Monday, June 30, 2008

US Women's Open ...Too Easy?

Normally, people complain that the Open setup is too hard. Karrie Webb, who finished about a million strokes out of the lead at Interlachen (actually, 15), thinks that Mike Davis and crew set up the Open to be too simple. What?

Former world No.1 Webb believes the Interlachen course is playing far too easily for the biggest championship in women's golf, and she lays the blame firmly with the United States Golf Association.

And with 19 players under par after the third round, and leader Stacy Lewis on nine-under 210, Webb made a valid point.

"I really don't understand what the USGA have tried to achieve this week, because they've kept the greens soft all week," said the two-time Open champion, who was 12 strokes from the lead.

Didn't it rain?! That would hurt that a lot. Anyway, Webb complains that the course was so soft that it made ballstriking not as important as putting.

Webb believes that firm greens reward the best ball strikers, those who can control the distance they hit their approach shots, but that soft greens have made the Open more of a putting contest.

"It opens it up to people who don't have great distance control and to me that's what the US Open is about, good ball-striking.

"If you're putting yourself in positions where you should be, you're supposed to be at an advantage, but I don't think it's playing that way right now."

Mike Davis came to his own defense on the allegations:

Mike Davis, the USGA official responsible for the course set-up, said the greens had been the same speed and firmness every day, including practice days.

"No disrespect to Karrie, but this is as consistent (a course set-up) as I've ever seen," he said.

First of all, I love the "no disrespect" line. After watching Talladega Nights the other day, I am going to begin using that line to make putrid remarks about people. I'm a little off track, though.

The real point is whether or not the Open was too easy. 12 players finished under par this week. That is unusually high for any Open. Pine Needles had five finish under par last year. But that played to a par of 71.

Interlachen's par was rigged by Davis and the USGA to play at an unheard of 73 with five par 5s. Let's just say that Interlachen was instead set up to play at par 71 but kept the same layout. That would knock off 8 shots to total par. In that case, only In-Bee Park would have finished under par. The artificial par made scoring look better than it really was.

In-Bee did kind of prove Webb's theory, though. If you look at my instant final round analysis, it shows that In-Bee was not very solid in the fairways and greens department. She won on putting, by finishing 2nd in that statistic. Among the top 14 putters this week, 8 of them finished sixth or better. Maybe she has a point.

But, if that was the key - and the Open was a putting contest - Webb should have fared much better than she did. She is T29 in putts per hole this season on the LPGA Tour. That's in the top 25% of all players. She is also 122 in driving accuracy, which should not have hurt her if this was just a putting contest. Also, being 13th in greens in regulation for the year would lead you to believe that there is little correlation between her poor driving and hitting greens. She should not have had a problem in putting the ball in the correct position and subsequently making putts.

Too easy? Maybe. But, if so, Webb should have finished a whole lot better.

Kenny Perry Doesn't Like Majors

They keep getting in his way of scoring maximum points toward the Ryder Cup. So, he's skipping Royal Birkdale and electing to play in Milwaukee instead.

AOL Fanhouse with the details via Golfweek:

Perry ... confirmed that he will skip the British Open to play in the Greater Milwaukee Open in his attempt to make this year's Ryder Cup in his home state of Kentucky.

"I've won Milwaukee, and I've top-10ed it there the last 12 years in a row and love that tournament," said Perry, No. 6 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. "I'll play the British next year."
See my column for how well his strategy is working - because it is. Still, I don't understand this one. The Milwaukee events run opposite to the Open Championship. That tournament earns on 0.5 Ryder Cup points per $1000 won. Each regular event has double that figure in points offered. The majors have 2 points per $1000 won. In effect, Perry is giving up 4 times the number of points possible for him at the Open to stay in a familiar setting.

The winner in Milwaukee will win about $720,000. He will get 360 points if he wins. I know he wouldn't win the Open Championship, but his maximum potential there would be to win and take home over $1.5 million with the exchange rate. He could get 3000 points by winning the Open. This one just doesn't seem to work mathematically speaking.

Besides, Helen Ross at has us pretty well convinced that Perry is already on the team.

The 19th Hole: The Perry Parade?

Several weeks ago, Kenny Perry was the butt of many jokes in the media for his decision to skip playing the US Open at Torrey Pines because he did not want to play in a 36 hole qualifier and his personal distaste for the layout. After winning the Memorial tournament, Perry said he was not going to change his schedule and that he would continue his season motivated by his desire to make the Ryder Cup team one last time. At 48 years old, Perry would likely not have another opportunity to make a serious run at the team – much less at a course that he loves in Valhalla in his native Kentucky.

Despite remaining firm that Perry should have played the US Open as the second hottest golfer on the planet right now, he deserves kudos for remaining firm to his plan. With a final round performance aided by a sandy for eagle, Perry won for the second time this season at the Buick Open at Warwick Hills, Michigan. It is his second win in four starts.

In 18 starts this year, he has made all but one cut – his first start of the year at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Although he has two wins, he could have easily had three were it not for a freak bounce at TPC Sugarloaf in the AT&T Classic. Instead, he has a second place finish, a third at the Hope, and he finished sixth last week in Connecticut.

The good form certainly took a lot of hard work, practice, and is coming together at the right time. But, it is also not as much of a surprise as you might expect for a guy that is two years away from the Champions Tour. That is because Perry has made a conscious decision this season to schedule his year around events in which he has historically done well.

Take this week’s event, for example. In his career, he has won at Warwick Hills, and has finished in the top 15 on seven occasions. Last week’s host course – TPC River Highlands – has seen Kenny Perry finish in the top 15 in 7 of his last nine starts there. With track records like those, he can go into those events with much higher confidence that he will finish in the top 10 and earn significant Ryder Cup points.

Perry came into the week sitting on sixth in the Ryder Cup standings, which awards one point for every $1000 earned in official events except majors, where they are doubled. For the victory, Perry got $900,000 and will take 900 Ryder Cup points as well. That will propel him the fourth on the points list. It is critical to keep moving up the points list because only the top 8 in points are guaranteed a place on the team. Captain Paul Azinger revamped the selection criteria for these matches to place a greater emphasis on money won and performance in the majors. Given that Perry skipped the US Open and did not qualify for the Masters, he lost two opportunities to earn double points. Also, with eight automatic spots on the squad, there is still time for other players to unseat Perry’s current position. By winning twice (almost three times) now, even if that were to happen, it seems almost impossible that he will not make the team in one fashion or another.

The strategy paid off for Perry. It seemingly is a borrowed one, though. For years, PGA Tour officials, fans, and corporate sponsors have lamented about the reality of the Tiger Tour. Tiger Woods plays around 18 events per year in a regular season. The events that comprise that schedule do not change from one year to the next. The latest addition to that schedule was the Wachovia Championship at Quail Hollow. The schedule is set by Woods to allow him to play the majors, the Buick events (since he is sponsored by them), the World Golf Championships, the events that he serves as host, and a handful of other events in which he has an excellent track record. Woods only plays on courses that he likes and that suit his eye. He does this to prepare for majors, attain success consistently, and have a sense of order to his season.

Perry borrowed on this idea with a goal that is slightly less lofty than Woods’ grand slam grandeur, but he has employed it splendidly. In the end, he will make the Ryder Cup team and may very well be the anchor of the American squad.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Coverage Review for NBC Sports

Admittedly, NBC is not my top network for golf coverage. But, they also don't do a bad job. They're just not my favorite. This week, though, I thought they gave a real half-ass effort in the production of their coverage from Interlachen.

First, you can tell from the get go how important this event was not to NBC Sports. Dan Hicks, the usual golf anchor, was no where to be found. In fairness, though, he is anchoring NBC's coverage of the Olympic trials this evening and they paid a lot of money to broadcast the Olympics. Mark Rolfing performed anchor duties. Rolfing is a good reporter and did a nice job, but has very little gravitas and certainly not a lot of experience in controlling a telecast from on camera. He did handle the duo of Dottie Pepper and Johnny Miller fairly well, though.

Speaking of the dual color commentator approach, I think that NBC may have been going for some Faldo-Zinger magic with pairing Miller and Pepper in the booth. On multiple occasions that I noticed, Pepper had to correct or just outright disagree with something Johnny Miller threw out on air. He seemed fairly lazy in his preparation and on camera looked like he was just collecting a paycheck. Either that or he was extremely uncomfortable with covering women's golf. If you're going to not have Dan Hicks, you may as well not have Johnny Miller either. Make Rolfing-Pepper the booth for LPGA coverage and I would be pleased.

