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The true links were moulded by divine hands. Links-land, the fine grasses, the wind-made bunkers that defy imitation, the exquisite contours that refuse to be sculpted by hand--all these were given lavishly by a divine dispensation to the British. ROBER HUNTER



"But it'll be very interesting to see what happens, how guys make that adjustment."

I spent much of Wednesday asking players at Sherwood about grooves. Why, when the rule doesn't take effect until 2010?

I felt it would be interesting to hear what kind of adjustments players are making going into this year, if any. And you would think it's a topic that players have started to pay attention to now that the rule change is looming.

Naturally, my naivety is once again exposed. Most of these supposed hi-tech savvy dudes have no idea what kind of grooves are in their irons or wedges, and if they do, have given little thought to how the rule change might impact their game.

Stephen Ames was one exeception. He has already switched out his irons and wedges at the same time he went to a softer ball and sees some difference. He has had a few flyers and noticed the biggest difference in reduced ball spin on a windy day. He said he's lost maybe 5 yards off the tee because he now plays with "the softest ball possible," which I presume to be the Nike ball that Tiger uses. Asked why he already made the change in his bag instead waiting until the end of the year, he just shrugged his shoulders and said why not?

I asked Tiger Woods in his press conference and found his answer (and enthusiam on the topic) both exciting and disheartening.


Q. In 2010 the USGA is changing the rule for grooves. Is that going to affect what's in your bag now or how you play golf courses in the coming years?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it'll affect what's in my bag. I can't have my two sand wedges the way I have them now.

But as far as -- I play the spinniest ball on TOUR, so for me, my transition will be a little bit easier than the rest of the guys, guys who play a harder golf ball. They're going to have to maybe a little bit more of an adjustment, whether they do it with loft. Some guys are experimenting with 64-degree wedges to try to help them out that way so they can hit fuller shots with more spin, or guys just might be making -- actually more mental adjustments in their course management skills, going for greens, because you know you actually can't get the ball to spin like you used to so it puts more of a premium on putting the ball in the fairway. With the wedges you can't blast it out there on the par-5s and expect an easy up-and-down. You've got to miss it on the proper side more than ever. But it'll be very interesting to see what happens, how guys make that adjustment.

So the USGA and R&A should be pleased to see that Tiger thinks hitting fairways will take on importance.

The disheartening part? I think he has a lot more to say on the matter, and a natural follow up on the news of a high-lofted wedge study would probably elicit a fascinating answer as well. But with his appearances limited and minimal accessibility, we'll have to wait a while.


"It's over and done with and we put it to bed." **

I'm going to spare you the answers (except to the Stevie question) and just list the questions to Tiger's dull press gathering Wednesday. Granted, it was 42 and raining outside and inside the cart barn were way too many TV types who have to introduce themselves and their affiliations before launching into a bland question. But as you will see, it was definitely not the media's finest moment (and I include myself, though I did have burn my question on something for a story I'm working on...excuses, excuses).

Q. You talked about being right on schedule. Do you have any preliminary idea of what that schedule might be?

Q. Considering the seriousness of the injury, how difficult has this rehabilitation process been for you?

Q. You hadn't expected to be able to hit shots until January, so the fact that you're hitting some shots now, are you a little bit further ahead --

Q. I've got to ask you about Stevie. Can you talk about any further reaction to it?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, what ended up happening is I communicated with Phil, and we have discussed it. I talked to Stevie about it, and he feels bad, what happened. At this point it happened at all, and it's something that none of us really wanted to have happen, but it's over and done with and we put it to bed.

Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times asked, and no one followed up about the conversation with Phil. In fact, I'm going to go so far as to predict Tiger wanted to be asked more because today's session has not put the matter to rest. It will come up ad nauseum next time that a Tiger-Phil pairing lurks. Yes, the matter will come up anyway, but without some key questions asked and answered, the story will not die.

Besides, why ask those when you can ask this as a follow up...

Q. Welcome home. Did you not talk to the weather man before you came here?

Q. I was going to ask you about that. How strange is it to host the event but actually not play in it this year?

Q. You talked about having time with your daughter, and at the same time how difficult the rehab and the injury has been. In your time away from PGA events, did you gain a different perspective or view of the game that you could only get watching it?

