No More 2-Year Exemptions For Cup Team Players

One of the silliest PGA Tour exemptions is about to run its course, according to Doug Ferguson.

Trevor Immelman came within a 10-foot putt of winning the Wachovia Championship, a tournament he might not have been able to play except for a Presidents Cup perk that no longer exists.

The PGA Tour began offering a two-year exemption in 2004 to anyone on the previous Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup teams, provided they had some degree of tour membership.

More times than not, anyone good enough to make either team had no trouble keeping his card, although there were exceptions. Paul Azinger was picked in 2001 to play in a Ryder Cup that was rescheduled to 2002, and he was able to play in 2004 on that exemption after finishing 169th on the money list.

But what really infuriated players was the case of Immelman.

He tied for 17th in the PGA Championship to earn just enough money for special temporary membership. Later that day, Gary Player made him as a captain's pick for the International team, even though Immelman was 22nd in the standings.

It smacked of preferential treatment, not only because Player and Immelman are South Africans, but because Immelman's father is commissioner of the Sunshine Tour in South Africa. And just like that, he was exempt for two years on the PGA Tour.

"I think it's more important to win a golf tournament for a two-year exemption than it is to make one of those teams to get the exemption, or even theoretically be a captain's pick," Jim Furyk said after his playoff victory at Quail Hollow.

Furyk wasn't alone in his complaints.

The criticism was so strong that the tour's policy board rescinded the exemption in May last year. Because it was in the middle of Presidents Cup qualifying, the perk wasn't taken off the books until this year. That means the exemption is effective this year for Ryder Cup players, and through 2007 for Presidents Cup players.

Hensby on Captain Player

Mark Hensby: "I'm not saying Gary [Player] was a bad captain, but he didn't know the players well enough and the personalities well enough and pick the teams well enough."

He wasn't bad, but...

"To me, the communication wasn't great all week. Our team gelled very well but I feel a lot of players weren't put together who should have been together.

"If he'd picked the teams better, we would have had a better chance."

Hensby threw his support behind assistant captain Ian Baker-Finch, implying the popular Queenslander should have had more influence.

"The team would have been better off if Ian had had more say," he said.

So his picks were bad, he didn't know the players, communication was lousy and he didn't listen to his assistant captain. Other than that, Hensby thinks Player did a heck of a job.

These Guys Aren't Out of Hoosiers Yet

Some fun stuff from Thomas Boswell's Presidents Cup column:

In a year or two, perhaps we'll know whether this week at RTJ, with the touch of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus setting the tone, will actually transform the Americans into a true team. One player brought a sports page to read to the final interviews because he doubted he'd be asked questions and did a squeaky imitation of Nicklaus's voice. These guys aren't out of "Hoosiers" yet.

But this event might be a turning point. This time, it was the U.S. team at a victory podium doing its impromptu teasing skits as Nicklaus played father-figure moderator.

If one central U.S. player has to be melded with the rest of the team by a strong, even sarcastic captain's hand, it's Mickelson. And maybe only Nicklaus has the stature to do it.

Mickelson was asked about the indelible moment when, after making a five-foot birdie putt on the 18th to square his match with Angel Cabrera, he celebrated as though he thought he'd just won the Presidents Cup -- because he thought he had.

"I thought that that was it. I thought that we had won because I am an idiot and didn't read the rules of the game," Mickelson said. At that, the whole team melted in laughter.

"Better yet," Mickelson said, fingering himself further, "Captain Nicklaus told me on the 15th hole that there were no ties. Didn't quite get it. Still didn't get it."

 "I thought you understood," Nicklaus said.

"You would think I would," Mickelson said.

"I told you there were no ties and you had to play to a conclusion," Nicklaus said, mischievously.

"Yeah, I thought you meant, 'Don't go for the tie. Go for the win.' "

More gales of delighted team laughter.

"Okay," Mickelson said sheepishly, "I got it, I got it."


While doing research for a story, I stumbled across this article on Tiger from May, 2001. He was asked if course design was in his future.

Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player began their design businesses in their 30s and 40s.  The 25-year-old Woods said he has no clear timetable for beginning a design career. He also said that he wouldn't necessarily design long courses just because he is known for his length.

"You really don't have to have the hole 470 or 480 yards for it to be challenging," Woods said.

I point this out because 470-480 was sort of still a "long" hole four years ago for most players, except maybe Tiger.

Yet how many times during the Presidents Cup did you see players hitting wedges into 475 yard holes?  And NBC's announcers making sure to point it out?

While watching I was thinking that you would need another 75-100 yards to create a "long par-4" in the modern professional game, assuming you would like to see a mid-to-long iron approach.


