October 29, 2009

Golf Season "Over?" It's Never Really Over!

When a top golfer like Phil Mickelson declared that golf season was over when Tiger Woods hoisted the FedEx Cup a few weeks ago, people listened. Actually Phil didn't say that exactly. What he did say was that "[the] season in the US has been shortened and that allows many of the top players to play internationally and allows me to come here [to Singapore] and compete." That's because for Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and other elite golfers, once the last putt rolls into the cup at the Tour Championship, they are done for the year. For them, their PGA Tour year is over. They can then go and chase the big bucks abroad.

For the guys who are on the edge of losing their exempt status with the PGA Tour, however, the most crucial part of their season is just beginning. That's the Fall Swing, or the Chase for the Card if you will, but basically it boils down to avoiding the Q-School of Hard Knocks. A win in those final events means two guaranteed years on Tour, and a solid showing that puts a player inside the Top 125 on the money list means that they will live to fight in 2010...where they will have to perform well or once again face next year's Fall Series and another fight for another year.

So golf season is not over. It's just not going to have the top names out on the course swinging in the limelight. Except that it will. Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey and Padraig Harrington are in playing this week in European Tour stops, and next week, there's a World Golf Championship event in Singapore featuring those names and Tiger Woods as well. Woods will then head to Australia and finally back to California for his own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, which runs from December 3rd through the 6th.

Add in the Silly Season - the Skins Game and the Shark Shootout and it becomes clear that golf fans will have a plateful of holiday season goodies to watch until just before Christmas. As for 2010, you may not even have your tree back in the attic by the time the SBC Championship kicks off the Hawai'i swing January 4th.

All that said, you can clearly see that it's not over till it's over and then it's not over because it's about to start once more.

October 26, 2009

McIlory Not Joining the PGA Tour in 2009

From Street and Smith's Sports Business Daily comes news that Rory McIlroy has apparently decided not to set his anchor on the American Tour next season:
"Rory McIlroy, the 20-year-old dubbed by the golf world as the next big international player, will not join the PGA Tour next season, refuting recent speculation that he would play the majority of his schedule in the U.S. in '10. “Rory has decided not to join the PGA Tour in 2010,” his agent, ISM’s Chubby Chandler, said in an e-mail. He did not provide any further explanation."
As Lawrence Donegan so bluntly puts it, the future of the European Tour's survival may hinge on getting and keeping rising stars like McIlroy - who many say is the 'next big international star.' Whether that turns into prophesy or curse is anyone's guess at this point, but all signs point to the prediction coming to pass. McIlroy is a solid golfer with an excellent disposition and a well-grounded life away from the course. Add in some experience to the mix, and it's very easy to see him as one of the players vying for dominance in the inevitable Post-Tiger era.

On the other hand, perhaps it is wrong to simply assume that McIlroy will settle on the Euro Tour as his home. While he may play there and even satisfy the minimum number of tournaments the ET sets as their standard, McIlroy can come to America and cherry-pick events to play in: the three American-based majors of course, add in the World Golf Championships and you have a busy year, with or without 11 or 12 Euro Tour Events, and seven other PGA Tour events where he can get a sponsor's exemption. That would, of course, be any tournament on the Tour's schedule. In other words, don't expect to see McIlroy showing up at the Frys.com next season. More than likely, he'll want to play in the bigger events like The Player's, perhaps the Quail Hollow Championship and others that draw the top fields.

That opens the question up for top young players such as Ryo Ishikawa, Danny Lee, and Rickie Fowler: with fast private jets at their fingertips and no lack of comfort at each point in their journey, are golf tours anachronistic and something that they do not have to commit to fully?

Duval Is This Week's Bubble Boy

The trials and tribulations of David Duval are well-documented, and the former World's #1 now finding himself on the razor's edge of keeping or losing his PGA Tour Card for the 2010 season. That's because he dropped to 125th on the money list with only two events remaining in the PGA Tour's 2009 season, time grows short for those players on the edge of losing their full exemptions. One bad week and they could end up in Q-School, facing a grueling six day tournament where sometimes it would be better to have a cardiologist on the bag as opposed to a caddy.

Duval is down to his last chances. After his 2001 British Open victory, he questioned whether "this is all that there is." Since, his results have sunk to oceanic depths and his status in the world rankings with it. After his five year exemption for winning a major tournament expired, Duval has used a Top-25 career money exemption, a family crisis exemption and this year, he is playing on a one-time top-50 career money exemption. Now, he is down to do or not do if he wants to continue on the Tour - as in do well the next two weeks, or pack your bags for Florida and Q-School.

For Duval, this season has been one of extreme ups and downs. After his stellar showing in the US Open, Duval has has missed six of seven cuts. He tied for 63rd at the Buick Open was the only time he made it to weekend play, and even there he had lackluster results.

Duval has committed to play at the Viking Classic this week at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Mississippi. He'll need to make a strong showing there to move up or at best stay steady on the money list.

Q-School of Hard Knocks Is Cruel To Relatives of Legendary Golfers

The PGA Tour's Q-School wrapped the early portion up its First Stage on Saturday, and perhaps the players that didn't move on to Stage 2 are more notable than those who did:

Miami's Erik Compton, the heart transplant survivor was the medalist in his 72-hole event at Port St. Lucie's PGA Golf Club. He finished -22, 7 shots clear of second place Michael Smith, who hails from Lafayette, Louisiana.

Sam Saunders
, the former Clemson player who left school in order to turn pro, failed to advance by three shots. Saunders is Arnold Palmer's grandson. Saunders, who served as Palmer's caddie in his final appearance at the Masters in 2004, is also a two-time club champion at Palmer's Bay Hill club.

Jack Nicklaus's son Gary faltered in his final two holes and also failed to qualify for Stage 2. Nicklaus was at 6 under at PGA Golf Club stepping to the 17th tee with one shot to spare, but he finished with a bogey and double bogey to miss advancing by two.

Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City mayor Rudy, also failed to qualify after finishing T-25 at the Stonebridge Ranch Country Club in McKinney, Texas. The Golf Channel Big Break contestant missed making the 2nd stage by two shots. Giuliani, who told the New York Post that he has no backup plan for his life if he fails to make it in golf, still has some work to do, and maybe some growing up along the way as well. His lawsuit against Duke University was thrown out of court -- he was thrown off of the Blue Devil golf squad for excessive bad behavior.

Tadd Fujikawa also faltered and fell short of the needed number. The Hawai'ian was tied for fourth after the first round at St. John’s Golf & Country Club in St. Augustine , Fla. , but he faded from there and tied for 44th, missed advancing by six shots.

Former U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee, who won a European Tour event in February also failed to qualify for the Second Stage. Lee finished T-36 at Stonebridge, the same site that Giuliani played. He effectively ended his chances of advancing when he shot a 78 in the second round and closed with a final-round 76. Lee, who won the U.S. Amateur at age 17, won earlier this year on the European Tour as an 18-year-old amateur and should be quite competitive on that tour in 2010.

