Bivens’ latest gaffe in her 18 months at the top came via the 2007 LPGA media guide. This is a book for which Annika Sorenstam had been the annual cover girl for the past 10 years.
Guess what? No Annika out front in 2007, as Lorena Ochoa, Seon Hwa Lee and Julieta Granada adorn the book’s cover. Granted, Ochoa belongs, but Hwa and Granada over Sorenstam?
The Sorenstam snafu is the equivalent of the PGA Tour leaving Tiger off its media guide. And, you can bet that will never happen.
Apparently snubbing the greatest player ever in women’s golf, the same player who doesn’t necessarily see right down the middle with the commish, was the point. And trust me, this latest LPGA media guide cover fiasco didn’t just roll out of the marketing department without Bivens’ blessing.
The same can be said for every other detail involving the LPGA these days. They are Bivens driven, and if an employee dares disagree — “You’re fired!’’ It’s happened so many times since she took over late in 2005 — 13 “resignations,’’ including her top three assistants — you have to wonder: Who’s next?
Certainly Bivens’ dissing of Sorenstam isn’t enough to break her reign of terror. But apparently Sorenstam’s 69 career wins don’t carry much weight these days. That is especially true for those who dare question Bivens’ iron rule.
Sorenstam, however, is one of those few who dared. Last year, after watching fiasco after fiasco that began with top media outlets boycotting the LPGA, was followed by world rankings that were a laughingstock (Sorenstam the exception), and then more resignations from within, Annika observed: “I am quite concerned about some of the decisions and changes I have seen lately. I just wonder where we are headed.’’
It's a boring course. You can fall asleep on it because you're always hitting the same kind of shots--woods or long irons. JACK NICKLAUS on Firestone
Hard to believe my NSA sources had time to pick up this Tiger Woods-Tim Finchem instant message exchange, what with all the time they put in on the Libby jury deliberations. Anyway...
twfPGATOUR©: Tiger, are you there?
TWPrivacy: Hey Timbo. Sup?
twfPGATOUR©: I just wanted to thank you for today, I felt like it went very well. So great to have a monopolistically coterminous brand like AT&T on board isn't it?
TWPrivacy: Yep, very exciting stuff.
twfPGATOUR©: And of course it's just great to be back in the Washington market, where we always wanted to be. Well, without Ralph Shrader involved.
TWPrivacy: The Booz Allen dude?
twfPGATOUR©: More importantly, the military serviceman and women component of this D.C. re-branding really is playing nicely in the early pushback.
TWPrivacy: Yep, and maybe we can even do a little for Walter Reed too?
twfPGATOUR©: Is he the VP of Platform Protocol at Schwab?
TWPrivacy: No, that's the hospital with the mice and mold.
twfPGATOUR©: Of course.
TWPrivacy: So what can I do for you Tim? We're third in line here at Dulles and I might lose you.
twfPGATOUR©: Oh great, we're 7th up here, taxing in the Falcon.
twfPGATOUR©: Well I just wanted to thank you for wearing the FedEx themed tie and shirt today.
twfPGATOUR©: I'd do one of those smiley icons after that, but we have them shut down in the company instant messaging. Security issues.
TWPrivacy: Uh, okay. Not sure what you mean, it was just a suit and shirt and tie.
twfPGATOUR©: Say Tom Wade is here, our EVP and CMO. He says thanks for wearing the FedEx Purple with the FedEx Light Platinum suit.
TWPrivacy: Well actually, it wasn't intentional.
twfPGATOUR©: Tom says that in the future if you are interested, you can read all about their brand color regulations here: http://www.fedexidentity.com/guidelines/FedEx_Guidelines.pdf
twfPGATOUR©: One thing, Tom was hoping you'd note that the purple you wore today was a little different than the PANTONE 2685 that defines the FedEx brand.
twfPGATOUR©: And not to be too picky, but the grey suit was a little off from the PANTONE Cool Gray 6 that Tom says brings the entire FedEx brand come together.
