Twitter: GeoffShac
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In my experience, the decision to increase green speeds has definitely hurt the game of golf. This development has not only caused many of the greens on the great golf courses to be nearly unplayable, but has really hampered the ability of a number of players to negotiate the new speed levels.  PETE DYE


    

Monday
Sep292008

Sixth Major Safe For Now

Ron Green Jr. reports that the Wachovia Championship remains safe for now, though I'm still guessing those excessive player bribes locker gifts and player perks may become a thing of the past. Or at least, toned down considerably.

Thanks to reader J. for this:

Officials said the golf tournament is expected to continue in the future with a contract that carries it through 2014.
“We have a six-year extension and we look forward to continuing the golf tournament,” Mac Everett, the tournament's executive chairman and a former Wachovia executive, said Monday.
PGA Tour officials have been monitoring the Wachovia situation and expect the Charlotte stop to remain on future tour schedules.
“We fully expect the tournament in Charlotte to continue,” said Jon Podany, senior vice president for business development with the PGA Tour said..
“The acquiring company would assume the contract. That's typically the way the contracts work.”
It is still to be determined whether the Wachovia brand would remain on the event while officials at Citigroup and Wachovia work out the details of the transition. With a portion of the Wachovia brand remaining, it's possible the tournament name could remain.
As title sponsor of the golf tournament, which had a $6.4-million purse in 2008, Wachovia spent $3,009,000 on its entitlement fee last year. The PGA Tour pays 62 percent of the tournament purse.
Wachovia also paid more than $3 million for television advertising plus a significant amount on hospitality for clients and guests during the event.
I don't care how massive Citigroup is, I'd stamp this one with a big STAY TUNED.
Monday
Sep292008

Hawkins: PGA Tour May Be Open To Good Idea!

It's one thing for a cerebral tour player like Joe Ogilvie to be coming around on the brilliant FedEx Cup fix proposed by yours truly last year in Golf World.

But to see a media colleague, one who is a star and a man who doesn't have to write back-of-the-magazine notes, now taking the same view? it's heartwarming in ways I never imagined.

John Hawkins in this week's Golf World on GolfDigest.com:

One logical and recently discussed scenario involves an 18-hole shootout among the top four to eight players in the standings. The Tour Championship would begin on Wednesday and conclude on Saturday, leaving Sunday open for the last men standing to play one round of stroke-play golf for a whole lot of money. "In theory, it's a pretty good concept," says Joe Ogilvie, a member of the tour's policy board.

Votaw acknowledges the shootout as an option and adds, "It may seem alluring in some respects. We may come up with a better idea or receive feedback that leads us in another direction."
Cruel of Hawkins to have put the question to the PGA Tour's Ty Votaw, who oversaw the creation of the LPGA's similar ADT Championship. That said, isn't it wonderful to see that after hitting rock bottom, they might consider something that people actually want to watch. My heart is warming so much, I have to go now.

Before I do, about those ratings...
Saturday's third round on NBC had an overnight Nielsen rating of 1.3, down 46.4% from last year's 2.8 (that turned out to be a 2.6 in the final rating).

Sunday's fourth round had an overnight rating of 1.8, down 54.5% from last year's 3.3 (a 3.0 final rating).
Monday
Sep292008

Cumulative Scoring!?

We're about to start getting some whacky suggestions for the broken FedEx Cup, and while I've heard lots of fun stuff about the not very original idea I proposed last year and argued about with Steve Dennis this year, SI's Gary Van Sickle raises the loopiest idea yet. This is in an interview with Dennis, who doesn't sound like he's buying it either.

After all, how do you try to win a tournament each week when you are also worrying about your cumulative score?

Monday
Sep292008

Castle Stuart Images Vol. 1

With all of this gloom and doom I thought I'd share a few photos sent to me by John Kemp, an aspiring architect who worked on The Prairie Club's Horse Course project with us this summer. John was part of the crew that built Castle Stuart with Gil Hanse, Mark Parsinen and Jim Wagner. He recently played the course on what looked to be a stunning day and captured these shots. I don't know much about the holes, so hopefully John or someone else will chime in.

