Status Of TPC Boston Stop Still In Limbo As Opt-Out Day Arrives

It's opt-out day!

That's right, the September 1 deadline has arrived and we'll find out if the PGA Tour is going to continue with its current CBS/NBC network deal until 2021 or exercise an option to get out of the contract to renegotiate different terms.

In the meantime, Bill Doyle explains the issues facing the PGA Tour's Boston stop, currently sponsored by Dell Technologies through 2018, and it sounds like it may be transitioning to a spot in someone's tournament rota. Who what someone is, we're not sure.

Jordan Spieth said he’s been involved in discussions about revamping the PGA Tour schedule.

“There’s still a chance,” he said Thursday after playing in the pro-am at TPC Boston, “that we would still move up here every other year or something. So there’s still a lot of options available. There’s not much set in stone right now.”

Spieth went on to say that the PGA Tour might even come to TPC Boston only every third year.

There were also these two interesting quotes...

“I don’t blame them for watching football,” Dustin Johnson said, “because I probably would be too.”

“If we can make it,” Rickie Fowler said, “to where we’re ‘the’ thing to watch on TV at the end of our season, I think that’s the main goal.”

Week After Anti-Bombing Gripes, TPC's Anti-Bombing Change Causes Gripes

Last week some players were mad that Glen Oaks' 18th favored Dustin Johnson's ability to hit a super-human length drive under pressure and be rewarded. This week at TPC Boston, the newly updated 12th is causing consternation because it's forcing players to consider possible routes interrupted by bunkering, some a play down the 13th hole possible according to AP's Doug Ferguson who predicts many players will go all Lon Hinkle on us.

Brian Wacker at GolfDigest.com has some of the player reaction, including Paul Casey calling the hole awful. That's an eye-opener given his general astuteness, appreciation of centerline hazards and understanding that you can't judge a hole by one practice round.

However, architect Gil Hanse, who oversaw the changes along with Jim Wagner, is preaching patience and is not shy in suggesting that hazards were placed to prevent the bombs away approach found to be so upsetting last week.

Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com allows Hanse to explain the thinking behind the hole and need to consider it after more than just one impression.

“The expectation was it would take several rounds for these guys to learn how to play it and how they wanted to tackle it,” he said. “Unfortunately, some of the early reaction came after one practice round.

“The conversation we’ve had with three or four players is, 'Listen, just give it three or four rounds. Try to figure it out.' If we build a golf hole that the players can figure out after one round, then we probably haven’t done our job challenging them.”

And on preventing the new 12th from giving long hitters a distinct advantage:

“This golf course, rightfully or wrongly, has always been characterized as a bomber’s golf course,” said Hanse, who lengthened the 12th by 50 yards. “So when you’re making alterations, you have that in the back of your mind, and you don’t want to be seen increasing that advantage. We felt like the positioning of these hazards gives the average guy room to hit the ball. But as you want to push around 330, it gets more narrow.”

Hanse On Architecture's Future & TPC Boston's 12th And 13th

Golf.com's Dylan Dethier looks at Gil Hanse's rise (thanks for the link PG), which started in large part at the TPC Boston. Host of this week's Dell Technologies playoff event again, the course has been a long-term redesign effort with the PGA Tour and superintendent Tom Brodeur's team.

The transformation of the course into a New England-vibe course, rock walls and quirk included, has helped give this event much character. Hanse offered this on the future of design, inspired in part by the example he hopes to have set at TPC Boston.

"The future of golf is fun," he said, noting the accessibility of the short course he just completed at Pinehurst as an example. "Golf is such a difficult game that whatever we can do to make someone's first interaction with the game fun and positive is going to be a win. Of any sport, golf has the best field and the best landscapes, and those selling points will always resonate with people. The allure of being outside and spending time with people is huge and you can't match it anywhere else."

Dethier talks to Hanse about the latest changes to the 12th and 13th holes.

Golfweek's Bradley Klein offered his assessment of the remodeled holes in his 18 hole-by-hole description, including this on No. 12:

What used to be the only unbunkered hole on the course has been stretched by 49 yards and given centerline fairway bunkering in the form of  Principal’s Nose 305 yards off the tee. There’s also a new green position farther back. Hanse and Wagner also created more of a tie-in to the next hole by opening up the tree line and extending an existing ridge line into the 12th fairway, creating more of a drop-shot feel to the second shot. The shared space is a classical New England element that gets away from the older, isolated hole corridors that prevailed here. The putting surface also has been been moved away from its rocky ledge over a wetlands hazard. It now sits closer to the next tee, making for a better connect-the-dots feel. The hole requires a commitment off the tee between two alternative paths, the low road (to the right) shorter but a bit riskier; the high road to the left safer but longer.

