Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos

In my experience, the decision to increase green speeds has definitely hurt the game of golf. This development has not only caused many of the greens on the great golf courses to be nearly unplayable, but has really hampered the ability of a number of players to negotiate the new speed levels.  PETE DYE



Timberlake And The Tour

I continue to hear a lot of grumbling about the PGA Tour joining forces with Justin Timberlake to host to save this week's Las Vegas event and after everything we know about him I'm not really quite sure what the fuss is all about. He's one of the biggest stars in the world and a potentially huge aid in improving the game's image with people under the age of 30. Of course there will always be letters like this one Bob Carney posted at about putting "JT" on the cover (the reader probably thinking Bing and Glen were nightly churchgoers).

If you read Craig Bestrom's Digest interview with Timberlake, you'll find that's he very much in touch with what's going on in the game, he's passionate about playing and he really, really hates slow play. How can you not respect that?


Tiger at the 99 Cents Store!

I walked into the local 99 Cents store (hey, don't even think of knocking it until you try it) and was greeted by case-upon-case of Tiger Gatorade offered at .59 cents. Why do I think this is not a positive brand association? And is it obvious yet that there isn't much news to comment on?


Seve On Their Mind

Plenty of nice memories of Seve Ballesteros filed by writers contemplating his health predicament.

James Lawton writes the most evocative piece:

Yet in the crisis that has come to him these last few days, there has been at least a hint of a more philosophical and composed Ballesteros. The flood of affection that has poured into the hospital from all over the world has plainly been of comfort, reminded him, if he had forgotten somewhat in the darkest days of his divorce and the death of a girlfriend and the accumulated angst that life can bring in less dramatic circumstances, that he had indeed touched so many hearts with his extraordinary talent and, not least, his competitive cojones.

"I have always sympathised with those people who face illnesses. Therefore, I want to remind them that with bravery, faith, serenity, confidence and a lot of mental strength, we have to face any situation, no matter how difficult it is," he said.

Maybe it remains only to pray that this proves more than a noble epitaph to one of the most engaging, and thrilling, sportsmen who ever lived. Seve Ballesteros, at the worst of times, has always been full of life. Serenity? Perhaps not so much, but for this he has, no doubt, reached into the bag at precisely the right time.

Ron Sirak shares his thoughts and memories:
If Arnold Palmer gets credit for bringing the Open Championship back to major championship status by traveling to Britain in 1960 to play in it, Ballesteros gets at least equal credit for making the Ryder Cup relevant again and for expanding the borders of golf beyond the United States and Britain to Europe and eventually Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.
John Hopkins considers the magnitude of Seve's plight has hit Europe and in particular, golf fans in the U.K., as does Lewine Mair in the Telegraph.

Pete Jenson reports on the mood in Spain and quotes Seve's countrymen Garcia and Jimenez wishing him well.

Neil Squires delivers a few great Seve stories, including one from David Feherty.

Mike Aitken puts Seve's struggles into perspective.

Jeff Rude
(here) and Steve Elling (here) offer American perspectives.


Armchair Golf Blog Interview

Neil Sagebiel at the Armchair Golf Blog sends a few questions my way about the Ryder Cup, next year's majors and Tiger.


Weekends Just Got A Little More Dull: Golf Channel Lands Early Weekend PGA Tour Coverage

In the buried lede department, Jon Show and John Ourand report that Golf Channel is going to get 2 1/2 hours more of early PGA Tour coverage when CBS televises weekends

But this seemed like the better part of the deal for Golf Channel, especially for those of who don't want to clog up our DVR's with a tour event telecast:

Golf Channel can also replay all weekend coverage in prime time and package a highlight show that would air on Monday nights.


Expert: St. Andrews Doomed By 2050; It's OK, Tiger Will Have Already Played His Last Open Thanks To 65 Rule

This BBC report that an environmental expert in St Andrews has warned the year 2050 could see the Old Course crumble into the North Sea.

But just think of the waterfront views the Old Course Hotel will have.

The accompanying image ran with the BBC story. Thanks to reader Graham for this.


Phil Utters Obscenity; Street Cred Zooms!

Phil Mickelson's Entourage cameo included the use of the word "ass" (is that actually an obscenity?) and a performance that was, frankly, nuanced and subtle compared to the over-the-top mess turned in by former Oscar winner Martin Laundau (who appeared dressed to reprise the Mr. Havercamp role from Caddyshack).

So Phil's got that going for him.


"I thought I would have been itchy to get back..."

While Doug Ferguson analyzes the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour's various soft spots in light of the recent economic collapse, I think Tiger's answer in the Today Show interview to the question about getting away from the game is more disturbing.

Check out the video here.

He was asked if it has been good to get away and replied that he: "thought I would have been itchy to get back but after going through it I'm really not that itchy to get back," then cites the inability to rotate on his knee as the reason he doesn't have the itch.


"Los mejores deseos para el futuro, amigo."

Doctors have said Seve had a "partial epileptic fit" and are awaiting more test results. Meanwhile, John Huggan reflects on the great champion's career and like so many others, hopes for the best.

