Twitter: GeoffShac
  • The 1997 Masters: My Story
    The 1997 Masters: My Story
    by Tiger Woods
  • The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup
    The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup
    by John Feinstein
  • 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
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    by Kevin Robbins
  • Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Art of Golf Design
    The Art of Golf Design
    by Michael Miller, Geoff Shackelford
  • The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Lines of Charm: Brilliant and Irreverent Quotes, Notes, and Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Lines of Charm: Brilliant and Irreverent Quotes, Notes, and Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Sports Media Group
  • Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Golden Age of Golf Design
    The Golden Age of Golf Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Sleeping Bear Press
  • The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    by Geoff Shackelford

The object of golf architecture is to give an intelligent purpose to the striking of a golf ball. To be worthwhile, this purpose must excite and hold interest. If it fails in this, the character of the architecture is at fault.
MAX BEHR

 

  

Tuesday
Dec222009

“It was a good year inside the ropes.”

Some fun notes in Doug Ferguson's column this week, starting with Ben Curtis cracking the top 50 (and securing a Masters birth) by one-thousandth of a point.

More interesting was this quote from Tim Finchem that probably would have helped his teleconference credibility, if nothing else for its brevity:

 “It was a good year inside the ropes.” – PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

Tuesday
Dec222009

"Get out now, sponsors. The golf brand has been wrecked."

Not to sound like Tim Finchem...but there are so many more elements to golf tournament sponsorship than just Tiger Woods. The LA Times' Dan Neil--an incredible auto reviewer and Pulitzer winner--reinforces the that lack of sponsorship understanding in a point-misser piece suggesting Tiger's phony image means all of pro golf is a charade unworthy of corporate support.


Without Woods, the game trails off and rolls back into the weeds of cultural irrelevance, long weekend tourneys among more or less evenly matched men in more or less equally ugly clothes slapping balls around while the real players get loaded in corporate hospitality tents. There is no heroism in golf without Tiger -- at least the Tiger we thought we knew -- no drama, and scant male pulchritude besides. Unless your business is actual golf balls or clubs (Titleist or Ping or whatever), I'd say your marketing dollars could be best spent elsewhere.

And, of course, as a practical matter, there will be far fewer eyeballs watching golf on TV. Various estimates have the viewing audience sans Tiger dropping by 50%. Who knows if they'll ever come back.

The illusion that professional golf was somehow a sport with a higher calling, a game of honor and ethics played by fundamentally decent men, has been shattered. This isn't about counting strokes you took while nobody's watching. Tiger's trollop-taking is precisely the sort of thing we've come to expect from pro basketball and football players -- and, shamefully, our indifference implies consent. For the most dominant golfer of all time to be so caddish seems to be a signal that lesser golfers transgress in lesser degrees. In any event, the safe harbor of golf's presumed decency has been drained. Meanwhile, now that the tabloid press has had a taste for golfer flesh, I wouldn't be surprised if we have to live through a season of golf-related exposes. All the more reason for marketers to pull up stakes.


Apparently Tag Heuer didn't get the message. Their homepage today:

Monday
Dec212009

"I always have to answer all the questions"

I was a bit surprised by the reaction to Jaime Diaz's Tiger profile in the February Golf Digest, particularly that it was in some way soft or not particularly revealing. After a second scan, I remain surprised at the amount Diaz revealed to the likely detriment of his relationship with Tiger. 

This caught my eye:

It was also a year of impatience with the golf press. Angry about being criticized for his behavior and his game (no major-championship victories among his seven wins), he told me he was "pretty burned out on the media," and for the first time in eight years he declined to be interviewed in person for a year-end story for Golf Digest.

"I always have to answer all the questions," he told me in an October phone conversation that he agreed to instead. "That's one of the reasons I've quit reading all articles. I don't watch golf on television unless my friends are playing. And if they're playing well, I still keep the volume on mute. A lot of these media guys are so opinionated, but they don't have all the information."

That suggests to me that Tiger will be a recluse when/if he returns. I don't see how he can recover from what's been written and said the last few weeks, particularly if he thought the press was out of line before the accident.

Monday
Dec212009

Tiger's Indefinite Leave Clippings, Vol. 10

The media coverage debates are heating up and Rich Lerner admits to reading all of the tabloid coverage before fending off critics of the golf world's effort over the years:

Were there times when our reporting bordered on fawning? Yes. Did we miss or dismiss other worthwhile stories because we were focused on Tiger? Yes. But no one that I know called him a God. Great golfer, yes.  God, no. Were we surprised to learn of the extent of his affairs? Of course. Tiger ran in a circle that didn’t include any journalists that I know of.

Terry Lefton analyzes the cost for Accenture to drop Tiger and speculates on the future of sports endorsees after the scandal.

So why was Accenture the first to sever Tiger? Simple: Woods was Accenture’s sole marketing platform.

Then there was the matter of the creative from Young & Rubicam, which used phrases seemingly designed to engender double entendres in a sex scandal, like, “Go on. Be a Tiger,” or “Opportunity isn’t always obvious.” Additionally, Woods images were widely used on Accenture internal documents and in recruiting materials.

Another challenge was the media platforms selected. Sure, there was TV and print, but anyone who travels by air knows the Woods/Accenture ads are ubiquitous in American airports and in many overseas air terminals. Those will take months to swap out. So integrated was Woods with Accenture that internal estimates put the cost of unwinding the association in the tens of millions, and it is a process that also will take months.

Another determining factor: Accenture’s clients are probably more conservative than the general population; they include all but four of the Fortune 100. Also not lost on us is that Accenture has a woman as a CMO, Roxanne Taylor, and another key figure in Teresa Poggenpohl, executive director, global image. As women, they might be more sensitive to Woods’ indiscretions. More importantly, Poggenpohl is an architect of the original Woods/Accenture relationship, and we’re sure she is irate, especially since the Woods sponsorship and accompanying creative was widely lauded prior to the recent firestorm.

TLC Vision, another company with ties to Tiger vows to continue their relationship with the golfing great "without change" even as they filed for bankruptcy, reports Bloomberg's Dawn McCarty.

Steve Elling has a different take on the Arnold Palmer Invitational withdrawing Tiger's image from their website:

Last year, the quasi-incompetent organizers of the Torrey Pines event drew scathing and deserved fire for repeatedly using the likenesses of Woods and two other prominent players in marketing print ads, despite knowing full well the trio was not playing (Woods was still recovering from knee surgery). This time, Palmer's people removed Woods' likeness from the banner on the website, where tickets are sold. Simply put, nobody knows if and when Woods will next play, and using his image to hawk tickets is misleading. Removing his photo is not only reasonable from a marketing perspective, it's damned proper -- whatever the original motivations.

Jack Todd, The Vancouver Sun files arguably the most brutal attack on Tiger to date:

Someone wrote to me Friday to say that “we” have torn down the icon that is Tiger Woods. Nothing could be more wrong.

“We” might have built Tiger Woods into the monster of ego and greed he has become, but “we” had nothing to do with tearing him down. Woods did that himself, with his insatiable greed, his roving, relentless sexual appetite, his cynical use of his beautiful family as props to distract attention from what he was really doing.

In two or three years (if not sooner) most of this will be forgotten.

Woods will be divorced, he’ll have as many mistresses as he wants, he’ll go back to winning majors, raking in millions and endorsing half the products on the planet.

Why will he get away with it?

Because sports fans want someone to worship, and the bottom line is that they don’t care if the man inside is worse than Tony Soprano.

The WSJ blog takes a closer look at Tiger's legal damage control team.

People reported a wonderful sounding story about Tiger setting off to the Bahamas with some buds after stocking up at Costco. Unfortunately Radar posted photos of Privacy still docked.

Meanwhile in maybe the strangest report I've seen (and unsubstantiated elsewhere), Elin Woods is reported to have received a police escort to the airport. **Not surprisingly, this report was refuted by the Orange County Sheriffs.

And finally, the spoof endorsements are rolling in and even the Tiger-inspired poetry has arrived. Maybe that Franklin Mint plate collection isn't so far off.

Monday
Dec212009

Books, Books, Books: 2009

The Tiger thing sidetracked my plan to review a book a week leading up to Christmas, but thankfully Joe Passov (here) and Jeff Silverman (here) have posted their favorites of the year at golf.com. You know, just in case you need to find a last minute gift.

I'm with Passov that Darius Oliver's Planet Golf USA is the best and I will review when I get a chance to sit down and read more. And my previous review of the extraordinary SI Golf Book still stands as the value pick.

Monday
Dec212009

"It is also possible that on a deep level, Woods simply wanted out of an unsustainable life."

Many have wondered where Golf Digest/Golf World's Jaime Diaz has been during the Tiger crisis. After all, no writer more than Diaz knows Tiger better.

There's a lot to consider in his February, 2010 Golf Digest piece, but it left me realizing that (A) Tiger is even more complex than I ever imagined, (B) Tiger's even more independent and stubborn than I ever imagined, and (C) recovering from the accident is going to be more difficult for him than I ever imagined.

I'll be curious what your take is on the piece, but to kick off the discussion...

Woods became golf's Atlas, carrying everything -- the PGA Tour, his near-flawless image as a role model, his foundation, his family; heck, the game itself -- on his shoulders, all on top of the unceasing pressure to perform.

But as much as he sought the glory, he resented the obligations that came with it, even if they made him incredibly rich. I remember Earl telling me that once he had tried to commiserate with his overwrought son by saying, "I understand how you feel."

But, Earl recalled, "Tiger turned on me and said, 'No, you don't. You have no idea how I feel.' And I realized that I had underestimated."

As Tiger's life in his 30s became more tangled, he turned more inward. His inner circle got smaller and tighter, and those who overstepped or didn't fit in were jettisoned. The best advice for those who are around Woods remains, "Don't get too close."

Those who were the closest saw the pressures and the toll. Out of sympathy, and the fact that he is their employer, they didn't call Woods on imperfect behavior like swearing, banging clubs and blowing by autograph lines. Within his camp, Tiger in a bad mood would be characterized in golf jargon: "Unplayable."

Sunday
Dec202009

Tiger's Indefinite Leave Clippings, Vol. 9

I made another cameo with the SI/golf.com roundtable and the Woods saga was kicked around. Here's a fun exchange about future media coverage:

Dick Friedman, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Yes, this changes everything. Maybe not among the longtime golf media, but suddenly the nongolf media will be out in force, as it is in other sports.

Herre: I think it will, to a degree. I see the media being a little more aggressive, a little less chummy. Also, I think the Woods scandal has been an eye-opener for the gossip sites. I can report here that TMZsports.com will be launched late next month.

Morfit: It won't change a thing about the coverage. What are we going to do now, ask him to go over birdies, bogeys and the musical tastes of Babe No. 4 vs. Babe No. 7? It will change everything about his brand and how well he monetizes it.

Tom English writes about Tim Finchem's answer to press questions about Tiger and Dr. Anthony Galea.

In his reaction to the Galea story, Finchem needed to strike the right balance between fairness to Woods and concern about the threat of doping in his sport. It's not something he did at all well. Instead of acknowledging the cautionary words of proven experts in this field, he went for the brush and the carpet option.

Nobody should assume anything in this case. All they should do is investigate. That's what Finchem should be doing. Keeping an eye on things, talking to WADA, finding out about blood-spinning and what the FBI think they know about all of this, if anything. Dismissing it, pretty much out of hand as Finchem did, is not doing golf any good. It leaves the outsider wondering why Woods is such a protected species and why others, like John Daly, are not.

Nathaniel Vinton of the New York Daily News talked to noted Balco chemist Patrick Arnold about Galea's possible use of Actovegin and shares his experience with the drug:

Arnold drew the substance into a needle and injected it into his knees. He repeated that process a few times over a period of several months.

"It seemed to help a little," Arnold recalls. "It is in my opinion not valuable as a performance enhancer, however some cyclists supposedly would take it intravenously hoping to help their endurance."

Arnold, who designed BALCO's blockbuster designer steroid THG - also known as "the Clear" - spent a good deal of time around bodybuilders, and trained with weights himself. He had heard that Actovegin could help heal his chronic tendonitis. He aimed the self-injections underneath the tendon sheath surrounding his patellar tendon.

"I actually never knew people were using it as a performance-enhancing drug until relatively recently," Arnold says. "I only played around with it because I thought it might help my tendonitis."

Ian Austen of the New York Times explores the benefits of HGH and most doctors think it's overrated.

But physicians and medical researchers who have studied people with medical conditions that lead to growth hormone overproduction said that available evidence suggested that athletes who cheat by using costly H.G.H. may simply wind up being cheated themselves.

“Ultimately I’d have to say that its main effect is that it makes your wallet a little less heavy,” said Dr. Alan D. Rogol, a professor emeritus of endocrinology at the University of Virginia. Rogol also reviews requests to the United States Anti-Doping Agency from athletes seeking permission to use banned hormones for therapeutic treatments.

Suspicions that athletes may be using growth hormone first surfaced in the 1980s. But at the time, the only source of the hormone was cadavers.

If Tiger needs a character witness (or maybe a good dentist?), Michael Bamberger reports that Larry Holmes is available to take the stand.

In the past week, Woods's training techniques have come under question as never before, in part because a Canadian physician who has treated Woods, Dr. Tony Galea, is now facing drug charges. Holmes is dismissive of the connection.

"Those steroids and stuff," Holmes said, "they can kill you. Tiger's too smart to do something like that."

Golf In America author George Kirsch weighs in on whether this is a story worthy of attention from golf historians.

Woods’s biographers and modern day muckrakers who write books about the dark side of professional golf will certainly recount all of the juicy details of this sorry episode, but should I do so in a future revised paperback edition of my book? Since I can devote only a few pages to Woods in a 250 page survey of the sport’s history from the 1880s to the present, is his current ordeal important enough to warrant inclusion? A generation from now, will sports historians view the Woods affair as a major event, minor incident, or mere footnote? Or might they omit it altogether?

Today, in the midst of the daily barrage of news about possible drug violations by Woods and perhaps a monumental divorce settlement, it seems like a “no-brainer”—how could I or any golf historian ignore the Woods saga? But if one takes the longer view, it is possible that in due time Woods may return to competition as a chastened and repentant fallen hero who has redeemed himself, at least in the eyes of the majority of the public. In that case, why should he be singled out for special attention and condemnation, when some of his playboy predecessors (and even a few revered golfing superstars) also committed adultery? (Sorry, I am not going to name them here.) On the other hand, Woods’s self-imposed exile could last a long time, and perhaps result in a dramatic decline in his skills and a freefall in his rank among the world’s golfers. If that scenario unfolds all sports historians would naturally relate the whole story, because of the negative impact of his misbehavior on his golfing career.

Nearly identical reports in the Daily Mirror and News Of The World (how about that segue) each suggest that Elin Woods plans to move ahead with a divorce and custody of the children after Tiger apparently has decided that rehab is not necessary and he can work things out on his own. The News of the World story has him staying with a friend in...Maryland.

The Telegraph says Tiger reports that mom is "angry and disappointed" in Tiger. Really going out on a limb with that one aren't they? 

And finally, The Divotones become the first group to record a song especially for Tiger.

Sunday
Dec202009

"Will Finchem, co-chief operating officers Charlie Zink and Ed Moorhouse and executive vice presidents David Pillsbury, Tom Wade and Ron Price take a cut in pay?"

One lingering question from the Tiger saga involves media coverage and whether having been caught off guard by Tiger's private life would lead to tougher golf media coverage. I don't know about you, but I'd say this Alex Miceli Golfweek.com piece looks like the first sign of a more, uh, discerning golf media.

He starts off in your basic recap of Tim Finchem's panned teleconference by noting some particulars in the 2010 schedule and then the hatchet comes out.

The commissioner also neglected to mention recent jobs losses at the Tour.

The changes included layoffs in multiple departments, notably Championship Management, Shotlink and Golf Course Development and Construction.

A tournament director was let go, and at least six Shotlink employees were eliminated.

The Shotlink crew got the news immediately after completing its last tournament of the year, a source told Golfweek.

According to a Tour official, three of the Shotlink crew were made redundant. The other three positions were being outsourced and may be hired by the contractor. The same official said these and the other personal moves were not layoffs.

Miceli goes on to detail how the 401k program has been frozen for all staff and then asks the obvious question that's been burning since Jon Show revealed 2008 PGA Tour executive salaries and scheduled future bonuses. You're cutting the Shotlink folks taking home chicken feed, so are the executives doing their part?

One question that wasn’t addressed: Will Finchem, co-chief operating officers Charlie Zink and Ed Moorhouse and executive vice presidents David Pillsbury, Tom Wade and Ron Price take a cut in pay? Each made more than $1 million in compensation in 2008, according to Tour financial filings.

And to remember, as Show wrote:

In the 2008 filing, the tour also outlines a long-term incentive bonus plan payable to high-ranking employees in 2009 and 2010 unless the individual terminates his or her employment. Finchem’s bonus is scheduled to be nearly $1.9 million in 2009 and 2010, followed by Zink and Moorhouse at $534,127 each.

I know, I know, those bonuses will be hard earned no matter the job performance and these men have second and third homes in need of twin Sub-Z's. But those bonuses sure could pay for a lot of jobs that appear headed for outsourcing.

I put the question out once and will try again, someone please explain to me the point of a performance bonus that is pre-determined and scheduled?

Saturday
Dec192009

"What’s striking instead is the exceptional, Enron-sized gap between this golfer’s public image as a paragon of businesslike discipline and focus and the maniacally reckless life we now know he led."

Frank Rich says the Tiger Woods saga is the story of the decade because it sums up the last ten years:

If there’s been a consistent narrative to this year and every other in this decade, it’s that most of us, Bernanke included, have been so easily bamboozled. The men who played us for suckers, whether at Citigroup or Fannie Mae, at the White House or Ted Haggard’s megachurch, are the real movers and shakers of this century’s history so far. That’s why the obvious person of the year is Tiger Woods. His sham beatific image, questioned by almost no one until it collapsed, is nothing if not the farcical reductio ad absurdum of the decade’s flimflams, from the cancerous (the subprime mortgage) to the inane (balloon boy).

And...

Indeed, if we go back to late 2001, the most revealing news story may have been unfolding not in New York but Houston — the site of the Enron scandal. That energy company convinced financial titans, the press and countless investors that it was a business deity. It did so even though very few of its worshipers knew what its business was. Enron is the template for the decade of successful ruses that followed, Tiger’s included.

What makes the golfing superstar’s tale compelling, after all, is not that he’s another celebrity in trouble or another fallen athletic “role model” in a decade lousy with them. His scandal has nothing to tell us about race, and nothing new to say about hypocrisy. The conflict between Tiger’s picture-perfect family life and his marathon womanizing is the oldest of morality tales.

What’s striking instead is the exceptional, Enron-sized gap between this golfer’s public image as a paragon of businesslike discipline and focus and the maniacally reckless life we now know he led. What’s equally striking, if not shocking, is that the American establishment and news media — all of it, not just golf writers or celebrity tabloids — fell for the Woods myth as hard as any fan and actively helped sustain and enhance it.

Saturday
Dec192009

"Do You Still Support Tiger?"

Tiger's come to junk mail now...

Friday
Dec182009

Tiger's Indefinite Leave Clippings, Vol. 8

I can just feel the news cycle turning. First Tiger wins athlete of the decade, and now my peers voted him player of the year. Add having to accept that award in front of 300 members of the media on Wednesday of Masters week to the list of reasons he might think twice about returning to golf at Augusta.

In less cheery news, the NY Times's Michael Schmidt and Juliet Macur followed up today with sources suggesting the FBI is in fact focusing on Dr. Anthony Galea giving professional athletes performance-enhancing (and illegal) drugs.

The complaint said that Catalano told authorities that she planned to meet with Galea after crossing into the United States. The complaint made no reference to whether Catalano told authorities that Galea had provided performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes. But several people who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that she did.

Those who spoke about the matter said they did not want to be identified because they were discussing an active investigation.

Dan Herbeck in the Buffalo News (thanks reader Cardinal) has a source inside the investigation that says Tiger's name has not come up in anyway:

“I know of nothing that has come up in this investigation that would indicate Tiger Woods was using [performanceenhancing drugs], and I know of nothing that would put him into any trouble with law enforcement,” said one source close to the probe.

While Woods faces damaging fallout from recent revelations that he cheated on his wife with an assortment of mistresses, no evidence from the Galea investigation indicates that he cheated in his bodybuilding regime with steroids or human growth hormone drugs, four sources close to the investigation told The News.

And in an odd twist Galea's lawyer offered a non-denial denial related to Tiger and his former client:

“Any suggestion of any linkage to Tiger Woods is nonexistent,” Galea’s lawyer, Brian H. Greenspan, said outside a Toronto courtroom Friday. “I’m saying categorically it does not relate to anything that’s alleged before this court.”

I'm not sure anyone suggested Tiger was linked to the charges before the Canadian court, did they? Why offer that up?

Anyway, here are the details on the charges brought before the court Friday.

A few days ago, Rick Telander found Tiger guilty of using performance enhancing drugs:

The PGA, you know, never tested until a year ago for performance-enhancing drugs. And the tour's testing now is basically a joke. Old-schoolers have always dismissed the ludicrous notion that steroids or the like could help elite golfers, anyway. They used to say the same thing about major-league pitchers. Hi, Roger Clemens.

Woods has already displayed the quality of his ethical decision-making. And as a spiritual guide, his late dad, Earl Woods, now looks more like a Mike Agassi clone than a developmental saint.
Tiger Woods is your AP Athlete of the Decade, folks.

If he did use performance-enhancing drugs, wouldn't that be perfect?

Ken Belson on Tag Heuer limiting its Tiger Woods "exposure."

“The partnership with Tiger Woods will continue,” Jean-Christophe Babin, TAG Heuer’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “But we will downscale the use of his image in certain markets for a period of time, depending on his decision about returning to professional golf.”

Babin did not define what “downscale” meant. Advertisements featuring Woods have been prominent in luxury magazines, as well as billboards and other outdoor advertising. Babin said the company would still support the charitable Tiger Woods Foundation.

The WSJ suggests Tiger is making at least $2 million a year from Tag Heuer:

In 2002, Mr. Woods stopped promoting Rolex's Tudor, a watch he had pitched for about five years, after securing a deal with Tag Heuer, which paid him an estimated $2 million annually for a three-year pact, according to people close to the company. The pact was then renewed; it isn't clear what the new terms were.

Brian Viner interviews Peter Alliss and he certainly isn't holding back:

"No, it's very sad. Of course, people say his advisers must have known what was going on, and should have put a stop to it, but he's the goose that lays the golden eggs. If you'd worked for one of the old press barons, would you have gone up to Beaverbrook and told him to stop misbehaving? This is no different.

"We're supposed to feel sorry for his family. But I don't know his family. She [Elin] might be a cow to live with, I don't know. What I do know is that the jokes will go on for 20 years. 'In the hole, Tiger' has a whole new connotation now, and will he be able to put up with that? If he can, if he does go on to win another five majors to move ahead of Nicklaus, I think everything he's done in the last 12 years will pale into insignificance. It will be a huge achievement. Of course, you can gain forgiveness in America even from those who would like to whip you with thorn bushes or whatever. You can go on Oprah. You can own up to things, like Jimmy Swaggart, the evangelist. But that won't stop the jibes. And Tiger's a proud man. He'll hate the jibes. But he's got to re-enter society sometime."

Walter Pacheco of the Orlando Sentinel notes this change in the Arnold Palmer Invitational's website banner:

The New Yorker's John Cassidy notes this about Tiger's continued disappearance from visibility of any kind.

From the first day, when he refused to come out and say anything about his car wreck, Tiger has made a series of terrible moves, culminating in his decision to take an “indefinite” leave from professional golf. By pulling a Howard Hughes and disappearing from view, Tiger has left the field open for others, few of who have his best interests at heart, to shape the narrative in ways beneficial to them. What started out as a serious problem for Tiger has evolved into a career-threatening crisis. Unless he reverses course and tries to seize control of the story, his days as the world’s premier athlete-celebrity may be over.

And he notes that as a former senior editor at the New York Post...

where I helped to direct the coverage of the O.J. trial and other juicy yarns. Even back then, before the growth of the Internet, tabloid stories of a certain magnitude were capable of taking on a life of their own. Today, with TMZ.com, OMG!, People.com, Gawker, and who-knows how many other Web sites offering real-time coverage, the self-perpetuating nature of stories involving mega-celebrities is even more evident.

Rumors continue to circulate about Tiger's whereabouts, with the Palm Beach Post reporting on Privacy's location as of Thursday night.

And finally, Chelsea Handler lands the first interview with Tiger...



Friday
Dec182009

Finchem Should Do Video Conferences More Often

The scribblers didn't give Tim Finchem the best reviews yesterday on his teleconference performance and I must say his tone during the call was different from what was exhibited in his chats on CNBC, ESPN and The Golf Channel.

Maybe he should talk to the scribes on video? Ty, set that up please. Help the big guy out. It's going to be a long year.

Unfortunately we don't have images to see if he rekindled last year's kidnapping video sensibility, but Finchem did apparently talk to his players again via video and was a bit more candid than he was in talking to us lowly writers.  Sean Martin reports:

The nine-minute video appeared to have been filmed in the locker room at TPC Sawgrass. It was divided into three segments: "Business Update," "2010 Season," and "Tiger's Absence."

Way to weave those current events in!

In Thursday's press conference, Finchem denied reports that the Tour is having trouble securing sponsorship renewals. However, he said in Friday's video that he will travel to fewer events in 2010 as he focuses on securing those sponsorships.

“In 2010, this economy hasn’t gotten any better,” he said. “We have a lot more renewals for 2011. My focus, my priority is going to be the business of the PGA Tour. You may not see me out there as much.”

He sure knows how to spoil a PGA Tour pro's Christmas.

However, he did say 2010 should be a “very, very solid year” for the Tour. “We have a full schedule. We have playing opportunities that are very close to 2009. We will have prize money about the same, maybe a little higher than 2009. Our charity dollars will be up somewhat.”

Actually, it's down $4 million give or take a few dollars..

“I don’t want to misrepresent the facts. Tiger has a strong impact on the PGA Tour, but we can perform well, and perform adequately for our sponsors in his absence,” Finchem said.

“... But in the meantime, we need to do a little more work. Again, as I mentioned earlier, it’s incumbent on all of us in 2010 to work hard, continue that effort we had in 2009, and roll into 2010 with an upbeat attitude.”
Finchem asked players to continue an increased effort to interact with sponsors.

“As you did in 2009, stepping up and committing yourselves to extra effort for sponsors and tournaments, we want to carry that right into 2010,” he said. “... This helped us a lot in this downturn, and we need to do it again in 2010.”

Friday
Dec182009

WSJ Confirms American Media, Tiger Quid Pro Quo Deal

An early NY Post story in the Woods saga that never gained much attention has been investigated and confirmed by the Wall Street Journal's Reed Albergotti, Vanessa O'Connell and Russell Adams.

Among the more interesting details:how the National Enquirer's parent company swung a deal to kill a story in exchange for Roy Johnson's Men's Fitness cover story on Tiger's fitness program.

Under Golf Digest's contract with Mr. Woods, the monthly, which is owned by Condé Nast Publications Inc., spent as much as $1 million annually on donations to the Tiger Woods Foundation, printing the charity's annual report and sponsoring many of Mr. Woods's preferred tournaments, according to a person familiar with the terms. In return, Mr. Woods agreed to contribute monthly articles on golf techniques and limit his appearances in competing publications.

Yet never had Golf Digest been granted the level of access to the golfer's private life allowed for in the article and photo shoot published in Men's Fitness in August 2007. Mr. Tarde says he did not object because the interview wasn't a violation of Golf Digest's agreement with Mr. Woods. He said he assumed Mr. Woods had agreed to the interview as a way to generate publicity for his trainer, Keith Kleven. Mr. Kleven, who was quoted extensively in the Men's Fitness article, did not return calls for comment.

Mr. Woods had cut an unusual deal with American Media Inc., the owner of both Men's Fitness magazine and the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper. Mr. Woods agreed to the cover shot and photo spread in Men's Fitness, whose circulation of about 700,000 per issue is less than half of Golf Digest's nearly 1.7 million, in return for the National Enquirer squelching a story and photographs purportedly showing Mr. Woods in a liaison with a woman who wasn't his wife, according to people directly involved in the arrangement.

This would seem to contradict the widely reported $2 million annual pay package normally attributed to the Woods-Digest relationship.

The WSJ story goes on to explain the vital role played by Tiger's L.A. lawyers, Lavely and Singer.

Within hours, representatives of Mr. Woods told the Enquirer that Mr. Woods wouldn't comment on the alleged affair, say people close to the matter. But the representatives made an offer: If the Enquirer dropped the story, Mr. Woods would sit for an elaborate interview for sister publication Men's Fitness, according to people with direct knowledge of the arrangement.

After Mr. Woods's camp offered the interview to American Media, people familiar with the matter say the company began negotiating with Lavely & Singer, a 15-lawyer firm in Los Angeles that is known for its aggressive tactics in disputes surrounding the publication of controversial articles about celebrities. Neither Jay Lavely Jr., who represents Mr. Woods, nor his partner, Martin Singer, responded to questions from the Journal.

Speaking of the Johnson story, a reader noted this unfortunate line:

"And Woods has won so much booty -- money, you filthy minded slugs -- that we stopped counting long ago."

Friday
Dec182009

SF Rec And Parks Votes To Restore Sharp Park

Rachel Gordon reports on the latest positive development for the beleaguered MacKenzie design.

The commission considered three proposals, including one that would return the coastal golf course to its natural state.

The alternative backed by commissioners would keep the course whole but move several holes to guard the most vulnerable wetlands habitat for the San Francisco garter snake and the red-legged frog.

The estimated cost ranges from $5.9 million to $11.3 million. Funding has not been identified.

Thursday
Dec172009

Q&A With Don Van Natta Jr., New York Times Investigative Correspondent

After Tuesday's New York Times front page story linking Dr. Anthony Galea to Tiger Woods, I requested an e-interview with Pulitzer prize-winning investigative correspondent Don Van Natta Jr., one of the key contributors to the story and an occasional writer for Golf Digest.

The Times story has been criticized by Woods' agent Mark Steinberg and on assorted sites, including this odd and dismissive take at Deadspin. As recently as yesterday, Steinberg's agency, IMG, continued to deny any link to Dr. Galea, though they appeared to be isolating their man in case evidence contradicts Steinberg's statements.

Gerald Posner writes:

But this afternoon, I had a surprisingly blunt conversation with Jim Gallagher, the normally diplomatic chief of IMG’s press relations, who told The Daily Beast: “Mark Steinberg has assured us that he has never met Dr. Galea or referred him to any of our clients, including Tiger Woods.”

I asked Van Natta about the strong denial by Steinberg, along with questions about elements to Dr. Galea's defense.

GS: Can you speak to the genesis of this story and when the New York Times began speaking to Dr. Galea?

DVN: We had received a tip that one of Tiger Woods’ doctors was under criminal investigation in the U.S. for dispensing performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes. I was brought into the story last Thursday and first spoke with Dr. Galea by phone on Friday evening. Our first conversation lasted nearly two hours. Then over last weekend, Dr. Galea and I spoke by phone several additional times and exchanged a half dozen email messages.

GS: Tiger's agent Mark Steinberg followed up his bizarre initial comments in the story by saying, "The New York Times is flat wrong, no one at IMG has ever met or recommended Dr. Galea, nor were we worried about the progress of Tiger's recovery, as the Times falsely reported."  In the story, you write that Dr. Galea said Tiger was "referred to him by the golfer’s agents at Cleveland-based International Management Group, who were alarmed at the slow pace of Mr. Woods’s rehabilitation after knee surgery in June 2008." Later on the suggestion is made "In February, discouraged by the lack of progress, Dr. Lindsay asked Dr. Galea to look at Mr. Woods, who was suffering from patellar tendinitis and had scarring in the muscle."  Can you speak to Mr. Steinberg's claims and clarify how the Times believes Tiger became associated with Dr. Galea?

DVN: Dr. Lindsay and Dr. Galea both told me that Dr. Galea was brought in to assist in Tiger’s rehabilitation, with the knowledge and blessing of agents at I.M.G.  They both said that when Dr. Galea first examined Tiger, the golfer was suffering from tendonitis in his left knee and stubborn scarring. They said Tiger and his representatives were not pleased with the slow pace of his recovery. Both Dr. Lindsay and Dr. Galea said agents at I.M.G. routinely refer them both to their athlete-clients who need treatment.

GS: Mark Steinberg also said, "The treatment Tiger received is a widely accepted therapy and to suggest some connection with illegality is recklessly irresponsible."  But as I read the story, no assertion was ever made that the platelet therapy was illegal. However, the doctor's use of other alternative and illegal drugs does appear to raise questions as to why Woods would associate with a doctor using sometimes unlawful methods?

DVN: That’s right. We never said -- nor did we suggest -- that PRP was illegal. The story raised questions about why Tiger Woods associated with a doctor who is accused now by Canadian authorities of using unlawful methods. The follow-up questions I would ask Mr. Steinberg are: Why did IMG allow their most valuable client to get treatment in his own home from a doctor who he says they had never met? Did Tiger receive treatment from Dr. Galea without IMG’s knowledge and/or permission?

GS: While sharing what appear to be extensive on-the-record comments by Dr. Galea, it is noted that "his practice has become a regular destination for injured professional athletes, including N.F.L. players who take red-eye flights on Monday nights for treatment on Tuesdays, their day off," yet Tiger Woods was treated at his Orlando home on several occasions.  Did Dr. Galea ever speak as to why he made the unique gesture of flying to Florida?

DVN: No. But our reporting shows most of Tiger’s nine-month rehabilitation occurred in his personal gym inside his home outside Orlando.

GS: In the story, Dr. Galea is reported as saying that in October, "he heard again from Mr. Woods that his knee was still bothering him, 'but all this stuff started with the investigation, and I couldn’t go see him.'" Did the doctor indicate whether his inability to treat Woods since October was a product of his schedule changing due to the investigation, or because Woods decided to no longer seek treatment from Dr. Galea?

DVN: I was surprised by Dr. Galea’s comments that indicated Tiger was hurting more during this past season than we had known. Dr. Galea told me that Tiger wanted further PRP treatment but he could not go to Orlando because of the criminal investigation. 

Thursday
Dec172009

Tiger's Indefinite Leave Clippings, Vol. 7

Tim Finchem actually made Tiger second-hand news Thursday and maybe even into Friday...unless Tiger surfaces or his Citation overruns a short runway in Wickenberg, Arizona near a certain rehab clinic made famous by David Duchovny.

Unfortunately for Finchem, the reviews weren't so hot for his whirlwind press tour that commenced on CNBC, included a teleconference with scribes, and wrapped up with Golf Channel and ESPN appearances.

Jim McCabe says you got the feeling that Tim Finchem's "at the helm of the S.S. Good Ship Lollipop," and while he really enjoyed Finchem's praise for the President's Cup, he couldn't quite let the Dr. Galea component of the press conference and Finchem's brush-off go unnoticed:

While it’s documented that Dr. Galea is under arrest for drug-related charges, no one is suggesting Woods should be the subject of suspicions. Still, it was alarming to hear Finchem state, almost brushing it aside like a three-putt bogey, that “I have no reason to have a concern with respect to him and a doctor (Galea) who has used HGH with patients for whom it’s not an illegal drug (which is true of HGH, in Canada).”

Dick Pound wonders. The former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency said, “You would have a heightened awareness. I would not put it any further than that.”

Dr. Gary Wadler, chairman of the WADA, does take it a step further. Asked if he thought Finchem should have expressed a little more concern, Dr. Wadler said, “You can’t be dismissive. I’ve seen that for years and years and years. Let’s put it this way: As a doping expert, when I hear in the same sentence ‘blood-spinning, HGH, and Actovegin,’ I intend to straighten up and have a better look.

“(I hear) that combination, those three things, and I immediately think about doping. At best you look into it.”

“That’s what clean athletes expect,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “You believe what they say, but also, you have the responsibility to verify.”

Bill Huffman also wasn't impressed.

But even more than the media’s unquenched thirst for Tiger’s secret life and his, some might say, “pending’’ divorce, is the way the Tour seems to be protecting Woods, who "reportedly'' is on his way to an addiction clinic in Wickenburg. And the big question that goes along with that is, does Tiger deserve such protection?
 
More than one reporter has brought up the fact lately, that despite being independent contractors, Woods seems to get the kid gloves from Finchem when compared to, say, John Daly. And, yes, that exact question came up Thursday and here’s what Finchem had to say about the insinuation that Tiger’s behavior had smudged the Tour’s guideline for “conduct unbecoming,’’ which is an area that allows the commissioner to level fines or suspensions.

“Historically, the PGA Tour has never, to my knowledge in our history, taken a situation in someone’s personal life and dealt with it from a disciplinary matter or considered it conduct unbecoming as it relates to our regulations,’’ Finchem said, adding quickly: “Our regulations relate to conduct unbecoming that’s either in the public arena or law enforcement arena.’’

OK, so Tiger didn’t hit the fire hydrant with his Escalade at 2:30 in the morning when he was high on Ambien, right? And he didn’t lie to the cops when he said that his distraught wife knocked the back window out of the car – on both sides! – to rescue him, correct? And, well, the hookers and the steroids are just ill-timed rumors as long as they don’t end up in the “law enforcement arena,’’ and so there is no reason to look into them, huh?

Steve Elling noted the Commissioner's often contradictory statements and finds it hard to fathom how golf wasn't damaged by the last three weeks.

Playing defense because of the manifold ties Woods has to the tour product, as well as the game's general health, Finchem came out swinging with his driver, although plenty of the missives missed the mark. Deny and defy it loud enough, brother, and somebody might believe it.

Thanks to Woods, golf news has been almost uniformly brutal for 21 days and counting. He has more alleged mistresses than majors. Porno videos are being shot with Woods' life as the punch line and plotline. He has been linked to a controversial physician who is facing drug charges. Every day brings another hurtful revelation.

Nobody is suggesting that golf will crash and burn because Woods' reputation is tainted or he's gone underground. After all, the tour survived when he missed eight months in 2008-09. But Finchem's insistence on soft-pedaling the impact, to use one of his favorite terms, is just plain counter-intuitive.

Mike Walker had a hard time telling the difference between Finchem's appearances and SNL's sketch.

The silver lining for the Tour is that when Woods comes back, interest in him and the game will be greater than ever. Finchem told Rovell that Woods is not bigger than golf. That's wrong. After what happened these last two weeks, he's bigger than sports. When he comes back, the Tour will have Brangelina on the course 16 weekends a year. Someone ought to be able to sell that.

Jay Busbee summed up the teleconference this way:

Regarding Woods, Finchem pursued an it's-unfortunate-but-let's-give-him-his privacy approach. One wonders what Finchem would have said if it were any other golfer, with the possible exception of Phil Mickelson, who had acted in the same way Tiger Woods apparently has been over the last few years. I'd expect he'd have far harsher words for any other golfer who had, by his own admission, subverted the very "gentleman's code" upon which golf so prides itself.

Just now weighing in on the saga is a once big Tiger fan Gene Wojciechowski, who writes:

How many times will we get burned by corporate -- and, yes, media -- image inventions before we learn?

Mark McGwire … fraud.

Sammy Sosa … fraud.

Barry Bonds … fraud.

Roger Clemens … fraud.

Alex Rodriguez … liar.

I could keep going. The list is as long as a Wrigley Field bathroom line.

Woods is the latest name on the disgraced sports hero time line. His descent is stunning because we never saw it coming. The Ice Man melteth.

I'm not sure Tiger was beloved. He was admired, respected, even feared. We saw his sharp edges but rarely saw the sanded-down parts of his personality. He was in total control -- or so we thought.

In an improvement over his last piece, Huffington Post's Matthew DeBord takes shots at just about everyone in the golf establishment from The Golf Channel to Phil Knight to the National Enquirer to Tim Rosaforte to Dubai, then says this about Tiger:

The game is in no way bigger than Tiger. In fact, Tiger is so immensely, hugely, ginormously larger than mere golf that golf may never recover from this monumental fall from grace. You could go nuts and say that Tiger is golf, except that he's even bigger than that. Tiger, truth be told, is bigger than Tiger. He is, or was, so mega, so money, that he transcended even himself. The complexity of this scandal, the depth of psychological and emotional trauma that must have been and may still be present to enable it, is of Hegelian dimensions. More than a decade of intricately orchestrated deception. Nixon wasn't this good.

Phillip Reid features lengthy comments from Padraig Harrington.

“That’s what amazes me, I thought the guy was, and I’m particularly loath to use the word, but let’s say had a quiet life, went back to his hotel room every night . . . (to) sit in your room for six hours is not a pleasant experience, he couldn’t go out.

“I felt sorry for him in that sense, (because) I could go out (for dinner) every night. I assumed life on tour was real tough (for him). You knew when he was off tour he enjoyed his boat and going fishing and that was the only freedom he ever got.

“I’m amazed by both sides, that if somebody goes down that road you usually can tell, there’s a bravado in it and all that sort of stuff . . . the odd time he’d be in a hotel and you’d see him going getting his ice to have an ice bath for his knee and things like that, you’d see him in the gym, always just incredibly diligent.

“You’d kind of often think (of asking), ‘do you want to go out for dinner?’, and not (ask), think he is trying to do his own thing and trying to be special in that sense. I felt for the fact he was absolutely in a fishbowl, life was tough in that sense.

“The only thing I can give on the whole story is ‘wow’, I was out there on tour with him for 10 years and often Tiger himself has said I’d be (considered) a friend, and I had no idea this was going on in his life . . . a triple life: golf, home and when he was away.”

Bookies are offering some unusual bets.

Bookmaker William Hill is taking bets on just how much Nordegren will get if she decides to divorce the world's No 1 golfer. As the scandal widens with claims of more mistresses, punters can get odds of 25-1 that Nordegren will receive more than half a billion dollars in a divorce settlement. The odds drop to 6-4 for a settlement under $100m. William Hill offer 1-2 that she gets between $100m and $500m. William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said: "It's largely a bit of fun."

That's nice.

Besides the divorce rumors getting picked up just about everywhere, US featured this about Tiger's current routine:

After those grueling sessions -- which a source describes as the golfer "just apologizing over and over again" -- Woods heads to a nearby course to hit golf balls "to clear his head," another local says. "He goes after dark so he can't be seen. For him, what's more therapeutic than hitting golf balls, the thing he's best at in the whole world?"

And finally, several outlets seem to think Tiger is headed to Meadows Rehabilitation Center, former home to celebrity sex addicts like David Duchovny, and Halle Berry's former hubby, Eric Benet.

Thursday
Dec172009

CNN Newsroom Appearance With Rick Sanchez

Barring breaking news Friday, I'm scheduled to be appearing at 3 p.m. EST/12 p.m. PST on CNN's Newsroom with Rick Sanchez to talk about Tiger Woods and what this all means for golf.

Thursday
Dec172009

"It's never been seriously considered that these matters in his personal life are subject to our tournament regulation."

Tim Finchem first appeared on CNBC this morning offering nice tight, crisp and upbeat answers. Then he picked up the phone and lulled us scribblers to sleep with at times condescending but consistently long-winded "opening remarks."

Highlights from the Q&A:

Lastly, let me turn for a few moments to the question of what's the effect of not having Tiger play the TOUR. I've been interested to see commentary from a different number of directions in the last week, specifically since Friday, since Tiger's announcement, that projects significant doom and gloom for the PGA TOUR, even to the point where Saturday Night Live got involved and had us losing most of our sponsors. Let me just parenthetically say that the rumor that I keep on flask on my desk is not true, that was spawned by the Saturday Night Live telecast on Saturday night.

Does Jacksonville's Comedy Zone have an amateur night? Could be in the Commish's future?

Q. I had a couple of questions. Do any of the comments and what we know about Tiger fall under conduct unbecoming? I know you can't speak to fines or suspensions or anything, but how would that differ from Daly's suspension of last year?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Historically the PGA TOUR has never, to my knowledge in our history, taken a situation in someone's personal life and dealt with it from a disciplinary matter or considered it conduct unbecoming as it relates to our regulations. Our regulations relate to conduct unbecoming that's either in the public arena or law enforcement arena, and so that's number one.

That certainly isn't relevant in Tiger's case. Nope, no sirree.

