Category: On Tour (page 2 of 5)

When Mom and Dad Fight It Makes Me Sad (Ryder Cup Version)

Amid everything else that was going on yesterday, during Golf Channel’s “Live At The Ryder Cup” coverage, Brandel Chamblee and David Duval got into a heated debate over the failings of the US Ryder Cup team over the last 20+ years (wins in 1999 and 2008, losses in 1995, 1997, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2012 and 2014).  Let’s go to the tape, shall we?

There’s a lot to break down.  First off, while I know that Brandel Chamblee can irritate people, he makes some salient points (more on that in a bit).  So does David Duval (in all honesty I like both because they weren’t giving us the over-the-top patriotic orgy that is forthcoming).

Let’s start with Tiger Woods.  Woods’ overall record is 13-14-2 (and yes, 29 matches is more than sufficient sample size).  He has a losing record in both foursomes (alternate shot) and four-balls (think 2-man best ball), but is 4-1-1 in singles.  He’s been a part of one (1) winning team  (despite this there were far too many people suggesting he be that 12th player picked despite not having played a single shot this year and having a world ranking below 500th).  16 of the 28 points come from foursomes and four-balls.  At best, Woods would only be able to contribute 1 point through a singles win.  Duval points out that your leaders aren’t necessarily your highest ranked players.  Which is fine, except how exactly are the teams picked?  The first 8-9 slots go off of rankings, which, if my math is correct, is 2/3rds to 3/4ths of your team.  Until the PGA of America says “screw it, the captain picks all 12 players rankings be damned” rankings are going to matter.  What those automatic picks do is going to largely impact if you’re successful or not.

Let’s take a look at Phil Mickelson…hi Phil!  His overall record is 16-19-7 (and 42 matches more than shows us a decent sample size).  Breaking it down, Mickelson is 5-5-1 in singles, but 4-6-4 in foursomes (alternate shot), and 7-8-2 in four-balls.  If you’re scoring at home, he’s even money in singles and has a losing record in foursomes and four-balls (where he has won 11 of 31 matches).  I like Phil because he is, if nothing else, worth the price of admission.  But his Fri/Sat record is not good.  Period.

Chamblee points out that the most important matches are the first one on Friday and the last one on Saturday.  I’m not sure if this is necessarily predictive of a result, but if it is, then it would make sense to load up accordingly.  If I were running the PGA of America (hint, hint), the captain would have detailed statistical breakdowns on each player (based on expected results, variations for weather, time of year, format, etc.).  I would not pair guys up who play completely different balls for the alternate shot matches (or if I did, they’d be practicing together with the same ball for months prior), which is something Mickelson pointed out during his press conference.  To not do that is, effectively, gifting points to the other side (I’ve already pointed out the absolute stupidity in naming Ryan Moore less than week prior to the start of the event).

Chamblee, who admittedly can be a bit grating, is at least asking the right question.  Why did the US team lose a 4-point lead in 2012 and why did the European team lose a similar lead in 1999?  Was it momentum, was it simply a case of statistical regression to the mean, or was it something else (if Europe wins 4 coin flips in a row, are they lucky or this skill)?  Duval, who again, I like, talks about inflammatory remarks and “a feeling” in 1999.  I’d argue that it was simply regression to the mean on the European team (and terrible team selection by Mark James in not playing 1/4 of his team until the Sunday singles).  The idea of it being luck is, frankly, ignoring statistical variance and expected results/actual results.  If Davis Love III doesn’t honestly know where the 14.5 points he’s going to need are coming from, then what exactly has he been doing the last 18 months?  It’s a fair question.

If they don’t come out tonight in giant boxing gloves and headgear I’ll be very displeased.

The Final Ryder Cup Pick and Learning From History

Sunday night, during halftime of the Bears-Cowboys game on NBC (I don’t even watch the NFL and I know this game is two teams that are bad), Davis Love III will finally announce his 4th captain’s pick and the 2016 US Ryder Cup team will be finalized.  Regardless of what happens in Hazeltine, this multi-step process cannot continue and both the US and European teams must come to an equitable system for 2018 and beyond.  Pick a number (be it 0, 2, 3, or 4 if you must, but both teams must abide by the same number of captain’s picks) and both sides must abide by it.

photo property of thehillijean.com

Getting Ready for Sunday Night’s Rose Ceremony

I mean what next- a god damn rose ceremony with David Feherty in the Chris Harrison role where the hopeful candidates get interviewed in hopes of impressing the team captain?  We’re a stage away from having a Ryder Cup Selection reality TV show for the Americans.

I distinctly remember after the 2014 Ryder Cup a series of interviews that European captain Paul McGinley did that detailed the amount of preparation prior to the tournament proper.  Knowing his team well before the event and who was going to play with whom well in advance…it’s leaving nothing to chance.  He had all kinds of analytical data on each player.  He had played with each player.  Tom Watson…kind of seemed to make it up as he went along.

You know when would be a good time announce your captain’s picks?  Immediately AFTER the 2nd FedEx Cup Playoff event.  Have the ceremony on the 18th green during NBC’s coverage.  Have local kids carry out bags of the players, and if the players are there, have them come out as well.  USA Hockey did something similar to this prior to the 2014 Olympics; they did it after the 2014 Winter Classic.  Pretty cool (and not just the weather).  Take a look (they did the same thing four years prior after the 2010 Winter Classic but that game didn’t feature my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs winning in a shootout so this is what you get):

Pretty cool, eh?

And Davis, since I know you’re reading this, we need to have another chat.  Have a seat.  Bourbon, no ice?

As I understand it, you like to watch hockey from time to time, which is a good thing.  I know you’re busy, but did you watch Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey on Tuesday night?  A team purpose-built (allegedly) to beat Canada got destroyed (the score was 4-2 but it wasn’t that close).  Today, you’ve got smart people (like me) saying that USA Hockey was pretty ignorant in setting up the team with a bunch of plugs and grinders rather than elite high-end talent.  But their mouth-breathing coach is all about standing for the anthem, and that’s what’s important here, right?  Not really.

There’s a lesson here.  Think talent, and think birdies.  A blow-up hole isn’t a big deal here…carding an X on a hole isn’t a death knell (especially if their opponent birdies it).  Statistical analysis would show you who makes a lot of birdies and has the occasional Tin Cup moment.  I’m sure you have this researched…or not.

Match play, as you know, is NOT 72-hole stroke play.  You don’t need pluggers and grinders.  You need guys who can make birdies and you need to think beyond the norm.  Hopefully you’ve got binders of analytical data on players in addition to your own observations.  If you’re honestly waiting to see who shows up at East Lake with a hot hand, you’re screwed.  “If” the Ryder Cup were being held at East Lake I’d say you might have a point, but it isn’t.  Different course, layout, climate, turf, greens, and so on.  Even better is if you already know your lineup and who’s playing with whom (yes, injuries can throw a wrench in but if you don’t know who your Friday morning groups are by now it’s going to end poorly).

For some reason, Azinger’s system in 2008 worked.  Maybe it was because of Anthony Kim.  Who knows.  You know who wasn’t on that team?  The same guy that people are foaming at the mouth for you to pick with that last selection.And since we’re on the subject, I know this has become A Thing, but put the crack pipe down about selecting somebody who hasn’t played competitive golf in 13 months (especially someone who doesn’t exactly have a great record in the event).  You had this person on your team 4 years ago in Medinah, and their record was bad then (when they were ranked #1 in the world).  The question you have to answer is this- how has this person improved in 4 years to make them a better Ryder Cup player?  Answer- they haven’t.  If the 2018 captain wants to observe them, that would make sense.

Seriously, Jim Furyk has been on more winning teams than this guy, and you already know what level of stupid that idea is.

