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The tearing up of a card is generally regarded as rather discreditable business, showing at once vanity and pusillanimity in the tearer; and I must say that I do feel something more of a man when I have gone on to the bitter end and handed in the horrid thing.
BERNARD DARWIN


    

Monday
Sep112006

Where Does The Game Go From Here?

Having had a few days to digest Walter Driver's ESPN.com remarks and to read your comments, it seems a bit of a assessment is necessary.

First, the key lines from the Statement of Principles are important to remember:

Golf balls used by the vast majority of highly skilled players today have largely reached the performance limits for initial velocity and overall distance which have been part of the Rules since 1976. The governing bodies believe that golf balls, when hit by highly skilled golfers, should not of themselves fly significantly further than they do today.
Today being May, 2002 when the PGA Tour Driving Distance average was 279.4 (the end of 2001 number)
...any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable. Whether these increases in distance emanate from advancing equipment technology, greater athleticism of players, improved player coaching, golf course conditioning or a combination of these or other factors, they will have the impact of seriously reducing the challenge of the game. The consequential lengthening or toughening of courses would be costly or impossible and would have a negative effect on increasingly important environmental and ecological issues. Pace of play would be slowed and playing costs would increase.

Should such a situation of meaningful increases in distances arise, the R&A and the USGA would feel it immediately necessary to seek ways of protecting the game.

So instead of the anticipated debate over the meaning of "significant" or "meaningful" increases, Driver's remarks make it clear that such a discussion will not take place when the USGA is unwilling to acknowledge the driving distance average around May 2002 (and remember, the PGA Tour average is the key number for them). Driver on ESPN.com:

The facts are that the tour distances are nearly flat the last 3 years. It went down somewhat a few years ago and then leveled off. So the facts show that there hasn't been much increase to show us that we need to act from when we made those statements.

He's right, the numbers are "nearly" flat the last three years, but not the last four. And we'd be giving the USGA the benefit of the doubt by using the 2002 PGA Tour Driving Distance average (279.8), when the 2001 number (279.4) would seem closer to the Statement of Principles issuing. But since the numbers are so close, either works, right? Well, not for Driver.

His statement about the number going down at any point in recent years is pure fiction and he should be embarrassed to peddle such nonsense, especially when preaching like this:

We have a great deal of facts at the USGA upon which we make our rule making. Many of the people that talk about the game are passionate about the game, but they don't have the facts that we have.

There will be no discussion about the meaning of significant from 2002 to 2006, just a shift to discussion about grooves so the USGA doesn't have to take a tough stance and can keep harvesting rough to mask the problem.

So where does the game go from here? How can the USGA be taken seriously when they post such strong statements and then turn their back on those words?

Your thoughts? 

Sunday
Sep102006

Win Canadian, Must Come Back

This doesn't say much about the Canadian Open's 2007 spot on the schedule when this year's winner says he's only coming back because, well, it would be rude not to.

Canadian Open champion Jim Furyk guaranteed the national championship will have at least one top non-Canadian player next year despite being crammed between the last two majors and another top event.

"I'll be honest, I probably wouldn't play if I hadn't won. I feel it's a point of honor," Furyk said Sunday after his comeback victory on the Hamilton Golf and Country Club course. "I feel I should be here and I'll come back to play."

"I've never won a tournament and not shown up to defend," Furyk said. "I'll be here. I'm going to play the Canadian Open next year. I'll figure it out."

 

Sunday
Sep102006

PGA Tour Driving Distance Watch, Week 36

pgatour.jpgThe PGA Tour driving distance average remained steady at 289.6 yards after the Canadian Open, which aired on ESPN on ESPN.

On another note, reader JT pointed out this story on 16-year-old Gipper Finau qualifying for and making the cut at the Nationwide event in Utah. Finau led the field in driving distance, averaging 339.6 for the week. Just imagine what'll happen when he starts working out.

