The stars are clouded out in Hawaii

So Tiger, Phil and Retief aren’t showing up in Hawaii this week to kick off the first tournament of the year — and one with a guaranteed pay day. All three are apparently spending “time with the family,” and even Michael Campbell considered skipping the Mercedes Championship. Oh, and P�draig Harrington is also staying away. I think this is the answer to the question: “At what point are professional golfers overpaid?” Two major winners are staying away and the other one says he considered not playing? Tim Finchem needs to address this situation fast, before someone takes the time to pencil lame duck on his forehead.

It is time the PGA Tour addressed the issue of players not appearing at events. If the Mercedes can’t get golfers to attend — and they have to have won an event the previous year just to get an invite — how can the John Deere Classic, the or the Canadian Open expect to get anyone to come? The answer is they can’t. At some point sponsors will clue into this and once they threaten to take their purses and walk, maybe we’ll see this matter addressed. There’s a story on ESPN’s website where Jason Sobel contends players are independent contractors and therefore should not be compelled to play. That might have made sense before there were $1-billion TV deals. Now the tour relies on its stars in order to have the big money to payout every Sunday. Ignoring this is just ignoring the obvious — that golf could go the way of tennis if things don’t change.

In case you think the tournament will be dull with a number of its brightest stars missing, then read Jeff Mingay’s Golf Observer column on the Coore and Crenshaw course on which the event will be played. Mingay writes:

Designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the 7,411 yards par 73 Plantation course is somewhat of an anomaly on the pro circuits these days. In other words, it’s a course that genuinely forces the world’s best golfers to play thoughtful and inventive golf.

Anyone who has seen the course knows it is wide and full of huge downhill shots. In reality it is a difficult golf site. Coore makes this point in the article:

“We simply tried to apply traditional design principles to a non-traditional site,” says Coore. “Fairways are wide and the greens are unusually large because that’s the only way we knew how to create a playable course on such a dramatic property.”

Mingay clearly is a big fan of Coore’s work, which isn’t surprising considering its quality and the fact Jeff works alongside Rod Whitman, a Canadian golf architect who has been known to jump on a bulldozer and do some work on Coore and Crenshaw projects. He’s also co-designed courses with Coore.

Jeff also spends some time in the article discussing the resurfacing of Kapalua’s putting surfaces. The entire story is here.

If you don’t care about Kapalua at all, then read Geoff Shackelford’s interesting Links golf piece on PGA Tour pros and design. Worth a read — especially if you think PGA Tour pros put their names on projects just for the marketing value. Lorne Rubenstein writes about the death of Canadian Larry O’Brien, a man whose name you might not immediately know. O’Brien had a big impact on the Canadian Open, and we could use someone like him now.

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Jeff Lancaster

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