Spare me the canard of “but Ian Poulter isn’t on the team and he got them off the mat during the Saturday afternoon session.”  Bullshit.  You were up 10-6 going into the singles.  And lost.  Which was supposedly the strength of the US team.  How’d your anchor do on Sunday?  Oh, right.

In the end, if this collection of humanity gets to 14 1/2 points you’ll be a genius and that will be that.  But from here, I’m not sure you know how to get to that number.  Hope I’m wrong for your sake.

 

 

 

I Fix CBS’ Golf Coverage (you’re welcome)

As Patrick Reed tapped in for bogey at The Barclays amid a nice preview of what the 2024 Ryder Cup will be like (in short, it’ll make 1999’s mob scene look like a cotillion dance), CBS bid adieu to their golf coverage for the year.  They’ll be back at Torrey Pines in early 2017 with their normal slate (Fox will have the Super Bowl (you’ve been warned) so no need to flip a tournament to NBC/Golf Channel).

While they go dark, it’s time that the so-called Tiffany Network have a serious reboot of their golf coverage.  In short, it’s gotten stale, their coverage is far worse than NBC and is in dire need of assistance.  If you want an example, I’ll point to the coverage that the three non-Masters (which to be fair is a different animal completely) majors that were covered by FOX (US Open), NBC (Open Championship), and CBS (US PGA Championship).  FOX still doesn’t really seem to know what the hell it’s doing (although they’re to be credited for adjusting their coverage with the rain delays even though they dumped network coverage to show regular season baseball which says all you need to know even though their network coverage of the MLB playoffs is limited to the World Series…pick a lane fellas), to CBS going through the (wanking) motions at the USPGA Championship.  NBC’s coverage was nothing short of amazing.  It was everything you would want; they gave the viewer wall-to-wall coverage and poured considerable resources into it (same for their Olympics golf coverage).  The bar was set by NBC/Golf Channel and anything else being done should be compared to the NBC/Golf Channel work.

Put it this way- compare NBC’s coverage of their big events (Players Championship, Open Championship, Olympics) to how CBS and FOX covered their events and you start to see the problem.  NBC wasn’t afraid to be critical of the golf course setup at the Players Championship when it was clear to anyone that the Tour had lost the course on that Saturday.

Losing David Feherty to NBC/Golf Channel “should” have been a good thing for CBS (if handled correctly) and the trade-off of Feherty for Dottie Pepper was a net gain for CBS.  While his interview show on Golf Channel is not bad, I just don’t see what Feherty adds to the NBC telecasts other than the occasional bit of comic relief.  He’s not Hicks (or Tirico) and Miller, and Maltbie is still a better nuts-and-bolts guy in terms of telling me what’s going on with players (Feherty needs to learn how to be critical and use his knowledge as a former pro and as a former Ryder Cupper).  I’d say stick him in a tower but I’m not sure he’s a good fit there (Gary Koch and Peter Jacobsen are solid in those roles).  I’m not a fan of 3-man booths (see FOX) so sticking him alongside Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks is a further “square peg in round hole” situation.

The issues for CBS start at the top, and by that, I mean Jim Nantz.  He’s 57 and has a young wife and a couple of young kids.  His work schedule is ridiculously bloated which I think is the biggest part of the problem (on the road 245 days a year is insane).  He does a fairly heavy workload during NFL season for CBS (last year he was doing 2 games per week) on top of College Basketball and Golf coverage and the poor guy has to carry a picture of burnt toast so that he can get toast the way he likes it.  It’s too much and far too often, he sounds like someone phoning it in (I don’t think that’s his attitude but it’s how he comes off).  Nobody can do that much (and frankly CBS doesn’t have that kind of depth that they seem willing to trust big events with).  Al Michaels isn’t doing 3 sports (he does 20 weeks of NFL broadcasts and an Olympics every 2 years) nor should he need to.   Dan Hicks does Notre Dame football and Olympics swimming along with golf which isn’t nearly as taxing (and with Mike Tirico on board, you do wonder if Tirico might see some golf, especially in September if Notre Dame duties keep Hicks away).   It’s time to put Nantz in a host role (think Bob Costas during horse racing Triple Crown events) but I’d let him keep his role at The Masters.  Otherwise, it’s time to groom a successor and the sooner, the better (or let him stay on golf full time but find a full-time #1 play-by-play for their college basketball coverage).

In the short run, Bill McAtee is a good “B” team 18th hole host and has been solid if not unspectacular when he gets paired with Ian Baker Finch.  McAtee’s interviewing skills aren’t the greatest (Kostis and Dottie Pepper are good), but as an 18th hole tower host he’s decent.

While we’re at it, can someone please explain to CBS that when they go on the air, they should be showing live golf as soon as humanly possible (and this happens every damn time).  It can take 15-20 minutes before they’re showing actual live play, which is ridiculous.  This is on Lance Barrow who is probably as big of a problem as anyone; how NBC/Golf Channel can accomplish this and CBS can’t means that it’s on Barrow to make it better.  Look, if an A list name is going unconscious then by all means update people, but unless Spieth is flirting with a 58 or Mickelson has had to have Bones dive into a pond to recover his last ball, better to show live golf first.

In terms of trying to groom a successor to Nantz, it also has to be said that I have no idea what Nick Faldo (sorry, Sir Nick Faldo) is doing half the time.  He’s serviceable during their Masters coverage when he’s on a very short leash, but otherwise…I just don’t see it.  He had great synergy with Mike Tirico and Paul Azinger in their ABC days, but that was 12-13 years ago.  The “oh dear” is getting stale (or the “crumbs” bit).  You’re not there to be a cheerleader.  You’ve won major championships- tell me something as a viewer that I don’t know.  Put me inside the head of a guy who has never won before who is up by 1 stroke over Day and McIlroy and is on the 18th tee.  Tell me something I don’t know.

Replacements?  Options are plentiful.  Terry Gannon and Steve Sands are very good at their jobs (Sands’ work during the first couple FedEx Cup Tour Championships trying to explain the points race was nothing short of brilliant).  Would either want that chair?  Gannon really impressed me during his early-day hosting job at the Open Championship and the Olympic tournament.  He’s a good setup man, which is really what that role should be.  Would they want to jump ship?

I’m really stuck with respect to Dottie Pepper.  She’s damn good at what she does (her and Kostis are by far the best of the CBS bunch); would the 17th tower be perceived as an  upgrade for her or is this a step backwards?  Related, anything Judy Rankin does for Golf Channel is immediately worth watching.  I can’t say enough about her insight about the game and that she’s able to lend that insight from a pro into something easily translatable.  Her and Terry Gannon are on a par with Nantz and Faldo, if you ask me.

Part of me thinks that if you blow the thing up, an 18th hole team of Steve Sands (or Terry Gannon) and Dottie Pepper would be, if nothing else, watchable (let Nantz take on a hosting role at their bigger events to add that “big event” feel to it).  Like Rankin, Dottie Pepper lends the credibility of someone who’s been there as a professional but translate to a viewer.

While we’re on the subject of Pepper and Kostis, at some point Augusta National is going to have to bend on having on-course reporters.  For a tournament that has shown signs of progression, the things they dig in on are baffling.  Don’t tell me that having them on the course walking with groups is somehow “taking away” from someone’s experience.  Kostis/Pepper are smart enough to know where the line is (same with Maltbie if NBC ever picked up the Masters rights which will likely never happen).

McCord seems to have lost a step without a comic foil.   He’s not bad, but like Feherty he needs to figure out what exactly it is that he’s doing and be better at that.  I think he’s funny, but at times he tends to meander.  I heard someone say this- it’s easy when you’ve got compelling final-round coverage, but if you’ve got a blowout (say Jason Day is up by 8 strokes) you’re trying to keep the viewer tuned in.   He’ll never be part of their Masters coverage so he misses out on their biggest event of the year.