TWPrivacy: Thanks Tim, I'l make sure to get this off to my Nike people. Anything else?
twfPGATOUR©: No that about does it, just wanted to thank you again for you help and support here.
twfPGATOUR©: Oh and one other thing. Uh, the limited field concept, how did my explanation of the hot weather and slow play go over you think?
TWPrivacy: I saw one of the writers shake his head in a positive way.
twfPGATOUR©: Excellent. It's just, you see, I'm going to have a little trouble with the Board on this, since we're not really adding a playing opportunity for a portion of the membership.
TWPrivacy: Well, that's why you have the 5 directors that you appoint, and 4 player directors.
twfPGATOUR©: Good point. Well thanks again Tiger for this very special day. Oh one other thing, could you ask Mark Steinberg to give me a call tomorrow?
TWPrivacy: Actually Tim, this is Mark. Tiger had to step away.
TWPrivacy: It was me all along. Say, I'll be in after 8, and you have the cell.
twfPGATOUR©: Right. Safe travels.
TWPrivacy: You too Tim.
Bill Huffman on Michelle Wie skipping the Safeway as well as the LPGA's first major:
Tom Maletis, the president of the Tournament Golf Foundation that runs the Safeway International, said the injury also will keep Wie from playing the following week in the Kraft Nabisco Championship – the LPGA’s first major championship.
“I’ve been in constant contact with B.J. (her father) and the Wie camp,’’ Maletis said when asked about the 17-year-old superstar’s status for the Safeway International, which takes place March 22-25 at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club near Gold Canyon.
“Officially, she’ll miss our event, and, unofficially, she’ll also miss the Kraft Nabisco. Apparently, last week she had the cast taken off, and the doctor found that (the injury) was not healing like it should – there was still some pain – and so the doctor put the cast back on for another two weeks.’’
Maletis said he was somewhat surprised that the official word on both tournaments had yet to be released.
“But B.J. told me she’s not going to play in either tournament,’’ Maletis said. “I mean, she would just be getting the cast off, and that’s hardly the time to make your first (LPGA) start of the season.’’
It’s been a frustrating 2007 for Wie to date. She showed up at the Sony Hawaiian Open on the PGA Tour in January with her right wrist bandaged, which Wie labeled a “little injury.’’ At the time, she said she wasn’t sure if the wrist was sprained or strained, or perhaps a pinched nerve.
In February, she fell while reportedly running backwards during a visit to Stanford, where Wie will attend college this fall. That injury was diagnosed as a severe sprain and her left wrist was put in a cast. Now, it’s in a second cast.
Running backwards, on a campus visit?
Q. (Operator interruption. Question about size of field.)
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I've had some preliminary conversations with our board and I have to believe that we will work with Tiger and the Foundation to fine-tune it, but my guess is that at the end of the day, the field size will be commensurate with what you generally see in Invitationals which is a somewhat limited field.
Now there's a couple of reasons for that. One is prestige of the event. The other is, even though it's snowing today, it's quite warm here -- I used to live here for ten years, July 4th, and pace of play -- we want the pace of play and the experience for the players to be positive as well. So you put those two things together, and it argues for a somewhat shorter field and I think that's where we'll be.
So the experience for the players needs to be positive, therefore limit the field size so that pace of play has a chance of breaking 5 hours?
In other words, slow play is in the best interests of the world's top players?
The slower they get, the smaller the fields become?
Anyway, thanks to reader Steve for this link to Len Shapiro's online chat spelling out the key event details.
Golfweek's Alistair Tait says the USGA/R&A braintrust is way too late on the grooves and distance issues, with little hope for a happy resolution.
However, it doesn't take a Ph.D. to recognize that the game has changed immeasurably, no matter what the governing bodies tell us. Yes, the objective of getting the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible hasn't changed, but the means of doing so have.
It wasn't that long ago that John Daly was the only player to hit drives over 300 yards, now every Tom, Dick or Bubba seems to be able to do that.
