Follow-Up: 17th Hole Club Selection Data And Jeff Young

Jeff Young (right) has the tricky task of trying to find out what clubs players have pulled. It's not an easy task! (click to enlarge)Jeff Young turned out to be one of the really fun parts of my story on the 17th hole and its stagehands. Besides being a super nice fellow, he had some great insights into what is going on at 17 tee where he was collecting what clubs the players hit and sending the information to the announcers. He was kind enough to produce his data from the four days, for those who are interested:

17th Hole Club Selection
Provided by NBC spotter Jeff Young

Sunday Play
8-irons used: 8 times
9-irons used: 36 times   
Wedges used: 25 times

The Week
8-irons used: 16 times
9-irons used: 147 times
Wedges: 266 times

Considering the hole is 137 yards, played that yardage Sunday, it does make me wonder if it might be time to add a little length to the hole. Then again, a fun anecdote of the week just didn't fit my story and it might suggest that length is not needed.

Adam Scott arrived at the tee with the wind at about its peak for the afternoon. The shot called for plenty of club (obviously) and perhaps some sort of semi-knockdown play. Scott briefly debated the shot and pulled a pitching wedge.

Also on the tee was former Players Champion Craig Perks, stationed behind Scott and announcing for PGA Tour Radio. As a courtesy, Jeff Young would flash the club when Perks didn't get the signal from the caddy. When Young showed the clenched fist for wedge, Perks tilted his head at Young, who reciprocated with a shoulder shrug suggesting he couldn't believe it either.

As soon as Scott hit his shot, Young, who had been turning around to watch where balls ended up on the video screen, didn't bother this time, instead turning to me and saying, "That one doesn't have a chance."

The wind knocked it about 8 yards short of the green into the lake.

I looked over at Perks who was looking back at Young, who also looked over at the former Players Champion. Both just shook their heads in disbelief at the selection. I joined them in amazement.

"Slow play is a legitimate issue, but not to the point where I think we need to do something like that."

Another head-scratcher from Commissioner Tim Finchem, this time in John Feinstein's Golf World column on slow play:

Of course, it has been 18 years since a PGA Tour player received a stroke penalty for slow play -- and Finchem doesn't sound as though he wants to see it happen again anytime soon.

"Slow play is a legitimate issue," he said, "but not to the point where I think we need to do something like that. The real problem isn't how long it takes to play a round but when one player makes it uncomfortable for the other player or players because of his pace. That's just bad etiquette. And it's true, we do have some players who are in denial about being slow."

So is the Commissioner sending out word, or has sent out word that he does not want a stroke penalty assessed? We know he's not a fan of controversy, so it wouldn't be a stretch to think he's sent word that penalty shots are brand-averse.

Gary Van Sickle also tackled slow play this week for SI and did it in very entertaining fashion. Naturally, he picked the one week they actually played faster at The Players, but he still offers several insights into the problem and a glossary of slow play handbook.

Clockblocked - Forget Greenwich Mean Time. On the PGA Tour, Time Par (no relation to Old Man Par) is what matters. Time Par is the time it should take to play each hole, as determined by the rules crew after careful study. At the Players, for instance, Time Par was two hours, 14 minutes for the front nine and 2:15 for the back, plus five minutes to make the turn. Time Par for the entire round by a threesome was 4:34, 3:58 for a twosome.

The 40 Time - How cool would it be if golf, like basketball, had a shot clock? It would be handy too, because once a group has been alerted that it's on the clock, a player has 40 seconds to hit his shot once it's his turn. The first to play the tee shot on a par-3, a second shot on a par-4 or par-5, a third shot on a par-5 or a stroke near or on the green, gets an additional 20 seconds. If a player exceeds his allotted time, he receives a bad timing.

"Scene Setter"

The last thing the world needed was another 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass story, and I, never one to insist on originality, filed this profile for Golf World.

But before you hesitate to hit the link out of 17th hole fatigue, a couple of things.

Longtime readers will recall that I visited The Players last year for the first time and was pretty much awestruck by the amazing scene at No. 17, in part thanks to the hole but even more than that, the impressive engagement of fans who chose to contain their view to the island green.

And for viewers at home, NBC goes all out to cover the hole in ways that blew my mind. So that said, my story is not a rehash of Pete Dye or Deane Beman stories but instead a look at the elements and people who help make it such a premier viewing experience. And as part of the story, Sam Weinman produced this short video. It includes me hitting a nice skull over the 17th Hole Challenge green. So it's got that going for it.