Sunday
Sep102006

Huggan On Woosie/Bjorn Spat

John Huggan digs a little deeper and exposes the European Tour's hypocrisy in fining Thomas Bjorn:
Things are never that straightforward, however. Not when European Tour officials are guilty of blatant hypocrisy in their dealings with a man who deserved better treatment than he got from a captain who already looks to be out of his diminutive depth.
Sunday
Sep102006

The Sexed-Up, Dumbed Down Relaunch

background_index.jpgThanks to reader Chris for this Jeremy Watson story from last week's Scotland On Sunday about Golf Course News International sexing up their publication.
GCNI decided to sex itself up in a - literally - naked bid to attract a new generation of young readers. But the heady mix of female flesh and double entendres has seriously backfired, forcing a rethink after just two issues.

Some golf clubs and organisations - such as the St Andrews Links Trust, which runs the world-famous Old Course - will no longer display the magazine in their clubhouses or practice ranges.

Readers have bombarded the magazine with protest letters, while some of the industry's leading advertisers have withdrawn their business. Among those leading the protests is the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, whose past-president David Williams said: "As golf course architects we used to look forward to the receipt of GCNI. The magazine was always a good read and very informative.

"But the sexed-up, dumbed-down relaunch is totally inappropriate for a serious professional magazine."

GCNI was launched 10 years ago by US company United Publications, but the changes emerged after the title was bought by new owners Seoul Nassau, a golf products firm.
Wouldn't you just loved to have been present for the meeting when they brainstormed these brand-building beauties:
The first new issue set the tone with a front cover depicting a blonde model in a black bikini top with a flaming golf ball disappearing down her cleavage. The justifying headline was: Women And Golf, The Burning Issue.

The edition also had a "world exclusive" on doctors prescribing more sex as an aid for playing better golf. But its most eye-catching feature was The Hunt For The Birdie Bucks. This was a piece on the female golfers most likely to be courted by marketing men - for their looks as much as their ability.

Italian professional Sophie Sandolo - known in her native country as "La Bod Bella" - was captured posing on a green in a revealing string dress while Australian Carlie Butler was photographed in a tight, red glittery top.

Issue two opened with an article on "shaft king" Jim Davey, who runs a custom golf club fitting company, and an advert for a ball-washing machine, illustrated by a naked model squeezing a bar of soap. A spot-the-difference competition asked readers to identify 10 changes in a picture of a bikini-clad model against the background of a golf course.

The revamped magazine has not gone down well in traditional golfing circles, with the St Andrews Links Trust saying it was unlikely to display it at its practice ground any longer.
However, regarding GCNI's placement as toilet reading in the R&A clubhouse, Peter Dawson could not be reached for comment.
Sunday
Sep102006

Dreaming About Beating The Men...

Thanks to reader cardinal for noticing this Michelle Wie-Nike ad, which hopefully won't air this week after her dead last finish and during her appearance at the 84 Lumber Classic.

Sunday
Sep102006

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor...

Thanks to LPGA Fan for noticing the not-so-subtle message posted on the now defunct Takefuji Classic's website:

To all our Volunteers, Media, Sponsors and Spectators:

Thank you all for the support, time and effort you gave to help make the LPGA Takefuji Classic such a success during the last four years.

We regret to inform you that the new Commissioner of the LPGA does not feel Las Vegas is a good market for the tour and we will not be continuing the tournament.

We enjoyed working with you and wish you all the best.

Saturday
Sep092006

Ferguson On Sutton

sutton.jpgAP's Doug Ferguson catches up with Hal Sutton, who has pretty much disappeared since Captaining the Ryder Cup team in 2002 2004.

Noting that "for all he has done in golf - a career that began by beating Jack Nicklaus at the PGA in 1983 and culminated with a victory over Woods at The Players Championship in 2000," it seems Sutton is sadly going to be remembered for the Ryder Cup loss. Sutton, thankfully has moved on with a children's hospital project and new golf course project.

When he isn't at the hospital, Sutton can be found at Boot Ranch, the opulent golf club he is building in the Hill Country of Texas, a rugged piece of nature about 60 miles north of San Antonio and 60 miles west of Austin.

