Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer

Putting is the department of golf which...lends itself to experimentation and the exploitation of pet theories.  HARRY VARDON

 

   

Thursday
Apr022009

"In my opinion the course is so wet right now that it will be a miracle for it to be playing fast by Thursday."

That's Stewart Cink Twittering after his practice round at Augusta Thursday. Besides the comment above...

  • FYI when the club rebuilds greens they generally soften the slopes, due to ever-increasing green speeds. This year no different.  17 minutes ago from web
  • Overall it appears this year the changes are the fewest in several years. 19 minutes ago from web
  • Fifth green changed most significantly, with a totally new pin location on the extreme left of the green. 25 minutes ago from web
  • Rebuilt greens: #1, 5, 6. First hole shortened by 7 yards. Seventh hole back tee extended forward for setup flexibility. 27 minutes ago from web

Still haven't signed up for Twitter? Cink alone has made it a blast for me to follow along, as have a few others. He really has the hang of how to share handy little bit of information that you can't get anywhere else.

Thursday
Apr022009

"The Internet Writer of the Year says four more majors is a tall order even for a man as good as the world No 1"

I'm having a hard time imagining the New York Times touting an award won by their golf writer in a sub-headline, but that's what The Times does for John Hopkins' latest Spike Bar column. Perhaps it's a British thing to be so humble. You know like the Queen and Phillip so modestly giving Barack Obama a signed photograph of themselves, as they do with all visiting dignitaries.

Either way, "The Internet Writer of the Year" is sticking to his guns and suggestions he's not going to wager on Tiger Woods winning more majors than Jack Nicklaus.

No, it was not an April Fool's Day piece, I'm sad to say.

My view is constant on this and always has been. I will not put any money on Woods even equalling Nicklaus's record.

You mean betting on the sport you cover isn't against company policy? Love those Brits!

My money is still on Nicklaus. Woods's injured leg does appear to have recovered but say he attracts another injury, this time to the other leg or to an arm. Say he is injured in a car accident as Ben Hogan was or, dare one say it, physically attacked? What happens then?

Dare, dare. And wow, what an uplifting thought. Perhaps you'd like to detail this more? Are we talking a Monica Seles thing here? How lovely.

And you wonder why Tiger has a boat named Privacy.

Thursday
Apr022009

And The Hits Just Keep On Coming...

Look at the Golf World cover to its Masters Preview. So much for any hint of the media defending Hootie and Tom Fazio's modifications to Augusta National and the ensuing damage to the Masters, gulp, brand.

And John Hawkins, who was not exactly kind in his recent writings, offers solutions he feels would help fix the place (Lose the rough, add some tee flexibility, make the par-5s more tempting, slow the greens).

 

Thursday
Apr022009

Just Wondering What The Tour Wives Are Thinking...

...after reading articles (here and here) about their PGA Tour playing husbands getting touchy about television wanting to put wireless microphones on their man, has me wondering if the traditionally--but-not-always blond life partners are asking the spouses about what precisely is said that can't be heard on national television.

Wife, After Google News Alert Shows Her Article Where He Is Complaining About The Microphones: Honey, what is so awful about what you and [insert looper name here] are talking about while you're standing around all day waiting for Sean O'Hair to pull the trigger?

Tour Drone Who Forgets That Television Networks Pay His Mortgage: Oh lovey, you know what men talk about. Credit default swap, the way Nancy Pe...Barack Obama is to blame for everything. You know, things that men on the PGA Tour are expected to talk about.

Wife, Growing Skeptical: Well that's wonderful honey. Here I thought maybe you were talking about young ladies in your gallery or something lewd like that.

Tour Drone Who Thinks What He Does Is So Very, Very Important To The Survival Of Mankind And The Cure Of All Disease: No no dear, just man stuff. Say, how was the Louis Vuitton outlet store today?

Thursday
Apr022009

"If I wanted total privacy then I would stay at home."

