Golf Business Stories That Will Define 2003
The Masters Controversy. Rely on it: Unless Augusta National Golf Club capitulates soon ' and thats as unlikely as moderate eating on Thanksgiving ' there will be a ruckus of some sort on Washington Road next April. Nothing will look unusual inside the gates, mind you. But like her or not, Martha Burk walks the walk. If she says there will be protests, there will be.
Whatever you believe about the issue ' that its a legal matter and that privacy rights should prevail, or that it transcends law and that morality demands the invitation of a woman to join ' the primary effect may be outside golf, and it wont be good.
Much of the general public still perceives American golf as an elitist game, long after the balance of public versus private clubs has shifted heavily toward the populist. Heck, many people still believe loud plaid pants are hallmark of the game.
The fact is, the facts rarely get in the way of gross perception in this over-speedy, media-driven world, and nuance doesnt matter at all. Right or wrong, all mainstream America will see is golf excluding people. Thats not what a stagnant game needs.
The U.S. Golf Association and Equipment. Whipsaw changes in rulings on spring-like effect off the face of drivers damaged any fragile credibility golfs co-ruling body had with manufacturers. In May, the USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews reached a compromise that would have allowed so-called hot drivers (those with a coefficient of restitution of .86 or higher) to be used by recreational players for five years. Then, the whole world would return to the old limit, .83 COR.
But in August, amid reports that Japanese tournament authorities had complained to the R&A about expected enforcement problems, the seas changed. The ruling bodies admitted they never wanted a compromise anyway, so things went back to so-called normal: .83 for U.S. drivers, no limit in the R&As jurisdiction.
Trouble is, manufacturers were preparing to hit the ground running with hot drivers for the U.S. market the moment the 2003 Rose Bowl Parade started. A lot of marketing plans got thrown off, and a lot of anger got thrown around.
The ruling bodies see the matter as settled, and the manufacturers see that as a signal to watch out for golf ball regulation. Elder statesmen in the game on the level of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have said loudly and often that the modern ball is skewing the game.
The question is, will the Overall Distance Standard in the Rules of Golf, which is said to be under review, be changed? Can it be curtailed without provoking a hail of lawsuits? Or will the USGA simply raise it to a level it can live with and draw the line there? Legally, Option 2 only delays the inevitable. Either way, watch for possible pyrotechnics in 2003.
Golf Ball World War II. Now that Nike and Callaway have worked their way into the market, they feel ready to challenge Titleist for dominance. Even the attackers know theyre in for a long siege ' and its not clear yet whether or if they can overwhelm Fort Fairhaven ' so this is a story that will continue past next year.
But if Pro V1 has taught the industry anything, it is this: Word of mouth is still the best advertising, but the word comes first. A well-planned public relations campaign that attacks the mainstream can work wonders. Remember the Pro V1 on the front page of USA Today?
Nike has Tiger, Titleist has the market, Callaway has money and a new, aggressive tour strategy ' should be a blast.
Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction
Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.
The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.
Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.
Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.
No indication when Trump Turnberry will next host an Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Turnberry last hosted The Open in 2009, during that magical week where Tom Watson, at age 59, nearly won his sixth claret jug. Ultimately, Stewart Cink won in a playoff.
While Turnberry remains on The Open rota, according to the R&A, there is no clear understanding of when the club, purchased by Donald Trump in 2014 before he became President of the United States, will next host the championship. The next open date is 2022.
“With respect to 2022, I’ve already said, ’21 we’re going to be celebrating the 150th playing of The Open at St. Andrews,” R&A chief executive Marin Slumbers said Wednesday on the annual news conference on the eve of The Open. “And in ’22, we’ll be going south of the border.”
South of the border means the 2022 Open will be at one of the three venues in England. Since the 2020 Open is at Royal St. George’s, that leaves Royal Lytham & St. Annes and Royal Liverpool as the two remaining options. Since Lytham (2012, Ernie Els) last hosted The Open before Liverpool (2014, Rory McIlroy), that’s the likely choice.
Trump was at Turnberry for two days last weekend, 150 miles southwest of Carnoustie. The R&A said it did not receive any communication from the U.S. president while he was in the country.
Turnberry hosted the Women’s British Open in 2015. Inbee Park beat Jin-young Park by three shots.
Slumbers explains driver test; Rory weighs in
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Players and manufacturers were informed about three weeks ago that the R&A intended to test individual drivers at this week’s Open Championship, marking the first time the rule makers have taken the current standards to players.
Although the R&A and USGA have been COR (coefficient of restitution) tests on drivers for some time, they have been pulling the tested clubs from manufacturers, not players.
“We take our governance role very seriously, not just on the Rules of Golf and amateur status, but also equipment standards, and we felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players' drivers straight out of the bag,” said Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive.
Thirty players were notified their drivers would be tested this week - including Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson - from a list that roughly mirrored the breakdown of various brands based on current equipment counts.
The R&A test center was set up on the Carnoustie practice range, and according to Slumbers there were no violations of the testing limits, which essentially measure the spring-like effect of the driver clubface.
Although none of the drivers failed the testing, Rory McIlroy did say that TaylorMade was “singled out a bit more than anyone else.”
