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A very worthy woman was Mrs. Forman, and a great favorite. There was no fault to be found either with her whisky or her bottled beer and stout any more than with her bread and cheese, while the freshness of her eggs was the subject of universal encomium.
GEORGE LORIMER

    

Wednesday
Jun112008

Images From Torrey Pines, Vol. 4

Is there something wrong with when I find this to be the most attractive bunker on the property?

This is greenside at the North Course's 3rd green.

 2008USOpenNorthCourseBunker.JPG

Wednesday
Jun112008

Early Wednesday Torrey Story

2008USOpenTorreyStory.jpgOver at GolfDigest.com I've posted some thoughts on the architecture of the golf course and an update on today's course conditions taking a turn for the better, with more to come about a possible brewing controversy.
Tuesday
Jun102008

Letter from Saugerties: "The Pairing" Edition

Nice to hear from our friend Frank Hannigan, the former USGA Executive Director, who shares some thoughts on this week's Woods-Mickelson pairing.

Dear Geoff:

Pairing Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson together in the first two rounds of the US Open is like putting Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand on stage together, each doing her own thing at the same time.  The result would be discordant but the advance hype would be spectacuar.

The new USGA method of pairing takes the top 12 players from the "world" system and converts them into four groups of three. 
 
I'm surprised the USGA did not embrace an alternate system, that of the FedEx Cup to determine eligibility for the PGA Tour carnival of money during the fall.  Proclaiming FedEx points would surely have resulted in another million a year for the USGA which apparently exists to pile up money.  There was an analogy in a recet New York Times op-ed column in which a Harvard graduate pointed out that Harvard is the second richest institution in the country, second to the Bill Gates Foundation, hoards the money and is run poorly so that expenses are out of control.

The USGA switch to the new method would be more credible had it been announced in January rather than waiting until it was  slam dunk that Mickelson would be in the top 3. And how are we take a statement of self-praise in which the new system is being done in the face of what television wants.  Excuse me, but there is nothing television wants more than to have Woods and Mickelson paired.

Perhaps I am over-sensitive on pairings since I drafted them for US Opens beginning in 1968 and ending in 1988 when I left the USGA triumphantly.  Our method began with the tenet that the current U.S. and British Open should be together, with the US Amateur champion as the third man.

After that it was just about arbitrary. We followed a hallowed principle that the best players should be scattered throughout the day.  Who are the two best in the world?  Common answer: Nicklaus and Watson.  So Nicklaus would start at 9:10 on Thursday and 1:10 on Friday.  Watson's times were the opposite, 1:10 and then 9:10
 
The stars were spread throughout the day for two reasons, which I concede no longer apply, but illustrate how much golf has changed:

1.  Ropes to restrain the patrons from tee to green were not installed until 1954 at Baltusrol at the suggestion of architect Robert Trent Jones.  Putting a Woods and a Mickelson together would have been to incite a riot as the patrons fought like beasts in the fairways to establish position.

2.  There was a motive to enhance the spectator experience.   An in-shape patron could go out in the morning to follow Byron Nelson, have a bite to eat, and emerge to follow Sam Snead in the afternoon.   Today such an attempt would be meaningless since the USGA sells too many tickets so that nobody actually gets to see much at all.

While making my pairings I would sometimes yield to an inclination to be cute.   Too cute.  I once precipitated a disaster by pairing three former California amateur champions together.  Just for the hell of it.   Alas, two of the three were among the world's truly slow players.  When the gap ahead of them became intolerable, my USGA colleague PJ Boatwright, the absolute best at knowing and administering the Rules of Golf,  couldn't stand it and slapped a two stroke penalty on Forest Fezler.

When the round ended one of Fezler's fellow competitors launched an appeal to the entire rules committee.  The appellant was John Brodie, the best two-sport athlete of our time.  John said the fault was his, not Fezler's.   The committee, consisting mostly of lawyers,  said there was not enough hard evidence to convict Fezler.

