On two-shot holes it is highly desirable in many cases to compel the player to place his tee shot so that his shot to the green may be clear, and if not properly placed, the shot to the green may to some extent be blind. DONALD ROSS
"They have escalated the cost of maintenance, they have slowed down play, and they have completely lost control of the equipment. Outside of that, they have done a pretty good job."
I warned of this last month and you can already see it playing out: the cynical, secular, communist, pornography-addicted press will be the real guilty party in any positive drug tests in golf. From Ron Sirak's Golf World story on the subject:
"That depends on [the media]," LPGA counsel Jill Pilgrim says, when discussing the public-relations risks. "If we have a 1 percent failure rate, [is the media] going to report that 1 percent or on the 99 percent who are clean?"
Meanwhile Doug Ferguson reports this related to the permissible drug list in his weekly notes column:
DRUG LIST: Toward the end of the PGA Tour's anti-doping program manual distributed to players last month is a section that lists examples of medications that are permitted, such as antibiotics, hemorrhoidals and muscle relaxants.
It was surprising to see vaginal preparations as the final entry.
Turns out it was a reminder that the PGA Tour is not a men's tour. Annika Sorenstam played in the Colonial in 2003, Suzy Whaley played in Hartford late that year, and Michelle Wie has played every year since then.
"In the era of females wanting to perhaps play on the PGA Tour, our policy had to reflect that such products were permissible," tour spokesman Ty Votaw said.
Thanks to the reader who caught this wire story:
Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman has apologized after saying during Friday's telecast of the PGA Tour's opening event that today's young players should "lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley."
Somewhere, Ben Wright is smiling. He's off the hook!
A spokesman for the network said Tilghman apologized on Sunday's telecast and has reached out to Woods' representatives to express her regrets for the comments, according to New York Newsday.
Yeah, that'll do the trick.
**Scott Hamilton fills in a few more gaps in this Golfweek column.
"When the ball actually does something when it hits the ground -- when it rolls a bit after it lands -- that's when shotmaking matters."
Geoff Ogilvy's contention in his chat with Jaime Diaz is that shotmaking is dead in large part not because of grooves or architecture or the ball, but because greens are too soft.
"The truth is that hitting it high and straight, with the equipment we have now and on the turf conditions we play, is the simplest option," he says. "It gives you less to think about, and sometimes on the golf course, thinking about less is good.
"But the big thing is that the reward for hitting the proper shot -- on a regular tour course -- is just not as great anymore. Off the tee you just look down the fairway and hit it, because it really doesn't matter where the ball ends up as long as it's in relatively short grass. Coming into the soft green, when the ball stops easily and it doesn't matter what side you miss it on, all of a sudden the perfectly shaped shot loses its relevance and becomes not worth the effort."
"Especially at Augusta and the British Open, golf courses with really firm greens where it's really bad to miss it on the short side of the pin, that's when the reward for shaping is much greater. When the ball actually does something when it hits the ground -- when it rolls a bit after it lands -- that's when shotmaking matters."
Okay, here's a hypothetical I've been wanting to float for some time.
What if a course, in a quest to present firm greens for a championship, were to cover their greens at night the way a baseball crew covers the infield during a rain delay?
Is this an artificial intrusion, or simply a clumsier method of doing what the Sub-Air systems accomplish at courses with the system installed?
The Tour Championship will still be a dud most years, but at least they're trying to make the "playoffs" more volatile. From John Hawkins in the new Golf World:
Not that anybody ever understood the FedEx Cup point-distribution system to begin with, but a series of significant changes will be submitted in a proposal to the Players Advisory Committee when it meets next month. In an attempt to make Woods and Mickelson play in all the postseason events, playoff points would increase dramatically, perhaps by as much as 2,000 per spot. For example, the value of a 10th-place finish in Boston would leap from 1,350 to 3,350.