Nice to see Jennifer Mills is still in the media world, but I think she struggled with interviews. Some of the questions that she asked and the flow of interviews with players just appeared awkward to me. Perhaps it is because it has been a while and she is normally in an anchor position (from her days at the Golf Channel). Contrast her interviews with the one that Gary Koch had with In-Bee Park after the win, and you'll know what I mean.

Overall, I'd give NBC a mark of B- for their effort this week. It just seemed obvious throughout the whole presentation that this was a nonchalant effort just to fulfill contractual duties.

Impressive Win from In-Bee Park

In-Bee Park became the youngest winner in the history of the US Women's Open on Sunday at Interlachen in Minnesota, replacing Se Ri Pak as the owner of that distinction. It was an impressive performance for the week for Park, being the only player to post an under par round every day. In the end, she won by four shots over Helen Alfredsson. The overnight leaders, Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer, faltered significantly and finished at -4 and and -3 respectively.

What did it for In-Bee, though, is not the usual US Open mantra of fairways and greens. Park was T28 in fairways hit for the week. She was T21 in greens in regulation. But, she was T2 in putting and that was critical to her momentum. Everytime Park faced a clutch par putt or an opportunity to score, she seemed to make it.

Her calm demeanor and prior experience in pressure-packed situations (having won the US Girls Junior previously) really carried her through. Perhaps even some naivety helped, too, as she did not know that she had such a huge lead until 16. Without the realization of the moment she was in, all she had to do was finish it off once she realized it.

In-Bee is another shred of proof that the movement that Se Ri Pak began 10 years ago has really come full circle. With Park's victory and the fact that more Asian players made the cut than Americans, it can call into question the direction of the sport for Americans - and the direction that the LPGA Tour will take next.

Friday, June 27, 2008 Ads

I went over to today to check up on the Buick leaderboard. To my disgust, they had a video advertisement playing in their Flash highlight player. I wanted to stop it. But, I couldn't because there was no stop button. That's annoying. In the future, I'll just go to The Golf Channel.

Johnny Miller...Cause It's Friday.

What do we know about Johnny Miller? He shot 63 to win the US Open at Oakmont. He choked away some other major opportunities.

We also know that he puts his foot in his mouth a lot in the NBC golf booth. It is possible that his schtick has grown old with the golf audience from what I am reading.

And he is an egoist. (Really, what golf commentator that hasn't been doing the job for a legendary period of time would allow the Golf Channel to profile them for a half hour special?)

So why not rub some salt in the wound and post a piece interviewing him for the Reno Gazette-Journal? Before I do, though, I'd like to go on record as pleading with the media community to simply stop talking to the guy. He does provide endless material, but it is a cycle of perhaps four or five things. Until he starts saying new funny things, just re-print old interviews.

But, I will work with what I am given.

First, on ratings, Johnny presents a keen insight:

"To be honest, the tour is really going to be hurting," Miller said Friday at the unveiling of Timilick Tahoe, a private course he co-designed along with John Harbottle. "You know, really hurting, a lot more than people know. It will go on. Nobody is bigger than the tour, but if anybody has ever come close to being as big as the tour, it's Tiger. And a lot of these tournaments that thought they bought their way into getting Tiger to show up, they're out of luck, aren't they? The TV ratings are going to go down quite a bit."
For the record, Tiger was only going to play about 10 more times this year. Pretty much every tournament not currently in the Tiger Tour knows what they're getting.

Then, how about an unintentional joke?
"It seems like Vijay (Singh) is still a really good player, but maybe has had his best days," Miller said. "Phil (Mickelson) I think still has got some great golf left in him, but he's getting up there too. It's interesting to see who's it going to be. Is it going to be a European? Europeans are good."
Vijay would tell you that Europeans - particularly the British - are lazy and happy to lose. By process of deduction, then, Phil must be the guy.

And Miller is ready with balloons and refreshments for everyone if Tiger winds up not beating Jack's mark of 18 majors. Why? Because he ... called it.
"In my book ("I Call the Shots," published in 2005) I wrote that there's a good chance that he wouldn't beat Nicklaus' record because who knows what his back would do, or his elbow, or, I didn't say knee, but the guy creates a 185-mile-per-hour ball speed, and he's got 132-mile-per-hour club speed and he's got that violent left foot jump-back."
Stop feeding the bears!

Greg Norman is NOT the Most Likeable Guy

I don't normally get into paparazzi stories, and I'm not going to quote this one on this blog, but a column on gives some information about Greg Norman and his associates that, if validated, proves that he's probably not someone you would want as your friend.

The Rocco Bounce

Seriously, this guy has become a rock star. If he could only win more than half of the time, like Tiger can, Rocco could transform golf. He shot 71 in his first round back on Tour after the Open. The game story is a nice summary of the kind of treatment he is getting from all angles.

"I'm about to faint,'' Mediate said after signing for a 1-under 71 in the scoring trailer.

Mediate got a boost of energy moments later when he walked into the locker room.

Tom Lehman was the first of a few players to greet him with a hug or handshake and kind words about his showing in U.S. Open. Then, Mediate opened his locker and read the latest batch of handwritten notes from PGA Tour peers.

"This whole experience has been unbelievable,'' he said.
And from the fans, he gets just as much love.
Mediate's approach from 115 yards at No. 6 sailed to the right and landed in rough thick enough it almost hid the ball, an errant shot just 46 fans standing along the ropes saw at the sparsely attended event.

Instead of cursing at himself, Mediate conversed with fans and joked about how many of them say "That's a gimme,'' any time a ball is remotely close to the cup.

"You need to come up with something else,'' Mediate joked.

While Mediate's playing partners waited on the seventh tee, he chatted with Hilfman and signed autographs for a couple of young boys.

"Rocco, that was a great battle with Tiger,'' a fan shouted to Mediate as he walked to the scoring trailer.

"Thank you,'' he replied.
The guy is fantastically kind. You do not see a guy like him very often. He may quickly join the Mount Rushmore of guys that I love on Tour. He joins Boo Weekley as the 2nd to be nominated.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Kodak Challenge on PGA Tour in 2009

Kodak has decided to get involved with the PGA Tour. This is kind of bizarre, but it basically is the equivalent of the Dream 18 that you can create in the Tiger Woods video games.

The Kodak Challenge begins in January 2009. Select PGA TOUR tournaments will feature a Kodak Challenge hole. Players must play at least 18 Kodak Challenge holes throughout the season to be eligible to win. Players will post their lowest score relative to par on 18 of the Kodak Challenge holes to compete for the Kodak Challenge title and $1 million.

The Kodak Challenge holes will be selected by Kodak and the PGA TOUR with input from an Advisory Board made up of representatives from a cross-section of the golf industry. Holes will be selected based on their aesthetic beauty and their connection to memorable moments in the game of golf. The first one -- the par-3 17th at Warwick Hills -- was announced Wednesday and the rest will be released later this year.

The members of the Kodak Challenge Advisory Board are:
David Feherty -- CBS Sports golf analyst
Rees Jones -- renowned golf course architect
Jules Alexander -- renowned golf photographer
Andy Pazder -- PGA TOUR Senior VP, Tournament Administration
Lance Barrow -- CBS Sports golf, Coordinating Producer

Jon Show at Sports Business Daily follows up with this note about the Advisory Board:
Despite the lack of NBC involvement, Kodak Chief Business Development Officer Jeff Hayzlett said tournaments on that network are also under consideration.
I mean, it sounds kind of interesting. We'll just have to see how it plays out. But, I am almost certain that Tiger Woods cannot win this unless they rig it so that Kodak Challenge holes appear at the majors and WGCs - with at least two on one course.

Does Tiger's Injury Present the LPGA with an Opportunity?

Dan O'Neill writes for the St Louis Post-Dispatch and offers a column that responds to the question with a decisive maybe.

First, the no way:

The idea that media outlets might funnel monies earmarked for covering Woods toward covering the women is a leap.

"Not a chance in hell," said Len Shapiro, a longtime golf writer for the Washington Post. "I don't think more people will gravitate to the LPGA because of (Woods' absence). But there are very compelling stories out here, including (Annika) Sorenstam's last year, (Lorena) Ochoa becoming the Tiger of her own tour and Michelle Wie mounting a comeback from her disastrous 2007."