Tour Offers Nuanced, Long-Winded Reaction To Players Ratings Drop

Garry Smits writes:

The Tour, with 77 international players representing 21 countries, embraces the diversity of winners. However, overnight TV ratings indicate that American viewers want Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson in the mix, which didn't happen Sunday. The final round on NBC had a 3.3 overnight rating, down 20 percent from 2009 when Woods was in the final twosome. The overnight ratings for the third round Saturday were 2.5, down from 2.8 the year before.

However, the overall ratings for four Players Championships in May for NBC remain up slightly than the last four years in March. Also, overseas ratings, with Clark, Allenby and Westwood playing throughout the weekend, are likely to be up.

When asked if he had any reaction to the lower ratings, PGA Tour executive vice president for communications Ty Votaw replied, "No."

Tiger's Neck Is Both Awful And No Big Deal; Just Don't Say It's His Back

The highlights from his AT&T conference call as reported by Doug Ferguson:

"I'm at a point now where I just can't go anymore," he said.

Woods said he's been taking anti-inflammatory drugs, but they have not helped. He plans to have an MRI when he returns to Orlando, Fla.

He said his schedule is "up in the air" and could be shaped based on what he sees in the MRI.

Woods insisted he can deal with the pain, which he feels in the right side of his neck, but cannot deal with the spasms that affect his ability to turn his head.

I heard from a source today that Tiger was doing full workouts with heavy weightlifting at his hotel even with this neck situation. Makes sense with a sore neck and a bulging di...err, neck issue.

Here's the report from yesterday that got the bulging di...err, you know, out there.

A few other things from the transcript.

Q. Just wondering about your back which you hurt yesterday and the reason you withdrew from the tournament; did you get any examinations or see any doctor about it?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's not my back like it's been reported. It is my neck.
Yesterday I did pull out and it was because the pain is such that, yeah, it is annoying and it's painful, but I can deal with the pain. But once it locked up, I couldn't move back or through. I couldn't actually turn going back and I couldn't turn coming through.

This gave me a chuckle since he hasn't been to Riviera since his last WD and probably won't be back anytime soon.

Q. Why Aronimink? What made you choose Aronimink, as opposed to many other golf courses in the area? Had you ever heard about it before? Have you ever played it before?

TIGER WOODS: Haven't played it. Been out here, walked it, been around it, but just it's also the rich history that Aronimink has. We were at Congressional, another golf course that has a rich history, and I have always been a proponent of why don't we go to golf courses that are like this. We don't get a chance to play too many golf courses like this; so it's a treat for us as players.

One of the reasons why you see a lot of players play Quail follow is it's a great golf course; Riviera, it's a great golf course; Torrey Pines. We don't get a chance to play old-style venues like this very often, and when you do, you take advantage of it. And Aronimink was as nice as can be to allow us to come here for two years.

"Now I'm just another guy with a win."

As is often the case with international winners, Players Champ Tim Clark is just a lot more interesting to listen to after a round than his American counterparts. Sam Weinman captures the biggest laugh line (for the media anyway):

Not until Allenby's final birdie attempt slid past the hole was Clark assured the win. In its aftermath, the player admitted to a brief letdown.

"A part of me is disappointed because no one is going to talk about me anymore," he said with a smile. "At least you had something to write about before. Now I'm just another guy with a win."

Mike McCallister slipped in this little jaw dropper about the runner-up:

While much has been made of Clark's 0-for-205 streak before Sunday, Allenby's winless streak on the PGA TOUR has been even longer -- 223 starts since his 2001 win at the Marconi Pennsylvania Classic. Is tasting success and then not getting another sip of it for nine years worse than having not tasted it at all?

Helen Ross reviews the ironic story Allenby told after the round about Clark.

The gang noted this about Clark's ball:

Van Sickle: What happened to the yellow Srixon ball Tim Clark was using last month? A fine marketing opportunity lost. The Players could've boasted a yellow and orange ball user among its list of all-time champions.

Herre: Jerry Pate won the 1982 Players using an orange Wilson ball. Do I get bonus points?
Bamberger: Johnny Miller picked up on the Srixon thread, with Allenby and Clark going low with it.

Dusek: Nice move for a guy that is paid to endorse Callaway.

"Last week: MC. This week: WD. Next event: TBD."

Damon Hack on Tiger's WD Sunday:

The strangest six months of Woods's life — and maybe in the life of the PGA Tour — continued in Northeast Florida on Sunday as Woods ballooned an iron approach on the seventh hole, walked up to his playing partner, Jason Bohn, and withdrew from the tournament, citing a neck injury. Last week: MC. This week: WD. Next event: TBD.

