First, I can't fathom why Smith, who's worked with Mickelson for a decade, has never shortened Mickelson's swing, which is sometimes as long and loose as John Daly's and routinely causes Mickelson to hit wildly off-line drives and long-iron shots. Second, Smith and Mickelson just seem too close. They are not only good friends but also partners in business ventures, and their families are close as well. Such a deep friendship is almost always the kiss of death to a teacher-player relationship because it prevents the instructor from being sufficiently blunt and critical.
The third-and biggest-problem is Smith's personality. He's simply too nice, which I think has caused him to be more or less a yes-man to Mickelson. Phil seems to be surrounded by people who too often have told him whatever he wants to hear rather than what he should hear. For that reason alone Mickelson dearly needs Harmon, who is an authority figure in the mold of Bob Knight.
St. Andrews, Augusta and Royal Melbourne are my three favorite courses in the world. Like St. Andrews and Augusta you can slam it anywhere off the tee at Royal Melbourne and you can still get to the greens but the putting is going to be crazy if you play it that way. It is really so dangerous around the greens and you can make a bogey from anywhere. And when the wind blows it's, "Oh my God! How do I manage this course?" FRED COUPLES
"How do you charge $155 for a weekend round...without saying this is where Tiger has played and where Tiger is going to play?"
Buried in Ron Kroichick's story about the San Francisco City Council's supposed concern over having lost $140,000 during the WGC-Amex is this:
This issue arises at a time when city officials are grappling with how to reverse steady losses at their six municipal courses. They had hoped Harding's increased visibility would help pay for the course's extensive renovation in 2002 and 2003, which was projected to cost $16 million but ran more than $7 million over budget.
"A lot of people feel burned from 2002 and the way (the) whole Harding rebuild went down," Elsbernd said. "All sorts of promises were made, many of which didn't come true. I think there's a feeling of 'We don't want to touch anything to do with golf.'
"But no matter where we go with golf as a whole, we don't survive without the PGA Tour's presence. Honestly, how do you charge $155 for a weekend round (for out-of-towners) without saying this is where Tiger has played and where Tiger is going to play?"
Several writers have written about or noted Zach Johnson's faith in trying to find something interesting to say about the Masters Champion. Craig Dolch did it here and of course Dan Jenkins of all people celebrated it in his Golf Digest letter from Augusta.
Well Tom Witosky in the Des Moines Register files a thoughtful piece that starts out sounding like an extended version of the Zach-loves-Jesus theme, but then takes an intriguing turn by pointing out that there is only so much preaching some can take before it could backfire.
Johnson's mention of his Christian faith after winning the Masters on Easter Sunday has stirred discomfort among some believing the separation between church and sport should be as strong as between church and state.
"Religion and sport today has become a mutual exploitation society," said Ray Higgs, professor emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University.
At the same time, Johnson's profession sparked the imagination of those who believe sport and religion can be a positive, powerful combination.
And those who know Johnson, 31, say his faith is as much a part of him as is the ability to hit a five-iron within 10 feet of the cup.
"There is no pretense, no hidden agenda, no proselytizing" with Johnson, said Kay Bloom, his former theology teacher at Cedar Rapids Regis High School. "Ultimately, he is owning his faith and he simply shared it with everyone."
"It is really a fine line and you have to be careful from a marketing point of view," said Rick Horrow, a nationally known expert on sports marketing and professional athletics.
"Zach Johnson genuinely has to be himself, and that includes his strong faith," Horrow said. "But he has to watch out that people don't think he is preaching to them."
Chapman Clark, a professor at the Fuller Theological Seminary in California, said Johnson and those surrounding him will have to adjust to that reality quickly.
"My suggestion is that he get himself some sharp people to help him develop his message so that it doesn't come across as exploitative," Clark said.
Paging the LPGA's brand coach!
Higgs, the East Tennessee State professor emeritus, has written several books and articles on religion and sport, including "God in the Stadium: Sports and Religion in America."
