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Pebble Beach is a pirate which lies in wait for merchantmen in the most treacherous landfall this side of the Dry Tortugas.
JIM MURRAY

    

Friday
Aug292008

"If you are not having fun, you are disqualified."

There's a wonderful unbylined but very personal obituary of Bob Labbance at reformer.com. If anyone knows who the author was, please let me know.

Friday
Aug292008

TPC Boston Changes To Look For

Jim Wagner filled me in with a few more specifics about the minor work done at TPC Boston. Most of this won't show up on television, but I can say it makes a huge difference in making the greens feel a bit more naked and giving the golf course an older feel.

  • Green surround mounding removed: No. 1, No. 10, No. 18
  • Greenside bunker renovated: No. 4 (a feature was added in the left portion of the bunker to make player think a bit before automatically aiming for the hazard)
  • New fairway bunker, mound removal: No. 9 fairway
  • Bunker renovation, island added: No. 11
  • Fairway expansion in first landing area: No. 18

It was interesting how many players didn't care for the tee shot options on No. 18 last year, so the expansion should help the shorter hitters a bit.

Here's No. 10 with some of the rear containment mounding that should be gone.



Thursday
Aug282008

Olympic Club Changing 7th and 8th Holes

I'm glad I played them when I did and I'm even more pleased to say I witnessed some wonderful tournament moments on both because the new and improved 7th and 8th holes at Olympic Club (Lake) will have a hard time capturing the character of the current.

Here's Ron Kroichick's story on Olympic's decision to rebuild all 18 greens to USGA specs:

"If the greens were fine, we wouldn't be doing this work," said Pat Murphy, chairman of Olympic's green committee. "But since we're doing this work, we think it will be a better course."
No. 18 created lively debate in '98, before Lee Janzen surged past Stewart to win the Open. USGA officials chose such a precarious pin placement for the second round, one of Stewart's putts inched past the hole and slid 20 feet downhill. He was not happy.
Olympic Club officials later flattened the green, but many members thought the new green had become too tame for a short par-4. Murphy said the next version will have more slope than it does now, though it won't be quite as severe as it was for the 1998 Open.
That sounded fine to Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competition. Davis expects no problem finding suitable hole locations on No. 18, so he can avoid an encore of the '98 mess.
"Even if they were to move the green back to exactly what it used to be, we could do it," Davis said Wednesday. "I think the USGA just made a mistake in '98, putting the hole there. ... If we meet somewhere in the middle (on the slope), we can have that green the same speed as the others."
Ouch! Oh that ought to bring out the Tom Meeks fan club members.

This is also interesting considering that the USGA structures their contracts to prevent redesign work so close to a U.S. Open.
Davis knew the Olympic Club was contemplating changes, but he said he learned of last week's board approval only when On Golf called. He echoed Murphy's statement that the changes were member-driven, not demanded by the USGA.
Here's the depressing part:
The other striking wrinkle in this project: moving No. 8 to the right of its present location. That will turn a 137-yard par-3 into a much longer hole - with championship tees at 200 to 210 yards - with a different angle. It also allows Olympic officials to push back the green on No. 7.
"One short par-3 is fine," Murphy said, knowing No. 15 measures only 149 yards, "but two short par-3s just doesn't work in this day and age."
How many times have we heard PGA Tour players talk recently about the beauty and difficulty of short par 3s and 4s? You can have more than one, Mr. Murphy. The beauty of Olympic Club is that the Lake course follows no formulas. Well, not anymore.

And as much as I'm not a fan of Robert Trent Jones architecture or three tiered greens, his 7th green at Olympic works beautifully. I watched it trip up players last year at the U.S. Amateur, and even recall Davis telling me he had to move the tees up a couple of days to make it more driveable (dispelling any notion that the hole was too short for today's game). But it's getting moved in the redo by Bill Love:
There will be other tweaks to the Lake Course, including lengthening a few holes and re-contouring the greens on Nos. 7 and 15. The work will begin Nov. 4 and last until approximately June 1, 2009.
Thursday
Aug282008

"Because if you need two gos to get it to that stage, well, I think my kids could come up with a better design than that in one afternoon."