Parsing The Issues Raised By DJ's 341-Yard Playoff Drive

I'm both disappointed and elated at the reaction to Dustin Johnson's heroic tee shot in the Northern Trust playoff win over Jordan Spieth.

Elated, because something about it has people thinking about the role of distance in the game and not feeling satisfied even when a player uses his skill to take such a risk and reap a reward.

Disappointed, because the reaction has been to blame the hole or the organizers or so even people who rail against the distance jump in golf.

Michael Bamberger filed a nice account of the day and excitement of having two top players going at it. Their contrasting styles added to the magic. Until, we saw the reaction!

Kyle Porter at CBSSports.com considered all of the issues and posted many of the outraged Tweets for those who want to catch up on the "controversy" here.

Spieth hit a six-iron into 18. Johnson had a 60-degree wedge. It was not a fair fight. Spieth made a 4. Johnson hit the most beautiful spinning, all-grace lob wedge you could imagine and it was nearly a kick-in 3. Set-up by that extra gear. Covering 300 hundred, no problem. The tee shot went 341. Ho-hum.

Spieth was more animated in defeat than Johnson was in victory. Just two totally different people. A reporter asked Johnson if he knew how wild it sounded to the ordinary golfer, that 300 yards was no problem to carry.

The winner kind of tilted his head, did a mini-shrug and said, "No. I mean, I'm used to it."

How nice, for him.

Alan Shipnuck answered reader emails and Tweets that were pretty consumed with the tee shot, though most were more receptive than some of the PGA Tour players who took to Twitter.

The key to understanding the beauty of the play, in my view, is to separate the tee shot number of 341 yards from the line taken, the shocking tracer lines and the huge advantage gained over Spieth. If you just see this as a long hitter taking a risk under pressure and reaping a reward, it's a beautiful thing. Even better is that the hole was part of the playoff and in a mini-match play situation allowed for this risk-taking.

I'm concerned how many players were suggesting a playoff hole should be chosen based on some sort of arbitrary design characteristics. No matter how you feel about the impact of distance gains, I would hope that when the day comes, we all agree that long drivers like Johnson get to continue to enjoy an advantage as long as their drives are accurately placed.

But obviously the 341 number is alarming and has been for some time. If you cut 10% off the drives of Johnson and Spieth, the options would have been different. In the case of many holes, things would be more interesting. It just so happens that in this case, the advantage gained was more significant than we're used to seeing in an era when there are few short hitters. That's an issue to take up with your governing bodies.

Playoffs Need Emergency Tweaks (Or Lose The Playoff Word!)

The 2017 Northern Trust had the best 36-hole  leaderboard of the PGA Tour season, an immaculately groomed venue on Long Island and the perk of opening the FedExCup playoffs in a market where major events will be common place through 2024. 

Dustin Johnson won in a playoff over Jordan Spieth, and while the August timing is tough when the weather screams "family-day-at-the-beach,"  the event fell flat for another reason: the "playoff" word.

We connote playoffs with excitement in sports.

With do or die.

With drama.

With upsets.

With play well or go home.

None of those things happen in the FedExCup because the entire "playoff" is built around keeping season points leaders around until the end. From day one this lack of urgency has plagued the PGA Tour playoffs, especially since we are a sport once family with the ultimate playoff: the event still known as Q-School but bearing none of the importance it once held.

Instead of something where top players are able to build on their season-long success or lose it based on some poor early play, we have something in between--with two points resets--that has left us with a flat playoff concept.

FedEx has renewed through 2027, and Commissioner Jay Monahan is working hard to envision a better playoffs with (perhaps) only three events and (perhaps) more playing-off that introduces some drama.

As we discussed on Morning Drive Saturday, the most immediate need for the first playoff event is some sort of points penalty for a non-start or missed cut. The thinking goes like this: if someone doesn't want to be here or doesn't come to the playoffs ready to go, there must be some penalty in the quest for $10 million.

