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 โ€“ A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event โ€“ A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer

I've been playing the game so long that my handicap is in Roman numerals.



Day Two Of Northern Trust Hostage Crisis: Morgan Stanley Abducted!

This Reuters story explains how Morgan Stanley will be at the Memorial in name only. Sort of like most of the tournament's past honorees.

"We've canceled our participation in the event due to the environment," a spokeswoman said, though she declined further comment.

Meanwhile Hostage #1, Northern Trust, posted a somewhat defiant letter on their website from CEO Waddell. I think this thing could drag on for a while. Bring in a negotiator!

Bloomberg's Christopher Condon reveals all sorts of interesting details about Northern Trust. Let's start with this on Wells Fargo, which controls golf's sixth major, the Wachovia Championship:

Wells Fargo & Co., a recipient of $25 billion in government aid, said it’s cutting spending on the Wachovia Championship golf tournament April 27 through May 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia Corp. in December, is evaluating all sponsorship agreements to determine how they benefit the company and communities, Mary Beth Navarro, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based company, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Is that any way to treat a major?

Frank said today in an interview he was “disappointed” with Northern Trust’s reaction to his letter. “They can’t argue anymore that they didn’t want the money but Paulson made them take it. While that’s accurate, they can return it now.”

I'm telling you NoTrust gang, print up a big winner's check, Barney's name and it'd be a beautiful moment for all.

Unlike TARP recipients such as Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., Northern Trust has remained profitable amid the financial crisis. The company, which has handled accounts for President Barack Obama and his wife, reported operating profit of $323.3 million in the fourth quarter, a 48 percent increase compared with a year earlier.

Wow, there's a buried lede if I've ever seen one. And...what?

The company managed George W. Bush’s investments in a blind trust during his presidency. Obama and his wife, Michelle, had their checking account and home mortgage with Northern Trust as of mid-January.

See, not all bad publicity is bad!

As far as columnists go, the L.A. Times' excellent Michael Hiltzik mostly gets it right (until he starts quoting that Dwyre piece on Chrysler) and in a moment of good news for the PGA Tour, seems to differentiate between spending money to sponsor a golf tournament and spending lavishly to entertain fat cats.

The bank plainly didn't realize that the ground has shifted beneath the industry's feet; in the post-meltdown spotlight, no institution, no matter how fiscally virtuous it thinks it is, can do business the old way. One reason that banks have become such a despised species is that their managers still resist publicly accepting responsibility for their role in the financial meltdown. Instead they resist caps on executive pay and gripe about coming regulations.

In the current economic environment, there's no way to rationalize an entertainment expenditure that looks so insensitive on the surface.


Tiger Shows No Ill Effects In Comeback From Head-On Bus Collision

Wait, sorry, wrong "most anticipated comeback in golf history," as Kelly Tilghman put it after that enormously lame opening capped off by Frank Nobilo doing a Tiger fist pump.

I just want to know: who was standing next to the green-screen holding a gun to Frank's head?

Since they made a movie about Hogan's bus accident comeback at Riviera--the previous most anticipated comeback in golf history until today's event in Arizona--I've been trying to envision a similar epic in the vein of Follow the Sun, only this time shot at The Ritz Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain. Just doesn't have quite the same ring to it, eh?

Anyway, all of the day-one matches were nicely summarized here by

From the parts I saw, Tiger's swing looked incredible and kudos to Golf Channel with the side-by-side comparison between Saturday of the U.S. Open versus today's swing. It made up for Rolfing's early telecast Rossie moments (Oh it's started right and really high, ballooning in the's four feet for birdie!).

In reading the coverage, the most interesting accounts focused not on Tiger, but his relatively unknown opponent.

Bob Harig offers this observation and comment from Jones:

During the long walk between the first green and the second tee, Jones found himself walking with the masses, where he heard somebody remark that just nine more holes were necessary for a 10 and 8 outcome -- which would mean Woods' winning every hole.

