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It doesn't seem as glamorous to me as the Crosby I used to watch on TV. A lot of the old movie stars and amateur regulars are no longer around. They've been replaced by briefcases, friends and neighbors of briefcases, and celebrities like Bumpy Weems, a popular comedian, who about as funny to me as a terrorist with a gun pointed at my head.
DAN JENKINS as Bobby Joe Grooves

 

    

Wednesday
Jul162008

Birkdale Clubhouse Description Watch, Vol. 2

Lynne Truss likes the clubhouse and jumps ahead of the previous entries with this enjoyable bit of fiction:

This great white ship supposedly “cruises through the sand hills” of the championship course, carving through the grassy waves despite its rounded front and emphatically lateral orientation — both of which features are historically disapproved of in the design of boats of all sizes.

Imagine the announcement: “I am creating a revolutionary ocean liner,” Samuel Cunard tells his shareholders. “It will have a rounded front and be wider than it is long. It will also have a tall clock tower, a bar, changing rooms and strict policies on spiked shoes, denim clothing and the admittance of people with two X chromosomes.”

“Sounds more like a clubhouse,” mutters a chap at the back, who is immediately ejected from the meeting. 

Wednesday
Jul162008

"I think you can expect to see something about this in the next three to four weeks."

DownloadFile.dwnPeter Dawson did double duty Wednesday, first sitting down for a joint Olympic bid press conference followed by an R&A Open press conference that was about as tense as a post-Oscar win Q&A session.

My eyes and ears report that this question was not asked by one of the wannabe R&A members writing for the British press:

Q. Unrelated to this week, how are you guys doing on the U grooves, V grooves thing? There's a perception in the States that it's the R & A that's dragging its feet on that implementation. Fairly or not, maybe you can address that and tell us when you see that coming on-line, if at all, and what the hold-ups and hurdles might be.

PETER DAWSON: Well, the current status of that is that there's been some additional testing conducted just in the last few weeks in the women's game, at LPGA Tour events, and the results of that are just coming through now, which I don't think has changed anything. And I think you can expect to see something about this in the next three to four weeks.

Q. A firm date for implementation?

PETER DAWSON: No, that was an announcement in three to four weeks. I'm not going to preempt what that says.

Well that's news, right? Until 3-4 weeks from now when we don't hear a thing.
Q. Peter, there's been one or two criticisms about the 17th green. I just wondered what your thoughts were on that.

PETER DAWSON: I think I flagged up very early on this year that the 17th green might attract some comment, and it has, very eloquent comment from some, not so eloquent from others (smiling).

The green is undeniably different from many others on the golf course. I've spent with others quite a long time on it in the last couple of weeks. With the pin positions we have in mind I'm quite happy it's perfectly playable, and we know the score; I'm sure the green will be reviewed after the championship to decide what its future is. But as far as this week is concerned, it's going to be perfectly playable.

Yes, he flagged it. Of course, having helped design it that's a bit odd.

 

Wednesday
Jul162008

"We have been in constant touch with WADA since the beginning of our effort and WADA has been very supportive of the construct of our programme."

Still waiting on Peter Dawson's transcript to appear to determine what kind of softballs were lobbed by the wannabe and current R&A members in attendance,  but in the meantime we learned that Ty Votaw has the unenviable task of trying to package and sell the IOC on what golf does not need: another 72-hole stroke play event once every four years.

In the first wire story that went out on this with Olympics-related comments from Peter Dawson, I couldn't help but notice this little nugget:

Potential stumbling blocks include the need to move the date of the USPGA Championship to avoid a clash in dates, and the difference between golf's newly-introduced drug-testing programme and the requirements of the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

"The distinctions between our policies and full WADA compliance are not significant," added PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

"We have been in constant touch with WADA since the beginning of our effort and WADA has been very supportive of the construct of our programme.

"There will probably be some issues, but we don't see any major hurdles in terms of reaching an understanding about what changes need to be made to bring us into total compliance."

Now, as you may recall it was pointed out here that Dr. Gary Wadler of the WADA was quite blunt in a recent New York Daily News story by Andy Martino that analyzed deficiencies in the PGA Tour's testing program.

For example, the drug salbutamol, found in asthma inhalers, is anabolic and can build muscle. Salbutamol is banned in the Olympics, but allowed in golf. Also, though human growth hormone is prohibited, neither tour administers the blood tests that would possibly detect it. All 33 WADA labs worldwide test for HGH, although the efficacy of the tests are in question.

