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

The difference between the golf courses of America and of Great Britain can best be expressed by the two words “artificial” and “natural”: and that means a whole lot more than the mere presence or absence of the fabrication of man. Our golf courses in the main lack the subtlety of the British links, and it is why our golf does not demand the strategy or the intelligent planning it should.
BOBBY JONES

 

  

Wednesday
Nov022005

Questions From the Press

Some of the more intriguing Q&A moments from Tim Finchem's State of the Tour press conference:

Q. Of the number of players, 175 or whatever that start the season, how many do you imagine would be in the running to get to the TOUR Championship? Once the first stage of the points system is over, how many do you imagine would have a chance to compete for those 30 spots in the TOUR Championship?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: It depends entirely on the way the point system is developed. We intentionally last summer put off the discussion of points because it's detailed, it's involved. The players are going to want a lot of opportunity to comment, and frankly, it wasn't necessary to complete it for television or discussions with FedEx.
Now, we expect that if player A goes through the first part of the season, is seeded No. 1 and has amassed a 4,000 point lead over No. 2, those seedings are going to bring that No. 1 and No. 2 back very close together because playoffs are all about starting over. You position yourselves. It will probably be worth like a small home field advantage.

Uh, home field advantage? In what way? Oh sorry, I interrupted. This is bound to make sense shortly.

But what those increments are will tell you what the mathematical chances of making the TOUR Championship are. I don't know that. It could be 144, could be 110, could be 90. It will be a healthy number of players, though, and there will be great volatility going through those three weeks in jockeying back and forth because it's our assumption everybody is going to play. It's going to be difficult for a player not to play and have a chance. The rewards at the end of that stream are significant, not just at the No. 1 position but down. So your competition is all playing, you have to play, and the point structure is going to be such that there's a lot of volatility.

And apparently we'll care more as viewers? Hmmm...

Q. Commissioner, the outlines of what you have suggested, they sound a little bit like the way NASCAR restructured themselves for the Nextel Cup. How much did you look at that organization?

COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Well, you might note that we have had the Schwab Cup Championship on the Champions Tour now for a number of years. So we think that we have some experience in the year long competitions, and we frankly think that that competition has had a very positive effect on that Tour.

A little touchy about the copying-NASCAR thing aren't we?

Q. How do you address some of the concerns of the tournament directors or individual tournaments that all of this is leading toward a two tier system, between has and have nots, where you have a wider gap in purses, maybe lesser fields for some of these tournaments? Is there an issue there?

COMM. TIM FINCHEM: I don't think so. Eight years ago I heard those concerns when we added the World Golf Championships to our schedule. I think the fundamental is that over the years, the PGA TOUR as a brand and a concept as something in sports has grown significantly, and that growth has underpinned all of our tournaments. Any tournament that's on our Tour now can market itself successfully with good management.

But who besides the top players $ees the World Championship events as a rousing success? Sorry, continue...

I've often said that we're jealous of some of the team sports if you walk into an NFL stadium or NBA arena, you could close your eyes and not know which city you're in. Because of the nature of our sport, we have to deal with different real estate and golf courses. But from the positioning of the tournament in the marketplace and the staging of the tournament, there shouldn't be that much difference, and I honestly think that with the FedEx Cup and some other things we're going to do, we're going to be there in '07, and that's going to diminish any concerns that our Tour has. We'll be able to grow their charitable functions across the board, they'll all have quality fields, marketable fields.
Q. Could you talk about how the seeding would work, like what the benefits of being a higher seed as opposed to a lower seed would be going into those final four events?

COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Well, you want to be a high seed because, like I said, you're not starting from zero in the seeding. You will have a certain number of points walking into the first event as a base, and if you're the No. 1 seed, it's going to be this much comparative difference between you and No. 5 over three events to get to the fourth event, that much more between you and No. 10, 15 and 20. So you're going to be heavily incentivized to achieve the highest possible seed because mathematically you're better positioned given your playing level to get into the Top 5 or 10 in the cup, and again, the financials are going to be heavily weighted toward the Cup.

