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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


    

Tuesday
Sep052006

Bjorn Apologizes, It Was The Disease Talking

Ah, had to apologize so soon! Bjorn couldn't even wait a few days so we could enjoy the bickering. Disappointing.

Lawrence Donegan has the details:

The small band of critics who believe Ian Woosnam is not up to the job of captaining Europe's Ryder Cup team lost their outspoken leader yesterday when Thomas Bjorn, who on Sunday described the Welshman as "pathetic" and "barmy", issued a grovelling public apology. It cut little ice with the European Tour, who fined the Dane a five-figure sum for his "unacceptable" outburst.

"Having had a day to reflect on my comments, I realise I have made a mistake and, as such, have unreservedly apologised to Ian for my comments, which were made in the heat of the moment following the disappointment of not making it on to the European team," said Bjorn.

Bjorn, who has played in two Ryder Cups and was a vice-captain to Bernhard Langer at the 2004 event in Detroit, has a reputation for being one of the more combustible members on the European Tour. "I am a passionate guy who believes that the Ryder Cup is one of the world's greatest sporting events and I was desperately disappointed not to make it into the team," he said yesterday. "I realise that it is 100% the captain's choice and in Lee and Darren I believe he has picked two great players.

"All I want now is for all the media, players and fans to get behind the team for the matches in Ireland and for my comments to be forgotten." He should be so lucky. Woosnam is a proud man and he is unlikely to forgive easily, if at all.

Tuesday
Sep052006

USA Today Story On Course Redevelopment

I'm not sure why it took me so long to put this Dennis Cauchon story from the USA Today up. Perhaps because it's somewhat depressing.

Here's the subtitle: "Golf courses are being plowed under in record numbers to make way for residential and commercial developments."

Golf course openings fell from a peak of 398.5 in 2000 to 124.5 last year when measured in 18-hole equivalents, the National Golf Foundation reports. During that time, course closings soared from 23 to a record 93.5 last year.

When courses temporarily closed for renovation are included, the USA had fewer golf courses open at the end of 2005 than a year earlier — the first year-to-year decline since 1945.

Golfers still have plenty of places to play: 16,052 courses nationwide.

"Golf courses aren't generating the returns people like to see," says Mike Hughes, chief executive of the National Golf Course Owners Association. "The land has appreciated so much in value that it makes abundant economic sense to turn the property over to other uses."

Even more ominous for the future of the game:
Shorter golf courses and par-3 courses are being redeveloped especially rapidly, the National Golf Foundation says.

Some homeowners who bought houses on golf courses have been surprised to see their views disappear. "The golf holes go away and suddenly you have people living in your backyard," says Mike Waldron, executive director of the Georgia State Golf Association.

Golf courses are being built where land is cheaper and more rural. Golfers still have many choices but may have to drive farther to play.

"It's like when your favorite grocery store down the street closes," says Jack Nance, executive director of the Carolinas Golf Association. "You're sad, but you deal with it."


 

Tuesday
Sep052006

PGA Tour Driving Distance Watch, Week 35

pgatour.jpgThe PGA Tour driving distance average jumped from 289.4 yards to 289.6 yards after the Deutsche Bank event at TPC Boston.

The number of 400-yard plus drives for the season rose from 23 to 24 after Scott Gutschewski hit a 400-yarder on TPC Boston's 9th in round one.

And because it's been a while, if you are wondering why these growing numbers are followed, a full explanation is available here

The short and sweet version: the USGA stated in 2002 that any significant increases in distance would prompt regulation. The Tour is up 10 yards in that time, a bigger jump than the alarming 1999-2002 increase.

Tuesday
Sep052006

Skins Game Set...

...Ames, Funk, Couples and Daly at Trilogy. Wow, and all on ESPN on ABC. I finally have the excuse I needed to buy that DVD-recorder I've always wanted.

Monday
Sep042006

Captain Woesnam

Poor Woosy, he's been practicing his Opening Ceremony speech since February and all he gets is a bunch of criticism and backstabbing in return!