Rich Beem, on the other hand, has been a welcome breath of fresh air.  Not sure if it’s because of his work for UK broadcaster Sky that he has a different perspective, but I look forward to seeing more of him.  You could put him in a tower and I’d be pretty happy.

I would also add a rules person.  Since Slugger White has retired, would he be willing to take on a rules role at CBS?  At the very least, he would be a good resource to help viewers understand why the course was set up a certain way or why tee times might have been moved up.  I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have someone who can explain this from the PGA Tour’s role.  It gives the viewer a perspective that they don’t always get.

Let’s talk technology.  As terrible as FOX’s US Open coverage is (too much to get into here), they have made the use of Trackman (and similar) an expectation.  This should be part of every broadcast.  Period.  Both PGA and LPGA tours.  If the tours are going to work together, this should be an expectation on broadcasts on a par with HD coverage and a leaderboard box visible at all times.  It is still painful to watch FOX’s coverage but they are ahead of the curve in terms of using technology.

With that being said, this would be my ideal setup for CBS’ Golf Coverage starting in 2017 (non-Masters events):

Studio Host: Jim Nantz

18th hole: Bill McAtee/Dottie Pepper

17th hole: Rich Beem

16th hole: Gary McCord (for now)

15th hole: Nick Faldo

On course: Ian Baker-Finch

Interviews: Peter Kostis

Rules: Slugger White

An Open Letter to Davis Love III

Dear Davis (hope you don’t mind if I call you that),

Hope you’re doing well.  As you are by now aware, you’re close to making your captain’s picks for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine (what is with the PGA of America and this course, by the way?).  The courses’ only claim to fame (other than a universally-panned US Open where Tony Jacklin won) is the late Payne Stewart winning a US Open and being the first major when Tiger Woods coughed up a 54-hole lead.  I mean, the USGA could screw up a wet dream, but now the PGA of America is getting in on the fun (my guess is that Ted Bishop picked this course, because this seems like the kind of thing he’d do).

You “probably” don’t read No Laying Up or listen to their podcast, but if you don’t (and it says here you should…and would it kill you to pick up some of their pretty sharp-looking shirts?), you should at a minimum read their incredibly well-crafted case against giving Jim Furyk a captain’s pick.  He’s been on 2 winning and 7 losing Ryder Cup teams, and has a record that is terrible by any standard.  Go read their article.  Seriously; I’ll be here waiting.  You know us bloggers…in our mom’s basement eating pop-tarts or some strange thing with all kinds of time.  Not kidding- read the article and that they also cite Furyk’s stats…”44th in strokes gained, 65th tee to green, 62nd in putting” which doesn’t exactly scream “captain’s pick” unless you eat paint chips on a daily basis or something.

Jim Furyk's Ryder Cup record in one easy to understand picture

Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup record in one easy to understand picture

Okay, you’re back.  You’re not stupid.  So we can agree that he’s a bad idea, right?  Davis, I’m not even kidding.  If Furyk hadn’t pissed down his leg against Dan Jenkins’ favourite golfer (Sergio…me Sergio!) Sergio Garcia, you win the damn trophy.   I won’t even mention the Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods records (even then-Maple Leafs Randy Carlyle thought you blew it, and that mouth-breathing dipshit blew a 4-1 lead in Game 7 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs because he is literally dumber than a god damn potato and yes I’m still bitter at this moron’s abject stupidity…what’s it to you?).  I mean, were you huffing glue or something?

Oh, and Tiger Woods is your tactician?  Does he own pictures of you dressed like the Duke basketball coach (I know you went to North Carolina and SWIRIC has educated me on ACC hatred) or something?  He hasn’t played in over a year, and his record on Ryder Cup teams is terrible.  TERRIBLE.  In the words of Charles Barkley, TURRIBULL.  He can’t even claim to be on the 2008 team (he wasn’t).  He’s been on one winning team (1999) which means he has been a part of as many winning teams as Anthony Kim.  One.  I’m just spit-balling here, but maybe this isn’t his bag.  Seriously, put the crack pipe down and pay attention.  Give Woods a squirrel and let him ride around in a golf cart.  Fly in some military guys and he can hang with them as their own Ryder Cup ambassador (he’d probably enjoy it).  Maybe pick people who, oh I don’t know…know how to win the damn thing?

Look, even though Ian Poulter won’t be playing (which is good because he all but owned your soul after Medinah 2012 along with his collection of fine automobiles) you’d do well to not sleep on Europe.   With that being said, this is a winnable Ryder Cup “if” you don’t act stupid or do something stupid like play Stricker and Woods together like you did 4 years ago even though they were a collective dumpster fire.

So we agree,  you’re not going to pick Jim Furyk and you’re not going to let Woods be your tactician.  Give them custom golf carts that they can race in or something.

While we’re at it, can we agree that Rickie Fowler, while patriotic as all get out (and someone who is borrowing from the Brian Bosworth school of hairstyles) and totally into the idea of being on the team, has a Ryder Cup record that…well, sucks.  Go back and take a gander at his 2014 record and I think we agree that he didn’t exactly get things going.   He wasn’t good enough to make the 2012 team, but you remembered that, right?  He was on the 2010 team where he played 3 matches (won 0, lost 1, halved 2).  His 2016 Olympic tournament…T37.  But he had a cool haircut and posed for a photo with Michael Phelps so ZOMG, right?  You can do better.

I know this is going to sound crazy, but take a look at Keegan Bradley.  His singles record isn’t that great, but him and Mickelson have been money in the bank during the foursomes/fourballs over the last 2 Ryder Cups.   If Poulter was healthy he’d be on the team…you know why?  BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT HE’S GOOD AT.  That’s Keegan.  If him and Mickelson can win 2 points in the foursomes or fourballs, you’re in good stead.  You know who else would pick people this way?  European Ryder Cup captains (you know, the ones that keep WINNING).

If he doesn’t make it, take a look at Matt Kuchar if and when he takes that Bronze Medal he won off (seriously, does he think he’s Canadian or something- finishing 3rd is OUR thing, not what the Americans do).  His career points percentage  is .57 with a decent body of work.  You are, however, free to hit him with a tire iron if he makes any more of these commercials.

Dear god.  Make it stop.  You might as well pipe in the 877-KARS-4-KIDS song to that and I’ll admit to anything you want.

And others will also suggest this, but give Kevin Na a look and by look, I mean pick the crazy bastard.  If nothing else, he might well put the Euros off their game better than William H. Macy did in the movie ‘The Cooler’.   Can you imagine the reaction when he takes 12 practice swings and ducks out a 4th time?  I mean, the Euros are going to want to murder him after 8 holes and it’ll send Johnny Miller into a blind rage, which will be ratings gold.  Yes, it’s gamesmanship.  No shit.  You know who else practices this?  Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie, and Seve Ballesteros.  Go look at their Ryder Cup records (seriously….take your time).  Yes, they were all kinds of evil but they would flat destroy people come Ryder Cup time.  Make fun of Poulter all you want but he flat owned you 4 years ago.  Montgomerie endured crowds in 1999 that were reprehensible and still nearly carried Europe to a win (wasn’t his fault that Mark James completely mis-managed his rookie players).   They put all of that out of their mind.  Seve was Seve; a guy who feared nobody.   Sergio is a different player in the Ryder Cup.  He just was.  He’d do all kinds of stuff, but wow, he got results.

That’s where you come in.  You need to find your own Ryder Cup guys.   Guys who might be average during normal events but who get results (and points on the board) come Ryder Cup time (the ones who become giant-killers in a Ryder Cup shirt).  Ballesteros’ rankings wouldn’t matter- he was going to be on the side and he was going to get under your skin.  He could be ranked 5th or 500th…put a Team Europe shirt on him and he would become a completely different player.

