Flashback Reads: 2005's PGA Championship Tee Time Debacle

I'm not going to wade too deep (yet) into the PGA of America's decision to not alter tee times Saturday in the face of a pretty bad forecast.  Expecting different results again and again speaks to just how surreal the scene was Saturday as the PGA repeated its 2005 debacle in 2016. While a Monday finish is dreadful for all involved, this may be the Golf Gods making a statement about playing this PGA prior to the Olympics or in a time of year prone to this kind of weather. Or both.

I went back 11 years into the archives when GeoffShackelford.com debuted on Squarespace. Found were a few gems from the 2005 PGA debacle. That's when Sunday times were not moved up and the event finished on a Monday.

Bob Harig writing in 2005 for ESPN.com:

For most of the week, temperatures have hovered in the high 90s, with much humidity. You don't have to be Willard Scott to know these weather patterns present an excellent chance for thunderstorms, including lightning. The PGA of America, which is based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where this kind of weather is prevalent in the summer, should know better.

Several players wondered why the tee times simply were not moved up. The PGA Tour does it all the time when there is a threat of bad weather. Better to move up the tee times and have nothing happen than to wait and face what we now face. It happened at last year's Masters, where Mickelson won by a stroke. Nobody seemed to mind that Mickelson's victory leap came an hour earlier. Certainly not those who were there and those who got to see it on live TV.

The first tee time Sunday morning was at 8. Had it been at 7, there is a chance the round could have been completed.

David Whitley in the Orlando Sentinel likened the 2005 situation at Baltusrol to one of the most embarrassing mistakes in TV sports history.

In 1968, NBC switched to the movie Heidi instead of sticking with the New York Jets-Oakland Raiders NFL game. New York led 32-29 at the time, but Oakland scored two touchdowns in nine seconds to win and set off outrage throughout sporting America.

Heidi, meet Kerry Haigh.

As the managing director for tournaments for the PGA of America, he had to explain why the final round wasn't moved up to allow for the possibility of rain. Of course, everybody already knew the answer.

What TV wants, TV gets. CBS wanted golf action to lead right into prime time. God forbid there would be any down time before 60 Minutes.

The situation in 2005 was made worse when we learned Phil Mickelson asked that times be moved up after not being able to see the ball well enough on Saturday night. His request was denied. Alan Shipnuck wrote:

In the Saturday twilight Mickelson had trouble seeing the breaks on the final few holes and afterward beseeched tournament officials to move up the tee times. This request was denied, and ignored, too, was a foreboding forecast for Sunday-afternoon lightning storms, which should have spurred the tournament and the network suits to send the players out early. The first lightning strikes arrived around 2:30 p.m., delaying play for 39 minutes and setting up a race against the darkness. When another storm rolled in, the final round was suspended for good at 6:35, forcing a morning restart for all the marbles.

Then there was this back and forth in 2005 with Kerry Haigh where suggests they would end any event at 7, even if it wasn't on television.

Q. Truth be told, the weather forecast was far worse today than for any time of the week. There was just a chance of scattered showers early in the week and today every forecast I saw on The Weather Channel and locally were pretty certain it was going to happen.

KERRY HAIGH: The forecast was, I think, there was more of a chance of scattered showers but they were still scattered. If you look further to the south, they have had no activity at all, and we were within four or five miles of missing it ourselves. So I think the forecast was very accurate, that it was certainly very scattered. We were just unfortunate that it came too close and right on top of it.

Q. Let's see if he can drive this nail with a different hammer. You conduct a number of championships, some of which are not televised. If you were in like circumstance with a non televised championship, and you knew the details that you had today, would you err on the side of caution and adjust your time so that you didn't carry your championship over into the next day?

KERRY HAIGH: That's a good question. But no, I think we would have probably had we made all of our arrangements for a 7:00 finish and with all of the people and parties involved, we would have kept it the same.

Dave Anderson of the New York Times wrote back in 2005:

Maybe the organizers of the three major tournaments in the United States will realize that they should stop bowing to the Great God Television and schedule Sunday's final-round tee times early enough to better assure enough daylight, even if a playoff is necessary, for the finish.