Isabella Biesegel's seemingly eternal quest for a card on a men's tour continues, as she failed to make it past PGA Tour Pre-Qualifying in September. She shot 71-80-77-70 and finished 64th, beating only eight other players. She has now moved on to attempt to qualify for the Canadian Tour. While Biesegel has every right to continue her attempts to qualify against male players, it is certainly not sexist to point out that her physical disadvantage in distance makes her chances nearly zero of qualifying for a top tour like the PGA, Nationwide or Canadian Tour. At some point one starts seeing this as either a fool's errand or an endless publicity stunt as opposed to a true attempt at being a trailblazer.

First Stage continues this week from Wednesday to Saturday with six tournaments scattered across the country:

Pinewild CC (Magnolia course) Pinehurst, N.C. Oct. 27-30
Kinderlou Forest Valdosta, Ga. Oct. 27-30
Grasslands GCC Lakeland, Fla. Oct. 27-30
Lantana GC Lantana, Texas Oct. 27-30
San Juan Oaks Hollister, Calif. Oct. 27-30
Carlton Oaks CC Santee, Calif. Oct. 27-30

October 25, 2009

Happy 74th Birthday, Chi Chi Rodriguez

Happy 74th, Chi Chi!

Here's an excellent result for one of the most unorthodox swings I have ever seen...but that's the beauty of golf. Compare and contrast Chi-Chi's drive to Sam Snead's at the end of the video. It's like night and day.

October 24, 2009

When Golf Changed The World

Golf historians often like to puff up the importance of the history of the game, and often record accounts of important matches, tournaments and players as though they were world leaders effecting change on the planet with their every swing. While golf is an integral part of the lives of many a world leader - Dwight Eisenhower, for example - rarely does the game itself truly shake the tree of events so strongly that it changes the fate of men and nations.

Once, however, that did happen, and much of the way the world is now had to do with golf. Specifically, the game was the catalyst that led to the rise of the English as a true world power, and through the centuries that have passed since, that rise has affected almost every period in one form or the other. In fact, England's global status still ha much to do with the realities of now.

During the 16th Century, America was being settled, and the dominant western European powers of that time were Spain and France. The Spanish were extracting gold from the New World and shipping it back the mother country literally by the shipload, and the French were doing much the same with other American natural resources. England, a player in the race to dominate the Americas was not as big a player as the other two, yet it was growing stronger despite the political turmoil of the throne and their government.

Enter Mary Turner. Mary was born to Scottish Royalty, and through her maternal ancestry, she had deep ties to the French House Of Guise. In her first marriage, she joined into the perhaps the most powerful families in Italy, the House of Medici. She was raised in France and through her first husband, she had claim to the throne of France. Unfortunately for her, her husband died, taking her claim to the throne with him.

Her power base removed, in 1560, Mary decided to return to her native Scotland, a place where she still had legitimate royal powers. She remarried, betrothed to Lord Darnley, a man who was murdered not many years after their matrimonial union.

Shortly thereafter golf changed the course of the world. Mary, an avid golfer, fell afoul of the Church of England for playing the game shortly after Lord Darnley's murder -- according to them, her time of the links showed a great disrespect and lack of proper mourning for her late husband. Interestingly, today, the skull of Darnley is now in the Royal College of Surgeons in London and bears the telltale pitted marks of Syphilis. Darnley's notorious promiscuity would have finally had the better of him had he not in fact been killed, yet Mary was damned and persecuted for playing golf...which is, of course, a very accepted way for one to put away their troubles, at least for a little while.'

It was this event that almost certainly fouled Mary politically, leading to inevitably to her execution for treason in 1587.

Mary is credited with bringing the term "caddy" into the golf. In France, military cadets carried golf clubs for royalty, and it is possible that Mary brought the custom to Scotland, where the term evolved into the word "caddy." She was also the first woman to practice and play the game in Scotland, making her one of the earliest as truest of women sporting pioneers.

So How Did Golf Change The World?

The beginning of Mary's downfall in Scotland is clearly attributable to golf as political cover.

Her execution caused an absolute outrage and calls for war against England throughout Catholic Europe. This resulted in the invasion of the Spanish Armada in 1588 - an event set in motion partially to avenge her death and the military goal of the Armada was to depose Elizabeth I and return the throne of England to the Catholic Church.

The results of the battle were far-reaching: the Spanish were suffering a humiliating defeat in the English Channel, thanks to inferior tactics and weaponry. Even worse for the Spanish, the weather turned against them and heavily damaged their fleet, making the English defense of their homeland all the easier. In defeat, the Spaniards fled terror around the coast of Scotland, and for home. The lasting result was the clear establishment England as a global power - and establishing the English empire not only in Europe and the Americas, but also freeing it to conquer India and other countries.

Would these events have happened had Mary Queen of Scots chosen not to mourn her dead husband on the links? Possibly, but history shows the old game as the clear catalyst that set in motion events that have forever changed the world.

October 23, 2009

The Sister Course of TPC Sawgrass's Stadium Course Coming of Age

TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course's sister course, the Pete Dye-designed Valley Course, has been booked for the Nationwide Tour starting next year. Dye's Valleyw as originally designed by Pete Dye and Bobby Weed and is a par-72 layout, with fewer water hazards, wider fairways, larger greens, but more undulations in those fairways. The even will be held in the second or third week of October with a total purse of $600,000, with $108,000 going to the winner. The timing for the new tournament will be key, as it will have a cadre of players make a late-season run at qualifying for the Nationwide Tour Championship.

Jim Furyk, a Nationwide Tour alumnus, said Nationwide Tour players and the TV audience will enjoy what for many will be their first look at the Valley Course. "This will be a great way to showcase the Valley," he said. "It doesn't get enough recognition."

The tournament announcement pleased the local newspaper, the Florida Times-Union, who repeated the Sports Illustrated label of their fair city as "Golf Town USA:"

This past May, Sports Illustrated labeled Jacksonville with this moniker leading up to one of the PGA TOUR's greatest golf events, THE PLAYERS Championship. Often-called the "fifth major," the event brings together the world's greatest golfers for the crystal trophy on a world-class course, TPC Sawgrass, THE PLAYERS Stadium Course.

Jacksonville was granted this well-said accolade given this high-profile event, but also for the sheer fact that we are home to over 1,220 holes of golf, several TOUR players and caddies, PGA TOUR Headquarters and World Golf Hall of Fame.

Home-town boosterism, aside, the Jacksonville area is indeed a golf haven, boasting a veritable plethora of championship caliber courses, so many that some seem to fly under the radar of the American golfing conscious, such as the Valley Course. Previously viewed as a poor sister to the much more well-known Stadium Course, the Valley will finally start getting its due when the new event begins next year. Add to that the facilities at the World Golf Hall of Fame, as well as other tracks, and it's easy to see that Jacksonville is a fine golf vacation destination, albeit one that still lingers to a degree in the shadow of places like Myrtle Beach and Pinehurst.

