Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • 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

Putting is the department of golf which...lends itself to experimentation and the exploitation of pet theories.  HARRY VARDON

 

   

Monday
Apr062009

Tuesday Clippings: Tiger Dodges Bubba By Playing Late

Doug Ferguson files several fun notes, including this one related to Tiger's late practice session.

Bubba Watson was among the first to go off, no doubt looking for Woods to join some elite company. By midmorning, photographers were on the prowl and fans began to murmur, ``Has anyone seen Tiger.''

Poor Bubba.

James Corrigan focuses on the teens and Rory McIlroy in particular, considering his chances at his inaugural Masters.

Larry Dorman analyzes how Padraig Harrington has eluded the spotlight in pursuit of his third straight major.

Mike Aitken talks to Monty about the European players and why Paul Casey has so much potential to win at Augusta, highlighted by his high ball flight.

Jerry Potter files the latest story on the downturn in entertainment spending outside the gates.

The press conferences were dull outside of Gary Player announcing his retirement. Jim McCabe celebrates Player's incredible run. As for the press conference transcripts...

Gary Player is here.

Rory McIlroy is here.

And inexplicably, Anthony Kim was called in to the media center and his chat is here.

Monday saw more piling on when it comes to bashing the course changes. Gosh, I remember the good ole days when writers cared about getting drawn in the Monday lottery.

In this Golfweek Q&A, Paul Goydos doesn't hold back.

What’s one thing you would change about the Masters if you could?

Goydos: I’d bring the fun back in it. The golf course has gotten too long and it’s lost all of it’s fun. I can’t reach any of the par-5s in two, so it’s turned into a battle of attrition. They have to get it back to this battle of wits, but now it’s more like a U.S. Open. Like I said, if you’ve got a two-shot lead going into the back nine and you shoot even par, you’re going to win the tournament. That needs to go away.

Bob Harig (here) and Daniel Wexler (here) both review the many changes and crunch some numbers, while Steve Elling focuses on the peculiarity of any weather hiccup throwing the entire course into chaos, all because they have so few options to move tees.

Immelman points out that he was 11 under after 54 holes, right in line with scoring in previous years, before the weather turned foul in the final round with winds gusting in excess of 30 mph.

"When you're playing a golf course like Augusta National, the beauty of Augusta National, its defense is that you really need to be accurate and you need to really control the distance and the trajectory of your golf ball," Immelman said. "When that's a golf course's defense, then a 30-mile-an-hour wind is thrown into the equation, it becomes extremely difficult for golfers."

That's exactly the point. The course is so punitive that weather wrinkles can make it unendurable. The design limitations make it difficult to counteract Mother Nature and the numbers speak for themselves: Nobody has shot four rounds under par since Woods in 2002. The last real final-round gun battle took place between Els and Phil Mickelson in 2004, a week in which 30 eagles and three aces -- two in successive groups on Sunday -- were recorded.
Seems a distant memory, really.

"What's the problem with 12 under winning the Masters?" Faldo asked. "There really isn't one."

And finally, Golfweek offers a few photos from Monday's practice, minus the copyright free music. It's only Monday though.

Monday
Apr062009

Gary Player Decides It's Time Now That He's Sure Arnold Won't Be Coming Back For Another Appearance

The 73-year old is bowing out of the Masters with the most all-time appearances, and he's leaving with some strong material. From Steve Elling's story:

"I'm hitting it so short off the tee, I can hear the ball land," Player cracked.

And...

"I stood on the tee last year when I was waiting to play and there was a bit of a hold up," he said. "I thought, 'Damn it all, most of my friends at 72 are dead and I'm playing at the Masters?' Most guys at my age, 73, have not seen their knees, never mind their private parts, for seven years."

Amazingly, he made the cut 11 years ago at the age of 62.

Monday
Apr062009

Announcer List For Masters Is Missing...

...a major, major lost ball finder.

Look, I figure it's best to deal with this gut wrenching news now so that you can gather your emotions in time for Thursday...

