Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos

Golf is not a game of good shots. It's a game of bad shots.
BEN HOGAN


    

Saturday
Sep132008

"The Highlands Links is attached emotionally and historically to the small community of Ingonish, much as the Old Course is linked to St. Andrews, Scotland."

Lorne Rubenstein reports the exciting news that Ian Andrew has been commissioned to prepare a plan for the "rambunctious" Cape Breton Highlands. Now it seems that Parks Canada just needs a little nudging to let Andrew properly restore this masterpiece.

Thompson, who died in 1953, when he was 59, elevated the game beyond recreation at the Highlands. Because he was an artist and had a powerful canvas at his feet and all around — ocean, forest, and mountains — he made an important contribution to Canadian culture. As historian and local authority Ken Donovan said, "This is the story of small village life in a Canadian context."
The Highlands Links is attached emotionally and historically to the small community of Ingonish, much as the Old Course is linked to St. Andrews, Scotland. It's far more than a golf landscape. It's a cultural landscape, one reason the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated Thompson a person of national historic significance three years ago. A plaque to this effect was supposed to be unveiled here on Thursday, but the ceremony was cancelled when the federal election was called.

Friday
Sep122008

"How much will the rule alter performance?"

Before the Ryder Cup news takes over, let's not forget the grooves. In last week's Golf World, Mike Stachura raised some interesting questions about the validity of the rule change for 2010.

Second, if several popular irons already in use on the PGA Tour are said by their manufacturers to have groove patterns that already conform to the new rule (Titleist, Cobra, Adams and Ping have irons that may meet the new requirements), how much will the rule alter performance? And if the answer turns out to be not all that much, what is the USGA's next move?
It starts with a b and ends with an l and would have been much easier to change.

I do believe that Adam Scott has been playing conforming grooves all year, and suspect many others have. If so, Stachura's point would seem to kill the case that a groove chance would reduce the amount of flogged drives.

Then there is manufacturer research that says the shot that might be affected most is the pinched wedge from the fairway. Does it not seem odd that a rule meant to restore the value for hitting the ball in the fairway might result in less effective shots from the short grass? 

Oh great, another reason to narrow fairways. Just what the game needs.

Thursday
Sep112008

Where's Marty Hackel When You Need Him? Anna Rawson Edition

Magazine editors are praying for Anna Rawson to post three more stellar rounds so they can start plastering her pictures everywhere. Golf.com already pulled together an archive of beauty shots.

Then again if she keeps wearing this woven plant holder and the Yoko shades, I think she's going to need an intervention led by Golf Digest fashion guru Marty Hackel. Photo courtesy of golf.com:




Thursday
Sep112008

"Instead, he showed the lack of social grace that defines him."

Remember that post about cranky coverage comingHere's volume 1. You go Jim McCabe, who calls Vijay "insufferable" before letting the PGA Tour have it for coddling their native Ponte Vedra son:

OK, he blows off print reporters all the time, but to brush off NBC, which pays a hefty fee to televise these affairs and thus is hugely responsible for the exorbitant purses players such as Singh are afforded? Ridiculous.
Double bogeys to anyone who buys Singh's explanation that the FedEx Cup was still up for grabs, because Jim Furyk was on the course with a chance to win the BMW. Singh had the equivalent of a 12-game lead with 13 remaining and no matter what Furyk did, the big Fijian was going to be the FedEx Cup leader after that tournament, so the least he could have done was stop for the NBC cameras and offer thanks to FedEx, the PGA Tour, and even NBC.
Instead, he showed the lack of social grace that defines him.
Does that mean you won't be nominating him for the Jim Murray Award, Jim?
Proving once again that the inmates run the asylum and that the PGA Tour all too often acts as enablers to childish behavior, officials set up a teleconference two days later, spoon-feeding Singh a mulligan so he could finally get around to thanking FedEx and providing him a comfortable forum to do what he does best - blame the media and ignore the character flaws that surround him.
"Let me congratulate Vijay Singh for phenomenal play here during the year," gushed commissioner Tim Finchem, who might want a redo on that one. Singh missed the cut at the Players, the British Open, PGA Championship, and finished T-65 in the US Open - four sub-standard performances in tournaments players of his caliber are judged on. That he prevailed in the FedEx Cup to turn his season around is admirable, but it doesn't change the fact his lack of appreciation is shameless.


