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You know, golf is a funny game. There never was a round of golf played in a big championship or just among friends, by experts or duffers, that didn't develop its humorous situations, and often really dramatic interludes.



Architecture Blog and DG Watch

Robert Thompson recently posted a fun rant on modern golf course development...

The iseekgolf discussion board is trying to get architect Tony Cashmore to reveal another of these mysterious Alister MacKenzie items that only he has seen (Cashmore also claimed to see Seth Raynor's routing of Cypress Point). 

Ian Andrew is celebrating the joys of the short par-4. 

Ian also went looking for photos of Riviera and several were posted on GolfClubAtlas, including No. 10's new Orlando themed look.  


Skins Leftovers

Gary Van Sickle says Faldo and Azinger prevented the Skins from becoming unwatchable, meaning they might as well fold it up since the ABC duo won't be back.

And since the Skins is not a PGA Tour managed or owned event, The Golf Channel's Mercer Baggs is free to pick on it, and boy does he dismantle any notion that the event should be kept going.

Back in ’83, the total purse for the Skins Game was $360,000, which was huge money.

Player, Palmer and Nicklaus never earned that much in a single season in their TOUR careers. Nicklaus made $316,911 in 1972, but it took seven wins, including two major titles, to get to that number. And, prior to that inaugural Game, Watson’s best financial season was $530,808 in 1980, when he won six times.

Player was the first Skins Game winner, taking home $170,000 – or just $7,336 less than his richest TOUR campaign in 1978.


There are several reasons why the Skins Game should die a merciful death. For one more: Ames was the big winner this year – now he has to be invited back in 2007.

For a lighter take, check out the Principal's Nose's take.


Donald's Plans To Be Unveiled...

_41617926_trumpgolf300.jpg...on Monday for the world's greatest course in Scotland. I really don't care, I just wanted an excuse to link this photo of him in a sky cap.

Just imagine what happened when he took the hat off.


Golf's Current Desperation For Buzz

Cameron Morfit at Golfonline does a nice job illuminating the absurdity of stories still clinging to Tiger's PGA TOUR (C) "streak."
Woods finished two strokes back of South Korea's Yang Yong-eun, a.k.a. Yang, at the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, China, marking (all together now) the first time he's lost a 72-hole tournament since the Cialis Western Open on July 9.

So can we finally retire all talk of the so-called "streak?" No way! Tiger considered his loss to Micheel to be the end of it, but you can bet your Big Bertha that when Woods opens the 2007 season, most likely at the Buick Invitational at San Diego's Torrey Pines, the news will be that he'll be trying to extend his "winning streak" of six consecutive victories in official, PGA Tour-sanctioned tournaments. (Sigh.)

Robert Palmer was addicted to love, America is addicted to oil and the golf world is addicted to Tiger. He's headline news when he doesn't win and even when doesn't even come close, which speaks loudly to golf's current desperation for buzz.

Ames Captures Skins; LG Asks For Rapture To Come Soon

Rumor has it that Skins Game sponsor LG is hoping Jesus makes his big return so they can get out of sponsoring next year's event, where, gulp, Stephen Ames is the defending champion at the new look Indian Wells Golf Resort!

Looking at the most recently updated Rapture Index, it doesn't appear that Ames's win was able to budge the number. 


Huggan On Australian Golf

John Huggan looks at the emergence of Australian golf and talks to Dale Lynch and Mike Clayton about it.

"She offers nothing more than gimmick value"

After failing to break 80 in Japan, Michelle Wie's critics turned up the heat. Jim Armstrong and Elspeth Burnside in The Scotsman:

What is becoming more tragic is the continued attempts by Wie to play in men's events when it has long been clear that, however prodigious a talent she may be in women's golf, she offers nothing more than gimmick value and a touch of glamour to the men's game.