Wadler also takes issue with the language used to describe the testing process. The PGA Tour manual says: "Once notified, you should report to the designated testing area as soon as possible. The collector may allow you to delay reporting ... however, you may be monitored."

"What do you mean, 'should' and 'may?'" asks Wadler. "These things have to be required. What if the player goes to the bathroom after being told to report? That's no good."

And here's where one can see this getting ugly...

In terms of public disclosure, the policy states that "the PGA Tour will, at a minimum, publish the name of the player, the anti-doping rule violation, and the sanction imposed" - a statement that is contingent on Finchem having sanctioned a player in the first place. Clearly, if a star player were to test positive for steroids, that player "may" face a punishment and public embarrassment - or he may not. Wadler also points out that amphetamines, commonly used as performance enhancers, are classified under the tour's policy as drugs of abuse, meaning that players, if caught using these PEDs, could be quietly sent to rehab. All of these shortcomings, Wadler says, could be cleared up if both professional golf tours would cede control of their programs to WADA.

I wonder how many PGA Tour players will be willing to see the drug testing program turned over to the much tougher WADA so that three Americans can play 72 holes of stroke play every four years? I'm guessing not many.

Wednesday
Jul162008

Ty, Will Ye No' Call Back Again?

Does this mean PGA Tour exec Ty Votaw won't have time to call editors, writers and bloggers to set us straight that, in fact, the FedEx Cup is exciting?

Say it ain't so Ty!

International Golf Federation Creates
 Olympic Golf Committee to Enhance Drive for 2016


PGA TOUR’s Votaw Selected To Coordinate Olympic Golf Initiative

The International Golf Federation, recognized as the representative body for golf by the International Olympic Committee, today announced the creation of an Olympic Golf Committee to drive its effort for the sport’s inclusion in the 2016 Games. Organizations that will be represented on the committee are The R&A, PGA European Tour, USGA, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, LPGA and Augusta National Golf Club.

During a press conference at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, the IGF also introduced PGA TOUR executive Ty Votaw as the person who will coordinate the Olympic golf movement on behalf of the IGF’s Olympic Golf Committee and other golf organizations around the world. Votaw will serve in a newly created position as Executive Director, IGF Olympic Golf Committee and will work closely with the organizations involved.

Votaw, who will continue as PGA TOUR Executive Vice President of Communications and International Affairs, will lead the Olympic effort until October 2009, when the International Olympic Committee votes on which, if any, sports to add.

“Considering his vast experience in dealing with international golf organizations and issues as a member of the PGA TOUR executive staff and as a former commissioner of the LPGA, Ty is uniquely qualified to lead this effort on behalf of the International Golf Federation,” said Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A. “Having someone of Ty’s reputation and expertise serve in this capacity certainly enhances our efforts to add golf as an Olympic sport.”

“There is a significant amount of work to be done between now and next October, when the IOC makes its decision,” PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said. “As the PGA TOUR considers this a very important initiative on behalf of the international golf community, we are pleased to provide Ty and the majority of his time to coordinate this effort.”
And now a word from the poor lad stuck who has to sell this mess man of the hour...
“Without question, golf’s international popularity has grown significantly over the past couple of decades and the sport continues to expand and develop in new countries,” Votaw said. “So the time is right to champion golf as an Olympic sport. It’s wonderful that this has become such a united effort among golf’s leading organizations. I’m excited about this opportunity and very much look forward to the challenge and, hopefully, reward of bringing golf back to the Olympics.”
Tuesday
Jul152008

Open Championship Clippings, We're-Still-Writing-About-Tiger Edition

openlogo.jpgThe great thing about this Open is that we won't have to read many stories about Tiger, instead we're getting...wait, no, really?

Yep, will golf/The Open/the planet survive without him? Of course the answer is no, but everyone does their best to say otherwise.

Lawrence Donegan
at The Guardian blog:

Less understandable and forgivable has been the rush in some quarters to argue that a victory this week will be devalued by Woods' absence, that Sunday's winner might go down as the "asterisk champion".

"Does the trophy engraver know how to do an asterisk?" joked Geoff Ogilvy when asked about the impact of Woods' absence on the week ahead. "He adds to every tournament he plays in. But the Open is the Open. If any tournament is strong enough to stand up when he is not around it is this one."

