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
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer

Putting is the department of golf which...lends itself to experimentation and the exploitation of pet theories.  HARRY VARDON

 

   

Wednesday
May132009

World Spared Of The Belfry This Year

Thanks to reader Jon for this Sky Sports report on the demise of the British Masters, to be replaced on the European Tour by the Austrian Open.

Tuesday
May122009

Report: Poppy Hills To Be Replaced By MPCC Shore Course

It was reported back in March here that Poppy Hills was on its way out as a AT&T National Pro-Am venue, a victim of a Tiger Woods edict. Naturally, I was told by many that this would never be the case but yet here we are, and voila!

Say goodbye to Poppy Hills, say hello to the Shore Course in a major architectural upgrade, so says KSBW in Monterey.

On Friday, MPCC contacted its 750 members, recommending that they accept the request to use their course for the 2010 Pro Am which could mean drawing up to 10,000 spectators to the private club every day during the tournament.

MPCC rejected a similar proposal back in 2005.

So what has changed? Supporters said they need the attention to attract new membership since the economy has tanked.

Proponents believe the Monterey Peninsula Foundation would benefit the most. The foundation raised more than $8 million last year for local charities. Organizers said a long-term relationship with the exclusive country club would help the foundation secure its goal in increasing grants 25 percent to $10 million by 2014.

And make Tiger more likely to play.

The general manager at Poppy Hills said one reason behind the potential venue change is AT&T wants a more prestigious location for the 25th anniversary of the Pro Am this next year.

"The prestige is more the celebrities that are there and pros and great charity work that's done. I don't know if it's the golf course so much though it's Pebble Beach. That's where they end up and that's the big ticket in the draw," Todd Butler said.

And make Tiger more likely to play.

Tuesday
May122009

Random PLAYERS Thoughts

Reader Warren emailed a series of questions about my Players Championship experience and now that I've had a chance to reflect, here goes...

talk about the course, the city (is it similar to augusta since it’s a small town), the experience, the players feelings about the place and all the other things.

The first thing you notice is the way in which the town embraces the event. The times I've been to Augusta I get the sense it's more of a headache having all of these people come to your town. Can't say I blame them. But Jacksonville was all over this from the moment you step into their wonderful airport (new, clean, easy, architecturally vibrant and free WiFi!). The weather reports on the local news focused on tournament conditions and traffic reports were sure to talk about the event.  Chatter at the local restaurants was friendly and positive when they figured out you were here for the Players. Thanks to the overall appreciation of golf by residents, you feel welcome in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to golf.

Tiger on No. 4 tee Sunday (click on image to enlarge)The Players is also one of the prime social events of the year. And unlike some hardcore golf fans, I like that about the event and miss that aspect of the L.A. stop.

For all of the over-the-top family values messaging we're inundated with these days, the Players actually lives up to the billing as a family-friendly event. I asked many why this was the case and no one had an answer, but many of the veteran writers agreed that for whatever reason, the Players and the players really do embrace the kids. I saw normally reserved tour players reaching out to sign autographs and high five kids way more than normal. The positive vibe this brings to the event appears unique to The Players. Or...perhaps a sign of the times.


what about the behind the scenes infrastructure, especially in the shadow of the pga tour itself? is it as commercial as the u.s. open? is the tournament minimal in its approach a la the masters besides the limited commercial interruption?

I found it to be less commercial than the U.S. Open. The Players Stadium Village, while corporate sponsored, is focused on a fun fan experience moreso than it seems to be about plugging, say, Lexus and AmEx at the U.S. Open.  Credit the tour for showing restraint.

The Players is cared for by an impressive volunteer base.Traffic was never a problem after Wednesday when the free admission specials for military and kids made it the best attended day of the week. A police presence was noticeable and at the tournament security was tight without going over the top.

The volunteer base is extraordinary. Not only are there so many of them, but my encounters were always friendly. More importantly, they seem to be well trained, efficient and while I didn't ask, it was apparent they were very organized in rotating people through different locations on a hole to keep marshals fresh. Also surprising (and impressive) was how many come from out of town. On the 17th I met an attractive young woman who had flown in from Minneapolis for the sixth year in a row. When I was leaving town Monday, I saw her with her two young sons. Now that's a devoted volunteer.

