Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos

The average golfer is inclined to become emotional when talking about golf course architecture. RICHARD TUFTS


    

Tuesday
Sep022008

Riding Wave Of Deutsche Bank T7, Campbell Named To Ryder Cup Team

Doug Ferguson reports...

Chad Campbell made one last impression on U.S. captain Paul Azinger and was rewarded Tuesday with a spot on the Ryder Cup team, joining Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan and J.B. Holmes as captain's picks.

Thoughts?

Monday
Sep012008

"Nobody's heard from him"

Doug Ferguson considers all of the selection candidates for Paul Azinger and says he could pick four rookies. I'm looking for Stricker, Mediate, Mahan and Holmes to get picked.

How anyone could possibly know is hard to say since Azinger isn't talking as Steve Elling notes:

Four of the players on Azinger's supposed short list said they haven't spoken with the captain in weeks -- if at all.

"I don't even know if he has my phone number," American veteran Scott Verplank said.

The buzz all week at the Deutsche Bank Championship has been about the final formation of the two teams -- it's the first time the U.S. team hasn't been set at the PGA Championship -- but the phones have certainly not been buzzing.

"Nobody's heard from him," said Steve Stricker, who is 10th in the world rankings and considered the closest thing to a lock to make the team. "I don't know if it's a good thing or bad thing."

Monday
Sep012008

"I find it troubling that media that does not know the whole story would jump on a racist bandwagon"

The Brand Lady speaks! A week after Beth Ann Baldry likely ruined Carolyn Bivens' vacation to Southern California (CB, a call would have been nice!), the LPGA Commish talks to Baldry via email and offers this wisdom to Ron Sirak:

"I find it troubling that media that does not know the whole story would jump on a racist bandwagon," Bivens told Golf World. "If these players don't take this step [and learn English], their ability to earn a living is reduced. They will be cut out of corporate and endorsement opportunities. I can't imagine that someone who has thought this through does not realize that in opposing this measure they are penalizing the very people they are trying to help."
You know she's right. It's not the LPGA officials who are the racists. It's the sponsors who are at fault here!

Maybe it was better that she stuck to emailed answers.

Sirak also offers the first information on the South Korean players-only meeting, and it sounds like little was lost in translation:
According to the source, one father lashed out at Bivens, who was defended by several veteran Korean players. A second source said some Korean players walked out of the meeting along with a few fathers. Multiple sources said the Korean players requested a private meeting with no LPGA officials, managers or parents, at which the veterans told the younger players it was to their economic benefit to learn English.
The Baldry email Q&A is mostly filled with carefully crafted answers clearly vetted much better than Sarah Palin, because there isn't much to make fun of here.
Carolyn Bivens: The feedback we are getting is much the same as what has been in the mainstream media, which runs from total agreement for the program to asking for more information to disagreeing with the position. The more the audience knows about the business model of the LPGA, the more likely they are to be in agreement. We welcome the dialogue, which is a wonderful way to learn what people are thinking about the LPGA and to inform at the same time.
Yawn.
GW: How has the LPGA responded to Asian-advocacy groups that have criticized the decision?
CB: We’ve not had the opportunity to speak with all of the groups that have contacted us, but we have had dialogue with some of the folks who have asked for more information or criticized our policy. The conversations have been positive, with a good exchange of information. Since much of the coverage reported on only 5 percent of our program, the penalty, instead of 95 percent of our program, the education and resources committed to our tour members, the one-on-one conversations are productive and positive. Some people and groups are developing opinions based on misinformation instead of understanding the policy in its entirety before drawing conclusions. We intend to follow up with these groups in the days ahead.
It's like reporters who cover an execution and fail to highlight that 95% of the time the killer wasn't hurting anyone
GW: Have you cut short your vacation to deal with the public response?

CB: While I’ve not been in the office this week, I have been in constant communication with our staff, sponsors and members as the LPGA responds to the various inquiries and media requests this past week.
The wonders of technology.
Meanwhile George Vecsey of the New York Times talked to several tennis players at the U.S. Open and drew this conclusion:
The L.P.G.A. probably has the right to install close-to-mandatory English courses for the players — an hour here, an hour there. Maybe the pro-am gig could be considered a language lab. But setting a deadline, putting employment on the line? Sounds anti-American to me.
Monday
Sep012008

"I have to say I was quite surprised myself"

Lawrence Donegan talks to Darren Clarke about his Ryder Cup selection snub:

"Half of the guys have been in touch over the last day to say how disappointed they are for me, and to say how surprised they are that I won't be going with them," the Northern Irishman said last night. "I have to say I was quite surprised myself."

