Perhaps there should be less emphasis on lists of "great courses" and on "toughness." Challenge is one thing. Extreme difficulty is quite another. Unfortunately, nobody likes to think his course can be taken apart by anybody, and that too often becomes the measuring stick by which courses are designed. JACK NICKLAUS
Bill Pennington manages to spin a fresh take on the subject of golfers playing the wrong tees. Love the accompanying art by Bob Eckstein and this from Pete Dye:
Pete Dye, the mad scientist of golf architecture, was showing me around one of his new layouts last year when I noticed that the most challenging tees, the ones farthest from the holes, were often obscured by landscaping, trees or other natural terrain elements.
“That’s to hide them from the ding-a-lings who don’t belong there,” Dye said, smiling mischievously. He was standing at the public Pound Ridge Golf Club, 35 miles northeast of New York City, a course so difficult it certainly doesn’t need added length.
“We love our pro tees, but too many nonpros march back there,” Dye said. “Then they wonder why they’re not having fun.”
And I've never heard this one before, but I like it.
One formula has a golfer estimate the average distance that his or her 5-iron shot will travel — an honest average, not the ultimate 5-iron — and then multiply that number by 36. If golfers were realistic, that would put most in the 5,300 to 6,300-yard range. Beginners, younger players, some seniors and some women would play from tees more forward, and be challenged. And the rare golfer, usually with a handicap in the low single digits, would be venturing back.
Get this, I haven't even attended the Commissioner's Southern Style Pig Roast yet. Imagine how much I'll be swooning after that?
Yes, it's true, starting Wednesday I'll be coming to you live from The Players Championship. Therefore the art department, a.k.a Tom Naccarato, crafted a special banner for this week. replete with assorted imagery closely associated with the fifth of...the PLAYERS.
This will be my first time in Jacksonville since Mr. Reagan was in office, so I'm looking forward to revisiting golf's wildest arena.
I'm not entirely sure what the week will bring coverage-wise. I do know I'll be sharing a few photos taken by my dad Lynn when we played the course in 1988, with modern day comparisons taken this week. I'm sure there will be a few caption contests, full reports from the Stadium Players Village, lunchroom menus from the Sheik's palace clubhouse, insights into the weekend course setup and whatever else I can find time to blog about.
If there's anything you've been dying to know about or see from TPC Sawgrass, email me and I'll see if I can help.
"The message I've passed along to our staff and committee is that if you want to go to Cog Hill for an Open, it is easily good enough as a test of golf"
A couple of interesting Cog Hill related stories have been posted on the eve of its reopening post-Reestoration (and boy does it look like a restored Dick Wilson Rees Jones course now.)
An unbylined Ed Sherman feature on Frank Jemsek and his quest for a Cog Hill hosted U.S. Open features some photos of the course (hmmm...sure those aren't Bethpage photos?). Also buried was this hurdle:
Mike Davis, the New Jersey-based USGA's senior director of rules and competition, came away impressed after a visit last summer. Previously, he was concerned whether drainage issues would allow the course to play fast enough for an Open. He now believes Cog Hill is up to speed.
"The message I've passed along to our staff and committee is that if you want to go to Cog Hill for an Open, it is easily good enough as a test of golf," Mr. Davis says.
His assessment is significant, but Cog Hill faces a long process to land an Open. Mr. Davis says the USGA usually shies away from placing an Open on a course that hosts a regular PGA Tour event.
The USGA also had an unpleasant experience dealing with Cook County during the Open at Olympia Fields; the association said it didn't receive financial concessions that it typically gets from other municipalities. He says issues with the county would need to be resolved before another Open is awarded here.
While most seem to think Erin Hills is already signed for 2017, Phil Kosin raises these points in Cog's favor:
There has been plenty of hypeabout Wisconsin’s Erin Hills GC being the next U.S. Open host in the region, but insiders say the USGA is waiting to see how Dubs holds up to Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the PGA Tour’s best in September. Both are terrific golf courses. But Cog Hill has an built-in advantage over Erin Hills because it has better infrastructure for a major, has more hotel rooms in the immediate vicinity, and would attract more corporate hospitality dollars than Erin Hills, which is 35 miles and almost a one-hour drive from Downtown Milwaukee.
On the eve of the Michelob Ultra Open, Dave Fairbank talks to Commissioner Carolyn Bivens about the state of the LPGA Tour, who says "The general health of the LPGA has never been in better shape."
Hey, I just copy and paste this stuff.
