Tag: Golf (page 1 of 9)

Johnny, (Occasionally) Angry Johnny (an Appreciation)

Johnny Miller and Seve Ballesteros. Probably not discussing that 63 at Oakmont.

With the NBA season tipping off last night, the NHL season entering its third week (thankfully, the Leafs are off to a hot start and yes- those of you who follow me on Twitter may see my feed become more Leaf-centric for a while), the MLB playoffs down to the last four and the NFL season doing what it does, some things get lost in the shuffle.  This week’s announcement that Johnny Miller will be leaving the broadcast booth after he does one final event (the 2019 Waste Management Open- CBS has (pro football championship game whose title shan’t be mentioned) a conflict so they’re dumping the coverage to NBC (NBC will dump a February weekend to CBS every 4 years when it conflicts with the end of the Winter Olympics).  Related, thumbs up to Golfweek’s ‘The Forecaddie’ for getting this first.

NBC’s decision to use Paul Azinger from Fox is a colossal disappointment.  In multiple years of working with Joe Buck on Fox, they still have zero chemistry and they still provide nothing of value to the viewer.  Buck has this habit of having to put his stamp on things; great moments in sports don’t need it (and he has this habit of talking over things when letting the pictures speak would be better for all involved).

From watching US Opens on Fox, Azinger’s biggest fault is that he routinely fails to use his biggest strength, which is his perspective as a former player.  Viewers don’t need narratives about tradition.  We aren’t former touring professionals; Paul is.  He’s won a major, and yet, he rarely (if ever) provides that perspective.  He’s too busy talking about the history of the game.  Put me in the head of a guy trying to win a major and spare me waxing poetic about how great you think the USGA is.  The final round of a major isn’t that time nor the place.  Four full years with Fox and other than Shane Bacon and Brad Faxon, there’s not a single reason to listen (their technology is fantastic).

Miller has been part of NBC since 1990.  By and large, he’s taken the viewer into what players are thinking on the back nine on Sunday when they’re trying to win.  He used the word ‘choke’ in context with a player.  He hasn’t shied away from being critical of players.  I know the Tiger fanboys don’t want to hear this (lest anyone speak ill of Dear Tiger), but offering criticisms of players is quite literally why many of the talking heads have jobs.  He’s been critical of the best players, which is his job.  Being critical of the top players (when warranted) is part of that.

Any budding announcers, regardless of sport, should remember that if you’re doing TV, the viewer is watching.  He/she can see.  Your words should supplement what’s being viewed.  Analysts should think similarly.  I’ve never played professional sports.  Paul Azinger has.  He’s won a major.  So help me, the viewer, know what’s going on by telling me things I can’t see.  If an on-course reporter can tell me what kind of lie that “X” has in the rough, walk me through what a player might be thinking given this information.  Don’t use 25 words if 15 are sufficient, but don’t use 25 if you need 40 or 50 to provide context.

Challenge: watch the final round of an event with the volume off for 30-40 minutes.  Notice how little most announcers contribute?  They go from shot to shot, and tell you that player X is putting for birdie/par.  Think about the maddening four minutes that JB Holmes spent trying to figure out his second shot at the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year.  Now, think about how little (if anything) the announcers were contributing to this debacle.

Miller, at his best, provided that reason to listen.  He won majors, and knew what it was like (he also successfully managed to balance family life & fatherhood with a professional career) to be in contention.  Yes- he could go on a bit about his famous 63 at Oakmont (and yes- I may or may not have made a drinking game about Miller) but the fact is he shot a 63 and won a US Open, which, to borrow a term, means he has Scoreboard.  More significantly, he could articulate what a tour pro was going through in a final round, which often gets lost in the shuffle.

I’m not NBC/Golf Channel, but if I was, I’d have given some of their internal folks a crack at the job before going outside and sharing Azinger with Fox (where Azinger would be useful is during Ryder Cup week; having him and Colin Montgomerie together would be an absolute must-listen).  David Duval and Justin Leonard have the ‘won a major’ box ticked, and Brandel Chamblee would provide a bit of spice (and controversy) to broadcasts.  Frank Nobilo is another option I’d like to see given a crack.  Maybe, if you were bringing Mike Tirico into the booth (replacing Dan Hicks) I could get behind reuniting Tirico and Azinger, but beyond that, it’s a hard pass.

So thanks for everything, Johnny.  Hope you’re able to enjoy retirement with your family (which has always been your top priority, as it should).

DC Back in the Fold in a “Major” Way, and Tour Championship Insanity

Thoughts on another rainy day here while waiting to have a roofer perform leaks to my roof for the second week running:

The PGA of America rolled out a major announcement involving its championships and Congressional CC:

To borrow one of their old marketing terms, this is major.  Let’s go to the video:

KPMG LPGA Championship: 2022, 2027

Senior PGA Championship: 2025, 2033

Junior PGA Championship: 2024

PGA Club Professional Championship: 2029

PGA Championship: 2031

Ryder Cup: 2036

Staggering.  Badly needed.  I’ve written previously how the PGA Tour leaving this area with their revamped 2018-19 “wrap-around” season was one of the dumber things they’ve done (more on that later), and in comes the PGA of America with 8 championships to be held at Congressional.  That Keith Foster (h/t to Brandon Porath for letting me know about this) will ‘hopefully’ redo Congressional and undo much of Rees Jones’ work is the whipped cream and cherry on top of a delicious sundae.

Let’s start with the LPGA.  Their tour should be playing the best courses in the world (this includes majors).  They’ve played at Oakmont for a US Open (Christina Kim raved about Oakmont; good enough for me) and Pinehurst #2.  Pebble Beach should be on their rota of US Open venues.  The women can, and should be playing the same rota of courses as the men.  Their tour is more than capable and deserves it.

The Senior PGA comes back twice (RTJ is more than worthy if they want a venue in Virginia) and they get the same; iconic course in a big media market.

The Junior and PGA Club Professional events aren’t high-profile but holding them at Congressional is a nice signal that they want to upgrade the caliber of courses.  Good for them.

The PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup speak for themselves.  The Ryder Cup is very much a ‘one shot’ deal (not to get too far ahead but by September (please let September be dry that year) of 2036 Patrick Reed will be 46, Rory McIlroy will be 47 which is that sweet spot for captains).   Assuming the PGA Championship doesn’t move off its new May slot, in DC May ‘can’ be really nice and is typically devoid of the swamp-ass humidity of summer (hopefully concurrent with a deep Capitals run to the Conference Final where they lose to my beloved Leafs while the Nationals get off to a roaring start).

Tour Championship:

The announcement today about changes for the 2019 Tour Championship are, at best, foolhardy and at worst, the single dumbest idea in professional sports.  From the Golfweek article:

The player who has the most FedEx Cup points after next season’s BMW Championship will start the first round of the 2019 Tour Championship with a score of 10 under par and a two-shot lead over the second-highest FedEx Cup point earner who will begin at 8 under. The player ranked third will start at 7 under, while the golfers who arrive at East Lake in fourth and fifth will start at 6 under and 5 under, respectively.  The next five players on the list will begin at 4 under par, with scores regressing by one shot for every five golfers until the players who enter the Tour Championship ranked between 26th and 30th start the events at even par on the first day.

Drinking bleach sounds better than this steaming turd.

I have spent two days trying to come up with anything remotely close to it in terms of a comparable.  The pro tennis tours wouldn’t let the #1 player start up 2-0 in the first set.  Track & field doesn’t let the fastest qualifier have a 10 meter head start.  No professional team sport lets a team start a game up in score over the other team.  You know who did this?

The original American Gladiators (the one that started in 1989).

Take that in.  The PGA Tour looked at American Gladiators and thought “hey, they’ve got something there.”

So that’s where professional golf is.  The obvious answer of having a match play Tour Championship doesn’t work for TV because they’re afraid of a bad final match-up (I’m just spit-balling here, but if your top 30 players can’t produce a decent final round that will get eyeballs, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of your marketing efforts).  So we’ll rule that out because of…reasons.

The other option is play a Wed-Sat 72 hole event, and the top 4 (or 6) make the Final Round; a one-round low-score wins it all deal (easy to market; 4 or 6 players, one round, low score wins the Tour Championship and the $15 million).  If you go to the top 6 and want to reward season-long excellence, give the top 1 (or 2) finishers in the standings an automatic berth in the Final Round.  A top seed earning a bye?  Yeah, there’s a ton of evidence showing this happening in other sports.  If you want to give the top seed something, let them pick who they play with in the Final Round and if they go out in the first or second group (maybe you pick a couple guys who you’re comfortable with rather than a couple guys you don’t get on with).

Another idea is a form of gradual elimination.  Start by playing 2 rounds of ‘qualifiers’ (like the first two rounds at most events) and let the top half advance into the next stage (giving the top 2 or 4 finishers an automatic bye into the next stage- their benefit after a long season is a less grueling path to the Final Round), and then have 2 rounds of single-round eliminations.  Say you get the top 30 whittled down after 2 days to the top 14 or 16.  Round 3 cuts it down to 10, round 4 cuts it to 6, and then the top 6 play a Final Round for everything.  It’s about elevating your game for the playoffs.  I’m pretty sure I’ve heard athletes talk about that before.

You could play the Tour Championship on the West Coast (nothing against East Lake) and finish in prime time on the East Coast on either Sunday or Monday (start on Golf Channel, switch to NBC).  It’s not like the TV landscape in late August is over-run with better options unless the orgy of so-called reality TV shows and reruns has some grand appeal.

The argument that is being made is down to what value does the regular season have?   Does being the best player over the course of a long season matter as opposed to a ‘playoff’ system that the Tour seems to want.  In team sports, it’s the team that performs best in the playoffs that wins the championship.  In the NFL, a 14-2 regular season record is great but teams have lost Super Bowls to teams with 9-7 records.  Is the 14-2 team better because of their record over a 17-week regular season or is a 9-7 team better because in the Super Bowl they were the better team on that day?  Note- either case has valid points.  What you can’t do is say to the 14-2 team that you’re going to start the Super Bowl up 14-0 over the 9-7 team.

That, dear reader, is what the PGA Tour is trying to do.  They want their Super Bowl, but they want to give the team with the best record a head start.  It’s a terrible idea; the Tour and its fans deserve better.

 

 

REVEALED- The Secret Ryder Cup Selection Meetings (SHHHHH)!

Image result for us ryder cup team photos

The 2006 US Ryder Cup Team photo. Majestic in its earth-tones (photo property of Alamy).

As everyone takes a collective breath from the thrilling conclusion that was the final round of the 100th USPGA Championship at Bellerive, the next major event in the golf calendar is the Ryder Cup from September 28-30 in France (no disrespect to the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but the Ryder Cup is something else entirely different).  The US will be looking to win on foreign soil in a Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 while Europe will want to reclaim the trophy away from the US team.

With qualifying for Ryder Cup spots completed, this means that 8 of the 12 spots on the US team are filled, leaving Jim Furyk in charge of picking the last 4 spots in early September.  The players who have qualified so far are as follows: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, and Webb Simpson.

Players being considered for the last 4 spots are (in order of ranking) Bryson Dechambeau, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, Tony Finau, Kyle Stanley, Bryan Harman, Kevin Na, Gary Woodland and Zach Johnson.  Jimmy Walker (#24) and JB Holmes (#31) are also rumored to being considered.

In order to make the best decision possible, Jim Furyk with his assistant captain Steve Stricker conducted interviews with each player.  They were supposed to be private, but SGIC spies were successful in planting a wireless microphone and obtained tapes of those conversations; the transcriptions appear below.  And lordy, there are tapes.

Jim Furyk (JF): Well, Steve, we really have a tough job ahead of us today.  We have 14 world-class professionals to talk to for only 4 spots.  Any thoughts?

Steve Stricker (SS): Yeah. Just do what I did last year.  Take the best players.  Why are you overthinking this?  Didn’t Alan Shipnuck say we were in an era of US dominance?  I mean, he’s smart, right?

JF: Seriously?  That International Team was awful.  Hal Sutton could have put his cowboy hat back on and captained our boys to a win.  The Europeans are a lot better so we have to be stronger from 1-12.  Speaking of which, how do you think I’d look in a cowboy hat.