You can't blame the equipment manufacturers. It's not as if they went out and broke the rules. They acted within the guidelines laid down by the governing bodies. After all, it wasn't the manufacturers who changed the specifications to allow square grooves, but the governing bodies.
Moreover, golf's two ruling bodies sat blithely by as manufacturers experimented with metal woods, graphite shafts, long putters, and did absolutely nothing.
Now they are trying to turn back the clock.
It can't be done. All this talk of rolling back the ball is just that. Try doing that and watch the writs fly. And rightly so. If I was a ball manufacturer who had acted within the rules laid down by both the R&A and USGA at all times, I'd be pretty ticked off if they turned round to me and said, "Oh, by the way, we've made a small mistake and we need you to change the way you produce your product."
The words, "Get my lawyer on the phone" spring to mind.
This grooves rethink isn't the start of some technological fight back. As far as I'm concerned they are merely putting a sticking plaster on a gaping wound.
We are where we are. The genie is out of the bottle and can't be put back in because there is no way the R&A and USGA can fight the manufacturers in the courts. All they can do now is try to draw a line in the sand.
Now, we all know that the R&A was utterly useless until recently, and the USGA was held back by the R&A's incompetence on equipment issues along with that messy legal situation where each of their members could be named in a manufacturer lawsuit. We also know that in testing areas, the USGA has been slow to keep up with the manufacturers (by their own admission).
So wouldn't a simple "sorry, we goofed, this has to be done for the good of the game" apology go a long way in this discussion?
I heard from a college coach today who took great exception to Hank Haney's piece on college golf not necessarily being the best place to prep players for the PGA Tour. The coach said the sense of entitlement with today's kids is already out of whack and pieces like this will only make their life more difficult, but worse than that, create ridiculous expectations from kids.
The scoring format and playing fields of college golf also impede progress. At most college tournaments, teams play with five players but count only the best four scores from each day. That can cause a player having a bad round to get in the habit of packing it in rather than battling (though that might mean he's not in the lineup for the next tournament).
Right. Like players always know which five are going to count. And let's say they do, even so, they want to stay in the line up and protect their scoring average. Players do not dog it because of the five-counting-four-scores system.
And in my experience, many college events were played on courses with little rough. Hitting it crooked without being punished is not good training for what players will face as pros.
Uh, haven't we just been hearing that there is no correlation between driving accuracy and financial success?
"It wouldn't be that big of a deal if this were a normal year,'' Jobe said. "But with the FedEx Cup and everything, you probably have to be 80th to have any chance of winning it. I'm already two months behind.''
Doug Ferguson writes about Tiger's new PGA Tour ad, filmed during his Nissan Open week off.
While at home in Florida two weeks ago, Woods did three spots for the PGA Tour. One of them was a voiceover, and the other two were scripted roles promoting the FedExCup.Ty, no mention of texture? And I had it marked on my PGA Tour MBASpeak bingo board! Oh well.
"Clearly, having Tiger do these spots is a very nice element of the campaign," tour spokesman Ty Votaw said. "It’s always good to have your No. 1 player participate in these things. He’s someone who resonates with our fans, and to see him in this kind of context is something the fans will enjoy."
Mark Steinberg at IMG said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem approached him late last year and they found a spot in Woods’ schedule — coincidentally, it was the week of the Nissan Open, which Woods skipped for only the second time in his career.
Coincidentally, I think that's the week that he was undecided about playing up until the last minute!
Uh there's your confirmation: that lovely westside traffic really did leave a bad taste in his mouth. Can't say I blame Tiger.
This should also put to rest the silly stuff about him skipping Riviera to protect his streak.
Ryan Ballengee takes a comprehensive (and I mean comprehensive) look at the state of the game, the impact of technology and other elements.
