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

As each year goes by I fear the true sporting spirit of match play is less and less in evidence. We find a growing disposition for play to concentrate on the figures that are registered at a hole rather than on the question of whether the hole is lost or won in a purely friendly match. TOM SIMPSON

 

  

Thursday
Feb162006

Latest Riviera Changes: No. 3

Saving the worse for last, here are a few photos of the new hole location added to Riviera's wonderful third green.

230136-274331-thumbnail.jpg
3rd at Riviera (click to enlarge)
Feeling Nicklaus-esque with its sunken-quadrant, circa 1991 Sherwood feel when Jack would throw a tier in just about any old place no matter how badly it fit, the apparent thought process behind the "restoration" of this hole location was George Thomas's original sketch. 

It showed a hole location in exactly the spot where one has been restored. Unfortunately, we also know that Thomas's sketches did not bear much resemblance to what was actually built. He tinkered in the field, or Bill Bell did. The result was a better course. Unfortunately, architects who rely on plans and who do restorations, seem to not be aware of the in-the-field methodology and it has led to a disappointing addition to Riviera's third.

Aerials do not show such a pronounced hole location, nor do photos indicate the funky tiering that is now in the once wickely subtle third. 230136-274329-thumbnail.jpg
Rear view 3 (click to enlarge)

Besides enlarging a green that was nice because of its fairly small square footage (and yet, number of versatile hole locations), the addition is fasinating because it seems to eliminate some of the deceptive qualities that have long made No. 3 unique.

Whether that deception crept into the design intentionally or through the evolution of the fronting bunker is debatable, but either way the real charm of this approach was the slight angle that the fronting bunker sat at, making goes at right side hole locations a bit daring (in the way that #12 at Augusta works, only with sand in this case).

And like the added hole locations on 8, 9, 12 and 13, the new work looks exactly that: like new, modern design ideas added to really nice old architecture.

Thursday
Feb162006

Harding For President's Cup?

Harding Park sounds like an ideal site for the 2009 President's Cup.

Wednesday
Feb152006

Greetings From LA, Vol. 3

greetingsfromLAPro-Am day, that means plenty of chances to duck for cover. (The media center is situated between the first and second fairways).

Ernie Els came to the interview room right when Tiger Woods talked to the press above No. 18. I picked Tiger, and it was your basic debacle, with a bunch of TV folks asking banal questions about how Tiger is feeling, when did you open the learning center, etc... Oh and a bunch of questions asking why he's never won at Riviera.

Els apparently didn't have much to say in his chat, though I was hoping to ask him about changes he's making at Wentworth. The driving range buzz is not positive.

Elsewhere...

Speaking of range buzz, a few players have said that they are pretty sure the USGA is going to regulate driver head size, taking the driver back to a 290 cc's limit for competition.

Oddball Thursday pairing: Brad Faxon and J.B. Holmes. The Tour's shortest driver statistically and the second longest.

The greens are the firmest they've been in years. With it dry and breezy tonight look for firm and fast surfaces in round one, unless the hoses come out. Hopefully they'll leave the watering work to the bunker crew.230136-273507-thumbnail.jpg

230136-273509-thumbnail.jpg
John Daly and Pro Am Partner (click to enlarge)
If you ever think PGA Tour pros make too much money, don't forget just how dreadful pro-ams can be. I was speaking to one player on the putting green and a pro-am guy interrupted to tell his life story, all because he and the player went to the same college.

Wednesday
Feb152006

Driving Distance All Holes v. Measuring Holes

Poking around ShotLink today, I wanted to see what the players were averaging on all drives versus the two measuring holes. Here are a few players, with their average and their rank. (The NA's don't have enough drives to earn a rank).

Player                                Driving Distance Avg.               Driving Distance
                                          (2 measuring holes)                 (All Holes)

Bubba Watson                   320.5 (1)                                    310.5 (2)

Tiger Woods                      306.3 (NA)                                 305.6 (NA)

Phil Mickelson                   298.9 (17)                                  301.8 (4)

Davis Love III                     292.8 (50)                                  291.5 (44)

Charles Howell                  287.7 (81)                                   287.2 (80) 

Jeff Gove                         293.5 (47)                                    287.2 (80)

Jason Gore                       292.8 (50)                                    294.6 (26) 

Sergio Garcia                    282.4 (125)                                  293.7 (30)

Jim Furyk                         267.5 (180)                                  275.8 (168)

Brad Faxon                       257.3 (187)                                  263.1 (188) 

John Daly                         302.2 (NA)                                    298.5 (NA)

Olin Browne                     272.6 (174)                                   273.5 (174)

J.B. Holmes                     313.5 (2)                                       314.6 (1)

Wednesday
Feb152006

All Feel, No Thoughts

Lorne Rubenstein looks at the emergence of the "thoughtless" player.

