Twitter: GeoffShac
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer
  • Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    by Kevin Robbins
  • Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    by Ken Bowden

As each year goes by I fear the true sporting spirit of match play is less and less in evidence. We find a growing disposition for play to concentrate on the figures that are registered at a hole rather than on the question of whether the hole is lost or won in a purely friendly match. TOM SIMPSON

 

  

Monday
Nov022009

PGA Tour Announces An Anti-Doping Suspension

The unthinkable has occurred: the PGA Tour went public with a performance-enhancing substance violation and suspension. No details beyond the length of suspension and the name of the player were released.

November 2, 2009

From the Office of the Commissioner:


The PGA TOUR announced today that Doug Barron has violated the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Policy's ban on the use of performance-enhancing substances and has been suspended for one year. The suspension will commence immediately.  This is the first suspension under the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Program.

"I would like to apologize for any negative perception of the TOUR or its players resulting from my suspension. I want my fellow TOUR members and the fans to know that I did not intend to gain an unfair competitive advantage or enhance my performance while on TOUR," said Barron.

The TOUR will have no further comment on the suspension at this time.

So a year suspension for what he says was an unintentional attempt? Sounds like the tour did not agree.

I know the commissioner has been very transparent in saying that he resisted this program because--"We had to deal with that from a defensive standpoint from an image perspective"--but you'd to at least think they wouldn't make the first suspendee apologize for an image chink in the press release?

How about, I'm sorry I did this to my body, setting a terrible example for the youth of America.

Or maybe even no comment beyond a simple apology?

Either way, maybe Barron started using some physique building stuff after this odd photo of him ran on ESPN.com a few years ago.

Anyone know why he wasn't wearing his shirt? **Jason Sobel explained the incident here.

Monday
Nov022009

“Who is Mike Whan?”

Sports Business Journal's Jon Show tracks down Mike Whan at his home office to find out more about the new LPGA Commish.

Whan, 44, had been working as a consultant based out of a home office since January when he received a call from Spencer Stuart, the recruiting firm leading the search and a company that Whan had a relationship with through earlier job searches.

He went unnoticed by outside observers during the interview process and is not widely known in the sports industry, making “Who is Mike Whan?” the prevailing question as reports came out last week that he would replace Carolyn Bivens.

There were no pictures of him available until hours after the announcement, leading at least one LPGA executive and pockets of industry observers to wonder whether the LPGA was about to name its first Asian commissioner.

Accompanying the story was this sidebard asking "What’s ahead for the LPGA?"

Two bullet points caught my eye:

- Shore up the balance sheet and income statement. Liabilities from the former commissioner, a $5 million unresolved lawsuit, few long-term contracts and shallow reserves have left the LPGA in a sustainable, but precarious situation.

Anyone know what the $5 million unresolved lawsuit is about?

-Move the headquarters, or at least sales and marketing, from Daytona Beach, Fla., to New York City. It’s difficult to court Madison Avenue from 100 International Golf Drive, a lesson successfully learned by NASCAR for the last decade.

Oy...granted, I know Daytona Beach was a bad choice, but would a costly move to New York really help? Besides, since it rains every day in New York, maybe the Madison Avenue set would welcome trips to Daytona Beach?

The piece features little brandspeak from the new Commish, and frankly, he'll have a hard time topping this whopper from today's New York Times, quoting Turner Entertainment Networks head Steve Koonin when talking about his network versus the big boys:

“We’re not slaves to everything except our brand,” Mr. Koonin said. “It’s the only idol we worship.”

Monday
Nov022009

Is There A New American Course Under Construction?

I'm just perusing the archives and preparing my annual year-in-review story for Golfdom, and while I know The Cliffs folks claim that their Tiger Woods-designed course is under construction, I'm wondering if anyone can name a new American golf course that is under construction?

Sunday
Nov012009

Hall of Fame Monday

Golf Channel advertises their World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony telecast for a 10 p.m. EST Monday debut and there's plenty of great reading on the inductees.

Kevin Cook writes about Lanny Wadkins and the Hall of Fame curator Mark Cubbedge, who raided Lanny's closet to gather the necessary artifacts making his HOF exhibits to extraordinary.