It Just Took Forever

The Presidents Cup has made clear yet again that the players are trying their best to make golf entertaining despite once again playing a course that does little to inspire. This has been the case all year on the PGA Tour, yet all too often the drama never quite crescendos.

Perhaps it's the television coverage?  Or more likely, the pace of play?

Vijay Singh did not hesistate to comment when given an opening after Saturday's dramatic Presidents Cup play.

Q. Talk a little about playing against Tiger and Furyk today, they seemed to be a pretty good team.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, just damned slow, just too slow. It took me it took us 5 1/2 hours to play. Getting up in the morning and playing with them, you know, it's okay when they are hitting the ball, but around the greens it just took forever to play. Towards the end, it took its toll.

I had a partner [Stuart Appleby] that wasn't very fast, either, and there's three guys that are playing you know, Tiger is fine around the tee shots or, you know, the second shot, but when he gets to reading putts and all that, they just took forever. You start hitting a minute a hole for a player and there's three of them, that's three minutes a hole, it adds up toward the end of the day. It just took forever.
Vijay opened the door for more talk of the subject (what he would do to speed up play), or the tension between he and Tiger on the course. Naturally, a rally killer tried to intervene.
Q. I think just watching the games on TV and a little bit in person, you seem like you're having more fun than almost anybody here. Is it just a fun week for you overall?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know if I'm having fun, I'm here to win my matches and if I'm having fun doing it, you know, it's good for me.

I enjoy my teammates. I gel with them better than probably anybody else. I don't care who I get, I'm comfortable with everybody. So I just go out there and play my game and enjoy my company.
Thankfully, someone brought Vijay back to the pace of play issue.
Q. If you played John Daly in a match in the Presidents Cup, how long would it take?

VIJAY SINGH: It's tough, it's not the speed of play, it's just how slow they play. I play with a few other guys that are very fast. I have a pace and I play to my pace. When you have to wait every single hole, I don't know what the officials are doing, you know, and we had 20, 25 minutes behind time, they are just not stepping up and saying, "hey, you are slow, hurry up."


Love's Mistaken Lift

The misunderstanding in the Love-Cink v. Weir-Immelman morning foursome play provided an interesting dilemma. Love thought he heard Weir suggest that the 1-2 foot putt was good, but Weir merely said that Cink had hit a great shot.  Love picked up the ball. Weir protested, Immelman suggested it mean loss of hole. Captains were called in. Gary Player looked like he just woke up from a nap.

The PGA Tour official seemed perplexed, so guess who came to the rescue? That's right, the USGA's Tom Meeks.

He correctly ruled that because it was clearly a misunderstanding, Love could replace the ball with no penalty. Meeks cited Rule 18. Reader Blue Blazer emailed to suggest the ruling was correct, the rule cited by Meeks may not have been the right one.

2-4/3  Player Lifts Ball in Mistaken Belief That Next Stroke Conceded  

Q. In a match between A and B, B made a statement which A interpreted to mean that his (A’s) next stroke was conceded. Accordingly, A lifted his ball. B then said that he had not conceded A’s next stroke. What is the ruling?

A. If B’s statement could reasonably have led A to think his next stroke had been conceded, in equity (Rule 1-4) A should replace his ball as near as possible to where it lay, without penalty.

Otherwise, A would incur a penalty stroke for lifting his ball without marking its position — Rule 20-1 — and he must replace his ball as near as possible to where it lay.

TNT Knows...Drama?

presidents cup.jpgSince I can't watch the Presidents Cup without wondering if Tiger's goatee is a tribute to Waiting For Guffman's infamous Corky St. Clair, I thought I'd track an hour of TNT's coverage.

In between plenty of commericals, plugs for TNT drama/NASCAR, blimp shots (that's of the blimp), a Jim Huber pre-packaged tribute to Jack and Gary, and my favorite, a graphic on "Presidents Cup Lefthanders," TNT showed us the following from 1-2 eastern:

27 putts
3 drives
16 approach shots or par-3 tee shots
5 chips

52 total shots in one hour of coverage. Not sure how that stacks up with other networks. 

Oh, and I loved it when we saw Jack Nicklaus looking at the grass (probably trying to ID the variety), whild Bob Murphy told us that Jack was "pondering his thoughts."

Oh, and the first foursome took 2:20 to finish the front nine. And that's the short nine at RTJ GC.

Presidents Cup Day 1

presidents cup.jpgHard to get behind the U.S. team if they don't tattoo American flags to their cheeks! I mean, where's the patriotism with these guys?

