Feature Interview No. 2 with David Eger
David Eger has served in many varied capacities in the world of golf. He was a PGA Tour Rules Official, Director of Tournament Administration, Tournament Director-Administration, & Director of Tournament Operations from 1982 to 1991. He was the USGA’s Senior Director, Rules & Competitions from 1992 to 1995 and the PGA Tour Vice President of Tournament Operations in 1996 and 1997. Since 2002, he has been a member of the Champions Tour with four victories & over $7 million in prize earnings.
1. You gave the crowd and television viewers a treat, forcing a playoff with Tom Watson at Valhalla for the 2011 Senior PGA Championship. What do you think of that 1986 Nicklaus design?
Except for the 6th & 18th holes, I think Valhalla is OK. Both Senior PGA Championships I’ve played have been marred by extremely wet weather & ground conditions. This course doesn’t rank with Nicklaus’s design work at May River, the Bears Club or Shoal Creek. I find it ironic that as a member of the PGA of America (paying dues translates into being covered under the PGA’s insurance if I bean a spectator with an errant shot!) I must own a shrub on Valhalla.
2.You have played in nine U.S. Senior Opens. Which host course was a) your favorite and b) had your favorite set-up? And why?
Indianwood would be my favorite course and setup. Generally, Jeff Hall narrowed a few fairways but didn’t touch anything else. The only strange hole is the 9th. It’s a 90 degree dogleg right and in one round the tees were moved forward to encourage players to go for the green. Indianwood is a real unknown jewel.
3. Where do you stand on the belly putter?
I’ve never been a fan of anchoring a putter when making a stroke. 15 years ago when someone had a long putter, you licked your chops knowing the guy couldn’t putt a lick. Nowadays, and Webb Simpson, Adam Scott & Keegan Bradely prove it, anchoring is a better method to putt well. I also have a problem with the Matt Kucher method, side saddle & anything different than conventional (yes, including the various claw grips) to be troublesome.
4. You joined the Champions Tour in 2002. What has been the biggest change in technology since then?
Technology has virtually been flat. Manufacturers tweak club head designs, shafts & balls but since the size of driver heads was limited to 460 cc’s, there hasn’t been any significant improvement with equipment.
5. How long do you hit the ball now off the tee? How long did you hit it in 2002? How about in 1992?
I believe my driving average in 2002 was about 275 yards. In 1992, I was struggling to find a Callaway driver and averaged probably 250 yards. Currently and for the last 6 years I’ve averaged about 280 yards.
6. What is in your bag? Walk us through the specs of the fourteen clubs.
I’ve been a Titleist loyalist since turning 50. I find their product conservative, best in quality & attuned to my exact needs. Driver is 913 D3 8.5 degree loft. 3 fairway is 913 F 13.5 degrees. Hybrid is 913 Hd 18 degrees. Fujikura Speeder X tipped 1/2″ shafts in all. 3 iron – PW are 712 CB’s. lofts are 1 degree strong. Wedges are TVD 52 & 58 degree SM4 Vokeys. Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S300 shafts in all irons. Putter is Scotty Cameron handmade in the Newport Tour Rat design but with a slightly under slung plumbers neck to help with face balance. Plan on playing the new 2013 Pro V1 ball as it’s very similar to the 2009 model ball. By that, I mean the aerodynamics (distance, flight, spin and trajectory) closely resemble the ’09 Pro V1. I found the ’11 Pro V1 to spin too much.
7. How often do you have to hit a driver and 3 iron to a par 4? Do you lament the loss of hitting a long iron?
Don’t hit many long irons into par fours. Find a lot of fours set up to hit mostly 6-9 irons and that’s a bummer hitting the same length second shots. Many of the par threes play long requiring hybrid or 3 or 4 irons. Usually one or two par fives are reachable in two albeit 3 metals and hybrids. Some courses seem to be nothing but short irons but then if weather is cool and wet, the opposite is true: middle and long irons mostly.
8. What are your three favorite non-Major Champions Tour courses that you like to return to each year?
We play a Billy Bell design in Newport Beach for the Toshina Classic that’s fun. It’s short but tight and has simple push up greens. Pebble Beach is also fun during the Natures Valley First Tee with the juniors. We’re moving to Wakonda in Des Moines this summer for the Principal Classic. It hosted a US Am that Deane Beman won back in the ’60’s so that will be an “old school” design.
9. What are your thoughts on the work that Coore & Crenshaw carried out on Pinehurst No.2?
I like Bill’s and Ben’s work at #2. The look is striking and with most of the love grass now planted, the areas off fairways is penal in some instances should your ball come to rest in it. First played #2 in 1967. I vaguely remember the areas off fairways as a mix of hard packed sand with inconsistent clumps of love grass scattered around. There was a border of rough (grass) between fairways and the packed sand. Greens were Bermuda (converted to bent in late ’80’s when CCA bought the resort). Bunker sand was actually small, coarse pebbles. Wish they’d go back to Bermuda on their greens.
