Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's With the Mahan Backlash?

Earlier in the week, I posted a link to Golf Magazine's interview with Hunter Mahan in which I called him pretty cool. In the interview, he takes a few shots at the PGA of America for the Ryder Cup - saying that players should get paid (or have donations made in their name to charity), it's too much pomp and circumstance, and that the Americans have no fun playing it. Realistically, all three of those sentiments are true. Still, Mahan is getting pummeled by the media. Why?

Bill Nichols of the Dallas Morning News joined the chorus.

Plano's Hunter Mahan is right. If everybody else is making money on the Ryder Cup, then the players should get a cut. And he's right about social engagements being a distraction at the biennial matches between the United States and Europe.

But going off on the Ryder Cup was all wrong. His critical comments virtually assure him of not being one of Paul Azinger's four captain's picks. And the firestorm that is sure to follow will come back to haunt him, particularly when he makes the team.

If he's so right in what he is saying, what is wrong with getting that all out in the open? Players love the President's Cup because it is the direct opposite of the Ryder Cup - it's fun. (Cache this page because I am indirectly complimenting Tim Finchem and that doesn't happen often.)

The PGA of America does make course selection for the Ryder Cup just another part of their rotation through a stable of courses that host their events. Why not do what the Europeans do and host the Ryder Cup at a regular Tour stop? How about cutting back on some of the social events and just let the guys enjoy playing golf for their country...and drink a 12 pack on their own time?

I think a lot of people are happy with the changes Captain Paul Azinger made to the selection criteria for this year, but that's only one part of the problem for the US and their performance. The other part of it is restoring fun. The Euros have fun and they win. The Americans don't and lose. Get it?

Women's British Open Round 1

Scoring is excellent almost 3/4 of the way through the first round of the Ricoh Women's British Open. Juli Inkster fired -7 at Sunningdale to hold a one shot lead over four golfers.

For those of you wondering about the Asian contingent, three of the four second place players are Asian. On the course now, Kristy McPherson and Stacy P. have nice rounds going at -5.

Wondering if Inkster's lead can hold? She may seem to have an affinity for links golf, but she does not really have the results to back up that love. In 10 WBO starts, her best finish is T4 in 2006. She has two missed cuts. At Sunningdale, she has T12, MC, and T25.

Also, Lorena Ochoa is playing fairly well to start her defense. She is at -3 through her first round. Helen Alfredsson is tied with Ochoa. Paula Creamer is -2 thru 10. Annika fired even par and is seven off of the pace.

The 19th Hole Golf Show Talks LPGA Sponsors

If you read this blog, then you've already seen that we have a sidebar link for this week's podcast. But, if you catch us through a feed, another website, etc, you may not know that The 19th Hole Golf Show this week has a great interview with Sports Business Journal/Daily's Jon Show. He's their golf reporter and we spoke for about 12 minutes regarding the bad weekend for LPGA sponsors and the fallout from that.

As it turns out, it may not all be bad news for the LPGA Tour and there are several potential new events that could come on line. Show then talks about the impact of these events on the cable negotiations and LPGA goals to own more events.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Players Playoff Format?

You know how everyone complained about starting a playoff for a prestigious event with a near $2 million payout on an island green par 3 that is subjected to crosswinds? And also that it would be so cool if they had a 3 hole playoff comprising 16, 17, and 18? Well, we might get it! This, according to's Tour Confidential:

I heard from a good source that the Tour and NBC are discussing a three-hole playoff — the 16th, 17th and 18th at TPC Sawgrass — in case of a tie at the Players Championship. Starting a sudden-death playoff at a par-3 like the island-green 17th was always kind of goofy and quickly killed any drama this year when Paul Goydos dunked his tee shot to lose to Garcia. The three-hole playoff is a great idea and one that I've mentioned here before, just like I suggested that the Masters should go to a three-hole playoff at Amen Corner.

Of course, both tournaments would have to move up the tee times a little on Sunday to leave enough daylight for the extra holes, and I'm not sure either the Tour or TV wants to do that, but I'm glad they're at least taking a serious look at it.

They should bump up the tee times for every major final round to 2pm or 1:30pm. Let's get it overwith!

A Real Inside Look at the Golf Media

Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun was at the Canadian Open to cover the event for the paper, just like a hundred other guys and girls were. In an interesting swerve, though, he wrote a column talking about what it's really like for the media to cover a golf event. It's so spot on that I had to share it.

If you're a reporter, Canadian Open week was mostly about sitting in the media tent and stuffing yourself with old tuna sandwiches, gross coffee and stale potato chips. And after it's all over, a few beers to wash it down.

And people wonder why sportswriters tend to be sweaty mouth-breathers.

I did go on the Glen Abbey course and walk some holes with the leaders a few times, but every time I stepped anywhere near a fairway, it poured rain.

And so, for the majority of the tournament, we sat in the tent, passed wind, and made fun of everybody and everything -- like the dude sitting behind my colleague Ken Fidlin and I. About every 15 minutes he would call someone named Sara and yell into the phone: "Well Sara, Chez Reavie is still holding a five-stroke lead over Anthony Kim, after picking up a birdie on 15 ... blah, blah, blah." (A golfer named Chez. There's a stretch.)

Anyway, after the guy called Sara for about the 15th time, Fids turned to me and said, "I don't know who this Sara is, or why he has to call her with updates every 15 minutes, but, man, is he ever whipped."

Turns out the dude was a radio guy. He was loud, though.

This happens at almost every golf event. There's a radio guy providing updates for syndication, or a sports talk station, or a news station. That happened here in the DC area for the AT&T National with WTOP Radio and SportsTalk 980 (now ESPN 980).

Then Buffery gets into some observations on the golf fan that I enjoyed:

I actually enjoyed wandering around the Glen Abbey grounds, observing the crowds and wondering to myself what it is about golf that compels conservative, middle-aged white guys to dress like pimps, with their blue pants, orange shirts and multi-coloured fedoras.

The other thing I noticed about golf fans? They're the biggest bootlicks in pro sports. I realize that fans love their athletes and, as a society, we tend to put more stock on a guy who is good at hitting a little ball than someone who performs life-saving brain surgery. But golf fans are just too much.

Every time one of the golfers hit a ball off the tee, the fans would yell: "Great shot Stephen!" or "Way to go Mikey!" followed by a revered gasp. The ball would fly into the trees or land in a bunker and the fans would all stand there looking ridiculous. And the golfers, most of whom make white bread look exotic, would walk away mumbling to themselves.

It is quite interesting to see the disparity between the constant exasperation of pros inside the ropes and the over-exuberance of drunk guys that are walking around the course. Those same guys, usually, are somehow alone - or at least without female accompaniment. The good looking women are usually following the young guys around the links. And the pros notice good looking women. If you've read Chris Lewis' The Scorecard Always Lies, you'll know that the term for those women is "talent." (Also, this may explain why guys dress like pimps and goofs.)

Best Tour in the World, and 2nd Place

Does everyone agree with the conclusion that the best Tour in the world is the PGA Tour? It's the US PGA Tour for the Euro readers, of course. Grant Boone brings up the subject in his Grant Me This column on, which is quirky enough each week to keep me reading.

Reavie's win revisits the recent debate over which is the second-best Tour in the world. Some of the Nationwide Tour's American alumni are on record declaring their alma mater to be number two in the queue. When the question was posed in the press conference following Europe's second straight Ryder Cup rout in 2006 and third win in a row overall, Englishman Luke Donald needed clarification as to what the reporter meant when he asked which tour was second best:

"You mean after Europe?"

Ha! Now that's funny no matter where you're from. At least I think he was kidding. Europe's dominance in the Ryder Cup proves one thing for sure: They're better than us at the Ryder Cup. But there should be no debate over tour supremacy. Here it is, once and for all:

1. PGA Tour
T2. Every Other Tour

Not only do the Euros know it, it's one of the reasons they're so motivated to keep slapping "Kick Me" signs on American kids' backs every two years. The Ryder Cup in reality has been evenly matched for nearly 20 years, but the U.S. has been the biennial favorite of the mainstream media, primarily because the Tour based here is superior.

Winning the Cup, preferably handily, is one small way the Empire (British and otherwise) can strike back at the courtesy cars and the billion-dollar TV contracts and air-conditioned hotel rooms and everything associated with the PGA Tour and America, for that matter, going back to the Tea Party.

Here's an easy way to tell the PGA Tour is in a league of its own: Check how many of their guys have come over here versus the number of ours who've gone that way. Here's another: Name one great international player of the last 50 years who didn't win on U.S. soil. The PGA Tour has always played for the most money and had the best-run tour, thereby attracting the best players. And if you want to be considered among the game's greatest, you have to beat the best.

