Golf course architecture is art. You couldn’t learn everything there is to know about it in a lifetime of study. It’s all part and parcel of the learning experience and, like golfers, architects learn more from their mistakes than their successes. BEN CRENSHAW
From a reader, one of six rising up early enough to catch The Golf Channel's Solheim Cup morning play.
The first morning match sees the Europeans get back to all square at the 18th when Sherrie Steinhauer, with the U.S. dormie, misses from inside three feet. Europe makes the putt and gets the half point. Golf Channel goes to commercial and the music rolls but the commercial doesn't kick in. And in that moment of silence Dottie screams "Choking freaking dogs!"
Our observant reader also noted that at the next commercial break, "they cut out so fast that Brian Hammond almost didn't complete his sentence!"
Nearly makes me want to rise early tomorrow just to watch. Nearly.
John Paul Newport profiles Pete Dye and his new course just 30 miles from Manhattan. Thanks to reader John for this.
Never formally trained as an architect, he calls excessive dependence on computer-aided design "rubbish," pointing out that all the classic courses, including nearby ones like Winged Foot and Baltusrol, were built essentially by feel. He says his primary goal is to create a pleasing and surprising variety of looks and challenges.
Why are his courses so hard? "You might as well ask why people who are members of perfectly good golf clubs fly to Scotland and Ireland to play golf in the rain for a week and never come close to breaking 90," he said. Most of his designs are for destination resorts that people will only play a handful of times a year -- and difficulty seems to be what they are after.
"I don't understand golfers one lick," he said. "Personally, if I couldn't break 90 on a course, I'd probably never want to play it again."
The New York Times' Richard Sandomir was not too wild about the logistics of Golf Channel's Friday
Super Bowl Tour Championship coverage.
Shortly after 1 p.m. Eastern yesterday, with the second round of the Tour Championship under way, The Golf Channel came on the air with taped coverage of the morning’s rain-delayed resumption of Round 1.And...
Tiger Woods was midway through shooting a seven-under-par 63 in Round 2 — live, I say, live! — to propel his surge to a three-shot lead.
But The Golf Channel was mired in its Round 1 videotape, although NBC Sports, which will carry Rounds 3 and 4 today and tomorrow, was feeding it live coverage. To anyone expecting live coverage of Round 2 of the final tournament in the FedEx Cup — perhaps the most important round of golf on The Golf Channel all year — this was a major blunder.
The errors continued. While a network spokesman said that the channel had announced it was carrying taped coverage when it came on the air, I saw nothing until 2:11 p.m., when a small-type “Recorded Earlier” graphic appeared for three minutes on the screen. The spokesman insisted that the network had done nothing to mislead viewers because the action was being shown as it had happened. (But, unfortunately, not as it was happening.)But Sandomir gets to the heart of the matter...
From about 1:13, when I began watching, until 2:11, no one from the The Golf Channel studio told viewers they were watching a Round 1 tape. Similarly, the crawl on the bottom of the screen offered no help.
The Golf Channel compounded its taped-is-better-than-live philosophy when, at 2:28, it decided that it was time to travel into the second round.
But it wasn’t live. No, sir. The Golf Channel cut from its tape of Round 1 (where Woods had just birdied No. 15 and Vijay Singh had teed off on No. 18) to its tape of Round 2, showing Woods on the fourth hole and Phil Mickelson on the fifth. And, yes, a few times, the channel broke out its “Recorded Earlier” graphic, which would have been unnecessary if the coverage were live, which it should have been.
If a logical reason exists for The Golf Channel spending the day in taped coverage when live action was available, it is this: for five hours, it had Woods full-time. It’s not a good reason to look foolish and shameless, but it’s a reason.
John Huggan celebrates the beauty of team golf. Well, except for the ugly American antics he witnessed at the Walker Cup.
For example, two days at Newcastle told me everything I will ever need - or want - to know about the current US Amateur champion, Colt Knost. A highly talented golfer, one who already looks good enough to make the perennially hazardous transition into the professional ranks, Knost is, on the evidence of this Walker Cup, an arrogant and boorish so-and-so.And on the beauty of team events...
His reaction to not winning his singles match on the second day, when his opponent, Daniel Willett, holed a 20-foot putt on the final green to clinch at least a half point (Knost followed him in from perhaps a yard) was disappointing to say the least. After 'treating' Willett to one of those limp-wristed, no eye contact handshakes one always hates to see at the end of any match, Knost strutted around the putting surface for an unhealthy length of time shaking his head and staring up at the heavens. The implication was clear: How dare this obviously less gifted chopper make such an outrageous putt and deprive me of my pre-ordained victory? For Knost, his match was clearly all about himself and not about what he could do to help his teammates. Let's hope, given time, that this spoiled young man will mature to the point where his character matches his ability.
