Monthly Archives: August 2008

It’s Casey and Poulter for Captain Faldo

A different drumbeat?

A different drumbeat?

I must say that I’m a bit surprised by Faldo’s decision, as is Brian Hewitt over at The Golf Channel, Steve Elling at CBS Sportsline, and Mark Garrod of Sporting Life. Why not Darren Clarke?

“It was,” Faldo said Sunday afternoon from Scotland after the public announcement of his two choices, “a tough call. You could sense that [Darren] was disappointed,” he added after confirming that he had broken the bad news to Clarke.

Hewitt, in fact, recaps the reasons in favor of Clarke:

  • 10-7-3 career record in Ryder Cup play.
  • Won twice on the European Tour this year, including just two weeks ago in the Netherlands.
  • Clarke and England’s Lee Westwood, in particular, “have been a strong Ryder Cup pairing for the Euros. They are extremely close friends.”
  • Many pundits point to the Euros “wonderful team chemistry,” of which much can be attributed theoretically to the jovial, cigar chomping and Guinness swilling Clarke, as one reason for their “smashing 9-point victories over the Americans in each of the last two Ryder Cups.”

Team chemistry aside, however, there’s no doubt that week in and week out, Poulter and Casey are probably in a different league than is Clarke. And it appears that intangibles such as team leadership or who can drink the most lager at team functions weren’t part of Faldo’s mindset.

Furthermore, Faldo seemed to relish in the role as bearer of bad news, at least with another seasoned Ryder Cup vet, Colin Montgomerie. Hewitt notes, for example:

[Monty] does have a 20-9-7 career record in the event. And he probably deserved better from Faldo than what he got. Asked if he had contacted Montgomerie, Faldo said he had left him a phone message.

Faldo added that the reason he missed connections with Monty was because, “apparently he was watching football this afternoon. Or shopping. One or the other.”

Was that really necessary?

All I can say is, thank god for the circus that has been the European team and the kind of press attention (at least in the UK) that Faldo has brought to the matter. Consider for a second, that if golf wonks didn’t have the Poulter-Casey-Clarke-Monty foursome and all of its sniping to salivate over these past few weeks, they would’ve been forced to muse over the theoretical “merits” of Hunter Mahan over J.B. Holmes for Team Azinger. Ugh.

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Filed under Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke, Hunter Mahan, Ian Poulter, J.B. Holmes, Nick Faldo, Paul Casey, Ryder Cup

IMG to Bivens: See You in Court

Oh yeah, this is going to get ugly real quick. 

Jon Shaw of SportsBusiness Journal, on the possible legal actions already being mulled by various sports agents over at IMG and other firms.

Howard Simon, Exec Dir of Florida’s ACLU chapter, said it was premature to challenge the policy because no suspensions have been handed down, but said the LPGA is “inviting litigation on this matter.” Simon: “If they attempt to impose this rule in the state of Florida, where the LPGA is headquartered and we have fairly robust state civil rights laws, and they exclude a player that might otherwise be qualified except for English fluency, I think the LPGA will be hit with a bunch of lawsuits from the ACLU and players affected by the policy.”

The best quote, though, is here, from IMG’s Michael Yim:

“What other dumb things can the LPGA do?” said Yim, a Korean American. “I understand English is important for players to communicate with sponsors but you have to realize this is a professional sport. These are athletes who are entertaining fans. It should be based on performance. Everybody should be equal.”

His colleague, Chris Armstrong, added:

“It’s very surprising to me how it came out and the way it came out. It’s a pretty bold policy to unveil without any substance or explanation.”

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Filed under IMG, LPGA Tour

“She is a tough cookie, a bit like Hilary Clinton”

Sal Johnson’s piece goes into much depth about the current LPGA kerfuffle.  Of interest to many will be a nice recap of Bivens’ track record to date, a rough and tumble timeline to say the least that has left “Brand Lady,” as blogger and former SI writer Geoff Shackelford derisively labels her, with very few friends.

One thing we learned early about Bivens was that she isn’t very “golfsavoy” and it’s been a big learning curve for her to not only learn about the LPGA but learn how to deal with the people that run golf tournaments and players needs. Bivens doesn’t have the great personality that her three previous predecessors had, dealing with people has been an uncomfortable act and frankly she doesn’t have many friends especially in the media.

