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Links they may be worthily called, for the golf at Royal Porthcawl is the genuine thing—the sea in sight all of the time, and the most noble bunkers. True to its national character, the course also boasts of stone walls.   BERNARD DARWIN



Erin Hills and Future USGA Championships

Gary D'Amato, writing about the wave of pro golf coming to Wisconsin, notes this about Erin Hills:
And because USGA officials are excited about Erin Hills' potential, don't be surprised if that course lands the U.S. Amateur in the next five to seven years and the U.S. Open before 2020. Both would be firsts for Wisconsin.

"The Golf Channel, by any other name, couldn't be any less of a golf channel."

Phil Mushnick is a big fan of Golf Channel's coverage...
What initially struck many golf fans as good, sensible news - The Golf Channel landing live coverage of PGA Tour events - has thus far proven to be a terrible joke.

TGC's latest co-produced train wreck - this one with NBC - began Wednesday, 64 of the world's best in match play for the World Golf Championship. Unless one tuned in to see scenery (mostly cactus), commercials, interviews, promos and insanely unnecessary cuts to TGC's studio, coverage was infuriating.

At one point, TGC abandoned live golf for a chat with Geoff Ogilvy, who'd just won his match. Among the questions TGC's Rich Lerner asked was what Ogilvy thought of Tiger Woods' seven-PGA-events win streak. "It's impressive," Ogilvy replied. Live and learn.
Then it was off to commercials, then to the studio, where we were shown clips of Woods from last year's WGC - and encouraged to watch the WGC on TGC. (We'd love to, if you only let us!)

Woods Streak Ends; Writers Flee Tucson

...but not before filing captivating accounts of what we already know.


Golf Industry Show Photo Caption Help

Thanks to the La Habra branch for capturing this uh, memory, from yesterday's surprisingly busy Golf Industry Show.

The suspects are myself, Dr. Bradley Klein of Golfweek and Mr. Ronald E. Whitten of Golf Digest. 

Be nice!



California State Am Leaving Pebble Beach

While scanning Ron Kroichick's chat with Johnny Miller in search of blatant self-references, I was surprised by this note following the piece:

State amateur moving: The California amateur championship, held at Pebble Beach every year but one since the seaside links opened in 1919 -- the course was built, in part, for the tournament -- is hitting the road.

This year's 96th edition of the state amateur will be played at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. The event will then alternate between Northern California and Southern California sites in future years.

Not surprisingly, money was a driving factor behind the departure from Pebble. The Pebble Beach Company gave the California Golf Association a discount on green fees, but the price was still significant; after all, a standard round at Pebble now costs $450 (and will rise to $475 on April 1).

The move to nearby Monterey Peninsula -- where the club will not charge the CGA for green fees -- represents a huge savings for tournament officials. They also liked the idea of holding the entire tournament at one venue, as opposed to recent years in which Poppy Hills hosted two stroke-play rounds.

Plus, match play at Pebble often led to the odd sight of tournament competitors weaving through public play. Regular folks -- well, regular folks who can afford to pay $450 to play golf -- would stop and let state amateur contestants "play through."

"There was a lot of hand wringing and a lot of anguish about this decision," said Bob Thomas, spokesman for the Southern California Golf Association. "We know how special Pebble is."



Shapiro On Washington's Prospects...

...and it doesn't sound too promising, at least for a PGA Tour event returning anytime soon.

Ralph Shrader, chairman of Booz Allen, which sponsored Washington's tour event the last three years, said in a telephone interview that no one from the tour has approached him about sponsoring the 2007 event. The date opened up two weeks ago when the International in Castle Rock, Colo., opted out of this year's schedule because a title sponsor could not be found.

"Given the tour's decision to pull the Presidents Cup out of Washington, I don't even know if we're even on their radar screen," Shrader said. "They haven't talked to me at all, and no one has offered encouragement that they're even anxious to talk to us."

And this may be even more surprising from a fellow at Congressional, one of the only viable sites in the area... 

"I think their first step is to talk to a potential sponsor, and if any of those stepped up to the plate, that's the city where the tournament would go," Brundred said. "But we haven't heard word one from anyone, and I guess that's a little surprising."


Fuzzy Wiki

An odd story on Fuzzy Zoeller suing someone over a Wikipedia post.