October 22, 2009

Travel: The World's Longest Golf Course

Stretching the idea of a "golf course" literally to its very limits, some very creative and enterprising Australian businessmen have opened a course that they claim is the world's longest. They say they came up with an idea to have travelers stop at their roadside shops by creating a golf course that has some of the holes separated by as many as 100KM (roughly sixty-two miles.)
"After a couple of bottles of wine, the germ of an idea was born." Perhaps we should have a golf course across Australia," said Don Harrington, who was there at the creation. "Perhaps we should have a golf course across Australia," said Don Harrington, who was there at the creation."
And thus, Nullarbor Links was born. The builders of this monster course hope to attract thousands of tourists who travel the Eyre Highway between Adelaide and Perth each year, and of course, get some good business from them along the way.

The full 18 holes are spread across 1,365KM (848 miles) and can take a week to play. Walking is not encouraged, in fact, it takes the logistic skills of a seasoned traveler to get complete a round - the course covers two Australian states (South Australia and Western Australia) and covers some pretty harsh terrain to boot. Then there's the problem of the wildlife.
[B]right yellow warning signs alert you to wayward wombats and even kangaroos on the way.

The antipodean wildlife you will almost inevitably encounter is one of the great attractions of the course. The fourth hole at Nundroo claims to have the largest population of southern hairy-nosed wombats anywhere in Australia - surely a golfing first.

At the Dingo Den hole, there's a resident crow which likes to steal stray golf balls. Not to be outdone, dingos have started muscling in on the act, as well. It is like a golfing safari.

Sounds like a great adventure, and one that even a jaded golf traveler could try and not come away saying that they've been there and done that before.

October 21, 2009

Why Do Some People Treat 18 Holes As An Excuse For Binge Drinking?

It's adequately covered by a lot of golf blogs, for example Ryan Ballenger's Waggle Room, but someone has brought a portable potty disguised as a golf club to market. Frankly, it's pretty disgusting, and I would not want one, not even as a joke gift. Some things just need to be done behind closed doors.

Here at the home course, we actually have hand-made signs that homeowners felt they needed put up on their property near some holes telling guys that if they relieve themselves they will call the cops on them. It’s that bad. For some reason, there are enough folks who have no qualms with pulling down their zipper and taking a tinkle on someone's bushes or trees. It must never occur to them that not only is it incredibly disrespectful in a suburban setting, there are also kids all over the place. That a parent may not want their 8 year old getting a glimpse of a grown man's bathroom break - much less pick up the habit - escapes them.

I think I know why – these houses are on the later holes and on a summer day you will see trash cans overflowing with beer cans. For some reason, some guys think that playing 18 is a reason to knock back a twelve-pack or more of beer. Naturally, since alcohol is a diuretic they can’t hold it in. The course does have to mid-round bathrooms, but some guys think that the surrounding neighborhood is fair game to be their toilet. Maybe it is because they are drunk, maybe it is because their parents failed to instill in them even the basic social graces, or maybe it's both.

As a 30-year homebrewer of beer, and a fellow who enjoys an adult beverage, I am by no means a neo-prohibitionist. I firmly believe that it's more than acceptable for an adult to enjoy an alcoholic libation, so long as it is done responsibly and not abusively, anyway. Responsible drinking has thousands of years of history to prove its merits, and in my mind, so long as one doesn't drive or drive themselves into alcohol addiction, there's nothing wrong with having one or two every now and then -- even while playing a round of golf, if that's your choice.

There is a line, however, and I see that line trespassed all too often. I used play with a pair of fellows who can drink a case of beer each while they are playing. The first few holes, no problem. After they've gotten themselves lathered up, however, it is a different story. Their actions are embarrassing, and I don't want to be seen with those two, either by friend or stranger. They think they are funny, but in truth, it is pitiful. Actions like pulling your pants down and "mooning" your buddy because he made a poor shot (because he was drunk) are reprehensible and not something I want to be associated with. Call me an old stick in the mud if you will, but I will tell you that I simply grew up and started acting like an adult a long time ago.

For folks like that, perhaps they need to examine why they think binge drinking sessions are fun. That's substance abuse and indicative of far larger problems the way I see things. More than likely, it will come back to hurt themselves, their loved ones, or God forbid, some innocent person when they pour themselves behind the wheel of a car on their way home. I sure as hell don't want that crap going on behind my house, much less at my club.

October 20, 2009

WANT: The Perfect Cover For My R9 460 Driver

I love the way that Japanese golfers often seem to have humorous covers on their sticks, and that those covers are often a reflection on their personality as a golfer or a person. This one would fit my driver perfectly, because it not only reflects a maddening propensity for my tee-shots to elicit laughter like this, it is also one of my all-time favorite cartoon characters, "Muttley" from the "Wacky Races" Saturday morning fare of my childhood.

Anyone who remembers Muttley no doubt remembers his maniacal laugh. Click here to hear it. Muttley also cursed under his breath, and when I hit a bad shot, I often do exactly the same thing. Unlike some f-bomb tossing golfers, I like to laugh at myself, most of the time anyway. If you play with me you might hear something "rackem sackin flippin" or something like that.

According to wikipedia.org: Muttley, a mixed breed dog, first appeared in Wacky Races in 1968, as the sidekick of the foolishly nasty,incompetent but horribly accident-prone villain Dick Dastardly. He was originally created by Iwao Takamoto and originally voiced by Don Messick (who also voiced Scooby-Doo.) Scooby, Astro from The Jetsons and Muttley were three of the hilarious "talking" dogs from cartoons of the day. To this day, you might hear a fully grown adult say something like "ruh roh Relroy!" - a paean to their childhood and the resiliency of the things that kids loved.

And now, thanks to the folks at Rakuten Ichiba, I can have one of my own for the top of my own Big Dog. The only thing that could make it better would be if it had a speaker that made it laugh every time I pulled the cover off.

October 19, 2009

Spotting Those Cheeky Cheaters...

I know a guy that I call "The Lucky Bastard" - he's the guy who always gets the best possible lie when he hits his ball in the rough, his ball always stops just before a hazard line, or if it falls in the hazard, it's always playable. He also never loses a ball in the woods, not even when his slices go rocketing into and off of the trees like a pinball. Two minutes of looking, and it's right there -- and always with a convenient path through the trees. He never whiffs, not even when his club passes beneath his ball on a swing, because, hey, that was a practice swing.

What a Lucky Bastard that guy is.

Right. And I am the Queen of France.

He's a cheating SOB and a sandbagger besides, since he never turns in his good scores. Those are the ones where money or a club tournament was on the line, and somehow, it just "slips" his mind to enter in that 77 when he passes by the club's handicap computer on his way to the bar to gloat about his good fortune. But when he's out on the course messing around -- shooting a 98 in the process -- well, he makes sure that those get put in ASAP. It might lower than 19 Index he's working real hard to change!

Guys like that are the ones you never want to play a Nassau against, and one that you never want to be in any club tournament. (For the record, Lucky Bastard is not a member of my club.) Golf is a special sport because the players are their own referees, and they ostensibly call penalties on themselves. It is a game of honor, and honor is the games lifeblood. Too bad the Lucky Cheating Bastard never got the memo. Or more likely, that he tore it up and never read it when it was given to him.