Just as I read that last paragraph, I knew he would mention Monty. How could you not? So I skipped quoting that for you.

I think that Boone is on track with his Nationwide success stories. Over 225 wins on the PGA Tour have been by alums of the Hogan/Nike/'Wide Tour over the ages. But that stat could be misleading. Does that win tally tell you something about the overwhelming Tour ready talent on the Nationwide circuit? Or does that tell you that the quality of play on the PGA Tour has slipped down a notch such that success for Nationwide alums is easier? I tend to believe the first school, but it's worth throwing out there.

The European Tour is pretty strong these days. They, arguably, have a set of young players that could easily rival the United States' under 30 set - Martin Kaymer, Ross Fisher, Pablo Martin, Rory McIllroy, etc. That was not particularly true just a few years ago.

The Tour boasts membership from some of the game's all time great players - Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Paddy Harrington (just earned that title two weeks ago), and others. It is the home of great events like the BMW PGA Championship (and embarrassing events like the Russian Open).

I'm not ready to declare the war for second best Tour settled yet. A lot of things go in the favor of the Nationwide Tour, but there are still others that seem to propel Europe ahead.

And then you have the discussion of where the LPGA Tour fits in this...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Not Signing Scorecards

It is apparently an epidemic on the LPGA Tour, with 10 DQs for failure to sign in the past two years. On the PGA Tour, there has been 1 DQ for not signing in this century. The last one was in 2005, according to Geoff Shackelford's post on the subject.

Take a read of it and it'll help you understand the point of having a scoring rep in the tent. Also, for those of you thinking that Wie's DQ was some kind of vendetta fulfilled, you will learn that it is not one.

Well Hold Up a Second on Ginn...

The Post and Courier in South Carolina is reporting something different than what Golf World is claiming.

A Ginn Resorts spokesman said Monday a report by Golf World magazine that the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika will not be played in 2009 is "not correct."

Ryan Julison, spokesman for Ginn Resorts, which sponsors events on the PGA and Champions Tour as well as another LPGA tournament, stopped short of saying the event will return to Charleston.

"Market conditions are awful and we've got no sponsors on these events," Julison said. "That makes it very difficult to manage this process. But we are certainly looking at all options and we are continuing to work through this very complicated process."

Julison said Ginn Resorts is working with the LPGA and "we are personally trying to determine what our future course of action will be as it relates to all of our tournaments."

That actually sounds worse than just losing the Ginn Tribute.

Julison emphasized that nothing is settled. "It's a situation where we have a contract with the LPGA, and we're working through a variety of processes to consider now. That's where it's at."

I'm not sure where the LPGA stands on this because, as the article states, Commissioner Bivens put the odds of the event happening in 2009 at less than 50-50.

The piece does have quotes from Julison at Ginn that acknowledges this is a tough market, but stops short of declaring the event done. We'll keep you updated...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hunter Mahan Seems Pretty Cool

I saw an interview with Hunter Mahan over at (and is in the latest edition of Golf Magazine). I didn't know much about the guy before this interview other than he is a talented golfer. He seems to shoot from the hip, though, and I like that about him.

Most interesting to me is this part of the interview.

Most of you guys still aren't household names. If Tiger pulled an Annika and decided to retire, the Tour would be in deep trouble, no?
Monumental trouble. The Tour would never admit it but they need Tiger way more than Tiger needs the Tour. It's tough — people don't know the younger players. If you ask most fans following a tournament to write down who they know, they'll write Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

So shouldn't the Tour do more to promote up-and-comers like you?
Personally I think they do a lot more for the international players. They try to get Camilo [Villegas] out there as much as any player I've ever seen, basically because while he's good-looking and young, he's also Colombian. He's Latin. They don't do the Americans many favors.

Do you feel slighted?
Yes and no. I understand where the Tour's coming from. They want as much parity from different countries as possible so they can hit each market and gain as much money as they can. But when it comes to American players they don't do as much as they could. As in anything, money talks.

Interesting that Mahan feels that the Tour could be doing more for their American players not named Woods and Mickelson, especially considering that the Tour has done so much to dig its trenches in the United States. I understand that there is a lot of money to be made by marketing international players that come to the States to play. But, does that money make up for the fact that most people have no clue who is going to be on the Ryder Cup team?

Guy Choked Out at the Canadian Open

You might be able to get away with spraying champagne and drinks on winners on the LPGA Tour. You can do it on the PGA Tour, too, but if you're a player. If you are some kind of adviser, trainer, or teacher, though, don't bother because this could happen to you.

Chez Reavie won the RBC Canadian Open for his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday. In the celebration, Jim Weathers was coming out to spray champagne on the winner. Then it got ugly.

The only ill fortune to find Reavie came during his celebration, when an overzealous police officer tackled his trainer, Jim Weathers, who was giving Reavie a champagne shower.

"Once he saw (my credentials), he was okay," Weathers said, laughing off the incident.

Stinks for Weathers, but the picture is pretty funny for a golf event. Between that and the guy jumping in the creek at Colonial, it has been a great year for golf photos.

An Eerie Peek Into the Past

We're going to keep with the running LPGA theme today - though I will post the pic of the guy getting choked in Canada and some bikini babes from the Russian Open. This is an interview conducted by Ed Pazdur for Executive Golfer Magazine with LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens. I don't have a date for this publication because, unfortunately, there isn't one on the webpage.

The interview covers a variety of topics with a very light tone. It does present good background on a her tenure to date - at least through the middle of 2007. I found this section on Bobby Ginn particularly interesting given the news over the weekend:

“You must have a criteria in mind for approving a sponsor, a location, and a date for any given tournament. Right?”

“Right,” she said. “A lot of things have to come together for a tournament to be born. There has to be a spot on the schedule for that geographic region with a golf course that can accommodate the fans, has enough parking, and a sponsor that’s interested in that particular part of the country.”

“Based on your criteria for sponsors,” I suggested, “Bobby Ginn has certainly raised the bar for professional golf tours and for fans in particular. The inaugural LPGA Ginn Open in Orlando last April was getting billed as four days of golf and music.”

It pulled 51,378 fans for the tournament and over 9,500 at the concerts, televised over seven hours of national exposure, had over 100 media reps, sold $178,000 in merchandise, and provided the LPGA’s third largest purse with $2.5 million—all to the benefit of the LPGA.

“Bobby Ginn is a wonderful partner,” said Bivens. “His courses are spectacular. His organization goes out of its way to make sure that women have the very best hospitality, that caddies are taken care of, and that fans are well accommodated.

“He does the best job of bringing in local galleries through radio ads, outdoor billboards within 75 miles of the course—and outstanding evening concerts.

“Bobby’s impact on the LPGA goes beyond tournaments,” said Bivens.

“Would you say he’s a great model for others to follow?” I asked.

“Absolutely!” declared Bivens.

Bivens certainly is right. Bobby Ginn and his company really put a lot of effort and money into making the Ginn sponsored events into a big deal. He has put together opportunities with the Golf Channel, Annika Sorenstam, the PGA Tour umbrella of tours, and other places in the sport. It is curious, though, that the LPGA Tour was knocked off of the totem pole in lieu of retaining sponsorship with the Champions Tour - arguably a weaker product. (But, given the financial reach and muscle of the PGA Tour, that may not be true.)

ADD ON @ 4:15p 7/29:

It looks like Adam Schupak of Golfweek either read my post or found the Executive Golfer interview on his own (much more likely the latter).

The 19th Hole: Win Some, Lose Some

The US economy is stagnant right now. Commodity prices – especially those for oil – are through the roof. Bank liquidity and credit markets have proven to be trillion dollar messes. The dollar is losing its value against global currencies because of our large national debt and artificially low interest rates. It is a difficult market for anyone to make sustain their financial well being, much less make gains.

It is in this economic reality that the LPGA is trying to grow its tour, its brand, and its purses. Since Carolyn Bivens has taken over as Commissioner of the Tour, she has been spearheading efforts to bring in sponsors that will commit to higher expenses, bigger purses, and larger ad buys. Bivens has been trying to increase the profile of the Tour by holding events in larger markets and taking significant portions of the Tour outside of the United States.

After taking over for Ty Votaw as Commissioner in late 2005, Bivens made immediate changes. Using her leverage as head of the Tour, she increased the annual sanctioning fee for each tournament from $18,000 to $100,000. She effectively forced out the Wendy’s event in Dublin, Ohio, because of the changes. Simultaneously, the Tour gained several international tour stops and large financial commitments from leading credit and banking companies, MasterCard and HSBC.

