More On SpazGate

This New Zealand story looks at the even greater unfolding horror behind Tiger's use of "spaz," the American media's vast left wing cover up:

British media have taken their American counterparts to task for not reporting golfer Tiger Woods' controversial "spaz" comment after yesterday's US Masters.

The world No 1, after finishing tied for third at Augusta, three shots behind winner Phil Mickelson, told a television interviewer: "As good as I hit it, that's as bad as I putted and it's frustrating, because I felt so in control of my ball from tee to green, and once I got on the green I was a spaz (spastic)."

The Telegraph in London took a dim view of the comment and its subsequent reporting in the United States.

"America's leading newspapers yesterday helped Tiger Woods evade controversy by ignoring his use of the word `spaz' to describe his poor putting in the final round of the Masters at Augusta," Lewine Mair wrote in the Telegraph.

"The LA Times, changed the word to 'wreck' while The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe all expunged the word completely. Only two US sports news services ran his words in an unedited form."

ShotLink: 12 at Riviera

shotlink_hdr.gifRiviera's 480-yard par-4 12th featured the most penal rough during the 2006 Nissan Open, so it was the first hole I've looked at with the PGA Tour's incredible ShotLink system that is available to the media during tournament week. 

Besides 3 inches of healthy rye, the 12th fairway was 25 yards wide. The combination of prevailing wind, rough and a narrow landing area made it play as the 3rd toughest hole, with a scoring average of 4.232. (The par-5 first played to a 4.299 average.)

However, a case could be made that the rough added very little in terms of defining skill or rewarding accuracy.

According to ShotLink, the scoring average from the fairway was 4.13. From the left rough, it was 4.28, and 4.26 from the right rough.

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12th Hole at Riviera data
Looking at the scoring numbers provided in the screen capture  to the left (click on image to enlarge), the rough on 12 did not seem to impact scoring  much despite the obvious attempt to penalize those missing the fairway via narrowness and tall grass.

I've taken the left and right rough numbers and combined them to get these percentages:

7% of tee shots finishing in the rough made a birdie 

9% of tee shots finishing in the fairway made a birdie

63% of tee shots finishing in the rough made a par

70% of tee shots finishing in the fairway made a par

30% of tee shots finishing in the rough made bogey or worse

21% of tee shots finishing in the fairway made bogey or worse

And according to ShotLink, here's the scoring average by distance off the tee:

320+yard drives averaged 4.04

300-320 drives averaged 4.15 

280-300 drives averaged 4.19

260-280 drives averaged 4.33

240-260 drives averaged 4.57

<240 drives averaged 4.70

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12th at Riviera "proximity to the hole" data
Not surprisingly, the idea of hitting the ball as far down the hole as possible seems to be the percentage play, with the rough not having enough of an effect to reward accuracy.

The "proximity to the hole" data from ShotLink would also seem to indicate that flogging is an intelligent strategy. (Click on image to enlarge.) 


 

Greetings From LA, Wrap-Up

greetingsfromLAThe way the guys are driving the ball and the 15-year Golf Channel deal were the two most frequent topics of discussion last week.

On the distance front, it's fun to hear folks who shrugged the issue off a few years ago now finding themselves startled to see where the guys are hitting it, how little rough matters and how rarely "shotmaking" occurs anymore. Apparently with time to ponder the ramifications, many who are around the Tour regularly appear to be realizing the same thing that got my attention on the issue: the impact on courses and pace of play. 

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No. 2's ShotLink Accuracy stats for the week (click to enlarge)
It may seem somewhat sad that the distance issue gets noticed in part because of the press tent location at Riviera. But hey, it's something.

Situated on the "practice fairway" between the 1st and 2nd holes for five or so years now, the tent finds itself in play off the 2nd tee.230136-276878-thumbnail.jpg
A player hits his 2nd shot on No. 2 after getting relief from the press tent (click image to enlarge)

It was one thing to see a drive on No. 2 reaching the fairway bunker that Thomas certainly never meant to be in play from the tee. And each year there have been more and more drives equidistant to the media center, but those drives were in the fairway. Now offline drives are almost reaching the press tent some 320 yards off the tee, forcing many players to take line of sight relief.

