Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bell coming off of Canadian Open?

According to well placed sources, Bell Canada is poised to walk away from its sponsorship of the Canadian Open. The Royal Canadian Golf Association said it would have the sponsorship deal wrapped up last year, but the issue continues to drag on. The 2006 Open is Bell's last year as title sponsor of the event.
That means the RCGA has to come up with a business willing to put millions into the golf tournament on a regular basis, despite a diminishing field and lacklustre consumer interest. It is worth noting the 2005 tournament at Shaughnessy in Vancouver was a financial disappointment, according to the recently released annual report by the RCGA. Typical profit for the tournament was cut in half as Vancouver fans stayed home, perhaps because they only recognized three names in the field -- and one was Mike Weir who went home early.
Speculation from golf business sources suggests RBC, the large Canadian bank, might be willing to step up and sponsor the event. Apparently the RCGA is still hoping for naming rights for the event, though that is seeming less likely.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Clublink acquires new course in Toronto area?

Corporate golf giant Clublink has posted on its website that a new course will be announced by the company in nine days, 13 hours, twelve minutes and six, I mean five, I mean four.... well you get it. Go here and check it out for yourself.

My sources are telling me Clublink was in negotiations to acquire Royal Woodbine, a public course near the airport in Toronto. Hardly anyone talks about the club anymore and it would be a good fit for Clublink. Though I placed a call the the media machine at Clublink, I've not heard back yet. It'll be interesting to see how they respond.
Royal Woodbine seems to be one of the public courses lost in the onslaught on new high-end public tracks -- the likes of Eagles Nest, Copper Creek and the like. Built largely on leased land, the owners are rumoured to be shopping it for around $10-million, though I hear offers are a fair bit less.
Apparently there are several clubs in the Toronto area for sale -- and the recently bankrupt Paris Grand, about an hour from the city -- is receiving bids for the end of the month.

UPDATE: Clublink's terrific media relations guy, Tim O'Connor, called me this morning to say, well, not much of anything. He didn't confirm or deny the company had spoken with Royal Woodbine and made some vague comment about the new course announcement on Clublink's website. I guess we'll have to wait eight days, 15 hours, 22 minutes and six, I mean, damn, five.... well you know the drill.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

J.B. Holmes, the man with the incredibly long...

Separated at birth? Probably not.

Of course everyone many not understand why PGA Tour long bomber John Holmes began using his initials when he turned pro. But he assumes you do. "You know," was his response to the question when asked about it by a knowing sportswriter who was clearly trying to be a wise ass. One John Holmes is known for his prodigious distance, and the other John Holmes was known for, well, his prodigious member.

Anyway, while trolling around the PGA Tour site yesterday, I went through the Buick's third round hole by hole. Turns out that almost all of the long drives were either Bubba Watson or JB Holmes, with a couple of Tiger Woods thrown in to add some variation.

There's a story about Holmes in the NY Times, and though it doesn't deal with his ability to hit the ball a long way off the tee, it does talk about his battles with dyslexia, a problem he dealt with during his schooling. Apparently his dyslexia led his academic counselors to consider his other skills:

"One strength he has, and it ties into his ability in golf, is very strong spatial skills," AmyCraiglow, his academic counselor said. "A lot of times, we could put certain things in certain spots on a wall and study them, like a visualization. It's also a very good skill to have as far as understanding distance and being able to see the golf course."

Distance is apparently not the problem, since Holmes has averaged well over 300 yards off the tee so far this year. You can find the NY Times story on him here.

And if you think the ball doesn't travel too far, tell that to Jose Maria Olazabol, who hit one 360 yards on the back nine at Torrey Pines on Saturday. And he's not even a long hitter...

On a related note, with Garcia, Woods, and Mickelson all near the top of the leaderboard, I'm going to tune in to watch golf for the first time this year. This one should be interesting -- and it just what the PGA Tour needs more of.

Friday, January 27, 2006

McKenna's golf game...

For my American readers, this might not mean much. But with the resignation of former PM Paul Martin following last week's election, there's renewed speculation Frank McKenna, who resigned this week as Canada's ambassador to the U.S., will run for leadership of the Liberal party. This blog isn't political, but three years ago I had the chance to tee it up with McKenna as part of my Going For The Green golf and business series. The series ended after three years and 45 executives and CEOs were profiled, but I dragged this one out of the archives to give people a glimpse of McKenna away from the politics and boardrooms. And yes, if TaylorMade is reading, they should send Frank a new driver....

Business, politics and fairways:
Former N.B. premier Frank McKenna's tidy game
is also a deal-making asset
MONCTON - Even with a golf club in his hands, Frank McKenna still likes to talk politics. Only days removed from the federal election, McKenna seems keen on sizing up the decisions that led to a Liberal minority government, a result that surprised many. But rather than giving his views to a scrum of reporters, he's holding court at the Royal Oaks Golf and Country Club outside of Moncton.
McKenna starts our game with a big drive down the middle of the first fairway. He then addresses the election.
"I thought Canadians showed a lot of wisdom with this one," says the plain spoken McKenna, who stepped down as New Brunswick premier in 1997. "They realized the Liberals needed to be spanked, but recognized that Paul Martin is a different man from Jean Chretien. Once the fury was over, the public made the right decision.
"The Conservatives ended up as a viable alternative, which shows the public were strategic. I also think that in the last 10 days the public realized what they wanted. They wanted Stephen Harper to serve an apprenticeship."
His criticism isn't totally objective; McKenna spent time on the campaign trail with the Liberals even though he wasn't a candidate.
Not that he wasn't prepared to enter the fray, he says as we stand on the tee of the third hole. Martin wanted McKenna as his star in Atlantic Canada, but when Liberal candidates in the Fredericton area refused to step aside for McKenna, he chose not to run. "Mentally, my head was there as a candidate, but I wouldn't run if someone didn't step aside. The consolation prize isn't bad. I have a great life and I wasn't lusting after a return to politics."
While he won't acknowledge an interest in returning to public life, McKenna still keeps close ties with former political allies. For our game, McKenna has invited Ray Frenette, a former cabinet member in his government and the man who succeeded him as premier, and Bob Kenny, a well-connected Fredericton lawyer.
Royal Oaks was designed by Rees Jones, the U.S. architect know as the Open Doctor for his work renovating U.S. Open courses. The course is a fine test of golf: brutish par threes protected by nasty bunkers meet long four-shot holes punctuated by small ponds. Royal Oaks has received several accolades, including best new course in Eastern Canada by Score magazine in 2002.
It was at Royal Oaks two years ago that protesters showed up to rally against one of McKenna's golf outings. He invited George W. Bush, assorted politicians and CEOs to hobnob for a day.
The protesters came out because Bush and McKenna are both advisors to the Carlyle Group, a massive capital fund with strong political ties and some investments in defence projects.
"It was very strange," McKenna says. "I'd never considered the attention my involvement with the Carlyle Group would draw."
The meetings are not meant to draw public attention. Rather, he says the aim is to bring powerful business and political leaders together. Power Corp. chairman Paul Desmarais Sr. regularly shows up, as do representatives of such East Coast families as the Irvings and the Sobeys.
- - -
Even seven years removed from office, the man can't escape his public. On the second hole, a fan yells out as McKenna strolls back to his cart. "Hey there, Frank," the man says, before offering an introduction. "It's John from Chatham."
The two exchange pleasantries, though it isn't clear whether McKenna has a clue who the man is. Still, the incident is a sign of McKenna's continued popularity.
"It is a small province and I love it," McKenna says as we ride to the fourth tee. "But that also means there isn't a lot of privacy at times." As we ride to the 169-yard par three sixth, he muses about the years since leaving office.
"Life after politics was a closed curtain to me, something I never considered. I went hard at politics and didn't consider what came after. I never expected to receive so many offers."
He now sits on nine boards, as well as continuing a vibrant law career that brings him to Toronto regularly. One of the boards McKenna chairs is CanWest Global Communications Corp., the media giant that runs a Canadian TV network and owns many of Canada's largest newspapers, including the National Post. A member of CanWest's board since 1999, McKenna sat as interim chairman following the death of company founder Izzy Asper and made the role permanent following his decision not to run in the federal election.
"I'm a huge fan of the family and I'm very interested in their media assets," he says. We head toward the 10th hole, a well-bunkered par five, and McKenna continues. "It isn't as easy as it seems. It takes a lot of time. When Izzy was there, meetings were never easy."
Despite his hectic corporate schedule, McKenna finds time to play about 25 golf games a year, often on vacation with his family (his wife, Julie, and their three grown children all play).
McKenna started playing at university, he explains partway through our round.
"When I was a kid we didn't have the money and there wasn't a club to play anyway," he says.
The 56-year-old McKenna, who stands 5-foot-10, uses his thick build and strength effectively on the golf course, hitting long straight drives for most of our round. It helps him record a couple of birdies. He shoots 79 (with a 37 on the opening nine), while I card a 75, helped by four birdies.
Though McKenna complains about his putting and sand play, he is a strong, athletic player who plays a competitive game.
Golf, it seems, is a useful sport in politics and business. "It is a great place to bond with someone or do some business," he says as he chases yet another long drive up the fairway of the 398-yard 17th.
In McKenna's case, his tidy game has helped him politically, especially when he teed it up with former prime minister Chretien.
"We were playing at Ottawa Hunt and I was there to ask him for $300-million for our highways. Chretien is a good golfer and hits the ball not that long, but straight. He is also very competitive and hates to lose. So we get to the 18th hole and I need a short putt to beat him. He tells me that if I miss it he'll give me the money for the highways. But I hate to lose as well, so I make it. He just said, 'To hell with it. I'll give you the money anyway.' "
Frank McKenna, lawyer, McInnes Cooper; chairman, CanWest Global Communications Inc. and Major Drilling Group International Inc.
Handicap: 9
Membership: Pine Needles Golf and Country Club (Shediac, N.B.)