There's also this video report and a Jay Haas tribute to Lanny here.

John Huggan profiles inductee Jose Maria Olazabal.

"His golf is his whole life, along with his family," says Dave "Buddy" Renwick, who caddied for Olazabal from 1986 to 1994. "I stayed with him for a week once. He goes into France to practise. All he did was play and practise two or three times, go hunting with his father and his six dogs and not much else. His is a very simple life. And he is a very genuine guy." That he is. It is hard to imagine another member of golf's elite who, in the midst of the emotional and physical turmoil that was his two-year exile from the game that has been his life, would send back the cheques he received from the club and ball manufacturers to which he was contracted at the time. But that is exactly what Olazabal did.

Arnold Palmer is quoted on his pal and inductee Dwight Eisenhower.

PGATour.com enlisted Brian Keough to profile inductee Christy O'Connor.

Besides getting ready for the induction ceremony, Cubbedge has been blogging about the joys of putting together this year's items, including an exhibit tour for families of inductees.

And if you want to know more about Cubbedge and the outstanding World Golf Village, I filed this review earlier this year.

Sunday
Nov012009

"It's really up in the air."

Ryan Ballengee covers a range of subjects with Tom Watson, but naturally I was interested to hear what he thinks will be the impact of the new groove rules.

I think the guys on the Champions Tour played on the V-grooves, where the guys on the PGA Tour haven't.  Thing is, nobody knows what these new grooves are going to do.  The ball manufacturers are making balls that are softer, to spin a little more - who knows.  It's really up in the air.  We're just speculating right now.

Saturday
Oct312009

Kim Decides Allenby Needs To Work On His Short Putts

Mark Garrod on the Anthony Kim-Robert Allenby World Match Play rekindling of their Presidents Cup showdown/highly embarrassing spat:

There appeared to be no love lost between Kim and Allenby. After their cup duel Allenby made accusations of late-night drinking by his opponent. They have since held "clear-the-air" talks and say they have finished discussing the matter, but former European Tour player Wayne Riley said after watching their morning round: "I'm looking forward to the shake (of hands] at the end – will it be a shake with a left uppercut?"

In the end there was just the handshake and no more. In fact, they exchanged few words throughout. At lunch Kim was questioned about asking Allenby to hole some short putts but said: "I don't really think I have. Maybe a 2-footer, but it had a little break to it. Let's just say I am pretty focused on my game and if that slides by me that's a mistake."

Allenby responded: "That's match play. It does not matter, I will putt them all out if he wants. I'm happy to, I'm not going to miss them. I gave him four-footers but it does not bother me."

Saturday
Oct312009

**Billy Payne Said To Be Resting Comfortably After Two Asians Vault To Top Of Asian Amateur Leaderboard

Granted, as Sean Martin points out, one of the potential Asian Amateur winners of the coveted Masters invite is the reigning Big 10 champ from Northwestern, Eric Chun. But at least he's not Australian!

Chun, 19, is the reigning Big Ten champ. He has lived in South Korea only about six years and played virtually no tournament golf in the country; he had to receive a special invitation to this event after uncertainty about his Korean citizenship. Chun’s family moved to Malaysia when he was 4.

He lived there until he was 14, when his family moved to Australia to help him develop his game. He lived in South Korea for his final two years before leaving for college, but didn’t play tournaments there. Instead, he came to the U.S. in the summer of 2007 to play AJGA events, hoping to get noticed by colleges in the U.S.
Chun is a sophomore at Northwestern. He is wearing his college uniform this week, while the other six Koreans in the field, including Han, are wearing national-team uniforms.

Friday
Oct302009

"It will take strong leadership but men like that are few and far between. Those in control at the moment can't seem to get anything done."

Tony Jimenez relays Tony Jacklin's eloquent summation of the game's sorry state (thanks reader Chris). Obviously these remarks, which appear in Golf World UK, are most powerful because we are seeing yet another person connecting the dots between the distance chase, slow play, higher maintenance costs, stagnation of the golf business and governing body futility. You go Tony:

"The ball is predictable, the equipment is predictable, the greens are better and so more predictable," Jacklin said in an interview with Golf World magazine.

