Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    by Matthew Futterman

I may be wrong, but I believe that the golfers of today want originality. Even those who are not particularly analytical sense the difference between a purely natural hole and one which suggests the artificial.  A.W. TILLINGHAST


    

Sunday
Dec142008

“He and his wife were nice golfers"

As if the game didn't have enough image problems, we now learn from Alan Feurer and Christine Haughney that the greatest investment swindler in American history was a golfer whose club memberships were a key component of his lifestyle and business. I give you, Bernie Madoff.

And soon the Madoff name — if not quite the equal of the Tisch name, for example — carried a quiet power.

"The guy never flaunted anything,” said one longtime friend. “And that fit with his rate of return, which was never attention-grabbing, just solid 12-13 percent year in, year out."

The friend, a private investor who knows Mr. Madoff from the Palm Beach Country Club and from the Hamptons, said friends and investors had been calling nonstop since the arrest.

"The pain is just unbelievable,” the friend said. “He was part of the family for so many people. There was this quiet culture of people, slightly older-money, who maybe weren’t that interested in the market, who kept saying to each other, ‘Just give Bernie your money, you’ll be fine.’ "

That culture had perhaps its best expression at the half-dozen golf clubs he belonged to, ranging from the woody Old Oaks in Purchase, N.Y., to the Palm Beach Country Club in Florida.

“He and his wife were nice golfers,” said Denise Lefrak Calicchio, part of the Lefrak real estate family, who knew the Madoffs socially through several of their clubs. “He and his wife seemed lovely.”

With time, some wealthy investors even joined clubs in order to become part of Mr. Madoff’s investments, some who knew him said. It was considered a favor to be introduced to the man as a potential investor.

“There were people joining golf clubs just to get into his fund,” said one investor who declined to be named. “This guy was held in such high regard.”

A member of the Palm Beach club said the Madoffs did not socialize as much as other members did, nor did they fight as aggressively as others to keep up with the club’s more aerobic social climbers. They were well-liked, and did not appear to be part of the “blister pack,” as one club member put it, a term that refers to those who get blisters on their hands and feet from ascending social ladders.

“They seemed to stay apart from the herd,” the club member said. “They chose not to get into that social rat race.” 

Well, at least he had at least one redeeming quality!

Saturday
Dec132008

"The players wanted Azinger to return, Azinger wanted Azinger to return and so the PGA came up with... Pavin."

The Telegraph's Mark Reason questions the Corey Pavin captaincy selection, writing that "The players wanted Azinger to return, Azinger wanted Azinger to return and so the PGA came up with... Pavin. It was a decision worthy of the 57 old farts of the RFU lampooned by Will Carling."

And:

Is it possible that the PGA saw a Jesus syndrome in Pavin, a man who is a convert from Judaism to Christianity? Or did they see a new Zen-like calm in a man who has mellowed out since his second marriage to Lisa Nguyen. She said: "When I met Corey I could tell he was empty inside." And now presumably he is full, perhaps even to the point of overflowing with the milk of human kindness.

Or maybe the PGA just liked Pavin sucking up to them. Did he really say: "The Ryder Cup is in my blood. I think if you cut my arm open, Ryder Cup would just bleed out. It's the greatest event in the world, I think, and certainly the golf world."

The duffers at the PGA may be fooled by that sort of soap, but will it wash with the players?

Saturday
Dec132008

"According to Williams" **

Yesterday I mistakenly linked to Lawrence Donegan's Guardian version of the Steve Williams-calls-Phil Mickelson names story instead of the original by Murray Hills. I have corrected the link mix up on the post below.

However, my screw-up proved revealing (yes, I'm justifying blogging sloppiness!).

A reader called into question the Hills' story suggestion that the U.S. Open "Nice tits" tale took place during round 3, when we all know Tiger Woods and Phil only played together in rounds 1 and 2. The reader directed their criticism at Donegan, who clarified Hills's mistake here, why he wrote his story accordingly, while also revealing that it seems Williams, telling the tale to a group of 250, most likely made the story up.

Now, I should have known something was amiss with the Williams story since I was at Torrey Pines every day, followed the elite Tiger-Phil-Scott pairing most of the way and never heard about this happening. Other writers I've checked with say this was the first they've heard of it. And as several have noted, including Donegan in his post here, the tale sounds similar to a story about Monty that has made the rounds for years.

