It is a wonderful tribute to the game or to the dottiness of the people who play it that for some people somewhere there is no such thing as an insurmountable obstacle, an unplayable course, the wrong time of the day or year.
In the most strongly worded piece yet, John Hopkins questions the state of the Race To Dubai and the health of the European Tour as Leisurecorp is overtaken by the government.
Hopkins also files this Spike Bar column on the shift in duties for David Spencer, the primary force behind Leisurecorp's forays into golf.
From the Telegraph:
Northern Irishman McIlroy, who had said that individual competition was more important to him, added to his remarks of Wednesday. "At the end of the day it's (the Ryder Cup) a great event, probably the best spectacle in golf. But sometimes it's been taken a little too seriously.
"If I get into the team it will be massive and I'll enjoy it."
Peter Hutcheon in the Belfast Telegraph defends the young lad, saying his attitude reminds of a young Nick Faldo.
But at its inception as a friendly match between two sets of golfers, it was never meant to be this colossus, which dominates the game like no other.
McIlroy is the first in a generation to dare break the party line and point out that the whole thing has grown out of all proportion.
I dare say he will enjoy the cut and thrust of the competition against the Americans when his turn comes.
But his sights are set on achieving much more in the game.
I'm sorry, but if Anthony Kim said the same thing, the British press would be ripping him to shreds!
Because of The Players I'm a bit behind on some items, including this Ryan Herrington post on U.S. Open media day. Besides some insights into the course setup changes since 2002's boondoggle, Herrington notes this about corporate tent sales:
The sagging economy has had a significant impact on corporate hospitality tent sales. A USGA source told Golf DIgest Digital that while 79 tents were sold in 2002, the number is expected to be only in the mid-40s this year.
"No apology will be made and as long as I have breath in my body I will not set foot on Meldrum House soil again."
If my memory serves, the David Feherty brouhaha brought out all sorts of Brits lecturing we Americans about how thin skinned we are. Thank you for that. Now explain this little row over a bloody text message!
Seems former Open Champion Lawrie is not going to back down over his text message to the super at his former home course. You know, the one that got him kicked out!
Thanks to reader Kevin for spotting Lawrie's website post:
My phone has been red hot with messages of support over the Meldrum situation, apparently they want me to apologize......apologize for what? The conversation I had in the pro shop lasted 20 seconds, was not heated and I merely asked why the greens were poor. My text to Kenny Harper was banter to which he replied with some banter of his own, which I thought was really funny. To be told not to return is incredible but it will not harm my career one bit. I would like to thank everyone for their messages of support which have come from all over Scotland...from Edinburgh right up to Dornoch. No apology will be made and as long as I have breath in my body I will not set foot on Meldrum House soil again.
Not a lot of grey area there!
Imagine if he'd told a joke about two bullets and Osama and...ah forget it.
Thanks to reader Brian for Brian Ferguson's story on former Open Champion Paul Lawrie jokingly texting the greenkeeper at his home course about poor conditions, only to have it turn into a scandal that has led to his removal from the club.
A club source said: "Apparently, it all started off as a bit of a joke, a bit of friendly banter.
"Paul has known Kenny for years but had not been in touch with him for a while. So when the greenkeeper got a text from him saying the greens were in a bit of a state, he was not a happy man.
"He sent an irate text straight back, saying he did not think much of Paul's golfing abilities.
"Then the club owners got involved and wrote to Paul to say he was no longer welcome to play on the course. Everyone at the club is still in shock.
"Hopefully, Paul will be man enough to apologise and the matter will soon be resolved."
"Because some of the comments that were made, they were isolated on a very narrow part of the value equation."
Looks like National Golf Day was a success since there seems to be a pretty consistent use in reporting (here and here) of the economic and charity numbers tied to golf, which are staggering. Even if you cut them in half.
Tim Finchem sat down with good buddy Greg Norman and Fred Couples for a President's Cup press conference. But there was this question about the lobbying effort.
The morning was a breakfast about the First Tee primarily, but it kicked off us going out and talking to members and the basic message is reminding members that golf is an industry of $75 billion, $76 billion. You put it in these terms: It's the equivalent of the motion picture and publishing industry combined, and that goes for revenue, jobs and overall economic impact. That's part one.
And part two is the professional side of the game, the significance, which includes sponsor tournaments has a $3.6 billion impact and raised $124 million for charity. We are integrated into communities to raise money for charity.
