Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Golf Channel makes a double bogey on Solheim coverage

The Golf Channel scored a distasteful double bogey for their coverage of Sunday's single matches in the Solheim Cup. While the play was exciting, TGC let the out of the drama balloon about every five or six minutes.

It appears that TGC has abandoned the coverage of golf for the broadcasting of commercials. The statistics provide the cold hard truth. In the five and a half hours of broadcast time when there was actually golf being played (11:00 AM to 4:30 PM EDT), TGC ran commercials or self-indulgent promos 24% of the time. The actual numbers are here: 330 minutes of broadcast time with 82 minutes of commercials. (Yes, we sat through the whole broadcast and did the agonizing math.)

One could tell we were heading down Commercial Lane in the first fifteen minutes of coverage. Match One featuring Creamer vs. Pettersen began play at 8:05 AM. Within a minute of the two ladies walking off the tee, TGC went to commercial for three minutes. When TGC returned, we had the privilege of watching a tape delay of Creamer's second shot. Tape delay! One match on the golf course and we can't get a live shot. And this commercial onslaught continued for the next five hours.

And if you think TGC doesn't have a couple of favorites, you are sadly mistaken. If you wanted to watch Creamer, Wie, or Kim, you were in golf heaven. [Which brings to mind the Solheim promo which aired several times on Sunday featuring Captain Beth Daniel leading her team from the corn fields of Illinois onto the playing field, all ala Field of Dreams. Would it be too much to say this was corny?] In the first three hours of coverage at least 75% was dedicated to the previously mentioned three ladies. TGC virtually shunned nine other matches. The Kristy McPherson vs. Catriona Matthew match teed off at 11:50. Two hours into their match we had still not seen a single shot of the match. The first tiny glimpse of the match occurred at 3:10 PM on their fourteenth hole. Twenty-eight minutes later Matthew had won the match.

It all seemed like twelve matches was too much to handle. We were provided a very limited quantity of overall match updates. One would think total match updates would be put on the screen just before each commercial. At least at that rate we would have been updated half a dozen times per hour.

The Golf Channel should not post this score for handicap purposes.

Photo:Getty Images

Friday, August 21, 2009

Solheim Cup primer

You can hunt around the Internet for a while to get info on the upcoming Solheim Cup. But why would you do that? Why would you make a bogey on a 107-yard par-3 with absolutely no trouble in sight. So, stay right here. Get your Solheim Cup briefing before the big event starts.

The Solheim Cup is a biennial event between female teams from the United States and Europe. It starts today and goes through Sunday. The format is similar to the annual male events - Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. Here's the schedule for the matches: Friday and Saturday AM is four-ball matches followed by foursome matches each afternoon. Then on Sunday comes the grand finale – singles matches.

That's lots of golf and our friends at The Golf Channel will be there for virtually every swing and putt on Friday (9 AM – 2 PM and 4-6 PM) Saturday (9 AM – 6 PM) and Sunday (11 AM – 4:30 PM). That's pretty much wall-to-wall coverage.
Each team has twelve players decided by various qualification criteria. Suffice it to say that the final team make up always makes for interesting examination. This year each team has three rookies, the most notable being Michelle Wie of the U.S. Should be fun to watch how the matches go down with her. Hit the Solheim Cup link above to get a look at the teams.

The event is being played at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, IL, a 6670-yard, links-style course. One intrigue of this course is that each hole has been named with a purpose. Visit the website for more info. Unfortunately it's a private course so you won't get to test it out after the ladies play.

Now here's the scoop. The U.S. team leads the biennial series, 7-3, and has never lost at home. On paper, and we all know how this “on paper” thing works, the U.S. is a heavy favorite. But remember, this whole event is contested at match play, that's hole-by-hole. If you pull a Paddy Harrington and make an eight, it doesn't ruin your whole tournament, just one hole.

What's great fun about this format is the match-ups you get. For instance today's morning matches feature two great matches. First Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer face Suzann Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson in the opening match. Kerr and Creamer are the Nos. 3 and 4 players in the world, but both Petterson and Gustafson have been playing well.

Next, and probably most interesting, is the final match featuring Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie against Catriona Matthew and Maria Hjorth. Pressel and Wie are, of course, the great young hopes of American ladies golf. In the past however, these two have not agreed on how to hit a two-foot putt never mind how to work as a best-ball team. This should be most entertaining to watch.

So now you should watch. Get to your television for the 9 AM start.

