Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Hiding in the Weeds" Rule

The twosome that joined Digger and me at Moon Valley Country Club this weekend were an interesting pair. They had analyzed their rounds of golf (and read an article) and their hypothesis was that if you hit eight greens in regulation and have 32 or less putts you are very likely to break 80. This does not seem like rocket science. Assuming a normal par-72 course with 4 par-3s, 4 par-5s and 10 par-4s and assuming 15 putts on the eight holes reached in regulation, you would be 1 under par on those eight holes so you could be 8 over par on the remaining 10 holes with only 17 putts (3 one-putt holes) and still shoot a 79! One hole (no pun intended) in the hypothesis is that as you hit more greens in regulation, rather than chipping, pitching or using the Texas wedge from off the putting surface, the average distance of your first putt will likely be substantially longer and 32 putts may be overly optimistic.

Our twosome also knew the intricacies of the Rules of Golf. There were three interesting and good-natured Rules discussions (we just talked about the Rule rather than implementing it). First, I hit my tee shot on a par-3 hole into the back bunker and skulled my shot into the water. Disgustedly, I dropped my ball where it went into the water hazard marked with yellow stakes, chipped up and made the putt for a double bogey 5. One of the twosome pointed out that my nearest point of relief was actually on the far side of the water hazard (no closer to the hole) with the hazard between the ball and the green. The other fellow offered that I could play the shot out of the greenside bunker again (I thanked both of them and took my double bogey). This is Rule 26 of the Rules of Golf.

Second, one member of the twosome chipped onto the green before his playing partner, who was farther from the hole but on the green, putted his ball up to the hole. The discussion ensued over the penalty for playing out of turn and they agreed there was no penalty assessed but the person that hit out of turn could be required to re-hit his shot without a penalty. A similar discussion occurred on the tee box when one player was about to tee off before his playing partner who birdied the prior hole. We all agreed that this was a breach of golf etiquette and gave the birdie player the honors. This is Rule 10 of the Rules of Golf. I proffered that if you know your partner is playing out of turn and you "hide in the weeds" to see if he hits a good shot before requiring him to re-hit the shot you have "unclean hands" and cannot take advantage of this Rule. Although there is nothing in the Rule to support this position, I am a lawyer and I can argue any position with a straight face. I call this the "Hiding in the Weeds" Rule.

The third Rules violation occurred when one player marked his playing partner's ball on the putting surface. According to the Rules expert, unless a golfer authorizes you to mark his ball it is an infraction to do so. There was much discussion about golfers marking their playing partner's ball in PGA tournaments (which I have never seen) and we all agreed that in order to address this Rule the players must agree on the first tee that the other player may mark your ball on the green on any hole, which seemed to resolve the matter between the Rules aficionados. This is Rule 20 of the Rules of Golf.

Michelle Wie could take a lesson on the Rules of Golf from our playing partners. This weekend at the Kia Classic, Michelle was playing a ball partially immersed in water and she had one foot in water and one foot on the ground. After hitting the ball she grounded her club in the hazard. This is a 2-shot penalty in stroke play (or loss of hole in match play) unless you ground the club to help you keep your balance. Michelle said that she in fact grounded the club so that she would not lose her balance and that the Rules official could not know what she was thinking or feeling, although there is no indication that she is falling in the video. I think that she simply had a brain freeze and compounded that with a white lie. The penalty cost her over $90,000 in prize money, but more importantly some respect among her fellow golfers.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Kingdom for Two Good Nines!

I played golf with my friend and client Digger this weekend at his club, Moon Valley Country Club. As you may recall, Digger used to take some of the biggest tiger pelts you have ever seen as divots. I think that the club president and the course superintendent must have had a "come to Jesus" meeting with Digger because he is now picking the ball pretty clean and not taking much of a divot at all. I cannot, however, say it is improving his game.

I tried to get Digger to walk, but he was having none of that. He said something about going to the gym for an hour that morning and that was all of the exercise he needed. We played with another club member and his guest. The member was about 70 years old and walked with a pull cart, which made me feel ridiculous riding (although he seemed to be in the motorized cart pulling the pull cart along side most of the time) We teed off at about 2:30 and the weather was perfect. Digger was shirking his child care duties and told me that he was only able to sneak away for nine holes. I played really poorly on the front 9. For some reason I was hitting a lot of shots very thin and even topped a couple of 1-hybrids and skulled two L-wedges. On the 7th hole, Digger's wife called and told him to get home. As the man of the family, Digger played out the last two holes before running home with his tail between his legs.

