Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Vijay Singh Cheating Incident

Vijay Singh has had a long and very successful career as a pro golfer, including three major championships and a 2004 season in which he won nine times on the PGA Tour.

But there's also something in Singh's career that he'd like to forget, and that he'd prefer everyone else forget, too. Allegations of cheating at a tournament on the precursor to the Asian Tour in 1985.

Actually, we don't even have to refer to the incident as being mere "allegations," since tournament officials concluded that Singh did, in fact, cheat, and the regional governing organization banned him from the tour (today's Asian Tour was not officially founded until 1995).

Here's what happened.

Vijay Singh was 22 years old when he showed up at the 1985 Indonesian Open in Jakarta. Like most young pros in the first year as a tour player, Vijay was having his ups and downs - mostly downs. He badly needed a good showing.

But as the second round came to a close, Vijay was in trouble of missing the cut. In fact, he was one stroke short of the cutline. Whether Singh specifically knew that he was one stroke short is something we don't know.

What we do know is this: Somewhere between the time he holed his last putt of the second round and the time he signed his scorecard, Singh "improved" his scorecard. He "lost" a stroke - he lowered his score by one stroke, enough to make the cut.

It should be noted that Singh has always maintained what happened was "a misunderstanding," whatever that means, that he did not knowingly, intentionally cheat. (What could a "misunderstanding" in this situation be? Could be that, for example, Singh believed he was correcting his score, not tampering with it - that he saw, for example, a "5" on one hole and thought, "wait, I got a '4' on that hole." Vijay has never stated that argument, however - he understandably doesn't like to talk about it.)

But the jig was up pretty quick. An on-site official with the Indonesian Golf Association ruled that Singh had improved his score. And Vijay was disqualified.

In a subsequent ruling, Singh was indefinitely suspended by the Southeast Asian Golf Federation. (Singh was also banned, around the same time, by the Australian PGA for some shady financial shenanigans - unpaid loans and such.)

How strong was the evidence against Singh at the 1985 Indonesian Open? Well, strong enough to get him banned!

In 1996, Sports Illustrated writer John Garrity investigated the incident for the magazine. He summarized his findings again in a 2000 article in SI about Singh:

I interviewed the Indonesian Golf Association official who ruled that Singh had improved his score in Jakarta by a stroke—just enough to make the cut—before signing his card. I reviewed the incident with Asian tour players of the time, including the Canadian pro who played with Singh that day. "It was not a misunderstanding," said an American player who was there. "All of us who were around are very upset that Vijay denies this."

After the ban, Vijay spent two years as a club pro in Borneo, then went back out on the pro circuit, playing satellite tours in Europe and Africa. Three years after the cheating incident, he had played his way onto the European Tour, and his career was off and running.

Singh once said in a long-ago Masters press conference, "That part of my life is disappointing and heartbreaking, and I just want to leave it alone."

But he eventually even returned to the Asian Tour, winning in 1995 (and later adding four more Asian Tour titles).

(Coincidentally, another of the infamous cheating affairs in golf, the Colin Montgomerie cheating incident, also occurred at an Indonesian Open.

(Vijay's cheating incident happened at the 1985 Indonesian Open, Monty's at the 2005 Indonesian Open. Note to golfers: Do NOT play the 2025 Indonesian Open!)

(Photo: keithallison/flickr)

Hackers - the Computer Kind - Use Wilson Golf's Twitter

Hackers like to play around with other people's and organization's Twitter accounts as much as they like to mess with websites. Today, Wilson Golf's Twitter account was hacked in the service of one of those "miracle weight loss" spam tweets:

(I used a screen grab above rather than embedding the tweet so that nobody would accidentally click the link included in the spam tweet.)

Wilson isn't responsible for this, of course; if you've never been hacked on Twitter and had a spam weight loss tweet sent from your account, well, you probably will.

But in a way, the tweet almost makes sense. After all, Wilson's most prominent staff golfer is Padraig Harrington, and Paddy is fit. Harrington probably has some weight loss secrets he can share! Maybe Wilson should try to capitalize on this bit of spam. Padraig Harrington's Weight Loss Secrets Revealed! Step 1: Give up potatoes!

(Hat tip to @SandieCrowley for catching the tweet.)

Worst Tournament Name ... Ever

That would be the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Wow. What's the marketing slogan? "With a name like Waste Management Phoenix Open, it's got to be good!"

I get it. Waste Management is a major and very successful company; the PGA Tour needs sponsors, it takes them where it can find them. Waste Management founders and leaders should be proud of their success; the Phoenix Open personnel surely are very happy to have a big-time company as their title sponsor. But still ... Waste Management. Eww.

But it could be worse. It could be much worse ...

Top 10 Rejected Names of the Waste Management Phoenix Open
10. Acid Reflux Phoenix Open
9. Open Sewer Phoenix Open
8. Hairy Mole Phoenix Open
7. Stinking Cesspool Phoenix Open
6. Painful Bunion Phoenix Open
5. My Butt Itches Phoenix Open
4. Yeast Infection Phoenix Open
3. Adult Diapers Phoenix Open
2. There's This Weird Thing on My Balls Phoenix Open
1. It Hurts When I Pee Phoenix Open

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

SI Article on Quack RF Products and Deer Antler Sprays Includes Golf, Vijay Singh

A great Sports Illustrated article in this week's issue - posted online here - looks at a company that lures pro athletes into using quack products such as radio-frequency blocking hologram stickers (which don't actually work) and deer antler sprays (which don't actually work and may contained banned substances). The article's focus is mainly on football, but it includes a couple mentions of golf. I'll just pass along these teasers and urge you go read the article:

The chips and spray also had recently begun to spread through golf after a friend with whom Ross sold Christmas trees introduced him to a PGA caddie. In short order, Ross says, the caddie "was passing me around the golf world like a prostitute." As soon as the Vobora verdict landed, though, the NFL, the PGA and MLB sent notice to athletes that the S.W.A.T.S. deer-antler spray -- which had been advertised as containing the banned IGF-1, an ingredient common to all brands of deer antler spray -- had been implicated in a positive drug test.

... (Vijay Singh, however, remains a vocal supporter. In November, Singh paid Ross $9,000 for the spray, chips, beam ray and powder additive -- making him one of the few athletes who is compensating S.W.A.T.S. He says he uses the spray banned by the PGA "every couple of hours . . . every day," sleeps with the beam ray on and has put chips on his ankles, waist and shoulders. "I'm looking forward to some change in my body," Singh says. "It's really hard to feel the difference if you're only doing it for a couple of months.")

Be interesting to hear the PGA Tour's reaction to this. But don't expect golf's publication of record, Golf Digest, to take too much of an interest, given that they are in business with one of the most prominent purveyors of such flim-flam.

If you've read Golf Spelled Backwards before, you probably aren't surprised by anything in that SI report. Not even the stuff about golf. See our earlier posts:

'Magic bracelets' are back in business, with Stacy Lewis' help
Is there doping in golf? Of course there is!

Update: Kudos to Golf.com for quickly picking up on the SI piece. Golf.com adds these details:

Vijay Singh has been named as one of several athletes to use a banned substance from a two-man company called S.W.A.T.S. -- Sports with Alternatives to Steroids, according to an article from this week's Sports Illustrated. ...

The deer antler spray contains IGF-1, which SI describes as a "natural, anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth."

It is also a banned substance by all major pro sports leagues. ...