"The game has lost the unpredictability it had say 40 years ago. Galleries and people are pummelled with advertising these days so they get used to stuff and it seems easy to convince them everything is all right."

Jacklin, who won the 1969 British Open and 1970 U.S. Open, drew a parallel between golf and the global economic downturn.

"Maybe it will be different when something has to be done but by then it may be too late," said the 65-year-old Briton who now lives in the United States.

"It is a bit like the financial mess the world is in. For too long no one wanted to address the underlying problems in the world economy then all of a sudden it was too late.

"No one wants to believe the game today is not as good as it was. Tiger disguises a lot of the problems."

Oh boy! And about those governing bodies?

"It will take strong leadership but men like that are few and far between. Those in control at the moment can't seem to get anything done," he added.

Jacklin, who led Europe to two Ryder Cup victories and a tie in four spells as skipper between 1983-89, was particularly critical of the United States Golf Association and the R&A, which governs golf in all countries except the U.S. and Mexico.

"I'm not sure the R&A and the USGA are properly shouldering the responsibility they have," said the Englishman. "They seem happy to let things go the way they are going and the manufacturers have a responsibility too.

"I don't accept that nothing can be done about the ball and how far it goes. The tours could make a decision on what players can use and do it that way."

Guess we shouldn't put Tony down for having high hopes the grooves will be the fix?

Jacklin was also scathing about the increasing length of modern layouts.

"They (officials) seem happy to keep on playing 7,600-yard courses that cost more to maintain and take forever to play," he said. "The length of time it takes to play now is the biggest problem.

"Who the hell wants to take five hours plus to play 18 holes? Not me."

Tony Jacklin, Champion Golfer Of The Year.

Friday
Oct302009

Kim vs. Allenby Rematch!

A very good reason to tune in Saturday at the World Match Play.

Thursday
Oct292009

Q&A With David Owen

The release of David Owen's lastest book, Green Metropolis, coincides with a powerful look at golf's sustainability in the November, 2009 Golf Digest.

GS: Your November Golf Digest feature lays out a pretty strong case for changes in the way we view golf courses and how they interact with the environment. Your bold conclusion seemed to say that no matter what we do conservation wise, shrinking the golf landscape is the top priority and to do so we must reassess the chase for distance. Do you think there's any scenario where this could happen?
 
It would take some courage from the game’s governing bodies—something they haven’t traditionally shown much of. The USGA, instead of tackling distance directly, has done things like spending millions on golf ball research. That’s like addressing climate change by creating a government department to build car engines. The easiest way to reduce golf’s environmental impact, as well as to hold down its rising cost per round, would be to reduce the amount of groomed acreage that the game requires, and the easiest way to begin doing that would be to dial back the golf ball. Doing that wouldn’t be sexy, but making unsexy decisions is what nonprofit governing bodies are for.
 
GS: Who would you like to see take the lead on this and how would you sell it to golfers that a distance rollback is the best thing for everyone involved?
 
DO: In the ideal scenario, the USGA, the R&A, the PGA Tour, the PGA of America, the European PGA Tour, the tournament committee of the Augusta National Golf Club, and anybody else with influence over the game would agree that it’s crazy for an expensive sport with shrinking participation to continue driving up its own costs. Longer clubs and balls lead to longer golf courses, which require more maintenance and consume more real estate, water, fertilizer, pesticide, and fuel, thereby driving up both maintenance budgets and greens fees, and driving away players. Manufacturers will probably scream—they have in the past—but they don’t need distance to compete. Making putters and wedges is usually more profitable than making irons, but nobody buys a putter or a wedge because it hits the ball farther. Let manufacturers compete on accuracy instead of yardage. Let them make their equipment so accurate that we can get by with smaller greens and half-width fairways, which would cost less to maintain.

 
GS: It seems as if the argument would be aided by numbers that say, if the Overall Distance Standard was dropped by X amount, X number of acres less would be needed for golf, and therefore, X amount of energy, water and money would be saved annually. How much of a rollback do you think would make a difference for existing courses?
 
