Week(s) In Review, December 2-16: Platforming Gone Wild

WeekInReview2.jpgA busy few weeks highlighted by Tiger's entry into design and the PGA Tour Communications Summit.

On Tiger's Dubai project, David Sucher wrote: consider the implications of creating a course with "lush landscaping, stunning water features" in an area which I believe is intense desert. Unless he has some trick clubs in his bag, this project will make 'Shadow Creek look ecologically sustainable. Tiger has needlessly made himself a target for ridicule. I have hitherto had a very favorable impression of him but I think he has grossly mis-stepped here.

NRH: Since Eldrick has so much cash and a solid work ethic, you would think he could find a site in the States to serve as a practice run. A project with little fanfare, in the middle of nowhere that he could get to in a couple of hours on his jet. His type of place, with no demands from an eight figure investor. Work the kinks out, establish a rapport with the crew, etc. Instead, he chooses Dubai. If nothing else, the precedent is Trumpian.

We had a naming contest to translate Al Ruwaya, and while there were many fine entries, reader ken-one-putt got my vote with "It's Right In Front of You."  Ken, please email me so I can send you a Masters of the Links!

On the news that the USGA had sold U.S. Open presenting sponsors rights to American Express, Tom G wrote: I'm a capitalist as much as the next guy, but this is waaaaay tooo far. Golf lost today.

JPB: I'm more of a capitalist than the next guy, but this is way too far and golf lost today. Maybe they are doing this so Tiger will play the US Open as he endorses Amex.

And then there was the PGA Tour's Communications Summit, which raised more questions than it answered.

John Karl: "To our partners in the golf equipment industry"  what partners? is there a fortune brands open i'm not aware of? is there a Cobra invitational on next years schedule? i apoligize, i thought i heard him say partners in the golf equipment business. that is what he said isn't it? what a bafoon, kiss ass. Only, i'm not sure why he's kissing the manufactures asses, he must get a new bag and clubs every year.

Regarding a golf writer's concern about the nonsense of players being burned, DAW did offer this interesting rebuttal: Paul Casey got burned for comments that should have been laughed off. This writer has no empathy at all for his subjects. I am confident that if Tiger, for example, ever gave an honestly negative opinion of a golf course or a specific writer that he would be *roasted* in the press. He would spend months dealing with constant questions about it; how would that possibly benefit him? Is it any wonder that he cultivates a boring public persona?

On the repeated use of MBAspeak, ABF writes: I don't have an MBA, so the use of "platform" here is new to me, and, to put it kindly, seems pretty fluid. No help from our dictionary. However, from Wikipedia: "A platform is a naturally occurring or human-made surface for people to jump from."  As in free-fall. As in jumping off a cliff.

Week(s) In Review, November 19-Dec. 2: Miscellany

WeekInReview2.jpgCatching up on a couple of weeks of posts, the most spirited discussions took place under posts on the LPGA's ADT Championship, the FedEx Cup, steroid testing and the various assaults on classic courses.

After seeing the ADT play out, RB made a great point on the FedEx Cup: It's been brought up before but it's worth repeating given the NASCAR season is now complete: The FedEx Cup will likely diminish winning the Tour Championship. I don't know about your paper, but mine had a man-on-moon headline trumpeting Jimmie Johnson winning the Nextel Cup. You had to read to the seventh paragraph to get this little nugget: Greg Biffle won the race for a third consecutive year. What happens when Tiger and Phil are dueling down the stretch for next year's Tour Championship, but three holes back FEDEX Cup leader Furyk is struggling to finish in the top 10 to win the Cup? Where's the story? Who do the network's train their cameras on? Who came up with this silly race anyway?

CBell on the ADT:  As for the telecast, I agree there was little buzz - hardly a hum - but for that I blame the crowds and the course. You need either a wall-to-wall crowd or a, uh, storied venue (okay, anything with a bit of history) to create much electricity, and this lacked both. A year from now, though, even a Trumped-up course like this has a chance, given the Webb-Ochoa meltdowns on #17 which created sort of an instant legacy.

Regarding my Golfdom essay on catch basins and generally schlocky drainage design work in golf architecture, Kris Spence weighed in with this:  I was recently asked by a member what I thought of a newly renovated fairway and hole on an old Ross course in NC that had 9 very symetrically positioned basins within the fairway cut. My answer, this hole has more catch basins than all of the other 400 + Ross designed courses combined.

On the PGA Tour's reported $5 million price tag for performance enhancing drug testing, JohnV countered with this: According to an article I found on the internet, it costs about $105 to do a steroid test. If they tested the champions, nationwide and pga tour players it would be about 500 players. With 4 tests a year, it would only be $210,000.

After USGA president Walter Driver's latest Q&A where he suggested that he would like to beef up the USGA website, reader Chuck suggested this: one of the ways that the USGA could better communicate with its members is to publish some of this data that they are apparently sharing with the manufacturers, data that was been developed with such care and with such expense by the USGA. According to the USGA itself. As Mr. Driver indicated to one of my questions, the people who criticize the USGA "don't have the facts that we [the USGA] do..." Well, okay. Use the internet. Give us 'the facts that you have.'

And NRH on the PGA Tour's latest attempt to enhance its media coverage: I'm glad the Tour isn't shoved down the throats of Joe Sports Fan like the NFL and all of its ESPN fueled drama. Nothing can really be done (or measured) beyond the majors, Ryder Cup or Tiger in the field to attract the fringe fan. Maybe free tickets for pre-teens. Of course the exceptions are Phoenix, the Nelson and Warwick Hills, where the lure is a good party. Does the Tour want more of that?

Week In Review, November 12-19, Bivens One Ups Finchem?

WeekInReview2.jpgAnother lively week in golf, starting with Robert Allenby blasting PGA Tour architecture, prompting this reply from Scott Stearns: Please, lets stop with the "European tour courses demand all these different shots" garbage. Last week's venue in Shanghai was a lot like last week's silly season venue in Naples, FLA. The Grove is as american a venue as there is. Wentworth (one of the better courses on the euro tour) looks more like the Wachovia tour stop than it does a classic English course like Swinley forest or Sunningdale. Lets not even discuss the K club, Celtic Manor or Loch Lomond. If anything, the Euro Tour plays WORSE courses than the PGA Tour.

Regarding Bomb and Gouge's disregard for Augusta National and St. Andrews a important venues in the game, DBH writes, "In the process of lengthening and growing and 'toughening' they're redefining their essential character. So that 'the great unwashed', no sorry, the '99.9999 percent of us' won't actually have a chance to experience their true nature. They'll be relics of two of the greatest venues in golf. Maybe analogous to too much plastic surgery."

On the delicate subject of the USGA's desperate attempts to pad its membership, Four-putt writes: My wife and I have been USGA members ever since I can remember... but I didn't bother to send in the check this year. I didn't write them a letter, either, because any words fall on deaf ears. I'd rather see some change at the top, rather than get a free year.

Regarding the LPGA's announced drug testing program for 2008, Glyn writes: Wow Bivens one upped Finchem. I wonder if this will force him to do the same or will he downplay it. Because you know someone will bring it up with him.

Pete the Luddite wrote: It's not just steroids that should be of concern. We all agree that Lefty does not look like Adonis. Other drugs that can be abused by the younger players trying to make it (or the older players who want to hang around a bit longer) can include mood stabilizers and the like. There is more pressure than ever to perform with the paychecks being so much larger than in the past.

LEFTY writes: Bravo, Commissioner Bivens! I think this will finally get Finchem to start drug testing on the PGA Tour. Call me an optimist, but I bet fewer golfers take drugs than one may think, and those who do are not anywhere near elite.

And on the news that the PGA Tour has decided to reduce fields in its FedEx Cup "playoffs" (including the Western Open where they'll get 70 players instead of 144), Four-putt writes: Let me speak on behalf of the millions of voiceless golfers and spectators of the Chicagoland area who have supported our local PGA Tour stop for eons. Regarding this latest format change in the FedEx Cup playoffs, we do not feel any less screwed. Give us back our Fourth of July Western Open, Timmy.

And jneuman notes: The format can't win. If it eliminates players quickly, it runs the risk of losing the marquee names. If it skews too heavily to the season results, its first week or two is pretty much irrelevant. I don't think fans are going to care any more than they have about the Tour Championship -- it's not like anybody considers it the fifth or sixth major, do they?

What's wrong with having a season that works differently from those in other sports? Golf has its own rhythm, and doesn't necessarily peak at the end in the fall. So what? Why does it have to make the same mistake as baseball, failing to value its long season in order to chase TV money for an illegitimate short season at the end? 

Week In Review, November 5-11: Tiger The Architect

WeekInReview2.jpgLast week's Tour Championship turned out to be a mini-fiasco for Tim Finchem, the PGA of America introduced Paul Azinger as Ryder Cup Captain on Monday, and guess who stole the spotlight this week? Tiger Woods of course.

But first, John Huggan kicked off the week with a column on Michael Bonallack, another of those former golf executives who suddenly wishes he had done more when he had the chance. Still, the former R&A man's complacency is nothing compared to the current regime, as Sean Murphy noted:  It doesn't matter what Michael Bonallack would do or not do. Who was head of the R&A during 2002 when the Joint Statement Of Principals were issued by the USGA and the R&A??? And what is that person going to do about it?

On news that Paul Azinger will make his 4 Captain's picks the week before the Ryder Cup, reader Bob S. wrote: Will the player's wife have enough time to get all primped for the event? I mean, you just don't go to SuperTarget and get an evening dress for the Grand Ball in 7-days.

And finally, the story that generated 43 posts: Tiger's bizarrely timed entry into the course design business. The news prompted a wide array of reactions.

CEB: He'll probably spend about as much time on his course designs as he has on the developing the sleek new 2007 Buick LeSabre

Pete the Luddite: I would not be surprised if his work turns out to be incredibly detailed and a great product. I can't see someone as driven and focused as Tiger putting out a prodcut that he would not agree should be associated with his name. Patience, folks. Time will tell.

Adam Clayman: IMG shoots...and scores.

Pollner: Did Nicklaus actually 'hang out his shingle' before some of the 'consulting' he did with Dye? It's interesting that Tiger doesn't even have a project yet. I would have thought that he would have gotten his toes a little wet by working with a known architect before launching his own firm.

Scott S: We can only hope that his love of the game extends to being willing to get down into the dirt every now and again.

Mark Ferguson: Umm, whereabouts around the world exactly has Woods been, to have absorbed all of this local design knowledge? Two oh-so-brief visits to Oz and one to NZ don't count much. It will be interesting if the Woods group gets a really great piece of land that lends itself to some great short fours, threes and fives for a par 69 or 70, but the owner wants 72 for 7300 yards - will he stand up to the owner and walk away?

Four-putt: Developers only care about the star-power of the design consultant's name. Translates directly into more revenue from memberships and real estate sales. So why not Tiger? Why should this surprise anyone? I only wonder what took him so long.

John Gorman: When it's all said and done, I'm actually a bit shocked by this announcement. But, maybe he'll do it right and be super-selective about the projects he accepts and only do one per year. I can't imagine that he'd pimp himself out for big fees and little hands-on work.

F.X.: I admire Tiger and hope this turns out well, but it was the last thing I expected to hear him turn his attention to so I am concerned that he's merely lending his name to an IMG collection of designers and course builders.

Week(s) In Review, October. 20-Nov. 4: FedUp Already?

WeekInReview2.jpgJagsheemash! Wouldn't you love to see Borat interview say, Scott Hoch? Oh well, we can only dream.