Lawrence Donegan looks at the caddy-miking issue and gets more player feedback. I suppose this could be the biggest negative of the entire exercise:

Perhaps the only foolproof answer is to live your life like Padraig Harrington, the tee-total, non-swearing Irishman who is as squeaky clean in private as he is in public.

"Personally, I would have no problems with my caddie wearing a microphone. In fact, I've worn one on the golf course in the past [during exhibition matches and the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, an end of season event featuring that year's major winners]," said Harrington.

"Obviously, you couldn't be as free and easy in your conversations with your caddie. But if I wanted total privacy then I would stay at home."

So sure, the guys who are miked might be more careful. But in the heat of battle, I suspect they will forget the mike is on. After all, those great NBC chats picked up by the sound guys lately have been done so with the sound man almost on top of the players at times, and the conversations were still pretty fun to listen in on.

Thursday
Apr022009

"TIES BROKEN IN FAVOR OF COURSES WITH MORE EVALUATIONS"

A reader spotted an interesting footnote in the latest Golf Digest ranking. Posted at the top is this note:

TIES BROKEN IN FAVOR OF COURSES WITH MORE EVALUATIONS

I seem to remember past rankings leaving ties in place, but I'm sure a ranking afficionado out there will clarify what has been the case on that.

In the discussions I've had with panelists and readers of the magazine this week, several have questioned just how many votes Augusta National received to earn the top spot considering that it is so difficult to access (and playing the course is a requirement to "rate" it). Two panelists have already told me their requests have always been denied.

Perhaps questions need to be asked about the makeup of the panel and the importance of access in the rating process. Check out this tiebreaker:

28. (36) CASTLE PINES G.C.
Castle Rock, Colo. / Jack Nicklaus (1981) 7,696 72 64.65

29. (26) BETHPAGE STATE PARK (Black)
Farmingdale, N.Y. / Joseph H. Burbeck & A.W. Tillinghast (1936)

Yes, Castle Pines--an ultra-exclusive club--received more rater evaluations than arguably the most famous public course on the planet which, incidentally, hosts the U.S. Open this year.

There are several more tiebreakers on the list and most make more sense, including Peachtree (Peachtree!) getting more evaluations than Scioto.

Wednesday
Apr012009

Houston Officials Try To Copy Augusta, Right Down To The Really Petty Stuff Too!

Melanie Hauser on the impressive job Steve Timms has done making Houston a key pre-Masters stop, right down to mimicking the humorous fairway mowing patterns designed to help Augusta's USGA members save face for not having controlled distance  to cut down on the deleterious impact of golf ball roll.

Alvaro Quiros, who has moved up to 25th in the world, decided to play after talking to Garcia.
"He told me that Houston is a good tournament for many reasons, but one of the more important ones is the setup, you know,'' Quiros said. "For example, when we arrive to the second shot on the first hole, Sergio told me look, "Can you see the grass is cutting against you? It's typical of The Masters."

"Normally we have the grass cut in our favor or to the green and here it's against. It's a good thing the mowing of the greens and the speed of the greens are very close. It was raining. After three, four days of sunny -- this is very good. The shape of the rough is a little bit lower. I heard about last year -- it was a little bit higher or thicker so, yeah, it's a good test for me especially for this one.''

Wednesday
Apr012009

"That's right, No. 398 would get in the Olympics, but the last two Masters champions"

Gary Van Sickle looks at the glorified-WGC nature of the Olympic golf format and says it's not so glorious. Sorry, but this is what happens when you lean on top players and television executives for creative solutions.

Wednesday
Apr012009

The Hootie Index

Wednesday
Apr012009

Padraig Harrington Must Really Want To Sit On The Golf Digest Panel

Golf Digest has posted their top 100 list earlier than planned so that you can stare at Augusta National in the #1 spot. I've been around well traveled golfers the last two days and the ranking is nearly always talked about. That would normally be great, except that nearly every conversation spirals into the dreaded "what were they thinking" or "that ranking has lost all credibility."

