Courses have no doubt been getting more and more difficult for the average player. His golf has in some cases been a dismal progress from the rough to a bunker, and from a bunker to the rough, hole after hole. He has very likely chosen a pleasant spring day for a little relaxation and pleasure, and returns to his home at night in a jaded and almost hopeless frame of mind. H.S. COLT
With the news that 16-year-old Tadd Fujikawa is turning pro, as well as this interesting Mike Sorensen Deseret Morning News piece on Utah's Finau brothers taking the plunge (thanks to reader Warren), I continue to wonder what it is beyond the obvious lure of money that is encouraging kids to make a decision that so rarely ends well.
Is it the success of Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer?
Does technology allow them to play a certain game that 16-year-olds weren't capable of just a few years ago?
Is it mostly that the people around them hoping to cash in?
Or is it the rule change that allows juniors and amateurs to receive free equipment?
I've had several college coaches tell me hair-raising stories about club company reps and how pervasive their role is in amateur golf. Since amateurs have become eligible to receive free equipment, we have seen an unusual number of top juniors skip college to cash in, with few success stories.
Does anyone else see the correlation, or is this simply a matter of golf catching up with other big time sports?
From Thomas Bonk's LA Times golf column:
Further proof that you can't stop getting older: According to the latest statistics, the average age of a daytime Golf Channel viewer is 62. That's up from 58 in the last sampled period, according to Magna Global's "Median Age Report."
Doug Ferguson looks at this year's "rigorous" majors and wonders what exactly that means. This part was particularly fun:
Jim Hyler, head of the championship committee at the USGA, preached all week at Oakmont that the mission was to create a "rigorous test" at the U.S. Open, but he offered a peculiar defense when 35 players failed to break 80 in the second round, and someone suggested the USGA again had gone over the top.Oh Justin, really, they aren't fixated on par. They only break out the '96 Chateau Lafite Rothschild if the winning score is +8 or higher. Special occasions only.
"The players' scores mean nothing to us," he said. "Absolutely nothing."
But if that's the case, how does he know the test has been rigorous?
"We're not performing in front of judges," Justin Leonard said. "They don't rate every shot. How can you not look at scores?"
The Royal & Ancient paid more attention to the players' reactions than their scores, and chief executive Peter Dawson conceded that Carnoustie was too extreme in 1999. Asked if the R&A regretted how the course was set up, he replied, "I think so."
"To be honest, we regard player reaction as very important," Dawson said. "The reaction there was clearly more negative than we would liked to have seen."
What to expect this time?
"We are not seeking carnage," Dawson said. "We're seeking an arena where the players can display their skills to the best effect."
As usually, the R&A's head man had to offset his sound thinking with the ridiculous:
"The key part of the game of golf is to have an element of unfairness and to be able to handle it when it happens to you," Dawson said. "If everything was totally fair, it would be dull."
You see Peter, that's Mother Nature's job, perhaps with the occasional assist from a funny bounce. The bad breaks from silly fairway contours, knee high rough and bad hole locations? That's a different deal. It's called contrived. And usually the people doing the contriving are the same ones who obsess about how winning scores might reflet on themselves.
Just in case the media starts buying into John Philp's revisionist history (see the July Golf Digest, link not available), Tiger Woods sets the record straight on Carnoustie in 1999, writing:
Although I tied for seventh, it was probably the hardest British Open course I have ever played -- even harder than Muirfield. The set-up was unfair and ridiculous. I remember stepping off the fairway at No. 6 and it was nine yards wide in the lay up area. That's not much room when you have to hit a 4-iron in that space. It's still a great course, but I hope the R&A has learned a lesson.And this was interesting...
I will say this: the British Open Championship is my favorite major. My first was at St. Andrews so it doesn't get much better than that. I just love the history, tradition and atmosphere. You need patience and imagination to play well, plus the fans are great.
Here's a link to the printer friendly version, which is minus an interesting look sketch that I was unable to zoom in on or copy over (Tiger has a shrewd website builder!).
A couple of weeks ago, we broke ground on my first golf course design project, Al Ruwaya, at The Tiger Woods Dubai. Although I couldn't be there, I was thrilled. I can't wait to see my designs take shape in the Dubai desert.There's something you don't hear everyday. A player architect admitting he was not there for the groundbreaking and expressing eagerness to see a design take shape in the Dubai desert.
We used length, width, topography, wind direction, hazard placement, and greens contouring to create unique, individual holes that test not only the physical but the mental game as well. We're getting close to completing the final designs, but in the meantime, I wanted to share holes 12, 17 and 18 since they showcase the unique, strategic experience I've designed for Al Ruwaya.I'm sorry, did I miss something? Is it already built? They are amazingly fast over there!