The core audiences for the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour are far from identical. With a thick roster of Asian and European players, the LPGA's market has a distinctly global character. With or without the presence of Woods, the picture frame for the women has been steadily expanding. In fact, Sorenstam sees no correlation between Woods' circumstances and LPGA prospects.

"When it comes to the LPGA, ... — we don't compete against Tiger by any means," Sorenstam said. "I think we stand on our own legs and we have some great golfers out here, and in our own tournaments. I would hope that the interest would be there whether Tiger is playing or not."
Then, the cheerier, "Hey, we're getting more exposure anyway, so this just may help" part:
[Connie] Wilson agreed the LPGA has enjoyed a modest but discernible increase in exposure over the last three years. She saw it in last Sunday's New York Times, which featured a sports-cover feature on LPGA star Ochoa. She saw it in Time Magazine's recent listing of Ochoa among its "100 most influential" people.

She sees it in this year's 46 percent hike in viewership of the LPGA on ESPN2 and 7 percent rise on network television.
And then Lorena takes a stand and says that perhaps it is possible:
"I think it's a good opportunity for us to get more fans so they can really see what we are all about," said Ochoa, 26. "There are still people out there that ... they don't believe we have the game, or the shots, or the excitement.

"I think (with Woods out), they turn their TVs to women's golf and they will find us."

US Women's Open: Day 1

Play has been underway at Interlachen and I've been heading over to to check out the results. I still can't get over the shoddy quality of the website.

For those of you who still want previews, I'd urge you to check out Hound Dog's LPGA Blog - always does a great job. The other pieces you will read will tell you about Michelle Wie (a C level contender, seriously), Annika's potential last Open (though she opened the door to come back and play in her 40s), Cristie Kerr's defense, and Lorena Ochoa being the nicest person ever. Also, you'll read about the importance of putting and Interlachen's deceptive length.

I don't normally do a lot of links in a post, so consider it a rarity.

As of 12:10 p EDT, there are 3 tied at -4 - Laura Davies, Momoko Ueda, and Ji Young Oh. Yani Tseng sits on -3. And Michelle Wie, listed as a contender by almost all of the media because they don't pay any attention, is at +6 through 10.

Update on Grooves: We're Working on It

David Fay was part of a press conference with Mike Davis and others from the USGA at Interlachen. Finally, someone asked about grooves and what in the world is going on with them and the regulation.

Q. David, could we get an update on the groove situation? Wasn't that due for some sort of roll out in January, I think, in theory? Has there been any developments on that front or are we going to have to all change irons?

DAVID FAY: The latest update is there's no update. We are still on track, we hope. There are a number of components that we have to get everything resolved. A number of -- and we're moving ahead on that. But to give you a timetable at this time, it would be premature.
I don't know that you can be on track without having a timeline to follow, but if there was none to begin with, then maybe they are on schedule. As rumors have swirled about input from manufacturers (there has been a lot, per Dick Rugge) and the ability to test conformity, there has been little from the USGA about the process. They have been very closely guarded on the subject. I'm not sure what that says about how it is going, but it is in stark contrast to what General Motors is doing in its development of the Chevy Volt. There was a piece on it in the Atlantic Monthly that was really intriguing about opening the lab doors to the media. I digress, though.
Q. R & A still a part of the equation in getting them signed up for the same time?

DAVID FAY: Well the R & A, it's a change in equipment, a change in any rule will not happen unless both sides support it. Fully. The fact that you've not heard anything should not be construed as meaning there's a problem. It's just that we -- anything dealing with equipment, particularly these days, is complex. You deal with the specifications, manufacturing tolerances, I think that one thing I would say that we have never, at least in my experience at the USGA, researched and done the lab testing and the player testing to the degree that we have with this subject of grooves.
As you could expect, we are not going for bifurcation between the governing bodies and it is nice to hear the USGA reassure us of that. I think Fay's response is a window into the problems, though, challenging the change. The manufacturers push back, Peter Dawson keeps butchering Open rota courses in the interim (and LOVES it!), etc. It's tough to get the stars to align.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mike Davis Keeps the Good Times Rolling

Interlachen is a bit of an unusual setup for a national championship. Coming off of Torrey, though, everything Mike Davis does is as pretty as a bouquet of long stems. The US Women's Open course is setup to be a par 73 - a rare standard for par. Then again, lately we've been beginning to question to real meaning of par in professional golf.

Still, you can expect the normal Open features of tiered rough, fast greens, etc. But Davis has also set up Interlachen with 5 par 5s, probably to the benefit of lengthy hitters since 3 are reachable. He also has several short par 4s which are quickly becoming the Davis trademark. All in all, it should provide for some good "scoring" even though par has been artificially set in that regard.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dawson: They'll Have to Hit the Ball Further

So, Turnberry is the host of the Open Championship in 2010. But, it hosted the British Amateur - they call it the Amateur Championship - this year. It served as a live test of the massive lengthening, revamping, and tightening of the course in time for the Open. The results? High scores. Geoff Shackelford found the story in the Herald by Doug Lowe.

The revamped Ailsa course at Turnberry passed its big test last week in staging the Amateur Championship a year in advance of hosting the Open for the first time in 14 years although the toughened finish may have been made too hard.

The 17th hole particularly, where Nick Price had an eagle 3 on his way to Open triumph in 1994, was considered too soft for a modern championship, but having lengthened the hole and added three new bunkers there were lost balls galore in the qualifying rounds.

Scores in excess of 10 were recorded as players, into winds in excess of 30mph, failed to make the 230-yard carry to the fairway and so tough was the course altogether that the competition scratch score on day two was up at a mind-boggling nine-over-par 79.
But, Peter Dawson - head of the Royal and Ancient - declares success because, as we all know, high scores mean that we're are on the right track.

"We have been lucky this week to see the course play in a number of wind directions and we are very pleased," said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A. "The bunkers seem to be in the right places and the holes have been playing tough into the wind and tricky downwind.

"I think it will be a good test next year. We didn't use as tough pin positions as we probably would at the Open but they were tough enough."

10 on a par 5 seems like it is tough enough, right? How about the length increase on 17 that played into a 30 mph wind?

Asked about the severity of the 17th, Dawson, who has been under fire in recent years for allowing distances the ball is hit to increase, quipped: "The players will just have to learn to hit the ball further."
This is why I love British journalism sometimes. They are not afraid to hit the nail on the head. If Dawson had the guts to regulate the golf ball, he wouldn't have to butcher Turnberry or any other Open rota course.

Still, there were lessons to be learned:
However, he did concede that the carnage there had caused concern. "One of the great things about this week is that it has made me think about that," he said. "When we were laying out the tee markers on Monday morning it didn't occur to me that the wind would get to that point."
Really? Seaside links golf courses with no wind? REALLY?!!!!

Just in case you want to read about all of the changes, check here.

US Women's Open: About Interlachen

This 63rd US Women's Open will be the longest layout to host the event ever. Interlachen will play to 6789 yards; 40 yards longer than the previous longest (Cherry Hills - 2005). BUT, it will play to a par 73 - allowing for additional scoring opportunities, and realistically making this course not the longest examination ever.

I found this interesting about the fairways and rough:

COURSE LAYOUT – The fairways will range in width from approximately 24 to 33 yards. On either side of the fairways, a 6-foot wide swath of intermediate rough running the length of each hole will be set to 1½ inches. Then, there will be an 11-foot band of first cut of primary rough (height to be determined) and a second cut of deepest rough left and right of the landing areas (height to be determined). The greens will be set to run at 11½ feet on the Stimpmeter for the duration of the championship.
Generous fairways by Open standards, and a running trend in the Davis era. Also, the graduated rough will be here. Note, though, that the course will play 2.5 to 3 feet less on the Stimpmeter than for the US Open at Torrey Pines.

Also, beware that there is no 18 hole playoff format for the Women's Open. It is a three hole aggregate playoff like the PGA Championship. That format was instituted in 2007. Annika was the last woman to win the playoff in the 18 hole format, though. She beat Pat Hurst in 2006.

As for TV coverage, the first two days are on ESPN - Thursday from 12-4p EDT, Friday from 3-7p EDT. NBC takes over on the weekend from 3-6p EDT each day.