 Seriously, here's the game story on the first day of Presidents Cup play. Rivetting it was. So exciting was it that I realized, if this were the Ryder Cup, no way the doctors let David Toms play. Too much stress. Presidents Cup? Eh, why not, who cares?

Here's a story on Toms as well as Jim Furyk, who was injured on day one but says he'll be fine.

If you have absolutely nothing to do, here is the Captain's post round press conference.  

Why Is It That...

presidents cup.jpg...American teams can never color coordinate? Maybe the red hats are a tribute to Donald Trump's favorite golf hat color.

And why is that the player wives are walking in the fairways with their husband's matches?  Oh right, family is one of the PGA Tour's core values. I forgot, sorry.

Course looks great. Love how the cameras can't quite pick up the white bunkers, turning them into white blurs. So natural. 


Humorless Americans?

Robert Lusetich in the Australian News:

Leave it to Peter Lonard, that plain-speaking sage from south-west Sydney, to dissect the cultural dichotomies between the International team and the US at the Presidents Cup.

"The main difference is that we don't get our knickers in a twist if someone calls us arseholes," Lonard said yesterday.


Presidents Cup Eve

presidents cup.jpgYes it starts on Thursday, part of the Tour's quest to not be like the Ryder Cup (well, and get another TV day). As for previews, Steve Keating of Reuters has the pairings. The Mickelson-DiMarco v. O'Hern-Clark match looks like it could be good one, though everyone will be watching Woods-Couples v. Scott-Goosen.  Meanwhile, Golf World's Brett Avery previews the teams.  And Doug Ferguson offers notes following Wednesday's practice round and press conference.

As for the to-autograph-or-not-to-autograph spat, no one asked the Captains to clarify as far as I can tell. Instead lots of dreary questions asking for comparisons between the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup and other boring stuff. By having the players do joint press conferences, it turns into one big rally killer session.

Let The Bickering Begin

presidents cup.jpgHey, this Presidents Cup match may get interesting after all. Captain Jack and Captain Gary are already bickering like a couple of old ladies.

Nicklaus, the captain of the United States team, confronted Player, the International team captain, and accused him of breaking an agreement forbidding players to sign autographs at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.

Members of the International team were seen signing autographs throughout the day, and some United States team members also signed.

After talking with Player, Nicklaus told fans - as he was signing autographs - that some of his players thought the International team had made them look like "jerks."


RTJ Golf Club Map

gw-logo.gifGolf World has another excellent course map, this time of Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. (It would be even better if they used that rubbery glue stuff instead of the staples that force you to tear it up. Not that this helps you online map viewers.)

Surrounding's rendering are anecdotes provided by Brett Avery:

The course, which Jones called "my masterpiece," originally played to 7,238 yards. In subsequent years the layout has become a veritable laboratory for the tour's course design and construction division, with 13 holes changed in various redesign projects.
Ouch. Trent Jones being remodeled by PGA Tour Design Services. There's a recipe for blandness.

Avery provides the lowdown on the new look, corporate hospitality friendly Presidents Cup routing:

When is an 18th hole not an 18th? When the PGA Tour bows to corporate hospitality skyboxes and begins matches at the club's third tee. Of the 96 matches played here since the 1994 inaugural, only 30 have reached the home hole (and seven in 2000). That meant anyone there hoofed it to the action or watched TV and listened for distant gallery roars. When the club shifted its practice area from uneven terrain near the clubhouse to the other side of several "cottages," event officials moved to No. 3. That means any match going 17 holes--and 56 have in three playings here--will parade before the skyboxes. It also means crucial points could be decided at the club's opening two holes, decidedly weaker challenges than its closing two.

The back nine at RTJ's masterpiece is checking in this week at 3,895 yards, thank you very much.

Clayton On Presidents Cup

golfobserver copy.jpgGolfobserver's Mike Clayton looks at the Presidents Cup and questions Gary Player's selection of Trevor Immelman. He, like many others, wonders why Geoff Ogilvy and his stellar season in the majors was not rewarded with a selection. Well, he doesn't wonder, he just comes out and says what many have felt:

Immelman was fifth at Augusta but Ogilvy has played all over him this year and if he had been a South African one has to suspect he would have got the last place.  

Presidents Cup Excitement

presidents cup.jpgAt least a few writers seem excited about the Presidents Cup. If you are trying to get up for it, click here and here for some inspiration.

Hard to get up for an event that has yet another different format, along with a course re-route in the interest of better corporate hospitality viewing. And as Brett Avery reported in Golf World this week (yes, my postman got through the issue fast), Robert Trent Jones's self-declared masterpiece has seen numerous revisions by PGA Tour Design Services.