Year In Review, Vol. 3: Best Rally Killer of 2005

While going through the archives, there were plenty of great rally killers determined to get a player off an interesting subject to ask a meaningless question for a sidebar he or she was planning to mail in by 3.

There were many fine candidates, but for some unknown reason this one was my favorite. Perhaps it's the combination of Chris DiMarco admitting something players rarely acknowledge: the replaying of key shots over and over again, including in this instance, one played by a competitor (Tiger's 16th hole chip-in, Masters Sunday). You sense DiMarco is opening himself up to the assembled newsmongers, and since he's one of the more articulate and opinionated players, you hope they'll let him talk this one out. Maybe even follow up with a few more questions. No.

It was a perfect chance to ask about golf in the Olympics.

CHRIS DiMARCO: A couple days after The Masters, it was tough. I relived that chip a lot in my head, my chip, not so much his but my chip on 18, knowing that that could have gone in and could have changed everything. I was proud of myself that I put myself in position to win.

Q. As someone who's played in the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, do you think there is a place for golf at the Olympic games?

Year In Review, Vol. 2: Deane Beman

deanebeman.jpgFebruary was highlighted by Deane Beman's aggressive stance on the golf ball and his thoughts on the state of the USGA ("The time for equivocating has passed.")  It started with a letter to USGA President Fred Ridley (his comment: "These are concerns he has raised before."). Around the same time appeared Beman's must-read Golf Digest interview with Bill Fields Peter McCleery (sorry Peter!).

After the letter, I interviewed the former PGA Tour Commissioner. Here are some of the more interesting Beman comments from February 10, 2005:

Golf courses and golf architects are making courses harder and harder and that’s the essence of the issue. The beginner finds it impossible. We’re driving away literally millions of golfers. The next generation of players are going to hit it 330 to 360, there’s no question in my mind about it.

There’s a guy named Gerry James. Gerry James competes in these long drive contests but he’s a pretty good player. On Monday after the merchandise show in Orlando he stood on the sixth hole at Bay Hill, which is the par-5 that’s moon-shaped around the lake, and carried it on the green, 345 yards, and was putting for 2. And there’s where this is headed.

I’ve seen it coming. I’m 66 years old and I hit farther than I’ve ever hit it. I never in my whole career of playing, ever worried about a guy hitting it past me. You’ve got to accept the fact that if he’s bigger and stronger than you, and he plays better than you do, he’s going to beat you. But in my younger days a guy could hit it 30 yards past me, my personal observation was that two or three times he’s going to miss hit it and he’s going to make a bogey or double bogey and I’m going to beat him. But when you put in the hands of the modern player a ball that goes so straight and doesn’t curve, what you’ve done is change the wonderful balance that the game used to have. It’s a slugfest.

I think we ought to cooperate with the manufacturers and be part of the solution, but if they want to play hardball, the answer is that the players could make a lot more money if the Tour manufactured and sold its own golf ball, set all of the revenue aside so there’d be no profit motive in it for the Tour, and give all the money to the players. And the players would make more money.

You want a golf ball that identifies skill, not strength.

If you look at other sports they have absolutely controlled the primary instrument of play, and the primary instrument of play is the ball. If baseball allowed aluminum bats or took the ball that had the same liveliness and changed it so that it was aerodynamically more stable, you’d completely change the dynamics of baseball. The pitchers would be phenomenal. If you put a more aerodynamically stable ball in their hands, they’d do things that they can’t do now. And once it was hit, it’d clearly be out of the park. They haven’t allowed that to happen.

The problem is, it started with the square grooves. That started diminishing the value of hitting it in the fairway when square grooves came out. That’s been more than doubly augmented that goes so straight that plays into the hands of the guy who swings the fastest. That’s where we are.

Now you play a golf ball that curves and you swing it 128 mph and you use a 46 inch driver with one of these graphite shafts, the answer is, you better not miss it. You’ll find out if you don’t have a repeating golf swing or if you don’t have the high level of skill that the players used to have, then you find that all of sudden you’ll be going back and doing what Jack Nicklaus used to do, swinging a 42 1/2 inch driver. He wasn’t swinging a 46-inch driver. His was 42 1/2  inches. So a lot of the technology that allows the guy to use a 46 inch driver with lighter shafts and titanium heads are marginalized when you put spin out there.

You don’t have to give the players old wooden headed clubs. [Spin] would return enough skill and enough sanity to the distance factor that it would bring the whole game back into better balance than it is. I’m not saying turn the whole clock back. I don’t think that would be good.

Year In Review, Vol. 1, Torrey Pines Stories

torrey-pines-golf.jpgTime to look back on the most interesting, informative and uh, impactful golf stories of 2005. Well, at least in my view!

Volume 1 is dedicated to Tod Leonard's San Diego Union-Tribune reporting on the state of Torrey Pines.

At issue was a costly redo of the North Course, even though local golfer were not enjoying the renovated South, host of the 2008 U.S. Open. 

Starting in November 2004, Leonard exposed the astonishing conflicts of interest and obvious backdoor maneuvering centered around the "needs" of the 2008 Open, the mysterious "Friends of Torrey Pines"  (represented by a USGA Executive Committee member!) and the Lodge at Torrey Pines.