 

He was asked about player thoughts on this and whether it would "incentivize" them to play more. The transcript is not correct here, but you get the point:

You will be able to run you'll get this because we'll be showing it to players next year anything we show to players is not confidential.

Ah, so that's why the players are totally in the dark on the new schedule! They are free to talk to the press about what they know.

Wednesday
Nov022005

MBASpeak Box Score

The Commissioner delivered his usual convoluted, tortured take on MBASpeak, invoking the usual business jargon to make even the simplest point sound complicated. The final count on the key buzz words:

  • 1 brand (it's so yesterday)
  • 2 platforms (this was a shocker)

  • 2 incentivize (but it sounds so good)
  • 5 impactfuls (Uh, Oxford, you have a new word to add)
  • 6 marketing partner(s) (who are these people?)
  • 11 marketing (what else is there in life?)
  • 21strong or strongest's, stronger or strengthens (we have a winner!)
Wednesday
Nov022005

Augusta, ShotLink Notes

Two interesting notes from PGA.com: 

MASTERS PREVIEW: Ben Crane is assured of playing in his first Masters (through the PGA Tour money list), and he wasted no time getting his first look at Augusta National.

A week after the club had its fall opening, Crane spent four days at Augusta and played five rounds.

"I hadn't played in a few weeks and wasn't expecting anything,'' he said. "I shot 4-under, made eagle on No. 13. I thought, 'This is no problem.' And I never came close to that the rest of the week.''

For those curious about the latest batch of changes, stretching the course to 7,445 yards, Crane confirmed suspicions that the par-3 fourth hole will be a beast. It has a new tee box some 35 yards longer, making it play about 240 yards. He hit 2-iron one day, and 3-wood the other four times he played.

SHOTLINK: Officials at the Chrysler Championship thought Dennis Paulson had made history as the first player to reach the 605-yard fifth hole in two. According to the Shotlink system, which uses lasers to track every shot by every player, Paulson's second shot went 287 yards and onto the green.

Statistics showed he took two putts for a birdie.

Alas, Shotlink is operated by humans, and humans do err.

"I was through the green,'' Paulson said, noting that his 3-wood went just beyond the fringe into the first cut. Told that Shotlink had him taking two putts, he rolled his eyes and said, "Great. As if my putting stats weren't bad enough.''

It wasn't the first time Paulson has been subjected to a Shotlink mix-up. At the Reno-Tahoe Open, he said the system operators had him mistaken for playing partner Paul Goydos throughout the round.

"One hole, they had Goydos 70 yards past me,'' he said. "My driving distance average went down that week.''

Wednesday
Nov022005

876 yard Par-6

Finlay Leith on the 876-yard par-6 they are playing this week on the Asian Tour. I can't help but find the coincidence funny here: the Links of Leith was an early 19th century course with 400 and 500 yard holes, the equivalent of 600 and 700 today.
Wednesday
Nov022005

Finchem's Statement

Lesson #1 from today's State of the Tour press conference? Leave the joke telling to Jackie Burke.

COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, Bob. We're delighted to be at this venue. The word "venue" reminds me of when we went to Champions in Houston and Jackie Burke took me aside and said, we're delighted to have you here, this is about ten years ago, and your people have sent me this contract to play here. You used this word "venue." I want you to know when I played on the PGA TOUR we played on the golf course and I don't know what a venue is, but we're going to play some golf this week.

Deafening silence from the assembled inkslingers. We continue... 

This morning rather than recap the year, I think all of you have done a good job recapping the year as we've gone through the year. We had a great year and have had a great year...We spent most of the year focusing on the future. And as we look at the future, we look at we reevaluate ourselves. For the past year or two, we've asked ourselves where are we and where should we be headed.

Okay Yogi, are you cutting tournaments or not?

