Monday, November 30, 2009

C'mon, Man !?!!

(in the voice of Steve Buscemi) Does Tiger really think he has the right to privacy when he's reeled in hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsements? C'mon, Man !?!!
Did we really think Tiger's wall of invisibility and invincibility was going to last? Hell, even the Berlin wall fell eventually. C'mon, Man !!?!
Rumor has it that Elin aimed for the left rear window, but pushed the iron out to smash the right one. Apparantly she's been getting golf lessons from Tiger. C'mon, Man !?!
(Actually, I just made that one up)
Are we really shocked that Tee-Dub would fool around on someone as beautiful as Elin? I think it was P Diddy who snuck into the bathroom to have phone sex with some stranger while he was married to Jennifer Lopez. Billy Joel was married to Christie Brinkley, and he cheated on HER. For every astonishingly beautiful celebrity wife there's a husband who's tired of her. C'mon, Man !?!!
Did someone really say that going forward the TW on Tiger's hat stands for "The Whore" (i.e. this Rachel lounge lizard)? C'mon, Man !?!!
(I made that one up as well)
Just because you have no legal oblication to speak to the police, that doesn't mean it's a good idea (as long as you have nothing to hide). C'mon, Man !!?!
They say "Alcohol was not a factor". Why can't they just say he wasn't drunk (if in fact you tested his blood alcohol level, which they apparantly didn't). C'mon, Man !?!!
This story is just full of C'MON MANs ...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Royal Links Experience

I'm the kind of golfer for whom the history and literary aspects of the game is a significant factor in my enjoyment of the game. I love the fact that it's been around longer than this country has, and I thoroughly enjoy the many different angles that golf writers have taken to approach this truly multi-faceted game. Having said that, Scotland's where it's at. I've studies the links thoroughly, both from a historical and competitive point of view as well as how they came about and what it's like to play them. But Scotland is a long ways away, and I don't truly know when and if I'll ever get a chance to walk those hallowed fairways. In the short term, I spoiled myself and played a round at Royal Links when I was in Vegas last month. And let me tell you this: For all of you who love Scottish golf, the people at the Royal Links REALLY love Scottish golf. There's a castle for a clubhouse. There's a Claret Jug as you pull in. There's a statue of Old Tom Morris. There's a sand trap called "Hell". There are copies of 18 of the best golf holes Scotland has to offer. There are 75 degree temperatures in October. Allright, so maybe they're skimping on some of the climatic realism, but I'm fully in favor of that.
Few objects on any golf course anywhere is as famous as the Swilcan Bridge, which players cross on the 18:th hole at St. Andrews. No golf fan can forget Jack's sentimental goodbye on his last round there in 2005 (see insert in bottom right). When I shared this picture with my dad in Sweden he promptly sent me a picture of him on that bridge when he played St. Andrews in 1996 (see insert in top left).
They take it a bit far when the tees are not red and blue but claret and royal. If I were to say that Royal Links is the Medieval Times of golf, I mean that in the nicest possible way.
But I heartily encourage you to see past what might appear to be glitchy gimmicks, because the course is truly fantastic. By all accounts, the holes are fairly authentic copies of some of the great holes we watch on the British Open every summer, from St. Andrews and Troon to Carnoustie and Turnberry.
The course is in great shape, the greens putt true, and it's a quite challenging Par 72 layout. The course record is 67, and is held by none other than Tiger Woods back in 2001.
So while I still hope for the day when I will tee it up in the true home of golf, this round did allow me to enjoy some of the good, bad, and ugly aspects of links golf.
I stuck an 8-iron to the middle of the Postage Stamp hole for an easy two-putt par. I weighed risk and reward to determine how much of the corner to cut off on the Road Hole. I got the kind of lie in a bunker where the only shot that was anatomically possible was straight backwards, and I felt lucky I had that option at all. I left a lot of shots in the deep bunkers, and lost several balls in surprising places, and was lucky to break 100. All in all it was a fantastic outing, and one I would recommend to any golfer, particularly those of you who share my fascination with the Scottish variation of the game. The only thing I would have liked to see is a copy of the 18:th hole at Carnoustie, but that's being really nit-picky.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cute Culprit - Terminated Titleist

Our dog Gilly has quite the mouth on her, the little bitch. When we first got her, she destroyed more than a few pairs of shoes (that's what the kids get for leaving them lay around), and she'll make mincemeat out of the overpriced "indestructable" bones you buy in the pet store. As she's getting a bit older and we're getting better about keeping her occupied it's been much less of a problem. With us she is very mouthy, but incredibly gentle, and she never bites us even a little bit, so that's good. But I surely thought that a golf ball would be something she would not be able to get her teeth into. Imagine my surprise when I came home the other day and she was in the process of turning the ball into little tiny bits of scrapnel. It's not just that a golf ball is hard, but being round I didn't think she'd be able to get a sufficient grip on it, but clearly she did.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I can't review this

Over the past year, I've had the honor of reporting on the quality of various and sundry golf publications on behalf of the http://www.thegolfspace.com/ site. I've certainly enjoyed this opportunity. Before going any further, let me make sure I'd be the first to allow that opinions are like bottoms, divided, and a book (or movie, or album) that's great for one person may or may not be anywhere close to that of another person. Someone recommended a book called "How To Hit Every Shot", so I thought I'd give it a try. It outlines 101 different golf shots, and expresses methods and techniques for pulling each shot off.
If this book works for you, then I'm very happy for you. For me, I had a hard time getting over the atrocious writing and editing that allowed shot #2, "Power Fade", to reach the printed page. Maybe I'm being picky, but I just don't think this is the kind of advice we should have to pay thirty dollars for. I love your money more than that. Here goes: In the introduction to this shot the writer(s) state "Old-school instruction tells you to open your stance, point your clubface at where you want the ball to end up and then swing along your stance line. That's a lot to think about. There's a much easier way , and all you have to do is make your normal swing. Follow the instructions at right". So far so good. Sounds like they're about to lay some severly slimmed down and simplified golf lessons on us. So I read on: "Step 1 - Take aim at the left side of the fairway". Boy, this sure sounds a lot like you should "open your stance". "Step 2 - Open the face". Given that your stance is already open (or aiming at the left side of the fairway), this pretty much works out to be "pointing your clubface at where you want the ball to end up". "Step 3 - Hit the outside. Make your normal backswing and downswing." If I didn't know better, I would say this sounds like "swing along your stance line". Now, I have no problem with a writer accepting that standard, accepted golf instructions actually were the best way to hit this shot. What I do have a problem with is the fact that they presented their instructional steps as representing a new and revolutionary way to hit this shot, but then they proceeded to take the same steps that they were very quick to put down in the introduction. There may well be very valuable tips and techniques in this book, but I for one will have a VERY difficult time allowing them to sink in.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2009 Golf Turkey Of The Year Nominees

