Friday, May 15, 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Phil Mickelson and caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay made for compelling television at Doral when they discussed the risk of Lefty hitting a right-handed shot on No. 12, and the club selection into the 18th green with a one-shot lead.

Now, the PGA Tour is curious if such dialogue is worth broadcasting.

The tour will be working with NBC Sports at the Shell Houston Open to determine if it's worth putting a microphone on some of the caddies. The Houston Open will only be a test for the quality of the audio and whether the conversations are worthy of the telecast. None of the comments will be on TV next week.

"The dialogue between Phil and Bones on the second shot Sunday at Doral is the type of stuff our fans tell us they want to hear more often," said Andy Pazder, senior vice president of tournament administration for the tour.

The concern is not what comes out of a caddie's mouth - there is a time delay for TV - but the quality of the sound.

NBC Sports and CBS Sports primarily use a boom mike that a network employees carries on the fairway, but they often can only get to one player at a time.

"Just like anything, we're always striving to improve the qualify of the telecast," Pazder said.

But there could be logistical problems.

Putting a microphone on the caddie only works when the caddie is standing close enough to the player to pick up both sides of the conversation.

One improvement with such a microphone, however, is that television cannot get on the greens with the boom mikes to pick up a discussion of how a putt breaks.

And then there's the willingness of the caddies.

The topic was brought up last week at the tour's annual meeting with the caddies. Some of them are concerned about being limited in what they say - not during the shot, but the three hours of dead time during a round.

"I know what they're trying to do, and that's good," said Jimmie Johnson, the caddie for Steve Stricker. "I'm not worried about what comes out of the caddie. I'm worried about what goes into the trailer."

His argument, one that several other caddies share, is that having a microphone will pick up everything they say during a four-hour round. None of that stuff will make the telecast, but they have no guarantee that something inappropriate they might say - about someone in the gallery, another player - could be leaked.

"Most of us are aware when the big boom mike is around, and it's usually when you're coming down the stretch. You know what you say is being picked up," said Mitch Knox, whose players have included David Duval and Daniel Chopra. "But having a mike could be a problem."

MASTERS QUALIFYING: Davis Love III took last week off and moved up one spot in the world ranking to No. 47, giving a little more wiggle room as he tries to make it back to the Masters.

This the final week for players to finish in the top 50 to earn a spot at Augusta National.

Love missed the Masters last year, ending his streak of 70 consecutive majors. Right behind him in the world ranking is Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, who has never been to Augusta National. Mathew Goggin is next at No. 49.

All of them will be playing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where a missed cut could doom their chances of the top 50. The four players immediately outside the top 50 - Richard Sterne, Stuart Appleby, Hunter Mahan and Soren Kjeldsen - already have qualified.

Prayad Marksaeng is at No. 50 and did not qualify for Bay Hill, but he also has the ball in his hands. Prayad is competing this week on the Asian Tour - in his hometown of Hua Hin, Thailand - at the Black Mountain Masters.

The points they need to stay in the top 50 will not be known until the tournaments begin - but it starts with making the cut.

A BREAK IN THE ACTION: Louis Oosthuizen tied for 20th at the CA Championship, earning enough world ranking points to stay in the top 50 and earn a spot at Bay Hill.

"Step one is out of the way," he said.

The next step is getting to the Masters for the first time. Oosthuizen, a 26-year-old from South Africa, got into this position with a strong swing through the Middle East. He was runner-up consecutive weeks at Abu Dhabi and Qatar and tied for seventh at Dubai.

With a week off between Doral and Bay Hill, he practiced in Florida for a few days and then did what most visitors do in Florida.

He went to Disney World.

"First time," Oosthuizen said. "I went to Hollywood Studios and Epcot, and then I went over to NASA, which was great."

Now it's back to work.

"I checked in to my hotel and it's right next to Universal Studios," Oosthuizen. "This feels more like a holiday - until Thursday."

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Former president George H.W. Bush has been selected to receive the PGA Tour's Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding contributions to the tour through his work on and off the golf course.

Bush, the honorary chairman of The First Tee since its inception in 1997, will be honored May 6 at The Players Championship.

The 41st president previously has been honored with the Bob Jones Award by the USGA and with the Distinguished Service Award by the PGA of America.

He is the first recipient of the PGA Tour award who comes from outside the golf industry.

DIVOTS: Six players who were in Q-school last year qualified for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. ... While most chatter about Tiger Woods playing the Australian Masters focused on his $3 million appearance fee, one tournament official had another observation. "Why can't he commit to us six months in advance?" ... Chris DiMarco hasn't had much success at Bay Hill, and stopped playing after 2001. But his fortunes have turned and he had to use a one-time exemption for career money. He was the third alternate at Bay Hill, and only got into the field Tuesday when Andres Romero withdrew.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Thomas Aiken finished in a two-way tie for seventh in the World Golf Championship at Doral and earned $192,500. A week later, he finished in a two-way tie for seventh in the Madeira Islands Open on the European Tour and earned $26,221.

FINAL WORD: "It wouldn't be my favorite thing to see a player do." - PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, on Henrik Stenson stripping down to his underwear at Doral to play a shot from a pond.

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