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Caddies – The Woods / Williams Saga

Caddies in Print

I recently bought a couple of books from Amazon.com about PGA caddies.  I am in the middle of “Piddler” Martin’s Caddie Confidential: Inside Stories from the Caddies of the PGA Tour.  Next I will read Rick Reilly’s Who’s Your Caddie? – great title.  The first thing that strikes me is that I can really identify with some of these characters.  Martin has introduced me to some caddies that could be pilots in the Marine Corps…a la Great Santini…callsigns (nicknames) and all.  “Piddler?”  What does that mean…or do I want to know?  “Junkman,” “Crispy,” “Reptile,” the Growler” (Ok, I think I know where this may have come from so I am glad the book doesn’t have an associated scratch and sniff!), “Cadillac,” etc…there are lots more.

I bought these books because my wife asked me a question about confidentiality clauses with caddies…do they have them?  I really didn’t know, and still don’t…yet.  I would guess that it depends on the player and the deals players and caddies strike.  In “Piddler’s” book, the work for most caddies seems so adhoc that I couldn’t imagine any kind of written agreement ever gets done except for maybe the really long term associations.  There also seems to be a kind of apparent camaraderie or esprit de corps amongst caddies.  At least that’s the feel I get from reading the stories to date.  It might be that the “caddie corps” used to have unwritten rules and professional standards of conduct where “tell-alls” are concerned, but Martin’s book is copyrighted in 2009, so since that’s the case it is likely to still be true.  Obviously, I still have a lot of questions.

Caddies and Tiger

CaddiesTiger hasn’t had many caddies.  Steve Williams has been with him since 1999 when Butch Harmon introduced them after Tiger fired “Fluff” Cowan.  I wonder what kind of agreement they had?  A lot of people are wondering.  Willams has a history of getting personally involved with his player.  He caddied for Greg Norman for several years until Norman fired him in 1989, but they remain friends.  Williams would later say he “got too close personally” with Norman – whatever that means – which resulted in the firing.  Williams and Woods were the best man at each other’s weddings.  Williams has been very protective of Tiger through the years and stood by him during Tiger’s personal debacle that has since been a major reason (aside from injury) for his fall from the list of top players in the world.

Caddies are People Too

Williams is no wall flower.  He speaks his mind and is not afraid to talk publically, especially in his native New Zealand, when asked about things.  He spoke disparagingly about Phil Mickelson in 2008 openly admitting an apparent mutual dislike between them.  He has most recently spoken openly about his recent firing by Tiger at the recent AT&T National.  Tiger apparently fired him because he was “disloyal.”  Williams, one of the world’s top caddies, had gained permission from Woods to caddy for Australian Adam Scott at the U.S. Open.  Later he caddied for Scott again, supposedly without permission, at the AT&T which apparently caused Tiger to take offense and ultimately let him go.

I am not sure how loyal a person has to be to keep Tiger’s affection and loyalty.  Stevie stayed beside him throughout his personal tribulations, has only worked for him through it all until the Adam Scott thing, which means not much in terms of tournament play.  Williams confessed that the timing of the firing coupled with the “disloyal” comments are what has thrown him – not necessarily the firing itself.  He “wasted the last two years…”  Apparently, for Tiger, it was time to add to his list of changes.  Change his personal conduct, change his perspective with his kids, change his conduct on course (not very successfully), change his swing coach, change his swing, change the way he deals with injury, and now change his caddy.  What’s next?

Bring in the Caddies

Who’s next?  How about “the Growler?”  Or perhaps “the Servant?”  Or maybe “the Ass Kisser?”  Word of advice caddies… keep it strictly professional.

Tee It Forward

Tee It Forward Initiative

I first heard of this initiative on the Sirius/XM PGA Tour Network shows Fairways of Life with Matt Adams and Teed Off with Brian Katrek.  In their respective shows, Matt and Brian each invited callers to comment on the concept – Tee It Forward.  Then, a couple of days ago I stumbled on a GolfWorld.com article addressing the initiative as well and thought I would put some brain cells on it myself.

Essentially, the concept is that the majority of golfers out there should move forward one set of tee markers to “boost fun and speed up play” during 5-17 July 2011 (Golfworld.com/The Game July 4 2011).