What's strange about this option is that the 2,000-point raise runs consistently down to the player who finishes 70th, meaning a measly 100 points would become 2,100. Nobody ever said the tour doesn't reward mediocrity, but the official purpose of the increase is to generate more volatility in the postseason standings, something that was clearly missing in the 2007 debut.
"As it turned out, the top 22 [regular-season finishers] had a free pass to the Tour Championship," Ogilvie says, referring to the 30-man season finale. "I think the consensus is that we'd like that number to be a lot smaller."
I know tournament directors have to say this kind of stuff, but...from an Arizona Republic piece notes that Tiger Woods is officially choosing Dubai over the FBR at TPC Scottsdale.
"I think that we will get Tiger Woods to play the FBR Open (some day)," tournament Chairman Tim Lewis said. "I'm disappointed it's not this year. I thought with the Super Bowl here in town that it might attract Tiger, but it makes a lot of sense for him to play in Dubai financially. We have a hard time competing with that."
...but wouldn't it be refreshing if just once, instead of noting that it makes a "lot of sense" for Tiger to play in Dubai "financially" when he certainly does not need the money, how about just bemoaning the fact that you can't pay his appearance fee?
I know, I know, Tiger never forgets.
Tim Rosaforte notes on the Local Knowledge blog that Rory Sabbatini (or his agent whispering in Tim's ear?) is mulling a donation of his Target World Challenge winnings to charity.
As for the $170,000 he earned that week, look for him to donate it to a charity connected with the Wounded Warriors program.
Now, why would this take so long? Shouldn't Sabbatini have made this gesture already if it really was a sincere desire to reconcile a mess he made?
Golf Digest's Bob Carney reports that entries for the reality show at Torrey Pines have topped 20,000. So glad three spots will be taken up by has beens! I swear that's the last time I'll mention it this week.
Jon Show in the Sports Business Journal manages to get ahold of the latest Form 990 showing PGA Tour salaries for 2006.
Tim Finchem earned $5.2 million in salary and bonuses in 2006 as commissioner of the PGA Tour, an increase of $1 million from the $4.2 million he earned in 2005.Well, cost of living is going up in Jacksonville...and wherever else he's got a second home.
Show also gets into the PGA Tour "Holdings"
Without commenting directly on Finchem’s compensation, Ron Price, CFO of the PGA Tour, said executive compensation tied to PGA Tour Holdings varies depending on responsibilities within the subsidiary. “We look at how individuals actually spend their time during the year and come up with an allocation to Holdings,” he said.The piece also lists these salaries and benefits and benefits payable after retirement:
Both entities pay most top executives a salary, annual and long-term incentive bonuses, and benefits payable after retirement. Bonuses are based equally on the performance of the company and individual performance, such as whether an employee met both financial and nonfinancial goals.
Finchem’s $3.9 million income from PGA Tour Inc. consisted of $922,500 in salary and nearly $3 million in incentive bonuses. The organization paid him $3.16 million in 2005 and $3.05 million in 2004.
Another $1.3 million of Finchem’s pay in 2006 was paid by PGA Tour Holdings, including salary, incentive bonuses and deferred compensation. PGA Tour Holdings paid Finchem $1 million in each of the previous two years.
Tim Finchem Commissioner $5,222,240 $38,635 $1,018,016
Charlie Zink EVP, co-COO $1,308,162 $28,869 $189,334
Ed Moorhouse EVP, co-COO $1,308,144 $22,266 $202,490
Ron Price EVP, CFO $908,554 $22,686 $55,948
Tom Wade EVP, CMO $899,795 $25,284 $25,000
Henry Hughes EVP, chief of operations $621,195 $24,018 $23,400
Richard George President, Champions Tour; EVP, champ. mngt. $531,050 $17,501 $11,000
Bill Calfee President, Nationwide Tour $527,098 $20,545 $18,806
Richard Anderson EVP, chief legal officer $508,395 $16,648 $11,000
Bob Combs* SVP, public relations and communications $372,494 $15,674 $13,053
Ty Votaw** EVP, communications and international affairs $266,346 $8,470 $11,000
I'm running to catch a plane, but if anyone bored with a calculator would like to tally up that sum, it would be nice to know!
