The professional golf watcher never catches the action. I could write a volume on Great Moments in Golf I Have Missed. PETER DOBEREINER
...well, unless we're talking about the Skins Game, where we're only five days away from Daly (lost tour card), Couples (lost interest), Ames (lost back) and Funk (lost to Champions Tour) battle it out to see just how low the ratings can go.
But we have time to soak up the anticipation of that stellar event. In the mean time....
Brian Hewitt calls the LPGA's ADT Championship "brilliant" while Ron Sirak gives it a positive review. But he points out that like the FedEx Cup, there may never be much interest in the season long points race to earn players a birth in the event.
Perhaps fans don't care about the season long races because they seem more like an excuse to drop the sponsor's name weekly than a genuine attempt to create excitement? This may especially be the case with the forthcoming FedEx Cup.
I haven't been able to bring myself to wondering out loud if Carolyn Bivens is actually doing a better job than Tim Finchem. But you have to give her credit for saying fewer stupid things lately, pushing the innovative ADT Championship (well...not sure how much this was her idea) and most of all, initiating a drug testing program while the PGA Tour stumbles all over itself.
But is this really a statement about Bivens and the great job she is doing, or just how out of touch Finchem has become?
I'm thinking the latter, and Joe Logan agrees in his column today.
But with commissioner Carolyn Bivens proclaiming she wants the LPGA to be "proactive" even though she sees no evidence of a problem, it makes Finchem look, well, asleep at the wheel.
It makes you wonder what the player directors must be thinking after re-upping Finchem for four years and $7 million a year.
Or did those player directors actually renew his deal?
Sunday's ADT Championship seemed like a huge success as a great one-off, year-end bang for the LPGA. Not only because the finish was stellar (with superstars tripping all over themselves) and the story of Julieta Granada ($1 million really means something to her family!), but mostly because it added a "must see" event for any golf fan.
A reader emailed this week wondering how a pro-tradition type like yours truly could love something gimmicky like this while the PGA Tour's Fed Ex Cup is actually something new that also preserves the historic nature of the money title (while the ADT does not for the LPGA).
Well, of course I could care less about the money list in the big scheme, and I'm also fascinated by the notion that such a tradition is more important than say, the relationship between player and his equipment and how that relates to the playing of the game.
The sport desperately needs novelty events like the ADT Championships. It was the first time since the early Skins Games where money really meant something and it translated to entertaining golf.
The real traditions worth preserving relate to skill and architecture. And we won't go there...today, anyway.
Another note on the ADT Championship: Craig Dolch reports that the players would like to see some tweaking with the qualification system.
But Sunday's setup was so simple. 8 players with the low score winning $1 million.
Compare that to this analysis by the New York Times of NASCAR's Nextel Cup going into today's final race, and you get an idea what the PGA Tour has cooked up. Not nearly as interesting or fun or understandable as the ADT.
Adam Schupak reports on new duties for several PGA Tour executives, though I don't really know what it means other than they finally found a job for Ross Berlin.
Another lively week in golf, starting with Robert Allenby blasting PGA Tour architecture, prompting this reply from Scott Stearns: Please, lets stop with the "European tour courses demand all these different shots" garbage. Last week's venue in Shanghai was a lot like last week's silly season venue in Naples, FLA. The Grove is as american a venue as there is. Wentworth (one of the better courses on the euro tour) looks more like the Wachovia tour stop than it does a classic English course like Swinley forest or Sunningdale. Lets not even discuss the K club, Celtic Manor or Loch Lomond. If anything, the Euro Tour plays WORSE courses than the PGA Tour.
Regarding Bomb and Gouge's disregard for Augusta National and St. Andrews a important venues in the game, DBH writes, "In the process of lengthening and growing and 'toughening' they're redefining their essential character. So that 'the great unwashed', no sorry, the '99.9999 percent of us' won't actually have a chance to experience their true nature. They'll be relics of two of the greatest venues in golf. Maybe analogous to too much plastic surgery."
