Royal Melbourne retains a beautiful, hearty, natural look which, in the way of competition, plays very glassy. It takes eternal vigilance in greenkeeping to maintain such a gem as Royal Melbourne…I was familiar with the great Claude Crockford , the superintendent of the course in my era, who neatly summed it up for me one day when he said, "You in America try to grow grass. We try to keep it from growing here." He was light years ahead of most people in his field. BEN CRENSHAW
SI's Alan Shipnuck pens a long (and I mean long!) feature on
The Golf Channel Golf Channel and how it's really all things wonderful. So touching to see how fatherhood has mellowed Alan to the point he can listen to Jerry Foltz drone on and not want to scream like Howard Beale.
Well, we learn that Nick Faldo and Kelly Tilghman engaged in carefully conceived exercises (they hiked, they surfed!). And we learn that when you combine the ratings of all the telecasts the numbers are actually up, which still doesn't settle the Sportscenter issue that was the heart of those begging for some ESPN involvement. And we learn that a 15-year deal was necessary because, as Tim Finchem asks
inanely rhetorically, "How do we build the platform together?"
I did love this from Dave Manougian, who apparently bamboozled the PGA Tour's army of VP's with this logic:
"I'm not sure if there's much difference between 15 years or 12 or 10," says Manougian. "To increase our distribution, we obviously needed a long-term commitment from the Tour, but quite honestly, once you get past six or eight years you sort of say, Well, we might as well go for it now!"One revealing quote comes from Joe Ogilvie:
"There's no question all of us benefit as the channel grows," says Ogilvie. "There are kickers in the contract to guarantee that. I think players are slowly starting to realize we're married to the channel, so to speak. It's in our best interests to help it succeed."And isn't this precisely the danger?
That the PGA Tour becomes a soft core version of the Big Break, with the separation of media and player turning each telecast into an infomercial?
Or is an infomercial-like brand plugfest just what today's America finds most comforting?
Oh please thoughtful readers, chime in.
They get a new sponsor (Ricoh) and some fine future venues...
Carolyn Bivens, Commissioner of the LPGA commented, "I am delighted that Ricoh will be sponsoring one of our Major Championships. The tournament is played on some of the world's most famous courses and showcases many of the greatest golfers in the world. We are looking forward to travelling to St Andrews in August for the first of what I am sure will be many Ricoh Women's British Open Championships."
It just rolls off the tongue...Richoh Women's British Open.And...
Sunningdale, Royal Lytham & St Annes and Royal Birkdale set to be Venues for the 2008-2010 Ricoh Women’s British Open
2nd May 2007
Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club and Royal Birkdale Golf Club will host the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2009 and 2010, with the Championship Committee in the final stages of negotiations with Sunningdale Golf Club to host the 2008 Championship, following this year’s historic visit to the Old Course, St Andrews.
Jimmy Burch on D.A. Weibring and his marching orders to fix the TPC Las Colinas.
But if Tiger is to remain in the mix at Texas-based events, his history says he'll play the Nelson before he surfaces elsewhere. Weibring said Woods offered feedback on the best way to improve the TPC layout: Eliminate "awkward" tee shots on holes No. 10, 12, 15 and 18.I wonder what awkward means? I haven't seen the course, fortunately. Anyone? Are they goofy awkward, or awkward because they force guys to make a decision? I'm guessing goofy awkward.
He's not alone. Weibring said awkward tee shots in relation to fairways surfaced as the "No. 1 issue" pros want him to correct this off-season. The greens, they figure, will thrive when resurfaced with fresh bent grass.
As an architect, Weibring has skins on the wall. Some of his notable tweaks for 2008 look inviting, particularly a cascading, four-lake water feature down the left side of the 18th fairway.
Oh that ought to have them coming back in droves!
Last week I wondered if Brian Hewitt had it right about the new $32 million price tag on the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse. Sure enough, Golfweek's Adam Schupak confirms it and shares some of the
excuses reasons why the cost just about doubled.
