Category Archives: PGA Tour

north pano

Southland: North Course Renovation Finally On Tap For Torrey

north pano

After three years of discussion and preparation, the North Course at Torrey Pines is finally having its date with a bulldozer in 2016.

The renovation is set to begin days after the Farmers Insurance Open and is slated to take six months to complete.

Tom Weiskopf, a PGA Tour veteran who had his first tour win at Torrey in 1968, and his design group are set to execute the redesign plan originally awarded to Phil Mickelson. City of San Diego Golf Operations Manager Mark Marney says the core concepts of the plan remain intact with only subtle differences in Weiskopf’s execution as opposed to Mickelson’s.

“There were core things we wanted to have and then it came down to what we could afford,” Marney said of a project that’s tabbed to between $12.6 million.

The core objectives are: Rebuilt, enlarged and re-contoured greens; new greenside and fairway bunkers; a cart path system; and a new irrigation and pumping system.

Players shouldn’t find the course tougher, Marney said, and some will find it more accessible.

“The course isn’t getting any longer, and we’re rebuilding a few tee boxes and adding an extra set of forward tees,” he said.

north3green

Increases in difficulty and cost have been the primary concerns expressed by locals, some of whom play up to 150 rounds a year at Torrey. For them, the North is reprieve from the challenges of the tougher South Course, site of the 2008 and 2021 U.S. Opens.

“For a lot of them, it’d be pretty brutal to play the South all the time,” he said. “The North is a little more forgiving and we have players who prefer that.”

Marney said Torrey hasn’t raised its rates in five years and any future in case won’t be tied to the construction costs.

The North hosts between 80,000 and 85,000 a year – nearly 20,000 more than the South – and Marney said was long overdue for an update of the original William Bell design.

Amateur and professional players will benefit, Marney said, as the North is used during the first two days of the Farmers Insurance Open. During the tournament, the North on average plays three strokes easier than the South, a gap Marney said the new North course will be able to close if tournament officials choose.

“They’ll have an opportunity to pick some pin positions that will make it as tough as they want to make it,” he said. “But I’m not sure Tour players want us to close that gap. They like having the chance to go over to the North and shoot something lower and make hay when the sun shines.”

north no. 1

As much of their play, Marney is look forward the Tour players’ reviews of the new North at the Farmers in 2017. Lots of dirt and sand will be moved between now and then – and possibly water. An El Nino winter could hamper construction, but Marney said delaying the project again wasn’t an option.

“Every time we delay, the construction costs increase. If we put it off again, the costs could’ve gone up another 10 percent,” he said. “Next year is uncertain too. We need to plan and be as ready as we can be.”

The project is scheduled to be done months before the 2017 Farmers. That’ll provide time for the course to round into shape, and sodding instead of seeding the greens is being done to expedite the conversion, Marney said.

“That’ll give us a finished green surface sooner but there are some risks involved,” he said. “We’ll have to put in extra work to make sure we don’t get a build up of organic material in the sodded greens, and we’ll have time to fix other construction scars.”

Overall, Marney said after years of delay, Torrey is finally poised to successfully give birth to a new North.

“We’ve got a good plan and a great designer and contractor who understand what we’re looking for,” he said. “I’m excited about the time a year when we’ll finally have the big unveiling.”

No. 5

Maderas: Maderas’ 2016 Farmers Insurance Open Preview W/Chris Mayson Pick and Predictions

No. 5

When the PGA Tour arrived at Torrey Pines a year ago, it was a Tour in transition. A year later, there’s raging debate about whether golf is being led by a Big Three or a full-fledged foursome.

Two of the players in golf’s most prestige pack – Rickie Fowler and Jason Day – are in the Farmers Insurance Open Field this week. Fowler is fresh off a win in Abu Dhabi over major winners Jordan Spieth and Rory McIroy. Day is the defending champion at Torrey, but reportedly battling the flu.

This is set to be Day’s 2016 Tour debut and first chance to make a statement against his peers. He ended the 2015 major season by capturing the title at the PGA Championship by shooting 25-under to set a major championship scoring record. He briefly thereafter vaulted to No. 1 in the world.

Day’s win a year ago at Torrey started to set the Tour on a new course during a week that began with Tiger Woods withdrawing with a back injury. This week Day and Fowler have a chance to contribute to golf’s great debate. Will they deliver? We’ll start finding out on Thurs.

http://www.maderasgolf.com/The-Maderas-2016-Farmers-Insura.blog

Torrey sun

Day

FIO 2016: Best of Jason Day at Media Day

Day

Jason Day showed on Monday he’s a champion in the interview room as well as on the golf course. The defending Farmers Insurance Open champion, and 2015 PGA Championship winner, gave a great performance for the assembled local media in advance of next week’s FIO at Torrey Pines.