John Hopkins reports on the lashing Woosie received from Thomas Bjorn, who insists it's not sour grapes, but instead, fury at Woosnam's lousy organizational skills.

“So far his captaincy has been the most pathetic I have ever seen,” Björn said. “I haven’t spoken to him for six months and now I find that I’m not in the team watching television. How can that be right? He has put a lot of players through misery because he just hasn’t done the right thing.

“I have nothing against Lee Westwood. But if you can find one category in which he has beaten me then I would like to see it. I have played better than him in the qualifying phase — and then Woosnam bases his decision on results which are more than five years old. I don’t understand the way he is handling the whole situation. It doesn’t look like he is burdened by leadership qualities.

“He came into the bar at the hotel and gave me 20 seconds about Lee having won twice at the K Club. In a bar — that kind of sums it up. He can’t walk up to me, tell me in 20 seconds and expect me to be happy. I’m very disappointed. I think he’s been very poor in the way he’s handled the players.”

Woosnam cited Westwood’s two victories at the K Club as being among the factors that influenced him, leaving unsaid that Björn ran up an 11 on the 17th in the final round of last year’s Smurfit European Open when he had begun the day four strokes clear of the field.

“If that’s what it’s come down to then why didn’t he tell me I don’t think you’ve got the bottle to stand on the 17th tee?” Björn asked. “Yes, Lee’s won twice there. But Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros won at Augusta and I don’t think they’d be picked if this Ryder Cup was being played there.

“Woosie played with me when I finished second at the K Club (in 2001) by finishing three-four-three (an eagle and two birdies). So I’ve had good experiences there, too. But if it’s come down to one bad one then why didn’t he tell me?”

Meanwhile, Woosnam is not happy that former Euro Captain Bernhard Langer has advised current U.S. Captain Tom Lehman. But it's Langer who is surprised that he hasn't been consulted by Woosnam! Gosh I love how these big men are getting in touch with their pre-school days!

"I can't understand why he has not asked me for advice or suggestions," Langer said in Munich. "Everyone is different and has their own tactics but the only thing I know about him (Woosnam) is that earlier in his career he had a wonderful swing."
Ooooohhhh, don't just love how the Ryder Cup brings out the sportsmanship and class?

Woosnam revealed he has sought the advice of two other past Ryder Cup captains, while Langar has been offering advice to friend and US team captain Tom Lehman.

The German claimed he held "a little bit" back in their chat but that still seems to have riled Woosnam.

"It seems strange to me that Tom Lehman asked to speak to Bernhard Langer," the Welshman said.

Hmmm...I wonder what it is that Langer and Lehman have in common?


Monday
Sep042006

Tiger's Latest Streak

Doug Ferguson considers Tiger's streak of five straight wins.

Byron Nelson won 11 straight tournaments in 1945, a streak regarded as one of the most untouchable in sports. Woods won six straight at the end of 1999 and the start of 2000, and Ben Hogan won six in a row in 1948.

Woods now takes a week off before heading to England for the HSBC World Match Play Championship, followed by the Ryder Cup. His next PGA Tour start will be the American Express Championship outside London at the end of September.

He still isn’t even halfway home to Nelson’s hallowed mark, but he surpassed Lord Byron in one category with his 53rd victory, moving into fifth place alone on the career list. Woods, who finished at 16-under 268, won for the seventh time this year. No other player has won more than twice.

Of the aforementioned streaks, Tiger's latest is the only to include two major championship wins. Of course, Ben Hogan had a four-win streak in 1953 that included three majors.

After the round, Tiger was asked about the streak and also the TPC Boston, which led to an interesting revelation.
Q. Do you ever think about 11 in a row?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah.

(Laughter.) It wasn't just 11, it was 11 in a row, 12 out of 13, 18 for the year. That will work.

Q. You don't even play 18, do you?

(Laughter.)

TIGER WOODS: Good point.

(Laughter.)

