Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Professional’ Category

Today Reese, Finn, Emerson and I headed east.  Our destination: the TPC Snoqualmie, for the first round of the Boeing Classic.  Lots of great sightings — John Daly, Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer among them.  My chief takeaways: (1) those Champions Tour guys can still really stripe it; and (2) most of them need stylists, or at least tailors.

A few photos:

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Another day, another trip out to Sahalee for the Women’s PGA Championship.  This time we brought Reese’s crony Emerson and her dad Warren.  The highlight: Julie Inkster gave both the girls each a Titleist.

18-year old Brook Henderson was the eventual winner.  The Canadian teen beat world no. 1 Lydia Ko in a playoff.  Twenty-year old Ariya Jutanugarn, she of the 275-yard three wood, finished one shot out of the playoff.

 

 

Read Full Post »

A few days ago I penned a piece in this space that I titled “The Tragedy That Was The U.S. Open At Chambers Bay.”  In hindsight I regret the title: as I explained near the bottom of that column, the national open in my beloved home state wasn’t all bad:

Jordan Spieth’s Grand-Slam-maintaining victory meant the right guy won (Cameron Smith or Brendan Grace, not so much).  Eight guys finished under par — well more than average for a U.S. Open in recent years — and Spieth’s minus 5 winning score was certainly more palatable than, say, plus 5.  (Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy at 2007 Oakmont and 2006 Winged Foot, respectively.)  The cream rose to the top: the world’s second-best player won, and of the top eleven finishers, ten are ranked top 50 in the world. There were a few decent places to actually see some action — most notably left of the ninth tee and above no. 14.

The record-breaking merchandise was outstanding: I spent a bundle in the main swag tent, and the Lee Wybranski water color I picked up on Wednesday will be on my office wall by week’s end. The big picture setting showcased the Pacific Northwest’s stunning beauty.  Not all the greens were awful: the putting surfaces at 7 and 13 were reportedly fine if a bit fast.  The weather was chamber-of-commerce perfect.  The marshals didn’t enforce the “no photos” rule, which enabled me to take the photos above as well as some decent selfies and groupies.

And the drama of Sunday’s remarkable finish will be tough for the golf-is-boring crowd to rebut. Already Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte is reporting that it’s not a question of if but when the U.S. Open will return – not, I’m sure, before the course gets a serious overhaul.

What was undoubtedly tragic, however, was the spectator experience.  Aside from the CourseCast radios (provided by American Express) and the stunning views (provided by Mother Nature), it stunk.  And since I am not a guy to complain without offering solutions, here are a few ideas the USGA might consider in no particular order:

1.   Level some of the hillocks.  This has been said so often by so many that I take it as given it’ll be done.  I’m not sure, however, that it will solve much: a small hillock is just as slippery as a tall one.

2.   Allow fans to flank both sides of the first- and tenth fairways — at least up to the hillocks.  Spectators closely flank the fairways at every event on the PGA Tour.  There’s no reason whatsoever that this couldn’t be done at Chambers, especially in the first few hundred yards of nos. 1 and 10.

3.   Narrow the fairways.  The fairways at Chambers were mighty wide — at least 100 yards on No. 13 I’m told.  Narrower fairways let fans get closer to the players, especially if they decide to:

4.  Put the ropes a lot closer to the fairways.  Check out this selfie:

Wed

Notice how far away the ropes are from the wildly-wide-to-begin-with fairway?  It was like that all over the place, except on holes like no. 8 where, because fans weren’t allowed, there were no ropes at all.  Players don’t need thirty yards of fan-free rough to make their way through the championship.

   5.  Improve the f&B experience.  Last week the concession stands were few and far between and the lines for lunch in the Spectator Pavilion were thirty minutes long on Saturday.  Waiting half an hour for a $7 Bud Light is downright un-American.   Some simple fixes:

  • Install more, if smaller, concession stands.  I can’t tell you how many times I pointed out spots where I wish there’d have been concession stands — but they weren’t there.
  • Simplify the menu.  At Augusta National there were roughly two dozen items on the menu — total.  At the Spectator Pavilion at Chambers I’m guessing there were closer to 100.  The U.S. Open doesn’t need to be Starbucks: in this case, simpler would be better.  And while I’m at it, the USGA doesn’t need multiple f&b vendors, as there were at the Spectator Pavilion.  One, a la Augusta National, should suffice.  Make a decent pb&j ubiquitous, a la Augusta’s pimento cheese sandwich, and you’re really on to something.  (Buffet lines instead of single-file ones would be nice, too — at least at the larger concession stands.)
    Not exactly a pimento cheese sandwich.