Hole 12 is our shortest par 3 at 181 yards, but it is very interesting. Visually it's very dramatic due to the elevations and vegetation, but it's also very strategic. It plays over a 30-foot depression of native grasslands and shrubbery to a somewhat crowned green.
At 341 yards, hole 17 is a short par 4 that will have a big impact on the finish of the round. It plays slightly uphill but downwind, and presents several strategic choices off the tee. A longer hitter can challenge the fairway bunker and possibly drive the left side of the green. Long drives drifting right, however, could find the deep greenside bunkers or the large depression short right of the green. Shorter hitters may choose to lay-up off the tee but will want to favor the left side of the short landing area to preserve the best angle into the left-to-right green. This is a great drivable risk/reward hole that provides an opportunity for birdie or eagle heading into 18. Smart decisions and proper execution will be rewarded, but it will be hard to save par if you make an error.
You know, I hate to be skeptical but uh, how does he know all of this already if they haven't built it yet?
Ah, the media covering itself. And sending out a press release to tell us all about. Precious isn't it?
It's official. Non-Tiger events have become so boring that they have to resort to this...
CBS SPORTS GIVES RARE LOOK “INSIDE THE TRUCK” DURING LIVE COVERAGE OF JOHN DEERE CLASSIC
Network’s Golf Coverage To Give Viewers Simultaneous Coverage of John Deere Classic with Live Behind the Scenes View of Production while Broadcasting Action on Course Saturday, July 14
Have you ever wondered just what it is like to try and cover over 100 golfers as they line up tee shots, chip shots and putts all at once while a director screams obscenity laced tirades into the announcer's headsets?
Oops, how did that last part get in there?!
In a rare look at how golf is produced, CBS Sports will give viewers a different perspective to its golf coverage by taking viewers behind the scenes at the JOHN DEERE CLASSIC with simultaneous coverage of the action occurring on the course, as well as “Inside the Truck.”
CBS Sports’ golf team led by Coordinating Producer Lance Barrow and Director Steve Milton will show the frenetic pace of broadcasting a PGA TOUR event by giving viewers a seat right next to them, their assorted caffeine-laced snacks and their team inside the broadcast truck at the JOHN DEERE CLASSIC at the TPC Deer Run in Silvis, Ill. during the Network’s third-round coverage on Saturday, July 14 (3:00-6:00 PM, ET). Viewers will be taken “Inside the Truck” between 4:00-5:00 PM, ET of CBS Sports’ third-round coverage. Because Barrow might actually eat four entire fried chickens as the round progresses, viewer discretion is advised.
Oops, I did it again!
Live audio and camera coverage from the truck will air simultaneously in a box on the television screen, along with the coverage of the golfers on the course. Viewers will experience what CBS Sports’ announce team of Bill Macatee and Peter Oosterhuis in the 18th tower, Ian Baker-Finch on the 17th, Gary McCord on the 16th and Bobby Clampett on the course reporting, hear in their headsets as Barrow and his team produce and direct the Network’s coverage. Announcer Peter Kostis was given the week off to spare the viewing audience of Barrow's constant hand-holding and ego stroking.
Dangit, I just can't resist. I'll stop now.
In all the euphoria over Monty's win last weekend, a reader noted that I failed to highlight the non-history making moment when the PGA Tour noted that Jason Day became the youngest player to win a "Tour-sponsored" event.
Chalk up another victory for an Australian on the Nationwide Tour, with 19-year-old Jason Day making history on Sunday by becoming the youngest player to win a PGA TOUR-sponsored event.
Okay fine...until this...
Day, at 19 years, seven months and 26 days, surpasses the previous youngest players to win on the two Tours -- including Johnny McDermott's (19 years, 10 months) win at the 1911 U.S. Open and James Oh's (21 years, 5 months and 27 days) victory at the 2003 Mark Christopher Charity Classic.
"To win at the age of 19 is a great accomplishment," said Day, who is also the Tour's youngest player. "This goes down in history. It is a great achievement to be the Tour's youngest winner."
Yes, that's right, we're retoractively lumping his win in with a U.S. Open win that wasn't even "Tour-sponsored" with the Nationwide Tour.
The guys are good!
Golf Digest's Jeff Patterson posts about the debut of Bubba Watson's "Steve and Barry's" line of shirts. You may recall that it's the same chain doing $15 basketball shoes with Stephon Marbury and other surprising hip looking stuff.
