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Professionals complain a lot, I’ve found. They seem to want fairway traps from which they can reach the green, holes that are not too long, rough that is not too deep, greens that are dead-flat…perhaps if I made my living playing golf I would feel the same, but the fact is that if we turn golf into a putting contest, nobody will care and there won’t be a living.
ROBERT TRENT JONES


    

Thursday
Feb152007

In Case You're Wondering...

From Thomas Bonk in today's L.A. Times:

In case you're wondering, Tiger Woods is in Florida this week shooting commercials instead of shooting under par at Riviera.

Wow, Tiger's people are good. You know, throwing together a film crew at the last minute like that!  

Wednesday
Feb142007

Watch Callaway's Stock...

tank at Golfobserver.com's new stock tracker. It's pretty cool. Kind of makes you wonder why none of the other golf sites have done something like this.

Wednesday
Feb142007

Revising Riviera

230136-678395-thumbnail.jpgGolfobserver.com has posted my 2005 series on the changes to Riviera. Sad to say, the destruction has continued. With the white bunker sand, sterilization and Orlando whale tails added everywhere, it feels more Florida than Pacific Palisades.

Golfonline's Joe Passov takes a look at George Thomas's design work in the area and reviews the remaining public courses that he designed.

Wednesday
Feb142007

"With golf, less meant more."

In the post International stories, it's interesting to note this first (and inevitable?) look at how the Tiger effect now comes with as many negatives as positives. Bob Harig on ESPN.com:

But the problem with such deals is there is no negotiating when it comes to the $5.3 million purse. The players still get paid the same. And the advertising units assured to be bought on Golf Channel and NBC as part of the network contract with the PGA Tour must still be paid. TV takes no discount. The local tournament organizing committee, a nonprofit organization, still has to pay its bills, but with less money coming in from the title sponsor. So it gets squeezed, making it more difficult to give money to charity.

Sponsoring a regular PGA Tour event costs in the neighborhood of $7 million per year. That money covers a portion of the purse, a television advertising commitment, a fee to the PGA Tour and to the tournament. Spread that out over the six-year length of the network contracts, and you're talking about $42 million or more.

It is a hefty price, especially given the modest television ratings. Those small numbers -- usually in the 2 million-to-3 million range for a weekend network telecast -- were always justified because they were reaching the "right" kind of people … i.e. those with disposable income. With golf, less meant more.

But as the price has kept going up, those company executives began looking at the numbers more closely. And some of them have started to say that enough is enough -- especially if Woods doesn't play.

Wednesday
Feb142007

Nissan Open Photo Caption Vol. 2

This was taken during today's pro-am, second green. Be nice, Amy Alcott is a friend and all around cool person!

philandamy.jpg 

Wednesday
Feb142007

The Hogan Memorial Rock

The great places in golf subtly point out their history, if they do it at all.

Naturally, that means at Riviera they purchase a headstone rock, slap a bronze plaque on it and for that classiest of touches, embellish it with some lillies. Just as Ben Hogan would have wanted!

RivieraHoganRock.jpg RivieraHoganRock2.jpg

Wednesday
Feb142007

Greetings From L.A., Volume 2

greetingsfromLAAnother stellar weather day here at Riviera. Adhering to doctor's orders, I only took in a couple of hours of the pro-am play. I witnessed the usual displays of tepid pace of play, excessive self obsession, garrishly dressed wives and voila, the traditional pro-am headache set in.

The greens appear firm, with dry warm weather the next few days they figure to actually allow Riviera to provide an interesting test.  There is almost no rough, but that's just fine with 27-yard wide landing areas and firm, fast greens.

That said, I had a lively chat with Steve Elkington today. Alongside were Mike Clayton and Jaime Diaz. A variety of topics were discussed, but Elkington was most interesting when talking about the changes to the course.

Naturally, he has taste and has been a longtime Riviera fan (especially as the 1995 PGA) so he finds much of it revolting, and in particular I was pleased to hear someone note the careless green enlargements, which have eliminated so much of the precision necessary for iron play. Brad Faxon made a similar observation, but just as many players love the new sand in the bunkers, and therefore, it's all good.

