Roundup 2016: Year In Review Stories And A Few Thoughts

I've been taking in and enjoying the year-end golf summaries, mostly to shield myself from news that makes me want to have John Oliver's '16 tribute on a running loop. As is always the golf media custom, various writers emptied their notebooks and recalled moments that resonated long after they packed up their laptops. While taking in their thoughts I drew a few conclusions, which, if you'll indulge, I'll share before throwing a few good year-end links your way.

2016 lived up to its billing: a stellar-but-bloated schedule, plenty of sensational tournament venues and a continued refinement of course architectural tastes skewing toward the natural. But the sadness of Arnold Palmer's passing, which I'm not sure we got to completely take in quietly, just reinforced the sense that there is too much golf and it all went on way too long.

In spite of the pitiful WD's by Spieth, McIlroy and friends, The Olympics exceeded expectations while The Open Championship will go down as a classic (John Huggan and Dave Shedloski have put together a truncated oral history of Troon 2016).

For Golfweek's Alistair Tait, those were the two biggest takeaways in his eyes and he offers two anecdotes from each.

The women's side keeps producing young talent but now even Lydia Ko is showing signs of impatience that either could propel her to another level, or rapidly add her to a list of almost-legend status. This overall impatience by and for the youth to take center stage should be a more disconcerting sign for golf given how much damage it's done in tennis, but the desperation to ride some under 25-year-old coattails ignores that the average age of the men's major winners in 2016 was..34.

On a grander entertainment scale, fewer players and even fewer fans are clamoring for tournament officials to humiliate players via course setup to compensate for inadequacies in their own golf games. Woohoo! Yes, we still have too many green speed fiascos to mask the distance issue, but we also have fewer four-inch rough weeks and grind-it-out bogey-fests.

This increased clamoring for player-produced drama leads to a more positive energy when we tune in to watch golf. The effect has to seep down to the everyday game, no? 

Consider the incredible outrage over the USGA's difficult-to-rationalize handling of Dustin Johnson and how quickly the public response produced a local rule introduction that will restore some sanity (though it still won't slow down greens). A less cynical, more sensible golfing public should take a bow.

The sport saw minor inroads on the pace-of-play plague and with the greatest single roadblock to progress just a few hours from retirement (woohoo 2!), we may see real reform in 2017. I sense an overall shift in values for the sport: golf is no longer seen by its followers as a sport of inevitable punishment separated by bursts of fun.  It is now expected to be one that aspires to be a lifestyle activity that is fun, sensible and responsible to be part of. Progress!

Obviously this is generational and the infusion of many "millennial" values has meshed nicely with the "artisanal" trends that had already begun to reimagine design and experiential elements that inspire our passion for the sport. However, I can't help but think of 2016 without thinking of the incessant desperation the sport has shown in trying to appeal to a new generation while ignoring an aging demographic that loves the sport. In trying so pathetically to be cool to the kids the sport so often comes off as pathetic to the kids. If there's one thing we know about millennials, it's that we don't know what they really like. But they have shown a love for pursuits with soul, timelessness and some backbone. Golf should act more comfortable in its shoes.

Ultimately the genius of golf is that it can be played and loved by people of all generations. Probably never a huge audience, but one that spans generations. So perhaps the potential for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to duel one more time with a nice mix of young guns and veteran sticks joining the fight, a microcosm of this cross-generational meeting of minds will calm some of this desperation to get younger or die.

On that note...

If you need your memory refreshed, here are's newsmakers, with of course, that passing of Arnold Palmer in the top spot. We lost many others in '16 as Cliff Schrock notes at, but it was Palmer's death that will forever define the year.

Randall Mell steps back from the raw emotion of the initial coverage to consider what Palmer's passing means to the game. Brandel Chamblee also weighed in with this piece.

Jeff Babineau covered many topics in his year-end thoughts, including Palmer's funeral. And's Mercer Baggs left the service feeling upbeat, thanks in part to the eulogy by Sam Saunders.

Doug Ferguson uses up his notes that weren't technically newsworthy, just entertaining. And while this Wayne Gretzky item is the best, the theme here is Palmer and he included this one:

The day after the U.S. Open, Arnold Palmer drove his cart to the back entrance of his office in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

It had been a rough year. Palmer declined to a do his news conference or a TV interview at Bay Hill, instead taping an interview for the NBC telecast. For the first time, he did not hit a ceremonial tee shot at the start of the Masters the following month.