I believe this is the fourth hole. You know the drill, click on the images to see full screen versions.


Monday
Sep292008

"OJ in Church? What was he askin' fo'?"

In a roundup of miscellaneous LPGA items, Beth Ann Baldry notes a surreal scene for Hwanhee Lee, first reported by the Golf Couture blog.

Monday
Sep292008

“This has ruined the greatest week of my life coming here"

One week after a major brand, uh, refurbishment and platform expansion, Kenny Perry worked ably to reestablish his image as a spoiled tour professional by pointing out the sheer awfulness of having to appear in a 30-man, $7 million+ giveaway as millions of Americans worried about paying their electric bill.

Jeff Rude reminds us why Kenny will always be Kenny:

Perry shot 76-75 the first two days and wasn’t happy he had to submit to a random drug test for the second time since the program’s inception in July.
“This has ruined the greatest week of my life coming here,” said Perry, adding he’d rather be home celebrating his Ryder success. “It really has.”
It’s refreshing that a professional athlete in effect is saying big money isn’t everything.
Well that's certainly one unusual way to look at it.

Commissioner: when you fine him, fine him good.

Which reminds me, I guess the horror of peeing in a cup at the Tour Championship probably means that Ryder Cup drug testing we heard about never happened?

Sunday
Sep282008

Wachovia Next?

Sunday
Sep282008

Vijay Becomes First To Win FedEx Cup Without Winning Tour Championship

Granted, it was year two, but the worst traditions have to start some place.

Bob Harig at ESPN.com:

Meanwhile, Singh was being congratulated on his $10 million haul despite never breaking 70 during four rounds, never contending for the tournament title and finishing tied for 22nd. With an hour to go in the tournament, Singh was collecting the hardware from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in a strange, made-for-TV ceremony.

That scenario was always a danger in this new-fangled system that has the PGA Tour crowning a season-long champion on the same day it gives a trophy to the winner of one of its supposedly prestigious tournaments.

What happens when the winner of the FedEx Cup is not the winner of the Tour Championship?
Steve Elling at CBSSports.com on the oddity of Camillo Villegas winning just as many playoff events as Vijay, including the final event, and coming away the runner up:
Had the rest of the four-week playoff series played out the same way, Villegas could have won the first-place $10 million had he not missed the cut at The Barclays, the FedEx opener, by one thin shot. In fact, had he just played on the weekend, he could have finished dead last among those who made the cut and still earned enough points to ultimately slide past Singh into first place at the end of the rainbow, assuming all things remained equal elsewhere.

Breaking it down, Singh won the first two FedEx events and Villegas won the last two. At the second, won by Singh in Boston, Villegas played in the final group and finished tied for third. In other words, throw out the missed cut and he arguably outplayed Singh over four weeks. Singh, who was T44 and T22 in his last two starts, just didn't miss a cut and scored points at all four venues.

Villegas didn't much want to talk about the details.

"That was an expensive cut," he said. "That's the way this game goes. If I knew that was the case, I don't know what I would have done different. But you've just got to be in the present.

"Again, the FedEx Cup, it's great for the game. We need to get the points system better, and I'm not saying this because I finished second. I've been saying this since Day 1. I had a chance to sit down with the commissioner this Wednesday and share some ideas.

"We just need to make it fun for the fans and fun for us. So FedEx has done a great job in putting all this together, and I'm sure the tour is grinding and trying to get it as good as they can."

For a defective product, it was as good as could be expected.
Sunday
Sep282008

"With Lee Westwood two up after nine holes of Friday afternoon’s fourballs, who on earth thought it would be a good idea to tell him that he was going to be left out of the following morning foursomes. Unbelievable."

