90 minutes into the teleast and we've already gotten three "man-sized" course references.
What time does NBC take over?
Seth Davis is blogging at SI.com and is already sick of Berman too.
When you play a course and remember each hole, it has individuality and change. If your mind cannot recall the exact sequence of the holes, that course lacks the great assets of originality and diversity.
90 minutes into the teleast and we've already gotten three "man-sized" course references.
What time does NBC take over?
Seth Davis is blogging at SI.com and is already sick of Berman too.
Watching TGC's mostly excellent pre-game coverage (highlighted by Dave Pelz and aerial comparisons between 1997 and 2006), the talk about the super high rough right off of Nos. 5, 6 and 11 fairways reminded me of the most obvious question not asked of USGA officials Wednesday: how come you are not offering tiered rough on these three holes?
You tell us in your press conference how you are working dilligently to make sure conditions are consistent from day to day.
We learn from Brad Klein that you are working hard to make green speeds consistent.
Yet the tiering is mysteriously inconsistent for the three most birdieable holes?
Gerry Dulac reports that Oakmont wants to furrow the bunkers at next year's U.S. Open.
"We're pushing for it," said Oakmont pro Bob Ford, among the contingent of club officials who are attending the 106th U.S. Open that starts today at Winged Foot Golf Club.
Paul "Mickey" Pohl, Oakmont's chairman for the 2007 U.S. Open, met yesterday morning with Pete Bevacqua, the USGA's managing director of U.S. Open Championships, and discussed the possibility of bringing back furrowed bunkers in the greenside sand traps only.
But USGA president Walter Driver said yesterday, "We have not talked about doing that at our championships."
...Brett Avery's excellent hole-by-hole live blogging of Michelle Wie's attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open, good news, PGATour.com has announced via email that he's going to be doing it again Thursday and Friday. This time he'll be filing reports on Tiger Woods.
I'll post a link as soon as they have one up and running.
But it should be fun to get an inside-the-ropes perspective on the hoopla surrounding Tiger.
Brad Klein looks at the USGA's innovative techniques to ensure they don't bungle the setup. After that, pretty slim pickings in the reading department.
Lewis Mair offers some interesting comments from Johnny Miller on Tiger v. Phil.
Doug Ferguson reports on Phil's practice round at Baltusrol.
Dave Anderson writes about Mike Davis, the rough, Winged Foot and the Open, and the New York Times misspells Jim Hyler's name.
As for picks, John Antonini handles the job for Golf Digest, PGATour.com's editors chime in, and at SI.com where they call it Winged Foot Golf Course and feature Vijay swinging lefthanded in their masthead, the guys make their picks here.
I wonder if he'll park Privacy off the coast at Torrey and Pebble, just to, you know, test out the Panama Canal? Can't say I'd blame him for choosing this over someone's house. Thanks to reader Noonan for the link.
Warning: this reading may be unsuitable for those prone to napping.
Yes, it was a positively dismal performance by the inkslingers who stuck around for the USGA press conference with Walter Driver, David Fay and Jim Hyler.
Let the nap begin...
WALTER DRIVER: The first announcement that I'm very happy to make is that we have surpassed $50 million in our USGA for the Good of the Game grants program, and of this $50 million, over $40 million has gone toward youth golf in bringing more kids into the game, teaching them about the traditions of the game, why we love the game and everything about the game that we think is so special.
This is a commitment we made in 1997. I was the chairman of the committee that proposed this, the executive committee approved it, and we're well on our way to bringing a lot of people into the game. This is not exclusively kids that don't have access to the game, but primarily we focus on children who would not be introduced to the game but for these programs.
This program is the largest direct supporter The First Tee program in terms of direct contributions, and we really bring a lot of people into the game to teach them why we love the game and all the life skills that go with the game. So we're happy to reach that milestone in our grants program.
Warms your heart, doesn't it? Walter was chairman of that committee? Wow, you learn something everyday. There's nothign this man won't do for charity.
We think that the U.S. Open at Merion will be approximately the size of the U.S. Open here at Winged Foot, maybe slightly smaller, but it will be -- a lot of people will get a chance to come to the U.S. Open in Philadelphia and appreciate both Merion and all the elements of a U.S. Open.
I want to thank the people from Merion. We have a big group from Merion here today. Stand up, folks. They're very happy to be here. Thank you very much.
(Tepid Applause from scribes and USGA staffers responding to an applause sign held up by Marty Parkes).
And now way too many words from the championship committee chairman, Jim "I just love Walter's Kool-Aid recipe" Hyler.
