The audience in the theatre, looking over the footlights, view the play as do most of the gallery following the experts of golf. However, back-stage, there are a few eyes critically regarding the play from an entirely different angle. For many years I have preferred to observe golf shots from backstage, as it were. Seeing a man whack a golf ball is of little interest to me, and frequently it is a performance that had better be missed. That which concerns me most is where the ball lands and what it does after. A.W. TILLINGHAST
Good times in Memphis...
John Daly, who lives on the course where he is playing in the Stanford St. Jude Championship, reported to authorities that his wife attempted to stab him with a steak knife early Friday, authorities said.
Daly, 41, called police about 6 a.m. on Friday to report the alleged assault, Shelby County Sheriff's department spokesman Steve Shular said.
IN-PROGRESS SCORES: Updates from St. Jude Championship
When deputies arrived, she and the couple's children were not there. Deputies could not find the knife he claimed she used.
Red marks could be seen on both of Daly's cheeks as his warmed up on the course Friday afternoon. Play had been delayed by weather.
It will be Daly's decision whether to press charges, Shular said. No charges had been filed Friday afternoon.
* Daly comments:
"While I slept at home last night, I was the victim of an assault by my wife," Daly said.
"This morning, I filed a complaint with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office. They are investigating, and I'll have no further comment on the matter while they pursue their investigation.
"My only concern at this point is for the safety of my children and myself, and we are working closely with local authorities and PGA Tour security officials to assure appropriate safeguards."
Last year there were no definitive winners in the USGA's annual, unofficial $#@%! pairing. Still, here are the 2007 groupings. Your nominations for that pairing of three jovial, sunny, truly beloved contestants.
Thursday (June 14), hole #1; Friday (June 15), hole #10
7:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. - Ken Duke, Palm City, Fla.; Sam Walker, England; Johnson Wagner, Charlotte, N.C.
7:11 a.m. - 12:41 p.m. - Craig Kanada, The Woodlands, Texas; Jon Mills, Canada; Tom Gillis, Oxford, Mich.
7:22 a.m. - 12:52 p.m. - Allen Doyle, La Grange, Ga.; Olin Browne, Tequesta, Fla.; Tom Byrum, Richmond, Texas
7:33 a.m. - 1:03 p.m. - Nick Dougherty, England; A-Trip Kuehne, Dallas, Texas; Ricky Barnes, Scottsdale, Ariz.
7:44 a.m. - 1:14 p.m. - Ryuji Imada, Japan; Vaughn Taylor, Augusta, Ga.; Michael Campbell, New Zealand
7:55 a.m. - 1:25 p.m. - Jose Maria Olazabal, Spain; Sergio Garcia, Spain; Pablo Martin, Spain
8:06 a.m. - 1:36 p.m. - Tiger Woods, Windermere, Fla.; A-Richie Ramsay, Scotland; Geoff Ogilvy, Australia
8:17 a.m. - 1:47 p.m. - Justin Leonard, Dallas, Texas; Rory Sabbatini, South Africa; Jerry Kelly, Madison, Wis.
8:28 a.m. - 1:58 p.m. - Retief Goosen, South Africa; Luke Donald, England; Angel Cabrera, Argentina
8:39 a.m. - 2:09 p.m. - Bob Estes, Austin, Texas; Johan Edfors, Sweden; Ryan Palmer, Amarillo, Texas
8:50 a.m. - 2:20 p.m. - Woody Austin, Derby, Kan.; Mathew Goggin, Australia; Pat Perez, Scottsdale, Ariz.
9:01 a.m. - 2:31 p.m. - Jason Allen, Pueblo, Colo.; Mike Small, Champaign, Ill.; Geoffrey Sisk, Marshfield, Mass.
9:12 a.m. - 2:42 p.m. - Michael Berg, Detroit Lakes, Minn.; A-Jason Kokrak, Warren, Ohio; Kyle Dobbs, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Thursday (June 14), hole #10; Friday (June 15), hole #1
7:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. - Michael Putnam, Tacoma, Wash.; A-Rhys Davies, Wales; Lee Williams, Alexander City, Ala.
7:11 a.m. - 12:41 p.m. - Boo Weekley, Milton, Fla.; Nobuhiro Masuda, Japan; Bubba Watson, Bagdad, Fla.
7:22 a.m. - 12:52 p.m. - A-John Kelly, Saint Louis, Mo.; Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland; Kirk Triplett, Scottsdale, Ariz.
