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It doesn't seem as glamorous to me as the Crosby I used to watch on TV. A lot of the old movie stars and amateur regulars are no longer around. They've been replaced by briefcases, friends and neighbors of briefcases, and celebrities like Bumpy Weems, a popular comedian, who about as funny to me as a terrorist with a gun pointed at my head.
DAN JENKINS as Bobby Joe Grooves

 

    

Wednesday
Aug132008

"Tour pros can be crybabies from time to time when it comes to how they earn their living, but once in a while their tears are justified."

Bill Fields listens to all sides in the Oakland Hills course setup debate and draws his own conclusion, but in the process he notes a few things that require consideration.

This first item doesn't shock me so much as put into perspective how much more refined and sophisticated the USGA's approach to course setup has become in just the last three years.

The collegians in the 2002 Amateur tore up the South course in qualifying, averaging 71.5 strokes. Bill Haas, an All-American at Wake Forest at the time, drove it so far on the 462-yard 18th hole that he had a 9-iron to the green in his qualifying round, which he hit to four feet and made the birdie putt to be the medalist at five-under 135. Haas shot a front-nine 28 in his quarterfinal match, and Oakland Hills members and USGA officials--who said they had set up the course as a U.S. Open and believed 12- to 15-under would have won--were aghast. "It's very frustrating," Tom Meeks, then the USGA senior director of rules and competitions, told Golf World amid the birdie barrage. "All we can do is narrow the fairways and add fairway bunkers."
Yikes.

I'm not sure I buy this from Rees Jones, but either way, it speaks to the absurdity of 25-yard wide landing areas on a course with such fascinating and strategic green complexes.
"What Oakland Hills is doing, because the green complexes are so challenging, is putting the driver in their hands because they have to get as close to the green [as they can] to access the hole location," Jones said. "They know if they lay up off the tee and they have a 40-foot putt, there is a good chance they are going to three-putt. It's putting a little more pressure on them off the tee. The fairways are probably averaging 25 or 26 yards wide. For the Ryder Cup [in 2004], they averaged 32 yards wide. They're trying to reward accuracy and take away the bombers' advantage."
Rewarding accuracy or the ability to hit it the straightest down an imaginary center line? There is a huge difference.

Fields quotes Kerry Haigh on the subject of the course baking out in the sunny, dry conditions:
"The greens were 11½ to 12 [on the Stimpmeter] in the morning. They were actually slower than they were in the [2004] Ryder Cup. The winds and the dry air are what [affected them]. We syringed the greens and put a little bit [of water] on, and the aim was to make the course play similar both days, as it always is. You don't want to go too far the other way [watering the greens]. It's always a bit of a dicey game. Once everyone has had a morning and afternoon tee time, you can make an adjustment, which is more reasonable and fair than between Thursday and Friday."
Haigh has received many compliments during his tenure about how fair his setups are, but last week the critiques were not all so friendly. "You try and do what you think is right, and sometimes it doesn't always work out," he said Sunday evening. "It's not through lack of trying or the aim of how you wanted it to play. Mother Nature usually has an effect on that."
Here's what I'm still struggling with: something is wrong when a golf course goes over the edge in somewhat dry, somewhat warm breezes with healthy turf. It usually means the green speeds were too fast for the contours before the weather changed, and also likely means the fairway widths were too narrow for any wind at all.

Thankfully though, the rains came and as Fields concludes:
It sure was more fun to watch Harrington and Garcia stuff their tee shots tight on No. 17 Sunday than to see Vijay Singh putt his ball off the ninth green Friday afternoon. Tour pros can be crybabies from time to time when it comes to how they earn their living, but once in a while their tears are justified.

Wednesday
Aug132008

"After missing and putting out, Garcia gave Harrington the quickest of handshakes, Woods/Mickelson style..."

Golf World's Jaime Diaz dissects Sergio's PGA Championship mistakes and offers this observation of note:

Garcia's profound disappointment was probably best registered by a complete lack of acknowledgement for the putt that beat him. As Harrington celebrated, the Spaniard stayed in a crouch ostensibly reading the green. After missing and putting out, Garcia gave Harrington the quickest of handshakes, Woods/Mickelson style, telling because Garcia would later give fellow runner-up Ben Curtis a warm hug. The two Europeans clearly have a cool relationship, chilled considerably by the desperate hours at Carnoustie. There, after Harrington hit his drive on the 72nd into the Barry Burn, he passed a perhaps inappropriately smiling Garcia (who was playing the 71st hole) on a bridge. "I was in no mood to smile," Harrington said later. Then on the final hole of the playoff -- again the trouble-laden 18th -- Harrington was preparing to address his tee shot with a two-stroke lead when he found it necessary to ask Garcia to give him more room.
Let's hope the warm chemistry continues at Valhalla!
Wednesday
Aug132008

"I think I get red-flagged by the the USGA because I'm always trying to walk that fine line."

I'm not sure if this is an appeal to the putter collectors and a way to get attention, but PGATour.com's Mike McCallister talks to Scotty Cameron about his putters and gets these two interesting quotes:

"I think I get red-flagged by the the USGA because I'm always trying to walk that fine line. I think if you're to buy my products, you want me to be on the edge, you want me to be barely legal. But if I'm well within the zone, then it's like we're not stretching the limits enough."
And...
"People say there's no arc in the putter stroke. Well, is there an arc in a golf swing? Of course there is. ... There is an arc in the putter stroke. I wish there wasn't. But there is -- it comes from the lie angle of the shaft. The USGA says its must be at least 10 percent, not straight up and down. With that angle, there must be an arc. ... I wish we could putt between our legs, 90 degrees, square to square. But the USGA says we can't putt between our legs, so I design putters to fit those arcs so that it becomes almost effortless for the putter."
Tuesday
Aug122008

"There's just so much going for us here, and it starts with the course."

