PGA Tour Players Find A New Course To Hate

I know you'll be shocked to find out, it's a Palmer. Craig Dolch reports:

Ask any player in the field for this week's inaugural PGA Tour Ginn sur Mer Classic about the Arnold Palmer-designed layout at the Tesoro Club, and you'll get a variety of responses.

Some of which you can even print in a family newspaper.

While unfamiliarity with any course causes consternation among golf professionals, especially when they're trying to keep their jobs, a lot of players don't think the course - unlike the meaning of Tesoro - to be much of a treasure.

One caddy called it a "walk-off" course, predicting at least one player will walk off in the middle of the round this week because of its quirky nature, not to mention long distances between holes that will require numerous shuttles from greens to tees, adding to the time of the round.
Shuttles. In Florida? Nice.
Another player, when asked about what he liked about the course, paused for a few seconds before he smiled and said, "It's got a lovely clubhouse."

To be fair, Palmer was designing this course for high-handicappers who don't come to resorts just for the golf. Moreover, the area has been hit with several storms recently that dumped more than 5 inches of rain, making the fairways soggy and muddy.

"If we hadn't gotten all that rain, it would have been a really good test," said Palm City resident Ken Duke, a Tesoro member who ranks 44th on the PGA Tour's money list. "It's still going to be (a good test), but it would have been a little tougher. I just hope there aren't a lot of negative comments about the golf course because of the long walks. There's nothing you can do about that."
Well, that's not entirely true, but...perhaps it's not just the architecture that's the only issue.
Hitting the fairways won't be easy because they've been narrowed in some spots to 15 yards, flanked by 23/4-inch Bermuda rough, to help put some teeth into the resort course.

15 yards? Take that USGA!

Because of logistical reasons, PGA Tour officials won't use the par-3 sixth hole on the Palmer course, replacing it with the par-4 18th on the adjacent Tom Watson course, making for par-73 layout. Jupiter's Robert Allenby said some other holes don't add up.

"On the 16th hole, I hit a driver that went through the fairway," he said. "So then I hit a 3-wood and that left me with a 3-iron. There's another short hole where you have to hit a driver or a 3-wood just to clear the hazard, then all you have is a wedge going in. It's not your typical course, but I will say this: These greens are the best we've putted on in South Florida this year."

Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen said he'll rely on an odd combination of clubs this week. "You need to hit your driver and your wedges well," he said. "There's a lot of long holes, as well as quite a few short ones."

Palm Beach Gardens pro Steve Marino was one of the few who wasn't complaining. "I don't know why everyone hates it," he said. "I have no problem with it."

One thing most players agree on is if the winds kick up this weekend, as they're supposed to do, this will not be a course where everyone goes low. Duke was asked to compare the Palmer course to the others used during the Fall Series.

"I think this golf course is five shots harder than any of them, no question," Duke said. "Maybe than some of other courses we play, too."

But no matter what the players say or how much they complain, someone will walk away with the $810,000 first prize this week.

"Everybody is playing the same course," said Johnson Wagner. "It doesn't make any sense to complain about it. Other than it being soggy, the course is in great shape. So just go out and play the course."

Tiger Announces Target Field; Editors and Writers Plot Interview Possibilities

Tiger's event at Sherwood has become a media favorite, but surprisingly not because it brings them close to Rustic Canyon and one of their favorite public golf courses in the land. No, it's because it's the one week the players are jovial, the days are short and the is range incredibly close to the media room. In other words, it's an ideal opportunity for the monthlies to stock up on inanities for the upcoming year, so send out East Coast types already bitter about the onset of winter who will gladly ask Padraig Harrington about his favorite soccer football futbol team and grill Luke Donald about what he loves most about America.

Otherwise, no one else should really care who is playing. But in case you are wondering, Mark Lamport-Stokes breaks down the field.

3500-plus?

Chris Wagner notes in covering day one play of the Turning Stone event...

A spectacular first day of weather for the inaugural Turning Stone Resort Championship produced several superb scores, a run at the leaderboard by three Upstate players and the withdrawal of the biggest name in the field, John Daly.

Jeff Gove roared to the top of the pack early Thursday, capping his round of 7-under-par 65 with one of the first eagles of the tournament. His 101-yard sand wedge shot landed a foot above the hole on the 18th green and sucked back into the cup to the delight of some of the 3,500-plus spectators at Atunyote Golf Club.

Just curious, was the old B.C. Open at Endicott better attended than that?  

Tour Championship Ratings Skyrocket Thanks To Tiger and Phil...

...not up showing last year!

