Today's technical snafu ought to really help relations between The Golf Channel and CBS, who was handling the production of TGC's opening round Buick Invitational telecast...
The Scots say that Nature itself dictated that golf should be played by the seashore. Rather, the Scots saw in the eroded sea coasts a cheap battleground on which they could whip their fellow men in a game based on the Calvinist doctrine that man is meant to suffer here below and never more than when he goes out to enjoy himself. ALISTAIR COOKE
Today's technical snafu ought to really help relations between The Golf Channel and CBS, who was handling the production of TGC's opening round Buick Invitational telecast...
Steve Elling prepares us for Kelly Tilghman's return on today's Buick telecast, and includes a couple of excellent points:
As Tilghman returns from a two-week, in-house suspension, the Golf Channel discussed making her available to media this week to address her misstep. But network officials instead declared her off-limits, a spokesman said, leaving Woods to deal with the fallout alone.I did think she would have wisely just walked in the press room and started picking up some homework, allowing for a quiet return alongside her media peers. Instead she was probably locked up in some hotel room eating room service and practicing her apology speech.
The unwanted Golf Channel sideshow also shortchanged Buick, which paid $7 million to puts its name on the tournament. At the Golf Channel, poor judgment has been compounded by poor leadership.And he's not done...
Woods, meanwhile, is getting hammered for not being Martin Luther King in spiked shoes. Last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts wrote, "One has to wonder what it would take to get a rise out of this guy: burning crosses on his front lawn?"
Rob Parker of the Detroit News, appearing on ESPN, insisted that Woods "has a responsibility to respond to this."
Parker added: "Tiger Woods would rather be a pitchman than a man."
Woods, who has never been particularly political about anything, said he does plenty on the cultural front with his foundation, to which he has donated millions. Monday, which coincidentally marked the MLK holiday, he announced a new program to inspire kids to reach for their dreams.
Randell Mell also publishes a nice rant about some of the silly things asked of Tiger.
In reading John Hawkins' latest Bitter Golfer column, he continues the trend of ripping the players for whining about the new cut rule that reduces the number of weekend players at PGA Tour events. I joined in that ripping myself because the boys are slow and not particularly bright for not reading the documentation provided by the PGA Tour brass.
While the entire episode seems to speak to the insular world of pro golf and the folks who cover it, there also seems to be a disregard for the fan. I've contended to any poor soul who would listen that the rule needs to be amended for the fans. Picture the fan coming out early on Saturday after a long work week. He has pin-pointed an early group to follow so that he can see a favorite player up close, or simply enjoy a more intimate fan experience. He should not be stripped of that pleasure.
It would seem that the entire episode would be easily solved by Jeff Sluman's retro suggestion of a Saturday cut. Frankly I'm surprised it hasn't picked up more steam.
Wednesday was an educational day at Torrey Pines...
-I learned that if you want to see the briefest, slightly deranged stare from Commissioner Finchem, just have a cell phone go off during his press conference! Twice during his chat today it happened and both times myself and a couple of other scribblers noticed his little inner cell phone demon rearing its ugly head. You had to be watching closely, no easy feat when he's rambling on.
-I learned that by studying the third green on the South Course (pictured), one can induce nausea. Or sea sickness? Or Reesphobia? Either way, after about 10 minutes of staring at this disaster, I can only surmise that the shapers were looking at the wrong set of plans or perhaps had them upside down. The green would be fun to play to oh, from about 150 yards off the back edge or maybe 150 to the right. And then there's that artistic front bunker...
-I learned a prime new buzzword and because I'm a kind soul, I am going to share it with you so that you too can roll your eyes. While trying to kill some time to avoid rush hour traffic, I attended a meet-and-greet with the folks from CDW, the PGA Tour's new technology partner. There, the marketing dude gave a talk about the usual stuff. You know, the general obsession with reaching the youth demo. And Ty, if you think I'm exaggerating the Tour's youth obsession again, I simply ask you this: could I make up the buzzword that was dropped? Ready? Millennials.
The terms Millennials and Internet generation ("iGen") are attempts to give the Gen Y cohort more independent names that are tied with key events and cultural trends that are strongly associated with the generation.
Don't you ever say this blog is not educational.
Golf World's Ryan Herrington previews the USGA Annual Meeting and considers the state of the organization.