This was an interesting positive, among many other not so uplifting conclusions:
In its 2006 report at the annual Golf 20/20 Conference, PGA of America President Roger Warren showed that the Play Golf America program may be achieving its goals. Website hits were way up, the number of participating facilities increased, and there was a 21% in the number of people utilizing free lessons during PGA Free Lesson Month. The American Express Women's Golf Week saw a 159% increase in the number of female players participating. Among those participants in those events, 23% and 52% of each described themselves as new golfers. Among all participants for both programs, 41% and 22% respectively then went on to signup for a tee time at a golf facility afterward. Play Golf America also claims a 79% one-year retention rate for its new golfer participants. In all, this is very striking data in the face of NGF data that may indicate a contrarian trend before (and maybe during) Play Golf America.
Former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan shares his thoughts on the ramifications and politics behind a possible U-groove rule change:
The recent USGA announcement proposing to get rid of U-shaped grooves contained every self-congratulatory cliché except “Mission Accomplished.”
Dick Rugge, USGA senior technical director, said “These proposals represent the comprehensive, deliberate and thoughtful nature of the USGA’s equipment research.”
It’s Rugge’s own work.
Whatever happened to modesty?
The reality is that the USGA, unable or unwilling to do anything about the surge in distance that has polluted the game, is trying to pretend it is giving birth to an elephant. In fact, it’s not even a mouse.
Rugge correctly observes that "the skill of driving the ball accurately has become much less important in achieving success on the Tour than it used to be.” From there comes his quantum leap in logic that by reverting to V grooves the rich, wild and famous will get so much less spin and loft from “the rough” that they might as well leave the Tour and look for jobs.
The balls used on the Tour, sure enough, are predominantly urethane covered, softer than the rocks used by the rest of us, and therefore spin more. Our balls, with surlyn covers, will not be affected, so the USGA says it has discovered a win-win situation.
Back in 1986 the USGA, with Frank Thomas as its technical director, published a massive “Groove Study”. It said that soft-covered balls, with balata then in use, spun some more out of short rough when struck with U-grooved clubs, but not enough to make any difference. The key word was “insignificant.”
Rugge & Co. say “posh” to the original groove story. The difference they say matters a hell of a lot.
Alas, they provide no specifics. Like so:
1. The average score on the PGA Tour is stuck on 71.2. If U-grooves matter so much the average score then must surely jump come 2009, assuming the PGA Tour accepts the proposal. I hazard the prediction that unless the Tour modifies the way it sets up courses the average score will stay the same.
2. The USGA posture seems to be that the wrong people have been winning. One wonders who they might be. Surely not Tiger Woods, who shares with the USGA a deep love for business deals with American Express.
3. What is “rough” and what strains of grass are we talking about? Is it what the announcers at The Masters are required to call “the second cut.” It surely can’t be the USGA’s own famous “primary rough” because the grooves don’t get to the ball out of 5 inches of grass.
4. U-grooves became permissible under the Rules of Golf in 1984. So how come the tilt toward power on the Tour did not cause brows to furrow until the late 1990s?
5. The USGA has a vast archive of television tapes. How about pulling up about 6 shots that show the perfidious results of U-grooves and offering them as a display?
Almost nobody disagrees with the USGA observation that distance matters too much now. That’s because the USGA blew it to the extent that the average distance per measured drive on the Tour is 289 yards, nearly 30 yards up since the early 1990s.
The Tour has scrambled to stabilize scoring by making courses much harder today. But the power hitters benefit disproportionately. Imagine it’s 1990 and a big hitter is 180 yards from the hole while his fellow competitor, an average hitter, is 210 yards from the hole. Fast forward to 2007. The big hitter is now 150 yards away and the average hitter 180 yards distant. I contend the difference between the two in what they score on the hole has widened in favor of the big hitter.
If the USGA is serious about restoring the virtues of accuracy all it has to do is roll back the fail point in its vital Overall Distance Standard test. Banning U-grooves is merely a way of pretending to do something. The proposals for change are likely to sail through because they don’t bother anybody.
The USGA can declare victory, or at least until the end of the 2009 season when it becomes understood nothing has happened.
Saugerties, New York
March 6, 2007
To read other Hannigan letters, here was his previous piece on the grooves story, his commentary on the recent USGA-AmEx deal, his thoughts on the USGA's private jet package and his take on USGA President Walter Driver's views on distance.