Thursday
Sep112008

"A key is that an applicant show the Americans with Disabilities Act covers the disability"

For those who read Jim Moriarty's excellent story on heart transplant recipient Erik Compton, you'll recall that it was suggested he may try Q-School and petition the tour for a cart. Randell Mell confirms both items in this story on Compton's plans.

Compton's hope is that the PGA Tour will recognize his special needs. Like Casey Martin, Compton has formally requested the tour grant him use of a golf cart during his qualifying school bid.

"The biggest problem right now is my stamina," Compton said. "I haven't got all my strength back. If I have to walk four rounds of a tournament and practice rounds, that's going to be difficult."

A review committee made up of three tour executives will rule on the request with the help of Dr. Tom Hospel, a tour medical adviser.

Allison Keller, the PGA Tour's assistant general counsel, said a key is that an applicant show the Americans with Disabilities Act covers the disability, and that means the medical condition "substantially limits one or more major life activities."
Thursday
Sep112008

The Distance Advantage Myth

I've noticed a few stories mentioning the United States Ryder Cup team having a major distance advantage off the tee at Valhalla, but based on the tour averages published for each team in this week's SI Golf Plus, it's actually pretty close:

  • United States: 291.01 yards

  • Europe: 289.85 yards

And remember the U.S has J.B. Holmes helping to skew the numbers a bit with his 310.4 average.

Thursday
Sep112008

"The penalty wasn’t something that was decided overnight. There was lots of feedback and lots of reasons."

You have to give Carolyn Bivens big points for sitting down with Beth Ann Baldry since it was Baldry who broke the LPGA's learn-corporatespeak-or-else provision. And credit Baldry for asking tough questions.

GW: Looking back on the way everything developed, is there anything you would do differently? Is there anything the LPGA has learned from this?

CB: We learn from everything.

GW: Would you care to expand on that?

CB: The only thing I would expand on there is that this was not an announcement and it was not a policy. Unfortunately that is the way that it was portrayed.
In her defense, the media did blow that. Check out this L.A. Times front page story.  But isn't this kind of overblown reporting typically a consequence when word gets out about a boneheaded, insensitive policy?
GW: But it was a rule. There was a very strict penalty.

CB: I said it wasn’t a policy. It was a small part of a program. There was feedback from lots of different groups, just as Rae Evans told you. . . . On Sunday I was in Albany, and we have 10 new members of the LPGA. Half of those are international players. The list for Qualifying School was released this morning; we have almost 70 international players. That provides both challenges and opportunities for us. . . . What we were doing is looking down the pipeline and saying this is the perfect time of year to be looking at what’s coming to the LPGA over the next couple years and make sure we’ve got the resources and support to be able to handle that.

GW: So it wasn’t so much the current players on tour as it was looking ahead.

CB: Correct.
Are we now putting lipstick on a pig? Wait, don't accuse me of calling the Commissioner a pig!
GW: Looking at it now, do you realize or recognize that the penalty portion was a mistake?

CB: The penalty wasn’t something that was decided overnight. There was lots of feedback and lots of reasons.
Would that last sentence be allowed on the LPGA's English exam?
GW: Looking back on it now, do you wish you have discussed the penalty portion with more sponsors or...

CB: Sponsors never want to be part of these decisions.

Huh, she told Tommy Hicks the same day that "we were addressing sponsors' needs and requirements."
GW: Whom will you consult now, going forward? Will you include more people on this?
CB: What do they say . . . a camel is a horse built by a committee?

Good animal metaphor, much better than lipstick on a pig. I have a lot to learn.

