Making The Tour Championship Great. Again.

Once NBC decided to stop punching themselves in the genitals and get out of their way, the last 90 minutes of the final round of the Tour Championship was compelling viewing this past Sunday.  It didn’t make up for the sheer insanity of most of their coverage, but it helped a bit.  I remain skeptical that giving viewers a firehose of commercials does any good, but here we are.

On the one hand, good for the Tour to get rid of this nonsensical point scheme and provide viewers with one winner on Sunday that didn’t require a Rube Goldberg-level diagram.  On the other hand, this flighted start where the top seed starts with a 10 shot lead is laughable by any standard.  And by laughable, it’s an insult to the idea that the best performance on the day wins.  What next?  A low net and a low gross winner?  Does last place get a set of neoprene iron covers?

While I ‘thought’ I fixed the Tour Championship once already, I guess I didn’t.  So I’m going to fix it again.  And Jay, please use this format next year.  While you’re at it, it’s time to ditch East Lake at least for a few years.  Atlanta in late August?  Really?  Move it around.  Put it out for bid (hint- if you go to the West Coast, your odds of thunderstorms shrink, and you get that prime time East Coast finish you otherwise would never get).

Instead of the top 30, we’re going to increase it to the top 32 (top 31 and the highest finisher at the BMW Championship who otherwise didn’t qualify).  Think of it as an incentive to push yourself during that final round of the BMW Championship.  Rather than give the top seeds a shot advantage, we’re going to borrow from other sports and give the top seeds a second chance (I’m borrowing heavily from the McIntyre Finals system) AND they get to choose their tee time and playing partners for the first four rounds.  If they want to go out first on greens that are freshly cut and free of spike marks, they can.  So here we go.

Days 1 & 2: Regular 1st/2nd round play (18 holes each day).  The top 24 (no ties) make it to the next round.  However, none of the top 4 seeds will miss the cut, regardless of how bad they do.  They get a second chance if they have a bad round or just don’t have it early on.  I’d argue that this is a much more relevant reward for season-long excellence.

Day 3: Regular 3rd round play (18 holes).  The top 16 (no ties) make it to the next round.  However, the top 2 seeds are guaranteed to make the cut, so the remaining guys are playing for 14 spots.  Now you’re really rewarding season-long excellence.

Day 4: Regular 4th round play (18 holes).  The top 12 (no ties) make it to the next (final) round.  The top seed is guaranteed to make the final round.  There’s your reward for being the top seed-being guaranteed to make the final round.  No head start, but you’re guaranteed a 1 in 12 shot of winning the Championship.

Day 5: Championship Final round (18 holes).  Everyone resets to level par.  Low round wins.  No resting on your laurels or playing conservative.  Go for broke time.  Tee times are drawn by lottery.  With six twosomes, there’s no good/bad half of the draw.  No having guys in the field with no practical chance of winning.  12 guys, one round.  With only six tee times, you’re not having to broadcast 8 hours of play.  Low score wins.  You don’t need an abacus to explain anything.  It’s simple, and by resetting everyone, you’re all but guaranteed final round drama (nobody starting with a huge lead and hoping that they fall apart).  Your reward is getting to the Championship Final Round, and hopefully being the best player on the day.

Much like a Super Bowl (full credit to the guys at No Laying Up who compared it to a Super Bowl on their recent podcast), or title game.  You work all season to get to the Championship Final Round, and you either get it done or not.  This would get the casual sports fan to tune in; they understand a Championship Final.

Unlike the last time I fixed the Tour Championship, this time you have the forces of Evil with the Saudi Government getting into the golf business as a mechanism to pretend they’re not monsters.  To avoid keeping guys in the fold, as a condition of being in the Tour Championship, players agree not to join LIV for five years.  Don’t want to sign?  Then you’re ineligible to play in the Tour Championship, and the next ranked player gets in.  Bail out, and you pay all prize money back.  Pensions for defectors also declared null and void less the player’s actual contributions.

I have no desire to watch LIV, even if it were on TV (which as of this writing it’s not).  And I never will.

First prize?  $40 million.

To quote Alec Baldwin in ‘Glengarry, Glen Ross’, do I have your attention?

Also, they need to put the Tour Championship out for bid to other venues.  Nothing against East Lake (or Atlanta) but move it around.  Keep East Lake/Atlanta as part of a ‘rota’ if you want, but throw in a couple West Coast venues into the mix.

Oh, and let the players wear shorts if they want to.  Seriously.

 

Fixing The Olympic Golf Format (You’re Welcome)

Your 2024 Olympic Golf Captain? Maybe!

With the Tokyo Olympics now mid-way through the first week, I thought now would be a good time to figure out how to fix the golf format.  I have the added bonus of getting to wear an air cast for the next few weeks so it’s not like I’m playing anytime soon.  As horrible as the IOC is (I’ve long put them in a sports ‘Axis of Evil’ alongside the NCAA and FIFA, two other entities that serve up their unique brands of corruption, grift and a real hatred of the athletes under their umbrellas), the Olympics continue to provide a shop window that few other sporting events can provide.  It’s the only reason to put up with the IOC.

While a 72-hole stroke play event does provide the players (and core fans) with a familiar feel, the truth is that it does seem like ‘just another event’ minus prize money.  So let’s make some changes, shall we?  I’ve had two bourbons, which is my sweet spot for Good Idea Thinking.  Under my format, the players will play five rounds (at the most) instead of four, but with an additional competition.  I’ll explain.

This will mean that there will be a total of eight days of competition, which is the same exact amount you currently have so the course would not be used any more/less than it would.  I would leave the number of players at 120 (60 men, 60 women).  So far, nothing changes.  The host club (Riviera in 2028 is a fantastic choice), if private, isn’t being unduly put upon any more than they already were.

In the interest of being fair, I flipped a coin and the women will start their event first (it’s largely interchangeable) rather than the men.  The first three days are the women’s team event (30 two-player teams) which will be 54 holes with a cut after two rounds.  Then men’s team event is the same format (30 two-player teams, 54 holes).  Countries would send players in even numbers based on world rankings.  So the men’s and women’s events get cut from 72 to 54 holes to add a 36-hole mixed team event.

Competition Day 1: Women’s Team Event (alternate shot format)

Day 2: Women’s Team Event (foursomes/two-player best ball format).