Hideki Matsuyama points leader who missed the Northern Trust cut? 500 points deducted.

Beyond this first stage event, however, there must be eliminations along the way and even once the event reached East Lake.

As the 2016 Rio golf proved, even with star defections there will be other stars and storylines that step in. There will be people in contention who want to be there and deserve to be there. Like any playoff, some will go home, maybe even stars. The sun will set in the west and most of all, the PGA Tour playoffs will be real playoffs.

Otherwise, if it's just too hard to cut the cord and penalize players for poor play, then maybe we need to lose the playoffs word?

DJ Beats Spieth In Energy-Light Playoff Opener

What a strange weekend at the immaculately groomed Glen Oaks, as the first Northern Trust to replace Barclays fell a tad flat despite a fantastic leaderboard.

Maybe it's the time of year on Long Island (better things to do), the venue (exclusive club), every fan turning into a documentarian (cell phone video and photos allowed), chip-out rough (ugh!), but for a showdown with two top players this one seemed a bit low on energy.

Your theories?

If I had to pick an order, I'd blame time of year impacting Long Island fan interest, player fatigue at this point of a long season and a lack of urgency in the playoff format that might inject some life. Plus, Glen Oaks Club did a nice job but it's hard to beat Bethpage energy.

Dustin Johnson picked up his 16th victory in a playoff under sunny skies and perfect conditions, holding off Jordan Spieth in week one of the FedExCup playoffs. Will Gray's roundup of notes from the week here.

Johnson took an aggressive line at 18 in sudden death, setting up a short sand wedge shot.

 

 

Playoff Fever! Stars Looking Forward To The Off-Season

Maybe golf's Playoffs(C) are so rigorous and stressful that they invoke longing for a vacation. Or, not.

Nothing screams playoffs like athletes telling us how they are looking forward to a break. But this is the FedExCup, where stars are coddled by points resets that help get them through all of the stages. Something tells me if these were actual playoffs with traditional eliminations for poor play, that Rory McIlroy's and Bubba Watson's wouldn't be telegraphing their much needed breaks.

Rory on Tuesday, courtesy of Kyle Porter at CBSSports.com:

"I'm not at 100 percent, but I'm at a percent where I feel like I can still compete," McIlroy told reporters. "I want to get a win before I shut it down for the season, so I'm excited for the next few weeks, but I'm excited for the next three months after that. Because more than likely I'll take some time off and regroup.

"When's the last time I've been able to take that much time off and focus on myself and my game. We don't get an off-season anymore, so to be able to get that time to afford myself, I'm really excited about that as well."

After an opening 73 on top of many okay finishes by his high standards, might these playoffs be more interesting if they were sending McIlroy home early? And given that he's not getting any help from his caddie, as David Dusek at Golfweek points out following a day watching Rory play, might the urgency be there with a format that endangers his ability to advance in the playoffs.

Then there is Bubba Watson, who has worked twelve weekends in 2017 even after getting a major wake-up call a year ago when passed over for the Ryder Cup team. Still, he's ready for a break as soon as the playoffs are over.

From Rex Hoggard's Golfweek story:

“You know, truthfully, when I'm done with the playoffs, no matter where that is, I'm taking at least four and a half months off. I won't play until next year,” said Watson, who opened with a 3-under 67 and was tied for fifth at Glen Oaks. “I don't know about you, but traveling every week, my kids started kindergarten. ... If I had to choose golf or family, I'm going family every day of the week.”

Algorithm writers: let's figure out a points reset that helps these stars begin their hard-earned vacations early!

Some Big Names With Tour Cards On The Line This Week

With the FedExCup playoffs Playoffs(C) looming we can easily forget that this is the cutoff date for retaining a tour card without having to go through the Web.com Tour Playoffs.

Joel Beall has a roundup for Golf World of the well-known names who need a big week at the Wyndham Championship, including Sam Saunders, Graeme McDowell and Smylie Kaufman

Watch Rickie Leave His Ball Down As A Backstop

It's great to hear from readers who reported Jim Nantz joining those critical of backstopping chip shots by not marking a ball before a playing partner plays. His "inexplicable" comment has been preceded on past telecasts by CBS colleagues Peter Kostis, Ian Baker-Finch and Dottie Pepper criticizing the fundamentally strange choice by pro golfers to leave their ball down to slow down a wayward competitor's shot.

