2006 In Review

2006yearinreview.gifThis blog-thing continues to be one grand experiment, but any success it thanks in large part you all for spreading the word and sharing your thoughts via the comments section.

This marked the first full year on Squarespace and included few technical glitches thanks to their excellent service, but surely plenty of typos on my end. Thanks so much to all of you who emailed in a heads up on stories, mistakes or questionable posts (thankfully there were few of those). 

The most hit and emailed post of the year?  Why that would be this site's January exclusive on the USGA's private jet travel.

2006 also included some exclusive site content.

Former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan weighed in with a commentary on the recent USGA-AmEx deal and revealed that the USGA lost $7 million this year. He also shared his thoughts on the USGA's private jet package, his views on a Golf World story claiming that Gary McCord had turned down the chance to announce at the Masters and his take on USGA President Walter Driver's revealing take on the distance issue.

AIMDarwin.jpgThe year also included a series of instant message interviews with some of the game's top writers, including the inaugural chat with Stu Schneider of Golf World, the second with John Huggan, an architecture discussion with Golfweek's Brad Klein, a post-Open Championship talk with SI's Michael Bamberger and a post Ohio Golf Association Champions tournament chat with SI's Gary Van Sickle.

Speaking of instant messages, my NSA sources also shared a series of IM's between PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and LPGA Tour Commissioner Carolyn Bivens. My sources say we'll continue to receive these periodically as long as the two keep their jobs, which...eh I'm not going there.

You can relive those rivetting exchanges here, here and here.

We also were treated to a series of text messages sent from Walter Driver's Blackberry to USGA course setup man Mike Davis during U.S. Open media day at Winged Foot. Hopefully we'll get a few more of those in Driver's final year as exhalted ruler.

And finally, what would this site be without your input, and just some of the highlights from user comments can be read in the various Week in Review posts that can be found archived here.

So on that note I would love to hear what you would like to see (or not see) from the site in 2007. The look, content, features, etc.  Naturally, my hope is to continue highlightling the best and worst from the golf world, and maybe even do a little more golf architecture project blogging should we be so fortunate in 2007 to break ground on some exciting projects.

So please, comment away...and Happy New Year,

Best of BivenSpeak 2006

2006yearinreview.gifAnd just think, the LPGA Commissioner has not been fired (yet), so we have at least another year of fun!

Some of her finest moments involved the use (or misuse) of big words. (Note to Carolyn Bivens: when Finchem uses coterminously, he actually knows what it means.) My favorite:

There's two messages that have gotten out in some cases and we just plain haven't been able to reel back in. One is that we were very capricious and the (ShopRite) date went to the highest bidder. No. 2 is that we just don't care about long-term sponsors. Again, not the case.

Capricious. Uh, according to answers.com: Characterized by or subject to whim; impulsive and unpredictable. You go Carolyn...go to a dictionary!

Other highlights in the Bivens repertoire included this to John Branch of the New York Times:

“I really don’t have three heads, I don’t have an eye in the middle of my forehead, and I do speak in complete sentences."

And my favorite, to Steve Elling in the Orlando Sentinel:

"We're trying to open endorsement opportunities to women. We're trying to raise purses. Isn't that appalling? My, my, go back in the kitchen."

Carolyn103005.jpgOf course there wasn't just the flippant stuff, but the deep insights into American business and your required references to the "product," like this one:

We have the most talented and marketable trend setting group of athletes that a sport could ask for. And we're providing value for the rest of the world, and we're beginning to benefit from a product that's turning in a great return on investment and the best is yet to come.

And here's one you'll want to write down:

"It’s no different than any other corporation or private citizen," she said. "You figure out your salary is X, your expenses are Y. If you’ve got a mortgage that the interest rate is going up next year, you’ve got to figure out … do you take an extra job? It’s life."

Best False Hope Provided By The USGA In Its Ongoing Efforts To Become Irrelevant

That would be Jim Vernon's excellent speech on the impact of technology on championship golf, delivered at the USGA annual meeting in Atlanta, and subsequently forgotten about with the organization's apparent focus on the evils of square grooves.