Mark Lamport-Stokes reports on Chopra's exciting win that gets him in the Masters.
Meanwhile, AP's Doug Ferguson tried to talk to Rory Sabbatini to find out if he would be returning his Target World Challenge last place check after his suspicious WD.
"I'm done talking to you guys," he said.
Well, you really aren't since you said something.
Approached a few minutes later at his locker, Sabbatini said, "I have nothing to say."
Not even about his change in golf equipment?
"I'll let my clubs do the talking," he said.
Good get by the Adams people!
"I have to say that looking at certain, current golfers, I'm left with a doubt regarding possible drug abuse, based purely on their physical shape. Just as I would have doubts about certain athletes."
He continued: "There are exceptional individuals in golf such as Tiger Woods and John Daly who have a God-given ability to generate remarkable clubhead speed. Give them a banjo and they'd still be able to hit the ball further than most of us.
"But the fundamentals in golf have changed and we must acknowledge that tournament players are now golfing athletes. Which means you're going to try and ensure that the other guy doesn't have an edge. And while drugs will not make an average golfer great, getting your muscle-function improved by a tiny amount could make a significant difference to a player's scoring average.
"Golfers, in my view, are essentially addicts. The game is like a disease. And if a club player is prepared to mortgage his house for the newest magical driver, consider the temptations for a professional, with the huge sums of money at stake in tournaments these days."
So, what changes did he expect to see from the introduction of drug-testing?
"Where world records have become very thin on the ground in other sports after the introduction of testing, I think driving distances in golf may change," he replied. "Either way, I'm delighted golf has bitten the bullet. It shows a huge maturity in the sport and will protect it from losing credibility at the highest level. Which is what we all want."
"Week to week on the PGA Tour, the setup on pristinely conditioned layouts doesn't encourage imaginative shotmaking."
There was one component of Nick Seitz's Golf World story on shotmaking that I would love to have read more about:
Course architects have responded to the different game current equipment has imposed mostly by building longer courses and moving tees back, often against their better judgment. Week to week on the PGA Tour, the setup on pristinely conditioned layouts doesn't encourage imaginative shotmaking. The majors can present a more rigorous test. Some fans find the new-look tour more entertaining, some find it less fulfilling. Long drives impress people, but so do daring trouble shots. The best players always want stronger setups, but the tour operates largely for the benefit of the majority of its membership, with a watchful eye on its TV ratings.I'm not entirely sure what he means by the last sentence since "stronger setups" usually translates to confining, but it would seem simple to blame PGA Tour course setup for the lack of shotmaking. However, even as much rough harvesting and narrowing of playing corridors that goes on these days, I would lean toward PGA Tour course architecture quite often not allowing for the players to demonstrate their skills.
Outside of Kapalua, or at least Kapalua when it's firmer, how many courses on the PGA Tour actually allow for big sweeping run-up shots or imaginative shot shaping plays off of contours to get a ball close to the hole?
Now, Geoff Ogilvy would argue that soft greens play a role in diminishing shotmaking, as he did in this Jaime Diaz piece, but even when firm and fast at least half the courses on the PGA Tour contain virtually no shotmaking interest whatsoever.
In other words, architecture has let the game down as much as course setup or unregulated technology.
Of course, why I obsess over this is pointless when Golf Channel's Adam Barr has the answer. Break out the credit card! In this story of "game improvement" clubs (translation: stuff for hacks), he quotes Scott Rice of Cobra, who has the cure:
“But there is a middle ground for skilled players who want more forgiveness than a traditional forged blade, but still want to be able to work the ball. Cobra’s Carbon CB iron is one example of this middle ground. The head is slightly larger than a traditional blade and more mass is moved out to the perimeter of the head for more forgiveness, but it is still a very workable iron. Cobra’s FP iron is another example of an iron design targeted at the better player; it has a larger head and a wider sole than the Carbon CB for even more forgiveness, but the sole design features a chamfer on the back edge which allows the club to have workability characteristics of a narrower sole.”
