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Links they may be worthily called, for the golf at Royal Porthcawl is the genuine thing—the sea in sight all of the time, and the most noble bunkers. True to its national character, the course also boasts of stone walls.   BERNARD DARWIN



If You Are Looking For Someone To Root For...

...besides Michelle Wie, Brent Read has just the man for you.


Van Sickle On GC

Gary Van Sickle offered this reminder why we must be grateful for The Golf Channel GOLF CHANNEL's coverage, even if gets boring.
After only one event, it's way too early to judge The Golf Channel on its new venture into PGA Tour coverage. However, it has small shoes to fill and looked pretty good compared to the last few years in Hawaii with ESPN's C-team of Karl Ravech and Charlie Rymer. We'll reserve judgment until later but two things stood out from the Mercedes Championship.


2006 Golf Publication Ad Sales

From Media Daily News...

Niche sports enthusiast titles generally fared poorly across a range of subject areas, although some losses were relatively small--and some titles were booming. For example, Golf Magazine's ad pages were down 7.3%, Golf World's were down 1.6%, and Golf Digest's were down 3.7%. 



T&L Best New 2006

Travel and Leisure Golf's ten best new courses of 2006 includes Doak's Ballyneal and Coore and Crenshaw's Colorado Golf Club.


Golf Channel Ownership ?

Regarding the question I asked about the PGA Tour owning part of The Golf Channel, reader Rick shared this:

According to the Comcast annual report for 2005 (filed last spring), Comcast owned 99.9% of The Golf Channel.  It didn't say, as far as I could see, who owned the rest, but if Arnie was a co-founder, he probably owns the last sliver.

That may have changed since then, as of last spring, it didn't look like the tour owned any of the Golf Channel, and definitely could not have owned more than 0.01%.



What $40 Million Can Do For You

Doug Ferguson notes a couple of subtle but interesting FedEx Cup related changes. First, from this lukewarm assessment of the cup:
 The Tour is doing what it can to make the money list obsolete. The statistics it makes available to The Associated Press show leaders in the FedEx Cup standings, followed by their positions on the money list. Its hope is that newspapers will publish only the points, although the Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran only the top money leaders Jan. 9.
And in his Tuesday notes column...
FedExCup standings will be used to help set the field for invitationals such as Colonial, Bay Hill and the Memorial this year. The money list previously was the criteria, and that will still be used in 2007. Starting next year, those tournaments are expected to exclusively using FedExCup points.
Just one more move that renders the Fall Finish that much more meaningless. 

Michelle's New Look

I'm not sure which is scarier, the bandage on her wrist or the train conductor hat. Somehow I don't think we'll see Tiger in one of those anytime soon.



Golf Digest Top 50 Moneymakers

Ron Sirak introduces the magazine's annual listing of players and their incomes.

I know Vijay Singh is wonderfullly charismatic, a fan favorite, extremely media friendly and working tirelessly for world peace, but come on, $20 million in off course income?


PGA Tour Driving Distance Watch, Week 1, 2007

pgatour.jpgIf you look at last year's inaugural driving distance watch, you'll see that not much has changed at Kapalua. In other words, you'll want to ask again, "which holes are you measuring on?!"

In 2007's event won by Vijay Singh, the field averaged 254.9 (exactly the same as 2006).

There were 335 drives at 350 yards or longer  (238 last year) and 12 drives over 400 yards.


Open Letter To Tiger

Golfweek has finally posted Brad Klein's open letter to Tiger, which is the column I wish I would have written had I had the courage to upset the game's most powerful figure!

 Will everything be there right in front of the golfer to see, as with Firestone? Or will you build in the quirky, odd and occasionally arbitrary (perhaps even unfair) element just to test a golfer's patience, as is the case at St. Andrews? In the past you've expressed admiration for both courses, yet their basic design styles are wildly divergent. Not that you need to resolve the tension or opt for one style over another.



Golf Channel Week One

Well, sad to say, it still felt like The Golf Channel of old, only the GOLF CHANNEL of new did have some great hole graphics and solid production values.