Weeks is blogging

I'm sure it will piss John Gordon off to no end, especially considering how fond he is of bloggers, but Score Golf's editor, Bob Weeks, has launched his own blog on the magazine's web site. For my U.S. readers, Bob is one of the elite golf media in Canada, working both print and TV. His blog shows promise -- as long as he has time put down all the swag he's surely taking from the PGA merch show and finds a moment to type.

Until now there really have not been any other mainstream media blogging about golf. Hopefully Bob's writing will stir up some additional interest. It'll be intriguing to see how he utilizes the medium -- because there's surely a lot of readers in Canada that will follow what he has to say about the game of golf and only so much can be addressed in a handful of editorials in his publication.

He gets off to a promising start:

As a press person attending this, there are two main functions: 1) find out what’s hot and 2) try to get as much free stuff as possible.
The first time I attended this about 15 years ago, a crusty old writer told me, “If you don’t leave here with at least $2,000 worth of stuff, you’re just not trying.”
So, as your humble correspondent, I'm going to attempt to do both and leave without having to pay for the extra weight in my luggage from all the swag.

Hope Bob makes out like a bandit, but from the look of his office the last time I stopped by, I'm not sure he needs more gear. Now your humble scribe is always interested in equipment, especially balls which will be scattered all over the world and act as great marketing....

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Tiger's fresh start

Ever wonder what Tiger Woods does when he's not playing golf? Not much, apparently.

From his press conference in San Diego yesterday:

Q. What did you do during your time off?
TIGER WOODS: I didn't do much of anything. I just hung around the house and just really chilled and just laid low.
Q. Did you do any skiing?

TIGER WOODS: I did, I went skiing. I went for about four or five days. That was it.
Q. Are you any good at it?

TIGER WOODS: Better than I was before.

Of course I'm not buying any of this. "Didn't do much of anything," is really Tiger speak for, "I hit balls for five hours a day."

Geoff Shackelford picks up on some of Woods' other comments, including his apparent disdain for the never-ending cycle of lengthening golf courses.

Donald Trump is apparently building a golf course near Scotland's Royal Aberdeen. Or not. Or maybe. Who knows?

Apparently The Donald was scouting out a site near Royal Aberdeen and Murcar to build a golf resort. Of course this would be the first links to sport massive, completely unnatural waterfalls. And surely Trump would proclaim, even before the course is open, that "some people feel this is the best golf course in Scotland." He won't devulge who those people are exactly.

Anyway, the whole plan has hit a snag -- or it might be that The Donald's organization is just threatening to walk in order to gain concessions.

Legal issues have shelved US tycoon Donald Trump's plan to develop a links golf course in Scotland. The American property billionaire was believed to have been looking at a course on the North-east coast.A senior aide of the Trump Organisation said the plan had run into legal complications that had stalled months of work.Mr Trump is now looking at Ireland instead, although a spokesman said Scotland still remained the location of choice.The news comes as a blow to Scottish golf and the tourism industry.Yesterday they were celebrating the news that last year's Open at St Andrews generated £72 million.The Trump Organisation
has never revealed the nature of its proposed leisure development, but it is thought to have been planning a world-class golf course capable of staging such events.

World class events? Like the suit and tie culture of the R&A would ever award an Open Championship to the likes of Trump. The whole sordid saga is here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Michelle Wie's new website

As reported on the Golf Channel last night, click on this link, www.michellewiegolf.com, and see Michelle Wie's new website. Oh, and remember that it is Nike that's paying all that dough that allowed her parents to pay back the bank loans once she turned pro....
Update: One reader chastized me for this, but I don't think TaylorMade had anything to do with this link. It was simply someone who registered the URL and is now having a little fun with it. I doubt the domain name will remain active for very long....

Open won't be going to Ireland

Ernie Els will be in Qatar, Tiger and Phil will be in San Diego. For Canadians, Jon Mills will be in the field at Torrey Pines, as will Stephen Ames.One other thing is certain: The British Open won't be going to Ireland any time soon.

That's the word in an article in the Herald in which David Hill, the R&A's director of tournaments, says it is just too tough logisitically to take the tournament to a place like Royal County Down:
Hill said it would be wrong to say "never" but the R&A had looked closely at taking the Open back there and to Royal County Down "and there is absolutely no way" logistically of coping with as many as 50,000 spectators a day."If we were dealing with all-ticket crowds of 15-20,000 then that would be different and would bring another seven or eight courses into play, but the R&A philosophy has been to encourage as many people as possible to come to the Open."

It is an interesting remark, since it appeared to me that Portmarnock, that presents a great course and a location near Dublin, would be an ideal club to host the Open Championship. I can't really understand how Portmarnock or Royal County Down differ dramatically in terms of logistics from the great Scottish links.
Hill also remarked that Scottish golf courses have had to pick up their promotion of tourism in order to compete with Ireland, which has done a great job of promoting itself as a golf destination.

He said there was an awareness that other countries had promoted golf more positively but Scotland was now awakening to the potential."There is a huge demand from Americans, and to take advantage of that marketplace needs the recognition by all golf clubs in Scotland that they have a duty to encourage as many visitors as they can reasonably take. Most of them already are," said Hill.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Long hitting Bubba; Weir's rebound; thanks Mr. Gordon

Dave Davies in the Telegraph has an interesting story about the longest hitters on tour and the impact they are having on the courses they play. Bubba Watson's name is front and center. Vijay Singh had this to say:

"He is making a fool out of us all. Keep that name in mind - Bubba Watson. That guy hits the ball 350 yards through the air."

Davies also spoke with Irish designer Pat Ruddy, who had this to say about the explosion in distance:

"After these guys have driven the ball they have consumed over 70 per cent of the golf course. There's nothing left. The entire values of the game are being attacked by one club, the driver."

You can find the entire story here.

Toronto Star writer Jim Byers writes about Mike Weir's attempt to rebound to his 2003 form and his avid fanbase. Weir says calling 2006 a "critical year," is too strong:

"Do I think that's a little strong?" he asked. "I think that's probably a lot strong. What's critical about it? I don't have anything to prove in this game. I've proven myself and I'm just going to continue to work harder and get better. I feel like I've got a long career ahead of me."

The full story is here.

