John Huggan admits he's not an impartial observer while filing a strong defense of Hank Haney as Tiger's coach, suggesting that the media's "sustained level of hyperbole and lazy analysis has made Haney less inclined to talk publicly about the relationship he has with Woods and his swing."
A secret disbelief in the enemy’s play is very useful for match play.
...the clock is ticking on David Feherty and if past little brouhahas like this are any indication, the longer you wait and the more stubborn your stance, the worse things get.
I awoke expecting to see a story or inbox release featuring a witty apology from Feherty. Something along the lines of, "Normally my best medium is in the gas passing joke genre and clearly I misfired in my D Magazine story. As evidenced by my efforts on behalf of the troops, I never would imply that those I have met during trips to Iraq would commit an offense punishable by the Uniform Code of Miltary Justice. I love the troops, I love America and I apologize to anyone I may have offended, including Senator Reid, Congresswoman Pelosi and most of all, our brave troops."
MediaMatters.org, a progressive media watchdog, has asked for a simple apology to the troops. It's not as if they are calling for his job.
So for the sake of David Feherty's career (that has brought so much joy to us in the golf world) hopefully he acts quickly to put this to bed by today. Because the longer he waits, the more potential this has to snowball into one of those ridiculous little controversies that ultimately ends poorly.
And now that Feherty is an American citizen, he should know we love the big apology. Just ask Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds. One is still in baseball, one is not. One apologized, one did not. Both committed the same offense.
I arrived at 6:30 a.m. (a stuffy 78 degrees!) to sit in on a course tour of the front nine setup as handled by John Mutch of the PGA Tour.
Not that TPC Sawgrass needs much drama.
The conditioning is superb, however the design would benefit from a lot more mowing of rough and short grass areas around greens. Aesthetically, it's currently lacking some of the elegance a design so rich in texture deserves, much of which I attribute to the clump bermuda mix in the roughs. And the strategic benefits would be obvious: balls reaching hazards more easily, contours retaining even more of a presence and several approaches appearing more intimidating.
To clarify one issue regarding the rough. After being briefed by the tour, Golf Channel and NBC have reported that the fairway roughs are cut at 2-3 inches, last topped off mid-week. Greenside, the rough started in the same range but is now at 3-4 inches. However, because the severity of the surrounds requires the use of rotary mowers (that's a lawn mower) it has not been topped off all week while the fairway roughs have. The PGA Tour's tournament director, Mark Russell, says the situation will be different next year.
The obvious question for anyone who watched Saturday: why the higher scores?
After all it's warm, greens are perfect and the wind never amounted to much. However, it's pretty simple, really. There is enough firmness in the greens combined with a relentless course that quickly wears the player down.
And that's why Alex Cejka's five-stroke lead over Tiger Woods appears so surmountable.
AP's Doug Ferguson files a story on the David Feherty situation, with the quotes posted below from the PGA Tour and CBS Sports along with background on Feherty's efforts on behalf of the troops.
Posting a third round 71 at the TPC Sawgrass on a day the field averaged 72.54, Phil Mickelson shed doubts about the negative impact of that white hide he straps on one day a tournament week to the chagrin of the Age Appropriateness Fashion Police.
Situated in the row before me, I asked Mr. Style (a.k.a. Marty Hackel of Golf Digest) if this ends any doubts about the belt curse.
"While we love the white belt, Phi has never had a round of 70 with the white belt. Score trumps style everytime."
Hackel added in Ali speak, "He hasn't got any help from the white belt."
For more of Hackel's weekend fashion report, check out GolfDigest.com.
From the PGA Tour:
David Feherty is an insightful and sometimes humorous commentator for CBS Sports’ golf coverage. However, his attempt at humor in this instance went over the line and his comments were clearly inappropriate. We hope he will use better judgment in the future.
From LeslieAnne Wade of CBS Sports:
While outside his work for CBS, David Feherty is a popular humorist, we want to be clear that this column for a Dallas magazine is an unacceptable attempt at humor and is not in any way condoned, endorsed or approved by CBS Sports.
David Feherty, writing as part of a five writer package considering life in Dallas for the 43rd president, titled "I, too, am a huge celebrity who happens to live in Preston Hollow. I expect George W. to drop by soon."
From my own experience visiting the troops in the Middle East, I can tell you this, though: despite how the conflict has been portrayed by our glorious media, if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Osama bin Laden, there's a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death.
Now, we in the golf world know Feherty and know his zany sense of humor (though I don't really sense he was trying to be funny here, it's just his take on our troops).However, there's one a problem here that has nothing to do with humor or the inevitable debates of political correctness.
Feherty is a member of the media working for a major conglomeration that broadcasts over federally controlled airways. Therefore, a conglomeration in need of governmental compassion and one probably crafting a list of things they are forbidden from saying or writing.
I'm thinking that provocative death fantasies, in print, involving government leaders and suggesting treasonous tendencies by our brave troops, would only be superceded on the NO-NO list by provocative death fantasies directed at your CEO.
I was a lazy media whore bum today, having to finish off a couple of items for print and well, it's hot. So I walked around a bit in the morning, then followed Tiger-Ernie-Justin at the finish.
Hey, it was bloody hot out there.
Actually, I had to save myself and my deodorant allocation for the Commissioner's Southern Style Pig Roast, held in the Stadium Players Village from 7-9. I'm too stuffed to report, though the event was lovely considering it was populated primarily by writers. So I'll just leave you with a few black and white images from Friday.
The dreaded Friday afternoon release...
SKINS GAME TO BE POSTPONED IN 2009 WITH PLANS TO RESUME PLAY IN 2010
Current economic climate cited by event partners ESPN, IMG Media and the City of Indian Wells
The Skins Game, a popular Thanksgiving weekend golf tradition for the past 26 years, will be postponed in 2009 but plans to resume play in 2010, event partners ESPN, IMG Media and the City of Indian Wells announced today.
The Skins Game began in 1983, and in that first year pitted four of the game’s greatest legends – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson – against each other for unprecedented prize money. The on-course dramatics of the Skins Game, and the fascinating banter between the players, is widely credited for launching many other successful made-for-television golf events.
“The Skins Game has enjoyed a long and successful history, and it will continue to be an important part of golf’s fall season in the future, but given the current economic climate, postponing the 2009 event was necessary,” said Barry Frank, Executive Vice President, IMG Media. “We look forward to working with key partners over the coming months to ensure the Skins Game comes back next year in a manner befitting one of golf’s great traditions.”
The Skins Game has featured many of the biggest legends in golf in its 26 year history, and in addition to Palmer, Nicklaus, Player and Watson in the first year, has also featured Tiger Woods, Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson, Curtis Strange, Nick Faldo, Vijay Singh, Raymond Floyd, the late Payne Stewart, Greg Norman, Fuzzy Zoeller, Mark O’Meara, Sergio Garcia and Fred Couples, who earned the nickname “Mr. Skins” for his success in the format.
Last year’s event saw Skins Game rookie K.J. Choi earn six skins for $415,000 to take the title over Stephen Ames, who was looking for his third straight victory, Phil Mickelson and Rocco Mediate.
“The Skins Game has been an important fixture in Southern California for the past 25 years, and not only have fans here looked forward to it each year, but also the golf fans across the country watching on television,” said Greg Johnson, Indian Wells City Manager. “The Skins Game offers great golf and great entertainment.”
Beth Ann Baldry reports on the "Commish" and her unannounced pro-am appearance.
Dressed in her customary all-black attire, Bivens looked the part playing alongside Helen Alfredsson and three other amateurs. She carried a bevy of Nike clubs in a Callaway bag marked “Commish.”
Take that Tim! And...
This wasn’t a publicity stunt. The LPGA media staff didn’t even mention that Bivens was on the course. There was no press release, and one tournament photographer showed up on the 17th hole to snap a few pictures. This was a far cry from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem’s media frenzy at Pebble Beach earlier this year.
There was also an interesting bit at the end of the piece from a sponsor
Bobby Christian, owner of Impact Ventures, has a home in Richmond and recently signed a three-year contract with the Duramed Futures Tour to sponsor two events. Christian, who played in his first LPGA pro-am Wednesday, has three young daughters and saw the Futures Tour as a “great platform for developing leaders.”
He’s impressed with Bivens’ style off the course, calling her a “hard-charging woman” who is “kind of unconventional.” Surely those five hours he spent with the commissioner helped strengthen their relationship.
Rounding out Bivens’ group was Gregory Brown, VP of Choice Privileges for Choice Hotels, and his guest, Pam Thrasher of Swift Hospitality Group.
This marked Brown’s third LPGA pro-am. He also has played in two PGA Tour pro-ams and, like many others, finds the women to be more fun.
“Some of the PGA Tour players are (approachable),” Brown said, “but for a lot of them, it’s business-like or drudgery.”
Check out his latest Italian Open slacks. In the media center lobby I ran into Marty Hackel--looking dapper in red khakis, blue blazer and skull and cross bones tie--who asked if I had seen today's Daly choice. That should give you an idea what Marty thinks.
Courtesy of reader thusgone, Jim McCabe reports on the Golfweek blog:
Having birdied three of his first four holes, Mickelson was roaring out of the gates when he pulled a hybrid at the short, par-4 sixth. After surveying his options, Mickelson hit what appeared to be a splendid escape shot, though it came up just short of the green. As he headed out from beneath the tree, a man clearly yelled out, “Way to go, Figjam.”
Mickelson stopped, turned, and confronted the man.
“What did you say?” Mickelson said, and the man repeated it.
Figjam is an acronym that stands for “F*** I’m good, just ask me.” Mickelson certainly knows what it means and asked for Mackay to help marshals identify the man. They did, and while Mickelson and Mackay headed to the next shot, the man was removed from the area by the marshals.
According to Mark Spencer of the Radio Golf Show, the heckler in question didn't even know what his jab stands for.
I remember the good old days when they knew what they were saying. And they were original.
Steve DiMeglio shares this from Kenny Perry on his unfortunately timed Players pairing with Angel Cabrera:
"It was tough. It brought back a lot of memories, and I had a hard time focusing on what I was doing," Perry said after a 1-over-par 73. "It's just going to take some time" to get over The Masters."
Take the kids and military guests away and boy did the vibe change Thursday. It didn't help that the players were slogging through a 5:30 minute round, but I couldn't get over the difference between the two days. Personally, if I were a corporate sponsor of a tour event, I'd support more days that encourage family and military guests if it builds that kind of vibe. (Or how about lower prices? There I go again!)
But with more folks and more passion, the corporate hospitality areas become that much more coveted. Take away the buzz, the place grows quiet and there isn't as much cache in spending on a "chalet."
I hate to judge the course setup and architecture after just a day of tournament viewing, but it's painfully clear that the situation with rough still has not been properly addressed. You may recall there have been many debates over the years about Pete Dye's intentions and trying to bring the pine scrub and other hazards more into play by having less rough. We've been told that post-move to May, this has been addressed. I'm not feeling it.
Judging by Thursday's excellent scoring, it's not having much effect. Instead, the course still overemphasizes putting and downplays any kind of strategic placement. Not to take away from first round leader Ben Crane's round in any way, but he did have 14 one-putts. And as firm as it was despite a Wednesday night spritzing that eliminated some of previous afternoon's shine, the rough is still stopping balls from reaching trouble. It's most noticeable around some greens where apparently someone on Golf Channel suggested they are growing it at 3 inches, compared to 2 off the fairways. I hope to find out if that's true (doubtful).
I'll try and get a few photographs to illustrate where short grass would make the course more interesting and more difficult (in a good way). But the image to the right shows that it's not just Augusta National resorting to small pines to penalize slightly off-line shots.
With his eagle on the par 5 16th hole, Tiger Woods has now played the hole in 38-under par for his career at THE PLAYERS. His next-best hole is the par 5 second, which he has played at 22-under in 45 rounds. Below is a chart showing how Tiger has played the different holes at TPC Sawgrass.
Par 3s: +25
Par 4s: +40
Par 5s: -88
Front 9: -3
Back 9: -20
As for No. 17, I'll get into the specifics later this week, but the atmosphere and videoboards make it an incredible place to hang out. And for all of the talk about how unfair the hole is, the ShotLink team shares this:
A total of 14 balls were hit in the water off of the tee on the famed 17th hole on Thursday. Interestingly enough, there were 18 balls hit in the water on the par 3 13th hole on Thursday.