Day was alternately insightful, funny and enlightening during a 20-minute group Q & A. Here’s a bit of the best from a guy who seems incredibly easy to root for:

On Jordan Spieth:

“I never thought there’d be a player you can compare to Tiger Woods, but slowly people are doing that.”

spieth

On his wife being bowled over by LeBron James at a Cleveland Cavaliers game:

“Does anyone think they could’ve stopped LeBron?”

On the related risk of being a spectator in golf:

“People take a risk. Unfortunately I’ve hit lots of people.”

The North Course vs. the South at Torrey:

“The North is where you go to make up what you lost on the South.”

torrey art

On personally predicting his first major:

“I honestly thought it was going to come at the British Open – and I even told my agent that.”

On the key to winning a tournament:

“The biggest part of winning is wanting it more than anyone else in the field.”

On the one change he would make to golf in the Olympics in 2016:

When told the media was about to play a six-hour round on the North:

“Oh God.” (laughing)

xmas

Happy Holidays

xmas

Just wanted to sheer some San Diego style holiday cheer with my readers and followers and apologize for a drop off in posts of late. I’ve gone through a lot of transitions in the last three months. The changes are all for the better but have momentarily left me with less time to contribute in this space.

I’m hoping to resume a more regular schedule in 2016. That’s not saying this space will go vacant the rest of the year, but it’ll be a little sparse until I’m a little more settled in my new situations.

2015 has been an incredible year for me professionally, and I want to thank everyone who has supported me in this endeavor along the way. 2016 will hopefully see another leap for me professionally – and, as we all know, the Farmers is just around the corner so there’s that to look forward to.

Have a safe and happy holiday.

CR

13 flag

Dec. Southland: Is El Nino The Perfect Storm For SoCal Golf?

Dec. Southland

In the last week of October, almost exactly three months before the start of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Paul Cushing had no trouble picking a tournament favorite: El Nino.

Cushing, the maintenance manager for the City of San Diego’s golf courses, in fact had already effectively doubled down on El Nino by buying extra pumps and other heavy duty water removal equipment in advance to handle the deluge that could come with the type of potentially extreme weather event an El Nino portends.

A historic hurricane in Mexico the previous week had only further convinced Cushing of the forecast of a wet winter for San Diego and Southern California. A warm Pacific Ocean mixed with late-summer heat and humidity had cooked up the proverbial perfect storm for a perhaps record-setting El Nino.

“At this point, I’d be much more surprised if we don’t have a significant rain event than we do,” Cushing said of tournament week (Jan. 28-31.).

Raining on the Tour’s annual parade through SoCal would put a damper on the professional season but likely be welcome news to the rest of the region’s golf course community, as long as extreme events, such as flooding and mudslides, don’t coincide.

Four years of drought have drained the reserves of the state and pushed courses to their liquid limit through water restrictions. The latest data, Cushing said, showed the state needing 75 inches of rain to recover.

“We’re not going to get that all back in one swoop,” he said, “but we could put a pretty good dent it, maybe at least get us through another year or two by restoring some of the ground reserves.”

Mike Huck, a water management consultant in San Juan Capistrano who monitors usage by the state’s courses, said California’s courses caught a break in 2015 between timely rains and late-arriving heat. Despite mandated water restrictions, courses kept their conditions up and in some cases saved more water than the mandate.

“The rain fall came with perfect timing,” Huck said. “Some courses had just started to go yellow after the cuts and it’s like they were given a breath of fresh air. Some courses you couldn’t even tell where the water had been shut off.

“I had one (Orange County) super tell me, ‘We’re as green as we’ve ever been.’”

But the superintendents are now ready for nature to really open the hose. And past experience and current conditions lead Huck to believe that relief is coming. Huck is more concerned with how the rains will come.

“How much will we capture?” he asks. “These storms can be really intense. If that’s the case, we won’t capture as much as if it was a nice, slow rain that drizzled for 10 days.”

waves 1

Like Cushing, Huck believes a best-case scenarios buys courses a couple years of supply and could even result in the lifting of water restrictions, which are due to be re-evaluated in the new year.

Or, Huck said, water boards could look at how courses got by on less in 2015 and stay conservative.

“It all depends on capture,” he said. “In the spring, they could say we’re comfortable with where we’re at, or they could press on restricting consumption.”

Huck said 2015 proved to be a huge learning year about conversation and resources for those in charge of course maintenance.

