On the day that the LPGA named
marketing executive Michael Whan as its new commissioner, I
happened to be chatting up a very plugged-in source down at the Jersey Shore.
Any stirrings about bringing
back the late, great ShopRite LPGA Classic, a fan favorite 21 years until it died in 2006, I
As a matter of fact, he
said, "It’s within the realm of possibility."
According to my source,
nothing is close to being signed, sealed or delivered, but there are ongoing conversations
about possibly bringing back the ShopRite.He said that Seaview Marriott, the ShopRite’s final venue, is apparently willing
and able; and ShopRite,
which is now a secondary presenting sponsor of the Sybase Classic outside New York City,
has been approached and is listening.
If the ShopRite is revived, it would be
Harrison, who ran it for years.They have moved on, as have their old tournament staffers.This is new blood that is trying to
rejuvenate the ShopRite
All of this should come as
good news to Whan, the incoming commissioner.After the dreadful four-year reign of Carolyn Bivens—she killed the old ShopRite, by the way – Whan
is being handed a tournament schedule for 2010 that has fewer than 20 events
The situation is so bad for
that one recent story in a prominent golf magazine reported that an alarming
number of players are exploring opportunities on other tours, such as in Japan.
Again, bringing back the ShopRite is
only preliminary discussions, but at least there are discussions.Details as they develop.
The biggest non-story of the
day, maybe the week, was splashed across the bottom half of the New York Times
on Sunday, in a box no less.
Under a two-column headline
that read: "Man’s
World at White House?No Harm, No
Foul, Aides Say," accompanied by a photo of President Obama taking a jumper in a
pick-up basketball game, the Times proceeded to foist upon the reading public the following
Our athletic, sports-crazy
president has failed to include a woman in either his "high-level" regular
hoops games or any of the 23 rounds
of golf he
has played since taking office nine months ago.
There is nothing I hate more
than reading a story that makes me set aside a newspaper and say to myself, "So
this is why people hate the media..."
But I did just that yesterday
reading that piece.
Of all the things that President Obama
and we citizens have to worry about – you don’t need me to review the
list here – the failure to include women in White House basketball games or his
occasional foursome is not one of them.
Ironically, this criticism
comes not from the far right, which hammers him on plenty of other matters, but
rather from what the Times said were
advocates and liberal bloggers."
Aside from stewing in my own
juices that some people actually worry about this kind of stuff, and that the Times saw
fit give to give it credence by giving it prominent front page play, I resent
seeing golf dragged
into this quagmire
of petty political
Golf didn’t do anything wrong.Once again, our beloved game has been made to look bad by association,
like when snooty
country clubs snub potential members because they are of a certain race, creed,
gender or religion.Or when we see that repugnant photo of
addicted golfer Rush Limbaugh sucking on that enormous phallic cigar.Or when some yahoo marches confidently
to the first tee dressed in bright yellow knickers, a black and yellow striped cashmere sweater and a black Ben Hogan
cap, completely unaware that he looks like a bumble bee, not a golfer, and
that heis an embarrassment to the
Every now and then some knucklehead
on the PGA
Tour says or does something that reminds you of just how out of touch with
the real world many of those guys are.
If you’ve seen the Golf Plus
section of this week’s Sports Illustrated, you know what I am talking about.To wit: An anonymously-penned column
with the headline: "Bellyache: A new PGA Tour
policy is giving rank-and-file players like me indigestion."
In logic so ill-considered
and whiny it’ll snap your head back, an unidentified PGA Tour player moans and groans about
a new Tour policy
intended to appease sponsors at a time when too many of them are heading for
Each week at tournaments,
guys who are so marginally known or successful that fat cat businessmen are not
exactly falling all over themselves to fork over $5,000 or $10,000 for the pleasure of their
company (or brooding silence) in a pro-am, are going to be on the hook to show
up for 90 minutes at a sponsor party on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Are you kidding me?A party? With icky regular people, even
if they do underwrite my lifestyle?What’s next, high-mileage courtesy cars?