All of which - the good and the bad - is part of the inherent attraction of team golf. Win, lose or draw, we are treated to an intimate glimpse into the souls of those participating. Which is also, of course, one of the great things about match play. In a head-to-head contest it isn't possible to coast along, finish tied for sixth and pick up a nice cheque. Oh no. In match play there are winners and losers. And no one likes to be a loser. Or admit to being a loser. Somehow it's easier to start a post-mortem with, 'I came fourth' rather than, 'I lost.'
The best news is that, over the course of this month, we are going to be treated to a host of to-class team matches. This week I'm popping down to Dunbar to watch the ladies Home International matches, where the cream of the British Isles' female amateurs will be on display.
Then there is the Solheim Cup in Sweden, where Europe and the US will be going perm-to-perm in the ladies equivalent of the Ryder Cup. And less than two weeks after that, the Americans will be taking on the International squad in the Presidents Cup while, across the water, Great Britain & Ireland's professionals will be facing up to their mates from the continent of Europe for the Seve Trophy.
Okay, the Seve Trophy? In that group? Uh no.
Stewart Cink writes a PGATour.com blog entry that the Ponte Vedra Blackberry brigade will surely will pass around, but I'm not sure if it's an accurate barometer for judging player reaction to the FedEx Cup.
I think what we can do is look at the tournaments that started two weeks after the PGA last year and go on those four in a row and look at the fields in those tournaments versus these four events.True.
We've got better television. The fields don't compare. We've got big purses. We've got big time golf, and all we did was move the tournaments that are in the FedExCup now from their current dates.
I think if you look at it like that, the FedExCup has been an overwhelming success. Now, we've got little nitpickers here and there, and I've got some issues of my own that I'd like to see changed, but overall I think it's been very successful. Every week you hear fewer and fewer cynical comments.
Who knew Stewart was so funny? Great player, policy board member and now stand up comedian.
By the way, I have officially given up posting all of the columns and stories critiquing what's wrong with the FedEx Cup. And the darn thing isn't even over yet. Just wait until no one has anything to write about in a few weeks!
Overall, I think the guys that framed this whole thing out did a very good job, and looking back, hindsight is really easy to use, but it would have been tough to make it any better on the first try.
Framed eh? Who knew the Tour had gone into that business too.
Meanwhile, Gary Van Sickle files yet another FedEx Cup critique and as always makes some sound points, including this biggy:
Now that we've been through it once, it looks like the playoff point system may be too limiting. Only six players really have a chance at the Cup in the current system — the four who win the playoff tournaments, and the top two seeded players. Nobody outside that group is likely to earn the title without winning twice. That suddenly makes the series seem a little less exciting, don't you think?
I've watched ten minutes and I can't take it anymore. The gray day, the lousy greens, the mushy conditions, the drab architecture. Brutal.
And what's with the towering spike marks? I raised that question when the story about the greens first broke, and now watching it's hard to imagine why the guys are allowed to wear spikes on greens like that.
Well, if nothing else, this gave Steve Elling a nice note to write on Steve Stricker...
With a $10 million bonus on the line, Woods' playing partner Steve Stricker committed an act of kindness that did not pass unnoticed by Woods, who is leading the FedEx Cup points race and threatening to win the tournament title as well.
As Woods waited his turn to putt, Stricker nudged his ball into the cup on the 16th green and promptly tapped down a rooster-tail-sized spike mark behind the hole. Mind you, Stricker is running second to Woods in FedEx points and stands to lose $7 million if he finishes as the runner-up in the cumulative, lucrative points chase.
According to the rulebook, players may tap down spike marks only after finishing play on a green, so Woods did not have the option of smoothing the surface himself. We'll let Woods, who was clearly impressed with the largesse of the Wisconsin native, relate the details.
"He did one of the classier things I've ever seen someone do on the 16th today," Woods said. "There was huge spike mark on the other side of the hole, and after he finished, he tapped it down.
"He just said he didn't want me to have to worry about running it a foot by the hole and face a huge spike mark. That's classy. But I was a smartass about it, and said it wasn't going to go a foot past."
Woods was making a joke, but as it turned out, he missed the 16-footer for birdie and had a putt from exactly 14 inches beyond the hole coming back.