I think the desired effect is to bring awareness to leisure golfers that golf courses designed for championship play are not necessarily suited (from the back tees) for the games of the average golfer.  As reported by GolfWorld.com, an article in Golf Digest attributes the idea to Barney Adams (Adams Golf).  Mr. Adams calculates “that the amateur who drives the ball 200 to 230 yards should be playing courses measuring about 6000 yards.”  Essentially, this is an effort to encourage average golfers to play the course from a tee that best suits their game.  In theory, this will make the game more fun for them and speed up play.  I think it is a great idea, but how to implement it and see that it has lasting effects?

Tee It Forward –Implementation

Golf is a game that has been in a bit of a down swing (so to speak), with the economy such as it is and the expense of playing (golf is generally not a cheap sport), the rising tide of new joins to the game from the “Tiger Era” has been ebbing.  The following link will take you to an interview of Brian Katrek regarding Tiger pre-Masters, but what is important in the interview by Fox Business News is the commentary by Brian on the current state of golf – http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/4627876/brian-katrek-tigers-not-ready-to-retire-/.  This is excellent commentary and clear and understandable reasoning – thanks Brian.

Jack Nicklaus and others think that perhaps 18 holes is too many for the masses and that there should be an intermediate number available – say 12 that one could purchase to play – not too much and not too little for those who don’t have 4.5 to 5.5 hours to burn.  I have heard discussion on the PGA Tour Network regarding the need to get more women involved in the sport, make the sport more “female friendly.”  Now, Tee It Forward comes to the fore as an initiative to make golf “more fun” for the masses (and potentially provide for more through-put on the courses positively affecting revenue?)

How does one get traction on an initiative like this so that its positive effects last?  GolfWorld posits three areas of refinement to the existing plan (which seems somewhat voluntary and without a lot of marketing):

  1. Somehow change mistaken mindsets that shifting to forward tees for players within a group takes more time and slows play.  As they put it, gain “permission to play shorter tees.”
  2. Create and “include a chart correlating 10 driver distances to a similar number of recommended 18 hole yardages.”  That is, I suppose, if you hit a driver 200 yards you should play an 18 hole length of 6000 yards, 220 yards is 6300 yards, etc…Perhaps even a “professional assessment” provided by a course pro with a range of clubs.
  3. Finally, charge differently by tee marker…the shorter, the less you pay.  (This has the most promise in my view.)

Tee It Forward – More Ideas

We already have a handicapping system.  Why can’t courses check handicaps?  Limit play on select back tees to certain handicap levels – always, sometimes, whatever….  If you don’t have a handicap, it is likely an indication that you aren’t necessarily a serious golfer and that perhaps you should be on one of the forward tees.  The course at Camp LeJeune, NC has two 18 hole tracks – the scarlet and the gold.  The gold is the championship course and the scarlet is a bit shorter, but both are equally playable and enjoyable.  The rule there used to be anyway that during certain hours on Saturday and Sunday, you (and your group) must have established handicaps to make a tee time on the gold.  Everyone else plays the scarlet.  Now, I realize that there aren’t many courses out there with multiple tracks, but the idea can be implemented as part of the tee it forward program.  Rather than restricting the golf course, restrict the tees so that non-handicap holders play to the forward tees during the busiest weekend hours.

Also, maybe we should standardize tee colors as well.  I venture that a lot of players see white tees and use them.  White is somewhat universal for ‘average player tees,’ but the difficulty is not all courses use the same colors.   I think it somewhat universal that ladies tees are red, senior tees gold, forward men’s tees white, and then you have one or two sets back beyond that – normally blue next, then black championship tees.  What’s wrong with establishing a standard in the industry?  Even if you have something cute as tee markers – cannons or rocks or garden gnomes – they can have the standard color motif can’t they?

Finally, change where you set the tees.  Move the ‘standard’ white ones up permanently from where they have been historically if the yardage at the old place was too long by Mr. Adam’s standard.  It may cost a little to recalculate slope and rating and publish the new yardage on the score sheets, but If it achieves the desired result, it would be well worth it.

Tee It Forward – Bottom Line

There are probably a myriad of ways to implement, but there will still be those who want to play the full course no matter their skill level.  In the end the customer is right, right?  Well, maybe on a municipal course or even a resort course, but I venture a country club can do what it wants provided the constituency allows.