Players were warned about the deer antler spray back in 2011 after Mark Calcavecchia was told by the PGA Tour to stop endorsing S.W.A.T.S.'s "Ultimate Spray." Ken Green also endorsed the product.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Some CBS Affiliates Choose 'Dr. Phil' over Torrey Pines on Monday

When it became clear that the Farmers Insurance Open finish would be pushed back to Monday, most of the golfers probably assumed that the Monday restart would take place first thing in the morning. After all, many of those players needed to get to Arizona for this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open; some of them hoped to play in that tournament's Monday qualifier.

But PGA Tour schedules aren't created for the golfers, they are created by the TV networks. What the networks want, the networks get. And so the restart happened around 11 a.m. Monday in San Diego, allowing CBS to finish its broadcast in the late afternoon/early primtime on the East Coast.

And I don't have a problem with that! The TV networks pay billions of dollars to the PGA Tour, and a lot of that money trickles down to the players in the form of huge purses and fantastic perks.

Re-starting near noon rather than first thing in the morning cause you to miss the Phoenix Open Monday qualifier? Tough tees! Play better, and you won't need Monday qualifiers. Did it cause you to miss a flight? Tough tee boxes! Re-schedule, and quit your whining!

However, local CBS affiliates around the United States didn't take too kindly to CBS's broadcast schedule. Golf on a Monday afternoon? No thanks, many affiliates said.

Among the CBS affiliates around the country who declined to air CBS' coverage of the Farmers' Monday finish were major markets such as:

  • Atlanta
  • Hartford
  • Indianapolis
  • Orlando
  • Providence
  • Phoenix
  • Salt Lake City
  • San Antonio

Other CBS affiliates, such as Cincinnati's, shunted the golf coverage onto sister channels, such as a CW or an alternate digital channel, where many golfers probably failed to find it.

Why would local channels do this? In most cases, to air Dr. Phil or Ellen. Those syndicated afternoon talk shows are huge ratings winners for local channels. These channels probably didn't even have to think very hard about their choices.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cruel Shoes: Paula Creamer, High-Heeled Pumps, and Pain Threshold

We already knew that Paula Creamer is one tough cookie - remember how much pain she was in with those thumb problems a few years ago? Yet she played through it for a year or more, and even won the U.S. Women's Open in her first tournament back after surgery.

But if you still needed any proof of Paula's toughness, well, just look at those heels she's wearing in the photo above. If her feet had been forced into that position without her permission, the forcer would be facing criminal charges.

And getta load of those high-heeled pumps in the pic to the right. Well, you can't see much of the actual shoes - but you can imagine their cruelty by looking at the angle of Paula's feet. Not even ballerinas walk around like that.

Pity poor Cristie Kerr, who probably, putting her own high-heeled black pumps on for this gala affair, thought to herself, "Oh yeah, these are gonna be the highest heels at the party!" She screamed upon standing, but darn it, it was gonna be worth it.

And then Paula showed up, crushing both Cristie's spirit, and her own toes.

I can picture Paula at the shoe store. The attendant, Carlo, says, "Well, that's it, that's every pair of shoes in place."

"Oh, you must have one more pair," Paula implored.

"No, not one more," Carlo replied. "Well, we do have .... THE CRUEL SHOES."

As you listen to the old Steve Martin "Cruel Shoes" bit above, just imagine "Paula" every time Martin says "Anna."

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The Amy Mickelson-Michael Jordan Rumor

The Amy Mickelson-Michael Jordan affair rumor. You've heard it, right? It got started back in 2010, around the time Phil Mickelson was winning The Masters.

To this day, type "Amy Mickelson" into the Google search field and Google will try to autocomplete your query to "Amy Mickelson Michael Jordan" or "Amy Mickelson Michael Jordan rumor" or "Amy Mickelson Michael Jordan affair."

Amy is Phil's wife, of course. Michael Jordan is a good friend of Phil's main rival, Tiger Woods. I understand Mr. Jordan also played basketball, but can't really speak to that. I focus entirely on golf, you see. With a side business in unfounded, crazy rumors.

Put the Amy Mickelson-Michael Jordan affair rumor in the "you've got to be kidding" file. There's not a hint of a scintella of evidence - evidence! what a concept! - of any Amy Mickelson-Michael Jordan affair.

There's barely any evidence of an Amy Mickelson-Phil Mickelson affair. I mean, the only reason we know they have sex is that they have three kids. Otherwise, they're just too sweet and sunshiney to engage in such dirty behavior, right?

So write it off: There was no Amy Mickelson-Michael Jordan affair. Amy never fooled around with MJ. In fact, she never fooled around with a lot of guys. At least 10 others.

Top 10 Men Amy Mickelson Has Not Had an Affair With
10. Bill Clinton
9. Tim "Lumpy" Herron
8. Me
7. Butch Harmon
6. Director of the IRS
5. Charles Barkley
4. Lady GaGa
3. Earl Woods
2. John Daly
1. The kid working the counter at the In-n-Out

If you're a glutton for punishment of the digging-into-the-bowels-of-the-Internet variety, Deadspin traced the origins of the rumor to a post on a fantasy football message board in 2006. Just remember: None of it is true.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Get Ready for Pro Shops Filled with Non-Conforming Equipment

Some comments recently made by TaylorMade-Adidas Golf's CEO are causing a bit of a stir in golf. The comments by Mark King came in an interview with Rick Young of Score Golf, and you can boil down King's comments to this: The USGA is counterproductive to the growth of golf, someone else needs to come along and knock the USGA off its perch, and we're reaching the point where we might just start ignoring the USGA.

King is mad about the proposed ban on anchoring putters, and he's mad that TaylorMade might lose money because of that ban. Long putters and belly putters are growth items in the golf club market. No company that currently makes them wants to stop making them.

And King says TaylorMade won't stop making them, no matter what the USGA says:

“What we’re (TMaG) going to do whether there is bifurcation or not is we will continue to make long putters for golfers. If they roll the ball back we're not going to roll our ball back. We will for a tournament ball but we’re still going to sell you a ball you can play. Like I said, two sets of rules are coming. Whether they're sanctioned or not we are not going to stop making long putters and I'm not going to stop playing one. I won't.

King flat out predicts the death of the USGA as one of golf's governing bodies. Within 10 years. You can read analysis of his remarks by Geoff Shackelford, and more from About.com.

But when I read King's remarks, here's what I picture: Future pro shops stocked with major-brand equipment that is non-conforming.

Up to this point, having a golf club or golf ball ruled non-conforming by the USGA/R&A has tended to be the death knell for said club. Major brands - the TaylorMades, Pings, Titleists, Callaways, etc. - don't market non-conforming equipment. They abide by the USGA/R&A rulings.

If such a company submits a club for approval and the conclusion "non-conforming" comes back from the USGA, the company tweaks the club until it conforms.

Now, golf has always had non-conforming clubs available to golfers for purchase - 600cc drivers, balls "too hot for the USGA!" But you rarely see those items in pro shops. Generally, you have to seek out those clubs. They are made by little, niche companies, or by clone companies, and you have to search the Internet or the little display ads in backs of magazines to find them.

A major brand in the golf manufacturing business wouldn't sully its reputation by marketing a non-conforming club or ball.

But TaylorMade's King says the proposed anchoring ban will change that. Long putters won't disappear from pro shops, no matter what the USGA says.

And that's all it's going to take - one major brand continuing to market a single non-conforming golf club - to open the floodgates.

Fact is, golf companies could flood pro shops within a matter of weeks with golf balls that fly 50 yards farther, or that kill a slice or hook; and with drivers that smash through every USGA/R&A barrier against ball speed and COR and MOI and characteristic time.

