It is a wonderful tribute to the game or to the dottiness of the people who play it that for some people somewhere there is no such thing as an insurmountable obstacle, an unplayable course, the wrong time of the day or year.
The dreaded Friday afternoon release...
SKINS GAME TO BE POSTPONED IN 2009 WITH PLANS TO RESUME PLAY IN 2010
Current economic climate cited by event partners ESPN, IMG Media and the City of Indian Wells
The Skins Game, a popular Thanksgiving weekend golf tradition for the past 26 years, will be postponed in 2009 but plans to resume play in 2010, event partners ESPN, IMG Media and the City of Indian Wells announced today.
The Skins Game began in 1983, and in that first year pitted four of the game’s greatest legends – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson – against each other for unprecedented prize money. The on-course dramatics of the Skins Game, and the fascinating banter between the players, is widely credited for launching many other successful made-for-television golf events.
“The Skins Game has enjoyed a long and successful history, and it will continue to be an important part of golf’s fall season in the future, but given the current economic climate, postponing the 2009 event was necessary,” said Barry Frank, Executive Vice President, IMG Media. “We look forward to working with key partners over the coming months to ensure the Skins Game comes back next year in a manner befitting one of golf’s great traditions.”
The Skins Game has featured many of the biggest legends in golf in its 26 year history, and in addition to Palmer, Nicklaus, Player and Watson in the first year, has also featured Tiger Woods, Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson, Curtis Strange, Nick Faldo, Vijay Singh, Raymond Floyd, the late Payne Stewart, Greg Norman, Fuzzy Zoeller, Mark O’Meara, Sergio Garcia and Fred Couples, who earned the nickname “Mr. Skins” for his success in the format.
Last year’s event saw Skins Game rookie K.J. Choi earn six skins for $415,000 to take the title over Stephen Ames, who was looking for his third straight victory, Phil Mickelson and Rocco Mediate.
“The Skins Game has been an important fixture in Southern California for the past 25 years, and not only have fans here looked forward to it each year, but also the golf fans across the country watching on television,” said Greg Johnson, Indian Wells City Manager. “The Skins Game offers great golf and great entertainment.”
Beth Ann Baldry reports on the "Commish" and her unannounced pro-am appearance.
Dressed in her customary all-black attire, Bivens looked the part playing alongside Helen Alfredsson and three other amateurs. She carried a bevy of Nike clubs in a Callaway bag marked “Commish.”
Take that Tim! And...
This wasn’t a publicity stunt. The LPGA media staff didn’t even mention that Bivens was on the course. There was no press release, and one tournament photographer showed up on the 17th hole to snap a few pictures. This was a far cry from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem’s media frenzy at Pebble Beach earlier this year.
There was also an interesting bit at the end of the piece from a sponsor
Bobby Christian, owner of Impact Ventures, has a home in Richmond and recently signed a three-year contract with the Duramed Futures Tour to sponsor two events. Christian, who played in his first LPGA pro-am Wednesday, has three young daughters and saw the Futures Tour as a “great platform for developing leaders.”
He’s impressed with Bivens’ style off the course, calling her a “hard-charging woman” who is “kind of unconventional.” Surely those five hours he spent with the commissioner helped strengthen their relationship.
Rounding out Bivens’ group was Gregory Brown, VP of Choice Privileges for Choice Hotels, and his guest, Pam Thrasher of Swift Hospitality Group.
This marked Brown’s third LPGA pro-am. He also has played in two PGA Tour pro-ams and, like many others, finds the women to be more fun.
“Some of the PGA Tour players are (approachable),” Brown said, “but for a lot of them, it’s business-like or drudgery.”
Check out his latest Italian Open slacks. In the media center lobby I ran into Marty Hackel--looking dapper in red khakis, blue blazer and skull and cross bones tie--who asked if I had seen today's Daly choice. That should give you an idea what Marty thinks.
