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    by Geoff Shackelford
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    by Geoff Shackelford
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    by Michael Miller, Geoff Shackelford
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Golf is the Great Mystery. Like some capricious goddess, it bestows its favours with what would appear an almost fat-headed lack of method and discrimination. On every side we see two-fisted he-men floundering round in three figures, stopping every few minutes to let through little shrimps with knock-knees and hollow cheeks, who are tearing off snappy seventy-fours. Giants of finance have to accept a stroke per from their junior clerks. Men capable of governing empires fail to control a small, white ball, which presents no difficulties whatever to others with one ounce more brain than a cuckoo-clock. Mysterious, but there it is.  P.G. WODEHOUSE


    

Wednesday
Nov222006

Viewing Alert: Watch George Lopez Make Golf Administrators Squirm

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

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

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

 

Wednesday
Nov222006

PGA Tour Driving Distance Watch, Final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday
Nov222006

The Wisdom of Bobby Clampett, Vol. 317

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

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

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

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

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

The meticulous research this man does! 

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

What imagery.

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

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

Had enough? There are 18 more holes today!

Tuesday
Nov212006

Harig On The Commissioners

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

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

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

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

Tuesday
Nov212006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday
Nov212006

"And the list goes on."

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

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

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

And the list goes on. 
Tuesday
Nov212006

Grand Slam Questions

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

Tuesday
Nov212006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting. The better the course, the slower the round? Hmmm...no, the hillier, longer and more spread out by housing developments, the longer it takes. Nice try though! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, this interview ought to really help! 

Monday
Nov202006

Australians and Cell Phones

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

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

Monday
Nov202006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday
Nov202006

Bushwood Circa 2006

My latest Golfdom column visits a Bushwood board meeting circa 2006.

Monday
Nov202006

Hooks and Cuts Year In Review

Rich Lerner offers his best and worst of the year, even kindly weaving in a couple of Champions Tour moments that no one actually remembers witnessing.

Monday
Nov202006

"An acceptable gimmick one time a year"

...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.


Sunday
Nov192006

The Better Commissioner?

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
Nov192006

ADT, Tradition and Golf "Playoffs"

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. 

Saturday
Nov182006

Rackham Sold

The City of Detroit is selling Rackham, its Donald Ross (or what's left of) course.

Saturday
Nov182006

"Viciously entertaining"

That's what Greg Stoda calls the ADT Championship format that eliminated 8 more Sunday and cleans the slate for the final day shootout. He also calls it unfair.

Here's the summary of day three and the final eight going into Sunday.

Saturday
Nov182006

Shuffling Chairs In Ponte Vedra

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.

Friday
Nov172006

Week In Review, November 12-19, Bivens One Ups Finchem?

WeekInReview2.jpgAnother 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? 

Friday
Nov172006

"It's like going to a party. You show up and everyone's ready to go."

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?