The other distance eye-opener at Riviera: the 10th now plays like a long par-3, with all groups waiting to tee off until the green clears. On Saturday, groups were waiving up the players behind them.

Throw in the fact that the par-5 11th is reachable for a player in nearly every group, with No. 17 almost as reachable in two for the long bombers, and you have three back nine holes where there is a whole lot of standing around.

So for the second year in a row, the PGA Tour was unable to get all 144 players finished the first two rounds due to slow play. 

The other subject that you'll start to see getting more scrutiny: The Golf Channel and its 15 year deal with the PGA Tour.

It was fascinating how many conversations drifted to the astounding length of the contract, the failure to include ESPN to maintain a SportsCenter presence and the lack of time The Golf Channel has to take its production values up several notches.

The consensus: TGC is going to have to start offering pay comparable to other television outlets, something it has so far been reluctant to do. And they are going to have to do it quickly.

Rory and Paul

Catching up on the ABC telecast at the Nissan, I listened to the Paul Azinger-Nick Faldo summary of Rory Sabbatini's slow play incident with Ben Crane last year. Azinger reported that he and Rory had kissed and made up, even played a practice round together.

But unless there is someone else who blasted Rory on the air, everyone in the press tent assumed these post-final round comments were referring to Azinger. 

Q.  Was there a part of that you was worried about blowing this thing, especially as you come off 15?

RORY SABBATINI:  Well, obviously, you always hear the stories, you always hear the things after, everyone is a great commentator on golf on Mondays, oh, he blew it. This happened, that happened.  You know, I didn't want to give them anything more to fire at me.  I feel like there are a few people out there that have taken a lot of pot shots at me and, you know, it's one of those things that I didn't want to give them any more ammunition.

Q.  You said you didn't want to give people more ammunition, what basically?  I mean was it the incident with Ben last year, or was it just a lot of things? Without getting too personal, can you go into that?

RORY SABBATINI:  Well, actually I choose not to get into that.  There are a few people that seem to have their opinions.  You know, it's pretty sad.

 

Greetings From LA, Vol. 7

greetingsfromLAAn uneventful week at Riviera turned interesting Sunday afternoon. I'm not sure how it translated on television, but the back nine was pretty exciting thanks in large part to the crowd's love for Fred Couples.230136-276168-thumbnail.jpg
Couples on 4 (click on image to enlarge)

I'm also not sure how the wind appeared on television, but it was downright nasty at times. Adam Scott's final round 64 was remarkable considering the combination of wind, cool temperatures, soft fairways and a tough setup.

Though the final setup was extremely difficult, the Tour officials did inject some variety, using the lower tee on the par-4 5th twice just to keep the boys honest. On Sunday there were reasonable birdie opportunities on 1, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14 and 17. The rest ranged from tough to extremely difficult hole locations.230136-276161-thumbnail.jpg
No. 4 Sunday (click image to enlarge)

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No. 6 Sunday (click on image)
The par-3 sixth was played from the far back tee (originally built for the "permanent temporary" green). With a back left hole location, this meant a 200-yard+ shot to a tiny quadrant. Silly, but not the first time this setup has been used.

Before the round I mentioned to ABC's Ian Baker Finch that Rory Sabbatini had suggested he would be changing irons for the final round. I later mentioned it to Nick Faldo, who stood near the cameraman's gathering area on the third tee, signing autographs and watching the play. Both were shocked to hear that Sabbatini would even contemplate such a move.

I'm not sure if they mentioned it on the air, but it turned out that Sabbatini's wife talked him out of this nutty scheme (more on this in my Nissan Notes column at Golfobserver.com).

