Twitter: GeoffShac
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Far too many [bunkers] exist in our land. Oakmont in Pittsburgh, where the National Open will be played this year, has two hundred. Other courses famed everywhere average one hundred and fifty. From twenty to twenty-five, plus the natural obstacles are ample for any course. PERRY MAXWELL



"From Dubai to Chicago, from Atlantic City to Aberdeen, the host of the US version of The Apprentice is scaling back his ambitions for global domination..."

The Independent's Stephen Foley explains The Donald's various financial issues and wonders if his Scottish development has much chance of happening. 



"It was a very tough decision, but there are times, like we’re in right now, where tough decisions have to be made.”

After reading Ron Balicki's story on the prospective Walker Cup team members and assorted USGA committeemen not getting to schmooze on the back lawn at Seminole this January, I asked around to determine if this was:

  • A) the USGA realizing that a "winter practice session" for a ceremonial, two-day competition was a ridiculous show of excess in today's economic climate
  • B) the USGA realizing that a "winter practice session" for a ceremonial, two-day competition was really just a funded vacation for too many well-off mid-ams who had no chance of making the team
  • C) the USGA realizing that a "winter practice session" for a ceremonial, two-day competition was an excessive expense when their very own nest egg had taken a huge hit in the recent financial crisis.

The folks I reached out to all voted for "C", though many wanted it noted for the record that it should have been dropped regardless of the economic crisis. And that we'll know just how significant the hit was when the annual report is released in February.


"Coming into the Playoffs with 1,600 points or so, which the top 8-10 players likely will have, should guarantee passage to Atlanta."

Steve Dennis permutates us through the possible ways that the PGA Tour's finest can get to East Lake. Reading the latest breakdown of FedEd Cup scenarios, all I could think was, it sure is amazing what hard work it is to keep the rich guys rich! And then somehow I accidentally landed at Wikipedia's page devoted to defining Ponzi scheme. Just a coincidence.


“There’s a lot riding on (Michelle) getting her card and getting to play in more than her customary eight events" offers two nice primers for those hoping to target some Q-school players to watch (men here, women here). Both schools are in session Wednesday.

Beth Ann Baldry focuses on the biggest Q-school story of '08, Michelle Wie and reports that will have live scoring for the first time.


Finchem's Compensation Drops; Explains BMW 5 Series Brochure On Desk

Jon Show reports:

Tim Finchem received $4.8 million in compensation in 2007 as the commissioner of the PGA Tour, a drop of about $400,000 from the previous year. His income included $1.3 million in salary, $3.2 million in bonuses and another $240,000 in benefits.

The year-to-year drop was due to an additional bonus Finchem received in 2006 for “extraordinary service in 2005,” said Ty Votaw, executive vice president of communications and international affairs. The commissioner made $4.2 million in 2005.

Extraordinary service? Was that for coming up with the FedEx Cup, Version 1? The Casey Martin legal bills were finally not on the balance sheet?

Here are the real eye-openers:

According to the PGA Tour’s tax forms, its executive vice presidents and co-chief operating officers, Ed Moorhouse and Charlie Zink, were the next highest-paid officers at $1.6 million and $1.5 million, respectively. Chief Marketing Officer Tom Wade and Chief Financial Officer Ron Price brought in about $1 million apiece. Rick George, executive vice president of championship management and president of the Champions Tour, made $628,122. Bill Calfee, president of the Nationwide Tour, made $592,992.

Rick would have been 31st on the '07 Champions money list whereas Tim would have landed 3rd on the PGA Tour list. Back to Q-School for you Rick!

Ed and Charlie would have been just outside the top 50 on the PGA Tour money list and Bill, congrats, you are the leading money winner on the Nationwide Tour by $150,000. Way to go!


“Tiger Woods is successful, competitive, and popular. And that’s just not us.”

Light fun at the expense of the Tiger-Buick break up: Conan O'Brien reprinted at the NY Times laugh line blog, followed by Bob Smiley at the Fore Right blog.



PGA Tour Par 4 Performance

Reader Ken emailed a list detailing the number of players finishing a PGA Tour season under par on par-4s. You can view the 2008 list here, where John Huston was the only player in 2008 to finish in red numbers for the season.

I've left Ken's notes in about major equipment advances as they might relate to performance. I'd love to hear what everyone thinks of the surprising trend in recent years. Naturally, I'd look to stifling course setup ploys as the number one culprit, but if I'm not mistaken Ken is implying that performance has been impacted by technology. He also notes that Tiger was -8 on par 4s this year in his 8 events. And note that in 2000 Tiger was -71 on par-4s, and Steve Flesch was second at -70!