Yes, Chubby Chandler is Darren Clarke's agent and probably not too thrilled his client was left off the Ryder Cup team. But this shredding of Captain Nick Faldo appears on LeeWestwood.com...  Lets the inevitable drama begin!

I have been asked innumerable times for my thoughts on Nick Faldo’s captaincy and they have not changed after the event from what they were before.  To me, he was mediocre and failed to understand the duties of a captain.  He didn’t put the work in before, didn’t do anything to bring the team together and didn’t consult his senior players.   He also showed a complete lack of man-management skills.
With Lee Westwood two up after nine holes of Friday afternoon’s fourballs, who on earth thought it would be a good idea to tell him that he was going to be left out of the following morning foursomes.   Unbelievable.
I’m sure Lee was completely deflated particularly since he was told during his 27th consecutive match.  I’m sure it also affected his concentration while hitting his confidence levels for the next two days.  A captain really has to understand what makes players tick, but unfortunately Nick Faldo did not see this as a pre-requisite for the job.   He didn’t do anything in the build up to discover how his best players perform and under what circumstances they perform best. Unfortunately the Ryder Cup turned out to be all about Nick Faldo.
Saturday
Sep272008

Garcia Poised To Become Only Third Ever To Win CAPS Slam

From Doug Ferguson's third round Tour Championship game story:

Garcia kept hitting good putts until enough of them went in that he turned a three-shot deficit into a three-shot lead with a 3-under 67, leaving him poised to become only the third player to capture THE PLAYERS Championship and THE TOUR Championship in the same year.

With Kim and Mickelson trailing, it looks like we might actually have to watch this one. On top of the major historical ramifications, of course.

Saturday
Sep272008

Azinger's "Life Coach" Speaks!

John Paul Newport talks to Azinger life coach, author and Ryder Cup golf cart co-pilot Dr. Ron Braund about the pod system concept that he's taking credit for.

"Jim Furyk has struggled as a team player to some extent, because he is such an individual," Dr. Braund said. "But here he had a role to play. He was a steady rudder and tremendously supportive of the other guys, particularly of Kenny Perry when he got down after hitting his drive into the hazard on the final hole in the first foursomes match. That may be one reason Jim performed so well." Mr. Furyk won 2½ points and clinched the Cup on Sunday with his singles win. Mr. Perry also rebounded to win 2½ points.
During the competition, Dr. Braund rode in the cart with Mr. Azinger and helped him keep on point with his "messaging" to players.
"Sometimes, the message was no message," Dr. Braund said. "Paul would just drive by, show a smiling face and ask if everything was OK. But that was based on what we'd worked out beforehand."
Saturday
Sep272008

"To outsiders this might seem like an esoteric point"

Lawrence Donegan follows up on a story quietly emerging as a major headache for the PGA Tour, which already has enough problems to worry about. Regarding Phil Mickelson (oh and Vijay too...not that anyone cares) considering playing more in Europe, Donegan explains how this could play out after talking to Dubai Director of Golf Tourism and European Tour head George O'Grady:

In this instance O'Grady's reticence is understandable because there is one more hurdle to be negotiated before any American superstar will commit to playing more events under the European Tour banner. Mickelson aside, there are believed to be other members of US Ryder Cup team contemplating such a move, as well as the likes of Australians Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 US Open champion, and Robert Allenby. But all are waiting for the outcome of next week's meeting in St Andrews of the European Tour's players committee, headed by Thomas Bjorn, in which a decision will be reached over the minimum number of tournaments required to gain Tour membership.

To outsiders this might seem like an esoteric point, but within the European Tour it is of historic significance. Currently, a player must compete in 11 events to qualify for membership but there is a strong push from the committee's members to have the minimum number of events increased to 13 in order to protect the interests of the rank and file, who play all of their golf under the banner of the European Tour.

