Vickers secured a big-time international sponsor.
The PGA Tour "claims I didn't have a sponsor for the $10 million tournament, but damn right I did."
He is telling the truth. I knew about the deal last year. He was taking a mighty gamble, but Vickers was willing.
He had originated the first seven-figure tournament. He would originate the first eight-figure tournament.
Three times Vickers went to Finchem and the PGA Tour, "three times I didn't get an answer. They didn't say no. They just didn't say anything," Vickers said.
The PGA Tour stalled Vickers out of the way. That's because the PGA Tour was secretly working on its FedExCup, a year-end series of tournaments and point systems that would crown a tour champion and award $10 million.
"They didn't want me to overshadow what they were doing," a resigned Vickers says now.
No matter with what heights he is faced or with what winds assailed, the sportsman in battling with nature makes no complaint. But immediately he is faced with problems of human origin, he feels justified, if he finds them too difficult, in turning upon their creator with murder in his heart. MAX BEHR
I watched five minutes of the
Crosby AT&T today. Between the blinding white bunker sand (thanks Arnold) and Kenny G talking to the camera, I just couldn't take it. And that was before the traditional blimp shot showing the 9th and reminding me of what a simple, elegant and strategically sound hole Chandler Egan created.
Notice how simple the strategy is. You play right and flirt with the ocean, you open up the better angle of attack. You play left, you have to come over that massive greenside bunker. This isn't rocket surgery, and yet...no one builds 'em like this anymore.
I listened in the working portion of the Tim Finchem-Jack Vickers conference call and boy was it a downer...and I never even had one of those milkshakes everyone raves about.
While it was all a bit murky as to exactly why this happened, the most revealing comments came from Vickers:
But all of the sudden here, we're into an era that the marketplace out there is not the same, and I think it's been influenced by some phenomena in that we have one outstanding, unbelievable player in the form of Tiger Woods today, and when he's playing, the ratings are great, and when he isn't playing, the ratings aren't so hot.
So when we go to talk to these contacts, and we have a ton of them, we've got plenty of contacts to get sponsors. But, they call their advertising people in and the next thing we know, we're talking about ratings and that makes it tough. Right now we're just in one of those dips. That will change and I think we'll get things worked out looking down the line.
And during the Q&A:
I feel a little bit today that we didn't, as I said without being repetitious, the timing here on behalf of both of us was tough to deal with. But on the other side, and moving forward on a basis that we didn't feel made much business sense and we're really going to get us in trouble if we didn't take a deep breath and try and regroup. And so I feel that we have to do that.
I'd be honest to say that off the record here, we were just talking with Tim, he's got some problems to resolve, I've got some problems to resolve, and those are going to take some time to do. But they will be handled and they will be mended back together and we'll have this thing back flying again. But it's going to take some doing.
I'm disappointed, and it hurts to see this happen all of a sudden because we really thought even down to the last minute we might get it fixed. But it's a different world out there right now. I've never seen it in my 21 years like it is right now.
On the USGA blog, Marty Parkes offers a final thought on the annual meeting by citing Jim Vernon's speech on the groove study. Vernon said:
"Our exhaustive research work on grooves is an example of this. We now clearly understand both how grooves function and why they have had an effect on how the game is played. Our work doesn’t end with grooves. We need to understand how all modern golf equipment technology affects the game. Once we have this type of full understanding of causes and effects, sound decisions can be made to change - or not change - equipment rules."The USGA has added a comments section to their blog (over-under on it coming down: February 28). This was interesting from Charles D. Brown:
A big reason why there are so many doubters on the issue of the USGA's equipment regulation is that so little information has been shared.
Driver-distance increases may have flattened in recent years, if one carefully selects the right years in which to survey. The simple fact is that distances have increased substantially since the Joint Statement of Prinicples by the USGA and R&A essentially declared that ANY FURTHER INCREASES IN DISTANCE WOULD BE UNDESIRABLE.
The stock USGA answer to critics (and the critics are not just pajama-clad web trolls, but include Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Ben Crenshaw, Frank Hannigan, Slugger White, Tom Doak and Geoff Shackelford, to name just a very few) has been, 'They don't have the data that we, the USGA, do.'
So how it it that the 'exhaustive research' on grooves is now complete, but the three- or four-year-old study on golf ball performance is incomplete and unpublished?
According to the USGA's 2005 annual report, the ball study started in 2002:
This study, which was begun in 2002, is a wide-ranging investigation into golf ball design, construction, materials and performance.
We have a grooves study, but no ball study three years later and significant distance increases since 2002.
...hopefully forgotten about?
Mike Stachura reports that the USGA has issued a final report similar to their preliminary report from August, but still no mention of the ball study from 2002. Here's what Stachura says:
The final report does not include any proposal for a rule change, but it does seem to indicate a fundamental change from the USGA's position on grooves 20 years ago. At that time (during the so-called "square grooves" debate), Stuart Bloch, then chairman of the USGA's Implements and Ball Committee, actually termed any differences between U-grooves and V-grooves "inconsequential."
