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Reverse every natural instinct you have and do just the opposite of what you are inclined to do and you will probably come very close to having a perfect golf swing.
BEN HOGAN


    

Tuesday
Dec162008

DVR Alert: Tiger and Rocco On Costas Now

Michael Bamberger, who filed a captivating profile of Rocco Mediate and the health struggles of his beloved therapist Cindi Hilfman, reports that Tiger Woods and Rocco will be interviewed as part of a year-end edition of HBO's Costas Now.

Tuesday
Dec162008

Butch Would Like To Sit Down With Stevie To Hear Why Phil Is A Prick

I'm seeing one of those jail visitor area setups: glass window, Butch Harmon and Stevie Williams talking on a phone for Butch's safety, only instead of an orange jumpsuit, Stevie's in an Augusta white jumper...with the collar wide open and his little green hat on backwards in one last act of defiance.

From the Independent, Michael Church reporting:

"I can't believe he said what he said," Harmon told PA Sport. "I think it's deplorable that he would say something like that.

"Golf is a game of honour and integrity and that was a very uncalled-for remark and I don't think it's a reflection of how Tiger thinks of Phil Mickelson.

"Until I see Steve and have a conversation with him and find out why he said what he said I don't really understand it. Phil Mickelson is one of the most popular players in the world, every bit as popular as Tiger Woods around the world.

"He's a nice guy, all the guys like Phil so I don't know where Steve was coming from with that comment.
"But personally I would assume he wishes he had never made it and I would love to have heard a recording of the conversation between him and Tiger after it came out in print.

"Having worked with Tiger for 10 years, I can tell you he wouldn't have been very happy with that."

Tuesday
Dec162008

ESPN.com Cleans Out Clutter...Including Golf Link

Thanks to reader John for the Brooks Barnes story detailing ESPN.com's forthcoming redesign meant to, well, I'm not sure what.  All I know is, they took the golf page link off the top banner. It's still easily found, but still wish they kept it close to the current site structure.

 

Monday
Dec152008

Reports: Stevie Williams To Spend Next Ten Years Impersonating Marcel Marceau

...that's because he appears to have a wonderfully forgiving boss. One who used to have a no-exploitation policy for his last looper who was canned for giving too long of an interview to Golf Digest (as Larry Dorman notes in his NY Times story).

Doug Ferguson chiming in for the Associated Press, and therefore, most publications:

Tiger Woods said Monday he was disappointed by his caddie’s disparaging comments in New Zealand newspapers about Phil Mickelson, whom Woods referred to as a “player I respect.”

Steve Williams was quoted in the Taranaki Daily News as saying he wouldn’t call Mickelson a great player “because I think he’s a (expletive).” Contacted by the Sunday Star Times, Williams confirmed making the comment.

“I was disappointed to read the comments attributed to Steve Williams about Phil Mickelson, a player that I respect,” Woods said in a statement. “It was inappropriate. The matter has been discussed and dealt with.”

Ferguson goes on to detail the past tiffs and other oddball moves by Williams, but neglects to mention his thrillingly entertaining race track meltdown!

What isn't explained in the story or any other is how Tiger addressed this with Phil Mickelson. Reader DGS emailed wondering if Tiger's "dealt with" comment includes calling Phil to apologize for his caddy? Maybe that'd be a good question for Wednesday's press conference.

Of course so would the termination question. Which Lawrence Donegan says is likely out of the question:

The world No1 was the best man at Williams' wedding in New Zealand and in a world where player-caddie relationships are notoriously transient the two men appear to have a permanent and close friendship.

Steve Elling files a must read with too many one-liners to copy here. Amid his entertaining dissection, Elling slips in this key point which can't be overlooked:

Imagine the thermonuclear holocaust that would have ensued if a comparable statement had come from Mackay about Woods.

Several have said Phil should not have responded at all by issuing the statement. However, Elling's point is exactly why Mickelson and his media guru T.R. Reinman made the right move. This story would have died had they not put the statement out. And if team unity means anything in the Cup world, the comments needed to be heard by all because Williams must not be a part of future Ryder and Presidents Cups (assuming he is still by Tiger come Cup-time).