You can find all of this information at Take a look at it and tell me if you find it to be pandering a little too much to the fact that this is a women's event.

US Women's Open Marquee Groups

The pairings have been out for several days now, but wanted to get them in a post on here for reference's sake. The US Women's Open begins in Minnesota at Interlachen on Thursday. Cristie Kerr is defending champion, Paula Creamer already labeled the great American hope, and the media seems to expect another showdown between Ochoa and Sorenstam. All that said, here are some of the important Thursday/Friday pairings.

No pairings by the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, btw.

First, the traditional pairing:
7:33 a.m. – 1:03 p.m. -- Cristie Kerr, Miami, Fla.; A-Maria Jose Uribe, Colombia; Lorena Ochoa, Mexico

Then the "model" pairing":
7:55 a.m. – 1:25 p.m. -- Natalie Gulbis, Las Vegas, Nev.; Young Kim, Korea; Carin Koch, Sweden

How about the youth movement?
8:17 a.m. – 1:47 p.m. -- A-Kimberly Kim, Hilo, Hawaii; Julieta Granada, Paraguay; Michelle Wie, Honolulu, Hawaii
1:36 p.m. – 8:06 a.m. -- Brittany Lang, McKinney, Texas; A-Amanda Blumenherst, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Na-Yeon Choi, Korea

There's something about this dynamic that could be hilarious, or at least very entertaining:
7:33 a.m. – 1:03 p.m. -- Karrie Webb, Australia; Yani Tseng, Chinese Taipei; Christina Kim, San Jose, Calif.

Two (EDIT: Nay, all three) players in this group are having solid years:
1:14 p.m. – 7:44 a.m. -- Angela Stanford, Saginaw, Texas; Lindsey Wright, Australia; Jeong Jang, Korea

If Lorena had not won the Women's Open, she'd be in this pairing:
1:14 p.m. – 7:44 a.m. -- Annika Sorenstam, Sweden; Paula Creamer, Pleasanton, Calif.; Suzann Pettersen, Norway

Should be a good couple of days!

And in a little bit of potential plagiarism (kidding, I think), the Golf Channel news team put up their marquee pairings for the week. They added the first group of the week of Meunier-Lebouc and Lunke, as well as Nause/Thompson/Turner. Other than that, we basically picked the exact same pairings. Isn't that a bit creepy?

World Match Play Lives!

HSBC bailed as the sponsor of the long time event first staged in 1964 and always held at Wentworth. With no sponsor, though, the tournament was not set to happen this year. Simultaneously, with the advent of the Dubai World Championship to close the Euro Tour season beginning next year, Volvo - sponsor of the current season ending Volvo Masters - was out of a tournament. And that, my friend, is how you get a new sponsor.

Unfortunately - or fortunately if you hate what Ernie Els brought to Wentworth - there will be a new venue. There will also be a new, World Cup format.

A field of 16 will be split into four groups of four over the first two days over 18 holes with group winners progressing to the 36-hole semifinals on the Saturday.
And, it was announced that there may very well still be an event in the World Match Play slot:

Monday's Daily Telegraph reported that in the absence of this year's traditional event, scheduled for Oct. 9-12, it was expected a scaled down one could still be held at Wentworth.

But IMG's spokesman Michele Mair said on Monday: "IMG is working on a high-profile event, details of which will be announced shortly."

Monday, June 23, 2008

The 19th Hole: Not All is Lost

Did anyone notice that Stewart Cink put several of his choking performances this season behind him to capture a one shot victory at the Travelers Championship? I hope so. It was a compelling win for a nice guy that is very talented. He held off a bid from Hunter Mahan for a repeat performance and a successful title defense.

Among the players that did not win, there were some other stories of note. Heath Slocum, who had some well earned momentum with a Sunday 65 at Torrey Pines, fell just shy of victory. US Open first round leader Kevin Streelman made a serious paycheck that went a long way to guaranteeing his Tour future. And, not least of all, Vijay Singh finished in the top 5 after he complained that the Brits are lazy and content to lose. Singh somewhat backed up those remarks despite not winning the tournament.

If you are a real golf fan, though, you knew all of those things. A real golf fan watched a good percentage of the golf tourney on television, or at least caught up on the game stories or the highlights. They will always be there to watch golf on television, show up in person, and read the golf pages of the sports section – with or without Tiger Woods.

The media has been clamoring that the PGA Tour simply cannot be the same for the rest of the season without Tiger Woods. That is true and no consumer of media would dispute that claim.

Kenny Perry declared that Woods is the Tour. Retief Goosen admitted as much as part of his effort to back down from goofy comments that Woods may have been faking his knee and leg injuries.

In fact, the remainder of this season for the Tour will not be economically impacted in an extremely negative fashion because of those contracts. After all, Tim Finchem and company have also negotiated lengthy tournament sponsorship deals with organizations interested in exposure to the Tour, even if they are not a part of the 15 events that Woods is guaranteed to play every year. Also, it is on Woods’ back that the PGA Tour has negotiated extremely lucrative television deals for three consecutive contracts.

Still, there is no denying the tremendous impact of Woods on the popularity of the sport in the mainstream of our culture. The US Open had its highest rating since the Nicklaus era because of Woods’ involvement and, ultimately, his triumph. With no offense to the sport, Rocco Mediate, or Mike Davis and the USGA, but the numbers simply would not have been as high if it were Lee Westwood and Mediate coming down the back nine alone.

The show must continue, though. There are two majors to be played, a FedEx Cup to be awarded, and a Ryder Cup to be played. In fact, it is because of these four events that the Tour season can be salvaged or even considered a success.

The Open Championship at Birkdale and the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills will prove to be opportunities to see what major championship golf is like without Woods. It provides Phil Mickelson two chance to exorcise the specter of Winged Foot. Ernie Els has a chance to get closer to the career Grand Slam with a win outside of Detroit. Perhaps one of the young guns that have had a serious impact week to week will break through and win. Maybe Anthony Kim will be coronated as the successor to Tiger Woods.

The FedEx Cup will serve to prove who the second best golfer on Tour is at present. In that regard, it may actually help the format. After Woods’ late summer run last season, the FedEx Cup would have been buried had Woods not become its first champion. With Woods on the shelf this summer, there is no chance for that to happen. Instead, the Playoffs will be conducted with new volatility in the point structure and may help to decide how well the format does in creating excitement for the Tour. Also, if the FedEx Cup winner is not considered a total fluke (still almost impossible given the system in place), then he may be elevated to superstar status in the process.

And obviously the Ryder Cup will still mean a whole hell of a lot. It is the one patriotic competition that really matters anymore – mainly because the USA keeps getting crushed. With the home turf advantage and a friendly course to Americans in Valhalla, the Americans can answer if the stacked deck will be enough to finally win the Ryder Cup again. They can also disprove the myth that the best talent wins the Ryder Cup. It is a notion that Europe has been defying for almost 25 years now. Finally, it is the Americans’ turn.

Sure, I miss Tiger Woods and I certainly wish him a speedy recovery. But, alas, not all is lost. There are still three solid months of golf to go in the season and many compelling reasons to stay tuned.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

An Inspired Performance for Kaymer

Martin Kaymer walked into the final round of the BMW International with a six shot lead. With how he played his final round, though, he let that lead evaporate to Anders Hansen. He was left to birdie the par 5 18th to force a playoff. He reached in two and nearly sank an eagle putt to claim the title outright. Instead, he made birdie and forced sudden death with Hansen.

In the playoff, Hansen went from bunker to bunker. Kaymer dissected the hole to put the ball to 7 feet in two and two putted for the win. It is Kaymer's second victory of the season. He won Abu Dhabi in January with a six shot final round lead. He won that by four.

To Hansen's credit, though, he was coming off on an injury:

Hansen, who had knee surgery under a month ago and was originally told he could be out for four to six weeks, had been eight behind at the start of the day, but closed with two 67s.
Even more to Kaymer's credit, he avoided any golf this week to tend to his mother who is very ill.

A couple of great performances from guys motivated by different reasons.

A Bit of an Upset in Rochester

Eun-Hee Ji won the Wegmans LPGA just outside of Rochester by two shots over Suzann Pettersen. Pettersen, looking for her first win on the LPGA Tour since last season, struggled all day and only managed even par 72. Ji finished with 67 to post -16.

