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You must expect anything in golf. A stranger comes through, he's keen for a game, he seems affable enough, and on the eighth fairway he turns out to be an idiot.



The Demise Of The L.A. Times

In a couple of years when the largest paper west of the Mississippi is relegated to nothing more than a news website, they'll be asking how a once proud and highly profitable operation was destroyed. While I can't comment on the overall operation (LAObserved has covered it well), one department near and dear to this blog has been recklessly destroyed.

Thomas Bonk, a 27-year staffer was part of this week's staff buyouts, leaving us with just a handful of newspapermen and women covering golf. Bonk had been covering golf full-time for at least 12 years by my faulty memory count.

Here's what's most astounding about this: the most famous athlete in the world and one of the planet's most visible human-beings is Tiger Woods. He is a southern California native and part-time resident who hosts a tournament here, where, incidentally, the Los Angeles Times is published.

Along with the AP's Doug Ferguson, no writer was more consistently breaking news or demonstrating some form of access to Team Woods than Bonk. And recently, Bonk was regularly breaking news and offering important information related to the game with a weekly online column. For a paper that has touted its need to be breaking news online and in general beefing up its website coverage, Bonk delivered. It makes little sense that you would release someone fulfilling the stated mission, particularly someone with access to and a relationship with one of the world's most newsworthy and inaccessible figures.

And remember, this is a paper with six sports columnists. Not one has a clue about golf.

Peter Yoon, a talented and developing golf writer, was a victim of an earlier staff purge. The only other Times staffer capable of covering golf is Chris Dufresne, one of the top college football writers in the land who better serves the paper taking advantage of his arsenal of sources covering college football or his old beat, college basketball.

Of course, this is a paper that just fired one of its two primary film critics and numerous talented entertainment writers in the same town where there's a multi-billion dollar industry called Hollywood, so I suppose the beat writers for UCLA basketball and USC football might just be doomed too.


Kim, Villegas Pay Their Dues...

...they become associate members of the European Tour, joining a few other names we already knew about.


“The contract is ironclad.”

Jon Show reports that Jeld-Wen wants out of its $9 million annual commitment to the tour, The Players Championship The PLAYERS and one of the nine senior majors (but apparently that number does no include the free window frames for the VP's, which pushes the value of the deal to $15 million). Show also reports the Ginn and Mayakoba sponsors want out of their deals in light of the real estate crisis.

It also comes on the back of fallout in the auto and financial industries.

The tour is faced with a tough sell given the unsold inventory it already has in the marketplace, including a $3 million annual title deal for a new Fall Series event in Georgia and two $7 million annual sponsorships of the Presidents Cup.

Now here's a tour attitude I've noticed in a few articles...

There is still no decision on what brand will be attached to events in Ohio and Charlotte after their lead sponsors, Merrill Lynch and Wachovia, were bought by Bank of America and Wells Fargo, respectively. Despite speculation, the new banks will automatically assume those deals unless the PGA Tour and the acquiring companies mutually agree to part ways.

“There’s no technical ability to get out,” said Jon Podany, head of sales for the PGA Tour. “The contract is ironclad.”

Now, I can understand talking that way so that other sponsors don't get any funny ideas about renegotiating. Still, you would hope that privately they are far less assertive about that language if a sponsor wants to re-work their deal. I know, I know, I don't understand how business works.

Oh wait, Adam Schupak talks to former PGA Tour and Golf Channel exec Gary Stevenson, who offers this sage advice:

I suspect that the PGA Tour, LPGA, the governing bodies, are taking two giant steps back and making sure that the value they deliver is consistent with what they are asking – and if it’s not, they should be making adjustments to those packages so that the value is there. I’m of the mind that title sponsors, once they take a look at what they get for their money compared to other money they spend, will determine the value in golf is better.

If I was a golf tournament director, I would be less concerned about my title sponsor than I would those sponsors that were spending between $50,000 and $250,000. Those are the hardest to find. If there was a way of creating a different value and locking them in for three years, I’d do that right now.


"Zuback showed up with 29 Cobra drivers from which to choose."

Jim Achenbach attended the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship and noticed that nearly every contestant used a Pinnacle and Cobra driver (you go Wally!).

But for those of you feeling guilty about your driver collecting, just consider this level of neurotic behavior:

Winner Jamie Sadlowski and the other three match-play finalists in the Open Division used Cobra driver heads. Furthermore, Dan Boever, the Senior Division champion, hit a Cobra driver.

Five-time world champion Jason Zuback, eliminated after making the Elite Eight, was another Cobra user. Zuback showed up with 29 Cobra drivers from which to choose. That’s right – 29.

“Well, there are some slight differences in all of them,” said Zuback, still on the mend after having four hernias repaired in the vicinity of his abdomen.

Sure those hernias aren't related to lifting a bag filled with 29 drivers?


"When two black youths were left undisturbed as they walked the public golf course..."