Speaking of Tiger, who you almost feel sorry for him if it weren't for all of the previous warning signs that Mt. Stevie would blow, Elling paints this beautiful image:

It's not difficult to imagine how Woods is processing all this. He probably has a resigned look on his face similar to when playing partner Mickelson, at the Ryder Cup matches in Detroit four years ago, whacked a tee shot so far offline, it landed stone dead against a chain-link fence. This is a decidedly different brand of alternate shot. A cornerman is involved, too.

And as much as I'm touched by wonderful sportsmanship in the game, I have to side with Jason Sobel, who says this incident and the tension between the two best American golfers does nothing to tarnish the sport. In fact, it only helps generate interest.

Woods and Mickelson will never be confused with best friends -- their interpersonal gigglefest three years ago notwithstanding -- and that's not such a bad thing for the state of the game. In fact, it could make it all that more entertaining, knowing that each player wants to win a given tournament as much as he wants the other to lose. Such emotion instills passion on the course and ensures there will be greater drama between the players when they next tee it up together.

And Ron Kroichick in the San Francisco Chronicle agrees, delving into an interesting comparison with Nicklaus and Palmer's relationship.

It's difficult to digest all this middle-school name-calling without A) chuckling at the whole silly, entertaining spectacle, B) imagining Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus engaging in a similar feud in the 1960s and C) realizing this makes the 2009 season all the more alluring.

Monday
Dec152008

Newsmakers No. 14: Majors Setups

My story on the wild and weird year in course setup for Golf World's Newsmaker's issue has been posted along with Dale Stephanos' inimitable art.

Monday
Dec152008

“People may not really trust the guys they play golf with"

Ian Urbina continues the New York Times' excellent coverage of the Bernie Made Off Madoff scandal with today's dispatch from Palm Beach Country Club:

But the mood was gloomiest at the country club where, people here said, at least a third of the 300 or so members had money invested with Mr. Madoff.

The shame of the Madoff scandal seemed especially bitter here in part because the club is known for its noblesse oblige in requiring members to give tens of thousands of dollars each year to charity.

The attention was also particularly unwelcome for a community whose grand homes sit hidden behind 20-foot-tall ficus hedges and steel gates.

In cultivating an aloof mystique, Mr. Madoff had fooled those who fancied themselves the wiser.

Typically, investors needed at least $1 million to approach Mr. Madoff. Being a member of this club also helped.

But even with those prerequisites, there was little guarantee that Mr. Madoff would take the client.

Looking out on the stunning beauty of the country club’s driving range, wedged between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, one club member commented that the outsiders of Mr. Madoff’s clique turned out to be the lucky ones.

“It’s funny how these things work out,” the member said, adding that he had never tried to invest with the firm because he did not like Mr. Madoff’s unwillingness to explain his methods.

Ross B. Intelisano, a lawyer representing a collection of its members, said he thought relations at the country club and on the island generally might never be the same again.

“He had this reputation that he’s one of these guys, that he’s what Wall Street’s all about,” he said about Mr. Madoff. “It’s all about a handshake, and people trusted him.”

That sort of trust may be gone now, Mr. Intelisano said.

“People may not really trust the guys they play golf with,” he said.

Just wondering out loud here: with Madoff's close ties to golf, has anyone heard of any major golf organizations or charities that might have invested their extra funds with the man?

Oh, and thanks to readering Jeff for Joe Weisenthal's blog post on the remarkably consistent Mr. Madoff, who stopped posting scores eight years ago. Still look how steady his was. Just like those steady returns he promised.

Monday
Dec152008

Brand Lady Takes Pay Dip Just Like Finchem...

Of course, he lost $400k on a salary that peaked at a ridiculous $5.2 million, whereas CB dropped to only raking in six-figures. Let the weeping begin!

Jon Show reports:

Carolyn Bivens took home $500,000 as commissioner of the LPGA in 2007, a decrease of 28 percent from the previous year despite having what most consider to be her best year on the job.