Ernie Els also paid homage to the player who time and again has stood between him and major championship victory, suggesting that the atmosphere around the course felt "very different" because Woods was not around. But, like Ogilvy, he preferred to make light of the subject. "I am not overly disappointed he is not around - as a player," he said, smiling. "But this is the first major he has missed since he turned professional and it feels different. We are going to miss him."
Mark Cannizzaro and Ronan Rafferty duke it out over what Tiger's absence means. Steve Elling (here) and Derek Lawrenson (here) also tackle the subject and quote various players.

Bob Harig files a killer column on the Open Championship betting fun, how it works, where you go and why it's kind of silly that we don't allow it here, sharing this from Lee Trevino:
"We gamble billions of dollars in this country, and the Internal Revenue Service doesn't get a dime," Trevino said. "Instead, they spend millions of dollars trying to catch these people. I don't see anything wrong with it. And I bet more players are doing it than will admit."

He also includes a follow up on the Tiger effect on betting this year, with an interesting quote from a bookie about the "premier betting situation of the whole year."

Peter Dixon offers a nice, succinct overview of the various ways players are preparing in the stiff breezes and based on what he's seen so far, suggests that it could get ugly if forecasted winds arrive.

Lynne Truss considers Birkdale's standing as a spectator course.

Rich Lerner, still waiting on his luggage to arrive (Kelly, can I borrow some foundation?") offers "hooks and cuts from Birkdale."

img10898571.jpgGary Van Sickle makes his picks and installs Sergio as the favorite.

Matthew Syed profiles Nick Faldo and offers a few Faldo riffs on various subjects. This caught my eye:

“I learnt my lesson with my son, Matthew. I kept nagging him to let me give him a golf lesson, but he did not say yes until he was good and ready. That is why I have not been pestering the Ryder Cup players. Instead I said, ‘If you want me, call.' It is as simple as that. A couple of guys have taken me up on it. Nick Dougherty came to talk about Augusta before the Masters and Ian Poulter, pictured, also expressed an interest in meeting up, but it hasn't happened yet. Things won't really come alive until the end of August.”

David Dusek with a great little golf.com blog post about the disgraceful way Ian Poulter treated the Birkdale putting green. img_2167.jpg

And finally, John Garrity says all of the other greens should be rebuilt to look just like No. 17, and that's why he writes about courses instead of designing them.

Tuesday
Jul152008

Wednesday Open Clippings: 17th Green Edition

openlogo.jpgIt's only Tuesday and Mt. St. 17th-Green-At-Birkdale is about to erupt. Just imagine the possibilities when the tournament starts and the wind blows!

Before we get to the articles and after a lengthy search (because Lord knows we need more photos of guys hitting out a bunker), I finally found a shot of the 17th green in Golfweek's roster of images from Tuesday (the volume lowering tool is in the lower right). 230136-1730868-thumbnail.jpg
No. 17 at Birkdale, courtesy of Golfweek (click to enlarge)

....we have several fine stories full of all sorts of rich, compelling and incriminating detail.  Here's John Huggan quoting Geoff Ogilvy:

"If Birkdale were a one-hole course this green would be out of character with the rest of the course. It's out of character with the land; it's out of character with the hole.

"You can see from 250 yards away that something has gone wrong. Sadly, it could be a decisive factor in who wins the championship. You could get some really crazy putts going on there. Funky bounces, too. A guy could hit a great shot in and see his ball take a really weird kick left or right. It's fine to have a tough green, but it has to look right. It just doesn't fit the spot that it is in, or the hole that it is on, or the rest of the course."

But other than that...Huggan also shares this from Robert Allenby:
"The problem is that whenever they try to change these great courses, they always stuff it up by doing something like that. You can argue they do these things because of how far the ball goes these days, but this has nothing to do with that. It's a mess that has obviously been made by someone who doesn't know how to design golf courses. He's built a green that isn't even close to the other 17. It's just stupid. If they revisit it after the championship I hope they use someone else."

So Huggan went to the vision behind the green and well, Martin Hawtree probably didn't help matters with either the players or his architectural Godfather Peter Dawson:

"In previous Birkdale Opens the 17th had been the easiest or one of the easiest holes," said Hawtree, who will lay out Donald Trump's proposed new course near Aberdeen should the present public inquiry into the project give the go-ahead. "So it needed stiffening.