The only negative would be the noise on No. 17 generated by the corporate tent chatter. I expected a bit more of a hush as players were about to hit, but it feels more like an NBA game when a home team player is shooting a free throw...in January.

The impressive media center (click to enlarge)And not that it matters to the public, but the media center is extraordinary, with the largest projected image of a sporting event you could ever hope for along with questions answered promptly and accurately.

 

is the snack bar food expensive, does the tournament put out a nice program and pairings sheet?

I'm ashamed to say I ate in the media center or the clubhouse and never looked at the pricing. How far I've fallen!

I did however have a hard time finding the free water stations that were reportedly added upon the announcement of a May date.

The pairings sheets are free and beautiful. They almost serve as a mini-program. Very classy four color printing and a wonderful (free) keepsake.

 

do your favorite tour vps overpower the place and do the rules guys set up the course without any input like at any old john deere?

Longtime visitors said I saw the PGA Tour at its finest. Whether it's the economy or just a newfound appreciation for the media (riiiiigggghhhtttt!), I'm told the treatment of the media was much friendlier than in the past.

I did have a revealing encounter with a former and current VP in the food line. I tried asking nicely three times to break through the intense whispering session between WNBA Prez Donna Orender and Tour EVP/CMO Tom Wade who were blocking the fruit tray and holding up the line with their earth-shattering chat, oblivious to the world around them. Once they actually noticed that I was there nicely whispering, "excuse me," there was no acknowledgement and the conversation continued on and Wade grabbed his food. They never seemed fazed that they were holding anyone up. It was one of those little instances where I thought, hmmm...nice culture in the upper VP ranks.

On the other side of the operation, you have the media relations staff headed by Ty Votaw, where the tone is very different. Courteous, attentive and yet still professional. Sure there is probably the expected skepticism toward the subversive "working press," but you sense that this side of the operation of the tour takes itself a little less seriously and is a little more in tune with the world around them.

John Mutch handles an NBC request Saturday at The Players (click to enlarge)As for the golf course, there appear to be too many cooks in the kitchen. I have no evidence of this, just a sense that while the setup guys are free to do their hole locations and preparation work in the mornings, the advance work is a bit of a mess. It's just not acceptable to have a rough that includes mowing a few times during the week to keep fairway edge roughs at 2 inches while not mowing around greens all week. It's awkward, counters the tour's preaching of consistency and aesthetically does not do the course justice.

The fairway lines and Augusta-lite pine tree planting looks silly and also does the course no favors. And expansion of pine and sandy scrub would be more in line with Pete Dye's vision and send a wonderful environmental statement. (Wildlife is abundant on the course, always a good sign about turf practices.)

The 6th hole (click to enlarge)I am not sure that a TPC Sawgrass with less or no rough would play any easier if widened out and the mini-pines removed. I do think it would be more interesting and elegant looking. Even better, more balls would run into the pine scrub, meaning more chances for fans to get up close to The Players.

Tuesday
May122009

Monty Gets His Wish For Another Pick 

Oh goodie, just one more opportunity for criticism come 2010 Ryder Cup time.

Tuesday
May122009

Heinrik!

Reader David reported that Commissioner Finchem bungled Henrik Stenson's name during the trophy ceremony. Since Kenny G was not part of the proceedings, I didn't pay attention. Turns out, David heard right, as Lulu McGrew reports:

Hey, did anyone else catch the PGA Tour Commish, Timothy Finchem mispronounce Stenson’s name at the trophy presentation? He called him Heinrik…twice. This is not the first time that Stevenson…er, I mean, Stenson has dealt with his name being mangled. It is one of the easier names out there, sounding just like it written. How do you think he was have pronounced Cejka’s name?

Actually, it was Cejka's fault. Finchem was up late the night before practicing his German and he just never recovered from that.

