In the days of King Arthur nobody thought the worse of a young knight if he suspended all his social and business engagements in favour of a search for the Holy Grail. In the Middle Ages a man could devote his whole life to the Crusades, and the public fawned upon him. Why, then blame the man of today for a zealous attention to the modern equivalent, the Quest of Scratch! P.G. WODEHOUSE
"From Day One, Bivens moved fast to reshape the LPGA. She replaced the exiting staffers with a team heavy on marketers and intellectual-property lawyers"
Now I'm sure that the LPGA Carolyn Bivens inherited was far from perfect and that as with any organization, some change was necessary. But if you believe BusinessWeek (and that's hard to do considering how they pandered to ranking partner ESPN), you would be under the impression that the LPGA Tour was a complete and utter disaster and that her initiatives have completely turned things around.
Is it me or does Dean Foust's breathless piece reads a bit too much like an official LPGA press release:
If you think the inauspicious start chastened Bivens, think again. The LPGA chief makes no apologies for rattling cages at the 58-year-old tour, telling more than one interviewer: "I didn't take the job to be voted Miss Congeniality." She sees her game-changing overhaul as crucial to making sure the players reap their fair share of the spoils from the growing fan interest in the LPGA. "There were a number of people invested in maintaining the status quo," says Bivens. "It would have been criminal not to change the business model. The value of the LPGA had changed exponentially, and the contracting and the fees hadn't caught up to that."
Ah the value. Of course.
The tour Bivens inherited was far from healthy. Since 2001, the number of tournaments had shrunk from 40 to 35, and interest among TV networks was so limited that the LPGA not only didn't receive rights fees but had to buy air time to broadcast. The tour couldn't even afford to provide health care or retirement plans to its players.
And that has changed?
Perhaps more important, the LPGA didn't control any of the tournaments on its calendar. That left it vulnerable to the whims of tournament operators. For example, in 2006, CBS decided to move the final rounds of the McDonald's LPGA Championship to early afternoon—a time slot that was clearly unpalatable to the tour. NBC was willing to air the tournament in a better slot for $1.5 million. But the tournament's owner opted for The Golf Channel, which cost much less—about $300,000—but could deliver only a quarter of the NBC audience.
From Day One, Bivens moved fast to reshape the LPGA. She replaced the exiting staffers with a team heavy on marketers and intellectual-property lawyers who could help strike better deals with sponsors, licensees, and networks. For players, she hired a "branding coach" to help enhance their marketability. What's more, Bivens gradually hiked the sanctioning fees charged to the tournament owners to $100,000, from the $10,000 or so many had paid—a fee that wasn't enough to cover the cost of setting up the course and providing weekend child care for players. That triggered a backlash among tournament operators, but many players backed Bivens. "In the past I think our leadership was in a position of wanting to please too much. She wanted to do things differently," says tour veteran Wendy Ward.
I always forget that all change is progress! Stupid me.
This was also curious, since the ADT started under the prior regime:
To that end, she has already gained control of the season-ending ADT Championship held in mid-November in West Palm Beach, which pays two-thirds of its $1.55 million purse to the winner (winners usually get 15% of the purse). That disproportionate payout upset some older tour players, but their complaints have fallen on deaf ears. One more reason Carolyn Bivens won't be winning that congeniality award anytime soon.
From an unbylined story in the Sydney Morning Herald:
The International players sometimes wondered if they were really playing a home game in the past four days at Royal Montreal, near the US border. The galleries cheered for Americans Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson sometimes with greater fervour than the Internationals.
If the competition returns to somewhere close to the US, watch out for a mutiny.
"I think South Africa and Australia would be the best place," said International Vijay Singh.
The US Tour selected Canada for this year's event because of its proximity to the US, making it an easy trip for the American players, and the time zone suited US television.
But Scott and his teammates want the Americans on the other side of the world, where the heat, flies, jetlag and all of those other intangibles will come into play.
The Internationals started yesterday's singles needing to win 10 of 12 matches to pull off an unlikely victory. They did win seven matches, but the US prevailed 19½ to 14½ overall.