This next part comes after Dick Rugge is quoted as saying that the USGA has better testing procedures...
Rugge did not provide any specific timetable for a rule-change proposal or even suggest that there would be a change at all. But he did suggest that a meeting with Arnold Palmer several years ago prompted him and his staff to research the issue further.
"When Arnold Palmer came to our building and shook his finger at me and said, 'Allowing U grooves was the biggest mistake we ever made,' it did make me want to take a look at that issue."
Arnold, could you go back and shake your finger at Dick and tell him your thoughts on the golf ball going too far?
According to a USGA study of amateur players at the Walt Disney World Palm and Eagle Pines golf courses, only 13.1 percent hit the green from shots out of the rough from 100 to 200 yards. The PGA Tour average for similar shots is 49 percent. Also, because the urethane-covered ball used by tour players spins much more out of the rough than the typical ionomer-covered ball (like those with Surlyn covers) preferred by most average golfers (more than two-thirds, based on a study of recent Golf Datatech industry sales figures), average golfers don't often use the equipment that can generate the most spin.
"It's a way of addressing the problem where the problem shows up and not affecting anybody else," says Rugge.
Translation: this way we can keep harvesting rough and offering 22 yard landing areas to discourage distance for tournament play while ignoring the issue we don't really want to deal with because it would require us to admit we botched this one big time!
The USGA selects Sahallee to host the 2010 U.S. Senior Open.
Didn't the PGA of America back out of 2010 in Seattle with concerns about the Vancouver Winter Olympics disrupting corporate sales?
Well, good thing their old pal Herb Kohler just happened to be ready and willing to step in with Whistling Straits!
I don't know about you, but I'm getting a little tired of hearing players complain about Denver's altitude messing with their games. From Anthony Cotton's story on the International's demise:
Also, PGA players have long spoken of the difficultly (SP) in adjusting to a golf ball traveling farther in Colorado's thin air, which then plays havoc with their games when they return to sea-level events.
Golf World's John Strege reports on the new Tour event site in Fresno, which needs to be ready by October. Looks ready to me based on this Fresno Bee photo:
"Whenever you have golfers making decisions they don't want to make, golf is a better game to watch."
From Geoff Ogilvy's WGC Match Play defending champion press conference:
Q. Is there such thing as a good match play course? And if so, what elements go into making a good match play course?
GEOFF OGILVY: I guess there probably are good courses for match play courses. Four par 5s that people can get to. If there's holes that people have to make decisions, it's going to a good match play course because there might be a guy who might want to lay it up on a par 5, and if his opponent has pulled a 3-wood and hits it on the green then he has to go for the green. I mean that sort of stuff; it's interesting, whereas if it's just an obvious everyone lays it up and everyone hits the same shots all day, then it's not going to create the excitement and the decisions.
The funnest part about golf is watching us struggle with the decision whether to go over the water or not go over the water, should I go for it or not go for it, then go for it. That's the funnest part about watching golf, isn't it? If you've got four par 5s that you can reach and two par 4s that you can drive it on, then you've got decisions. It's nice to have a few holes like that, but this one you're going to have more holes like that I'd suggest. Whenever you have golfers making decisions they don't want to make, golf is a better game to watch.
Noticed this in the USGA's 2006 annual report...
The USGA Members Program dispatches a monthly e-mail to Members. We have recently begun a program to send a similar monthly e-mail to nonmembers for whom we have an e-mail address.
They've resorted to spam. Nice.
Thanks to Four-putt for that header. You shoulda been a writer. Oh wait, you are.
So, does everyone see what I'm reading here, no International in 2007, either? Wow.
MEDIA ADVISORY – THE INTERNATIONAL
PLEASE JOIN PGA TOUR COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM AND JACK A. VICKERS FOR A PRESS CONFERENCE REGARDING THE INTERNATIONAL.
MR. FINCHEM AND MR. VICKERS WILL ADDRESS THE FACT THAT THE INTERNATIONAL, STAGED AT CASTLE PINES GOLF CLUB SINCE 1986, WILL NO LONGER REMAIN AS PART OF THE PGA TOUR SCHEDULE, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY.
The cancellation leaves a hole in the PGA Tour schedule on July 5-8, but tour officials have been working on a contingency plan over the last month and are expected to announce a replacement by April.
The leading candidate is Washington, the largest U.S. market without a PGA Tour event. The nation's capital had a tour event since 1968, but that presumably ended when title sponsor Booz Allen bailed out last year because it was not part of the FedExCup portion of the PGA Tour schedule.
Other markets under consideration are Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Kansas City.
The tour official said there was sponsorship interest in several major markets, although none of those sponsors was interested in the International.
From the Not's side of Alan Shipnuck's Hot/Not column, which also includes nice jabs at Walter Driver and NBC.