The idea here and the philosophy is that the further a player hits the ball off-line, the more penalty they will incur. And in that three-and-a-half-inch cut of primary rough, if a player hits in there, they do have a chance to advance the ball sometimes on the green or to get it up around the green. It does allow for some shot-making opportunity to play out of that three-and-a-half-inch rough.So you're saying it's going to be mown every day, and every single day?
We think this is a very fair way to have U.S. Open rough, and we've gotten some good comments from the players about this. The three-and-a-half-inch rough will be cut every day. It's going to be mowed every single day.
Green speeds, we are trying to get the greens and keep the greens at a green speed of around 12 on the stimp meter, and we are essentially there and have been all week. This applies to all the greens except the first hole, and if you've been out to see the first hole, you know that it has a pretty dramatic slope from back to front. We are keeping this green speed a little bit slower than the other green speeds, and we have notified the players of this. When they registered they received some information to tell them that the first green would be a little bit slower because of the severe slope.
Why not just let them figure it out? Why do they have to be warned and coddled? Isn't that for PGATour play?
We, again, are keeping the green speeds the same throughout the week. What they got on Monday, they will get Sunday, so there will be no increasing the green speeds as we go through the week.
Essentially from a course setup standpoint, the course will be the same Monday through Sunday.
Mr. Hyler, have you or the USGA media consultants ever pointed out your tendency to repeat yourself?
To save you all some time, he goes on to repeat himself about how soft the course is and mentions the alternate tee plan laid out by Mike Davis. Can you hear the scribblers who haven't headed for an early lunch snoring loudly?
I think just summarizing our course setup philosophy, we want this to be a stern test of golf, but we also want it to be fair. When a player hits a good shot, we want that shot to be properly rewarded. So fairness is the way we are trying to do this. Hard, stern, yes, but it is the U.S. Open Championship, and it will be that way, but we also want it to be very fair for the players.
So you're saying you want it to be fair? Key word here people: fair. The insights we glean!
After telling everyone far less than they already know from reading articles about the event, Hyler hands it back to Driver and they open it up to questions.
Q. A couple of weeks ago at the Memorial they conducted kind of an interesting experiment with a technique they used raking bunkers. I'm curious from a championship standpoint what your evaluation of that was. Was it anything that you guys would consider doing at any venues?
WALTER DRIVER: We've not talked about doing that at our championships, but the statistics from Memorial are that it impacted average scores by .014 in the scoring of a round, so that's not a material difference in the actual scoring based on that.
We have not talked about it, we've just scrutinized the numbers!
Q. I have a question about the U.S. Open. There were 110 local qualifiers and one of them got international attention; there were dozens of sectional qualifiers, and one of them got international attention. Is there anything that the USGA can do to encourage more female professionals to enter this tournament?
WALTER DRIVER: Well, this is an Open Championship and everything that that means. We would like to encourage everyone who is eligible, who has the right handicap or other qualifications, to enter, and it would be wonderful for us if every sectional championship had 6,000 people that came out and all that media attention. That would be a great thing for the game and for the U.S. Open.
You left out every man, woman or child regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, disability, phobia or gender reassignment. Wait, now I'm repeating myself!
Q. Phil Mickelson was in here earlier and said he believed that the PGA TOUR was looking at what you're doing this week with the rough and the experiment that you're having, and he said he believed that the Tour might look into adopting that for some of their events. Have you had any contact with the PGA TOUR and have they spoken to you about your expectations for this week?
WALTER DRIVER: They have not spoken to me. That's really their decision. They set up those courses and make their own decisions about course setup.
I'm shocked they haven't been in touch with Walter to talk about Mike Davis's idea!
Q. Walter, you mentioned that you reached a 50-million plateau in the grants program. I'd like to know what you consider the success rate there and how are you measuring if you're meeting that rate?
WALTER DRIVER: It's actually hard for us to have metrics on the number of people we bring in and the retention rates. We feel good about it and we anecdotally get very good feedback.
Ah, that's all that matters. What you feel to be true! Truthiness. Oh, and there's that metrics word again. You know who else loves her metrics? And we know what a great job she's doing for the LPGA.
This is a long-term investment by the USGA in the game of golf, and in the next generation, and we're very optimistic that it will bring people into the game who wouldn't have been in the game otherwise and that they'll love the game as we do and stay in the game. We'll just have to wait and see. We're willing to make the investment in the next generation.
And in Citation jets.
Q. For David, there's been a lot of pros and cons with Merion, the course and the length of it. I'm wondering about your thoughts about what went into the process. I know you've done a lot of studies there and whatever, how do you feel the course will hold up?