"That annoyed me to a point," said Jones, who couldn't have been happy to see Woods float a 5-iron from 235 yards to 4 feet at the second to set up an eagle.

"I've never hit a shot like that, that high and soft," Jones said. "He hits some shots that other people can't hit."

At his peril, Steve Elling acknowledges the presence of other players while noting why Tiger's match started late.

This time, there wasn't an inch of wood available in the bleachers. Fans stood four deep around the tee box, and they lined the ropes all the way to the green some 460 yards away. It was a bigger crowd than when Cink played Woods in the championship match last year.

"I just told everybody on the first tee that he's waited eight months to play," Cink said. "He can wait two more minutes."

Cink wound up winning his match, one of six that required overtime.

Cameron Morfit notes this about Jones.

Unlike the Accenture's first round in 2008, when J.B. Holmes nearly upset Woods, Jones looked like he was in over his head.

"We have to buy our own lunch," Jones said earlier in the week, when asked about the differences between the Japan Tour, where he works, and the PGA. He added: "You don't have the media to a point that we have got here or in America in general."

Preparation had gone well enough. Jones secured a seasoned caddie, Ron Levin, through his friendship with Levin's old boss Todd Hamilton, another Japan Tour veteran. Jones and Levin began learning the new course on Monday, and there was much work to do. Woods had not hit a shot in competition since last June. But that didn't necessarily give Jones a leg up; because of the vagaries of the Japan Tour's schedule (it doesn't start until mid-April), he had not competed since early December.

And Jeff Rude shares this:

This is a candid, affable Australian who isn’t shy about sharing thoughts about his raw emotions.

“I’ve been nervous ever since I found out I was playing him,” Jones said. “Today was my least nervous. When you think about him in bed, he’s very daunting. I’m a bad sleeper. That’s why last night surprised me when I got good rest. I was dreading the thought of having to play him on no sleep.”

That kind of talk helps explain why Woods is so difficult to beat. His opponents lie in bed thinking about him. Woods, meanwhile, doesn’t spend a second thinking about the Brendan Jones of golf. Or the Phil Mickelsons, for that matter.


"Not having to spend millions upon millions of dollars to change golf courses for four rounds"

It's been so long since I've had anything to add to The List. Great to see what Greg Norman had to say this week:

Norman, who was in Australia to play the Johnnie Walker Classic last weekend in Perth, also said golf's international administrators should limit the impact of technology to save time and money rather than lengthen courses to accommodate for players hitting the ball further with increasingly advanced clubs.

"I think the powers that be could have done a better job of managing the technology breakthroughs that took place over a period of time and implemented different rules for us, the professionals, and not having to spend millions upon millions of dollars to change golf courses for four rounds," he said.


Goodell Takes Voluntary Pay Cut, Will Any Of Golf Execs Do The Same?

Of course when you are making $11 million, it's a totally different pay grade than a measly $4.8 million.



Not All Bad News For Golf!

Keith Kelly in the New York Post looks at Conde Nast's advertising slide but notes:

Only one magazine in its stable is showing a rise over a year ago: Golf World, a small circulation weekly, that is up 16.5 percent through the Feb. 23 issue.

And Sean Martin reports that despite executive upheaval and huge losses at Nationwide, the insurance giant is continuing its support of the PGA Tour’s developmental circuit:

John Aman, Nationwide’s associate vice president of strategic sponsorships, said he does not expect any “wholesale changes” to the company’s marketing approach.

“We remain committed to the Nationwide Tour, as well as our other sponsorships,” Aman told Golfweek. “That’s a question we’re getting asked across the board, and it’s part of what we think we need to do to be in the marketplace in a competitive insurance climate.”


"I would still say we are in a position where we can see lesser growth โ€” but growth."

