Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer
  • Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    by Kevin Robbins

Running through the Rules are underlying principles that, like the steel rods which lie below the surface of reinforced concrete, serve to bind together the brittle material and to give it strength. RICHARD TUFTS

 

   

Thursday
Jun182009

The USGA Press Conference

Inside sources say the USGA ordered all air shut off to the media center interview room. How else to explain a media performance for the ages?

Let's deal with all five questions asked after the statements by President Jim Vernon and Championship Committee Chair Jim Hyler.

Q. In light of the weather forecast, the current softness of the course and the likelihood it's going to be a lot softer, can you envision any circumstance in which the players will be allowed to lift, clean and replace?
JIM HYLER: No.

You have to love the brevity!

Q. So if they can't do that, you're prepared to take this tournament into Monday or Tuesday?
JIM HYLER: If it gets to the point where -- we're not going to play lift, clean and place. We'll suspend. If we can't play it, if it's not fair to be playing the ball as it lies, we'll suspend play. We'll stay here until we get a champion.

Uh, I booked on Priceline. Lift, clean and place doesn't look so bad to me.

Q. Do you recall any other championships -- and this is for David as well, I imagine -- in which the USGA has allowed that method of play?

JIM HYLER: Lift, clean and place? No.

Not a lot of grey area there!

Q. On the subject of future U.S. Open sites, how important is geographic diversity? Do you consider Oakmont to be part of the Midwest? And are you strongly considering something, a course in Chicago or Wisconsin, for 2017?

JIM HYLER: Oakmont is sort of Midwest, sort of East Coast. So it's certainly not East-East Coast.

Which reminds me, let's hear it for Oakmont! Questions, anyone, anyone?

My contribution to the proceedings:

Q. Some of the manufacturers have been indicating that they may have trouble implementing with the new groove rules and having enough clubs prepared, and they're lobbying the PGA TOUR to reconsider their support. How will that affect the USGA's stance on the groove rule change that takes effect in 2010?

JIM VERNON: As you know, Jeff, the implementation of the new groove regulations include a condition of competition for elite play, such as the PGA TOUR.

PGA TOUR will make its decision at some point as to whether they will implement that condition of competition for 2010. It is likely that if they were not to adopt it for 2010, we certainly would not adopt it for the U.S. Open either.

You can probably guess why I asked this. Last week we learned from Ian Poulter that certain manufacturers don't believe they'll be ready. Different theories have been floated, but it seems likely that at least one company is lobbying the PGA Tour in hopes of getting the tour to not adopt the condition of competition that bans the U-groove on the PGA Tour.

So now we know. Tim Finchem is the most powerful man in the game. Well, unless a certain manufacturer gets him to not comply to the rule change. Then that CEO is the most powerful.

I thought some of my counterparts would be fascinated and ask more questions. Instead...

Q. Have you given any consideration to a Senior Women's Open? You've talked about pairing up the men's and the women's open, but what about the Seniors? At the moment the women don't have a Senior Open.

I'm sure you can guess what David Fay said as kindly as he could.

Q. I wanted to ask about a future site by looking into the past a little bit. I don't know how many years ago it was that you announced that Pebble Beach would be hosting a U.S. Women's Open. It looked like '14 might be the best opening. You're booked now through '15. Can you give us any kind of an update on what's going on there, and how much of it is Pebble maybe just not wanting to give up a week that close after the U.S. Open?

DAVID FAY: Thanks. I've had conversations with them. They remain interested in having a Women's Open. That interest is sincere, but the date was never set in stone. It was speculation, and that's great. But I can tell you that they remain interested in a future Women's Open. No set date.

BETH MURRISON: Thank you all very much for being here. Gentlemen, we thank you very much.

Yes, we thank you for not asking questions.

Wednesday
Jun172009

2009 U.S. Open: A Few Final Preview Clippings

Thomas Bonk on Phil Mickelson's early morning press conference.

Ryan Herrington sums up the USGA press conference highlights.

Dave Perkins talks to players on the range who are staying away from the course. And the weather was perfect today. Shows you how simple the greens are, I suppose.

