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A ball will always come to rest halfway down a hill, unless there is sand or water at the bottom. HENRY BEARD



Where Did All Of The Imagination Go?

My latest column has been posted...


Harig: WGC's Not Working For PGA Tour

Bob Harig in the St. Petersburg Times takes a tough stance on the "success" of the WGC events:
The WGCs have been great for the 60 or so players who qualify for the no-cut tournaments that offer a guaranteed payday.

They have been great for fans who attend and watch on television, because the WGCs are all but guaranteed to bring together the best players in the world, something that rarely happens outside of major championships.

And they certainly have been great for the PGA Tour, which has a management arm under its corporate umbrella called Championship Management which runs - and profits from - these tournaments.

But are these big-money tournaments good for the rest of golf?

The answer, after seven years, is probably not.

Why? Because too many rank-and-file tournaments - the backbone of the tour - suffer from their existence.

"There's a reason why you never see a TV shot of the clubhouse on Sundays"

Robert Bell reports that Forest Oaks may be losing some of its luster with the Greensboro folks, but not necessarily for reasons you might expect. Says tournament director Robert Long:
"We have a fiduciary responsibility to look at all of our options -- whether they relate to Forest Oaks or somewhere else," Long said. "Nobody's questioning that Forest Oaks is a great golf course. But any good steward of the tournament would want to know their options. What we need to determine is if (Forest Oaks) is the best fit for where we want to take this tournament."
What these guys will do for their charities!

No, actually this may be about the most vital attribute of a PGA Tour site, the clubhouse amenities.
Publicly, tournament officials say Forest Oaks, which has played host to the championship since 1977, has the best golf course in the Triad for a PGA Tour event -- for now.

Privately, they wonder if they can do better. Forest Oaks' clubhouse and locker rooms are beginning to show their age, officials said. Neither has had significant renovations since the clubhouse opened in 1967.

"There's a reason why you never see a TV shot of the clubhouse on Sundays," said one tournament board member, who asked not to be named. "The physical amenities are outdated or are close to being so."

Or, maybe we never see the clubhouse because we are watching a golf tournament?
Even the course is being called into question. After opening to rave reviews three years ago, Davis Love's redesign has lost some of its luster with golfers.

"They made a great course good," PGA Tour regular Robert Gamez said after playing the course last year.

Sergio Garcia, who recently helped lead Europe to another Ryder Cup victory, said the new course was "a bit too gimmicky," a common lament among the pros.

"Somewhere in the exchange, the pro swatted at the gentlemen's hat..."

Sylvain Metz reports on the type of player-fan interaction that you don't normally see on the PGA Tour.
PGA Tour player Bill Glasson withdrew from the Southern Farm Bureau Classic Saturday after he was involved in a physical altercation with a spectator, tournament officials said Monday.

Glasson, 46, allegedly struck an “elderly gentleman” Saturday morning after the men got into a shouting match over a driving incident on the way to the tournament, said Madison County Sheriff Toby Trowbridge.

Glasson withdrew from the tournament, said Randy Watkins, the SFBC tournament director.

“He was advised of the position of both the tournament and the Tour and how they felt about the matter and he willfully withdrew on his own,” Watkins said. “I agreed with Bill's decision. He needed to leave. It was best for him and everybody, that he put it behind him and withdraw.”

And his agent definitely earned his 10% with this defense:
His manager, Dennis Harrington of Links Sports, said Glasson argued with a man in the Annandale Golf Club parking lot whom Glasson said cut in front of him at an intersection. He did not strike the man, said Harrington, but did “flip his cap off his head” after the man did not apologize and a passenger in the car “taunted” Glasson.

“Hindsight is 20-20,” Harrington added. “I'm sure Bill wishes that he didn't go up and say something, but he still feels he has the right to say something to somebody when they almost caused an accident. The bad part was they didn't apologize and then they provoked him.”
Oops, left out one detail.
“Somewhere in the exchange, the pro swatted at the gentlemen's hat, hitting him in the face and knocking off his glasses,” Trowbridge said.

At that point, sheriff's deputies were called, the sheriff said.

The spectator declined to press charges although he was told he can file them at a later date, Trowbridge said. “Had we been there (to witness this) we would have arrested the pro,” he added.

A Rush Of Blood To The Pedal

Lewine Mair notes that Monty will be driving his Bentley to the Dunhill Cup at St. Andrews, cranking up his beloved Coldplay to help pass the time.

I bet there aren't too many Bentley's where Coldplay has been played at full blast. That's our Monty! Man of the people.