"We know we have a bad
economy and have to do something to help the companies that write our checks," Mr. Anonymous writes incredulously."And it’s not that we don’t appreciate
the sponsors.But to tell guys
that 52 of you may play and another 30 are on the hook to visits sponsors
– that’s a nightmare."
That’s a nightmare?
He’s not done."I can tell you that every player would
rather endure a five- or six-hour pro-am round than put on a happy face and
hang out at a two-hour dinner."
Wait, there’s more."It may not sound like much, but you’re
there to entertain, and have to be "on" the entire time," he writes."And you can’t no-show or leave early
or hide in the bathroom, since I’m sure Commissioner Finchem’s
disciples will be taking attendance."
Oh, the horrors of having to
show up at a
party, where I can assure you the food is free and fabulous, the bar is open, the
fat cats are fawning
and the women are flirtatious.
And let’s be clear about who
we are talking about.As Mr. Whiny
makes clear, it’s not Tiger and Phil and other big name players who have to show up to eat free shrimp
and make small
talk.No, those guys are further
up the PGA
Tour food chain and they are required to play in the pro-am.The guys who have to come to the
parties are they guys who don’t rate the pro-am, the guys who rank between 50thand 110th
on the money list.
A quick check of the money list
shows that 50th
is Paul Goydos, who so far this year has pocketed just over $1.6 million
in winnings; 110th
Bradley, who has made $689,147.
Paul Goydos is a very nice guy and way too smart to be the dope
who wrote this column in SI. But let’s be honest, if he wasn’t playing on the PGA Tour,Goydos would probably return to teaching school.I’d tell you what I think Michael Bradley
would be doing if it he wasn’t on the PGA Tour, if I wasn’t so vague on who he is.
Is he the skinny, red-headed guy?
Either way, if Goydos
or anybody in between them on the money list, thinks he can make more money
doing something else, without having to make "happy face" or eat free shrimp for
90 minutes a week, they ought to get on with it.Go. Now.Don’t waste another momentin the shackles of the PGA Tour.Come on, you
don’t have to put up with these kind of outrageous demands.
Or maybe they could just
take a look at what’s going on in the real world around them and wise up.
Great blog. The PGA Tour is simply fantasyland. Iíd like a guy like Goydos to give a State of the Tour Address to call those prima donnas out on their bs. Sometimes people donít know what an a-hole they are until someone has the balls to call them that.
In all my time covering golf
tournaments, one guy I never could figure out was Vijay Singh.
Actually, I never much cared
for him.I admired his talent,
work ethic and longevity, but I didn’t admire the guy.
Even at the height of Singh’s
career, when he won back-to-back money titles in 2003-’04 and had every reason
to be all smiles, he wasn’t.Or at
least he wasn’t around the media.
Singh’s relationship with the scribbler’s was so prickly
that whenever his name would rise to the top of a leaderboard, you could almost
hear a collective sigh bordering on a groan go up in the media center.Why? Because it meant we’d have to deal
Dealing with Vijay was
not fun.He’d arrive in the media
center, looking sullen and disinterested, like he’d been dragged there kicking
and screaming by a media official.He’d settle into his chair with all the anticipation of a man about to
undergo a root canal.
Then the questions would
start?Usually, they weren’t hard,
awkward, probing questions -- just basic stuff.How do you feel going into the final round tomorrow holding
the lead?What’s it going to take
to close the deal?Worried about Tiger lurkingtwo shots
More often than not, Vijay would
respond in a tone so indifferent it just oozed contempt for the question and
the questioner.Sometimes, he’d
glare at the questioner.If the
question came from a prominent writer he particularly didn’t like, Vijay would
just pretend he didn’t hear it.
I never could understand why
he maintained such an arm’s-length relationship with the media.Other players didn’t, not even Tiger.
Funny thing is, if Vijay had made
even a half-hearted attempt at pretending to get along with the media, he could
have skated by on a smile and a song.As it was, because he seemed to be so deliberately disagreeable, few in
the media liked him and few were inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
From time to time, you’d
hear from another player that the media had Vijay all wrong.He was a good guy, generous and
popular with the other players, they’d say.Which, in my mind, only further begged the question of why
he didn’t show that side of himself to the media?It would have taken so little effort to soothe the
relationship and win them over.
Over time I concluded that Vijay
either didn’t care about his relationship with the media or, if he did, he
wasn’t about to show it.So he
just kept on doing what he did.
Given all this, I have to
credit when credit is due.On
Sunday at the Presidents
Cup, he did a very sportsmanlike thing.In his singles match against Lucas Glover, on the 18th
hole, he conceded a 7-foot birdie putt that halved the match for the American.
At that point, the halve didn’t matter. Tiger had already won the match that clinched the victory for the U.S. six
What the concession did do
was enable Glover,
Open champion who was having a frustrating week, to salvage a shred of
dignity by earning ½ point.If Glover
had missed the putt, he would have gone 0-4 and been the only American to
get skunked for the week.
True to form, afterward, Vijay
claimed he didn’t realize the concession was for the halve, and that Glover
would have made the putt anyway.
was great. It was a good gesture," Glover said. "I'm not sure he knew what
the score was, because he came up afterward and said, 'I didn't know that was
for a halve. I thought I was 1 up.'"
I don’t know about you but I
pretty much lost interest in all the FedEx
Cup playoff tweaking sometime during the Bush Administration.
Watching the Tour Championship Sunday afternoon, as Tiger, Phil, Sean, Stricker, Paddy and Kenny Perry battled down the homestretch, what was not to like
about the prospect of one of those guys finding himself standing over a $10 million putt on the 72nd
Talk about a putt with a pucker factor....
Too bad it didn’t come to
that.Still, it was fun to listen
to the boys in the booth scrambling to keep track of the various changing
scenarios and outcomes as Tiger and
cast jockeyed for position.Compare that to last year, when Vijay
Singh showed up at East Lake needing
only to maintain a pulse for four days to win the FedEx Cup. I’ll take Sunday’s melodrama any day.
Although Tiger didn’t win a major this year, and
he didn’t win the Tour Championship,
it’s hard to argue that he didn’t deserve to lay claim to another FedEx Cup.It is, after all, mule-headed to argue that he didn’t have
the best year or that he isn’t the best player in the game – certainly of
his era, maybe of all time.
If there is any
disappointment, it is that somebody didn’t break out of the pack the steal the FedEx Cup out from under Tiger’s nose.Sean O’Hair, the
homeboy, would have been a good candidate, and he made a good run Sunday as he
continues to distinguish himself as one of today’s handful of elite
players.And it would have been a
storybook ending for the father of three young kids to take home the $10 mil.But it didn’t happen.
My guess is, after the
thrill ride at East Lake on Sunday,
and after having the two best players in the game standing side-by-side at the
awards ceremony, the PGA Tour is
done tweaking the format for a while.
If you’re a golfer in the Philadelphia
area, one of the best possible things that can happen to you is to get to play
a course designed by William S. Flynn.
Anybody who belongs to a
club with a Flynn-designed
course or who has played a Flynn needs no introduction to the great architect.Although he was born in Massachusetts
in 1890, Flynn
spent most of his adult life in Philadelphia and it was here that he truly
left his mark.Unless, of course,
you want to talk about Flynn’s masterpiece, Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, host offour U.S. Opens, most recently in 2004.
Closer to home, Flynn, who
died in 1945 at the age of 54, left his imprint on the golfing landscape in the
forms of some of the area’s finest courses: Philadelphia Country Club is a Flynn,
as are Huntingdon
Valley Country Club, Manufacturers Golf & Country Club, Green Valley Country Club, Concord Country
Country Club, Lehigh Country Club, Lancaster Country Club, Atlantic City Country Club, Lancaster
Country Club, Harrisburg Country Club, Philmont Country Club and Rolling Green Golf Club.And although Hugh Wilson is generally credited with
East Course, Flynn also had a major hand in the course as we know it today.