Maybe.

The silver lining is simple enough: schedule the Sunday tee times in the best interests of the golfers and the golf fans, not for high ratings and the monetary interests of a network that demands a compelling lead-in to its prime-time shows.

Fast forward to 2016 and the explanations at least are just routing-based. From Cameron Morfit's golf.com story:

“It’s a major championship,” Haigh said, “and we want it to be run and perform as a major championship. We feel it’s important for all the players, in an ideal world, to play from the first tee and play the holes in order.”

Alex Myers with the scenarios for finishing. Few are very pretty based on the forecast.

Kostis: Shortsighted Criticism (Of His Bosses)

cbs.jpgGolfonline's Peter Kostis defends his bosses at CBS and the PGA of America for the Sunday PGA tee-time boondoggle.

Everyone is going to roll the dice when you win nine times out of 10, and the PGA of America is no exception. That's why the stream of criticism directed at them and my employer, CBS Sports, is so shortsighted.
Hey, full disclosure. It's a beautiful thing, isn't it?

The writers who feel that money is not be a part of the equation should be reminded of stories they have written that were dropped from publications because there weren't enough advertising pages to compensate for the editorial pages.
Whew, what an analogy! The golf writers of the world will really $ee the light after that zinger!
But it's naïve to suggest that the PGA and CBS should forego their business plan because of an uncertain weather forecast. When you start aiming at a moving target like that, you end up on the wrong side of 90 percent.
Uncertain weather forecast? It was on everyone's mind Saturday night, and as Tom Mackin, Kostis's colleague at Golfonline reported (and I'll link it yet again), as early as Friday the PGA's on site forecasters were very worried about the possiblity of severe weather Sunday.

The PGA wants to be taken seriously as an organization and it has worked hard to ensure that its event  maintains or even improves its standing as a major. They put all of that on the line for a Nielson bump, a rerun of 60 Minutes and someone's "business plan."

If the PGA Championship's credibility is diminished, then the PGA and CBS lose a lot more than a few rating points. They eventually lose their major. Because a May Players Championship is going to look better and better if the PGA of America emphasizes greed over the good of the game.

Hannigan on the PGA

golfobserver copy.jpgFrank Hannigan says the PGA's Sunday debacle is actually worse than it appears and ends with this anecdote:

When the l967 Open was played at Baltusrol — the one Nicklaus won after hitting an ungodly l iron to the final green — there was a monumental thunder storm immediately after Nicklaus and his fellow competitor, one Arnold Palmer, holed out.

The USGA Executive Committee at its next meeting voted unanimously that it would never again schedule a U.S. Open to end after 6 p.m. so that it would have more than two hours, on the year's longest days to cope with weather delays. That action was simply ignored by the present crop of USGA nickel-and-dimers at Bethpage.
Ah, there were giants in those days. There are weasels in these days.


Baltusrol...Odd NY Course Out?

"It would be silly of us to remove a course like Baltusrol from future consideration for USGA championships, including the U.S. Open. And we haven't," David Fay wrote in a letter to the club he's a member at.

"On the other hand, the rest of the country might look at the greater N.Y. metro area having four different courses in the so-called (and definitely unofficial) de facto U.S. Open rota and howl about geographic bias."

Translation: you're fourth in line behind Winged Foot, Shinnecock and Bethpage. Three's a crowd.

Tiger Watched With Us

Do you find this a little strange?

Tiger Woods didn't bother sticking around the PGA Championship for the final four holes, even though he was the clubhouse leader with an outside shot at getting into a playoff. Woods didn't see it that way.

He said Tuesday morning he flew home to Florida after he finished at 2-under 278, knowing the five players either tied or ahead of him would not drop shots over the final holes at Baltusrol, including two par 5s at the end.


