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While in the past 10 years or more the yardage held up as being suitable for a "championship" course ranged between 6,000 to 6,500 yards, this year's open championship was decided on a course approximately 7,000 yards long. But all courses can not be "championship" courses, that is, links where championships are decided, for they would be too expensive for the average club.
WILLIAM FLYNN (1927)


    

Sunday
Sep172006

Skins Game

I usually flip right on by William Safire's NY Times Magazine "On Language" column not because I found the author to be a blowhard. No, instead I usually flip on by because I'm so eager to read about those vital ethical quandaries tidied up by Randy Cohen a few pages later.

But Sunday's column caught my eye for two reasons. The first is to establish the next great MBAism that we can expect to hear from Tim Finchem or Carolyn Bivens any day now.

Microsoft’s Certified Professional Magazine Online — an insistently nonamateurish house organ — quotes a vice president, Rick Devenuti, saying, “Customers want confidence, especially with this new product wave, that Microsoft has skin in the game.” A reader can presume that this means the company will hire new employees in its new-wave consulting business because the executive hints provocatively that “there is some relationship to head count.”

At the same time, on the other side of the world, Lachlan McKeough, chief of an Australian insurance brokerage on an acquisitions spree, told The Sydney Morning Herald that the key to the company’s success is the way that “front-line staff” retains a substantial equity in the business. Asked to describe his business model, he replied, “They have got skin in the game, so to speak.”

This eventually led Safire, or his researcher, to call the USGA in search of a link to skins in golf.

I can hear gambling golfers in the readership firing up their computers. Golf’s skins game, about a half-century old, has a foursome betting against one another: “Three categories each account for one-third of the pot,” writes Steve Pajak of The Sacramento Bee, which are “team play (best four of six balls on each hole on this day), individual skins (any single low score on a hole) and individual greenies (closest to the pin on par 3’s).” The U.S. Golf Association librarian says that “skins is also known as cats, scats, skats or syndicates.”

Is there any doubt now that we'll be hearing this soon? The question is, who first? Bivens, Finchem, or maybe a not-so-darkhorse like Senior Champions Tour headman Rick George? Yep, this has George written all over it!

Sunday
Sep172006

PGA Tour Driving Distance Watch, Week 37

pgatour.jpgThe PGA Tour driving distance average dropped to 289.3 yards from 289.6 after the soggy and final 84 Lumber Classic, won by Ben Crane Curtis.*

With this win Crane becomes the first ever two-time winner of lame duck events in the same year. And just think, the notoriously shy former British Open Champion won't have to do two media days next year. Take that Tiger!

*too many hours in the hot So Cal sun today made me type this incorrectly. Really.

Sunday
Sep172006

Not What The Kids Can Want

Former NY Times writer Robert Lipsyte pens an LA Times opinion piece on steroids in sports and wonders what all of the angst is about, yet says that no one "under 21 should take steroids because of the unknown effect on developing bodies and brains." 

The way I see it, we're all complicit in the superstars' need for the needle — we fans, coaches, parents, owners and media (I'm a recovering sportswriter myself). We demand that they attempt superhuman feats to thrill us, authenticate us, make us rich and proud — and they need superhuman help to satisfy us. (We also want our Whole Foods food before it rots, so long-haul truck drivers pop speed.) And we don't want to know about the process. When it's jammed in our faces, when athletes come up "dirty" in testing (or truck drivers jackknife on the interstate), we demand that they be punished and expurgated from our fantasies.

This pattern of denial and demonization is our problem, not theirs. Steroid use in sports is a symptom of our disease more than theirs, and a fascinating, if tinted, window on jock culture and its connection to the complicated, dangerous, exhilarating way manhood is measured in America, from the field house to the White House.

And yet...
As the ideal of sportsmanship gave way to the tactics of gamesmanship, it seemed as though the win-at-all-costs virus infected professional athletics just as it infects all aspects of American life, including, most visibly, politics and big business. Or, as some sports apologists claimed, sports had fallen victim to the ills of the larger society.