He believes the potential tension involved in tying religion to sport has grown as American culture fixated on sports success - as opposed to sports excellence. The emphasis on winning, he said, has turned people away from the value of athletics to focus on victory and money.
"The truth of the matter is there is no correlation between victory and virtue," Higgs said.
Thanks to reader Chuck for noticing this note from Marty Parkes on the USGA blog plugging their new book of photographs from the archive:
And make sure you take the time to give a careful read to the book's final essay called "It's Not About the Ball" by our friend, Tom Friedman.
Yes, that Tom Friedman of “The New York Times,” who writes such great columns and books about humanity's most pressing problem. Fortunately for us, Tom is a golf nut who willingly shared some personal thoughts about what makes the game so special and how it has had an enduring impact upon his life. Let this book become a part of your life as well.
"It's Not About the Ball"?
Let's hope it's not what it sounds like it could be.
A wire story from reader Nick and LPGA Fan:
SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Daniel Kaplan cites an LPGA tax return as showing that Commissioner Carolyn Bivens earned $238,872 in the last six months of ’05, her first months on the job, which means her pay “would come to almost $478,000 annually.” Bivens’ predecessor, Ty Votaw, earned $459,677 in ’04 and $300,000 in ’03 (SBJ, 4/9 issue)....
Larry Bohannan thinks the desert's much despised Classic Club was validated by the unplayability of Harbour Town. Thanks to reader Scott for this.
The criticisms ranged from just complaining that the host course of the Hope tournament, Classic Club was built in a wind tunnel to more-whispered talk that Classic Club might have to be dropped from the tournament altogether, even though the Hope tournament owns the golf course on the north side of Interstate 10 near Cook Street.
Of course it would be silly to think that Harbour Town would be dropped as a tour course because a bad year of wind canceled play for a day and had flagsticks whipping at a 45-degree angle.
No one is going to say a bad word about Augusta National. It was just a bad year of wind, the pundits will say.
Yet at the Hope this year, with Classic Club in its second year in the tournament, people were questioning everything. They ignored the solid design of the Classic Course, ignored the fact that it was windy and rainy at the other three Hope courses and ignored the fact that the week before and the week after the Hope this year, conditions at Classic Club were calm and near-ideal.
Wind can impact play anywhere anytime, whether it's the desert of California, the pines of Georgia or the seacoast of South Carolina. But the Hope has taken more than its share of grief over the same weather conditions that hit the Masters and the Heritage.
Uh, but the course still stinks!
The ultimate sign of a newspaper's pomposity comes in the form of these pious ombudsman columns where some very special and unbiased staff member opines on questionable moral or potential ethical issues related to a newspaper's favorite topic: itself!
Thanks to reader Noonan, we get to read the Washington Post's Deborah Howell analyzing whether Augusta housemates Len Shapiro, Thomas Boswell and John Feinstein should be in a Masters pool while writing about the event.
Yes, definitely a slow week for ethical lapses at the Post. Don't worry Deborah, Bob Woodward's writing another book!
Reader Bill Sullivan of the District raised the question after a blogger, Sean Jensen of AOL Sports, said he participated in a "high price" pool while covering the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., with renowned Post columnist Tom Boswell; Leonard Shapiro, a former Post staffer who covers golf on contract; and John Feinstein, a best-selling author and Post freelancer.
Sullivan called the pool "disturbing" and said it "would appear to be a deeply serious breach of journalism ethics," especially because "Boswell and Shapiro had criticized athletes for gambling because it has a corrupting influence on the sport.
"Do Post editors condone this sort of conduct -- particularly since the bets were placed on an event the reporters were covering for the paper? How much was wagered and how long has it been going on? How do the reporters justify their moral criticisms of others when they themselves engage in the same illegal behavior?"
The pool is a tradition going back about 25 years in a house rented by Boswell, Shapiro and other sportswriters who cover the Masters, Boswell said. Feinstein joined about 15 years ago. Jensen was the new guy in the house.
How'd he get roped into that house rental? Poor bastard...