I will spare you a Viagra joke here. Continue...

We moved the green back to the point where the front of the new green is where the back of the old one was. Then we added another tier. In my original concept of the hole there was nothing at the back of the green. The two big dunes there create an amphitheatre effect so I felt that the green should run on into a hollow at the rear. I wasn't allowed to do that though; the R&A wanted spectator mounds. So now the green forms too much of a bowl shape.

"I'm taken aback by the depth of the reaction. It was a weak hole and demanded something be done. I have heard that the club want to redo the green complex after the Open. I'd be more than happy to move the mounds at the back and create my original idea."

Just guessing by the comments, the lack of a rear hollow seems to be the least of the problems here.

Mike Aitken in the Scotsman talks to the other culprit behind this mess, R&A Executive Secretary and in-house architect Peter Dawson:

"Well, this has caused a little bit of controversy," he said. "And, as a result of that, I'd like to say a few things about it. It's a par 5, so it's not as if we're expecting the green to be hit at with long irons. It's a green the pros are accustomed to facing on many of the courses they play.

"If you look at Augusta, there are probably 18 more sporty greens than this one."

Lee Westwood echoes some of his fellow competitors' concerns about the 17th green, which is described in the official course guide as a "tiny, two-tier target with extreme undulations".

"I think everybody has accepted that something has gone wrong with it," said Westwood. "It's just out of character with the rest of the course, (let's] basically leave it at that.

"It's not to the standard of the rest of the greens. The rest of them are brilliant."

Bloomberg's Michael Buteau also looked at the 17th green and shares this from Steve Stricker:

"You wish they'd just leave them alone because they're good for a reason,'' said Steve Stricker, the No. 8-ranked player. ``They've withstood the test of time, equipment and everything else.''

Buteau also shares the same excuse reply from Dawson and I thought by printing it again it would make sense, but it still does not.

Dawson said organizers weren't expecting many golfers to attempt to land their second shots on the putting surface.

``It's not as if we're expecting the green to be hit at with long irons,'' he said. ``We're aware that it's a green that could get away from us if we're not careful. We'll have to see how it goes.''

So if the green could be "hit at" with long irons, that would make it better or even worse? I really need Peter's book of design guidelines to help here, because I think he's really onto something.
Competitors such as Stricker said they wish they could roll back the clock.

James Corrigan files an excellent look at the controversy, also ends the piece with his breakdown of the "12 to follow" at Birkdale. But first, his take on the 17th green, using overheard player comments:

One labelled it "a sloping mess of mounds" while another concluded that it looks as if it's "contracted a severe case of mumps". Even those not totally anti the mogul run have agreed that it is not in keeping with the other greens that have help confirmed Birkdale's reputation as the finest and fairest course in England. In Westwood's opinion they should unload the shovels and start again. That is exactly what the members are planning. But perhaps not before next Monday.

Jack Nicklaus played here in April and was aghast. "You've got one of the greatest golf courses in the world, and they changed 16 holes because of a stupid golf ball," said the 18-time major champion. "That is just ridiculous."
Okay, how did I miss one of the best quotes ever? Where did he say this? Please readers, guide me!
Nicklaus was speaking for an ever-growing number who believe that the authorities should have placed limits on how far the modern golf ball travels. They failed to act, however, and now the only defence they appear to have to protect the dignity of old courses is either course lengthening or course toughening. Or in the case of the 17th, both. On occasions, the powers that be have gone overboard like at Shinnecock Hills at the US Open in 2004 when the greens were quick to the point of unplayable. The R&A is blessedly not the United States Golf Association and is not about to let their stubborn mistakes re-occur here. But they have created an eyesore. Slam, bam in the middle of golfing beauty.

I'm not sure about the USGA reference, since they didn't create the 7th green at Shinnecock. It's one thing go blunder a set-up, because with a little bad luck, bad planning and a steep green, anything can happen. But to make a mess of things before you even set the course up takes a special talent that takes things to an entirely different level.

This is yet another reminder as to why governing bodies should not design golf courses, particularly when it's in response to their own (continued) inability to regulate equipment.

Tuesday
Jul152008

Slow Play Files: It's Getting Ugly!

