Week in Review, May 21-27: Players Say The Funniest Things

WeekInReview2.jpgWhat should have been a quiet week in May produced several interesting comments from noted Tour players, and plenty of great stuff as usual from you readers. Thanks as always for the laughs and insights. Some highlights:

On the news that Donald Trump had cleared a vital hurdle with his Scottish course by preventing windmills from being raised within view, Scott noted, "If the location of the golf course is also a good place for windmills, then the golf played there is going to very difficult. There are not very many successful golf courses built where the wind always blows. (why would you build a windmill farm in a place without constant winds?) But what does Donald Trump golf designs know about site location and prevailing winds?"

Everything, Scott!

Regarding Ben Crane's inability to speed up, earning him yet another lecture (but no penalty) from the Tour, OldSchool writes, "The neglect by PVB to deter this professional conduct unbecoming of a professional at Q-School and even on the Nationwide Tour has added to this topic. Rory made a bad decision last year on how to deal with this, to date it's the only real decision that has been made. Where Rory drew a ton of outrage over that incident, he also helped bring the awareness level way up. What's happened to Ben Crane thus far, nothing?"

Speaking of the Tour, their rumored FedEx Cup points system continues to be met with plenty of questions. Reader J.P.:  "Skewing points for Majors and WGC's, (and THE PLAYERS) is ridiculous. The PGA Tour has been running all sorts of "incentivizing" plans since 1998. These plans have all worked as designed, putting more money into top players pockets, while allowing these players to continue to play only 18 to 20 tournaments a year."

Meanwhile J.T. loves the new logo unveiled: "I thought your art department must have spent a few minutes coming up with that logo, but then I realized that it was the real thing. Brilliant design, how do these people come up with such creative ideas!!!"

On the thrilling news that the PGA will be returning to Oak Hill in 2013, Stan DeBarons reports enthusiastically: "I just got off the phone with my travel agent. I've secured for August 2013, a hotel room for the week as well as tickets for the Rochester Dinner Theater's production of Fiddler On The Roof for friday night."

Photos were posted of the new look Ohio State course, dubbed a "Nick-enzie" by Jack Nicklaus and host to this week's NCAA Women's Championship won by Duke. Reader AP Maran writes, "As MacKenzie said regarding bunkers 'It is often possible to make a hole sufficiently interesting with one or two bunkers the most,' and here we see a lot of bunkers added, many of them with Nicklaus favorite type with the tongue of grass in the middle, none resembles a MacKenzie bunker. the two in 12th and 13th are hideous monsters, freak show."

RM wrote, "1. The visual experience of this course is now dominated by the bunkering. The bunkers don't seem to flow with the rest of the course. 2. I believe the brown dirt bunkers gave the course a more natural feel. I love Augusta, but the glaring white sand is not always a good look. 3. If I were a student, I'd rather play the old course for $18 than the new course for $30. I'm sure there is some local muni that will see a rise in student play."

Now, for those player remarks.  On Davis Love's assertion that there have been minor advances in equipment, Steven T. writes, "Minor advances in equipment? Will Titleist cut him off of his 5M/year deal now?"  OldSchool wrote, "With all the minor advances in equipment, why all the major renovations in golf courses?: And DK: "Minor? Hell by his own words Mickelson has gained about 80yds since 1997."

Jim Furyk and Colin Montgomerie called for the golf ball to be rolled back this week, prompting Sean Murphy to say, "Interesting to finally see more of the games elite players speaking out about the state of the game (the distance SNAFU), especially since the PGA Tour is dependent on TV ratings, and where John Hawkins has informed everyone on how low and miserable those ratings go. People are tired of watching "Long Drive Contest Scrambles". It's not golf and has little appeal when compared to how golf use to be played at the professional level."

The rough harvest at uh, "The Foot," as dubbed so dreadfully by Tim Rosaforte, is going well if you like lots of rye grass, but not so well in the view of Walter Driver, who whipped out his Blackberry to message staffer Mike Davis.

NRH: "The head of the USGA using a Blackberry on the course? God help us." And Pete the Luddite: "Let's hope that they do something about what can only be a debacle in the making and set the rough up better than described. I don't think they will, though. Players and fans may complain, but as long as the tv ratings and ticket sales are up, why change, right?"

R. Thompson wrote, "I'm situating myself for another Major let down at Winged Foot. Tapered rough, and wind mills on the greens, who are these clowns in the blue blazers? They are the Ivy League, badminton, intermural, all star team. It's obvious these fellows couldn't beat there way out of a wet paper bag."

Ian Woosnam's assertion that shorter players have little future touched off several comments. Steve White wrote: "Did he watch last week's playoff at Colonial? Richard S. Johnson is 5-7 and still managed to hit the drive on the second hole of the playoff just shy of 300. I also don't see Tim Herron, who hit his drive on the same hole 350 yards, as a fitness obsessed player, yet he managed to get to the winner's circle. These kind of generalizations in Woosnam's answers are meaningless, at best.

Reader Dean didn't agree: "You're right Steve, every leader board is chock full of overweight gluttons pounding 350 yard drives and yet some 5'7, working his ass off overtime, manages to walk a tight rope some given week to prove that distance is not an issue. Wether its Clark at Augusta or Johnson at Colonial, where are the rest of the 5,7 players filling up the leader board. Give us one leader board this year with 4 players under 5'9."

Finally, Brad Faxon touched off a firestorm with his remarks about the ball getting too much blame and athleticism being the source of future distance advances.

Glyn: "who said he never works out?...was that J.B. Holmes.? Must be natural athleticism. So if it's athleticism, it shouldn't matter what ball a pro uses right?"

Chuck: "...somebody needs to seriously get in Faxon's face about accusing Nickluas of holding to his position on golf ball developments because, 'If Jack Nicklaus had a successful ball, he would never say another word. But he's never sold a ball that's made a dime.' That says it all to me. Maybe Faxon is actually right. That players' opinions on balls are shaped -- determined, really -- by the company that they have their ball endorsement deals with. If so, I rest my case. Faxon, we know who you're working for. Please don't ever apologize for your statement, or retract it in any way. It is too valuable as ammunition in the ball-regulation battle. A question for the class -- Can anyone name one Titleist staff player who has openly talked about his or her views that the golf ball should be better regulated?"

And Barry: "See the movement of my pocketwatch, back and forth, back and forth....you are feeling very relaxed now...repeat after me..."distance is not changing the game"..."the ball is not a problem"..."this is not about the money..."

Week In Review, May 14-20: Lettin' The Club Do That For You

WeekInReview2.jpgThe week got off to another fun start with John Huggan's column on Andrew Coltart, who lamented the demise of more subtle shotmaking elements and the huge advantages that long hitters are getting, prompting OldSchool to write, "Distance Myth #11. Professional golfers are not paying attention to the tremendous distance gains over the past 4 years. Specifically those gaining an incremental distance advantage."

A pair of John Hawkins blog posts touched off many comments about the state of Tour golf here, but oddly, not on the Golf Digest site!

The first post was on the PGA Tour's television ratings decline, prompting reader Matt to write, "Today's one-dimensional power game is being played on boring tracks built to accomodate housing, for paychecks that would take most fans lifetimes to make. No one worries about choking anymore-they know they have a big bank account to console them."

And Carl wrote: "Put some damn fire back into the competition and maybe golf will be interesting as a spectator sport once again and not seem to be just a gathering of nice fellows content to make a good check and have a good time. Screw the good time, get serious!"

And RGB wondered this: "With Commissioner Finchem renewing his own contract, doesn't the membership question his process? In all 501 C 6 organizations the membership decides those decisions for themselves because they are the shareholders of the corporation. Finchem is also not allowed by law to withhold the financial information of such an organization from a dues paying (shareholders) union incorporated into a 501 C 6 labor league. That is a serious breach of fiduciary duty on his part."

Regarding Hawkins' post on the likely FedEx Cup points system, Sean Murphy asked, "Can John Hawkins write us a story about the Charles Schwab Cup (another points race), who actually won the last 5 of them, and why we even care?"

Reader Chris wondered about Hawkins' line on the Tour "failing to realize that the boat would move much faster with a lot fewer oars in the water," noting that "in rowing, taller, heavier individuals have a small, but significant advantage. It is based on the same physical principle that causes boats with more rowers to go faster."

Those nautical metaphors! Is rowing considered nautical!? Anyway...

Regarding the ongoing Fed Ex Cup points watch, Mike Cummins noted that MacDuff's "points structure is the only structure that truly rewards often and consistent play. I would hope just one thing from you, if the Tour does decide to invent their 5th Pyramid Scheme pay out, that you would continue to provide your points structure model here so we can compare how bad the Tour's is flawed."

On Canadian Open and it's lousy date on the new PGA Tour schedule, Wayne K said the "RCGA should consider switching the Canadian Open from a PGA Tour event to a European Tour event. They could have a date in the prime of the summer close to the US Open to attract Europeans that are travelling to the US for that event. And Europeans playing most of the year on the PGA tour would have the benefit of being able to collect Ryder Cup points in North America which would be of benefit every two years."

Jonathan Cummings pointed out that the Booz Allen is facing many issues thanks to its recent decline: "In years past Avenel has had waiting lists to become one of the 1300 volunteers that help put on the tournament. In a financial statement of the times, Booz announced that volunteers will be charged this year (not uncommon at PGA tournamnets). The volunteer pool reacted - just 4 weeks from the tournament they have only 500 folks who have signed on. This is not enough to pull off the tournament. What are the chances that a PGA tournament gets canceled because of not enough volunteers?"

Easily the most discussed story of the week continues to be the fascinating two-driver debate that was reignited by Monty's remark about letting the club do the work for you, with both sides making compelling cases.

tread softly: "...this exemplifies why the golfing powers-that-be must get their act together.. we are witnessing the surreptitious slithering towards the demise of any artistry, as so elegantly vented by Andrew Coltart in John Huggan's recent column... l would even venture to call it 'back door cheating'."

