Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    by Matthew Futterman

We are planning and building not to penalize very poor strokes, but rather those which are nearly good.  A.W. TILLINGHAST


    

Monday
Feb022009

"Players don't get better in the long-term if they stand on the tee and are not required to exercise their imagination."

It's comforting to know that the shallow love for rough and narrowness at the expense of strategy is not relegated to PGA Tour course setup. Derek Lawrenson on the setup last week in Dubai:

The Emirates Course in Dubai is one of my favourites but I do think the way it was set up last week meant it lost some of its charm.

Architect Karl Litten cleverly designed it so players would have numerous options both from the tee and with their approach shots. Many of those options, however, were taken away by growing the rough.

Take the par 4 sixth, where Litten's idea was to hit your tee shot as far to the left as you dare to get the best line into the green. Not last week.

That would have left you in the thick rough, meaning the only option was to aim for a thin strip of fairway.

Those in charge could point to a high quality leaderboard for validation. But players don't get better in the long-term if they stand on the tee and are not required to exercise their imagination.

Monday
Feb022009

"Next stop, the US Tour, where he will tee it up at the world match-play in Tucson at the end of this month."

Lawrence Donegan reports that despite my desperate pleas and campaigning, Rory McIlroy's schedule does not include a Northern Trust Open exemption. 

Monday
Feb022009

“They need to spread the wealth or my fear is that the PGA Tour may become the tennis tour"

Jon Show considers the many ways the PGA Tour could beef up the client-player experience, and while I enjoyed reading about the need for players to attend more cocktail parties so they could hear inane stories and share tips that won't work, this part is really what it still comes down too:

Players must commit to a minimum of 15 events to keep their tour cards. Most top players average around 20 events; Woods played 15 and 16 events his last two full seasons, down from a high of 21 in 2005.

“The power in golf is shifting into the hands of the players at a time when the players need to understand their importance to each community,” Seymour said. “That’s critical because they will kill the golden goose if they do not give back.”

Players have opposed the creation of a rule requiring them to play in every event within a certain number of years; Davis Love III, a player advisory council member, most recently voiced his resistance. But support is growing outside the locker room for something similar to the LPGA’s rule requiring the women to enter every tournament at least once every four years.

“They need to spread the wealth or my fear is that the PGA Tour may become the tennis tour,” said Bill Colvin, who consults on marketing for a number of PGA Tour sponsors.

So there is one good bit of news in this economic crisis: fewer (if any) competing events in the vein of Milwaukee or Reno in the coming years should help free up a few weeks on schedules, no?

Monday
Feb022009

"But she knows that’s simply not true for players like Lee, who had to leave the game to find out she loved it."

Beth Ann Baldry with an enjoyable look at LPGA rookie Jeehae Lee, a Yale grad who wisely gave up a career in banking to give the LPGA Tour a shot...and secured her card. Oh and her English is impeccable.

The economics major spent a summer working for Lehman Brothers in Hong Kong after her junior year. She accepted a job with Australia’s Macquarie Bank her senior year and planned to return to Hong Kong after graduation. Starting salary: $60,000, plus bonuses.

Then a new coach came to town, and convinced Lee to give it one more try for her last semester of school. She had a light class load and not much to worry about. Surprisingly, her game showed little rust.

To the shock of her family, and herself, Lee backed out of her bank job and joined the Futures Tour, where she and countless others, lost money.

There were many occasions when Lee stood in the middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. and said to herself, “I could be living so easy. What am I doing?”

Monday
Feb022009

"Golf coverage slow to spread in blogdom"

As part of a sports on the Internet package, SBJ's Jon Show analyzes why there are so few golf blogs. Warning, I'm quoted.




Sunday
Feb012009

Letter from Saugerties-USGA Annual Report

From former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan. Past letters of his can be viewed here.

Geoff,

I once sat in a meeting room full of corporate executives who advertise in Fortune magazine. The speakers were Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. After bragging that Gates personally taught him how to get online, Buffett fielded a question about his annual report. Buffett said he regarded his annual report as vital, that he spent much time on it, that it contained nothing he did not regard as true. All one had to do to know what was happening at Berkshire Hathaway was read its annual report.

The recently published annual report of the United States Golf Association is the converse of the Buffet attitude. It is a monument of obfuscation and self praise.