Due to my travels, I've only had a brief chance to glance over the Tour Championship stories this week and feel like I've missed...so little.
Far more interesting for largely selfish reasons was Thomas Bonk's LA Times story on Bearing Point taking over for Nissan as host of what most of us will continue to call the L.A. Open.
Just typing out loud here, but this move would seem to have several ramifications beyond the most obvious: Phil Mickelson should become a Riviera regular since his great showing there this year and his lucrative deal with Bearing Point.
And Bonk noted in his golf column today that this virtually guarantees that Phil will not return to the Bob Hope where the rotation has been weakened and everyone's insensitivity to golf architecture has deservedly caught up to the folks running the event.
But again, just typing out loud here, Bearing Point's sponsorship could mean a couple of more things:
- Is Phil Mickelson going to be the host of the LA Open ala Tiger at Washington D.C. and the AT&T National? It seems unlikely since the L.A. Open has been an open event since 1926 and it's hard to imagine the Junior Chamber of Commerce or a sponsor daring to impact that tradition. Then again, if the Western Open is gone, anything's possible.
- Could it be that Phil's current gripe with the Commissioner has something to do with the Bearing Point Open...oh that hurt to type...and a possible denial by Ponte Vedra of Phil serving as the "host" ala Tiger in Washington D.C.?
- With the traffic, apparently bumpy greens, the Target World Challenge locked into Sherwood and Phil/Bearing Point dominating the scene at Riviera, have we seen the last of Tiger Woods at Riviera?
Anyway, just a few thoughts. I guess we'll find out more when the official announcement is made.
I should never comment on a Tim Finchem press conference after sweating away five pounds while trying not to step on a snake in otherwise lovely land for golf, so I slept on his annual season-ending "state of the Tour" gabfest just to see if the buckets of nonsense I read were in fact uttered by the Commissioner.
Oh and for those of you who took the tri-fecta bet on buzzwords du jour value-equity-product, we got all about the equity dropping, several marketplaces and lots of value. Better luck next time!
Here is the Commish on the FedEx Cup, which a reader tells me Scott Van Pelt called the ForcedFedExCup or some such thing on last tonight's Sportscenter:
But in terms of evaluating it, we continue to look at what we set out to do, and that was to strengthen this period of the season, be able to carry the television audience into the football season to some extent, create more value for the players, create more excitement for the fans, and continue to grow the tournaments that are involved in this part of the season, including, of course, the playoff events.
Creating value for the players, so you know what that means...
In every aspect, we think, even though we have one more week to go, a full four days of competition, that it's been a very, very successful run, and we're very pleased with the impact. We're pleased with the steady growth of fan interest during the course of the year. We're delighted with the value that has been generated for sponsors. The tournaments that have been conducted thus far have significantly been elevated in terms of their charitable impact, their sales in the marketplace. We've had big crowds.
At some places.
Great that they are creating value for everyone, and yet it's non-profit, it's to give back. Amen brother.
And thankfully, we now know sponsors don't look at ratings...
We estimate that 25 to 27 million households tuned in during the course of the week last week at some point. I think everybody concentrates on the ratings except our sponsors. Our sponsors look at total viewership. That's what they invest in. That's what they want to know, how many households are focused during the course of many, many hours of coverage -- not that many households sit there and watch television for four hours on a Sunday afternoon. We're pleased with the overall rating, we're pleased with the overall household reach.
On to the topic of fixing the FedEx Cup, a metaphor I would not have chosen for a bucket full of reasons.
If you were to ask me, as you have, what are you thinking about doing, I sort of categorize it in three buckets.
Yes, buckets. MBA's out there, please help. Do they really teach this one or is this something the Commish came up on his own?
One bucket would be those things that relate to making the system itself as compelling as it can be. And by that I mean a system that people can understand, a system that players relate to well, the fans comprehend and look at, things we've seen on television the last few weeks or scenarios of what could happen versus the history, and a system that the media enjoys reporting upon and can report upon reasonably well given the limitations that the media has, whether it be written or electronic or the space that the producer on television is going to give you to talk about the system.
Well that was a bucket full of...sorry, go on.
The second bucket is really a question of the basic schedule. Does the schedule work for the fans, does it work for the TOUR as a whole, does it work for the players. And there are some challenges with the schedule. You know, I think that it's worked well. Obviously virtually all the players have supported it. However, as we go into the -- we do the schedules on a four- or six-year basis, we have to evaluate the extent to which it impacts the events before and after to some extent and whether we can command strong player support and something that the fans can follow easily.