The most disturbing thing about FBR pulling out of the Scottsdale stop (thanks Steven T.) is not that a penny stock investment group can't go on, but that the Commissioner is talking about "bumps in the road" and offering this as reported by Doug Ferguson. Finchem is discussing extensions with Travelers and Accenture during a press room gathering Tuesday:

"In these times, any level of growth is a victory," he said. "And if I had to guess right now where we come out after another year of this, I would still say we are in a position where we can see lesser growth — but growth."

Is the growth mantra is appropriate right now? I'm guessing Greg Norman suggesting this (thanks reader John) would not agree with Commissioner:

"Prize money's being scaled back in Europe, I wouldn't be surprised if prize money's scaled back in the U.S. just out of respect to every citizen and taxpayer over there who's suffering dramatically," the two-time British Open champion was quoted as saying Wednesday on the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Web site. "It seems like on the PGA Tour the players are still playing for a million dollars first week, like they're recession-proof.

"I think there's got to be a lot of sensitivity shown. If I was PGA commissioner that's what I would be recommending," he said.


The Day Corporate Cool Died?

I leave for a few hours and we go from a shoddy TMZ report with exaggerations and blatantly incorrect information about the Northern Trust Open, to prominent members of Congress using it to call for everything but a public execution.

There are a number of ways to look at the Northern Trust situation. Obviously it's hard to sympathize with a group that received TARP money going on to do over-the-top entertaining when other recent examples of such excess have turned prominent companies into dirty words (A.I.G.).

Northern Trust signed on as L.A. Open sponsor to build it's brand in the west. Well, today they went national today.

On the other hand, Northern Trust is a victim here. Having been forced to take TARP money they apparently forgot there were new rules of doing business attached to that money no matter how unnecessary they believed it to be. If CEO Rick Waddell and his board had any cojones, he'd hold a press conference tomorrow with a big $1.6 billion winner's check in his hand and an offer to give it all back to the government.

My initial reaction to these events has more to do with the PGA Tour and the future of the sport. You may recall that I spared you more detailed thoughts about the direction the L.A. Open has taken with Northern Trust and PGA Tour's Championship Management whispering in their ears to push out the L.A. Junior Chamber of Commerce, corporatize everything in sight and in general, make the event more like events the PGA Tour operates: bland, soulless and devoid of local character but "elegant" to the discerning corporate clients visiting from Chicago who can pass a blindfold taste test between Grey Goose and Smirnoff.

While some of you might giggle at my pleas for an 18th green manual scoreboard, it's little things like this that lie at the heart of the utterly disastrous direction the PGA Tour has taken where the corporate world takes total priority over the experience of the everyday fan.Do we really need an on course concierge? (click image to enlarge)

As Barack Obama spoke Tuesday night and made the boldest declaration yet to end corporate greed, malfeasance and excess, I couldn't help but think that the PGA Tour had better be holding emergency meetings through the night figuring out how to wean themselves from a fatal attraction to this peculiar world of arrogant excess that mercifully died on February 24, 2009.

Obama: "I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over."

Countrywide was visible at the 2009 NTO (click to enlarge)This doesn't mean golf or the days of golf tournament sponsorship are over. Nor does this unravelling of greed and corruption mean that corporations are going to be going away as hosts of golf tournaments and supporters of the game. And nor do we want them to go away.

However, the folks running the game are going to have to rethink their complete and utterly nauseating obsession with pleasing often out of touch and sometimes downright moronic hooligans who want tinted windows on their elevated luxury boxes so they can look down on the little people, who have little genuine regard for the values golf stands for, and who consistently display a disdain for anything beyond themselves.


Report: Tiger Woods Nearing Return To Competition

Based on this match play bracket, it seems he is due at 2:02 EST. Then and only then will we get some closure.

And it sure sounds like he'd love to ditch the match play from his schedule based on his remarks about the course. Shocking, I know, that the PGA Tour moves to an untested Jack Nicklaus design and it seems to, well, stink.