Sunday
Aug312008

Faldo Insists Sarah Palin Was Never Considered For Euro Ryder Cup Team

The British press is having fun now. The early verdicts on the Poulter selection...

Lawrence Donegan offers probably the most sympathetic perspective:

The irony is that there really was a strong case for choosing Poulter over Clarke, or Casey for that matter. For one thing, he is a fabulous competitor. More crucially, he is a fabulous putter - the most important attribute any player can bring to a Ryder Cup. He finished 12th in the qualification rankings and, at No23 in the world, was the highest ranked player who had not played himself into an automatic spot.

Most people could marshal these facts, and a few others, to make an insurmountable case for Poulter, but not Faldo.

Remarkable for someone who makes his living as a TV commentator these days, the Englishman is uncomfortable under the glare of the cameras and, thus far into his captain's role, has made the famously tongue-tied Ian Woosnam sound like Winston Churchill. Yet on this occasion his hesitation might have had more to do with the fact that he was hiding a deeper truth - that his selections may have had little to do with form and a lot to do with personality.

And shares this about Monty:

Faldo was sympathetic to those left out, especially when it came to Clarke. "Darren made a massive, massive charge, a big effort the last few weeks. It's a tough call - some will agree, some will disagree. I briefly spoke to Darren and you could sense he was disappointed," he said.
"Monty, I only managed to leave a voice message - apparently he was watching football or shopping. My run came to an end and the first one you miss it stinks. Monty's had an historic career, but unfortunately his summer wasn't great and he's finished down the list."
Derek Lawrenson reports that Bernard Gallacher suspects the pick was a mistake.
'I am shocked,' said Gallacher. 'A lot of people were very surprised that Ian didn't come back and fight for his place, and I think team morale will be a bit lower for picking him over Darren, who tried so hard to make it.

'I felt Darren and Paul Casey were certainties to be his picks. But Nick's always been a bit controversial and he's certainly lived up to that.'
James Corrigan in the Independent doesn't sound too high on the selection:
In ignoring the seemingly irresistible claims of Darren Clarke and picking Ian Poulter alongside Paul Casey as his two wild cards, Faldo left himself exposed to criticism, from both inside and outside the team room.

Poulter may have finished second in the Open at Birkdale in July but elsewhere he has recorded just one top 10 finish all season and that came in Abu Dhabi in January. He has not shot a single round under 68 since then. In fairness, the flamboyant Englishman has been consistent in racking up the top-30s and, as Faldo pointed out: "He was the highest ranked player who had not already made the team." Undeniably, Poulter is a brilliant putter and a confident competitor. He is also a friend of Faldo's, however, and that inevitably assisted in filling the whispers here.
Lewine Mair in the Telegraph notes the cozy ties between Faldo and Poulter.
It was back at the PGA championship that he spoke of being in constant contact with Faldo. "We've been friends for the last few years so I've just been keeping in touch and he's always been supportive of me over the last year," he said at the time.
"I'm in a situation where I'm close to making the side and where I think I should be in contact with him. I want to know what's going to happen and what the team could be doing."
The above, in itself, resulted in nothing more than a few raised eyebrows. But when, in withdrawing from the Johnnie Walker, he made another mention of having spoken to Faldo, it was hardly surprising that so many put two and two together.
John Hopkins in the Times notes that the dreaded Clarke-Westwood pairing is not an option now:
Yet Faldo stands accused by some of having made an error already in selecting Ian Poulter ahead of Darren Clarke and Carl Pettersson. Clarke, 40, has won two tournaments since mid-April, the more recent eight days ago. His partnership with Lee Westwood has yielded an enormous dividend for Europe. Clarke and Westwood have beaten the world No 1 and No 2 in three of the recent Ryder Cups - Woods and Duval in the four-balls at Brookline in 1999, Woods and Mickelson in the foursomes at Oakland Hills in 2004 and Woods and Furyk in the four-balls in 2006. To discard such a potent partnership seems to be brave at the very least.
Upon hearing that Clarke had not been selected, Paul Azinger may have let out a sigh of relief. “I thought he was a lock,” the US captain said.
Mark Lamport-Stokes reports that even Jim Furyk was shocked by the selection.
"I think everyone kind of felt like Darren was going to get the nod," Furyk told reporters after shooting a two-under-par 69 in the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship.