    If priced and made correctly, the pb&j could become the U.S. Open’s version of …

    the Masters' pimento cheese.

    the Masters’ pimento cheese.

  • Lower the prices — especially on beer. At Augusta National domestic beers were $4 — up from $3 last year — and the suds were flowin’.  At Chambers, Bud Lights ran $7 — and the hops consumption was largely absent amongst the riff raff.  More beer makes the day better for most folks, and there’s no reason the non-profit USGA needs to price beer like it’s running a ballpark.
  • Do promos.  Maybe every 5,000th beer gets free tickets to the next year’s U.S. Open.  Or the 10,000th pb&j gets U.S. Open tickets for life.  Something to get fans extra excited about digging into their wallets.

  6.  Set up several grandstands on the path alongside 16 and 17.  A half dozen grandstands behind which spectators could walk would make 16 and 17 great stadium-like experiences and would be great vantage points to watch the action. I wouldn’t make them too tall — those passing trains were very much part of the Chambers landscape and it would be nice to keep them in sight.  (Brendan Grace coulda used these on his 71st hole.)

aa

Imagine a grandstand on the gravel to the left of where the people are walking.  Might have helped Brendan Grace.

   7. Sell folding chairs and create designated seating areas.  One of the coolest things at Augusta National is what I call “the chair thing.” Most “patrons” buy or bring in a $30 folding chair.  It fits in a chair bag and comes with a shoulder strap so you can carry it like a rifle.  We — and tens of thousands of others — marked our chairs as “ours” by dropping our business cards in the business card slot.  From there, we left ’em open for anyone and everyone to sit, usually in areas that ANGC had roped off as designated for sitting.  When we wanted our seats back, all we had to do was tell the people sitting in them.  Instant desired seating — provided by the fans.  Thousands of other patrons did the same thing.  Do that anywhere and everywhere at Chambers Bay — the USGA’s revenue spikes, spectators have places to chill, slippage becomes less of a concern — and the chairs are all anyone’s talkin’ about.  (Tan, though, not Masters green.)

during the final round of the 2013 Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2013 in Augusta, Georgia.

    8.  Create an inside-the-ropes ticket.  Remember GolfWatch?  Back in the mid-90’s, the PGA Tour experimented with an idea of letting fans pay extra for premium tickets.  Fans who were willing to pay for it could walk in a designated lane inside the ropes, thus effectively giving themselves front row seats on every hole.  GolfWatch didn’t stick, but at Chambers Bay a similar program might make sense.  The reason is those hillocks.  It’s not a great idea to open them up to everyone — there’d be just too many spills But if the only people on said hillocks were people willing to pay for the privilege, chances are the crowds would be young, nimble — and happy.  (I’m thinking specifically about the hills on 1, 10 and 12 here.)

    9.  Allow dads and kids inside the ropes on 18 on Sunday.  You know how the British Open used to let fans inside the ropes on the final hole of the championship?  The USGA could do something similar on 18 on Sunday — dads and their kids only.

Like most of my ideas, these aren’t perfect.  I have no idea, for example, what it would cost to add grandstands to the right of 16 and 17.  I have not considered the security ramifications of my dads-and-kids-inside-the-ropes idea.  (The R&A presumably dropped that tradition for a reason.)  And a lot of these concepts obviously come straight from Augusta, and the USGA may be sensitive to accusations of copying.  Still, they’re starting points.

Read Full Post »

As a Northwest golfer, avid-to-rabid fan of professional golf and early buyer of 2015 U.S. Open tickets, I really wanted our national championship at Chambers Bay to succeed. It didn’t. In fact, it was an almost-epic failure.

For spectators – I was one for three days — the USGA would have had to try to make the experience worse. The walk in from the inland (east) entrances yielded spectacular, pride-inspiring views from the top ridge that I suspect are unparalleled in championship golf.

DSC06176

 

Ridge

 

IMG_4254

After that – yikes.

The sand dune amphitheaters were supposed to make spectacular places to watch the action – but the USGA had almost all of them roped off. I get that call – safety first – but closing the dunes made them walls, and towering ones at that.