7:33 a.m. - 1:03 p.m. - Colin Montgomerie, Scotland; Chris DiMarco, Orlando, Fla.; Tim Clark, South Africa
7:44 a.m. - 1:14 p.m. - Ernie Els, South Africa; Zach Johnson, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Padraig Harrington, Ireland
7:55 a.m. - 1:25 p.m. - Thomas Bjorn, Denmark; Ben Curtis, Stow, Ohio; Stephen Ames, Canada
8:06 a.m. - 1:36 p.m. - K.J. Choi, Korea; David Toms, Shreveport, La.; Mike Weir, Canada
8:17 a.m. - 1:47 p.m. - Stuart Appleby, Australia; Scott Verplank, Edmond, Okla.; Robert Allenby, Australia
8:28 a.m. - 1:58 p.m. - Todd Hamilton, Westlake, Texas; John Rollins, Richmond, Va.; Anders Hansen, Denmark
8:39 a.m. - 2:09 p.m. - Niclas Fasth, Sweden; Arron Oberholser, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Nathan Green, Australia
8:50 a.m. - 2:20 p.m. - Nick Watney, Fresno, Calif.; Peter Hanson, Sweden; Harrison Frazar, Dallas, Texas
9:01 a.m. - 2:31 p.m. - A-Philip Pettitt Jr, Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Warren Pineo, Palm Desert, Calif.; John Koskinen, Baraga, Mich.
9:12 a.m. - 2:42 p.m. - Andy Matthews, Grand Rapids, Mich.; A-Jeff Golden, Winter Park, Fla.; Michael Block, Aliso Viejo, Calif.
Thursday (June 14), hole #1; Friday (June 15), hole #10
12:30 p.m. - 7:00 a.m. - Jeff Brehaut, Los Altos, Calif.; Andrew Buckle, Australia; Darron Stiles, Pinehurst, N.C.
12:41 p.m. - 7:11 a.m. - Martin Laird, Scotland; A-Alex Prugh, Spokane, Wash.; Todd Fischer, Pleasanton, Calif.
12:52 p.m. - 7:22 a.m. - Joe Durant, Pensacola, Fla.; Steve Stricker, Madison, Wis.; Joey Sindelar, Horseheads, N.Y.
1:03 p.m. - 7:33 a.m. - Trevor Immelman, South Africa; Stewart Cink, Duluth, Ga.; Paul Casey, England
1:14 p.m. - 7:44 a.m. - Vijay Singh, Fiji; Davis Love III, Sea Island, Ga.; Henrik Stenson, Sweden
1:25 p.m. - 7:55 a.m. - Jeff Sluman, Hinsdale, Ill.; Fred Funk, Ponte Vedra, Fla.; Toru Taniguchi, Japan
1:36 p.m. - 8:06 a.m. - Camilo Villegas, Colombia; Lucas Glover, Greenville, S.C.; Aaron Baddeley, Australia
1:47 p.m. - 8:17 a.m. - David Howell, England; J.J. Henry, Fort Worth, Texas; Rod Pampling, Australia
1:58 p.m. - 8:28 a.m. - Lee Westwood, England; Chad Campbell, Andrews, Texas; Carl Pettersson, Sweden
2:09 p.m. - 8:39 a.m. - Brett Quigley, Barrington, R.I.; Anthony Wall, England; Hunter Mahan, Plano, Texas
2:20 p.m. - 8:50 a.m. - Kevin Sutherland, Sacramento, Calif.; Soren Kjeldsen, Denmark; Eric Axley, Knoxville, Tenn.
2:31 p.m. - 9:01 a.m. - Joe Daley, Scottsdale, Ariz.; A-Martin Ureta, Chile; Miguel Rodriguez, Argentina
2:42 p.m. - 9:12 a.m. - A-Chris Condello, Heathrow, Fla.; Adam Speirs, Canada; Jacob Rogers, Tucson, Ariz.
Thursday (June 14), hole #10; Friday (June 15), hole #1
12:30 p.m. - 7:00 a.m. - Jason Dufner, Auburn, Ala.; Darren Fichardt, South Africa; Chris Stroud, Sea Island, Ga.
12:41 p.m. - 7:11 a.m. - Brandt Snedeker, Nashville, Tenn.; Christian Cevaer, France; Steve Marino, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
12:52 p.m. - 7:22 a.m. - Shaun Micheel, Germantown, Tenn.; Charl Schwartzel, South Africa; Tom Pernice Jr, Murietta, Calif.
