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The tearing up of a card is generally regarded as rather discreditable business, showing at once vanity and pusillanimity in the tearer; and I must say that I do feel something more of a man when I have gone on to the bitter end and handed in the horrid thing.



Elkington On Tour Courses

Steve Elkington talking to The Age...

"This is just a good course, one of the better ones we play," said the battle-hardened veteran, who trailed American leader Brian Gay by three strokes at demanding Innisbrook.

"Some of the crap we play on is ridiculous. As big as the tour is, you'd think we could play some better courses."



Champions Buzz...Or Lack Thereof

Bill Fields reports Rick George's response to a negative Ron Kroichik story about the lackluster nature of Champions Tour events.
"It's very frustrating," George said of the tendency to focus on what the Champions Tour is lacking rather than its strengths, "because I think we've got one helluva product. When you attend our tour on a regular basis, we've got some tournaments that are really stepping it up. But is there a buzz in every community? No. We need to get it there. We've told the tournaments that this tour is only as good as the weakest tournament."
There's "buzz" at the events in well populated areas and when played at public courses. There is no buzz when the Champions play at suburban country clubs.

Golfweek's Best New 2006

Golfweek unveils it's 2006 list of best new courses...from 2004-05. The top 10:
1. Bandon Trails
Bandon, Ore.
Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, 2005

2. Old Sandwich Golf Club
Plymouth, Mass.
Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, 2004

3. Trump National Golf Club
Bedminster, N.J.
Tom Fazio, 2004

4. Lakota Canyon Ranch Golf Club
New Castle, Colo.
Jim Engh, 2005

5. Boston Golf Club
Hingham, Mass.
Gil Hanse, 2005

6. Forest Creek Golf Club – North Course
Southern Pines, N.C.
Tom Fazio, 2005

7. Pronghorn Club – Nicklaus Course
Bend, Ore.
Jack Nicklaus, 2004

8. May River Course at Palmetto Bluff
Bluffton, S.C.
Jack Nicklaus, 2004

9. Stone Eagle Golf Club
Palm Desert, Calif.
Tom Doak, 2005

10. The Territory
Duncan, Okla.
Randy Heckenkemper, 2005


Fun Notes From Babineau

Jeff Babineau shows what happens when curious writers leave the press room and share a few notes, quotes and anecdotes. The entire column is interesting, but these bites caught my eye:

The Tour's Player Advisory Council assembled at Innisbrook this week, and one of the major issues (tabled to a later date, as most important issues are) was whether or not to pare down FedEx Cup fields with each playoff week (from 144, to 120, to 78, to 30 for the Tour Championship).

This is an encouraging development for those of us who would like to see the FedEx Cup work (it will not in the current configuration).

As it stands now, the current PGA Tour "playoffs" are structured to include the Durham Bulls and half the Cape Cod league along with the Tiger and Cardinals. The all inclusive approach might be more tolerable if they were actual playoffs, with eliminations occurring each week. But without eliminating players, they are not playoffs and the 144 number remains ridiculous. (I'd take 100 to the playoffs and go from 100 to 78 to 50 to 20, or something along those lines.)

I know, I know, what if, God forbid, one of the stars is eliminated in week one? Well, considering that they are passing on the Tour Championship like it's the B.C. Open, who says they are even going to play in the playoffs? And wouldn't some upsets along the way make it more fun?

Anyhow, this was also fun from Babineau's column...

Walking past Rory Sabbatini as he belted his new Nike Sumo, flying a few balls into a lake nearly 300 yards away at the end of the range, one veteran stared and mumbled, "Is this what golf has come to?"

Guess so.

Another "Index" Review

Larry Dobrow at Media Post offers a positive, albeit slightly explicit review of Golf Digest's new "Index" magazine. A sampling:
Golf Digest Index is the newest entrant in the ha-ha-I'm-richer-than-you and my-wife-has-larger-breasts category. Its formula may not be novel -- pricey golf, pricey cars, pricey booze -- but the publication goes about its business in a distinctly different manner. I'm not sure how to put it, other than to say that you don't hate the people featured in it. Sure, you secretly hope a plumbing apocalypse soils their Oriental rugs beyond repair, but Golf Digest Index does the nigh impossible in making them interesting subjects of discourse.

"The thing is, how can you have 20-year-olds when all the old guys are holding on?"

Jeff Rude continues his look at the demise of the under-30 American golfer and gets some great quotes from Lee Trevino:

"That got me all fired up again," the Merry Mex said the other day by telephone. "The thing is, how can you have 20-year-olds when all the old guys are holding on?"

