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Because it involves the reduction of activity to some dead mathematical formula, the giving of handicaps has always been a difficult problem to solve. In golf this difficulty has been further accentuated in the failure to perceive that a round of golf is not a continuous performance such as a race, but is divided into 18 separate parts. MAX BEHR



"I got amped after watching Cirbie Sheppard, a competitor on Golf Channel's 'Big Break Kaanapali'"

Golf World's Jaime Diaz notes the "mini-spike" in slow play outrage and summarizes in succinct fashion the many issues the golf world faces if it hopes to confront the issue. More disturbing than the slow play is what got Jaime fired up:

David Toms, Boo Weekley and even Tiger Woods all have sounded off. So did R&A chief executive Peter Dawson. Personally, I got amped after watching Cirbie Sheppard, a competitor on Golf Channel's "Big Break Kaanapali," haplessly indulge in a reported seven minutes (the ordeal was shown in fast motion) of pacing, club changing and general dithering before getting herself to hit a simple chip shot.

One of, if not the most esteemed writer in the game today watching the Big Break Kaanapali?

It's one thing to watch it Jaime, but to admit it in print is a cause for concern! 


Fifth-of-Four Majors Watch: The Onslaught

players_header_logo.gifWith the course renovations, a new May date and that shopping mall erected behind the 18th green, the media had little choice but to shelve the traditional fifth major stories last year. But they've come back with a vengeance.

Judging by the cast of notables filing their answer to golf's least important question, I'd guess some editors have been telling their correspondents to settle the vital question of The Players' major status.

Larry Bohannan files this grabber of a lede:  

Is The Players Championship, being played this week literally up the street from the headquarters of the PGA Tour in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the fifth major of men's golf?
Ken Willis offers five reasons The Players is a major. Get it? Five. I smell a GWAA award. Bruce Young drops "fifth major" in his opening sentence, then fails to put us through the misery of laying out a case. What a tease.

Lawrence Donegan (say it ain't so!) refers to the "age-old" question of fifth major status. Not sure about the age part, but it's definitely an old question.

Jim McCabe at least allows me to end this post with some realistic perspective. We'll ignore his line about the 17th being a "hideous excuse of a golf hole," point you to Lorne Rubenstein's column on No. 17, and let Jim put the fifth major story watch to rest...until next year:

When you touch five bases after hitting a grand slam, we’ll add a fifth tournament to the major championship landscape. Until then, there are four and only four major championships — the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and the PGA Championship. Everything else is a golf tournament.

"They got me while I'm still upright, so that's pretty good, too."

may_dye_299x360.jpgBill Fields reports that Pete Dye is headed for the World Golf Hall of Fame.

"I can't believe it," Dye told Golf World of the honor. "I was totally surprised. They're putting me in there with a lot of people who have done a lot for the game of golf. They got me while I'm still upright, so that's pretty good, too."

Dye, 82, will become the fifth person enshrined for his work as a course architect, joining Robert Trent Jones, C.B. Macdonald, Alister Mackenzie and Donald Ross.

Meanwhile, Josh Sanburn at interviews Dye.
What's the biggest issue facing everyday golfers?

Cost. Fewer people are playing but they're paying more. If you add tees and length to a course, you have to escalate the cost. And they're not only lengthening courses, they're putting in new grasses and increasing the speed of the greens. "We're not as fast as Augusta!" — that's all superintendents talk about. And now you've got a $40,000 machine cutting them.

So what's the solution?

The escalating costs will stop that. The USGA and the Augustas — they haven't been listening. We have to cut back costs and make courses more environmentally sensitive. You don't have to have emerald green from one end of the course to the other.

Over at, Steve Elling points out that the TPC Sawgrass is a democratic design.

In an era when PGA Tour courses often are amenable mostly to certain styles of play from week to week, favoring either ball-bashers or ball-trackers, Sawgrass discriminates based solely on talent, a masterstroke of design carved from a snake-choked swamp by a man who on Tuesday was announced as the first member of the World Golf Hall of Fame class for 2008.

Psssst. Truth be told, it's an accidental masterpiece on that front.

