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A ball will always come to rest halfway down a hill, unless there is sand or water at the bottom. HENRY BEARD


    

Wednesday
Nov012006

Live at 3 EST...

Is there any other time zone? Of course not. Anyhow, Commissioner Tim Finchem's "state of the PGA Tour" news conference will be webcast live at 3 today.

I, unfortunately fell asleep just thinking about it, so I'll be reading the transcript later.

Early prediction on big, fancy, law/MBA degree words used by the Commish: 3 platforms, 1 contextualize, 2 brands and what the hell, I'm going with 1 coterminous

Oh and scribblers lucky enough to attend in person, don't forget to consider asking these questions

Wednesday
Nov012006

Elling On Champions Changes

Steve Elling makes a decent case for the elimination of Champions Q-school exemptions and the introduction of expanded Monday qualifiers:

Sure, it sounds like a return to the frenetic and controversial "rabbit" qualifiers staged on the PGA Tour before it went to the current all-exempt format. But for the publicity-starved Champions, it should generate regional interest well before the 54-hole tournaments begin on Friday.

"There's no doubt it should generate some early buzz, because you'll have some recognizable names in those Monday and Tuesday qualifiers," George said.

Plus some names that are synonymous with anonymous, so to speak, which is the most interesting part of the changes from a purity standpoint. Senior tour history is rich with unheralded success stories guys such as the journeymen who struck gold at 50, Dana Quigley and Bruce Fleisher. Not to mention Mark Johnson, the aforementioned beer-truck man who didn't turn pro until his mid-40s.

For years, the Champions played it safe, striking a delicate balance. To wit, would its older fan demographic rather watch aging warhorses such as Chi Chi Rodriguez and reminisce about the good old days, or watch lesser-known players who actually have a chance of contending? An increasing problem is that graybeards such as Palmer and Jack Nicklaus don't play much anymore, and younger 50-somethings such as Tom Watson and Greg Norman play abbreviated schedules.

With the Champions Tour's television ratings falling behind those of the LPGA, something needed to change. Since many of the marquee drawing cards aren't playing regularly, why not open the doors for some new blood? Will title sponsors balk?

"In theory, there are some real positives to it," George said. "But it's a big change."

Wednesday
Nov012006

"She should not be put through that torture again"

Thanks to reader DGS for sending this Mark Garrod story which I had glanced at and missed when it appeared a few days ago. I think George O'Grady might want to better choose his words when describing the whether Michelle Wie should be given future sponsor's exemptions:

"All our players back completely the invitation, but they actually share a concern for her that she should not be put through that torture again."

Yes, the torture of fulfilling an obligation to sponsors. It can be rough. 

Wednesday
Nov012006

Public Gets Reprieve As TPC Valencia Goes Private

Jill Painter reports the public golfer no longer can enjoy the power lines, concrete wave bunker and tract housing views at TPC Valencia:
The decision to change its status was made in September.

"It was just to primarily focus on the membership and to accommodate their needs and keep the golf course in excellent condition," said Hillary Ames, the director of membership.

The club, which is in the gated Westridge community, will expand the Oaks Grille restaurant and its patio area as well.

Cost of the average membership is $40,000, which is a refundable deposit if the member leaves, according to Ames. They are not equity memberships, meaning members don't own a part of the club.

Since the TPC already was a semi-private club, it had between 300-330 members.

"People are asking us if we're dropping our name, but we're not. We still have networking privileges with the (other) TPC courses," Ames said.
Tuesday
Oct312006

No Overtime For Rules Officials

In writing about the Tour rules officials losing a court decision on overtime pay, AP's Doug Ferguson says:

U.S. PGA Tour rules officials have been working without a contract since 2003, and they suffered a setback last week in Jacksonville, Florida when a federal jury ruled in favour of the tour over whether the rules officials should be paid overtime.

Rules officials are often at the course at dawn and leave two hours after the completion of play, although they don't work every week. The tour argued the rules officials are administrative employees and exempt from overtime pay.

"The PGA Tour is gratified that the court system confirmed that our long-standing classification of the rules officials was appropriate," the tour said in a statement.

You know, considering how much the Tour is wasting on executive pay and how horrible pace of play is, I think the officials really have no alternative but to start dishing out 2-shot penalties to speed the day up.

