Latest From GolfDigest.com
Latest From The Loop
Twitter
Books
  • Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
  • The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Art of Golf Design
    The Art of Golf Design
    by Michael Miller, Geoff Shackelford
  • Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Golden Age of Golf Design
    The Golden Age of Golf Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
  • The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    by Geoff Shackelford
Current Reading
  • The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    by Gil Capps
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Professional Golf 2014: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    Professional Golf 2014: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    by Daniel Wexler
  • Every Shot Counts: Using the Revolutionary Strokes Gained Approach to Improve Your Golf Performance and Strategy
    Every Shot Counts: Using the Revolutionary Strokes Gained Approach to Improve Your Golf Performance and Strategy
    by Mark Broadie
Classics
  • Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    by Geo. C. Thomas
  • The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    Treewolf Prod
  • Reminiscences Of The Links
    Reminiscences Of The Links
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast, Richard C. Wolffe, Robert S. Trebus, Stuart F. Wolffe
  • Gleanings from the Wayside
    Gleanings from the Wayside
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast
  • Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    by Darius Oliver
  • Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    by Darius Oliver
Writing And Videos
Feedblitz
Enter your Email


Powered by FeedBlitz

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


    

Wednesday
Nov082006

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.) 

Wednesday
Nov082006

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.

Tuesday
Nov072006

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.

 

Tuesday
Nov072006

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.


Tuesday
Nov072006

A Good Walk...

Lorne Rubenstein reflects on a late season round of golf...
Tuesday
Nov072006

More Ryder Cup Points Reaction

John Hawkins on the new U.S. Ryder Cup point system:

I think it’s interesting that the PGA of America chose to base its standings on dollars instead of Fed-Ex points. Club Pro Central is not real happy about the PGA Tour’s holding its ’08 playoff series in the four weeks immediately preceding the Ryder Cup, which, as I pointed out yesterday, can only hurt America’s chances against the Europeans at Valhalla.

What he doesn't point out is that the Captain's picks will be made the week of the Tour Championship, which in the brand platform marketing world seems like a gigantic screw you to the PGA Tour. Then again, isn't NBC covering the event now? So maybe they will love it. I can't keep up with all of this synergy. 

Meanwhile over at SI.com, Hawkins' favorite press dining room companion Alan Shipnuck cuts through all of the points analysis and hits the point that really matters:

Paul Azinger's Ryder Cup captaincy is already off to a great start with a new qualifying system that is vastly superior to the point system instituted by his predecessor Tom Lehman. With any luck we'll only lose by five or six points in '08!
Tuesday
Nov072006

US Reaction To Azinger and New Points System

John Hawkins weighing in at GolfDigest.com:
He’s a guy who lived and breathed for the third week in September of every other year, relishing the chance to play for Old Glory.

Can the new captain impart that attitude throughout his squad? Not in three or four days, or however long the Yanks hang out before we start keeping score. Not with the ’08 Ryder Cup being played right after the Fed-Ex Cup playoffs—the top U.S. players are sure to be drained by six or seven starts in the eight-week stretch leading into Valhalla. And not with the core group Azinger is sure to have. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk are the best in the world when golf is an individual sport. In a team format, however, the Yanks have proven competitively dysfunctional, unable to maximize their bounty of resources as a group.

And Steve Elling in the Orlando Sentinel:
Going forward, Ryder Cup candidates will be rewarded for their performance at the majors, if not for their earnings. In 2007, players can't earn points unless they make the cut at a major championship. The 2008 season has been given far more weight, with players amassing points based on their dollar totals and performances at Grand Slam events.

"Wow, that's pretty amazing," said two-time Ryder Cupper Chris DiMarco when told of the new scheme on his way to an event this week in China. "Now you have to be in the top eight to make the team? I'm not sure I know how to respond to that. But everybody is sick and tired of losing, so it's probably time to try something very different."

