There's an old saying on tour: set fire to the trees and cover the greens with broken glass, put the pros out there in gasoline-soaked pants and barefooted, and someone will break par. TOMMY BOLT
Note in the lefthand column that I have posted links to Open Championship sites and information, with more to come as the week progresses. Click on the tee time link and you can see who has signed up for practice rounds. In other news...
James Corrigan reports on Tiger's early arrival.
This AP story would indicate that selecting Retief Goosen in your pool might not be the best idea.
Thanks to reader Chris for this Jeremy Watson story updating the latest whereabouts of the St. Andrews starter's house. Considering it was 122 degrees yesterday in Indio, it's a good thing that the building is still in storage.
Lawrence Donegan visits with Maurice Flitcroft, who, besides being a perfect character name for a Wodehouse story, fired 121 while trying to qualify for the 1976 Open.
Jack Nicklaus writes a guest column on his all time best players in various departments. What it has to do with the Open, I have no idea.
And Swati Pandey in the LA Times tells you more than you ever wanted to know about Penny Lane and the man it was named after.
The PGA Tour driving distance average jumped to 288.5 yards following the John Deere Classic, up from 288.2 yards after the final Western.
I'm still hoping to get the weekly number of over 350 yard drives from the Tour so we can see which events most impact that number.
...well, if you don't count the royalties for those General Hospital reruns airing in Panama. One of Bel-Air's finest became the first non-pro athlete to win the celebrity thing in Tahoe.
A few things worth noting in Joe Logan's analysis of the Bivens era:
Bivens also has developed chilly relations with many of the media that cover the LPGA, among them Dottie Pepper, the veteran LPGA player-turned-analyst for the Golf Channel.That approach always ends well for executives. And so smart to be rude to someone with both a column and a microphone. Or, as Carolyn would call, it, a multimedia platform.
"I started out as a fan of hers," Pepper said last week. "But she won't talk to me now. Unfortunately, it's Carolyn's way or the highway."
Even some of Bivens' early and ardent supporters within the player ranks, including Sorenstam and Juli Inkster, are beginning to waffle.
"I am quite concerned about some of the decisions and changes I have seen lately," Sorenstam said recently, breaking her silence to Golf World magazine. "I just wonder where we are headed."And...
To hear Bivens' critics tell it, she owes her rocky start to a style they liken to the proverbial bull in a china shop or, perhaps more apt around the family-oriented LPGA world, the lout who crashed the picnic.
"I think she came from a business that was pretty cutthroat," said Stephanie Hall, president of the TOA. "Where she came from, she was probably excellent. This may be a difficult transition for her."
Larry Harrison, general chairman of the ShopRite Classic, who is at odds with the LPGA over the future date of the Jersey Shore tournament, questions Bivens' integrity.
"I had some differences with [Bivens predecessor] Ty Votaw, but everything was always out in the open, and I never doubted his credibility," Harrison said last week. "I have trouble with her. While the LPGA was talking to us about our contract, they were in negotiations with somebody else to take our date."
Market forces Larry, market forces.
We've got another anti-golf ball technology, pro-communist sympathizer in the game as John Huggan outs Hale Irwin who was playing the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.
Take the dogleg right 7th hole. After Irwin slid his drive perfectly round the corner, just as the course designer intended - the Englishman simply blasted his tee-shot over the high tree on the right and into the distant fairway. While impressive, it was also a depressing sight, one that was not lost on Irwin either.
"There's a limit to what an older player can do, or what their minds will let them do," he explains. "When you nurture your game by manipulating the ball around the course - fading and drawing shots, hitting the ball high and low - you can't suddenly switch to hitting the same shot over and over.
"It's a whole different mentality and one I have tried to avoid. It just isn't my game and it's so hard to with today's equipment anyway.
"That shot I hit on the first hole is a perfect example. Twenty years ago that ball would have been in the loch way left of the green. It would have curved that much. But now what feels like a snap-hook only turns a few yards in the air."
Still, he is not above sticking up for his own generation and the way they used to play. Like so many, Irwin is not a fan of the direction modern technology has taken golf.