But he was sharp on this day. Dustin Johnson had won the U.S. Open, but only after playing the final seven holes not knowing if the USGA was going to penalize him one shot for his ball moving on the fifth green.

"What did you think of the Open?" Palmer said.

"Interesting," came the fence-sitting reply.

Palmer grinned and, as always, got straight to the point.

"The USGA really (messed) this one up, didn't they?" he said.

Beth Ann Baldry filed her favorite memories from a year on the road covering amateur and women's golf, with the NCAA's in Eugene still resonating strongly. For Mell, Se Ri Pak's emotional retirement cameo was the memory he won't soon forget.

Off the course, the equipment and business side proved fascinating, with more news soon on the way for 2017. David Dusek at summed it up this way:

Where would you start in a year that included Jordan Spieth cracking the face of his driver on the eve of the Masters, Adidas announcing that it wants to sell TaylorMade, Adams and Ashworth and the USGA and R&A reporting that they don’t feel driving distance is a problem in professional golf?

Which brings us back to the proverbial question that inspired the start of this website 13 years ago and saw it morph into a blog 11 years ago. Will 2017 be the year anything is done? Probably not. But I'm encouraged enough by too many other big picture trends to never rule out some action. Shoot, we might even see a slow play penalty on the West Coast swing. Strap, it's going to be a wild year ahead.

Until then, Happy New Year,

How Jimmy Walker Got To The Next Level

Alan Shipnuck's SI/ story is a nice recap of Jimmy Walker's rise from solid journeyman to major winner.

This was also noteworthy. Someone has made a quick impact...

A month ago he began working with Julie Elion, Mickelson's former sports psychologist. (Jimmy and Phil are frequent practice-round foils.) At Baltusrol part of the plan was for Walker to carry himself with more cowboy swagger. When a reporter noted during the champion's press conference that he had seemed surprisingly calm during the tense finish, Walker said, "That's huge, because that's what I was going for."

Grow The Game Files: TNT Reminds That TV Matters

Golf on TV could be the greatest, it could be the best, it could be King Kong banging on its chest!

Standing in the Hall of Fame, and the world might even know golf is not lame!

I'll stop now before you get nightmares since I'm pretty sure Omega's latest ad (key word, ad), will be running a bunch during the Rio games.

Not being present at this year’s PGA Championship afforded an opportunity to be reunited with the early 2000s, a.k.a. a TNT broadcast at a major championship. But this is not to pick on any one network (well, maybe a little), as some of the same issues TNT exemplifies afflict all of the major broadcast presentations, though no major has the annual commercial and promo dump that is the PGA of America's dreadful presentation.

Shoot, even CBS head man Sean McManus talked to's Martin Kaufmann right after the PGA to address the telecast and suggest the commercial load needs to be dealt with for the next three years of the deal. 

No, the affliction I refer to runs deeper than the annual overcommercialization of the fourth of four majors. It's the tendency to stick to what got you here, what has worked over the decades, and to not give up screen space to anything but green grass and golfers. But most of all, to do what will please “partners” who want to play it safe while also preaching how we need to do things differently to save the sport.

Those partners--the PGA of America (this week), the PGA Tour, the USGA, the R&A--all talk relentlessly about growing the game and reaching the all-important millennials, yet refuse to see that their biggest growth tool is in how they present golf on television. Outside of the cost to play, I can’t think of anything more stifling for growth than an aspiring golfer, turning on the suffocatingly safe presentation of golf at the PGA Championship.

TNT’s presentation undermines the event’s place in the major spectrum by appearing to work out of an early 2000’s playbook. (The addition of some fun split screens showed some sign of life and fresh voices in Mike Weir and Amanda Balionis were huge positives.) Yet the ultra-conservative approach to the PGA Championship is even more maddening because of TNT's bold approach to the NBA. That’s where innovation and must-see pre and post game shows have spiked ratings, establishing the cable network as the best at bringing us pro basketball.

In golf, it's vital that television presentation be strong to "grow" participation in the game. More people watch golf on TV than avidly play it. That's an amazing notion suggesting how vital telecast presentation may be in motivating people to play.

With the PGA Championship that TNT airs through 2019, the cable network’s idea of a pre and post game show amounts to reruns of something from their highly-rated catalog. Those cash cows merely require a few an engineer to push a few buttons takes priority for TNT over even now-standard re-broadcast for major rounds (which are appreciated by working folks or those with DVR’s full to the brim).

