Fun Notes From Babineau

Jeff Babineau shows what happens when curious writers leave the press room and share a few notes, quotes and anecdotes. The entire column is interesting, but these bites caught my eye:

The Tour's Player Advisory Council assembled at Innisbrook this week, and one of the major issues (tabled to a later date, as most important issues are) was whether or not to pare down FedEx Cup fields with each playoff week (from 144, to 120, to 78, to 30 for the Tour Championship).

This is an encouraging development for those of us who would like to see the FedEx Cup work (it will not in the current configuration).

As it stands now, the current PGA Tour "playoffs" are structured to include the Durham Bulls and half the Cape Cod league along with the Tiger and Cardinals. The all inclusive approach might be more tolerable if they were actual playoffs, with eliminations occurring each week. But without eliminating players, they are not playoffs and the 144 number remains ridiculous. (I'd take 100 to the playoffs and go from 100 to 78 to 50 to 20, or something along those lines.)

I know, I know, what if, God forbid, one of the stars is eliminated in week one? Well, considering that they are passing on the Tour Championship like it's the B.C. Open, who says they are even going to play in the playoffs? And wouldn't some upsets along the way make it more fun?

Anyhow, this was also fun from Babineau's column...

Walking past Rory Sabbatini as he belted his new Nike Sumo, flying a few balls into a lake nearly 300 yards away at the end of the range, one veteran stared and mumbled, "Is this what golf has come to?"

Guess so.

Ames Out According To...Finchem

The news of Stephen Ames' WD from the Tour Championship was oddly delivered by PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, and according to the wire service story,"Finchem said Ames was home in Calgary going through tests."

Why is the Commissioner announcing a WD? 

Lesson: Award Tournaments To Completed Golf Courses

Exhibit #1291 of the PGA Tour's unfortunate disregard for the tricky business of golf course development was noted in Doug Ferguson's AP notes column:

Not quite two months after the PGA Tour announced its fall schedule, it has hit a speed bump with one of them.

Because of construction delays and financial issues surrounding the Running Horse Golf and Country Club, Tour officials will be going to Fresno, Calif., this week to meet with the developers.

The Running Horse Golf Championship is to be played Oct. 25-28 next year, the second-to-last event on the 2007 schedule. Along with falling behind on the course, KFSN-TV in Fresno has reported that the managing partners are trying to sell it.

"Things at the golf course are going slower than we thought they were,'' PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said. "I understand there are one or maybe more groups looking at investing in it. But from our perspective, we're playing in Fresno.''

One option for the Tour if Running Horse is not ready would be to move it to another golf course in the area, such as Fort Washington.

"We believe Running Horse is going to be the site,'' Combs said. "If it turns out to be another one, we'll cross that bridge. The key thing is we'll be there.''

You may be there, but so far, there is no there there. 

More Bubble Boy Talk

With two full field events to go (for some reason I kept forgetting there's the Parallel Fairway Classic Innisbrook event next week...can't imagine why!), Golf World's John Antonini also looks at the bubble boys and the rather meaningless stakes for some players.

He also points this interesting stat out:

Here are some final numbers to throw at you from last year's money list: The players who finished between 116 and 125 in 2005 averaged 25.1 events this season. The players who finished between 126 and 150 in 2005 averaged 21.72 events. The 10 players who didn't improve their status somehow and had to play from that category averaged 19.2 events, and that figure includes two players who were injured for most of this year. However, those outside the top 150 with no other status, have a slim chance of playing on tour. Among players ranked 151-170 last year, 13 had status of some kind in 2006 (past champion, career earnings, Q school, medical); the seven who didn't combined to play just 15 events on tour.

Kids Tagging Along!=Low Scores at Disney

Steve Trivett in the Daily Sun, the official paper of The Villages--yes, The Villages has a daily and it's online!--puts a rosey spin on the Disney event with it's lousy field and even lousier prospects for next year when it becomes part of the scrap heap part of the post-FedEx Cup schedule.