Nissan Open Ratings

From the good folks at Brenner-Zwikel: 


CBS Sports’ final-round coverage of the PGA TOUR’s NISSAN OPEN with Phil Mickelson losing in a three-hole playoff to Charles Howell III on Sunday, Feb. 18 (3:19-7:27 PM, ET) scored an preliminary national household rating/share of 3.4/7 , up +31% from last year’s 2.6/5 (ABC).

CBS Sports’ final-round coverage peaked with a preliminary national rating/share of 5.4/10 between 7:00-7:27 PM, ET.

Sunday’s 3.4/7 is the highest rating for the final round of the Nissan Open since 2004’s 3.9/9 (ABC)..

(Nielsen releases the national rating and share for Saturday’s third-round coverage on Friday, Feb. 23)


Lido Contest

Golf Digest/Golf World is sponsoring the Lido design contest this year, with Ron Whitten judging.

Isn't it about time they retire the par-4 and do a par-5 or par-3? 


"It's not exactly the fight over Ted Williams' head, but it's as close as it gets in golf."

jones2.jpgCatching up on my reading here and finally got around to Jim Moriarty's Golf World piece on the Jones brother spat. Some fun new anecdotes about these two hotheads wonderfully talented salesman architects:

The worst-kept secret in golf is that Bobby, 67, doesn't like Rees, and Rees, 65, doesn't like Bobby. The brothers even had separate receiving lines following their father's memorial service in Florida after he passed away in 2000 at 93. Their noogie fight over the legacy of their famous father took a particularly ugly turn and became a matter of public record when Rees filed suit against his brother in December 2005.

The lawsuit, which is currently in mediation, alleges that Bobby owes Rees $98,869 to fulfill a liability remaining from the estate of their mother, Ione, who died in 1987, and that Bobby also owes Rees one-half of all royalties (guaranteed at a minimum of $75,000) from an agreement Bobby made licensing the name Robert Trent Jones to Gear For Sports for a clothing line. In a countersuit Bobby seeks to have the court enjoin Rees from using the nickname "Open Doctor," which Bobby maintains rightly belonged to their father--who infamously turned Oakland Hills CC into Ben Hogan's "monster"--and, thus, to him since he claims ownership of all post-mortem rights pertaining to the identity of the senior Jones. It's not exactly the fight over Ted Williams' head, but it's as close as it gets in golf.

This is touching...

Five years ago, on Rees' 60th birthday, Bobby boxed an olive branch, enclosed one of his poems written for the occasion and sent it to his brother. It came back unopened. Rees refused to be interviewed for this story but made one comment during a brief telephone conversation. "There's no connection between the two of us right now," he said. "He [Bobby] has his business, and I've got mine." On the other hand, when Bobby was asked if the estrangement from his brother is complete, he replied, "No."

World Pulling Rankings

Daniel Wexler analyzes the emergence of foreign players on the professional golf stage.

"What are we doing here?"

That's the question AP's Doug Ferguson asks while sitting in the press tent at The Gallery, home to the WGC Match Play.

What might help is taking this tournament to golf courses that could add some sizzle, and not just from the desert sun. The Gallery Golf Club is a nice piece of property, a blend of lush green and desert brown. But it still begs an important question.

What are we doing here?

No doubt the tournament will help sell homes on Dove Mountain. But it won't do the fans much good. The course goes out some 3 miles before making a U-turn, with only about four holes in the middle where fans can hop around and watch more than one match. The only way to get from No. 5 to No. 11 is to follow the routing, or dodge rattlesnakes traversing the desert.

At this point I will spare you my now annual rant that this event would be great at PGA West's Stadium Course because, well, the column I wrote about it has disappeared into cyberspace.'s Ron Whitten reviews The Gallery and, well, reminds us that the PGA Tour still has a long way to go when it comes to mixing architecture with commerce.

But people persist, because there's this theory that some courses make better match-play courses than stroke-play ones. If a course is fraught with obstacles and perils, or better yet, has lots of high-risk/high-reward gambling situations, so the theory goes, it's a terrific venue for match play but a humiliating place on which to keep score. That's a good, logical theory, but one that gets trampled upon by PGA Tour officials when they choose, and then set up, a course for their match-play event.