"All of his team mates and actually our guys respect him. He's a good friend of a bunch of guys over here and I know the guys on their team love him.

"He's great behind the scenes, a good team guy, so I think I'm a little surprised Darren wasn't a pick.

"From a personal perspective, Darren is a friend and I feel badly for him that he's not there," added Furyk, who like the Northern Irishman has played in the last five Ryder Cups.

As for the rest of the team, GolfBrief.com offers AP team capsules.
Sunday
Aug312008

With One Top 10, Poulter Was A No Brainer For Euro Ryder Cup Team

Now the fun really begins as we await the European press reaction to Nick Faldo inexplicably picking Ian Poulter over Darren Clarke. Or is it inexplicable? As reader Chris noted, check out this buried in an unbylined golf365.com story:

Faldo's first words to Poulter, though, revealed how close a relationship they have developed.

They regularly speak to each other in the voice of a character from 'Only Fools and Horses' and on the phone Faldo said: "Raquel, go and put your overcoat on. It's time to go to the Ryder Cup."

Lordy. Let's get these two some tickets to see a Bette Midler concert.

Saturday
Aug302008

"Faldo would have soaked it up. If he was here. Which, of course, he was not."

An unbylined Scotland On Sunday story (Tom English?) takes Captain Faldo to task for not appearing at Gleneagles for Saturday's third round.

Yes, Faldo would have soaked it up. If he was here. Which, of course, he was not. A face in the crowd at the tennis at Flushing Meadows earlier in the week he was believed to be at a corporate day at Wentworth yesterday. No doubt he had his reasons and we'll be mightily interested to hear them when he announces his wild cards a little after 6pm this evening. Quite honestly, he's got a bit of talking to do today.
Meanwhile Bill Elliott in The Guardian sums up the issues Faldo faces in selecting two players, one of which is not going to be Monty.

Bernard Gallacher tells Faldo to pick Paul Casey and Darren Clarke and reminds him to call the bums he leaves off the team. Thanks to reader Chris for this story.

I'm liking the American's chances the more the Europeans keep kicking each other around!
Saturday
Aug302008

"Such nonsense represents nothing short of blatant and specific racism."

On the LPGA's planned English-speaking requirement, John Huggan becomes the first to drop the "r" word in a major publication, talks to a player who offers a fresh perspective and drops the mini-bombshell that Commissioner Bivens has instituted a new rule requiring media background checks. Anyway, the "r" word part:

Now, quite apart from the obviously tricky legal aspects of such a distasteful and questionable move – and the equally self-evident irony in having those who, like, routinely mangle the, like, English-language on a, like, daily basis, claiming the upper hand in any linguistic argument – such nonsense represents nothing short of blatant and specific racism. Note that, despite today's LPGA tour being more diverse than it has ever been, only the Koreans were summoned to answer for their perceived verbal shortcomings.
Just why one nation should be singled out is not difficult to discern. For the US-based LPGA, the by-now routine domination of the tour by foreign-born players – a group largely made up of Koreans – is something of a commercial problem. Twenty-four LPGA events have been played so far this year and in 18 of those a non-US national has finished first. Seven of those 18 victories – including the two most recent major championships – have been recorded by Korean women.
For Middle America, such a phenomenon is the golfing equivalent of sleeping pills. For it is a sad and insular fact of life that Wally Hamburger III and his wife, Betty-Sue, have little or no interest in watching an apparently homogenous group of "furrners" beating up on homegrown twinkies like Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and Cristie Kerr.
He also talks to Catriona Matthew who offers this common sense attitude:

"To me, the whole thing is a bit odd in that I can't think of too many players – Korean or not – to whom this would apply. After two years on tour, 99 per cent of the players know enough English to get by. Which begs the question: Why is the LPGA bothering?

"In most cases I have found that the players can understand English but they are less comfortable speaking it in a public forum. That is understandable. It's easy to get something wrong in a second language. The bottom line is that the LPGA has more important issues it could be focusing on."
Saturday
Aug302008

"If they were in the schoolyard, Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter would probably have their heads banged together (or at least their sponsored visors)."

Monty and Ian Poulter are going at it on the even of Captain Faldo's Ryder Cup picks. Ah this getting fun! James Corrigan reports:

Never mind squeaky bum time, this is squawking gob time. As the race to make the Ryder Cup reaches its critical stage, two of the players in the frame to be named as Nick Faldo's wild cards here on Sunday evening are involved in a verbal skirmish that reveals just how tense this run-in has become. So much for all that legendary European camaraderie.

If they were in the schoolyard, Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter would probably have their heads banged together (or at least their sponsored visors). A petty squabble has descended into the bitterly personal and has overshadowed the Johnnie Walker Championship where six Ryder Cup rookies were trying their damnedest to qualify by right.

And here's the monumental debate at hand...
Responding to Poulter's advise that he should "keep his head down and play good golf" rather than make comments about the Open runner-up having "a hotline to Faldo", Monty let rip.
"Nice to be told what to do by one so young and one so inexperienced," said the 45-year-old, his quivering top lip underlining the extent of his fury. "Can you honestly believe he said that? The only reason that we said 'a hotline to Faldo' is because he has said he has spoken to Nick. Has anyone else said that? No. Right then. It is Nick Faldo's decision. Self praise is no praise."
And what a fine captain Monty will make!

Lawrence Donegan writes, "So much for the big, happy family that is European golf." At least there's one happy family in all of this: the media! 

Friday
Aug292008

"Ultimately, if the LPGA didn't seek to set a standard for English literacy it would be furthering the alienation and isolation that minority and immigrant groups have historically felt in the United States."

As with any issue dealing with race, the viewpoints are getting wilder and whackier each day with regard to the proposed LPGA English-only concept. Which, by the way is at day five and not a peep from the Commissioner! Anyway...

Beth Ann Baldry follows up on her exclusive by talking to several Koreans. Included was this observation that the LPGA's full-time English instructor might actually be making the problem worse.

Hae-Won Kang takes it a step further, saying that first-generation Koreans on the LPGA (i.e. Se Ri Pak, Hee-Won Han, Mi Hyun Kim) learned English quicker because they had little help. Since the LPGA hired a full-time staffer who is fluent in Korean and can help with interviews, Kang thinks many players have become complacent.
Brian Hewitt responds to reader emails, many of which support the LPGA Tour's position.

And SI's Farrell Evans writes that "if you want to succeed in corporate America, you may have to abandon part of your cultural identity."

Ah, that makes it so right! He also writes:
Many writers and bloggers are enjoying the opportunity to throw self-righteous grenades at the LPGA, but that's because they don't understand that being a touring pro means more than putting a ball in a hole. Public relations, sponsor seduction and fan interaction are all part of the job.
Sponsor seduction? Wow, he's right. I didn't realize that pro-am work went beyond saying "I like three inches outside the left edge."
Lamar Alexander, a Republican Senator from Tennessee, has been the most vocal proponent of an amendment that would make English mandatory in the workplace. "This is America, and in America we speak English," said Sen. Alexander, a former Secretary of Education. "Since 1906, no immigrant has been able to become an American citizen without learning English."
Why shouldn't the LPGA tour adhere to this inalienable right to mutual progress? Ultimately, if the LPGA didn't seek to set a standard for English literacy it would be furthering the alienation and isolation that minority and immigrant groups have historically felt in the United States.
Yeah, but they play a whole bunch of events outside the United States now. And the way things are going, more and more in the future.
When I finish writing this essay, I will hail a cab on St. Nicholas Ave. in Upper Manhattan. Chances are, my driver will speak almost anything but English. He will only recognize the address that I give him. We won't talk about our kids or the weather. We won't talk about why we can't talk to each other. I'll pay him and wave goodbye as I leave his car. I'll probably never see him again.
Sounds about like how most player's would like their pro-am rounds to go!
The stakes are too high for the LPGA to continue these types of casual lost-in-translation encounters. For its business to thrive in a tough economy in a sport that struggles even during the best of times, it needs more. It needs to make a statement, loud and clear.
Life isn't fair. 

Hey, at least he didn't also write that golf is a metaphor for life.

Friday
Aug292008

"If you are not having fun, you are disqualified."

There's a wonderful unbylined but very personal obituary of Bob Labbance at reformer.com. If anyone knows who the author was, please let me know.

Friday
Aug292008

TPC Boston Changes To Look For

Jim Wagner filled me in with a few more specifics about the minor work done at TPC Boston. Most of this won't show up on television, but I can say it makes a huge difference in making the greens feel a bit more naked and giving the golf course an older feel.

  • Green surround mounding removed: No. 1, No. 10, No. 18
  • Greenside bunker renovated: No. 4 (a feature was added in the left portion of the bunker to make player think a bit before automatically aiming for the hazard)
  • New fairway bunker, mound removal: No. 9 fairway
  • Bunker renovation, island added: No. 11
  • Fairway expansion in first landing area: No. 18

It was interesting how many players didn't care for the tee shot options on No. 18 last year, so the expansion should help the shorter hitters a bit.

Here's No. 10 with some of the rear containment mounding that should be gone.



Thursday
Aug282008

Olympic Club Changing 7th and 8th Holes

I'm glad I played them when I did and I'm even more pleased to say I witnessed some wonderful tournament moments on both because the new and improved 7th and 8th holes at Olympic Club (Lake) will have a hard time capturing the character of the current.

Here's Ron Kroichick's story on Olympic's decision to rebuild all 18 greens to USGA specs:

"If the greens were fine, we wouldn't be doing this work," said Pat Murphy, chairman of Olympic's green committee. "But since we're doing this work, we think it will be a better course."
No. 18 created lively debate in '98, before Lee Janzen surged past Stewart to win the Open. USGA officials chose such a precarious pin placement for the second round, one of Stewart's putts inched past the hole and slid 20 feet downhill. He was not happy.
Olympic Club officials later flattened the green, but many members thought the new green had become too tame for a short par-4. Murphy said the next version will have more slope than it does now, though it won't be quite as severe as it was for the 1998 Open.
That sounded fine to Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competition. Davis expects no problem finding suitable hole locations on No. 18, so he can avoid an encore of the '98 mess.
"Even if they were to move the green back to exactly what it used to be, we could do it," Davis said Wednesday. "I think the USGA just made a mistake in '98, putting the hole there. ... If we meet somewhere in the middle (on the slope), we can have that green the same speed as the others."
Ouch! Oh that ought to bring out the Tom Meeks fan club members.

This is also interesting considering that the USGA structures their contracts to prevent redesign work so close to a U.S. Open.
Davis knew the Olympic Club was contemplating changes, but he said he learned of last week's board approval only when On Golf called. He echoed Murphy's statement that the changes were member-driven, not demanded by the USGA.
Here's the depressing part:
The other striking wrinkle in this project: moving No. 8 to the right of its present location. That will turn a 137-yard par-3 into a much longer hole - with championship tees at 200 to 210 yards - with a different angle. It also allows Olympic officials to push back the green on No. 7.
"One short par-3 is fine," Murphy said, knowing No. 15 measures only 149 yards, "but two short par-3s just doesn't work in this day and age."
How many times have we heard PGA Tour players talk recently about the beauty and difficulty of short par 3s and 4s? You can have more than one, Mr. Murphy. The beauty of Olympic Club is that the Lake course follows no formulas. Well, not anymore.

And as much as I'm not a fan of Robert Trent Jones architecture or three tiered greens, his 7th green at Olympic works beautifully. I watched it trip up players last year at the U.S. Amateur, and even recall Davis telling me he had to move the tees up a couple of days to make it more driveable (dispelling any notion that the hole was too short for today's game). But it's getting moved in the redo by Bill Love:
There will be other tweaks to the Lake Course, including lengthening a few holes and re-contouring the greens on Nos. 7 and 15. The work will begin Nov. 4 and last until approximately June 1, 2009.
Thursday
Aug282008

"Because if you need two gos to get it to that stage, well, I think my kids could come up with a better design than that in one afternoon."

Things are going well at Gleneagles! But not to worry, Monty is on the case. Thanks to reader Nick for this Mike Aitken story on Lee Westwood blasting the 2014 Ryder Cup venue:

"You can't bring the Ryder Cup on to greens like this," rued Westwood after taking 31 putts in an opening round of 72, one under par. "They have a bit of rain and the best professionals in Europe can't hit the hole from two feet."

Asked what could be done to improve the sodden greens in Perthshire, Westwood replied: "They could rip them up and redo them. That's my fear for the Ryder Cup coming here. That they're just going to keep patching them up over the years. Hopefully they redo them.

