Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer
  • Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    by Kevin Robbins
  • Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    by Ken Bowden

In considering the democratic side of golf we are forced to remember that all the original links were common soil over which every man, woman or child had free access --  as free as the expanse of ice in the Dutch pictures where small boys are to be seen pottering about with putters tucked under their arms. It seems a pity that the boundaries of the popular links should ever be closed – even in the interests of gate money. People may be inconvenient in their numbers, but barriers are worse. The perfect course, will, I think, always be as free as the air.  H.N. WETHERED

 

  

Wednesday
Jul012009

"My reaction was extreme disappointment."

Gary D'Amato on the vandalism (with photos) at Brown Deer Park just two weeks before the U.S. Bank Championship. Thanks to reader Nick for this.

About 60% of the putting surface on No. 17 was damaged by vandals on the night of June 23, according to tournament director Dan Croak. The damage likely was caused by a motorcycle or motorcycles.

"I got the call early Wednesday morning (June 24) from Tim," Croak said, referring to course superintendent Tim Wegner. "My reaction was extreme disappointment."

Wednesday
Jul012009

"I want the rough up and the greens firms."

I skimmed Tiger's press conference yesterday in search of his grooves answer, but gave this passage another read today:

Q. Thick rough, no rough. What's your preference?

TIGER WOODS: I want the rough up and the greens firms. I want the build [ability?] to have the guys get the ball down there on the fairways, be aggressive off the tees if they want, get the ball down there, but also have the greens firm enough where it rewards guys for being more aggressive off the tees and getting the ball down there so they can control their spins coming in the greens.

I doubt that Tiger gets too involved in setting up Congressional--that would mean actually speaking to people not under his employ--but it still strikes me as odd that he's dictating setup for a tournament he's playing in. Oh I know, it's his event and Jack Nicklaus probably used to make the call on Muirfield Village's setup when he was still active. Still odd, but what's the Tour going to do, tell him to bugger off?

It's also confusing that Tiger selects high rough as a setup ideal. Especially as he's advocating reward for aggressive driving. That said, the transcript was a weird one and I probably should not read much into it.

Wednesday
Jul012009

"It's a very complex thing, but it's also necessary"

Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post looks at the plans for redoing Congressional's greens and talks to superintendent Mike Giuffre.

"But it comes down to the fact that that grass has performed poorly for us in the summertime the last six or seven years. It hasn't putted like we'd like it to. We need a change."

And so close to the U.S. Open.

Tuesday
Jun302009

How Finchem Got The Grooves Back

The grooves coverage features several intriguing tidbits.

Mike Stachura writing for GolfDigest.com, writing about industry reaction:

Others in the industry see no cause for alarm, however.

"We're very happy they took the decision to move forward," said Benoit Vincent, chief technical officer at TaylorMade. "The USGA had a pretty set schedule, and we have been working to develop solutions within the new rule, so there was no rational reason for us to want to postpone implementation for a year."

E. Michael Johnson talks to players and gets their take on how this will play out, including this from Ping man Ted Purdy, who is about to take delivery on conforming wedges that Ping didn't want to make:

"The game is hard as it is, to make it harder doesn't make a lot of sense to me," he said. "I think people want to see excitement. We'll evolve and we'll be fine and there will be great scores and great shots being hit. But I don't think this was the will of the majority of the players."

Golf.com's Rob Sauerhaft reminds us all that this will have little impact on the everyday game for some time.

How will the rule affect amateur and "casual" golfers? First, equipment companies can continue to sell current models with U-grooves through the end of 2010. Beyond that, the new regulation on conforming grooves will take effect for high-level amateurs in 2014 and for "casual" players in 2024.

That didn't stop Jeff Rude from complaining that this rule change is cruel to the average golfer. They're taking away their Oxycontin! (In 2024.)

If the PGA Tour wants to have its players use smaller-groove irons and wedges, fine. But leave the recreational golfer alone.