In a round that included 7 birdies and two bogeys, the most important stretch in terms of momentum was on the back nine. On 13-15, Pettersen played in 2 over while Ji was 2 under. The four shot swing was enough to win the event despite Pettersen's resilient birdie on 17 to match Ji's.

Following the final putt, there was a F bomb on ESPN air from one of the caddies. (It wasn't a female voice, at least, but it may have been someone else.) That seems to be a common celebratory word nowadays. Tiger dropped a very visible "F yeah!" after he sank his birdie putt on the 72nd hole at Torrey to force the playoff.

Various US Open News and Notes

It all comes out of a San Diego Union-Tribune piece by Tim Sullivan.

First, some news on future US Open sites in 2016-2018.

Mark your calendars for June 2018. Mark them in pencil, though, because the invitation has just been issued and the approval process can be prolonged.

The next two Open openings, in 2016 and 2017, are expected to be filled by Oakmont Country Club, the suburban Pittsburgh site of the 2007 Open, and the new Erin Hills (Wis.) Golf Course, site of the 2011 U.S. Amateur.

The USGA will consider those courses at its October championships and executive committee meetings in New Jersey. Based on the commercial and theatrical success of the 108th Open, however, Torrey Pines could also be considered for fast-track approval.

Of course, none of this is set in stone. The clubs have to negotiate with the USGA and come to an agreement for an official announcement to be made. Also, in the case of Torrey, the city of San Diego has to agree to the contract as well as various side organizations that are related to Torrey - no Friends of Torrey Pines this time, though. Just the hotels and such. Keep your fingers crossed, San Diego, and stay classy.

Then Sullivan shifts his conversation with David B. Fay, executive director of the USGA, to revenues and payments. Apparently, he is not too happy with Jon Show's reporting of the profits of the US Open.

Whether auditors will conclude that the city broke even on the 2008 Open will depend on the size of their imagination. The city stands to collect only $500,000 in cash for an event that could be worth up to $50 million in profits to the USGA, according to Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal.

Though Fay says that estimate is a distortion – “the guy who parsed the numbers together for Sports Business should receive an advanced degree for making accounting a creative art!” he wrote – the USGA typically books enough profit to pay millions to the Open site.

Unfortunately, though, no where in the piece does Show mention anything about payments to the city or the Friends of Torrey Pines. Actually, the piece that talked about how the city of San Diego was getting ripped off was reported in the Union-Tribune. The city may only get $500K, but the total payout comes close to $6 million. About 12% of the Open's profits were given back to the course or the city.

Keep in mind, though, that the Friends of Torrey Pines was an organization created specifically for being the intermediary negotiating between the city of San Diego and the USGA. And they got $5.37 million from the USGA. The city got $500,000 plus another $700,000 in reimbursement for expenses and public safety. Unfortunately, though, the city put in a whole lot more than that.

Meantime, the city's golf enterprise fund will make no direct money from the U.S. Open, while about $3 million has been spent on projects related to the Open, according to Golf Manager Mark Woodward. That work includes the acquisition and installation of one million square feet of kikuyu turf, the moving of trees, repainting the clubhouse and restrooms, and the construction of new cart paths to minimize damage to the grass.

Also, the problem with the Friends of Torrey Pines has been detailed in the past, but some may have forgotten it. So, let me rehash it. It all starts with the Chris Millard piece that ripped a new one into Walter Driver:

One current example of this trend is the case of Cameron Jay Rains. Rains is the co-chairman of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He is also a member (since 2003) of the executive committee. This circumvents the time-honored practice in which local championship chairs report to USGA staff. When asked whether the arrangement presents a conflict, Driver says, "He was the chair of the '08 Open before he came on the executive committee, and we essentially screened him off from any potential conflict." Pressed to admit Rains' dual interests could at least raise some eyebrows, Driver is dismissive. "Doesn't work that way," he insists.

Some observers aren't so sure. "The person negotiating on behalf of the city of San Diego [Rains] is also on the USGA executive committee," says Shackelford. "He's on both sides of the table. So when San Diego [officials] want to know how many hats were sold and what their cut of the revenue is, this isn't a problem? Who is [Rains] looking out for? It's just astonishing."

In the end, Rains did raise about $3.5 million through the creation of Friends of Torrey Pines for various course projects that eventually led to the Open coming to Torrey. This was private capital, though. That private capital investment is being paid off by the USGA in the form of $5.37 million. In effect, they will make a $600K profit from their investment.

The funny thing is that they estimated last year that they would make $2 million less - a break even investment, so to speak:

Rains said this week he believes the Friends of Torrey Pines will receive about $3.5 million from the Open – $2.5 million in corporate sales and the $950,000 the city reimbursed it for the South's reconstruction.

It almost sounds a loss of money here for the FOTP because of the $1.2 million that goes back to the city from the Friends. The Union-Tribune reported the $5.37 million number from Rains the week of the Open:

The Friends reported they would receive $5.37 million from the Open, largely from rent payments and corporate hospitality shares through the USGA. Most of that – $3.4 million – will go back to the families and businesses that paid for the renovation of the South Course in 2001. They have said they will contribute that money to charity.

There is no legal obligation for the 30 investors that make up the Friends to donate the money to charity. I suppose they could consider it reimbursement for their investment. Still, this means that the city will lose a few million dollars on the deal with the USGA. And, as I read it, it also means that the Friends will make back their investment plus $600K. Basically, money that could have gone to pad the cost for San Diego will go to private hands instead. That is a solid return on investment for Friends of Torrey Pines - almost 20%.

And I will close with a quote from a Tod Leonard piece already quoted in this post from Rains:

“The money that comes back will be given to charity,” Rains said. “I don't want anybody to say we made money off a public golf course.”

Though Rains said he will leave it up to the individual donors on how they donate their share, he intends to encourage funding a project that will enhance the experience for city golfers. He said he could not be more specific at this time.

So, what about that $600K again? And going from a $1.2 million loss to a $600K profit in the course of a year?

...that got out of hand really quickly.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Now Players Are Arguing About Who Will Beat Tiger

Unfortunately, it's too late to beat Tiger this season. Prior to the US Open, though, Vijay laid the blame for Woods' victories - in part - on the Brits by calling them too comfortable with losing. That made Paul Casey really angry. And he responded in Germany (thousands of miles away from Vijay, who is in Connecticut).

“I am angry, he has no clue what I do, so how can he comment?” Casey, who had a second-round 68 to move into contention at the BMW International Open in Munich yesterday, said. “I can only speak for the guys I know well, like Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, but we are all working incredibly hard and I think it is an unfair shot from Vijay. I would like to see him try to live with me in the gym for a couple of hours.

“He does not know us and he has no evidence to back up what he says. We are all very frustrated that we have not won majors and that our results have not been as good as we would have liked. But it is not down to lack of effort and perhaps when we do make a breakthrough then it will open the door to a lot more wins."

When was someone going to tell me that Fiji and the Brits are not on friendly terms? I kid. To make my joke extremely obvious...

The islands came under British control as a colony in 1874, and the British brought over Indian contract labourers. It was granted independence in 1970. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987 because the government was perceived as dominated by the Indo-Fijian (Indian) community. The second 1987 coup saw the British monarchy and the Governor General replaced by a non-executive President, and the country changed the long form of its name from Dominion of Fiji to Republic of Fiji (and to Republic of the Fiji Islands in 1997).

Casey then goes on to refer to Vijay's legendary work ethic.

“Vijay is well known for spending all day at the practice ground. But there are three sides to golf - fitness, technique and the mental side of the game. You can't work on all three at the driving range. If I am not there I am probably working hard at something other than technique. Just because a guy is not at the practice ground 9 to 5 does not mean he isn't working.”

That's especially true considering Vijay's driving accuracy and putting this season.

Putts Per Round - 29.33 - 108th
Driving Accuracy Percentage - 58.52% - 145th
Putting Average - 1.796 - 84th

Johnny Miller Apologizes

Sure, it took him about a week to apologize for saying that Rocco Mediate looked like the guy that cleans Tiger Woods' pool, but at least he did it, right?

“I chose my words poorly and in the future will be more careful,” Miller said in a statement. He added that his intention was to “convey my affection and admiration for Rocco’s everyman qualities and had absolutely nothing to do with his heritage.”