The only thing stopping them from going so is their decision to grant the USGA and R&A regulatory power - and an aversion to being labeled non-conforming.

Both those walls are breaking. King's comments make that clear. The only question now is not if golf clubs companies start selling super-hot balls and clubs to weekend hackers - ignoring the USGA and R&A rulings - but when. If the USGA carries through with a ban on anchoring, one of the unintended consequences will be pro shop aisles stocked with non-conforming equipment.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Woods, Vonn Pass on Chances to Deny Romance

Are Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn dating? We detailed the rumors in an earlier post. But on Thursday, Vonn's publicist provided a statement to USA Today addressing the rumors. The statement just failed to confirm or deny. In fact, Vonn's statement "addressing the rumors" was really a statement failing to address the rumors. Which is still a statement!

Here's the statement from Vonn's PR flack:

"Lindsey is currently in the midst of the World Cup season in Europe. Her focus is solely on competing and on defending her titles and thus she will not participate in any speculation surrounding her personal life at this time."

The USA Today piece also notes that Tiger, through his spokesman, said he would not respond to reports that he and Vonn are dating.

Well, they were both given the opportunity to deny they are dating, and neither Tiger Woods nor Lindsey Vonn took it. Does that mean anything? You decide.

(Update 3/18/2013: Tiger and Lindsey confirm they are dating.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Little Luke Donald, Mizuno Loyalist

Luke Donald is a Mizuno man. Always has been, always will be. Don't believe me? Here's little Luke:

There are big changes in the world of golf club endorsement deals every year, but as you can tell from the photo above of the young Luke Donald, Donald has been playing Mizuno since he was a child. He continued playing Mizuno through college, then signed a sponsorship deal with the company in 2003.

And now Donald has re-signed with Mizuno, continuing "one of the longest-standing equipment relationships in golf," the company says, and "signing to continue to be a brand ambassador for years to come."

Of course, this post was really just an excuse to run the photo of young Luke.

(Photo credit: Courtesy of Mizuno Golf)

Flim-Flam Follow-Up

Following up our post of several days ago about of the re-birth of Power Balance "magic bracelets": Why do golfers so often fall prey to sounds-too-good-to-be-true magic products?

Here's one reason:

(Stina Sternberg is a senior editor at Golf Digest. And someone whose talent I greatly admire, so, sigh ...)

Golf Digest is the No. 1 publication in golf - it should be exposing products such as magic bracelets, not promoting them. And The First Tee is a great organization that teaches golf and life skills to at-risk youth, and now will be complicit in pitching woo-woo to them. These two outfits should be ashamed at affiliating with a company that has the history of Power Balance. But there's money to made (by Golf Digest) and money to be raised (by The First Tee).

Related articles:
RF-blocking holograms, deer antler spray, and golf
'Magic bracelet' back in business, with Stacy Lewis' help
Is there doping in golf? Of course there is!

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

The women on the LPGA Tour of 2013 will play for sums of money unimagined just 30 years ago. As recently as the late 1970s, an LPGA Tour golfer finishing outside the Top 10 on the money list might have to take a second job during the offseason.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. The LPGA still struggles with image, and particularly with the question: should we sell the looks of our players? Or at least the hot ones?

If you've been paying attention to the way the Tour markets Natalie Gulbis, among others, you know the answer right now is yes.

I was thinking of these things recently as I flipped through the 1974 LPGA Tour media guide. Because as obviously as the Tour sells image today, that's nothing compared to the way the Tour was trying to sell appearance 30 years ago.

For example, the 1974 media guide includes such snippets about players as this:

• Sharron Moran: "Favorite among girl-watchers, with a collection of fancy hats for her flowing blonde hair."

Well, alrightie then. But don't get the idea Sharon was the only chapeau icon:

• Chris Repasky: "A leader in the sharp dressing department, especially with some hats with flair."

Hats with flair will still get you a long way in golf (Michelle McGann, Shingo Katayama). But we're not sure what to make of this media guide blurb:

• Pam Barnett: "Noted for her wigs, and who can ever forget Pam in her excitement in winning the Southgate three years ago flinging her wig into the air as her winning putt holed out?"

That's one way to celebrate a win. I'm just happy Jim Furyk doesn't wear a toupee.

Pointing out the attractiveness of golfers is nothing new, and nothing unusual for fans. There's an entire blog dedicated to it (Golf Babes), and right here at GSB* we use the labels "golf hotties" and "booty" on some posts. But it did strike me as unusual that the Tour's official media guide would be the place to find such descriptions as these:

• Joyce Benson: "One of the very best for 'girl-watchers' ... Quite photogenic." I guess that's 1974-speak for "babe alert!"

• Jocelyne Bourassa: "... sexy French accent ..."

• Robyn Dummett: "A pert blonde, another of the 'lookers' on Tour."

• Marlene Hagge: "A pacesetter in fashion, All-American in best-dressed, eye-catching ..."

• Pam Higgins: "Eye-catching blonde ..."

If the 2013 LPGA media guide were written this way, we might read this:

• Natalie Gulbis: "Favorite with the girl-watchers ... Eye-catching blonde ... Has one win on tour, plus a hot bod."

That 1974 media guide was certainly fun to read through. There were some other odd word choices, too. Such as:

• Renee Powell: "Only regular black golfer on Tour." Well, that's one more black golfer - regular, irregular or otherwise - than is on Tour today.

• XXXXXXX: "Roommate and traveling companion of XXXXXXX." Um, I think they just outed her. The second one mentioned is openly gay (today), the first one I don't believe is out. So I'm not identifying either. But aren't you wistful for the naivete that lets something like this get into a media guide?

And then there are the snippets that tell you how (comparitively) little money was at stake for women golfers in the early to mid-1970s:

• Kathy Martin: "Works for telephone answering service when not golfing." She was 59th on the money list, which was good for less than $2,000.

• Etsuko Nakamura: "Works in a soy sauce factory in her homeland."

So, Michelle Wie, just be happy that when your summer season is over this year, you don't have to go home to the pineapple fields. Oh, and nice hat.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Top 10 Other Tiger Woods Demands Rejected By Qatar Masters

You might have heard the story about the Qatar Masters tournament rejecting Tiger Woods' demand for a $3 million appearance fee.

We heard that story, too. But we also heard other stories - stories about other demands Woods made in order to appear at this week's tournament, demands Qatari officials all rejected. And, exclusively, we share those demands with you now:

Top 10 Other Tiger Woods Demands Rejected By Qatar Masters
10. Practice balls with Hank Haney's face on them
9. Lockerrom towels must all have that Downy-fresh smell
8. Less sand - not just on the course, but in the entire region
7. The infidelity phone
6. Urinals with Hank Haney's face in them
5. Lavender-scented candles in all on-course portable toilets
4. For the fourth round, only red M&Ms in the lockerroom
3. Free membership in Hair Club for Men so Tiger can try to keep up with Rory's mop
2. Change name of Persian Gulf to Cablinasian Gulf
1. Blondes, and lots of them

Monday, January 21, 2013

'Magic Bracelet' Power Balance Back in Business, with Stacy Lewis' Help

The annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., tees off this week, and one of the companies that will be there is Power Balance. LPGA Player of the Year Stacy Lewis, signed last year as an endorser of the silicone wristbands with their little hologram badge, will be at the Power Balance booth.

You remember Power Balance, right? For several years after the company came along in 2007, up through about early 2010, those magical Power Balance bracelets with their magical powers were everywhere.