Mark Soltau with the best quotes of the day.

Lorne Rubenstein says don't count out the short hitters and considering how soft the greens are, he may be right.

David Shefter tells us all about the weather precautions and the unlucky folks who have to deal with it.

Wendy Uzelac preps us for Squeegee use and how the rules dictate various situations. Listen for the deep-baritoned frogs in the 8th hole pond. They may be the only ones happy Thursday (click to enlarge)

Tom Dunne explains what WaterHOGs are and how they are used to soak up the moisture. They were mentioned in today's USGA press conference

Ken Belson in a New York Times story tells us just how dead the corporate villages were early in the week.

Jason Sobel ranks the field. My wrists hurt just thinking about how much typing he did.

And finally, Lawrence Donegan loves that the USGA is playing a public course. He takes a while to make the point but it's worth it:

In a crowded sporting landscape, the Open Championship is the one of the few weeks during the year that the nation focuses almost entirely on golf. This is true now and it will be true in four years time, when people will turn their attention to Muirfield and see what? That's right, a golf club embodying every stereotype that has proved so damaging to the sport.

This, to put it at its mildest, is disappointing. Others would prefer to see it as a serious misjudgement; a needless provocation; or even a crime against the sport. I know I do.

Wednesday
Jun172009

Jenkins Tribute

The USGA hosted a salute to Dan Jenkins on the eve of his 200th major. Well attended, festive and fun (uh, were SI guys barred?), they handed out his latest book and DJ bobbleheads courtesy of Golf Digest.

Jerry Tarde saluted Dan and only slipped in twice that we were in the presence of a future Hall of Famer. Of course, what they're waiting for, no one knows!

David Fay thanked Dan for his service and shrewdly pointed out that this is Dan's 201st major, if you count the 1942 Hale America Open. You may recall Dan has lobbied for that 1942 playing of the Open to count, not because his boy Hogan won but because it was the rebranded U.S. Open in a war year.

Dan finally took the microphone atop the interview room podium, and proceeded to take us through his round in tour drone fashion. "Hit in the left rough on one." Press room joke. Had to be there.

My favorite was a Dave Marr story. Dave was asked what were the top three things Bruce Crampton did wrong. "He was born. He came to America. He stayed in America."

Wednesday
Jun172009

"To Bethpage faithful, a kinder and gentler Open isn't necessarily an improvement"

My first GolfDigest.com item on the Bethpage golf course setup is now posted. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday
Jun172009

Shock: Woods World's Top Athlete

Wednesday
Jun172009

Butch Going Pink

I'm sure if you told Butch Harmon ten years ago that he would be discussing his pink belt with Phil Mickelson on the eve of the U.S. Open, he'd have told you to go jump in front of a train.

And yet that was the scene Wednesday at Bethpage where he's outfitted in pink in tribute to Amy Mickelson. Here's Phil's press conference, where I posted a few Tweets.

Tuesday
Jun162009

"I've seen lots of rules written down on the first tees but I've never seen warnings."

The 17th hole during Tuesday's practice round (click on image to enlarge)Just a few clippings heading into Wednesday at Bethpage.

Mark Soltau has a nice overview of player comments from Tuesday. Rocco's press conference makes for a pretty fun read.

Bob Harig on the fans and how they may play a role at Bethpage, reminding us of Sergio's battles last time the Open was played here.

Steve Elling talks to folks about the 18-hole playoff concept and you might be surprised by Kenny Perry's answer.

David Shefter interviews Matt Nagy about his amazing journey to Bethpage. You won't believe what had to happen for him to get there. Thanks to reader Rob for catching this.

Mark Lamport-Stokes hears what Geoff Ogilvy has to say about the long slog that is Bethpage.

"This is probably the only golf course with a warning at the first tee," former champion Ogilvy told reporters at Bethpage State Park on Tuesday. "I've seen lots of rules written down on the first tees but I've never seen warnings."

Bill Pennington reports that fans are treating Ogilvy like a defending champ due to his win at Winged Foot.

