Latest From
Writing And Videos

Golf requires only a few simple Rules and Regulations to guide the players in the true nature of its sporting appeal. The spirit of the game is its own referee.



"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.

"Imagine how the new sponsorship development will be received by the guy who lost everything, including his self-esteem, because of the falling dominos in the ailing banking sector."

Steve Elling raises the delicate question of whether fans and company employees will embrace their favorite corporations putting out up to $7 million for a week of professional golf.
 With the U.S. economy in the toilet, convincing companies to re-up or sit tight on deals with the pro tours is going to be increasingly harder, especially those with ties to banking or real estate, like the Ginn Company, a realty development firm which sponsors events on the PGA and Champions tours and two on the LPGA.

 For the PGA Tour, re-signing Wachovia was beyond crucial, since the 6-year-old event has become one of the top 10 tournaments on the circuit. With title sponsors and corporate America being held evermore accountable for questionable, discretionary expenses, it will be interesting to see if companies blink going forward on inking deals.
You know, like 84 Lumber, AT&T, PODS, Buick, Chrysler and Booz Allen have done over the past couple of years -- all have either pared back their sponsorships or walked away from existing tour contracts, largely for economic reasons. The Tampa and Atlanta events are still seeking new sponsors for 2009 and beyond, in fact.
Based on this Larry Bohannan story about the LPGA having trouble with U.S. sponsors, perhaps the economy is already catching up to one tour.

How The R&A Got The Groove Rule Sacked?

E. Michael Johnson reports that the proposed rollback on grooves for competition is all but dead for 2009 and not looking good for 2010.

A call to the USGA last week for a status report on the proposal produced little in the way of news, as senior technical director Dick Rugge declined to comment on specifics -- except to say there was "no set timetable for a decision on grooves."

However, industry sources familiar with the situation tell Golf World the Condition of Competition as proposed is no longer on the table, meaning tour pros are likely to be able to use current grooves in 2009.

Meanwhile, USGA and R&A officials are set to meet again this month to discuss the groove proposal, with one industry insider characterizing the ruling bodies as still somewhat apart. "The USGA is ready to go, but the R&A believes the proposed rule is trying to do too much," said the source.
"Too much" to the R&A is defined as "any action whatsoever."

Meanwhile in this week's SI Golf Plus, PGA Tour pros were asked:

If the USGA bans U-grooves, will you sacrifice distance in favor of accuracy off the tee:

Yes: 25%

No: 75%

While I've never believed the U-groove change would impact player thinking off the tee, I do believe it would alter the aggressiveness of their approach shots and restore the importance of firm greens. Too bad the R&A does not agree.


"Actually, my plan is to die in office at the age of 82"

april29_finchem_299x199.jpgAlan Shipnuck pens a lengthy and compelling profile of Tim Finchem for this week's SI Golf Plus. This is by far the riskiest move yet in the Finchem rebranding project, which started in earnest this February and takes on an edgier tone by the very notion of allowing SI access. (I shudder to think of the negotiations that took place before Shipnuck got the green light.)

There are many highlights including lots of new insight into the $5.2 million man. We learn about how his political career was derailed (got to pay those speeding tickets Tim!), about where he likes to vacation, why the WGC's are staying in the U.S. (it's TV's fault now!) and more seriously, moving anecdotes about his mom who sounds like she was truly a special person. We're also reminded what a big Democrat Finchem used to be, which is always good for getting the juices flowing with the groupthinkers on tour.

The only disappointing aspect of the piece was not Shipnuck's fault, but instead, the peculiar decision to headline it this way: "PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has made a lot of golfers very, very rich — and a few very, very angry."

While we hear from a few angry folks you'd expect to hear from (Norman, Vickers, Pernice), it would have been nice to hear more from the rank and file about beefs with say, his excessive salary, their take on lavish executive compensation, the stockpiling of VP's or Finchem's weak record when it comes to actions related to equipment regulation, slow play and course setup. Though we learn Phil Mickelson is still definitely not a fan.

