Social Media Police Disbanded: Tours Cave On Fan Phone Policy

The evolution of fan rules for cell phones at golf tournaments has shifted gradually everywhere but Augusta, Georgia. Still it was fascinating to see the PGA Tour and European Tour both allow fans to shoot photo and video this week (Casey/Golfweek).

As noted by Casey, the main hope here is more social sharing from fans.

For the PGA Tour, its new policy also allows spectator photo and videos taking during tournament days to be shared on social media platforms.

Live streaming and shot-by-shot coverage are still not allowed, and the new policy also states that phones must be on silent at all times and use of flash is prohibited.

But select media that dares to live Tweet a round in progress will still face losing their credentials, and don't you forget it, worthless non-PGATour.com scribblers!

The European Tour's video announcing the changing going forward:

Bloomberg: Time Inc. Exploring Sale Of Golf Magazine

Bloomberg's Gerry Smith quotes Time Inc. CEO Rich Battista as saying the venerable print title and its Golf.com website are for sale along with Coastal Living and Sunset.

In the interview, Battista called the three publications “wonderful brands” but said Time needed to invest in other properties instead. The company also publishes People and Sports Illustrated.

“It’s really important to focus on the key biggest growth drivers of this company that will move the needle the most,” he said. “These are wonderful titles and wonderful brands. They’re just relatively smaller in our portfolio.”

Meanwhile, WWD's Alexandra Steigrad reports that Golf Digest Chief Business Officer Howard Mittman has left for Bleacher Report amid rumors of more shake-ups in the Conde Nast business model.

It's A Wild And Zany Press Center At Trump Bedminster!

I'm very happy to be at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open starting Thursday where the controversies will extend to who should have won the daily photo caption contest and whether Keith Pelley will sport the red or blue frames.

But reading these two extreme takes from the U.S. Women's Open press sessions at Trump Bedminster has me agreeing with neither writer and wishing there was a more reasonable middle ground.

Steve Eubanks in Global Golf Post says the questions of USGA officials and players explains why "they hate us" (us being the media).

Every player and official who came in for interviews on Tuesday was hit with the same battery of questions. Do you think this championship should have been moved because of President Trump’s statements about women? What do you think of President Trump? Is it appropriate that our women’s national championship is held at a Trump property? Do you think the president should stay away from this event? One reporter even asked a couple of players and USGA officials what their position was on sexual assault.

And writing a column about it!

Besides filing a column asking the President to stay away from the U.S. Women's Open, Christine Brennan of USA Today pressed the USGA on its sexual assault policy in a lingering-aftermath question tied to President Trump's infamous Access Hollywood tape.

But when you’re in business with Donald Trump, the man who appeared on the infamous Access Hollywood videotape bragging that he could sexually assault women without having to worry about the ramifications, your values start to fade.

Your principles waver. Your admirable efforts to try to attract women and girls to a game with a long history of discriminatory and exclusionary practices run head-long into your need to prostrate yourself at Trump’s feet.

And so, in what was a truly remarkable moment in sports news conference lore, three supposed leaders of the USGA sat dumbfounded, unable to utter even one word against sexual assault, while the fourth, a spokeswoman, said the foursome was there to talk about “the golf competition,” but would be happy to discuss the “important question …afterwards.”

Afterwards turned into one hour, then two. Finally, nearly three hours later, a spokesman emailed this to me:

“The USGA has a longstanding policy on harassment. This policy governs not only the conduct of our employees, but safeguards staff, players and fans at all USGA events. Our Staff Code of Conduct prohibits any workplace harassment, including but not limited to, sexual harassment or sexual assault.”

While I'm sure few can agree that a few of the questions were within reason given the public interest in President Trump, but trying to pin the USGA down on sexual assault seems strong too.

I do think we can agree in the humor of learning this from Eubanks:

The Washington Post and Politico have an entire front row of seats in the media center. The former never sends more than one reporter to this event (if any) and the latter (according to officials on site) has never covered a women’s golf event.

Trump Properties Include (Fictional) Time Magazine Covers

The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold reports what any visitor to a Trump golf property knows: featured prominently on walls are framed magazine covers featuring the now-President.

What we visitors didn't know, however, is that some of the covers are not real.

Time Magazine is demanding that they be taken down in the wake of Fahrenthold's story.

The framed copy of Time magazine was hung up in at least five of President Trump’s clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. Filling the entire cover was a photo of Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump: The ‘Apprentice’ is a television smash!” the big headline said. Above the Time nameplate, there was another headline in all caps: “TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS . . . EVEN TV!”

This cover — dated March 1, 2009 — looks like an impressive memento from Trump’s pre-presidential career. To club members eating lunch, or golfers waiting for a pro-shop purchase, it seemed to be a signal that Trump had always been a man who mattered. Even when he was just a reality TV star, Trump was the kind of star who got a cover story in Time.

But that wasn’t true.

The spoofs are already rolling in... 

Diaz: "Everybody loses when players don't come to the interview room."

After an opening 65, Rickie Fowler was asked by USGA officials to visit the interview room for a sitdown with writers and various television outlets. Instead, he kept his comments confined to various TV interviews and the "flash" area.

But as Jaime Diaz of Golf World explains, this was a precedent-setting move in line with the recent tradition of players increasingly staying out of the press center and distancing themselves from the press. Because of the player in question--and one who is traditionally media friendly--Diaz views this new precedent as dangerous.

But Fowler was the leader, and his decision to break precedent matters. Whether they like it or not, the game’s best players are also its most influential thought leaders. What they say at tournaments, and especially majors, can both inspire and deepen understanding of a nuanced game. Forfeiting such a platform ultimately hurts golf.

What’s worrisome is that players will take note of Fowler’s decision and start to emulate it. Indeed, through he first two rounds of the championship at Erin Hills, more than 50 players were interviewed in the flash area, but only one—Brian Harman (one of four players who tied for the 36-hole lead)—came to the press center to be interviewed.

It’s understandable in the current climate—which now includes journalists regularly considered to be putting out “fake news”—that agents and managers who handle the players see an opportunity for lessening media obligations. Perhaps Fowler’s decision was in part a test to see if anyone would notice.

"He’s the most-read golf writer in the world. He just wants a little more company."

Ed Sherman uses the U.S. Open to file a Poynter.org story on AP golf writer Doug Ferguson and the dwindling number of golf writers covering the sports for local papers.

He notes the concern about the increased presence of PGATour.com covering the sport over independent outlets.

Ferguson can’t help but take note of the PGA Tour going all-in with PGATour.com. During most tournaments, the tour’s digital operation makes up a large chunk of the press room with its writers and social media crew.

Clearly, the PGA Tour has the most resources and the greatest access, but Ferguson contends golf fans don’t get the complete picture from its site. He says the content always comes from a biased and, let’s say, decidedly positive point of view.

“I don’t know a lot of people who go to the site except to look at the leaderboard,” Ferguson said. “You’re only going to see the birdie putt that gets made. You’re not going to see the birdie putt that gets missed.”

ESPN To Revisit Practice That Improved Tiger's Mugshot

You might have seen my Tweet and many others expressing surprise at the haircut and sudden glow Tiger took on when ESPN posted his DUI mugshot in their lefthand sidebar.

Cork Gaines at BusinessInsider.com explains why the tidying up occurred and chalks it up to unintentional and "sloppy" work.

When selecting part of an image in Photoshop to move it to a different background, the most popular methods are the "lasso" tool, which allows the user to select the portion he or she wants by simply drawing a freehand line, or the "magnetic freeform pen," which is similar to the lasso but assists the user by having the line "stick" to edges.

One problem with the magnetic pen is that it struggles with areas in which there is not a distinct line. In this GIF, I attempt to select Woods' head with the magnetic pen. If not being careful, the pen will easily skip over the thin areas of hair.

Now, that doesn't quite explain the glow Tiger took on, including some nice face smoothing.  Either way, ESPN issued this statement to make clear it's probably not happening again.

“We have utilized a standard template for on-air headshots, which led to the background being dropped for consistency. We will revisit this process to improve it going forward.”

The episode was brought up by Liz Claman of Fox Business News when talking to Brad Faxon about Tiger. Claman seemed to be almost gleeful to have found prime "fake news" but made a fool of herself by interview's end. Seems Claman is covering the U.S. Open in two weeks on site, but still asked Faxon if Tiger would be playing. Faxon's surprise is priceless but because he's a pro's pro, Faxon calmly points out that Tiger's recent back surgery will preclude such an appearance.

Flashback: LPGA Commish On Golf Digest's Paulina Cover

With an LPGA tournament holding a Twitter poll to determine a sponsor's invitation, there is an apparent blessing from Commissioner Mike Whan that seems inconsistent with the outrage his organization directed at Golf Digest two years ago.

To recap: Golf Digest put Paulina Gretzky on the May 2014 cover and many in the women's golf world were outraged given how few females had ever graced the front page. And when a woman did make the cover, it was not one of the LPGA's many stars.

Whan at the time:

"Obviously, we're disappointed and frustrated by the editorial direction (and timing) Golf Digest has chosen with the announcement of its most recent magazine cover," Whan said in a statement released Friday. The tour's first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, began on Thursday at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

"If a magazine called Golf Digest is interested in showcasing females in the game, yet consistently steers away from the true superstars who've made history over the last few years, something is clearly wrong. ... 'Growing the game' means a need for more role models and in these exciting times for women's golf, the LPGA is overflowing with them."

At the time, it was surprising that Whan to disrupt his tour's first major championship of the season given the importance of that event and the reduced importance of magazines or their covers. But given his membership's strong feelings about media emphasis of sex appeal over on-course accomplishment, many could understand why he spoke out.

Fast forward three years and the ShopRite LPGA Classic is essentially holding a beauty contest between four non-LPGA Tour members for a field spot. Only one of the four is on the Rolex Rankings (Booth at No. 365).

Golf Digest was trying to sell magazines and generate attention. No professional golfer was harmed by the cover.

But the ShopRite exemption could go to a promising Symetra Tour player in need of starts. Or a recent college golfer looking to "showcase" the start of her career could benefit. Instead, a spot in an LPGA Tour event will go to an attractive but undeserving player in large part to get the tournament attention.

Maybe Whan and the LPGA will think twice about letting this happen again? Because they risk losing credibility the next time a player is passed over because she doesn't fit someone's idea of what sells.

John Feinstein and I debated today on Golf Central:

ESPN! Stephen A. And Kellerman Trash Golf, Do We Care?

Golf has needed ESPN but since losing or waving goodbye to the many golf properties they once enjoyed rights to, not so much.

ESPN the television network makes clear it needs golf once a year when the Masters rolls around (ESPN.com still shows great interest in and respect for covering the sport with their team of Harig, Sobel, O'Connor, Collins, Maguire, Wojciechowski, etc.). But as we saw with last week's no-golf Sportscenter in between live broadcasts and the round replays, golf seems to be an annoyance these days.

Still, the ignorance and disrepect shown by Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman takes things that may have the golf world no longer caring what the network thinks of our sport.

Let's get to the comments first as transcribed by Joe DePaolo (do watch the Mediaite embed as the tone is worse than the transcript.) Here is Stephen A lamenting the sportsmanship shown by Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose's:

This notion that we’re really not competing against each other. We’re really just playing golf and it’s really competing against the course. Nonsense. There’s a game to be played. Each of you go out there to do it. You’re trying to compete at a level that eclipses the individuals that are also on the course. Last time I checked, that’s competition.

He added: “I damn near told them to get a room. It was ridiculous, how they were with one another…I want to see you rooting for the other to fail.”

These comments were the most-noticed and they are silly given that Sergio and Rose did not walk arm-and-arm up the playoff hole. Even sillier when you have to know the heartbreak Rose the competitor feels in those moments and yet shows such respect.

Sure, there is a discussion to be had for players helping each other out by leaving balls down as backboards, or a softening of competitive edges due to the immense amount of money in the sport.

However, I feel the comments from Max Kellerman, Stephen A's colleague on First Take, speak to a lack of knowledge within the Worldwide Leader that is perplexing. He questions golf's "status as a sport" and then...

I would define a sport as a competition through which you accurately gauge the athleticism of its participants. And I don’t think that’s the case with golf. Among its many flaws…this ain’t Ali going at Frazier. They’re not throwing punches. They’re not tackling each other. They’re not in each other’s way. Golf is not a zero sum game. It’s more like a standardized test.

Needless to say we know some of the greatest athletes in the world have said they admire golf as a sport and have profound respect for their fellow athletes.

What's troubling is that a network we once relied on for balancing smart with entertaining coverage and for knowing where to draw the line on First Team All-American ignorance, even allows such an uninformed discussion to take place.

Mercifully, golf goes off ESPN's radar now until next year at The Masters. If there is a next year for ESPN.

Lorne: "I was provided the opportunity to dig deep into the mind of a golfer who had accomplished amazing things in the game."

Lorne Rubenstein's much-anticipated collaboration with Tiger Woods on the 1997 Masters book was hopefully going to mean many interviews for Lorne to discuss the story and his co-author.

Unfortunately as Rick Young notes at ScoreGolf.com, Rubenstein has made clear this is Tiger's book.

Lorne did, however, write this enjoyable piece for Medium on working with Tiger on the book and it definitely gets you more excited about what is in the pages beyond what we saw in the early Golfweek excerpts.

In the early stages of our discussions we watched video of that Masters. One vivid memory led to another, one story to another. I attended that 1997 Masters and followed Tiger as he shot 40 on the front nine. I watched as he walked from the ninth green to the tenth tee, deep in thought. What had gone wrong? How could he turn things around? Was he worried?

I was interested and even surprised when he said he had put the front nine out of his mind by the time he reached the tenth tee, and that he had already focused his attention on what he needed to do. It wasn’t so much that he needed to correct what had gone wrong. He resolved to find the feeling that had allowed him to shoot 59 the week before at the Isleworth Golf & Country Club when he had played with his friend Mark O’Meara.

This was the sort of insight that helped me appreciate Tiger’s golfing mind. I kept this story in mind as we continued to chat during our talks in a conference room in his office in Jupiter, Florida, and many follow-up conversations over the phone.

Golf World "Reimagined for the digital age"

I stumbled on news of the "reimagined" Golf World via the GolfDigest.com RSS feed. The new Golf World homepage is here under the GolfDigest.com News and Tours page.  Editor Jaime Diaz says the now-defunct weekly digital publication will shift to a web-based one offering intelligent takes. At least, that's what I could pick up from the miniscule fonts both on desktop and mobile (the Mobile version screen captured here appears to be in partnership with Taylor Made).

Diaz writes:

As always, Golf World will set the conversational agenda for what is topical and enlightening in the greatest game of all.

We are uniquely positioned to do so. Golf World, in conjunction with the staff of Golf Digest, has the most collective knowledge of any golf publication. Our writers and editors are intimately familiar with all aspects of the game—its players, people, history, institutions and issues. Some of the respected names that will regularly contribute to our content include Tim Rosaforte (the game’s leading insider), Guy Yocom (longtime producer of Golf Digest’s celebrated “My Shot” series), Dave Kindred (the 1991 Red Smith Award winner), John Feinstein (best-selling author of books including A Good Walk Spoiled) and expert reporters John Huggan and Dave Shedloski.

I wish my former colleagues the best of luck carrying on such a storied brand. Hopefully they will get larger fonts and some social media coverage of the launch.

Meanwhile, check out former Golf Digest contributor Cliff Schrock's new site where fans of "This Day in History" items will love his golf insights. He's also posted other pieces as well and the site looks sharp.

Costco's Disruptor Ball Appears Dead, What Did We Learn?