Tuesday
May122009

Ryo Hopes To Keep Missed Cuts Streak Alive At PGA

Good to see the PGA of America shoring up their Japanese television rights field by adding 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa to the 2009 PGA Championshp field after missed cuts at Riviera, Bay Hill and Augusta. Consistency like that must be rewarded.

Tuesday
May122009

Players Sunday Ratings Up 21%

Nice to see everyone in Florida was watching based on this listing of the markets.

Tuesday
May122009

"You'd have thought I'd recommended killing somebody"

I finally got around to John Paul Newport's Saturday column on "club life in the Great Recession" and found this interesting about the plight of course GM's in the cost cutting era:

Nothing better illustrates the difficulty of achieving that balance than the matter of on-course refreshment. Montammy spends about $20,000 a year to stock ice chests around the golf course with private-label bottled water. To an accountant, cutting the bottled water looks like low-hanging fruit, but not to members. "It's an upscale perk that members really like," Mr. Claisse said, so the water remains.

But speaking of fruit, the club was also spending in excess of $50,000 a year to provide fresh, cut-up fruit for golfers making the nine-hole turn, a Montammy tradition. Since much of the fruit went to waste, Mr. Claisse suggested offering fruit cups instead and asking members to pay for them. The reaction? "You'd have thought I'd recommended killing somebody," he said. So a compromise was reached. The fruit continues to be free, but whole fruit only, not cut. Such is club life in the Great Recession.

Tuesday
May122009

"But will his fellow pros be so lenient, once they have all had a chance to see it?"

Lawrence Donegan reports that Kenny Perry has been cleared of a possible rules violation that occurred during the FBR Open playoff. Video evidence suggested that Perry had improved his lie. I've seen it. Not good. But also not hard to come away feeling like there was intent of any kind. Then again, the rules of golf don't care about intent.

Rule 13–2 of the Rules of Golf states that a player is not allowed to improve "the position or lie of his ball". Mark Russell, a senior rules official with the PGA Tour, said he had "no problem whatsoever" with Perry's actions, adding that the footage was "inconclusive".

"During the course of the telecast of the FBR Open‚ we received no calls from viewers reporting a potential rules violation involving Kenny Perry. When a question was raised this week, several members of the tournament committee reviewed the videotape of Kenny Perry, and no evidence of any rules violation was found ... We will have no further comment on the matter,'' he said.

The Super Bowl had started at that point so I'm pretty viewership was light to non-existent.

Derek Lawrenson notes in the Daily Mail:

By waving his wedge behind his ball before playing a chip shot during a play-off against Charley Hoffman, Perry raised the question of whether he had improved his lie, and thereby broken the rules. After a further review on Sunday, US Tour rules officials exonerated the personable man from Kentucky, who charmed everyone with his grace in defeat at the Masters.

But will his fellow pros be so lenient, once they have all had a chance to see it? Or will this be like the Colin Montgomerie saga in Indonesia a few years ago, when he was cleared by the referee at the time of wrongdoing, only to be declared guilty a month later by a court of his peers?

Monday
May112009

"These comments hurt the game."

I was traveling most of the day and haven't followed the David Feherty situation very closely, but just taking a quick look at the wires it appears that while his apology was prompt, the Wanda Sykes controversy is bringing him back into the national debate over what constitutes tasteless. (You don't say bomb on an airplane and you don't joke about wanting to see die...is that hard enough?)

Based on what Michael Hiestand writes in a thoughtful and surprisingly-long-by-USA Today standards piece, the next few days will determine where the Feherty situation heads and his name being dragged into the Sykes situation may prove problematic. Unlike past CBS announcer brouhahas, Feherty's inflammatory comments were written instead of uttered, ultimately making it hard to see this as a well-intentioned joke gone bad.

Ron Sirak at Golf World comments on the situation, and compared to everything else I've read and the critical emails I've received for daring to touch a golf story making national news, he offers a nuanced and insightful take as someone who has interviewed Feherty. His conclusions ultimately raise more questions than the apology tried to put to sleep.