Tiger for pretending to care about promoting the sport of golf during the Playoffs, while never announcing where he'll play until the very last minute all year, giving promoters as little time as possible to advertise. Anthony Kim for wasting a year of his golf career. Every time he'd have a decent round he'd say "I've been working very hard for the past month", but you know he hasn't. GolfChannel, for shining a spotlight on John Daly's life, just as things were starting to come together for him. The USGA for their stupid first round pairings in the US Open. Any golf commentator who still claims that Tiger is rusty, even after six wins. Carolyn Bivens, for setting the LPGA back 3 to 5 years. Any golf fan who yells "Get in the whole". Golf Digest for their lame picks in their US Open Challenge. Sergio for his comments after the Masters. Politicians for grandstanding and disrupting golf tournaments. Every stupid, lazy golf writer all year who just wrote about Tiger instead of covering the actual story. Lefty, for ... nevermind ... he didn't do a damned thing wrong all year.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Talk about your dream job ...

I came across a person in a golf forum on LinkedIn the other day. The job title was "Director of Business Development at Playboy Golf".
There probably are better jobs to have, but I sure can't think of any.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Best Golf Drill Ever"

Golf Magazine (a.k.a. golf.com) recently celebrated their 50:th anniversary with a very nicely put together special issue about golf in the past half century. One of the sections they talked about was golf instruction, and how some of the teachings have changed drastically over the years while some haven't changed at all.
(Angus Murray)
They named the "Feet Together" drill as one of their best ever. It's supposed to provide the player with significantly more distance, while also improving your balance.
I've been incorporating this drill for about a month and a half, and the results have been very illuminating:
Firstly, it's surprising how much distance I've been able to get during this drill. I lose no more than 5-10% of my distance with my irons. This speaks volumes about how UN-important is to sway or slide back and forth during the swing.
Secondly, as a result of working on this drill I've made my stance more narrow. It's now closer to hip-width than shoulder-width. I feel like this is allowing me to load up my right leg during the back swing and move onto a straight left leg during the through swing with a minimum of moving parts.
Thirdly, I've played some of my best golf in decades after starting to include this drill in my range work. This may be a coincidence, but I'm getting too old to believe in a lot of coincidences.
I may be attributing too much of my recent good play to this drill, but the drill really really feels "right".

Friday, October 2, 2009

Was there ever really any doubt?

Wow. Tiger Woods won the FedEx Cup. I'm shocked, SHOCKED I tell you.
(AP Photo / Dave Martin)
While he wasn't as dominating as two years ago, the outcome definitely isn't much of a surprise.
When they started talking about the design of this contest in 2007 there was much talk about making sure that a greater number of golfers were going to compete, and that it wasn't just going to be an annual Tiger Woods Bonus Program. As it turns out the exact opposite is the case, and the FedEx cup is the only tournament where Tiger is more heavily favored than in a conventional 4-day tournament. Hear me out:
Tiger's the best player on the planet; there isn't much argument about that at this point. Even so, he doesn't have the lowest score on every day he plays. He doesn't even win every tournament he participates in (it just seems like it some time). But the longer you make the contest, the more likely it is that the cream rises to the top, and Tiger is victorious.
There's little doubt in my mind that Tiger will win EVERY FedEx Cup he participates in. His domination will be so complete that when he retires they will just name it the Tiger Woods Trophy. It will be his legacy to golfers of future generations. They will all talk about "The trophy with Tiger's name on it" the same way hockey players look at the names of greats of the past on the Stanley Cup.
So, the PGA Tour writes Tiger a check for $10 million every year. Given his contribution to the growth of the tour over the past 13 years, I think that's fair. If anything it's on the low side. I will refer to this competition as the TWBP until they officially put his name on it.
Congrats to Tiger for a well played victory, and a fantastic season. Congrats to Phil for ending the domestic season on a high. And congrats to the PGA Tour for putting together a very interesting and compelling playoff system.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In Defense of the Playoffs

Other than the age old questions like "Is Tiger better than Jack?" or "Which course would you most like to play?", few topics have inspired as much discussion as the formatting intricacies of the PGA Tour Playoffs, the FedEx Cup. I have to say I'm loving what's going on right now, and what's been happening leading up to this week. The Cinderella Kid, Heath Slocum, barely squeezing in and then winning The Barkleys. Mr. Consistency, Steve Stricker, holding off an elite leaderboard to win the Kraut Bank. The Johnny Walker Blue of Golf, Tiger Woods, dominating the field at the Beemer. Watching the numbers turn from red to green has been every bit as exciting as the watch for who gets to retain their tour cards in the Fall Series. But don't just take my word for it. Here's Mrs. Golfer In Kilt, who is NOT a golfer and NOT a sports fan, getting into how they got here and watching with keen interest to see if a putt is going to fall to allow a golfer to "Live to play another day". Watching Snedeker yip his way out of the Tour Championship was as painful and enthralling as any train wreck. Luke Donald and Jerry Kelly made pressure putts on the 72:nd hole to grab the last two spots in Atlanta. I'm very excited about this weekend, especially after a story this morning that speculated into the possibility of a double playoff on Sunday. They could have a playoff for the tourament, and if the chips fall correctly they could have a playoff for the FedEx Cup itself, if two or more players land at the exact same point total. Sudden death for ten million dollars? WOW !! I'm really not going to get into the details about how the playoffs should be formatted. I think they should keep it the same way for a while, to get a true feel for the format, and to establish a baseline. All I know is that I'm a huge fan of this year's iteration, and I can't wait for the games to begin.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good swing to study - Alvaro Quiros

The stories about Alvaro Quiros are legendary, and although the young Spaniard has already captured three tournaments it's all about how far he hits the golf ball. He was the longest driver on the European Tour in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and he's on track to do it again this year with a titanic 315 yard average.
But if you think his swing is some freakish concoction of power moves designed purely for distance you couldn't be more wrong. He's tall (6'3") and athletic, and he gains his power from a very fundamentally correct golf swing, the kind of swing we all could benefit from studying. Golf.com has put together a swing sequence on their website, and here are a few of the highlights:
  • His setup looks a lot like Jack, with a straight back and lots of room for his arms.
  • Full shoulder turn but very little hip turn.
  • Beautiful lines where the club is an extension of his arms (shot 5 of 10 and 7 of 10).
  • Smooth hip release.
  • Belt buckle leading the swing (are you watching, Faldo?)
Note to self: Gimmicks don't generate power. A proper swing and consistent contact generates power.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Golf clothing for all climates

