Nicklaus said he thinks Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has done "a great job." So I tell him he's been named Golf Czar and can change anything in the sport.
"Equipment," he said. "That would be one thing I would do. I would fix the friggin' equipment."
The problem is this: The difference between what a pro can do with the latest club technology compared to what an amateur can do with it continues to grow wider. Unless golf's two ruling bodies can figure out a way to even things up (a standardized golf ball?), the pros will continue to make courses obsolete and create a bigger disconnect with the amateur players.
"The whole idea of the R&A and the USGA is to try to play the same equipment for the average golfer and the pro, and they couldn't be friggin' further apart," Nicklaus said.
Golf: a game in which you claim the privileges of age, and retain the playthings of childhood.
The only place I've seen any discussion of the Players final round pace of play was on golf.com, where Josh Sanburn noted the tepid final day (and check out what the readers think).
But I heard from a few current players that the four hour pace for twosomes was unfathomable just a few years ago. One even relayed this story to put things in perspective:
Vijay jumped on me at Colonial in 1996 for playing slow. Par time was 3:30 and it was blowing 25 mph, my two-some finished in 3:18. Twelve minutes under par time. I took some heat from Vijay in the locker room after the round, told him to check with our scorer, then take it up with the rules officials, then make sure your scores on your card are accurate, don't be worring about me.
Don't know about you, but I didn't see a whole bunch of tee shots running furiously down the TPC Sawgrass fairways or bouncing high off of Pete Dye's greens thanks to that "layer of Gore-Tex" the PGA Tour spent millions to install.
So, has the definition of "fast and firm" simply changed? Or was it simply a failure?
Either way, I don't think the 2007 Players will be remembered for its fiery golf course.
Might this even be a setback for setback for sand-capping fairways? Is that such a bad thing? Have I asked enough questions?
Thanks to reader John for this nice perspective by the WSJ's Tim Carroll, who weaved his Monday-Augusta lottery luck into a column about the democracy of golf:
My first three rounds of golf in 2007 couldn't be more different. One round was royally high-end, to say the least. Another was at a friend's respectable, but not lavish, home course. The third took place on what some might describe as a cow pasture -- but that might be an insult to cows.
I'll remember all three with affection -- the last maybe even more than the other two. That crystallizes for me something special about golf: It's a great leveler. It doesn't matter where you play or how good you are. Sometimes when you return home to see the parents and eat a Mom-made dinner, it can be just as wonderful as a meal made by a four-star chef; maybe even more so. This sport that some consider elitist can be about as democratic as it gets.
As A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh and an oft-quoted sage in my household, once wrote: "Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad." A bad golfer can better his normal score by just a shot or two and be walking on air. Similarly, while it's a treat to play the name courses, sometimes an afternoon walking with a caddie down a perfectly manicured fairway isn't as fun as a casual evening carrying your own bag at a scruffy muni with your friends.
Reader Martin Del Vecchio raises an interesting question on a post below. I agree that it sounds very familiar. Perhaps someone in Wilton will dig up the story in question, or tell us that we are delusional.
This whole thing reminds me of an article I read years ago, back when Tiger was still working with Butch.
Phil visited Butch, and talked to him about working together. Phil sees the flags that Tiger has signed for Butch hanging on the wall, one for each major.
Phil politely declines to work with Butch.
Why can't I find it? I am pretty sure it was in one of the major golf magazines (Golf Digest, Golf Magazine).
John Hughes and Jonathan Salent report for Bloomberg on a possible Bush Administration-sponsored tax hike on corporate jet travel.
Not only would this have ramifications for the professional golf and courses in remote locations, but think of the burden this might place on USGA presidential jet travel? Good thing they're cutting those USGA employee benefits!
The New York Times reports on Scarborough Research.
Not mentioned in the story is the rumored finding that 98% of all Big Break Reunion viewers are more likely to be in need of serious psychiatric care.
You can't say Phil's press conferences are dull...
Q. Obviously this is a significant victory for you. Can you talk about how excited you are to be able to take this game and the new swing and all the changes into the majors next month?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's what's most exciting is I feel like we're just getting started. This is only week No. 3. I feel like in three months how much am I going to progress? In three years where am I going to be? I've seen an immediate difference in three weeks, and I can't wait for another three weeks to go by and start getting ready for the U.S. Open. And another three or four weeks to go by and get ready for the British. I'm really excited about the direction I'm headed.
Q. Just to follow it up, how much better can you get?
PHIL MICKELSON: You are a cute little man, aren't you (laughter)? I don't know. That's such a good question from a brilliant individual. I don't know (laughter).
I could swear a I heard an "Alan" thrown in after "aren't you?"
I can't fathom who he could be talking about!
Courtesy of The Golf Channel, but minus what they're actually thinking. Any mind readers out there?
Mickelson Slobbers All Over Butch In Players Victory; Smith To Be Put On Nationwide Suicide Watch After Watching Post Round Lovefest
Poor Rick. Poor Adam.
His caddie loosened the flag from the 18th pin as a symbol of victory Sunday at The Players Championship, and Phil Mickelson added a personal touch. After playing one of his tidiest rounds on one of the most intimidating golf courses, Mickelson signed his name at the bottom of the note and handed it to his new swing coach, Butch Harmon. Arms around each other's shoulders, they walked up the hill toward the sprawling clubhouse for the trophy presentation, another sign that Mickelson might be on the rise.
"What's most exciting is I feel like we're just getting started," Mickelson said.
A bit of confusion arose when Garcia took relief from a drainage area on the 2nd hole. His playing partner, Cliff Kresge, and Kresge's caddie questioned the drop.
"I've never tried to do anything wrong on a golf course," Garcia said. "If I would have felt at any time that I wasn't taking full relief, I would have called for a ruling and do whatever was right. But I felt like I did and that's all there is to it."