Year after year, the deck is heavily stacked against Tour newcomers, and it figures to get worse starting next year with the introduction of the shorter FedEx Cup primary season. If this were a poker game, you might suggest the dealer were more crooked than a drunk's stagger. The cards are that fixed.

Loved this. I wonder if Ponte Vedra fines for this kind of thing?

"If I put up $4,500 and grind my way through three stages of Q-School and pay for my caddie and for my hotel rooms and I'm out $10,000 or so and then the Tour tells me I can't play in the first tournament if I have the 30th card, I'd say, 'Uh-uh, we're going to the courthouse,' " Trevino said.

The problem, he says, is that the Tour wrongly gives out more Tour cards than there are spots in tournaments. Trevino suggests a good remedy: Bring the exempt list down from 125 to about 90 so the new or recycled blood from Q-School and the Nationwide have a better chance to prove what it can do.


Tiger At East Lake?

From Thomas Bonk's L.A. Times golf column:

By the way, no one should be shocked if Woods announces today that he isn't playing next week's Tour Championship, because he's apparently leaning that way. 


Building An Impressive Team...But At What Cost?

And who are they trying to impress?

Well, for starters, Golf World's Ron Sirak who lauds Tim Finchem's hiring of Wie agent Ross Berlin for an unspecified job at an unspecified (and surely bloated) salary:

Tim Finchem must be a fan of the National Football League. The PGA Tour commissioner seems to have a personnel strategy favored by many NFL general managers going into the college draft: accumulate the best available athletes. That's the context within which to view the return of Ross Berlin to the tour after a year chaperoning Michelle Wie for the William Morris Agency. This was not an isolated move but rather part of a grand plan.


To prepare for the future, Finchem is staffing his ship with an impressive array of talent. In less than four years, he has hired Rick George from the Fore!Kids Foundation, Dave Pillsbury from Nike and Ty Votaw from the LPGA, as well as rehiring Berlin. Expect an announcement in the near future that several of these executives will take on expanded responsibilities.

In Berlin's case, we'll just take an announcement on duties before we make him the next commissioner.

Also in Finchem's burgeoning talent pool are Joe Barrow, who runs The First Tee, and co-Chief Operating Officers Charlie Zink and Ed Moorhouse, who have been long-time tour employees.
Of course, Finchem -- and the board, which will make the final decision --

Uh, the non-player portion...

can always take the route followed by any good NFL general manager not happy with his team. He can go outside the company for a high-priced free agent. But this much is obvious: Finchem is building an impressive team, for now and the future.

Look at how much this line of succession nonsense is costing (according to the October Golf Digest, but not posted online). All are 2004 salaries:

Tim Finchem $4,067,318
Charlie Zink $1,227,634 (co-COO)
Ed Moorhouse $1,227,634 (co-COO)
Ron Price CFO $742,049
Henry Hughes (Chief of Operations) $572,773
Bill Calfee (Nationwide Tour chief of operations) $513,518
Jeff Monday (tournament development) $486,409
Bob Combs, (VP Communications) $458,737
Rick Anderson (General Counsel) $345,648
Rick George (Valiant Competitors Tour) $322,269
Ruffin Beckwith (World Golf Foundation) $284,037
Sid Wilson (VP player relations) $256,112

And that doesn't include Votaw or Berlin's salaries. 


ShopRite Calls It Quits

Maybe I've gotten so used to tap-dancing in press releases, but it seems like this on announcing the end of the LPGA's ShopRite event (background here and here) is unusually blunt but informative:

Northfield, NJ -- The Atlantic City LPG Benefit Association today announced that it has been forced to cease operation of the ShopRite LPGA Classic, one of the longest-running events on the LPGA Tour. Tournament chairman Larry Harrison issued the following statement:

“It is with great sadness and profound regret that we take this step to discontinue the tournament, however, we were left with no choice but to do so. In July, the LPGA commissioner notified us that they were awarding our date on the Tour schedule to another tournament despite a commitment from the previous Tour leadership that our date would remain intact through at least 2008. Since that time, we have attempted to negotiate a workable date and a new contract with the LPGA, to no avail.

“In effect, there has been no true negotiation with the Tour, and no direct communication with the Tour commissioner or her staff throughout this process. Rather, the Tour, through its outside legal counsel, has simply offered a few undesirable and/or unworkable dates, of which only one was even remotely acceptable.

“During the period of time when we were working to resolve the scheduling issues, we also attempted to negotiate a new contract with the LPGA, contingent upon reaching an agreement on a new date. Again, there was no meaningful negotiation, only a ‘take it or leave it’ proposition on the part of the LPGA. To make matters worse, the LPGA imposed unrealistic deadlines for execution of the agreement and showed no willingness to try to resolve issues surrounding the contract, all of which would have made it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to succeed going forward. In the end, and mindful of the best interests of our beneficiaries, we could not proceed with the unfavorable terms put forth by the LPGA.