They'll be doing everyone a favor.

Tuesday
Oct312006

The Heritage Campaign Has Arrived

Somehow, I don't see the kids posting these on YouTube and watching them over and over again...

PGA TOUR DEBUTS “HERITAGE” CAMPAIGN TO PROMOTE INAUGURAL FEDEXCUP SEASON DURING THE TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY COCA-COLA, NOV. 2-5

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL – This week the PGA TOUR will unveil the first two television spots in a year-long campaign to promote the inaugural FedExCup competition, which launches in January and concludes in September 2007. The campaign is the largest and most integrated in the TOUR’s history and will be supported by television, print, radio and
online promotion throughout the year.

Created by the PGA TOUR and its advertising agency, GSD&M of Austin, Texas, the television spots will roll out in three phases and can be seen during network and cable golf telecasts during the rest of 2006 and in additional sports programming, including professional football. Print ads, also breaking this week, will run in national consumer, sports and golf publications this fall.

The first phase, titled “Heritage,” celebrates golf's storied tradition, while looking ahead to the exciting major changes happening with the sport. “Heritage” comprises :30 and :60 versions of two spots called Evolution and Who Will Be First?

EVOLUTION – is a trip through time with golf’s all-time greats, as they progressed from the early years to modern day. The spot takes viewers through one golf hole with drives from legends like Ben Hogan and Walter Hagen, approach shots from the heroes of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s like Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Greg Norman, and putts by today’s biggest names including Ernie Els and Tiger Woods.
Do we get to see how they've moved the tees back 70 yards on the hole in question? Sorry...
WHO WILL BE FIRST? – takes a look at some of the famous “firsts” in golf and teases the fact that winning the FedExCup will be an important part of the sport’s history. The spot features footage of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson.
So glad Phil's in there. He's such a supporter of end-of-season tournament play.
“We're ushering in a new era in the history of the PGA TOUR with the inaugural FedExCup, so we're approaching our 2007 campaign in a completely different way,” said Ric Clarson, PGA TOUR SVP, Brand Marketing & Retail Licensing. “It's important that we spend time educating our fans about the season-long points competition and first-ever Playoffs, and how these major changes will lead to more drama, meaning and excitement for everyone.”

Uh huh. 

Tuesday
Oct312006

The Scorecard Readers

Thanks to reader Ken for this release on Callaway reaching out to an older demographic that clearly has too much disposable income.

Callaway Golf Eyewear, a licensee of Callaway Golf (NYSE: ELY), is pleased to announce the introduction of the Callaway Golf Eyewear Scorecard Readers. This patented collection of rimless reading glasses feature unique spring-hinged, stainless steel temples, black frames, and fold easily into either a fliptop case or standard clamshell case.

Today baby boomers are realizing that their vision isn't the same as it was when they were younger. As a result, the need for reading glasses is on a steady increase. There are more than 76 million baby boomers--those born between the years of 1946 and 1964. In addition to baby boomers, people getting LASIK Surgery to correct their farsighted vision - Myopia - still need to wear reading glasses for their nearsighted vision - Presbyopia, all resulting in a need for a more fashionable high-end reading glass. "People don't want to buy the drug store reading glasses that their grand parents wear". "They are looking for something more hip, more fashionable," said Marcel Schiro, VP Sales and Marketing of Callaway Golf Eyewear. No more carrying that big bulky pair of reading glasses for the past 18 holes writing in your score on your scorecard. The patented, Callaway Golf Eyewear Scorecard Reader, folds conveniently into a case—smaller than your average cell phone.
Tuesday
Oct312006

The Music Ranking Has Arrived...

musickennyg.jpgI know you've been wondering if Marty Roe is finally going to get the recognition he deserves. Well it seems so!

Check out Golf Digest's latest list, their top 100 musicians, or at least, people who play instruments and golf. That doesn't guarantee you've heard of them.

However they did okay by putting Lloyd Cole on there at #11. Especially since he just loves rankings of all kinds. And he's only ten spots behind the Coltrane of my generation, Kenny G.  That's Steve Coltrane of Macon's very own Lou E. Armstrong Band.