On the delicate subject of the USGA's desperate attempts to pad its membership, Four-putt writes: My wife and I have been USGA members ever since I can remember... but I didn't bother to send in the check this year. I didn't write them a letter, either, because any words fall on deaf ears. I'd rather see some change at the top, rather than get a free year.
Regarding the LPGA's announced drug testing program for 2008, Glyn writes: Wow Bivens one upped Finchem. I wonder if this will force him to do the same or will he downplay it. Because you know someone will bring it up with him.
Pete the Luddite wrote: It's not just steroids that should be of concern. We all agree that Lefty does not look like Adonis. Other drugs that can be abused by the younger players trying to make it (or the older players who want to hang around a bit longer) can include mood stabilizers and the like. There is more pressure than ever to perform with the paychecks being so much larger than in the past.
LEFTY writes: Bravo, Commissioner Bivens! I think this will finally get Finchem to start drug testing on the PGA Tour. Call me an optimist, but I bet fewer golfers take drugs than one may think, and those who do are not anywhere near elite.
And on the news that the PGA Tour has decided to reduce fields in its FedEx Cup "playoffs" (including the Western Open where they'll get 70 players instead of 144), Four-putt writes: Let me speak on behalf of the millions of voiceless golfers and spectators of the Chicagoland area who have supported our local PGA Tour stop for eons. Regarding this latest format change in the FedEx Cup playoffs, we do not feel any less screwed. Give us back our Fourth of July Western Open, Timmy.
And jneuman notes: The format can't win. If it eliminates players quickly, it runs the risk of losing the marquee names. If it skews too heavily to the season results, its first week or two is pretty much irrelevant. I don't think fans are going to care any more than they have about the Tour Championship -- it's not like anybody considers it the fifth or sixth major, do they?
What's wrong with having a season that works differently from those in other sports? Golf has its own rhythm, and doesn't necessarily peak at the end in the fall. So what? Why does it have to make the same mistake as baseball, failing to value its long season in order to chase TV money for an illegitimate short season at the end?
Jerry Stewart interviews Johnny Miller for the Monterey County Herald. Let's see how long Johnny can go without referencing his 63 at Oakmont.
Q: Recently it was announced that the LPGA will have steroid/drug testing in 2008, do you think that should be the rule on the PGA Tour as well?
A: I guess some women on the tour think that others have an unfair advantage. Who those players are I have no idea. As for the men's tour, it's hard to believe people would take steroids to enhance their game. Then again, there may be a guy on the bubble who wants that extra 20 yards off the tee. Guys already do a lot of things to calm their nerves. Some guys drink and no one really knows about it. Some take legal drugs. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some guys out there taking steroids.
It's hard to believe people would take steroids to enhance their game. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some guys out there taking steroids. Okay.
Q: What are your thoughts on the equipment issue? Are guys too long off the tee?
A: I don't see a real issue here. Even with all the new equipment, a 63 is still a heck of a score. I managed to do it in an U.S. Open.
If you had question 2 in the pool, you won!
You still have 18 tries to make it into that little hole. I look at it that if a guy wants to bomb it 320 yards off the tee, he is trading off the chances of getting in more trouble. You still have to hit your irons and make the putt. While players may be emphasizing length, there is still room for players like (former pro) Calvin Peete, Fred Couples and Mike Weir. Guys who focus on accuracy off the tee. You don't have to hit it nine miles to score. You still want precision and accuracy.
Wait, did he just put Fred Couples in the same category as Calvin Peete? Because Freddie hits it so short, you know.
Q: What about the question regarding square grooves and irons?
A: Actually, the irons that are used by players today aren't much different than the ones we used back in the 1970's. The square grooves (which allow more spin) on today's irons do, however, help the players. It may help half-a-shot a round, but that's two shots per tournament which could add up. In my day, we had to worry about the ball jumping off the clubface. Today's players don't have to worry about that. In my opinion, the PGA Tour and USGA should roll back where, during competition, all players have to use V-grooves.