The governing body’s report contains two principle sections. There is a 3-and-a-half-page hunk of prose signed by current president James Vemon. Then comes the financial statement for 2008. Let’s consider the money part first.

There was revenue of $155,814,000. Expenses were $155,747,000. So the “profit” was a pittance of $67,000. In 1997 USGA revenue was only $136 million. Financially the USGA is like a hamster on a wheel. No matter how hard it runs it can’t catch up to itself.

If the USGA wants to have more money the answer is simple – spend less. Concerned, Vemon says they are now reviewing the expenditure of every nickel and dime. Expense reports are to be examined with a new fervor.

That’s not going to get it. Just like the federal government the USGA is eventually going to have to deal with entitlements. Examples:

Expenses for championships and broadcasting are line-itemed at $80 million. There is no breakdown of what was spent when or where although they maintain distinctions internally in finite detail. Most of that money has to be ascribed to “US Open” given it doesn’t cost much to run the Senior Amateur Championship. A person familiar with tournament expenses, anonymous because of ongoing dealings the USGA, says “US Open expenses are completely out of control.”

I wonder where they hide the cost of a private jet to ferry members of the Executive Committee to sites of USGA activities where they are not needed. Perhaps they have dumped the jet in emulation of Citi Group and other corporations – out of embarrassment. You can’t know because it’s a verboten subject.

Denied all detail as to championship expenses, I nevertheless conclude they could be cut by $5 million or more and nobody in the audience would know the difference.

The USGA gave away $3 million in grants via its own Foundation and another $3 million as a gift to The First Tee effort. Vernon points out in his text that the USGA has been the biggest giver to The First Tee. He omits mention of the PGA Tour whose creature is The First Tee. The omission tells us Far Hills does not love Ponte Veda. Probably vice versa too.

Since these gifts have accomplished nothing in terms of “growing the game” (golf is either flat or in decline) I say get rid of them. But if the USGA can afford to and wants to give away money, send it to where it can do some good – to Darfur, the Mississippi literacy program, or the Western Golf Association for caddie scholarships.

I shudder on reading that the combined expenses of its “communications” and “digital media” operations were more than $10 million. The USGA seems to think that if you just throw enough stuff online the result will be that everyone will love you. What difference can it make if the USGA is held in high or low esteem so long as the Rules Of Golf are accepted by golfers everywhere? Achieving uniformity in the rules, in accord with its partner the R&A, is the primary triumph in USGA history. And it happened before anyone owned a computer.

Vernon writes they spent $20 million to redo the Museum and Library. As a former curator of the USGA Museum (I got a D because I misplaced items), I remain a fan of the museum but not $20 millions worth. When the museum reopened in June, admission was charged for the first time. It now costs $7.50 if you want to see The Moon Club.

You will search in vain for museum attendance figures. That’s because even golfers can look at the moon itself – for free. Apparently attendance is limited to elderly people on busses who thought they signed up to catch a matinee at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn. They are startled when the bus passes Milburn and keeps going west on I-78.

The Vernon message is replete with odd usages. He seems to think the USGA began about five years ago when contracts were signed with four corporate “partners” and that NBC is an ally. That alliance consists of NBC giving the USGA about $30 million as a rights fee along with the understanding NBC will never criticize the USGA on air.

The US Open is described as “the most rigorous examination in golf.” Translation: “We want high scores and we get them.”

He enthuses about a 14-point course philosophy. Amazing, but Jones, Hogan and Nicklaus each managed to win four US Opens absent 14-point philosophies.

He enthuses over the introduction of graduated rough. US Opens had graduated rough when Bob Jones was playing. They have introduced a third cut of rough. But, although they surely have numbers they don’t say what effect, if any, the third cut has on the competition.

Vernon cites using different yardages for the same hole among recent inspirations. Excuse me, but alternative tees were used in the 1967 Open at Baltusrol. In all, setting up a course is one third art, one third agronomy and one third guesswork. Fourteen points was what President Wilson tried to pull off after World War I.

It wouldn’t be a USGA annual report without claims of being newly “relevant,” which is what happened when the Open was played on Torrey Pines (where they gouged the City of San Diego.) Each of the four corporate partners were “relevant” to USGA priorities. The automobile sponsor contributed 13,000 “car nights” . When you were a kid, did you beg dad for two “car nights” this week?

