Every golfer is inclined to have very decided views upon the merits of a course or the merits of a hole. Sometimes it may be that his exceptional abilities for playing a particular stroke assist him materially in forming his opinion, and possibly – although no doubt one may be wrong in this suggestion – his want of skill urges him to decide with no uncertainty that a particular hole is not golf at all, and that a particular bunker is the creation of a madman or of an ill-natured idiot. H.S. COLT
The wealth of important news, the stories crying out for heckling and most of all, the holiday laziness on my part translated to no posts remembering 2007's highlights and lowlights.
Should you desire to relive the year, monthly archives are here for your enjoyment. And never hesistate to use the site search feature if you are looking for an old post. Both can be found in the lefthand column.
Tomorrow I'll warn you about things to look for in 2008, including video diaries, a new book in the works and a preview of hoped-for web site content. But for now I'd like to thank you all for your active participation both in the comments sections and via email. I could not do the site without all of the reader contributions, so thanks for the enlightening comments, wry observations and spell-checking.
And please keep the comments, story links and photos coming.
Traffic this year easily doubled 2006's and grew steadily each month except in August when you were hopefully out enjoying the summer sun. Though I don't know much else about my readership, these browser and operating stats might be of some slight interest to demographics types. (My sympathies to the Vista users and pray that Macs arrive on your doorstep soon...the Internet looks so much better on an Apple!)
BROWSERS ACCESSING GEOFFSHACKELFORD.com
OPERATING SYSTEM % ACCESSING GEOFFSHACKELFORD.com
So with that vital information shared, I thank you for a great 2007 and look forward to an even more enjoyable new year.
I think they did something like this after the 1984 U.S. Open, though this split sounds a bit nastier.
Thanks to reader Steven T. for Richard Johnson's Page Six piece for Sunday's New York Post:
December 30, 2007 -- AT a heated closed-door meeting just before Christmas, steamed members of the fabled Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester overwhelmingly refused to extend another invitation to the US Golf Association for the 2015 US Open Championship. The stunning rejection came in a 340-162 vote - a clear sign of frustration over the nuisances caused by the 2006 US Open.
Gee, I can't imagine why people would be upset at losing one of the premier courses in the land for corporate tents.
USGA reps fueled resentment by telling club members at the meeting that "The Foot" would be paid even less money to host the huge televised tourney than in 2006, when the tony club was compelled to take the money-losing US Amateur in order to land the Open.Take less money? Wow, I knew times were tough in Far Hills, but isn't that a bit much on the frugal front?
The vote was also a stinging rejection of the leadership of Winged Foot president Leonard Horan, whose autocratic style alienated younger members. Page Six has learned the Winged Foot board last month declined to invite Horan to stand for re-election at the Jan. 13 annual meeting and turned down his recommendation of a handpicked successor. Now, members of the legendary golf mecca are gearing up to fight a 20 percent increase in dues, a final "gift" from Horan.
I would never want to be a club that would have any human being for a member.
**Sam Weinman follows up, and gets confirmation that Winged Foot was offered a lesser deal.
He also conceded some members were unhappy with the economic package the USGA was offering, which includes a rental fee and a sharing of corporate hospitality revenue.
"But that was only a small part of it," Horan said.
According to Pete Bevacqua, a Bedford native who is the USGA's chief business officer, the package offered to Winged Foot is the standard deal offered to every Open site,
Well, is that really true? Sorry...
and the USGA's costs for an Open in Westchester are higher than in almost any other part of the country. Even so, Bevacqua said the USGA would welcome another invitation from the club, and refuted a report of a contentious relationship between the two parties.
"We have a very strong relationship with Winged Foot, and the Open in 2006 was very successful," Bevacqua said.
They're already eyeing anniversary dates...
Since the USGA is currently preoccupied with finding a home for the 2015 Open, Bevacqua and other officials told Winged Foot to submit a new invitation when the club is ready. Among the dates that have historic appeal to Winged Foot are 2021, which would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the club's founding; 2023, which is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the two A.W. Tillinghast golf courses; and 2029, which is the centennial of Bobby Jones' historic win in the first U.S. Open at the club.
"Certain dates appeal to certain people," Horan said, before adding, "2015 appealed to me."