1983 - 1 - TM Tour Burner introduced

1984 - 1

1985 - 4

1986 - 2

1987 - 11 - Non-wound ball wins first major (Tour Edition)

1988 - 22 –first time metal drivers outnumber wood

1989 – 7 - Callaway introduces S2H2 metalwoods

1990 - 5

1991 - 12 - Big Bertha introduced

1992 - 18 - Titleist Professional introduced

1993 - 14

1994- 15

1995 – 13 - Great Big Bertha introduced

1996 – 8 - multilayer balls and urethane cover introduced

1997 – 4 - Biggest Big Bertha introduced

1998 - 6

1999 - 8

2000 – 27 - Pro V1 introduced, Tiger switches to Nike ball

2001 – 37 - Pro V1 takes tours by storm

2002 – 17

2003 - 12

2004 - 8

2005 - 7

2006 - 5

2007 - 5

2008 - 1


“If you’re the consumer, there are more courses to play on for cheaper."

There's some nice reporting in two recent pieces on how the economic collapse may impact club life. First, John Paul Newport in the Wall Street Journal:

Every case is different and complicated. But the very fact that so many clubs and their beleaguered boards and owners are having such discussions -- walkaway risk, indeed! -- is a sign of how much the fundamentals of private golf clubs and country clubs have changed. It used to be that belonging to a private club was the pinnacle of achievement. If you made partner or were promoted to vice president, joining "the club" was a perk. In small or medium-size cities, club dining was often the best in town, the spa was the only one around and there were no premium daily-fee golf options. My late father-in-law, a doctor in Ohio, played golf every Thursday afternoon and hung out at his club big parts of Saturday and Sunday.

That model still holds for particular clubs in particular places for particular people, like well-off retirees. But for the younger generation of club members, things are different. Neither spouse in a two-income family with children has the time or inclination to while away weekends at the club. When I asked Doug Steffen, the director of golf at Baltusrol in Springfield, N.J., to describe the biggest change in club life during his 13-year tenure there, he said, "That's easy to answer. The club used to be the focal point of social life for our members, but now it's just one among many other activities they are involved with."

And this from Ben Smith in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Rick Burton, the director of golf at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, said there’s been no noticeable decline in the number of rounds played at the course.

But sales in the golf shop and restaurant declined somewhat, and a major corporate Christmas party booked at the club was canceled recently, Burton said.

“Our bookings for the spring are good,” Burton said. “Whether that’s because people are optimistic things will turn around by then, I don’t know.”

The effect of the economic downturn has been more pronounced at East Lake’s public course next door, the golf director said.

Revenues are down 15 percent at Charlie Yates Golf Course, said Burton, who’s contemplating cutting part-time staff to help make up for the shortfall.

Crouse said the economic downturn isn’t all bad news.

“For golf owners, it’s the worst time,” said Crouse. “If you’re the consumer, there are more courses to play on for cheaper.

“If you’re the golf course player there are now clubs you can join that once cost $20,000 that now cost $2,000,” Crouse said.


Choi's Skins Win Deprives World Of Yet Another Unwanted Stephen Ames Appearance

I was so hoping to see Ames return for a fourth title defense. Now, if K.J. could just find a way to prevent Andy North from returning to the broadcast booth, they might have something worth watching. 


Only One Day Of Skins Game Remains Until Next Year

Just one more day of avoiding the television for fear of hearing why it is that Stephen Ames is still playing. Unless of course he wins the thing again. Actually, I believe a fourth straight Ames win kicks in a PGA Tour clause requiring immediate termination of the event.



“We have a reasonable understanding of the effect of the dimples and the way they change local air -flow distribution around the ball"


"He trudged wearily to the next tee with nary a flicker of emotion."

John Huggan following John Daly in Australia:

Two days ago, Daly missed the cut – what a shock – at Huntingdale. Rounds of 76 and 73 added up to a 149 total that was four shots too many. His putting was certifiably awful but, as always, he played with a refreshing speed that made one think that he is either a) a welcome throwback to a time when a round of golf in a professional tournament did not closely resemble a death march or b) not that bothered really.

One hole seemed to sum up Daly's current attitude to the game that should have made him a wealthy man. On the 440-yard 11th hole on Friday, he unleashed a mighty drive that, downwind, travelled all of 380 yards. One of his playing companions, former Amateur champion Mikko Ilonen, hit a huge block that led to him losing his ball.