The four Australians were generally disappointing. Geoff Ogilvy and Stuart Appleby finished with two wins and three losses, while Adam Scott had one win, three losses and one tie. Nick O'Hern posted one win and four defeats.
Don Markus writes about yet another Champions Tour major--the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship--kicking off this week at the venerable Baltimore Country Club, profiling Keith Foster and his work to bring the course up-to-date for today's old geezers. Thanks to reader John for this.
"You're really riding the edge," Foster said of restoring a golf course. "If you do too much, everyone knows, and if you don't do enough, everyone still talks about it."
Club general manager Michael Stott said the principal idea behind the multimillion-dollar restoration, the cost of which was shared by the club and the PGA Tour, was to make the Five Farms course "relevant again" in terms of modern technology. It appears that Foster accomplished that goal.
While most of the players have yet to test their skills on the course, which has a major golf history dating to the 1928 PGA Championship, the early reviews have applauded Foster's work. It has been ranked as highly as the No. 1 course in Maryland by Golfweek, and No. 83 in the country by Golf Magazine.
I tell you, the President's Cup tension was just too much for me to take. Especially since it was clear and 78 with 2 mph winds out of the east and the forecasted gusts to 3 mph never materializing here in the community recognized around the world as the home of the homeless.
But from what I saw fast forwarding on TiVo, the Villages ads were almost as spontaneous as the NBC announce team's surprise when Woody Austin pulled out the snorkeling gear on 14. Amazing how the cameraman knew to stay on him! And the guys in the replay truck were ready with the clip of Woody's lake dive! Those guys are good!
Here's the AP (Doug Ferguson?) game story focusing largely on Mike Weir and his win over Tiger. No mention of possible celebratory events in his home state of Utah. PGATour.com's
PGATour.com's Melanie Hauser says Weir's win makes him a "national hero" and that fans got to see "the moment of a lifetime." In the same piece, Gary Player is quoted stating that this win might turn Weir's life around. Like it was so bad before!
SI's Michael Bamberger writes that Rory Sabbatini and Woody Austin became team players this week. Hopefully they'll go back to being themselves next week. Gary Van Sickle looks at Austin's quickly expanding infamy.
The circumstances that built the intensity of the Ryder Cup were real. It is a feeling that cannot be manufactured. Though it goes pretty much unacknowledged by both sides, the U.S. teams goes into the Ryder Cup knowing how Europe feels. That builds the intensity of the event. What Europe does well is embrace that intensity while the Americans -- burdened by their better resumes -- feel the pressure of being the team that is supposed to win but just can't seem to get the job done.
The Presidents Cup was created in 1994 because of the power shift in the game to the Pacific Rim. Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Jumbo Ozaki, Steve Elkington and others were just too good to be left out of such compelling team competitions.
Well...now...there were some financial considerations, too. Charitable ones of course.
You gotta love the Wild West of tournament operations, better known as LPGA Tour headquarters:
Annika Sorenstam will get another crack at the Samsung World Championship, but only because the tournament changed its criteria to allow an exemption for an active member of the Hall of Fame.Now that we know Michelle Wie's never going to win that or join the IMG roster of product! And as the story notes, this isn't the first time a new exemption was created to circumvent the previously announced setup.
Sorenstam is a five-time winner at Samsung, a limited field of 20 players held at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif on Oct. 11-14.
But she would not have been eligible this year under the previous guidelines that award spots to the defending champion, the four major champions of the year, the leader of the Ladies European Tour money list, with the rest of the field coming from the LPGA Tour money list.
Sorenstam is having one of the worst seasons of her career, missing nearly two months in the spring because of neck and back injuries. The 10-time major champion is 30th on the LPGA Tour money list and has gone more than a full year without winning.
In an effort to upgrade the event, tournament organizers decided to eliminate a criteria that has not been used in nine years - the option to offer an exemption to the U.S. Women's Amateur champion - and replace it with a spot for an active Hall of Famer.
The tournament created a sponsor's exemption for Michelle Wie in 2004, and the teenager from Hawaii made her professional debut at Big Horn in 2005. Wie also played last year and finished 17th, and she accepted another sponsor's exemption in March.
