Offering the PGA Tour an Alternative

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 1, 2006; 4:08 PM

The last two tournaments on the PGA Tour have clearly demonstrated that brains and shot-making, not 350-yard big-bashing brawn, still count for something in men's golf.

Tiger Woods' decision to keep his driver in the bag at the British Open and short-hitting Corey Pavin's birdie barrage in Milwaukee last weekend probably won't start any sort of trend in the game.

But their victories also underscore the notion that there are many ways to get the ball in the hole, and that there is always room at the highest level of the game for players who still have the ability to work the ball left and right, who can still control their medium and long irons, who can still think their way around a golf course.

Back in June, when the PGA Tour pulled the plug, for now, on Washington playing host to a tournament for the next few years, I received several e-mails from a friend and Northern Virginia neighbor, Howard Jensen, clearly a thinking man's golfer himself, who offered an intriguing alternative to the usual stroke play format for a tournament he'd love to see some day replace the Kemper/FBR/Booz Allen Open.

The play of Woods and Pavin over the last two weeks reminded me of his proposal, which follows mostly in his words. It includes a deep-pocketed sponsor -- he suggested Nike--that would put up the prize money -- say $5 million -- and dictate the rules of play that would go something like this:

Equipment: Nike selects a standard shaft, maybe graphite, and a standard ball (soft) that all players must use. The goal is to select a shaft and ball combination that, in the hands of the longest hitters, would only carry 300 yards maximum when hit perfectly.

TV Coverage: The highest bidder among the networks or ESPN for a five-year deal.

Field: PGA, LPGA and Champions tours, half male, half female with two sponsor exemptions, also one male, one female for top amateur players.

Pairings: Male/female exclusively the first two rounds. Standard cut, then standard weekend pairings based on standings.

"The primary objective of the tournament is to use technology to dial down pure distance off the tee as an overwhelming advantage," Jensen wrote.

"Skill with mid-irons and skill around the greens becomes a significant factor in professional golf again. The equipment in the bags of all players is identical, no tricked-up wedges, no fairway iron/woods, no fade driver/draw driver combinations. It's pure golf, pure equipment.

"This is not a radical notion. Every other professional sport uses standard equipment for all players, even NASCAR. The Battle Cry will boil down to a single question: Is it the player, or is it his/her equipment?

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