DO: I have no idea what the numbers are. And, of course, making a long golf course shorter without ruining it or spending a fortune isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do. But the lousy economy is shrinking golf’s landscape right now. Between 1990 and 2008, according to the National Golf Foundation, the number of golf courses in the United States grew by almost 25 percent, from fewer than 13,000 to roughly 16,000, yet during much of that same period participation by golfers actually fell. In fact, Americans played 20 million fewer rounds in 2008 than they did in 2000—and the decline has presumably accelerated since then, as the economy has tanked. Those forces, right now, are driving marginal courses out of business, pushing us back toward where we were in 1990. The resulting contraction will be good for the survivors, because the golfers who remain won’t be spread so thin, but bankruptcy is a very blunt instrument of change. It would make more sense to try to wind golf back in a more orderly way.
 
GS: You write that the trick is to find a "sustainable balance." Do you think the economic collapse is actually making this a possible path for golf's future, or will it just be another example where the game's leaders are just saying what they think needs to be said to cover their rear ends?

 
DO: I have no idea what the game’s leaders are saying. Many, I would guess, figure that technology will save the day—that, for example, somebody will come up with a type of turf grass that doesn’t need to be watered, fertilized, or mowed, and everything will be fine. But technological breakthroughs are at least as likely to increase costs as to reduce them—and, besides, we already understand the technology of making things smaller. The problem is that low-tech solutions don’t seem very glamorous to most people. I know a married couple who are getting ready to build a new house. The wife read a book about the environment and got all excited, and suggested to her husband that they make the house green. He said, “Good idea. Let’s make it 2,000 square feet instead of 8,000,” and she said, “That’s not what I meant!”

 
GS:  You get around a lot in your work for the New Yorker and you still play a fair amount. Do you hear a lot of negative feelings directed toward golf and if so, do you think much of it comes from the game's image as a resource waster? Has animosity toward the game gotten worse recently?
 
DO: I don’t know that animosity has increased. In fact, I think golf is still enjoying the image upgrade it got from the rise Tiger Woods. But golf’s leaders should worry less about the game’s image and more about its rising cost per round.
 
GS: On another subject, in the October 12 New Yorker you profile of Nell Minow, the influential independent researcher who co-founded The Corporate Library and who believes CEO compensation is "doing more to destroy capitalism than Marx." You write about the subscription database she runs which includes SEC filings, contracts and background information, including "in one case, overlapping golf-club memberships of corporate directors."  Did you find out any more about this and what it might say for the role certain clubs play in the corporate world?
 
DO: That club was Augusta National, and the membership list was one that was made public back in the Martha Burke days. Lots of business gets done on golf courses, but I think golf-playing corporate hotshots are more likely to think about the effect that their business relationships might have on their golf club memberships than the other way around. Will serving on that board make me more likely to be invited to join Seminole?—that sort of thing.
 
GS:  Back to golf and the environment. Do you think there's ever a day when golf courses could be viewed as environment beacons, or is mere survival and basic sustainability the real goal at this point?
 
DO: Golf, like all human activities, will always exact an environmental cost. But it’s worth remembering that the first golf boom in the United States, back in the late 1800s, took place at a time when the equipment was primitive and playing conditions were extraordinarily crude—no four-piece balls, no watering systems, no fungicides, no greens mowers. Anybody who has ever played cross-country golf on a closed course in the middle of the winter knows that the game doesn’t have to be played on a 7,500-yard billiard table in order to be compelling.

My home course is a century old. It has just nine holes, and it fits on 40 acres—about half the size the USGA’s recommended minimum for a nine-hole course. To play 18 holes you play it twice, from different tees, and the whole thing, if you stretch it out to the absolute tips, measures barely 6,000 yards. Big-hitting members sometimes used to complain that it was outdated, and that we’d eventually have to either abandon it or find a way to make it a thousand yards longer, but it now seems serendipitously well-suited to the times, and to our likely environmental predicament in the years ahead. My club’s costs are low because we don’t have much acreage to maintain, and the course is short enough to allow four players on foot to play 18 holes in three hours. As a result, we’ve been able to keep our dues under control, and, although the stalled economy has hurt us, we haven’t suffered the sort of membership crisis that some other clubs in our area have. I think we represent one possible model for the future—and I’m sure there are others.

