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Books
  • Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
  • The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Art of Golf Design
    The Art of Golf Design
    by Michael Miller, Geoff Shackelford
  • Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Golden Age of Golf Design
    The Golden Age of Golf Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
  • The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    by Geoff Shackelford
Current Reading
  • Men in Green
    Men in Green
    by Michael Bamberger
  • Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Professional Golf 2015: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    Professional Golf 2015: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    by Daniel Wexler
  • The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream
    The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream
    by Dan Washburn
  • Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    by Bill Fields
  • Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    by Dan Jenkins

    Kindle Edition

  • The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    by Gil Capps
Classics
  • Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    by Geo. C. Thomas
  • The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    Treewolf Prod
  • Reminiscences Of The Links
    Reminiscences Of The Links
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast, Richard C. Wolffe, Robert S. Trebus, Stuart F. Wolffe
  • Gleanings from the Wayside
    Gleanings from the Wayside
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast
  • Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    by Darius Oliver
  • Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    by Darius Oliver
Writing And Videos

Of course, I'll be zipping it, sucking it up, clenching desperately, and drinking decaffeinated all week. That goes without saying. I can alter my style to suit the moment, which at Augusta is considerably more serious than anywhere else. If you don't believe me, just look at the player's faces. This one means more than any other to them, as it should. To answer the question  I am most commonly asked, no, McCord will probably never work there again. And yes, we miss the idiot. But if he were to even attempt to alter his style, there would be about 30 seconds of silence, followed by the sound of his head exploding. It just wouldn't work. Not on this particular week.  DAVID FEHERTY


    

Monday
Jan072008

"But it makes a lot of sense for him to play in Dubai financially."

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.

Monday
Jan072008

Rory Mulling Target Winnings Charity Donation?

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? 

Monday
Jan072008

20,000 And Counting

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.

Monday
Jan072008

Finchem Gets Big Raise In '06

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" racket structure.
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.

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.

The piece also lists these salaries and benefits and benefits payable after retirement: 
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! 


Sunday
Jan062008

Chopra Wins On Fourth Extra Hole; Rory's Shin Splints Apparently Better But He Won't Say

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! 

Sunday
Jan062008

"Golfers, in my view, are essentially addicts."

The Independent's Dermot Gileece talked to Dr. Conor O'Brien, "a five-handicap member of Portmarnock GC and an acknowledged expert" on steroids, eliciting these interesting comments:

"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."

 

Sunday
Jan062008

"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.”

 

Saturday
Jan052008

Phil Chooses To Study Classic Club Course Changes From Safe Confines of Rancho Santa Fe

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.

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."

Just wanted to make sure you were reading!

 

Larry Bohannan documents the changes to the Classic Club that Phil will not experience this year.

Saturday
Jan052008

Someone Appreciates The Plantation Course!

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.
 
Saturday
Jan052008

"Tiger Roils Fake Golf, Too"

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.

Friday
Jan042008

"How much fun would that be to watch? And to play?"

Golfweek's Brad Klein thought the NHL's (highly rated) outdoor game in Buffalo was going to be lame, but then he wonders why it can't be done in golf.

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.

Other obstacles?  

Friday
Jan042008

"It’s highly unlikely there’ll be any more equipment changes in the short term."

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! 

Thursday
Jan032008

Ames, Ogilvie Blast Commissioner's Absence

Doug Ferguson reports on the only exciting thing to happen during day one of the Mercedes Championship.
"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.

"He's here at the end. Is this any different? It should be the same."

Is that any way for a former Players Champion to treat a Commissioner?
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."

"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.

Well that makes sen...oh wait.
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.

"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."

Well, it is a non-profit, Joe.
"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."
Thursday
Jan032008

"Playing it for free, he won twice."

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."

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.
And... 
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?

Thursday
Jan032008

"I don't know what he does for the other 35 weeks a year. It's not like he can wander off and act like a normal human being and just go bowling."

Bill Nichols pens an interesting column on what you would assume is a tired subject: big names skipping Kapalua. But he touches on some key points...

Good thing the tour will set guidelines for its drug policy this season because evidence suggests widespread use of performance-reducing agents. Top players are having trouble getting off their couches.

Kidding aside, Woods' record makes it difficult to criticize his scheduling. Still, it has become a big problem for regular Tour events.

Chances of landing the world's No. 1 player are reduced with Woods booked for four majors, three World Golf Championships and four FedEx Cup events. He also plays Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament, Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Invitational, the Wachovia Championship, the AT&T National and usually two Buick events.

The Tour initially thought the FedEx Cup would entice marquee names to play more. It has had the opposite effect. With four playoffs, a WGC event and either the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup at season's end, top players are searching for time off.

But at least the WGC's have...well, taken us to mediocre courses.  Supported the top 50-in-the-world cocoon and alienated the rest of the world by mostly only being played in America. Other than that...