Warning, new v-word usage coming:
Most of the reaction I get from members of Congress is they recognize the value of corporate sponsorship in sports marketing generally, and particularly, with the PGA TOUR which is 100 percent organized for charitable purposes, and we have always got a good response from members on that subject and we certainly are getting a good response now.
But what happened a couple of months ago taught us a lesson that this is something that needs to be reaffirmed on a regular basis with members so they have that as a backdrop before public commentary is made. Because some of the comments that were made, they were isolated on a very narrow part of the value equation. Whether you're going have a dinner and have some musical entertainment, I think it's a very subjective thing. Whether you or I might go to a dinner that has Sheryl Crow playing, you might think it's lavish; I probably wouldn't, but then that's my opinion.
Poor Sheryl. But Commish, she opened for the Stones. Your band!
I noticed that headline at Golfweek.com on a Tom Canavan story, but I can't find where Michelle Wie actually talked about winning a men's event.
From her Sybase Classic transcript where she answers questions about playing in men's events.
Q. I believe you've talked in the past about someday competing in the Masters. Is that still part of your vision for the future, and if so, do you see a realistic scenario of attaining that goal?
MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, for sure that's definitely one of my goals that I started out with, and I still have it.
Q. Is playing in men's tournaments also a part of your goals at this point, and how realistic do you think that is?
MICHELLE WIE: You know, I think that's definitely a part of my goals. You know, like I always say, dream high and stuff, set your goals up high, and I think it's definitely -- I'm not saying it's an easy goal to achieve. I'm not going to be like, oh, I'm going to go out and win a men's event, it's not like that, but it's one of those long-term goals where I see myself getting to. I see myself getting there, and it's one of those goals that really motivates me and pushes me to be a stronger player, a better player.
Seems our little angel of Irish golfing greatness hasn't watched Bull Durham. I'll paraphrase the great Crash Davis for you Rory McIlroy: "You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends."
Cliché No. 1 if you are a European professional: I love the Ryder Cup. It's my top goal. It's more important than anything else in my career.
From Rory's press conference Wednesday at the Irish Open:
Q. And on The Ryder Cup points, I know it's a long way away yet, but how focused are you on making sure that the Ryder Cup becomes pretty much a very important part of your career?
RORY McILROY: You know, if you play well enough, you're going to get on the team. That's the simple fact. But it's not a huge goal of mine. If I'm struggling to get on the team, I'm not going to play two more events to try -- if I play well enough, I play well enough, and if I don't, then so be it.
In The Ryder Cup, it's a great spectacle for golf, but an exhibition at the end of the day and it should be there to be enjoyed. I think if I get on it, you know, you enjoy the week, and if you win or lose, it's a great experience and you move on from it. In the big scheme of things, it's not that important of an event for me.
Q. Is that because your goals are set beyond Ryder Cups, so naturally, if you reach those goals, you'll be on The Ryder Cup Team?
RORY McILROY: Exactly. You know, golf is an individual sport at the end of the day. And you have individual goals, and my individual goals are to win tournaments for myself. And if I do that, then I know that I'll have played good enough to get on to the team.
So if you can take care of your own results, then you know, the selection process or if you qualify for it, basically if you play well enough, you'll get on.
And, after some rally kill attempts...
Q. A lot of players would say the most pressure they ever felt in golf was The Ryder Cup, including some who thought beforehand it was an exhibition; do you think it might suddenly hit you when you get in the team that it's a bit more than that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I don't think that -- I don't feel as if it is. It's an exhibition and it should be played in the right spirit and obviously everyone wants to win. But you know, it's a great week for golf. I think that's what it should be treated as.
Like I said before, if I can get on the team by my own merit and lucky enough to be there, I'll relish every moment of it. Obviously I'll try my best for the team. But you know, I'm not going to go running around fist-pumping.
Rory, I have David Duval on line one
So, the reaction?
Peter Dixon in the Times:
Much of what McIlroy had to say can be put down to the honesty of youth. He has performed remarkably well to get inside the world's top 20 and is right to be looking towards a career in which the winning of major championships will take priority.
Bill Elliott in the Guardian:
What remains interesting, however, is that McIlroy's summation of the European Tour's most important cash cow coincides almost exactly with what Tiger Woods thinks of the whole shebang. Hardly surprising, given that Wee Mac has followed Woods' philosophy as only a young, besotted lad can.