Anyway, I loved this from the tournament director. I'm surprised it hasn't been wheeled out to justify record scoring by some player trying to suck up to his equipment maker:

The Disney-hosted tournament has been a favorite among players in the past — especially those players with young families who see a trip to Walt Disney World as a chance to mix a vacation with work.

“This is a special place,” Weickel said. “It’s a tournament where the players can go to work and then go out and play with their children.

“And I really believe that contributes to the low scores we see here. The players are more relaxed, and that shows in their play,” he said.

Yeah, right. And more evidence that he's been spending too much time at Disney World: 
And he’s hoping that a change in the game will keep the excitement of the tournament alive.

“If you step back and look at it, there is a natural progression in golf just like there is in any sport,” he said. “There is a generational shift coming in golf just like there is in football, baseball and basketball.

“As the younger players make a name for themselves, they will have a bigger impact on the game,” Weickel said. “And they will become the players who have the kids who want to come here.

“The attraction of the tournament is not going to change,” he said.

He just hopes that a prospective sponsor sees it the same way.

If they do, the magic is still alive.

Las Vegas On Las Vegas

I watched parts of the rain-delayed Las Vegas final round as it moved yesterday from ESPN on ABC, to ESPN on ABC on and finally, to ESPN on ABC on ESPN2. (International readers...it's a long story. A branding thing.)

Besides the lack of star power, the lack of a fan base was painfully obvious. Ed Graney in the Las Vegas paper notes that it's a problem likely to worsen when the event moves to the "Fall Finish."

Golf is about to undergo a change that will either re-energize an indifferent fan base or continue to keep casual followers at an AccuFLEX shaft distance away from any event that doesn't include Woods, a transformation that could ultimately determine where the Las Vegas tournament fits into the sport's long-term landscape.

The question is not whether the event can improve greatly (if at all) in stature -- Hoffman couldn't be more correct in his assessment that it is what it is -- but whether a newly designed PGA playoff system will lessen its appeal to golfers (and in turn fans) even more.

There always will be a place at the event for the golf purist, for those who truly appreciate the idea of walking alongside the world's No. 2 player (it's Jim Furyk for those who don't know, which means most everyone) and not having to strain their neck glancing over rows of heads to watch him putt.

But when the FedEx Cup portion of the 2007 schedule concludes at the Tour Championship next mid-September and the $10 million payday has been awarded to the first points champion, how much interest will remain for a seven-tournament fall series than includes the Las Vegas stop?

And what can those running the event here do to make it more than just another week for those players merely trying to avoid Q-school or improve their world ranking?

 

The Top 125 Race

pgatour.jpgHeading into the final regular Tour stop in Tampa, below is a look at the "quest for the card." For what it's worth, I suppose there really isn't much of a race at the 125 spot since 125-150 have status next year...and #123 has already been exempted for next year by the Commissioner.

Then again, since Q-school and Nationwide grads will be lucky to get in 20 starts before the "playoffs," maybe landing in the top 125 is more important than it used to be?

116    115    Jason Gore      28    $717,005
117    113    J.P. Hayes     19    $701,433
118    114    Stephen Leaney     25    $696,599
119    118    David Branshaw       27    $693,705
120    117    Shane Bertsch       32    $685,346
121    120    Mathias Gronberg       28    $674,002
122    124    Paul Azinger     28    $672,675
123    121    Darren Clarke     11    $660,898
124    127    Rich Beem     25    $658,225
125    122    Brian Bateman       24    $645,153
126    123    John Cook     20    $644,505
127    141    Bubba Dickerson       31    $641,252
128    125    Lee Westwood     14    $630,566
129    131    Duffy Waldorf     26    $609,871
130    130    Brent Geiberger     28    $590,478
131    126    Omar Uresti     22    $583,704
132    128    Jonathan Kaye     30    $578,714
133    129    Jeff Overton       27    $577,132
134    139    Tim Petrovic     28    $558,405
135    132    Jerry Smith       28    $554,206
136    134    Bob May     19    $548,712
 

Long Gone John?

Just 10 of the World Top 50 are teeing it up in Las Vegas. But note John Daly down at 190th on the money list and in the Vegas field (like there was any doubt he'd miss this week!).