For the 24th consecutive year Jim Nantz will cover the Masters for CBS (his 22nd year as host). He also handles coverage of the Highlight Shows, originating from Butler Cabin on the grounds of Augusta National. Three-time Masters winner Nick Faldo joins Nantz in the 18th hole tower as lead analyst. Peter Oosterhuis will describe the action at the 17th hole; Verne Lundquist, the 16th hole; David Feherty, the 15th hole and Highlight Shows; Bill Macatee, the 14th hole; Peter Kostis, the 13th hole; and Ian Baker-Finch will tell the story at the 11th and 12th holes. Billy Kratzert and Ian Eagle return along with Matt Gogel to call the live streaming video action for Amen Corner Live and 15 & 16 Live.

That's right, no Bobby Clampett. No Hogan's Bridge references, no smooching up to Masters brass about the wonderful changes on No. 11, no weather lingo and yes, no racial slurs.

Sunday
Apr052009

It's Here!

The field, which almost saw a late addition in J.B. Holmes, is set.

Coverage on this site will utilize Cover-It-Live's Live Blogging interactive software of the Par-3 contest coverage Wednesday and the four rounds of tournament play. It looks like they've added some neat features, including Twitter capability that will make it easy to get news updates as we watch, especially now that The Masters is on Twitter.)

So please come back, come often, bring a little attitude and be ready to share your innermost Masters thoughts with the world. (You can also check in via a mobile device.)

I also hope to feature the traditional clippings breakdown of must read items each day, but it depends on how much work and how little golf the on-site scribes decide to enage in Monday-Wednesday. (Now that the economy isn't so hot and Internet operations have been improved, I'm hoping for more early week items to help us make our pool picks get in the mood for Thursday.)

Either way, I can't imagine the Masters' stars aligning any better.

  • A couple of old geezers played nicely in Houston and it's easy to imagine a scenario where Greg Norman and Fred Couples contend.
  • Three teenagers are playing impressive golf in their debut events, and Johnny Miller even thinks Danny Lee could win. But Johnny also could probably find grain on Augusta's greens, so...I like Rory McIlroy to be low teenager.
  • A positive weather forecast for the tournament days. However, the practice rounds sound cold and windy, which Stewart Cink noted on Twitter will not bode well for the fans hoping to see players: "Very windy weather Mon-Tues means curtailed practice rounds by many players. You can get into bad habits playing in cold wind."
  • Golf Channel sounds like they are really stepping up their always-top notch pre and post round coverage, so this year they may actually have more people covering the event on site than in the Orlando studio.
  • We get to listen as the CBS and ESPN guys try tell to us that the course design is functioning beautifully, putting them in the same category as the Golf Digest Panel or Rex Hoggard, who confuses rankings with popularity contests. Jim Herre in this week's SI chat says the nets have been reminded not to say anything that might upset Hootie Johnson. Who knew that notorious tough guy who stood down Martha Burke and sidelined those harmless past champions could have his feelings so easily hurt?

As for a table setter, check out Doug Ferguson's breezy report about Sunday activities at ANGC, including which former champ took a cart for his round.

Sunday
Apr052009

"The answer is they were smothered by Johnson's cack-handed alterations."

Lawrence Donegan seems pretty confident that Billy Payne and Tom Fazio will restore Augusta National to its former glory, prior to Hootie Johnson and Tom Fazio making a mess of it.

The answer is they were smothered by Johnson's cack-handed alterations. He lengthened the course, he planted trees, he narrowed the fairways, he grew a "second cut" (rough) – in other words he did his best to turn a unique course into just another US Open course. He did not quite succeed but he did turn the Masters tournament into a glorified US Open, which is to say it has become devoid of much of the excitement that made it such a global institution.

The next seven days will be about restoring the excitement, although Johnson's successor, Billy Payne, will never, ever concede this point. Yet it has already begun, with a couple of holes being shortened and some greens being rebuilt. There will be further changes in the years to come – trees will be removed, and the strategic element of the course restored.

Sunday
Apr052009

"I was hosting that year, but I just took my proper place in that line."