Q. In the time you've had off, how much time have you spent thinking about or working on course design? Obviously you've had more time to do that than you would have were you playing. And in terms of the projects you've got going, do you have more on the table right now, and do you also envision coming up with any public access courses, as well?

Q. You said you haven't hit full shots with your entire bag yet. Could you talk about when did you hit your first full shot and how many have you hit?

Q. Do you have any pain or stiffness or scar tissue?

Q. I know retirement talk would be a long way off, but did this layoff make you feel like you enjoyed it so much that you could retire earlier?

Q. Is it your intention to try to play a couple events before the Masters, and if so, what kind of criteria are you going to need to get to to make that decision?

Q. If it came to that, would you make the Masters (indiscernible)?

Q. What have they told you about how you may or may not have to change your swing or how you attack the ball to prevent this from happening again, and how much is there a concern that the repetition that you have to do time and time and time again to practice and play and the stress you put on it that this is just going to be a recurring issue?

Q. I heard you're doing a lot of swimming. I was wondering if you could talk about that as a form of rehab maybe being different for you. Also you look leaner than at the Open. What are you down to and what are you trying to accomplish there?

Q. Is swimming a new thing for you?

Q. Having effectively defied doctors' orders to compete at Torrey Pines, would you describe yourself as an obedient but frustrated patient over the last six months?

Q. During your absence there was a search to see who would step forward, and there was a lot of focus at the end of the year on Anthony and Camilo and a little bit of Sergio. I wonder if you could just talk about that and if you're expecting that to be a challenge, given their age and whatnot?

Q. Did you vote for Paddy?

Q. Why?

Q. Is that all it comes down to?

Q. Do you think at the high frequency that you've been winning over the last several years, do you think your absence may have emboldened these guys by allowing them maybe more chances to win?

Q. Other athletes coming back from what you've had talk about fear, whether it's fear of not being the same, whether it's fear that the leg, they're going to feel it with the swing or a hit or a run. Can you talk about fear?

Q. You mentioned in the early weeks after the surgery that you were laid up in bed and couldn't move the leg. Can you talk about what that time was like, how you filled the days?

Q. Because of the pain, the excruciating pain that you had down at Torrey Pines, the length of the tournament, the difficult shots that you had to make, where do you rank that victory among all the rest that you have?

Q. Have you watched tape of The Open much maybe during your rehab or when you were laid up? And also, at any point did you marvel at what you were able to accomplish? Have you thought back and wondered how you actually did that?

Q. Are you aware of when you first injured your knee? And then looking back at the Open, you said you've seen some of the highlights. Are you more amazed now that you actually pulled it off?

Q. Long-term?

Q. The actual competition, how much have you missed that, and has that tempted you at all to want to come back sooner than maybe you should?

Q. If you can give us a little behind-the-curtain view, post-round each day how difficult was it going back to the hotel and trying to prepare for the next day? And were there doubts in your mind going forward each day about whether you would be able to do it?

Q. Having said that, you looked more comfortable on Monday than on Saturday and Sunday. Why was that?

Q. Two questions: As a member of the PGA TOUR you were eligible for drug testing even though you weren't playing. Did the TOUR ever come to your house?

Q. Were you expecting them at all?

Q. Secondly, there's been so much speculation since June about so many surgeries that you'll never be the same. Is there any doubt or any question that you'll be better than you were before?

Q. Are you preparing yourself emotionally if things don't go well the first couple of tournaments, if it's slower than you think?

Q. I was wondering about your thoughts on the economy and how that's going to impact the TOUR in the next few years and even your events, as well. Have you felt it at all?

Q. In 2010 the USGA is changing the rule for grooves. Is that going to affect what's in your bag now or how you play golf courses in the coming years?


Monty: I've Got Myself Penciled In Right After Lyle, Olazabal

Douglas Lowe hangs on Monty's every word, especially when the Scot nominates himself and the next two Ryder Cup captains. But Monty's not presumptuous. No sirree!