I decided to walk the back nine with my two golfing partners carrying my bag on my shoulder like a real golfer. Walking in solitude helps you focus and "be the ball". I started flushing the ball on the back nine. I parred the 10th, 11th and 12th holes before my first bogey. We were playing really slow and I was worried that we would not finish before dark. I parred 2 of the last 5 holes and bogeyed the other 3 holes with one ball in the water. In the dusk, I hit my drive on the 18th hole into the water and my second shot into the greenside bunker and then I almost holed out from the bunker but left the ball one or two turns from the bottom of the cup. I shot a 40 on the back 9 to go with my ugly 47 on the front nine for an 87 total. One of these days I am going to put together a good front 9 with a good back 9!

The last few times that I played golf I used my GolfLogix application on my Blackberry Storm. I now have an extended battery and the application works really well. From the tee box or fairway on the par-5 holes, it gives me the distance to each hazard and to clear the hazard and the distance to the 150 and 100 yard lay-ups. From the tee on the par-3 holes and from the fairway it gives you the distance to the front, middle and back of the green (the scopes give you the actual distance to the flagstick). You can keep your score, tee shots in the fairway and left and right, greens in regulation, putts and other sundry information, and if you are really sophisticated (which I am not) you can measure the distance of each shot and the club used. After the round you can analyze all aspects of your game to see what areas require the most work. For $40 per year (plus the cost of the extended battery) I recommend this application over the $350 scopes or GPS devices.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Phoenix Suns Charities Golf Tournament

Wednesday was client development day on the golf course. It was the annual Phoenix Suns Scramble Golf Tournament on the Raptor course at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale. I invited the general counsel and the chief financial officer of the Phoenix Suns to play in the foursome. Chad Feldheimer was supposed to be our fourth player and ringer, but he actually had a deal to close and could not play. Slim Whiskey filled in admirably.

This is one of the best charity golf events in the Valley. Grayhawk is a great golf venue. The Raptor course was designed by Tom Fazio and is beautiful but also very playable. The door prizes are first rate. This year everyone in the foursome received an Antigua golf shirt with an understated Suns logo, a gift certificate for a Ping putter that can be fitted at the Ping headquarters, a Ping golf towel and a Ping golf glove (I love Ping!). Best of all, the door prizes are handed out by the Suns dancers as you drive up and leave your golf bag at the bag drop area. On the course, there are no mulligans and you have to putt out on every hole. Each foursome has its own independent scorekeeper, who is a senior citizen from a Sun City charitable organization. Not surprisingly, the gross scores are a little higher in this event than at some of the other charity scramble events! The event raises about $100,000 for Phoenix Suns Charities.

I may be a little bit biased, but the Phoenix Suns organization is the best organization in professional sports. It is a travesty that Jerry Colangelo did not win an NBA championship when he was the managing partner of the team. The Suns have put a winning and exciting team on the court for the last 25 years. The players are generally good citizens and involved in the community. I think that the Suns have more former Suns players involved in the organization than any other team in professional sports, including Neal Walk, Alvin Adams, Cedric Ceballos, Tom Chambers, Eddie Johnson, Steve Kerr and Dan Majerle. Also, the business people in the Suns organization are first rate. The Suns have been on the cutting edge of changes in the NBA from signing international players in the 1980s to having training camp in Europe to using social media.

Our foursome played pretty well. We shot a 66 gross and a 60 net and came in 7th place among about 30 teams. Our A player, the Suns chief financial officer, played really well when we needed him and seemed to hit all of his bad shots when we had a ball in the middle of the fairway or within 10-15 of the flagstick on the green. Slim Whiskey was our lead-off hitter and for most of the round he hit his drive right down the middle and took the pressure off of the rest of us. I got my required 3 drives in by the 8th hole but we were sweating the 3 drives for the Suns general counsel until he got on a roll on the back nine and started hitting the ball pretty well. I hit number 3 for the team and drove the ball well (with a few exceptions) and I hit some really good 1-hybrid shots from 210 to 220 yards on the par-5s and one of the par-3s. I started off making all of the mid-range 5 to 12 foot putts for the team but I quickly cooled down and did not make any putts for the team after about the 6th hole. We really only left one shot on the course. After our A player hit a great chip shot to about 3 feet from the hole on a par-4 hole, he stepped up and missed the gimme. Then each of us proceeded to step up confidently only to miss the gimme putt for a bogey. That was ugly!