So by that I guess I'm saying that if we had more space in a couple of the years coming up, it would be helpful. Whether we can achieve the space and make some changes, I don't know.
Uh, there is our first admission that the current schedule is flawed.
I don't think it's critical to the future of the Cup if we don't. But it would be better in some instances in some years if we did, and we'll be looking at that.
The third thing is
...bucket Tim, bucket...
I think areas that relate to enthusiasm that players feel for the competitions, particularly the Playoffs. I think you don't have to go in farther than the quality of play to conclude how the players have mentally prepared for this competition of the Playoffs and executed it, it's been phenomenal.
So as we see these emails come in and blogs from the fans suggesting this,
I'm beginning to think he just says blogs because either he does not know what they are or it makes him sound hip to pop culture. Or both.
that and the other, some of them are crazy, some of them are too smart, some of them make a lot of sense, we have determined that starting at the first of the year or as soon as we can execute it, we are going to create a place on pgatour.com where fans can go and speak openly of their attitudes about anything with respect to the TOUR.
Because the army of VP's don't have enough things to check on their Blackberry already.
If they're in the Playoffs and they want to go on and do blogs and say this is the dumbest thing I've ever seen, they can do that, it will be on our site.
So we can take it down!
If they want to make suggestions, they can do that. If they want to applaud Brandt Snedeker for doing a good interview with some of the media, they can do that.
Yeah, fans are going to rush to their computers to send those well-wishes.
It's going to be wide open. The only thing we'll edit on this portion of our site is we might edit for obscenities or things we don't want young fans to look at or something like that.
Protecting the children. Always smart.
But the product and the content of what fans can post is going to be unabridged. It'll be an interesting step.
We really have enjoyed the repartee of arguing amongst ourselves, with the players, with media and now fans about elements of this process. We think it's a healthy thing and we want to encourage it going forward, so we're going to take that step next year.
Wow, freedom lovers finally embracing freedom. Moves me to tears I tell ya.
Fans, when Phil and Ernie missed Boston, some fans felt that -- some of the emails we got, blogs, that a player can't get into the Playoffs and take a week off, that's not right.
They got blogs!
They're pretty intrigued with a system that would create a scenario where Phil would come back in and have a chance of winning. It's not like he jeopardized the Cup because here he is trying to win and doing everything he can to win and going about it in his own way, which is kind of what a player does in our system at the start of the year.
Q. Several of the players have said this year they felt like it was a conscious effort by the TOUR to make the courses tougher, to make the conditions tougher. I'm wondering, is that something at the beginning of this year or the end of last year you and Harry and Mark and whoever is involved, is that something you wanted to do or has that been an evolutionary thing? The second part of that is, do you think fans would rather see more low scores or do you think fans enjoy seeing guys winning with 3-under par like Akron where Tiger is the only guy under par?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think fundamentally fans want to see close competition, preferably with several guys in it. I think those two things, if you have that -- in Boston you had four guys in it and you had close competition. I don't think it's really important how many birdies or pars or bogeys, just close competition, I think that's the fundamental.
Well, high rough and narrow fairways will give you close competition. Not interesting, but close.
Now, at certain stages of the golf course, I've always said in my view that Augusta National is the greatest stage for the game and the best for television because the risk-reward element is prevalent throughout the back nine and you see birdies, eagles, bogeys and double bogeys, and that's nirvana if you're a fan. Not all golf courses are set up that way, but to say you should move from last year's winner won at 14-under, and we want single digits, we don't have that philosophy. We don't adhere to that.
That's more like it!
On the other hand, we try to set the golf courses up to challenge players and make them make shots, and that's resulted in the last six or seven years tighter pins, players play with the square grooves and they can come at the pin from just about anywhere. Our scoring has not gone up. Our scoring has not gone up, and we've got much tighter pins.
Oh boy...the grooves. It's the grooves. That's why they can go at those tucked pins! Not those 340 yard drives putting a wedge in their hand. Good news Far Hills, Tim's in.
Now, last week we learned that Martin Hawtree had been hired to do Donald Trump's future Open Championship host site course in Northern Scotland. Well it seems the project has been approved according to the Times, or has it?
Of 432 letters received by the council, 105 objected and 327 supported the proposal. A 28-signature petition against was also received. Objectors said that it was the whim of one rich individual; it would increase house prices; and most of the jobs would be seasonal and low-paid. It was inappropriate in scale and would destroy wildlife and the rare sand dune system.