Meanwhile, in the real world I'm catching up on a couple of weeks here worth of posts that started with Frank Hannigan's letter on the latest USGA activities.

I was called out by the Bomb and Gouge bloggers over at GolfDigest.com and I'm working hard on the low self-esteem issues they diagnosed me with.

In the mean time, reader Scott S made this point that might ignite a few introspective thoughts in Bomb and Gouge:  I find it interesting that while so many bemoan even the shadow of regulation, no one seems to think it would be a good thing if distance went totally unchecked, and equipment was totally unchained. "Any more and it will break". The unfortunate thing, as with many diseases, is that if you have to wait for a major malfunction, you're usually already in the terminal stages. Why not start the chemo today, and save a long agonizing death for another century?

And from Smolmania: "A problem that does not exist?" If there's no problem, then why does their blog exist?

News that Winged Foot netted $1.5 million at a significant cost to course and club, elicited many views.

JPB: I understand the members' frustration. The US Open isn't a quaint event anymore that takes a week's play away from the host club. The USGA rakes in the cash. NBC rakes in the cash. The extreme set up hurts the course. All the add ons hurt the course and the membership. I understand why the members don't want the hassle unless the club benefits in a real way. If the membership feels like hosting a tournament at their excellent course, why not a mid am or senior am?

NRH didn't agree: The traveling circus of the USGA wants to come along for the first time in 22 years and the club signs on the dotted line. They sacrifice a couple of months of the status quo in exchange for a major, then some big mouth members complain for selfish reasons? Boo-hoo.

News of excessive executive pay down at PGA Tour headquarters prompted Sean Murphy to ask: We have a money manager who never lets us know what he's doing or what the balance of our accounts are......would this make any of you nervous????

But Sean, look at the results! Bill Fields and Steve Elling wrote about Rick George hyping the Champions Tour upswing, which readers here didn't quite buy into.

Four-putt:  We had a Senior Tour event in Chicago (third biggest market in US and golf-crazy with 1.7 million golfers) from 1991-2001. The first few years saw over 20,000 spectators each of the three days, with about 25,000 on Sunday. The last three years, though, less than 5,000 people showed up at the course to watch the final round on Sunday -- and that number was under 1,000 the last year, right before SBC mercifully pulled the plug. While they're nice guys, Dana Quigley, Tom Kite, Loren Roberts, Criag Stadler and Allen Doyle alternating in the final pairing on Sunday don't add up to a "helluva product."

jneuman: Men like Gil Morgan, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, D.A. Weibring and the rest were fine players, but they weren't Nicklaus and Palmer and Chi Chi, and fans discovered they liked watching older golfers who had personalities and seemed to care about entertaining them. Today, and for the last five-plus years, those same boring figures who made the Senior Tour a necessity -- because they were so boring in PGA events -- ARE the old guys. Why should we care about watching them over 50 when we didn't care about them in their 30s?  The problem for the old guys is that they're a product without a reason to exist, something that's carried on long past its time, like Negro League baseball in the 1950s-60s, or the Harlem Globetrotters today.

The Tour Championship arrived, Tiger and Phil blew it off, and for whatever reason, all hell broke loose.

Scotty on Tiger: One flaw in this money doesn't matter argument: Tiger Woods is skipping the Tour Championship to rest up for three unofficial events that will pay him guaranteed almost six times what he would take home by WINNING the Tour Championship. I think money matters to him more than you think.

Steven T.: I think TW might have altered his schedule this year if Coca-Cola paid him 10-20M/year to be a spokesperson. As for PM, he's happy with his endorsement money and half year schedule. I heard Dave Pelz, his new shill, on TGC saying that Phil is getting in shape for next year and is looking good even though he could lose 15-20 pounds.Perhaps Phil will win Phoenix and Palm Springs and San Diego and then quit real early next year.

This seemed to open the floodgates on the doomed FedEx Cup concept, which we've known was a mess for some time. Starting with playing opportunities for Q-school grads...

Bill N.: Sean's antitrust characterizations in this instance are well founded, Finchem has problems. How does he provide playing and earning opportunities to his membership while at the same time cutting playing and earning opportunities? He's dividing the market place covering independent contractors, and his graduates coming from the Nationwide Tour and Q-School will have a horrendous schedule that will not provide them a fair level playing field, as Jeff Rude and Lee Trevino pointed out earlier this week, but will be all the evidence a faction of the membership needs to file suit. I'm starting to understand what Trevino meant when he said he'd be heading to the courthouse. Restricting members (grads) from having a fair (rule of reasonableness) chance of making these playoffs is where the whole FedEx Cup jumps track, after a lawsuit is filed and sucessfully contested, this will go down in history as the Fed Wreks Cup, and Finchem's FECES. 

Hawkeye: Actually, when 144 guys make the "playoffs" and everyone seemingly has a chance for player of the year, that pretty much sends the message that the FedEx is the only thing making the PGA Tour relevant... I mean, why should the big boys bother showing up in more than eleven tournaments (yep, that's but four regular Tour stops for you, considering the four majors and the three WGC's) prior to it???

F.X.  FedEx and Finchem are just trying to put a different label on this long-existing system, and the business of coming up with points instead of money and identifying post-PGA tournaments as playoffs is just a dumbing-down of what already exists, which is why it attracts so much criticism and confusion. Wouldn't FedEx be just as well off taking over various events, and, like Buick, having a continuing presence throughout the season that way? What's the point of trying to invent a new prize that nobody is going to take seriously?

cmoore: The only thing interesting about the FedEx Cup is all of the fighting that it is generating. The concept of a playoff where no one really loses or gets eliminated is ludicrous.

Also from cmoore: How about a season-long points accumulation ending with a 32-man match-play event? Then I could use the word "playoff" without reservation.

Tom Pernice joined the frey and slammed the commissioner and the FedEx Cup

Smolmania: The fact remains that Tom Pernice wouldn't be making the money he makes if Tiger wasn't playing on the PGA Tour, just as all of those guys wouldn't be making the money they make if not for the King.

Bob S.:  I think a more important question is how the heck did Tom Pernice qualify for the Tour Championship?

Pollner: Tiger could completely neglect the US tour now and still be considered the most succesful golfer ever. And I imagine if Tiger left the tour that every single sponsor would pressure the Tour to allow him to play in every tournament he desired. What's Pernice going to say then?

Week In Review: October 14-21: Arnie and Drivers

WeekInReview2.jpgAs the season winds down and the hot-button tech issues figure to heat up, news of Callaway's lousy earnings prompted JPB to make this astute point about the demise of the Top Flite "brand":  Actually if top-flite has a problem, it may be a symptom of the things we talk about here. Fewer players playing fewer rounds at more expensive courses. If a lot of top-flites sell it might mean a lot of average or bad players are playing, maybe at cheaper courses. Not my brand, but there are worse products than top-flites. For what they are, they work better than they need to.

Reader Bill S suggested the driver head size be regulated as a way to deal with distance and your comments were interesting, with nearly all of the 20 weighing in agreeing that it has played a major role in the distance explosion of the last few years.

Hawkeye: The launching characteristics would be altered since the weight distribution in the clubeheads would have to be somewhat different, and subsequently it would't be as easy to launch the high, floating drives that are the norm today. Now, if we could just introduce a limit to tee-peg height as well...

Scott S: Many, many things have happened over the years with equipment that it is difficult to pinpoint the culprits, but driver head size is big in the spotlight. We like to think of the tour guys hitting everything dead-center all the time, but this isn't reality. With smaller clubheads on a tense tournament day, people would be skying and topping them all over the place.

DAW: I own a persimmon-head driver that I use from time to time. I don't think I can hit it as far as my normal driver, but in the summer it's quite close. I hit it much, much lower, however. On courses with forced carries, this is a big disadvantage. Not just because of fairway bunkers, but consider a hole where the fairway runs a bit uphill and then flattens out at 230 yards. If I catch the wooden driver a bit thin, it doesn't land on the plateau and goes nowhere. I also think that I lose a larger percentage of the height on imperfect strikes with the wooden driver compared to the big metal one...If limiting the head size would significantly lower the trajectory for drivers then it might be a worthwhile idea.

Bill S: If you read the history books, way back in the days of hickory sticks and before Titleists people hit 300 yard drives now and again. If you let your swing speed get faster, you will hit the ball farther. BUT - with small Persimmon (and even early steel) heads, there was a cost/benefit analysis to be made. If people let their swings out and missed (even a little bit) they wouldn't miss the fairway, they would miss the state. As a result, players like Jack rarely aired it out. Furthermore, mediocre players almost NEVER aired it out b/c they could not control the direction of their shots. In 2006, everyone knows the sweet spot is huge and everyone knows the clubs have incredible MOI's to keep the ball in play. Even hackers like me can play "feerless golf" with a 460cc driver.

Smitty: All you have to do is remember Jay Haas popping up his drive at the Ryder Cup to realize what a difference head size makes--especially under pressure...The problem still overwhelmingly is THE BALL!

And while we can joke about his various farewells, Arnold Palmer really did say goodbye to competitive golf this week and things just won't ever be the same. But if we could just get them to Augusta Thursday morning...

Hawkeye: For some reason, the first golfing stars of the TV age (Palmer, Nicklaus, Player) have all seemed to believe that they would be, truly, forever young. Sadly, that's not the case, and it took Palmer thirty years to realize that. Let's hope Nicklaus and Player also change their minds on being "cermonial players" and reconvene on the first tee at Augusta next April!

ken-one-putt: If we can get the Big Three on the first tee for Thursday at Augusta next year it would truly be a wonderful thing for golf.

And echoing his comments, Smolmania: Mr. Palmer's best days were long since done by the time I came along, but no one since has had the personal magnetism, the ability to make everyone in his presence feel that he was friends with the King. Palmer, Nicklaus, Player. Big Three golf lives. 1st group out on Wednesday afternoon in the Par-3 Tournament, and 1st tee shots on Thursday morning. All would be right in the world for those 18 hours.

Week In Review: October 7-14: The Kids Today...

WeekInReview2.jpg America's lousy showing on the world stage (and questions about possible influences) generated more comments during an otherwise slow news week.

Reacting to Jose Maria Olazabal's course setup related comments in a John Huggan column, ken-one-putt writes:  You know, I am currently less concerned about the obsession with lengthening golf courses, and more concerned about the lack of options around the greens...But for the past two years I have been playing a course with perfect Zoysia fairways and large, flat greens. These insipid greens are almost all elevated 3 to 5 feet above the surrounding terrain, and they are surrounded by slopes covered in rough. Worse, the area away from the slopes is a morass of clumpy grass and cuppy lies. Like JMO, I have concluded that this is anti-skill for a short-game specialist. And it makes the game BORING.

And while some of us see this change impacting the younger American players, SI's Gary Van Sickle suggested that the U.S. collegiate system is not developing players properly.

Reader Chuck disagreed: Among the International players there are a few (i.e., Garcia) who simply turned pro at a very young age when they were endowed with overwhelming talent. And I don't think that any 'national sports program' had much to do with anything. There are others (Donald, Casey, Villegas) who, for all practical purposes, have been American collegiate players almost from the moment that they left the junior ranks. Montgomerie, Elkington, etc. -- U.S. collegiate players all, going back many years.

Smolmania: A broad attack on NCAA golf and its affect on the creation of great players is put to the lie by precisely the examples you raise of Villegas and Casey -- seems to me that some young guy at Stanford who used to be know as Urkel turned out okay playing a couple of years of college golf. Would Justin Rose have benefitted from a couple of years at Oklahoma State? Who can really say? He would probably have had a lot more fun going to college football games and chasing sorority girls than missing 50 cuts in a row (or, whatever the number was). Would he therefore not be having the same degree of success he seems to be working toward?