SS: Ridiculous.

JF: I disagree.

SS: Well, let’s talk to these guys and see what they have to say.

JF: Sounds good.  Bryson, come on in.

Bryson Dechambeau comes in wearing his trademark Hogan cap, a lab coat and carrying several scientific instruments.

JF: Bryson, why do you think you should be a captain’s pick for the 2018 Ryder Cup team?

Bryson Dechambeau: Well, I won the Memorial Tournament this year, and I won a US Amateur before turning professional and my calculations show that my chakra will come into peak bloom in late September.  My strokes gained average is up nearly a stroke over last year.

JF: And then what happened?

BD: Things went okay, I guess.  I mean, I finished 9th in the standings behind Webb Simpson!

SS: Minus your temper tantrum.  Finishing behind Webb isn’t really a selling point.

There’s a door exploding as Tiger Woods kicks the door in holding two cans of Monster energy drink…he drinks one of the cans in one large chug and throws the empty at Bryson’s head.

Tiger Woods (TW): Oh, that’s nice nerd boy. You won a US Amateur.  I have 3 of those.  In a row.  You won the Memorial?  Isn’t that nice.  I’ve won it 5 times.

BD: You’re also a lot older than me.

TW: And better.

JF: Tiger, if you can just wait your turn, we’ll get to everyone.

TW: (grabs other can of Monster, chugs it in one move) Jim, you will put me on the team. NOW.

JF: I don’t know.  Steve, what do you think?

SS: Tiger, how does your back feel?  Can you hold up for all 3 days?

TW: I don’t know (loud noise as he turns his hat around, chugs a 4th can and proceeds to bench press an 800 pound anvil that just happened to be in the room).  Pretty good I suppose.

JF: Tiger, I’m concerned because you’ve only been a part of one winning Ryder Cup team.

TW: I’m not. Jim, the only reason you have two Ryder Cup wins to my one win is because I was injured in 2008 after I won the US Open on a broken leg.  You know damn well I’d have been on the team.

JF: I shot a 59 and a 58.

TW: 14 majors, not counting my 3 US Amateur wins.

JF: I won a US Open.  I mean, doesn’t everyone have a US Open win?

A loud “screw you both” is heard from outside the room in a voice that sounds very much like Phil Mickelson’s voice.

SS: Guys, come on. This isn’t working.  Bryson, how are you going to handle hostile crowds in France?  A European Ryder Cup crowd can be pretty daunting.

BD: Well, I did a statistical regression analysis on that and my analysis shows that their crowds are actually quite tame.

SS: Your stats are wrong.

JF: You’ll have to give up that stupid Hogan cap if selected.

BD: Wow…that’s a total buzzkill.  Wouldn’t the entire team look good wearing those?

TW: Only if we wear blade collars.

SS: No Hogan caps, no blade collars, and ixnay on the Miz-zay.

JF: Bryson, I’m really concerned that their fans are going to get under your skin.  Hopefully none of the players in contention for captains picks have done anything that’s garnered worldwide ridicule this summer…

(Noise coming from outside the room getting progressively louder playing “Ole, Ole Ole Ole, Ole, Ole”).  Phil Mickelson, wearing a bolero jacket, chaps, a KPMG cap and a dress shirt strolls in while dancing.  The dancing goes on for several minutes much to the annoyance of everyone in the room.

Phil Mickelson: Hey, everybody!  Who’s ready to defend our Ryder Cup win from 2016?

All: Phil, no. Just, no.

PM: Come on guys.  Jim, I called the Mizzen and Main guys to have some stuff worked up for this year.  You KNOW you want this.

TW: Does Mizzen and Main now do blade collars?  Let’s say I’m asking for a friend.

PM: I don’t know, Tiger.  Let me ask them (the audio sounds like he’s pulling out his cellphone); Siri, call Mizzen and Main.

JF: No, Phil, I don’t.  We already have uniforms.  Steve, was he like this last year?

SS: No; he was busy taking selfies after the 41st straight time Kuchar beat him in ping pong.  Honestly I just let Tiger do half the pairings; I couldn’t find him a pet squirrel.

TW: Steve’s good at taking suggestions.  Actually, Jim, I have an idea.  How about you just let me run things.

PM: Jim, I swear if you make us wear that godforsaken Chiliwear crap, my press conference after Sunday’s singles will make my 2014 rant look tame.

TW: Does Chiliwear offer a blade collar option?

JF: Not going to let that one die, are you.

TW: Not a chance, unless you decide to pick Club Pro Guy as an assistant captain.

JF: Okay, you three go sit in the room next door while I call in the next candidates.

Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and Tony Finau walk in.

JF: Who are you people?

Xander (XS): I won the Tour Championship last year.

Matt Kuchar (MK): I almost won the Open Championship last year and I’m the best ping pong player on tour.  Ask Phil.

Kevin Kisner (KK): I’m competitive every week.

Tony Finau (TF): I rolled my ankle at Augusta and still finished T10 and I’m usually on the first or second page of leaderboards. Perhaps you’d like a display of strength and agility…

JF: Please don’t.

MK: Lest we forget, Phil and I have done pretty well as partners since Keegan Bradley is only seen on the side of milk cartons these days.

XS: I’ve been competitive in all 4 majors.

KK: I tied for 2nd at the British Open.

JF: Let me think about it.  Who else is out there?

Kevin Na, Gary Woodland, Zach Johnson, JB Holmes and Jimmy Walker walk in.

JF: Hi fellas.  Why are you all here?

Zach Johnson (ZJ): Well, speaking as the only guy with multiple majors, we think you should consider one or more of us for those captain’s selections.  You need someone who’s won a major overseas.

JB Holmes (JB): And someone with Ryder Cup experience.

Jimmy Walker (JW): I’d say a PGA Championship win is what you need.

Kevin Na (KN): People will literally stab themselves in the eye to avoid playing with me.

JB: Me too!  Apparently people hate it when I take 4 minutes to lay up.

KN: Or become a weapons-grade head case on the tee.

JF: JB, just leave. Please. Now.