Q. Kind of along those lines, where do you see Byron's record, the 11 in a row, as it relates to UCLA or some of the other or some of the other great streaks in sports?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's part of the streak that it's probably the streak that I've, he had to have so many things go right first of all. In this day and age and the competition, to win 11 in a row would almost be unheard of. What Byron accomplished, that right there goes down to probably one of the greatest years in the history of our sport. Consistency I mean you got to have one bad week somewhere. He never did. His bad week was a win, I guess. So it's I mean it's truly amazing. I know that there were a lot of different circumstances. It was one of those, the field's weren't as strong, it was one of the war years, but still, I just think that what Byron accomplished there goes down as one of the greatest streaks in all of sport. I don't know what DiMaggio's record, I see that being broken more so than winning 11 golf tournaments.

And... 
Q. I know it's early in your career to be thinking about golf course design at this point, but did you see anything out on the course today that you particularly liked, disliked, that if that day ever comes when you start designing courses regularly that you would like to incorporate into what you do?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I have my ideas, yes. And we're going to, obviously, I don't know if anyone knows, we're going to make some changes again this year for the next event, for next year's event. So yeah, I'm going to tray and help out with that, give my opinion and they can utilize it or not. But I am getting into golf course design business here probably pretty soon. So it's something that I'm very excited about to be creative and design a piece of property that people will want to go play. It's going to be challenging, but also be fun.

So that part is really enjoyable to me, because I play golf courses now, I played all around the world, I've seen so many different type of golf courses and the types of styles that I have my own opinion on how the game should be played. And hopefully you get pieces of property which you can make that happen.

Those would be his most definitive comments to date about getting into course design. He has previously said in the next 3-4 years, but this sounds like he may have a project in the works. 

Monday
Sep042006

Annika Wins State Farm...

...and after her final round 62, tournament officials now get to ponder their fate. Dave Kane reports that the State Farm appears to be yet another event in jeopardy.

Monday
Sep042006

Huggan On Picks, Vol. 2

He explains in a Golfobserver.com column why Carl Pettersson didn't get a closer look:

Had the US-based Swede been allowed to join the European Tour at the start of the qualifying period (Pettersson claims he wanted to but was denied by the tour, whose officials insisted he must wait until the beginning of the 2006 season) he would have comfortably made the side without recourse to a wild card. Because of the delay, his PGA Tour victory at the 2005 Chrysler Classic and second place at the State Farm Classic one week later earned the likeable Pettersson nothing in Ryder Cup terms. Then, of course, he won the prestigious Memorial Tournament earlier this year.

It was never to be, however. Even if Pettersson, whose steady game looks ideal for foursomes play, could point to multiple victories on the world's biggest and best circuit during the 12-month qualifying window (and one more than the European Ryder Cup side combined), there was never any real chance of Woosnam burning a pick on someone he couldn't even be bothered to call in the lead up to making his selection. The Welshman has never been one of life's more outward looking individuals and was always going to favour a fellow Brit over a continental European. "Xenophobic" would be too sinister a description for Woosnam's attitude towards those not brought up in the British Isles, but "insular" isn't too far off the mark.

Sunday
Sep032006

Euro Squad Set

Mike Aitken offers Ian Woosnam's thinking on his Captain's picks and the Euro squad, which PGATOUR.com breaks down here.
Sunday
Sep032006

Vijay's 61

After his third round 61, Vijay talked to the press and this was about the only highlight:

Q. In '98 at Sahalee you won in the rain at the PGA Championship, I don't remember how hard it was raining. Was it like this?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't even remember that long ago.

Sunday
Sep032006

Faxon On TPC Boston Changes

Joe Gordon gets a few tidbits out of Brad Faxon on the planned changes to TPC Boston:

“The tour has asked me as a guy who’s been around here for a long time to (help) make some changes,” said Faxon, of Barrington, R.I. “This course will be part of the FedEx Cup and I think they want to try to make it a little more New England style, traditional.

“They picked (architect) Gil Hanse to make the changes. I think he can make some pretty significant changes to the look of the course. It’s not a bad course. I think it plays kind of Florida-like. I think the players like (the course). They need to love it.”