"It's a secret," Dye deadpanned when asked about the course's open-arms value. "If I tried to tell you, I'd just be lying, so what the heck? I haven't any idea, to tell you the truth."


"Companies are so much more sophisticated in their analytics of measuring value."

bosstalk08091999173907.gifThe unbiquitous Tim Finchem was in the press room today at The Players and in the pages of the Wall Street Journal where John Paul Newport asked questions for the "Boss Talk" feature.

First the Journal, which included exclusively in print "5 Tips From Tim Finchem For Managing Well." We'll save those for another post tomorrow.

I found this interesting:

WSJ: There has been some criticism by players of the Tour's new drug policy -- not the need for it but the fact that players will have to be watched giving samples.

Mr. Finchem: The doping stuff is an interesting phenomenon in that virtually all the younger players, from say 32 or 33 down, say this is a no-brainer. Many of them have been tested in college, observed testing. Some of the older players who have been around for 2½ decades bristle a little bit. And I think that's totally understandable. I don't like it in sports generally, and I don't like it for golf in particular because in golf we play by the rules and know the rules and call rules on ourselves and drug testing smacks of, "OK, we don't trust you." But the reality is, drug policy has to be a credible exercise. Our image is probably our No. 1 asset.

Okay, that was fun while it lasted. Break out your businesspeak bingo boards.

WSJ: Image is important to tournament sponsors. How are they holding up in light of this possible recession?

Mr. Finchem: Over the last 20 years in my experience, every time there is a recession, companies that want to be involved in this platform redouble their efforts to scrutinize every nickel they are spending. This is stressful for us. But when they come out of it, you've got a partner that is more educated about the possibilities. Companies are so much more sophisticated in their analytics of measuring value. It's very different than it was years ago.

There are some companies that are primarily focused on the branding/advertising side of the equation. There are other companies that are primarily interested in taking advantage of the platform from an incentivization [perspective], for their employees or business to business. But if they are narrowly focused in their approach, they tend not to have a long relationship with us. Companies that take advantage of all the elements are getting the most value and stick with us. By that I mean a public-relations interface, a charitable interface, an operating interface from the standpoint of getting business to business, and of course a branding/advertising interface.

So good to see platform and incentivization making a comeback. I missed them. 

In the press room, Finchem offered a nice tribute to retiring TPC super Fred Klauk, then borrowed a page from Billy Payne's Handbook on Schmoozing Media That Will Fall For Anything. Finchem singled out those who have covered way too many Tournament Players Championships The Players Championships The PLAYERS.

Let me also, since we are talking about milestones; that we have a number of people in the media who have been with us for a good number of years. Some of these people I'm going to mention may not like to be mentioned in this context, but nevertheless, it's our 35th year here at THE PLAYERS, and Melanie Hauser has been with us for 25 years; Tim Rosaforte has been covering here for 26 years; and both John Hopkins and Furman Bisher have been here 28 years; and Tom Stein has been here 27 years.

Take that Herb Wind!

With that,

...where I've greased some of you up but don't have neat little awards to give you...

I'll take a few questions and try to answer whatever you'd like to ask me.

Q. I know at last week's players meeting, slow play was one of the main items on the agenda. Do you accept the premise that it's a problem, and if so, do you have any specific ideas in mind as to what you might do about it?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It's a complicated subject that I'd be happy to spend some more time with you off-line perhaps later in the week.

Off line. I'm sorry, is this an instant message session?

He yoddles on for a bit about all of the factors influencing pace, then says...
But because some of these factors have accentuated in recent years, it's come to a point where we are going to have to really analyze all of it and ask ourselves: Is there a better way to do it, whether it relates to a slow player, whether it relates to the setup of the golf course, whether it relates to field sizes and the rest, and we are committed to doing that.
We feel strongly on this issue now. I think it's a whole other debate as to the extent to which what people watch on the air impacts how long it takes the average player. I watch virtually all of our golf on the air, and it doesn't make me a slow player, as I want to get done as fast as I can get done. But there is that sense that we need to set a good example, too.

