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Golf is the Great Mystery. Like some capricious goddess, it bestows its favours with what would appear an almost fat-headed lack of method and discrimination. On every side we see two-fisted he-men floundering round in three figures, stopping every few minutes to let through little shrimps with knock-knees and hollow cheeks, who are tearing off snappy seventy-fours. Giants of finance have to accept a stroke per from their junior clerks. Men capable of governing empires fail to control a small, white ball, which presents no difficulties whatever to others with one ounce more brain than a cuckoo-clock. Mysterious, but there it is.  P.G. WODEHOUSE



Oh Kanada...

How about Craig Kanada chipping in on each of the last two holes to win the Nationwide Championship and his PGA Tour card for 2007.


"It's all about money. It's all about the pension."

From Seth Soffian in the News-Press of Southwest Florida:

Greg Norman drew the ire of some PGA Tour members recently when he criticized today's players for lacking charisma and the overt desire to challenge world No. 1 Tiger Woods.

On Saturday, he drew support from partner Nick Faldo in the Merrill Lynch Shootout. After their round, Faldo told CBS, for whom he will become lead analyst next year, that the riches in today's game have robbed players of the single-minded will to win.

"It's all about money. It's all about the pension," Faldo said after Norman again raised the topic.


"We have a great group of guys out here calling penalties on themselves, let alone thinking about drug tests."

Greg Hardwig in the Naples News talked to various Shark Shootout contestants about the idea of drug testing.

"If you were to do that (steroid testing), I think it'd be an interesting thing to do," says Fred Couples. "I know the sponsors would probably support you, but I think the tour would work something out to suspend you. I'm not for it; I'm not against it. I think it would be very interesting.

"The next question would be, do you think anyone's on steroids? I would say I have no idea, which would probably mean that someone is on them."


And now for the fantasyland perspective:

"If you suspect someone, yes, but what we have now is probably OK," says Scott Verplank. "If they suspect something's going on, the commissioner has the right to basically levy any penalty he wants, where if we go with some drug testing policy, we're going to have to negotiate through lawyers what the stipulations are going to be, and it's going to be a lot more difficult.

"As long as we have a competent man as commissioner, I think we're probably going to be OK."


"I'd like to think that golfers as a whole are doing the right things out there — to be honest, I don't know a whole lot about that stuff — but I don't think it would be that beneficial anyway," J.J. Henry says. "We have a great group of guys out here calling penalties on themselves, let alone thinking about drug tests."


"Golf is a $65 billion industry"

Outgoing PGA of America president Roger Warren, talking to Tommy Braswell in the Post and Courier of Charleston:

"Golf is a $65 billion industry in this country. One thing we have been trying to do is raise people's awareness around the country about that industry. Not just the person that pays greens fee on Saturday morning to play golf. There's so much more to it, the real estate associated with golf, the tournaments, the manufacturing."

Anyone ever heard that $65 billion number before? I know PGA Tour Vice Presidents are making a lot, seems a bit high. 


Huggan On Azinger

John Huggan does his best to get off on the wrong foot with the new U.S. Ryder Cup Captain.

Over the course of four Ryder Cups, the 46-year-old golfer all but covered the playing and behavioural spectrum, from sublime to distasteful. Indeed, Azinger's whole career has been regularly blighted by doubts over his character amid accusations that his adherence to golf's rule-book is sometimes less than exemplary.
Oh but he said that about Lehman too, and they've since bonded. Though this may be tough to overcome... 
Listening to a winning speech laced with Azinger's warped brand of so-called patriotism is something that we should all be spared.

Huggan's just jealous that we have a Captain and points system that will get us into double digits in '08. 


Punchlines In Need Of Finetuning

Richard Hinds offers new Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee to defend some of his rumored changes to the event, and it becomes a chance for him to debut his stand up routine. Kind of makes long for the wit and wisdom of Carolyn Bivens...


"I've had people come up to me saying absurd things like, 'I've heard you're going to have girls in bikinis caddying for the players'," he said.

"That's just ridiculous. Have you ever tried to find 100 swimsuit models strong enough to carry those heavy bags around for four days? I have and it's just not feasible."

McNamee admitted that several initiatives not mentioned at the launch would be in place. "When I said the tournament would be following some of the fine golf traditions created by the ancient Scots, I meant Ronnie Corbett, not old Tom Morris," he said.

Accordingly, the Australian Open is believed to be the first significant championship at which a randomly selected member of each group will unwittingly be given a novelty exploding golf ball on the first tee. "That should start things off with a bang," said McNamee, who admitted some of his punchlines would need finetuning before the tournament.