As the 7th place team, we had the seventh prize choice. Prizes are awarded for the top 10 teams. The team members go up to the podium and get their picture taken with the Suns players and coaches that attend the event. The first prize winners chose a road trip on the Suns charter plane, the second prize winners chose 4 sets of Ping irons and the third prize winners chose 4 Suns season tickets. By the time we chose our prize, the remaining prizes were 4-foursomes at Grayhawk, 4 Maui Jim polarized sunglasses, 4 Ping golf carry bags and 4 Ping wedges. Based on the vote of my team, I chose the Maui Jim sunglasses. Behind me on the podium, Leandro Barbosa thought the sunglasses were cool, but Earl Clark (a rookie) was dissing me for not taking the Grayhawk foursomes. Rooks, what do they know!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Old Faithful - Southern Dunes

March is high season for golf in Arizona. The weather is perfect and the prices used to be astronomical! With the recession and the advent of golf sites like and, the golf courses are scrambling for players and the green fees are pretty reasonable. It still costs well over $150 to play The Stadium Course at the TPC of Scottsdale, where the Waste Management Phoenix Open is played, or Superstition Mountain Golf Club, where the skins game was played for a few years, but there are a lot of great courses in the Phoenix metropolitan area that you can play for $75 or less in high season through internet specials.

Chad Feldheimer and I scoured the internet specials, but we ultimately decided to fall back to one of our favorite courses, Southern Dunes Golf Club. Southern Dunes is arguably in the Phoenix metropolitan area, but just slightly. It is a 45-minute drive from mid-town Phoenix, but it is well worth it! The course is a Scottish links design and in your mind's eye you can almost see the sheep grazing in the fairways keeping the grass closely cropped. Southern Dunes did not overseed the fairways this winter and the grass is just starting to green up and grow with all of the rain we have had this winter, but the lies are still very tight. Almost every hole on the course is interesting and challenging and the pin placements this weekend were more difficult than usual.

We play from the gold tees, which are 6,889 yards. The black tees are 7,307 yards and the tips are 7,517 yards! From the gold tees, the course rating is 72.6 and the slope rating is 131. From the tips, the course rating is 76.2 and the slope rating is 141. SO bought me a set of Ping G-10 irons for my birthday and this was my first chance to take them for a test drive. We started on hole no. 10 and I went par, par, bogey, par on the first 4 holes. I double-bogeyed the par-5 16th hole and the par-4 18th hole and shot a 44 on the back 9. From the gold tees there are 3 par-4s over 435 yards and the par-5s are both about 550 yards so I was hitting a lot of 1, 3 and 4-hybrids from the fairways (or rough), rather than my new Ping G-10 irons.

I started off the back 9 with a double-bogey on hole no. 1 and I was pushing the ball to the right. Chad Feldheimer said that my alignment was off (those were not exactly his words, but this is a PG blog!). Usually Chad waits until my drive on the last hole before providing any constructive advice so I decided to take this advice to heart. I focused on my alignment and opened up my front foot and I started hitting the ball where I was actually aiming! I went bogey, par, par, par, bogey, par on the next 6 holes. I was thinking about shooting an 85 at Southern Dunes. That was my big mistake, thinking! I went triple-bogey, double-bogey on the last two holes to finish with a 45 on the front 9 and an 89 for the round. Normally, I would be very happy with an 89, but the proverbial "woulda, coulda, shoulda" bit me on the butt.

Playing with Chad Feldheimer is very instructive for me. He played as poorly as I have seen him play and he shot an 80. He never double-bogeys a hole and he scrambles really well. On a par-4 hole, he pulled his drive into the gorse. He blasted out of the gorse and did not think he would be able to move the ball more than 20-30 yards, but the ball came flying out and landed in trouble across the fairway. He then hit a great shot out of the thick rough to the fringe of the green and two-putted for a bogey. On another hole he hit his approach shot into a greenside bunker and then hit a good blast shot out of the bunker but the ball trickled off of the green into the collection area. He chipped to about 5 feet and made the putt for a bogey. He could have made double-bogey or worse on either of those holes and ruined his round, but he held it together for no worse than a bogey.

Friday, March 19, 2010

March Madness - Black Thursday

The entire college basketball season is simply a prelude to March Madness! Unlike college football, college basketball crowns a true national champion through its 65-team single-elimination NCAA college basketball tournament. The excitement starts to build with the conference tournaments and then the Selection Sunday announcement of the 65 teams in the tournament field, the brackets and the seeding within the brackets, and of course the perennial discussions of the bubble teams (and this year the discussion of increasing the size of the tournament to 96 teams!).