Kudos to MyGolfSpy for reporting the likely demise of Costco's Kirkland ball sold for so little and performing so admirably.  I've been trying to track down details on the Kirkland story and my reporting mirrors that of MyGolfSpy in all but one key area. This we agree on: it's unlikely we'll see Costco replicate such a ball at the same price.

To recap, the $15-a-dozen ball is no longer even pictured on Costco's website after supplies became constrained, largely after MyGolfSpy's rave November 7th, 2016 review comparing the pellet favorably to Titleist's Pro-V1.

Tony Covey writes:

Our source inside Costco has not responded to our calls, however, a source familiar with the situation has told us that Costco has suspended production of the Kirkland Signature until further notice. Whether you want to call it a shortage or a total outage, the lack of Kirkland golf balls available to the consumer is being blamed on supply chain issues.

We're told that, internally, Coscto is saying that production will resume at a later date (and that an email will be sent to customers when stock is available), but we have good reason to believe that is an unlikely scenario.

Essentially Costco was the recipient of a one-time bargain-buy on golf ball cores that allowed them to produce the ball inexpensively. Any Trader Joes shopper knows that vineyards with extra stock but not wanting to taint their brand selling their wine at a lower price will sell otherwise nice product to the chain. Trader Joes then slaps their label on what amounts to limited editions, tells us where the grapes were grown and teases us about its heritage without ever outing the vineyard. Some of the wines are better than others, but they are almost always an excellent value.

So which vineyard dumped these cores on Costco at a low, unlikely-to-be-replicated price? Covey writes:

A representative of Nassau Golf (originally listed as the manufacturer of the Kirkland Signature Ball on the USGA conforming list) has told MyGolfSpy that Costco purchased overruns of Nassau's European-market-exclusive Quattro ball. There is some indication the sale was made through a third party, and that Nassau may not have been directly involved in the deal. The same source confirms that while the Costco balls have a different core color, the material composition and layer thickness are absolutely identical to the Quattro.

With the initial supply of overruns exhausted, Costco effectively has nothing left to sell.

Multiple sources I contacted felt that cores were from an overrun of Taylor Mades that needed to be disposed of when Adidas demanded that their subsidiary squeeze cash out of anything they could. The intent was not to disrupt the industry, but instead to cash in however they could on unused inventory. When GolfWRX noted the initial frenzy and MyGolfSpy's review hit, the ball became a disruptor.

Covey does note that the Kirkland ball's manufacturing location is now back to its mission of making Taylor Made golf balls and that a similar situation to the 2016 "K-Sig" is unlikely anytime soon, if at all.

I mention TaylorMade in particular because the company's tour balls are produced at the same factory as the Costco/Nassau balls, and there are some indications that production of new TP5 has pushed smaller companies to the back of the production line. Even if Costco otherwise had the capability to produce balls immediately, which it appears it doesn’t, the K-Sig wouldn’t be given priority over larger brands and long-term customers.

So what have we learned from this brief disruption of the ball market?

--MyGolfSpy's review was incredibly powerful, GolfWRX once again fueled interest in a product and the tide may have turned for golf equipment reviews. As other sluggish traditional publications sat on the sidelines, perhaps for fear of upsetting major manufacturers or simply because Costco is not a potential advertiser, independent internet reviews fueled the frenzy. (GolfWRX first posted about a "frenzy" on October 28th and while Mark Crossfield only posted a review three days ago, internet influencers established even greater power thanks to the Kirkland ball.)

--A lot of people don't like Titleist. There was much behind-the-scenes joy at Titleist facing a scary competitive hit around the time of their IPO. Some of the hostility could be chalked up to their longtime spot atop golf ball sales. Some of the glee was over the incredible brand loyalty Titleist inspires. Some of it related to their hostile position toward distance rollback advocates. But most hostility centered around about the price of a dozen ProV's compared to others and was aired on forums. However... 

--A lot of people don't know what goes into the cost of a golf ball. The anger ignored how much Titleist and other major manufacturers spend on R&D and manufacturing in the USA. That's right, unlike the Costco ball, we are talking about an American made product. I was amazed how many golfers were not aware that ProV's and Callaway Chrome Softs are made in Massachusetts by American workers. If you like to buy "Made in the USA" products, this episode was an eye-opener.