So why should we care what those players use as long as they entertain us?

As a tunnel-visioned sports fan, I don't. (Although as a father, grandfather and a shooter of steroids, I simply don't understand how we can make no national effort to screen the thousands of young, under-21 high school and college abusers.)

Wow, that's quite a rationalization. Okay for adults, but no one under 21 will be allowed to use steroids. Oh yeah, that'll really keep the kids from wanting to sample steroids! Great idea! 

 

Saturday
Sep162006

Ryder Cup Clippings, Sunday Preview Edition

2006rydercup.jpgJohn Huggan talks to Sam Torrance and Bernard Gallacher about their memories and the horror of having to make captain's picks.

Huggan also speaks to Peter Oosterhuis about some of his memories:
"I was disappointed at the so-called 'War on the Shore' in 1991," he says with a shake of the head. "Things got out of hand there. I didn't like the khaki hats and all that went with them. I was proud of the way Tom Watson and Bernard Gallacher turned that around in 1993. They put the matches in perspective.

"And, like everyone else, I didn't like what happened at Brookline in '99. Of course, there are two sides to every story. The Americans were annoyed by Sergio's leaping all over the place during the first two days. But on the last day I think the PGA of America lost control of the crowd. Boston's golf community was embarrassed by what went on at the Country Club. It wasn't them who were causing problems; it was the non-golfers in the gallery. There are so many more of them now than in my day."

Tom English shares a fun story about the US team's recent bonding session.

David Davies explain$ why we have to watch the European hosted Ryder Cup$ on such lou$y venue$:
It is estimated that in the period including the run-up to the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama, to the hosting of the matches at Gleneagles, in Scotland in 2014, around £350 million will have poured into the coffers of the European Tour. Schofield has now retired from running the tour but his personal view is that the selling of the Ryder Cup brought huge benefits to all concerned. As an indication of how things operated in his time, he says: "The Ryder Cup was the ultimate prize and the choice of venues — and now, increasingly, host countries — is determined by a consistency of support over a period of time. Take Valderrama and the '97 Ryder Cup. Spain, in the shape of Turespana and the autonomous regions of the Canaries, Balearics, Andalucia, Valencia, Catalunya and Madrid itself, supported almost 40 regular tour events as part of the 'bidding' for that Ryder Cup.

"As for the Belfry, that course was custom-built for the guarantee of several matches. What would the total benefit to the PGA, in terms of offices and a new national training academy, and also the tour, with 16 regular tour events plus a Hennessy Cup, be counted at? Well, other than many, many millions, I don't know.

"What I do know is that that almost certainly inspired a number of major multi-nationals who own facilities, like Johnnie Walker and Gleneagles, to believe if they demonstrated consistent and substantial commitment to the game, they would have a chance of that ultimate prize, the Ryder Cup.

"That also applied to the big owner-occupiers like Jimmy Patino at Valderrama, Michael Smurfit at The K Club and Terry Matthews at Celtic Manor — support the overall concept and be in with a chance of the ultimate prize."

Friday
Sep152006

Week(s) In Review September 2-16: Walter and the Ryder Cup

WeekInReview2.jpgThe Ryder Cup has arrived and Ian Woosnam's captain's selections generated plenty of questions, especially after Thomas Bjorn's tirade blasting Woosie.

Lefty writes: Clarke is a sentimental choice. However, Petterson is a better golfer currently than Clarke. Sorry, Darren...Of course it IS only an exhibition. So maybe the sentimental choice is the right one...

Jeremy Rudock: Bjorn should be crying. It's almost criminal that Westwood was selected over him for the team. Bjorn's results are much better than Westwood's on the course this year.

Matt: Poulter should have the biggest beef of all-he played well last Ryder Cup and had some good finishes in majors this year. That would have been like the US picking Love and Duval, only much worse because Davis and David are playing better than Darren and Lee and aren't going through the emotional baggage.