Faxon said there will be changes made to all 18 holes with the two biggest the fourth and 16th. The fourth will become a drivable par 4 and the par-3 16th will be shortened.


Saturday
Sep022006

Martina On Regulation In Tennis and Golf

Thanks to reader George for this Reuters story by Steve Ginsburg quoting Martina Navratilova on the deregulation of tennis. She also compliments the regulation in golf. Little does she know some of us think about as highly of it as she does of the tennis regulation.

Martina Navratilova criticised the tennis establishment on Saturday for not having enough regulations to deal with the size and strings of rackets.

"It takes less skill to hit great shots or to hit powerful shots because you just bang away," Navratilova told a news conference at the U.S. Open. "Tennis used to be more like squash, now it's more like racquetball.

"Hit the ball as hard as you can, it will still go in."

 Sounds familiar. There's more...

Navratilova said "the powers that be aren't regulating" tennis enough.

"I'm disappointed that the racket manufacturers are dictating what kind of tennis we're watching," she said.

"They're saying, 'Oh, this is the rackets we need to be playing with.'"

She praised the strict rules dictated by the Professional Golf Association (PGA).

"If golf regulated their game the same way tennis regulated our game, they'd be hitting 400 yard drives, hooking it left and right, any which way they want to, or keeping the ball straight even though you have a hook swing but the ball still goes straight."

Well actually...eh, I guess Martina hasn't watched much golf lately.

On a related matter, the Agassi matches have been pure heaven because they've delivered glimpses of what tennis was and could be again. I tried to watch a Roddick match, but it was just too painfully dull watching 140 mph ace after ace.

Oh, and the virtual line judge thing for challenging calls? Pretty darn cool. Not all technology is harmful!

Saturday
Sep022006

Huggan On Euro Squad

John Huggan looks at the possible scenarios heading into Sunday's BMW and the likelihood of Clarke-Westwood Captain's picks.

Saturday
Sep022006

Murphy On Boston Golf

Sean Murphy posted a few observations in the first two rounds of the Deutsche Bank event. They can be found on the comment thread about play at the OGA event.

Saturday
Sep022006

Paying $200 To Be Miserable

Thanks to reader Jeff for the latest John Paul Newport column in the weekend WSJ.

Course developers are well aware of golfers' masochistic tendencies, and they spend bounteously to concoct (and maintain) the many cruel features -- bunkers, ponds, linoleum-speed greens that hump and heave -- necessary to crush our spirits. For this reason the most difficult courses are often the most expensive. A rule of thumb for resort and daily-fee properties is that the operators must collect $10 in green fees to recoup every $1 million in outlays for land acquisition, design and construction. Thus a $20 million course charges $200 to play -- a beautiful thing for those who like their humiliation served in double doses.

The mania for building tough courses is also fueled by the need of developers to get their projects onto a top 100 or a best-new-courses list in the golf magazines. Securing a prominent spot can be a make-or-break proposition for hugely expensive projects, especially those whose business models depend on attracting play from traveling golfers. In the notoriously subjective pseudo-science of list making, difficulty is one of the few objective criteria available for consideration. Most courses carry both a Slope rating (a measure of difficulty for average golfers) and a course rating (which measures difficulty for experts), determined by disinterested panels dispatched by the state or local golf associations. Difficulty does often correlate with quality, design inventiveness and the resources brought to bear on a course. But it can also be a red herring.

For players, the lure of difficulty is largely about bragging rights. Like birdwatchers who maintain life lists of all the species they have viewed in the wild, many golfers keep life lists of the top courses they have played -- the tougher, the better. When returning from a trip, it's far more impressive to regale jealous friends with tales of being eaten alive by courses with macho names like the Teeth of the Dog (in the Dominican Republic) or the Blue Monster (in Miami) than it is to boast about playing at a pretty little mountain course, even if playing the pretty little course would have been a lot more fun.