Bivens was paid $690,000 for a full year of work in 2006 and $238,782 in 2005, when she joined the LPGA midway through the year. Earlier this year, Bivens received a three-year extension that concludes in 2011, but she was still working under her original three-year contract in 2007.

All figures are listed on the IRS form that the tour is required to file as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. The only other executive salary listed on the form is that of Deputy Commissioner Libba Galloway, whose compensation increased from $204,720 to $228,912.

Monday
Dec152008

Deep Thought

This Stevie-Phil tiff makes the President's Cup a lot more interesting. Unless Stevie pulls a Ben Curtis caddie excuse and says his love of country makes it impossible for him to work against the International team.

Sunday
Dec142008

Phil Fires Back: "After seeing Steve Williams' comments all I could think of was how lucky I am to have a class act like Bones on my bag" **

Tiger's caddie fabricates a tale and refers to Phil Mickelson as a "prick," then offers a new version that also proved to be untrue while sticking to his classy characterization of Mickelson.

So Sunday, the target of Steve Williams issued a statement. And curiously, as of 11:32 EST Sunday night, The Guardian's Lawrence Donegan is the only one to report it:

The sedate world of professional golf is unused to such unvarnished opinions being thrown around in public and Mickelson made his unhappiness clear. "After seeing Steve Williams' comments all I could think of was how lucky I am to have a class act like Bones (his caddie, Jim Mackay) on my bag and representing me," the American left-hander said.

Mickelson also said a "joke" told by Williams in which the player was heckled by a fan over his weight during this year's US Open at Torrey Pines was "a total fabrication". "It is based on an incident on the 17th hole during a practice round of the US Open at Bethpage in 2002 that involved a European Tour player. The story has been retold often but Woods and Williams were not present at that incident," he said.

Obviously I'm entertained by the drama at play here and how it'll impact future Tiger-Phil pairings, but I'm also fascinated by the media reaction.

If Tiger Woods passes gas, the media grills him about the odor and his emotions before-during-after the passage. Follow ups will probe how hard the eruption made Stevie laugh and finally, if Elin had any thoughts on the matter.

Yet Tiger's ticking time bomb caddie, who works for someone with a no tolerance policy on questionable behavior from the people he surrounds himself with, fabricates a story and puts down the world's No. 3 player in demeaning fashion. But only one paper and no major golf website is picking up Mickelson's statement, with minimal or zero coverage of the overall controversy.

So is this because it's a silly season weekend when already slim coverage becomes less of a priority or this dereliction of duty driven by a fear of upsetting Team Tiger?

Or ominously for us readers, a combo platter deal?

 

Sunday
Dec142008

“He and his wife were nice golfers"

As if the game didn't have enough image problems, we now learn from Alan Feurer and Christine Haughney that the greatest investment swindler in American history was a golfer whose club memberships were a key component of his lifestyle and business. I give you, Bernie Madoff.

And soon the Madoff name — if not quite the equal of the Tisch name, for example — carried a quiet power.

"The guy never flaunted anything,” said one longtime friend. “And that fit with his rate of return, which was never attention-grabbing, just solid 12-13 percent year in, year out."

The friend, a private investor who knows Mr. Madoff from the Palm Beach Country Club and from the Hamptons, said friends and investors had been calling nonstop since the arrest.

"The pain is just unbelievable,” the friend said. “He was part of the family for so many people. There was this quiet culture of people, slightly older-money, who maybe weren’t that interested in the market, who kept saying to each other, ‘Just give Bernie your money, you’ll be fine.’ "

That culture had perhaps its best expression at the half-dozen golf clubs he belonged to, ranging from the woody Old Oaks in Purchase, N.Y., to the Palm Beach Country Club in Florida.

“He and his wife were nice golfers,” said Denise Lefrak Calicchio, part of the Lefrak real estate family, who knew the Madoffs socially through several of their clubs. “He and his wife seemed lovely.”