Well, they are not his, but instead, what he hopes golf's greats are resolving for 2008. These caught my eye:
THE ROYAL & ANCIENT GOLF CLUB: "Knowing that it will make little or no difference to 99.999% of the planet's golfers, we will no longer be cowed by the threat of legal action from ball manufacturing companies and this year we will knock 50 yards off the distance the leading professionals can hit their drives. Overnight, classic courses across the globe will become, well, classic courses again."
WALLY UIHLEIN (boss of Titleist): "I am finally going to own up to the fact that, despite all the marketing hype we spew out each year, hardly any golfers swing the club fast enough to gain significant yardage from the ball we make now. So I am going to do the right thing for the game that allows me to earn enormous sums of money. I will publicly announce that a rollback of the golf ball is absolutely fine with me. Besides, my guess is that Titleist will still make the best ball and so rake in the biggest profits."
ST ANDREWS LINKS TRUST: "We will delay the opening of our new humpy-bumpy and brutally exposed Castle course until it is re-designed to the point where average players have a reasonable chance of breaking 100 on an averagely breezy day."
AUGUSTA NATIONAL GOLF CLUB: "Any and all trees planted over the last five years or so will be cut down. All of the rough – sorry, 'first-cut' – grown over the same period will be eliminated. Then we can have our golf course back, the one which Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie modelled on the Old Course at St Andrews rather than a generic American country club."
ANY R&A MEMBER (one is all it would take): "If only to drag golf's most high-profile club into the 20th century – never mind the 21st – I will propose a woman for membership. The positive effect on the game's still-stuffy image would be immeasurable. She'd have to wear a tie in the clubhouse though. And promise to vote Tory. Hey, we can't get rid of every stereotype immediately."
THE UNITED STATES GOLF ASSOCIATION: "In June, just to confirm that the world will not, in fact, shift off its axis or come to a premature end, we will resist the urge to cover Torrey Pines in pointless and tedious long grass. Hell, we might even enjoy a US Open that does not include the mindless hack-out, the hit-or-miss gouge and the sheer, stultifying boredom of watching the world's best and most versatile chippers reaching automatically for their 60-degree wedges, unable to take advantage of whatever talents and touch they possess.
Credit Gary Van Sickle for revisiting his 2007 predictions, though his Golf Channel critique was more interesting (to me anyway):
The network improved somewhat, but its progress was a little disappointing. Critiquing the on-air personnel choices would be subjective, so I won't do it, but the Golf Channel proved no better than the other networks when it repeatedly signed off for the day even though play wasn't finished. Its post-round coverage at majors was spotty. It delivered one good hour, but unfortunately was on the air for three. Quality, not quantity, should be a goal in '08. The lack of audience was such a sore spot that the network only released the numbers that included the viewers who watched the nightly replays, too. Score a point.Well there's good news. WinZone (remember that!) says there's a 95% chance this will be a winner:
A Doppler radar system made by the Denmark-based software developer Interactive Sports Games will begin to be used to convey club movement, ball trajectory, and other statistics to viewers, according to the company. The Golf Channel's first use of the TrackMan system will be at the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Hawaii on January 3, according to reports.
I know many of you wondered why GolfDigest.com bloggers Bubala and Goy took two months off from suggesting that St. Andrews and Augusta National are not worth preserving, and here's why: the now-annual Hot List has arrived to the misery of most people in the equipment industry who were trying to enjoy the week between Christmas and New Year's and who must now explain to their bosses why they didn't win a gold medal.
There's a video showing you the top secret location where the testing takes place and where Golf Digest staffers racked up a massive bar bill to get them 14-days of tech talk.
Don't miss the survey that let's you figure out what junk you should buy this year so that it can take a place of honor in your garage sale by March 2009.
Here's where the judges tell you why you should spend $500 to replace last year's noisy, offensive looking driver.
Don't forget to stock up on Gold Medal winning woods, since that's what you'll use when the new driver doesn't work. And for when you can't hit those, there are always the winning hybrids.
The ball report will make you feel better about agonizing over a $45 dozen-ball purchase even though they essentially all working off of the same patent...if you believe those dreadful juries.
Might as well pick up some irons too since we haven't heard a thing about U-grooves in a while. Which reminds me, I need to change my wedges out every two weeks like Vijay and Padraig, so maybe I'll see what the judges are recommending.