But it's not all bad. Padraig Harrington, using the dreaded "fair" word, loves the changes. Of course, fair rarely is a word associated with the fun, interesting, volatile, edgy or ingenious design elements, all attributes you think of when considering Augusta National before Hootie Johnson and Tom Fazio scrubbed it clean.

Q. Speaking of it not being the same course, can you just address a little bit on Augusta and how it has changed over the years?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think since I played it, I started playing in 2000, and I think the changes they've made are fantastic since then. I think when I first went there, I hit sand wedge into 1, I hit pitching wedge into 5, 9-iron into 11, lob wedge into 18. These are not the clubs were being hit into the holes when I watch it -- these are not the clubs I saw being hit into those holes when I watched it on TV.

What they did was they tended to put the pins very close to the slopes and the course was tricky. Since they've lengthened the golf course, it made a bigger, solider challenge and they use fairer pin positions. So to me the golf course got stronger but fairer since then.

So instead of -- you know, four would be a good example. They use that pin in the back left. The flag would be a foot from the slope in 2000 or 2001. You would be hitting 7-iron in there. Now you're hitting in a 3-iron, 5-wood type shot but the flag is cut two, three paces from it.

I think that's better. I prefer to be asked to hit a bigger, solider shot but to a fairer target. I think they've improved the golf course no end. It is a long course, but no longer than what we saw on TV in the '80s.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to stick with observations from players who actually played it in the 80s instead of watching on TV.

And not to be a total stickler since I'm not Strunk, but solider?

Wednesday
Apr012009

"Where are you going to make up for it?"

In the April Golf Digest, Jaime Diaz writes about the lack of excitement at recent Masters and concludes that simple tweaks are all the place needs.

This is a significant story for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that it's a major shift from Diaz who penned a Golf World story just three years ago with the subtitle: "On Second Thought, Masters officials knew precisely what they were doing when they executed the most recent changes to Augusta National."

But as with that story, embedded you will find more telling details that speak to the impact of architectural changes at Augusta National. While he focuses on "tweaks," it's clear that Diaz talked to many figures and few feel the course has evolved in a positive way.

For the record, what I thought was a slightly misleading headline (just in case five years from now he writes something titled, "Cut the Rough And The Silly Trees Down Mr. Chairman Ridley, Please":

Adjusting the Volume: For all the fretting that the Masters is trading roars for bores, a few tweaks (and good weather) might be all that Augusta National needs

That's a bit misleading since Diaz proposes restoring two of the most famous tournament holes in golf, which seem like they were recklessly altered when you read some of the really interesting tidbits Diaz picked up from players.

In excusing the defensive nature of the event in recent years, Diaz writes:

The 10 yards that have been added to the front of the tee on the par-4 seventh were sorely needed. The hole was the redesign's worst effort in terms of strategy and aesthetics. Lengthened by 85 yards since 2001, to 450 yards, it was also counter-intuitively tightened with more trees. Even after a good drive, the super-shallow green--which was built in the '30s to receive an exacting short iron or wedge--is unreasonably small for a middle-iron approach. As Woods has said, "I don't have that shot." What used to be a tricky and tantalizing risk-reward has become a hard par where the mandated conservative play is a competitive buzz kill.

I don't see how 10 yards and no tree removal fixes No. 7? Television does not do justice to how absurdly narrow this hole has become (it wasn't exactly wide before!).

Alright, here's where Diaz gets to the main point in all of the ANGC change discussion. The once beautiful balance is gone, putting players in a constant state of defensiveness.

"The whole thought process of playing the golf course used to be, get through the first six holes around par, and you can birdie 7, 8 and 9 ... and you have a great round," Phil Mickelson said last year. "It changes when you can be aggressive--and the whole complexion and the mind-set of how to play the first six or seven holes."