Things are going well at Gleneagles! But not to worry, Monty is on the case. Thanks to reader Nick for this Mike Aitken story on Lee Westwood blasting the 2014 Ryder Cup venue:

"You can't bring the Ryder Cup on to greens like this," rued Westwood after taking 31 putts in an opening round of 72, one under par. "They have a bit of rain and the best professionals in Europe can't hit the hole from two feet."

Asked what could be done to improve the sodden greens in Perthshire, Westwood replied: "They could rip them up and redo them. That's my fear for the Ryder Cup coming here. That they're just going to keep patching them up over the years. Hopefully they redo them.

"You build a course between two valleys in Scotland and you have to expect rain. So rain is not an excuse for having bad greens this week, I'm afraid. I've put down a green at home which is like concrete and we've had almost as much rain as they've had here.

"They need to dig them up and put the right construction underneath them."
Colin Montgomerie, the chairman of the championship committee, who missed himself from two feet on the 15th, didn't rule out future changes. "There's been an awful lot of rain and the greens are soft. I was practising here last week and they had to close the range a couple of times because of the rain. The weather has been awful and the greens have suffered. I think some greens drain better than these, there's no doubt about that. So we'll have to look into that in the future."

Westwood also took a swipe at golf course architect David McLay Kidd, the Scottish designer of Bandon Dunes in Oregon and the Castle Course near St Andrews, who is in charge of the redesign on the PGA Centenary, including the controversial seventh hole. "I hope they don't use the designer who has had two gos at doing the seventh green," the Englishman cautioned. "Because if you need two gos to get it to that stage, well, I think my kids could come up with a better design than that in one afternoon."
Whoa Nellie!
Thursday
Aug282008

Phil: Volatility Means I Can Spend More Time Not Playing!

Steve Elling notes Phil Mickelson's bizarre remarks Wednesday.

With it becoming increasingly obvious that the sweeping points overhaul has placed too much emphasis on the performances of players in the four-event playoff series and devalued the importance of play in the regular season, Phil Mickelson dropped a bomb Thursday at the Deutsche Bank Championship that probably had a few officers at tour headquarters reaching for aspirin, if not hankies.

Those aren't raindrops from the latest tropical storm falling in Ponte Vedra Beach, those are teardrops of sheer fright. After a handful of prominent players had expressed the opinion Thursday that the new FedEx points system had overreached, Mickelson offered an entirely unanticipated answer.

"I think that the intent was to have more turnover, and certainly it has done that," he said. "I don't feel as though the season, the regular season, has anywhere near the same impact that it had, and so that could be a good thing because now we don't have to play as many events if we don't want to."

Uh-oh.

The points volatility is going to shine a big bright light on something we've known all along: way too many of the PGA Tour's finest are spoiled, unimaginative or willing to realize just how weak their "product" is these days. 

Of course it means the regular season means less. But for a little excitement at the end, isn't it worth it? Do these guys realize how little interest there is in the PGA Tour playoffs?

Thursday
Aug282008

"How good is Carolyn Bivens' grasp of the game and business she is charged with running?"

An unbylined commentary from The Golf Wire became the first to focus on the role of Commissioner Carolyn Bivens in the LPGA's speak English brouhaha:

After all, this is a woman with an allegedly strong media background who managed to achieve near media blackout of the first event under her care in 2006, the Fields Open, because she thought it was a good idea to flout a century of accepted media business practice and attempt to appropriate ownership of stories and photos produced by media outlets at LPGA events. Despite the presence of Michelle Wie, who was still a media darling back then, both Honolulu newspapers, The Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and Golf World magazine were among those who did not cover the first round on Oahu.
Eventually, she had to relent. You know how testy people can get when they take on all the expense and risk, and then someone else wants to reap the benefits.
Clearly, she's gearing up next for a government job.
Her latest brainstorm attempts to nullify talent and hard work - also known as "merit" - in exchange for a better marketing and communications platform. And here we thought a commissioner's job was to create MORE opportunities for her constituents - you know, the players - and not fewer.
Speaking of the Commissioner, Doug Ferguson notes:
Strangely absent during this debate is LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens. According to Golfweek, Bivens held a meeting with only the South Koreans last week in Portland, which led some to believe they were being singled out.
Galloway said Bivens was returning from the West Coast on Monday and Tuesday, and “I drew the long straw” to handle media inquiries.
The New York Times editorial board even weighed in, calling the new policy offensive and self-destructive.

