Latest From
Writing And Videos

Golf requires only a few simple Rules and Regulations to guide the players in the true nature of its sporting appeal. The spirit of the game is its own referee.



"It's not who golfers are."

Paul Azinger is interviewed by Conor Doughtery in Monday's WSJ, and most of the answers say something like "it depends on the makeup of the team."
WSJ: Any thoughts on how the course will be set up?

MR. AZINGER: It's another one of those things that's going to really depend on the makeup of that team. I don't want to say I'm not going to have any rough out there and then Nick Faldo picks his two biggest hitters because he thinks it gives him an advantage. I don't want him to know anything. I'll just do what I can based on the makeup of the team.

See. Here's one interesting comment, though I don't buy the usual stuff about golfers being honorable, therefore they would never cheat on the drug test:
WSJ: What are your feelings on drug testing in golf?

MR. AZINGER: It's time for the tour to be drug-tested. What I'm opposed to is that we're supposed to drop our pants to our ankles and pull our shirts to our chests to prove we don't have someone's urine strapped to our side. It just seems a little silly to me to that you can't just say, "You're going to be drug-tested today, go in that bathroom, pee in a glass and just leave it there." [Instead, they are saying], "Go in that bathroom, I'm coming in there with you, and you have to drop your pants, lift up your shirt." It's not who golfers are.

I don't think there was any consideration on the [PGA Tour's prohibited substances list] of performance-enhancing drugs [for] what's performance-enhancing in golf. Stimulants are on this list. I mean, guys don't take a handful of stimulants before they tee off at the Ryder Cup. That's the last thing they need.

Els Dumps Leadbetter

Steve Elling reports on the latest sign of desperation intense desire to improve from Ernie Els...
The third-ranked player in the world told on Monday night that he has joined forces with Butch Harmon, who can now boast three of the top eight players in the world rankings as members of his stable. Els had been a client of David Leadbetter for two decades.

"We have been friends for 20 years and will always be friends," Els said of Leadbetter. "I'm giving him a ticket here for this week. This is purely a professional thing."

Uh, Lead couldn't have got in otherwise? What, he's not paying his PGA of America dues?

Yet the coaching change came as a surprise, given how long he and Leadbetter have been allies, not to mention former neighbors at an upscale Orlando, Fla., club. Els began working with Harmon three weeks ago on the range in Miami and has been sending the Las Vegas-based swing guru video via computer for the past couple of weeks.
"The wonders of technology," Els said.

"Ochoa visited the Mission Hills grounds crew Monday to thank them for their hard work and help them make scrambled eggs."

A nice anecdote about Dinah Shore winner (sorry, I can't keep up on the latest tournament name) Lorena Ochoa from Golfweek's Sean Martin:

The people she really had to win for this week were the five mariachis standing behind the 18th green. What would they play if Ochoa slipped up Sunday and let Maria Hjorth or Seon Hwa Lee walk away with the title?

Ochoa visited the Mission Hills grounds crew Monday to thank them for their hard work and help them make scrambled eggs. They promised the mariachis would be there for her Sunday.

“I said, ‘OK, I’m going to wait,’ ” Ochoa said. “But it was a good surprise, and they kept their promise.”

I wonder the last time a PGA Tour player visited the maintenance yard and cooked with them...before a tournament to boot.

Doug Ferguson sums up her remarkable performance and the scene Sunday:

She has won the past two majors by a total of nine shots. Ochoa has won three of four tournaments this year by a combined 23 shots.


Ochoa became the first player since Annika Sorenstam in 2005 to win two straight majors, having captured her first major in the Women's British Open at St. Andrews last summer by four shots. Since winning that first major, she is 8-for-13 on the LPGA Tour.

Tiger Woods also has won eight of his past 13 events, including a major.


Dateline Augusta: Monday April 7 Edition

DatelineAugustaMy daily clippings collection debuts at

Warning: it's a long one. I can't help it that the media has done its usual bang-up job setting the table for The Masters.


"They are missing the point really. Surely what we shoot should not matter."