I think the effort has merit, but it will require a multi-faceted approach.  First, standardize tee colors to eliminate confusion – I mean establish an industry standard.  Next, just move a set forward of where they are now (white ones) to better fit the 6000-6300 yard model.  Then, communicate with your customers.  Illustrate why it makes sense with charts that show with common sense language why it will be more fun to change – it has to be direct, simple and to the point.  And finally, there must be monetary incentive to change.  If you simply charge more for each tee back from the white, then you punish good players.  Perhaps you can charge more unless you have an established handicap that is below a certain threshold that allows you to pay the same as those on the white. People who do not belong on the back tees should pay more… I think that is the point.  But, make no mistake, managing price by tee will create the quickest change.

Feherty is a Hit!

Feherty is a Human After All

FehertyI was really looking forward to seeing this and I missed the first show. But luckily I caught it when it was re-aired by the Golf Channel later in the week. I am really happy I did and I intend to watch every week. The Golf Channel has done it right with David Feherty ‘s show. This is not another gratuitous ride on a personality like Donald Trump, but a thoughtful, yet humorous romp through the human condition with golf as the backdrop. It is quirky yet informative, it is real and funny, and it is entertaining. It was a brilliant stroke to bring on Lee Trevino for the first show. He is such a delightful soul, and I learned some things about him I would otherwise not have known. (Semper fi Lee) One might think with Trevino and Feherty that it would be too much personality and they might clash, but David Feherty has been in this business long enough to know when to let the “horse run” and when to interject his humor and comment.

Feherty is More Than Golf

This is a show that it is not limited to the niche world of The Golf Channel, it would thrive on a major network channel. There is human interest and humor in it that transcends knowledge of golf – even though it’s central theme is obviously golf. Feherty brings his history of addiction, his resume as a professional golfer and golf analyst, and a lovable personality and sense of humor flavored with the slight edge of “I’ve been there, you’re not going to bullshit me” thrown in. Feherty has risen from some depths most of us could not and he is now giving at every turn. From working with the Troops First Foundation (internal link) to visiting them in country, he has become an American in every sense of the word and lives it passionately. His show could have been too silly, but thankfully it is not. Feherty is just the right mix of fun and lore…and personal example.

Make Time to Watch Feherty

Airing at 9 PM on Tuesday nights on The Golf Channel, Feherty has to become a favorite of golfers. And, as I alluded to above, the show has great entertainment value to non-golfers as well. Unfortunately, I am not sure how many non-golfers will tune in…perhaps through its ‘affiliation’ with NBC, they will advertise outside of The Golf Channel (they may be already, but I am not aware) to draw the folks in. At any rate, if you have not yet seen Feherty, tune in – I promise you will be entertained.

Rory McIlroy Wins 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional

What a U.S. Open Weekend!

Rory McIlroy at 2011 U.S. Open

Rory McIlroy at 2011 U.S. Open

Rory McIlroy wins the U.S. Open,  his first major, in a storm of scoring on a weakened, yet still long Congressional Country Club golf course. As I watched Rory throughout the tournament I was impressed with his poise and patience, not only on the course, but off as well. I can only imagine how many times he has answered the questions regarding his Masters back nine fall a few weeks before. Even Bob Costas’ ill-timed inappropriate question about The Masters during the championship award ceremony did not phase Rory, but who would have blamed him if it did? (Come on Bob, save those questions for the post tournament press conference!) But Rory has grown up in preparation for this moment. He has proven to be gracious in losing, and now gracious in winning. He is delightful to watch.

A Vulnerable U.S. Open Golf Course

The course was vulnerable this week. With the rough down somewhat in anticipation for hard and fast greens and then rains softening the greens during the tournament, the course was ripe for better than normal U.S. Open scoring…and there was better than normal U.S. Open scoring. Not taking anything away from Rory’s performance as he did lap the field, but there were lots of players under par (20 including Rory). Also, an accomplishment of very few in past, he was not the only player to shoot all four rounds under par – he was joined by Robert Garrigus (T3), although Rory did so with all 4 in the 60’s (65/66/68/69). Garrigus shot 70 3 times making a tough clutch par putt on 18 to make it happen.

Who Showed at the U.S. Open & Who Didn’t

Jason Day once again showed brilliance in a major finishing alone in second. We saw some small glimpses of the Sergio of old. Chappel and Garrigus were the lone Americans in the top 10 at 6 under par, T3 along with Y.E. Yang and Lee Westwood. Where was Phil, Luke and Martin?  The amateur Patrick Cantlay (pictured behind Rory), an incoming 19 year old sophomore at UCLA and the world’s number one amateur, did spectacularly carding an even par score for the tournament and taking low amateur honors.  His next amateur competitor was Russell Henley, a Georgia Bulldog, finishing at 4 over par.