Reading the quotes you'd think these guys were talking to a CNBC reporter about delayering offline incentivization streams.
"We've created a more fluid, efficient structure," says Pete Bevacqua, six months on the job in the newly created post of chief business officer, reporting directly to executive director David Fay. Responsible for all commercial endeavors -- broadcasting, marketing, members, new media and communications, among others -- Bevacqua says his charge is to make sure the various departments do a better job of working congruently. "My goal is to allow us to make more informed decisions because we'll have a better idea how [initiatives are] going to affect the various departments, and perhaps quicker decisions."
Indeed, a common refrain among USGA brass on both the volunteer and staff sides is the need to work at an "accelerated rate of business," a perceived weakness (not to mention an example of MBA-speak heard now within the association). "This is all very energizing, stimulating and exciting," says Fay of the new people/organization in place, noting his own commitment remains strong. "It will be rewarding for the USGA."
Easy for him to say, he still has a job! A highly paid one at that.
Another potential point of contention is a plan to offer online a revised version of the USGA members newsletter, one tangible benefit given to individuals who financially support the USGA. Bevacqua said no final decision has been made, but the association reportedly could stop printing the newsletter this spring. Still, there are reasons to believe the USGA is moving in a positive direction. In the annual report to be released in Houston, the association will report net income in fiscal 2007 of $1.21 million on revenues of nearly $137 million, a noteworthy improvement from a $6.13 million deficit in 2006.
Poor newsletter. It never had a chance. And guess what, there's a rebranding on the way:
Brought aboard in December, Wightman, who spent five years as publisher of Golf magazine, will present a communications plan to the Executive Committee next week, one that details ways to enhance and improve the USGA brand and de-mystify the association. It's an endeavor Fay and Bevacqua contend will be key to future growth.
De-mystify the USGA. Now there's an undertaking.
Golfweek's Adam Schupak looks at the adjustable club movement and writes:
Yet other equipment company executives liken the USGA’s action to opening Pandora’s box. They argue the USGA simply relaxed an existing rule on adjustability (moveable weights, for example, previously were allowed) which won’t appreciably affect the way the game is played.The story also includes a video worth watching, including comments from Dick Rugge.
Critics say the USGA, after clamping down on technological advances and proposing a roll back on grooves, is trying to placate equipment makers with its version of Innovation 2.0 – a metaphorical invitation for new design ideas that is suspiciously light on true innovation.
“This is the USGA’s strategy for how it can be perceived as allowing innovation into the game,” says John K. Solheim, Ping’s vice president of research and development.
Furthermore, industry critics say the USGA didn’t think through the long-term ramifications its decision might have on the business of selling clubs.
Though it is difficult to imagine off-the-rack clubs disappearing completely, adjustability at least opens the door to such a possibility. That prospect, no matter how unlikely, radically could alter the practices of clubmakers, component suppliers and retailers. Which has everyone scrambling for a crystal ball, hoping to capitalize on the situation – or at the very least protect their vested interests.
Thanks to reader Kevin for this YouTube epic, Mark Rolfing's priceless (it was the Mastercard Championship after all) faux pas:
A couple highlights from Tiger's sitdown in the Torrey Pines media center on the eve of the 2008 Buick Invitational. Starting with this question about the possibility of playing the Northern Trust Open at Riviera:
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, LA is still kind of up in the air. I've always loved playing Riviera. I've only played well I think two times. But hey, hopefully one year I'll be able to get it under my belt.Just not this year!
Q. You're known as one of the better shot-makers out here, which seems to be somewhat of a dying breed on TOUR. Can you talk a little bit about shot-making and why you think so few guys aren't good shot-makers and just pound the ball now?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the guys don't -- they didn't grow up with the ball moving all that much. I was still on -- when I grew up playing I was on that periphery of persimmon and balata balls, so the ball moved quite a bit.
These kids now, they grow up playing big drivers. The ball doesn't move. They don't have the gear effect in the drivers like they used to. A lot of big changes.
The golf courses have changed, as well. So the game is played totally different now than it used to be. So yeah, you have to make the adjustments.
What year did Vijay have that great year, four years ago? He proved just hitting driver on every hole was the best way to attack golf courses. If you're driving it well, great. If you're not, you're going to have a wedge in your hand. That's not the way the older players used to do it. They used to shape it, move it around the golf course and go about their business that way.