Sure, you could follow the Cheating Bastard around the course and call him out every time he breaks the rules of golf. After all, it's your money he's trying to steal.

But what of your own game and your own ball and your mental state? It's hard to think about where your shots are going when you spend too much time making sure that the Cheating Bastard doesn't tee it up in the fairway or fish his ball out of a creek.

Here's some Cheating Bastard MO, And How You Can Help Him Find The Path To Righteousness:

Always a Good Lie

Nudging a ball to a better lie is one of the great temptations of golf. Unless your competition allows pick and place, you're supposed to play the ball where it happens to be laying. The Cheating Bastard has no problem with moving his ball out of a divot in the fairway, out of a footprint in the sand or three inches to the left or right on the green so he won't have to putt over a spike mark.

It's hard to detect this unless you watch carefully, but if you are in a foursome, three honest players can do a fairly good job of catching the Cheating Bastard's ball nudges. Trick is to do it early in a round and let Cheating Bastard know that you're keeping your eyes on him. If he knows that, he's less likely to move his ball around...as often, anyway.

Always Go The Lost And Found

We all hit bad shots from time to time and lose our golf ball. It happens to Tiger and it happens to you. But it never happens to the Cheating Bastard. He can go into the Amazonian jungle and after 30 seconds, he'll be ready to hit his ball with a clear shot to the green.

Be a good friend and help him out. After all, good sportsmanship is part of the game, right? Thing is, stay close and watch carefully. Make sure that he doesn't find his ball...in his pocket.

One time, we helped Cheating Bastard out in the woods, and just as he announced that he had found his ball, we spotted his real shot. Since we were a little weary of his antics, we let him hit the wrong ball and play out to what he thought was a par. Then one of the fellows fished up his real ball and asked him if that happened to be his. Since Cheating Bastard had never played the course we were on that day, he had nothing to say. Stone cold caught, he was. He got mighty quiet for a long time after that.

Can You Tell Him How To Get To Sesame Street?

1,2,3,4,5,5. "Mark me down for a five. Damned shame I took bogey there," the Lucky Bastard lamented on his way back to the cart.

Except he had three putted. After missing the green and chipping up and on. Oops. Since Cheating Bastard is a busy guy, he's probably had a wee bit of his education slip out of the ole memory and he might need some help there. Re-teaching him how to count would be your civic duty here, citizen. He may be college educated and a fine CPA, after all, but sometimes, we all can use those little refresher courses.

We All Need Boundaries In Life

Poor Cheating Bastard has bad eyesight or depth perception, and it sure looks to him like it is just inbounds. He's going to play it on from there, hang on a sec.

Few things are more annoying on a golf course than a ball you hit that went awry and landed just out of bounds. There's that penalty stroke and having to hit again from the original spot, but it is what it is, even if the ball is only just an inch on the wrong side of the stakes. For my own sanity, I have started keeping a little pocket laser pointer in my bag to double-check the straight line between two points, points like O.B. Stakes. I got it as a gift at a trade show and it's useful for those times.

Fortunately, my parents taught me to share, and I feel a child-like joy in helping Cheating Bastard determine if his ball really is just inbounds or just out. Ooops, we'll wait for you here while you go back.

Now Hiring: Data Entry Position

Recording all of their scores for handicap purposes is the responsibility of each player. That doesn't mean that you have to do it yourself, mind you, just that it gets done promptly and accurately. That's why we always told Cheating Bastard that we'd put his scores in for him and meet him at the 19th Hole in a few minutes. He hated that. Especially because we always made him buy the first round and then, "ooops, look at the time - gotta go!"

A Tony NC Golf Club Becomes Part of Corruption Scandal of Fomer Governor

The summer of 2002 in the southeastern US was an extremely hot and dry period, with a paucity of rain and temperatures far above normal. Normally full lakes were at record lows, streams were almost dry and across the region, restrictions and near-rationing of water resources was the norm.

Not at Old Chatham Golf Club near Durham, NC, however. Old Chatham was allowed to tap into a stream that fed an already-stressed major reservoir for the region -- for irrigation use, despite bans on any non-essential water use, commercial or private. (The picture above left is the headwaters for lake in question during the time that Old Chatham was drawing waters.) Irrigration, filling swimming pools, filling swimming pools were on the list of things that were absolute forbidden, with heavy fines for violations.
Except for Old Chatham Club. That's because Old Chatham had a very important member: the governor of NC, Mike Easley. In a classic case of them-that-has-gets:
As a four-year drought parched North Carolina into the middle of 2002, then-Gov. Mike Easley and his administration called it a major disaster. The governor urged people everywhere to save water, and he imposed stiff restrictions.

Except at Easley's exclusive private golf club in northeastern Chatham County.

New records and interviews show that Old Chatham Golf Club pumped millions of gallons from a creek leading to Jordan Lake, diverting water from one of the region's major sources to keep greens alive.

The records show that a state water resources chief questioned the pumping but that higher-level officials -- including at the Governor's Office -- got involved.

It all took place a year after golf club leaders provided Easley with a major benefit: Club directors had voted in 2001 to waive the governor's monthly membership dues. That saved Easley about $50,000 while he was in office, a break he did not reveal on financial disclosure forms.

The Easley administration is under intense investigation under several fronts in the state, with land deals, favoritism, nepotism, corruption and undisclosed benefits being at the center of allegations that a federal grand jury in Raleigh is looking at. Indictments have yet to be issued, but the consensus is that it is only a matter of time until the former governor and his staff face trial for their actions in office.

While Old Chatham and golf play only a bit part in this long running political soap opera, it is notable that an uber-exclusive private club kept its grass green and growing while the rest of the area, Pinehurst and other top-end courses included, did not. The club claims that it would have cost a million dollars to replace their sod had it 'died,' but oddly, other courses in the area that use the same strains of turf allowed the grasses to go dormant - because they could not water under the force of law. When fall came in 2002, the rains returned and the courses returned to normal pretty quickly. Old Chatham's excuse of financial loss is simply hot, dry air.

October 16, 2009

It's Celebrity Vs. Celebrity Verbal Violence In Latest Tiff Over Trump's Scottish Links Plans

There's nothing like celebrities, no matter how minor, joining in and lending their fame to one side or the other of a given debate. And it's happening in the latest dustup regarding Donald Trump's planned Trump International Golf Links in Scotland.

In one corner:
"Tilda Swinton, everyone's favorite Bjorkian actress, she of the multiple lovers and fantastic androgynous looks, has joined a campaign in Scotland to fight Donald Trump's latest venture: a multi-million dollar golf course.

"She has added her name to a petition to support four residents who have been fighting Trump since the project was introduced."