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Rory on 12 (click on image to enlarge)
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Rory at 12 green (click on image)
Sabbatini finished his range ball session 50 minutes before his tee time. That seems like a long time between shots in any weather, but especially strange in today's cold temperatures. In general he's one odd dude, often yammering away at his caddie between holes. They had a nasty exchange from 11 to 12 tee where his looper seemed to be taking receiving the blame for a misread. But Sabbatini played with confidence and poise despite a pro-Fred gallery, only snapping once when an obnoxious fan uttered something, well, obnoxious.

RORY SABBATINI:  There were a lot of very snide remarks out there.  12, I hit a great bunker shot and I walked out of bunker and someone said something.  It's sad when, you know, you have that situation.  Obviously, Freddie is the great player, they can support him.  I have no problem in the world with that.  I'm an ever believer in the fact that, if someone hits a good shot applaud it.  Don't make snide remarks.  Just appreciate the game, appreciate the shots. 

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Rory's Super Belt Buckle (click on image)
Sabbatini was sporting an old car hood interesting belt buckle during the final round.  The Superman logo appealed to him because "S" is his initial.

Q.  We were all admiring the belt buckle out there, what's the story behind it?

Admiring? Well, that's not what the scribblers were saying.

RORY SABBATINI:  I don't know I just  this was this week walking through the mall, there was a vendor with a bunch of belt buckles.  I like wearing belt buckles and I found one that I liked.  It happened to be Superman logo and happened to be my initials, so I figured hey, why not.

I saw Golf Digest fashion editor Marty Hackel hanging out in the press tent before round and would loved to have heard his thoughts on Rory's taste. But fashion guy was long gone by the time I returned for the press room lunch.

Speaking of food, in an effort to inspire cranky final day game stories they served a mystery beef later described to me as Santa Monica Canyon Tree Squirrel sauteed on a bed of carrots and kikuyu clippings. I passed and went with the fried rice and fresh fruit.

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Couples Plays Into No. 9 (click on image)
The course played as firm as kikuyu could play (well, early in the week) and maintained enough firmness today despite an early Sunday morning downpour. As usual, the maintenance team did an amazing job. Now if we could just get them to understand that they have no business tinkering with the design...

After collecting the ShotLink stats and saying goodbye to the fine folks running the press room, I strolled out to the 10th for a final look in the glorious evening light. Knowing that the course is about to undergo a major meddling, I thought about George Thomas and Billy Bell, wondering if they could have ever imagined an event like today's being played on their design. 230136-276184-thumbnail.jpg
No. 10, after the fans have gone home (click to enlarge)

Architects can never envision how all of the parts of their design will work, but there are so many elements of Riviera that work so beautifully because Thomas and Bell clearly thought out each design element. They cared so much about the detail work that astounds me every time I see Riviera.

And now it faces more change. What for?

That's the question everyone in the press room asked me all week: what about Riviera needs "fixing?"

I wish I knew.

Greetings From LA, Vol. 6

greetingsfromLAIt was an intensely boring but glorious weather day at Riviera. The crowd woke up with Fred Couples' charge, setting the stage for a retro final day with Couples seeking his third L.A. Open title at Riviera. 230136-275487-thumbnail.jpg
Riviera rainbow (click image to enlarge)

Adding to the final day intrigue is leader Rory Sabbatini's surprising revelation that even after putting a new set of irons in the bag in Hawaii, he's taking them out after 7 straight weeks (see post below). In their place will be his old set, apparently stored in his motor home.

There's no truth to the rumor that Phil Mickelson consulted on this decision. 

Well so much for the Woods-Holmes shootout, with Tiger WD'ing because of the flu.

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Holmes on 13 (click image to enlarge)
J.B. and Geoff Ogilvy still put on a good show, with Ogilvy carding a 66 and Holmes unleashing his power on his last few holes.

Nothing about Holmes' game is "fundamentally sound," and yet that's what makes him so promising. He clearly has a feel for the game, which is saying alot with today's equipment divorcing so many players from any kind of feel shots.