Thursday
Oct292009

First Stage Almost Done...

...Jim McCabe reports on some of the key final round storylines including last week's Frys.com Open runner-up, Jamie Lovemark. You can get all of the scores at PGATour.com.

Thursday
Oct292009

"Like it or not, golf's public perception is that of a 'recreational activity' rather than a 'business industry'"

Chris Gray, superintendent at Marvel Golf Club in Kentucky writes about golf course water myths and takes a different stand on the A-OK stance regarding golf using "one half of 1 percent of all daily water used":

The simple and confirmed fact is that we use 2.08 billion gallons of water per day for golf course irrigation in the United States. Despite the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America's spin doctors' attempt to diffuse this alarming water-use rate as "one half of 1 percent of all daily water used," this number is still too large for the general public to blindly accept. Like it or not, golf's public perception is that of a "recreational activity" rather than a "business industry" that supplies $76 billion a year to the economy. Our critics can do simple math and want us to reduce this number.

Thursday
Oct292009

"Take away the topics of football and women, and most Tour pros are mute."

More great stuff from Part 2 of Connell Barrett's Q&A with Brandel Chamblee.

I liked this about the relationship between players and media, which I can confirm by the number of guys who I've tried to ask a question of only to be told they plan to hit balls for the next 4 years:

The separation between Tour players and everyone else—the media and fans—is too wide. And there’s only one reason: money. If the players weren’t so rich, they’d need the media to cast them in a different light, to get more endorsements. In their minds, they don’t need you. They’re rich enough. You’re not gonna impact their life in any way. But they don’t realize that the media can help them connect with fans. Here’s an example. I haven’t seen Jim Furyk smile in two or three years. Last week we spotlighted him on Golf Channel, and he was fan—f---ing—tastic. Funny and jovial and great. I’m gonna root for him now. He gets it. Before, I didn’t even want to watch him because he looks so grim. These guys should be entertainers, not just guys posting numbers on a board.

Thursday
Oct292009

“We cannot go on in the golf business as we are now."

Sean Martin shares some of the highlights of Gary Players' Asian Amateur press conference. At least he's saying the right things, even if he hasn't built a single golf course that anyone would ever think to call a model for the future.

“It’s costing too much money to maintain the golf courses. We’re building the golf courses too long, because the golf ball is going too far, so the costs are going up instead of going down. . . . And it’s stopping the number of people that are playing. So it is critical we cut the ball back for professional golf, 50 yards. Leave the technology for the amateur.”

50 yards works for me.

“We have to build golf courses for the people. We have to change. Change is the price of survival. We cannot go on in the golf business as we are now. We have to get more people playing, more people out, more children playing, and we’ve got to change our whole concept.”

I know where to start! No more golf courses designed by famous players who overcharge and overbuild. What do you think Gary?

Thursday
Oct292009

"New Augusta National event finger-lickin' good"

I'm not sure why the Asian Amateur needs four corporate sponsors, but Steve Elling only wonders why they let this weird photo opp with Colonel Sanders occur:

There's nothing at all wrong with having sponsors to defray costs of a worthy project, mind you. It's just that the photo was jarring because of the corporate contrast with the decades-old Masters mindset.

Sean Martin writes about that first tee scene and the ceremonial first tee ball hit by Billy Payne.

Wednesday
Oct282009

"Until such time as the composition of the the LPGA Board changes, they'll keep hiring Marketing people ala the 'Brand Lady.'"

Jim McCabe writes about the strong marketing background of new LPGA Commissioner Whan:

“These are difficult times, but he will bring a lot of skills to the job,” Rugge said. “He is a solid marketing guy,” adding that Whan is "full of energy” and "has plenty of ideas.”

If Whan used a business philosophy to guide him, it was similar to what he used at Procter & Gamble years earlier and Mission Itech recently.