The Scot is a member of the 15-player tournament committee of the European Tour that will recommend the next Ryder Cup captain and the matter is on the agenda for the next meeting in Abu Dhabi.

"I think it is becoming more cut and dried that we will have two Scottish captains in the next three," he said, meaning Lyle for Wales in 2010, Jose Maria Olazabal for Medinah, Illinois, in 2012 and himself for Gleneagles in 2014.

Olazabal, who has back problems, is still dithering over whether to offer himself for captaincy at Wales or his preferred option of trying to play his way on to the team, but Montgomerie, who views Ryder Cup captaincy as a one-hit job, considers the decision should be made sooner rather than later.

"We have to move on," he said, "and in my view Olazabal, being two-and-a-half years younger than I am, would be a great asset to any team if fit and playing the way he does. There's great passion involved. That leaves Sandy Lyle and I'm 100% behind the idea of taking as vice-captains two of the past winning captains in Ian Woosnam and Sam Torrance with Sandy at the helm. It would be a fabulous team."

I wonder if he checked with Woosie and Torrance about that vice-captaincy nomination?


"Game Of Golf Loses A Gem"

I had not read the Max Elbin obits until Leonard Shapiro's piece in the Washington Post. What a life.


Will Scribblers Be Required To Take Off Their Shoes Before Entering Today's Sitdown With Tiger?

Because I can see it now, Art Spander, fed up with Tiger's one word answers, stands up and heaves his Rockports at the world's No. 1!

So if we have to take our shoes off today, then we'll know Tiger's media liaison Glenn Greenspan has consulted the White House on media security.

Seriously, a few emails have rolled in complaining about the excessive coverage of the Steve Williams remarks. Now, the "pushback" is appreciated but I'm also getting a big chuckle out of the stance that this is a non-story.

You have the caddie for the most famous athlete in the world hurling  slurs at his bosses' rival. In any other sport this would be a fun story for a few days.

LeBron calls Kobe a not so flattering name, check!

But Stevie/Tiger v. Phil lept to another level when Stevie was given a chance by reporter Greg Ford to clarify his remarks. He repeated his assertions about Phil, minus the big bad word, then continued to perpetuate a lie by claiming that the Phil/tits story took place at Bethpage.

John Hawkins asks the key question this week in Golf World:

In this case, the size of the deal and width of the proportions aren't as serious as the depth of the motivation for Williams' venom. Why would you say such a thing, Stevie? Can you give us a good reason?

The venom is beyond just about anything you'll see in these little dramas. But ignore the drama and consider the Ryder/President's Cup dilemma. We just witnessed a Ryder Cup where team chemistry and Captain Azinger's clever structuring made the difference. And how on earth can Captain Pavin or Couples possibly deal with this mess in the future unless Tiger gives his man the week off, or perhaps the rest of his career off?

Should Tiger have to eventually fire Steve Williams or have him work a limited schedule, that makes this a huge story because it potentially impacts this remarkable and historic run, one that Tiger has worked so hard to develop, and which Williams has been very much a part of (on the bag for 13 of 14 majors).

This site is devoted to following the state of the game, with a (hopefully) strong historical bent that aims to put some of the events we see in perspective. As a fan of the history of the game, I believe this drama does have the potential to impact the game's history.

So you've been warned, full Sherwood press conference coverage is yet to come...


"You can already get 8-1 on the splitting of golf's most famous two-man team..." **

Douglas Lowe reports that you can wager on Stevie's fate:

You can already get 8-1 on the splitting of golf's most famous two-man team prior to the first PGA Tour event that Woods will play in, while Mickelson has spoken out saying how lucky he feels he is in comparison to have a class act in Jim Bones' Mackay as his caddie and representative.

James Corrigan makes several points in his Independent story analyzing Wednesday's Tiger Woods press conference possibilities, including this about Mickelson and a long rumored joke Corrigan's attributing to the "Woods camp":

This part of the attack plainly touched a nerve and that may just be because it reminded of another cruel joke supposedly circulated by members in or around Tiger's entourage. I certainly first heard it off a person with close connections to the Woods camp. "What's the difference between Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy?" went the wisecrack. "One has fake tits and a real smile..."