The apology by Miller, NBC’s lead golf analyst, came after two Italian-American groups protested his remarks, with one of them demanding that NBC suspend him.

Ohhhhh. Now I know why he apologized.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Sports, A. Kenneth Ciongoli, the chairman of the National Italian American Foundation, wrote: “We are certain that NBC and Mr. Miller meant no harm and was simply having some fun at the expense of Italian Americans. Nonetheless, this type of humor is problematic as it reinforces a demeaning and damaging stereotype about an entire ethnic group.”

Ciongoli said that his letter “is not meant to be an attack upon NBC, but rather to be an illumination of a problem that continues to trouble our society.”

“The perpetuation of negative stereotypes and demeaning language hurts us all,” he said.

But Anthony Baratta, the president of the Order Sons of Italy in America’s commission for social justice, demanded Miller’s suspension. “If Johnny Miller had made a similar remark about Tiger Woods,” he said Thursday in a press release, “he would have been fired.”

Mr. Baratta, are you so sure about that one?

Canadian Women's Open Purse Increased

We've talked several times on this space this season about potential sponsorship troubles ahead for the LPGA Tour for multiple US events and one in Mexico. Meanwhile, events are sprouting up in Asia with sizable purses. Don't forget Canada, though. The CN Canadian Women's Open is jacking up their purse to $2.75M.

“The CN Canadian Women's Open is a premiere event on the LPGA schedule,” Bivens continued. “We are thrilled with the $500,000 purse increase to $2.75 million for the 2009 event. With more than a $1 million purse increase since becoming title sponsor in 2006, CN continues to raise the bar of excellence in women's professional golf and display the same leadership in sports as they have so effectively applied in the world of business. We are extremely proud to partner with CN, as well as the RCGA; they help us and all of our partners continue to elevate the sport, while showcasing some of the best athletes the world has to offer.”

This increase for the 2009 event represents a $1.45 million jump since CN came on board as title sponsor. On Nov. 14, 2005, only one month after becoming title sponsor of the CN Canadian Women's Open, CN Canadian Women's Tour and CN Future Links, CN announced an increase of the 2006 purse to $1.7 million and, in 2006, announced that the 2007 event would host a purse of $2.25 million.

CN has definitely put a lot into the event and increasing its value (read: money) to the players. After the death of the DuMaurier (the former name of this event), it appeared as though this tournament was teetering on the edge. Not so now.

Wegmans LPGA Third Round

It's about 3 in the afternoon and the tournament is in a rain delay. But, we have an interesting showdown for Sunday taking shape between Suzann Pettersen and Morgan Pressel. On a relatively short course, Pettersen is making her mark on the par 5s to get to the lead. Pressel, the much shorter hitter, has scored very well on par 3s - something that doesn't usually happen in pro golf.

But, they are certainly not the only names of note. A couple of other golfers remain in contention. Ai Miyazato, still searching for LPGA Tour win numero uno, is a stroke out of the lead. Hee-Won Han, with 3 Top 10 finishes this year, is within striking distance - especially with pick, clean, and place rules in effect. Eun-Hee Ji, a non-exempt player rookie last season (now exempt), is -8 through 16 and is a birdie away from setting the course record.

Lorena and Paula are T14 and probably out of the running barring a Ji-like final round.

Friday, June 20, 2008

How About Some LPGA News?

Since my last 10 posts were probably about Tiger Woods, let's try to talk about something else - namely the Tour that people may care about more with Woods gone for the entire season. The LPGA Tour is at Rochester for the Wegmans LPGA and Lorena Ochoa is T37 after day one. What got her? Puttin'.

Her reaction:

"Frustrated," Lorena Ochoa said. "It was a tough day for sure."

"I had trouble with my putting," the Mexico native said. "I had a bad day on the greens and missed a few short putts."

"I'll just try to make the right club selection and make birdies [on Friday]," she said. "I'll be ready."
Michelle Wie fired a 71 and seems to be on the right track these days after a T6 on the Ladies European Tour and qualifying for the US Women's Open.

I found this part of her game story ridiculous and simultaneously interesting:

She is still protective of her mending wrists — she signed dozens of autographs Thursday but won't sign golf balls — but says she is gaining confidence with each passing week.

"I can't look back,'' she said. "I have to move forward.''

Asked if she has anything to prove to critics or fellow golfers, Wie shook her head.

"The only one I have to prove anything to is myself,'' she said.

And who leads this thing? Cristie Kerr, with six others, on -4.

Woods Injury Reactions

Wow, the planet is in a mess over Tiger Woods' injury. I talked about it some on The 19th Hole Golf Show this week (shameless plug), but had not really gotten around to reading all of the reactions.

As you saw in other posts, I did read the reactions of columnists who thought this injury would signal an even more limited schedule for Woods and their lack of consultation about the PGA Tour's rules and regulations.

We got reaction from Camp Tiger, too. Steve Williams spoke with ESPN about when he found out that the season was over:

When the golf cart departed the seventh green at Torrey Pines on Monday afternoon, carrying Tiger Woods, Steve Williams and both of their wives to the U.S. Open trophy presentation, the caddie knew his season was over.

"I kind of had a premonition that might be it," Williams told Wednesday night. "I had an inclination that a certain surgery might be required. And then Tiger told me, 'We're done for the year.'"
Steve Elling reports that Hank Haney is convinced that Tiger will come back better than ever:
"He's going to better than ever," said swing coach Hank Haney of his star pupil. "Think about it. His knee hasn't been right for a long, long time and he's won, what, 10 of his last 13 tournaments, with two seconds and a fifth?

"After they finally get this fixed, how can anybody think he won't play better than he ever has?"
As I mentioned on the 19th Hole, it's hard to argue with that. He only failed to win twice this year and apparently has had a bad knee since just before last year's PGA Championship. In effect, he won two majors and finished 2nd in another with one good knee.

Here are the staggering results since the PGA Championship:

  • PGA Championship - WIN
  • Deutsche Bank Championship - 2nd
  • BMW Championship - WIN
  • Tour Championship - WIN
  • Buick Invitational - WIN
  • Accenture Match Play - WIN
  • Arnold Palmer Invitational - WIN
  • CA Championship - 5th
  • the Masters - 2nd
  • US Open - WIN
But just in case you think that Tiger may not be ranked #1 when he returns next season, John Antonini at Golf Digest eases your mind:

Based on this information we know what Woods' point total and average will be at the end of the year. He will have 469.5 points. The U.S. Open win will be worth 82.61 points, the Masters runner-up will be worth 43.698 points, the T-5 at Doral will get him 12.689 and the win at Southern Hills in the 2007 PGA will get him 34.78. The win at the 2006 PGA in Medinah will be worth nothing.

On Dec. 31 Woods will have a points average of 11.73. He will have lost almost half his ranking points. (This is unofficial, my math might be very slightly off as I cannot be sure of rounded figures.)

Phil Mickelson is currently second in the world with an average of 10.214 points. If Mickelson does not play again in 2008 he will have an average of 6.627. Of course, Mickelson will play again. Probably 10 more times. In order to pass Woods with an average of 11.74 points, Mickelson would have to earn 575 ranking points in those 10 events. That's not an easy task. In fact, it's a Woodsian task. In his last 10 events, seven of them victories, Woods earned 586 points. And that does not include the incremental loss on the sliding scale.

So it's safe to say, Tiger Woods will top the ranking at the end of 2008. How much longer he stays there can only be determined by how long he goes into 2009 without playing.

My guess: He'll be back for the 2009 Buick Invitational--as the No. 1 ranked player in the world.

And on when Haney found out the news:
Haney said Woods seemed intent on gutting out the Open and seeing if he could finish the year, but the knee worsened over each of the five tournament days. Ice and painkillers got him to the finish line, but on Monday night, a few hours after Woods hoisted his third U.S. Open trophy, Haney's phone rang on the way to the airport.

"He said, 'We're done for the year,'" Haney said.
Then we heard from the PGA Tour - initially and more measured after the fact.

