Or so Jim McCabe reports on Tim Finchem's opening round at the AT&T playing Pebble Beach, which he was supposed to be playing Saturday until someone pulled some strings to get off of the celebrity rotation.
By natural hazards we refer to ravines, broken faces of the land, brooks, and the like, each of which should be used to its best advantage. There is something so undeniably pleasant about a natural hazard that it seems out of the question to duplicate it artificially. DONALD ROSS
Steve Elling on the total lack of interest in the WGC Match Play event, at least based on the dreadful turnout this week by match play bubble boys.
Amazingly, only three of the 15 players between spot Nos. 61 and 75 in the current world rankings, the players with great chances to make a move with solid play on their respective home tours, are playing this week.
Lawrence Donegan talks to several players and officials about the delicate subject of Michelle Wie's rookie season and media coverage.
"Michelle Wie has the potential to help drive the sport in ways that many top-class athletes have done in the past. She also has the luxury of being surrounded by a rookie class that will help her market and promote women's golf," said David Higdon, the LPGA's director of communications, tempering this recognition of Wie's broad appeal with a gentle reminder that she has done nothing yet to earn special treatment. "She is on tour this year as a rookie and that will be ideal for her to grow and mature in a way that is much more reasonable, given where her golf game is."
While tour officials perform this delicate balancing act, others around the game are not inclined to the diplomatic route, most notably Christina Kim, who was one of the few players on the circuit to befriend the newcomer and make her feel welcome, spending time chatting to her on the practice putting green on Tuesday. "Fuck the naysayers," Kim said when asked for her views on those who have criticised Wie. "Michelle is a very close friend of mine and I've wanted her to come out on tour for a very long time. She chose not to do that and I respected that. She did what was best for herself. She is a great player and I know she will do very well."
"The culture of golf has changed to the point where the country club as a center for social life makes little sense."
Brad Klein seems to be saying, forget about the way things were done, move on and deal with reality. Can't say I disagree with any of his "six dimensions to golf’s new business paradigm," though I do think that it's a bit early to completely reinvent the country club concept.
LPGA Tour Becomes Only Stand-Alone U.S. Women's Professional Sports Organization To Receive A Rights Fee Agreement For Domestic Broadcast Coverage!
Only the Brand Lady and her people could come up with such distinction, as noted in this AP story on their 10-year deal with the Golf Channel. No mention of network coverage, but I assume they still have select events on the networks?
Beth Ann Baldry goes in to more detail and answers the question about the network angle:
As many as six other official events – including one major – likely will be packaged and offered to one or two networks.
From Doug Ferguson's story on Wednesday's pro-am goings on.
After year of prodding, one of the CEOs at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am includes the PGA Tour commissioner himself.
The tour gets five spots in the pro-am each year that it usually gives to corporate partners, and Finchem is using one of those spots.
For a guy who just a month ago asked players to do more in these lean economic times, and for someone who makes nearly $5 million a year, you'd think he could swing the $15,000 entry fee that helps fund a significant charity. I'm sure his accountant could write it off, no?
Ferguson also reports this red flag special. PGA Tour rule officials never jack around with tee times once they are set:
He'll play with Love, who was on the policy board in Finchem's first year as commissioner in 1994. The other team will be Mahan and Randall Stephenson, chairman of AT&T.
The only mystery was the draw sheet.
Finchem and Stephenson were to play the same course rotation as the celebrities (opposite side of the course) - Spyglass Hill, Poppy Hills, Pebble Beach. But a revised draw sheet on Wednesday had them away from the celebrities (translation: attention) by teeing off Thursday at Pebble Beach.
That'll be a short investigation.
Still, Thomas Bonk reports that Ponte Vedra is analyzing the merits of shaking up the rotation and moving to recently renovated Fort Ord. And he shares this non-denial denial from a Fort Ord guy:
Ed Bennett, project manager for Bayonet and Black Horse said that discussions are underway that involve the course as a potential tournament site. "There have been rumors for years since Poppy Hills came on the scene that some tour players didn't like it. But we are in the middle of an exciting tournament at a different course and talking too much about a different product right now doesn't seem right."
A different product? That could be one of the nicest things anyone has ever called Poppy Hills.
Cameron Morfit conducts an entertaining Q&A with Steve Flesch, covering all sorts of good stuff.