Great to see the positive early reviews on Sedgefield, new host of the Greensboro event and a Donald Ross design restored by Kris Spence.

Even more remarkable was Robert Bell getting Lee Janzen to talk. I had heard the two-time U.S. Open champion was an architecture aficionado from Rocco Mediate. So Tuesday of U.S. Open week I went up to him while he was cleaning a club during a practice range session, introduced myself, and asked if I could ask him a couple of quick questions about the setup for a Golf World story. I was told simply, no and he went back to cleaning his grooves. Then I asked nicely if perhaps I could get him after his practice session, and was told no again. Back to cleaning that club.  I don't know, maybe Grounds For Golf offended him?

Anyway, congrats Robert Bell for getting all of this. Then again, it was a Monday pro-am, but still, most admirable.

"A lot of old courses are modified where they take out the mowing patterns and let the bunkers grow over through the years, but this ... this is something different," Janzen said. "It's like I took a step back in time and I'm seeing what Donald Ross saw all those years back."

Such high praise is exactly what Wyndham officials were hoping to hear when they rolled the dice earlier this year and moved Greensboro's golf tournament from Forest Oaks to Sedgefield. Greensboro businessman Bobby Long, chairman of the foundation that runs the Wyndham, is hoping the move across town will help the struggling tournament gain some clout on the PGA Tour.

"We're really counting on the word getting out about this place," said Long, who, along with Jim Melvin, Wyndham CEO Steve Holmes, and Sedgefield president Joe DePasquale, played with Daly on Monday.

"There's just so much going for us here, and it starts with the course." Janzen said.

The course, designed by Ross in 1925 and built a year later, is not like the typical tour site.

"The green complexes are amazing," said Janzen, referring to the heavily undulated greens surrounded by the shaved collection areas. There's not one hole out here that's like another. You go to a lot of modern courses and play a hole and it reminds you of a hole earlier on the course. Here, each hole is unique."
Tuesday
Aug122008

"I question whether we can ever really be confrontational with the USGA."

In their Golf World recap of the USGA and R&A groove announcement, E. Michael Johnson and Mike Stachura review the story and offer this stunning statement from Taylor Made's Benoit Vincent.

 "The USGA cannot be the center of our attention," said Vincent. "For any company now to engage would be a major distraction. Plus you know that the day you start to be really confrontational with the USGA, the next 20 rules they put together are going to feel way harsher. I question whether we can ever really be confrontational with the USGA."

Tuesday
Aug122008

"This redesign by Mr. Jones needs to be redesigned"

In considering how the setup impacted the PGA Championship, we get a couple of different perspectives. Carlos Monarrez says the high scores maintained the Monster's place in the game and makes this prediction, apparently having not heard that Oakmont and Erin Hills are likely the next to U.S. Open venues.

As far as a regular men's major, the earliest spot open in the rotation is the 2014 PGA Championship or the 2016 U.S. Open. If I were a betting man, I would think the '16 Open would be a great fit for Oakland Hills.
Oakland Hills -- essentially at the behest of former the USGA's former competitions director -- went through a renovation and proved itself more than capable of hosting a U.S. Open. It hosted the 2002 U.S. Amateur, which is generally a requisite before getting an Open. And 2016 will mark the 20-year anniversary of Oakland Hills' last Open as well as the centennial anniversary of the club.
So nice to know Tom Meeks was recommending renovations.

Bob Verdi writes about the setup for Golf World and offers this from Steve Elkington:
Elkington is allergic to grass, and the greens at Riviera CC in '95 were as brown as a UPS truck. "This redesign by Mr. Jones needs to be redesigned," quoth Elkington. "It's way too hard. Some of what went on out there with the setup made no sense. I'm a big PGA of America guy, but this week, it was like things happened too fast for them, and they lost control of an event where players are historically allowed to play."
Tuesday
Aug122008

Woods Makes Startling Admission: He Actually Watched The PGA

Mark Lamport-Stokes reports on Tiger's latest web site letter, where he reveals that he's not planning to swing a club until after the new year.

"As far as swinging a club, that's not going to happen until next year," Woods said in his monthly newsletter on Tuesday. "I just don't have a choice.
"We simply don't know what type of swelling there would be or if there would be any residual effects the next day once you start wheeling and dealing on the knee. Everyone's body reacts differently. I could putt right now but I'm not going to do it."

And the remote is getting a workout:

While spending quality time at home with his Swedish wife Elin and young daughter Sam Alexis, Woods has been watching television coverage of the Olympic Games.
He also watched last week's U.S. PGA Championship at Oakland Hills where Ireland's Padraig Harrington won his second successive major title.
Monday
Aug112008

Final PGA Championship Clippings

It's fascinating to see a change in media assessments of a tournament's entertainment value and the influence of a course setup. It wasn't long ago that a U.S. Open setup would have been widely praised for putting the flatbellies in their place and that players are spoiled brats. But after so many of these extra narrow, over-ripe setups driven by a desire to pump up scores, the review are pretty consistently negative.