Thanks to Taylor for catching this Mike Weir anecdote from a Q&A with Bob Verdi:

And eight years later, you win the Masters.

Crazy. Now, I get to go to the Champions Dinner every year. A highlight. In '04 I was running late. There's only one shower in the Champions Locker Room. I head there in my towel, Arnold and Jack waiting for Tom Watson. I was hosting that year, but I just took my proper place in that line.

Sunday
Apr052009

"Imagine if No. 2 wasn't an easy par 5!"

Nick Seitz analyzes how they mangled how changes have made the first hole incredibly difficult. He says it now can play as short as 426 and as long as 463. And gets this typically brilliant insight out of Tom Fazio:

"Imagine if No. 2 wasn't an easy par 5!" says architect Tom Fazio, who has been involved in revisions of the course. "But grinding is so typical of that tournament."

Yes, since you got your hands on the place!

Jack Nicklaus pretty much sums up the change in this quote:

"Used to be, with no wind in your face, you could take it over the bunker and play a wedge to the green," says six-time Masters winner Jack Nicklaus. "But once they lengthened the tee, extended the bunker, brought trees in on the left—the face of the hill became an issue, especially with the wind coming into you. You were hitting a 3- or 4-iron when the green wanted a 7 or 8 max."

That's why it's No. 1!

Sunday
Apr052009

"The LPGA deserves better."

Bradley Klein watched the Nabisco and explains how the bare-bones CBS operation left him wanting more.

Yardages and clubs would help – more of it, anyway. We saw 31 iron shots/full wedge approaches to greens on par-4s and par-5s Sunday. By my count, we got the yardage 18 times and the club only 14 times. Yet when a viewer knows both, it adds to the drama.

Sunday
Apr052009

Shot Tracker Blues

Bob Smiley notes a pretty funny bit of ShotLink work by the volunteers in Houston.

Saturday
Apr042009

"Never has a change of such consequence been made with such a lack of transparency or without appropriate input from those affected."

Frank Thomas pens a guest opinion piece for the Sunday New York Times and blasts his former employer over the groove rule change. He notes bifurcation without using the "B" word:

This means that for the first time, golf will have different rules for different levels of players. Golf is different in that the finest professionals and middling amateurs can compete side by side, as they do in tournaments like the AT&T National Pro-Am. For many golfers, part of the game’s appeal is knowing that they are playing the same game on the same courses as the world’s best.

Didn't that really go out the window about 10 years ago?

No matter where you come down on the grooves issue, I do think Thomas's statement about transparency is worth considering, though I'm not sure how accurate it is considering the documentation posted online.

The U.S.G.A. has not shared its evidence that a problem exists, nor has it demonstrated that this solution addresses the problem while doing the least damage to the golfing population as a whole. Never has a change of such consequence been made with such a lack of transparency or without appropriate input from those affected.

Here's the problem I have with Frank's argument:

Golf participation is declining, and we have yet to hear of people quitting the game because they found it too easy. We do not need equipment rules aimed specifically at making it harder for Tiger Woods or anyone else.

His solution in the past was to advocate reducing the number of clubs in the bag to ten and to grow more rough. And I don't think either of those ideas will bring too many new players.

Saturday
Apr042009

"I'm not capable of hitting a drive that goes straight for 270 yards then turns sharply to the left."

John Huggan visited Augusta National recently, watched Geoff Ogilvy bat it around in wet conditions, and talked to the Aussie about different aspects of the course. A few highlights:

"Some spots look bad at Augusta, but only when you are actually there do you realise that they may not be quite so awful," contends Ogilvy. "That's the genius of the greens. Certain spots look wrong but are actually right. And on every hole there is a spot off the green that is better than a bad spot on the green.

"Professionals spend their whole lives trying not to 'short side' themselves with their approach shots. But, at Augusta, that is sometimes the thing to do. Take the par-3 6th. If the hole is cut on the top tier to the back right, you are much better off missing on that side. Just off the green to the right is way better than on the green but down the bottom of the slope. The 7th green is similar. If the pin is on the left side, you are better to miss the green on that side than be on the green and right of the cup. You can easily putt off the green from there. And the 8th is the same. If the pin is back and left, missing the green long and left is a good spot to be in."