After the second round, the field is cut to the top 12-18 teams (and ties).  I’m flexible on how deep the cut should be.  Maybe anyone within 8-10 shots of the lead gets through.

Day 3: Women’s Team event final round.  Two-player best-ball format, scores reset so everyone starts the final round at level par.

Medals are awarded in the Women’s Team event.

Then two rest/practice days.

The next event will be a mixed-team event (one male, one female).  With 120 players you’d need a two-tee start (apologies in advance to Justine Reed as her husband and his playing partner will undoubtedly get a “late, then early” start time) but with summer you can easily get players around in plenty of time (Brisbane in 2032 could be tight since it won’t be during their summer but it’s still doable; they get around 11 hours of sunlight in August).  The women would tee off from a forward tee 12-14% shorter than what the men will play, in line with USGA research.

Day 4: Mixed Team event (alternate shot)

Day 5: Mixed Team event (foursomes/two-player best ball)

Medals are awarded in the Mixed team event.

Two rest/practice days.

Competition Day 6: Men’s Team Event (alternate shot format)

Day 7: Men’s Team Event (foursomes/two-player best ball format).

After the second round, the field is cut to the top 12-18 teams (and ties).  As noted earlier, I’m flexible on how deep the cut should be.  Maybe anyone within 8-10 shots of the lead gets through.

Day 8: Men’s Team event final round.  Two-player best-ball format, scores reset so everyone starts the final round at level par.

Medals are awarded in the Men’s Team event.

Nations would require at least four athletes to be eligible (two men, two women) in the top 300 in the world.  This is similar to minimal qualification standards that the IOC already has in place for other events (call it the “Eddie the Eagle” rule).  In lieu of professional status, advancing to the quarter-final stage or better in one of several elite amateur events would also suffice (US Amateur, British Amateur, Asia-Pacific Amateur, etc.).

Restarting the final rounds at 0 for the men’s and women’s events means nobody can play it safe and that any team making that cut has a chance.

This means that there are more medals to compete with, and cutting the men’s and women’s event to 54 holes cuts down on wear and tear and would allow players to arrive late/leave early if they wanted to do that.

Some other rules that I’m adding:

-Men may wear shorts during tournament rounds (the shorts must be the same color as the pants as part of the team’s uniforms, which means if Great Britain is wearing blue pants, players can wear blue shorts) if they choose.

-Max score of double par on any hole during the qualifying rounds (Days 1-2 and 6-7).

-Rangefinders/GPS devices are legal so long as they do not have the slope option engaged.

-American men (looking at you, DJ and others) who qualify and refuse to go over are ineligible for Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup “unless” they have already played in an Olympic event.  My long-held belief is that the Olympics should be a “once in a lifetime” thing for athletes.  Play once, and the option of opting out of future Olympics if the player chooses.  The European Tour can do similar if they choose.

-No caddies (players can use push/pull carts or carry their bags as they prefer) during tournament rounds, however each nation would have a designated non-playing captain (and ONE assistant captain) that the team can consult with prior to and after rounds, along with one three-minute ‘time out’ after the 9th hole.  Three minutes between nines isn’t going to hold things up.

-The IOC will work with the R&A and the USGA for a tournament ball which must be used by all competitors in all rounds.  This would eliminate any confusion about teams having to figure out what ball to use.  The non-playing captain would (for countries with multiple entries) decide who will partner up with whom.  The ball should be made available to players at least 90 days before the start of the Olympics to any players who are possibly eligible so they can get used to it.

-Ties for medal places will be decided in a sudden-death playoff.

-Winning an Olympic event (if professional) provides a 4-year exemption on said player’s tour.  If you want to elevate the event you have to treat it like one.  It also includes entry into the next three years of all major championships.

-The IOC pays for charter flights to take the players from the last tour stop prior to the games to the host city (if they can do it for NHL players they can do it for the best golfers in the world).

So eight days of competition, and six days of practice/off days for a total of 14 days.  This would mean that the players would have the opportunity to march in the opening and closing ceremonies if they chose to since for many, this is a huge component of attending.  Or, they can opt to come in later/leave earlier.  Flexibility.

A team event would level the playing field to a degree and offer something different and unique (and we’ve all been wanting to see a mixed-team event).  The idea came to me from watching the mixed curling at the 2018 Winter Olympics (the men and the women had their own separate events in addition to the team competition).  The schedule builds rest and practice in which (assuming we’re not dealing with a pandemic in Paris) allows the players to have that Olympic experience in every possible way.  Similar, but unique and for most, a true once-in-a-lifetime event which is what the Olympics should be.

 

Public Golf Done Exceptionally Well

Everyone in our group on the green. Someone’s closer! 6th hole, Los Lagos Course at Costa Mesa CC.

There’s an old plot line in movies where the answer to the great mystery was right under their noses the whole time.  Whether it’s the murder weapon that was in plain sight or the murderer was someone everyone knew, it’s an old trope.  It’s what I’ve been thinking about over the last week.

A month ago, I was at home, enjoying Memorial Day weekend (remembering it was cool and rainy for much of it) and not really thinking about much.  I had played a couple rounds this year and hadn’t done that well.  Then, a week later things got turned upside down and not in a good way, and I found myself driving out west to Southern California for family reasons (given the complete shit-show that air travel has become, I declined that option, not to mention paying hundreds of dollars a day for a car rental).

Mostly out of habit, I took my clubs with me, thinking (correctly) that I’d have free time to play.  Since playing at sunrise is kind of my thing, it worked out, which left me plenty of time for the horror show that the last week-plus has been.

Southern California was where the golf bug first bit me, influenced heavily by my Aunt who was an avid player (not a big hitter off the tee but I remain envious of her short game).  While she was a member at a couple private clubs in Texas and Oklahoma, our rounds were played on public (muni) tracks in Southern California (specifically, Orange County).  Nondescript places that seemed beneath her, but that she seemed to enjoy playing nonetheless.  Still remember her clowning a couple guys we got paired with who weren’t thrilled at getting paired with a female player (she easily beat them by 25 strokes).  She died the day of the final round of the 1987 Masters (watching it, of course).  Literally on death’s door, watching to see if Greg Norman could finally get over (he didn’t).