“I’m a guy who builds brands,” said Whan, when asked how a guy with golf, toothpaste, and hockey skates for a background will lead the LPGA. “I believe in brands.”

Now I understand he's just been thrown into a news conference with little knowledge of the organization and he has to say something, so some jargon is inevitable. But after sleeping on the notion that the LPGA has again hired another marketing-driven type prone to brand worship, I've been trying to figure out why they went down this road again.

Thankfully, reader Sam must have been reading my mind:

I was curious why the LPGA seems so fixated on hiring Marketing types.  What I learned was that all of the outside Board Members, save one, are marketing gurus. From lpga.com:

"The LPGA independent board members are: Leslie Greis, founder, CEO and managing member of Perennial Capital Advisors, LLC; Dawn Hudson, former president and chief executive officer, Pepsi-Cola North America, Pepsico, Inc.; Bill Morton, former chief executive and current chairman of Jack Morton Worldwide; Bill Susetka, former CMO of the LPGA as well as former president, Clairol U.S. Retail and Clairol International; and Nancy Wiese, former vice president of worldwide brand marketing/advertising, Xerox Corporation. Hudson is chairman of the Board of Directors of the LPGA."

Greis is a finance type.

Until such time as the composition of the the LPGA Board changes, they'll keep hiring Marketing people ala the "Brand Lady."

Wednesday
Oct282009

"Golf's governing bodies have dithered on the distance question since the early 1990s, but that attitude seems increasingly unsustainable."

So I'm reading David Owen's look at some of the bold efforts to reduce water consumption by Las Vegas golf courses and thinking about what a joy it is to read a New Yorker-style story in Golf Digest. It's packed with great information, insight and some personal observation from Owen, who has just written a new book titled Green Metropolis.

As the piece progresses he touches on the development of drought resistant grass cultivars and then pretty much tells us that these types of efforts are all nice and stuff, yet...

...there are a few relatively easy answers to some of golf's environmental and economic challenges. UNLV's Dale Devitt made an observation to me about turf replacement that applies to golf's other resource-related issues, too. He said, "When you talk about water savings in a landscape, the big savings don't come so much from changing what you're growing. The big savings come from reducing the size of the landscape."

Well, surely he won't venture into the forbidden land. Don't do it David! You'll never be able to dine in Carlsbad again...

For this past year's U.S. Open, the par-4 seventh hole at Bethpage Black was stretched to 525 yards. The expansion of golf's scale in recent decades has mainly been the result of technological advances in clubs and balls, as well as improvements in player conditioning and swing technique. Those advances have made golf more fun to play, in many ways, but length, in itself, has added little to the game, because advantages in golf are always relative. (Phil Mickelson can hit the ball farther than Tom Watson did in his prime, but so can Tom Watson.)

Yes, but think of the product that's been moved and the subsequent health of the sport! Can't get anymore green than that.

What is indisputably true is that making golf longer has enlarged its environmental and economic footprints: Bigger golf holes require more land, turf, water, fertilizer, fuel, chemicals and maintenance equipment, as well as increasing labor costs, stretching the time required to play, reducing the appeal of walking, and increasing green fees -- and in recent decades all those needs have been magnified by changes in golfers' expectations about acceptable levels of course grooming.

But other than that, the distance chase has been great for the game?

Faster greens and tighter fairways consume more resources and cost more to maintain, and they are more vulnerable to a long list of plant diseases and climate-related stresses; keeping grass uniformly green, in most environments, requires steady chemical intervention, in addition to irrigation.

The most direct way to shrink golf's environmental impact, and to contain its growing costs, would be to shrink golf itself -- in professor Devitt's phrase, to reduce the size of the landscape -- and to re-examine conventional ideas about things like weeds and putting speed. Golf hasn't always been played on 7,500-yard billiard tables.

Wait, did he just suggest we go backwards to move forward?