More tomorrow on No. 17 and Friday night's media bash, the Commissioner's "Southern Style Pig Roast."
The USGA certainly offers some nice interactive exhibits at the U.S. Open, but the vibe around the more intimate Players Stadium Village was a bit more festive when I visited Wednesday. Certainly it didn't hurt that many were there free courtesy of a family and military free ticket option. Nonetheless, the excitement and sense of fun could not be missed.
The Stadium Village highlights include an 18th hole replica green for putting, a pose with Sergio Garcia photo giveaway and of course, the mini 17th hole. (They also have a business center and Morton's Steak Sandwich cafe.)
The lines were steady at the "Your Stadium Snapshot" where fans can put on a caddy bib and pose anyway they like. Sergio, looking over a putt, is digitally inserted and the photo is available 24 hours later online. Free.
In line in front of me was a lovely local family. Mom reported that over the last few years when this started as a pose with Tiger concept, she has gotten a shot of the kids and it's turned into a fun way to watch them grow up. And naturally, the chance to pose with Sergio after Stephen Ames two years ago was a lot more exciting for the kids.
I didn't try out the 33-yard UBS 17th Challenge shot, but maybe I should considering a Hole In One gets you an ipod Touch, closest to the hole a Taylor Made putter and a sleeve for a GIR. But more than that, they offer a nice grandstand with misters and a video board with the names of those who've hit it close (or in).
According to the pairing sheet, last year 53,000 visited, 33,000 took a shot at the green, 19% hit it and there were 40 holes-in-one. The green is 52 feet wide, the water 2 feet deep and the entire "Little 17" takes a month to construct.
Again, not to overkill the point, but you have to love seeing so many kids out at the event having fun. It not only was contagious throughout the property Wednesday, but the overall enthusiasm was sorely missed when it was noticeably quieter Thursday when Sawgrass was taken over by the paying customers.
Watching the tepid pace of play during round 1 of The Players, I wondered if rangefinders would help. After all they were billed as a savior of the game a few years ago but have not made it to regulation PGA Tour play (they can be used in practice rounds).
Then I read Paul Kenyon's story on the Rhode Island Golf Association allowing them for use in competition. Their executive director, Bob Ward, about nailed the crux of the problem:
"I didn’t keep track, but I would estimate that at least 50 percent of the field (178 players) either had the devices or asked about them,’’ Ward said. ``I feel the only thing that will change is that the pace of play will speed up a little. I’m still not sure how much because I believe that most time is lost on the greens. It is putting that slows the pace of play. But if this helps with the pace of play, then it’s good.’’
Has anyone heard of any studies or stories documenting actual improvements in pace of play thanks to distance measuring devices?
Thanks to reader Gene who noticed that the PGA Tour's new partner for the season opening event in Maui has been overtaken by the same folks who were rejected by the LPGA Tour not too long ago.
The press conference today included Tim Finchem and SBS's Sang Chun. Here's what Ron Sirak wrote about SBS ending its sponsorship of the LPGA's Maui event.
While the matter of Korean television rights for LPGA events might seem like a minor issue, it is not. The income from those rights is the tour's largest single revenue stream. And it is safe to assume the value of the LPGA in the Korean market will only grow in direct proportion to the success of Korean players on tour. Last year, both the U.S. Women's Open (Inbee Park) and the Ricoh Women's British Open (Jiyai Shin) were won by Koreans, who now number nearly 50 on tour. That Park was only 19 years old and Shin 20 when they grabbed their titles certainly bodes well for more major victories by Koreans—and better ratings.
The contract with J Golf, which has yet to be announced by the tour or the network, but details of which were obtained by Golf World, is a multiyear deal likely worth in excess of $4 million annually, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. That is up significantly from the $2.25 million SBS says it paid to broadcast 30 events in Korea this year. Asked if his company would continue to sponsor the SBS Open when coverage moves to J Golf next year, Sang Y. Chun, president and CEO of SBS International, said: "Absolutely not."
Chun, who said he was "disappointed, upset really" at losing the contract, said his feelings were "not about the money [but] about the way we were treated."
Tim Finchem says thanks!