It’s a far cry from the original TPC clubhouse that was built for $1.3 million and opened in 1981. Former commissioner Deane Beman built the project under strict orders not to use the Tour’s assets or put the Tour at liability. This time, the Tour’s co-chief operating officer, Charlie Zink, established a reserve fund that reached $45 million in anticipation of renovations.Sounds so quaint!
Those reserves will be replenished in five to seven years, according to Pillsbury. How so? Through a combination of club operations, tournament revenue and sponsorship fees.
The Tour sold three companies – UBS, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Jeld-Wen – “proud partner” tournament-sponsorship packages that include TV inventory and dedicated hospitality and meeting space within the new clubhouse. Its predecessor had limited indoor space for entertaining and little useable space for hosting outdoor events.
The new clubhouse is more than just a place to change shoes and grab a hot dog. It features a Champions Lounge, separate member, player, and resort guest locker rooms, a golf shop, a 2,550-square-foot main dining area with a 1,300-square-foot terrace, and 13,800-square-
feet of banquet and meeting space.
The clubhouse’s second story is dedicated mainly to the three “proud partner” rooms, each large enough to seat 130 people. Each of the three companies signed a six-year deal that insiders estimate costs $12 million to $14 million annually. (Of that amount, $4 million to $6 million is earmarked to replenish the reserve fund.)
Efforts to further boost the clubhouse’s sponsorship revenue potential led to cost overruns. Initially, Tour executives had planned to build two “proud partner” rooms, but later added a third. The project originally was budgeted between $18 million and $22 million; it cost nearly twice as much to complete.
Satisfying sponsors’ needs also came with a price. During an early site visit, sponsors noted that the commissioner’s hospitality area had a patio. Now the “proud partner” rooms do, too.
Wow, those are some expensive patios!
While construction benefited from the driest summer in 22 years, the Tour still had to dip into its rainy day fund. To ensure the facility would be open for this year’s tournament, a construction schedule of slightly less than a year from demolition to completion was implemented, leading to $2 million in overtime. Normally, a project of this magnitude would take 18 to 24 months, Pillsbury says. Moreover, there was a 30 percent increase in the cost of materials such as steel and concrete during construction, adding $6 million to the final bill.
“The money meter was running on all this stuff,” Pillsbury says.
"It's a lot easier to privately fund-raise for the First Tee than it is to privately fund raise for the city and county"
In Ron Kroichick's report on the likely Yes majority for the PGA Tour-Harding Park contract, I couldn't help but find this disappointing:
Elsbernd had delayed the vote two weeks, so he could try to allay his colleagues' concerns. The proposal -- a revision to the city's original contract with the PGA Tour, announced in 2004 -- called for the tour to give the city $500,000 per event and the First Tee program another $500,000 per event.Isn't that nice? Take away the Tour's impressive donation for the First Tee to make up for bureacratic bumbling.
Under the new terms, the tour would pay the city $1 million for each event. Any remaining money, after the costs of staging the tournament, would go to First Tee, a program designed to introduce young people to golf and "promote character development" through the game.
Elsbernd and First Tee officials feared the board of supervisors would reject the agreement without this compromise.
"It's a lot easier to privately fund-raise for the First Tee than it is to privately fund raise for the city and county," Elsbernd said. "I'm confident if there are any lost dollars to the First Tee, we'll be able to close the gap" with private donations.
I haven't spent much time with it yet, but the new look Golfweek.com looks to be a huge upgrade with plenty of fresh content.
I like the new Politico style columnist sketches, though something about them feels like they were done by a police-artist. Maybe it's the people in the sketches and not the artist's fault!
The Tour blog still lacks a comments options or linkable posts, so it's still not really a blog. But at least they are updating it with content, including some interesting posts about the tension heading into Tuesday's player meeting in Charlotte.
Doug Ferguson examines the Mickelson pro am situation and reminds us of recent embarrassing moves by the PGA Tour:
In 2005, Chad Campbell wanted to play the 84 Lumber Classic – the tournament even had his wife sing at one of its functions – but he asked out of the pro-am Wednesday to attend his grandmother’s funeral. The Tour made him choose between the pro-am and the funeral, and Campbell withdrew from the tournament.