Sutton has spared no expense. The name plates on the lockers are made of sterling silver. The benches are covered with hides of ostrich, alligator and longhorn. Each member - former President Bush among them - gets customized boots to be worn on property, much like members in their green jackets at Augusta National.

Gulp. Anyway...on the Ryder Cup:

"I'll look back on it as a positive experience," he said. "I think it's the greatest marketing event in the world. It's a big to-do. And if somebody thinks you did something wrong, well, that's why it's a big to-do. If somebody badmouths something I did, if in some people's minute opinion they think putting Tiger and Phil together was a mistake ..."

His voice grew loud, thick, determined, just as it was that Thursday before the matches when he announced Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson would be partners for the first time.

They lost both matches, setting the tone for a European rout.

"Here's the truth," Sutton continued. "Do you think they were going to get through their whole career on the same team and somebody wasn't going to put them together? You think the world wanted to see it? Absolutely! I wanted to see it. You wanted to see it. You had your opinion whether it would work, whether I was right or I was not. And it's easy to talk about now."

"There's a feeling I disappeared because I was embarrassed by what happened?" Sutton asked.

"Embarrassment has never driven me off. You're not trying if you haven't failed. I'm not afraid to fail, and I don't consider that a failure. I didn't hit a single drive or a hit a single putt all week. At the end of the day, failure is about whether the ball goes in the hole when it comes to golf."

Saturday
Sep092006

LPGA In New York

Sam Weinman reports on the LPGA's venue issues in New York and New Jersey. I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But brace yourself, it seems we're not going to have the opportunity to study the misunderstood ingeniousness of The Donald's Briarcliff Manor waterfalls...
Donald Trump has abandoned another effort to bring a high-level professional golf tournament to his Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, telling organizers of the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship this week the club no longer wishes to be considered as a host for 2007.

"I decided against it," Trump said. "The (village of Briarcliff Manor) was very nice, and if I wanted to go through with it, the town was willing to go through the process. But it wasn't a process I wanted to go through."
That Donald is such a take charge guy!  Meanwhile at Wykagyl, probably the best LPGA Tour site, things aren't looking good for a return.
The uncertain future of the HSBC event mirrors that of the Sybase Classic, which is again exploring the possibility of moving away from its current home at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle. Since the most recent tournament in May, the event's contracts with both title sponsor Sybase and with Wykagyl have expired, but according to Chris Higgs, the LPGA's senior vice president and chief operations officer, discussions with both parties are ongoing.

"We continue to have positive ongoing discussions with Sybase and are working toward 2007 for both a sponsorship and host site," Higgs said in a statement.

Said Wykagyl general manager Tim Muessle: "I don't think anything regarding the Sybase Classic has been decided either way."

Thursday
Sep072006

"The facts show that there hasn't been much increase to show us that we need to act from when we made those statements"

Thanks to readers Dave, Matt and others for sending highlights of the ESPN.com chat with Walter Driver Jr., which despite sounding like a prescription for an insomnia cure, did in fact make news. Or at least, it might put a damper on the spirits of those who have mysteriously clung to the hope that the USGA regime would actually do something on distance.

The more interesting exchanges, starting with the question I submitted:

Geoff (Santa Monica, California): In 2002 the USGA issued a statement of principles saying that any significant distance increases would result in regulation. The Tour average is up 10 yards since then, so when is the USGA going to act?

SportsNation Walter Driver, Jr.: The facts are that the tour distances are nearly flat the last 3 years. It went down somewhat a few years ago and then leveled off. So the facts show that there hasn't been much increase to show us that we need to act from when we made those statements.

So there you have it. It went down and there hasn't been much increase. Now, is it me, or is Walter Driver, uh, lying through his keyboard?

The USGA issued the Joint Statement of Principles in May of 2002. That year the Tour average finished at 279.8 yards. We're current 10 yards past that average. Not down. Up. And the statement suggested that it would need to be a significant number to act. Significant?

