Lift, Clean, Place Claims Another Victim

From the AP story on Will MacKenzie's costly mistake Saturday at the Viking Classic.

MacKenzie's triple bogey Saturday on the par-5 18th left him tied for second with Brian Gay, two strokes behind Turnesa on the Annandale course. MacKenzie was penalized for moving impediments in the hazard while his ball was also in the hazard.
Turnesa, a PGA TOUR rookie who also topped the second-round leaderboard, shot a 6-under 66 for a 17-under 199 total. MacKenzie and Gay had 67s.
MacKenzie, who has one TOUR victory, the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2006, opened with birdies on the first two holes and made the turn at 32. His only stumble before 18 was a bogey on the fourth hole.
MacKenzie said he "spaced out" after a day of being able to lift, clean and place his ball because of wet conditions. There were a a few blades of grass near his ball, not anything that would be a problem, he said.
MacKenzie said he brushed them away with his hand, then he realized what he had done and told an official, who assessed the penalty.

"We don't want to talk about the FedEx Cup, do we?"

The scribblers, already fired up about having an execution chamber viewing area and Vijay choosing not to talk to them, are declaring the demise of FedEx Cup. Of course that assumes it ever reached a peak before declining. Let's face it, the entire thing was flawed for two reasons: Tiger and Phil. The system was designed to ensure they would be eligible until the finish, and as long as the points gurus have to gear the entire thing about guiding the tour's two biggest draws to the weekend at East Lake, it will always be flawed.

Here are some of the reviews and other complications being raised, starting with Gary Van Sickle:

Then Villegas was asked if it was disappointing that he tied for third at the Deutsche Bank Championship (at which Singh won after a closing 63) and won at Bellerive but can't take the FedEx Cup as long as Vijay simply finishes four rounds in Atlanta. Villegas put on a solemn face. "We don't want to talk about the FedEx Cup, do we?" he asked plaintively.
Let's see, the FedEx Cup winner doesn't want to talk about the FedEx Cup. Neither does the BMW Championship winner. The intensity of FedEx Cup buzzkill is apparently at Category 4 strength.
Cameron Morfit, also on golf.com:
Unless you subscribe to the idea that sex appeal is a pocket protector and a calculator, the Tour's current math-heavy approach is a big part of the problem, even ignoring its terrible results.
Bob Carney at GolfDigest.com shares reader letters while Thomas Bonk reveals the disastrous ratings (at least the public knows a soulless golf course when it sees it):
The third round Saturday of the BMW Championship had a 1.1 overnight rating on NBC, down from a 2.6 in 2007; and Sunday's fourth round had a 1.2 overnight rating, down from a 3.2 in 2007.

Steve Elling questions why the top 30 to reach East Lake are getting Masters and U.S. Open invitations.

The FedEx points structure was re-jiggered this season to weight the playoff performances more strongly and to de-emphasize the overall season. Thus, journeymen pros like Kevin Sutherland and Dudley Hart, who each finished second in one of the three FedEx Cup series events to date, have cemented a spot in the first two majors next year.

It borders on absurdity. If I were a decision-maker at Augusta or the USGA, I'm not sure I'd listen to another self-serving pitch from the tour ever again. After months of foot-dragging, the tour revamped the FedEx rules in March, well after the Open and Masters exemptions had been re-upped for another year. Thus, if the tour can change its rules in midseason, then the USGA and Augusta National should do likewise by flushing the FedEx exemption category completely, effective immediately.

Broadly, the Masters traditionally required non-winners from the previous year to finish the season in the top 30 on the PGA Tour money list or inside the top 50 in the final world rankings in order to secure an invitation. There are five players in the 30-man field in Atlanta who don't appear likely to accomplish either, having taken the farcical FedEx freeway to Augusta and Bethpage Black, the U.S. Open site next summer.

In the span of 21 days -- or even less time for one-week one-offs like Hart and Sutherland -- a half-dozen players have cracked the Masters and Open field, barring the rescinding of the two major-championship exemption rules, which will soon be reviewed by their governing bodies.

Augusta National officials already have indicated that the club is keeping an eye on the FedEx exemption provision, while the USGA Championship Committee will conduct its next meeting Oct. 31. Speaking as a USGA member, the issue had better be on the agenda.

Vijay To Finally Speak About Trauma Of Winning $10 Million**

Only two days after passing on interviews with NBC or the assembled media, Vijay Singh has gathered his thoughts and is finally prepared to discuss those those heartfelt thoughts that the immediate aftermath of his T44 at Bellerive precluded him from sharing.

HASTILY ARRANGED MEDIA ALERT
Vijay Singh Teleconference

Members of the media are invited to take part in a teleconference with Vijay Singh.

