Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis

I’ve always made a total effort, even when the odds seemed entirely against me. I never quit trying; I never felt that I didn’t have a chance to win.
ARNOLD PALMER


    

Sunday
Mar222009

"Moving forward, the city of Phoenix has got something incredible here."

John Davis highlights what looks like a great salvation job by the LPGA in Phoenix, not to mention a potential eye opener for them if Papago's public access nature draws more energetic galleries.

That means the event will draw added interest from fans, and that should be a plus for Papago, a course once regarded as one of the better municipal layouts in the country but one that had deteriorated over the past two decades.

"This has always been a great LPGA market, and they really wanted to keep a tournament going here. That's what's most important," tour official Allison Akin said of the event that starts Thursday.

"The design (of Papago) is just great. Moving forward, the city of Phoenix has got something incredible here. I think it's going to be great for residents and visitors alike."

Saturday
Mar212009

"I tried to explain that my situation was a little different, but the USGA was having none of it."

John Huggan catches up with Catriona Matthew and while I hadn't paid much attention to her denied request for a pregnancy-related extension of her U.S. Women's Open this year, the USGA's justification for turning her down would be humorous if it wasn't so short-sighted and nonsensical.

As for her own on-course ambitions, Matthew suffered a set-back recently when the apparently myopic United States Golf Association turned down her request to extend by 12 months her exemption into this year's US Women's Open. Coming as it does only five weeks after she is due to give birth, Matthew won't be able to play.

"They turned me down, saying it would set a precedent they don't want to set," she shrugs. "Their thinking was that, if they gave it to me, they would have to give the same thing to men whose wives were having babies. I tried to explain that my situation was a little different, but the USGA was having none of it."

Still, despite America's oh-so stuffy (and male-dominated) ruling body being unable to tell the difference between men and women, Matthew is still hopeful of making a fifth Solheim Cup side come September. It's unlikely she will qualify as of right, but European skipper Alison Nicholas will surely recognise her need for Matthew's undoubted experience.

Saturday
Mar212009

Norman Calls Changes To Augusta "Phenomenal," And He Didn't Mean It In A Nice Way!

I think by the time Greg Norman will have played his first Masters in seven years, Chrissy Evert is going to be begging Billy Payne to restore the course just so she doesn't have to hear Greg talk about the good old days.

But I think of all the criticism we've seen of Hootie Johnson and Tom Fazio's Augusta National butchery, none has been as illuminating to read as Norman's because he was away for several years. Well, sort of. There was that birthday trip for ex-buddy and Chrissy-ex Andy Mill, but thankfully no one asked about how the course played in 2006!).

Anyway, the Shark had a lot to say worth parsing thanks to the scribblers asking some nice follow ups:

GREG NORMAN: Well, I can tell you the golf course is 7,700 yards since I last played it, and that's adding about 420 yards on to the golf course. So there is a dramatic difference to the golf course. I was absolutely shocked to tell you the truth.

You hear about the changes. You don't really see them on television. These younger players have nothing to relate to what happened 20 years ago. So right now, they just sit back and play it, okay, this is the way it's always been.

But there's phenomenal changes, right from the very first hole. The tee now is back where the old putting green was when I last played there. So the thought of driving it over the bunker on the first hole is gone. I had a 176 yards into the green on Wednesday, and given there's no roll here; and back in the other days, it was 120 yards. So there's 50 yards just on the first tee shot alone.

Of course, in Augusta they like hearing things like that. Which is precisely why the design is in shambles.

7th hole, dramatic change. 11th hole, dramatic change. So it's going to be different. It's going to be a lot harder to play for someone who doesn't hit the ball 320 than a player who does hit the ball a long way.

Lost roars have been touched upon by many but never quite like this:

Q. You've referenced the course changes a number of times, and your absence actually covers a span of the old Augusta, a new Augusta. Tell me as an architect and as a fan of the game and as a player some of the things you might do to get the buzz back on Sunday afternoon.

GREG NORMAN: Well, just going on what I saw, I mean, I remember in my days in playing, if somebody came into the back nine at Augusta probably six or seven or eight shots behind the lead and feel like they could win it. That was a great feeling. If you're a player at the top of your game and someone else is running away from the field, a la what Jack Nicklaus did.

I think it's going to be a lot more difficult the way the golf course is now for those type of low numbers, the 30s and the 29s to be thrown out there. And again, this depends on how they set up the golf course.

And the roars, I think would be the significant thing that would be missing. When I used to play the 6th hole, for example and somebody was shooting a great round coming down 15, you would hear this enormous roar and you're only on the 6th hole and that would resonate all the way through until you got around to the 14th hole, 15th hole.