Turns out that you can go home again, even if you didn’t really want to.

My golf adventure last month started at the fancily-named (but very much not fancy) Costa Mesa Country Club, a 36-hole facility with a few holes that border a mental hospital, a few holes that border a high school, and a few holes that bordered a jogging/biking path.  I played the longer of the two courses (Los Lagos) for both rounds, which runs just over 6500 yards from the tips and a very manageable 6200 yards from the middle tees (I played it twice; once from each set).  The course is quite flat with only a few holes having any kind of elevation change.  Walking rates are $36 Monday-Thursday, $39 Friday, and $52 Saturday-Sunday.  The shorter Mesa Linda course maxes out at just over 5,400 yards and is quite flat.  It’s only $29 to walk Monday-Thursday, $34 Friday and $43 Saturday-Sunday.  The Mesa Linda would be a GREAT place for a shorter hitter to play.  It’s just fun.

First tee at Los Lagos course. Not much of a marine layer on the day.

Fairways are generally pretty generous, rough is minimal.  Greens were in good shape; certainly not tour speed but they were rolling consistently with very few burned-out areas.  Okay, there were a few bare spots in fairways and some of the paths weren’t pristine (a mix of dirt and rock), but at these rates the course clearly has their priorities in shape.  It’s fun.  The people you’ll play with are the salt-of-the-earth types who make the game great.  Waiting in line to check in for my 5:34 a.m. time, I got to chatting with a few guys who are regulars.  The course is quite popular for people who will play the back nine early.  If that’s you, get there early.  There will be a line.

Pre-sunrise at Costa Mesa CC. Already a dozen or so other cars in the parking lot behind me.

No expense spared on this handy map. But who cares? It’s a great place to play.

Los Lagos starts with back-to-back par 5’s, and finishes with a par 5 as well for a total of five par-5’s on the course with yardages ranging from 520-567 yards (from the tips).  Water only comes into play on a few holes.  The par 4’s are also widely varied (from 320-420 yards).  There’s yardage plates in the middle of the fairways at 200, 150 and 100 yards that can appear to be hidden, so a rangefinder/GPS device isn’t the worst thing to have.  If you play in the afternoon expect a breeze off the ocean (only 5-6 miles from the ocean).

Teeing off on #10 at Mile Square (classic). This sums up the vibe pretty well.

My next port of call was Mile Square Golf Course, another 36-hole facility in Fountain Valley, the town where I went to high school and spent some formative years getting into various kinds of trouble (my attorney has advised me from making any additional statements).  The town may lack a certain verve and excitement (I mean, the city’s motto is “a nice place to live”) but it gets golf right.  There are two main courses (the older ‘Classic’ course and a newer ‘Players’ course that there are rumours about it shuttering; hopefully this doesn’t happen), plus an 18-hole ‘Executive’ course (David L. Baker) on the north side of the park that is lit should you want to play at night (why more courses don’t do this remains a mystery).  Of the two main courses, it’ll run you $41 Monday-Thursday and $55 Friday-Sunday to walk.  Both courses are easily walkable.  Flat and with minimal distances between holes.  The majority of people playing either carried or were part of the Push Cart Mafia.  There’s a driving range and several practice greens.

Like Costa Mesa CC, the cart paths are beat up, but the fairways (and especially the greens) were in good shape.  The greens are especially good.  They use recycled water so best to not lick your ball if it rolled in the dew.  In the DC area this course would be full at $70-$90.  The 9th hole runs parallel to a busy street so going right is highly unadvisable.  Both courses are very busy so expect a 4-5 hour round (I played early on a Saturday morning and finished in 4:15; the group in front of us were lagging a bit but they were apologetic about it and were trying to keep up).  Like Costa Mesa (and Meadowlark, below) playing in the afternoon means you’re getting a sea breeze coming from the ocean almost every day.

From the rough on #1 at the Classic Course at Mile Square.

Mile Square Park is very much a public park, and it was playing here that a light came on in the normally empty space that is my head.  On the front nine, a few holes border a series of baseball fields where kids were out practicing and playing.  Soccer fields sat empty but it was obvious that they’d be in use that day.  Outdoor basketball courts were visible as well.  On the back nine, more soccer fields and several softball fields were getting used, with the softball games drawing heavy crowds.  There’s even a nature preserve, and of course lots of running/walking/biking trails.

Unless dirt/rock cart paths bug you (and they don’t bug me), Mile Square is a great place to play. It’s flat (I was at an angle).

The country club set would probably shiver and require fainting couches for having to play amid young girls and their parents cheering wildly at base hits and runs, but I found that it didn’t detract from my round.  And shouldn’t THAT be the standard?  Why can’t we co-exist?  Shouldn’t a public park that has golf (and other sports) be able to exist peacefully?  Why yell at each other when it just seems easier to get along.

Flirted with a watery grave on the 14th hole at Mile Square.

If I did have a complaint, it’s for a lack of a short (under 130 yards) par 3.  The 13th hole (below) is the shortest hole at 144 yards from the middle tees.  The other par 3’s are 155, 170 and 165 yards from the middle tees.

13th hole at Mile Square (classic). Shortest par 3 on the course (144 from the middle tees).  Behind us were a few softball fields that had games going on.  Wish they were cheering for me but such is life.

My last round was at Meadowlark GC in Huntington Beach.  It was a challenge to get on at Meadowlark since they don’t take walk-ins as of this writing but I managed to get a tee time.  It would have been nice if I’d have managed to charge my phone to take a few photos but I dropped the ball on that one.  Meadowlark is relatively tame on the scorecard, topping out at just over 5,600 yards from the tips.  However, the ocean is only a mile or so away so an ocean breeze should be expected most of the time.  Meadowlark is tighter than the other courses and wayward shots can bring some challenges into play.  Rough was a non-issue; greens were good (all of the courses have poa annua greens if you care; it’s quite common here as are the kikuyu fairways and tee boxes; you’ll find the same down the road at Torrey Pines); maybe not as good as those at Mile Square but decent.  Some areas weren’t lush but were burned out a bit, but generally speaking the fairways and greens were more than playable.

The course very much fits on the small plot of land it occupies.  With a couple exceptions the course is relatively flat, and the pricing is quite reasonable.  Walking rates vary from $34-$50 depending on day of week.  When I was there I saw a significant number (close to, but not quite 50%) of players using pull/push carts.

In four rounds, I didn’t lose a single ball.  I didn’t play that well and certainly didn’t score well, but I was able to avoid any big trouble (not that these courses have much).  Meadowlark probably has a couple holes with water very much in play where losing a ball is fairly easy (water at Mile Square is only on a few holes and a couple at Los Lagos at Costa Mesa).  Like Mile Square, there are a couple holes where getting wild puts your ball on a busy street so please don’t.

Look, if you’re visiting Orange County, a trip to some of the tonier public courses (Pelican Hill, Strawberry Farms, Coyote Hills, Tustin Ranch, Monarch Beach) is certainly a fantastic day out especially if money isn’t an object (Pelican Hill’s views are especially fantastic; played it once in 1996 when a colleague paid for us to play), but I’d argue that you don’t need to break the bank in order to play good golf.  While Costa Mesa, Mile Square and Meadowlark don’t have million-dollar views, they’re what public golf should be.  Affordable, fun, and a vital part of the community and populated by your fellow public golfers who love the game.  Mile Square is where I came to love this game, and while she may not be the belle of the ball, she can dance with me anytime she wants.  Just don’t go right on #9.

 

 

 

We’re Dealing With a Lot of Shit

I’ve been here. It was prettier than I can explain.

It’s been a rough few weeks here at SGIC Amalgamated Industries.  Nothing really golf-related, but a bunch of other stuff that’s going on and making things less than ideal.  Things that I’m not really ready to discuss right now.  Maybe later once there’s some kind of a resolution.

As usual, my US Open picks were a mixed bag:

Of my five picked guys, I had Rahm winning along with Xander and Casey finishing tied for 7th.  Not bad.  Conners missed the cut which was a shock given his form and his underlying stats, and Viktor Hovland WD from getting sand in his eye wasn’t expected.   With no single dominant player, lately it’s been a lot of first-time winners (I’m still not sure what to make of Mickelson’s win in Kiawah Island at the USPGA).

My white-hot take on the Olympics: the format is boring and needs changing.  A 2-person team competition would be interesting, even a hybrid match play event where they play 36 holes of stroke play to qualify, and the top 16 qualify for the match play portion.  I’d encourage the IGF (the sport’s global governing body) to work with the major pro tours (PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, European Tour, etc.) and find out what they would like to see in terms of format.  By that, get input from players as well as buy-in.  As I’ve said before, the sport has a shop window that no tournament ever gives them.  Despite the rampant corruption of the IOC, it is in everyone’s interest to find a way to make it work.

I would also add that part of this has to be provisions for the players to get to/from the Olympics as easy as possible.  This means chartered flights to the Olympics and back to the next tournament after the Olympics are done.  You also have to allow the players’ coaches, caddies and trainers full access to the players at all times (and provide facilities for treatment).  This also means the caddies get the full Olympic Village treatment and get better treatment than they’re used to (and are part of those chartered flights).

My other thought?   Present this to the players as a “once in a lifetime” deal, which is what the Olympics really should be.  Meaning, they go and play once and they can opt out of future events.  I don’t think asking a player to give up two weeks of their season ONCE in their careers is a big deal (maybe have the Tour award FedEx/CME Globe points to those that play in the Olympics; I’d even be happy if they got a 3 to 5 year exemption for medaling and an exemption similar to winning a major for winning gold).  If a player (this is mainly for US players) refuses to go over after qualifying (and having never played in an Olympics previously), then they should be ineligible for Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup events.  Once a player plays once, they can opt out with no penalty/disciplinary problem.

DJ’s father in law showing what the Olympics meant to him.

Courses?  For 2024 in Paris, Le Golf National (venue of the 2018 Ryder Cup) makes complete sense.  It has the infrastructure to host the players and galleries.

My wish list for Los Angeles in 2028?

  1. Riviera.  Central location, the course bleeds history, and it would be nice to have the women finally be able to play a high-profile event at Riviera.  They certainly deserve to play on the elite-level courses.
  2. LACC.  Location, history are there.  The question will be how well it holds up during the 2023 US Open and if the membership are willing to host an Olympics five years after hosting a US Open.
  3. Rancho Park.  If you’re going to create a legacy (something that the Games love to talk about), you put Bethpage Black level funding into making Rancho Park a great course.   This is swinging for the fences time.  You redo it, and you leave a legacy where Angelinos can play an Olympic course.  Central location, and the public/muni course is a tremendous demonstration about walking the walk when it comes to leaving a legacy for people.
  4. Rustic Canyon.  It’s not a central location, but the bones are obviously there.
  5. Pasatiempo.  Again, it’s not in Southern California, but we’re talking once in a lifetime stuff here.   The course might struggle to test the elite men, but it’s certainly held its own against the best college players.

SONG OF THE DAY

Vastly underrated, Everything But The Girl have been making records since the early 80’s.  This song is a mix of house, coffee house jazz, EDM, and some other stuff.

2021 Masters Picks

When everyone else is going to the dance and you’re at home. Sorry, Rick.

It’s that time of year again.  The Azaleas and Dogwoods are blooming in Georgia (and here in the DMV my seasonal allergies are just starting to kick in), which means it’s Masters Tournament (or Toon-A-Mint if you prefer) week.  It’s the first major of the year, unlike last year when it was the last.  The usual suspects (minus Angel Cabrera who is toiling on the Argentinian-Brazilian Penal Tour) are all in place, and Jim Nantz is ready to do what he does.

Having performed the kind of deep analysis that I’m known for, I’m ready to make my picks for the week.  First, some talking points:

  1. 11 of the last 15 years and 8 of the last 10 years have seen first-time winners.  The repeat winners?  Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, and some Tiger fella.
  2. This leads me to think it’ll be a first-time winner.
  3. The average winning score over the last10 years is 12 under (276).
  4. In the last 10 years, there have been 6 US winners and 4 non-US winners.
  5. Winning the Players Championship and/or the Match Play all but take you out of winning the Masters, so no go to Justin Thomas and Billy Horschel (understandable if Horschel is still exhausted from playing so much in Austin).

Picking five guys who will be your contenders for winning, I’ve come up with the following:

Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Xander Shauffele,  Sungjae Im, Daniel Berger.