An enduring image of Chambers Bay -- nothing.

An enduring image of Chambers Bay — nothing.

I caught a glimpse of Henrik Stenson on the 12th tee.

I caught a glimpse of Henrik Stenson on the 12th tee.

Then there was the spectator routing. Getting close to a player while he was playing was only slightly easier than getting close to Obama. (I did, I proudly admit, almost back into Henrik Stenson on his way to the 12th tee on Saturday.) And it was impossible – and I mean literally impossible – to follow a group around: five of the holes were completely closed to spectators.

Path

Lots of walking, not much to see.

Although it was tough to see golfers actually PLAYING GOLF, I did get a nice photo of Miguel Angel Jimenez leaving a san-i-can.

Although it was tough to see golfers actually PLAYING GOLF, I did get a nice photo of Miguel Angel Jimenez leaving a san-i-can.

Morgan Hoffmann played in something akin to pajamas on Thursday, but because the fans were so far from the action, very few people could tell.

Morgan Hoffmann played in something akin to pajamas on Thursday, but because the fans were so far from the action, very few people could tell.

Concessions?  In a word: terrible. The stands were sporadic and the f&b was overpriced — I paid $5 for a Dove bar on top of my buddy Jeff’s $6 lemon water, which they marketed as “lemonade.” I paid $3 for some sort of packaged pb&j concoction which ought to be the subject of a federal ban. The lines? Well, Jeff and I stood in a lunch line for thirty minutes on Saturday – me, for an undercooked $6 hot dog and $7 Bud Light.  Contrast that with Augusta National, where the lines ran about fifteen seconds, the beers $4 and the pimento cheese sandwiches $1.50.

Not exactly a pimento cheese sandwich.

Not exactly a pimento cheese sandwich.

The USGA even screwed up the grandstands. On Saturday my buddy Warren and I found our way to the grandstand on the downhill par three 15th.   The players were too far back to see them on the tee without a great pair of binoculars. Fans with good eyes could see shots in the air, but the pin was so far back that we had to look over the side of the grandstand to see players putt out. No doubt there were better grandstands out there, but with the policy of allowing fans to come and go as they please, getting a seat in one was no easy task.  All this, mind you, on a course that was reportedly built specifically to host the U.S. Open.

As for the player experience – where to start? No one much cared for the aforementioned gallery-free holes – Phil Mickelson reportedly called them “eerie.”

The fan-free eighth hole.

The fan-free eighth hole.

And then there were the much-maligned putting surfaces, known on most courses as “greens.” I’ve thought from the day the USGA announced it was coming to University Place that they’d have to do something about the putting surfaces. Whatever they did didn’t work. Whether you thought they were more akin to broccoli (Stenson) or cauliflower (Rory McIlroy), it’s never a good thing when balls break, well, zigzag, as Darren Clarke’s birdie putt did on no. 12 on Friday. I’m not sure that they were the worst greens the PGA Tour has seen in recent years – Billy Horschel said they were while Brandt Snedeker said he’s played worse. (More.)  But when the discussion has the word “worst” in it — well, let’s just say the career prospects of Chambers’ greenskeeper aren’t much better than Monica Lewinsky’s.

The championship wasn’t a complete bust. Jordan Spieth’s Grand-Slam-maintaining victory meant the right guy won (Cameron Smith or Brendan Grace, not so much).  Eight guys finished under par — well more than average for a U.S. Open in recent years — and Spieth’s minus 5 winning score was certainly more palatable than, say, plus 5.  (Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy at 2007 Oakmont and 2006 Winged Foot, respectively.)  The cream rose to the top: the world’s second-best player won, and of the top eleven finishers, ten are ranked top 50 in the world. There were a few decent places to actually see some action — most notably left of the ninth tee and above no. 14:

9 tee

14 tee

The record-breaking merchandise was outstanding: I spent a bundle in the main swag tent, and the Lee Wybranski water color I picked up on Wednesday will be on my office wall by week’s end. The big picture setting showcased the Pacific Northwest’s stunning beauty.  Not all the greens were awful: the putting surfaces at 7 and 13 were reportedly fine if a bit fast.  The weather was chamber-of-commerce perfect.  The marshals didn’t enforce the “no photos” rule, which enabled me to take the photos above as well as some decent selfies and groupies.

