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Writing And Videos

Just as one can see and appreciate beautiful paintings without being able himself to paint, so can one play and appreciate hundreds of golf courses without being able to develop that natural aptitude and artistic sense which, to my mind, contribute so largely to the successful and outstanding accomplishments of a golf architect. CHARLES BANKS



"You haven't heard much lately because as far as I can tell, there hasn't been any testing since."

The PGA Tour's drug testing program will inevitably be one of those forgotten stories like driver testing, but I just didn't think it would happen so soon or because they have apparently stopped testing!

From SI's anonymous PGA Tour pro in this week's issue:

There sure were a lot of stories about drug testing on Tour when the policy went into effect at last month's AT&T National. You haven't heard much lately because as far as I can tell, there hasn't been any testing since. Is that all there is? What with even commissioner Tim Finchem filling a cup, I guess the testing at Congressional was simply a big dog-and-pony show.
You've got to figure the WADA and Olympics folks will take note of that.


"They're all long. There's no cool short one."

A few interesting bits from Phil Mickelson's pre-Firebore press conference:

Q. You had a couple pretty well-chronicled issues this year where you went with five wedges in one and you went with no driver and it didn't turn out so well. I wonder, when you're going through your setup for a week, how do these ideas germinate and who all is in on the discussion as to whether it's a green light or whether it actually happens? How do the ebb and flow of clubs in and out of the bag sort of transpire?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's kind of a variety of different ways. Sometimes when we just play a course we realize we haven't used a certain club. Other times it'll be a computer program that we'll use to identify what element of the game is more important. If you improve one area by 10 percent, it lowers your score the most. I mean, this is an interesting statistic, I think, that I'll share with you, that I've found is that if you increase any statistical category 10 percent across the board, it lowers scores. Okay, 10 percent fewer putts, obviously lower scores, 10 percent more greens, 10 percent closer to the hole, 10 percent more fairways, every one lowers scores except longer driving distance. Longer drives does not equate to lower scores on any course in America except one. There's one golf course in America where 10 percent longer driving equates to lower scores, and what would you think it would be? Augusta National.
So we'll do stuff like that. That will be fun and interesting and a different perspective.
Q. That's Pelz' program, software?
And this is really encouraging to read that players are noticing these kinds of course setup details, and better yet, sharing them. Not that it'll change what Rees does! On Oakland Hills:
Q. It plays long?
PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say it played long, no. I thought it played a good distance. It has a good mixture of holes. There's some short par-4s you can hit short clubs in and there's some long ones. The par 3s are a little monotonous. They're all long. There's no cool short one. 13 used to be a cool short one and they moved the tee back so it's 190. But they're just tough 3s. You just want to make a 3 on those holes.

Progress At Ponky?

Jay Turner in the Canton Citizen reports that there is some hope for a possible renovation and improvement of Ponkapoag Golf Course, though I'm not sure about the "currently in need of an estimated $35 million in repairs" thinking.

Officially signed into law on July 13 as part of the state’s $28.1 billion budget package, the “Ponkapoag Golf Course Long-Term Leasing Authority” will allow the Department of Conservation and Recreation to enter into a lease agreement with either the town of Canton  —  if it wants it  —  or a private company for a period of 25 years.
Similar to the legislation that saw the Metropolis Skating Rink first leased out to the town in 1980, this latest move is being billed by lawmakers, including Senator Brian Joyce, as an effort to cut down on spending while also reviving what was once a regional treasure, designed by the legendary golf course architect Donald Ross in 1936.


Rosie On Rocco

Tim Rosaforte files a very enjoyable profile of Rocco Mediate's whirlwind run and finally, someone catches up on the incredible trevails he's gone through in the midst of a couple of other great runs that you likely forgot about.

I did wonder about this:His legs rested on a chair, exposing bare ankles and clean-shaven legs. (That's right—Mediate shaves his legs. "A lot of women are jealous," he says.) On the wall a flat-screen TV replayed the afternoon action, Rocco's name still on the first page of the leader board.

Two hours after his second round ended with a birdie, he was relaxing in black drawstring sweatpants, a black Callaway sweater and black Nike Frees.
Uh, what brand were those drawstring sweats Tim? Sloppy, sloppy! Please, we need to know.