1:03 p.m. - 7:33 a.m. - Nick O'Hern, Australia; Brett Wetterich, Jupiter, Fla.; Robert Karlsson, Sweden
1:14 p.m. - 7:44 a.m. - Kaname Yokoo, Japan; Paul Goydos, Dove Canyon, Calif.; Kenneth Ferrie, England
1:25 p.m. - 7:55 a.m. - Ian Poulter, England; Ryan Moore, Puyallup, Wash.; Shingo Katayama, Japan
1:36 p.m. - 8:06 a.m. - Phil Mickelson, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; Adam Scott, Australia; Jim Furyk, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
1:47 p.m. - 8:17 a.m. - Lee Janzen, Orlando, Fla.; Steve Elkington, Australia; Rich Beem, Austin, Texas
1:58 p.m. - 8:28 a.m. - Charles Howell, Orlando, Fla.; Justin Rose, England; Sean O'Hair, West Chester, Pa.
2:09 p.m. - 8:39 a.m. - Anthony Kim, Dallas, Texas; Jeev Milkha Singh, India; Dean Wilson, Kaneohe, Hawaii
2:20 p.m. - 8:50 a.m. - Tim Petrovic, Tampa, Fla.; Marcus Fraser, Australia; Tripp Isenhour, Orlando, Fla.
2:31 p.m. - 9:01 a.m. - D.J. Brigman, Albuquerque, N.M.; A-Richard Lee, Chandler, Ariz.; George McNeill, Ft Myers, Fla.
2:42 p.m. - 9:12 a.m. - Frank Bensel, Purchase, N.Y.; Todd Rossetti, Dallas, Texas; A-Mark Harrell, Hazlehurst, Ga.
In Chris Millard's Golf World cover story, the banning of U-grooves comes up.
You remember that right?
The guys are bombing it out there insane distances because the USGA believes the guys think they can spin it out of the light rough with today's grooves better than they can from the fairway (based on a field study of nine players). And because the drive distances are so eye-opening, the USGA wants to stop this embarrassing practice that makes what is left of today's fairways less meaningful.
By 2009, anyone wanting to play a competitive event under USGA rules will have to buy new clubs with conforming grooves.
Here's what USGA President Walter Driver tells Millard:
Oddly, the impetus for the grooves proposal was the state of play on tour, a very small but highly visible slice of the American golf community. "The fact that really stimulated this," said Driver, "is that during the last several years there is no correlation at all between fairways hit and money won on the PGA Tour. Clearly, you can hit it anywhere. Part of that is the grooves. We think we can demand more skill [by] making you drive the ball in play."
Now because of this, a whole bunch of people are going to have to go out and replace their clubs (which is why other than Ping, the reaction from the equipment industry has been and will continue to be concerned silence).
Yet, earlier in the story, Millard looks at the COR debate and Driver explains why the USGA rolled over:
If the view that the USGA should have fought to the death on COR can be described as idealistic, Driver's view is correspondingly pragmatic. He explains that the clubs in question were manufactured and bought in good faith and had earned the USGA's seal of approval. If the USGA had gone back even further on COR, he says, "I don't know whether we would have had the resources to buy all those clubs or to compensate the manufacturers for relying on the letters that we sent out.
So my question for Walter is, why aren't you offering to buy back all of these u-grooved irons that were manufactured and bought in good faith and had earned the USGA's seal of approval?
The Brand Lady made a rare press center appearance to try and put out the various fires started by Michelle Wie's entourage last week.
CAROLYN BIVENS: I'm going to make a fairly brief opening statement and I will take a few questions, and I'll outline some of the things that we can and can't talk about.She's baaaccckkkk!
I want to go back to last Thursday and the round in Charleston at River Town. Thursday morning, actually, beginning with the fifth hole that Michelle played, which was the 14th, there began to circulate all kind of rumors, innuendos and questions about a potential ruling, or lack thereof. There was a lot of things swirling around the media center.And it's good to see she's been brushing up on her English.
At this point, she rambles on about the advice ruling, which isn't why we're here, is it? Now, the 88 stuff...
The 88 rule only came in to effect by the time that Michelle had finished what would have been her 10th or 11th hole and shot the 10.
The Wie camp asked questions about the rules and the regulations, and we did as we do every week, and as we had done earlier that day for her playing partners and for others out in the field; we answered the questions regarding the rules and the regulations. At no time did anyone from the LPGA make any suggestion that Michelle should come off of the course.