Diaz focuses on the 13th and 15th as the keys to restoring Augusta National to its former self. He explains why players lay up more than ever, then writes:

It's a procession of almost laughably mundane short-iron lay ups to what essentially becomes two 100-yard par 3s, giving the Masters another wedge-fest. The 13th, in particular, used to be considered the best tournament hole in the world, but that reputation is being diminished.

It also contributes to boring golf to play. Without a payoff looming on 13 and 15, players, to use Faldo's term, get "switched off" to creative, aggressive shotmaking and go into a sort of play-for-par U.S. Open mode that has hurt the Masters.

His solutions, which all make sense:

So here's a simple stimulus package: Make the 13th and 15th worth going for in two again.

Augusta National has all the options. The club can move up some tees, soften greens, set less-dangerous hole locations, cut the fairway grass in the direction of the green instead of toward the tee, flatten some speed slot-killing fairway humps, trim some overhanging branches and take out a tree or six, grow the grass around the water hazards just a hair longer--or any combination of the above. The goal, as Jim Furyk succinctly states, should be to "put the gamble back in."

A first step has been taken, with the tee on 15 being moved forward about eight yards. Something similar should happen on 13. The landing area on 13 since the hole was lengthened is much more sidehill than the old one. The awkwardness of the lie, versus the more level former landing area, is a big inhibitor to players going for the green. Length isn't the issue as much as loss of control.

While those are great suggestions, it's hard to imagine 13 and 15 reclaiming their former glory without removing all of the recently planted trees. (Look how absurdly narrow 15 is in the photo accompanying the story. And remember, it plays narrower than that due to the tilt of the fairway.)

Losing the second cut would compensate for restored width by sending errant balls further into trouble. More importantly, the look of width might subliminally encourage more aggressive play.

Ultimately the entire sense of defensiveness established by the club and Tom Fazio has to be eliminated from the architecture in order for The Masters to regain its place as golf's greatest championship. This means losing the rough, having more tee placement options, removing the silly trees and restoring holes like 1, 2, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17 to resemble their riskier, more volatile selves.

Wednesday
Apr012009

"I've always dreamed about seeing Augusta as just one big carpet"

I was most struck by how forthcoming the guys were in Dave Shedloski's quizzing of players about what they'd do to Augusta. Perhaps my memory has been clouded by nostalgia, but it seems to me that if 15 years ago or even 11 years ago (pre-you-know-who), no one would have wanted to be on the record questioning what they do. Nor would there really have even been a thought that such an article was needed.

Anyhow, I'm copying the three comments about getting rid of the rough because they make great sense, but the entire piece is interesting.

Ben Curtis: "Augusta National is an unbelievable place. But, you know, I was watching a tape of the '97 Masters, and if we could get the golf course like it was then, without the rough, have the ball rolling 30-40 yards, I think with the length it's at now, that would make it an even better test. Take away the rough, and then if you've got a big hitter who is hitting it off line, he finds himself in the trees and the pine straw. I think without the rough you actually have to be more precise. That would be the only thing I would do."

Justin Rose: "I would love to see it play as long as it is now, but with no rough. I would love to see what that would be like. I've always dreamed about seeing Augusta as just one big carpet, which you don't see now with the second cut and it gets trampled down. It doesn't look as pristine as it could, and I would just really love to see that just once."

Stewart Cink: "I would get rid of the intermediate rough and I would like it to be all fairway again. I would leave everything else the same, but have that one cut, all fairway. That totally separated it from every other course in the way it looked and the way it played."

Tuesday
Mar312009

Forbes World Match Play Final

In lieu of the traditional April Fool's Day post, here's a bit of enjoyable viewing highlighted by a not-particularly- subtle cameo appearance from Jimmy Roberts. Still, this is all in good fun from the folks at Forbes:

Tuesday
Mar312009

Still Wondering After All These Days...