There's no shortage of good looking and functional golf clothing on the market, but for most part it's very homogenous looking, and oftentimes quite pricey. I've started going in a different direction, and that is the general outdoors companies that cater to hikers, campers, skiers, etc. I have found that these companies offer good looking and high quality clothing for considerably less than most golf wear. For the record I have two distinct factors that play into my clothing selections: 1) I live in Dallas, TX, where it's very hot for a very long time every summer. 2) I'm 6ft7 tall. Eddie Bauer sold a fantastic breathable zippered polo shirt last summer. I bought one, and liked it so much I bought four more in different colors. They were only $30 a piece, and they're very lightweight and comfortable even in very hot weather. It's what I'm wearing in the OU - Texas picture a few blogs back. I have several pairs of shorts from Columbia, and they're all good. I'm particularly fond of their Titanium fabric, which is very lightweight and strong. I think the people at Columbia are closet golfers. Their commercials are all about climbing Pike's Peak, skiing the Vasa Race, or hiking the Appalachian Trail all the way to the Buenos Aires trailhead. Not a golf ball in sight in any of their catalogs. But in all their shorts there's a small hidden pocket inside the front pocket, which just happens to conveniently fit a golf ball in it. Coincidence? I think NOT. For headwear I also have sizemic challenges, as I carry around a size 8 noggin. REI is my source for all sorts of headgear, from bucket hats to wicking ballcaps to visors with sweatbands. While it doesn't apply much in Dallas, all these companies also make comfortable and breathable clothing that's intended to allow you to keep moving around even in considerably cooler temperatures. If I could only get Keen to start making golf shoes I'd be all set. Either way it's good to know when you have to go on a 50 yard hike into the rough to look for your ball that at least you have the right gear on.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tiger stat of the week

I've been on the "Tiger is the best ever" bandwagon for several months now, and this fire had more fuel added to it this weekend. Tiger won number 71 this weekend, leaving the field in his proverbial dust. He's now two wins away from catching Jack for second place on the all time win list.
(Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)
They flashed a stastistic on the screen last Sunday that was pretty significant. Tiger won his 71:st tournament when he was 33 years old. Both Jack and Sam Snead were 42 when they won their 71:st.
That means Tiger is nine years ahead of their pace when it comes to wins. NINE years.
I think Tiger is focusing too much on winning majors. Even when you're the best player in the world, which he clearly is, a LOT of things have to happen just the right way for you to win one of these four tournament. A quick look at the four winners will reveal just how random it can be. I think Yen is the only major winner with another win this year. Tiger's won more tournaments than the four of them combined.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Red River White Ball Shootout

I and the three guys I most regularly play with call ourselves The Bushwood Boys (for obvious reasons. If it's not obvious to you, don't read on. You won't like my sense of humor). As we only play every couple of months we usually pick a theme for the outing, such as "Football", "The Masters" or "American Lager". We played last weekend, and as it was the opening of the college football season we decided to have that be our theme. We quickly figured out that two of us are Oklahoma fans, and two are Texas fans, and it was very quickly game ON with the trashtalking.
That's Chris and I in the Crimson, and Doug and John in the burnt orange. The game of the day was best-ball skins.
THE WAGER
We don't like to play for money, so we had to come up with something a little more creative but still something that will spur us on. We decided that the losing team will have to wear the winning team's apparel the next time we play. If you know anything about the OU - Texas rivalry, you will know that this is a BIG deal.
THE COURSE
We played the Lakes course at Firewheel in Garland, TX. It is a tricky layout with lots of chances to lose balls. We've all played there before, and the course was in very good shape.
THE ROUND
While the Lacey Longhorns played very consistently, the Spackler Sooners started out a bit more up and down, but in this format that's not necessarily a bad thing. We drew first blood on the third with a birdie, a few more skins on five, and after nine holes OU were up by nine.
Driving to the 10:th tee Chris and I agreed that we had to win the next skin soon, to determine the match, or the pressure would mount exponentially with every hole. After a couple of tied holes we are able to wrap up the contest on the 12:th hole. We get a couple more on the 14:th, and now our goal is to keep a clean sheet.
We start talking out loud about this prospect on the 16:th tee, and all of a sudden the contest gets more heated. We all concentrate very hard on the last couple of holes, but neither of us is able to gain an advantage. Two well played pars split 18, and the final score is 14-0. We in red obviously think this score will be repeated in October.
THE LINE OF THE DAY
We've just made a mess of the 14 hole, and we're having to wait to hit our next tee shots. As the sound of empty beer cans and ball sleeves lands loudly in the trashcan Chris says "I don't know why we're not playing better". Obviously, you had to be there.
THE AFTERMATH
Of course, then OU goes and loses to BYU in the first game of the season, and our ability to rub it in goes out the window.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

State of my game

I started this golf season back in March, as soon as I was cleared to start swinging after my back surgery. I wanted to take the game more seriously, because I know it's a lot more enjoyable when you play it well. I had a few goals in mind, some of which were general in nature, and some of which were quite specific. With the exception of a period in which I was travelling a lot and work was getting in the way I've been able to practice just about every other day, alternating putting, short game, and buckets. The graph came out of Golf Digest, and I think Mashie submitted it to the site several months ago. I found it very interesting to compare my goals to how different handicap levels perform in the various categories.
Since it's now been six months, I thought it might be time to take a look at these goals and see where I'm at:
"HIT THE FAIRWAY MORE OFTEN THAN NOT"
There's just something beautiful about a well hit drive bounding down the fairway. Most of the time I'm happy just to know where my ball IS after I hit it. I bought a new driver in the spring and I have been spending a lot of time working on it. In some of my recent rounds I've hit 9/14 and 10/14 fairways, so I feel like this is coming around.
By the way, I count the first cut of rough as fairway. On some of the courses I play you'll get a better lie from there than the fairway anyway.
"HIT THE GREEN MORE OFTEN THAN NOT (WHEN HAVING A CLEAR SHOT FROM 150 IN, OR FROM A TEE BOX)"
My short irons have always been my strong suite, and they still are. I hit my 8-iron from about 155, and I've been striking the ball very well in this range and in. On a recent round I hit 10 out of 15 in this category. Two of the misses were only a few yards off the green, and two misses were good shots with the wrong club, so I really only had one poor shot out of 15 opportunities.
On a recent visit to TopGolf I hit 18 out of 20 greens in a range from 50 yards to 160 yards.
"GET UP AND DOWN MORE OFTEN THAN NOT (FROM A REASONABLE LIE CLOSE TO THE GREEN)"
As I look at the chart above it's clear that this goal is quite advanced, and it has also turned out to be my biggest challenge. I'm getting better, and I think I will continue getting better as my putting improves, but I still have a long ways to go.
"NO MORE THAN TWO THREE-PUTTS PER 18 HOLES, AND NO MORE THAN 36 PUTTS OVERALL"
Another weak area, mostly due to my poor long putting. I think I've made some breakthroughs, and look forward to trying them on the course again. In my last round I had two three-putts and 32 overall, which was by far my best putting all year. Before this round my lowest putt-count was 37, and I had never had less than four three-putts.
"SCORE BETTER THAN BOGEY GOLF ON AVERAGE"
My last four rounds have all been just a few strokes above bogey golf, on different courses. I'm quite consistent, and I think I'm very close to meeting this goal. I think a lot of my challenges here are mental, as I start thinking about my score with several holes to go, and I've had several instances of poor play towards the end.
HANDICAP
I did not have a specific handicap goal, because I didn't know how the calculations worked here in the States. Right now my TGS handicap is about 20, and in my buddy's handicap engine I'm a 15. I've set myself a goal to be a single-digit handicap player by the end of next season.
OVERALL
I'm just having a blast getting better. Playing golf under any circumstances is wonderful, but when you're hitting it well it's quite divine. I love going to the range, whether it's hitting drives or putting or pitching, and that will definitely help me stick with it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Four Majors, Four Memorable Shots

