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September 12, 2006
Volume V, Issue 15
 
Fringe Clippings
 
Don’t mess with the dough boy…
 
At the 2003 Mercedes Championship, Phil Mickelson had a prank pulled on him. Caddie Pete Bender put a bunch of snails on Mickelson's golf cart as players were being transported between holes. Mickelson did not look and sat on the snails. Apparently Mickelson never forgot. At last month’s Bridgestone Invitational, with the help of the Akron, Ohio, police, Mickelson got his revenge. Bender, who was caddying for Aaron Baddeley, was approached after the third round by police, who told him they had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. "I was sweating bullets,'' Bender said. "I mean, I thought the police were going to put handcuffs on me. When I asked them what the warrant was for, they said it was for illegal transportation of snail shells on a golf course. You know, I thought Phil had long forgotten about that incident. Besides, I didn't mean for it to actually happen. I never thought he'd sit on those snails.'' Mickelson said, "I told Peter that one day I was going to get even with him. It was the right time for the payback.'' Gosh, imagine if Bender had done something really egregious. Yikes.
 
Apparently he has never seen a record he didn’t want to smash…
 
With his fifth straight PGA Tour victory this past Labor Day at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Tiger Woods has run his career victory total to 53. Only Sam Snead (82), Jack Nicklaus (73), Ben Hogan (64) and Arnold Palmer (62) remain ahead of him. Woods tied Byron Nelson at 52 when he won the Bridgestone Invitational then passed him with his win at the Deutsche Bank Championship, which was his seventh of the year. No other player on the PGA Tour has more than two this season. But Woods sought to put his accomplishment in relation to Nelson in perspective. "That's misleading because Mr. (Byron) Nelson retired at an early age,'' Woods said. "If he would have kept playing another 10 years, kept playing to the longevity that the guys do today, I'm sure he probably would have even eclipsed Mr. (Sam) Snead. To be (past him) is really misleading because his span of success was pretty impressive.'' Nelson, who won 18 times in 1945, including 11 straight victories, retired from full-time golf after the 1946 season at age 34, although his last victory came in 1951 at the Bing Crosby Pro-Am.
 
On second thought, maybe there is a golf record he won’t match…
 
Tiger Woods is chasing Jack Nicklaus in PGA Tour victories and major championship titles. However, he is unlikely to match another Golden Bear milestone: golf course designs. Nicklaus hit 300 recently when Sebonack Golf Club on Long Island was officially opened. Sebonack is the 300th Nicklaus Design golf course worldwide. His first was in 1969, Harbor Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C., which Nicklaus, then 29, designed along with Pete Dye. Sebonack had a soft opening for members around Memorial Day, and since then, four other Nicklaus courses have opened, running the actual total to 304. According to his company, of the 304 that are open, 208 were solo designs, the others include co-designs and re-designs. Nicklaus Design currently has 50 courses under construction.
 
What’s the big deal with autographs?
 
Even Tiger Woods didn't exactly know how to handle the situation, which became a bit awkward. It was during his post-PGA Championship news conference when a reporter from China grilled Woods in broken English, wondering why the world's No. 1 player doesn't sign more autographs. The reporter said that on the putting green he noticed that "Phil Mickelson signed autographs for kids every day all the time and you seldom did or never. What's the reason? And does that mean you don't like kids or you love golf more than kids?'' Woods gave a reasoned response. "I sign at the range, but I don't do it around the clubhouse,'' he said. "There are too many people, and kids get run over. It actually gets pretty dangerous.'' If I were a celeb, I think I would have peel and stick stamps printed with my picture and signature. Rather than autographs, everyone would get a sticker.
 
 
Paralysis by Analysis
 
Rules and more rules...
 
Esther was out for a day of golf. On the 18th hole she lined up for a shot to the green. As she was taking her stance, an old divot stuck to her shoe. She shook it off. What should she have done with the divot?

  1. Nothing, leave it were it fell when she shook it free.
  2. Replaced the divot in its original spot.

Folks, this incident actually happened during this year's U.S. Woman’s Amateur. The wrong choice earns you loss of hole in match play and a two stroke penalty in stroke play. Do you know the answer?

The answer is A. Leave the divot where it fell, do not replace the divot.

The applicable rule is 13-2 that references: Improving your lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of play. The rules do not allow you to move or replace a divot in your line of play or in your intended area of stance. However, there is no penalty if such action occurs in the process of the golfer fairly taking their stance. In other words, the movement of the divot in this case occurred when the golfer was fairly setting up for the stance. Replacing the divot once it had “fairly been moved” would then be construed to have improved the stance and was not permitted.