Monday
Oct302006

Questions For The Commissioner

image_4607670.jpgWednesday of Tour Championship week means it's time for Tim Finchem's annual "state of the PGA Tour" press conference. This is where he says how wonderful things are, even when the two stars that he looked to for FedEx Cup have passed on four rounds at boring East Lake and the Coca-Cola people are really, really grouchy.

As usual, I'd like to offer a few questions for the lucky scribblers working this week. And naturally, your questions posted in the comments section are welcome too. I suspect they'll be better than mine. Anyhow, here goes:

  • Commissioner, do you consider PGA Tour players to be role models even though it now regularly takes them 5 hours to finish a weekday round? (I like to warm him up with something benign.)
  • As a follow up, do you foresee any initiatives that would improve pace of play, which is undermining fan enjoyment of the sport (and scaring off the 18-34 y.o.'s!).
  • Was your recent $28 million contract extension endorsed and voted on by the player portion of the PGA Tour policy board?
  • At the 2003 Tour Championship you talked about the ShotLink initiative and its usefulness for USGA distance analysis. The USGA has issued an initial report to manufacturers suggesting that U-grooves are de-skilling the game at the highest level. Does the Tour share a concern that U-grooves are dramatically changing the game?
  • In 2003 you told the Palm Beach Post that "there is some point -- nobody knows where it is -- when the amateur player feels divorced and really doesn't appreciate the game at this level, just because it's so different that it doesn't become particularly relevan. The second thing is, if everybody is driving every par 4, it's not particularly interesting to watch."  

    Does the PGA Tour do market research that asks fans if they feel divorced from the professional game? And if so, what kind of feedback have you gotten?

  • There were reports last week that the PAC boards were presented with the concept of an elimination process in the FedEx Cup "playoffs" so that they are like, you know, like real playoffs.  Is this in reaction to the lukewarm reception that the FedEx Cup has received?
  • And with apologies to Colbert...Mark Foley. Great Congressman from Florida who you are glad you never gave money to like Greg Norman did, or, the greatest Congressman from Florida who you are glad you never gave money to like Greg Norman did?

Okay, that's enough. 

Monday
Oct302006

PGA Tour Driving Distance Watch, Week 39

pgatour.jpgThe PGA Tour driving distance average dropped from 289.7 yards to 289.5 after the Innisbrook event.
Monday
Oct302006

Nelson and Singh Give HOF Induction Speeches, DVD Of Event To Be Sold As Generic Alternative To Lunesta

singhinduction103006.jpgReally, I'm just so sorry I wasn't there for Vijay's Hall of Fame Induction.

Oh, and nice to see that someone in the family owns a tie.

Monday
Oct302006

Money Can't Buy You A Tour Championship Field

Gary Van Sickle calls the Tiger/Phil WD's this week "incredibly embarrassing," says money doesn't mean anything to the big names anymore, and writes:
With the FedEx Cup playoffs on next year's schedule, players are looking at playing the year's last four events in a row -- the four FedEx Cup playoff events, culminating in the Tour Championship. The playoffs are preceded by the Bridgestone Invitational, a World Golf Championship event, the PGA Championship and the Greensboro tour stop. That means the top players will have to play six out of seven weeks. From the British Open on, they're looking at playing in seven of the final nine events and then, after a week off, teeing it up in the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup.

It was playing seven weeks out of nine this year that Woods used as his primary reason for skipping the Tour Championship. While he paid homage to next year's FedEx Cup in his withdrawal notice, you have to wonder if part-time warriors like Tiger and Phil will actually play seven out of nine next year, or any year. Because the money, as big as it is, doesn't matter. Not to them.
Monday
Oct302006

"Desperate and dateless"

Mick Elliott on the Tour's sponsorless Tampa stop, which will be returning to Innisbrook in March:

Crazy is what this has become. Long ago it was common knowledge Chrysler planned a dramatic decrease in its golf sponsorship, ending tournament involvement for Tampa Bay, Tucson, Ariz., and Greensboro, N.C., after this year. Yet the season is ending with the PGA Tour and Tampa Bay tournament officials desperate and dateless.

A tournament designated worthy of a place on the spring schedule, played on a golf course players call one of the best and most popular on tour, and contributor of more than $8 million to local charities since its 2000 inception hasn't found a sponsor.
And...
With the exception of two "out of the box" hopefuls - both invited by the tournament and both getting their initial introduction to golf - no corporate checkbooks searching for a place to put the company name set foot on Innisbrook during the week.