Hawkeye writes: It is fairly obvious that the main criteria Woosnam went for are "speaks rural English" and "likes a pint". And I have a strange feeling that might be the right thing.

On the USA Today article about course closures, Smolmania brought this up: For those of you familiar with golf in Chicagoland, Pine Meadow -- named Golf Digest's Best New Public Course some time in the mid '80s -- may be in trouble. The Archdiocese owns the property the course is on, and the Jemsek's lease is coming up quickly. Rumor has it that negotiations are not going well. . . there are developers lining up to build houses on this property, and Lord knows the Church has lots of litigation settlements to pay. What a shame if we lose one of the best conditioned public courses in our District.

There were some interesting developments on the distance front, starting with Martina Navratilova's comments about tennis and golf equipment regulation.

GeorgeM writes: "Stronger" golfer uses harder ball and driver to attain more distance. Weaker driver uses softer ball and trust skill to carry the day. I have no problem with different balls favoring different players. However, if the same design were applied to lighter or larger balls, distances could be reduced and lenghtening of courses stopped. It would not hurt for the USGA to abandon COR specs and adopt a spec minimizing relative movement or deformation of the club face. That would relate more closely to "springlike effect."

On Tim Finchem's shifting stance on drug testing after Tiger Woods endorsed a PGA Tour drug testing program, R.J.W. says: Tim's finally come down off whatever that was he was on a couple weeks ago. No longer is he in complete denial, just quasi aloof now. Hey media, Tim just needs a few more weeks to make sure everything is out of his system, then he'll be ready to field your questions.

Walter Driver was the star of an ESPN.com chat and he revealed that the USGA won't be doing much to address the distance issue.

Barry writes: ...to paraphrase: “Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Seve Ballasteros, Ernie Els, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, etc., etc. – you are ALL WRONG. Your years of playing and observing the game at the highest levels are worthless. We at the USGA have the ‘facts’ on ours side. And the ‘facts’ that we choose to pay attention to allow us to do nothing, and thereby avoid getting sued.”  Thanks Walter for clearing things up. Really, I mean that. After a few years of organizational doublespeak – we’re studying the problem, there is no problem - we now know exactly where the USGA stands. I can now give up any last shred of hope that you will do a damn thing to protect the game.

Garland: The USGA is conducting tests. They have determined that the modern ball goes 25-30 yards farther with the same swing speed than the ball used on tour in the early 90s. What that means is that the initial velocity and overall distance standards failed to keep the balls the tour players choose from going far beyond the intended distances.

Chuck: ...the longest players on the PGA Tour may not be dominating the money list. What I say to that is, I don't care. What is inarguable is that all of the courses that host PGA Tour events are being forced into unrecognizable alterations.

Kevin notes: one cannot argue that technology has not seriously changed this game. In my mind the perfect example is the 17th hole of the Old Course at St. Andrews. Always a feared hole, approached with care using long irons. Why did the R&A grow rough so high and so penal as to make using a driver a fool's play? Because the new tehnology would have turned that hole into a pitch and putt. And if you are OK with that, then you are on the other side of the fence from me. Driving averages are a bunch of numbers; when greats such as the Road Hole are rendered irrelevent then I see a clear sign that technology is out of control.

N Gn: I have been a Tour player for several years and I don`t need any statistical evidence to prove that there has been an excessive increase in distance over the last couple of years. The problem, in my opinion, is that the USGA and the R&A don´t have the guts to regulate accordingly, and my impression is that it is a legal fear. I believe that it will be the Augusta National members that will make the the right move, and when that day comes, we will see how quickly the USGA and R&A will take action.

Meanwhile the grooves issue continues to be the one area that the USGA sees a problem.