Such self-interest is understandable but it threatens the Tour's prospects of attracting the likes of Mickelson and Vijay Singh, another who has expressed an interested in adding European Tour membership to his membership of the PGA Tour in the States.

Something to ponder here: the FedEx Cup has been a mess as a playoff but with the right adjustments could still work.  However, beyond points permutation debates, we're going to see more stories about its timing and the shortened season. No one seems to see an improvement in ending the PGA Tour season when the NFL and college football are just starting out. But more than that, the well-intentioned big fall opening to get golf off the radar screen seems to have strengthened the European Tour's prospects of drawing some of the marquee players listed above.

So in other words, the FedEx Cup concept may be viewed in upcoming media coverage as a failure all around, and a colossal one if it leads to even fewer PGA Tour appearances by name players. Of course, this is what the big names wanted and the Commissioner gave it to them. But at the expense of the PGA Tour's standing as the premier tour in the world?

Friday
Sep262008

"No more Smails/Beeper moments. Please."

Thanks to reader Chris for catching Bill Simmons paying tribute to Bill Maher and issues a beautiful "New Rule" related to last week's Ryder Cup:

"New Rule: U.S. Ryder Cup competitors can give each other only fist bumps. Like so many others, I looked forward to the recent Ryder Cup. Anytime America has the chance to beat Europe in something, I'm in … even if it's a leather-jacket-wearing Rob Lowe's outrowing of snotty English dudes in Oxford Blues. But after two days of watching awkward high-fives, dorky fist pumps and, worst of all, the dreaded two-handed high-five—"perfected" by Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry, who obviously spent months studying tapes of Judge Smails and Dr. Beeper—every big putt had me sweating simply because I was petrified of the ensuing celebration. "No, no, don't go for the two-handed high-five … Nooooo!"

So let's switch to fist bumps. If anyone wants to pull off a three-step handshake/ hug thing after the 18th hole, fine. But only after we name Will.i.am and 50 Cent as assistant captains to teach them. No more Smails/Beeper moments. Please."

Friday
Sep262008

Hoppy's Hero: Me, Myself and I!

I always go to John Hopkins' Spike Bar column for my weekly golf instruction, so I was disappointed that this edition left out the vital information I need to get through the weekend.

Instead, my heart was warmed by his "Hero of the week."

Hero of the week: Me. Well, why not? I watch golf, cover it, read about it, write about it, listen to it, listen to others talking about it, watch it on television, cock an ear to it on the radio. What I do not do is play it. Not often at least and not as often as you do, I am willing to bet. Now that the Ryder Cup is over, I am going to go and play at my club, Royal Porthcawl. Fore!

Take that Bernie Darwin!

Friday
Sep262008

Phil To Join Euro Tour? Allenby Fleeing To Get Away From PGA Tour Rough

Lewine Mair (here) and Lawrence Donegan (here) play up the likelihood of Phil Mickelson becoming a European Tour member, and the chances of many more players playing less in the U.S.

The best part came from this Robert Allenby comment in both pieces, but elaborated on more in Donegan's piece:

But among those who have said they will play more on the European tour next year is Vijay Singh, and the Australian golfer Robert Allenby, ranked 33rd in the world, said yesterday that he was increasingly disillusioned with life on the PGA tour in the States.

"You'd be stupid not to join [the European tour]," he said. "Some tournaments over here get a bit monotonous, with the thick rough. I miss the fairway by two feet and I'm screwed. My body hasn't been handling it very well, particularly my tennis elbow. The other thing is to freshen my mind up."
And...
Allenby may be motivated in part by personal issues but he, like others, is responding to what is widely perceived to be a shift in the balance of power in golf from the PGA tour in the States towards the European tour.
And...
With the credit crunch affecting many American financial institutions the long-term prospects for sponsorship of golf in the US are gloomy, in stark contrast to the opportunities enjoyed by the European tour. The latter has a long tradition of staging events in the Middle East and Asia, where next year will see the start of the European tour's "Road to Dubai" series which culminates in an end-of-season tournament in the Emirates where the players will be competing for a $20m prize fund - the biggest in the history of the game.