And you may get your wish.
Q: What do you think of Tiger's venture into the world of golf course design?
A: It sort of shows his creative side.
Oh? Don't you have to have designed a course before we know if there was some creativity involved?
Obviously, it's also a money making venture and shows that he's already thinking about life after golf.
Because Lord knows, he could be low on cash someday.
I'm sure some people like the Tour and Nike are scared that he may not stick around too much longer as a player. Tiger still has a lot of years of playing golf in him, but who knows? I've designed over 30 courses and it's fun. It's like going to a party. You show up and everyone's ready to go.
Kind of reminds you of something Bobby Jones would say, doesn't it?
The ADT Championship's "playoff" concept heats up with the 36-hole cut looming and with the two stars, err....cultural icons struggling, you can almost hear its opponents cheering after day one:
Two-time defending ADT champion Annika Sorenstam and newly crowned player of the year Lorena Ochoa also both struggled.
Sorenstam was 4-over after 10 holes before rallying to finish 2-over, six shots off Miyazato's lead. And Ochoa was 3-over in her opening round, with four bogeys and only one birdie.
"It just wasn't a good day," Sorenstam said. "I got off to a bad start. I had to fight pretty hard today."
She and Ochoa now have some work to do in the second round.
The 32-woman field gets cut to 16 Friday, then eight Saturday. Those players return Sunday, their scores from the first three days erased, to play for most of a $1.55-million total purse.
"You're not only trying to get into the top 16, you're trying to give yourself a shot at comfortably being in the top eight," Webb said. "You've just got to play, as far as I'm concerned. You're not going to play safe when you should play aggressive or vice versa just because of the format."
Alan Shipnuck pens a brief look at the year and probably earned himself a case of PGA Tour wine for this incredibly kind nod to the Commissioner:
It's more fun being a piñata than commissioner. Both Tim Finchem and Carolyn Bivens have had brutal years, taking flak from disgruntled players, mystified reporters and angry sponsors. On the bright side, you can chalk a lot of this up to growing pains that are the result of a former boutique sport straining to carve out a bigger place in the sports firmament. Both tours are positioned for big years in '07, though.
If golf were more popular, we could just watch this on YouTube...
Tiger Woods endured an embarrassing incident in the first round of the Dunlop Phoenix Thursday, when he drove to the green on the dogleg 332-yard, par-4 13th hole with the previous threesome still putting.
The gaffe notwithstanding, Woods overcame a slow start and shot a 3-under 67 to sit two strokes behind leader Shingo Katayama after the first round.
Katayama, who was on the green at the time, described the incident as "dangerous."
The green is not visible from the tee, blocked by a thick forest of stunted pines, and Woods said he didn't see the caddie's yellow flag warning that the green was still occupied.
"We saw no flag so I went ahead," Woods said. "I thought they were off the green and they weren't, so I had to apologize when I got up there."
For those of you in the business world, here's a bit of advice from Carolyn Bivens, talking to the Sun-Sentinel's Randell Mell:
"To be successful, you have to figure out how to maximize the product when it is at its strongest and most competitive,'' Bivens said.
Translation: we need to new screw up this opportunity.
I know I ask this all the time, but does this kind of tortured MBAspeak talk actually impress anyone?
Amir A. Daftari at CNN.com writes about the emergence of golf in, yes that's right, Iran.
Due to the disdain and antipathy towards the sport, Iran has only ever had one single 18-hole grass course. The Imperial Country Club, as it was once known, is now the Enghelab (Enghelab means "revolution" in Farsi) Sports Complex.So naturally they are looking to grow the game with some more affordable courses...
It is the antithesis of immaculately kept upper class courses so commonly seen around the world. Only 12 holes remain (the Iranian Revolutionary Guard commandeered most of the back nine to use as a parking lot for its tanks) and the clubhouse is a decrepit prefabricated cabin. But what really sets it apart is that nearly half of its 300-plus members are women.
