The opening session of the 2013 Presidents Cup had an interesting twist to years past as International Team captain Nick Price made a case for switching the formats over the first two days of the biennial event.
The Thursday four-ball, in Price’s eyes, gave the International squad a better chance to settle into team competition by giving them the opportunity to play their own ball as opposed to getting thrown into the fire of competition relying on a teammate to hit half the shots.
Things didn’t start out too hot for Price’s team, winning the first hole of the event, but quickly giving it back. By the time all six matches were on the course, the United States held leads in all but one of them. As is often the case at Muirfield Village, weather happened.
At 2:38 p.m. play was suspended due to threatening storms in the area. After a relatively short monsoon that, among other things nearly flooded the media tent, the players were back on the course by 4 p.m.
The respite proved to be useful for the Internationals who were able to claw out 2.5 points to trail by one through the first day.
Matches not worth noting included Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar’s throttling of Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman, 5 & 4. The only interesting thing that happened in that match was Woods and Kuchar’s new handshake:
Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner also went off on Brendan Grace and Richard Sterne, winning 5 & 3.
The matches that were worth mentioning started with the first of the day: Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker vs. Jason Day and Graham DeLaet. Despite the Internationals winning the first hole of the day, they didn’t hold another lead until the 16th hole. Giving it back at the 17th took the match to 18 all square. Bad approaches by the Americans gave the Internationals two looks at birdie for the win. DeLaet didn’t threaten from 45 feet, but Day did from 20.
Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel accounted for the other full International point, coming back from being down early to take down the Ryder Cup juggernauts Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, 2 &1. Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama gained a halve by winning the 18th hole against Webb Simpson and Bill Haas, thanks to the shot of the day from Matsuyama, hitting his approach to six inches for birdie.
The third US win came courtesy of a stellar hold on job by Steve Stricker. Paired with rookie Jordan Spieth, who played himself out of the last three holes (but to his credit, did play well through the middle of the round), Stricker hung on to a 1-up win over Brenden de Jonge and, to a lesser extent, Ernie Els thanks to an all-world up-and-down from a buried lie in the greenside bunker on the 18th.
The United States holds a 3.5 to 2.5 lead heading into Friday’s foursomes, which historically has been the downfall of the International squad.
While the golf was exceptional, Davis Love III made a friend that stole the show. Everybody loved Sammy, as Sticker’s wife, Nicki, named him, except, maybe for one Tiger Woods.
Looking ahead to the match ups, history looks pretty set to repeat itself as a deep US squad seems to have an advantage through the middle of day.
The first (Match 7) and last two matches of the day (Matches 11 and 12) should be awesome, however. Price kept his team’s the same while Fred Couples made a few switches. For the Internationals to hold serve in the foursomes, they need to hope for big play from the three big match ups: Day/DeLaet vs. Mickelson/Bradley; Oosthuizen/Schwartzel vs. Woods/Kuchar; and Scott/Matsuyama vs. Dufner/Johnson.
The middle matches look to be draped in red, white and blue. Here are my picks.
Here is the full list of match ups and tee times:
The 10th edition of the Presidents Cup, a match play competition that pits the United States against the rest of the world (with the exception of Europe), kicks off Thursday around midday with a six-match four-ball session.
The Presidents Cup, or #PresCup for you Twitterers, may seem like a less-intesnse version of the biennial US vs. Europe Ryder Cup, but there’s a reason for that. Through the first nine installments of the event, America has won or retained the Cup eight of the nine times the event was contested. For posterity’s sake, you may or may not remember that the Ryder Cup was a similar snoozefest through its first 60 years of existence.
The United States won or retained that Cup 22 of the first 25 times that event was contested and only since the late 1980s and early 1990s when Europe started back the Cup did the Ryder Cup blow up into the international rivalry that it is today. Fortunately for golf fans around the world, as Europe began to catch up over the last 20 years, so has the rest of the world, meaning that the US’ biennial romp to victory in the Presidents Cup could be coming to an end, thus ratcheting up the intensity level over the next few years.