"I've been impressed with the play I have seen here this week," he conceded. "Every time I go play with the 'kids' the calibre of play never ceases to impress me. But they aren't any better than the great players of the past; it is just that they get so much benefit from modern equipment. Today's clubs and balls allow a very different type of play.
"Take today, Paul and I weren't really playing the same game. Like so many, he hits it high and launches it out there. They don't have to worry too much about the wind and just go for it. That's not depressing as much as it is just different. But I do feel that the game is suffering just a bit.
"The players of the past - the Nicklauses and the Watsons - manoeuvred the ball. They hit it high and they hit it low, shaping their shots to the conditions. But today's player just hits the one shot. If there's a debate between a 7-iron or an 8-iron they choose the 9-iron! They just go ahead and kill it. I don't say that disrespectfully, but it is not the game I know or the game I play."
It is also difficult to argue in favour of the new greens introduced by architect Donald Steel. Amid 15 putting surfaces sympathetic to the surroundings now sit three - the first, second and fifth - that stick out like blue scarves at Anfield. While it is hard to shoot down the R&A's argument that the change to the course running order is all to do with the strength of the finish, suspicion lingers that the inappropriateness of the new greens was also a factor in the decision.Doug Ferguson offers the American perspective on Hoylake heading in the practice rounds.
Phil Mickelson got his first look at Hoylake a week after his collapse at the U.S. Open. Mickelson has been cramming for majors over the last few years, taking eight hours for each practice round to study every nuance, figuring out whether he needs two drivers or four wedges.Tim Glover tries to figure out who will be the next surprise American winner of the Open.
"I think it was really important that I went over," Mickelson said. "I thought I knew what types of shots were going to be expected at Hoylake. They're totally different. I thought I was going to be hitting certain shots, and I'm not going to go into detail because I'm going to let everybody else figure it out."
So who will be the man from nowhere, the stranger to strike fear into Hoylake? America has any number of bounty hunters lurking in the undergrowth, including J J Henry, who qualified by winning the Buick, Sean O'Hair, Bart Bryant, Brett Quigley, Brett Wetterich, Ben Crane, Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan, who all sound as if they have been made up by Raymond Chandler.Matthew Goodman files an extensive profile on Nick Faldo for The Sunday Times.
While James Corrigan has this bizarre story about Ian Woosnam and his plans to text message players to find out who they want to play with in the Ryder Cup and why.
For only the second time in 25 years, Ian Woosnam will not be at The Open, but as the incumbent European Ryder Cup captain the Welshman will still be in the news. And the revelation that he is going to employ revolutionary techniques in forming his pairings will be raising eyebrows as the field gather.Take that Hal Sutton!
"I'm going to be texting the players," said the 48-year-old. "I'll ask them, 'Can you text me the three players you'll prefer to play with, and why?' I care about their opinions and want the truth. I'll take players' advice on board and be very much a players' captain. But everybody should be prepared to play with anybody and if they don't, that will create a rift straight away."
Now, it's time for the euphoria to subside. It's back to business and another major - the British Open Championship starting at Hoylake on Thursday. Ogilvy left Melbourne on Thursday and plans to play his first practice round on the championship course this evening.
Before then he will play other links courses in the Liverpool area, anonymously he hopes. "I'll just try to sneak on somewhere, try to hide who I am. Just pay my £40 or £50 green fees," he said. Good luck.
Thankfully the British Open arrives to save us from bickering about the PGA Tour's many questionable moves of late, but many of your comments are worth revisiting. You know, just in case someone in Ponte Vedra cares.
Regarding Scott Michaux's commentary on Tim Finchem, Matt writes: "Finchem definitely created this monster himself when purses rose faster than the market could reliably sustain. And of course the top players are now so rich that they're not going to play any smaller events that could use their support. This FedEx cup mess is going to produce a chorus of snores, guaranteed."
And Martin Del Vecchio commented, "Tim Finchem works for the PGA Tour players, and mostly works for the elite players. He has helped to make them very rich, and they are happy with his service. It's a perfect closed system. The "golf fans" don't matter much any more, unless they happen to run Fortune 500 companies, and can pony up $5 million (or whatever) each year to sponsor a tournament."
