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  • Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
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Writing And Videos

"Practice makes perfect," they say. Of course, it doesn't. For the vast majority of golfers it merely consolidates imperfection.  HENRY LONGHURST




Limiited Fields, Limited Opportunities

The limited field issue appears to not be going away as Doug Ferguson tackles the issue of veterans not getting in Doral for that one last crack at Augusta. He also declares the WGC events a giant mistake.

The World Golf Championships have lost some zip the last few years, even when Tiger Woods wins them, which is often. They were designed to bring together the best players in the world. Now, the WGCs are best identified by players hardly anyone knows.

And a popular PGA Tour destination is worse off because of it.

The WGCs were a good idea when they were formed in 1999, but that was when the world's best players rarely got together outside the major championships. In this global environment of golf, the WGCs have quietly gone away — except they took Doral with them.

The Accenture Match Play Championship really is the only one left, and probably will stick around because of the format. The Bridgestone Invitational remains at Firestone, but look what it replaced in '99 — the World Series of Golf, which already was a WGC without the fancy title.

The other was the American Express Championship — now CA Championship with a new title sponsor — that alternated venues between the United States and Europe. Now it has been folded into Doral.

Instead of 144 players trying to keep it out of the white sand and blue water, there will be a 74-man field playing for free money. And there will be 70 other guys — more, really, considering the many non-PGA Tour members at Doral — who are home this week.

Worse yet, this is the last week to qualify for the Masters.'s Cameron Morfit offers a different angle by making a case for the injustice of Ryan Moore struggling to find a place to play.

The problem is, thanks to limited fields, Palmer's Bay Hill party is a tough invite, just as Jack's is and the majors are, just as the WGC events are, just as the four FedEx Cup playoff events will be.

Rather than apply for a medical waiver last year, Moore played through the pain and found that by pointing the club directly out from his belt buckle at address, as if it were a fishing pole, he could minimize discomfort. He finished T2 at the Buick Championship and T9 at the PGA, his first major as a pro, and ended the year 81st on the money list.

It was reminiscent of 2005, when Moore, after making the cut in the U.S. Open, turned pro and made enough money in eight starts to earn his PGA Tour card without having to go to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. He was the first person since Woods in 1996 to advance directly to The Show without enduring golf's dreaded bar exam.

Moore has his foibles. He doesn't use a yardage book and only recently decided to use a professional caddie instead of his brother. But Tom Lehman was speaking for many when he said recently that Moore could start winning in bunches any day. Ping prominently features Moore, a UNLV product, in its TV advertisements, waiting for him to blow up.

He blames himself, not his injury or Tour policy, for failing to qualify for this week's WGC-CA Championship, or the Masters. But when one of America's top prospects says he's finally healthy again and nabs a top-10 to prove it, and when that player is then snubbed from the following week's invitational in favor of players like Rummings and Stanley and sponsor's invite Mike Hulbert (MC), something is out of whack.
Mar192007 Re-launches...

...with a classy new look that is not too cluttered, though the text in bold could be a bit darker, at least on my screen.

But as with any great site, it's easy to find stuff. The course finder feature looks promising too. Though there isn't much "stuff" to find on there, so I don't yet see a reason to check in daily (not yet).

However, it's definitely is worth bookmarking and giving a shot.


He's No Marty Hackel!

Golfweek TV introduces Robert Lohrer, Golfweek's new Fashion Director, and let me just say that this attempt to counter Golf Digest's one-and-only Marty Hackel is not off to a roaring start with the hole directors chair/cable access show set thing.

But more importantly, I can now say I've met Marty Hackel, and there is only one Marty Hackel!

In fact, we're only a few weeks away from his Masters fashion and merchandise tent reports, easily one of the highlights of Golf Channel's daily post round coverage (and now that I've said that, it probably means they've replaced him with a segment of Andrew Magee's top ten most incoherent thoughts of the day, sponsored in part by Grey Goose).


Limited Fields and Pace of Play

During Friday's Bay Hill telecast (before I switched back to the NCAAs), Arnold Palmer endorsed limited field events because they're easier to operate and pace of play is faster. (In the same interview he also endorsed the idea of ending Q-School...)

