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Because it involves the reduction of activity to some dead mathematical formula, the giving of handicaps has always been a difficult problem to solve. In golf this difficulty has been further accentuated in the failure to perceive that a round of golf is not a continuous performance such as a race, but is divided into 18 separate parts. MAX BEHR



The 72 Club

Thanks to reader Al for passing along Alistair Tait's rant on slow play, which includes a description of his home club's 72 Club getting in 72 holes in a day thanks to 3 hour rounds.

Then he turns his attention to the Masters pace of play.

Immelman and Brandt Snedeker teed off at 2:25 p.m. in the final round, and I clocked them completing the 18th hole at 7:26 p.m. Five hours for a round of golf? Are you kidding me?

I know conditions were tough at Augusta. I know both players were chasing their first major, but five hours for a two-ball is unacceptable. It’s so unacceptable that many people on my side of the pond didn’t see Immelman slip on the green jacket.

I conducted a quick straw poll of members of my club and found many of them turned off the television and went to bed. With the five-hour time difference, it meant staying up past midnight to watch the drama unfold.

There was a common refrain from everyone I spoke to: Play was too slow.

Yet neither Immelman nor Snedeker was penalized for slow play. That’s not surprising. It’s been 16 years since a player on the PGA Tour was handed a one-shot penalty for slow play. Dillard Pruitt holds that distinction. He’s now a PGA Tour rules official, with responsibility for making sure players get in a round in good time.

You couldn’t make that up, could you?

EDS, PGA Tour Back In The Saddle Again

I know, I know, they were never that far apart.

But it's fun to see EDS CEO Ron Rittenmeyer talk about being "jerked around" on Monday and re-upping Nelson Classic sponsorship through 2014 on Wednesday.

"We believe in this tournament and appreciate the tremendous impact it has in the Dallas community, and we are excited about the opportunity to play a key role in its future," said Ron Rittenmeyer, chairman, president and chief executive officer of EDS.



"When the time comes, McKenzie will have the fairways like slender ribbons around the 320 to 340-yard mark with a view to throwing the longer-hitting Americans."

sgmair123.jpgLewine Mair reports on the re-perfection of Celtic Manor, 2010 Ryder Cup site and where they already seem to know the makeup of the U.S. team.

Ross McMurray, the architect, yesterday admitted that he had already had conversations with the European Tour and Jim McKenzie, the course manager, about how it will be set up to the Europeans players' advantage.

When the time comes, McKenzie will have the fairways like slender ribbons around the 320 to 340-yard mark with a view to throwing the longer-hitting Americans.

Isn't that impressive? What soul, what integrity, what vision!

Again, he will be leaving the area around the greens so shorn that they will not be able to play any of their usual flop shots if they fail to find the target. Instead, they will have to do as the Europeans do in improvising with long putts and chip-and-runs from the swales which will swallow up anything even marginally off line.

"We need to concentrate on getting more affordable golf for people to play.”

I'll pass on Doug Ferguson's numbers-heavy case that the Masters is pretty much the same because he didn't even acknowledge the avalanche of negative player feedback. So instead, let's focus on the positive from this week's column.

From Tom Watson:

FINAL WORD: “We have our Olympics – we have our major championships. And to add another layer in the Olympics, I think is the wrong thing to do. We need to concentrate on getting more affordable golf for people to play.”

"It is a tribute to the incredible bench strength of our executive team that we can quickly assign responsibilities when opportunities for change are created."

Wednesday was VP promotion day in Ponte Vedra. Let's see who can't ride on the same Falcon as Tim Finchem any longer. (You know, protecting that line of succession stuff should, God forbid...).

The PGA TOUR Announces Executive Appointments

April 23, 2008(Ponte Vedra Beach, FL) — The PGA TOUR announced today that Ron Cross, Executive Director of THE PLAYERS Championship, has accepted a position as Director of Corporate Affairs for Augusta National Golf Club.

Take that Cliff Roberts!

“Ron Cross has significantly impacted each of the areas he has worked in at the PGA TOUR over the past 19 years,” said Tim Finchem, PGA TOUR Commissioner. “His contributions have helped the PGA TOUR immensely. He served at a time of great momentum and growth for the tournament. We are delighted this opportunity has been presented to Ron and although we will miss his leadership role with THE PLAYERS, we wish him well in his new position with Augusta National.”

And we really hope he can get us on the course from time to time.