The Hits Just Keep On Coming...

nyt-paper.gifSports and business writer Richard Sandomir of the New York Times has the best dissection of the PGA/CBS screw up, as well as Monday's golf-light, commercial heavy telecast that yours truly wrote about for Golfobserver. Sandomir writes:
CBS's commercial load was a distraction yesterday - even more than on Sunday - creating a disjointed viewing experience during the year's final major. The commercials interrupted the narrative flow of this five-hole event, with 12 golfers finishing their final round, half of them separated by three shots, and half of them paid little or no attention by CBS (except for a note by Jim Nantz, as the camera focused on Vijay Singh, that yesterday was the 60th anniversary of V-J Day).

CBS could have reduced the number of commercial blocks it had, or more boldly, eliminated advertising in the final 30 minutes. Perhaps it was waiting to go commercial free for a playoff, which would have caused the network to blow off more than "Guiding Light" and the first half-hour of "The Price Is Right."

But commercial interests won out over golf, even if no crucial shots were missed while CBS was in a break. Peter Oosterhuis, one of CBS's on-course reporters, seemed to believe the action was more important than mercantilism. After Mickelson missed a birdie putt on No. 17, Oosterhuis said, "Let's go to 18," but CBS went to commercials instead.
And he offers this quote from CBS's Rob Correa, a CBS Sports senior vice president for programming:

"The P.G.A. of America is responsible for the scheduling of the tournament," he said. "It's up to them." He said CBS would not have objected to an earlier start "if the weather reports were that severe."

The party lines seems to be: blame the weather reports for not making enough of a fuss. Only, that won't work as the forecasters were on the record with Golfonline's Tom Mackin as early as Friday that Sunday had the potential for severe, course-clearing conditions. Anyone watching the Weather Channel knew Sunday's afternoon forecast was for possible severe storms.  As reader Stan pointed out, a simple "we goofed" would make this go away, but as usual, the spin will only prolong the criticism, and unfortunately, may even begin to taint Mickelson's win.

Meanwhile, Sam Weiman in the Westchester Journal News and Robert Lusetich in The Australian review the situation. Lusetich looks at the various "what if" scenarios had play been started earlier and not halted. Even though Steve Elkington says that even though he was the hottest player on the course, the wind shift would have made the finishing stretch brutal. So he was glad play was halted.

Speaking of the man with the best swing in the world, Jim McCabe talks to Elkington about the PGA and the Scenarios that are already keeping him lying awake at night.

More Monday PGA Reads

Jeff Rude has more one-liners from Charles Barkley.  Golfobserver's Peter McCleery beats the magazines to the punch and gets to say I told you so after years of warning that a major would not finish on Sunday.  Steve Elling looks at Tiger's epic year in the majors and reports on the 14 players who made the cut in all four majors.2005 pga logo.jpg

George Kimball in the Boston Herald writes about Steve Elkington's sunday shirt reminiscent of his 1995 final day garb and the backdrop on Larry King's set.   Sally Jenkins writes about the ugly play on Sunday at Baltusrol.

Here's a Reuters story on Mickelson's request to move Sunday times up.

David Whitley in the Orlando Sentinel blasts the PGA and likens Sunday refusal to move times up to the infamous "Heidi" episode at NBC.  Michael Hiestand in the USA Today picks up where Rudy Martzke left off...writing press releases for the networks.

Some Monday PGA Reads

Lawrence Donegan's Monday story in The Guardian has some fun notes on the tournament that hasn't ended. Damon Hack in the NY Times provides a diplomatic take on the PGA debacle.  Bob Harig at ESPN isn't so kind, but also isn't has brutal as he could have been. Dave Anderson sums the whole mess up as only a Pulitzer winner can.

Just to not overdo the PGA stuff, Richard Oliver in the San Antonio Express-News writes about how the Texas Open may be impacted by the new Tour television contract. Eh, okay, back to the PGA. What was I thinking?

All of the transcripts for the week are here. Here's Tiger Woods. And Steve Elkington.  And Phil Mickelson's press conference, though I couldn't seem to find the part where he was asked about the starting time call. Am I delusional?