Oh and this from USGA President Walter Driver made it pretty clear that the organization will not honor it's 2002 Statement of Principles and instead has drawn a new line in the sand starting in 2003.

The facts are that the tour distances are nearly flat the last 3 years. It went down somewhat a few years ago and then leveled off. So the facts show that there hasn't been much increase to show us that we need to act from when we made those statements.

At least we know where they stand. 

Best Orwellian Statement Made By David Fay

2006yearinreview.gifWar is peace. Ignorance is strength. USGA is the average golfer.

The USGA's Executive Director has a knack for coming up with one of those seemingly brilliant thoughts that makes USGA groupees--minds dulled by way too many days in the hot sun with that walkie-talkie vibes eating away at brain cells--swoon over their bow-tied leader. And as we always do when weeding through his baseball analogies, further inspection reveals that Fay's remark will not pass the smell test.

This year's winner came when he was speaking in Colorado, crafting another brilliant excuse for the USGA's inability to regulate equipment properly.

"I understand people like Nicklaus, (Arnold) Palmer and (Greg) Norman want to do something about the ball, and I respect that," Fay said. "But who are we governing for — the elite players or the people like the ones at the Golf Expo? I'd say for the latter."

And as I pointed out back then, if they really are only governing for the average joe, then why regulate equipment at all?

Ah, because with out the elite player, the USGA becomes a handicapping outfit with a nice Green Section and a cool collection of memorabilia. In other words, just another downstairs booth at The Golf Industry Show.

Best TV Deal Beat Reporting Exposing Fun Little Facts You Won't Read Anywhere Else

2006yearinreview.gifAfter Golf World's Stu Schneider broke the news that ABC was out of the new PGA Tour TV deal, the newspaper scribes did the best work in highlighting the best and worst of the new contract.

Robert Bell had the Greensboro perspective, including the revelation that Mark Steinberg was earning some nice cash on the side as a consultant.

Garry Smits kept tabs on the TPC Sawgrass redo and for documenting some fine MBAspeak that justified the Players Championship's move to May.

Ed Sherman in the Chicago Tribune and and Len Ziehm in the Sun Times did stellar work covering the Western Open's demise

Steve Elling, Steve Campbell and Craig Dolch offered more general perspectives, but still good ones you can read here, here and here.

Sam Weinman on Westchester situation as well as coverage leading up to the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

Lorne Rubenstein for eyeing the demise of the Canadian Open.

Brian Allee-Walsh in the New Orleans Times-Picayune for coverage of post Katrina and the TPC New Orleans recovery.

Bruce Berlet on the off and on Hartford situation.

Thomas Boswell for blasting and Len Shapiro for diplomatically criticizing the handling of the Booz Allen

Gary D'Amato on Milwaukee situationLarry Bohannan on the Hope Classic's move to the Golf Channel.

Gerry Dulac (here) and Mike Dudurich on the 84 Lumber Classic's demise.

And finally, Mick Elliott on the sponsor troubles in Tampa.

I'm sure I'm forgetting someone, but those were just the ones I stumbled across in reviewing all of the great coverage this year. 

Best Oy Vey Moment Of 2006

2006yearinreview.gifCarolyn Bivens provided two runner-up nominees when she said...
It's been a remarkable season on the LPGA Tour and these girls have really rocked out on the field.

And, save your oy veys for when she said...

We have to be able to what I call slice and dice our audience, know exactly who it is we're targeting, what messages works and what distribution channels.

But the winner is Walter Driver, who in accepting his nomination as USGA President, took the bold step of coming down off the podium in Atlanta to speak to the USGA staff and committee folks who had gathered to hear his speech. A true man of the people...well, except when he takes the USGA jet.

Best About Face By A Golf Organization In A Backpeddling Mode

You are thinking it's Tim Finchem's change of heart on drug testing after Tiger came out in favor, but no, this one goes to those mad hatters at, where else, the USGA!