"The LPGA, and that's my point, for a very long time has been a global organization, in terms of the membership as well as the events that they play. As part of our strategic plan, the organization will continue to play somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40 percent of our events internationally. We view that as an advantage, especially as you go through cyclical downturns in economies. Some of those will be leading recessions and recoveries. It's sort of like having a balanced portfolio. The other part of that is as you count up the number of tournaments that we have outside of the United States, four of those are in Canada and Mexico, again reflecting the membership and the interest."
It will be interesting to see how many of those international events are televised. If not, the LPGA will be off the radar screen for half the year.
"In America it is the other way round, they don't care how it plays as long as it looks good. As a country, we need to get back to playing golf the way it is supposed to be played."
Two must reads on the eve of The Players: Paul Goydos, who nearly held off Sergio Garcia in the 2008 edition, is profiled by John Feinstein in Golf Digest and John Huggan in his Sunday column. Feinstein's piece focuses on the tragic passing of Goydos's ex-wife, Wendy, while Huggan explores the more opionated side of the native Californian who tells a story about squaring off with Tom Watson over gangs and this about the state of American golf:
"It would do wonders for American golf in general to go to Australia to take a look at the courses," he says. "The greens there are the best in the world. So are the fairways. But they don't spend a lot of money on the rough. At my home course in California, they spend thousands of dollars over-seeding the rough. All that does is make the fairways too wet. It's completely backwards. Golf in America looks like a park. But it shouldn't. Courses are places where people go to play a sport and have fun; they are not places that should look good on a postcard.
"I didn't see many courses in Australia worrying too much about what they look like from above. But they really care about how they play; in America it is the other way round, they don't care how it plays as long as it looks good. As a country, we need to get back to playing golf the way it is supposed to be played."
The police officer won the contest to be named the whitest man in America the final contestant in the break 100 confab.
Seems Quail Hollow 36-hole leader Bubba Watson isn't a fan of slow play and he's not afraid to say something about it, reports Steve Elling.
Watson shot a 7-under 65 on Friday to move into a share of first place with Retief Goosen halfway through the Quail Hollow Championship, so he will surely face a long, distracting walk in Saturday's third round.
Watson, who has never won on the Nationwide or PGA Tour level, said the reason for his meandering mind is simple. The 30-year-old, the tour's reigning driving-distance champion from 2008, talks fast and prefers to play even faster.
"Five hours of PGA Tour golf," he said. "I mean, it's just not fun. I love the game of golf, and I think it should be in three hours. When I'm at home, I don't know the last time I shot in the 70s playing with my buddies or playing at home.
"I've shot in the 60s all the time because I'm in a cart, playing as fast as I want and moving around the golf course. I don't have time to think about which way the wind is blowing, I just hit the ball.
"That's what my caddie wants me to do. The mental part is just hard. It's hard for me because I didn't listen in school ... Just for me to focus for that long is just hard."
Finally, some much needed Champions Tour controversy as Tom Lehman defends last weekend's chest-bump-gone-awry with Bernhard Langer, the whitest thing anyone has seen since Golf Digest unveiled their final four candidates for the Bethpage Break 100 deal.
(Incidentally, they name the whitest man in American on NBC Saturday, during coverage of the whitest sporting event in America, the Kentucky Derby.)
Lehman, with no choice but to speak out:
One thing that many people have not forgotten yet from my win is the chest bump that Langer and I attempted. I got all kinds teasing about that and probably can't repeat a lot of it. People have asked "What was that?" or "You'll have to work on that one" or "Chest bumps been outlawed forever in all future Champions Tour events". I've gotten a number of comments. But stuff like that is good for golf. Whether you think it looks stupid or cool, whether its semi appropriate or not, it gives flair and emotion to a game that can be lacking in that. When people that I know are all talking about it, it's interesting and gives them something to talk about. That puts golfers in a new light, where at least it's not just tipping your cap, nodding, saying thank you.
Can't argue with that.
After all, he's in better financial shape than Chrysler.
Looks like they aren't touching the C-word after yesterday's news. For immediate release:
Bob Hope Classic on Solid Ground
(Ponte Vedra Beach, FL/La Quinta, CA) — The PGA TOUR and Desert Classic Charities, Inc. reaffirmed in a joint statement Friday that the Bob Hope Classic would be played in 2010 and beyond.
“The foundation that has been built over the last 50 years provides solid financial footing for the Desert Classic Charities group to continue the strong traditions of the Bob Hope Classic,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “The TOUR and Desert Classic Charities are proud of the more than $50 million that has been raised for Coachella Valley charities, of which the Eisenhower Medical Center has been the largest recipient.”
“We continue to appreciate the long-standing support provided by 2000 volunteers, the local corporate sponsors and our 384 pro-am contestants from across the country,” said John Foster, president of Desert Classic Charities. “We look forward to welcoming the best of the PGA TOUR back to the city of La Quinta next year as we continue our mission of serving human needs in the Valley.”
The game may be suffering but there appears to be no shortage of players with a 1.4 or better. This USGA.org story notes 93% of the entries were filed online, over 600 came in the last day, the ages range from 13-78 and lists the exemptees for Bethpage. I was relieved to find out that Azumo Yano is in.
For all of the joking about Quail Hollow's sixth major status, it sure sounds like the player raves for those Mercedes courtesy cars the wonderfully narrow course, it seems the talk has gone to the club's head, as Erik Spanberg reports in the Charlotte Business Journal (thanks reader Bill for this):
Quail Hollow President Johnny Harris, in an interview at the course this week with the Charlotte Business Journal, confirmed the club will likely end the tournament in 2014 when the title sponsorship contract with Wells Fargo & Co. expires. Quail Hollow’s deal with the PGA Tour ends the same year.
“Our intent right now would be to do the best job possible until 2014 and then, after that, I would say we’re not predisposed to continue to have a PGA Tour event after that,” Harris said.
Ahh...with majors in their eyes...
Bringing a major to Quail Hollow has been mentioned by players and others around the game since Harris and then-Wachovia chief executive Ken Thompson created the tournament in 2003.
“If they wanted to, they could host a U.S. Open or a PGA Championship or a Ryder Cup, no question,” says CBS golf broadcaster Jim Nantz. “As far as the quality of the course, they’ve got the system in place — they operate the tournament right now as a five-star operation.”
Generally, the USGA and PGA of America don't like it when you publicly lobby for a major, though there are exceptions if you have a luxury hotel, an irresistibly compelling course or financial possibilities that are just too good to pass up.
But there's also the logistical issue, which could be cleared up by 2014 if corporate hospitality is still verboten. Otherwise, Davis Love noted the limitations of Quail Hollow as nicely as he could in a press gathering recently:
Q. With so much influx on the Tour, one of the things that's been suggested for us in Charlotte is that perhaps some day 10 years, 15 years, Quail Hollow might host a Major championship. How would that course fit the Major Championship profile? And how tough would it be if they narrowed down the fairways with more rough?
DAVIS LOVE III: There's a lot of courses that can handle a Major championship, certainly Quail Hollow as a golf course can, it's the infrastructure that goes around. If Johnny Harris said you all come look at Quail Hollow for a U.S. Open or a PGA, they wouldn't look much at the golf course to start with. They'd say wait a minute, is there room for parking? And is there room for corporate hospitality? Is there room for buses? All the things they do well there with a medium-large tournament. But if you get an extra large tournament, can you handle it? That's the argument at Marion, that's an argument at so many places, can you get people in and out? Is the infrastructure big enough?
The golf course is great. It's certainly hard enough. Our argument is it doesn't have to be hard, it's still a great golf course, no matter what score you shoot. Like last week, 11-under is a great score to win The Masters. That's what your score should be. If it's 5-over, somebody has made the course too hard. And if we don't shoot under par something is wrong, the course is too hard. Just like if you went to an NBA game and nobody dunked it and nobody made a three-pointer, you'd say wait a minute, somebody made the bucket too small or the basket too high. Quail Hollow, sure, they've got deep rough and fast greens. It would certainly handle a Major championship. But I don't think there's enough room for everything else that goes with it.
"We’re letting them get excited about birdies instead of just watching people make a bunch of pars.”
I didn't get to see any of the Quail Hollow Championship's opening round, but looking at the leaderboard and reading a couple of accounts about the course setup, it should be interesting to see how the rank and file PGA Tour player views the lower-rough, faster green approach.
Here's what AP's Mike Cranston wrote, quoting tournament director Kym Hougham:
Hougham said they started thinking of tweaking the course after hearing golfers complain of high rough at a number of tournaments in Florida a couple of years ago.
“When the club became comfortable with them shooting 16-under par or 18-under par, that gave us the green light to go out and try this,” Hougham said.
The recession accelerated the move.
“In these economic times, we want this to be entertainment,” Hougham said. “When the people who play their discretionary dollar to come out here, we’re giving them roars and we’re giving them smiles. We’re letting them get excited about birdies instead of just watching people make a bunch of pars.”
See. There are benefits to "these economic times."
But here's what concerns me. Steve Elling posting at CBSSports.com:
Woods hit 5 of 14 fairways in his opening round and shot a 7-under 65, his best round ever at Quail Hollow, to claim the first-round lead while playing alongside Furyk, no less. Mickelson hit 7 of 14 fairways, missing 7 of his last 9, but still shot 67 and is tied for second, two shots back.