A prime example is The Gallery, on cactus-dotted slopes of Dove Mountain, a first-class private club with 36 holes that allows non-member play for those who stay overnight in one of its pricey but plush golf cottages. (See the club's website for details.) The Gallery's North Course, opened in 1998, was co-designed by former PGA Tour player John Fought and his then-design partner Tom Lehman and is known primarily for its deep-dish fairway bunkers and its 725-yard par-5 ninth. You would think the PGA Tour would eagerly award a match-play event to a course designed by two Tour players, particularly one with returning nines, 125 bunkers and ponds guarding two greens. But instead, The Accenture will be played on the South Course, five years younger and designed solely by Fought, without Lehman's influence.

Okay, here's the setup part.

But when I played the course last December, alternate fairways on the uphill par-5 10th and 362-yard 12th were both being grown to rough. They'll be taken out of play, converted to bleacher and/or skybox space. So much for match-play options.

What's more, the Tour will play The South in excess of the 7,351 yards listed as the maximum on the scorecard. Fought recently added four new back tees, so the course can now be stretched to 7,550 yards. Yes, it sits at an elevation of 3,000 feet, so it won't play that full distance, but why cater to ball-bashers in a match-play event? Why not set up the course to play around 6,900 yards and give underdogs like Corey Pavin a chance?



Golf Industry Show Book Signing

Just a reminder to those attending The Golf Industry Show Thursday, I'll be signing various stuff including Lines of Charm from 1:30 to 3 in the bookstore. Come on by!


"Will you be designing environmentally-friendly golf courses in the future?"

1.jpgSeems like a dumb question, right? Unfortunately that one was teed up for Tiger Woods and he uncharacteristicaly heel pulled it into the left rough.

But first, other highlights from his sitdown with the laptoppers in Tucson:

Q. I know you're concentrating on this week, but in the buildup to coming over here, I've read a lot in the media about the dialogue or lack of dialogue between you and the commissioner, about the schedule for this year. Can you tell us anything about that?

TIGER WOODS: I've talked to him quite a bit (smiling), so I don't know where that comes from.

Q. Well, there's been talk about given the new sort of format this year that -- is there a situation where you could maybe fall short of the minimum requirements of playing this year and maybe miss out on some of the climax to the FedExCup?

TIGER WOODS: I've just got to play 15 events, right? That's what I did last year.

Gee, what a ringing endorsement for the FedEx Cup and the PGA Tour!

Q. I don't know if you're reading the same stuff as me, but basically they were saying that there is a kind of atmosphere between you and the commissioner.

TIGER WOODS: We talk about once a week, so I don't know where that comes from. He's got my cell phone and we talk. It's funny, we just missed each other skiing. I have no idea where that's coming from.

How sweet, just missed each other on the slopes. Let's hope they don't run into each other.

Which reminds me, this slug for the Lakers Radmanovic slipped in Park City, separated his shoulder and already they're calls for a contract reading to see if he violated a clause by skiing (oh wait, he was in Park City for the great sidewalk shopping, forgive me).

As much as they are paying him, does Nike really let Tiger ski? Guess so. Anyway...

 Q. As a budding golf course architect, when you come to a new venue, come to a new community that has such a historic golfing tradition, do you approach it a little bit differently than when you were just playing, or have you always taken the mindset that, could I come here and design a golf course in place like that?

TIGER WOODS: It's interesting, since I started to get into that part of my life, every golf course I play, I look at the golf course differently now. Why would they construct that? Why would they build this? What were they thinking here? Trying to understand it instead of just plotting my way around the golf course. I do look at golf courses now, and it is kind of fun.


 Q. In your design career and with a new baby on the way, where do you stand in terms of the environmental aspects of golf, and where will you be designing environmentally-friendly golf courses in the future?

TIGER WOODS: That's the whole idea. That's the challenge of it. As an architect, that's what your responsibility is to do, to also provide a wonderful playing environment. That's a task that I think is going to be -- that's been at the forefront for all architects for decades.

Uh, Tiger, they mean are you going to build a wetlands at Al Jambajuicia to mitigate the puddle that you are bulldozing over. Your architecture buddy,


"Nose to nose with an Ursus arctos horribilis?" offers this caption for their Jack Nicklaus photo below: "The Golden Bear prepares to go nose to nose with an Ursus arctos horribilis in the foyer of his offices in North Palm Beach, Fla."

I bet you can do better...


Lawrie Slimming Down To Prepare For Slew of "Whatever Happened To Paul Lawrie" Stories and Photo Shoots

Douglas Lowe shares far more than you ever wanted to know about the diet of the last European to win a major.

"I like my chocolate but haven't had any for six or seven weeks and nor have I had ice cream," he said proudly in Edinburgh having signed an extended agreement with sponsors Aberdeen Asset Management.