And on the other side, Smolmania: "14 clubs in the bag. You choose which ones you want to carry. You want 2 drivers, knock your socks off. I carry 5 wedges. Is that "cheating"? Sorry, I just don't see it. There's a lot bigger problems in golf -- the ball, for example? -- that I don't think this is remotely one of them."

A fine point by cmoore: "What if Hogan had decided to carry two drivers: one with lead tape on the heel and one with lead tape on the toe to encourage different ball flight? Would this have caused any controversy? Is there any real difference between the draw/fade bias drivers of today and the lead-taped drivers of the past?"

But then there is this take from St. Pete: "The ball is going so far today as Nicklaus pointed out, that long hitters can take 4 or 5 clubs out of the bag...Jack was correct, players like this can take 4 or 5 clubs out of the bag today because the ball is going to far. And because that is true, Phil has plenty of room in that bag for 3 drivers. Fill er-up please, I'll have another!"

I asked an innocent question about linked stories opening in the existing window or a new window, and new window won 13 to 3, with some votes in between.

Hale Irwin endorsed the USGA's new tiered rough concept, but Glyn noted, "the problem I see getting worse is ability of fans to see the action. The Masters suffered from that this year as 'patrons' had less access due to course lengthening, now they will see less due to rough 'lengthening'?"

Pete the Luddite said that "Hale's comments are especially sad for someone who has spent so much time in the game. Narrower fairways and wider roughs = less fan access. Remember, Hale, that these are the people (aside from the corporate sponsors) who provide those big winner's checks. Driving the fans out of the game (pun intended) is only going to hurt golf in the long run, and further marginalize the sport."

And regarding Bob Verdi's entertaining chat with Fred Couples, who pointed out the silliness of the PGA Tour locking themselves into a 15-year deal with The Golf Channel, reader Chris asked, "How many bars have the golf channel on? None that I've been to."

Week In Review May 7-13: Welcome Billy

WeekInReview2.jpgWe kicked off the week discussing the departure of Hootie Johnson, and while I mourn his retirement, reader Chris H. says, "Let's face it, Hootie choked on so many different fronts. There are so many that it's a waste of time to go into all of them. Now if ANGC can get Hootie's name off the course design and restore it to Jones-MacKenzie original then I'll be a happy hacker."

John Huggan wrote about the slow play epidemic, prompting this from reader R. Thompson: "No wonder Tim Finchem won't release the details of the new television contracts. It's as Huggie has pointed out, people are bored witless, and it's mainly the equipment dwarfing golf courses. However, if courses are lengthened rounds will simply take longer to complete. Let's stop the nonsense and slow the ball down now."

After Billy Payne's first press conference where he used some interesting language regarding the possible "resolution" of the equipment situation, Old School wrote:  "1. Nothing over 360cc driver heads. 2. A tolerance on Cor from 109mph to 112mph showing an 83% transfer of energy and a diminishing Cor value starting at 113mph.
3. A restriction on Core Hardness for golf balls, going back to the core hardness of balls used in 2001-2002 whould be fine."

St. Pete said, "'RESOLUTION', looks like Billy and the Boys have been studying the stats for the last 5 years on distance. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened from 2002 to 2003, that's when things really got out of hand and have continued to escalate. The balls and drivers of 2002 is where the USGA said it was drawing the line. I agree with OldSchool, lets simply go back to drivers being under 400CC and golf balls that somewhat compressed."

The Bloomberg story on drugs in golf elicited a whopping 31 comments, all of them tgreat. A few highlights:

R.Thompson: "It's interesting to see the PGA Tour go after a Casey because they were worried about endurance being one of the requirements but then pull this sort of phony baloney out. The PGA Tour should be testing to find out who is benefiting from steriod use giving those players an unfair advantage with endurance."

Michael: "The PGA Tour and USGA do not even test for recreational drugs, it has to be the only major sport that plays for millions, and where players endorsements are in the millions, then dismisses the notion that there is any drug use taking place. What are they smoking in Ponte Vedra?"

Sean Murphy: "Whoever thought professional golfers had a drinking problem? Who ever thought professional golfers had a gambling problem? Who ever thought professional golfers wouldn't be experimenting with recreational drugs? Who ever thinks golfers are not experimenting with steriods is completely naive."

GeorgeM: "While control of steroid use by minors is appropriate concern for parents and schools, why is it an issue for governing bodies? The current state of affairs in sports other than golf is not helped by testing. There is too much testing and too severe penalty for suspect results."

H.W.: "...the PGA Tour should be required to meet the same standards that Congress is requiring MLB. Those standards are being imposed by Congress to ensure the youth of America is not taking steriods to one day become MLB players. The same common sense should apply to the PGA Tour, and Congress should be asking for drug testing to be imposed for all the same reasons."

J.D.: "Until there is evidence? The evidence is in the testing, without testing there is no evidence. I noticed that the Commissioner declined to comment on something important to the integrity of the sport. He's not only showing his lack of integrity but is also sending the message to pro golfers no testing will be conducted until there is sufficient evidence."

Rob: "Recreational drugs, or even sports enhancing drugs, anyone who oversees rolling a green of a U.S. Open in the middle of the night should be drug tested!"

Rick reminded us of this quote from Jimmy Vespe: "It was a refreshing article you just ran about drugs not being found in golf, but it is not entirely accurate. I was an intercollegiate golfer for a major Division-I college, and have plenty of friends on Tour. I can say without question drugs -- though on a small scale -- have been used to enhance performance in golf for years. Guys smoke pot quite frequently on Tour to stay focused and calm, and take beta blockers for the same reason. It is in ALL sports -- unfortunately."

N Gn:  "Tour officials don´t push for drug testing because they are afraid of what will come out. They lie when they say there are no evidence. French Open, a few years back. French authorities notify they will conduct drug testing during the championship. What happens, more than 40 players withdraw the week prior the tournament! Need more evidence?"

And J.D. again: "Swinging for the walls with today's drivers and golf balls, where players are left with wedges from heavy rough, is all about being super strong to survive and claim greatness in the process. Greatness today based on illegal substances building muscle and endurance for golfers is the topic and testing should be conducted periodically."

On the reader report about a power struggle at Augusta National, RGB had this to say:  "Buying up companies and selling off their parts for profit is second nature for the members of Augusta. Capitalism is king, except when it comes to this one particular golf course. There's the line in the sand and this golf ball thing has now gone too far. Good luck Payne."

And Hux: "If Hootie and his cronies are the good guys, then the badies must really suck."

Regarding John Davis' story about equipment testing at ASU that might pass along savings to golfers, Scott wrote: "Pass On A Savings? Manufacturers started producing todays multi-layered balls for pennys compared to three piece wound balls, and then jacked up the price of todays balls. Who is he kidding?"

Regarding the latest confusion on rangefinders reported on by Jim Achenbach, Scott Stearns writes, "Whats the big deal, anyway? the USGA wanted to create an way for the growing number of GPS-enabled courses to remain within the umbrella of the rules. Most tournaments aren't allowing them. So What? If your course votes not to use them so be it."

Ned Ludd wrote, "I'll tell you about "slope," as in "this is indeed a slippery slope we find ourselves sliding down." If someone at the USGA only had Colbertian gonads, these devices would have been declared illegal from the get go. How can handicaps be compared and utilized when one is the product of a rangefinder and the other is not?"

And finally, Smolmania made his most spirited defense yet of rangefinders: "Information should not be illegal. Especially when the pace of play is retarded by those pacing off distances to the detriment of everyone else on the golf course. As for the stupid people who buy a device that claims to measure the distance a golf ball will travel up and down a particular slope, who does Bushnell think they're kidding? Up hill 10% translates to x less distance? For whom? With what clubs, what balls, what swing speeds? Why doesn't the USGA spend some of their war chest figuring out why the damn ball goes so far, instead of worrying so darn much about how far it is on my next shot? Oh that's right, excess distance is a myth."

Just another quiet week in the weird world of modern golf!

Week In Review, April 30-May 6: Goodbye Hootie and Earl

WeekInReview2.jpgEarl Woods passed away, Hootie Johnson stepped down, John Daly started plugging his book  and Brad Klein chimed in for this site's third Taking AIM installment. And once again, lots of great comments from readers.

Regarding the Klein discussion, which included his thoughts on the planned Winged Foot "tiered rough" concept, reader F.X. said, "Graduated rough is a classic example of reinventing the wheel. What the USGA seems to be striving for is preserving the opportunity for recovery in the context of a penal architecture. It's a strained technocentric solution that will have all sorts of consequences, particularly the intended-by-the-mower-manufacturers ones pointed out in this discussion."

Meanwhile The Donald's plans for a Scottish golf course got plenty of attention.  Later in the week, John Huggan weighed in.  Reader Hux chimed in on the Donald's pride in his ability to create top quality medical facilities to go with his golf course: "He said they build big golf courses, and they understand how the medical situation needs to be done. Can Crenshaw administer so much as a band-aid without getting an end all twisted? I thought not. With medical facilities like they're going to have, even if they don't get the British Open, there's always the British Grand Prix.  Always have a plan B you see. Smart fellow, The Donald."

Rex Hoggard noticed some of Dale Jr.'s recent comments about settling for 3rd and wondered how that would impact the FedEx Cup. It prompted plenty of thoughts on the FedEx Cup.

NRH: "As for being satisfied with a nice check vs. winning as the only thing that matters, this has been going on for quite awhile. It sounds terrible to say, read or hear, but it is the truth. The younger guys on Tour can't identify with hustlers along the lines of Trevino or even Rich Beem's stint at the Speaker Shack. The purses are insane...it doesn't seem like that long ago you would read the results in the back of the sports page on Monday morning and shake your head at the $180,000 next to the winner's name. That's tenth place money now."

GeorgeM noted that "The Nextel Cup is flawed by the VERY low number permitted to qualify. The FedEx Cup will admit the vast majority of fully exempt players. On the other hand, each cup attempts to minimise any lead in points gained during the season. The end result will not be a season champion, but the player who is playing best in early September."