I'm just wondering how the Tour could move this event to March without having had a sponsor locked up? Did they underestimate Chrysler's desire to get out of golf?

Or was there a little Florida-is-wonderful bias that led them to assume sponsors would line up for a week at Innisbrook?

Because we know the resort didn't want to move to March and well, most importantly, the drapes and decor are outdated. 

Monday
Oct302006

USGA Executive Committee Changes

usga logo.gifThere were several surprises in the USGA's announced Executive Committee "nominations."

Most notably, James Reinhart, currently a vice president, big fan of Erin Hills and distance measuring devices and thought to be the next president, is retiring. That will end the streak of presidential Augusta National members at two, which if nothing else, gives David Fay a two-year reprieve from answering questions about having president's of male-only clubs.

Craig Ammerman, a big fan of this scribe's work, is also retiring. And Lew Blakey, considered one of the top rules authorities in the world and who was strongly in favor of making the rules of golf more user friendly, will be off the Committee starting in 2007. 

The other surprise is that being a venture capitalist seems to be the USGA's 21st Century answer to attorney-at-law.

The new members are: Christie Austin of Cherry Hills Village, Colo.; John Kim of Farmington, Conn.; and Geoffrey Yang of Menlo Park, Calif.  Their bios:

Austin, 49, executive vice president of Marsico Capital Management since 2003, has been involved in the last two USGA championships held at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village. Most recently, she served as vice chairman of the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills. She also was registration chairman for the 2003 U.S. Senior Open at Cherry Hills. A member at Cherry Hills, she recently won her 11th Club championship. She also has qualified for seven U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur championships.   Professionally, Austin, a CPA, helped found MCM in 1997 and served as its chief financial officer for six years until 2003. Today, MCM has 70 employees and manages more than $75 billion in assets. Prior to 1997, she helped found Englewood Mortgage Company in 1987 with her husband, Bob.  They have two children, Michael and Julie.  She is a graduate of the University of Colorado.  

Kim, 46, has been president of Prudential Retirement (formerly CIGNA Retirement and Investments) since 2002, a leading plan provider that serves more than three million customers and manages roughly $140 billion in assets. The company has 2,500 employees.   A graduate of the University of Michigan (BBA) and the University of Connecticut (MBA), Kim is a chartered financial analyst who has been an industry leader since 1995, when he served as chief executive officer at Aeltus Investment Management. In 2001, he moved to the president and chief executive officer role of BondBook, LLC.   He and his wife, Diane, have three children: Andrew, Emily and Caroline.  

Yang, 47, is a founding partner and managing director of Redpoint Ventures, a family of early stage venture capital funds based in California’s Silicon Valley. He is responsible for the firm’s investments in new companies, such as Ask Jeeves, Excite, MySpace, TiVo, Foundry Networks and Juniper Networks. Prior to 1999, Yang was a general partner with Institutional Venture Partners for 12 years.   Born in New York, N.Y., Yang is a 1981 graduate of Princeton University. He earned a master’s degree in business from Stanford University in 1985. 

Yang was also involved in starting Golfweb according to one story. I'm not sure why that was left out of the release. 

A few things worth pointing out.

First, all three seem to be unusually wealthy with strong ties to corporate America. Not sure if that's a good thing.

Two of the new members are from the "west" and one from Connecticut, so they've made some progress on finding new blood from outside the Augusta-Hobe Sound circle of trust.  

All three are surprisingly young for the USGA, which might bode well for some outside-the-box thinking.

Not so encouraging is that once again, the USGA has not managed to find anyone who is a public course player. Or at least, someone who was a muni golfer in the last 20 years.

Monday
Oct302006

"Sounds like someone swatting an empty cola can upon contact."

1.jpgThanks to reader Bob for noticing this Doug Ferguson description of the square driver K.J. Choi used to win at Innisbrook:
"(Choi) started using a new driver last week that not only is square, but sounds like someone swatting an empty cola can upon contact. Els played with Choi on Saturday and compared the sound to a tuna can attached to a shaft."


Sunday
Oct292006

The Short 4 Finish

Tom Hanson continues his look at the TPC Treviso Bay's construction, with the dilemma facing player Hal Sutton: he doesn't like the planned short par-4 finish.