Adding to the pain is what appears to be a reluctance on CBS’s part to share its gadgets with the TNT broadcast. Can't we all get along here?

Good TNT broadcasts will make more people watch CBS!

As with NBC’s coverage, the beauty of the golf course is a CBS priority and in the early days of high definition, no one disagreed with this approach. But now that nearly all viewers are watching on an HD flat screen and enjoying access to Internet-enabled information, the minimalist approach to screen acreage has begun to give core fans the impression of laziness and casual fans a sense that things could be better. In a day when people can handle more graphics and social media information on screen, golf is still holding back real-time information.

Knowing how hard the people in golf television work, particularly during majors, the impression of laziness is an unfair one. Golf is by far the most difficult sport to cover. Nonetheless, as we get more fun stuff like Protracer, on-screen graphics/Trackman data, split screens that give us a better sense of the golf hole faced, and full-field scores, the broadcasts that eschew such progress only give the impression to viewers that golf is stuck in a different decade. This was TNT last week.

When something controversial happens--like the PGA’s miscue with a hole location and repeat of its 2005 refusal to move up tee times--the lack of broadcast discussion looks lame while social media covers the story. This undermines the credibility of the networks and tournament host. (Especially when it’s the network home to Ernie, Charles, Kenny and Shaq, where nothing is off limits and controversies are embraced). Also, do recall that Fox’s breakthrough at the U.S. Open came at the expense of actually covering its partner’s mistakes. Painful for the USGA, yes, but also a huge boost to their partner overpaying for the product.

The people who want to grow the game need to stop focusing so much on the production values of their public service announcements. They need to look within and start pushing their broadcast partners to rethink how they present the sport, even if means giving back a few bucks to help the networks expand certain production values. These conversations are long overdue and more necessary than another short term feel-good initiative. Because those PSA-driven grow the game concepts pale compared to motivating people  by giving them a telecast that inspires them to run to the range.

Flashback Reads: 2005's PGA Championship Tee Time Debacle

I'm not going to wade too deep (yet) into the PGA of America's decision to not alter tee times Saturday in the face of a pretty bad forecast.  Expecting different results again and again speaks to just how surreal the scene was Saturday as the PGA repeated its 2005 debacle in 2016. While a Monday finish is dreadful for all involved, this may be the Golf Gods making a statement about playing this PGA prior to the Olympics or in a time of year prone to this kind of weather. Or both.

I went back 11 years into the archives when debuted on Squarespace. Found were a few gems from the 2005 PGA debacle. That's when Sunday times were not moved up and the event finished on a Monday.

Bob Harig writing in 2005 for

For most of the week, temperatures have hovered in the high 90s, with much humidity. You don't have to be Willard Scott to know these weather patterns present an excellent chance for thunderstorms, including lightning. The PGA of America, which is based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where this kind of weather is prevalent in the summer, should know better.

Several players wondered why the tee times simply were not moved up. The PGA Tour does it all the time when there is a threat of bad weather. Better to move up the tee times and have nothing happen than to wait and face what we now face. It happened at last year's Masters, where Mickelson won by a stroke. Nobody seemed to mind that Mickelson's victory leap came an hour earlier. Certainly not those who were there and those who got to see it on live TV.

The first tee time Sunday morning was at 8. Had it been at 7, there is a chance the round could have been completed.

David Whitley in the Orlando Sentinel likened the 2005 situation at Baltusrol to one of the most embarrassing mistakes in TV sports history.

In 1968, NBC switched to the movie Heidi instead of sticking with the New York Jets-Oakland Raiders NFL game. New York led 32-29 at the time, but Oakland scored two touchdowns in nine seconds to win and set off outrage throughout sporting America.

Heidi, meet Kerry Haigh.

As the managing director for tournaments for the PGA of America, he had to explain why the final round wasn't moved up to allow for the possibility of rain. Of course, everybody already knew the answer.

What TV wants, TV gets. CBS wanted golf action to lead right into prime time. God forbid there would be any down time before 60 Minutes.