Wednesday
Feb152006

Riviera's 7th Then and Now

The old barranca/hazard on Riviera's 7th then and now. Note the subtle but significant change to the fairway edge caused by the late 30s flood. Oh, and the cool bridge.

riviera7old2.jpg riv7today.jpg


 


 

Wednesday
Feb152006

"It's not even a tough par-4!"

Reader Josh noted that the 517 yard-par 5 18th at The Vines, site of last weekend's European Tour event won by Kevin Stadler, played to an average of 4.14.

That prompted this remark from Mike Clayton: “It’s not even a tough par 4!”

I'm suspecting the first at Riviera will look the same way this week. Last year it was hovering in the low 4.3 area, and that was in two wet, cold rounds playing as long as possible.   

Tuesday
Feb142006

Going West?

Doug Ferguson reports that the PGA Tour is about to create two fall "Quest for the Card" events in California, starting with a tournament in Fresno on a still under construction course, followed by an event in San Jose.

Also in the works is a tournament near San Jose, Calif., that would be sponsored by Fry's Electronics on a private course called The Institute, which is owned by Silicon Valley mogul John Fry. During the American Express Championship at Harding Park last October, a few players took part in an outing at The Institute. Fred Funk was said to have shot the lowest score (75) on a course that measured about 7,900 yards.

Wow, fun.

Meanwhile, Golf World reports that the Honda Classic may become a Jack and Barbara Nicklaus hosted event.

Tuesday
Feb142006

Greetings From L.A., Vol. 2

greetingsfromLAI spent an enjoyable few hours walking the back nine with Geoff Ogilvy, Luke Donald and Sean O'Hair. All three are impressive ball strikers. Donald's swing is particularly graceful and he is still aided by his Northwestern coach, Pat Goss, who was in town to check up on his pupil.

Ogilvy has plenty of interesting things to say about the state of the Tour. I finally found someone who agrees that the Tour's course setup philosophy leaves a lot to be desired. I know you all were worried. Elsewhere...

  • The greens actually are not nearly as good as they were last year. Tee to fringe, Riviera has never been better, but apparently the lack of rain and a late fall aerification set the greens back a bit. They are certainly fine, especially compared to 10 years ago. 
  • I sat in on J.B. Holmes' press conference, which included some great questions from the scribblers (well, Steve Elling did most of the dirty work):
Q.  Are you a weights and/or conditioning guy?

J.B. HOLMES:  Not really.

Q.  I'm guessing not really.

J.B. HOLMES:  No, not really.  I ride the bike a little bit or whatever.  I'm not really big on the weights and stuff.  I probably need to do a little more running or biking or something like that.  I'm strong enough, I really don't need to hit the weights.
But don't forget, it's the athleticism and working out!
Q.  John, with the way that you have been piping it out there the last few years, now that you are out here with the big boys, and blowing it passed all of them, there has been sort of a negative side to it to, people are saying he hits it too far, they need to rein that in. What's your response to all of that?  You can become the poster boy for the USGA making rules changes.

J.B. HOLMES:  I mean if they knock it back 20 yards, I'm still 50 yards ahead of the guy.  So I don't see any point of changing. Everybody says that golf is changing.  It's a new sport, the distance, everything like that.  I really don't believe that truly.  Look at all of the great players; Palmer, Woods, because he was hitting it past everybody.  Nicklaus hit it a long ways. So technology made the distances further, but it seems like all of the great players that you see back in history, they hit it passed everybody.  Even Tiger, Tiger hits it past everybody. So technology is making the distances further.  But I mean the courses are getting longer too, so I really don't think that it's changed the game that much.
Get this young man some talking points!
Q.  You don't think there has been a lessening of the skill factor because you only have to hit your 3iron, 4iron, 5iron a couple of times per tournament?  It's mostly a wedge, 9iron.  These are some of the points that have been raised.  You are just overwhelming golf courses?