So we have identified not a complete list, but certainly the beginning of a framework of how to effectively analyze this subject more effectively. I think it's time to do that, and I think it's a combination of identifying things that could be done in communicating effectively, primarily with players, talking about the professional; but also yourselves and the fans about what the realities are, what the causes are and what steps could be done.

Q. Might you consider the steps the LPGA has done, such as timing players without even warning them, and penalizing them?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Sure, absolutely, that would be one of many things on the list. Some of these things require more staff. Some of them require more expenditure.
But rather than go forward and say let's go try this and let's go try this, we want to try a more comprehensive approach to it.

Well, that's a start?


"This is a worldwide event that they'll be talking about in the pubs of England."

Marisa Lagos in the San Francisco Chronicle addresses privitization rumors for the San Francisco city courses while Tod Leonard in the San Diego Union Tribune does the same thing for San Diego's crown jewel, Torrey Pines.

At Torrey it's the same old story, with Lodge owner Bill Evans seen as the likely operator, even though he flat out denies it and doesn't play golf or apparently, even like it. Especially because he's (claiming) that the U.S. Open won't be a cash cow.

However, Evans does have strong opinions about the matter. 

“There is a responsibility to run the golf courses in the most profitable manner we can,” Evans said. “Golf is such an island among Park and Rec. It doesn't benefit the overall general citizens of San Diego. A large percentage of the owners of the golf course will never play golf.

As for the U.S. Open, Evans said he is “sick of hearing that it benefits me more than anybody else.”

Evans would not comment about the possibility of striking a similar deal with the USGA for future U.S. Opens here.

“This benefits all citizens. This is a worldwide event that they'll be talking about in the pubs of England. Maybe those people will want to visit. Maybe they'll move a business to San Diego. Not everything people do is motivated by greed.”

No, just most things! 


"Having to play V-grooves only would make me try to stay in the fairway more than I do today."

Beatnik and Gonzo over at pretty must shred to pieces the reported European Tour player questionnaire on grooves, then obtain the actual document and are largely validated in their skepticism. Still I was pleased to see they were asking players whether they thought the rule change would discourage flogging of tee shots.



"Tigris Woods Golf and Country Club"

greenzone10d.jpgThough April Fool's Day was last month, apparently the Pentagon is a bit slow when it comes recognizing important holidays. Or, as Michael Howard reports in The Guardian, this is truly disturbing:

A $5bn (£2.5bn) tourism and development scheme for the Green Zone being hatched by the Pentagon and an international investment consortium would give the heavily fortified area on the banks of the Tigris a "dream" makeover that will become a magnet for Iraqis, tourists, business people and investors. About half of the area is now occupied by coalition forces, the US state department or private foreign companies.

The US military released the first tentative artists' impression yesterday. An army source said the barbed wire, concrete blast barriers and checkpoints that currently disfigure the 5 sq mile area would be replaced by shopping malls, hotels, elegant apartment blocks and leisure parks. "This is at the end of the day an Iraqi-owned area and we will give it back to them with added value," said the source, who requested anonymity.

Yep, that value is what they are looking for these days in Baghdad. They have MBA's running around the Pentagno now!

According to several stories, military planners have apparently dubbed the golf course portion of the development, "Tigris Woods Golf and Country Club."

I'm sure Tiger, with his family ties to the military and respect for the service of our troops, will find that to be really, really cute. 


"I was pretty surprised."

Buried in Jim Gorant's weekly roundup for SI Golf Plus:

A players' meeting was held last week at Wachovia, and conversation on two topics became animated and went on for more than a half hour each: slow play, a perennial problem; and near-unanimous criticism of Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tilghman. Said one player in attendance who asked not to be identified, "I was pretty surprised."



Tiger Ratings Impact, Vol. 391

Thomas Bonk, in his online Los Angeles Times column:
If there was any doubt about how much Woods influences ratings, check out the weekend's overnight ratings from the Wachovia on CBS.

Saturday's overnight metered market rating was a 1.4 -- down 42% from the 2.4 rating in 2007 when Woods was in contention. And Sunday's overnight metered market rating was a 1.8 -- down 53% from the 3.8 last year when Woods wound up winning.