The Seattle Times' Sonia Krishnan reports that a 33-year-old man was booked into King County Jail after he struck a fellow golfer on the head with a six-iron. The Auburn Golf Course fight erupted over slow play.

According to police, Compton, his two stepsons and a friend complained to the golf course marshall because the group of golfers ahead of them was playing too slowly, court records show. Shampine was part of that group.

A heated argument then escalated between the two groups of men, and Shampine's brother and Compton got into a shoving match, according to court documents.

Shampine "snapped" and "charged at Compton to protect his brother," records show. He swung his 6-iron at Compton's head, "striking him hard." Officers noted that the club's shaft was bent, documents show.
Guess that's better than getting hit by a maple bat.

The fight ended immediately after Compton fell to the ground, and Shampine was arrested at the scene, said Sgt. Scott Near, spokesman for the Auburn Police Department.

Compton's wife told police her husband had suffered a broken cheekbone, skull fracture and had blood in the brain, according to court documents. His family declined to comment when reached today at Harborview.

Employees of the municipal golf course said they were still reeling from the incident.

"I've been in the golf business 30 years; I've never seen anything like this," said Chris Morris, the course's golf professional. "Occasionally on a hot day you'll get some yelling, but it never leads to violence. This was extremely shocking."

Monday
Jul142008

Tuesday Open Championship Clippings

openlogo.jpgDoug Ferguson talks to players about the lush conditions.

“This is the healthiest rough we've had in quite awhile,” Ogilvy said.

And...

“It's almost like a U.S. Open in that you've got 10 yards off the fairway to play with, and if you miss it beyond that, then good luck trying to find it,” former British Open champion Ben Curtis said. “I think you'll see more big numbers than the other Opens. If you're 15 yards off line, you'll see some 6s and 7s.

And regarding No. 17...

The most significant change was the 17th green, pushed farther back into the dunes, with severe contours and a steep change in elevation from the back of the green to the front.

This has not been well-received by most players, including Stephen Ames, who said, “It goes with a Pete Dye course.”

It was all new to Kim, who took last week off following his victory at Congressional. He played the front nine Sunday afternoon when he arrived from Dallas to help get over the jet lag, and those two hours made him feel even more tired.

“It beat me up,” he said. “Everything is tiny here. The fairways are tiny. The hole may be smaller, for all I know.”

Jim McCabe offers several interesting notes, including one on Jay Williamson qualifying through the Deere and Martin Kaymer playing on in spite of his mother's recent passing.

The only thing surprising about Justin Rose's comments on Kenny Perry passing up The Open is that he finds it amazing that Kenny Perry is passing up The Open. Hasn't he ever talked to him? This is not Henry Cotton we're talking about here! Mark Garrod reports:

"He's arguably the best player in the world right now and I find it amazing he's not here," said Rose, who three years ago was prepared to travel to two majors as a reserve but missed out each time. "It's obviously one less guy to beat, because you could pretty much guarantee he was going to be on the leaderboard on Sunday," he added.

sgogil115.jpgSteve Elling talks to Rose about coming back to where he made his first splash, while John Hopkins files this video report with Rose recreating the famous hole out on No. 18.

James Corrigan
questions Kenny Perry and also buries a lede of sorts, reporting that Luke Donald is all but out of the Ryder Cup for this year.

Lewine Mair
profiles Geoff Ogilvy, who played golf at Hoylake, West Lancashire and Formsby before teeing it up at Birkdale.

"What other major is there," he asks, "that you look forward not just to playing the course but all the others around it?"

Mair also writes about the pairings, including the Monty-Boo-Weir grouping (what did Boo do to deserve that!?). Monty says:

"I'm different and Boo's different - and Mike Weir's going to feel different because he's normal," said Montgomerie, capturing the situation to perfection.

You can check out all of the pairings here.

Monday
Jul142008

Questions For Peter Dawson

The R&A's resident spinner will sit down before the scribes Wednesday to talk about the Open Championship, the weather and if we're lucky, his budding design business.

I'd love to hear what you'd ask the Executive Secretary, because I think you'll find that my questions pretty much all come back to the same point...no one ever said I was original.

  • When justifying the R&A-driven changes to Birkdale since the last time it hosted the Open, you said that "the game has moved on somewhat since then." Does this mean that the R&A feels it is more convenient to change courses instead of issuing decisions that regulate equipment?