Looking for another stream of money, Bivens tried to amend the credential rules for the press such that the LPGA Tour would retain rights to photography to use for the Tour’s own purposes. She lost that battle, but did negotiate a contract with a photography firm that would pay off the LPGA Tour.

In her pursuit of larger purses, she cast aside some events that were not willing to compromise their long-standing dates on the LPGA Tour schedule in favor of new events with more money. The ShopRite Classic in Atlantic City was such an event. In exchange for the loss of such an event, she negotiated a very lucrative sponsorship deal with the Ginn Company – a real estate firm out of Florida – that would go on to produce two events with huge paydays: the Ginn Open and the Ginn Tribute.

Just this summer, the LPGA has taken steps to gain ownership over more of its events in order to generate revenue through merchandising, ticket sales, and the other sources of money that they do not see from events they do not own. The LPGA Championship will be owned by the LPGA Tour starting in 2010, go on without title sponsorship, and allow the Tour to flex slightly more muscle in negotiations with broadcast partners for the 2010 television contracts.

The point? For Bivens, she has won some battles and she has lost some. Despite the resounding criticism of her during the 2006 season, last season seemingly produced results for the Tour. This week, though, was another example of how Bivens may be having a losing year for many reasons out of her hands.

SemGroup, an energy company, filed for bankruptcy protection after the SEC conducted an investigation of the company. The Ginn Company also indicated this week that they would no longer sponsor the event hosted by Annika Sorenstam – the Ginn Tribute – because of financial difficulties attributable to a $25 million commitment to golf sponsorship. Both events boasted purses on the high end of those offered on the LPGA Tour schedule.

Other tournament sponsorship appears to be in question, as well. Earlier in the year, Safeway pulled out as sponsor of the Safeway International in Arizona. An extremely popular event with fans and players, the long-standing tournament is struggling to find a new title sponsor. Fields, the sponsor for an event in Hawaii, is also unlikely to remain a title sponsor and the status for that event is seriously in question. Speculation is rampant regarding up to a handful of other LPGA Tour events.

All of this comes during one of the most crucial seasons in the Tour’s history. Annika Sorenstam is stepping away from competitive golf at the end of the season to pursue other interests. The biggest draw in women’s golf – other than Michelle Wie – is leaving the game with a certain heir in Lorena Ochoa, but a significant gap for the way the Tour is marketed in the mainstream. The rise of Asian players and their increasing tally of victories may be leading to problems with an American sporting public that loves to root for the red, white, and blue.

The Tour is in the midst of a television negotiation that will dictate its viability for financial and fan growth in the next four or five years. It is yet to close a deal on a cable partner, but signs point to the Golf Channel. Bivens seeks a contract in which the LPGA Tour will be paid for broadcasting rights of its product – something the Tour has never enjoyed in the States. With the biggest draws in the game either leaving or dormant, though, that negotiation may prove to be more difficult than it was just a year prior.

In spite of all of the bad news, though, the Tour remains a strong brand overseas. The Tour announced a partnership with Grand China Air to present a limited-field event in October with a $1.8 million purse. There is talk of an event in Dubai. Grander still is talk of turning the LPGA Tour into a global circuit with more invitational events and rebranding the Duramed Futures Tour into a women’s golf version of the Nationwide Tour.

It is uncertain how the Tour will look after this season. With at least two events already declared dead or on life support, the schedule will certainly have a different feel. If more rumored struggling events fall, then the Tour may face serious financial difficulties in trying to present a full schedule – particularly with a $500,000 sanctioning fee for new events.

With a string of good news and sponsorship overseas, though, the LPGA Tour could evolve in the opposite direction of the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour has made strong efforts to become more Americanized in its presentation. Few official money events are contested outside of the United States, and just one out of North America and the Caribbean. The World Golf Championships are a mockery of the title in that they are played only in this country.

Meanwhile, the LPGA Tour may have to move significant portions of its operations outside of the United States in order to grow. Asia and the Middle East present a lot of interest and a lot of capital that the LPGA Tour may not be able to turn from in the coming years. At the risk of alienating a fan base that has been incredibly loyal the product over the years, financial realities may dictate to a Tour that seeks to grow will have to follow the money. In the end, tough, is financial growth worth potentially sacrificing the fan base?

Local Public Course Going Under

Here in the Maryland area, we have some pretty solid public courses. Among them is Beechtree, located near the soon-to-be-former host site of the LPGA Championship in Bulle Rock. But, because of the Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) plan, a lot of people and jobs will be coming to Aberdeen - an area very near to these courses. Unfortunately for golfers, Beechtree will no longer be an option...maybe.

The club's 300 acres are close to the Chesapeake Bay, Interstate 95 and the military facility at Aberdeen.Beechtree's owner filed a preliminary plan with Harford County to turn the course into a housing development of more than 730 homes.

It's that potential demand for new housing that's driving the decision at the golf course, Miller reported. The course owners said that BRAC is a big factor in deciding whether to currently replace the course with housing in a market that's taken a big hit.
A top 100 public course (according to Golfweek) is going under in lieu of real estate. Just add another to the tally.

Not All Bad LPGA News

The Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting that the LPGA Tour may have an event coming to the ATL.

Atlanta is on the verge of being back in the golf business in a big way.

Big steps have been made to secure a Champions Tour event for Duluth's TPC Sugarloaf in 2009, and the initial push has started to bring an LPGA tournament back to Eagle's Landing Country Club in Stockbridge, possibly as early as spring.

To be fair, the buzz does seem to be more around having TPC Sugarloaf host a Champions Tour event next year. The PGA Tour did the same thing when it did away with the BC Open - they put a Champ Tour event there.

It isn't that easy for the LPGA, which disappeared from the local landscape after the 2006 event when it couldn't secure a title sponsor. Several local groups, including Eagle's Landing owner Club Corporation, have banded together to help with the push. But former tournament chairman J.T. Williams, who remains on the executive committee of Metro South Charities, said the tournament won't petition the LPGA for a spot on the schedule until it secures sponsorship.

"We're looking for a title sponsor, and you know those are hard to come back these days," said Williams.

A marketing group representing the LPGA tournament sent e-mails to former corporate sponsors, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on Thursday, encouraging them to participate in the tournament's revival, which is optimistically scheduled as "Spring 2009."

Given the comments from Williams and the recent struggles with Safeway, Fields, SemGroup, and Ginn, I would take this lightly until we have better details.

Chris Wood is a Pro

This is not unexpected at all, but wanted to pass it along.

Chris Wood, the 20-year-old amateur from Bristol who finished a brilliant joint fifth at The Open eight days ago, has decided to turn professional.

Wood has signed for the International Sports Management group and becomes a stablemate of Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and David Howell - and also last year's Open silver medal winner Rory McIlroy.

After taking a week to consider his future, the 6ft 5in Wood said: "Royal Birkdale was the best week of my life and now I am looking forward to an equally exciting and successful future in the professional ranks.

"If I was going to play amateur golf for another year, I'm not sure that I would be in a better position than I am now.

"I played with Darren Clarke yesterday and I've spoken to another two professionals and they've all said that I'll be a better player after a year on the tour."

Wood has already received an invitation to the Quinn Insurance British Masters at The Belfry on September 25-28. His management company are the promoters of that event.

I love the Euro Tour - the events can promote themselves without fewer gimmicks, but more shady business.

McIlroy made his professional debut there last season and a week later came third in the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews.

Wood is allowed seven sponsor's invites and if he earns around £150,000 from them he will avoid November's European Tour qualifying school.

Best of luck to him!

Bad Weekend for LPGA Sponsorship

First, on Friday, Semgroup filed for bankruptcy protection.

The SemGroup Championship has been played in May at Cedar Ridge Country Club in Broken Arrow, but it seems likely a new title sponsor for the event will be needed, as Tulsa-based SemGroup LP filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday after losing a reported $2.4 billion in hedged trading on the oil futures markets.

Doug Eibling of Octagon, a sports management and marketing company that owns the LPGA event, said Friday a search has started to replace SemGroup as the title sponsor.

The bright side of this is that there may already be other sponsors coming to the table.
Eibling, the tournament's director, said that as SemGroup's troubles became public knowledge this week, Octagon received calls from three potential title sponsors, which he declined to name.
Who knows how reliable that statement is, of course, but you have to take it on face value. This is something the LPGA probably did not see coming. If you have been watching the stock market of late, though, you would know this is a distinct possibility because of a SEC investigation into the organization.