There's more if you click on the link.


Week In Review, November 5-11: Tiger The Architect

WeekInReview2.jpgLast week's Tour Championship turned out to be a mini-fiasco for Tim Finchem, the PGA of America introduced Paul Azinger as Ryder Cup Captain on Monday, and guess who stole the spotlight this week? Tiger Woods of course.

But first, John Huggan kicked off the week with a column on Michael Bonallack, another of those former golf executives who suddenly wishes he had done more when he had the chance. Still, the former R&A man's complacency is nothing compared to the current regime, as Sean Murphy noted:  It doesn't matter what Michael Bonallack would do or not do. Who was head of the R&A during 2002 when the Joint Statement Of Principals were issued by the USGA and the R&A??? And what is that person going to do about it?

On news that Paul Azinger will make his 4 Captain's picks the week before the Ryder Cup, reader Bob S. wrote: Will the player's wife have enough time to get all primped for the event? I mean, you just don't go to SuperTarget and get an evening dress for the Grand Ball in 7-days.

And finally, the story that generated 43 posts: Tiger's bizarrely timed entry into the course design business. The news prompted a wide array of reactions.

CEB: He'll probably spend about as much time on his course designs as he has on the developing the sleek new 2007 Buick LeSabre

Pete the Luddite: I would not be surprised if his work turns out to be incredibly detailed and a great product. I can't see someone as driven and focused as Tiger putting out a prodcut that he would not agree should be associated with his name. Patience, folks. Time will tell.

Adam Clayman: IMG shoots...and scores.

Pollner: Did Nicklaus actually 'hang out his shingle' before some of the 'consulting' he did with Dye? It's interesting that Tiger doesn't even have a project yet. I would have thought that he would have gotten his toes a little wet by working with a known architect before launching his own firm.

Scott S: We can only hope that his love of the game extends to being willing to get down into the dirt every now and again.

Mark Ferguson: Umm, whereabouts around the world exactly has Woods been, to have absorbed all of this local design knowledge? Two oh-so-brief visits to Oz and one to NZ don't count much. It will be interesting if the Woods group gets a really great piece of land that lends itself to some great short fours, threes and fives for a par 69 or 70, but the owner wants 72 for 7300 yards - will he stand up to the owner and walk away?

Four-putt: Developers only care about the star-power of the design consultant's name. Translates directly into more revenue from memberships and real estate sales. So why not Tiger? Why should this surprise anyone? I only wonder what took him so long.

John Gorman: When it's all said and done, I'm actually a bit shocked by this announcement. But, maybe he'll do it right and be super-selective about the projects he accepts and only do one per year. I can't imagine that he'd pimp himself out for big fees and little hands-on work.

F.X.: I admire Tiger and hope this turns out well, but it was the last thing I expected to hear him turn his attention to so I am concerned that he's merely lending his name to an IMG collection of designers and course builders.


"Pertaining to specificity"

I'm not clear where Bob Verdi was going with this Golf World column on the PGA Tour's potential drug testing policy. He seems to think this is mostly a a product of the European media.

So where's the beef? Primarily from the media, since it is our duty to make sure all is well in the world. For some reason, most of the pressure is being applied by the European press. At a gathering during the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August, one of my lodge brothers from across the pond asked Finchem how he could know no golfers are taking drugs if he didn't test them? A fair question. Finchem stressed that golf embraces an honorable culture in which players penalize themselves with no one else looking. That didn't fly with the interrogator. Understand, I have many respected peers in the international press, but I wonder about their drug fixation.
The column did yield this doublespeak dandy from the Commissioner:
So at next week's tour policy board meeting, he and his people will continue drafting a manifesto Finchem characterizes as "pertaining to specificity."



Tiger Investing In An Els Design?


Promising "To Be In Bed Together"

Honestly, you just wonder if they hesitate before hitting the send key on stuff like this. I swear I haven't made this up.

Sawgrass Destination Set To Become The Pebble Beach Of The East; Key Partners Promise To Be "In Bed Together"
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Redquartz Boundary Ltd. (RQB), the new Sawgrass Marriott Resort & Spa ownership group -- together with the Sawgrass Marriott and TPC Sawgrass teams -- recently announced a refreshed vision to establish the Ponte Vedra Beach area as one of the premier golf, spa, beach and convention destinations in the world. "The dynamic partnership between RQB, Sawgrass Marriott and TPC Sawgrass is setting up the Sawgrass destination to secure a position as the Pebble Beach of the East," said Debi Bishop, general manager of Sawgrass Marriott Resort & Spa.