"I always compare the PGA Tour with Tiger," he muses. "The second you realise he is what he is, that's the time you can start competing with him. If you run around thinking you can beat this guy, he's going to keep knocking you down. And it's the same with the PGA Tour. If the European Tour thinks it can be as big and powerful as they are, then it isn't ever going to happen. But if we accept that they are there and that they do what they do, then we can start managing our own affairs to the best of our ability."
Since, after all, the matches are pretty much done. Sheesh, Jimmy Roberts tried to get golf's version of Norman Vincent Peale to offer encouraging words, and even the sunny Gary Player couldn't muster up much with a camera in his face or in a post round chat with the assembled inkslingers.
"It's not over," International captain Gary Player said. "But things don't look too good. The egg is not sunny-side up."
Meanwhile, if you are touched by the historic insignificance of the Weir-Tiger singles pairing, you can read all about how it came to fruition.
Here are the other pairings.
He's older, wiser, grayer, paler but nonetheless able to Captain at a team tournament where people show up. Yet how can he be considered when he still won'tfess up to his hand in the single worst pre-tournament renovation and setup in golf history: Valderamma's 17th.
Paul Forsyth reports:
The man who led them to victory at Valderrama in 1997 has been having such a ball at the Seve Trophy, where his European team lead Great Britain & Ireland 9½-8½, that he fancies himself to succeed Nick Faldo at Celtic Manor in 2010. “I was thinking about it out on the course,” he says. “I was having such a good time. If the players want me, I would be happy to do it again.”
Ballesteros, who retired from competitive golf earlier this year, has relished his captain’s role at the Heritage, careering his buggy over the humps and hollows of County Laois, dishing out legs of Iberian ham to anyone with an appetite, and adopting the hands-on approach for which he was famous at Valderrama. The man who said he would never return to the Ryder Cup is having second thoughts. “In life, you say certain things and then change your mind.
Everybody does that. I have no doubts that I would be a better captain now, although it would be difficult because I won. I have learnt a lot of things. I know how to treat players, how to make the team play together, how to keep everybody happy. I have a very good relationship with the players,” he said.
Maybe, but his relationship with the European Tour is so uneasy that he will have a hard job persuading them this event deserves to keep its slot on the schedule, never mind that he should be installed as their next Ryder Cup captain. Yesterday’s marginal increase in crowds at least ensured there were more bodies behind the ropes than there were inside them.
And, of course, what can you say about Woody Austin, having set the world butterfly record in the lake on the 14th hole and then birdieing three of the last four holes to gain a halve? Maybe they should add the dunking stool to the team room. The Christmas list is no doubt already being compiled on the U.S. team bus for their Rookie of the Year. Flippers and mask. Wet suit. Spear gun. Styrofoam noodles. Life vest. A professional will often try a risky play from a hazard but rarely do they wind up fully submerged. Captain Jack is already calling him Jacques.
At least Woody will never again have to look at the video clip of him beating himself over the head with his putter at Hilton Head. They've got something much, much better now.
"Put the two together," said his playing partner David Toms, "and you'd be, 'What's this guy all about?' But, I'll tell you what, he's a heckuva golfer."
Meanwhile, at least golf.com has the sequence from Getty Images' Timothy Clary, including the shot seen above.
Scottish golfer Marc Warren was back playing at the Seve Trophy in Ireland today after what was literally a shattering experience at the team hotel.Sounds like he was lucky to not lose his who-ha.
Practising his swing in his room after losing his opening match with Colin Montgomerie, last season's European Tour Rookie of the Year smashed a chandelier above him.
The glass showering down on him cut his head, both arms and, most worrying of all, caused a nasty deep gash across his stomach requiring a trip to hospital.
"It was about a centimetre wide and looked about a centimetre deep," said Warren. "I looked in the mirror and I was covered in blood.
"I rang Bradley Dredge because I was supposed to be having dinner with him, then Monty came along and (captain) Nick Faldo called.