U.S. Open Coverage

It was an interesting dynamic to watch the U.S. Open as broadcasts switched from ESPN to NBC then to ESPN again on Thursday and Friday. What a dichotomy of announcers and styles! I also listened to part on Sirius/XM ESPN. NBC televised the Saturday and Sunday rounds and we got our fill of Johnny Miller. I have to say, I would much rather watch and listen to Curtis Strange (he was broadcasting on radio) than Miller. Miller seemed to be manufacturing scenarios to make it more “interesting.” He was a little out of character I think in his incessant praise of McIlroy’s swing. Usually he will find something wrong somewhere.

What was NBC thinking when they edited out “under God” from the American pledge of allegiance in their tribute to American patriotism? Does that strike anyone else as a strange juxtaposition, to edit a pledge in a tribute to patriotism?! Did they think that most people hadn’t said it in so long that no one would remember it and it would just pass? The apology was lame. As if they simply mistakenly edited out the words. There is no doubt in my mind that it was intentional. What arrogance! Whoever made that decision needs to be fired. We just don’t change the words to fit our agendas…

U.S. Open Repercussions?

A thought came to me that maybe this is just the kind of motivation to bring Tiger out of his funk. Sure, he has injury, but motivation is key to recovery. Doubters of this theory would say that surpassing Jack’s major total is enough motivation. Is it? Now, after the personal failures and the inner searching Tiger is obviously undertaking to find his new self? Maybe this surge of 20-something talent will bring out a hungry Tiger. Just a thought.

Thanks Rory for a great U.S. Open showing!  You’re a great Champion.

The “Golf Boys!”

Golf Boys Debut

There are some stodgy old golf purists out there that are spewing coffee through their nostrils this morning after watching the latest video Ben Crane (and sponsor?) has put out. But it isn’t only Ben Crane  now – he has enlisted (or they have jumped on the wagon) some of professional golf’s best young players to take part in this hilariously funny, self-deprecating, and dare I say it – exciting – video.

Golf Boys Intro at U.S. Open

I get the electronic version of Golf World Magazine via email and came across this in their 6/16/2011 “Things We’re Talking About” article.  There is a great photo of the Golf Channel guys (Rich Lerner, Brandel Chamblee, and Frank Nobilo) and our 4 amigos Ben Crane , Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler , and Bubba Watson at the desk with Congressional in the background laughing it up over the video.  I clicked the link to the video of the “Golf Boys” that Golf World provided.  My first impression was, Man, I want to watch these guys play golf!  My wife watched the video with me, she is not a golfer, and she had the same reaction.  To quote the Guiness guys – Brilliant!”

Golf World – “…this is probably not a video Hogan would have made.”

Watch the Golf Boys video (below)!  Ben Crane is consistent with his wardrobe of a red wetsuit and black open face scooter helmet from previous hilarious videos.  But then there is Hunter Mahan in tights, a furry jacket, and a scraggly beard looking like a “mod squad Viking”…hey Hunter, what’s in your wallet?” And Bubba Watson, of course, Bubba is from Baghdad, Florida and in Baghdad everyone knows that denim over-alls is the way to go to get that “feel all free underneath feeling.”  If you need advice on getting that feeling, just call BR549 – Junior may answer, just ask for Bubba.  And finally, there’s Rickie.  Isn’t it most appropriate that Rickie looks like he just stepped out of a session with the Backstreet Boys?  If only his lip synching was as good as theirs – : )

The Golf Boys Video

Golf Boys for Fun and Charity

This is masterful marketing, fun, and good for charity.  Yes, if anyone buys the song “Oh Oh Oh” on iTunes, all proceeds go to charity.  Farmer’s Insurance will certainly benefit from some You Tube play – this thing has probably already gone viral.

It’s something to see these guys loose and off the course and the humor makes you want to root for them.  Now, I am not going to go out and buy an orange get up to play golf in, but I am now more of a fan of these guys than I was before.  Thanks again Ben for bringing out the best…well, the fun and personality.  Everyone knows the players work hard, but it’s good for the public to see their “other side.”

Ok, enough of the open shirt stuff golf boys, follow Ben’s lead and get a wet suit – but not too tight.