My two alma maters, Georgetown and Vanderbilt, were both shoo-ins for the tournament so there was no holding your breath to see if they would make the field. Georgetown was the no. 3 seed in the Midwest bracket, and Vanderbilt was the no. 4 seed in the West bracket. It looked like Georgetown had a good chance to reach the Elite Eight before running into Kansas, the no. 1 seed in the tournament, and Vandy would play Syracuse, the no. 1 seed in its bracket, in the Sweet 16. Both played there opening round games on Thursday against two mid-major teams.

First, Vandy ran into the juggernaut called the Murray State Racers. The Racers have a record of 31 wins and 4 losses, playing in the mid-major Ohio Valley Conference. The Racers are also riding a streak of 23 consecutive winning seasons. The mid-majors always seem to play well in the NCAA Tournament. The powerhouse conferences may not take them as seriously as they should and the mid-majors have a chip on their shoulders. This lethal combination oftentimes leads to an early round upset. In this case, the Racers beat the Commodores 66 - 65 on a buzzer beater by Danero Thomas. Buzzer beaters are so deflating because one moment you think you are going to survive to play the next round and the next moment your season and maybe your college career is over.

Then Georgetown played Ohio University from the mid-major Mid-American Conference (not THE Ohio State University!). Ohio University had a record of 21 wins and 14 losses and only got a ticket to March Madness by winning the conference tournament, but it was riding a 6-game winning streak. Ohio University had season losses to the likes of Marshall, Austin Peay and Akron twice! Georgetown started the season very strong and tapered off toward the end of the season. Georgetown had signature wins against Duke, Syracuse and Villanova, two of the no. 1 seeds and a no. 2 seed in the tournament. The Hoyas looked lackadaisical and mechanical from the start of the game and never found its rhythm. Georgetown trailed from the outset, were losing 48-36 at halftime, and lost by 14 points, 97 to 83. The Hoyas never got closer than 9 points and they simply whimpered home. In this case, the players had 40 minutes to realize that this was the end of their season and it did not look like they could do a thing about it!

If Black Thursday was not bad enough, how is this for piling on ... this is the lead sentence from an internet article about the number of people watching live streaming video of Thursday's first round of March Madness: "Initial stats are in for NCAA March Madness on Demand and it looks like will be able to declare victory again (unlike fans of Georgetown or Vanderbilt)." Ouch, that is just beating a guy when he is down!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Groove Controversy - Case Closed

On February 4, I posted "I Love my Ping Eye 2 Clubs", which was read and quoted world-wide. As I am sure you recall (and if not you can link above), in that post I implored John Solheim to magnanimously agree to waive the "forever legal" provisions of the settlement agreement for professional tournaments, but continue to apply the original settlement agreement to those amateurs that continue to use their beloved Ping Eye 2 clubs. John must be reading my blog!

On March 8, 2010, Ping Chairman and CEO John Solheim announced that Ping will waive its rights that prevent the PGA Tour from prohibiting the use of pre-April 1990 Ping Eye 2 irons and wedges that do not meet the 2010 Condition of Competition from being played at PGA Tour events, including the Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour, effective March 29, 2010. The PGA Tour will then adopt a Condition of the Competition that does not provide an exception for the pre-April 1990 Ping Eye 2 irons. However, the agreement also ensures that amateurs will continue to be able to play their pre-April 1990 Ping Eye 2 irons at all amateur events played under the USGA Rules of Golf.

Although Solheim could not resist the "I told you so" comment, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem expressed his undying gratitude to Ping and there were handshakes all around. You never know what deals were made behind closed doors, but it is clear that Solheim wanted more input into future equipment rulemaking. Simultaneously with this settlement, the USGA announced that it intends to hold a forum with all stakeholders to review its rulemaking process. Both Finchem and Solheim stated in their press conference that they will actively participate in the process.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Golf and eBay

Thank you to all of my followers for the birthday wishes today. My Facebook wall was covered with well-wishes. Whenever I told my peers that my wall was covered with birthday wishes, they looked at me with a perplexed look and asked whether taping notes or cards to the office walls was a violation of firm policy!

My SO bought me a set of Ping G-10 irons with graphite shafts (5-iron through pitching wedge and U (50degree) wedge) for my birthday. The golf clubs are fantastic. The graphite shafts are much lighter than steel shafts so my swing speed and ball speed should increase and I should be able to hit the ball a little further. Also, a graphite shaft club will not vibrate as much as a steel shaft club on a mis-hit (most of my shots), which should help my elbow pain (it is hell getting old!). Finally, the G-10 clubface has a larger sweet spot than the G-2 clubface so that should help me as well.