Wednesday
Aug272008

Getting In The Mood For TPC Boston

You may recall that last year at this time I blatantly touted the before/after work of my colleagues Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and friends at the TPC Boston, with several photos courtesy of superintendent Tom Brodeur.

Now, because I know you're dying to relive all of the before/after photos or some of my posts from the course during last year's epic Deutsche Bank Championship, I remind you that you can go to the TPC Boston journal archive. Or you can visit posts on individual holes here:

1st hole

4th hole

5th hole

7th hole

8th hole

9th hole

10th hole

15th hole

16th hole

17th hole


I understand that they have made some minor changes this year, including a change to the front left bunker on No. 4, as well as many more Palmer Design mounds. Still, 13 of the greens remain left over from the original design in some form. Hopefully some day they'll get the green light to fix the rest, starting with No. 18!

Wednesday
Aug272008

"The LPGA wants Koreans to speak passable English but the Tour's own leadership can't communicate that fact to the players with anything approaching clarity. How's that for irony?"

Impressive coverage and diverse views continue to dominate the LPGA's English-only rule coverage, which appears widespread and mostly not positive: Dan Barnes writes:

It should be noted that the message from commissioner Carolyn Bivens was delivered to the Korean players in spoken English. There was nothing presented to them on paper or, heaven forbid, in their own language. How much got lost in translation? Plenty. Some Korean players told Golfweek, the website that broke the story, they believe they will lose their cards permanently if they can't pass the test.
And...
It's all about sponsorship, something Korean golfer Jeong Jang figured out a while ago. She told Golfweek about Cristie Kerr's acceptance speech after she won the 2005 Michelob Ultra Open.
"First thing she said to the camera was, 'I need a beer.' I still remember that. Sponsors must be proud."
Oh yeah, that was a proud Kodak moment, all right. And there could be so many more, if the LPGA's dialectal directive has its desired effect on the international membership. When Soo-Yun Kang wins the McDonald's LPGA Championship in 2009, provided she has taken all her English lessons, she can step in front of the camera and say, "I need a massive influx of fat and calories, so hand me a Big Mac.''
Now that would be a mouthful in any language.The LPGA wants Koreans to speak passable English but the Tour's own leadership can't communicate that fact to the players with anything approaching clarity. How's that for irony?

Leonard Shapiro calls the English-only rule "draconian, xenophobic and seemingly discriminatory." He also writes:

What if the tables were turned and you were sent to a foreign country to conduct your own business, only to be told that unless you learned Korean, or Japanese or Spanish you'd be out of a job? Could you do it in two years, while also putting in 50-hour or longer work weeks? Five years? Ever?
There is more than a little irony here as well. Women golfers around the globe, and particularly in the U.S., have been discriminated against for years. They've been unable to join certain clubs as full members, prohibited from teeing off on weekends until 1 p.m., told that the men's grill was truly boys only and totally off limits and totally excluded from any membership at all in places like Augusta National, Pine Valley and Burning Tree.
And now one of the most powerful women's sports organizations in the world is actually going to discriminate against some of its very own international female members because they're not proficient in English? It's absurd, it's dead wrong and clearly contrary to the Olympic ideal that rewards only the fastest and the strongest, not the athlete who gives the best press conference for the American media.
Ron Sirak shares this from an LPGA player agent:
"Next year there will be LPGA events in Thailand, Singapore, China, Korea and Japan and the tour has said it has its eye on India and the Middle East as well," notes another agent who also asked that his name not be used. "Will Americans who win in those countries be expected to give their speech in the local language?"
Jay Coffin says "good idea, poor execution" but also writes that "Suspension is too harsh a penalty. An LPGA card is earned from talent, now that status can be taken away for a reason other than talent. There’s something fundamentally wrong with this concept."