Though Hack sounds pretty jaded about all things coming out of Tiger's mouth at this point, he does throw in this reminder for those taking issue with Tiger's honesty:

In fact, during his pre-Masters press conference, he acknowledged that he was treated at the hospital after his Thanksgiving night accident for "a busted lip and a pretty sore neck."

Steve Elling writes:

Outside of being served divorce papers while standing in the first tee box, the reincarnation of Woods career couldn't get much worse. Every time he seems to be at low ebb, the haymakers keep coming.

For the Tiger bashers, and there are legions of them at this point, the scandal and ensuing comeback has been the gift that keeps on giving. If you thought cosmic karma was involved in the feel-good story of Phil Mickelson winning the Masters as Woods made his comeback after a 144-day layoff relating to the worst scandal in golf history, well, providence and kismet were standing next in linne.

Michael McCarthy of USA Today reviews the various comments from television commentators, including a follow up from ESPN that Paul Azinger's job is safe in spite of his Swedish massage tweet.

The SI Confidential guys devote two pages to Tiger. A highlight:

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Hard to believe that in the prime of his career he could be an absolute non-factor for an entire season, but that's looking more and more likely now.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: If Tiger were a stock, now would be the time to buy. Can't go much lower, but long-term, still lots of value. (I gotta stop reading Fortune.)

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: You would have to be out of your mind to count Tiger Woods out. Even if he doesn't win for the next two years, he'll be back before he's done.

Van Sickle: I agree he'll be back eventually. I also agree that it's going to be longer than we thought. He's not going to step right back into it. I'd say he's not going to get there until his marriage situation is resolved.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this WD is an indication of Tiger's lack of desire and weariness about this period in his personal life and golf game. I think the pre-scandal Tiger is able to get through 18 holes and handle an injury with care. As to the question about the remainder of the season: I think it's possible that he doesn't play again until Pebble Beach. The summer is not lost.

Brooks thinks he knows why Tiger pulled out of The Players.

Saturday At The 2010 Players

I didn't follow Lee Westwood long today but I can't help but continue to be impressed with the aura surrounding him as he builds toward a possible Players win, and this summer, the Opens.

His new physique remains something to behold (even after the Masters). Just look at the NBC head shots of him, pre-training program. And while a noticeably slimmer waist or chiseled facial features are not the obvious recipe for major success, it's his overall devotion to his body, mind, game and schedule that oozes a unique determination to win a major.

Listening to his agent a few days ago explain Westwood's pre-U.S. Open run that starts with a return trip home and featuring a centerpiece 10-12 days of physical training over two weeks--"like a boxer," Chubby Chandler says--followed by a practice trip to Pebble, then the Memphis stop and ending with the Open at Pebble, you sense a Phil or Tiger or Padraig-like focus that makes it hard not to consider him a favorite in both Opens and certainly Sunday at the TPC.

Jeff Rude quotes Westwood about his mindset after taking the third round lead at The Players:

“I’m pleased with myself knocking on the door and getting in position,” he said. “Some of the golf I’ve played in big tournaments has been great stuff.”

Westwood is better equipped to excel in golf’s most prestigious tournaments because he has shored up his short game the last couple of years. He looked around and saw that leading players such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington had “wicked short games.”

“Once it sunk in,” he said, “it started paying dividends.”

So watch for those wedge shots around the greens, particularly off the tight lies. And more importantly, note the quiet determination. It should prove interesting to watch, particularly if someone can put a little heat on Westwood. After all, the numbers aren't on his side, as Brian Wacker suggests:

-He's 0-for-America in the last 12 years.
-A Brit has never won this tournament.
-He's 0-for-51 in major championships and while this isn't a major, it's a major deal.
-Seventeen of the 28 winners of THE PLAYERS Championship have trailed going into the final round.
-He's Lee Westwood and this is what he does. He teases us. He tempts us. He's lures us in with the charming accent and a personality to match.

As always, click on the images to enlarge...

And on 18...

"Be polite."

Steve Elling on a fun post-round scene today at TPC Sawgrass.

As ever, Phil Mickelson was signing autographs outside the scoring center at The Players Championship, having torn up the course with a 6-under 66 on Saturday to move into contention, and fans clamored three and four deep to get his signature.

Nothing new there. Then Tiger Woods walked past, having just completed another lackluster round.

A boy waiting in line for Mickelson to sign a souvenir, perhaps 7 or 8 years old, yelled out a biting comment to the reigning world numero uno.

"Say goodbye to No. 1, Tiger," the kid said. "Kiss it goodbye."

Double ouch. Not only has Mickelson unseated Woods as the game's most popular player, he's seemingly on the verge of dethroning him as the top dog in the world rankings.

Mickelson gave the kid a tsk-tsk. A less-classy player might have slipped the kid $100.