John Huggan talks to Geoff Ogilvy about his recent practice round at Augusta and about last year's event.

“Even before the character of the golf course was so obviously changed, the angles were slowly being killed off,” counters Ogilvy. “In their place has come an obsession with how fast the greens are, surfaces that should really be slightly slower and a bit firmer. If the club achieved that, the angles would be brought back into play.

“As things stand, the turf is too soft for the course to truly play ‘firm and fast.’ On holes like the 5th, where Jones wanted you to run the approach shot in, you can’t do it because the ground is too soft. So it isn’t just on the greens where too much water is applied. But if they cut back on that they would lose the ‘greenness’ of the place. If you look at the pictures of Augusta back in the 1970s, the course wasn’t green at all. It was a motley brown, just as it should be really.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the course – especially the putting surfaces – and Augusta does look pretty special when it is as green as they like it to be, but that verdant colouring does compromise how it plays. It’s a shame. They are missing the point really. Surely what we shoot should not matter. But everyone seems to think it does these days. And what has been lost is the fun we should be having playing the course and, in turn, the fun the spectators should be having watching us. The original point of the Masters was that it should be fun to play and fun to watch.”
Regarding the change at No. 7...
“With that new pin position you can expect to see guys putting off the green. It’s at least a real possibility. Knowing what is possible, you’ll probably see guys playing safely to the right then leaving their first putts eight feet short. I’m sure that is the effect the officials want. Fear is their biggest weapon sometimes.
And the tree removal at No. 11 does not sound very Oakmont-like...
“The 11th hole is just the same. They claim to have removed some trees, but if they hadn’t told me I wouldn’t have known. What has changed is that there are pine needles rather than grass under the trees. That only makes things worse, as the needles are those big fluffy ones. They are horrible to play off when they are not raked and smooth. Again, I’m not sure what the motivation for that is; if you hit it over there you are going to have to chip out anyway, just like last year.”

"He took it off"

In profiling Augusta National chairman Billy Payne for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Steve Hummer talks to Payne buddy A.D. Frazier.

Frazier, who is not an Augusta National member but regularly attends the tournament, witnessed his buddy inform a club member in passing how much he disliked the man's hat. It was nothing obviously tasteless — it had neither "Caterpillar" nor "U.S. Beer Drinking Team" stitched above the bill. It was just a straw hat as Frazier remembers it. But Payne thought it not quite appropriate for a green-jacketed symbol of the Augusta National ideal.

And what did this un-named member, a powerful man as befits a member of one of golf's most exclusive enclaves, do?

"He took it off," Frazier said.

Maybe Payne is more like Clifford Roberts than we think?  Meanwhile, Hummer also includes this about the chairman's job: 
"It's a tough job," said David Owen, author of "The Making of the Masters," a look at the beginnings of the club and the tournament. "No one wants to be the one [chairman] who makes a big mistake."

The good news is the classification of chairman who made several mistakes was nabbed by Hootie Johnson several years ago. 


"It's the Daily Mail. Even the people who read the Daily Mail pretty much don't believe what's in it. Nick may be a little more upset than I am, but I think he knows I'm not going to say stupid stuff like that."

If you had under 10 hours in the Azinger denial pool, you win!

Gary Van Sickle scores the detailed response from Azinger to the Daily Mail story where he's quoted blasting Nick Faldo:

Azinger said he phoned Faldo after he first read the story and left a humorous message to needle his friend. "I said, 'Nick, this is Zinger,'" Azinger said. "I said, 'Well, it's already started. I don't know if you've seen it, but one of those papers said I called you a pr--k and that everyone from your generation hates you. Even though you pretty much are and everyone pretty much does, I have more diplomacy than to say that.' He called back and said, 'Zinger, I read this whole article and, you don't like Monty more than me, do you?'"

"The bottom line is that the players from his generation and mine really don't want to have anything to do with him."

azingerMOS0504_228x347.jpgThe Daily Mail's Ian Stafford hopefully had his tape recorder running when Paul Azinger made some of these comments about Nick Faldo, because you have to figure Azinger's going to either A) deny having made them or (B) suggest that they were taken out of context.