Whereas U.S. players previously were rewarded for top-10 finishes -- with the influx of foreign talent, that's become increasing tougher -- now anytime they make a check in 2008, they'll make some progress toward a spot on the team. Azinger and six PGA officials came up with the new configuration.

"Money has always been the barometer out here," Azinger said.

Whether the revision will result in wholesale changes in team personnel -- or turn around America's flagging fortunes -- appears debatable. PGA President Roger Warren said his organization, which runs the event, ran the numbers from the 2006 team and noted there were few, if any, changes to the composition of the top players on the points list.

"There wasn't much difference in the top 6, 7, 8 players," Warren said.

Azinger, however, said the system weeds out players who collected too many points several months before the competition.

"I do think that there is going to be one clear distinction in '08, and that's simply that there is not going to be a single player on tour that's going to know in January of '08 that they're a lock for that Ryder Cup team, including Tiger [Woods]," he said. "The reality is, nobody is going to have qualified for this team based on their performance in '07."

Monday
Nov062006

A Letter To Tiger...

Tiger,

Yesterday's announcement of Tiger Woods Design was not--how I can I put this as a prospective design partner--very impressive. Oh yeah, I'm nominating myself to be your associate. All I ask in return is 1% of your design fee based on the International and North American rates that your agent has been giving out.

And speaking of the big guys taking 10%...

I wouldn't have announced this one day after the Tour Championship that you skipped to save your energy for the $6 million in appearance fees you'll be hauling in over the next few weeks. Someone might get the wrong impression that you are in this design thing or this playing golf thing to accumulate more money than you'll ever need. You and I know otherwise. And I know you are probably about to announce your first course in that human rights hotbed China, but I still think another week might have bought just a little more memory loss from the golfing public. That's why you let them take that big 10%...and I could have offered this advice for just 1%!

Also, I think the 10% folks needed to have the web site up and running today when the press release went out. Minor detail, I know. And when this scribbler called the Tiger Woods Design office to ask a few quesions, it would have been nice to get a real person instead of a low grade voice mail message. If we were partners, they could have called here to my suite in the Home of the Homeless and I would have gladly answered questions. Well, until it hit 85 at around 11:15 a.m., an emergency situation that forces me to work out of my western office at 1 Pacific Coast Highway.

Anyway, I'm still waiting for my return call from the TWD offices. I was calling on behalf of a pretty big magazine, but so far, no luck. Not a good sign.

The last thing has to do with the nuts and bolts of this design stuff we both love. 

Your press release said that, "Every project will incorporate its chairman's highest standards and passion for golf."

Great, though I'd lose the chairman thing. I know the corporate people eat that stuff up, but they don't usually build golf courses.

Also, this is a little strange:

Having played on almost every continent, TWD plans to share Tiger's varied experiences with every skill level of golfer. For Tiger, this important goal embodies what he really loves about the sport. Whether it's bringing a traditional American design to Europe; or a links course to America  or Australian designs to China, TW Design knows the possibilities are endless.

So you want to import unique environments to create really cool courses. I hear ya there.

But the very next line in the press release material should not be this:

The belief in the importance of preserving the existing natural environment is another of TW  Design's core values.

See, you can't quite do the whole importing links to America and sandbelt to China, and then say you are preserving the natural environment.

I know, I'm quibbling again. But hey, just trying to show you how I'd earn my 1%.

This I liked:

To help us achieve this goal, we plan to utilize experts from around the  world who are dedicated to environmental preservation. As TW Design continues to grow, so will our roster of experts.

Remember, just 1%, that's all I charge. Shoot, for the Internationals gigs, I'll take .5%...I can still pull in, oh I better not say. I'll even figure out a way to design water hazards that Stevie can drop 9-irons into without losing them. Now, designing for the Nikons he chucks might be a little tougher, but we can work on that.

Yours in design,
Geoff

Monday
Nov062006

UK Reaction To Azinger and New Points System

James Corrigan was easily the toughest when reporting for the Independent: 

America have proved just how desperate they are to reclaim the Ryder Cup by granting their new captain unprecedented powers.