SO bought the golf clubs on eBay. First of all, you need to understand that SO is extremely competitive and does not like to lose, whether it is in court, playing backgammon and, now I have learned, buying items on eBay. The golf clubs were exactly as advertised. SO paid through PayPal and the clubs were shipped immediately and were exactly as advertised in excellent condition. When bidding, you need to read the eBay information carefully to confirm whether shipping is or is not included, the quality of the item and the seller rating.

SO spent last Saturday night fixated on the eBay auction site. There were three sets of G-10 irons for sale. We agreed on a maximum bid that was $300 below retail and you do not pay sales tax (I am not sure that SO ultimately held to our maximum bid amount). The bidding is timed and you can input a maximum bid amount and eBay will automatically increase your bid to one dollar higher than the highest bid until you reach your maximum bid or you can bid manually, or a combination. There is a lot of bidding strategy that you need to learn. Of course, there is little action until the last 10 minutes of the auction and then you need to be on your toes and try to make your final bid with less than 10 seconds remaining. We did not win the first auction, but we got an idea of the ballpark price for the G-10 clubs so we were ready for the next auction. The next set of clubs included a 3-iron and a 4-iron that I did not need because I use a 3-hybrid and a 4-hybrid. After we lost that auction, you could see that SO was getting frustrated and was intent on "winning" the next auction no matter the cost. The third auction did not include the 3-iron and 4-iron and the buyer paid shipping so we agreed on a further reduced maximum bid amount. SO watched the auction site like a hawk for the next 17 hours and surprise, she was the winner!

I have not seen SO since a week ago Sunday night, but I did get a call from a check-cashing store last night asking for a reference for SO to borrow money to purchase more items on eBay and I have 25 e-mails that say "I won again!".

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Curmudgeon - King Solomon

I have been remiss this week about blogging. My usual blogging time is 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. but I have been going to the chiropractor and physical therapist in the evenings this week because SO tried to kill me last weekend. SO tried to help me stretch out my hip and when I tapped out she decided that I was being a wimp and pushed harder (I guess she does not watch mixed martial arts!). I heard something "pop" and then my entire back spasmed. As long as I am moving around, it is OK, but when I sit at my desk for a awhile and then try to get up I am bent over like an old man until my back loosens again. But enough about me ... This is my 100th post and my followers want to hear about the Curmudgeon.

The Curmudgeon has been gloating for a month. His 60th birthday is coming up next week and his brother bought him tickets for the 2011 Masters as a birthday present. He has four passes for the Saturday and Sunday rounds and will be staying in a 4-bedroom private house near the golf course. The homeowner also owns a house across the street from Augusta National where you valet park your car, eat your meals and drink. But that is not all ... the birthday present includes 4 passes to this year's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach for any two rounds (including Saturday and Sunday), but sadly it does not include housing within a 7-iron of Pebble Beach. The Curmudgeon sent Chad Feldheimer and me a sarcastic e-mail asking if he should accept the birthday gift and he told me that he was thinking about starting a blog about attending the U.S. Open and Masters. Very funny!

The Curmudgeon has been torturing Chad Feldheimer about his Pebble Beach trip. In addition to going to the U.S. Open, the Curmudgeon and his guest are also going to play golf at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, California. Pasatiempo was designed by Alister MacKenzie, who also designed Augusta National and Cypress Point. Pasatiempo is ranked #11 in Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play 2008 and ranked #31 in Golf Digest’s 2005 America’s Greatest Public Courses. Although the Curmudgeon was a pretty good golfer at one time, that time was Old Tom Morris's day! The Curmudgeon now fancies himself as a links player because he keep the ball close to the ground, usually with a big duck hook. On a per shot basis, the Curmudgeon will get his money's worth at Pasatiempo.

I am happy for the Curmudgeon, but he has not yet realized that this birthday present may be more expensive than he ever imagined. The Curmudgeon has a wife, a son and two daughters. I am not sure how King Solomon Curmudgeon is going to split the baby and make all of the members of his household happy. The Curmudgeon is leaning toward taking his son on these golf trips. Mrs. Curmudgeon (which is not an appropriate pseudonym for the Curmudgeon's wife because she is a sweet, wonderful person) wants to go on an African picture-taking safari. One daughter would like an exotic destination wedding and the other daughter, well we will just have to wait and see what she wants, although a new Mercedes would be a nice start. The Curmudgeon may have to employ Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement to fully enjoy this birthday present. If the pressure is too great, I know that Chad Feldheimer and I would be happy to take the tickets off of his hands.