So I would be interested to see whether the decibel level is as loud as what it was back in those days.

And asked how he'd fix the mess, Norman started with the short holes lost. Might as well start as the most glaringly obvious change...well, obvious to almost everyone except the people in charge.

Q. Is there anything architecturally you might do? I know it's sacred ground in the golf universe, but they have messed with it in the last seven years. I'm wondering if there's anything you would do to try to maybe generate a little more fireworks.

GREG NORMAN: Well, I was just surprised to what they did to some of the great short holes. I can understand the par 5s. But some of the great short holes, for example the 7th hole, was one of the great classic risk/reward short holes. If you were a long hitter, like I used to try to drive the golf ball way up in front of the green and pitch it up, and that's gone now. And same with 14. I remember trying to whip a driver around there and get as close to the green with a sand wedge as I could. You can't do that stuff now.

The short holes have dramatically changed and I think that's the thing that stands out to me. I get it, the 11th hole probably needs to have some adjustment. It's an intimidating hole at 505. But you need those holes, I understand you need long par 4s. But I love the challenges in the old days of the short holes of Augusta, they can either bite you in the rear end or not.

And some of the excitement of the par 5s, 15, for example, just you would stand up there and think about it and now most of the field lays it up.

But other than that, he loved what he saw.

Saturday
Mar212009

So Nice To See Transitions Employing D-Lister Erik Estrada

Many, many thanks to reader Rob for this nails-on-chalkboard local TV interview with "CHIP's" star Erik Estrada giving out "sightations" for people not wearing protective eye gear at Transitions Championship and telling us his entire life story and innumerable plugs before the reporter mercifully cuts him off.

I would embed the video but it automatically plays anytime you arrive on my homepage, and there are just some cruel things I won't do to you.

Friday
Mar202009

"But I don't think David Duval would understand another viewpoint."

Alan Bastable did a super job interviewing Ben Crenshaw, revealing many things I didn't know about him and probing him on several fresh topics, including his friend George W. Bush and David Duval's criticisms of the 1999 Ryder Cup captaincy. I think it's the first time I've ever heard him speak about someone negatively and it couldn't be a better target!

Bastable: When you captained the Ryder Cup team in 1999, you publicly scolded Tiger Woods and David Duval, among others, after they argued that the PGA of America should, at the very least, make a donation to the American players' chosen charities. Duval later criticized you, saying, "[Crenshaw] talked about the purity of the Ryder Cup, and what he did with all that purity is make a bunch of money off the thing. He wrote a book about it; he had his clothing company involved." Did that bother you?

Crenshaw: I've read that many times. David and I, I don't think we'd see eye to eye on anything. He's well entitled to his opinion.

Bastable: But his point about you profiting...

Crenshaw: Well, captains, you know... [pauses]. He can make all the assertions that he wants.

Bastable: So you don't see his point?

Crenshaw: No. He made those comments before and after [the Ryder Cup]. It's just a difference in opinion. But I don't think David Duval would understand another viewpoint.

Come on Ben, David knows everything!

On a lighter note, it sounds like Ben still could make a trip to Tasmania and Barnbougle Dunes...

Bastable: Your design team is working on a course in Tasmania, which you've yet to visit. Not being there must be tough.

Crenshaw: It's the first time, and yes, it's very difficult. Truth be known, though, our team is so good that they'll do just as good a job without me. Bill [Coore, Crenshaw's design partner] has been such a blessing in my life. I hope to get down there, but it won't be many times.

Bastable: And the course developers are okay with that?

Crenshaw: Yeah, apparently they are, because Bill's talked to them ad nauseum about it. I just can't, you know... [he chokes up]. There are so many misconceptions about the business. You don't want to delegate yourself out. That's just not the way that we do things. It takes large blocks of time in order to do what we want to do to a golf course.

Bastable: Why are you so taken by traditional design?

Crenshaw: It comes down to enjoyment and not getting beat over the head constantly with things that golfers can and can't do. You want to offer some hope. To me, St. Andrews is still the most fascinating course in the world. The ways you can play that course are infinite. It's like a giant outdoor crossword puzzle.

Friday
Mar202009

Golf Economy Coverage, Good and Bad

As reader Steven T. notes and I agree, the GolfDigest.com blog hosted by Peter Finch and Geoff Russell (yes, yes, two editors I have worked for), has become quite a lively spot for tracking golf economy news.

Less appealing though humorous in a how-magazines-still-haven't-figured-out-the-internet way is GolfDigest.com's freshly posted "Golf and the economy" video roundtable, taped in January so that we could  kick around the impact of Tiger's absence just in time for March Madness! 