“Absolutely. It’s just like when we had the big drought in the late 70s. It really opened people’s eyes and made them take a different course and use less water. They realized you can maintain good course conditions with a lot less water.”

Huck would bet Southern California sees significant relief, but says there’s no guarantee Northern California would see the same. There can be regional differences, but Huck says the storms need to make an impact beyond the coast to really bail out California.

“What’s the snow pack is the big question,” he said, knowing the last two were the lowest in recorded California history. “Will the cold air mass come down to the Sierras or will it go to the Rockies? The experts seem split 50-50 about whether there will be a big snow event in the Sierras.”

Both ranges contribute to California’s supply and the snowmelt holds the potential for a more long-lasting impact than the storms themselves.

A worst-case scenario for courses, Huck said, is a winter that under delivers on El Nino’s potential. That downside is one Huck believes could be dire, not just drier, in 2016, meaning restrictions could increase.

“It could mean no water at all for some courses, or just water for tees and small percentage of greens,” he said.
The other downside is potential natural disaster conditions.

“Southern California could get flooding and mud slides. That could be almost as bad,” he said, noting courses that undertook turf reduction could be especially vulnerable to erosion.

torrey 3

Art Miller, a 30-year Research Oceanographer in Climate Sciences at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, said unprecedented ocean climate conditions make an extreme event more likely.

“The northern Pacific Ocean has (abnormally) warm ocean temperatures all the way up to Alaska,” he said. “Once it gets set up like that, it takes a long time to fade away.”

Miller said some models show it could take ocean temperatures as long as six months to normalize, which provides a longer window of opportunity for rain or severe weather beyond December to February, which is viewed as the peak window for El Nino.

Cushing has seen El Nino at its most destructive extreme. When the last one came in 2005, he was working on building Vellano Country Club in Chino Hills. The rains made the project work impossible until spring, when El Nino had subsided.

“We’d work and then get 10 inches of rain that would wash out the entire project,” he said. “We’d pick up the pieces and it would happen again. And we were a course with 600 feet of elevation change. Water was pooled everywhere.”

That El Nine brought a hefty 44 inches of rain to the region. That same soaking wouldn’t erase the drought but it’d certainly make a dramatic impact.

California’s reservoirs wouldn’t be overflowing, but its bunkers would be. That’s the scenario Cushing is already planning for.

Of his 2005 El Nino experience, Cushing said, “I think we’re in for that again.”

Whistling aerial

Maderas: PGA Championship Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

Whistling aerial

A truly historic season for the PGA Tour hits the home stretch by returning to Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship – and Rory McIlroy’s surprise return from injury to defend his title and his No. 1 ranking only adds to the intrigue.

Here are four storylines teed high for the PGA, including Rory’s risky decision, followed by Chris Mayson’s picks to end what’s been an MVP prediction season (including the Farmers, he’s three for four picking the winners). He’s got a Masters champion pegged for the PGA (Hint: Not Tiger). It’s a doubly special week for Chris because he has a student, Brendan Steele, in the field.

Why Is Rory Risking It? – I’m going to cede the floor early to Mr. Mayson to address the week’s hot topic: Why would Rory McIroy return from the Achilles injury that cost him a spot in the British Open to play such a tough golf course and risk re-injury? Is it simply the ego of being world’s No. 1 and the PGA defending champ?

Chris: “I am not sure why Rory McIlroy is playing and risking his health. The only reason behind his quick recovery and entry into this week is surely because he covets majors more than the Fed Ex Cup.

“It would have made much more sense to take another two weeks off and comeback for the playoffs, but I can only assume that he wants another major that badly and it is worth the risk. It would be great to see a McIlroy and Spieth duel this week, but I think he is going to be way too rusty to compete at that level.”
And this is the same player who once WD’d over a toothache. Obviously, Rory has found a new pain tolerance, but the gain may only negligible or worse.

No Grand Slam But A Historic Hat Trick? – The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee wasted no time predicting a third major for Jordan Spieth this week after his near-miss at the British Open. While he’s running away with Player of the Year, will he tote home a trophy for his mantel to go along with The Masters and U.S. Open?
It would surprise no one if he did to cap The Summer Spieth, and it would certainly send a message to the Tour that it might be more of the same in 2016.

Spieth and McIlroy are paired on Thursday and Friday. Two men enter, one man makes the weekend? If it’s two, we might get a preview of 2016 earlier than any of us expected. It would be a fitting finish to the year of Jordan, Rory and Rickie.