The stakes were $50 apiece for five people. Boswell said there are "a bunch of silly categories and no one wins much." Shapiro was the big winner, with a total of $103 in three categories. Boswell won $16.67. Feinstein won nothing. "Except for a few horse races or a [personal] golf game, I've never bet on anything else in my life," Boswell said. Shapiro said the same.
Hey don't forget last year's over/under on how long it would take Christine Brennan to ask Hootie a Martha question?
Shapiro's and Boswell's articles have criticized high-stakes gambling as it affected players and managers who presumably could affect the outcome of games.
Boswell said the house is not a high-stakes party pad but the "milk and Oreos" house, where a six-pack of beer bought at the tournament's start still had three left at the end. "We come back after the day and watch highlights and tease each other about" their pool picks.
And then they argue about the drapes, who gets the shower first, all before a big pillow fight breaks out.
Feinstein, in an e-mail, wrote, "NO, I've never bet on anything during my years at The Post.
Key phrase: during my years at The Post.
In fact, this year I didn't even participate in the pool because I was too tired to stay up. I put up the 50 bucks as a courtesy to the other guys and they picked my team for me. I was the only one in the house to not win a dollar for the week. . . . This is done in houses all around Augusta for fun and laughs -- and is a way of giving everyone something to talk about during the week. As in, 'who had the low round today?' That's about as serious as it gets."
Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, assistant managing editor for sports, said, "I'm confident that the small-scale pool in no way affected the coverage of the event and was a 25-year tradition that was started only to bolster camaraderie for those living together while covering the event.
Bolster camaraderie? Translation: it's the only way they can tolerate living with each other.
That said, we've stressed to our folks that prizes for these sorts of pools, including the NCAA tournament, should not involve cash, no matter how small the amount." The Post has no written rule on betting.
George Solomon, a former Post sports editor and ESPN ombudsman who is now a University of Maryland journalism professor, sees no problem with "a recreational pool"; he was in the Masters pool when entering cost $10, and he went for Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. Betting "a lot of money on a team or individual is always wrong," he said.
Glad we cleared this weighty matter up. Oh wait, there's more...
Malcolm Moran, who holds the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society at Pennsylvania State University, said, "I wouldn't call [the Masters pool] serious. For myself, I don't get involved in pools."
Well maybe you should talk to someone about this Malcolm. Chlorine is very effective. Oh sorry...
Moran, a former sports journalist at the New York Times, Newsday and USA Today, believes there ought to be rules as there are at the Times, which states in its ethics policy: "To avoid an appearance of bias, no member of the sports department may gamble on any sports event, except for occasional recreational wagering on horse racing (or dog racing or jai alai).
Would you include cockfighting in that too?
This exception does not apply to staff members who cover such racing or regularly edit that coverage." The Times' prohibition does not apply to pools, said Craig Whitney, standards editor.
Longtime Post horseracing writer Andrew Beyer, now a freelancer, does gamble and writes about it, as do many racing writers. Moran said, "Just because it's in the culture doesn't mean it's the right thing to do." Beyer once won $200,000 and wrote about it. Now that gives me serious pause. Beyer did not respond to a phone message.
Can't imagine why.
Many newsrooms -- like many offices -- have sports pools; I never stopped them when I was an editor. The Post's internal NCAA pool was changed this year to make the top prize an iPod instead of cash. Just as well; a company lawyer won it.
The Masters pool is not a grave ethical matter, but The Post should have written rules to guide sports journalists on betting. This answer didn't please Sullivan, who wrote, "Reporters go after others with zeal while believing that the rules don't apply to them and that they are above reproach. Accountability for thee but not for me."
Maybe the Masters bets next year should be in Oreos, not cash.
Oh the standards of these journalists! Heart-warming I tell you that we live in a country where such important matters are deliberated.
Last week I asked if "relatable golf" would be the future direction the pro game takes to quench our society's unquenchable for all things narcissistic.