On the subject of Tiger's new D.C. event as a limited field tournament, Ron Sirak pointed out the brewing battle over the emergence of the Tiger Tour.

The situation brewing here--a player revolt against the tour's most valuable player--is both unprecedented and potentially ugly. Beem says the players can override the PGA Tour Board with a two-thirds majority. If that happens it will formalize what we already know. There is the Tiger Tour--and then there is everything else. And the players will be biting the hand that has fed them well.

Now, I know this is probably an oversimplification of the issue, but it seems that pace of play should be the real issue here.  Tiger this week:

TIGER WOODS: Oh, I always liked reduced fields, because obviously play moves along a lot faster. You get around in a much more rhythmical pace. You know, I think that's important.

You can't blame the rank-and-file for today's pace of play, just as you can't blame the elite players. It's in everyone's best interest to adjust to the tepid pace of the rest of the field. This corresponding response has allowed the situation to fester as it has.

I guess it's hard to fathom how a problem that is so clearly impacting spectator interest (on the "Tiger Tour" or run of the mill PGA Tour stops) and lies at the heart of this limited field debate, is not being addressed more forcefully by the Commissioner and the Policy Board?


Reason 3,916 That Tiger Woods Names His Yacht Privacy And Probably Wants Nothing To Do With People In General...

...from "Def Poet" Alvin Lau, courtesy of reader Jon, who clearly wants upset me:


It's The USGA's Fault!

Helen Jung reports on the Nike spin control conference call and attributes several interesting comments to Bob Wood. Unfortunately he is not directly quoted on a few of these topics (anyone with a transcript?).

My favorite bits from the story...

Nike Golf learned of the clubs' illegality from the USGA, the governing body of golf, which had been notified by a competing club manufacturer, Wood said.

Wood said that current tests for USGA compliance aren't keeping up with club technology. In the past, measuring the club face might have been a sufficient test for determining a club's "spring-like effect." But now, those tests might not be considering enough factors to give a true reading.

Yes, that's right, it's the USGA's antiquated testing that didn't stop Nike from manufacturing illegal clubs! 

Seriously, he's not trying to blame the USGA for having not caught the illegal clubs from reaching the market? Someone tell me the comments were mischaracterized? 


Sumo Wrestled Off Shelves

Nike's loud and ugly new driver has just a little too much non-conforming spring like effect and should be returned asap for a replacement.

According to Golf World's Bollocks and Gimcrack:

A source familiar with the document said that the document indicates that a manufacturing problem led to a number of the clubheads having "a conformance issue in regards to [spring-like effect]." According to the source, conforming versions will be shipped within a month and will have a circular sticker noting that it is USGA conforming. In addition, the source said, Nike will provide a website for consumers that will allow them to trade in their current Sumo2 driver for the new version.

The driver has been used by several PGA Tour players, including K.J. Choi, who won the Chrysler Championship in October with the club in his bag.

The driver is currently on the USGA's conforming list, and the document states that a new version of the club has already been submitted to the USGA and is expected to be on the new conforming list when it is published on Monday.

In the release sent to its sales team Friday afternoon, the company states that no Nike staff professionals, including marquee player Tiger Woods, are using product that does not conform to all USGA rules.

Boy that's a relief! 


Letter From Dunbar

Golf World and Scotland on Sunday correspondent John Huggan shares this dispatch on the Richie Ramsay situation that precluded the reigning U.S. Amateur Champion from playing Bay Hill this week.

Dear Arnold (or can I call you ‘your majesty?’),

Greetings from sunny Scotland.

Over the course of your long career in professional golf, I’m sure you will agree that the land that gave the game to the world has been especially generous to you. Even on the many occasions when you couldn’t be bothered to come and play in the Open Championship – 13 times between your first and last appearance - we Scots did our bit to keep up the myth that the biggest event on the planet today owes its very existence to the fuss and bother caused by your first visit back in 1960. We even provided you with Tip Anderson, the best caddie you ever had. I hear you like our whisky too.