(Look for “The Making of Oh Oh Oh” with the Golf Boys on Ben‘s website:  http://www.bencranegolf.com/)

The U.S. Open is Coming Soon!

U.S. Open on Television

I do not blog for a living (some of you might say that that’s a good thing).   Yes, this is a business that I do on my free time, but of late my free time has been scarce.  Last Thursday I had knee surgery for something long overdue, a torn meniscus in my right knee.  It went well and I am recovering, and with that recovery comes some down time from my primary job that will free me to contribute as I watch this year’s U.S. Open on the couch.  I am really excited about the positive that brings to this down time from playing golf and other activities.

I love the U.S. Open

The first golf professional tournament (and only) I have ever attended was the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.  Watching the players up close is worlds away from seeing them on TV.  It was a great experience, albeit wet and muddy.  Katie and I stayed in Manhattan and rode the “U.S.Open Train” in every day for the event.  I am targeting next year’s U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco to visit once again.  I live relatively close to Congressional, but alas, priorities of life have superceded my presence there this year.

U.S. Open Story Lines

The story lines are many, to include the absence of Tiger (please let’s not dwell on this!), the rise of Luke Donald, the continuing battle for number 1, and the growing cadre of players who have closed the talent gap since Tiger’s fall and Phil’s apparent issues with performing.  Who is the favorite?  You have to like Steve Stricker and Luke Donald whose games are well suited for a U.S. Open set up.

Talking about story lines, let’s not forget Ken Venturi and his win at the U.S. Open at Congressional in 1964.  He prevailed even through his heat exhaustion and the warnings from his doctor.  It’s going to be another hot one this year, figuratively and in reality.  More later on the U.S. Open as the week goes on…

The Players’ 2011 Champion KJ Choi

I keep hearing about David Toms’ second shot choice on 16 on Sunday and I wonder, what about KJ Choi’s magical pitch shot on the same hole?  As you should know, David Toms was leading by one on Sunday in the heat of finishing arguably the “fifth” Golf Major.  If David Toms hadn’t made that putt on 18 to tie KJ for a playoff would we be talking about KJ’s pitch?  I doubt it, why is that?

I have been listening to the PGA channel on Sirius/XM during the last two days and Matt Adams (I like this guy) and his callers are discussing the Toms shot.  Now, to be fair, Adams is not second guessing Toms’ choice to try and get to number 16 green in two rather than lay up with a one shot lead…especially since KJ had to lay up because of his crooked drive to the left.  KJ left himself in an awkward spot short and left of the 16 green with a tree overhanging his line to the pin.  Callers are commenting that upon seeing this it should have been a key to Toms to layup as well with his lead in hand.  Toms never thought twice about going for it and mishit his shot slightly and put in into the water ultimately making a bogey 6 on the hole.  KJ then hit a magical “threading the needle” pitch shot to the green just skirting the rough and a trap on the right to get his ball to within about 7 feet or so.  Hit missed his putt for birdie to take the lead, but made par and tied it up.  This was the turning point!!

Of course, after Toms made an awesome birdie on 18 (from a lie in the fairway in a divot to about 20 feet and 1 putting) to take it into sudden death, KJ won with a par on the par 3 17th after Toms’ 3 putt. 

Not quite, but somewhat like the popular let down we saw at the British Open when Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson in the playoff, it seemed a ‘disappointment’ for Toms to lose to KJ Choi.  That is a shame.  KJ seems to be a terrific person and wonderful golfer who raised his game to this level on his own later than most in life.  We should be proud of KJ andhis accomplishment…and proud of David Toms in his gracious failure to win for the first time in several years, heartbreaking as it was.

Review: Golf’s Sacred Journey

I was at the movie theater a couple of weeks ago and learned about a movie coming out soon based on Dr. David L. Cook’s book, Golf’s Sacred Journey – Seven Days at the Links of Utopia. I normally love to watch the previews at the movies, but this time my wife and I finished the “Tub O’ Corn” before the previews were done and I wanted some more. (I know – it’s a pitiful thing…) About the time I was leaving, the preview for the movie Golf’s Sacred Journey was coming on. All I saw as I left was that it was a golf movie and Robert Duvall was in it (I really wanted that popcorn). Afterwards at home, my wife googled the movie and we learned it was based on the book I described above. I immediately ordered the book from Amazon.com. I knew I would see the movie and I wanted to read the book beforehand. I am glad I did.