First, The Commish:
"For an athlete as talented and competitive as Tiger Woods, taking the rest of the season off must have been an incredibly difficult, yet necessary decision, one that we understand and support completely. The fact that he needs additional surgery only makes his performance and victory at last week's U.S. Open all the more impressive. First and foremost, our concern -- as it would be for any of our players facing surgery or illness -- is for Tiger's health and overall well-being, both on and off the golf course. We wish him the best toward a speedy recovery."
Then Ty Votaw tried to turn those Ponte Vedra, Comcast, NBC, and CBS frowns upside down by playing up the other guys on Tour:
"We see a vast amount of potential for something that's drastically different than doom and gloom," Votaw said Thursday, one day after Woods said he was out for the year and needed surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

"There's no question it's a negative, you can't sugarcoat that, and there will be some negative fallout," Votaw said.

"But, look, Tiger doesn't play every tournament, he usually plays 17 or 18 and we have 47 events. Tiger's impact to these events won't be felt as much. What you hope is that other players are going to get a bigger share of the TV audience, the media's interest and the fans' imagination."

Votaw suggested that some of the players who won while Woods was sidelined for the two-month period after the Masters -- Adam Scott, Anthony Kim, Sergio Garcia and Mickelson -- represent a mix of branded stars and a rookie with an upside who offer an appealing alternative to Woods while he is sidelined.

"If this is prologue to what we have ahead of us, we'll see other players and their story lines come to the fore," he said.
Well, since ratings dip between 33% and 50% when he isn't in the field, I doubt that will be true. But, sure. Votaw has to say those things. He can't tell everyone to push the panic button. Besides, the Tour is locked in TV contracts with all of the networks and the sponsors are almost all sewn up in long-term deals. The Tour is bulletproof financially because of Woods.

But, according to Darren Rovell at CNBC, the folks at Nike, GM, Accenture, and PepsiCo (owners of Gatorade) are going to be losing some big bucks because of the injury:
In order to get an estimate as to how much would be lost, I called Eric Wright of Joyce Julius & Associates, a firm that breaks down logos on the field of play and translates it into equivalent television advertising time.

Assuming that Woods would play in nine more tournaments, and conservatively betting that Woods would win four of them, Wright estimated that lack of having Tiger’s swooshes out on the course would result in $65 million to $75 million worth of lost exposure.

Since Buick is on Woods’ bag and occasionally gets into the shot while he’s playing, Wright said Buick will lose out on $5 million to $10 million of exposure.

Finally, since doing a deal with Gatorade, Woods has been chugging it out on the course. The shots where Woods actually has drink in hand are rare, but Wright says Gatorade will miss out on about $2 million in exposure with Woods being off the course.

And, just in case you're not completely sure of how much golf relies on Tiger Woods, he can't play in either the AT&T National or Chevron World Challenges - the two events in which he is official host and his charity the beneficiary. Wow.

Then, last, but not least are the quacks who legitimately think Tiger is lying of faking...not named Retief Goosen. I'm not linking to that crap.

The Tide is Turning for the USGA

I know that the Open is over and we should be talking about the Travelers Championship - yeah, right. But I wanted to have one last post on the entire Open experience.

Geoff Shackelford has a couple of nice posts with reviews of his experience and they seemed largely positive (not talking about course design here).

Here's his post on the experience, and one the Championship Vision mini TVs provided by American Express (or at least sponsored by them). The TVs are very similar to the ones used at the Players Championship, but are by RCA instead of Kangaroo TV.

You've heard me, the players, and the media in attendance rave about the course setup. Mike Davis has really set the bar for major championship setup. In fact, I think he is the inspiration behind a second set of tees that I bet will be coming to Augusta National for next year's Masters. I would also mention that the PGA Championship was really the gold standard for setup until Davis came along - fair, but tough. Davis borrowed from that setup, added his own elements (tiered rough among them), and had the Open setup at his disposal to create a great experience.

I came into the Mike Davis era ranking the US Open as my least favorite major to watch. After this year, it has skyrocketed to second place. Nothing is going to change my mind about the Open Championship, sorry.

How about you? Is the USGA changing your mind about their feature championship?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Annika Sorenstam is New USGA Ambassador

I'm not sure about the timing of this announcement, or even the meaning of this role, but I believe this is really the first relationship of its kind between the USGA and a specific golfer.

Three-time United States Women’s Open champion and World Golf and LPGA Hall-of-Fame member AnnikaSorenstam has been named a United States Golf Association Ambassador, according to USGA President JimVernon.

“Annika has earned a rare place in golf’s history, and we are very privileged to bring her aboard the USGA,” said Vernon. “As a USGA Ambassador, Annika will help us make the game more accessible and more relevant to players of all skill levels. She’ll provide key help in many ways, and we will begin the relationship through an innovative webcast from this year’s U.S. Women’s Open.”
The relationship sounds very amorphous but that they wanted to get her on board now, as she is transitioning from playing competitor to golf industry icon. Here are some of the things she will definitely do with the organization:
In addition to robust online content at this year’s Women’s Open, Sorenstam will appear on the USGA’s Web site ( and will highlight the Rules of Golf. MikeDavis, the USGA’s Senior Director of Rules and Competitions, added: “It makes perfect sense as Annika has attended a USGA Rules Seminar and has always displayed a passion for learning and mastering the Rules of Golf.” Sorenstam will also work with the USGA in a variety of ways to grow the game with a focus on growth in the women’s game and junior participation.
Some cool news for LPGA fans, though:
Sorenstam’s first round at the championship, to be held at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., (June 26-29), will be streamed live on the USGA’s U.S. Women’s Open championship web site (, a first in the world of women’s golf. “Users will be able to view every shot that she and the other players in her grouping make during her first round on June 26,” added Vernon.

On Friday of the championship, June 27, will stream video featuring the traditional grouping of defending U.S. Women’s Open champion CristieKerr, Women’s British Open champion LorenaOchoa and U.S. Women’s Amateur champion MariaUribe. The 2008 U.S. Women’s Open will be the first international women’s golf event to feature this fan-friendly option.

The Secret to Beating Tiger Woods

For my latest Sports Central piece, I analyze the common characteristics of the men that have triumphed over Tiger Woods in major championship play. I think I have found their common thread and explain the secret to beating Tiger Woods.

Check it out!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Woods Out for Remainder of 2008 Season reported today that Woods will end his 2008 season to have knee surgery for the fourth time.

Tiger Woods announced that he will be forced to undergo reconstructive Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) surgery on his left knee and will miss the remainder of the PGA TOUR season.

In addition to the knee surgery, Woods will require the time off to rehabilitate a double stress fracture of his left tibia that was discovered last month just prior to the Memorial Tournament. The stress fractures were attributed to Woods' intense rehabilitation and preparations for the U.S. Open. Doctors have assured Woods that the stress fractures will heal with time.

"I know much was made of my knee throughout the last week, and it was important to me that I disclose my condition publicly at an appropriate time. I wanted to be very respectful of the USGA and their incredibly hard work, and make sure the focus was on the U.S. Open," said Woods. "Now, it is clear that the right thing to do is to listen to my doctors, follow through with this surgery, and focus my attention on rehabilitating my knee."

A date for the knee surgery, as well as the necessary rehabilitation schedule, has not yet been determined.

"While I am obviously disappointed to have to miss the remainder of the season, I have to do the right thing for my long-term health and look forward to returning to competitive golf when my doctors agree that my knee is sufficiently healthy," said Woods. "My doctors assure me with the proper rehabilitation and training, the knee will be strong and there will be no long-term effects."

Wow, this really makes Retief Goosen look like bad.

Goosen was in the field at Torrey Pines, finishing in a tie for fourteenth, but when asked whether he believed that Woods was faking the extent of his pain, he said: “I think so. It just seemed that when he hit a bad shot his knee was in pain and on his good shots he wasn’t in pain. You see when he made the putts and he went down on his knees and was shouting, ‘Yeah’, his knee wasn’t sore.

“Nobody really knows if he was just showing off or if he was really injured. I believe if he was really injured, he would not have played.”

The South African was trying to soften the impact of his remarks last night, although he did not attempt to retract them, merely implying that he was not being serious. When approached by The Times on the eve of the BMW International Open in Munich, Goosen said: “I was being light-hearted. No one but Tiger himself knows how badly hurt he was. But if he was really badly hurt, he would have withdrawn, wouldn’t he?”

Goosen’s comments caused embarrassment at IMG, the management group that looks after the interests of both golfers, which would not make an official statement last night, but suggested that the South African’s remarks may have been misconstrued.