We're not going to talk about the details of our schedule today, but when we do announce it after television I think you'll look at it and see that it's stronger, it has a better flow, we have better golf courses, better sponsor groups, et cetera, to make a good schedule. 

Oh good, better courses means Bellerive and Hazeltine. Can't wait. So for all of the betterness, things aren't so bad today, right? 

In terms of the business side of the equation, our sponsorship today is by far the strongest it's ever been. We have the strongest collection of sponsors on the PGA TOUR, we have the strongest collection of marketing partners, and the number of marketing partners we have, that's tripled in the last five or six years from 18 to 54. And we have a good group of marketing partners.

I think we have our key word of the day...marketing partners. Or is it strongest? What is a marketing partner anyway? Forget it. What about the Players Championship? Excuse me, THE PLAYERS Championship.

And then with respect to our tournaments themselves, starting with THE PLAYERS Championship, we will rebuild the infrastructure for THE PLAYERS Championship and changes the marketing approach for that tournament. We will bring and heighten the impact of our tournaments across the board going forward after 2005. So all that is in play.

And the way to do that?

...there is one pressing need, we think, to help us compete, and that is the need to define our season. You may remember 20 years ago almost now, this tournament started. And the reason it was started was to deal with the challenge of defining a season for our fans. We have a long season, a very long season. And in that season are tournaments which are week in and week out much more impactful than some other weeks.

(Note to the Commissioner: impactful gets a big nasty red line underneath it from MS Word).

Here's a little 135 sentence that I bet you can't read without rolling your eyes:

We think it's a system that will relate well to fan interest in trying to bring to those 112 million fans something they can focus on week in and week out, something that will create more value for our sponsors, something that will create more compelling television for our television partners, something that will create more excitement for our players, more opportunities for our players to be involved in something meaningful each week, and obviously more financial benefits to our players, and also something that we think will help us drive toward that second billion because we now have announced the commitment to get to the second billion so working with our tournament structure to really build the strength of our charitable giving back is fundamental to everything we do, including a year long competition.

Isn't it something that allows us to catch our breath after this first Drive to a Billion before we plug the daylights out of the Second Drive to a Billion?

As for the newly announced FedEx Cup points race:

Let me now turn to the FedEx competition, the FedEx Cup, and talk a little bit about the details. I want you to know that the details at this point stop at a certain point because a lot of the detail is not going to be worked out until 2006, and when that detail is worked out, we will have another visit where we lay out the promotional schedule and promotional themes of the Cup and our relationship with FedEx and how that's going to work, how the point system is going to work and things of that nature.

I know fans are on the edge of their seat about that promotional schedule and promotional theme concept, but here's where the details stop:

Players will compete for position on a points list starting the first week in January and going through late August. There will be a point where that portion of the competition stops, players will then be seeded for a four week championship series. The four week championship series will culminate here at the TOUR Championship presented by Coca Cola, but the first three weeks of that four week series will be at other tournaments around the country. 

What these seedings actually mean remains a mystery.

One, the players need to play to position themselves in a seeding position for the championship series, and the championship series will then be structured on points, which will be the most impactful series of events in the history of the sport.

There's that impactful stuff again. Here's where it gets confusing:

After the TOUR Championship, you can think of the fall series a number of different ways. One of the ways is that actually what players are doing is playing to position themselves to be in the Cup the following year. But in addition to that there will be overall eligibility on the PGA TOUR, securing a card, possibly a continuation of the Top 70 for certain events. 

So in the fall they'll be playing to keep their cards and position themselves for the following year's Cup (really original name idea there by the way, Cup...I wonder where that came from?). Later on someone asked for clarification on this and I'm not sure they got the answer they hoped for.

Okay, warning, MBAspeak answer of the day:

There are a number of benefits strategically to the stronger season. First of all, we think every one of our events is going to be strengthened. We think players are going to be motivated and incentivized to actually play more. Our television we think is going to be not only more impactful but more balanced because we'll have a better number of huge profile events at the end of the season which can tie to our different television packages. We think overall field strength will be supported, as well, and we think fan interest and some of the other things we're going to do, different platforms, can bring fans to be related to FedEx Cup competition during the course of the year. 

Incentivise, impactful, strength, strengthened and of course, platform. Great stuff.

He opened it up to questions from there, which will be looked at in a later post. Oh, and they also presented Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Olin Browne to confirm how great everything is, even though they didn't get to see a schedule either.

Wednesday
Nov022005

Elling on TPC Upgrade

Not content to be the fifth of four majors, the Tour's Bob Combs discusses changes to the TPC Sawgrass and Players Championship with Steve Elling and others. Two things jumped out:

 "Soup to nuts, we're changing anything we can change," tour spokesman Bob Combs told a group of Florida-based golf writers. 

Hmmm...it's almost like they have to spend a lot money.

The tour has a wad of money to finance the deal and reams of data to justify it. The winner at Sawgrass over the years has finished an average of 13.6 under par when the course was wet and 8.5 when the course was dry.

But it's not about the scoring and egos tied to the winning score. No, no.

"This has taken as much effort and brainpower as I've ever seen at the PGA Tour," Combs said.

Tuesday
Nov012005

Finchem Press Conference Broadcast

According to the Tour's media site, Tuesday's "Briefing by PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem" will be viewable via a webcast on PGATOUR.com, starting at 10:00 a.m. ET Wednesday, November 2, 2005. Of course a full autopsy and tally of MBAisms will follow here as soon as a transcript is posted.

Tuesday
Nov012005

Halloween or the Pro-Am?

Doug Ferguson writes that Phil Mickelson may have done Tim Finchem a favor by skipping the Tour Championship. And he says that Mickelson is citing Halloween and a desire to be with his family instead of playing Tuesday's pro-am as the reason he isn't playing.

Lefty won't say this publicly, but what annoys him is the PGA Tour's policy that players must take part in the pro-am to play in the tournament. He already cited that as the reason he didn't play at the Memorial, which also has a Tuesday pro-am. Mickelson had plans to be at Pinehurst No. 2 to prepare for the U.S. Open that week.

The pro-am for the Tour Championship was Tuesday, a good reason for him to pull out. Mickelson reasoned that he couldn't possibly get from San Diego to Atlanta for the pro-am after such a big night for the kids.

Mickelson's absence has minor ripples. Lucas Glover, the last guy to qualify, will have to play alone in the first round. The tournament lost a fair chunk of change from the pro-am considering it cost nearly $40,000 for each three-man team of amateurs, and one team didn't have a pro.

Dumb question here, but why doesn't #31 on the money list get in if someone does no enter?  Wouldn't that deal with the pro-am and onesome situations?

It wasn't like Mickelson pulled out at the last minute. 

Boy the Tour does some strange things. 

Tuesday
Nov012005

Lengthgate?

golfobserver copy.jpgMy latest Golfobserver.com column is now up. Lengthgate looks at the accusation many players are making privately that the Tour is encouraging the extension of courses to produce star-studded leaderboards.
Tuesday
Nov012005

Players Not Moving Yet

Garry Smits in the Florida Times-Union (really annoying registration req.) says Tim Finchem will not be announcing a new date for the Players Championship tomorrow. We're instead going to the Commish paint "broad strokes." The over-under on platform mentions just went up to 15.

Monday
Oct312005

Top 125 Watch

For those following the Top 125 race, this, from the PGA Tour's media notes:

Four players fell out of the top 125 with one event remaining, next week’s Southern Farm Bureau Classic – Loren Roberts (No. 120 to No. 126), Nick Watney (No. 121 to 127), Michael Allen (No. 123 to No. 128), Ben Curtis (No. 124 to No. 130). Roberts turned 50 this year and splits time between the PGA TOUR and the Champions Tour while the 2003 British Open champion Curtis has exempt status through the 2008 season.