JB: C’mon…

TW from adjacent room: JB, I think you were asked to leave. I still have a few cans of Monster over here. I think it’s best you leave now.

(JB Holmes leaves room muttering to himself)

ZJ: Why do people throw Propecia at me?

TW: Beats me, but if you don’t want it I know someone who will take it off your hands.

Gary Woodland (GW): How about some feats of strength to decide this?

JF: I’ve made up my mind.

SS: Thanks for including me in your thought process.

JF: Thanks for being overly passive-aggressive.

SS: Whatever. Ask me what it’s like to captain a US side to victory.

JF: Okay, here’s how it goes.  Tiger, Phil, Kuchar, and Xander.  You guys are in.  Everyone else, thanks for coming.  Zach, I’d like to have you be an assistant captain.  Tony, you’re my 13th man so if anyone withdraws or gets hurt prior, you’re in the team.

BD: Seriously?

JF: Yes.  Everyone, thanks for showing up today. Let’s all remember that regardless of anything, we all want the US to win in Paris and bring the Ryder Cup back home.

SS: What we really need is someone we can all rally against.

JF: I agree.

SS: Someone who will really cause the team to work together.

JF: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

SS: I am.

JF:  Great. It’s good to know that with everything going on, we still have one person who we can call on who we know will get the team properly motivated to go out there motivated to show them.

SS: You want me to call or do you want to call?

JF:  Let’s do it together.  We’ll use my phone.

JF/SS together: “Hey, Brandel, we need your help!”

SONG OF THE DAY #1

Johnny Marr still has the heater.

SONG OF THE DAY #2

Australian Rugby League hasn’t always been the biggest bunch of geniuses on the planet, but this is some legendary stuff.  This is an OFFICIAL promotion. The 80s’ were weird, man.

The Majesty of the Dancing Phil

It was a quiet morning at SGIC Headquarters.  First coffee dispatched and all was set for a quiet Thursday.  And then, like an earthquake and a thunderstorm, Mizzen and Main dropped their new TV ad featuring Phil Mickelson. From their official Twitter account, let’s see what we have here.

Holy shit.

SONG OF THE DAY

Enjoy some of that new music that the kids like.

 

The LPGA in the DMV Makes Perfect Sense (an open letter to Mike Whan)

Your faithful scribe, hard at work.

Dear Mike,

First off, let me congratulate you on the work you’ve done in your time as LPGA Commissioner.  I’d argue that the LPGA is the most watchable professional golf circuit, and the closest thing to a true global circuit.  Leader-boards often look like a UN meeting is breaking out.  It’s good for the global game, and good for the sport.  The women who make up the Tour are fantastic ambassadors for sport and their game.

As you’re probably aware, your cohort (Jay Monahan) at the PGA Tour announced their 2018-19 wraparound schedule, which puts an end to the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, northern Virginia) hosting a professional golf tournament in 2019.  We’re all fully aware you have an event in Williamsburg, but that’s not really an option for most people in the area.  So let’s talk about the market.  When you combine the DC and Baltimore markets, they add up to 3.6 million households (2.5 million in DC and the Virginia suburbs, another 1.1 million from Baltimore and surrounding areas).  If you combine them, that’s the third largest US television market (they kick Chicago out from the 3rd spot), and they have zip to look forward to in terms of professional golf next year.

I should also mention that when you look at the richest counties in the country based on a 2016 survey, the DC area has the top three spots.  Loudoun and Fairfax Counties in Virginia, Howard County in Maryland.  Overall, the area is home to 10 of the top 25 counties based on median household income.  We play golf pretty much year-round unless the courses are closed.  If it’s above freezing and the courses aren’t snow-covered, people will play.  Same for the swamp-like summers.  I mean, what’s a little heat stroke among friends, right?

Did I mention we like sports?  Washington is a true 4-sport city, and not sure you noticed, but the Capitals won the Stanley Cup this past June.  The entire area joined the players on a multi-day bender afterwards.  We also have several colleges including a service academy nearby in Annapolis.  The Nationals just hosted the All Star Game.  The Wizards are a playoff team.  There’s an NFL team that plays in Landover…yeah never mind (the Ravens in Baltimore have won a Super Bowl this decade).  This area has supported the PGA Tour stop in the face of every possible obstacle including every possible weather event short of snow (that’s this area’s Achilles heel and we know it).  People showed up in the aftermath of a derecho that caused massive problems including volunteers.  Admit it- you’re looking up what a derecho is.  We all learned about this 5 years ago.  We didn’t show up the day after because the Tour didn’t let fans on the course because of safety concerns.  If they had, we’d have shown up.

The point is this- this area loves golf and has a proven record of supporting tournaments in spite of barriers put in front of us.  You should be putting the DMV on your tournament calendar.  Okay, you get the area is lucrative.  But let’s talk where to play; and it’s an impressive list.

Are there decent golf courses that can stage an event?  You bet your ass!  In Virginia, RTJ has hosted the Quicken Loans open and hosted multiple President Cup matches.  Laurel Hill is a public course that hosted a USGA Championship.  Creighton Farms should also merit a look if it has the space for the infrastructure a tournament needs.

Maryland has Bulle Rock (it hosted the LPGA Championship for several years in the 2000’s).  It’s still a tough test.  Closer to DC, you also have options.  Congressional’s list of tournaments and championships is as solid as it gets but their members are an odd lot.  Nearby, TPC Potomac just hosted the men in 2017 and 2018.  The golf course at the University of Maryland hosted a Web.com event for a couple years after a 2008 renovation.  Any dates after school lets out would probably work.  Worthington Manor has hosted US Open qualifiers and is a public course.  Baltimore CC (Five Farms) hosted the inaugural LPGA Crown event and remains one of those classic courses that could host an event on short notice.

Or, if you really want to swing for the fences, let’s talk about the District of Columbia.  Specifically, Rock Creek Park.  Sure, it’s not long or tough enough to challenge professionals.  But think about what might happen if you went into partnership (think the USGA with Bethpage Black)?  At the very least, take a look at it.  Admit it- you’re intrigued because you think big.

