Friday, March 27, 2009

Bay Hill tourney brings gossip galore...

It’s been a great week for gossip and rumors here in Central Florida as the Arnold Palmer Invitational has been held at Bay Hill. With the tournament brought some of the all-time gossip mongers, namely the American and European golf literati. This year, they were accompanied by every Japanese journalist and photographer who knew the difference between the club head and grip.

Here are a few of the better rumors that made the rounds. Some have credence while others need a Credence Clearwater Revival.

It was pretty much agreed that the Skins Game, that Thanksgiving weekend staple is about to bite the dust. It’s about time. This show has been on life support for an inhumane amount of time. It’s become dull at best.

Who is to blame? This time it’s the players. When this show actually captured the imagination, the thought of a golfer actually winning a million dollars for playing 36 holes was incredible. Today, it’s ho hum stuff. Moreover, somewhere along the way, the players forgot that the main thrust of the Skins Game was to entertain the viewers.

To this end, the producers of the show made sure that Chi Chi Rodriguez, Lee Trevino and Fuzzy Zoeller were in the mix. The golf seemed secondary as the golfers heckled each other and even took shots at themselves.

As the players aged, the one-time kickoff to the Silly Season became somber as the quest for the dollar heightened. The closest this program approached charisma was the inclusion of Fred Couples, the King of the Silly Season.

Fred’s a nice enough guy, but charismatic? Sorry, you lose me there. Current producers say it might be saved by a change in format. Try Robin Williams, George Lopez and Bill Murray, but keep the camera on the latter because he can turn quite dour in a heartbeat.

People were wondering if Vijay Singh might have come back too soon after arthroscopic knee surgery. On Wednesday, it was announced that Singh would be a “Game Time” decision at Bay Hill as he’s trying to come back after a couple of weeks recovery.

Of course the media has been traumatized by the length of Tiger Woods’ recovery. Let’s get one thing straight. In no way do the media rely on Singh as they do Woods. Although, it’s a case of choosing your poison.

With Singh, you’ll get an overdose of surliness. While Woods has mastered the art of speaking a lot of words and not saying anything that could be construed in any way as being a) insightful, or b) interesting. However, having said this, if Tiger burps it will be discussed for days.

The truth is, through sheer stubbornness alone, Singh will be out there. BTW, he was a starter and was hovering around the cut line early Friday afternoon.

Guess who didn’t just leave the William Morris Agency? That’s right, Michelle Wie and her parents from hell (PFH)

Word has it; the Morris Agency fired Wie when the family decided not to sign a series of one-year contracts, standard operating procedure.

The Family Wie chose the Morris Agency when Michelle turned pro at age 16. Evidently, the envisioned her as movie/TV star as well as a golfer. The next three years were a living hell. Three advisors from the Morrison Agency couldn’t take it for more than a year and begged off the account.

What will be interesting is the future relationship between the PFH and the dictatorial IMG. Trust me. IMG doesn’t fool around. In the end it’s their way or the highway. Stay tuned for this ongoing saga.


If you’re touring Australia in the next few months, don’t mention that you’re a Tiger fan. In order to fulfill his $3 million appearance fee for the Australian Masters, taxes had to be raised.

That should be a lucrative trip for Tiger later this year. He’ll get his three mill for the HSBC Championship appearance money, plus Australia. You can bet the odds are pretty good that he’ll get a golf course design contract for the usual $20 million on this trip as well.

Bartender, please give everyone a refill and give the tab to Tiger. I think he can afford it.

See you on the first tee,


Friday, March 20, 2009

The generation gap on the PGA Tour

In case you missed it, the PGA Tour now has a generation gap. It runs from the ages of 33 (Tiger Woods) to later this year when Phil Mickelson turns 39. The guys who fall in between will earn fortunes that most of us can only dream about, but they’ll never have the acclaim merited by their bank accounts.

Today, Tiger can look around him and smile. He has the knowledge that he can beat everyone of his peers (age wise). He can look ahead at those who are tumbling into their 40s and know that he has already beat them and fully understand that they have entered the land of diminishing returns.

What Tiger has to worry about is the absolute law of the jungle. As Jack Nicklaus stalked Arnold Palmer and Gary Player and as Tom Watson stalked Nicklaus and as Woods has stalked them, or at least their records, there are those who have him in their crosshairs. In the past, youth has always been served and there’s no reason to think it isn’t going to happen again.

Since Tiger started winning majors, we’ve been looking for a challenger for his crown and all we found were pretenders. In the name of Dumb and Dumber, we were looking in the absolutely wrong place. We looked first at Phil, then Ernie, then Retief and then Vijay. In retrospect we have to wonder why. If you were given those four names for Final Jeopardy, the question would be, “Name five professional golfers Tiger Woods dusts with regularity.”

The threat to Tiger’s crown is creeping up on him. The collision should come within the next three to five years. That will be about the time Tiger is recovering from his fifth knee surgery, will step back and take a look at his situation and figure out that he has a fortune he and those who will follow in clan Woods will never want for a mansion or a yacht. There will probably be three or four children tugging at his heartstrings when he leaves for another tournament. He’d climbed the highest mountains. He became the most recognized person in the world. There will be few if any mountains to climb. Don’t be surprised if he decides that enough is enough. Why risk having his legacy clouded even the slightest?

Then the fun starts. Last September, on a visit to Ireland, I spoke with Christy O’Connor, Jr. a longtime friend. Being one of the best golfers Ireland ever produced (he almost holed a 2-iron on the last hole of Ryder Cup match against Fred Coupled at the Belfry to secure Europe’s first Ryder Cup in forever), I asked if the acclaim Padraig Harrington received in the Old Sod was as raucous as I imagined. “Sure it’s been great,” said Christy, “but nothing like it’s going to be Rory McIlroy.”

Trust me. This 19-year old shaggy-haired long hitter with a deft touch around the greens lacks only one facet that will make him a super star and that’s experience. It won’t take much when you consider that Tiger’s buddy, Mark O’Meara opined that Rory’s development is ahead of Tiger’s at a similar stage of their respective careers. That’s good enough for me. If it wasn’t, after McIlroy won at Dubai this year, Ernie Els averred that the kid will certainly be the number one golfer in the world in the near future.

Before the crown is given to Rory, players such as Camillo Villegas, Anthony Kim and Nick Watney may have something to say about it.

Today, we may have a generation gap that has not produced a serious contender for the crown. Today, Tiger knows he’d better not have another hiccup. The best thought he can have right now is that because there are four real contenders, they knock each other off in a chase for his records.

Earlier in Tiger’s career, a popular theory was that Tiger’s real competition had yet to play. You can’t say that anymore.


A heartwarming story was written at the Puerto Rico Open a PGA Tour event that ran opposite the WGC CA Championship. Michael Bradley an affable 42-year-old pro from Florida won for the first time in 11 years.

The gap wasn’t because of a loss of game, or a lack of dedication. A seriously injured back made four rounds in four days a living hell. Most times when he tried, he was in such a state that making the cut was not unlike his chances of climbing Mount Everest. He did qualify for the Tour for the 2007 season and in one of his first tournaments, he broke his ankle and was out for the season. Thus his victory in Puerto Rico was truly a feel good story.

Bradley was automatically in the field for the Transitions Championship in Tarpon Springs, Fla. Sad news came across the wire on Wednesday afternoon. Bradley had withdrawn because of an undisclosed injury. Golf and life share one thing in common. Both are unfair.

Bartender, four bottles of water for the four contenders and a glass of well-aged wine for Tiger so that his body may follow in like kind. For me? It’s too late for the well-aged wine. Water is best served in its solid form, so just draw me a young, cold draft beer. That always brings a smile to a curmudgeon.

See you on the first tee,


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Who cares if the grass is greener on the courses?

I know this isn’t news to anyone, but economic times are tough everywhere. This, in turn, forces everyone to make tough decisions. I’d venture a guess that few people, if any are masochistic to the point of liking to make tough decisions. However, there is a dilemma and the golf industry has a bull’s-eye brightly painted on its back.

Forget the equipment side of the industry. Let’s talk about the playing fields that are being cut by a double-edged sword.

The cost of maintaining a golf course to the standards both the public and in most cases management has gone through the roof. Of course, the owners of these facilities aren’t going to bite the bullet on this. Instead the cost, usually accompanied by a “service charge”, will be passed on to the consumer, thus hiking the green fee to the point of being cost-crazy. Rather than suffer the added charge, golfers will stay away in droves, find another course to play, or as is happening in alarming regularity—not play at all.

Can anything be done to halt the mass exodus from the game that is rapidly approaching? Sure, but the question really is, will the facility owners/managers and the golf public put up with it?

Maybe, golf course superintendents will have to water down their pesticides a little. It also might save some money if they don’t water the course as much. Of course, the latter suggestion concerns a major peeve of mine. Golfers and superintendents, oh throw in owners and managers as well, have for too long of a time had an irrational fascination with the color green.

Since the days when Old Tom Morris began designing courses, the color green has been more of a product of the environment than a part of the equation in the design of a golf course. If there was a healthy rain fall, the grass was green. If there wasn’t … ever hear of the phrase “hard and fast?”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the course should go without water. Obviously, the grass should be kept alive, but do you really enjoy reaching your ball in the middle of the fairway only to find a glob of mud on the ball? Particularly when it hasn’t rained for a week and a half?

Better yet, is the color green worth parting with a lot more of your “green” just for aesthetics? It certainly isn’t in this corner.

I know, this is radical thinking, but the idea was spawned from reading margin notes from a rather radical thinker in his day, Donald Ross. The margin notes were on his drawings of the holes at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass. They dealt with the playing characteristics of the course; i.e. land the ball at point A and it will bounce and roll to point B. When I checked some of these out, there was no way that could happen because the course was too soft.

What had happen was the plans of perhaps one of the greatest golf course architects of one of his best works were eliminated in the name of the color green.

I think the time is here for courses to start rolling back some of the conditioning tools they use. It’s time to mow the grass and not drown it or poison it with chemicals. If the owners don’t have to spend as much money, the smart ones won’t charge as much. This will help keep golfers coming through the door.

It’s also time for golfers to get on board with this. Everywhere in the world except here in the United States, the color brown is quite acceptable and definitely has its place. By the way, this goes for greens as well.

In Florida, most courses over seed Bermuda-grassed fairways and green with rye grass during the winter for one reason and one reason only, so the golfers can play on a green colored surface. The truth be known, the best playing surface in the world is dormant Bermuda grass. On the fairways and rough every lie is perfect. As for the greens, every putt rolls true and the speed is ideal. Will owners and superintendents let these courses go dormant? No, because they’re convinced golfers want the color green to blanket the course.

Let’s hope that golfers will accept these changes. They will if they don’t have to fork over as much “green.” The truth is, golfers don’t want to put their clubs in storage, but they will if the price to play isn’t under control. Give them a chance to walk away and they may never return.

Bartender, enough of this talk about the color green. I know Patrick’s Day (that’s what they call it in Ireland since Pat was stripped of his sainthood) is on its way and that’s the only green we should discuss. So, if you would be so kind, pour me a dram of your finest Irish whiskey, because as you know, it’s a fine BROWN liquor.

See you on the first tee,


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tiger's return can't help as Yanks fall short at WGC event

To the amazement of so many people who were salivating over the Blessed Return of Tiger Woods in the Accenture Match Play Championship, the WGC event did play itself out to a fitting conclusion even after Woods was eliminated in the second round by South African Tim Clark.