This obviously explains how No. 13's lengthening has changed the dynamics there.

The problem is that moving the tee back has almost eliminated the possibility of going sensibly for the green in two shots.

As Ogilvy said: "I'm not capable of hitting a drive that goes straight for 270 yards then turns sharply to the left."

Saturday
Apr042009

First Masters' Sole Survivor

Scott Michaux files a most enjoyable video story on Errie Ball, 98 and sole survivor of the first Masters.

Friday
Apr032009

Masters iphone App Is Available

As are the other mobile options.

Friday
Apr032009

"I think it comes down to definition: I've seen golf clubs were the code is jacket and tie, and you have old guys with soup-stained ties and jackets with patches."

Thanks to reader Chris for this Mike Aitken and Craig Brown story on the latest change in the name of growing the game in the British Isles: denim.

A campaign called "Love Golf? Join the Club", aimed at filling 10,000 vacancies across Scotland, has been launched with an emphasis on customer service and a more relaxed dress code.

The scheme was announced at Hilton Park, near Glasgow, by Scottish Golf Union (SGU) officials wearing jeans and T-shirts.

And...

Michael Williamson, an Edinburgh golf consultant, believes flexibility is the key to increasing membership. "Most clubs have a variation of 'smart casual', and a lot are being ever more flexible on the issue," he said.

"I think it comes down to definition: I've seen golf clubs were the code is jacket and tie, and you have old guys with soup-stained ties and jackets with patches.

"I don't think it's exactly what you specify, it's all to do with attitude. Tiger Woods wears a collarless T-shirt and he's the best golfer in the world, so why shouldn't people be allowed into golf clubs wearing that?"

Friday
Apr032009

"Casey offers value in Masters betting dominated by Woods"

With Paul Casey tied for the lead in Houston, The Guardian's Dan Roebuck looks at the early wagering and is looking prophetic in suggesting Casey's a bargain heading into the Masters.

Friday
Apr032009

"When the phone did ring, it wasn’t US Air on the other end; it was Titleist."

I always knew those lax rules on free equipment would finally have a positive effect. Jim McCabe reports that Titleist has outfitted the "Chicopee Six" survivors of US Air 1549, who lost their sticks when their flight landed in the Hudson.

Company representatives had heard the men were going to follow through with their Myrtle Beach trip and wanted to fit the men with new clubs. Plans were made for an April 2 visit and when the Chicopee Six arrived, they discovered that new FootJoy golf shoes were part of the package.

Rob Kolodjay could not hide his emotions.

“I’m a humble guy, but we’ve received so much media attention,” he said to Titleist club-fitters Karen Gray and Fordie Pitts III. “That’s been hard. We didn’t ask for the attention. But you folks (at Titleist) have been so good, I could cry.”

Friday
Apr032009

"A MUCH MORE DIFFICULT APPROACH TO THE GREENS FROM THE WRONG DIRECTION WAS THE PENALTY OF AN ERRANT DRIVE."

When it rains it snows, or, when it snows it falls hard. Ah hell. Tom Watson joins the chorus criticizing changes to Augusta National in greater detail than I've seen anywhere else. This is from a newly posted architecture-driven Q&A on GolfClubAtlas.com. The all caps would be Tom's:

THE LENGTHENING OF THE COURSE WAS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, EXCEPT FOR HOLES # 7 AND # 17. THE NARROWING OF # 7 WAS NOT NECESSARY AND THE ADDED LENGTH IS NOT APPROPRIATE CONSIDERING THAT GREEN. IT’S SIMPLY NOT DESIGNED TO HOLD A LONG IRON APPROCH SHOT.