"You build a course between two valleys in Scotland and you have to expect rain. So rain is not an excuse for having bad greens this week, I'm afraid. I've put down a green at home which is like concrete and we've had almost as much rain as they've had here.

"They need to dig them up and put the right construction underneath them."
Colin Montgomerie, the chairman of the championship committee, who missed himself from two feet on the 15th, didn't rule out future changes. "There's been an awful lot of rain and the greens are soft. I was practising here last week and they had to close the range a couple of times because of the rain. The weather has been awful and the greens have suffered. I think some greens drain better than these, there's no doubt about that. So we'll have to look into that in the future."

Westwood also took a swipe at golf course architect David McLay Kidd, the Scottish designer of Bandon Dunes in Oregon and the Castle Course near St Andrews, who is in charge of the redesign on the PGA Centenary, including the controversial seventh hole. "I hope they don't use the designer who has had two gos at doing the seventh green," the Englishman cautioned. "Because if you need two gos to get it to that stage, well, I think my kids could come up with a better design than that in one afternoon."
Whoa Nellie!
Thursday
Aug282008

Phil: Volatility Means I Can Spend More Time Not Playing!

Steve Elling notes Phil Mickelson's bizarre remarks Wednesday.

With it becoming increasingly obvious that the sweeping points overhaul has placed too much emphasis on the performances of players in the four-event playoff series and devalued the importance of play in the regular season, Phil Mickelson dropped a bomb Thursday at the Deutsche Bank Championship that probably had a few officers at tour headquarters reaching for aspirin, if not hankies.

Those aren't raindrops from the latest tropical storm falling in Ponte Vedra Beach, those are teardrops of sheer fright. After a handful of prominent players had expressed the opinion Thursday that the new FedEx points system had overreached, Mickelson offered an entirely unanticipated answer.

"I think that the intent was to have more turnover, and certainly it has done that," he said. "I don't feel as though the season, the regular season, has anywhere near the same impact that it had, and so that could be a good thing because now we don't have to play as many events if we don't want to."

Uh-oh.

The points volatility is going to shine a big bright light on something we've known all along: way too many of the PGA Tour's finest are spoiled, unimaginative or willing to realize just how weak their "product" is these days. 

Of course it means the regular season means less. But for a little excitement at the end, isn't it worth it? Do these guys realize how little interest there is in the PGA Tour playoffs?

Thursday
Aug282008

"How good is Carolyn Bivens' grasp of the game and business she is charged with running?"

An unbylined commentary from The Golf Wire became the first to focus on the role of Commissioner Carolyn Bivens in the LPGA's speak English brouhaha:

After all, this is a woman with an allegedly strong media background who managed to achieve near media blackout of the first event under her care in 2006, the Fields Open, because she thought it was a good idea to flout a century of accepted media business practice and attempt to appropriate ownership of stories and photos produced by media outlets at LPGA events. Despite the presence of Michelle Wie, who was still a media darling back then, both Honolulu newspapers, The Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and Golf World magazine were among those who did not cover the first round on Oahu.
Eventually, she had to relent. You know how testy people can get when they take on all the expense and risk, and then someone else wants to reap the benefits.
Clearly, she's gearing up next for a government job.
Her latest brainstorm attempts to nullify talent and hard work - also known as "merit" - in exchange for a better marketing and communications platform. And here we thought a commissioner's job was to create MORE opportunities for her constituents - you know, the players - and not fewer.
Speaking of the Commissioner, Doug Ferguson notes:
Strangely absent during this debate is LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens. According to Golfweek, Bivens held a meeting with only the South Koreans last week in Portland, which led some to believe they were being singled out.
Galloway said Bivens was returning from the West Coast on Monday and Tuesday, and “I drew the long straw” to handle media inquiries.
The New York Times editorial board even weighed in, calling the new policy offensive and self-destructive.

Wednesday
Aug272008

Getting In The Mood For TPC Boston

You may recall that last year at this time I blatantly touted the before/after work of my colleagues Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and friends at the TPC Boston, with several photos courtesy of superintendent Tom Brodeur.