Just missing: Jason Day, Tony Finau.

Guys I’m rooting for: Marc Leishman, Mackenzie Hughes, Corey Conners, Max Homa.

Spieth, Dechambeau, Rory will finish just out in that top 15-25 area.

Let’s hope that in a week we remember the tournament for great golf and not because of something else. Please.

 

 

Who Runs What; Explained

We’re now into April of 2021, and slowly, our cold winter is starting to give way to spring.  Hello, budding trees, green grass, and in a few weeks millions upon millions of cicadas will invade the area for their once-every-seventeen-year brood (i.e. sex party).  There will be pollen, and your faithful scribe will spend a good amount of the next several weeks sneezing.  It’s not COVID, it’s allergies.  Oh, and seemingly smart people will show zero clue about who runs what in professional and amateur golf.

While we here at SGIC Amalgamated Industries support freedoms and we support people using their constitutional rights, generally speaking we avoid getting involved in political issues because it’s not really why SGIC Amalgamated Industries was started.  Plus, we like to find things that unite us and not divide us which was the whole point behind this project.  Golf was, is and should always be for everyone who loves the game (and the course along with their fellow players).  But, we wanted to help provide an explainer on who runs what, so that people might actually know who is (and is not) behind certain events, given how often people lump certain terms together.  In short, if you’re going to get angry, it’s a good idea if you knew who to actually get angry at.  You’re welcome.

PGA: Professional Golfers Association. Most golf-playing countries have one.  The PGA of America is made up of club professionals (i.e. teaching professionals) who work at courses and typically focus on teaching the game to others.  The PGA of America run the PGA Championship (held this year at Kiawah Island in South Carolina), the LPGA Championship (held this year at Atlanta Athletic Club) and the US side of the Ryder Cup (held this year at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin; it was moved from 2020 due to COVID), which is held every other year between the United States and Europe.  Relocated the 2022 PGA Championship to Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The PGA was not, is not, and will not be the PGA Tour.  Two completely different organizations run by completely different people.  More on that in a moment.  Suzy Whaley is the current President of the PGA of America.  The PGA of America has nothing to do with a certain invitational tournament played in Georgia in early April (more on that later).

PGA Tour: Player-run organization that runs non-major championship golf made up of members who are touring professionals (i.e. NOT typically teaching professionals).  Phil Mickelson probably doesn’t spend 3 hours a day folding sweaters and giving hourly lessons for 4-5 hours a day (I mean, he “might” but I doubt it) and Tiger Woods isn’t doing weekly lessons with your Uncle Pete (unless your Uncle Pete is exceedingly rich and was able to convince Tiger to give him a lesson).  The Commissioner of the PGA Tour is Jay Monahan.  The LPGA Tour Commissioner is currently Mike Whan (who is leaving his position).  The PGA Tour also runs The Presidents Cup, an every-other-year team event between the United States and an International Team (made up of non-European countries).

USGA: United States Golf Association.  Organization that runs national championships (US Open, US Women’s Open, US Amateur, US Women’s Amateur among others), and is responsible for the US version of the rules of golf.  They also provide testing and approvals on playing equipment (clubs, balls) and handicapping (enabling players to sign up for an official USGA handicap using the new World Handicap System), which is designed to allow players of different abilities to have a competitive match.  Their involvement with professional golf is limited to the US Open championships (which are open to professional and amateur players) for men, women and senior men.

ANGC: Augusta National Golf Club.  Private golf club based in Augusta, Georgia typically open from October until May (they close during the summer months).  Runs every aspect of The Masters tournament (typically played in early April), along with the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt event for children (typically held the Sunday before the start of the Masters Tournament).  They do not disclose their membership list, and membership is by invitation only.  However, an Internet search “could” find a membership list sorted by the State that the member lives in.  The Masters Tournament TV contract is its own entity; it is not part of any other TV contract.  CBS and ESPN are the current US rights holders; the contract is typically done only one year at a time, and ANGC signs off on any announcers covering the event (Gary McCord was removed from the CBS crew after some critical comments about the course setup).

 

 

 

The Worst Golf Movies, Not In Any Particular Order

The Judge is waiting for a better golf movie.

As a rule I don’t watch Inaugurations even though I’ve lived in the DC area for a while.  Usually I’m working, and in 2001 (Inauguration fell on a Saturday that year) I was on a flight to the west coast when George W. Bush was sworn in (I was trying to avoid bad weather).  It’s nothing political, it’s just not my bag.  I’ll probably watch some of the Inaugural address when I have the time to pay attention.

So on this Inauguration Day, since the departing and newly-sworn in POTUS both play (one a lot more than the other), I thought I’d do a deep dive of the worst golf movies.  Everyone has their top-5 or top-10.  This is a top-7 list.  Some of them you’ll recall instantly, and others you’ll have forgotten (or tried to forget) they existed.

Before I jump into the list, I thought it would be helpful if I provided my methodology in how I reviewed these films.

  • Story.  Does the plot make sense?  Does the script follow a progression?
  • Acting.  How good are the actors?
  • Golf.  Do the golf scenes look realistic?  Do the actors/actresses who are playing golf appear to know what they’re doing (if they’re playing characters who are pros/elite amateurs)?  Much like hockey films, this is an area that gets overlooked (I’m looking at you, Mighty Ducks trilogy).  The better option is to do what the producers did for the hockey film “Miracle” which is find guys who can play hockey and teach them acting (the hockey scenes are VERY good).
  • Directing.  How are the golf scenes shot?  Are there obvious continuity errors?  Do the scenes ‘look’ genuine?
  • Re-watch factor.  The best golf films can be re-watched.  Would you want to re-watch?

Again, this list is not in any particular order.  I took notes, watched films, and that’s it.  These films are all uniquely bad for reasons I’ll get into.