In one day during a two-leg flight from Norfolk, Virginia to Pensacola, Florida I read the book cover to cover. There is a foreword written by Tom Lehman, acknowledgements, an introduction, the text, and finally an epilogue. As I began reading the text I was thinking, OK, here we go again with another “golf is like life” parable. But, as I moved deeper into it all the while keeping an open mind there were some clear messages that spoke to me. I had some “aha moments” that kept me thinking and the story line itself was interesting and compelling enough to keep me entertained. The messages in the book were really thought provoking for me. I reflected a great deal on them. I will read it again.

Without getting into any details, I will provide some insight into the book provided by the author himself on the cover.

“You never really know when you might meet someone who will change your life. More importantly, you never know when your influence might change another life. This book is about influence. The story is based on thousands of athletes David Cook has counseled, and the great mentors and teachers from whom he has learned, told through the lives of two characters – a rancher with a passion for teaching truth and a young golf professional at the end of his rope.”

As the book’s cover says, it is about influence. Why do we do things? What is important? A notion not from the book, but one I derived in reflecting on the book, is that oftentimes when we want to do something or cause something to happen it is the opposite of that which we initially think of as a solution that is a key in actually making it happen. Like in golf when you want to hit the high shot, you must hit down on the ball. When you want the swing to be correct, you don’t “control it,” you actually have to let it go (a very Hogan-esque idea).

Utopia is a real place. I think the two major characters are real also, only they are a compilation of individuals from the author’s life and work. Oh by the way, since I knew Robert Duvall was going to be in the movie, as I read, it dawned on me how perfect he is for the part. Think of a wiser, tamer Gus from Lonesome Dove.

Interestingly, Tom Lehman won the Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek in Alabama this past weekend. It is a Champions Tour major and his third win this year. He believes in what Dr. Cook writes in this story. In his foreword he states, “Only you know your character, the person you see when you look in the mirror. Your reputation is who people think you are. Don’t confuse the two. Dr. David Cook is a man of character. I have learned from him. You will too.”

I took the messages from the book to heart and to the course last Sunday. In first application on the golf course I think I did okay shooting 74 at my home course. I found myself straying from what is really important a couple of times and the score on these holes reflected it. More importantly, I am also incorporating the messages into my life. I have made some major changes in my life in recent years and this is important I think.

The book: is it a story of golf with parallels to life or is it a story of life using golf as its form? It is all of the above. I highly recommend it. The movie: I’ll let you know.

Personality on the Tour! Thank You!

Ben Crane is a personality!  You have to go to his website and watch all of his videos – http://www.bencranegolf.com/ .

If after watching this you don’t like him – then there is something wrong with you!  He’s been getting some “talk time” on the PGA channel (Sirius XM Radio) and a few quips from the announcers during golf telecasts, but this guy should get more attention than that.  This guy is 35th in the Official World Golf Rankings for goodness sake.  We seem to be enamored with the pink and orange pants wearing “personalities” and the perfect swing crowd, but what about those golfers out there that are a little different? 

Speaking of  a little different, what about Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey – http://twogloves.com/.  Here’s a guy who finished 1 stroke behind Brandt Snedeker (I like saying that last name) and Luke Donald at Hilton Head last weekend and I had the feeling the announcing crew would rather he fell on his face than win.  He has an unusual swing (looks like he could take a divot with his right elbow), wears two gloves (hence the moniker), and was a contestant and winner on The Golf Channel’s “Big Break.”  Boy did he take advantage of his “big break.”  What’s not to love about this guy?  Maybe if he sported a mullet a la John Daly in the day he would get more love coming his way.

Here’s a call to “fan up” these unconventional players.  While Tiger is in pursuit of the perfect swing, spitting hockers on the fairway, and dropping clubs, these guys are having fun and doing the best with what they have…and doing well.

Official World Golf Rankings

This week Luke Donald lost in a 3-hole playoff to Brandt Snedeker at The Heritage Classic (Harbor Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, SC).  Congratulations Brandt!  Had Luke Donald won, he would have secured the Number 1 Ranking in the world.  But, since he did not win, Lee Westwood secured that position on the merits of the win this weekend at the Indonesian Masters.  Listening to the PGA channel this morning while driving to work, there was a lot of discussion about Westwood’s rise in the rankings and how that could happen.  How is it that Lee Westwood, playing against a much weaker field in Jakarta, Indonesia, can move to the number one spot?  This brings to my mind questions regarding the formula used for figuring out the rankings in general. 