And in the other corner - The Donald trumps Swinton by playing the celebrated actor Sean Connery card:
"I have the support of Sir Sean Connery and this very small group of dissidents have Tilda Swinton -- I'll take that deal any day," Trump said in a statement. As to Swinton's comparing the government attempt to condemn the holdouts' land to the "Highland Clearances" of the 18th and 19th centuries, when Scots were forcibly evicted to benefit rich landowners, Trump said, "Ms. Swinton's comments trivialize a tragic event in Scottish history. It's a shame that she would disgrace the thousands of Scots who suffered for her own personal gain and in order to get some easy publicity for herself."
Trump, of course, is not exactly shy when a reporter or television camera comes around to ask him about something he's interested in. He knows full well the value of getting his message across in the media.

What the residents of the areas affected make of all of this attention from the glitterati isn't known, but one thing is sure: Trump is going to build the course, he has the approval of the Scottish government to do so and little if anything is going to change that...no matter what celebrity chooses to get involved.

Two Bucks Drown At Chicago Course. I Drowned Ten Bucks on our 18th A Couple Weeks Ago

Someone at the Chicago Tribune has a wicked sense of humor:

2 Bucks Found Drowned At Golf Course

Apparently someone forgot to warn the deer around Wood River's Belk Park Golf Course about the water hazards.

"Course personnel found the bodies of two large whitetail bucks floating in the pond near Hole 16 Thursday morning."

That's tragic for the deer, I suppose, but probably the result of their annual mating cycle that takes place every autumn. In their annual "rut" bucks battle for supremacy and the 'rights' to the does, sometimes with fatal results. If one thinks that the forest is always a peaceful place, they aren't watching very carefully. It's a life and death war for survival out there, every day and every night. It's just the circle of life. Since a golf course is really a proxy for a wilderness meadow, quite often bordered by forests, it's a natural that some of that spills over into the pleasant fairways.

This time of year in NC, deer are everywhere and they are quite restless, making driving virtually anywhere a potential place for a deer to run in front of your vehicle and cause damage to not only vehicle but also potentially life and limb. Even on golf courses, one has to be quite careful, not because a deer might run in front of your cart but instead because it is possible to be stuck between a buck and where he wants to run towards. That is, to paraphrase Martha Stewart, 'not a good thing.' Why? The buck will have absolutely no qualms about running you over and goring you in the process. It has happened before and will almost certainly happen again.

Also, I liked the wordplay of the author's saying "two bucks drowned. " Bet that plenty of bucks have drowned there, just the green kind that lives in our wallets. I did the same thing here on a Nassau press a couple of weeks ago. Needing to birdie the tough 18th, I hit a lovely arching draw from the tee box. Unfortunately it was pulled just enough for my ball to clatter into the lake after bouncing a time or two...drowning ten bucks in the process. The only difference is that nothing was floating in that lake, save for my pride.

Ah well, another example of life imitating golf.

Suckers Are Born Every Minute, We Saw That AGAIN Yesterday

A Comment on the "Balloon Boy" story that ricocheted around the world yesterday: it is a perfect reflection of the flaws in so-called electronic journalism.

PT Barnum once said that "a sucker is born every minute" when asked why people accepted his outlandish claims about the wonders of his circus shows. And he was right. People like to fool themselves, we saw that in spades yesterday.

The truth about yesterday's Balloon Boy story is coming out: the family involved played the cable networks for suckers, and they bit hard, just as they knew they would. That's predictable. Cable news lives and dies with sensationalism and hype and what story could possibly be sexier than a poor little boy caught in the sky in a big silver balloon? Well, maybe if he had been a 17 year old blonde and beautiful white girl, but that's about it.

What's even more predictable was the way that people reacted to half-aced shoddy reporting, hanging on every word as though it were the absolute truth. The Internet, from Twitter, to the web, to sites like these came alive instantly, breathlessly repeating the story as it was "reported" - if you can call playing fast and loose with the truth "reporting." That of course sent hundreds of thousands if not millions of people to their TVs and to the cable news websites to get "the latest."

The latest was nothing more than conjecture and postulating, which are not facts, of course. They are just talking heads gossiping like you or I would at the office water cooler. That and of course the endless repetition of video of the balloon in the sky. That was easy to find and the over the video, "blah blah blah."

The bottom line is that the cable news people don't care if the story was ever real, they suckered America into tuning in and watching, and also watching the commercials in between. That means more money for them and that's their ONLY purpose for being. Journalism and truth are not real priorities, they are in reality their cover story for little more than tabloid journalism constructed from innuendo and rumor. In fact, it is so bad that some fiction writers adhere to reality better than some cable TV 'reporters.'

What really amazes me is the constant ability of people to lack a healthy skepticism to what they are seeing and to willingly allow their heartstrings to be tugged without the least bit of reasonable doubt. Why do we never "consider the source?" This story is a plain example of so many others that dominate these days: make it up as you go, truth be darned and cover your rear end later with plausible deniability. And people lap it up. Why? I just don't get it: we should know better because the cable news people simply lather, rinse and repeat.

For the record, when the news organizations were saying that the boy was missing and that the authorities were fearing that he had fallen out of the balloon, I said that he was probably hiding for fear of his parents. That was what I would have done when I was his age. Not quite right, it turns out, but far closer to the truth than the sensationlism of a kid falling to his death.

Next time, whether it is the war, politics, sports, or whatever, put some doubt into what you are seeing right then and there. The story will change, bet on it.

Now does this relate to golf? You bet it does. While the golf press is perhaps one of the best sets of writers and reporters in the business today, they too can sometimes stretch stories, if unknowingly. For example, consider the ones that constantly cycle around Tiger Woods being "cold and aloof."

Maybe Tiger is...or maybe Tiger is just being careful around people he doesn't fully trust. And who could blame him if he does? Anything he says or does is magnified, analyzed and categorized to the point where reality starts to blur. For example, cameras follow his every shot and when he has a bad reaction to a missed shot, suddenly, Woods is one of the worst offenders of bad ettiquette in the history of the game. 'Keep your kids away from this guy,' people gravely counsel. 'He'll make your child into a temper tantrum club throwing machine not fit to be near man nor beast.'

Oddly, Woods' peers don't rank him among the most ill-tempered on the PGA Tour. Not even top 5, actually. Could it be that Woods' poor form (and yes, he has shown poor form) is over-magnified and sensationalized past the truth?

Could be. And that's only one example, there are literally dozens of others rattling around out there. Does Lorena Ochoa only care about her wedding and not her golf? Who knows. Is Michelle Wie a tart because she designs club-wear -- something that most 20-year old women might wear to a nightclub? Some would have you think so. And so forth and so on. It never ends, not even in the golf world.

I suggest you make that call yourself after applying some common sense and thinking it through on your own. Like Balloon Boy, don't buy the story at face value, instead, use the common sense that God graced you with. I bet you come up with a truth in the middle that's different than what you are being sold.

October 15, 2009

Could The New USGA "V-Groove" Rules Be Much Dumber? Why Yes, They Can!