"Nick Faldo has tried to redefine himself," says Azinger. "I'd say he is both who he is and who he was. Some people have bought it. Some have not. But if you're going to be a p***k and everyone hates you, why do you think that just because you're trying to be cute and funny on air now that the same people are all going to start to like you?

"The bottom line is that the players from his generation and mine really don't want to have anything to do with him. He did what he did as a player and there are relational consequences."

Faldo may have had the edge on Azinger when it came to money, majors and his standing in golf's hall of fame, but Azinger never lost against Faldo in the three Ryder Cups when they were up against each other. One of those victories came at The Belfry in 1989 when Azinger and Chip Beck defeated the hitherto unbeatable Faldo and Ian Woosnam in the second afternoon's fourballs.

"On the 11th, Faldo squatted down behind Chip's putt," says Azinger. "I asked him what he was doing. 'Oh, just helping out,' he replied. I said: 'I'll help my partner, not you'. I told Chip: 'I'm taking this match personally'."

The Americans won 2 and 1.

Azinger lets out a deep sigh of acceptance. "I guess I've always felt a rivalry with him, probably more than he has with me," he says. "I've got to know him better now but it doesn't change what's happened and, come September at Valhalla, something will have to give."

Well so much for that camaraderie between captains. Oh, wait, there's more... 
"Faldo will be a loner as a leader: very thorough, but a loner. I've got three assistants with me and, although people (Jack Nicklaus being one) have suggested the players don't need them, they must understand that the assistants are for me, not the players.
"Faldo and I both played Valhalla recently and I watched him making notes from start to finish. He reckons he's going to play in the Ryder Cup. Well, he's not, and neither am I. Telling the players what to do will just piss them off."

"They could play it almost how we used to play it."

Scott Michaux considers the chances of long-driving Masters rookies J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson, sharing this from Tiger Woods:

"God, it would be so much fun to watch those guys play with no rough out there and just have them bomb away and see the angles they could create," said Tiger Woods, thinking back on his early experience before major changes to the course. "They could play it almost how we used to play it."

Of course, the club's stance is that players would never think of using such angles in today's game, even though they really don't ask them how they play the course.

But even worse, Tiger is saying the course plays differently and it sure sounds to me like he finds it far less interesting.  


"Of those 90, there are 20 old guys still playing, past champions, who shouldn't be playing golf. So, technically, it's a field of 70."

Thanks to reader Rick who posted on blog about Jim Byers' story on Stephen Ames saying something...that's right, stupid!

"When you compare it to the other major events, it is the weakest field technically. There are only 90 players (at the Masters); the top 50 players in the world are guaranteed. Of those 90, there are 20 old guys still playing, past champions, who shouldn't be playing golf. So, technically, it's a field of 70."

Of course some might say there are former Players Champions who shouldn't be exempt, either...

"Hey, I'm just quoting facts," Ames told the Calgary Herald. "The Players Championship is a stronger field than that one."

Commissioner Finchem note to assistant: send Stephen yet more cases of PGA Tour wine for that one. 


"At Augusta, there is a huge range of difficulty on the greens."

John Huggan previews Tiger Woods' chances this week and talks to Geoff Ogilvy about various things.
"Putting is a big thing in any event, but it is huge at Augusta," points out the Australian. "Especially the short putts. You usually find that making a lot of six-footers is a pretty accurate gauge of who is hitting good approach shots. Six-foot putts from certain spots at Augusta can be a whole lot easier than a two-footer from the wrong place, usually above the hole. So bad second shots usually lead to tough six-footers for par. And, sooner or later, you are going to miss one of those. At Augusta, there is a huge range of difficulty on the greens."

That assessment isn't exactly good news for Ogilvy and the rest, of course. Week in and week out, Woods holes out better than almost anyone. And his relative failure at Doral will, if anything, have made him even more determined to begin another of his patented runs of success.