Alan Shipnuck
considers the legality of the rule.
So-called English-only rules in the workplace are an emerging body of law; the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in. One high-profile recent case, still pending, centered on a Connecticut sheet-metal factory that made English compulsory. The attorney for the workers, Steven D. Jacobs, tells GOLF.com: "Over the last 10 years, there have been a number of decisions in this area, and the courts have consistently decreed that it is permissible for an employer to mandate English-only for two narrow reasons: safety" — air-traffic control being an obvious example — "and efficiency" — such as telephone customer service.
"And that's it," Jacobs continued. "With regards to the LPGA, safety is obviously a non-factor. So the issue becomes, is the language a player speaks fundamental to the competition? I would not want to be the one who has to make that case."
Jon Show at Sports Business Daily counters with this:
LPGA Deputy Commissioner Libba Galloway said the policy was vetted with attorneys familiar with workplace laws. “Legal businesses and membership organizations have the right to make certain requirements that are fundamental to their businesses,” Galloway said. A formal copy of the policy was not available, said Galloway, because it will not be finalized until the end of this year.
Can't wait for the day that's leaked!

Larry Dorman says the "policy has touched an international nerve" and writes:
Because of the manner in which the information seeped out, and because the L.P.G.A. tour has not finished drafting a written version of the policy, the organization has been both pilloried and praised around the globe.
If the L.P.G.A. hoped to use this as a trial balloon, it has plenty of material to wade through before a final document is forged. Harrington, for example, raised many questions those in the L.P.G.A.’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla., might want to consider.
“Do you have to pass an exam?” said Harrington, an Irishman who has won three of the last six major championships. “Surely if you can say hello, that’s English. Is that good enough? Who draws the line about how many words you’ve got to know in English?
“Obviously some people are natural talkers and some people aren’t. What if you have a person who genuinely struggles with learning new language, they have a learning disability? That’s tough to ask somebody with a learning disability who might have found golf as the saving grace in their life, to ask them to learn a different language or else you can’t play.”
And it didn't take long for the satirical columns to start. Bill Nichols in the Dallas Morning News:
As a public service, here are five more requirements for LPGA consideration:
•Minimum score of 1,350 on the SAT or 31 on the ACT
•2,000-word essay on character construction in Finnegan's Wake
•Minimum height of 5-3, maximum height of 5-10
•Change a flat tire in 20 minutes (using an American car, of course)
•Look like Natalie Gulbis
Wednesday
Aug272008

Monty Prepared To Transition To Cheerleading Role If Asked

Oh right, like that's going to happen. From golf365.com:

In the space of a few minutes today Montgomerie went from giving the impression that he would not be interested to saying: "I would certainly think about that decision and anything that would help the European cause I would be for.

"I would help in any way, shape or form - potentially, yes."

Mike Aitken tells us what the bookmakers think and buries the ultimate lede: Monty has won 5 Ryder Cups all on his own!

In spite of all the unsubstantiated talk about nods and winks, the bookmakers yesterday made Casey at 2-11 and Darren Clarke at 1-4 the odds-on favourites to win wild cards from Faldo with Poulter, 2-1, and Colin Montgomerie, 5-1, also on offer at short prices.
And...

If Faldo has other lieutenants in mind, and doesn't require Monty's services as a player, the Scot will cheer on Europe from a seat in front of a TV. "Being the only European that's won five Ryder Cups, I'm very honoured to be that person," he said. "I'd be watching and hoping the team make it four wins in a row, which would be exceptional."
Tuesday
Aug262008

Volatility Verdicts

Alan Shipnuck likes the new playoff points system:

The much-hyped playoff format that sportswriters love to hate is off to a rollicking start. Besides the buzz of Sergio's sudden death, there are Ryder Cup spots up for grabs and the new points system has created a lot more more week-to-week excitement. Bottom line: don't ever bet against Finchem.
Meanwhile John Hawkins levels a verdict in this week's Golf World, and seems to have agreement from a member of the Tour policy board:
When the tour's Policy Board began reviewing the first FedEx Cup finish in late 2007, it came up with two primary objectives: create dramatic movement in the standings and make the superstars play in all four postseason events. Thus, the decision was made to turn up the dials on everything that would encourage volatility.
The problem? Almost everyone ignored the fragility. Singh earned 11,000 points for winning the Barclays -- just eight players reached that total in the entire regular season. You want crazy? A solo third at one of the first three playoff tournaments pays 5,400 points, which is more than Trevor Immelman, Woods, Padraig Harrington (and Harrington again) got for each of their major championship victories earlier this year. Simply making the cut at Ridgewood was worth 2,098, almost 400 points more than Rich Beem got for a solo third a week earlier in Greensboro.
Seriously, folks, you can't make up this stuff. "We went overboard," acknowledged policy board member Joe Ogilvie. "We overcooked it, and I'm sure we'll revise [again], but at least we know we took it too far.
"We were given various [projections], so we fully knew what we were getting into," Ogilvie added. "Mark Wilson [a member of the Player Advisory Council] was the one guy who thought we were going too far. I remember him warning us of what might happen. The problem isn't so much the player who wins as it is the player who finishes 135th, makes two [postseason] cuts and jumps into the top 70. That's not in the spirit of the playoffs, or shouldn't be."
Last year we had to wait to issue a verdict, now we're declaring the points revamping DOA after week one. I love these guys!
Tuesday
Aug262008

"The LPGA could lose some tremendous players if it's not careful."

As expected the initial reactions to Beth Ann Baldry's exclusive on the LPGA's new English-speaking requirement were not positive and raised several major questions. We'll get to those in a moment, but having 24 hours to sit on this it strikes me that the hypocrisy here is truly breathtaking. As the LPGA struggles to get sponsors and takes more and more events to Asia, they are instituted a racist policy that could ultimately weed out the number of South Korean players.

In the AP story (Doug Ferguson?), Angela Park says:

...born in Brazil of South Korean heritage and raised in the United States -- said the policy is fair and good for the tour and its international players.
"A lot of Korean players think they are being targeted, but it's just because there are so many of them," Park said.
Seon-Hwa Lee, the only Asian with multiple victories this year, said she works with an English tutor in the winter. Her ability to answer questions without the help of a translator has improved in her short time on tour.
"The economy is bad, and we are losing sponsors," Lee said. "Everybody understands."
Somehow I doubt that.

The USA Today's Steve DiMeglio talks to several folks and gets a variety of reactions. Ms. Chokinfreakindogs likes the policy.
"That's why I don't think this is an overall bad thing," Dottie Pepper, the former LPGA star and current golf analyst, said of the LPGA tour's new policy requiring its member golfers to speak English or face suspension. "And I think it also can really help the players become more comfortable in the environment they play."
The LPGA policy says players who have been on the tour for two years can be suspended if they fail an oral evaluation of their English proficiency starting at the end of the 2009 season.
The tour provides tutoring and language-learning software to its players and will work with those who fail the test.
"It's something that has been coming about gradually," said LPGA deputy commissioner Libba Galloway, who added that only a few of the organization's members can't speak English. "We're more of an international tour now, but we're an American-based tour and the players need the tools to interact with fans and sponsors. One of those tools is to speak English."
We're more of an international tour now but we're an American based tour. You sure that wasn't Yogi? DiMeglio also offers this:
No major U.S. sports leagues, however, require players to speak English. Nor do the PGA Tour or ATP.
"We are proud to have tournaments in 30 countries and players from over 100 competing in them and have no plans to impose a common language on them," ATP spokesman Kris Dent said.
Eunsook Lee, executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium in Los Angeles, finds the new policy ironic coming on the heels of the Olympics, which she said were about fostering understanding. "It sounds like a step backward for golf," she said.
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida, said a language requirement could be in violation of state law.
"Florida law prohibits discrimination in public accommodations," he said. "They may well violate Florida discrimination laws because language is a key element of person's national origin. People should be judged on their ability to perform a job. English fluency has no more to do with the ability to play 18 holes of golf than whether you walk 18 holes or ride 18 holes."
Galloway, however, said the LPGA can stand its legal ground. "Organizations and businesses in general have the right to make requirements on skill sets necessary for their employers," she said. "We as a membership organization have the right to establish obligations that our members must adhere to in order to do the things fundamental to conduct our business."
Ah the skill sets...wonder when we'd get some corporatespeak in there. Are LPGA players employees? Who knew?