International captain Nick Price seems to be taking this much more seriously than US captain Fred Couples (shock!), but it actually seems like there’s a sense of urgency for the International side that hasn’t been there in the past.
So, with the matches only hours from starting, here’s a nice little guide for what you should expect to take place this week at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
Another distinguishing feature between the Ryder and Presidents Cups are the format under which they are contested. While both squads both field teams of 12 players, in the Presidents Cup, all 12 players must play in the first two sessions, with the captain’s able to sit a pair in each of the two sessions that will take place on Saturday. The Ryder Cup allows captains to play only eight players in each of the first four sessions. Both must play all 12 in the Sunday singles.
It should also be noted that the Presidents Cup is a four-day event as opposed to the three-day nature of the Ryder Cup. The Presidents Cup has five sessions in total, meaning more points at stake. The winner of the Presidents Cup must have more than half of the 34 possible points (17.5) to win the Cup, or if there is a tie (17-17), the US will retain the Cup.
Speaking of the singles, are we all sure we know exactly what type of game these guys will be playing? Singles is pretty universally understood. It’s simply one-on-one match play. Winner takes a point. Tie gets a half of a point (halve). Simple, but you have to get to Sunday before the easy part begins.
The other four sessions will be called names that are a little confusing, but not so much when you put some thought into it. The play will begin with four-ball matches on Thursday. Four-ball, better known as best ball or better ball, will pit a pair of Americans vs. a pair of Internationals, each playing their own ball as they would in any other tournament round. The only catch is that once you take the lower of the two scores from the Americans, you put that against the lower of the two scores for the Internationals in a match play format.
Example: US Player 1 gets a 4, US Player 2 gets a 5. US score = 4. International Player 1 gets a 3, International Player 2 gets a 4. International score = 3. 3<4, therefore the Internationals go 1-up.
Four-ball will be used with six matches on Thursday and five matches during the morning matches on Saturday.
This one is a little tricky. While with four-ball you can gather that the name of the format literally means there are four balls in play, foursomes doesn’t really give you any clue to the format with the exception that there will be four players in the group. Simply put, foursomes is alternate shot, meaning Player 1 will hit the tee shot, Player 2 will play the next shot, Player 1 will play the following shot, Player 2 will play the next shot, until the team holes out.
Pretty simple concept with a baffling name. Foursomes will be played on Friday and in the afternoon session on Saturday.
Muirfield Village Golf Club is a relatively well-known layout amongst golf fans. The Memorial Tournament is held at Jack’s Place annually and there shouldn’t be much different in the set up of the course as a whole this week.
You’ll undoubtably hear about how the rough has been cut from 2.5 inches to 2.25 inches even though the members (!) play it at 2.5. That shouldn’t affect play at all. With some rain scheduled to pass through a few times this weekend, the 2.25-inch grass, which is always lush, will play just as penalizing as it would at 2.5 inches.
Another popular talking point will be the 14th hole, a relatively short hole with a creek that dissects the fairway and runs off to the right side of the green. The PGA Tour has played around with moving the tees up to encourage players to go for the green from the tee. While at 325 yards, it’s possible for these guys to hit the green, it’s not very likely many will try. The risk is hardly worth the reward with it’s severely pitched surface and bunker-surrounded layout. Expect guys to hit 5 and 6-irons to wedge distances and take their chances from there.
The 18th hole, the signature hole on the course has been spruced up a bit as well. Nicklaus added a new tee some 40 yards back from the tee that was used at Memorial in order to try and force the players to hit driver or 3-wood to the landing area. While the change will probably force the guys to pull a different stick on the tee, the downfall of the plan is that the majority of the matches won’t even make it to the 18th.
