channel. Because we're playing for $1 million a week, first place. A million dollars. If I finish 70th, I'm going to make a quarter of what he makes in a year. 

Thursday
Mar052009

"That's five months after his third heart was brought into an operating room packed in an ice chest, mind you."

Since I can only take one Nicklaus design a month, I was searching for an excuse to record the Honda Classic just so that I could relive PGA National in all its glory. Then Steve Elling reminded me how great a story Erik Compton is and how amazing it is that he's playing the Honda.

Even we hardened, sarcastic, jaded beat writers were amazed the Compton story didn't gain more national traction last fall -- even after he was featured on the ABC evening news. Some of us slogged around Q-school watching him play, shaking our heads at how everybody had made a federal case about Tiger Woods' knee surgery -- he was out for eight months following a fairly routine procedure -- and how Compton was back five months after having his chest ripped open from stem to stern and then stapled back together.

That's five months after his third heart was brought into an operating room packed in an ice chest, mind you. It still gives me a lump in my throat.

Thanks to the help of a new agent -- former IMG player manager Peter Malik, the longtime representative for Mark O'Meara -- Compton has finally secured an endorsement deal, with Titleist. A book deal is being discussed, and it's sure to be one of the best golf tomes in years. You couldn't make up this kid's life story, really, since he received his first transplant at age 12. 

Thursday
Mar052009

Economic Crisis Ushers In A Dreaded Martha Burk Reference

Michael Buteau of Bloomberg talks to Augusta real estate agent Diane Starr about the lackluster rental climate in Augusta as the Masters looms.

Week-long rentals of private homes have dropped to $7,000 from $9,000 for a typical four-bedroom, three-bath property, and to $15,000 from $30,000 for five-bedroom estate homes used for private parties, said Starr, who spent 15 years working for the Augusta Chamber of Commerce’s Masters Housing rental unit before starting her own company two decades ago.

“I’ve been doing this longer than anybody in this town and this is as bad as I’ve seen it,” Starr said during an interview in her office four miles from the club. “We had 9/11 and then Martha Burk. This has hurt us worse than either one of those.”

I don't know about you, but it sure sounds like ticket prices still need to come way down.

Tickets for this year’s tournament, which have a face value of $200 for all four competition rounds, have sold for an average of $3,377 on EBay’s Stubhub, down from $3,930 in 2008.

Sean Pate, a spokesman for Stubhub, said he expects prices to keep falling as the tournament approaches.

The company has sold “hundreds” of one-day passes for an average price of $400, Pate said. Tickets for Monday and Tuesday practice rounds have a face value of $36. Wednesday tickets cost $41. Stubhub has sold just four of the approximately 100 four-day “competition round” passes it has listed. 

Wednesday
Mar042009

“You're going to see players forego the latest equipment, but hitting the course.”

Richard Oliver looks at the economic crisis impact on golf and shares several interesting anecdotes.

The spiraling economy, in addition to ripping chunks out of 401k balances, has delivered hits to discretionary spending. It has forced courses from South Florida to South Texas to alter price structures for green fees, offer aggressive specials and watch several country-club customers take aim at municipal-course flags.

“The best quote I heard recently was from one of the Titleist reps,” Jeff Hunter, director of golf at Sonterra, said Tuesday. “He told me he's never sold so many hats. People still want to buy something, but they're buying hats or shirts instead of that new driver.”

Now Wally, resist the temptation to, oh I don't know, reprimand this fellow. After all, the guy interviewed might have meant the Taylor Made reps! The T manufacturers are very easily confused.

Sonterra, like La Cantera and other country-club and resort tracts in the San Antonio area, is fighting to keep its golf landscape alluring, even in the face of droughts both atmospheric and economic.

If players are deciding against that 2009 Titleist 909D2 driver, the task remains to get them to pull out an outdated model and fire away as in the past.

“We were discussing it internally the other day,” said Steve Shields, director of golf at La Cantera. “You're going to see players forego the latest equipment, but hitting the course.”