Also, even if the event remains, it will likely not attract the same caliber of field it once did because of the number of players sponsored by SemGroup - Cristie Kerr among them. Still, it would be a great event to salvage since it is played on a major championship layout.

If that was not bad enough, there was arguably worse news reported by Ron Sirak on Saturday about the Ginn Tribute. Namely, that it's done.
The Ginn Tribute which, along with the Ginn Open, has a $2.6 million purse, the richest of any U.S.-based LPGA event except the U.S. Women's Open, will not return in 2009, multiple sources told Golf World. While neither the LPGA nor Ginn would confirm the demise of the Tribute, which is played at RiverTowne CC near Charleston, S.C., neither expressed optimism about its future.

"If I had to handicap the situation right now I would say that it is less than 50-50 that the Ginn Tribute will happen in 2009," LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens told Golf World at the Evian Masters. "That said, we will have a tournament to replace it."
Of course, Commish Bivens is really leaving herself open to some criticism here. She basically killed off the ShopRite Classic just outside of Atlantic City - a well-supported event that the players liked - in lieu of giving the Tribute this date.

Unfortunately for the LPGA Tour, this event never really got off of the ground. Poor weather last year led to lousy attendance. The event brought in local Beth Daniel as the Tributee of the event in the hopes of drumming up additional interest.

The biggest problem, though, was getting into a relationship with a real estate company. Given the downturn in the real estate realm, this was inevitable anyway. Even worse, though, is that Ginn bit off way more than they can chew. By taking opportunities to sponsor four events - 2 LPGA, 1 PGA Tour, 1 Champ Tour - they were on the hook for almost $25 million in sponsorship dollars.

Sirak mentions that the Ginn Open may become the new Ginn Tribute. But that would throw a wrench into the rumor that Ginn would like to step up and host a LPGA Tour major. Again, it would be in the best interests of the Tour not to do that.

Good Weekend For Me

I normally do some posting on the weekends, though lighter than my during the week news, but didn't this past weekend because I was enjoying a nice vacation. No worries - I caught all of the golf I needed - but just was not around a computer at all. There are some serious news stories from the LPGA Tour which I'll cover today, as well as chattering up leading into the PGA Championship.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

One Last British Open Piece

Of course, under the guise of shameless self-promotion, I have an Open wrap up at Sports Central that wonders if Paddy Harrington is the guy to fill in for Tiger Woods.

Welcome Back, Lorena Ochoa

Lorena is making her first LPGA Tour appearance since a lackluster effort at Interlachen in the Women's Open. In the Evian Masters, she leads after round one with a round of -7 (65). She leads by a shot over Angela Park, Sun-Ju Ahn, and Candie Kung. Five golfers are two back on -5.

Lorena has a solid history in this event, never finishing outside of the Top 5. The day did not begin that swimmingly, though. She struggled for the opening nine holes with a lone birdie at the first. Coming home, though, she made six birdies on the back side to surge in with 30 and take the lead.

"I had a break on 10 and 11. I got a really good confidence, and started feeling good over the ball and the putting," said Ochoa, explaining how she turned around the day. "And I finished making six birdies on the back, so I have no complaints. I'm really happy. I didn't make birdie on the last hole, but I made a long putt today, so it's fine."

Scoring conditions are likely to remain perfect. Angela Park, sitting in second, said, "This year the greens are more soft. I like the greens." Likely, this will become an event won by making lots of birdies.


Also, check out the Constructivist's first round recap over at Mostly Harmless. It has more details on the good rounds from Angela Stanford, Linda Wessburg, and a respectable open to Natalie Gulbis' defense.

Baffling Commissioner Response to Wie Incident

Geoff Shackelford was forwarded a letter sent to LPGA members regarding the Wie DQ. This was drafted in light of "countless feedback e-mails, blogs and phone calls to LPGA headquarters." I don't feel I had an inaccurate impression of what happened. After reading the letter, that reaffirmed what I basically copied and pasted from the AP.

There was this about Sue Witters, who apparently got a bad rap from the AP.

I addition, there has been some misunderstanding about comments made by Sue Witters, LPGA director of tournament operations and the lead official in this situation. The initial AP story that ran misquoted Sue. Acknowledging the error, the AP ran a corrected story. However, for those who only viewed the original story, it is important to know Sue’s comments in the press conference were referencing her own emotion when she had to notify Michelle; the comments were not directed at or describing Michelle. In fact, Sue represented the LPGA in a way that we can all be proud of. She handled the situation with the utmost care and attention.
Witters was the woman who was quoted as saying that her DQ of Wie was like telling a child (that believes) that there's no Santa Claus. I never read into that quote that Witters was poking fun of Wie, but apparently others did.

Still, there were no scoring officials in the scoring area. This whole mess could have been avoided had there been one there.

Like I mentioned on LPGA on GNN this week, this incident and the problems in administering drug testing to start the season are an indication that there are administrative issues with the LPGA Tour. I'm not going to start declaring crisis because that's dumb. But I am willing to say that the LPGA Tour clearly has some issues that it needs to address to avoid gaffes like this in the future.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is the Long Game More Important?

There is a NY Times piece on some research conducted by Mark Broadie - a Columbia University professor on the USGA's handicap research team - that leads to the conclusion that the long game is more important than the short game.

Here are some of his findings:

  • It is the long game that proves to be the biggest factor when examining the difference in scores between pros and amateurs and even between low- and high-handicap amateurs. If, for example, a PGA Tour player were available to hit shots for an amateur from 100 yards and in, or available to hit all the shots leading to the 100-yard mark, Broadie says the amateur would benefit the most from having the PGA player hit the long shots, not the short ones.
  • Despite the belief that shorter hitters are more accurate off the tee than longer hitters, Broadie discovered the opposite: longer hitters also tend to be straighter hitters. “Better players are more skilled over all,” Broadie said. “They hit it farther and they have more consistent swings, so they’re more accurate, too.”
  • It is often said that 60 to 65 percent of all shots are struck within 100 yards of the hole. Broadie agreed but noted that if you take out “gimme” putts of two and a half feet, the statistic has less meaning. Remove very short putts that are rarely missed, and shots from 100 yards or less account for only 45 to 50 percent of all shots. Eliminate putts from three and a half feet or less, and the figure drops to 41 to 47 percent.
It's quite a contrarian point of view given that we have been claiming that putting has been winning the major championships. The Masters is all about putting, supposedly. The US Open is about putting in more recent years. The PGA Championship and Open Championships have it as a crucial factor. In fact, Greg Norman took more heat for his strategy off of the tee than for lipping out more putts than I have ever seen in a major.

The USGA claims that there is almost no correlation between winning on the PGA Tour and driving accuracy. I have produced articles that reach the same conclusion. The implication behind that truth is that we should regulate how the ball plays from the rough because distance and accuracy really do not matter all that much - therefore, we need to regulate the approach shot.

But, what if this is a rock solid finding? It would imply, then, that distance and accuracy do matter, right? If distance and accuracy do matter, but the data suggest that accuracy doesn't matter, then does ONLY distance matter? (That's a stretch, I know.)

Still, at the end of this, I am left wondering whether we should be regulating the golf ball for distance because it seems then that it has serious implication on success in the game.

ADD ON 10:20am 7/23:

On The 19th Hole yesterday, we had a guy by the name of Vin Lee on the show. He invented something called the Caesar Featherie - a golf ball with no dimples. The idea behind the ball is that you sacrifice some distance (a club or two) in exchange for a lower, boring flight straight through the air. In effect, the idea is that golf is more fun when you don't spray the ball. It reminds me of the older men I used to play with as a youth golfer that would hit the ball maybe 180 yards off of the tee, but dead straight. I could outdrive them all I wanted, but if I wasn't in the fairway, they could tie or beat me on a hole.

My interpretation of this piece and my interview with Vin leads me to believe that there is a scale of focus for players at all levels. For the high handicappers, they should focus on the long game and learning to make solid contact with the ball to get it in the fairway. At the mid-level stage, they should learn ball striking and working the ball with irons to get more GIRs, assuming they can two putt. But to get to scratch or better, a player has to learn how to get the ball in the hole from further away - meaning become a better putter. Certainly there are ways around this structure, but this would make the most sense to me.

British Open Media Round-Up

If you're a regular to this blog or my writing, you know I like to cover the golf media itself. It's fascinating to me. Without Tiger Woods around, we knew the ratings were going to take a hit for the Open. Also, the time difference between the US and Britain messes things up significantly. Ole reliable Thomas Bonk has the TV numbers:

The Absent Tiger Factor is here and it's awful to behold.