So, while the 14th and 18th, two of the most talked about holes leading into the week have been dismantled as nonfactors, expect the two par-3s on the back nine to shift some matches. Both the 12th and 16th holes are beasts, although not in terms of sheer yardage. Hovering around 200 yards, the greens are undulating and protected by lakes. Expect some fireworks there.
As always in these events, the players are world class. All eyes will be on Tiger Woods, as usual, but up-and-comer Jordan Spieth is getting some heavy play leading into the event. Names like Mickelson, Bradley, Dufner, Snedeker and Kuchar will all be sporting stars and stripes as well and as such, have been pegged as the betting favorites.
For the International side, Adam Scott will lead the way with Ernie Els, Jason Day, Charl Schwartzel and Angel Cabrera capable of making this an entertaining event. The guy to watch for is Hideki Matsuyama. While he may struggle in foursomes because he hasn’t played with a teammate before, expect him to play well when golfing his own ball.
If this event wants to gain the same attention and reputation as the Ryder Cup, it has to become as competitive as the Ryder Cup. That means the Internationals have to start winning every once in a while. At 1-7-1 all time, many in the International team room have called this a “must win” for their side.
This could be the year. Scott is looking to put the finishing touches on his best year ever, while Els has been the leader in the team room for some time and is feeling the same sense of urgency that Capt. Price is.
The Americans, for as well as they are playing, seem happy to sit on their laurels and go out and just play. While that might be an attitude reflected by their captain, that could also be the same reason Couples only won one major championship. (Ouch, was that a veiled shot at Freddie? My bad).
If we’ve learned one thing from these team competitions, it’s that passion usually wins out. And while the Americans have been happy to take out their Ryder Cup disappointments on the Internationals over the past 20 years, it seems as if the Internationals are ready to turn this thing into a full-blown rivalry.
Pick: Internationals 18, United States 16.
Part of winning major championships these days — especially those that are televised on CBS — requires the winner to go on a New York media tour, hulling around your wares and answering many of the same questions from people who have casual interest in the game.
Jason Dufner was privy to this new aspect of his life after his 2-shot win at the PGA Championship. After shooting rounds of 68-63-71-68, Dufner was able to post a 10-under par score that was two better than runner-up Jim Furyk.
After the now-infamous congratulations and acceptance from his wife Amanda, Duf Daddy started making the media rounds that took him everywhere from Morning Drive on the Golf Channel to the Howard Stern Show to the top of the Empire State building.
Here now, in as chronological an order as possible, is what Duf has been up to over the past 72 hours.
The media onslaught started right after he finished his round when Dufner sat down with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi for their Sunday Conversation before flying home to Auburn, where he was greeted by fans and gave an impromptu press conference:
From there, Duf and Amanda headed home to unpack, figure out what the next few days had in store and check out some names on the Wanamaker Trophy before Dufner fell asleep holding it:
When Tuesday morning rolled around, Duf and Amanda were in the Big Apple, making the rounds. Touring the CBS compound, Dufner stopped by CBS This Morning…
…and LIVE with Kelly and Michael (with Rebecca Romijn guest-hosting)…
….before sitting down and talking to Damon Hack and the boys at Golf Channel’s Morning Drive…
…and then he called into the Dan Patrick Show, unfortunately being guest-hosted by Mike Florio (unfortunate in the sense that DP is much more into golf and Florio not so much).
The Dufner’s also did some sightseeing at the Empire State Building, which garnered the best picture of the day, by far:
He also posed outside of the NASDAQ Tower:
But the most anticipated and talked-about stop on his media tour was an interview inside Studio 69 on the Howard Stern Show. The interview, which can be listened to in its entirety below, is simply awesome. While Stern admittedly knows nothing about golf, he asks a lot of questions that regular people want to know. Duf’s pretty good, much to his buddy and Stern enthusiast Keegan Bradley‘s chagrin.
Take a listen.
Numbers aren’t supposed to lie, but when it comes to Tiger Woods’ recent major drought, they aren’t doing his putter any favors.