Well, Garry Smits found some fans who would agree that it's all about them while exploring the question of whether the year's other three majors (oh and
The Players THE PLAYERS The PLAYERS) will be plodding bogeyfests.
When it comes to majors and The Players, fans seem to want to watch the best grind.
"We really enjoyed watching the Masters this year," said Kevin Leonard, a Cincinnati resident visiting the First Coast with his family to play golf at the TPC Sawgrass. "I don't like watching 27 under win a tournament."
His son, James, a college student, showed that feeling crosses generations.
"I know the Masters has been won on birdies and eagles on the back nine in the past," he said. "But I didn't miss that. It was fun knowing that they had to make pars to win."
Dennis James, a Green Cove Springs resident, said watching PGA Tour players fight enables the average golfer to relate.
"When I see those guys working hard to make pars and bogeys, well, that's us," he said. "Besides, majors are supposed to be hard."
It's all about ME!
Consider also that television ratings for the Masters were slightly higher than last year, when Mickelson won at 7 under.
Garry, let's not encourage the Ridley's and Driver's of the world. They're dangerous enough as it is!
Former PGA of America president M.G. Orender, a Jacksonville Beach resident, said competition committees can only go so far. Weather was the main reason for the high scores at Augusta, he said, not back-room suits bent on punishing players.
"I thought Augusta did the same thing the PGA does for our championship. It's a major. It should be tough, but you want the course to be fair, given the things you can control," Orender said. "Par is just a number. At the end of the day, if the course is fair, it doesn't matter what score wins."
Hmmm...and here I thought it was about identifying the best player!
David Feherty, interviewing Boo Weekley after chipping in on the last two holes to win the Heritage, noted that Weekley is not the typical Tour drone because of his "bag abuse" and that it was "great to see some character out here."
Is that really a sign of great character?
My NSA sources took time out from their search for those lost RNC emails to share a Sunday night conversation between the LPGA's Commissioner Carolyn Bivens and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. This followed Sunday's bizarre day in which the LPGA event on CBS was delayed, the PGA Tour's Heritage play on CBS cancelled by high winds, and with the delayed LPGA's event on CBS airing on The Golf Channel.
DaBrandLady: tim, you there?
twfPGATour©: Hi Carolyn.
DaBrandLady: Rough day for the product.
twfPGATour©: I know, our consumers had to listen to Bobby Clampett on two channels at once.
DaBrandLady: oh. I meant the winds.
DaBrandLady: i thought he was great on the ginn. we feel lucky to have his insights.
twfPGATour©: Yes you are. He's a big talent.
DaBrandLady: say tim, I know the ginn on cbs was an ad buy for us and all, but since it was running long and the heritage was in that hurricane delay, don't you think we could have seen more of our event shown live on cbs instead of tape from last year's heritage?
twfPGATour©: Well you know I wish could have helped, but as you well know the platform layering dynamics are intensely complicated.
DaBrandLady: ha! i actually wrote a dissertation on that when I was at the usa today and they wanted to change the life's section color from purple to navy blue.
DaBrandLady: anyway, i do know all about the parameters involved. it just seemed odd to have our event going on with so many dynamic young women-American golfers competing with a future hall of famer, and then to turn and see you all teasing the viewer with updates before heading back to tape of last year.
twfPGATour©: I feel your pain Carolyn. It's out of my hands.
DaBrandLady: and for cbs, what an opportunity to declare their devotion to young women-american athletes in light of the dan imos de-branding thing.
twfPGATour©: It's actually Don Imus I believe.
DaBrandLady: of course, silly me!
DaBrandLady: say, that new creative with zach johnson was quite exquisite.
twfPGATour©: Yes, fortuitous timing for strengthening our family of brands and for Zach's ability to leverage the equity in his newfound brand stature.
DaBrandLady: whoever thought of using him in those new spots should get a big raise!
twfPGATour©: Glad you reminded me of that Carolyn. I'm making a note right now to bump Tom Wade's salary another $100,000 a year. He's undervalued at $550,000 per year.