Golf's rulebook can be cruel, as Esther Choe found out recently during the U.S. Women's Amateur. Choe, 17, was 1-down in her match against Katharina Schallenberg playing the 18th hole when she took her stance to hit a shot to the green. As she did, an old divot stuck to her right shoe. Choe shook the divot off her shoe and then replaced it. And that was a no-no. Had she simply kicked the divot away, she would have been fine. Choe was guilty of improving her stance, and in match play, that means a loss of hole. In stroke play, the penalty would have been two strokes. "Well, it doesn't make much sense to me,'' Choe said. "But I guess I understand what they are saying. I shouldn't have put it back.''
 
 
Reading the Line
 
Changing the face of golf: everything changes, everything stays the same…
 
As hard as it is to believe, Tiger Woods has been a pro for 10 years. He celebrated the anniversary at the end of August. It was at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open where Woods said "Hello, world,'' and embarked on an amazing career. You know the story: 12 major titles; 53 tour titles; increased television ratings; purses that have grown from $69-million to $255-million.

People who do not otherwise care about golf want to see Woods. He has brought a non-traditional golf fan to tournaments, and research suggests that more people have taken up the game because of him. Tell that to course owners and they might disagree. Some would even argue that Tiger on the tube means golfers are not on the greens.

But while it was widely predicted that Woods' emergence would help change the face of golf in the United States, it has yet to happen at the pro level. In 1976, the year after Woods was born, there were 12 African-American golfers on the PGA Tour; today, Woods is the only one. From 1964 to 1986, five African Americans -- Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder, Pete Brown, Jim Thorpe and Calvin Peete -- won a total of 23 PGA Tour tournaments. Woods is the only one to win on tour since 1986. And despite Woods' influence, the pipeline to the pros remains thin. Tim O'Neal, 33, is the only African-American on the developmental Nationwide Tour. There are no African-Americans on the LPGA Tour, and LaRee Sugg was the last full-time African-American to play the circuit five years ago. There are just two part-time African-Americans on the women's Futures Tour. Woods has expressed his disappointment, but also knows the hurdles. "I thought there would be more of us out here, but then again, it's a matter of getting enough players,'' he said. "You have to have a big enough base. At the junior level, there are some players with some talent, but as you continue to play and continue to move up levels, the screening process kind of weeds them out.''
 
Golf’s Changing landscape…
 
The majors are over, and a fairly lengthy end to the season waits. Other than the Ryder Cup, there is little to get excited about. Even the Tour Championship is likely to be a yawner, with Tiger Woods all but a lock to clean up on anything that matters. But a year from now, things will be different. A year from now, the tour schedule will be weeks from completion and in the midst of a season-ending playoff series. Stand by for the 2007 FedEx Cup, which has its share of detractors. There have been a lot of hurt feelings and bruised egos along the way. Some staples of the tour are gone or will be different. And it still remains to be seen how the top players will embrace playing six of the seven weeks to end the season, with a major championship thrown in. Still, I would argue that it is a better scenario than we face the rest of this year. There are still nearly two months worth of tournaments left, most of which will garner very little interest.
 
When you have an itch, scratch it…
 
The LPGA Tour appears to be on a bumpy road. Their new Commissioner, Carolyn Bivens, who came on board last September, is causing unrest among long-time Tournament Sponsors. The Shoprite LPGA Classic in Northfield, NJ, has had the same date for their tournament, always prior to one of the LPGA's majors, the McDonald's Championship. This is a tournament that has in the past 20 years raised over $12 million for charity. They were told they would have that date in 2007 and 2008. Ms. Bivens has given their date to a Ginn Tournament in South Carolina -- with a larger purse. She offered the ShopRite event several alternative dates, none of which were satisfactory. Reportedly the ShopRite Board of Directors is threatening to sue the Tour ... not good press for the LPGA. Ms. Bivens has also cancelled the tournament in Las Vegas for 2007, saying it’s not a good location for an LPGA event. In the future, new tournaments will have to give $100,000 to the Tour Office, as well as come up with the required purse money. With all the new and exciting players on the LPGA Tour like Morgan Pressel, Michele Wie, Christie Kerr, Lorena Ochoa and Natalie Gulbis the LPGA should be on a smooth path through 2006. Instead, it is stumbling. On top of this, the new Commissioner has had 7 resignations in the past several months from top associates in her organization, three of whom she hired last fall. Even 007 liked things shaken, not stirred.
 
 
 

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