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Links they may be worthily called, for the golf at Royal Porthcawl is the genuine thing—the sea in sight all of the time, and the most noble bunkers. True to its national character, the course also boasts of stone walls.   BERNARD DARWIN



"Only four of the top 20"

Brian Hiro in the North County Times points out that the Buick Invitational features "only four of the top 20 players in the world rankings: Woods (No. 1), Mickelson (No. 4), Vijay Singh (No. 6) and Jose Maria Olazabal (No. 19)."

Now, if I'm not mistaken, this is the final year before the 2008 U.S. Open when the South will be played three of four days. Isn't the North supposed to be the weekend course next year? Or did that idea fizzle out?

Do the players hate it that much, or are they just not that interested in understand local knowledge anymore? 


"It's probably not as fun to play day in and day out as it was, but that's what you have to have to be able to host a U.S. Open."

Thanks to reader David for catching this from Phil Mickelson's gathering with the media Wednesday:

Q. Can you talk about your feelings having the U.S. Open here in San Diego and some of the changes that are going to be made to the course?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I love that we're hosting the U.S. Open. I think that San Diego has needed that, or I think it'll just really do a lot for the game of golf in the area. So I'm so excited that it did get the U.S. Open. The golf course is very difficult to play. It's probably not as fun to play day in and day out as it was, but that's what you have to have to be able to host a U.S. Open. It's one of the hardest golf courses I've ever seen day in and day out, 7,600 yards at sea level, it's just very difficult.

Ruin a servicable municipal golf course for one week of play. And why is that again? Oh right, red numbers are embarrassing. What a shame.


Final Golf Channel Coverage Post Mortem

Now that their big three weeks are up and before we forget about Golf Channel's coverage, Golfobserver's Sal Johnson asks whether the public will perceive the telecasts "network quality," as had been promised. 

I thought a few of the gizmos and camera work was better than the network stuff, but for some reason they still felt like Golf Channel productions instead of networks.

Your thoughts? 


"Tiger prefers pat questions so he can give pat answers"

Jaime Diaz talks to various folks about television coverage in golf. The story is accompanied by a survey that sent shivers down my spine. The American public can be frightening.

Anyway, loved this quote from Peter Kostis. It should really help smooth over that relationship with Tiger!

"Tiger prefers pat questions so he can give pat answers," says Kostis.


More World Ranking Points Were Available...

Another interesting note from Doug Ferguson:

STAT OF THE WEEK:@ More world ranking points were available last week at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on the European Tour than the Bob Hope Classic on the PGA Tour.


Azinger Elected To PAC Board

Oh to be a fly on the wall at those Player Advisory Council meetings. Doug Ferguson reports:

PLAYER ADVISOR:@ Paul Azinger has been one of the sharpest critics of PGA Tour policy, from title sponsorship to player input over the new FedExCup. Now, the Ryder Cup captain will have a small say in matters.

His peers elected Azinger to the 16-member Player Advisory Council, which reports to the main policy board. Next up is an election to see who will be chairman of the PAC, and that player eventually is appointed to the policy board. But that's one election he won't win, because Azinger is taking his name out of consideration.

"I'm more interested in making history than making policy," he said.

Judging by past comments like this from Azinger, his sense of humor will make those meetings most interesting. 



Torrey's Kikuyu Conversion

The transition of Torrey Pines to kikuyu grass probably could not have come at a worse time, what with our super dry and cold fall here in Southern California.  Ed Zieralski talks to Torrey director of operations Mark Woodward...

“On the North, we didn't really have the focus we did on the South Course because of the U.S. Open being played there,” Woodward said. “The North is going to be set up for tents. We also had some irrigation problems on the North, and the rye grass overseeding didn't take. Those are the big spots that are off color.”

Woodward said more problems came when a chemical used to kill clover stunted the grass even more after it was applied.

“It was a situation where, it wasn't a bad decision, but under coastal conditions and at this time of year, we should have used a different product out there,” Woodward said.

A PGA official refused to comment yesterday on the course's present conditions. Wilson was asked if the PGA was disappointed with Torrey's off-peak conditions.