And he'll probably wash the car when he arrives.


Reforming the Advisory Council

It's kind of fun to see who Carolyn Bivens has surrounded herself with after reforming the "Commissioner's Advisory Council."

The new council is comprised of 22 individuals from the corporate, academic, political, philanthropic and cultural arenas and is co-chaired by Bivens and Charles S. Mechem, Jr., the commissioner emeritus of the LPGA.

The council convened for the first time in early September and will continue to meet periodically each year. Its role is to provide expertise and guidance in all aspects of the LPGA's business, while also serving as a sounding board as the LPGA continues to grow and evolve. Members will offer expert counsel and insight in their respective areas and will assist Commissioner Bivens and her staff in optimizing opportunities for the LPGA's future growth and long-term success.

Among the members of the council are Edwin L. Artzt, retired chairman and CEO of the Procter & Gamble Company; Alice Dye, golf course architect; Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., president and CEO of the American Gaming Association; Nancy Lopez, LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member; Steve Mona, CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America; Susan Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association; and Sheila Tate, vice chairman of Powell Tate/Weber Shandwick.

Powell-Tate surfaces again! These lobbyists pop up everywhere: as USGA media consultants, PGA Tour, they must be good.

Well, unless they're the ones who suggested that Walter Driver do that live chat.


PGA Tour Driving Distance Watch, Week 38

pgatour.jpgThe PGA Tour driving distance average held steady at 289.6 yards following the WGC event in England and the stop in Mississippi.

No 400-yarders were hit, but the Tour average remains headed for something in the high 289 area, meaning a 10-yard increase since 2002 when the USGA drew a line in the sand. Well, in theory anyway.


"we're looking at different options, different ways to determine the best way as a corporate citizen..."

It is fun how quickly things turn in the Internet age. In the old days, Ping would have had two weeks to milk this brand building campaign, but here they are on Monday already doing their research as a "corporate citizen" to "demonstrate that appreciation" for how stupid they were for military personnel.

David Westin follows up his initial story with this Augusta Chronicle piece titled, "Ping works on plan for military."

Karsten Manufacturing Corp. is formulating a plan that will show its support for active-duty military personnel who buy the company's Ping golf clubs, a company official said.

The Phoenix, Ariz.-based company came under fire last week for cutting off the accounts of two Augusta-area golf shops that discounted Ping clubs. The discounts were limited to the military.

"Right now we're looking at different options, different ways to determine the best way as a corporate citizen to demonstrate that appreciation to military personnel," said Bill Gates, Ping's director of distribution and associate general counsel.
Ping plans to respond with a plan for the military as early as this week, Mr. Gates said.
"We're going to have something we're going to roll out to fully show our appreciation (for the military)," he said. "We look forward to the opportunity to work with military leaders for the best way to communicate this appreciation."
Where does one learn to speak like that? Is there a school?
An e-mail to The Augusta Chronicle pointed out the area's military ties to the Masters Tournament, noting that "Arnie's Army," the name for Arnold Palmer's fans, came from Fort Gordon servicemen who followed him at Augusta National Golf Course.

In the golf business, a pro shop at an area country club that still has a contract with Ping dropped its prices on three styles of Ping putters by as much as $45.

Other media picked up the story.

"We certainly understand that," Mr. Gates said of residents' concerns. "We have had some calls. We understand people feel very passionate about this issue, and we do, too."

Ping has said from the outset that it cannot make changes in its pricing policy for a particular group.

Mr. Gates said the new plan will not be "an exception to the policy. Right now, we need to maintain the consistency of our policy. But there are other things we can do that ... will show our appreciation to the military."

Mr. Gates defended Ping's record with the military, saying Karsten Manufacturing Corp. holds jobs for those stationed overseas, employs veterans and has sent free Ping clubs to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq in the past.

"We have never targeted the military in any way," he said. "We've had hundreds of closures of accounts that had nothing to do with the military."



The Dreaded Streak Debate

Tim Rosaforte writes today at

The question came up last week, and it'll be all over The Golf Channel and ESPN and will no doubt create Blogomania on a slow news week: Is this still a streak? After all, Woods lost in the openin g round of the HSBC Match Play to Paul Casey ** [Shaun Micheel], then went 3-2 at the Ryder Cup. Both are non-PGA Tour events, and both were match-play competition. Making it even move conceivable to buy into the streak is that the HSBC, while official on the European Tour, was a 16-man field and barely more than an exhibition in the scheme of tournament golf.