Let's talk Tour policy. You've slammed course setups. What's your beef?
It's the same every week. Having every par-3 at 230 yards is boring, as is having the rough at five inches. The greens don't always have to be 12 on the Stimpmeter. They water the fairways and around the greens, forcing you to hit a high spinny shot in. We've gotten away from the fact that golf can be played more than one way.
But that's exactly how Tiger and Phil and most of the top players like to hit the ball. Maybe the rest of you guys should learn to live with it.
But let's not set up every course so it's like a major. The public wants to see us make birdies, so let's set up the courses so we can display our skills and show everybody how good we are.
Seems the boys really are in love with the Memorial these days.
Jack Nicklaus upset the pros when he toughened Muirfield Village for The Memorial and furrowed the bunkers. Who's going to call up Jack and say, "Enough!"?
It's hard. Jack should have his input, but is it really in the best interest to play the course like that? That was eight-inch rough that obviously hadn't been topped off the day before the tournament, as Jack indicated in the papers.
Are you calling Jack Nicklaus a liar?
No, I'm not, but it was eight inches on Monday and it wasn't touched the whole week. Whether it's the tournament director or whatever, don't tell us it's four-and-a-half-inch rough. I can put my foot in it and see it's over my shoes. It's the same at Arnold's event. That rye-grass rough is sticky and it's five inches long. Muirfield is one of my favorite courses, but from the first time I played it in '98 to 2008, it's gotten harder, not better. The greens are 14 on the Stimpmeter and they're not big; do you need ruts in the bunkers, too?
This may be the first time someone dared to note the issue for Phil Mickelson and his joint instructors Butch Harmon and Dave Pelz.
Your fellow lefty Mickelson had a quiet 2008. What's wrong with him?
Phil Mickelson is fantastic. I have learned so much from watching him play. He knows I respect his game, and I don't want to say anything that would upset him, but right now I think he's got two different kinds of coaches. I worked with Butch Harmon for five years, and his way of thinking about the game is a lot different than how Dave Pelz is. Dave's very analytical, very scientific, and everybody respects that. Phil is trying to find a balance between two methods that seem to pull him in different directions.
And of course, slow play...
What else is on the PAC's radar?
Pace of play. There are a dozen guys out here who are habitually slow. It's not that our fine structure isn't strong enough — it's that our officials should be more assertive. We all know who's slow and who's not, and while half of the slow guys say they want to get faster, the other half say, "I don't care if I'm slow or not." Well you know what? You've got 144 guys out there that week and most of them feel you're disrespecting them by taking that attitude. You have 40 seconds to hit the shot, and if you can't do it, you're not playing out here.
Is this why weekend golfers seem to think a glacial pace is okay?
My 10-year-old Griffin now plumb-bobs. I go, "Dude, what are you doing?" He goes, "I don't know, I see you guys doing it on TV." That's exactly why it's wrong for us to be playing that slowly.
I thought the drop-everything-you-are-doing stories from 2007's birth of Sam Alexis Woods were bad, but then I see Mark Reason has dug up research suggesting that the birth of a son inspires fathers to work harder. Because, you know, Tiger's such a lazy lug.
Do you think Tiger Woods needs more motivation? Well, he now has the biggest inspiration a professional sportsman can get. A son.
You may think that is all psychological mumbo jumbo, but consider for a moment some facts. The last three first-time winners of the Masters had all just become fathers of a son for the first time. Phil Mickelson won his first major in 2003 a year after the birth of Evan. Zach Johnson won in 2007, three months after the birth of Will. Trevor Immelman won in 2008, a year after the birth of Jacob.
There is a name for this phenomenon. It is called the 'nappy factor' and was first identified by the betting guru Keith Elliott more than 10 years ago. To begin with it was nothing more than a hunch.
Then in 2000 the European Association of Labour Economists published statistics showing that fathers' salaries rise nearly five per cent every time they have a child and that the premium was far greater for a son than a daughter. "I'm sure a son will have an amazing effect even on someone as driven as Tiger," Elliott said.
Nice line from David Toms in Doug Ferguson's notes column this week on the subject of Tim Finchem making his AT&T debut:
"It might be the only chance we have for this tournament to be moved to October,'' Toms said with a laugh, referring to weather issues that have occasionally plagued Pebble.