Another goad to taking on the most punishing layouts in the world is the all-but-irresistible urge to play where the tour pros play. On a course seen annually on TV, even a round of overwhelming frustration can be redeemed by a few magic moments. Players hit an astounding 120,000 balls a year (an average of three per player) into the water surrounding the island green on the 17th hole at Florida's Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass. But when Joe Everyman safely drops one on the surface, even if it's his third try, it's a memory of a lifetime -- and entitles him to casually observe to his buddies while watching the next year's Players Championship that he hit his tee shot on 17 exactly where Freddie Couples did.

Pete Dye, designer of some of the world's most feared courses, including the aforementioned Teeth of the Dog and TPC Sawgrass, told me recently he doesn't understand why golfers are so keen to suffer, but added that he's happy to keep building the courses for them as long as he keeps getting paid. One thing I've noticed over the years is that the more skilled and experienced golfers become, the more apt they are to play courses, or from tees, that don't abuse their souls. They know which level of challenge truly tests their game, and which level obliterates it.

 

Saturday
Sep022006

Leverage, Leverage, Leverage

In this Robert Bell story about Greensboro's hunt for a 2007 sponsor, he talks to Greensboro Jaycees Charitable Foundation chairman Bobby Long, who is in Boston this weekend meeting with potential sponsors.
Long spent Wednesday and Thursday in Boston meeting with officials from companies interested in sponsoring Greensboro's tournament.

"We're pretty far along" with negotiations, Long said. "We've gotten some strong indications from companies that they are interested."

Long declined to name the companies. He said a deal could be reached this year, but not before next month's Chrysler Classic of Greensboro.

Tournament officials have been looking for a new title sponsor since January, when DaimlerChrysler informed them it was ending its 11-year affiliation with Greensboro's PGA tour stop after next month's event.

A year ago, civic and private groups pledged a $25 million line of credit to the PGA Tour to sponsor Greensboro's tournament from 2007-10 if a new title sponsor could not be found. Long said it is imperative that a title sponsor be found sooner rather than later.

"When you're on the hook for ($25 million), you start to lose your leverage as time goes by," he said. "Any time you go into a business deal, you want to make sure you have all the leverage you can get your hands on. Time is certainly a leverage in our favor right now, but it could start to work against us."
Do really have much leverage when you're actually talking about how it works, and on the record to a reporter?

 

Friday
Sep012006

Week In Review, August 26-Sept. 3: Ohio, Ohio

WeekInReview2.jpgBetween Tiger's bizarre win at Firestone, Tim Finchem's press conference and the Ohio Golf Association's Champions tournament, last week's events in Ohio continued to provide plenty of fodder. For a first hand account of the OGA event, check out the IM interview with SI's Gary Van Sickle.

Regarding Tiger's drop and the outrage of writers like John Hawkins, reader Etienne writes: I don't think I have ever played a course where the parking lot and clubhouse are in play. This was the most bizaare ruling, I am sure that most players would have been into their bag playing their 4th shot without thinking twice!

TEPaul writes: Maybe the PGA Tour didn't "set-up" the course correctly in the opinion of some by designating the clubhouse an Obstruction rather than OB but since they did do it that way before the tournament and in the tournament "condition of competition" the Tiger Woods ruling was definitely the correct ruling.

Alan Shipnuck chimed in and the responses continued to vary. John Gorman writes: Having played the course last summer, I know that if I or one of my brothers had jacked one onto the roof of the clubhouse, we would have taken stroke and distance without thinking twice. I'm sure the rule is different (though ridiculous) for the tournament. If it had not been a tournament, Tiger would have lost to Cink by a stroke, maybe two.

Jeremy Rudock noted the line, "He got the same ruling every other golfer in the field would have gotten. " He responds: You honestly think Jason Gore would have been given 40 minutes for a rules official to figure out what was going on?

And after Ron Sirak's piece, John N. quotes the story and says, "Shots as off line as the one Woods hit Friday need to be penalized." Well, that kind of sums up his whole point, doesn't it? Never mind what the rules actually say, Tiger made a bad shot, and, golf not being subject to random bounces and odd breaks, he should have had a much more difficult recovery than he actually did. That's only fair.

