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Links they may be worthily called, for the golf at Royal Porthcawl is the genuine thing—the sea in sight all of the time, and the most noble bunkers. True to its national character, the course also boasts of stone walls.   BERNARD DARWIN



Best Sign That The Masses Do Not Enjoy Par Protection Golf

It's fascinating to read year-end reviews touting this year's U.S. Open as 2006's best tournament. While it may have been the most dramatic and unforgettable, Tiger's artful display at Hoylake was a lot more inspirational and uplifting. (And that was before he broke down on 18).

The Nielson numbers said most people did not enjoy watching the train wreck golf brought on by Winged Foot's anti-birdie setup, but we know the USGA will surely blame Tiger's missed cut at Winged Foot for the lowest Saturday since measuring began and the second lowest rated final round since 1994.


Best Declaration of Augusta National's Architectural Demise By A Former Champion In A Leading Role

2006yearinreview.gifSeem so long ago that we got to see Golf Digest's Ron Whitten flip flop on Tom Fazio's Augusta modifications after the floodgates were opened by Jack and Arnie much talked about criticism.

But for my money, Ben Crenshaw wins for his more subtle attack on the changes, printed in the USA Today by Jerry Potter.

Ben Crenshaw, a two-time Masters champion, says the Augusta National that Jones built after winning the Grand Slam in 1930 was "revolutionary in American golf course design at that time."

"It was completely different architecture," says Crenshaw, a golf historian when he isn't designing courses or playing senior golf. "The course Jones wanted had as many options to play a hole as was necessary to keep any golfer's fascination."

Jones wanted a course that was a pleasure for a recreational player and a challenge for a skilled player. It wasn't too long, it wasn't too narrow and it had no rough. It did have undulating greens that placed a premium on the second shot at each hole.

"There was a safe way and a dangerous way to play each hole," Crenshaw says. "It set itself apart from other courses."


Huggan On Uihlein: "He has to go."

Remember Wally, I just copy and paste this stuff. In fact, reader David sent this to me, so I didn't find it, didn't write it, didn't think of it. That said, John Huggan has you on his Santa wish list...

2 A NEW LEADER AT TITLEIST: Sadly, the man in charge of the world's biggest golf equipment company is a world-renowned point-misser.

In a position to do the world of golf a favour and agree to withdraw his tacit threat to sue if the game's hard-pressed administrators should make rules that will shorten the vast distances the very best players can propel shots, Wally Uihlein chooses instead to follow a policy that can only damage the sport and, by extension, his own company, in the long term.

Look at some of the nonsense that we already have to put up with: courses covered in long grass and stretched to something like 7,500 yards so as to all but eliminate from contention anyone not physically big enough to hit drives over 300 yards on a consistent basis - goodbye Justin Leonard and Corey Pavin and Andrew Coltart.

All of which is largely down to Uihlein's intransigence.

He has to go.
Way harsh Huggy!

I also liked his plea for more Geoff Ogilvy's and fewer carts in the U.S., but this was especially good:


7 A DROUGHT IN AMERICA: Having not long returned from a visit to Australia, where water is currently in very short supply, Santa would like to see those conditions replicated in the US.

Having sampled fast-running fairways and greens that only enhanced the strategic qualities of the likes of Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath and the stunning Barnbougle Dunes, some of the same would do nothing but good in the land of 'hit and stick'.

Instead of wedging on to pudding-like greens from basically anywhere, Uncle Sam's nieces and nephews would suddenly be forced to consider where best to place their drives. Angles would have to be created in order that approach shots could be landed short and run up to the flag.

Thinking on the golf course? What a concept, eh?


Coming In All Shapes And Sizes

Jim Achenbach reports more than you ever wanted to know about all of the new loud, ugly and expensive drivers coming to golf shop near you.

"The one thing we did not change was our signature No. 1 hole that features a green in the shape of Texas!"

From the press release wire... 

Four Seasons Resort and Club Completes Cottonwood Valley Golf Course Design and Greens Enhancement

Irving, Texas -- Friday, December 22, 2006 -- Four Seasons Resort and Club officials announced today that the exclusive Cottonwood Valley Golf Course is slated to re-open in a grand celebration golf tournament for its private golf members on Saturday, December 30, 2006.

Exclusive? Did I miss a press release? 

Cottonwood Valley Golf Course was closed to Sports Club golfers in July for a multi-million dollar enhancement to its greens and for some exciting design enhancements to several holes. The work took place under the direction of golf course architect Jay Morrish. In addition, the golf course's logo has been updated so that it can be placed on everything from pin flags, to tee markers and golf apparel.

That's good to know.