Four players climbed into the top 125 – Tag Ridings (No. 126 to No. 101), Hidemichi Tanaka (No. 149 to No. 115), Patrick Sheehan (No. 129 to 116) and Tommy Armour III (No. 132 to No. 123). Tanaka’s T3 finish matched his career best, a T3 at the 2004 B.C. Open.

Monday
Oct312005

Six of Seven Weeks

An AP story that doesn't shed too much new light on the Tour schedule announcment, but I did notice this buried at the end:

The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone would switch to the week before the PGA Championship instead of the week after. That means players like Woods or Phil Mickelson might have to compete in six events in seven weeks.

"We kind of have to if you want to have a chance of the playoff system, especially toward the end of the year,'' Woods said. "If you're playing well, you're going to have to play them all.''
Woods has met with Finchem at least four times this year, and presumably has signed off on the changes.

 

Monday
Oct312005

Why The Focus On The Top Drivers?

Reader Greg asked why the great interest here in the jumps at the top of each Tour's driving distance stats.

On May 9, 2002, the USGA and R&A issued a "Joint Statement of Principles" regarding the improvement of golf clubs and balls. The key line says: "any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable."

PGA TOUR:

  • 2002: 18 players averaged over 290 yards, 1 player averaged over 300 yards
  • 2005: 83 players averaging over 290 yards,  25 players averaging over 300 yards

Nationwide Tour:

  • 2002: 63 players averaged over 290 yards, 15 players averaged over 300 yards
  • 2005: 95 players averaged over 290 yards, 42 averaged players over 300 yards

So while the average Tour drive has climbed at a pace that the USGA could easily shrug off as not necessarily "significant," the huge leaps at the top would seem to indicate that manufacturers have been able to design a ball that passes the USGA overall distance standard under the stipulated launch conditions, but under different launch conditions, allows the players to exceed the distance standard. Thus, creating a situation where some are able to work around the intent of the rules.

Or the guys have just really been working out a lot since 2002.

But it doesn't matter how they've managed to increase their distance since the governing bodies say "any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable."

Not much grey area in that statement, nor in the "highest level" driving distance increases since 2002.

Sunday
Oct302005

Drive to a Billion Celebration

drive to a billion logo.jpgYou have to hand it to the PGA Tour folks who are organizing the "Drive to a Billion" celebration  on such short notice. After all, who'd a thought they would have reached the magical number by East Lake when it was originally believed this was going to happen next year?

Well, the celebration sounds touching:

A public celebration of the milestone is planned for Tuesday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga., in conjunction with the season-ending TOUR Championship. A giant cake will be cut and children from the East Lake Foundation -- representing the many charities that benefit from the money raised by PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour events - will be holding a host of colorful "Thanks a Billion" balloons. 

Pretty soon, these East Lake Foundation kids should be eligible for SAG cards after all of the photo ops they've had to do.

Sunday
Oct302005

PGA/Nationwide Driving Distance Watch, Vol. 6

PGA Tour logo.jpgEven with soft conditions the last two weeks, the PGA Tour held steady at 25 players averaging over 300 yards off the tee, up from 14 last year. (If Ernie Els and Jason Gore had played enough rounds to be eligible, the number would be at 27 for 2005.)

nationwide logo.jpgThe conclusion of the Nationwide Tour season provides an opportunity to revisit their numbers. Again, a look at the leaders in driving distance average.

  • 2005: 95 players averaging over 290 yards, 42 averaging players over 300 yards

  • 200474 players averaging over 290 yards, 24 players averaging over 300 yards

  • 2002: 63 players averaging over 290 yards, 15 players averaging over 300 yards

  • 1998: 7 players averaging over 290 yards, 2 players averaging over 300 yards

Sunday
Oct302005

Champions Tour Driving Distance Watch

championstour.gif

 
With its season concluding, here's a look at the Champions Tour driving distance leaders through the years:

  • 2005: 52 players averaging over 270 yards, 25 players averaging over 280 yards, 6 players over 290 yards, 1 over 300 yards (first time ever, Dan Pohl)
  • 2002: 8 players averaging over 280 yards, 1 player over 290 yards
  • 1998: 3 players averaging over 280 yards
  • 1995: 4 players averaging over 270 yards
  • 1990: 2 players averaging over 270 yards

  • 1988: 3 players averaging over 260 yards

Yes, that's right, the Senior/Valiant Competitors/Champions Tour leader in driving distance is up 36 yards from 1988 to 2005.