2. Phil Mickelson Hey, I love Italy, too, and it sounds like fun to renew your wedding vows in Bora Bora, and who wouldn't want to hang out in Cabo overseeing the construction of a golf course? But in between all the goofing off and myriad corporate diversions, it would be cool if Mickelson touched a club every once in a during the offseason, thus sparing us having to watch him treat the West Coast swing like spring training for the apathetic.
Doug Ferguson sits down with new Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne and manages to wrestle one bit of news out of him:
Payne wants to restore starting in 2008 the eligibility criteria that PGA Tour winners receive an automatic invitation to the Masters. Johnson did away with the category after the '99 Masters when the Tour began scheduling events – usually with weak fields – the same week as the World Golf Championships and the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
But bringing back the "win-and-you're in'' category is not that simple.
Should the Masters recognize winners from opposite-field events in Mexico, Milwaukee and Reno, not to mention the seven events after the FedEx Cup?
Hey, what about PGA Tour events played against European Tour events with much better fields? Oh, sorry. Continue...
And does it continue to take the top 40 on the PGA Tour money list or the top 30 in the FedEx Cup? Or both?
"There's a lot of arithmetic in this,'' Payne said. "What you don't want is all of a sudden to have 100 playing participants, and we have arguably eroded the quality of the tournament. Notwithstanding folks' opinion of how the best way to get there is, we're going to do the best we can.''
His goal is to keep the field around 90 players, and "anything that puts that number at significant threat has got an uphill battle.''
I'm a bit behind on my reading, but yesterday's beach weather afforded the chance to finally power flip through the Golf Digest Hot List as a seal frollicked before me. I managed to weed through the Hot List spread in 7 seconds, but before I got to Belt and Gulag's must flip-through project, I did enjoy the laughs from Jaime Diaz's Golf Digest piece on the FedEx Cup.
First, here's a solid entry for the corporatespeak file...
The shortened schedule, says Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports and CBS News, "takes a fair amount of inventory out of the network marketplace, which is healthy for CBS and NBC.
Healthy for ABC too, apparently.
And this was nice from the Commissioner:
"When a smart person--whether it's a player, a sponsor, a television executive or a fan--sees what we've done," Finchem says, "they nod their head and say, ‘This makes sense.'"
Translation: only dumb people fail to get the FedEx Cup.
And less funny but quite astute was this from Larry Thiel, the International's director who was talking about the FedEx Cup overshadowing individual tournament sponsors.
Through just a few weeks, he's looking prophetic:
"The other thing is that when we sell a sponsor, that sponsor is to receive all the branding and all the positive reinforcement of being a part of the event," Thiel says. "I think that when it's all said and done, all we're ever going to hear about is the FedEx Cup. So I would be fearful if I were one of those three tournaments that my title sponsor would get lost in the shuffle."
...Courses For Couples To Play Without Bickering?
No, they haven't gone that far yet in Wilton. This time, it's a retro list of the toughest 50 courses, so says Jerry Tarde.
According to the story:
This is not a scientific or even definitive ranking. It's our list of layouts that have battered and bruised us, ruined our scorecards and made us want to weep.
Translation: we editors decided not to use the "Resistance To Scoring" category because our panel is clueless.
Here's the list, starting with Kiawah in the #1 spot.
Well now that the USGA has officially gone all corporate on us, (treat yourself here and here for great lessons in business 101), this raises a few of those pesky questions that shareholders like to ask.
Because looking at the latest annual report a few things jump out about the uh, "business model" in 2006. And since I can't find a message from Treasurer Missy Crisp explaining the red ink, I guess we'll have to draw some conclusions here.
As Frank Hannigan first reported on this web site (and as the golf publications have not even apparently noticed), the USGA lost an unprecedented $6.1 million in 2006 after netting $2.3 million in '05, so we're looking at an $8.4 million turnaround in the wrong direction. A few of the culprits:
- There was a $32 million 2006 increase in the cost of running its championships.
- The $16 million museum project is up to $19.4 million (and counting).
- There was a $2.3 million increase in the cost of growing the membership program. That's right, $4.6 million was spent last year trying to add members. I seem to remember that David Fay cited Golf Journal's pricey $3.5 million a year price tag as one of the reasons for dropping it, along with the usual nonsense about a 24/7 world, the Internet, yada, yada, yada.
So I'm curious what those of you in the corporate world would make of this? It would seem such massive expenditures and losses would require a change at the top? Or at least, more explicit explanation beyond the usual stuff about platform restructuring or leveraged cross polination and revaluation of liquid assets.
Well, there is this message from the shareholders in the annual report.
In 2002 they reported 720,000 members with $18.2 million in contributions. In 2006 they reported "about" 900,000 members, with revenue of $19.1 million. With a USGA membership costing $25, that should show an increase of around $5 million between in '02 and '06.
So either they are giving away a whole bunch of memberships, or the contributions aren't coming in like they used to.