WHAT’S MISSING IS THE OPENESS OF THE ORIGINAL ROUTING BECAUSE OF THE ADDITION OF SO MANY TREES. THE CHARACTER OF THE COURSE I BELIEVE IS DIMINISHED WITH ITS RECOVERY SHOTS MADE SO MUCH MORE RISKY.

THE CHALLENGE OF AUGUSTA NATIONAL IS THE SET OF GREENS SO CAREFULLY AND MASTERFULLY CREATED BY MR. JONES AND DR. MACKENZIE. A MUCH MORE DIFFICULT APPROACH TO THE GREENS FROM THE WRONG DIRECTION WAS THE PENALTY OF AN ERRANT DRIVE.

Friday
Apr032009

"It really does take a lot more energy to be upset than it is to not."

One of my favorites characters, Christina Kim, is tied through two rounds of the Nabisco. Though I don't like the sound of this chilling out stuff, which was posted on the LPGA's excellent notes and quotes recap page.

Q. Did you have an epiphany or a moment or incident where you felt you had to chill out? Was there something that happened?

CHRISTINA KIM: There is something that happened that I cannot disclose at this time. (Laughing). More than anything, you wake up, you go out, you play, you're grumpy out there, people are like, that's not you, that's not what you're normally like. You get off the course, your feet hurts, your back hurts, your head hurts. It really does take a lot more energy to be upset than it is to not.

I remember when I was at the prime of my game a couple of years ago, I was the person that would go to volunteers and say: ‘Thank you for coming out this week, without you we would not have an event,’ thanking spectators; instead of: ‘Get out of my way, you're in my line,’ or things like that.

Sometimes it just happens. You wake up one day and you realize, what on earth am I doing? This is not right; this is not who I am. That kind of happened on Monday morning probably around the same time I got the new putter actually.

Friday
Apr032009

"A great course is designed primarily to challenge low-handicap amateur golfers, not tour professionals."

I've been questioning Golf Digest's Resistance To Scoring definition since at least 1999. (BTW, checked with mom and I did not have issues with RTS at birth, so go easy on the bias accusations). But I have moaned about the evaluation process many times, including how clubs feel the need to pander to panelists.

And while I understand that the RTS concept dates to the magazine's founder and the initial list focusing on difficulty, I thought it would an interesting exercise to look at the magazine's definition of the category which Ron Whitten says vaulted Augusta National to the #1 spot in the latest ranking.

Here's what panelists are given to determine Resistance to Scoring:

RESISTANCE TO SCORING
How difficult, while still being fair, is the course for the scratch player from the back tees?

What it means: A great course is designed primarily to challenge low-handicap
amateur golfers, not tour professionals.

Now, this is odd since Golf Digest has added people to its panel who are not low-handicap golfers. So how would they be able to evaluate a course from a scratch player's perspective?

Of course I think there should be people of all skill levels on the panel, with the RTS category dropped.

Anyhow, the magazine fleshes out the meaning of RTS this way:

How to determine Resistance to Scoring

The question is not whether a course is tough for the tour pro. On a calm day, no course is too tough for the tour pro. At last look, the course record is 62 at Pebble Beach, Pinehurst No. 2 and Prairie Dunes. And will soon go lower, no doubt.

And those 62s just came so easily to the player.

At any time, given the skill level of the average tour player, and the incredible equipment they use, even top courses set up in championship condition can be easy.

Ah yes, easy. Because anyone who has played the game will tell you it becomes easy more often than not.

Davis Love III’s 269 at Winged Foot West in the 1997 PGA did not mean that the course was toothless. Only five players broke par in that event and no one broke par in the 2006 U.S. Open. The 2006 winner, Geoff Ogilvey finished at four over par.

Is that Ogilvey guy a hybrid of Geoff Ogilvy and Joe Ogilvie?

We prefer to consider how testing the course is for a scratch golfer, a player who may be several shots worse than the average tour pro from the back tees. That’s because most courses, even those on our list of America’s 100 Greatest won’t be played by tour professionals. But they will be challenged by scratch players many, many times.

To deserve a high score in Resistance to Scoring, the course must be difficult but still fair.