What we need to be able to do is include enough for a cross-cultural group and to be able to control and announce. And not have something play in primetime way before it was ready. It was never intended as an announcement.
Got that Beth Ann. It's all your fault!

Speaking of fault, Ron Sirak says that the LPGA's triple-bogey could impact the Olympic golf push.
Fathers are angrier than their daughters at a perceived cultural insult, and the jury is still out on the mood of Korean companies who pour millions into the LPGA and have great national pride. The issue also may impact next year's vote on whether to add golf to the 2016 Olympics. It's the kind of insult the IOC remembers, such as when the Atlanta games proposed Augusta National as the golf venue.
Thursday
Sep112008

Ike Wreaking Havoc On Media's Early Week Ryder Cup Golf Plans

Those Monday and Tuesday rounds at Crooked Stick aren't looking so good thanks to Hurricane Ike. Also appears Valhalla may get quite a drenching.



Thursday
Sep112008

Langer: Get Some Help, Nick

Peter Dixon reports that Bernhard Langer becomes the second former Captain to say that Nick Faldo is making a mistake by not having assistant captains.

“I think he [Faldo] is making a mistake by not having somebody with each group,” Langer said of Faldo's assertion that he and Olazábal have enough experience to cope, echoing Sam Torrance, another former Europe captain, a week earlier. “Once you have four teams on the course, I know, as captain, that I would like to have one person with each group. I can't be everywhere and I need information.” 

Expect the media to pounce the first time Faldo is asked about how someone played and he gives them "I didn't see enough of the match to say."

Wednesday
Sep102008

Vijay Supports Vijay's Decision Not To Comment On FedEx Cup Victory**

His hastily arranged teleconference is a total bore to read (what else would you expect), but Vijay Singh did take a second to halt his monotone accented answers to fire a shot at his old pal and fellow Annika Sorrenstam admirer, AP reporter Doug Ferguson.

You know, there's one thing I want to say to the press. I'm sure all of you guys are listening. It was a very unfair comment that Doug Ferguson put on the USA Today that I more or less did not speak to the media. I had not wrapped it up. When I left the golf course on Sunday, Jimmy Furyk was in the lead, and if he had won, it was wide open. There's no way to celebrate something that I have not won, so I think that was a very unfair comment that USA put out there, and I think that was very unfair to even do that.
On that note, I'd just like to say to whoever is listening, Doug if he's there, this is the second time you've created this, and that's not right.
Unfortunately NBC didn't see it that way, nor did the rest of the press. Gary Van Sickle in Sports Illustrated this week notes that Vijay did talk when essentially cornered:
You can only imagine Singh's reaction to this historic feat. Really. You can only imagine. Because in FedEx Cup Defining Moment Number 1, Singh declined to be interviewed about his then-still-probable title. A Tour media official and a determined international wire-service writer chased him down later in the locker room, where Singh obliged with a few comments that included criticism of Bellerive's greens but nothing about his likely FedEx Cup windfall.

Out of respect for his fellow competitors, of course. He's so considerate.

Wednesday
Sep102008

"It’s time to bury the FedEx Cup."

The FedEx Cup reviews aren't getting any kinder. In fact, Brad Klein of Golfweek becomes the first to use the "failure" word and says it's time to end it.

There was always something false and manufactured about the FedEx Cup playoffs. The PGA Tour tried to ram them down the throat of the American public and to use the golf media as their mouthpiece in the process. But when it comes to consumer markets and audiences, folks can pretty much figure out for themselves what’s worthwhile and what’s not.
And...
In a transparent effort to brew up relevance as if it were a cup of coffee, the PGA Tour has gerrymandered events and tried to hoodwink the public and the players themselves. It’s not working. It’s time to bury the FedEx Cup.

Jason Sobel of ESPN.com notes the dilemma facing the commissioner (outside of the massive loss of face that he's going to be coping with).

