QA with Herb Kohler

By Rex HoggardAugust 6, 2010, 8:02 pm

For a man who has never played in a single PGA Tour event, manufactured a golf ball or club, or held a spot among the game’s power brokers at the U.S. Golf Association or Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, Herb Kohler has become an unquestionable catalyst in the game.

Kohler, 71, is the president and chairman of Kohler Company, a plumbing fixture giant, which owns Whistling Straits, site of this year’s PGA Championship, the 2015 PGA and 2020 Ryder Cup. Also part of the Kohler portfolio is Blackwolf Run, site of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open, the five-star American Club hotel and the Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews. How has Whistling Straits evolved since the 2004 PGA Championship and what might players and fans expect to see?

Herb Kohler: Something a little more exciting. No. 8 will be really interesting if players can avoid that really deep bunker in front of the green. I obviously can’t guarantee a playoff (like the one that highlighted the 2004 PGA at Whistling Straits). The 18th hole has undergone a number of changes over the years. Is it where you would like it to be or do you envision more tinkering?

HK: The 18th hole has two fairways, the left fairway requires a big drive. You could end up with a wedge or sand wedge in your hand and could throw a real dart. We’ll see how it plays, if it plays as I describe it will be a great finishing hole.

(Designer) Pete Dye is coming back on Aug. 20 and we will always tinker. We are trying to make this the best golf course in the world. (Dye) wanted to tinker in July. I had to talk him out of it. He said, 'Herb, I’m getting on in years.' With the Ryder Cup scheduled to be held at Whistling Straits in 2020, do you think it is a better stroke-play or match-play course?

HK: That’s a hell of a tough question. I feel it’s perfect for each because of all the options, five tees on every hole. In a match-play tournament you could make (Nos.) 13 and 14 drivable, you wouldn’t do that in stroke play. It is surprisingly flexible golf course.

Herb Kohler
At 71, Kohler remains one of the most powerful figures in golf. (Getty Images) You were at the Open Championship and with your connection to the Old Course Hotel, I would be curious why you think St. Andrews is such a great major venue, both inside and outside the ropes, and can you bring that vibe to an American venue?

HK: What St. Andrews has is incredible history that goes back 300-400 years and you walk the course and the town and that history is all around you. People were playing golf on that piece of ground before they knew the world was round. You sit there on the balcony of your room looking over the 17th fairway and it is amazing. I have looked at it 50 times and every time it gives me goose bumps.

You can’t translate that to an American venue. We have other things. We have a course with great color and great options and great flexibility. A community that’s filled with charm.

If you built a course like that in the U.S. they would laugh you out of town. Imagine asking a pro to hit their driver on the second-to-last hole over a building? I ask this in the context of a man who has built a 7,500-yard golf course to host major championships and in light of the ongoing debate on Tour for more equipment rollbacks, do you think it is time for a bifurcation of the Rules of Golf between the professional and amateur games?

HK: The magic of golf is that we all play under the same set of rules. It’s the greatness of this game. So no, I hope the R&A and USGA never try to sort out a different sets of rules.

It is not the length of a drive that has won this championship. Louis (Oosthuizen) is a very good driver, but not a very big driver. He beat his opponents because of his ability to control his emotions and control his mistakes. With the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup scheduled on the Straits Course through 2020 it would seem to preempt the resort from hosting a U.S. Open in the foreseeable future, but you have hosted a U.S. Women’s Open and would fill an apparent Midwestern hole in the U.S. Golf Association rotation. Can you envision hosting a U.S. Open?

HK: We are very comfortable and pleased with the PGA of America. The PGA ends up with the greatest number of the best players in the world, and that is really something.

The other thing is the time of year in Wisconsin. All the fescues, as they wave in the wind, it is an extraordinary sight. You can’t get that in June.

I don’t long for anything. If one day my successors thought a U.S. Open would be a good test for this course, fine. But I am delighted with what I have and hope to keep going. In 2004 the PGA Championship was decided in a playoff between a long-hitter (Vijay Singh) and two relatively short hitters (Chris DiMarco and Justin Leonard). Is that the ultimate compliment for a championship venue?

HK: Yes, Vijay was a power hitter, Chris was good all around, Justin had a good short game, but the key was they were all on their game.

The key for Vijay he was able to drive almost to the green at the 10th hole (in the playoff). That was the deciding shot in the playoff. He wasn’t sinking many putts, but he did sink that one.

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Wie has hand surgery, out for rest of 2018

By Randall MellOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 pm

Michelle Wie will miss the rest of this season after undergoing surgery Thursday to fix injuries that have plagued her right hand in the second half of this year.

Wie announced in an Instagram post that three ailments have been causing the pain in her hand: an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment.

An avulsion fracture is an injury to the bone where it attaches to a ligament or tendon.

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I think John Mayer once said, “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” A lot of people have been asking me what’s been going on with my hand and I haven’t shared much, because I wasn’t sure what was going on myself. After countless MRI’s, X-rays, CT scans, and doctor consultations, I was diagnosed with having a small Avulsion Fracture, bone spurring, and nerve entrapment in my right hand. After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through. So I made the decision after Hana Bank to withdraw from the rest of the season, come back to the states, and get surgery to fix these issues. It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year but hopefully I am finally on the path to being and STAYING pain free! Happy to announce that surgery was a success today and I cannot wait to start my rehab so that I can come back stronger and healthier than ever. Huge thank you to Dr. Weiland’s team at HSS for taking great care of me throughout this process and to all my fans for your unwavering support. It truly means the world to me. I’ll be back soon guys!!!! Promise

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Dr. Andrew Weiland, an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the procedure.

“It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year, but, hopefully, I am finally on the path to being and staying pain free,” Wie wrote.

Wie withdrew during the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the hand injury on Aug. 2 and didn’t play again until teeing it up at the UL International Crown two weeks ago and the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week. She played those events with what she hoped was a new “pain-free swing,” one modeled after Steve Stricker, with more passive hands and wrists. She went 1-3 at the UL Crown and tied for 59th in the limited field Hana Bank.

“After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through,” she wrote.

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Wie, who just turned 29 last week, started the year saying her top goal was to try to stay injury free. She won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March, but her goal seemed doomed with a diagnosis of arthritis in both wrists before the year even started.

Over the last few years, Wie has dealt with neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries. Plus, there was an emergency appendectomy that knocked her out of action for more than a month late last season. Her wrists have been an issue going back to early in her career.

“I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue,” Wie’s long-time swing coach, David Leadbetter, said earlier this year.

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Woods receives his Tour Championship trophy

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 8:57 pm

We all know the feeling of giddily anticipating something in the mail. But it's doubtful that any of us ever received anything as cool as what recently showed up at Tiger Woods' Florida digs.

This was Woods' prize for winning the Tour Championship. It's a replica of "Calamity Jane," Bobby Jones' famous putter. Do we even need to point out that the Tour Championship is played at East Lake, the Atlanta course where Jones was introduced to the game.

Woods broke a victory drought of more than five years by winning the Tour Championhip. It was his 80th PGA Tour win, leaving him just two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

In a statement released by the Tour, officials pointed out the lawsuit and the “potential increase to the longtime caddie healthcare subsidy” are two separate issues.

“Although these two items have been reported together, they are not connected. The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”