Wes Short Jr. wanted to skip out on a pro-am because his father was about to have quadruple bypass surgery, but he had to choose between the pro-am and spending time with his father.Love this from Jim Furyk...
His solution was to fine a player $100,000 for missing a pro-am – if he still wanted to play. Furyk suggested making anyone who missed the pro-am for whatever reason make it up by attending a two-hour corporate function.
“If it boiled down to me going out and playing for four or five hours ... or sitting in a room with a sports coat on for two hours, I think I’d take the outdoors,’’ Furyk said.
Indeed, Mickelson sought out Pampling after learning of the Australian's comments, in order to give his side of the story. Lefty need not have bothered, because Pampling was unmoved.
"He explained he was there (in Arkansas) not making any money out of it, which helped the (tour's) decision making," Pampling said. "At the end of the day, this is not an issue about Phil. I explained it's not personal and he understands that. It's the tour's decision. He was just the guy given the pass. I still don't think he should have been in the field."
Tour executive vice president Henry Hughes and tournament director Slugger White made the decision to allow Mickelson to play. One player speculated that the ruling has so riled the rank and file that there will be calls for Hughes's head.
So I try to start the second annual fifth of four majors watch--that's when we watch for a golf scribbler to declare the
TPC The Players Championship THE PLAYERS The PLAYERS a major--and then we have Scott Verplank making a mess of things by declaring the Byron Nelson a fifth major.
But we must focus on to the real fifth of golf's four majors. The Players. And oh does this year figure to be the prime year for major championshp declarations.
Golf Digest featured Jerry Tarde listed five reasons it's a major:
Sorry Jerry, but to win our watch, you have to actually leave humor and those traces of skepticism out of the equation.
No, to win our coveted prize, our judges here looking for that special scribe who in some delusional moment after a particularly good press room meal actually sits down, skims past Jodie Mudd and Craig Perks's names, and by golly, declares the Players a major. Preferably designating it the fifth major...of golf's four.
Which makes Ron Whitten's feature story in the May Golf Digest a near winner. Ron starts humping away on the fifth major concept, but cleverly actually avoids making that inane sweeping declaration we so enjoy.
If ever the Players Championship is to be elevated to the status of a major golf championship in the mind of the players, the media and the public, this is the year.
He also manages to get in a few interesting points.
For greens, Dye selected the latest turfgrass innovation, MiniVerde Ultradwarf Bermuda, as fine-bladed as any bent-grass green, so it can be mowed as short as bent. It’s never grainy, and it’s also the rare Bermuda that keeps its green color throughout the winter.
That's right, they're playing the fifth of four on Bermuda greens this year. Not something you see your run of the mill fifth major. Should be fun to see what the players say about this exciting new turfgrass development.
This is now a golf course, and a championship, that combines attributes of all four majors.
And isn't that precisely the problem? It borrows a bit too much from everyone? Oh, sorry, I interrupted.
If the tour wants, it can grow U.S. Open- and PGA-style rough, because the May dates provide extra growing time. The Players’ finish is akin to Augusta National’s Amen Corner, only in reverse: a short, gambling par 5 followed by a treacherous little par 3 before the long, hard par 4. And it will surely play British Open firm and fast. The Players Stadium Course will play much like Royal Liverpool did for the British Open last year, forcing players to calculate roll, maneuver shots and invent strategies to avoid hazards and hit targets.
That’s the best of all worlds. Not even a major championship can say it has that.
So close, but still, no fifth major declaration.
Readers, please help me keep a watch for our first declaration. I feel this is the year we're going to here a record number of declarations for fifth major status!
ESPN.com's Jason Sobel had better make sure he starts UPS after this column, because I think his Priority Overnight's might find themselves on the first plane to Darfur.
Chances are, he hasn't been hearing much lately, because nobody is talking about it. Halfway through the seasons of most other sports with a year-end playoff system, predictors and prognosticators try to interpret how first-half results will equate to those at the end of the season, how the standings may be rearranged in coming months.