Oh, and a big shout out to avid reader, Sportsnet's very own golf analyst John Gordon. He sent me a kind note this morning about his story on Angus Glen's North course and the Canadian Open. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Death, taxes and spring golf covers

As certain as death and taxes is the guarantee Canada's golf mags will place the new Canadian on the PGA Tour on their covers for their first issue. Last year it was David Hearn — and we all know how well that worked.
This year, it is Jon Mills. Mills shows a lot of promise -- he averaged 311 off the tee on the Nationwide Tour last year -- and he managed the make the cut in Hawaii, though a poor 78 meant he missed the cut this week at the Hope.
Anyway, golf rags aren't the only ones keeping up with Mills. Former Maclean's writer, James Deacon, reports on Mills for the Toronto Star yesterday.
Mike Weir has nice things to say:

Tellingly, he won at every level and he earned his PGA Tour card by finishing fifth last year on the Nationwide, an achievement built on season-long excellence. "That should bode well for him," Weir says of Mills' consistency, adding: "In terms of predicting success, I would say it's a better barometer" than if Mills had qualified through one week's play at Q-school.

Anyway, wait for Golf Canada, Score and all of the other mags to come out with Mills as their predictable cover. Of course the problem is that all the dailies have already written about him, leaving the monthlies in their dust.

David Duval watch: Shoots 64 on Saturday — makes another cut. Looks like three in a row, if you count his fine showing in Japan at the end of last year.

Golf season in Canada doesn't start until the Masters — on the PGA Tour it doesn't start until Tiger shows up. Apparently that will be this week. Ernie Els will show up at Doral, which should be worth watching.

Is Bubba Watson all that? Apparently SI's Chris Lewis thinks so. I have a hard time taking anyone named Bubba seriously, but this guy puts John Daly to shame when it comes to bombing it. He hit one 398 in Hawaii. Maybe Thundering Waters in Niagara Falls should ask Watson to take over as "consulting architect." Maybe he can hit it over the falls.

Oh, and as the media continues to proclaim the new Canadian Open date a disaster, Score magazine's Bob Weeks jumps in with a column entitled "A Mid-Summer Nightmare." Weeks quotes Stephen D. Ross as saying:

"We're sure to get good weather," said Ross. "There will be no conflict with the NFL as there is now. The kids won't be back at school, which has always impacted our volunteers. We're in the heart of the PGA Tour season, rather than at the end as we are now. And the players will be earning Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and FedEx Cup points."

Let's hope that's not just wishful thinking on Stephen D's part.

Weeks isn't the only one dumping on the new date. Writers are lining up to take a shot at this one. John Gordon, longtime fan of the Royal Canadian Golf Association, had this to say in his Sportsnet column:

On that day, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announced that, starting in 2007 and running for the six-year duration of the new TV contract, our Open will be played in what arguably is a worse spot. The marquee players will not be thrilled with flying back from Britain to Ontario or Quebec. Needless to say, even fewer will endure the additional time changes if the RCGA wants to have our Open in Western Canada, let alone back in British Columbia.

Don't hold back John — tell us how you really feel.

Friday, January 20, 2006

18 Great Par Threes; Ames' return; Trump's Folly

  • Ron Whitten in Golf Digest writes an interesting review of a course called Crosswinds in South Carolina that has 18 par threes all designed by different architects. Whitten says: "Yes, it's a gimmick, but it's a gimmick that works. What otherwise might have been just another fun-to-play but quickly forgettable par-3 layout is instead both fun-to-play and rather memorable." The entire story can be found here.
  • Michael Grange in the Globe and Mail writes about Stephen Ames' return to play and the fact he expects this season to be much better than 2005 when his wife was battling cancer. Ames told Grange: "It was a difficult year," he said. "Trying to play golf and deal with the problems at home. It was almost impossible to focus. I wanted to be home, but I needed to play in some respects. I could have taken some time off and wasted the whole year, but in the end I learned from it. You learn from the experiences that life gives you." I think Ames is a journeyman, though a good one. It'll be interesting to see how well he can do this year -- he's not a young man, after all. The full story is here.
  • There's also an intriguing story in a California newspaper about the low key opening of Donald Trump's Trump National. Doesn't sound like there's much hype behind this one.... "Got $300 burning a hole in your pocket and a burning desire for a bracing game of golf despite the relatively cool temperatures? Then head out to Rancho Palos Verdes' Trump National Golf Club, which quietly opens all 18 holes to the general public for the first time at 7 a.m. today. Plenty of tee times are available." Isn't this the same club of which Trump said, "Some people say this is the best course in California." I know the guys speaks in hyperbole, but who exactly are these people that think this course, with its ridiculous waterfalls, is better than Cypress or Pebble? Source.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mills' knees aren't knocking; Paul zings the PGA Tour

There's a good story on Canada's Jon Mills on the back page of today's Globe, written by all-around nice guy Michael Grange.
Grange goes over Mills' career pretty well and gives an indication of just how hard it is to keep your tour card as a rookie these days. Then Michael heads to Mills' wife, Megan, asks some questions and gets a funny response. Of course, there are reasons why you don't let you don't let your wife talk to the media, even someone as pleasant as Michael Grange. It is because of quotes like this:

"I was surprised how calm he was last week," she said of her husband's PGA rookie debut. "I've seen him knocking his knees at the Bell Canadian Open, but last week was like a regular week, and the same thing this week."

Then again, I think it makes sports stories more interesting to have some human element in them. And it is surely better than saying, "Well, I hit a 9-iron to three feet on 12...."

Mike Weir (who finally shot a good round yesterday) also had nice things to say about Mills:

"I like his game," Weir said. "He's long, which will help with the way the courses are set up out here, but more important, I like his demeanour. He's fairly relaxed and not awestruck. He's been a pro four or five years -- I think I got my card at about the same point -- and you're kind of ready by that time. It's a good time to get out here. You've played some smaller tours, you've worked your way up and you're hungry."

Mills isn't the only one who had a good day at the Bob Hope. Pat Perez shot 60!, while David Duval continued to put it in red figures.

If you're looking for interesting commentary on golf, plan to watch some ABC coverage and listen to Paul Azinger. Knowing that ABC won't be televising golf beyond this year means the gloves are coming off:

"I'm going to be no holds barred this year. If I think it, I'm saying it," Azinger told USA Today.

Zinger offers a lot to think about:

•On the subsequent 2007 schedule changes : "There's not a player out here that gets to vote on it. Input? They didn't ask anybody I know," Azinger says.

•On how to get Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and other star players in the same fields : "If (Tour officials) don't put their foot down, the stars will always play where they want...."

•On the Golf Channel: "You have to look for golf to find it on The Golf Channel; you stumble on golf to find it on ESPN. You've got ESPN on in all the bars, and then golf comes on, which is good for the players. The Golf Channel's not on in too many bars."

And the final word: "The Golf Channel already treats the Tour with kid gloves. You won't ever see an exposé of any player coming off The Golf Channel."

I guess that's telling it like it is. Fascinating.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rubenstein on CanOpen date; Daly's debut; Giving Tiger away

  • There's a funny story in a San Diego paper about a man who won the right to play with Tiger Woods in the pro-am for the Buick Invitational. The man determined it would be better if he gave the opportunity to his son Jeff. Interestingly, Jeff is struggling with his game at the moment and has that fear of killing a spectator that pops into the head of anyone who has played in a PGA Tour pro-am. He made this remark about playing with Tiger:
    "My brother Brad is going to have to get out there and get the gallery ready," said Jeff, a sales executive for a payroll services firm. "They're going to need hard hats and safety goggles."
  • John Daly's "Daly Planet" (not the most original name, but I guess it works) debuts on the Golf Channel. Maybe once they get their 15 years of PGA Tour events, the station's programming won't be filled with infomercials and questionable reality shows. Anyway, this one has some promise, acccording to Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle and the show picks up with Daly coming to Niagara Falls to try and hit a ball across the gorge as a stunt for Thundering Waters, the course in the area which uses his name for marketing. Daly's comments sound like the show might be worth watching (and God knows the GC will surely show it over and over and over):
    At 8:31 a.m. Daly says, "Time for that first cold one, isn't it?" Two hours earlier he said to a friend, "Thank God we're not drinking beer this early, they'd think we were alcoholics or something."