"We are very excited to showcase the enhancements to our golf course," Cowan said. "It is truly a gem. Jay Morrish has done a tremendous job of taking a really memorable golf course and making it that much better. We are especially excited to be able to offer a more consistent quality to our greens and a more challenging experience for our members - many of whom have been playing the course since it opened in 1982. The one thing we did not change was our signature No. 1 hole that features a green in the shape of Texas!"

That's really good to know. I wonder if the fronting bunker in the shape of Oklahoma was restored to its original dimensions as well?

Course Highlights:  Some of the most noteworthy enhancements to the Cottonwood Valley Golf Course include 1) slight lengthening of the golf course overall from the championship tees 7,011 to 7,030,

Boy that ought to really offset the increased athleticism... 

2) replacement of the turf with fresh Bentgrass on all of the primary playing surfaces including tees and greens, 3) complete renovation of all the bunkers including new drainage, new barrier fabric to reduce erosion and contamination,

...for the inevitable Byron Nelson Classic deluges... 


Tiger's New Challenge

My latest column on Tiger's foray into design is now posted...


The Sigmund Freud Award For The Most Nuanced Complaint About Tiger Without Using His Name

2006yearinreview.gif...goes to who else but CBS talk jockey and Titleist Golf Products Design Consultant Peter Kostis for this oh-so-not-subconscious attempt to channel his inner rage at Tiger's refusal to listen to his inane post round interview questions:

If the tour and television truly are partners, then the players have to do their part. Tim Finchem evoked the success of NASCAR in creating the FedEx Cup points race, which begins in 2007. But the success of NASCAR isn't only derived from a season-ending points race. It's also from drivers willing to share comments with television viewers while in the final stages of strapping themselves into their seats and risking life and limb at over 200 mph. Most tour players, however, are reluctant to talk to television hours before they play or warm up because it might ruin their mental state! It only takes a matter of seconds to lend some insight, so no more of this "I'm too busy to talk" stuff on the range.

Apparently this reaching out tugged at Tiger's heartstrings and he will now, on occasion subject himself to a Kostis interview. All is right with the world!


The Russian Tea Room Returns

20rest600.1.jpgSounds like a bad sequel to one of my books, but according to The New York Times's Frank Bruni, the former proposed home of the USGA's downtown meeting and wedding center is serving up some serious dog food. 

The room looks exactly as a I rememember it. (We can only dream where the Joe Dey portrait might have hung, and I can just see Eric Gleacher's in the back lit up by that neo postmodern brothel chandelier).


The Best Use of Coterminously By A Commissioner In a Leading Role, 2006

From one of his press conferences...heck, I can't even tell which one now, they all sound the same...

In addition to those things, on the cable side, I think I should point out that the Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour programming have been extended coterminously to a 15-year arrangement with The Golf Channel, as well. So in a nutshell, that's our programming situation, and we are very excited about the way it came out.


Lift, Clean and...Entertain?

Since taking in a portion of Sunday's Target World Challenge at Sherwood, something's been bugging me about the playing conditions. Naturally it took until Wednesday for me to figure it out.

Now, I'm all for playing the ball down whenever necessary, especially in major championships.

But a Saturday rain combined with the newly sodded fairways (not draining worth a lick) led to poor conditions and balls covered with mud. Third round leader Geoff Ogilvy and eventual winner Tiger Woods hit their share of squirrely shots, with Ogilvy twice having mud wreak havoc that ultimately cost him a shot at defending his third round lead.

The decision not to play lift, clean and place sums up pretty much everything that I find disappointing about the current PGA Tour leadership: their consistent inablity to understand what makes golf entertaining to watch. As I understand it, this was tournament director Mark Russell's call, and it was not his best.

The Target World Challenge is an exhibition intended to entertain the fans, enrich the players and benefit a worthy cause. This is not the time to worry about the integrity of the game. The primary goal is to create some excitement, and in this case allowing the players to play shots with a clean ball would have been a lot more fun than what ultimately unfolded Sunday.

I appreciate the Tour's stated desire to uphold the traditions of the game, but this was not the time to do it.

If they want to get serious about integrity and protecting the traditions of the game, they should worry more about the impact of distance increases. I know, now I'm really delusional.


"Instead of ego marketing, we're introducing logic marketing."

Going in the "this is going to get ugly files"...from Steve Elling in the Orlando Sentinel:

That's actually the alchemy of choice for the folks at Bridgestone Golf, who are rolling out a slightly antagonistic national "ball-fitting" program in 2007 intended to take a bite out of Titleist's decades-old dominance of the ball market.

Simply put, the last great sacred cow in golf is about to be paraded into the public square, shot, then ground into hamburger. For the first time, a competing ball company is "outing" a top competitor by shouting from the mountaintop what the industry has whispered among itself for years. To wit, millions of golfers are wasting millions of dollars on balls like the pricey Titleist Pro V1, even though there's minimal chance it will improve their game. In fact, it might be hindering it.