Case 3: British Open. Not good. The overnight ratings for ABC's final round coverage Sunday fell 14.6%, from a 4.1 to a 3.5.

None of this is good news, despite the intriguing British Open story lines of Greg Norman trying to hold it together at age 53, and Padraig Harrington coming through to win his second consecutive Open title.
Still, 15% is not bad considering that PGA Tour events generally drop by 25% or more from fields in which there is a Tiger sighting.

How about the media coverage of the event? In the States, we had TNT do early round and early weekend coverage. ABC's crew took on the weekend coverage in primer time. Sal Johnson seemed very high on their work - particularly of Ian Baker-Finch.

The difference of having Baker-Finch was night and day, I think that he had his best performance of his decade long television career this week. Maybe it was because he was returning to the British Open, something that is close to Ian's heart, maybe it was returning to Birkdale no matter he was great to listen to and worked great with Ernie Johnson, who seemed a lot better with Ian.

He also goes on to talk about the ABC crew - who I personally love.
Listening to Mike Tirico, Paul Azinger, Judy Rankin, Terry Gannon, Tom Rinaldi and Andy North this week is a shame that we only get them once a year, they are great and give us a great change of pace over having to listen to Nick Faldo all the time, who frankly I am getting sick of listening to so much.

Thanks goodness Faldo wasn't on the ABC show, he was replace by Tom Watson, who did a credible job but he has to work hard for any future as a broadcaster. You see Watson is a bit shy in jumping in and being a announcer, he needs the help of a Tirico to set him up. Watson gave some of the spark that producers were hoping for like Johnny Miller does, but unfortunely Watson was over shadowed by Azinger who was on top of his game.

What many don't give Azinger credit for was being the back bone of the Azinger/Faldo booth experience. When ABC lost golf, Azinger lost interest in TV but Faldo pursued it and was lucky enough to steal away the CBS job from Lanny Wadkins. Frankly I can only hope that Azinger will be able to steal the Ryder Cup away from Faldo in a couple of months and if the folks at CBS, NBC or even Golf Channel are smart they would put Azinger in the booth were he belongs.

Azinger gave us a lot of great moments and frank talk about things like Harrington winning, Norman's collapse and the storyline of playing golf on links courses. Of course there is no need to talk about Tirico, he is the best in the business and again it's a shame to just see him do early round coverage of the other majors that ESPN does.

As for the telecast, a lot of good production value with actor Gary Oldman doing a lot of the scene set pieces, teases and rejoins from commercial. I also love Tom Rinaldi, he is a top notch interviewer and a pretty good writer on pieces. If the new management at Golf Channel want some fresh people for their telecasts, I would tell them to try and figure out a way to get both Rinaldi, who would improve their post game shows and Terry Gannon, who would be a perfect host to replace Kelly once she is gone from that perch.

That last paragraph could not be more true. Both are underutilized by the Worldwide Leader and both could get a serious rub at the Golf Channel.

Also, some news to report on the broadcasting front - ESPN is reportedly going to get all four rounds of the Open starting in 2010. That means goodbye to TNT for the British. That also likely means that the PGA Championship and the Grand Slam of Golf will go to someone else in a few years (2011).

First, from Sal's column:
ESPN will not only take over the Thursday and Friday coverage, but they will replace the ABC Saturday and Sunday at St. Andrews.. In another move that was announced last month, Turner has also lost the Presidents Cup to Golf Channel, which for the viewer will be a downgrade. Now they still will do the PGA Championship and the Grand Slam, but with the momentum of ESPN wanting to get the early round coverage of all four majors and the Ryder Cup going to ESPN, TNT could also lose the PGA once that contract is up in a couple of years.
Then from Jon Show:

According to several sources familiar with the talks, ESPN and British Open organizer R&A are in the final stages of cutting a seven-year deal worth about $25 million a year that would put all four rounds on the cable network. The deal, which could be several weeks away from being finalized, also would include a batch of international and digital rights.

Turner Sports initially bid to renew its package for the first two rounds, but it was not willing to match ESPN’s offer, sources said.

I've been reporting on this very transparent strategy for over a year now, but it's good to see the rest of the media catching up on it.

Now back with Sal stirring the pot on his lamentations about TNT going by the wayside for golf, and how they could get back in the game:
The shame of all this is that TNT should still be televising golf, even if it's a deal with the LPGA, which doesn't look possible. Another shame, the folks at TNT are great to work for and like to spend a dollar or two, why the PGA Tour didn't utilize them more instead of going 100% with Golf Channel is way past my thinking. One thing that I would suggest, the European Tour is not happy at the coverage of their telecasts in which Golf Channel in a cost move to save $5 million dollars a year is making a mockery of those telecasts, the European Tour should try to lure someone like TNT to do those telecasts and we could again get first class treatment of the European Tour. In talking with George O'Grady, who runs the European Tour, he is now aware of the terrible Golf Channel shows and has some meeting planned with Golf Channel executives so hopefully they will fix the problem or hopefully find someone else to do them, TNT would be a great home.
Great recap from Sal - a man who was in the business of golf media and still has a lot of great contacts. Between Sal's insights and Jon Show's up to the second reporting, you should be able to get a great idea about golf media.

More Wie-action

I'm on fire with wordsmithing lately. First, Open issues, then Wie-action. It's beautiful. Anyway, we're getting reaction from the blogosphere regarding Michelle Wie's opportunity to play in the Reno-Tahoe Open next week. Fortunately, I've had some links to my thoughts and I'd like to point out the thoughts of others.

First, Joe Logan in Philly says that Wie is "dumb, dumb, dumb" for doing this.

Michelle Wie, having apparently not learned her lesson, having apparently not been sufficiently humbled and humiliated by her past efforts, has decided to once again tee it up against the men, in next week's Legends Reno-Tahoe Open.

What this is is a blatant marketing ploy by the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open to steal just a little of the limelight from the WGC-Bridgestone.

"Michelle is getting her game together, she's getting back in the swing of things, and we have no problem extending her this opportunity," tournament director Michael Stearns said in a statement.

Let's be honest. Do you think the tournament director's real interest is in young Miss Wie's well-being and her budding comeback, or in selling tickets and getting his tournament on SportsCenter, Golf Channel and the 11 o'clock news?

Ironically, this latest ill-considered decision comes at a time when Wie truly seemed to be getting back on track. True, she was DQ'd from last week's State Farm Classic on the LPGA Tour for failing to sign her scorecard, but so what? That's the bad news. The good news is that she was 1 shot off the lead when it happened.
Again, I didn't really have a gripe with trying to market the Reno event. It's an event treated as a coincidence with the Akron WGC event. To get attention for it is not a bad thing - it's business. My problem is that the Wie clan appears to still not get that Wie should be focused on getting a LPGA Tour card, not side ventures.

As seen in the discussion of my initial reaction, though, there is a point to be made that Michelle has just one event left among her exemptions for this season on the LPGA Tour. That exemption is for the $2.25M CN Canadian Women's Open. (Too bad the $500K purse increase doesn't kick in until next season.) To get the money she needs to be exempt for next year and avoid Q-school, she will need either a fifth or sixth place finish to get the card outright. Of course, she could Monday qualify as well - but don't count on it.

EDIT 9:16pm - As it turns out, Michelle Wie is not actually eligible for the Monday qualifiers. I misread the exemption rules. BUT, she does have an avenue to a Tour card that is - in effect - one event at a time. If she finishes in top 10 at the CWO, she would then get into the next LPGA Tour event per the field composition rules. At a minimum then, she has to finish top 10. Not as bad as top 5 and way better than top 3.

In light of a layoff til mid-August to play in that event, The Constructivist over at Mostly Harmless argues that it will be a good tune up before that tournament. It's a good point of contention. How else will she maintain that competitive edge before a very critical event? Playing against the PGA Tour B-list is not a bad idea. In that light, it looks reasonable.

Bill Jempty summarized a number of posts on the subject and follows up on the line of logic from the Constructivist:
[W]hat is the harm of her playing in Tahoe? As I see it, very little to none if all Michelle sees this is as an opportunity to work on her game right now.
Geoff Shackelford is on my end of the spectrum.

It's really a mixed bag of reactions, but none genuinely positive. The most positive reaction appears to be "why the hell not?" That is still more resounding than the feedback from her last few attempts at the PGA and Nationwide Tours.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wiesy, You Best Be Joking With Me

Look, Deadspin doesn't cover much golf. So that means when I see a golf story hit Deadspin, it's either a major championship story or a golfer did something stupid. You want to guess which this is?

You got it! Michelle Wie is playing the PGA Tour...again! In Tahoe!

Fresh off a disqualification on the LPGA Tour, Michelle Wie has decided to tee it up against the men, again.

Wie will play next week in the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open, the first time she'll play on the PGA Tour this year, tournament organizers said.

It will be her eighth time playing on the PGA Tour, and she has yet to make a cut. The only time Wie has made money playing against the men was on the Korean Tour, in 2006, at the SK Telcom Open.

C'mon! We need to stop with this gimmick. Wie isn't even signing scorecards and she's going to play against the PGA Tour's B list. Well, at least it is the B list.

Meanwhile, Michelle Wie has lost all sight of trying to get her LPGA Tour card and avoid Q-school. Then again, at Interlachen, she said she didn't think she was going to go to Q-school anyway.

New Golf Show has gotten together and put out its own weekly podcast with some of its own staff as hosts and guests. I haven't gotten to listen to it yet. The AP had a golf podcast with Jim Litke and Doug Ferguson that was along the same lines. Eventually, at last check at least, they abandoned that show. Best of luck to the show, though. Of course, I am still biased to my shows and the one found at the Sand Trap. Take a listen and let me know what you think.

How Many Majors Has Greg Norman Blown?

It's a question that is making the rounds today, apparently. Gene Wojciechowski at got the fun started by saying that Norman had blown 9 majors (or near misses). Then, Bill Jempty figured he would take a crack at that tally himself. He came up with 13. I went over both lists and came up with up to 14.

Here's my combo list:

Norman lead 8 times leading a major after 54 holes - won once - 7 near misses:

  • 2008 British Open T-3
  • 1996 Masters 2
  • 1995 U.S. Open 2
  • 1993 PGA 2
  • 1986 PGA 2
  • 1986 U.S. Open T-12
  • 1986 Masters T-2
(By the way, how good was his 1986? A near Grand Slam? Reminds me of Tiger's 2005 campaign.)

Then you have the times that Norman finished 2nd, but didn't have the 54 hole lead:
  • 1989 British Open
  • 1987 Masters
  • 1984 US Open
You now have 10 instances. Then there are some more obscure ones that Jempty found that are more borderline:
  • Norman missed a playoff at the 89 Masters by one shot, Greg finishing tied for 3rd.
  • Norman opened the 1999 Masters, one shot behind eventual winner Jose Maria Olazabel. Norman played in the final group with Olazabel.
  • Here’s an obscure one, Norman finished 4th at the 1981 Masters. 3 shots behind Tom Watson. He opened the final 3rd in 3rd place, and just two back. I can’t say for certain, but there is a good chance Norman was playing with Watson on Sunday in 1981. The Masters used to pair players 1-3, 2-4, 5-7, 6-8. They did that till at least 1979 that I know for certain.
  • Another obscure one- 1982 PGA. Greg Norman entered the final round tied for 2nd.
So, at maximum, we have 14 chances blown by Norman. No less than 10. That's pretty crazy. Good sleuth work from Bill Jempty.

That Wie Incident Over the Weekend

Personally, I think this makes a lot of people look bad - Michelle Wie for not signing her card, the volunteers and officials in the scoring tent for not telling her, and the LPGA Tour for actually letting her play the entire Saturday round before DQing her.

After finishing Friday and Saturday in second place at the State Farm Classic, Michelle Wie was one good round away from finally living up to her deep potential.

Then, minutes after tapping in her last putt of the third round, Wie sat red-eyed at a folding table in front of a couple dozen baffled reporters and photographers, explaining why she'd been disqualified from the tournament.

Why not stop her on the 1st tee? How in the world did someone not check this the second that she walked out of the scoring area? Or at least before they shut down for the day?

More on how it went down:

Wie told reporters that after she finished her round Friday, she left the tent just above the ninth green where players sign their scorecards. She was chased down by volunteers working in the tent, who pointed out she hadn't signed.

Wie returned to the tent and signed the card, and "I thought it would be OK," she said.

But Wie, according to Witters, had already walked outside the roped-off area around the tent. At that point, the mistake was final, Witters said.

Witters said she and other tour officials didn't learn about the mistake from volunteers until well after Wie teed off Saturday morning, so they let her finish the round.
I understand the need to be responsible for your own score. That's part of golf. But for the Tour to take a whole day to figure it out, get everyone's hopes up for a Wie win, and then DQ her just seems like a bad move. It's a non-story if she gets DQd on the spot.

Should Anyone Be Complaining?

The Open had its usual cast of contenders on Sunday in Birkdale. By that, though, I don't mean the same people. I mean, the same kinds of people. There are always past champions lurking around (and winning). The canary yellow always shows at two or three names that make you refer to your program unless you watch a lot of Euro Tour golf. There are a few Tour tested players looking to make their big major splash. Then, there is some up and comer who uses this as a learning experience for a future triumph.

The Open had all of those things in Paddy Harrington, Greg Norman, KJ Choi, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els (who finished 7th, by the way), and Chris Woods. Hell, Ian Poulter made an appearance.

This all happened despite really impossible conditions. If they weren't holding the Open this weekend, no one would be playing Birkdale on their own. The course was right on the edge of unplayable because of the windy conditions making shotmaking extreme and drying out the greens almost over the edge. Still, somehow the course held on and the champion was more than deserving.

So what if the winning score was +3? If you take the suggestion that par was really closer to 74 than 70, then Paddy Harrington played -13 golf. I could believe that.

Weigh In on Some Open Issues

Get the pun? Open issues? Haha. Anyway, there are several issues coming out of the Open that I'd love to hear from you about, including:

The 17th green at Birkdale - controversial during the week because of how awkward it is compared with the rest of the course, it wound up keeping an easy hole from becoming a very easy hole due to its undulations. Good, bad, or indifferent?

Greg Norman - at 53 years old, can the Aussie be said to have choked this championship away ...again? I don't think so given that no one ever expected Jack Nicklaus to make the comeback he did to win the 1986 Masters. And he was the greatest ever.

Tom Watson in the booth - he seemed pretty solid in there and I think his analysis was dead on in finding what cost Norman the Open. He may have not been a great prognosticator but he was more then complimentary of Harrington in victory - something Paddy deserved for the intelligence behind his victory. But, Chris Wood didn't get into the Masters. Only the Top 4 do.

Rick Reilly - personally, I don't like the guy a whole lot. He does too many puns and cute stuff that I hate. He's way better than Jimmy Roberts, though. But both ESPN and NBC need to learn that, unless you have someone like Jim McKay in the booth, you don't need essays. Still better than Jimmy Roberts.

Chris Wood - this kid finished tied for fifth in the second best performance by a British amateur in modern times. Rock solid stuff and it looks like good things for this kid. Is the next step to turn pro? Will he miss 21 cuts in a row like his Birkdale amateur soulmate Justin Rose?

The Champion Golfer of the Year - Padraig Harrington now has two major championships, in back to back years, in the same event. Not too many characters have done that in the history of the sport. What does that mean for the career of the Irishman? Now that he has won the easy way and the hard way, can he go on to win other majors?

The Asian Streak Resumes on the LPGA Tour

Paula Creamer broke up the string of wins by Asian players on the LPGA Tour at five and a half last weekend. This weekend, the Asian players resumed dominance of the Tour. Ji Young Oh won in a sudden death playoff over LPGA Championship winner Yani Tseng. Both had finished regulation at -18, but Oh walks away with her first career win. Tseng topped the $1 million mark in defeat.

In defeat, curious that Yani Tseng said this:

Q. What is the biggest plus you'll take out of this experience today?
YANI TSENG: Biggest? I don't know. This is my first runnerup, so I really just learned a lot. Today I think I just didn't relax enough and I didn't play my game. I know if I play my game. I think too much today.
That's a message for Phil Mickelson, certainly. But, if you don't think enough, then you do something like Michelle Wie and get DQ'd. I digress.

Equally as stunning was the positioning of Asian players behind Oh and Tseng. Of the top 8, seven were Asian players. It tells you something about the quality of play from Asia right now. The younger kids are getting at it.

The 19th Hole: No Asterisk Needed

Padraig Harrington looked unlikely to start in this week’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale due to a wrist injury. After winning a warm up event at the Irish PGA Championship, the defending Open Champion was barely able to practice at Birkdale. On the eve of the Championship, his status was still in doubt. In fact, first alternate Heath Slocum was ready to go in his place.

Harrington, though, did not give in to injury and found the strength to defend his championship. Could he have guessed, though, how successful his defense turned out to be? For the second year in a row, Harrington is the champion golfer of the year. He bested Ian Poulter by four shots with a final round of 69 to finish the championship on +3.

This time, Harrington was able to enjoy his walk up the 72nd hole of the championship. After striping his tee shot to the last and then hitting the best approach of the day to the green, Harrington could have five-putted from less than 15 feet and still claim the title. He still only needed two putts to repeat in the Open and become a member of elite company to repeat at this storied championship.

Last year, after hitting into the Burn twice, the Irishman appeared to have surrendered the title to Sergio Garcia. While his eventual playoff victory over Garcia was considered fortunate, he was not considered a fluke champion. Harrington has been a sold and developing golfer for the better part of a decade now. The culmination of all of the hard work on technique and psychology paid off in becoming Ireland’s first major champion since 1947. His place in golf history was solidified and Harrington entered the Irish pantheon with the triumph.

Without Tiger Woods in the field this week, it appeared that many were expected an unheralded champion. The Open generally is a wide open championship because of the dramatic changes in physical conditions over the course of the week. Golf bettors were all over the place in trying to predict the winner. The golf world was expecting a champion that would have to back up this win with another in a field with Woods to validate the win.

Interestingly enough, there did not appear to be much talk about a repeat champion in the Open. Certainly, the wrist injury helped reduce expectations for Harrington. The pressure of defending his title with any measure of success must have been lighter than if Paddy had been healthy. It may have worked out to his benefit as he surged up the leaderboard. The experience of winning last year in such a dramatic and unlikely fashion helped him in the midst of the back nine on Saturday and all day on Sunday. The combination of having been there before but very few expecting a repeat may have been the perfect storm to lead to a repeat champion.

Harrington has now further solidified his place in golf lore. He joins names like Woods, Watson, Palmer, Faldo, and Thompson as repeat winners of the Open. He can now boast being a multiple major winner and the 26th man to win multiple British Opens (the 15th to do so in the modern era). His achievements can never be taken from him and will be viewed in an entirely new light.

The best part of the outcome is that it is almost impossible to view his victory as being skewed. Yes, there was no Tiger Woods to contend with, but 40 mile per hour winds and a large cast of contenders more than made up for his absence. Woods may have even struggled in the conditions that the players had to endure this week. In the end, though, it was Harrington that was best able to handle those conditions and grind his way back to another year with the Claret Jug. He won the Open under two completely unique sets of conditions and it more than validates the talent of Harrington.

In the final analysis, it appears that this Open had more than enough intrigue – something feared to be missing by the ignorant at the start of the week. Those same ignorant people were treated to an opportunity to be re-introduced to the winner, and still champion, Padraig Harrington.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's Official: Pres Cup to Golf Channel

Announced today by the Tour, it is something we've known for weeks now thanks to Jon Show over at the Sports Business Daily/Journal. Just wanted to pass along that it is a done deal.

The Golf Channel has been acquiring a lot of rights lately to the disparate events with which it does not already have a broadcasting relationship - Pres Cup, Senior PGA Championship are among them.

The big questions lie in their ability to gain access to the majors, particularly the Open Championship and the PGA Championship. The early round contracts for both are currently Turner properties. Could Golf Channel have the swag to get them when they expire in the next few seasons? Or, will ESPN continue its evolution as the home for early round major coverage?

A Golf All-Star Game?

I decided to go a little off of the deep end on my monthly column for Sports Central and propose a golf all star, event. Take a look at it and let me know what you think. Really, there is some rational thought to it.

Still Testing, But an Announcement Pending

Peter Dawson's presser yesterday reveals some information on a pending announcement on grooves. Let's go to the transcript:

Q. Unrelated to this week, how are you guys doing on the U grooves, V grooves thing? There's a perception in the States that it's the R & A that's dragging its feet on that implementation. Fairly or not, maybe you can address that and tell us when you see that coming on-line, if at all, and what the hold-ups and hurdles might be.

PETER DAWSON: Well, the current status of that is that there's been some additional testing conducted just in the last few weeks in the women's game, at LPGA Tour events, and the results of that are just coming through now, which I don't think has changed anything. And I think you can expect to see something about this in the next three to four weeks.

Q. A firm date for implementation?

PETER DAWSON: No, that was an announcement in three to four weeks. I'm not going to preempt what that says.

Well, this could mean a whole lot of things. No action, lots of action, more delays. But since they're testing the golf ball this week at the Open, I'd bet on the latter.

The R&A is STILL Testing?

This is just ridiculous. The USGA has sunk a lot of money and time into understanding how great players perform off of the tee, in the fairway, from the rough, to the green, and everywhere else in an attempt to understand the golf ball and how to regulate technology. Has the R&A not been CC'd on every report issued publicly or privately by the USGA? Apparently, because they're conducting their own testing this week.

From the Open Golf homepage:

The R&A is carrying out field tests on four holes of this week's Open Championship to accurately measure the distance the ball carries, trajectory, spin rate and roll as part of an ongoing programme to monitor the performance of top players.
WHAT? Are they worried that the USGA had tainted balls or players? Or the British wind does a better job of testing?

Get off of your butts and get on board the regulation express.

Ugliness at Birkdale

Nasty rain and windy conditions have made the first round of the Open Championship very difficult. One player is under par at 9:18am ET - Robert Karlsson - arguably one of the hotter players in the world of late. Jean van de Velde is sitting on even par. As for players in the clubhouse, that lead is at +1 held by Retief Goosen. +4 is next best and is shared by defending champion Padraig Harrington and Tom Watson.

The Other Major This Week in Milwaukee. Why, you say? Because we will see just how smart of a man Kenny Perry is. He is currently T4 through 13 holes of his first round at the US Bank Championship. If he wins again, I think he won't be ridiculed nearly as much as if he does poorly. Though, to his credit, at least he is not playing in 40 degree weather.

I did see in a Steve Elling write up that Pat Perez called Kenny Perry a smart man for ducking out on the fun at Birkdale. Then again, Perez went out early, got soaked, and carded 82. Maybe Perry wouldn't have done the same.

Later this afternoon, I heard Perry on the Tirico and Van Pelt show on ESPN Radio. Van Pelt seemed to be giving the kids gloves to Perry as he held the position that he couldn't understand anyone's objection to a man having a goal and achieving it. He likened Perry to Tiger Woods in saying that, in the end, both only care about wins. That's not novel.

The difference between Woods and Perry is that Woods aspires to win meaningful championships. Perry aspires to win anything that will help him out.

Further, Perry has already achieved his goal. He's on the team. It's impossible for him not to be on the team. He needs a new goal. How about winning a major championship?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A New LPGA Podcast

I knew that the day would come that someone would enter as my competition for a LPGA-only podcast. That day has come, and I couldn't be more excited. The show is called Inside the LPGA with Karen Palacios and Ken "Hound Dog" Hartis. They did their first show the other day. Check it out! (I'd love to be a guest.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gambling Odds on a Slow Day

I figure, why the hell not publish the Open gambling odds? You can go to for more.

8/1 - Sergio Garcia
12/1 - Ernie Els
14/1 - Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood
16/1 - Padraig Harrington
20/1 - Justin Rose
22/1 - Jim Furyk
25/1 - Vijay Singh, Robert Karlsson
28/1 - Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Andres Romero
33/1 - Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera, Henrik Stenson, Stewart Cink, Anthony Kim
40/1 - Luke Donald, Trevor Immelman, Paul Casey, Justin Leonard, Robert Allenby, Martin Kaymer

Tom Watson, ESPN, and the Open

Sure, Tom Watson is in the field at the Open Championship, at Birkdale - where he won his fifth title. But, he doesn't seem too confident about being able to make the weekend since he is planning on spending some time in the booth with the ESPN/ABC crew on Saturday and Sunday.

From the USA Today story:

ABC/ESPN will formally announce Monday that the five-time Open winner will join lead announcers Mike Tirico and Paul Azinger on ABC's weekend Open coverage.

Watson says ABC/ESPN, which no longer covers much golf, went to him about working a few events. "I said no. I'm not good at it," says Watson, who's had "no more than a handful" of TV jobs. "I have a difficult time talking over somebody talking in my ear. It concerns me. I could start stuttering."

But he says he couldn't resist working the British Open: "There's no better venue to give this a try."

Interesting that he gets in the booth arrangement, but still thinks that he can compete in the Open.

His best golf days behind him, Watson insists that given the right course conditions, he can compete this week against a field that includes "players that weren't even born when I won my first Open title."

The first reaction has to be that at least Chris Berman isn't in the booth. My second is that Azinger will eat him alive. My third is that I would love for Watson to contend.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Is the 3 Shot Par 5 Dead?

This is the subject of a post at the Press Tent blog just before the Open Championship. The Open is hosted at Royal Birkdale, a place of which Peter Dawson of the R&A declared that the game had moved on from, but came back there anyway after lengthening is, despite saying in 2005 that the distance gains in the golf ball had stopped. (I could go on with the contradictions all day.)

Interestingly enough, it was the Open Doctor Rees Jones who said this:

Rees Jones, the golf course architect, was saying the other day that in flat, still conditions, a true par-5 for a Tour player must be at least 600-yards long, and even that might not be enough. The traditional post-War World II American golf course -- par 72, with four par-5s -- is now dead.
Very curious that Rees would be saying this considering that he has been behind par 5 conversions to excruciatingly long par 4s in recent years for major championships. No wonder he is declaring the concept dead - most of the time, he prefers to be lazy and convert holes to 4s instead of doing something imaginative with the 5s. Thank God for Mike Davis keeping 18 at Torrey as a 5.

Jones was also pimping out his work that will be on display next month at Oakland Hills.
"To have a true par-5 for the Tour player," Jones said, "you have to present them with something very penal in the landing area of the missed second shot, water or waste bunker or something else, at about the 575 mark." That, Jones explained, is how you get the hole in the head of the elite player. Otherwise, it's bombs away.
The best we can do is a bunker or a hazard to get into guys' heads? Really?! How about a dogleg, or an oddly aligned green? Perhaps a two-tiered fairway that is filled with rough between 300 and 350 yards? Rees loves rough, so why not encourage him to use it. How about sloping fairways and uneven lies?

Or even stranger - maybe it's ok to give guys the incentive to go for it on a lengthy par 5. How about Tiger Woods at 13 at Torrey? He had big enough of an ego to go for it, and he paid.

Weirder is that Rees appears to be contradicting himself. The American Society of Golf Course Architects spoke with him on the eve of the US Open and he said this:
The 18th hole will play at 550 yards, giving most players the option of going over the pond and to the green in 2. This should create a lot of drama on this final hole! We also rebuilt the bunkers, repositioning them and making them deeper. Their shapes and slopes will render an unpredictable lie from a player’s errant shot.
So, there are things that can be done with a hole that is shorter than 600 yards that could determine if a player goes for the green or not. In addition, he mentions the importance of lie in a player's decision to go for a green. This should apply not just to the bunker, but also to the fairway.

The Wilhelmina 7 in a Gallery

Wilhelmina Artist Management might be getting some play for their Wilhelmina 7 concept. At least took the bait and posted a gallery of the seven players, mixing in Wilhelmina's shots and those from on the course. Take a look at the gallery if you'd like.

A Win Equals A Tour Card

That's the case for Rick Price, who won on the 2nd playoff hole against Chris Anderson in the Nationwide Tour Players' Cup in West Virginia. It was the first $1 million purse in the Tour's history. By picking up $180,000 for the win, he has assured himself a spot on the PGA Tour next season.

"This means a lot. It means I get an opportunity to play on the best Tour in the world with the best players," said Price, who has been to PGA Q-school 19 times since turning pro in 1987. "The bottom line -- it's a dream come true for me."
I really enjoyed watching some of this over the weekend. These guys are not passe about how they play golf because they know that every event really does matter. Every dollar matters. It makes for very exciting golf. I know I was an advocate of the playoff system, but if it ultimately fails, perhaps the folks in Ponte Vedra could take a page from their own book and only give cards to the top 75 on the PGA Tour money list - then let the rest be fought over in Q-school.

Drug Testing and Cheating

Interesting piece today in the NY Times on cheating in golf - from the amateur ranks to professionals. Here are some very candid statistics about how often amateurs cheat:

In a recent online poll of more than 7,000 golfers, 70 percent said they cheated on the course. A 2002 survey of 400 top business executives reported that 82 percent admitted to cheating at golf.
But this about professionals was more stunning:
Around the same time, PGA Tour caddies were questioned about cheating, and 26 percent said they had seen players cheat on tour.
This flies in the face of the argument that many players have made about drug testing on Tour. They say that golf is a game of integrity and that people police themselves - therefore, why would they be compelled to cheat off of the course?

Well, if the stat is true and 26% of PGA Tour players have cheated at some point - on course, in plain view of thousands of spectators, fellow players, and television cameras - then what is to stop the same or higher percentage from taking substances that are difficult to detect?

Dr. Wayne Glad is a clinical psychologist out of Illinois that deals with many PGA Tour players.
Glad said, the PGA Tour players he deals with are aware of colleagues who cheat.
“They’ll talk to each other about certain guys,” Glad said. “They’ll say, ‘You ever notice how often so-and-so coughs in your backswing?’ ”

Then, it begs the question, how are players doing in policing themselves?

Just Throwing This Out There

Paula Creamer has 7 LPGA Tour wins - 3 this season - and achieved that before the age of 22. Now, you need 27 points to be able to get into the World Golf Hall of Fame under the LPGA ballot. She has 7 points on wins. (I originally thought she had 9 thanks to her Rookie of the Year award, but I was dead wrong on that. Just to clarify - more for myself than anyone - the ways you earn points are: 2 points for winning a major; 1 point for winning a "regular" tournament, the scoring title or the Player of the Year award.)

But, if she does manage to get in, shouldn't she automatically become player host of the Jamie Farr? Your thoughts welcome after Creamer's 2 shot win on Sunday.

As a reward for stopping by, here's a nice column on Creamer by Dave Hackenburg in the Toledo Blade.

Gambling on Golf is Fun Again Without Woods

It seems like one of the guaranteed headlines in the past 10 years or so has been the odds that Tiger Woods will win a major championship or a string of them, and how awful of a value it is. At the Masters, Woods was even money. I think he was like 7/5 for the US Open - despite not having played a competitive round leading into the event. But, without Tiger Woods around to ruin the fun, golf betting can be wacky again - with fun odds.

Thanks to Geoff Shackelford for the LA Times link to preview the impact of the Woods-less Open. The impact? Actually, positive.

Now Adams sees "an extremely open book, the best possible for a bookmakers," while Nick Weinberg of Ladbrokes sees "a balance of the books." Said Adams, "Everybody in the book's first 30 or 40 has been extremely well-backed," and both the wagering and the outcome have become "jolly difficult to forecast."

On Saturday, Sergio Garcia led at 8-1 on William Hill and 10-1 on Ladbrokes, followed in both by Els at 9-1 and 12-1. Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk stood plausibly enticing at 25-1.

Specialty bets had tilted. Ladbrokes, Weinberg said, used to run one for who might finish second, but, "Because Woods isn't there now, it's so open that we don't really need to offer any other markets like that."

Who'll finish second has become who'll finish first.

"Before, you'd see money for British golfers from what we call patriotic punters," Weinberg said, but in Woods-lessness those bets seem both patriotic and capitalistic.

Perry Wins Again, Hates It

Kenny Perry has won his third event in five starts (really should've been fourth) by winning on the first hole of a playoff against Brad Adamonis and Jay Williamson at the John Deere Classic. After Adamonis put his ball in the hazard - nearly making an amazing shot, and Williamson came over the top of the ball and practically threw the ball in the water, Perry kept the ball dry and won. Now there is no way in hell he is not on the Ryder Cup team...and it's on the Milwaukee!

The AP copy almost makes this sound like a burden for Perry:

He never wanted to be the star, the main attraction, but Kenny Perry will have no choice if this continues. The guy who merely wanted to win enough to make the Ryder Cup team is now racking up victories at a rapid pace.

"I don't want to live in a fishbowl," he said. "I don't want Tiger status."

Right now, Kenny, you are surrogate Tiger. I would start tanking fast if you don't want to get to superstar status. That way, you can keep your five million dollars, be on the Ryder Cup team, and no one will be mad if you skip the PGA Championship.

Perry could have won in regulation, but bogeyed the 72nd hole to cause the playoff. Still, the loss was not all bad for Jay Williamson. Thanks to a rule that says that players who finish in the top5 at the Deere that aren't already exempted get into the Open Championship, Jay Williamson is going to Birkdale - on a really nice charter plane. And he seems happy about it.

"To play the British Open, I don't think that has quite sunk in yet," Williamson said. "I am blinded by the playoff. To go play the British Open, I mean, I never thought that would happen to me."

That's very refreshing.