The Finn played three off the tee before hitting a lovely pitch to within inches of the cup. Daly casually flipped a half wedge to maybe 30 feet, then – you guessed it – three-putted to match Ilonen's hard-working bogey. He trudged wearily to the next tee with nary a flicker of emotion.


You Have This To Be Thankful For... are not Billy Mayfair paying $50,000 bill for a wedding cake.

Kathy Shayna Schocket reports all of the embarassing comforting details. Thanks to reader Tom for spotting this.

While the 300 guests were scrambling Saturday to snap pictures of the newlyweds, they also couldn't get enough of "Homer Simpson" and his $50,000 date.

Guests were awed by Mayfair and Proctor's elaborately produced dramatic tango performance in sparkling custom outfits, the InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa's five-course meal with a tableside choice of gourmet entrees and that other pair in attendance, wedding cakes.

One was a white, ornately British, 10-tier cake with white royal icing decor. It took two months to "bake." The culinary creation was elegantly decorated with imported crystal globes custom made to match the chandeliers hanging in the Montelucia ballroom.

The other, was a 100-pound chocolate delight of more than 40 layers in the likeness of Homer Simpson, one of Mayfair's favorite characters. Not even Homer, or wedding planner Karen Doan of Karen Doan Events is saying how much the second cake, or the entire wedding cost.

Tami, like many brides, wanted her cake to reflect the joy of their union. And for Mayfair, the fancy affair was symbolic of sorts also to celebrate his surviving testicular cancer after his surgery at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea in 2006.

Happy Thanksgiving!


"The Skins is tired and stale."

Since the Skins Game will never be able to afford to keep up with today's purses and they won't let players throw their own money in the pot to liven things up (not that they would!), John Strege comes up with the best solution I've read yet to resurrect the event. I'm not sure how the NCAA would feel about it, but the Brand Lady will love it.


"Parts of the bossman's answer were tougher to track than a balata ball bouncing through a blacktop parking lot."

A day after the unveiling of the latest FedEx Cup, Steve Elling has been thinking about the bizarre notion that a player can skip a playoff event and still win the thing. It's a FedEx Cup tradition, Steve. Come on!

As he unveiled the new points program Tuesday night, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was innocently asked whether players would be required to make all four starts in order to take home the richest bonus in golf. Even for a spin-control artiste, parts of the bossman's answer were tougher to track than a balata ball bouncing through a blacktop parking lot.

"I wouldn't say it can't happen, but I think the incentives are there that it's more and more important as you go on," Finchem said of the Cup schedule. "So, yeah, you need to play. Of course, our role is to put the best product out there, and hope that players believe in it and want to take advantage of it, and I think that's what we'll see in '09."

Need is a relative term, as it turns out.


"So for all those reasons, we stuck with the basic structure."

I joined the hastily arranged Tim Finchem conference call to hear about the latest FedEx Cup iteration. Now, before we get to the remarks and commentary, I have to say I was prepared to ask the Commissioner a question. But I just couldn't shake myself out of the deep trance he lulled me. Frankly, I don't know how all of the VP's down in PV get through staff meetings. I had to take a 20 minute siesta as soon as they said goodbye.

Anyway, there wasn't much worth reading from his give and take, though it was wonderful to hear the slight pause before remembering to call it The Tour Championship...presented by Coca Cola.

Doug Ferguson asked about the shootout concepts. After a droning on a bit, the Commish said:

So you once we figured out ways to accomplish that, we were not persuaded by moving further to rebuild something we thought was working. We had a great year in '07 and a good year in '08.


So that said, as you look at some of the things that you're referring to, also our concern was that most of them went in the direction of taking away the value of what happens all during the year and the playoffs.

We still like the basic concept that you still have a home-field advantage if you, at the top coming out of the regular season, you carry a bit of a home-field advantage into the playoffs. If you play well enough to keep that, you have a home-field advantage going in.

Ah, as a conoisseur of euphemisms, this had to rank as a favorite. Padding and gerrymandering points to "protect" the season long race is just a matter of protecting that home-field advantage. Got to hand it to the Commish, that's a clever one.

The Angels sure wish home-field advantage got them to the World Series this year without having to work too hard!


Also, the basic premise that something this important should be decided over 72 holes and not a shootout.

Whoa there...something this important? It's not a major, it's entertainment. I guess importance trumps fun, yet again.