You need to find your Seve, your Monty, and your Poulter.  People who the Euros will hate (and who will absolutely thrive on that hatred).  You’ve had 2 years to identify these players and so far, doesn’t appear you’ve found them.  Need I remind you that Europe has done pretty well in the U.S. over the last 30 years?  The American team can point to wins in 1991, 1999 and 2008 (let’s face it- Mark James was terrible and Nick Faldo not much better and 2 of the 3 wins were fueled by the US fans going full asshole), but astonishing losses in 1987, 1995, 2004, and 2012 (the U.S. is 3-4 at home in the last 30 years).  We won’t even mention the U.S. team’s record in Europe (a tie in 1989, a win in 1993, and losses in 1997, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 if you were wondering).  Or, you can pick off of rankings, lose again, and wonder why it is the US can’t win a Ryder Cup which means the same questions will come out in 2018.  And 2020.  Patrick Reed “might” be that person (a real asshole who the Europeans will hate but who will simply mock them and kick ass while doing it).

In short, if I were you, I’d take Bradley, Kuchar and Na with my 3 captain’s picks, and hold off with that last one (but again, just say NO to Furyk and Fowler) and go with whoever’s hot at the time and will get under the skin of the European team.   Maybe Bubba Watson if he doesn’t qualify automatically.  Understand that it’s pretty rare for someone to get a second chance at captaining a Ryder Cup side.  It went badly the last time (2014), so try not to screw this up too badly.

Sincerely,

 

Your Friends at singlegolferincart.com

 

 

Can’t Anybody Run a Damn Golf Tournament?

I think it’s neat that the USGA and the PGA of America teamed up to make a song for you to enjoy in celebration of their 2016 championships.  Have a listen.  No, it’s soothing…really.

If you were able to survive that without wanting to punch a kitten, congratulations.  It’s been that kind of year for the two main bodies for the game of golf in the United States.

After two majors of watching the USGA demonstrate it’s inability to manage a 2-car parade much less conduct a national championship, it was the PGA of America’s turn to take control of the Kars 4 Kids jingle of a nightmare that has become what conducting a major championship has turned into.  Go ahead, listen to it.  LISTEN TO IT!  Kind of makes you want to beat someone with a gravy ladle.

Before we get into the PGA of America’s litany of stupid, let’s congratulate Jimmy Walker on the win.  He played great and deserved to win, but unfortunately, people will only remember what a damn mess the PGA of America made with the tournament. Let’s go to the tape, shall we?

1) Why on earth must they continue to hold tournaments in the dead of summer along the Eastern Seaboard when it’s usually hot, humid, and with daily thunderstorms a fairly common occurrence?  The next two championships are in Charlotte and St. Louis, so expect hot and humid conditions along with thunderstorms being a frequent occurrence.   The very definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.

2) Not to toot my own horn but holy shit-balls, I gave the pros a schedule for 2020 that moves the PGA Championship to the end of the West Coast swing.  Seriously.  Follow it and you won’t have the folly of having 2 major championships over a 3-week period.  My schedule puts a marquee event in late February (PGA), March (2 WGC events), April (Masters), May (Players), June (US Open), July (Open Championship) and August (Olympics).  A reduction in travel making it easier on the players, and an added PGA-LPGA team event.  You’re welcome.  It took me 2 double scotches, a composition book, and 45 minutes.  I even have the sendoff event prior to the Olympics in Vancouver (easier flight to Tokyo).

3) You know where you don’t see summer thunderstorms?  The West Coast.  I’d love to see Denver get a major (my 2020 schedule puts a tour event in Denver), but you’ve got Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco as easy options.  Sahalee near Seattle, Pumpkin Ridge near Portland, and Olympic Club/Harding Park/Pasatiempo all near San Francisco (not to mention Pebble Beach).  Go to southern California and you have Riviera and Torrey Pines (all VERY worthy tests).

4) So no big shock when it rained on Saturday.  And rained some more.  Look, I can’t say enough about the monumental efforts that the course superintendent and his team of volunteers put in to get the course playable on Sunday (seriously- most courses wouldn’t have looked anything close to that good), but it shouldn’t have come to this!  Come Saturday, when storms were expected, did they go to a two-tee start and move the times up (they’d have come VERY close to getting finished up)?  Of course not (the PGA Tour does this quite often), because reasons.  That it didn’t storm on Sunday is nothing short of a miracle.  This malarkey about “we believe everyone should play the course starting at the 1st hole” sounds great, EXCEPT THEY DO A 2-TEE START DURING THE FIRST TWO ROUNDS!  So does the US Open (the Open Championship doesn’t but they don’t see thunder/lightning and they have longer daylight hours; the Masters has a limited field so they don’t need the 2-tee start).

5) The only reason to not do it is to bend over for CBS/TNT, which is a damn disgrace.  As others have pointed out, I give Fox a lot of grief for their golf coverage but they did move things around back in June (the dumping out of Fox over to FS1 because of regular season baseball is still inexcusable under any circumstance- NBC would have stuck it out).  Clearly TNT didn’t want to interfere with Law & Order (and related) reruns.   Can we point out that NBC/Golf Channel did a better job covering the women’s British Open than TNT/CBS did with the PGA Championship?

6) There was this 180 that the PGA of America pulled.  I mean, this is some grade-A bullshit they’re serving up.  On Saturday they said, in effect, no way would they play lift clean and place (they said this in an interview with CBS Sports Network).  Here was the corker- in the third rounds being finished on Sunday (in the same conditions they’d face later that day) they played it down.  But for the final round it was ball in hand time (this had NEVER happened before in a major).  I don’t always agree with Dan Jenkins of Golf Digest, but he’s right when you call it “lift, place and cheat” (he’s almost always hilarious though).

7) Rough.  Look, I know that people at Oakmont get boners over having 8″ rough, but can we please knock this off?  I agree with Secret Tour Pro (who may or may not be Australian…who am I to speculate?) that they should cut the rough back.  The Masters doesn’t have rough, and the Open Championship doesn’t get overly penal with rough until you get into the gorse which comes into play if you get REAL wild.  Does that diminish these events?  Of course not!  The USGA was going in this direction (2014 @ Pinehurst) but now they’re back to growing some tall cabbage.  I’d rather see less of it but mowed against the grain to give the players something to consider.

Photo property of The Sporting News

Jim Nantz preparing like many of us watching prepare.

8) Hello Friends.  We need to talk about Jim Nantz.  Other bloggers and folks on Twitter wittier than I have got the knives out for CBS’ coverage, and while at first I was cautious, it’s apparent that despite some talented people doing good work (Peter Kostis and Dottie Pepper are great at what they do), Nantz is phoning it in (he was freaking brutal at the Canadian Open).   Faldo isn’t much better.  I’d like to see less advertising for his (Faldo) sponsors and more of “tell me something I don’t know” analysis.  Not sure if they need to cut his (Jim Nantz) workload back (he does a full NFL season, plus NCAA basketball, plus a lot of golf- when he was doing 2 NFL games a week I can’t help but think that was adding up) or take a look at lightening his load.   Look, with NBC committed to the NHL for another 7 years (excuse me while I go throw up in my mouth while thinking about Pierre McGuire) spring weekends aren’t an option for NBC during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Ideally, CBS would acquire the Players Championship and a WGC event and in turn, turn the PGA Championship AND the Barclays over to NBC/Golf Channel.   I know Nantz loves golf but he’s losing his fastball, as it were.  Even if they pulled him off of doing basketball, it would probably help.

Who’s Pierre McGuire, you ask?  Allow me.  You’ve been warned.  And since he left TSN for NBC, he’s only gotten worse.

9) On a positive, they didn’t have a rules fiasco, and Pete Bevacqua wasn’t shit-faced drunk during the trophy presentation, so they got that going for them.