Pollner offered a different take: the population differences between the US and Australia do lead one to wonder why they produce such a strong amount of golfers? I doubt that I would blame the college ranks alone (if at all), though. Of course, the fact that the Aussies et al. come over here for college has contributed to their seeing all sorts of courses. The US player that stays home doesn't really get anything extra.

Four-putt writes: Maybe today's instructors are to blame. Too much emphasis is placed on having a "perfect, picturebook swing" instead of teaching players, well, to play. Too many of today's golf swings take place on ranges. We have become a counter culture of "practicers," where most players make perfect swings from perfect lies. No one visits a range to buy a bucket of balls and hit them off choppy ground, like we often find on real golf courses. From my observations, great-looking golf swings do not win tournaments. Some of the ugliest golf swings -- Palmer, Floyd, Trevino, Furyk, Rodriguez -- all were "players."

Lip-out: This conjecture about the Ryder Cup is just that...conjecture. Any team with Wetterich and Vaughn Taylor on the back end, while the other team has Ian Poulter sitting at home watching is going to lose. It's got NOTHING to do with collegiate golf or its coaches. It's just an opinion that Gary felt nobody had thrown out there. But nice try!

And Ardmore Ari writes:  Lets teach our junior players to putt (one could substitute shooting free throws and playing team basketball instead of dunking as TEAM USA keeps losing as well) instead of thinking its so great to bomb it 300 plus yards off the tee!

Week In Review: October 1-7, The Ping Branding

WeekInReview2.jpgThe folks down at Ping PING taught us a lesson in branding with their hissy fit over 10% military discounts. Several readers came to their defense.

JT: remember that PING won't let a retailer dump out of date inventory (last years models) on e-bay or at a discount to turn over stock that is out of date. Great company to work with as a shop owner. NOT.

Anon: Cartier, Bose, and other high end products do the same. Discounting causes a loss of credibility. Greed isn't really the issue is it?

Bob Smithson: What PING is doing is completely legal and is their business policy and which they can document is being followed. The only way this policy gets changed by PING is for the consumer to stop buying PING products and shopowners to quit stocking it ...

Brad: The retailers in question knew they were in violation of Ping's policy. Plus they were not exactly making sure all those they discounted really were in the millitary.

On the subject of Tiger's "streak" of 6 straight wins, Martin Del Vecchio wrote: I will say that Tiger's current swing isn't as beautiful to look at as his 2000 swing was. But it's hard to argue with the results.

Regarding the news that Greensboro event host Forest Oaks may be in danger of losing the tournament because the clubhouse facilities are outdated, Pete the Luddite wrote:  Seriously, we have gotten to the point where clubs feel compelled to re-vamp their courses repeatedly in an effort to stay current or keep the Tour's attention. Are we now going to add clubhouse and amenity renovations to the mix as well? Where will the spending end? This does not bode well for the future of golf. Club memberships will not be sustained if assessment after assessment get tacked on for these reasons.

Commenting on my column about the lack of imaginative play, MacDuff tells us: Just returned from UK and had a great time playing courses where the ball actually ran after landing, and where tight turf allowed 40- and 60 yard pitches and bump-and-run shots. All rounds took 3 & a half hours maximum. The people I played with and against made no agonizingly long decisions about the line of putt or exact yardage to green. Golf was a recreation. It was fun. Oh, and nobody shouted their way around...as seems to be the custom here.

On the likely-to-emerge groove debate, Glyn proves that he has way too much common sense to ever serve on the USGA Executive Committee: What I find interesting is that the USGA is moving towards some action - groove change - thus admitting that there in fact is a problem. So we at least agree there is a problem. The USGA has refused to admit that the problem is distance however. Now it's grooves in wedges. Hmmm..one way would be to change the goove shape of wedges...still another way would be to reduce the amount of wedges being hit. Let's see...wouldn't that relate back to distance being a factor?

RGT says: PGAT once required all tournament green watering to be stoped after Tuesday evenings, allowing greens to get baked out and hard as concrete. Hand watering the greens every evening is the standard on Tour today. If PGAT was still in the baking process Toms would be out of a job. Being at a multi club disadvantage is a problem for Toms on most weeks, watering the greens every night plays right into the errent bombers strategy. Tiger, Phil and Vijay are exploiting these golf ball qualities and playing short shots to a dart board.

And finally, on the trevails of the San Francisco city courses, including the fate of future events at Harding Park, Gus writes:  The last article I read on Harding focused on the buyers remorse of some city officials, the funding mechanism that verged on being criminal, and the unlikely prospects that there would ever be a positive return on the investment. I think the people would be better served with reasonably priced, pragmatic improvements (drainage?) that would allow affordable golf to continue. If these improvements included a nod to the heritage of a course then so much the better. We have enough high end daily fee courses. Some muni's need to remain muni's for the health of the game.

Week(s) In Review September 2-16: Walter and the Ryder Cup

WeekInReview2.jpgThe Ryder Cup has arrived and Ian Woosnam's captain's selections generated plenty of questions, especially after Thomas Bjorn's tirade blasting Woosie.

Lefty writes: Clarke is a sentimental choice. However, Petterson is a better golfer currently than Clarke. Sorry, Darren...Of course it IS only an exhibition. So maybe the sentimental choice is the right one...

Jeremy Rudock: Bjorn should be crying. It's almost criminal that Westwood was selected over him for the team. Bjorn's results are much better than Westwood's on the course this year.

Matt: Poulter should have the biggest beef of all-he played well last Ryder Cup and had some good finishes in majors this year. That would have been like the US picking Love and Duval, only much worse because Davis and David are playing better than Darren and Lee and aren't going through the emotional baggage.

Hawkeye writes: It is fairly obvious that the main criteria Woosnam went for are "speaks rural English" and "likes a pint". And I have a strange feeling that might be the right thing.

On the USA Today article about course closures, Smolmania brought this up: For those of you familiar with golf in Chicagoland, Pine Meadow -- named Golf Digest's Best New Public Course some time in the mid '80s -- may be in trouble. The Archdiocese owns the property the course is on, and the Jemsek's lease is coming up quickly. Rumor has it that negotiations are not going well. . . there are developers lining up to build houses on this property, and Lord knows the Church has lots of litigation settlements to pay. What a shame if we lose one of the best conditioned public courses in our District.

There were some interesting developments on the distance front, starting with Martina Navratilova's comments about tennis and golf equipment regulation.

GeorgeM writes: "Stronger" golfer uses harder ball and driver to attain more distance. Weaker driver uses softer ball and trust skill to carry the day. I have no problem with different balls favoring different players. However, if the same design were applied to lighter or larger balls, distances could be reduced and lenghtening of courses stopped. It would not hurt for the USGA to abandon COR specs and adopt a spec minimizing relative movement or deformation of the club face. That would relate more closely to "springlike effect."

On Tim Finchem's shifting stance on drug testing after Tiger Woods endorsed a PGA Tour drug testing program, R.J.W. says: Tim's finally come down off whatever that was he was on a couple weeks ago. No longer is he in complete denial, just quasi aloof now. Hey media, Tim just needs a few more weeks to make sure everything is out of his system, then he'll be ready to field your questions.

Walter Driver was the star of an ESPN.com chat and he revealed that the USGA won't be doing much to address the distance issue.

Barry writes: ...to paraphrase: “Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Seve Ballasteros, Ernie Els, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, etc., etc. – you are ALL WRONG. Your years of playing and observing the game at the highest levels are worthless. We at the USGA have the ‘facts’ on ours side. And the ‘facts’ that we choose to pay attention to allow us to do nothing, and thereby avoid getting sued.”  Thanks Walter for clearing things up. Really, I mean that. After a few years of organizational doublespeak – we’re studying the problem, there is no problem - we now know exactly where the USGA stands. I can now give up any last shred of hope that you will do a damn thing to protect the game.

Garland: The USGA is conducting tests. They have determined that the modern ball goes 25-30 yards farther with the same swing speed than the ball used on tour in the early 90s. What that means is that the initial velocity and overall distance standards failed to keep the balls the tour players choose from going far beyond the intended distances.

Chuck: ...the longest players on the PGA Tour may not be dominating the money list. What I say to that is, I don't care. What is inarguable is that all of the courses that host PGA Tour events are being forced into unrecognizable alterations.

Kevin notes: one cannot argue that technology has not seriously changed this game. In my mind the perfect example is the 17th hole of the Old Course at St. Andrews. Always a feared hole, approached with care using long irons. Why did the R&A grow rough so high and so penal as to make using a driver a fool's play? Because the new tehnology would have turned that hole into a pitch and putt. And if you are OK with that, then you are on the other side of the fence from me. Driving averages are a bunch of numbers; when greats such as the Road Hole are rendered irrelevent then I see a clear sign that technology is out of control.

N Gn: I have been a Tour player for several years and I don`t need any statistical evidence to prove that there has been an excessive increase in distance over the last couple of years. The problem, in my opinion, is that the USGA and the R&A don´t have the guts to regulate accordingly, and my impression is that it is a legal fear. I believe that it will be the Augusta National members that will make the the right move, and when that day comes, we will see how quickly the USGA and R&A will take action.

Meanwhile the grooves issue continues to be the one area that the USGA sees a problem.

Scott S writes: Keep in mind that there is a difference between V, box, and U grooves. The super-ripping Cally, Titleist, and TM wedges use U grooves (TM calls them Y grooves, but their cross-section looks similar to the other U grooves). This is probably what they have their sights on. That said, what good will this create beyond adding a few million to wedge and possibly iron sales to the manufacturers? Oh, that's right, no one cares what they do to grooves, so long as no one loses any yardage!

RGT: ...grooves are not the problem when a 16 year old kid can average 339 yards off the tee in a Nationwide event. ince the USGA is not going to do anything about distance which is totally their fault, the PGA Tour should cut and run from the USGA. Go to a tournament ball, save millions in golf course renovations and still be able to afford the drug testing. Bottom line, these ballistic distances are driving up costs while TV ratings are in a major slump. Unless of course Finchem can convince TIGER of playing every week, fat chance.

Week In Review, August 26-Sept. 3: Ohio, Ohio

WeekInReview2.jpgBetween Tiger's bizarre win at Firestone, Tim Finchem's press conference and the Ohio Golf Association's Champions tournament, last week's events in Ohio continued to provide plenty of fodder. For a first hand account of the OGA event, check out the IM interview with SI's Gary Van Sickle.

Regarding Tiger's drop and the outrage of writers like John Hawkins, reader Etienne writes: I don't think I have ever played a course where the parking lot and clubhouse are in play. This was the most bizaare ruling, I am sure that most players would have been into their bag playing their 4th shot without thinking twice!

TEPaul writes: Maybe the PGA Tour didn't "set-up" the course correctly in the opinion of some by designating the clubhouse an Obstruction rather than OB but since they did do it that way before the tournament and in the tournament "condition of competition" the Tiger Woods ruling was definitely the correct ruling.

Alan Shipnuck chimed in and the responses continued to vary. John Gorman writes: Having played the course last summer, I know that if I or one of my brothers had jacked one onto the roof of the clubhouse, we would have taken stroke and distance without thinking twice. I'm sure the rule is different (though ridiculous) for the tournament. If it had not been a tournament, Tiger would have lost to Cink by a stroke, maybe two.

Jeremy Rudock noted the line, "He got the same ruling every other golfer in the field would have gotten. " He responds: You honestly think Jason Gore would have been given 40 minutes for a rules official to figure out what was going on?