It's hard to imagine Stevie surviving this latest episode if it delivers the expected high humiliation factor on Tiger's lap. It's certainly not the Christmas gift Tiger wanted from his caddy on the eve of this week's event at Sherwood where Tiger hosts a press conference. 

Friday
Dec122008

Stevie On Phil: "I hate the prick"

Murray Hills buries the lede reports that Stevie Williams' rebranding effort (from Tiger Woods' lowly luggage looping lunatic to nature-loving porter for Tiger) may take a hit after being asked about Phil Mickelson.

It's also a well-known fact that Woods and American Phil "Mr Nice Guy" Mickelson are not the best of buddies. Williams told a story of Woods and Mickelson paired together during the US Open. The pair were duelling for the lead in the third round. Tiger waved to a packed grandstand seating 5000 people that bordered the 17th fairway. The crowd responded.

As a hush fell back over the crowd, a fan yelled out "Phil." No response from Mickelson. Again the fan yelled out "Phil." Again no response. The fan changed tack. "Hey, Mr Mickelson."

When Mickelson turned and waved, the fan yelled out "Nice tits." The crowd erupted in laughter; Mickelson went double bogey, bogey and his tournament was over.

And Williams on Mickelson?

"I wouldn't call Mickelson a great player ... 'cause I hate the prick."

And thanks Stevie for the wonderful timing: on the eve of Tiger's annual press conference at Sherwood. Maybe it won't be just a bunch of questions about the knee after all! And who says you are not media friendly?

Friday
Dec122008

Haney Eliminates At Least Three Of Barkley's Backswing Belches


Friday
Dec122008

USGA Notice: We're Looking At High Lofted Wedges

Bout and Gas are reporting over at their GolfDigest.com blog that the USGA has issued a notice suggesting...

...the USGA will be conducting "research on high-lofted wedges. This research is being conducted to determine if high-lofted wedges (for example, 60 degrees of loft and higher) can reduce the challenge of the game for shots near the green." I have heard recently that players at this year's U.S. Amateur attacked the bowl-shaped greens at Pinehurst No. 2 with a fleet of high-lofted wedges. Not exactly what Donald Ross had envisioned, I believe. Let's get rid of those wedges. The only people who really know how to use them are good players anyway. Allowing a club to further help a good player more than an average player is unnecessary at this stage, moreover letting a good player not have to develop the skill of manipulating a lower-lofted wedge to hit a particular shot is encouraging a leveling of the playing field that strikes at the heart of what golf competition should be.

You could also make that case for most modern equipment: it helps the elite player more than it helps the average man (Tom Wishon has discussed this at length).

After Gas' comments above, Bout agrees and argues that the limit should be 58 degrees.

Back in 2002, Charles Howell III carried a Cleveland 588 64-degree wedge, saying that although the club was effective, it didn't get much call. "I rarely use the 64-degree club--maybe two times a tournament," he said. "But it's perfect when I short-side a green or if there's long rough and hard, fast greens. Then it's almost like cheating--the ball stops wherever it lands."

Whenever you hear a player say, "it's almost like cheating," then it's time to look into things.

Fair point. However, here's why this is a mistake for the USGA to pursue:

- It takes great skill to pull off a high-lofted wedge shot. The more loft a club has, the more difficult it is to hit shots with any consistency. Yet restoration of "skill" is the primary motivation on the groove rule change, albeit a shallow definition of it (rewarding the striking of drives down a narrow center line).

- The recovery shot has taken a beating in the era of high rough and slick greens. Do we really want to eliminate one more recovery shot? One that takes skill to pull off? I don't think so. Unfortunately, too many governing body leaders are penal school aficionados and the recovery shot is forbidden in that cynical approach to golf.

- Serious pursuit of loft will negate the positive reaction to the groove rule change by only reinforcing the notion that the governing bodies are looking to do anything but even discuss something like the golf ball. (BTW, we're entering year seven since the first time the words "ball study" were uttered.)

- High lofted wedges require soft conditions. You need lush turf to pull off the "cheating" shots that they speak of. It also helps to have a receptive target to land your ball on. In other words, firm conditions generally negate the impact of the high-lofted wedge. Perhaps the real issue here is widespread overwatering and lush, green-at-all-costs turf?

Please, your thoughts?

Friday
Dec122008

"The caricature of Tiger Woods eating Rocco Mediate as a snack is unfair and an inaccurate characterization of the facts."