Courtesy of reader thusgone, Jim McCabe reports on the Golfweek blog:
Having birdied three of his first four holes, Mickelson was roaring out of the gates when he pulled a hybrid at the short, par-4 sixth. After surveying his options, Mickelson hit what appeared to be a splendid escape shot, though it came up just short of the green. As he headed out from beneath the tree, a man clearly yelled out, “Way to go, Figjam.”
Mickelson stopped, turned, and confronted the man.
“What did you say?” Mickelson said, and the man repeated it.
Figjam is an acronym that stands for “F*** I’m good, just ask me.” Mickelson certainly knows what it means and asked for Mackay to help marshals identify the man. They did, and while Mickelson and Mackay headed to the next shot, the man was removed from the area by the marshals.
According to Mark Spencer of the Radio Golf Show, the heckler in question didn't even know what his jab stands for.
I remember the good old days when they knew what they were saying. And they were original.
Steve DiMeglio shares this from Kenny Perry on his unfortunately timed Players pairing with Angel Cabrera:
"It was tough. It brought back a lot of memories, and I had a hard time focusing on what I was doing," Perry said after a 1-over-par 73. "It's just going to take some time" to get over The Masters."
Take the kids and military guests away and boy did the vibe change Thursday. It didn't help that the players were slogging through a 5:30 minute round, but I couldn't get over the difference between the two days. Personally, if I were a corporate sponsor of a tour event, I'd support more days that encourage family and military guests if it builds that kind of vibe. (Or how about lower prices? There I go again!)
But with more folks and more passion, the corporate hospitality areas become that much more coveted. Take away the buzz, the place grows quiet and there isn't as much cache in spending on a "chalet."
I hate to judge the course setup and architecture after just a day of tournament viewing, but it's painfully clear that the situation with rough still has not been properly addressed. You may recall there have been many debates over the years about Pete Dye's intentions and trying to bring the pine scrub and other hazards more into play by having less rough. We've been told that post-move to May, this has been addressed. I'm not feeling it.
Judging by Thursday's excellent scoring, it's not having much effect. Instead, the course still overemphasizes putting and downplays any kind of strategic placement. Not to take away from first round leader Ben Crane's round in any way, but he did have 14 one-putts. And as firm as it was despite a Wednesday night spritzing that eliminated some of previous afternoon's shine, the rough is still stopping balls from reaching trouble. It's most noticeable around some greens where apparently someone on Golf Channel suggested they are growing it at 3 inches, compared to 2 off the fairways. I hope to find out if that's true (doubtful).
I'll try and get a few photographs to illustrate where short grass would make the course more interesting and more difficult (in a good way). But the image to the right shows that it's not just Augusta National resorting to small pines to penalize slightly off-line shots.
With his eagle on the par 5 16th hole, Tiger Woods has now played the hole in 38-under par for his career at THE PLAYERS. His next-best hole is the par 5 second, which he has played at 22-under in 45 rounds. Below is a chart showing how Tiger has played the different holes at TPC Sawgrass.
Par 3s: +25
Par 4s: +40
Par 5s: -88
Front 9: -3
Back 9: -20
As for No. 17, I'll get into the specifics later this week, but the atmosphere and videoboards make it an incredible place to hang out. And for all of the talk about how unfair the hole is, the ShotLink team shares this:
A total of 14 balls were hit in the water off of the tee on the famed 17th hole on Thursday. Interestingly enough, there were 18 balls hit in the water on the par 3 13th hole on Thursday.
More tomorrow on No. 17 and Friday night's media bash, the Commissioner's "Southern Style Pig Roast."
The USGA certainly offers some nice interactive exhibits at the U.S. Open, but the vibe around the more intimate Players Stadium Village was a bit more festive when I visited Wednesday. Certainly it didn't hurt that many were there free courtesy of a family and military free ticket option. Nonetheless, the excitement and sense of fun could not be missed.
The Stadium Village highlights include an 18th hole replica green for putting, a pose with Sergio Garcia photo giveaway and of course, the mini 17th hole. (They also have a business center and Morton's Steak Sandwich cafe.)
