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Books
  • Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
  • The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Art of Golf Design
    The Art of Golf Design
    by Michael Miller, Geoff Shackelford
  • Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Golden Age of Golf Design
    The Golden Age of Golf Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
  • The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    by Geoff Shackelford
Current Reading
  • Men in Green
    Men in Green
    by Michael Bamberger
  • Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Professional Golf 2015: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    Professional Golf 2015: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    by Daniel Wexler
  • The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream
    The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream
    by Dan Washburn
  • Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    by Bill Fields
  • Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    by Dan Jenkins

    Kindle Edition

  • The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    by Gil Capps
Classics
  • Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    by Geo. C. Thomas
  • The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    Treewolf Prod
  • Reminiscences Of The Links
    Reminiscences Of The Links
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast, Richard C. Wolffe, Robert S. Trebus, Stuart F. Wolffe
  • Gleanings from the Wayside
    Gleanings from the Wayside
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast
  • Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    by Darius Oliver
  • Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    by Darius Oliver
Writing And Videos

I attribute the insane arrogance of the later Roman emperors almost entirely to the fact that, never having played golf, they never knew that strange chastening humility which is engendered by a topped chip-shot. If Cleopatra had been outed in the First Round of the Ladies’ Singles, we should have heard a lot less of her proud imperiousness.
P.G. WODEHOUSE


    

Tuesday
Feb262008

Atonement 2: Greg and Tim

img10669693.jpgWhen they say these international golf team competitions bring the world together, they aren't kidding. Just look what happened Tuesday in Palm Beach. Steve Elling analyzes the Finchem-Norman fence mending...

For the first time in years, their situation was mutually beneficial. Norman, who rarely plays in tournaments anymore, has transitioned nicely into the corporate game. He's the head of equipment maker MacGregor, has established a reputation as a course architect and forged his own line of clothing and table wine. By merely writing the aforementioned sentence, we have helped ensure that Norman will profit by virtue of the exposure the cup captaincy will serve to increase.

As a captain of industry already, he said he has come to appreciate the dissenting viewpoint.

"I think it's healthy in a lot of ways," the Shark said. "I don't want everybody to be a yes man or a bobblehead. You've got to be able to sit there and express your differences."
Ah, Jack Welch would be proud of that answer. 
Well, they got the "sitting there" part accomplished Tuesday, though neither looked particularly comfy. You can bet the world tour was not broached.
Finchem insisted that the tour has dealt with Norman for years on a variety of issues, always on a professional basis. If there's a rift, it's nothing that has permanently stained the relationship.

"Here's the reality," Finchem said. "They don't see that Greg designed three different golf courses we're playing tournaments on, he chairs the environmental institute that we're very supportive of, that he's one of our host (staging) organizations on the tour -- people don't see all that.

No, not when you two get in yelling matches and Greg seems to keep missing Champions Tour events. 
"The fact that, as he said, he's been critical a few times in the past, and I don't have a problem with that. Some of the criticism is justified. I think it's all overblown."

Perhaps so, but partly because whenever the world tour issue is broached, Norman radiates heat like Skylab, right before it crashed into Australia.

"I have also complimented Tim over the years for what he has done for the game of golf, the stimulus he has done with prize money," Norman said. "It's not like I am anti-everything he has done. It's just that there have been things I have been very vocal about."

Not anti-everything! Just some of his most important initiatives.

Tuesday
Feb262008

Freddie Serves Up Jordan As Possible Assistant; Norman Returns With Chrissy?

Gosh this is going to be so much more fun that Jack and Gary. From the 2009 Presidents Cup introductory news conference:

Q. For both captains, have you given any thought to who your assistants will be, and what would you be looking for from those guys?

CAPTAIN GREG NORMAN: I'll answer --

CAPTAIN FRED COUPLES: I'll --

CAPTAIN GREG NORMAN: Go ahead, Freddie.

CAPTAIN FRED COUPLES: No, Greg, you first. (Laughter)

CAPTAIN GREG NORMAN: I have put a lot of thought to it and I haven't come up with a decision yet. It's a lot more of an interesting task for me because of the base that I've got to go through, whether it's Australia or whether it's South Africa or whether it's from Japan and other countries that have participated to some degree in The Presidents Cup. So my task is going to be a tough one. I've got a lot of friends out there on an international basis who have played the game of golf, and spend a lot of time with me personally. So it's an interesting choice for me. I haven't made mine yet.