On the eve of the final major championship of 2013, Woods prognosticators are practically writing off Thursday and Friday as steady days that will place the world’s top-ranked golfer in the mix heading into the weekend. The pressing question pertains to how Tiger’s Nike Method 001 putter will stand up to the pressure of trying to claim major No. 15 for the 17th straight time.
That worry, however, is misguided.
What if I were to tell you that it’s not Woods’ putter that’s letting him down? What if I told you it’s actually his ball striking and scrambling ability that’s keeping Woods from No. 15. Heresy, you say? Well, the numbers back it up.
Putting statistics are inherently and incorrectly objective: 32 putts per round, 25 putts per round, 36 putts per round. Those numbers don’t paint an accurate picture of how a round of golf took place. For instance, those 25 putts could have produced a score of 78 because the player couldn’t hit the putting surface in regulation, only getting up-and-down to make a par or bogey. Similarly, those 32 putts could have produced a 66 after the player hit all 18 greens in regulation, converted four birdies and parred the other 14 holes.
Putting, by its very nature, is subjective. Rarely, if ever, are two putts exactly the same. By that metric, the strokes gained – putting statistic was introduced to better compare similar length putts and their probability of being holed. The stat calculates the number of putts a player takes from a specific distance measured against a statistical baseline to determine how many strokes a player gained or lost to the field on a given day.
According to that statistic, Tiger Woods ranks fourth on PGA Tour in 2013, picking up an average of 0.835 strokes on the field per round.
Woods’ resurgence as one of the best putters on the Tour this year comes at a price, however. His greens (or fringe) in regulation numbers rank him 35th on Tour, hitting them 72.02 percent of the time. Over a 72-hole tournament, that leaves Woods scrambling to get up-and-down for par a little over 20 times per event.
Using that standard, Tiger will be chipping, pitching, hitting out of the sand or even approaching the green 20 times a tournament when he has missed the green or fringe in regulation. Those misses are where his bugaboo manifests itself.
Woods ranks 185th on Tour in scrambling average distance to the hole, which is defined by the average distance the ball comes to rest from the hole (in feet) after the birdie stroke when the player misses the green in regulation.
Over the course of 41 rounds of golf in 2013, Woods’ average distance from the hole when he misses the green is 9-feet-11 inches.
Using the subjective standard that PGA Tour players make putts from 9-feet-11 inches 38.42 percent of the time according the PGA Tour’s strokes gained – putting baseline probabilities, Woods will bogey (or worse) 12.32 holes per tournament.
While that number is strictly determined by the average putting baselines, incorporating Woods’ 0.835 strokes gained on the field per round, Woods bogeys just under 9 holes per tournament.
Broken down further, 9 bogeys per event translates to 2.25 per round, which would rank Woods as the second-best on the PGA Tour in bogey average.
When you look at stats over the last six major championships that say Woods’ putts per round on Thursday and Friday average 28.3, while his weekend rounds average 30.9 putts per round, look a little bit deeper.
The number of putts per round is up because the proximity to the hole increases, therefore causing the likelihood of a putt being holed to decrease. The reason Woods has faded over the weekend is not because he’s missing putts he should make, it’s because he’s not giving himself enough looks at makeable putts.
When you’re watching Woods this weekend, don’t count the number of times he’s using the putter, count the number of times he’s within 6-feet after missing a green in regulation. From that distance, the average PGA Tour pro makes 65 percent of his putts.
Woods ability to limit the mistakes that come with missing greens will ultimately be what wins or loses him a chance at his 15th major championship; not missed 10-footers for par.
*Welcome to Heading to the ‘House, a weekly feature on Playing from the Wrong Fairway. Each Friday, right around 2:30 p.m., a new Q&A with a familiar golfing voice will be posted to make the last two and a half hours of your work day go by quicker. The pertinent information from the week’s PGA Tour event will accompany the Q&A. We’re here to get your through those last few hours. You’re welcome.*
Elling, you might recall, was the longtime voice of golf for CBSSports.com and before that, the Orlando Senitnel. Elling now is a sports columnist and leading golf writer at The National, the English-language newspaper in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. Elling has been overseas for about eight months now and was kind enough to answer some questions.