If only those guys would have been working out in the late 80s...

The distance leader in 1988 at 264.9 (Bob Boldt), would have placed 63rd in 2005, just ahead of the notoriously long hitting Morris Hatalsky.

Saturday
Oct292005

Tour Schedule Question

PGA Tour logo.jpg Tim Finchem is expected to announce the parameters of the 2007 Tour schedule this week. So I'm wondering, and wondering if anyone else is wondering...

The British Open and PGA will likely be played on their current dates (although wasn't Finchem trying to get the PGA to move up or back a week?).

The season will then conclude with four mega-purse events (New York, Chicago, Boston, Tour Championship), creating a "playoff" that will theoretically prove exciting because of a huge bonus pool.

So besides theoretically asking the players to enter four straight events after a major (!?) at the hottest time of the year, won't this kill the chances of luring big names to the events between the British and PGA? And do they really expect these guys to play five weeks in a row?

Saturday
Oct292005

Casey Martin Story

Mark Soltau has a nice look at the career of Casey Martin, who appears to be calling it quits after giving it his best.
  

Saturday
Oct292005

Driven to a Billion

drive to a billion logo.jpgThe Tour will reached $1 billion in charitable donations thanks to the Charles Schwab Cup (Champions Tour event played this week in case you were wondering what that was).

This ought to silence all you cynics out there who thought it would magically happen at the Tour Championship.

Nope, it happened the Sunday night before...so they can milk it all week. Why didn't I think of that!

"It's pretty special," Tim Finchem said. "It's nice to celebrate a milestone like this. If more people and more companies really understand what's happening, that can help you grow. This is part of our mission. It's part of our culture."

Part of our culture? 

Saturday
Oct292005

Golf Isn't Out Of The Woods

From a front page L.A. Times story today by Greg Johnson:

Operators are dangling discounts and promotions in front of customers — and courting a new generation of duffers who prefer T-shirts to polos and wouldn't think of playing without their iPods and Bluetooth-enabled cellphones. To survive, some courses are taking Palm Desert's approach: plowing under acreage to build homes that will finance improvements.

This isn't the scenario that golf's gurus envisioned in the 1990s, when the "Tiger effect" — a surge in interest in the sport inspired by the arrival of Tiger Woods on the pro tour — and dot-com stock options fueled the belief that a course a day could be built for the foreseeable future.

That euphoria extended into 2000, when 400 courses opened nationwide. This year, about 150 will open, still far exceeding the 50 or so that will shut down.

The build-it-and-they-will-come mentality has been fueled by demand for high-end communities anchored by alluring courses. It comes after a heady half-century of growth; only 3.5 million Americans played golf in 1950, compared with 27.3 million in 2004.

But the number of rounds played increased by just 0.7% in 2004 after three years of decline. The ranks of serious golfers — the roughly half of all players who account for the vast majority of rounds — fell by nearly 5% last year.

"We've gotten to the point where we could probably stand to close a course a day for the next 10 years," said Walt Lankow, the owner of a family-run golf business outside Boston.

Woods has lured newcomers, including many minorities, to the game. Latinos, Asians and African Americans now account for one-fifth of all players, according to a 2003 National Golf Foundation survey.

But many new golfers quickly retire their clubs because of the game's high costs, its inherent difficulty and the time it takes to play 18 holes — or because they come to agree with Mark Twain's observation that golf is a good walk spoiled.

That leaves golf's near-term success in the grip of baby boomers, those now in their 40s and 50s with time and money to play, their fascination with the game ingrained after watching Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer turn it into a television staple.