As we have learned from defenders of this behavior, players are merely wanting to play as fast as possible. The practice does not take place on weekends of majors or in match play, and rarely in the televised weekend windows. But as it has become more accepted on the PGA Tour, the act has become so normalized that it seeped into weekends and now majors. (Some players do not partake and behind the scenes are branded bad apples because they don't play "the game the right way" or other similar coded nonsense.)

Thanks to Michael Power for this particularly bold example from Rickie Fowler during round three at the 2017 PGA. Since Saturday was a dreadful 5.5 hour round where speed of play was not going to be appreciably improved by taking another 10 seconds to mark a ball before the next shot was played toward the hole, it's tough to write this off as a pace effort. 

No, today's players simply like to help their buddies in hopes of receiving similar support for their own wayward chip shots. Mercifully, the Golf Gods are always watching and taking notes.

Still, this one is fascinating to watch because you can see the shot stop rolling and watch Fowler as he determines it's of the helping-not-hurting variety, and turns to watch his playing partner knowing it's a backstopping situation.

Here's the link should the embedded video does not play:

Rory Ready For Quail Hollow? Averages 328.7 At Firestone

I know, I know, the the ball just rolled forever at Firestone and those Trackman carry numbers CBS showed us were just made up.

Still, it was fun to see seven players get their season driving distance total over the 300 yard average plateau following play at Firestone and Reno. That makes 40 players averaging over 300 yards on the PGA Tour.

Just think, only one player did that in 2000. But these guys eat carrots, broccoli and do four minute planks! I know, I know.

I have to say though in the world of astounding distance numbers, Rory McIlroy's numbers were particularly wild at the 2017 WGC Bridgestone, notes Golf.com's Golf Wire.

McIlroy awed the golf world with his driving capabilities at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week, and for good reason: 52 of his 56 tee balls (non par-3s) traveled farther than 300 yards. (And one that came up short was only 298.)

Of course, he ranked first in driving distance this week, averaging 328.7 yards off the tee—almost 10 yards more than Jason Day, who ranked second at 319.2 yards.

Naturally he needs to find some magic on the Quail Hollow greens, but with his distance spiking at the right time, it's hard to discount the mojo factor for someone who feeds off of overpowering a course.

Rory Didn't "Sack" His Looper..."Changed My Path"

For once I admire someone leaning on euphemisms and jargon to defend a decision, because it's pretty clear from reading Steve DiMeglio's USA Today account that Rory McIlroy didn't feel good about firing longtime caddie J.P. Fitzgerald midseason.

From the story:

“There’s nothing to say that J.P. mightn’t work for me again at some point, but right now I just felt like I needed a little bit of a change,” McIlroy said. “I hate the term fired or sacked or axed, because that’s definitely not what it was. I just changed my path a little bit, but maybe in the future that path might come back to where it was. Right now I just needed to mix things up a little bit, and J.P. understood that and we’re still all good.”

Time will tell if, during a season he's mixed things up so much already, this was the right call.

Karen Crouse of the New York Times notes something that suggest McIlroy could be forcing himself into a different level of engagement that either works or backfires.

Last week, two days after finishing in a tie for fourth at the British Open, McIlroy parted with the caddie J. P. Fitzgerald. In their nine years together, Fitzgerald had shepherded McIlroy to four major championships and the top of the world rankings.

For at least the next two weeks, Diamond, a Northern Irishman who had a decorated amateur career, will carry McIlroy’s clubs while McIlroy bears the burden of determining the yardages and choosing his clubs — and living with the decisions.

“I’ve enjoyed the last couple of days of carrying a yardage book, doing my own numbers, pacing stuff out, really getting into the shot, something I haven’t done for a few years,” McIlroy said.

Another Bunker Liner Ruling: Hoffman Gets Out Of Plugged Lie

Here's the situation: final round, 2017 RBC Canadian Open, Charley Hoffman hits into a greenside bunker at the 12th and has a badly buried lie:


Credit Hoffman and caddie for recognizing the renovated Glen Abbey bunkers for having newly installed bunker floor lining that prevented him from digging enough to take a stance on his bunker shot. (You can see a demo at the 1:30 mark of how it is sprayed in). And even cred it them for asking to get a ruling even after Hoffman can be heard saying multiple times he did not believe there was any kind of artificial lining causing an issue (his caddie wasn't so sure and convinced him to get a second opinion). CBS's Peter Kostis said exactly the opposite: Hoffman was calling for a ruling because he could feel the liner. Maybe he had a producer yelling in his ear during the conversation, but it was still misleading.