Driver seems to be saying that the statement didn't really take effect until the end of 2003, a year and a half after the statement was issued. Yes, the numbers have been fairly consistent for three years, but the statement was issued four years ago.

Face it, the USGA just isn't going to act. The organization is irrelevant led by folks who just aren't willing to act on behalf of the best interests of the game. Next question.

Mark Smolens (Chicago, IL): Has the USGA looked at any of the data that was gathered at the Ohio Golf Association's recent event and compared it with the information you folks claim to be gathering on the performance of the modern golf ball?

SportsNation Walter Driver, Jr.: We've been accumulating data on modern equipment since teh mid 1970s. We've spent money on researching modern technology and we believe that we know enough and have enough data than anyone in the world.

Nice question from Smolmania. Even nicer job evading the question by Driver.

Steven -- NY, NY: What's being done to regulate equipment so long hitters aren't hitting the ball 350 yds and drastically changing the game?

SportsNation  Walter Driver, Jr.: The USGA has had a limit on overall distance since the mid-1970s and all golf balls are subject to that. Then in the 90's the USGA put a limit on the spring like effects of drivers. There are no limits on the physical abilities of players, but there is on the spring like effects on the drivers.

Wow, Steven must really have been satisfied by that answer! But guess what, ESPN let in another equipment question. And guess what, the USGA has facts, the greatest players in the game don't know what they are talking about.

Charles Brown (Ann Arbor, Michigan): Lee Trevino has added his voice to that of Jck Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Arnold Palmer, all voicing what can only be described as the most serious possible concerne about the USGA's perceived fialure to better regulate technology. How do you respond?

SportsNation Walter Driver, Jr.: We have a great deal of facts at the USGA upon which we make our rule making. Many of the people that talk about the game are passionate about the game, but they don't have the facts that we have. Equipment issues are just one of the issues. I urge you to go to USGA.org to look at some of our facts, in addition to our myth busters. We have limited somethings and done a lot of activities to regulate the game as far as equipment goes.

Who you gonna call? Ah the mythbusters.

Wednesday
Sep062006

Light Posting, Request

I'm busy with a few things the next two days and computer access will be limited, but in the meantime, can an ESPN Insider send me the text of the Walter Driver ESPN.com chat?

I can see from the first answer that the Q&A makes it quite educational. And after all, education is what we're about here at GS.com.

John, Los Angeles, CA: What is your opinion on classic golf courses getting longer for Major Championships? Doesn't that almost automatically eliminate shorter hitters in the field and make it easier for power hitters to win?

SportsNation Walter Driver, Jr.: At the USGA, we try to balance all of our championship courses to not favor any type of hitter. We're aware of the need to balance that. Even now the shorter hitters hit longer than the average hitter by historical standards.

Nice dodge on the first question by WD Jr.!

Wednesday
Sep062006

"Somebody said the clubs are the ones on steroids. That was pretty funny."

After Tiger Woods spoke on the need for drug testing, voila! Tim Finchem issued a clarification on his bizarre stance while speaking to the press in Canada:

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: Well, my position has been so misconstrued. I've said several factors that we evaluate on a regular basis that could lead us to take a number of steps. But I don't want to get into, in a press conference forum, answering specific questions on this subject. And the reason is that I've done that a couple of times earlier in the year and pieces of my answer get reported that seem to reflect a sense of what our policies are. And this is a complex issue that has to do with testing protocols and things that would be tested. We've done, as I said last week, a lot of research on what other sports are doing. We will, later this fall, make a comprehensive statement about what we are recommending to our board be done in the area of substance, substance abuse and performance enhancing substances. I'd ask you to be patient, because I would much rather put in your hands a comprehensive statement so that you can report within the context of that statement and understand exactly what our thinking is, rather than answer piecemeal questions about it that get either reported in part or out of context.

Q. I know it's a complex issue in some ways, but whether or not you have testing is fairly simple. Are you open to that?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: It's not simple. So if you just bear with us and we will be providing a comprehensive statement in just a few weeks for you. And then you'll have an opportunity to answer any questions you want.