You do need the golf course to his the driver, last I checked. So we haven't completely lost sight of our priorities.

Reaping the benefits of it in these parts are the Alamo City Golf Trail layouts, including the renovated Brackenridge Golf Course, and other daily-fee spreads such as Pecan Valley and Olympia Hills.

Jim Roschek, general manager of the Golf Trail, said that while numbers may be skewed by the ongoing renovations at the seven city-owned tracts, the number of rounds has been steady.

“What I've seen at times is there has been one or two little depressions in the past and things have looked up for us,” said Roschek, who arrived in San Antonio two years ago after overseeing the makeover of municipal golf in Kalamazoo, Mich. “Here, I don't know if it's because of the economy or that we have less (courses) open, but people are playing the munis.”

The reason, in part, are prices at $75 or less on the public layouts, an increasing temptation for players no longer willing to shell out fees in excess of $100 per round in trying financial times.

 

Wednesday
Mar042009

Titleist Sues Callaway Back!

I love these guys. David Dusek on the latest suit

Wednesday
Mar042009

"Some of the rounds we've played there, it's been almost to the point where it's laughable."

Ernie Els was asked a couple of interesting Masters related questions on the eve of the Honda Classic.

Q. There's been a lot written about how some of the fireworks are gone, going back to the year you and Phil basically through everything you had at the golf course and there were some dividends for it. Was the course too hard, or do you think that was just a function of weather or have they made it so difficult that there's no wiggle room to allow for weather now, and that's the tipping the point?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think you've said it all. (Laughter).

I think you're right. 2004 was the last time there was really a nice shootout. I think even if you look at years before 2004, there were a lot more years where there were more exciting finishes.

You could reach a lot of the par 5s. You could take on some of the holes with shorter irons, especially like No. 7, like No. 11. 17 was even shorter. 15, the par 5, you could reach, longer hitters, with maybe a long middle iron. 13 you could get to the green a lot easier. And as I said, 11 was short, so you could go in there with a short iron.

And these greens are all very difficult. They were built by Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones, and there's a lot of slope on that golf course, as you guys know; you've walked it. So there's going to be a lot of slope on the greens naturally; and with the speed of the greens, and as we've seen the weather last couple of years, it's going to be very difficult.

To be honest, the guys are very good on TOUR, but then they will play away from flags, and it's just natural. Like 11, you're coming in with a 3-iron or maybe even a 5-wood with the wind whipping into you, 50-degrees, you're not going to go for the flag. It's impossible. Whether you say hey, the players are not good enough or whatever, the fact of the matter is, professionals are not going to go for a par 4 with water on the left, flag tucked left with wind figured in; you're playing safe.

So that's been the case. I think the last couple of years, especially the final rounds, it's been a bit subdued, and that's going to keep happening if they keep the golf course the same way.

I hear they have changed some things, so we will wait and see. I'll go check out the golf course and see what it's all about, and see where to go from there. But they have definitely -- you know, Mr. Johnson, when he took over as Chairman, he made a lot of changes, and we've got to live by those changes now. And the course is one of the toughest courses in the world now.

They're just getting a little less vague and a lot less diplomatic each year, aren't they?

Q. Geoff Ogilvy said last week, getting back to the Masters, he said if somebody built that golf course today, Augusta National and it didn't have the tradition and the aura and it was the same green complexes and the same speeds and the same difficulty, the pros would walk off it after nine holes and say it's ridiculous.
ERNIE ELS: Well, I won't go that far. (Laughter) It is what it is.

As I said, you know, I'm a fan of Alister MacKenzie's design. We play Royal Melbourne down in Australia where Geoff is from. He plays at Victoria, which is across the road. It has some of the greens, some of the speeds and more wind than Augusta has. And we play golf tournaments down there, too.

He is right in the fact that he says that they kept on, how shall I say, massaging the golf course, to the point where, yes, at times when the weather turns and flag positions are in certain parts, it becomes very much on the edge.