Tiger says no, it is not a streak. But the Palm Beach Post ("Sweet No. 6 for Tiger") and every golf website I hit Monday refers to it as a streak, so it is what you want it to be. To me, it's kind of like the Tiger Slam. Stuff from another planet.

There was just the mild hint of a reference by Woods on Sunday that he's now starting to think about extending this, whatever it is. Comparing his run to Byron Nelson's 11 straight, Woods said, "It's still a long way to go. If you look at it, I'm barely halfway. What he did was absolutely remarkable, and I'm just thrilled that I've been able to win six in a row twice. That to me is a pretty neat accomplishment in itself."

It kind of sounds like he's treating it like a streak now, doesn't it?

Yes Tim, it is looking like a slow week in this little slice of "blogomania," and peering ahead at the remainder of the 2006 schedule, Tiger figures to play maybe 2 or 3 more times (Disney, Innisbrook, Tour Championship The TOUR Championship). Assuming he only plays Disney and the Tour Championship The TOUR Championship, and wins both, where would the streak possibly continue in 2007?

Well, first things first. This is the PGA Tour he's currently playing. Starting in January, it's the Fed Ex Cup. Deal with that, historians!

But getting ahead of ourselves, the streak will not be easy to maintain no matter how well Tiger plays or how little the competition steps up.

In '07, Tiger will likely play the Mercedes, followed by the Buick at Torrey Pines and the Nissan at Riviera. Assuming he wins all three after getting win Nos. 7 and 8 this year, Riviera would be the site for win No. 11 (and his first win there).

And the following week he'd go for No. 12 at the WGC Match Play in Tucson.

Win No. 13...oh okay, it's not that slow of a news week.


Putting Ping's Position In Perspective

To put Ping's brand-protection position into perspective, I pulled out my copy of John Strege's USGA award winning book When War Played Through (Golf During World War II), and enjoyed this passage related to support of Augusta area troops back then:

Soldiers had undertaken the task of building a nine-hole course at Camp Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, to go along with the practice range and putting green that the Augusta Natonal continued its support of the camp by providing the expertise required to build the nine-holer, which became the Enlisted Men's Golf Course.


Stevie's Near Plunge

Just in case you didn't see it, or you just want to have one more laugh at the expense of Tiger's boorish caddie...



"It's something we put in place to protect our brand"

David Westin reports on a fine moment in Ping history:

A prominent golf equipment company's stance against retailers discounting its products has angered two area golf shops that give military customers a break

Because of the military discounts, Bonaventure Discount Golf in Augusta and Gordon Lakes Golf Course on Fort Gordon no longer receive Ping products. And even if they could, they would refuse to sell them now.

Karsten Manufacturing Corp. of Phoenix, Ariz., which has a registered trademark on the Ping brand, discontinued its Bonaventure and Gordon Lakes accounts in August.

In a letter to the shops, Ping said Bonaventure and Gordon Lakes discounted Ping clubs below Ping's "Improved Fitting, Internet Transactions and Price Policy."

Both shops give 10 percent discounts to military members on all purchases. Gordon Lakes does it for active and retired servicemen; Bonaventure gives the discount for active servicemen.

Wow, a whopping 10%! How dare they do something nice for our underpaid, overworked solders and take money out of Ping's pocket. Wait, no, this doesn't cost Ping a dime. Oh, but I'm so naive, what about the brand? 
"It's something we put in place to protect our brand," said Bill Gates, Ping's director of distribution and associate general counsel.

And what great counsel he's providing.

According to Mr. Gates, no exceptions can be made when it comes to shops selling their clubs under the suggested price listed in their agreement (there is no contract).

"It's something we apply to all of our accounts consistently, and we don't have exceptions to it," Mr. Gates said. "We don't sell direct to the public; we sell to retailers, and we do have certain policies in place with them. Those policies are confidential between us and the account."

Mr. Gates did say that once a retailer buys Ping products, they own them, but must abide by their unwritten agreement with Ping.

If Mr. Waters and Gordon Lakes have been discounting Ping clubs to the military, why have they been cut off now, and both within 15 days of each other?

"It's something that's been in place for several years," Mr. Gates said of the no-discount rule.

"They have had it for years, but didn't pay attention to it because their business has been off," said Mr. Waters, who believes Ping is now enforcing the rule because "they've been hot the last few years."

The discount doesn't cost Ping a dime. Oh, there I go again, forgetting about THE BRAND.

Gosh greed is fun!

Make sure you read the entire piece.


Huggan On What The U.S. Team Needs To Do...

You'll be shocked to know that he has fun at the expense of the pitiful U.S. team.