Wed

Todd, Adam, Tim Smith and me -- the Wednesday foursome.

Todd, Adam, Tim Smith and me — the Wednesday foursome.

Jeff Benezra and me on Friday.

Jeff Benezra and me on Friday.

Warren Gouk and me on Sunday.  (Not shown: Baron Kofoed and Chris White.)

Warren Gouk and me on Sunday. (Not shown: Baron Kofoed and Chris White.)

And the drama of Sunday’s remarkable finish will be tough for the golf-is-boring crowd to rebut. Already Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte is reporting that it’s not a question of if but when the U.S. Open will return – not, I’m sure, before the course gets a serious overhaul.

Still, it was fitting that the 2015 U.S. Open was decided by a putting surface debacle. Dustin Johnson had a twelve footer on the 72nd hole to go down in history. He missed it, and when he gaffed the three-foot comebacker he became a tragic figure in this week’s U.S. Open.

He wasn’t the only one.

 

Read Full Post »

I just spent the last five days in Augusta, GA at the 2015 Masters.  21-year old Jordan Spieth won the tournament.

I was the real winner, though.

FIVE DAYS AT THE MASTERS.

Some pics (cameras were allowed on Wednesday, and I took lots of photos outside Augusta National (check out my photo book):

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I returned from a ten-day trip back east.  I kicked things off with twenty-seven other guys for Greenspan Cup in Pinehurst, NC:

Pinehurst Team pic

 

Seattle Team dressed up

 

Nick at Nop 2

From there it was off to Washington, DC, where I met up with some old law school friends:

GULC Group

and, with Jeff Benezra, visited the amazing Holocaust Museum:

Holocaust Museum

Later that night we  headed up to New Jersey where we met up with my old friend Suzi Kelly and played Trump National in Bedminster:

Nick Jeff at Trumop

 

 

Nick swinging Trump

After that we headed to Philadelphia for three days at the U.S. Open at Merion (Justin Rose):

US Open

On Sunday we played tourist in Philly:

Love sign

Redding Terminal

 

Liberty bell

 

Jims Steaks

And then caught a 10:30 pm flight home.

I’m glad to be home.

Read Full Post »

As both my readers know, I am no Tiger Woods fan. My considerable Tiger shirt collection notwithstanding, I have called him the anti-role model on this very blog. And just when I thought it was difficult for me to dislike the guy any more, Dropgate happened.

If you’ve been on the moon since then, what happened on Friday afternoon slash Saturday morning is sure to be discussed to death in country club grill rooms for years to come. In brief, Tiger hit a perfect wedge shot to the green at no. 15 during Friday’s second round – so perfect, in fact, that it caromed off the flagstick and into the water hazard. Clearly flustered, Tiger weighed his drop options and, as he would later state in a post-round interview, dropped a ball two yards behind where he’d previously hit from so that he could take the same swing he’d just taken and not hit the flagstick again.

I was watching this on my couch and suspected he’d done something wrong, but I didn’t call in to that invisible guy you call to report rules violations. But someone did, and the Masters rules committee was made aware of the situation as Tiger played the 18th hole. The problem: under the drop rule under which he ostensibly proceeded, Tiger was required by rule to drop his ball as nearly as possible to the spot from where he last hit on pain of a two-stroke penalty. As ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski detailed (more), the committee decided before Tiger signed his scorecard that he had done nothing wrong. Amazingly, no one bothered to discuss the issue with Tiger after he completed his round or before he signed his scorecard. So Tiger signed his scorecard and gave the aforementioned, televised post-round interview where he admitted to dropping the ball two yards back of where he took his previous shot.

Tiger blew it -- in more ways than one.

Tiger blew it — in more ways than one.

Woops.

According to Wojciechowski, Masters rules committee chairman Fred Ridley was made aware of what Tiger said in his interview at 10 pm on Friday night. Faced now with what amounted to new evidence – Tiger’s unwitting admission – the committee reconsidered its previous decision and determined that it had gotten it wrong. Tiger’s drop was illegal after all. Tiger should have been assessed a two-stroke penalty — but he wasn’t. Technically, therefore, he signed an incorrect scorecard, a big-time no-no in the world of golf.