Hopefully that legendary desire to succeed, along with the good wishes of millions of golf fans around the globe, will be enough to sustain Ballesteros as he awaits the results of tests that may or may not confirm the presence of a brain tumour. Los mejores deseos para el futuro, amigo.


"But just a step lower, the market is vulnerable."

The Wall Street Journal's John Paul Newport says the news isn't all bad for golf. There are still a lot of rich people!

In North America alone, there are more than 40,000 families with investable assets of $30 million or more, according to the CapGemini/Merrill Lynch World Wealth Report, and approximately 300,000 U.S. taxpayers with reported annual incomes greater than $1 million, according to the IRS. Among them are many golf nuts. To say nothing of the huddled masses of superrich abroad.
New residential golf developments in the U.S. are few and far between, leading to a net standstill in golf-course openings generally. More courses closed than opened in both 2006 and 2007, according to the National Golf Foundation, a sharp contrast to the course-building boom that started in the 1990s.

Even top-drawer designers are feeling the pinch. "I've got quite a few projects in the U.S.," Mr. Nicklaus told me recently, "but they have all kind of slowed down or are on hold or are kind of waiting until the economy turns a little bit." Tom Doak, the celebrated designer of Pacific Dunes in Oregon and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, doesn't lack for work but in recent months has seen two of the courses he designed struggle: St. Andrews Beach in Australia is closed and for sale, and Beechtree in Maryland will shut down in December.

"The people I really worry about are the young designers and apprentices coming up, and the talented course superintendents and club pros who are suddenly out of a job," Mr. Doak said.
Now this is interesting...
For golfers still clinging to jobs, there is an upside. Less demand and more supply equals bargains. But even many seemingly successful clubs and golf communities aren't filled to capacity, which often means higher fees and assessments for members and, in some cases, extreme difficultly leaving without taking a bath.
Could this be the moment that private clubs in the U.S. start going semi-private like our friends in Scotland? Or will they go down in flames before taking a little outside play?

Meanwhile, there's still Tiger's project for the super wealthy, which prompted Newport's column. Now, those of us invited to the press conference launching Punta Brava were forbidden from asking personal life questions. Perhaps because he'd filled his quota for the month in this Today Show interview?


Phil On Entourage

Tod Leonard reminds us that Phil Mickelson's Entourage cameo is Sunday night.


Latest On Seve

Graham Keeley in The Times reports that Seve has a brain tumor, but the hospital won't confirm. Say it ain't so.


“What we are hearing puts everything into perspective in a heartbeat,” said Montgomerie, who played under Ballesteros at Valderrama.

“Seve has this fighting spirit, this never-say-die approach. He has come back from four down with nine to play to defeat both Paul Azinger and Raymond Floyd and he has done much the same against me a couple of times. His great attitude and his passion should serve him well now.”


"Yep, we've been looking."

Alan Bastable asks Tiger a few different questions about his course design work, including this...

Q: All three of your courses will be private and ultra high-end. What about Joe Public?

A: When it's all said and done, I will have a whole portfolio of golf courses — not just high-end private courses.

Q: Are you currently looking to develop a public course?

A: Yep, we've been looking.

There are plenty of millitary courses that could use some love and care. If Tiger ever wants to do some different charity work that is consistent with his family history, he could do some really great things for our nation's servicemen and women.

Just a thought.


Guardian: Seve "Grave"

I sure don't like the sound of this Giles Tremlett report in the Guardian. I hope this optimistic Scotsman item is the more accurate take.


Re-routing Harding?!

The PGA Tour re-routed Robert Trent Jones Golf Club to accomodate luxury boxes but I don't recall it really helping, yet they've done the same with Harding Park for the President's Cup as Ron Kroichick reports:

PGA Tour officials plan only one physical change to the course for next year's event: They will build a new tee on what the public knows as No. 9 (it will be No. 18 for the Presidents Cup), stretching it to 535 yards. That hole will play as a par-5 next October; it played as a par-4 (at less than 500 yards) for the American Express Championship in 2005.

Tour officials also will "re-route" the course, so the customary closing holes - Nos. 16, 17 and 18 - will become Nos. 13, 14 and 15. (This makes it more likely matches will reach those holes.) The holes that are normally Nos. 1, 7 and 9 will become Nos. 16, 17 and 18, respectively.

Those new finishers may be the least interesting holes on the course. Something to not look forward to.


"There are a number of ideas on the table"

Steve Elling says that Tim Finchem is going before the PAC board in Vegas to lay out FedEx Cup possibilities. SInce he's gotten it wrong so far, why not let him fix this problem.