Isn’t the game hard and long enough? We’re going to make it harder for the masses in a few years (elite amateurs in 2014, the rest in 2024)? Doesn’t golf already have a difficult time keeping recreational players in the game? Isn’t the game hurting in most corners?

The theory is that reduction of the size of the current U-grooves and the sharpness of their edges would make playing from rough more difficult and, in turn, put a greater premium on driving accuracy and shotmaking.

That’s fine for the Tour, but not for you and me. We play for enjoyment (and today’s equipment makes the game more enjoyable than ever for the garden-variety amateur).

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ...

Tuesday
Jun302009

"Trace the problem to the hiring of Carolyn Bivens as LPGA commissioner in 2005."

Thanks to reader Brian for Bill Pucko's story on the demise of the Rochester stop. Another Brand Lady fan!

Hop on a golf cart with Wegmans LPGA Tournament chairman Jerry Stahl and you quickly come to appreciate how in touch he is.

Stahl is a big shot in Rochester, but he seemingly knows every golfer, caddie, volunteer and fan of his tournament by their first names. It is a large part of what makes the event successful. But the greetings were more melancholy this time around. "Don't let them take our tournament," they said.

It's always something. Stahl has dealt with the purse, the venue, the dates and the sponsor. The weather is a constant crisis to overcome. This is even a tougher nut to crack.

Trace the problem to the hiring of Carolyn Bivens as LPGA commissioner in 2005. Pursued for her marketing expertise, not for her golf world presence, Bivens was charged with bringing the struggling tour into the 21st century. She is proceeding with machiavellian efficiency.

This wire story details the demise of the Kapalua stop, with promises of legal action by the LPGA Tour. And Ron Sirak filed several Tweets today about the dwindling domestic schedule, including this:

My count has 10 full-field domestic LPGA events, as of now, for 2010, and that is generous since two of those do not have sponsors.

I also couldn't help but notice this odd juxtaposition of Tweets from LPGAer Christina Kim and Sirak:

Tuesday
Jun302009

"We're looking at one of the most lethargic, uninspiring, memory-challenged years in the game's modern era."

John Hawkins is probably right, 2009 is shaping up to be one of those forgettable years in golf. But after 2008--the equivalent of a 62--it was going to be tough to follow.

Tuesday
Jun302009

"We've had plenty of time to make our adjustments."

Not the cleanest transcript ever, but you get the idea. Tiger Woods at Congressional, asked about the groove change going ahead in 2010:

TIGER WOODS: I think it's great. We've had plenty of time to make our adjustments. We've known for over a couple years now what this decision was going to be, when it was going to come down, and we've had plenty of time to make our adjustments.

All the companies have been testing and getting ready for this, and the guys will make the changes. Most of the guys play with big groups brought their irons. Only new groups they usually have use their sand wedges. But guys will make their changes, their adjustments.

It'll be interesting seeing guys catching flyers and not being able to spin the ball back out of the rough. Their decision is how they play par-5s whether they will they try and drive drivable par 4s now. Short-siding yourself is obviously going to pay a little more of a price, and you know, how many more 64-degree wedges you're going to see with the balls being as firm as they are. Are guys going to start going to a spinner ball.

Tuesday
Jun302009

"Exactly why the board decided to let Finchem make the call remains, for the moment, unclear."

Steve Elling on the PGA Tour's Policy Board Tim Finchem's groove call:

It will be interesting hearing the four players who have seats on the board explain what happened at the meeting, but at minimum, it removed them from a potentially uncomfortable situation – the players have endorsement deals with manufacturers, which might have created a conflict of interest.

Tuesday
Jun302009

Titleist: "Disappointed"

Boy they work fast up there in Fairhaven. Hot off the presses:

Acushnet Statement re: U.S. PGA Tour Groove Decision

The Acushnet Company is disappointed that the U.S. PGA Tour has decided to adopt the Condition of Competition for the new groove rule effective January 1, 2010.

For the past several months we have communicated with the USGA, the R&A and various worldwide professional tours, our support for aligning adoption of the Condition of Competition with January 1, 2011, the date that manufacturers are required to begin shipping products with the new groove configuration. We believe that alignment of those dates is in the best interest of the professional tours, consumers, retailers and manufacturers. Below are some of the factors that we believe support our position.

