Every good golf course should have some touches of subtlety that prevents the golfer doing a low score without much previous practice. ALISTER MACKENZIE
In the Millard Golf World piece on Walter Driver and the USGA, I had to read this twice to make sure it said what I think it said.
In 2004 an amendment was adopted that gave a reduced role to elder past presidents, who played a leadership role in the executive committee nomination process. Their voting power was cut from five votes to two. That has left a bitter aftertaste and, as a result, some of the game's most respected elder statesmen have been alienated. Bill Campbell, a legendary amateur and USGA president from 1982-83, has taken a self-imposed sabbatical from any business with the USGA. Asked by Golf World for comment, Campbell politely declined. "I don't want to get in the way," he says.
Bill Campbell is to the USGA what Ronald Reagan is to the Republican party. He's their hero, the ideal amateur and the first man cited when a USGAer wants to think of a role model. And Bill Campbell has taken a "self-imposed sabbatical" from USGA business?
It looks like Ron Sirak was right in this 2004 piece when he said that the power of the more vocal past presidents would be reduced.
Jeese, and here I was starting to think Tiger wouldn't win next week. Nothing like good bulletin board material. Eric Francis reports:
"Tiger's got a big lead as No. 1 in the world so it'll take a couple of years but I think he can and I think he will, actually," said Harmon, 63, who will be in Calgary Saturday for a golf symposium open to the public.
"He's going to have to really work hard and change a lot more things but he's willing to do that and wants to do it. He has the desire to try and rival Tiger."
This has to comfort Adam Scott:
"I would say they're very similar to be honest with you," said Harmon, who works with a stable of top touring pros at his Las Vegas golf school, including Adam Scott, Stewart Cink and Fred Couples.
"Both have a tremendous amount of natural talent. They both have unbelievable short games. I think Tiger may be a little better putter under pressure but I think Phil's short game around the green is a little bit better than Tiger's. In general, they're similar."
And here's where the ego gets the best of him...
Harmon said he's "halfway through" revamping Mickelson's swing, which is now more compact at the top and balanced at the finish.
"I think we've still got a pretty good ways to go but he's adapted very well in a pretty short period of time and we're both very encouraged," said Harmon, who anticipates next week's U.S. Open will provide the biggest test for Mickelson's new swing if his injured wrist is ready for action as anticipated.
And on Butch and Tiger:
"We're not going to dinner together because we don't live in the same town but we get along fine," he said. "We have fun and good banter back and forth between the two of us. At the Players Championship, he was teasing me pretty hard about teaching Phil. We've had a lot of fun with it."
Just warms the heart.
There is a lot to consider in Chris Millard's Golf World cover story on the USGA and Walter Driver, and over the next few days I'm going to try and flesh out a few of the points. The one missing component of the piece (and not Millard's job in my view), is an explanation of what all of the various shenanigans have to do with the governance and betterment of the game.
I think some of the early comments from readers fairly question whether the story was a little too focused on Driver and not hard enough on the Executive Committee as a group.
However, I would counter that it's the Driver's of the world who, along with the Reg Murphy's of the world, have taken the USGA down a path that has it running away from its core mission ("For the good of the game") while becoming obsessed with the bottom line, corporate shilling and self-aggrandizement.
The groupthink mentality that started at the top with the likes of Fred Ridley, has continued under Driver's reign and has crept into the thinking of past presidents, is captured nicely in this early passage.
Proponents of Driver say he has single-handedly shaken the USGA out of a slumber induced by the influx of cash the USGA fell into when it reconfigured its television rights contracts in 1994. They say he has tried to inject into a bloated USGA some badly needed business principles (the title of Driver's speech at the USGA's annual meeting in San Francisco last February was "The USGA As An Organization And A Business"). Detractors, many of whom see the USGA as a charitable organization first, say Driver has imposed his will on its culture and that his administration has disenfranchised everyone from Golf House staffers (those who work at USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.) to equipment manufacturers to the organization's once-revered past presidents.
"I would say his effort to instill a new level of business-like procedure at the USGA has been important," says Reg Murphy, USGA president in 1994-95 and the man who authored the association's lucrative TV move from long-time partner ABC to NBC in 1994. "He's tried to create a more business-like organization. There are people who resist that idea, by the way, that the USGA ought to operate like a business."
Asked if some of those steps have rattled the culture, Murphy replies, "There's not any question about that."
Okay, so let's say the business side of the organization was not well run and needed tidying up? (Because Lord knows, the course setups were so good over the last decade.)