Well there's one easy way for Tim Finchem to stop the bleeding pretty quickly here. Cut some rough!

Thursday
Sep252008

"I always like, when we talk about changing things, drawing an analogy to Donald Ross and building Pinehurst No. 2."

You know I always sensed Tim Finchem didn't have much of a feel for golf architecture, but when I finally got through his rambling press session from earlier this week, I have a new appreciation for his bizarre take on things.

On the state of the FedEx Cup:
I think it's important to recognize that we view the FedExCup competition as a big part of our future. We are committed to it; it's a long-term proposition. We're not going to get hung up at the start if we have to make a few changes the first few years. Who knows how many years we'll have to make changes until we're at a point where we're very, very comfortable.
I always like, when we talk about changing things, drawing an analogy to Donald Ross and building Pinehurst No. 2. He moved there, and I think he made 213 or 220 changes in the first 12 years of its existence. Sometimes to get perfection you have to keep working at it, and we intend to do that.
I've never known that someone was keeping track of Ross's changes! Maybe the contractor tracking change orders? Or perhaps someone knew it'd make for a killer FedEx Cup metaphor some day?
Before I throw it open to questions, let me briefly comment on five other items.
Okay...
First of all, I've been getting a lot of questions over the past months, and certainly in the last few weeks, on the economy. We are impacted by the economy and the economic challenges like everybody else. We have a lot of customers and sponsors in economic sectors that are impacted negatively by the volatility in the economy.
Thus far, we have not suffered any major damage. But clearly, if the instability were to continue for a sustained period of time, we will have real challenges. We are encouraged by the steps that are being taken, and we'll do everything we can to continue to drive value and communicate that invest in our sport with the hopes that we can get through this with very little damage.
The PGA Tour supports the bailout! If Congress only knew...

After a bunch of stuff on drug testing, this made no sense and I presume it's a transcription error.
Television ratings are awfully good this year.
Awfully, yes.
We attribute that largely to two things: missing our No. 1 player for two big chunks of the season, number one problem; number two problem, the Olympics during three weeks got higher ratings than normal. Tough competition and took away from our ratings a little bit.
Darn Olympics...yet another reason that...oh wait...
Next year our assumptions are based on, A, all of our players are going to be back, including our No. 1 player; and number two, we get to wait three more years for the Olympics.
You're getting your number one player for 15 events, maybe.
The other long-term issue on the Olympics is that of course if we are successful in having golf added as an Olympic sport or schedule tournaments around the Olympics, including some golf competition in the Olympics, which will change that dynamic somewhat.
See, if you add golf to the Olympics it can't hurt the ratings starting in 2016.

Seems the questioners are playing to the cameras. Or the transcripts?
Q. I don't know about everybody else, but I followed this as closely as anybody, and I couldn't follow the points system this year. I'm not sure Henry Paulson could have. I'm just curious if that's something that has been up for discussion, and is it going to be simpler or are we still going to be looking at Camilo Villegas trying to make a six-footer to try to get somebody else in the field?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I have a great answer for you. We have a book coming out, and it's called, FedExCup Points For Dummies (laughter).
Banging fist on desk here.
But the reality is the model we looked at -- seriously, the model we looked at was NASCAR. You know, some people say, You know, you can make it simpler by going back to the Money List.
Well, the Money List isn't any more simple than points, because you still have to analyze why one tournament generates this many points versus another tournament. The difference between money is you have a lot more fluctuation in dollars than you had points, so points we can control and focus on the Cup.
We like the points system. We're not sure many fans really care how many points a guy has. They want to see what relationship -- our research tells us in focus groups and polls is that fans want to see how -- you, know, what kind of lead Vijay has on Phil Mickelson. What's the spread? How can he win it back? What's at stake this week? That's most of it.
The PGA Tour ran the FedEx Cup by focus groups and this is what they came up with? Shocking.
Q. Two questions, please: One player just told me that this tournament has the wrong name. It's not the TOUR Championship, it's the FedEx Final, and that its name should be changed. Is that something you might consider?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, I've heard that from a couple people over the last few months. We're going to -- we'll consider everything. I mean, to this gentleman's question, tying the branding and the nomenclature of what's happening in the playoffs to what the competition really is important. So we'll be looking at all avenues to get to a desired goal.