My first thought was that Feherty, who is known for his humor, may not be as sensitive to this issue because he did not grow up in the United States. But then I remembered an interview I did with him more than a decade ago in which he talked about growing up in Northern Ireland during "the troubles," the political violence between Catholics and Protestants centered around English rule of the North. David should know better. He saw first-hand the bloody results of extremism.

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto drags Feherty into the Sykes mess and wonders why liberals aren't more upset at her remarks. He'd have a little more credibility if he didn't spell Feherty as if he were some distant relative of Rick Fehr.

Mike Lupica takes the same stance, and several others and I stopped reading because he was going all Nuke LaLoosh on us and I was getting dizzy.

Sunday
May102009

"That's entirely speculation"

We may have a new diversionary interview tactic! Just label it speculation and therefore it's inadmissible!

The only question: did Tim Finchem come up with this before Tiger Woods? Or the other way around?

Finchem, in a Q&A with Larry Dorman where he didn't like the question:

But this is a speculative question that is focused on a scenario we do not see happening.

Tiger, at Quail Hollow, was posed the question about Hank Haney's status as his instructor. Thomas Bonk writes:

In the meantime, there is certain to be some questions about the status of Haney, who was not with Woods at Quail Hollow or TPC Sawgrass. Woods had a chance to diffuse any hint of a problem last week at Quail Hollow when he was asked if Haney was in trouble.

"That's entirely speculation," Woods said.

That's also not denying it.

Since the Commissioner went to law school I think he's going to have to take the blame for this one.

Meanwhile, Brian Wacker makes the case that Tiger hasn't been nearly as bad as stats suggest.

Sunday
May102009

First TPC Sawgrass Thought: Taj Tim

Photo posted in the clubhouse of Tim Finchem and David Pillsbury leaning that it'll only cost $33 millionI expected to look up at the $44 million Chateau Finchem and feel like Shrek gazing at Lord Farquaad's castle and in that swamp brog, “Do ya think he's maybe compensatin' for something?”

Despite how silly it looks on television, it functions decently and features killer memorabilia on the walls, including plenty of architectural and early days reminders. (See the goats story image below.)

A daily Commissioner's Hospitality shindig was erected upstairs, complete with new menu items each day, killer ice cream and for the final round, "the Commissioner's recipe" bread pudding. I'm sure he was up the previous night baking it himself.The Goat Story, posted along with a goat photo in the well-appointed clubhouse (click to enlarge)

Sunday
May102009

Sunday At The Players

Henrik Stenson overcame heat, humidity and greens yellower than an R&A member’s teeth to capture the 2009 Players Championship. Crispy, firm and “icy quick” in the words of runner-up Ian Poulter, the relentless Pete Dye design’s mini-verde bermuda surfaces may have looked dreadful in HD but played better than the PGA Tour ever could have dreamed since committing to a hoped-for fast and firm warm season base three years ago.

“Pretty incredible,” said Tiger Woods of Stenson’s bogey-free 66 that included 13 of 14 fairways, all but one hit with his trusty three wood. A birdie at the ninth put Stenson ahead and he soon pulled away in Mine That Bird fashion with birdies at 11, 13, 15 and 16.  Yet even with a four-shot lead the island green 17th loomed like the giant barrier that so many told us strips the course of any world class integrity. However it's late-in-the-round placement is the very thing that makes The Players so intriguing. Champion Stenson approaches the 18th green en route to victory. (Click to enlarge)

Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee was the most visible opponent, calling it gimmicky. The Florida Times-Union's Garry Smits inquired with the tour about Chamblee's record there during his playing career and found that he played the hole 26 times in nine starts in The Players, and averaged 3.46 with six water balls.

Lorne Rubenstein talked to former Dye protege Tom Doak about the moaning.

"As Mr. Dye once described it to me, it's a 130-yard hole with an 8,000-square-foot green -- a target a tour pro would hit 98 percent of the time, if he wasn't scared of it."

Tiger Woods struggled Sunday, posting a 73 that included a bogey from the fairway bunker on No. 7 (click to enlarge)It's actually just a shade over 4,000 square feet and by no means is an inviting target. The contours appear to have grown too severe for modern green speeds, yet the hole played to a reasonable 3.025 average, yielding 80 birdies compared to 43 bogies, 13 doubles and 6 triples. 83% of shots hit the green in regulation this week.