"[Titleist] is the brand they don't have to think about," Dan Murphy, the marketing director of Bridgestone's golf division, said of consumers. "It's an ego thing. Instead of ego marketing, we're introducing logic marketing. There's a quote."

Remember Wally, I just copy and paste this stuff! 

But seriously, shouldn't Mr. Murphy be saying that instead of ego marketing, they're introducing logic fitting? He seems to be saying they are trading one form of marketing for another, as opposed to marketing being substituted for genuine fitting.  


The Best Nautical Reference By A Commissioner In 2006

2006yearinreview.gifTim Finchem said so many wonderful things this year (in case you are wondering, the Brand Lady gets her due next weekand yes). So in light of his vast array of brilliant comments, this is a multiple component award, starting with his finest nautical reference of 2006. After all, what better way is there to reach out to the 18-34 year olds!
"But the community felt they would much prefer to be in the summer, so we worked with them on all the permutations. We already knew it could work in the time frame and told St. Paul we weren't in position to do exactly what they wanted to do to trigger their commitment. But when 84 Lumber stepped aside, they were the first port of call and everybody got excited."

Tiger's Absences

This column ought to make Doug Ferguson's next encounter with Tiger at the Buick interesting...

So here's how it shakes out. Woods can either take two weeks off to ski and then practice for the Mercedes-Benz Championship, or he can take five weeks off and return at Torrey Pines to defend his title in the Buick Invitational.

Should he play? Yes.

Woods was largely responsible for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem revamping the regular season to make it shorter and more compelling. And while the world's No. 1 player is singularly responsible for a $6 million purse considered routine, he needs the PGA Tour as a platform for his worldwide success.

In other words, it's time to give back.


Wie To Stanford

Doug Ferguson has the details...

“No one really believed me,” Wie said from Orlando, Fla., where she is working with swing coach David Leadbetter. “Now that I got into Stanford ... it was one of my dreams, and I want to go through with it. I definitely want to go there and really try to graduate before I launch my golf course design firm."

Just checking to see if you were reading!

She has no plans to open up her own design firm. Not for at least 5 years. 


Australian Open News

Thanks to reader Graeme for this Jim Tucker story on positive numbers for the Australian Open, as well as hopes that a Mike Clayton-refurbished Royal Queensland may make a run at hosting sometime soon.


The TV Deal Quote(s) Of The Year

Sal Johnson recaps the end of ABC's run televising golf, which reminded me that the new TV deal was analyzed in far greater depth here than probably necessary. So instead of rehasing the coverage, I thought it would be fun to dig up the best things said and written about the PGA Tour's 15-year commitment to The Golf Channel.

In the Writer Division, we have a tie between Golfweek's Rex Hoggard, who wrote...

Fifteen years? That's not a TV contract, that's alimony.
and Golfobserver's Frank Hannigan wrote... 
For the Tour to find and command a new audience would require a freakish event ­ like a hermaphrodite dwarf becoming leading money winner. And it would help if the dwarf's caddie could be Anna Nicole Smith.

In the Player Division, Fred Couples summed things up nicely when he told Golf World's Bob Verdi:

"I don't understand the new TV deal. We signed for 15 years with The Golf Channel? Isn't there a number between one and 15? Did the NBA sign for 15 years with TNT? How'd we lose ESPN? I also don't get that. What if ESPN decides in three years they want golf again? What does the PGA Tour tell them? Sorry, we're with The Golf Channel until 2021?"

And in the Commissioner Division, I was partial to this subtle but beautiful justification from Tim Finchem to explain the loss of ABC, ESPN and ESPN on ABC:


Number one is that we have a streamlined set of relationships with NBC and CBS having all the weekends. It really relaxes and reinforces the continuity we can now provide to our fans.



Rally Killer Of The Year: "What is your favorite color?"

There were so many fine candidates for the rally killer of the year, an award of no distinction given to some anonymous scribbler who witnessed a player in the midst of an interesting, thought-provoking answer and decided that there was no better time than that moment to blurt out a totally worthless question.

I narrowed the finalists down to a few of my favorites. The selection process was made difficult by these finalists. First, here was Tiger, revealing that he was joining the team flight to Ireland for a little pre-Ryder Cup practice.

Q. Are you going to the K Club?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm going. We're all going together. I had to reschedule a couple things.

Q. When are you coming back?

TIGER WOODS: Wednesday morning. I get back Wednesday morning here.

Q. What's the puppy's name?

TIGER WOODS: Yogi, like Yogi Bear. He looks more like Yogi Bear.

Q. What kind?

TIGER WOODS: It's a Labradoodle.

Back to golf (laughter).