I hope that the powers that be in tournament golf were watching what transpired before Australian Geoff Ogilvy defeated England’s Paul Casey in the 36-hole championship match and Stewart Cink (the lone American in the Final Four and with Justin Leonard the only two Yanks in the Elite Eight) defeated England’s Ross Fisher in the consolation match. The rest of the world not only has caught the American professional golfers; as a unit, they’ve surpassed them.

By the way, it’s going to be worse before it gets better. Perhaps the time has come to restructure international team competitions and why not.

The glitter and glory of this format is the Ryder Cup. Somewhere in the shadows rests the Presidents Cup, or Ryder Cup Lite as it’s known in this corner. Well, here’s a news flash for you. The rest of the world team is on the verge of being able to dust both the U.S. and European teams. Maybe it’s time for them to play on the grand stage.

It would be self-defeating plan in search of fairness to set up the U.S. against EVERYONE. There would have to be (many) strokes given our boys to make it close. However, the playing field might be leveled a bit if we add all of North, Central and South America to the mix. You’ve got to think that Camillo Villegas and Andres Romero, not to mention Mike Weir would add some quality depth.

The questions to be answered would be what is the fair format? How many matches per day? The Ryder Cup has undergone many format changes. There have been two days of singles matches. The Foursomes (alternate shot) format could be eliminated, or reduced to one round of matches and replaced with Better Ball matches.

Another question is with a European base, would the addition of South Africa, Australia and Asia upset the balance to a point where it just doesn’t work? It’s a possibility, but any format that would put a Hall of Famer such as Ernie Els on the big stage is worthy of consideration. Also, this could allow stalwarts such as Oglivy, K.J. Choi and Japan’s teenage “Prince of Golf”. Ryo Ishikawa a spot on the stage when he’s ready.

If you put these players into the mix with Euros such as Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Casey, then add in younger stars such as Rory McIlroy and Oliver Wilson, Paul Azinger couldn’t find enough pods to put players in an attempt to find a winning combination.

However, somewhere there is an effective formula. A draft from the World Rankings could build some interesting teams, but would ruin the loosely based nationality aspect currently in place. It seems to me that the European flag encompasses a dozen countries. I know, under one flag like the U.S. flag represents the states.

Another possibility is a mega-match with the world divided into thirds with a team representing three segments of the world. The only problem is the scheduling. Two teams playing matches while the third stands down is a long and drawn out format.

With the globalization of golf and the increasing high quality of play worldwide, the time is here to take advantage of the potentially tremendous showcase for golf that would involve the entire world.


We will forgo the usual toast that ends these musings to note with eternal admiration for Charley Stine, the founder of Golfweek at the age of 81. Charley was a newspaperman of the highest order. Golfweek began as Florida Golfweek, produced in his garage in 1975. He financed it with his paycheck he earned as the Managing Editor of the Winter Haven (Fla.) News Chief as well as from the paycheck earned by his wife Jackie a dental hygienist.

Charley had a vision of a publication that would be chocked filled with news. If you wanted tournament results, pro or amateur, you read Golfweek. A newspaperman through and through, he wanted his publication to be the pinnacle of pure golf news dissemination. He succeeded as Golfweek became the standard in the industry. True to his newspaper roots, Golfweek was under Charley’s edict, a “Golf Newspaper.”

In 1983, “Florida” was dropped from the title and Golfweek became a national “Golf Newspaper.” Any news a reader wanted from any state in the country could be found in Golfweek. It was their expressed goal to have news from every state in the country every week. They succeeded.

In 1990, Charley sold Golfweek to Rance Crain and the Turnstile Publishing Co. who still own the publication.

In 1975, Charley set out to create a “Golf Newspaper.” In the end, he created a “Golf Bible.” Eventually, all newspapermen have a -30- at the end of their lives. Thankfully, what Charley stood for and accomplished will live on.

See you on the first tee,