In some cases, yeah, some of the years, some of the rounds we've played there, it's been almost to the point where it's laughable. But, hey, we play a major there. It's still a very good layout, and they just try and test the players. At times, they have gone maybe past the point.

But other than that, they're doing a super job.

Wednesday
Mar042009

"It has been a long time since a premium player excelled at both games."

John Hawkins swoons over Geoff Ogilvy's emergence and looks forward to more press room visits.

Not everything he says is a profundity or a pearl of wisdom, and there are lots of wittier guys on the PGA Tour. What makes Ogilvy so appealing, and what shouldn't be lost on serious golf fans, is his willingness to offer candor and insight so that a more interesting perspective might be transmitted to the public. The print media may not be what it once was, but with the Internet becoming the primary source of information for a growing number of day-to-day followers, there is hope for the written word yet.

And this could apply to more than just Camilo...

On a week when several respected members of golf's full-time press corps were heard complaining about the difficulties and sour attitude they've encountered when dealing with Camilo Villegas, Ogilvy seemed to arrive on the doorstep of superstardom, which could only mean more trips to the media center. It has been a long time since a premium player excelled at both games. If the drought is almost over, you won't hear anyone griping about it at this end.

Wednesday
Mar042009

"The USGA will begin charging submitters of clubs and other equipment for official conformance evaluations."

Thanks to reader Kevin for spotting this discussion group posting of a USGA announcement to manufacturers.

To: Equipment Manufacturers

This is to inform you that, beginning with all submissions received on or after April 1, 2009, the USGA will begin charging submitters of clubs and other equipment for official conformance evaluations. This is being done to partially defray the cost of services provided by the USGA’s Research and Test Center and to more equitably distribute the cost of that support among the all equipment manufacturers.
Charges will be as follows:

Woods $ 150 each
Hybrids $ 150 each
Iron sets $ 500 per set
Individual Iron Heads $ 150 each
Putters $ 50 each
Other (tees, gloves, shoes, etc.) $ 50 each

There will continue to be no charge for the USGA’s opinions regarding potential conformance of prototypes, mock-ups, or concepts of golf equipment technology communicated to the USGA. There will also be no charge for re-submissions of clubs or other items that were submitted prior to April 1, 2009.

Payment information will soon be available on the USGA website under “Getting Equipment Tested”.

The USGA has charged for golf ball evaluations since 1979. During this time the USGA has not generally charged for evaluations of golf clubs. However, in the past decade, advances in golf club technology have resulted in the USGA dedicating a substantially increased amount of time, expense and sophisticated research to evaluate clubs for conformance with The Rules of Golf. In addition, during the same time period, the number of equipment submissions to the USGA has also increased significantly.

Therefore, the USGA has determined that it is now appropriate and equitable to apply a charge for all golf equipment conformance decisions. The USGA will continue to fund a substantial majority of Research and Test Center costs. If you have any questions, please contact Dick Rugge, P.O. Box 708, Far Hills, NJ 07931, Fax 908-234-0138, e-mail: drugge@usga.org 

Wednesday
Mar042009

Greg And Chrissy Ramp Up Pre-Masters Publicity Tour By Insisting It Was All Laura's Fault

Gosh, this is going to be so fun. Golf.com's Michael Walker reports on the dream couples' Australian TV show interview.

The real "Wow!" moment of the interview came when Norman described what it's like to write a check for $100 million, the amount of Andrassy's divorce settlement. "It's good to know you have it," Norman said. "It's the price you pay for freedom."

Evert strikes back too, saying that Andrassy's accusations are untrue and "come from a place of pain." She then suggests that Andrassy "get a job."

Chrissy is such a sweetheart!

Wednesday
Mar042009

Chris Wightman, We Hardly Knew Ye

Is it too late to bring Marty back? And Golf Journal? Sorry, dreaming again...

USGA MUSEUM DIRECTOR RAND JERRIS EXPANDS RESPONSIBILITIES

Far Hills, N.J. (March 4) – The United States Golf Association announced today that as part of an organizational consolidation, USGA Museum Director Rand Jerris’ responsibilities have been expanded to include leadership of its Communications Department, reporting to USGA Chief Business Officer Peter Bevacqua.