Sean Murphy asked, "What happened to great golf selling itself, why all the smoke and mirrors??? Players in the locker room on the PGA Tour are really scratching their heads, what will they think of next???"

Regarding the driving distance stats and the New Orleans event, Steve White wrote: "I remember being on the course during one of the first years they played at English Turn and watching Greg Norman hit what everybody thought was a Herculean 3-iron to get it on the green in two at 15. Now, it's a routine driver, mid-iron hole. The only players who don't go for the green in two are those who drive the ball in the rough."

A reader from Spain kindly sent in a few entertaining photos, including a religiously-correct bunker that MacDuff noted was the ultimate cross bunker. You be the judge!

On the subject of shot shaping, grooves and the changing game, John V asked, "I've seen Tiger and others shape shots. Is it perhaps that many of today's players don't know how or have forgotten how? Is that because they've only been taught one way to hit the ball or really because it can't be done?"

Sean Murphy noted that "A rules official shared with me on Monday that players are changing wedges every two weeks and irons every 4 weeks, all in an effort to be able to work these rocks today. Yes, it is possible to somewhat work them, but it is an awfully expensive proposition for the average Joe who would like to be able to do the same."

On the USGA Distance Myths, as regurgitated by the USA Today, John V pointed out that one of the readers seemed to not be aware of USGA testing standards, perhaps justifying the myths: "One of the myths is that there are not standards. This guy certainly sounds like he thinks there are none."

Tom Wishon responded that it may just be a myth that the USGA actually tests today's typical launch conditions: "There is a .083 on Cor for drivers witnessed at 109mph so that no more than an 83% transfer of energy can be witnessed.  John V., what is the ceiling for Cor transfer as it relates to thicker club faces bouncing a harder core golf ball at 120mph where not all professionals on the PGA Tour swing the club 120mph? A COR reading for any swing speed above 112mph should not be allowed to be witnessed at anything over an 83% transfer of energy. That is where the ceiling should be with regards to Cor benefits for drivers."

On the news that the USGA is finally getting around some of the rolled back balls that they asked for a year ago, reader Matt wrote, "They don't want to drag it on forever but that's exactly what they're doing. Meanwhile the integrity of the game continues to erode...I sincerely hope this is the last year of the juiced ball era on tour, but I won't hold my breath."

Our resident think, Pete the Luddite, asked Matt for patience. But I asked Pete if he would conduct research as the USGA has, issueing press releases dispelling myths before the results were completed. Pete wrote: "Pre-supposing the results for the client and using cash as a means to drive the answer desired. I've seen those consultants out there who will tell you what you want, regardless of fact, if they are paid enough. Makes me sick. Ethical twists occur, and this is essentially what USGA's "researchers" are doing. For them to state that it will be "done when it's done" is farcical."

David Feherty joined the long list advocating a change in the ball. Reader C.W. wrote, "Yes, the only thing that needs to be done is standardize the core hardness of the golf ball and the Cor benefits of drivers...It would be easy to soften up the core of modern golf balls while maintaining the same flight characteristics. The golf balls have been made harder to increase their distance by expanding the Cor of a driver further."

And finally, the bombshell of the week: Hootie Johnson handing over the keys to Augusta to Little Feat co-founder Atlanta Olympic game head man Billy Payne. Nice work by reader Smolmania noticing that Payne is associated with Eric Gleacher, former member of the USGA-Augusta cabal.

I'm sure we'll get more discussed on the subject of our dearly beloved Hootie next week, but he has a fan in reader Matt:  "Im actually disappointed in a way over this-say what you want about him, but Hootie really stirred things up in his time as Augusta chair; he raised The Masters profile I think. You may not have agreed with the way he did things, but you respected him because he didn't care what people like Martha Burk had to say. He didn't even flinch when the majority of the golfing world condemned him for the course changes. Hey, the guy stuck to his principles."

Too bad for golf that he didn't stick to Jones and MacKenzie's design principles! 

Week In Review, April 23-30: No More Myths

WeekInReview2.jpgSunday started with a  must-read John Huggan profile of Geoff Ogilvy on the state of the game, prompting this from reader Matt: Ten years ago you could attend a PGA Tour event, watch a pro hit a drive, and in all honesty say, "I can do that every once in a while." There was a sense of connection between the average golfer and the tour pros. Now, it seems as if the pros are playing on the moon. We just can't relate to the game the pros play at all. The game of golf has gone missing. Can someone safely return it?"

And NRH had this to say about the man who spells his first name so perfectly: "It is very encouraging to see a relativeley young guy 'get-it'...of course he is Australian. Heard an amazing stat a couple of weeks ago that Jonathan Byrd is the only American player under the age of 30 with more than one win on Tour."

Another week meant more classic MBAspeak from Commissioner Finchem, including his assertion that his greatest accomplishment remains wonderful communication between himself and players. That prompted Old School to write: "The Tour has communicated so well with players that Greg Norman is threatening to sue for minutes to meetings and all of the financial records. The communication between those that work for the Tour and the players can't be as huge of an accomplishment for Tim with Norman sounding off. If this is Tim's biggest feat, then he certainly hasn't done anything significant."

Later, Finchem did a Q&A with the New Orleans paper, discussing the Tour's unique ability to reach CEO's and "skew" to their unique demographic. Jonathon Cummings suggested that "Timmy should make it pay-per-view and pipe it directly into the CEO boardrooms!" Meanwhile, reader Scott S pointed out, "I've never seen skew used in a positive light... until now."

We learned new details of the R&A's initial ventures into course design, prompting head man Peter Dawson to say, "Sometimes you can't fully appreciate the impact of an alteration until it's been built and you have another look at them in reality rather than on a drawing." In the same story, Mike Aitken noted that a Turnberry bunker was filled because "the hazard couldn't be seen from the tee."

That prompted reader DK to say, "The R&A is saying this! The R&A! The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews headquartered at The Old Course is having bunkers removed because they can't be seen from the tee. I feel like barracading myself in my house and taking hostages." Amen brother.

We also learned about the real reason behind the 84 Lumber Classic's demise, where the daughter of Joe Hardy "said her company will be spending 'lots of money' to aggressively purchase smaller lumber and framing companies to eliminate competition."

The Big K replied to that: "If sponsoring a PGA Tour event does not make financial sense, why do it? Especially since the PGAT has not proven to be particularly loyal to anyone...Still, it is hard to sympathize with the comment about buying smaller companies to eliminate competition. It wasn't quoted, hopefully it is a little out of context.

And finally, don't miss Brad Klein's story on distance measuring devices, which includes a breakdown of which golf associations are allowing them and which aren't. And in their defense, Smolmania wrote: "There may certainly be no question that idiots will play slowly, and that using range finders will not help them. However, there may also be no question that in the vast majority of cases, a golfer who may simply point a Bushnell at a flag, or the top of a bunker, and get a yardage is capable of playing more quickly. . . a boon to all."

Week In Review, April 16-22: Distance Myths

WeekInReview2.jpgWe kicked the week off with John Huggan's excellent update on Musselburgh, prompting reader tread softly to write, "Musselburgh Golf Course must be saved from floodlighting - for it's history alone..and what's wrong with a little sentimentality in an increasingly cynical world? and when was floodlighting anything but a harsh intrusion on nature's own 24-hour illumination set-up!?"

Regarding the ongoing Augusta National debate, I pointed out the difference between Hootie Johnson's view of long hitters and the views of most traditionalists (who don't blame the players for simply taking advantage of equipment).  Sean Murphy chimed in, "Come on Hootie, Manufacture a True Golf Ball, and restore the sport to what it once was, 'GOLF'!" While Carl wrote, "Hootie, please restore, Jones's and Mackenzie's true test of golf. Manufacture your own ball, and lets remind the people sitting at home what golf use to be, and how it should be played."

We monitored the Augusta National course changes reaction. Jaime Diaz weighed in with a lukewarm analysis, as did Peter Kostis.  Both are interesting reads worth checking out if you missed them the first time.

Gary Van Sickle analyzed the changes from the patrons point of view, prompting reader Glyn to say, "He has a point. There is so much roped off area it creates congestion and bad viewing. And also awkward flow getting from hole to hole at times." MacDuff, who attended this year, wrote that the "introduction of more seating areas has narrowed viewing on the whole. 14 green now only visible from the rear for standing patrons, small seating area to the left only way to get a good view of buried elephant. On 17 green no one could now see from right side i.e. Jack's 1986 putt from the famous film-clip."

Greg Norman was back in the news, still awaiting to see the PGA Tour's books, as he would seemingly be allowed to do as a member. Reader R. Thompson asks, "If Finchem was never a professional golfer, why would Norman have to ask for all of the financial information when that information is suppose to be made membership knowledge, especially with the organization being a non-profit."

The Tour is also not making any friends in Washington where Leonard Shapiro reported that the D.C. stop has been given a May ultimatum to find a sponsor.  Pat wrote, "Finchem's strategy of lieing to Booze Allen about a TPC Avenal re-do and then lieing to members of Congressional in an effort to stiff arm his agenda into place has rubbed people here in D.C. the wrong way."

And M. Kavanaugh agreed and wondered: "I'm afraid that other title sponsors will follow in Booze Allen's footsteps, pulling those dollars and investing them in a manner which grants the corporate name more recognition.

The Phil two driver debate continued, and I remain somewhere in the middle of both sides on this. Some wonderful reader comments on this, with most making strong points in support of the idea that this is just a traditional part of the game, and not an example that technology has gotten out of hand.

Dan G wrote, "What about Ray Floyd adding a 5 wood when he torched Augusta the year he won? It's not like the idea of adding clubs based on the course you're playing just came about yesterday." Reader Simmz said, "Sarazen created the sandwedge; Travis utilized "technology" with the center-shafted Schenectady putter...While I personally embrace tradition, it is difficult to argue that any of these club adjustments and innovations are wrong when the governing bodies deem them legal >>> circling back to Geoff's original beef with the governing bodies - they have lost control of the game!"

