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The professional golf watcher never catches the action. I could write a volume on Great Moments in Golf I Have Missed.  PETER DOBEREINER



"They will say it was a major turning point for us."

Craig Dolch talks to Carolyn Bivens about her eventful year and she offers a few keepers...

"We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and be certain it's not an oncoming train," Bivens said during a phone conversation last week. "A few months ago, we weren't so sure."
Nice metaphor usage, I give it 6 on the Finchem scale. No, make it an 8 for the first show of humility by the Commissioner.
"The way we operated before isn't going to get us where we want to go," Bivens said. "A lot of major, successful companies are finding out their business models are no longer working. The LPGA was in the same situation the PGA Tour was 20 years ago and the NBA was 10 years ago - we have a good slate of stars, and we have a chance to maximize our product and turn it into a business. That's never easy."

Eh, not very fresh, make that a 5.

"Some of the media and our partners tried to make this year about me, but it really wasn't about me," Bivens said. "I hope our partners, supporters and detractors understand we're not being capricious or arrogant or cocky in what we do. What we are is confident.

"I hope when people look back on this year, they will say it was a major turning point for us."

Capricious gives that a 7.

Meanwhile Adam Shupak at Golfweek analyzes the 2007 schedule, which produces this discussion of Bivens' uh, confidence.

 "We agree with what she's trying to do to change the business model of the LPGA," says TOA chairman Jack Benjamin. "It's the tactics that we are concerned about."

 Counters Bivens: "We're trying to operate more as a 2006 business, which means we operate with signed contracts. That's the way title sponsors like to operate. Frankly, that's the way most businesses operate."

"As I look to build my brand"

Craig Dolch writes about Annika's boyfriend taking over her business empire the Annika brand.
For more than a year, Sorenstam has been dating Mike McGee, a golf agent and the son of PGA Tour golfer Jerry McGee. The relationship has grown to the point that McGee on Monday announced his plans to leave International Golf Properties to help handle the business affairs of Sorenstam, who wants to transition from star golfer to corporate executive with her company, ANNIKA.

"I think the timing is right as I look to build my brand," said Sorenstam, 36, who hasn't said much about her personal life since her divorce from David Esch in 2005.

"Mike is a wonderful guy, and I appreciate that he can understand what I go through. He has an upbringing and background in sports, especially golf, so he is able to relate to my life. ... It's great to know he has my best interests at heart."

Sorenstam said she will continue to have International Management Group handle her endorsements, but McGee will work on her businesses. Plans include a golf academy, a foundation, several golf-course design projects, a fitness DVD, clothing and jewelry lines and two tournaments she hosts.

"Annika has so much going on from a business standpoint," said McGee, 32. "Since I'm in the business and she knows how much I care about her, she knows I will work my tail off for her. I understand the business end and what it means to her. That's her office. The time constraints that go with it can be overwhelming for someone who doesn't understand it."

"The whole marketing theme is, 'Play the Stadium before the players do'"

Garry Smits on the TPC Sawgrass  TPC Stadium Course Players Stadium Course  PLAYERS Stadium(C) Course reopening:

The first ceremonial shot will be hit at 7:30 this morning by Truett Ewton, an original member of the TPC at Sawgrass and one of the first to play the Stadium Course when it opened in November 1980.

As of late last week, TPC general manager Billy Dettlaff said only about 10 tee times were available today. The club anticipates that bookings will be higher than normal for this time of year.

"The whole marketing theme is, 'Play the Stadium before the players do,' " Detlaff said, referring to the date change of The Players Championship to May 10-13 next year. "I think a lot of people are going to want to see it before then."

So much for a subtle marketing approach.

This surprised me...

The biggest change above ground will likely be noticed only by the competitors in The Players Championship. The entire course is about 200 yards longer from the back tees (stretching up to 7,200 yards), with the increased distance more pronounced at Nos. 1, 11, 14, 16 and 18.