The easy answer is to steal a page from the LPGA's season-ending ADT Championship, in which eight players reach the final round, all slates are wiped clean, then they compete for 18 holes with the low score taking home the grand prize. Based on most PGA Tour players' comments, however -- there's been grousing for a month about the first 37 weeks on the schedule becoming irrelevant this time of year -- that's the exact opposite of what they'd like to see happen.
Which really sums up the problem for the PGA Tour. The players want a four-week coronation of the season points list, apparently oblivious to just how boring such an event would be to the fan trying to stay awake on television.

But I say humor them. Revert to last year's no-volatility points, create a wild and wacky Tour Championship format and many of your biggest problems are solved.
Wednesday
Sep102008

The Azinger Cut And Other Course Setup Ploys

That's what I write about for Golf World to kick off the Ryder Cup countdown.




Wednesday
Sep102008

19th Hole Golf Show

Ryan Ballengee has me on the show to talk about the Ryder Cup. Brace yourselves.

Tuesday
Sep092008

Cranky Coverage Coming?

First there was Tim Dahlberg's AP column. Then a salty game story by Bob Harig hinting at bloated-ego-player fatigue within the press ranks. Followed by the start of what will be many columns questioning everything about the FedEx Cup. And it was all capped off nicely by the Vijay being too busy to issue a few quotes about winning $10 million. Throw in the weird police lineup room at the Bellerive media center and what does it all add up to?

The press has seen enough of golf without Tiger Woods and they aren't liking what they are seeing.

Golf has morphed into men's tennis of the 90s. Too much power, too much money, too much indifference and too much emphasis on stars instead of the game's inherent brilliance.

Golfweek's staff says we're looking at "drab days ahead."  No, we're in for months of cranky, and at times downright ugly stories about the state of professional golf and the golfers themselves.

You may recall last week that I wondered what Deutsche Banks CEO Seth Waugh--a certified golf nut who is wired into the game and the corporate world but by no means is he a Wall Street drone--meant about the tour needing to fix its product.

I've since learned his views can be summed up this way: the players have lost touch with who is paying the bills. They are coddled, entitled brats (my words, not his). Some hint of Waugh's views came out in Golfweek's September 6th issue when he commented on Mike Weir's much appreciated appearance at a fundraiser for the John Mineck Foundation, calling Weir a "class act" and then noting, "There are a lot of guys who are like that. You can't take these sponsorships for granted."

Apparently many who follow and cover the tour are mystified that a bunch of guys who can't beat Tiger, who can't play in under 5 hours as a threesome and who can't top the Little League World Series in the ratings department, continue to act like entitled brats. From my own experience, it's getting harder and harder to talk to a player on the range unless you know him. Even though galleries are dwindling in size, it's tougher for kids to get autographs and pro-am rounds are getting less personal than ever (there's one prominent player who speaks perfect English, except to pro-am partners).

Outside of a handful of players, most of today's PGA Tour players just aren't very interesting or engaging. At least, based on what they chose to share with us.

Of course, this would not matter that much if the PGA Tour had not made stars the emphasis over the game itself. Yes there are small signs of life in the departments of course setup, TPC architecture and site selection (Ridgewood, Sedgefield), but the damage done by the distance race (slow play, tight fairways, high rough, injuries, boring golf) and the refusal to do anything about it is being felt: the PGA Tour "product" just isn't as interesting to watch as it should be. Power doesn't translate well to television, except on short par-4s. And it's little wonder why they've joined Tiger as the tour's most reliable draws.

I keep hearing people say the game will always be bigger than the people in it and that these tough times will pass. But as I devoted a book to the complete fire sale of the sport and the desertion of core principles that matter, I'm not so sure. It's hard to envision the folks running the game or those playing at its highest level to care enough to start doing more for the health of the sport. They've made their money and they're just riding it out, leaving the problems for someone else to fix.

The dwindling press corps is feeling pressure from several sides, and with less player cooperation, no Tiger to write about and a better understanding of how leadership has failed the sport, they are liable to start sharing some of the stories they used to sit on and asking tougher questions of the game's leadership.