Nice attempt to kill the rally, but ultimately not quite as serious a topic as this example of Fred Funk ending a great rant on the state of the game or this one of Geoff Ogilvy elaborating on the genius of Winged Foot:

The greens here are so well designed, you've just got to play the hole backwards before you start. You've got to know if you're going to miss the tee shots you're going to miss the shots because they're narrow, extremely narrow. So if you're going to miss it, you've got to miss it on the correct side so you can run it up near the green to a spot where you're going to have a chance of getting it up and down.

On a good golf course you have to think backwards like that. Augusta National you have to think backwards. I like a golf course that makes you think that way. St. Andrews makes you do that.

I enjoy that aspect of golf, you know, just really plotting my way around there and thinking about it.

Q. You're going to be the first Australian since '95 to win a major.

Yep, super, so glad we are on that subject than hearing more about that stuff about looking at the course backwards and thinking and...ugh.

Here's a David Toms rally kill that nearly took the crown. He's talking about the changes to Augusta and really letting loose. So what better time than now to interrupt him!

Q.   So were guys right in saying it feels more like a U.S. Open, the guys that said that?

DAVID TOMS:   Oh, sure, if you brought in the fairways another five yards on both sides and grew that rough up to where it was four inches, that's exactly what you would have.   You'd have a Masters/Open because the corridors are getting awfully tight with all of the trees they are putting in.   Who knows 20 years from now what it's going to look like with all of the new trees.   And the greens are obviously, they can firm them up because of the sub-air system and they can make it play as difficult as they want.

Q.   Just to change the subject, I'm doing a piece on hole-in-ones, and just kind of asking guys what their first hole in one is and their most memorable hole-in-one.   I'm pretty sure I can guess your most memorable?

But for me, there was no better rally kill in 2006 than the day Michelle Wie was asked about her father as a caddy, leading to a surprisingly blunt answer from Wie.

Q: Your father is not your caddie anymore. Do you miss having him on the bag?

MICHELLE WIE: Honestly, not really. (laughter)

Q: What don't you miss?

MICHELLE WIE: Umm, well he is in the room. No, but it was fun when he caddied for me, but he is getting old. He cannot carry that big bag around. He wouldn't make it around. (laughter)

Q: What is your favorite color?

Yes, why use this opening to ask about dad and his weirdness when you can know her favorite color!


Harding In 2009 And Never Again?

Ron Kroichick updates the latest at Harding Park, with between-the-lines implications all over the place.

The Tour informally proposed bringing the Presidents Cup to Harding in 2009, a possibility previously reported in this space. City officials are amenable to the Presidents Cup, as long as the Tour provides assurances it will meet the other terms of its contract with San Francisco.

That deal calls for five tournaments in 15 years, starting on Jan. 1, 2005. Those tournaments, according to the contract, "shall include" the Tour Championship, the NEC Invitational or the American Express Championship. Woods outlasted John Daly to win the AMEX at Harding in October 2005.

Here's the catch: As also reported here previously, the Tour has commitments to hold these tournaments elsewhere through 2010 (the AMEX has morphed into the CA Championship and will be played annually near Miami). So, predictably, Tour officials are scrambling and suggesting other events for Harding Park.

Okay, but here's where it gets fun. 

City Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, whose District 7 includes Harding, insisted he is not worried. But Elsbernd also sounded weary of what he called "this negotiation dance."

"One important thing to remember is we as a city do have a contract with them, so something has to give," Elsbernd said. "At some point, the Tour will have to meet its responsibilities under the contract, because we have met ours. ...

"They have suggested they're in a little bind, and they've made commitments on those tournaments in other spots. We've said, 'Why are we the one with whom you have to break a commitment?' "

So is the Tour offering the Presidents Cup in hopes of getting the other events waved, with the idea being that the President's Cup is just that special? Sure sounds like it. 


Tiger And Mercedes, Vol. 2

Tiger's latest non-denial denial on Kapalua:

Q. How much can we expect you to play this coming season? Can we expect to see you in the Mercedes? Can we expect to see you in all those events that are playoff events and leading up to it?

TIGER WOODS: Jerry, I'm going to play every event next year (laughter). I'm not taking any weeks off (laughter).

You know me, I'm going to sit back here in the next week and start playing out my entire schedule for next year. I wanted to get this tournament over and done with and get on vacation and enjoy skiing, having a great time, and then I'll get the entire itinerary for next year and start planning the schedule, what I need to do and when I need to do it.


Lewis On Daly

Paul Lewis in the New Zealand Herald provides an excellent overview of the saga that is John Daly. Many things caught my eye, but this in particular made me realize why I need to stop writing architecture books and get into tell-all bios...
Perhaps the best insight into Daly comes from his book, which is approaching 500,000 copies sold since its release this year. It is the most frank, unabashed and downright odd story of any sportsman. It is the laying bare of a life - unusual in sports biographies which tend to re-hash material already known and/or allow the sportsman involved to recount history according to his or her own perspective.