I'm always reluctant to check into Bob Carney's Editor's Blog for fear of reading something that gives me little faith in the people reading golf magazines. Today was one of those items.

Reader Alan Archer writes to complain about the Tiger-Rocco drawing from the recent Golf World newsmaker's issue.

Archer opens his letter with this line:

"The caricature of Tiger Woods eating Rocco Mediate as a snack is unfair and an inaccurate characterization of the facts."

Now, last I heard, a caricature is an unfair, inaccurate and totally not-factual representation. That's why they are fun.

Carney handled the response much more diplomatically than I would have.

 

Thursday
Dec112008

Grading The Golf News Sites Week: Television Sites

Essentially this means CBSSports.com, ESPN.com and GolfChannel.com and each can be summed up pretty succinctly: great columnists, not many other reasons to visit.

Credit GolfChannel.com for really amping up the number of video clips from Golf Central and other shows now available online for viewing. CBSSports.com is a disaster on this front, with some sort of strange PGA Tour/CBS rights feud that allows them to post tournament recaps by Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo on YouTube--minus highlights of the play! (Here's a hilarious example.) That would seem to be the most vital component for websites tied to television networks, no?

ESPN.com has cornered the market on video, to the point that it annoyingly starts playing when you hit the golf page. That's a problem if you are reading their site at the office with the sound up. Especially if they call Andy North to weigh in with his thoughts. We can't have people napping on the job!

Each site has streamlined their looks but both have lousy archives, saved by slowly improving search engines.

Still, I only visit these sites to see what Steve Elling has to say at CBS, what Bob Harig and Jason Sobel or sometimes contributor Eric Adelson are writing for ESPN, and what Rich Lerner, Brian Hewitt, Mercer Baggs and now Rex Hoggard have to say for TGC. How about you?

Thursday
Dec112008

Pavin Named Ryder Cup Captain; Reveals Assistant Captains And Their Uniforms

Most of the accounts are kind and appropriately giving Captain Pavin a pass for now (here, here, here, here) but not Steve Elling at CBSSports.com, where the Getty Images shot of the assistant captains (Rockettes!) was also posted:

Don't get me wrong. Pavin has been a conscientious and consummate professional in his two-plus decades as a tour player. But that's a long way from inspiring, entertaining or resurrecting the U.S. hopes. What, equally low-wattage former PGA champion Shaun Micheel wasn't available?

The Ryder Cup is an exhibition. It's all about entertainment. The PGA, which runs the cup in America, could have had two more years of Azinger at the helm and instead went with a charisma-challenged guy best known for his tenacity. Mostly because it was his turn?

 

Thursday
Dec112008

Azinger: "I would have done it"

Backing up what almost everyone knew, Paul Azinger tells Bob Harig how his post-Captaincy played out and says this about Corey Pavin:

"He's a logical choice, and it's time to move on and try to keep the Ryder Cup," Azinger said. "If it was offered to me, I would have done it. But it wasn't. It would have been a great opportunity to try and win it again, but I'm happy we won this year and hope to see it keep going."

Azinger said the idea was broached with PGA of America officials when he and several members of the team attended a White House ceremony last month. He let it be known that he would be interested in becoming the first captain since Ben Hogan in 1947-49 to do it twice in a row.

But Azinger also said he understood that the PGA of America long has had a system in place to rotate captains and that he was fine with the decision to move in another direction.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a communication gap, as Azinger was still talking publicly a few weeks ago about doing it again while the PGA of America was offering the position to Pavin, who said Thursday that he had on-going discussions and finally got the call on Nov. 24.

Thursday
Dec112008

"Pieces spray. An old women gasps. And poor ol' Cleggy is again back-pedalling in a swirl of beige slacks."

Nick Walshaw has the definitive account and the Telegraph the epic photo of John Daly using some snapper's digital to audition for the Yankees. Love the guy ducking in the distance too! By that form sure looks to me like Long John missed his calling as a pitcher.

And so Long John charges again. This time yelling "You want it back?" before flinging the offending camera, slamming it into a tree.

Pieces spray. An old women gasps. And poor ol' Cleggy is again back-pedalling in a swirl of beige slacks.

You could feel it building yesterday. From the moment Daly's very first drive in the 2008 Australian Open at Royal Sydney flew, flew, flew - into a sand bunker.

Daly hit a bloke holding an umbrella on the 11. Tried to use a wedge on the green at 17. Took two getting out of one bunker and chipped 5m into ) another. He saw more sand in one day than the entire cast of Baywatch.

Of course, you can add to this all those little extras that come with being the marquee import. The pressures. The publicity requests. Pestered by everyone from Kerri-Anne Kennerley to Louie the Fly.

"God damn," Daly yelled to no one in particular while leaving the putting green on Wednesday. "This fly just won't leave me alone."

Thursday
Dec112008

Padraig Makes It Official: No Xmas Card For Sergio Anytime Soon

Lawrence Donegan gets 2008's two-time major winner Padraig Harrington to admit that he and Sergio Garcia will likely not be featured in a future Golf Digest "Buddies" issue. Thanks to reader Lee for this:

"We have zero in common, bar the fact that we both play golf. He is the antithesis of me, and I am the antithesis of him," said Harrington, who was yesterday named the European Tour's player of the year in recognition of his two major victories in 2008, at the Open Championship at Birkdale and the PGA Championship in Detroit. The Irishman edged out García on the final green of the PGA and had also defeated the Spaniard in a play-off to win last year's Open at Carnoustie — an occasion remembered as much for the frostiness of their interaction as it was for the excellence of their golf.

At the time many observers believed their evident lack of personal warmth was a by-product of what was a fiercely contested tournament but Harrington conceded their antipathy was more deep-rooted.

"We play the game in exactly the opposite way. He is destined to find the long game easy and the short game hard, and I am the opposite," he said. "We're also competitors who for the last few years have been vying over who is the No1 golfer in Europe. I think in the hearts and minds of a lot of people García would have been No1, while I have been ranked No1. As you can imagine, no quarter is given. It is not as if we have ever had a row or a run-in. I have had plenty of run-ins with people and we would be friends but [with Garcia] it is just, well, we are just so much the opposite of each other."

Thursday
Dec112008

"I throw this stuff out there to get Tim Finchem a little bit worried."

Mark Soltau chats with Fred Couples about the President's Cup and other matters. Here's something you don't hear everyday:

Golf Digest: You won a million dollars this year and cracked the Top 125 on the money list, all before your recent 49th birthday. You have to feel pretty good about that?

Couples: I do. I have one goal for next year -- I've got to get into the Top 50 in the world rankings. That's the only way I can get into the Chevron World Challenge. It would take an unbelievable year.

And...

GD: Do you have a backup for Robin Williams?

Couples: Apparently, he lives five minutes from Harding Park, which I had no idea. What we're hoping he will do is come into the player's lounge one night. I didn't know he does a golf skit, which I hear is unbelievable. He's my favorite comedian. I throw this stuff out there to get Tim Finchem a little bit worried. I like to keep the PGA Tour on their toes. Hopefully, Robin will come and give us a little skit one night.

Wednesday
Dec102008

Grading The Golf News Sites Week: Golfweek.com

Thanks so far for the stellar comments on favorite golf sites, golf.com and golfdigest.com/golfworld.com. If you haven't weighed in, please do.

Now onto our next subject. Golfweek.com is probably the most vital of all the golf sites for the serious golfer and fan of tournament golf. However, more than the other sites poses one of those love-hate situations for me:

  • Love the exclusive online content and guaranteed daily wrap up of important tournaments in easy to digest ways.
  • Hate the slideshow music and other lame cutesy stuff prone to pop up on GolfweekTV (though I notice much less since a certain editor with lousy taste in cover art has moved on).
  • Love the content of the blogs. Short, snappy, fun little items that probably wouldn't mean much by the time Golfweek hits the presses, but which work perfectly online.
  • Hate the complete and totally inexplicable lack of real blog features: reader comments and permalink or emailable options for posts. If I can set up a real blog, so can you Golfweek.
  • Love the simple design and ease of use when I get home and just want to get a quick hit of news.
    Columns are easy to find, as are many other things like the top 100 lists and the player rankings.
  • Hate the difficulty of finding news stories that appeared more than a week ago.

Overall I think they do a great job making their print publication still valuable while also delivering as much original online content as any site. It would be nice to see some more print items appear a month after appearing in Golfweek in order to build up a nice archive (and hits!).

That said, many of the columnists are particularly strong and seem to offer up offbeat stuff online, which I love and feel is lacking at times elsewhere.

What do you all think?

Wednesday
Dec102008

Daly Pays Homage To Stevie Down Under: Smashes Spectator's Camera

However, unlike Stevie "I gladly chuck Nikon or Canon" Williams, Australian Open contestant John Daly offered to pay for the trashed camera. Sort of like when John Belushi bashes that folk singer's guitar in Animal House, and then shrugs and says sorry. Hey, that's at least two things Daly has in common with Bluto. Well and the drinking part too, so make it three.

After pushing his tee shot wide on the ninth hole -- his last -- Daly walked into a clump of trees, where spectator Brad Clegg tried to take a picture at close range.

Daly reportedly snatched the camera and smashed it against the nearest tree, telling the man, "You want it back, I'll buy you a new one."

Asked if he would seek compensation, Clegg told the Australian Associated Press: "I don't think I'll be chasing him for the money. He's a big bloke!"

Wednesday
Dec102008

Ryders Brace For Pavin Captaincy By Ordering Up Heavy On The Azinger Nostalgia, Well Done

You can already sense that they're clamoring for those earth-shattering one-on-ones with about-to-be-announced Captain Pavin.

John Hopkins in the Times:

There is some surprise in the selection of Pavin, 49, to be the man to lead his team at Celtic Manor Resort, near Newport. The PGA of America is believed to have wanted Azinger to repeat his role, but the man who masterminded the first US victory since 1999 decided against it. “All I can say, boys, is it’s not going to be me,” Azinger said on Monday.

Did anyone else read Azinger's comments that way? I thought it was more resignation at being passed up?

Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com:

The PGA may have pulled the plug on Azinger, but it was a surgeon’s scalpel that cost him his ultimate Ryder Cup experience. When Tiger Woods’ season ended shortly after his historic U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines it robbed Azinger of his chance to captain a team that included the world No. 1.

“It’s one of those things I’m going to miss the most. Not being able to spend time with the likes of Tiger Woods . . . it’s unfortunate,” Azinger said before the matches.
For the man who didn’t leave a blade of Kentucky bluegrass undisturbed in his quest for Ryder Cup gold, the PGA’s decision and Woods’ season-ending injury are particularly painful rubs on an otherwise agreeable green.

Mark Reason in the Daily Telegraph:

If they do overlook cap'n Azinger, the PGA of America will prove that they are serious rivals for "the 57 old farts" of the RFU once lampooned by Will Carling.

Four years ago Tiger Woods and many others wanted the smarts of Mark O'Meara, but the PGA of America wouldn't have him because O'Meara had once suggested that some of their Ryder Cup profits should go to player-nominated charities.

Now, if Azinger has it right, the officers of the PGA are set to refuse to reappoint their first decent captain since Tom Watson in 1993. The hot favourite to replace Azinger is the 49-year-old Pavin. 

Wednesday
Dec102008

"A difficult-to-navigate Jack Nicklaus-designed course"

I can't say this is the most flattering golf course adjective I've ever read, especially since it arrives in a press release from Tiger's crew plugging next week's Chevron World Challenge.

The scene is a classic, the 7,027-yard Sherwood Country Club, a difficult-to-navigate Jack Nicklaus-designed course that will test 16 of the world’s greatest players in a 72-hole stroke play format, Dec. 17-21. 

Wednesday
Dec102008

Classic Club Returned To Its Rightful Owners

The final chapter in the boondoggle that should never have been allowed to happen had anyone involved thought this one through...

CLASSIC CLUB RETURNS TO H.N. & FRANCES C. BERGER FOUNDATION

Bob Hope Classic Charities/Desert Classic Charities and The Berger Foundation Working Together Toward Shared Charitable Goals

La Quinta, Calif. (December 10, 2008) - Due to the current slowing economy, the Bob Hope Classic Charities/Desert Classic Charities and the H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation have decided the responsibility of the Classic Club operations and ownership shall be returned to the Berger Foundation.

“The Classic Club golf facility has always been dedicated to charitable endeavors in and for the Coachella Valley,” said John Foster, president of The Bob Hope Classic Charities, Inc. and Desert Classic Charities, Inc. “We believe that goal can best be accomplished by the Berger Foundation in this economic climate.”