And after Ron Sirak's piece, John N. quotes the story and says, "Shots as off line as the one Woods hit Friday need to be penalized." Well, that kind of sums up his whole point, doesn't it? Never mind what the rules actually say, Tiger made a bad shot, and, golf not being subject to random bounces and odd breaks, he should have had a much more difficult recovery than he actually did. That's only fair.

Tiger Woods mentioned his love of Firestone on multiple occasions and noted it's "right in front of you nature," prompting this from reader ken-one-putt: It's pretty clear that his love of St. Andrews is due to the requirement for inventive shotmaking and intelligent planning of strategy, at which he may as good as anyone--ever. But Firestone hardly calls for that kind play. It's got a series of long, straight, narrow, tree-lined holes that mostly run North/South. Few of them have room to shape the ball, and several have those despicable, tall green aerial hazards near the green that make even some shots from the fairway impossible. So there's no thinking required,Maybe now and then he just likes a break from having to use his brain while playing. Or maybe he's learned that saying nice, nondescript things about golf courses gets him out of the media center faster.

After reading about the U.S. Ryder Cup team taking carts around The K Club, JPB kicked off host course bashing with this:  Is it because the cart paths are the design highlight of the K Club?

My Golfdom column on slow play prompted a number of replies.

Steven T.: I recently played at a more demanding private club in 10 minutes less than 4 hours. Why the differential? Because members care. Golf course operators don't. Cetainly, the public does not.

Kevin: Slow play is due to bad golf course management: 1) putting groups off the first tee at a rate faster than the course allows 2) not monitoring play and eliminating the slow groups.  Let's face it - on a one lane road nobody goes faster than the slowest car...

Smolmania: I saw Frank Jemsek take a group off the course after 9 holes one Friday afternoon. They finished 21 minutes behind the group in front of them, and in 2 hours and 25 minutes. He told them to go into the pro shop and get 1/2 of their money back, and nicely invited them to come back some time if they could play more quickly. I thought one of the guys was going to have a stroke he was so angry. The crowd watching then started to applaud, and he left without even getting his refund!

Solipsist: The first time I heard that some folks in Scotland regularly play a round in 2 1/2 hours I thought it was a joke, but it is eminently do-able once you've seen someone do it and learned the joys of it. If we could just educate the good folks who have merely been led astray by a lifetime of faulty experience, it would be a lot easier to deal with the true asses who know better and still play at a glacial pace.

Regarding the Ohio Golf Association event and their attempt to make older courses relevant with a shorter flying ball, Hux writes: the same effect could be had by raising fairway mowing heights. This was Tom Doak's idea: to keep U-grooves and instead relax the level of conditioning expected on fairways. Agronomic, budgetary and strategic win-win, er, win.

Pete the Luddite: Raising fairway mowing heights slightly would not deteriorate playing conditions and lies. It has the benefit of easier maintenance, less stress to the turf, and lower requirements for chemical applications. Same for greens, too. Let's go back, if not to shaggy greens that required a little muscle, then at least to a mid-point between shag and the current state of affairs: linoleum/concrete smooth and fast.

And in response to some of the player comments and talk of possible USGA rules changes pertaining to u-shaped grooves, Oldschool writes:  The USGA looking at grooves again will drive the consumer out of the market place. The modern golf balls today are harder than Chinese algebra. Titleist has introduced their new prototype Pro- V-1-XX. Groves are not the answer, PGA Tour pros are switching wedges every 4 to 5 weeks, irons every 3 months. If the USGA bans U or Box grooves these Pros are going to be switching out irons every two weeks for a sharp corner. Amauters simply can't afford to play the same game as the Pros, they can't afford it. Simplt put, V-Grooves will not change a thing on the PGA Tour as far as the play is concerned. What will happen, amatures will not be playing the same game as professionals, they won't be able to afford new irons every 3 weeks because their V- Grooves have rounded down. Chalk up another round where the USGA has failed to police the distance of todays modern golf balls.

Scott S: If it came to a choice between balls and grooves, it will be cheaper for everyone in the short and long term to do something with the ball. This should be plain enough, given the lifetime of a ball doesn't tend to last out a season (for me, anyhow...).

And on news that ball maker Volvik is reporting strong sales of the pellet used in Ohio, JPB writes:  If the golf ball manufacturers figure out that if they made retro or high spin or "classic course" balls, they would sell more of them, many problems we now face will get better. I know would buy more balls, certainly would buy a high spin 70's-80's type ball to hit with the old persimmons sometimes. Look how many hats and shirts the other sports sell with the throwback idea.

Week(s) In Review: PGA, Drug Testing, OGA

WeekInReview2.jpg

Tiger Woods makes more history, the OGA holds their reduced flight ball event, Tom Lehman makes Ryder Cup picks, and what story has quietly taken hold? The need for drug testing in golf. Naturally, you have to enjoy the irony of the situation, which has arisen in large part because of an unwillingness to regulate equipment, since there is no evidence that a problem exists.

Still, as Tiger noted, the wise course is to be proactive, instead of reactive, while Greg Norman used an obscenity to describe the Tour's drug stance.  You all had plenty of interesting views on the subject.

P.B. writes: Finchem wasn't expecting the drug questions so soon, especially since he doesn't even have a list of banned substances, talk about naive. This guy's been caught with his pants down a few times this year, he's making things up as he goes along, drugs, Fed Ex Cup, fall finish. He's a master without a master-plan!

Pete the Luddite writes, As a former college athlete who was tested several times, I will tell you that even at that age I welcomed the testing. Show you're clean. The potential for a drug problem on tour is simmering toward a boil. As long as the TOUR and the players live in denial, Tom The Ostrich's views will keep anyone from knowing. Look back at baseball - McGwire and Sosa were clean in 199, right? I mean, there were no tests to show they were on anything, so they must have been pure athletes. Today, any feat in baseball has the shadow of drugs around it. Is this what we want for golf?

Jeremy Rudock: Interestingly, Shawn Micheel uses something similar to "the cream" to combat an extremely low natural testosterone level. I wonder what a drug testing policy on tour would think of that? There is zero tolerance for it in other sports such as cycling or track & field.

NRH: The risk to the reputation of the game rests in Far Hills, not at BALCO. This gentleman's game does not need testing when the groundwork for it is its place in other sports, a couple of guys who took Beta Blockers and a misdirected side effects of the avaricious ways of the pillars of the Carlsbad community. Now, about those long putters...

Chuck: Unlike the stuff being cooked up in a warehouse by BALCO, there are players who might actually need beta blockers and antidepressants. So we can't exactly make them 'banned substances.' And you'd be very hard-pressed to determine 'actual need' for the drug in cases where the psychiatric or cardiological complaints are so non-specific as to be duplicated by any patient or any doctor...

DPatterson writes: Camilo Villegas weighs 160 lbs and drives it 300+. It seems to me that distance comes from improved equipment and technique, not muscularity. Who needs steroids? Well, maybe for the rough when the US Open comes around.

Wally on Frank Hannigan's Golfobserver.com column: Couldn't drug testing today be equated to the USGA R&A actually doing a bit of testing themselves 5 yrs ago? Had that testing on equipment actually been done Frank [Hannigan] wouldn't be able to cite it as fact. Joey Sindelar is the only person so far that is speaking from common sense. Drugs are everywhere in every sport, being done by all kinds of athletes, even ametuers in the Olympics, and through all of this somehow the PGA Tour is immune. Nonsense, and of all people Frank Hannigan should know better than to espouse evidense to the contrary.

Scott Stearns writes: Golf is the only sport where the golfers call penalties on themselves, and have for hundreds of years. Just because Sammy sosa corks his bat, or people hack Shaq on his way to the hoop, does that mean the tour should put a guy with a striped shirt with every group? Lets solve the problems of golf--like equipment--rather than solve problems that dont exist.

Smolmania writes: In view of all of the other problems which exist out there (ball goes too far, FedUp Cup, no tour event in Chicago), drugs aren't that high on my list.

Regarding the selections of Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank, Van said: Capt. Tom didn't have a good second pick. This team's in trouble, and I think he senses that. The K Club, a perfect substitute for The Belfry. The horror, the horror, the horror. To be five of the last six.

MacDuff: Trouble is every captain wants to win "his" Cup year, so experienced players get the Captain's pick slots. It's a shame they can't pick a number of youngbloods that look like they'll still be around ten years hence -- like O'Hair, Quigley and Glover. The Australian cricket team did just that in the early 1980s. Under an experienced playing captain, a whole raft of promising but internationally inexperienced players got whipped for a couple of years, but developed into world-beaters for the next decade.

CBell: it's all a crapshoot - you can't predict how any of these guys are going to play in the Cup any better than I can predict how I'm going to play tomorrow. Tiger Woods is arguably the most dependably superior golfer in the history of the game (Okay, fans of Hogan/Nelson/Jones, chime in...) and look at his record in the Cup...And then there's Monty.

On the OGA event, Jeff Pollner writes: I don't see how having a standardized ball helps unless it goes about 15-20% shorter. If the USGA just changed the required specs, every manufacturer could still sell balls and pretend they had the longest under those specs just like they do now.

Hawkeye: First off: Roll back the ball, yes. OK, done. Secondly: Please give at least SOME credit to the improvements in knowledge of biomechanics and the role use of cameras has had on instruction. I recently watched some official films of British Opens and US Opens from the 70's, and it's astonishing to see how inefficient most of the swings were. Pure hand-and arm-actions, reverse-pivots, tilt-and-blocks, everything.

Peter Barcelo: As far as I'm concerned there is already a gap (bifurication) between pros and amauters with regard to the equipment that we are currently using. Bifurication is only going to take a bit of air out of the pros playing the game, while saving me money at my club. I'm already sick and tired of the assesments that have been put on our membership everytime the committee decides we need to keep up with technology. Today we have tees that 95% of the membership never plays from, and water hazards just off the fairways that the membership can't even reach with their Sunday best drive. I say bring on the bifurication before I go broke playing this game and quit.

Speaking of changing courses, we learned that Valhalla is undergoing an complete overhaul by original architect Jack Nicklaus.

Garland says: Couldn't help but think that where it said "challenge modern players" it meant challenge modern equipment.

Hux notes: Since Jack probably learnt something from Tom Doak at Sebonack, he can go back and redo as many of his earlier courses as he wants as far as I'm concerned.However it's not modern equipment that's making them dated so quickly. Let's make that point clear.

Adam C: How many examples of lengenthening will it take before people figure out it is the wrong direction?

Week In Review, August 5-12: Michelle, Michelle

WeekInReview2.jpgOn the eve of the PGA, it's the rules of golf that are getting plenty of attention between Lytham and Ohio (oh, and add Oregon after you read Jim Achenbach's story from Pumpkin Ridge).

Michelle Wie's latest rules infraction probably cost her caddy his job. GeorgeM asks:

"1. Is the the players (pro and amateur) who are neglectful?
2. Is it the coaches and instructors who do not emphasize the rules before the swing?
3. Or is it the rule makers who fail to provide an easily accessible guide to the rules?

I see many rules questions posted on boards by veteran golfers. Why don't we know the answers ourselves?"

CBell chimes in with this point: "As a high school teacher I'd like to say that Michelle is refreshingly normal. She's far ahead of some 16-year-olds in terms of poise and ability to articulate, far behind others. My bigger point is this: the difference between most 16-year-olds and 18-year-olds is huge. Be fair to Michelle. Give her time. As for the rules, she hasn't yet learned NEVER to make assumptions. Call an official. But when you don't know what you don't know - typical of any 16-year-old, let alone someone "expected" to know the minutiae of an arcane set of guidelines - it's easy to make mistakes.