The folks it seems to be harassing most are the $375 paying customers. As Robert Lohrer noted on his blog, the number of balls retrieved annually and floated this week was 155,000. A Golf Journal (R.I.P) story from 1998 reported that divers dredge up 120,000 balls, "so, if we take these numbers at face value, the only conclusion -- as the number of rounds is the same in both reports -- is that, collectively, as golfers, we're getting worse."

Asked after the round about the 17th tee conversation, Stenson said he was trying for a "r pitching wedge at the middle tower" by aiming just left of the bunker in hopes of getting it on top.The fifth hole scene on Sunday (click on image to enlarge)

He didn't quite pull that off, finishing on the front tier where he two-putted from in stoic fashion.

Having survived that test, he striped his tee shot and coasted to a victory that paid $1.7 million and garnered a whopping 0 FedEx Cup points thanks to his non-PGA Tour member status.

T3 finisher John Mallinger takes the walk toward the 17th green (click to enlarge)Still, the 17th was the crowd favorite, particularly among the coveted 3-12 demo. They were hounding players as they walked down the railroad tie raised ramp. Vets like Kenny Perry and Woody Austin complied but handing their balls to new fans for life, Kevin Na acted like they didn't exist and John Mallinger shined his pearly whites while dishing out high-fives.

Ben Curtis, who hit his tee shot in the water and posted a double bogey 5, entered the fluorescent-lit tunnel on his way to the 18th tee when a young girl yelled out from above.

"Can I have a ball please?"

"I only have two left," Curtis grumbled back.

Her dad offered this consolation: "He still has to play number 18 and there's lots of water."

Okay, so maybe the 17th isn't the only terrifying hole at the other-worldly TPC Sawgrass.

Sunday
May102009

Mosquito Control Road

In honor of today's quote from Jenkins, a few real estate developments along the way to the TPC Sawgrass.

-The Fountains

-Summer House

-Dolphin Cove

-L'Atrium

-Fiddlers Marsh

And my favorite road:

I sent the photo to former area resident Jenkins, who reports:

That street used to be Gator Food and before that it was Cotton Mouth Alley and before that it was Rattler Court.

Sunday
May102009

Feherty Apology; Disaster Averted!

Doug Ferguson reports:

“This passage was a metaphor meant to describe how American troops felt about our 43rd president,” Feherty said in a statement. “In retrospect, it was inappropriate and unacceptable, and has clearly insulted Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid, and for that, I apologize. As for our troops, they know I will continue to do as much as I can for them both at home and abroad.”

Sunday
May102009

"It is very difficult to fuel access."

Larry Dorman talks to Commissioner Tim Finchem who is in great spirits, cracking jokes, employing slang and....oh no, just kidding.

We are off to a terrific start after just two years with the FedEx Cup — way ahead on virtually every metric, starting with fan awareness and interest. Obviously, maximizing this position requires all of our top players playing, starting with the No. 1 player in the world and that didn’t happen for the 2008 FedEx Cup.

Tim, there's room for growth! I suppose the G word is so 2007.

Q. A recent Sports Business Journal report identified Crowne Plaza as “at least the sixth company” not planning to renew its title sponsorship. Will we be seeing a reduced schedule on the PGA Tour after 2010, and what kind of effect would a loss of five or six events have on the Tour’s charitable giving?

A. We do not intend to reduce our schedule in 2010. We are working very hard to ensure that does not happen, and that was evident with the announcement Thursday of our agreement with SBS for a 10-year commitment to take the position of title sponsor at the event at Kapalua, Hawaii, from 2010 to 2019. We had already announced extensions with Travelers, Accenture, Zurich and Liberty Mutual and we’ll have more to come. How much of a falloff a loss of five or six events would generate in charitable dollars would depend on which events were lost. But this is a speculative question that is focused on a scenario we do not see happening.

Objection! That question was speculative! Strike it from the record please.