And just a reminder, I'm filing updates on Twitter and will post live from the USGA press conference as well as the media center toast to Dan Jenkins on the eve of his 200th major.

Tuesday
Jun162009

The New Yankee Stadium...

...is a lot like Bethpage Black. Big, grand, awe-inspiring but lacking some of the quirk and character you'd like to see in a ballpark. Some of the detail work and architecture is stunning, many other parts seem unfinished. It's just a wee bit soulless for my taste--like the Black.

The old park...

And today's new park...

Tuesday
Jun162009

The USGA Survey

If you aren't at Bethpage to participate in the electronic punch screen survey, unofficially titled "How Can We Be Loved More?", here's your chance to say something to the USGA on the state of their role in the game.

Take on any topic you like, just keep it civil!

 

Tuesday
Jun162009

Letter From Saugerties, 2009 U.S. Open Questions

Former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan dropped this letter in my email box on the eve of the USGA's annual press conference.:

 Dear Geoff:

We are on the verge of what should be a primary golf-media happening - the annual press conference of the USGA on the eve of the US Open Championship,.

Unfortunately, the affair seldom lives up to its potential. Most of those bearing questions think that Tiger Woods invented golf in 1997. On the answering end, the USGA president is not a threat to Barack Obama when it comes to being informative and amusing.

Alas, I will not be present for purposes of incitement. But I herewith offer, without request for compensation, a series of potential questions to lend a spark to the occasion:

Q. Mr Vernon, Bethpage is a wonderful site, but are you not concerned that the USGA has alienated its other New York area Open clubs - Shinnecock Hills, Baltusrol and Winged Foot?

Q. You pay a rental fee for Open courses. How much have you paid the State of New York to use Bethpage?

(follow-up). Since both you and New York are public entities, how you can you refuse to divulge financial dealings?

Q. You have praised the USGA for taking the Open to public courses. Can you name public courses that have been built anywhere as a consequence?

Q. The USGA spent $25 million to revise its Museum in Far Hills, New Jersey and then began to charge admission. What has been the paid attendance this year?

Q. Next year you will change the rules to bar U grooves on the Tour and in the majors. Will the average scores rise accordingly?

Q. There seems a good chance golf will be voted into the Olympics next week. Will the patronage jobs go to the PGA Tour, the USGA or the R&A?

(follow-up) Mr. Vernon, who won the gold medals in tennis in the last Olympics?

Q There has been a dramatic turnover among the USGA staff in the last few years - firings and resignations.
Why is that and does it bother you?

Q. A few years ago the USGA began to lease a corporate jet. Did you fly here commercial or did you use that jet?

Q. Golf Digest magazine reports that the salary of your executive director is $725,000. Are you kidding?

Frank Hannigan

Tuesday
Jun162009

Overheard On The LIRR, Day One

I'm a novice Long Island Railroad passenger. How else to explain my expectation that a printed schedule of the U.S. Open trains would not actually be accurate? I see 6:48 train. I figure there will be one.

Thankfully the 7:03 on the schedule arrived and when the logo clad gallery saw the track number flash on the screen, a mad dash ensued. You'd think a free Adams putter was offered the way the loudly-dressed mass of Bethpage spectators, club reps, volunteers and in my case, lowly blogger, ran to get on a train with plenty of seats.

Conversation was muted as one would hope in the morning hours. Or at least, I hoped after yesterday listening to the stereotypical debate over Pacino's best film in full Saturday Night Fever accents. The only thing missing were leisure suits and jabs at Gerald Ford.

Tried to pass off my New York Post to the gentleman seated next to me. Judging by the look on his face, you'd think I was handing him a pipe bomb.

In the Post I read Mark Canizzaro's depressing account about just how soggy the course is, with warnings of low scores possible. Brace yourselves people. 10-under could win.

The LIRR is catering to the U.S. Open fans with special announcements and reminders about catching the buses. And there was this call for etiquette from the conductor: "Keep your cell phone conversations brief, keep your feet off the seats."

Monday
Jun152009

"The intriguing thing about all this is that there have not been any low scores accompanying the high praise for Davis’s setups."