Jim McCabe on

Welcome to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, which will not elicit many warm emotions toward the designer, even if his name is Jack Nicklaus. Diplomatically, Woods called the greens “severe,” which is like saying the desert can be dry. Opened Jan. 17, the Ritz-Carlton GC features one wild putting surface after another, and while Woods had never seen the place until he stepped onto the first tee just after sunrise, some four hours later he was able to provide expert testimony that the quirky greens will dominate this week’s play.

Gary Van Sickle files this ringing endorsement and longer quote from Tiger.

As for this week, Woods commented on the obvious: the greens on this new Jack Nicklaus design are clearly over the top.

"The greens are a little severe," Woods said. "The speed of the greens is down because if they ever got them up, you couldn't play. It'll be interesting to see how the tour sets up the pins. The greens have so much pitch and slope and movement, there aren't a lot of pin positions they can go to."

I guess I might as well debut my new Tiger translator, which takes his delicately worded quotes and spits out what he's really thinking:

"Jack still can't do a decent green," Woods said. "They're unplayable if they are more than 10 on the Stimp. They have no more than a couple of hole locations per green. Real shrewd planning there Jack! This is why I get $25 million and you only $2.5 mill. I'd drop this dog from my schedule if Accenture weren't my sponsor."

Meanwhile the Armchair Golf blog lands an exclusive with Tiger's left knee.

Steve Elling describes the scene this morning when Tiger appeared and more importantly, the majority of the golf media arrived at the press center three hours earlier than normal.

Considering the buildup, the day was surprisingly devoid of soppy sentimentalism. In fact, since Woods teed off shortly after 7 a.m. and the gates didn't open until 7:30, the first cry of "Welcome back, Tiger," didn't occur until a pair of elderly women shouted it in his direction on the fourth hole. Woods, never one to acknowledge much, actually turned to the pair and said, "Thanks." They giggled like a pair of schoolgirls.

The scene before dawn on the practice range looked more like a red-carpet opening on Broadway, with golf paparazzi lined up on both sides of the ropes. Approximately 50 cameramen were encamped on the range awaiting Woods, who was in the clubhouse eating breakfast.

When Woods appeared, whirring camera drives erupted in a cacophony of beeps and buzzes. Somewhat humorously, longtime rival Phil Mickelson actually beat the notoriously early rising Woods to the range, and he cast an occasional bemused look in the direction of the comeback kid.

A moment later, as he tried to push his way through the crowd of media packed around Woods on the range, Mickelson's coach, Butch Harmon cracked, "What are you guys watching?"

Jason Sobel will be live blogging every excessive comment made by the Golf Channel crew. Actually, I believe the telecast will be reuniting Azinger and Faldo, so it may just be watchable.


Governing Body Reigning In Technology...

As Lisa Dillman reports (thanks reader Scott), the folks overseeing swimming have had enough of hi-tech suits. Inspiration for our friends in Far Hills and St. Andrews:

Among the proposals was that FINA establish its own independent control and testing program. Swimsuit makers can make submissions for approval of suits until March 31. The next major meet of significance is the world championships in Rome, starting July 18.

"With these amendments, FINA shows that it continues to monitor the evolution of the sport's equipment with the main objective of keeping integrity of sport," FINA President Mustapha Larfaoui said in a statement.


Stenson A Stanford Financial Victim

Alex Miceli reports.


TMZ Stunner: Northern Trust Paid To Host Tour Event, Had Courtesy Cars Too!

Gossip site TMZ seems to think they scored a major exclusive by reporting that Northern Trust paid millions to host a PGA Tour event and get this, providing Mercedes courtesy cars.

Sadly, TMZ apparently was unable to do a basic Google search and needs to have it explained that these cars were provided at Mercedes' expense for the PGA Tour players, not the bank.

Ah but that would get in the way of a good non-story!