His series of articles started an uprising after he revealed that the Lodge was promoting a North Course2008OpenLogo.gif renovation that had not been approved by the City Council.  A later story generated this comment from SD City Councilman Michael Zucchet:

"My opinion was that they ruined the South Course, but at least I understood why they did it – to get the U.S. Open," Zucchet said yesterday. "I love a tough golf course, but I miss the old, historic South.

"Now, it's a Rees Jones masterpiece, but the old one was a San Diego masterpiece. We've lost that, and I want to do my best to make sure the same things don't happen again."

Such a masterpiece that no one wanted him to touch the North, but more importantly, no one seemed to want the USGA greens on the North that were struggling on the South. Leornard's other work was highlighted by this December 4 story, followed later by this January 8 piece, followed by the City Council debate that halted the North Course redo just prior to the Buick Invitational.

I summed up the saga and Leornard's fine reporting for Golfobserver. 

Verdi: Can't Legislate Progress, Next Question

Bob Verdi asks and answers questions.

Did technology affect golf in 2005?

A tired theme, in our opinion. You can't legislate against progress. The big story in bowling, besides Asbaty, is the new scented ball. You can now collect the 7-10 split with an amaretto ball. In tennis, it was the introduction of a magnetic racket, which instantly returns to its original shape after you hit the ball and which doesn't smell like amaretto. Yet.

So, you're really not worried about emerging technology? 

I worry about technology when I call my bank two blocks away to find out whether a check has cleared and the person who picks up the phone is in New Delhi.

Here was Verdi last year writing about the issue.

Meanwhile, the piece inspired me to to offer a similar question and answer session to myself.

Did technology really impact golf in 2005, or is everyone from Jack Nicklaus to Arnold Palmer to Greg Norman to Tiger Woods suggesting this just to get attention?

A tired theme, in our opinion. You can't ask golf writers to do anything but cover stars on the PGA Tour. I mean, who wants to write about something that requires thought, historical perspective, curiousity, a grasp of science and a concern for ramifications beyond the PGA Tour?

So you're not worried about emerging technology?

Why, I'm a blogger? I'm not the one whose publication arrives in the mail three weeks after the publication date...during the non-holiday season. Or the one who calls customer service to get some Canadian telling me that postal works must be reading my issues.


Golf World's Top 100 Newsmakers of 2005

Lots of year end review stories to pass on because Golf World's comprehensive look is the best. Some of their top 100 "newsmakers" can now be viewed online.

This will take you to the top 10 as well as links to slots 11-15, 16-20 and 21-25

I'm not sure about the Presidents Cup making the top 5 (landing ahead of breakout stars Jason Gore and Paula Creamer), or the "streaks" listing at No. 9 (citing Dana Quigley's Champions Tour streak of events played!?). But the rest seem like solid choices and the write ups are good.

Tim Finchem will want to frame his recognition, as penned by John Hawkins:

Fifty years from now, the PGA Tour's 2007 schedule realignment might be considered a structural benchmark in the history of pro golf.

Or, maybe in fifty years few will remember Tim Finchem and his impactful schedule realignments.  

This was the year Finchem addressed several of the tour's most relevant issues: mediocre television ratings, a 10-month season and the glaring shortage of significant tournaments at the end of every long campaign.

Well, let's get those deals inked first before we nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize, or proclaim that the numbers are going up. Maybe if the actual, uh, product (Lord, please forgive me) becomes more interesting to watch by playing faster and hitting something besides a wedge into a long par-4.

For the avid golf fan, there is no downside to the schedule revision.

Tell that to the people in Chicago, Westchester, Milwaukee, upstate New York and other locations where events are moving off of longtime dates, or becoming second-tier events at best.

The Huggy Awards

John Huggan presents his awards for the best and worst of the year, along with grades for European Tour players. A must read. My favorites:


Perennial contender Colin Montgomerie is up there again with his misguided, "I'm as good as I've ever been" mantra. The same is true of Peter Dawson, secretary of the R&A, whenever he opens his mouth to talk about how the modern golf ball doesn't go too far when struck by the modern professional. But this year's Huggy goes to Seve Ballesteros, who thinks he can still win on the European Tour. Stunning.


The sight of long grass growing all over the Old Course last July was enough to make any self-respecting golfer puke. Because of their ineptness in the high-powered face of modern clubs and balls over the last decade and a bit, the R&A were forced to destroy the basic point of the game's most famous and revered venue in order to keep the scores within reason.

Most vomit inducing was the sneaky rough grown up the right side of the Road Hole. Without it - as the R&A knew full well - the world's best players would likely have been flipping half-wedge shots into the most feared green in golf. All of which would have represented nothing less than final confirmation that the game's administrators have lost the technological plot. Shame on them.


In a repeat of the discriminatory selection policy he adopted for the 2003 President's Cup (when he shamelessly picked his compatriot Tim Clark), international team captain Gary Player gets a Huggy for nominating yet another undeserving South African, Trevor Immelman, for the '05 joust with the Americans. Immelman is a fine young player, but selecting him ahead of Australia's Geoff Ogilvy, a man who has beaten Immelman like a redheaded stepchild all year, was unjustifiable. One would like to think Player's actions had nothing to do with the fact that, as well as a spot on the team, Immelman received a two-year exemption onto the dollar-laden PGA Tour. One would like to think that, but one is not so sure.