  • There is a perception that the R&A's refusal to act is the reason that the planned-for 2009 U-groove-rule change did not happen. Why did the R&A decide that the golf world was not ready for this rule change and can you give us some idea when and if the R&A will be jumping on board with the USGA?

  • You mentioned in April that pace of play was getting to be abysmal. Do you see this as the result of players getting slower, or is there some connection between the increased length, thicker rough, narrower fairways, increased bunker and other post "game-has-moved-on-since-then" difficulties similar to those we are seeing at Birkdale this week?

  • After the 2005 Open Championship, you said "Hitting distances have reached a plateau. This is definitely happening; all this discussion that players are hitting the ball further is not true." If that is the case, then why are changes driven by distance gains continuing to be made at rota venues, and do you think these course renovations have a positive influence on the game?
Monday
Jul142008

"Our rules officials have finally realized that — duh! — course setup has a lot to do with pace of play."

As always I enjoyed the pre-Open Championship insights from SI's anonymous tour pro (thought it would be nice if he'd actually seen Birkdale!), including this on the relationship between PGA Tour course setup and slow play.

No doubt I'm wasting my time talking about slow play. One veteran told me that we had the same discussions 25 years ago. The Tour is trying to identify the slower players and work with them to get faster, but in the end we're probably only talking about picking up 15 minutes a round. Is that a big deal? Probably not.
Yes it is!
One thing I like is that the Tour is going to use ShotLink to tell us how long we take for each shot. Certain players who are slow and don't know the average time spent on a particular shot need to be made aware. Our rules officials have finally realized that — duh! — course setup has a lot to do with pace of play. It's not only the players who are slow. When you play a 510-yard par-4 with a semi-island green, you're going to take a while. It seems obvious, but apparently our officials didn't think of it. At some tournaments, like the Memorial, the setups are getting out of control. Guys don't want to play a U.S. Open-style course two weeks before the Open. What Jack Nicklaus had this year at the Memorial was way worse than Torrey Pines. Jack and Arnold Palmer, who's growing serious rough at Bay Hill, may want to have major-championship conditions, but they're in danger of winding up with bad fields. Six-inch rough, furrowed bunkers, greens running at 14 — some guys are going to think twice before coming back.

Good.

Reader Greg noted there was one problem with another the mystery pro's comments.

The Tour thinks that putting San Antonio in Atlanta's spot was a terrific swap because Valero is a great sponsor and that we might have a Texas swing: the Nelson, Colonial and San Antonio in successive weeks. The problem is that LaCantera, the Texas Open venue, is awful. None of the top players would tee it up there in the fall, and they won't play there in May, either. Anytime you can see a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel from a tee box — you can actually hear the people on the rides screaming in the background — that's a red flag. Has any great course ever been built next to an amusement park? Until the new TPC San Antonio is finished [in 2010], I don't see top players remembering the Alamo.

Technically, Pine Valley's next door neighbor is an amusement park too. But we understand his point.

Sunday
Jul132008

“It's a lot greener than I expected and there is a lot of long, juicy and tough rough. It is not wispy."

John Hopkins issues this disappointing (for fans of links golf) course conditions report:

Birkdale looked impeccable in the strong sunshine, though there was perhaps a little too much green on the fairways and the rough was too lush. “It's very difficult,” Trevor Immelman, the Masters champion, said at the end of his first round over the Merseyside course.

“It's a lot greener than I expected and there is a lot of long, juicy and tough rough. It is not wispy. You had better drive the ball straight here because if you don't, there is no way you can contend.”
And regarding the 17th green...
Much has been made of the redesign of the 17th green by Martin Hawtree, and R&A officials have been defensive about it for months. Yesterday was too soon in Open week to expect definitive comments to emerge about it, though Nick Dougherty admitted that it is out of character with the other 17 greens on the course.

“But it is also a par-five and if you get on the green in two you should be tested,” the Englishman said. “They could be silly about where they put the flag but they won't be. It's great as long as you keep your ball away from the bits that are frightfully over the top.”

 

Sunday
Jul132008

"And we would expect to be about 30 million this time," he said.

Chuck Culpepper previews the Open Championship for the L.A. Times and offers this surprising revelation about this year's betting.