Glyn asked, "What's the difference between 2 drivers or 4 wedges? A club is a club. If he wants to carry 2 drivers he has to take a club from somewhere else. The extra driver isn't the issue, the issue is that he can give up another club somewhere else because of how the game is played at the pro level."

While John V says, "If the club that he hits 25 yards shorter than his driver had a "2" on the bottom, none of this would have been news." And RM says "Phil is a pure shotmaker, and a crative genius. I would put his skills against any player from any era using any equipment. Golf is about making choices. He is obviously making good ones. I don't see the issue at all."

While St. Pete replied, "The issue RM is that professionals could take out 4 or 5 clubs today and not really miss any of them because of how far the ball goes today."

Tom Fazio seemed pleased with his changes to Augusta National and Winged Foot, and as always, pays no attention to what the master architects wrote or the potential ramifications. Reader af wondered if anyone is "concerned that land costs money,takes more money to maintain and potentially could reduce the number of people that can or even want to play the game.not to mention , maybe reducing the number of players based on size or strength of the person. we are losing the "greatest game ever played" and very few seem concerned."

Hux chimed in too with some killer MacKenzie quotes like this one: "It is often suggested that we have already got to the limit of flight of a golf ball. I do not believe it, as there is no limit to science.” And Hux wrote: "Seeing Mr. Fazio has gone to the 'scripture', does he believe what's good for the goose is also good for the gander?"

On the USGA position paper which I haven't had a chance to read yet, there were plenty of interesting reader comments. Smolmania: "if you try to tell me that JB, Bubba, Tiger and Phil don't have a disproportionate advantage over the Corey Pavins of the world, you've got your head in the clouds."

Pete the Luddite replied, "I absolutely loved reading this article and I'm glad you found and posted it for us. It shows all of us what we can do to lengthen our game if we want. Optimizing launch conditions will get you further off the tee than swinging out of your shoes at the ball. Dammit, my father was right all along while I was growing up.  Swing smooth and hit the ball correctly. THAT IS THE MISSING/HIDDEN POINT OF THE ARTICLE: you will go further by hitting the ball best, not harder. Realistically, we aren't going to be able to warp up our swing speeds substantially, but we CAN swing better at the ball and launch it better."

The USGA, after years of silence on the distance debate (and the overall message: distance is a myth...great call there!). They issued their Distance Myths at the Masters and we are finally able to look at them.

Regarding the myths by Dick Rugge, reader J.P. writes, "Can Dick explain to the posters here how the distance exploded in 2003? Why the ball blaster isn't in use anymore to test Cor? And why Iron Byron was calibrated at 120 instead of 109? How long was the blaster and 109 used by iron Byron?"

Ryan Ballengee took them on in a story that prompted reader P. Bigley to write, "I looked at the differences between 2002 and 2003, wow! It appears the USGA choose money over principle. Sad."

Weeks In Review, April 2-15: Masters

WeekInReview2.jpgSince there was no week in review while the Masters was unfolding, we're playing catch-up here. And instead of going through all of the key stories posted, I'd direct you to the Journal Topics (2006 Masters) or the Monthly Archive for April.

Instead, I wanted to highlight just some of the many great reader comments over the last few weeks. It is interesting to think that just a few years ago, the tangled connection between technology, design and setup was murky at best for most. And now...

When Ron Kroichik looked at the distance issue and the Masters ball concept, reader Kirk Gill wrote, "Tiger says that putting the brakes on the distance a golf ball will travel would hurt the golf ball making industry. Uh, excuse me. All it would do would be to put pressure on the manufacturers to find other ways besides distance to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Like they did for decades. People play golf. People use golf balls. People either lose or beat up their golf balls to the point that they need to get new ones."

M. Kavanaugh said, "My wife and I have been buying new razor blades for years as well as golf balls, do we really care what the latest Schick will do for a clean close shave? Not really, same with golf balls."

On the story of Phil Mickelson and his two drivers, JPB wrote, "If a player chooses to use one of his 14 clubs on an extra driver - fine. Nobody had major problems with 4 wedges...I think a player should be able to use what he wants within the limit...I don't know how much is new technology and how much is fat laziness and not practicing, but it doesn't surprise me he is trying this. I actually think it is a good idea given the importance of the drive. Better to dump a long iron and carry 2 drivers. I sort of admire Phil for trying it actually."

And Smolmania said: "I would hate for someone to tell me that I can't put 5 wedges in my bag as indicative of a lack of skill. In my view, the configuration of a bag is a question of choices. When you miss as many greens as I do, you need options. . . and I choose wedges."

Mike Clayton previewed the Masters, prompting this from RM, "It's the tree plantings that are the most troubling, and really just plain crazy. Changes to Augusta- tees, bunkers, etc.- always blend in perfectly, but these new trees just do not belong. They don't look right and feel out of place, not to mention they just make the holes claustrophobic, contrary to the strategy and charm of the course. They could always just cut them down, but I have a feeling Hootie would never let his pride take such a hit."

Tiger's pre-Masters press conference talked about design and his love of Royal Melbourne, prompting skannberg to write, "it's amazing tiger loves the sandbelt courses so much, even wants to design like em. why then does he constantly refuse to play 'em every year."

After reading Leonard Shapiro's story on the odd USGA-Augusta National relationship, JM noted, "The smugness is what kills me. It's half Oz and all 'we are above the game,' which is exactly the kind of thinking that goes hand-in-hand with developing "brands" and protecting the unhuman concept that has become the Masters, and what ultimately ends up repelling people from golf. Where is the honest, strategy-based golf competition between the best players in the game, against themselves and a masterpiece of a course, where the fans are treated to unpredictable and thrilling golf?  I will be hard-pressed to explain to my son or my colleagues -- who have no interest in golf for these very reasons, despite my protestations -- that the challenges and rewards of the game are physically and psychically worth my obsession -- and, 'no really,' perhaps theirs, as well."

Regarding the wonderful Amen Corner Live and the announce team of Phil Blackmar and Mike Hulbert, Dan G. noted that, "I was feeling pretty guilty about procrastinating with my school work. Then Bobby Clampett came on and I got right back to work."

And hearing David Feherty's course change-cheerleading, Rick Adams said, "Perhaps David's trying to make up to the lords of CBS for his soapbox comment,"Why is Marv Albert working and Ben Wright isn't?"

During the Masters rain delay, we looked back at the surprising article submitted by reader Michael that revealed Perry Maxwell's planned 1937 changes, prompting reader Hux to observe:  "It appears our dearest Maxwell betrayed Dr. Mackenzie before his blood was cold in the ground. As did Jones. Say it ain't so."

Regarding the final round, there were plenty of opinions. Ned Ludd:  "Wouldn't it be something if they could spend their billions on cloning Alister MacKenzie so HE could make the changes, if any, to the course...or in the alternative, lay down the law regarding equipment. To here Nantz et al. talk about MacKenzie in such prayerful tones when all the bunkers scream Alabama Golf Trail is sad."

Dan G. wrote, "I found Kostis holding up Clark as proof that short-knockers have a chance pretty annoying. But in the interview it seemed to me like Clark felt he was at quite a disadvantage once it rained."

DAW had a different take: "The players hit some good shots that could have led to heroics but they couldn't follow them up with putts. If Couples and Tiger made their eagles, would people be talking about how there was no buzz on the back nine? I think that the field just didn't get it done on Sunday and it's convenient but not accurate to blame it on the course."

And reader Brett:  "It was as boring as a U.S. Open. Guys puking all over themselves. Tons of greens missed. Shoes that needed some real spikes, Rocco Mediate. A 66 on Sunday by Olazabal, the low score of the week. Bangers having a 5 club advantage. Steve is right, on the weekend I went and played golf instead of watching the Masters, no excitement. None."

RM attends the Masters annually and wrote: "I must admit that there was a different feel to it this year. The players definitely had a look of serious concern on their faces at all times. At one point after lunch on Thursday there were only 2 players under par, and only -1. If it weren't for Rocco and Vijay getting hot, it would have been a rough start and the changes would have been the story rather than the golf. Although I think the changes played out better than we thought, they probably got a little lucky, and it might not be long until we get a real US Open type Masters where some undeserving player hangs on for dear life and snags a green jacket with an over par score. And at that point we will really begin to realize just what we're missing.

In the course verdict watch department, Etienne wrote:  "Had the club lengthened the course step by step over the last few years to find the correct balance in combating technology and the design integrity of Jones and Mackenzie, this second cut stuff would not have been necessary. Jones' philosophy of golf (and Augusta) being a second shot game would have held true."

On Kevin Mitchell's blistering column about the role of manufacturers in the game today, J.P. wrote: "Mitchell is saying that golf's history is like the baby being thrown out with the bath water, because the USGA has been over ruled by the manufacturers. For the manufacturers, its been like taking candy from a baby."

The USGA's Distance Myth's talking points were released at Augusta and Oldschool says that the "USGA for whatever reason is now implementing a cover up. Keep trying Walter, but the stats do not support your (myths) opinions."

Reader Michael noted, "Hogan called the tee shot the most important shot in golf...To see what has happened with driving accuracy succumbing to driving distance as being the majority deciding factor in the game today is shameful. All of this for what? To hear the USGA saying that their main mission is the preservation of the game, and in maintaining its history and integrity is heresy."

RGM said: "The USGA is in full cover up mode. Their test was set up for 109 miles per hour, Walter Driver claims the average swing speed is 112, why did they up it to 120? Was it because at 109 the real technological evidence was revealing itself. Ut...Oh! Yes, that's why they did it. It was too evident at 109 with whats happened in the past 4 years. The USGA also changed its testing for COR, another red flag. These changes haven't produced clearer results, but to the contrary have created a clouded, cloaked situation from which the USGA is testing."