Many exciting technological advances related to conservation and golf-course maintenance are being developed. But technological innovation alone can't solve all of golf's environmental and economic challenges, and even the most promising-seeming discoveries have a history of carrying unintended consequences and hidden costs. Golf's governing bodies have dithered on the distance question since the early 1990s, but that attitude seems increasingly unsustainable. We can take the initiative in shrinking golf's landscape, or we can allow economic crises and environmental disasters to shrink it for us.

So there you have it, a well known, highly regarded writer in a major golf publication telling us that if the game is going to survive, it's going to have to end the chase for distance, and, un-American of all un-American activities, think about rolling things back in order to survive.

I've asked Mr. Owen to answer a few e-questions about his story and will be posting them Friday.

Wednesday
Oct282009

"Hank and I will go back forth with text messages, some angry, some decent."

So much interesting stuff in Part 1 of Connell Barrett's Q&A with Brandel Chamblee about a wide range of topics, but naturally the Tiger talk is most interesting:

CB: Sounds like you pay close attention to Tiger's swing.

BC: I have this argument with [Tiger's swing coach] Hank [Haney] all the time. Hank and I will go back forth with text messages, some angry, some decent. I have huge respect for Hank. I took lessons from him out of college. But you can say that we agree to disagree in terms of swing philosophy. In my opinion, Tiger's still struggling with his golf swing, and it hurts him in major championships. He doesn't hit the ball as far or as straight in majors, and subsequently he has to rely on his putter more. He's not [winning majors by] five shots anymore. He's not intimidating players the way he used to because he's not 40, 50 yards ahead of them anymore. He's not hitting short irons [into greens] while they hit middle-irons. He's playing from where they play. He's still better. He's still smarter. But now he's one of them. He's not blowing them away.

Wednesday
Oct282009

"The financial crisis gave the European Tour a perfect chance to get together with other tours around the world"

John Huggan explains why Rory McIlroy's pending decision to play four more times on the PGA Tour could prove to be a huge black eye for the European Tour, but more interesting is the criticism from Rory agent Chubby Chandler regarding George O'Grady's missed opportunity to create a world tour.

Either way, in practical terms at least, Mcilroy's decision won't make that much difference to his relationship with the European Tour. He already plays a dozen or so times on the PGA Tour as a non-member and accepting his card would add only three more tournaments to his annual commitment. Still, such a move would represent a pretty significant symbolic blow to executive director George O'Grady at a time when his schedule for 2010 currently has more holes than the Mission Hills resort in China; and the prize money for the "R2D" has just been cut by 25 percent. Europe's headman has never needed his top boys more than he does right now.

Indeed, there are those who feel that O'Grady has -- credit crunch or not -- missed a trick when it comes to at least tweaking the dominance enjoyed by the PGA Tour and, perhaps even more importantly, giving his members more opportunities to play.

"The financial crisis gave the European Tour a perfect chance to get together with other tours around the world," contends Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler, managing director of International Sports Management, whose clients include McIlroy, Els, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke. "When everybody was struggling, that was the time to have a go as a global partnership. There were gaps in the schedule.

Wednesday
Oct282009

"I'm glad Barack Obama plays golf and doesn't care who knows it."

I guess Bob Carney finally got tired of all the frustrated losers writing Golf Digest letters for noticing that our President not only is playing golf, but not hiding and doing it at a time when the game could use all of the positive publicity it can get.

Hey, I'm glad Barack Obama plays golf and doesn't care who knows it. I'm glad he plays with men and I'm glad he played the other day with a woman. And I wish you could celebrate it, too.
However, next to Steve Williams' caddy bib, nothing seems to bug you like Obama's golf. He has his defenders, occasionally, but most letter-writers refer to our coverage of the President as "politics" and "politics" doesn't belong in a golf magazine. You probably object to my noting here that the president with that round overtook the immediate past president in annual rounds played, 24 to 23. Or, in the view of their spouses, 48 and 46, our goal, Republican and Democrat alike, being to play half as many rounds as our spouses think we do.

But really, political philosophy aside, how can a golfing president be a bad thing? As a friend of mine said today, only in America would we criticize a President when he wins the Nobel Prize. And, I'll add, only in America will golfers -- golfers!-- get after a magazine for writing about a golfing president, or criticize a president for playing golf!