Larry Dorman reports:
Mickelson will be skipping the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, which starts Jan. 16, for the first time since 2001, and there is sure to be speculation that he is not happy with the change of courses at a tournament where he has won twice.Just wanted to make sure you were reading!
He has not played since winning the HSBC Champions in China in early November.
“Taking more than two months off sounds like a long time, but I’ll have to be fresh and ready to go when the 2008 season starts because I’ll play five in a row starting in San Diego,” Mickelson said on his Web site. "Plus, I just really, really hate the Classic Club."
Larry Bohannan documents the changes to the Classic Club that Phil will not experience this year.
Larry Dorman of the New York Times, writing about Daniel Chopra and his play through two rounds at Kapalua:
The winds on Maui’s northwest shore alternately howl and halt, testing a golfer’s ability to work the ball and control its trajectory. The imagination required to solve the nuances of the course created by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore is something Chopra possesses.
“I don’t think I hit a single shot all day long that was, except for maybe with a driver, that was a normal up-in-the-air shot,” Chopra said Thursday. “Every iron shot I hit I knocked down, took loft off of it, cut or drew it in there. I manufactured pretty much every single shot I had to hit today, other than my normal, standard stock which you just hit on the driving range.”
That comes as sweet music in an era of bomb and gouge, where many golfers simply blast the ball with their driver as far as possible without regard to rough or bunkers, then gouge it from the rough on to the green with square-grooved wedges. Young Daniel Chopra, who is working with the old-school instructor Butch Harmon, is attuned to the importance of creating shots.
Thanks to reader John for Adam Thompson's WSJ column on the state of fantasy golf and the various leagues out there commencing play this week.
So if hockey can pull this off, why not golf? What better game for evoking youthful memories and feelings – of school-house swings, piecemealed equipment, and of a dreamy, pastoral playing field.
How about the PGA Tour putting together a “Summer Classic” tournament?
Players use older, wooden-headed drivers and “woods,” plus forged, not cast, irons and wound, balata golf balls – the kind that anyone who is 30-plus years old today grew up learning the game with. Forget caddies. Players carry their own golf bags. No yardage books or pin sheets. Golfers eyeball everything and improvise their shots. Leave the bunkers rakes in the maintenance shed. Mow the greens so they actually putt at different speeds.
How much fun would that be to watch? And to play?
The NHL’s “Winter Classic” was a success in every possible regard. And no surprise, despite (or was it because of?) the rough conditions, the game’s premier player, the Penguins’ Sid Crosby, not only displayed his amazing puck handling skills but also scored the winning goal. To their credit, the NHL’s administration even bent the rules slightly in the name of equity by stopping play midway through the third period and overtime to allow the teams to switch sides, lest either one gain an undue advantage from the elements.
That, to me, showed a lot of imagination. Don’t let rules nerds ruin the game in the name of some abstract lawyerly adherence when what counts is the spirit of the sport. With a little imagination and guts, golf, too, can go back to its traditions. It might be the best way of showcasing itself.
You may recall I asked Tiger Woods about this in December and he thought it would be "fun."
Let's consider the obstacles here.
I could see players passing because their equipment suppliers say no or simply because they don't want to be embarrassed. Otherwise, what do you see as potential stumbling blocks for such an event?
I could envision a scenario where Tiger passes such an event early or mid-season for the reason he now skips Kapalua, Pebble Beach and Riviera (messes up his stroke). But after stating how fun he finds this kind of golf, and after telling Jaime Diaz that if he ruled the game the boys would be playing persimmon and balata, he'd have a hard time saying now to such an event in the silly season without looking foolish.