Rob Parker in the Detroit News:

First, there was no Tiger Woods, a blow to any event when the best golfer on the planet can't play because of knee surgery.
Then, the rains came and went, and came and went. For sure, it felt like monsoon season, not August in Michigan. For the most part, fans were more occupied trying to dodge rain drops than watching nifty shots.
Those things, plus the weak economy in these parts, also kept the crowds down. No matter what attendance numbers were announced, it just didn't feel like a major. There was more buzz about the mayoral mess in Detroit than the play on the course.
Dick Friedman at golf.com analyzes the Tiger effect on ratings, looks at several anecdotal signs of a rough patch for the game and notes that the PGA was a Nielsen disaster:
Harrington's thrilling victory on Sunday at Oakland Hills, the overnight rating for the PGA Championship was 3.0, down 55% from last year's final round at Southern Hills — an event won by (surely you recall) Woods.
Mark Whicker was another member of the media who was glad it rained to save the setup.
So the '08 PGA lived up to the texture of the ones that preceded it. But the trend of "Tiger-proofing" golf courses has turned into "birdie-proofing," without slowing Woods a bit.
The drill is familiar. Length the courses and keep par at 70. The 18th hole, a 498-yard par-4 with a landing area that could barely accommodate a model airplane, played to a score of nearly 4.8.
But the mania for artificial length hasn't made these tournaments better.
Alan Shipnuck highlights Cameron Morfit's talk with Steve Flesch and hits at this excellent point that came up a few times during the PGA: you think you can grow the game with course setups like this? Think again...
Flesch, a thoughtful member of the PGA Tour's player advisory council, expressed more far-reaching concerns for a pricey leisure sport that during this economic downturn is seeing more courses close than open and the number of participants and rounds played continue to fall nationally. He didn't quite accuse this PGA Championship of killing golf, but he came close. "If we're worried about attracting people to come play, if they see how miserable we are out there, why would they go, 'I want to play that game!'?" Flesch told Golf.com's Cameron Morfit. "It's fun to watch guys make birdies. They smile. The PGA is committed to growing the game; is this how they want golf portrayed?
"The thing that bums me out is I don't know how many of our top 15, 20 guys got chased out of here this weekend. Do you think that's the leaderboard the PGA of America wants up there when they're fighting the Olympics? How are ratings going to be this weekend? People are going to look at Charlie Wi, myself — I'm not saying anybody doesn't deserve to be up there, but people are going to turn around and go, 'Well I've never heard of any of these guys, let's see what's going on with the Olympics.' The PGA has got to be careful. They're getting what they're asking for, is what I'm saying."
And finally, I missed it on the telecast but Tony Pioppi posts Peter Kostis' telecast remark about the narrowness of Oakland Hills. Kostis, on Rees Jones's work there:
"He didn't give you much option in the way you can play the golf course." Then later Kostis said something like, "he's taken away a lot of angles Donald Ross intended."
Monday
Aug112008

"I'm really glad I don't have to pick four players this morning"

Jack Nicklaus apparently thinks the U.S. can win the Ryder Cup, but Steve Elling isn't so sure after listening to Paul Azinger talk about how relieved he was not have to make his four Captain's picks Monday.

He's just postponing the pain, pushing back his root canal. The end of the American bench isn't any deeper than it was the last time around, when J.J. Henry and Vaughn Taylor were sent abroad to absorb a red, white and blue striping. In the two years since the 2006 matches, those two have six combined top 10 finishes.
The next wave of American possibles, 20-something players who entered the week in the top 16 in points, such as J.B. Holmes, Sean O'Hair, D.J. Trahan and Brandt Snedeker -- all in position to steal an automatic roster spot -- were summarily chewed up by the Oakland Hill Monster.
On the two weekend rounds, when the course softened and Harrington and Garcia were a combined 11 under, none of the four broke par. In fact, of the players in the mix for a spot on the U.S. roster, only Curtis broke par on the weekend. He was 1 under.
As for the old blood, the five players with Ryder experience who earned spots on Sunday night have a dubious record. Justin Leonard and Kenny Perry have never won a Ryder match and Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink are a combined 18-29-10.
Bob Harig also considered Azinger's plight, and offers this ounce of optimism from the American captain:
"For the first time in a long time, Europe is going to have everything to lose in these matches," Azinger said. "It's usually the other way around. Even though they've won five of the last six, they just seem to come in as the underdog. I don't know how that works. This time I think it's clear that we are the underdogs going into these matches."
Monday
Aug112008

"USGA restrictions are hindering product innovation."

Adam Schupak reports that times are tough for the equipment industry and of course, it's mostly the USGA's fault...if you ask the manufacturers.

Retailers and analysts say consumer spending domestically has stalled over concerns about an economy wracked by foreclosures and soaring fuel prices. Adverse weather has limited rounds played in key areas, which also is affecting equipment sales, they say.
Another persistent complaint: USGA restrictions are hindering product innovation. In an analyst report on Callaway, Casey Alexander of New York-based Gilford Securities wrote: “The U.S. market looks like it could produce a year where equipment sales come in down 7 percent to 8 percent, which may not sound that bad until you judge it against 10 years of equipment sales that were plus or minus 2 percent regardless of what the economy was doing.”
At this point Schupak lists all of the ways the manufacturers have made things tougher on themselves:
Retailers also say they’re being hurt by shorter product life cycles. The growing practice of launching products in almost rapid-fire succession is conditioning consumers to wait, say six months, to buy a premium-priced driver because they know it will be marked down. That consumer behavior has become more pronounced during a sluggish economy.

Those darn consumers! Don't they know they exist to help each quarter's earnings? What is wrong with you people. Shop!

“That mindset has come back to bite us,” Marney says.

Monday
Aug112008

Obama Tees It Up

Gene Park and B.J. Reyes report on Presidential candidate Barrack Obama's round of golf in Hawaii, while local station KGMB has video footage of his swing. It needs work, but hey, he's been a little busy.

Over at WorldGolf.com, William Wolfrum has fun with Cokie Roberts (I know, easy pickings) and her suggestion that if Obama wants to appear more American, he'd be vacationing in Myrtle Beach instead of elitist, foreign soil like...Hawaii. (Yes, you have to watch the YouTube video to believe it.)

Sunday
Aug102008

Monday PGA Championship Clippings

I bring you good news!

We won't have to see a major at Oakland Hills and it's excruciatingly awful 18th hole anytime soon!

The USGA is going another direction with its Open venue selection. It's also hard to imagine them wanting to work with a club that likes the kind of narrow-fairway-lined-by-a-strip-of-pumped-up-rough-golf we just witnessed, and a club which still has not fixed the worst finishing hole in major championship golf. (All three members of the Jones clan have had a shot at it, and yet 18 still is goofy...actually, that explains everything with their family dynamic. It could be the only hole all three have worked on and it remains dysfunctional...coincidence? I think not.)

Anyway, so no U.S. Open anytime soon and the PGA is booked until 2016, except for an open date in 2014. However, I suspect that as long as the American auto industry remain$ in the dump$, the incentive to return is meager at best. It couldn't have helped that Verne Lundquist estimated the 15th hole gallery watching Ben Curtis to be about 150 in size!

So let's read about "the Monster" one last time for the forseeable future, starting with lede's covering Sunday's win by Padraig Harrington.

Vartan Kupelian
in the Detroit News:

The Walk of Champions has a new face. It belongs to Padraig Harrington. Oakland Hills Country Club doesn't. The South Course is still the South Course. It's still a monster.
Doug Ferguson's AP game story:
Padraig Harrington isn't interested in sentimental story lines that keep popping up at the majors. He's too busy winning them, and writing his name into the history books.
Larry Dorman in the New York Times:
Padraig Harrington of Ireland made more history than even he realized at Oakland Hills Country Club on Sunday when he snatched the 90th P.G.A. Championship from Sergio García’s grasp and refused to let go. Three weeks after his successful title defense of the British Open at Royal Birkdale, he became the first European in the modern era to win the British Open and P.G.A. Championship in succession, and the first to win the P.G.A. since Tommy Armour in 1930.
James Corrigan in the Independent:
Padraig Harrington denied Sergio Garcia his first major yet again last night in scenes so remarkably reminiscent of last year's Open. Just as at Carnoustie the Irishman with the manic eyes broke the little Spaniard's heart and just as at Carnoustie the difference between the pair was so small, while the contrast of fortunes was so great. For unbridled ecstasy see Harrington, for Garcia see bitter agony.
Lorne Rubenstein zeros in on the closing hole antics.
There was something surreal about what happened to Harrington during the final round, and what he made happen.
Clearly, tough questions about heart remain to be answered by a group hardly lacking in ability. "It's all about experience and getting into position to see what it feels like," said Faldo after watching the final-round retreat of his young compatriots at Augusta earlier this year. "But one bad shot at the wrong time can scare you. They are all young and they have to come back better prepared. Majors test every nerve ending in your body.
"They have to get rid of that voice of doubt in their minds. You need the self-confidence and the bottle. And you have to hit the millions of balls you have to hit to think you deserve success. Whether this group actually has it or not remains to be seen. They certainly have talent. And they are getting into position. Now it is down to their determination to succeed."
John Huggan considers the plight of England's finest, who really stunk it up this week.
He made a mistake by not making sure he laid up into the fairway out of the bunker that he hit from the 18th tee. But he caught a decent lie in the high rough and said that was a good break. Garcia also thought so.
“There's guys who get a little bit fortunate in majors,” Garcia said. “They manage to get things going their way. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened to me.
“That doesn't mean I'm not on the right track. I'm looking forward to the challenge. It's just a matter of time.”
AP's Larry Lage delivers notes on Phil Mickelson, Masters exemptions and explains what happened to J.B. Holmes on the first hole of the afternoon round.

The winner's press conference is here, the other transcripts here.

Sergio's post round chats are here and here. Uh, about No. 16...
Q. Is there any one particular shot you would like to have back again, one particular shot?
SERGIO GARCIA: Not really.
Q. Or is it more than one?
SERGIO GARCIA: No, I felt like -- I felt like I gave it my best. Obviously what I'm not going to do is get on the 16th hole and try to hit it 40 yards left of the green. I mean, that's not the way I play. I tried to put a good, solid swing to the middle of the green and hopefully it goes there. If it drifts a little bit, perfect; came out of it just a touch, and just went in the water.
But then I hit a great putt on 17. I don't know why it didn't break. It lipped out. And then 18's just a tough hole.
But no, I felt like I responded well and he was obviously very good on the back nine and things just happened his way.
Golfweek's summary of 18 notes includes some tough commentary on Sergio's post round press conference.

Matthew Rudy declares winners (Padraig) and losers (Sergio, J.B., and U.S. Ryder Cup team) and is also pretty tough on Sergio in particular, also not buying his post round remarks about fate not going his way.

Speaking of the Ryder Cup, here are the Americans who clinched spots, courtesy of PGA.com. Stop laughing Faldo.

Mark Lamport Stokes talks to Mike Weir about this year's majors.
"It seems like every year the majors are getting harder and harder," Weir told Reuters after carding a one-over-par 71 in Saturday's third round at the U.S. PGA Championship.
"This year we have played in a lot of wind. Almost every week, even a normal week on the Tour, we have played in a lot of wind.
"The Open championship had winds stronger than the others and then we've had it tough again this week as well," he added, initially referring to last month's British Open at Royal Birkdale.
"I would definitely say this year is the toughest set of majors I've ever played."
Doug Ferguson notes that it was a tough year and points out that Justin Leonard made all four cuts yet was never under par after any round.

Jaime Diaz says that course setup criticism missed the mark because Kerry Haigh "got fooled by Mother Nature" and the early week "perfect storm" of sunny, dry weather. That sounds familiar...oh right, that was the USGA's excuse at Shinnecock. That pesky, sunny, breezy, dry weather does have a way of exposing courses already too close to the edge, doesn't it?

(Which reminds me, nice call by Frank Nobilo on Golf Channel thanking Mother Nature for saving this tournament.)

On the tournament operations side of thing, Susan Whitall blogs at Detroit News about a lot of things, including the lousy food options Sunday.

And finally, Francis X. Donnelly (what's the X stand for?) reports on the merchandise pricing...
The PGA Golf Shop teemed with people milling about $6 ticket holders, $39.62 umbrellas, $70.75 jackets.
They also snatched up $61.32 handheld periscopes, $7 shot glasses, $95.28 polyester vests with fake-fur necks, and $750 paintings of the 18th hole.
So $750 for a painting of the 18th hole? That's expensive garage wall material.
Saturday
Aug092008

"So the great thing is that professional golf might just be on the edge of seeing the end of long rough."

Geoff Ogilvy pens a grooves-related guest column for Scotland on Sunday. After explaining the beauty of the flyer lie that might return with the 2010 elimination of U-grooves, Ogilvy warns:

My big concern is that, once the grooves change, a corresponding alteration must be made to the length of the rough. There will be no point in continuing with foot-long grass. When rough gets that long, it really doesn't matter what grooves we are using. So I'd like to see rough no longer than it presently is at Augusta National. The Masters in 2010 will be interesting in that the rough will actually become much more of a hazard than it has been since it was introduced.
So the great thing is that professional golf might just be on the edge of seeing the end of long rough.
That would be the best case scenario, but I'm not as optimistic. Just look at the PGA this week, where they were coming off one of their most successful events ever with incredibly short rough and turn around with a narrow fairway, high rough setup.

However, you have to think the U-groove announcement provides a face-saving opening for the folks at Augusta National to eliminate the second cut in 2010.

I loved this point, which gets at the silliness of the hoped for elimination of bomb and gouge play.
Anyway, I like the fact that the new grooves will at least make players think more about hitting the fairway. Which isn't that big an issue, actually. I'm trying to hit the ball as straight as I can and I'm sure every other pro is too.
Geoff and others are trying to hit it straight, but sometimes it's just kind of hard to hit a sloping 24-yard fairway, no matter how good you are. That's not bomb-and-gouge, it's lousy setup.
Saturday
Aug092008

Sunday PGA Championship Clippings

Greetings from Santa Monica where they will never host a PGA again (and where it was 76 with a nice sea breeze today, and going to be the same tomorrow and that's right, not a chance of a thunderstorm anytime soon).

Here's the Golfweek summary of what little did happen during Saturday's washout.

Gary Van Sickle sums up the weather situation...

Sunday's forecast, Haigh said, includes a chance of isolated showers but not a major weather front like Saturday. As for the likelihood of finishing on schedule Sunday night and not Monday? "We're optimistic," Haigh said. He added that officials did not consider moving third-round tee times earlier even though afternoon storms had been predicted.
Bill Fields explains how it's going to work Sunday. Barring any more delays. And if there's a playoff...oh let's not even say it.

In writing about Andres Romero's course record tying 65, Cameron Morfit notes...
Several pin placements were more accessible than they had been all week, which explains the rash of red numbers Saturday. Camilo Villegas was four under for his first 14 holes, two over total. Fredrik Jacobson, Graeme McDowell and Prayad Marksaeng were three under for the day when play was suspended.
Steve Elling details Romero's 40-spot jump heading into Sunday. That's 40 spots with several groups yet to tee off. Then again, they tee off with softer greens now, so maybe he'd like to start over as they would have in the old days?

The scribblers had nothing better to do so they jabbed at Kerry Haigh about the decision to not move up tee times Saturday despite the dire weather forecast, and also asked questions about several course setup issues.
Q. You mentioned adjustments that you made for today; Andres Romero shot 65. Could you enumerate exactly what the adjustments were? Was there extra watering on the greens? Did you top off the rough? What exactly did you do in preparation for round three?
KERRY HAIGH: We mowed all of the roughs Wednesday, and the plan was to look at it, see how it was coping and growing. Considered cutting the rough again Friday, and we did, in fact, do so in the fairway landing areas last night.
And we also put some water on the fairways, or some more -- a little more water than had done the previous night. And continued to syringe and put some water on the greens. Basically that was it.
And put the pins in collecting bowls. Sounds like a lot to me!

Jeff Babineau addressed the notion of the PGA making such adjustments and other topics in a series of entertaining thoughts filed because there wasn't much else to write about.
Let’s see, on the same week the U.S. Golf Association dials back grooves, the PGA of America turns its usual cuddly PGA Championship into a House of Horrors at Oakland Hills, playing on greens as hard as airport runways and growing rough thicker than seaweed. Hey, Oakland Hills is a tough track, but nobody expected this Bogeyfest.
The 12-handicapper watching at home could not break 110 at this place. So remind me, please, what game are we all trying to grow? Golf? Or bowling?
And for all of the people who reject my contention that setups like this, with rough coiffed like Donald Trump's hair and fairways narrowed to ridiculous widths, are driven by frustrated golfers, we get confirmation from the Open Doctor himself in a John Paul Newport column.
Be all this as it may, the major tournaments claim a more practical rationale for their murderous courses: to identify the best players. "You want a setup that is a total examination of their skills," Rees Jones told me by phone this week. Oakland Hills is very long and its par threes form one of the toughest sets in golf, he said, but the green complexes are the primary challenge. "From 30 feet, you may have a putt with a triple break," he said.
Fans like watching tournaments on hard courses, he suggested, because they can't relate to the 24-under-par totals the pros sometimes shoot at regular PGA Tour stops. "They like to see some ebb and flow, not all birdies, because that's more like the way they play the game," he said.
You know I was thinking the same thing watching the Olympic swimming tonight. I want to see a 400 meters where they have a wave-maker running to make things interesting. Maybe make the water 50 degrees and put spikes on the starting block so they can't get a good start. Now that's ebb and flow!

Lorne Rubenstein brings up something I've been waiting to see if anyone would point out: Oakland Hills is just too narrow to function as a proper strategic design.
Ross wanted the course to have width so that players could work their way into the fascinating greens by playing angles and to be able to use the slopes in and around them. Instead, the fairways are so narrow, and the rough so high, that the course tests only accuracy off the tee and the ability to hit high shots into the greens. The lack of width and the endless rough are far more insulting to Ross's design than the course's length. 
Finally, Steve Elling reports that David Feherty had another accident on his bike this week.
Feherty, an analyst for CBS Sports, was waiting to conduct a post-round interview with Lefty, leaning on an aluminum cane that he had purchased after getting clipped by a car for the second time this summer while bicycling.
Mickelson could not resist and deadpanned: "Have you considered finding another hobby?"
Saturday
Aug092008

"It's a travesty that the LPGA would allow this happen"

Thanks to reader Jim for this Michael McGarry story where he gets in touch with the former ShopRite Classic folks to see if they'll be getting the band back together now that the Ginn event has folded.

"It's a travesty that the LPGA would allow this happen," former Classic executive director Ruth Harrison said Friday. "We were there for 21 years, and (the LPGA) trashes our event for one with no track record."
At the time the decision was made, Classic officials questioned how long the Ginn Tribute would last.
"I would never wish for the LPGA to be unsuccessful," former Classic director of communications Rodger Gottlieb said Friday. "That wouldn't give us any degree of satisfaction. But this (the demise of the Ginn Tribute) validates a view we've had all along."
Bivens issued a written statement about Ginn on Friday. It did not mention the Classic.


Saturday
Aug092008

"He drove the ball really long and really straight and he took a long time to do it."

Whenever they do get on the course, it'll be interesting to see how CBS handles J.B. Holmes' pace of play. From Steve Elling's story today, quoting Chris DiMarco:

He drove the ball great, but he needs to pick the pace up," DiMarco said without prompting afterward. "He's really, really slow.
"He drove the ball really long and really straight and he took a long time to do it."
Holmes has additionally begun having his caddie help line him up over putts, a habit that is all the rage on the LPGA. It doesn't trim any time off his personal shot clock, either.
Earlier this year, Holmes was openly defiant about his glacial pace when in contention, saying that with $1 million on the line, he's not going to rush shots for anybody. Which isn't to suggest he isn't trying to improve, he said. Let's just say that, like one his driver shots, there's much acreage to be covered.
"You get in pressure situations in tournaments like majors and it takes longer," Holmes said. "I don't want to be that slow, but you need to make sure your mind is right."
Friday
Aug082008

Saturday PGA Championship Clippings

Everyone has to play the same course. I heard it a few times on the Golf Channel post game show.

But really, is that a satisfactory explanation of what's going on at Oakland Hills? Sure, the players have to say it because mentally, they have to deal with the course for two more rounds and most people view any kind of course criticism as a cause for celebration.

I don't see some key questions being asked, perhaps because everyone is asking more Ryder Cup questions than anything else. Still, there is some scrutiny of the course setup that has led to some huge scores.

Larry Dorman sets the table:

There was change to the golf course, where the P.G.A. of America took some pity on the beleaguered professionals and shortened the four massive par-three holes by a total of 71 yards off the card, and lopped another 87 yards off the par-four sixth, shortening it to a drivable 300 yards.
There were even some changes in attitude among the golfers, who were beaten to a pulp Thursday by a par-70 golf course that played to an average of 74.85 strokes, second highest of the year in relation to par, behind only Royal Birkdale’s 75.87 in the British Open.
But the more things change, well, you know the rest. Despite the yardage concessions, the field stroke average was exactly the same as the first round, and the 74.85 ranked as the most difficult for any second round this year.
John Huggan in The Guardian:
Robert Allenby has been perhaps most vehement in his condemnation of what many have construed as a dirty-tricks campaign by the tournament organisers. The Australian, a man not noted for his reticence, was scathing in his assessment of the course following his first round of 76.
At the end of the day it's what's fair and what's not fair," said the world's 29th best player. "The set-up here is lousy. It's not enjoyable to play. They have taken an OK golf course and turned it into a lot of crap. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.
Many other players have voiced concerns over the direction in which the authorities appear to be taking the game. "It's a strange year when the US Open, traditionally the toughest of the majors, is the most fun of the four," said the former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, neatly summing up the feelings of the majority.
And he offers a beautiful rant from agent Chubby Chandler, capped off by this:
"None of this makes any sense at all. I mean, the PGA of America spend millions of dollars on advertisements, then they go and make the game look ridiculous. The whole thing is nothing but a struggle for all concerned."
John Hopkins blasts the PGA of America over the rough maintenance practices and overall setup.
Why is this necessary? It is not as if a 7,395-yard golf course with a par of 70 and 135 bunkers and slopey greens that run at 12 on a Stimpmeter is not difficult enough already.
What a shame. They have completely taken any imagination out of the equation. A player goes into the rough and thinks: I've got to get out of here, I don't care how." With that he picks out his wedge, takes a backbreaking heave at the ball and hopes it moves 100 yards out on to the fairway.
Alan Bastable talks to Winged Foot super Matt Burrows about the practice of brushing the rough because Steve Cook at Oakland Hills "wasn't available for comment."

Carol Hopkins of The Oakland Press offers this anecdote:
The Davids' friend, Bruce Abbott of Bloomfield Hills, is volunteering as a marshal for the tournament.
"I think the hole I'm at -- 16 -- is the most difficult, it's the course's signature hole."
Abbott recalled watching how precisely officials monitor landscaping.
"This week, the PGA had a guy clipping the last blades of grass near the pond on 16," he said.
The trimming was done, he said, so balls landing on the pond's edge wouldn't be impeded from going into the water.
"They were toughening the course," said Abbott.
Abbott said greenskeepers also take a blower to the rough.
"They fluff it up and comb it away from the hole," he said.
Steve Elling quotes J.D. Holmes, Ian Poulter and the PGA of America's Joe Steranka.
But Holmes bashed away at the podium, too. By day's end, the second-round scoring average of 74.845 was the highest all year on tour relative to par.
"I think there should be some tough holes, but I don't think it should be, 'I hit a perfect shot and made double-bogey,'" said Holmes, a two-time PGA Tour winner.
"You've got long rough on every hole, is the frustrating part. When it's completely unfair on some holes, no, a major shouldn't be like that."
And...
"You are just trying not to bleed to death out there," said Ian Poulter, who finished second at the British Open three weeks ago. "It's like the PGA has sliced your throat on the first tee and you have to try and make it 'round to the 18th without dying.
"It is pretty frustrating when you stand on a par-3 with a 5-iron and are aiming for a bunker because you know that's the only way you can make par. That's pretty sad. I am very disappointed we are having to do that on such a great golf course."
And now for the official response.
"We set it up the same way," Steranka said. "The difference is, Oakland Hills is hard. It's one of the most recent classic courses that's been set up for today's modern player, and not just today's equipment."
This begs one key question: if Southern Hills was so successful with rough at 2 3/4 inches, why not replicate that at Oakland HIlls?

As for round two, Golfweek's all-you-need-to-know 18-point recap starts up with some enjoyable Monty moments following his 84.

Paul Mahoney writes about Monty's press exchange:
"Make that your last laugh, OK?" he snapped at an American reporter before agreeing to sift through the wreckage of his five-hour mauling at the hands of the Monster that is Oakland Hills. Monty, who finished tied for 149th at 20-over-par, said he did not realize the significance of the putt on 18. "I wasn't conscious of that score," he said. "I wasn't conscious of much, to be honest. That was the most difficult day I've had since my poor score at Muirfield in 2002. But today was as severe as any course I have ever played. Nothing like the course we [the European Ryder Cup team] did so well on four years ago."
John Hopkins paints an entirely different picture of Monty's post round appearance. The words courage and dignity are used!

Here's his courageous and dignified press conference transcript.

Steve Elling on leader J.B. Holmes's round:
Holmes averaged a jaw-dropping 337 yards in his measured drives on Friday, and it didn't begin to do the day justice. These are, indeed, his greatest hits:
 No. 2, par 5, 529 yards: Holmes vaporized his tee shot, leaving him an easy wedge to the green. He two-putted from 12 feet for a birdie.
o. 6, par 4, 300 yards: After the PGA moved up the tees to tempt players, Holmes took the bait and drove the green. He two-putted from 30 feet for a birdie.
No. 12, par 5, 593 yards: After crushing his drive, Holmes reached the green in two with, get this, an 8-iron from 217 yards. That's right, 217 yards.
No. 14, par 4, 488 yards: As it turned out, the rest was mere prelude. Holmes swatted his drive 401 yards and had 87 steps remaining. He flipped a wedge onto the green to record his third birdie in a row.
And finally, Paul Mahoney Doug Ferguson on the tees going up at No. 6 Friday:
One of the bogeys belonged to Mark Calcavecchia, who missed his tee shot to the right. That's not what caused the bogey, however.
"I stepped on my (expletive) ball," Calcavecchia said. "That's all you need to know about the sixth hole."
Thursday
Aug072008

Friday PGA Championship Clippings

It was tough to watch round one of the PGA because. I was quite emotional. The measly crowds and Tiger-free atmosphere kept reminding me of the 1995 PGA at Riviera. I'm sorry, but these old memories are deeply embedded and it just happens.

Of course, scoring conditions were just a tad different. Doug Ferguson writes that...

The PGA Championship looked a lot like the U.S. Open, with only six players able to break par Thursday among the early starters who got the best of the weather at Oakland Hills.
It sounded like a U.S. Open, too.
For a quick roundup of day 1 highlights, Golfweek's recap is best. It included this gem:
Goydos, who’s sarcastically nicknamed “Sunshine” because of his disposition, is one of the best quotes on Tour. So what did he think of Rees Jones’ redesign of Oakland Hills.
“If you had Rees Jones redo ‘Scrabble,’ he’d leave out the vowels,” Goydos said.
Here's the AP story on Kenny Perry's WD which the above Golfweek recap noted, "remember, his focus this year was never on the majors."