Or Spieth could find himself in a familiar scenario …

A Familiar Foe – And A Haunted One Here – We’re, of course, talking about Dustin Johnson here, whose name was first synonymous with “bunker ruling” at Whistling Straits before “three-putt” at Chambers Bay.

Will poetic justice arrive at a place where DJ has all the usual DJ advantages, or will he be felled again by his familiar fails in majors?

But you can be sure DJ will check his rulebook once and twice to determine which bunkers are naughty (traps) and which ones are nice (waste areas) for grounding your club.

Will the rulebook blindside anyone else this week, or did DJ teach an eternal lesson?

Straits or Straights? – The early feedback from the practice rounds has been about how tough the rough is, particularly off the tee. Finding fairways will be especially critical this week in a PGA that sounds like the traditional U.S. Open instead of what we got at Chamber Bay this year.

Chamblee on tee shots: “Big misses here have big consequences.”

He was, naturally, talking about Tiger, whose resurgence is in debate but there’s no debate that he has a tame track record here. In 2010, he’d just switched swing coaches and spent the week tinkering. Is he still tinkering again in 2015 or he has finally tamed his new swing?

Chris Mayson has another Masters champ in mind this week, and he’s about to tell you why.

The final major of the year is upon us and it seems that golf season has only just begun. The first two majors were won by the best player in the world this year, Jordan Spieth. St. Andrews was too much of a weather pot luck to produce the best player, but Spieth’s run at three consecutive major victories was extremely admirable. You would have to assume that he will be in contention again this week.

My pick this week is one of the longest players on the PGA Tour, Bubba Watson. I always go by the belief that if you want to know who is going to win this week, look no further than who finished second last week – and that was Bubba at Bridgestone. He is clearly playing well and he loves to shape the ball, which you have to do on all Pete Dye golf courses, and his prodigious length will allow him to cut off some of the dog legs.

My other sleeper pick is my own student, Brendan Steele. Brendan hits is very long and straight, can move the ball both ways and is coming off a strong seventh-place finish last week on the PGA Tour. I know I am biased, but I think Whistling Straights is going to be a great course for him.

No matter the contenders, I’m sure that Whistling Straights will produce some drama, the same way it did last time.

maderas rate

Go to www.maderasgolf.com.

St. Andrews Swilcan Bridge Old Course

Maderas: British Open Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

St. Andrews Swilcan Bridge Old Course

A season the Tour couldn’t have scripted any better to make a case for its next generation now collides with one of the game’s special venues to make for a potentially historically epic British Open at St. Andrews.

The possibility of a third straight major for phenom Jordan Spieth hovers over the home of golf, setting the stage for a possible Grand Slam at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

As Spieth’s hole out at 17 for eagle on Saturday at the John Deere shows, little is seeming beyond belief any more when it comes to the 21-year-old Texan. And him hoisting the Claret Judge became a little more likely when defending champion Rory McIlroy withdrew with an ankle injury.

Will history march on at St. Andrews or will it succumb to the quirks and breaks of links golf that Spieth survived at Chambers Bay?

The sure bet is the golf world will be tuning in early to find out. Here’s an overview of the week followed by a few thoughts and a prediction from Maderas Director of Instruction Chris Mayson.

Jordan Rules? – In a season where Spieth seems to be able to do no wrong, some are quibbling with his decision to play the John Deere the week prior instead of working on his links game playing the Scottish Open or prepping at St. Andrews. And then there’s jetlag.

Just as Spieth’s impeccable putting continues to defy all belief and reason, so may he again in prevailing over the skeptics of which there shall remain few, if any, if he wins this week.

The possible payoff not just for Spieth but for golf is huge. What’s already become the Summer of Spieth will drown out NFL training camp noise in August as the holy grail of a golf Grand Slam will dominate the headlines and discussion and give us something not even Tiger could deliver.

Given Spieth’s ability to thrive in pressure situations and elevate himself against the best, and seemingly not succumb to hype, a Sunday run at St. Andrews is the only way this story gets more incredible. And it takes no imagination to imagine that right now.

Rickie’s Run – Following a slip at the U.S. Open, Rickie Fowler regained his momentum from winning The Players to win the Scottish Open and put himself in the discussion at the British. The last five winners of the British have played the Scottish the week before. Will Rickie make it six?

Chambers aside, Rickie’s record in recent majors as good as anybody not named Rory or Jordan, and we know only one of those two is teeing it up this week.

A Tall Tiger Tale? – You have heard Tiger Woods is still playing golf and just did so reasonably well for the first time in a long time – but not a win, mind you.

This has led many, including head Tiger doubter Hank Haney, to predict a big week, and maybe even a win, for Woods – which would be consistent with Haney’s prediction in his book, by the way.