There was also this quote about his passion for restructuring and, well, firing people.

"An organization needs to be constantly refreshed," he says.

You ever notice that executive types who say stuff like that never feel that applies to themselves? And in Finchem's case, it seems he may want to keep working beyond the end of his current deal.

Should it come to pass, the Olympics would wreak havoc with the Tour's schedule, but Finchem sees it as one of the best ways to expand the game globally, which makes it the right thing to do. On the other hand, 2016 is the target date, by which time the logistics will be another commissioner's problem.

Or will they?

"Actually, my plan is to die in office at the age of 82," Finchem says with a hearty laugh.

In fact the commissioner says he has no time line in mind for the end of his tenure and that "it would be a mistake to assume" he will step down in four years when his contract expires.

How can I complain? He makes blogging easy.


"I think guys are tired of using the same tee box for all four rounds"

img10808234.jpgSteve Elling reports on David Toms' course setup/slow play related comments following an opening 67 at the Wachovia. Why didn't I get this rant when I talked to him for my Golf World story on setup?
"The issue came up this time about golf course setup, and why does it have to be so difficult?" said David Toms, a member of the PGA Tour Policy Board, the governing body of the circuit. "I mean, golf-course setup is why you see pro golfers, the best in the world, a guy shoot 67 and then another guy shoot 79, is because there is such a fine line there.

"You get on the wrong side, and it just takes a while (time-wise). So I think we can do a combination of things. Obviously if you ask the field staff, they would tell you there are way too many people playing, and you can't get them around that fast."

Au contraire, Toms said.

"Golf course setup, I think, is a big deal," said Toms, the first-round leader at the Wachovia Championship. "If you saw pins in the middle of the greens like you do for the pro am, I think we'd get along a lot quicker. All of it goes hand in hand, and we'll see.
This is interesting...
"I think they looked at last week. J.J. Henry made the comment, 'Listen, I worked on that golf course, and you guys didn't use the multiple tees that we built to make holes play different, and it doesn't always have to be all the way back on every hole and the pins, two, three, four (yards) from the edge on a day when it's blowing 25 or 30 mph.' So all those things might help."

Henry was a player consultant on the revamped Nelson course in Dallas. Was it coincidence, then, that players noted a slightly less toothy Quail Hollow setup in the first round?

The testy course's two toughest par-3 holes were softened considerably Thursday, a welcome development for players. The tee on the sixth hole was moved from 250 up to 236 yards and the markers on the brutal, water-choked 17th were moved from 217 to 175.

"I think guys are tired of using the same tee box for all four rounds," veteran Tag Ridings said. "Especially on the par-3s. They obviously made a quick change on that already."


The Comeback Of The Caddie?

2004377419.jpgThanks to reader Nick for Blaine Newnham's story in the Seattle Times about the comeback of the caddie.

To get an idea how big the caddie renaissance is, Bandon Dunes has nearly 300 caddies in its recently erected $1 million "shack" near the practice facility. It has a high-tech TV and large lunchroom and locker room for the employees.

At Chambers Bay, where there are 170 caddies, the lure for the older guys is the chance to play one round for every five you caddie.

For the kids there is chance for a college scholarship.

There are 19 students attending the University of Washington on an Evans Scholarship, money dedicated for tuition and housing at the UW or WSU for kids who meet the entrance standards and have worked in the golf industry, historically as caddies.

Phil Says Torrey Is The Hardest Course In The World; Vows To Use Newfound Heighth To Tackle It

Andrew Both reports:

"Even if it's soft I don't think anything close to even-par will win," Mickelson told reporters after firing a four-under 68 in the Wachovia Championship first round on Thursday.

"I think it's the hardest course in the world, 7,600 yards at sea level."

The 37-year-old Mickelson said the rough was particularly brutal, even by usual U.S. Open standards.

He played the course with two friends, both scratch-handicap amateurs.

"They are two very good amateurs and they shot about 85," said triple major winner Mickelson. "They had a better-ball score of 80."