Tiger Woods mentioned his love of Firestone on multiple occasions and noted it's "right in front of you nature," prompting this from reader ken-one-putt: It's pretty clear that his love of St. Andrews is due to the requirement for inventive shotmaking and intelligent planning of strategy, at which he may as good as anyone--ever. But Firestone hardly calls for that kind play. It's got a series of long, straight, narrow, tree-lined holes that mostly run North/South. Few of them have room to shape the ball, and several have those despicable, tall green aerial hazards near the green that make even some shots from the fairway impossible. So there's no thinking required,Maybe now and then he just likes a break from having to use his brain while playing. Or maybe he's learned that saying nice, nondescript things about golf courses gets him out of the media center faster.

After reading about the U.S. Ryder Cup team taking carts around The K Club, JPB kicked off host course bashing with this:  Is it because the cart paths are the design highlight of the K Club?

My Golfdom column on slow play prompted a number of replies.

Steven T.: I recently played at a more demanding private club in 10 minutes less than 4 hours. Why the differential? Because members care. Golf course operators don't. Cetainly, the public does not.

Kevin: Slow play is due to bad golf course management: 1) putting groups off the first tee at a rate faster than the course allows 2) not monitoring play and eliminating the slow groups.  Let's face it - on a one lane road nobody goes faster than the slowest car...

Smolmania: I saw Frank Jemsek take a group off the course after 9 holes one Friday afternoon. They finished 21 minutes behind the group in front of them, and in 2 hours and 25 minutes. He told them to go into the pro shop and get 1/2 of their money back, and nicely invited them to come back some time if they could play more quickly. I thought one of the guys was going to have a stroke he was so angry. The crowd watching then started to applaud, and he left without even getting his refund!

Solipsist: The first time I heard that some folks in Scotland regularly play a round in 2 1/2 hours I thought it was a joke, but it is eminently do-able once you've seen someone do it and learned the joys of it. If we could just educate the good folks who have merely been led astray by a lifetime of faulty experience, it would be a lot easier to deal with the true asses who know better and still play at a glacial pace.

Regarding the Ohio Golf Association event and their attempt to make older courses relevant with a shorter flying ball, Hux writes: the same effect could be had by raising fairway mowing heights. This was Tom Doak's idea: to keep U-grooves and instead relax the level of conditioning expected on fairways. Agronomic, budgetary and strategic win-win, er, win.

Pete the Luddite: Raising fairway mowing heights slightly would not deteriorate playing conditions and lies. It has the benefit of easier maintenance, less stress to the turf, and lower requirements for chemical applications. Same for greens, too. Let's go back, if not to shaggy greens that required a little muscle, then at least to a mid-point between shag and the current state of affairs: linoleum/concrete smooth and fast.

And in response to some of the player comments and talk of possible USGA rules changes pertaining to u-shaped grooves, Oldschool writes:  The USGA looking at grooves again will drive the consumer out of the market place. The modern golf balls today are harder than Chinese algebra. Titleist has introduced their new prototype Pro- V-1-XX. Groves are not the answer, PGA Tour pros are switching wedges every 4 to 5 weeks, irons every 3 months. If the USGA bans U or Box grooves these Pros are going to be switching out irons every two weeks for a sharp corner. Amauters simply can't afford to play the same game as the Pros, they can't afford it. Simplt put, V-Grooves will not change a thing on the PGA Tour as far as the play is concerned. What will happen, amatures will not be playing the same game as professionals, they won't be able to afford new irons every 3 weeks because their V- Grooves have rounded down. Chalk up another round where the USGA has failed to police the distance of todays modern golf balls.

Scott S: If it came to a choice between balls and grooves, it will be cheaper for everyone in the short and long term to do something with the ball. This should be plain enough, given the lifetime of a ball doesn't tend to last out a season (for me, anyhow...).