And speaking of disposable income in a country where recreational wagering long since has shed its last societal stigmas, last year the bookmakers that adorn every main drag made just under 24 million pounds (about $48 million) on the British Open industry-wide, said Rupert Adams of the William Hill agency.

"And we would expect to be about 30 million this time," he said.

That's in pounds, which outdrive dollars roughly twofold.

To some degree, Woods' absence has unshackled bookmakers and enhanced betting value. It has awakened the "middle level of punter," Adams said, meaning the bettor who spends the equivalent of between $10 and $60 on the Open. He counted himself among those punters and said he'd often seen no value in tournaments involving Woods.
Sunday
Jul132008

Birkdale Clubhouse Description Watch, Vol. 1

venue-royal-birkdale-facilities.jpgMy money is on Martin Johnson making a strong push for inclusion in this contest to best describe Royal Birkdale's clubhouse, but we already have two fine entries:

Brett Avery in Golf World: "its exterior is at once painfully modern and hulkingly out of date, akin to a south Florida condo development, circa 1970."

And Bradley Klein in Golfweek, who calls it both "slightly absurd" and a "compelling anomaly": "...designed in 1935 by George Tonge to look from afar like a massive cruise ship wending its way through the dunes. Think of it as an English version of a prairie schooner."

Sunday
Jul132008

Perry Wins Again; May Skip PGA Championship To Rest Up For FedEx Cup

perryarms071308-183x256.jpgJust kidding...maybe. It would be fun if he skipped the FedEx Cup to rest up for the Ryder Cup, wouldn't it?

Anyway, the AP game story about the hottest player in the world not named Tiger winning yet again
He never wanted to be the star, the main attraction, but Kenny Perry will have no choice if this continues. The guy who merely wanted to win enough to make the Ryder Cup team is now racking up victories at a rapid pace.

"I don't want to live in a fishbowl," he said. "I don't want Tiger status."
I'll take Tiger's fishbowl!
Saturday
Jul122008

“I hear the rain may be done, but you canna believe any forecast past one day.”

13golf.1.600.jpgLarry Dorman is at Birkdale and offers this scouting report:

The case can be made that Royal Birkdale is in the same league, strategically if not aesthetically, with the other regular courses in the rotation. It can play hard and fast or it can play slightly moist and thick with heavy gorse and bracken that will gobble golf balls the way a Venus fly trap eats flies. This weekend, with the northwest wind whistling off the Irish Sea and the dull gray clouds sticking to the sky like a thick layer of lead tape, Birkdale rolled its shoulders and stirred awake.

Near the grandstand by the second tee, Willie Dunbar, a course worker, was busily checking the footing. In a thick Scottish burr, Dunbar explained he was checking the course for “trip hazards,” trying to ensure that spectators would not kick exposed TV cables or any other protrusions and take a fall. He seemed more concerned that a soft, green golf course would not have enough trip wire to keep the pros honest.

“I hear the rain may be done,” he said, quickly adding in a dour Scots manner, “but you canna believe any forecast past one day.”

Recent rains have made the fairways green and the rough lush and thick, while chilly winds have dried greens and fairways enough to keep it from becoming too soft, the way it was back in ’61. That year some course signage was blown down by howling north winds and rain that delayed the start of the third round.

Meanwhile John Huggan shares this from Phil Mickelson:

"I'm really looking forward to this Open," he declares. "Birkdale is one of my fondest courses. It was there I played in my first Open back in 1991. It is in incredible shape, just immaculate. The greens were still pretty firm despite the rain. If it dries out and firms up over the next few days, as it is supposed to, it will be running hard and fast by next Thursday.

"I like those conditions; they will produce the right winner. The players today are so good and the equipment is so good that the temptation is always there to do something funky to the golf course to make par a legitimate score. I think winning scores should be between five and 12 under par. That is a hard test, a playable fair test. The best golfers in the world should be able to shoot that. That is what I would prefer. It would give the top players the chance to separate themselves." 

Saturday
Jul122008

"Jesus Christ, he can't help himself, can he?"

In an entertaining autopsy of this week's revelation, Tom English says not so fast on Monty and The Times declaring that the 2014 Captaincy is all wrapped up.

Monty wasn't so much the cat out of the bag as the cat that got the cream. You could practically hear him purring from the back row of the interview room at Loch Lomond.