Anyway, less than a year ago one of our own ventured across the big water hazard to our left and your right and emulated your good self by winning the US Amateur Championship. That, as you can imagine, was a big deal back here in the land that gave golf to the world and amongst the people that perpetuate the aforementioned myth re yourself and the Open. We are very proud of Richie Ramsay and his achievement.

As a result of his victory our Richie has received many invitations to take part in events across the globe. One of them very kindly came from you and I know first hand that Richie was very much looking forward to competing in the “Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard” at Bay Hill.

Well, he was until he arrived in Florida to find that he was being denied entry to ‘your’ event because of a stupid and pointless PGA Tour rule that should apply only to professional golfers. Besides, would it have killed you or your office to have reminded Richie that officially “committing” – an apt word in this context – to the tournament was a necessary part of his schedule? Surely not.

When this nonsense came to light, I am perplexed by your apparent indifference to the plight of young Richie. Would it have killed you to take time away from those sycophants on the Golf Channel long enough to tell the PGA Tour pedants that at ‘your’ tournament amateurs who are no threat to anyone’s prize money and who are not taking up anyone’s precious spot in what is not even a full-field event will be allowed to tee it up even if they haven’t been told that they must officially confirm their presence? Surely not.

One last thing. You may not be aware that Richie’s month-long trip to America – during which he will take on Amateur champion Julian Guerrier for the Georgia Cup, compete in the Masters and then the Heritage tournament at Hilton Head – is being paid for by the Scottish Golf Union. The SGU, as you may not be aware, is largely funded by a levy taken from every golf club member in Scotland. In other words, me.

Arnie, can I have my money back please?

Yours in sport,
John Huggan

PS. I hear Richie is switching from Mastercard to Visa. So there.


"Irrational and illogical"

Former USGA Technical Director Frank Thomas weighs in on the proposed U-groove change...

Based on the USGA’s approach to equipment regulation over the last several years, and assuming the manufacturers don’t mount a concerted effort to object, I’d say the proposal for a rule change on grooves is very likely to be adopted.  I’d also say such a rule is irrational and illogical – and, sadly, it’s in keeping with the USGA’s recent actions I first discussed this topic in my November 2006 Frankly Friends Newsletter.


The concern that has been cited as the impetus for the proposal revolves, first around .001% of the golfing population and secondly and more importantly the problem which is trying to be resolved has not been adequately defined. Also there is no evidence that the game (on the tour or elsewhere) will benefit from the change. It will certainly be different and may be costly to implement and difficult to monitor.

I've heard from several local golf association officials already that they would like to know how this is going to be monitored, on top of the questions that Thomas is raising.

The USGA explains this proposal by saying that the rough is not enough of a penalty for the long and wayward golfers using U-shaped grooves on the professional Tours. What they haven’t said is that this problem – if it is a problem – applies only to light rough (1 to 2 inches thick).  If it’s any longer, there’s no performance difference between any types of grooves; the grass is too long for it to matter. 

Would this last point be the reason that the USGA study seems to avoids defining rough heights in their field study?


“If I really wanted to use raw power..."

From Rich Lerner at

A quick perusal revealed that on the subject of “inferior equipment” Phil was joking, suggesting that Tiger dominates without having gone to the super high tech gear most players had already put in their bags---the longer drivers, lighter shafts and monster heads. He wasn’t bashing Nike, but people took the ball and ran with it anyway like Steve Nash and the Suns.
In any event, in the parking lot after his pro-am round, Tiger did open up to a small circle of reporters and while talking about power in the modern game unintentionally exonerated Phil on the long ago inferior equipment comment. “I don’t use raw power,” said Tiger. “If I really wanted to use raw power I’d go to a spinnier ball and a lighter shafted driver like most of the guys and get an extra 20 yards.” So the verdict’s finally been rendered: Phil Mickelson, innocent on all counts on the charge of defamation of a manufacturer’s character.

Well let's not go that far. 



Why Tiger Hates Coming To The Press Tent, Vol. 301

After his opening round 64 at Bay Hill...

Q. Does Elin still cook pasta?
TIGER WOODS: She does.

Q. Do you still eat it?
TIGER WOODS: Of course. (Laughter).

That's great, remind him of the food poisoning his wife gave him!  