The penalty was rescinded, thus assuring there would be painfully slow play in U.S. Opens forever.   The only way to deal with slow penalty is to install fear and penalized harshly even if some of the penalties are applied on shaky grounds. Back then we were striving for rounds under 5 hours.  There could be a 6 hour round at Torrey Pines.

Some players were acute and sensitive to pairings.   Many did not want to play with Arnold Palmer because there was simply too much noise and crowd movement.   Bud Jim Colbert implored me to pair him with Arnold on the grounds that it pumped him up.  I was glad to comply.  Tom Weiskopf, with whom I was on very good terms, once chewed me out on the basis that I had not paired him with two other major champions. He was right.

Pairings really don't matter that much. Jack Nicklaus couldn't have cared less. Not long after he played in an historic 4th round at Merion with amateur Jim Simons I was doing a magazine article and asked him what he remembered about playing with Simons.  Answer:  "Did I play with Jim Simons that day?"

Only once did I do a pairing that made me proud. I had seen Isao Aoki of Japan play at a British Open.   He was amazing, both his unique swing and a putting stroke with the toe pointed at the sky.  Aoki was then unfamiliar in the U.S.  I thought he deserved a big American audience.  So I put him with Nicklaus at Baltursol in 1980.

Nicklaus threw a little 63 at the field in round 1.  In fact, they both played so well that they were 1 and 2 after both the 2nd and 3rd rounds and thus played all 4 rounds together.  Nicklaus won by setting a U.S. Open scoring record, but so did Aoki  by finishing 2nd.

How long will the new USGA system of top 12 last?  Until there is another Tiger Woods.  

Woods was beyond compelling in his final season as an "amateur."  Woods had no status in the point system since had played in only a few pro events. If his equivalent ever comes around again I suspect the USGA will find a way to fit him in the top 12  - despite what television wants.

Tuesday
Jun102008

"There is a new level of excitement at Golf House that has evolved as the USGA has moved from a 'no' culture to a 'let's consider it' culture."

Sports Business Journal offers a "What I Like" interview with USGA CMO Barry Hyde. This caught my eye:

"There is a new level of excitement at Golf House that has evolved as the USGA has moved from a "no" culture to a "let's consider it" culture. The best example may be the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge which we launched with the publication and NBC this year and has already generated significant member growth, handicap awareness and a medium for us to discuss practical rules situations. This would never have had a chance in 2005."

Hey, I have a let's consider it item: doing something about grooves, distance gains and hey, while I'm throwing stuff out, the long putter too!

Oh, and the photo of Hyde? Standing in front of the Rolex clock outside Golf House. Pure coincidence!

(Yes, for those of you who haven't heard, they have a Rolex clock in Far Hills now.)

Tuesday
Jun102008

USGA Going "Soft"

Steve McClellan in AdWeek reports on where all the USGA's money going: a new $10 million ad campaign (could this mean the hole-in-one ad has been laid to rest?).

The campaign was developed by Omnicom's Fathom Communications, New York, which won the account in April after a review that included Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners. Incumbent BBDO did not defend.
Did not defend?
In addition to the new commercials, directed by Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris (Fog of War), the campaign will utilize online, direct mail and experiential components.

The spots (with voiceovers by actor Ed Burns) are designed to soften the game's elitist image and demonstrate that anyone can play. In one ad, kids are shown playing.

 Oh, highly original!

 In another a couple is playing a round and it's the woman who has the handicap, not her male partner.

 You go girl!

But while everyday folks are featured instead of the celebrity-laden spots featured previously, the "For the good of the game" tagline, developed by BBDO, remains.

Thank God! What would we do without it.
Peter Groome, president of Fathom Communications, said. "Our focus for the USGA is to develop a complete communications plan that will create a stronger connection between golfers and the USGA at all points of contact and well beyond their most visible medium, television."

 Is this web site a point of contact?

Tuesday
Jun102008

Images From Torrey Pines, Vol. 3

Tiger Woods on No. 18 during a 9-hole practice round with Jordan Cox of Stanford and Bubba Watson.

2008USOpenTuesTiger.JPG 

Tuesday
Jun102008

The Torrey Story, Continued

2008USOpenTorreyStory.jpgI've added posts on Tiger and Phil's press conferences (including Phil blasting the USGA's 13th tee) and a look at the Torrey Pines practice area. Check it out.
Tuesday
Jun102008

Images From Torrey Pines, Vol. 2

A man devoted to his craft. See if you can count the number of cameras.

2008USOpenPhotographer2.JPG 

2008USOpenPhotographer1.JPG 

Tuesday
Jun102008

Tiger's Press Conference From Torrey

I broke down the golf course portion Tiger's sitdown with the scribes for GolfDigest.com, but there were a few other highlights worth noting, starting with this from Rich Lerner:

Q. A question about your website, what's the benefit to you in terms of being able to control the information that flows from your camp and control the message a little bit as opposed to the rest of us speculating?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's a way for me to basically say exactly what's on my mind. I can say it to a few of you guys, but not all of you.

Ouch.

And this on the winning score possibilities:

Q. I don't think anyone's expecting anybody to go to 19-under par here. What would you imagine you'd have to shoot to win this tournament this week or anyone would have to shoot?

TIGER WOODS: Well, 18 would be good, then. (Laughter).

Q. What would you guess they might shoot?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, might? We've been trying to figure that out the last few days. As Loren asked about the uncertainty of the set up, we don't know. How many days are they going to play it up on 13? How many days are they going to play it up on 14? Same on 3. Are they going to keep us all the way to the back on 6. We just don't know.

If they play it all the way up, I'm sure it will be under par, without any doubt. If they play it all the way back and move some of the pins around, like on 16, get the left tee box and left pins, well then it makes it a whole lot harder.

It's really hard to answer because I don't know how they're going to play it. If they play it up all days then you'll say under par, for sure. Play it back every day, then you'll probably say over par. But since it's a mixture you don't know what it's going to be.

And it's a little bit frustrating as a player, because you always have an idea what the score is going to be going into the event. But this year it's a little bit different.
Tuesday
Jun102008

Images From Torrey Pines, Vol 1

Why do the evacuation vehicles need a sign telling us the car specs?

2008USOpenTuesEvacVehicle.JPG

Tuesday
Jun102008

50 Million Reasons We'll Be Back!

Jon Show reports that the USGA's profits this week should help offset David Fay's bloated salary, and more importantly you would hope the financial windfall ensures a return to Torrey Pines (with architectural, uh, tweaks a must, as is a media center within range of the course).
The U.S. Golf Association is expected to generate up to $50 million in profits during this week’s U.S. Open hosted by Torrey Pines Golf Course, making it one of the most successful Opens of all time.

Total revenue for the tournament should be close to $100 million, including estimates of $20 million in ticket sales, $15 million in corporate hospitality, $15 million in merchandise and $5 million in food and beverage.

That also includes approximately $40 million from domestic and international television revenue. Many of those arrangements include rights to air parts of other USGA tournaments, such as the Women’s and Senior Opens, but media industry sources estimated 95 percent of the value of those deals is attributable to the U.S. Open.

Expenses should be about $50 million based on Opens held at comparable courses.
Tuesday
Jun102008

The Torrey Story: Kikuyu and The 13th

2008USOpenTorreyStory.jpg

More posts are up at GolfDigest.com, including a look at the kikuyu rough and player reaction to the new 13th tee. 

Tuesday
Jun102008

"Below Torrey Pines, a whole different kind of skins game"

img10859764.jpgSteve Elling tells you more than you ever wanted to know about Black's Beach, the nudist spot below the 13th tee that is actually a much shorter walk to the golf course than the media center.
Monday
Jun092008

Herb Wind To Join Vijay Singh In World Golf Hall Of Fame

A long overdue honor, reports Brad Klein.

Monday
Jun092008

"`Gosh, if we added 500 yards to our course, or if we did this or did that, we could host the Open, too.'"

In Brent Schrotenboer's look at the perception of a USGA-East Coast bias, he offers this interesting quote from USGA Executive Committee member Jay Rains:

Torrey Pines needed a $3.5 million renovation and redesign before it was deemed worthy by the USGA. A new course that opened in 2007, Chambers Bay in Washington state, will host the Open in 2015. Rains hopes these events will whet Western appetites for more.

"Because there haven't been as many championships out here, you don't stir the imagination of people to think, `Gosh, if we added 500 yards to our course, or if we did this or did that, we could host the Open, too,'" Rains said.
Ah remember the good ole days when you didn't have to add 500 yards to make a course Open ready?

 

Monday
Jun092008

“It's bull-(expletive)"

230136-1634678-thumbnail.jpg
Come test drive a Lexus (click to enlarge and cringe)
Brent Schrotenboer
of the San Diego Union Tribune looks at the USGA's corporate shift and some of the quotes are worth noting as well as a sidebar on just how little money the City of San Diego will see from the U.S. Open revenues.

Why would this “purist” nonprofit suddenly be signing high-profile corporate partnerships with American Express, Lexus, IBM and the Royal Bank of Scotland?

“It's bull-(expletive),” said Frank Hannigan, who worked at the USGA from 1961-89. “They don't need the money. I'm telling you as somebody who was intimately involved with USGA financial affairs for a long, long time. They do not need the money.
Pete Bevacqua of the USGA says they are absolutely drawing the line, until the line needs to be redrawn.

 “I would tell you we are absolutely drawing a line” on partnerships, said Pete Bevacqua, the USGA's chief business officer. “We have no intentions of going beyond four at this time. We didn't want to dive into anything recklessly. These are very measured steps we're taking.”

Purists such as Hannigan don't completely buy in, though. Told the USGA needs to diversify its revenue streams, Hannigan scoffed. “I said that in 1970,” he said.

And this was interesting...

A lion's share of the USGA's revenue stems from the Open, though it's hard to quantify exactly how much. Besides TV rights, there are ticket sales and merchandise. Last year, the USGA netted $6.8 million from U.S Open souvenir sales of $12.4 million. This year, the USGA will try to exceed that at the largest commercial symbol of the Open: its 39,000-square-foot merchandise tent.

“It looks like Wal-Mart,” Tatum said. “And I think Wal-Mart probably wonders why it can't be as effective in marketing and selling its products. I guess I have mixed reactions to that. When it involves a strictly commercial activity, I think it detracts from the scene and the emphasis of the game played at its ultimate level. But I do understand the economics and how useful that money can be.”


 

Monday
Jun092008

“There’s no crowd that’s going to be following us. Not that they would, anyway.”

Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union Tribune talks to Bubba Watson about The Pairing and offers this Yogiesque perspective:
“It’s sad that they pick and choose the pairings like that,” said Watson following Monday morning’s practice round at Torrey Pines. “There’s no crowd that’s going to be following us. Not that they would, anyway.”
Monday
Jun092008

Torrey Story Blog: Monday Update

2008USOpenTorreyStory.jpgI toured Torrey today and have a few notes over at GolfDigest.com.

Monday
Jun092008

The Torrey Story: Touring Torrey With Ogilvy

2008USOpenTorreyStory.jpgAnother post is up at GolfDigest.com, this one looking at my day with Geoff Ogilvy walking around Torrey Pines last week.

You can check all two of the posts here.

Monday
Jun092008

Atlanta PGA Tour Stop R.I.P.

It's take the trash out day at PGA Tour HQ...releasing this on Monday of U.S. Open week is, well, wise I suppose. Still, hard to believe people won't notice.