And Tour Rep offered this:  "Everything described on this post is 95% accurate. The other 5% I can not verify with certainty but it lends itself to practicality. Knowing what I do, from the week in, week out drill, the ball and driver has certainly ruined golf on the professional level. It's easy for me to say this after 25 plus years in the industry and dealing with the latest equipment yearly. The sport is now dependent on bombing, we build 4 times as many drivers each week in the trailer as compared to sets of irons. Each driver we build consists of every conceivable shaft weight, flex profile, frequency, torque, butt and tip stiffness profile, and believe it or not color. These guys know that distance today means everything, and that's all they think about. Ten years ago the emphasis was on irons, wedges, and putters. I see the difference, which is sad for golf."

On the rumor that Merion is looking good for the 2013 U.S. Open, Smolmania wrote, "Why are we going to have an Open at a course where Tiger, Phil, and the big hitters won't even be able to think about pulling driver out of the bag? Sorry to say, but until something is done about the ball, there's no reason to try to hold our national championship at Merion."

And finally, on the news that Rees Jones had restored Medinah with MacKenzie/Tilly bunkers, DK said, "So Medinah has MacKenzie and Tillinghast bunkers. Does it also have Maxwell greens, Jones Sr. tee boxes, Colt and Alison hollows, Emmet cross bunkers, and Travis chocolate drops? You know just like Bendelow designed it."

Week In Review, March 26-April 1: The Bivens Brand

WeekInReview2.jpgAnother weird week in golf, kicked off by the Sabbatini-Faldo feud and debut of Amy Sabbatini's Spring Collection t's for Tour wives. Faldo took the early lead for 2006's funniest quote in response to Amy's "Keep Up" t-shirt.

Besides the painful fifth major debate, The Players Championship brought attention to the concept of rough and whether it works at all, especially on courses not intended to have tall grass lining the fairways (hint: no well-designed course uses rough as a design ploy). The TPC mess prompted reader Carl to write, "lets face it, the golf ball has taken all of the imagination out of the game, and has taken the imagination out of golf course design. The high quality of different shot selections and the high quality of course design is bending over backwards to accomedate a golf ball."

Tom Kite's comments in Golfweek's Forecaddie prompted the debut of The List, which is a look at recent statements from well known figures in golf on the distance issue.

MacDuff provided us another updated look at a mythical FedEx Cup points race. It's becoming clear that someone like Vijay will win it by playing often and playing well. MacDuff suggest that the Tour consider "putting a cap on the number of events to score, but not weighting upward for those that play fewer events. Base it on your top 20 performances of the year, and winner take all."

Martin Kaufman blasted the Ohio Golf Association's retro ball invitational, prompting reader Hannibal Smith to ask "Why don't they let one of the more talented writers like Brad Klein or John Steinbreder who are more traditional when it comes to the ball issue write an opposing viewpoint?"

And Smolmania noted, "The best players want the ball reigned in, so that talent will prevail over athleticism. Us bunters want it reigned in so that the game played at the highest levels isn't simply irrelevant to the game we play. The only people who don't want these changes are the manufacturers, and people who don't have a clue. . . in my patently 'unbalanced' opinion."

After watching players struggle out of the TPC Sawgrass' rough-on-steroids, I floated the possibility of a player getting seriously injured by such a harvest. That prompted reader RM to question my sanity: "Your imagination is running wild today. Must be Bellsouth week."

Ned Ludd made me feel a lot better by not completely shooting down the possibility: "There are two parts to every lawsuit: liability and damages. Assuming a player like Woods could prove liability ( as in the Tour created a foreseeable risk of injury by implementing such rough ), and that he could survive an incurred risk defense (that he willingly and voluntarily took the swing knowing the probability of injury), IMAGINE the number his lawyers would blackboard and that a jury could award with respect to his damages, especially if the injury had any permanency to it. Even the South Park 'Chewbacca' defense would not carry the day."

Andrew Both wrote this week about the Tour's astounding pension projections. Reader Carl responded that it's "quite interesting that the Tour would be rolling out the big numbers again with regard to retirement, especially with players like Sean [Murphy] questioning the whole process."

Ryan Ballengee chipped away at Tim Finchem's eye-opening new 6-year, $27 million deal. Reader Brett noted, "Now we know why Greg Norman is asking for the minutes to every meeting. There is a lack of accountability involved here. Who is making all the decisions on the Fed Ex Cup? I've read where Paul Azinger said that the membership to his knowledge had never been asked for any input. That would mean that the Commissioner is making all the decisions. Scott are the players working for Commissioner Finchem or is Commissioner Finchem working for the players?"

Reader RThompson wondered, "Is it just the handpicked independents that are setting (staging) Commissioners Finchems contract, salary and benefits, or do the 4 player directors on the 9 member policy board have a say in the Commissioners agreements. If it is only the independents, and Commissioner Finchem has hand picked them, then this would basically be justified as self-dealing."

Golf World's "Big Bang" story on flogging and working-out prompted an interesting discussion on shotmaking between JohnV, Sean Murphy, J.P., Steven T. and Smolmania.

The Australian Open will now be headed by Paul McNamee, who made some Bivens-like comments in his first interview with The Age. But as reader Hux noted, "have a talk with Mike Clayton before judging McNamee. Mike has been pushing for this appointment for years, which is good enough for me. Give him a chance."  Alright, alright, I can't argue with that!

Bill Huffman wrote about a recent speech given by Jim Vernon, another encouraging sign that the USGA is laying the groundwork for doing something about regulating distance.

And finally, LPGA ommissioner Carolyn Bivens' first major and the ensuing coverage has not been pretty.

Doug Ferguson looked at an LPGA major and wasn't impressed. Reader Scott Stearns noted, "you know its a major when you see members hitting balls on the practice tee right next to the players."

Leonard Shapiro of the Washington Post and Peter Yoon of the LA Times devoted significant space to evaluating the Bivens era.  Frank Hannigan weighed in too.

Bivens talked to the media and it wasn't pretty. Her April Fool's Day-worthy comments, while entertaining, also means that there are ramifications for the emerging LPGA Tour. Reader Pete the Luddite noted: "she is singlehandedly setting back the development of the game, women's golf, and dare I say feminism in general with this powderpuff approach."

Augusta here we come...

Week In Review, March 19-25: Fifth of Four Majors Week

WeekInReview2.jpgSomehow I can't picture Bernard Darwin filing a "fifth major" column if he were (God forbid) forced to cover the Players Championship. Which I guess is my not so subtle way of noting how sad it is that the second annual "fifth major" story watch led to posts here, here, here and here. And just think, next year when they move the Players to May, the inane speculation will start all over again!

Reader Brett asked, "What real "Major" hands out 20 sponsor exemptions? And who do all the sponsor exemptions go to?"

Other Sawgrass talk centered around the impending course overhaul, and thankfully, the installation of so much U.S. Open rough on the course.

Bill Fields in Golf World contrasted the evolution of Sawgrass with Augusta, and became yet another prominent writer to risk a not so friendly Augusta press room greeting.

A flashback of sorts took place, with a look at Ron Whitten's surprising change in stance on the Augusta changes.

John Hawkins blogged about the need to make TPC Sawgrass' 17th hole tougher, prompting me to ask why golf is looking to always make things tougher, while other sports are looking for ways to make their sport better.

Reader Tom Gov set me straight:  "In other sports no one likes to see a one sided blow out. But most spectators like to see two great opponents battling it out on the field. In golf, the only real opponent we have is the course. So as players get better, (whatever the reason) as a spectator, I want to see tougher opponents (in this case the golf course). In basketball the basket wasn't raised and in baseball the bases weren't lengthened. Both opponents just got better and most of the traditions were held in place. In golf, our traditions are being severely challenged by only one of the opponents getting much better."

Reader Josh Hoisington added, "Does anybody remember or more importantly care what Tiger's score was at Augusta 2005? I don't. I do care that I had a great time watching Chris and Tiger battle it out over the back nine, and into the playoff. Heck, I barely even remember the contempt I felt at the changes to the course."

MacDuff kindly shared his latest FedEx Cup points list, and whether you care or not about the Tour's new playoff concept, it raises questions about whether the Tour will install a system that "incentivizes" players to play more often, or one that rewards star power.

Tim Finchem convened the press for a gathering, and I suggested and solicited questions here.  Reader J.P. wanted to ask, "Do you personally own stock in Comcast?"

I dissected the Commissioner's press conference, where many subjects came up, including questions about steroids. Pete the Luddite was surprised by the Tour's weak stance on matter: "Wait until there's a definite problem, the genie's out of the bottle, the integrity of the game is (further) marginalized, the media jumps on the sport as ignoring a problem for too long, and THEN, and only then, maybe possible consider a retrofitted "solution". Apparently, The Commish hasn't watched anything going on with the erosion of baseball's integrity in recent times."

The same Pete shared some fascinating graphs on distance, accuracy and ball striking, and Sean Murphy noted that "the overall driver (thats accuracy and distance combined) the last three years on the PGA Tour did not keep his card."

We looked at SI's recent teachers poll, where teacher Jim Suttie said that the Ohio Golf Association would take individualism out of the game by forcing contestants in an invitational event to try a competition ball.

Smolmania noted that in the limited flight ball event, "The guys who can't bomb it because they aren't capable of swinging the club at 120 mph will have a chance. Yes, they'll still be 40 or 50 yards behind the bombers, but not 100. The bombers will have to hit 5 or 6 irons into par 4s, and might even have to lay up on an occasional long par 5. Oh the horrors."

Don't miss the latest episode in the Sabbatini saga and Nick Faldo's brilliant, early candidate for quote fo the year.

And finally, don't miss Fred Funk's rant on the power game in golf, and how the "little guy" is literally going to be driven out of the game as the shift to certain technologies unfairly rewards taller, stronger players.

Week In Review, March 12-18: Augusta Talk Continues

WeekInReview2.jpgAlan Campbell wrote about Tim Finchem and the WGC's staying in the U.S., calling the commissioner's conduct "despicable."  But as reader scott pointed out, "Phil Mickelson cant be bothered to skip trick or treating for the richest payday in golf--why do you think he will lift a finger to go to Europe for the Pizza Express WGC Open?"

Paul Azinger made some interesting comments during the Honda telecast, bemoaning how technology is depriving us of seeing real shotmaking and suggesting that there is no going back. But the better comments were on the thread after.  Smolmania wrote: "Roc can take all those little numbers and symbols that fly thru the air in his commercial with Tiger, and create a core that just doesn't fly so far. Will I -- a maybe better than average joe (5 handicap) -- not hit it as far? Absolutely. But neither will Tiger and the other bombers. . . and the game will be better off."

And Josh Hoisington offered this: "The difference between the Longest and Shortest average drivers over the years. As of now, the driving distance leader, Bubba, is averaging 320, Brad Faxon, I guess he's the driving distance loser? Anyway, he's averaging 260. Obviously it's early, but last year the difference was the same at the end of the year: Scott hend 320, Corey Pavin 260. The difference is 60 yards. In 1980, which is as far back as pgatour.com seems to go, Dan Pohl was leading with 275, the shortest hitter was averaging 240, making only a 35 yard difference."

John Hawkins reported in Golf World that it's CBS making the call to keep Gary McCord off the Masters telecast, not Hootie Johnson.  This prompted Frank Hannigan to write another Letter from Saugerties.

MacDuff gave us an updated look at his FedEx Cup points standings, which award points equally from event to event. The result? Playing well and playing a lot are rewarded. Another great discussion broke out after this post.
 
njmike pointed out what could be a nightmare scenario in the FedEx Cup concept: "Can you imagine Tiger winning two majors and nine events and not having enough points to win it? Ranked lower to someone that played in 25+ events- big deal."

And reader J.P. wrote, "the Top players really only play in the larger purse events, where they are payed a lot more than just your average Tour event. If every tournament purse was the same across the board as well as a Fed Ex Cup points structure, I think we would be seeing a totally different group of players being considered the Top Players."

Greg Norman let it be known to Tim Rosaforte at Golf World that he was contemplating a lawsuit to force the PGA Tour to open its books. Sean Murphy shared some of his experiences in a similar quest to Norman's.
And some of Norman's past comments were posted here and here.

The question of whether there is any interest in DVD's of golf events in their original telecast form, with bonus commentary and extras. Several readers offered great suggestions for possible events to release.

John Davis looked at the abysmal start to the Carolyn Bivens era, which now is about to have its first major, with golf's most prominent publication still not reaching an agreement on covering the LPGA Tour. Amazing.

John Huggan brought us up-to-date on the situation at Musselburgh.

And finally, (and I mean finally!), the drastic changes to Augusta National have taken center stage three weeks before the season's first major.

I wrote about the recent remarks of Nicklaus and Palmer, and the past writings of Bobby Jones.

Jack Nicklaus held a press conference and continued to question the design changes. Arnold Palmer tried to back off some of his remarks and also jokingly ducked the golf ball issue with Commissioner Finchem present.

Tiger Woods called the new look Augusta "interesting," his nice way of saying he thinks it stinks.

Ernie Els said the event has become no fun and may be the toughest of the four majors. Reader Steven T. noted, "The Masters is taking on some characteristics of a US Open course setup. Perhaps they will move up the tees on the back 9 on Sunday to create some fun. Perhaps not. Also, Jack Nicklaus must be really ticked off that Fazio got the job to rework AN instead of him."

And reader Jay wrote, "Tying this into the Nickaus in '86 thread, it was way more fun to watch because he was making birdies to roar past the field."

More Els remarks on Augusta and technology were looked at, but maybe the best comments about Augusta came from Mike Weir, who questioned what Bobby Jones would think of changes to his design.

Never has Augusta received so much (constructive) course criticism in a week from so many former champions. Maybe the club will re-think it's approach to the course?

More likely,they'll re-think inviting former champions as members or allowing contestants to play the course before Masters week.

Week In Review, March 4-11: Ohio GA On The Ball

WeekInReview2.jpgAnother wild week in golf, kicked off by news that Torrey Pines has been put up as collateral.

At Doral, Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks talked about flogging and why perhaps it works, though they also left out a few reasons too. Tiger's won with some eye-opening flog numbers, prompting reader Greg to note that the "Johnny Miller ford 'flogging' was barfworthy."

Carolyn Bivens spoke to Golf World's Ryan Herrington and as usual, sounded ridiculous talking about "brand consistency" and other nonsense. Reader NRH summed the Bivens era best: The early returns show: "Resignation of a by the book, but well-liked 18 year veteran tournament official.The Wie and Annika-Creamer rulings controversies. Picking a fight with the AP in the name of 'protecting the brand.' The joke of the women's world rankings debut. Excitement over being included in the Oscars goodie bag...Wow, does this mean I care about the LPGA? Hey, at least their club selection is more in line with the average Joe."

We also saw the future of the LPGA attending Oscar parties, prompting reader Pete to comment: "LPGA = Divas hitting Drivers. Why don't we see Tiger and the fellas at the Oscars? Oh yeah, that's right. Because they're athletes not dress-up dolls."

MacDuff weighed in with his analysis of a possible FedEx Cup points list through Doral, and it definitely rewards those who play frequently (and great play).

On the subject of FedEx, it was noted here that you will notice the name "PGA Tour" disappearing and FedEx Cup replacing it next year. Big K said, "I just hope the 'FedEx Reliability Zone' does not become an integral part of golf broadcasts. I was pretty sick of that graphic by the end of the Doral tournament. I can't wait for the Cialis 'Knock it Stiff' shot of the day..."

George Peper continued to atone for editorial sins, and we readers are the beneficiaries. Well I'm enjoying his columns, anyway. Reader R.A.C. noted that "isn't there more than a twinge of irony in providing the 10 over-rated, in the same breath as confessing his sins???"  And about that overrated list of Peper's, reader Hank noted that "As far as TCC being overrated because its a "composite" course used only for majors. Well, that's not true. It is played many times during the year with all tee times full."

Speaking of awards, the GWAA handed out its usual awards. You can read my third place finisher, and Golfweek has posted Brad Klein's 1st place winner here.

Speaking of Klein and awards, the Golfweek rankings were posted this week, with Cypress Point finally overtaking Pine Valley as No. 1 (not that I think it's unworthy of the top spot, but Pine Valley's recent elimination of sandy waste areas in favor of turf is alarming).

The big story of the week was written by Jim Achenbach (but first revealed by Lorne Rubenstein in December). The Ohio Golf Association is going to try a reduced flight ball in a special invitational event this summer.

Reader Dan D'Arrigo wrote, "I think the OGA is taking a proactive approach to protecting the integrity of the game. In my thirty years of playing golf I have seen the game change dramatically and I am convinced that some of the changes have not been for the best long term interest of the game."

And Brett commented, "Ohio has figured it out. Why pay millions upon millions of dollars to stretch out existing golf courses, to then find your drive has ended up in the same fairway location as it did 8 years ago, and you still have the same club into that green as before? Instead of spending boo-kooos of dollars, their going to go back to a golf ball that makes total sense from a dollar and "sense" point of view. Way to go, BIG O!"

Week In Review, Feb. 26-March 4: Crack In The Code

WeekInReview2.jpgJohn Huggan kindly spent a few minutes fielding intense questions for edition No. 2 of Taking Aim.

Geoff Ogilvy won the match play, but once again La Costa's design proved itself to be the most boring arena imaginable for match play, prompting me to regurgitate complaints about the lack of a "match play" course to host the event. And Ned Ludd wondered, "Wouldn't it be cool if the Golf Channel was able to telecast the Crump Cup? Match play at PVGC with the top ranked mid-amatuers would be great viewing."

But we learned new details about the future site of the WGC match play, including how much The Gallery is paying to host the event. That information provided an interesting contrast to the situation at Innisbrook, which is paid to host a Tour event.

Commissioner Tim Finchem talked to the media on Sunday at La Costa, and as always, offered several new terms and roundabout ways of making a simple answer sound, well, not simple.

Talk of the FedEx Cup and the effort to come up with a point system prompted Sean Murphy to point out that "Every race on the schedule is worth the same amount of NASCAR points. There are no "unimportant" races. I love this NASCAR philosophy. Damn, these guys have to put in their time, which allows their fans to actually get to see them more often, in order to receive the Big PAY-OFF."

Reader Macduff came up with a fairly simple points system and his own Top 70 through the WGC Match Play can be viewed here.

While the "Where's the Balance" thread set a new record for posts, Titleist's anonymous commentary calling out the Orlando Sentinel's Steve Elling and his "biased" take on technology led to this commentary by Ryan Ballangee. He followed up with a 19th Hole Golf Show interview with Elling.

And Elling rebutted the anonymous commentary in his weekly golf column, prompting Smolmania to note: "The media's starting to get on board. The question becomes, will the public?"

Speaking of bias against acting for the good of the game, Elling's in elite company. The King spoke out about distance this week. Surely the LA Times has been added to the "biased" list of publications daring to report the comments of a golfing legend who clearly regrets his stance on the ERC driver.

Golf World's Jaime Diaz looked at flogging, bringing the worst kept secret to a mainstream magazine from one of the game's top writers. The secret is really out, and when people look at the cause (distance, bad course setup), will they consider proper remedies?

Crankpot, apparently not content with posting on his own equipment manufacturer sponsored blog, gave us an insight into how the growing minority will be trying to shape the debate: "This - and almost every other article like it - ASSUMES that technology is the sole and driving (pardon the pun) reason behind increases in driving distance in some sort of self-justifying loop. Technology caused the boom in driving distatnce because of technology. Real logic doesn't work that way."
 
On a lighter note, Carolyn Bivens continued her push to make past LPGA commissioners look brilliant with her latest marketing nonsense.