As Thomas Bonk reports in the Thursday L.A. Times, this appears to be conformation that testing is on the horizon. 

Ed Moorhouse, who is also the tour's co-chief operating officer, said drug testing remains on the table when the policy board meets Nov. 13-14 at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

"If we thought testing was needed, we would probably go ahead," Moorhouse said. "Will [the drug testing topic] go away? That's not for us to say. I would very well expect we'll continue to have a discussion on that issue when we meet."

He also offers this from Ben Crenshaw:

Ben Crenshaw, another board member and player from the Champions Tour, said he wouldn't be surprised if a policy was instituted that listed banned substances, followed by some sort of testing program. "There may be something on the horizon," he said.

Crenshaw said he is a strong supporter of Finchem's position.

"There's no policy, and if there's any drug usage on the radar screen, he hasn't seen any indication of it. We haven't either," he said. "Those of us who have played forever, we don't know what in the world that performance-enhancing drugs would do for a golfer.

"Somebody said the clubs are the ones on steroids. That was pretty funny."

Wednesday
Sep062006

"Greatest golfer in the world and we can't even hang his picture?"

The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke on the Navy Golf Course in Cypress where Tiger Woods grew up playing:

This is where Woods learned about playing with noise — fighter planes from the adjacent Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos took off or landed during his backswing.

And this is where Woods, who considered this his home course until he left for college, learned about the world.

Shortly before enrolling in Stanford, Woods was hitting balls off the driving range when residents of the modest adjoining neighborhood complained about a "black" kid hitting golf balls into their backyards.

There's no way it could have been Woods, because to reach those houses, one would have to hook his shots like a hacker. There were also, at the time, a couple of strange kids who were spotted on the course.

Regardless, management reacted to the complaints by throwing Woods off the premises. This, even though he had just become the youngest player to win a U.S. Amateur championship.

Although he has never acknowledged any correlation, Woods hasn't been back much since.

Looking around the aging facility, it was as if he was never there at all.

On one pro shop wall, there is one series of photos of a top golfer. It is Jack Nicklaus.

On another wall, there is one autographed photo of a golfer. It is David Toms.

There are no Woods photos, trophies, signs, memorabilia, nothing.

This year the entire facility will move into a grand new building next door, but, as of yet, there are no plans to bring Woods memorabilia into the new house.

"Greatest golfer in the world and we can't even hang his picture?" one member asks.

Gregg Smith, public affairs officer, calls it an oversight.

"We're very proud of our association with Tiger Woods…. I've never been a part of any conversations where somebody said, 'Don't put this guy's photo up there,' " he says. "I'm sure it's just something that people wanted to do, and just haven't done."

Some wonder, however, if there remains serious yardage between Woods and his golf birthplace.

 

Wednesday
Sep062006

Canadian Open's Uncertain Future

Why is it that you have to call them Canada geese, but you can call the Canadian Open, Canadian? Eh, sorry.

Lorne Rubenstein writes about the RGCA hiring IMG to solve their sponsorship and lousy 2007 date issues.

Canadian Open director Bill Paul said at Hamilton that potential sponsors have a number of questions, including future sites, and the big one: the quality of the field.

“Sponsors ask what we can do about the field,” Paul said. “I tell them about what we can control, the course, for example.”

The trouble with matters concerning the field is that sponsors seem interested only in whether Tiger Woods will play.

“Tiger in the field is huge,” said Garry West, who will assume the RCGA presidency on Jan. 20.
Wednesday
Sep062006

Micelli On Lehman's Selection Process

Thanks to reader George for this compelling story by Alex Micelli dissecting Tom Lehman's Captain's pick process and the awkward situation involving assistant captain Corey Pavin. Somehow it's hard to envision Woosie giving his picks this much thought!