And RM cited that great thinker, Clark Griswold, "Nothing worthwile is easy honey, we know that."

After the round, Tiger was asked some pretty lame questions and I had fun with it. The exchange prompted Hawkeye to write, "Seems to me even the press chokes when Tiger is on the leader board..."

Golf World ran a photo of the Ohio Golf Association's shorter ball that will be used at their Champions Tournament August 22-23.  Some of us would love to know what it is, but JPB makes a good point about why the manufacturer may want it to be a secret:  "The problem is that if the word gets out the ball is shorter in a range of swing speeds, it will be off the market. You can't have a regular ball survive a short hitting reputation IMO. The only way it really works is if the companies put out a retro special or something and market it as a classic course high spin ball."

Scott S asked, "Any word on who made the ball Jack wants us to hit yet?" I think it's safe to say that it's not the same manufacturer cooperating with the Ohio Golf Association.

Ned Ludd said it "Looks like dimple pattern from Dunlop/Maxfli popular in the late 80's. Remember the Dunlop 'Master?'" While ReverendTMac says it "reminds me more of my favorite ball a couple years back, the Top Flite Tour. Three-piece, low compression, high spin...it all fits. Same mixture of smaller and bigger dimples, too."

Chuck asks up a good question: "I am confused as to how any ball can be 'on the conforming list under [a different] name...' I thought the point of the list was to allow in-the-field identification of conforming balls, and that there could be no such thing as a stealth model, which is marked differently yet still conforming. Perhaps someone with greater familiarity with the ins and outs of the Conforming List can supply the information.

johnniecash responded, "A ball does not have to be on the list of conforming golf balls. A ball only has to meet the requirements for balls as stated in Appendix III of the rulebook. Balls that are on the list have been tested and found to conform, but the list is not deemed to be exclusive, unless a committee wishes to adopt it."

Week In Review, July 30-August 5: Corey's Back?

WeekInReview2.jpgAh, the Ryder Cup tension is already building, perhaps because the American squad drops off considerably after the first 6 spots. Before we get to those comments though, Corey Pavin's win in Milwaukee elicited some interesting comments about certain CBS commentators and their delicate dance around the technology issue (they aren't bought and paid for, no sirree!):

Josh Hoisington:  "Back to Feherty and McCord (and the other CBS people), they sure had a lot of nice things to say about Corey, and in many ways, I think it really made the center of discussion (other than Corey himself) turn to the negative side of technology development. I mean, every last announcer lamented how the technology took away some of the fun of watching Corey, didn't they?"

JPB: "when will the Tour and CBS figure out that ratings and therefore advertising dollars might go up if more people watched and more people might watch performances like Pavin's. Well, they probably won't. But yeah, to see more shotmaking and more shotmakers in contention would be nice."

Ryan: "I wondered where FEHERTY was going right after Corey holed his last putt. David mentioned the modern era equipment, then was interrupted by Corey's welcoming kiss from his wife. Just wished we could have heard where FEHERTY was going with that lead in."

The state of American golf is getting plenty of attention as the Ryder Cup race appears wide open and the final team likely to include some surprising upstarts.

Ryan again: "JJ Henry, Zach Johnson, Brett Wetterich and John Rollins, these guys right here might surprise everyone, who expects them to do anything? True underdogs with nothing to lose,.........if we trounce on Europe with this make-up.......then the stacked teams from the past are not the answer. Especially with Captains picking their friends (Watkins and Strange) and lets not forget what a strange ass beating we took on that roll of the dice."

NRH: "still cringing from Trump in the Opening Ceremonies at Oakland Hills. Hope that doesn't mean they'll throw Richard Branson or Michael Flatley at us for revenge. I'd settle for David Brent."

Bill: "The Nationwide Tour should be called the D-Tour, its not producing golfers, just bomb n gouge artists. As equipment has grown leaps n bounds over the past 10 years, Nationwide venues have not been required to keep up. There all like Hoylake now, iron chip and putts, or drivable par 4's, four at the Omaha event, Numbers 4, 5, 9, 14. So much for Finchem and his Bozos growing the game on the Nationwide Tour, its basically been abandoned of integrity for years."

JT: "If there was the depth of talent available it wouldn't matter what point system was used, you would end up with 10 very good players regardless. The European Team will have 10 strong players at 1-10. A ROW team would have the strongest 1-10 of all three teams Forget any point system at all, just go ahead and pick 12 US players and by the time you get to the spots 9-12, the pickings get slim. On the contrary, do the same for Europe and ROW and when you get to spots 9-12, picking gets tough as there are too many to choose from."

Matt: "Funny how it used to be Europe that was strong at the top with no depth at the end, now it will be the U.S. I don't think the "unknowns" like J.J. Henry or Rollins will come through in the clutch like no-name Euros like Philip Price, Howard Clark, Philip Walton, etc. They're too rich and unaccustomed to real pressure, playing for all that easy money on the PGA Tour."

And Lefty offered this alternative points system and list.

I brought up the subject of Tiger and his love of courses where everything is "right in front of you." You all had some interesting replies.

Matt: "I agree that Tiger probably uses that 'pat' answer to his advantage - he is obviously much brighter than the scribes he deals with - but there is something about a golf hole (or course) that shows you what you have to do and dares you to come do it...the twelfth at Quaker Ridge or the eighth at Oak Hill come immediately to mind. Not that holes like that don't have subtlety, but they beckon 'I am straight, long and fair - come get your birdie, if you dare'..."

Jeff Pollner: "It makes absolutely no sense to say the Old course is your favorite and then say you wished you played more courses like the Medinah setup. Tiger is the one guy with the pull to get some changes made - and it's not like he has to whine about it; all he could have to do is drop a few comments like, 'I would be willing to change my schedule around to play more quirkier, classic courses' and most tournament committees would meet that night to see what could be done."

And finally, ReverendTMac: 'right there in front of you' = 'one way to play the hole'. Not the most compelling formula for repeat business. I agree with Mike that there's nothing wrong with the occasional hole on a course being like that, but when it's the course itself...yawn."

Week(s) In Review, July 15-29: The Open

WeekInReview2.jpgA busy two weeks but your comments were focused largely on just a few key stories: drug testing in golf, Hoylake/links golf, and Tiger's 2-iron/3-wood strategy.

(For all of the Open Championship coverage, you can go here, and if you missed the IM interview with SI's Michael Bamberger, check it out here.)

Regarding drug testing and the R&A's plan to test players at the World Amateur Team Championship, reader Dave writes: "The oldtimers played with massive hangovers all the time, we're switching gears today, instead of alcohol it's human growth hormone. Love AC's approach to the topic of illegal, AC i believe the author was talking illegal in the sense of DEA and no prescription. One has to love these golf egoists, they really believe the sport they love is above the laws of the land. See the Casey Martin US Supreme Court decision."

Ryan writes, "When is the bloody damn equipment testing going to be concluded? It's been 3.5 years already, wankers! Golf has evolved into a Herculean sport, exponential advantages are favored to the crushers, what's in their blood, we already know what's in their clubs?"

Lefty: "Golf is very much about flexibility, particularly in the torso and spine. A little while ago, Sammy Sosa injured his back during the peak of the steroid scandal in baseball, and many said that back injuries and loss of flexibility in that area can be attributed to steroid use. Therefore, why would a golfer take steroids. The beauty of golf is that flexibility is more useful than muscle (look at Flabby Phil, who hits the ball 300 yards, purely because of how much he can twist his spine)."

Regarding drug testing and the PGA Tour's odd stance, Steve writes, "the PGA Tour started down this slippery slope when it implemented testing of equipment to ensure fairness, now they must do the same with drug testing. Anything less than testing for drugs would be highly hypocritical on the Commissioner's part. Which way do you think Commissioner Finchem will go? On second thought, don't answer that."

On the subject of Tiger Woods only hitting driver once en route to his Open Championship win, Rick says this "is all the evidence the RnA USGA need. The distance disparity has become a joke, and rendering famous golf courses obsolete. If there really is a problem between the governing bodies and the manufacturers, and lawsuits are waiting in the wings, bifurication is the simplest solution...Evidence, evidence, evidence......there has been so much evidence the past few years that all of you have egg on your face."

Van says, "He's been fighting drivers for a while. It's been too obvious in 2006. I believe the iron strategy for this Open was formed immediately after the Winged Foot cut. Nike's gotta step up. I don't think this player wants to continue his career as an Iron Byron.

Smolmania responded, "Amen Van. That Sasquatch monstrosity just ain't doing the job. . . I don't know how he can stand to look at that blocky thing behind the ball. Wanna bet that Tiger hasn't had one of those 905s on the back of the range at Isleworth? It will be very interesting to see if he can just hit it in the fairway with 2 iron and 3 wood at Medinah."

On another post, ReverendTMac writes, "When you put the strategy in context of rule number one of Hoylake - don't put it in the bunkers - and the fact that he said he was driving it 400 yards in his practice rounds - it's just pure logic...I don't put a lot of creedence in Player's comment that the fans want to see him hit driver, either. I'd like to think that the fans wanted to see him hit good shots, and the club is almost immaterial at that point."

Kevin: "It was interesting in today's round that unless you were in perfect position in the fairway, you could not get much closer to the hole with a wedge than you could with a long iron. Tiger beat 'em between the ears."

Andrew: "I don't think Hoylake tested Tiger with the driver--don't get me wrong, I liked the course okay. But I'm not sure that it was the ultimate test either. I don't mind -18 winning but at the same time I wouldn't want the US Open to turn into a birdie route like this was for the better part of 3 days either. Each is fine in it's turn."

RM: "For the life of me I can't understand why there can't be a ball roll back. Tiger adjusted his game in 1 week to playing a different way, although with his clubs not balls. But it should not be a tough transition back for any level player. And the manufacturers are going to sell balls one way or another. We buy balls, we lose them and then we buy some more. We each buy the best ball available at the time to suit our needs. If all the manufacturers care about is money, then why would they care if they sell 25 million units that fly 300 yards versus 25 million units that fly 275 yards?"

On Hoylake's deliciously crunchy playing surface, JPB wrote: "In the US I think people will have to get used to drier conditions, and I am looking forward to it. Changing weather and stress on the water supply, at least out west will dictate drier golf. I would love to see new grasses and maintenance practices that lead to firmer conditions. Where I live there hasn't been much water for a few years and the court battles to shut people off are starting...Perhaps the last few years of no water is waking people up a bit. Particularly in the west I think things will have to change in terms of what golfers accept. The game will improve too.

I asked if the R&A's borderline hole locations over the weekend artificially inflated Hoylake's stock. Scotty: "When a course rewards a variety of different playing styles for strong play and separates the class players to the top of the board, what more does anybody want? That was a helluva fun course, if not the most beautiful, and I hope it becomes a rota regular (and I will bet you anything it's par 71 next time)."

John Gorman: "Gary Player's comments were spot on. For a player (even the best) to be able to hit 3-woods and 2-irons all week and lap the field on a 7,200+ yard course is insane. A few years ago 7,200 yards was diabolical! As for Hoylake specifically, it did fine, but not great. It'll be interesting to see how some of the other courses on the Rota hold up to technology in the next few years. Some of them haven't been tested yet, as the Open hasn't visited the courses in several years."