  • The Globe's Lorne Rubenstein writes that the new date for the Canadian Open, which will now follow the British Open, "is likely to be more damaging than helpful." Rubenstein paints the RCGA, the organization that runs the CanOpen, as a toothless tiger, unable to even manage the event's date. "The worst part of what transpired is that the RCGA had no say in the dates," Rubenstein writes. And is it just me, or does Stephen D Ross, the organization's executive director, appear to get zinged by Rubenstein in this remark: "Ross's voice during last week's announcement did betray embarrassment, which was appropriate. Humiliation would have even been more appropriate. The RCGA and the Canadian Open, which started in 1904, deserve better." The entire story can be found here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

New Ontario golf courses; Duval's comeback; end of CanOpen in BC?

A website I'm not familiar with, called Teeing It Up Ontario, has a list of courses expected to open in the province over the coming years. Here is the list they put forward:

Ambassador Golf Club (Windsor)

Coppinwood Golf Club (Goodwood)

*Muskoka Bay Golf Club (Gravenhurst)

Mystic Golf Club (Ancaster)

OslerBrook Golf & Country Club (Collingwood)

River's Edge Golf Club (Bancroft)

Silver Brooke Golf Club (Lisle)

Sparrow Lakes Golf Club (Welland)

Stone Ridge Golf Club (Elliot Lake)

Tarandowah Golfers Club (London)

The Club at Bond Head (Bond Head)

The Maples Golf & Sport Club (Noelville)

Thundering Waters Golf Club (Niagara Falls)

Of course, several of these, like Mystic and Thundering Waters, had limited openings last year. You can find the entire list, including 2007 and beyond here. I'd take everything on the site with a grain of salt. After all, they ranked the Grand Niagara club (yes, the one that doesn't pay its bills) as the top new course in Canada in 2005. I don't know anyone who has been that blown away by Grand Niagara -- especially if they've seen Oviinbyrd and Bond Head.

  • Interesting note from a reader who points out the move for the Canadian Open to follow the British Open in 2007 virtually eliminates the chance for the tournament to return to Vancouver in coming years. There's a good chance no one will come when the tournament is only six hours away in Toronto, but add another four hours of flight time and you might have to offer some local hackers spots to fill out the field.
  • David Duval and good golf. Now there's something you haven't heard for a while. Except David shot 63 on Sunday at the Sony, including five birdies in a row. Golf Channel's Mark Rolfing said this morning that Duval would never return to form, but I think that Rolfing (perhaps the worst pundit in golf) could be wrong on this one. Here's Duval's comments following his round:
    "This was good golf,'' he said. It started with a chip-in for birdie on the sixth hole, the first of five straight birdies that attracted a small crowd, not bad since he was first off at 7:57 a.m. He twice holed putts of 20 feet or more, and had two good par saves from about 10 feet on the back nine.
    "I've been playing well,'' Duval said. "I finally holed a few putts for a change. I was just trying to make more and more birdies. I'm not one to protect a score. I wanted to keep forcing the issue.''

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Announcing Andrew Golf Design

My good friend and outstanding golf architect, Ian Andrew, has today announced the formation of his own firm, Andrew Golf Design.
Some of you may not be aware of Ian and his work, but I'd be surprised, especially if you live in Canada, if you haven't played a course he's had a hand in designing. After all, he worked with Doug Carrick of Carrick Design for nearly 20 years, helping craft new courses at Osprey Valley, Ballantrae, Nobleton Lakes, and a variety of other places. On top of that, he was the lead restoration architect in the firm, working on such great clubs as St. George's (for which he's received a lot of notice for the great bunker work), St. Thomas, Weston, Cataraqui, Brantford and many, many others.
Anyway, after a lot of soul searching, Ian made the determination to try his hand at starting his own firm, thus Andrew Golf Design. The plan is to continue focusing on restoration and renovation work on existing clubs (and hopefully expand his business in the U.S., where he currently works with a handful of courses) and get the opportunity to create a new Ian Andrew golf course.
I'm not sure what a new Andrew golf design looks like. But knowing how thoughtful and clever Ian is, as well as how plugged in to the current zeitgeist of architects like Bill Coore (Sand Hills) and Tom Doak (Pacific Dunes), I know Ian's work will be very different from most of what has been created in Canada in recent years. He's not the type to push land around for the sake of padding a budget; instead he's likely to actually embrace the natural concepts that have been a dominate part of his restoration work. And while most new courses in Canada, with the notable exception of Thomas McBroom's Firerock in London, and the Jason Straka's work at Georgian Bay Club and Bond Head, have been pretty standard, Ian's work at St. George's and Weston, as well as his willingness to embrace the vision of Golden Age architects like Mackenzie, Travis, Tillinghast and Thompson, mean his bunkers will be have a character sorely missing from many layouts.
Ian has a pretty cool website up at Andrewgolf.com that details his philosophy, work experience and has some great before and afters of his creations at places like St. George's. Check it out.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, Ian has created an amazing logo for his firm -- which is the jpeg in the corner of this post. If you are wondering, apparently the logo is Ian if he were Old Tom Morris. At least that's how I see it....

Friday, January 13, 2006

Canadian Open date for 2007

.... is, drum roll please — exactly as expected!

That means the tournament now follows the British Open. In truth, on the PGA Tour it follows the U.S. Bank Championship, which has the worst spot -- opposite the British where all the good players are. Tell me why there's a tournament that runs against a major?

The Royal Canadian Golf Association released the following statement on the new position:

“The RCGA is pleased by the commitment the PGA Tour has made to the Bell
Canadian Open,” said Stephen D. Ross, Executive Director for the RCGA.

When did he add the "d"?

The new Tour television deal will heighten our identity as a premier event on
the PGA Tour. The 2007 Bell Canadian Open will be one of the key tournaments for
players to earn valuable points leading up to the season-ending FedEx Cup title.

Right, that'll get them up to Canada? And do we know it will be called the Bell Canadian Open in 2007? Seems that deal is running on life support.

These enhancements will only increase the profile of our event in North America
and around the world,” continued Ross.

Oh right. The profile where one of the Top 10 in the world shows up and the fans stay home, as they did at Shaughnessy.

Anyway, here's the sched:

Jan. 1-7: Mercedes Championships (TGC)
Jan. 8-14: Sony Open in Hawaii (TGC)
Jan. 15-21: Bob Hope Chrysler Classic (TGC)
Jan. 22-28: Buick Invitational (TGC, CBS)
Jan. 29-Feb. 4: FBR Open (TGC, NBC)
Feb. 5-11: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (TGC, CBS)
Feb. 12-18: Nissan Open (TGC, CBS)
Feb. 19-25: WGC Accenture Match Play Championship (TGC, NBC)
Feb. 19-25: Mayakoba Classic at Riviera Maya (Mexico) (TGC)
Feb. 26-March 4: The Honda Classic (TGC, NBC)
March 5-11: Tampa Bay Championship (TGC, NBC)
March 12-18: Bay Hill Invitational presented by MasterCard (TGC, NBC)
March 19-25: WGC CA Championship (TGC, NBC)
March 26-April 1: Shell Houston Open (TGC, NBC)
April 2-8: The Masters: USA,CBS)
April 9-15: MCI Heritage (TGC, CBS)
April 16-22: Zurich Classic of New Orleans (TGC, CBS)
April 23-29: EDS Byron Nelson Championship (TGC, CBS)
April 30-May 6: Wachovia Championship (TGC, CBS)
May 7-13: The Players Championship (TGC, NBC)
May 14-20: BellSouth Classic (TGC, CBS)
May 21-27: The Colonial Invitational (TGC, CBS)
May 28-June 3: The Memorial Tournament (TGC, CBS)
June 4-10: Stanford St. Jude Championship (TGC, CBS)
June 11-17: U.S. Open (ESPN, NBC)June 18-24: 84 Lumber Classic (TGC, CBS)
June 25-July 1: Buick Open (TGC, CBS)
July 2-8: The International (TGC, CBS)
July 9-15: John Deere Classic (TGC, CBS)
July 16-22: British Open (TNT, ABC)
July 16-22: U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee (TGC)
July 23-29: Bell Canadian Open (TGC, CBS)
July 30-Aug. 5: WGC Bridgestone Invitational (TGC, CBS)
Aug. 6-12: PGA Championship (TNT, CBS)
Aug. 13-19: Carolina Classic at Greensboro (TGC, CBS)
FedEx Cup Championship Series:Aug. 20-26: Barclays Classic/New York City (TGC, CBS)
Aug. 27-Sept. 3: Deutsche Bank Championship/Boston (TGC, NBC)
Sept. 3-9: Championship Series event/Chicago (TGC, NBC)
Sept. 10-16: The Tour Championship (TGC, NBC)