Kevin Robbins reports that there might be another layer to the Lions Muni battle. Not only was it a key proving ground for Kite and Crenshaw, it also may have been home to desegregation in golf.

City records suggest that Lions allowed African Americans to play without limits as early as 1951, when two black youths were left undisturbed as they walked the public golf course — long before Oliver Brown petitioned the Topeka Board of Education and Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a bus in Alabama.

Until the new information about Lions was found, the earliest documented full desegregation of a Southern municipal course occurred in winter 1955 after a lawsuit brought by black golfers in Atlanta reached the U.S. Supreme Court and forever integrated golf courses in that city.

Other Southern courses permitted African Americans to play for abbreviated periods or on certain days; black caddies, for instance, were allowed to play on days that some country clubs were closed.

This occurred just 57 years ago. Hard to fathom.


Flash: USGA Nominates Well-Liked Chap Who Knows Golf

Say it ain't so, I know! Such dangerous precedent. Yet, I must report the emails and calls have been pouring in. They are praising the USGA's uncharacteristic decision to nominate a likeable, knowledgeable fellow to the Executive Committee on the heels of uncharacteristically nominating a likeable, knowledgable fellow to the presidency.

This new fellow is a lawyer, but in spite of that, Gene McClure is getting rave reviews as someone who has the game's best interests at heart. There is no end to the madness these days.

In other nominating news, Minnesota fared remarkably well with Irving Fish nominated as Treasurer and Joseph Anthony was named associate counsel, despite ex-President and Minnesotan Reed Mackenzie chairing the nominating committee.



"That's when I bumped into Gio."

Thanks to reader Patrick for Martin Blake's look at Stuart Appleby and his decision to consult a sports psychologist about his disgust for speaking to pro-am partners better coping with major pressure.

"I really felt like: 'This is bullshit. I've got to find a way to not let this happen again.' That was the catalyst.

"What would I do different? I'm not really sure. I'm not saying to avoid being chased by the shark, but to have a coping strategy. That's when I bumped into Gio.

"You go through the basics of tension, pressure, chemicals in the body, heart-rate, all these sorts of things you actually can control. The Masters (was) a little bit (of a catalyst), but the US Open put me over the edge: 'This is bullshit. I don't want to do this again.' If it does happen again, I look at it and I'm excited." 

I think we know Stuart's key word now. Does the PGA Tour levy fines for comments in The Age?


“I can’t say (being deaf) is a plus"

While everyone was watching Erik Compton at first stage of Q-school, Dave Seanor reminds us in par 1 of a two-parter that another feel good story tees it up this week. Kevin Hall has been profiled many times because he's of African-American descent, but Seanor focuses on what it's like for Hall to be deaf and what that means to a competitive golfer.

Some suggest Hall has a competitive advantage because he’s not distracted by noise. (Sound familiar, Casey Martin?) But any golf instructor will tell you that sound provides important feedback when a ball is struck. Moreover, Hall isn’t immune to distraction, thanks to exceptionally acute peripheral vision. As does Woods when he hears a camera shutter click, Hall will stop in mid-swing if he detects movement in the gallery.

“I can’t say (being deaf) is a plus,” says Percy Hall, Kevin’s father and occasional caddie. “It doesn’t facilitate what he’s doing. He deals with distractions – voices in his head and visual distractions. Those kind of things are going on in his head, just like everyone else.


"I hope this win help shim get a little better"

Nice touch: Sergio dedicates his win to Seve.

Now about that trophy...









"The next thing you know, there's a master community with a fence around it."

Mina Kimes considers the issues facing real estate developments and the country clubs anchoring the facilities, focusing on a recent shuttering at Palmira in Florida. Not much surprise here...

Commercial real estate, a sector that's lagged behind the rest of the industry in experiencing the credit crunch, is about to get hit hard, according to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey. One finding: investors believe that sales of homes in golf club communities will be near abysmal next year which, in turn, will hurt club memberships.

"The courses are owned by people who leveraged them up, and they're going to feel the pain," said Susan Smith, the director of real estate at PwC.

Woolson predicts that the number of golf community foreclosures will continue to rise next year - and developers too will feel the pain. "I've made a lot of money over the past eight years selling golf courses that weren't making money," he said. "The developers see profits when they sell the last 25% of the development - if the market comes to a halt before then, they're in trouble."


" The European and American tours combined do not see that number of quality golf courses in a whole season."

Mike Clayton on rotating Melbourne courses for the Australian Masters and what that has meant in the past:

In 1981, my first year on the tour, we played the Australian Open at Victoria, the PGA Championship at Royal Melbourne, the Victorian Open at Metropolitan, the Westpac Classic at Royal Adelaide, the South Australian Open at Kooyonga and almost every other year we seemed to be playing the immaculate holes at Kingston Heath. The European and American tours combined do not see that number of quality golf courses in a whole season.