The situation in 2005 was made worse when we learned Phil Mickelson asked that times be moved up after not being able to see the ball well enough on Saturday night. His request was denied. Alan Shipnuck wrote:

In the Saturday twilight Mickelson had trouble seeing the breaks on the final few holes and afterward beseeched tournament officials to move up the tee times. This request was denied, and ignored, too, was a foreboding forecast for Sunday-afternoon lightning storms, which should have spurred the tournament and the network suits to send the players out early. The first lightning strikes arrived around 2:30 p.m., delaying play for 39 minutes and setting up a race against the darkness. When another storm rolled in, the final round was suspended for good at 6:35, forcing a morning restart for all the marbles.

Then there was this back and forth in 2005 with Kerry Haigh where suggests they would end any event at 7, even if it wasn't on television.

Q. Truth be told, the weather forecast was far worse today than for any time of the week. There was just a chance of scattered showers early in the week and today every forecast I saw on The Weather Channel and locally were pretty certain it was going to happen.

KERRY HAIGH: The forecast was, I think, there was more of a chance of scattered showers but they were still scattered. If you look further to the south, they have had no activity at all, and we were within four or five miles of missing it ourselves. So I think the forecast was very accurate, that it was certainly very scattered. We were just unfortunate that it came too close and right on top of it.

Q. Let's see if he can drive this nail with a different hammer. You conduct a number of championships, some of which are not televised. If you were in like circumstance with a non televised championship, and you knew the details that you had today, would you err on the side of caution and adjust your time so that you didn't carry your championship over into the next day?

KERRY HAIGH: That's a good question. But no, I think we would have probably had we made all of our arrangements for a 7:00 finish and with all of the people and parties involved, we would have kept it the same.

Dave Anderson of the New York Times wrote back in 2005:

Maybe the organizers of the three major tournaments in the United States will realize that they should stop bowing to the Great God Television and schedule Sunday's final-round tee times early enough to better assure enough daylight, even if a playoff is necessary, for the finish.


The silver lining is simple enough: schedule the Sunday tee times in the best interests of the golfers and the golf fans, not for high ratings and the monetary interests of a network that demands a compelling lead-in to its prime-time shows.

Fast forward to 2016 and the explanations at least are just routing-based. From Cameron Morfit's story:

“It’s a major championship,” Haigh said, “and we want it to be run and perform as a major championship. We feel it’s important for all the players, in an ideal world, to play from the first tee and play the holes in order.”

Alex Myers with the scenarios for finishing. Few are very pretty based on the forecast.

2016 PGA Round Two This And That: Lively Friday At Baltusrol

There was a bit of something for everyone Friday at Baltusrol: great golf from Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb (the 30th 63 in a major, writes Brian Wacker), a rules issue with Jordan Spieth that generated much discussion, an epic course setup gaffe, and no shortage of volatile play from other top names.

Adam Schupak on the leaders Walker and Streb.

Best of all, we have what appears to be the makings of a grand finish with most of the game's best in the battle, assuming the Sunday weather will cooperate.

Henrik Stenson is on fire, as he has been at other times in his career, Brian Wacker notes.

After a 65 in the worst conditions Friday, Patrick Reed has positioned himself nicely in a major, for a change, reports Joel Beall.

Alan Shipnuck goes a step further and says this is a potential breakthrough weekend for Reed.

Ryan Herrington talks exclusively with Colt Knost about the wrong hole location and shares the PGA of America's explanation.

“I called an official over and said, ‘What’s going on here?’” Knost detailed after his round. “And he said, ‘We messed up.’"

According to a release from the PGA of America, the Rules Committee realized the error after the players hit their second shots. Shortly after, officials handed out revised hole-location sheets to the group, and to all subsequent groups.

Knost took to Twitter after the round.

Dave Kindred on Jordan Spieth having a chance to salvage the season, especially with this being his last start of significance unless you consider the playoffs important.

Kevin Casey at with all of the particulars on Spieth's ruling and possible violation that was determined not to be a violation.

Golfweek's Jeff Babineau says there was no rules issue. Nothing to see here, so move along. I think that was a little strong given what appeared to be a violation, but Babineau's explanation also does make sense given where we are with rulings.

Once his ball was back on the path free of the casual water, Spieth took his stance, addressed the ball as if he were to play it, and got the thumbs up to play on from Gregory – ahem, the expert rules official.

That’s all Spieth needed, though surely Mitch from Montauk and Sal from Summit soon were lighting up the phone lines once they saw one of Spieth’s spiffy Under Armour golf shoes hovering over a puddle.