"My beating him may have hurt our chances at Augusta," admits Ogilvy. "Now the pressure is off him and he can freewheel. Who knows though, expectations have never seemed to weigh him down too much in the past."


Masters Week Coverage

DatelineAugustaThe blog here will have the usual Masters stuff like posts, links to sites and live blogs of the four tournament rounds. However, I'm pleased to announce one change.

In the past I've done a daily "clippings" breakdown highlighting the media coverage from Augusta National.  However, as part of its Masters coverage has provided me a page titled Dateline Augusta where I will be offering a daily breakdown of the most important reading and reminders about television coverage.

My introductory post is up and full coverage will start early Monday morning.

Posting here at will be light Friday and Saturday as I'll be remembering a friend and watching the Final Four.


"The course will make it a real vacation destination not just a Bible destination."

Leah Cowen reports that Israel "is finally waking up to the golf boom" with the development of a pair of Robert Trent Jones Jr. courses. Note the photo with the article that is said to be "computer generated."

Israel Resorts & Clubs has already built an $8 million water-treatment plant to irrigate the courses, which are set to open in 2011. The golf courses will be available to resort guests and golf-club members.

The two resort courses, the Sea of Galilee and Mount Arbel, have been designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., whose last course in Tacoma, Washington, won the bid to host the 2015 US Open.

"He's one of the foremost golf architects in the world and it's a branding that will make Mount Arbel a real golf destination internationally," Bernstein said.

The links-style courses will capitalize on Arbel's seaside location and the plateau's natural contours.



The history of Arbel also adds character to the course. The cliffs of Arbel contain the ruins of a fourth century Jewish synagogue. The mountain was also an assassination site, where Herod the Great killed Jews who went against his rule.

"I think it has the potential to be golf art," Jones told the Post. "It's in a location of great historic importance and that in itself is interesting."

I don't know, somehow I don't think of an assassination site and golf mixing, but I'm a cynic.

Bernstein added that he hopes the course will attract "snow-birds" (people living in cold-weather climates) from Europe and the East Coast of the US who would normally take golf-vacations in Florida and the Caribbean.

"When they've already been to Israel and seen the tourist thing there's no reason to go back," Bernstein said. "The course will make it a real vacation destination not just a Bible destination."

You think I'm going to touch that?


"I would say given the efforts that I've seen this week, I would plan on making this a permanent stop."

What little I saw today of the golf in Houston, it appeared the organizers have really pulled off something special by emulating Augusta's setup to lure more players. Steve Campbell explains the promises made to players, the thinking behind the event's setup and quotes Phil Mickelson.  There are also these bits from Mickelson's pre-tournament press conference that speak to how good a job they did. Love that they even mow the grain toward the tee as Augusta does.

Q. Why did you decide to play here this year?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I was told, and accurately, that they were going -- the golf course was going to be set up similarly to Augusta. It was tremendous. The greens are fast. The fairways are perfect and tight. They even mowed the grain into you in the fairway just like Augusta does. There's no rough.

The first cut just like Augusta. It's a great place to get ready for next week. I'm very appreciative that the tournament made such an effort to make the course so similar.


Q. Phil, lot of guys yesterday kind of said the course is set up similar to Augusta but there's only so much they can do. Can you kind of address? Do you think it's ideal preparation or only so much you can do?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's ideal. It really is. It may not be exact, but all the shots that you have to hit next week, you have the same conditions here. You have the same shots out of the first cut, same shots around the green, tight lies, grain into you. It's very similar. It was just a tremendous job. I'm very impressed.

 Q. Is it too early to say you'll be back here again next year?

PHIL MICKELSON: It might be too early, but I would say given the efforts that I've seen this week, I would plan on making this a permanent stop.


Trump In Vanity Fair

There's no chance I'm going to read this online since it's seven pages long and there's a whole lot more to read about right now than a man with limp combed over hair, but Alex Shoumatoff profiles Donald Trump and it appears to be mostly golf related.

Thanks to reader Jon for the warning so that I can really look forward to my May issue when the forklift delivers it to my front doorstep.