Woods is out of action because of knee surgery. In the meantime, CBS is crossing its fingers that he returns in three weeks at the Memorial, which is on the network's broadcast schedule.

PLAYERS Previews: No Word Yet On Kenny G Return Engagement

players_az.jpgGarry Smits reports that after last year's long list of changes, this year sees relatively few alterations to the event. Not mentioned is whether Kenny G will be used again to make the champion regret winning. has more of those cool Fred Vuich Gigapan images let you analyze over-renovated bunkers or analyze the clubhouse exterior design that only a Saudi prince could love.

The 17th Hole gets it's usual bit of attention, with Bill Pennington offering this from Butch Harmon

“What’s amazing is that if that green were surrounded by sand instead of water, those guys would never miss the green,” the coach Butch Harmon said of the 17th hole. “They’re such good sand players, it wouldn’t faze them a bit. But it isn’t sand. So all week at the Players Championship, everyone avoids the subject. Those guys don’t even want to talk about it.”
John Huggan isn't a fan:
Add in the inherent daftness and lowbrow appeal of the island green 17th hole, a circus-like golfing gimmick where any pretence at sophistication is notably absent, and the Players won't be making any steps up in status any time soon.

Sorry Tim. Maybe you'll have better luck in your next life as an unelected tin-pot dictator in a 'fifth-world' country. Oh… hang on, that sounds suspiciously like this life.

Meanwhile at Jason Sobel is soliciting favorite 17th hole stories.

Brett Avery of Golf World compiles a history of the event and a course map for those of you collecting PDF's.

Finally, in the fifth of four major watch, we have two swell entries today. They do not quite scream out, "I've run out of ideas." Nonetheless, they are fifth-major themed, which is always disturbing.

Neil Squires submits what seems like an inane case, but salvages it with this from Lee Westwood.
But for all its attractions, Sawgrass will never quite measure up for some. “The last thing we need is another American Major,” said Lee Westwood.

“If we’re going to have one, it should be in Australia. They have some great courses there and you could rotate the venue.

Finally, Derek Lawrenson must be really happy with his room at the Marriott because he offers five reasons "why this week's Players' — like last year's Players' — will knock the Masters into a cocked hat."


"A rollback in equipment...would be a huge boon to the golf industry in my opinion."

Thanks to reader Mark for this Tom Kite interview from last week. He appeared with Steve Czaban, host "The First Team On Fox," a nationally syndicated Fox Sports Radio show.

After the usual small talk Czaban asked Kite if he's longer now than he was in his prime. Kite says he's about 10 yards longer now than at his peak.

Czaban then asks if this is a good thing. Kite's reply: 

A: No, it's very detrimental to the game. All you have to do is look all over the place and you can hear all of these comments about how the game is not growing. Why isn't the game growing? It takes too long to play golf. It's too expensive to play golf. Those are the two most comment things that are cited for why the game doesn't grow. Well it takes longer to play an 8,000 yard course than it does a 6,500 yard golf course. Why does it cost more? It takes more money to maintain an 8,000 yard course with wider fairways and wider golf course envelopes than a 6,500 yard course. The fact that architects are forced to design golf try to build a golf course that stands up to the technology and what does it do? It makes the courses more expensive, you need more land to build the courses on and consequently the game is more expensive and takes longer to play and those are the two reasons why everybody keeps saying the game is not growing.

A rollback in equipment, which probably will never happen, but a rollback in the metal woods, in the graphite shafts and specifically the ball, would be a huge boon to the golf industry in my opinion.

Q: Who out there right now is really leading the push for that.

Nobody. Nobody. Right now the manufacturers are the ones running the game. The USGA basically lost the war when they didn't stand up to Karsten Solheim on the square grooves issue years and years ago. They backed down, they basically said if you have money and have sharp attorneys, the USGA will back down and they have ever since. Unfortunately they and the R&A are the rulemaking bodies and it's not going to happen in my opinion.

Well, glad Tom's already picked up that Bobby Jones Award from the USGA.

Can they revoke those? Let's hope not.  