John Hopkins in the Times:

What the PGA of America has come up with is far-reaching and significant...Perhaps the most significant change of all is that the bizarre qualification process used for this year’s match has been abandoned. In its place is one that rewards Ryder Cup candidates for their good play in tournaments on the tour in the US and gives extra points in the major championships.

Lawrence Donegan in the Guardian:

Paul Azinger was yesterday appointed captain of the United States team for the 2008 Ryder Cup match against Europe and began his tenure with the now-traditional swipe at critics who argue that the US team loses because they care less than their opponents. "I think anyone who suggests that our players won't be as hungry as their players might be in for a big shock," he said during a press conference at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky, where the next match will be staged.

And the Principal's Nose offered this:

In one swoop, the PGA of America has reduced the PGA Tour to a mere side show to the Majors and the Ryder Cup, for as they throw their hat into the ring with the Majors, and although they are the anti-Christ of all things good in golf, they see the Ryder Cup as being bigger than a whole season on Tour. In other words, the PGA Tour no longer holds any power.

 

Monday
Nov062006

Rees On Tiger

Mark Soltau went right to the top for a reaction to Tiger's entry into the design world:

"I think he'll do quite well," said noted golf course architect Rees Jones. "He's the biggest name in golf, and he'll command a big fee.

Wow, the insights you glean from those Jones boys.

"It's good for the interest of the game. He's going to have to go through a little bit of a learning curve to get his ideas on the ground. It's a craft; you learn by doing it.

"My only advice would be to limit himself to good projects, clients and sites. Concentrate on the game while he's still the best."

Translation: don't you even think of redoing one of my courses that needs redoing. 

Monday
Nov062006

Squaring Things Up

GolfDigest.com's Burp and Gargle resurface after making my low self-esteem diagnosis to blog about winners and losers in the new square driver race.

Monday
Nov062006

Tiger Hangs Out Design Shingle...

...and whatever you think his fee is, there's a good chance you need to multiply it by 8.

I can honestly say that Tiger's career has been handled so beautifully, but at least to the design world, this could have been handled more tastefully... 

TIGER WOODS LAUNCHES GOLF COURSE DESIGN FIRM

Woods to Apply His Unique Golf Experiences to Course Design

Windermere, Fla. - Tiger Woods is taking a swing at a new venture in the golf industry - course design. Woods announced today the creation of Tiger Woods Design, a golf course design company that plans to embark upon projects around the world.

"My goal is to provide a unique collection of amazing courses all over the world that represent what I love about golf," Tiger Woods Design Chairman Tiger Woods said. "I'm very excited to announce the formation of this company and get to work on finding the right projects for my first few courses."

The company's philosophy is to further elevate the standards of golf course design and create enjoyable, challenging courses worldwide. At the heart of this vision is Woods' desire to apply his first-hand knowledge and personal experience to the design of each golf course.

"I've had the luxury of playing golf around the world, and I've spent a lot of time evaluating how to play all kinds of courses," Woods said. "I'd like to share my experience and the lessons I've learned and hopefully create some amazing, fun courses."

Woods, who has played golf on almost every continent in more than 20 countries, plans for Tiger Woods Design to encompass a global strategy that appeals to all skill levels. The organization will also seek unique properties for course development, while taking care to preserve the natural habitat of each location. 

"There are golfers everywhere that may never get a chance to play a links course in Scotland, a tree-lined course in America or the sand belts of Australia," Woods added. "Hopefully I can bring some of those elements into their backyards."

Woods decided to move forward with forming Tiger Woods Design in 2005 as he approached his 10th year playing professional golf on the PGA TOUR.

"I wanted to wait until I felt I had enough golf experience to launch Tiger Woods Design," Woods said. "I've been working very hard over the last decade to get a feel for all kinds of courses and really understand the best elements of design. Now, I feel I've logged enough time and learned enough lessons to start this venture."