On the Western Open's demise, Smolmania writes, "There is one event in this country which has been played longer than the Western Open. . . and that's the U.S. Open. Won't Walter Hagen be proud knowing that he won the BMW Championship? Our only hope is that when the FedUp Cup (with its FECES entry system) falls flat on its face, that we can have our tournament back."
Regarding the Fed Ex Cup, Daryl writes:How does the Charles Schwab Cup points race work on the Champions Tour? Do we even care, it's tape delayed on the Golf Channel now?
And Steve makes this interesting point: On another note related to the demise of Tournaments lately, has Greensboro named a new title sponsor for 2007? Booze Allen's announcement came in March, Chrysler decided in January that they were done in Greensboro as title sponsor but I don't see Finchem holding a press conference to announce the demise of that event. Is it because Tiger's agent was involved in helping that event survive Finchem's guillotine?"
On Doug Ferguson's story about Tiger and Phil being the driving force behind the new schedule and its impact on the Western, Glyn notes, "There's a difference between stating that the season is too long and cutting a tournament that's been around for 100 years."
GeorgeM brings up this point though: "Will the changes we have seen so far benefit PGAT members? I have no idea. Why not wait until December 2007 to evaluate what Tim hath wrought?"
George also had this to say about the FedEx Cup points: "If the PGAT wants something other than the Money List, they should use the OWGR. Points earned by PGAT members in PGAT sanctioned events would do the job."
On the subject of more spontaneous changes in course setup to better test players from day to day (and to keep things fresh), Scott S writes, "I do believe, though, that hole locations should be decided at the crack of dawn on every day they are to be moved, rather than in advance of a tournament. Too much foreknowledge can be a bad (boring) thing."
And Matt again: "If, at the next British Open at St. Andrews, the R&A decides to tee off on the first hole from a new secret tee on the roof of the clubhouse for the second round, that would be neat. Then, for the final round, they could move the tees up to around 280 yards to tempt the players into driving the green and bringing the burn more into play. Surprises are good!"
Scott says: it seems like these sorts of ideas are band aids. They try to chip away at problems and, i believe, will likely create more issues than they solve...The real fix is far more complicated and will take years--equipment."
Lefty brought the subject back to Phil Mickelson (where it originated), and wrote: "I don't think the extent that Mickelson prepares is beneficial. Although going to the course and playing many practice at Winged Foot did aid Phil, allowing him to be in contention at WF despite not hitting the ball well at all, I do agree with those that think that his set decisions on what club he'd use on 18, and his inability to adjust to the situation did hurt him."
And Charlie Bell writes, "The downside of this, which no one has mentioned, is that the USGA et al could be accused of setting up a course on Sunday in order to favor or penalize particular individuals in contention. Imagine if Corey Pavin and Tiger were in the final pairing... So, from this angle (which escaped me previously) perhaps the USGA's preplanning is defensible. Still, they should keep the darned information secret."
Finally, on the subject of Dick Rugge's latest remarks about the USGA having plenty of time to research things because the distance surges have slowed down, Chuck writes: "And there is this statement: 'This stability might mean Rugge and his staff have caught up to changing technology.'
"Caught up? What does that mean? Even Mr. Rugge and Mr. Rich say publicly that their testing and study are still in process. And they haven't changed any regulations or testing protocols that have arrested any new technology. So no one should claim that the USGA has "caught up" in recent years. They haven't actually done anything yet, by their own admission, other than to study the issue. I'm not critical of those efforts; I am all for the USGA basing its actions on the best information there is. But they haven't done anything, yet, and the real question is what action will be taken as the study is completed."
Looks like the PGA Tour's Joan Alexander attached the wrong Henry Hughes statement on Michelle Wie's John Deere WD due to heat stroke:
Comment from the PGA TOUR on Michelle Wie making the cut at the John Deere Classic:
“The PGA TOUR congratulates Michelle Wie on her historic accomplishment in making the cut at the John Deere Classic, the first female in more than 60 years to do so on the TOUR. Her quality of play over the first two rounds is a testament to her high level of performance and individual achievement. The PGA TOUR wishes her well in her play this weekend.”