Friday
Mar202009

Take That Zinger: Monty Envisages Scenario Where He Will Have More Vice Captains Than Players

Well, he could "envisage" up to four right now according to this unbylined Guardian report. Give it time. By next year he may need one per player.

Thursday
Mar192009

Tour Staff Manages Only One "Stanford" Mention In Release, GWAA Award Seems Inevitable

There should be an award for craftiest press release given out by the Golf Writers. Oh wait, that's the Daily Column category. Scratch that thought. This deserves a special award since only an artist could craft a release announcing the renaming of the Memphis stop and only mention the beleaguered Ponzi-scheme of a sponsor once. Now that's craftsmanship.

From the PGA Tour:

MEMPHIS’ PGA TOUR EVENT RENAMED FOR 2009

This summer’s PGA TOUR event in Memphis will be called the St. Jude Classic (SJC), tournament officials announced today. The event, formerly called the Stanford St. Jude Championship, will be played June 8-14, 2009 at TPC Southwind.

“Our focus is on producing a great PGA TOUR event for golf fans of the Mid-South and raising awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” said Wes Kraker, president of Children's Champions for Hope, Inc., the tournament’s host organization. “We have lots of work to do, but with the continued help from a dedicated group of volunteers and strong support from the community, we will succeed.”

No thanks to Stanford.

David L. McKee, chief operating officer and interim CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising organization of St. Jude, said: “Since St. Jude became the sole beneficiary of the Memphis PGA TOUR event in 1970, we have improved the survival rate of the most common form of childhood leukemia from less than 50 percent to 94 percent. That incredible progress is possible only because of generous supporters who believe in our mission. In the PGA TOUR, we have such a supporter and we are immensely pleased to continue this relationship as we strive for the day when no child will die in the dawn of life.”

Rick George, PGA TOUR Chief of Operations, said: “The PGA TOUR has been part of the fabric of the Memphis sports scene since 1958 and we look forward to returning in June. We are confident that with the continued support of our fans and the Memphis corporate community, along with the volunteers and the leadership of Children's Champions for Hope, the tournament will deliver another significant fundraising effort for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

No thanks to Stanford.

Thursday
Mar192009

The J.W. Marriott At The Greenbrier?

Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but if it keeps the historic and now Chapter 11'd resort going, why not?

Thursday
Mar192009

Note To Golf Channel: Secure Us Some Australian Masters Coverage

Now that Tiger is playing the Australian Masters, could we get some coverage so that we can watch Kingston Heath (and Tiger)?

It's been a few years since we've gotten the prime Australian events here. Time again, eh?

Meanwhile the debate of Woods' appearance fee has already begun. Thanks to reader Mark for the Mike Clayton v. Greg Baum debate in The Age where Clayton makes a strong case for Tiger's appearance fee.

Steve Elling talks to several players, including Stuart Appleby and Peter Lonard, and both anticipate a political battle to ensue over the appearance fee.

Thursday
Mar192009

Annika's Inevitable Return Delayed By Pregnancy

She posts the news on her website...for those of you who bet "under" the 2010 Nabisco for her comeback, pay up.

Thursday
Mar192009

"I've done this before"

Doug Ferguson takes an enjoyable look at caddies and the things they hate hearing their player say, quoting Jim "Bones" MacKay extensively.

The story also reminds me just how great Sunday's 12th hole dialogue was and how a full replay, minus any intrusions from the NBC team, would have been nice. Actually, even nicer would be just a telecast where we could mute the announcing and only listen to player-caddie conversations.

Wednesday
Mar182009

"They get advertising across the platform, and on that platform, they are reaching the strongest fan base mix from an indexing standpoint in certain segments of the marketplace that are difficult to reach..."

The Commish popped in the Transitions press room Wednesday and was asked some pretty good questions in between the really timely ones about his AT&T National Pro-Am appearance. Steve Elling offers a shorter and decidedly less snarky version of the session for those of needing less snark in their life. For the rest of you...

Q. Have you been keeping track of whether players have been adding tournaments or not after your off-season pitch to maybe have them visit a couple of locales that they had not done historically? I think one of the magazines tracked it after the California swing. It's been kind of about the same.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: There's been some movement. I think from time to time, we'll highlight a tournament that we would like to see more focus on. There's certainly been some movement among players.

But I mean, what we said to the players was, look, we just need to execute on all cylinders this year in terms of fan relationships, media access, playing, as well, among a number of things.

You guys can go back to being petulant when the Dow hits 12,000.