The new camera gizmos and proper putting line thing are great, but the relentless naming of the sponsors will get old.

Oh, and what's with the tacky G logo and live notice in the upper right corner? 

Your thoughts? 


"Somebody's going to be leading the FedExCup tonight, and it's not going to be one of those two guys."

Yes, this is what it's come to. Mickelson and Woods aren't at Kapalua, therefore they are behind in FedEx Cup points.


That was a highlight of Tim Finchem gracing the media center at Kapalua for an impassioned exchange...well, actually, a really boring press conference.

On the FedEx Cup:

Everything tells us that we are on the right track, and we are just excited to get this first one down and get our fans an actual list of points, which is going to begin the process of bringing people into recognition of what the FedExCup is all about.
Please name one article not on or that raves about the FedEx Cup concept, please.
The last comment I'll make, and I'll be happy to take your questions, is simply to congratulate and thank the Golf Channel for their efforts this week. We knew about their plans. We have worked closely with them over the last year, but I think they have done an outstanding job in bringing resources, the number of cameras and new technology, and I'm particularly pleased with the effort they have made with player interviews. We've got a lot of first-time winners here, players who need their story told. We need to get them in front of the fan base, and those interviews are real important.
So we think they have done a fine job this week.

Was it me or were the interviews the worst part of the telecast? Not because of Rich Lerner, who is making the best of a situation, but because the players just are not very interesting?

Asked about the Tiger-Phil no-shows...

You know, as I said at THE TOUR Championship about the same phenomena at THE TOUR Championship, sort of disappointed about that, but let me make two comments.
One is that your question goes to the future, and I'm focused on the future, but I'm also focused on the FedExCup right now.

Uh huh.

The future, in my view, has a lot to do with the new schedule. And we're not going to know until this time next year how that really plays out. We are still in the -- certain decisions have been made about scheduling the last few weeks and this week are still a part of what 2006 was about from a scheduling standpoint.

Oh that makes sense.

On the other hand, you know, and I don't want to sound like I'm trying to sugarcoat things, because I'm not. I am disappointed, and to your point, having a smaller press core here and less eyeballs because Tiger Woods is not at an event is not something that's a positive any week he doesn't play.

But having said that, let me just make also another point, which is that somebody's going to be leading the FedExCup tonight, and it's not going to be one of those two guys.

Wow, this is why he gets the big bucks! What a revelation.

Q. Why was there a conflict with the Sony Open and the Wendy's Champion's Skins Game? They are both being played on the same weekend, Saturday and Sunday.

Oops, that wasn't on the list of pre-approved questions. Where's Ric Clarson?

RIC CLARSON: Wendy's Champions Skins Game is traditionally played on the Super Bowl weekend, and some of the television windows that were available were not available for 2007 only, in order for that event to continue, we needed to move it to this coming weekend, which did put it on the same weekend as the Sony Open.

We did talk to the Friends of Hawaii Charities about it as a one-year situation, and we've already assigned dates to that event for the organizers to start working on their television packages. We wanted to keep the events going and showcase the tomorrow Champions Tour players, different islands, different air times. And while it might fragment a tad of the media core here in Hawaii for it, but we thought over the long haul, it would be best to be able to maintain that event.

Fragment a tad of the media core here. Translation: the scribblers from the Hawaiian papers are going to have to decide what they are going to cover.

Q. With such enthusiasm on the staff's part about the FedExCup, and interest in educating and so forth, I was out there so much that when Vijay came out here and was asked about it on Thursday, he said was tired of listening to it and went on to compare it to the Presidents Cup. At what point do you scale back the full core press on FedExCup promotion, and at the same time still keep people educated on what it is?

Somebody's tired of the uh, branding. 

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, we could promote it, you know, none, or promote it five times as much, and that really wouldn't be what affects you guys asking Vijay questions.

I think what he said was he was tired of answering questions about the FedExCup.