The ailing economy sharply reduced the value of the USGA investments. So what? That happened to everyone. The amount of loss should be specified in the president’s message. Instead, you have to hunt for the numbers in the fine print of the financial statement. I doubt it would be there at all but for a legal requirement. Transparency is not a USGA virtue.

We learn that both junior championships this year will be played on courses owned by Donald Trump. Now that does exemplify a new and different USGA. I find it hard to picture historic USGA figures like Richard Tufts, Bill Campbell, Sandy Tatum and Joe Dey hanging around with Donald Trump.

Staff resignations, early retirements and plain old firings in the last two years are not mentioned. It could be argued that staff turnover doesn’t matter so long as the USGA runs splendid championships and nurtures the Rules of Golf. The workers on Henry Ford’s assembly lines were not wild about their jobs but kept on churning out Model Ts.

On the other hand, the USGA is an institution of human relations. It is not Google. The USGA is having people troubles both at home and away.

Only recently there were four exceptional US Open sites in the New York metropolitan area. Now there is one – Bethpage, where this year’s Open will occur. The Shinnecock Hills Open of 2004 was a debacle. It ended with the two parties spitting and hissing at each other. Baltusrol has switched to become a PGA Championship host. The members of Winged Foot last year voted overwhelmingly not to put up with another Open.

Those losses, Mr. Vernon, are relevant.

 

Frank Hannigan

Saugerties, New York

Sunday
Feb012009

Tour Fairways Getting Tighter?!

Over the four days of the FBR Open at TPC Scottsdale, I heard several mentions of newly narrowed fairways. And the rough was cited as being particularly difficult this year due to a wet spring (and what sounded like an aggressive overseed).

I know of two other PGA Tour venues that are seeing narrowed fairways. This would not seem to jibe with what some players believe is going to be an end to the old school U.S. Open approach of the last few years at select venues. Nor does it really fit with the Commissioner's remarks about introducting more risk-reward (unless he thinks rough creates interesting risk-reward golf, which I doubt).

Sunday
Feb012009

Yellowstone St. Andrews R.I.P.

Martin Williams reports that an offshoot of the Yellowstone Club planned for St. Andrews with course designed by Tom Weiskopf appears to be dead based on word of the site going up for sale.

Sunday
Feb012009

Rory Wins!

Alistair Tait reports for Golfweek on the 19-year-old's impressive win. So impressive, this could be enough to get him a Northern Trust Open exemption longed for by writers hoping to spend a week in L.A. (be careful what you wish for!). I knew the European Tour was good for something.

Now, about the hair...

Saturday
Jan312009

Minds Crossing Over Dubai Ryder Cup Idea

Mark Reason on the European Tour's disastrous idea to possibly entertain a 2018 Ryder Cup bid from their partners, Leisurecorp

Golf is a massive tourist pull in the area and David Spencer, the chief executive of Leisurecorp, confirmed the group's interest in heading a bid for the Ryder Cup.Spencer said: "It makes sense. Golf tourism is a fantastic product that we can gain more market share in. [A bid] has certainly crossed my mind. It's crossed [European Tour chief executive] George O'Grady's mind.

"It's a given that the Ryder Cup in 2018 will not be in the UK or Ireland. Is it possible for the UAE or Qatar to make a bid? Yes. Would a company like Leisurecorp want to be part of that and spearhead that bid? Most definitely."

It makes no sense whatsoever, unless of course, your a tour willing to do anything for a buck.

This is just sad:

Sir Michael Bonallack, the former R&A secretary, sounded a note of caution about the plans: "The Gulf is a major part of the European tour now and I'm sure they'd host it well," he said.

"My concern would be whether they would get the crowds that we see in Europe. It would be great for the fans to experience it as long as it's not too expensive."

Friday
Jan302009

Monty Off To Blazing Start: Already Has Vice Captain Ollie Flustered!

Derek Lawrenson reports that the Vice Captain has never actually been offered the job!

He has certainly got a grumpy potential vice-captain on his hands after Jose Maria Olazabal made the stunning revelation on Thursday that Monty had appointed him to the post without even asking the Spaniard if he wanted it.

Anyone know the Spanish for ‘That’s news to me, pal?’

Such was Ollie’s reaction to a series of questions on the subject at the Dubai Desert Classic, where he was in no mood to gloss over what he clearly feels is a terrible breach of protocol.

‘The only words Monty and I have spoken was when I got to the clubhouse on Wednesday and I congratulated him and he said: “We need to talk,” and that was all,’ said Olazabal.