“We're going to suffer this year and not have that lush rough that we had in the past, but it's going to help in the future (to) provide a challenging course for many years to come for the Buick Invitational as well as the U.S. Open,” Wilson said. 


The Numbers Are In...

Not a very good showing for the first three weeks on The Golf Channel. Overall, they averaged .52 rating/384,000 households for their live telecasts. In case you are wondering, that's the equivalent of all the good folks in Tulsa watching...and no one else in America.

Round        Event        Rating        Households
1            Mercedes        .45            331,000
2            Mercedes        .41            305,000
3            Mercedes        .48            356,000
4            Mercedes        .68            505,000

1            Sony         .51            381,000
2            Sony        .54            399,000
3            Sony        .35            261,000
4            Sony        .67            501,000

1            Hope        .34            254,000
2            Hope        .40            299,000
3            Hope        .45            332,000
4            Hope        .77            574,000
5            Hope        .70            523,000

I've attempted to find out the 2006 Hope final round number, but haven't gotten it yet. However, the 2004 Hope final round drew a 3.8. 


Tampa Sponsor

PODS...the company that Kirk Triplett represents, has signed up. Bob Harig notes:

PGA Tour sponsorships run about $7-million per year or $42-million over the six-year contract, which is tied to the tour's network television deals. The PODS Championship will be televised for the first two rounds on Golf Channel and the weekend rounds on NBC, Channel 8 locally.

Title sponsorship dollars fund part of the $5.3.-million purse, with the remaining money coming from the PGA Tour. The sponsorship also covers a required minimum of advertising dollars to be spent on television as well as tournament operations.

PGA Tour officials, however, have suggested that PODS is not paying the full sponsorship amount, hence the need to secure other funding.



They've Got An Out Clause!

AP Business writer Deborah Yo filed this comprehensive piece on the new PGA Tour TV deal and dug up stuff I don't believe I've read elsewhere.

The Golf Channel is available in 75 million homes compared with 92 million homes for ESPN. Manougian said the channel currently is in at least 85 percent of basic video tiers. The Golf Channel is part of the digital package of Cox Communications and Cablevision.

Note that Yo says it's available in 75 million homes, which would differ from the implication that GC is in 75 million homes.

Asked whether the contract has an exit clause, Manougian would only say that "any contract has disaster clauses, whether it's a one-year deal or a 20-year deal. There's nothing out of ordinary about this contract."

That's a non-confirmation confirmation, right?

Some nitty gritty numbers of interest...

It helps that Comcast isn't only counting on ad revenue to offset the Tour's rights fees. It charges cable and satellite providers 21 cents per subscriber per month, a fraction of ESPN's average monthly fee of $2.60. And Golf Channel officials say they aren't planning an immediate increase to offset the costs of the PGA Tour contract -- another bet that in doing so, they will be able to get picked up on more cable systems.

In 2005, 63 percent of the Golf Channel's $267.5 million in revenue came from license fees, according to Kagan Research in Monterey, Calif. Cash flow was $116.7 million. For 2006, Kagan is projecting a 13 percent increase in revenues to $302.5 million and cash flow of $139 million.

"To promote the pipeline of up-and-coming players."

It's been a while since LPGA Commish Carolyn Bivens made any noise, and while this may not get much attention, it's nonetheless shady.

LPGA modifies field criteria for select events

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) today announced a modification to field criteria for select events that will enable the LPGA to offer a sponsor exemption to the U.S. Women’s Amateur champion if an LPGA event is staged in her home state.  This exemption would be in addition to the event’s contracted sponsor exemptions and would only be enacted if the U.S. Women’s Amateur champion is still an amateur at the time of the LPGA event and, when offering an exemption, would not decrease the playing opportunities for LPGA players.

Did you get all of that? Gee, this comes up so rarely, I'm sure it won't be relevant anytime soon. It's just basic platform strengthening and...wait, oh there's more.

Next month’s SBS Open at Turtle Bay and Fields Open in Hawaii, the first two official events of the 2007 Tour season staged on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, will be the first events to benefit from this modification.  Reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kimberly Kim is from Hawaii.