Official Gary Young arrived and seemed very reluctant to give Hoffman relief, but the player soon could smell an opening, ultimately convincing Young that he could not take his stance because of the concrete lining.

"That's so generous!" barked out playing partner Kevin Chappell, somewhat sarcastically. Young replied that it was consistent with other rulings related to the new age bunker liners designed to keep sand on faces and from being contaminated. Chappell then lightly pointed out Hoffman's smile upon getting relief:

 

 

One other comment from Chappell, again with a light touch, prompted a one-word response and smile from Hoffman as he went about his business: "Rules."

Given the behind-the-scenes grumbling still taking place over Branden Grace's BMW PGA relief from a buried lie while citing bunker lining as a stance preventative, it's hard to see how Hoffman's will be any better received by his peers (note the sampling of fan outrage below).

However, it should be noted that Hoffman was initially skeptical about even suggesting he deserved a drop from the lie. He went on to lose the Canadian Open in a playoff to Jhonattan Vegas.

The situation seems worse than it might appear given that the PGA Tour, which has signaled a desire to be in the news delivery business via the web and television, scrubbed videos of the drop after briefly posting them to official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Here is the PGA Tour Facebook post of the ruling, deleted (thanks reader Jeremy S).

And the Tweet captured by reader MS:

The reaction below sums up the social media reaction, which offers another reminder that it's very hard to bend the rules and not go unnoticed in the age of social media:

What do we learn from this?

A) Bunker liners are going to be an ongoing problem. A product meant to keep sand from becoming contaminated and to keep sand on bunker faces is now being used to subvert the game's original rule: play it as it lies.

B) Players are increasingly unafraid to stretch the boundaries of the rules to gain an advantage.

C) Instead of embracing this as a learning situation, the PGA Tour scrubbed their accounts of the evidence, which will only make Hoffman's peers and their caddies wonder what needed hiding. Even though Hoffman was initially skeptical that the situation warranted a ruling, much less a drop, the lack of transparency will raise suspicions about what went down.

Canadian Open Tournament Director Doesn't Make The Weekend

Profiled by the Curtis Rush in New York Times earlier this week as a "tattooed, leather-clad, Harley Davidson-driving, guitar-picking former roadie", RBC Canadian Open tournament director Brent McLaughlin was "temporarily removed" from his job mid-tournament, reports Bob Weeks.

“It’s a confidential employee matter,” he stated. “Brent will not be here for the weekend.”

Applebaum did say that McLaughlin has not been terminated but did not give any indication as to the next steps. In addition to running the RBC Canadian Open, McLaughlin also heads up the CP Women’s Open slated for late August in Ottawa.

The Times piece was in no way negative and seemed like a refreshing look at someone behind the scenes.

Davis At 53 Shoots 63

With technology changing the game in favor of those reared on certain size clubheads and shafts, it's rare to see an old guy use modern clubs and a little hard work to stay relevant. Sorry Vijay!

Will Gray of GolfChannel.com on 53-year-old Davis Love's opening 63 at the Greenbrier Classic that leaves the two-time Ryder Cup captain two back of Sebastian Munoz heading into round two.

The round came as a bit of a surprise:

The 53-year-old has only made 13 of 24 cuts since his Wyndham victory while battling injuries, and he hasn't cracked the top 40 in 18 months. But that drought could end this week on a course where Love tied for ninth in 2013.

"I've been working really hard the last couple weeks on trying to fix my swing to kind of swing around a stiff back and stiff hip," Love told reporters. "I put a lot of time into hitting balls and trying to get back to hitting it solid. I've given up on hitting it a long way. I'm just saying, 'I've just got to hit it straight.' This is a perfect golf course for me."

In The Takeaway, PGATour.com's Teryn Schaefer recaps Round 1 of the Greenbrier where Phil Mickelson made his first start without Bones on the bag and Love highlights.

The Design Side Of Greenbrier's Recovery

Tim Rosaforte's Golf Channel piece dealt with the human and maintenance side, and in this Golf.com story, Michael Bamberger addresses the role Keith Foster played in pushing the Old White course more toward its CB Macdonald heritage. The layout hosts the Greenbrier Classic starting Thursday.