Monday, August 17, 2009

91st PGA Championship – the day the music died

Golf as we know it in the United States will never be the same. No longer will Nike be able to sell $125 Drivers for $425. No longer will two small boys at a golf camp somewhere in South Dakota have a putting contest with the winner laying claim to the fact that he beat Tiger Woods. No longer will the major championship sun rise in the East and set in the West. No longer will major champions come from the eastern side of the International Dateline.

Yes, there is no doubt the axis of the golfing world was turned a complete ninety degrees at approximately 7:00 PM EDT. That's when the motion of the golf world was totally reversed – like when superman reversed the rotation of the earth. But this time superman is a 37-year old Korean father of three with the courage of a lion. You may find him at the next PGA Tour stop in your city working under the assumed name of Y.E. Yang.

Don't be deceived. Do not put your game up against his. For this is the only man to face down the Tiger in a major championship battle. And he did it by slight of hand, by beating the Tiger at his own game. When the Tiger hit a good shot, the Lion hit a better one. When the Tiger got a good break, the Lion insisted to the golf gods that he get a better one. And on the final gaming field, the 72nd hole, just when you thought the Tiger would make one last stand, the Lion struck with a 3-hybrid around trees over a green-side bunker and stopping just eight feet from the hole. The last blow had been struck. David had slung the stone straight into Goliath's forehead and he had tumbled to the earth. Golf from this moment on will never be the same.
Photo: Getty Images

Sunday, August 16, 2009

PGA Championship 3rd Round Thoughts

All is still well in the golf world. Tiger still has the lead at the PGA Championship, all this despite a mediocre score on Saturday. Woods played for the fat of every green and had about 30-40 feet for birdie on every hole. Only twice did he stuff it inside ten feet. He made one of the two. All this added up to a very unexciting one-under 71. Meanwhile all around him, other were shooting at the flags and making birdies. Y.E. Yang made six, Harrington four, Stenson five. Well, you get the picture and it becomes 3-D when you know Tiger made just one birdie. But, I suspect that won't happen today.

What will happen? I expect a quiet day, not a lot of low numbers. Tiger will probably be able to win the title with a 70 or 71. But, anyone within four shots of Tiger has chance. Why four shots? Simple, because only one player outscored Tiger by four yesterday, even as conservative as he played. Unfortunately only four players are within four shots – Yang, Harrington, Stenson, Glover. I still look for Glover to be the biggest threat.

Which is kind of a good transition into the television coverage. With only five players with a realistic chance of winning, be prepared to see coverage of only four or five players. You might get a glimpse of native Minnesotan Tom Lehman or long-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, but that will be about the extent. If you have Direct TV search out some of its alternative coverage beginning at Channel 701. You'll at least be able to watch play on the par-3's. Plus they also have some fun statistics such as every players heart rate, average number of minutes taken to decide which club to hit, average number of minutes taken to line up a putt, and number of times they wave to the crowd after making birdie par or bogey.

Nevertheless, it will all be great fun watching “Glory's Last Shot.”

Saturday, August 15, 2009

PGA Championship halfway with Tiger in the lead

Yes, we know, not a very catchy headline but what's inside is original, witty, and insightful. Actually there are some very astute thoughts on the 91st PGA Championship.

We all know Tiger led the field after Round 1. Perhaps a bit unusual. Tiger seems to wins his major championships with great play on the weekends. So, of course, when Tiger took the lead on the first lap virtually every golf writer was volunteering to put the Wanamaker trophy in Tiger's car. They couldn't slobber enough over how Tiger would win his fifteenth professional major. Here's a sampling: Rex Hoggard for The Golf Channel; Martin Rogers for Yahoo Sports: Bob Harig for ESPN; and Barker Davis for the Washington Times. And the list goes on and on.

Now these veteran scribblers should now that in golf, especially in golf, the tournament is not over until the fat lady sings. Take this year's Masters and British Open as an example.

What we can say though is that Tiger's odds have dropped significantly. See if you can get your favorite bet taker to give you 2 to 1 on Tiger. If you do let us all know.

One wonderful element about the PGA Championship is that it invites many (or most) of its past champions back for another go at the title. Unfortunately, many of them don't make the cut. Here's a few that you won't see this weekend: Mark Brooks, Davis Love III, Steve Elkington, Paul Azinger, Shaun Micheel, and John Daly (WD).

Now the questions is who, out of those remaining anywhere near the top of the leaderboard, could possibly challenge Tiger? Interestingly there are five players four strokes behind Tiger. Of those five three are major championship winners. If anyone of them can nip at El Tigre's heels, it will be Lucas Glover.