Scott S writes: Keep in mind that there is a difference between V, box, and U grooves. The super-ripping Cally, Titleist, and TM wedges use U grooves (TM calls them Y grooves, but their cross-section looks similar to the other U grooves). This is probably what they have their sights on. That said, what good will this create beyond adding a few million to wedge and possibly iron sales to the manufacturers? Oh, that's right, no one cares what they do to grooves, so long as no one loses any yardage!

RGT: ...grooves are not the problem when a 16 year old kid can average 339 yards off the tee in a Nationwide event. ince the USGA is not going to do anything about distance which is totally their fault, the PGA Tour should cut and run from the USGA. Go to a tournament ball, save millions in golf course renovations and still be able to afford the drug testing. Bottom line, these ballistic distances are driving up costs while TV ratings are in a major slump. Unless of course Finchem can convince TIGER of playing every week, fat chance.

Friday
Sep152006

It's a Tie!

Idaho Statesman column Brian Murphy (no, I couldn't find his first name) polled players at the Nationwide event on drug testing in golf.

During the first round of the Nationwide Tour's Albertsons Boise Open, held Thursday at Hillcrest Country Cub, I posed the same question to 39 professional golfers: "Would you like to see drug testing in golf?"

The results may surprise you — and they may surprise the PGA Tour, which runs the Nationwide Tour and the Champions Tour.

It was a tie — 16 responded in favor of drug testing, 16 were opposed and seven offered no opinion on the matter.

Most of those who said no offered a variation on the PGA Tour's official stance: Performance-enhancing drugs won't help golfers.

"Our players don't kick the ball in the rough and they don't take illegal substances, including performance-enhancing substances," said Bob Combs, the PGA Tour's senior vice president for public relations and communications.

He was parroting the sentiments of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who has been extensively quoted as claiming the sport does not need testing.

"We've never seen any evidence of use nor have we seen evidence that steroids or other performance-enhancing substances would be beneficial," Combs said.

Sheesh...get Bob the latest Finchem take on this. Those lines he's repeating (verbatim!?) are like, so August 2006. 

 

Friday
Sep152006

"This mutual admiration is part of something bigger"

Thanks to Tuco for noticing this Scott Soshnick column on the recent Tiger-Federrer meeting and the likelihood that it's driven by Nike as much as a bond between the two dominant forces of their sports.

This mutual admiration is part of something bigger. It isn't coincidence that both athletes happen to be represented by the same agency, International Management Group.

If Tiger and Roger were so intent on forging a friendship, why didn't the millionaires simply hop aboard private planes or, better yet, Tiger's yacht, and make it happen. And don't tell me about busy schedules.

Tiger gets what Tiger wants.

I smell a commercial.

It's the only logical conclusion for their public introduction and instant friendship, which blossomed during the U.S. Open final.

Friday
Sep152006

Golf's Top 100 You Can Play

490154-311244-thumbnail.jpg
Now posted is Golf Magazine's Top 100 public access courses in the U.S. list and story by Joe Passov. Rustic Canyon landed at #83.

Friday
Sep152006

Love and Pavin On Call, No Micheel?

Golfweek's Jeff Rude reports on the slim possibility of Davis Love or Corey Pavin being called upon should Scott Verplank's chiropracter-induced rib injury force him out of the Ryder Cup.

Why is Love the first captain's choice when Shaun Micheel just finished second in the PGA and defeated Tiger Woods and Luke Donald in the World Match Play?

Thursday
Sep142006

K Club Quotes

Reuters offers these player and Captain insights into the K Club's design.  

U.S. team captain Tom Lehman, a veteran of three Ryder Cups as a player: "It is a good driving course. With the rough up the way that it is, you need to put the ball in the fairway. The greens are somewhat unique, there is a lot of personality to them. The challenge is there and the firmer it gets the harder it is going to become."

Ireland's Paul McGinley, who holed the winning putt for Europe in the 2002 Ryder Cup at the Belfry in central England: "It will be great. The course has matured with age, much like a fine wine, and is getting in better and better condition every year. It will be something everyone in Ireland is going to be proud of. Those three final holes now having water in play will be fantastic for match play. The finishing stretch down the (River) Liffey will be nerve tingling."