Kane in Toronto; Wie falls apart; China claims golf

Had the chance to speak with Lorie Kane in Toronto yesterday about her new sponsorship arrangement with CN, though I think that was the least interesting part of the story. What is most interesting were her comments on the changing face of the LPGA that appeared in my story in the National Post this morning:

Looking slim from several weeks of working out in PEI over her Christmas break, Kane, an elder statesman in the LPGA at 41, admitted she has adifficult time relating to the teen sensations on tour. These new players come equipped with physical trainers, nutritionists, mental coaches andoften million dollar endorsement deals, a far cry from Kane, who broke ontothe LPGA in 1996 at the age of 31. Instead of heading to a large U.S. college on a golf scholarship like most of today's young players, Kane stayed in Canada for university and developed her came with help from herfather, Jack.
"They come with the full package," says Kane. "Which is a little differentfrom where I came from . I was not ready to turn pro when I was 18."
Asked about Wie's chance of making the cut in Hawaii today, Kane wouldn't commit either way, but added "I'm hoping she does, for her. And for [women'sgolf], because we benefit any time she shows up in the paper or in the news."Though the youngsters on the LPGA are generating a buzz, they are also under tremendous pressure. Just take Wie, for example, who sits next to last afterday one at the Sony Open, likely dashing any hope of playing of the weekend.
Kane said players like Wie and Creamer play the game with abandon and without fear, but she is unsure whether they can keep in up over theentirety of their careers."The younger players come with an unbelievable focus and I don't know if itis because they just don't know any better," Kane said.

As for Michelle Wie, there's no chance she'll play the weekend this year after posting a nine-over 79. AP's Doug Ferguson says the teen dream was a little shaken up by her dodgy play.

''Today it was like, 'Wow,' " she said. ''It's like, 'I can't believe I'm doing this bad.' "
And as the 16-year-old got up from her chair, she finally figured out what would make it better. ''I want some chocolate," she said.

The reality is that it'll take more than chocolate. She could redeem herself today, but if she finishes last — or near last — it will be interesting to see if that's the end of sponsor's exemptions into men's tournaments, at least on the PGA Tour. In my opinion she was always out of her depth -- and this is just proving it. Why not back away quietly and try again in a few years? Besides, it looked like she was going to break into tears after her round, and the last pro golfer to do that after getting spanked was Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie. He cried on his mother's shoulder.

Apparently China creates more than just products for Walmart -- according to an academic, golf was created in the Asian country.

"When golf was introduced into China most people naturally assumed that golf was
a foreign game. In fact this is contrary to the historical facts. Golf, as we know it today, clearly originated in China." - Prof Ling.

I'm sure there will be some debate about this. But what difference does it make? It isn't like Mission Hills is going to rival St. Andrews any time soon.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ford pulls out of Finchem's vision; Rolfing on Wie; and bad raters in Ireland

Lost in the midst of all this news about the new TV deal is that struggling car maker Ford has dropped its sponsorship from the tournament at Doral. The event is being replaced by the CA Championship, sponsored by Computer Associates, and will be part of the World Golf Championships. The auto industry, especially the domestic auto industry, is very important to the PGA Tour. With the struggles facing all of the Big Three, it is possible they pull away from pricey events like pro golf. It would be fascinating to see what wrench that would throw into Tim Finchem's plans.

Mark Rolfing continues his astute insights into Michelle Wie on the Golf Channel this morning. In between offering congratulations to the Golf Channel for their part in the new TV deal (how many times can these guys pat themselves on the back?), Rolfing had this to say on Wie's chances this week:

"She needs to make the lowest score she can on each hole and see if she can make the cut."

Thanks for that insight, Mark. I assume she's trying to make the lowest score on each hole. If she's not, then she's in the wrong sport. Apparently Rolfing also believes the Golf Channel's participation in the TV deal is good for golf in Hawaii.

Rolfing is really pumped up about it, and not just because he's employed by two of the parties involved in the televising PGA Tour golf.

"The thing I really like about it, the reason I think it is so good for Hawai'i, is the focus is going to be on The Golf Channel when they start and they're really going to have to blow out these (first) two weeks," Rolfing said. "They're going to have to really promote it, make it a big deal and, in general, I think that will be good for the events. We sort of limped into the season last week (at Mercedes) and I think you'll really see them go all out to make these things big."

Ah, I get it. Tiger is going to now show up because the Golf Channel is televising the tournament! That's all Finchem needed to fix golf's problems — more Golf Channel.

While the National Post spends time talking about Mike Weir's comeback (He's healthy! He's hitting it father! He's happy!), the Globe and Mail uses a lot of column space for Lorie Kane. Kane, from PEI, says though she is now 41, she feels young and hasn't reached her peak:

"I might be 41 according to the calendar, but I don't feel 41," she said. "I don't know what 41 is supposed to feel like, but I feel like I'm in my late twenties or early thirties with my golf game. I'm still learning, I haven't reached my potential yet."

Kane is signing a sponsorship deal today, and I'm going down to lob a few softballs questions from the gallery.

Golf Digest Ireland has the world's most ridiculous rankings list in its latest issue and apparently it is garnering some controversey. Why? Well because there were a disproportionate number of golfers that voted from the Republic, meaning the country's best two courses -- County Down and Portrush -- didn't even make the Top 10. And the K Club, with its awful bunkering and over done mounding as the best club in Ireland? Come on. If that were the case, why would anyone travel there to play? I'd just stay in Toronto and play Royal Woodbine if I wanted that experience.

Here's the list, if you care:

For the record, the GDI Top 20 were: 1 K Club (Palmer); 2 The European Club; 3 Mount Juliet; 4 Portmarnock (Old); 5 Ballybunion (Old); 6 Ballyliffin (Glashedy); 7 Co Louth; 8 Druids Glen; 9 Co Sligo; 10 Lahinch (Old); 11 Royal Portrush (Dunluce); 12 Royal Co Down; 13 The Heritage; 14 Old Head of Kinsale; 15 Waterville; 16 The Island; 17 Royal Dublin; 18 Adare Manor (Resort); 19 Tralee; 20 Carton House (Montgomerie).

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

PGA Tour TV deal announced

I don't have time to go into it, and since most of the news has already leaked anyway, check out the PGATour's site for the details of the TV deal.

The main points are these:

"CBS and NBC will provide weekend coverage of the PGA TOUR FedEx Cup competition for the 2007 through 2012 seasons. Also beginning in 2007, The Golf Channel will become the TOUR’s exclusive cable partner."

A win for the Golf Channel, it would seem.

No mention of the Canadian Open or a new schedule — yet.

The entire press release can be found here.

Keiser, Coore and Crenshaw in Saskatchewan

Is Saskatchewan the next hotbed of Canadian golf? It might be, with Pacific Dunes owner Mike Keiser scouting out a site to build a new course.

This comes from a Lorne Rubenstein story in the Globe a couple days ago....

Golf is more stimulating when an architect provides choices. Along these lines, it's worth noting that Coore will visit a property some 30 kilometres south of Lloydminster, Sask., just inside Alberta, later this month. He's beenthere before and he'll be going again with the Alberta architect Rod Whitman.
They're going on behalf of Mike Keiser, who developed and owns the Bandon Dunes resort in Oregon. Crenshaw and Coore designed Bandon Trails there.Keiser's been taken with the Canadian property for a couple of years, and wants to help finance a course there.

Mills, Weir and some girl named Wie make their '06 debuts

The National Post has an article by Jeremy Sandler today on the debut of long hitting Jon Mills, while other Canadian news sources note Mike Weir will make a start this week in Hawaii at the Sony.

Mills had this to say about his prep time:

"The last time I played -- actually played -- golf, it was just before it kind of started to snow down in Pennsylvania, so it was a little while ago."

Apparently Mills now lives in Indiana, though I can't explain why.

Interestingly, I don't ever recall Weir starting so early in the year. A quick look at his stats showed I was right -- the last time Weir played this early in the season, without participating in the Mercedes, was in 1999. He usually plays the Mercedes and then departs until Arizona or California.