It's that time of year. Recently, my wife and other relatives have started asking me what I would like to receive for Christmas. "Like to receive" is a bit of a MacGuffin, because if I answered honestly I know there's no chance at all of it being under the tree, not even from my beloved Missus. After all, who in their right mind with a bank balance somewhere south of eight figures is going to give their husband or son-in-law an all-expenses paid trip for three rounds on the Old Course in St. Andrews, or a coupon book for ten private lessons with Hank Haney?

More seriously, my thoughts turned to what's reasonable and affordable and my first thoughts turned to wedges, because a short week after Christmas, the new USGA rules take effect. Trying to be somewhat practical, I thought that this might be a great time to stock up on the old style square grooves short game sticks since I have from 2010 to 2024 to use the old style. Why not gather up the "good stuff" now, while the getting is good?

Unfortunately a little research into the matter left me somewhat confused. You would think that the major manufacturers would have their old gear on sale, first to clear it out of their inventory, second, to sell the soon-to-be-nonconforming gear to guys like me, guys who could use every little bit of help they can get. That's not the case, however, and I didn't see any ads telling me to 'buy now while you still can.' Maybe that's to come, or maybe not. We'll see.

One thing I did run across was a very interesting explanation of the new rules from golfspy.com, and what they point out left me more confused than ever:

[T]he new Rules do change the way club faces and grooves must be manufactured in order to comply, and the wording has three substantive parts.
  • First, it changes the way manufacturers have to measure our grooves and spacing. Up to now, we only had to concern ourselves with the groove width, depth and space between the grooves. Those requirements and measurements haven’t changed, but the USGA added a fourth measurement requirement that defines a formula for the volume of groove dimension per inch of face. In simple terms, square grooves would have to be further apart than ‘v’ grooves because they can channel away more grass and moisture.
  • Secondly, the rule adds a new aspect, in that we will have to ensure that the edges of the grooves have a slight radius on them (at least a .010” radius to be exact), whereas currently we can offer you the sharp edges that result from the milling process. This is the change that will likely be the key to a reduction in spin from the newly conforming wedges and irons made after the rule goes into effect . . . if it really does go into effect as they would have us believe.

This part of the rule will undoubtedly increase the cost of wedges, as it will take special cutters to impart this radius to the edge of grooves, and a cutter so configured will wear out quicker than those we currently use. Obviously, the foundries and their machine shops will have to build in these costs to the cost of heads they make for all manufacturers. Thanks a lot, USGA.

  • Third, and maybe the most important aspect of the new Rule governing grooves, however, is that it allows for a “condition of competition” which says that the implementation of the Rule is up to the tournament committee as to whether or not it is implied. Hmmmmm. And it further suggests that the rule “only be applied to competitions involving ‘expert’ players” – in other words, the PGA Tour and USGA competitions. The USGA has clearly stated that it intends to implement the Rule for its three major open championships in 2010, and all other USGA events in 2014. And the USGA has been very clear that all currently conforming clubs will be approved for play until “at least 2024”!
I agree: Thanks a lot, USGA, for making golf even more expensive. Next to drivers and putters, the most often-changed clubs in the bag are usually wedges. That's because they already wear out faster than a typical seven-iron might and surely get used a lot more. While I understand the need to protect the sanctity of the game at its top end, fellows like me, that is, guys with low double-digit handicaps are damned unlikely to be ripping balls backwards ten feet when they hit the green from a shot out of the rough. We can't do it from a perfect lie in the fairway, much less one from 2.75" Bermuda. But thanks to our friends that make the Rules of the Game, we'll get to pay a little more for our high-lofted clubs...even though the old ones don't really help us all that much.

The USGA agrees with that assessment in their FAQ concerning new wedges:
MYTH: The new groove regulations will make success more difficult to achieve for the recreational golfer.

FACT: Most golfers will experience little, if any, change in their golf game because the new grooves only affect shots from the rough that hit the green, and these shots are made far more often by Tour players than by typical golfers. The rules change also has proven to have very little effect on the performance of the surlyn-covered balls that make up more than two-thirds of the golf balls [played by amateurs.]
So basically, it boils down to this: the new groove rule won't really hurt you, but you are going to have to pony up more after this season to replace your worn out wedges because they are going to cost more to make.

Where is the win for The Game in that? Golf already has a huge problem with it being too expensive, and it sounds like the USGA has implemented a new rule to make it even more expensive. That's counter-intuitive for an organization that claims it is all about growing the game of golf.

While it is obviously far too late to add my voice to this debate, one has to wonder why their cannot be two sets of wedges - those approved for Joe Sixpack and those approved for Stewart Cink. By that, I mean new gear for sale, not old gear approved for the next fourteen-odd years. I understand the desire to have one set of rules for all players, but it is high time that the USGA recognized that there is a vast difference between Tiger Woods and the guys you see on a Saturday morning who work 9-5 Monday through Friday.

For example, the NFL and the NCAA have different footballs approved for play in their respective organizations. Both are equally "good" for amateurs out playing touch in the backyard or intramural flag football beside a college dorm. In fact, those two groups of amateurs might just be playing their game with another kind of ball unapproved by either group at all. Does that detract from the competition at hand? No. Does having a youth football, which is smaller, lighter and far easier to throw further make any difference? No again.

Indeed, there are dozens of examples of differences in sporting goods unapproved for professional or serious amateur play being perfectly suited for less-skilled amateurs. Some of that gear even makes playing the sport at a higher level possible. So again, why must golf be so different?

At the end of the day, when I send out my Christmas list for the year, I guess I will ask for a new wedge or two. Might as well get the better - and cheaper - gear now before the coming price rise hits the stores.

October 13, 2009

81 Holes In 11 Hours...And We Wanted to Play On

It was easy to smile, even when my par putt across the green broke off six inches too early, leaving my trademark grimace-face ball mark staring back at me mockingly from aside the hole. A quick tap, and my 81st golf hole and my day was done.

It was a very good day, and believe it or not, it was one I was not at all ready to see end. I always hate to see great days like this one head literally into the sunset.

The only reason we didn't head to the 82nd tee? Darkness began to close in, and my partner and I weren't at all sure we could find the tee shots if we hit them. Had there been any chance, we would have continued to play on...continued to raise money to help families that were battling cancer, battling the horrible loss of a parent's death, battling the pain that the children who had to watch and experience this must feel. Had there been sunlight, we would have swung until we couldn't swing any longer. Tired muscles can recuperate. Wondering if there was something more that could have been done for someone so obviously in need - that lasts forever.

Others aren't so lucky to have the choice, and it is the least we can do, because we are doing it for them. Every time we played a hole, we made a little bit more money for the Jack and Jill Foundation for Late Stage Cancer, a group that help families cope when a parent is facing the end of their life. Obviously it is horrible for the person who is sick, but the Jack and Jill Foundation helps the whole family. They are all suffering mightily. Sore muscles? They'd trade with me in a second.

Play on. Then play on some more.

It was the order of the day, and it was one of the best days I have ever had in golf shoes. Scores didn't really matter, even though we tried our level best on each hole. One fellow shot a 64 on a tough TPC Wakefield course during one of his trips around it. Others players shot quite well in their own right. This marathon was not hit-and-giggle golf all day, but it was true that scores really didn't matter. Mileage mattered...and many, many miles were recorded by all of us.