J.B. HOLMES:  You know, they are starting to make them longer.  I can see the distances, some of the advantages on some of the courses.  Like they said, say they do dial the ball back 20 yards back, instead of hitting a wedge, I'm hitting a 9iron or 8iron.  The people that are hitting 6iron or 7iron, now they're hitting 4iron and 3iron.

 I'll take anybody with my 8iron or 9iron when they're hitting 3iron and 4iron.  I almost think that will be a bigger advantage because you can hit a 7iron and 6iron close.  It's hard to dial in a 4iron and a 3iron.
Q.  J.B., you said that you're not much of a weights guy, but I'm curious if that's the case, do you think there is even more distance out there for you if you really got on a program, could you add 10 or 15 yards to what you already have?

J.B. HOLMES:  I don't know, maybe.  There is not really any sense of it.  I think I hit it far enough.  If you get into the weights it can change your swing, if you got too big something like that.  All in all I got real strong legs, quick hips, pretty strong upper body and big forearms.  So I don't think there is really any need of me getting stronger.

I can see riding a bike, something like that, doing a little more conditioning, maybe strengthen my core a little more.  But as of weightlifting just to get stronger, I could.  I don't think it will do anything.  It might, it might not.  I might get stronger with the weight and tighten up a little bit and hit it shorter, you know.
Tuesday
Feb142006

Latest Riviera Changes: No. 12

Riviera12overviewRiviera's lengthy and character-rich par-4 12th was the recipient of a green enlargement prior to this year's Nissan Open. Like with the 9th hole work detailed here, the results leave a lot to be desired.

Notice the historic photo with No. 12 to the left. In the distance is the Riviera par-3 course (today's range) and clubhouse.

The spectators below are encircling the old green floor.

The photo below that shows the newly enlarged green, which has lost the "long, thin" character of the old green and actually appears to be larger than the original. There were also changes to the fronting bunker (now less deep and less intimidating than it was before...).

It's debatable whether this green really needed expansion.

riviera12rearview.jpg

The enlargement work shares the same problem as the expansion on No. 9: the new green falls away from the primary surface, making it debatable whether a hole location can be cut on the new area because of its slope.

Looking at it today with Geoff Ogilvy, he felt it was dicey if the greens were fast. 

Since the idea was to restore a purportedly lost hole location (if it every existed, which appears iffy), the goal of this work doesn't make sense. Nor does it bode well for this summer's expanstion of other greens).

And once again, the expansion of the 12th green makes shots missing this surface so much different and easier than in the old configuration. Once arguably the most difficult up and down on the back side, the larger green should make recoveries simpler. Because in effect, they are no longer recoveries, but instead, birdie putts.

riviera12putting.jpgNote this photo of PGA Tour pro John Riegger putting on the 12th during the practice round. Last year he would have faced a devilish lob recovery shot from this spot. Today it's a relatively easy two putt. 

That would be fine if the new hole location added some strategic enhancement. But both of those questions are up for serious debate, especially with a 25-yard wide fairway that makes it impossible for someone to flirt with the O.B. by driving down the left side to open up the best angle of attack.

riviera12bunker.jpgInstead, the new green seems to be an addition designed to offer an inaccessible "Sunday" hole location.

But with the bunker made more shallow, it actually becomes relatively harmless since and up-and-down isn't too difficult (whereas before it was deadly.)

None of this adds up to reflecting Captain Thomas's style.  

 

Tuesday
Feb142006

Fay: Who Are We Governing For?

Gary Baines in the Daily Camera (!?) covered a recent address by David Fay and offered these sound bites from the USGA Executive Director.

"I understand people like Nicklaus, (Arnold) Palmer and (Greg) Norman want to do something about the ball, and I respect that," Fay said. "But who are we governing for — the elite players or the people like the ones at the Golf Expo? I'd say for the latter. ...
So this begs the question, why does the USGA regulate equipment at all? Equipment rules are by and large for "elite players."

 

If someone established the "American Association of Elite Players" and it was created to handle equipment regulation, amateur status and run the USGA championships, what would be the role of the USGA that governs the game for the folks at Golf Expo?

They'd do some handicapping. Green section would still be around. The museum and library would be important. Anything else?

It would seen that the USGA, divorced of the elite player, probably wouldn't need a $600,000 a year Executive Director.

On the state of golf in general: "As a participatory sport things are pretty good for golf," Fay said. There are courses that "fit all sorts of income levels. All participatory sports are relatively flat right now. There are so many more things people can participate in these days.

