Drop In Distance

There has been a drop in distance off the tee this year and now we only have eleven golfers averaging more than 300 yards per drive.

The Numbers GameLast year, one of The Sand Trap‘s favorite golf course architects had a regular update his site about the number of players averaging over 300 yards on the PGA Tour. This year, he’s spared us from such updates. I didn’t really understood why until I took a closer look.

There were 26 players last year averaging over 300 yards per drive. This year, it has dropped to eleven. This week in The Numbers Game I’ll look not only at the longer players, but the rest of the tour to see if the drop in distance is spread out and how it affects another stat.

The FedExCup: Failure from the Start?

The 2007 FedExCup details are now known, and all they’ve done is firm my belief that it will be a massive failure.

FedExCupAs I write this, a ticker at pgatour.com/fedexcup informs me that I have but 184 days, 1 hour, 22 minutes, and four seconds until the start of the 2007 PGA Tour season and, by implication, the beginning of a “New Era” in golf – the FedExCup.

Earlier this week, Tim Finchem laid out the rules, points distributions, and the other mundane details of what will certainly become the most mundane “playoff” system in all of modern sport. It is, after all, the only playoff system in which nobody is eliminated and which accepts participants who won’t even be in the league the following season.

The announcement has stirred the pot of discussion, and though everyone from John Hawkins to us here at The Sand Trap has an opinion, I’ve yet to see one supporting the plan.

Carolyn Bivens, Courageously Running LPGA Into the Ground

Carolyn Bivens is making a mess of the LPGA Tour, and unless she changes her attitude or someone wises up and cans her, the LPGA Tour may be headed for some bad, bad times.

Carolyn BivensCarolyn Vesper Bivens has been at the helm of the LPGA Tour for less than one year, and I am hopeful that she won’t last long enough to blow out the candles on a second anniversary cake.

Bivens’ task was perhaps one of the easiest facing any sports commissioner to date: sell the LPGA Tour to the sponsors, the media, and the fans. She’s failed miserably on all accounts.

Her failure comes at a time when the LPGA Tour might not be easier to sell. Annika Sorenstam still dominates, but youthful, energetic, and attractive gals named Paula Creamer, Lorena Ochoa, Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie, Cristie Kerr, Natalie Gulbis, and Christina Kim have suddenly come about. Se Ri Pak and Karrie Webb have even returned to form this year, taking the first two majors of the year.

Final Round of the 2006 U.S. Open

We’re live blogging the final round of the 2006 U.S. Open. Will Phil Mickelson rack up the third leg of a Mickelslam, or will someone else walk away with the trophy?

Geoff Ogilvy7:27 – Johnny Miller: “I’ve never seen such a finish in championship golf.”

7:11 – Phil plays the last two holes at the U.S. Open +3 to lose to 29-year-old Geoff Ogilvy.

7:07 – Phil runs his ball into the thick greenside rough from the bunker. I think I’ve seen a lot of miracles in my day, but holing out here may just top them all. It would top Tiger’s 16th-hole chip-in at the 2005 Masters. Barring this miracle, Geoff Ogilvy is the 2006 U.S. Open Champion.

7:05 – Johnny Miller: “Man, he [Phil] got a couple bad breaks on the lies, didn’t he?” Uhhmmm, no??? Only the two bunker shots in the last two holes.

7:03 – Phil hits his third shot into the greenside bunker. Par is virtually out of the question now. He has to get up and down to get into a playoff or Geoff Ogilvy will win the 2006 U.S. open. Johnny Miller again: “just crazy shot selection.”

Promise Meets Reality: Michelle Wie Fails in Open Bid

She’s getting closer. But the 16-year-old prodigy still has some growing to do. I can’t wait till she gets there.

In what is sure to go down as one of the most over-reported, over-hyped, and over-analyzed golf events of the year, Michelle Wie faltered over the back nine of her second round at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, NJ to finish five shots out of a playoff for a spot in the upcoming U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

That, of course, is the big story. But I had a chance to witness her attempt, watch some of my friends try to qualify, and came away with a different angle on the day.

Michelle Wie Sectional Wide

U.S. Open Sleepers

All the big guns are favorites to win at Winged Foot, but which golfers have a chance to sneak up on the field and win their first major championship?

Thrash TalkI want to start off this week’s Thrash Talk by congratulating my Oklahoma State Cowboys on winning another national championship in golf. The men’s team outlasted the Florida Gators en route to winning their 10th national championship in the sport. On top of that, redshirt freshman Jonathan Moore won the individual title for the Cowboys. Needless to say, it has been a great weekend for this proud Okie.

Now that my personal pride is out of the way, it’s time to start the U.S. Open talk. The season’s second major championship is a little over a week away, and I’m definitely ready for it. The last time a PGA Tour major was played at Winged Foot, Davis Love III won in memorable fashion. Love’s putt on the 72nd hole is still one of my fondest golf memories of all time.

On Furrows, Whining, and Winning

I don’t care if they fill the bunkers with aluminum pop tabs – the conditions are the same for every golfer. Just go play!

There’s no whining in golf. Unless, of course, you’re a PGA Tour pro at this week’s Memorial Tournament. This week, some (most?) pros are busy whining about the furrowed bunkers. They’re “unfair.” Players “weren’t warned.” They introduce “luck” to the game. And on and on…

Muirfield Village Range Rake
The golfers at this week’s Memorial Tournament will play under the same conditions, so what’s the beef?

Memorial Journal, Day Two – Seeing and Being Seen

A whole lot of images from Tuesday at The Memorial at Muirfield Village.

The Memorial TournamentTuesday at The Memorial is mainly about two things: the induction ceremony for the year’s honorees and the clinic Jack Nicklaus and selected PGA Tour golfers put on for the benefit of a small crowd. This year, Bubba Watson pounded drives out of (Jack’s) sight and José Maria Olazabal demonstrated his tremendous wedge game.

Of course, neither of those events are particularly newsworth, so I ventured onto the course to take a slew of pictures. A few gigabytes heavier, I returned with a helpful dose. I’ve hand selected a few for you here. Yes, this version will be light on the commentary and heavy on the imagery, so click through and wait just a bit for the images to load. I hope you find the wait worthwhile…

PGA Tour, Nicklaus Experiment with Furrowed Bunkers at Memorial

Brows are furrowed over “Jack’s New Rake” at Muirfield Village. Furrowed bunkers have returned to the PGA Tour, at least as a one-week trial.

The Memorial TournamentI’ve long argued for making bunkers on the PGA Tour penal. Too many good golfers, particularly on par fives, aim for bunkers and prefer a lie on the beach than any in greenside rough.

That may all change soon if the PGA Tour’s experiment this week at Muirfield Village during The Memorial Tournament proves successful. The Tour is trying out a new rake that gently furrows bunkers this year, and the early feedback is that it’s working.

The PGA Tour has, to this point, only talked about acting on their threat to do something about the bunkers, but in place of fine-toothed rakes, contestants (and their caddies) will find widely spaced and long-toothed rakes made of wood. The result: less consistent lies and tougher shots.