USGA Had Long Planned Contract Announcement During PGA Week

After Michael Bamberger touted the role USGA President Glen Nager played in the stunning $1.2 billion, 12-year USGA television contract move to Fox Sports, it's almost as if the people who engineered this said, "hey look at us!"

Adam Schupak files a behind-the-scenes take with heavy input from the USGA's Sarah Hirschland on the process followed by herself, Wasserman Media Group and Executive Committee member Gary Stevenson (a former Wasserman executive). While the story lacks any input from the ESPN and NBC side and does not mention Hirschland's potential conflict of interest--her husband works as a producer on mostly second-tier Golf Channel events but is certainly now a prime candidate to move to Fox Sports where they'll be hiring--the Golfweek.com story provides plenty of stellar information to reveal several things:

  • This deal was going to be finalized this week all along based on deadlines previously set. Meaning that barring some strange natural disaster, the USGA planned to upstage the PGA Championship. So my initial assessment of "tacky" was too kind, Joe. Put me down for "bush league" in today's scrubbing.
  • This decision was rushed. Pure and simple, the folks involved had less than 48 hours to deliberate the three final offers? From the close of business Monday until sometime early Wednesday, a small number of people made a decision that will impact the organization for more than a decade.
  • We learned that the Executive Committee was not engaged in the process, had little time to consider the ramifications of cutting the cord with more influential media entities in ESPN and NBC/Golf Channel which are usually the two channels you see on in any golf course or sports bar in America.

  • The decision was almost immediately released which would seem to say the 15-member board apparently could not be trusted to keep a secret. We're talking lawyers, executives and accomplished folks here. Wow.

From Schupak's must read:

The USGA rifled through the offers internally one more time on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the USGA convened a meeting of its board of directors, where Fox was crowned the winner. The winners and losers learned their fates later that day, which precipitated a public announcement on the eve of the PGA Championship. A news release disseminated at 6:34 p.m. Aug. 7 stunned the golf and media industry.

“It was not apparent that Fox was an automatic winner by any stretch,” Hirshland said. “We had three compelling offers on the table. At the end of the day, when all was said and done, from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective, Fox was the leader in the clubhouse.”

So as I start to hear from intelligent, calmer USGA voices with big-picture sensibilities, they are horrified by the long term ramifications of severing ties with such influential platforms in the name of money. No, you can't put a dollar figure on the influence you get in having ESPN or Golf Channel on your side. Still, the ultimate question remains: what was the rush if, as Hirschland claims, “it was not apparent that Fox was an automatic winner by any stretch"?

Most of the Executive Committee and no doubt some past USGA presidents will convene next week at the U.S. Amateur and again early next month at the Walker Cup.

Why wouldn't you want to deliberate (face-to-face) the ramifications of such a huge decision and also take the chance of negative publicity for upstaging a Tee-It-Forward "partner" in the PGA of America?

PGA Day 1 Wrap: "You gotta write about the golfer...who used to be the auto racer Anukjit Hirunratanakorn"

Looks like a pretty stock PGA Championship opening day: good scoring, brief rain delay, nice mix of names on the leaderboard topped by Adam Scott and Jim Furyk, Tiger said he rushed a short putt after his group was put on the clock (Ron Sirak reports), Phil summoned Butch Harmon after a wild finish (video) (Bob Harig reports), and there was one offbeat tale in 68-shooter Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Dave Kindred with Aphibarnrat's story.

He is 24 years old. He has been called "Asia's John Daly" in allusion to his laundry-bag physique and extravagant swing. This season he has won on both the European Tour and Asian Tour. He has earned over $1.5 million. When he didn't qualify here, the PGA of America used it Eligibility Code 12 -- "the right to invite additional players" -- to get him in the 156-man field. The PGA Media Guide noted that he'd once been an auto racer. Also, he was "previously known as Anukjit Hirunratanakorn."

Irresistible. You gotta write about the golfer Kiradech Aphibarnrat who used to be the auto racer Anukjit Hirunratanakorn who goes two-under-par on one of the world's great golf courses just a month after shooting an 85 -- yes, an 85 -- in the British Open.

Rain Delay Aerial: Oak Hill From Above Through The Years

If you want to kill a few minutes during the rain delay and see how Oak Hill has evolved, reader Chris from DE nominates this link to Historic Aerial Images where you can see how the current PGA Championship has evolved.