This, borders on TMI...

His legs rested on a chair, exposing bare ankles and clean-shaven legs. (That's right—Mediate shaves his legs. "A lot of women are jealous," he says.)


"Bivens’ decision effectively terminated the tournament sponsored by the grocery chain"

In following up on the news broken by Ron Sirak this week that Ginn is likely out as a sponsor of at least one of its LPGA events, Golfweek's Adam Schupak refreshed my memory on how one of those Ginn events found its way on the schedule (thanks to reader Steven T. for the link):

By opting for Ginn’s richer purses, Bivens gave the Ginn Tribute the highly-coveted Memorial Day weekend date, which had been held by the Shoprite LPGA Classic in New Jersey. Bivens’ decision effectively terminated the tournament sponsored by the grocery chain, which had been an LPGA supporter for 21 years and had an agreement to serve as title sponsor through 2014.

If you want to relive the Shop Rite debacle, I've set up a convenient search link so you can be reminded how a longtime event that was secure through 2014 was shafted by the Brand Lady.


"I don't know why we keep going back there."

From SI's anonymous PGA Tour pro on returning to Oakland Hills for next week's PGA:

I know this much about Oakland Hills. It's brutal, and it's pretty high up there in the course rankings [18th by Golf Magazine], but I don't know any players who say, "God, I love Oakland Hills." It's a ballbuster.
The greens are over the top. They're straight from Putt-Putt, minus the swinging logs and clowns' mouths. Plus, you're hitting three-irons into most of them. I have no idea why Oakland Hills is rated so high. What's the mystique? Because Ben Hogan won the U.S. Open there a million years ago and bragged that he finally tamed the Monster? That's prehistoric. The last Open there, in 1996, was uneventful. On the 72nd hole Davis Love III three-putted and Tom Lehman hooked his drive into a fairway bunker to allow Steve Jones, a qualifier who scrambled his tail off, to win. I don't know why we keep going back there.
Considering the state of the U.S. auto industry and the likelihood of tepid corporate sales, I'm guess the PGA is wondering the same thing.


Don't Try This At Home, Vol. 46

A photo by the Detroit News' Dale Young, accompanying Vartan Kupelian's story about Phil Mickelson's practice round at Oakland Hills. I'm not what's more frightening, the rough raking, the striping in front of the clubhouse or the coordinated outfits...


Which Tournament Will You Watch?

Daniel Wexler previews this week's events with course aerials and it got me thinking, in order of interest this week my list looks like this:

1) Women's British Open at Sunningdale

2) U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor

3) Reno-Tahoe at Montreux

4) WGC Bridgestone at Firestone

The Broadmoor is not a great television course, but having played in the last Broadmoor Invitational before they went to a partners format (PGA Tour player Shane Bertsch waxed me 6&5 in match play), I can attest to its character. Throw in Mike Davis' setup and it should at least be entertaining, though still a distant second to seeing championship golf at classy old Sunningdale.

Reno (I'm sad to say) is of interest not because of Montreux but due to the Wie freak show. And that leaves Firestone. Long, boring and CBS's finest trying to tell us it's a classic. No thanks!

What tournament do you most want to watch?


Phil and Pelz Scout Oakland Hills; Still Pondering Several Possible Faulty Game Plans

No mention in this AP story of the driver being benched, or a sixth wedge joining the team for the PGA. But they still have "a lot more work to do," which means there is still time.


"Last year there were at least six such DQs."

In the July 25th Golf World, Ron Sirak pens "The View" titled "Defending the Rules" (not posted online). In it he notes this item related to the Michelle Wie scorecard signing incident:

In truth, the LPGA went out of its way to be fair. Tour officials did not find [out] about the Friday incident until after Wie teed off Saturday. After clarifying the rule with the USGA, the tour decided to let Wie finish her round uncluttered by the issue and then allow her to respond to the accusation. To her credit she verified the account.
To think this is some vendetta against Wie is simply wrong. According to the LPGA, her's was the fourth DQ this year for failing to sign, one of which occurred after the player in question had taken only a step outside the scoring area. Last year there were at least six such DQs.