As the dust is settling from the year's last major, and as we head into the first playoff weekend I think it's approprate to take a quick look back. Another thing that's happened is that the whining and moaning about the outcome of the majors has started to die down. Oh, what story lines we had going this year. What tremendous commentary our esteemed golf writers could have composed. Instead they stand there with their mouths open, looking every bit as incredulous as Jim Mora (and I paraphrase): "Research? Are you kidding me? Research?"
THE MASTERS
"Kenny choked" they all said, which isn't fair to him nor to the eventual winner. The ever-popular Kenny Perry led by two shots with two holes to go, and for some reason he starts playing conservatively when he's been hitting the snot out of the ball all day. Phil and Tiger played together, 7 shots off the lead at the start of the day, and made such a run that they came within one stroke of the lead at one point. The quiet and steady Chad Campbell played the last seven holes in -3 for a strong 69.
But don't take anything away from Angel Cabrera, the hard-hitting, chain-smoking, no-hablo-ingles Argie with a smile as wide as the Parana River. He went two under in the last five holes to put pressure on the leaders and to position himself to get to play for the championship. And once he was in the playoffs he was locked in. His second shot into 10, given the pressure and the circumstances, was as good an approach as we've seen all year.
In the end the Augusta cronies had to scurry to dust off the 52-Long jacket that's been sitting in the closet since 1982.
US OPEN
Phil Mickelson's lovefest with NY reached a new zenith as he returned to the tour after taking time off to be with his cancer-stricken wife. Both he and Tiger were in contention, and that always adds an edge to a major. Whereas all the focus was on the course leading into the tournament, as play started it was all about the weather. As it all turned out, they were probably lucky to get the tournament done in the five days it took to finish.
Then we had the completely unexpected yet highly talented players that rose to the surface like some obscure fact in a Pop-up Video. David Duval? Ricky Barnes? What year is this?
Lucas Glover shared the big lead with Barnes going into Sunday, and they both faltered early as they combined to go eight over par on the front nine holes. Glover turned out to be the steadier of the two as he settled down and played the back nine in even par to hold off the charges from the pack.
The most memorable shot of the tournament may have come from Hunter Mahan on 16. He was just a few strokes behind the lead and hit a perfect shot into the green. It was so perfect that it hit the flagstick hard and bounced off the green, where he was unable to get up and down to even save par. A two-shot swing, and he was out of the running.
BRITISH OPEN
I'm fifteen years younger than Tom Watson, and I can't even fathom playing golf for four straight days. Much less doing it on a world class course under British Open conditions. Yet there was Tom, looking every bit like the aging love child of Alfred E Neuman and David Letterman, holding the lead after day two and day three, and continuing throughout Sunday's play.
By then Tiger was already home in Florida, having missed only his second major cut as a professional. During a particularly rough stretch on Friday his best swings came when he slammed the club into his bag after yet another errant shot.
The tall and twittering Stewart Cink shot a brilliant 66 on Thursday, and hung in there with near-par rounds on Friday and Saturday. He played early on Sunday, and posted -2 to take the clubhouse lead with several groups left to play.
Everybody else fell off and it came down to Tom Watson making par on 18 to beat Cink's score. Three indifferent strokes left him a ten footer for par, and what followed can only be described as possibly the worst putt in Tom Watson's career. He left the clinching putt not only short, but also veering off to the right by a good foot off the line.
The four-hole playoff between Cink and Watson turned into a cake-walk for the kelly-clad Stewart, as he beat Tom by six strokes over the four holes to claim the claret jug.
PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
There were more surprises near the top of the leaderboard in this tournament, but this time the names were huge and the element of surprise was only due to the fact that they'd been struggling for most of the year. Three-time major winners Els, Singh, and Harrington were all oh-fer 2009. They were all chasing Tiger, who opened with a 67 and stayed in the lead through days two and three.
On Sunday Tiger led by two, and was paired with YE Yang, the smiling Korean who had beaten Woods three years ago in Asia. Of all the big names on the board, few people gave Yang a real shot at the championship, even in the unlikely scenario that Tiger would let the peloton catch up to him. Yet by the time they got to the back nine it was a true two-player race, mano a mano, as everybody else who were close fell away.
Yang took the lead with a brilliant chip-in for eagle on 14, and he was able to avoid mistakes every bit as effectively as Tiger avoided making putts to close the gap.
Coming to 18 Yang was still only up by a shot, and the tournament was still very much in the balance. That was until Yang's second shot, a towering 3-hybrid over trees and bunkers that landed 12 feet from the hole. Tiger missed the green and YE made the putt for a "comfortable" three shot victory.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ping Hybrids

I've been looking at picking up a couple of hybrids to replace my 3 and 4 irons, since I'm not able to hit those clubs reliably, and I have a gap in my hittable range from 180 (5 iron) to 240 (5 wood). Being a Ping guy I've tested the G10 hybrids a couple of times, and like them a lot. Ping just released their new G15 hybrids. I haven't tested them out yet, but as you can see from the pictures below the club has been completely re-engineered. The G10 looks a lot more like a small wood, with a face that reminds you of the old Tight Lies by Adams Golf. The G15 looks a lot more like an iron, but with a bulge on the back of it. It might make a difference that the G10 pictured is 18 degrees while the G15 is 23, but I still think they've put a LOT of changes into this club.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunday night, after the last interview

Looks like Tiger took his second place finish pretty hard.
SKYY IN THE TIGER !!!
(Photo courtesy of Ale-Man Productions)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Moment of Putting Zen