A bizarre Carlos Monarrez column complaining about links golf (who has done some fine reporting on the distance issue), got plenty of people riled up.

cmoore: "That's like me, a lawyer, trying to write an opinion on whether a bridge meets engineering standards. In the end, the author seems to suggest that the world would have been better off without golf at all. Someone please take his laptop away."

a.c.: "and people wonder why Americans are often perceived as "ignorant".

Glyn: "What in the world is wrong with watching play on a different type of golf course once in a while? I can watch the "normal" kind every day of the week. I like seeing something different for a change."

So did I. It's rather sad to think we have to wait a year to see golf like we saw at Hoylake. Hey there's always the Ryder...oh wait, what was I thinking! 

Week In Review, July 8-15: More FedEx Fallout

WeekInReview2.jpgThankfully the British Open arrives to save us from bickering about the PGA Tour's many questionable moves of late, but many of your comments are worth revisiting. You know, just in case someone in Ponte Vedra cares.

Regarding Scott Michaux's commentary on Tim Finchem, Matt writes: "Finchem definitely created this monster himself when purses rose faster than the market could reliably sustain. And of course the top players are now so rich that they're not going to play any smaller events that could use their support. This FedEx cup mess is going to produce a chorus of snores, guaranteed."

And Martin Del Vecchio commented, "Tim Finchem works for the PGA Tour players, and mostly works for the elite players. He has helped to make them very rich, and they are happy with his service. It's a perfect closed system. The "golf fans" don't matter much any more, unless they happen to run Fortune 500 companies, and can pony up $5 million (or whatever) each year to sponsor a tournament."

On the Western Open's demise, Smolmania writes, "There is one event in this country which has been played longer than the Western Open. . . and that's the U.S. Open. Won't Walter Hagen be proud knowing that he won the BMW Championship? Our only hope is that when the FedUp Cup (with its FECES entry system) falls flat on its face, that we can have our tournament back."

Regarding the Fed Ex Cup, Daryl writes:How does the Charles Schwab Cup points race work on the Champions Tour? Do we even care, it's tape delayed on the Golf Channel now?

And Steve makes this interesting point: On another note related to the demise of Tournaments lately, has Greensboro named a new title sponsor for 2007? Booze Allen's announcement came in March, Chrysler decided in January that they were done in Greensboro as title sponsor but I don't see Finchem holding a press conference to announce the demise of that event. Is it because Tiger's agent was involved in helping that event survive Finchem's guillotine?"

On Doug Ferguson's story about Tiger and Phil being the driving force behind the new schedule and its impact on the Western, Glyn notes, "There's a difference between stating that the season is too long and cutting a tournament that's been around for 100 years."

GeorgeM brings up this point though: "Will the changes we have seen so far benefit PGAT members? I have no idea. Why not wait until December 2007 to evaluate what Tim hath wrought?"

George also had this to say about the FedEx Cup points: "If the PGAT wants something other than the Money List, they should use the OWGR. Points earned by PGAT members in PGAT sanctioned events would do the job."

On the subject of more spontaneous changes in course setup to better test players from day to day (and to keep things fresh), Scott S writes, "I do believe, though, that hole locations should be decided at the crack of dawn on every day they are to be moved, rather than in advance of a tournament. Too much foreknowledge can be a bad (boring) thing."

And Matt again: "If, at the next British Open at St. Andrews, the R&A decides to tee off on the first hole from a new secret tee on the roof of the clubhouse for the second round, that would be neat. Then, for the final round, they could move the tees up to around 280 yards to tempt the players into driving the green and bringing the burn more into play. Surprises are good!"

Scott says: it seems like these sorts of ideas are band aids. They try to chip away at problems and, i believe, will likely create more issues than they solve...The real fix is far more complicated and will take years--equipment."

Lefty brought the subject back to Phil Mickelson (where it originated), and wrote: "I don't think the extent that Mickelson prepares is beneficial. Although going to the course and playing many practice at Winged Foot did aid Phil, allowing him to be in contention at WF despite not hitting the ball well at all, I do agree with those that think that his set decisions on what club he'd use on 18, and his inability to adjust to the situation did hurt him."

And Charlie Bell writes, "The downside of this, which no one has mentioned, is that the USGA et al could be accused of setting up a course on Sunday in order to favor or penalize particular individuals in contention. Imagine if Corey Pavin and Tiger were in the final pairing... So, from this angle (which escaped me previously) perhaps the USGA's preplanning is defensible. Still, they should keep the darned information secret."

Finally, on the subject of Dick Rugge's latest remarks about the USGA having plenty of time to research things because the distance surges have slowed down, Chuck writes: "And there is this statement: 'This stability might mean Rugge and his staff have caught up to changing technology.'

"Caught up? What does that mean? Even Mr. Rugge and Mr. Rich say publicly that their testing and study are still in process. And they haven't changed any regulations or testing protocols that have arrested any new technology. So no one should claim that the USGA has "caught up" in recent years. They haven't actually done anything yet, by their own admission, other than to study the issue. I'm not critical of those efforts; I am all for the USGA basing its actions on the best information there is. But they haven't done anything, yet, and the real question is what action will be taken as the study is completed."

Week In Review, July 1-8: This and That

WeekInReview2.jpgA little bit of everything this week as the Women's Open wrapped up Monday, the Senior Open is being played at wonderful Prairie Dunes and the British Open looms.

Playing out somewhat under the radar is the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup announcement, which surprisingly has been met with only a few negative reviews. Considering that it has been billed as an exciting new concept, I'm surprised we haven't seen more stories questioning the many bizarre aspects of the Tour's new "playoffs." (Then again, few questioned the sanity of rewarding a Commissioner with a $27 million contract for signing a 15-year deal with The Golf Channel, so why should we expect anything else!)

Thankfully, you all had plenty to say about the Tour' s announcement this week.

JPB: "The Tour appears to be making a lot of decisions that will benefit top players, top purses, and top sponsors at the expense of everybody else. There is a place to treat stars better. There is a place for some events to be bigger and better than others. However, to throw away tournaments, fans, and entire markets for the alleged improvements is risky. And then to get meaningless MBA speak about having too much water in the glass... Perhaps the better water analogy is throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

Andreas Håkansson: "Personally, living in Sweden and watching PGA Tour telecasts past bedtime, I do not think that the demise of these tournaments is a bad thing. Uninteresting courses and unattractive fields leave them inferior to most European Tour stops during summer and fall. For me as a European, American golf ends, and has always ended, after the NEC (the old World Series). I reckon that Finchem feels the same way."

Regarding the shabby treatment of Washington D.C., reader TC writes: "Blame money hungry Commissioner Tim Finchem for this travesty. And for handling the situation like a fourth grader. He waited unitl it was too late for Booz Allen to react before telling them he had moved their event to the worst possible weekend on the tour. Then he refused to take phone calls from the Washington press yesterday."

With Annika and Pat Hurst deciding the U.S. Women's Open on Monday, the subject of 18-hole playoffs came up.

Smolmania: "When I start playing 3 or 4 hole rounds of golf, or 3 or 4 hole matches, I will agree that 3 or 4 hole playoffs are the way to go. Why does everything in life have to be based upon expedience? Golf is one game that isn't, at least it shouldn't. Besides, the USGA has much more important things to be worrying about than how many extra holes to play. It used to be a big deal when the guys on the PGA Tour could "hit the barn" at the back of the range at Cog Hill. . . yesterday 80% of the guys I saw were doing it. Fix the ball, then you can worry about the silly little details like how long the playoffs should be in the ultimate championship."

AP Maran on criticism of 18-hole playoffs: "It's the time we live in that is the problem, better be quick than dead, next town next competition, never rest, up up go go. I can see the logistical problems with burning a day, tents to move, cargos to ship. But as golf continue to be the semislow game in sports, let us hail the honour to be slow and enjoy the extra round of playoff, but at the same time don't be silly as in cricket and take tea for two hours before next batting, 18 holes is perfect."

NRH: "The USGA has it right on this one. Monday might be inconvenient for some, but not to those who are playing. There's something to be said for the mental endurance of an additional 18 and sleeping on it. Like the rough and winning scores over par, it is once a year. Deal with it Doug. Besides, there's no way the USGA would leave enough light to get in 3 or 4 holes on Sunday."

Kevin: "What does an 18 hole playoff offer that a 4 or 5 hole playoff doesn't? The ability to come back after one or two bad holes? That's a weak reason when you are talking about the a championship of golf...the stakes should be high for each hole in the playoff, whether it is sudden death or a subset of holes.

Scotty: "I've been to all four major championships at least once and attended every Masters and U.S. Open since 1997, and the USGA puts on the worst show annually -- by far. It's tedious. Every bit of it. And on the off chance that one of its events happens to get exciting enough to reach playoff potential, the USGA goes ahead and makes the whole thing more tedious by dragging it out another day. I'm all for tradition, and if that's your reasoning for sticking with 18 holes, fine. But if you can honestly tell me that any part of Sunday's final round at Winged Foot, for instance, was remotely close to the drama that unfolded in the last four holes, you're making about as much sense as the people defending oil company profits."

Gus: "They might not have needed a playoff if it were possible in a USGA set up to make a birdie. The only movement in these things is backwards to the field. The concept of an extra 18 would be fine if we were talking about exciting/ interesting golf- but we're not. The prospect of extending everyone's misery for another day is too much too bear. Somebody pull the plug! Please!

I brought up the subject of Phil Mickelson's scouting of courses and knowing what he'll hit in advance. Personally, I think it says something very bad about modern day course setup and architecture that spontaneity has been stripped from the tournament equation. But as expected, a Phil debate broke out! That's okay, the comments were still interesting.

JPB: "Golf should be something more vague than a game broken down by the stats wizards and game theory geniuses. I hope so, since I am neither of those, my brain can barely handle adding the score up."

Charlie Bell: I agree that the USGA shouldn't determine or announce tee/pin positions in advance. For me it's not a matter of challenging the players to think "on the fly" so much as ensuring that they're forced to think a lot, period. Because a course changes daily with wind, turf, and green conditions, there's no sense in setting it up until the last possible moment. The challenge shouldn't lie in the difficulty of the shots per se but rather in the variety of shots required from hole to hole and round to round, and you can't maximize this until you know the day's conditions.

On the latest and most misleading Golf Digest Bomb and Gouge blog entry yet, JM writes:  Of course, the First Corollary to this observation is Paul Fussell's Law of the Ball (as outlined in his book, Class): the smaller the ball, the higher the class. Here's a catchy new title for their blog, then: Spares and Strikes Forever."

NRH used the topic to write, "Billy Payne, take the first step and make your own Masters ball. Since Augusta always does things the classy way, only use your logo on them and do not reveal the manufacturer. Let each player choose the compression (is there even a choice anymore?), give them 4 dozen in advance of the tournament week so they can get used to them and another 4 dozen when they arrive with their initials embossed and send them to the tee."

Week In Review, June 25-July1: Bad News Tour

WeekInReview2.jpgWhat should have been a slow week turned into a series of bad news stories on the PGA Tour centering around the demise of the Washington stop and the Western Open name change.

Regarding Ed Sherman's latest commentary on the Western's demise, reader JPB said: "Glad to see the Evans Scholars will get more money. Aside from that it is bad that the name is gone. The Western was essentially a major for crying out loud. I know it lost that status long ago, but it is sad to see the name changed to the BMW. I like free trade and globalization and stuff, but can anybody tell whether the Deutsche Bank, BMW, Johnny Walker, SBS, RBS or FBR are on the European Tour, PGA Tour, or senior tour anymore? Even BMW Western would be better at this point."