I don't believe anyone sees this as an LPGA vendetta, do they? Seems more like LPGA incompetence or budget restrictions. Incompetence gets the nod here because, really, ten DQs in the last year or so?

In the interest of players, fans or sponsors, at what point do you (A) put an official in the scoring room (B) get local LPGA or PGA members to man the scoring tent or (C) put up an enormous sign on the back of the door saying, SIGN YOUR CARD, LADIES!

I contacted the PGA Tour to find out how many times a player was DQ'd for not signing their card in the last year.


How many times this century?


The last time that a PGA Tour player did not sign his card was 1997. 2005 (see JohnV's link below).


Norman Already Plotting To Undo Dawson's Turnberry Design Work!

Seems the new owners of Turnberry may realize that their course needs fixing post-Peter Dawson's R&A branded redo in advance of the 2009 Open Championship.

John Huggan writes for

Still, for Norman as for everyone else who has endured a sporting loss, life goes on. Only a couple of hours after completing his opening 75 at Troon, he was at Turnberry, scene of his first Open victory back in 1986. Accompanied by David Spencer, the chief executive of Leisurecorp, Norman toured the back-nine on the Ailsa course with a view to recommending changes that will be implemented immediately after the Open Championship returns to the famous links for a fourth time next year.
While he was too diplomatic to say as much, one got the feeling that Norman was less than impressed with the work already done on the Ailsa’s closing three holes. Under the direction of the R&A’s chief executive, Peter Dawson, the 16th fairway has been moved 50 yards left of its previous location and new tees have been built at each of the last two holes. Brown had apparently wanted to leave the 17th alone and call it a par-4, but the man from St. Andrews would have none of it.
Then again, maybe Brown had a point. Although Dawson was understandably quick to hail the changes “a great success” in the immediate aftermath of the recent British Amateur Championship, it would perhaps have been more professional of the press pack in attendance to ask some of the players what they thought. Especially those unfortunate individuals who, unable to reach the fairway into an admittedly strong wind at the long 17th, took ten or more shots to eventually hole out.
Oops. So I'm not the only one thinking a few too many writers have R&A memberships in their eyes!
“The R&A have obviously recognized that some adjustments to the course are required if it is to stand up to the technology available to the players nowadays,” said Norman, ever the diplomat. “It’s interesting how, when you look at it from a player’s perspective, you see things differently than you might do on a plan. Some of what they have done I might have done a bit differently. But that is what my eye sees; I see it from a player’s perspective as well as an architect’s.”
Welcome to the backstabbing world of golf course architecture, Mr. Dawson.

"The AP did neither, it contends, but that's not the main thrust here."

In last week's "message from headquarters," LPGA Commish Carolyn Bivens made a big fuss about the AP running a corrected story, when, as was pointed out here, there wasn't much to correct.

Seems, the AP did not correct the story, as Thomas Bonk writes in his column:

Four days later, in a two-page memo from Commissioner Carolyn Bivens to LPGA members (but leaked to news agencies all over the place), Bivens explains the incident, defends the rules official and says the Associated Press misquoted the official and ran a correction.
The AP did neither, it contends, but that's not the main thrust here. Why such a memo was necessary in the first place is an issue, but then so is a potentially greater after-effect, such as, why give the impression that you're picking on Wie again when the thing is already done?


"The LGU had an open mind about Scottish venues and did not rule out the possibility of also utilising more modern links..."

An unbylined Scotsman story says the Women's British Open has been locked into Scotland five times between 2011 and 2020. I share this not because you need to mark your calendar, but because this caught my eye:

In a break with past practice which prevented the LGU from staging its flagship event at a men only club, Shona Malcolm, the chief executive of the LGU, indicated it would now be happy to hold discussions with either Muirfield or Royal Troon, the two Scottish links on the Open rota where the clubs don't have women members, about staging the Women's British Open.
Malcolm also revealed that the championship would not necessarily be held on a links and they would look at outstanding parkland courses on a par with Gleneagles and Loch Lomond. She said the LGU had an open mind about Scottish venues and did not rule out the possibility of also utilising more modern links such as Kingsbarns, near St Andrews, Archerfield in East Lothian and Dundonald in Ayrshire.