The lines were steady at the "Your Stadium Snapshot" where fans can put on a caddy bib and pose anyway they like. Sergio, looking over a putt, is digitally inserted and the photo is available 24 hours later online. Free.
In line in front of me was a lovely local family. Mom reported that over the last few years when this started as a pose with Tiger concept, she has gotten a shot of the kids and it's turned into a fun way to watch them grow up. And naturally, the chance to pose with Sergio after Stephen Ames two years ago was a lot more exciting for the kids.
I didn't try out the 33-yard UBS 17th Challenge shot, but maybe I should considering a Hole In One gets you an ipod Touch, closest to the hole a Taylor Made putter and a sleeve for a GIR. But more than that, they offer a nice grandstand with misters and a video board with the names of those who've hit it close (or in).
According to the pairing sheet, last year 53,000 visited, 33,000 took a shot at the green, 19% hit it and there were 40 holes-in-one. The green is 52 feet wide, the water 2 feet deep and the entire "Little 17" takes a month to construct.
Again, not to overkill the point, but you have to love seeing so many kids out at the event having fun. It not only was contagious throughout the property Wednesday, but the overall enthusiasm was sorely missed when it was noticeably quieter Thursday when Sawgrass was taken over by the paying customers.
Watching the tepid pace of play during round 1 of The Players, I wondered if rangefinders would help. After all they were billed as a savior of the game a few years ago but have not made it to regulation PGA Tour play (they can be used in practice rounds).
Then I read Paul Kenyon's story on the Rhode Island Golf Association allowing them for use in competition. Their executive director, Bob Ward, about nailed the crux of the problem:
"I didn’t keep track, but I would estimate that at least 50 percent of the field (178 players) either had the devices or asked about them,’’ Ward said. ``I feel the only thing that will change is that the pace of play will speed up a little. I’m still not sure how much because I believe that most time is lost on the greens. It is putting that slows the pace of play. But if this helps with the pace of play, then it’s good.’’
Has anyone heard of any studies or stories documenting actual improvements in pace of play thanks to distance measuring devices?
Thanks to reader Gene who noticed that the PGA Tour's new partner for the season opening event in Maui has been overtaken by the same folks who were rejected by the LPGA Tour not too long ago.
The press conference today included Tim Finchem and SBS's Sang Chun. Here's what Ron Sirak wrote about SBS ending its sponsorship of the LPGA's Maui event.
While the matter of Korean television rights for LPGA events might seem like a minor issue, it is not. The income from those rights is the tour's largest single revenue stream. And it is safe to assume the value of the LPGA in the Korean market will only grow in direct proportion to the success of Korean players on tour. Last year, both the U.S. Women's Open (Inbee Park) and the Ricoh Women's British Open (Jiyai Shin) were won by Koreans, who now number nearly 50 on tour. That Park was only 19 years old and Shin 20 when they grabbed their titles certainly bodes well for more major victories by Koreans—and better ratings.
The contract with J Golf, which has yet to be announced by the tour or the network, but details of which were obtained by Golf World, is a multiyear deal likely worth in excess of $4 million annually, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. That is up significantly from the $2.25 million SBS says it paid to broadcast 30 events in Korea this year. Asked if his company would continue to sponsor the SBS Open when coverage moves to J Golf next year, Sang Y. Chun, president and CEO of SBS International, said: "Absolutely not."
Chun, who said he was "disappointed, upset really" at losing the contract, said his feelings were "not about the money [but] about the way we were treated."
Tim Finchem says thanks!
A little behind I know, but on Monday Sarah Lyall filed this NY Times piece on the Trump-Forbes battle near Aberdeen, and there are a few new items, including some interesting scrutiny of the local hero by authorities. But the ultimate takeaway from the piece was this:
“I’m all for development and for people building golf resorts,” said one local resident, Bill Grant, 54, who spoke in downtown Aberdeen. “But he’s doing it in the wrong place.”