Haigh Press Conference

The art of the non-answer, by Kerry Haigh:

Q. This is for Kerry or Andy. Is it the situation that CBS dictates that the last pairing goes off at 3:00, and when you have a situation when you see that the weather is going to be poor, could that not be have been brought forward to 2:00 PM, or is it a stipulation that you must finish at 6:45 for television?

KERRY HAIGH: I think we had for about almost a year that we had agreed on the finish times, and published that in all of the schedules for everyone involved were set for 7:00. The forecast all week long has been for scattered storms and chance of storms and lightning. As we know, we've been very fortunate up until now with storms that could come at any time basically during the afternoon.

Q. Just as a follow up to that, I didn't hear a clear answer on that; is that dictated by television or does the PGA dictate that in terms of the final tee time for 3:00?

KERRY HAIGH: We certainly talked with CBS and I guess mutually agreed on what is an appropriate finish time.

Q. Did that conversation happen at a certain point today where you sat down and said, we have this forecast, and therefore we will make or not make this decision? Was that a meeting that happened today?

KERRY HAIGH: No. As I say, we agreed on the start times and we've looked at the weather basically throughout the week and kept the plan that has been all along.

Q. Truth be told, the weather forecast was far worse today than for any time of the week. There was just a chance of scattered showers early in the week and today every forecast I saw on The Weather Channel and locally were pretty certain it was going to happen.

KERRY HAIGH: The forecast was, I think, there was more of a chance of scattered showers but they were still scattered. If you look further to the south, they have had no activity at all, and we were within four or five miles of missing it ourselves. So I think the forecast was very accurate, that it was certainly very scattered. We were just unfortunate that it came too close and right on top of it.

Q. Let's see if he can drive this nail with a different hammer. You conduct a number of championships, some of which are not televised. If you were in like circumstance with a non televised championship, and you knew the details that you had today, would you err on the side of caution and adjust your time so that you didn't carry your championship over into the next day?

KERRY HAIGH: That's a good question. But no, I think we would have probably had we made all of our arrangements for a 7:00 finish and with all of the people and parties involved, we would have kept it the same.

Q. Not to belabor this anymore but Phil Mickelson was asked about this and he said he asked to have the tee times moved up. Is that accurate and were you part of that conversation? KERRY HAIGH: I'm not aware of that.

Q. Just to make sure we have this clear, there was no discussion today with CBS about moving the tee times up?

KERRY HAIGH: There was no discussion, no.

Q. Just to make sure we have this clear, there was no discussion today with CBS about moving the tee times up?

KERRY HAIGH: There was no discussion, no.

Q. Just on going back to this again, just so I know, who ultimately has the authority to change the tee time? Is it you or is it CBS?

KERRY HAIGH: The PGA of America.


For What It's Worth...

...During the Golf Channel's 30 minute show between Sunday's TNT and CBS coverage, Rich Lerner of The Golf Channel asked the PGA's Roger Warren about moving PGA Championship tee times up an hour to ensure the round was finished.

weather_warning1998_256.jpgWarren claimed that the forecast was too sketchy to make such a concrete move. But it's hard not to imagine that had they teed off earlier, the round might have finished before the weather arrived. CBS would have come on the air with the last group teeing off, and at the worst, finished a little early.

So just remember, there are several hundred very bitter writers sitting in a New Jersey tent, armed with laptops, ready to pounce. A Monday finish fiasco has been long overdue at golf's majors, because giving the networks a strong prime time lead in has taken a priority to finishing rounds at a reasonable hour.

And as I type, Phil Mickelson is being asked by a scribbler and he's choosing his words very carefully, pointing out that they finished in the dark yesterday and that alone should have been reason to move the times up a bit.

Sunday PGA Reads

Sure looked like a lovely day at Baltusrol! It was stuffy here in the Home of the Homeless. I actually had to turn on the ceiling fan this afternoon. Still didn't help me ward off the nap. So what exactly did Phil do on 15?

Anyway, GolfDigest.com's Brian Wacker leads with weather talk and has other notes in his "postcard" from the PGA.   Gary Van Sickle at SI handicaps the finish and says Baltusrol is the big winner this week.