Mickelson applauded the firm greens, which required a deft short game, and the short rough, which meant players could attack the greens at their own risk.
"By always having a shot,I think the fans are enjoying seeing the recovery shot, which is the most exciting shot in golf," he said. "But because the greens are firm, those shots are difficult."
I'm guessing it won't be long before we hear some grumbling from short, straight, grinder types that this the low-rough concept is the Commissioner's conspiracy to get Tiger and Phil in contention and to drive up ratings.
Though if you look closely, for every Woods and Mickelson, there were several shorter-knocking grinder types on page one (Maggert, O'Hern and Flesch).
Hopefully it will be remembered that the tour brass and field staff initially resisted the move to setups downplaying the role of rough. (I don't sense they are entirely sold on the idea yet either.) However, let's say it is a grand conspiracy. What is the downside? The PGA Tour is in the entertainment business. Isn't it their job to set up courses in a way that promotes excitement and heroics?
John Strege reports that the former Olympic great turned-Botox-gone-bad-reality-show-star says golf belongs in the Olympics but will never amount to much. That was probably after he heard it would be stroke instead of match play.
Neat to see the tour setting up the sixth major at Quail Hollow in a way that helps prepare the players for next week's fifth major. Or maybe it's just part of the plan to mix things up and more importantly, play a better form of golf where accuracy is rewarded with firm greens instead of chip-out rough? Either way works.
From Jim Furyk's press session Wednesday:
We've come here a lot of times where the rough has been very deep, thick. It's been a huge premium on accuracy, and the rough is very low this year, as low as I've ever seen it and probably as low as I've seen it in almost any TOUR event I've ever played, outside of Harbour Town. It's obviously a different style.
I assume the greens are going to get very firm and quick, and it's a good golf course. I think that it'll play well in both styles. I'm anxious to see how it pans out through the week.
Q. Are you surprised to see it that way?
JIM FURYK: Well, I'm not, because we got a little heads-up in our green sheet or information sheet that the rough was going to be cut at two inches, and that kind of -- and the green speeds were targeted a little quicker than they were in the past. They were talking about possibly 13, which they're not right now, but if they get these greens firm and fast I don't think it matters if there's rough out there or not, it's going to be really difficult. But it's definitely a lot different setup than we've seen in the past.
"Here’s how you fight the economic madness devouring our civilization. You take away six burgers and a couple of pizzas."
That's Jim McCabe's grabber of a lede. Sadly, burgers and slices are what it boiled down to for MIT's golf expenditures, yet the sport was still dropped. The story gets more infuriating when you hear the details shared by McCabe:
Now Burke, nor any of his players are ignorant to the world upon us. “We understand cuts have to be made, that you have to make budgets,” said Nick Swenson, a freshman from Yorktown, Va.
“But we’re not an expensive sport,” said Ted Keith, a senior from Acton, Mass. “We’re $30,000 a year.”
Swenson and Keith organized teammates for a meeting with athletic director Julie Soriero, but if they went there Monday night with any degree of optimism, it was quickly deflated.
Soriero told the players their plan to fund their own team with fund-raising efforts was unacceptable, that to keep golf as a varsity sport they would have to raise a $3 million endowment.
The story goes on to look at the sheer absurdity of a $3 million endowment. After that infurates you and you feel the need to vent, here's an MIT athletic department feedback page.
Chad Campbell is handling his Masters defeat quite admirably, at least based on this Doug Ferguson note. After all, this can't be easy viewing even with the missing playoff:
Chad Campbell had a tough time going over some of the shots he missed on the back nine of the Masters, where he lost in a playoff, but it didn’t keep him from watching the tournament on tape.
But not the entire final round.
“I didn’t see the playoff hole,” Campbell said with a smile.
That’s probably a good thing, for he was in the middle of the 18th fairway with a 7-iron, blocked it into the bunker, blasted out to 5 feet and missed the cut to get eliminated.
It’s not like Campbell turned off the TV or turned his head. He used a digital video recorder, and well ...
“You know how it works with playoffs and stuff,” he said. “Sometimes, it doesn’t continue to record. And for some reason, it didn’t record it (the playoff). I really don’t know what happened, to be honest. My wife just told me that it didn’t get the whole thing.”
What is worse for the image of professional golf: the sights and sounds of leading players cursing aloud on live TV on a regular basis, or a two-paragraph report on Daly being huckled off to the cells after another hard night on the town? This is one for the photo-finish equipment, perhaps, although not in the eyes of golf's etiquette police, who have decided that Daly's pariah status is now irreversible.