Tuesday
Sep092008

"The biggest issue is not the players, it's their parents, their guardians and their agents"

Now that the dust has settled on the LPGA rescinding their proposed learn-English-or-else policy, a few intriguing items have popped up.

Brian Hewitt of TheGolfChannel.com says the incident has put Carolyn Bivens on notice.

To be sure, the LPGA needs to get everybody on the same page before it can expect everybody to speak the same language. And that means doing a better job judging the impact of its decisions before those decisions are made public.
Len Shapiro in the Washington Post analyzes the fallout and offers this from an LPGA Tour insider:
"The biggest issue is not the players, it's their parents, their guardians and their agents," the source said. "Many of them are 18, 19 years old and the players are not making their own decisions. They're being told to spend all their time working on their games and don't worry about learning English. Our feeling was that if there was no teeth to the policy, we'd never change the culture. That's all we were trying to do."
But as Shapiro then notes...
Still, if only a dozen players were involved in the first place, there had to be another way than a heavy-handed suspension to stress the importance of learning English. Suspending a player essentially would have amounted to preventing them from earning a living in their chosen profession. Perhaps fines might have been appropriate, or mandatory attendance in English classes, with fines levied for missing a session.
And thanks to readers Eric and Chris for this Eric Adelson ESPN The Magazine piece that I'm not sure how to characterize. It's just a very good read and the kind of insightful look at the issue from both the LPGA and player's perspective.

Tuesday
Sep092008

"You know the Wies, they like to make a big splash"

Steve Elling's exclusive on Michelle Wie likely entering LPGA Q-school appears to be good news, until you read this:

Wie is already in the Palm Spring area practicing for the first-stage event at Mission Hills Country Club on Sept. 16-19. The deadline for entry is Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

A source close to the Wie camp who asked not to be identified said it was unclear whether the family would make a formal announcement about Michelle's new career path.

"You know the Wies, they like to make a big splash," the source said.
Hopefully they will not make a fuss. Playing Q-school is tough enough without a media herd following your every move.
Monday
Sep082008

"We don't want to talk about the FedEx Cup, do we?"

The scribblers, already fired up about having an execution chamber viewing area and Vijay choosing not to talk to them, are declaring the demise of FedEx Cup. Of course that assumes it ever reached a peak before declining. Let's face it, the entire thing was flawed for two reasons: Tiger and Phil. The system was designed to ensure they would be eligible until the finish, and as long as the points gurus have to gear the entire thing about guiding the tour's two biggest draws to the weekend at East Lake, it will always be flawed.

Here are some of the reviews and other complications being raised, starting with Gary Van Sickle:

Then Villegas was asked if it was disappointing that he tied for third at the Deutsche Bank Championship (at which Singh won after a closing 63) and won at Bellerive but can't take the FedEx Cup as long as Vijay simply finishes four rounds in Atlanta. Villegas put on a solemn face. "We don't want to talk about the FedEx Cup, do we?" he asked plaintively.
Let's see, the FedEx Cup winner doesn't want to talk about the FedEx Cup. Neither does the BMW Championship winner. The intensity of FedEx Cup buzzkill is apparently at Category 4 strength.
Cameron Morfit, also on golf.com:
Unless you subscribe to the idea that sex appeal is a pocket protector and a calculator, the Tour's current math-heavy approach is a big part of the problem, even ignoring its terrible results.
Bob Carney at GolfDigest.com shares reader letters while Thomas Bonk reveals the disastrous ratings (at least the public knows a soulless golf course when it sees it):
The third round Saturday of the BMW Championship had a 1.1 overnight rating on NBC, down from a 2.6 in 2007; and Sunday's fourth round had a 1.2 overnight rating, down from a 3.2 in 2007.

Steve Elling questions why the top 30 to reach East Lake are getting Masters and U.S. Open invitations.

The FedEx points structure was re-jiggered this season to weight the playoff performances more strongly and to de-emphasize the overall season. Thus, journeymen pros like Kevin Sutherland and Dudley Hart, who each finished second in one of the three FedEx Cup series events to date, have cemented a spot in the first two majors next year.