Pebble Beach of the East?  Don't you have to have an ocean nearby to claim that? Hopefully a good legal department too.

"Sawgrass will undoubtedly be paralleled with iconic golf destinations such as Pebble Beach and Pinehurst," said David O'Halloran, the representative for RQB Ltd., the joint venture comprised of affiliates of an Irish-based investment company, and chief executive officer of RQB America.

Bill Hughes, general manager of TPC Sawgrass, added, "with THE PLAYERS Championship primed to go to the next level with a new May date, High Definition NBC broadcast with limited commercial interruption, and our dramatic renovation, we are clearly at a defining point in elevating Sawgrass as one of the most unique golf destinations in the world."

During a media briefing held Wednesday, Nov. 8, O'Halloran, Bishop, Hughes and Vernon Kelly, chairman of the RQB Development Committee and past president of PGA TOUR Golf Course Properties, illustrated how they are "in bed together" in an outdoor replica of the resort's revived guest room.

Like I said, you can't make this stuff up.


Tiger-Federer Bond Grows, Tiger Now Picking His "Brains"

federerwoodstrophy.jpgAP reports that they aren't quite Lance Armstrong-Matthew McConaughey close, but getting there...
 "We've gotten to know each other. It's not too often you can relate to someone going through certain things, and we both can," he said. "It's nice to be able to talk to someone like that."

Woods said he could relate to Federer like he could with basketball star Michael Jordan.

"It's nice to pick his brains. I've been lucky to get to know Michael Jordan pretty well and it's good to find people you can talk to about preparations and distractions, about getting to the top and then moving forward."

Woods and Federer, who are represented by the same agency, might even have a social match.

"I'd love to play (golf) with Roger. I'd love to play tennis with him too -- I'd prefer to play tennis," Woods said.


"Elite players need to be selfish if they want to prosper."

Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian writing about Tiger's design career:

An announcement is expected shortly, although it is safe to assume the financial details will remain secret. Woods enjoys his privacy, leaving others to speculate. And in this instance there has been no shortage of speculation, with figures ranging from $10-35m being bandied around. One leading course architect said yesterday that he had been told the world No1 last year turned down an offer of $20m (£10.5m) to design a course in the US. If this is the case, it has to be assumed that Woods' decision to embark on his new career has been prompted by an offer in excess of that - a sum not even a man with his bank balance could refuse.

"Whatever Tiger is asking for, I hope he gets it because his fees will make mine look reasonable," laughs Tom Doak, an American architect. "Twenty million would be worth it if there was just one Tiger Woods golf course. The fee can just be written off as marketing budget for the next 50 years because the developer will have something that is unique."
The assumption that a great player will automatically be a great course designer is misplaced, argues Greg Turner, a former European tour player who has embarked on a design career since retiring from top-class golf.

"Just because you've played thousands of courses around the world doesn't necessarily mean you know what makes a good one for the average player," Turner says. "When you play a course as a professional you are looking at it from a single-minded viewpoint - how does this fit with my game? Elite players need to be selfish if they want to prosper. They don't have time to take in aspects of a golf course that might affect other people."



"That’s like getting a personal call from Lance Armstrong..."

Tom Fazio, talking about his new Fallen Oak course in Mississippi:

For me, Beau Rivage is very unique and special because – as someone asked me earlier; how did I get involved – it’s very simple. I got a call one day from MGM-MIRAGE people saying “Tom, we’re getting ready to do a golf course for our Beau Rivage property and we want you to come down and look at the some of the land we assembled and tell us what you think.” Well, on your side of the industry, that’s like getting a personal call from Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods or Peyton Manning. If you’re in the sports writing industry, that’s kind of what it’s like for me.


Good, But Not Yet Norman

Mike Colman offers some interesting anecdotes on the state of Australian men's pro golf and the top players love-hate relationship with Greg Norman.

Speaking of the Great White Shark, reader Mike reports that in his new book, Norman writes about the 14th at St Andrews and what a genius designer Alister MacKenzie was.

"In the Royal and Ancient clubhouse there is a hand-drawn diagram byMacKenzie that shows how he designed the hole to be played in five different ways."

Now there's a revelation!  