Weather-wise, July and August aren’t the best (admittedly it gets hot and humid not to mention thunder storms) but then again- your tour hits south Asia which makes DC heat/humidity look refreshing by comparison.  I know September and October are tough because you’re up against football and I know Portland has the Labor Day slot (and admittedly that’s a beautiful city).  But you could make it work.  May, on the other hand…that’s some fine weather.  Starting to warm up but not yet getting killed with the humidity.

The point is this: Putting a tournament in DC right before/after the Williamsburg event is easy travel for your players, and normally May is pretty nice here as I already noted.  So let’s do this.  It’ll be great.

 

 

Monday After The US Open Hot Topics

So after roughly 80 bazillion picks of who will/won’t/might/maybe contend at this week’s US Open at Shinnecock Hills, the winner was Brooks Koepka, otherwise known as the same guy who won last year.

But unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly a week of smooth sailing.  Traffic (who knew that summer traffic in a summer destination was going to be an issue other than the millions of people who live/work/vacation in the area), course set-up, and a host of other issues got everyone riled up.  Rather than offer my opinions, I’m ceding the floor to Golf Twitter to argue the issues of the week.

Issue: Phil Mickelson’s attempt at playing polo on 13 on Saturday was a disgrace and he should have been DQ on the spot and drawn & quartered.  Or he was making a comment about the course conditions.  Let’s go to the evidence.

For: He deliberately hit a moving ball to keep it from running off the green!

Against: The USGA gave him a 2-stroke penalty as prescribed by the rules.

For: Several players weren’t exactly happy with this.  They typically don’t sound off en masse unless something goes completely off the rails (see Johnson, Dustin in 2016).

Against: He’s Phil Mickelson.  It was his birthday!  Fans love the guy!  Fans don’t care what the haters think.

For: Oh, so the rules don’t apply to beloved players.  His explanation was…well, you watch it.

Against: He wasn’t going to win so what’s the big deal?  Shut up!  Phil’s awesome!

For: Have you heard of protecting the field?

Against: Dummy says what?

For: He should have done the honorable thing and WD on Saturday night.

Against: He offered to and the USGA said no.  Says his wife Amy.

Resolved: We disagree.  Brendan Porath has a pretty smart take here.  I also think John Feinstein gets it right (his words, not mine):

Here are two things that are crystal clear: First, Mickelson embarrassed himself with his sprint, spin and putt while his bogey putt was still rolling. Second, the USGA, already having a bad day because of the way Shinnecock Hills was set up, embarrassed itself further by not disqualifying Mickelson the instant he smugly told the media his act was intentional.

Issue: The USGA’s course set-up went off the rails.  Again.

For: When you look at every foul-up or controversy at a men’s US Open, the problem can be traced back to course set-up.  Golf Channel certainly didn’t mince words.

Against: It’s the National Championship!  It’s supposed to be hard!  Who wants to see someone win with 20 under as a score?

For: The USGA admitted that they lost the course on Saturday and several players agreed.

Against: Oh great, now the players are turning into snowflakes because the course is a bit difficult.  Why not just get rid of all the rough and give everyone a trophy?  I want it harder!

For: The greens were dead.  Again.  After pinkie-swearing that there would not be a repeat of 2004.  They lost them in 2016, 2015, 2014.  Merion was lambasted in 2013.

Against: US Open is supposed to be hard. HULK SMASH.  Put bears in the fairway and land sharks in the rough.  MUST MAKE HARD.  What- they can’t play in wind anymore?  Winning score should be 20 over par so that us regular golfers can relate!

For:  It was windier than they expected.  In an area that is known to be windy.  Apparently with all this technology they literally can’t forecast wind a day in advance.

Against: It’s the National Championship, not some random tournament.

For: You can create a difficult challenge without stressing out greens.

Against: NO YOU CAN’T.  They should be stimping out at 20.  I WANT CARNAGE!!!

For: The Masters, Open Championship and USPGA manage course set-up without turning greens into parking lots.

Against: Did I stutter?  I WANT CARNAGE!  Tears, blood, and everything unfair.  It’s our national championship and it should be hard!

For: It already is.

Against: No it’s not.  I want a literal bloodbath.  I want a 79 to be the low score of the week.  I want to see scores in the 100’s.  9,000 yard courses, bunkers with poisonous snakes, 5-yard wide fairways.  AHHHHH!

For:  In that case they should just change the putting surfaces to concrete.

Against: Now you’re talking!

Resolved: Somewhere between last year’s event and this year, the USGA can and should create a difficult test that involves something more than lightning-fast greens.  Luckily they should not need to do much to Pebble Beach for 2019.

Issue: Fans at the US Open behave inappropriately.

For: You don’t see this in Augusta or at the Open Championship.

Against: Mashed Potatoes! Dilly Dilly!

For: This isn’t the Ryder Cup.

Against: U!S!A!  Hey look it’s Poulter….boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

For: Maybe a few less beers.

Against: Baba Booey!  Look at me everyone!

For: Seriously…can you not?

Against: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Killjoy.  Stop being a hater, broheim.

Resolved: The 2024 Ryder Cup is going to be a gong show.

Issue: Fox completed their 4th US Open so only 8 more years of this.

For: Their production and their technical advances are outstanding.

Against: Joe Buck.

For: Shane Bacon was outstanding.

Against: The Bill Hemmer interview during the 2nd round was a special kind of tone-deaf stupidity you only get from Fox.

For: Brad Faxon was outstanding.  Not flashy, but does a solid job of telling the viewer something they probably don’t know.

Against: Picking up player-caddie discussions are great. Fan discussions about their…ahem…partners isn’t.  Who thought this was a good idea?

For: Mike Davis appeared at the end of the 3rd round and took the hit for the course setup.

Against: Seriously.  Get rid of Joe Buck.  While you’re at it, tell Paul Azinger to drop the Grumpy Old Man bit.

Resolved: If Fox feels like they need him around, push Buck into a host role (think Bob Costas when NBC had the US Open) and find a competent 18th hole tower announcer.  Maybe Shane Bacon is the answer, maybe he’s not.  Think beyond the norm.  Some people are good at golf. Buck isn’t.  It’s been four years of USGA events; he’s not going to get better.  It’s just not his thing.