Even by Vegas standards, where chaos is a nightly and desired occurrence, that sounds like a potentially frenetic panel discussion, eh? Let's see, that's 20 golfers arguing over a half-dozen completely different points plans, which sounds like an exchange of flying elbows and opinions not seen since the tour last served free sushi at the media buffet table.
Interestingly, I was incorrect in guessing that the best case alternative was being quietly pushed by the Tour's media folks. I should not have given them so much credit for (A) a good idea, and (B) having the ability to sway writers into reporting it as a likely alternative. Elling reveals the source:
The Chamblee model: First espoused by Golf Channel analyst and former tour player Brandel Chamblee, his spin calls for the 72-hole stroke-play event to be staged to end on Saturday, with an 18-hole shootout for the $10 million held the following day featuring a handful of the top points earners. This plan ensures that the 72-hole tournament isn't diminished and creates additional drama Sunday, although if one player goes low, it risks being a runaway no matter what the tour does. Moreover, if a player finishes eighth in each of the four FedEx events and qualifies for the Sunday shootout, then fires a 65 and wins, does that player truly deserve the $10 million? If four players make the Sunday final, the difference between first and fourth could be a couple of shots -- and a difference of $8.5 million in bonus money. Is that fair? "Do we really want to go that route?" Dennis asked. "I don't know."

The Chamblee model is the Tour's best alternative at this point because it (A) guarantees a must see Sunday, which has always been a must, (B) allows them to do something different than the LPGA even though the ADT Championship model would be far more rivetting and memorable, and (C) did I mention that this allows them to do something different than what the LPGA does to end their season?

Naturally, Finchem in a room with mostly guys who are good at their job because they dont' think too much could be dangerous. Still, it'd be fun to listen in!


Azinger Regrets Not Being There To Tell Boo and J.B. To Avoid The Big Lake On 18

Apparently his boys were so stupid focused on the job at hand that they needed to be told to hit the fairway?

Brian Hewitt reports:

“There’s only one thing I would have done differently at Valhalla,” Azinger said. “And that would have been making sure I was on the tee box on the 18th hole in the Friday afternoon fourballs match when Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes both hit their balls in the water. If I had been, I would have made sure they knew where their tee balls needed to be.”

Holmes and Weekley had a 1-up lead at the time over Lee Westwood and Soren Hansen and wound up halving their match as a result of the wayward drives.

“I was really kicking myself Friday night,” Azinger told FM104.3 The Fan, a Denver-based sports talk radio show hosted by Jerry Walters and Jon Lawrence. “I was by the 17th green and I couldn’t get my cart to the 18th tee because of a TV tower. I should have gotten off the cart and just walked through the tower. Fortunately for me, that was my only regret for the week.”

"We're just happy to be coming back to a great golf course."

In Leonard Shapiro's story on Tiger's tournament moving to Aronimink for two years, I couldn't help but wonder after reading this what they'll do if the players inevitably fall in love with Aronimink and dread returning to dreary Congressional.

McLaughlin said he was "thrilled" that the tournament will return to Congressional after 2011, despite the close vote. "It gives us clarity that we know we will be back in Washington at Congressional from 2012 to 2014. It's difficult to speculate on why the vote was so close this time. We're just happy to be coming back to a great golf course."


"The club has made alterations that will help the course assume some of its former personality."

Thanks to reader Don for catching this in Lorne Rubenstein's column on Mike Weir's interest in course design:

Tournament chairman Billy Payne told Weir during the Tour Championship in Atlanta two weeks ago that the club has made alterations that will help the course assume some of its former personality.

"They've moved the tee up on 7 and changed the green contours there," Weir said of the tight par-4. "There are other changes also, at 11 where the tee's been moved up a bit, and maybe at 18, too."

Punta Brava Press Conference

I had the good fortune of attending the press conference today announcing Tiger Woods' new Mexico project, a Red McCombs-backed real estate and golf development that was originally set to be a Tom Fazio design.

Looking at the site photos, routing and descriptions, it appears Tiger held his ground and landed some truly stunning seaside holes. In fact, based on the awkward chuckling amongst Woods, McCombs and the principals over the decision to use seaside land for golf instead of lots, there surely were battles that Tiger ultimately won.  I can't think of any other architect who would have the clout to pull off such a feat (you'll see what I mean when you look at the routing). Certainly Tiger is the only player architect other than Ben Crenshaw who would put up such a fight. (Sorry Jack, but I've seen El Dorado!)

You can check out the site photos and all of the other over-the-top press stuff here (hit the Play link and then the Tiger Woods link in the upper right to see the video we saw today, which looks like a Ridley Scott film).

There is also this press release encapsulating all of the details, and this Christina Lewis interview in the Wall Street Journal.

The event itself was oddly tense, and not because it was poorly planned or executed. Quite the opposite. The Hotel Bel-Air was the site and the invitation list kept very strict (I know, that doesn't explain how I got in). Those in attendance knew almost nothing about the project before the booming video and suits took their seats.

But considering what's going on in the world markets and based on the paucity of the usual butt-kissing enthusiasm during the Q&A, I sensed the media present were not too excited to cheer on a high-end project being built for the kind of people who have just milked our system and will be retiring on their golden parachutes. Obviously bad luck timing-wise for the Punta Brava people.

That said, unlike Tiger's first two design projects which look like real-estate driven deals on weak sites, this is one I can't wait to see. It's also going to raise the stakes for Tiger, as the pressure to produce will be great on such a dramatic site.