Thanks to financial help from the government, the club has made efforts to get ordinary Iranians on to the fairways by running mini-golf courses in the city's public parks and offering free tuition to beginners.
Green fees are reasonable -- roughly $10 for locals, against $60 for foreigners -- and the dress code is relaxed by Iranian standards: Men don't have to wear a collar, although women must cover up in accordance with the Iran's Islamic laws.
A $2.2 billion golf resort, dubbed "The Flower of The East," is under constuction on the Iranian island of Kish in the Persian Gulf. Backed by German and Swiss investors the resort is set to be the biggest golf course in the Middle East.
"As long as they don't test for wine, I think I'm all right," Kerr said, laughing. "I think it's great that we have a policy now, just to ensure the honor of the game, the way it was meant to be played. If you got nothing to hide, you got nothing to worry about."
Said world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam: "I don't really think we are going to see anything out here, so it might be a waste of time. But if it gives peace of mind for people, and if we need to prove to them that the LPGA is clean, then let's do it."
You don't need to get me a Christmas gift, just more press conferences with the Commissioners. Here's Ms. Bivens speaking at the ADT Championship, played at Trump International...
CAROLYN BIVENS: Thanks, Paul. Good morning. As Paul said, this is a very special week for us. I want to start it off by seeing some folks in the back of the room that need to be thanked. I want to thank the ADT people for making this possible. Thank you. All right. I know that you are looking forward to a fantastic tournament and so are we.Actually, that was Tim Finchem pulling the plug because he heard you were announcing a drug testing program.
The ADT Championship is the culmination of a lot of hard work and planning by a lot of people. And I think we just lost electricity. I wasn't so much worried about the lights I was worried about the air conditioning. (Laughter.)
It's been a remarkable season on the LPGA Tour and these girls have really rocked out on the field.Remember, I merely copy and paste this stuff.
Cultural icon and inspiration to the entire nation of Mexico, Lorena Ochoa ended the Webb Sorenstam stranglehold of the Rolex Player of the Year honors by securing the title on Sunday.Cultural icon?
All of these dramatic finishes, and incredible performances have translated to more fans watching the LPGA and its stars than ever before.Nice touch repeating that. Really strong on the emphasis. Gosh she's good.
Our cable viewership is up 59 percent from 2005. Let me say that one more time, 59 percent from 2005.
So you combine the financial gains with our increases in popularity, the LPGA.com traffic, attendance numbers and television viewership, and it's easy to see that the LPGA has made incredible strides and we're all celebrating those successes. I'm very proud of what has been accomplished by the members of the staff of the LPGA year over year. The road wasn't without some bumps. That's one way to characterize them, along the way. But we came into this knowing that change wasn't easy. So we kept our eyes straight ahead, and we kept our direction.Work those metaphors!
But the LPGA senior staff and I have spent a great majority of the last two months working into 2008, 2009 and 2010. What we will be in three years is not what we were last season. And not what we're going to look like this time next year. But that's the point. We have to continue to evolve.Talk about a rally killer!
To that end, I want to announce that with the beginning of the 2008 season, the LPGA will institute a drug testing policy for participants in the LPGA Tour.
Over the next year we'll work to establish the LPGA's policy with the National Center for Drug Free Sport. This is going to be an aim to implement the program at the beginning of the season in 2008.Oooo...a partnership. Not only is she doing testing, but joining up with a fully branded feel good organization. Take that Tim!
We have the most talented and marketable trend setting group of athletes that a sport could ask for. And we're providing value for the rest of the world, and we're beginning to benefit from a product that's turning in a great return on investment and the best is yet to come.Wow, not a single paragraph of MBAspeak and then that. She was doing so well too!
I want to thank you for your time and attention, and I'm going to turn the podium over to Zayra, and then we are going to go to Chris for the 2007 schedule. Zayra, CEO, Duramed Futures Tour.Not really.
ZAYRA CALDERON: I don't have to adjust the mic. I think I'm about an inch taller than Carolyn, that's about it.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for the opportunity. Have you thought about what happened to that All American collegiate player before you saw her again after college who played on the LPGA? Where was she?