Remember young Mackenzie Kline, with the weakened heart...

it was recommended if she kept playing golf, she use a cart and have oxygen available. However, her petition for a cart at Carmel CC in Charlotte in two weeks was denied on a technicality. USGA rules stipulate players must request a cart when they apply to the event. When Kline submitted her entry, she wasn't aware she would need a cart.

"Obviously you feel for her," said Marty Parkes, USGA senior director of media relations and communications, "but with those entry deadlines, we feel to be fair with everybody you have to hold to those."
And about a week and Lord knows how many conference calls later...

“The more we looked into it, it was clear that because of her condition she needed a cart,” Parkes said.

Least Subtle Self Reference By Johnny Miller In A Lead Analyst's Role

Shockingly, it did not occur on the airwaves, but in this Q&A with Jerry Stewart he's discussing the possiblity of equipment regulation and just couldn't help himself:

A: I don't see a real issue here. Even with all the new equipment, a 63 is still a heck of a score. I managed to do it in an U.S. Open. 

If only I had every 63 at Oakmont reference... 

Another Sigmund Freud Award For The Most Nuanced Complaint About Tiger Without Using His Name

2006yearinreview.gifPeter Kostis continue to rack up the hardware (his first award is here) and I know he feels blessed to have his subconscious fury highlighted on this web site.

Talking to Golf World's Stu Schneider, Kostis doesn't sound in any way threatened by Nick Faldo's arrival at CBS.

"Someone's going to have to define Nick's role," Kostis said. "Nick is a very funny guy, but he's not going to compete with [David] Feherty or McCord, and we don't need an excess of funny on our telecasts. I think he's being hired because of his golf knowledge and his ability to communicate it."

Don't worry Peter, there hasn't been an excess of funny for quite some time!

Best Comment By Bobby Clampett In His Role As The Announcer Who Mysteriously Remained Employed

2006yearinreview.gifSo much wit and wisdom from Bobby Clampett in 2006, and most of it delivered right to my email box by the poor souls at TNT who would document his thoughts.

There was his ridiculous attempt to claim that there was "no bad blood" between Faldo and Woods at Hoylake, along with the ensuing jibberish about the TV business.

There was this, uh, brilliant metaphor to describe the par-4 12th hole at Poipu Bay:  “That hole is placed like a candle on the side of a birthday cake.”

And his big phrase of the week at Hoylake. How could you forget? Why it was that course's propensity for...come on, you remember:  “This golf course lends itself towards “bunching.”  You have to take your medicine on a certain number of holes and birdies are hard to come by.  And the combination of the two leads to bunching on the leaderboard.”

But my favorite was his tribute to Yogi Berra during the Grand Slam of Golf telecast, which, mercifully, I did not watch. Speaking of Geoff Ogilvy... 

"If he wasn't a professional, he'd be out there playing every day."

Best Reminder That R&A Secretary's Should Not Design Courses

Peter Dawson, rambling on in such effortlessly obtuse fashion about his foray into design at Turnberry where he's trying to offset lax technology regulation:
"Sometimes you can't fully appreciate the impact of an alteration until it's been built and you have another look at them in reality rather than on a drawing," said Dawson yesterday.

Best Sign That The Masses Do Not Enjoy Par Protection Golf

It's fascinating to read year-end reviews touting this year's U.S. Open as 2006's best tournament. While it may have been the most dramatic and unforgettable, Tiger's artful display at Hoylake was a lot more inspirational and uplifting. (And that was before he broke down on 18).

The Nielson numbers said most people did not enjoy watching the train wreck golf brought on by Winged Foot's anti-birdie setup, but we know the USGA will surely blame Tiger's missed cut at Winged Foot for the lowest Saturday since measuring began and the second lowest rated final round since 1994.

Best Declaration of Augusta National's Architectural Demise By A Former Champion In A Leading Role

2006yearinreview.gifSeem so long ago that we got to see Golf Digest's Ron Whitten flip flop on Tom Fazio's Augusta modifications after the floodgates were opened by Jack and Arnie much talked about criticism.