Of course, all of this playground silliness was blessedly rooted in the past, but now it promises to blight the present and in particular Woods's comeback from his knee reconstruction (which will reportedly occur some time around March). If Woods stands by his man as his own statement signifies he will – while calling Williams's remarks "inappropriate" and saying he "respected" Mickelson, he also said that the matter had been "discussed and dealt with" – then the atmosphere is bound to be tense and go way, way beyond that if and when the pair are required to play with each other.

What does already seem a given is that Woods will have to employ another caddie for this year's Presidents Cup in Los Angeles and possible even for 2010's Ryder Cup in Newport. No captain worthy of his team's camaraderie would want Mickelson and Williams in the same room and only a very weak captain would countenance it. The bristling enmity between Woods and Mickelson was long credited as being one of the factors for the American's desultory performances in the Ryder Cup, but since the Kentucky glory in September much has been made of the new-found Starred and Striped bonhomie. Has this been threatened already?

And Freddie thought being Captain (in San Francisco, not Los Angeles) would be a breeze!

Woods has long been depicted as the ultimate individual sportsman who does not care for the feelings of his rivals. But now golf is demanding that he must. Williams's biggest crime could well be in forcing Tiger to be reverential to Leftie. If Woods doesn't – starting today – then the feud, mythical or not, truly will be blown out of all proportion.

Lawrence Donegan writes on the Guardian blog:

For those inclined to disagree consider this: what if Pat Rice, Arsène Wenger's admirable assistant at Arsenal, was a guest speaker at a charity event and called Sir Alex Ferguson a prick? What if he then made Ferguson the butt of an anecdote which subsequently turned out to be fiction? Would that be newsworthy? Of course it would.

Uh, right, Pat Rice. Oh and Arsenio Wanker and Sir, wait, who? Sorry...I'm sure it's a fine point if you think it's nice to swim in the North Sea and believe black pudding is a delicacy.

This point I understand:

If that sounds too apocalyptic, then ask yourself this: what would have happened if Mickelson's caddie, or any caddie working for a leading professional, had publicly insulted Woods in the same manner? The answer, of course, is the caddie would have been fired on the spot.

I enjoy Mark Reason's work but I just don't get where he sees Stevie as a victim here. If you follow the course of the events and read Greg Ford's article, Williams did not back down from his comments or in any way express remorse for possibly telling a lie. Instead, he repeated the lie with a new spin.

Williams had assumed his remarks were made to a small, private audience.

Woods may be more sympathetic than most because in 1997 he told a magazine reporter some dodgy jokes off mike, only to see them appear in print.

Woods will understand that to some extent Williams is a victim, even if not too many other players and caddies will be crying about his plight.

The biggest fall-out from this story is that the world will once more become a duller place. Padraig Harrington says that he has nothing in common with Sergio Garcia and that is turned into an admission of sulphuric hatred.

A baggage handler makes a few choice comments on the other side of the world and suddenly we have an international incident. This is celebrity bonkers.

Sportsmen already say very little worth hearing. Soon they will say nothing. Who can blame them when private remarks become a matter of public gossip.

Wow, poor Stevie.

Meanwhile, Garry Smits notes that Stevie made another comment that has gone unnoticed, but which may upset Tiger more than the Phil comment.

In the first story in the New Zealand media in which Steve Williams, Tiger Woods' caddie, took several shots at Phil Mickelson, Williams had this to say about the final hole of regulation in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines:

On the 18th hole in the final round, [Woods] needed a birdie four to tie Rocco Mediate and force a playoff.
"He hit a crap tee shot, [Williams said], then a bad second into the rough with the pin located front right. He hit the shot I wanted him to hit ... he took some convincing ... hit it right and made the putt. What a feat that was."

Just a word of caution to Mr. Williams: Mike "Fluff" Cowan, Woods' first caddie on the PGA Tour, was supposedly fired for taking too much credit for Woods' play and being too chatty with the media.