I do agree that some of the excesses detailed are embarrassing in light of Northern Trust laying off 4% of its work force in December and taking (forcibly!) TARP money. It's equally embarrassing for Congress, which didn't hold Henry Paulson accountable for holding banks accountable and it's really humiliating for activist/singer/songwriter/raconteur Sheryl Crow, who is way too talented to be performing for a bunch of stiff bank VIP's.

But this part of the report is borderline comical:

Lots of people from Northern Trust went to the golf tourney ... in special Mercedes that shuttled them to and from the hotels. But for those who weren't into golfing, they could spend a few hours at the Northern Trust seminar on the credit crunch.

If anyone at TMZ is reading, here's the press release on the Mercedes about those "special" Mercedes.

Now, if it turns out that the PGA Tour's finest were shuttling bank execs to the course and then teeing it up, then that would be a good story.


Newfound Minimalists

My January Golfdom column is now online and it probably won't help my already slim chances of winning the ASGCA's Donald Ross Award.



Stage Three In Stevie's Rebranding: Pose In Tank Top With Pitchfork

Connell Barrett talks to Stevie Williams about caddying for Tiger Woods, Phil's complete understanding of the media spinning the truth and the epic wedge shot at Torrey's 18th.

This Golf Magazine piece follows his touching release of a rare bird that just happened to include a cameraman nearby and an NBC announcing gig.

On how he got to carry Tiger's luggage:

Then, in March 1999, Williams' phone rang again. It was someone claiming to be Tiger Woods. Woods had recently fired Mike "Fluff" Cowan, and Tiger wanted a veteran caddie who, in Williams' words, "could stimulate and extend him."

I knew they were close, but geeze. That description coupled with this photo accompanying the article might give some the wrong impression. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Williams expects pandemonium when Woods returns, and he's ready to resume his role as the Tour's resident tyrant. "People have this image of me as a bully, but my job is to give Tiger a level playing field against 150 other players. We have more photographers and press following us than anyone. To those who criticize me, I say come walk with us through practice rounds, pro-ams, the whole week, and then tell me I'm a bully." Williams regrets kicking a photographer's lens at the 2004 U.S. Open and tossing a camera into a pond at the Skins Game. But be warned: If your shutter click-clicks in Tiger's backswing, your camera may join Luca Brasi. "Heaven help anyone who bothers my boss," Williams says.

On behalf of the blogosphere Stevie, we thank you in advance!

On calling Phil a prick and making up a story about a spectator making a comment that never happened:

"I made a mistake in a fun atmosphere," Williams says. "It was a joke taken the wrong way. I was having banter with a writer. I should not have said it. Tiger was not happy. I called Phil and spoke to him to clear the air. He was very sympathetic. He said, "Steve, I totally understand.' He's had his own problems with the media. So the matter is settled."

Isn't it always the media's fault? 



Greetings From L.A. Final Mop-Up

I was going to bellow on about the corporatization of the tournament and how that is subsequently draining life from a once well-attended event and suggest ways to breathe new life into the L.A./Northern Trust Open, but really why bother? When the PGA Tour takes over tournament operations next year they'll whip out the Championship Manual and do their clean, sterile, boring thing. Crowds will continue to dwindle, the event will look just like a WGC minus Tiger, and I'll still be begging for an 18th hole scoreboard because the folks in Ponte Vedra don't ever actually go to a golf tournament on their own dime to experience it like a fan.

Instead, I thought it would be more productive to post the final ShotLink data and a more manageable plea to the far more agreeable and savvy folks who operate this wonderful technology. Could we revisit the 10th hole's "Going for the Green" stat? I think 3% of the field taking a crack is just slightly off!10th hole's four-round tee shot dispersion (click to enlarge)

For those of you shot dispersion junkies, here's this 2009's four round scoring from the location of the tee shot. (Right)

And finally, reader Steve emailed to ask how my prediction that the newly restored but poorly shaped short grass on No. 10 played out. You may recall that I noted how the poorly reshaped slope off the green, restored as short grass this after the brilliant idea to take one of the best features away, needed no help after surviving 81 years of play. Still, it was steepened and the Mickelson Mounds added to discourage drives near the 11th tee. However, the new area was collecting balls in the same small spots instead of a more diverse distribution that the gradual slope would have allowed.