"The Participant's Gift"

Thanks to reader David for the heads up on this John Garrity take on over-the-top trophies, highlighted by this:

But consider the plight of Jim Furyk, Geoff Ogilvy, and Mike Weir, who finished two, six, and nine strokes behind Tiger, respectively, at Poipu Bay. Their "participant's gift" from the PGA of America was a free-standing wooden locker with leather interior and brass name plate, each locker being large enough to store a staff bag, 10 green jackets, or three PGA Grand Slam trophies.

Furyk has a house on Maui, so he can probably float his locker over on a catamaran or outrigger canoe. But Ogilvy and Weir must be frantic, trying to get their lockers into the overhead bins for the flight to the mainland.

If I were a tournament sponsor, I'd try to cut this trend off at the pass. How about a hummingbird trophy for the winner of The Memorial? How about a commemorative scroll for the Phoenix Open champ? Hey, it's the digital age. The next time Tiger wins, I'd give him a leather-bound highlights DVD (with bonus features).

Or not. Big is in, ponderous is popular, and somehow the natives on Easter Island moved those big stone statues. Anyway, it's not in certain people's interest to discourage big trophies. Look who's sponsoring the PGA Tour's new season-ending points race: FedEx.



Clumsy Contours

230136-562668-thumbnail.jpgNow posted is my Golfdom essay on schlocky catch basins and how the old architects handled drainage artfully.

Bamberger on Bivens

In this week's SI Golf Plus, Michael Bamberger gives Carolyn Bivens mostly high marks, though this bit reveals just how weird things are behind the scenes:

On one occasion [Dottie] Pepper didn't like the way the commissioner dressed. Pepper, who won 17 times in her playing career and believes the LPGA might be better off as an arm of the PGA Tour, saw Bivens apparently wearing shorts at a tour event, a look Pepper feels is unbecoming for a commissioner, a look she had never seen on Votaw or Tim Finchem or any other commissioner. She called Bivens on it in a May 8 Golf Plus column while Jay Coffin also mentioned it in Golfweek. Bivens quickly responded to Pepper by e-mail: "I saw Jay Coffin's note about me wearing shorts. It wasn't worth the effort to tell him I had on silk, knee-length culottes. Must say I was surprised when I saw the same thing in your column.... In an industry which continues to place women under a microscope and perpetuates old stereotypes I was surprised."

Pepper fired back with an e-mail of her own: "I observed you in person that afternoon, [and] in no way were your shorts knee-length. You are the chosen 'CEO' for the LPGA and regardless of length or style, they were simply not appropriate attire for any person in your position."

Later in the e-mail, Pepper unleashed this broadside: "As a member of the LPGA for nearly 20 years, I am most disappointed with the lack of sincerity and [the] strong-arm tactics being used at this time on every imaginable level. Solid, long-term relationships are what the LPGA has been all about for more than 50 years and the main key to its success. I certainly hope these relationships are not the casualty of your new business plan."

Viewing Alert: Watch George Lopez Make Golf Administrators Squirm

"Far be it from me to correct the World Golf Hall of Fame, but there are actually four Latinos in the World Golf Hall of Fame, Chi-Chi Rodriguez, Lee Trevino, Nancy Lopez and Felipe the night janitor (laugher)."

Well, if you want to see if there was actually laughter, The Golf Channel is airing the Hall of Fame ceremony at 8 EST.

Here's the rest of the transcript from Lopez's emcee gig.  



PGA Tour Driving Distance Watch, Final

pgatour.jpgThe PGA Tour kindly provided the final numbers on driving distance average, though I'm not really sure why their number is always slightly lower than the average that you can compute using the same numbers online.

Anyhow, I had the final number at 289.5 yards, they are officially going with 289.3.

In 2006, there were 2,183 drives of 350 yards or longer.  There were 2059 in 2005.

20 players averaged over 300 yards, down from 26 last year (problem solved!).

30 drives of 400 yards or longer were struck in 2006. There were 18 400-yard+ drives in 2005.