"My snacks are now fruit mid-morning and afternoon. It's been difficult but I think you have to make sacrifices if you are to get to the top of your game."
So that's why he fell of the face of the planet after winning at Carnoustie! 
A good diet has played its part, but the weight loss is also down to regular gym sessions under the instruction of Murray Carnie, a family friend who is PE teacher at Mintlaw Academy.

Ah going right to the top! What, the PE teacher at Hogwarts was too busy?

"I'm feeling fantastic and raring to go," said Lawrie, who returns to action next week in Thailand at the Johnnie Walker Classic in a bid to improve his standing in the world rankings at No.195, a far cry from his halcyon says of seven years ago when he was flying high as Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup partner.

He's 195th? Wow.


No Longer Tempting, Still Interesting

First, let's get the Faldo-Nantz question out of the way. During Sunday's telecast, they apparently asked why architects can't build holes like the 10th at Riviera anymore.

I wish Jim had asked me earlier in the week. The answer is so simple!

Most of today's architects haven't got a clue what makes No. 10 work, which makes it kind of hard to design a hole like it. Sorry boys. Your ordinary short par-4 portfolios back me up on this one.

Okay, now that we settled that, let's consider about what happened this year.  

The tiny little green was firmer and faster than ever. A positive change was made by Tom Marzolf (to offset the really lousy ones) when the bunker face in the back left was lowered, bringing the green and fringe right up to the bunker, making the right side that much more daunting.

Yet, for the first time in the governing bodies-failing-the-game-on-distance era, nearly everyone in the field believes the only play is to drive the 10th. Even Jose Maria Olazabal was doing it.  

Mickelson approaches No. 10 in the 2007 Nissan Open playoff from an odd angle (click to enlarge)
I asked Phil Mickelson in his post-Sunday round session why he doesn't consider the lay-up optoin, which seemed to startle him based on the unusual pause before answering.

Q.    Can you talk about your playing strategy on 10 and why you don't lay up, what's your approach to that [hole]?

PHIL MICKELSON:  The only way to play that hole is to get past the hole. The real question why didn't I hit driver and get it for sure past the hole.  I thought with a little bit of help, 3 wood would be enough.  You can't hold that section of the green, short of the pin.  There is no way.  It's was too firm and it's angled six or seven degrees away from you, it's just not possible.

Final round ShotLink data for No. 10. Note how few layed up. (click to enlarge)
The concept of laying up left and having a wedge in? Not even in the cards anymore.

And that's not just for a long hitter like Mickelson.

Consider eventual winner Charles Howell's comments:

Q.    Charles, during the ride past on the playoff on the tenth hole, Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo were talking about world ten what's the history with that whole number?

CHARLES HOWELL III:  We've had a love/hate relationship, I think it's one of the greatest par4's that we play and it was different this year, and I think you saw more guys go at that green off the tee because the green was so hard.  In the years passed here, that green has been so soft with all of the rain you can lay the ball up to the left and hit a wedge in there and hold it.  I saw a lot of great wedge shots this week land on the green and end up in the bunker.  With the greens being as firm as it was, around the green, as to why we don't have more, I don't know.  Because that one there is every bit as nerve-racking and exciting as we need.

Q.    Where are you trying to play it on 10 when you are playing?

CHARLES HOWELL III:  Anything.  Anything at this front edge of the green or just left of it and pinhigh.  So the reason that hole is so good is that the golf ball is going so far now that a driver actually gets past that and you end up chipping back this way.   So Phil hit a 3wood, I hit 3wood, we've got to hit those 3woods pretty darn good to carry that last bunker to left.  So it's really hard to get that ball pinhigh left.  Like I said with that green firm, that front right bunker is no bargain. 

So I'm not sure if this is a statement about the (lack of) confidence Tour players have from 110-75 yards, or simply a statement about the sheer ignorance of the world's greats.

I'm still not convinced that driving the green is the percentage play, when, as Steve Elkington told a few of us earlier in the week: laying up all four days, he'll never take more than 16 for the week on No. 10, and he'll probably play it 2 under.

Either way, one thing became clear.

The tempting quality of the hole that Jim Murray so beautiful described years ago has become a casualty of unharnessed distance.

This does not make it a lesser hole, just a little less interesting and a whole lot different than just a few years ago. 


“The longer we hit the ball, the better we are, and we have to get away from that."