We had a match play interest, and we liked the 72-hole format, and we liked the idea of making Atlanta and building it and continuing to build it into something very special. So for all those reasons, we stuck with the basic structure.

Until next year after another ratings dud.

As for the reaction from scribblers who weren't comatose from the call, Bob Harig covers the failure of the shootout concept to take hold:

The tour is into rewarding players for their body of work over the course of the year. And those in charge couldn't quite stomach the idea of a fluky finish deciding who gets $10 million.

"There were a lot of concerns with that,'' said PGA Tour veteran Tom Pernice, a member of the tour's Players Advisory Council. "Guys might only be worried about getting into the Tour Championship and not moving up. They could skip the playoffs.''

I'm betting they still will. It's just not that important to the big boys.

because as Ferguson notes in his AP story, there's still a typical-Tiger-year loophole:

Even with the change, Woods could have the kind of year he had in 2007 - five wins and a major before the playoffs - and still skip the opening event without doing too much damage to his chances of winning the FedEx Cup.

Steve Elling offers a few "first blush" comments and raises this vital point about field size.

First blush: Short-field events are risky and never seem to deliver the crowds and buzz of full-sized tournaments. NASCAR stages its Sprint Cup events within full-field races in the fall, keeping track of its 12-driver Sprint points on the side, but tour players seem to think culled fields is more compelling. Again, the tour could track FedEx Cup points within more interesting full-field formats, but nobody wants to hear it.

No Steve, something this important should be played by as few people as possible!


"Nick was in a world of his own"

Lewine Mair's on Nick Faldo's desire to captain the European Ryder Cup Team again:

It was on the day prior to the Hong Kong Open that Faldo said he was missing the buzz and missing his men. "We all got along well," he said. At the time of the match, he had described his team as a 36-strong affair taking in the 12 players, their partners and their caddies.

Some of those "team" members who were on duty in Hong Kong have suggested that he was showing no signs of missing them. He barely acknowledged a couple of the caddies, and did not have too much time for Miguel Angel Jimenez either. Apparently, Jimenez was the recipient of a "Hello!" followed by the briefest of enquiries as to his health. "Nick was in a world of his own," said Jimenez.


"Torrey Pines became the USGA's finest hour, a slam-dunk triumph with a twist of irony for an organization criticized for its old-world mentality."

I don't know if having been blessed to have seen all but one hole in person or if was John Hawkins doing such a superb job, but I'm leaning toward the latter for the sheer joy I found in reading his Tiger-Rocco-Torrey story for Golf World's Newsmakers issue.

The clippings below are for my little archives here just in case the story were to disappear. But just read the whole thing, I suspect you'll savor it.

In a large part because it stuck to the 18-hole format, Torrey Pines became the USGA's finest hour, a slam-dunk triumph with a twist of irony for an organization criticized for its old-world mentality. Woods-Mediate was an extended-play encore with everything on the line, a fifth round that turned a superb tournament into one for the ages.

"Having done this for 20 years, I can say that it was my favorite broadcasting day," says NBC on-course analyst Mark Rolfing. "I've done a lot of good ones, but that day was special. The playoff had everything. It was unlike anything I've ever experienced." The sharp turns in momentum gave it character and amplified the crescendo effect."


On the way to her departure gate, Joan Fay ran into a bunch of NBC employees also flying back to New York but on a different airline. "They asked why she wasn't on their flight," David says. "Joan tells them, 'I'm on JetBlue, and they've got TVs in every seat.' All at once, the NBC people jump up and make a mad dash for the JetBlue ticket counter. Her flight went from almost empty to absolutely booked."

The PGA Tour arranged for a charter from San Diego to Hartford, site of the Travelers Championship that week. About 30 players were on the flight, plus their wives, kids and a few caddies. "We all had TVs, and the timing was pretty much perfect," says Lee Janzen. "We took off around 8:30, and a half-hour later, the playoff started. It seemed like everybody on the plane was pulling for Rocco."

And the still astounding numbers...

It was 2:30 p.m. on the East Coast, 11:30 a.m. local time, and the entire country, or so it seemed, had stopped to watch a golf tournament. The USGA offered live streaming video of the playoff on its website -- the full-day audience of 2.3 million viewers and 615,000 concurrent streams are by far the largest numbers ever generated by a sporting event on the Internet.

"The fact that it was a Monday and people had to work obviously helped," Davis says. "We were told it actually slowed down Internet service worldwide in terms of [available] bandwidth."