CAPTAIN FRED COUPLES: Well, for me, I'm sure I've talked to a few writers and given them some names before, and I do have a player in mind, a great, great friend, and I just haven't talked to him about it much.

But you know, I've mentioned Michael Jordan as an assistant, assistant, assistant. Lately I've mentioned Robin Williams and the reason I say that is as Greg mentioned earlier, we're not on any teams when you're in the locker room. And you have people come in when you're in the team room, I think, first of all, I love Michael Jordan, I've been around him. He does some things in Santa Barbara. A lot of our players know him. He's at these events. So that's why I bring his name up because as a team player, there's no one any better. And I think that's what's the fun part.

Now the challenging part is when you're sitting around and you've got nothing but time, I would like a guy like Robin Williams there to keep us loose, and that's why I say that. Whether they are there or not, I don't know, but I do have a great friend in mine mind to play as my teammate and hopefully pick some good guys and get some good pairings. (Laughter).

CAPTAIN GREG NORMAN: Boy, Freddie, you just threw it wide open for me right there. I've got the whole world to go to. You've just got the United States.
I listened to the exchange and it was at that point that Norman mentioned his bride, Chrissy. Or am I hearing things?

 

Tuesday
Feb262008

Presidents Cup Photo Caption Help

What are those lovebirds Tim and Greg thinking? Courtesy of AFP:

ALeqM5i86Pg2uIbSUMQlaN-G-WmAguAJBg 

Tuesday
Feb262008

The Demise Of The Florida Swing?

It's about to come out of the words of some writer any day now, because Lord knows they won't want to give the West Coast any credit.

Bob Harig got close in this story revealing a switch of dates again in 2009, with Bay Hill set to get the last spot for reasons unknown.

Florida has seen some dramatic change in recent years. From 1987 through 2006, the order of the four tournaments was exactly the same: The Doral event in Miami, followed by the Honda Classic in the Fort Lauderdale area, Bay Hill and then the Players Championship at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach.

For years, the Florida Swing was viewed by many as the unofficial start to the season. Many of the international players skipped the West Coast events and began their seasons at Doral, which gave them a month of warm-weather events to get ready for the Masters.

But the advent of the World Golf Championship events -- specifically the Match Play Championship -- a decade ago began a change in player habits. And when the tour revamped its entire schedule in 2007, moving the Players Championship from March to May, it created an opening in Florida and shuffling of tournaments.

Then again Alan Shipnuck, in reviewing the West Coast swing, says Tiger only making two appearances is devaluing its place.

True, but what would you rather watch or play (block out The Classic Club for a moment): Kapalua, TPC Scottsdale, Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach and Riviera, or PGA National, Innisbrook, Bay Hill and Doral?

In case you forgot how dreadful PGA National is, Daniel Wexler posts his weekly preview and aerial photo link. 

Tuesday
Feb262008

Policy Board Sides With "Under" Bettors On Cuts Policy, "Over" Takers On Playoff Points Fare Well Too

Strap in, here comes the spin...

PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said, “As we have previously discussed, we feel that the FedExCup in its inaugural year was very successful, and we did not feel the need to make significant changes to its essential structure. But because of significant feedback from players and fans asking for more volatility and an increase in the number of players in the hunt at THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola, we are making two adjustments that we feel will result in an even higher level of fan excitement and interest as we move into and through the Playoffs.”

You'll be shocked to know they did not take my advice, but instead, are just adding to the points permutation tedium for another year:

A narrowing of the gap between players’ point totals at the reset going into the Playoffs.  For example, the gap between the 1st and 2nd ranked players was 1,000 points at the reset last year.  That gap has been reduced to 500 points this year, with similar reductions being made all the way down to 144th place. (See Attachment for specifics).

The number of FedExCup points available at Playoff events has been increased by 2,000 additional points per finish position.  For example, a 3rd place finish was worth 3,400 points in 2007; it is now worth 5,400 points.  In essence, players who play well will move up more dramatically than in 2007.  (See Atttachment for specifics. Note: For rounding purposes, the points increases at THE TOUR Championship will differ slightly from the first three Playoff events).