Following Jeff Rude's story on the Tour's lousy treatment of the Western, JohnV wrote: "I went to bmwusa.com and told them I think they have made a terrible decision in renaming the event. As for its leaving Chicago, the Western Open used to move around a lot so I have less problem with that.

Jimmy countered: "If Finchem and his cronies want to move an event around each year why not pick Quad Cities or Milwaukee, venues with less generated revenues than the Western Open held in Chicago and less support. Taking the second oldest golfing event in the country, run by the Western Golf Ass. and requiring a name change is astonishing. Whatever this mad man is up to one thing is quite evident, he cares nothing about tradition, values, history, integrity."

We kicked the week off with Geoff Ogilvy's comment that "if they [the governing bodies] don't take care of the game, i'm sure there is someone out there who wants to make money off the game that will."

Matt responded: "the USGA has made a ton of money off the game, and not through member dues. Their TV deal with NBC was a huge whopper that made them beyond flush with cash. How they should have used the money: staying one step ahead of the manufacturers and being proactive when it came to controlling the distance the golf ball traveled. The big TV deal was in 1995, about the same time that the golf ball started on the distance rise that has spiraled out of control in recent years. Instead they have spent the money on jet travel for executives and for hiring Rees Jones and other folks to trick up classic sites, and also some turfgrass research I guess. I'm not sure they can be trusted to 'ultimately make the correct decisions.' The game has been injured enough through the wrong ones the USGA has made."

Regarding the wonderful second hole at Newport, Charlie wrote: "This morning we managed to see only about nine holes, but I honestly thought to myself as I beheld (that's the word) the super-short 2nd, 'Man, this is a hole the rest of the world should see.' It's almost like you could play it forever and never really figure it out. It's just too easy-looking and yet... It'll require two quite good shots and two good putts to get your par - yet birdie and bogey seem equally likely for 9 out of 10 golfers. Tantalizing..."

Midweek brought the PGA Tour's announcement on next year's FedEx Cup points playoffs, which does not appear to be the answer to the Tour's spiraling ratings.

Rick Adams: "Can't you hear the watercooler talk on Monday? 'Did you see that Phil is one thousand six hundred eighty-six points ahead of Ogilvy now?'"

And on a later post, Kevin: "If they were REALLY trying to emulate Nascar then a player should get points for the 3rd round lead..."

After the Commissioner's tortured teleconference talk, MacDuff wrote, "the more I think about it I realize a points race works for a team sport, where a team has a fan base (sorry) and their ups and downs are shared by their supporters. Apply this to sports of individuals, like golf or tennis, and that magic evaporates...unless you're Tiger or Phil."

cmoore said: "That "playoff" system, as explained by Finchem, comes off as an ill-conceived load of dung. "On one hand, more or less" a player has a "home-field advantage? What? On the system not eliminating those who have no chance to win: "What that's going to create, obviously, is a player who no longer has a mathematical chance to win might play lights-out for two weeks and move well up into the points list from a distribution standpoint." Distribution standpoint? What? I fear this system may lose the 112 million fans the tour currently has."

Jay wrote: "When I was in the Air Force, they sent all the E-5s and above to a one day communication course. One of the lessons I remember is to simplify one’s message. Cut out the BS. Finchem could sure use that course...

Dave Marrandette agreed: "having been trained in the military as a BS interpreter, I can perhaps enlighted everyone about Mr. Finchem's ramblings. You see, he has followed the NASCAR and LPGA pattern. Not wanting to be outdone by a bunch of rednecks and women, he put his debate packground to the test and BS'd FedEx out of millions of dollars."

And Chuck had this to say, which I think I'll raise in a post next week: "To me, allowing 144 players in the playoff is an admission that there will not be a 'fall finish' or a 'quest for the card', as was originally planned. Guess they can't get any sponsors..."

Scott wondered: "It seems that if you win the first of the four tournaments, then you could take the next one off to rest. I don't understand all of this. What is the point? How is this going to make these four tournaments more exciting than NFL or college football?"

On overall impressions of Finchem's announcment, Glyn wrote: "If there isn't a chance of elimination then it's not a playoff, plain and simple. Thus the "excitement" is the same as any other event, week to week."

And Kevin: "Well, I will say that Finchem tried his best to make lemonade when faced with a bunch of lemons. He had Tiger, among others, complaining about the length of the season and a TV contract to negotiate. And like a good magician he pulled a rabbit out of his hat. And he got FedEx to buy in. Will I watch ? Yeah, probably. Will I care who wins the FedEx cup? I doubt it. Will Tiger now get late fall off, excuse free? Absolutely. How will the PGA Tour and FedEx fare at the end of it all? Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn..."

Bruce Selcraig's story on The K Club prompted this from Jonathan Cummings: "I played K-Club a few weeks after it opened (10 years ago??). I just looked up my notes for that round...."reminds me of a 100 other Florida golf courses...."

Jason Sobel interviewed Bubba Watson, causing Smolmania to comment: Seems as if Mr. Watson fits right in to the Commish's NASCAR revisions to the sport doesn't it? See ball, hit ball far. . . the sport of Hogan and Nelson? Yes, Bubba, there will always be big hitters. But when the manufacturers take over the game by allowing technology to permit the big hitters to take an unfair advantage of the guys who can actually play the game, the game loses relevance to the folks who pay the bills. . . the fans.

The USGA gave a press conference at Newport, and David Fay's comments on Winged Foot elicited some interesting replies.

Chuck: "'...a great old golf course can still be a great championship site for contemporary golf...' if, in five years of preparatory work, you build six or more new tees, stretch the distances by 400 yards, create single-file fairways and have a phenomenal wet spring for growing steel-wool tiered that requires a staff of 200 marshalls to avoid an epidemic of lost balls. Why not give it a try with your own "great old golf course"?"

Hank: "D. Fay must think us fools to believe this garbage that he continually puts out there, and all the lap dogs in the press(?) keep on lapping it up! I think it is fair to say that the players' remarks were more criticism than just "comments". Those greens were terrible and adversely impacted the tournament. I'd be curious as what WFGC members think?"

Regarding the USGA's Marty Parkes and his comment that the USGA is not aware of what the Ohio Golf Association is up to with their competition ball event this August, Barry wrote:  "Why should the OGA consult the USGA, an organization that seems to be paralyzed by this debate? For heaven's sake, the OGA's experiment may fail miserably - but at least they are trying something here, in reality, in this space time continuum...You can't whine about not being part of a conversation if you don't have anything to say. "We're looking at the issue" doesn't cut it anymore.

Mike B.: "Of course the USGA has no idea what is going on, they don't know where Ohio is ... or how to pick up the phone and call the OGA ...And the OGA is doing this, running the tournament, selecting the ball and collecting technical data without the warchest the USGA has..."

On Lorne Rubenstein's story about Pate and Kite's different views on equipment, AP Maran wondered after watching some World Cup ball debate, "Every championship releases a new ball model, fit to the ideas of the individual championship. By that they can promote spin against length this year, to promote more goals. Goal keepers have difficulty yo grip them with that spin and less length to promote more passes in the midfield.The discussions have been wild about the new ball but everyone accepts the need for change! Why not have specific tournament golf balls, Titleist and the rest have the specifications in good time and also creates a collectible(!?) at the same time, think about playing your home course with the "Open Championship 2006 ball" and see how you end up; if the USGA saw the moneyside in this maybe they would change...

Gene Yasuda reported on Carolyn Bivens's latest run-in, this time with the tournament owners.

Jim Jax wrote: "Glad to see the Tourney Owners taking on the dictatorial Bivens. It's hardly a golf tour partnership with her "my way or the highway" management style. She is absolutely the wrong person for the job with her confrontational approach to loyal in-house staff and the TOA. It will "Bye, bye Bivens" soon I think."

Week(s) In Review, June 10-24: Winged Foot

WeekInReview2.jpgPosting will be light through early Wednesday, but I will include a few photos of U.S. Women's Open site Newport and some other tidbits.

In the mean time, there is plenty to pore over from the last two weeks. It's fascinating how much occurred with both the LPGA, U.S. Open and technology issues.

Just some of the highlights (and you can always access Journal Topics on the left for individual issues or the 2006 U.S. Open posts):

The Wall Street Journal reported on the USGA's move toward square grooves regulation, prompting reader Scott S to write: "I'm a little bit frightened here, not just because they are throwing up a smoke screen, but because this move towards arguing about grooves is exactly what manufacturers would want. A ball rollback means nothing for them. People buy new balls all the time, and so would not equate to any increase in sales. However, with equipment, which has a longer lifespan in most golfers' bags, any changes would mean new purchase that might have been deferred for an unspecified period. Changes in grooves means everyone having to go out and buy new iron sets and wedges, a major purchase, where changes in the ball means simply buying a new dozen at the start of the year, like always."

Golf World's Ron Sirak took a closer look at the reign of Carolyn Bivens, with complaints and many others defending the new Commissioner.

That prompted Smolmania to remark: "Where are these great skills that these people keep talking about? What evidence have we seen of them since the branding commissioner took over? The LPGA tour has an opportunity to make huge inroads on the golf market. The Champions/Senior tour loses momentum with every passing day. Jack doesn't play, the King can't, and they won't let Chi Chi. Yes, Jay Haas and Loren Roberts are fabulous players, but people won't come out to see them simply because of who they are."

Bivens also gave an interview in Rochester to share more of her marketing wisdom.

NRH comments: "Hospitality ownership. If I was a marketing VP for product beyond feminine hygiene, cosmetics or groceries and the event was not in the same market as headquarters, I would certainly choose to spend $200k on a PGA Tour tent than $50k for the LPGA. Scores on cell phones?? How original...a service that has been around since 1999. If she wants highlights, maybe she should look at the numbers for ESPN Mobile. Despite a mid 10 figure ad campaign and debut during the Super Bowl, they have sold under 10,000 units to date despite a 50% price reduction. I am sure all of the companies buying airtime on LPGA telecasts are thrilled to hear Bivens touting TiVo."

The USGA's officers held their annual pre-U.S. Open press conference and the questions were awful.

Reader Gregg: Such hardball questions. You would think someone would ask a real question. They should have used your list and at least asked Walter what transportation he used to get to New York."

My senior USGA staff sources say that Mr. Driver flew commercial to Winged Foot. Poor lad!

During Open week, we learned that 2007 U.S. Open host Oakmont wants to furrow their bunkers.

Farouck: "For years they pushed perfectly predictable bunkers. Easily maintainable surrounds with lush green grass for perfect mowing patterns. But we are going to restore the bunkers to the original look while reducing labor. What a fabulous idea! Lets spend $700,000 plus a special irrigation system to keep the grass and sand perfect. The bunkers are no longer hazards we need to make them unpredictable again. What about spending more man hours with special rakes to create an unpredictable predictable sand. Great idea!"

And Gus: "I like the process of de-evolution on the bunkers back toward being hazards, but I'm not sure another specialized maintenance routine is the right approach."

D. Edgard:  Furrowing bunkers in Oakmont 2007 would be a marvellous step towards the origins of the game, would be marvellous to watch and would be much better golf. It´s great only to wonder about!!!

Tom Spousta (I think) in the USA Today had an excellent story on the lost art of shotmaking, with plenty of great quotes from Lee Trevino.  JPB says, "I can't iamgine how a player like trevino feels. He had total control of the golf ball. But now it is hit away, just don't pull it or block it."

And MacDuff: "Likewise craftsmanship - fewer people make things nowadays, we go out and buy them at X-Marts, and usually of an inferior quality. Knowledge of natural bush medicine, which stood us in good stead for thousands of years, is being lost to feed the coffers of large pharmaceutical companies. Sounds similar to golf?"