A course that demands 260-yard carries over hazards from every tee is indeed difficult, but is not fair. Particularly if half of those tee shots are into prevailing winds.

So do you have to keep a checklist on tee shots into prevailing winds? And if less than half are under 260 does that mean the course is difficult but fair?

A course with every green guarded by water is difficult, but again it’s not a fair test.

If the course is tough but unfair, give it a lower score.

If it’s eminently fair but not particularly tough, give it a lower score.

What if it's just fair, not eminently fair? Who wrote this, Richard Tufts?

Only if it achieves that balance of being both testing but fair in its challenges, does a course deserve a high score in Resistance to Scoring.

Fair. People, it's your mantra.

The ideal in Resistance to Scoring

The ideal course must take into account various weather conditions. It cannot be brutally tough on calm days, because on windy days it then becomes impossible.

There's a newsflash from the city.

It can’t be tough only when tee markers are placed to the very back because on wet days it then becomes unreachable. It can’t rely only on pin positions tucked behind bunkers because pin placements must be rotated to spread out wear and tear.

Example: A model for Resistance to Scoring might be Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island. At 6,973 yards long, with smallish greens and all sorts of hazards, it can be a difficult course for a scratch player. Yet it is hard to find an unfair hole on the course.

Glad we're not seeding the panelists with any potential biases!

Even in windy conditions. Its routing is such that consecutive holes don’t face identical wind conditions. The greens provide approach options for windy conditions. Some of its greens accept low running shots. Others have hazards in front but no trouble to the rear. Only a couple are heavily guarded targets. Note: The highest average Resistance to Scoring in the 100 Greatest is Shinnecock Hills G.C. with an average of 9.08.

That's good to know.

Why we use evaluations for Resistance to Scoring rather than Slope Rating or Course Rating

The combination of USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating can be a good indicator of a course’s resistance to scoring, though not a perfect one. In general, a course with a Course Rating above 73 and the Slope Rating is above 130 can be rated above 7.5. A course would need to have a Course Rating above 74 and have a Slope Rating above 140 to be rated in the 8.0 to 8.5 range. Keep in mind that Shinnecock Hills has the highest Resistance to Scoring average in America at 9.08.

Yeah we got that about Shinnecock the first time.

So I don't quite understand how a Course Rating can't be automatically used when they are able to quantify what a Resistance To Scoring score should be based on that rating.

Of course, I still just can't fathom why the difficulty has anything to do with the merits of a course. Seems like Fun would be a whole bunch more important.

Thursday
Apr022009

"You always felt at Augusta you could take a chance on something, whether it was a tee ball or a second shot"

Bill Fields files an enjoyable profile of Ben Crenshaw on the 25th anniversary of his first Masters win, and while I enjoyed many of the anecdotes, Crenshaw's assessment of the revamped Augusta National is really the most insightful. Because for all of the quibbling we can do about second cuts and Christmas trees planted, it really comes down to what the players believe is possible. And if they aren't buying in, setup ploys will not matter:

The old Augusta was a tightrope, where risks were encouraged but a fall could hurt. "You always felt at Augusta you could take a chance on something, whether it was a tee ball or a second shot," Crenshaw says. "You had more room to play, and more people could play dangerously. It was totally different from any challenge in the world." To Crenshaw, the narrowing of the fairways from the equivalent of wide boulevards to country lanes altered things dramatically. "The second cut on lots of holes—that's first and foremost, because the course went from here to like this," he says, moving his hands very close together. "I think they needed to do something in the way of length, [but] I wouldn't have constricted it as much.

"There is no question it has become more of a defensive proposition," he continues. "The thing that set Augusta apart forever is that it's exciting and theatrical. People would pull off shots, but the flip side of that is that if you failed—and Jones wrote about this—it would tax you mentally. If you failed, it had a big effect on you. All I remember is how I felt there as a player [in my prime]. I hope the guys today are doing the same gyrations that we did. That, to me, is the question."

Golf Channel announced Thursday that Crenshaw will be working their weekend roundup coverage.