The 7,335-yard Palmer Course has water in play on 13 of its 18 holes.

European team captain Ian Woosnam, who tasted victory at four of his eight Ryder Cups as a player: "This is just about as good as it gets for match play golf and it is going to be a brilliant setting for the Ryder Cup. Subtle changes have been made to the course especially around the greens, where mown humps and hollows will allow for more creative chipping and putting as (designer) Arnold (Palmer) originally intended. It will be a supreme test."

Excited? 

Thursday
Sep142006

"It just goes to show..."

Lawrence Donegan on the day one massacre at Wentworth:
As the old golf saying doesn't go, to lose one favourite in the first round at Wentworth is careless but to lose three-quarters of them is likely to evoke the hoariest of sporting clichés.

"It just goes to show that anyone can beat anyone on any given day," chimed the likes of Colin Montgomerie, Shaun Micheel and Paul Casey here yesterday after defying the seedings to progress to the last eight of the World Match Play.

Meanwhile, Martin Johnson writes about Monty in a column you won't want to miss.
There is no one quite like him for fitting PG Wodehouse's description of golfers who get distracted by the sound of butterflies in an adjacent meadow, and reincarnation theorists would be fairly confident in the belief that he must have lived out a previous existence as a bat. So quite how Monty does so well around Wentworth — three PGA titles and one World Matchplay — is a bit of a mystery.

With the roadways winding through the trees resembling the M25 at times, there are more distractions here than on almost any other course you could mention. Little wonder Monty had a mild attack of road rage yesterday, although, this being a large and exclusive residential estate, one of the drivers he was waving his arms at could have been delivering Ernie Els' groceries.
Thursday
Sep142006

Don't Overeact!

AP's Jim Litke must have caught colleague Doug Ferguson sobbing over having to cover three days of the World Match Play without Tiger, Ernie, Retief or Furyk, because he says we shouldn't overreact to Tiger's loss to Shaun Micheel.

Thursday
Sep142006

Headed To Augusta...

Georgian Dave Womack wins the Mid Am and a likely trip to the Masters.

Thursday
Sep142006

"Navel Academy"

10candyhannemann.jpgSomehow I have a hard time understanding how Golf For Women finds this "Navel Academy" photo spread to be in good taste.

I'm guessign that if SI or Maxim made the comments they make (pointing out a player's scar as in the photo to the left), there would be hell to pay.

But because it's a women's magazine, they can make comments about a player's weight?

Hmmm...pretty tacky.

Oh, and don't miss the Creamer picture. The second one! ;

Thursday
Sep142006

"The Tiger Effect" **********

Tiger, Furyk, Goosen and Els lose in the first round of the World Match Play.

So, does this impact the "Tiger Effect" economic impact?

Actually probably not, since the golf media assembled to cover Tiger just started booking weekend tee times at some of England's finest layouts. 

Thursday
Sep142006

The Players Stadium Course

144661_300.jpgGarry Smits offers an update on the TPC Stadium The Players Stadium course construction (yes, it's been uh, rebranded).

Wednesday
Sep132006

Bono Was Never In, Riverdance Not Ruled Out

firmen_flatley.jpgIt seems Bono was never in for the 2006 Ryder Cup opening ceremony. But keep your fingers crossed, they haven't ruled out an appearance by Ireland's other favorite son, Michael Flatley.

Can't you just see the a special K Club Riverdance?

After Donald Trump at Oakland Hills, why not?

Wednesday
Sep132006

Gallacher Chimes In...

Former European Ryder Cup Captain Bernard Gallacher pours a little salt on Woosie's wounds by writing a column recalling a few old stories about his Thomas Bjorn like rants. Gallacher also wonders about the selection of Darren Clarke in the story, reported on here by Douglas Lowe.

Wednesday
Sep132006

Kostis: Golf Will Survive!