As you have come to expect from Elling, he gives a strong, well-informed opinion on some of the issues in the game today. Elling dishes on life in the UAE, interrupting a Billy Payne, how Tiger Woods’ scandal helped golf writing, the R&A and much more.
WrongFairway: Can you begin, by way of an introduction, giving us a little background of yourself. What has your career trajectory has been like; when and where did you start writing, and what got you into golf journalism?
Steve Elling: Covering golf was, in effect, an accident. I had covered the national championship team at Florida State in 1999 and 2000 for the Orlando Sentinel, then our golf writer quit. They needed somebody with more than a passing interest in the sport, and since I had played golf since I was 12, it was pretty easy to hit the ground running.
There was no shortage of topics in Orlando, with Annika Sorenstam, Tiger Woods and seemingly half of the PGA Tour and LPGA players living in the area at that time. The first major I covered for the Sentinel -– I had covered majors before for other papers — was Tiger winning the wraparound Grand Slam at Augusta in 2001. Not a bad start.
WF: You’re now over in the UAE as a sports writer for The National, the English-language paper in Abu Dhabi. Can you tell us a little about that; how has the adjustment been, what you’re covering and how working eight time zones away from your home in Orlando affects how you cover sports in general and golf in particular?
SE: It’s not for the meek of heart over here. It was a move made out of necessity: CBSSports.com elected to eliminate its golf position last summer and to go the blogger route, using an inexperienced writer who never attends tournaments.
It’s continual culture shock. Right now, it’s Ramadan, which means no eating or drinking in public during daylight hours for an entire month. This goes for the expats, too, who are expected to observe these same religious tenets. Meanwhile, the adjusted temperatures outside are 125 degrees.
There are only a handful of courses in the UAE, and the weather in the summer, along with other cultural issues, means there just isn’t that much traffic on the courses. Attendance at the tour events is middling. But with three of the biggest European Tour events of the year played here annually – regular-season events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and the season-ender in Dubai – it’s the closest thing to a big-league series this country has to offer. I’m certainly trying to treat the sport as such.
WF: You’re known as one of the more outspoken and opinionated writers in a notoriously straight-edge, close-to-the-vest, old-boys network sport. Has that stance gotten you into any trouble either with former employers or subjects you cover? What, if any, has the fallout been?
SE: I don’t think anybody at the PGA Tour was sorry to see me go. Yeah, I annoyed a few players over the years, but not to the point to where I felt it sabotaged my ability to report on what was said and done.
Where to begin? The thing is, in any other sport, the edgy stuff that I wrote about the Tour would have passed as milquetoast fare. In baseball or football? It would mostly have passed unnoticed. The critical stuff about Tiger? I would not change a word of it.
At April last year, I got in trouble with Augusta National for interrupting Billy Payne during his press session, which is treated like a papal visit. He was refusing to answer a salient question, and I interjected – in my own words – what the previous questioner was trying to say in order to re-emphasize the point. You would have thought I threw a grenade into the room. The question needed to be asked, the pious decorum be damned. Within hours, I was hearing about it through CBS channels. Why? I suspect that every network suit in New York City wants to be an Augusta member someday. When my job was eliminated three months later, I was assured that this incident – I would call asking questions at a press conference to be responsibly aggressive reporting among a sea of mostly impassive lemmings – was not a factor in the position being red-lined.
Still, I wonder. But I would not do anything differently. Golf reporting took major strides forward in the Tiger scandal as the medium was forced to deal with the unseemly side of things for, really, the first time ever. Some of my media brethren had never seen a police report before. Trust me, most of the writers wanted that scandal to go away, so they could go back to writing pablum about who shot the low score and changed putters. Yawn. The Tiger scandal, in many ways, was the best thing that ever happened in golf. The ratings remain solid, and people are watching him like never before. The difference now is, half of them are rooting for him to choke. Especially women.
WF: What’s your opinion on Tiger Woods, not necessarily personally, but as a player? He’s risen back to the top of the world rankings (complete different discussion), won a bunch of Tour events, but no majors; what’s the deal? Is it the depth of the fields keeping him from winning more majors? Pressing too hard himself? Or has he just lost that dominant gene somewhere along the line?
SE: To some degree, each is a factor. But there has been a new theme emerging for some time now, and it was bolstered last month by Hank Haney, who voiced it for all to hear. Tiger just doesn’t prepare like he used to. He shows up at tour events on Wednesdays many times. Granted, he plays the same tournaments year after year and know the layouts well.
No real need for him to play Firestone, Torrey or Bay Hill 2-3 times. But that’s what he used to do, and it worked. Is he putting in the same amount of prep time at the majors? Many days, he plays nine holes and quits. He’s got kids, his coach lives a two-hour drive away, so the first-blush reaction would be that the golf commitment level is not the same.
Is he again the best player? Clearly. But he’s not the player he used to be. The last two years of weekends at the majors demonstrates there are some missing parts. Perhaps that underscores just how great he was a decade ago, no? Makes me laugh when some suggest that his weekend issues at the majors are because he wants it too much. He’s always wanted the majors more than the other guys. Not a new development.
Every week on the PGA Tour, we are told “what a good place golf is in;” is that something you believe to be true? Is golf as a mainstream sport a viable commodity or is it solely being kept afloat by Tiger Woods?
SE: The Tour has taken hits over the years for being so Tiger-centric. Yeah, right. If you had the most-recognized sports figure on the planet playing in your organization, you’re going to deflect attention so that more people know about Bill Haas or Jonathan Byrd? That publicity needs to happen organically. If they deserve coverage, the writers will find them eventually. Until then, people want to know the same things about Tiger that they did with Nicklaus: Did he win? If not, why not?
I have said this a thousand times: My worst-written story about Tiger Woods will grab 100 times the eyeballs than my best-written story about Tommy Gainey. I like Tommy, and he’s an interesting guy, but not to the broader masses.
As for the marketplace, golf is a niche sport. Nothing is going to change it. All the common criticisms are spot on, as the Brits say. It costs too much to play, takes too much time and is brutally punitive sport. I haven’t played in 15 months myself (I left my clubs in the States) and don’t really miss it.
The disconnect between amateurs and professionals has never been bigger. I really hope they reign in the ball soon. Very, very few of us can at all relate to Bubba Watson hitting a 300-yard 6-iron last week at the British Open.
That type of responsible stewardship might be asking a bit much for an organization like the R&A, which is too lame to even have female members. Nice message to half the planet from a body that governs golf everywhere but in North America – you’re not welcome. Way to grow the game, lads.
The Tour is in a remarkable position financially. Admittedly, I thought the blowback from the Tiger issues would taint the game for many sponsors. In reality, it’s hurt Tiger, but the tour has been relatively unscathed.
I have questioned several of the PGA Tour’s moves, including the elimination of Q-school for purely economic reasons, but Tim Finchem has done an incredible job in his tenure as boss. Other than his laughable stance on meting out discipline and handling slow-play issues, it’s hard to take exception to much he has done. Players have so much money, including mediocre ones on the shuttle from the developmental tours, that complaining sounds almost ungrateful. Let the media handle the whining. I am an expert at that.
Earlier this year, over here at The National, I wrote a handful of stories about how the European Tour elite were beating a fast path to the PGA Tour. At one point this year, something like 37 of the top 40 in the world rankings had joined the US tour, as full-time or temporary members. Just look at the difference in purses on the two major tours. The European Tour is playing for pennies compared to the US events. There have been 4-5 tour stops this year on the European Tour where not a single player from the world top 40 was entered. Interestingly, some of those ET stars are not going to finish high enough in US earnings to keep their cards, and will have to settle for second-citizenship over here in 2014, playing in such well-known golf locales as … Moscow and Morocco.
WF: The European’s Tour’s top players are following the dollar signs over to the PGA Tour as you’ve laid out, but what are your thoughts on young Americans heading over to Europe to cut their teeth a la Peter Uihlein, Brooks Koepka, etc.?
SE: I think it’s tremendous and laudable, but I don’t sense a trend growing here. There are too many options in the States and North America, where Yanks can play and still be mostly within their cultural comfort zones. In the past few months, the PGA Tour has started a Latin American tour, taken over the old Canadian Tour, and there’s still the Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour.
Koepka and Uihlein went to the Challenge Tour because they didn’t have a lot of options. It’s expensive to travel in Europe and the purses are tiny. No question, it has to be productive from a developmental standpoint, and Koepka and Uihlein would tell you the same thing. They have played all sorts of courses under varying conditions. By the way, American players have won 5 of the 15 Challenge Tour events staged so far this year. A guy like Uihlein, who played the AJGA, NCAA, European and Challenge tours – not to mention his familial connections – knows hundreds of people in the game globally. Not just Americans. That can only be helpful.
WF: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest detractors from the game? What’s hurting the sport more than anything? Are the USGA/PGA of America/R&A on the right track with slow play, anchored putters, etc. or is there something else?
SE: They need to reign in the ball. Nearly everything has a direct correlation to the bullets, not the marksmen.
Slow play? Every par-5 is reachable in two, as are some par-4s. Throw in the four par-3 holes on every pro venue, and that’s a lot of standing around and waiting for the greens to clear.
Cost? The reason courses have to be 7,800 yards long is because of the equipment. That means higher maintenance costs. Higher insurance. More acreage required. Common sense should prevail.
One of the most detestable things about golf, to me, is that manufacturers play a role in rule making. What is this, Formula One or NASCAR? That is tail-wagging-dog fare. The R&A and USGA should make decisions for the betterment of the sport – like with the anchored-putter ruling, which I wholeheartedly support — and let the Nike and Titleist figure out how to react in the marketplace. Naïve? Maybe.
The levels of incest in golf are like no other sport. That is not a naïve statement, however.
The data on the anchoring ban was debatable, but a rule change was made based as much on centuries-old philosophy regarding what constitutes a swing as any hard statistical evidence that the clubs help putting performance. Well, they have all the data they need to justify pulling back the ball 10-15%. They just need the stones to stand up to the manufacturers, and to a lesser extent, the distance-fixated public, and implement the rollback.
The imbalance between power and skill is at an all-time high. Guys like Corey Pavin are becoming virtually extinct. That’s one reason why I am a Luke Donald fan. He’s using a BB gun to beat guys using Howitzers.
WF: Simple and direct: do those ruling bodies have the stones to roll the ball back? Do you think the stance on anchoring was a step towards getting to the ball, as some have suggested?
SE: As much as I would love to answer in the affirmative, I just don’t see it happening. At least, not anytime soon. Is there a groundswell push to let some helium out of the contemporary ball? Not really. A few hardcore aficionados and critics have voiced these concerns, along with Jack and Arnold and too many commentators to mention, but it hasn’t seemingly made a difference. Even Tiger has voiced his preference for a rollback – say what you want about Woods, but at least he is a traditionalist who favors a rollback and one-shot penalties for slow play.
The USGA already conducted a ball study. The data is there. Nothing has happened. I’d love to see it implemented, along with a decrease in the clubhead size of drivers from 460 cc. If they try it, and it somehow blows up, seems like they can always repeal it. The societal sadsacks at the R&A can’t accept that they have a serious gender issue that isn’t going away. So why would I believe they can solve a fairly simple distance issue?