10. How do you think Pinehurst No.2 will fare in 2014 when it hosts the U.S. Open and Women’s U.S. Open on back to back weeks? Are any other tweaks required to test the best?
I’m not a fan of playing the US Open and Women’s Open on consecutive weeks. The huge grandstands that will be filled for the men will be empty for the women. I’d imagine that besides the obvious shorter tees the green speeds and firmness will be somewhat slower and more receptive also.
11. If you were the Senior Director, Rules and Competitions for the USGA (as you were in the 1990s), would you play the third hole at No. 2 from the 290 yard tees at least one day during the 2014 U.S. Open?
I would play the third as a drive able four either during the third or fourth rounds. During the first two rounds, with 156 players, the drive-able set up would slow play down.
12. Do you agree with playing the 4th as a par 4 and the fifth as a par 5 from a newly built tee?
I don’t really have a problem with these changes. Originally, Ross designed these holes as a par four and five, respectfully. There is a problem with player and spectator congestion as the third green, fourth tee, fifth green and sixth tees all merge. It will slow play and spectator movement with the fourth played from a shorter tee than the par five tee.
13. How has the overall set-up of golf courses on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and at USGA championships changed since you oversaw things in the 1990s? What do you like and not like?
I was surprised my first year on the Champions Tour how long the courses were. Most in 2002 were 7000 yards. The first Senior Open was at Inverness in 2003 for me. I didn’t think, because of its confining property dimensions, the course was able to be lengthened but in 2012, several par fours had been. Generally, the USGA does play most holes at their full length except for extremely long par fours. While I’m grateful that there is a Senior Open, often courses like Whistling Straits, Bellerive, Sahallee etc., give the feeling that we’re lab rats being tested on less than great courses. My real disappointment with all course set ups, including the Champions Tour, USGA and PGA of America, is the redundancy of clubs hit into par threes and fours. I favor a short iron, two middle irons and a long iron, hybrid or fairway metal on par threes. I’d prefer varying lengths of par fours that require short, middle, long iron and hybrid shots. Variety is important.
14. When you aren’t traveling, your home is Charlotte, North Carolina with Quail Hollow visible out your back window. What do you think of all the work to that course over the past decade and its rise to national prominence?
Quail is a great club. The course is difficult and is made more challenging every year by club president Johnny Harris and Tom Fazio with new tees, trees, greens and bunkers. Whether these changes, clearly to make the course more difficult, fall under “improvements,” is debatable. Courses on the Champions Tour don’t seem as difficult after playing Quail.
15. What is your favorite course in the North Carolina mountains and why?
I’d put Linville GC and Wade Hampton as tied for the favorite. I’ve not seen Diamond Creek but hear it’s good.
16. How has the 2008 recession and its lingering effects affected the Champions Tour? What does the Champions Tour do to encourage crowd support?
Like most every business, the recession was felt on the Champions Tour and its tournament sponsors. Some who were well positioned, renewed their sponsorships while others chose not to continue. The net result was there were 28 events before 2009 and in 2013 there will be 26. The 26 are financially very strong with perhaps only one on somewhat shaky financial ground. The Champions Tour doesn’t draw, with the exception of the Senior US Open this coming year in golf starved Omaha, many spectators even when Tom Watson and Fred Couples play. Wish we could but it will never be the case. Several events don’t charge spectators. I think it’s safe to say that tournament sponsors don’t rely on ticket sales to help their bottom line.
17. When traveling on the Champions Tour, how often do you play a course other than the Tour stop that week?
Sometimes…played May River while in Savannah for the Legends, CPC during Pebble event, LA North during Toshiba, Nanea during Mitsubishi on Hawaii and Seminole and or MacArthur during Allianz in Boca Raton. Those times are special.
18. The rate of new course openings has greatly slowed in the past five years. Do you have a favorite?
Love Graham Marsh’s designs at Sutton Bay (new course) and Pines at the Prairie Club. I’m looking forward to playing Streamsong as Doak and C&C are favorites of mine.
19. How much better/truer are putting surfaces today than when you played on the PGA Tour in 1980s? What does that mean to the likelihood of making a 3 footer? A 6 footer?
Greens were great then and now. Ever since the Tour employed agronomists it’s rare course conditions are less than good. Except for Pebble Beach (bumpy Poa Anna) 3-6 footers are as hard or easy as 30 years ago.
20. I turn 50 years old in May and have a new custom made TP Mills putter. Are you scared? Be honest!
Yes, I’m scared. Didn’t know you’d improved enough to have a TP Mills putter!