Now, because I know you're dying to relive all of the before/after photos or some of my posts from the course during last year's epic Deutsche Bank Championship, I remind you that you can go to the TPC Boston journal archive. Or you can visit posts on individual holes here:

1st hole

4th hole

5th hole

7th hole

8th hole

9th hole

10th hole

15th hole

16th hole

17th hole


I understand that they have made some minor changes this year, including a change to the front left bunker on No. 4, as well as many more Palmer Design mounds. Still, 13 of the greens remain left over from the original design in some form. Hopefully some day they'll get the green light to fix the rest, starting with No. 18!

Wednesday
Aug272008

"The LPGA wants Koreans to speak passable English but the Tour's own leadership can't communicate that fact to the players with anything approaching clarity. How's that for irony?"

Impressive coverage and diverse views continue to dominate the LPGA's English-only rule coverage, which appears widespread and mostly not positive: Dan Barnes writes:

It should be noted that the message from commissioner Carolyn Bivens was delivered to the Korean players in spoken English. There was nothing presented to them on paper or, heaven forbid, in their own language. How much got lost in translation? Plenty. Some Korean players told Golfweek, the website that broke the story, they believe they will lose their cards permanently if they can't pass the test.
And...
It's all about sponsorship, something Korean golfer Jeong Jang figured out a while ago. She told Golfweek about Cristie Kerr's acceptance speech after she won the 2005 Michelob Ultra Open.
"First thing she said to the camera was, 'I need a beer.' I still remember that. Sponsors must be proud."
Oh yeah, that was a proud Kodak moment, all right. And there could be so many more, if the LPGA's dialectal directive has its desired effect on the international membership. When Soo-Yun Kang wins the McDonald's LPGA Championship in 2009, provided she has taken all her English lessons, she can step in front of the camera and say, "I need a massive influx of fat and calories, so hand me a Big Mac.''
Now that would be a mouthful in any language.The LPGA wants Koreans to speak passable English but the Tour's own leadership can't communicate that fact to the players with anything approaching clarity. How's that for irony?

Leonard Shapiro calls the English-only rule "draconian, xenophobic and seemingly discriminatory." He also writes:

What if the tables were turned and you were sent to a foreign country to conduct your own business, only to be told that unless you learned Korean, or Japanese or Spanish you'd be out of a job? Could you do it in two years, while also putting in 50-hour or longer work weeks? Five years? Ever?
There is more than a little irony here as well. Women golfers around the globe, and particularly in the U.S., have been discriminated against for years. They've been unable to join certain clubs as full members, prohibited from teeing off on weekends until 1 p.m., told that the men's grill was truly boys only and totally off limits and totally excluded from any membership at all in places like Augusta National, Pine Valley and Burning Tree.
And now one of the most powerful women's sports organizations in the world is actually going to discriminate against some of its very own international female members because they're not proficient in English? It's absurd, it's dead wrong and clearly contrary to the Olympic ideal that rewards only the fastest and the strongest, not the athlete who gives the best press conference for the American media.
Ron Sirak shares this from an LPGA player agent:
"Next year there will be LPGA events in Thailand, Singapore, China, Korea and Japan and the tour has said it has its eye on India and the Middle East as well," notes another agent who also asked that his name not be used. "Will Americans who win in those countries be expected to give their speech in the local language?"
Jay Coffin says "good idea, poor execution" but also writes that "Suspension is too harsh a penalty. An LPGA card is earned from talent, now that status can be taken away for a reason other than talent. There’s something fundamentally wrong with this concept."

Alan Shipnuck
considers the legality of the rule.
So-called English-only rules in the workplace are an emerging body of law; the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in. One high-profile recent case, still pending, centered on a Connecticut sheet-metal factory that made English compulsory. The attorney for the workers, Steven D. Jacobs, tells GOLF.com: "Over the last 10 years, there have been a number of decisions in this area, and the courts have consistently decreed that it is permissible for an employer to mandate English-only for two narrow reasons: safety" — air-traffic control being an obvious example — "and efficiency" — such as telephone customer service.
"And that's it," Jacobs continued. "With regards to the LPGA, safety is obviously a non-factor. So the issue becomes, is the language a player speaks fundamental to the competition? I would not want to be the one who has to make that case."
Jon Show at Sports Business Daily counters with this:
LPGA Deputy Commissioner Libba Galloway said the policy was vetted with attorneys familiar with workplace laws. “Legal businesses and membership organizations have the right to make certain requirements that are fundamental to their businesses,” Galloway said. A formal copy of the policy was not available, said Galloway, because it will not be finalized until the end of this year.
Can't wait for the day that's leaked!