Garry Smits brings up this credibility killer for the LPGA Board:
The rule wouldn’t be in effect if the Executive Committee wasn’t on board. The LPGA Board of Directors has 18 members, 12 of them who are players. The PGA Tour, on the other hand, has a nine-member board, and only four are players. As a result, the LPGA board, by sheer numbers, speaks more to the will of the overall membership.
However, it should be noted that every one of the 12 players on the board is American. Despite having the second-largest demographic group on the LPGA (behind Americans), there are no South Koreans on the board.
Lorne Rubenstein writes:
It makes sense that players who don't speak English should try to learn the language. Most players do try, and the LPGA makes the Rosetta Stone language-training program available to its members. But it can take a long time to get comfortable in a foreign language. My wife taught college English for nearly 30 years, often to people for whom English was a second or third language. A certain percentage of these students never became fluent in English, no matter how hard they worked. Canada and the United States are full of immigrants who can't speak English after years of taking lessons.
Smacking a two-year time period on golfers to learn English, then, smacks of xenophobia in the extreme. The idea is offensive, and its implementation is sure to generate hostility and anxiety.
The LPGA could lose some tremendous players if it's not careful. Imagine a scenario where a player who can't speak English to LPGA standards wins a major championship in her rookie year. She has two years to learn English or face suspension. She doesn't learn it, and she's suspended. The LPGA says it will provide tutoring and then do another evaluation, but there are no guarantees the lessons will take.
Ouch. Oh he's not done.
It's an American tour? The LPGA is in Canada, Singapore, Mexico, France, England, South Korea and Japan. Should Paula Creamer have to speak Korean if she plays in South Korea? Should Natalie Gulbis have to speak Spanish if she plays the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico come November?
The fault isn't with players who can't speak English. They are who they are. The LPGA is running scared. It needs to embrace golf as a global game and welcome foreign players, including those who don't speak English.
Instead, the LPGA Tour is threatening those players. When it comes to players who don't speak English "properly," it appears LPGA should stand for "Ladies, Please Go Away." Just watch the blowback from this one.
The OC Register's Mark Whicker adds...
But Fernando Valenzuela hardly ever did an organized interview in English. Vladimir Guerrero doesn't do them now, and neither does Bartolo Colon or Ichiro Suzuki. Neither do K.J. Choi or Shigeki Maruyama on the PGA Tour.

It's not that they can't speak English. Most of them can at least fake it. They just don't want to be ridiculed because they can't speak smoothly in the American vernacular. They also fear saying something impolitic or inaccurate. As we all can. Hey, even Joe Biden sprains his tongue.

The American players are fully behind the English rule. They figure that if the Koreans are learning proper verb conjugation, they won't be practicing as much and, therefore, beating American brains out every week.
And Lori Kane becomes one of the first players to question the policy:
 "I am of a strong belief that, yes, we need to learn to communicate," Kane, a 12-year tour veteran, told The Canadian Press on Tuesday. "But whether or not you can communicate shouldn't determine whether or not you have a card on the LPGA Tour."
Tuesday
Aug262008

"All I can think of is that he's been given the nod"

As bad as it looks for Paul Azinger, things may not be quite so peachy in the Euro team room after Nick Dougherty voiced what appears to be the prevailing mood on the European Tour: Ian Poulter is playing the Deutsche Bank this week because he knows he's getting one of Faldo's two Captain's picks. James Corrigan reports:

Nick Dougherty was brave enough to articulate what most were thinking here on the range yesterday as the news circulated of Ian Poulter's late withdrawal from this week's Johnnie Walker Championship. "All I can think of is that he's been given the nod," said Dougherty. And so the great Ryder Cup conspiracy theory gathered momentum. True or not true it has given the build-up to Nick Faldo's wildcards announcement on Sunday night a fascinating edge.
The golfing world has only come up with two answers: first, Poulter has raised the white flag; and second, Poulter knows something the rest don't. Many here have already widely agreed that the flamboyant Englishman, the golfing street-fighter, is as likely to raise a white flag as he is to start wearing beige and, to them, that leaves only one explanation. And it is one that could just land Faldo in the middle of a storm when he eventually turns up at Gleneagles on Sunday lunchtime.
Not that Dougherty is ready to lambast the six-time major champion. Indeed, Faldo is his mentor. The young Liverpudlian was merely saying what he, and others such as Oliver Wilson – the player currently in the last qualifying spot – take to be the logical justification for Poulter's baffling actions.
"When I saw Ian's name down, I was impressed he was coming back," said Dougherty, who is himself in with a squeak of taking Wilson's place should he finish in the top two this week. "I've always thought Ian made his plans depending on his conversations with Nick."
Meanwhile it seems Azinger has settled on two of his picks, according to Tim Rosaforte at GolfDigest.com's Local Knowledge blog. And if you really want to know who might be picked, Steve Elling polls the writers and comes up with this tally.

Tuesday
Aug262008

"Best golf course we've played all year"

John Hawkins, writing about the popularity of Ridgewood in this week's Golf World:

Although the Barclays is scheduled to return to its old site in what amounts to a 2011 cameo, it won't be a year too late -- Ridgewood was as big a hit as you'll find among 144 guys with $10 million on the line. "Best golf course we've played all year," said Tom Pernice Jr., not the easiest man to please. The old-school look and imaginative medley of holes make this A.W. Tillinghast design a keeper, which doesn't explain why the tour will follow its commercial nose and flee to snazzy-but-raw Liberty National for the 2009 gathering.
"If this one's a 10, that one's a 2," said a veteran who played next year's site last week. But enough on the past and the future, especially when the present packs so much relevance.

Monday
Aug252008

Phelps To Portugal, Country Milking His Visit

This arrived in my email box today. Somehow I doubt is what Michael Phelps had in mind when he booked this trip online:

Michael Phelps left the Beijing Olympics with a record eight gold medals adding to a career tally of 14 – so where is the golden athlete heading next?
The 23-year-old American swimmer is on route with some friends to a golfing vacation in Portugal's Algarve region. He will relax at Hotel Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Resort & Spa, and enjoy some of the best golf in the world, up to par for one of the world's best swimmers.
More than half of the golf courses in Portugal are within the Algarve Region on the southernmost tip of the country. Currently there are 30 courses, a number which will soon double with new courses underway.
Golf is a year 'round sport in Portugal, making the country a gathering place for golf aficionados and some of Europe's most interesting courses. Many of the courses in the country were designed by the best golf architects to capitalize on some breath-taking views and to fit with natural surroundings. They also come in a variety of difficulty levels.

The Algarve courses have gained an international reputations, helped along by the region's mild climate and varied geography. Players tee off surrounded by red cliffs or dramatic sea coasts, and there's a course to fit all levels. Resorts in the area, sport luxury clubhouses, manicured greens and flawless fairways, all are open to visitors.

For more information on golf in Portugal go to www.visitportugal.com


Monday
Aug252008

Brand Lady: Learn English Or It's Sayonara!

This story has the potential to explode into one of those Jimmy The Greek, Ben Wright-style clashes where the PC police take on the perpetrator, in this case, the LPGA Tour. Frankly, I might actually not blame the PC police on this one. Beth Ann Baldry reports:

At a mandatory South Korean player meeting Aug. 20 at the Safeway Classic, the tour informed its largest international contingent that beginning in 2009, all players who have been on tour for two years must pass an oral evaluation of their English skills. Failure would result in a suspended membership.
“Hopefully what we’re talking about is something that will not happen,” said Libba Galloway, the tour’s deputy commissioner, of possible suspensions. “If it does, we wouldn’t just say, ‘Come back next year.’ What we would do is work with them on where they fell short, provide them the resources they need, the tutoring . . . and when we feel like they need to be evaluated again, we would evaluate.”
Galloway said the policy takes effect immediately, but the “measurement time will be at the end of 2009.” There are 121 international players from 26 countries on tour; 45 are South Koreans.
Hilary Lunke, president of the Player Executive Committee, said much of this initiative stems from the importance of being able to entertain pro-am partners. Players already are fined if the LPGA receives complaints from their pro-am partners. Now the tour is taking it one step further.
“The bottom line is, we don’t have a job if we don’t entertain,” Lunke said. “In my mind, that’s as big a part of the job as shooting under par.”