Those of you who have been following my ramblings here this year know what a difficult time I've had with my long putting. Three-putts are commonplace, and I've been suffering from a complete lack of confidence. In short, I don't have any idea what I'm doing on long putts in any way, shape, or form.
How bad is it? Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light. Total protonic reversal. It's bad, I tell you.
I've tried short putters and long putters. I've tried putting lefty and putting righty. I've tried big fat heavy heads and tiny little blade heads. I've tried a variety of stances, and a plethora of grips. Nothing's worked.
The last time I played 18 at Firewheel I shot an 89 on a par 81 course. Bogey golf, which is a pretty good score for me. What was bothersome was that in this 89 I hit 8 fairways and 9 greens in regulation, but I had 40 putts for the round. According to statistics I've seen this means my long game was about like a 9 handicap golfer, but my putting was like a 36 handicapper.
So I'm out at the greens working on my short game last night. A bit of putting, and a bit of pitching. Some more putting, and some chipping. My putting is again poor. My pitching is spotty, which isn't all that surprising because I haven't been playing a lot over the past month. My chipping is ....
Hey, wait just one God damned minute !!! Why is it that I can chip-and-run a six-iron from the fringe a LOT closer and with more consistency than if I were to putt it from ten feet closer on the green? Tried it again, from the other side of the green, with more good results.
You know how all the big shot short game teachers tell you that you should chip with your putting stroke? Well, I've never had enough faith in my putting stroke to take this advice, so I've sort of come up with my own chipping method.
So, at a loss as to how to explain this conundrum I decide to try putting with my chipping stroke, and HALLELUJAH !!! Lo and behold, I start stroking the ball beautifully. I putt my six balls to different holes and different distances. All of a sudden I can truly feel how I need to hit the putt, I roll ball after ball up to within feet of reasonably long targets. It was BY FAR the best long putting I've ever done. It's the first time I can recall having an actual "touch" for the distance.
I don't remember thinking about much as I was hitting the ball. Mostly just "go up there and get the ball close to the hole."
As darkness was bringing my practice to an end I wrapped it up on a true high, hitting my six balls all to within five feet of the hole from a good 30 paces away, downhill and with a six-foot break. This may not mean much to those of you who are actually good putters, but to someone like me it was absolutely astounding.
And believe you me, I was grinning like Billy Bob Thornton after a fifth of Jack.
I can't wait to practice again, and I can't wait to get out on the course again. I've been around golf long enough to know there's a very real possibility that I will never again recapture this feeling, even with the exact same methods and equipment.
But, maybe just maybe I've stumbled on something here. To be continued ...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jinx In Kilt

One day after I wrote my last blog, about what a bad idea it is for John Daly to have another reality show, the guy shoots 88. He had 25 strokes more than Tiger. 25 !!!
Must see TV, no doubt.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thanks a LOT GolfChannel

Most golf fans are happy to have John Daly back on the tour in somewhat regular fashion. He's played well for stretches here and there, and by all accounts he's stayed on the straight and narrow. He's obviously wearing fabulous pants. I thought it funny a few months ago when he was playing in Europe and wore raingear over his pants. Big headlines: "JOHN DALY WEARS BLACK PANTS". So that's all well and fine. Why oh why does GolfChannel now have to shine an even brighter spotlight on this guy? He's trying to play it straight, inside the ropes as well as outside. The last thing he needs is some bogus pseudo-reality show around all the time. Do you think they really want to see his boring life, or are they there because there could be a train-wreck at any given moment? I think it's asking for trouble, and the fallout could be disastrous. At best it's irresponsible journalism, and at worst it's manipulative and self-centered. Meanwhile, nobody's asked me to come up with names for his show, but here are a couple of options off the cuff:
  • Daly Show
  • Old No. 7 at 8 (Eastern, 7 Central)
  • Happy Hour with JD
  • JD and Diet
  • The Loudmouth Speaks
  • The John
  • The Round Mound of Career Rebound

I'm sure there are others ...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Try spinning THIS

We all are very able to find faults with the PGA Tour and their players. The blogosphere is full of comments about who should play which tournament, why nobody cares if Tiger isn't playing, or the length of Faherty's shorts. But put yourself in the NFL's cleats this offseason. Below is a graphic of today's headlines, with summarization of the basic facts related to some of the headline. This is not a summarization, it's what's going on right now. The only story that's remotely positive is the report of the commissioner's attempt at climbing Mt. Rainier. It makes me very thankful to only have to worry about whether someone's going to play in Milwaukee or Scotland in two weeks.

Ramblings from the Rough (7/8)

As if Kenny Perry didn't have enough sympathy support for The Open after the way he carried himself at The Masters, now it's revealed his mother has cancer. All the best to the family. At this time Kenny is still planning on playing in The Open. Tiger took a dig at George Steinbrenner and the Yankees before the AT&T National, using Yankee Stadium as the worst case scenario of escalating ticket prices. Good move of Tiger to let all servicemen in free, and good for the PGA Tour that a majority of tournaments let kids under 12 in free. Great PR move.

(photo by AP)

A word about Hunter Mahan. This guy's going to win soon, and once he does I think he'll start winning a lot. He has an uncomplicated swing, and cool demeanor. Three straight in the Top 6, along with five Top 20s in the beginning of the year. He had eleven Top 20 finishes last year, so he's definitely putting himself in position to win.

A couple of writers are throwing Mahan into the category of other golfers who were mowed over and left rolled up in the fetal position by another Tiger victory, but I feel like his situation was different last week. He came from so far back and posted a great number. It's not like he should have been expected to shoot a 61 to tie Tiger. He truly did everything he could on Sunday. Having said that, we CAN add AK to that list. He was clearly not up to the challenge on Sunday. Glad to see he's healthy, but he still has a long ways to go before he's a consistent threat week in and week out. I'm re-reading "Zen Golf". It's so good I don't even know that I'd be able to write a review of it. It's going to be one of those book I always want to have around. The lessons apply very much to life as well as to golf. More bad news for the Mickelson's. Phil's mom was also diagnosed with breast cancer, and will undergo surgery next week. Again, many good vibes to their family. The USGA are openly discussing having a course where par varies from day to day on the same hole depending on where they put the tee boxes. Have they completely gone off the deep end? It's not like players would play the hole any differently, and it wouldn't impact the end result other than the winning score in relation to par. Bad BAD idea. This week's indication the economy may be getting better: A convoy of four trailers carrying Beemers to the local dealership. Everytime The Open comes back to Turnberry I think back to Tom Watson's victory over Jack in 1977. He shot 65-65 on the weekend to beat Jack's 65-66 to win by one. Bowling balls!!! The Waggle Room blog has a picture of a golf bag that got hit by lightning. A pretty convincing argument for not being anywhere near if that were to happen. The LPGA seems to be in some kind of tailspin. They lost another sponsor, and there's a rumor that a group of top players wrote a letter stating their lack of conficence in their Commissioner Carolyn Bivens. This is very unfortunate, because inside the ropes there has been some very good golf played, and they have some great new talents that are playing well. Hell, even Michelle Wie seems to be improving every week (T23, T10, and T3 the last three weeks). I don't know about you, but I'm actually going to pay attention to the US Women's open this weekend, which is a first in a long time. Golf quote of the week: "Golf is assuredly a mystifying game. If would seem that if a person has hit a golf ball correctly a thousand times, he should be able to duplicate the performance at will. But such is certainly not the case." (Bobby Jones). The Devil Ball blog on Yahoo sports has been documenting a list of their top 18 golf holes in the game. It's good reading. The move to ban fans who yell "Get in the hole" at golf tournaments is gaining momentum. Couldn't agree more. That is all.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tiger Stats with Tiger Stripes