You assume it is the vice-captaincy he wants to talk about?

‘I am not going to guess anything.’

Friday
Jan302009

PGA Tour Stengthens Sponsor Platform Ties By Filing Lawsuit Against Sponsor

Garry Smits reports on the lawsuit filed today over Ginn pulling out of their sponsorship obligations. Geese, it's just a Champions Tour event!

The Tour issued a statement to the Times-Union Friday afternoon on the matter. The statement was sent by the Tour's communications department.

"We regret having to take this legal action, but feel we have no other recourse than to try to recover what had been guaranteed to our members through existing agreements with Ginn Companies," the statement said. "We also had no forewarning that Ginn was planning to cancel the 2009 Ginn Championship at Hammock Dunes, and only learned of the decision when the company issued a release late Wednesday. In fact, we had been in discussions with them on possible modifications to the agreement. Until this issue is resolved through the legal process, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

Ryan Julison, senior vice-president for corporate communications for Ginn Resorts, said there would be "no comment on pending litigation."

That's not a very original comeback!

Steve Elling also reports and notes several interesting bits about the suit, including this:

According to the filing, the tour was notified by Ginn president Robert Gidel last August that it was going to cancel its sponsored PGA Tour event, the Ginn sur Mer Classic, after its staging last fall. It also served notice that the March 2009 staging of the Champion's Tour's Ginn Championship at Hammock Beach would be the last for that tournament.

With this week's announcement from Ginn, the Champions event won't happen, either. Interestingly, the Ginn sur Mer ended Nov. 2, which meant that while the tour and Ginn officials were publicly maintaining that no determination had been made on future of the Fall Series tournament, plans were well under way to shut it down.

Friday
Jan302009

"Who Says Golf Writers Aren't Hip?"

Bob Smiley notes that the golf media's hipness Q-rating took a hit with this question of first round FBR Open leader James Nitties, and the golfer's wonderful gentle explanation.

Thursday
Jan292009

Rory's 64 Underlines His Ryder Cup Potential!

Isn't it just a tad early for a lede, albeit unbylined, like this? Reader Patrick thought so and sent the link in:

Northern Ireland teenager Rory McIlroy underlined his Ryder Cup potential with a timely eight-under-par 64 in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic before play was suspended due to bad light.

The talented 19-year-old carded nine birdies to open up a one-stroke lead over Sweden's Robert Karlsson, only a day after new Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie named him as a potential candidate for Celtic Manor next year.

How does a 64 on some slab of desert indicate Ryder Cup potential?

Anyway, another legendary Irishman, Long Beach's Mark O'Meara, played with Rory and declared him the Next Tiger. 

Gee, I remember the days when they were the Next Nicklaus.

Thursday
Jan292009

"Drawing lines in the sand is not going to solve problems, it's going to create problems." **

I doubt anyone was surprised by the news Ginn was pulling out of its two LPGA and one Champions event since word of their bankruptcy hasn't exactly been a state secret. Wait, what was that Ty?

"We were involved in discussions to address whatever issues there may have been in their ability to perform their contract," Votaw said Thursday. "We were disappointed and surprised with the suddenness of the announcement without any forewarning."

Can you believe it? Problems are arising from the PGA Tour legal department's fantasy insistence that their "ironclad" contracts will carry the day even as a company is literally going up in smoke!

Steve Elling reports on Ginn pulling out, the PGA Tour's reaction and he talks to Ginn's man, Robert Gidel, who explains the crux of the problem:

"What gets frustrating at times is that people who are not at the epicenter of the financial and economic crisis lose sight of what's happening to everyone. We're all in the same soup.

"Drawing lines in the sand is not going to solve problems, it's going to create problems."

As reader Chris, who sent the Elling story in notes, it would appear that "Commission Finchem & Company have had the hammer for years, the other side of the table has it now." 

Thursday
Jan292009

Monty Does Everything But Call Faldo A Blundering Idiot

As quoted by Bernie Mcguire...

The Scot said: "I wasn't in Valhalla but my optimum number is more than last time.

"I will have Olly there with me and other suitable candidates. I have a great understanding and respect for Olly.

"I will have plenty of backroom staff. I think it's very important you have enough help out there.

There's an awful lot going on and I cannot be in two places at once.

"But my goal is to try to gain 14 and a half points."