Wednesday
Sep062006

More Drug Testing Follow-Ups

Alan Shipnuck follows up his SI Scorecard piece with a few more thoughts on the drug testing story.
It made sense that beefy power hitters were juicing, but more surprising was the evidence that implicated just as many pitchers, who wanted to add a few feet to their fastballs and speed their recovery time between starts. Steroid use in golf is counterintuitive, but so was the idea that a junk-ball middle reliever might be using.
Pat Jones at Golf Course News also takes on the issue, and writes:
...it’s a good thing Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is confident that professional golf doesn’t need drug testing, huh? None of our noble sport’s athletes would ever resort to performance-enhancing substances, would they?

Hmmm … let’s see. Pro golfers do everything possible to improve their game by a stroke or two. They hit 500 balls a day, hire sports psychologists and putting coaches, test 39 different drivers made from materials developed for the space program and put themselves through workout regimens that would kill the average duffer.

Oh, but none of them would ever try human growth hormone or EPO any other performance-enhancing substance just to get those extra five or six yards on a drive that might mean the difference between making millions on the Tour and giving lessons to Mrs. Hacker at Podunk Hills Golf Club, would they?

Wednesday
Sep062006

Send Your Questions...Quick!

ESPN.com is featuring a 3:30 p.m. EST chat with USGA President Walter Driver Jr., who is stopping by "to chat Ryder Cup and golf."

Send in your questions here.

Wednesday
Sep062006

What we're trying to do is New Englandize it"

Paul Kenyon pens the most extensive story to date on the planned changes at TPC Boston.


Tuesday
Sep052006

Trump National, Here We Come

25161922.jpgThe LA Times Bob Pool reports on a strange prank played on Trump National.
An official-looking sign at Sunset's southbound freeway onramp pointed the way to the Trump National Golf Club with a giant arrow.

One passerby who was not amused was Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss, who represents several nearby Westside neighborhoods and for years has crusaded against illegal signs and billboard blight.

Weiss called Caltrans officials demanding to know whether they had authorized a sign advertising something 30 miles away — and in the city of Rancho Palos Verdes to boot.

Puzzled transportation planners quickly explained that the sign wasn't placed at the onramp by them and promised that Caltrans workers would be sent today to remove it from the ramp, used by 4,100 motorists daily.

"Advertising businesses is totally not our policy. That would not be our sign," said Caltrans spokeswoman Judy Gish. "I can't begin to imagine who put it up. It wasn't us."

Weiss said he hoped that that is the case.

"If it is a real Caltrans sign, you have to be outraged. Assuming that it's not, I have to say I'm impressed at how authentic-looking it is. But my feelings on this will sour if Caltrans doesn't take it down right away. Intended or not, this is tremendous free advertising for the one man in the United States who least needs it."

Managers at Trump's golf club in Rancho Palos Verdes did not respond to inquiries about the sign. A Trump spokeswoman in Pebble Beach said she knew nothing about it.

But others were wondering if the sign might be the handiwork of a shadowy group of prankster artists, architects and builders who call themselves Heavy Traffic. Six years ago the guerrilla artists created a flurry of excitement by posting fake but authentic-looking MTA signs around the Westside announcing the "future route of the Metro Aqua Line."
Tuesday
Sep052006

It's All Right There In Front...

Ah, you know how it ends.

That's right, Chris Johnston writes about Canadian Open host Hamilton, which the players just love because there are no railroad ties and it's all right in front of them, no thought required.

Isn't this the Colt course with the cool greens? And which, just as Harry would demand, is soaked in rough and trees to make up for the fact it's too short?

"I think it's just a nice break," said Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., who is once again the country's best hope in this event. "I'm speaking for the other guys, but I think they like to play courses that if you hit one off line, you're in trouble in the rough. You're not making eight because it one-hopped off a railroad tie into the water.

"I think guys like that change - it's all there in front of you."

Sigh. 
Janzen thinks more PGA Tour events would be held at traditional courses like Hamilton if they could handle the infrastructure.

"The problem is that the old courses don't have the space to house a tournament anymore," he said. "There's no room to expand to have enough length and there's not enough room for all the corporate stuff.

"Unfortunately the modern courses are all about looking great now. They don't want to plant trees and have it mature. They create all kinds of crazy things now."