Isn't there a VP of Brand and Nomenclature Suturing to figure this out? The FedEx Cup Final Brought To You By Coca-Cola. Works for me. I'll just call it The Crosby anyway.
Q. Just one short follow-up. In the short-term what you're seeing cropping up in various places such as Atlanta, some problems with gas availability, I imagine that hurts on-site attendance and other ancillary services that you have going on.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, we've noticed some softness in attendance.
Well that's why Cial...sorry, I promised no more erectile dysfunction jokes. Continue...
Even in markets where ticket sales are up, a little softness in the people that are coming out.
That's rude!
There's no science to this.
That's why they created Cial...
We don't have a lot of metrics. Anecdotally our tournaments are telling us that some people are buying a week pass, they usually come out three days and they're coming out one or two days and it's because of gas. People are just driving less.
It hasn't really been that noticeable. And like I said, it's not huge on admissions at this point. But we have noticed that in some markets. It's an interesting phenomenon. I don't know where that goes in the long-term, but it's not a good thing, gas prices.

You know, I think that's the least of the PGA Tour's concerns.

Thursday
Sep252008

Sandy Tatum Interview on GCA

Lots of great stuff in this Q&A with the former USGA President, now posted at GolfClubAtlas.com.


Thursday
Sep252008

Monty: Faldo Blew It, Therefore We Need Sandy!

From an unbylined report in The Guardian:
Asked if he thought Faldo got the best out of the team beaten by five points in Kentucky Montgomerie, who missed out on the action for the first time since 1989, replied: "Possibly not." And the eight-time European No1, who could have surpassed Faldo's cup points record had he been invited along, gave the broadest hint that the decision to put double Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington out last in the singles was the gravest error.
"It occurred to me [when he saw the order] that unfortunately [Ian] Poulter, [Lee] Westwood, Harrington are possibly our three strongest players and they might not be - might be, but might not be - involved in the final shake-up. Play them earlier and they would have been involved 100%. Only once in the whole history of the Ryder Cup has the No12 decided the match; Bernhard Langer in 1991."
Somehow I'm not so sure this is going to help, though Sandy Lyle found this "inspiring":
Montgomerie also believes that Sandy Lyle should succeed Faldo for the next tournament at Celtic Manor in 2010, despite growing calls for Welshman Ian Woosnam to return to guide the side to victory as he did at The K Club two years ago. Of Europe's "Big Five" of the 1980s - Seve Ballesteros, Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Lyle and Woosnam - only Lyle has not yet been given the captaincy. "I think it would be nice to see him," said Montgomerie. "I feel it would be a shame if it wasn't Sandy."
Thursday
Sep252008

Tiger Walking Around Dubai?

Thanks to Tuco for this CNN video of Tiger Woods' Dubai project with the usual stuff from Tiger about how it'll be playable for the average man yet still challenging for him.

More interesting than that, if you can believe it, is the footage of Tiger walking. It probably was shot a good while ago, but if it's post surgery as the reporter seems to indicate, he looks to be getting around pretty well.

 


Thursday
Sep252008

Tour Championship: "The catering equivalent of a turd in the punchbowl."

Steve Elling writes:

The Tour Championship's importance has been wrecked by a sad confluence of events that left a tournament designed to be a grand finale into the catering equivalent of a turd in the punchbowl.

Yes, it starts today.

Would this be a bad time to bring up this proposal again? Promise I won't mention it again.