From Sports Business Daily:

NBC earned a 3.3/7 overnight Nielsen rating for the final round the the Tour Championship, the final leg of the inaugural Playoffs for the FedEx Cup,  from 1:30-6:00pm yesterday, up 200.0% from a 1.1/2 overnight rating for the Tour Championship in '06, which aired in early November on ABC from 1:00-5:00pm.  Tiger Woods won yesterday's event to clinch the FedEx Cup title.  Woods did not play in last year's Tour Championship.  Saturday's third-round coverage earned a 2.8/7 overnight from 2:00-6:00pm, up 86.7% from a 1.5/3 overnight on ABC last year from 3:30-7:00pm.  During the same weekend last year, ESPN aired coverage of the 84 Lumber Classic, and overnights were not available.

And who said there were no benefits to them skipping the 2006 finale?

"In the end it was just too easy at Easy Lake."

Based on the link, I believe this is Jim Moriarty's East Lake/Tour Championship game story for Golf World.

Besides evaluating the FedEx Cup as somewhat of a success, he writes:

In the end it was just too easy at Easy Lake. Poor Bobby Jones must have been weeping somewhere for the honor of his home course. Rain Thursday turned the greens from semi-dirt to soft dirt, and Tim Clark, one of the 24 non-competing markers in the field, tied the then course record on a rain-interrupted day with an eight-under-par 62, highlighted by a pitch-in for eagle on the 15th. The real rain, the remnants of Hurricane Humberto, was scheduled to hit Friday, but the worst of it took the I-285 bypass around Atlanta, and it was Woods who reigned instead.

In a six-hole stretch from the fourth through the ninth holes, Woods went seven under par for a front-nine 28 and felt pretty darn bad about it, too. He holed a bunker shot from a semiburied lie on the fifth and made a 70-footer for eagle at the ninth. "The ball was bouncing every which way. It was left of the hole, it was right of hole, left of the hole, right of the hole, and then it went in," he said. No fist pumps or finger-pointing this time, just a bowed head and a sheepish "gee-I'm-sooooo-sorry-about-that-guys" grin.

And skipping a bit...

Easy Lake, formidable only when someone drove it in the wet Bermuda rough, was so defenseless that through 36 and 54 holes only two of the 30 players were over par. It really bared its gums in the third round, however, when Johnson's 60 and Geoff Ogilvy's 62 were proof that even though the slow, soft greens were bad, they weren't unputtable.

Now I understand the situation with the greens.

But did this tournament also serve as a reminder that extreme, even outlandish measures would be necessary to keep a land-locked venue like East Lake relevant in today's game where a 6-iron is some players' 210-yard club and 3-woods carry 300? 

Now I know our friends Bacon and Grease over at Golf Digest think that it's okay for classics to become irrelevant, because you simply move to another venue that's 7,600 yards. But considering all that has been invested in East Lake and will be invested soon with the greens resodding, should there be some discussion at PGA Tour headquarters about the long term viability of this venue? And dare I say, some discussion about possibly asking the USGA when it's ball study will be wrapping up?

I sure don't see a U-groove ban making East Lake more relevant no matter how firm the new greens get, do you?  

''If this is going to be our playoffs, I'd get three better venues that are a little bit tougher that might wean out some [players].''

Jeff Shain looks at the low scoring at the playoff venues, and based on Woody Austin's remarks, this must be stopped because there was just way too much cheering, excitement and a fun viewing to be had! It MUST be stopped!

The notion that playoff tests are supposed to be stiffer is taking a beating during the PGA Tour's version. The average score at all four FedEx Cup events has come in below par.

Despite tougher conditions Sunday, East Lake GC ranks as the tour's second-easiest venue in 2007 at 1.68 strokes below par. Part of that stems from greens recently babied out of intensive care.

That wasn't a factor at the first three events, all of which ranked among the upper third of the PGA Tour's easiest layouts. Last week's BMW Championship was third, The Barclays 11th and the Deutsche Bank Championship 14th.
''If this is going to be our playoffs,'' Woody Austin said, ``I'd get three better venues that are a little bit tougher that might wean out some [players].''
If you are going to be Mr. Quotable Woody, let's crack open a dictionary before we use those big words like wean. And despite all of those birdies, somehow the playoffs managed to produce the best player ever as a winner.

Speaking of Woody, I thought it was peculiar no one (at least that I can find) wrote about his hiccup during Saturday's third round. They're bickering about it over on the NBCSports.com message board, and the clip is even up on YouTube.

 

Tiger's Super Bowl Win Ushers In Avalanche Of Not Particularly Flattering Football Analogies

sept16_woodstrophy_426x600.jpgDoug Ferguson's Tour Championship/FedEx Cup finale game story features so much, well, cynicism. There's hope for the AP yet!

The FedEx Cup didn't change anything but Tiger Woods' bank account.

The PGA Tour's "new era in golf" came to a familiar conclusion Sunday when Woods captured the Tour Championship in record-setting fashion, closing with a 4-under 66 for an eight-shot victory at East Lake and his seventh title of the season.

The only difference?

This was the first time Woods walked away from one tournament with two trophies.

Along with winning the Tour Championship and its $1.26 million prize, Woods was a runaway winner of the FedEx Cup and the $10 million that goes into his retirement account.

If this was supposed to be the "Super Bowl" of golf, Woods spent most of the final round running out the clock.

It did seem like the worst case scenario was a Tour Championship battle in the final group whle another battle for the Cup took place in the early groups. Actually, a Tiger rout was much worse.

This is beautiful:
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem first presented Woods with the crystal trophy from the Tour Championship. Before handing him the FedEx Cup trophy, Finchem alluded to the tour's promotion of the FedEx Cup by noting it had never been kissed.

And it still hasn't.

Woods simply held it aloft as the thousands around 18th green cheered.

Meanwhile, Steve Elling's football-inspired lede:

As it ultimately turned out, Tiger Woods could have taken a knee in the PGA Tour's so-called playoff finale and still won the biggest bonus in sports history.

But this is far more interesting:

None of the four players who had a mathematical chance of passing him this week earned enough points to eclipse what Woods had when he arrived at East Lake. So in addition to skipping the FedEx opener at Westchester, he could have taken a siesta this week, too.

Ric Clarson, one of the FedEx architects, seemed slightly taken aback when that fact was relayed during the final round. "That'll be a hard stat for us to look at, that he still could have won while only playing two," he said.

Gary D'Amato explores that angle a bit more in this piece and shares these astounding numbers, with-you guessed it-a football tie-in.

He breezed through 12 playoff rounds in a mind-blowing 59-under par. Throw out a "warm-up" 72 in his first playoff round and these are his scores: 64-67-67-67-67-65-63-64-63-64-66. That's not golf, it's the jersey numbers of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line.

Woods' adjusted scoring average this year is 67.79, which exactly matches his record average in 2000.

Meanwhile, Rob Matre posts final round images to go along some of his other fine work from the week, as does golf.com.

"Well, I think that overall the FedExCup was a success."

A few highlights from Tiger's post-Tour Championship final round sitdown with the slingers.

Q. Kind of along those lines, aside from winning the TOUR Championship and the bonus, the FedExCup, how would you assess winning the first FedExCup?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that overall the FedExCup was a success. I think that there need to be tweaks, yes, there needs to be some tweaks, but I think overall it provided a lot of drama towards the end of the season, especially post-PGA when most of the guys shut it down. You know, post-PGA it's either Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup and that's basically all anyone ever talks about, now that the Bridgestone has moved to the week before the PGA especially.

I think we now know what they'll be wallpapering Tour headquarters with. 
Q. You talked about tweaks. Do you have any comments on what tweaks you would consider to make the tournament better? And what's it like, the final tournament for you this year, to go out with such a big bang?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think -- what I described earlier to Fergie here, a couple days ago, I think that when you have 125 exempt players on TOUR and your first event is 144 guys, I thought a playoff was play all year for a smaller field, you're supposed to narrow it up, not have more players. Especially when we have limited field events, invitationals that have smaller fields, more elite, and I just think that the playoffs should be that many players. I think the playoffs you narrow the field down, and when you have 10 percent over what you do on the exempt player list starting off the first event, I think that's too many.

Consider it done!

Q. Have you ever considered playing the latest Jack Nicklaus course in Dominican Republic designed by Jack Nicklaus, 18 holes in the Caribbean with the capacity to receive the championship?

Huh? Oh sorry, Tiger...

TIGER WOODS: Say that again.

Q. Have you ever considered playing the latest course designed by Jack Nicklaus in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic, the only Jack Nicklaus designed 18 holes in the Caribbean with the capacity to hold a championship?

TIGER WOODS: I've heard about the golf course. I haven't been down there yet. I've always wanted to go. I haven't been down there yet.

Anyone have the slightest idea what that line of questioning was about? Television reporter/rally killer? Or are there actual rumors of the event moving to the Carribean?

National Weather Service On Verge Of Declaring Tour Championship Unwatchable

I've watched ten minutes and I can't take it anymore. The gray day, the lousy greens, the mushy conditions, the drab architecture. Brutal.

And what's with the towering spike marks? I raised that question when the story about the greens first broke, and now watching it's hard to imagine why the guys are allowed to wear spikes on greens like that.

Well, if nothing else, this gave Steve Elling a nice note to write on Steve Stricker...

With a $10 million bonus on the line, Woods' playing partner Steve Stricker committed an act of kindness that did not pass unnoticed by Woods, who is leading the FedEx Cup points race and threatening to win the tournament title as well.

As Woods waited his turn to putt, Stricker nudged his ball into the cup on the 16th green and promptly tapped down a rooster-tail-sized spike mark behind the hole. Mind you, Stricker is running second to Woods in FedEx points and stands to lose $7 million if he finishes as the runner-up in the cumulative, lucrative points chase.

According to the rulebook, players may tap down spike marks only after finishing play on a green, so Woods did not have the option of smoothing the surface himself. We'll let Woods, who was clearly impressed with the largesse of the Wisconsin native, relate the details.

"He did one of the classier things I've ever seen someone do on the 16th today," Woods said. "There was huge spike mark on the other side of the hole, and after he finished, he tapped it down.

"He just said he didn't want me to have to worry about running it a foot by the hole and face a huge spike mark. That's classy. But I was a smartass about it, and said it wasn't going to go a foot past."

Woods was making a joke, but as it turned out, he missed the 16-footer for birdie and had a putt from exactly 14 inches beyond the hole coming back.

 

"it's been a very, very successful run"

I should never comment on a Tim Finchem press conference after sweating away five pounds while trying not to step on a snake in otherwise lovely land for golf, so I slept on his annual season-ending "state of the Tour" gabfest just to see if the buckets of nonsense I read were in fact uttered by the Commissioner.

Oh and for those of you who took the tri-fecta bet on buzzwords du jour value-equity-product, we got all about the equity dropping, several marketplaces and lots of value. Better luck next time!

Here is the Commish on the FedEx Cup, which a reader tells me Scott Van Pelt called the ForcedFedExCup or some such thing on last tonight's Sportscenter:

But in terms of evaluating it, we continue to look at what we set out to do, and that was to strengthen this period of the season, be able to carry the television audience into the football season to some extent, create more value for the players, create more excitement for the fans, and continue to grow the tournaments that are involved in this part of the season, including, of course, the playoff events.

Creating value for the players, so you know what that means...

In every aspect, we think, even though we have one more week to go, a full four days of competition, that it's been a very, very successful run, and we're very pleased with the impact. We're pleased with the steady growth of fan interest during the course of the year. We're delighted with the value that has been generated for sponsors. The tournaments that have been conducted thus far have significantly been elevated in terms of their charitable impact, their sales in the marketplace. We've had big crowds.

At some places. 

Great that they are creating value for everyone, and yet it's non-profit, it's to give back. Amen brother.

And thankfully, we now know sponsors don't look at ratings...

We estimate that 25 to 27 million households tuned in during the course of the week last week at some point. I think everybody concentrates on the ratings except our sponsors. Our sponsors look at total viewership. That's what they invest in. That's what they want to know, how many households are focused during the course of many, many hours of coverage -- not that many households sit there and watch television for four hours on a Sunday afternoon. We're pleased with the overall rating, we're pleased with the overall household reach.

On to the topic of fixing the FedEx Cup, a metaphor I would not have chosen for a bucket full of reasons.

If you were to ask me, as you have, what are you thinking about doing, I sort of categorize it in three buckets.

Yes, buckets. MBA's out there, please help. Do they really teach this one or is this something the Commish came up on his own?

One bucket would be those things that relate to making the system itself as compelling as it can be. And by that I mean a system that people can understand, a system that players relate to well, the fans comprehend and look at, things we've seen on television the last few weeks or scenarios of what could happen versus the history, and a system that the media enjoys reporting upon and can report upon reasonably well given the limitations that the media has, whether it be written or electronic or the space that the producer on television is going to give you to talk about the system.

Well that was a bucket full of...sorry, go on.

The second bucket is really a question of the basic schedule. Does the schedule work for the fans, does it work for the TOUR as a whole, does it work for the players. And there are some challenges with the schedule. You know, I think that it's worked well. Obviously virtually all the players have supported it. However, as we go into the -- we do the schedules on a four- or six-year basis, we have to evaluate the extent to which it impacts the events before and after to some extent and whether we can command strong player support and something that the fans can follow easily.

So by that I guess I'm saying that if we had more space in a couple of the years coming up, it would be helpful. Whether we can achieve the space and make some changes, I don't know.

Uh, there is our first admission that the current schedule is flawed. 

I don't think it's critical to the future of the Cup if we don't. But it would be better in some instances in some years if we did, and we'll be looking at that.

The third thing is

...bucket Tim, bucket...

I think areas that relate to enthusiasm that players feel for the competitions, particularly the Playoffs. I think you don't have to go in farther than the quality of play to conclude how the players have mentally prepared for this competition of the Playoffs and executed it, it's been phenomenal.

So as we see these emails come in and blogs from the fans suggesting this,

I'm beginning to think he just says blogs because either he does not know what they are or it makes him sound hip to pop culture. Or both.

that and the other, some of them are crazy, some of them are too smart, some of them make a lot of sense, we have determined that starting at the first of the year or as soon as we can execute it, we are going to create a place on pgatour.com where fans can go and speak openly of their attitudes about anything with respect to the TOUR.

Because the army of VP's don't have enough things to check on their Blackberry already.

If they're in the Playoffs and they want to go on and do blogs and say this is the dumbest thing I've ever seen, they can do that, it will be on our site.

So we can take it down!

If they want to make suggestions, they can do that. If they want to applaud Brandt Snedeker for doing a good interview with some of the media, they can do that.

Yeah, fans are going to rush to their computers to send those well-wishes.

It's going to be wide open. The only thing we'll edit on this portion of our site is we might edit for obscenities or things we don't want young fans to look at or something like that.

Protecting the children. Always smart.

But the product and the content of what fans can post is going to be unabridged. It'll be an interesting step.

We really have enjoyed the repartee of arguing amongst ourselves, with the players, with media and now fans about elements of this process. We think it's a healthy thing and we want to encourage it going forward, so we're going to take that step next year.

Wow, freedom lovers finally embracing freedom. Moves me to tears I tell ya.

Fans, when Phil and Ernie missed Boston, some fans felt that -- some of the emails we got, blogs, that a player can't get into the Playoffs and take a week off, that's not right.

They got blogs!

They're pretty intrigued with a system that would create a scenario where Phil would come back in and have a chance of winning. It's not like he jeopardized the Cup because here he is trying to win and doing everything he can to win and going about it in his own way, which is kind of what a player does in our system at the start of the year.  

Uh huh.

Q. Several of the players have said this year they felt like it was a conscious effort by the TOUR to make the courses tougher, to make the conditions tougher. I'm wondering, is that something at the beginning of this year or the end of last year you and Harry and Mark and whoever is involved, is that something you wanted to do or has that been an evolutionary thing? The second part of that is, do you think fans would rather see more low scores or do you think fans enjoy seeing guys winning with 3-under par like Akron where Tiger is the only guy under par?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think fundamentally fans want to see close competition, preferably with several guys in it. I think those two things, if you have that -- in Boston you had four guys in it and you had close competition. I don't think it's really important how many birdies or pars or bogeys, just close competition, I think that's the fundamental.

Well, high rough and narrow fairways will give you close competition. Not interesting, but close.

Now, at certain stages of the golf course, I've always said in my view that Augusta National is the greatest stage for the game and the best for television because the risk-reward element is prevalent throughout the back nine and you see birdies, eagles, bogeys and double bogeys, and that's nirvana if you're a fan. Not all golf courses are set up that way, but to say you should move from last year's winner won at 14-under, and we want single digits, we don't have that philosophy. We don't adhere to that.

That's more like it!

On the other hand, we try to set the golf courses up to challenge players and make them make shots, and that's resulted in the last six or seven years tighter pins, players play with the square grooves and they can come at the pin from just about anywhere. Our scoring has not gone up. Our scoring has not gone up, and we've got much tighter pins.

Oh boy...the grooves. It's the grooves. That's why they can go at those tucked pins! Not those 340 yard drives putting a wedge in their hand. Good news Far Hills, Tim's in.

 

"We didn't join the playoffs to lose money for our caddie scholarships"

Considering that the lone consolation prize in the Western Open's demise was a promised increase in Evans Scholar revenues, this came as a surprise in John Hawkins' Golf World game story:

Tournament director John Kaczkowski took a glass-half-full overview of the event, but WGA President/CEO Don Johnson said, despite a weekend rally at the box office, he expected his organization's bottom line for charity wouldn't equal that from the Western. "We didn't join the playoffs to lose money for our caddie scholarships," Johnson said. "But we had no choice." (Some WGA officials believe, conversely, that taking the tournament to new cities might actually increase contributions to the caddie scholarship fund.) If it hadn't acceded to tour demands and joined the FedEx Cup process, the Western would have been consigned a death slot, one week before or after the U.S. Open. That's because the Fourth of July slot for 2007 had been awarded to Jack Vickers and the International. Remember Jack Vickers and the International? Might not be only the commissioner and the players who are growing apart.