200? That sounds like a bit more than they had advertised going in. I still haven't noticed any talk of widening out some of the corridors to bring the trees and pine straw more into play. 


"This could be wonderful for the design business."

A couple of notes from Steve Elling's piece on Tiger getting into the design business. One, that it will be "based out of his primary business offices near his home at Isleworth Country Club," and...

 Woods will chair the firm himself and it will have no ties to the design firm run by his sports-management agency, IMG.

That's good news.

Elling also had this quote from Tom Marzolf, who not surprisingly, had little to add.

 "Everybody in the industry has been waiting for this day," said Tom Marzolf, past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. "This could be wonderful for the design business."


A Few Loyal Golfers

I've gotten three emails from readers noting that they had intentionally let their USGA memberships expire out of protest for a job not well done.

Apparently each of these folks continued to receive email newsletters and the Rules of Golf in their mailbox (along with address labels and renewal pleas). But they were still not members, nor did they want to be.

Lo and behold, each of these former members received word (and bag tags to confirm) that they were members again, free of charge. According to an accompanying letter from membership director Fiona Dolan

"I'm delighted to inform you that the USGA has decided to reward a few loyal golfers with a one-year complimentary membership, complete with all your benefits, effective immediately.
"We have taken this step because we value support for all that the USGA does to keep this game great."

It ends with:

"We are pleased to welcome you back and fervently hope that at the end of your complimentary one-year term you will consider renewing your membership and remain a valuable member of the USGA."

They are also apparently adding golfers from regional associations to bump up the membership tally.

Wouldn't it just be easier to bring back Golf Journal, do something about equipment, ditch the private plane and run the U.S. Open a little better?


"We move on."

In working through my issues as diagnosed by Brandy and Gin Bomb and Gouge over at, I went back to read their diagnosis and noticed that a rather spirited debate was taking place.

Since this stuff can only be read in small doses, let's start with Gouge's (Mike Stachura) reply to Chuck, who was pointing out that allowing significant distance increases to occur has the dreaded side effect of leading to unnecessary architectural changes.

GOUGE responds: It is unfortunate that some people like yourself continue to believe that journalistic integrity is dead. But so be it. I have no financial stake in the equipment debate. As for Mr. Tarde's statements in print, well, they are his, they are not always mine. That is the beauty of a public forum. That is the beauty and strength of our enterprise as a magazine. And the only thing I must admit is that the game must adapt. I have no impractical affinity for maintaining the relevance of venues of the past. If a great course from the past is no longer a sufficient test for the .0001 percent of the universe of golfers, that is not a tragedy. We move on. If Winged Foot, Augusta National and even the Old Course get left behind as outdated and irrelevant for championship golf, I cry no tears. That leaves those majestic venues for the 99.9999 percent of us who can still appreciate their greatness. But thanks for your thoughts. The discourse shows the game itself still has meaning.

It's amazing what grown men will do to preseve their shopping privileges!

Apparently, whipping out the credit card to purchase new hope that's scientifically proven to not significantly help 99.9999 percent "of us," is more important to the game of golf than playing the Masters at Augusta National or the Open Championship at St. Andrews.

What makes it all so bizarre, is that even if the game were bifurcated or the ball rolled back to preserve these venues, people will still buy plenty of balls and clubs and the pro game might be a lot more fun to watch.


"I feel like I am playing the same golf week in, week out."

Robert Allenby joins the list of players bemoaning the sameness of PGA Tour golf...
"America, it is just very much the same every week and I am bored, I get a little bit bored with it and I feel like I am playing the same golf week in, week out," he said.

"Whereas if you come down here and play or in Europe, you are playing different golf shots every week."

Oh Kanada...

How about Craig Kanada chipping in on each of the last two holes to win the Nationwide Championship and his PGA Tour card for 2007.


"It's all about money. It's all about the pension."

From Seth Soffian in the News-Press of Southwest Florida:

Greg Norman drew the ire of some PGA Tour members recently when he criticized today's players for lacking charisma and the overt desire to challenge world No. 1 Tiger Woods.

On Saturday, he drew support from partner Nick Faldo in the Merrill Lynch Shootout. After their round, Faldo told CBS, for whom he will become lead analyst next year, that the riches in today's game have robbed players of the single-minded will to win.

"It's all about money. It's all about the pension," Faldo said after Norman again raised the topic.


"We have a great group of guys out here calling penalties on themselves, let alone thinking about drug tests."

Greg Hardwig in the Naples News talked to various Shark Shootout contestants about the idea of drug testing.

"If you were to do that (steroid testing), I think it'd be an interesting thing to do," says Fred Couples. "I know the sponsors would probably support you, but I think the tour would work something out to suspend you. I'm not for it; I'm not against it. I think it would be very interesting.

"The next question would be, do you think anyone's on steroids? I would say I have no idea, which would probably mean that someone is on them."


And now for the fantasyland perspective:

"If you suspect someone, yes, but what we have now is probably OK," says Scott Verplank. "If they suspect something's going on, the commissioner has the right to basically levy any penalty he wants, where if we go with some drug testing policy, we're going to have to negotiate through lawyers what the stipulations are going to be, and it's going to be a lot more difficult.

"As long as we have a competent man as commissioner, I think we're probably going to be OK."


"I'd like to think that golfers as a whole are doing the right things out there — to be honest, I don't know a whole lot about that stuff — but I don't think it would be that beneficial anyway," J.J. Henry says. "We have a great group of guys out here calling penalties on themselves, let alone thinking about drug tests."


"Golf is a $65 billion industry"

Outgoing PGA of America president Roger Warren, talking to Tommy Braswell in the Post and Courier of Charleston:

"Golf is a $65 billion industry in this country. One thing we have been trying to do is raise people's awareness around the country about that industry. Not just the person that pays greens fee on Saturday morning to play golf. There's so much more to it, the real estate associated with golf, the tournaments, the manufacturing."

Anyone ever heard that $65 billion number before? I know PGA Tour Vice Presidents are making a lot, seems a bit high. 


Huggan On Azinger

John Huggan does his best to get off on the wrong foot with the new U.S. Ryder Cup Captain.

Over the course of four Ryder Cups, the 46-year-old golfer all but covered the playing and behavioural spectrum, from sublime to distasteful. Indeed, Azinger's whole career has been regularly blighted by doubts over his character amid accusations that his adherence to golf's rule-book is sometimes less than exemplary.
Oh but he said that about Lehman too, and they've since bonded. Though this may be tough to overcome... 
Listening to a winning speech laced with Azinger's warped brand of so-called patriotism is something that we should all be spared.

Huggan's just jealous that we have a Captain and points system that will get us into double digits in '08. 


Punchlines In Need Of Finetuning

Richard Hinds offers new Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee to defend some of his rumored changes to the event, and it becomes a chance for him to debut his stand up routine. Kind of makes long for the wit and wisdom of Carolyn Bivens...


"I've had people come up to me saying absurd things like, 'I've heard you're going to have girls in bikinis caddying for the players'," he said.

"That's just ridiculous. Have you ever tried to find 100 swimsuit models strong enough to carry those heavy bags around for four days? I have and it's just not feasible."

McNamee admitted that several initiatives not mentioned at the launch would be in place. "When I said the tournament would be following some of the fine golf traditions created by the ancient Scots, I meant Ronnie Corbett, not old Tom Morris," he said.

Accordingly, the Australian Open is believed to be the first significant championship at which a randomly selected member of each group will unwittingly be given a novelty exploding golf ball on the first tee. "That should start things off with a bang," said McNamee, who admitted some of his punchlines would need finetuning before the tournament.


There's more if you click on the link.


Week In Review, November 5-11: Tiger The Architect

WeekInReview2.jpgLast week's Tour Championship turned out to be a mini-fiasco for Tim Finchem, the PGA of America introduced Paul Azinger as Ryder Cup Captain on Monday, and guess who stole the spotlight this week? Tiger Woods of course.