"A car took me to hospital, although the driver stalled three times, and I had butterfly stitches in my cuts and had it dressed and covered."
Returning to the hotel around 10pm, Warren found he had fused the lights and so had to pack his things in the dark before being transferred to another room.
Unsure how sore he would be on waking up this morning, the 26-year-old was relieved to discover he was not too bad and even began with two birdies against French pair Raphael Jacquelin and Gregory Havret.
However, after five holes mostly played in rain and in front of another tiny crowd, Warren and Montgomerie were two down.
Before teeing off, Warren was even able to joke about what he called "an adventurous evening", saying: "I was using a five-iron - it should have been a six because I would have missed it."
Lawrence Donegan writes about the galleries--can you call 250 a gallery!?--present for day one of the Seve Trophy.
Europe took a one-point lead over a team from Great Britain and Ireland after day one of the Seve Trophy but in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Irish public between the Royal & Ancient game and the national ploughing championships, it was a complete walkover.
The result: golf - approximately 250 paying customers wandering forlornly around the vast expanse of the Heritage resort; ploughing - 80,000 crammed into the Annaharvey Farm, 20 miles away, for one of Ireland's great cultural events.
"The atmosphere was limited," said Colin Montgomerie after he and his partner, Marc Warren, lost 3&1 in the opening fourball of the day to Europe's Peter Hanson and Robert Karlsson - a match that attracted around two dozen spectators as it headed off into the back nine. "The ploughing championships need to finish, and the sooner that happens the better. The farmers need to bring their wellies and get over here because the quality of golf is excellent."
Leaving aside the stereotyping of farmers and their footwear, the Scotsman had an excellent point.
The Principal also shares a story of getting to watch great golf with unobstructed views.
From Doug Ferguson's story on Royal Melbourne landing the 2011 Presidents Cup:
Five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson, captain of that International team who famously introduced the American team at opening ceremonies as “the greatest collection of golfers in the world,” said he was not interested in returning as captain.
“I’m a has-been and I’m happy to be that, instead of a could-have-been,” Thomson said.
But he said he would favor Greg Norman leading the International team, especially with the matches being held in Australia. Norman, perhaps the most popular golfer to emerge from Down Under, played on that ‘98 and lost a singles match against Tiger Woods.
Norman and Finchem have been at odds for much of the last decade, however, and it was not clear if he would be interested.
“I hope one day he will be captain,” Thomson said. “He was a giant figure in the game for so long, I think it’s appropriate that if he wants to be, he should be captain of this team.”
Doug Ferguson on the most "poignant" moment of the U.S. domination on day one of the President's Cup, when Captain Jack Nicklaus intervened:
Despite a leaderboard covered with American red numbers, perhaps the most poignant moment of a gray afternoon was Nicklaus instructing Phil Mickelson and Woody Austin to concede a 3½-foot par putt on the 18th hole that assured Mike Weir of Canada and his International team its only point of the opening session.
In a tense battle with only six holes halved, the match was all square going to the 18th when both sides missed the green. Mickelson blasted out to 12 feet, while Weir chipped to 3½ feet above the hole. Austin made the par putt, and before Vijay Singh spot his ball, the match was conceded.
“Captain Nicklaus was right. It was the right thing to do,” Mickelson said.
And he followed up, saying, "If it was anyone other than Vijay, I would have thought to do the same thing myself."
Steve Elling breaks down the conceded putt and Nicklaus's reasoning. (Warning for those who should not be rolling their eyes: it was for Canada and Mike Weir).
It's no Royal Montreal, but it'll work...
Royal Melbourne Golf Club to host The Presidents Cup in 2011You don't say! Who knew?!
MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada – Just prior to the start of the seventh Presidents Cup this afternoon at Royal Montreal Golf Club in Canada, PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem announced that another “Royal” venue – Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia – has been named host site of the event in 2011.
Royal Melbourne Golf Club becomes the first golf course outside of the United States to host the prestigious match-play competition more than once, as the 1998 event was also held there. In April, the PGA TOUR announced that the ninth staging of The Presidents Cup, which is slated forNov. 14-20, 2011, would be held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, but a host course was not named until today.