Larry Dorman on Mike Davis's role in transforming the Open.

Geoff Ogilvy shot five over par to win at Winged Foot in 2006. Angel Cabrera shot five over par to win at Oakmont the next year. And Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate each shot one under to tie last year. They then each shot even-par 71 in an 18-hole Monday playoff, won by Woods with a par on the first hole of sudden death.

“A lot of that had to do with the weather we got,” Davis said. “Oakmont and Winged Foot were dry and we had breeze. Had it been soft and there hadn’t been breeze, I really think you would have seen under par win both those. So much of it truly has to do with what Mother Nature gives you.”

True. But there are many pieces to the setup puzzle, something the final arbiter on the length of the rough, the speed of the greens, the width of the fairways and the positions of the holes knows well. The temptation that accompanies a decent lie in the rough may, on the whole, be hard to resist.”

Monday
Jun152009

Medinah Set For Its Traditional Pre-Major Redo, Still Won't Be Any Good When Work Is Finished

There's a Ryder Cup coming, so that must mean it's time for another Medinah redo.

MEDINAH TO SPEND $3 MILLION-PLUS ON PRE-RYDER CUP RENOVATIONS

Chicago-Area Club Bucks National Cutback Trend

MEDINAH, Illinois (June 15, 2009) – At a time when many of the nation’s recession-weary country clubs are cutting back, Medinah Country Club is stepping up with a view toward the 2012 Ryder Cup.

By a margin of more than 4-1, Medinah’s membership voted Saturday (June 13) to spend upwards of $3 million on a multi-faceted renovation that would see the club’s famed No. 3 Course close August 15 and re-open next June.

“What this overwhelming vote means is that we now will be able to bring our crown jewel up to the world class level where we want it to be,” said club president John Potts. “It will be ready for the 2012 Ryder Cup for the whole world to see. The membership is happy.”

Below is a brief outline of each aspect of the renovation project:

Reconstruction of the 11 remaining original soil-based push-up greens on the club’s No. 3 course, site of five major championships and of the 2012 Ryder Cup. These surfaces and the Putting Clock in front of the clubhouse would be replaced by state-of-the-art sand-based greens set to specifications of the U.S. Golf Association. The greens to be replaced are on holes 3, 4, 5, and 6. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 14. A select number of these greens also will be re-contoured. The seven other greens on No. 3 were rebuilt to USGA standards during a 2003 course renovation directed by noted golf course architect Rees Jones. Jones also will oversee this phase of improvements.

Re-grassing of all 18 greens and the Putting Clock in front of the clubhouse to bring about all pure bentgrass greens upon reopening in June 2010.

Re-grassing of all 18 fairways and intermediate rough areas to eliminate poa annua and other types of undesirable grasses.

With Course 3 closed for the renovation, the club will undertake a Cart Path and Hardscape improvement program aimed at upgrading the aesthetics and functionality of cart paths, the halfway house complex, and the area surrounding the No. 6 green and No. 7 and 10 tees.

Renovation and expansion of the golf course maintenance facility.

Club leaders determined this was the membership’s last opportunity to undertake the projects prior to the 2012 Ryder Cup. Moreover, the club in is good financial shape, has a full membership, and a waiting list.

The vote is just the latest in a series of improvements made since the arrival of general manager Dan Miles in 2007 and, shortly thereafter, golf course superintendent Curtis Tyrrell, who oversees all three layouts.

The club has built a new 12-acre state-of-the-art short game practice area adjacent to its newly configured and improved driving range. Last fall, Medinah replaced all 88,000 square feet of tan-colored sand in all 74 bunkers on its No. 3 course with white Tour Signature Sand in order to make the bunkers more playable and more aesthetically appealing.

Monday
Jun152009

“I take it one golf hole at a time."

The flight east allowed me to really savor Amy Wallace's must-read look at the wildly entertaining Yellowstone Club saga and the lovebirds who own it, the Blixseth's. Also part of the mess is Porcupine Creek, a favorite of the Golf Digest panel where Ms. Blixeth lives...and weeds.