I have been contemplating this for awhile, since Tiger dropped from the top spot.  Face it, while he was on top, no one cared how they figured out the numbers – it was readily apparent that he was number one.  Now it is not so clear who the top figure is, but apparently it’s Lee Westwood according to the Official World Golf Rankings.   Also, all of a sudden a bunch of European players have risen to the fore, how has that happened? 

tigerSo, how do they figure out where a golfer falls in the rankings?  First, check out this website of the Official World Golf Rankings as find out: http://www.officialworldgolfranking.com/about_us/default.sps?iType=425

It lays out the numerical values of wins (and placings) of certain tournaments around the world associated with certain Tours.  Majors are afforded the largest and so on.  But, are the numerical values correct?  If you play a lot of second and third tier events around the world, plus place well in few PGA events, and place well in perhaps a Major or two there’s a good chance you can do well and place yourself fairly high in the world rankings.  Remember my question above about the numbers of European players rising to the fore?  Is the European Tour as strong or deep week in and week out as the PGA Tour?  I don’t think so.  It would seem to be in the interests of a European Tour player to stay on that tour and garner points in the rankings “more easily.”  Why?  Well, take a look at this excerpt from Wikipedia:

“A professional golfer’s ranking is of considerable significance to his career. For example, a ranking in the World Top 50 explicitly grants automatic entry to three of the four majors and three of the four current World Golf Championships; see table below. Starting in 2012, a ranking in the top 70 will grant automatic entry to the Tournament of Hope, a fifth WGC event to be launched that year.[7] Also, ranking points are the sole criterion for selection for the International Team in the Presidents Cup and one of the qualification criteria for the European Ryder Cup team. The rankings are also used to help select the field for various other tournaments.

Tournament Automatic entries
The Masters Top 50
U.S. Open Top 50 through 2011
Top 60 from 2012[8]
The Open Championship Top 50
PGA Championship (Top 100)see note
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Top 64 (sole criterion)
WGC-CA Championship Top 50
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Top 50
WGC-HSBC Champions Top 25
Tournament of Hope (from 2012) Top 7

Note: The PGA Championship does not have an official automatic entry based on the Official World Golf Ranking but has invited those in the top 100 for the last several years. It makes note of its strong field by referencing the number of top 100 ranked golfers entered in its press releases. [1] [2]

The rankings are well known to those who follow men’s professional golf and feature prominently in media coverage of the sport. When Vijay Singh temporarily ended Tiger Woods’ record run as world number 1 in 2004 it was one of the most reported golf stories of the year.”

The formula is there for examination for anyone who cares to go through the “gozintas.”  Listening to Nick Faldo, he has suggested that Majors be given even greater weight than they have now.  If that were true, I would imagine that Martin Kaymer would probably still be number one.  I wouldn’t venture a guess where the shuffling would occur below that, but I am sure it would.  I personally believe the Majors should be given more weight, Faldo’s comments are on target.  Granted he is a multiple Major winner whose number one status was a topic of discussion back in his day:

“On a few occasions the ranking system has caused discussion about whether it has produced the ‘right’ World Number One. This usually occurs when the number one ranked player has not won a major championship during the ranking period, while a rival has won more than one – notably at the end of 1990, when Nick Faldo remained ranked just behind Greg Norman despite winning three majors in two years. On that occasion, as detailed in Mark McCormack’s “World of Professional Golf 1991” annual, it was also the case (but less immediately apparent) that Norman had won 14 events during the ranking period to Faldo’s 10, and when the two had competed in the same tournament, had finished ahead of his rival 19 times to 11. In April 1991, a quirk in the way the rankings treated results from previous years meant that Ian Woosnam, who had never won a major, took the number one spot from Faldo on the eve of the latter’s attempt to win the Masters for a third year in succession; as if justifying the ranking system, Woosnam – and not Faldo – won the tournament.”  Wikipedia

So, there may be some personal issues involved with his commentary, but I still think he is right.

Who is number one is not really that important to me.  I think what needs to be taken care of is the possibility of players “playing the system” to garner the much rewarded top 50- 70 spot in order to get automatic invite to the most prestigious tournaments.  How come Westwood wasn’t at Harbor Town this week?  If he were truly number one, you’d think he’d want to play against the best in the world week to week.  It seems he may have gamed the system a bit, don’t you think?


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