SONG OF THE DAY

30 years ago today I went with some friends to see Depeche Mode at the Rose Bowl in California.  Good times, minus the five couples around me who broke up (including the couple I went with), and two people projectile vomiting in the sink of the men’s washroom.   Enjoy.

 

Foot Joy Pro-SL Spikeless Shoe Review (20-round review)

FootJoy ProSL. Side and outsole/spikeless pattern. Shockingly good grip.

Like a lot of golfers my age and older, my first few pair of golf shoes had metal spikes.  I still remember my first pair; all white Etonics that had a wingtip design.  The click-clack of metal spikes on pavement or a cart path is such a distinct sound.  At the time, spikeless shoes were starting to be made, but most of them resembled gridiron astro-turf shoes and had little if any grip (which was fine if you’re playing a flat course with no wet spots, but otherwise not so good).

The last pair of spiked shoes I owned were a pair of Nike (pre-Tiger Woods) I purchased in the mid 1990’s.  After that, it’s been soft-spikes on anything I’ve played in for the better part of 20 years until a few months ago.

My interest in spikeless shoes started when I saw Fred Couples wearing them at The Masters (2010 or 2012 if I recall correctly), which I found curious.  If someone like Couples (with his history of back trouble) would wear something like that on a course that has a ton of elevation change, then he must be getting plenty of grip and traction.  Admittedly I’ve always liked Freddie’s swing and how smooth and effective it is (maybe some envy as well).

Seeing companies make an effort at putting together good spikeless shoes furthered my interest so I began doing research.  I heard great things about Ecco but they don’t make their shoes in widths (which is mind-boggling).  I also looked at New Balance but if I’m being honest I wasn’t impressed at their golf shoes, so it was down to Foot Joy (one of the few companies that make golf shoes in an extra-wide width).

Side view shot of my FootJoy Pro SL.

Buying: Excellent.  Their site is pretty easy to navigate and get information about their different models.  Their color selection wasn’t the greatest (they don’t seem to make a lot of their bolder options in the XW width), but found a pair in my size.  Shipping was a breeze and they showed up 1-2 days earlier than expected.  If I have one complaint, it’s the lack of color options with the XW sizes.

**Note: FootJoy did not provide me with any free product, upgraded shipping or any consideration.  The review is my opinion solely; they were not consulted or advised I would be writing a review.

Comfort: Good. I also have a pair of Hyperflex II shoes which I like.  The outsole doesn’t sit up as high and I feared wouldn’t have the same cushion.  It’s a firmer feel, but still very cushioned.  Size-wise they run true to other FootJoy models; for me this means sizing down since I’m 1/2 size smaller in Footjoy than I am in other shoes.

Waterproofing: Excellent. I haven’t had the chance to wear them in rain yet, but several mornings of being a dew-sweeper gave them a pretty solid test.  No issues.  They breathe okay and held up to several rounds in the desert in hot conditions.

Grip: Outstanding; far better than I was expecting.  This was the single biggest surprise with these shoes.  From shots off the tee to shots in the fairway, rough, bunkers, and sidehill/uphill/downhill lies, my feet felt very anchored in.  At no point did I fear my foot slipping.  From the first shot, when it almost felt like I could feel my feet ‘locking in’ to the turf to putting out on my most recent round, grip has been outstanding.  Better than most shoes that have softspikes, and I’m not kidding at all.  Easily my favorite thing about them.  Still blown away at how good they grip.

Stability: Outstanding.  I like a wide outsole, and these have it.  At no point did I fear rolling over.  Very functional; does what you expect.  They’re a bit heavier than my Hyperflex II shoes as a comparison.

Look: Average/Below Average.  When they first came out, my thought was that they looked like bowling shoes and I didn’t really like how they looked (the first color pattern of black and white still have that bowling shoe look, in my opinion).   Probably my least favorite part of the shoe.  I thought about buying all white instead of the white/tan I bought; I think I’d probably go for the all white if I had to do it over again.  Still think they look a bit like bowling shoes.

Overall: Outstanding.  Looks aside, FootJoy hit a home run.  Fit, function, comfort, stability and grip are outstanding.  Okay, so these aren’t sexy.  They’re damn good golf shoes.  If you’re thinking about a new pair, or adding a pair of spikeless shoes to your collection, I strongly recommend taking at look at the ProSL.

SONG OF THE DAY

 

 

The Crossover of Crossovers- Stanley Cup Playoff Games on Golf Channel (a helpful explainer)

2003 Masters Champion Mike Weir dropping the puck at a Leafs-Flyers playoff game in 2003. This really happened.

Lost amid Patrick Reed winning The Masters on Sunday night (along with the coveted Green Jacket, $1.98 million in prize money, and the chance to have the 2019 Champions Dinner catered by McDonalds, Hardees and Domino’s) was the conclusion of the NHL regular season and the announcement of first round playoff dates/times and TV (Boston had a makeup game with Florida that finalized the pairings; otherwise the regular season was supposed to have ended on Saturday the 7th).

NBC, unlike the other network that shows golf (CBS), has managed to intertwine its afternoon NHL coverage successfully; the Sunday afternoon regular season games end on time and they’re able to transition over to golf coverage with minimal delay (unlike CBS’ college basketball coverage during the PGA Tour West Coast swing which ran late every single weekend).  Let’s just pretend that their 2007 decision to dump out of a Conference Final playoff game to show a horse racing pregame show never happened.  I point this out because if you take a look at the NHL schedule for the first round, you notice that two games are slated to air on Golf Channel (both games on April 18; New Jersey/Tampa followed by Anaheim/San Jose).  This is real; it’s not some delayed April Fool’s Day joke.

I suppose it’s similar to how NCAA basketball fans feel when they have to look for TruTV.

NHL fans have gotten used to NBC putting games on USA Network and CNBC in the first/second round, but Golf Channel’s deployment is a new thing.  While there are many hockey fans who watch golf (and vice versa), many people many not know what (or why, for that matter) Golf Channel is and why it exists.  It went on the air in January of 1995, founded by the late Arnold Palmer (sort of like if Gordie Howe started the NHL Network).  It was acquired by NBC/Comcast several years ago.  Golf Channel has never deviated from showing golf (other than endless airings of either Caddyshack, Happy Gilmore, Bagger Vance, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Bobby Jones/Strokes of Genius or The Squeeze).