The company claimed the hologram on each bracelet was somehow imbued with ... well, with something that gave the wristband the ability to "react with the body's natural energy flow" and "resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body" in order to help wearers achieve "up to a 500% increase in strength, power and flexibility." It was all about "Eastern philosophies" of medicine and healing.

It was all a load of crap. Golfers (and people in general) fall prey to this stuff all the time - magic bracelets and magic pendants whose makers spout a bunch of science-y sounding gobbledygook (ionized! quantum mechanics! energy fields! magnetic!) about products that, in reality, are inert hunks of plastic or common metal and bands of rubber and string.

That's not to say that there aren't some people - you might even be one of them - who have purchased one of these kinds of products and believes it had a positive effect. But any positive effect is temporary, and due entirely to the placebo effect. If you don't believe that - if you believe these bracelets and pendants really do have magical qualities - then I have a magic piece of string I'll sell you for $39.95 (plus shipping and handling).

So: Power Balance got off to a hot start up to 2010 and attracted dozens of professional athlete and other celebrity endorsers, along with lots of profits.

But along the way, some researchers (actual scientists) starting putting Power Balance bracelets to the test. And in legitimate double-blind studies, the wristbands with their little holograms always failed. Wikipedia summarizes a couple such trials:

A study at the University of Wisconsin tested the effects of Power Balance bracelets on a group of NCAA athletes. One set of the athletes received the Power Balance bracelet, while the other received a placebo bracelet. The athletes were subjected to tests of flexibility, balance, and strength, after which, the athletes switched bracelets and performed the tests again. The study found that the Power Balance bracelet had no effect, compared to the placebo, on the performance of the athletes.

A group of students skeptical of the claims conducted a test which showed "no significant difference between the real wristband and the fake". Researchers commissioned by the BBC also found that the bands were placebos, A 2012 Skeptical Inquirer study showed that in a double-blind test of performance on an obstacle course, sixteen volunteers showed a difference in performance no greater than chance.

Some government watchdog agencies also started taking an interest in Power Balance. One, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, ruled that the company's Australian division was making bogus scientific claims in its advertising and was misleading the public. That agency required the Australian Power Balance distributor to publicly repudiate those claims.

And so Power Balance was forced to admit, in a note posted on its Australian website, that its magic bracelets weren't magical at all. That note (no longer online) said, among other things, this:

"In our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility. We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct in breach of s52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974. If you feel you have been misled by our promotions, we wish to unreservedly apologize and offer a full refund."

The Australian government was the most aggressive in going after Power Balance's unsupported woo-woo claims, but it wasn't the only one. Italian and Dutch government agencies also took action against the company.

This didn't stop celebrities - or other businesses - from taking Power Balance's money in exchange for an endorsement, however. The NBA's Sacramento Kings were paid handsomely to put the Power Balance name on the team's arena. (Contrast that with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban blasting Power Balance and similar products after an endorsement deal between the NBA and the company. Perhaps being grounded in reality and knowing nonsense when he sees it is one reason Cuban's Mavericks have been so much more successful than the Kings?)

Meantime, United States government agencies weren't as active in countering fraudulent advertising and scam products as some of their counterparts (American agencies rarely are). But a class action lawsuit against Power Balance was in the courts.

And in late 2011, Power Balance agreed to a settlement of that class action lawsuit filed in the United States that alleged, among other things, fraud and false advertising. The cost of that settlement might have been, in part, responsible for the company filing for bankruptcy shortly thereafter.

But Power Balance wasn't dead. It selected a slightly different name - Power Balance Technologies Inc. - and emerged out of bankrupty in 2012. And signed, among other pro athlete endorsers, Stacy Lewis.

In addition to Lewis, Ricky Barnes and Keegan Bradley are also on the Power Balance Technologies Inc. payroll.

But this time around, Power Balance is being very careful about what claims it makes for its little bracelets. Visit the Power Balance website and you'll be hard pressed to find any claims about what, exactly, the wristbands and their holograms are supposed to do for you.

Why should I spend money on this rubber bracelet and its little hologram sticker? What will I get out of it? They don't say.

For example, on the product page for the new "Evolution" wristband, the Power Balance website says only this: "Breaking away from the mold, the new Evolution Bands are bold, streamlined and perforated. Crafted from 100% surgical grade silicone. Durable and made to last, these new wristbands come complete with two black Power Balance holograms."

Well, OK, but what's the point of buying this product? What do those holograms do, if anything? What am I supposed to get out of this purchase?

Power Balance doesn't say.

And the new company - which has learned its lesson, apparently - goes to great lengths to avoid providing any information about what, if anything, its wristbands are for; or why anyone would want one.

For example, on the "About Us" page, you'll find this:

In 2006, two brothers with a passion for competitive sports pursued their idea to blend the powers of Eastern Philosophy and Western Science with Innovative Technologies to deliver products that improve and enhance people’s lives. That idea became a company called POWER BALANCE™, the creators of the Power Balance™ silicone wristband.

Five years and millions of wristbands later, Power Balance™ has single-handedly defined the “Performance Technology” category and redefined the sports accessories market. From thousands of professional athletes to millions of aspiring amateurs, weekend warriors and active consumers, Power Balance™ has become a brand as powerful as the athletes who wear its products. Born in concept from ancient health and wellness practices and wrapped in a modern holographic form, Power Balance™ stands out among its many imitators as “The Original” sports performance wristband. No other Performance Technology accessory on the market can match the roster of hundreds of top professional athletes (and growing!) and millions of satisfied customers all over the world.

There's "blend the powers of Eastern Philosophy and Western Science with Innovative Technologies," but that's meaningless gobbledygook. It doesn't address why Power Balance bracelets exist, or why I should consider buying one.

But surely on the FAQ page we'll get some answers, right? Wrong! In fact, the FAQ page warns you that the wristbands might not work at all - it just doesn't explain what's supposed to happen if they do work! What does "work" even mean when it comes to Power Balance? They aren't telling.

What is Power Balance™?
Power Balance Technologies Inc. (www.powerbalance.com), the source of the original Power Balance Performance Technology® silicone wristband, is a leader in the market for Performance Technology sports accessories. The company produces a variety of products worn by millions of consumers and thousands of professional and amateur athletes worldwide. Professional supporters include NFL players Drew Brees, Clay Matthews and Darren Sproles, NBA forward Rudy Gay, MLB outfielder Matt Kemp, tennis player Mardy Fish, and golfers Stacy Lewis and Keegan Bradley. The company is headquartered in Orange County, CA and distributes its products in the US and internationally in more than 40 countries.

OK, so Power Balance is some kind of wristband that is worn by some famous athletes. Again, that tells me nothing!

But the FAQ, "What does this wristband do?" must provide answers, right?

What does this wristband Do?
The Power Balance band is a performance technology wristband with a distinctive hologram worn by millions of consumers and athletes worldwide. It is based on eastern philosophies of health and wellness.

No! Again, that tells us absolutely nothing!

By appearances, it seems as though the "new" Power Balance company might be hoping consumers remember those old woo-woo claims about energy flows and energy fields and incredible feats of strength and endurance without remembering, or ever knowing, that a) there was never any evidence to back up those claims; and b) those claims fell apart upon inspection, which the company was forced to acknowledge back in 2010.

Remember what Power Balance in Australia posted on its website in 2010: "We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct ..." Well, if the new Power Balance avoids telling us anything at all about what its wristbands are supposed to do for us, they avoid any legal exposure. Well played!