Monty also revealed his shame for last September's team.

And he insists the disappointment on the faces of the losing players is something he is determined not to see again.

He said: "I watched on TV what was going on. Knowing the players as I did, especially the Harrington and Westwood situation at the end of the matches, I felt ashamed for them to be left at the end there.

"They should have been involved at an earlier stage but I saw enough of what was going on.

"I didn't see the practice days which is important to a team unit. I only saw the match days and when you are so far behind after the first day it's a large hurdle to climb.

"From that very first day it was difficult to see smiles on anyone's faces and I would expect that.

"That was a first-day defeat we hadn't seen for some time. We just need that early momentum as it is very difficult nowadays to pull anything back in a Ryder Cup."

Thursday
Jan292009

Shock: Thinking Too Much Can Be Bad For Your Game

So good to see that two of the world's great universities are studying the really important stuff...


Thursday
Jan292009

"I played with so-and-so, and he said four words to us the entire round.'"

The L.A. Daily News is down to five sports writers but they still let Jill Painter file a golf column from time to time, so you can imagine my joy when I got around to my copy last night and read this from new LPGA Tour card holder Anna Rawson, who draws attention for her looks but more importantly, provides interesting fodder with her occasional blog posts at Yahoo and honest assessments like this:

"I was out at Sherwood, and I was disgusted with how the PGA Tour players acted toward fans," Rawson said. "They didn't sign autographs or they'd sign four and walk off. I watched Paula Creamer sign autographs for two hours in Korea.

"Some (PGA) players walked straight past (fans). I couldn't believe it."

And...

Rawson is a model on the side, and if her game continues to flourish, she might be standing for hours signing photographs, autographs and programs, as well as mingling with sponsors at cocktail parties and chatting up pro-am partners more often.

"God, they make so much money (on the PGA Tour). It's disgusting how much more they make than us," said Rawson, who played at USC. "I've heard countless times from people that played in a PGA Tour pro-am and they said, `Wow, you're going to have a conversation? I played with so-and-so, and he said four words to us the entire round."'

Thursday
Jan292009

Rude On The Demise Of The Golf Scribe

Jeff Rude's excellent piece on the rapid decline in the number of golf writers is not at Golfweek.com, but I think you can preview Golfweek digital this way and find it on page 16. And if you haven't seen the classy new redesign of the print edition, here's your chance. Note the expanded Forecaddie too. Good stuff. Subscribe!

Wednesday
Jan282009

Monty Already Greatest Captain In History Of Ryder Cup **

The British Press is doing what it does best...building him up before they inevitably slap him around. Enjoy it Monty, because you know this won't last.

Mike Aitken in The Scotsman:

But Monty's credentials as one of Europe's greatest Ryder Cup players, along with an intimate knowledge of the men he will lead at Celtic Manor, swung the decision in his favour. Following in the footsteps of compatriots George Duncan, Johnny Fallon, Eric Brown, Bernard Gallacher and Sam Torrance, Montgomerie, who lives in Perthshire, had hoped to be honoured with the captaincy at Gleneagles in 2014.

Mark Reason in the Telegraph:

Many in the game believe that Montgomerie will be just as good a Ryder Cup leader as he has been a player. Peter McEvoy, arguably British golf's greatest captain yet, played with him as an amateur at Walker Cups and Eisenhower Trophys in the Eighties and believes that the Scot has everything it takes.

He said: "His enthusiasm and box office appeal will be very good for the Ryder Cup commercially. Monty will never be out of the newspapers. He loves it. But he's also got a really strong winning instinct.

"People always say that Monty should have won a major, but lacked the killer instinct. I think they've got it the wrong way round. I think he has been held back by a one-dimensional game, but has a hugely winning attitude that he will bring to the Ryder Cup captaincy. He will do what it takes. I can't see a negative."

Nope, me neither.

William Johnson reports that Monty has at least one assistant who will put up with him help him stay in touch with today's players.

Indeed, Montgomerie was so impressed by reports of how influential Olazabal had been in Valhalla last September that he has already offered the Spaniard an assistant's role next year. Olazabal has accepted.

Lawrence Donegan is the only one who sounds cautiously optimistic:

Watching Montgomerie handle his newly acquired status as the most popular man on tour, as well as the dynamics of his personal relations with other players – the good, the bad and ugly – will be one of the more fascinating parlour games of the next 18 months...