I sat through my first Tim Finchem press conference today. I know, I know...the perks of a media credential. The man has a svengali-like ability to lull you into a hypnotic trance where you ponder what's lurking on the lunch menu.
He did his usual bit about cheating countering the "culture" of the game, and therefore the Tour has no reason anyone will test positive, which is your basic credibility killer.
There were a few highlights, one being the new acronym that you are sure to get sick of reading about: T.U.E. (therapeutic use exemption).
Oddly, this answer to Steve Elling about the Westchester situation did not cause the room to break out in laughter.
On the second one, let me answer the second one first, Westchester. It's been widely reported -- we are in discussions with Westchester. We have a multi-year contract with Westchester. Our discussions focus on the possibility to alter the rotation arrangement that we entered into for this six years in some fashion.
As you know, we had agreed to play -- worked out an agreement where we'd play at least three times in six years. We would like to perhaps accelerate the rotation somewhat.
Is that Finchemspeak for we want to get out of Westchester immediately?
But we are in discussion with Westchester on a wide range of options within that, and I don't want to get into speculating on any one course, but we are deep into discussions. We hope to wrap this up quickly, and hopefully we'll have more to say within the next week or so. But obviously if it impacts '08 we really need to know right away. That's where we are. Not much more to say about that.There was a nice non-answer on groove issue that wasn't worth copying and pasting.
If, however, we concluded that it's being taken because it is being abused, either because of a lack of judgment, dependency or addiction, we would treat it in that context, which would include a wide range of potential actions, including some disciplinary action, some therapeutic action, and some continuing testing action. So it could conceivably be that a player is disciplined at some level and then if he's allowed to continue to play he's tested on a regular basis to help him deal with those issues.
We view that as somewhat different than a player who has intentionally taken a substance to gain competitive advantage. That would be dealt with in a different arena.
Q. Who decides that, you?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: That would be me, and subject to an appeal process.
Seems like loads of potential for serious questions, particularly in light of this...
Q. And lastly, just to clarify, if there is a positive test, what will you be releasing to the media? I'm a little confused on that. After it runs the appeals process.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: At this moment it's our intention when the process is completed, we would release to the media the fact that there was a violation and what the sanction for the violation is.
Q. But not the drug?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Not the drug.
Over/under anyone on how long that policy is considered disfunctional?
I shared an apartment for one year during my UCSB days with Buick Invitational qualifier Justin Hicks and can attest that he is one of the nicest, most genuine people you'd ever want to meet. So naturally I found this great note from Ed Zieralski in today's San Diego Union Tribune a bit surprising.
For the past eight years, Justin Hicks has arrived at Torrey Pines at daybreak on Tuesday of the Buick Invitational to videotape Tiger Woods playing a practice round. Yesterday, in a dream-becomes-reality moment, Hicks stepped inside the ropes and played a practice round with Woods and his practice partner, Bubba Watson.
“You know how Andy Warhol talked about that 15 minutes of fame? Well this is my four days of fame here,” said Hicks, who could add two more by making the cut on Friday.
Hicks, 37, qualified for a sponsor's exemption at this year's Buick Invitational by being named Player of the Year for the San Diego Chapter of the Southern California PGA. A teaching pro at Stadium Golf, Hicks has missed qualifying for the Buick Invitational by one stroke three times.
Hicks teed off alone just after 6:30 a.m., but was joined by Woods and Watson on the fairway after Watson boomed a drive 80 yards over Hicks' head. Hicks said Watson hit driver, 7-iron to the 520-yard, par-5 hole.
Hicks said it was “nerve-wracking” playing a practice round with Woods. “I felt like the ugly girlfriend with the hot girls next to her,” Hicks said.
The three only played 14 holes, skipping five, six, seven and eight and jumping over to No. 9. It was there that Woods and Watson hit their tee shots simultaneously.
Hicks said he felt like a “third wheel” and tried to keep out of the two friends' fun. He didn't say a word to Woods or Watson. They never said a word to him until the end, when both wished him and his caddie, Todd Howerton, well this week.
“It was still fun,” Hicks said.
How do you hit into (over?) someone and not spend the rest of the round down on your hands and knees kissing their rear end?