The collared shirts, rainshirts, pants, shorts and hats, which make up the 30 items bubbagolf offers, feature mostly pastel colors, the kind Watson likes. He has worn his brand of clothing since the beginning of the year and has had remarkable success -- four top-5 finishes (including a T-5 at the U.S. Open) and a PGA Tour-leading 315.3 yards off the tee.Who knew he was so demanding?
"I chose which colors I liked, which designs I liked, which stripe patterns, how many buttons I wanted," Watson said. "Down to every last stitch, I played a part in everything. Picking the tags, everything."
Watson is still amazed he was picked to head the golf clothing line.Somehow I don't see Marty Hackel featuring one of these shirts for a Golf Digest Index fashion spread.
"Anybody that has their name on a clothing line, it's a special thing," he said. "That really blew me out of the water that they'd want to come to me, a guy who is practically a rookie on tour, so I said, 'Heck, yeah. I'll do it in a heartbeat.' "
Providing quality clothes for a low price is something that's close to Watson's heart. Growing up, he wasn't able to afford an extravagant golf wardrobe.
"My mom had a regular job to make more money and my dad worked at a construction site for 32 years to make sure that I could have everything, like newer clothes for golf tournaments so I didn't have to wear the same outfits every week," said Watson.
I think Joe Ogilvie needs to stop drinking that special fruit punch they're serving him at PGA Tour Policy Board meetings. In a USA Today Q&A with Jerry Potter:
On the U.S. Golf Association …
"It shouldn't own golf tournaments, especially at the professional level. It should worry about the rules of golf. It has lost total concept of what it's about. The PGA of America is the backbone of golf. Their pros teach the game. The PGA Tour pros are the ones the fans are following. The First Tee or some other charity should own the U.S. Open."
Hey, and maybe PGA Tour Championship Management can manage it...pro-bono of course.
On the PGA Tour …"It's the face of the game, but we don't get credit for what we do. The NFL gets recognition for the United Way, but we gave over $100 million to charity this year. (Fans don't) know the difference between the PGA Tour and the PGA of America."
And sometimes certain really prominent newspapers and magazines don't either!
On the equipment controversy …"You don't need bifurcation of the rules because the average player needs to play the same equipment we play. If they (USGA) change the grooves, we'll have to wait and see what the effects are. They say it won't affect the average amateur, but should they make rules based on what the best players in the world can do? … The USGA worries too much about 200 guys in the world and how they play golf. We're supposed to be the best at what we do."
Now wait Joe. The average player needs to play the same equipment you play? And why is that? Do they get the same benefits you do? Come on!
On drug testing in golf …
"I don't think you need it. Golfers have always called penalties on themselves, and using steroids is cheating. The penalty for cheating is so severe you would be dead. The Tour would suspend you for life, and no company would want to sponsor you."
The Commissioner could not have said it better himself.
For all the grief we Americans get for being overly sentimental, it's fun to read this Derek Lawrenson penned sob story of poor Paul Lawrie, the last European to win a major, crying in Monty-like fashion about not being granted a sponsor's invite to the Scottish Open pro am* on the eve of his triumphant return to Carnoustie.
Mike Aitken weighed in with a decidedly less hysterical version of the same story.
One of the first ominous signs--well, after the 2004 Shinnecock debacle--that things were going to be different under USGA president Walter Driver came when it was announced June 29, 2005 that he had been nominated as the next president. That was a whopping 7 months before he would take office.
The move effectively rendered then-president Fred Ridley a lame duck and was widely considered to be unprecedented by USGA insiders.
In light of recent events indicating that the embittered Driver is going out with a flourish by taking down as many staff members as possible while leaving no positive mark on the game or the USGA, the nominating committee needs to make it known who will be replacing Driver.
Either of the two candidates in line to replace Driver--believed to be vice presidents Jim Vernon and Jim Hyler--will mark a huge improvement for the organization. (Actually, Dick Cheney would be a step up at this point!)
Vernon's nomination would mark a welcome change and provide some hope to both staff and the golf community that the USGA is attempting to move in a more positive direction. Vernon's interest and knowledge on equipment issues will be especially important with the grooves debate heating up and the ball study soon entering, gulp, year six.
So nominating committee, who will it be?
From Doug Ferguson's AP notes column:
“I don’t mind Mother Nature slapping us around as long as they understand skill is the thing that wins tournaments, not luck.” -Stuart Appleby, on the setups at major championships
Having just toured Southern Hills on a delightful day in Tulsa (really!), I can say that it would be nice if Mother Nature cooperated by not dropping so much water on the course. Due to a number of circumstances (which I'll be writing about for a publication in advance of the PGA), Southern Hills really has a chance to shine this year...if it would stop raining!