BBC's Iain Carter reminds you that if you were using a spring-like effect driver, your five year grace period is now up. He also talks to the R&A's David Rickman, who says the driver rule change has slowed down distance increases. And it sure sounds like the R&A is on the fence when it comes to regulating U-grooves.
“The new limit has been part of that calming of driving distance,” Rickman said. “The other aspect is that there hasn’t been a big advance in terms of ball technology in this period.”
For many the golf ball is already travelling too far. Traditional courses need to be lengthened to remain contemporary and new ones require more land. Therefore, the game becomes more expensive and takes longer to play, which hardly boosts its ability to attract new players.
Currently the two rule-making bodies, the R&A and USGA are in consultation with manufacturers discussing ball technology and clubface grooves.
Some groove patterns enable players to impart controlled spin on shots from the rough, thereby negating the benefit of finding a fairway.
This enables players to bash away carefree drives and then gouge the ball from the rough and still make birdies. “Bash and gouge is known and understood,” Rickman says before adding a counter argument. “But the best player still seems to win, so we have to be careful before we change anything.”
Key meetings will take place between the regulators and manufacturers later this month at the major golf trade show in Orlando.
It’s highly unlikely there’ll be any more equipment changes in the short term. The process is fraught with legal difficulties and manufacturers have to be won over – after all it is their aim to sell us the equipment that makes the game easier.
And no one wants to further alienate those players for whom it's already been an expensive new-gear new year.
All five of them.
And Lord knows, the masses have been taking up the game in droves to buy the latest stuff, because we know that's what grown men live for: shopping!
"It's the opening of the year, this is important," Stephen Ames of Calgary said after completing the first round of the year at 1-under 72. "I think he should be here.Is that any way for a former Players Champion to treat a Commissioner?
"He's here at the end. Is this any different? It should be the same."
Finchem doesn't travel to every tournament, and he isn't always at Kapalua for the first event of the year. PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said the commissioner was at the Mercedes the last two years and "will be attending again."Well that makes sen...oh wait.
"It was a combination of business commitments and trying to manage a very challenging travel schedule over the course of a full season," Combs said of his absence.
More troubling to Joe Ogilvie, a member of the PGA Tour policy board, was not seeing any member of the tour's executive staff at Kapalua for the first shot, the first round, the first tournament.Well, it is a non-profit, Joe.
"I'm pretty disappointed there's no senior staff from the PGA Tour here on opening day," Ogilvie said before adding a heavy dose of sarcasm. "Of course, when you shut down your offices from the 21st of December to the second of January . . . I don't know of a $1-billion company that does that. It's puzzling."
"I think it does (send the wrong message) when you've got four of the top 10 not here at a marquee event," Ogilvie said. "It seems to be common sense to me.
"The tour tells the players, you have to be there for the first tournament, but there's no senior staff. If I was commissioner, I'd be here."
Okay, next point from Nick Seitz's excellent Golf World story on shotmaking. The ball. The one that's harder to move.
"In some ways the old ball was better," says Johnny Miller. "It spun more, so you could get to just about any flag. The irons today are weighted at the bottom to get the ball up, but you can't put sidespin on it."And...
Steve Flesch concurs. He dropped his ball-endorsement deal for the '07 season after going winless since 2004, experimenting with different models until he found a Srixon ball that suited his control game better. Playing it for free, he won twice.
Butch Harmon, who coaches Mickelson and Flesch among a flock of tour pros, says, "The young players today don't see an image of turning the ball around doglegs, and the equipment doesn't allow you to do it. The kids are stronger and have sounder swings, and they only see way up high -- they go over everything. It's a power game. You couldn't do that with the old equipment."
Obviously, fans are being cheated by not seeing as much in the way of interesting shotmaking and ball movement. Well, maybe someone stands behind a tee to study the height of tee shots. I don't.
But are today's elite players doing themselves a disservice playing balls sold commercially?