And the most interesting pairing today ...Woods and Singh. It will be entertaining to observe the interaction between the two.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

PGA Championship odds

There comes a time in every golfer's life when he or she must take the gamble, try to pull off the shot of a lifetime. You know, hit the high cut shot around the pond trying to get the ball close to a back right hole location. Golfers are instinctively gamblers in one sense or another.

With that in mind the staff here at Eye On Golf, the leader in truly meaningful golf advice has compiled a few thoughts (and odds) on the PGA Championship which begins today. Just in case you're still suffering from Tiger overload, the tournament in being played at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, MN. The PGA was fortunate to schedule the tournament here at this time, the only week of summer in grand ol' Minnesota.

Tiger Woods 2-1: Even though this is his third event in a row going for his third win in a row, how do you wager against this guy? And you know he'll be somewhere on the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.

Stewart Cink 5-1: Now he knows how to win a major AND how to Twitter. What would be more exciting than Cink and Tiger in a playoff for the championship?

Phil Mickelson 10-1: Not sure Phil is totally focused on his golf. (Would you be?) But ya never know.

Steve Stricker – Sergio Garcia – Lee Westwood 15-1: Come on guys, it's about time for one of you three to man-up and win a major.

Retief & Ernie 22-1: Both these guys will probably look good for a while but …

The Field 75-1: Yes, there's a really good chance for another first time major championship winner. We've already had two this year and would have had three save that an Augusta pine was leaning the wrong way. Look through the list and make your choice except for the following.

Sentimental Selections

Kenny Perry 12-1: We were going to put him with Stricker and the boys, but after that Masters heartbreak we wanted to give Kenny a break.

Paul Goydos 20-1: You may not know it but Goydos has been playing pretty well this year. He's had experience at the highest level and he's a damned nice guy.

If picking the winner of a golf tourament wasn't so difficult, any of these would be a sure bet.

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The PGA Tour has an unplayable lie

With all the drama going on off the course this week it's a a little difficult to believe that the players at this week's PGA Championship have total focus on the mission at hand. The aftermath of the Tiger & Paddy ruling debacle has pushed the PGA Tour into an unplayable lie from which they have no idea of their options.

Let's first set the stage: At a critical moment of Sunday's final round – the 16th hole with Paddy in the lead by one – rules official john Paramor tells them they are on the clock. Paddy speeds us (translation: gets out his normal rhythm), makes an 8 and looses the tournament. In the post-round press conference Tiger calls the action of the official into question by saying, “I’m sorry that John got in the way of a great battle.” On Monday an anonymous PGA Tour official told the AP that Tiger would be fined. Understand that anything to do with player discipline on the PGA Tour is done with anonymity and a certain amount of cloak and dagger. Now on Tuesday the PGA Tour says there is no fine. Tiger reported, “I’ve heard from the tour and there’s no fine. That was an erroneous report.”

So now, what has the PGA Tour wrought. Actually they have wrought rot. Did they back off because it was Tiger Woods? Perhaps. They sure don't want to bite the hand that feeds them. (This is an example of ironic reversal.) What if the PGA Tour really ticked off Tiger and he decided to take his game elsewhere? Go ahead and speculate on that scenario if you so desire.

But what if the finegate was generated by a giant lack of communication or worse yet total incompetence? That is a possibility. First an anonymous PGA Tour person says there will be a fine for Tiger and then within twenty-four hours Ty Votaw, PGA Tour V-P of Something, makes the following statement, “The information that was conveyed to the reporter was inaccurate. There has been no process started with respect to any disciplinary action. Based on the reports we have read, Tiger’s comments related to the impact of the decision. We did not read them as being an unreasonable attack or disparaging.”

Ta-da, there you have it. With an incredible amount of backspin, Votaw has done away with finegate.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tiger and Paddy timed out

Here's a quick golf history quiz for you. When was the last time a golf tournament was decided by the clock? Well, we have taken a poll of our entire staff and the answer here is “NEVER.” But yesterday's finale to the Bridgestone Championship supporting rubber manufacturers around the world may be a first.

Tiger and Paddy were dueling it out in an epic battle with ball and club. Tiger begins the round three shots behind but shoots 30 on the front nine to Paddy's even par 35 and takes a two shot lead. Then Tiger stumbles a bit on holes 13-15 with a couple of bogeys while Paddy makes two pars and a birdie. The lead has changed again. Paddy is looking the Tiger right in the eye. Then as they get to the monstrous par-5 16th. A rules official informs them they are on the clock. Bingo, instantly the mood has changed. In a matter of seconds PGA European Tour rules official John Paramor has single handedly squelched one of the best duels of the year.