And finally, do check out all of the
new blades things they say are putters but really look like rejected set pieces from Spaceballs.
Tod Leonard begins the countdown to the U.S. Open with a look at various aspects of preparations, including this news for anyone thinking of playing the North or South Courses prior to the event:
For golfers who enjoy the North Course, some advice: Play it soon, because after the Buick it won't appear as its normal self for at least seven months.
City Golf Manager Mark Woodward said work on the Open driving range will begin in the days immediately following the Buick Invitational's conclusion on Jan. 27. About 30,000 square feet of sod for the range tee area will be laid in front of the 10th tee and ninth green. Shorter versions of those holes will be available.
On March 1, nine holes of the North will be shut down as corporate villages are constructed. Woodward said the North Course will close completely May 1.
The South Course will be open to the public until May 21. From then on, the maintenance crew will be “dialing in” the conditioning for the Open.
“I've joked in the past that we were going to peak at the last minute,” Woodward said. “But the way things look now, I think we're going to peak in the spring and have really good conditions for the last four or five months.”
When he arrived in California for the Target World Challenge, he made a detour to San Diego and booked a twosome on the golf course. The starter put them with another couple who just started playing golf five months ago.
Turns out the woman's name was Pamela Anderson - no, not that one - and Stenson's remembers her boyfriend's name only as Jesse.
"Let's just say it was an interesting round," Stenson said. "She told me, 'The next time you're south of L.A., give me a call.' And I told her, 'Which Pamela Anderson am I going to look up?"'
It was an awakening of sorts for Stenson, who won last year in Dubai and the Accenture Match Play Championship. Outside of a round in Spain last year, he said it had been 10 years since he paid a greens fee. The good news is he received the San Diego County residents rate.
And he bought a bucket of balls for the range, the first time in a while he hit balls with a black stripe around them.
"They were limited-flight balls," he said. "It was cool in the morning, and the ball was going nowhere. But it took a couple of swings to realize this is not down to me. Some of it was the balls."
George O'Grady, executive director of the European Tour, who last November announced the most significant response to the world dominance of golf by the PGA Tour in the US. This is the $10m Dubai World Championship, the biggest purse in golf. Starting in Dubai in December 2009 it will be the culmination of what is currently known as the Order of Merit but from 2009 will be renamed the Race to Dubai. For revealing he is a Rolling Stones fan, Tim Finchem, Commissioner of the PGA Tour in the US, is a close runner-up to O'Grady.
He revealed that about three tours and a previous century ago, never too early for some!
Now, how does Finchem get an award when he's the mastermind of this excellent award:
Most overrated event of the year
Any world golf championship event.
The New York Times's Richard Perez-Pena has Rick Reilly at $3 million a year from ESPN, up from $2 million in last week's WSJ story. Essentially he writes the same piece with a few other interesting items:
The competition for writers has even produced bidding wars, especially for big-name columnists like Rick Reilly (from Sports Illustrated to ESPN), Howard Bryant (from The Post to ESPN) and Selena Roberts (from The New York Times to Sports Illustrated) — but also for less widely known reporters. People who were briefed on the deals said that Mr. Reilly’s contract, easily the biggest of the recent signings, was worth more than $3 million a year.And this surprised me...not that that's saying much since I didn't even know what a carbon footprint was until last weekend:
“It’s the exact same model as what happened to athletes,” said Leigh Steinberg, a top sports agent. “We’re seeing free agency for sports journalists.”
ESPN.com is one of the most popular sports sites on the Web, with 20 million visitors in November, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, behind only Yahoo Sports, with more than 22 million. The Web site holds the vast bulk of what the writers produce, much of which is never seen on printed pages or heard on the air, including news, features, analysis, commentary and articles to accompany segments produced for television.
...for the site of Donald Trump's next self-proclaimed masterpiece and perhaps the coveted Isle of Stupidity crown. Because as Eddie Barnes reports, the Scots may be falling for this Leveraging 101 nonsense where The Donald is still going to visit Northern Ireland to consider his alternatives should one of these corruption probes or common sense overtake the Scottish government.
Meanwhile, Geoff Runcie, chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, has warned that Scotland has "played out an amateur production on the world's stage".Oh they're amateurs alright.