He writes of Foster:

His first instinct was to say it could not be done. The golf course could not be reclaimed and restored in one year and open for play for the 2017 tournament. The hotel didn't even have hot water and locals suddenly rendered homeless were being put up in its plush rooms. The idea of a golf tournament seemed just...remote. But Jim Justice opened his checkbook and prodded Foster. "We just made one decision after another after another on the fly," Foster said in a recent telephone interview. If you know his name, it might be for the restoration work he has done at Colonial, Southern Hills and Philadelphia Cricket. "We did it the old way, hole by hole. We didn't get everything done the way we would ultimately like it, but it's most of the way there." On the resort guest-Tour player continuum, Foster said he was far, far far on the side of the everyday paying guest, while noting "we have our Bubba tees."

Video: How The Greenbrier Was Recovered Post-Flooding

This powerful Golf Channel piece helmed by Tim Rosaforte, produced by Sarah Cordial and coordinating producer Kory Kozac, chronicles how West Virginia and the Greenbrier resort rallied together to recover from last year's tragic floods. Following a one year-hiatus, the Greenbrier Classic returns to the celebrated resort and while we'll hear plenty about it, this lengthy feature brings the magnitude of the flooding into perspective. 

Is Tiger's Quicken Loans National Doomed In Schedule Revamp?

Sure sounds like it if you read from DMV insiders John Feinstein and Ryan Ballengee who each lay out the relatively short history and future of the PGA Tour stop that was started by Tiger Woods.

With the PGA Tour needing to contract to make a Labor Day conclusion work and Quicken Loans having not renewed sponsorship of the stop, the signs are not encouraging. Throw in multiple other anecdotal elements--including the Woods Foundation's involvement in the Los Angeles stop--and we could be watching the last or second-to-last playing of the tour's (mostly) D.C. stop.

All of this is set against a backdrop of a PGA Tour looking to shed a few stops to make the math work on a schedule overhaul moving the Players to March, the PGA Championship to May and a conclusion by early September.

Feinstein reports for Golf World that Congressional will not host the "National" again after contractually obligated playings in 2018 and 2020, all in hopes of luring a USGA event again.

While the members agreed to the deal, it was only to host in alternating years — 2016, 2018 and 2020. And once that contract is up, the tournament won’t return to Congressional. The board is now pursuing a U.S. Open, with USGA executive director Mike Davis telling it flatly that the association won’t even consider the course unless the tour event goes away.

But the event requires a sponsor and Feinstein says it won't be Quicken Loans.

With the contract up after this week’s event, there has been no sign from Quicken Loans officials that it plans to renew. There also has been talk that company CEO Dan Gilbert wants to take his money to Michigan, where he lives, to bring the tour back to his home state, which hasn’t had a tour event since the Buick Open outside Flint went away in 2009.

Ballengee's GolfNewsNet.com report pieces together the other anecdotal signs of an impending demise for the Quicken Loans National. With rumblings out of Minnesota about a likely new tour stop there, perhaps sponsored by a current sponsor, Ballengee writes:

At first glance, the only events on the schedule that appear vulnerable are the Quicken Loans National, with an expiring deal, and The Greenbrier Classic, which is locked up through 2021.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods' TGR Live now runs the Genesis Open at Riviera near Los Angeles, a tournament with an established, legendary pedigree of winners and located in Woods' home state. The field is also imminently better than the National each year.

Quicken Loans, if they choose to remain a title sponsor, could latch on to the as-of-now sponsor-less Houston Open or taking over the Tournament of Champions from SBS (which sublet their deal to Hyundai before this year), both with better schedule slots and fields.

This year's even features one of the weaker fields in modern memory, with just four major winners and one top ten player. Tiger has stepped away for his back and addiction rehab as well.

Ferguson: "Crowd atmosphere can't be overlooked as key factor at majors"

AP's Doug Ferguson does a nice job pointing out the atmospheric differences between Erin Hills and TPC River Highlands, something fans noticed. He agrees with our assessment that getting fans closer to the action makes a difference and should be a vital element to course setup.

He writes:

A big atmosphere comes from energized, enthusiastic fans. And those fans get their energy from being close to the action, feeding off the noise around them. That starts with being able to see golf without having to squint their eyes.

The lack of major atmosphere was evident at Erin Hills.