In a statement, Woods said the matter had been "dealt with." We'll see. 

We shall see. 1 p.m. PST.


The Camera That Launched John Daly's Pitching Career Can Be Yours

...on ebay. Make sure you read the Q&A. It's for a worthy cause! Sort of.

And in case you are a scout still hoping to see Daly's action, you can head here.


Boo Writing His First Book, Needs Publisher!

Just think of the Walmart sales alone, publishers.

And no, he's not writing it himself, someone is writing it with him, but at least Boo is upfront about it. From today's media session at Sherwood (that's really my nice way of not mentioning the sponsor's name), after talking about which story Jay Leno asked him about on the Tonight Show:

Q. Did you know that the portable bathroom story was going to get asked about?

BOO WEEKLEY: There was a couple different stories that he wanted to know, and I didn't know which one that he was going to bring out. So that was the one he picked.

Q. And you had no problem telling the whole thing?

BOO WEEKLEY: It was a true story, why should I have a problem?

Q. (No microphone).

BOO WEEKLEY: Yeah, that will be coming out soon, though. It will be out later, a couple months.

Q. (Regarding writing a book).

BOO WEEKLEY: I think his name's Paul Brown out of Jackson, Mississippi. We are working on one right now. We are trying to find a publisher that might be interested in it. You know, going to be a lot of different things going on.

Q. What's the working title?

BOO WEEKLEY: Don't know yet. He's coming up with all that. We just trying to start out -- we are trying to start it out and just trying to -- of how I got into golf, you know, and what my past has been like and the things that I've come about and the thing that I've overcome, just different things like that. It's just mostly about golf, right now until we find a publisher and then I started throwing some other stuff in there.

Q. Such as?
BOO WEEKLEY: (Smiling, devilish laugh.)


DVR Alert: Tiger and Rocco On Costas Now

Michael Bamberger, who filed a captivating profile of Rocco Mediate and the health struggles of his beloved therapist Cindi Hilfman, reports that Tiger Woods and Rocco will be interviewed as part of a year-end edition of HBO's Costas Now.


Butch Would Like To Sit Down With Stevie To Hear Why Phil Is A Prick

I'm seeing one of those jail visitor area setups: glass window, Butch Harmon and Stevie Williams talking on a phone for Butch's safety, only instead of an orange jumpsuit, Stevie's in an Augusta white jumper...with the collar wide open and his little green hat on backwards in one last act of defiance.

From the Independent, Michael Church reporting:

"I can't believe he said what he said," Harmon told PA Sport. "I think it's deplorable that he would say something like that.

"Golf is a game of honour and integrity and that was a very uncalled-for remark and I don't think it's a reflection of how Tiger thinks of Phil Mickelson.

"Until I see Steve and have a conversation with him and find out why he said what he said I don't really understand it. Phil Mickelson is one of the most popular players in the world, every bit as popular as Tiger Woods around the world.

"He's a nice guy, all the guys like Phil so I don't know where Steve was coming from with that comment.
"But personally I would assume he wishes he had never made it and I would love to have heard a recording of the conversation between him and Tiger after it came out in print.

"Having worked with Tiger for 10 years, I can tell you he wouldn't have been very happy with that."

Dec162008 Cleans Out Clutter...Including Golf Link

Thanks to reader John for the Brooks Barnes story detailing's forthcoming redesign meant to, well, I'm not sure what.  All I know is, they took the golf page link off the top banner. It's still easily found, but still wish they kept it close to the current site structure.



Reports: Stevie Williams To Spend Next Ten Years Impersonating Marcel Marceau

...that's because he appears to have a wonderfully forgiving boss. One who used to have a no-exploitation policy for his last looper who was canned for giving too long of an interview to Golf Digest (as Larry Dorman notes in his NY Times story).

Doug Ferguson chiming in for the Associated Press, and therefore, most publications:

Tiger Woods said Monday he was disappointed by his caddie’s disparaging comments in New Zealand newspapers about Phil Mickelson, whom Woods referred to as a “player I respect.”