"The Presidents Cup is fun. Jack just makes it fun."

A few weeks ago reader John warned me that if I was planning to tie my record for power flipping through Golf Magazine (4 minutes, 33 seconds cover-to-cover), the August issue would give me fits. I've heard this before. Oh you'll see, it's a good issue, only to paper cut myself up working through mindless instruction and even more pathetic Maxim-wannabe items geared to frat houses that wouldn't even use the mag to balance a keg, much less be caught subscribing to Golf.

But John was right, the issue was outstanding and hopefully the first sign that an SI influence has taken hold at Golf. Not only is there a nice opening photo spread ripping off a cornerstone of the SI franchise, but excellent content throughout highlighted by two Alan Bastable pieces.

The first is his interview with Hunter Mahan who proves to be sort of a modern day David Duval, only with a sense of humor, enough humility to be likable and no painful speeches about the trials and tribulations of fatherhood. The Ryder Cup remarks were of most interest:

The Presidents Cup sounds like fun. Has the Ryder Cup become a chore?
Phil Mickelson and Tiger — their time is worth money. And for the PGA of America, the Ryder Cup is a moneymaker like no other. They don't have to pay anything. I think when [Mark] O'Meara said players should get paid for it or some of the money given to their charities, I think [he said that] because the PGA takes so much out of the event that the players don't really get anything. Is it an honor to play? Yes, it is. But their time is valuable. This is a business.
So there's resentment?
I just feel like the players don't have much control over it, and I don't think they like that. I wouldn't like that.
How do you explain the U.S. team's recent woes?
I think Europe really, really takes it seriously. I think the U.S. does, too, but not like Europe. For one, every place they hold a Ryder Cup in Europe is a place on the European Tour schedule. That's really smart because right away they have an advantage. The PGA of America could care less about winning it, honestly. They pick a site where they're going to have the Senior PGA, the PGA and the Ryder Cup, which means less money they have to pay out to get more money. And from what I've heard the whole week is extremely long. You've got dinners every night — not little dinners, but huge, massive dinners. I know, as players, that's the last thing we want to do. We want to prepare ourselves. That's part of the whole thing: you're just a slave that week. At some point the players might say, "You know what — we're not doing this anymore, because this is ridiculous."
Guys might actually refuse to play?
Don't be surprised if it happens. It's just not a fun week like it should be. The Presidents Cup is fun. Jack just makes it fun. We had a great time, we really enjoyed each other's company. From what I've heard, the Ryder Cup just isn't fun. The fun is sucked right out of it. That's the word I hear a lot.
The other story you must read is Bastable's compelling profile of Arjun Atwal that clears the Nationwide player's name and fleshes out the bizarre events surrounding the fatal accident he was involved in.

Championship Vision At The PGA

If you are going to the PGA, it seems the folks at American Express will be handing out their Championship Vision TV's to the first few thousand cardholders. Definitely the best deal of the group...

Are You a Cardmember?
While the PGA Learning Center is open to all, only Cardmembers will have the exclusive opportunity to enjoy:
•          Championship Vision:  Cardmembers can borrow complimentary, hand-held televisions that deliver a live telecast of the championship that fans can pause and rewind, check out aerial views of Oakland Hills Country Club and view player bios from anywhere on the course
•          American Express Cardmember Club:  The exclusive lounge area features complimentary food and beverage items and a silent auction featuring historic golf memorabilia and travel packages (Located between the 8th and 12th fairways, open all day from August 4–10)
•          Commemorative PGA Poster:  Special gift available with all purchases over $175 made using an American Express Card at the merchandise tents

After the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, I reviewed Championship Vision here.

Note to Julius: you'll score major points with scribblers if you can procure a few of these for their use. I know you appreciate these tips.


Greg, Chrissy Turn Down Chance To Sweat Off A Few Pounds In Detroit

Craig Dolch reports the not surprising news that Norman turns down the PGA of America's exemption offer. Darren Clarke is now in.


Dodson On Drum

Jim Dodson recalls the role Bob Drum played in creating the modern grand slam and also offers this, which got me thinking...