Senior Vice President and Chief of Operations PGA TOUR
And Alliss dismissed the criticisms of Ron Whitten, the golf architecture editor of the world's biggest selling golf magazine Golf Digest, that the Royal Liverpool Golf Club course was not up to the modern game.
The magazine caused a furore when it published the article by Whitten, one of its senior writers, who claimed the course was not up to the standard needed for modern professional golfers.
Mr Whitten later told the Daily Post: "I do not feel it's worthy any longer of being host to the Open.
"I'm not saying it's a bad golf course, but I'm saying it's not a course which in my opinion should be hosting the Open."
He added: "For its history, it's a great old club, and for everyday members I'm sure it's a delightful place to play, but there is a different standard for the best golfers in the world."
But Alliss, who said he had not seen the original article, said: "We will just wait and see.
"If the wind blows we will see if this man knows anything about the game.
"It's a wonderful course, and all our links championship courses are made by the wind conditions. If there is a wind, it's a very formidable golf course."
Reader JPB passed along this Reuters story by Brooks Boliek on the FCC's obsenity crackdown:
In its continuing crackdown on on-air profanity, the FCC has requested numerous tapes from broadcasters that might include vulgar remarks from unruly spectators, coaches and athletes at live sporting events, industry sources said.
Tapes requested by the commission include live broadcasts of football games and NASCAR races where the participants or the crowds let loose with an expletive. While commission officials refused to talk about its requests, one broadcast company executive said the commission had asked for 30 tapes of live sports and news programs."It looks like they want to end live broadcast TV," said one executive, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. "We already know that they aren't afraid to go after news."
"The 16th/18th gives you a real eagle opportunity," contends European Tour pro Nick Dougherty, a native Liverpudlian who has played Hoylake countless times. "At the same time, if you leak your drive [on the last hole] just a little you can easily one-hop the drive out-of-bounds given the way they have cut the rough back there. So lots of numbers are possible. That makes it a great finishing hole. On the real 18th, not much was going to happen.
"And I have never minded the internal O.B.," Dougherty adds. "It's done in the right way at Hoylake. On some courses it looks strange, but the humps they have there work somehow. It looks natural because it is--and every time it makes the hole better."
Dougherty, an eloquent and engaging young man, makes a valid point. Is a slightly unusual internal out-of-bounds any more outlandish than some of the stunts that have been pulled at other great old courses over the last few years? The list of previously unthinkables is growing steadily: the sudden proliferation of rough and trees at Augusta National; the new tees (that were on other golf courses) at St. Andrews for the 2005 Open; the carnage that was Carnoustie in 1999 or Bethpage in 2002, where one tee was placed so far back many players could not reach the fairway.
John Barton writes about those legendary sons of Hoylake, Harold Hilton and John Ball.
Dave Shedloski looks at the demise of ABC golf and how the team is dealing with the final year of coverage. The network insists that it is staying on until 2009, the year its deal ends with the R&A.
And don't miss Geoff Russell's mid-year report, which included the astounding handling of Bob Tway's request to attend a funeral and other information.
Well, not really, but Steve Campbell in the Houston Chronicle did find a tournament director who is happy that 10th place in the Houston Open is the same as 10th at the Memorial. Yep, that's the extent of the positive feedback to date.
...because his Thursday evening rant describes just about every USA Network telecast...
I wish I’d kept track of all the dim-witted, apologetic, banal and otherwise unlistenable comments uttered by Bill Patrick and Jim Gallagher during USA Network’s first-round coverage of Michelle Wie this afternoon. Such a list surely would have reached several dozen—no small chore given that Wie was midway into her back nine when the telecast began.
For the next hour, neither Patrick nor Gallagher managed an original thought or even a syllable of brazen analysis as Wie chopped her way to an opening 77. It was TV golf at its worst, at least five strokes higher than Wie’s own performance, full of inapt pity for the young lady and every she’s-just-a-girl excuse a couple of cliché machines could borrow from a manual.
Sorry I missed this one!