“A manufacturer is always going to try and find ways to get around what the regulations are. It's a bit of an arms race,” said McIlroy, who plays TaylorMade equipment but said his driver was not tested. “If there is some drivers out there that have went a little bit over the limit, then obviously guys shouldn't be playing them. I think the manufacturers are smart enough to know not to try to push it too much.”
There was no individual driver testing at last month’s U.S. Open, and it’s not expected to become the norm on the PGA Tour, but Slumbers did say the R&A tested drivers at an event earlier this year on the Japan Golf Tour.
Carnoustie open to any number of scenarios
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Carnoustie holds a distinct position within the Open Championship’s rotation of storied venues. It’s come by its nickname, Car-Nasty, honestly as the undisputed rough-and-tumble heavyweight of all the championship links.
Historically, Carnoustie is a beast. A punch in the mouth compared to the other stops on The Open dance card. If the likes of the Old Course and Muirfield are the fair ladies of the rotation, the Angus Coast brute would be the unfriendly bouncer.
As personas go, Carnoustie wears its reputation well, but the 147th edition of the game’s oldest championship has taken on a new look this week. It’s not so much the softer side of Carnoustie as it is a testament to the set up philosophy of the R&A.
Unlike its sister association in the United States, the R&A allows Mother Nature to decide what kind of test a championship will present and this Open is shaping up to be something far different than what the golf world is accustomed.
Instead of the thick, lush rough that ringed the fairways in 1999 and 2007, the last two stops at the par-71 layout, this year has a dust bowl feel to it. The stories have already become legend: Padraig Harrington hit a 457-yard drive on the 18th hole during a practice round that bounced and bounded into Barry Burn and on Monday Tiger Woods slashed a 333-yard 3-iron down the same power alley.
“It’s so fast. It’s nothing like ’99 – that was like a jungle. It was wet, rough was up, there was wind. In 2007, it was cold and green,” said Ernie Els, who has played two championships at Carnoustie. “But this is very, very dry. Very different.”
Anywhere else these divergent conditions would simply be the nature of the game’s most hands-off major, but at Carnoustie it’s created an information vacuum and wild uncertainty.
Within a 48-hour window, two of the championship’s easy favorites offered diametrically contrasting philosophies on how they might play Carnoustie.
“There's eight or nine drivers we hit. Depending on the wind direction, we could hit more,” said Brooks Koepka, who won his second consecutive U.S. Open last month. “It's so burnt out, where there's a lot of opportunity where the rough's not quite as thick as I expected it to be.”
That was in contrast to how Jordan Spieth, this week’s defending champion, was thinking he would play the course.
“I talked to [caddie Michael Greller] a little bit about what he thinks, and he said, ‘You might hit a lot of 5-irons off the tee, you might wear out 5- and 4-irons off the tee instead of hitting 3- or 2-irons like you're used to,’” Spieth said.
Unlike previous championships that were played at Carnoustie, which were won by the player best prepared to take a punch, this one might come down to which strategy, controlled and calculated or bold and brash, works best.
In theory, the bombers seem to be on to something, primarily as a result of the dry conditions that have produced uncharacteristically thin and playable rough. The alternative is weaving irons in between the countless bunkers that pepper each fairway, which on links courses are widely considered true hazards compared to what players face at other major venues.
“I would definitely say it is a bomber’s course,” said Gary Woodland, who counts himself among the long-hitting set. “A lot of the bunkers here are 285, 290 [yards] to cover, for us that’s nothing. You can take them out of play, which normally isn’t the case because it’s windy and rainy over here.”
That line of thinking leads to a rather narrow list of potential contenders, from betting favorite Dustin Johnson to Rory McIlroy and Koepka. But that logic ignores the inherent unpredictability of The Open, where countless contenders have been undercut by the rub of a bad draw and the always-present danger of inclement weather.
Although this week’s forecast calls for continued dry weather, winds are currently forecast to reach 25 mph on Sunday which could upend game plans, regardless of how aggressive or conservative one intended to play the course.
Despite conventional thinking and the realities of a modern game that is being dominated more and more by long hitters, there are compelling arguments for the other side of the bash-or-bunt debate.
One needs to look no further than Woods’ record on similarly dusty tracks as an example of how a conservative approach can produce championship results. In 2006 at Royal Liverpool, Woods, who is playing his first Open since 2015, famously hit just one driver all week on his way to victory, and he was just as effective in 2000 at St. Andrews when the Old Course also played to a bouncy brown.
“It could be that way,” Woods said when asked to compare ’06 at Hoylake to this week. “Either case, I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees.”
Adding to that uncertainty is Carnoustie’s track record in producing late drama on Sunday. This is, after all, the same slice of coast where Jean Van de Velde stepped to the 18th tee box with a three-stroke lead in 1999 only to slash his way to a closing triple-bogey 7 and the game’s most memorable, or regrettable, runner-up showing.
In ’07, the heartbreak went extra frames for Sergio Garcia, who appeared poised to win his first major championship before he bogeyed the last hole and lost a playoff to Harrington.
Even this week’s baked-out conditions can’t mitigate the importance and challenge of what many consider the most difficult Grand Slam finish; but the yellow hue has certainly created an added degree of uncertainty to an already unpredictable championship.