DATE: Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008

TIME: 4:30 p.m. ET

Vijay Can Crawl Backwards Around East Lake And Still Win FedEx Cup

Doug Ferguson breaks the bad news to all six fans of the current FedEx Cup structure: the playoffs are over and they still have the Super Bowl to play.

With one Playoff event remaining, the FedExCup essentially is over.

Vijay Singh, who won the first two events, tied for 44th and earned enough points that all he has to do is complete four rounds at THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola in two weeks to collect the $10 million payoff.

Villegas, a 26-year-old Colombian in his third year on TOUR, finished at 15-under 265 and collected $1.26 million
.
Bob Harig puts it in even more brutal perspective:
Singh can show up in Atlanta, play left-handed one day, blindfolded the next, shoot 100 during each round -- but as long as he completes four rounds he will be crowned the FedEx champion, receive a cool $9 million in cash, with $1 million deferred, and pocket some Tour Championship tip money as well.

How easily can Vijay Singh win the $10 million playoff bonus? Even if he didn't break 100 any of the four days at the Tour Championship, as long as he plays all 72 holes and doesn't get disqualified, the money is his.
But at least Vijay expressed his joy at clinching the $10 million.
Yep, Singh declined interviews with NBC, Golf Channel, print reporters. No words of thanks to FedEx or BMW or the PGA Tour or even Camilo Villegas, who won his first PGA Tour event and basically made it impossible for anyone to catch Singh -- unless he misses his tee time in Atlanta, gets disqualified or decides to stay at home and begin practicing for next year.
Speaking of next year, might this be a bad time to bring up the story I wrote last year for Golf World recommending a true playoff ending to prevent this little mini-debacle from happening? Or that I argued my case with Steve Dennis, FedEx Cup points guru who helped develop the increase volatility (which I think should stay...they just need a new way to end the fun at East Lake)?

Geoff Ogilvy was asked what he thought of the state of the FedEx Cup.
"If I make the Tour Championship I make it. If I don't, I really don't give a f...," the 2006 US Open champion said after the third round.

"I'm not going to lie in bed tonight thinking about what I have to do tomorrow to get in. It's not the Tour Championship it used to be.

"It probably meant more before than it does now, because it was a reward for 40 weeks.

"Now it's a nod to the year and making the cut at (the first two play-off events). The four weeks (of play-offs) are as important as the 40 preceding them."
Okay I'll give a little. They can just go back to last year's points to retain regular season relevancy, make East Lake an ADT-like finish and everyone wins! Including, let us not forget, charity.

"Unfortunately, this is what the post-Tiger golf world will likely look like."

I've wondered when we'd see a mainstream media rant about the state of golf. It seems the LPGA's boneheaded moves combined with the PGA Tour's odd green-lighting of the media room execution chamber lit a fire under the AP's Tim Dahlberg.

Remember, this went out on the wires...a sampling:

With TV ratings plunging even before the start of the NFL season and the concept of the FedEx Cup still lost on millions of golf fans, the tour apparently thought that putting a few rows of seats behind mirrors in the media tent so people could watch the sweaty media ask a few questions to equally sweaty players would be a great way to allow fans to bond with their favorite players.
What they didn't count on was that reporters might not like the idea of being on display like criminals in a police lineup. One packed up his stuff and left, while others are boycotting the interview room all together, taking a cue from players who try to escape it whenever they can, too.
Too bad, because there's nothing like listening to Singh regale the media with tales of great 7-irons and putts that were so good they had to go in.
What a guy, that Veej, clearly enjoying himself so much that even the folks in the cheap seats could see he could barely tear himself away after five minutes of going over birdies and bogeys to head back to the range.
Imagine telling your buddies about that the next day at the office.
"He was close enough to touch, if we hadn't been behind the one-way mirrors, that is. You know, I've never noticed how he takes his visor off and wipes his brow when he sits down, either. And the look of exasperation he gave when a reporter dared ask him about his 3-putt? Priceless."
Unfortunately, this is what the post-Tiger golf world will likely look like. Boring players who make no effort to connect with the fans going through the motions only because they have to.

Here's what I don't get about the media room viewing area. It may not sound like a big deal to most, but consider that Tim Finchem did not sit in there for his chat with the media for obvious reasons. There's a bit of privacy lost. Now, players are already careful with the media as it is, but these press sessions are still where we learn the little details that humanize them to the average fan. But with an audience behind mirrored walls, the players are just a bit more unlikely to open up.

Is that something the Tour really wants?

TPC Boston Changes To Look For

Jim Wagner filled me in with a few more specifics about the minor work done at TPC Boston. Most of this won't show up on television, but I can say it makes a huge difference in making the greens feel a bit more naked and giving the golf course an older feel.