Although Acushnet incorporated a new conforming groove configuration into its irons in 2007, we elected to wait to convert our wedges until after the USGA/R&A took final action on the groove proposal. Once the new groove dimensions were finalized, in the rule as adopted in August 2008, we developed a new groove for wedges and began tour player testing in March 2009. We have since tested a significant number of tour players comparing the current and the new groove configurations.

Our test results are consistent with testing conducted by the USGA/R&A that revealed a spin rate reduction of between 30% and 50% for full shots out of the rough. However, our testing also revealed significant changes in ball launch angle, ball trajectory, angle of descent and roll out on the green. The testing also revealed significant differences in performance depending on player club head speed and short game technique. Player reaction to what they saw was dramatic. They were caught off guard by the magnitude of the performance difference and expressed concern about the extent of the transition process.

Momentary pause here to run for my Kleenex box. Continue...

We believe, and players have confirmed, that the conversion process will not be a simple exchange of existing wedges with new grooves. The conversion process may involve different wedge designs and lofts, different shot technique, different golf balls and different set configuration (including drivers). These types of changes are iterative and take time. They also require significant support from players and equipment manufacturers. There are approximately 1,500 exempt tour players worldwide. We don’t believe that this extensive transition process will begin in earnest until late in 2009, when manufacturer tour support is almost non existent. That is particularly true for tours outside of the United States.

The groove rule change is the first time in the history of contemporary competitive golf that equipment performance has been rolled back. Making a change of this precedential significance requires that the conversion process be conducted in a thorough, deliberate manner taking the interests of all constituencies into account. Regardless of how much research and thought went into the development of the rule change, as with any significant change, there are unforeseen issues and complexity, particularly at the point of implementation and adoption. There is no way to predict many of these issues and they only surface during the actual conversion process, as described above. While no one is to blame for these circumstances, the major logistical issues of implementation still need to be taken into account.

Hey, maybe this will force more guys to show up at Kapalua!

One of the most significant consequences of this equipment roll back is that not aligning adoption of the Condition of Competition with the manufacturer sell by date creates a bifurcation between the equipment that the Tours are using and the equipment consumers have available in the market place. That disconnect is also unprecedented. Our research indicates that the majority of retailers and consumers only have an interest in product with the new groove configuration if product with current grooves is not available. On the current schedule that is January 1, 2011. We believe that alignment of these dates to January 1, 2011 is critical as it allows for a thoughtful, orderly and comprehensive implementation of the proposed new grooves for all parties. Non-alignment is not in the best interests of the game of golf and all of its constituencies.

Now that the USPGA Tour has voted to continue with a January 1, 2010 adoption (and we expect all professional tours to follow their lead), we will, as promised all along, make the effort to service all worldwide professional players as best we can. Our irons currently conform to the new rule and we will begin distribution of new wedge product to the professional tours shortly. However, the decision to adopt the Condition of Competition effective January 1, 2010 does not diminish or alter the challenges described above.

Tuesday
Jun302009

And The PGA Tour's Groove Rule Verdict Is...

...they are going ahead with the 2010 "condition of competition." Victory for USGA, Finchem, rough mowers. Finchem conference call highlights:

"full and thorough discussion on delaying, reaffirmation of general support for rule, some issues with the enacting date"

"the board finished discussion by continuing the history policy of using condition of competition, our intention to move ahead January 1, 2010"

"full court press" to make sure every player is paying attention to what he has to do, working with his manufacturer, to be prepared

"some challenges"

"Delaying at this point in time was not in our overall best interest"

"continues to be wide support for rule itself"

Ferguson asks: why in best overall interest? Finchem: "late in the process"

"Board did not take action" according to Finchem. Means no vote was taken, left up to the Commissioner.

Monday
Jun292009

"Do we really need to make this game more DIFFICULT than it already is?"