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JB's approach to No. 8 (click on image to enlarge)
Check out where I saw Holmes hitting from on the non-alternate-alternate fairway 8th, where a record number of players have used the left fairway this week (at least 20!).  230136-275492-thumbnail.jpg
Shotlink shows Holmes's huge drive (click on image to enlarge)

Holmes had a nice angle to the hole and made birdie (see ShotLink photo to the right). Oh, and for the second time this week, I saw Holmes taking a ball out of play, and instead of stuffing it in his bag, Holmes went out of his way to find a young boy. And again, another priceless smile by the surprised kid and lifetime fan for Holmes. He's the only player I've seen do this all week. A wily veteran at 23.

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ShotLink tracks Holmes on 7 (click on image to enlarge)
Back to his long hitting antics. Check out what ShotLink says about his drive on the par-4 7th (left), which I unfortunately missed.  Who knew the sand short of the green would become a fairway bunker?

Elsewhere, well, it was pretty dull at "The Riv," as the hot-selling pro shop hat says. (Okay, on three everyone...1-2-3...oy vey!).

A few other notes going into Sunday...

The day-to-day setup has been excellent.  A nice mix of hole locations, with not too many tucked ridiculously and the tee placements varied. 230136-275496-thumbnail.jpg
No. 6 Saturday (click on image to enlarge)

Let's hope tomorrow is not another final day U.S. Open wannabe thing like we saw at Pebble Beach. But based on early season trends, I'm expecting a par-fest.

My favorite hole location was the front-middle spot on 6, set just below the gentle tier. Players could feed the ball down to the hole, allowing the crowd to cheer their ball down. But if they missed a bit too far left, the players faced a difficult two-putt.

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Couples on 16 (click on image to enlarge)
No. 16 featured the classic sucker-right location, but that didn't stop Fred Couples from going right at it. He missed an 8-footer for birdie.

And finally, a shot of the rollers they are using on the greens this week... 230136-275500-thumbnail.jpg
Riviera rollers (click on image to enlarge)

Rory Going Bode Miller On Us?

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Sabbatini on 15 (click on image to see full view)
A boring day at the Nissan ended on this very interesting note.

Meeting with the germinalists after his third round 67, Nissan Open leader Rory Sabbatini was asked about his dominating performance and revealed a stunner right up there with skier Bode Miller's decision to try out some new ski's for the men's downhill:

Q: Rory, when is the last time that you felt you had this much command of your game.

RORY SABBATINI:  You know, actually, the funny thing is I don't feel like I'm hitting the ball very well right now.  I'm probably going to switch my irons back out tomorrow, back to my old set because I don't feel like I'm hitting my irons very well.  I'm driving the ball well, I'm putting well, I'm chipping well.  I just found right now I feel like my irons aren't feeling as confident as I should be.  So I think I'm probably going to go back to my old set of irons tomorrow.

Q.  What would those be?

RORY SABBATINI:  The Pro Combos.

Q.  What are you hitting now?

RORY SABBATINI:  I'm hitting the NDS Nikes.

Q.  Have you ever switched irons in the middle of a tournament?  Have you ever switched irons with a 4shot lead?

RORY SABBATINI:  No, I haven't had too many 4shot leads.  No, it doesn't make any difference to me.  For me, it's just a situation of being able to feel like I can really control my irons, control the shaping of them and things like that. Right now I'm just kind of struggling with mine and I'm going to go back to my old ones.  If I get out on the range tomorrow morning, and they feel OK, they'll be in the bag.

Q.  Rory, two things, on the iron thing: how long have you had these irons in your bag now, how long have you had them in the bag?  And do you usually travel around with two sets of irons?

RORY SABBATINI:  They have been in my bag since Tuesday of Sony.  They have been in the bag the whole year for all of my tournaments so far.  I just decided to try them at Sony.  They worked.  It's not that there is any difference in the irons, that I don't feel they are good irons.  Right now, my confidence level isn't in them because I don't feel like I'm controlling the ball as well as I need to.