  1. Caddyshack II (released 1988).  This falls into how I feel about the sequels to Slap Shot (hockey people feel about Slap Shot what golfers feel about Caddyshack; notably the sequel(s) were terrible ideas).  They’re terrible, poorly conceived, horribly written and to borrow a phrase, the audience is the worse for having watched it.  Much of the original cast is gone and replaced with people who should know better.  Robert Stack as the Judge Smails and Jackie Mason as the Al Czervik is all you need to know.  Beyond terrible and not even in a “so bad it’s good” way.  Insipid.  Awful.  The best thing I can say about these films is that Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray and Ted Knight had the decency to run away from this flaming turd of a film.  The people who made this film should apologize to anyone who’s had to sit through it.
  2. Happy Gilmore (released 1996).  I know there are people who like this film as it’s an Adam Sandler film and he has his fans.  This ain’t it, chief.  Sandler has “one” character he plays with very few exceptions (the odd drama film).  He’s playing Adam Sandler Comedic Goof.  The golf plotline is terrible and completely divorced from reality.  The continuity errors are in the dozens (obviously shot at multiple locations at different times of the year and changing for no reason).  Christopher McDonald’s ‘Shooter McGavin’ character is the only thing decent.  Again- touring pros AND a then-nascent Golf Channel bought onto this.  A poster child for failing to get the details right.
  3. Greatest Game Ever Played (released 2005).  A good book does not always make for a good movie.  The problems start with Shia Lebeouf, who is awful as the film’s lead Francis Ouimet.  His golf swing is god-awful.  It’s worse than Matt Damon’s in ‘Bagger Vance’ which is saying something.  At no point do you think he’s playing that role.  He’s just Shia Lebeouf looking like a 30-handicap chopper in period dress.  I wanted to like this film (seriously- the book is good).  It’s awful.  Shia should apologize to Stephen Dillane who is actually good.  The film makes several factual errors that go against what actually happened.
  4. The Tiger Woods Story (released 1998).  The Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie enema of golf films.  Undoubtedly some smooth-brained troglodyte wearing white shoes and a nose ring thought to greenlight this dumpster fire after his Masters win.  The lead (whose name bears not repeating) didn’t really look like Woods, and the golf scenes are awful.  It’s consistently awful.   No thought was put into this film.  It jumps around without ever actually making a point.  I had forgotten it existed until I started researching this.  I feel gross.  The script (assuming there was one) has all the emotion of a manila envelope.
  5. Who’s Your Caddy (released 2007).  If you don’t understand golf, don’t do golf films.  Not authentic.  More of a comedic vehicle.  It’s as if they thought “we have this dumpster fire of a script with comedic actors, let’s spin the wheel and find out some details….and hey let’s have them be caddies!” or something.   At some point someone is going to make a great film about caddies (Tin Cup does the role ‘some’ justice).  This…is not that film.  It’s not to say that every golf scene has to involve professionals, but if the actors are playing pros/elite amateurs they should look the part.  A good example of not good players in a great scene?  The golf scene in ‘Sideways’.  Two guys who aren’t any good but who make bad swings and look the part.  Anyone who’s played a lot of public golf can relate to Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church being in front of them and the reactions from everyone.
  6. A Gentleman’s Game (released 2002).  A 90-minute slog about adolescence and being honest.  Less a golf movie and more of an After-School Special (kids, ask your parents) with Gary Sinise.  Instead of “Timmy discovers marijuana!?!” it’s “Timmy sees the mean old man cheating and being a racist.”  Which is bad.  So don’t cheat.  Don’t be racist.  Be honest.  Don’t cheat.  Eat your vegetables and bathe daily.  Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
  7. The Squeeze (released 2015).  Directed by former ABC golf producer Terry Jastrow who is well connected in Hollywood and golf circles.  Anne Archer was part of the production.  Christopher McDonald and Jeremy Sumpter are in it.  And yet,  it’s not any good.  A good third of the film has zero relevancy to the plot (none of it remaining part of answering the basic “What’s the Story?” question).  The plot gets in its own way.  The golf scenes in the main match are well done, but the rest of the film jumps around.  When I heard about it I really thought it would be better.  It’s not.  Luckily it’s confined to Golf Channel.

So that’s it.  Seven golf films not worth your time.  Hopefully ‘someone’ can write a script for a golf movie that gets the golf parts correct and can couple that with a good story.  Movies, at their best, tell great stories.  Let’s hope so.

Yes, This Is A List Of 2022 PGA Championship Replacement Options

Not to brag or anything, but in my last blog post I predicted (correctly) that the PGA of America would move the 2022 PGA Championship away from Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey.  I didn’t think it would happen this quickly (I tended to lean in the direction that John Feinstein indicated where it would be announced after Joe Biden was sworn in).

So now it’s gone, and the R&A have also indicated that they have no desire to bring any of their championships to Turnberry.

https://twitter.com/RandA/status/1348631505254440960

Pretty clear.  I don’t know if the USGA has put anything out (as of this writing they haven’t), or if there is an internal understanding that they will never pursue that option.  Honestly either one works at this point, although on some level Trump has to know that he will never see another major championship (his course in Sterling, Virginia hosted the 2017 Senior PGA Championship and his course in New Jersey hosted the 2017 US Women’s Open) at one of his courses.

So what to do with the 2022 PGA Championship?  My thoughts keep going to the idea that 2021 is going to be a ‘highly limited or no fans’ option (in which case you have options you otherwise wouldn’t have) and that Kiawah would be smart to agree to move to 2022, opening up this year.  But, the logistics then become a nightmare.  So, if you’re hosting it in May of 2022 (and Kiawah isn’t moving off of this year) and need a venue, here are my suggestions, in no particular order:

  1. Bethpage Black.  It’s very much on the PGA’s radar, and is slated to host the Ryder Cup in 2025.  In the same general area as New Jersey.  A good trial balloon for security and routing come 2025, which should be bonkers.  Going to a public course would be a good statement about accessibility of the game if that’s something the PGA of America cares about.
  2. Chambers Bay. Has the space to hold a major championship and by all accounts they don’t have the turf issues they had in 2015.  Reminder that west coast events mean a prime time finish on the east coast.  Also means thunderstorms aren’t really an issue.  Do not let anyone from the USGA on course grounds unless they buy a ticket.
  3. Riviera.  Move the Genesis Open to Sherwood for one year (which can accommodate fans), and play the PGA at Riviera.  West Coast prime time finish on a course that everyone respects.  May in California would be perfect.
  4. Hazeltine.  One of those PGA shortlist venues that has hosted PGA-run events.  May in Minnesota is a bit of a lottery weather-wise, but Minnesotans have long shown they will turn up for events.
  5. TPC Potomac.  Not sure if the PGA would ever go to a TPC network course, but it’s shown it holds up to modern pros when you look at scores from the last year of the AT&T National.  Not slated to host anything so not like nearby Congressional having to give up their course for renovations, then majors.
  6. Pebble Beach.  It “has” hosted a PGA (1977).  The ultimate in “plug and play” courses.  Long history, everyone knows the course, and west coast takes thunderstorms (and dangerous heat/humidity) out of play.

