The Golf Ball Debate Causes and Effects Meet News Judgment

By Adam BarrMarch 29, 2002, 5:00 pm
Upon returning from The Players Championship early this week, I received e-mails from two executives of major golf equipment companies. They noted the distinct lack of attention to a story, the flip side of which usually gets plenty of play.
 
Not a word about how the defenses of the stadium course at the TPC of Sawgrass may have diluted the argument that the golf ball goes too far, one of my correspondents wrote. The e-mail bore the title, The First Amendment Does Not Balance Itself; the writer is, as you might expect, involved in making and selling golf balls.
 
The e-mails bring up the thorny but necessary question: Are the golf media miscasting the golf ball debate?
 
Lets begin by disposing of the issue of intention. As someone who, through some arguable lapses in judgment, has chosen two professions that are generally reviled ' lawyer, then reporter ' I am perhaps more sensitive than most to the notion that reporters skew reporting of the news according to their personal politics. The issues raised by Bernard Goldberg, the former CBS News reporter, in his recent book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, have been much on my mind lately. Goldberg, hardly a card-carrying conservative, savages his former colleagues (Dan Rather in particular) for being out of touch with the country west of the Hudson and for reporting the news with a definite leftward tilt.
 
It doesnt matter whether you believe that or not. The implication does the damage. But even Goldberg is willing to admit that theres no conspiracy going on at the big networks. The anchors and producers immutable politics are to blame. (Perhaps that should make Rather and his people feel worse.)
 
Knowing the members of the golf press as I do, Im inclined to believe there is likewise no conspiracy in the bentgrass segment of the Fourth Estate. And while its not my job or desire to rise to the defense of my competitor colleagues (some of whom have been terribly unfair to my place of business, by the way), I think I know why they play the modern golf ball stories the way they do.
 
Consider the following sample headlines: Johnson Proposes Special Masters Golf Ball, and Single-Digit-Under-Par Scores Show Golf Balls Not the Problem.
 
Which story would you read? Headlines such as the first example recently led readers to the story of Masters chairman Hootie Johnson proposing a limited-flight golf ball for his event, essentially making a public play to overcome the current rulemaking inertia in golf.
 
The second headline, which of course never appeared in any form, it is the golf news equivalent of No Fire Breaks Out at Local Textile Mill. The reader shrugs and moves on.
 
At least some segment of readers and others affected by press coverage will always grumble about the media because the play assigned to a story ' whether it appears above the fold in the paper or early in a broadcast ' is a matter of judgment, and subjective matters invite debate.
But this isnt a journalism lesson. The behavior of some of the golf media, as well as that of the sources who feed them information, may have fostered the notion that the ball is the problem, instead of the fact, which is that many people say the ball is the problem.
 
Case in point: As he sat down for a taped interview with me at Sawgrass, Pete Dye used the moment while his microphone was being clipped on to tell me that I had the wrong people talking on the air about the golf ball debate. He offered a statistic to show that so-called ladies golf balls nowadays go further than the best mens balls did just a few years ago. The stat, while intriguing, did not of itself necessarily prove that modern golf balls are ruining either the game or the people who design its playing fields. (Dont blame Dye for ineffective debate. He offered the observation professionally and politely, and we were there to discuss Jerry Pates 1982 dunking of him after the first Players Championship at Sawgrass, not the golf ball matter. So Pete had no chance to continue his point before the red light went on.)
 
But like many other leading golf course architects, Dye sees the modern ball as the scourge of the game. The American Society of Golf Course Architects, led by president Damian Pascuzzo, has hammered on this message roundly for more than a year. (Perhaps it is a measure of the ASGCAs get-under-the-skin factor that Wally Uihlein, chief of Titleist and a vocal opponent of people he has called anti-innovation Luddites, has hired former Monty Python member John Cleese to lampoon the architects position by playing a wrong-headed, plaid-coated architect in commercials for Titleists long NXT golf balls.)
 
My respect for Dye and the ASGCA notwithstanding, my antennae go up when I hear such arguments. Its not the substance of the argument so much as its uniform color throughout.
 
There is a doctrine of historical study we learned in school called monocausation. That clunky, scholarly term referred to a practice to be avoided, the facile but often misleading attempt to pawn off a large event to a single reason. Slavery caused the Civil War, the 1929 stock market crash caused the Great Depression, you get the idea. Real analysis admits of several causes and can live with complexity, even uncertainty.
 
Extend it to golf, and you can easily list a number of possible causes in the games latest bout of non-growing pains: the ball core recipes (perhaps, for the elite players), mower technology (Sarazen, Jones and their contemporaries never hit off of lies so good), clubhead size and quality control, shaft design and innovation, golfer training, health, strength and abilitygo ahead, you take it from here.
 
Problem is, monocausation yields better and easier-to-write headlines, even if it encourages trashy analysis.
 
Leafing through the work product of the golf press, as well as the websites of the major debaters, it seems to me that all sides of the golf-ball-distance debate are reasonably well represented, even if not always to the liking of the combatants. We in the media are far from perfect, and occasionally our judgment about how we play stories can be called into question, despite our best efforts to be fair. Monocausation can tempt even the usually careful mind. Its something we have a solemn obligation to work on, even when were doing well.
 
But when I hear vociferous arguments that the modern golf ball (or any factor in this complicated game) is the sole cause of a feared descent into driver-wedgedom in the elite game, Im not concerned that its the media miscasting the debate.
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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.