Titleist Golf Products Design Consultant Peter Kostis weighs in with one of those mysterious columns he pens on occasion to reminds us just how difficult it is to balance the whole pro-golf ball technology position while acknowledging the ugly stuff that comes with the whole deregulation mindset.

From the days of English aristocracy and class warfare, through racial and gender inequalities and to today's technological world,

 Oh Lordy...jumping ahead:

Some people consider today's golf to be boring. They say it relies too much on power and technology while reducing the skill requirements of the player. But that's a simple, easy conclusion to a much more complicated issue.

And shame on Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman and all of the other greats who have said so! They don't understand margins.

Today's golf isn't better or worse than the golf played 20, 50 or even 100 years ago. It's just different, just as our lives and our world are different.

Ahhh...here comes the point of this column, which, oddly, does not include a disclosure of Kostis's corporate affiliation... 

To try and roll back golf to some better time is like saying that life in the 1950s was, across the board, better than it is today. In some cases maybe it was, but in many other cases today's world is far preferable. This concept of yearning for a return to better times has been around forever and coincides with a reluctance to accept change. Dismissing all change as bad is stupid.

While we're doing cliche's, how about not confusing change with progress? Naw, that doesn't fit.

Funny too, but I guess he's referring to the USGA thinking about taking away our grooves, because most people would just like to see a little ball rollback, and let all of the other "change" stand.

Anyway, time for Kostis to break out into full Gloria Gaynor mode:

When steel shafts were in the process of replacing wooden shafts in the 20s and 30s, traditionalists of the day cried out that equipment was going to reduce the skills required to play the game.

Golf survived.

When the Haskell ball replaced the gutta-percha, traditionalists cried out that this was going to make golf courses obsolete and the game too easy.

Golf survived.
I swear I've read this speech before. Hmmm, but where?
With metal shafts replacing wood shafts, was there any doubt that eventually metal club-heads would replace wooden club-heads? No! Neither was there any doubt that traditionalists would bemoan this innovation as bad for the game.

But golf survived.

Finally, graphite is replacing some steel and the solid-core, muti-layered golf ball has replaced the wound, balata ball, and, you guessed it! Traditionalists are saying golf has become too easy and courses obsolete.

Golf will survive. It will just be different.

I wonder how Peter would feel if he paid an assessment at a club because they had to renovate their course, all because the ball can't be rolled back a bit...eh, why am I wondering?

Ah, but then the conflicted view of supporting equipment on steroids clashes with that stuff about people on steroids. 

Golf has, seemingly, been proactive only when it comes to preserving traditions. Golf should be proactive against performance enhancing drugs too, but it won't happen. The, bury your head in the sand, "we have no evidence to indicate a drug problem," philosophy will prevail and golf will lose another opportunity to be a leader. That's a reality that I find revolting and at the same time, laughable.

We need to be diligent in protecting the game of golf. We also have to realize that just as the world around us changes; the game of golf will reflect and not lead those changes. Golf is not a social game. It is society's game. Look to the way we lead our lives and the way the world is evolving, if you want to see what the future of golf will be. There are many who claim golf to be the beacon of civility and reason and, as such, steadfastly reject change. Those people feel strongly that tradition is a commodity to be protected. That thinking kept women from clubhouses in Great Britain, blacks from the PGA Tour in America, and will allow for drugs to invade the game in the future. Golf, because it changes so stubbornly, will always be a follower and never a leader. That is the price to be paid for traditions.

Wow, that was a lot of work. Hope the pay is good!

Wednesday
Sep132006

GOLF Mag Going SI

From the memo on Time Inc selling some of its magazine titles...

Golf and Golf.com will join the Sports Illustrated group. The publishing side of Golf will report to SI president Mark Ford. Golf�s top editor will report to SI managing editor Terry McDonell. The move to Sports Illustrated is significant as it combines the number one general sports title with one of the leading golf titles and brings together two category leading web sites with a total of 9,000,000 unique visitors a month.