The PGA TOUR further announced that Henry Hughes has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer of THE PLAYERS Championship, where he will continue to report to the Office of the Commissioner.  Hughes’ responsibilities will include long-term positioning for the event, as well as chairing the search committee to select Cross’ replacement.

Boy, that sounds fun. By the way, I thought we were lower case on The and all caps on Players. Did I miss a press release?

“Henry and I have been discussing a succession plan for the PGA TOUR for some time,” said Commissioner Finchem. “With Ron Cross’ departure we saw an opportunity to execute an effective change in the management of THE PLAYERS and maintain Henry’s key position as a member of the Executive Committee.

Henry will focus on the development of a management strategy to ensure the continued growth of the event. For 25 years, Henry’s leadership and vision have made an indelible mark in every department he has led.  He is held in the highest regard by everyone in the golf industry, especially the players, the tournaments and the sponsors. His appointment as CEO indicates the significant magnitude we place on the future of THE PLAYERS and the role we have asked him to take on with the event.”

Well, I think we need to hear from Henry about how thrilled he is with this uh, C-level restructuring.

“It’s been thrilling for me to witness the significant growth and expansion of THE PLAYERS Championship over the course of my career,” said Hughes. “I look forward to providing the leadership and strategic development of the TOUR’s flagship championship.”

And now, drum roll please, who has just moved into chair No. 2 where he can dream of someday raking in the millions as Commish?

With the appointment of Hughes as CEO of THE PLAYERS, Rick George, currently serving as President of the Champions Tour and Executive Vice President Championship Management, will move into the PGA TOUR Chief of Operations position, formerly occupied by Hughes. With George’s move to the PGA TOUR, Mike Stevens has been promoted to President of the Champions Tour. David Pillsbury, currently serving as President, PGA TOUR Golf Course Properties, will expand his operational oversight leading the Championship Management team.

Two of my favorite corporatespeak specialists will have even more opportunities to humor us. All in all, a good day for the blogosphere. Especially with sports -metaphor laced gibberish like this:

“It is a tribute to the incredible bench strength of our executive team that we can quickly assign responsibilities when opportunities for change are created,” said Finchem.

Wow, that was special. Sorry, continue.

“I want to commend Rick George on the exceptional job he did elevating and growing the stature of the Champions Tour as well as the leadership he provided to Championship Management. He brings an array of talents and experience to his new role with the PGA TOUR. The work Rick and Mike Stevens have done together on the Champions Tour will result in a seamless transition. David has performed admirably as the President of Golf Course Properties, strategically repositioning the operations of the PGA TOUR’s Tournament Players Clubs and overseeing the complete renovation of the TPC Sawgrass facilities. David brings with him a creative vision, marketing and operational expertise that will propel Championship Management events to new heights.”

These appointments are effective June 1.

Got all that? 


The Hardest Mile(s) In Golf?

In the post about Greg Norman's new Dubai course ripping off La Costa's unofficial distinction as the hardest mile in golf, I was wrong.

It seems the Shark is stealing from himself!

Just to remind those of you who haven't memorized it yet, here's what the press release for Jumeirah Golf Estates's "Earth" course says:

The last four holes will measure exactly a mile, 1760 yards.  I expect it will be considered one of the most challenging and exciting miles of golf, in terms of risk and reward."

golf_norman_course.jpgHowever reader Rich noticed this website claim for Lansdown Resort's Norman-designed course in Virginia:

The last four holes measure exactly 1,760 yards—equal to one mile—creating, according to Norman, “the hardest mile in golf.”

It's a wonderful world. 


Look At The Branding!

Why do I have visions of PGA Tour VP's high fiving each other over Richard Oliver's San Antonio News-Express story on TPC San Antonio, where he dutifully reports on construction progress at the "AT&T Canyons Course" and the "AT&T Oaks Course."


Tiger Knee Talk

gwar01_080425tiger.jpgI was chatting with a fellow writer today about Tiger Woods' injury and the accusation made by Derek Lawrenson.  You may recall that Lawrenson suggested the press obediently reported his 4-6 week recovery time without skepticism about the severity of his knee condition.

Or maybe Tiger just doesn't really like to play that often anymore?

The rehab provides him a nice window to rest up and prepare for the U.S. Open while skipping Wachovia and The Players, two courses he's probably seen enough of (really, how many times can you say they're "all right in front of you"?).

Interestingly, Thomas Bonk speculates in the L.A. Times that Woods is not likely for the Memorial either and Bonk usually is spot on when it comes to guessing Tiger's schedule.