DaBrandLady: say, speaking of salary Tim, did you see this sports business journal article about how much I'm making?
twfPGATour©: They had you at around $500,000 I believe.
DaBrandLady: yes they got it off this battlestar web site that monitors non-profits.
DaBrandLady: well, anyway, i was looking around their site and i noticed you guys have managed to keep your most recent tour returns off. how do i do the same thing? because my brand coaches feel i took a hit in light of the fact that i'm only making a half-mil while you are making $7 million and Len Zelig is making $14.5 million.
twfPGATour©: it's Bud Selig and can you believe that? I need to go back to the policy board for a raise.
DaBrandLady: right, so how do I stop this brand-damaging from going online?
twfPGATour©: well it's a legal issue for us, but if you call Ed M he'll explain how to do it. It's a layered process that involves many dynamics and metrical platform delineational restructuring with the IRS.
DaBrandLady: oh, and here i was hoping it was just something powell-tate handled up in d.c.
twfPGATour©: Well, there's that too.
DaBrandLady: great! thanks tim!
twfPGATour©: My pleasure Carolyn. Give my best to, uh...
DaBrandLady: he says hi back!
Someone highjacked Dan Jenkins' laptop, broke out the pom-poms and declared love on Dan's behalf for a no-name winning a U.S. Open at his beloved Augusta National.
More than anything, some of us loved the fact that Zach Johnson never went for a single par 5 at Augusta in two. No eagle putts for this Iowa boy. But he birdied 11 out of the 16 during the four rounds. That's some kind of wedge play, son, and a winner's putting stroke.Wow, never thought I'd read Dan-the-man lauding conservative play at Augusta.
It was almost as if certain writers were blaming new chairman Billy Payne and The Weather Channel for the fact that there was no Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer or Gary Player on the leader board shooting 17 under par.
Oh, like we don't love Dan for being the biggest of the big-name lovers. Come on Dan!
I, for one, loved it. The Augusta National, with an assist from nature, finally reined in technology. That alone was worth a roar, wasn't it?
This at least gives us some insight into that bizarre thought process that goes something like this: the course, patrons and players must suffer because a bunch of guys running the USGA (and not coincidentally also belonging to Augusta National) are afraid to admit they made a mistake about regulating distance. They are afraid to do what's best for the game because they would have to admit they blew it.
Sounds familiar. I can't think of it at the moment. It'll come to me though. It's a metaphor for something bigger in our society. It's just right there at the tip of my fingers...
Anyway, back to this column attributed to the great Jenkins...
They took the winning 72-hole score back to 289, the highest it had been since 1954 and 1956, when the basic culprits were strong, gusty winds and the hard old Bermuda/rye greens that wouldn't hold a pitchfork if Tiger Woods was swinging it.
If there was anything I liked better than seeing the tour pros have to face a tough course for a change, it was learning that Zach Johnson, the new Masters champion, is an unapologetic God-fearing lad who has a Yorkshire terrier like I do.
God-fearing? I heard a whole lot of thanking Jesus, not many nods to God. Or are they now one-and-the-same?
The New York Times' Juliet Macar examines the decline in NASCAR ratings and attendance. It's hard to read this and not think of the PGA Tour...
No recent move by the Frances has been more significant than the introduction of the standardized Car of Tomorrow, which is supposed to enliven races by making it easier to pass. It made its debut last month at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, receiving criticism from drivers. Wheeler, of Lowe’s Motor Speedway, said the Car of Tomorrow would produce close racing, which would produce rivalries and drama that could bring the fans back. “With this car, I can see that sparks will fly once again,” he said.
Of course, the Tour would have to acknowledge first that their races need enlivening! And not by narrowing fairways, growing rough and encouraging plodding golf.
Perhaps nothing has changed more than the television contracts, and the money at stake. Nascar is in the first year of an eight-year contract with Fox, ABC/ESPN, TNT and Speed valued at about $4.5 billion, or $560 million a year. Its previous contract was worth $400 million a year.