He said: "Our big name star – Donald Trump – has auditioned and made known his ambitions for the show but has come to the stage only to find himself playing alongside the amateur dramatics team. The words of our bard Robert Burns 'to see ourselves as others see us' have clearly not registered with many and we still put petty and party politics before serious economic opportunity."
To the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the United States Golf Association: A backbone
Over the past 15 years or so, golf at the very highest level has sadly become a less interesting spectacle. The world's leading players are, almost without exception, hitting the same shots time after tedious time. Gone are the likes of Lee Trevino and Seve Ballesteros, men who could conjure up subtle fades and draws rather than simply aim straight at distant flags.
Then there are the courses the biggest events are played on most weeks. Stretched almost beyond imagination, covered in more and more unimaginative rough and with pin positions cut ever closer to the edge of putting surfaces, the tracks played by the leading professionals encourage a crash-bang-wallop style of play that has all but lost almost every semblance of subtlety.
The root cause, of course, is the golf ball. It goes too far and it flies too straight, facts the R&A and the USGA are well aware of, but are loath to do anything about in case those big-bad manufacturers like Titleist and Callaway and their big-bad lawyers take them to court. The game's cowardly administrators have let us down. They have dropped the ball.
Tony Jimenez's profile of Justin Rose includes several comments from the Englishman about aspiring to the number 1 spot in the world (but unlike Jason Day's recent remarks, they're far less audacious).
And as you're reading some of his observations of Tiger, well...
"When you first play him, that's definitely the case," said the Florida-based Englishman. "There is an aura, a presence about him, but that's something you have to get over quickly if you want to take him on.Wow, we went from talking Tiger to calculating carbon footprints. Well, give him credit for taking on a noble cause.
"Ultimately you've got to give him the respect he deserves, I think that's all he really wants from his playing partners. He is genuinely one of the guys, if you have a laugh with him, he'll have a laugh back."
Rose has just finalised a deal with sponsor Tradition, a leading broker dealer, that will mean the globe-trotting golfer becomes one of the world's first carbon-neutral sportsmen.
The company plans to trade carbon credits based on his carbon footprint in 2008.
"My carbon footprint is substantially higher than the average person so it is even more prevalent for someone in my situation to give something back to the environment," said Rose.
Uh, have you calculated your carbon footprint today? Or were you like me and didn't know what the heck that was?
“Before we even selected him, I bet Mike put in more than 40 hours, walking around, beating a path out there and trying to get a feel for the land"
Links Magazine's Adam Brady explains how Mike Strantz's outstanding redo of Monterey Peninsula CC's Shore Course came to fruition.
The photo is by Larry Lambrecht.
"Called for comment, the USGA's media office referred questions to Carter Rich, the organization's manager of equipment standards. Rich declined to comment, saying such questions should be handled by the media office, which did not return subsequent messages."
In 2005, the two designed and patented the Windage, an inexpensive, simple device to help golfers determine which way the wind is blowing, important to know when lining up a shot.Unlike a rangefinder, which is so organic.
The design is simplicity itself. It is a golf-ball-sized bulb that, when squeezed, blows a small cloud of talc into the air and lets the user see where the wind is blowing.
In a game where new improve-your-score gadgets come along every week, Healy believed they'd hit on something useful. "It's something that everybody can use," he said. "It's a lowbrow and simple tool, but it's affordable."
Then they ran into Rule 14-3(b) of the Rules of Golf, published by the United States Golf Association, the game's governing body.
When the two men submitted the Windage to the USGA for approval, the organization rejected it. The USGA, which allows the use of pricey laser range finders and GPS devices, branded the $6 tool an "artificial device" to gauge or measure conditions affecting play.
This week, Trachsel and Healy, co-owners of Rochester-based Windage LLC, took their complaint to federal court. The two sued the USGA and "unnamed co-conspirators" they claim have schemed to keep the Windage off the market and off golf courses.
"As a result of the USGA's arbitrary, inconsistent, unfair, unreasonable and unjustified actions in refusing to approve the Windage product, retail stores, pro shops and other golf retailers have refused to stock the product specifically because it is not USGA-approved, and the lack of approval is a major sales obstacle for retailers and manufacturers," the men claim in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.But at least the USGA was ready for a spirited defense.