As Hunter Mahan signed his scorecard Tiger had roughly six holes of golf left to play, with the score tied and nobody else realistically within reach (including would-be Tiger-killer Anthony Kim). All Tiger had to do was to avoid bogeys on some holes where trouble was within fairly easy reach, and somehow find a birdie along the way. Tiger's play down the stretch was a showcase of control and concentration, in the end he was able to pick up the one stroke on par that he needed for the victory.

(photo by TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images from Yahoo Sports)

Now, one shot over a 72 hole tournament is a very miniscule margin, to say the least. Mathematically it's a fraction of a percent, and in golfing terms there were dozens of places where Tiger may have lost a stroke or Hunter could have gained one. In order to appreciate Tiger's greatness we can't just look at one tournament, but we need to take a step back and look at a larger body of work. When you do, you will realize that we'd better pay attention, because we're watching a domination of titanic proportions.

It's not that he won by one stroke this weekend, or at Memorial, or at Bay Hill. It's that he just keeps finding ways to win much more frequently than anyone else in history. Over the past two years he's won 7 times out of 14 stroke play events, an amazing win rate. And when he doesn't win, he's usually close by, and he almost never crashes out and finds himself with time on his hands on the weekend. Not counting the US Open shortly after his father died Tiger hasn't missed a cut since 2005. As a point of comparison, Phil Mickelson has missed eight cuts in the past three years, and Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh have missed 11 cuts each in that time frame. While it's true that most players play in more tournaments than Tiger does, you're still comparing their numbers to a goose-egg. Tiger is currently riding a 19 tournament streak of Top 10 finishes (again, looking at stroke-play tournaments) that goes back two calendar years. In the last five years, Phil's longest streak like this is four tournaments, Paddy's longest is three tournaments, and Vijay's longest streak is also three tournaments. I feel like this number is the most impressive of all at this time. Given how deep the PGA Tour is right now, to consistently keep yourself in the Top 10 out of 200 of the worlds very best golfers is truly astonishing. It's unfair to compare Tiger's performance now to his ridiculous domination in the beginning of the century. At that time he took the tour by shock and awe, raising the bar in ways reminiscent of when Babe Ruth took the home run record from 29 to 54 in one year in 1920. The rest of the tour has had some time to catch their collective breath and adjust their training, preparation, and focus to try to catch up, and a new generation of golfers is coming up who's never known a tour without Tiger as the dominating force. The fact that Tiger's still wins at the rate he does is truly remarkable. I lived in Chicago during the 90s, and I consider myself lucky as a sports fan to have gotten to witness Michael Jordan's domination of that decade, leading the Bulls to six championships. I feel like in watching Tiger play right now we're watching a very similar performance. I love Jack, and Bobby, and Ben and Arnie; but I can't imagine anyone convincing me right now that Tiger isn't the best ever.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Golf in HD

Could someone get a message to the Golfchannel makeup artists and inform them that as Nick Faldo turns sideways the back of his neck gets exposed? This means you may want to cover this rusty-looking red-neck area of space with the same magic stuff you used on his face.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Think this might be a little distracting?

Aaron Stewart, the son of the late Payne Stewart, played Pinehurst as part of the North and South Men's Amateur Championship. Here's a picture of him putting in front of a statue of Payne in his famous victory pose. It scored pretty high on my creep-o-meter.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Preview: "I Hit the Ball Great at the Driving Range, but ..."

Everybody's favorite Chicago-area Big Lebowski fan, BeeZee a.k.a. abzgolf a.k.a Brian Zipse, has given me the honor of previewing a manuscript for his burgeoning book "I Hit the Ball Great at the Driving Range, but ...". It's a compilation of "Dear BeeZee" columns on a variety of topics.
(artwork by JT Munson)
THE AUTHOR
Brian Zipse lives in Tinley Park outside Chicago with wife and baby daughter. He's a Master Teaching Professional with the World Golf Teaching Federation, a status only attained by 300 of that organization's 18,000 members. He has been teaching golf for 10 years, and he's a contributing writer to Universal Golf and The Green Links Pages. Brian's website is www.abzgolf.com.
THE BOOK
The subtitle to the book is "The Best of Dear BeeZee", and it can be best thought of as 72 holes of golf oriented "Dear Abby" type columns. The questions and answers cover all aspects of improving both the enjoyment and the performance of amateur golfers. It deals with the mental side of the game as well as with physical and technical aspects.
To a golfer who's coming back to the game after a lengthy absence he recommends: "Most beginners would improve faster if the first motion they tried with a golf club was to swing it at chest level, like a baseball swing ... after this is comfortable, bring back the ball. Make the same easy motion, letting the ball get in the way. Yes, the golf swing can be as simple as letting the ball get in the way."
Another golfer has a problem with roller-coaster performances, and not being able to stick with what he knows is right. Brian's advice includes "Get off of this merry-go-round now! By constantly looking for a fix to your golf swing and then abandoning this fix as soon as it stops working, you are in essence not learning, not building, and you are inviting inconsistency to be your golf partner."
Those of us who pay attention to Brian's comments in the various The Golf Space forums know how passionate he is about helping golfers play better and enjoy the game more. This passion is evident in the advice he provides. For most part his tone is positive and encouraging, but at times also stern when that's called for. He definitely has the kind of temperament any good teacher needs.
The writing is casual and easy to read. I wish Brian the best of luck with the book, and with his continued contribution to the promotion of the game of golf.