I find it hard to believe Tiger would not want one tune up event prior to Torrey Pines, but as Bonk points out, the weather at Memorial and the chance for a knee re-injury might scare him away.

Meanwhile Golf World's Tim Rosaforte files a lengthy piece on Tiger's knee. He points out the sensitive subject of whether Tiger tweaked the knee during his awkward PGA Championship fist pump, and also brings up something I've been wondering about: can Tiger really continue to keep running on the back streets of Isleworth?

Being in Las Vegas allowed him to check in with strength coach Keith Kleven, who is based there. According to sources, Kleven has been working with Woods for some time, rehabbing the knee and trying to get the game's best player to cut back on his running and heavy training -- not to mention high-impact activities such as parachuting and skiing ("the ballistic workouts," Bradley calls them), which Woods enjoys. The golfer has listened. He did not go on his annual Christmas-break trip to the slopes. In this period Woods' productivity has not suffered -- but his pain level has not subsided. Now begins the tediousness of rehab. As Woods said on his website, "The upside is I've been through this process before and I know how to handle it."

"Golf’s omission from the federal relief package served as a wake-up call to industry officials"

Golfweek's Gene Yasuda reports on the golf industry delegation convening upon Washington to talk up the sport and help Powell-Tate justify even more lobbying fees. A couple of items stand out:

Industry executives also made the trip to Capitol Hill to ensure their sport wouldn’t be overlooked as it was during the 2005 natural disaster that left New Orleans in ruins. Golf’s omission from the federal relief package served as a wake-up call to industry officials, who concluded many in Washington knew little about the game’s economic, environmental and societal value.

“That was a public relations black eye for golf,” said Steranka, who spearheaded the legislative initiative. “Golf has never been more a part of America’s popular culture, but what is not understood and not appreciated is the tremendous economic impact of our industry and the scale of our environmental management practices.”

Somehow I think had golf been part of the federal relief package, that would have been a public relations black eye.

The environmental stuff sounded better:

At a conference at the National Press Club, Steve Mona, former CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and new chief executive of the World Golf Foundation said: “Golf has been involved in what we would term the ‘green movement’ for 2 1/2 decades.”

He provided little-known facts such as:

• Golf course irrigation accounts for 0.5 percent of the 408 billion gallons of water used per day in the U.S., as estimated by the United States Geologic survey.

• On a typical 18-hole course of 150 acres, only six acres – dedicated to tee boxes and greens – are considered intensively maintained.

• Nearly 30 percent of 18-hole courses are involved in a formal, voluntary environmental stewardship program.


"And please, spare me the spiel about how Eastwood and his gang rescued this gem when they purchased it in 1999."

You know I was just about to question the usefulness of John Hawkins' Angry Golfer column, but then he has to go and deliver a beautiful rant about those guys who show up at the Masters in their golf shoes, and follows it with gem on the excessive pricing at Pebble Beach.

Monuments such as Pebble Beach should be reasonably affordable to people who work for a living. And please, spare me the spiel about how Eastwood and his gang rescued this gem when they purchased it in 1999. This is an operation driven by lthe pursuit of profit, making one of the game's transcendent experiences a hazard of red ink to those who would most appreciate it.

I have no problem with the Pebble Beach folks charging what they can get, but I do need to hear a lot less of the sob story Hawkins refers to.

They need to know that many of us heard the numbers they're doing straight from Paul Spengler's mouth. This is no .org we're talking about. 


"The most challenging and exciting mile in golf"

GregNormanDubaiPoor La Costa has Greg Norman and the folks in Dubai taking their claim to infamy when they announced that  Jumeirah Golf Estates's "Earth" course will be hosting the inaugural Dubai World Championship in November 2009. From the press release:

Greg Norman said:“As a golf course architect, it is both rewarding and challenging to know that this course will be hosting the Dubai World Championship.

“I’ve been fortunate to have a number of PGA Tour events played on courses I have designed.  Of course, Jumeirah Golf Estates will be showcased on a global basis and as the golf course designer, I’m proud to be a part of such a significant event.

“From my perspective I think that both the Earth and the Fire courses will be equally playable and I’m pleased with the progress that has been made on them.”

Norman was returning to Dubai for his ninth site visit and spent his time fine-tuning the course design for the Championship.  The final four holes of the Earth course will, he said, offer a spectacular finish:

“Of course, I think the entire course has a great balance, but the finish will really stand out.  The last four holes will measure exactly a mile, 1760 yards.  I expect it will be considered one of the most challenging and exciting miles of golf, in terms of risk and reward."

Meanwhile, let's get to the important stuff:

“There were some significant changes on 7 and on 9 but everything else has been more subtle, getting the greens ready for the speed that we need them and so on.  And we’ve had to allow for the infrastructure of a major tournament. That means laying cabling and getting prepared for the full hospitality suites, designing the right driving range facility, creating ease of access for parking and everything like that.”

And with the release came this totally unstaged photo in need of a caption, don't you think:



How Mad Is Golf At Green?

mail03_environment.jpgI'm just about to finish up my read of John Barton's extensive look at golf's need to go green in the May Golf Digest. While there is so much to consider in this extensive package of stories and interviews, I was shocked at the reaction Golf Digest has gotten from some readers (Bob Carney shares some of the letters here and here).

Can you imagine what a sad state of affairs we are in when someone wants their subscription cancelled over a call for more environmentally sensitive practices?



Tweaking Torrey

Thomas Bonk details some of the pre-U.S. Open changes to Torrey Pines and they may surprise you. Or, you may not care.

No. 4, 488-yard par four: The hole that runs along the ocean, the fairways have been widened out to the right, up near the green.

No. 5, 453-yard par four: The fairway has been widened in the drive zone, which should bring bunkers into play.

No. 13, 614-yard par five: If the shortest teeing area is used at 5390 yards, the fairway to the left, up against the canyon, is widened.

No. 18, 573-yard par five: A risk-reward hole, the fairway is widened out near the pond and wraps left around the pond.

Of course, the USGA did narrow a couple of fairways, the 612-yard 9th where three yards were taken off the left of the fairway in the third shot area and the 435-yard 14th where the fairway was narrowed up beyond the drive zone.

The Open is still seven weeks away, and that's plenty of time to start getting ready for the chatter about the brutal, 614-yard par five - if it's played from the farthest tee, which would require a 250-yard carry over a canyon.


“There’s a bit more hesitation out there for buying new equipment.”

Golfweek's Bradley Klein talks to a variety of people with different ties to the game, and contemplates whether golf is really recession proof.

Scott Peters, owner of New Hampshire-based Golf & Ski Warehouse, is witnessing first-hand such changes in consumer behavior.

Though he experienced “a good summer and Christmas for 2007,” Peters says “the first three months of 2008 have been down” compared with the year before.

He also blames more stringent USGA equipment limitations for making consumers skeptical whether next-generation products are truly superior to their predecessors. Mix such wariness with economic woes and, Peters says, “There’s a bit more hesitation out there for buying new equipment.”

This would assume that a decent portion of the golfing public even knows what the USGA has done, which I suppose is possible. Or could it be that people simply realized that it's silly to keep a driver every year...or even more often than that?


"The American press obediently reported it like he was having a routine operation."

For a good chuckle read Derek Lawrenson's doting account of Monty's wedding. A teaser:

For all the unrivalled splendour of the setting — whoever heard of two unbroken days of sunshine on the bonnie banks in April, for Heaven's sake? — and the lavish financial outlay, the most memorable thing about the day was the unforced happiness.

What really makes it fun though is the item a few slots below it on Tiger's knee:

So, what do we make of the fact that a supreme athlete like Tiger Woods requires six weeks to get over arthroscopic knee surgery?

The American press obediently reported it like he was having a routine operation. But if footballers are back playing a fortnight after having cartilages repaired through arthroscopic surgery, how standard can the procedure be when Woods needs three times that length of recuperation before he can play golf?

Obediently reported?

Well, based on that account of Monty's wedding, he would know about that kind of reporting.


It's What "Byron" Would Have Wanted...

This week marks the 83rd re-opening of the TPC Las Colinas after a renovation. Naturally, everyone is thrilled about the second coming of Deere Run, with talk of "traditional" features and fulfillment of Lord Byron's dreams.

Player consultant J.J. Henry:

"To see everything come full circle, I can't believe what kind of shape the golf course is in," Henry said Tuesday, when course officials showed off the renovations. "We always talked about what would Byron want. ... I think he is up there smiling today at what was accomplished."

Traditional square tee boxes and white-sand bunkers throughout the course and the cascading waterfalls next to the 18th green are among some of the changes.

Is there another form of waterfall besides cascading that I'm not familiar with?

Henry played with Tony Romo, Trip Kuehne and Harrison Frazar in a recent exhibition, and Jimmy Burch reports good news for Tiger: it's all right in front of you.
Trip Kuehne: "I've played here since 1986 and this is really the first time you could get on the tee box on every single hole and you knew exactly what you needed to do. D.A. has told you where you need to place the ball on every single tee shot and the challenge is to get out there and place it. It's a very playable golf course, and it's in great shape."



