Random Musings

Random Musings

…I pulled out my old 1961 Walter Hagan laminated driver the other day and compared it to my modern high-tech titanium/composite driver. Guess what? I hit the modern driver all of 10 yards farther than my old one when both were hit solidly.

…Speaking of distance, the median driving distance on the PGA Tour in 2012 at the time of this writing is 288.4 yards. In 2000 (beginning of titanium era), 273.2; in 1990 (beginning of metal era), 263.1; and, in 1980, firmly in the persimmon-balata era, 256.7. Let’s use 1990 as the benchmark, because at that time few thought distance was a problem in the pro game. Over the course of 14 drives, today’s players have a 354.2-yard advantage over their counterparts of 1990…so someone please explain to me why we are lengthening courses 500 or more yards.

…The talk is that the USGA, apparently under pressure from the R&A, will agree with the R&A to ban anchored putters starting in 2016. It seems the R&A doesn’t like people using these putters win majors, as Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, and Ernie Els have done…and it’s not helping matters when Adam Scott says how great he putts with it. But, if you look at the most accurate way of measuring putting prowess on the Tour, strokes-gained, Bradley, Simpson, Els, and Scott rank 38th, 31st, 68th, and 80th, respectively. The top putters ranked 1st through 12th all use conventional putters. Need I say more?…

…Our flagship event, the United States Golf Teachers Cup, is my favorite tournament of the approximately 5-7 I play every year. Every USGTF members should play in it at least once in their career. The camaraderie, friendships, and just plain fun are not matched anywhere.
The “Open” Championship Should be re-named

The “Open” Championship Should be re-named

It’s the oldest championship in golf – The Open Championship, or, as informally known, the British Open. It has been played since 1861, when the Civil War first took hold in America.

Throughout the years, the qualifying procedure was fairly open. Not too long ago, American professionals (even club and mini-tour pros) were exempted through the first stage of qualifying and they could go directly to the finals. British professionals, rightly, didn’t like this, so this special exemption was changed a number of years ago, and more American professionals had to go through both stages of qualifying.

Fast forward to today. Most people consider the US Open and The Open to be the two most democratic tournaments in the world. This designation does apply for the US Open, but to say that The Open is democratic is, frankly, not correct. Get ready for this: Did you know that there are just 12…let me repeat, just 12…spots open to all comers? Out of the 156 spots in the field, 144 are pre-reserved for touring professionals or a few amateurs who won highly-prestigious titles.

How can you call a tournament that has only 12 spots open to all comers the most democratic? That’s absurd. There’s better access to a run-of-the-mill Web.com Tour event, which has 14 spots open every week. How did the R&A’s qualifying procedure evolve to the inequality that is has become?

American touring professionals claimed over the years it was too difficult for them to fly over to the UK to do final qualifying, so the R&A relented. They started exempting more PGA Tour professionals directly into the field, but then professionals from other tours stated complaining about bias towards the Americans. Eventually, the R&A kept cutting qualifying spots from all comers to the ridiculously low number that we have today. And, if you look at how touring professionals can qualify, it seems completely convoluted. The R&A designed “mini money lists” for both the PGA and European Tours, mainly in the month of June and July, that players can qualify from. The top golfer in the top five, not already qualified for The Open, of both the Scottish Open and the John Deere Classic get in. There are other, equally inane, ways for pros to qualify.

Silly, isn’t it? The R&A has unfortunately kowtowed to the powers-that-be on the PGA and European Tours at the expense of the very integrity of their “Open” championship. Until they reserve, say, 1/3 of the field (52 participants) to all comers, the R&A frankly has no business calling this “The” Open Championship.

“The Mainly for Touring Professionals and a Few Unworthy Stragglers Open Championship” is a more fitting name for the tournament in its current format. Shame on you, R&A, shame on you.
Where I Think Golf Is Off-Base

Where I Think Golf Is Off-Base

British golf writer John Huggin recently penned an article detesting the fact that the R&A has spent £10 million renovating all the Open courses to combat technology advances in golf. His point primarily was that courses previously provided holes with several strategic ways to play, but now are made into one-dimensional options.

There is no question that the distance people are now hitting the golf ball has altered the way many of our early golf courses were intended to be played. Courses are now toughened up by narrowing fairways, adding forced carries, or growing rough that only people with blacksmith forearms can hack through. If a person can hit the ball 30 more yards, they should be rewarded for the effort. Instead, oftentimes the greens committee or tournament setup group decides to eliminate the bold play by adding some hazard to prevent even the thought of giving it a go.

Golf seems to be the only sport that reacts to innovation by eliminating the excitement that it was intended to create. When tennis got bigger and lighter rackets, creating more powerful serves, they did not make the court larger. During the steroid era when home runs were on the rise, they didn’t move the fences back farther. Golf should have taken notice.

Forcing a person to play a hole one way is boring, especially for tour golf. People want to see risk. It’s why Phil Mickelson is so popular, as was Arnold Palmer and Walter Hagen, and now Bubba Watson. Golf used to be all about risk and reward. If it becomes a game where there is no incentive to try anything different, then it risks its players becoming bored with the game without even knowing why.