Garcia said it affected his play on the 2nd and 3rd holes and may have even cost him a stroke.
"They were calling me a cheater on that. You never like that. I've never cheated in my whole life. I'd rather shoot 85 than shoot 65 cheating."
He said he finally relaxed toward the 4th or 5th hole. "It probably cost me at least one (stroke). It's fine, but you never know. Maybe I would have not finished the way I finished."
Expect to see Tiger Woods take another visit to Oakmont before U.S. Open week. Woods was there a couple of weeks ago for an American Express outing. But according to Woods, the course wasn't really in game shape and he wants to take another look as Oakmont comes into its own with rough and faster greens.
While Woods is unwilling to commit to his schedule before the U.S. Open, it is widely believed he will play Memorial in Columbus, just a short hop for Woods in his private jet from Oakmont.
Okay, would Tiger do this at a major? I don't think so.
And then John Huggan gets all cynical in the East Lothian Shopper On Sunday, dismantling many of the romantic notions we had fostered this week (well before the Kenny G announcement).
Real majors have their own identity, they don't copy other majors. They don't start off being the Tournament Players Championship, switch to the Players Championship, then again to the Players, in a feeble effort to sound more like the Masters. Real majors don't have pro-ams, as the Players used to before the PGA Tour noticed that the Masters, US Open and Open manage to get by without shamelessly dipping into the deep corporate pockets of people who can't break 100 on their best days. Real majors don't change their dates because everyone pitches up thinking about the Masters. Only wannabe majors do those things.
Real majors are not run by organisations that claim to have given over $1bn to charity when the reality is that they have done no such thing. Just so you know, it is the tournaments on the PGA Tour that do so much good for those in need, not the Tour itself, a subtle but important distinction.
Oh, one more thing, real majors really don't care how many Fed-Ex Cup points are available for a victory. Or who led the week in the "bounce-back" statistical category. Or who missed most fairways on the right.
10 The bottom line? The Players just isn't a real major. As that master of succinctness, US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, said last week: "It is not a career-defining win." Enough said. Now, can we move on please?
But it was reader JT who had to throw wrench in the whole thing by noticing the subtitle of John Feinstein's new book, where he writes about the fifth major. Only it's Q-School he's calling the fifth of four majors!
Golf Digest's style editor needs to get his hands on Nathan Green's hat collection so that he can replace those gap-backed one with something providing better sun protection. Or at least outfit Green with some Kiehl's Vital Sun Protection. Anything to lose that Mikael Gorbachev-esque tan spot seen during Saturday's Players Championship third round as he shook hands with Phil Mickelson.
Over at golf.com, they're making sure to take in all of the conspicuous consumption in Ponte Vedra. Alan Shipnuck first:
For starters, it appears that having a flossed-out BMW is as standard for Tour players as a significant other who looks like a cocktail waitress. Vaughn Taylor, Stuart Appleby, Richard S. Johnson, J.B. Holmes, Ian Poulter and Chris DiMarco are among those driving Beemers, with all but Taylor's being souped-up Motorsport editions. Bonus points to Poulter for his sweet M5 with chrome rims and an IAN P vanity plate.And Michael Bamberger, writing about the perks as well as the cost to stay and play at Sawgrass:
Another popular genre is the macho truck. Vijay Singh drives a hulking black Dodge SRT-10, Hunter Mahan a Ford that looks like the spawn of Big Foot and Peter Lonard a slammed Lincoln Blackwood. The choice of SUVs is also revealing: Camillo Villegas a sleek Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Frank Lickliter a beefy, politically incorrect Hummer H2, Luke Donald a vanilla Escalade.
Best car in the lot? That's easy: Nick Faldo's Maybach.
As for Tiger and Phil, they toed the company line, rolling SUVs from Buick and Ford, respectively. I guess when you've made tens of millions of dollars endorsing car companies, you don't have to show off.
It's a public course, in a manner of speaking. Not this week - what with the Players Championship clogging up the place - but any other week you can stay at the Ponte Vedra Marriott and play the Stadium Course for $350, which includes your cart, and, get this, your caddie. Tres chic.
The whole thing is about getting the private-club treatment at a semi-public resort course. The new clubhouse is so mammoth that it blocks out the fierce wind for anyone sitting on the veranda. Take the White House, add a few West Wings, top it off with a massive, Spanish, red-tile roof, and you have the new clubhouse. Spiffy.
In the dining room, there's a large fireplace stuffed with faux wood, and above it, an oil painting featuring a scorecard, virgin tees and a bottle of 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon bearing the name Commissioners Private Reserve. There's that word again, private. No half-crushed cans of Miller Lite spoiling this still life.
The Commissioners Private Reserve? Why haven't I gotten my bottle yet Mr. Commissioner?
I walked in late and had other TiVo priorities, so I only caught Johnny Miller's comment about the TPC Sawgrass's much ballyhood "layer of GoreTex" failing on both the fairways and greens.
It is remarkable to see how little roll there is. Did it rain Friday night? Did anyone catch Johnny's exact comment?
Did you notice that Tiger's sunglasses were not worn while hitting any tee or fairway shots during round 2? Ah except for bunker shots from the TPC Sawgrass's (ridiculous) blinding white stuff.
Courtesy of golf.com...
Stephen Ames, you're off the hook!
Tiger, responding to Rory Sabbatini's inexplicably stupid (even for him) comment about Tiger being "more beatable than ever":
Q. Did you have a reaction to what Rory said yesterday about how he thinks you might be more beatable now than ever?
TIGER WOODS: Well, if I remember the quote correctly, he said he likes the new Tiger. I figure I've won 9 out of 12 and I've won three times this year, the same amount he's won in his career. So I like the new Tiger, as well.
Tiger 1, Rory 0.