"We're concerned (about the game's growth). But should golf have 50 million players in the country (rather than the current 25 million)? It we did we'd have a lot more slow play. A lot of the growth in golf is as a spectator sport. It's a hard game, it can be costly and it takes time to play. Those factors can eliminate some people (from participating)."

There would be a lot more slow play if the game grows.

Orwellian I tell you.

Tuesday
Feb142006

No. 16 Then and Now

The short par-3 16th at Riviera in the late 1920s and today...

Riv 16 

riviera16today.jpg

Tuesday
Feb142006

Accuracy Stats

Dave Shedloski on PGATour.com:

If it seems like TOUR members aren’t concerned with a little thing like hitting fairways, you’re right. Since 2000 the number of players who have hit at least 70 percent of their fairways has been on the decline. There were 75 guys hitting 7 of 10, on average, in 2000, but the number fell to 67 in ’01, then 61, 40, 24, 19, and, so far in this young season, there are only 16 players finding 70 percent (up from seven the previous week – thank goodness for generous fairways on the Monterrey Peninsula).

The last three years the driving accuracy leader has been below 78 percent. Since stats were first monitored in 1980, only five other times has the leader in that category been below 80 percent – and only one other time has the leader been below 78 percent (Calvin Peete, 77.5 percent, in 1984).

Want more? On the other end of the scale, there are 105 players hitting fewer than 60 percent of their fairways thus far in ’06. That’s up more than 100 percent from the 52 such wayward whackers last year. As recently as 2001 only five players failed to hit at least 6 of 10 fairways for the entire season. It doesn’t mean players aren’t as good today; in many ways they’re better. But no doubt they play with different priorities.

It’s likely the winner will not get away with such untidy play on the narrow avenues of Riviera (but because the fairways are narrow, hitting them is always chore).

The question is, how much is this decline a result of flogging, and how much of it has to do with the excessive narrowing of fairways?

Monday
Feb132006

Greetings From L.A., Vol. 1

greetingsfromLAA quiet but absolutely beautiful day at Riviera today in the low 80s. Sorry.

Hey, if it's any consolation, we're supposed to have below-normal temps Thursday through Sunday. Anyway, a few observations

  • Besides inspecting the new green expansions (No. 9 is detailed below), I watched a few players and walked the course. The fairways have never been better and the greens looked were firm and smooth (especially considering they had just hosted the Monday morning pro-am). There is little rough, which combined with the quality conditions and mind-boggling trajectory of shots, the scores should be pretty low (barring winds, which are predicted for the afternoons).
  • J.B. Holmes stopped everyone with a long drive display on the range. If you know the range at all, you know that drives sailing over the far end land in the barranca bisecting No. 11. Holmes was carrying the barranca and you could actually see some of his drives bouncing in the 11th fairway, headed for the 12th. That was a first.  
  • As I walked the course, several caddies were out double checking their yardage books. I only saw 2 out of about 20 using rangefinders. 
  • Questionable fairway widths: No. 5, 434 yard par-4 into the prevailing wind with a hard right to left slope...25 yards. And No. 12, 460 yard par-4 into the prevailing wind with slope: 25 yards.
  • And finally...what would a Tour event be without a light bunker watering...

bunkerwatering.jpg 

Monday
Feb132006

Latest Riviera Changes: No. 9

Riviera has long served as a classroom for those interested in golf architecture.

It continues to serve as a place for study, though at the current pace, study of a different kind.

Namely, how not to "restore."

As Thomas Bonk outlined in the LA Times, Riviera management, superintendent Matt Morton and Tom Fazio's firm have overseen the expansion of three greens: No. 3, No. 9 and No. 12. The changes have been described as a restoration of the original George Thomas-Billy Bell design.

While the idea of expanding greens back to their original size is nearly always a great idea on older courses, Riviera is sadly serving as a case study in how not to go about it.

In their defense, the problem is extremely complicated: trying to add green space onto existing USGA spec greens. It's a bit like trying to expand an aquarium while keeping the tank full. In this case they are attempting to tie into a sand substructure while also working into the surrounding terrain.9rivieramidview.jpg

As difficult as the task is, it is manageable.

The current expansions of No. 3, No. 9 and No. 12--a precursor of even more changes to come this summer--was ultimately unsuccessful because of the failure to account for the nearly 80 years of top dressing build up that elevated the green floors above the surrounds.

Ah, but for those of you whose eyes haven't glazed over at this point, you might be saying, "the greens were rebuilt in 1993, how can their be topdressing build up?"

When the greens were rebuilt, they were not lowered the 4-5 inches that would have taken the greens down to their original height. A mistake? Perhaps, but Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were not attempting to restore the greens to their original sizes. They were adding some lost hole locations, but in general, trying to not disturb the evolved course.

Therefore, today you have the original green areas (slightly expanded in '93), and then these newly "restored" areas that are sloping down and away from the elevated, primary green space. The effect is Donald Ross/Pinehurst-like. Unfortunately, Thomas-Bell were not into the crowned green look (and Donald Ross wasn't either if you look closely at the evolution of Pinehurst).

riviera9front.jpgNow, all of this would seem to be a minor technicality except that nearly all of the "restored" green space on No. 9 and No. 12 does not tie-in with the primary green, and worse, is unpinnable in tournament conditions because of the noticeable tilt away from the main green floor. 

(Well, unless Tom Meeks was handling the setup, then this quibbling is all irrelevant!)

The approach to No. 9's front hole location has long been extremely difficult. But the expanded putting surface should make the shot much easier with such an inviting target and less difficult recovery pitches for those missing the green.

Most noticeable is the front expansion on No. 9, which will help players landing short of the green. (Before, the chip shot over kikuyu to the small green surface was incredibly demanding...now those misses will be putting.)

riviera9oldlow.jpgIn this historic photo of No. 9 taken from the third tee, notice how the green in the front area has a backstop of sorts (the approach comes into this green from about 2 o'clock in the photo).

Also notice how that banking has changed to today's look (above), which is a false drop off. Then look at the photos taken today where you can see the border of the old green, and the new surface in the lighter shade. That entire "restored" area of new surface falls off gently toward the left of this photo.

With a bit more attention to this type of detail, I suspect that these green expansions could have tied in better with the existing green and served to restore the original design.

Unfortunately the green expansions appear to do a disservice to the original design.

They fail to add more hole locations, while also not adding any strategic interest, which was always the number one priority for Captain Thomas.

Monday
Feb132006

Tait on WGC's

WGCNEC05logo.gifAlistair Tait calls the PGA Tour's original pledge for the World Golf Championships "hogwash" while looking at the power struggle won this time by Tim Finchem.

Monday
Feb132006

Bonk On Riviera Changes

Thomas Bonk writes about Riviera's latest changes.

The greens on three par-four holes — the third, ninth and 12th — have been brought back to their original size and shape, all of them slightly enlarged to take away the encroachment of the Kikuyu over the years and to come up with pin placements that had been lost since the club opened in 1926.

It opened on June 24, 1927, but hey, no worries.

"We're restoring them to recover the flexibility that Riviera had in the very beginning," said Michael Yamaki, the club's general manager. "Mother Nature has been the one who kind of grabbed those greens. We fought back."

Mother Nature? We fought back?  Hopefully Captain Thomas doesn't get the L.A. Times where he is now.

Tom Fazio, the architect who oversaw Riviera's previous round of changes in 2003, which basically involved the lengthening of the course, was again at the head of this latest project with the greens.

A half-day visit en route to the desert constitutes heading a project? Poor Tom Marzolf does all of the work and gets no ink. Then again, looking at the 7th, 8th, and 15th holes, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Todd Yoshitake, Riviera's head pro, said the pin placements now reflect what was available in the past.

"We're getting back to our heritage," he said.

The insights you glean in the Times!

Looking through club archives and maps of the layout and studying aerial views of the course from the 1930s helped Fazio discover the original shapes of the greens that Yamaki targeted for restoration. Computer enhancement of the aerial photographs provided nearly precise dimensions of the greens. In their research, the revisionists discovered that the Kikuyu had moved in more than three inches on the greens.

The revisionists discovered that the Kikuyu had moved in more than three inches.

Priceless.

Monday
Feb132006

Hannigan On Vernon Speech

Another must read column from Frank Hannigan on Golfobserver. He looks at Jim Vernon's USGA Annual Meeting address and comes to many of the same conclusions that were drawn here. But as usual, Hannigan takes the analysis a bit further and as always, does it with a sense of humor.

What Vernon wrote and said indicates the USGA is finally committed to rolling back distance after a decade of fakery as the best golfers, the members of the PGA Tour, were gaining on average 27 yards of driving distance whether they lifted weights or ate Dove bars and Twinkies.

Hannigan lays out three options for the USGA at this point, based on the Vernon speech.