So here’s my take. First, Tiger’s drop was clearly illegal. Given the relief option he chose, Tiger was required by rule to take his drop as near as possible to the spot he took his last stroke from. Two yards back from that spot is clearly not that. Tiger, therefore, should have signed for an 8 on his scorecard instead of a 6. On this there is no debate.

Second, given its handling of the situation, the rules committee at least arguably made the correct call by assessing Tiger a two-stroke penalty rather than outright DQing him. Under rule 33-7, the competition committee “may in exceptional cases” waive the disqualification penalty. What made Friday’s case “exceptional” wasn’t the fact that it involved Tiger Woods or that it was The Masters – the rules committee wouldn’t soil the integrity of its much-revered competition with reasoning like that. Nor was it the fact that Tiger didn’t know he took an illegal drop when he took it: there is a specific Rules Decision (33-7/4.5) that says “ignorance of the rules or facts that the player could have discovered prior to signing his scorecard” are not sufficient reasons to waive to the disqualification penalty. What made this case “exceptional” was the rules committee’s botching of it — twice. First, it incorrectly concluded while Tiger was still playing that his drop was fine when it obviously wasn’t. (I wonder if the committee would have exonerated a certain fourteen-year old Chinese amateur with such alacrity.) Second, it didn’t take the very easy step of addressing the situation with Tiger before he signed his scorecard – an inexplicable error if ever there was one. The committee could have prevented Tiger from signing an incorrect scorecard, as the PGA did with Dustin Johnson after he brushed sand in a bunker on the 72nd hole at the 2010 PGA Championship. It just didn’t. The committee concluded, therefore, that it would have been, in Ridley’s words, “grossly unfair” to Tiger to disqualify him based on what he said in his interview when it could have prevented him from signing an incorrect scorecard.

This point is a lot closer than Ridley made it sound. Tiger’s exoneration happened without his knowledge, so effectively retracting that decision through disqualification doesn’t seem terribly unfair. Had Tiger relied on a ruling made by a rules official that turned out to be wrong, then “grossly unfair” would be an appropriate description. But that didn’t happen. The stronger argument is that it would be grossly unfair to use Tiger’s post-round interview against him but, from what I’ve read so far, that is not the argument the committee made.

Third, this situation will not mark the end of the “trial by TV viewer” era, as many players and commentators suggested yesterday. Cases where rules committees and players do not know about alleged rules infractions until after the player signed his scorecard will not be affected by this case, which PGA Tour player Aaron Oberholser curiously likened to “Supreme Court precedent.” Those cases will be unaffected because there will not be an intervening cause – a committee botch job – that would make disqualification “grossly unfair.” Ignorance of the rules or facts that the player could have discovered prior to signing his scorecard” remain an insufficient reason to waive the DQ penalty – by rule. Players will still get disqualified from time to time based on the minutest of infractions caught by guys on their couches with nothing better to do. Now, however, people will complain (wrongly) that there are two sets of rules – Tiger’s and everyone else’s.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, Tiger should have withdrawn. It is incumbent upon players to follow the rules. If a player does not know them, it is incumbent upon him to call in a rules official. In this case, Tiger was dealing with a rule with which most mid-handicappers are familiar – how and where to drop a ball after you’ve drenched one. He just botched it. If he had any uncertainty he could have called for a rules official: he didn’t do that, either. In the end, he never played a ball from where the rules required him to play it – a spot he intentionally avoided lest he hit the flagstick again. Whether he would have hit the flagstick again, or come up short with an incrementally softer swing – neither we nor any of his competitors will ever know. What we do know is that Tiger did not play the 15th hole by the rules of golf like the rest of the field did. And while it arguably would have been unfair to Tiger to be DQ’ed after the committee exonerated him without his knowledge, the flipside is also true: it is unfair to the other players for Tiger to remain in the field just because the committee could have saved him but didn’t. And inasmuch as most of those other players wouldn’t have been on TV, they would not have been entitled to the benefit of the committee blowing a ruling if they had been accused of a wrong drop by, say, an on-course fan. Tiger’s acceptance of the committee’s gesture, therefore, was not the honorable thing to do in this most honorable of games.

Then again, this is a guy who cheated on his wife with every Waffle House waitress from here to Tallahassee, who cusses like a sailor at the slightest mishit, who throws clubs in front of kids and who, as a 22-year old, refused to autograph a golf ball to help his colleagues Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade raise money for charity.

Honor is the furthest thing from this guy’s mind.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »