Quote of the Week: "Golf is a very broad church, and there is plenty of room for every sort of golf club. It would be dreadful if we were all the same."
Chief Executive Peter Dawson's hilarious defence of the men-only status of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
Coming in May: the announcement of the next captain of the R&A, who will be a white male, aged sixty-something, privately-educated, grey-haired, and an ex-CEO.
How dreadful that they are all the same.
Golf is just about the best excuse for travel yet discovered. It gives you a purpose in the background, brings you in touch with the most influential and amusing of the natives, and gives you plenty of time for activities other than the golf.
I was so taken by The Donald's uncharacteristic hubris that I failed to notice his declaration of intent to lure Tiger's AT&T event to Trump National Washington D.C.
As soon as word leaked that Trump was interested in Lowes, golf nuts in the Washington area started buzzing that he'll make a serious run at bringing all the big-name tournaments to his greens -- especially Tiger Woods, who holds a tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. "Congressional doesn't have a chance," Trump said yesterday.
Someone please tell The Donald that Congressional has the event signed through 2017.
Ron Sirak finds plenty of positives in Michelle Wie's near-win at Turtle Bay, and at least to this television viewer, I would agree that this was the most noticeable improvement in her game:
She seems to have the rhythm back in her swing. That wonderful "Big Wiesy" tempo some think was lost because she was trying to hit it too hard to keep up with the men is back now that she is concentrating on the women.
For the first time in a long, long time I was in awe of her swing again.
And for those of you suggesting that too much attention is being paid to Wie at the expense of the other players, I'm sure Angela Stanford has plenty of new fans after the third win in her last seven starts.
In this week's potboiler, the SI/Golf Mag/golf.com/Entertainment Weekly/Time Inc. boys kick around the state of the LPGA Tour, Michelle Wie's game and the AT&T. They also talk about this week's event at Riviera, with Jim Herre planting this seed when the talk turned to Ryo Ishikawa:
I can't believe Ryo won't be joined by Rory McIlroy, who will be spending his week at the Titleist Performance Center in Carlsbad instead of at the Riv. What were the Northern Trust people thinking?
Van Sickle: Yeah, Rory has already proven he's the real deal. Bonehead move of the year was Northern Trust turning down Rory's request for a sponsor's exemption this week. He's ranked top 20 in the world. Not sure what the story is there. Free Rory.
Morfit: Agreed that was a major brain cramp, and it'll come back to bite 'em. The pros don't forget a thing like that. (Then again, post-exemption loyalty only goes so far, considering Tiger's recent record in Milwaukee.)
Shipnuck: Sponsors' exemptions are almost always used to repay burnt-out old pros who have, ahem, supported the tourney through the years. It would be nice if more were invested on promising youngsters, but sponsors would rather have a recognizable name who will come to a cocktail party and perform.
Van Sickle: Mike Van Sickle and I agree with Shipwreck. Billy Andrade doesn't sell any tickets for you.
For the record, Northern Trust's sponsor's invites are Ricky Barnes, Oliver Wilson, Shigeki Maruyama, Jeev Singh, Bryce Molder, Graeme McDowell and Vincent Johnson (Sifford exemption).
I called Tournament Director Tom Pulchinski for comment on the McIlroy situation as well as to discuss the likelihood that this is the final year the event will be managed by the L.A. Junior Chamber of Commerce before being turned over to PGA Tour Championship Management (ith the Junior Chamber still receiving the event's charitable contributions). The call was not returned.
But giving a spot to an amateur tournament that has never been played, as they have announced in a weird joint R&A deal, is just nonsense when you consider that (A) the R&A is not exempting the winner to the Open Championship and (B) the winner of any number of amateur tournaments would be far more likely to provide a quality player with a chance of making the cut (NCAA Individual Champ before the coaches shortened it to 54-holes, the European Amateur, etc...).
I know, I know, those events don't sell TV rights to Asia like this will. Yada, yada.
Bob Harig talks to Peter Dawson about the "ever-expanding" major fields and the sheer wonderfulness of this announcement.
Nice catch by reader Joel to note that several golf projects slipped that might slip into the economic stimulus package, despite efforts by some Congressional type to keep our sport from benefitting.
The governing body of golf everywhere outside of the U.S and Mexico is blessed to have an in-house architect willing to rearrange courses so they don't have to deal with the ball, and even better, a captain of the Olympic movement as its lead man. Unfortunately those design duties rearranging Open rota courses and those pesky visits to Lausanne with Ty Votaw may be distracting Peter Dawson from honing his spin skills, as evidenced by John Huggan's annual sitdown with the R&A's senior apologist.
On not admiting women into the R&A:
"Where equal treatment is very important – and this is where any legislation should be focused – is in mixed-sex clubs. That is fair. But golf is a very broad church and there is plenty of room for every sort of club. It would be dreadful if we were all the same."
Good one Peter! That's right, who would want to be a member of a club that pays its bills with public money, hosts huge public spectacles, but is only made up of a bunch of frugal white guys from overrated gene pools sporting stiff upper lips, bad breath and cranky dispositions?
As for the distance issue, I'd call this answer progress. Maybe he's getting tired of redesigning great courses for one week of golf every 8 years?
"The ball is not off-limits," claims Dawson. "Our position is consistent, whether you agree with it or not. And we are happy with the present situation. If drives start to go up again, then we will haul them back.
"We think everyone should play by the same rules, a stance most people seem to agree with. While I would acknowledge that the gap between the game the professionals play and the one played by most amateurs has widened, we think it is a central pillar of golf that we all play the same ball. The majority of golfers agree with us. And so do the majority of leading players. They want to be the best golfers in the world, not the best players of a 'tour ball.'
"I'd prefer to see the ball going a wee bit shorter; I can't deny that. But never say never. If necessary, we will do it. If drives get any longer we will reduce the overall distance standard."
So why wasn't there this desire say, seven years ago?
The issues we face now are the same or worse than when this all started Mr. Dawson. Slow play, safety issues, architecture out of whack, confining course setups to compensate. I guess Dawson hasn't seen the silly looking 6th at Pebble Beach this week, with a cluster of pre-vent bunkers that were not needed in 2000!
Finally, the all-vital issue of loft. Try and make sense of this.
"We have written to manufacturers saying that we are looking at loft," continues Dawson. "We've had very lofted wedges made – up to 70 degrees – and we are currently testing them.
"In the hands of a skilled practitioner, it is possible to do a lot with these clubs. But I think the average amateur would have a lot of trouble using them. Now, you are probably going to say there is nothing wrong with having to be skilled to use a particular club.
But, on the other hand, if it lessens the skill required by skilful people to play the game, then there is an issue.
Here's the problem Peter. Many of us saw the same issue with the current ball and driver situation after the advent of launch monitors. The technology became advantageous for certain swing speeds to benefit more than others. You and your fellow members, along with the USGA, pooh-poohed this discrepancy between skilled player and hack, even as the hack was told they could benefit as well.
Yet now it's a problem with lofted wedges, which are often needed to combat the rough that is only necessary because the ball goes too far and the game has no other way to combat distance?
I think Peter's going to need to go back to the drawing board before they get serious on this loft business.
I'm sure I wasn't the only one who recorded the LPGA event Saturday and watched it, albeit flipping through the same four promos the Golf Channel runs. The Brand Lady, who made a brief appearance during the telecast and talked about the great "price value" her tour delivers, can point to the many fans who otherwise would not be watching. All thanks to Michelle Wie.
Here's the AP story on Angela Stanford's impressive win in the rain and wind at Turtle Bay. Granted, Wie hasn't won since she was 13, but her swing looks great and overall game appears closer to greatness than ever before.
By the way, does anyone else think that the LPGA should end more events on a Saturday to avoid competing with the regular tour? I thought it was nice to see a winner crowned tonight.
Scott Duke Harris and Pete Carey offer more examples of corporations cutting back their involvement in golf for fear of giving the wrong impression.
And the Pebble Beach pro-am has indeed downsized this year, but probably not as much as your 401(k). Declines in corporate sponsorships and ticket sales are expected to bring the tournament's donations to charity down about 10 percent from a record $6.74 million in 2008.
"Given everything else going on, it's a little bit of a success story," said Ollie Nutt, president and chief executive of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation. The group uses the tournament's proceeds to support about 200 charities in the region that provide youth activities, education, nutrition and legal services for the needy.
The Pebble Beach classic has had a winning formula that allows Hollywood celebrities and capitalist chieftains to play alongside top pros. It has raised $73 million for charity since 1947, including $50 million since 2000.
But this year, several regular corporate sponsors bowed out; there are 18 skyboxes, compared with 20 last year, and about 11 hospitality tents, down from 15.
"Part of the issue is perception," said Nutt, suggesting that companies don't want to be seen lavishing perks while laying off workers. But the budget decisions, he noted, are genuine.
Apparently desperate for 14 things to love about golf (get it, 14, Valentines Day), Vartan Kupelian has just earned the ire of every superintendent on the planet with this ridiculous note. And it appears on USGA.org of all places.
5. A Stimpmeter.
Where would we be without the Stimpmeter, a simple gadget that measures the speed of greens?
Probably playing more greens with grass on them for less money.
What’s more fun than telling people you made a 30-foot downhill putt? Telling them you made a 30-foot downhill putt, which was rolling at 12.5 on the Stimpmeter, sounds more invigorating. Think about how much that simple qualifier adds to the tale of making putts. Besides, it’s fun saying Stimpmeter and golf is, after all, supposed to be fun.
Yes, three putting all days on greens "Stimping" 12.5 is a joy! And for the good of the game.
Change Comes To Washington: Donald To Create World's Greatest Country Club, Immediately Orders New Carts
From the Washington Post's "Reliable Sources" blog:
Donald Trump has purchased the Lowes Island Club, making the Washington region part of his luxury golf empire.
"This place, when it's finished, will be the finest club anywhere in the country," he told The Washington Post last night. "There will be nothing like it. I already own the best ones, so I know."
See, just when you start to feel bad about this economic downturn, you are then reminded that not every casualty of it will be a big loss for the game. Oh, continue Donald...
The flamboyant developer already owns seven award-winning courses -- in New York, Florida and California -- and has big plans for his new 800-acre property, which sits along the Potomac River in Sterling. First up: a name change to -- what else? -- "Trump National Golf Club, Washington D.C.," he said.
He's bringing in golf architect Tom Fazio to remake the two 18-hole championship courses, with plans to maximize the site's natural beauty. The clubhouse, pool and facilities will be renovated, he said. Trump said he expects it will take two years "to make it great," and he wasted no time getting started: He's already ordered 150 top-of-the-line golf carts.
There's a man with vision! And class.
Thanks to reader Chris for pointing out the Stanford Financial investigation. Julie Creswell of the New York Times does not paint a pretty picture of the company, including the odd claims of a tie to the Stanford family.
Reader Tony was watching the AT&T second round coverage and noted this about the announcing:
Kelly Tilghman just said Chris Berman's not wearing a sweater because it's 2 degrees back in Connecticut so he's warm. It was 50 yesterday and it's 30 now and the sun has been down for an hour. Can we please make her go away?
In Kelly's defense, what else is there to say about a man who acts like this?
Rich Tosches at Yahoo details Nick Faldo's coverage of the Commissioner's round Thursday, apparently to the chagrin of Tilghman.
"He's one of the finest golfers for his height," Faldo said of the non-tall commissioner.
At the other Golf Channel microphone was Kelly Tilghman, who stirred great controversy last year when she suggested that players such as Sam Snead and Walter Hagen should take Ben Hogan into an alley and lynch him. This is where the expression "Hogan's Alley" comes from. I think.
Anyway, Tilghman flinched at each of Faldo's jabs at Finchem, in part, perhaps, because she admires the commissioner but mostly because, unlike Faldo, she did not win $8.8 million playing golf and probably needs the job.
So when Faldo, right off the bat, made a joke about Finchem's swing, Tilghman came back with this: "He's a solid six (handicap)."
When Faldo analyzed Finchem's swing in slow motion and said, "His arms break a little quick, and his hips are a little stuck and, oohh, there at the finish he's up on his tippy-toes," Tilghman was silent for several seconds - probably imagining herself announcing the Nome Open.
(After that long and awkward pause, Tilghman noted that Finchem was playing with Davis Love III and said, "They have a lot of policy issues they can talk about," which, if you ask me, is right up there with Al Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles?")
Reader Ha asked what my venue of choice would be for the LPGA in L.A. now that they will be returning. Amazingly, Carolyn Bivens has still not called, but just in case she's reading, I offer my recommendations.
I honestly believe each of these venues could work, assuming an improvements in maintenance and cooperation from their management (in the case of the public courses). Sure, that's a big if since I'm naming some notoriously difficult places to deal with. However, the LPGA has played at a number of private venues and upscale daily fees, with minimal fan interest while the Champions Tour drew well here when they played at Rancho. In other words, the daily fee golfers are your friends, CB. (That's assuming you want fans and volunteers).
Rustic Canyon - my obvious bias notwithstanding... Pros: parking at nearby Moorpark College, easy freeway access, interesting design with ground game emphasis, would look attractive on TV. Cons: attendance could be an issue in less populated area, though still within short distance of major population base, small clubhouse, management may not appreciate benefits of hosting LPGA.
Santa Anita - Pros: parking at Santa Anita race track next door and at large park nearby, great freeway access, fun/playable design that just needs a little sprucing up to become something truly special, solid population base nearby likely to be engaged (see Rose Parade), easy spectator walk; Cons: would not be visually dramatic on television, small clubhouse).
Griffith Park (composite course of Harding/Wilson) Pros: plenty of parking at LA Zoo with great freeway access; Cons: designs rundown, maintenance needs major work, clubhouse run down, horrible range, dealing with city of LA...okay it's a total mess but I can dream can't I?
Rancho Park Pros: only existing course on the planet to have hosted LPGA, PGA and Champions, quirky design great for spectating, unique location in city center; Cons: conditioning, traffic, lack of tent space, horrible range, dealing with city of LA.
Wilshire CC Pros: excellent venue that has hosted LA Opens and Champions Tour and will be unveiling new Kyle Phillips restoration/renovation of bunkers in 2010, newly renovated clubhouse, great location in city center and near heart of primary Korean population base; Cons: does membership want the hassle? Parking and traffic a pain.
Peter Kostis raises a point I've been wondering about: why does golf have to be so ashamed of itself in this down time while other athletic pursuits seemingly go on with their usual antics and inflated budgets.
It's unfortunate that golf is somehow made to be the whipping boy for this economic malaise. Why not all the excessive, guaranteed contracts in baseball and basketball?
Unfortunately, the darkness has settled over fans and regular golfers too. I can't help but feel that we're in a time when people are almost afraid to be seen having fun. That somehow, with so much bad news on TV and negative sentiment out there, laughing and enjoying yourself has become almost politically incorrect.
Is there any way golf corrects this, besides hoping for a healthy Tiger to return and continue his historic run?
Or so Jim McCabe reports on Tim Finchem's opening round at the AT&T playing Pebble Beach, which he was supposed to be playing Saturday until someone pulled some strings to get off of the celebrity rotation.
Steve Elling on the total lack of interest in the WGC Match Play event, at least based on the dreadful turnout this week by match play bubble boys.
Amazingly, only three of the 15 players between spot Nos. 61 and 75 in the current world rankings, the players with great chances to make a move with solid play on their respective home tours, are playing this week.