So respected is Flynn that
that there are two separate tournaments are held each year in his honor, the Flynn Cup
and the Flynn
Unfortunately for public
courses tend to be private.Still,
with the quantity and quality of his work, it is safe to say that Flynn has
provided more golfers with enjoyable, challenging rounds than any other two
architects combined. It is also safe to say that the clubs with Flynns
are indeed proud of their courses and show them off at every opportunity.
This week, that club was Rolling Green
Golf Club in Springfield, Delaware County.First opened in 1926, when Flynn was
doing some of his best work, Rolling Green has just undergone an extensive renovation.
Like so many Flynn
Green is a classic.Built long
before the days of massive earth moving, at 6,917 yards, par 71, it looks and
feels as natural as a walk in a green, leafy the park.Nothing feels forced or
artificial.Every hole fits the
Working from old photos and
club archives, Forse Design, which specializes in
restorations, picked up where an earlier tree removal project left off,
focusing on increasing and revitalizing bunkers and green complexes.
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It was good to take in another
final match of the Crump Cup on Sunday and, as
always, the golf was
incidental to the stroll around Pine Valley.
Certainly, some very good
golf was played by the finalists, Gene Elliott from West Des Moines, Iowa, and Skip Berkmeyer
from St. Louis, Mo, who eventually won 1-up by sinking a 15-foot birdie putt on
the final hole.
But, make no mistake, the
star of the day was the ultra-private, almost mystical golf course.
"This place is
unbelievable," an acquaintance said me as we walked a few holes together.This from a man who isn’t even a
golfer.He’d heard some colleagues
at the office talking about the Crump Cup and Pine Valley and decided to check the
We were among a gallery of
perhaps 200, a smallish turnout by Crump Cup final match standards.The weather could not have been more
ideal, and the course could not have been in better condition, but the match
was competing against the Eagles at home against the Saints and the division-leading Phillies on
the road in Atlanta.
Given the mystic surrounding
and the unlikely chance that most hacks will ever get a chance to play a round
there, it’s easy to expect that the gallery would be filled by hard-core
golfers who simply want to see the place in person.Those people were there, easy to spot in with the logos of
their home club or favorite course.
But this year, like years
past, the Crump
Cup final curiously attracted is share of people who don’t look at all like
golfers or average golf fans.They
came in gym pants, various team jerseys, tank tops and a couple sported arms
full of tattoos.One young kid had
For Crump Cup repeat visitors, the day is a
chance to marvel at the golf course and check for subtle changes from past years,
maybe the occasional new tee.Or
to try to imagine how they’d play a certain shot, a particular hole or the
I chatted briefly with Pine Valley
Gordon Brewer, who couldn’t have been more cordial, and with Charley Raudenbush,
the director of golf and general manager.After the match, they invited me inside the clubhouse to attend the
awards ceremony, where the drinks were generous and the hors d’oeuvres
tasty.The shrimp were as big as a
fat man’s finger.
The winner, Berkmeyer,
was humble and gracious in victory, insisting that had the match gone another
two holes that Elliott
would likely have won. Berkmeyer
thanked his caddie for all the good reads and the Pine Valley staff for their usual
hospitality.He made a particular
effort to thank Brewer, for whom this was his final Crump Cup as president.After more than a decade at the helm, Brewer will
step down next year.
Being the manly place it is,
Valley clubhouse is filled with dark wood and heavy, dark leather chairs
and sofas.Everything is
understated, from the simple scorecard to the tables in the grill room.
The walls are covered with
golf-related art work that tends to run toward photos and maps of the course,
framed scorecards of legendary rounds and a glass case full of hickory-shafted
clubs from a bygone era.One wall
is dominated by a large oil painting of Brewer’s predecessor as president, Ernie Ransome.
Upstairs, the locker room is equally simple and understated, much like Merion’s.
As I made my way back to my
car, the sun was setting, casting a glimmering light across the 18th, from
the distant tee to the green.What
a view, what a hole, what a place.