That's Monty's mantra. Last week, next week, next month, next year, he'll keep at it, he'll keep campaigning for the role in the hope of backing the committee into a corner whereby it becomes a massive story if he does not get it. A snub. A shameful way to treat an old hero. By making noise now he is sowing the seeds for 2014.

Monty's comments are not based on fact, not based, we're told, on any secret promises. From what we can make out they're assumptions based on the hardly fullproof theory of "I am Monty, I want it, I need it, I deserve it, how could you not give it to me?"

Having spoken to two members of the tour committee, we can say that Monty is being premature here. Maybe he will get it – if you put a gun to the head of both committee members they'd say he probably will – but they cast their eyes to the gloomy heavens above Loch Lomond when Monty's quote was read to them. One said: "Jesus Christ, he can't help himself, can he?" The other was a lot less exasperated and a great deal more sarcastic: "Does Monty want to be captain at Gleneagles? Bloody hell, he should have said something before now."

 

Saturday
Jul122008

Kenny Perry Peaking Just In Time For U.S. Bank Championship

He shares the third round lead at the John Deere Classic, is looking for his third win in five weeks, but has one defender for skipping the Open Championship in Jay Williamson.

“He’s made a commitment to this Tour because he knows that this Tour has put him where he is, and I think other guys need to take a look at what he’s doing because he’s taken a lot of heat for that,” Williamson said. “He’s a guy that really values what the Tour means to him.”

Hey Jay, The Open Championship is a PGA Tour sanctioned event too, you know.

Friday
Jul112008

"If I had won, I would have a real cool trophy sitting in my office right now. And a couple more dollars in my bank account. And I'd be a part of history. That's what would have been different.''

gwar01_080711watts.jpgI don't know about you, but I'm really struggling to get excited about the Open Championship, what with players dropping like flies, Tiger out, Kenny Perry staying home...well that's not the worst thing...and Birkdale's only real interest relying on a goofy green going bad (or not), but I did thoroughly enjoy two preview stories looking at Brian Watts.

You may remember he was the fellow that nearly won last time at Birkdale, which ESPN.com's Bob Harig reminds us in catching up with Watts, now on the comeback trail. And in Golf World, Lorne Rubenstein takes us through Watts' odd series of misdiagnosis' and those unforgettable 18th hole bunker shots.

Friday
Jul112008

BARKLEY: "Live blog? What's that?"

BarkleyPhone.jpgRick Chandler at Deadspin will be live blogging Charles Barkley's play at the Tahoe celebrity event for NBCSports.com He checked in with Barkley at the range and the round mound of rebound did not know what a live blog was! Then again, I don't know if anyone has ever lugged a laptop around a golf course tracking someone's round. Blackberry maybe, but a laptop?

Deadspin featured this shot of Barkley on the range, accompanied by three friends named Corona. And msnbc.com is sharing this cruel video of his swing for all to study that mind-boggling pre-impact hesitation move.


Thursday
Jul102008

"I feel it is not out of character. It's simply an extension of the bolder featuring I had attempted at 11 and 15"

maar01_britishopen_birkdale.jpgI'm trying to get in the mood for the Open and know I will when I get that first whiff of links in HD next Thursday (and no Bobby Clampett!). Perhaps the most interesting pre-tournament item will be the new 17th green and the R&A's ability to manage it.

I was skeptical when they first announced in 2005 that they were redoing the green (a redo of a new green for the last Open at Birkdale) and even Peter Dawson, in his now infamous "the game has moved on since then" press conference understands they have to be careful with the speeds.

Golfweek
ran a cartoon lampooning the new No. 17 this week, but Golf Digest's Ron Whitten likes it.

Prior to the 1998 Open, the club also cut down some 6,000 trees that had cluttered the dunes and buffered the mighty winds. Even with a new two-level green, the par-5 17th was the easiest hole in the 1998 Open, so Martin Hawtree rebuilt it a second time, using the back half of the old green as the front half of a new one, and running the remainder up into hand-carved dunes. The contours give the green real character, in contrast to Birkdale's other, more docile greens. He admits some club members don't like it, finding it freakish and out of character. "I feel it is not out of character," he says. "It's simply an extension of the bolder featuring I had attempted at 11 and 15, which were also somewhat controversial after the rebuild."

Ahhhh...the green is not out of character because it matches the other two Hawtree redid.

Now that's an architect who has been spending way too much time around The Donald!