And on news that ball maker Volvik is reporting strong sales of the pellet used in Ohio, JPB writes:  If the golf ball manufacturers figure out that if they made retro or high spin or "classic course" balls, they would sell more of them, many problems we now face will get better. I know would buy more balls, certainly would buy a high spin 70's-80's type ball to hit with the old persimmons sometimes. Look how many hats and shirts the other sports sell with the throwback idea.

Friday
Sep012006

"I think you're kind of at the wrong place"

After playing The Ridge in Auburn, California for the Long's LPGA event, the Tour has moved to a new course. And boy does it sound like a good power hike spoiled!

Blackhawk Country Club general manager Larry Marx was flattered when organizers of the Longs Drugs Challenge showed interest in moving their LPGA Tour event to his facility.

He did feel the need to be honest with them, however.

"In our first meeting, I said, 'We'd be happy to talk to you about it, but I think you're kind of at the wrong place,'" Marx said. "It was never that the players wouldn't enjoy the course. We all knew that would happen. But spectator-wise, it's a challenge."

And...

"We love the layout of the golf course. We think the players will love the layout of the golf course, and we love all the type of corporate hospitality we can do," tournament director Brian Flajole said. "It's the distance between the green and the next tee box that is very drastic on some holes."
The distance between green and tee box is so great that players will be shuttled to their next hole on nine of the 18 holes. Fans won't even be allowed access to the 12th and 13th holes -- officials are worried the steep hill that leads up to the 12th tee box is too dangerous.

To counter-balance that, four sets of grandstands will be set up throughout the course, including one set of bleachers on the island green of No. 18, a par 4 considered the Lakeside Course's signature hole.

Really, it's considered that? Wow.

Lakeside Course superintendent Lonnie Stevens said the only major change to course conditions the LPGA has requested is to grow the rough out a half-inch to an inch longer than normal.

"They really want to encourage a good show more or less," Stevens said. "We don't want everyone shooting par. They want some birdies and eagles. They want to encourage players on a few holes to try and drive the green, or on a par 5 to go for it in two."

Wait, grow it out a half-inch to an inch longer than normal? Wouldn't you have to grow it out an inch to make it an inch longer than normal?

Friday
Sep012006

Googling Golf

MacWorld's Rob Griffiths suggest ways that golfers can get the most out of Google Earth, and includes a pretty cool demonstration video.

Thursday
Aug312006

Taking AIM With Gary Van Sickle

AIMDarwin.jpgSports Illustrated senior writer Gary Van Sickle has been covering golf for the magazine and SI's weekly Golf Plus section since 1996.

A fine golfer who once advanced to the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying, Van Sickle was the only non-Ohioan to play in the Ohio Golf Association's Champions Tournament. He joins us to share a few thoughts on the uniform-ball event played last week. 

GeoffShac:    so how did you end up playing in the Ohio Champions event, being from Pennsylvania? :)

GVanSickle:    and not being a champion, either, since i don't think my Yale men's club championship from 1993 counted. They let me in as a media guy who could halfway play. i paid the $175 entry fee, got two dozen OGA balls and a practice round and was off.

GeoffShac:    and how did it go?

GVanSickle:    i'm sure you'd love to hear my three rounds hole by hole but i'll spare you. it went all right. i didn't really notice much lack of distance off the tee. oddly, the balls were about a club longer with irons, even wedges, and they didn't check up very well, if at all. of course, it took me two rounds to figure out the irons went farther. i thought i just didn't know the course.

GeoffShac:    Yes, we'll take a pass on the blow-by-blow

GeoffShac:    so because they weren't checking up did that force you to think your way around the course a bit more?

GVanSickle:    I was definitely trying to hit it short of the pin. the last hole, last round, i had 115 yards to pin, a little wind behind me. my sand wedge max is 100 yards, maybe 105. i hit that, very well. ball landed two feet from pin, ran 20 feet past and onto a gunky lie in the fringe, from where i failed to get up and down. it felt a little like golf on a firm links where you can't control the ball.

GeoffShac:    the course was pretty firm too, right?