ESPN's two hours of coverage produced a rating of 4.2, which was 35 percent higher than the previous record for a golf tournament shown on cable. NBC, meanwhile, generated a whopping 7.6/20 share with its telecast of the back nine, a 90-percent increase over the 2001 U.S. Open playoff between Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks.


PGA Tour Finalizes FedEx Cup Revisions...

...And let me tell you, I can't wait for next year's "tweaking" debate.

Actually, this initial release contains no mention of bloated points for regular season major wins to ensure that the major winners are at East Lake. That rumored "tweak" was going to be a huge credibility killer. As were some of the discussed field reductions, which are now more sensible, particularly with only 125 making it to the "playoffs."

It appears that the winner will be decided those last four days at East Lake and that you will have to play decently in at least two of the playoff events to have a chance of winning. But I still say an unpredictable, final day shootout would have been great fu...ah forget it...there I go again with that fun word!

PGA TOUR Policy Board Approves Modifications to FedExCup Structure
Dates finalized for THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL – November 25, 2008--The PGA TOUR Policy Board has ratified recommended changes to the structure of the FedExCup competition that guarantee the FedExCup champion will be determined at the culminating Playoff event, THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. These changes impact both the Regular Season and the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.

During a special teleconference held today, the Board also approved scheduling the 2009 TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola for the week of Sept. 21-27, creating a one-week separation from the penultimate Playoff event, the BMW Championship (Sept. 7-13).

Key among the approved FedExCup changes for 2009 are:

Shifting the points reset from the beginning of the Playoffs to after the BMW Championship, which means points earned during the PGA TOUR Regular Season will be carried through the first three Playoff events
Quintupling points awarded at Playoff tournaments relative to Regular Season tournaments

Changing the field size of the Playoff events to 125 at The Barclays, 100 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, 70 at the BMW Championship and 30 at THE TOUR Championship; they previously were 144, 120, 70 and 30
Streamlining the points structure for ease of understanding

“At the conclusion of this year’s FedExCup, we knew we had to reevaluate the current structure and consider the best ways to maintain interest and excitement throughout the Playoffs,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “With the changes we have announced today, we believe we have a formula that will deliver what our players, fans, tournaments, sponsors and television partners want and expect from the FedExCup.”

The reset ensures a real shootout at THE TOUR Championship as all 30 players in the field will have a mathematical chance of winning the FedExCup with a victory at East Lake Golf Club. A win by any of the top 5 seeds will guarantee the FedExCup title outright while seeds 6-10 will have an excellent chance of capturing the title with a victory.

“By moving the reset to after the BMW Championship, the Regular Season not only will determine who qualifies for the Playoffs, it also will play a vital role in determining who advances to THE TOUR Championship,” Finchem said. “These structural changes, combined with the one-week break between the BMW Championship and THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola, will assure heightened drama and excitement as we progress through the Regular Season and into the Playoffs.”

This new structure rewards the top performers during the PGA TOUR Regular Season and those who excel during the Playoffs. By quintupling the points for Playoff events, more dramatic moves toward the top of the standings are possible during the first three events, thus determining who is in best position to challenge for the FedExCup at THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola.

The points structure also has been simplified by significantly reducing the number of points awarded at tournaments and at the reset. Regular Season events will be worth 500 points to the winner with modest differences in certain events, including the major championships and THE PLAYERS Championship. Playoff events will award 2,500 points for a victory. The reset will award 2,500 points to the No. 1 seed heading into THE TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. (See attached charts for complete points distribution.)

In regard to the remainder of the 2009 schedule, Finchem said the Fall Series is expected to be announced within the next two weeks.


"I enjoy playing where single-digits is a good winning score."

Carlos Monarrez wonders if the post-Buick Tiger will return to Warwick Hills (no!) and points out this comment from a few years ago:

After Woods' last Buick victory, he said he liked the traditional tree-lined layout at Warwick Hills and how it set up for his game. But Woods also admitted he was not a fan of the low-scoring nature of the event.

"As far as enjoying this type of golf tournament, no, it's not my favorite," Woods said then. "If you look at my tournament schedule, I usually don't play events that are like this. I enjoy playing where single-digits is a good winning score. ... Here, you will get run over with spike marks all over your back."

I wonder if such a remark about single-digits drove the PGA Tour to accentuate the higher-rough, old school U.S. Open course setup mentality?

Naw...not possible.