The conclusion? Well we already know that the USGA President says distance has been flat or declining the last few years, but with the 2002 average at 279.8, we've seen nearly a 10-yard increase since the USGA drew the line.  Expect a press release soon touting the positive effects of tighter regulation.

Oh, and that ban on those evil U-grooves! Though I must say, if they go that route, it's going to be fun to watch that play out.


The Wisdom of Bobby Clampett, Vol. 317

"If he wasn't a professional, he'd be out there playing every day."

That's our man Bobby Clampett talking about Geoff Ogilvy during yesterday's Grand Slam telecast (thanks to reader Noonan for catching that pearl).

Here are some others, courtesy of TNT's PR department (yes, they actually send this stuff out!):

Clampett on Geoff Ogilvy:  “He’s been playing well for several years.  Everybody believes in him.  Everybody in his camp and in his circle said, ‘man, he can really play’ but I don’t think he believed that he could really play.  And that has been the difference in 2006 – that belief in himself.”

Clampett on Weir:  “He’s the modern day version of Corey Pavin – the bulldog that just keeps nipping at your heels.  He’s never going to let go.”Clampett on Jim Furyk as a high school athlete:  “Furyk in high school was an avid football and basketball player.  He just didn’t have the size.  He once scored 23 points in a high school basketball game.

The meticulous research this man does! 

Clampett on the par-4 12th hole at Poipu Bay:  “That hole is placed like a candle on the side of a birthday cake.”

What imagery.

Clampett on Furyk’s unorthodox golf swing:  “He has grazed the edge of almost every putt today.  When you look at Jim Furyk and you talk about his style of swing, it’s not one that you would see many players copying, that’s for sure.  It’s like he’s not driving the fanciest car but he’s getting the best gas mileage.”

Clampett on the maturation of Geoff Ogilvy:  “He has gone through a metamorphosis in his temperament and character.  He talked about how he used to have an unbalanced view of reality.  He’d play a good round of golf and then look for reasons why it wasn’t any good.  But that is not the Geoff Ogilvy of today.  He’s composed and he just played two poor shots.”

Had enough? There are 18 more holes today!


Harig On The Commissioners

Bob Harig pieces together an analysis of Tim Finchem's lousy year, and paints him as severely out of touch. But instead of drawing a conclusion about what this means for the PGA Tour and a man making $7 million a year, Harig details the rough year of Carolyn Bivens.

Still, it's a significant piece because a highly visible writer is offering the sharpest mainstream media criticism of the Commissioner's handling of the Western Open, drug testing and the FedEx Cup.

Readers here know that this story has been festering, but so far the major publications have not delved into the various misfires and other excessive spending in Ponte Vedra. If they want to attack what seems to be an enormous story, they also might want to consider the demise of the TPC "brand" under Finchem's watch, the Champions Tour decline, the...well, you get the idea.

It should be interesting to see if other writers pick up on the same theme as Harig, or perhaps take things a step further and suggest a change at the top. 


"He’s now gone into the golf course architecture business, so I wrote him a note."

File this under the you can't make this stuff up file. It's Robert Trent Jones Jr. trying to channel Desmond Muirhead in the pre-round chats at the Grand Slam of golf:

ROBERT TRENT JONES JR. (Poipu Bay Golf Course designer): The weather can be changeable here. You can have very strong winds or you can kind of have mild winds and of course, the mild winds are kind of like a lamb. In the strong winds, it takes a Tiger to beat a tiger.

Okay, all together everyone, on three, one, two three, "Oy vey!"

He will tell you he’s comfortable with this particular course and that he’s played it so many times, it’s like Augusta or another course that you know. He has an advantage over player like Ogilvy, who is playing it for the first time. And then again, he’s Tiger Woods.

He’s now gone into the golf course architecture business, so I wrote him a note. I’ve known him since he was 14. I told him now that he’s going into defense, Napoleon defending Paris is a little different deal. If you need any help, call me. We had a little chat about it.