Friday, June 26, 2009

You're entering a world of pain

Sometimes a story comes along that show us why stereotypes are there in the first place. While stereotypes are never 100% perfect, they rarely evolve out of thin air either. A golfer has a slow-play argument with the threesome in front of him. It continues for several holes, and spills into the parking lot at the course. The complaining golfer pulls a gun and tells them "If I feel threatened, I am morally obligated to destroy you." The guy is 73 years old. It would happen in Texas. I'm sure it had something to do with Vietnam somehow, at least in his demented mind. The man in the black pajamas. A worthy (#&$)@(#&$ adversary. http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/2009/06/25/0625golfer.html?cxtype=rss&cxsvc=7&cxcat=52 Moral of the story: Let the guy play through next time. Life's too short.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Golfer I Didn't Know - Brian Vranesh

When most people think of Q-School they may think about former winners who are trying to get back to their winning ways, or about hot young talent trying to get their tour card. Occasionally a club pro makes a run at a career as a player. Then there are guys like Brian Vranesh, who was able to rise above his "do anything play anywhere" 10 year long existence to gain entrance to the big tour at the end of 2008.
When most people think of Q-School they may think about former winners who are trying to get back to their winning ways, or about hot young talent trying to get their tour card. Occasionally a club pro makes a run at a career as a player. Then there are guys like Brian Vranesh, who was able to rise above his "do anything play anywhere" 10 year long existence to gain entrance to the big tour at the end of 2008.
Brian was born in 1977 in Northridge, California, where he still resides. He's 6'5" tall, and weigh 180 pounds.
In 10 tournaments on the PGA Tour in 2009 he's made two cuts. His best finish was in Memphis recently, where his scorecard included two 66s and he took 39:th place.
Some of the players Brian are close to on tour include Charley Hoffman and Pat Perez.
Brian has also played in five Nationwide Tour events this year, with his best finish being second place in Louisiana in March.
Brian is getting married this December, in Las Vegas.
In this week's tournament Brian is teeing off at 8:35 AM on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TopGolf Review

I first found out about TopGolf in checking out a profile at The Golf Space, and soon thereafter I overheard some people at work talking about it. It seemed almost like a mystical, magical place, where the ground knew who just hit that golf shot that landed next to the target.
Well, the end result is exactly that, but the method is a lot more straightforward, and one of the cooler uses of technology I've seen in some time.
It starts at the factory. Maxfli embeds microchips into Top Flite golf balls as part of the manufacturing process. These chips send out a unique signal that can be sensed outside the ball. You plug your TopGolf card into the machine when you get balls, and the machine slowly drops one ball at a time into your basket. The reason it's a slower process than at the normal driving range is that as it gives you the ball it also registers that particular ball as belonging to you.
You then go to the mats, and before you hit each ball you run it through another sensor. A video screen tells you what your target is, or which game you're playing with your buddies. You hit your ball towards graduated targets with a handful of different point categories depending on how close to center you hit, and then you get points based on how well you do. Think a "closest to the flag" contest at the range, but without the arguing. The further away the target is the more points you get for hitting it.
The games you can play can be wide open where you just gather as many points as possible, or it can direct you to specific targets depending on your skill level. Up to five players can participate in any game at any time.
All the mats are shaded, which is huge in Dallas, and there are waitresses who are very adept at bringing out food and buckets of cold beer and other libations of your choosing. The bar inside has many electronic televisions, and there are golf instructors available.
The cost is $3.50 for 20 balls, which is a bit high but still very reasonable for an urban driving range in the Dallas area. The Dallas location is fully lit and open until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. There are three locations in the UK, and three in the US (Dallas, Chicago, Washington DC).
If you like golf and you live in or you visit one of these places, I highly recommend you stop by. The staff will explain everything to you, and you'll find the time just run away from you.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hmmm, I wonder what the weather will be like

This pretty much eliminates "The Weather" as a topic of casual conversation in Plano, TX this week ...

Friday, June 19, 2009

My First Bridgestone Experience

Tony was absolutely raving about playing the Bridgestone 330 balls a few months ago, so I thought I'd give them a shot myself. Keep in mind that my shot-making and ball-striking is a lot more inconsistent than Tony's, so I won't be able to provide an exact impact on my game, but here are my thoughts after playing it once: Firstly, I played the 330-S ball. I'm a roughly-20 handicap, and my swing-speed is about 105 with a 7-iron. Distance wise I would say I hit an 8-iron approximately 150 yards. Traditionally I've played Pinnacle, and recently I've been playing the Pro-V1x.
Initially I got the impression that I had a lot more spin than normal even on very short chips and pitches. I noticed this even on the pitching green before the round, which was shots of no more than 15 yards off the green.
My second impression was that of seeing my iron shots fly 10-15 yards over the green. I would say I had significantly more distance on all irons.
On this particular course I don't get to hit driver until the 4:th hole, and I felt like the ball went further than I expected based on the kind of contact and swing I put on the shot. I had at least 3 300+ yard drives into a slight headwind.
In short, until proven otherwise, I have a new favorite ball. I just have to re-calibrate how far I hit my irons.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bushwood Black Warning Sign

I didn't even know they had a Black course at the Bushwood Country Club, but it appears that they do.

Golfer I Didn't Know - Andrew Svoboda

Born in 1979 in New Rochelle, NY. Played golf at Winged Foot growing up. Played golf while attending St. John's University. Qualified for the US Open in 2006 and 2008. He missed the cut in '06 and shot +16 in '08. Has played in two Nationwide Tour events this year. Was first alternate out of this year's US Open qualifying rounds. Initially it didn't look like he'd get to play because Brian Gay won in Memphis, but he eventually got in when Robert Karlsson withdrew with an eye infection. He played nine holes in practice with Tiger Woods this week. "It was awesome. I really learned a lot from watching him. We talked about Winged Foot. When the Open was there, I met him on the 10:th tee." Andrew tees off at 7:44 AM on Thursday, playing with Henrik Stenson and Steve Stricker.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ramblings From The US Open Rough

The weather report for Farmingdale, NY: Chance of rain every day, chance of thunder on Sunday, high temps in the upper 60s and lower 70s. 100% chance of rough.