Eight months after breaking ground, the 18th hole is nothing but piles of dirt. But it's already providing loads of drama.

The lakes on the championship course in East Naples have been dredged. Negotiations to begin the shaping of the 7,200-yard layout is under way. And still there is one minor debate: Is a 320-yard, par-4, too, short?

That's the plan for the final hole at Treviso Bay.

With today's juiced balls and trampoline-effect drivers, players will have to decide if they want to drive the green or lay up and play it safe. The tempting proposition will make it possible for an eagle to win a tournament. Talk about instant excitement.

But not everyone is thrilled.

Hal Sutton, the PGA Tour player consultant on the project, isn't sold on the idea.

Sutton, standing by his classic golf course design theories, feels that a reachable par-4 will only create headaches instead of heart-stopping action. Sutton fears that the short strike will result in slow play. He also worries that the agony of defeat, (i.e. bogey, double-bogey or even a triple-bogey) will be taken out of the equation.

"Is it exciting that everyone is going for it and the difference between winning and losing could be an eagle?" Sutton said. "Or is exciting, OK there are 10 different ways to make a 3 here and only one way to make an eagle if you knock it in from the fairway."

"I think having a hole that short as the final hole is a real risk," Sutton said.

Arthur Hills, Treviso Bay's lead architect, and Chris Gray, the project manager for VK Development, both agree there is enough give and take with having a 320-yard finishing hole.

The hole is designed to be a slight dogleg to the left with water running down the entire left side. The green will be angled so that the lake will cause players to think twice about going for the green.

"There still will be plenty of risk but I think the reward will make it a unique hole," Hills said.

I love the idea of a short 4 finish. And at that point in the round, who cares about slow play? It's already been 5 to this point, what's another wait! 

Sunday
Oct292006

And The Top 125 Are...

The final PGA Tour money list...well, the one that matters to the guys trying to make the Top 125.

Sunday
Oct292006

Owen On Tiger

David Owen pens a fascinating Tiger Woods profile for The Guardian. It reads more like a New Yorker piece and far much more interesting than his Tiger at 10 Year story for the August Golf Digest,.

Soak it up, this is all the Tiger you're going to get this week! 

Saturday
Oct282006

Square...Drivers

There was talk early in the week about these apparently ugly new square headed drivers tested out by the Callaway players in Europe, and I mistakenly chalked the articles up to scribblers hoping that Larry Dorman would send them a freebie.

But Mark Reason in the Telegraph dug a bit deeper and suggested this:

And it could become even harder for those Europeans to win majors next season if Tiger Woods takes advantage of the new square-headed driver that has been on show in Spain this week. So far the players have been reluctant to use the new driver in actual competition — although Thomas Bjorn employed it in Thursday's round of 78 — but they have no doubt as to its advantages.

They also believe that it might straighten out the one weakness in Tiger's game. After yesterday's round, Nick Dougherty said: "Thank God Tiger's driving like he is or there would be no point in the rest of us turning up. There almost isn't now. But if he starts driving it again like he did in 2000, then we really needn't bother because his iron play and short game is so much better than it was then." Dougherty believes that Woods might well turn to this new technology to minimise his weakness from the tee. He says: "Well, he looks like a traditional guy … but if he's still driving it poorly next year then I would say yeah, we will see him using it at next year's Open." The point of the square-headed driver that has been developed by both Callaway and Nike is that it doesn't twist as much on impact as conventional drivers — the introduction of super-slow-mo having shown, to the surprise of many experts, that a large proportion of crooked shots are the result of the clubhead twisting from the impact of an off-centre hit.

Saturday
Oct282006

Lorne On Bandon

Lorne Rubenstein looks at Bandon Dunes and some of the things that make the resort great.
PGA Tour players are calculating precise distances while playing by yardages in the Chrysler Championship near Tampa, but golfers here are immersed in traditional golf. The three beguiling, walking-only courses at the much acclaimed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort invite golf that tells the player to throw away the yardage book.

"I don't know how far it is, but this is the club," a Bandon caddie is likely to say. Golfers can consult inconspicuous markers on the fairway, but most learn not to bother. The ground game matters, because the firm, fast fescue fairways welcome a bouncing ball. The golf's about more than the aerial game, into the fescue greens and the fairways.