IM'ing With The Commissioners III

My NSA sources have been tied up with the elections and all, but they did forward this IM exchange between Commissioner Tim Finchem and Carolyn Bivens yesterday. Previous exchanges between these two can be read here and here.

twfPGATour©: Carolyn. Are you there?

DaBrandLady: sup twf?

twfPGATour©: Oh doing fine here, I suppose.

DaBrandLady: yeah I saw the brand resurgence took a hit last week.

twfPGATour©: Yes, lots of surprises last week at the TOUR Championship Presented by Coca Cola. First Pernice, then Azinger. I'm still shocked by their tone toward me.

DaBrandLady: oh I was thinking of tiger and phil not playing.

twfPGATour©: Right, well that too. Though we feel that their absence only reinforces the coalescence of the 2007 platform as both a coterminous and real brand force that alleviates certain scheduling permutations.

DaBrandLady: can i use that line?

twfPGATour©: I'll have to check with our legal people.

DaBrandLady:well i'd like to because i have to deal with press about annika and karrie skipping the tournament of champions.

twfPGATour©: Oh? When is that?

DaBrandLady: actually it's this week.

twfPGATour©: Right, of course. Is Wie playing?

DaBrandLady: it's the tournament of champions tim!

twfPGATour©: And she hasn't won yet, correct? 

DaBrandLady: uh no, tim

twfPGATour©: Sorry, I haven't been keeping up.  It's been hectic around here. I had to hire Ross Berlin back. Tough negotiation that was. But I kept him under $500,000 for the first year. The Viking people, our new sponsors in Mississippi, kicked in a new range for the house we're putting him up in.

DaBrandLady: wow, poor ross. even I make $500,000, which isn't much, but  enough to make the board think twice about buying out the last two years of my contract! lololololol :):):):)

twfPGATour©: Say Carolyn, I was actually Instant Messaging for a reason.

DaBrandLady: and that was?

twfPGATour©: Well I don't know if you heard Azinger's attack on my personal and business brands last Thursday during the ESPN on ABC telecast on ESPN? Or wait, that was just ESPN on ESPN. Anyhow, he suggested we needed to hire a personal branding coach for the players.

DaBrandLady: hey, i can finally help you!

twfPGATour©: My thought exactly. You signed someone earlier this year?

DaBrandLady: oh person-centered branding is great. best of all they're in beverly hills, so maybe you and susie can get a weekend trip to rodeo drive out of it.

twfPGATour©: Right. Well, I'm not sure Susie and I would use them for our own branding work. But for the players, perhaps. We've had great success with our recent branding campaign.

DaBrandLady: yes i've seen those ads where chad campbell takes pride in being totally uninteresting. very nice positioning with the red state 50-79 pickup truck driving demo.

twfPGATour©: Yes, we're very pleased with those spots, Chad comes off so non-threatening and pathetic, I mean, sympathetic. But I still think we can do more, as much as I hate to give Azinger any credit. Especially since he had trouble finding his shaver last week. I wonder what a brand coach would say about that?

DaBrandLady: well tim, i'm proud of you for reaching out like this. player branding is really the future of our world. tailoring a brand focused campaign will do wonders for your metrics.

twfPGATour©: Well thanks for emailing that information Carolyn. And give my best to, to, uh...

DaBrandLady: he says hi back!

twfPGATour©: Bye.

DaBrandLady: bye! :):):):)

"LPGA Playoff" vs. "PGA Tour Playoffs"

In the AP story previewing this week's LPGA Tournament of Champions The Mitchell Company LPGA Tournament of Champions presented by Kathy Ireland Worldwide, it is noted that Lorena Ochoa is trying to wrap up the LPGA Tour's player of the year award before she faces Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb again.

And to show how determined she is to prevent Ochoa from winning, Annika is playing "in Greg Norman's Merrill Lynch Shootout this week, while Webb is taking a break after winning the Mizuno Classic in Japan to move into second place in the points race."

Now, I guess I don't follow the LPGA closely enough, because I was confused about the player of the year points race. Apparently it's different than the points race to get into next week's ADT Championship, where first place is $1 million and they have a pretty wild final day format planned.

The ADT goes like this:

a. The first cut will be after 36 holes to 16 players with a sudden-death playoff used in case of a tie.
b. The second cut will be after 54 holes to eight players with a sudden-death playoff used in case of a tie (scores are cumulative through 54 holes).
c. The final round will be played in four groups of two, with all players starting with a fresh scorecard.
d. Whoever shoots the lowest score in the final round will win the ADT Championship. A sudden-death playoff will be used in case of a tie.

Now that's a playoff! 