“We are pleased to offer the SBS Open and Fields Open the opportunity to invite Kimberly Kim in addition to their traditional sponsor exemptions,” said LPGA Commissioner Carolyn F. Bivens.  “This is an opportunity to recognize the U.S. Women’s Amateur champion from Hawaii as well as to promote the pipeline of up-and-coming players.”

Get that? Pipeline. Hawaii. She's good!


"Including, for the first time, TOUR-branded apparel for kids"

Thanks to reader Scott for noticing the great news that PGA Tour PGA TOUR branded apparel will now be available for children. It's all about family values further extending the brand.

"We are pleased to have the following companies as new retail licensees of the PGA TOUR, which further extends the TOUR brand into new product categories, including, for the first time, TOUR-branded apparel for kids," said Leo McCullagh, PGA TOUR Vice President for Retail Licensing and Consumer Marketing. "Many of these companies will exhibit their TOUR-licensed products at this week's PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando."



The Classic Club...Classic Tournament Killer?

Bill Dwyre in the L.A. Times makes up for Saturday's Phil Mickelson column (Phil remembers the names of his pro-am partners!) with a succinct indictment on The Classic Club course, which frequently delivers winds like Sunday's.

Many said it was the worst wind they have experienced, and those were the former mountain climbers. The weatherman put the winds at 15-20 mph, with gusts up to 40. Mostly, there were gusts.
Now keep that number in mind when reading the next bit. First, Larry Bohannan in the Desert Sun:
It was an ominous question at best.

"Are they going to play this course again next year?" Phil Mickelson asked after his windy Sunday round on the final day at Classic Club in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

Yes, Phil, they are going to play this course again. They own the course.

"Who?" Mickelson asked.

The Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, came the response.

With that, Mickelson turned and walked away to sign some autographs without a response.
And here's where it gets fun...
Mike Milthorpe, the Hope tournament director, said he certainly hopes Mickelson and other players won't make decisions about whether to play in the Classic in the future simply on one horrible day of weather.

"I don't know that (Mickelson) questioned the course," Milthorpe said. "He may have questioned the conditions. It's a tough day today, no ifs, ands or buts. If anything, he may have just questioned the day."

Milthorpe said Classic Club isn't fighting a bad perception about wind among the PGA Tour players. The perception, he said, comes from media reports about wind and the so-called wind belt on the north side of the freeway.
I wonder where they would get the idea that it blows?

The trees lining the railroad tracks? The thousands of wind turbines? The fact no one in their right mind would build anything out there until the last few years?

That biased, negative, liberal elite media!

Last year's final round, for instance, was described as a blustery day, making it tough on the final groups down the stretch. But Milthorpe said the official tour report on the final day listed a wind speed of 17 mph.
Key word: unofficial.

Tod Leonard
in the San Diego Union Tribune offered this:

Perhaps because he knew he would get queries, Milthorpe said he checked with the other three courses in the Hope rotation yesterday and said the wind conditions were similar.

“The perception is the media's perception,” Milthorpe said. “We had firemen gauging the wind today, and it didn't get above 25 mph. We got a tour report from last year for this golf course and the winds Sunday were 17 mph. But if you listened to the commentators and what the media wrote, it sounded like it was huge wind.”

They say the camera adds 10 pounds. Maybe it adds 10 mph too? 

Either way, you have a new 7,600 yard course that is so massive in scale that the amateurs clearly don't enjoy walking and playing it. 

You have a final round that took just under 6 hours (based on my TiVo calculation) and an event that drew only one player in the world top 30.

Those short, harmless little old desert courses like Indian Wells, Bermuda Dunes and El Dorado aren't looking so bad are they?

Oh that's right, they're dated because the guys are working out too much. I keep forgetting!


“I don't want to get in the bad habits"

Tod Leonard in the San Diego Union Tribune also had this from Phil Mickelson after Sunday's final round:

“It was hard, but today I didn't want to try to fight it too much,” Mickelson said. “I don't want to get in the bad habits, which is the main reason why I don't play Kapalua (for the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship)."

Ohhh...the FedEx Cup schedule may be starting a week later for Phil next year. 


Oh Canada Stop Complaining!