It borders on absurdity. If I were a decision-maker at Augusta or the USGA, I'm not sure I'd listen to another self-serving pitch from the tour ever again. After months of foot-dragging, the tour revamped the FedEx rules in March, well after the Open and Masters exemptions had been re-upped for another year. Thus, if the tour can change its rules in midseason, then the USGA and Augusta National should do likewise by flushing the FedEx exemption category completely, effective immediately.

Broadly, the Masters traditionally required non-winners from the previous year to finish the season in the top 30 on the PGA Tour money list or inside the top 50 in the final world rankings in order to secure an invitation. There are five players in the 30-man field in Atlanta who don't appear likely to accomplish either, having taken the farcical FedEx freeway to Augusta and Bethpage Black, the U.S. Open site next summer.

In the span of 21 days -- or even less time for one-week one-offs like Hart and Sutherland -- a half-dozen players have cracked the Masters and Open field, barring the rescinding of the two major-championship exemption rules, which will soon be reviewed by their governing bodies.

Augusta National officials already have indicated that the club is keeping an eye on the FedEx exemption provision, while the USGA Championship Committee will conduct its next meeting Oct. 31. Speaking as a USGA member, the issue had better be on the agenda.

Monday
Sep082008

Vijay To Finally Speak About Trauma Of Winning $10 Million**

Only two days after passing on interviews with NBC or the assembled media, Vijay Singh has gathered his thoughts and is finally prepared to discuss those those heartfelt thoughts that the immediate aftermath of his T44 at Bellerive precluded him from sharing.

HASTILY ARRANGED MEDIA ALERT
Vijay Singh Teleconference

Members of the media are invited to take part in a teleconference with Vijay Singh.

DATE: Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008

TIME: 4:30 p.m. ET
Monday
Sep082008

The Making Of The Horse Course, Volume 1

Now that we have a week off from the playoff excitement, I have posted my first 4-minute "video diary" from the site of a golf course project. In this case, it's Volume 1 from the Prairie Club where Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and I have layed out a par-3 course called "The Horse Course." You can read more on the Prairie Club on the page I've devoted to it (with some early construction images posted), or at the Destination Golf Ventures website.

Volume 1 centers around our trip (Gil, Jimand yours truly) to work with developer Paul Schock and his team on the clubhouse area land plan. You can view a slightly wider angle version here or hit the play button on the embedded version below.

And as you will soon see, I'm no Steven Spielberg in the editing bay and certainly no Morgan Freeman in the voiceover booth. But hopefully you'll enjoy the images and great music, which in this case appears courtesy of Lloyd Cole from his excellent album, Antidepressant.


The Making of the Horse Course Vol. 1 from Geoff Shackelford on Vimeo.
Monday
Sep082008

Faldo: "He will be in."

I think reader Colm is correct in noting that Matthew Jones makes a strong case that Nick Faldo was picking Ian Poulter no matter what, citing an interesting exchange from Gary Van Sickle's late July golf.com interview with the Captains.

As for Poulter, he was none too pleased when asked after missing another cut in Boston last weekend if handling the pressure of trying to make the team was a sign that he would be able to handle the pressure of the Ryder Cup itself. "Do you know what? I'm sick and tired of this nonsense. I'm absolutely spent, I can't waste any more energy on this. If I get the call, I'm ready to play. And trust me, I'll do my job."

If the truth will never out, it now seems that by staying in the States and turning his back on the chance to qualify at Gleneagles, Poulter was certain he was going to be picked. If you're still not sure that a deal was done, consider this exchange between Faldo and Azinger on the golf.com website when the two captains were asked who they expected would score the point that clinched the cup at Valhalla.

Azinger: "Kenny Perry."

Faldo: "Poulter."

Azinger: "Ian Poulter? He's not even on the team. You just tipped your hand. You must be picking him."

Faldo: "He will be in."

That conversation took place in July. So, now you know.
Just a little more Louisville dinner conversation for the Euros!