While there are many differences between the PGA, LPGA, Champions (Senior), European Tours and the NHL, there are some similarities.  So in the interest of helping fellow hockey fans who may be curious about Golf Channel and the similarities between golf and hockey, I humbly offer an a primer.  You’re welcome.

Point of Contention Hockey Golf
Annoying old man who spends too much time hanging around much to the annoyance of most people who wish he’d do it less Don Cherry Donald Trump
Movie that fans can quote pretty much verbatim that made a horrible sequel nobody wants to acknowledge Slap Shot Caddyshack
Movie with dozens of inaccuracies people love to hate Youngblood Happy Gilmore
Annoying guy with a checkered past named Patrick Patrick Kane Patrick Reed
Beloved player who can’t win the country’s most important event and has failed repeatedly on a grand and tragic scale Alex Ovechkin Phil Mickelson
Studio Analyst that drives most fans off the wall Mike Milbury Brandel Chamblee
Rules Concept that exists that nobody understands Goaltender Interference Anchoring the putter
Rule that will immediately start an argument Getting Rid of Fighting Rolling the Ball Back
Annoying Analytics that a lot of fans wish people would shut up about Corsi/Fenwick/PDO Strokes Gained
Crossover figure who plays the other sport very well NHL Official Garret Rank Mike Weir, Graham DaLaet
Lightning Rod Game Analyst “shut up about it” go-to phrase Pierre McGuire “When I was an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins…” Johnny Miller “In 1973 at Oakmont when I shot my 63”
Phrase you hear that makes you want to stab your eyes out “Respect the Game” “Protect the Field”
Annoying Team Competition that really brings out the worst in fans Olympics Ryder Cup
Catch phrase from a main announcer you hate “WAFFLEBOARD!” “Hello Friends”
Played-out rivalry no serious fan cares about Ovechkin/Crosby Tiger/Phil
Potential International Rivalry Connor McDavid/Auston Matthews Patrick Reed/Rory McIlroy
Annoying Fan Behavior #1 Lower Bowl fan on cell phone waving at camera BABA BOOEY, DILLY DILLY, MASHED POTATOES.
Annoying Fan Behavior #2 Throwing things on the ice Calling to report a rules violation
Beloved analyst with crossover appeal Bob McKenzie David Feherty
Schtick you want to see fired into the sun Multiple outdoor games in a season Big Break
Variation from the game that inspires passions on both sides 3 on 3, 4 on 4 Match play, 2-man team golf
Hated figure running the game Gary Bettman The USGA
Best Trophy Stanley Cup Claret Jug
Amateur jerk move Beer league player with a tinted visor 20-handicapper with a pro staff bag
Asshole amateur tactic Ringers Sandbaggers

 

The Oscar For Greatest Golf Infomercial Is Right Here

As you know, I love infomercials.  Golf infomercials are even better.  I thought I had seen true excellence.  While the Golflogix GPS, Perfect Club, and the Brandel Chamblee Quiet Feet ones were all very good, they have been one-upped.  It takes a special kind of spectacle to outperform the Perfect Club, but folks, we have a winner here.

First off, I have to thank Ryan David at RD Golf Media for bringing this to my attention.  You can never predict when you’re going to see greatness.  Tiger Woods at the 1997 Masters.  Auston Matthews scoring 4 goals in his NHL Debut in 2016.  Korean barbecue at 2:00 a.m.  The first time my lips were met with the golden nectar of the gods that is single malt Scotch Whisky.  And now, for your consideration, I give you Royal Lifestyle Golf Clubs.

Let’s watch this together, shall we?

0:02: White pants, un-tucked red shirt.  Okay, I’m in.  The pseudo-British accent at Peter Alliss depth tells you it’s working.  And it’s classy.  It’s the new ‘it’s made in Germany- they make great stuff’ line.

0:08: He goes full Men In Blazers ‘The Tingling’ with a ‘WOW!’  It ‘almost’ makes you want to touch your own nipples. Almost.

I get it. It makes me want to touch my nipples too, Rog.

0:16: Note to the ‘Elvis is Still Alive’ folks.  All is forgiven. Mine eyes have seen the light. If that gold medallion could talk, oh the stories it would tell.

0:24: Powered by the Japanese Pachinko Ball!  It’s a metal ball!  But Japanese!  Magic!  Outta my way, I must have All Of The Pachinko Balls!

0:31: If you’re saying to yourself “umm, the production values are really something” we’re just getting started.  That weave on his head is spectacular, and it’s real muskrat.  Maybe.

0:40: The Royal Lifestyle, and we manufacture The Jumano Line.  Made by Vandalay Industries!

1:04: Hey, this guy’s an engineer by trade!  He should mention that again.  Is it me, or has this guy had a few pops?

1:17: Powered by the Japanese Pachinko Ball!  More oomph!

1:27: It took him 3 years to design this wonderful set of clubs.  Noted.

1:50: I’m an engineer!  Oh, and if someone tells you they’re “probably close to a 0 handicap” you know that you’re on Bullshit Mountain.

2:08: I can think of a few other things that exceed your imagination. But go on…

2:31: “It’s all a bunch of stuff” isn’t the argument we need, but it’s what we deserve and what we’re getting here. If Taylormade or Titleist put out a new line of clubs and said “The Taylormade M10…it’s all a bunch of stuff!” I’d totally buy it.  I’d walk in, take out my wallet and say ‘Gimme that M10 and just take my money’ and I’d have company.

2:34: Brain-warshing?  Oh shit, we’re going full Golf Chemtrails here!

2:44: Reminder…he’s an engineer.  Do you think he likes trains in an unhealthy way?  Just asking.

3:11: Seriously, the production values and the awkward zooming in are straight-up Public Access TV greatness.

3:44: This rationale is some next-level bullshit, but man he’s owning it.