I see. And, does this mean Mr. Higgs was less than truthful about his consultations "for no particular reason" with Mr. Nared? Oh I'm sorry, continue...
The one thing that I will not go into is any of the conversation that took place with Mr. Wie, Greg Nared and myself.
Oh. Well, let's see what the slingers ask.
Q. How do you think the conversation went without getting into details? Did he accept what you had to say; not what was said but just the tone of it.
CAROLYN BIVENS: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to discuss it.
Hey, you tried.
Q. Do you ever thoughts on the 88 rule and whether that still need to be in existence?
CAROLYN BIVENS: I really don't.
I'm not the expert on the rules. It's something that our executive committee will look at. What we generally do is at the end of the year we take two or three days in what's called think tank and the members of the executive committee, of which Annika is a member, get into some of the meatier issues that we really can't deal with during the playing year. And we figure out what needs to be changed, what needs to improve, what needs to be added for the following year.
Oh it's toast. As it should be.
Q. And as a lot of these storylines focus around various aspects of conduct with a 17-year-old, is there anything that you noticed at all leading into last week that raised any red flags; that got your attention that "I need to kind of pay attention to this?"
CAROLYN BIVENS: The question was, was there any indication before leading into last week that maybe was a red flag or something that needed to be paid attention to.
Doug, there really hasn't been. There really hasn't been.
Nope, no red flags here!
Remember Jerry, I merely copy and paste!
Well, and add just pinch of snarkiness. This is fun:
A few weeks before the May 2007 Golf Digest came out — the one with the '07–08 list of America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses, As Ranked by Golf Digest — Trump received distressing news: His West Palm Beach course, the one that had been No. 84 on the '05–06 list, had fallen out of the top 100. Trump was stunned. It made no sense to him that the course, which he obsessively tries to improve, would drop 17 or more spots. Such dramatic drops don't often happen.
Remember how certain things in business are on the short list of things that actually matter to Trump? Getting dropped from the Golf Digest top 100 qualifies. The list has had broad credibility in golf, and it's the kind of seal of approval Trump craves. Trump is a sucker for the word greatest. He knows that almost every course chosen for a major championship is on the 100 Greatest list.
And then something happened that got Trump even more upset. A reporter from the New York Post called and said that a p.r. person from Golf Digest, a Condé Nast magazine, was pitching the paper on a story about the Trump course falling off the list. "I suspect Mr. Trump will be extremely displeased when he learns of this," the Golf Digest director of public relations, Andrew Katcher, wrote in an e-mail to the paper. "Depending on what he says, we thought this could be a fun — and potentially biting — piece."
The Post reporter read the e-mail to Trump, and Trump responded with this: "It's despicable they send out a release to announce Trump is not on their list. For shame!"
When Trump recounted the entire episode to me, he was still livid. He said that a former publisher of Golf Digest, Mitchell Fox, had told him in 2002 that the Westchester course was going to be named by Golf Digest as the second-best private course opened that year. Trump said that Fox, who is now a high-ranking Condé Nast executive, was regularly playing at the course for free with clients and friends, though he was not a member. "I told him, 'Trump does not do Number 2 — take me off the list completely,' " Trump said. The course was not on the list.
The Donald has such sway! Or maybe the course just wasn't that good?
Sometime later, after Fox had played the course, by Trump's count, about 30 times and always for free, "I told my people to tell him not to come back," Trump said. I asked Trump why he had allowed Fox to play the course so often and for no charge in the first place. "Look," Trump said, "I'm no angel." It was his way of admitting that he was trying to curry favor. "But the way he was using the course was not appropriate."
Trump described a round he played at the West Palm Beach course with Jerry Tarde, the editor of Golf Digest; Ron Whitten, the magazine's architecture editor; and Gary Wiren, a noted golf instructor. "On my 18th hole Whitten made a 30 — a 30!" Trump said.
Later, at a dinner at Mar-a-Lago, Trump, Tarde, Whittenand Trump's wife, Melania, sat at the same table. At the end of the evening, according to the host, Mrs. Trump said to Mr. Trump, "You know those two men don't like you very much." Trump thinks personal animosity plays a role in why he's no longer on the list.
Oh don't worry Donald, Ron's that way with everyone! Just kidding Ron! Just kidding!
I reached Fox on a weekday morning at 8:30, and he said he wanted to talk about Trump but that he was busy right then. He told me to call back at 10:45 a.m., which I did. I was told he was in a meeting. I was told the same thing in my subsequent calls. He did not respond to phone messages or e-mail. Ditto for Tarde.
Whitten, a former prosecutor, answered all my questions. He said he did not make a 30 on the par-4 home hole that day with Trump. He said it was no more than an 11.
But did he stroke on that hole?
He said he doesn't dislike Trump and doesn't know why Melania would make that observation. He said he barely spoke to her all night. In any event, he said that his own personal feelings for course owners could never influence the Golf Digest rankings. He said that Fox could not have called Trump to tell him that his was going to be the No. 2 best new private course because Whitten is the first person to know where the clubs land on the various lists and the Westchester course never made any of them. Regarding the West Palm Beach course falling off the list, Whitten said the list was in no way manipulated to keep Trump off it. "We're not saying the Florida course is not a great course," Whitten said. "We're saying it's not one of the 100 greatest." To my ear, that last sentence would've sounded less arrogant had he added the words as ranked by Golf Digest.
Isn't it fun with the media covers its bitter rivals?
I asked Whitten if human error could creep into the rankings. He described his careful procedures, the automated counting, how much time he devotes to the whole thing. The chance that he would make an error, he said, was highly remote. I asked if any independent accounting agency came in to check Whitten's work.
Whitten said, "Did Trump's lawyers put you up to asking that question?"
I assured him that they did not. I was thinking of the Academy Awards. There's always that little bit about the accredited accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers and how they count the ballots. In fact, Whitten described the Golf Digest list as "the Academy Awards" of the various magazine course listings.
"No," Whitten said, there has never been an outside, independent auditor. (Neither Golf Magazine's nor GolfWeek's rankings are independently audited.)
After all, you'd think all of those times Medinah landed in a top 20 that it would have prompted a federal fraud investigation.
There's only one thing that could move this dustup between Trump and Golf Digest into something more major, and that's if anything comes of a 2 1/2-page April 2 letter Trump had his lawyers send to Fox, with copies to Tarde, Whitten and Thomas Bair, the publisher of Golf Digest.
Trump wrote most of the letter himself. The letter mentions all the free golf Trump maintains that Fox and his clients and guests played at Westchester, along with free food and drink. The letter maintains that Trump is "disappointed" in Tarde and Whitten's unspecified "behavior." It accuses Bair of coming to Trump's office last Nov. 28 and telling Trump that none of the Trump courses would make the 100 Greatest list unless Trump would agree, and here he says he is quoting Bair, to "play ball with us." (A Conde Nast spokesman denied all of Trump's claims.) The letter demands that all the course rating information be forwarded to Trump. "It is our contention," the letter says, "that representatives of Golf Digest fraudulently manipulated the results of the raters with the intent of embarrassing Mr. Trump and doing harm to his reputation."
Well, that's a great way to get your courses ranked in the future Donald!
I asked Trump what he thought the letter would accomplish and what he might get out of a lawsuit, if one ever happened. Eleven years ago, in a settlement with the city of West Palm Beach concerning air traffic over Mar-a-Lago, he was awarded the land where the West Palm Beach course sits today. He's all lawyered up, all the time.
In answering, Trump was unusually circumspect. "At the end of the day," Trump said, "I think you'll find I will get not just one course in the Golf Digest top 100, but several. On merit."
I think The Donald about as much of a chance of making a Golf Digest list as he does of hosting the U.S. Open.
Afterward, Wie denied the 88 rule had anything to do with her decision, but an LPGA spokesperson confirmed to me Wednesday morning that Nared did ask about the rule during Wie's round.And here you thought he was on the phone to his astrologer!
There is growing suspicion -- if it hasn't already fully blossomed -- among LPGA players that Wie feigned injury to avoid the 88 rule and save herself for this week's major. But Janice Moodie isn't piling on. Moodie, a two-time LPGA winner and Solheim Cup stalwart from Scotland, turned 34 last Thursday and was paired with Wie in that ill-fated round. (Maybe all those LPGA officials had come out to sing Happy Birthday to Moodie.)Now if we just knew which wrist. Meanwhile, Wie opened with a 73 at the LPGA Championship.
In a GMT exclusive -- seriously! -- Moodie told me she heard Wie say, "Ouch!" after hitting her tee shot on the first hole, which was the group's 10th of the day. Wie had said that was precisely when she began feeling the pain. "My caddie and I were the only ones who heard it," Moodie said. "She didn't swing as hard from that point on." As for Wie's purported petulance, Moodie added, "She was great to play with. Very friendly and respectful."
From Thomas Bonk's L.A. Times golf column today:
This just in from the USGA: The rough at Oakmont Country Club is too high. Now that's an upset. In fact, the rough is actually getting mowed, as the U.S. Open arrives next week.
Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Assn.'s senior director of rules and competitions and the man responsible for the setup at Oakmont, said the growing conditions have been so favorable that the rough simply was "too much" and too thick.
The first cut of rough was supposed to be four inches high and the other rough from six to 6 1/2 inches, but now it has been scaled back to four inches high and to 2 3/4 to five inches.
"The whole concept is we're not looking for pitch-out rough," Davis said. "We want guys in there to have a shot at the green, at least in the first cut. That doesn't necessarily mean everyone will do it, but we want to give them the opportunity."
Davis said the first cut covers about seven paces from the fairway.
Now, in Golf World's Local Knowledge this week, John Strege reports the same thing, but adds this caveat:
Even though the maintenance plan is unchanged from the past three years, the rough has come in much denser this spring. The same thing happened last year at Winged Foot. USGA officials chose their words carefully when discussing the developments but they're clearly concerned by the episodes.
Well, and we all know all about that middle of the night stuff too!
Jim McCabe reports on the European U.S. Open qualifier, which it turns out, sort of repeated last year's fiasco with a twist: filling the spots with American alternates! But this is also interesting:
"It's a bummer," said [Brad] Faxon, who was like many others -- perplexed by the way the USGA allocated the berths at the 15 sectionals. For instance, at Walton Heath in Surrey, England, there were a whopping nine spots available for a field of 53, meaning one in six players would succeed. At Woodmont, the odds were 1 in 3.4, with 67 competing for five. At Purchase, N.Y., where Marshfield's Geoff Sisk shot 73-67 to get through, the odds were even worse, 1 in every 19.3 (58 for 3).Just to refresh memories, last year there were supposed to be 71 players for 8 spots and they ended up with 47 for 8 spots.
Even Memphis, where PGA Tour names were at every turn of the head, the odds were slightly higher (one spot for every 6.5 players).
"I don't understand it," said Faxon, and while he wasn't going to dwell on the subject, it appears the USGA grossly overestimated how strong the Surrey site would be.
Expecting a lot of European PGA Tour players, they instead got a rash of withdrawals, a situation reminiscent to 2005 when American players withdrew by the truckload at a British Open final qualifier at Congressional CC in Washington.
"It really comes down to strength of field, but it's not an exact science," said Marty Parkes, the senior director of communications for the USGA.
The process gets reviewed annually and Parkes seemed to indicate that the Surrey numbers were more favorable than they should have been. They were, after all, almost identical to the numbers in Columbus, Ohio, (one spot for every 5.3 players) and that was a site so jammed-packed with talent it was virtually a 36-hole PGA Tour stop.
"It may be that we allocate fewer spots [to England]," he said.
Maybe it's time we drop the European qualifier?
In the Millard Golf World piece on Walter Driver and the USGA, I had to read this twice to make sure it said what I think it said.
In 2004 an amendment was adopted that gave a reduced role to elder past presidents, who played a leadership role in the executive committee nomination process. Their voting power was cut from five votes to two. That has left a bitter aftertaste and, as a result, some of the game's most respected elder statesmen have been alienated. Bill Campbell, a legendary amateur and USGA president from 1982-83, has taken a self-imposed sabbatical from any business with the USGA. Asked by Golf World for comment, Campbell politely declined. "I don't want to get in the way," he says.
Bill Campbell is to the USGA what Ronald Reagan is to the Republican party. He's their hero, the ideal amateur and the first man cited when a USGAer wants to think of a role model. And Bill Campbell has taken a "self-imposed sabbatical" from USGA business?
It looks like Ron Sirak was right in this 2004 piece when he said that the power of the more vocal past presidents would be reduced.
Jeese, and here I was starting to think Tiger wouldn't win next week. Nothing like good bulletin board material. Eric Francis reports:
"Tiger's got a big lead as No. 1 in the world so it'll take a couple of years but I think he can and I think he will, actually," said Harmon, 63, who will be in Calgary Saturday for a golf symposium open to the public.