“As a result, despite a 21-year record of enormous success, a total outlay of more than $16 million in purses to LPGA players, and charitable donations totaling more than $12 million to scores of worthy non-profit organizations, we find ourselves in a position whereby it is no longer feasible for us to continue with this event.

“The untenable circumstance we are confronted with was created by the leadership of the Tour, their decision to rescind our date and their unwillingness to negotiate in good faith on an alternative date and a contract.

“This is an outcome that we desperately hoped could be avoided, but, in the final analysis, it was made necessary by the decisions and actions on the part of the LPGA leadership.

“We remain deeply proud of the significant contribution we have made to the growth, success and stability of the LPGA Tour over the past 21 years, and the sizable impact we have had on so many worthy non-profit organizations. It is truly sad and unfortunate that our region has lost a high profile, world class sporting event, and that these charities will no longer be able to count on our funding.”

I'd make a joke, but this is so pathetic that there is nothing to say.

Well, actually, reader Tom, who sent this in, did point out that this, coupled with the demise of the HSBC Women's World Match Play (played at Hamilton Farm in NJ and the Sybase Classic at Wykagyl, means that under The Brand Lady's watch, the LPGA has gone from three significant events in the world's largest media market to maybe, just maybe one if the match play sticks around.


What's Growing?

While assessing my low self-esteem issues (as diagnosed by bloggers who cower under nicknames!), I keep going back to the gist of E. Michael Johnson's rebuttal to those of us concerned about the distance race in golf.

The game survives when it chooses to grow.  

Okay, set aside the fact that this line doesn't make any sense. Because the game is surviving right not even when all signs point to no growth.  But is "surviving" really acceptable or a healthy long term strategy? Of course not. 

Let's assume Johnson is saying that "growing" distances people hit the ball is good for golf. Now, as you regular readers of this site or The Future of Golf know, this "growing" thing has proven unproductive. Courses are growing in length, they are growing soulless in design, rounds are growing in length of time they take to play, rough is growing in length to compensate for distance jumps, fairway widths are growing in narrowness, cost is growing to play the game, and yet, by Johnson's own admission, longer drives fueled by equipment are not growing much for the average player.

Oh, and television ratings are not even close to growing. The number of rounds played, especially by avid players, has not grown.

So the growth that is occurring is almost entirely driven by deregulation.

As Frank Hannigan pointed out in his letter to this site the day prior to "Bomb's" big stand:

Clubs that want to entertain big events have done what clubs from time immemorial have done when the ball was juiced. They have lengthened their courses significantly and sometimes comically (see the Old Course at St. Andrews which had a tee added on another course.)

As for new courses with thoughts of grandeur, the standard has jumped from 7,000 to 7,500 yards in a short time. That requires more real estate and increased maintenance costs.

The USGA, charged with protecting golf, has caused it to become more expensive.


"It's my first love, playing golf"

Craig Dolch profiles Bobby Clampett in the Palm Beach Post. I know, you're printing this one out.

Bobby Clampett can talk a good game of golf. That's what he's done the past 15 years as a CBS golf announcer. He can analyze the game, the swing, the players. He can break down a player's swing, write a book about it, then turn his attention to golf-course design.

But the one thing about golf he enjoys far more than the others is playing it. Pure and simple, getting on the golf course and seeing how much he can control his swing for 18 holes. No excuses, no commentary, just performance.
Maybe he could return to playing full time? 
"It's my first love, playing golf," Clampett said by phone this week. "I feel when you have a God-given talent to play the game, you will never be fulfilled in life unless you give it your best. It's a gift. You sit on a gift, you don't do anybody any good."

And I think it sounds like God is going to help give him the time to pursue his gift full time...

But another part of his interest in playing golf again is his uncertain status at CBS - he still hasn't signed a new deal as the network has made several changes for 2007.

We can only pray that they'll make more changes. 


Teed Off At Winged Foot

Thanks to reader Noonan for this (not such a) Page Six shocker...