And in the big story of the week that will continue to be discussed for the next month, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer criticized changes to Augusta National. Reader Steve wrote, "Before the changes, I always regarded AN as the 'ultimate members course' capable of having a major tournament without alterations or the growing of rough."

A spokesman for Hootie Johnson said that "Mr. Johnson has no opinion about their comments. Every past champion is entitled to his point of view." That prompted reader RThompson to write "Listening to Jack and Arnold, and becoming more and more educated by your blog Geoff, it would now seem inevitable that Chris [DiMarco] start experimenting with some of those Vijay length drivers, and soon."

And GeorgeM said, "Hootie should know better. This was not 'every past champion'. These are ANGC members and multiple winners of their little invitational."

Finally, Mark Brown, an important modern day writer whose founding of Links Magazine helped paved the way for someone like me to learn about architecture and write about it, passed away this week. Brad Klein offered this remembrance

Weeks In Review: Feb. 12-25: Nissan Week

WeekInReview2.jpgWith L.A. Open in progress I was unable to do a week in review, so here's just some of what has been posted the last two weeks.

We learned that pro-technology Acushnet is seeking a patent for a reduced flight ball, prompting reader Jonathan Cummings to ask "why in the world is this so hard? Developing a shorter ball is child's play from a technical standpoint."

Frank Hannigan analyzed the Jim Vernon speech that made many manufacturer lawyers salivate.

I obtained another exclusive transcript of those wacky PGA Tour Policy Board meetings.

David Fay's recent comments questioning the importance of governing the game for elite players elicited this from reader JPB: "The answer is the USGA governs for all players. Golf has gotten to this point because there have been rules on equipment, rules on amateur status, and a sense of etiquette and sportsmanship. Pro golf has profited because of these things, and so has the USGA. The answer is not to abandon the rules and tradition, but to celebrate them and strengthen them. Pro golf can thrive, as can amateur and recreational play."

Speaking of the USGA, they debuted a super cool new search engine this week, though reader MacDuff reminded us that it's not quite so cool for those using dial-up.

News of The Country Club's interest in the 2013 U.S. Open prompted Ned Ludd to say the USGA shoudl forget the Composite Course and "combine the Clyde and Squirrel in their entireties into one 14000 yard course. Will make for some really weird doglegs, but we are assured it will identify the best flogger...er...I mean golfer. Gas up the jet, Walter, we're goin' to Beantown!"

The Nissan Open at Riviera was kicked off with a look at the most recent course meddling, name at the 3rd, 9th and 12th holes.

I offered up daily reports from Riviera. Here they are should you want to relive this great moment in blogging history. Vol 1, Vol 2 (which included the J.B. Holmes press conference where he talked about how he doesn't work out), Vol 3, Vol 4, Vol 5, Vol 6, Vol 7 and the wrap up.

We learned about Ernie Els' bizarre trip to Hawaii in between the match play and Nissan, prompting some interesting remarks from you all.

At the Nissan, Rory Sabbatini nearly created the early frontrunner for wacky story of the year by deciding to change irons before the final round.

My Nissan Notes column for Golfobserver.com looked at the effort by Mrs. Sabbatini, the 10th hole and other assorted bits from the event. I also looked at the 12th hole courtesy of ShotLink.

Steve Elling looked at the USGA's rough plans for Winged Foot.

And I followed up with some photos of two holes that will not feature the new "tiered" rough.

Just as things were seemingly going well for the LPGA Tour, they decided to pick a fight with the media, a move which Robert Thompson summed up nicely when he said, "I don't have any sense of why the LPGA, at this critical stage in its development, would wade into a copyright issue that it can't win. AP brings coverage of its events to all those papers in small and mid-sized cities through the U.S. and Canada -- why mess with that? I suspect this has something to do with Bivens' background in advertising and the general disdain that many in advertising have for the editorial side of the equation."

We learned that Cog Hill is going to be Rees-tored soon, prompting Smolmania to write: "My only fear about this whole process is the horror stories which have been documented about Torrey Pines. It seems that many (most?) long-time players don't enjoy the renovations to the South Course, and now we've got Mr. Jones in charge of our local gem. I hope that in the search for acceptance by the USGA -and isn't that a scary concept - that Joe Lee and Joe Jemsek's goal of a country club quality public course doesn't go by the wayside."

I made my usual plea for the stymie to appear in a big time match play event and was met with the usual jaded responses. Where's your sense of fun?

And finally, things in golf got back to normal with a  commentary from someone at Titleist about the evil media, prompting Sean Murphy to share an interesting perspective on the golf ball and the transition to a power game that you won't want to miss.

Week In Review, Feb 5-11: J.B. and Jim

WeekInReview2.jpgThe week started off with a look at the election of Walter Driver to the USGA presidency and his inaugural Q&A.  Driver's annual meeting address was posted online, with the new USGA prez taking the opportunity to talk a whole lot about himself, prompting Ned Ludd to wonder "if President Oversized Driver has ever invited the parking attendant in the bottom of his building to a friendly round, or even to wash his hands with the Pine Valley Soap."

That didn't stop Jim Achenbach from declaring Driver a man of the people because of his speech (which included an introduction from Arnold Palmer (the jet fuel tab on that must have been pretty high if he came from the desert!).

Speaking of jet fuel, many of you jaded cynics wrote in to predict that Walter Driver and Fred Ridley used the USGA jet card to transport themselves to the AT&T pro-am, where they are playing to inspect Pebble Beach for the 2010 U.S. Open. Naturally, I'm sure they flew commercial.

The real USGA highlight came later in the week with the posting of Jim Vernon's annual meeting speech on equipment and where his committee stands with its research. The address was a landmark moment for a group that has in recent years struggled to take a stand, and now appears to be laying the ground work for a monumental decision. Stay tuned...

J.B. Holmes became this week's next great American hope with his stunning win at Scottsdale. On Saturday he displayed Spackler-esque distance, hitting an 8-iron from 198.

The inkslingers of America jumped on his bandwagon, already forgetting boring ole Bubba Watson (who they realized is not exactly the world's greatest interview). Holmes is working on his graduate degree in flogging at the young age of 23, and while Crankpot chimed in to point out that he lead the field in putting, Tom G reminded us that "Putts/GIR is a somewhat misleading stat. If you are hitting a wedge into every hole, the chances are greater that you will be closer to the hole for your birdie putt than the guy hitting 5-iron in there."

J.B.'s post round talk mentioned his 4 iron from 257 and his 3-wood into 17, prompting reader Jay to ask, "Are we entering an era where we say “what a shot!” even on a drive??"  This story on the flogging at Scottsdale suggested that the hard and fast fairways were the cause of Holmes' drives, and then went on to contradict itself repeatedly.

The Tour driving distance average jumped 2 yards but figures to take a hit this week at Pebble where most of the bombers are not playing and where the fog rolled in Friday.

I wondered if the Tour is on board with the USGA in case of a lawsuit, while reader NRH brought up a good question that hopefully someone can help answer: "wondering if any other visitors to this site with a knowledge of the law and restraint of trade precedent could inform us as to how such a case would likely turn out (beyond who has the best/most expensive attorneys of course)."

John Huggan slammed the Tour for not handling the World Golf Championships better, in a week when everyone finally noticed that the 2007 WGC's are all scheduled to be played in the U.S.

Tiger Woods reminded us that he's a traditionalist at heart, shooting down the notion that distance measuring devices should be allowed in pro golf. As usual a debate broke out on this hot-button issue and in light of that, I started a thread on the question of skill and these devices.

Jim Nugent of Golfweek made the LOL funny claim that Tiger could play in the NFL to assuage his advertisers prove that the equipment must not be regulated.

Gary Van Sickle's latest column elicited quite a bit of discussion on the issue of shorts on the PGA Tour, with The Duke questioning a photo caption including Tiger in shorts: "Letting players wear shorts might get marquee players like Tiger Woods to enter more tournaments."

I looked at the USGA's latest attempt to prevent flogging, and it seems they are going about it about as badly as you can imagine.

And if you don't to read all of this stuff, I appeared on Ryan Ballengee's excellent 19th Hole Golf Show to discuss most of these topics. The show also includes a chat with Frank Thomas about his recent survey.

Week In Review, Jan 29-Feb 4: A Bit of Everything

WeekInReview2.jpgJohn Huggan kicked off the week by chatting with R&A secretary Peter Dawson, who elaborated on the R&A's interest in square grooves, prompting reader Smolmania to write: "Do they really think that my 64 degree Dave Pelz wedge is a danger to the game? Or, is it the fact that at age 48 I can now hit my driver 30 yards further in the air than I could at age 35? It's the balls you dopes!"

There was also a story of Dawson traveling to Turnberry soon to help make changes to the storied Open venue, causing Ned Ludd to ask for a minor rewrite of Mike Aitken's story.

Huggan also looked at the future of the European Tour and the state of the PGA Tour, leading to an interesting discussion and post from the Big K.

We tried to figure out Peter Kostis's comments during the Buick final round telecast. There was also this week's driving distance watch and a look at Tiger's flogging at Torrey Pines.

I had some fun looking at the player-architect comments made while visiting their Dubai designs, and reader Jay offered memories of life in Dubai.

News of the Walker Cuppers at the White House prompted a mild college athletics dispute to break out.

Speaking of non-stories, there was the uh "news" that Riviera has requested the 2009 Presidents Cup, but based on the quotes from the PGA Tour rep, this isn't something they are taking seriously.

A story on the lack of regulation in bowling prompted some great insights from reader Al.

Thanks to reader Chris for helping me find Tiger's fascinating remarks about the demise of shotmaking. They appeared in a Jaime Diaz Golf Digest story.

Another week and more thoughts on the PGA Tour schedule, this time the reality hit home that there isn't much "World" in the World Golf Championships.