Spieth assessed his situation, facing 190 yards with some trees in front to negotiate, then elected to play in a slightly different direction than he originally planned – something he totally was within the rules to do. In fact, playing in a different direction is allowed under Rules of Golf Decision 20-2c/0.8.

The 7th hole turned things around for Jason Day, writes Rex Hoggard at

Justin Tasch of the New York Daily News on Phil Mickelson’s triple bogey start plus other notes from a weird day that saw pre tournament favorite Dustin Johnson heading home early.

“I think in the history of the PGA Championship, that’s the worst start of any player’s round,” Mickelson said. “I don’t even know what to say. It was just a pure mental block.”

Alex Myers with the evidence of Phil's rough start, which was salvaged by several birdies and a made cut for the Baltusrol defending champion.

Rory McIlroy missed the cut and now, because he backed out of the Olympics has a lot of time off to rethink his putting issues, reports James Corrigan.

Once again it was McIlroy’s putter to blame, although, bizarrely, it was the same implement which appeared to have dug him out of the hole on the 17th. There were three missed five footers and for the second day running – and, yes, for the umpteenth time this season -  it was the shortest club in the bag which was letting down all the others.

Brently Romine with the Ryder Cup ramifications of the current leaderboard.

Round one ratings on TNT were down 30% from last year.

Note to those missing the cut: Zika virus has come to Florida. Hope those guys skipping the Olympics over the virus are not spending much time in Florida for a while!

The 2016 PGA: Baltusrol In July, Major And Olympic Preview!

So soon after The Open--particularly one we'll never forget--and at a parkland course short on memorable holes, and played in July to accommodate America's obsession with football, all adds up to make it hard for many including the SI/ gang to get excited about the 2016 PGA Championship.

From the roundtable:

Bamberger: Yes, the PGA risks getting overlooked. But this year less than others. It's the lead up to the Olympics!

Shipnuck: You jest, Michael, but it will add a little extra juice and another needed talking point. We all know the PGA is the least prestigious of the majors, and as long as it’s going to boring tracks like Baltusrol, that won’t change. But the Olympics are the de facto 5th major this year—Sorry Players—and will continue the mojo for this blockbuster summer.

Bamberger: I don't jest. Not about this!

Shipnuck: Good, because these Olympics are life and death. Perhaps literally!

Ritter: Only if you drink the water in Rio, Alan! (Or, leave your hotel.) As for the PGA, Balty has produced some great winners, including Phil in ‘05 and Jack twice. If it gets a few high-wattage names in the mix on Sunday, it'll draw its share of eyeballs, even in a busy summer.

Probably more than had the event been moved to the early fall to help with the congested schedule. But football won that match before it even teed off.

David Fay filed some terrific Golf Digest thoughts on the history of Baltusrol and what makes it such a great club, even if you find the course a little uninspired on TV. And he addresses that silly wall installed by Robert Trent Jones at No. 4. **See Rick Wolffe's much appreciated clarification on the wall in comments below.

Alan Pittman offers this black and white photo tour of the club.

Phil's Baltusrol Defense: Changes In Game Means Change In How To Attack The Course

With the PGA Championship's return to Baltusrol, the spotlight will be on the course's defending champion, Phil Mickelson (Jason Day is of course the actual title defender).

In an unusually candid as-told-to with Mark Cannizzaro, Mickelson mentions the role of Baltusrol retiring pro Doug Steffen in helping him learn the green, Joe's Pizza for his favorite local pie, Wednesday golf at Pine Valley again with Jerry Tarde and other fun insights.

But for those wanting to know how the Open Championship runner-up plans to attack the course, Mickelson admits to a big change in approach worth noting.

I have to play it shorter off the tee and straighter and then more aggressive into the greens. A lot of times before, I couldn’t be aggressive into the greens because I was in trouble. But I could get away with that because my length off the tee was more of an advantage than it is now.

Now I have to be more conservative off the tee so I can then be more aggressive into the greens. You have to adapt as a player. During my 30s, length was key for me and there wasn’t as much rough as there is today and I was pretty wild. One of the things I’ve had to do as a player is adapt and become more consistent off the tee, and I’m in the process of that right now.

My anticipation of playing Baltusrol this time around is going to be much more methodical. I can’t overpower a golf course like Bubba Watson or Dustin Johnson. I’m going to give up strokes off the tee to them. Dustin gains 2 ¹/₂ strokes on the field. So I have to make up three shots elsewhere — chipping, putting, iron shots, whatever.