Before moving forward with Tiger Woods Design, Woods sought the advice of friends and experts in the industry.

"I've spent a lot of time talking with experts in this field and gathering as much information as possible about what a great course should be," Woods said. "Friends like Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio have been a tremendous help by sharing their support and advice on this new venture. I hope I can bring as much to this industry as they have over the years."

And the website doesn't work yet...

Tiger Woods Design is currently reviewing projects and bids for theircourse design services. Visit  www.tigerwoodsdesign.com for upcoming announcements, more informationand instructions on submitting a proposal.

Online submissions?

Monday
Nov062006

4 Captain's Picks The Week Before The Ryder Cup?

We're not desperate or anything. Sheesh.

Gary Van Sickle lays out the new selection process for Captain Paul Azinger. 

Monday
Nov062006

“We got too many people in leadership capacities that don’t understand the game at its core"

Gosh I love Hal Sutton's diatribes. This time he bent Rich Lerner's ear and it's his best state of the game indictment yet.

“I’m so disgusted with where everything’s gone I don’t even want to play the game,” he told me Thursday by phone.
And when asked about the Ryder Cup captaincy...
“There’s no captain that’s going to make the difference,” Sutton said with a tinge of resignation. Of course now, the phone call was no longer about Azinger.

“We’re in a vacuum in golf in America,” Sutton began, and I knew I was about to experience a strong Texas wind.
Okay, strap in, here he goes...
“We’re consumed by the almighty dollar,” he said. “We’ve forgotten that we all play the game because we love it. Greatness doesn’t worry about money. Greatness worries about bein’ great.”

“We’re a product of our environment,” he explained. “We’re playing a game that requires us to hit it high and long. In the old days we had to do more with different golf shots.”

Sutton emphasized that it’s not necessarily the fault of the players. “We got too many people in leadership capacities that don’t understand the game at its core,” he said. “We’re conforming to what they say the market wants and what manufacturers are giving us and it’s weakening our players.”

The market wants Tiger Woods. And therein, Sutton believes, lay a problem.

“Everyone’s trying to be like Tiger,” said the man who took heat for pairing No. 1 with Phil Mickelson in an experiment gone terribly wrong at Oakland Hills. “There’s no individualism. They’re all trying to swing like Tiger.”

“Look, Rich,” he implored, growing more animated, “it’s 400 yards to the other end of the range from where I’m sittin’ and if Jack and Arnie and Raymond and Lee and Gary and Tiger were hittin’ balls we wouldn’t need to walk down there to tell which is which. You could tell ‘em from 400 yards away.”

“Is that the players fault? No. It’s just that we’ve got it built in our minds that you have to be a certain way to be good.”

“I have respect for Jim Furyk because he doesn’t conform to anybody,” Sutton added. “He’s been doin’ it his way for a long time and he’s been doin’ it pretty damn good hasn’t he?”

Sutton puts some blame at the doorstep of America’s junior golf system.

“We don’t have world class players in their 20s,” he said. “That’s a failure on our part.”

“The greatest in the world learned the game on the golf course,” Sutton said. “People think you can learn it on the range. Mechanics make you tight. It will not free you up to play the game. There were many days when the great players weren’t hittin’ it their best and they still figured a way to win. You don’t need reinforcement after every shot.”

With the promise of PGA TOUR millions, youngsters and parents chase the dream, often spending life’s savings to attend intensive academies while traveling a junior tournament circuit that would wear down even a hardened veteran.

“We need to go back to investing in kids' futures with no agendas and no management fees, try to realign what’s important in the game. Everyone’s taking out of the game and not putting back in. I had people teach me the game and never charged me for a lesson.

“We all have an investment in this game.

“It took us a generation to get into this and it will take us a generation to get out of it.”