While we wait for an answer on the groove condition of competition, I saw this Tweet on Golfweek's Forecaddie account Monday:

Not that The Man Out Front is a chop, but riddle me this on grooves: Do we really need to make this game more DIFFICULT than it already is?

This is a pretty common refrain about the grooves, the ball, and any other talk of regulation. And nothing speaks better to the ever softening America culture that wants to eliminate any need for skill.

I'd just like to know from those who find all of this equipment regulation so offensive: what would you like your clubs to do for you that it doesn't do now?

Monday
Jun292009

"Bethpage Black an ideal venue for Ryder Cup"

Mark Herrmann believes the Black course would make a great Ryder Cup venue and gets no major disagreement from the PGA.

Long Islanders should not hold their breath, or make sure they take a really deep breath. The next time the Ryder Cup - the biennial competition between the United States and Europe - has an opening on U.S. soil is 2024. And there are other huge hurdles, such as navigating the sensitive terrain between the U.S. Golf Association, which holds the U.S. Open, and the PGA of America (not to be confused with the PGA Tour).

The topic was raised, though, by U.S. Ryder Cup veterans Phil Mickelson and David Duval, who were buoyed by the crowds at the Open. Both said the Black would be a natural for the international electricity. Mickelson called it "an ideal spot" and Duval said, "Now that would be a heck of an idea."

I can't think of a worse venue than Bethpage. The fans are obnoxious to Americans, how would they treat the European squad?

Monday
Jun292009

"His views haven't stopped him from returning to the club with a group of people in a week's time."

Tom English and Marc Horne interview Gary Player, who drops this little jab at Muirfield, which does not have any female members.

"Golf would not be the game it is without women. Winston Churchill said that change is the price of survival. I agree with that. I just don't see the point of excluding any member of society."

The veteran added: "That policy is their business. It's a decision they've made and they've got to live with it.

"I have designed many golf courses all over the world and I wouldn't like to think any of them would exclude women."

And who says they don't fight back at these old stodgy places?

Club secretary Alastair Brown was taken aback by Player's comments. He said: "We are a private members' club and we conduct our own affairs. We don't have lady members, but ladies play here every day as guests.

"I'm interested in Gary's comments. His views haven't stopped him from returning to the club with a group of people in a week's time."

Monday
Jun292009

PING Wants Groove Rule Change Abandoned

So nice to see the manufacturers agreeing on something. Just a little late, no?

PING Chairman & CEO John Solheim calls for new groove rule to be abandoned, not delayed

June 29, 2009; Phoenix Arizona: PING Chairman & CEO John Solheim, who has adamantly opposed the USGA and R&A New Groove Rule since first proposed February 27, 2007, released the following statement today from the company’s Phoenix, Arizona headquarters:

"The new groove rule harms the game and golfers and should be dropped. The recent uproar about it from PGA Tour players demonstrates this fact,” said Solheim. “However, the PGA Tour's proposal to delay implementing the rule is not a solution. You can't turn a bad idea into a good one by waiting an extra year to adopt it. We hope everyone who cares about the future of this game keeps that simple concept in mind."

A summary of Solheim’s concerns that were shared with the USGA and R&A since the New Groove Rule was proposed is attached.

Here goes...bandwith is cheap!

 

SUMMARY OF PING’S OPPOSITION TO THE NEW GROOVE RULE

Set forth below is a summary of some of the points PING made to the USGA and the R&A during the time they were evaluating whether to adopt the new groove rule:

1. It is simply wrong to place the potentially biased concerns of a small number of Tour professionals above the needs of tens of millions of amateurs. Why are amateurs being needlessly harmed and told to reach into their pockets to pay for an alleged problem that the USGA believes applies to just the PGA Tour? The PGA Tour has undergone tremendous economic growth and success over the past decades, in concert with golf club innovation. Innovation is one of the oldest and most important traditions of golf. Professionals who get their clubs for free should not be causing the rulemaking bodies to force amateurs to buy new clubs.

Well of course we know that's totally misleading, but continues...