Option 1 — Do nothing. Stay right where they are with the pretense that it ain't gonna rain no more than it has, that the horse has not quite left the barn, that they have drawn the ultimate line in the sand when it comes to distance, and they can go on presenting 7400 yard courses as par 70s for U.S. Opens.

They can go on fooling most of the people most of the time while being admitted to the promised lands with memberships in the Augusta National Golf Club and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

The problem with Option 1 is that it is a sham. Every week more golfers understand the USGA has utterly failed and are laughing at the erstwhile "governing body." At the same time, much as they don't want to do it, Finchem and his boys inch toward acting on their own.

I used to like this next option, but when you start to realize how simple it would be to slow down the core of the ball, it looks too complicated and potentially fractures the game.

Option 2 — Use the device of local rules whereby committees can invoke more restrictive equipment regulations while still remaining under the broad umbrella of the USGA.

There are plusses to the local rule contrivance. It offers the opportunity to cut back on BOTH the club and the ball. To restrict the driver the local rule spec would offer a lower maximum of correlation of restitution (COR) — the spring-like effect of modern drivers.

The USGA has invented an ingenious little device to measure COR. Those of us who could never change the oil in a car could measure COR with this machine. The COR could be adjusted to cut back l0 yards or so, another l5 yards taken off the ball and there you have it — back to l995.

A second advantage is that a local rule would not get real golfers mad at the USGA, a fear that has paralyzed the USGA. Real golfers think they have been pulled along with the pros in terms of distance. They haven't and the USGA has been unwilling to whisper the truth: "Move the tee markers up a few yards and nobody will ever know the difference."

And finally, the option that never seemed possible with the USGA's old stance, but which seems more plausible now. Except for the issues pointed out by Hannigan:

Option 3 — Make basic changes on equipment in the Rules of Golf proper. Although the USGA has said it needs more surveys, more testing and needs to do grooves all over again, the answer is quite simple. All they have to do is pick a number and announce that as of Jamuary 1, 2008, that famous line in the sand will be, say, 25 yards shorter.

But whoops, any roll back in the ball will render virtually every brand we now use as non-conforming.

That seems like a huge impediment for ball-makers, who have dwindled down to a precious few in the United States. Acushnet dominates the wholesale market with 53 percent of sales. Its percentage of profit is likely higher.

Why then should a Callaway not want to start all over again to compete against Acushnet from a new starting line? The golf equipment business is nothing but a fight for market share. The market itself is stable. Tiger Woods has not created new golfers.

Hannigan sums up the sea change that has taken place, and the possible reasons for what appears to be a monumental shift within the USGA:

The USGA was captured during the last l0 years by Fred Ridley, who just left office as president, and his successor Walter Driver. But with an annual turnover of two or three executive committee members a year a new majority may have dawned.

Or it could be that Ridley and Driver are just sick and tired of being blistered about distance wherever they go.

Driver made an inaugural speech so banal as to defy description other than to note that he used versions of the first person singular "I" or "me" 68 times. Everything was about him.

In a departure from tradition, the new president was introduced by a celebrity — Arnold Palmer himself. Driver loved it.

This is the same Arnold Palmer who sold his failed equipment company to the late Ely Callaway. Arnold then lobbied for two sets of rules so that Callaway's ERC2 driver would be OK. The ERC2 had a COR beyond even the USGA's soft regulation.

The ERC2 driver bombed. But the myth of Arnold is eternal.
Monday
Feb132006

Final Round Hole Locations

Another week, another bordering-on-silly final round setup. Reviewing the tape after hearing Gary McCord's raised-eyebrow comment about some of the hole locations, I went looking for any player comments on the setup.

Rory Sabbatini: 

"Obviously, the greens were a lot firmer today, they had some pretty amazing pin positions out there," Sabbatini added. "A couple of them I'm still bewildered at, but, you know, they made the course definitely tougher for us today." 

Now, not to take away from Arron Oberholser's win, because it was well deserved and he is a huge talent (not to mention the kind of character the Tour needs more of).

But I noticed while listening to the audio and staring at the dolphins going by that there were very few cheers, and seemingly fewer opportunities for anyone to post a few birdies in a row.

I know this has been asked here many times, but why can't we let the U.S. Open be its own thing. Why is the PGA Tour turning Sunday's into train wreck days instead of letting the players create a little more to cheer about? 

Monday
Feb132006

Will The Tour Start To Listen, Vol. 2

My latest Golfobserver.com exclusive is now posted...