Let's face it: Too many players will reach the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs this year. Luckily, the format is still a work in progress. At this time next year, perhaps, we could be discussing the race for the playoffs.
"They've opened a can of worms...it wouldn't surprise me to see a few players taking advantage of some of the loopholes..."
"I would say 100% of the players, except for Phil, think he shouldn't be here," said Micheel, joining the growing chorus of condemnation at the tour's decision to let Mickelson play, even though he broke a tour regulation by missing Wednesday's pro-am.Oh but they'll get to hear how great the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse is!
"I'm really upset by it. A lower ranked player like myself would be (home) in Memphis right now. I'm not going to criticise Phil, but his responsibility is to be here. If that means he has to skip what he's doing to make sure he gets here, then he has to be here.
"He's a name player, but we have rules for a reason, on the golf course and in the regulations book, that we all have to play by. He did not met those rules, and he should not be allowed to play in the tournament."
Micheel, the 2003 PGA Championship winner, is speaking from bitter personal experience, because he was disqualified from the 2004 Bay Hill Invitational for missing the pro-am.
He did not realise the pro-am was scheduled for Tuesday, instead of the usual Wednesday, but the tour cut him no slack, banishing him from the event.
And just last year in Reno, Micheel missed the pro-am because he was vomiting in the locker room shortly before his tee time. The tour in that case allowed him to play in the tournament but, he says, penalised him financially.
"They docked $7,600 out of my retirement for that," he said. "I just wish they'd let me know that before, because then I might have gone out and played one hole. That would have been within the rules."
Micheel is so upset that he has already fired off an email to the PGA Tour, and he expects the matter will be the subject of heated debate when tour commissioner Tim Finchem hosts a players' meeting in Charlotte on Tuesday.
But players are questioning why Mickelson was even playing a Tuesday outing in another state when bad weather was forecast.
"They call it an act of God (but) he could have flown here at six o'clock (Wednesday) morning," Micheel continued.
"A friend of mine playing the pro-am flew in (from Memphis) at 1.30 in the morning. Memphis and Little Rock are 100 miles apart.
"They've opened a can of worms. It's huge problem and it wouldn't surprise me to see a few players taking advantage of some of the loopholes in the rules in the next few months."
That inevitable commentary you've been waiting for that analyzes the strange relationship between Tiger and the PGA Tour?
Naturally, just as she did with the technology issue, you finally get to read about it in provocative and fresh fashion from the New York Times' Selena Roberts.
Either way, Tiger is in charge. How do you please the host with the most? No event is cheap. As it is, the Tour donates about $240,000, according to tax documents, to Tiger’s Target World Challenge, an unofficial event. To co-sanction official Tour stops, PGA officials supplement the purses. The AT&T National and Deutsche Bank could run the PGA about $8 million this year, according to industry experts.
The payoff for Tiger is tucked in the pocket of his charity. Last year, his foundation received an estimated $1.5 million from the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Is there a money trail to Tiger’s heart? What’s wrong with buying Tiger’s affection, anyway?
It contradicts every tenet of golf’s righteous culture of integrity. “This is golf,” Finchem said repeatedly during an interview last week, as if the sport’s virtue inoculates it from scrutiny.
The PGA Tour doesn’t drug-test, because that would imply a steroid problem exists. Who knew willful ignorance was a marketing strategy? The Tour applies this see-no-evil approach to glaring conflicts of interest, too.
Whoa. Roberts didn't get the memo that you are no one in golf unless you have a conflict of interest!
More tough stuff...
Tiger has played only five events in four months. This weekend’s Byron Nelson is not among them. For years, Tiger played out of deference to Nelson. Now Nelson is dead and Woods is a no-show.
Woods is a schedule recluse, the J. D. Salinger of golf.
It's okay Damon Hack, Tiger'll talk to you again sometime this century! When you've won your Pulitzer, retired from the Times and write lucrative books!
As disturbed as Roberts is by Tiger's selective schedule, it's the PGA Tour she blames.