John Huggan filed a story of Geoff Ogilvy's thoughts on the state of the game as it related to Winged Foot's setup before the Australian's win Sunday. Doug wrote: I can see the USGA officials doing a Sgt. Shultz during this interview: "I see nothing, I hear nothing..."

Huggan also wrote a more exhaustive piece on Golfobserver.com.

I tried a live telecast blog Saturday and Sunday and while I'm not entirely happy with it, it did keep me awake during Saturday's telecast. Even more rewarding was knowledge that I was helping a few folks Down Under who were unable to watch due to a lack of coverage. Your thoughts on this experiment? The sequencing is an issue, I know.

On Brian Hewitt's report that the USGA wants the first green at Winged Foot renovated if it is to hold another Open, reader Jack Vaughn defended the idea of rebuilding a green for four days of play every 20 years or so: "Part of the East Course renovation includes rebuilding several greens because their contours simply do not work when paired with modern speeds. Has it occurred to any of you that the WF members may WANT to redo #1-West or is everything the 'fault' of the evil USGA? If the result of hosting USGA events is so horrible why do these clubs continue to invite the USGA back?"

Reader Brad wrote, "If the USGA hasn't figured out poa annua yet, which is a weed, why consider architectural changes? The USGA keeps putting the cart in front of the horses. Clearly they don't know how to regulate equipment, or run a Championship."

The USGA's Dick Rugge admitted that the organization may have let technology get too far out of hand, which I believe is the first such acknowledgment.

He then went on to lay the groundwork for doing something about grooves!

Reader Jimmy responded: "This US Open reminds me of the Griswald's on vacation. Instead of getting lost in St. Louis, making some wickedly disastrous decisions on direction, proclaiming the 8 myths of distance, stating their position with 'principles' in the balance, continuing on without a road map, looking at each other gleefully after departing the company's net jet on a fact finding mission, why don't they just pull over and get some well founded grasp on reality."

A post allowed you to send your congratulations to all around good guy U.S. Open winner and occasional reader of this site, Geoff Ogilvy, and you can still post something if you'd like.

During Open week, there were spirited discussions on the proximity of the corporate tent to No. 18, debate over Phil's decision making and even one on his weight.

The Winged Foot setup left Peter Kostis feeling disgusted about the bastardizing of classic courses, to which Glyn wrote: Peter, let's agree; wasp-waisted fairways, haystack rough and and parquet-floor greens are bad tricks to be played on classic golf courses. (Not sure about how tricked the Winged Foot greens were in any event, but...)
So what say you about that other trick to be played on one great course after another -- moving tee boxes and fairway bunkers, for no other reason (NO OTHER REASON) than to keep up with the next Pro V x-cess...?"

Tim Finchem weighed in on the bunker furrowing at Muirfield Village, requiring a translation from Glyn: "Does he ever give a straight answer? Let me see if I can translate....'Bottom line is, I think it was a reasonable, healthy exercise that stimulates discussion and focus on different parts of setup philosophy that can contribute to challenges that are good for the competition and also interesting to the spectators.'..translates to..'The players hated it so we are dropping that idea and searching for another idea to counter the rise of technology without offending either the players or the equipment makers.'"
 
And another from Van: "How 'bout, 'Furrowed bunkers has always been a stupid idea, but we're looking at its feasibility, anyway.'"

But I still say the best story of the last two weeks, maybe the year, came from Peoria where the a qualifying for a boys junior event was marred by an over-the-top setup designed to offset the distances the 11 and 12 year olds were hitting it!

Week in Review, June 4-10: Still Furrowing

WeekInReview2.jpgAs the Open at Winged Foot looms, check out the Winged Foot journal section if you want to check out some of the posts that preview key holes. And to get in the mood, there were several articles worth reading from Westchester's Journal News as well as our second annual attempt to spot the %$#@% pairing.

Steve Elkington's U.S. Open sectional WD over not getting to wear spikes generated a heated discussion...

Smolmania: "Soft spikes make greens better. There's no doubt about it. Come out and see a public course like Dubsdread at 3 o'clock in the afternoon on Saturday. In the old days, the greens looked like there had been an army of elephants trampeling them. Not any more.

Chuck: "the Sectional application let players know in advance what courses were softspike-only. Elkington's position becomes undefensible in that regard -- he could have/should have known long before the qualifier date and acted accordingly.

NRH: In theory, I'm with Elk on this one...it is his profession. One day of a few guys wearing spikes will not ruin the greens and he is correct that it should be the same at every site.

JPB: "The USGA should address this and go spikeless at all the championships and qualifiers next year."

Brian: "Spike marks? What about the bottle cap depressions left with soft spikes by guys over 200 pounds? That's like putting through land mines. Give me spike marks any day of the week."

Peter Kostis wondered why there was no outrage over distance increases on the LPGA Tour and you, like I, just loved his logic.

Reader Barry: "About the time the power game was completely taking over men's tennis in the early 90s, people would trot out this same nonsense. 'Yeah, the men's game may be going to hell...but the women are fun to watch now...'
Be patient, Peter. Before you can say “brand identity," power will beat the life out the women's game too. And then we can kick back and watch robotic, artless play on both tours.

Chuck: "The last time Kostis bubbled up out of the murk of Fortune Brands' marketing offices, he was proclaiming that it was player fitness that was to "blame." If we only had 400 or 500 more 140-lb. 16 year-old girls to prove the point, I'd think he might have a real trend here..."

But besides Michelle Wie's attempt to qualify for the Open, the big story remained Jack Nicklaus's decision to furrow bunkers at Muirfield Village. More final verdicts...

Scott S: "So, if a host decided to use hard as rock greens, or fairways cut at 3/4 an inch, or bunkers which use native sand as opposed to doctored-in-a-lab Bunker Sand (TM), will we see the same complaints? All of these could be viewed as "contrivances" compaired to many tour stops, but are a regular part of life on many golf courses."

Matt: "I don't know about anybody else but I think it definitely takes skill to get the ball out of a bad lie in the sand-it's never just hack and hope. And surely ballstriking precision that avoids the bunkers in the first place is a more important skill than playing out of the bunkers themselves. The bigger issue is that fairways bunkers cannot be placed properly on a golf course anymore because of the disparity between long and short hitters. Just get the ball rolled back and there's no need for this hulabaloo about furrows."

D. Edgard: "Well played Mr. Nicklaus and everybody around trying to preserve the esence of the game,

JM: "I wonder if working with Tom Doak on Sebonack influenced Nicklaus in any way and made it easier for him to make this excellent decision. And it *was* possible to recover with a bit of creativity... I think Mickelson demonstrated this best on #6 when he windmilled it from the fairway bunker and sailed it 160 yards to within 5 feet of the hole. That was creative shotmaking."

Week In Review, May 28-June 3: Bunker Furrowing

WeekInReview2.jpgRex Hoggard's column about reduced playing opportunities for Tour school grads spawned a heated debate about the current PGA Tour system and its future.

Sam Weinman penned a great story from Winged Foot and a debate broke out over...Tiger wearing shorts.

Randell Mell revealed the worst kept secret in golf: the feud between Rees and Robert Trent Jones Jr., and Rees'  plans to redo his dad's course, with DK noting, "Well Rees is nothing if not consistent. He'll even tear up his father's course in the name of "progress".

But the big story of the week: Jack Nicklaus adding furrowed rakes to the anti-distance equation for this week's Memorial. And the early reviews were understandably mixed.

JPB: "I think this is an area where added difficulty is more interesting. Perfect, consistent bunkers aren't interesting. Getting luck involved after a poor shot is interesting. It is why poker is interesting on TV, the better hand loses a lot. It isn't like good shots are getting punished; you just have a variable punishment. Better tough bunkers than 22 yard wide fairways and excessive rough IMO."

All For Furrows wrote: "I second JPB's thoughts - bunkers have not been enforcing the penalty they were meant to enforce on better players. I hope the PGA Tour has a thick enough skin to put up with the whining of the players and to continue this experiment at other Tour stops, and the implement it."

Matt: "One of my favorite courses in the world, the original Muirfield, held up a few years ago to technology in the British Open. I think, in part, due to the severity of the fairway bunkers and the players opting to take the strategic route 'round the course."

AP Maran wrote: "As the game continues to distance itself from the original, "unfair" game where not-perfect fairways, bunkers and greens where part of the obstacle, now they try to make it unfair again but by preparation, inspite of Jones comments. Next step must be cutting the greens unevenly, make fairways 20 feet wide and always 10 inches high rough in front of the greens. All prepared with the best intentions.

Chris wrote: "The USGA has allowed most of the skill level to be reduced by todays technology, Nicklaus's idea (out of desperation) makes sense."

Gus: "The fact that so much thought and effort is going into the bunkers and other maintenance minutia is disturbing. Most, if not all courses in America spend more time, money, and effort maintaining bunkers than they do greens. This is an upside down priority. While this may be fine at a big tournament, the fact that it is happening to some degree at every course only raises the cost of playing the game and leads to a decline in participation. If Jack wants to make the bunkers difficult again, he should do what we do at the muni- rake them once or twice a week only. It's a hazard after all.

Smolmania: "At the Dunes Club, a cool nine hole Nugent design in New Buffalo, MI which is supposed to be an homage to Pine Valley, the bulk of the bunkers on the course (of which there are many) don't have rakes. Makes for some difficult shots out there, but bunkers are after all supposed to be hazards."

R Thompson writes: "Another "Mickey Mouse" course set up to try and bring back some integrity to the sport, where the USGA has had their head buried in one of those deep troughs."

RM: "After reading about the furrowing this week, then watching the telecast today, then reading these comments, I am now definitely in favor of this practice. Even tour pros (or especially tour pros) need to realize that there is more to this game than ordered play on perfect grounds."

DK: "They're panicking that they have just seen the wave of the future and they are lashing out at everyone. This is hilarious and better than I thought it would be. Mickelson seemed to be the only one with poise."

MacDuff: "if it sounds like sour grapes, then that's just what it is...bad breaks and uneven lies are part and parcel of the auld game...perhaps pros of recent decades have had it too cushy; expectations of perfection can only breed a "princess & the pea" mentality."

Pete the Luddite: "I like the furrows. Even better, bring out the horses and run them through the bunkers a few times. Too much grooming these days, let them earn their way out of the bunker!"

Glyn:  "When a pro is happy to be in a bunker because they know they can make an easy out, something is wrong. Like Jack said, I would rather see interesting recovery attempts in reasonable rough than ho hum bunker play."

JohnV: "Now that the bunkers are inconsistent, I'd like to see the rough that way also. I'm tired of perfectly manicured rough. Guys should get good and bad breaks there also. For me nothing is harder than a pitch to a downhill green from a bare dirt patch with a big clump of grass behind the ball. Why do they think we call it "rough"?"

JM: "The furrows seem to be sifting out much more than the more skillful players... there's nothing worse than a guy who blames the course for his own mistakes (or opens his mouth and inserts his foot like Price). Consistency across the tour is certainly an issue, though. I agree. Two thumbs up for Nicklaus."

a.c.: "why is changing the rake any more or less "Mickey Mouse" or "tricked up" than narrowing fairways or growing the rough longer, Mr. Maggert?"

Sean Murphy: "Are we seeing the first examples of bifurication in the rules of golf at the professional level? So, if it's bifurication making its way into the sport at the professional level, to try and artificially increase the difficulty level that there once was, I say, bring back the wood headed clubs, and the three piece wound balls. Lets get this bifurication going, lets make golf at the professional level "TOUGH AGAIN", right John Hawkins?"