I'm still digesting Wally Uihlein's statement last week to Mike Stachura of Golf Digest that a line in the sand has been drawn and the golf ball "fenced in" distance-wise under current rules. And I just keep wondering if this is in fact the case, what is now so offensive about the idea of a competition spec ball or a rollback for elite players? After all, the manufacturers signed off on a groove rollback to restore the value of skill, why is the ball different?

I even sense Blago and Goiter over at GolfDigest.com are open to this discussion based on their most recent post where Goiter seems open to considering bifurcation. And Wally, I just know you'll be anxious to join in on this potential Kumbaya moment.

Tuesday
Mar312009

"It only appears that the world ranking makes this more confusing than it needs to be."

In light of the revelation that Davis Love could have sat out Bay Hill and made it into the Masters, Doug Ferguson makes a case for the Official World Golf Ranking as a tool to determine Masters qualifiers:

If the 1998 criteria were still in effect, Love could have booked his reservations to Augusta National four months ago after he won at Disney for his 20th career PGA Tour victory. Then again, the Masters field would also include the likes of Parker McLachlin, Marc Turnesa, Ryan Palmer, Michael Bradley and Richard S. Johnson, all of whom won against watered-down fields.

And if the '98 criteria were used today, here are some of the players who not be eligible -- Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Rory Sabbatini, Tim Clark, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and 54-year-old Greg Norman.

Some of them -- but not all -- would have received special invitations the Masters typically reserved for international players.

Tuesday
Mar312009

"Anything to help the TOUR and the ratings, we're all for it."

Craig Dolch looks at the debate over miking caddies and the various dynamics involved. I'm not sure what the big concern is (well, no more leering and talking between shots). Still, one of the top leather bag toters is resisting.

"I'm going to recommend we not do it," Eric Larson, Anthony Kim's caddie, said Monday. "I think they get enough from the boom mic. A lot of stuff we talk about (during a round) is personal stuff that has nothing to do with golf. They say that won't get out on TV, but somebody is always listening, so you always have to be careful with what you say."

Larson isn't the only caddie who sounds concerned. Reached Monday on his way to Houston, though, Bones said he would follow the lead of his player.

"If Phil is for it, then I'm for it," he said. "We know the TV contract comes up next year. Anything to help the TOUR and the ratings, we're all for it."

At least someone out there has a big picture view! Commish's assistant: send Bones a case of the PGA Tour label's finest Cab right away. Chop, chop.

 

Tuesday
Mar312009

"I did my good deed for the day"

Robbyn Brooks reports on a pretty amazing bit of heroism by Reggata Bay superintendent Doug Higgins, who pulled a woman to safety after her car plunged into water near the 16th hole.

"I was on the 16th hole and I could hear tires squealing," said Doug Higgins who had been making his morning rounds on a golf cart.

Higgins continued to drive toward U.S. Highway 98 where he thought the wreck was when he noticed a black Toyota Camry in the water.

"She was in the middle of the water," Higgins said. "She had her window down, but she was elderly and kind of out of it. She didn't try to get out."

Higgins had called 9-1-1 and could hear sirens in the distance, but the car was sinking rapidly. The woman rolled up her window instead of climbing out. That's when Higgins said he ditched his shoes and wallet and jumped in the water.

"The front door was too far in the water. I couldn't get it open," Higgins recalled. "I was beating on the glass saying, ‘Unlock your doors. Unlock your doors.' "

Higgins watched until the lock moved and then began to force the back door of the car open. The pressure was so great that water rushed in as he pried it.

"I got her seatbelt off and pulled her over the seat and to shore," Higgins said.

Tuesday
Mar312009

"I think it's fair to say that Shot Values and Resistance to Scoring were the likely categories that contributed to Augusta’s elevation.”

Golf Digest confirmed in a news release that the new Top 100 list will appear online April 6, listed the new entries on the list, confirmed rise of Augusta National to #1 and included this apology explanation from architecture editor Ron Whitten.