And I'm sure he'll pick up the phone to hear about that whole Napoleon-Paris metaphor.

(Does he view him as a competitor?): No. It’s good for the game. He’s an extremely well-known person, but design is different. To be a professional (golfer), you have to spend five years on the practice tee hitting balls. If you’re a golf architect, you have to spend at least five years in the dirt and on a bulldozer. It takes time to learn the other technical issues. Vive le difference. Every course is different, every game is different and that’s why we keep playing.

Okay, I'm due back on the planet earth now. 


"And the list goes on."

Doug Ferguson puts Carolyn Bivens in her place for daring to call the PGA Tour an LPGA peer:
The total prize money on the LPGA Tour this year was about $54 million. Total prize money on the PGA Tour was $260 million.

The PGA Tour will get about $1 billion from its six-year contract with the television networks next year, along with a 15-year deal with The Golf Channel to broadcast weekday rounds. The LPGA Tour has to buy most of its television time, and some tournaments could not be found anywhere on TV.

There were a record 11 millionaires on the LPGA Tour this year. The PGA Tour had 93.

And the list goes on. 

Grand Slam Questions

The clever Julius Mason and the folks at Brener-Zwikel repeated last year's questions for the Grand Slam of Golf participants, with questions for this year's foursome of Woods, Ogilvy, Weir and Furyk.


"You've also got the cultural pressure, particularly the Asian pressure."

What was that I wrote about Bivens being the better commissioner? And now this interview with Golfweek's Beth Ann Baldry. It's as if Baldry startled her in the night...

In regards to drug testing, do you feel like you put pressure on PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem (by announcing the LPGA would become the first tour to have a drug-testing program)?

Tim Finchem has a whole different set of issues that he's dealing with. We did what's right for us.

Would you like to see the PGA Tour follow (the LPGA's lead)?

I don't care if the PGA Tour follows. My concern is the LPGA.

KInd of makes you long for that wordy, meaningless, empty spin. Okay, now it just gets weird. 
The LPGA has hired Shirley Shin to help Asian players study transcripts to better their English skills.

We've also had Shirley walking the pro-ams with the South Korean players. (She is teaching) conversational English. How do you help an amateur player line up a putt?

How do you listen to the associate vice president from ShopRite tell a boring hole-by-hole story? How do act like you actually care that your team might crack the top ten in the pro-am? Oh sorry... 

It's functional English if you will. ...

A subject Bivens knows something about: speaking functional English. Barely.

I think we've heightened the sensitivity that we are an international tour, and when we're here in this country everyone that plays on this tour ought to have a command of the English language. ... You've got some cultural barriers there, parents who for the most part think any hour that's not spent practicing is a wasted hour. You've also got the cultural pressure, particularly the Asian pressure, that if you don't do something really well, then you don't do it.

Hey, you got love her honesty. Uh, the Asian pressure. Is that like, The Google?

How do you bring the average fan on board when the leaderboard is dominated by Koreans?

The English is part of it. We just got some great research from the Bonham Group back called the Barrier Study.

Oh no, it's got a name. The Barrier Study. A satirists dream come true. 

One of the reasons very avid sports fans or very avid golf fans don't make the transition to the LPGA is when they watch the television coverage, they don't know enough about the women that they're watching. When we watch the PGA (Tour), we know just about everything there is to know about Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, their childhood, who they are married to, everything about them. ...

Well, I don't know if we know everything about Phil! And we still haven't seen all five bathrooms of Privacy.

It's especially true for the Asian players; the media tends to talk about them monolithically. Paula (Creamer) is as different from Natalie (Gulbis) as any other player. It's building those personalities and letting people know.

Monolithically? They didn't teach me how to use that word at Pepperdine.

How about making the cut 60 and ties (instead of 70) or limiting the fields to 120?
There are a number of issues overall, I would consider them very seminal issues, that the LPGA needs to address in the next couple years. The size of fields. As we play better and better golf courses it gets more difficult to get 140 women around them.