Bivens hasn’t spent the time in trying to erase these deficiency and her total approach tends to give negative vibes instead of instilling confidence in people. Some examples of this, in her first six months on the job she tried to strong arm media companies in the fact that they had to give away their rights to images and stories. Instead of trying to meet with the people in control, explain how the LPGA needed more control of their images worldwide, she put into effect rules and regulations that media companies felt would harm them and take away a lot of their control. Bivens lost that battle and at the same time didn’t make many friends in the media.

Bivens also has tried to strong arm the folks that owned LPGA events into paying higher rights fees. Instead of really taking the time and massaging those folks, Bivens just told them that for the good of the LPGA they needed to pay up or risk losing their event. On the surface the LPGA got more money as tournaments paid up but in the back rooms those that were forced to pay weren’t very happy in the tactics.

Another example of Bivens not handling things very well is her dealings with television executives in trying to attract more money. Right now the only entity that pays the LPGA for rights fees is Korea and Japan. The LPGA doesn’t control the U.S. Women’s Open and part of the Ricoh Women’s British Open. The events that they control are mostly on ESPN and Golf Channel, with some events on NBC and CBS. All these events are time buys, the LPGA pays the network a fee for the time plus expenses in covering the events and the LPGA get reimbursed through selling the time. Bivens has been headstrong and told her players that she will be looking to secure rights fees for LPGA television properties in 2010.

In getting this going it’s been rumored that she has shunned both ESPN and Golf Channel to the point that they may not want to deal with her, again Biven’s rough personality not winning many friends. It’s also rumored that she is working on a deal with NBC and CBS for about 11 events, but it doesn’t look like she will get a rights fee for this and is trying to get some fancy financial deals in place, going to the tournament owners and sponsors for the money in order to try and coax NBC and CBS into a deal. The jury is still out on these dealings but could blow up to the fact that to coax ESPN and Golf Channel back Bivens would have to sweeten the pot shall we say.

Lastly Bivens seems to have a problem getting sponsors to pony up in a very rough economy. Yes this has always been a problem for the LPGA but it seems worst now. Already sponsors have left, the Ginn Tribute, Fields Open, Safeway International are gone for 2009. The sponsors of the SemGroup Championshhip filed for Chapter 11 so it looks like that sponsor and even could be gone.

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Filed under Carolyn Bivens

“$10,000 for little or no conversation”

The Golf Channel’s Brian Hewitt weighs in on the LPGA’s new english language internment camp language requirement, and gets down to the nitty gritty of it all: the big wigs ponying up the big bucks at the pro ams weren’t getting their asses kissed enough by the polite, petite Asian girls.

I have watched LPGA Pro-Ams and seen the stereotype: Four cigar-chomping, middle-aged American men saying hello to a 22-year-old South Korean woman who bows at the introduction on the first tee. There are smiles but very few words exchanged over the next five and a half hours after which the men scratch their heads and wonder why their foursome paid $10,000 for little or no conversation.

My retort?  What these Cutter & Buck wearing execs don’t seem to get is that if they took just two seconds to observe how these women play the game, their swings, their tempo, the way they manage their ball, etc., they would get an infinitely greater ROI (return on “investment”) than if said player spent the five six hours telling jokes and inside stories, gabbing, and generally pretending like she really wanted to be there and that these guys were genuinely interesting people and moreover a hoot to be around.

The bottom line?  Very few professional golfers actually enjoy the pro-ams, even the few who are good at them and seem like they are having a good time.  To think that even a rudimentary command of english will turn the “offenders” in this case into glib, quasi-comedian entertainers, all for the benefit of sponsors, is absolutely absurd.

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Filed under LPGA Tour

Take that, South Korea!

Your play is no good here anymore

Your play is no good here anymore

It’s hard to know what to say anymore. The LPGA, and professional women’s golf in general, has become so inundated with negatives of late–the Michelle Wie scorecard kerfuffle, the lost sponsorships, the ever sinking television ratings and attendance figures, the demise of Golf for Women–that I was pretty sure that as bad as things were looking for the game, things just couldn’t get any worse. Well, Annika’s retiring at season’s end. But you know, after that.

Well, leave it to LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens (pictured left) to prove me wrong:

At a mandatory South Korean player meeting Aug. 20 at the Safeway Classic, the tour informed its largest international contingent that beginning in 2009, all players who have been on tour for two years must pass an oral evaluation of their English skills. Failure would result in a suspended membership.

Wait, this is from The Onion, right?

Hilary Lunke, president of the Player Executive Committee, said much of this initiative stems from the importance of being able to entertain pro-am partners. Players already are fined if the LPGA receives complaints from their pro-am partners. Now the tour is taking it one step further.