Q.  Do you always carry two sets with you?

RORY SABBATINI:  No. Well, since having the bus now I can, yes.  I normally have about 30 clubs under the bus.

Ernie's Site Time

From Friday's sit down with the assembled inkslingers at Riviera:

Q.  Most people have a 100-mile drive to La Costa, your’s is going to be like 5,000?


ERNIE ELS:  Yes, I'm doing (designing) a golf course in Hawaii, in Honolulu.  Fly out Sunday night and I will be back Monday night in San Diego.

Q.  A little spot inspection thing?

ERNIE ELS:  Just an in-and-out thing. You get there Sunday night – sleep. Probably get up at 6 in the morning, I want to be in the plane 3 o'clock coming back.  That will get me back about 11 o'clock or so.

You know, how do I say this nicely. Wasn't he going to be taking it a little easier this year on the travel front? 

Greetings From LA, Vol. 5

greetingsfromLAWell the forensic people found signs of a Christian Lacoix shoe on my lowly Rockport, so it's a match. Elin got me. Ebay here we come!

Wasn't it a cold but lovely day? That is, until the rain decided to make a mess of things. Even though the heavy stuff was in the forecast, several players were caught off guard and did not have umbrellas or Gore-tex. Including Tiger.

Uh, isn't this the point of having a tour bag?

I spent the morning walking with Jason Gore. He's struggling a bit with the putter, but otherwise playing fine. He hits the ball, uh, quite long. Particularly when he's pissed.

At various times I made stops by the short par-4 10th to watch just how poorly players manage the hole. With a back (Sunday!) hole location, it was remarkable to see how many people tried to drive the green even though that play brings 5 into the equation.

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Els on 10 (click on image)
Early in the day, Ernie Els drove the 10th, the very same play that began his demise in the 1995 PGA final round. But hey, that was then, this is now, when he's battling to...make the cut.

Naturally, he made birdie from the 11th tee, so I'm sure he'll continue to swing away at No. 10.

And that's the very beauty of it: the 10th remains as tempting as ever, even the face of all this athleticism.

I'm not sure if Hank Kuehne is tempted easily or just not a very smart player, but a day after driving it in the bunker backing the 10th hole alternate green (40 yards offline), he took another crack at it and made a mess of things. These pictures give you a nice idea how he was lucky to make 5.

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Kuehne Hits Into 10 (click on image)
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Kuehne from the bunker
I decided to follow Kuehne to see how he recovered, and to also watch Joe Ogilvie, Tour policy board and good natured sport about the columns I write using him as the lead character. Kuehne nearly blew it O.B. on #11, attempting to scale the 80 foot tall range fence. Somehow he stayed in bounds and made par. Then on No. 12 he nearly visited the 11th fairway.230136-274955-thumbnail.jpg
Kuehne approaches 12

The 13th got even uglier with a visit to the left trees, followed by a lay up in the barranca, a swipe from there and finally one more for a miracle bogey. I couldn't take it anymore, nor could I stand staring at the outfit (which would go over wonderfully in certain parts of this town). 230136-274956-thumbnail.jpg
Kuehne on 13

Since it was getting dark and cold (Junior Chamber of Commerce weather!), I ventured toward the press center. Even though the tent is located 350 yards off the 2nd tee, it's now in play baby!

At least 10 players made visits to the press room without actually entering. But the scene was welcomed by the scribblers who don't like to leave the premises for fear of missing first lunch menu crack, even though the fare has been uninspired even by the Junior Chamber's normally low standards.

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View from the media center
Before arriving back, I took in the Holmes-Faxon pairing along with the Ogilvy-Browne-Johnson group. Thankfully, Saturday will feature a Tiger-J.B.-Geoff Ogilvy pairing. Yes, the three players I want to watch most will all be together. Unfortunately, about 5,000 other people are thinking the same thing. 230136-274961-thumbnail.jpg
Ogilvy on 9

Finally, a few more fun photos from the day, including Geoff Ogilvy on No. 9, J.B. Holmes on No. 11 and a distinguished spectator on No. 12.