That contract had Westchester on the receiving end of $3.6 million from the tour—$800,000 for already hosting the Barclays last summer, and then another $2.8 million over the next five years.The value of that agreement alone suggests Westchester feels it deserves more than $1 million to let the tour walk away.
Thanks to reader Hugh for emailing this Thomas Bonk piece picked up in The Age, but run originally in today's L.A. Times. These numbers may cause dangerous health effects in tournament directors who never see Tiger Woods:
According to research that traced Woods' effect on television ratings in 2007, tournaments in which he finished in the top five had a 171% increase in CBS' ratings over those in which he did not play or wasn't in contention.
The ratings were 4.6 compared with 1.7.
In similar tournaments on NBC, the ratings increase was 59%, or 3.5 compared with 2.2.
The two-network average showed an increase of 111%, or 4.0 compared with 1.9.
A glorious day at Torrey Pines with few clouds, temperatures in the low 60s and lots of giddy anticipation for...the 11 and 3 pm mandatory player meetings to discuss the new drug policy. I saw the Commish walk by and only fear that the players were subjected to lengthy presentations by golf's first $5 million suit.
Still, I managed to have some nice chats with several veteran players about topics of interest related to stories I'm working on. It's always refreshing to know that for every guy who is just happy to be there playing for $6 million, the Bob Tway's, Joe Durrant's, Geoff Ogilvy's and Duffy Waldorf's give the game a lot of thought.
However, that meant I missed Jason Day's sitdown with the scribblers but would imagine he was not quite so audacious in his stated aspirations.
The combination of the football playoffs going dark this weekend and the strong field had many on site wondering if this would be a more appropriate place to start the PGA Tour season. Not sure what you do with Hawaii and the Hope, but that was the vibe on the putting green.
I know your day has been made so much better by that spellbinding speculation.
I missed Mark O'Meara's sit-down with the assembled scribes at Torrey Pines today, but loved this from the transcript:
Q. A lot has changed in the last ten years. It's become a power game now. Do you wish that you could go back or guys could learn maneuvering the ball, hitting the ball different directions? It's kind of a lost art out here.
MARK O'MEARA: It is. That's why it's kind of fun certainly to watch what Tiger has done, the way -- he has the power; that's not an issue. But the cool thing about Tiger Woods is he can hit an 8-iron 87 yards if he wants to. I think a lot of the other young players that are brought up in this modern era of power and distance, you have to hit the ball far to really compete nowadays. The creativity standpoint, that's kind of gone away, the fact that the equipment and the ball don't curve as much.
Would I like to see that change? As long as the equipment is legal, I have no problem with it. But I do agree with that. I think when I play with a player that plays some creative shots, that impresses me more than just somebody who's powerful and beats away.
You know, the conditions have kind of led into that. Everybody talks about how far everybody is hitting, and they think that's ruining the game. So they think, okay, to fix that we're just going to make the golf courses longer. But I'm not so sure that really fixes it because when you look at the game and you look at some of the most creative holes or the most talked-about holes in golf are usually the shortest ones. So it's kind of ironic that, okay, you can go play a 497- to 512-yard par-4, but it's pretty much bombs away.
Okay, the guys who are powerful are going to have a huge advantage over the average length players, and power players should have somewhat of an advantage. But I think if you want to mess with these guys you've got to create options. You've got to force them to think a little bit. There's more fear on a player's face when he's standing on the 12th tee at Augusta than there might be standing on the 12th tee at the South Course at Torrey Pines.
They must not be paying enough at Golf Digest because it was disheartening to witness the always dapperly-dressed architecture and style aficionado Marty Hackel sporting a pair of (cuffed? Marty?) khakis that he picked up at the Jackson Pollack estate sale.
The par-4 14th may be the best and worst change in the new look Torrey Pines. Best with the tree removal and embrace of the canyon, and worst because the canyon use could have been even better. The bunkers that look airlifted onto the landscape left protect balls from heading into the hazard, a feature I dread. Click to enlarge the image.
There are mixed feelings about this one. I love that balls with too much spin might come back down off of #13 green at Torrey Pines South. And superintendent Candice Combs is wise to protect this collection area...of sorts, with netting and ropes. But something also is just not right when there's a need to cover an area to prevent a sea of divots. In this case, the weak turf in the approach, which appears to be the product of lousy soil, seems to be making it too easy for balls to spin off the green, down the hill and to this ledge.