Steve Williams was quoted in the Taranaki Daily News as saying he wouldn’t call Mickelson a great player “because I think he’s a (expletive).” Contacted by the Sunday Star Times, Williams confirmed making the comment.

“I was disappointed to read the comments attributed to Steve Williams about Phil Mickelson, a player that I respect,” Woods said in a statement. “It was inappropriate. The matter has been discussed and dealt with.”

Ferguson goes on to detail the past tiffs and other oddball moves by Williams, but neglects to mention his thrillingly entertaining race track meltdown!

What isn't explained in the story or any other is how Tiger addressed this with Phil Mickelson. Reader DGS emailed wondering if Tiger's "dealt with" comment includes calling Phil to apologize for his caddy? Maybe that'd be a good question for Wednesday's press conference.

Of course so would the termination question. Which Lawrence Donegan says is likely out of the question:

The world No1 was the best man at Williams' wedding in New Zealand and in a world where player-caddie relationships are notoriously transient the two men appear to have a permanent and close friendship.

Steve Elling files a must read with too many one-liners to copy here. Amid his entertaining dissection, Elling slips in this key point which can't be overlooked:

Imagine the thermonuclear holocaust that would have ensued if a comparable statement had come from Mackay about Woods.

Several have said Phil should not have responded at all by issuing the statement. However, Elling's point is exactly why Mickelson and his media guru T.R. Reinman made the right move. This story would have died had they not put the statement out. And if team unity means anything in the Cup world, the comments needed to be heard by all because Williams must not be a part of future Ryder and Presidents Cups (assuming he is still by Tiger come Cup-time).

Speaking of Tiger, who you almost feel sorry for him if it weren't for all of the previous warning signs that Mt. Stevie would blow, Elling paints this beautiful image:

It's not difficult to imagine how Woods is processing all this. He probably has a resigned look on his face similar to when playing partner Mickelson, at the Ryder Cup matches in Detroit four years ago, whacked a tee shot so far offline, it landed stone dead against a chain-link fence. This is a decidedly different brand of alternate shot. A cornerman is involved, too.

And as much as I'm touched by wonderful sportsmanship in the game, I have to side with Jason Sobel, who says this incident and the tension between the two best American golfers does nothing to tarnish the sport. In fact, it only helps generate interest.

Woods and Mickelson will never be confused with best friends -- their interpersonal gigglefest three years ago notwithstanding -- and that's not such a bad thing for the state of the game. In fact, it could make it all that more entertaining, knowing that each player wants to win a given tournament as much as he wants the other to lose. Such emotion instills passion on the course and ensures there will be greater drama between the players when they next tee it up together.

And Ron Kroichick in the San Francisco Chronicle agrees, delving into an interesting comparison with Nicklaus and Palmer's relationship.

It's difficult to digest all this middle-school name-calling without A) chuckling at the whole silly, entertaining spectacle, B) imagining Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus engaging in a similar feud in the 1960s and C) realizing this makes the 2009 season all the more alluring.


Newsmakers No. 14: Majors Setups

My story on the wild and weird year in course setup for Golf World's Newsmaker's issue has been posted along with Dale Stephanos' inimitable art.


“People may not really trust the guys they play golf with"

Ian Urbina continues the New York Times' excellent coverage of the Bernie Made Off Madoff scandal with today's dispatch from Palm Beach Country Club:

But the mood was gloomiest at the country club where, people here said, at least a third of the 300 or so members had money invested with Mr. Madoff.

The shame of the Madoff scandal seemed especially bitter here in part because the club is known for its noblesse oblige in requiring members to give tens of thousands of dollars each year to charity.

The attention was also particularly unwelcome for a community whose grand homes sit hidden behind 20-foot-tall ficus hedges and steel gates.

In cultivating an aloof mystique, Mr. Madoff had fooled those who fancied themselves the wiser.

Typically, investors needed at least $1 million to approach Mr. Madoff. Being a member of this club also helped.

But even with those prerequisites, there was little guarantee that Mr. Madoff would take the client.

Looking out on the stunning beauty of the country club’s driving range, wedged between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, one club member commented that the outsiders of Mr. Madoff’s clique turned out to be the lucky ones.