Imagine if the PGA Tour incorporated something like that for the Tour Championship TOUR Championship?

Key word here: imagine.

Because the ADT concept is bold, creative and crazy in a fun way, qualities we probably don't have to worry about associating with the PGA Tour.


What Do You Think Tiger Is Worth?

On Tuesday Tiger had this to say about his design studies:

As far as my course design, it's something I've always wanted to do and I wanted to make sure that I played around the world before I ever got into course design. I wanted to see what basically every continent has to offer and basically observe and play and experience those different philosophies that all of the different architects have had in each region, and I'm lucky enough to have done that. I just felt it was time for me to try something different, something creative and something that will challenge me in a different way. Certainly something I've really, really been looking forward to.

Now, keeping in mind that the big name players get somewhere in the neighborhood of $2-2.5 million for a "signature" design (and the right to market the living daylights out of their name and er, gulp, "lifestyle"), I'm wondering what you think Tiger's design fee should be? (This is assuming a project that includes some real estate component.) 


Home Of The Four Hour Round

Thanks to reader Steven T. for this link to a Morris County, New Jersey course marketing itself as anti-slow play.


Tiger To Start Investing (!?) And Designing In China

At least according to Paul Tharp in the New York Post...

Golf megastar Tiger Woods is going to invest some of his $200 million fortune in building golf courses - mostly for China's new country club set.

The sports world's highest paid player yesterday said he's launching Tiger Woods Design to build high-end links across the globe.

"I've had the luxury of playing golf around the world," said Woods. "I'd like to share my experiences and the lessons I've learned, and hopefully create some amazing, fun courses."

Woods is expected to follow in the footsteps of golf's best-known course builders - Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer - and tackle projects in China for his first three or four layouts.

"China says it needs 2,000 golf courses in the next several years, and Nicklaus and Palmer are already there working on it," said Michael E. Gleason, a leading golf architect and consultant.

"Tiger's following them because that's where the demand is. It's booming. His name is going to draw a lot of investors - and he can name his own price."

It takes upwards of $50 million to open a 36-hole golf course, depending on the location. Gleason is currently completing a new course on a mountaintop outside Seoul Korea for $36 million.

"China isn't going to give up agricultural land, and will probably be building them on mountaintops or even remediated brown fields," Gleason said.



Here V Go Again...Redux

Golf Digest has posted Mike Stachura's excellent October story on the pending grooves controversy. You might recall that I posted something about this story a while back, but there was no link to the actual piece.

Stachura, who is part of the Belch and Gulp Bomb and Gouge blog team that writes so highly of this site, explores the USGA's preliminary report. In it, the Far Hills gang signals their concern that U-grooves are the cause of all world problems.

One of the key graphs from Stachura's story:

Rugge has repeatedly pointed to analysis of PGA Tour driving-accuracy statistics in his discussions about modern technology. Using a mathematical formula called a correlation coefficient, Rugge shows the correlation between accuracy off the tee and rank on the money list has dropped to zero, as in the two events are completely independent of each another. That's a dramatic change from the 1980s, when driving accuracy was as statistically strong an indicator of success as greens in regulation and putting. "We have 20 years of data from the tour that suggests this might be a problem," Rugge says. "Grooves could be a logical cause of that change. We also have better means of evaluation than we had 20 years ago, and that includes equipment and staffing."

Fairway widths cut by 15-25 yards may have something to do with it too. It will be interesting to see if the USGA addresses this component of the equation. I have my doubts.

Those in the know suggest that given the USGA's mandate for a single set of rules, going after grooves might be a way to put a regulator on distance without affecting average golfers. In a Bomb-and-Gouge world, if shots from the rough were more difficult, an elite player needing to hit it close to the hole might opt for control off the tee over power. Average players, content to hit shots close to the green, might be less impacted by the inconsistency of V-grooves.

Of course this is a backdoor attempt to deal with the distance issue, but more importantly seems a bit dubious when you consider what Frank Thomas wrote in his Golf Digest column about the impact of U-grooves in tournament caliber rough.

From light rough (up to two inches), a ball will spin 40 percent less than it would from dry conditions. This is because the water in grass serves as a lubricant between the ball and the clubface. Because the cover never penetrates more than .005 inches into the groove, which is limited to a depth of .02 inches, this is the only condition in which groove configuration matters. Out of light rough the groove depth can carry away more water and decrease the effects of lubrication on spin. However, from rough of four to five inches, it doesn't matter what type of ball or grooves you are using.