DAVID FAY: Well, we put a lot of thought into this, and again, hats off to the leadership of Merion. I think I can use this automobile because it no longer exists, but there was once a commercial "It's not your father's Oldsmobile," in some ways I'd say it's the same for Merion. They've always had great holes, a number of great layup holes where you weren't using driver off the tee. But they've been able to make their long, stout holes, the ones that have been known throughout history. They've made them really long. So I think they have adapted so well to the changing nature of the game.
The game's changing? Just remember that remark...
Q. I suppose it wouldn't be a USGA press conference if we didn't ask about the ball issue. I'm just wondering, David, if there's anything new to report on that front with the USGA. And you talked about the course being stretched out 300 yards from '97, and they'll be looking if this comes back here again, 2014 is the next available Open, and we look at the way the ball is flying these days?
DAVID FAY: Well, technology and what we do in our role as overseeing technology through equipment standards is a core function of the USGA, and we are still in the midst of a well-chronicled ball research project, and we're learning a lot of good information. Jim Vernon, the chair of the equipment standards committee is here, as is Dick Rugge.
When you do a ball research program, you find out more than just the golf ball. I mean, that's something that we've discovered. There are a lot of issues we're discussing, matters dealing with off-center hits, matters dealing with control of the golf ball from the grass, otherwise known as grooves. There's a lot of stuff that is going on.
We're nowhere near making an announcement on anything today, but I can tell you that this is something that we invest a lot of time and energy with. This is something that we are in close contact with the affiliated organizations, certainly starting with the R & A. We have consulting members, members from the PGA TOUR, PGA of America, so there's no blockbuster announcement to make.
JIM HYLER: One comment on the course length. I said it was 300 yards longer, it's still -- we're still about 7,240 in length, so by today's standards, that's not really all that long.
So it's been lengthened, yet it's not long by today's standards. So that means you are saying a 7,240 yard course is outdated? And why is that? Mr. Fay says the game is changing, but are you trying to say it hasn't?
WALTER DRIVER: That's approximately the same length as Olympia Fields and Pinehurst. There's been almost no change in three years in length.
Oh good one Walter. And your point? Oh right, all is well, leave us alone, love us, respect us, but don't ask us to act (except on those pesky grooves!).
Q. The course is playing a little soft right now and some rain is expected today. Do you guys have a plan to deal with that or to see what the conditions hold for this week?
WALTER DRIVER: Jim did talk about that.
JIM HYLER: We did talk about it.
Yes and we repeated ourselves in talking about it.
Looks like some writer fell asleep! Can't imagine why.
Q. David, you mentioned the face grooves. Players will tell you that the grooves mitigate what you're doing with the rough, within reason, the ability to control the ball out of the rough. Is the graduated rough a response to their ability to do things with face grooves? And you approached this issue many years ago and then sort of blinked before confronting the club manufacturers. Are you seriously revisiting square grooves again?
DAVID FAY: Well, I'd say in answer to the question about the graduated rough, I don't think it's any secret that we are concerned about the importance of putting the ball into the fairway off of the tee, and that's not just a concern of ours, that's a concern, I believe, of the PGA TOUR.
So why not widen the fairways, then they'll hit more fairways and voila, it's not a problem anymore!
Oh that's right, they might shoot low scores and then, it's rapture time!
With respect to grooves, to start getting into specifics on this, we don't have many specifics.
Well, remember, Fay is a big Yankees fan. So there's his nod to Yogi.
All I can say at this point is that we are testing it. For specific data, I would want to turn that over to Dick Rugge. We're really nowhere near to the point where I could say to you with any certainty what we're going to be doing.
Q. I would just be curious for either Walter or David, the conversation over the last few years, you talked to players and ask them what their favorite courses are, and inevitably they'll mention any U.S. Open course before the USGA gets its hands on it. Do you take that as criticism or compliment?
WALTER DRIVER: Well, we set up the U.S. Open courses to match our philosophy that we want the most rigorous test in championship golf. The players don't see courses like that very often. The typical Tour course is not set up the same way, and we understand that's a change that requires adaptation by the players, and that's our philosophy and we don't make any apologies for that philosophy.
Do you ever apologize for anything?
Q. There was a story in the Honolulu Advertiser in regards to the qualifier down in Hawaii, and there's a possibility that it may be eliminated at some point after what happened this year where there was only ten qualifiers in the sectional. Is that, A, something you looked at specifically, or, B, is that part of a general process in regards to looking at the qualifiers?
DAVID FAY: B. At the end of each championship season, we take a look at all of the championships, including sectional and local qualifying, and we look at the numbers and we gather together with the committee, and we may or may not make changes.