"Nicklaus and Norman and Player who are whining about distance are whining about something they no longer have."
I try not to read too much of Breach and Gulley's blog over at GolfDigest.com, but reader Charlie insisted I check out Billowy and Gnarled's take on the John Paul Newport groove WSJ story.
Besides leaving me completely confused what point they were attempting to make, this just blew me away, from the keyboard of Gouge:
Those like Nicklaus and Norman and Player who are whining about distance are whining about something they no longer have.
Yes, but they still have all those majors, their own planes and absolutely nothing to gain from their comments.
So this got me thinking about an idea that could generate some serious traffic for GolfDigest.com.
Let's get "Gouge" in a room with Nicklaus, Norman and Player, and have him say the above to their faces.
We'll videotape the moment along with the ensuing discussion and see what people think.
Jerry, Bob, I smell a million hits, easy!
With my schedule of late, I was never able to post the annual Golf Writers Association writing contest winners (yes, sanity has been restored, I won nothing this year).
In a review of the winning efforts, I was a bit surprised to notice the first place entry in the Internet Feature category was actually part of a weekly press release issued by an official from a tour!
Sorry I'm going to miss that GWAA meeting in Augusta. Should be a real peach!
Catching up on my reading, I noticed John Hawkins' assessment of The Gallery in the latest Golf World:
The move to Tucson resulted in more than $1 million in ticket sales—attendance was limited to 17,000 per day—but The Gallery-South is an awful walking course, set on a rise of earth known as Dove Mountain and woefully short of decent sightlines. If you didn't have a camel and a pair of binoculars, you were basically out there for the exercise.
I was out of town and mercifully didn't see any of the Honda, but judging by the winning scores, the tightly bunched leaderboard and a one-hole playoff not finishing before dark, it sounds like things got a little goofy? No?
For some unknown reason I ventured to PGATour.com to find out how the best players in the world couldn't finish on time, but no luck in their game story. A check of other game stories said nothing.
Was the pace of play that bad? How about the setup?
The stories are finally trickling out on the USGA's proposed groove rule change, and I suppose it's a matter of taste, but there are three unique takes.
John Paul Newport files another of those all-over-the-place columns where he seems to have an opinion, but writes in fear of his pro-business Wall Street Journal editors. I have to admit that it's entertaining to actually read someone waivering dramatically from sentence to sentence. If you want to save yourself the trouble, it comes down to this: Newport doesn't want to give up 10 yards.
Furthermore, speaking for myself, even if someone persuaded me that switching to shorter balls was necessary for the good of the game, I can't imagine being happy about it. I'd hate to have to start laying up short of that bunker on No. 2 that I now carry. Getting older is enough of a burden without having to play a shorter ball, too.
For those of you keeping score at home, that's five self references in two sentences. Oh, and he called ball companies for perspective on the issue. Next week, Newport will be calling tobacco companies for their views on the possibility of cigarette smoking causing cancer.
Though the calls make this worth the price of admission:
Titleist has been especially aggressive in countering any whisper of support for ball rollback. Joseph Nauman, an executive vice president at Titleist's parent company, Acushnet, acknowledges that its executives have had "very pointed conversations" with media and other organizations about the issue. In 2004, at the height of the alarums about distance, Titleist started pulling all of its ads from the industry's most outspoken magazine, Golf Digest. Mr. Nauman says that wasn't a response to articles on the distance controversy, but the action had a chilling effect nonetheless on ad-dependent media throughout the industry.
Wally, you would do that? I'm shocked! Not the Wally I know!
Steve Elling does a nice job of providing a "balanced" take on the issue, considering both sides of the equation. Elling seems to buy into the USGA's logic (V-grooves will lead players to throttle back), he too concludes that the distance and ball debate isn't going away.
Finally John Huggan weighed in with is Scotland on Sunday column.