With time, some wealthy investors even joined clubs in order to become part of Mr. Madoff’s investments, some who knew him said. It was considered a favor to be introduced to the man as a potential investor.

“There were people joining golf clubs just to get into his fund,” said one investor who declined to be named. “This guy was held in such high regard.”

A member of the Palm Beach club said the Madoffs did not socialize as much as other members did, nor did they fight as aggressively as others to keep up with the club’s more aerobic social climbers. They were well-liked, and did not appear to be part of the “blister pack,” as one club member put it, a term that refers to those who get blisters on their hands and feet from ascending social ladders.

“They seemed to stay apart from the herd,” the club member said. “They chose not to get into that social rat race.” 

Well, at least he had at least one redeeming quality!

Saturday
Dec132008

"The players wanted Azinger to return, Azinger wanted Azinger to return and so the PGA came up with... Pavin."

The Telegraph's Mark Reason questions the Corey Pavin captaincy selection, writing that "The players wanted Azinger to return, Azinger wanted Azinger to return and so the PGA came up with... Pavin. It was a decision worthy of the 57 old farts of the RFU lampooned by Will Carling."

And:

Is it possible that the PGA saw a Jesus syndrome in Pavin, a man who is a convert from Judaism to Christianity? Or did they see a new Zen-like calm in a man who has mellowed out since his second marriage to Lisa Nguyen. She said: "When I met Corey I could tell he was empty inside." And now presumably he is full, perhaps even to the point of overflowing with the milk of human kindness.

Or maybe the PGA just liked Pavin sucking up to them. Did he really say: "The Ryder Cup is in my blood. I think if you cut my arm open, Ryder Cup would just bleed out. It's the greatest event in the world, I think, and certainly the golf world."

The duffers at the PGA may be fooled by that sort of soap, but will it wash with the players?

Saturday
Dec132008

"According to Williams" **

Yesterday I mistakenly linked to Lawrence Donegan's Guardian version of the Steve Williams-calls-Phil Mickelson names story instead of the original by Murray Hills. I have corrected the link mix up on the post below.

However, my screw-up proved revealing (yes, I'm justifying blogging sloppiness!).

A reader called into question the Hills' story suggestion that the U.S. Open "Nice tits" tale took place during round 3, when we all know Tiger Woods and Phil only played together in rounds 1 and 2. The reader directed their criticism at Donegan, who clarified Hills's mistake here, why he wrote his story accordingly, while also revealing that it seems Williams, telling the tale to a group of 250, most likely made the story up.

Now, I should have known something was amiss with the Williams story since I was at Torrey Pines every day, followed the elite Tiger-Phil-Scott pairing most of the way and never heard about this happening. Other writers I've checked with say this was the first they've heard of it. And as several have noted, including Donegan in his post here, the tale sounds similar to a story about Monty that has made the rounds for years.

It's hard to imagine Stevie surviving this latest episode if it delivers the expected high humiliation factor on Tiger's lap. It's certainly not the Christmas gift Tiger wanted from his caddy on the eve of this week's event at Sherwood where Tiger hosts a press conference. 

Friday
Dec122008

Stevie On Phil: "I hate the prick"

Murray Hills buries the lede reports that Stevie Williams' rebranding effort (from Tiger Woods' lowly luggage looping lunatic to nature-loving porter for Tiger) may take a hit after being asked about Phil Mickelson.

It's also a well-known fact that Woods and American Phil "Mr Nice Guy" Mickelson are not the best of buddies. Williams told a story of Woods and Mickelson paired together during the US Open. The pair were duelling for the lead in the third round. Tiger waved to a packed grandstand seating 5000 people that bordered the 17th fairway. The crowd responded.

As a hush fell back over the crowd, a fan yelled out "Phil." No response from Mickelson. Again the fan yelled out "Phil." Again no response. The fan changed tack. "Hey, Mr Mickelson."

When Mickelson turned and waved, the fan yelled out "Nice tits." The crowd erupted in laughter; Mickelson went double bogey, bogey and his tournament was over.