Palmer As An Honorary Starter

In reading yesterday that Arnold Palmer was considering the club's invitation to serve as the Masters Honorary Starter, I noticed that he's sounding more likely to reprise one of the tournament's great traditions.

While reading Scott Michaux's piece on it today, I wondered about this quote from Palmer:

"I'm giving it some careful consideration now that I have stopped playing competitively.  And you know Augusta is one of my very favorite places, and of course Bill Payne is a good friend and I think he is a great guy to have as the chairman.

"So as of this day, I am really giving that some serious consideration. It isn't that I have anything against doing it. I just want it to be the right time when I decide to do it. That's all."

Is he giving his more careful consideration because of the timing, or because Billy Payne is the chairman (and you-know-who is not running the show). 


Sharp Park In Different Hands?

Thanks to reader Mike for this latest story in the San Francisco city golf course saga. This time it's Alister MacKenzie's Sharp Park and Pacifica's interest in operating the facility.


"To make the golf course a little more competitive to par"

Doug Ferguson looks at the utter meaninglessness of par as a barometer of a successful championship, and why everyone still clings to it's value even though they know better.

"We can get caught up too much in numbers," Ben Crenshaw said Monday. "You still add up your score at the end of the round. And they're still going to give the trophy away to the guy with the lowest score."

That's worth noting because twice in the last three weeks on the Florida swing, the courses have played as a par 70. Mark Wilson won the four-man playoff at the Honda Classic after finishing at 5-under 275 at PGA National, which sounds like a more grueling week than if they had finished at 13-under 275.

Now, Palmer has converted Nos. 4 and 16 at Bay Hill into par-4s, and it will play as a par 70 for the first time in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Thursday through Sunday.

"I did it just to make the golf course a little more competitive to par," Palmer said.

Oh joy! Thank God the NCAA tournament will be on at the same time.

A couple of players earn big points for these comments...

Todd Hamilton might have the best solution. The former British Open champion would like to see only one number on the signs at every tee, and that would be to identify what hole you're playing.

"Get rid of the par. Get rid of the yardage," he said. "Go play the course."


If a player was trailing by one shot coming down the stretch, the last reasonable place to make up ground was the 16th. Find the fairway and you would have a shot at reaching in two and make birdie at worst.

"I thought 16 was a great swing hole," Trevor Immelman said. "You have to hit the fairway, and then you might have a mid-iron to the green. And if you miss the fairway and lay up, you could spin the ball off the green and then you could make bogey. I felt like it was such a great hole coming to the end of the tournament."

And, in lieu of one of his snappy baseball metaphors, David Fay at least hovered on the verge of a Yogi-ism:

"I do think there's a school of thought out there that the USGA is fixated on par," Fay said. "We're not fixated on par, but we like the idea that par is a good score."

Not fixated, but we really fixate on the idea of as a good score.


FedEx Cup (Not) On Their Minds

Damon Hack (here) and Doug Ferguson (here) both cover the Washington D.C.-reduced field story, with not a single player expressing concern about the limited field eliminating a key week for some to pick up valuable FedEx Cup points.

Just amazes me how these players fail to grasp the real meaning of tour golf.


What Tree Management Can Do For You...

Bradley Klein on Augusta National's drop in the Golfweek Top 100 Classic Course ranking :
 The biggest news this year is that the country's most prominent championship venue has lost valuable ground. After years of renovation and modernization designed to keep Augusta National a fresh test for the Masters, the storied 1933 co-design by Alister MacKenzie and Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones today clings to a spot among the very elite, having fallen seven spots in the last year to No. 10.

It's a rating that folks at most courses would die for. But for students of architecture (including our team of 410 raters), the slide is what happens when a prominent course stretches and narrows itself contrary to its original design intent. In an era when virtually every other championship course is removing trees to recapture interesting angles of play, Augusta National in Augusta, Ga., (joined only by Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club, which dropped from No. 48 to No. 52) is that rare classic layout that's still planting them.

The two newcomers to the Classic list, No. 82 Eastward Ho! Country Club in Chatham, Mass. and No. 83 Engineers Club in Roslyn, N.Y., both got there through sustained restoration programs that included greens recapture, putting back lost bunkers and sustained tree management.


"The secret to getting Tiger to play in an event, by the way, is to hire him."

Gary Van Sickle won't please Tiger with this column essentially outlining his playing schedule for the next few years:

The secret to getting Tiger to play in an event, by the way, is to hire him. Vickers never tumbled onto that fact or wasn't able to get it done. Woods explained his absence from the International, which he played twice and never returned, by saying he simply didn't like the golf course at Castle Rock, Colo.

The smartest operators were Buick, which signed Woods to an endorsement deal, with Tiger subsequently making the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines and the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich., regular stops on his schedule while also also appearing at the Buick Classic at Westchester; and American Express, which guaranteed Tiger's presence in its World Golf Championship events by inking an endorsement deal.

Looking ahead, the fallout from Tiger's commitment to play regularly in the new Washington event means one less tournament he's going to play the rest of the year. Unless he's going to add to his schedule -- which seems unlikely -- adding a Tiger here means taking a Tiger away from somebody else.




So let's do the math: that's four majors, a Players, two Buicks, three WGCs and possibly four FedEx Cups. That's 14 tournaments. He has won four times at Bay Hill and lives only a few miles from the course. That's 15, the Tour minimum, and the same number he played last year.



Congressional's Share

Leonard Shapiro reports that $2.5 million is being offered to Congressional's members for a week of golf this July two weeks of golf this July and next.* Shoot, that's more than many of the U.S. Open sites are netting these days, and Congressional doesn't have to emasculate their other courses with tent villages. Well, not until 2011.


"It's not the grooves. It's the ball."

Jennifer Gardner reports on Mark Calcavecchia's stance on the ball versus grooves.
In the late 1980s, PODS Championship winner Mark Calcavecchia was at the top of his game. He was so good, in fact, that some competitors started to complain about his equipment.

That may have been one reason why the U.S. Golf Association looked at square grooves for the first time.

"Pretty ridiculous, actually," said Calcavecchia when the issue came up at his PODS Championship press conference last week. "That actually was a shot I hit at the Honda Classic that Jack [Nicklaus] and Tom Watson and a few other guys went berserk over when I gashed it out of the right hay and sucked it back on the 16th green."

The USGA recently released guidelines for phasing out square, or U, grooves in irons and wedges. Critics have complained that the grooves help players get the ball out of rough more easily, thus losing the half-stroke penalty that an inaccurate hit into the thick stuff is supposed to cause.

"It's a non-issue to me now," Calcavecchia said. "Everybody's grooves are pretty much the same, blades, or Pings or Callaways, whatever.

"It's not the grooves. It's the ball. You hit a slice out there and it starts dropping to the left, not like the old days with the woods and balls went everywhere. Duck hooks ... guys used to hit it all over the place. Now it's bombs away and straight and far."


"The player testing fell a bit flat"

I had a chance to re-read E. Michael Johnson's fine overview of the USGA's groove smokescreen and discovered that I had stopped reading the online version prematurely. There was more!

And after having read most of the USGA's Second Report On Spin Generation, I was left with questions about the science behind the conclusions. Now, maybe I missed it, so please help me if I did.

First, from Johnson's piece:

"They made a brilliant lab study, but the player testing fell a bit flat," said Dr. Benoit Vincent, chief technical officer for TaylorMade. "I think there was a bit of a rush to conclusion about what actually happens out on the course. In some areas they have made an emotional conclusion based on a global macro-assessment of the data."

Translation: Vincent has some issues with the test protocol and the proposal itself. For starters, he would prefer a larger sample for the player test and a firmer definition of what constitutes "light rough."

I was wondering if I was the only one who couldn't find a definition for rough or light rough. Since this groove stuff is all about the rough and grass moisture levels within the rough grass blades, the rought height would seem like key information in understanding the player testing and how that relates to championship golf.

It's also important considering Frank Thomas's comments on the lack of influence U-grooves have on hay over 4 inches. 


Oh and while quiblling, about that field testing.  From what I have read in the report, six developmental tour players and 9 PGA Tour players (unnamed) conducted this elaborate field study.

Does that sound like a skimpy sample size to you?