And this means?

The effect of these two changes will be some improvement in a player’s ability to make substantial gains in overall position based on excellent play in the Playoffs, while also increasing the number of players who will have a shot at winning the FedExCup.

If these two changes had been in place for the 2007 Playoffs, for example, the effect would have been to increase from six to 12 the number of players with a mathematical chance of winning the FedExCup, and instead of only four players with a realistic chance of winning, there would have been six.

Well, at least they confirmed that only four had a chance of winning last year.

And now for the new cut policy:

Under the amended regulation, the starting field will still be reduced to the lowest 70 professionals and ties after 36 holes.  However, should the 36-hole cut total more than 78 professionals, there will be a second cut to the lowest 70 professionals plus ties at the conclusion of 54 holes of tournament play.  Players not advancing to the final round of play will receive their appropriate share of the official prize money in accordance with their respective positions.  The change is effective immediately, beginning with this week’s Honda Classic.

In other news...

An increase in the field size at the Memorial Tournament from 105 players to 120, in keeping with the Board’s intent to stage all invitational events with a field size of no less than 120 players. The change is effective with the 2008 event.

And...

Following two additional years (2008 and 2009) at Grayhawk Golf Club’s Raptor Course, The Fry’s Electronics Open will move in 2010 to the Fry’s Electronics-owned course called The Institute, located near San Jose, California. Upon its move to The Institute, the event will be renamed The Institute Championship and will become an invitational event with a 120 player field.

And invitational in the fall? Hmmm...interesting.

And should someone decide to take out Stephen Ames if he dares to win again...

The LG Skins Game eligibility has been slightly modified to address a situation where the defending champion or leading money winner is unable to participate. Under the new regulation, a floor of 5th place on the prior year money list has been implemented, and if a player among the top 5 places on the money list is not available to complete the field, the field will then be completed with an additional player of the host organization’s choosing.
Tuesday
Feb262008

GWAA Contest Judges Recovering At Undisclosed Hospital After Wading Through This Year's Best Entries On Death, Disease and Addiction

And I just want to say that it is sooooo great to see the judges expanding the writing contest horizons by recognizing golf's least appreciated scribes, the poor souls who craft press releases so that others can win writing awards.


Tuesday
Feb262008

Cuba National In The Works?

OB-BB571_Castro_20080222181322.jpgFidel Castro steps down and according to the Wall Street Journal's Jose De Cordoba, developers are salivating at the idea of building golf courses on the island.

"The message from Cuba is: bring on golf projects," says Mark Entwistle, a former Canadian ambassador to the island.

Mr. Entwistle hopes to develop Cuba's first golf community on the island's eastern end, with hundreds of villas and apartments centered on a 36-hole course. Mr. Entwistle says he knows of at least 11 other projects, in various stages of development, involving Canadian, British and Spanish developers.

The man driving Cuba's golf effort is Raúl Castro, the long-serving defense minister who became acting president when his older brother Fidel took ill in July 2006. Raúl, who is more a fan of cockfighting than golf,

...hey, to each his own...

is the odds-on favorite to be named president tomorrow. Alarmed at the decline in the number of tourists to Cuba, Raúl has urged senior officials to make golf happen. The government is setting up an interagency golf task force. Cuban officials involved in the program say they are not authorized to comment on it.

Not so fast...

If history is any guide, bringing back golf won't be easy. "Cuba is the sand trap from hell," says John Kavulich, senior policy adviser at the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, who has followed the travails of entrepreneurs trying to develop golf projects in Cuba.

Just ask Walter Berukoff, the mining tycoon behind Vancouver-based Leisure Canada. For more than a decade, Mr. Berukoff has been nurturing a project, approved by the Cuban government, to build some 600 condos and villas for foreigners around three golf courses and a marina on Cuba's north shore, close to Havana. But for a variety of reasons, including Cuba's search for oil right next to his property, the project has gone nowhere.

"We had to stop the project because no one will build a multimillion-dollar project if there are oil wells in front," says Guy Chartier, Leisure Canada's man in Havana. Mr. Chartier says the Cuban government told him it has given up its search for oil. "We plan to move the ball forward in 2008," he says.

To make golf tourism work, Cuba, which does not recognize the right to buy and sell property, will have to permit leases of as long as 75 years for foreigners, to entice them to invest in the villas and condos on which modern golf development depends. Some believe those leases are the tip of the spear that will, over time, reinstate full property rights.
Monday
Feb252008

Norman, Finchem To Record "Kumbaya" Duet Now That Shark Is Taking '09 Prez Cup Reigns

Then again, let's see who represents the PGA Tour at the Honda Classic news conference tomorrow, which is taking place according to Golfweek's Jeff Rude, who writes that Norman will join Couples to head up their respective teams at Harding Park:

Norman’s acceptance of the honorary position signals an apparent shift in his longstanding chilly relationship with Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. The two have clashed over the years, starting in late 1994 when Norman proposed a World Tour that Finchem viewed as a challenge to the PGA Tour and top players didn’t support. Finchem adapted the idea into the Tour’s World Golf Championships.

Their relationship deteriorated at the 1996 Presidents Cup when they engaged in a shouting match in a hotel lobby. Norman was said to be upset that Finchem had announced the creation of three WGC events in 1999 without consulting Norman. They also have had disagreements over Norman’s status as a full-time Tour member, overseas play, equipment and Tour finances. Two years ago, Norman requested to see the Tour’s books and hired high-powered attorney Leonard Decof, long a Tour nemesis.

 

Monday
Feb252008

“Reining back the distance of the ball? I still think that’s an open question."

VernonVP.jpgGolfweek's Jim Achenbach profiles new USGA President Jim Vernon and does a nice job capturing his personality along with grabbing a few decent quotes out of him. I can tell you from firsthand experience that's not easy!

First, this from the SCGA's Kevin Heaney.

“He listens to ordinary guys,” Heaney says. “He listens to upper-echelon guys. He listens to everybody. He is never rash, always very clear-headed. He doesn’t jump to any decision.

“More than that, he works hard. He likes working. When he gets involved in anything, he doesn’t do it halfheartedly. He’s engaged. And he has a great sense of humor, so he’s fun to be with.”

This was interesting...

Still, Vernon takes over the presidency at a time of wrangling and arm wrestling among many USGA power brokers.

USGA presidents generally serve two one-year terms, so Vernon has 24 months to endorse, amend, abolish or improve some of the policies of his predecessor, Walter Driver Jr.

While controversy followed Driver, Vernon is expected to operate more quietly and smoothly.

“I get the impression,” says one longtime USGA staffer, “that he would be happy if no attention at all fell on him. He doesn’t need it; he’s very comfortable with himself.”

Nice to hear a dissenter in the golf world going public about the USGA's corporate partners:

The addition of corporate sponsorships has drawn fire from many, including California Golf Association president Ed Holmes, who says the USGA has strayed too far from the game itself.

“We have the greatest game on earth, and we’re trying to turn it into a big business,” Holmes says. He spoke without anger but with a tone of incredulity. “Does that make sense?” he asks.

Okay, so he's not perfect...

Here’s what is known: Vernon praises Driver at every opportunity. He doesn’t believe in contrasting public stances for golf’s ruling body.

Vernon says he will continue Driver’s emphasis on digital media and communication. He credits Driver for implementing the USGA’s policy on corporate partners. He plans to concentrate on the USGA’s public face, particularly through the expanded museum at USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J. He says he will seek greater recognition for state and regional golf associations around the country.

Nice to know the ball study hasn't gone the way of optimization...yet:

On the distance of the golf ball, for example, he says: “Reining back the distance of the ball? I still think that’s an open question. I’m not sure it would translate into an increased population in the game or a decreased population.”
Monday
Feb252008

Tiger's Match Play Win In Perspective

It's not easy to say anything fresh about Tiger's dominance, but a few columns managed to do it. Thanks to reader Clive for spotting this Iain Carter piece on Tiger's match play win, that includes two this tidbit that John Huggan noted a few weeks ago:

A couple of weeks ago we could say that the gap between Woods at the top of the rankings and Phil Mickelson in second place was greater than the margin between the number two and the guy ranked at 1000 in the world.

We can’t even do that now. Woods’ point average is 11.12 ahead of Mickelson, who has a rating of 10.12. This means ANY golfer registered on the rankings is closer to Mickelson than Lefty is to Tiger.

Finally, a decent use for the world ranking: quantifying Tiger's complete dominance.

And..

Bookmakers are offering a measly 12-1 for the calendar year Grand Slam of all four majors - 12-1 for something that’s never been done before!

Steve Elling offers some other stats:

In a span encompassing mid-1999 into late 2000, Woods won 17 of 30 (56.7 percent) of his official starts worldwide, a span where he also managed three seconds. That tallies to 20 of 30 (66.7 percent) events with either first or second as his final result. He was outside the top 10 four times and won four majors.

 In his current stretch, Woods has won 16 of his last 29 starts (55.2 percent) dating to his win at the 2006 British Open. He also has five runner-up finishes in that span. So, that's first or second in 21 of his last 29 starts (72.4 percent). He finished outside the top 10 four times and won three majors in that span.

Sunday
Feb242008

Faldo Avenges Tilghman's Attention Draining Remarks With His Own Off Base Comments

Nick and Kelly have a Bill and Hillary thing going. He just can't take all the attention she's getting, so he sticks his foot in his mouth. Touching, except perhaps to the Golf Channel Apologies Department which has already spent years defending Mike Ritz

Lawrence Donegan sums up the comments that came during Sunday's early morning telecast of the WGC Match Play:

During coverage of the WGC World Match Play in Tucson the six-times major winner, who is paid a reported $3m (£1.5m) a year to host coverage of the PGA tour, made unfavourable comparisons between balls made by TaylorMade and the Nike balls used by Tiger Woods, below, and Stewart Cink. Faldo signed a sponsorship deal with TaylorMade last Wednesday.

Steve Elling added this:

Golf Channel play-by-play analyst Kelly Tilghman noted on the air that it was an all-Nike final. That, in itself, sounded like a free plug, since Tilghman last December emceed a Nike outing for Woods in South Florida.

But Faldo, who also works for CBS Sports, went a step farther on the conflict-of-interest front. A few weeks after signing a new endorsement deal with TaylorMade, he launched into a lengthy discourse about the superiority of the TaylorMade golf ball, and noted how only certain players with high skill levels should bother using the Nike ball, lest it fall out of the sky. Faldo once endorsed the Nike line.

Hot off the Apology Dept. presses:

"Nick Faldo is one of the best in the business because of his experience and insight, and viewers enjoy that," the network statement read. "But his opinions do not always reflect those of the Golf Channel. In this particular instance -- although he referenced published research -- using the Golf Channel in this context was not appropriate. Nick realized this and set the record straight with our viewers in a timely manner."

A Nike spokesperson said the company was surprised that Faldo would take such a stance, but otherwise took the high road.

"We were disappointed in Nick Faldo’s comments, especially given the fact that he referenced golf product that was totally unrelated to what was happening during the competition itself," Nike spokesperson Beth Gast said Sunday night.
"These comments were all the more inappropriate having come just days after he signed with TaylorMade-adidas. He has apologized on air and we consider this isolated incident as closed."

Sure, after another week's worth of debate. And that's before Golfweek runs a cover featuring a pair of Taylor Made balls replacing Faldo's testicles.

Sunday
Feb242008

Couples To Be Next Presidents Cup Captain; As Of Now Plans To Attend Night Functions

couples_310.jpgAccording to Golf Digest's Local Knowledge blog, Fred Couples will be named the next Presidents Cup Captain even though Jaime Diaz suggests in this month's Golf Digest that Freddie really doesn't want to go to some black tie dinner with a bunch of suits.

Can you imagine that? Think of the interesting stories he'd miss out on.

Earlier this year Thomas Bonk outlined some of Freddie's other captaincy concepts. Should be fun to see how many he follows through on.

Sunday
Feb242008

"The problem is with the Ping lawsuit, everybody is scared."

Craig Dolch looks at the demise of shotmaking and talks to players who offer several different takes, including this from Tom Pernice:

Purists believe that the USGA has dropped the ball, so to speak, and the only way for shotmaking to become the premium it should be is for the PGA Tour to implement its own set of rules in terms of grooves.

"I personally think the tour should step in, but Tim (Finchem, the PGA Tour commissioner) is never going to go that way," tour pro Tom Pernice Jr. said. "Tim is going to do everything to be as non-confrontational as possible as commissioner.

"That's just his personality. Is that good or bad? Who knows? But almost every other sports organization has their own set of rules instead of us. The problem is with the Ping lawsuit, everybody is scared."

Pernice is correct: Finchem, when asked at last month's Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, made it clear he and the tour are not ready to implement its own set of rules. He says they will continue to monitor the situation, but believes the USGA and the R&A are the ones to make the rules - something he's been stressing for more than five years.

"There seems to be a slippage in recent years in that area," Finchem said of shotmaking. "You could interpret the data different ways. But we have taken the position that the USGA and the R&A should take the lead in that area and we should be in a supportive role."

I can't imagine why Finchem would want to stay out of the rule making business. It only lead to his predecessor's demise.

Saturday
Feb232008

Tiger, W, and Berman Share Propensity For Really Lame Nicknames

This probably rules me out for some day being called the "Love Shack," but Tiger Woods seems to be stooping to Chris Berman and George Bush territory with his nickname for Stewart Cink, his opponent in Sunday's WGC Match Play final.

Saturday
Feb232008

"Tim's trying to protect our image, but he's putting our image at risk."

The tour media gurus exposed Tim Finchem to some brand building exercises at just the right time: he's got some popularity issues.

Check out the pattern developing over just the last week.

First there was John Hawkins's reference to Finchem's growing unpopularity, then Doug Ferguson's piece on the state of the WGC's and now, depending on how credible you find him, Paul Azinger's criticism in a Michael Bamberger authored item for SI Golf Plus.

After talking about how degrading it is for players to drop their trousers and pee in a cup (because after all, it's such a fun job for the test observer), Azinger says that he's not bothered by Finchem's salary and control of the policy board, but it sure sounds like he is.

Azinger's not feeling the love, or the solidarity. "Tim answers to his board," he says. "We answer to our money list."

Azinger's bold. But not a revolutionary. Not for now. He wants to use his boldness first to secure an American victory in the Ryder Cup, crown jewel of the PGA of America. Along the way, Captain Paul is looking for every possible edge and advantage he can find. Legal ones only, of course.
Saturday
Feb232008

"A couple of readers said courses should charge extra for playing from the back tees."

Thanks to reader John for John Paul Newport's WSJ follow up column on the joys of not playing too far back.

One of modern golf's fundamental problems, according to Bill Amick, a Florida-based golf-course architect who has thought much about this issue, is that many of its traditions were established in a far less egalitarian era, and the glamour of the sport continues to revolve around elite players. Developers believe, probably with justification, that only "championship" courses in excess of 7,000 yards long will receive enough notoriety, such as rankings on the prestigious top-course lists published by golf magazines, to successfully anchor a new high-end housing community or to be a draw at a big-time resort.

'I can confirm that I have never had a client ask for a shorter course, even when it was abundantly clear it would be more appropriate," emailed David Leininger, who worked for many years in golf-course development.

Owners and operators also got a lot of heat for being so ineffective in directing players to the appropriate tees. But readers had plenty of suggestions, ranging from the eminently practical (posting signs at the first tee suggesting which tees were appropriate for which handicap levels) to the European (putting out only one set of playable men's tees each day, as many courses in Scotland do) to de-genderizing tees by eliminating red markers, the customary color for women's tees.

A couple of readers said courses should charge extra for playing from the back tees. Frank Thomas, the former U.S. Golf Association technical director, says -- in all seriousness -- that courses should give free postround beer to foursomes willing to play from up front. "They might end up selling more beer in the end, and probably [would] be able to squeeze in a few more foursomes per day, because of faster play," he said.

 

Friday
Feb222008

"Best hole in the world"

230136-1357880-thumbnail.jpg
The Cumulative ShotLink Scatter Chart For No. 10 (click to enlarge)
I made a point to spend as much time as possible watching Northern Trust Open play on Riviera's 10th, and while I'm sure most of you have moved on to the match play, I thought I'd share a few observations from the week while I'm away this weekend and posting infrequently. Here goes...

Why Not Lay Up? That's the question I kept asking all week as guys fumbled their way to pars, bogies and the occasional double, even though laying up left will rarely result in worse than par.  Check out the ShotLink scatter chart (above) for the week and the clusters speak for themselves. A new high of 72% went for the green, up 10% from last year and up about 40% from three years ago. Yes, that's fun to watch but it does mean some risk/reward temptation has been eliminated by the lack of distance regulation by the governing bodies. And yet...

The green continues to baffle.  In 2007, just 62% of the plays here resulted in a green hit in regulation, about 20% lower than on most PGA Tour par-4s of comparable distance. The number was 60% in 2008 and the scoring average has remained steady at about 3.8 and change. 

It's the grooves. Even with the green firm and fast, I saw way too many guys lay up down the right and hold the front portion of the green with ease, Jeff Quinney's amazing second shot Saturday being the most prominent example. But I believe the grooves have a greater impact by compelling guys to drive the green (or past it), knowing they can mop up with a flop wedge shot. 230136-1357882-thumbnail.jpg
Many players opt to lay up where Steve Flesch did even though it's a harrowing shot...change those grooves! (click to enlarge)

72%. Is it a bad thing that more guys than ever go for No. 10 without contemplating a lay up? Yes and no. I would love to see more guys face an internal debate over the lay-up option instead of the decision being between 3-wood and driver. The hole was drivable in Bobby Jones's day (pre-kikuyu), so it's an important part of the design. Either way, it's such a joy watching the world's best get into so much trouble driving it all over the place and doing absolutely mindless things!

Addicting. Mid-morning Friday I was heading back to the press room when I stopped in to watch a group come through. It turned into five groups and a chance to watch the action with the AP's Doug Ferguson. He made the interesting point that other than 12 at Augusta and maybe 16 at TPC Sawgrass, Riviera's 10th is the only hole where players all seem to watch what the group behind them is doing as they walk off the 11th tee. And as a spectator, it's astonishing what you see with each group. They really need a grandstand here and round-the-clock video coverage on PGATour.com. It's that interesting.

230136-1350780-thumbnail.jpg
Rise to prominence. Ferguson asked me while we were standing there why the 10th had risen to prominence in the last few years. Obviously I would have referred him to my recent Golf World article if we had web access on the spot, but more than that I pointed out that it wasn't very driveable until recent years, except by the bombers. I would also say that the final piece to the puzzle in No. 10's resurrection has been the removal of the coral tree grove that surrounded the green until the late 90s. They have left the green more exposed, only adding to the drama and fear factor.

When I was standing with Ferguson, the pairing that included Joe Ogilvie and Davis Love came through. Ogilvie drove it in the front left bunker, hit it into the back bunker and made par en route to a missed cut. As he was walking off the green, within earshot of us, Ogilvie shook his head and muttered, "best hole in the world."
 

Friday
Feb222008

Close Encounter of the Congressional Kind?

Thanks tor reader Ari for the Leonard Shapiro Washington Post story on Congressional agreeing to host the 2009 AT&T National.

Congressional also is the site for the 2011 U.S. Open, and club and USGA officials plan a major restoration of the club's greens to make them suitable for Open play. The project will begin after Woods's tournament in 2009 and is expected to be completed by the spring of 2010.

The club plans to use the proceeds from the 2009 AT&T event to help pay for the restoration, estimated to cost about $2.5 million. The Tiger Woods Foundation also has pledged $500,000 toward the green restoration project.

Isn't that cutting it a bit close to the U.S. Open? Considering the problems they had with the greens last time, I'm amazed the USGA would sign off on such a short window between seeding greens and the tournament.

Thursday
Feb212008

The Boo Files: "I'm like, 'Pick it up?' Honestly, I didn't know"

Steve Elling on Boo Weekley apparently not understanding that you can give putts in match play. Here's the transcript if you don't believe him, or just take Elling's word for it:

Still country to the core, the pride of the rural Florida Panhandle showed up this week having not played in a match-play event as an amateur 12 years ago, which was somewhat embarrassingly reinforced on the first hole of his opening match on Tuesday.

Germany's Martin Kaymer lagged the ball to within a few inches of the hole, and Weekly didn't concede the putt. Several awkward moments passed.

"It wasn't probably eight or nine inches from the hole, and I'm sitting there and I'm putting my ball down, and he's looking at me and I'm looking at him, like, 'Are you going to tap it in?'" Weekley recalled with a laugh.

Weekley's caddie finally told Kaymer to pick it up.

"I'm like, 'Pick it up?' Honestly, I didn't know," Weekley said. "So that's how that started out."
Mark Lamport-Stokes also included this bit from Boo in his story:
"The man that was walking with us was like: 'I'm going to be walking with you today'. And I was like: 'Good, I can ask you if I have a problem?'

"This match play is different, very different," he said. "I kind of like that stroke play better myself."

John Garrity reports that Monty didn't understand the first tee Boos for Boo. Really!

Helen Ross previews Friday's matches, including Boo's head-to-head with Woody Austin. Now that should be fun! 

Thursday
Feb212008

“We developed a bias towards action rather than a preference for smoothness"

driver.jpgBradley Klein scores an exclusive "exit interview of sorts" with outgoing USGA President Walter Driver.

His agenda and its implementation, not surprisingly, created a feeling of mistrust, even veiled hostility, among many USGA employees. Driver, too, acknowledges the perceived heavy-handedness on his part and by the Executive Committee but offers no apologies.

“We developed a bias towards action rather than a preference for smoothness,” he says.

I'm sure there are people who understand what that means. I'm not one of them.
Golfweek: During your tenure as USGA president, you oversaw considerable change, including corporate sponsorships with American Express and Lexus. Why the need for so much change?

WD: In the area of structuring what I’ll loosely call the business side of the USGA, what we found was a lack of coordination. In some cases, for example, where we’d like to find a relationship with someone on the Internet side, we found that our broadcast contracts had been negotiated without properly considering the impact of the Internet and were at cross purposes with what we were trying to do. Those things just had not been properly coordinated, there were too many silos functioning and we needed to have coordination among the areas of activity that had been lacking.

I've always believed wholeheartedly that silo coordination was vital.
Golfweek: Your attempt at cost cutting through proposed benefits reductions led to considerable discontent among longtime USGA staffers. What went wrong?

WD: No one at the USGA could remember the last time there was a thorough review of compensation and benefits. It had been at least 18 years, and so we hired two consultants who gave us recommendations about how the overall compensation benefits rewards program was, in their words, “not functioning.” And so we reacted to their expert recommendations and adopted some of their recommendations and not others. But all the Executive Committee did was hire an expert to tell us how to do it.

That's right, it was all their doing!

I didn’t come here with that in mind at all.

We looked at three legs of the compensation stool – benefits, salaries and bonuses.

Uh, I'm sorry to interrupt. But doesn't a stool need four legs? Continue...

Benefits were relatively high, salaries were medium and there was a lack of correlation between performance and rewards. We finished the benefits part first and presented it. It surprised me how it blew up. In retrospect, we should have waited to present the entire package.

Oh I'm sure that would have changed everything!

Golfweek: What stands out among your more than 10 years of volunteer service to the USGA?
 
WD: Hearing about springlike effect in the fall of 1997, and then learning that 6 million of the approved drivers had already been sold. . . .

Standing with Phil Mickelson on the first tee at Bethpage during the 2002 U.S. Open as the crowd sang ‘Happy birthday’ to Phil. . . .

That's a fond memory?

Meeting with Arnold Palmer in Latrobe (Pa.) to discuss his lending his name to the USGA Center for Golf History, and then being invited to stay for lunch, play a round of golf with him, have drinks afterwards, then dinner and staying overnight at his house and then flying him down at lavish expense to give my introductory speech at the annual meeting.

Wait, that last part was me, sorry!

On Sunday morning of the 2004 Open at Shinnecock Hills, getting a call from Mike Davis: ‘I’m at the seventh hole. I think we have a problem. You better get out here.’ Then (Driver) having to call starter Ron Read at the first tee and telling him, ‘We need to stop the U.S. Open.’"

 That's more like it. That is the Walter we want to remember!