Kark McGinty in the Belfast Telegraph talks to new Hall of Famer Christy O'Connor:
O’Connor Senior smiled benignly at the youngster’s words. “He’ll find it’s not an exhibition match when he starts playing it.
“The Ryder Cup is golf. It is match play. It is top professional versus top professional. It is very exciting and a great proud-puller,” added Senior.
“Rory’s just a kid. I think Rory’s in for a pleasant surprise when he plays the Ryder Cup.”
Colin Montgomerie, who will captain the European team at Celtic Manor in Wales next year as they seek to wrest the trophy back from American hands, and who has been grouped with McIlroy for the first two rounds of the Irish Open here, allowed himself a fatherly smile and a “he’ll learn” glint when asked what he thought of the young Irishman’s comments.
“The Ryder Cup is not an exhibition . . . please don’t start a war against Rory McIlroy. He’s a very exciting young player and he’s one of Europe’s best young talents that we’ve had for many, many a year. Right? All I can say to you is, the Ryder Cup is not an exhibition, all right? Please don’t say Monty and Rory are having a war here . . . all I’ve said is the Ryder Cup is not an exhibition and it never will be.”
The weeklies are trying to put Tiger's struggles into perspective. I would agree, though I'm surprised there hasn't been more cackling about his course management Sunday, particularly the weird decision to try for a bold shot on No. 2, when a simpler shot would have taken the water out of play.
Jeff Rude in Golfweek:
For the moment, we’ll take a breather from theory and perception and focus on record. Woods has finished in the top 10 in his past 17 stroke-play tournaments worldwide. He has won 11 of his past 19 starts worldwide, including two majors. That run alone is Hall of Fame material.
John Huggan in Golf World:
Here's the reality: Like every other poor sap trapped within the endless mysteries and intricacies of the swing, Woods is a golfer forever doomed to toil unavailingly in pursuit of the impossible—perfection. That process has many stages, ranging from a feeling of near hopelessness to one of tingling anticipation as the quality of strike and flight gradually improves.
Right now, despite his post-tournament protestations that he is "not far off," Woods is fearful more than anything. He is a man battling a quick hook, a shot that has always caused him to flip out whenever it makes an unwanted appearance in his bag.
Reader Bruce left me with no choice but to post the Ron Paul-votes-against-The King story that I had avoided. After all we've done enough politics this week, though the details are quite entertaining.
Ben Goad writes this about the 422-1 vote for Arnold Palmer's Congressional Gold Medal:
Here's the explanation from Paul spokeswoman Rachel Mills:
"It is certainly nothing personal against Mr. Palmer. In fact, Congressman Paul admires him greatly. Dr. Paul opposes using public monies for any and all of these gold medals given to private citizens, just on principle. Not to mention, it is unconstitutional to use taxpayer dollars in this way. He even suggested on the House Floor before he voted against Rosa Parks's medal that if it meant so much to the Members of Congress, why not fund the award out of their own pockets? He pulled $100 out of his own wallet, but had no other takers. At a time like this when all budgets are stretched so thin, it seems especially inappropriate to lavish gifts like this on private citizens, as much as he may admire the individual."
The legislation authorizes the expenditure of $30,000 to make the medal and duplicate bronze versions, which could then be sold to cover the cost.
Kevin Robbins posted the item and judging by the comments, most of Texas agrees with Paul's position.
Several people have emailed to ask and since I haven't seen it reported anywhere, CBS's Robin Brendle has confirmed that David Feherty is working this week's Valero Open.
From Bob Combs and the World Golf Foundation:
In a series of meetings on Capitol Hill, golf’s leaders are carrying the message of the industry’s enormous economic impact. A study released last year at the inaugural National Golf Day, the 2005 Golf Economy Report, quantified golf’s annual direct economic impact as $76 billion, and highlighted the fact that the industry provides 2 million jobs and $61 billion in wage income. The study also found that golf generates more than $3.5 billion annually for charities across the country.
And the fate of the game is in these hands...
PGA President Jim Remy, Vice President Allen Wronowski, Secretary Ted Bishop and CEO Joe Steranka will lead The PGA of America contingent. Participants from the allied golf associations included Club Managers Association CEO Jim Singerling, The First Tee CEO Joe Barrow, LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens, National Golf Course Owners Association CEO Mike Hughes, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, U.S. Golf Association Executive Director David Fay, and World Golf Foundation CEO Steve Mona.