Don’t look now folks, but that nifty new wedge in your golf bag is, sometime down the road, going to be deemed illegal. It’s nothing you did – or can do – with the club you understand. But the boogie men at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and their sidekicks at the United States Golf Association have, in their finite wisdom, decided that something has to be done about those nasty square grooves on the face of a club you mostly use to hack back into play after another of
those sliced tee-shots. Ironically, it is the seeming indifference of the world’s top players to the seemingly ever-increasing disconnection between success and accuracy off the tee that has golf’s officials in a bit of a tizz.
And he quotes a former player...
“When I first started on tour back in the mid-1980s, I would watch players like Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal crap themselves when faced with a ‘jumpy’ lie from the rough,” says a former European Tour professional of my acquaintance. “They knew that if the shot went wrong they would be 30-40 yards over the green, rather than on the back edge of the putting surface, which has invariably been the case recently. For that reason alone, V-grooves have to be brought back; we need to put fear back into the game.”
Now, while all of the above is just fine by me, it must be added that even this welcome move by the game’s ruling bodies is, at best, only a start in the on-going battle to restore elite golf to its former glories. The ability to spin shots from long grass is, after all, merely an effect; the real problem is the nonsensical distances the world’s best players can propel their tee-shots using balls that a) go too far and b) fly too straight. Which is why you don’t see any of today’s big names shaping shots like Ballesteros and Lee Trevino used to do. Sadly, golf at the highest level has become a science rather than an art.
Still, it would be wishful thinking on our parts to see this latest development in the technology war doubling as a prelude to the R&A and USGA hauling the ball back 40-50 yards for Tiger and the gang. That ain’t going to happen as long as the tacit threat of legal action from club and ball manufacturers hangs over their graying heads.
Sadly, cowardice – albeit understandable - rules when it comes to taking on high-powered lawyers employed by the likes of Titleist, Callaway and TaylorMade. Even this latest development has come to pass only because the manufacturers know full well that square grooves or V-grooves make no difference to the average golfer (when was the last time you ‘sucked’ a wedge shot back to the pin?). Which is why the ban is only going to apply to so-called ‘elite players’ and why the club makers were thrown a bone in the shape of a rules change that will allow adjustable lofts and lies on clubs.
This is an interesting question he raises...
There are, however, wider implications in that a line has to be drawn somewhere. When and where will a golfer magically become ‘elite’ having previously been, eh, ‘non-elite?’ Until now, the R&A and USGA has been vehemently opposed to what they call ‘bifurcation,’ a situation where amateurs and professionals would play the game under different rules (despite the fact that, largely due to the exponential benefits available to those who can swing modern clubs over a certain speed, the gap between the two codes has never been wider).
Thanks to reader John for this nice Kevin Stevens story on the passing of Dick Donovan, one of the great collectors and friend of golf authors around the globe.
Finally, there were Jack's comments on Augusta National which I found interesting because last year he appeared to back off of his original assertions made during the Golf Digest Panelist Summit (and subsequently published in the April 2006 Digest).
No grey area here:
I miss the old Augusta National. Is the radically redesigned golf course a good one? Yes. Is it the golf course with the design principles that Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie intended? Absolutely not.
Augusta was generous off the tee, which made it great for everyday member play. But to score—to really play golf—you had to position the drive to get a good angle at the green. It was a second-shot golf course.
Now the tee shot is more restricted. Trees and new bunkering have narrowed the landing areas, making Augusta a tight course with few angles or options. I know the changes were made to provide an increased challenge for modern pros and keep them from overpowering the course, but it has taken the charm out of the Jones/Mackenzie design.
So much for any possible misinterpretation that Nicklaus thinks they are upholding the integrity of the original design.
I was disappointed that in doing the redesign, Augusta didn’t consult the five oldest multiple Masters champions who also are course designers [Palmer, Player, Nicklaus, Watson, Crenshaw]. We would have had a lot of good ideas, and we wouldn’t have clashed. We would have come to an agreement because we all have so much respect for what’s there.
Well, I don't know about the part about not clashing...but those five would be a lot better than what they've been doing!