"He's going to have to really work hard and change a lot more things but he's willing to do that and wants to do it. He has the desire to try and rival Tiger."
This has to comfort Adam Scott:
"I would say they're very similar to be honest with you," said Harmon, who works with a stable of top touring pros at his Las Vegas golf school, including Adam Scott, Stewart Cink and Fred Couples.
"Both have a tremendous amount of natural talent. They both have unbelievable short games. I think Tiger may be a little better putter under pressure but I think Phil's short game around the green is a little bit better than Tiger's. In general, they're similar."
And here's where the ego gets the best of him...
Harmon said he's "halfway through" revamping Mickelson's swing, which is now more compact at the top and balanced at the finish.
"I think we've still got a pretty good ways to go but he's adapted very well in a pretty short period of time and we're both very encouraged," said Harmon, who anticipates next week's U.S. Open will provide the biggest test for Mickelson's new swing if his injured wrist is ready for action as anticipated.
And on Butch and Tiger:
"We're not going to dinner together because we don't live in the same town but we get along fine," he said. "We have fun and good banter back and forth between the two of us. At the Players Championship, he was teasing me pretty hard about teaching Phil. We've had a lot of fun with it."
Just warms the heart.
There is a lot to consider in Chris Millard's Golf World cover story on the USGA and Walter Driver, and over the next few days I'm going to try and flesh out a few of the points. The one missing component of the piece (and not Millard's job in my view), is an explanation of what all of the various shenanigans have to do with the governance and betterment of the game.
I think some of the early comments from readers fairly question whether the story was a little too focused on Driver and not hard enough on the Executive Committee as a group.
However, I would counter that it's the Driver's of the world who, along with the Reg Murphy's of the world, have taken the USGA down a path that has it running away from its core mission ("For the good of the game") while becoming obsessed with the bottom line, corporate shilling and self-aggrandizement.
The groupthink mentality that started at the top with the likes of Fred Ridley, has continued under Driver's reign and has crept into the thinking of past presidents, is captured nicely in this early passage.
Proponents of Driver say he has single-handedly shaken the USGA out of a slumber induced by the influx of cash the USGA fell into when it reconfigured its television rights contracts in 1994. They say he has tried to inject into a bloated USGA some badly needed business principles (the title of Driver's speech at the USGA's annual meeting in San Francisco last February was "The USGA As An Organization And A Business"). Detractors, many of whom see the USGA as a charitable organization first, say Driver has imposed his will on its culture and that his administration has disenfranchised everyone from Golf House staffers (those who work at USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.) to equipment manufacturers to the organization's once-revered past presidents.
"I would say his effort to instill a new level of business-like procedure at the USGA has been important," says Reg Murphy, USGA president in 1994-95 and the man who authored the association's lucrative TV move from long-time partner ABC to NBC in 1994. "He's tried to create a more business-like organization. There are people who resist that idea, by the way, that the USGA ought to operate like a business."
Asked if some of those steps have rattled the culture, Murphy replies, "There's not any question about that."
Okay, so let's say the business side of the organization was not well run and needed tidying up? (Because Lord knows, the course setups were so good over the last decade.)
Then how does this explain the news first revealed on this site by Frank Hannigan, and later confirmed in the USGA Annual Report, that for the first time that anyone can recall, the USGA lost a lot of money. That's $6.1 million in this new, leaner, meaner Driver led operation.
Well you say, there were buyouts of bloated contracts and unnecessary staff, right?
So it seems that the only thing "business-like" about the USGA is that the leadership takes on unnecessary perks, they cut staff benefits and in general, leaves messes behind for the next regime to solve.
John Huggan takes foooorrrreeevvvvveeeeer to make his point (and he says I bury the lede!), but it's a good one and hopefully one that the onslaught of Michelle Wie posts here have been hinting out: this young lady needs help.
No no, not a trip to Vienna with men named Hans in white robes and clipboards asking strange questions. Just a friendly therapist who can help her feel better about missing graduation, maybe offer a few tips about dealing with all of the vultures around her and who can get her through the senstive post-injury comeback ups and downs.
All of which only brings me to the most serious aspect of this tacky little affair, namely the obviously fragile state of mind of what is, let's not forget, an impressionable teenage girl going through one of life's more traumatic phases. Apparently less than jovial during her abbreviated appearance last week - "I kinda felt bad for her," said playing partner, Alena Sharpe. "She didn't seem happy." - Wie appeared even more lethargic and depressed in the aforementioned pro-am. Indeed, so disinterested was she that even the mere thought of putting out on two of the last three greens was something she couldn't countenance.