I have the answer of course. She was playing one or two seasons maybe even three on the Duramed Futures Tour, getting ready to win, getting ready to kick in the door of the LPGA. Our mission has remained the same for over 25 years, to provide the best professional women golfers from around the world, the optimum environment to get ready to move on for a career on the LPGA.That's great. Time to hit the fast forward button.
The strategic plan basically aims at aligning the Duramed Futures Tour, in all aspects of our business, with the LPGA.Hmmmm...what's it going to be? A move to bigger markets? Maybe a fourball event with LPGAers and Futures players?
We realize that we must have shared values and objectives so that we can make the transition for our players onto the LPGA seem less. We also realize that collaborating with one another will only reinforce our position in professional women's golf and it will help both organizations increase our market share. We want more fans. We want more tournaments. We want more sponsors. We want more money and together we can do that better. Aligning with the LPGA will also allow the two organizations to capitalize on the synergies that are obvious to both organizations. So we have a plan that begins 2007.
Oh what was I thinking. It's been a while since we've talked about you know what...
We will embark on the National Branding Campaign.Nice touch putting it in caps. Okay, time for Chris Higgs to talk about the schedule...
We will see the debut of three previously announced tournaments. The NW Arkansas LPGA Classic, the Navistar LPGA Classic, and the Ginn Tribute hosted by Annika Sorenstam.Jeese I know the gals are hitting it a long way, but wedges and putters into the Road green? Maybe that drug testing needs to start sooner.
Women's professional golf will enjoy a history making stop at St. Andrews when the Weetabix Women's British Open is held on the old course.
As many of you will recall, this was announced at the inaugural World Congress of Women's golf. And since that time, this day and this event has been eagerly anticipated by all of the players, the fans and the media. I think all eyes will be on those who have seen the history of the old course and wondering what will they do on the Road Hole. Will they make the failed mistake and use the wedge when they should have used the putter?
PAUL ROVNAK: Thank you, Chris. I would like to welcome back Commissioner Bivens to the podium for any questions you might have for her or any of our speakers.Oh boy, starting to get a little fragmented here. Is that air conditioning on?
Q. Carolyn, what's your biggest achievement you think this your first full year and biggest regret, if there is one thing you can change? Is the ShopRite (LPGA Classic) still a possibility for that May 17th through 20th?
CAROLYN BIVENS: No, the ShopRite (LPGA Classic) is not a possibility for May 17th.
The biggest accomplishment? The biggest accomplishment is that we put a really good foundation on top of this great organization to be able to conduct business as business going forward. It wasn't easy. And as I said earlier, the road wasn't always smooth. But we now are positioned to being able to do business with title sponsors existing as well as new. So we made some major moves there.
I think you will begin to see some of the things that the staff, and the board of directors, particularly the Executive Committee. Heather, the out going president of the Executive Committee and member of the board of directors. Heather and the Executive Committee have been terrific this year.
One of our goals that I feel very good about is we opened things up in every one of the player meetings. What we've tried to do, this is a member owned association. We want the members to understand more about this business that they own. I talk about them as being our shareholders. So where the money comes from, how it's made, where it goes, what are the priorities, all players, but beginning with the Executive Committee but with the help of the staff we made great progress in that this year. I feel terrific about that.Nice, a little family values touch there.
What do I regret? I regret having to call my mom and dad so many times and say don't open the newspaper today, you're not going to like it. (Laughter). And I'm going to leave it there.
As you all know, I come from a business background. We do a lot of scenario planning going forward. I'm used to that. We also do a lot of critiquing. After every event that I've been part of in my career, part of the process is to sit down soon after and look back and say, what could you have done differently? If you knew then what you knew now, what would you do differently? And I have yet to participate in anything that was perfect, or anything that I wouldn't have done differently based on the learning that I got going through it. And I put this year under that heading as well.Based on the learning that I got going through it? Hmmm...looks like someone needs to ask if maybe skipping English 101 wasn't such a hot idea.