Kyle Petty cited NBC’s decision not to renew its television contract with Nascar as a warning flag. “That’s a big, big story that someone walked away,” he said. “That’s a huge blip on the radar.”
Well, at least that hasn't happened in golf!
"The mandated conformity of play on certain holes defies everything that Jones and MacKenzie strived to achieve"
The Augusta Chronicle's Scott Michaux says the trees and rough need to go and recommends that Billy Payne look to a group of former champions to undo Tom Fazio's changes.
It's the trees and the rough, however, that seem to fly in the face of the original design and strategic intent that the club, players and patrons so passionately embrace. The constriction of options and the mandated conformity of play on certain holes defies everything that Jones and MacKenzie strived to achieve with Augusta National.
The Big Three doesn't include perhaps the finest traditionalist architect today - and he happens to have a pair of green jackets as well in his locker. Ben Crenshaw understands the architectural genius that made Augusta National so great, but he's too gracious to publicly criticize the course.
These gentlemen and Payne might be able to restore whatever it is that makes Augusta National and the Masters so exceptional. The club has fixed flawed changes before - from the tributary of Rae's Creek in front of the 13th green to the mounding that abuts and defends the eighth green. Not every change proves to be in the best interests of the course.
We can only speculate as to how Bobby Jones might have reacted to combat the equipment issues that have forced some of the world's greatest courses to change with time.
But's it's unlikely he would have seen the need for a tree - or a whole grove of them - to interfere with the playability and drama of his tournament.
Bob Verdi in his post-Masters Golf World column:
Well, you probably won’t hear about Augusta National making additional land purchases anytime soon so as to elongate some of its 18 holes. They needn’t bring in more trees, either, and the membership likely will postpone discussion about instituting a uniform Masters ball. Last week’s tournament tended to allay concerns about rampant golf technology, not to mention global warming, just as thoroughly as Zach Johnson chloroformed parties throughout distant parts of the world.
And Booger and Google, blogging under the headline "Zack saves the game" write:
So, my friend, you are right once again. Distance, in the majors when it really matters, is not ruining the game. Distance, in the setting by which all other settings are judged, is over.
Uh, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most the post-Masters discussion is not about what a wonderful thing it was to see the highest ever world ranked player win, but what a mess has been made of the course.
And why is the course a mess?
Oh that's right, because a bunch of old guys who are supposed to be really smart--many Augusta National members included--got outsmarted on the distance issue and have been cowering ever since.
No, I'm kind of thinking more people than ever see that these frustrated guys are using tacky setup ploys so they don't have to address the real issue.
Mark Figueroa on Torrey Pines getting a kikuyu resodding and on changes to the fourth hole:
Woodward added that alterations to the fourth fairway are also being made. The hole, which runs north and is considered one of the South's more difficult holes, has been reconfigured more to the left and will bring the cliffs more into play. The trees that run along the cliffs will be transplanted to the other side to create more space between the fourth and fifth fairways.
Trees also will be planted near the right side of the fourth tee box to discourage players from driving their tee shots intentionally into the wrong fairway.
The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi manages to turn some mildly oblivious responses from Annika and Nancy Lopez into a hysterical (in more ways than one) rant about the lack of
photo-opportunistic feminist leadership in sports.
Her response -- correction: her non-response -- is both shocking and disappointing.
Here's the exchange between Annika Sorenstam and me Wednesday during her pre-tournament news conference for the LPGA Ginn Open:
"Annika, some derogatory comments were made about the Rutgers women's basketball team the other day; obviously, you've heard about them . . ."
Before I can finish, Annika stops me cold with her response.
"No, I haven't."
"No," she says, shaking her head.
All I can think of to say at this point is, "Never mind."
All she can think of to say is, "Sorry."
Yeah, I'm sorry, too.
Sorry because herein lies the colossal problem facing female athletes in their ongoing battle against sexism in the sports arena: Nobody cares enough to speak up or stand up for them.
Where have you gone, Martha Burk?
A gender turns its lonely eyes to you.