“It’s funny how these things work out,” the member said, adding that he had never tried to invest with the firm because he did not like Mr. Madoff’s unwillingness to explain his methods.

Ross B. Intelisano, a lawyer representing a collection of its members, said he thought relations at the country club and on the island generally might never be the same again.

“He had this reputation that he’s one of these guys, that he’s what Wall Street’s all about,” he said about Mr. Madoff. “It’s all about a handshake, and people trusted him.”

That sort of trust may be gone now, Mr. Intelisano said.

“People may not really trust the guys they play golf with,” he said.

Just wondering out loud here: with Madoff's close ties to golf, has anyone heard of any major golf organizations or charities that might have invested their extra funds with the man?

Oh, and thanks to readering Jeff for Joe Weisenthal's blog post on the remarkably consistent Mr. Madoff, who stopped posting scores eight years ago. Still look how steady his was. Just like those steady returns he promised.


Brand Lady Takes Pay Dip Just Like Finchem...

Of course, he lost $400k on a salary that peaked at a ridiculous $5.2 million, whereas CB dropped to only raking in six-figures. Let the weeping begin!

Jon Show reports:

Carolyn Bivens took home $500,000 as commissioner of the LPGA in 2007, a decrease of 28 percent from the previous year despite having what most consider to be her best year on the job.

Bivens was paid $690,000 for a full year of work in 2006 and $238,782 in 2005, when she joined the LPGA midway through the year. Earlier this year, Bivens received a three-year extension that concludes in 2011, but she was still working under her original three-year contract in 2007.

All figures are listed on the IRS form that the tour is required to file as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. The only other executive salary listed on the form is that of Deputy Commissioner Libba Galloway, whose compensation increased from $204,720 to $228,912.


Deep Thought

This Stevie-Phil tiff makes the President's Cup a lot more interesting. Unless Stevie pulls a Ben Curtis caddie excuse and says his love of country makes it impossible for him to work against the International team.


Phil Fires Back: "After seeing Steve Williams' comments all I could think of was how lucky I am to have a class act like Bones on my bag" **

Tiger's caddie fabricates a tale and refers to Phil Mickelson as a "prick," then offers a new version that also proved to be untrue while sticking to his classy characterization of Mickelson.

So Sunday, the target of Steve Williams issued a statement. And curiously, as of 11:32 EST Sunday night, The Guardian's Lawrence Donegan is the only one to report it:

The sedate world of professional golf is unused to such unvarnished opinions being thrown around in public and Mickelson made his unhappiness clear. "After seeing Steve Williams' comments all I could think of was how lucky I am to have a class act like Bones (his caddie, Jim Mackay) on my bag and representing me," the American left-hander said.

Mickelson also said a "joke" told by Williams in which the player was heckled by a fan over his weight during this year's US Open at Torrey Pines was "a total fabrication". "It is based on an incident on the 17th hole during a practice round of the US Open at Bethpage in 2002 that involved a European Tour player. The story has been retold often but Woods and Williams were not present at that incident," he said.

Obviously I'm entertained by the drama at play here and how it'll impact future Tiger-Phil pairings, but I'm also fascinated by the media reaction.

If Tiger Woods passes gas, the media grills him about the odor and his emotions before-during-after the passage. Follow ups will probe how hard the eruption made Stevie laugh and finally, if Elin had any thoughts on the matter.

Yet Tiger's ticking time bomb caddie, who works for someone with a no tolerance policy on questionable behavior from the people he surrounds himself with, fabricates a story and puts down the world's No. 3 player in demeaning fashion. But only one paper and no major golf website is picking up Mickelson's statement, with minimal or zero coverage of the overall controversy.

So is this because it's a silly season weekend when already slim coverage becomes less of a priority or this dereliction of duty driven by a fear of upsetting Team Tiger?

Or ominously for us readers, a combo platter deal?



“He and his wife were nice golfers"

As if the game didn't have enough image problems, we now learn from Alan Feurer and Christine Haughney that the greatest investment swindler in American history was a golfer whose club memberships were a key component of his lifestyle and business. I give you, Bernie Madoff.