Steve Elling says it's fitting that Jeev Singh should contend and win since it's the year of the injury because Singh is barely getting around thanks to a nasty ankle injury.

Bob Wojnowski on Robert Karlsson's amazing story, not to mention his excellent year in the majors so far. Bob Harig also profiles the first round leader.

Lorne Rubenstein on Phil Mickelson's 70.
Mickelson then digressed into a brief discussion of high pins and low pins. Very few golfers use such terminology. Mickelson said the course surprised him by being much firmer and faster than it was during practice rounds, but that it still offered some birdie chances. He referred to these birdie chances as being on greens where the holes were cut in low spots.

The comment requires some deconstructing, which is part of the fun of trying to understand the way Mickelson sees golf.

His doors of perception are open, wide open. By low pins, Mickelson meant that some holes were cut in catchment areas, so that he could feed a ball in their direction.

Mickelson, a shot maker and a thinker, likes to feed shots. But is he prone to thinking too much?
Bob Verdi on Sean O'Hair, who was in a car accident earlier this year and fired a first round 69:
It's working and so is the rest of O'Hair's body after a car wreck just before the U.S. Open, from which he withdrew before starting. He wound up playing one round of golf in June while tending to sore ribs. Driving on slick roads near his home outside Philadelphia, O'Hair skidded into a power pole, totaling a shiny new Mustang he had owned for all of three days. "I wasn't going that fast," said O'Hair. "The pole just kind of jumped out there in front of me. Plus, it was a stick shift, and I'd never driven one before."
O'Hair sold the vehicle, or what was left of it.
From yesterday, Larry Dorman profiles Adam Scott's rough ride this year that's included odd health issues and a breakup with his longtime girlfriend.

Jeff Neuman writes about the PGA as golf's "littlest major," which it definitely looked like Thursday, if nothing else based on gallery size.

I swore off Ryder Cup stories this week, but James Corrigan's lede on Monty's diminishing chances was too good to pass up:
The perversely-minded among us may one day notice a few similarities between Colin Montgomerie and Jimmy Hoffa. Both carried the odd surplus pound, both had reputation problems and both could call themselves legendary teamsters.
Paul Mahoney also looks at Monty's plight and Sergio's surge.
While short on birdies, the 45-year-old was Monty-like in other ways. He moaned at the marshals on the first tee (his 10th) for waving their the-ball-went-thataway paddles too close to his personal space. "I'll find my own ball, believe me," he snapped at one hapless fellow (who should have responded, "Maybe, but it won't be in the hole any time soon.")
Monty's mood hadn't mellowed by the time he signed his card. He stopped to talk to reporters for exactly 26 seconds. "Too long, too tough," he huffed of Oakland Hills. "You can spray it 20 yards wide and you're okay, but if you spin off by six inches or one foot, you're not. It's a shame."
And finally, Brian Hewitt reports that John Daly has a new instructor: Rick Smith.
Talk about the coaching merry-go-round and six degrees of separation all wrapped into one. Smith is the guy who did a lot of good work with Phil Mickelson before Mickelson left him for Butch Harmon. Harmon is the guy who did a lot of good work with Tiger Woods and dumped Daly earlier this year because of what he perceived to be Long John’s errant off-course behavior. Now Daly and Smith are together and the squared circle is unbroken. Sort of.
Daly said he and Smith worked for seven hours last Sunday at nearby Oakland University. He said his injured ribs are feeling better and Smith has convinced him to use his right side more now.
“It’s all about the right side,” Daly said. “I love the guy. Plus he’s a feel coach and I’m a feel player."
Daly’s score Thursday: 74.
Thursday
Aug072008

"[The rough] is five inches long. Why brush it back at us?"

Paul Mahoney reports on Lee Westwood's scathing post round criticism of the Oakland Hills course setup. On site sources say the rough had been trimmed but it also seems the raking we spotted last week was taken to a new extreme. At least according to Westwood.

"The course is 7,500 yards long, the greens are firm, and the pins are tucked away," Westwood said of Oakland Hills (official yardage: 7,395). "They are sucking the fun out of the major championships when you set it up like that. The fairways are narrow, and unfortunately if you miss the semi [rough] by a foot you are worse off than if you miss by 20 yards. I asked my partners [Geoff Ogilvy and Zach Johnson] if I was out of order, and they said 'No, if you are slightly off-line, you are crucified.' It is too thick around the greens as well. It takes the skill away from chipping."
Comparing Thursday's conditions to the practice rounds, Westwood wondered if the PGA had dispatched an army of workers overnight to "brush back" the rough, changing its direction so that the blades point toward the tees, instead of toward the greens.
"I can't think of a reason why they would do it other than to irritate the players," said Westwood, whose round included five bogeys, one double-bogey, and no birdies. "[The rough] is five inches long. Why brush it back at us? It makes no sense. People want to see birdies, and they have not seen me make any. I can't see anything wrong with being 9- or 10-under-par for the week."
Part of me wonders if the setup is really that extreme, or perhaps the players have become so enamored with Mike Davis's layered rough cuts that the old style setup looks that much more ridiculous? Maybe...
Westwood said that the PGA should have followed the USGA's lead at Torrey Pines, which was not the punishing setup often seen in the U.S. Open. "You have to reward the accurate players like they did at the U.S. Open," he said. "[That] was set up perfectly. It rewards accuracy and penalizes you if you are off-line. I didn't see that today."

Thursday
Aug072008

Banned In China!

I've learned from a journalist visiting Beijing that my blog is banned in the Olympics media center.

Think of the information they are depriving the visiting journalists!

Maybe one too many negative posts about golf in the Olympics?