From the Hall of Fame press release:
O’Connor, 84, turned professional in 1946 and during the 1960s won at least one professional tournament each year on The European Tour. He became the first Irishman to win the Harry Vardon Trophy for leading the Order of Merit in 1961 and became the only Irishman to win the award twice in 1962.
“We’re very excited and pleased to have Christy O’Connor join the World Golf Hall of Fame,” said Jack Peter, Sr. Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “His impact on the game, in Ireland and around the world, has been felt for more than 50 years and it’s an honor to welcome into the Hall of Fame family.”
In 1955, O’Connor became the first player to win £1,000 for a tournament in European golf at the Swallow-Penfold. And , in 1970, he captured the richest prize in competitive golf when he won the John Player Classic, collecting £25,000. He was granted Honorary Membership of The European Tour in 2004 and his accolades go on to include the Tooting Bec Cup in 1961, 1963 and 1969 and the Association of Golf Writers Trophy in 1977.
His impressive Ryder Cup career which extended from 1955 through 1973 included playing a part in the 1957 Ryder Cup victory at Lindrick, when the Great Britain and Ireland Team captained by Dai Rees ended 24 years of American domination. He still ranks near the top in several European Ryder Cup categories, including being the second oldest player to compete at age 48 in 1973, being tied for fifth for most matches played (36) and ranking second for most singles matches played (14).
The man known as “Himself” holds the Irish record for most appearances in the World Cup with 15, and along with Harry Bradshaw helped Ireland win in 1958.
Thanks to reader Jon for this Sky Sports report on the demise of the British Masters, to be replaced on the European Tour by the Austrian Open.
It was reported back in March here that Poppy Hills was on its way out as a AT&T National Pro-Am venue, a victim of a Tiger Woods edict. Naturally, I was told by many that this would never be the case but yet here we are, and voila!
Say goodbye to Poppy Hills, say hello to the Shore Course in a major architectural upgrade, so says KSBW in Monterey.
On Friday, MPCC contacted its 750 members, recommending that they accept the request to use their course for the 2010 Pro Am which could mean drawing up to 10,000 spectators to the private club every day during the tournament.
MPCC rejected a similar proposal back in 2005.
So what has changed? Supporters said they need the attention to attract new membership since the economy has tanked.
Proponents believe the Monterey Peninsula Foundation would benefit the most. The foundation raised more than $8 million last year for local charities. Organizers said a long-term relationship with the exclusive country club would help the foundation secure its goal in increasing grants 25 percent to $10 million by 2014.
And make Tiger more likely to play.
The general manager at Poppy Hills said one reason behind the potential venue change is AT&T wants a more prestigious location for the 25th anniversary of the Pro Am this next year.
"The prestige is more the celebrities that are there and pros and great charity work that's done. I don't know if it's the golf course so much though it's Pebble Beach. That's where they end up and that's the big ticket in the draw," Todd Butler said.
And make Tiger more likely to play.
Reader Warren emailed a series of questions about my Players Championship experience and now that I've had a chance to reflect, here goes...
talk about the course, the city (is it similar to augusta since it’s a small town), the experience, the players feelings about the place and all the other things.
The first thing you notice is the way in which the town embraces the event. The times I've been to Augusta I get the sense it's more of a headache having all of these people come to your town. Can't say I blame them. But Jacksonville was all over this from the moment you step into their wonderful airport (new, clean, easy, architecturally vibrant and free WiFi!). The weather reports on the local news focused on tournament conditions and traffic reports were sure to talk about the event. Chatter at the local restaurants was friendly and positive when they figured out you were here for the Players. Thanks to the overall appreciation of golf by residents, you feel welcome in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to golf.
For all of the over-the-top family values messaging we're inundated with these days, the Players actually lives up to the billing as a family-friendly event. I asked many why this was the case and no one had an answer, but many of the veteran writers agreed that for whatever reason, the Players and the players really do embrace the kids. I saw normally reserved tour players reaching out to sign autographs and high five kids way more than normal. The positive vibe this brings to the event appears unique to The Players. Or...perhaps a sign of the times.
what about the behind the scenes infrastructure, especially in the shadow of the pga tour itself? is it as commercial as the u.s. open? is the tournament minimal in its approach a la the masters besides the limited commercial interruption?
