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No matter with what heights he is faced or with what winds assailed, the sportsman in battling with nature makes no complaint. But immediately he is faced with problems of human origin, he feels justified, if he finds them too difficult, in turning upon their creator with murder in his heart.  MAX BEHR



"I welcome a partnership like this, where the shared expertise of two leading companies can help us all do more to benefit the game."

You're thinking, which two companies would that be that Annika Sorenstam is referring to? Why, Lexus and the USGA!

From's news division (shouldn't that be, if they're a company?): 

USGA Signs Corporate Partnership With Lexus

January 25, 2007

Far Hills, N.J. – Lexus and the United States Golf Association (USGA) announced an unprecedented multi-year partnership that makes Lexus the automotive partner of the USGA and the official car of the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur. As a result of this landmark agreement, which was announced at a press conference featuring Annika Sorenstam, Lexus becomes the first automotive partner in the USGA’s 112-year history.

Yes, the U.S. Amateur. Uh Mr. Ouimet, do you remember which color your Lexus is? The valet's can't seem to find it! We have 312 of them!

"Lexus has been involved with golf for many years, but we see how passionate our customers are about this sport and we wanted to step up our involvement," said Deborah Meyer, vice president of marketing for Lexus. "This is a tremendous opportunity for us to partner at a very high level in the sport and engage our customers in unprecedented ways."

The USGA agreement strengthens the relationship that Lexus has with the game of golf and allows the company to use this partnership and USGA championships as opportunities to provide its customers with premium experiences around the sport of golf.

Ah, more $pecial acce$$ for $pecial people.

"The obvious fit is that the USGA will now be able to offer Lexus vehicles and provide the players with an enhanced experience at selected USGA national championships while Lexus gets to showcase its product line at the very top events in golf—the USGA national championships," said USGA President Walter Driver. "We are looking at all of the possibilities and the things we can do together for the benefit of golf."

It's for the good of the game! 

Possibilities? That means Walter is really having trouble deciding between oak or mahogany for the dash of his new LS.

Lexus plans to support this corporate partnership through an integrated marketing and communications campaign that includes advertising, public relations, direct marketing, promotions, dealer events, interactive support and online marketing as well as a number of specific USGA membership and onsite activities at championships, such as hospitality, clinics, charitable tie-ins, signage and special events.

Exciting, isn't it? Ah, and now our money quote:

"I’m proud to represent the Lexus brand and the high quality it represents," said Sorenstam, a top member of the Lexus team in golf and the defending Women’s Open champion. "Certainly I welcome a partnership like this, where the shared expertise of two leading companies can help us all do more to benefit the game."

Hey, she's really not that far off. But are they a private or publicly traded company?

And for those of you keeping score at home, the USGA at least had the good taste to omit this graph from the emailed copy when posting it on their web site:

In addition to announcing its USGA corporate partnership, Lexus also introduced its 2007 team of professional golfers. Lexus golfers Annika Sorenstam, Peter Jacobsen, Raymond Floyd and Nick Watney are joined by golfers previously in the Toyota stable:

Key word stable... 

Mark O’Meara, Jeff Gallagher, Trevor Dodds (PGA), Janice Moodie (LPGA), Gil Morgan, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Mark Pfeil, Charles Sifford (PGA Champions), Greg Twiggs and Esteban Toledo (PGA Nationwide) to the team. 


"It's soft rolling hills in Jackie Kennedy horse country. It's designed for majors..."

Michael McCarthy files a nauseating puff piece on Donald Trump's desire to bring a U.S. Open to Trump Bedminster.

"Literally every single aspect of (Bedminster) has been designed for the highest standards of the USGA," says the 60-year-old tycoon-turned-TV-star of NBC's "The Apprentice." "It's 20 minutes from the Lincoln Tunnel. It's soft rolling hills in Jackie Kennedy horse country. It's designed for majors - and I'd be honored to have them.
Soft rolling hills in Jackie Kennedy horse country. You have to love The Donald! 
"The only thing that would stop Donald is the USGA being terrified he'll upstage the tournament by grandstanding - which he probably will," says Eamon Lynch, senior editor of Golf Magazine. "There's no question Bedminster can handle a U.S. Open. But some people will oppose anything Donald Trump is involved in. Why? Because golf is still full of stuffy people with cravats and blue blazers. They frown at anything that wasn't in existence when Old Tom Morris (a four-time British Open champion and golf pioneer in the 19th century) was playing the game.""

I know, how lame of golf to want to cling to the past when when its present could be represented by that bastion of class, Donald Trump!

And I guess this is why he makes $600,000 a year...

David Fay, executive director of the USGA, is a member of the private club and plays frequently, says Trump. And what a coincidence: Trump has placed Fay's locker right across from his own in a private corner of the men's clubhouse.

Fay is a man of the he closing in on the 14-club limit?

The Bedminster course, nicknamed "Trumpminster" by Sports Illustrated, passes all the benchmarks to host a major, says the course's designer, Tom Fazio.

He would know, with all the major championship venues courses that he's messed up  claimed to have restored  designed worked with.


"The culling of courses is not viewed as a negative by NGF."