You know the rest of the story. Both men hurry up and hit their tee shots – Tiger way left, Paddy way right. In order to speed up Tiger next plays out of turn and hacks it down the fairway. Paddy follows with a horrible recovery and, still trying to play quickly whacks and slaps to a triple bogey eight. Meanwhile , Tiger hits one miraculous 8-iron from 180 yards to about four inches and makes birdie. That's it, end of tournament. Thank you Mr. Paramor.

You can read a couple of pieces from from Doug Ferguson here or Steve Elling here.

Consider this: Being a rules official in any sporting event involves precise judgment, an uncompromising attitude and a certain amount of stubborn egotism. Paramor has managed to embody the second and third characteristics. It is the first that finds him lacking.

The PGA Tour lost control of slow play a long time ago. Accord to Ferguson, Dillard Pruitt was the last player penalized for slow play. That was 1982! The PGA Tour has already infected the game to the point that the patient is now dying of the disease. Countless golf organizations have done research on the cure, but to no avail. This slow play cancer is contagious and its spreading. It will kill the game.

As for the PGA Tour and Mr. Paramor it does not make any difference how fast or slow someone plays. Everyone now knows that golf is a slow game. The best way now to attract new players to the game is through heroic battles of two titans – like the one that got through fifteen holes at Firestone.

Friday, August 07, 2009

THE BACK NINE: An eagle of a golf documentary

Let's face it, golf movies or movies with golf somehow intertwined into the plot are not very common. They are certainly not like baseball movies. So, when any media genre that has golf at the center of the plot is released, we perk up and pay attention.

Recently we received notice concerning the impending release of a new movie with golf as its focal point. Excitedly we were able to procure a review copy; apologetically we must say that we are a little tardy with this review. That being said, it's worth the wait.

“THE BACK NINE” is actually a documentary, a view into the life of independent filmmaker Jon Fitzgerald who challenges himself with the question: Can an average 42-year old golfer, husband and father of two become an elite athlete? Fitzgerald's quest is to ultimately become a professional golfer.

You may think this would result in a remake of Mission Impossible. But Fitzgerald does not take this challenge lightly. It's not just a few days at the driving range and several rounds of golf. Applying the methodology of today's professional golfers, he assembles a high-end support team to guide him through the process. He enlists the services of PGA instructor Tim Suzor of the Kinetic Golf Academy in Scottsdale, AZ , distinguished author Dr. Joe Parent (Zen Golf) to work on his mental game, and yoga guru Katherine Roberts, a Golf Channel favorite and positive thinking enthusiast, and a host of various coaches to help with fitness and nutrition.

Fitzgerald dives into the task all the while trying to juggle golf, family, business and whatever other obstacles life places in the way. And that become the meat of the matter and the challenge at hand. How does one devote enough time to develop a competitive golf game while simultaneously dealing with the birth of a baby, a renewed relationship with one's father, a business that requires time away from family and golf.

Remarkably, Fitzgerald meets with considerable success. But it is not the ending that is important in this documentary. Rather, it is the journey that gets him from the first day on the lesson tee to his final putt in the Golf Channel Amateur Tour Championship.

You can get a sneak peek at “THE BACK NINE” with this link here. But, like golf, that will likely not be enough for satisfaction. Do whatever it takes to see the complete production.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tiger’s ratings trump two majors

There’s no doubt about it. When Tiger plays golf, people watch. They watch at the expense of any other golf event and virtually any other sporting event.

Playing in what was undoubtedly the final Buick Open, Tiger dominated the airwaves just as he dominated the competition. In Sunday’s final round the CBS broadcast drew a rating/share of 4.0/9. That’s the highest rating for the event since 2006 which coincidently Tiger won also.

Tiger’s winning performance was bad news for the U.S. Senior Open which drew a 0.6/1. Here in the Phoenix area these two events were televised opposite each other. Was there any question as to who would win the television wars? Fred Funk and Greg Norman provided no media competition for Tiger.

It was pretty good news though for the Women’s British Open which aired via tape delay before Tiger and the Geriatrics competed. The ladies garnered a 1.0/3 rating.

You can also look for the PGA Tour’s ratings to be up the next two weeks also. Tiger’s schedule includes this week’s World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship, the 2009’s final major, the following week.

The next event for the LPGA is the Solheim Cup on August 21-23 from Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, IL. This team competition between the USA and the Europeans should provide some good golf and descent television ratings.
(Photo courtesy Getty images.)