But for my money, Ben Crenshaw wins for his more subtle attack on the changes, printed in the USA Today by Jerry Potter.

Ben Crenshaw, a two-time Masters champion, says the Augusta National that Jones built after winning the Grand Slam in 1930 was "revolutionary in American golf course design at that time."

"It was completely different architecture," says Crenshaw, a golf historian when he isn't designing courses or playing senior golf. "The course Jones wanted had as many options to play a hole as was necessary to keep any golfer's fascination."

Jones wanted a course that was a pleasure for a recreational player and a challenge for a skilled player. It wasn't too long, it wasn't too narrow and it had no rough. It did have undulating greens that placed a premium on the second shot at each hole.

"There was a safe way and a dangerous way to play each hole," Crenshaw says. "It set itself apart from other courses."

Huggan On Uihlein: "He has to go."

Remember Wally, I just copy and paste this stuff. In fact, reader David sent this to me, so I didn't find it, didn't write it, didn't think of it. That said, John Huggan has you on his Santa wish list...

2 A NEW LEADER AT TITLEIST: Sadly, the man in charge of the world's biggest golf equipment company is a world-renowned point-misser.

In a position to do the world of golf a favour and agree to withdraw his tacit threat to sue if the game's hard-pressed administrators should make rules that will shorten the vast distances the very best players can propel shots, Wally Uihlein chooses instead to follow a policy that can only damage the sport and, by extension, his own company, in the long term.

Look at some of the nonsense that we already have to put up with: courses covered in long grass and stretched to something like 7,500 yards so as to all but eliminate from contention anyone not physically big enough to hit drives over 300 yards on a consistent basis - goodbye Justin Leonard and Corey Pavin and Andrew Coltart.

All of which is largely down to Uihlein's intransigence.

He has to go.
Way harsh Huggy!

I also liked his plea for more Geoff Ogilvy's and fewer carts in the U.S., but this was especially good:


7 A DROUGHT IN AMERICA: Having not long returned from a visit to Australia, where water is currently in very short supply, Santa would like to see those conditions replicated in the US.

Having sampled fast-running fairways and greens that only enhanced the strategic qualities of the likes of Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath and the stunning Barnbougle Dunes, some of the same would do nothing but good in the land of 'hit and stick'.

Instead of wedging on to pudding-like greens from basically anywhere, Uncle Sam's nieces and nephews would suddenly be forced to consider where best to place their drives. Angles would have to be created in order that approach shots could be landed short and run up to the flag.

Thinking on the golf course? What a concept, eh?

The Sigmund Freud Award For The Most Nuanced Complaint About Tiger Without Using His Name

2006yearinreview.gif...goes to who else but CBS talk jockey and Titleist Golf Products Design Consultant Peter Kostis for this oh-so-not-subconscious attempt to channel his inner rage at Tiger's refusal to listen to his inane post round interview questions:

If the tour and television truly are partners, then the players have to do their part. Tim Finchem evoked the success of NASCAR in creating the FedEx Cup points race, which begins in 2007. But the success of NASCAR isn't only derived from a season-ending points race. It's also from drivers willing to share comments with television viewers while in the final stages of strapping themselves into their seats and risking life and limb at over 200 mph. Most tour players, however, are reluctant to talk to television hours before they play or warm up because it might ruin their mental state! It only takes a matter of seconds to lend some insight, so no more of this "I'm too busy to talk" stuff on the range.

Apparently this reaching out tugged at Tiger's heartstrings and he will now, on occasion subject himself to a Kostis interview. All is right with the world!

The Best Use of Coterminously By A Commissioner In a Leading Role, 2006

From one of his press conferences...heck, I can't even tell which one now, they all sound the same...

In addition to those things, on the cable side, I think I should point out that the Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour programming have been extended coterminously to a 15-year arrangement with The Golf Channel, as well. So in a nutshell, that's our programming situation, and we are very excited about the way it came out.