No golf writer's career is complete without a Plimpton School of Participatory Journalism degree-earning column on caddying. But Rob Oller may have hit rock bottom with the proverbial caddying-for-someone-famous piece on his day looping for the man who holds a Masters in caddying columns, Rick Reilly.
It turns out Reilly, who served as celebrity keynote speaker at a tournament dinner Sunday night, needed a caddie. I needed a column. Two plus two equals Fore!
This sounds much more appealing than an annual visit to Congressional. From Leonard Shapiro in the Washington Post...
One source connected to the tournament said that representatives of Woods's foundation have looked at potential sites inside the Beltway that would allow Woods, a budding golf course architect, to build his own course or renovate an existing facility.
The source said that Woods might even be interested in taking an existing military course, either at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland or Fort Belvoir in Virginia, and do the sort of makeover that transformed Bethpage Black on Long Island, a public course in general disrepair, before the 2002 U.S. Open. Architect Rees Jones, who also did a makeover at Congressional before the 1997 Open, handled the Bethpage project.
"Look, if there's land available inside the Beltway, please call me," McLaughlin said. "At this time, we're not contemplating building our own golf course designed by Tiger, but we certainly would not ever rule it out long-term if the right partnership could be put in place. We're open to any and all situations and we're keeping an open mind for all future sites."
Former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan sends another of his thoughtful letters, this time he's reacting to the recent USGA staff firings spearheaded by Walter Driver and rubber-stamped by the Executive Committee. Hannigan tells us what they mean for the organization and the game.
I can’t convince you, because of your youth, there was a time when the USGA was generally regarded as the most effective, efficient and logical body of sports in this country. When I was chief operating officer of the USGA and feeling sour about something we’d done I would turn my mind to the US Tennis Association and immediately perk up.
Alas, I agree with your low estimation of today’s USGA which is no better than the USTA, the NCAA, the AAU, the US Olympic Committee or, I suppose, Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation.
The barrage of media criticism of president Walter Driver is both unprecedented and deserved. It’s also simplistic. The USGA began to behave strangely more than 10 years ago. The greatest failure was to pull back from what would have been a stupendous conflict had the organization attempted to do the right thing about distance.
Knowing full well that they should have risked the farm with anti-distance legislation, they instead have announced a ban on U grooves starting in 2009, saying that the game has been totally changed by grooves so that there is no longer any correlation between accuracy on the Tour and success. This they say in a year when Fred Funk, Scotty Verplank, Paul Goydos and Zach Johnson are gobbling up tour titles, not to mention the Masters. All bunters.
Internally, the USGA is grim. President Driver has ousted two senior staff members. The first was Tim Moraghan, a specialized agronomist who worked with the superintendents at championship courses. The second, not yet formally announced, is Marty Parkes, the USGA’s long time director of communications. Parkes was #4 on what has become a perhaps too large staff of more than 300.
The firings, of course, are termed “resignations.” Both of those leaving accepted bonus packages including a provision they would not speak ill of the USGA or talk about their separations. I find that a very sleazy way for a public entity to act. The USGA insists on its privacy, which it legally holds, but it has no problem avoiding federal taxes. It even accepts 501c3 status as a “charity” which means that volunteers like Driver can deduct their USGA expenses.
Moraghan, I would say, has been fired retroactively for whatever part he played in the course debacle of the 2004 US Open at Shinnecock Hills. Driver was then chairman of the championship committee and had to endure humiliation.
Marty Parkes is gone, as I and others see it, because he could not prohibit negative print media and blog stories (like this) about Driver. There was the notorious Golf World magazine cover story headed “Can the USGA Survive Walter Driver?” But then Washington Post golf writer Len Shapiro labeled Driver “the most disliked USGA president ever.” Driver’s partners at Goldman Sachs do not know what Golf World is, but they are certainly cognizant of the Washington Post.
You would think Driver, having a major post in what is likely the world’s most successful financial concern, would know a bit about money. Instead, he has a strange idea about the USGA being endangered financially. He points out that the USGA “lost” $6 million in operations in 2006 and has budgeted a $5 million loss for 2007. The 2006 “loss” was the first in the history of the USGA, which commenced in 1895. It was also the first year of Driver’s two as president.
Meanwhile, the USGA investments have a street value close to $300 million. Even a financial ignoramus like myself could churn $15 million or more out of that without going near the principle. The “loss” he’s talking about does not take into account the growth in value of the investments.