Clearly, something is seriously amiss inside her head. Wie's agent, the LPGA and, most of all, her parents have a responsibility to step up before this outwardly delightful youngster's health begins to suffer more than it has already. That, it should go without saying, is far more important than any amount of money and, it seemingly needs to be said, is actually worth writing a column or ten about.
* USA Today's Christine Brennan brings up the dreaded Jennifer Capriati example as a hint of where this could lead.
SI's Michael Bamberger had the uneviable task of playing each of Donald Trump'sDavid Fay bloated golf courses and filed a lengthy essay on his good times. Well, at least the online version seems a lot longer than the print version, or maybe I just missed a page? Anyway, a few nuggets, including this on the USGA and Executive Director David Fay.
In the men's locker room, on darkly stained doors with gold hinges, there were lockers bearing the names of several USGA executives. Working at the USGA is about like working in a university, in terms of salary and benefits, and the initiation fee at Bedminster is $350,000, with annual dues of around $18,000. The club's not meant for those living in the genteel poverty of golf administration.
"Do you have corporate memberships here?" I asked Trump.
"No," he quickly answered.
"What about for the USGA guys?" I asked.
"For them I do." It meant this: The top USGA executives were welcome at the club as honorary members. Certain USGA executives have enjoyed such privileges at various nearby oldline clubs, clubs owned by their memberships. But Trump's a new kind of personality for the USGA, and his course is a new kind of course.
Which is exactly why they should decline!
Hmm...fast forward to this long overdue clarification.
On Jan. 21 USA Today published a front-page story that outlined Trump's golfing ambitions, most particularly his desire to have a U.S. Open at Bedminster, his New Jerseycourse. But there was one paragraph in the story that caused problems. In the story Trump describes David Fay, the executive director of the USGA, as a member of the club who plays the course frequently and has a locker near Trump's.
Fay read the story, seething. He told me later that he was only an honorary member and that he had played the course as an honorary member exactly once, and that if he had a locker there, he knew nothing about it.
Whoa there. So he did accept an honorary membership from a guy who you know badly wants a U.S. Open? And you thought the Donald wouldn't take advantage in his own special way? Okay!
Golfweek's Beth Ann Baldry on Wie's press conference:
When asked if the tour’s ‘88 rule’ was a factor in her decision to withdraw, Wie said “that’s just ridiculous.”
It was clear that Wie and her handlers had rehearsed this part of the interview. But when it came to questions about a conversation Tuesday with LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens, Camp Wie looked like a deer in headlights.
Ron Sirak reports on several more Michelle Wie related incidents, this being the most interesting sign the LPGA Tour is finally getting the message:
There was also another incident Tuesday in which head LPGA rules official Doug Brecht ordered Wie's mother and father, Bo and B.J., and her physiotherapist off the practice range, citing the LPGA rule that only coaches and caddies are allowed on the range with players. Even though Wie is not a member of the LPGA she signs a form at each event she plays saying she will abide by tour rules, according to a tour official. That discussion also went less than smoothly, sources said.
Chris Millard's Golf World piece on Walter Driver and the state of the USGA has been posted. I see I was quoted accurately throughout. So much for claiming I was misquoted!
**Just finished reading it. Driver's answers to tough questions are priceless non-answers.
Gerry Dulac cornered some of the players who tested out Oakmont on Monday and offered these insights from Geoff Ogilvy and Ian Poulter.
"This was harder than the Monday 10 days before that tournament," Ogilvy said. "The first-cut stuff last year was playable. ... This is playable-ish, and in a week it can grow. You're better off on the fairway 230 yards out than you are in the rough 120 yards out."Newsflash: Cialis sales just plummetted in the greater Far Hills region.
"This is a lot tougher," Poulter said of the Oakmont rough. "You're not hitting greens from that rough. It's as thick as I've seen it."
You know, Frank Hannigan and others tell me I'm nuts to say an injury to a player will be caused by this rough-on-steroids we're seeing so often at these majors. And yet, I didn't realize this, but it's already happening. From Thomas Bonk's L.A. Times note today on Phil Mickelson's MRI and decision to skip Memphis this week to help his ailing wrist:
Mickelson injured his wrist chipping balls out of the rough during a practice session May 28 at Oakmont.