Apparently Carolyn Bivens is determined to make Tim Finchem's handling of Washington D.C. and Chicago look good, as Ron Sirak reports on the latest head scratcher from LPGA headquarters:
According to sources familiar with the situation, the LPGA will announce next week a new event in South Carolina and sponsored by Ginn Clubs & Resorts, which debuted as a sponsor this year with a $2.5 million stop in Orlando. That's the good news. The problem is the date discussed with the new tournament is the week before the McDonald's LPGA Championship--a spot currently occupied by the ShopRite LPGA Classic, won this year by Seon Hwa Lee (pictured). Larry Harrison, general chairman of the Atlantic City event since its inception in 1986, says he'll sue if his date is given away.
"We have a letter from the previous administration guaranteeing us that date in '07 and '08," Harrison told Golf World. "Our lawyers think we have a very strong position. We told [the LPGA] if they announce this date we will pursue legal action."
Ginn has confirmed only that it has an LPGA-related announcement scheduled for July 17. The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., says the new event will be held at the Ginn property at RiverTowne CC in the nearby suburb of Mount Pleasant.
In a Reuters story by Miles Evans:
"It's my favorite tournament of the year, without a doubt," the 29-year-old told reporters after returning to his native Australia following his one-shot victory at Winged Foot last month.
"I love the challenge because we don't get to play that kind of golf that often. It's like riding a bike, as soon as you get out on a course like that you just remember how to play.
"I won't expect to win, but I'll feel like I can win. My goal each week is to have a chance on Sunday and that will be my goal at Hoylake.
"We only play courses like that once a year. It's nice to see the ball rolling on the floor when it lands. You never really forget how to play like that."
The double bogey that followed Montgomerie's momentary mental lapse will go down as one of the sadder moments in recent memory, although he has since spent time with his sports psychologist Hugh Mantle and the pair have analysed exactly what went wrong. Part of their discussion focused on the moments before he struck the ball, when he was forced to wait while his playing partner Vijay Singh sought a ruling from officials.
"I'm convinced that, if I was to go up to that ball at my usual pace and hit it, I'd have probably won. But you have to play according to your playing partner and the rules. If I'd been in the tent he would have had to wait on me. It's amazing what runs through the mind at that stage," Montgomerie said.
The USA Today's Jerry Potter looks at this year's driving distance numbers, setting up Dick Rugge to lay the groundwork for some good ole red-white-and-blue USGA spin.
Twelve players, led by Bubba Watson at 318.5 yards, average 300 yards on their drives, but that's not even close to the record 26 who ended 2005 as 300 hitters.
Just wait, however, says Dick Rugge, the senior technical director for the U.S. Golf Association. They're on their way.
"It's a natural year-to-year variation," says Rugge, who notes that there were 11 players at 300-plus last year at this time.
Wet conditions in the winter made for soggy courses that held down distances. As the hot summer progresses, fairways will harden and golf balls will roll. And tournaments coming up in high-altitude areas, where drives carry farther, such as The International in Colorado and the Reno-Tahoe Open in Nevada, should increase the totals.
"My expectations are that the number of 300-yard drivers this year will be pretty much the same as last year," says Rugge, who points out that there are 14 players between 298 yards and 300.
That in itself is a bit of an upset, however: The number has been steadily climbing in recent years — one in '02, nine in '03, 15 in '04 and 26 in '05.
The overall average also might have hit a high.
The average distance has been relatively stable in recent years after a jump from 273.2 yards in 2000 to 279.4 yards in 2001. The average climbed again from 278.8 in '02 to 286.3 in '03. Advancements in driver technology and club fitting are credited for those changes, but the USGA's recent restrictions on drivers have helped level off that average. Since '04, the number has been about the same: 287.3, 288.9 and 288.0.
This stability might mean Rugge and his staff have caught up to changing technology.
"The train has not pulled out of the station," he says. "We're in about the same place we were three years ago. We have time to be careful with our research and thorough with our investigation."
Ah yes, notice he says three years ago.
Because we want to focus on that lack of change since 03.
After all, if we go to '02, that means having to abide by that pesky Joint Statement of Principles where they say no more distance increases will be tolerated. If you haven't read them in a while, you'd be wise to do so.