So what, exactly, is Stacy Lewis (and Keegan Bradley and Ricky Barnes) endorsing? A wristband that is no different than any other wristband you might buy. You might as well tie a shoelace around your wrist - you'll get the same effect (which is to say: no "effect" at all).

If you like the looks of the Power Balance wristband and have some money to spend, go for it! Just remember: There are no free lunches, no free energy, and there are no such things as truly magical bracelets.

(Also see our Flim-Flam Follow-Up post)

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No 3-Putts

David Frost is a golfer with a reputation as a great putter. He's on the Champions Tour now, and his putting nerves haven't left him. Following the 2013 senior circuit opener in Hawaii, Frost is now on a streak of 254 consecutive holes without 3-putting.

The PGA Tour record is 449 consecutive holes without a three-putt, held by Luke Donald.

What's your longest streak without a three-putt? Mine is probably ... two holes.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Is There Doping In Golf? Of Course There Is!

A Reuters article datelined from the site of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship focuses on comments by Thomas Bjorn, Henrik Stenson and Richard Green, comments in which those three golfers dismiss the idea that doping might exist in professional golf.

"I would find it very surprising if we encountered any enhancing drugs in golf," Stenson said.

Said Bjorn: "In golf we do our drug-testing and it seems to be a very clean sport. We can be proud of that."

Awwwwwww, that's adorable.

Of course there is doping going on professional golf! Given everything we know now about performance-enhancing drug use in some other sports, given that we know drug tests are routinely beaten by some of the worst dopers in sports history (Lance Armstrong: "I've never failed a drug test!"), given that one or two pro golfers have actually been caught ... well, you'd have to be extremely naive to think no pro golfers are doping.

In the cycling world, as an example, doping was so rampant that the best cyclists felt they simply could not win unless they, too, were doping. I'm not suggesting that anything even remotely like that is going on in golf.

I'm not suggesting that any top golfers, or any specific golfers at all, are doping. But look at the money involved. Imagine the desperation that golfers (like any other individuals competing in big -money sports) feel to win or feel to avoid losing access to all that cash and the lifestyle; imaging the desperate fear of failure that all sportsmen feel. I'll say it again: of course there is doping in golf.

One of the ways that fans and pro golfers dismiss the idea is by stating that pro golfers wouldn't benefit from any of the PEDs used in other sports. "I don't know what you could take to help you perform better in golf," said Stenson.

I don't either. Maybe human growth hormone to speed recovery from injury; maybe beta-blockers or something similar to calm nerves.

It doesn't matter if a drug actually has a benefit, it only matters if an athlete thinks it might, and is desperate enough to give it a try. (This is actually common throughout all levels of golf right down to the weekend hacker - it explains why golfers so often fall prey to scams such as supposedly magic bracelets.)

Related articles:
RF-blocking holograms, deer antler spray, and golf
'Magic bracelet' back in business, with Stacy Lewis' help

Friday, January 18, 2013

Now That's a Hazard: Unexploded WWII Shell Under Golf Course

Yesterday we posted a set of temporary local rules that were in place at one British golf course during World War II. Local rules that took into account such things as live gunfire and unexploded bombs.

But who knew such rules might still be relevant today?

At one Australian course, the locals are interested, you might say, in the possibility that an unexploded Japanese bomb lies beneath one of the fairways.

The course is Royal Sydney Golf Club. The bomb is a leftover from a shelling of Sydney Harbor by a Japanese submarine in 1942.

Two historians investigating that attack believe at least one of the bombs is unaccounted for, and lies under the ground of the No. 8 fairway at Royal Sydney.

The club issued a statement to the effect that there was really nothing to worry about:

The club notified the Defence Department's explosives ordnance division, which advised no action was necessary at this stage.

"The club has sought expert advice in this matter," the statement read.

"If the club is advised that underground exploration should be undertaken, the club will act immediately."

But if I'm ever playing Royal Sydney, I'll be careful not to take too deep a divot on the eighth hole.

Are Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn Dating?

(Update 3/18/2013: Tiger and Lindsey confirmed they are dating.)

The cover of this week's National Enquirer claims that Tiger Woods has offered Elin Nordegren $200 million and a no-cheat-clause in the prenup to get re-married.

Perhaps a more plausible rumor currently making the rounds is that Tiger's new girlfriend is Lindsey Vonn.

Vonn is an American downhill skier, a legend in women's skiing with multiple World Cup titles, dozens of individual race wins, and Olympic glory. She's also a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.

(Photos: instagram.com/lindseyvonn)

As the time of this writing, Woods has not addressed the rumors he is dating Vonn (probably because golf journalists are too scared to ask him). Vonn, however, has denied she and Woods are a couple - but acknowledged they are "friends."

If Woods and Vonn really are dating, it would be a little ironic given that Vonn was one of the sports celebrities who publicly mocked Woods' foibles and troubles back in 2010. After Woods' made-for-TV apology, Vonn had this to say:

In a story posted at Time.com, the double medalist is quoted as mocking disgraced golfer Tiger Woods for the carefully scripted televised statement Woods read on Friday. The story recounts how Vonn, hanging out with her entourage on Friday at the Olympics, was told about the hugs that Woods got from supporters after reaching the end of his statement.

"They're like, 'Yeah, you're awesome, you go have that sex," Vonn is quoted as saying. The story then describes Vonn imagining herself in a Saturday Night Live skit, pretending to read a solemn apology from a podium.

"There's something you don't know about me," Vonn is quoted as saying, pretending to read a solemn script. "Tiger, you're like my idol, and I too have a sex problem."

Vonn had since been through the breakup of her own marriage.

So why do some gossips think that Woods and Vonn are hooking up today? Location, location, location.

Woods and Vonn were seen together - not in any kind of compromising way, simply in one another's presence - in Vail, Colo., back in November.

The Denver Post noted in a short post on December 1 that "European media outlets have reported rumors that Lindsey Vonn is dating Tiger Woods," but Vonn denied it to the Post. Vonn said she and Tiger "are just friends," and added:

"My brother was the ski instructor for his kids this November in Vail. Guessing that’s where it came from."

But the dating rumors were given new life just last week. Woods was traveling from his home in Florida to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. But Woods made a stopover in Salzburg, Austria, arriving on Sunday and leaving on Monday.

And guess who else was in Salzburg at the same time ... right, Lindsey Vonn.

It's probably just coincidence. But if you're a celebrity gossip watcher, this Woods-Vonn rumor is one to keep an eye on.

Hmmm ... who else likes to text?

(Update 3/18/2013: Tiger and Lindsey confirmed they are dating.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Local Rules in Britain During World War II

The list that appears below has something of an "urban legends" feel about it. But it isn't an urban legend; it's a real list of temporary local rules put in place at Richmond Golf Club in 1941, taking into account that little inconvenience called World War II.

Temporary Local Rules at Richmond Golf Club During World War II
1. Players are asked to collect bomb and shrapnel splinters to save these causing damage to the mowing machines.

2. In competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take shelter without penalty for ceasing play.

3. The position of known delayed action bombs are marked by red flags at a reasonable, but not guaranteed, safe distance therefrom.

4. Shrapnel and/or bomb splinters on the fairways or in bunkers, within a club's length of a ball, may be moved without penalty, and no penalty shall be incurred if a ball is thereby caused to move accidentally.

5. A ball moved by enemy action may be replaced or, if lost or destroyed, a ball may be dropped not nearer the hole without penalty.

6. A ball lying in a crater may be lifted and dropped not nearer the hole, preserving the line to the hole, without penalty.