And Williams on Mickelson?

"I wouldn't call Mickelson a great player ... 'cause I hate the prick."

And thanks Stevie for the wonderful timing: on the eve of Tiger's annual press conference at Sherwood. Maybe it won't be just a bunch of questions about the knee after all! And who says you are not media friendly?

Friday
Dec122008

Haney Eliminates At Least Three Of Barkley's Backswing Belches


Friday
Dec122008

USGA Notice: We're Looking At High Lofted Wedges

Bout and Gas are reporting over at their GolfDigest.com blog that the USGA has issued a notice suggesting...

...the USGA will be conducting "research on high-lofted wedges. This research is being conducted to determine if high-lofted wedges (for example, 60 degrees of loft and higher) can reduce the challenge of the game for shots near the green." I have heard recently that players at this year's U.S. Amateur attacked the bowl-shaped greens at Pinehurst No. 2 with a fleet of high-lofted wedges. Not exactly what Donald Ross had envisioned, I believe. Let's get rid of those wedges. The only people who really know how to use them are good players anyway. Allowing a club to further help a good player more than an average player is unnecessary at this stage, moreover letting a good player not have to develop the skill of manipulating a lower-lofted wedge to hit a particular shot is encouraging a leveling of the playing field that strikes at the heart of what golf competition should be.

You could also make that case for most modern equipment: it helps the elite player more than it helps the average man (Tom Wishon has discussed this at length).

After Gas' comments above, Bout agrees and argues that the limit should be 58 degrees.

Back in 2002, Charles Howell III carried a Cleveland 588 64-degree wedge, saying that although the club was effective, it didn't get much call. "I rarely use the 64-degree club--maybe two times a tournament," he said. "But it's perfect when I short-side a green or if there's long rough and hard, fast greens. Then it's almost like cheating--the ball stops wherever it lands."

Whenever you hear a player say, "it's almost like cheating," then it's time to look into things.

Fair point. However, here's why this is a mistake for the USGA to pursue:

- It takes great skill to pull off a high-lofted wedge shot. The more loft a club has, the more difficult it is to hit shots with any consistency. Yet restoration of "skill" is the primary motivation on the groove rule change, albeit a shallow definition of it (rewarding the striking of drives down a narrow center line).

- The recovery shot has taken a beating in the era of high rough and slick greens. Do we really want to eliminate one more recovery shot? One that takes skill to pull off? I don't think so. Unfortunately, too many governing body leaders are penal school aficionados and the recovery shot is forbidden in that cynical approach to golf.

- Serious pursuit of loft will negate the positive reaction to the groove rule change by only reinforcing the notion that the governing bodies are looking to do anything but even discuss something like the golf ball. (BTW, we're entering year seven since the first time the words "ball study" were uttered.)

- High lofted wedges require soft conditions. You need lush turf to pull off the "cheating" shots that they speak of. It also helps to have a receptive target to land your ball on. In other words, firm conditions generally negate the impact of the high-lofted wedge. Perhaps the real issue here is widespread overwatering and lush, green-at-all-costs turf?

Please, your thoughts?

Friday
Dec122008

"The caricature of Tiger Woods eating Rocco Mediate as a snack is unfair and an inaccurate characterization of the facts."

I'm always reluctant to check into Bob Carney's Editor's Blog for fear of reading something that gives me little faith in the people reading golf magazines. Today was one of those items.

Reader Alan Archer writes to complain about the Tiger-Rocco drawing from the recent Golf World newsmaker's issue.

Archer opens his letter with this line:

"The caricature of Tiger Woods eating Rocco Mediate as a snack is unfair and an inaccurate characterization of the facts."

Now, last I heard, a caricature is an unfair, inaccurate and totally not-factual representation. That's why they are fun.

Carney handled the response much more diplomatically than I would have.

 

Thursday
Dec112008

Grading The Golf News Sites Week: Television Sites

Essentially this means CBSSports.com, ESPN.com and GolfChannel.com and each can be summed up pretty succinctly: great columnists, not many other reasons to visit.