I've said this before; year-in, year-out they do an excellent job, and that's why we are successful because of what they do. This is just making sure we are not missing any opportunities. It's not asking them to do some quantum leap off of what they normally do. It's asking them to make sure we are focused and make sure we are executing. I do think we have had a more active interface on them with doing stuff.

Wasn't it Arnold Palmer who once said, if you don't have active interface, you have don't a PGA Tour?

Let's get to uncomfortable question...

Q. What did you think of Stenson last week?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You know, it wouldn't be my favorite thing to see a player do. I understand the position he was in without any rain gear or anything. So I would hope that there's no recurrence of it.

But the overall reaction seemed to be sort of ho-hum from fans. We didn't get any e-mails screaming that he had done something immoral or anything.

So it just seemed to be a funny, one-off thing. He's a charming fellow. I did get a kick out of, I guess his wife asked him not to do it again, on 18, which I thought was sound advice.

Oh yes, he's getting fined next time he undresses for the cameras.

Q. You talk about players who quote unquote, get it, and I know it's not a PGA TOUR event, but the Tavistock Cup, guys flying in on helicopter across town. It's quite a display of conspicuous consumption, shall we say. Does it concern you at all how that reflects on the TOUR brand in these conditions?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I didn't get any e-mails on that, either. I don't know how to respond to that question.

See, look how polished his answers are getting on the most important matter facing the tour.

I think that we've been through this discussion recently about client and customer interface and customers coming to a golf tournament and customers being entertained. And the rhetoric around that discussion is so over the top right now because of the climate and because people are angry and everything gets rolled into one thing.

I think it's very unfortunate. It's been distortive. So you know, at some point, I think we have to understand that it's good for the economy for people to spend money, regardless of what they spend it on. I would rather have people with a lot of money spend it right now than sit on it, because however they spend it is going to help the economy.

Their accountants might not agree.

I just don't think we should figure out ways to make what is legitimate -- there's always a subjective reaction to anything by people; ten people will have a different reaction. But if everything is based on the de minimus;

You know during 8th grade Latin I was far more interested in watching Gary Coleman (still a working actor then), pull a head bouncing sleep thing that no description could ever capture. That's my excuse for not being able to offer you an on-the-spot translation. Well, thank God for Wikipedia: de minimus.

if there is anybody that would react negatively and let's don't do it, that's not good for anything. And so I don't want to characterize anybody's activities in any one way, because I don't think it really means anything in the final analysis.

That answer about covers de mininus.

Q. With all of the noise after Northern Trust, and obviously you had some discussions with people in Washington over some of the perceptions, do you strategize at all or even discuss anything like this with your counterparts in the NBA, NFL, LPGA?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Sure, certainly with the LPGA. They are more of a title-sponsor focused kind of organization.

The team sports are in a very different situation. Their platform is different. The focus there is on sponsorship is very different. But we talk to the other sports during the course of the year about a lot of stuff.

I think, again, there has been recently this focus on one little piece of one part of the value proposition. And I can't say it too many times. A title sponsor sponsors a tournament because he gets the best or they get the best branding in sports.

There is no television branding that beats the branding that the PGA TOUR offers, period.

Even something that draws more than a 1.0? Sorry, let's get back to platforms...

Secondly, they get advertising across the platform, and on that platform, they are reaching the strongest fan base mix from an indexing standpoint in certain segments of the marketplace that are difficult to reach, index high in news and PGA TOUR golf, we rank very high in those audiences and are appealing to companies that want to sponsor.

There apparently was no thirdly...

Fourthly they get global exposure, and fifthly, they get a unique business platform to do business -to-business work at tournaments. So this is one of those five value streams, and a piece of it is entertainment, just a little piece. And as I've said to members of Congress and publically, in 20 years of being involved with this business, I have never seen anything that I personally, and that's a very subjective analysis, would look at and say, that's lavish entertainment.

Now, people can differ subjectively on whether Sheryl Crow is lavish or not. I mean, if I got up and sang at the dinner, I don't think anybody would accuse that of being lavish entertainment. And there's everything in between.

Well, you are better paid than Sheryl Crow, so someone might think it was over the top. And if you broke out a cane and top hat, I think that definitely would fall under the lavish description.

But unfortunately what's happened is, and I think companies are sensitive of the entertainment question today, but what happens is the rhetoric spills way beyond that. The rhetoric talks about sponsorship and the rhetoric talks about putting customers up, and ignores the value to companies that legitimate customer relations and developing relations with customers provides to a company.

That's what we have to push back against.

You mean the suffocating business jargon that most of America attributes to Wall Street? Or the stuff you mentioned that's really just an excuse to have a good time?