7. A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball. Penalty one stroke.

Ah, those Brits: stiff upper lips, and all that.

Richmond Golf Club still exists. It's about 10 miles outside the center of London, and visitors are welcome. Its location put it in a very precarious position during World War II, when the Nazis tried to terrorize Britain into surrender in part through the "Blitz." Later, V-1 and V-2 rockets were launched across the Channel into London.

But England, Britain and Richmond Golf Club withstood the barrage with bravery. As Winston Churchill so famously put it:

"We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight on the ninth fairway, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, we shall defend level par, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in gorse and the heather and the pot bunkers, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. But we will, if playing Richmond, take a one-stroke penalty and drop a new ball if a bomb explosion interrupts our stroke."

Tiger Woods' 90-Yard Topped Drive at Abu Dhabi HSBC

Tiger Woods carded a 72 in his first round of 2013, at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. But that round included this very ugly drive:

He cold topped it. The ball ran along the ground and got hung up in some thick grass, short of where the cart path crossed the hole - a drive of about 90 yards.

Funny part of this video is the announcers' stumbling attempts to figure out where Tiger's ball is - they clearly were looking way up the hole, but there was no ball where they were looking!

What's the Weirdest Sports Story of Past Four Years: Tiger, Suzy or Manti?

Tiger, Suzy and Manti, oh my! We've seen some weird stories in the sports world in recent years, and two recent ones really stand out:

  • There's the currently breaking story about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and the fake girlfriend. Te'o's "girlfriend" was allegedly an inspiration for him during his senior season, and their "relationship" received quite a bit of media attention - especially after she allegedly died of leukemia. Turns out, she never existed. But is Te'o the victim of a cruel hoax - or the co-perpetrator of hoax designed to generate publicity for himself? We don't yet know.

  • Only about a month before the Te'o story, there was the Suzy Favor Hamilton story. Hamilton, an "America's sweetheart" type of athlete, an Olympian, and the most dominant American distance runner ever (among women, anyway). A 44-year-old wife and mother, a successful realtor, a motivational speaker. And, it turns out, high-priced prostitute in Las Vegas.

Those are certainly weird stories. Out of left field. Did-not-see-that-coming kind of stories.

But there's a third candidate for weirdest recent sports story: The Tiger Woods scandals.

Now, there are a billion people today who will tell you that of course they new Tiger was a fraud long before that late November 2009 evening when he crashed his SUV into a tree and his world of extramarital affairs came crashing down, too. There are fellow golfers who will claim they saw things; media members who claim they heard whispers or caught glimpses (or outright knew what was going on).

But none of those people were speaking up before November 2009. Which means that most of those people aren't being honest, and were caught just as much by surprise as the rest of us.

It might be difficult to remember now that Tiger Woods' public reputation - burnished in fawning coverage from print, TV and online media alike - was that of straight arrow, family man, focused and dedicated golfer bent on making history.

In reality, Tiger's life may or may not have involved domestic violence; may or may not have involved prescription drug abuse; may or may not have involved driving under the influence; may or may not have involved porn stars and diner waitresses (sometimes at the same time); may or may not have involved sex addiction; may or may not have involved blowjobs inside a car in a church parking lot.

But it definitely involved lots and lots of lies. Tiger Woods' entire public persona was revealed to be a lie. And that's why there was such shock and surprise when those events from late November 2009 started unfolding, revealing the seediness beneath the facade.

One thing the Tiger, Suzy and Manti scandals have in common is that traditional media didn't break any of them.

Which do you think is the weirdest story?

Monday, January 14, 2013

The First Rory McIlroy-Tiger Woods Commercial for Nike Golf

And here it is, the first television commercial for Nike Golf featuring both Tiger Woods and Nike's new wonderboy Rory McIlroy:

Entertaining. Nike always seems to do a good job with its lighthearted, personality-driven television spots, don't they?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Top 10 Lance Armstrong Confessions about Golf

You might have seen the stories that disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong plans to confess to decades of cheating in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. (If that confession surprises you, you are a blinkered Armstrong fanboy.)

But cycling isn't the only area in which Armstrong has cheated. Oh, no sir. He's a huge golf buff and we've exclusively learned that, shockingly, Armstrong also plans to confess his golf sins to Oprah.

What will he confess about golf? Glad you asked.

Lance Armstrong's Top 10 Golf Confessions
10. Always used a non-conforming driver.
9. "Gained strokes" in the mountains, if you know what I mean.
8. Required all playing partners to inject themselves with Banana Boat sunscreen and Gatorade.
7. His gimme putts were not always inside the leather.
6. He only carried pencils with erasers.
5. When wishing opponents "good luck" on the first tee, he didn't really mean it.
4. His 2-Ball Putter only had one ball.
3. Always used PEDs - performance-enhancing dimples.
2. Foot wedges. Lots and lots of foot wedges.
1. All those years he said he wasn't cheating? He was lying.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Using Tiger Woods to Promote the 'Infidelity Phone'

Let's say you're a healthy, virile, horny male who has no moral or ethical qualms about cheating on your spouse or girlfriend. Someone, like, say ... oh, I don't know ... Tiger Woods.

What's your weakness in hiding that infidelity from those you're cheating on? Cell phone. If you don't intently watch over that smartphone, one of your honeys might check your messages or your texts, and, boom, the jig is up. Right, Tiger?

Well, the Japanese have an answer. It's something Japan's philanderers refer to as the uwaki keitai, or "infidelity phone."

It's 3-year-old flip phone available only in Japan, but its privacy settings are so good at hiding those calls and texts that you want to hide that Japanese philaderers flock to it.

Just how good are the infidelity phone's privacy features? So good that one of the former executives at the company that came up with the features said this:

"If Tiger Woods had this Japanese feature in his phone, he wouldn't have gotten in trouble."

Oh, Tiger, if only you had known! How different might the golf world have looked the past three years if only Tiger Woods had access to the privacy features found in the 3-year-old Fujitsu F-Series phone?

The Wall Street Journal explains:

The aging flip-phone — nicknamed the "uwaki keitai" or "infidelity phone" — owes its enduring popularity to customers who don't believe newer smartphones are as discreet at hiding their illicit romances.

A Japanese blogger who goes by the name Bakanabe and writes anonymously about picking up women, said he looked into buying a new device but found the privacy settings fell short of his current phone. Instead, he opted to refurbish his battered, three-year-old Fujitsu flip-phone with a new casing and a new battery.

"Women may want to check my phone for strange emails or calls when I'm not around. With Fujitsu's 'privacy mode,' they can't see that information at all," he said in an email. "The key is to give off the impression that you're not locking your phone at all."

Fujitsu's "privacy mode" is a layer of nearly invisible security that hides missed calls, emails and text messages from contacts designated as private. If one of those acquaintances gets in touch, the only signal of that communication is a subtle change in the color or shape of how the battery sign or antenna bars are displayed. If ignored, the call doesn't appear in the phone log.

The changes are so subtle that it would be impossible to spot for an untrained eye.

If Tiger Woods ever moves to Japan, now we know why.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Callaway's Ishikawa Signing Bigger than Nike's McIlroy Signing

It wasn't exactly a secret - the news first broke in October - but Callaway has made it official: The company has signed Ryo Ishikawa to an endorsement deal.

As endorsement signings go, I think this will be bigger for Callaway than signing Rory McIlroy will be for Nike. By that I mean, impact at the cash register.

Yes, Ishikawa will produce more business for Callaway than McIlroy does for Nike. Why? Asia.