--Costco now looms as a potential market disruptor under the right conditions. Yes, it took some luck and timing, but they do have the ability to inflict temporary damage on major manufacturers. On the other hand, the episode may have legitimized them as a seller of golf equipment of any kind.

--Golfers and their brand loyalties were tested. Many pushed back on Twitter at my intial skepticism over the long term success potential of the ball. I questioned whether golfers could announce they were playing "a Kirkland 3 on the first tee." While I'm all for anything that lowers prices and increases competition, common sense says most golfers are attracted to their favorite brands for reasons both sane and insane.

--The episode did at least include one fun viral video. And look at it this way Wally, there were much worse clips they could have used!

Golfweek Debuts Monthly Issue, New Attitude

The bad news first: another print publication has contracted. Golfweek, the trusted weekly serving the game over 40 years, will now be published 12 times a year.

The good news: Golfweek's new monthly issue, available as a print and/or digital edition for just over $20 a year, successfully targets golfers who eat, sleep and love golf. Plus, they will continue with a weekly digital issue that keeps the "week" in Golfweek as relevant as ever.

Editor Gerry Ahern, brought on board by publisher Dave Morgan when Gannett purchased Golfweek last fall, explains the changes and new attitude in this post today. He even reaches out to readers for feedback:

Serious golfers, Golfweek is your magazine. We aim to be bigger, better and more compelling than ever. You can help us get there. Share your thoughts on the new look and feel of the print magazine, the digital magazine, the email newsletters and the website. How can we serve you better? Send your ideas, comments and suggestions to gahern@golfweek.com.

While I've gone through just some of the stories in the 82-page issue, I'm looking forward to reading this in print even more. The January issue appears to have a good blend of the traditional Golfweek franchises, only with some meatier features that might have been shorter in the weekly format. There is a sense of discovery with each page your turn and a feeling that Golfweek is aggressively trying to serve smart, core golfers who enjoy reading about the business of golf.

The table of contents:


A Donald Trump feature by Martin Kaufmann and Bradley Klein gets plenty of space, a list of the top 40 influencers in the game is sure to generate some discussion (and probably some hurt feelings). Other welcome editions include mental game coverage from Dr. Bob Winters, guest columnist Brad Faxon, a short profile of caddie John Wood, a review of Tiger's Bluejack National, an instruction piece from Ariya Jutanugarn and player profiles on junior golfer Noah Goodwin and LSU’s Sam Burns.

The design does not drift far from the current Golfweek look, but printed on higher quality paper, should provide something you can put on a coffee table. That is, if you don't mind looking at illustrated versions of Donald Trump and Tiger Woods this month.

R.I.P. Ken Carpenter

If you've been around golf long enough, you know Ken Carpenter's name and work from the pages of Golfweek and Golfweek.com.

While he had moved on to teach journalism at Valencia College, Golfweek's Jeff Babineau says Carpenter, who died Sunday at age 59 after a battle with cancer, left behind many friends in golf after he and his wife established a legacy of generosity and giving.

Carpenter befriended a caddie at Cruden Bay in 2000 that began a long friendship.

When former Golfweek senior writer Jeff Rude and I visited Scotland years later, it was Chris’ late dad who picked us up. Chris wrote Monday about Ken’s last trip to Cruden Bay, in 2000; he wanted so badly to break 80 that day, and was 3 over with two holes to play. But he’d finish 9-6 and shoot 80, managing to chuckle about it later, as only he would.

This morning, halfway across the world in Scotland, the flag flies at half-staff at Cruden Bay, an honor the venerable club usually reserves only for members. That’s how Ken Carpenter touched people.

Also warming are the many stories flowing in from his former students at Valencia College, where Ken was a journalism professor for 12 years. It was one thing to spend many years at newspapers and magazines pounding in agate, editing copy and writing catchy headlines. But as a professor, he truly was able to impact lives and steer kids toward a passion, his passion, bringing refreshing life to an industry most view as fading to black in a hurry.