Also, in case you are still paying attention, The Toronto Star's Dave Perkins weighs in on the ABC television deal and the earnings made by players. I guess significantly late is better than not at all to Canadian sports sections.

Oh, yeah. Every golf writer of any note is clicking away on their keypads to write up opinion pieces about Michelle Wie. Ugh. I'll tell you what I'm tired of -- pieces like this one in the USA Today which bring this wide-eyed fascination to Wie, a story which is getting old, fast. Apparently it is surprising that she's taking her driving test. Oh, and some exams. Please.

Wie had this to say:

"Whatever happens, I think it will be a successful week," Wie said Tuesday after a practice round with Sean O'Hair and Justin Rose that drew a gallery close to 100. "How you get there is the most important thing. Playing with the men will make me a lot better player."

Isn't that just about exactly what she said last year? And the year before? Apparently she wants to not only make the cut, but also finish in the Top 20. Unless she can figure out how to putt in the final round of tournaments, I suspect Wie will head home Friday night.

A story by AP's Doug Ferguson also discusses Wie's work with Canadian physiologist Paul Gagne:

Wie also has been loading up on the fitness, working with Paul Gagne, a physiologist who works primarily with hockey players. She said she has added five pounds of muscle, and coach David Leadbetter said the extra strength allows her to hold the club in position at the top of her swing.

Not a lot of talk about her putting, is there?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Canadian Open at Angus Glen to stay put in 2007?

Sportsnet.ca's John Gordon has a so-called "scoop" on the site today saying the RCGA has agreed to keep the Canadian Open at Angus Glen in 2007. There has been some concern that the event's new date, in July following the British Open, might hurt turnout. Adding to the problem was the perception of some that the course was not particularly good. This stems from a skins game held prior to the course's official opening and attended by the likes of Vijay Singh and David Duval. Apparently they weren't big fans of the course, created by Doug Carrick and Jay Morrish.

It would have been surprising had the event been moved, since Angus Glen owner Gordon Stollery paid the RCGA to host the tournament twice -- once in 2002 on the South course and next year on the North.

In his article, Gordon writes:

But on Tuesday, a reliable source intimate with the tournament told Sportsnet that an announcement was imminent to the effect that the Canadian Open would be played at Angus Glen, albeit on a significantly altered course, and that moving it to Glen Abbey was not a consideration.
Let's hope they weren't too "intimate." The source might catch something and need a shot to alleviate any symptoms.

Anyway, Gordon also mentions the "source" told him Davis Love III visited Angus:

The source said PGA Tour veteran Davis Love III, also a course architect, had made multiple visits to Angus Glen to suggest alterations to toughen the course, designed in 2001 by Toronto's Doug Carrick and U.S. designer Jay Morrish. The source also said other PGA Tour players will be flown up to add their input.

Of course, that's hardly a scoop. It has been well known for two years that Davis was going to use Carrick's renovation plans to "rework" Angus and hopefully help draw a stronger field. I wrote about it in G4G in 2004. I guess sometime a scoop is a scoop and sometimes it is something else... or maybe a scoop can get reused every year.

The truth is the RCGA probably wants to move the tournament, but they are locked into a deal and have little choice. Gordon Stollery and Angus Glen were their date for the prom and now they've got to dance.

All of Gordon's story can be found here.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Tiger's billion dollar charge; Golfobserver observes G4G and Augusta gets tougher

  • Golf Digest has made what we already know official: Tiger Woods is golf's richest player. According to the publication, he could make $1-billion by 2013. "Research by Golf Digest revealed that ... Woods has earned another $481.8 million in endorsements and appearance fees. Assuming Woods continues on the same earnings trajectory, Golf Digest projects that Woods will reach the $1 billion mark in career earnings by the end of 2010. According to financial experts, Woods' net worth should surpass $1 billion by 2013, if not sooner." Just to give you a clear sense of why Woods and Phil Mickelson could afford to skip the opening event in Hawaii, note in the article that while Mickelson may have trailed Woods on the money list last year, he still made $45-million, $39-million of which came from "off course sources." I don't think we are talking ponies and college bowl games here folks. More likely Callaway, Ford and other cash. Also striking is Norman, Palmer and Nicklaus, who made little on the course ($15 grand in the case of Palmer), but $20-million, $25-million and $15-million respectively last year other ways. The full list can be found here. For Canadians, even in an off-year, Mike Weir apparently made $5-million, good for 27th on the list.
  • It took a long time, but the fine folks at Golfobserver.com have finally come to recognize this little golf blog, picking my piece on changes at the Canadian Open and including it in their roundup of golf news. The problem has always been that the National Post, the newspaper I write for, doesn't make its website accessible to those without subscriptions. By posting some of my columns on this blog, I was hoping to open up a broader readership. But since few golf bloggers actually break any news, and simply just point you to what is worthwhile on the web (a fine practice...), Golfobserver.com didn't really recognize the blogsphere. Well, apparently they do now, which is pretty cool indeed. My hope would be that they might even pick up on some of my course previews and reviews, like the Doug Carrick design in Scotland that I previewed here a few days back.
  • I haven't spent much time commenting on it, but Augusta has been touring writers through the course in recent months to show them the changes. Doug Ferguson at AP wrote a story about it a week or so back and had this to say: "Some of the tees won't be the same at the 70th Masters in April, and players won't need a scorecard to notice. The official yardage is 7,445 yards, courtesy of changes to six holes that added about 155 yards. It's the third time in the last six years that Augusta National has strengthened its golf course -- 520 yards since 1999 -- each in an attempt to restore the rhythm and shot value the way Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie designed it." Like several who have commented on this, I don't see how the current Augusta reflects the vision of Jones and MacKenzie at all. They dreamed of a wide golf course where playing to certain key areas of the fairway would make approaches slightly easier. Instead, this concept has been replaced by a target golf hybrid. Now players are expected to hit tee shot to spot A, then smack an approach to location B and hope like hell they end up below the hole. I'm not saying the tournament will be lacking in drama, but all of the changes could really make this more akin to the US Open than the Masters. I like those late round charges, and I think they are a key component in what makes the tournament interesting to most viewers.

Appleby's threepeat; PGATour asks about iPods, and Taylor's new R7

Well, Stuart Appleby managed to pull off his third straight victory in Hawaii yesterday, bettering Vijay Singh in a playoff. In a story on his victory on PGATour.com, Appleby had this to say:

"I had to do something special coming in. I didn't do it, so I had to do it in the playoff," Appleby said. "Winning the Mercedes is awesome. Winning three times is a dream come true."
It is also good for the bank account. The win at the Mercedes was worth a cool $1.08-million. Not bad for a tournament where you also got to see Jessica Alba hanging by the pool.

I've posted my piece on playing with Appleby. One of the interesting facts I remember about our round was that Appleby played a controlled draw, perfect for Kapalua's wide, rolling fairways, and that he couldn't remember what British Open venues he'd played, or where the tournament was that year. "You know more about this stuff than I do," he joked as we sat on a bench waiting to tee off on one of the early holes during our round.

Also on PGATour.com is a small interview with Norway's Henrik Bjornstad, the first man from his country to make it through Q-School and onto the tour. The problem is the interview. The questions are all the interesting ones: "What has been your most nervous moment in golf, and why?" "How did you get started in the game?" and, of course, the hard hitting golf question, "What's in your MP3 player?" If you are still interested, click here.

Worth a read is a fun column by John Huggan in the Scotsman. Huggan does his predictions for the year, including this thought on March:

As the PGA Tour veers from the California coast to the "Florida swing," Tiger Woods is already looking for his fourth win of the season. No-one else has more than one. Paired on the first day of the Bay Hill Invitational, old chums Rory Sabbatini and Ben Crane begin to reminisce about their previous rounds together. Unfortunately, the conversation remains in limbo when the duo become separated somewhere around the sixth hole. Still, in a gesture of friendship and
goodwill, Sabbatini doesn't leave without saying goodbye. The South African eats lunch, hits balls for an hour, then has a massage as he waits for Crane to finish.
Mickelson announces he is taking the month off to spend more time with his parents.
Obviously the whole piece is worth checking out. Go to the Scotsman site.
This story appeared on my My Yahoo! page, but thanks to Geoff Shackelford for getting me to read it.

Oh, and if you are a gear pig, there's a story by Score Golf's Rick Young about updates to the R7 line, including the new, larger R7 driver, which is now 460cc. There is also a new shaft technology involved in the clubs, according to Young.

The r7 line up also comes equipped with the new TaylorMade RE•AX shaft that features a new technology developed by Fujikura, maker of the No. 1 shaft on the PGA Tour.According to TaylorMade, the new shaft technology promotes improved consistency shot to shot by reducing ovaling – a tendancy of the golf shaft to morph from a circular shape to an oval shape when subjected to the normal forces of a golf swing. This is achieved by weaving the graphite into a
strength-enhancing pattern placed in the midsection of the club, from just below the grip down the length of the shaft.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Canadian Open -- Bell one of several sponsors?

Rumours out there suggest Bell Canada is backing away from the Canadian Open, but will still remain as a part sponsor. The speculation is Bell will become one of several sponsors for the event, and naming rights will disappear. Thank god, if this is true. I never called it "the Bell Canadian Open," and now apparently, I won't have to worry about it any longer. Expect something to be officially announced in February, six months after the situation supposed to be resolved.
The new TV deal sounds like it could put more pressure on the RCGA to come up with additional purse revenue, which could be a problem given the discussion about how badly ticket sales went at Shaughnessy this past September.

  • Why is there a photo of a chick in a bathing suit on G4G? Well that chick is Hollywood uber-babe Jessica Alba and I only put the photo up for pure journalistic explanation. Chris Lewis in SI writes a piece about why three of the "Big Four" aren't in Hawaii. While Lewis is speaking to Ben Crane, this occurs: "Asked on Wednesday if he could explain why anyone, however rich or family-committed, would pass up a chance to be here, Crane poked his head out of his pro-am golf cart, took a quick pan around the property, raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
    It was right about then that Crane's caddie, Brett Waldman, as if for emphasis, looked up from a text message and announced that Jessica Alba was lying out at the pool down the road at the Ritz-Carlton." So see -- Ms. Alba does have something to do with golf. And I just wanted to give you the opportunity to live like a PGA Tour pro at a tournament in Hawaii. Really....
  • Ben Wright has a story in Links Magazine about what he hates about cart golf. I'm surprised he didn't write about his concerns about lesbians invading the LPGA Tour....

Friday, January 06, 2006

Cold in Canada, balmy in Hawaii

Further proof that I need a holiday somewhere warm -- I caught myself drooling this afternoon looking at Kapalua, even though it was sprinkling rain there. How bad could that be? Everything was freezing here in Toronto.

Lots of people are still talking about why Tiger, Phil and Retief are missing from the field, and the scores so far are pretty high. Interesting to note that with all the discussion about protecting par given the distances players hit the ball, Kapalua is holding its own. And in places, it is as wide as a football field. So here's a course that runs contrary to the conventional wisdom that says narrow the fairways and grow the rough. At Kapalua the fairways are wide, but the greens can spell disaster. The wind can howl. Great fun to watch.

Announcer Mark Rolfing told an Hawaiian paper that players who win the Mercedes should be exempt for two years. Why Mark? Because the event is in Hawaii?

Here's Rolfing's logic:

“My suggestion would be rather than give just a one-year exemption into this event for winning a PGA Tour event, you would give a player two years. There is a precedent for that in that if a player wins on the PGA Tour now, he gets a two-year (tour-card) exemption. He gets two years for every tournament except this one. I don’t see any harm at all in giving a player two years. I think that would probably add, in most years, maybe 15 players, 20 maximum, to the field and it would pretty much ensure you the top players, which I think would ease the blow if some guys decided to skip the event.’’

Might work -- but it wouldn't make any difference to Tiger. Or Phil. Or Retief for that matter.

Interestingly, there seems to be a bit of friction between those who are playing in Hawaii and the big guns that aren't. Check out these quotes from Tim Rosaforte's Golf World column:

"I'm not sure why they're not playing," said two-time defending champion Stuart Appleby in a Tuesday news conference. "I guess they don't want to play. I guess they're tired or it's too far just for one week."

"It really hurts the field," said Fred Funk. "You get enough guys not showing up ... It would make a sponsor say, 'Why am I doing this? Why am I putting up all this money?'"

"This is a hard one to dance around," said Bart Bryant.

But Rosaforte suggests Tiger isn't in the field because his father's health is precarious. Let's hope he's wrong on this one, even though it is well known Earl has not been well. He can't even come to the course to watch Tiger play, and it was announced last year that the prostate cancer that had been plaguing him, had returned.

The entire Rosaforte column is here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Golfing with Appleby

Using the theme of Stuart Appleby's attempt at a third straight Mercedes, I took the time to go to PGATour.com and find a column I wrote about two years ago about playing with the Aussie when he was in Toronto. I hope you enjoy it....

Playing a round with affable Appleby

Watching Stuart Appleby up close is an awe-inspiring experience for any golfer who at some point has considered themselves even partially proficient at the game.
The ease with which he coils his shoulders and smoothly transfers his weight, thumping the little white ball well into the fairway is awe-inspiring. Unless you have to tee it up chasing him in a tournament -- then Appleby's swing is something to fear.
Playing in pro-ams with a PGA TOUR player is always a little bit like Christmas morning. You look forward to it for weeks, but when the event actually occurs there's always the possibility of being disappointed. In this case, the disappointment doesn't reside with receiving a bad winter sweater. Rather, it has everything to do with embarrassing yourself in front of someone who has mastered something so difficult.
I had the opportunity to tee it up with Appleby earlier this summer when he was in Toronto at the Altamira Charity Challenge, a golf exhibition that featured the likes of Shaun Micheel, Craig Stadler and organizer Peter Jacobsen.
It wasn't the first time I'd had the good fortune to play a game of golf with a PGA TOUR pro. In the past, I've been lucky enough to hit the links with Kirk Triplett and Matt Gogel, as well.
These are experiences I'll remember all my life. Triplett, dressed as Tiger Woods as a Halloween stunt, wanted to talk about Toronto, having spent time playing the Canadian Tour. He also gave each person in our group a tip on how to improve his game. Gogel spent time talking about his equipment and how difficult it was to fine a driver that worked for him.
Although every player I've spent time on the course with was friendly, I still find it a daunting experience to tee it up with a PGA TOUR pro.
When you hit the course with a seasoned golfer like that, you quickly find out just how far removed a good amateur is from the realms of the best in the world. When I teed it up with Appleby, alongside a mutual fund CEO, a marketing director and a television sportscaster, I was playing to a solid 2 handicap. But once I watched the Aussie bust one off the first tee, I knew he was in a league with which I couldn't ever compete.
Thankfully, given that some in our group were standing on the first tee feeling tighter than a cork in a wine bottle, Appleby turned out to be friendly and fun. He loosened up our group, something we needed badly. After all, there's nothing like adding several hundred spectators to the mix to make a bunch of weekend hacks look like they've never picked up a club. Thankfully no spectators were hurt in the first few holes, giving our group an opportunity to get to chat with Appleby, relax and keep a few balls in play.
Even with his outgoing Australian nature, it was hard not to recall that the 33-year-old Appleby had undergone a personal hardship few have experienced at such a young age. In 1998, just after the British Open, Appleby's wife, Renay, was killed in a freak car accident while unloading luggage in London, England. I'm a month younger than Appleby and am relieved to say that I haven't experienced anything like what Appleby went through following his wife's death. I hope I never do.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Appleby struggled immediately after Renay's death. He has since remarried, though, and is now is regarded as one the best players in the world.
"A few years ago, you couldn't ask him to do these things," Jacobsen says, referring to corporate outings. "But he's such a great guy. I'm glad he's doing so well."
Appleby was affable throughout our round. It's a good thing he was -- the game lasted almost six hours, more time than I like to spend golfing with anyone.
The highlight of the day came, not surprisingly, from the pro golfer in our midst. After hitting a tee shot into a greenside pond on the par-4 fourth hole, Appleby picked up and coached our group through the rest of the hole. On the following hole, a 176-yard par 3, he hit a little riser that finished over a slope in the green and found the back of the cup for a hole-in-one.
Given his level temperament, Apple didn't get overly excited about what had just transpired. As opposed to weekend players, who can tell you the exact distance and ball spin that resulted in their ace, Appleby couldn't even recall the last time he pulled the feat off.
On the next hole, a mid-length par 4, the tall Aussie drove the green and tapped in an 18-inch putt for eagle to go 1-2 on his card. As a spectator and playing partner, I watched this unfold with wide eyes, full of excitement and fascinated by the ease with which Appleby played the game.
It is hard to imagine anything better.