Asia is the biggest growth market for golf, and the 21-year-old Japanese superstar Ishikawa is the biggest golfer in Asia right now. Yes, McIlroy is hugely popular and has a large fanbase, but he doesn't generate the excitement - in Asia - that Ishikawa does.

What about the American market? No contest there: It's McIlroy. But Callaway grabbed Ishikawa away from Yonex for Asia, not America. (Although it's certainly possible that Ishikawa will impact the American market, too. He's playing on the PGA Tour in 2013. And I am convinced that he will become, probaby this year, an impact player outside of Japan.)

An interesting question is which Callaway equipment Ishikawa will play. Most golf fans probably don't know this, but Callaway sells equipment in Japan that it doesn't put on the market in the United States.

Callaway's press release states that Ishikawa will play the RAZR Fit Xtreme driver and Odyssey putters, but doesn't specifically mention irons or wedges.

Could that be because Ishikawa will be playing the Callaway Legend irons that are sold in Japan but not the US? The Legend irons are very highly regarded by golf gearheads who've seen them; they are considered higher-quality than the irons Callaway sells in the U.S. So why aren't they sold in America?

Price. The Asian golf market tolerates - expects, really - top-quality, high-priced golf clubs. Companies that have traditionally ruled the Asian markets, such as Honma and Miura, make expensive, beautiful sets of irons. Irons that are considered luxury items in the American market, where price is more of a deciding factor with consumers.

The Callaway Legend irons sold in Japan can run $2,000 per set. That just won't fly at Dick's Sporting Goods or Academy Sports & Outdoors.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

LPGA Gains Tiger Woods, Loses Jamie Farr

Good news and bad news for the LPGA Tour, although the bad news is really good news. Got it?

First, the good news that is good news: For the first time, the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise from Electronic Arts will include an LPGA game mode. No, really, that's good news, and it's significant. The LPGA needs all the help it can get, and this game is hugely popular. Little girls and big girls alike can create female characters now and actually play LPGA tournaments, with the March availability of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14. And two more LPGA golfers are included in the game, bringing the total to five. Accept progress where you find it.

Now, the bad news, but bad news that is really good news: Jamie Farr is out. What for several decades has been the LPGA stop in Toledo, Ohio, under variations of the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic name, will, in 2013, drop not only Farr's name from the title, but Farr's involvement in the tournament altogether. That's bad news, but the reason it's also good news is that the tournament - which has been on shaky ground in recent years - has a spiffy new title sponsor in Marathon Petroleum.

So why is losing Farr bad news at all? I mean, it's not like Farr is any kind of star anymore, or has any kind of drawing power outside of his hometown of Toledo. The actor who played Klinger on M*A*S*H has faded from the public eye. It's been 30 years since M*A*S*H stopped taping (although it lives on in re-runs).

But losing Farr is like losing a piece of LPGA history. A connection to the tour's past. Farr is a) still alive; b) still enthusiastic.

Or at least he appeared to still be "B." Who knows? The official explanation of Farr's departure is that Farr has "pending show business concerns which may prevent me from hosting the tournament in the future." But, c'mon, that's a cover story. Farr hasn't had "pending show business concerns" since the '80s.

Maybe Farr is tired and wants to take it easy (he's 78 years old, after all). Maybe the Jamie Farr celebrity has waned even in Toledo. Maybe Farr still has an ego and didn't want to be part of the tournament if his name wasn't in the title. Maybe the new title sponsor didn't want a celebrity host stealing attention from its own name in the title and on-site officials. Maybe it was just time to retire.

All idle speculation, possibly none of which is true.

I, for one, will miss Jamie Farr at the Toledo LPGA stop this year. And whatever the reason for Farr's departure, Godspeed Maxwell Q. Klinger.

Dustin Johnson's Gallery Girl This Year is Paulina Gretzky

Remember back in 2011 when Natalie Gulbis showed up at the PGA Tour's Hyundai Tournament of Champions, following Dustin Johnson from the gallery? Natalie told a reporter with golf.com that she and Dustin were dating. Dustin initially declined to comment, but a few days later he denied that he and Natalie were a couple. That was weird, wasn't it? Guess Dustin got cold feet. (Which, by the way, is something Natalie must have all the time. I mean, when your legs are that hot, your feet must be quite cold, relatively speaking.)

Now it's two years later, but Dustin showed up in Hawaii for the season opener once again with a hot babe trailing him in the gallery. This time, it was Paulina Gretzky.

So far, Paulina is famous for two things: 1. Being the daughter of Wayne Gretzky; 2. Posting pics of herself like this on Instagram:

As I write this, neither Dustin nor Paulina have publicly commented on their relationship, but those golf.com guys are on the case again. The magazine's website described Gretzky as Dustin's "new squeeze" and said that Dustin got to Hawaii early to spend time with her. And hey, wouldn't you do the same? Wouldn't you be squeezing those, I mean her, if you could?

To this point in her life, Paulina Gretzky seems most famous for ... um ... well, for being hot, and for showing off on Instagram. Her dad even made her delete her Instagram account a couple years ago. But Paulina is older now, and doesn't have to do what daddy tells her. These photos are all among her more recent posts on Instagram (her handle is @pmgypsy).

What does Paulina do when she's not being hot? Trick question! She never stops being hot! But she does get paid, at least sporadically, for modeling. And she's pursuing a career as a singer; one of her recordings was featured in MTV's Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. According to Wikipedia, Paulina made her public debut as a singer at a golf tournament, belting out a tune during an event at the 2003 Heritage Classic.

Will Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky be a "thing" longer than Dustin and Natalie were? Well, unless Dustin denies to reporters this week that they are dating, then, yes! But perhaps the bigger question is: Who will Dustin show up with at next year's Tournament of Champions?

Update: Aaaaaand we have the first pic of Paulina and Dustin together, this dimly lit Instagram snap posted by Paulina:

Related Article:
Dustin Johnson wants to make sure everyone knows he's tappin' that

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Throwing the Book at an Error-Strewn Golf Book

So I picked up a book recently entitled From the Links: Golf's Most Memorable Moments. It's one of those vignette golf books: short entries of famous (and not so famous) moments, incidents, occurrences, achievements and so on through golf history.

I like those kinds of books. I wanted to like this one. Alas, this was the first sentence:

The 1938 US Open was held at the prestigious Cherry Hill Golf Club in New Jersey.

Uh ... no. The 1938 U.S. Open was played at Cherry Hills, not Cherry Hill. And Cherry Hills is in Colorado, not New Jersey.

Two errors, one minor, one major - in the very first sentence!

Now, I'm not one to be unforgiving about errors. Every writer makes mistakes. I probably make a lot of them; in fact, I'm sure I do. But I'm just a guy with a blog - not a book author who, presumably, had an editor.

The errors only mounted from there. On page 2, the author referred to "Ralph" when he was actually talking about a golfer named Ray Ainsley. On Page 8, the author states that Johnny McDermott "was unable to defend his British Open championship," which makes sense given that McDermott never won the British Open.

Mistakes like that pile up throughout the book. It's clear from his writing style that the author is not a professional writer. And the publishing house is a small one. But that's no excuse for failing to do a professional job on this book.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Floating Golf Course In the Middle of the Ocean

Global warming is affecting different parts of the world at different rates, and, therefore, is affecting the golf world at different rates.

The country of The Maldives - 26 atolls, 1,192 (mostly tiny) islands in the Indian Ocean - feels the rush of climate change much more urgently than you and me. That's because the Maldives is disappearing - literally - beneath the rising ocean waters.