Wednesday
Feb142007

Inside The...Cables?

I might actually go down to the Golf Channel set to take in this interactive/it's-all-about-you experiment gone awry: 

Golf Fans to Go “Inside the Ropes” with the GOLF CHANNEL at the Nissan Open
 
 The GOLF CHANNEL will offer golf fans inside the ropes opportunities during the Nissan Open this week at Riviera Country Club. Beginning Thursday, the cable network will give behind-the-scenes access to its news production at the tournament, with live audiences during the broadcasts of its signature news shows – Sprint Pre/Post Game and Golf Central – for the first time.
 
 Situated near the 10th tee at Riviera Country Club, select golf fans will be on the stage to watch the live production of Sprint Pre/Post Game and Golf Central.  In addition, select golf fans will be able to view tournament coverage shot-by-shot in front of the stage throughout the duration of the tournament.

Tuesday
Feb132007

Targets on The Driving Range

230136-676751-thumbnail.jpg
Riviera's Renovated Range (Click to enlarge)
I had an enjoyable chat and stroll around Riviera Tuesday with Mike Clayton and Steve Wenzloff, the PGA Tour's VP of Design Services. Among other topics, I pointed out Riviera's redesign of the driving range landing area. It mostly consisted of taking some nice (albeit in need of freshening) targets, and leveling the landing area into a boring patch of flags and green grass.

Wenzloff said that in his polling of PGA Tour players, the overwhelming majority would rather hit to a flat, boring field than one with really interesting target greens guarded by bunkering.

Am I alone in preferring targets that reflect what you would hit to on the course?
Tuesday
Feb132007

Spotted In the Nissan Open Press Center...

Yes, just in case the slingers in attendance need one more reminder just how desperate the Tour is to push the FedEx Cup...

fedexsign.jpg 

 

Tuesday
Feb132007

Bamberger Channeling Phil

The SI writer gets in touch with his inner-satirist self for a fun Pebble Beach game story.

Tuesday
Feb132007

Two More International Post Mortems

Golf World's John Hawkins first:

The International's demise is a dangerous sign as to the widening chasm between Tiger events and the non-Tigers. Never have the haves and have-nots been so easily defined or so mindlessly categorized by the presence of a single player--it's the frightening downside of Woods' competitive dictatorship. When he doubles the size of a viewing audience in a strong golf economy, the rich get richer. When he does it in lean times, the poor get really poor.

And John Garrity with this in SI:

Did the International have to die? Vickers thought not. But as he turned away from the window, he considered a bleaker landscape than the one outside. "There's a sense of greediness in the air," he said. He was ready to begin the postmortem.

And...

At the press conference Vickers had sprinkled pixie dust on Denver reporters, saying, "Hopefully this is not the end of the International tournament. When time and conditions are right, I think that we'll be back here." Now, however, he conceded that it was probably wishful thinking. "We're here," he said. "The assets are here. But it's not our move." If anything, he saw his tournament as the canary in the coal mine -- the first to fall off the perch, but no different from a dozen other Tour events suffering from Tiger Deficiency Syndrome and low ratings. "I'm trying to be helpful to Tim, who's a good friend," Vickers said, "but if something isn't done, you're not going to have a Tour. Right now it's a one-man show."
Tuesday
Feb132007

Taking Options Out Of An Option Hole

230136-675218-thumbnail.jpg
Rough Where There Used To Be Short Grass (Click to enlarge)
Greatest option par-4 in golf? Yes, many would vote for Riviera's 10th, which was recently discussed and celebrated in Links Magazine (yours truly was a contributor, no link available).

But as we all know, options can lead to birdies, and we know that can't happen! So in their on-going attempt to do something to Riviera, Tom Marzolf and gang have made two almost mind-bogglingly poor change to the great 10th. Almost, because, well, they've made others in recent years.

The first I knew about and lament as I see it in person this week. The aiming bunker that the smart player goes out to the left, has been expanded toward the green to cut down on the number of drives going for the green (because you know, that's so boring to watch!).

230136-675214-thumbnail.jpg
Rear view of No. 10 lost approach (click to enlarge)
The other change is subtle but far more egregious.  A good portion of the left approach and lefthand drop off area, mown as fairway from 1993 to 2006, have been converted to light rough. This keeps missed approaches or attempts to drive the green closer to the putting surface. (This in the second photo you can see the outline of the old fairway area that ran balls well away from the green.)

Yes, this is one of those minor things that us architecture junkies howl about, but this short grass area was precisely the type of element that makes No. 10 such a playing and spectating joy.  The short grass added dimensions to the decision-making process and were left with all sorts o of weird shots, particuarly to the back hole locations.

Now balls will stay closer to the green and the hole should play easier. But worse than that, the growing of rough were there was once short stuff will eliminate options around the green, making it less interesting to watch or play.

Tuesday
Feb132007

"Courting the coveted, new FedExCup trophy with lines delivered in the spirit of Shakespeare."

No chance you read this without an eye roll...

The PGA TOUR celebrates Valentine’s Day this week with the launch of “First Kiss,” a new commercial in its year-long campaign to promote the inaugural season-long FedExCup points competition. It debuts during this week's telecast of the Nissan Open on GOLF CHANNEL and CBS.

“First Kiss” features players Adam Scott, Camilo Villegas, Sean O’Hair, Zach Johnson, Dean Wilson, J.J. Henry, Lucas Glover and Aaron Baddeley courting the coveted, new FedExCup trophy with lines delivered in the spirit of Shakespeare. About the new prize, O’Hair exclaims, “Other men have seen angels, but I have seen thee. Thou art enough,” while Scott pledges, “I will be the first to kiss her.”

The FedExCup trophy and a $10 million prize will be awarded for the first time following the four week PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup in September.

To preview the spot, click here
.

Tuesday
Feb132007

Greetings From L.A., Volume 1

greetingsfromLASunny, fresh, lovely day here at Riviera, which is why I'm in the press tent surrounded by the nation's finest scribblers.

Actually I just spent an enjoyable ten minutes listening to Jim Nantz and his associate producer Tom Spencer telling me about this April's pre-Masters re-broadcast of the 1960 Masters. His production outfit has brought in the folks who make the golf scenes in the Aviator so cool to colorize the footage, and of course added interviews with Palmer and CBS's Frank Chirkinian about the telecast. Sounds very cool.

Somebody is now in the interview room...oh, Retief Goosen. Sheesh, the way the inklsingers are running to the room, you'd think Bill Parcells was in the house.

The course is in fine shape considering the weird winter weather we've had. The architectural changes are pitiful as always, but more on that later.

More importantly, lunch was outstanding, so look for rosey coverage from the scribes this week. 

 

Tuesday
Feb132007

"The clubs hit the ball too straight"

Peter Yoon explains why no one is using the square drivers.

"The biggest issue for tour pros is that the clubs hit the ball too straight," said Jeff Colton, vice president for research and design at Callaway.

Hey maybe these ugly things will sell despite Tour player use and we can finally bifurcate the game?

Just a thought.

Monday
Feb122007

Riviera's 6th, Then And Now

 The lower photo shows the "restoration" of 2006 based on the old photographs. The 1929 image above shows the look left behind by George Thomas and Billy Bell. I don't know about you, but I see a resemblance...to Bethpage!

riviera 6 before.jpg    riviera6_2007.jpg

Monday
Feb122007

WGA's The Last To Know

From Ed Sherman in the Chicago Tribune, following the news that Harding Park would be getting the tournament-formerly-known-as-the-Western-Open:

The former Western Open might really be going west. But in another bizarre twist, it appears as if the Western Golf Association might be the last to know.

The BMW Championship--the new title for the Western Open--will be played at Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco in 2013 or 2014, with perhaps another one to be held there between 2015 and 2019, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The BMW would be used to help the PGA Tour fulfill a five-tournament deal it made with San Francisco.

BMW tournament director John Kaczkowski said Sunday he didn't know anything about a proposed move. It seems inconceivable that the tour neglected to contact the WGA to at least say this option was on the table, but sources confirmed that's the case.

"We haven't had any official conversations about San Francisco," Kaczkowski said. He added that the WGA hadn't looked beyond 2010 in terms of rotating the BMW out of Chicago.

But the Tour is claiming the SF Chronicle and AP story on the Harding situation were incorrect:

 

"We're far from the end of the process," Combs said. "We're in the middle of discussions. We need more discussions within the city and our own policy board."

Asked about the possibility of the BMW being held in San Francisco, Combs gave a blanket statement.

"As it relates to the first three playoff events, you'll see some rotation of markets and/or venues," he said.

Monday
Feb122007

Media-ocrity

 JIM NUGENT JOINS PGA TOUR PARTNERS MAGAZINE AS PUBLISHER

Distinguished Golf Industry Leader Joins Official Publication Of the Largest Golf Membership Organization in North America

Does this mean he won't be continuing the newsletter that was so well received by the Golfweek folks?

I wonder if he'll finally get to make his case for Tiger as an NFL-caliber athlete?

Gosh, and I was almost missing his pro-technology shilling in Golfweek, except of course I stopped subscribing.

Minneapolis, MN & Ponte Vedra Beach, FL – North American Media Group, an industry leader in publishing and affinity marketing, jointly announced with the PGA TOUR that veteran golf business leader Jim Nugent has been named publisher of PGA TOUR Partners magazine.

Affinity marketing? Is that a fancy way of saying propaganda publishing?

In his new role, Nugent will direct all advertising sales efforts and lead the brand vision of the magazine.

The brand vision...oh to be in on those meetings. 

Nugent will work closely with both the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Partners editor Tom Stine to continue to broaden the appeal of the magazine to both readers and advertisers alike. He will be based in Orlando, FL and will report to Vice President/Group Publisher Russ Nolan in Minneapolis.

Nugent joins PGA TOUR Partners after a distinguished career with Golfweek. A seasoned media executive with 25 years of experience in the print, broadcast and digital environments, Nugent is a well-recognized and respected member of the golf industry. He joined fledgling Golfweek shortly after it was acquired by Turnstile Publishing Co. and led the business and editorial teams that developed it into a solid business enterprise and an award-winning national journal. Prior to his 16-year tenure at Golfweek, Nugent served as Vice President of Pegasus Broadcasting, where he directed all revenue functions, including a financial restructuring and ultimate sale of the highly leveraged company. Nugent spent the early part of his magazine career at Ziff Davis and Time Inc. He sits on the Board of Directors for the American Junior Golf Association and the Executive Board for Golf 20/20, whose mission is to address the future of golf in a strategic manner, with an emphasis on accelerating growth and participation, and creating new avenues of access into the game. Nugent earned his MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown University.

Nugent succeeds PGA TOUR Partners’ former publisher Seth Hoyt, who retired in January after an illustrious publishing career spanning four decades.

And now its time for the group hug quotes.

“We’re very confident that Jim’s vast experience in the golf market combined with his enthusiasm for our unique publishing model and forward thinking can take PGA TOUR Partners to a new level of success,” said Nolan.

"The PGA TOUR is delighted to welcome Jim as the new publisher of PGA TOUR Partners," said Tom Wade, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for the PGA TOUR. "Jim's very significant experience and knowledge of the golf industry will be a key ingredient in making the PGA TOUR Partners magazine even more relevant and informative for the TOUR's growing fan base."

“This is a special time in the history of this magazine property, and I am honored and thrilled to be chosen to lead the development of this brand," Nugent added.

Monday
Feb122007

Nissan Open Photo Caption Vol. 1

I have no photo caption writing talent whatsoever, so as the Nissan week progresses, I'll be posting the occasional image. Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Today's entry is a FedEx Cup truck on the 14th hole that is entirely surrounded by potted plants. Why, I have no idea. Your thoughts?

Fedexcuptruck.jpg