And then, later in the story, a possible explanation for his skipping Westchester last season:

In the fall of 2007, Woods decided to forego a number of playing opportunities to allow the knee time to heal in preparation for the 2008 season.
It appears that the April surgery was going to be a setup for this fourth surgery, but that the rehabilitation and the Open ended those plans.
He still experienced pain early in 2008, however, and in an effort to allow him to play through the remainder of the season, elected to have arthroscopic surgery immediately following the Masters to clean out cartilage damage. The cartilage damage in fact developed as a result of the ACL injury, and Woods' hope was that the arthroscopic surgery would get him through the remainder of the season and allow him to delay the ACL surgery until after the season.

"My rehabilitation schedule after the arthroscopic surgery was designed with the goal of returning to play at the Memorial, but the stress fractures that were discovered just prior to the tournament unfortunately prevented me from participating and had a huge impact on the timing for my return," said Woods. "I was determined though, to do everything and anything in my power to play in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which is a course that is close to where I grew up and holds many special memories for me. Although I will miss the rest of the 2008 season, I'm thrilled with the fact that last week was such a special tournament."

This is Tiger's last thrill for the season. And now the speculation can begin about who will win majors with him out, if Woods will come back the same, and how in the world the American Ryder Cup team has a prayer at Valhalla.

Tremendous Piece on Woods, Champions

Joe Posnanski writes about sports in Kansas City for the Star. Generally, he doesn't do golf. He posted a blog entry, though, about Woods and the makeup of champions of his ilk that is brilliant. The storytelling is a real treat and I think you'll really enjoy his non-golf posts also.

Shout out to Sal Johnson at Golf Observer for the link.

Woods' Limited Schedule

There has been a lot of chatter about Tiger Woods' summer schedule. It appears he will skip the Buick Open, might skip his own AT&T National, and everyone is wondering particularly about the Open Championship at Birkdale next month. Meanwhile, Jeremy Fowler at the Orlando Sentinel thinks at a broader level about Woods' future...and completely blows it.

Questions have lingered for the last month about the long-term effects of Woods' violent swing, coupled with a left knee that has seen three surgeries in Woods' career. The first two were minor, but this could be the first major step in Woods' scale-back schedule.

Think his 15 or 16 PGA Tour events per year aren't often enough? The knee might cut that in half if it doesn't heal correctly.

Nike ushered in Woods 12 years ago with those "Hello, world" commercials, but a new slogan should read, "See you when I see you." This is the cost of preserving the chase of history with a long-term investment.

Even if his schedule drops from 15 tournaments a year to 10, or even 8, there's enough evidence that at least one major per year would be worth the wait.
The problem here is that Tiger Woods cannot maintain PGA Tour status (without a medical exemption) by playing in any fewer than 15 events. I'm not saying that Finchem would not make some kind of exemption for Woods, but the current rules clearly state that Fowler is dead wrong.

Don't feel bad, though, Jeremy. Greg Johnson at the LA Times also goofed.

For the record, though, I think Woods will continue to stick with his minimum 15-16 event schedule - good knee or not.

18 Hole Playoff Format Vindicated

At least it is according to Bob DiCesare at the Buffalo News.

A sudden-death playoff Sunday just wouldn’t have been the same. A four-hole aggregate showdown, the format employed at the British Open, would have missed the mark. It makes perfect sense that when our national championship ends in a tie it should be determined over another round played the next day, with the deadlocked golfers starting anew. The full-round format cancels Sunday momentum and allows the anticipation to build.

Thankfully, the United States Golf Association remains firm on this issue, refusing to budge on behalf of television and viewer preferences.

[T]he USGA continues to honor our national championship by demanding a full-scale playoff. It won’t always result in the most compelling matchups, but one Woods-Mediate duel in a lifetime makes it all worthwhile.

I think DiCesare is coming from a short-sighted of the 18 hole playoff in the history of the US Open. In the history of the US Open, more playoffs are uninteresting than classics. The last one in 2001 between Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks ended in Goosen winning by two with a round of even par. Even something that close is not remembered very fondly - and those guys finished under par!

There are a few in relatively recent memory, though, that do stand up to the Woods-Mediate classic. In 1994, at Oakmont, Ernie Els beat Loren Roberts on the 92nd hole of the championship after disposing of Colin Montgomerie at the 90th. At Medinah in 1990, Hale Irwin beat Mike Donald by a shot in the famous hand-slapping victory.

The others of note are only of note because of the incredible upset involved (Fleck v. Hogan in 1955 and Ouimet in 1913 to put golf on the US map), or because of the legends involved (Trevino/Nicklaus in '72, Nicklaus/Palmer in '62 for the changing of the guard).

In effect, it is a crapshoot as to whether or not the playoff format works in practice. It has to have a close match and a great or infamous golfer involved for it to be remembered. Fortunately, though, this playoff had that and will go down as spectacular.

I do want to break up a misconception about this year's playoff, though, that came up in the piece and blogger Phil Capelle's yesterday.
There was one glitch in the Woods-Mediate showdown, and it came when the playoff extended beyond the 18-hole playoff. Instead of returning to hole No. 1, which would be standard course, the round continued at No. 7. Woods had struggled on No. 1 much of the week, making double bogey there three times. Conversely, No. 7, a monster par 4, put Mediate at a distinct disadvantage because of its length.
The sudden death holes were not rigged in Woods' favor. 7, 8, and 18 made an easy, repeatable loop around Torrey Pines South and that is why there were the sudden death holes. It was not because Mike Davis wanted Tiger to win. These were chosen long in advance of the championship based on course logistics and not the potential players involved.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Woods Scoring Binge?

Unlike some of Tiger Woods' other major championship wins, this one was not a masterpiece. Rather, this was a championship in which Woods played well enough for the right stretches of time to stay in contention, take the lead, and ultimately win his 3rd US Open. Phil Capelle slapped an interesting term on what Woods did this weekend. He calls it a "scoring binge."

Tiger Woods orchestrated two scoring binges covering 11 holes in which he knocked eight shots from par. Oddly, both were kicked off by wildly errant tee shots where he was lucky to escaped disaster.

On Friday, his tee shot on the first hole (his tenth of the day) was a classic wide right that stopped just to the left of a tree. He took full advantage of this break by lofting an 8-iron onto the green and canning a 20 foot birdie putt. He then birdied the second with a 25 footer, parred the third, then rolled in a 35 footer on the fourth. His birdie binge culminated with a twisting 18 foot putt on the fifth.

Woods’ second binge came on the back nine on Saturday. When he teed off on the par 5 thirteenth he was one over for the tournament and several shots back of Mediate. He pushed his drive at least 60 yards off line, but naturally drew a very playable lie in the rough. His iron shot landed within a foot or two of the hole before rolling just off the back edge 65 feet from the cup. No problem. His cross country putt broke at least five feet before diving into the cup, setting off an enormous explosion from the gallery.

After a bogey and three pars Woods hit another patented miss far right of the seventeenth fairway. Once again he drew an open shot, which he knocked up next to the green. He then hit his pitch way too hard, but it bounced once and dove straight into the cup for a much undeserved birdie. Woods concluded his binge with a 40 foot eagle putt on 18.

You can tell that Phil is not a Tiger-homer at all, so that may offend you if you are. But, the point should be well taken that Tiger did not own Torrey or the field for 72 holes. In fact, he probably actually led the championship for fewer holes than any of his major wins. It goes to show, though, that the only hole that matters is the last one. Or the last one plus another 18, plus another.

Huge Ratings for the US Open

Just to round out the coverage of the Open, let's talk TV numbers. As reported in the NY Times, the Sunday rating in primetime produced a 13.5 number. That is basically CSI good - the most popular show on television - and on a night not known for huge TV viewership.

To put that into historical perspective, here are the ratings for the US Open going back into the 1970s.

Year # View HH# Sh R Net Winner

2000 8.24 6.0 16 4 NBC Tiger Woods
2001 7.62 5.5 16 4 NBC Retief Goosen*
2002 10.75 7.5 20 2 NBC Tiger Woods
2003 5.72 4.2 12 4 NBC Jim Furyk
2004 6.31 4.4 13 4 NBC Retief Goosen
2005 5.82 4.2 12 4 NBC Michael Campbell
2006 5.00 3.5 9 4 NBC Geoff Ogilvy
2007 6.49 4.5 12 4 NBC Angel Cabrera

This Sunday is the highest rating ever for the US Open by 6 whole ratings points.