Since the Bob Hope Classic got rained out, Thursday's big golf news was CSI's golf episode. The victim was not Gary McCord, David Feherty or Rocco Mediate, which was kind of a letdown. Who didn't want to see McCord's mustachioed corpse lying on the autopsy table? That would've been a kick.
I hate to nitpick — wait, I love to nitpick — but CSI got some things very wrong in the show, which centered on a body found in a golf cart during a tournament. The victim, the father of a fictional tour player named Danny Nagano, had a fatal neck wound. Danny had shot the course record the day before.
The most grievous error involved Danny's shady caddie, a former player named John Dudek, who was ratted out by the dead man 25 years earlier for using performance-enhancing drugs — beta blockers. He was banned from the tour for life. Golf installed drug rules and testing a year ago. The caddie wouldn't have been kicked off any tour 25 years earlier, even if he had been popping LSD like vitamins.
The second grievous error? The juiced golf balls. Danny's half-sister used a laser to cook golf balls to dramatically increase distance, which was cool. But the caddie snuck the cooked balls into play, which supposedly gave Danny an edge and led to his course-record 61. That's absurd. Golf isn't about distance, it's about distance control. The caddie would have no idea how far the cooked balls were going to fly unless he and Danny had practiced with them. Playing super-hot balls without testing them would have led to an 81. Plus, a caddie couldn't sneak a hot ball into a round without the player realizing it. The player would know something was up when he picked up 30 yards on a drive or hit a 7-iron 200 yards instead of 170. So would the other players in the group.
There were other not-so-grievous problems, like tournament security. Brass, the police officer, stopped Danny for an interview between the final green and the scoring trailer. Danny hadn't even signed his scorecard yet! Even if Brass had the right armband, he wouldn't have gotten to Danny until after the scoring trailer. The same goes for Laurence Fishburne's character, who walked right up to Kevin Na and Dudek on the range and started chatting. Fishburne's inappropriate swing tip aside, nobody except network TV types can roam the hitting area on the range
before a tournament round. (Na was great, showing exactly the kind of astonished disdain he should have.)
The party in the clubhouse after Danny's course-record 61, which coincidentally broke his father's record, was also unrealistic. Other tour players, including Duffy Waldorf, helped him celebrate. This was not a country club member-member event. In the unlikely event that any of Danny's rivals wanted to celebrate with him, the last place they'd go would be the clubhouse, which is filled with fans, members and volunteers.
Finally, McCord did commentary from an outdoor table. Golf commentators work in booths or, like Feherty, as geared-up foot soldiers. There are no outdoor sit-down commentators, except when McCord works from a couch at the 16th tee at Pebble Beach for jokey interviews during the AT&T.
Parting shots: Natalie Gulbis was seen at the party but didn't have a line… Rocco's line to his caddie, after he pulled a tee shot into a tree (and subsequently found the body), "You're killing me," was right on… The obligatory bad golf joke was expected, "We'll play it where it lies."… We never saw the outcome of the ruling when Mediate's ball was up against the dead guy in the cart. Normally, the cart and corpse would've been movable objects, like a spectator. But because it was a crime scene and the cart couldn't (shouldn't) be touched, would it have been treated like an immovable obstacle? I'd guess a rules official would've backed up the cart, let Rocco drop and play on, long before CSI hit the scene. (I'm imagining the scene in the lab later where a technician says, "I've got a hit on the fingerprint from the cart steeling wheel. Someone named Mark Russell!")
Two winning moments were the surprise ending (I saw it coming) with the victim being done in by the jagged shaft of a club that he broke in anger, and Fishburne's character saying he gave up golf because the exhilarating feeling of hitting a good shot was "as addictive as cocaine" and not good for an obsessive personality like himself. Well said, sir.
Final grade: Give CSI an A-minus for effort, C for execution. Ahh, make that a B-minus for execution. They did kill off a former golfer who was all about the honor of the game. That should count for something. Back to NostalgiaJust so you know, the Champions Tour kicks off its season off in Hawaii today. Bernhard Langer will try to be the first to win player of the year three straight times. Incredibly, no one has done that, which shows you how small that window of opportunity is for the seniors.
The fact is, Langer will still be the man to beat this year. Corey Pavin and Fred Couples turn 50, but Pavin will play only 18 or so events and will be slightly busy preparing to captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Couples has already said he plans to play fewer than a dozen senior events as he tries to keep his foot in the door on the PGA Tour. Bob Gillespie did an informative look at the tour for The State. He pointed out that purses are up modestly this year, $1.7 million to a total of $51.5 million, about one-fifth of the PGA Tour's total, thanks to adding a 26th event. And the tour has a new stop in South Korea, plus one in China in 2011. Gillespie talked to Champions Tour czar Mike Stevens and got this nugget:
"Our success in a bad economy has to do with how we're positioned," Stevens said. "Our price points are very fair, and we deliver good value. That's helped us weather the storm so far. Also, our guys are some of the best in sports at delivering entertainment value. They attend all the parties, and the pro-am experience is phenomenal. I've seen (players) take their amateurs to the driving range and give them a private lesson. It's mind-boggling what they do."
That's right, an overlooked key to the seniors' success is pricing. Sponsors who can no longer afford the big bucks to run a PGA Tour event can still buy into the action cheaply on the Champions or Nationwide tours. Mississippi Mud-SlingingMedia types must rival lawyers in popularity. The National Enquirer published photos of a man who looked very much like Woods in a hooded sweatshirt at a clinic in Hattiesburg, Miss. The clinic, which has a program for sex addiction, still won't say whether Woods is a patient, but police have been forced to beef up security around the clinic due to the increased media presence. The Associated Press reported that a photographer offered one local business owner money for a chance to snap photos from his roof in case of a Tiger appearance. In addition, a 100-foot stretch of fence along the rear of the clinic was raised five more feet — to 13 feet — to provide more privacy.
The local paper, the Hattiesburg American, has detected which way the wind is blowing. Managing editor Dan Davis wrote in an editorial: “There is a fine line between covering Woods when he wrecks his car and extending coverage when and if he gets treatment. Where does news end and privacy begin, even if the person involved is one of the most recognizable faces in the world? That's a question that journalists debate constantly… I think most of my readers think the same way that we do. This is a privacy issue. One of the things I don't think people know or understand is there are other patients at this facility that are getting caught up in this.” The Other DesertGolf was played somewhere in the world on Thursday, at the Abu Dhabi Championship. No wonder the Bob Hope Classic feels like a second-tier event. Check out this leaderboard: Ian Poulter, Richard Bland and Keith Horne shot 65 and were one stroke ahead of Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Alvaro Quiro, Stephen Dodd and Rhys Davies. The shot of the day was Poulter making a 70-foot birdie putt on the final green. "Happy days," Poulter Tweeted. (FYI, Poulter's Tweets are fun but numerous. His deluge of comments finally forced me to quit following him.) The Weeds of DiscontentIf you read only one golf story today, make it John Garrity's piece on the death of golf course architecture as we know it. A taste for you:
Lowering his feet to the floor, Bobby Weed rises from his chair and plants his palms on the design table. He stares at the phone. "The day of the 800-unit master-planned community that features a sausage-link golf course routing, that's over. We overbuilt. We exceeded the demand."