I don't believe Daly does not have enough all-time money (76th) to get one of those little one-time exemptions, so barring a big check the next three weeks, the Skins Game may be Long John's tune-up for the Q-School finals.

"There's a reason why you never see a TV shot of the clubhouse on Sundays"

Robert Bell reports that Forest Oaks may be losing some of its luster with the Greensboro folks, but not necessarily for reasons you might expect. Says tournament director Robert Long:
"We have a fiduciary responsibility to look at all of our options -- whether they relate to Forest Oaks or somewhere else," Long said. "Nobody's questioning that Forest Oaks is a great golf course. But any good steward of the tournament would want to know their options. What we need to determine is if (Forest Oaks) is the best fit for where we want to take this tournament."
What these guys will do for their charities!

No, actually this may be about the most vital attribute of a PGA Tour site, the clubhouse amenities.
Publicly, tournament officials say Forest Oaks, which has played host to the championship since 1977, has the best golf course in the Triad for a PGA Tour event -- for now.

Privately, they wonder if they can do better. Forest Oaks' clubhouse and locker rooms are beginning to show their age, officials said. Neither has had significant renovations since the clubhouse opened in 1967.

"There's a reason why you never see a TV shot of the clubhouse on Sundays," said one tournament board member, who asked not to be named. "The physical amenities are outdated or are close to being so."

Or, maybe we never see the clubhouse because we are watching a golf tournament?
Even the course is being called into question. After opening to rave reviews three years ago, Davis Love's redesign has lost some of its luster with golfers.

"They made a great course good," PGA Tour regular Robert Gamez said after playing the course last year.

Sergio Garcia, who recently helped lead Europe to another Ryder Cup victory, said the new course was "a bit too gimmicky," a common lament among the pros.

"Somewhere in the exchange, the pro swatted at the gentlemen's hat..."

Sylvain Metz reports on the type of player-fan interaction that you don't normally see on the PGA Tour.
PGA Tour player Bill Glasson withdrew from the Southern Farm Bureau Classic Saturday after he was involved in a physical altercation with a spectator, tournament officials said Monday.

Glasson, 46, allegedly struck an “elderly gentleman” Saturday morning after the men got into a shouting match over a driving incident on the way to the tournament, said Madison County Sheriff Toby Trowbridge.

Glasson withdrew from the tournament, said Randy Watkins, the SFBC tournament director.

“He was advised of the position of both the tournament and the Tour and how they felt about the matter and he willfully withdrew on his own,” Watkins said. “I agreed with Bill's decision. He needed to leave. It was best for him and everybody, that he put it behind him and withdraw.”

And his agent definitely earned his 10% with this defense:
His manager, Dennis Harrington of Links Sports, said Glasson argued with a man in the Annandale Golf Club parking lot whom Glasson said cut in front of him at an intersection. He did not strike the man, said Harrington, but did “flip his cap off his head” after the man did not apologize and a passenger in the car “taunted” Glasson.

“Hindsight is 20-20,” Harrington added. “I'm sure Bill wishes that he didn't go up and say something, but he still feels he has the right to say something to somebody when they almost caused an accident. The bad part was they didn't apologize and then they provoked him.”
Oops, left out one detail.
“Somewhere in the exchange, the pro swatted at the gentlemen's hat, hitting him in the face and knocking off his glasses,” Trowbridge said.

At that point, sheriff's deputies were called, the sheriff said.

The spectator declined to press charges although he was told he can file them at a later date, Trowbridge said. “Had we been there (to witness this) we would have arrested the pro,” he added.

The Dreaded Streak Debate

Tim Rosaforte writes today at GolfDigest.com:

The question came up last week, and it'll be all over The Golf Channel and ESPN and will no doubt create Blogomania on a slow news week: Is this still a streak? After all, Woods lost in the openin g round of the HSBC Match Play to Paul Casey ** [Shaun Micheel], then went 3-2 at the Ryder Cup. Both are non-PGA Tour events, and both were match-play competition. Making it even move conceivable to buy into the streak is that the HSBC, while official on the European Tour, was a 16-man field and barely more than an exhibition in the scheme of tournament golf.

Tiger says no, it is not a streak. But the Palm Beach Post ("Sweet No. 6 for Tiger") and every golf website I hit Monday refers to it as a streak, so it is what you want it to be. To me, it's kind of like the Tiger Slam. Stuff from another planet.

There was just the mild hint of a reference by Woods on Sunday that he's now starting to think about extending this, whatever it is. Comparing his run to Byron Nelson's 11 straight, Woods said, "It's still a long way to go. If you look at it, I'm barely halfway. What he did was absolutely remarkable, and I'm just thrilled that I've been able to win six in a row twice. That to me is a pretty neat accomplishment in itself."

It kind of sounds like he's treating it like a streak now, doesn't it?

Yes Tim, it is looking like a slow week in this little slice of "blogomania," and peering ahead at the remainder of the 2006 schedule, Tiger figures to play maybe 2 or 3 more times (Disney, Innisbrook, Tour Championship The TOUR Championship). Assuming he only plays Disney and the Tour Championship The TOUR Championship, and wins both, where would the streak possibly continue in 2007?

Well, first things first. This is the PGA Tour he's currently playing. Starting in January, it's the Fed Ex Cup. Deal with that, historians!

But getting ahead of ourselves, the streak will not be easy to maintain no matter how well Tiger plays or how little the competition steps up.

In '07, Tiger will likely play the Mercedes, followed by the Buick at Torrey Pines and the Nissan at Riviera. Assuming he wins all three after getting win Nos. 7 and 8 this year, Riviera would be the site for win No. 11 (and his first win there).

And the following week he'd go for No. 12 at the WGC Match Play in Tucson.

Win No. 13...oh okay, it's not that slow of a news week.

Reviewing The Grove

Joe Passov reviews WGC AmExpress host The Grove and loves it. Peter Dixon sounds a little less excited in The Times:
In almost every respect, the event at The Grove, just outside Watford, has the look of a fully-fledged PGA tournament. More specifically, the course, designed by Kyle Phillips, an American, has been set up in just the same way — a touch of Americana plonked right in the middle of the Home Counties.
Jim Furyk had some interesting things to say in his news conference:
You know, not the golf course I think you would expect coming to England or coming to London. It had a very new style of architecture to it with the green complexes, falloffs, collection areas off the edge of the greens, not something I was anticipating before I got here.

But it's definitely a golf course that looks like it's been built in the last 10 to 15 years. I'm not sure when it was built, but it has a very new feel to it.

I came over here a couple weeks ago, playing Wentworth. Even though it had undergone a facelift with Ernie it has a very traditional feel to it, old style, and I didn't know what to expect coming to The Grove. But when we all think of coming to London, we don't think of anything really all that new, because they're kind of old and classic, at least I do.

So it has a little different feel to it than I expected. But the golf course is in very good shape. The turf is fantastic on the greens. The fairway and rough in areas is extremely thick and penal. It's got some very difficult holes on it, 8 and 9 come to mind right off the bat, long par 4s with pretty tight fairways, difficult green complexes on both of those. So it'll be I think it'll be a decent test.

Yesterday the greens were quite soft and rolling very well, which always yields pretty good scores.

The course I think could play pretty tough right now. It seems like the setup is going to field some decent scores.

Q. Do you actually prefer when you come to London, do you feel almost cheated if you don't get the classic?

JIM FURYK: No, I don't feel cheated. I think I prefer a classic golf courses in the States or whatever. It's not a secret I'm not a real big fan of modern architecture for the most part, but the golf course is fine. A lot of the golf courses that we play on in the States are of a modern architecture, and I tend to pick the ones we play on our Tour. Most of the courses that I really like were probably built pre 1960 and are a little bit more traditional, and I grew up on courses built in the early 1900s at home when I grew up playing the game. It might not be old for here, but it's old for home. Stuff that I enjoy playing.

I think had I grown up in Florida or had I grown up in an area where modern architecture was a little bit more popular, that probably would be the way I would be swayed because it looks good to your eye what you grew up on.

"Golf has never been exclusively about length, but that seems like the emphasis now"

Robert Thompson blogs about a story he's written quoting Nick Price about the state of the game and his likely final appearance in the Canadian Open.

Unfortunately, in a professional golf world increasingly dominated by players who hit their tee shots remarkable distances, shot makers like O'Meara and Price have quickly become relics of a bygone era.

"It has been very tough for me to be competitive out here in the last few years," Price said. "I've been very vocal about this. The way the game is going -- especially the USGA and Augusta -- and the way it is focusing on length, they are keeping a lot of players from being able to win major championships."

And Thompson writes that Price is actually looking forward to the Champions Tour:
"I'm tired of playing 7,600 yard golf courses," he said. "I'm sick of that. Golf has never been exclusively about length, but that seems like the emphasis now."

But both golfers have different takes on why the game has changed so much in recent years. O'Meara credits it partially to equipment, but also points out that most players are far more physically fit than they were two decades ago. But Price isn't buying that explanation.

"If you looked at Greg Norman when he was 32-years-old, he was as strong as an Olympic athlete," Price says. "So was Faldo. I think it is a slight on them to say the current guys simply work out and that's why they hit the ball further."

Given his nearly three decades of professional experience, Price says he knows the solution to the distance problem.

"Simply change the equipment," he says. "I don't care what the average Joe plays. In fact, let him play equipment that helps his game. Can you imagine what would happen in baseball if they gave Barry Bonds a titanium baseball bat? The pitchers would go berserk. But that's what we did in golf."

 

Win Canadian, Must Come Back

This doesn't say much about the Canadian Open's 2007 spot on the schedule when this year's winner says he's only coming back because, well, it would be rude not to.

Canadian Open champion Jim Furyk guaranteed the national championship will have at least one top non-Canadian player next year despite being crammed between the last two majors and another top event.

"I'll be honest, I probably wouldn't play if I hadn't won. I feel it's a point of honor," Furyk said Sunday after his comeback victory on the Hamilton Golf and Country Club course. "I feel I should be here and I'll come back to play."

"I've never won a tournament and not shown up to defend," Furyk said. "I'll be here. I'm going to play the Canadian Open next year. I'll figure it out."

 

Canadian Open's Uncertain Future

Why is it that you have to call them Canada geese, but you can call the Canadian Open, Canadian? Eh, sorry.

Lorne Rubenstein writes about the RGCA hiring IMG to solve their sponsorship and lousy 2007 date issues.

Canadian Open director Bill Paul said at Hamilton that potential sponsors have a number of questions, including future sites, and the big one: the quality of the field.

“Sponsors ask what we can do about the field,” Paul said. “I tell them about what we can control, the course, for example.”

The trouble with matters concerning the field is that sponsors seem interested only in whether Tiger Woods will play.

“Tiger in the field is huge,” said Garry West, who will assume the RCGA presidency on Jan. 20.

It's All Right There In Front...

Ah, you know how it ends.

That's right, Chris Johnston writes about Canadian Open host Hamilton, which the players just love because there are no railroad ties and it's all right in front of them, no thought required.

Isn't this the Colt course with the cool greens? And which, just as Harry would demand, is soaked in rough and trees to make up for the fact it's too short?

"I think it's just a nice break," said Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., who is once again the country's best hope in this event. "I'm speaking for the other guys, but I think they like to play courses that if you hit one off line, you're in trouble in the rough. You're not making eight because it one-hopped off a railroad tie into the water.

"I think guys like that change - it's all there in front of you."

Sigh. 
Janzen thinks more PGA Tour events would be held at traditional courses like Hamilton if they could handle the infrastructure.

"The problem is that the old courses don't have the space to house a tournament anymore," he said. "There's no room to expand to have enough length and there's not enough room for all the corporate stuff.

"Unfortunately the modern courses are all about looking great now. They don't want to plant trees and have it mature. They create all kinds of crazy things now."