Credit GolfChannel.com for really amping up the number of video clips from Golf Central and other shows now available online for viewing. CBSSports.com is a disaster on this front, with some sort of strange PGA Tour/CBS rights feud that allows them to post tournament recaps by Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo on YouTube--minus highlights of the play! (Here's a hilarious example.) That would seem to be the most vital component for websites tied to television networks, no?

ESPN.com has cornered the market on video, to the point that it annoyingly starts playing when you hit the golf page. That's a problem if you are reading their site at the office with the sound up. Especially if they call Andy North to weigh in with his thoughts. We can't have people napping on the job!

Each site has streamlined their looks but both have lousy archives, saved by slowly improving search engines.

Still, I only visit these sites to see what Steve Elling has to say at CBS, what Bob Harig and Jason Sobel or sometimes contributor Eric Adelson are writing for ESPN, and what Rich Lerner, Brian Hewitt, Mercer Baggs and now Rex Hoggard have to say for TGC. How about you?

Thursday
Dec112008

Pavin Named Ryder Cup Captain; Reveals Assistant Captains And Their Uniforms

Most of the accounts are kind and appropriately giving Captain Pavin a pass for now (here, here, here, here) but not Steve Elling at CBSSports.com, where the Getty Images shot of the assistant captains (Rockettes!) was also posted:

Don't get me wrong. Pavin has been a conscientious and consummate professional in his two-plus decades as a tour player. But that's a long way from inspiring, entertaining or resurrecting the U.S. hopes. What, equally low-wattage former PGA champion Shaun Micheel wasn't available?

The Ryder Cup is an exhibition. It's all about entertainment. The PGA, which runs the cup in America, could have had two more years of Azinger at the helm and instead went with a charisma-challenged guy best known for his tenacity. Mostly because it was his turn?

 

Thursday
Dec112008

Azinger: "I would have done it"

Backing up what almost everyone knew, Paul Azinger tells Bob Harig how his post-Captaincy played out and says this about Corey Pavin:

"He's a logical choice, and it's time to move on and try to keep the Ryder Cup," Azinger said. "If it was offered to me, I would have done it. But it wasn't. It would have been a great opportunity to try and win it again, but I'm happy we won this year and hope to see it keep going."

Azinger said the idea was broached with PGA of America officials when he and several members of the team attended a White House ceremony last month. He let it be known that he would be interested in becoming the first captain since Ben Hogan in 1947-49 to do it twice in a row.

But Azinger also said he understood that the PGA of America long has had a system in place to rotate captains and that he was fine with the decision to move in another direction.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a communication gap, as Azinger was still talking publicly a few weeks ago about doing it again while the PGA of America was offering the position to Pavin, who said Thursday that he had on-going discussions and finally got the call on Nov. 24.

Thursday
Dec112008

"Pieces spray. An old women gasps. And poor ol' Cleggy is again back-pedalling in a swirl of beige slacks."

Nick Walshaw has the definitive account and the Telegraph the epic photo of John Daly using some snapper's digital to audition for the Yankees. Love the guy ducking in the distance too! By that form sure looks to me like Long John missed his calling as a pitcher.

And so Long John charges again. This time yelling "You want it back?" before flinging the offending camera, slamming it into a tree.

Pieces spray. An old women gasps. And poor ol' Cleggy is again back-pedalling in a swirl of beige slacks.

You could feel it building yesterday. From the moment Daly's very first drive in the 2008 Australian Open at Royal Sydney flew, flew, flew - into a sand bunker.

Daly hit a bloke holding an umbrella on the 11. Tried to use a wedge on the green at 17. Took two getting out of one bunker and chipped 5m into ) another. He saw more sand in one day than the entire cast of Baywatch.

Of course, you can add to this all those little extras that come with being the marquee import. The pressures. The publicity requests. Pestered by everyone from Kerri-Anne Kennerley to Louie the Fly.

"God damn," Daly yelled to no one in particular while leaving the putting green on Wednesday. "This fly just won't leave me alone."