2005 pga logo.jpgGolfonline's Tom Mackin catches up with Billy Farrell, son of longtime Baltusrol head pro who was making a rare visit to the club. He also writes about the Wolffe brothers, Rick and Stuart, who produced the Tillinghast books along with Bob Trebus.

AP has several notes on the event, including the story behind John Daly's move to a wedge and the cell phone ban. Damon Hack writes about Tiger's missed opportunity 66.

And here's a weather by the hour forecast site, one of many that the assembled inkslingers will be watching anxiously tomorrow. Nice forecast. If you were playing here in LA or in the Pacific Northwest...ah, I won't go there.


Tiger on Saturday

Thankfully, someone asked the question a lot of us were probably wondering about: for the second day in a row Tiger tried (unsuccessfully) to hit an easy 3-wood into 17, with dreadful results.

Q. What was your yardage on 17? What's the difference between 3 wood or 2 iron?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's 274 and I can't carry 2 iron 274 downwind uphill. If it was flat, I'd probably hit 2 iron but since it's uphill, I can't. So I have to hit some kind of choke up cut 3 wood to the front. It was 274 to the front, or 290 to the hole, stays downwind, as hot as it is, the ball is flying forever. I tried to start the ball to the left trees, cut them, hit some kind of banana ball and I actually pulled it.

Q. Given that set of conditions, any thought to laying up and giving yourself...

TIGER WOODS: Why? No. (Laughter).

Q. You're a good wedge player.

TIGER WOODS: No. I needed 3.
Hmmm...4 would've worked too.

He also confirms hitting 17 iron into 18 for the second day in a row.

Speaking of the finishing hole, I think it played about as easy as a par-5 ever has in a major:
18     4.4177     Eagles: 11     Birdies: 124     Pars: 94     Bogies: 8     Others: 0

Crane On the Clock

The Atlanta Journal-Constitutions Glenn Sheeley looks at the slow play issue. Ben Crane says the rumors that he reads the Bible scriptures stuffed into his yardage book are are "absurd." But Friday at Baltusrol, Crane put on this absurd display:

  • Time to hit tee shot.. 52 seconds
  • Time to hit approach........ 1:34
  • Time to hit first putt...... 1:18
And John Daly, same hole, same day:

  • John Daly Tee shot.............. 19 seconds
  • Approach shot..........12 seconds
  • First putt............ 16 seconds

Saturday PGA Notes

2005 pga logo.jpgI was about to point out what a great job TNT was doing until the quadruple commercial break stretch as Tiger was playing 18 in round 2.  At least the announcing was sharp, restrained and insightful...though there was Bobby Clampett's 62 prediction for Tiger's Saturday round.  It was a long, hot day.

Speaking of the heat, it was 74 today here in the Home of the Homeless. FYI, my hometown borders two-time PGA site Riviera. Not as nice as 95 and humid New Jersey or Tulsa, the PGA site in 2007.

GolfDigest.com’s Brian Wacker files a postcard with some fun anecdotes. Cameron Morfit files a notes column for Golfonline.   Tom Mackin writes about Joe Damiano, Jersey guy and Stuart Appleby’s caddie.

Tiger is asked about the bad break on 17 and the 7-iron into 18. He ends it with a funny one-liner.

An Irish Examiner story story on Darren Clarke not playing in the Seve Cup, with denials that he is avoiding Captain Monty. John Huggan writes about Sean O'Hair for The Guardian.  And SI's Chris Lewis makes his case for the PGA as the best.

The course played much easier during round 2 (70.53). Here’s the PGA's only course stats page but by the time you look at this they’ll probably have round 3 in place (the PGA web site doesn't break down stats by round. Other stats seem to be unavailable.

Finally, Mike Penner writes in the LA Times that Comcast’s Outdoor Life Network is making a strong bid for the NHL. What does this have to do with golf? The up-and-coming network is apparently looking to raise its profile. Perhaps golf will be next on its list?