Thanks to reader Noonan for noticing this Chris Johnston story on the Canadian Open's struggle to find a sponsor, and the PGA Tour's Ty Votaw's condescending rebuttal (to their faces!):

The 'For Sale' sign hanging on the title sponsorship of the Canadian Open is beginning to fade with age, but the PGA Tour isn't worried about the lingering vacancy.

Tour executive Ty Votaw believes it's only a matter of time before a company steps forward and pays the $6-million (U.S.) a year needed to get its name on the event.

"The PGA Tour brand is strong," Votaw said yesterday after speaking to the Royal Canadian Golf Association's board of governors. "The history of golf in Canada is strong. I think the event itself is a selling point. It's a question of finding the right [fit]."
This is the fun part...
Votaw, however, believes the tournament's place in the run-up to the new FedEx Cup playoff system should boost the field and sponsorship interest.

"It's not less than ideal, it's not lousy and it's not between a rock and a hard place," said Votaw, the PGA Tour's executive vice-president of international affairs. "We want to build a crescendo to the end of our year.

"You should be proud that you are within that group rather than bemoaning that you're in that group."



No More Cell Phones At The Open

This was overdue...


Spectators who intend attending The Open Championship, to be played at Carnoustie from Sunday 15 to Sunday 22 July 2007, are being advised that they will not be permitted to have mobile phones in their possession within The Open site. 

This policy is in line with other major golf championships, including this year’s Ryder Cup at the K Club, and follows comments from players concerning the excessive numbers in evidence this year at Hoylake.

David Hill, Director of Championships for The R&A, said, “We have so far resisted the call to ban mobile phones on the grounds that it may be an inconvenience to the public. However, after receiving complaints referring to the numbers that were in use as play in The Open was proceeding, we feel there is no other reasonable option other than a complete ban.

“As at the Ryder Cup, we believe that spectators will understand that this measure is being put in place to make The Open a more enjoyable experience for all spectators and players. I would stress that we will install additional public telephones for use by members of the general public.” 

In order to implement the ‘No Mobile Phone Policy’, security checks of every spectator will be in operation at the paygates.


IM'ing With The Commissioners IV

My NSA sources forwarded another exclusive, this time another of golf's two commissioners chatting it up via instant message. As with the past exchanges (here, here and here), the insider details are rivetting, I must say. 

This time they are chatting right after Bob Hope Chrysler Classic play where high winds, grump players and a sluggish Golf Channel telecast made it all but impossible not to watch the Saints-Bears game. Commissioners...

DaBrandLady: tim, you there?

twfPGATour©: Hi Carolyn.

DaBrandLady: Great product today.

twfPGATour©: Thanks, I thought so too. Wonderful storylines with that whole structural dilemma of dealing with that really bizarre wind event, and so many players in the coveted demo contending.
twfPGATour©:  Best of all, GOLF CHANNEL is really contextualizing the storylines and creating that feeling of pressure building on players who are falling behind in the FedEx Cup points race.

DaBrandLady: totally! tiger has so much ground to make up already! we pray for storylines like that!

DaBrandLady: but i was wondering why they didn't have those fancy windmills out there at the classic club.

twfPGATour©: Oh, haha, yes it was a bit windy, but my people say that's unusual for that part of the desert. They say those other 100,000 or so power generating wind towers you see out there are simply tax deductible means for the property owners. It really isn't a windy spot.

DaBrandLady: really? when the huz and i drove to the nabisco from l.a., we were wondering if any courses had ever thought of incorporating those wind energy things into their designs.

twfPGATour©: You're serious?

DaBrandLady: absolutely. hear me out. you line the fairways with them in lieu of trees.

DaBrandLady: you could sign one of these windmill makers up as a presenting sponsor, have them out there generating revenue for the platform as the tournament is going on. you would be delivering value to your players and to your new presenting sponsor. you might want to run some metrics on this. i know i would.

twfPGATour©: Interesting. Maybe we could have the guy who does GOLF CHANNEL's Win Zone cook up some numbers. Isn't that a great advance? Adds so much texture to the telecast.

DaBrandLady: yeah i saw where they had charley kaufman at 7.3% with a hole to go!

twfPGATour©: It's actually Hoffman.

DaBrandLady: The Win Zone guy?

twfPGATour©: No, Charley Hoffman, who won the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic Hosted by George Lopez.