Mr. Grant explained that the dunes tend to suffer from the notorious haar, a thick fog that pours in from the sea. “You cannot see your hand in front of your face, and if the wind goes calm it can stick there for days,” Mr. Grant said. “If you were playing golf, you would need a homing device to find your ball.”
It's amazing that in a world where so many projects with great potential struggle to get financing, while something with a well known hazard potentially detrimental to revenue and reputation is apparently ignored. The Donald is just that convincing I guess.
"Yeah, I've found that hunting zombies and carjacking a Ferrari in South Beach is a lot tougher in real life than it is in video games, too."
Jay Busbee with that killer line to this revelation that Rory McIlroy is finding the real TPC Sawgrass much more difficult than the video game version he knew before this week.
Rory McIlroy, who knows a thing or two about both real golf and the video kind. He kills time between tournaments by playing Tiger Woods '09, and just this week got his first live taste of Sawgrass, a course he's completely mastered --he once shot a 54 over 18 virtual holes -- on the game. His verdict, according to Reuters:
"It's a lot different. You get up to holes like 11 on the computer and you can drive it up to the big tree on the right, which is like 150 from the green, I had a good drive yesterday and was still hitting a five wood in, it is not quite like it is on the Play Station," he told reporters.
Yeah, I've found that hunting zombies and carjacking a Ferrari in South Beach is a lot tougher in real life than it is in video games, too. (Tip: neither one is recommended.)
A lovely breeze combined with a lively atmosphere made it quite enjoyable to tootle around the TPC Sawgrass.
The Wednesday Caddie Competition lived up to the hype, with a huge gallery turning out to add to the caddie misery experience.
After walking off of the 16th green, players arrive at the net protected tee and greet some less fortunate souls who are thankfully given a front row seat by the tour. After a wait, the players leisurely swing away at the 17th green, which, contrary to some claims is not as large as portrayed (3,900 square feet and steeply contoured, it plays very small). All you can think is, the tempo won't be so fluid tomorrow. Enjoy it while you can!
Following their practice shots, the players move over to the left side of the tee where another set of blocks are placed. A tip jar allows players to make a charitable donation. Some loopers on the range later said the haul was around $4000 and that the PGA Tour matches the number.
The caddies begin their preparation, some taking practice swings, others moving over to the side to loosen up a bit, though most have probably taken a few swings earlier in the ridiculously slow practice round.
Before teeing off, player heckling is a given. While I was watching, only Will MacKenzie actually lugged his player's bag from tee to green, a tradition that doesn't seem to be too closely adhered to by other players. (Granted, that would be an embarrassing reason to WD...strained lower back caused by caddie competition luggage toting.)
As for the overall scene, the overall atmosphere--and here comes the first dreaded major reference--is major-like. For a Wednesday it was remarkably festive out on the course, all highlighted by the action on 17.
The amenities, presentation and overall convenience factor for fans is second to none once you are on the property. (Apparently the city of Ponte Vedra Beach hired a lunatic to time their A1A signals. Nor do they apparently have any traffic control officers on the payroll. And that's the last time I'll bitch about traffic, tonight.)
Most striking thing of all. There are kids everywhere. Having fun. Enjoying golf.
The players seemed more friendly than normal, doling out balls and autographs. Apparently most schools just take the week off, or, in the case of Teacher Of The Year Mr. House's second grade class, they get their own standard bearer.
Either way, it's great to see and probably the reason there is such a festive feel at The Players.
Seems the city of Spokane and golfers are battling over a smoking ban. While I'm in the school of people repulsed by the smell of those Rottweiler terds, I do support the rights of those who want to increase their chances of some form of really awful cancer.
"Golf and cigars go together like a hand in a glove,'' said Dale Taylor of Tacoma, president of the Cigar Association of Washington, a smokers' rights groups. "That may be the only time some people smoke.''