Nice work by the Riviera crew to mask lousy shaping (click to enlarge)I point this out not to belabor the minutiae of golf architecture, but for you to file it under the old "why can't they build 'em like they used to" slot in your memory bank.

Well I figured I had it wrong because the area looked splendid Sunday. Then I walked on it while trailing the leaders and noted that the stellar Riviera maintenance staff has been ably masking the modern architect's failed shaping with very discreet Kikuyu patches where divots were created. Yet again, the superintendent makes an architect look good.



Blow For The Written Word: GWAA Awards Shut Out "For Immediate Release" Entries!

Suicide prevention hotlines in South Florida, greater Wilton and pockets of Manhattan reported an uptick in calls Monday as the Golf Writer's Association of America handed out its annual awards for golf's Kleenex-assisted-required reading most compelling writing of 2008. Notably absent this year were any winning entries that originally included a phone number and contact number. A nice improvement over last year.


"Latest flap calls Dubai's tolerance into question."

As lousy as the PGA Tour's week was with the Stanford Financial and UBS news, you have to think the chinks in Dubai's armor might actually be more embarrassing. Granted, neither was tied to golf, but as John Strege seems to be suggesting, it may only be a matter of time before Dubai shames the game.



"The more Phil talks about Masters buildup, the more golf will become like tennis."

I make a guest appearance on this week's SI/ Mag/Time Inc./People Magazine mass market paperback to discuss all things golf.

I'd like your thoughts on the content of this exchange, starting with my comment:

It's also fascinating how the win here, the Match Play and everything else are clearly secondary to him behind The Masters. He's just repeated at Riviera, which used to mean something, and all he can talk about is how it was great to be in contention to prepare him for Augusta. And the Match Play? He says it's like six final rounds, which is great preparation for The Masters. I don't ever remember someone winning here and viewing it that way. Got to love his focus on the big prize, but it's not like this is a silly season event.

Van Sickle: That's more of the Tiger Effect. Only the majors matter to him, and therefore to the rest of us. The Hogan history at Riviera, and also at Colonial, has very little meaning for the players two generations removed. Too bad.

Evans: The more Phil talks about Masters buildup, the more golf will become like tennis. Can anybody remember watching tennis outside of the Grand Slams? Golf is headed in that direction, despite reports to the contrary from the Golf Channel.

Now I may be misinterpreting Phil's reaction because he gets very strange in the media interview room depending on who asks a question. And I will say his caddy Jim "Bones" Mackay was visibly thrilled by the win and made sure to grab the flag on 18 for his collection of winning 18th hole flags.

But what do you think of what Van Sickle and Evans had to say about the bigger picture issue of majors overshadowing tour events?


Greetings From L.A., Phil-Grinds-Out-A-Win-Edition

The general malaise displayed by Sunday's Northern Trust field resulted from a return of the dreaded Beef Stroganoff cream-of-too-much-butter pasta in the media center dining room following a week of stellar menu options.  Players could sense post round interviews would come before a refluxing band of scribblers and therefore played tentatively throughout Sunday's gloomy but warm finale.

That's my theory anyway.

Phil Mickelson sprayed it around Riviera this weekend and has a 62-72 finish and second straight Northern Trust Open trophy to show for it.Phil Mickelson tees off on the 4th Sunday (click on image to enlarge)

You can look at his win two ways.

Behind door number one, you could say his ball striking is a mess and he was lucky to win. After all, how many times of you heard of a Hall-of-Famer hitting balls after a 62?