Whether such calm will descend upon Ms. Blixseth remains to be seen.

A partial list of her debts filed with the bankruptcy court in April includes bank loans, judgments and tax liens totaling more than $141 million, including the $35 million from CrossHarbor. Her household staff of 114 has been cut to less than 40. Some days, she spends hours outside doing yard work.

“I call it Zen weed-pulling,” she says. “I take it one golf hole at a time.

Sunday
Jun142009

Just Arrived...

...because I know you were worried. Oh, and if you ever get the chance to fly Virgin Airlines, do it.

Off to Bethpage tomorrow. Spending the rest of the night drying out after arriving in the middle of a deluge.

 

Sunday
Jun142009

2009 U.S. Open Coverage

Via GolfDigest.com, my Twitter page and this page, I'll be covering the Open in a variety of ways.

Starting Wednesday, I'll be filing a daily golf course musings, images and impressions with--weather permitting--previews of the following day's possible setup touches. I hope to take you inside the ropes to show how the setup is impacting the outcome and offer a few tips on what to look for during the telecasts.

Via Twitter and this site, I'll do my usual reports from the grounds about the experience. Since I'm taking the train from New York City this week, expect  some posts about that experience and maybe a few non-golf posts about certain expensive new ballparks in the area that I may take the time to visit.

While we won't be able to do the live blog this week, I will have a daily post inviting your observations of the event as well as--feed function permitting--easy to find Twitter text and photo updates.

And in between I'll try to get up a few key clippings from the media coverage.

Special thanks to Tom Naccarato for the New York City banner to liven up the page this week. Extra points for those who can spot the landmarks and folks embedded inside the letters!

Sunday
Jun142009

2009 U.S. Open Preview Stories

It's not easy to preview the U.S. Open's return to a course that so recently hosted and which has been so exhaustively profiled. But, the working press did their best and here are just some of the stories I enjoyed.

First off, just a note: Golfweek.com offers a one-stop location for all of their latest news, previews, qualifying scores and the latest WD's (two Sunday). And of course I've also will add to my links list on the right as the week goes.

Jason Sobel offers his traditional Weekly 18 with plenty of U.S. Open info, including some nice ideas for picks (and those who should be doing a rain dance).

Bob Harig takes us back to last year and asks people where they were when Tiger birdied 18 Sunday. With the story, ESPN.com offers a video feature that recaps the epic 08 Open. Golf.com's coverage is frozen in time.

Karen Crouse catches up with Rocco. While Connell Barrett organizes reader questions for Rocco.

The USGA Museum has posted their Tiger Woods scrapbook with much from last year, but the really great stuff is from his early career and an interesting interview with Earl. Love the bucket cap!

Cameron Morfit talks to Mike Davis and also predicts a storybook ending for Phil Mickelson Sunday afternoon. Tim Rosaforte explains the odd dichotomy of California boy Phil Mickelson returning home to Bethpage.

Michael Foley asks what's wrong with Padraig Harrington who inexplicably continues to talk about making swing changes after winning two majors. That's my nice way of saying I would not make him a pool pick.

Chris Berman explains how he does his best to drive people bonkers during the opening rounds of ESPN's U.S. Open telecast.

Rich Lerner delivers hooks and cuts from the LPGA Championship and previews the U.S. Open.

Dave Shedloski reminds us why the 2002 Open was so memorable despite the awful setup and finishing in the dark.

Bill Fields considers why no one has broken the 63 barrier. Now with Bethpage being soft, the setup actually reasonable this time and those greens so flat, maybe this is the week? Oh I shouldn't have dared to think such a dreadful thought.

Peter Williams looks at Doug Batty's improbable run as a qualifier.

Christian Red uses the 10th anniversary of Payne Stewart's tragic death to check in on all of the families of those who died aboard the private jet. Thanks to reader Tim for noticing this impressive bit of research and writing.

Erik Peterson does the Bethpage walk-up car line thing and lives to tell about it.

Ron Kroichick contemplates the impact that the U.S. Open has had on the public course venues it's been played at. Check out those new Torrey Pines green fees.