Loved this from Calc, which I didn't see until Nichols printed it:
"He only plays 16 tournaments a year, or 17, and there's got to be a point where that's going to be too many, where he's just going to say, 'OK, I'm done,' " veteran Mark Calcavecchia told reporters at the Mercedes on Tuesday.

"I don't know what he does for the other 35 weeks a year. It's not like he can wander off and act like a normal human being and just go bowling."
Thursday
Jan032008

"There's so much money in golf today, worldwide, that a ride in a private jet to a limited-field event just isn't worth the inconvenience."

Tough talk from Tim Rosaforte, reporting from Kapalua...

this wasn't the way Tim Finchem designed the FedEx Cup. And this was not what The Golf Channel, Mercedes-Benz or FedEx had in mind when they spent the money, or what the golf fan with a snowdrift outside his window deserves when he turns on the TV for prime-time golf from paradise.

And...

So would Woods, who hasn't been to Maui since 2005. That's the year the tour moved his Target World Challenge to two weeks before Christmas. Mickelson, who hasn't played here since 2001, can be thrown out of this discussion since his problem is not only family, but also 30 mph winds, grainy greens and uphill walks that are part of dealing with the Plantation Course. But Harrington, who is at home in Ireland, and Scott, who is resting up after the Australian circuit, just show that there's so much money in golf today, worldwide, that a ride in a private jet to a limited-field event just isn't worth the inconvenience.

So far, the only suggestion anyone has come up with this week is Steve Stricker's plea to move the event back a week or two (next year it starts January 8th). From John Strege:

"Personally, I think we start too early," Steve Stricker said Tuesday. "I talked to Gary Planos (Kapalua Resort's senior vice president resort operations) and he kind of feels the same way. It's holiday time. Don't get me wrong. I'm excited as hell to be here, but you still have family back home. You've got to take off on the 27th or 28th, right after Christmas, to get over here and make sure you're rested and ready. Personally, I'd like to see it start a week or two weeks later in the season, just to be home through Christmas and the first of the year and be able to spend some time with family and friends."

The merits of his argument notwithstanding, it doesn't seem likely to change, and absenteeism will continue to beleaguer an event that debuted on the PGA Tour in 1953 and probably deserves better.

Wednesday
Jan022008

The Shape of Shotmaking, Vol. 1

gwar01_071228boltseitz.jpgI'm not really sure where to start with Nick Seitz's compelling look at the state of shotmaking in Golf World's season preview because there are so many points worth noting (and I haven't even gotten to Jaime Diaz's companion chat with Geoff Ogilvy yet, but can't wait.)

The first thought is this: consider how much has changed and the depth of reporting looking at the impact of these changes.

In May 2005 I sat down for an SI Golf Plus roundtable that included Brad Faxon, David Fay and Larry Dorman. They essentially teamed up to tell me that shotmaking was alive and well, the game was more interesting than ever, etc...

Anyway if you go back and read it you realize how absurd they probably sound to a majority of golf fans just two years later, which speaks volumes about how perceptions of the game have changed in a short time.

Which brings us to the Seitz piece, where the overwhelming number of folks quoted blame the golf ball above all else (we'll touch on the club, instruction and architecture blame later).

So here's the first item that leaps off the page: 

Such is his upbringing and talent level, Tiger Woods can pitch a tent in both the traditional and new-age camps, but he laments the decline in more resourceful play. "Most of today's young players never had to work the ball growing up because they were more concerned about distance," he says. "Shotmaking has changed because of the balls. They're harder to work. They go straighter."

If balata balls and persimmon heads were still in play, Woods might well win even more. "Any time a player understands how to shape a golf ball and can consistently hit the ball flush, you're going to want the ball to move more and the equipment to be less forgiving," Woods says. "It puts a premium on quality."

Tiger's custom golf balls, a version of the Nike One Platinum not available in the marketplace, spin more and are easier to maneuver. "They're the spinniest on tour," he says, showing he can coin words as well as craft shots. He doesn't mind giving up a little yardage off the tee to gain accuracy into the greens. Of course, he still averages 300 yards per drive (302.4 yards, 12th on tour in 2007, to be exact).

Now, the USGA and R&A have been running around in circles to figure out ways to restore the importance of skill and shotmaking in the game without touching the ball because the tie between PGA Tour play and average golfer consumption of products the pros play is the most holy of synergies.

Yet here have Tiger not even playing the ball they sell. The only synergy is brand-related, not product related.

I find this odd on many levels. Besides the fact it's another example that the all-vital connection between the pro and amateur games that we are told must be preserved (and which we learn more and more does not actually exist), from a business perspective it just amazes me that this ball is not for sale.

Wednesday
Jan022008

Golf Channel UK Goes Dark; Decency Laws May Have Forbidden Any More Big Break Airings

UK readers the channel went dark just in time for the Mercedes Championship's must flee TV opening ceremony. Perhaps the UK's ITC stepped in?

This discussion seems to confirm that viewers are going to be spared The Big Break and Mike Ritz, while Golf Channel UK's web site link takes you somewhere else.