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J.B. Holmes Saturday (click to enlarge)
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A fan... (click to enlarge)
 


 


 

Sounding Off

Peter Yoon and Thomas Bonk have a note on the airhorn sound that kept interrupting Thursday play at the Nissan. And this money quote that probably explains why the neighbor isn't too pleased:

Michael Yamaki, the general manager at Riviera, said the situation should be corrected.

"Eventually we'll have to deal with her," he said. "She can't intentionally do stuff like that. It's too bad. You don't want to have bad relationships with neighbors."

Then maybe you should deal with her.

Greetings From LA, Vol. 4

greetingsfromLAA chilly but lovely day at the Nissan. Elin stepped on me. She tried to give me a "flat." (At least that's what we used to call it when someone stepped on your heel with the intent of displacing your shoe. I'm sure that's just what she had in mind...)

Anyway, the shoe will be on ebay at the end of the tournament. I'm working on the certificate of authenticity.

Meanwhile, out on the golf course...

The setup was very solid, with a nice mix of tough and medium hole locations. I didn't see any that could be called "easy." The greens were very firm and sneaky fast. A bit crusty too. Combine that with the varying wind directions and morning/afternoon cool temps and...you have 68 players under par!?

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J.B. on 17 (click to enlarge)
I spent the morning alternating between the Holmes-Taylor-Faxon group and the Ogilvy-Johnson-Browne pairing. Holmes was struggling a bit and seems to have a significant distance gap between his 3-wood and driver. Several holes at Riviera force him to lay up, and his 3 wood was leaving him a bit too far back.That said, he hit a 310-yarder on No. 2 that actually landed in the fairway upslope and bounced backwards. No. 3 he popped one 346, and on No. 5 he hit a 343 yarder. Yes that's right, he just blew it over the ledge that most players lay-up short of...with their drivers.

The Holmes tee shot on 17 wasn't as bad as his ax-murderer reaction makes it look.230136-274274-thumbnail.jpg
(click on image to enlarge)

Long drive of the day doesn't go to Holmes, but to Stuart Appleby for a 385-yarder on No. 3.

For some reason the third tee has become a launching pad the last few years, with only 5 drives hit under 280 yards in round 1. Note the ShotLink shot distribution pattern below. I remember when the fairway bunker was sort of in play on a windy day. Even today with the wind in the player's faces for the afternoon rounds, the bunker isn't even a consideration.

A few years ago, most of the writers in the press tent would have shrugged and said, "so, you move the bunker." But it's fascinating how much that has changed. Most realize now the ramifications and the dilemmas facing courses, architects and course owners. 230136-274276-thumbnail.jpg
ShotLink of No. 3, Thursday

 

Wilson Speaks

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Dean Wilson (click to enlarge)
Some great questions and comments from the likeable Dean Wilson after his first round 64.

Q.  It seems like they've had a pretty healthy mix of guys who have won this thing from little guys like Corey Pavin, it doesn't seemingly exclude anybody?

DEAN WILSON:  Yes, I think that's one of the great things of a style course like this.  I like to see where guys can mix it up, where you might have a guy that's not so long going against a guy that hits it a long way versus some courses, like said, it's so long, it's tougher for the short hitter to compete because these guys are just getting up there and blasting it so far and the penalty for being a little off-line doesn't really matter.  

Q.  A couple of years ago, somebody could have made the exact same comments, saying it's tough to compete against a guy that's out there blasting 300.  When did 340 become part of the equation?

DEAN WILSON:  I guess when Bubba Watson joined the TOUR.  I played in the second last group in Phoenix and watching where John Holmes hitting it.  It's incredible just watching those guys hit the ball and how farther it's getting out there.  It's a different ball game.

And here's Dean Wilson telling a story about Steve Elkington and the use of the back No. 6 tee.

