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Original Issue

The Pepper Mill

LAST WEEK inHouston, the Tour put mikes on certain caddies, and there's been talk aboutdoing it every week. It's not the first time such eavesdropping has beenconsidered. Golf Channel and ESPN miked LPGA players for a short while. I neveragreed to wear one because I considered it invasive and bulky. I still thinkit's a terrible idea. With the exception of a few player-caddie discussions theconversation is usually boilerplate stuff—yardage, wind direction, etc. Thetalk can also be a little, um, colorful. Nobody should have to worry about thatat crunch time. Also, the mikes the caddies wear are relatively weak andsometimes pick up only one side of the conversation—the caddie's. (Also:Caddies want to be paid for wearing the mikes.) An alternative arrived lastyear in the form of the superpowerful Sennheiser 816 boom mikes, currently usedby NBC. These have picked up lots of conversations, some of them terrificstuff. The only drawback to these mikes is that they're spotty when players areputting, since the mike operator can't go on the green. But again, do we loseanything of great value here—line, speed, grain? That's information theannouncers give out. If on-course audio is necessary, then hire another 816operator or two and let them follow key groups. Viewers may miss a fewgreenside chats, but they'll hear more overall, and players and caddies won'thave a gripe.

DAVIS LOVE IIImissed qualifying for the Masters based on a top 50 World Ranking by .0454 of apoint. It stinks for Davis (left) and his fans, but the larger issue is thatthe World Ranking needs tweaking. It's difficult to understand, hard topredict, and foreign fields are given too much credit for their strengthrelative to Tour events. Nothing against Rory McIlroy, but how does a guy whohad been a pro for less than a year, had a single European win and had not yetplayed in the U.S. arrive at the Accenture Match Play ranked in the top 20? Thekid is going to be tremendous, but this system for gaining entry to the bestevents needs to be put under a corrective microscope.

Dottie Pepper, a17-year LPGA veteran, is an analyst for NBC and Golf Channel.