"I'm on drugs"

In the latest Men's Vogue, John Cassidy writes about playing a round of golf at Bethpage on the drug propranolol, a soon-to-be-banned beta blocker.

Were the beta blockers responsible for my improved shot selection and my dramatic mid-round recovery? Was it a placebo effect? Dumb luck? I have no idea. But the next time my regular four-ball partners start kicking my tail in our weekly three-dollar Nassau, I'm going to try and get hold of some more propranolol. Sure, it might be medically irresponsible and morally questionable, but the ban on beta blockers applies only to the PGA Tour, and I need all the help I can get.



"At Augusta, you do not fully appreciate many of the nuances until you have made a double or triple bogey by hitting it in the wrong spot."

asset_upload_file388_4745.jpgThe latest Links Magazine features Masters-related columns penned by Ernie Els and Geoff Ogilvy.

Ogilvy compares the Masters and U.S. Open and sums them up this way:

Overall, if I could only play either the Masters or the U.S. Open this year, I’d be lying if I did not say the Masters. With the exception of the changes to the 11th and 17th holes, where the club has planted too many trees, it’s easily the most enjoyable, exciting and fulfilling tournament we play all year.
Meanwhile Els seems to have had an epiphany and now likes the changes to Augusta National:
I really like the changes to the course over the past several years. But then again, being one of the longer hitters, I guess in theory it’s supposed to play into my hands. I remember talking to Tiger a couple of years back and we agreed that there’s a real chance the long hitters could separate themselves from the field if they get their games together.

One thing that has intrigued me is how some purists have a kind of “don’t touch” attitude to Augusta and many of the other great courses. These updates are not an unsightly stain on a masterpiece, but rather a successful restoration that brings back some of the original shot values that the designers intended for players. I support that philosophy.

Ernie used to be one of those purists who liked Augusta without the second cut:
Ernie Els wishes they would do away with the rough completely.

``It's hard to criticize Augusta National,'' Els said. ``It's one of my favorite places, and it still is. But I really enjoyed it the way it used to be.'



Second Guessing

gwar01_0800404augusta9and1.jpgMy Golf World story on the second cut's 10th anniversary is now posted.

I couldn't use this Geoff Ogilvy quote with the story because it didn't fit in with the theme of whether the second cut has made Augusta more difficult or easier:

Augusta's setup is the model setup for every course on the tour except for Augusta. Flyer rough and slightly wider fairways would be perfect.

"Finchem believes it adds to the telecast and thus the boom won't be banned."

gwar01_080402insider.jpgTim Rosaforte interviews his boss at NBC to follow up on the Bubba-Elk incident and find out if the Tour is going to ask the networks to back off. Mercifully, they are not. (Oh, and don't you love the photo of Bubba and Elk chatting it up after the round. No eye contact, stiff body language...)

Anyway, Rosaforte writes: 

I've heard that one high level player and caddie don't like the boom mike listening in on their decisions. I also remember controversies that erupted years ago when a seven-second delay wasn't enough time to censor Fred Couples at La Costa and Curtis Strange at the TPC Sawgrass. Thankfully, the use of sound is an element that comes down from the top; Finchem believes it adds to the telecast and thus the boom won't be banned.



Go Home: Finchem Likely To Lose KB Board Seat

Thanks to reader Michael for noticing this wire item on a shareholder recommendation not to renew Tim Finchem's tenure on the KB Home board.

Proxy Governance Inc. recommended KB Home (NYSE:KBH) shareholders withhold votes for board candidates Timothy W. Finchem and J. Terrence Lanni because they approved an excessive pay package for Jeffrey T. Mezger when he became chief executive.

The shareholder adviser said Finchem and Lanni serve on a compensation committee that approved a compensation package for Mezger that was too high.

When the homebuilder's former CEO was deposed because of the options backdating scandal, Mezger was granted $7.8 million worth of options and $2 million in restricted stock.

Hey they only lost $1.41 billion last year, what's another $9 million?