Q.  Dean, you talked about these guys hitting it far, but it seems also to be hitting it straight more often than not too, which is a little bit scary, isn't it?

DEAN WILSON:  Yes, exactly.  Bubba hit 11 of 14 fairways in the final round of Sony.  That's why he had a great round.  When you hit it that far  some of these courses, what they're doing to me, it seems like every time they make a change to a course, they're just adding new tees, making it longer and longer and longer and it's taking some guys out of the game.

And I kind of find it funny, saying they're Tiger proofing it.  They are just putting it right into his hands where it's tougher for a guy like me to compete against them.

I haven't played this course a lot, but coming out and playing practice rounds and seeing where some of the tees are, and hearing what  I played a practice round with Steve Elkington in that par3, on the front, (No.) 6.  The first thing he said, we went on the practice rounds, we always go to the back tees, we got to the back tees, and he said well this tee ruins the hole.  He said it used to be a great hole before.

Now we are sitting back there hitting 3 and 4irons just trying to get it in the safe part of the green rather than trying to take a chance at something.

So just stretching those courses out, just makes it  I don't think it makes it any better is what I'm saying.

Greetings From LA, Vol. 3

greetingsfromLAPro-Am day, that means plenty of chances to duck for cover. (The media center is situated between the first and second fairways).

Ernie Els came to the interview room right when Tiger Woods talked to the press above No. 18. I picked Tiger, and it was your basic debacle, with a bunch of TV folks asking banal questions about how Tiger is feeling, when did you open the learning center, etc... Oh and a bunch of questions asking why he's never won at Riviera.

Els apparently didn't have much to say in his chat, though I was hoping to ask him about changes he's making at Wentworth. The driving range buzz is not positive.

Elsewhere...

Speaking of range buzz, a few players have said that they are pretty sure the USGA is going to regulate driver head size, taking the driver back to a 290 cc's limit for competition.

Oddball Thursday pairing: Brad Faxon and J.B. Holmes. The Tour's shortest driver statistically and the second longest.

The greens are the firmest they've been in years. With it dry and breezy tonight look for firm and fast surfaces in round one, unless the hoses come out. Hopefully they'll leave the watering work to the bunker crew.230136-273507-thumbnail.jpg

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John Daly and Pro Am Partner (click to enlarge)
If you ever think PGA Tour pros make too much money, don't forget just how dreadful pro-ams can be. I was speaking to one player on the putting green and a pro-am guy interrupted to tell his life story, all because he and the player went to the same college.

"It's not even a tough par-4!"

Reader Josh noted that the 517 yard-par 5 18th at The Vines, site of last weekend's European Tour event won by Kevin Stadler, played to an average of 4.14.

That prompted this remark from Mike Clayton: “It’s not even a tough par 4!”

I'm suspecting the first at Riviera will look the same way this week. Last year it was hovering in the low 4.3 area, and that was in two wet, cold rounds playing as long as possible.   

Greetings From L.A., Vol. 2

greetingsfromLAI spent an enjoyable few hours walking the back nine with Geoff Ogilvy, Luke Donald and Sean O'Hair. All three are impressive ball strikers. Donald's swing is particularly graceful and he is still aided by his Northwestern coach, Pat Goss, who was in town to check up on his pupil.

Ogilvy has plenty of interesting things to say about the state of the Tour. I finally found someone who agrees that the Tour's course setup philosophy leaves a lot to be desired. I know you all were worried. Elsewhere...

  • The greens actually are not nearly as good as they were last year. Tee to fringe, Riviera has never been better, but apparently the lack of rain and a late fall aerification set the greens back a bit. They are certainly fine, especially compared to 10 years ago. 
  • I sat in on J.B. Holmes' press conference, which included some great questions from the scribblers (well, Steve Elling did most of the dirty work):
Q.  Are you a weights and/or conditioning guy?

J.B. HOLMES:  Not really.

Q.  I'm guessing not really.

J.B. HOLMES:  No, not really.  I ride the bike a little bit or whatever.  I'm not really big on the weights and stuff.  I probably need to do a little more running or biking or something like that.  I'm strong enough, I really don't need to hit the weights.
But don't forget, it's the athleticism and working out!
Q.  John, with the way that you have been piping it out there the last few years, now that you are out here with the big boys, and blowing it passed all of them, there has been sort of a negative side to it to, people are saying he hits it too far, they need to rein that in. What's your response to all of that?  You can become the poster boy for the USGA making rules changes.

J.B. HOLMES:  I mean if they knock it back 20 yards, I'm still 50 yards ahead of the guy.  So I don't see any point of changing. Everybody says that golf is changing.  It's a new sport, the distance, everything like that.  I really don't believe that truly.  Look at all of the great players; Palmer, Woods, because he was hitting it past everybody.  Nicklaus hit it a long ways. So technology made the distances further, but it seems like all of the great players that you see back in history, they hit it passed everybody.  Even Tiger, Tiger hits it past everybody. So technology is making the distances further.  But I mean the courses are getting longer too, so I really don't think that it's changed the game that much.
Get this young man some talking points!
Q.  You don't think there has been a lessening of the skill factor because you only have to hit your 3iron, 4iron, 5iron a couple of times per tournament?  It's mostly a wedge, 9iron.  These are some of the points that have been raised.  You are just overwhelming golf courses?

J.B. HOLMES:  You know, they are starting to make them longer.  I can see the distances, some of the advantages on some of the courses.  Like they said, say they do dial the ball back 20 yards back, instead of hitting a wedge, I'm hitting a 9iron or 8iron.  The people that are hitting 6iron or 7iron, now they're hitting 4iron and 3iron.

 I'll take anybody with my 8iron or 9iron when they're hitting 3iron and 4iron.  I almost think that will be a bigger advantage because you can hit a 7iron and 6iron close.  It's hard to dial in a 4iron and a 3iron.
Q.  J.B., you said that you're not much of a weights guy, but I'm curious if that's the case, do you think there is even more distance out there for you if you really got on a program, could you add 10 or 15 yards to what you already have?

J.B. HOLMES:  I don't know, maybe.  There is not really any sense of it.  I think I hit it far enough.  If you get into the weights it can change your swing, if you got too big something like that.  All in all I got real strong legs, quick hips, pretty strong upper body and big forearms.  So I don't think there is really any need of me getting stronger.

I can see riding a bike, something like that, doing a little more conditioning, maybe strengthen my core a little more.  But as of weightlifting just to get stronger, I could.  I don't think it will do anything.  It might, it might not.  I might get stronger with the weight and tighten up a little bit and hit it shorter, you know.

Greetings From L.A., Vol. 1

greetingsfromLAA quiet but absolutely beautiful day at Riviera today in the low 80s. Sorry.

Hey, if it's any consolation, we're supposed to have below-normal temps Thursday through Sunday. Anyway, a few observations

  • Besides inspecting the new green expansions (No. 9 is detailed below), I watched a few players and walked the course. The fairways have never been better and the greens looked were firm and smooth (especially considering they had just hosted the Monday morning pro-am). There is little rough, which combined with the quality conditions and mind-boggling trajectory of shots, the scores should be pretty low (barring winds, which are predicted for the afternoons).
  • J.B. Holmes stopped everyone with a long drive display on the range. If you know the range at all, you know that drives sailing over the far end land in the barranca bisecting No. 11. Holmes was carrying the barranca and you could actually see some of his drives bouncing in the 11th fairway, headed for the 12th. That was a first.  
  • As I walked the course, several caddies were out double checking their yardage books. I only saw 2 out of about 20 using rangefinders. 
  • Questionable fairway widths: No. 5, 434 yard par-4 into the prevailing wind with a hard right to left slope...25 yards. And No. 12, 460 yard par-4 into the prevailing wind with slope: 25 yards.
  • And finally...what would a Tour event be without a light bunker watering...

bunkerwatering.jpg