Q. It could have been anything with us, too. (Laughter).

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: And there is a lot of questions about the FedExCup because everyone wants to know what they think, and that's a good thing.

Vijay has been pretty, consistent starting with last year, about his enthusiasm for the FedExCup. The fact that he individually determined that he had said that enough, that's his prerogative, and it doesn't have anything to do with our promotion plans. We think we're on the right course in terms of explaining to fans what the FedExCup is, and we will continue to do so.

I think the thing about the FedExCup -- somebody asked me the other day, or I saw a comment, that perhaps it was complicated. I'll just say, I think it's the perfect thing. I mean, it's very simple. It's very, very simple. You get points, the guy who gets the most, wins.

Very, very simple?

Now as a fan, you could settle for that amount of information, and you could watch each week, the standings, and wait to see who gets the most points, and you might be satisfied with that. Based on our research and what we're seeing in terms of inquiries, there's a lot of fans that want to know a lot more.


They want to know, you know, how many points are distributed, where they are distributed. They want to know -- they want to know how a player's schedule relates to point accumulation. They want to know how the intervals and the seeding react to a player who is 10th or 15th or 18th on the list having a chance to win.

And so I think that that's probably true in every sport. If you take all of the fans and put them on a grid, they want to know varying degrees of detail about statistics or the competition.

Putting the fans on a grid? These guys are good!

At its core, the FedExCup is a very simple process, but we are going to see people spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure it out. And you'll see the television commentators as we get into the season, if Player X birdies this hole, he's on this par 5 in two; if he two-putts for a birdie, he'll pick up X number of points, and he'll move from sixth to fourth or more. So you'll see a lot of that during the course of the season.

And won't it be life changing for us fans.

I think it's going to be a year, really, until the Playoffs are fully played out before people really do have a sense of it. Sometimes I rely on my wife, Holly, as a barometer, and she was extremely interested in the golf week article that laid out different scenarios of point distribution. She said, her reaction was, "This is fascinating how this could play out."
First it was his dad and now the wife he cites for market research. Kind reminds you of someone else, doesn't it? Actually, that other guy doesn't even listen to his dad.
We hope people are fascinated. But I think everything dramatically changes tonight when we have a leaderboard, we have points distributed, people will know how many you get for winning. That's going to be clear on into the season.

Amen brother. I can't wait to study where we stand with 30+ weeks to go.

Q. How do you define success then? At the end of the year when you're trying to figure out to change it or not change it, what would you measure as success, to say, this succeeded, so there's no reason to change it?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, let's say that we got to a point where a player was seeded first, won the tournament, the first playoff event, and the next eight guys have all missed the cut and this guy was sailing -- it was almost inevitable that he would win. Our models tell us that's not going to happen. Well, let's suppose it did. Then we might want to change the intervals. We might want to reduce that size of the interval.

Key word today: interval.


PGA Tour: Partial Golf Channel Owner?

Thanks to reader Noonan for noticing Len Shapiro's Washington Post piece on Nick Faldo, which included this curious mention...

Sadly, ABC and its corporate cousin ESPN, are now essentially out of the golf business, save for their contract to keep the British Open (with Faldo in the booth, by the way). Instead of having many of its regular season events covered Thursday and Friday on the so-called sports leader, ESPN (or previous partner USA Network), the suits at PGA Tour headquarters in their 2006 round of TV negotiations decided they'd rather have all early round tournament coverage on The Golf Channel, which the tour partially owns.

I know there have been other mentions of the PGA Tour owning The Golf Channel GOLF CHANNEL, but has this ever been confirmed by the Tour, or one of the policy board members? Wait, why would the policy board know anything. Silly me!


Toms Blog

If Ambien is just not cutting it for you, the PGA Tour is now offering player "blogs" to cure your sleeping problems.

Check out David Toms thoughts on answering his cell vs. reading text messages in the comfort of his Ritz Carlton suite.

Spellbinding stuff I tell you.

Thanks to reader John for this little bit of web magic. 


