Twitter: GeoffShac
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Golf is the only game in the world in which a precise knowledge of the rules can earn one a reputation for bad sportsmanship.
PATRICK CAMPBELL


    

Thursday
Nov062008

USGA Locks Up Holtgrieve For 2011 Walker Cup, Rendering Buddy Marucci A Lame Duck

Ron Balicki reports that the blue coats got their man for 2011, even though they still have the '09 Walker Cup to play. Maybe Jim Holtgrieve was eyed for an Obama cabinet post and they had to pin him down? Either way, he's going to consult everyone's new favorite captain, Paul Azinger.

“I’m definitely going to tap into the knowledge and experience of past (Walker Cup) captains and even try to talk with Paul Azinger at some point,” said Holtgrieve, who was named Nov. 3 by the U.S. Golf Association to serve as America’s captain for the ’11 Walker Cup. “I want their input on what to look for, what to expect and just how they approached things in general.”

And David Fay on the timing:

"We talked about it and everyone was very committed (to selecting Holtgrieve),” Fay said. “When we made the decision that he was our choice, we saw no reason not to put it out (to the public). I mean, it’s no state secret. He was our man, so why wait?”

If we could only get them to decide on the results of that ball study with such vision!

Thursday
Nov062008

"I think it's bad for the sport that so many print people are no longer covering it."

Neil Sagebiel at the Armchair Golf blog interviews ESPN.com's Bob Harig about a variety of issues including the impact of fewer newspaper reporters covering golf:

ARMCHAIR GOLF: One of the latest casualties in the golf writing ranks was Thomas Bonk of the L.A. Times. Where do you see this thing heading as a golf writer?

BOB HARIG: It's bleak right now. I think it's bad for the sport that so many print people are no longer covering it. Newspapers still have tremendous reach and they have all decided that they don't need to cover golf. Their attitude is people can get the information elsewhere. Well then, you're telling them to go elsewhere – or forcing them to. If you don't cover it with your own guy, human nature says that you're going to give it less attention. So there is a medium that's not getting covered. I don't think it's good for the sport at all. I think they want as many voices and as many publications covering them as possible. You also have probably the most popular athlete in any sport and they choose to ignore it except for getting by with the bare minimum. 

Wednesday
Nov052008

PGA Tour's FedEx Cup Fix Looks To Make BCS, Chase Look Positively Brilliant

Rex Hoggard reports that the PGA Tour has come up with its FedEx Cup fix and as you might imagine, it's pitiful on a level that even a conoisseur of unimaginative Tour initiatives finds astonishing.

Most agreed the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup needed fixing after the second edition of the circuit’s playoffs produced another anticlimactic finish and a Tour Championship without the likes of Padraig Harrington. At the Children’s Miracle Network Classic, players got a glimpse at the Tour’s possible solution.

Well, actually many said it needed fixing after year one and a few others noted that it was broken before the even started. Nonetheless, there is some good news. The playoffs will start at the top 125 instead of the top 144, which only about 400 writers suggested never made sense. Hoggard says points will be "recalibrated" just like in previous years.

Now remember the Harrington reference by Hoggard. It's driving this madness.

The top 90 after the playoff opener would advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship, down from 120, followed by the top 60, down from 70, earning spots at the BMW Championship.

The top 30 points earners will advance to the Tour Championship, and the points will be reset to assure that all 30 players have a mathematical chance to win the season-long race.

“It’s a nice medium between what we had in 2007 and 2008,” said Zach Johnson, one of four player directors on the Policy Board.

Oh yes, it's medium.

So you read that right. They are proposing not one, but two points resets! You know, because fans have been clamoring for even more number-crunching and countless explanations from Dan Hicks. Oh and more graphics too!

While the plan seems to be a work in progress, many PAC members didn’t expect much to change before the final version is submitted to the Policy Board.

“It seems like (the Tour) always comes to us with ‘X’ and we talk about it and suggest ‘Y,’ but they never really consider ‘Y,’” said one longtime PAC member who requested he not be identified.

A head-to-head, winner-take-all shootout, possibly a match-play event between the top players after the Tour Championship, had been suggested but was not part of the Tour’s proposal.

“That really doesn’t work, because TV and the sponsors don’t want to see Brett Quigley playing Omar Uresti for the championship,’’ Quigley said. “You just never know with match play. They want the top players.”

First of all, the winner-take-all concepts as proposed by yours truly, or the more recent idea picking up steam, never called for match play.  Instead, it has been suggested ad nauseum that a final day with 4 or 8 players teeing it up with $10 million on the line might attract just a bit of attention. So if the final day group is determined by the final FedEx Cup points tally, the chances of a Quigley-Uresti showdown is pretty slim, but let's say that happens and there is $10 million on the line. Who cares? They are playing for $10 million!

Yet here we are in year three and the PGA Tour brass is tacking on more complicated points permuations and getting even further away from a true playoff. Can someone please tell me how all of these free-marketeering, independent contracting, survival-of-the-fittest Darwinists, macho lovers of democratic competition, can be so terrified of a true playoff?

I know, I know, so we can get the stars like Harrington to East Lake, even if he misses two cuts. Brilliant.

Wednesday
Nov052008

"Anywhere between 0.2 and 0.3"

Since Thomas Bonk's Monday golf column was eliminated as part of the L.A. Times' hunt for irrelevance, we no longer get the weekend television ratings. Of course, Golf Channel's are almost never reported, even by Bonk, but Doug Ferguson managed to slip in this number in a story on the Fall Series:

Really, there should be no surprises in the Fall Series because the players who might be expected to win aren’t playing. Of the seven multiple winners on tour this year, none has teed it up in America since the Tour Championship.

That doesn’t mean the Fall Series is a waste of time—certainly not to those scrambling to keep their jobs.

Sure, television ratings are abysmal (anywhere between 0.2 and 0.3), which is to be expected during football season. Then again, they weren’t that much better a few years ago when these tournaments were the final stops on the way to the Tour Championship.

Wednesday
Nov052008

"Drop your putter, dig your cell phone out of your golf bag, and call 1.877.9NM.GIFT."

I would not have believed this one if not for Ryan Herrington's item in this week's Golf World Bunker. There's selling out, there's whoring out and then there's another indescribable level of unfathomable desperation as evidenced from item in the new Neiman Marcus catalog...

Jack Nicklaus Custom Backyard Course Package

Go ahead, re-read it. Yes, THE Jack Nicklaus, Golfer of the Century turned world-renowned course designer. Yep, your very own custom-designed three-hole course. Uh-huh, for your backyard. Jack will study topography, aerial photos, and landscape maps for the site, then send his team to survey the property. He'll create a formal design plan and color renderings for up to three holes and a practice area, depending on the size of your back forty. Your construction crew builds from it, with supervision from Jack's world-class design team (the same team pursued by premier club owners worldwide). Now to sink the winning putt; when your course is finished, the Golden Bear himself will stop by to play the first round with you, personally. More? He'll sign his club and ball for your collection and throw in a custom set of Nicklaus clubs, including a personalized bag.

Drop your putter, dig your cell phone out of your golf bag, and call 1.877.9NM.GIFT.

Jack Nicklaus Custom Backyard Course Package
Price Beginning at $1,000,000.00*
OCBF9_NMO3603
*Construction and site preparation costs not included.

For $1,000,000 you get some plans and a site visit? So, how is that different from a normal Nicklaus design?

No word yet on whether Neiman's new favorite customer will be buying one of these for Todd.

Wednesday
Nov052008

"You used to be able to have a train wreck, but you also could shoot 30 on the back nine."

Ron Kroichick profiled Nick Price prior to last week's Schwab Cup and included this item on Augusta National, which is not anything we haven't heard in the last few years from noted players. But considering the disappointing announcement on course changes, offers a reminder how much work remains to get ANGC back to respectability.

Along the way, Price has followed a popular road of past major champions, forming his own course-design company. The experience helped convince him that Augusta National, among others, is taking the wrong approach to combat technology.

Price, who shares the Augusta National course record (third-round 63 in 1986), pointed to the plodding nature of the past two Masters. Those tournaments offered a striking contrast to the '80s and '90s, Price said, when players who finished the final round early rushed to the nearest television, never sure who might surge out of the pack.

"I totally disagree with what they've done there," he said. "They've taken a lot of the theater out of that event - now it's about not having a train wreck. You used to be able to have a train wreck, but you also could shoot 30 on the back nine."

Wednesday
Nov052008

"All dollars being equal, what exactly does lucrative mean?"

While Greg Norman is talking about the dim prospects for PGA Tour purses in the coming years (thanks to reader Jim), Doug Ferguson makes a pretty strong case that even a decline would only then bring the purses in line with the European Tour.

Much is made over some of its players - none named Tiger Woods, by the way - spending more time in Europe, even though that amounts to playing only five extra tournaments overseas. Ridicule is aimed at the FedEx Cup, even though its bonus pool is $35 million (27 million euros), which is 3 1/2 times more than what the Race to Dubai offers.

All dollars being equal, what exactly does lucrative mean?

The HSBC Champions, for which Mickelson is the defending champion, is among the richer events on the European Tour with a $5 million (euro4 million) purse.

That's $400,000 (312,000 euros) more than what is offered at Disney, the final event of the Fall Series.

What this doesn't take into account is golf course setup and architecture. Some of the players leaning toward the European Tour have made clear they are either fed up with PGA Tour course setup, bored with the architecture, or in some cases, searching for more week-to-week diversity as a means of honing their games.

 

Wednesday
Nov052008

"You want to know why I'm not worried about it?"

Steve Elling looks at the top 125 bubble boys, and shares this anecdote that will probably have you watching Shane Bertsch's scores this week:

Shane Bertsch is No. 124 on the money list and by no means out of harm's way, but when he was approached about his stress level, he laughed.

"You want to know why I'm not worried about it?" he said.

Well, yeah. Bertsch played this year on a 28-tournament medical extension granted because he had vertigo in 2007. He was required to match the dollar amount of the player who finished No. 125 last year to keep playing.

Which he did, reaching the total at the Turning Stone event five weeks ago, which he believed cleared him for all of 2009.

Oops.

However, the medical exemption is for 2008, not 2009. Flatly put, like everybody else, he needs to finish in the top 125 this week to keep his card for 2009.

A tour official had to call Bertsch on Tuesday night to break the bad news that he had misinterpreted the rulebook. Worse, Bertsch skipped playing last week, too, passing a possible check that could have padded his total.

Forget the vertigo. His head must really be spinning now. But at least he knows his true standing.

Tuesday
Nov042008

Obama Wins Presidency; Becomes Fifth Straight Golfer To Occupy The White House

Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and now Obama keeps golf in the presidential spotlight.

Tuesday
Nov042008

Random Augusta Thoughts

Doug Ferguson's AP story on the Augusta National course changes kindly notes the increased "flexibility." That's charitable considering we're talking about adding 7-10 yards to the front of a tee leaving the core setup problem intact: the old tees are gone, meaning it's almost impossible to diversify the course from day-to-day as the USGA did at Torrey Pines. And there is likely not enough flexibility to accommodate weather extremes we've seen in recent years.

In considering the timing of this announcement a bit more, note they sent their release out on a Tuesday, missing (intentionally?) Monday deadlines at Golf World and SI (no Golfweek this week), and sending it out on a day that everyone's attention will be turned elsewhere.

Now, they are without a media representative after Glenn Greenspan left to work for Tiger Woods, so the odd timing could be caused by not having an experienced figure there manning the ship, reminding the chairman that you leak this news on a Monday in time for the print world or the AP notes column. Some might argue that the driving range project is their sole focus right now, therefore the course changes were not a priority. But I'm more inclined to believe that the club is loyal to Hootie Johnson and does not want to embarrass him, even though time has shown Hootie's judgement on nearly every topic to have been poor.

Or could the election day timing be telling us that the club is embarrassed to be announcing so little news after unprecedented player and media criticism of the course changes? Doubtful, but those hoping to see the course restored can hope.

Either way, it is perplexing that in light of the glaring deficiencies exposed in recent years, greater action hasn not been taken to provide more tee options and to address the widely despised narrowing via tree planting and rough.

Tuesday
Nov042008

ANGC Announces Course Changes On Election Day!

My, what interesting timing. Subtle, I tell ya.

No significant changes to report (sadly). In fact I'd say it's much less than what we thought we'd see after Mike Weir's comments last month. Nonetheless, a gentle chipping away at some of the more disastrous moves but ultimately, a long way from where they need to be.

Click on the image to read the full release:

 

Monday
Nov032008

Golf And The Election...

The Guardian's Frank Keating ponders Tuesday's presidential election and golf's place in White House history.

Is it compulsory for golf to enhance the CV of a US president? John McCain remembers to tell how he "hit a mean ball" at naval college, and only as the election campaign hotted up, we're told, did Barack Obama suspend his "seriously committed" golf lessons with his Springfield club pro. Another source announces that George W Bush has begun to beat his father, even as the 84-year-old 41st president is now playing off the ladies' tee.

Monday
Nov032008

"All I would say is that Turnberry would have to give a lot of consideration to giving up their course to host the European Open"

Douglas Lowe shines a light on the R&A's latest act of hypocrisy reports that the R&A is not thrilled about Leisurecorp considering the European Open for years that Turnberry does not host the Open Championship.

David Hill, the R&A's director of championships, said at a news conference at Turnberry: "I don't think it would be ideal from the Open Championship's point of view if there was a European Open here for the next nine years. That doesn't mean to say that the European Open couldn't come here occasionally, but that's very much up to the Dubai team."

Key word there: Dubai.

Now, isn't the Open Championship played at a course that hosts an enormously tacky pro-am each fall? Oh yes, Mr. Lowe I didn't mean to steal your thunder:

Hill said the same principle applied to all other Open venues - Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Muirfield and St Andrews in Scotland and Royal St George's, Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham and Hoylake in England - except for St Andrews, which stages the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship every October.

"St Andrews is unique," he said. "It has lots of other courses, the Dunhill comes right at the end of the season, and St Andrews is the home of golf. Basically, if you look at the other venues, having the Open there gives us lots of marketing kudos as part of our relationships and these courses are also hosting the Amateur Championship, Senior British Open and Women's British Open from time to time. So already these clubs are hosting a lot of events.

"All I would say is that Turnberry would have to give a lot of consideration to giving up their course to host the European Open as an annual event and be aware that if they did that they probably wouldn't get the Senior British Open, Women's British Open and Amateur Championship, and therefore leave a question mark over the Open."

Wow, such subtle blackmail.

Monday
Nov032008

"Without saying too much, we are pleased with the progress we're making."

I know it's ESPN and this is pocket change, but I continue to be astounded by the dollar figure being reported as a possible Open Championship rights fee, noted in this case by Mike Aitken:

An imminent new American TV deal, thought to be worth around $25 million a year, will aid the Royal and Ancient, the organisers of the Open, in a bid to keep admission costs down for spectators at the only major championship held outside the US.

After confirming yesterday that ticket prices for the 2009 Open at Turnberry, as well as prices on site for catering and merchandise, will be kept at the same level as this year's championship at Birkdale, David Hill, the R&A's director of championships, revealed the organisation is close to clinching a new agreement for TV rights in the USA.

"At least 60 per cent of our income comes from television revenues," he explained. "All our key contracts are in place. As we speak we are re-negotiating in America. Without saying too much, we are pleased with the progress we're making." 

Monday
Nov032008

"I used to be proud to be a Scotsman, but I'm going to take both of my kilts out and burn them after this"

Severin Carrell reports that The Donald and Michael Forbes will still be battling if the best course in the world gets built:

It is the ramshackle eyesore standing in the way of Donald Trump's great dream: a 23-acre spread of rambling farm buildings and rusting tractors sitting beside the future site of the world's greatest golf course. But despite offers as high as £450,000 from Trump for their home at Mill of Menie, and now the threat of living in a £1bn construction site, Michael Forbes and his wife Sheila are refusing to sell.

"They reckon the construction will last 10 years, but I'll never, ever sell to that loudmouth bully," Forbes said last night.

"As I said before, I would rather give my land away to travelling people than sell to Trump, if it comes to that."

Yesterday's decision by Scottish ministers to approve Trump's resort made him feel "sick", he added. Once a Scottish National party voter, he would never be one again. "I used to be proud to be a Scotsman, but I'm going to take both of my kilts out and burn them after this," he said.

Monday
Nov032008

"The US-Tour schedule is normally out at this time of the year but it is not yet out"

In this story on Ernie Els turning his attention to 2009, there is this item thrown in at the end:

Els said he would play a little bit more in Europe because he believes that the US Tour in particular could suffer from the credit crunch.

"The US-Tour schedule is normally out at this time of the year but it is not yet out, it hasn't been printed yet some of the events might be under threat, a couple of tournaments might not take place," he said.

"These are very, very difficult times at the moment and probably to the next year."

FYI Big Easy, the PGA Tour announced the 2008 schedule on November 14th.

Monday
Nov032008

The Donald Wins Approval For Links; Now About That Financing...

Thanks to all of the readers who passed along the news that Donald Trump received Scottish government approval for his Aberdeenshire links. Now about the $2 billion he says it's going to cost...

"We are greatly honoured by the positive decision and believe that the people of Scotland will be extremely happy with the final product," he said.

"It will be a tremendous asset and source of pride for both Aberdeenshire and Scotland for many generations.

"I would like to personally thank the thousands of people and organisations who have supported us throughout this process.

"As I have often said, because of the quality of the land we are given to work with, we will build the greatest golf course in the world."

Clearly humbled by the process!

 

Sunday
Nov022008

“If they don’t even know survival English, they’re totally dependent on the dad.”

Karen Crouse of the New York Times went to some LPGA Tour events and got to know Korean players. She also talked to the Brand Lady (from what I can gather), and it seems the Commish said something unusual and upsetting to some players. (Shocking, I know.)

First, Crouse summarizes:

Although language has become a primary talking point on the tour, the cultural gap may be wider than any English-speaking policy can bridge. Bivens has since strained relations more by indicating that her plan was also meant to help the South Korean players shake their omnipresent fathers. By singling out the South Koreans, Bivens has reduced them to one-dimensional stock characters, which is like reading no break in a putt on a contoured green.

There's a resume quote for ya CB!

Bivens’s motivation extends beyond the fiscal health of the tour. In a recent interview, she said her goal was to help assimilate the South Korean players into a culture starkly different from their own and to emancipate them from what she characterized as overbearing fathers. Forcing the players to learn English and threatening their livelihoods was the best way she saw to accomplish that.

“The language is part of the control the parents have over their young daughters,” Bivens said. “If they don’t even know survival English, they’re totally dependent on the dad.”

Seon Hwa Lee, the L.P.G.A. rookie of the year in 2006 and a two-time winner this year, is considered one of the quieter South Koreans, but she was outspoken about Bivens’s emancipation proclamation.

“I don’t think that’s her job,” Lee said.

You mean to be the tour's in-house, strict Freudian?

Of course, considering that the NY Times ran four player capsules in the print version, including one of Mi Hyun Kim. There it's revealed her parents wouldn't let her marry a guy until she won a major. Maybe the Commish isn't so far off?

The meat of Crouse's excellent reporting:

In Korean culture, parents will do whatever is necessary to help their children’s prospects. They have a name for it, child farming, and cultivating successful sons and daughters confers great prestige on the parents. For golfers, that means fathers leave their jobs to travel the circuit and serve their daughters in many unofficial roles: coach, caddie, chauffeur, counselor, critic and cook.

At night during the Danville tournament, the halls of an Extended Stay America Hotel smelled of garlic and kimchi as parents of the South Korean players made dinner. Filial obedience and financial independence are not mutually exclusive to the South Koreans, who see nothing contradictory about taking home the bulgogi (barbecue beef) and letting their mothers or fathers fry it up in a pan.

Some of the fathers turn up the heat, pushing their daughters to practice and berating them when they do not play well. Three caddies who work for them said there were a handful of South Korean players on the Tour who have been ostracized by their compatriots because of their overzealous fathers.

Christina Kim said: “I can understand and appreciate what Carolyn is trying to do in regards to emancipating Korean players from their fathers. However, it is my firm belief that just like in any other culture, one has to go and reclaim their independence, learn who they are as humans in this world, of their own volition. If someone is not ready to leave the comforts of the nest, or they haven’t got the strength to do it, I feel that it is their own choice.” 

Sunday
Nov022008

Daly Sleeps With Eyes Open; Leads Those Around Him To Assume He's No Longer With The Living

That's how he's spinning his arrest to Doug Ferguson:

Daly said it could have been avoided if his friends had realized he tends to sleep with his eyes open when he’s tired, stressed and has been drinking. He said the driver of his private bus, parked near Hooters, panicked when he saw Daly and called the paramedics.

“If I had seen someone like that, I probably would have done the same thing,” he said. “They were only trying to protect me.”

But he said he was not arrested, nor was he thrown out of Hooters. The restaurant closed more than an hour before police arrived.

“The thing I want people to know is when I called my girlfriend at 11:30 p.m., I was going back to the bus to go sleep,” Daly said. “I’m not going to say I wasn’t drunk. I did have a few drinks. I said to them, ‘I’m tired, I’m drunk and I’m going to bed.’”

Daly said his friends woke him up about 2 a.m.

“The bus driver called 911 because my eyes were open,” Daly said. “I said, ‘What’s going on?’ He said, ‘We thought you were dead.’ Anybody who knows me ... when I’m tired, I sleep with my eyes open. They know it takes awhile to wake me up.”

Sunday
Nov022008

Loch Lomond Up For Sale**

The credit crunch forces Lyle Anderson's hand...

Its 700-strong membership is thought to include no more than 100 UK members, each paying fees of up to £40,000.

In a letter to members, Mr Anderson said: "I am confident the bank shares my view that Loch Lomond Golf Club is one of a kind in the world.

"I have explored many alternatives, including restructured loan arrangements and potential sources and terms for additional equity.

"Regrettably, I have been unable to conclude arrangements for a restructured credit facility with the Bank and have been unable to raise new equity or debt."

He wrote that plans to take "a co-operative approach with the bank" to avoid disruption at the club and said he had agreed to "facilitate change of ownership at the appropriate time".

Mr Anderson added that he is pursuing his own "vigorous independent search for new equity or debt funding for the communities and clubs."