Some 2021 Golf Predictions You Probably Didn’t Ask For

I see things…

Why, hello there.  It’s New Year’s Day 2021, and we’re all still here.  Nobody’s hung over because we were all responsible and stayed home in small groups rather than going out to large parties (unless you’re rich or an elected official, in which case fill your boots on the taxpayer dime).  After an off-season of a few weeks, the 2021 PGA Tour golf season starts next week in Hawaii.  The LPGA gets things going a few weeks later in Florida (I know I say this all the time, but seriously- if you only have time to watch one tour, watch the LPGA).

I’m sure that there are those who have made predictions on every event already, and while I admire their commitment, I’m not that writer.  I just don’t have the time to keep up, and neither do you in all likelihood.  However, I’ve put together some prognostications about the game that I’ve broken down into the following categories: Professional Tours, Media/Publications/Equipment, and Local News.

PRO TOURS

One of the California West Coast events is getting moved/postponed/canceled.  The COVID situation in Southern California is beyond dire (they’re out of hospital beds and are turning away patients from hospitals).  They had to move the Rose Bowl game to Texas.  If you look at the events in La Quinta (Amex), La Jolla (Farmers Insurance) and LA (Genesis), it’s hard to see these events taking place unless there is a massive sea change in cases.  For the record, I’m hoping that this doesn’t happen and that the caseloads in California plummet and everything reverts to pre-COVID world.

We will see another fan-less West Coast swing and (unfortunately) a fan-less Masters.  This isn’t political.  COVID isn’t going to go away because of a new administration.  If 35-40% of the population keeps going around thinking that it’s some giant hoax, then nothing is going to change.

The 2022 PGA Championship is getting moved.  My out-of-the-box suggestion?  Cancel the Genesis in February and move the 2021 PGA from Kiawah to Riviera.  Then play the 2022 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.  If the PGA of America thought the 1990 event was unpleasant, playing the 2022 event where its scheduled to be held will be far worse.

A Canadian man and at least one American woman are going to win majors in 2021.

Bryson DeChambeau will win at least one event and will skip an event due to injury.

Two of the men’s major winners will be first-time winners.

Europe will retain the Ryder Cup.

At least one prominent American male player will opt out of participating in the Olympics.

MEDIA/EQUIPMENT/PUBLICATIONS

CBS and NBC will continue the trial balloon of dumping some weekend coverage onto their over-the-top streaming services (CBS All Access and Peacock respectively).  There will be complaints and ratings will be flat/down slightly.

Brandel Chamblee will say something outrageous.  It will be forgotten within 72 hours.

Golf Channel will be talking about doing another reboot or possibly pushing the majority of its programming to Peacock by the end of 2021.

CBS and NBC will add another 1-2 minutes of commercials to their weekend coverage, angering viewers.  All because they overpaid for the PGA Tour rights package (bidding against who I have no idea) for reasons that make zero sense.

Expect the legacy golf magazines to trim another 1-2 issues per year off the print editions.  And yet, there will be at least 27 subscription forms in each copy.  Their equipment issues will have the kind of conflicts of interest that would never been allowed a decade ago.

Brick and mortar stores that thrive will figure out the secret sauce that makes them a better option than online.  This will start with better size options, and better service.  My plea to the stores: make the experience of shopping in your stores better than shopping online.  Please.  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve gone into a pro shop/store with money to spend and walk out because nothing they have in the store is my size, I could easily pay for a round anywhere except Pebble Beach and TPC Sawgrass.

2022 is going to be interesting because several NBC/Comcast rights deals (NHL, Premier League) come up for renewal (the NHL deal comes up after this season).  Could this open the floodgates for a consolidation of golf TV rights?  I know this seems insane, but if I told you that Fox was going to walk away from its USGA package in 2020, would you have thought I was crazy 12 months ago?

LOCAL NEWS

Rounds played in the DMV will take a slight hit when the cicadas make their once-every-17-years appearance this spring.  You’ve been warned.  Last time was in 2004 (courses without a lot of trees won’t have any issues).  The largest factor in the area will remain the weather.  If it’s favorable (we have normal rainfall, spring starts when it’s supposed to and it’s not surface of the sun hot for two months straight), then people will show up.  This area is still underserved with respect to public courses.

More of a wish, but Columbia Association will decide that they’ve done enough to screw up golf courses (they’re treading dangerously into Everything They Touch Dies territory) and turn over management of both Hobbits Glen and Fairway Hills to one of the big boys of course management (Troon, Kemper Sports, Billy Casper, ClubCorp, hell at this point might as well enlist Club Pro Guy and his fine superintendent Miguel Vega).  If anyone at CA is reading this, you have zero clue how to run a golf course and the people who actually work at your courses know this better than I do.   Actually, Columbia Association can’t really run a literal one-car parade.  They screwed up their gyms, they tried suing to prevent the annual Festival of Lights at Merriweather, and they’re doing their dead level best to continue to piss people off.

No local courses are going to close in 2021.  There was enough of a cull in 2018-2019 (and there definitely was one) and 2020 ended up being pretty good in terms of rounds played (once courses opened).   For now, all eyes are on DC as we watch to see what happens with the DC courses being redone by The Links Trust (Tom Doak and Gil Hanse working together) and eventually being managed by Troon.

Expect a hurricane, record rainfall, record heat and several other acts of God from August 23-29.  The BMW Championship is at Baltimore’s Caves Valley.  You think I’m kidding.  Not even a bit.  I’m old enough to remember the TUESDAY FINISH in 2006 at the then-FBR Open at what is now TPC Potomac.  I really hope I’m wrong on this, but history doesn’t exactly bode well.

I will play when I can, and probably maintain the kind of mediocrity that I’m famous for.  But I play fast, so there’s that.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year, and let’s all hope that in 12 months we’re remembering 2021 for the good things.