Monty, I now apologize for ever making fun of your car washing fetish. Loved your comments from Dubai:

Speaking at GolfEx Dubai, Montgomerie himself raised a few eyebrows by insisting that suppliers make slower balls and modified clubs to boost competitiveness at professional level.

Monty believes that balls should be made with ten to fifteen per cent less velocity and wedges cut back from 60 to 56 degrees to restore the skill factor, while the perennial debate over big-hitting clubs and lengthening courses still needs to be addressed, believes the eight European Tour Order of Merit winner.

“The longer we hit the ball, the better we are, and we have to get away from that,” he said. “The Masters has lost some of its charm. I used to shoot 66 on a round but I can’t see that happening now. St Andrews has six new tees and when changes are being made there, you know we have a problem.”

"The first Tiger Woods course cannot be a course Tiger likes to play on."

Blasphemy! We're talking about a man who loves Firestone, so I'm sure he can find Al Jumbalya to his liking. Ron Fream does not agree.

Fream told The New Paper: 'Tiger Woods' first golf course will be the product of the ability and talent, knowledge and experience of those who surround him.

'Tiger learned nothing of golf course architecture at Stanford University.

'His ability to focus is so intense that when he walks a golf course, he does not see the course or the surroundings.

'He only sees his ball, his target and then the next target.

'The first Tiger Woods course cannot be a course Tiger likes to play on.

'His design will most likely accommodate many expected tourist visitors and average players and, maybe one day, play host to a championship.

'Tiger knows nothing of land use master planning and, therefore, cannot contribute significantly to the interface of golf and adjacent housing development, which will be a source of revenue to pay off his huge design fee.

'Tiger knows nothing of golf course construction methods. He knows nothing of technical turf-grass maintenance.

'Building a golf course in Dubai, where temperatures often exceed 45 degrees Celsius, gets special expectations for construction and maintenance.'

So how will his course look like?

He said: 'The Tiger Woods course will have dramatic terrain changes as the site is flat now.

'It will use a lot of water for lakes and maybe streams.

'A large number of date palm trees will surround the golf holes.

'Greens cannot be overly contoured. Sand bunkering will be a major attraction.'



Greetings From L.A., Final Edition

greetingsfromLAAfter meeting Golf Digest fashion guru Marty Hackel, I now realize I have way too much khaki in my life. I need serious help. A khaki intervention perhaps?

Of course I'm not going to go all green pants and pink shirt like the sometimes Golf Channel fashion critic sported Saturday, nor will I dare to try the fire engine red slacks he sported Sunday, yet I am re-evaluating my love of beige trousers. (But it's so easy to coordinate in the dark!).

Oh, the Nissan Open at Riviera. Right. Well, the PGA Tour's setup of the course was a tad uninspired this year. Recent years have seen a nice variety of hole locations and alternate tee locations. But three straight days of a front right hole on 15 and another three straight back left on 6 did not exactly take advantage of possibilities with incredibly fast and firm greens. Then again, there were no major glitches and the players were allowed to display their talent, so all in all, a good week for the PGA Tour's Mark Russell and his hard working crew.

As in other recent years, I come away even more impressed by Captain Thomas's design despite all of the poor changes and grateful that the players love it, even if they have no idea why beyond the usual "it's right in front of you" line.

I'm not surprised by how little the major changes (length, shifted bunkers) increase scoring. Perhaps because each time the Fazio gang tends to chip away at the little subtle features and deceptive touches that make the course difficult, all in the name of visibility or framing. 

Take for instance the two par-5s on the back nine, where they brought in fairway bunkering to close off the approaches for those attempting to get home on these once-long holes. Both holes saw bunker shifting that much better defines where the green begins, which actually making it easier to pick out the target for a good player, especially for those who lay up on these holes. Both used to pose difficult third shots because of they were so undefined, but not anymore.

New look No. 11 (Click to enlarge)
In the case of the 11th, the shaping eliminated an old bank which kicked balls down into the right bunker or rough. The  top edge of the bunker extension is now slightly angled to kick a ball toward the green instead of away from it. The difference is slight, but in no way is the hole more difficult for a good player. (The scoring average went down to 4.596 from 4.647 last year, even though the greens were much firmer this year and the hole had been given new "strength." The 17th also played easier this year statistically.)

As for the great tenth, I'll get to that tomorrow with some photos and ShotLink stuff. I know you can't wait.