2. Once the rulemaking bodies approve a golf club, it should remain approved.

Golf needs respected and responsible rule makers. Respect is earned -- and it can easily be lost. Tens of millions of golfers purchased hundreds of millions of irons and wedges based on the fact that the rulemaking bodies said these clubs conformed to the rules. It simply is not fair to say to the golfing public, "You know those clubs you bought, the ones we said conformed to the rules? Well, we changed our mind. Sorry about that, and you will need to get some new ones." This not only harms amateur golfers, but it damages the respect many have for the USGA and the R&A.

Golfers respect the USGA and R&A?

3. The skill of driving accuracy continues to be richly rewarded. In proposing this roll back of the Rules, the USGA stated: "The skill of driving accurately has become a much less important factor in achieving success while playing [on the PGA Tour] than it used to be...." That statement is not correct. The data from recent US Opens and from

PGA Tour events (including its improved ShotLink data - which was ignored by the USGA) establishes that there remains a significant penalty from landing in the rough. In fact, the USGA is able to define, and obtain, the level of penalty ("Cost of Rough") it desires through its course set-up. Any tournament is free to do the same. ShotLink data also establishes that accurate drives at PGA Tour events continue to result in the ball ending up much closer to the hole after the second shot (a true measure of an accurate shot). In short, there continues to be a significant penalty from hitting into the rough, even for the best players in the world.

I'm so glad Max Behr isn't alive to read this.

4. In targeting grooves, the rulemaking bodies ignored numerous changes that likely impacted the game over the past 30 years. It is nearly impossible to conclude that a single variable (grooves) caused any observed changes to the game at the PGA Tour level over the past twenty five years. To attempt to do so requires that you ignore all of the other changes to the game since 1984 (the year square grooves were allowed), including the following: course conditioning changes, driver improvements (such as large-headed drivers made with exotic materials), shaft improvements, improved golf balls and golf ball cover materials, improved agronomy, increased athleticism, improved player conditioning, improved player training aids, launch angle fitting and even improved coaching. As an example, tremendous course-conditioning changes have occurred on the PGA Tour since the 1970's. According to historical PGA Tour Course Conditioning Guidelines, since the 1970's the length of the primary rough has been reduced by as much as 60%. The height of the intermediate rough (also described as the first cut), is now as short as some fairways used to be. The grass on the fairways & greens is also shorter. If the USGA/R&A are concerned whether PGA Tour pros find it too easy to hit out of the rough, why didn't they focus on changes to the PGA Tour's course set-up guidelines? If the PGA Tour's set-up guidelines were reviewed, why weren't they mentioned in any of the reports? It is unfair to make amateurs buy new clubs, just so PGA Tour pros can continue to play courses without the deeper roughs yesterday's pros were forced to tackle.

Oh that's good stuff there. Roughs are down! The boys have it easy. Sadly, that might actually click with some.

5. The "money list/driving accuracy" rank correlation analysis cited by the USGA to justify its change in grooves is fundamentally flawed. The downward pattern in this correlation cannot be tied to the introduction or increased use of square grooved irons. We believe it is more closely linked to PGA Tour player behavior than the introduction of any particular equipment innovation. We undertook extensive statistical analysis of publicly available PGA Tour data. We quickly discovered the number of tournaments played annually by the top 10 money earners has been gradually decreasing since about the mid-1990’s. In fact, the number of PGA Tour events with 3 or more of the top 10 money earners in the field has dramatically decreased since the 1980's. The decreasing trend in participation by the top money earners at PGA Tour Events closely mirrors the decreasing trend in the money list/driving accuracy rank correlations, and could be the cause of it. All of this was demonstrated, graphically and otherwise, in my letters to the USGA.

Now that is interesting.

6. The USGA has not demonstrated that any change in any PGA Tour statistic is due to grooves. If the rule making bodies believe that grooves are wreaking havoc on the PGA Tour, why is it that among the hundreds of statistics kept by the PGA Tour, no one has ever deemed it worthwhile to identify the specific grooves each individual PGA Tour Pro is using in his irons and wedges. If grooves truly are a problem, it seems obvious that someone would gather and analyze this easily obtainable data before telling tens of millions of golfers the USGA is reversing its prior approval of hundreds of millions of golf clubs. The failure to do so suggests there may be something else going on here.