“This is a natural extension of Rand’s abilities and leadership skills,” said Bevacqua. “With 21 years of experience within the Association, he is intimately familiar with the core functions of the USGA. We are pleased to be able to rely on his expertise to guide our communications efforts.”

Jerris joined the USGA part-time in 1988, became the Association’s first Librarian/Historian in 1999 and was appointed Museum Director in 2002. He recently oversaw the development of the Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History, which opened in June 2008.

Jerris completed his doctorate in art and archaeology at Princeton University and received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Williams College.

As a result of this consolidation, Managing Director of Communications Chris Wightman will be leaving the Association to pursue other interests.

Here was the glowing, and I mean glowing release with quotes praising the hire in December, 2007.

Jerris knows golf and does not speak in MBAisms, so this would seem to be an indication--in spite of what the original press release says--that David Fay is taking back the reins of the organization after the Walter Driver years left him with less influence.

Wednesday
Mar042009

Phil And Bubba In The Onion

Somehow I don't think that Phil Mickelson will want to take this idea to Golf Digest for an instructional piece. And frankly, us readers would agree.

 

Wednesday
Mar042009

"Your central nervous system enjoys change"

David Dusek talks to Geoff Ogilvy about changing putters, just as Bobby Jones suggests in today's quote (above...until I take it down). And you thought some of us Geoff's who would like to see a minor distance rollback aren't also passionate advocates of consumerism?

"Your central nervous system enjoys change," he told me. "The new putter theory is not BS, that's a fact and it works for everyone. So sometimes if my putting feels a bit flat, I'll change putters, but it's not like I'm completely changing putters. I just want to look at something new, something fresh. People might think you are just trying to escape all the bad karma in your other putter, but your brain likes change and it gets you excited about putting again." 

Wednesday
Mar042009

"The USGA has done a study in which 'the high majority' of everyday players prefer a single set of rules."

I'm not entirely sure why E. Michael Johnson is advocating a discussion of two sets of rules in this week's Golf World, though something tells me the manufacturers are moaning about rule changes limiting their ability to peddle new life-changing stuff, but either way I found this interesting:

As of now, there is no clear-cut answer on which would be better for the game, although the USGA has done a study in which "the high majority" of everyday players prefer a single set of rules. Yet we all seem content to sit on the sidelines of this debate, as if it is the third rail of golf. If we are being honest with ourselves, we already are playing with two sets of rules when it comes to posting scores. Recreational players use distance-measuring devices, for example, and then there is the pending, staggered roll out of the new groove rule, which is an indication of the USGA's willingness to institute different parameters for different levels of players.

Uh, about that USGA study and the "high majority" supporting a single set of rules. Any chance we could get that study posted at USGA.org?

Wednesday
Mar042009

“There's 18 of them.”

Tod Leonard takes a closer look at Ritz Carlton Golf Club's greens and notes that the course is signed through 2014 to host the Accenture Match Play. And we know, PGA Tour contracts are ironclad. Well, unless the course starts scaring players away. Something to watch in this case.

It was clear from Woods' comments about the tricked-up greens designed by Jack Nicklaus that the world's top player was not a fan. “If they had them at normal tour speed, they would be unplayable,” Woods said.

That's Tiger-speak for “I hate 'em.”

He wasn't the only one.

Asked to talk about the greens, Love said, “There's 18 of them.”

Said Camilo Villegas: “I probably don't want to compare this to any other golf course. I got to say it's unique. It's different. The greens are very severe.”

Nicklaus designed the course specifically to host the Match Play, but it is supposed to be played by resort golfers at all other times, and yet it looks like three-putt city for anybody with a handicap in the double digits. Hardly a relaxing experience.

“Unfortunately, whenever a golf course is designed with a golf tournament in mind, I don't think they take the other 51 weeks into mind really,” Ogilvy said. “I've got the feeling maybe some adjustments will be made in the next few months.