DaBrandLady: oh. well anyway, the windmill thing was just a thought. you know how i'm always looking for ways to cross leverage value through sound metricking to better the lives my players sponsors. hey is that a word, metricking?

twfPGATour©: I don't know Carolyn, but I like it.

DaBrandLady: say tim, there's an issue that's come up and i wanted to run it by you before i have to deal with the media.

twfPGATour©: What's that?

DaBrandLady: well my people have been looking at your golf channel ratings and well...

twfPGATour©: What? The 18-34 number? We think it can only go up.

DaBrandLady: no no, the overall ratings. you see, well, at some point we at the lpga are going to be on espn or "the deuce" as i like to call it

twfPGATour©: The deuce? Oh ESPN2. Very original Carolyn. And your point?

DaBrandLady: well, we're probably going to score a higher rating on one of the espn's than what you all are pulling in on the golf channel.

twfPGATour©: I find that hard to believe because of the numbers we'll generate on the repeat airings. My dad says he's watching it live and on the repeat. But I'll have Ty look into it and get back to you on the language of how we deal with that and give it texture and meaning for the consumer. And I appreciate your concern for our brand.

DaBrandLady: anytime tim. well, that was all. again, great product today.

twfPGATour©: Thanks Carolyn. Give my best to, uh...

DaBrandLady: he says hi back!


"You should invite her to the next member-guest competition at your home club and she might actually win something."

Thanks to reader Phillip for catching Butch Harmon's Michelle Wie-related comments to Mark Reason in the Sunday Telegraph.

Harmon's brutally honest, but it's hard to argue with what he has to say.

"The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous," he says. "Michelle has regressed. She is worse now at 17 than she was at 14. To continue telling us that she is getting better by playing with the men is an insult. She says it's a learning experience. What is she learning by finishing last? It's hurting her mentally.

"She should go play with the women and dominate that competition first. But the whole Michelle Wie camp is about money. The biggest difference between Earl [Woods, the father of Tiger] and BJ [Wie, Michelle's dad] is that Earl didn't worry about money. He knew it was more important for Tiger to learn to win and then the money would take care of itself. But Michelle Wie wins nothing.

"You should invite her to the next member-guest competition at your home club and she might actually win something because what's going on now is ridiculous. And it's not good for the game of golf."



Yet Another Newsflash From The Golf Channel

Hot off the press release wire...

GOLF CHANNEL Tames Winds at Bob Hope Chrysler Classic with Extended Coverage in Prime Time

Demonstrating the cable network’s commitment to follow golf's breaking stories, the GOLF CHANNEL extended live tournament coverage to capture Charley Hoffman’s come-from-behind victory in a playoff over John Rollins at the final round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic hosted by George Lopez.

 With its pre-scheduled broadcast window scheduled to conclude at 7 p.m. ET, GOLF CHANNEL extended its live broadcast to provide viewers with shot-by-shot coverage and analysis of the first playoff of the 2007 PGA TOUR season.

Wow, the sacrifices they make! For all 8 of you who tuned in for the Sprint Post Game...
 On Golf Central (1 a.m. ET), Vince Cellini will sit down with Hoffman to break down his first PGA TOUR victory.  Golf Central also will highlight the top celebrity moments of the week.

Oh, let me go TiVo that. I wonder if I'll get a chance to see Oscar De La Hoya shadow boxing in front of a camera? The other 42 times weren't enough.

Missed any of the final round action due to the NFL Playoffs? 

No one was watching those lousy games! Come on. I mean, Sprint Post Game or Brady v. Manning down to the wire? Please.  

GOLF CHANNEL has viewers covered, with an encore presentation of the final round of play airing in its entirety beginning at 10 p.m. ET, and on Monday in prime time as a part of the network’s Monday Night Lights franchise at 8 p.m. ET.

You know I like this Monday Night Lights thing. If they keep playing these 5 hour + final rounds, they'll be finishing Monday nights under lights.


The Shortest Distance Between...

Thanks to reader Jerry for this Kelly Tilghman tribute to Yogi Berra during Friday's Bob Hope Classic telecast:

"The shortest distance between a line is two straight points."

Hey, Yogi is playing this week!