"Be polite," Mickelson said to the boy.

This Week's Sign Of The Golfing Apocalypse, Geoff Edition

The Commissioner hosted a festive Southern Style Pig Roast and in lieu of his presence, will surely get to read some wonderful memos and bullet-point rundowns about the party from his staff. I do, however, wonder if there will be a report on the 17th Hole Challenge competition that saw Lawrence Donegan take the clubhouse lead with a fine 2 foot 1 inch shot, only to talk a little trash that motivated yours truly, after two balls in the water, to consult Bones who recommended I take a little off the Callaway 56 degree. The ball bounced twice, spun back and into Saturday's front hole location for my second career Hole-In-One and a non-amateur status-ruining pair of Bolle sunglasses. But more importantly, the opportunity to see my name in bold Arial type on a ShotLink scoreboard is a career highlight.
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"It was one of the weirdest things I've ever seen."

Garry Smits on the couple that decided to park on the 8th green at TPC Sawgrass last night and do Lord knows what. Thankfully, the green sustained no damage. Too bad they don't arm the TPC maintenance staff with tasers too.

According to a report by the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, William John Rinaldi and Brianna Lynn Borelli, who share the same Jacksonville address, were discovered by Vlach and Reich around 9 p.m. Thursday, inside the car, parked on the eighth green, with the motor running.

After Rinaldi refused to turn the motor off and get out of the car at Vlach's request, he called 911. When sheriff's deputies arrived, Rinaldi and Borelli were outside the vehicle. There was no damage to the green and Vlach declined to press charges as long as the two were issued a trespass warning.

"The best thing about it is I don't think there was any intent to tear up the course," said Capt. Dave Messenger of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office on Friday. "It was one of the weirdest things I've ever seen."

Borelli's mother came to take the vehicle off the property.

Friday At The 2010 Players

I don't want to be too hard on PGA Tour players criticizing a course because the greens are too soft, but I'm going to anyway.

Jerry Kelly after his 66 Friday, Sam Weinman reporting:

"There's no excuse for the greens. This is the fourth year," Kelly said, referencing the 2006 redo of the Stadium Course that introduced Bermuda greens. "They're soft. They're spongy. They don't keep them short enough. I'm disappointed in the way this thing is set up."

While acknowledging that the region endured one of its harshest winters in memory, Kelly said he still preferred the old layout that made many of the recovery shots he attempted on Friday an impossibility.

"I know it's a tough winter, but I was hoping they could stress these greens a little more," Kelly said. "It's a shame. I'd rather play on mud and dirt like we used to sometimes rather than play on a first cut. This is slower than the old fringe. I just remember what it was. It was really tough to get at some of these pins."

Kelly, though well intentioned in wanting firmer greens, is way off base.

Tiger was asked about the greens and the use of the SubAir green drying system (the indiscernible portion of the question):

Q. Why is it (Indiscernible)?

TIGER WOODS: Probably don't want to turn the switch on.

Q. If no one turned the switch on then, are you surprised that they didn't?

TIGER WOODS: Very surprised. We're holding 5-irons and shots on 8 with 3-irons are holding. You would think that they'd be a little bit more springy than that.

A couple of things.

First of all, SubAir is a bit misunderstood in its ability to quickly suck moisture out of greens, particularly when the environment above ground is a sauna with humidity in the 70% range.

Furthermore, I have a few sources who say the SubAir is a constant problem here at TPC Sawgrass and has never worked as well as hoped.

And even if the SubAir works beyond their wildest dreams, the most important part of the equation involves the winter of 2009-10. The greens are weaker than normal due to positively awful growing conditions, requiring a great deal of fertilization to get full coverage for this year's Players. That means they also have to be treated a bit more gingerly come tournament time by superintendent Tom Vlach.

Yes, it'd be great to have firmer greens, which I believe will come with Saturday's rolling and drier weather forecast Sunday. But the TPC Sawgrass should also have healthy greens after tournament week (and they are obviously quite good this week based on the scores). But is it really so awful to have great players like Lee Westwood posting low scores on a difficult course? No way.

That said, I spent most of my day writing or on 17, so the images are limited to these click-to-enlarge specials.  And I really wish I had been there for this!

Look who is hanging out behind the green...(small textured ripple in the lake)

Phil on 18 Friday:

Thursday At The 2010 Players

For those of you keeping track at home: no post round autographs for the kids, three F-bombs on 18 tee and one sky ball from Tiger. That said--and eye-rolling is forbidden--Tiger's effort to engage the crowd is having a positive impact on the atmosphere surrounding his group. Hecklers are no where to be found. There feels like plenty of goodwill and forgiveness out there.
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