In looking at Tiger's Dubai project, Alistair Tait slips in this ominous sounding quote:
Project director Abdulla Al Gurg, when asked for a status report, was hesitant. “We are committed to completing Tiger Woods’ vision here in Dubai,” Al Gurg said on two separate occasions, avoiding a target date.
And thanks to Golf Digest's Deed and Weed posting a blog entry pointing out Jose Luis Jiménez story looking at the environmental and security issues involved with Punta Brava, Tiger's project in Ensanada.
A few things jumped out in Jim Vernon's interview with Mike James of the L.A. Times.
First, the questions, which included topics that few golf publications ask about. And no, I don't believe it's due to some perceived fear that they might upset manufacturers and lose advertising. Instead, I just don't think they care a whole lot about this state of the game stuff.
Second, is it me or does Vernon seem more candid in this interview than any USGA president in recent memory?
Obviously it's refreshing and can only help the USGA, even if you don't agree with the outcome of their research.
Here's the breaking news, first revealed by Barack and Geithner at GolfDigest.com, but not confirmed by anyone at the USGA until now:
We have been looking on a research basis at high-lofted wedges, we've heard anecdotal evidence that they may have some of the same effects as the grooves did. That is, without any particular increase in skill, a player has a way of recovering around a green or over a bunker. At the same time, we hear some pros say it is really tough to hit a 64-degree wedge. We don't have a proposal on the table, but we are taking a look at it.
About the ball study and the study of rolled-back balls:
We also have our ball-research project. We are in the final stages of player testing with shorter-distance golf balls. The ball manufacturers have been very cooperative giving us good quality but shorter-distance golf balls so that we can test them with players of all abilities, from hacks like me to Tiger Woods and that level. If we ever decided that we had to roll the ball back or reduce distance, this is something we can then pull off the shelf and put into effect.
And I don't know if any USGA President has ever acknowledged that some venues might be dated after the recent distance climb, or that it's a negative in any way. No mea culpa on behalf of the USGA here, but a huge start to acknowledging where the distance race has left us when it comes to golf architecture:
There are two problems: Courses are getting built longer, which requires more maintenance, more chemicals, all of which is more expensive. The second effect is you have these established courses our there, the Merions, the Shinnecocks, the Rivieras, these great clubs, and since all those facilities feel they have to accommodate golfers of all abilities too, they have to start incurring great expenses, moving bunkers, moving tees. It's a huge amount of money spent by courses around the country to adapt to increased distances players are hitting the ball. It's certainly added to the expense of golf, and in the long term that may not be a good thing. Golf is an expensive sport. We're going to get more people playing golf if we can keep costs down, and we're going to be better citizens if we can keep whatever effects, use of water or whatever, at a lower level.
Q: Do you see at some point reducing the distance of the ball?
A: We've seen a six-year period of stability on the PGA Tour. As long as that continues, I think it would take something pretty dramatic for us to take that big a step. On the other hand, if you were to see a shift in how far those tour pros are hitting it again, like the six or eight or 10 years before the last six, then I think you'd see a lot of pressure to do something, and rolling the ball back is one of the options.
Vernon also talks about the California Golf Tax proposal, golf in the Olympics and the potential of Riviera as a U.S. Open venue.
Well, not to golf. Tiger Woods the dog, at the Westminster Kennel Club show:
A Scottish deerhound named Tiger Woods won the hound group Monday night. The terrier, herding and nonsporting champions were to be picked later in the evening.
Jim Gorant on news that Cherry Hills would be awarded a U.S. Amateur, once thought to be a stepping stone to the U.S. Open but in this case, a compromise:
These days most Open courses play at about 7,500 yards, but that's at or close to sea level. At Denver's mile-high elevation, Cherry Hills would have to be stretched to at least 8,000 yards to play like 7,500. At 7,500 it plays more like 6,900. That's roughly the same length as Merion, which hosted the '07 Amateur and will welcome the Open in '13, but Merion is the exception. If you don't think so, consider the worst-kept secret at the annual meeting: The USGA will most likely award the '17 U.S. Open to Erin Hills, outside Milwaukee, a sea-level course that can be stretched to more than 8,000 yards.
I know her English isn't, you know, like perfect, but come on, she's the biggest thing to happen to women's golf since Annika.
Jon Show tries to figure out what the LPGA Tour could be thinking by handling her like every other rookie, minus the blog posts and other news that might actually draw in more fans.
Commissioner Carolyn Bivens, in an e-mail, wrote that Wie and other rookies will be promoted through “varied media outreach,” primarily consisting of stories in local print media.
Wie, by choice, is not taking part in the rookie editorial features at LPGA.com. Other players are participating in Q&As and writing blogs on the Web site.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who phoned and wrote to check on my well-being after attending my first USGA Annual Meeting Saturday at the price-gouging Fairmont, Newport Beach (really Fairmont, $18 to move my car 150 feet so it could rained on for 6 hours?). The greetings I received were all incredibly warm, or at least, brilliant impersonations of warm greetings while the bluecoat in question was thinking, has anyone seen me talking to this lowly subversive?
Of course there was that one past president who, when I went to introduce myself to him after having phone-interviewed him a few times, greeted me as a Tate family member would Charles Manson. Maybe it's those Midwest winters.
The very first bluecoat I encountered was none other than the world's most famous Blackberry expert before Barack Obama's election, Walter Driver, who was exiting the men's room after giving president Jim Vernon one final pep talk that perhaps included a suggestion to step down from the podium in order to communicate with the little people gathered to celebrate all things USGA. Needless to say, Jim was probably relieved that he didn't have to introduce Walter and I just moments before his big night!
It was a great honor to finally meet Sandy Tatum in person as well as several other current and former Executive Committee members. Things got a bit dicey when former president tournament committee chair Will Nicholson told Jerry Tarde that he would like to talk to me. When Jerry brought Mr. Nicholson over, the former Augusta National tournament committee chair revealed that he "had a bone to pick with me." As the word "pick" left Mr. Nicholson's mouth, Jerry and Golf World co-hort Ryan Herrington were speedwalking to the nearest wet bar. Thanks guys.
Blessedly, Mr. Nicholson only had a minor issue with the phrasing of Prairie Dunes' construction from my recent Golf World story, and was not pulling out my various rantings about rough at Augusta (which he said we'd discuss another time because he had them all memorized by date and a vitriolic linguistic scale score invented by Glenn Greenspan before he moved on to less stressful jobs).
As for the actual meeting festivities, I had been warned yet was not truly prepared for the sheer volume of navy blue fabric assembled under one hotel meeting room ceiling. (If you don't believe me, check out the John Mummert image from USGA.org, left).
Nor did I realize that the meeting attracted so many powerbrokers, friends of the game and devoted volunteers along with a disturbing number of folks I recognized to be golf architects, rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull...err I better stop there before Mel Brooks sues me. Anyway, there were just many grown men there who would never need Cialis again if George Will would just start writing about golf instead of baseball.
After having to give an ovation to every outgoing and incoming Women's Committee member, and we cleared up the ballot error that left off a new XC member, elected the new officers and XC, then heard from Joe Dey Award winner Dick Rundle (pictured right, courtesy of USGA.org), who delivered a wonderfully heartfelt speech. Vernon delivered his excellent address which, other than mentioning the 14 points of course setup light three times too many to keep 14-point visionairy Walter Driver from having a total tantrum, went over well.
Dinner, for the staffers living vicariously through me at this point (how sad for you!), consisted of a nice ravioli starter, salad, chicken and chocolate cake to prepare us for O. Gordon Brewer's speech to accept the Bob Jones Award. Oddly, I was seated with, among others, Pete Bevacqua and XC member Irv Fish. There were also four others dressed as empty seats. I wonder why! Surely it couldn't been little ole me that sent another table 14 assignee and editor of a very popular golf magazine to a table far from what I thought was the prime podium view.
I was quite excited to hear Mr. Brewer actually utter words since the lone conversation I had with him at Riviera during the 1998 U.S. Senior Open consisted mostly of grunts and other mumbled phrases (lesson learned: never ask someone what they think of a course the day after they miss the cut and are stuck hanging around wearing a USGA logo on their shirt). He delivered an eloquent speech off the top of his head, with one room-squirming mention of a "downside" to the recent distance explosion. That was followed by a couple of great caddy stories, prompting Brewer to declare, "let's work together to keep the caddy as part of the game."
There were too many other fascinating conversations to mention (well, and to protect the innocent). My deepest gratitude goes out to the USGA for allowing me the privilege of attending the event, and in advance, my sympathies to those who suffer repercussions for any intentional (or otherwise) encounters with yours truly.