It was even worse at Chambers Bay, the public course built out of a sand and gravel pit next to the Puget Sound. On one hole, fans were perched high on a ridge and looked like a row of figurines from down below. The par-5 eighth hole at Chambers Bay didn't have any fans at all.

That's the biggest risk the USGA is taking by going to big, new courses.

The U.S. Open returns to traditional courses with a smaller blueprint over the next decade. Even after a soft, calm year, it should not lose its reputation as the toughest test in golf.

Ratings: Travelers 2.7 Second Best Sunday Overnight Of '17, Final U.S. Open Numbers Second Lowest On Record

The PGA Tour got some good news as Jordan Spieth's win at the 2017 Travelers and his overall ability to lure in non-golf fans gave CBS a nice final round rating. This is the second Sunday in a row for CBS to finish up in the numbers (Karp/SBD).

SBD's Austin Karp with the positive overnight news:

 

As for the U.S. Open, I've put off a post on the dreary ratings news (3.6 overnight) in part because I hate the reflection it makes on the players who contended.

Now that they've had their moment and we've had time to ponder the golf at Erin Hills, it's apparent that some combination of the telecast length (9.5 hours!), protagonists, venue, Central Time Zone and seemingly reduced marketing budget effort by Fox contributed to the second lowest rating and smallest audience on record.

The combination of stunning visuals, production values and noticeable difference between Fox and other telecasts can't be blamed. I would, however, strongly agree with Martin Kaufmann's Golfweek assessment that on-course reporters were underutilized.

The overall audience size was also a troublesome number according to Karp:

 

 

Dramatic: Spieth's 10th Win; Intriguing Rush To Compare With 2017 U.S. Open

There was much to chew on with Jordan Spieth's sporadic final round capped off by another memorable hole-out in sudden death over Daniel Berger. The Tiger comparisons are rolling in because we are already (amazingly) left to consider Spieth's 10th PGA Tour win (and with two majors he's a HOF lock).

Brian Wacker carefully made those comparisons at Golf World.

This is not a comparison to Woods, who had 15 wins by age 24, as much as it as an appreciation for Spieth’s achievement, and the memorable moments that he has compiled along the way. It started at the 2013 John Deere Classic, where he holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole to reach a three-way playoff that he eventually won on the fifth extra hole, and concluded with his holed-out birdie bunker shot in a playoff to cap his latest wire-to-wire victory. In between came Spieth’s impressive 2015 season, in which he got nearly three-quarters of the way to the calendar Grand Slam.

“I am not comparing Jordan to Tiger at all, zero,” said good friend Ryan Palmer, who watched the finish in the clubhouse at TPC River Highlands and then from behind the 18th green as he waited to hitch a ride back to Dallas with the eventual champion. “But he has that mentality to do that kind of stuff.

The SI/Golf.com gang kick around the Tiger element in this week's Confidential...

Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Tiger absolutely shattered the scale by which all current Tour careers are measured. Spieth may not be on a Tiger-like winning pace, but as I learned today on Twitter, his career arc so far is Mickelsonian. And Phil never had a 73rd-hole celebration like Jordan on Sunday. Not too shabby.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Tiger's personality added to his career to create an aura of Worldwide Golfing Dominance. Plus, Tiger won with a power game. It just looked more dominating. But 10 is 10—incredible, really.

The shot:

 

The round highlights

 

The Travelers is always fun at TPC River Highlands, but the combination of leaderboard, field and venue's ability to create excitement made today a long overdue reward for some of the hardest working folks in tournament golf. Couple in how great the latest renovation looked along with the golden natives contrasting with green turf, and it was off-the-charts visual eye candy.

And Spieth, like Tiger, brings out a certain adrenaline in observers. Still, I thought some of the comparisons to Erin Hills were unfair given different pars (70 vs. 72) making it easier to post lower red numbers. Nor would ever discourage anyone from bemoaning the scale of a 7,800 yard course versus the more intimate setting in Connecticut...

There is little question that the scale of this week's venue versus Erin Hills created more realistic golf, better spectating and more energy at the end when fans were on top of the action.

Imagine if the scale were even a little more condensed, just how much more democratic and energetic we could have things? And how many fun courses we could play tournaments at again?

Does this mean we all agree to a distance rollback for the pros? Maybe variably, depending on the course?

Whew, that was easy!