Monday began for us long before dawn on the course. A couple cups of coffee were all that we used for our warm-up, as everyone knew that they would want to save their strokes for the course itself, where they mattered. It was going to be a long day, and all twenty of us who were playing knew that, and welcomed it. That's why we were there, after all. No need to waste effort anywhere, save it for where it made the most difference...on the golf course itself. Around 7am, with the sun still rising, we mounted our carts and headed for our starting tee boxes.

A full day on a golf course is an interesting thing to watch unfold. The sun rises, bathing the un-tracked dew in golden shadows. Like footprints in the snow, each player leaves a breadcrumb trail of their path. On the green, the golf ball does the same as it rolls towards a hole, leaving a visible lesson of the break. Birds sing, and the furry animals forage for breakfast. It's a wonderful time to play, the golfer's equivalent of being the first human to walk across fresh snow. Everything seems new, even the hope that comes with a blank scorecard.

We played on.

Later, the day comes to full life, even in the verdant quiet of a championship golf course. When you are in a golf marathon, you see more than you might ordinarily witness on a typical Sunday morning foursome. You get to watch the progress of people working on their yards, or workers building a new deck behind someone's house. You get to see hawks hunting prey. You might even see the progress of an owl building a nest, if you know where to look. The course workers' progress is easily seen, and you also get a good idea at how much work they actually do. We all too often take those folks for granted, but I can tell you after having seen it that it's a yeoman's job that they do.

And we still played on some more.

Morning gave way to afternoon, and then mid-afternoon headed inexorably towards the end of the day. Some people were surprised that here were, passing them by...again. You know that they had to wonder why they had seen us four or five times. One even asked us what we were up to. He said he'd seen me four other times on the tee box near his house. I told him about the marathon briefly. He smiled at me and said, "I bet you're tired."

I was, sort of, but tired in the way one gets after a day of doing a job well done. Fortunately, I had taken a packet of Ajinomoto's Focus Zone in mid-morning, something that is now a standard part of my regimen when I play serious golf. Ever since I tried this product back in September, I keep a packet in my bag. During the Marathon, Focus Zone was worth its weight in gold and then some. The stuff just works.

I laughed and told the fellow that I would be okay. And that I needed to go...and play on.

It's not often that an amateur golfer like myself can make a positive difference for someone with my sticks. Doing so was a pleasure, and one I would do again. In fact, I am already planning to. I enjoyed this day, make no mistake about it, but the most pleasing thing to me was not the golf, fantastic as that was, instead, it was helping families who really could use some help. I have been in their shoes, and I know how they must feel. I would do almost anything to help, even if it is just a wee little bit. I know I did exactly that on Monday. Those sore muscles surely felt good.

Maybe next time we can have the golf marathon in May, one where the days are longer and we can play more holes. That way, I can play at least 100 holes. Maybe even six full rounds, or 108 holes. Or seven. I think I have 126 holes in me. If you're game, I would love to have you join me in the next golf marathon. It's well worth your time and effort.

(note: I endorse Ajinomoto products solely based on my opinion of their merit. I am not compensated by Ajinomoto in any way for this opinion.)

October 8, 2009

Analyze Your Swing With a Smartphone App?

The marriage between smartphones and golf continues to yield dividends.

According to various sources Japanese company Fujitsu plans to offer a cell phone application that will analyze your golf swing, do some analysis and then offer ways to correct the problems. The program, "ETGA Golf Lesson" will be on sale in Japan later this year, according to the company. Fujitsu will not identify what phone the app will work with but it is a good bet that the large user base of iPhones will see the app sooner or later. That's because iPhones are already embedded with motion and acceleration sensors, and those sensors are integral to the user experience of iPhone users. As for price, no figures were mentioned.

To enable this application, Fujitsu co-developed a sensing technology that measuring body movements of a person carrying a sensor-equipped mobile phone.The Sensing Control Lab Company and the Hosei University in Japan was also involved. Tadashi Ezure, a player on the Japanese PGA, will be giving the resultant "lessons."

According to the company's press release:

Key Features of "ETGA Swing Lesson"

  • Measures swing by simply using a mobile phone clipped to the user's waist
  • By simply slipping the mobile phone into a carrying case and clipping it to the user's waist, the phone automatically recognizes and measures the swing.
  • Easy touchscreen operation
    The user responds to a series of on-screen prompts by touching the appropriate buttons to display measurements, feedback, etc.
  • Targeted advice based on the Ezure Method
    Users receive easy-to-understand, relevant advice in response to every swing. Images of Mr. Ezure appear in the application to give golf tips.
  • Tabulates swing results for each club
    Users can select from among three categories of clubs—drivers, irons, and short irons—and receive optimized swing analysis and advice for each.
  • Leverages user data
    Measured data is displayed on a graph to show trends and level of proficiency. After measuring and registering the user's best swing, it is possible for the user to compare each swing with his personal best.
  • Internet collaboration
    Data can be uploaded online, allowing for more sophisticated services.

    Mobile Online Services
  • In collaboration with Golf Digest Online Inc, Fujitsu plans to launch a "Golf-Swing Check Site" (tentative name) online service under "ETGA Swing Lesson".

October 7, 2009

Our New Golf Game: 'Lady or The Champ'

When you live on a golf course and are a member of a club, sometimes it is fun to shake things up and play a different kind of game to make things more interesting. To do that, a friend and I cooked up a "new" match-play game we call "Lady or The Champ."

The rules are simple: win a hole, you have to play the next one from the Championship Tee. Lose a hole, you are on the red teebox, but you cannot use anything bigger than a six-iron to tee off. Play it out from there.

On our course, the so-called Championship tees are sometimes behind where the low-handicap black teeboxes are, and not only are these ridiculously long tee shots, some of them also have extremely narrow tunnels through trees to get to the fairway. It's very tough to hit the right places, and even for the longest hitters leaves very challenging approaches from anywhere.

The forward (or ladies') tees are quite generous, as they should be, since they are meant for very high handicap players or kids. We call them the "ladies" tees out of habit, even though that's a label from an era gone by. These days, plenty of our female members play from behind the reds and do it quite well, thanks very much. Anyway, if you can't hit the fairway from most of the red boxes, you can't spit, because that's how close most of them are. A smack with a putter would get one out on the short grass. But armed with only a six iron, it's not as easy as you might think to win the hole. The course is still over 5000 yards even from the shortest boxes so a good, solid shot is needed to get to the A Position.

The fun part in these match play rules is that you have to really work hard to keep winning holes from the championship boxes and with the mid-iron rules from the reds, you can't just bomb and gouge your way back into a match -- unless you learn how to hit low-running balls that run forever. The longer approaches you face from the championship tees season you as a golfer and give you new respect not only for the scratch players but also for the course designers, because everything comes into play from the tips. From the reds, you learn how to work your ball as if it was very windy, something that comes in extremely handy in the cool weather months here when the breezes are often howling.