Then how does this explain the news first revealed on this site by Frank Hannigan, and later confirmed in the USGA Annual Report, that for the first time that anyone can recall, the USGA lost a lot of money. That's $6.1 million in this new, leaner, meaner Driver led operation.
Well you say, there were buyouts of bloated contracts and unnecessary staff, right?
So it seems that the only thing "business-like" about the USGA is that the leadership takes on unnecessary perks, they cut staff benefits and in general, leaves messes behind for the next regime to solve.
John Huggan takes foooorrrreeevvvvveeeeer to make his point (and he says I bury the lede!), but it's a good one and hopefully one that the onslaught of Michelle Wie posts here have been hinting out: this young lady needs help.
No no, not a trip to Vienna with men named Hans in white robes and clipboards asking strange questions. Just a friendly therapist who can help her feel better about missing graduation, maybe offer a few tips about dealing with all of the vultures around her and who can get her through the senstive post-injury comeback ups and downs.
All of which only brings me to the most serious aspect of this tacky little affair, namely the obviously fragile state of mind of what is, let's not forget, an impressionable teenage girl going through one of life's more traumatic phases. Apparently less than jovial during her abbreviated appearance last week - "I kinda felt bad for her," said playing partner, Alena Sharpe. "She didn't seem happy." - Wie appeared even more lethargic and depressed in the aforementioned pro-am. Indeed, so disinterested was she that even the mere thought of putting out on two of the last three greens was something she couldn't countenance.
Clearly, something is seriously amiss inside her head. Wie's agent, the LPGA and, most of all, her parents have a responsibility to step up before this outwardly delightful youngster's health begins to suffer more than it has already. That, it should go without saying, is far more important than any amount of money and, it seemingly needs to be said, is actually worth writing a column or ten about.
* USA Today's Christine Brennan brings up the dreaded Jennifer Capriati example as a hint of where this could lead.
SI's Michael Bamberger had the uneviable task of playing each of Donald Trump'sDavid Fay bloated golf courses and filed a lengthy essay on his good times. Well, at least the online version seems a lot longer than the print version, or maybe I just missed a page? Anyway, a few nuggets, including this on the USGA and Executive Director David Fay.
In the men's locker room, on darkly stained doors with gold hinges, there were lockers bearing the names of several USGA executives. Working at the USGA is about like working in a university, in terms of salary and benefits, and the initiation fee at Bedminster is $350,000, with annual dues of around $18,000. The club's not meant for those living in the genteel poverty of golf administration.
"Do you have corporate memberships here?" I asked Trump.
"No," he quickly answered.
"What about for the USGA guys?" I asked.
"For them I do." It meant this: The top USGA executives were welcome at the club as honorary members. Certain USGA executives have enjoyed such privileges at various nearby oldline clubs, clubs owned by their memberships. But Trump's a new kind of personality for the USGA, and his course is a new kind of course.
Which is exactly why they should decline!
Hmm...fast forward to this long overdue clarification.
On Jan. 21 USA Today published a front-page story that outlined Trump's golfing ambitions, most particularly his desire to have a U.S. Open at Bedminster, his New Jerseycourse. But there was one paragraph in the story that caused problems. In the story Trump describes David Fay, the executive director of the USGA, as a member of the club who plays the course frequently and has a locker near Trump's.
Fay read the story, seething. He told me later that he was only an honorary member and that he had played the course as an honorary member exactly once, and that if he had a locker there, he knew nothing about it.
Whoa there. So he did accept an honorary membership from a guy who you know badly wants a U.S. Open? And you thought the Donald wouldn't take advantage in his own special way? Okay!
Golfweek's Beth Ann Baldry on Wie's press conference:
When asked if the tour’s ‘88 rule’ was a factor in her decision to withdraw, Wie said “that’s just ridiculous.”
It was clear that Wie and her handlers had rehearsed this part of the interview. But when it came to questions about a conversation Tuesday with LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens, Camp Wie looked like a deer in headlights.
Ron Sirak reports on several more Michelle Wie related incidents, this being the most interesting sign the LPGA Tour is finally getting the message:
There was also another incident Tuesday in which head LPGA rules official Doug Brecht ordered Wie's mother and father, Bo and B.J., and her physiotherapist off the practice range, citing the LPGA rule that only coaches and caddies are allowed on the range with players. Even though Wie is not a member of the LPGA she signs a form at each event she plays saying she will abide by tour rules, according to a tour official. That discussion also went less than smoothly, sources said.