Even with Tiger’s pedigree at St. Andrews (two wins) that seems like an awful big leap after a lot of awful golf, but reviving golf’s most dormant story line is the only thing that could shake up the world more than a Spieth victory.

(By the way, just for fun, can we refer to him as Old Tiger Woods just for this week? Can we? Lord knows the dude has been playing this tournament long enough … )

Louie, Louie – Given his track record in links golf, strong play at Chambers Bay (three rounds in the 60s) and the fact he won the Open the last time it was at St. Andrews in 2010, Louie Oosthuizen is carrying contender status this week.

Will Oosthuizen be that saavy veteran (think Phil two years ago) to peak and get it done again?

Grab a Jacket – For the first time in a few years, it sounds like we’re going to have some real deal British Open weather. The Golf Channel analysts are already talking about scores soaring on Saturday as the winds as predicted to pick up considerably – up to 40 mph – after heavy rains on Friday.

That would make it an old-school Open where the champion is the one who best survives the conditions as much as the course. We haven’t seen one of those in a while, but that could be the story of 2015.

Can Spieth weather the storm, or will he just morph into Hurricane Jordan and whisk away the Claret Jug. Very soon we will begin to know. Happy Open week.

standrews_41813[1]

Now on to Chris Mayson’s prediction:

This British Open is tough to call. With the tournament being held at St Andrews it usually goes to a player that knows the intricacy of the course and has experience playing it.

With Tiger far from his best and Rory out through injury, it seems that the door is wide open for Jordan Spieth to get his third in a row but I don’t see that happening. There is so much pressure for him to do well, and he just came off a win that will certainly take some energy away. I will be so impressed if he is close to the lead, let alone win it.

I do think the course is ideal for Dustin Johnson to play well but the scars from the U.S. Open I believe will be too fresh. Typically he would be my pick.

The weather is going to be bad this week so someone is going to have to be mentally tough and know how to play in cold, wind and rain. That’s why I am going for Henrik Stenson. He’s played well the last month and even won in Sweden when it was cold and windy.

Southland: Meet Century Club CEO/President Peter Ripa

ripa post

The Century Club of San Diego, the nonprofit promotion arm for the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance at Torrey Pines, derives its name from the original donation amount asked of members.

When the club formed in 1961, members were asked to give $100, a gesture of support for their commitment to help raise funds for the fledgling tournament then known as the San Diego Open.

Just as the cost of membership has gone up – it’s now $1,250 – so has the significance, influence and impact of The Century Club.

In May, The Century Club announced that the tournament generated $3.1 donation to local charities. Century Club CEO and President Peter Ripa says awarding those donations is among the most meaningful parts of his job.

“We work with a lot of medium to smaller-sized charities,” Ripa says. “The numbers we are able to provide to them are meaningful, more so than they might be for some of the larger charities. For some of them, they’re able to do an entire summer program for kids that they otherwise couldn’t have done.”

For its overall contributions to the community, the San Diego Hall of Champions honored The Century Club with its 2015 Humanitarian Award in February. Ripa says the award had dual significance.

“The award is named after Ernie Wright, who started Pro Kids First Tee San Diego, which is one of our primary beneficiaries,” he says. “So it was ironic and special all at the same time.”

In his fourth year as CEO, the tournament has enjoyed the type of success Ripa envisioned when he took the job after serving in a similarity capacity for The Colonial, the PGA Tour’s stop in Fort Worth.

“I saw the opportunity of what this event represented. San Diego. Torrey Pines. Late January. I felt like I could sell that,” Ripa says with a wry smile.

Ripa coordinates the efforts of a group of 60 club members, the ones sporting the navy jackets at the tournament, and says the expectation of members is set from the outset.

“Our first-year members are provisional members,” he says. “Their duty is to provide warm introductions into relationships in the community, those businesses that value promoting San Diego, and let us help drive their business.”

Planning, promoting and especially improving the tournament experience are all year-round duties of The Century Club.

Ripa travels to industry events and at least six tour stops a year to glean ideas and foster relationships and partnerships. His overall emphasis has been to improve the fan experience, a primary example being the relocation of the entrance gate to near the Gliderport last year to improve efficiency of security and ticket checks.

“People were waiting 30 minutes to get in. They only way to improve that was to move the entrance. There wasn’t the opportunity in the old footprint,” he says. “We’re all fans. No one wants a 30-minute wait.
“We’ve now got the capacity, as more of our guests come through, to handle up to a 25 percent increase per year.”

Surveys showed the impact. Ticketholders and guests reported a 97 percent satisfaction rate, up from 96 the year before.

“It shows the incremental improvements from the investments. We’re working toward 100.”

Part of improving the fan experience is expanding it, Ripa says, through attention to concessions, the social experience, etc.

“What we’ve worked hard in promoting is that there’s more to experience than just the golf,” he says. “We’ve worked hard on the social areas to allow people to gather with friends and family and have a sandwich or a beer and enjoy a great day outdoors. We want them to realize the beauty of Torrey Pines and San Diego. It’s a world-class golf course.”

And as another world-class golf event – the 2021 U.S. Open – creeps closer, the Farmers, Torrey and San Diego will all benefit from the anticipation and exposure but will also be challenged to continue to provide a world-class experience.

One area getting lot of attention, Ripa says, is the rapidly expanding world of television, apps and online media and projecting what that will look like in 2021.

“The exposure for golf is growing, which will only benefit San Diego,” Ripa says. “In the end, it’s great for the players, the sponsors and the Tour as a whole, but it’s something you have to be prepared for. We want people from around the world to have access, and we’ll be ready.”

southland july

F As In Fox: Things An Epically Failed U.S Open Broadcast Could’ve Tried

train

In the days following the 115th U.S. Open, the criticism of Chambers Bay has largely died down, but the throttling of Fox has not, and with good reason.

While there’s no guarantee of another major at Chambers, Fox is contractually capable of sabotaging these things for another 11 years (Tiger will be 51 and probably still stuck on 14 majors).

Fox is a football network clearly out of its depth covering golf. They produced a clueless, lifeless broadcast that did a complete disservice to a major that gave them only everything you could ever want in a golf tournament.

We won’t waste space repeating the rightly deserved criticisms here, but the whole thing got the blog thinking about the state of golf TV broadcasts in general and here’s why:

Fox promised to break the golf broadcast mold and instead took it to the kiln and had it re-fired. How much of that was dictated by the USGA, I don’t know, but that’s of no concern here. The lack of imagination and innovation, and let’s break it down further – effort – was where a lot of the ire should be directed, but it also speaks to a larger point: There’s a stultifying lack of creativity around the game right now and in particular in golf broadcasts, which have changed how much again this century?

Maybe the networks became lazy over the past 15 years from simply having to point a camera at Tiger and pray that he made the weekend, but golf broadcasts on the whole have progressed about as far as newspapers in that time, meaning they haven’t.

Fox’s playbook seemed to be to hire Holly Sanders, point a camera at her, and the course, and pray. We see how well that worked.

As followers of the blog know, we don’t take this tone often, but we come not to denigrate but rather to be the Golf TV Think Thank Fox had two years to visit and didn’t. (Oh wait, they shaded the greens; my bad.)

What follows is a list of a few things Fox could’ve tried if it actually cared about progressing the golf broadcast model. What’s odd is that some of these come straight from the football broadcasts Fox knows well. Such as …

Mike up a player – How has this not happened? Well, we know why it didn’t happen when a certain would-be-sailor was world No. 1, but then don’t stream them live. You revisit snippets like they do with the NFL players. Is there a reason we can’t get a wire on Jordan Spieth, who is an extraordinarily and unusually verbally expressive player on the course? He talks through an entire shot process out loud with his caddie. Don’t catch random bits. Give him a mike and capture the whole thing and thereby let fans into the game, just like it does in the NFL. And if you can’t mike a player for some reason, how about a caddie?

Seriously, how has this not been done, especially in a sport perceived as mostly having generic humanoids as players? Someone with a personality and media saavy, like Pat Perez, for instance, should jump at the chance to do this.

tim-tebow2[1]jordan-spieth-sunday-interview-as-masters-champion[1]

Player profiles –
For the broadcast, this is two-fold, seeing as they eschewed any attempt to profile profiles (because Jordan Spieth is a household name already, right?) and introduce them to the uninitiated, but I more mean capturing them in a graphic box like they would with an NFL QB. Example:

Tim Tebow, Philadelphia Eagles
Strengths

Running

Weaknesses

Everything else, particularly if it involves throwing anything with laces

OK, that one is a bit exaggerated in jest, but you could easily do this in golf and give some feel for a player who’s known or unknown to you. If you don’t know the player, as a golfer you can identify to the player type. An attempt:

Jordan Spieth
Strengths

Clutch putter – the best on Tour and perhaps one of the best ever.

Unshakable on-course composure

A knack for rising to the challenge in big moments (see: 2015 Masters)

Weaknesses

A 21-year-old body doesn’t deliver some of the power of his peers – yet

A Tip To Try

Looks at the hole – not the ball – on short putts

You could capture quirks about players, especially unconventional ones like Bubba Watson, and make them known to average golfers who don’t necessarily have the acumen to catch some of this stuff.