Number two, our disciplinary policy is developed and focused in our sport primarily as a tool to use to bring to a player's attention why certain behavior is inappropriate from a public presentation of our sport standpoint. That wouldn't be relevant here, either. It's never been seriously considered that these matters in his personal life are subject to our tournament regulation.

Not seriously considered? But obviously considered on some level.

Q. First question I had, you said you haven't spoken with Tiger. Did you attempt to? Had you reached out to him at all?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, I've respected his privacy in this matter.

If he's not taking Barkley's call, you know he's not taking Finchem's.

Q. There's been some suggestions that this has kind of been a peek into a seedy side of the PGA TOUR, that there are parties and things going on that people have never been aware of. How do you respond to that?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, I saw somebody showed me some blog that made references to that. You know, I just laughed. You go out to a PGA TOUR event, and I've been going to them for 23 years, you'll find more group activity in the fitness truck than you will anywhere else.

That was an unfortunate choice of words.

The notion that players are out there partying is absurd. It's just absurd.

The competition at this level -- people ask me over the years, how do you keep drinking and drugs out of the sport. Actually, we don't. The sport keeps drinking and drugs out of our sport. You can't play at this level and have those kinds of issues.

These fellows are athletes. If you look at what a couple of inches on a putt means two or three times a year in terms of how you're going to finish the year and compete, players take it seriously. They're focused on physical fitness. These are family people. They come to us already 95 percent college educated. We just don't have any of those issues.

Now, that's not to say that you don't have an individual here and there, like anything. We reported a violation of our anti-doping policy a few months ago. So it's not a perfect situation. But to suggest there is that kind of activity at PGA TOUR event is a joke.

Easy there Commish...it's not the worst thing in the world that people think PGA Tour golfers are having a little fun now and then. (Note to Ponte Vedra handlers: tell him he's starting to sound old. The party image makes the tour accessible to a younger demo.)

On a less light note, wasn't it nice of the Commissioner to drag Doug Barron into this?

Who has brought more negative publicity in the last month to golf, Barron or Tiger?

Here's the CNBC video:

Thursday
Dec172009

"If we play with a golf ball that is 10 percent rolled back and we used to hit it 300 yards, now we're hitting it 270 yards. Well, fans that come to a tour event are not going to be impressed by that."

Phil Mickelson's comments to E. Michael Johnson about equipment in the new Golf World prove short-sighted and frankly, disappointing.

What do you think of two sets of rules on equipment?

I believe it is our job to entertain, and it is difficult to do things others can't when we roll back equipment rules. If we play with a golf ball that is 10 percent rolled back and we used to hit it 300 yards, now we're hitting it 270 yards. Well, fans that come to a tour event are not going to be impressed by that.

Fans are not impressed by a lot of things, like slow play, players who spit and the general drone-like personality of too many players. But feeling cheated because of the distance a ball doesn't fly? Hard to see that one when driving distance measurements aren't immediately available to a fan. A long drive is a long drive. It's all relative Phil.

It is detrimental to the PGA Tour that we will no longer be able to hit those shots around the green that we were able to in the past -- the shots people pay to see.

Yes, people do love a shot that spins and a miraculous recovery, but there is also the possibility that golf fans are savvy enough to have an even greater appreciation for recovery shots in the future knowing players are using equipment around the greens more consistent with what past generations used.

How much more can tour players gain through equipment?

You can gain with club fitting and optimization of set makeup, but the USGA over the last five or six years has capped much of the improvement. Basically the attitude of [USGA senior technical director] Dick Rugge, who is the omnipotent one in the game of golf, is that if something comes out that is beneficial to tour pros, then he's just going to change the rule [Ed. note: the USGA, citing that the configuration did not adhere to the intent of the rule, disallowed a groove design Callaway submitted although it met the technical parameters]. So there's no opportunity for real advancement when we have that type of governing body.

Callaway and Phil need to lay out how technical advances grow the game. Unfortunately, the only folks who benefit from constant product obsolescence are manufacturers and their shareholders.

What would you do if you were in charge of equipment regulation?

I would definitely rescind the right for one man to approve or disapprove a club regardless of whether it conforms to the rules that were set forth. Dick Rugge has that power. I think it is wrong to have that much power in one person's hands.

Anything else?

As far as other areas, I won't go into specifics, but technological improvements are not as evil or bad as the USGA is making them out to be. Historically, they have been beneficial for golf.

Yes, tell that to all of the people with 7,300 yard courses they can't afford to keep open for business.

Wednesday
Dec162009

Tiger's Indefinite Leave Clippings, Vol. 6

Christine Brennan joins the growing number of newspaper columnists suggesting that Tiger's marital situation--which People is reporting may be coming to an end--may be the least of his problems after his ties to Dr. Anthony Galea become a New York Times cover story.

For all the conversation about Tiger's titillating tabloid lifestyle, that by itself will not sink his golf career. But were he to have cheated in sports by using performance-enhancing drugs, his golf career likely would be over. Golf isn't baseball, where A-Rod can acknowledge cheating in spring training and be feted with a ticker-tape parade by autumn. Golf is a game of honor, where the athletes call penalties on themselves. Performance-enhancing drug use by such a high-profile person probably would kill a career in that sport.

Dave Seanor reminds us that we need to ad the health of Tiger's knee to the list of revelations/fibs of the last three weeks.

Brian Stelter of the NY Times reports on Accenture's office purge of all things Tiger and notes this:

The remaining billboards and ads, now outdated, inspire smirks and jokes. In ads at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, Tiger is seen crouching on the green, studying a golf ball’s trajectory and endorsing outsourcing. In Atlanta, he is posed as The Thinker, adorned with a Nike hat, promoting management consulting. At Dulles International outside Washington, he is peering into the distance, dark clouds on the horizon. That ad, forebodingly, says it is “tougher than ever to be a Tiger.”

“The Accenture ads with Tiger finally make sense,” Quentin George, the chief digital officer for Interpublic Mediabrands, an advertising holding company, remarked on Twitter Wednesday.

Jason Sandford, with reporting by David Forbes, tries to figure out who people will view The Cliffs project if/when it is completed.

So far, the official line from Tiger Town is supportive. In a Dec. 8 statement, Scott Ziegler, president of corporate branding for The Cliffs Communities, wrote: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Woods family as they deal with this personal and private family matter. Our relationship with Tiger Woods and our commitment to The Cliffs at High Carolina remains unchanged."

But Woods' "family man" image has been a key selling point for The Cliffs. "With a wife and two kids, your perspective in life changes," the golfer says in a video on the development's Web site, as spotlighted by a CNBC reporter.

Flush with a $10 billion infusion, the folks in Dubai are still happy to be involved with Tiger, reports Zainab Fattah and Tian Huang:

“The Tiger Woods Dubai does not comment on the personal lives of our valued partners,” Tiger Woods Dubai said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Tiger Woods Design, a Windermere, Florida-based company headed by Woods, announced plans for the Al Ruwaya course in December 2006. Dubai Properties is part of state-owned Dubai Holding, which may join another state-owned investment company, Dubai World, in restructuring debt, Morgan Stanley said in a Dec. 8 report. Dubai received a $10 billion bailout this week from Abu Dhabi after seeking a standstill from creditors.

Alan Shipnuck in SI weighs in on the saga:

Over the last 13 years Woods has remade golf in his own iconic image, along the way peddling himself as a keeper of the game's values: honor, integrity, playing by the rules, that kind of blather. Woods will eventually return to competition, but when he does, golf — and its best player — will have to be sold in an entirely different way.

Stina Sternberg contemplates the possible reaction of female fans.