Q. Carolyn, I want to ask you, there were issues with the Tournament Owners Association, I know you met with them Monday or Tuesday earlier this week, and there were issues over sanctioning fees. If I look at this right, outside of the four tournaments that you lost, it would appear that everybody renewed, so there must have been some resolution with the sanctioning fees. Can you address the sanctioning fee issue and how that was resolved?
CAROLYN BIVENS: The sanctioning fee was actually resolved back in January, you wouldn't have necessarily known it from the media reports.I think that was a zinger!
Q. How fitting is it that the first million dollar paycheck is on Donald Trump's course?CAROLYN BIVENS: It makes it a lot more fun, doesn't it?
Oh it does, especially if one of the inmates at the nearby prison can be heard heckling a player coming down the stretch.
I don't know if you were out there. We got buzzed by the Donald Trump's airplane. Donald has been terrific for the LPGA. He has been a long time supporter. He is very supportive of women overall, and we're very appreciative of the support that he's given to the LPGA.
Yes he is a supporter of women. Ivana, Marla and...right.
Q. How badly do you want the final putt on 18 to be for a million bucks?
CAROLYN BIVENS: How bad do I want the final putt? I'd love to see a playoff.
On the FedEx Cup change that reduces fields each week, John Hawkins blogs over at GolfDigest.com:
It’s also fair to think the cuts will bring a healthy dose of credibility to a format roundly criticized for not being a “playoff” at all. Without a process of elimination from week to week, the Fed-Ex postseason only seemed to cater to the tour’s rank-and-file for the very reason Love mentioned. Admitting 144 players into the big dance was bad enough—a blatant concession to the middle class. To let 60 or 70 guys stick around for three weeks just because they had nowhere to play, so they could pick up paychecks despite having no shot at the grand prize, clearly defeated the purpose.Okay, the 144 number was ridiculous and this addresses that to some extent. However, the players will be seeded going in and therefore the eliminations will not be happening from week to week based on poor play, but instead, where you fall on the seeding chart.
The key line on this issue of seeding came from a Jerry Potter story in the USA Today, who quotes Ric Clarson of the tour:
"We've run hundreds of computer models," Clarson says, "and no player came from lower than 13th seed to win the Cup. If you're not in the top 15 going into the playoff, your chances of winning aren't great."
So with this seeding structure still controlling who gets to the Tour Championship and who wins there, it will (A) be nearly impossible to track who is getting eliminated each week (B) not very interesting because the top players will be secure (C) still not a true playoff.
This all boils down to Tiger and ensuring that and other names make it to the final week. So until they let go of the seeding process that protects the top players in these playoffs, they won't really be playoffs.
Of course, that means the regular season points are useless, and therefore tracking the FedEx Cup as it goes becomes a meaningless exercise.
In other words, the whole thing probably will never work.
But as Steve Elling notes and we (well, I) noted last week here, this week's ADT Championship offers something that the PGA Tour ought to be considering for the Tour Championship. Elling writes of this week's event compared to the Tour's faux playoff:
...we get to witness a true playoff structure.
The LPGA's revamped ADT Championship this week in West Palm Beach is limited to 32 top players who will be culled, collated and killed off as the week progresses. You know, eliminated. Kicked off the island green.
A true playoff. Here's where you can read more about how the ADT is going to work.
The LPGA Tour will start testing players for drugs in 2008, making it the first major golf tour to announce a drug-testing program. Specifics of the testing plan have not been developed and will be worked on over the next six to nine months, LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens said Wednesday."While we have no evidence to date that any of our players are using performance-enhancing drugs, we need to have a very clear policy and a program in place," Bivens said. "We want to take a proactive role."
A year ago at the Tour Championship, the rating was 1.9, and that was with Woods in the field (albeit six shots behind Bart Bryant). The rating plunged to a paltry 0.9 this year when Woods skipped for the first time in his career.