Roundup: LPGA's Great New Idea & Norm Macdonald on Golf



This is a great idea.


The LPGA announced a new competition called the International Crown. It will be a team competition lasting completed in four days. There will be eight countries invited and teams will consist of four golfers. Countries will qualify based on the top world rankings of their players.


The scoring and playoff is a little confusing at first glance (but anything is more satisfying than the FedEx Cup). This is how it works:


  • The eight countries will be split into two groups of four
  • Like the World Cup of soccer, each country plays each other team in its group. The matched for these first three days will be fourball. Each fourball match is worth up to 2 points (2 for win, 1 if the matched is halved). So each country will have anywhere from 0 to 12 points after playing each country in its group.
  • Five teams advance: the top two teams in each group advance plus one wildcard (which is decided by each third place teams sending an individual to go out an play sudden death)
  • On Sunday, each team still has the points they earned in the group play but then each of the four player plays a singles match against one of the other members of each other playoff country. The points awarded per match are the same for singles - so two points for a win and one if the match is halved. So for Sunday singles play, eight (8) points are still up for grabs for each country to add to their fourball team total. A country with a perfect records could theoretically earn 20 points.
  • If there is a tie, there is sudden death playoff from a player already submitted at the beginning of the day in a sealed envelope (in other words, it may not be the hot player that day!)

I love it. This is a great idea for the LPGA. Granted, it may or may not work in terms of creating drama but at least it is a serious attempt. You can imagine scenarios where a player from a country out of the running is in a critical match for a team near the lead. It could make for some interesting situations. If it doesn't work, they can always adjust.


Another intriguing aspect is that it looks like the players will have to make decisions on pairings, order or play and sudden death player on their own. No captains or coaches - which is another great idea. Let's hope they keep it this way and do not find a way to sneak in captains of coaches. The dynamic between the players would be a fun part of the story.


The event will take place every two years in the middle of the LPGA season at the end of July. The first event will be at Caves Valley Golf Club outside Baltimore. Not surprisingly, it is smartly timed to take place after the men's British Open at Royal Liverpool and before the PGA Championship.


Maybe Whan saw what international competitions do for hockey - one of his backgrounds.


LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan Came from Hockey: Nationalism and Passion Are a Good Mix
LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan Came from Hockey: Nationalism and Passion Are a Good Mix


Before the LPGA, Whan was the in the sporting goods industry, including Taylor Made. Most importantly, immediately prior to the LPGA, he was the president of Mission-Itech Hockey. In other words, Whan knows that nothing can help get a sport with struggling ratings get into the consciousness of sports fans like an international competition. He must have noticed that hockey gets the most coverage in the USA during the Olympics. In Europe, there is a strange passion for hockey during the second-tier IIFH World Championships and in Canada (aside from around the clock 12 months a year) for the IIHF World Junior Championships. And of course any hockey fan knows about the Miracle on Ice and in Canada, it has never been more intense than the Summit Series. Nationalism works. Things could really get interesting if North Korea started golfing in this political climate (against both the United States and South Korea). If Whan can bring a combination of the Cold War and the passion of hockey to the International Crown, the LPGA will really have something.


On a broader note, this is just the kind of creative thinking needed for professional golf in general. While nothing is better than the classic stroke play of the Masters, the US Open and the British Open, it would also be great for the men's game to break the monotony of week after week of stroke play tournaments. 


An obvious early favorite is South Korea - not just for the number of LPGA players but possibly for genetic reasons (see second video below) 


It's a great idea and here's hoping it works.




Another interesting development for golf. Former SNL Weekend Update host Norm Macdonald is writing about sports, gambling and golf. This can't be anything but good news for golf commentary as a whole. Macdonald gives his take on Tiger and Rory with his usual style (or lack thereof -- which is what makes it funny) at Grantland. By way of background, Macdonald knows his way around golf and even the occasional lame golf joke [and a classic Macdonald-esque NSFW one].


Macdonald most recently had the short-lived Sports Show on Comedy Central that was a sort of weekly Weekend Update for sports sprinkled with some sketches. It got off to a great start in its first couple shows but had trouble sustaining the level of those first few shows. Alas, Macdonald is an acquired taste and the show didn't last - for a comedy show, it doesn't get easier than Tiger's troubles, John Daly and prostitutes.



Macdonald may be an acquired taste but in the context of SNL, he has to be considered the best Weekend Update anchor ever. No one could appear or make everyone else so uncomfortable. Macdonald had many great lines that were the perfect combination of absurdity along with an awkward understated Canadian-ness. This may be best summed up by one of his classics, "The state of Michigan's legislature has just passed a law allowing the blind to hunt deer. The biggest supporters of the new law? THE DEER."


The one major golf reporting accomplishment of Sports Show turned out to be ahead of its time: proof that Korea will have a leg up on the new LPGA International Crown.



It is appropriate to leave this part with another classic line from Macdonald. Its tenuous connection to golf is that Kenny G is close to a scratch golfer and possibly the best musician/celebrity golfer. Even so, Macdonald once noted on SNL, "Playing in a music store in New York this week, Kenny G set a world record by holding a saxophone note for 45 minutes. While he did warn spectators that it would be quite boring, it should be noted that it is every bit as boring to hear Kenny G play different saxophone notes for 45 minutes."




The PGA Merchandise show is in full swing in Orlando and I'm sure there will be lots of clubs, gimmicks and clothes as usual. What has stood out so far is this creepy shoe from Vibram via the twitter feed of Mike Buteau of Bloomberg News. Vibram is that company that makes those weird shoes with the toes. They just give me the willies.


Here's hoping against this shoe. We've essentially debunked the benefits and advantages of barefoot exercise. Now, for the love of god, cover up those toes!



Oddly, the PGA Tour has threatened to revoke credentials of reporters and media members that tweet or transmit "play by play" in real time. Umm, one of the main points of twitter and social media is speed and real time.


We can't see the logic in this at all. If anything, seeing tweets and any live text of what is happening in a golf tournament will get me to go to the TV or change the channel to golf. Unless there is some secret study showing people are likely to leave the house or turn the channel and follow someone on twitter, this seems completely backwards. Social media is helpful - the more the better.


There seem to be two possibilities of media members transmitting in real time: (1) a media member is tweeting something that is being covered by television; or (2) they are transmitting something not being covered by television. If it is being covered by television and interesting enough to tweet about, surely this would increase the likelihood of switching or turning on the television to that channel.  If it is something not being televised, it is simply creating additional interest in the event.


Surely they must know a great may viewers (especially younger viewers) watch television and use a computer device (smart phone, tablet or laptop or, in my case, all three) at the same time. It is now more the norm than the exception. If anything, checking out tweets about a golf tournament you are watching on television during commercials makes it less likely to switch channels. Television and its advertisers should want a lot of social media activity.


The PGA Tour's approach seems backwards.


Douglas Han