And about that European qualifier where it appears players entered with no plan to play, all to help get the number of spots up?
Oh right, no one asked about that. Good work media! Top notch. Top notch.
“From the standpoint of length and difficulty, Merion Golf Club certainly answered the question of whether it could host a modern U.S. Open during the 2005 U.S. Amateur,” said Jim Hyler, chairman of the USGA championship committee. “We are pleased to bring a U.S. Open back to an old friend in Merion. We have no doubt the East Course will provide a sufficient challenge for the world’s best players.”
At this year's Nissan Open, I was walking on the 7th hole standing next to Andy North watching the leaders arrive at their balls, when a few writers walking ahead veered two club lengths away from the gallery rope to get around some photographers. Their feet might have touched the fairway! North, appalled, turned to AP writer Doug Ferguson and asked, "are those local guys."
You know, because only he and nationally recognized reporters can walk where they want.
When I got up to the green and stood with these writers--each regular golf beat guys for some of our biggest papers--I told the scribes what North said. And one immediately fired back, "the next time Andy North has an original thought, it'll be the first time."
Which got me thinking, for U.S. Open over/under #3, I say we ponder when Andy will offer an original during his ESPN telecast days and on the evening wrap up show (is it "Sportscenter at the U.S.Open"?).
Since they usually sign of around midnight on Sunday night with the final show, I'm going to set the over/under at Sunday, 11:59 p.m. Place your bets!
Tiger Indeed, never have the RRPs seemed to have been merged with the RIPs so shamelessly. Even in America this transparent piece of marketing has provoked a wince. When questioned about it, Dean Stoyer, a spokesman for Nike, said: "We would never have released this ad without the full blessing and support of Tiger and his family."
Meanwhile, Adam Roth, the firm's advertising director was more forthright. "We see a major as a brand moment." Obviously, Tiger sees this US Open as a life-changing moment, even if his claim that he thought twice about missing a major and so handing Mickelson an open fairway to three in a row must be taken with a bucket of salt.
John Hawkins blogs about the condition of the Winged Foot's bumpy greens, which he reports are not getting good reviews from players who don't want to talk on the record.
Lawrence Donegan looks at the brutal setup and conditions.
Dan O'Neill shares the story of how Winged Foot gave birth to the mulligan along with other anecdotes.
Lorne Rubenstein considers the dilemma posed by the 3rd hole.
Steve Elling compares Tiger and Phil after Tuesday's press conferences.
And Michael Hiestand writes about Johnny Miller's new deal, and it's obvious that Johnny wants us to know that he had an offer from CBS (take that Lanny!).
"To be totally honest, the lure of doing The Masters (on CBS) was bouncing around in my head."And Johnny shares this wonderful imagery to compliment the NBC crew:
And the 59-year-old Miller, who lives in Northern California and Utah, also says, "CBS doing a lot of West Coast tournaments was alluring."
He likes the NBC crew: "It's a joy to work with these guys. If I have to take a pee, I know they can do without me."
Speaking of Lanny Wadkins, notice No. 3 on Jerry Tarde's May issue list of Top 5 unsolved mysteries in golf. Ouch.
On top of the questions already posted, I have a few more that would be nice to ask at the USGA press conference while a stenographer is present:
AP reports that you are looking into eliminating the Hawaii sectional qualifier, but is there any consideration to adding flexibility to the European sectional where 24 players withdrew, creating a disproportionate number of spots in this year's field?
And this one was inspired by one of Sean Murphy's recent posts and would make a nice follow up on the inevitable tournament ball question:
The USGA's position has been that bifurcation of the pro and amateur games created via a tournament ball spec would be bad for the the game, but what would you say to those who believe that modern distances along with intricately tiered rough and other extreme course conditions not attainable or desireable in everyday golf, have already bifurcated the professional and amateur games?
Sheesh, even Borat might have asked Phil Mickelson about the new penthouse timeshare he purchased overlooking the Old Course. Anyway, some highlights from his gathering with the assembled literary craftsman:
RAND JERRIS: Obviously you had success at Baltusrol last August. Would you compare this Tillinghast course to Baltusrol.
PHIL MICKELSON: Comparing Baltusrol to Winged Foot, they are very similar with bunkering, very similar shot values, the way the holes move, the challenge on the greens, very similar. They're both very difficult golf courses.
He sure knows how to wipe the smiles off the faces of those Winged Foot members.
Q. Does this course skew more to a right to left ball flight on driver holes, and if so, does that enhance your prospects this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: There are a lot of holes where you can move it either way, and right to left shots fit fine on this golf course. Left to right shots fit fine on this golf course. There are two holes where I'll be hitting a draw, the 8th hole and the 17th hole. It doesn't have to be a big draw, it just has to softly turn to the right. But other than those two holes, I'll be fading it off most every tee.