The earliest shot is from 1951 and the lack of trees is pretty shocking. If you look closely you can see the old 15th tucked against the property border and it's easy to see how Peter Thomson hit a ball out of bounds there.

Unfortunately it's hard to make out the old 5th and 6th holes that everyone raves about, except George and Tom Fazio who blew them up.

Video: Look Back At Oak Hill's 1968 U.S. Open

Now this is how the USGA should upstage the PGA, not by announcing a massive change in their television partnerships that takes subtle digs at those partners, but instead, by posting nice YouTube videos showing Oak Hill as it looked in the 1968 U.S. Open. It will make for fun course and broadcast comparisons during the telecast today on TNT and this weekend on CBS.

Also notice how much movement there is behind Trevino for this third shot on 18! Imagine today's white belt set hitting a shot that fast with that much going on.

Even better, you get to (kind of) see the old 15th hole. The video:

PGA Match Play Showdown: Rory Defeats Hopkins, 7&6

Michael Whitmer covers Ian Poulter's call to the media to chill out on the Rory ripping (video here), check out the exchange between McIlroy and Global Golf Post's John Hopkins later in the press center.

The video is more revealing (could not find any), but either way say what you want about the state of the lad's game, he handled this better than most would:

Q. Ian Poulter was in here a couple of hours ago, and we were asking him about you, and he said he thought that we should lay off you. Do you feel we should lay off you?

RORY McILROY: I don't know, I mean, it's ... I'd definitely rather be up here talking about more positive things, but I guess that's the way it is.

Should you lay off me? That's not for me to decide. That's not ... I'm here and I'm answering your questions and that's all I can do. Yeah, as I said, it would be nicer just to sit up here, talk about some more positive things, but the way this year's gone, it's understandable why I'm not.

Q. It's very nice of you to say it's not for you to decide, but you're the only person who can decide whether you think we should lay off you?
RORY McILROY: You're the only people who can decide whether you lay off me or not, so it's not my decision. (Laughter).

Q. You can say whether you think we should.

RORY McILROY: No, I think you should do what you want. Ask me the questions that you want to ask (shrugging shoulders).

McIlroy tees off at 1:25 ET with Vijay Singh and Martin Kaymer.

Major Formerly Known As Glory's Last Shot Has Arrived

Yes, Glory's Last Shot is dead, confirmed by the PGA of America Wednesday in their press conference.

Ten seconds of silence please....


 

Okay, now that we have that behind us, the weather forecast looks promising once we get past the early hours Thursday. Many of the world's best are in top form and no matter how you feel about Oak Hill's architectural blend of Ross-Jones-Fazio-Fazio-Schreiner-Marzolf, it has a history of providing drama, so we should be in for a dandy.

I'm sticking with Bill Haas, my Grey Goose 19th Hole pick, both because of his fine play of late and his strong family connection to Oak Hill, scene of father Jay's highest and lowest moments (Senior PGA win, Ryder Cup last hole loss).

Though I did name J.J. Henry as my darkhorse. After all, how often does a PGA Champion WD and magically find that the person he is opening a spot in the field for will emply his regular caddy, who also happens to be that same major winner. Sam Weinman reports on Mark Brooks' move.

Your Thursday TV Schedule...

TNT:                1:00 PM  -7:00 PM ET

Golf Channel: Life From 9 am-1 PM and 7-9 PM

PGA On West Coast Venues: "It's certainly a priority"

From today's PGA of America press conference, answering a question from Doug Ferguson about Torrey Pines as a possible PGA Championship venue:

Q. Secondly, for Pete, there's been some talk over the last couple of years whether Torrey would be interested in a PGA Championship. Just curious if you could say whether they have asked to host, and where that stands if they have.

PETE BEVACQUA: Yeah, Doug, I would tell you, part of our strategy is to look at locations and potential locations, obviously for both the PGA Championship and The Ryder Cup.

We don't have any definitive answers regarding the West Coast, other than we think being on the West Coast makes a lot of sense at some point in the future. So we certainly have our eye on different venues on the West Coast. We think it's important to bring the PGA Championship to that part of the country, as well as The Ryder Cup at some point, and it's certainly a priority of the organizations.

Beetroot? Rory Gets Past Champions Their Daily Manganese

Nice to see defending champion Rory McIlroy introducing the past PGA Champions to a some healthy food at Tuesday's dinner for former winners of "the season's final major which is no longer Glory's Last Shot."

From Tuesday's press conference:

Q. Can you just tell us, what was on the menu last night, and what do you think's on the menu for you this week? What do you think your chances are?

RORY McILROY: Menu last night was a goat's cheese and beet root salad for a starter and Irish tenderloin for the main course and then sticky toffee pudding for dessert. So it was good. It was nice. Everyone definitely enjoyed the last two courses; I don't know how the appetizer went down.

Video: Micheel Is Hanging On To The Epic 7-iron

Shaun Micheel visited the media center Tuesday at Oak Hill and talked about his win ten years ago, his struggles with low T and Tiger.

Regarding his famous 7-iron shot, he had this to say:

KELLY ELBIN: Have they seen the shot from 2003? Do they have a sense of that part of history.

SHAUN MICHEEL: I think so. The biggest question that I get from my son is, you know, he's watched the video over and over of me kind of embracing Stephanie, and she was wearing that bright pink blouse and he was kissing her on the belly and the first question from him was, How did I get out of there? He's nine, so I'm not quite ready for that quite yet. He'll figure that out on his own probably.

Just to go back to your question, I do look forward to kind of sharing that with him. Of course, Stephanie was walking the golf course, and of course my father and in laws to get out there and see the place where I hit that shot.

Q. Where is the 7 iron?

SHAUN MICHEEL: I have it in an old just beat up, unassuming box in my golf/guitar room. It's back home. I've been asked for it several times, but if I had done this more than once, you might have been inclined to give it to somebody. But you never know; I'm going to hold on to that one.

Watching the video of the shot (thanks Shane Bacon for posting), I'm struck by how much more shaded the course is and how much the attire has changed in ten years.

Punters Beware: Plodders May Thrive At Oak Hill

Steve DiMeglio goes out on the course Monday and returns to file a story suggesting the rough will be the story at this week's PGA Championship.

And not just because it's thick and tall. Keegan Bradley warned:

"Look at this. The ball is 6 inches off the ground," Bradley said Monday as he placed his 60-degree wedge near the ball in the thick rough. "You're going to see a lot of whiffs this week. Guys are going to go straight under the ball."

Of course, the ball also could end up all the way at the bottom of the thick grass.

And this from Phil:

"I'm sure they're going to cut some of it, but it was extremely thick, and so therefore the key to that course is going to be two things," Mickelson said "One is the fairway; you've got to hit fairways. You can leave yourself further back, but you've got to hit fairways. And two is Donald Ross courses, the greens tend to be a little bit more severe back to front, and I think you're going to have to leave it underneath the hole. Chipping from behind the greens it's almost impossible to get it close."

Sounds exiting!

Bring Back The PGA Championship Long Drive Contest!

While we wait for the onslaught of remembrances celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Shaun Micheel's unforgettable win over Chad Campbell in the 2003 PGA at Oak Hill--goosebumps just typing that--Jason Sobel posts a super piece on Jack Nicklaus's memories of winning 1963 PGA at Oak Hill.

He reminds us that Nicklaus won the pre-event long drive contest that the PGA of America held until some time into the 1980s. And wouldn't that be a fun way to liven up Tuesday of PGA week again? Of course today's Hogan's and Snead's would never do it, but it might still be fun to see some lesser known players and maybe a few club pros have some fun.

There was also this:

He won with a mammoth drive of 341 yards and received a money clip that was engraved, “DRIVING DISTANCE WINNER.”

He remembers this because the money clip has stayed in his pocket every day for the past 50 years.

Think about that for a minute: For all of the accolades and treasures heaped upon Nicklaus during his career, the one which has remained closest to him, joining him on journeys around the world, along for the ride on experiences fit for a king, is a money clip for winning a long-drive contest.

“That drive was 341 yards, 17 inches. I do remember that, too,” he says proudly. “That was an 11‑degree wood driver, 32 ¾‑inch Dynamic Edge shaft. Everybody used the same golf ball, so nobody had a preference on what golf ball was hit.”

Getting In The Mood For Oak Hill: Hole-By-Hole Slideshow

I was hoping for better, but boy did I see a lot of bunkers surrounded by rough and holes in shade. I'm trying to keep an open mind though, with views to come here and Wednesday on Golf Channel's Grey Goose 19th Hole (6 pm ET).

From GolfDigest.com and photographer Stephen Szurlej and Montana Pritchard.

Meanwhile, Donald Ross biographer Bradley Klein does his best to not get bogged down in the details in taking us hole-by-hole but it's pretty clear what he thinks of the Fazio's additions to this Ross original.