Showing my age more than a bit, but enjoy some REALLY early Siouxsie and the Banshees.   Yup, she was that first artist I had the hots for.

 

Ducking Out is Ducking Out

The self-centred and appalling behaviour of  golf’s elite male players choosing to opt out of playing in the Olympics is nothing more than another example of putting oneself in front of seemingly irrelevant concerns as growing the game and representing one’s country (let’s file this one away come Ryder Cup time).  To call it anything else is absurd.  If that hurts their tender mercies, then they’ll just have to be offended and exposed for the frauds that they are.  If it is, as at least one person has opined, related to drug testing, then that’s really all you need to know (Olympic drug testing protocols are stricter than those on the PGA, European, or LPGA Tours).  None of these individuals should ever, under any circumstance, be permitted to represent their country in competition again.

On a positive, it’s great that Graham DeLaet is truly honoured and excited to represent his country (Mr. DeLaet’s rushing to assist the victims of the Fort McMurray fire are also noteworthy and laudable).  I’m not fans of theirs, but my respect and appreciation to Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson for not opting out and choosing to go over to represent their country.  I hope they have the opportunity to participate in the Opening Ceremony.  It’s also positive to see that the women (who get 1/10th the publicity of their male counterparts despite conducting themselves flawlessly) have not had this raft of withdrawals, and are uniformly excited at the prospect of participating in the Olympics.  Good on them.

For Dustin Johnson (who opted out via press release late on a Friday night; i.e. the Friday Night Dump), he could have conferred with his father in law (Wayne Gretzky) who knows more about Olympic heartache, glory and passion than he ever will.  He was part of the first group of NHL players who went to Japan in 1998 (during the middle of the season) to play in the Olympics.  For all his effort he came home with a 4th place finish after two heart-breaking losses (including a shootout loss in the semi-final to the Czech Republic when Gretzky was not picked as one of the shooters).  Four years later he was the GM of the 2002 Canadian team that broke a 50-year spell of not winning gold at the Olympics.  Here’s a taste of what this meant to him (during the Olympic tournament).  Not a dollar of money was at stake.  If you feel the need to run through a wall afterwards, it’s completely understandable.

When you consider the considerable effort and lobbying that went into getting golf re-introduced to the Olympic program (among others, Jack Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam, Ty Votaw, Suzann Petterson, Peter Dawson, Padraig Harrington and Michelle Wie lent their voices and time to the campaign), it’s a scathing indictment on the state of the game that the top 4 men in the World Ranking have said “thanks but no thanks” to the Olympic experience because they will be the poorer for it in the long run.  Not monetarily, but in terms of an experience.  The men and women who medal won’t care, and the global audience will likely not care much either.

It’s sad because come Ryder Cup/President’s Cup time, if selected they will spew the inevitable pre-written lines about love of playing for country, but somehow, playing in the Olympics is  too much of an ask, with the current concern being the Zika Virus and security.  Except that we’re in the middle of summer and there are cases of Zika here in North America.  And security has been a concern of every Olympics since that awful day in West Germany in 1972.  Compare the indifference of golf to that the other new sport, rugby sevens (a 7-a-side  version of rugby) has had zero players opt out (and yes, they’ll be playing their matches outdoors); in fact you’ve had scores of players from other codes try out for their country’s Olympic team.  Nor are any of the soccer players opting out, including the American women.  None of the women playing in their Olympic golf tournament have opted out either.  Are they playing in some Zika-free zone that we’re unaware of?  The vast majority of athletes are going over to do what Olympic athletes do.  Despite the criminal enterprise that is the IOC, they will go over and compete to the best of their abilities (and if you go off of several stories, they blow off a lot of steam in the Olympic village with their fellow athletes).

Was Rio a good choice to host the Olympics?  In a word, no (and sadly, like Athens and Montreal, they will experience crippling debt in the years to come).  Staging an Olympics is, for the most part, an invitation for pending economic disaster unless you already have facilities and infrastructure built (Los Angeles 1984 remains the gold standard for a successful Olympics because they didn’t need to build facilities and anything that was built has been re-purposed).  Neither was Sochi two years ago in Russia, but it didn’t stop athletes from going over and competing, including players from the NHL (and other professional leagues) who went over during the middle of their season to compete.  The NHL players went over, stayed in the not-exactly-luxurious athlete’s village, and competed (sadly, the NHL players may not have the opportunity to participate in 2018 due to a disagreement between the NHL and the IIHF/IOC over player transportation costs and other issues).

I think of the sacrifices that so many athletes who will compete in Rio have made over the last four years (and those whose years of training were unsuccessful in making their country’s Olympic team), and I then compare that to the top 4 ranked men pulling out through press releases sent out by their management.  I think of the athletes who will never win medals, and how their “moment” will be walking into the stadium during the Opening Ceremony; the joy on their faces at simply qualifying to be in the Olympics, and how these four individuals will never know that feeling, and seemingly not care (again, file away when they spew their bullshit about love of country come Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup time).

Yes, but there are also security concerns in Rio…right?  Again- over 10,000 athletes seem willing to make the trip and compete (Michael Phelps is going and I’d argue his profile is just as high, if not higher, than the pampered foursome).  The US basketball roster is pretty high profile as well, and yet- they’re willing to go over and represent their country.

The Olympics remains one of those events people watch en masse.  It will be talked about on social media and the work place.  I still remember the day after the Gold Medal Game of the 2010 Olympic hockey tournament (Canada beat the U.S. in overtime), and people I worked with who aren’t hockey fans and never watch hockey…well they watched.  And loved it.  And were heartbroken when Canada scored the overtime winner (sorry).  Each Olympics has had similar stories.  Given an opportunity to be part of something larger than themselves, these four have chosen the other path.

If you want an individual sport comparable, look no further than tennis which has many similarities to golf.  I still remember watching the wild scenes in London when Andy Murray upset Roger Federer (below) to win the gold medal in 2012.  To see how much it meant to him, even though he was a professional with millions of dollars in winnings and endorsements, was something I’ll never forget.  Or to think of a young Jennifer Capriati break down with emotion in 1992 after upsetting Steffi Graf to win gold in Barcelona.  They were primarily concerned with the success of their own careers, but they put that on hold and represented their country in the Olympics, and they, their sport, and the viewing public were the better for having witnessed it.

Two sportsmen who get it.

Two sportsmen who get it.

To hear Rory McIlroy today speak about not caring about growing the game, but only of winning major championships is particularly distasteful.  The man is the antithesis of what a sportsman should be.  I think about the efforts of men like Arnold Palmer and Gary Player have put forward to grow the game of golf, and how the professional tours owe men like these (and others) a debt that can only be repaid by paying it forward to the next generation.  For McIlroy to go to the Euro 2016 soccer tournament as a fan, wear a shirt with George Best’s face on it (certainly the finest soccer player from Northern Ireland) and watch Northern Ireland (who played in a major tournament for the first time in 30 years) and after that, decide that going to the Olympics was too much for him is someone who clearly has his head somewhere that it doesn’t belong.  He has the right to be a self-centred idiot, but you’ll pardon me if I choose not to celebrate this.

The players who have chosen to not participate have the right to do so, but this decision must come at a cost of a permanent disqualification from Ryder Cup, President’s Cup or future Olympic participation.  They simply cannot be permitted to represent their country again in competition after this act of what can only be considered selfish cowardice.  It gives me no pleasure in writing this, but it’s troubling when these professionals can’t be bothered to give up two weeks of their life to represent their country in the Olympics when thousands of athletes, given the same circumstances, have chosen to go to Rio and compete.

US Women’s Open Review

Courtesy Fox Sports

From an HD camera using super-slo-mo.