Yeah the ball flies too far!

7. What happens to hundreds of millions of "Used" golf clubs - which have always been an important asset in golf. I believe it is important to many golfers, particularly PING customers, that their used clubs maintain a great trade-in value, often for twenty or more years. I am concerned that declaring that hundreds of millions of previously approved clubs will later be non-conforming will impact the resale value of those clubs. It is wrong to diminish the value of these previously approved clubs purchased by hardworking men and women simply because a few Tour pros (who get their clubs for free) seem to complain that "golfers today have it too easy." I do not know of a single golfer who quit playing the game because "it became too easy." This new rule will also harm the tradition of passing clubs to children and grandchildren. Used clubs are also an affordable way for many beginners to give the game a try. These concerns may not resonate with some, but they mean a lot to many who love this game and want to pass the passion for golf on to the next generation. Again, are we throwing all of that away simply so the PGA Tour can keep its rough shorter than it used to be?

Hey, I still have a set of Ping Eye2's in the closet John. Care to buy them from me?

Monday
Jun292009

Finchem Teleconference Scheduled

Just reading between the lines here, but I'd say someone is pretty confident that he has the votes to uphold the new groove condition of competition. Otherwise, why schedule a highly unusual media teleconference to talk about just another policy board meeting?

TELECONFERENCE:
PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, Policy Board update

Ponte Vedra Beach, FL June 29, 2009

Members of the media are invited to take part in a teleconference with PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem on Tuesday, June 30, during which he will provide an update from that morning’s PGA TOUR Policy Board meeting.

Date:
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Time:
12 p.m. (Eastern Time)

Monday
Jun292009

"But we think we've taken a C-plus experience and elevated it to an A."

Barker Davis profiles the rebranded and reopened TPC Potomac.

"It was a PGA Tour golf course that was getting C ratings. We just couldn't have that - not in our nation's capital," said PGA Tour Co-CEO Charlie Zink, a Maryland graduate who helped direct the renovation. "This has been a long process with a lot of people, time and resources involved. But we think we've taken a C-plus experience and elevated it to an A."

New type of design classification here:

Though noticeable minor changes were evident on every hole (shifted, smaller greens, sharper bunkering, squared tee boxes, etc.), the following overhauls were noticeable improvements:

The sixth hole - formerly a wretch-reward par 5 begging a lottery-style, long, fading second shot over a creek to a shallow green - has been converted into a superb par 4.

Wretch reward. I guess that describes a hole that is simply unplayable? And here I was thinking that was one of the best holes on the old course!

The Punchbowl Golf guys also filed this review.

Sunday
Jun282009

Groovy Goings On...

...assuming you like tales of big egos, big money and big power plays.

The PGA Tour Policy Board votes Tuesday whether to adopt the 2010 condition of competition requiring the use of new grooves. As Alex Miceli reported Friday, three of four player votes are likely going to say no to adopting the condition for January play.

That means in order to uphold the PGA Tour's original stance in support of the USGA/R&A groove spec change, the five non-player policy board reps would have to overrule the player directors. Most insiders believe this has never occurred in the history of the policy board.

Because it's Congressional week and I try not to contemplate the idea of watching golf played there, let's consider the possible votes and ensuing fallout should the policy board postpone the implementation until 2011:

  • Postponement would be a hit to Tim Finchem's perceived power or at least, the assumption that he has control of the policy board. Finchem has made several public statements in support of the groove change. Having to spin a reversal at this late date will test Ponte Vedra's For Immediate Release wordsmiths.
  • A blow to the USGA/R&A. For obvious reasons. They'll have to retreat from their 2010 implementation at the U.S. Open and can expect to face a full assault, and perhaps even legal action. Bomb and Gouge summed it up better than I in this post.
  • Postponement would be a major victory for Titleist and Wally Uihlein. Several players have told me that master wedge designer Bob Vokey has not yet come up with a replacement groove configuration to his and Titleist's liking. Couple that ongoing research with Acushnet not feeling it will have enough time to properly develop a ball they believe is to their standards and soft enough to satisfy players who would be shifting to less-helpful grooves come January, and you begin to understand why this has become an issue (and why there was Ian Poulter's recent Twitter whining).
  • Postponement could be a major blow to the image of PGA Tour pros depending on how it's spun. Shoot, some have already likened this to golf's version of steroids. If the players need more time to prepare for the changeover, I think they'll be shocked at the apathy and even hostility they face from serious golf fans. Media types have been asking since last fall what players were doing to prepare and most had not given the subject any thought. Curiously, the Nike guys seem very prepared and many of the more thoughtful players have done their homework. (Cink here, Woods here, Immelman/Mickelson/Furyk here, Ogilvy here.)
  • Tough questions would be raised about the policy board's motives. The three players leaning toward a no vote all play the Titleist ball. Ironically, all three stand to benefit from the rule change based on the USGA's theory of forcing a softer ball into the hands of players. David Toms, Brad Faxon and Zach Johnson aren't the longest hitters in the world but all are respected for shotmaking and short game prowess. They will be expected to make convincing arguments about the strength of the USGA's research and implementation if they hope to deflect inevitable criticism. Doable, but also a lot of headache and annoyance they don't need.
  • A huge setback for the new groove configuration. Many behind-the-scenes types roll their eyes at this latest chapter in the grooves saga because they insist that the policy board would only be postponing the inevitable. I don't agree. This is bifurcation and I've never understood how the manufacturers would allow this precedent to be set without a fight. We discussed this several times (including here, here). If the board postpones, I predict that over the next year we will see the USGA's research scrutinized, attacked and we'll witness an all-out PR assault on the decision. You'll hear questions--some very legitimate--about just how many players were interviewed, how many were involved in testing, how wet newspaper shreddings simulate rough, how bifurcation is good for the sport and how exactly the USGA concluded that driving accuracy declined because of grooves instead of say, 22 yard wide landing areas.

If the board adopts the condition of the competition, it's a clear victory for Finchem, the USGA, R&A and fans of the flyer lie. Consider how many golf courses and tournaments were already improved this year by having less rough in anticipation of the rule change (along with common sense kicking in). More of that starting in 2010 is good for the PGA Tour, even better if the less-rough mentality filters down to the everyday game.

If you are in favor of regulating distance for the safety, function and interest of golf architecture, you have to love the equipment rollback precedent set by the groove rule change. But big money is at stake here and I'd be shocked if certain manufacturers go quietly.

At least after Tuesday night we'll know who the most powerful man in golf is.

Sunday
Jun282009

"I have a great team around me and it's great to be back where I feel I belong."

Nice to see Nick Dougherty doing so well and winning the BMW after such rough times in 2008.

Sunday
Jun282009

Donald Turns Down Brand Lady For LPGA Championship

Brendan Prunty reports that the Donald was approached about hosting the LPGA Championship but turned the LPGA Tour when they wanted more than a one-year deal.

"They came here, they wanted to be here and I turned them down," the real estate mogul said at his Bedminster golf club. "They wanted it for more than one year and I didn't want to commit the course for more than one year."

I just wish he would stop being so humble!

Sunday
Jun282009

"Who actually runs golf?"

John Huggan on the possibility that the PGA Tour won't adopt the groove rule change:

When it comes to the rules, the book says it is the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the United States Golf Association. But you have to wonder sometimes.

Take the recent news that the PGA Tour, urged on by equipment manufacturers, is unlikely to adopt the new regulations for grooves on wedges come 1 January. The likes of Titleist, TaylorMade and Callaway are claiming they can't make clubs and balls the leading players will be happy with in time to meet the deadline. Aye right.

Verdict: Meet golf's real supremo, Wally Uihlein, chairman and CEO of Titleist.