For me what it does is makes it a softer cut, takes out some of the roll and when it hits the fairway it's more inclined to stay.
A couple years ago, the USGA took 25, 30 percent out of the fairways. In '99 the fairways were 32, 34 yards wide. The last couple years they've been 24 yards. I think the widest fairway I saw was 27, 28 paces, but on average 24. So we've lost, what, a quarter of the fairways. So I'm trying to get the ball just to come in a lot softer. I don't want to hit a draw where the balls run.
He's being kind with those 27 and 28 yard figures.
Kind of sad that course setup has come to this: fast and firm would be bad because the fairways are so narrow, the balls would not stay in them.
Q. I'm wondering, there's been a lot of feedback from players about the tiers of rough and that it seems like the punishment now fits the crime a little more appropriately. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that and whether you think that's a good evolution.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, for me personally, the larger you hit it off line, I kind of like the way it was trampled down, but that's a personal thing. I actually think this is the way the rough probably should be, and I think it's something the Tour is probably looking at doing in the future because it makes play fair. If you miss the fairway by two yards, you're not penalized nearly as much as if you miss it by ten yards. And in the past, ten yards was a lot better off than barely missing the fairway because you'd get the trampled down effect. The rough would be walked on, you'd get a good lie, whereas two yards off the fairway, no one had been walking there, the rough had grown vertical, and the ball sits to the bottom.
I think this is a much fairer way to approach it, and it should be really good. I think that in the future the Tour may even look to that, at doing that themselves.
The lone highlight:
Q. About the golf course, first question is the way the design is, does it somewhat negate the way technology has grown in regards to how far you can hit the ball? And secondly, are the bunkers much better to be in than the rough?
ERNIE ELS: The second part, yes, definitely. If you can get to a bunker, hit it in there.
I mean, the golf course, since '97, has changed a lot. Even with the old equipment in '97 and with the changes they've made, they've made some really big changes here. I mean, I remember holes like No. 14, I was hitting a 3 wood and a 7 iron. This morning it was a driver, 4 iron. The par 5, No. 12, I was almost getting it there in '97, maybe 30, 40 yards short. And now there's just no chance. You're hitting a good drive and a good 4 iron for the layup and then a 9 iron for your third shot. They've made some major changes here.
I'm not sure if they played it like that in the 1920s. We don't know. They probably did. But I'm sure they didn't putt it on 13, 14, on the stimp.
The Golf Channel's "Live from the U.S. Open" just offered a trivia question asking when the last time was that a par of 72 was played for the U.S. Open.
The answer, they claimed, was 1972 at Pebble Beach.
But the Opens in 1990 (Medinah), 1991 (Hazeltine) and 1992 (Pebble Beach) were all played at par-72.
Even with Se Ri Pak's shot for the ages, Golf World chooses to go with the Carolyn Bivens debacle as its cover story. Ron Sirak pens the tough piece on LPGA Commish Carolyn Bivens and the recent resignations of top officials.
First, more warmth and fuzziness from that proud Duke lacrosse mother and LPGA Board member who chose Bivens, Rae Evans:
"Is this going to impact the day-to-day functioning of the LPGA in a substantial way? No," Evans said. "I think the resignations say more about the three individuals than [they do] about the LPGA or the commissioner."
But Sirak also reports on the growing speculation that it's Mr. Bivens who is the real piece of work:
And, in the most curious concern about the new commissioner, many players, caddies and media members feel the constant presence of her husband, retired auto executive Bill Bivens, is a form of intimidation and that he serves as the commissioner's eyes and ears to see who is talking to whom and about what.
"Every time I see him I feel like I want to run a marathon in the other direction," said one major champion with more than a decade on tour, "and it seems like I always see him." Another multiple tournament winner said: "We all know why he hangs out with us. It's to keep an eye on us."
Ultimately, Sirak says this goes back to the Barb Trammel firing after last year's Office Depot event at Trump National:
"The pebble that started the boulder rolling down the hill was the Trammell situation," said one former LPGA official. "The knee-jerk way in which that was done foreshadowed a management style."
Trammell, an enormously popular and respected official who worked closely with local tournaments on course setup and event administration, was fired after she refused to let a Hall of Fame player who had failed to enter a tournament play in the event anyway, according to multiple sources. Trammell was told, sources say, that she needed to show special consideration to certain players and was let go when she refused. Trammell declined to be interviewed, citing the terms of her separation agreement.