Okay, so they learn some rudimentary English, which actually gives them a leg up on the Commissioner.

Is the pro-am conversation really going to get beyond "good shot" and "left edge" and "nice meeting you"? Unbelievable.

This, is going to get ugly.

Monday
Aug252008

The Ryder Cup Dilemmas

As Bob Harig outlines, it's a nightmare for Captain Azinger, a wealth of riches for Nick Faldo. Though Ian Poulter has essentially given up, pulling out of the Gleneagles event this week to play the TPC Boston. Which speaks to the depth of the European team.

Monday
Aug252008

Al Ruwaya Achieves Its Goals!

Tiger's press release writers need to understand that it's one thing to declare you design work a success, it's another to do it while the bulldozers are still flying around.

“When I set out to design Al Ruwaya, I wanted the course to reflect what I truly love about golf – a stern mental and physical test that rewards smart thinking. I believe we’ve achieved that goal with a course that will be fun and rewarding for all skill levels to play.”
Currently, shaping is in progress on the 18 hole, 7,800 yard, par 72 championship-quality course, which includes dramatic elevations, stunning water features and an overall design that will challenge and entertain golfers of all skill levels.

Sunday
Aug242008

"I was hesitant to weight the playoffs this heavily, to be honest"

Boy, you try and tweak to deliver volatility and now they aren't happy!

Steve Elling complains about the new FedEx Cup volatility and finds a soul sister in PGA Tour policy board member Stewart Cink, who has already rendered his verdict.

Now we all have motion sickness. Vijay Singh collected his fourth career Barclays title and jumped from seventh to first in FedEx points, and while that sounds like healthy leapfrogging, it was the absolute least tumult that could have happened given the far-flung scenarios that might have played out at Ridgewood Country Club.
Here's a real after-the-fact kicker. Cink has been a good company man all season and widely espoused the benefits of the new points system, but now that there are some crazy cracks showing and his peers are questioning him about the merits of the details the Policy Board authorized, he has come clean.
"I was hesitant to weight the playoffs this heavily, to be honest," he said.
Because lord knows you are entitled to another year end check for showing up four more times and continuing the mediocrity.

I have to say that for some bigtime free market preachers, some of these PGA Tour dudes sure don't like a little, uh, volatility driven by market forces (in this case, those forces are called playing well.) Imagine if they had a true playoff, or even a modified one and wiped the slate clean at some point. The bitching would epic!

Right now, that list would include Kevin Sutherland, a veteran with one career win, who hadn't been noticed in weeks and lost in a three-way playoff Sunday with Singh and Sergio Garcia. Or winless veteran Mathew Goggin, who hadn't been noticed all season.
"It's more than just about the bonus money," Cink said. "Guys who played well all year are getting knocked out of majors."
Ahhhh....now the truth comes out. Has that really happened yet?
Sunday
Aug242008

The Amazing Danny Lee

I guess it's time for some of us to start paying close attention to the play of the new U.S. Amateur champ, who won a spirited finale at Pinehurst to become the youngest U.S. Amateur champion ever. Take that Tiger and Bobby Jones.

Ken Klavon puts the win in perspective, including the most impressive stat of all: Lee birdied 13 of the 32 holes played Sunday.

Sunday
Aug242008

Vijay's Win At Ridgewood Brings Him One Step Closer To Dream Of Winning Second Ever FedEx Cup

Doug Ferguson John Nicholson reports on the exciting win and the bizarre Caddyshack gopher antics from the playoff.