SONG OF THE DAY

This is more than 35 years old and it’s still good.  From the OG’s of Goth:

I Fixed Golf Channel. You’re Welcome

Hey Everybody! It’s New and Improved!

With the news that Golf Channel has closed their Orlando studios and relocated in Stamford, CT (just outside of New York) along with the rest of NBC’s sports programming, it’s time to take a deep dive on how to keep Golf Channel relevant in 2021 and beyond.  I had extended family call Stamford home (they’ve since passed), and by all accounts it’s a lovely town (haven’t been back in several years).

As with most things, it took a notepad, two bourbons, and an open mind.  These changes don’t require significant investment, and will provide greater depth of coverage.

Bringing Shane Bacon on board to host ‘Golf Today’ (replacing ‘Morning Drive’) is a great first step that has been universally praised (and rightly so).  Shane was easily the best part of FOX’s USGA coverage.  It helps that nearly everyone who’s met him has said he’s a great guy.  He will also be on-site at major events as part of their ‘Life From’ coverage.

However, there are additional changes that are needed.  These changes are about adapting and trying to stay ahead of the curve.  The goal should be to continue to engage the core audience but also grow their viewership.  These changes reflect what I think is an expansion on Arnold Palmer’s vision for the network, while embracing the future of television.

  1. Addition of a rules expert at all PGA/LPGA Tour event coverage.  Not just during the majors but every week; the rules person can work out of their studios in Stamford.  Think how FOX and CBS each have a rules expert for their NFL and college football coverage who works from their studio.   While they’re at it, rules officials at tournaments should be wearing wireless mics so that viewers can easily hear what’s being said.  Nothing on this side of the Atlantic will match the master of what this can look like (seriously, Nigel is a cult figure); Slugger White wishes he were Nigel Owens.
  2. Addition of a weekly program devoted to NCAA golf coverage.  If they’re going to be serious about showing the NCAA championships and a few random tournaments, start here.   A weekly 60-minute show that has tournament highlight clips, previews of upcoming events and rankings isn’t a huge ask.  This can and should help them naturally build to their NCAA tournament coverage in April and May (you already have dedicated networks for the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and PAC-12 so it’s just down to assembling clips).
  3. CNBC has to become their default ‘overflow’ option on weekends (I get not wanting to use it during the week when the financial markets are open).  I like ‘Shark Tank’ and ‘Undercover Boss’ reruns and I’m sure others do as well, but there’s no reason to not use CNBC as the ‘overflow’ option.  It has good market penetration and won’t be a hard-to-find channel for viewers.
  4. Peacock (premium) should be used for next-generation stuff and/or alternate feeds.  If you want to try something new or out of the box, use Peacock for it (and go commercial free).  I’ve seen other platforms have a ‘fan commentary’ option (one example- having a European fan and a US fan doing commentary during the Ryder Cup).   In short, Peacock becomes their lab, which will enhance its value as a “plus” option.
  5. Make movie night great again.  Film interviews with the crews who did ‘Caddyshack’, ‘Bagger Vance’, ‘Greatest Game’, ‘Tin Cup’, etc.  And while you’re at it, obtain the rights for ‘Dead Solid Perfect’ (you can blur out the nude scene,- just don’t blur out the ice bucket…if you know, you know).  Even better- show the films uncut after hours.  Fine; you don’t want the kids to hear the swears or see partial nudity at 8:00 p.m., but overnight go wild (BTW, this doesn’t fall under FCC ‘decency’ standards laws because it’s cable).  ESPN Classic (when it existed) did this (talk to the filmmakers) for a ton of sports films.  MLB Network and NHL Network have done this for a few baseball and hockey films.  Go back and insert blurbs on these screenings (“this clip was filmed at Shady Pines CC in June 1981” or “this clip was shot after filming because Craig Stadler stained his pants and there wasn’t backup wardrobe”).
  6. Behind The Scenes at the Ryder Cup.  I’ve seen these ‘warts and all’ documentaries done, and when they’re done well they’re fantastic.  The Netflix series “Sunderland ‘Til I Die’, the HBO “24/7 Winter Classic (the first year especially when it was the Penguins-Capitals), the HBO “Hard Knocks” and the rugby union Lions Tour behind the scenes documentaries (on YouTube) are great stuff.  NBC/Golf Channel should insist on doing one.  Bring viewers into the team rooms, into the conference rooms where the team selection is debated, and follow players, captains and assistant captains around.
  7. Movies, Part II.  Run a contest for the next great golf film similar to HBO’s ‘Project Greenlight’.  Allow submissions, and pick one to option out for production.
  8. In addition to the “Inside The PGA Tour” weekly program, now that the PGA and LPGA Tours have a relationship, there should be an “Inside The LPGA Tour” program as well that gets aired and syndicated.  I’d bet Mike Whan would agree to this in about two seconds.
  9. More of a PGA/LPGA Tour issue, but they need to get the collective stick out of their butts when it comes to users posting clips on social media.  I understand ‘but muh broadcast rights’ but allowing a user to post 2-3 clips of 60-90 seconds per day on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/TikTok should be embraced.  If the Tours want to require their social media accounts are shared along with the video, then great (better social media engagement!).  But that clip of Bryson Dechambeau having a meltdown back in the summer was spectacular.  Like it or not this is how many people ‘consume’ content.
  10.  Find someone who can do long-form interviews.  I like David Feherty, but his act has gotten stale (not just his interviews).  The person who might be best suited is now at ESPN (Scott Van Pelt), so this may be one of those ‘develop someone internally’ deals.
  11. Nine-hole versions of ‘Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf’ with two-player mixed teams.  Three holes alternate shot, three holes shamble, three holes two-person best ball.  Something that can be consolidated into a 60-minute show.  Nine holes to cut down on time commitments and allow them to film content easier.
  12. In the spirit of ESPN8 (“the ocho”) have 1-2 days a year devoted to infomercials or their older programming (Kessler’s old interviews for starters).  They brought back old episodes of ‘The Big Break’ during the shutdown; go deeper and older.  Embrace history, but continue to look to the future.

Never stop innovating.  I know 2020 was rough on people for a host of reasons, but if you’re reading this, I sincerely hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday/festive season.  I think we’re all hoping 2021 is better for everyone.  All the best.

SONG OF THE DAY

 

 

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