Larry Dorman says the "policy has touched an international nerve" and writes:
Because of the manner in which the information seeped out, and because the L.P.G.A. tour has not finished drafting a written version of the policy, the organization has been both pilloried and praised around the globe.
If the L.P.G.A. hoped to use this as a trial balloon, it has plenty of material to wade through before a final document is forged. Harrington, for example, raised many questions those in the L.P.G.A.’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla., might want to consider.
“Do you have to pass an exam?” said Harrington, an Irishman who has won three of the last six major championships. “Surely if you can say hello, that’s English. Is that good enough? Who draws the line about how many words you’ve got to know in English?
“Obviously some people are natural talkers and some people aren’t. What if you have a person who genuinely struggles with learning new language, they have a learning disability? That’s tough to ask somebody with a learning disability who might have found golf as the saving grace in their life, to ask them to learn a different language or else you can’t play.”
And it didn't take long for the satirical columns to start. Bill Nichols in the Dallas Morning News:
As a public service, here are five more requirements for LPGA consideration:
•Minimum score of 1,350 on the SAT or 31 on the ACT
•2,000-word essay on character construction in Finnegan's Wake
•Minimum height of 5-3, maximum height of 5-10
•Change a flat tire in 20 minutes (using an American car, of course)
•Look like Natalie Gulbis
Wednesday
Aug272008

Monty Prepared To Transition To Cheerleading Role If Asked

Oh right, like that's going to happen. From golf365.com:

In the space of a few minutes today Montgomerie went from giving the impression that he would not be interested to saying: "I would certainly think about that decision and anything that would help the European cause I would be for.

"I would help in any way, shape or form - potentially, yes."

Mike Aitken tells us what the bookmakers think and buries the ultimate lede: Monty has won 5 Ryder Cups all on his own!

In spite of all the unsubstantiated talk about nods and winks, the bookmakers yesterday made Casey at 2-11 and Darren Clarke at 1-4 the odds-on favourites to win wild cards from Faldo with Poulter, 2-1, and Colin Montgomerie, 5-1, also on offer at short prices.
And...

If Faldo has other lieutenants in mind, and doesn't require Monty's services as a player, the Scot will cheer on Europe from a seat in front of a TV. "Being the only European that's won five Ryder Cups, I'm very honoured to be that person," he said. "I'd be watching and hoping the team make it four wins in a row, which would be exceptional."
Tuesday
Aug262008

Volatility Verdicts

Alan Shipnuck likes the new playoff points system:

The much-hyped playoff format that sportswriters love to hate is off to a rollicking start. Besides the buzz of Sergio's sudden death, there are Ryder Cup spots up for grabs and the new points system has created a lot more more week-to-week excitement. Bottom line: don't ever bet against Finchem.
Meanwhile John Hawkins levels a verdict in this week's Golf World, and seems to have agreement from a member of the Tour policy board:
When the tour's Policy Board began reviewing the first FedEx Cup finish in late 2007, it came up with two primary objectives: create dramatic movement in the standings and make the superstars play in all four postseason events. Thus, the decision was made to turn up the dials on everything that would encourage volatility.
The problem? Almost everyone ignored the fragility. Singh earned 11,000 points for winning the Barclays -- just eight players reached that total in the entire regular season. You want crazy? A solo third at one of the first three playoff tournaments pays 5,400 points, which is more than Trevor Immelman, Woods, Padraig Harrington (and Harrington again) got for each of their major championship victories earlier this year. Simply making the cut at Ridgewood was worth 2,098, almost 400 points more than Rich Beem got for a solo third a week earlier in Greensboro.
Seriously, folks, you can't make up this stuff. "We went overboard," acknowledged policy board member Joe Ogilvie. "We overcooked it, and I'm sure we'll revise [again], but at least we know we took it too far.
"We were given various [projections], so we fully knew what we were getting into," Ogilvie added. "Mark Wilson [a member of the Player Advisory Council] was the one guy who thought we were going too far. I remember him warning us of what might happen. The problem isn't so much the player who wins as it is the player who finishes 135th, makes two [postseason] cuts and jumps into the top 70. That's not in the spirit of the playoffs, or shouldn't be."
Last year we had to wait to issue a verdict, now we're declaring the points revamping DOA after week one. I love these guys!