The USGA’s inability to organize a lemonade stand, much less conduct a golf tournament, aired its ugly head yet again on Sunday over it’s inability to reasonably administer the rules or do anything remotely close to right during a playoff between Anna Nordqvist and Brittany Lang.  If the last two men’s US Opens weren’t damning evidence of the utter incompetence on display from the USGA, yesterday’s playoff has to permanently disqualify the USGA from conducting professional tournaments.

Shall we count the screw-ups?

1) Despite playing just south of San Jose, California, the USGA and Fox decided to play all four rounds in threesomes with a 2-tee start.  It’s not the first two days that are the issue, but for no reason than to accommodate television, the weekend rounds met the same fate.  Unless storms were forecast (and they weren’t), there’s no reason to do this.  The tournament finished by 4pm PT (if Fox can’t commit to allowing twosomes playing holes 1-18 in that order on the weekends, they should get out of the business of televising golf).  The men would have never been put in this circumstance.  What next- why not have a goddamn shotgun start with foursomes?

2) Pace of play.  If the USGA is going to enforce the rules, then enforce all of them.  This includes pace of play.  Granted, it’s partially on them for having threesomes, but at some point, the women need to stop with this never-ending pre-shot routines and having caddies spending seemingly forever in lining up putts.  To put a group on the clock and then not enforce a second bad time…if we’re doing that then what other rules are we going to ignore?  Not that the men aren’t exactly speed demons (looking at you, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day).  Either you enforce a shot clock, or a time par (miss it and everyone in the group gets a stroke penalty), or we’ll have more 6-hour rounds.

3) Different standards.  The women’s US Open has rightly gone to a 3-hole aggregate score playoff (this week’s Open Championship has a 4-hole playoff, the PGA Championship has a 3-hole playoff, the Masters is sudden death).  As countless others have opined, the idea of the men having an 18-hole playoff the next day is ridiculous.  It is shameful to send tens of thousands of fans home on Sunday night without a winner.  A 3 or 4-hole playoff (with time built in) allows this to happen.  For an organization that talks about gender equality, they’re conducting their national championship with entirely different standards for no reason (and if I were running tennis the four majors would play best-of-five sets for the championship for the women (like the men)).

4) Diana Murphy. You literally have one job on Sunday…make a quick speech and hand the trophy to the winner.  Maybe lay off the booze until afterwards, or maybe buy some index cards and before you go to the podium, have someone who is sober and has a brain WRITE DOWN the name of the winner, the runner-up, and the low amateur.  This is THEIR moment, not yours.  Your job is to literally not be an incompetent jackass, and so far you’re 0-for-2.

5) The Playoff Penalty.  I do find it curious that in PGA Tour events, we rarely, if ever, see issues like this pop up.  There was one earlier this year with Camilo Villegas at the Hilton Head event, and an official came out, made a ruling, and they got on with things. Why is this so difficult?  As I see it, there are two issues going on:

a) As TSN’s Mark Zecchino pointed out, the grounding the club in a hazard rule was designed to prevent players from building a stance.  It was never designed to determine if a player grazed sand that would need HD cameras and super-slo-mo technology to determine if the club touched the sand.  Looking at the replay, while there’s no doubt (using HD cameras and super slo-mo technology) that Anna Nordqvist grounded her club going off of the letter of the rule.  Intent?  No chance in hell.  Put it this way- if I was playing a match I would never call that penalty, nor would I want my opponent to call it.

b) Timing.  Until golf goes to an NRL-style bunker or a tennis-style review that can be instantaneous, we’re left with farcical means of letting players know.  If there was a question, the rules official should have stopped play (they were in a playoff so it wasn’t like they were holding anyone up) and taken a look.  I watch NRL games and the official reviews are pretty well done (as a fan, you can see what they’re reviewing and the camera angles they’re using along with the dialogue between them and the match official).  However, critics complain about what can/can’t be reviewed and how far back in the play they can review.  See below:

What you can’t have, in any sense, is a player not knowing if he/she is going to be penalized, nor can you have their competitors not knowing the result.  What made Nordqvist’s penalty worse is that the USGA waited until she hit her third shot (but not her competitor), so there wasn’t an equity of information.  The technology exists to make these rulings fairly quickly.  Either you embrace the available technology or you don’t, but you can’t have it both ways.  Either use it, or don’t.

As I have said repeatedly, it’s time for the USGA to turn things over to the PGA Tour, European Tour and LPGA/LET Tours to run.  The idea of having rank amateurs as officials simply isn’t good enough.  Even in tennis (closest comparable), while the lines people might be locals, the chair umpires are from the ATP/WTA tours.  Known entities.  The player challenge system in tennis is seamless, takes less than 10 seconds, and is handled electronically.  Ball is in or the ball is out.  Simple.

Your US Open Recap You Probably Expected

Less awkward than Diana Murphy's presentation yesterday (sponsored by grain alcohol).

Less awkward than Diana Murphy’s presentation yesterday (sponsored by grain alcohol).

For the second consecutive year, the self-appointed guardians of the game who conduct this country’s national championship have provided the viewing public with proof that they should never be allowed to conduct a tournament or hand out a trophy (have another drink, Ms. Murphy!) again.  Seriously, just when I thought Gary Bettman had a monopoly on horrible trophy presentations, USGA President Diana Murphy doubles down on stupid (in my happy place they start getting booed similar to Bettman’s annual rite of passage).  At least Bettman is sober when handing out the Stanley Cup.  Grab those dandruff-filled blazers and burn them all.

Maybe just have Nicklaus or Player hand out the US Open trophy for a while.

Maybe just have Nicklaus or Player hand out the US Open trophy for a while.

 

First off, congratulations to Dustin Johnson for having to endure needless mental hardship inflicted by the USGA.  The issue occurred on the 5th hole (where he discussed the issue with a rules official AND his playing partner; at which point it should have been done and dusted), and Johnson was notified on the 12th hole that they’d want to take another look at it after his round.  Why don’t they just have phones going off in his backswing on every hole (and whoever that turd-wrangler whose phone went off while he was hitting his approach on 18, I hope you get eaten by a bear) or have some drunken rube yell “NOONAN!” while he was putting.

If you look at the video, it’s very difficult to see where the ball moves if you view it at regular focus at normal speed (it does, but it takes a super-slo-mo camera and blowing up the picture to see it move).  He didn’t ground his club and he didn’t address the ball.  As Frank Nobilo pointed out, there were 3 incidents (including Johnson’s) of virtually similar things happening.  One didn’t get penalized even through the player clearly grounded his club behind the ball.  In Johnson’s case, he got a rules official involved who said it was no penalty.  Right there should have been the end of it (or at worst, stop him after the hole and review it).  The player, his playing partner and the rules official all said it was fine.  Instead, the USGA, seemingly unhappy unless they manage to piss off the players competing in their national open and 99.99% of people watching, had to get involved after the fact.

What next- an NRL-style (rugby league) bunker where officials will monitor every hole and buzz down if there’s a problem?

Coming soon to a golf tournament near you.

Coming soon to a golf tournament near you.

Of course, this is the USGA, and having seen their prototype, I’m leaking the following photo of their new Rules Bunker that they will employ for the 2017 USGA Championships.

The USGA Rules Enforcement Bunker!

The USGA Rules Enforcement Bunker!

Rarely, if ever, have I seen a group of his fellow touring professionals take to social media to support Johnson and destroy whatever shroud of dignity that the USGA might have had (after this weekend they’ve nothing left).  The worst part is that every one of them was right.  I’ve previously voiced that the USGA serves no purpose and should be disbanded, and after numerous screw-ups at their marquee event, it’s time to administer the last rites and send the USGA to the farm.  It’s not to say that the USGA should turn their national championship into an event where the winner shoots 22 under to win.  Look at the Masters.