So we’re not going to at least try and deny that this has something to do with corporate money?

“The bottom line is, we don’t have a job if we don’t entertain,” Lunke said. “In my mind, that’s as big a part of the job as shooting under par.”

Um, Hilary? I thought playing great golf was what’s “entertaining.” You know, hitting good shots and shooting low scores? Something you rarely do anymore, by the way, and something the South Koreans are proving far, far better at?

Se Ri Pak was one of many Koreans who supported the tour’s position but favored a fine. The LPGA’s Galloway, however, said an impression must be made that communicating effectively in English is fundamental to the tour’s business.

Of course, the next time Michelle Wie uses the word ‘like’ a dozen times in one sentence (not exaggerating; it’s been documented), there will be a special exemption. Like, right?

“The LPGA could come out and say they only want 10 Koreans, but they’re not,” [Angela] Park said. “A lot of Korean players think they are being targeted, but it’s just because there are so many of them.”

Well they are being targeted.  No one can understand their victory speeches.  Perhaps if they just didn’t win so darn much!?  The next step should be to build a fence around the course. That’ll keep ’em out!

Kate Peters, executive director of the LPGA State Farm Classic, supported the news. “This is an American tour. It is important for sponsors to be able to interact with players and have a positive experience.”

But isn’t the LPGA actively trying to secure new sponsorships in Asia?  Ooops.

The tour will rely on its communication staff to help identify players who need to be evaluated. International players who already demonstrate English proficiency will not be approached.

George Orwell couldn’t have written this any better.

LPGA members are encouraged to use the support systems already in place such as the Kolon-LPGA Cross-Cultural Professional Development Program and the Rosetta Stone online language program.

Rosetta Stone!  Of course!  They could be a sponsor, Carolyn!

In short, I sincerely hope that this is the straw the breaks the LPGA Tour’s proverbial back.  Women’s golf certainly has a place, but not in a part of the world where no one cares, on rinky dink courses and in terrible time slots (when it’s even being televised, that is!)  As I’ve said before, I think that the LPGA has no business existing on U.S. soil, when its predominant fan and sponsorship base exists in Southeast Asia.  A world tour for women’s professional golf, based in Seoul and Singapore, with a May-August swing that includes North America.  That’s the ticket.

Thoughts?

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Filed under LPGA Tour

Lee to stay an amateur

Get some sleep

Get some sleep

Following a 5&4 formality over Drew Kittleson, Danny Lee lifted the U.S. Amatuer trophy at Pinehurst. In doing so, he may have culminated the most impressive performance in the tournament’s storied history, and that includes all of Tiger’s thrilling comebacks. Consider, for a second, that Lee was not only coming off a convincing win at the Western Amateur earlier this month, but that last week he competed on the PGA Tour at The Wyndham and finished T20. From there, it was off to Pinehurst and two days of stroke play among 315 contestants, followed by the 64-man match play. That’s over a dozen consecutive rounds of competitive play in as many days, and a nary a glitch or mental hiccup during any of them (though his shoulder gave out late this week; nothing some Advil couldn’t fix though).

Lee, by the way, will remain an amateur until next summer, in order to take advantage of the perks his newfound Amateur champion status entails.

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Filed under Danny Lee, U.S. Amateur

Did Clarke just play his way onto Team Faldo?

Even his hair is excited

Even his hair is excited

A convincing 66 on Sunday at the KLM Open left Darren Clarke in the winner’s circle, and many a pundit wondering whether or not he had indeed just sealed his invitation to join Nick Faldo’s Ryder Cup squad next month in Louisville at Valhalla.

John Huggan had noted this morning, for example, that the odds were likely slim for Clarke entering the day, but that given the fact that Monty is more or less a given no show, Faldo may have been looking for a reason–any reason–to somehow include the personable Irishman on his roster.

Clarke has more of a chance [than Monty] of making his sixth Ryder Cup appearance at Valhalla, but only if Casey or Poulter play their way on to the team before next Sunday evening and the big Ulsterman shows any sort or form. Shorn of Monty, the side perhaps needs a big personality in the team room and Clarke amply fills that role.

Meanwhile, over at The Barclays, Casey is in a final round dogfight for the lead, while Poulter slammed his trunk on Friday and is still likely stewing over the missed audition in front of Faldo on CBS this weekend that Casey is so opportunistically taking advantage of.

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Filed under Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Ryder Cup