And then, Hal had to go, the competitor who once feared no golfer, not even Tiger, now in something of a self-imposed exile. The work of fixing the game too big for one man, he’s content to put the finishing touches on a golf course amidst the rolling hills of Texas, far from the profession he no longer knows.

Sunday
Nov052006

Talk About Awkward...

...did you catch the Tour Championship interview of Tim Finchem?

This contractually obligated torture session pits ABC's ESPN on ABC's outgoing announcers with Finchem, who seems to have grown more reticent each year. He struggles to make eye contact and apparently is unable to show any genuine pleasure. (At least for his $10 million a year, the NBA's David Stern tries to crack a joke now and then, and this is a man who told SI's Jack McCallum in the Nov. 6 issue that he wishes he could ban his players from carrying guns...and he's not joking).

So here I was thinking that maybe, just maybe that lame duck ABC ESPN on ABC and loose cannons Faldo and Azinger, we'd actually get a spirited exchange.

After Finchem thanked ABC for "years and years of commitment to communicating the sport so well" and noting that the "production quality has always been superb," you could hear people turning channel Finchem noted that he was excited about the continued relationship with ESPN. Whatever that's about? (Probably the Tour paying ESPN to do "Sportscenter from the Players Championship" or some such thing.)

Azinger then selfishly asked about the schedule in 2008, with 7 of last 8 weeks before Ryder Cup involving the "playoffs."

"Well, we have a one-off," was Finchem's answer before shooting down Azinger's assertion that the situation was in any way messy.

Faldo then tried to make a joke about receiving the Commissioner's annual wine selection, an apparent holiday gift that Finchem naturally pounced on to plug of the tour's wine label (boy we're really reaching the 18-34 y.o.'s now!). Then Faldo asked about getting more WGC's played in International locations, which set Finchem up for some silly assertion that China could grow to 200 million golfers if it keeps on Japan's pace.

So here ABC ESPN on ABC has a chance to ask a tough question and they lob him two that have been asked repeatedly in press conferences this year.

Rivetting television. Actually, I got a big chuckle out of the tension and awkward nature of the whole thing, so it was good for something.
 

Sunday
Nov052006

"Using our input on it, too."

Zach Johnson is either a big Kool-Aid drinker or, unlike most other players, he's actually been consulted on the FedEx Cup...
"We're going to learn as we go, but the potential is phenomenal," Ryder Cup member Zach Johnson said. "The Tour's done a great job making great decisions and using our input on it, too. It means a lot of positive things."
Sunday
Nov052006

Adding Bonallack To The List

Despite all that nonsense about 63 degree wedges de-skilling the game, Michael Bonallack has been added to The List of those voicing concern about technology's role in the modern game. And when I get that list going of former golf executives expressing remorse for the lack of action during their tenure, he'll go on that one too.

Saturday
Nov042006

Durant: No Drug Testing Anytime Soon

Since none of the slingers assembled for Commissioner Finchem's press conference asked about his about face on drug testing, policy board member Joe Durant was asked about it after second round play. It would seem--shocking as it may be--that the issue has been tabled for the foreseeable future.

Q. Is drug testing on the agenda? I think Finchem raised the possibility that that would be something you would raise at this one.

JOE DURANT: We talked about it at the PAC meeting in Tampa. We talked about setting some type of standard or some type of process, trying to be proactive about it. But as far as details, not at this time.

And...

Q. On the drug testing thing, was it a lack of consensus or just too complicated an issue to get into this late in the year? What was your gut on that from what they were telling you?

JOE DURANT: More just the complication of the thing, because there's obviously different criteria or different screening done for different sports. We just want to make sure that we go about it the right way.

Q. Do you think it'll happen?

JOE DURANT: I would be surprised if it didn't at some point in the future.

Q. Do you think it'll happen during your tenure on the board?

JOE DURANT: Don't know.

Q. Do you think it's good from a credibility standpoint to kind of get in front of it versus waiting for something to happen and lightning crashing down and all bad things?