Suddenly, our neatly compartmentalized modes of information gathering were jumbled. The celebrity-gossip world merged with the sports world. Our male friends started quoting passages from US Weekly. Our fathers couldn't come to the phone because they were busy watching the latest Tiger news on "Access Hollywood." And in the middle of this surreal 180 made by the otherwise tabloid-hating men in our lives, women golfers had to grapple with feelings of loss and disappointment over the moral ruin of one of our biggest heroes.

Tim Rosaforte writes that the Tiger accident and fallout is "not a setback. It's a test."

Of course there exists the scenario that Tiger goes from the depths of his fall -- and we may not have hit bottom yet -- to one of the greatest comebacks in golf history. Ratings for Tiger's return will be unprecedented. More eyeballs could be on the 2010 Masters, where Woods could return, than his historic victory in '97. With that kind of timing, Finchem may be able to get more in his last TV deal as commissioner.

Michael Buteau reports that the short term numbers aren't looking so hot, suggesting $220 million or more in lost revenue for golf.

Tiger Woods’s indiscretions will cascade through Golf Inc., costing the PGA Tour, television networks such as CBS and merchandise vendors like Nike Inc. $220 million or more in lost revenue.

Woods’s indefinite leave from the sport, announced Dec. 11 after he disclosed marital infidelity, deprives professional golf of its biggest draw. In his absence, tournament crowds may be 20 percent smaller, according to organizers.

Television audiences may shrink by half, based on Nielsen Co. data from past events. TV advertising may drop by as much as 40 percent, said Aaron Cohen, chief media negotiating officer at New York-based ad agency Horizon Media Inc. Nike, which built its golf equipment business around Woods, stands to lose more than $30 million in sales, according to Claire Gallacher, an analyst with San Diego-based Capstone Investments Inc.

“It’s not so much a ripple effect as it is a tsunami,” said Rick Gentile, a former CBS Sports executive producer who teaches at Seton Hall University. “The aura is gone.”

Bill Fields wonders what this all means for Tiger's pursuit of history.

How will he deal with it if he gets heckled during play? If reporters' questions are unrelenting? Will his ultra-premium focus reappear? He knows golf history -- that Seve Ballesteros won his last major when he was only 31, Tom Watson at 33, Arnold Palmer at 34. Woods turns 34 on Dec. 30. Even after a break -- even if it turns out to be an extended hiatus -- do recent events exacerbate the fatigue of being Tiger Woods, of carrying the weight of a sport, of achieving at an unfathomable clip since before he had a driver's license?

Whatever Tiger is in golf years, he has aged in the last month without executing an impossible recovery shot, without having to make a six-footer that breaks two ways. Woods has been the best at producing a quiet mind at the loudest moments. If he is able to summon the silence after this coarse cacophony, the mess he created, it will be his most hard-earned win yet.

Geoff Russell says that if there's any hope for Tiger, it's in Kobe Bryant's image rehabilitation and looks at his six-year-old for clues into Tiger's future.

All my son knows about Kobe Bryant is that he is the best player on the best team in the NBA, and that he always seems to make the important shot when the game is on the line. He's cool. He's Johnny's hero. And I'm not going to mess with that.

Either way, it's pretty telling that Bryant can now be defined by something other than the events of that summer six years ago. Like it or not, that's the nature of our society these days. We are quick to condemn our stars, quick to pore over every tawdry item about them in the tabloids. And yet we're just as quick in extending them a second chance. One minute they've been sworn off forever, the next their jersey is gift-wrapped and waiting under your Christmas tree.

Art Stricklin not only reveals that Hank Haney reportedly has a sense of humor, but says that unlike Stevie Williams, Tiger's instructor has little to say.

"Don't think firing me is a story any more is it?," he said in a text message when asked for a comment.

Haney was in China looking at courses when Woods had his car accident prior to Thanksgiving, but he quickly received word that Woods was OK. Since then, he has declined to say if he knew anything about Tiger's "infidelity."

"Nice try, but no comment," he said.

Haney goes on to then explain how his relationship with Tiger works when he is summoned to work on Tiger's swing. But other than that, he has no comment.

Martin Dempster talks to Peter Alliss:

"As for questions being asked about the people who look after him, I look at it this way. When you've got a goose laying golden eggs and you are waiting to nick one and put it in your bank account, you aren't going to tell your boss they are behaving stupid and will get caught because the chances are you'll lose your job.

George Vecsey talked to Lance Armstrong about the AP Athlete of the Decade award and Tiger's hunkering down.

“On a personal level, I consider Tiger a friend,” Armstrong said. “We’ve never hung out together, but we’ve talked and worked for each other’s foundations. I would encourage him to get out there and be seen.”

Besides reporting on Elin's movements, the tabloids continue to pursue all angles of the story. The most alarming report for Team Tiger may be this National Enquirer item posted online suggesting interest by federal agencies into whether Woods used foundation money in an illegal manner.

Tiger's dealings with Bell could raise many new questions about potential illegal activities.

"You can't use charitable, tax deductible money for your own private purposes," said Craig Silverman, a former Colorado prosecutor. "It's also legally problematic if you use non-charitable corporate money for personal sexual adventures."

In a potentially devastating development for Tiger Woods, his growing sex scandal and hush money payoffs have caught the attention of the FBI and IRS.

A top source in Washington, D.C., divulged that in mid-December "discussions were underway" involving those two government agencies about whether to launch a federal probe of the billionaire golfer.

"They haven't pulled the trigger yet, but they smell blood in the water," the source told The ENQUIRER.

"Their interest was heightened when they heard reports suggesting that Tiger may have been paying for high-class call girls.

"It had already come out that Tiger's company may have paid for the travel of at least one of his girlfriends for a recent hookup in Australia. If Tiger is using company money to do it - and if illegal activity such as prostitution is taking place - then they're going to come down on him."

In reporting on Friday's People exclusive about a divorce, a New York Daily News report also suggests that Tiger is still in Orlando:

The Daily News also reports that Woods is riding out the publicity frenzy from his infidelity by hunkering down with close friends. Sources told the newspaper the golfer is stressed out but "not on sedatives."

"He is very contrite, but he's also disoriented," the newspaper quoted a longtime-friend of Woods as saying. "He still can't believe this is happening."

Woods is reportedly trying to find the right place to try to ride out the storm.

"He's been talking about going away with two or three of his friends, just the boys," said the friend, who has known Woods since the golfer was a teenager.

"They've been trying to figure out a place that would be safe."

The Times' Jacqui Goddard analyzes the divorce possibility and the news that Elin may try to file in California.

But her reported intention to file for divorce in California, whose community property laws may make for a more generous settlement than in her home state of Florida, could face complications. Californian law requires that at least one of the parties must be a resident of the State for six months immediately before any petition is filed.

“Particularly with children involved, who I believe have lived in Florida, you can’t get around that easily,” said John Wallace, a divorce attorney in Orlando.

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have done a good job drawing up a pre-nup. That’s where she’s going to have difficulty. You can’t deal with childrens issues in a pre-nup....This is the kind of divorce that’s a lawyer’s dream. You could have lawyers fighting over several different issues in different states.”

And finally, Lawrence Donegan tells us 27 things we've learned from the scandal. My favorites:

3 Unlike Columbo and Angela Lansbury, the Florida Highway Patrol will take no for an answer.

25 If the New York Times asks a question about your 33-year-old client, never reply: "Give the kid a break."

26 The PGA Tour, professional golf and Tiger himself will come back from this bigger and better. Cross your fingers and repeat 300 times a day because, you never know, dreams might come true.

27 Fame, wealth, endless supplies of free golf clubs – you might think you have everything but, trust me, you don't.