  • Green surround mounding removed: No. 1, No. 10, No. 18
  • Greenside bunker renovated: No. 4 (a feature was added in the left portion of the bunker to make player think a bit before automatically aiming for the hazard)
  • New fairway bunker, mound removal: No. 9 fairway
  • Bunker renovation, island added: No. 11
  • Fairway expansion in first landing area: No. 18

It was interesting how many players didn't care for the tee shot options on No. 18 last year, so the expansion should help the shorter hitters a bit.

Here's No. 10 with some of the rear containment mounding that should be gone.



Getting In The Mood For TPC Boston

You may recall that last year at this time I blatantly touted the before/after work of my colleagues Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and friends at the TPC Boston, with several photos courtesy of superintendent Tom Brodeur.

Now, because I know you're dying to relive all of the before/after photos or some of my posts from the course during last year's epic Deutsche Bank Championship, I remind you that you can go to the TPC Boston journal archive. Or you can visit posts on individual holes here:

1st hole

4th hole

5th hole

7th hole

8th hole

9th hole

10th hole

15th hole

16th hole

17th hole


I understand that they have made some minor changes this year, including a change to the front left bunker on No. 4, as well as many more Palmer Design mounds. Still, 13 of the greens remain left over from the original design in some form. Hopefully some day they'll get the green light to fix the rest, starting with No. 18!

Volatility Verdicts

Alan Shipnuck likes the new playoff points system:

The much-hyped playoff format that sportswriters love to hate is off to a rollicking start. Besides the buzz of Sergio's sudden death, there are Ryder Cup spots up for grabs and the new points system has created a lot more more week-to-week excitement. Bottom line: don't ever bet against Finchem.
Meanwhile John Hawkins levels a verdict in this week's Golf World, and seems to have agreement from a member of the Tour policy board:
When the tour's Policy Board began reviewing the first FedEx Cup finish in late 2007, it came up with two primary objectives: create dramatic movement in the standings and make the superstars play in all four postseason events. Thus, the decision was made to turn up the dials on everything that would encourage volatility.
The problem? Almost everyone ignored the fragility. Singh earned 11,000 points for winning the Barclays -- just eight players reached that total in the entire regular season. You want crazy? A solo third at one of the first three playoff tournaments pays 5,400 points, which is more than Trevor Immelman, Woods, Padraig Harrington (and Harrington again) got for each of their major championship victories earlier this year. Simply making the cut at Ridgewood was worth 2,098, almost 400 points more than Rich Beem got for a solo third a week earlier in Greensboro.
Seriously, folks, you can't make up this stuff. "We went overboard," acknowledged policy board member Joe Ogilvie. "We overcooked it, and I'm sure we'll revise [again], but at least we know we took it too far.
"We were given various [projections], so we fully knew what we were getting into," Ogilvie added. "Mark Wilson [a member of the Player Advisory Council] was the one guy who thought we were going too far. I remember him warning us of what might happen. The problem isn't so much the player who wins as it is the player who finishes 135th, makes two [postseason] cuts and jumps into the top 70. That's not in the spirit of the playoffs, or shouldn't be."
Last year we had to wait to issue a verdict, now we're declaring the points revamping DOA after week one. I love these guys!

"Best golf course we've played all year"

John Hawkins, writing about the popularity of Ridgewood in this week's Golf World:

Although the Barclays is scheduled to return to its old site in what amounts to a 2011 cameo, it won't be a year too late -- Ridgewood was as big a hit as you'll find among 144 guys with $10 million on the line. "Best golf course we've played all year," said Tom Pernice Jr., not the easiest man to please. The old-school look and imaginative medley of holes make this A.W. Tillinghast design a keeper, which doesn't explain why the tour will follow its commercial nose and flee to snazzy-but-raw Liberty National for the 2009 gathering.
"If this one's a 10, that one's a 2," said a veteran who played next year's site last week. But enough on the past and the future, especially when the present packs so much relevance.

"I was hesitant to weight the playoffs this heavily, to be honest"

Boy, you try and tweak to deliver volatility and now they aren't happy!

Steve Elling complains about the new FedEx Cup volatility and finds a soul sister in PGA Tour policy board member Stewart Cink, who has already rendered his verdict.

Now we all have motion sickness. Vijay Singh collected his fourth career Barclays title and jumped from seventh to first in FedEx points, and while that sounds like healthy leapfrogging, it was the absolute least tumult that could have happened given the far-flung scenarios that might have played out at Ridgewood Country Club.
Here's a real after-the-fact kicker. Cink has been a good company man all season and widely espoused the benefits of the new points system, but now that there are some crazy cracks showing and his peers are questioning him about the merits of the details the Policy Board authorized, he has come clean.
"I was hesitant to weight the playoffs this heavily, to be honest," he said.
Because lord knows you are entitled to another year end check for showing up four more times and continuing the mediocrity.