Called for comment, the USGA's media office referred questions to Carter Rich, the organization's manager of equipment standards. Rich declined to comment, saying such questions should be handled by the media office, which did not return subsequent messages.Where's Marty Parkes when you need him?
Got to say, the gents have a pretty strong case:
Reaching down and tearing off a few blades of grass, then letting them go is one way golfers gauge wind direction and speed. Players - or caddies - who smoke do the same thing by exhaling a puff of smoke and watching how it moves in the wind.Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, but this isn't:
Both methods have their drawbacks, the lawsuit alleges:
-- Pulling grass damages the course "and forces the player to come into contact with potentially harmful fertilizers, pesticides, etc."
-- Puffing smoke is "dangerous in and of itself and a competitive advantage to those who smoke over those who do not."And...
The men submitted Windage to the USGA for approval in July 2006, and less than a month later, the association rejected it as being an artificial device for "gauging or measuring distances or conditions that might affect ... play."
The men appealed, and less than two weeks later, the USGA rejected the appeal. Undaunted, Trachsel and Healy took the matter to the USGA's executive committee, which upheld the earlier decisions.
That's because none of them were Windage investors! Get with the times guys!
Healy said the reasoning behind the association's rejection makes little sense.
"Coming from a bunch of retired lawyers, it was kind of a joke, their responses," he said. "The reason they came back with why a laser range finder or GPS is approved is it speeds up play and it's readily available information. We argued that wind condition is also readily available information.
"Our product was invented to speed up the game. Slow play is sucking the life out of the game. Who has five hours to play these days?"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEOh but now...
December 20, 2007
NBC Sports Special PGA TOUR 2007: A New Era in Golf Highlights Successful Debut of FedExCup and Playoffs
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL– It was perceived as a particularly bold concept for such a tradition-steeped sport, and not necessarily one that was universally embraced when it was first introduced.
But by the time the PGA TOUR’s season-long FedExCup competition had finished its inaugural run, and Tiger Woods had emerged as champion following a compelling run through the TOUR’s first-ever Playoffs, it was widely deemed a significant success.And now, we get to relive all of the points permutations?
The introduction of the FedExCup with a restructured schedule, and the ensuing drama that unfolded throughout the season, is documented in PGA TOUR 2007: A New Era in Golf, an NBC Sports special that airs on Sunday, December 30, at 3 p.m. ET.
"TV ratings have flattened out, and Internet upstarts are luring away young sports fans who grew up with ESPN as part of the sports establishment."
Go figure. With the likes of YouTube and Deadspin coming along, Adam Thompson in the WSJ says that one reason ESPN is coughing up $2 million a year for Rick Reilly and hiring away quality journalists is to break news and in general, deliver a higher quality, gulp, product.
The brand ESPN created was a fun, irreverent locker room, driven by the highlights and hijinks of "SportsCenter," which it aired several times a day, updating all the while. But as video begins to explode on the Internet, the highlight formula is showing signs of plateauing: Sports fans can go elsewhere to catch up on the day's games -- and especially to indulge their local-team loyalties. TV ratings have flattened out, and Internet upstarts are luring away young sports fans who grew up with ESPN as part of the sports establishment.
So to remain the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports," the network is bulking up on content that is harder to duplicate. Rather than just introducing game video, the idea is to serve up breaking news and expert analysis, aggressively blanketing TV, the Internet, the magazine and even cellphones. In the new Internet-fed landscape, a two-minute video can be just as important. And the ESPN brand isn't enough -- it needs individual go-to names like Mr. Reilly, or ESPN's existing Web star, "Sports Guy" columnist Bill Simmons.
Good news for the PGA Tour and it's 14-years-to-go partner Golf Channel: even ESPN's ratings are down.
ESPN's cable-TV operation is still a juggernaut. It charges cable operators more than $3.26 per subscriber per month, an industry high that will jump to $3.65 in 2008, according to Derek Baine, senior analyst at SNL Kagan. Mr. Baine values ESPN at close to $30 billion.
But the network's year-to-date ratings are down from a year ago. The average number of households tuned into ESPN in 2007 declined 10.2% in prime time and 5% for the full day through last week, after climbing over a similar period between 2005 and 2006, according to Nielsen Media Research. Some of its brand extensions have failed: A much-touted mobile-phone service went bust last year (the ring tone was the SportsCenter theme song, but the other features weren't compelling).