The PGA Tour conducts tournaments every week, and somehow, they’re able to conduct tournaments without losing the golf course (that they did lose the course this year at the Players Championship was very much the exception and not the rule).  So instead of having people that do this for a living, you have people who do this 1-4 times a year (assuming that they also set up the US Senior Open, the US Women’s Open and the US Amateur), with only one of these events played by the PGA Tour professionals.

In the link (I’m unable to embed the video), Brandel Chamblee goes after the issue with having a fetish over green speeds (he points out that Augusta National, the R&A and the PGA of America don’t do this).  Oakmont, of all courses, does not need to be tricked up.  After their debacle the last two years (2014 and 2015) of losing the golf course, Oakmont should have been a layup.  A course whose natural agronomy has quick greens and thick rough (literally they don’t need to do anything).  Instead, the USGA tries to trick the course up because they have to “protect” par (this idea needs to be removed from their collective brains).  They wouldn’t have to do any of this golf course kabuki theater of the insane  if they had done what Jack Nicklaus had told them to do 30 years ago (go to a tournament ball).  I’ll point out that if the USGA had greens running at a more normal speed, then the ball wouldn’t move (try balancing a golf ball on a sloped hardwood floor to get the idea).

Instead, as Chamblee points out, because the USGA didn’t rein in the ball, we’re left with 2 options: 8,000 yard courses or let scores become what they become.  On twitter I joked about when we will see a 700-yard par 5 (but I wasn’t kidding).  As Gary Player pointed out, the 8,000 yard courses are ungodly expensive (more turfgrass, more water, more fertilizer, more people to care for the course) and are sending the wrong message to the golfing public and running counter to what the USGA was touting a couple years ago.

The R&A has never worried about protecting par.  If someone shoots 15 under, so be it.  If the winning score is 4 over, then that’s okay as well (the weather can be a huge factor).  They don’t have this fetish about green speeds because the wind is a factor so they can’t turn greens into dining tables.  If the weather is mild with little wind, then scores are going to be lower.  If the wind gets up, then scores will go up.

The PGA of America doesn’t have this fetish over green speeds and protecting par.  They set up courses with some rough and some tucked hole locations, but nothing that gets to the absurd.  If the winning score is 8 under, then great.  If it’s 15 under because guys play lights out, then it’s no big deal (see Valhalla 2014 where you had McIlroy and Mickelson going at it with some fantastic golf).

While I’m having another go at the USGA, while it’s great that they were able to get the course in great shape after the storms on Thursday, it needs to be pointed out that your local golf course does not have a team of over 200 superintendents getting your course ready after a storm.  The folks who do this in our area do a great job by and large but there’s a practical limit to what they can do; tournament conditions should not be expected, but they can do a good job of keeping the course playable (and almost always do exactly this).

It’s nice that the USGA apologized on Monday (sort of) for the confusion, but that is literally closing the barn door after all of the horses got out.  You can say they avoided a fiasco (Jamie Diaz’ piece is a good read) but this was self-inflicted.  You simply can’t tell a player we “might” penalize you for something that a rules official said was fine (once the official cleared him, this should have been the end of it).  Johnson’s fellow competitors all thought it wasn’t a penalty, so this idea of protecting the field is nonsensical.

In the meantime, we can only hope that next year the USGA will take my initial call to action, and cease to exist.  They serve no purpose that can’t be handled by other entities and their relevance to average golfers like myself is zero.

As for FOX, their coverage is still miles below CBS at their worst (the 3-man booth interviews are terrible, there’s way too much dead air, Joe Buck needs to learn how to make a point and punt to his analysts, dumping Saturday off to FS1 for regular season baseball is absurd at best), but their use of Trackman is very good (CBS could do this tomorrow- would REALLY like to see this at the PGA Championship).  If you take FOX production and put it with an NBC/Golf Channel crew you’d have something (and there’s no way NBC would have dumped US Open coverage on the weekend to a cable outlet).

 

The US Open on Fox Drinking Game You’ll Need (2016 Edition)

He's back.  Prepare accordingly.

He’s back. Prepare accordingly.

After a debut that would be charitably described as poor, Fox Sports will air next week’s US Open (after next week only 10 more years of this dirge) from Oakmont CC in western Pennsylvania.  Greg Norman is no longer their main analyst, however Paul Azinger will step into the booth alongside Joe Buck.  I suppose this will be a good time to point out they’ve never worked together covering a major championship (Azinger did, however, work at ABC/ESPN in a 3-man booth with Nick Faldo and Mike Tirico and a 2-man booth with Tirico).  Here’s their new promo…see if you notice anything:

Other than Spieth and McIlroy, none of the people they showed are playing.  So the ad seems to say “tune in and see none of these golfers” which sounds a brilliant idea.  While the theme music was really good, I had something in mind more appropriate to their broadcasting expertise, or how I picture people going to their production meetings.

In that vein, if you tune in to watch, you’re going to need something to keep you going, and your faithful scribe has just the thing you need…a drinking game!  Yup, I’m dusting off the old and tired hack-worthy bit and creating your very own U.S. Open on Fox Drinking Game (the Oakmont 2016 version).  As always, drink responsibly, but if you don’t, then at least have a sober friend drive you to your AA meeting because drinking and driving isn’t cool.

Take 1 drink (sip) every time the following happen:

-Someone on the air refers to it as a tournament, and not a championship.

-Joe Buck correctly pronounces Centenario.

-A retired former Pittsburgh-area pro athlete is shown at the course wearing his team’s apparel.

-Any mentions of Tiger Woods during the broadcast.

-Any mentions of Spieth/McIlroy/Day/Mickelson during weekend coverage if they miss the cut.

-Any mentions of the Stimpmeter and how the greens are faster during Oakmont’s annual member-guest event.

-Any mentions of Paul Azinger’s 2008 Ryder Cup captaincy.

-Any mentions of Donald Trump.

-Any time there is more than 5 seconds of dead air.

Take 2 drinks (sips) every time any of the following happen:

-Fox mid-identifies what hole they’re showing.

-2 or more people are speaking at the same time on-air.

-Any mentions of Greg Norman.

-Mentions of Ernie Els winning in 1994 or Angel Cabrera winning in 2007.

-Mentions of Brad Faxon’s Ryder Cup record.

-Any mention of Tiger Woods and 18 majors (or for that matter, 18 majors).

-Any mentions of The Golf Boys video.

Take 3 drinks (sips) every time any of the following happen:

-Fox critiques the USGA course setup.

-Anyone on-air calls the USGA a group of idiots who couldn’t organize a 2-car parade.

-Any mentions of Mickelson’s gambling habits or his settlement with the SEC.

-Any mentions of Deer Antler Spray.

-Any mentions about OJ Simpson’s Bronco chase during the 2nd round of the 1994 US Open at Oakmont.

Take 4 drinks (sips) every time any of the following happen:

-Anyone says “Mike Davis is a turd wrangling asshole” on-air.

-Someone asks “why are we covering this event?” on-air.

-Anyone says “you know what would make this better…glow-pucks!”

-Someone on-air refers to the local area as a cesspool of inbred hayseeds and rubes.

-Anyone on-air references Benghazi.

-Someone says that the putting greens are too slow.

-Joe Buck is drinking out of a paper bag on-air.

-Joe Buck is reading tweets from Dan Jenkins about Sergio Garcia on-air with a fake Spanish accent.

-A post-tournament apology followed by “well folks, only 10 more years of us covering this event!”

-“Joe Buck has taken ill. Filling in for him will be GUS JOHNSON OH MY GAWD!!!”

However, no drinks for the following:

-Mentions of Johnny Miller’s 63.

-Any shots of people waiving those yellow towels that Pittsburgh people think is a thing.

-Random former Pittsburgh-area athletes on-air.

-Any mentions of Fox shows.

 

 

 

You Had One Job

photo courtesy twitter.com

Okay everyone, now let’s go outside and do this all over again!