And behind door two, you could say that much like Tiger, Phil's a man among boys. He can be shaky with the ball striking, still post two over-par rounds, and go on to win a big time event on a course that exposes the slightest miscues.

I'm definitely voting for option two.

Fred Couples approaches the 1st hole Sunday as fans and photographers look on (click to enlarge)A similar conclusion could be drawn about Fred Couples, only his problems were on the greens (well, until the shank on 18). He outdrove Phil and Andres Romero several times and his overall iron play was stellar. Not bad for a 49-year-old part-time golfer.

As for the media center reports, Doug Ferguson does a nice job encapsulating a bizarre final day.

John Bush at shares some pretty impressive "With This Win" deals, including this one which should give Phil slightly more satisfaction than the 500 FedEx Cup points he picked up:

The win moves the left-hander out of a tie with Vijay Singh and into solo possession of 13th place on the all-time wins list.

Freddie's record isn't too shabby either:Andres Romero plays a remarkable recovery on No. 5. Note how far right he's lined up to compensate for the sidehill lie (click on image to enlarge)

Fred Couples, the 2009 United States Presidents Cup captain, made his 27th start at the Northern Trust Open a good one, finishing tied for third. His amazing record here includes wins in 1990 and 1992, as well as 25 made cuts, 19 top-25 finishes and 13 top-10 finishes.

Mickelson on 14 (click on image to enlarge)Helen Ross wonders if in spite of the win, if this is really the confidence booster Phil had hoped for.

Ferguson also notes that Couples was playing with a heavy heart, making his play that much more impressive.

Jim Achenbach does a beautiful job explaining why Riviera is such a great spectator course.

This reminds me how much I detest modern courses that are virtually unwalkable because they sprawl from one housing segment to another. Sometimes the ride from green to tee is longer than the ride from tee to green. In my mind, there is a disconnect in this design scheme. One hole never seems to flow naturally into the next.

One last Phil shot, the 9th tee shot (click to enlarge)Unless you are Walter Driver and Fred Ridley looking for validation of the change-courses-not-the-ball philosophy, don't read the rest of the column where Jim says that it's time for the governing bodies to start looking out for the Riviera's of the world, and then advocates...oh I can't even type it. And to think we could have bickered about this Jim!

Speaking of the ball going too long, I had heard from a marshal that Shigeki Maruyama was nailed in the back by an incoming range ball Saturday while he was in the 11th fairway...past the barranca. For those of you who don't know the course, this requires about a 330 yard carry.  A reliable source says Shigeki is still awaiting a show of concern/acknowledgment of pulse from the culprit, the one and only J.B. Holmes.No. 18 continues to be one of the great stages in the game (click to enlarge)

That's all for now, but I have a few more NTO posts to mop up with this week. For now, hope you enjoy the black and white images and other iphoto distorted stuff. As someone who loves the old imagery of L.A. Opens past, I thought it'd be nice to see 2009 the way tournaments used to look. And besides, it was a B&W kinda day Sunday, don't you think?


"We gave him his first exemption."

Before we crown another winner here in L.A., I wanted to post this item from Jill Painter that ran earlier this week in the L.A. Daily News and earning huge eye rolls from the assembled scribes. Quoting Rick Waddell of Northern Trust on the chances of luring Tiger back to the Northern Trust Open:

"I fully expect he'll play in the Northern Trust Open in some years ahead," Waddell said. "When he does, I hope I'll present him the trophy like I did with Phil last year."

Mickelson had taken the Northern Trust Open off his schedule for five years before returning in 2007, when he lost in a playoff.

Woods isn't playing the event for the third consecutive year. He's played 11 times at Riviera, including two as an amateur, but has never won here. It's Woods' longest tenure at a tournament without a victory.

This is essentially a home tournament for Woods, who grew up in nearby Cyrpess, so Waddell has good selling points.

"This is a golf course that's very familiar to him," Waddell said. "We gave him his first exemption."