And soon the Madoff name — if not quite the equal of the Tisch name, for example — carried a quiet power.

"The guy never flaunted anything,” said one longtime friend. “And that fit with his rate of return, which was never attention-grabbing, just solid 12-13 percent year in, year out."

The friend, a private investor who knows Mr. Madoff from the Palm Beach Country Club and from the Hamptons, said friends and investors had been calling nonstop since the arrest.

"The pain is just unbelievable,” the friend said. “He was part of the family for so many people. There was this quiet culture of people, slightly older-money, who maybe weren’t that interested in the market, who kept saying to each other, ‘Just give Bernie your money, you’ll be fine.’ "

That culture had perhaps its best expression at the half-dozen golf clubs he belonged to, ranging from the woody Old Oaks in Purchase, N.Y., to the Palm Beach Country Club in Florida.

“He and his wife were nice golfers,” said Denise Lefrak Calicchio, part of the Lefrak real estate family, who knew the Madoffs socially through several of their clubs. “He and his wife seemed lovely.”

With time, some wealthy investors even joined clubs in order to become part of Mr. Madoff’s investments, some who knew him said. It was considered a favor to be introduced to the man as a potential investor.

“There were people joining golf clubs just to get into his fund,” said one investor who declined to be named. “This guy was held in such high regard.”

A member of the Palm Beach club said the Madoffs did not socialize as much as other members did, nor did they fight as aggressively as others to keep up with the club’s more aerobic social climbers. They were well-liked, and did not appear to be part of the “blister pack,” as one club member put it, a term that refers to those who get blisters on their hands and feet from ascending social ladders.

“They seemed to stay apart from the herd,” the club member said. “They chose not to get into that social rat race.” 

Well, at least he had at least one redeeming quality!


"The players wanted Azinger to return, Azinger wanted Azinger to return and so the PGA came up with... Pavin."

The Telegraph's Mark Reason questions the Corey Pavin captaincy selection, writing that "The players wanted Azinger to return, Azinger wanted Azinger to return and so the PGA came up with... Pavin. It was a decision worthy of the 57 old farts of the RFU lampooned by Will Carling."


Is it possible that the PGA saw a Jesus syndrome in Pavin, a man who is a convert from Judaism to Christianity? Or did they see a new Zen-like calm in a man who has mellowed out since his second marriage to Lisa Nguyen. She said: "When I met Corey I could tell he was empty inside." And now presumably he is full, perhaps even to the point of overflowing with the milk of human kindness.

Or maybe the PGA just liked Pavin sucking up to them. Did he really say: "The Ryder Cup is in my blood. I think if you cut my arm open, Ryder Cup would just bleed out. It's the greatest event in the world, I think, and certainly the golf world."

The duffers at the PGA may be fooled by that sort of soap, but will it wash with the players?


"According to Williams" **

Yesterday I mistakenly linked to Lawrence Donegan's Guardian version of the Steve Williams-calls-Phil Mickelson names story instead of the original by Murray Hills. I have corrected the link mix up on the post below.

However, my screw-up proved revealing (yes, I'm justifying blogging sloppiness!).

A reader called into question the Hills' story suggestion that the U.S. Open "Nice tits" tale took place during round 3, when we all know Tiger Woods and Phil only played together in rounds 1 and 2. The reader directed their criticism at Donegan, who clarified Hills's mistake here, why he wrote his story accordingly, while also revealing that it seems Williams, telling the tale to a group of 250, most likely made the story up.

Now, I should have known something was amiss with the Williams story since I was at Torrey Pines every day, followed the elite Tiger-Phil-Scott pairing most of the way and never heard about this happening. Other writers I've checked with say this was the first they've heard of it. And as several have noted, including Donegan in his post here, the tale sounds similar to a story about Monty that has made the rounds for years.

It's hard to imagine Stevie surviving this latest episode if it delivers the expected high humiliation factor on Tiger's lap. It's certainly not the Christmas gift Tiger wanted from his caddy on the eve of this week's event at Sherwood where Tiger hosts a press conference.