Wednesday
Mar182009

S.F. Golf Alliance And Sharp Park

Yesterday I posted the item on Sharp Park's possible fate. Some of you emailed wanting to know more about the battle. There's this website page devoted to the course and it will also bring you to the alliance's site.

Wednesday
Mar182009

Tiger Helps Victoria In "Beating Off" New South Wales

Matthew Clayfield and Brent Read report on Tiger's decision to alleviate $3 million of Victorian Government money from the bloated coffers to force him to play the Australian Masters.

I'm not quite so sure this was the best phrasing in sentence two:

Victoria's Premier John Brumby last night confirmed Woods would play at Melbourne's Kingston Heath in November, beating off the NSW Government, which had hoped to snare him for the Australian Open to be played in Sydney.

Wednesday
Mar182009

"But if that's all he lost over there last year, that's terrific." 

I've made a decision to not track all of the course closings and fire sales, but I couldn't help notice this Bill Wilson story on the re-opening of Nick Faldo's much-hyped Cottonwood Hills near Prairie Dunes. Apparently the course closed in December for a debt restructuring.

The course lost $125,000 last year, Neville said, necessitating its closing. Staffers were laid off and telephones disconnected.

"Unusual? Well, yes and no," said Chris Tuohey, the general manager of Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton.

"I can see some courses doing that from a feasibility standpoint. Golf courses in the off-season lose money, and from a service level standpoint, it could be challenging.... But if that's all he lost over there last year, that's terrific."

Wednesday
Mar182009

TY Buys Plantation Course

I knew they were paying the PGA Tour execs a lot but...what? Oh, not that Ty? Sorry. Running a search on this "TY Management, Inc." and reading Randi Petrello's story on the sale of the Kapalua Plantation Course for $50 million, gulp, something just doesn't seem quite right. Of course, you are talking about one of the net's real LLC experts here, so if anyone actually understands what this means, feel free to set the site host straight. Thanks to reader Russell for this:

Under the terms of the sale, which is expected to close before the end of the month, Kapalua Plantation Golf LLC, a subsidiary of MLP, will lease the golf course from the new owner and continue to operate it for at least two years.

Maui Land & Pineapple said it will use proceeds from the sale to reduce debt.

“In this transaction, we will receive cash for the sale of the land and improvements, and will continue to operate The Plantation Course under the Kapalua brand with our golf management team,” said Robert Webber, president and CEO of Maui Land & Pineapple, in a statement. “We expect our golf team, led by Gary Planos, to continue to operate The Plantation Course in a manner that has led to Kapalua Resort’s world-wide recognition as the number one golf resort in Hawaii and host site for the prestigious PGA TOUR season opening event, the Mercedes-Benz Championship.

Wednesday
Mar182009

"Sharp Park Golf Course on the chopping block?"

Thanks to reader Joe B. for this Marisa Lagos update on the possible future of Alister MacKenzie's Sharp Park. Doesn't sound so good.

Tuesday
Mar172009

"Part of you says, 'Make it as good as it can be.'"

So let's see. Tim Finchem plays in the AT&T National Pro-Am and magically they are discussing a field reduction to help with the wretched pace of play. Tiger is widely believed to be offering to return if Poppy Hills is thrown out of the rotation, but we're expected to believe this was all in the works long ago? Either way, it is time to do something.

Doug Ferguson, quoting the Commish:

"Part of you says, 'Make it as good as it can be.' That's generally our attitude with any tournament," he said. "But you've got to take other things under account that might hold you back a little bit."

One other factor to consider is the strengthened relationship with the title sponsor and the world's No. 1 player. Tiger Woods has a deal with AT&T to carry its logo on his golf bag. AT&T already sponsors his TOUR event in Washington.

Woods has not played the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am since 2002, but is likely to return next year -- for no other reason than the U.S. Open will be held at Pebble in 2010.

That has led to speculation among players that Woods is behind the changes, particularly the courses. Rick George, chief of operations for the TOUR, said discussions began before Woods signed his bag deal with AT&T.

Tuesday
Mar172009

Captain Monty Open To Having Lunch With People He Never Would Have Dined With Before

Mike Aitken reports on just how desperate European Captain Colin Montgomerie is to win.

"I feel in the past that there has been only a select few told things on a need-to-know basis but I want this to be an open campaign," he explained. "I will do it through e-mails to the players and talk to them in players' lounges. At lunch, maybe I'll sit at tables I wouldn't otherwise have sat at and say 'listen lads, this is what's happening'.

Lunching with the little people he never would have wasted his time with.  Now that is determination!