Questions For The Commish: 2008 Players Edition

The fifth-of-four majors means Wednesday will include a Tim Finchem "state of the tour" gathering with the media. I have a few questions, and naturally, your questions are encouraged to excite the scribes to break off a juicy curveball.

The USGA and R&A are at a stalemate over the grooves issue, with the R&A holding up the previously proposed change to competition conditions for 2009. You have stated the PGA Tour would "like to see the groove configuration requirements changed."  Would the PGA Tour consider joining forces with the USGA to support action at some point if the R&A continues to resist acting?
You told Sports Illustrated's Alan Shipnuck that "an organization needs to be constantly refreshed," yet you joked that you may stay on beyond the end of your current contract. Why do you feel the commissioner's job is above refreshment?

The R&A's Peter Dawson revealed that slow play is on the table for the World Golf Federation meetings. The PGA Tour has not issued a 2-shot penalty in 16 years. Do you have any specific proposals on the table?


R&A Gets No Love From CBS

Check out's bulletin board fun with the way CBS refers to the governing body of golf outside North America.


Ochoa's Streak Ends; LPGA Once Again Makes For Better Viewing Than The PGA Tour

creamer2.jpgOf the parts I caught (hey, the Lakers were on...), today's Semgroup Championship in Tulsa was far more fun to watch than the Wachovia rout by Anthony Kim. It never hurts when firey types like Paula Creamer and Angela Stanford are contending while veterans like Juli Inkster are in pursuit.

Doug Ferguson filed a lively game story, which included this:

Lost in a terrific duel was the end of Lorena Ochoa's winning streak. Going for a record-tying fifth straight victory, Ochoa never got on track, even in a final round absent of much wind. She closed with a 2-under 69 to tie for fifth, five shots behind.

"It's done," Ochoa said. "I tried really hard and it didn't work. Hopefully, I'll start a new streak next week."

The 21-year-old Creamer won for the first time without her parents at the tournament, another small step in proving she can do it all by herself. She immediately called Nancy Lopez, her former Solheim Cup captain and mentor who was in Florida last week consoling Creamer.

This time, Creamer was beaming. She only smiled when asked if Lopez was crying.

Creamer was fuming after some of her mistakes, slamming the end of her putter into her bag after a three-putt on the 13th, then leaving the tee box during a delay to use the concrete crease in a cart path to check her alignment.

And another impressive Lorena stat:

Ochoa's bid to join Lopez and Sorenstam with her fifth straight LPGA Tour victory never got off the ground. She broke par at Cedar Ridge for the first time all week, but starting eight shots behind, it wasn't even close. She had to settle for her eighth consecutive top 10.

Golf Digest Announces Contest Winner, Sparing Us Of Having To Look At That Annoying Photo Of The Finalists

usopencontest2_470.jpgJohn Atkinson will be the lucky soul who gets to play Torrey Pines for free with Tony Romo, Matt Lauer and Justin Timberlake.

In the write up on Atkinson's winning of the online vote, I noticed this line about the setup.

They'll play from the same tees, which can stretch the course to more than 7,600 yards, to similar hole locations that players will face in the final round of the U.S. Open.

I guess this means that players would be wise to get a scouting report on the event?

Somehow I doubt Mike Davis will tip his hand by using the final round locations for this exhibition. 


No Synergy Here!

A cynical reader noticed this coincidental front page photo of U.S. Open entrant Michael Chang backed by an IBM logo, which happened to appear the week the USGA announced a new partnership with...IBM. I explained to the reader that this was likely not intentional as cropping the photo down to just Chang's torso and head would have altered the sense of place and corporate whoring by the USTA, which so kindly provided the image.



If You Have The Opportunity...

ROAE_hdr2.jpg...don't miss Lewis Black's current stand up tour if he's in a city near you.

The master curmudgeon is doing 10-12 minutes of his act!


"That's a pretty good record of identification."