“Although the architectural changes at Augusta National have received criticism over the past few years, our panel consensus ranked it No. 1,” said Ron Whitten, Golf Digest Senior Editor of Architecture. “We evaluate seven different aspects of each course's design, and while it's hard to pinpoint individual reasons for a course’s ranking, I think it's fair to say that Shot Values and Resistance to Scoring were the likely categories that contributed to Augusta’s elevation.”

Those are probably the kindest words Ron or anyone else in his position could muster up to explain what happened.

Of course, since no one knows what Shot Values actually means and anyone...ANYONE...ANYONE can design a golf course that is Resistant to Scoring, hardly what I'd call a ringing endorsement for the new #1.

Monday
Mar302009

"But when Woods stood over his ball, just 15 feet from the hole, I could not see the cup."

Thinking about Tiger's putt today, I kept marveling at how dark it must have been since the photographs were so dark. Bob Harig sets the scene and explains just how difficult the conditions were...at least for seeing the ball and the cup.

Monday
Mar302009

April Fool's Comes Early This Year: ANGC Vaults To No. 1 On Golf Digest's Top 100 List

Golf Digest appears to have been scooped by GolfClubAtlas.com's discussion group where the early posters are howling at Augusta National's ascension to the No. 1 spot in the biennial Top 100 ranking.

Why is this not Golf Digest's finest ranking moment? Well for starters I devoted a solid third of my Keynote slides at the Golf Digest Panelist Summit to the butchery of Augusta National. So you can see how influential I was to the 120 or so panelists who were an otherwise dream audience to address (I'm used to architects, members and superintendents who scowl and yawn...or do both at the same time).

As the GCA readers have pointed out, the rise of ANGC to the top spot is particularly odd considering that Golf Digest has so nobly tried to reorient their panelists toward the reward of leaner and more environmentally friendly course conditioning. Augusta National certainly does not fit their ideal in any way.

Architecturally it's a head scratcher because the course is a bit of a mess. If you put today's mangled 7th hole or 11th holes on any other course, a majority of panelists would write the place off immediately. Throw in the awkward injections to the 15th and the lack of diversity in teeing grounds that discriminates against golfers between the handicaps of 18 and 4 (small audience!), and it really is hard to imagine how anyone can call this the best course in the land. Then again the serious architecture students are still badly outnumbered on the panel, so I'm not sure why I would expect architectural details to matter.

Overall I'm struck by how the list is populated with so many courses I have no desire to play. Fun appears to be an elusive quality of courses on the Digest list.

Anyway, the 2007 list for reference. I'll spare you comments for the entire list...


1 Augusta National G.C. - The Christmas tree planting is so strategic and yet so aesthetically pleasing too.

9 Fishers Island Club - Great place and no irrigation system! Go figure.

11 Oak Hill C.C. (East) - They meant 311th right?

20 Medinah C.C. (No. 3) - Rev up the dozers, about time for the bi-annual redo isn't it?

31 Riviera C.C. - Up 30 spots. Never hurts having a panelist running the joint!

32 Pinehurst Resort & C.C. (No. 2) - Serves them right for sterilizing the scrub off the property.

42 Canyata G.C. - I'm sorry, where is this?

46 Rich Harvest Links - They must have taken the artificial turf tee out finally!

47 Los Angeles C.C. (North) - After Rich Harvest and in front of Kinloch. 

53 Garden City G.C. - Wait, this is fun...how can it be ranked so high?

63 Flint Hills National G.C. - I'm sorry, where is this?

68 Stone Canyon Club - Their ads do look great!

74 Shoreacres - Again, way too much fun and full of character for this list.

83 Eagle Point G.C. - I'm not sorry, where is this?

84 Sahalee C.C. (South/North) - They're hosting a Senior major! Lucky guys.

88 Somerset Hills C.C. - Almost off the list finally, you never belonged. Too brilliant!

94 Hudson National G.C. - This still exists?