Wednesday
Jan022008

“People whose left hand has taken them to greatness.”

02adco190.jpgElizabeth Olson of the New York Times reports that the Mickelson's will be able to put food on the table for another year thanks to Phil's new deal with Crowne Plaza hotels which, mercifully, should save us from another year of those roundtable ads with Trevino, Feherty, Gulbis, et. al.

The center of the promotion is a Web site, ameetingwithphil.com, where fans can submit a story or video by Feb. 2 in one of six categories: people who look like Mr. Mickelson; spectators who have been hit by one of his golf balls;
Glad we clarified which balls.

people who consider themselves his biggest fans;

There goes the PGA Tour membership.
those who have advice for his golf game;
Calling Rick Smith. 
amateurs who think they could be the next Phil Mickelson; and “people whose left hand has taken them to greatness.”
Uh...no, I won't touch that one either.
Mr. Mickelson is a lefty in a sport that favors righties.
Thanks.
After sorting through the online entries and several in-person auditions, Crowne Plaza, which is owned by InterContinental Hotels Group of London, plans to choose five people with compelling stories in each category and fly them to San Diego in late February. There the company will shoot six 30-second spots featuring unscripted conversations between Mr. Mickelson and the fans. The ads will be shown during the 2008 golf season, from mid-April through September.

Hmmm...we may regret the loss of those Crowne Plaza ads after all.

“This is a chance for fans, who used to be on the fairways until ropes were put up, to interact with Phil, who is known for being approachable,” said Michael S. Craig, group account director at the agency that created the campaign, Fallon Minneapolis, a division of Fallon Worldwide, a part of Publicis Groupe.

Original!

This is fun. 

Mr. Mickelson, 37, who was not made available for comment, has appeared in ads for Rolex, Exxon Mobil and Ford, among others. He is one of a string of golf greats to lend his name to a brand. Arnold Palmer led the way more than four decades ago and was soon followed by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. These days, Tiger Woods appears regularly for Nike.

Although things can go sour in a sponsorship deal if the athlete gets in trouble, Crowne Plaza says it sees no cause for concern with Mr. Mickelson, who is known for his devotion to his family and P.G.A. charity work. “When you think about athletes as endorsers, you are at little risk with a golfer,” said Mr. Craig of Fallon.

Well...most golfers.

Wednesday
Jan022008

"It was not contentious"

Tim Rosaforte not only blogs about Winged Foot's USGA rejection, but also manages go the entire piece without referring to the storied club as "The Foot." (But I'm sure it's a cool hang!).

This part got my attention, not only because once again is new CBO Pete Bevacqua running the show (where's Executive Director David Fay?), but what was said raises a question I suspect many have been pondering:
Bevacqua and Mike Butz, the USGA's deputy executive director, attended a mid-December membership meeting at Winged Foot, where the club's objections were initially raised. "The message we heard over and over at the meeting and since the meeting is that even if Winged Foot decided not to issue an invitation for 2015, an invitation to the USGA [would be welcomed] in the future. The relationship between the USGA and Winged Foot is very, very strong."

Horan agreed. "It was not contentious," he said of the meeting, adding that Bevacqua and Butz received applause at the end of their presentation.

Yes, booing and hissing would have been out of the question, even in Westchester County.
"We have a diverse membership at this club. Some of our members who love the East course are just saying, 'Can't we wait a few more years?' Even among the most dissident [members], it was not an issue of not having an Open at Winged Foot. It was an issue of deferring [the invitation].''

Bevacqua also pointed out that Winged Foot in 2015 was not a done deal, and that there are other clubs who can't wait to get in the rota. "The Open is in a pretty good spot," he said.

Now, just a few years ago, the greater New York area had four prominent Open-worthy venues: Baltusrol, Winged Foot, Shinnecock Hills and Bethpage.

We know that Baltusrol, for the time being, is a PGA of America venue with a not particularly strong sense of devotion to the USGA.

Winged Foot is out for some time based on the recent news.

Shinnecock Hills can't be very secure with the Executive Director (albeit one looking more and more powerless by the day) continues to assert that masked men rolled the 7th green in the "middle of the night," presumably at the behest of Shinnecock members. It's hard to imagine an Open going back there until this little mystery is resolved, but the Executive Director has yet to offer up any evidence that this did occur, and if it did, that the USGA and the club have resolved this rather significant conflict.

And then there's Bethpage. Set for 2009, the course is seemingly in great shape to host many U.S. Open's down the line. However, two variables make the relationship tenuous. The first is unpredictable new governor Elliot Spitzer, a tennis nut who may not be like George Pataki when it comes doing "whatever it takes" to keep the USGA happy. The other wildcard is Craig Currier, the Bethpage superintendent who has held the place together and who can only stay there so long before a club makes him an offer he would be nuts to refuse.

So the question is, has the USGA been unlucky in seeing its 4 New York star venues whittled down, or do they share the blame with excessive negotiating stances, poor communication skills and other assorted oddball behavior?