Picked this up off the GCSAA newsletter:

According to the National Golf Foundation, there was negative net growth in golf facilities in 2006 for the first time in 60 years, as the number of courses that closed (146 18-hole equivalents) was greater than the number of openings (119.5).

In releasing the data, NGF said it was not an alarming occurrence, but a confluence of events – openings returning to more normal levels and weaker facilities being culled.

In the late 1980s, the number of openings was about 100 per year. There followed a wave of increased construction in the 1990s that peaked in 2000 with nearly 400 openings. Since then the wave has subsided to near historic levels.

The culling of courses is not viewed as a negative by NGF. The organization expects overall course supply to stop expanding in the absence of increases in demand. It is primarily the weaker courses that are closing and, in many cases, owners who sell are profiting from long-term real estate appreciation. Finally, a better quality overall golf supply means a better quality experience for players.

It's great that the course-a-day advocates are now okay with "culling."  

Thanks to reader Scott for this story on one course that would like to cull, or at least, cull portions in favor of housing, but can't thanks to a judge's order. 


The Times They Are A Changin

ndylan17b.jpgAuslan Cramb in the Daily Telegraph reports that Bob Dylan and his brother have purchased a Scottish mansion and speculates that the purchase was driven by the singer/songwriter's love of golf.

(Because the Scots can't fathom why else someone with a home in Malibu would want to live there?) Cramb writes:

Dylan's interest in Scotland was also revealed in 2004 when he accepted an honorary degree from St Andrews University. The only other degree he had accepted was from Princeton in 1970.

The arrival of the 65-year-old star was the talk of Nethybridge yesterday, but Dylan's status as one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the modern era appears not have fazed the residents.

Stuart Black, a local resident, said: "It should be a bit of a boost for the area. But I don't think he will be pursued by any groupies any more as I think most of his fans are now in the middle-aged bracket."

Dylan is a keen golfer and plays off a 17 handicap at Malibu Country Club in California. His new home is close to the more utilitarian Abernethy golf club, where a day ticket costs just £10, but membership is never a foregone conclusion.

Jack McCool, the treasurer, said: "Mr Dylan would have to apply in writing just like everyone else and be vetted by the committee.

"If there were no objections then he would be a member after paying the membership fee, which at present is £105."



Johnny On "Hall of Fame Guys"

Here's another nugget from Jaime Diaz's Golf Digest piece on televised golf. He's talking to Johnny Miller about his relationship with Tiger:

Miller's relationship with Woods, for example, is respectful from afar. "Tiger's not a chummy guy, and I'm not a chummy guy," says Miller. "Hall of Fame guys are not really talkative with other males, you know. But I've treated Tiger fairly, said what I had to say." Despite not having a great voice or being much of a wordsmith, Miller has an uncanny instinct for seeing what's most interesting about the game.

I guess since Tiger's never shot 63 in a major, Johnny couldn't refer to "63-in-a-major guys."

And you know, come to think of it, I've sensed the same kind of lack of chumminess at golf tournaments since my third place finish in the Golf Writer's Association of America writing contest. Golf Writer's Award winners just aren't talkative with other award winning males, you know.



"If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards."

Larry Bohannan nabs a rare sit down with Commissioner Tim Finchem to talk about the demise of the once great event known as the Bob Hope Classic, and it's nice to know that the MBAspeak isn't confined to press conferences.

On the move to The Classic Club:

"If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards. This tournament for a long time sort of set the bar in a lot of ways toward charitable giving, going back to the 1970s," Finchem said. "They need facilities that they can use to effectively market the tournament in today's world.

"You see all the other sports building new facilities. These facilities allow us to give the customer, the fan, a better experience."

Yeah it really looked like it the last two years!

And regarding the pro-am...

"I'm not so sure that the experience for the amateurs here can't be even more effectively marketed. It has been effectively marketed through the years."

Today's key phrase, effective marketing. As opposed to mere marketing. This man makes $7 million a year!

On the Nationwide Tour caliber field...

"From a field standpoint, you always have in a multi-day pro-am, whether it is here or Pebble Beach, you've got some players who like that format and some players who don't," Finchem said. "That is always going to continue."

But Finchem said it's important to look at the field as a legitimate PGA Tour field even if some stars are absent or avoid the event.

"The tour as a whole continues to get stronger and stronger. The fan base is getting bigger. We've got more stars. Here you've got some international players sprinkled in, I'm glad to see Phil make his debut after five months off this week."

Yep, stronger and stronger, that's why there were more world ranking points available in the Persian Gulf than Palm Springs. Fan base bigger? More stars? Uh huh.

On The Golf Channel GOLF CHANNEL and the new TV deal:

"We are going to learn more after the first couple of years of this new schedule.

First couple of years? More like first couple of months. 

We see good underlying trends with the Golf Channel. We like their presentation. We think it is getting better."

One key to the new deal is the potential for growth for Golf Channel, which currently reaches about 75 million homes.

"We like the way their distribution is going. We think we are on track for them to be in 90 million homes by '09," Finchem said. "By that time, all of the fan base of the sport will understand where the Golf Channel is. And that creates a really good base for us."

It's all about the base!


"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.