Bob Drum continued being, well, Bob Drum -- literally the loudest, largest, hardest-drinking character in the press caravan bumping along the Tour Trail and various by-waters of the game for the next two decades -- until a CBS producer had the crazy idea of making Big Bob Drum the color man on a celebrated broadcast crew that included the likes of Jack Whittaker and Ken Venturi.
Legendary CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian later told Drum's wife, "M.J., this could be the best idea I've ever done -- or the worst."
Almost overnight, at age 68, however, six-foot-three, 290-pound Bob Drum became a large-than-life TV star -- a mountainous, rumpled, oddly comforting presence who spoke the language of the everyday golf fan. For eight years on a two-minute segment called "The Drummer's Beat," Drum's gruff and salty Everyman commentaries on the vagaries of golf and life in general -- most of which sprang from his oversized head only minutes before airtime and were recorded in one take -- comprised some of the most entertaining moments in golf broadcasting. He was eventually nominated for an Emmy.
Wouldn't it be fun of CBS posted some of these online or even put a DVD together of the best of Bob Drum?

"There was a very strong response from people who don't believe in global warming. I was surprised by that, because global warming was actually a very minor part of the piece..."

In the July Golfdom, I pen a column/essay on the importance of Golf Digest redefining their conditioning category. Along with the piece was a column that surprisingly hasn't elicited surprisingly nice emails from superintendents.

Online, Golfdom offered editor Larry Aylward pens a column taking issue with Barton's tone toward superintendents.

I also interviewed Barton, who had plenty of great stuff to say about his research and the surprising reaction Golf Digest received.

The entire package of Golf Digest stories can be viewed here.


Lesson To Tour Groupies: Flash Your Badge Before Aiming A Champagne Bottle At Your Client

"Chronic pain specialist" Jim Weathers, whose client roster includes John Daly and Phil Mickelson, received a pain treatment of his own after running out to hose down Canadian Open winner Chez Reavie. If I were the cop and hadn't seen his credential (but did look at those tats and guns), I'd have figured he was up to no good, too.

The only ill fortune to find Reavie came during his celebration, when an overzealous police officer tackled his trainer, Jim Weathers, who was giving Reavie a champagne shower.
"Once he saw (my credentials), he was okay," Weathers said, laughing off the incident.
Thanks to reader Tim for the heads up on the Yahoo images.


"The manufacturers got ahead of the USGA and the R&A. That's the bottom line."

John Huggan talks to Tom Watson about the state of game and in particular, the ball and equipment.

"I am very adamant that I think the ball should be brought back," he says, echoing the sentiments of many others of his generation, including Jack Nicklaus. "It goes too far. It also goes straighter and is therefore easier to control in a wind. But there are a lot of factors involved other than just pure distance. The rate at which the ball spins is important. They spin less these days and that is one reason they go farther. A higher spin rate would exaggerate misses and send the ball more off line than at present.
"The manufacturers got ahead of the USGA and the R&A. That's the bottom line. Those companies made balls that conform to rules that unfortunately allowed them to go too far. They're too easy to play. And that is true for all classes of player. Yes, they make less of a difference to the handicap golfer, but they still make a difference. Just not to the degree they do for the better leading professionals."
As you'd expect of a Stanford graduate – his fellow alumnus and close friend, Jim Vernon, is the current president of the USGA – Watson has solutions to the problem that has led to the vast majority of the current generation of players never knowing the joy that comes with perfectly shaping a shot into a stiff crosswind.
"When the ball goes as straight as it does now, you don't have to 'work' it from left-to-right or right-to-left; all you have to do is aim right at your target," continues Watson. "That takes a skill factor out of the game.
"The old guys had that skill factor, but the younger guys don't seem to have that same ability. Yes, they learn how to play that famous Tiger Woods 'stinger' – I saw a few of the kids using it at Birkdale last week – and that is a useful shot to have. But can they hit a stinger from right-to-left or left-to-right? That's what I want to see them doing, but right now I'm not.
"In defence of the young players, they have never had to learn a variety of shots. They have three wedges, for example. They have never had to add loft to their 56-degree wedge to make it play as if it has 60-degrees. I'm sure they understand how to hit the ball a little higher, but it's a lot easier to hit a high lofted shot with a 60-degree wedge than it is to hit one with only 56-degrees."