John Huggan appears to be the only writer who saw through R&A secretary/in-house architect Peter Dawson's presentation earlier this week. You know, the one where he explained how he was renovating 16 of 18 holes at Birkdale to fit the game that has move on somewhat.
As Dawson trawled through the various changes made to 16 of Birkdale's 18 holes (16!) in the decade since the game's most important championship last made the trip to Southport, it was hard to suppress an ever-increasing level of incredulity. Justifying those alterations with the kiss-off line that "golf has moved on somewhat since then", Dawson was careful not to mention the real reason why Birkdale has joined an ever-lengthening list of classic courses that have been stretched to within an inch of their boundary fences.

Using carefully chosen phrases like "challenge to the modern-day player" and "increased player capability," Dawson, not for the first time, disguised the fact that the current "programme of significant change" that is well under way at every Open venue has virtually nothing whatsoever to do with the players themselves and virtually everything to do with the collective and joint abrogation of responsibility by the R&A and the United States Golf Association when it comes to their (lack of) legislation on the modern golf ball. Had today's equipment been properly regulated over the last decade and a half, it is a safe bet that the likes of Augusta National and the Old Course at St Andrews, to name but two classic courses that have been forced to endure unnecessary change, would not have had to be screwed up to the extent they have been.

This is juicy about 2009 host Turnberry:
It was reported last week that the Ailsa course that will host next year's Open Championship will be "narrower, longer and tougher." To which the obvious response is: "why?"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but on the three previous occasions in which the Ayrshire links has hosted the world's best golfers, the winner of the championship has been the world's best golfer at the time: Tom Watson in 1977, Greg Norman in 1986 and Nick Price in 1994. That's a pretty good record of identification.

Not only that, but every one of those Opens – in three very different weeks weather-wise – were events that have already lived long in the memories of those lucky enough to witness them. The first one, in fact, the so-called "Duel in the Sun" between Watson and Jack Nicklaus, was so good it transcended golf and became one of the great sporting occasions of the last 50 years.

So, tell me again, why is it that the course on which those great events were played is suddenly deemed inadequate, especially when the R&A, unlike their counterparts at the USGA, are forever claiming that the winning score is, to them, irrelevant?

"We calculate that golf courses have had to cut back 97% on their water usage in this drought, while other water-using industries were only asked to reduce by 10%"

PT-AI374_Golf2_20080502182639.jpgJohn Paul Newport uses his Saturday WSJ column to look at the water usage debate, with ominous signs for the future.
In Georgia, it has already begun. "We calculate that golf courses have had to cut back 97% on their water usage in this drought, while other water-using industries were only asked to reduce by 10%," says Mike Crawford, president of the Georgia chapter of the superintendents association and the course superintendent at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Ga. "We want to be a good partner, but that's not fair. Golf is a $3.5 billion industry in this state."

Nationwide, golf-course irrigation consumes less than half of 1% of the 408 billion gallons of water used daily, a golf-industry report concludes.

Even so, that's a lot of water -- two billion gallons a day, or enough to satisfy the household needs of more than two-thirds of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. And it's clear from the pioneering work that some courses have done in reducing water usage how much less water golf overall could get by on.

Four years ago, for instance, the Olympic Club and two other courses in the San Francisco area collaborated on a project to reclaim wastewater before it was discharged into the ocean. The courses now irrigate exclusively with this nonpotable "gray water," as do 12% of U.S. courses.

Many courses have also scaled back the acreage they maintain as turf, substituting low-maintenance vegetation in areas where golfers are unlikely to hit balls. Moisture-metering systems, coupled with watering systems that use as many as 3,000 computer-controlled sprinkler heads, allow some superintendents to spot-water only when and where the turf needs it.

Finchem To Advocate Paying Speeding Tickets In Virginia Law Commencement Address

finchem_tim.jpgThanks to reader Phil for the news that PGA Tour Comissioner Tim Finchem is going to address University of Virginia law school graduates on May 18th. Fire up the jet!
“The graduation speaker is charged with the task of sparking inspiration and confidence in our class,” said Brian Leung, president of the Student Bar Association, who helped choose this year’s speaker.
Wait until he starts talking about value modulations. Maybe he'll liven things up by suggesting to those with political aspirations to not get so many speeding tickets because it just may make you a multi-millionaire.