Speaking of the golf course...

Greg Logan takes us back a few years and reminds us who the visionairies were who saw Bethpage's potential as a U.S. Open venue.

Bill Pennington explains the course changes and in this video segment, interviews Rees Jones and only subjects us to one Open Doctor groaner.

Alan Shipnuck compares Bethpage with Liberty National, home to this fall's Barclay's.

John Huggan talks to Mike Davis about his golf philosophy:

"Everybody seems to have this fixation – much more so in the US than in the UK – that, when someone is in the rough, the penalty has to be the same every time. Conversely, those same people think that, when a ball is in the fairway, you are always entitled to a good lie. So when they get in a divot they are looking for a free drop!

"None of that should be true though. There is some charm to getting a bad lie in the fairway or a great lie in the rough. That's golf. And leads to the potential for spectacular shots. How can that be bad?"

Mike Stachura says Bethpage may play a lot shorter this time around because of improved equipment, though with the recent rains and reports that the course is soggy, maybe not.

Well, first of all there will be more players using drivers that have a large area of the face that has a high spring-like effect. In 2002, that area of high ballspeed was a few square millimeters smaller. What's more, club designers today actually have to slow down the center of the face because it's so easy to engineer a single point on the face that produces the maximum allowed springiness.

But there's more to it than that. Players are better matched to the golf ball than they were seven years ago. To be sure, the majority of the field in 2002 had already switched to multilayer urethane-covered balls, but there were still a handful of balls in play that year with windings.

SI features a great gallery of artsy Bethpage aerial images by Fred Vuich. They also posted an aerial flyover page.

Ron Whitten reiterated his take on the design heritage of Bethpage, with other notes about the course setup possibilities in the current Golf World.

Bethpage was conceived by Robert Moses, the most powerful unelected public official of the 20th century, but owes its implementation to Joseph H. Burbeck. As manager of the Bethpage Corporation in 1934, Burbeck supervised the design and construction of the complex, at the start drawing upon the talents of design consultant A.W. Tillinghast, the legendary architect who candidly credited Burbeck with the ambition of making the Black Course as great and severe a test as Pine Valley.

Sadly, Tillinghast never viewed the finished product. Burbeck, however, became the superintendent of Bethpage State Park in 1937 and presided over the place until his retirement in 1964.

You can also read his controversial 2002 profile of Burbeck here.

Whitten also analyzes the Black Course's putrid finishing hole and the options Davis considered before sticking with it as a courtesy to the everyday golfers who want to play the entire Black as it plays in the Open.

And finally, Damon Hack says No. 17 was the place to hang out last time. I can't wait to check it out for myself.

Sunday
Jun142009

Clayton Almost Does It...

Great playing by Australian golfer and golf architect Mike Clayton at this week's Jersey event on the European Senior Tour. He was edged in a playoff by Delroy Cambridge.

Sunday
Jun142009

"I think Bivens has made nothing but smart moves here."

Brand Lady, you've got a friend in Michael Bamberger, who says McDonald's is not a good sponsor for the LPGA to be aligned with and that Bulle Rock is too isolated to work as a major venue.

I think Bivens has made nothing but smart moves here. She's irritated a lot of powerful people in women's golf along the way, including some of the top executives at NBC Sports, which is not a smart thing to do when your tour is struggling, and the LPGA is struggling. But in the long run, Golf Channel is going to be the right home for many LPGA events, including its marquee championship.

Sunday
Jun142009

Star-Ledger Answers Ball Rollback Question!

Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger profiles Dick Rugge, USGA testing and offers this on how a ball rollback could work...sure sounds easier than the groove rule change!

At the beginning of the decade, professionals on tour converted from wound balls to the solid-core, multi-layer models that reign today. Another way to drop maximum driving distance is to change the polymers that make up these interior layers. Doing so affects something called the coefficient of restitution, which is a measure of how well the energy from the swing is transferred to the ball. A higher coefficient means more energy is transferred and the ball travels farther. But the composition of the polymers can be modified for a less efficient energy transfer and shorter maximum driving distance.