4:00: This guy made engineering calculations, and he went through computers.  Can we stop for a minute and try to imagine the glory and majesty that this guy’s Facebook profile must look like?

4:15: He went in China.  His words.  I can’t even…which apparently, is comprised of boats on rivers.

4:32: Clubheads and shafts are two different things, but really, that’s what they WANT you to believe.

4:40: I was there four…three…hours a day for four hours at a time.  Yup, this totally sounds believable.  Standing there…sitting there…watching.  Would you like to see pictures of his girlfriend from Canada?

5:22: Describing computer testing…my god.  He’s really going all in on this ‘large head is bad’ thing.  So by transitive properties, giving pros tiny heads would…increase distance?  That’s why all the manufacturers keep making smaller heads for the pros.  Got it.

5:50: More Oscar-caliber camera work.  Is the 14-year old that’s doing this on meth or something?  His ‘there’s no spring action’ comments, it must be noted, are pure malarkey.  But keep going.

6:35: I’m not saying he’s making it up as he goes along, I’m saying he’s TOTALLY making it up.  He’s going all in on this. I mean, he’s completely full of it, but he’s committing to the bit.

6:40: What exactly does hitting it with the same integrity mean?

6:57: 110 mph of clubhead speed is approaching tour level.  Just saying.

7:02: Pachinko Ball!!!  More Power! More oomph!

7:08: More Oscar-level editing.  Hot.  Hot I tells ya!

7:38: No sir, YOU are a gift from the gods.  Your entire essence.  Keep going!

7:55: I don’t know who exactly he’s talking to, but can I take ‘Voices in His Head’ for $1000?

8:59: Hermongous?  WTF is that?  Are the drugs wearing off?

9:45: Whack!  Wait…earlier he said you can’t compress the ball, now you can?  I’m confused.

10:04: I’m an engineer and probably a 1, 2 handicap.  Well which one is it?  My handicap card doesn’t say “I’m about a..” it has my index.  An exact number.

10:24: They want to hit it farther and don’t care how straight it is?  Put. The. Crack. Pipe. Down.

10:55: More talk about how a small head is okay.  Compensating much?

11:12: Pachinko Ball!  More oomph!

11:18: Finally, how can I order this flaming pile of crap?  A number AND a website?  Whee I’m hot today!

11:25: The driver is filled with foam and cork?  Sweet holy mother…someone better alert Club Pro Guy!  He’d totally dominate that Mexico mini-Tour!

11:30: Oomph!  Give me all of the oomph!  Someone appears to have dyed their hair a bit darker.

11:38: Two things.  One, he casually drops that he’s making a movie.  Yes, and it’s spectacular.  And two, his other driver is called ‘The Wow Effect’ which is so terrible it’s great.

11:52: TURN AWAY. NOW.  MAKE IT STOP, MAKE IT STOP.

12:07: Our host John Jumano has put on the Al Czervik suit.  Baby blue…oh yeah.  Now it’s a sub-commercial for car dealers.  Yeah, give me that 1988 Yugo but you better include those clubs!  The wedges have dots and grooves and I’m pretty sure the putter is an Ol’ Billy Baroo.  I mean, are you gonna trust some guy like Bob Vokey or the marketing machine that is John Jumano?

12:50: More top-notch editing and fading.

12:55: And now, back to old men who own sports cars.  Foam filled cork.  Just let it wash over you.

14:00: “I love you baby” and yes, he kisses it.  12/10 level creepy.

14:31: A movie he’s producing, it’s called Titanic Johnson.

The man has his own cologne. Don Draper couldn’t have done better.  Stare at it…let it wash over you.

Oh, but wait, there’s more.  Yes, there’s a movie trailer.  If you don’t watch the entire 7 minutes of brilliance you are missing out.

You’re welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You Are The Slow Play Problem

Last weekend’s Farmers Insurance Open should have been remembered for Tiger Woods returning to competitive golf and posting a better-than-expected finish in the top 30 and Jason Day winning in a 6-hole playoff that finished on Monday due to darkness on Sunday night.  Unfortunately, what most die-hard types are talking about are the beyond-ridiculous four minutes and ten seconds it took for JB Holmes to play his second shot on 18 on Sunday.

You read this correctly; it took JB four minutes and ten seconds to play one shot.  For the record, if someone I got stuck playing with pulled this, they’re getting left behind.

Golf already has a litany of issues; adding a televised slow play meltdown at a time when CBS was cutting into their coverage of the Grammy Awards was at best terrible.  When Jim Nantz calls you out on live TV (he might have had an early dinner reservation for all I know, but still) for slow play, there’s a problem never mind all the people who wanted to watch the Grammy Awards getting pissed His fellow tour pros called him out on Twitter (calling him in his face en masse afterwards would have been preferable).  The final threesome took six hours to finish and finished more than a hole and a half behind the group in front of them (at most public courses you’d have the marshal/player assistant/golf police drop the hammer).  People wonder why slow play is a problem; it’s because people see this on TV and when they go to their local course they do the same crap (glacial pace of play, taking forever to read a green when putting, etc.).

Making matters worse, Holmes responded with something along the lines of not knowing he had a homework assignment due.  He didn’t know how long he was taking was his actual excuse, which is some straight up bad etiquette.  Again, pull this at any public course and the other people in your group and the marshal/ranger is going to light you up (and they should).

The solution is simple; the rules say it’s 40 seconds to pull a club and complete your shot.  Two warnings, then a stroke penalty.  Anything longer than 60 seconds is an automatic stroke penalty.  Three stroke penalties in a tournament and it’s an automatic DQ.  Two DQ’s in a season and you’re ineligible for the FedEx Cup Playoffs.  Three and you lose your card and are ineligible for sponsor exemptions.  Make Ready Golf mandatory for PGA Tour events.  I’d go so far as to set a daily time par based on the course, weather conditions, and how early/late the player goes out and make finishing outside a threshold of the time par a stroke penalty.  Until you start hitting players where it hurts (on their scorecard, making them ineligible for playoffs and losing their Tour card), you’ll see the same crap every week.

SONG OF THE DAY

NOW IS THE TIME ON SPROCKETS WHEN WE DANCE.

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