Greetings From L.A., 63-72-62 Edition

A 5 a.m. wake up call afforded me the chance to:

(A) watch John Mutch set up the back nine so Phil Mickelson could torch it in 30 for a 62 to follow his 63-72

(B) check out the huge sucker hole location on No. 10 that Mutch thought might be too easy but, for a second year in a row, proved way too deceiving for the majority of today's bomb and think about the consequences later

(C) think long and hard about the need to compliment the first rate media food service with a small nap area here in our media hanger for these soft, overcast, muggy days after a nice hot lunch. I'm thinking clear booths like the radio people passed on using this week so we can all see who just couldn't stay away any longer and had to lie down.Phil Mickelson after missing his birdie try on 18 that would have tied the course record (click to enlarge)

The chances are slim since last year's pleas to restore the manual scoreboard on 18 were ignored. The chances will dim even further next year when PGA Tour Championship Management steamrolls over any semblance of non-corporate aesthetics and local flavor in favor of sterility, so I guess I'll just curl up under a tree next time sleep beckons.

Fred Couples tee off on No. 9 (click on image to enlarge)Thankfully the golf was lively today, with the overcast skies apparently making it easier for players to see, as Fred Couples talked about in his enjoyable post round press conference. The cloud cover added a little "stick" to the greens in Mutch's word as we drove around and boy did the players respond. Mind you the greens were still pretty firm but just a shade slower and receptive.

Now, I know I beat this 10th hole thing to death, but watching today and witnessing the nearly endless stream of mindless shots reminded me why it is so fun and vital in gauging a player's ability. Because Riviera's 10th consistently shines a big nasty light on the course management ineptitude of today's modern golfer (look how few layed up left with a sucker front hole location in the ShotLink image right).Shotlink dispersion chart for Saturday's third round play (click to enlarge)

Robert Allenby and Fred Couples were tied for the lead after 10 holes (click to enlarge)Ah but you'll say, note that Couples hit it way right off the tee, a big no-no for a veteran. I asked about that and he explained after the round. His comments might shed some light on why he has so much success at Riviera:

Q. Talking about your love of the golf course, and the great architecture, on 10, you laid up very far to the right. Can you talk about how you approach the 10th hole all the time, and why you played that shot today?

FRED COUPLES: I shanked that shot today. (Laughter).

But to be honest with you, every day I try and go further left than people think. And very rarely do I hit driver there.

But over the years, I've played it really, really well. And I try and go this way.

And today in my mind, I knew where the pin was and I tried to go further to the right and then I told myself even further, and I just kind of luckily was in the fairway. If it had gone another yard to the right in the rough, I would have had no shot. But I hit a great little 75yard shot in there to stop it. But that's a tough, tough hole.

To recap for the 8 milionth time, the strategy is simple: play left in some way, either driving the green or laying up and you will be okay. Right is DEAD!!

CBS's 10th hole graphic says it all (click to enlarge)Just check out the killer ShotLink graphic CBS ran today on the six years of stats compiled under the system.

As for Mickelson's incredible round, the 7 one-putt day on the back side was nice but I was most astonished by just how far he is hitting his tee shots. Since the USGA and R&A keep saying distance has been capped, Phil's comments were interesting:

Q. How much longer are you hitting it with your new driver than previous drivers?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's a noticeable difference for me. When I say noticeable, it's 12 yards. I mean, that's a big difference for me. Being able to get eight, nine yards for carry, that's a really big difference. I mean, usually it would be two or three yards and you would notice a difference. This is a big difference for me.

The biggest thing, though, is that I'm able to work shots, hit cuts, draws, low shots, rather than just one standard shot.

And finally in media center news, the turnout was cut by more than half with Ryo's departure, but that still didn't stop a modified sign from being posted for those who apparently chose to smoke in the portable toilets.Women's restroom sign at the media center (click to enlarge)

I wonder what PGA Tour Championship Management would make of that handmade sign?