Build a replica green complex and teach a little – Chambers Bay has the on-course footprint of a small nation state. They could’ve easily found room, and you know they had the budget, to build a 19th hole for TV purposes only that could’ve served as a place to teach. Recreate some of those crazy lies and show how they were, or could’ve been, played. On the whole, golf broadcasts teach very little in relation to what they could be doing.

You don’t want it to break up the flow of the action, but when the tournament field is in neutral – as it was for long stretches at Chambers – you’d have time to do this instead of show a parade of bogey putts.

The more golf I play the more I’m reminded how much the general public doesn’t know about the game. TV is the best vehicle for it, but they have to be committed to it. Instead, Fox committed to nothing.

tree

Document the building of Chambers Bay – The appeal of the tourney was largely the new venue, something we rarely see in a major, much less in such a break from tradition as Chambers Bay was with the U.S. Open’s traditional style of play. Having famed architect Gil Hanse on to do some course commentary was a nice thought, but not nearly enough. Something closer to the exemplary document the Golf Channel did could’ve been produced and parsed into something akin to ESPN’s 30 for 30 shorts and doled out over lulls in the action. That the course turned into such a story, which was totally predictable, only makes this even more of an oversight.

Send Joe Buck to the bench and go to the pen – Monotone Joe would’ve been great for a chess match or a bingo tournament, but not the U.S. Open. His lack of emotion, enthusiasm and any ability to set up his golf comrades, who were a JV team themselves, was a killer. (To that end, Jay Delsing? Jay Delsing? Does Jay Delsing even want to listen to Jay Delsing cover the U.S. Open?)

When you turn on ESPN for the British, you get a certain golf giddiness in the voices of Mike Tirico or say Scott Van Pelt, because they’re genuinely excited to be there. Golfers connect to that passion and are just the same turned off by a lack thereof. Buck should’ve been allowed to stay home and re-laminate his St. Louis Cardinals baseball card collection if he couldn’t get up for the big game.

Not going to speculate on replacements, but Fox has a year to figure it out. Make this priority No. 1.

Social media, anyone? – On the whole, I’m not a huge fan of Twitter/TV trend (sorry, Twitter), but I’d make an exception for golf broadcasts, which currently do none of this. I mostly don’t like that Twitter is used as a vehicle for easy sensationalism in a lot of other sports, but golf has many thought contributors who add much to the discussion and context while watching tournaments. I know because I follow these people.

It would’ve been only too easy to turn on Twitter during the Tiger-tastrophe, but I’d rather see it used to highlight great play and contribute to greater understanding of the game, but a little snark might not be a bad thing for comic relief in a sport that can always use a little. Speaking of which …

Anyone have Will Ferrell’s number? – I’m not trying to bring the Dennis Miller/MNF disaster to golf, but the game could use a lighter side along the lines of what David Feherty provides. Ferrell cut some legitimately funny short clips for Pinehurst last year (Will Ferrell predicts the British Open: “The French.”), showing a passion and interest in the game.

If you’re truly getting outside the box, why would you not try something like this? For example, Will Ferrell riffing on fescue. You wouldn’t have watched that? Really? You don’t want to make a mockery, but a laugh track certainly beats dead air or a broadcast that’s simply flat as Fox’s was.

Clearly handing Fox a 10-year deal for the Open was a major mistake. They’ve got a chance in 2016 at Oakmont to prove it wasn’t. I suggest they get busy – now.

Six Observations About Chambers Bay and the U.S. Open

train

1. “Old” School Is Cool – When I walked onto Chambers Bay for the first time, I immediately felt transported back to my couch in past Augusts at 5 a.m. when the TV greeting of “We’re coming to you live from Royal Birkdale/Troon/Portrush, etc.” would send a giddy chill down my golf spine.

I’ve never been to a British, but it has to feel a lot like this, or at least that’s the impression you get as you start to walk and discover this tree-free (OK, one) and bunkered beautiful behemoth.

It’s an 8-year-old course with the feeling of something much older and ancient because of the aged look of the course and its link to links golf, the birth of the game. Chambers feels like it’s always been here, yet its history is being made in real time. How rare and incredibly cool for golf.

For sports comparison, let’s just say, the first football to fly at Jerry World was probably cool … but not this cool.

tree

2. Background … Check – Chambers is really two experiences in one. There’s the course and then there’s the setting, which is breathtaking. The Puget Sound background would be awesome all but itself, but the touches of the tree and the train are not only stunning scenery but also incredibly smart visual branding of the course (more on this in a second).