He says the USGA, were it a business, would be in big time trouble. Excuse me, but the USGA is NOT a business. It is a non-profit service organization. The American Cancer Society would be in trouble as a “business.”
He points to the fragility of the USGA’s television income, which is hidden but likely pushing $25 million a year. The contract with NBC runs through 2014. President Driver says who can possibly tell what will happen with TV money after 2014. Nobody, can. But you know what? If it’s so scary the USGA could easily get an extension of its NBC contract right now, especially after the success of the Open at Oakmont.
Marty Parkes is after my USGA time, which ended in 1989. I have had no professional dealings with him, but we were cordial when I ran into him. As is my want, I would tease him by saying one expected more of a graduate of the London School of Economics than being a USGA publicist. I read him as being an exceptional manager of projects and people but uncomfortable cozying up to golf media giants.
The USGA set-up is truly strange. It gives complete power and authority to its volunteer executive committee of 15. The president is labeled in the by-laws as chief executive officer but his powers are limited to presiding over meetings and appointing the members of the many sub committees. He can’t even hire, that power being given to the executive committee as a whole. (The by-laws say the committee can hire “clerks.”).
Parkes may also have been fired because when Driver and his colleagues slashed staff benefits in January, Parkes sent an email to Driver asking for or demanding an explanation. This caused Driver to fly to New Jersey from Atlanta and address a surly staff.
This must be said for Driver. He did not use the USGA’s leased jet when he flew to Newark for this meeting. (He correctly notes that he inherited the jet program from his predecessor Fred Ridley-- which is not the same as saying he could cancel it in these financially perilous days.) You will search in vain in the USGA financial statement for a line item about the jet or for that matter the cost of entertaining members of the executive committee and their wives at championships, where they are not needed. For the staff, which can truly run golf tournaments, these people are heavy maintenance.
Since Driver does not have the kind of power a corporate CEO has it follows he must have the approval and backing of the executive committee. What are they thinking? I think they are thinking about getting re-appointed.
How about executive director David Fay, who followed me in that role? I have no idea where he is at. It’s easy for me to say 16 years after the fact, but if the executive committee ordered me to fire someone from what I regarded as MY staff, I would have reacted by saying you can fire anybody you want but that means I go too.
For all I know, David may have fought heroically to save Marty Parkes, and was central in a negotiating process (Marty wisely had got himself a lawyer) whereby Marty got out with an excellent deal.
The USGA is now a grim place. Nobody thinks that Driver & Co. are finished firing.
I wonder how much it matters save for the exercise of egos. The USGA is a service entity with a mix of components. It does not follow that terrible leadership causes these to fall apart. Example: two years ago my up-state club, 9 holes, was visited by a USGA agronomist. He too was after my time. I purposely stayed away on the day of his visit but the club people sent me a copy of his written report. It wasn’t just good. It was superb. The recommendations were followed and resulted in much better turfgrass.
I’m sure the same can be said of other USGA departments, e.g., handicapping and perhaps management of the Rules of Golf. (The USGA, if known at all to casual golfers, is understood to be the US Open and Rules of Golf. Many people think I worked 28 years for the “PGA”.)
There is no provision for impeachment. By tradition, Driver will be gone in six months. I have been saying for years that the USGA is badly in need of an infusion of democratic procedure. There needs to be a contested election. It doesn’t happen because the average golfer cares only his futile attempt to make a good swing.
The decline of the USGA did not begin with Walter Driver. I would label it as beginning in 1995 when one of Driver’s predecessors hired Kenny Rogers for $30,000 to sing at a USGA birthday party.
Kenny Rogers is as appropriate for the USGA as Jenna Jameson would be at a conclave of the College of Cardinals.
Saugerties, New York
For some past letters from Hannigan, check here.
Isn't this the same place where, in 1997, he stormed off without talking to the scribblers? I miss that Tiger.
Jerry Potter reports that mercifully, the members aren't so sure about that.
Congressional President Stuart Long said Monday the members were delighted with the tournament but added, "We're busy" when asked about the future. Congressional will hold the U.S. Amateur in 2009 and the U.S. Open in 2011. "Oh, no," he said when asked if it could take the AT&T in 2010. "We need a year to get ready for the Open."
As for the long term, he said, the board would have to decide, adding, "The board turns over every six years. The board members who will make that decision haven't even been elected."
Otherwise, according to Mark Garrod he's holding back his remaining thoughts for his Loch Lomond press conference. How am I going to sleep not knowing more?