Saying Goodbye to Byron

Jimmy Burch reports on the memorial service for Byron Nelson.

"We wanted to get more brand exposure from this"

Robert Bell says they finally have a sponsor for the 2007 Greensboro event.
"The Wyndham Championship," said Bobby Long, who heads the charitable foundation that runs Greensboro's professional golf tournament. "It's a clean and simple name. I like it more every time I say it."
WIth $25 million over 4 years, anything sounds good.
Wyndham becomes the second hospitality company this year to sponsor a PGA Tour event. Earlier this summer, Crowne Plaza signed a six-year deal to host the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Texas. Hanning said that deal surprised company officials but did not prompt Wyndham to jump into the sports world.

"The PGA Tour and its fan base have always matched up well with our demographics," he said.

Hanning said Wyndham executives initially wanted to attend next week's final Chrysler Classic of Greensboro at Forest Oaks Country Club before agreeing to any deal but changed their minds.

"We wanted to get more brand exposure from this," [Wyndham CEO Franz Hanning] said. "Besides, we didn't want to have to hide behind any trees next week."

Week(s) In Review, Sept. 16-30: The Ryder Cup

WeekInReview2.jpgSome of the highlights from Ryder Cup week, starting with the opening ceremony.

JPB writes: Well, the Americans won the battle of clothes. The Euro outfits were pimptastic and fit in with the Al Czervik development. He did do the condos at the K Club right? It is good to see midcentury Miami golf hustler come back in style. I didn't see the whole thing so I missed the entertainment and whatnot. The sppeches I heard could have been worse. So all in all better than I expected.

Once the matches got going, JPB also noted the painful pace of play: Horrifying that a match could take over 5 hours. Something needs to be done. Even if you are playing for your life, it might not be worth living any longer if a round, especially in match play, takes 5.5 hours. And the Ryder cup is an exhibition, not life or death.

As the rout developed, DAW noted:  Is it not possible that the explanation for the current result is simply that the Europeans are just a tiny bit better, particularly on a familiar course and with the crowd behind them? Why do we have to go through the usual finger-pointing exercise? Is it really that hard for the press to come up with another angle?

And once the rout was complete, Hawkeye wrote: I would just like to say something positive about the US team that has been almost completely overlooked - the fact that the four rookies have scored points in five of the seven matches they have played. Compare that to #1 & #2 in the world scoring points in just three of the eight matches they have played, with two wins and a halve.

LEFTY: In 2008 at Valhalla, Captain Azinger will lead America to a dazzling display an incredible 10 points, five of them scored by crusty, old veteran Tiger Woods, fourth oldest member of a team that also includes Furyk, Chris DiMarco (a captain's pick despite falling to 168th on the OWGR) Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Lucas Glover, Sean O'Hair, Kyle Reifers, Michael Putnam, Anthony Kim, J.B. Holmes and Billy Horshcel. I'm excited already...

F.X. observes: One thing I notice about younger better players is that they aren't interested much in match play with handicaps, as if it is somehow unmanly to put their game to the test except in stroke play. If the very best players we produce are inculcated with this mindset at a young age, what hope do they have of competing in match play at the highest levels? They simply don't perceive it as "real golf." It's just nuts since the whole handicapping system is designed to let players of unequal skill compete as equals at match play. One suggestion: start a movement among high schools to play at least half their matches in Ryder-Cup formats. Get the best young teens tasting fourball and foursomes.

Tim Liddy: Why is it so hard for us to realize that the US does not have the best golfers (as a group) in the world anymore? Why can't someone say it publicly instead of their putts dropped, they play better as a team, etc. They have a better team!

ScottS: There is always discussion around this time about golf being an "individual sport", and that "medal play is the truest test", but it stands out rather strikingly that when those seemingly cardinal principles are infringed on even slightly that all hell breaks loose.  Figures like the top US players tend to be held up in the light of being great as individual players who want nothing less than to dominate and destroy. So, when domination of only half of the field and supporting the other half becomes the game, they seem to faulter.

the village idiot: In America we don't golf with others. We golf by and for ourselves, trying to post our own scores. We don't care for the social interaction of a game. We try to beat our personal best. Says a lot about why we suck at match play, no? For self-obsessed Americans, having to pay attention to how other people are playing is too much of a distraction!