Kikuya, Kikuyu, Whatever

David Shefter posts a Q&A with the USGA's Pat Gross about the state of Torrey Pines and the influence of its "kikuya" grass, perhaps a new version of the kikuyu that I thought was covering much of the course.


"We kind of got jerked around a bit, and I'm not happy about that"

Bill Nichols talks to EDS CEO Ron Rittenmeyer about dissatisfaction with the PGA Tour. I don't recall reading a CEO being so upset with the tour since Booz Allen's Ralph Shrader, and we know how well that worked out.

Rittenmeyer, talking about Tim Finchem:

 "Our title sponsorship comes to a close in two years, and if he wants us to continue, he's going to have to come to the table and help us," Mr. Rittenmeyer said.
Regarding the current date...
 "We kind of got jerked around a bit, and I'm not happy about that," Mr. Rittenmeyer said. "I made it kind of a personal goal of mine to see this course improve. So now we've accomplished the course. The next thing is to accomplish the right dates to field the best set of players. And the PGA Tour has got to help market this to their players."
And on the FedEx Cup... 
Mr. Rittenmeyer said the Tour's new FedEx Cup reduces the importance of regular events. The season-long format, which debuted last year, includes three playoffs for the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship. Points earned in regular events determine playoff seeding.

"I wasn't happy with the FedEx Cup, and they know that," Mr. Rittenmeyer said. "They did it to get some more excitement, some more money in the game. But we didn't get a vote, and we didn't get to discuss it."


The Boo Files: "This golf is a crazy game. That's why I only want to do it for so long and get out of it."

boo_300.jpgBoo Weekley successfully defends his Heritage Classic title, drops three aint's and two reckons, and as usual provides more transcript entertainment than the rest of the PGA Tour's finest combined.

Q. Did you ever doubt yourself today?

BOO WEEKLEY: Yes, once or twice I did. I mean, I just kind of aggravated -- like on 10, I got probably the lowest point I got all day was on 10. They just put us on the clock, you know, we're under two minutes or two hours on our time, you know, and it's kind of hard to believe they had us on the clock. The guys in front of us were playing pretty quick. It kind of got aggravating and, okay, there you go, you kind of give it away now hitting shots like that. That was my lowest point.

It was the guys in front going fast, not Boo and buds playing slow. I like that rationalization.

Q. Do you think the adrenaline and your emotional state today had anything to do with you getting the rights?

BOO WEEKLEY: No, ma'am, I had the rights all day. I had them all week with the driver and a little bit with the iron. I was standing on the tee box or on the practice round this morning and I had the pulls.

This golf is a crazy game. That's why I only want to do it for so long and get out of it (laughter).

Not yet please.

Q. Golf has always had an elitist label on it. Do you think you might be an inspiration to guys out there who talk like you and chew like you?

BOO WEEKLEY: I'm pretty sure I do. I hope it's mostly the kids. That's who you want to touch anyway is the kids. And I hope they don't chew.

SI's Gary Van Sickle filed this Boo tribute on the Press Tent blog, including this killer Boo story (along with one other, so hit the link.)

I was standing behind the 18th green at the end of Saturday's round when CBS commentator Jim Nantz climbed down from the telecast tower and ambled toward the players' scoring trailer. I talked to him for a minute but he was interested in getting some face time, he said, with Boo. They had never met, Nantz said.

When Boo signed his card and came out, Nantz was there to introduce himself and have a short, smiling conversation.

Later, after Boo finished another rollicking interview session in the press tent, I asked him about meeting Nantz. "Wail (that's southern for "Well"), he said he just wanted to put a face with a name," Boo said. "He was real nice."

"What was the conversation about?" I asked, "Did he ask any deep questions?"

Boo shook his head. "I don't even know what he does," he said.

"He's a golf commentator," I said. "I'm sure you've heard him on college basketball or football."

"Wail, either I don't watch much of that or I just don't listen," he said, non-plussed.

Lorena Does Something Tiger Will Never Do: Wins For Fourth Straight Week...

april20_ochoa_299x413.jpg...unless of course he decides to play all four playoff events this year. 

Which reminds me, I've got to go check the FedEx Cup standings.

But first, Ochoa's five of six this year and just won each of the last four weeks, taking the Ginn Open. That's insane. 

Larry Dorman reports that she is finally taking a few weeks off.