Trump Card II

Looks like The Donald's recent attempt at salvaging his Scotland project didn't scare anyone, so he's trying it again.


History In The Making!

I sat through as little of The Golf Channel's GOLF CHANNEL's opening day coverage as I could. Not that it was bad from a technical point of view or that the announcing was lousy. In fact, the production values seemed fairly solid. The hole diagrams they employed are better than anything the networks do.

No, it was the relentlessness with which the TGC GC and the PGA Tour branding the FedEx Cup as something historic that had me pawing around for the remote.

But, such embarrassingly relentless promotion and staged history ops do have their moments.

After finishing out his opening round, all 10 of us viewers had to hear how K.J. Choi would be signing his ball and would become the first player to drop his autographed pellet into the Tiffany-designed FedEx Cup, which would then receive all of the first round signed balls from the likes of Will Mackenzie and Brett Wetterich, before being flown back to the World Golf Hall of Fame where legions will stroll by in awe.

Well, after Kelly Tilghman's breathless setup of this momentus occassion, K.J. is standing there inscribing that first all important entry into Cup history as a photographer documents the moment. And then out of nowhere, Adam Scott quietly puts the history in perspective by quickly dropping his ball in the cup like a marshall placing a Snickers wrapper in a trash bin.

Goose bumps here in Santa Monica, I tell you.


"Big Five" No More

SI's Alan Shipnuck comes out firing with several stellar zingers in his 2007 preview, starting with this reminder of yesteryear's desperation-for-stars media coverage:

5. Will any golf writer be able to use the term "Big Five" without breaking into hysterical laughter?

It's gonna be tough. Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen combined to win one Tour event in '06. Singh is approaching the precipice of the mid-40s, when performance drops off dramatically. Goosen has never been the same players since his final round self-immolation at the 2005 U.S. Open. The guy to watch is Els.

His season-ending victory in South Africa was a huge boost to his fragile psyche. Afterward, Easy even had some fighting words for Tiger, as Els said his goal is to reach No. 1 in the World Ranking. I'm not convinced he believes he can do it, but it at least sounded good. A return to Oakmont, where he broke through with his first major championship at the '94 Open, should inspire Els to reassert himself as one of the game's elite players. It's about time.

I did catch Alex Micelli wondering how it is that Goosen remains in the world top 10 despite a pretty lousy year in 2006. But why would I want to start a world rankings debate? It's not that slow of a week. 


Helen Penick, RIP

I didn't see this anywhere else, but Kevin Robbins has news of Helen Penick's passing. She was one classy lady who played a major part in her husband's success.


Ogilvy on Kapalua

I was wondering if they had remedied the odd situation at Kapalua from last year where the greens were bricks and everything else was soft. In his Wednesday sit down with the assembled Hawaiian shirt clad scribblers, Geoff Ogilvy answered that question and talked about the course.

Q. This is your second tour of the golf course. Do you notice any difference from last year to this year, any subtle changes?

GEOFF OGILVY: The greens are softer this year. Last year, they were -- I'm the biggest advocate in the world for firm greens but the trouble with last year, the greens were firm and the fairways were soft. So you land them short and stop, and you land it long, it went over the back, wicked. This year, it's all the same, it just all soft, which is fine. I like it firm, but it's been raining a lot and it's the rainy side of the island and it's never going to be rock hard.
It's much more playable this year in that respect. The greens are fantastic compared to the ones that were here two years ago.

Q. Do you like this place? Do you like the way this is set up?

GEOFF OGILVY: I think this is a fantastic golf course on a very extreme piece of land. It's on the edge of a piece -- it's really close to being a piece of land that you maybe shouldn't have a golf course on. They did such a good job. Everyone hits fairways all day and you hit a lot of shots because the greens are big. I think it's a good golf course; I enjoy it. How could you not enjoy looking at the views? They are awesome. They were smart in the way they did it. It could have been a complete nightmare if it was narrow with long carries, but how they made it, they were smart about it.


Golf Made Easy

Thanks to reader Noonan for emailing this classic golf tip.