On TV, Chambers is doing for the Pacific Northwest what the Farmers does for San Diego: It’s the best TV commercial it could ask for. Someone on local sports radio said as much yesterday … and that was by noon.

Experiencing Seattle for the first time, I can tell you the representation is spot on. The awesome just kind of keeps on going here. The only way it could be better at Chambers is if they could reposition Mt. Rainier behind a par 3 or put it on a floating barge for the week.

A scenic aside: I saw a sunset here on Wed. that blew me away. The mountains not only reflected pink, but a pink shaft of light seemed to connect the mountains to the clouds. As a sunset connoisseur … wow. My only regret is that I was massively out of position for a camera phone photo.

train

3. Three Words: Trains Are Awesome – I’d been on the course for five minutes when the first train came by. I just happened to be on No. 16 and captured the photo at top. How incredibly cool, and what an awesome way to incorporate the culture of the area into the course design.

The use of the train in the framing of the holes is an absolute masterstroke of course design. It evokes the same appreciation I have for California course designers in the way they use the ocean and mountains. There’s a serious art to this, and it’s my favorite thing about the game from a creative perspective.

Moreover, what the train does is give added identity to holes in a way you don’t see on the British courses. Aside from a few holes on St. Andrews (The Road Hole & No. 18), I can’t conjure exact visual reference of many specific holes in the British Open rotation. No disrespect, but I just see a bunch of heavily bunkered and flat generic holes, which is purely my TV perspective.

By the time Sunday is over, I think golfers will have a lot of visual reference of Chambers, partly due to the train. I realized this as soon as I sent the above photo to a golf friend, who texted back, “What hole is this? I can’t wait to watch it on TV.”

The use of the train as added backdrop for greens and tees is equally brilliant. And my guess is if/when the Open comes back here, someone will have bought a branded locomotive. In the old days, that would’ve been a total TaylorMade move.

1318 Chambers

4. Nos. 13-18, What A Finish – Watching the holes in progression for the first time yesterday, I was struck by how visually strong this course becomes from 13 (the tough par 4) on. During the practice round near this stretch, I was highly curious how it would translate on TV. The answer: It could scarcely be better.

What I really like is that the visual intimidation factor of the course comes across akin to how it does at TPC Sawgrass. This is made-for-TV golf that totally works and will only become more dramatic and effective as the tournament pressure and circumstances ramp up.

Dear Golf Gods: Can you please send us a Sunday horserace?

barge

5. TV, Take Two – Aside from greens that aren’t well, green, (I had people asking me what was wrong with them), there’s another problem: The ball and hole aren’t always easy to track here, partly due to the lack of white-green contrast you normally get in golf. “Where’s the ball?” was a common refrain in our viewing session. Golf shouldn’t be like trying to track the puck in hockey, but that’s a bit of what we’ve got here. (Switch to orange balls, anyone?)

As for the hole issue, Fox actually highlighted one with a lime green circle late in the round. That didn’t seem to be the answer, but it was good to know someone had at least identified the problem and was trying.

Otherwise, the reverse angles of the course from Fox Island (and a barge perhaps; can I sign up to run Barge Cam?) are added awesome to an overall visual production full of it.

sculpture

6. The Spectator Experience, The Other Shoe – Following this tournament on the ground is a combination of brutal and impossible, more so than just your usual difficulty at a PGA Tour event. This course is walkable in the same way the Himalayas are … it really isn’t. By comparison, Torrey Pines, for example, is a literal and figurative walk in the park.

On the ground, Chambers Bay is a steep, dirty sand box to negotiate with very few places for foot soldiers to get a great glimpse of the action. (That said, I didn’t get to 15, 16, 17, where it undoubtedly has to better than in the higher elevations.)

In what few view areas they are, fans are herded there like wildebeests meaning hardly anyone sees anything. I “heard” Phil and Bubba hit tee shots yesterday but in reality saw nothing. It’s just not very possible here.

I’m not going to drag this section out as to not detract from an overall fantastic experience. From the hospitality suite (the Trophy Room) overlooking the course on Wed., I had a blast, and that’s the way to play Chambers Bay from a fan’s perspective. You pay a little more, but you enjoy it more, are a lot less frustrated and have a perspective on golf unlike anyone other. It’s a lot like what you see on TV, which is what this place is really all about it. That’s not a criticism, just reality.

I’ve seen it before and am happy to enjoy it that way until the day I actually come here and play, which I suspect millions will want to do after seeing the broadcast this week.