Some other island nations have made plans to evacuate as their homelands fall beneath global-warming-fueled rising seas. But those plucky Maldivians have another plan: Replace their disappearing natural atolls and islands with man-made, floating islands.

This might sound like a far-out, far-off idea. But it's not. Construction begins this year, and plans include a golf course.

(Graphics: dutchdocklands.com)

Pioneering architectural firm Dutch Docklands is designing the man-made islands, which will support homes, businesses, restaurants, hotels, convention centers and, yes, a golf course called The Royal Indian Ocean Club.

London's Daily Mail outlined the project in mid-2012:

In the Maldives, the floating islands will be anchored to the seabed using cables or telescopic mooring piles, making landforms that are stable even in storms.

The architects chose this approach to minimise damage to the seabed, and also chose to build lots of small islands to reduce the shadow on the seabed, which could affect wildlife.

The islands will be constructed in India or the Middle east to reduce costs, then simply towed to their final destination in the Maldives.

... (Dutch Docklands) CEO Paul van de Camp said: "We told the president of the Maldives we can transform you from climate refugees to climate innovators."

... The first part of the project to be built will be the golf course.

"This will be the first and only floating golf course in the world - and it comes complete with spectacular ocean views on every hole," said van de Camp.

"And then there's the clubhouse. You get in an elevator and go underwater to get to it. It's like being Captain Nemo down there."

Some of the holes are expected to be in place by the end of 2013, with a full launch of the floating golf course in the middle of the ocean expected by 2015.

The Dutch Docklands website includes a section about the floating Maldives golf course. Among other info, it says this:

"The design will include many interesting water features where some of the holes on the island will be interconnected by a revolutionary underwater tunnel. In the tunnel you will be surrounded by tropical fish, manta rays and maybe the odd whale shark. ... The underwater clubhouse includes a well-equipped golf shop, restaurant and bar to cater to the discerning golfer."

Troon Golf, a worldwide leader in golf course management, is on board as a consultant to the project.

If they actually pull this off, the Maldives won't just survive as an independent nation in the Indian Ocean, it will become a must-see for golfers and others travel enthusiasts.

In fact, this guy might even show up:

On the other hand, this guy might show up, too, and if he does - run! And alert a course marshal:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Allison Micheletti and Mike Modano Get Icy Hot

You know Allison Micheletti, right? The attractive young golfer is probably best known (now) as a cast member on Golf Channel's Big Break Atlantis series, which aired in the first half of 2012.

Before that, though, she got noticed as the hot girlfriend of PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer, accompanying him at tournaments and the 2009 Ryder Cup. Kaymer also caddied for Micheletti a few times during her attempts at LET Q-School (she's also played LPGA Q-Schools). By the time Big Break Atlantis hit the air, Allison and Martin were no longer a couple.

Meantime, another couple was on the skids: Former NHL star, and future hockey Hall of Famer, Mike Modano and actor, singer and Playboy poser Willa Ford. Modano and Ford announced their plan to divorce after five years of marriage in August 2012.

And now, Modano, age 42, and Micheletti, age 25, are a couple.

 
What do they have in common? Golf and hockey. Modano is an avid golfer; Micheletti is a hockey fanatic from a hockey family. Her father is Joe Micheletti, a defensemen for Calgary and Edmonton in the WHA from 1977-79, and for St. Louis and Colorado in the NHL from 1979-82.

 
Micheletti's uncle, Pat Micheletti, had a long minor-league career but also played 12 games for the Minnesota North Stars in the 1987-88 season. Two seasons later, Modano signed up with the North Stars as the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft. He moved with the team when it relocated to Dallas, playing a total of 20 season with that franchise. He spent one more year with Detroit in 2010-11 before retiring.

Modano was the last active player in the NHL to play for the North Stars in Minnesota. And at the time of his retirement, Modano was the all-time leading scorer among United States-born hockey players in the NHL with 561 goals, 813 assists and 1,374 points.

And we know that he can still score - he's scored Allison Micheletti.

(Photos: @AllisonmGOLF/Twitter.com)


Update I: Micheletti, Modano get engaged
Update II: And now they are married

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Put Your Name on the Majors Aggregate Championship Trophy

(Editor's Note: Following is a guest post by Colin MacGillivray, who tracks the Majors Aggregate Championship every year at golf-majors-champion.com.)

By Colin MacGillivray

Who is the best golfer in the world each year? Is it the money leader, the FedEx Cup champion, the one with the most wins or top-10 finishes, or lowest adjusted scoring average?

It may be none of these.

The golfer with the lowest total in the four Major Championships might claim the spot. Sixteen rounds and four cuts in the world's toughest and most sought-after tournaments must have some merit. This year it was Adam Scott. The first winner was Arnold Palmer in 1960, so the competition is over 50 years old, yet is largely still a secret.

I have been compiling the aggregate scores for the Majors for over 25 years and in 1999 the establishment of the Majors Aggregate Championship of Golf became a reality.

In that year Tiger Woods played in the World Cup at the Mines in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and my trophy was presented to him (photo, above) at a pre-tournament function. I thought the idea would attract a sponsor but it's not easy to track one down. Over the years IMG, Qantas, Scott McNeally and Julian Robertson (Kauri Cliffs), among others, have been approached.

So where to from here? The names of Eisenhower, Ryder, Vardon and Wanamaker are attached to important golf trophies. This new "Majors" Trophy awaits the name of a person to sit alongside those.

Little funding is required. A substantial individual in golf or any field, who is keen to be involved for the long term, is needed. He or she could present the trophy to the winner each year, at a Fund Raising Lunch for a Charity nominated by the recipient.

If you are that individual, reading this, and want to do it, contact me!

Is Europe Catching Up to America In Women's Golf?

I suspect the European Solheim Cup team from 2011 would answer that question from the title with a resounding "yes!"

But I was struck by something when looking at the year-end women's world rankings. In the Top 50, at the end of 2012, there were more women from European countries than from the United States.

Here are the golfers in the Top 50 from each side of the Solheim Cup:

USA
3. Stacy Lewis
11. Cristie Kerr
12. Paula Creamer
18. Brittany Lincicome
19. Angela Stanford
24. Lexi Thompson
29. Brittany Lang
38. Morgan Pressel
Europe
6. Suzann Pettersen
14. Catriona Matthew
16. Azahara Munoz
28. Anna Nordqvist
32. Karine Icher
33. Sandra Gal
40. Caroline Hedwall
48. Caroline Masson
50. Carlota Ciganda

On the American list, only Lexi Thompson can be thought of as an "up-and-comer." But on the European side, there are three such youngsters: Hedwall, Masson, Ciganda (some might even include Munoz, but I think she's too well-established by this point).

And while it's true that the American list is missing some golfers who will probably be back inside the Top 50 - Michelle Wie, for example - the European list is missing those Solheim Cup stalwart Swedes Maria Hjorth and Sophie Gustafson.

Europe, as a whole, has more than twice the population of the United States. That's one reason - demographics, pure and simple - that men's pro golf in Europe has largely caught up to men's pro golf in the USA. But golf has penetrated more European countries on the men's side than the women's. There are still plenty of European countries, largely in Eastern Europe, where women's golf is barely played.

But even if you look only at those countries in which women's golf is well-established, the populations are similar between the USA and Europe. Which means that if participation rates are the same in both regions, then the overall quality - the depth of the talent pool - should even out between European and American women's golf, too.

I think we're starting to see signs that that is what is happening.