THE prestigious Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester is still recovering from the effects of the U.S Open held there last summer. Members were seething because they couldn't get tee times and because of damage done to the grounds by the hordes. "Several members are smoking mad about the disruption and the inconvenience," said an insider. Winged Foot members - who include NFL legend Frank Gifford, former U.S. Rep. Joe DioGuardi, Citigroup director/SUNY trustee Thomas F. Egan and State Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Colabella - were ticked off even before the Open started, when club president Leonard P. Horan warned them in writing to keep their mouths shut around the press. Now another letter, obtained by Page Six, has gone out from treasurer Kenneth G. Beitz, saying, "A number of members have asked the Board for a summary of how we did financially." Not very well - Winged Foot got $5.6 million from "a fixed payment, corporate hospitality sales, and a consumer price index escalator," Beitz says. But after deducting the costs of "bringing in our fairways and expanding the rough areas," plus the loss of normal revenue, "our 'profit' for hosting this Open is approximately $1.5 million."



The Commissioner Cracks A Joke (Well, Sort Of)

From Doug Ferguson's AP notes column, and no, I didn't do the caps. They come standard on

The home of THE PLAYERS Championship is expected to reopen on Nov. 13 after a seven-month renovation. The frame of the Mediterranean-style clubhouse already is in place, and there's a chance that also might be ready when THE PLAYERS Championship begins the second week in May.

But don't hold your breath.

"The good news is the clubhouse is on schedule," commissioner Tim Finchem said at a charity luncheon Monday. "The so-so news is that it's scheduled to open an hour before the first tee time."

Oct242006 Traffic

From Doug Ferguson's AP notes column...

Rob McNamara wouldn't have to pay attention to Tiger Woods to appreciate how his year has gone. All he has do is look at the "unique browsers" - number of people visiting - on Woods' web site.

"There are peaks and valleys depending on how he makes news," said McNamara, who runs "On the golf course or off the golf course, that thing really spikes."

The unique browsers were about 8,000 a day until it leapt to 20,696 on June 7, the day Woods' said he was ending his nine-week break from golf and entering the U.S. Open. It was relatively stable at about 15,000 during the week of the British Open, then hit 43,199 on the day he captured the claret jug, followed by 49,494 unique browsers the following day.

The same thing happened for the PGA Championship. Unique browsers went from 13,869 on Saturday when Woods pulled into a tie with Luke Donald, then increased to 36,287 when he won by five shots at Medinah. The day after the PGA, there were 46,015 unique browsers.

Asked about his season after winning the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship for his sixth consecutive PGA TOUR victory, Woods referred to it as a loss because of his father's death in May.

That, too, was reflected on the Web site.

There were about 293,836 unique browsers on May 3, the day Woods announced his father's death on the Web site.


Bubble Boys Vol. 3

Doug Ferguson breaks down the Top 125 situation. Oh, and the top 30 situation, because I know you are just dying to find out if Joe Durant will be playing at East Lake.

Bamberger/Faldo Chat

Michael Bamberger questions Nick Faldo about his '07 TV schedule. Faldo doesn't seem super chatty.

Cronin on Erin Hills

Tim Cronin does some cross-platform leveraging for the USGA, pitting Erin Hills vs. Cog Hill in a battle of wannabe U.S. Open courses.

When the USGA finally brings the U.S. Open back to the Midwest -- it's booked elsewhere through 2013 -- Erin Hills, a spectacular new course in this sleepy rural hamlet 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, has a remarkably good chance to get it.

How good? Mike Davis, who runs the Open for the USGA, has visited four times. On the grounds the first time after work had barely begun, he didn't return a second, third and fourth time to have a bratwurst.

Erin Hills is more than that good. Opened Aug. 1, it is instantly one of the great courses in the world.

Whoa Nellie. Deep breaths Tim.  

It is also a throwback, a course many will find too quirky, thinking too many of the hazards -- the earth rolling and heaving, leftovers of the last remnant of the Ice Age -- were either placed incorrectly or should have been bulldozed.

And lots of corporate tent space!


Captain Couples?

I've noticed in various stories mentioning who might land the gig as the next U.S. Ryder Cup Captain, Fred Couples keeps surfacing. Rich Lerner writes in another enjoyable column:

The hunch here is that Fred Couples will be the next Ryder Cup captain, with Paul Azinger and Corey Pavin under consideration.

However, John Hawkins blogged about Freddie's recent health scare, which may make it difficult for the PGA of America to select him.

It still seems to me that Pavin is their ideal candidate because he gives good press conference and, well, does anything else matter? 

Azinger has to scare the daylights out of the gang in Palm Beach even though he and Faldo could do their shtik while promoting the event. But Couples would bring a certain laid back approach that might help the U.S. team. However, his hatred of press conferences has to be a concern. Then again, if Woosie can get through it...



Ogilvy, Murdoch and Bush

In the October 16th  New Yorker, Rupert Murdoch tells writer John Cassidy:

"People think I must be close to George Bush. I tell you, I've been to one state dinner, as a result of being put on the list by the Australian Prime Minister. I stood in the reception line and shook the President's hand. And that was my total lifetime experience with George Bush."
Now, you may recall that U.S. Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy also attended the dinner (recounted in this fine Peter Stone story.)