GVanSickle:    yes, the greens were relatively firm after a hot, dry spell in ohio. but not exceptionally firm. just about right, i'd say. it was odd that we lost distance because the ball spun more, yet it didn't spin and check up with short irons. one conclusion of the oga guys was that there's a lot more to ball technology than they realized.

GeoffShac:    doesn't Tiger Woods use one of the higher spin rate balls on the Tour?

GVanSickle:    so i've heard. apparently the whole spin rate issue is complex, too. a new phrase i heard from a Trackman technician who was there (Trackman is a new technology that uses radar to track your shot from start all the way to finish--very precise) was angle of descent. that's apparently important. to optimize shots, you want an angle of descent less than 40%. one big hitter i saw tested had a 54% angle of descent. which means the balls ballooned up a bit, then dropped quickly rather than bore through the air.

GeoffShac:    and did you find that this ball went off line more easily in the wind or if you hit it with a certain "angle of descent"?

GVanSickle:    no, the ball seemed to go no more offline than usual... if that's possible to say for a player of my limited skill. we had three measured drives over two days. first day, i carried OGA ball 238, titleist pro VI 246. second day, i hit OGA ball and carried it 249. that's close to my approximate normal carry, last measured at 252. my swing speed was 104, ball speed 155. this ball hurt higher swing speeds more than lower ones, which was the idea, i believe.

GeoffShac:    wait, so they had you hit a pro VI on the measuring holes too?

GVanSickle:    just once. on the 18th hole in practice round, they let you hit one OGA ball and one of your usual brand. a kind of mini-test.

GeoffShac:    ah

GeoffShac:    so in general, not to sound like a marketing survey here...

GeoffShac:    but did you find the golf more enjoyable, less enjoyable, about the same, none of the above?

GVanSickle:    For me, it was slightly less enjoyable. not because of any loss of distance. i didn't lose enough to make a difference. i know some of the college kid big hitters did. the inability to stop a shot, something we've long taken for granted, was annoying. while I and others whined and moaned about the ball performance, the fact is, we're golfers. we adjusted. if this was the only ball in golf, we'd live with it. but knowing there are longer balls out there, nobody wants to use it again.

GeoffShac:    but say the distance reduction was maintained, but some of the control characteristics of the modern ball were maintained, do you think it would have been more fun?

GVanSickle:    I don't know if anybody would say more fun. we've got long memories. let's just say if you began the game playing this ball and never knew any differnt, you'd be perfectly happy. nobody wants to give anything, especially the guys who fly it 295 yards. what's fun in golf is scoring. it's fun reaching par 5s in 2. it's fun to dominate par 4s with driver-wedge. that doesn't make it a great competition, which is why the OGA is looking for a way to keep its classic older courses in play for its own tournaments.
GVanSickle:    if augusta national starts to get short again after the latest round of renovations, i'd look to see the masters institute a one-ball rule like this if officials there get desperate. but i think they're ok for a few years.

GeoffShac:    last question, almost

GeoffShac:    what kind of irons do you play and what kind of grooves do they have?

GVanSickle:    i was using callaway x-tour irons and you know, i don't know what the grooves are.

GeoffShac:    well if they are u-grooves, they may become illegal if the USGA is to be believed

GeoffShac:    what would be easier to give up, the irons or the current ball you play?

GVanSickle:    i don't know if the average guy hits it well enough to really take advantage of U-grooves. i'd give up the grooves first. that would be easy. if the usga really wanted to start something, they could turn golf into baseball and let the pros use only wood (persimmon) and the public use metal. that would solve the whole distance issue immediately. metal woods were where the game first got away from the usga. but of course, that's utterly impractical now.

GeoffShac:    yeah, it's your basic mess

GeoffShac:    well thanks for sharing your insights

GeoffShac:    and keep up the great work

GVanSickle:    no problem. the oga proved it can be done. let's see if anyone else gives it a try.

GeoffShac:    yes, it should be fun to see...if you believe the makers of the OGA ball, someone out there is ordering a whole bunch!

GeoffShac:    thanks Gary, I really appreciate it

GVanSickle:    no problem. it was great being had!