And oh, one other rule we are considering adding: we picked up a nice pink miniskirt from Goodwill that "The Lady" will have to wear on holes that they play from the forward boxes. Since the course winds its way through our neighborhood, "The Lady" is sure to be seen by someone who will surely have a smart-aleck catcall to offer. After all, a hairy-legged middle-aged fellow in a hot pink mini is one of the uglier things you will ever see in your life. The 17th hole is a big one in the match, because "The Lady" has to march up 18 and by the deck outside the clubhouse and hear it from whoever is out there. Finally, the loser of the whole match has to go the 19th hole where he has to pay for the first round in his hot little skirt.

Before you say it, this is not a sexist game, it's just having fun and tossing in some bright pink embarrassment for the loser. . That'll get your attention on a short putt and make you a better player, count on it.

October 5, 2009

The Next Battlefield In The Software Wars Is..Print. Wait, What?

Golf Digest To Be At The Forefront

This month, when you open your issue of Golf Digest magazine, you will notice that a barcode is prominently displayed in some of the articles. Photograph that barcode with your cellphone, and you will be able to get more information about the article's subject, or maybe some related advertising. The barcode is a "Microsoft tag" that the magazine plans to use extensively in the near future.
An article by Tiger Woods about making putts that slide from left to right offers readers a video lesson with Golf Digest senior editor Peter Morrice. A tag accompanying an interview with Michael Jordan takes readers to a video of the photo shoot with the former basketball star and avid golfer.
Sounds great, but if you have an iPhone, or perhaps a Google or Palm OS powered smartphone, there's no guarantee that this will work with your gear, or if it does, that it will always work. The reason for that is simple: Microsoft has a long history of rendering their software incompatible with their competitors' products. Some may say that's not necessarily the case, but as a matter of fact, it was proven in court when the US government sued Microsoft, accusing them of anti-competitive monopolistic behavior...and won. Microsoft is preparing to jump into the smartphone software marketplace with both feet, and having additional features like their Microsoft Tags is a competitive advantage.

Not that Microsoft is the only devil in this particular hell of incompatibility. Apple, which makes iPhones and iPods and provides an application called iTunes, regularly reconfigures its own software to lock out other vendors. New Palm Pre owners know all about that - Palm recommends using iTunes to add and remove music from the Pre softphone, and Apple locks them out on an almost weekly basis.

If the Microsoft Tags feature gathers much traction, expect to see competitors jump in and offer their versions -- and thus, the bell rings and the fight starts in earnest. Consumers will both benefit -- and be frustrated by -- the range of choices they will have available.

Little of that has anything to do with golf, but it is interesting to see this new competition starting to take place, with the first shots fired in a golf magazine of all things. The reason for that is only common sense. As an expensive game, golf afacianados are usually fairly affluent, and affluent people tend to have more gadgets like smartphones. Golf is also very friendly to both print and video. All of those factors make Golf Digest a very suitable place for the first shots in this particular battle to take place.

IMG Sells Press Access To Tiger For Aussie Masters

Australian sportswriters hoping to get an interview with Tiger Woods next month while he is Down Under for their Masters tournament are out of luck -- unless they happen to work for the Melbourne Herald-Sun. That's because IMG sold the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper exclusive access to the World's #1 for that tournament.

Peter Stone, a writer for the Sydney Morning Herald commented today that "This is my 41st year as a golf writer for various newspapers, and in that time never before has such a deal been struck."

There are good arguments in either direction towards this subject -- Tiger is an entertainer and as one, access to him is not necessarily in the public interest, as it would be for a politician. On the other hand, sports figures are generally in a gray zone between newsmakers like pols and entertainers like movie stars, in that athletes are usually covered by newspapers the same way one might cover their local legislator - the paper reports what happened on the field of play, and they often get original material quotes from the subject in order to flesh out their coverage. In other words, just like so-called "hard" news. As such a symbiosis is established - the paper needs the star, and the star needs the paper. They both coexist largely thanks to the other. Charging for an interview would upset that balance.

Take your pick as to which one is right.

Then again, the coin always has another side: if Tiger Woods' time is a commodity to be bought and sold, then so are the column inches that fill the newspapers. It's arguable that newspapers and other media outlets' coverage of Woods built his fame, and that without their free publicity, he may not be quite as large a public figure as he is today. Quid pro quo (something for something) -- if Woods is going to charge for his time, then newspapers could charge him for covering him and providing notoriety. Tenuous yes, but a good lawyer can "prove" nearly anything.

At the end of the day, to me it is disappointing to see IMG and Tiger "pioneer" this for golf. If it is successful others will surely follow, and over the long haul, the breadth of golf journalism will narrow and take some of the richness of the game along with it. For example, if Tiger and IMG sells his time at the Masters Tournament to the Atlanta Journal while The State in Columbia purchases Phil Mickelson's time, and Mad Magazine nabs the exclusive with Sergio Garcia, inevitably, the coverage would be farm more limited. And that's not good for golf.

October 1, 2009

The Fall Series: A House of Horrors or Safety Net

For many, the PGA Tour's season effectively ended when Phil Mickelson won the Tour Championship and Tiger Woods hoisted the never-been-kissed FedEx Cup. Other than next week's President Cup, it's unlikely that we'll see many of the Tour's top golfers hitting shots in battle until after the new year, silly season possibly excluded.

But for players like David Duval, Stuart Appleby, Vaughn Taylor, Chris DiMarco, Corey Pavin and Rocco Mediate, the next few weeks will be a potential determining factor in their 2010 golfing plans. That's because all of those well-known PGA Tour veterans are outside of the Top 125 on the Tour's Money List, and the Fall Series will go a long way in determining whether they keep their Tour cards, or have to return to Q-School in order to win back the right to tee it up with the big boys on a regular basis.

A win in any of the five events starting with this week's Turning Stone Resort Championship would of course mean a two-year reprieve from the worries of maintaining their status on the Tour. A solid showing would be a big step towards climbing into the Top 125, while a poor showing means that they will need to head down to Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach for the Q-School Tour Final Stage. There, if anything can happen, it already has and probably will again. Anything is the key word here. Players have missed out on PGA Tour cards thanks to a ball popping out of cups after they've fallen into the hole, a ball hitting the green and wildly backspinning into a water hazard, drowning any chance of attaining a card, or even missed two foot putts doing the same thanks to rattled nerves and a shaky putter. On the other hand, there are too many heroic endings to mention. At Q School, it is one or the other but rarely a calm and straightforward event.

Fortunately, the Fall Series is in between their situations and the funhouse of Q-School, and with some good play, they can enjoy Christmas shopping rather than the Florida sunshine in December. For golf fans, while Tiger and Phil take the week off, there is another kind of drama at play, and perhaps one far more interesting - will some well-known winners from the past be able to find their form in time, or will they have to face all-comers to keep earning their paycheck on golf's biggest stage. Some will pass through the first gauntlet with some success. Others, we'll see on Golf Channel after Thanksgiving laboring over every shot as though it meant life or death. And that makes for good theatre.