What should be one of the easiest tournaments to cover given the 60+ years of experience that CBS has with covering the Masters proved that experience isn’t always worthwhile, as viewers were treated (or more correctly subjected to) to the worst coverage of this tournament in recent memory.  Which is puzzling, because unlike the myriad of mistakes Fox made in covering last year’s US Open, CBS can’t claim to be new at this.  The only visible change was David Feherty leaving for NBC and bringing in Dottie Pepper (and she was anything but a problem).

Nobody is expecting CBS to have hard-hitting critical feature pieces on Augusta National’s membership policies, and certainly they weren’t going to criticize the course setup (even if you could argue they should have made some modifications relative to hole locations) on Saturday given the heavy wind.  Augusta National, as is their right, keeps things on a tight rein (if they opened up the tournament to outside bids it would likely alter the sport’s television landscape), but at some point, CBS has to ask themselves how in the heck did a network that covers more weekend golf than any other network make such fundamental errors?

Did someone slip their production team narcotics or something?

Where to start…let’s start with the easiest thing.

1) TRY SHOWING LIVE GOLF, WHICH WOULD MEAN ACTUAL SHOTS…you know, live.  Sunday was “marginally” better than Saturday, but if you were in some drinking game and “this was from just a moment ago” was on your card, you’re lucky if you’re still alive.

2) Once they start the telecast, there should be a quick here’s where we are (quick should be 30-60 seconds at most), and then start showing live golf as soon as possible.

3) Join the 21st century and add a leader-board on the screen at all times (of all the mistakes Fox made last year at the US Open, they got this right).  People tune in at all times, and this is something people expect (every other sport has it).  The major team sports, NASCAR, the pro tennis tours all have this.  It’s time for golf to embrace this on a full-time basis and surely during the major championships (when viewership is at its highest).  If NBC is reading this, they need to make sure that this happens during their Olympic coverage.

4) Another thing would be to have Trackman/Pro Tracer.  It’s become a staple of golf broadcasts, and it doesn’t clutter up the screen.  If anything, it gives the viewer information (Fox used it last year at the US Open and it worked).  While they did a nice job of trying to show the elevation changes and enhanced flyovers of holes, the Trackman/Pro Tracer gives the viewer a greatly enhanced view of tee shots.  Hell, call it whatever you want to call it (call it Masters Tracer) and I can certainly understand ANGC not wanting a corporate sponsor’s name attached (much like they sell refreshments without the name brand attached), but this seems like something that can easily be worked out (and given the audience that tunes in, it’s a great way to give the bigger audience something extra).

5) At some point, that Butler Cabin ceremony has to get blown up.  This year’s was particularly bad.  Can we please lose the CBS blazers?  This isn’t the 1970’s.  I think we all get that Jim “Hello Friends” Nantz works for CBS.  I understand that CBS wants to finish on time, but this isn’t the John Deere Classic we’re talking about.  Maybe push 60 Minutes to an 8pm ET start and have a proper wrap-up.  As a viewer, I’d much rather have one ceremony on the 18th green.  An example of what I am talking about is what the Open Championship does.  See below.

Honor the low amateur (I like that ANGC does this and want it to continue) like they already do and let Billy Payne preside over this (the video above does not show the low amateur award presentation but there was one) by himself.  The ceremony is perfect and would take 10-15 minutes and would let the patrons see the Green Jacket ceremony and not having to endure a reenactment.  What’s noticeably absent is anyone trying to interview them.  If you’re going to have someone conduct an interview, let Peter Kostis handle it- he does this on a weekly basis and is frankly better at it than Nantz (the players are used to Kostis so there’s a built-in trust factor).

6) I don’t know what has to happen in order for a player to be penalized for slow play (unless John Paramour is the official), but this year was particularly terrible.  I understand that CBS is under a short leash, but at some point they need to be willing to point out that Jordan Spieth was put on the clock for slow play, to the point that I doubt they would have been able to get a playoff hole in, had Spieth been able to recover from his quadruple bogey on the 12th hole.  I know that The Masters has gotten extremely lucky with regard to playoffs and not running out of daylight, but yesterday really cut it short.   You have close to a double figure of commentators, and not one of them can point out how painfully slow the likes of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day are?

7) Viewers in Canada and the UK were able to watch the Masters.com streams on TSN and Sky Sports (on lower channels, not on their main channel).  CBS couldn’t have put these on CBS Sports Network (this is the online coverage before the 3pm/2pm coverage starts) or even ESPN (who have the Thursday/Friday rights)?  Golf Channel airs early-round weekend coverage before the networks take over.  Leave the streaming on Masters.com but simulcast it as well.

8) Back on the slow-play beat…I asked Alan Shipnuck of Golf.com and Sports Illustrated about slow play (italics mine):

GOLF.com Retweeted Solo Golfer in Cart

They don’t really care. Also, the club likes to be a good host to the pros. But rogue officials like Paramour lurk.

GOLF.com added,

So there you go.  We have rules against slow play, but nobody wants to enforce them.  That, right there, might be the dumbest thing I’ve read in some time.  If Shipnuck is full of crap then every starter at a public course should be able to kick him in the nuts.  If ANGC don’t care about pace of play (and Shipnuck is right), then they’re doing a global disservice to the game of golf.  Why?  Because believe it or not, young people see Spieth and Jason Day taking 2 minutes to hit a shot and have his “routine” and they think that’s normal, which is exactly what the game does not need.  If your pre-shot routine takes more than 15 seconds, then you need to find a new one.  At one point Spieth’s group was 2 holes behind on Friday.  If you let that happen to you at a public course you fully deserve to have a Marshal intervene).
You can’t pick and choose what parts of the rules you’re going to enforce.  What’s next- deciding that on Friday you can ground your club in a hazard? Maybe on Thursdays the out-of-bounds rule changes to “drop one where you feel like” or something?
You either enforce the rules, or you don’t.
9) Instead of lengthening the course (which they’re planning on doing), would someone please listen to Jack Nicklaus on this subject?  He’s been talking about rolling the ball back for years.  If any tournament has the power to tell players “this is the tournament ball you will use” it would be the Masters.  I’m just wondering when we will see our first 8,000 yard course.
10) It may be time for CBS to shuffle things up a bit in terms of hole assignments.  If you’re reading this and you’re part of Augusta National, please use these suggestions and just say you thought of it.  It’ll be our secret (wink wink); I’m not looking for anything other than an improved telecast.
Hosts: Jim Nantz/Jack Nicklaus
On course: Jerry Foltz/Scott McCarron
18th hole: Sir Nick Faldo
17th hole: Frank Nobilo
16th hole: Ian Baker-Finch
15th hole: Verne Lundquist
14th hole: Rich Beem
13th hole: Bobby Clampett
12th hole: Dottie Pepper
11th hole: Bill McAtee
10th hole/post-round interviews: Peter Kostis
Front 9 host/backup post-round interviews: Steve Sands/Colin Montgomerie
It’s a slightly different lineup.  ANGC needs to embrace on-course reporters (they can still follow their rules), and Kostis needs to be given a tower where he has time to conduct post-round interviews after the final groups finish on 10 (Steve Sands already does a great job of this and is very knowledgeable and who won’t upset anyone’s tender mercies).  The back 9 now has a commentator on each hole.  I’d rather see Faldo have 18 to himself and let Nantz play traffic cop.    Rich Beem is surprisingly good.  Montgomerie is outstanding when given an opportunity (I really enjoyed his work at the 2014 Ryder Cup).  If you wanted to bump Beem into an on-course role I’d give Montgomerie a hole tower in a heartbeat.
It’s not about blowing it up, it’s about learning from mistakes and improving.  It’s still the highest-rated of the 4 majors and certainly CBS is no stranger to covering this tournament, but with a few tweaks that won’t upset Augusta National they can make an even better broadcast.
Older posts Newer posts