The Classic Club was formally gifted by the H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation to the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January 2005. The Bob Hope Classic Charities/Desert Classic Charities recognize ownership and management of the Classic Club operations by the Berger Foundation at this time will enable better charitable options for the course and facility. The Classic Charities and the Berger Foundation are committed to the success of the Classic Club and the charitable benefits it can bring to the Coachella Valley.

“Our commitment and association with the Bob Hope Classic Charities and the Desert Classic Charities has been a gratifying experience for all involved through the years and will continue,” said Ronald M. Auen, president and chief executive officer, H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation. “As we move forward into the next phase for the Classic Club, we will strive to achieve even greater charitable success and long term benefits for the entire community.”

Wednesday
Dec102008

"So why is it Americans can't wean our golf courses off most chemicals..."

I was thrilled to see GolfDigest.com added Ron Whitten's December issue story on two organic golf courses and the issues they face (none really!). I think it's the most important story I've read this year, assuming you think it's time to see more courses lean on sustainable practices.

A couple of highlights:

Like Applewood, Granby River has bluegrass fairways and bent-grass greens. Tees and greens are cut a little higher than at Applewood, but the turf is lush and sparkling green, juxtaposed against large areas of tall, tan native grasses, conditions certainly suitable to its green fee ($40 Canadian). Again, it's hard to believe a golf course can look and play this good using homemade remedies and witches' brews. But it's true.

"We haven't used an ounce of any pesticide, herbicide or fungicide," Thevenaz says. "We fertilize fairways using composted turkey manure. We fertilize our greens with a compost tea that's a blend of bone meal, blood meal, kelp and humate, a refined carbon to encourage root growth. We brew the tea, supplied from a firm in New Brunswick, for 24 hours, then mix in the organics and apply it in liquid form.

"To fight disease on the greens, we apply a solution of garlic extract. It's not that expensive, about the same price per gallon as a pesticide. To fight grub worms, we apply rock glacial dust. It's abrasive; the worms choke on it."

And...

So what do they do if a problem does break out? Isn't there a strong temptation to spray a quick application to nip the problem? No, they say, mainly because they have no chemicals on hand.

"If a disease hits one of my greens," Rusch says, "I'll mow it with one of my walk mowers, to keep the disease from spreading to other greens, I'll apply a little ammonium sulfate to get the grass growing aggressively, and I'll either add water or back off the water, depending upon the disease."

"Weed control is the one thing that organic management hasn't conquered," Carlson says. "If we do anything, we hand-pick them, even in the rough. Golfers just don't like weeds anywhere in their line of vision."

So that's the big trade-off with organic golf? It's much more labor-intensive. It'll drive up the cost of the game.

Not really. Rusch's maintenance budget at Applewood, including payroll, is just $350,000 (considerably less than comparable 18-hole public courses). Granby River's is even less, $247,000 Canadian, including equipment leases. Carlson says his Vineyard budget is in the mid-range for New England private courses, spending a little more on labor costs.

So why is it Americans can't wean our golf courses off most chemicals, particularly when it could have a positive impact on the water we drink, the air we breathe and the wallets we carry?

You go Ron!

Tuesday
Dec092008

Music To Their Ears? "Faldo decries changes to Augusta National"

In the unbylined wire story (thanks reader Chip) on Nick Faldo decrying the changes to Augusta National, I couldn't help but think that the club and Tom Fazio's one-dimensional approach to a once multi-dimensional risk/reward design was validated by the comments. In other words, the braintrust might consider this a compliment:

In comments that probably won't be repeated from the CBS tower during the Masters, Faldo lamented how difficult Augusta National has become, suggesting that it has caused even the most skilled players to become conservative with a smaller chance of being rewarded.

"If you don't have an opportunity to reward yourself, it switches off the best players,'' he said last week at the Father-Son Championship in Orlando, Fla. "They've got the flair and the skills to go for it, but going for it is suicide.''

Faldo won in consecutive playoffs in 1989 and 1990, but his third green jacket was the most memorable. Trailing by six shots to Greg Norman, he closed with a 5-under 67 and won by five shots when Norman shot 78.

"That was the best of the weekend,'' Faldo said of his 67. "Yeah, that's what you really are looking for. Augusta was always the one where ... you can shoot your 65. If you play really well, you're shooting 3 and 4 under. You get rewarded. That's what you got to be careful of. Bottom line is you got to reward the guys. You've got to be given the opportunity to hit career shots.''