Now Woods is a Beltway power broker. He already legislates to the PGA.
“It’s only leverage if you use it as leverage,” Finchem said, adding, “I don’t have a concern about that.”
And Tim it's only murder if you kill someone!
But Tiger does exploit his sway, if passive-aggressively. Other voices are ignored on issues, but a suggestion by Tiger is processed as a demand. In 2000, Tiger complained that the Tour was taking financial advantage of him, that Finchem ignored him. Voilà, Finchem and Woods met and love was in the air.
Tiger wanted a shortened season. Tiger received a FedEx Cup race that ends in September. Tiger wanted a tournament like Jack’s. Tiger received the D.C. gala, which was delivered, as desired, with a reduced field of 120 to enhance its prestige, and, as Woods mentioned, to speed up play.
Don't forget driver testing.
Wasn’t Tiger supposed to bring inclusion to the game? Instead, the Tour is more polarized than ever, between the haves and the have-nots. Several tournament officials say privately that they are tempted to barter for Tiger with a donation, but others refuse to abandon their community aid.
“You have to ask, how long is Tiger going to be out there?” said Dave Kaplan, the tournament director for the AT&T Classic in Duluth, Ga. “Is it till he’s 50 or 35? Who knows? If he catches Jack Nicklaus, does he say, ‘That’s it’? And you’d hate to think it, but Tiger, like anyone, could get hurt tomorrow. Stuff happens.”
Stuff makes it a lateral hazard for the Tour to wrap itself in one player. The Tiger Boom could vanish as quickly as the dot-com high. Sports wither all the time, from American pro soccer after Pelé, to boxing after corruption, to a National Hockey League with a puny television deal.
For the Tour to empower Tiger above all is to create a petri dish for an abuse of fame, to lose the ability to tell its rock star no, to sanction its own tumble from virtue.
This is not Tiger’s issue, but a Tour management flaw. What is best for Tiger is not necessarily a 2-foot gimme for those below. It was, after all, a tiny turtle squeezed beneath the pond king that, with a wiggle, toppled Yertle.
From today's LA Times obituaries
(no link) (link here, thanks reader Kevin), sad news about one of the game's great gentlemen who I feel privileged to have known and taken lessons from:
Rhoads, Ronald Harrison
Ronald Harrison Rhoads (Ron) passed away peacefully on April 12, 2007. He leaves his wife, Martha, his daughter, Carolee, her husband John, and grandaughter Nancy. He is also survived by his brother Roger Rhoads (Linda), brother, Rick Rhoads (Joan), sister, Lorraine Greenburg (Ray) and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Virginia, in 1996.
A native Southern Californian, Ron graduated from Beverly Hills High School and The University of Southern California. He married his high school sweetheart, Martha. Ron was able to spend his career playing the game he loved; he was the head golf professional at Sahalee, Riviera, Sherwood and North Ranch Country Clubs, as well as the golf coach for his alma mater, U.S.C. Ron was devoted to the game of golf and touched many people with his expertise, work ethic and caring attitude. Ron also enjoyed fishing and hunting and divided his time between homes in Whitefish, Montana and Malibou Lake, California. He was a wonderful husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, brother and uncle and will forever be missed by family and friends alike.
A private memorial will be held on May 12th. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation would be appreciated.
I didn't want to distract from Selena Roberts's piece on Tiger and the Tour by pointing out this NYTimes.com snafu which was not repeated in the print edition, mercifully for Tim Finchem's dermatologist and his hair stylist Marcel, who in between coloring some of Jacksonville's richest trophy wives...oh anyway, the caption and photo:
When Tiger Woods talks, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is likely to listen closely. The Tour often adjusts its schedule to accommodate Woods
"A lot of players are not happy," world No 19 Allenby said after the first round.
"I like Phil, but when the tour set a precedent, they've got to stick with it," said Allenby. "He [Mickelson] checked into the hotel here when I checked in on Monday. He came here, was on site, and he elected to go somewhere else, knowing the weather was going to be crappy. He took the risk. Take the risk and you pay the penalty."