Those in favour, however, described it as the best thing to happen since North Sea oil; it was vital economically; and no other country would pass up such an opportunity.
Raymond Reid, Aberdeenshire Council’s head of development, said that the golf resort proposal was an occasion where the social and economic benefits were of national importance and these did override the adverse environmental impacts.
Tom Fazio, a leading American golf architect, has been appointed to design the courses around the dunes, which will be stabilised by planting marram grass.
Since Tom Fazio was never involved and Tommy Fazio was dumped in favor of Martin Hawtree so that The Donald could lure an Open, I'm not sure how much validity this story has.
"He came off like a spoiled brat who took his bat and ball and went home. Ask anybody on Tour — Phil is very into Phil."
Thanks to reader NRH for noticing SI's posting of an updated FedEx Cup/Phil blasting from their anonymous PGA Tour pro. This ought to be interesting reading.
I only had time to peruse this, so I need to go back and read it more thoroughly, but Ron Whitten pretty much shoots down the notion of golf course restoration even though so many courses have reported increased playing pleasure after undergoing a pure restoration (and I bet Inverness and Oak Hill wish they got the same treatment!).
Restoration is the narrow-minded substitute for imagination. It doesn't honor Ross (below), it insults him. It presumes the man never grew, never evolved as an architect in his 50-year career.
It would also presume there are architects talented enough today to put themselves in Ross's shoes and then take his designs to another level.
Woods and Mickelson were the ones out front in asking for a shorter season. They got it. Players were invited to a half-dozen meetings to look at the new model and offer suggestions. Most of them didn’t bother to attend.
It must be hard for fans to stomach the thought of these guys playing for $63 million over four weeks, in tournaments that have produced some of the best golf of the year, yet going out of their way to nitpick every detail.
Still, Sunday's 3.2 rating was significantly higher than the 2.1 for the final round of the first playoff tournament, The Barclays, in which Mickelson was in contention with Woods sitting out.
For the final 30 minutes, the BMW did a 5.0 national rating, a decent number considering the competition.
Locally, the Bears obviously ruled, doing a 26.9 rating on WFLD-Ch. 32; one local ratings point is worth 34,550 households. But at the same time, golf ranked second in the market from 3-5 p.m. with a 4.2 rating. The tournament actually picked up viewers down stretch, peaking at a 6.9 rating in the final 15 minutes.
Tim Rosaforte takes a tough look at the state of all things FedEx Cup, and suggests a few reasons for Phil's apathy and an exchange with Tiger Woods that will send shivers down Tim Finchem's spine.
Phil's not a big plan of the deferred payment plan. Read between the lines in his quote about wishing there were a big pile of money brought out on the 18th green like the World Series of Poker.
He's also the man who wanted a shorter season. Well, he got one: Shorter, but compressed into two grueling months of high stakes, high pressure and highly taxing tournament golf.
He's also about 0-for-20 in taking issues to the front office, and getting no satisfaction. Some would call this a pout, others a power play, but I can't imagine Lou Piniella saying he couldn't manage the Cubs this week because his kids were going back to school.
Ouch. A rare zinger from Mr. Rosaforte. Nice!
I caught Tiger at his locker after Wednesday's news conference and asked -- after he discussed the problems with playing seven-of-eight after the majors and the deferred payment issue -- if this was fixable.
Let's just say, Tim Finchem and his staff have some work to do.
Considering that the lone consolation prize in the Western Open's demise was a promised increase in Evans Scholar revenues, this came as a surprise in John Hawkins' Golf World game story:
Tournament director John Kaczkowski took a glass-half-full overview of the event, but WGA President/CEO Don Johnson said, despite a weekend rally at the box office, he expected his organization's bottom line for charity wouldn't equal that from the Western. "We didn't join the playoffs to lose money for our caddie scholarships," Johnson said. "But we had no choice." (Some WGA officials believe, conversely, that taking the tournament to new cities might actually increase contributions to the caddie scholarship fund.) If it hadn't acceded to tour demands and joined the FedEx Cup process, the Western would have been consigned a death slot, one week before or after the U.S. Open. That's because the Fourth of July slot for 2007 had been awarded to Jack Vickers and the International. Remember Jack Vickers and the International? Might not be only the commissioner and the players who are growing apart.
...about his various neurotic club tinkering tendecies exclusively to Mark Lamport Stokes scores an exclusive with Phil to talk about his various neurotic club tinkering tendencies.