"Remember, he won the US Open on one leg."

John Huggan catches up with Hank Haney about the state of Tiger and managed to glean a few subtle notes about his possible pre-Masters schedule and his future.

"I'm sure his target is to be ready for the Masters. But to do that properly he'll have to play a couple of times before he gets to Augusta. He can't just show up not having played for so long. I know he pulled it off at the US Open, but ten months is a long time. He needs to have played some serious golf – maybe two events – before April. That sounds like a reasonable goal."

And this has to be music to Tim Finchem's ears...

"I can see him playing a bit more than normal in the short-term. His leg will be stronger than it has ever been. While his ligament will be at 85 per cent, the rest of the muscles around it will be in better shape than ever. So he will be capable of more than I have ever seen before. I really can't see this whole thing as anything but a positive. Remember, he won the US Open on one leg."


Compton Advances!

Great stuff by Erik Compton and Stage 2 beckons as Antonio Gonzalez reports. Though I am a bit concerned about anyone whose first move of the day is to turn on the Golf Channel. Thankfully in this case, it worked.

Compton woke up at 6:30 a.m. and turned on the Golf Channel.

All the commentators had the same message: It was great that he was playing, but there was no way he could overcome seven strokes.

"It really motivated me," said Compton, who received special permission from the PGA Tour to use a golf cart and to continue taking banned anti-rejection pills. "People always want to count me out."


"Everybody almost looks like somebody who can play."

Jim Moriarty files an entertaining column on the unusual gathering that is Q-School first stage:

If you're the kind of person who enjoys wandering through cemeteries reading inscriptions on mausoleums, the first stage of the PGA Tour's qualifying school is for you. It's quiet, respectful, sometimes surprising but mostly populated by, if not the walking wounded, at least the walking depressed.


"Now it's a survival hole"

Teddy Greenstein loves the Rees-ification of Cog Hill, and I must say, it sounds like a good thing that it's next BMW Championship will be a playoff event, otherwise the boys would stay home. Thanks to reader Nick for the story, which includes this item on the new-look finishing hole:

The par 4 at Cog Hill's signature course was difficult, playing to a 4.135 average during the 2007 BMW Championship, but still lacked a certain fear factor.

The greenside pond looked good on TV but was barely visible to the pros. They made only eight double bogeys in the event's 260 rounds played.

"Now it's a survival hole," touring pro Garrett Chaussard said.

On a recent cool, windy day, Chaussard marched back to a new tee box that stretches the hole to a sinister 501 yards. He flushed a drive and still needed his 2-hybrid to reach the green from 220 yards out.

Chaussard, a University of Illinois product whose 2008 highlight was qualifying for the U.S. Open — though his 80-82 missed the cut by 13 shots — said the hole's new design makes it far more intimidating.

As part of Rees Jones' $5 million redesign, the tee box at No. 18 was moved back and to the left, making the pin visible — if you have 20/20 vision.

The green was lowered, thinned out and brought within spitting distance of the pond, leaving two bad options for the long approach: short (water) and long (deep bunker).

Jones' brilliant redesign is aimed in helping Cog Hill land a U.S. Open. Numerous bunkers have been added, deepened or reshaped to add ferocity to the layout, which could play at more than 7,600 yards.

Sounds so creative and inspired!


Enjoy Golfweek's Best New Courses While You Can

At the pace we're on, there won't be enough new courses in the coming years to do these awards issues. Well, that won't stop them from trying. Maybe they'll go with "where are they now" issues trying to figure out what they were thinking in selecting some of these gems!

You have two options. There is the online version of the print edition with all of Brad Klein's musings, or the online photo slideshow backed by some of the finest copyright-free Muzak you'll ever want to not hear.



Australian Masters To Great Sandbelt Courses?

The best thing about the Victorian Government rescuing the Australian Masters is that it's leaving longtime site Huntingdale, and according to word on the street as posted at GCA by Chris Kane, may be heading to Kingston Heath in 2009 and Victoria in 2010. Perfect opportunities for Tiger to go study his favorite type of golf!


Annika Hints At Return From Retirement As Retirement Beckons

Gee, you think she could have gotten bored around the house for a few hours before growing restless about returning. Stephen Wade reports from China.

“If I get the urge to come back, I have a chance,” Sorenstam said. “That’s why I have never said this is the end. But we’ll see.

“There are new challenges ahead,” she added. “Getting married and starting a family. Who knows? I might come out on tour sooner than later. It might be tougher than I think it is.”


Golf's A Bargain!

At least when you read how much the auto manufacturers pour into NASCAR, though not for much longer as Liz Clarke writes. But in light of $10 million sponsorships for one car, PGA Tour and LPGA Tour deals look pretty good. And of course with golf you get those added value streams, especially that b-to-b interaction for the C-Levels. 


Seve Going In For More Surgery

Ben Harding reports on the latest complications with a diagnosis on his tumor. No good news.