Interesting. The better the course, the slower the round?, the hillier, longer and more spread out by housing developments, the longer it takes. Nice try though! 

In regards to ShopRite, people keep telling me the other side of the story isn't being reported. What is your side?

I think that what has gotten missed is that we tried to contact the Harrisons (tournament owners Larry and Ruth) repeatedly. We had met with every tournament owner before we got to their tournament except the Harrisons. The Harrisons are difficult to deal with under the best of circumstances. By the way, the ShopRite people had nothing to do with this and they really don't like their name being brought into this. ... There's two messages that have gotten out in some cases and we just plain haven't been able to reel back in. One is that we were very capricious and the (ShopRite) date went to the highest bidder. No. 2 is that we just don't care about long-term sponsors. Again, not the case.

Capricious. Uh, according to Characterized by or subject to whim; impulsive and unpredictable. That could never describe our Carolyn!

There's been a lot written about your husband's (frequent) presence in the media room. How should people interpret his presence.

I travel 40-45 weeks a year. We ripped our lives from Los Angeles, where he was close to his kids and where he had a life, to come here and do this. This is not my first marriage. If you look at the last few commissioners, it's not a good track record. I don't intend to be subject to that again. Bill has nothing to do with running the tour. He does enjoy the players and the caddies.

Enjoys the players and the caddies. Eh, that might not have been the best way to put that.

Do you ever feel like, as a woman, you have to come across a little bit tougher to prove yourself?

I actually try to do the opposite because when I say 'No, I don't think that's the best way to do things,' it comes across very differently than when a man says the same thing. I try to stay back at least until I've worked with people or developed a relationship that's strong enough to maybe come straight ahead at it. (NBA commissioner) David Stern is one of my role models. I look at some of the things that David has been through this past year and he's reported as being very decisive, very pragmatic, doing exactly what has to be done.

Yes, he's been through a lot. Cashing that $10 million paycheck can be such a burden.

I'm reported as being take-it-or-leave-it, arrogant. It's different words that are describing the same behavior. (Whether it's with) television, production media, tournament owners, sponsors, I don't want to say that I'm coming across as softer, but I'm trying very hard to make sure (it's known) the reputation I'm being tattooed with isn't the way we operate.

Well, this interview ought to really help! 


Australians and Cell Phones

First the British Open and now the Australian Open have made me proud to be an American because we ban cell phones at golf tournaments. Andrew Powter has the ugly details.

On a lighter note, Peter Stone's game story as well as John Huggan's piece on the official site (thanks reader F.X.) give the impression that it was one swell event. Hopefully it'll return to American TV next year.


"This format certainly makes the inaugural FedEx Cup next year seem less, well, playoff-y."

Gary Van Sickle touches on something that I think is key with the ADT Championship: it's TV friendly on days other than Sunday. Of course the PGA Tour has run scared from such antics (ruining the International's Saturday cut to Sunday's free for all shootout).

Sadly, pro golf is a TV show first and a tournament second now. So I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar format become more popular.

Saturday's third-round telecast is usually inconclusive. A winner isn't crowned until Sunday. There's no closure. But the reduced-field format used by the ADT provided a sense of closure. And with only eight players left on the course Sunday, even though they all started out even before the last round, it's easy for TV to cover the action and be ready with features and backstories on the remaining contenders and not be surprised by an unexpected, early come-from-behind winner.

This format certainly makes the inaugural FedEx Cup next year seem less, well, playoff-y. That's significant because the Tour is touting them as playoffs, which they aren't. For starters, no other sport lets everybody into the playoffs -- not even the watered-down NHL.

And really, outside of the majors, what's wrong with a few more events shaking things up? And please don't give me the tradition debate. If the Western Open can be dismantled, tradition is not even on the table for discussion with the PGA Tour.