Chris Millard's Golf World piece on Walter Driver and the state of the USGA has been posted. I see I was quoted accurately throughout. So much for claiming I was misquoted!
**Just finished reading it. Driver's answers to tough questions are priceless non-answers.
Gerry Dulac cornered some of the players who tested out Oakmont on Monday and offered these insights from Geoff Ogilvy and Ian Poulter.
"This was harder than the Monday 10 days before that tournament," Ogilvy said. "The first-cut stuff last year was playable. ... This is playable-ish, and in a week it can grow. You're better off on the fairway 230 yards out than you are in the rough 120 yards out."Newsflash: Cialis sales just plummetted in the greater Far Hills region.
"This is a lot tougher," Poulter said of the Oakmont rough. "You're not hitting greens from that rough. It's as thick as I've seen it."
You know, Frank Hannigan and others tell me I'm nuts to say an injury to a player will be caused by this rough-on-steroids we're seeing so often at these majors. And yet, I didn't realize this, but it's already happening. From Thomas Bonk's L.A. Times note today on Phil Mickelson's MRI and decision to skip Memphis this week to help his ailing wrist:
Mickelson injured his wrist chipping balls out of the rough during a practice session May 28 at Oakmont.
I rolled my eyes through E.M. Swift's excellent Golf Digest piece on the Oakmont members and their obsession with humiliating guests via greens stimping at 15 and other nonsense. There really is more to the game than inflicting misery, isn't there?
Meanwhile Gerry Dulac looks at the club's tree removal for Golf World, building on his original Post-Gazette piece, and offering some fresh insights into the politics:
The decision to get rid of all the trees created one of the most contentious periods in club history, pitting members who liked shaded, tree-lined fairways against those who sought to restore Oakmont to its original design (and, by doing so, improve turf conditions). It didn't help that some of the trees were secretly removed without the consent of the membership. But with the U.S. Open returning for the first time in 13 years, most of the members have apparently embraced the new look, even if some are reluctant to say so publicly. Trees have been replaced with high fescue grass that sways in the wind, creating the Scottish look Fownes desired.Fast forward...
"If [the support is] not 100 percent, I don't know who is on the other side," says Ford, Oakmont's pro since 1979. "There is no grumbling at all. Everybody is very upbeat about it."
To be sure, the new-look Oakmont has received rave reviews from just about everyone in golf. What's more, the restoration, which began shortly after the club hosted the 1992 U.S. Women's Open, has helped restore some luster to the Oakmont tradition. Because of the changes, Oakmont has moved up to No. 5 on Golf Digest's America's 100 Greatest Courses, behind only Pine Valley, Shinnecock Hills, Augusta National and Cypress Point. Even the USGA is pleased with the new look, advising other clubs seeking to undergo similar restoration to form a committee and visit Oakmont.
Oakmont's decision to remove trees was not widely embraced, even outside the membership. Environmentalists wrote letters and e-mails, protesting the wide-ranging elimination and citing the ecological problems created by their loss. A local church even offered prayers, asking for the trees' survival. Internally, some club members threatened lawsuits, claiming trees were removed without their knowledge.
The reactions are fairly consistent on Michelle Wie's WD, starting with tough remarks from Paula Creamer and Annika.
From Ron Sirak's piece:
Creamer, whose autograph was one of the most sought after last week, was one of those ill at ease about the Wie withdrawal. "I don't think the LPGA should ever get involved in something like that," Creamer said. "I think it's sad we have to do that. The LPGA shouldn't get involved with players on the golf course unless it is a ruling or something like that."
Annika, quoted by Chris Baldwin who is at Bulle Rock for this week's McDonald's LPGA:
"I just feel there's a little bit of lack of respect and class to just leave a tournament like that," Sorenstam said, pulling no punches in a half filled interview room. "Especially being the hostess, it just seems really weird."
Baldwin also talks to Laura Davies, who has a slightly different take.
"She obviously wasn't injured to the point where she couldn't keep playing," Davies told WorldGolf.com in an exclusive interview after her pro-am round at the McDonald's LPGA Championship Tuesday.
"She withdrew because she was getting close to not being allowed to play the rest of the year as I understand it. I think that decision was a good one too."
Yes, Davies - a 20-time LPGA Tour winner and 45-time international event winner - is convinced that Wie withdrew to skirt Rule 88, the provision that a non-LPGA member is bared from competing in another Tour event for a year if she cards an 88 or higher. But Davies is all right with that. In fact, if LPGA officials alerted Team Wie to that right before she walked off - as it appeared, Davies is completely onboard.
"As long as the LPGA Tour's all right with it and the Tour seems more than all right with it, as far as I'm concerned that's all that matters," Davies said.
LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens talked to Wie and her Nike manager Greg Nared in a closed conference chat today at the LPGA Championship. Part of the talk centered on Wie's conduct in her pro-am round Monday. At least one of Wie's pro-am partners complained about the way the teenager treated her pro-am group during the round.
It's not known whether Bivens and Wie also got into a discussion over Wie's ever-increasingly-controversial withdrawal from the Ginn Tribute last Thursday with the 88 rule hanging over her - and the Tour's - head.
Wie called the conversation with Bivens "very insulting." "I mean this is my sixth year out here," Wie continued. "I've played in numerous pro-ams and this is the first time there's been any type of false accusation about me. I think it's ridiculous."
"He was out there [with] a tournament sponsor watching a sponsor exemption play, which is really not that unusual"
Ron Sirak weighs in on the Wie WD with several new insights, including this laugh-out-loud funny spin from the LPGA Tour.
While most players and knowledgeable observers found it odd an LPGA official would get in a cart, ride onto the course and talk with a player's manager, deputy commissioner Libba Galloway disputed that view. "[Chris Higgs] is head of tournament business affairs, and he's often on the course with tournament sponsors and he was out there [with] a tournament sponsor watching a sponsor exemption play, which is really not that unusual," said Galloway.Except that he said it was for "no particular reason."
Asked about the conversation with Nared, Galloway said, "[Chris] knows Greg, and Greg asked him for some confirmation on some information he had gotten from the LPGA." Asked if Nared was aware of the 88-stroke rule before speaking with Higgs, Galloway said, "Yes, that's my understanding."
But it gets better.
Nared, reached by phone Saturday, told Golf World his conversation with Higgs was purely social. "I saw [him] on No. 7, and we spoke for about 30 seconds," said Nared, who works for the William Morris Agency. "There is nothing I can do about that. You know me, I am a cordial person." Asked what they talked about, he said, "It was a private discussion," a characterization Higgs also used Thursday before making himself unavailable for the rest of the weekend.
Nared said Wie "tweaked [the wrist]." While Wie never indicated she was in distress, Nared said, "I know my player, and I know when she is not swinging well. I felt as her manager I should check with her." They spoke as she walked from the seventh green to the eighth tee appearing as if she were going to continue play. Nared said it was Wie's decision to quit.
Wait, is he her manager or her agent? Ah what's the difference!
"The most laughable golfing canard since a hapless Rodney Dangerfield ricocheted a shot off a ballwasher in Caddyshack"
The analysis on Michelle Wie's WD is trickling in and it's not pretty. Tod Leonard in the San Diego Union Tribune is tough, Bob Harig has many of the same questions we have here, and Steve Elling contrasts the plights of Wie and MacKinzie Kline and provides this classic imagery.
She hadn't complained about the injury all day, her playing partners reported, and witnesses said she never flexed the wrist or seemed in any discomfort. Thus, it looks like the most laughable golfing canard since a hapless Rodney Dangerfield ricocheted a shot off a ballwasher in Caddyshack and it clipped his own wing.
"Oh, my arm, I think it's broken. I can't play.”
Elling also attempted to follow up with the LPGA's Chris Higgs about his "no particular reason" comment.
Higgs, the LPGA's chief operations officer, told ESPN that he left the clubhouse to speak with the Wies "for no particular reason.” A tour spokesperson said Higgs was not available for comment this week and Higgs did not respond to a SportsLine email.
This week's Golf World includes a cover story from Chris Millard on Walter Driver...oh looks like someone's going to be doing a lot of copying and pasting! Come on GolfDigest.com production people, chop chop! Let's get that baby posted! While we're young! :)
"She actually plopped herself onto the grass and sat cross-legged in the middle of the fairway, fingering one of the dolls that dangled from her golf bag."
The Baltimore Sun's Rick Maese follows up on the Michelle Wie saga by following her at the McDonald's pro-am. Let's just say, not only is it time to get an agent and publicist who can help her remember which wrist she injured, but after reading this, it may be time to call in child welfare services.
Just four days after that wrist ached too much to play, Wie was matched with four amateurs yesterday for the pro-am tournament. There were more course volunteers than spectators around the tee box at 7:30 a.m., watching Wie wince slightly and flex her hand, trying to shake the pain from her fingertips. She walked to her trainer, who massaged Wie's hand and fingers.This is particularly grim...
Golfer officially injured and controversy over, right? Not quite.
The hand the trainer rubbed - the one with the tightly wrapped wrist - was her right one. In withdrawing from last week's tournament, Wie cited pain in her left wrist, which she hurt this year.
Wie teed off, and for 18 holes, a golfer who's usually full of expression and emotion didn't show any signs of pain. She didn't look at her wrist - either of them - didn't flex her hands, didn't try to rub away any pain.
Wie didn't answer questions after finishing her round yesterday, heading from the final green straight to the clubhouse. Her publicist later explained that the golfer still feels chronic pain in her right wrist from a previous injury and confirmed that it was the left wrist that forced her to withdraw last week. He said a final decision would be made today on whether Wie would compete at this week's LPGA Championship.
Wie played OK in yesterday's pro-am. Because it's a best-ball format, it's difficult to quantify her performance with scores or stats. While she hit some fairways and some greens, Wie also missed several shots, did nothing worthy of an ovation and failed to sink a single putt of any length.
Late in the round, Wie's energy level was nearly nonexistent, like a thermometer dropped in a bucket of ice. On the second-to-last hole, she actually plopped herself onto the grass and sat cross-legged in the middle of the fairway, fingering one of the dolls that dangled from her golf bag.
For a moment, Wie didn't seem to notice that her back was turned to one of her playing partners, who stood just a few feet away and was addressing his ball. She rose to her feet and the group continued the round.
Just as puzzling, on two of the last three holes, Wie didn't even attempt a putt, scooping her ball as soon as a playing partner sank his and walking onto the next tee.
Last week, at the Ginn Tournament, ESPN.com reported that she showed "little energy" and barely interacted with her caddie or playing partners. "I kind of felt bad for her," playing partner Alena Sharp told ESPN.com. "She didn't seem happy."
And Maese nails what bugs many about this...
If Wie feigned injury to escape a harsh Tour penalty last week, it's a slap in the face to a sport that relies on honesty, a game in which both the weekend hacker and the Tour money leader self-report their infractions. It's why this sport more than any other can reflect a competitor's true character.
But let's not assume that Wie orchestrated last week's mess. The LPGA, her agent and her parents were all complicit, and all deserve more than a wrist-slap for this wrist flap.
Or is it brand synergy?
I don't know about you, but I see major cross-pollination and brand contamination issues here...
For immediate release: Tuesday, June 5, 2007
THE PLAYERS Community Senior Center grand opening set for June 8
(Ponte Vedra Beach, FL) -- THE PLAYERS Championship and St. Johns County are proud to announce the grand opening of THE PLAYERS Community Senior Center in Ponte Vedra Beach on Friday, June 8. THE PLAYERS committed $300,000 to help construct a new 10,000 square foot facility located off County Road 210 and Landrum Lane in Palm Valley.
Shouldn't that be THE PLAYERS Community CHAMPION Center? Or Champions? That way they make the uh, successfully aged, feel compelled to watch? (Oh, sorry, the successful aging concept isn't mine. Read on...)
Less than 10 minutes from TPC Sawgrass, the new center will serve seniors and the entire community of St. Johns County. “Thanks to the SJCCOA, THE PLAYERS, the Board of County Commissioners and the County Recreation and Parks Department this is truly just the beginning of a dynamic, responsive and successful partnership,” said Cathy Brown, Executive Director for the St. Johns County Council on Aging.
THE PLAYERS Community Senior Center is equipped with an art room, library, computer lab, exercise room, restaurant-sized kitchen, wrap around veranda and a meeting area with space for 100 people for community gatherings and events.
“Seniors are a vital component of Florida’s rich heritage,” said Governor Charlie Crist. “THE PLAYERS Community Senior Center is a great example of a public-private partnership that reinforces our state’s commitment to creating and expanding opportunities for Florida’s seniors to live active and enriched lives.”
“Many of the volunteers who donate their time to THE PLAYERS Championship are seniors,” said Brian Goin, executive director of THE PLAYERS. “Their efforts and support of the tournament allow us to improve the quality of life for them and the entire St. Johns County community.”
Ah now the picture becomes complete. This is where tomorrow's THE PLAYERS marshalls will be reared!
The Center will offer educational classes, physical fitness, intellectual stimulation, socialization and entertainment.
“THE PLAYERS Community Senior Center is the end result of our combined dreams and visions and would not have been possible without a true understanding of what "successful aging" can and should mean in a society so accustomed to focusing on youth,” said Brown. “To have this level of participation and commitment from both THE PLAYERS organization and from the Board of County Commissioners is truly extraordinary.”