I thought reader Pete offered a cool, though logistically difficult idea to spice things up: "Make it like the America's Cup in sailing. The year's winner gets to select a host course in his country for one of next year's events. Even more exciting, let the winner pick a course anywhere in the world to have one of the events. Limitations: a pre-set course list to choose from, and you can't choose a course for which you were involved with the design. Now, THAT's got some zip to it. Ernie Els wins, and we're off to South Africa for a tourney! How's that for excitement? Best of all: With only a year's notice, the courses could only be mangled so much, and would not get US Open-ified."

On USGA Jetgate, I wrote about the ramifications of this, Golf World ran a note acknowleding this site's report and I posed questions for those attending the annual meeting, though the follow ups from readers were much better than mine.

Jim Achenbach's Golfweek story on two sets of rules raised a few questions on this end, but it doesn't mean we are not grateful for Achenbach's passion on the issue (and willingness to take chances).

Week In Review, Jan 22-28: USGA Jet Use

WeekInReview2.jpgThe week kicked off with the first exclusive to this site and ended with a pair of notable contributions.

Scrutinized was the USGA's use of private jet travel for its president (and controlled by the sitting president). The first follow up looked at the cost based on published estimates, another highlighted the comments of USGA Executive Director David Fay, while we wrapped up the quest for details with a firm no from USGA spokesman Marty Parkes.

More interesting than my musings were reader comments, which are viewable here and here, and which would seem to indicate that the USGA has an image problem.

Former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan wrote to this site and raised many issues that will be analyzed next week (I know, you can't wait).

In other news, David Davies joined the technophobic agenda crowd while Chris Lewis looked at the future of the game and wasn't wild about what he saw.

Bill Kratzert talked to Garry Smits about the repercussions of the Tour TV deal and its 2007 departure from ESPN.

Again, reader comments were very interesting on Taylor Made's use of michellewiegolf.com. Thanks again to reader Tuco for the heads up, and to all of the readers who helped out this week. I couldn't do it without your help.

My latest Golfdom column arrived just in time for the PGA Show. The hate mail has slowed...for now.

Tiger Woods talked about the changes to Augusta National and offered some wisdom about setting up the course when its wet.

And finally, there were so many great comments this week on various posts (thanks for the contributions, please keep it up), but I'd hate to not recognize the input of touring professional Sean Murphy.  He commented on Jeff Rude's story, where Murphy was mentioned (and constructively criticized).

Week In Review Jan 15-21: '07 Schedule Fallout

WeekInReview2.jpgIt was a week of firsts here. Record traffic with 25,000 hits and yes, I have included Google Adsense in the lefthand column so that I could better understand how Google makes so much money. Despite many people kindly clicking on the ads, revenue to date might cover a Frapuccino...tall.

Also debuting was the Taking Aim interview with Stu Schneider of Golf World. I've already warned several writers (and I'm hoping a few Tour players) that I'm going to be IM'ing soon.


While we're on the firsts front, we learned that Roman soldiers may have invented golf, not the Chinese or the Dutch or even Donald Trump.

Jim Achenbach followed up his Golfweek prediction that the USGA would roll back the ball this year with an online column fleshing out the same topic.

There was bad news for muni's hosting big time events (besides the fact that they probably need to add another 500 yards of length because the guys are working out so much), at Harding Park and Torrey Pines.

The Tour TV deal and 2007 schedule news continued to be the big story, led by the growing sense of shock over the 15-year commitment to The Golf Channel. John Hawkins touched on the ESPN issue.

Paul Azinger was the only player to issue particularly strong comments. He also says we can look forward to unfiltered commentary from him this year.

The tournaments themselves reacted to the TV deal in several articles. And writers looked at the deal, starting with Thomas Boswell, who blasted the handling of the TPC Avenel event in the Washington Post.

Frank Hannigan's Golfobserver.com column was great fun (as always), while Scott Michaux made a subtle but important point about a Masters-related impact of the deal.

Robert Bell looked at how Greensboro got a better date and revealed some interesting details.

I considered the signals this backward step should (but won't) send to the Tour about course setup, pace of play and the power game.  Several looked at winners and losers, including Gary Van Sickle, Ed Sherman and Steve Elling.

Doug Ferguson analyzed whether the little guy would get squeezed in the new deal, while Lorne Rubenstein looked at the Canadian Open's fate.

Golf World's Ron Sirak called the new TV deal "pure magic" and suggested that the Tour may have intentionally run off ABC while Rex Hoggard talked to tournament directors and questioned the length of the contract with The Golf Channel.

In other Tour news, Ty Votaw joined the Tour and took on a most ironic job title.  We (well, I) continued to look at the driving distance numbers. And we may have to create a Bubba Watson watch, now that the Nationwide distance king is on the PGA Tour.

Speaking of Bubba, we learned that the entire power game is really why golf is in the situation it is in thanks to Tim Rosaforte.

So many good comments from readers this week. Not sure where to start, but here goes:

Mark Smolens on the Achenbach ball post: "Until the non-governing bodies of the game step up, the Bubba Watsons of the new age are going to continue to make golf courses look silly. I know that people like CB McDonald were making these very same protestations of doom many years ago, but it's now becoming reality."

Pete the Luddite on the same thread: "When did tennis "jump the shark" or start to die in terms of viewership and popularity? When guys like Phillipousis (spp?) started winning with the cannon-speed serves and no other fundamental game elements. Tennis bacame a boring, for TV at least, sport where the server bombed it, the receiver lunged, and you moved to the next point. Who cares about golf when it's: blast it as far as possible (Hi, Vijay!), then pull out one of your 5 wedges to flip it onto the green. There's no need for players to focus on true shotmaking anymore."

The Big K came clean
about watching the Big Break and I admire him for it. We should support him: "I for one wish everyone would cease and desist on the 'Big Break' jokes. I know, I know, but I kinda like the show. To me, golf is about performing under pressure, whatever that pressure is: a $2 nassau or your best round ever or just that approach shot on the hole you always seem to screw up. That's why I don't watch a tournament when someone is six strokes ahead with 5 to go. No mind-racing, stomach wilting, vision-blurring pressure (OK, that's what happens to me). OK, I admit the show is presented in melodramatic fashion. But that is why man invented the digital video recorder.  OK, I feel better. My secret is out."

Hey, I TiVo'd John Daly's show...while we're in the confessing mood.

Finally on the DC schedule, uh, shift, Jonathon and Mike M's comments were insightful too. Actually the whole thread with the help of sodface, njmike and Smolens is fun.

Thanks for the comments, look forward to more. 

Week In Review Jan 8-14: New TV Deal

WeekInReview2.jpgJohn Huggan got the week off to a wonderful start with his Sunday column looking at the 2006 season and beyond.

Charles Howell likened Augusta National to Torrey Pines and struggled to say nice things about the redo. But he never said anything negative either. Oh just read the post.

We had our first driving distance watch and dispelled the myth that Kapalua has been artificially inflating the averages.

The college coaches signed up a third distance measuring device corporate sponsor, making them about the only body in golf pushing the devices for competition.

Lawrence Donegan introduced us to Steve Otto, R&A ball scientist who had some interesting things to say about the "miracle ball" concept that was widely denied to exist.

Meanwhile Peter Dawson insisted again that the distance issue has plateaued and nothing has changed over the last three years, ignoring evidence to the contrary.

But of course the big news of the week came from Ponte Vedra where Tim Finchem announced a new TV deal and his press conference raised more questions than it answered. On Friday afternoon (hmmm...someone else releases bad news then...) the Tour released its 2007 schedule with some stunning changes. More on that this week. Look for writers in towns that lost events to rip the Tour, and writers in towns saved by the bell to praise Finchem's streamlining.

I'm offering a major award to the first golf writer to actually contemplate whether the PGA Tour's "product" was less appealing to networks because of influences such as the Tour's anti-birdie approach to setup, slow play or the power game.

The early round-ups indicated the golf media thinks the 15-year deal is pretty impressive, all things considered (though they won't consider what those things are that are dragging the game down). Even Larry Bohannan was positive despite the dreadful deal the Bob Hope Classic is receiving.

We offered this flashback looking at comments following the last TV deal.

And finally, the SF Chronicle revealed the stunning budget overruns at Harding Park.

Comment of the week comes from Ned Ludd, commenting on Donald Trump's planned entry into the uh, Scottish marketplace: The warm welcome by the locals sounds like something from the movie "Local Hero"; play the chap for all the money they can. Doubt the ending will be as good.

Big points for citing one of my all time favorites Ned! Local Hero that is, not Donald Trump. 

Week In Review Jan 1-7: ABC Out

WeekInReview2.jpgA lot of bloggers recap the week and I'm not really sure why. Therefore, I'm joining the week-in-review club.

Besides looking back at posts from the week, I'll sometimes highlight discussion threads and user comments of the week (just in case you missed them). 

Which reminds me, I've started a thread on the Discuss Tournaments page about Kapalua and the new look greens. Curious what you all think.

Since Sunday:

  • Lonard and Campbell had some interesting comments about the Mercedes no-shows.
  • I previewed the year in tournament courses while Steve Elling looked at possible stories for 2006.
  • Stu Schneider had the first scoop on the TV deal. The big news of the wee was not pretty for fans or the Tour: ABC is out.  Others weighed in. I asked a question.  John Steinbreder reported later in the week that ESPN had walked away from the negotiating table. And Larry Bohannon wrote what many are sensing: that ego is may be getting in the way of common sense.
  • Jerry Potter interviewed Tim Finchem, who had little of interest to say, though he did slip on the subject of the USGA "experimenting" with rolled back balls. 
  • I rambled on about lack of truly thrilling do-or-die situations in golf that leads to thought provoking Monday-morning quarterbacking.
  • And Dan G. started a thread on what people are watching this year.

There were plenty of fine reader comments this week, highlighted by this from Mark Smolens on the news that the Tour was cutting its purse subsidies by 12%:

So the Western Golf Association, whose entire reason for existence is to provide college educations for kids who caddy, is supposed to come up with an additional 12% for its purse? Kinda makes that Drive for a Billion seem like nothing more than words doesn't it?