I have to say that for some bigtime free market preachers, some of these PGA Tour dudes sure don't like a little, uh, volatility driven by market forces (in this case, those forces are called playing well.) Imagine if they had a true playoff, or even a modified one and wiped the slate clean at some point. The bitching would epic!

Right now, that list would include Kevin Sutherland, a veteran with one career win, who hadn't been noticed in weeks and lost in a three-way playoff Sunday with Singh and Sergio Garcia. Or winless veteran Mathew Goggin, who hadn't been noticed all season.
"It's more than just about the bonus money," Cink said. "Guys who played well all year are getting knocked out of majors."
Ahhhh....now the truth comes out. Has that really happened yet?

"I think if we don't see a change, we'll be disappointed,"

Steve Elling considers the Barclays' move to Liberty National next year and offers this perspective from Barclays president Bob Diamond:

Last year, when Woods skipped The Barclays, the tournament was whipped in the ratings by the Little League World Series, televised on a cable outlet, ESPN. He acknowledged that was hard to stomach.  

"I think if we don't see a change, we'll be disappointed," Diamond said. "We'll see."

"Meanwhile the FedEx Cup remains a play for relevance via monetization and marketing, which looks especially silly every other year, when top players are more concerned about playing for God and country at the Ryder Cup."

Here I was thinking we had at least another two weeks before the FedEx Cup obituaries started rolling in and Cameron Morfit had to go and pen one before the art department could even come up with a cutesy graphic.

The FedEx Cup is stuck in a major end-of-season traffic jam. All of the individual events anyone cares about are over. In fact, judging from the breathless, parking lot stakeouts of Brett Favre, the press and public tuned out the Tiger-less Tour even during the year's final major. Paddy's PGA was no match for Brett's SUV.
And still the FedEx soldiers on despite the Olympics and an upcoming two-week break after the BMW Championship, necessitated by the Ryder Cup. Ultimately only 30 players will convene for the FedEx finale, the Tour Championship at East Lake outside Atlanta, because the smaller the field, the more "exclusive" (important) it is.
That's the idea, anyway. In reality a limited field holds limited appeal because it increases the likelihood that one hot player will run away with the tournament. It happened last year with Woods, but a mere mortal also could run away and hide with only 29 other guys chasing him. (A total of 315 players started the U.S. Amateur on Monday.)
Of course if there was a true playoff and daily eliminations at East Lake it wouldn't be so dull, would it?
Perhaps the FedEx champion won't be determined until the back nine on Sunday of the Tour Championship. That would be nice, but the rules are complicated. The Tour has arbitrarily narrowed the gap between players to start the playoffs, from 1,000 to 500 points. Every player who makes the cut at the Barclays will get 2,000 more points than he would have last year. This is meant to create more volatility up and down the standings.

The Amateur is simple. Two guys go into a match, and only one lives to play another day, sometimes after a wild momentum swing or five, which is typical of match play.
And if you had daily eliminations you would...oh continue on Cameron:
Meanwhile the FedEx Cup remains a play for relevance via monetization and marketing, which looks especially silly every other year, when top players are more concerned about playing for God and country at the Ryder Cup.

"The 41-year relationship between the PGA Tour and Westchester Country Club was like a good marriage gone bad."

While Bill Pennington celebrates the elegance of Tillinghast's Ridgewood, Sam Weinman files a compelling dissection of the messy decision to leave former Barclay's host Westchester. He writes for golf.com:

The 41-year relationship between the PGA Tour and Westchester Country Club was like a good marriage gone bad. There was the innocent beginning, the complacent middle years and then, finally, when the Tour's wandering eye led it to Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., the bitter, dish-throwing end.
And this does make any rational soul understand why the Tour had had enough:
Among the membership's longstanding agreements with the Tour was that during tournament week members could still play the adjacent South course, still play tennis on the courts that bordered the par-3 1st hole and still have access to the sports house that included the pros' locker room and a fitness center.

The uneasy coexistence was best encapsulated by an incident at last summer's Barclays, during which Tour player Aaron Baddeley was kicked out of the fitness center by a Westchester member who said Baddeley didn't belong there. (Westchester president Phil Halpern confirmed that an "older member" mistakenly thought the room was for members only.)

"I think what happened is that the Tour and its tournaments evolved, and what was acceptable and overlooked in the 1970s and '80s was no longer the case," says a PGA Tour official who requested anonymity. "Every host venue has evolved or been replaced, but they simply weren't of the mindset to evolve. You won't find another venue on Tour where they play tennis off the 1st hole or play the other course when the tournament's going on. I guarantee you there's not another locker room on Tour shared with members."