So yes, this means Ogilvy and News Corp. CEO have both met President Bush the same number of times. Of course, Murdoch left out the detail about being seated at the same table that night.  

...but at least I'm not a rally killer.

Yes, it seems my post last week on the latest musings from's "Bomb and Gouge" boys struck a nerve.  So much so, that Bomb and Gouge dropped their unfunny shtik for an ultra serious shtik.

Though somehow I suspect this post was more Bomb (E. Michael Johnson) than Gouge (Mike Stachura)...

We're sure Geoff Shackelford is a nice man. He is certainly an accomplished writer and contributor to the design of a golf course. But personal attacks on our integrity are a sign of weakness and low self-esteem.

But see, they never get personal. No sirree.

And, of course, point-missing. One of his latest musings suggests that our recent posting on attacking the issue of u-grooves was somehow motivated by a desire to promote the golf equipment industry and defend the USGA's equipment decisions.

No, just the golf industry part. I think we're all in agreement that the USGA is indefensible at this point. 

His overused lament is that the golf ball—that ongoing source of sturm und drang among the assembled panic-stricken, progress fearing golf Sanhedrin—needs to be dealt with in some draconian rollback, retrograde fashion.

It's a tired solution-less solution to a problem that does not exist.

I think it's time for the boys to visit The List, where they might note that it's not only little ole me suggesting something be done about this whole distance race, but people who actually matter like Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and, wait, who's that down at the letter T saying he wished a line had been drawn by the USGA? Oh right, your boss! 

But the bigger issue is what exactly are the Shackelfords of the world afraid of? That Myopia Hunt won't be able to host another U.S. Open? That Wannamoisett is too short to be appreciated by today's players? That the subtle beauty of the gently lofted mashie-niblick and the stymie are lost to eternity? The game is a living, growing thing, and just as I assume Mr. Shackelford, despite his bleating cries, no longer wears diapers, the game too must leave behind the things it no longer needs. We may be afraid of distance and the golf ball, but fear is borne and festers out of ignorance. Knowledge and rational thinking keep it in check.

Note to head pros at Myopia, Wannamoisett and anything else built before 1960: E. Michael Johnson says the game can leave behind the things it no longer needs and includes your courses! 

In my conversations with officials at the USGA and the R&A, average driving distance of average golfers has maybe increased 10 or so yards over the last 15 years, to a whopping 210-215 yards. If 215 yard tee shots are obsoleting your golf course, it might be time to pick a new venue. An ultra-elite group of players may be hitting it farther, but 99 percent of the rest of us aren't. And when we roll the ball back next year or the year after, how soon until we have to do it again? And which of us is ready to play a shorter ball? And if the insanely easy to play golf equipment were such an advantage, everyone would be shooting 59 every day. The game finds a way to win.

So the equipment never really works, therefore we must continue to keep pushing the latest thing...for what reason again?

And because there is no need to bog this debate down with an endless dissertation, let's just mull some facts.

1. Currently, there are just two players on the PGA Tour who are averaging more than 300 yards in the tour's statistics that measure all drives. Two.

2. In the tour's driving distance average statistics, 20 players are averaging 300 or more yards. But here's the thing, only half of that number have ever won a tour event—EVER—and a third of that number (Woods, Couples, Love, Mickelson, etc.) have always been among the longest hitters. And here's one more thing, the number of 300-yard hitters is down from a year ago.

3. Driving distance has increased dramatically over the last 10 years. But it's flattened out in the last five. It's up about half a yard this year over last year. 18 inches. That's an increase of 0.17 percent. Is that the sky falling, or maybe something else?

They were doing so well there until point #3.

Flattened in the last five? Now, according to my media guide, the 2001 average was 279.4. And as of this week, the current Tour average is 289.7 (+10.3 yards).  And the gain since 1996 is 23 yards, and nearly half of that has come in the last five years.  Flattened?

Okay, the big wrap up:

The game survives when it chooses to grow.

Was that Darwin or Wind who said that? Sorry... 

Equipment isn't making anyone a dominant player. And when it chooses to test elite players in the way we average golfers are tested on a regular basis, the game will be stronger because it has the power to consistently find ways to turn back all threats.

Maybe that will make sense if we put it in the Ali G translata...

equipment isn't makin anyone a dominant playa. and whun it chooses to da test elite players in da way we average golfers is tested on a regular basis, da game will be stronga coz it as da powa to consistently check ways to turn back all threats.  

No, didn't help.