JOE DURANT: I personally do, yeah. I think the sport has been clean for this long and I want to keep it that way. We all do.

Saturday
Nov042006

"The ball got away from everybody."

Yes, add Michael Bonallack to the list of rehabilitating golf executives who wish they'd done more then so we would have the game we have now. It's touching I tell you to hear this kind of remorse, documented by John Huggan in his Sunday column:

"The most fun I've ever had was being secretary of the R&A. I was there when the Open was really starting to take off, in financial terms. We were able to use that money to aid the development of the game."

However, representing the public face of golf's rules-making body outside the United States and Mexico could prove uncomfortable. During Bonallack's tenure, the battle between administrators and equipment companies was joined in earnest, and it rages on to this day.

"The biggest problem was with Ping and the grooves on their irons. That was very unpleasant. I remember sitting at dinner after watching the Walker Cup matches at Peach Tree in 1989 and being tapped on the shoulder. It was a sheriff telling me I was served.

"The writ said they were suing for $100m tripled. They have what they call punitive damages in the United States, and it wasn't only the R&A they were suing, but me personally. That got my attention!

"We had good lawyers, though. They showed that the US courts had no jurisdiction over us. We were making rules for golfers outside America.

"The wider equipment issue was a problem then, and continues to be so today, at the top level of the game anyway. There are a number of things I wish we had done, but obviously we didn't do.

"The ball got away from everybody. The scientists said the ball could go only ten more yards, but they were wrong. New materials kept on coming out, and then along came metal woods. They have taken a lot of the skill out of the game for the leading players. As have the new wedges.

"The shots only Seve used to be able to play with a 50-degree wedge are now routine for everyone who buys a 63-degree wedge. All of that crept into the game without anyone really realising the significance. I wish we could go back, but we can't."

Perhaps sensing that he has already said too much about the one subject that golf administrators tend not to enjoy discussing, Bonallack pre-empts the next question.

"There is no use asking me what I'd do if I was in charge today. When I retired I said I wasn't going to get involved in any of these controversial things. Besides, if I started announcing what I would do, people could quite rightly ask why I didn't do those things when I was in charge. Certainly, we missed some opportunities with the ball and the metal woods, but they crept up on us."
One other sadness for Bonallack is the knock-on effect modern equipment has had on course set-ups. As so many did at last year's Open, he looked on askance at the amount of rough growing on the Old Course at St Andrews.

"It does upset me to see what they have to do to golf courses nowadays. There is no doubt that the modern equipment has caused many good courses to be altered. I hate to see long grass around greens on any course. I like the ball to run off to where players can hit all kinds of recovery shots.

"It is fascinating to watch someone like Tiger working out what shot will work best after he has missed a green. Long grass eliminates all of that, and takes a lot of the skill out of the game."

 

Saturday
Nov042006

"Azinger's mottos: Cash."

Craig Dolch reports that the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings will be compiled differently under Captain Azinger:
The problem with the current system is the only way a U.S. player can earn points is by finishing in the top 10 at a PGA Tour event. But with the Tour becoming more international - Azinger said 85 foreign players are exempt on the PGA Tour - fewer Americans are earning points by finishing in the top 10 (less than 60 percent of the available points were awarded for the 2006 team, and most of them went to Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk).

So look for the PGA to get away from top-10 finishes as its only measuring stick and use one of Azinger's mottos: Cash. Azinger said at the recent Chrysler Championship it was obvious to him the changes the PGA made to the system in 2004 didn't get the best team at the K Club.

"If you looked at the way it played out ... the last five guys on our team were not secure the last month and a half. If they would have had some high finishes, they would have secured their spot and nobody did," Azinger said. "The two guys that were picked (Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank) had opportunities to make the team. They didn't get hot and make the team.

"The reality is, Phil (Mickelson), his confidence might have waned a little bit after the U.S. Open. And David Toms and Chad Campbell won in January. It didn't put our hottest players on the team, not at all."