Q. What do you see as the biggest threat to the health of the competitive side of the game?

A. I do not see a threat to the competitive side of the game, but I am concerned about the ongoing challenge of growing the game. Because of the nature of the sport, the real estate and resultant costs for facilities and an adequate number of golf courses, it is very difficult to fuel access. We are making strides, but golf isn’t like basketball where you can hang a net in a driveway and teach a child to play. We just have to keep working at it.

I smell a new campaign. Together, we can fuel access.

Sunday
May102009

"Haney is often left exposed by his boss's verbal inactivity."

John Huggan admits he's not an impartial observer while filing a strong defense of Hank Haney as Tiger's coach, suggesting that the media's "sustained level of hyperbole and lazy analysis has made Haney less inclined to talk publicly about the relationship he has with Woods and his swing."

Sunday
May102009

It's Sunday Morning And...

...the clock is ticking on David Feherty and if past little brouhahas like this are any indication, the longer you wait and the more stubborn your stance, the worse things get.

I awoke expecting to see a story or inbox release featuring a witty apology from Feherty. Something along the lines of, "Normally my best medium is in the gas passing joke genre and clearly I misfired in my D Magazine story. As evidenced by my efforts on behalf of the troops, I never would imply that those I have met during trips to Iraq would commit an offense punishable by the Uniform Code of Miltary Justice. I love the troops, I love America and I apologize to anyone I may have offended, including Senator Reid, Congresswoman Pelosi and most of all, our brave troops."

MediaMatters.org, a progressive media watchdog, has asked for a simple apology to the troops. It's not as if they are calling for his job.

So for the sake of David Feherty's career (that has brought so much joy to us in the golf world) hopefully he acts quickly to put this to bed by today. Because the longer he waits, the more potential this has to snowball into one of those ridiculous little controversies that ultimately ends poorly.

And now that Feherty is an American citizen, he should know we love the big apology. Just ask Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds. One is still in baseball, one is not. One apologized, one did not. Both committed the same offense.

Saturday
May092009

Saturday At The Players

I arrived at 6:30 a.m. (a stuffy 78 degrees!) to sit in on a course tour of the front nine setup as handled by John Mutch of the PGA Tour.

The setup is nicely balanced and as solid as can be, though the architecture limits the possibility of the more dramatic day-to-day changes we're coming to expect more and more.The inevitable 17th hole photo, from the 16th hole.(click to enlarge)

Not that TPC Sawgrass needs much drama.

The conditioning is superb, however the design would benefit from a lot more mowing of rough and short grass areas around greens. Aesthetically, it's currently lacking some of the elegance a design so rich in texture deserves, much of which I attribute to the clump bermuda mix in the roughs. And the strategic benefits would be obvious: balls reaching hazards more easily, contours retaining even more of a presence and several approaches appearing more intimidating.

They think of everything! Lights in the tunnel from 17 green to 18 tee (click to enlarge)The current situation with so much rough around the greens limits shotmaking and frankly, looks ugly.

To clarify one issue regarding the rough. After being briefed by the tour, Golf Channel and NBC have reported that the fairway roughs are cut at 2-3 inches, last topped off mid-week. Greenside, the rough started in the same range but is now at 3-4 inches. However, because the severity of the surrounds requires the use of rotary mowers (that's a lawn mower) it has not been topped off all week while the fairway roughs have.  The PGA Tour's tournament director, Mark Russell, says the situation will be different next year.

The obvious question for anyone who watched Saturday: why the higher scores?Camilo Villegas tests the wind with the amazing video screen in the background. (Click on image to enlarge)

After all it's warm, greens are perfect and the wind never amounted to much. However, it's pretty simple, really. There is enough firmness in the greens combined with a relentless course that quickly wears the player down.

And that's why Alex Cejka's five-stroke lead over Tiger Woods appears so surmountable.

Saturday
May092009

"Feherty under fire for joke"

AP's Doug Ferguson files a story on the David Feherty situation, with the quotes posted below from the PGA Tour and CBS Sports along with background on Feherty's efforts on behalf of the troops.