But first, John Huggan kicked off the week with a column on Michael Bonallack, another of those former golf executives who suddenly wishes he had done more when he had the chance. Still, the former R&A man's complacency is nothing compared to the current regime, as Sean Murphy noted:  It doesn't matter what Michael Bonallack would do or not do. Who was head of the R&A during 2002 when the Joint Statement Of Principals were issued by the USGA and the R&A??? And what is that person going to do about it?

On news that Paul Azinger will make his 4 Captain's picks the week before the Ryder Cup, reader Bob S. wrote: Will the player's wife have enough time to get all primped for the event? I mean, you just don't go to SuperTarget and get an evening dress for the Grand Ball in 7-days.

And finally, the story that generated 43 posts: Tiger's bizarrely timed entry into the course design business. The news prompted a wide array of reactions.

CEB: He'll probably spend about as much time on his course designs as he has on the developing the sleek new 2007 Buick LeSabre

Pete the Luddite: I would not be surprised if his work turns out to be incredibly detailed and a great product. I can't see someone as driven and focused as Tiger putting out a prodcut that he would not agree should be associated with his name. Patience, folks. Time will tell.

Adam Clayman: IMG shoots...and scores.

Pollner: Did Nicklaus actually 'hang out his shingle' before some of the 'consulting' he did with Dye? It's interesting that Tiger doesn't even have a project yet. I would have thought that he would have gotten his toes a little wet by working with a known architect before launching his own firm.

Scott S: We can only hope that his love of the game extends to being willing to get down into the dirt every now and again.

Mark Ferguson: Umm, whereabouts around the world exactly has Woods been, to have absorbed all of this local design knowledge? Two oh-so-brief visits to Oz and one to NZ don't count much. It will be interesting if the Woods group gets a really great piece of land that lends itself to some great short fours, threes and fives for a par 69 or 70, but the owner wants 72 for 7300 yards - will he stand up to the owner and walk away?

Four-putt: Developers only care about the star-power of the design consultant's name. Translates directly into more revenue from memberships and real estate sales. So why not Tiger? Why should this surprise anyone? I only wonder what took him so long.

John Gorman: When it's all said and done, I'm actually a bit shocked by this announcement. But, maybe he'll do it right and be super-selective about the projects he accepts and only do one per year. I can't imagine that he'd pimp himself out for big fees and little hands-on work.

F.X.: I admire Tiger and hope this turns out well, but it was the last thing I expected to hear him turn his attention to so I am concerned that he's merely lending his name to an IMG collection of designers and course builders.


"Pertaining to specificity"

I'm not clear where Bob Verdi was going with this Golf World column on the PGA Tour's potential drug testing policy. He seems to think this is mostly a a product of the European media.

So where's the beef? Primarily from the media, since it is our duty to make sure all is well in the world. For some reason, most of the pressure is being applied by the European press. At a gathering during the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August, one of my lodge brothers from across the pond asked Finchem how he could know no golfers are taking drugs if he didn't test them? A fair question. Finchem stressed that golf embraces an honorable culture in which players penalize themselves with no one else looking. That didn't fly with the interrogator. Understand, I have many respected peers in the international press, but I wonder about their drug fixation.
The column did yield this doublespeak dandy from the Commissioner:
So at next week's tour policy board meeting, he and his people will continue drafting a manifesto Finchem characterizes as "pertaining to specificity."



Tiger Investing In An Els Design?


Promising "To Be In Bed Together"

Honestly, you just wonder if they hesitate before hitting the send key on stuff like this. I swear I haven't made this up.

Sawgrass Destination Set To Become The Pebble Beach Of The East; Key Partners Promise To Be "In Bed Together"
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Redquartz Boundary Ltd. (RQB), the new Sawgrass Marriott Resort & Spa ownership group -- together with the Sawgrass Marriott and TPC Sawgrass teams -- recently announced a refreshed vision to establish the Ponte Vedra Beach area as one of the premier golf, spa, beach and convention destinations in the world. "The dynamic partnership between RQB, Sawgrass Marriott and TPC Sawgrass is setting up the Sawgrass destination to secure a position as the Pebble Beach of the East," said Debi Bishop, general manager of Sawgrass Marriott Resort & Spa.

Pebble Beach of the East?  Don't you have to have an ocean nearby to claim that? Hopefully a good legal department too.

"Sawgrass will undoubtedly be paralleled with iconic golf destinations such as Pebble Beach and Pinehurst," said David O'Halloran, the representative for RQB Ltd., the joint venture comprised of affiliates of an Irish-based investment company, and chief executive officer of RQB America.

Bill Hughes, general manager of TPC Sawgrass, added, "with THE PLAYERS Championship primed to go to the next level with a new May date, High Definition NBC broadcast with limited commercial interruption, and our dramatic renovation, we are clearly at a defining point in elevating Sawgrass as one of the most unique golf destinations in the world."

During a media briefing held Wednesday, Nov. 8, O'Halloran, Bishop, Hughes and Vernon Kelly, chairman of the RQB Development Committee and past president of PGA TOUR Golf Course Properties, illustrated how they are "in bed together" in an outdoor replica of the resort's revived guest room.

Like I said, you can't make this stuff up.


Tiger-Federer Bond Grows, Tiger Now Picking His "Brains"

federerwoodstrophy.jpgAP reports that they aren't quite Lance Armstrong-Matthew McConaughey close, but getting there...
 "We've gotten to know each other. It's not too often you can relate to someone going through certain things, and we both can," he said. "It's nice to be able to talk to someone like that."

Woods said he could relate to Federer like he could with basketball star Michael Jordan.

"It's nice to pick his brains. I've been lucky to get to know Michael Jordan pretty well and it's good to find people you can talk to about preparations and distractions, about getting to the top and then moving forward."

Woods and Federer, who are represented by the same agency, might even have a social match.

"I'd love to play (golf) with Roger. I'd love to play tennis with him too -- I'd prefer to play tennis," Woods said.


"Elite players need to be selfish if they want to prosper."

Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian writing about Tiger's design career:

An announcement is expected shortly, although it is safe to assume the financial details will remain secret. Woods enjoys his privacy, leaving others to speculate. And in this instance there has been no shortage of speculation, with figures ranging from $10-35m being bandied around. One leading course architect said yesterday that he had been told the world No1 last year turned down an offer of $20m (£10.5m) to design a course in the US. If this is the case, it has to be assumed that Woods' decision to embark on his new career has been prompted by an offer in excess of that - a sum not even a man with his bank balance could refuse.

"Whatever Tiger is asking for, I hope he gets it because his fees will make mine look reasonable," laughs Tom Doak, an American architect. "Twenty million would be worth it if there was just one Tiger Woods golf course. The fee can just be written off as marketing budget for the next 50 years because the developer will have something that is unique."
The assumption that a great player will automatically be a great course designer is misplaced, argues Greg Turner, a former European tour player who has embarked on a design career since retiring from top-class golf.

"Just because you've played thousands of courses around the world doesn't necessarily mean you know what makes a good one for the average player," Turner says. "When you play a course as a professional you are looking at it from a single-minded viewpoint - how does this fit with my game? Elite players need to be selfish if they want to prosper. They don't have time to take in aspects of a golf course that might affect other people."



"That’s like getting a personal call from Lance Armstrong..."

Tom Fazio, talking about his new Fallen Oak course in Mississippi:

For me, Beau Rivage is very unique and special because – as someone asked me earlier; how did I get involved – it’s very simple. I got a call one day from MGM-MIRAGE people saying “Tom, we’re getting ready to do a golf course for our Beau Rivage property and we want you to come down and look at the some of the land we assembled and tell us what you think.” Well, on your side of the industry, that’s like getting a personal call from Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods or Peyton Manning. If you’re in the sports writing industry, that’s kind of what it’s like for me.