Week(s) In Review, June 10-24: Winged Foot

WeekInReview2.jpgPosting will be light through early Wednesday, but I will include a few photos of U.S. Women's Open site Newport and some other tidbits.

In the mean time, there is plenty to pore over from the last two weeks. It's fascinating how much occurred with both the LPGA, U.S. Open and technology issues.

Just some of the highlights (and you can always access Journal Topics on the left for individual issues or the 2006 U.S. Open posts):

The Wall Street Journal reported on the USGA's move toward square grooves regulation, prompting reader Scott S to write: "I'm a little bit frightened here, not just because they are throwing up a smoke screen, but because this move towards arguing about grooves is exactly what manufacturers would want. A ball rollback means nothing for them. People buy new balls all the time, and so would not equate to any increase in sales. However, with equipment, which has a longer lifespan in most golfers' bags, any changes would mean new purchase that might have been deferred for an unspecified period. Changes in grooves means everyone having to go out and buy new iron sets and wedges, a major purchase, where changes in the ball means simply buying a new dozen at the start of the year, like always."

Golf World's Ron Sirak took a closer look at the reign of Carolyn Bivens, with complaints and many others defending the new Commissioner.

That prompted Smolmania to remark: "Where are these great skills that these people keep talking about? What evidence have we seen of them since the branding commissioner took over? The LPGA tour has an opportunity to make huge inroads on the golf market. The Champions/Senior tour loses momentum with every passing day. Jack doesn't play, the King can't, and they won't let Chi Chi. Yes, Jay Haas and Loren Roberts are fabulous players, but people won't come out to see them simply because of who they are."

Bivens also gave an interview in Rochester to share more of her marketing wisdom.

NRH comments: "Hospitality ownership. If I was a marketing VP for product beyond feminine hygiene, cosmetics or groceries and the event was not in the same market as headquarters, I would certainly choose to spend $200k on a PGA Tour tent than $50k for the LPGA. Scores on cell phones?? How original...a service that has been around since 1999. If she wants highlights, maybe she should look at the numbers for ESPN Mobile. Despite a mid 10 figure ad campaign and debut during the Super Bowl, they have sold under 10,000 units to date despite a 50% price reduction. I am sure all of the companies buying airtime on LPGA telecasts are thrilled to hear Bivens touting TiVo."

The USGA's officers held their annual pre-U.S. Open press conference and the questions were awful.

Reader Gregg: Such hardball questions. You would think someone would ask a real question. They should have used your list and at least asked Walter what transportation he used to get to New York."

My senior USGA staff sources say that Mr. Driver flew commercial to Winged Foot. Poor lad!

During Open week, we learned that 2007 U.S. Open host Oakmont wants to furrow their bunkers.

Farouck: "For years they pushed perfectly predictable bunkers. Easily maintainable surrounds with lush green grass for perfect mowing patterns. But we are going to restore the bunkers to the original look while reducing labor. What a fabulous idea! Lets spend $700,000 plus a special irrigation system to keep the grass and sand perfect. The bunkers are no longer hazards we need to make them unpredictable again. What about spending more man hours with special rakes to create an unpredictable predictable sand. Great idea!"

And Gus: "I like the process of de-evolution on the bunkers back toward being hazards, but I'm not sure another specialized maintenance routine is the right approach."

D. Edgard:  Furrowing bunkers in Oakmont 2007 would be a marvellous step towards the origins of the game, would be marvellous to watch and would be much better golf. It´s great only to wonder about!!!

Tom Spousta (I think) in the USA Today had an excellent story on the lost art of shotmaking, with plenty of great quotes from Lee Trevino.  JPB says, "I can't iamgine how a player like trevino feels. He had total control of the golf ball. But now it is hit away, just don't pull it or block it."

And MacDuff: "Likewise craftsmanship - fewer people make things nowadays, we go out and buy them at X-Marts, and usually of an inferior quality. Knowledge of natural bush medicine, which stood us in good stead for thousands of years, is being lost to feed the coffers of large pharmaceutical companies. Sounds similar to golf?"

John Huggan filed a story of Geoff Ogilvy's thoughts on the state of the game as it related to Winged Foot's setup before the Australian's win Sunday. Doug wrote: I can see the USGA officials doing a Sgt. Shultz during this interview: "I see nothing, I hear nothing..."

Huggan also wrote a more exhaustive piece on Golfobserver.com.

I tried a live telecast blog Saturday and Sunday and while I'm not entirely happy with it, it did keep me awake during Saturday's telecast. Even more rewarding was knowledge that I was helping a few folks Down Under who were unable to watch due to a lack of coverage. Your thoughts on this experiment? The sequencing is an issue, I know.

On Brian Hewitt's report that the USGA wants the first green at Winged Foot renovated if it is to hold another Open, reader Jack Vaughn defended the idea of rebuilding a green for four days of play every 20 years or so: "Part of the East Course renovation includes rebuilding several greens because their contours simply do not work when paired with modern speeds. Has it occurred to any of you that the WF members may WANT to redo #1-West or is everything the 'fault' of the evil USGA? If the result of hosting USGA events is so horrible why do these clubs continue to invite the USGA back?"

Reader Brad wrote, "If the USGA hasn't figured out poa annua yet, which is a weed, why consider architectural changes? The USGA keeps putting the cart in front of the horses. Clearly they don't know how to regulate equipment, or run a Championship."

The USGA's Dick Rugge admitted that the organization may have let technology get too far out of hand, which I believe is the first such acknowledgment.

He then went on to lay the groundwork for doing something about grooves!

Reader Jimmy responded: "This US Open reminds me of the Griswald's on vacation. Instead of getting lost in St. Louis, making some wickedly disastrous decisions on direction, proclaiming the 8 myths of distance, stating their position with 'principles' in the balance, continuing on without a road map, looking at each other gleefully after departing the company's net jet on a fact finding mission, why don't they just pull over and get some well founded grasp on reality."

A post allowed you to send your congratulations to all around good guy U.S. Open winner and occasional reader of this site, Geoff Ogilvy, and you can still post something if you'd like.

During Open week, there were spirited discussions on the proximity of the corporate tent to No. 18, debate over Phil's decision making and even one on his weight.

The Winged Foot setup left Peter Kostis feeling disgusted about the bastardizing of classic courses, to which Glyn wrote: Peter, let's agree; wasp-waisted fairways, haystack rough and and parquet-floor greens are bad tricks to be played on classic golf courses. (Not sure about how tricked the Winged Foot greens were in any event, but...)
So what say you about that other trick to be played on one great course after another -- moving tee boxes and fairway bunkers, for no other reason (NO OTHER REASON) than to keep up with the next Pro V x-cess...?"

Tim Finchem weighed in on the bunker furrowing at Muirfield Village, requiring a translation from Glyn: "Does he ever give a straight answer? Let me see if I can translate....'Bottom line is, I think it was a reasonable, healthy exercise that stimulates discussion and focus on different parts of setup philosophy that can contribute to challenges that are good for the competition and also interesting to the spectators.'..translates to..'The players hated it so we are dropping that idea and searching for another idea to counter the rise of technology without offending either the players or the equipment makers.'"
And another from Van: "How 'bout, 'Furrowed bunkers has always been a stupid idea, but we're looking at its feasibility, anyway.'"

But I still say the best story of the last two weeks, maybe the year, came from Peoria where the a qualifying for a boys junior event was marred by an over-the-top setup designed to offset the distances the 11 and 12 year olds were hitting it!