I found it to be less commercial than the U.S. Open. The Players Stadium Village, while corporate sponsored, is focused on a fun fan experience moreso than it seems to be about plugging, say, Lexus and AmEx at the U.S. Open. Credit the tour for showing restraint.
Traffic was never a problem after Wednesday when the free admission specials for military and kids made it the best attended day of the week. A police presence was noticeable and at the tournament security was tight without going over the top.
The volunteer base is extraordinary. Not only are there so many of them, but my encounters were always friendly. More importantly, they seem to be well trained, efficient and while I didn't ask, it was apparent they were very organized in rotating people through different locations on a hole to keep marshals fresh. Also surprising (and impressive) was how many come from out of town. On the 17th I met an attractive young woman who had flown in from Minneapolis for the sixth year in a row. When I was leaving town Monday, I saw her with her two young sons. Now that's a devoted volunteer.
The only negative would be the noise on No. 17 generated by the corporate tent chatter. I expected a bit more of a hush as players were about to hit, but it feels more like an NBA game when a home team player is shooting a free throw...in January.
And not that it matters to the public, but the media center is extraordinary, with the largest projected image of a sporting event you could ever hope for along with questions answered promptly and accurately.
is the snack bar food expensive, does the tournament put out a nice program and pairings sheet?
I'm ashamed to say I ate in the media center or the clubhouse and never looked at the pricing. How far I've fallen!
I did however have a hard time finding the free water stations that were reportedly added upon the announcement of a May date.
The pairings sheets are free and beautiful. They almost serve as a mini-program. Very classy four color printing and a wonderful (free) keepsake.
do your favorite tour vps overpower the place and do the rules guys set up the course without any input like at any old john deere?
Longtime visitors said I saw the PGA Tour at its finest. Whether it's the economy or just a newfound appreciation for the media (riiiiigggghhhtttt!), I'm told the treatment of the media was much friendlier than in the past.
I did have a revealing encounter with a former and current VP in the food line. I tried asking nicely three times to break through the intense whispering session between WNBA Prez Donna Orender and Tour EVP/CMO Tom Wade who were blocking the fruit tray and holding up the line with their earth-shattering chat, oblivious to the world around them. Once they actually noticed that I was there nicely whispering, "excuse me," there was no acknowledgement and the conversation continued on and Wade grabbed his food. They never seemed fazed that they were holding anyone up. It was one of those little instances where I thought, hmmm...nice culture in the upper VP ranks.
On the other side of the operation, you have the media relations staff headed by Ty Votaw, where the tone is very different. Courteous, attentive and yet still professional. Sure there is probably the expected skepticism toward the subversive "working press," but you sense that this side of the operation of the tour takes itself a little less seriously and is a little more in tune with the world around them.
As for the golf course, there appear to be too many cooks in the kitchen. I have no evidence of this, just a sense that while the setup guys are free to do their hole locations and preparation work in the mornings, the advance work is a bit of a mess. It's just not acceptable to have a rough that includes mowing a few times during the week to keep fairway edge roughs at 2 inches while not mowing around greens all week. It's awkward, counters the tour's preaching of consistency and aesthetically does not do the course justice.
The fairway lines and Augusta-lite pine tree planting looks silly and also does the course no favors. And expansion of pine and sandy scrub would be more in line with Pete Dye's vision and send a wonderful environmental statement. (Wildlife is abundant on the course, always a good sign about turf practices.)
I am not sure that a TPC Sawgrass with less or no rough would play any easier if widened out and the mini-pines removed. I do think it would be more interesting and elegant looking. Even better, more balls would run into the pine scrub, meaning more chances for fans to get up close to The Players.
Reader David reported that Commissioner Finchem bungled Henrik Stenson's name during the trophy ceremony. Since Kenny G was not part of the proceedings, I didn't pay attention. Turns out, David heard right, as Lulu McGrew reports:
Hey, did anyone else catch the PGA Tour Commish, Timothy Finchem mispronounce Stenson’s name at the trophy presentation? He called him Heinrik…twice. This is not the first time that Stevenson…er, I mean, Stenson has dealt with his name being mangled. It is one of the easier names out there, sounding just like it written. How do you think he was have pronounced Cejka’s name?
Actually, it was Cejka's fault. Finchem was up late the night before practicing his German and he just never recovered from that.