CBell: Surely the Euros are at least the equals of the Yanks at the game, but we don't perceive them in the same light. We'd take a lot more pleasure from seeing Donald Trump lose a contract or, say, be dumped by a supermodel wife than we would from seeing the same thing happen to some lesser-known mogul from afar.  In our hearts it's simple justice meted out by the fickle gods of golf - and divine justice trumps loyalty to the state for all but the shallowest of men.

jneuman: Wilt Chamberlain said nobody roots for Goliath. That's us on the international scene. Rooting for the U.S. is like rooting for the New York Yankees -- we have the most resources by a huge margin, and therefore we really OUGHT to win everything. What fun is it to root for a side playing with a stacked deck?

Mark Holthoff: I think it's because almost no one on the American side seems to be having any fun. While we're busy "gutting it out," the Europeans are enjoying themselves, each other, and the game itself -- and that's a lot more fun to watch.

Sean Murphy:  The United States' next Ryder Cup Captain should be the grossly neglected......Larry Nelson.

And finally, Chuck wrote: It is interesting (and perhaps just a mere coincidence) that one of the greatest extended periods of success for Europe in the Ryder Cup coincides with one of the greatest periods of futility for Europeans in the major chanpionships.


One Last Ryder Cup Question...Follow Up

Earlier in the week I wondered about the impact of a possible four day Ryder Cup starting on Thursday instead of the current Firday-Sunday setup.

One strategic element lost might be that rare time during morning four-balls when the Captain's have to figure out their afternoon pairings. As we saw this year, Tom Lehman twice left J.J. Henry out of afternoon play, only to have Henry light up the back nine and leave everyone wondering why he was left out of foursomes.

This question brought reader Blue Blazer out of hiding, with the great fan of all things USGA insisting that the players have created this awkward situation with their painfullly slow play (five-plus hours for the first four-ball out!). BB says 80s and 90s matches used to end around noon (as opposed to 1 p.m this year), giving the Captain's another hour to sort out their afternoon pairings.

So Blue Blazer is right that it is not unfair to the Captains to have to make their afternoon pairings with only nine or so holes of golf played for some.

It's a slow play problem.


Nicklaus Prepares For '07 President's Cup By Watching As Little Of Ryder Cup As Possible

From a story by Garry Smits:

Nicklaus said the U.S. Ryder Cup team had the same intangibles going for it as the European team.

"They [the U.S.] played for pride and their country, the same things as they other guys," he said. "They played as a team. They just got whipped. The Europeans just played better."

Nicklaus said he didn't watch all the matches, but he guessed that the U.S. team played with as much desire as it did last year in the Presidents Cup.

"They probably played just as hard for [captain] Tom [Lehman]," he said.

Nicklaus said reversing the U.S. Ryder Cup fortunes had to start with developing younger players who had an instinct for winning.

"The big problems is we don't have any young players," he said. "Tiger was the youngest player on our team, and he's 30. We've only got one player in the U.S. under 30 who's won more than one more tournament.

"I think the colleges are developing players who are good at winning college tournaments, but that promotes playing conservatively. I don't think they come out of college knowing how to win yet."


Oh To Be A Subscriber, Vol. 86

Sharonda at SI customer service was kind enough to credit it me for the last two weeks of Golf Plus that I missed because the computers decided I was a Fantasy Plus man.

Anyone else get switched over?

I guess this beats getting the X-Games Plus or whatever its called, but it would not be fun to go an entire year without missing Golf Plus. Then again, my subscription has been extended two months thanks to the computers!

Meanwhile, Golf World has been arriving on Wednesdays or Thursdays. Scary I tell you. This can't keep up.  


"the fact that he gave that ball to me..."

Get your tissues out, Peter Kostis offers this emotional heart tugger of an anecdote to remind us that he's teaching one of the best players in the world.

I've been Paul Casey's coach five years, so when he made that ace on 14 yesterday—well, let's just say it was something special. A walk-off hole-in-one at the Ryder Cup—just the fifth in event history—to win your match! I was following Paul's foursomes match. When we reached the 14th, Paul's girlfriend Jocelyn turned to me and said, "This shot is right up his alley." It's like she knew. He didn't even see the ball go in, due to the topography.

 Or the lousy shaping work. Eh, just a thought...

When he watched his swing on the Jumbotron, he could read the lips of about 5,000 people saying, "Get in the hole!" Then he gave me the ball—an amazing gesture. He said something very personal which I'd rather not share, but the fact that he gave that ball to me, of all the people he could have handed it to, shows the kind of kid he is.

My NSA sources picked up Casey's comments to Kostis and passed them along: "Peter, since I couldn't get you a room here at the K Club, maybe you can sell this on Ebay to recoup some cash to pay for that lousy $500-a-night hotel room in Kildare."