Jack's not in Memorial field; No Golf Channel for Rogers; New NatPost column

For the first time in three decades, Jack Nicklaus isn’t playing the [photopress:jack_1.jpg,full,alignright]Memorial. At least he’s bowing out before he starts to shoot 85, like Palmer did at Bay Hill:

All that means, though, is he won’t be between the ropes Thursday through Sunday, when the four rounds of the tournament are played.

Otherwise, it will almost be business as usual for him at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
So Jack Nicklaus isn’t playing in the Memorial for the first time in 31 years. Thankfully that’s given him lots of time to talk on a variety of topics.

He spoke at the honoree ceremony yesterday. He will play in the pro-am today. He’ll hold forth in the television broadcast booth this weekend.

What he won’t have to do is prepare for and play in a tournament he has played in more than anyone else.

“I actually get to sleep this week,” Nicklaus said.

There’s been a fair bit of discussion on Rogers Cable’s decision to move the Golf Channel to digital coverage.The National Post’s Mark Evans, who usually writes about hand held gadgets and things like VOIP, has a story on it today. Evans points out that Rogers has found the Golf Channel just doesn’t have the viewership in Ontario to keep it in regular programming, so it is being bumped to digital. Interesting, considering that 15 year deal the PGA Tour signed with the Golf Channel suggested its viewership was growing, not retracting.

Avid fans of the Golf Channel will find it more difficult — and expensive — to tune in when Rogers Cable Inc. bumps the channel next month to the far end of its programming universe. Rogers said the Golf Channel will move to channel 410 from 52 on July 9, while MTV Canada will shift from channel 59 to 52. Rogers’ customers in Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland will have to buy or rent a digital set-top box and pay for a digital package that includes The Golf Channel.“When I heard that, I thought ‘that sucks’, ” said David Wright, a sales representative with Terra Footwear, a Golf Channel fan who plays golf once a week. “I don’t have high-definition television, and until I do, I’m not going to upgrade to any digital services because I don’t want to pay any more money for cable.”

One of the interesting stories out there at the moment is the fact that the “Big Easy,” Ernie Els, has not won on the PGA Tour in two years, and Vijay Singh hasn’t won since last summer….

The truth is that I actually watch the Golf Channel less and less these days. Golf Central is a lot of fluff — and the problem with the channel in general is it acts like a PR agency for golf, and not a real news organization. There’s simply too much hand holding of top golfers, and it is a bit stomach churning. On the other hand, the Big Break at Carnoustie was terrific, and their European Tour coverage is tops. Oh well. I have Bell ExpressVu, so I don’t think I’m impacted.

My golf column in the National Post today is a discussion of why tough courses aren’t a bad thing for golf. I’m tired of all the bellyaching over the set up of the U.S. Open. It is hard — deal with it. I’m also tired of seeing 29-under scores, so for at least one week a year there’s nothing wrong with someone struggling to shoot par to win. Anyway, here’s a taste, but you’ll have to buy the paper if you want more:

It doesn’t seem that a significant PGA Tour tournament goes by these days without some discussion of how the host course is being adjusted to make it more difficult. This week, at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial tour stop, the Golden Bear decided the bunkers shouldn’t be pristine. In fact, Jack has told his maintenance staff to use rakes that will create furrows in the sand, making for uneven lies in the bunkers.Nicklaus approached the Tour about the idea of toughening up the bunkers earlier this year.” I asked the Tour, and they have been telling the guys all year the honeymoon is over, the bunkers are going to be a penalty,” Nicklaus explained earlier this week. “I said, ‘When are you going to do that?'”

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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