“I’d like to congratulate and thank Peter Sutherland and the leadership and membership of Royal Melbourne Golf Club on the return of The Presidents Cup in 2011,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “As we saw in 1998, Australia has some of the best golf fans and best courses in the world. The selection of Royal Melbourne as the site of the next international Presidents Cup is affirmation of what the golf club has meant to thehistory of The Cup.”
The Royal Melbourne Golf Club, which has existed continuously since 1891,is one of the most highly regarded golf clubs in Australia.
“Royal Melbourne is both pleased and excited to have been awarded the 2011 Presidents Cup,” said Peter Sutherland, captain, Royal Melbourne Golf Club. “Having hosted the event in 1998, we believe it will once again be an outstanding venue for what has now become a much bigger and internationally recognized competition. We are proud that Australia has a number of golf clubs which would well have staged The Presidents Cup, and look forward to welcoming the players, their families, guests of the TOUR and fans in 2011.”
And because those two quotes weren't enough...
“We are obviously delighted that The Presidents Cup will be returning to Australia in 2011 and certain that Royal Melbourne will once again be an outstanding venue for the world’s best players ” said Ben Sellenger, Chief Executive Officer, PGA TOUR of Australasia. “The excitement and anticipation for this event will build exponentially over the next four years, and the PGA TOUR of Australasia looks forward to supporting the return of The Presidents Cup in 2011.”
“I’m thrilled to see The Presidents Cup return to Melbourne, which is my hometown,” said Peter Thomson, who captained the International Presidents Cup Team in 1996, 1998 and 2000. “The 1998 event was so successful, and The Presidents Cup has only grown in stature and importance since then. I have no doubt that it will be another fantastic competition.”
Nothing from Greg Norman?
The European Tour's George O'Grady held court at Royal Montreal and dazzled writers with some prime one-liners on various issues, including the performance enhancing drug issue. Steve Elling reports:
O'Grady estimated that drug tests will cost $1,000 per player, which makes the possibility of testing an entire European Tour field all but impossible. The PGA Tour will have that luxury, conversely, if it elects to head in that direction. Many of the particulars on testing and penalties are still in flux and financials will doubtlessly play a huge role in how much urinalysis is done on the various worldwide circuits.And this beauty...
"So it's not so simple as pissing into a pot and moving on," O'Grady said. "We cannot write off a million pounds. We don't have that kind of money."
Prodded by a reporter, O'Grady also unleashed a half-serious zinger with regard to the drug testing program, which is being initiated as much to protect the sport's reputation as it is to catch what's assumed to be a tiny handful of cheaters, if any.
Just test Tiger Woods and be done with it.
"From what I understand, he would be the first in line to volunteer for testing," O'Grady said. "If Tiger Woods' test comes back negative, what does it matter what the rest of them are on?
Can you imagine the notoriously cautious and professionally stiff Finchem uttering any of the above? Didn't think so.
Take that Faldo and McGinley!
Talk about a juicy Ryder Cup story on the even of the President's Cup. Steve Elling explains.
The game's most revered figure was shooting the breeze with a handful of writers when the subject of future captaincies was broached. Nicklaus has served as the American captain of the past three Presidents Cup teams, but hasn't so much as attended a Ryder Cup in years. He last captained a Ryder team in 1987. For the past few years, the Americans have gushed about how Nicklaus' managerial style keeps them loose but focused on the task at hand, vs. the micro-managing of other captains. So maybe the best way for the Ryder Cup to move forward after absorbing consecutive losses by record margins to Europe is to move backward first.
"If I happened to get asked, would I do it again, sure," Nicklaus said. "It's very flattering. I didn't expect to do it again this time (at the Presidents Cup), as you know."
After winning the Presidents Cup in Washington, D.C., in 2005, the U.S. players practically insisted that he return.
"I love being involved in the game of golf," Nicklaus said. "I love being around these young guys. That's something money cannot buy."
I guess that pretty much rules out Larry Nelson for consideration in 2010 at that dreadful course in Wales.