Washington state is among the least hospitable places for smokers, with no smoking allowed in any public indoor space, or outside within 25 feet of a door or window. But the proposed smoking ban on public links has struck a nerve, in part because of the vastness of golf courses. Playing a typical 18-hole course, such as Downriver in Spokane, means traveling easily more than three miles.
"If I was just walking and somebody was 300 feet away, I'm bothering them?'' avid smoker and golfer Greg Presley told the Spokane parks board during a public hearing. "We've got to have some common sense.''
Thomas Bonk gained entry into the west wing of PGA Tour headquarters where Tim Finchem and most of the vice presidential army pushes paper crafts arfully worded memos and religiously reads GeoffShackelford.com (#1 in city in Florida, four months running!) PGATOUR.com.
Inside the West Building is where you find Finchem's office, down a carpeted hallway, past a flotilla of dark brown wooden office furniture and rows of metal cabinets. Photographs of smiling players cover the beige walls.
The green-carpeted Executive Suite is the biggest office in the building, as it probably should be. At the end near the window, two sofas and two chairs surround a coffee table. And at the other end of the office, Finchem's horseshoe-shaped wooden desk fronts a phalanx of six chairs that face him.
Is that one chair for every VP making over $1 million?
There are two computers on the credenza. A huge, flat screen television hugs on the wall. An armoire rests against the opposite wall, a striped dress shirt hanging on the outside.
Besides dozens of golf clubs leaning against the wall, other mementos are all around, most prominent among them a couple of dozen photographs of Finchem with presidents and golf's elite. There are also golf bags from four past Presidents Cup events -- a Finchem invention, just like the three-year-old FedEx Cup.
From the looks of things, Finchem runs a buttoned-down ship, at least judging from the buttoned-down dress shirts that are part of the dress code. Ties are required, except this week, because it's tournament time. But even on casual Fridays, golf shirts aren't allowed. Finchem walked in at a brisk pace. He was wearing a red golf shirt (Dress codes aren't for commissioners).
In all seriousness, I finally figured out how to look like an important tour staffer: Carry leather "padfolio" under arm, light blue oxford, dark slacks, designer shades. You can gain entry anywhere on the property with that look. Anywhere!
Nope, not the Brand Lady speaking, but it is a story on the LPGA event in Virginia and it's future. The Commish is quoted, but it's Tim Schoen, Anheuser-Busch's Vice President for Sports and Entertainment Marketing who drops the beautiful MBAspeak.
But he pointed out that A-B's broad-based involvement with sports in the past three decades has helped the company grow from a 25-percent share of the domestic market in 1980 to almost a 50-percent share today. "So as the new owners come in and they ask us what fuels our brands," Schoen said, "sports is a big part of it. It's part of the DNA of the growth model. So, I don't see any drastic changes, because they want the brands to grow as well."
Reader Bob thought I was a bit lazy in not reading the Tim Finchem et. al transcript from Tuesday, so after scrolling past the mutual admiration society meeting between the Commish and players present, I did get a nice chuckle out of this give and take regarding the new charity slogan and the possibility that its unveiling might be timed with the recent PR hits golf has taken.
Q. Lastly, how much of this is a response to the publicity, I guess, around Northern Trust and everything that came out around that time of the year?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: None.
Q. None at all?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: No. I mean, the general question of conveying to people that might be misinformed about the economic impact or charitable impact is something we need to address, but that's -- if we're talking about the public sector, we're talking about a couple hundred people. So this is a broad-based outreach program nationally.
In the case you're talking about, there were two -- at least best I'm able to decipher, two members of Congress that got all the headlines, and all the other members of Congress, a lot of who not only know about what we do but are involved in some of the things we do or are supportive, in today's environment those voices don't always get heard. We may have a little bit of work to do there.
This comes on the heels of several years of thinking through how we can elevate what we're doing.
While Tim Finchem basks in the glory of The Players, Commissioner Bivens went all Jimmy Carter on us and joined in the LPGA's Habitat for Humanity photo-op.
Here she is with Jiyai Shin.