TV Time: Will the PGA Tour's new deal hurt the Canadian Open?

Apparently there's a new TV deal in the works (at least that's what Golf World is reporting) though tour commissioner Tim Finchem is trying to lengthen the deal in order to come up with the same amount of cash he received for the one that concludes at the end of 2007.

Aside from the fact ABC is apparently bowing out of broadcasting golf altogether (leaving Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo without jobs), and a revamped Florida swing, the new TV deal could be bad news for the struggling Canadian Open. Without a commitment from Bell Canada that will see the organization push forward with a sponsorship extention, the Canadian Open could face some problems. Among them is this comment from the Golf World piece:

The source said the tour would likely reduce its subsidy of purses from 62 percent to "somewhere in the 50s," putting pressure on tournament directors to get that revenue from other areas.

The Canadian Open already has problems raising sponsorship money, so where it will come up with additional funds is the question. Surely Bell isn't going to pay more, so that means secondary sponsors will become more important. Finding sponsors willing to use their marketing dollars on sporting events has become increasingly difficult these days. Here's hoping the Royal Canadian Golf Association has an ace up its sleeve on this one.

As for all of the other details of the TV deal, Geoff Shackelford has covered it off nicely on his site.

Course Preview: The Carrick in Loch Lomond, Scotland

Course preview: The Carrick, Loch Lomond, Scotland

Doug Carrick is among Canada's leading golf architects, having created Angus Glen, Bigwin Island and Eagles Nest, among others.
In the past two years he's had the chance to branch out a bit -- including a project called, interestingly, The Carrick next to the Loch Lomond course in central Scotland. The course has been built in a traditional Scottish heathland style (nice, considering how many new courses in the UK look like they were pulled from the American heartland) and is situated on an extremely hilly piece of property. Despite that, apparently the course is still very walkable.
It is being developed by the DeVere Group, which operates the wonderful Cameron House hotel on site. The only problem has been with the National Park Planning Authority, which have delayed the project for months. Once expected to open this summer, it is now delayed until at least early 2007, despite some of the holes having been completed for nearly three years at that point. There's environmental protection and then there's bureaucracy. It is clear which camp this falls into.
The site offers amazing views of central Scotland in one of the most breathtaking areas of the country. Of course it will be compared to its next door neighbour, the Weiskopf/Morrish designed Loch Lomond, but the DeVere people seem to think Carrick's course will hold its own. And this one will be open to the public, unlike the highly restrictive Loch Lomond.
So we'll just have to wait to see this finally finished -- which presents an excuse to go back for another jaunt around Scotland. In the meantime, Carrick's office could be involved in a number of projects, including one in Ireland, one in St. Kitts and another in India.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Well, I've been hinting at it for a while, but yesterday it was official: I handed my resignation to the National Post, the Canadian national newspaper where I have been on staff since 2000. It was a tough decision, but one I made for a variety of reasons, some personal, some professional.
The result is this -- though I'm no longer on staff at the paper, I will remain as golf columnist. For those who don't read the Post, for most of the last six years I've written full-time as a business reporter, and I've interviewed the likes of Bill Gates, Carly Fiorina and others, and played golf with many of the country's top executives and politicians. Oh, and I also covered golf as a part-time arrangement, freeing up time to work on columns around my regular duties.
My new arrangement means I have a signed contract to write a weekly golf column for the paper starting in late March and running through to October.
The hope is this new relationship with the Post will allow me to pursue more golf writing, do some communications and business consulting, and work on another book (in the Fall). The reality is I have a lot of golf writing this year that is already assigned and will take up plenty of my time. There are also some golf book projects in the works.
This blog is also part of the overall plan. Expect to see some bold changes in the next while, a situation I'm currently working on. The aim is to bring this blog to a wider readership (from hundreds daily to thousands), allowing me to explore new areas with it. I'll let you know how it progresses.
Anyway, thanks for reading, now on with the golf....

Furyk signs with Srixon

Interesting press release below noting Jim Furyk has apparently ended his long standing relationship with the Hogan Company (really Callaway now) and has signed on with Srixon. Apparently it is for the whole package, thus the quick note that Furyk is working with Srixon to develop clubs as well. I guess the final loyalty in the business lies with the almighty dollar. That said, I played some of Srixon's balls at the end of last season and came away impressed. Here's what Srixon said about Furyk:

"Srixon Sports USA, one of the foremost technology leaders in golf, today proudly announces a new partnership with Jim Furyk in which Furyk will play Srixon’s new Z-UR prototype golf ball and forged wedges and is currently working with Srixon’s club designers on a new set of forged irons. Additionally, Furyk will wear the company’s hat and glove and carry its signature red golf bag. Furyk will also be instrumental in helping the company develop future generations of product."

Welcome back....

Here's hoping all of my readers had a great holiday season. Thanks for stopping by as often as you do. Don't hesitate to leave comments -- I'm trying to engage more with my readers and am regularly responding to comments left on Going For The Green.

On a personal note, I'm in the midst of finishing my book with Ron Joyce, the co-founder of Tim Hortons, and working on several golf stories for the spring.

There is also some professional news forthcoming, but it may take a day or two longer before I can make it public. Also expect to see some changes with this site in the coming weeks -- but it is all for the better. I promise!

The stars are clouded out in Hawaii

So Tiger, Phil and Retief aren't showing up in Hawaii this week to kick off the first tournament of the year -- and one with a guaranteed pay day. All three are apparently spending "time with the family," and even Michael Campbell considered skipping the Mercedes Championship. Oh, and Pádraig Harrington is also staying away. I think this is the answer to the question: "At what point are professional golfers overpaid?" Two major winners are staying away and the other one says he considered not playing? Tim Finchem needs to address this situation fast, before someone takes the time to pencil lame duck on his forehead.

It is time the PGA Tour addressed the issue of players not appearing at events. If the Mercedes can't get golfers to attend -- and they have to have won an event the previous year just to get an invite -- how can the John Deere Classic, the or the Canadian Open expect to get anyone to come? The answer is they can't. At some point sponsors will clue into this and once they threaten to take their purses and walk, maybe we'll see this matter addressed. There's a story on ESPN's website where Jason Sobel contends players are independent contractors and therefore should not be compelled to play. That might have made sense before there were $1-billion TV deals. Now the tour relies on its stars in order to have the big money to payout every Sunday. Ignoring this is just ignoring the obvious -- that golf could go the way of tennis if things don't change.

In case you think the tournament will be dull with a number of its brightest stars missing, then read Jeff Mingay's Golf Observer column on the Coore and Crenshaw course on which the event will be played. Mingay writes:

Designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the 7,411 yards par 73 Plantation course is somewhat of an anomaly on the pro circuits these days. In other words, it's a course that genuinely forces the world's best golfers to play thoughtful and inventive golf.

Anyone who has seen the course knows it is wide and full of huge downhill shots. In reality it is a difficult golf site. Coore makes this point in the article:

"We simply tried to apply traditional design principles to a non-traditional site," says Coore. "Fairways are wide and the greens are unusually large because that's the only way we knew how to create a playable course on such a dramatic property."

Mingay clearly is a big fan of Coore's work, which isn't surprising considering its quality and the fact Jeff works alongside Rod Whitman, a Canadian golf architect who has been known to jump on a bulldozer and do some work on Coore and Crenshaw projects. He's also co-designed courses with Coore.

Jeff also spends some time in the article discussing the resurfacing of Kapalua's putting surfaces. The entire story is here.

If you don't care about Kapalua at all, then read Geoff Shackelford's interesting Links golf piece on PGA Tour pros and design. Worth a read -- especially if you think PGA Tour pros put their names on projects just for the marketing value. Lorne Rubenstein writes about the death of Canadian Larry O'Brien, a man whose name you might not immediately know. O'Brien had a big impact on the Canadian Open, and we could use someone like him now.

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