(photo by Rusty Jarrett - golfdigest.com)

More evidence that karma works: JP Hayes, who DQ'd himself from Q-school for playing the wrong ball, made it through local and sectional qualifying rounds on the number each time. He's in the first group to tee off at 7:00 AM on Thursday. Nick Faldo was knighted by the queen, for "Significant contribution to the development of sarcasm and dry wit in the field of golf commentary" (presumably). Golf quote of the week: "There's something intrinsically therapeutic about choosing to spend your time in a wide, open parklike setting that nongolfers can never truly understand" - Charles Rosin I'm making this point one more time: I think Lefty will play very well this week. He can't tinker as much as he's prone to do, and his innate talent and golf instincts are second to none. Brian Gay is turning out to be one hell of a front-runner. I wonder if the fact that his game is focused more on accuracy and control allows him to maintain a peak of good play for a longer period. Few other players have put together a suite of four rounds this year like he did last week and at Hilton Head. Lost in the hubbub of this year's US Open Challenge event, with MJ, Big Ben, and Mr. Ball In A Box, is the fact that last year's amateur winner passed away from lung cancer. John Atkinson was 40, and a lifelong non-smoker. Many good vibes to his friends and family. Golf.com's "expert" picks include Paddy (for some reason), Poulter (based on one strong performance at Birkdale last year), and Vijay (because "he should"). Is that the best and smartest they can come up with? I think these are some of the same writers that suffer from Tiger-itis and put out absolute shite whenever he's not playing. To their overall credit, other more reasonable picks were Tiger, Phil, Strick, and Paul Casey. Why are we still talking about David Duval? Bethpage Black is listed at 7,426 yards in wet, cool conditions. That's like an 8,500 yard course in Texas in the summer time. All the best to Ken Green, who's going through emotional and physical trauma of the most significant kind. The guy's DOG even died, for crying out loud. Love the fact that over 50% of the field in the US Open is available to players who are willing to play to qualify for it. If Tiger's able to keep it in the fairway he wins by at least four strokes. That is all.

Friday, June 12, 2009

US Open T-Shirt Waiting To Happen

I'm sure someone else has thought of this before ...

US Open Pairings

The USGA just released the schedule for days one and two at next week's US Open. After much speculation they went away from last year's pairing of the #1 and #2 players in the world playing in the same group. Tiger starts at 8:06 AM on Thursday with Open champion Padraig Harrington and Masters champion Angel Cabrera. Paddy's been struggling mightily this year, and we're yet to find out if Pato is going to go into the kind if hibernation he did for a couple of years after his US Open victory in '07.

Other interesting groupings:

  • Three decent candidates to compete on Sunday afternoon are paired together at 7:55 as Geoff Ogilvy plays with Jim Furyk and Paul Casey.
  • Three Uber-kids are teeing off at 1:14, with Dustin Johnson playing with Anthony Kim and Rory McIlroy.
  • Watch out for far-flying golf balls in the other 1:14 PM pairing of JB Holmes, Alvaro Quiros, and Nick Watney.
  • Lefty tees off at 1:36 PM with two-time US Open champions Els and Goosen.
  • It's the official "Talented But Struggling" group at 1:25, including Sergio, Camilo, and Adam Scott.
  • Golf's version of NHL Greybeards tee off at 1:36, with last year's hero Rocco Mediate playing with Kenny Perry and Tom Lehman.
It's worthy of note that the USGA for some unknown reason found it necessary to play some cutesy name game, as Singh and Singh are together, as are Romero and Romero and Hansen and Hansen. They chose not to extend this game to American players (Zach and Dustin Johnson are not playing together, for instance). The All-Scandinavian, All-Hispanic, and All-Asian groups appear at best silly and contrived and at worst narrow-minded, bigoted and segregatory.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Swing of Fire (by Johnny "Nassau" Cash)

I guess I never realized that Johnny Cash was the first cousin thrice removed from Gary Player, and that his songs actually had a deep golf-related message in them.
==========================================
Golf is a burning thing It can make a fiery swing Solid shots are our desire I discovered a swing of fire I discovered a burning swing of fire Went down down down And the shots got higher And it burns burns burns The swing of fire The swing of fire The joy of golf is sweet when shots and swings meet I hit the ball like a child Oh, and the swing went wild I discovered a burning swing of fire Went down down down And the shots got higher And it burns burns burns The swing of fire The swing of fire Golf is a burning thing It can make a fiery swing Solid shots are our desire I discovered a swing of fire

I Draw The Line (by Johnny "Nassau" Cash)

My buddy Pete on The Golf Space had a very good swing thought, where he felt like he was drawing a line in his backswing. This really hit home with me, and I also thought Johnny Cash should sing the theme song to his instructional DVD:
===================================
I keep a close watch on this plane of mine I keep my eyes on the ball all the time I keep the hands out for the swing that blinds My swing is fine, I draw the line I find it very easy to hit it true I find myself just swinging and swinging through Yes, I'll admit that I'm drawn to you My swing is fine, I draw the line As sure as rough is dark and green is light I keep you on my mind both day and night And shots and scores I've known proves that it's right My swing is fine, I draw the line You've got to keep your elbows by your side You give me cause for shots that I can't hide For you I'd turn my shoulders and the tide My swing is fine, I draw the line I keep a close watch on this plane of mine I keep my eyes on the ball all the time I keep the hands out for the swing that blinds My swing is fine, I draw the line

Book Review - The Caddie who knew Ben Hogan

Forbidden romance meets a caddie's pipe dream. The club pro and the president's daughter. A memorable round with the best player in the world. It all gets tossed together in the perspective of that one caddie we all would want to be, the one who's respected by the top players and who knows things about the course nobody else does.
THE WRITER
John Coyne is an American writer of over twenty-five books, the bulk of which are horror stories. He worked as a caddie in his youth, and he's an avid golfer, and as such he has also written several books on the topic.
"The Caddie who knew Ben Hogan" is a fictional story. It was published in 2006 and is presented as "a literary exploration of golf and everyday life".
THE BOOK
The story takes place at a country club outside Chicago that's in the throes of preparing to host the Chicago Open later in the summer of 1946. It's told in the words of Jack Handley, the young caddie who's secretly hopeful that the club's talented young assistant pro will do well in this contest. Complicating matters is that the pro is involved in an illicit affair with the daughter of the president of the club, and the caddie often has to go between the two, when all he really cares about is golf.
One day a shiny big car pulls in to the club's parking lot, and out steps Ben Hogan, stopping by to take a look at the course in advance of the big tournament. Jack quickly grabs his clubs, and they go out on the course. They play the first nine holes by themselves, but the club's pro joins them for the second nine. The round is told in intimate detail, and the pro turns out to beat the greatest player in the game.
Everything builds up to the tournament itself, and again the golf action is told with great attention to every minutiae.
CONCLUSION: BOGEY
Many reviewers praise this book for providing a snapshot into the country club athmosphere in the 40's, and it's also received high marks for it's portrayal of Ben Hogan. These were both things I did enjoy about the book.
The downfall of the book was it's attempts throughout to try to build up the tension to some fantastic and shocking ending. I was very disappointed to find that the author let not one but two cats out of the proverbial bag with more than 50 pages left to go. Not only did he reveal how the tournament was going to end, but he also revealed some of the circumstances around the ending. I was hoping to find some twist at the end, but it was not to be and the ending was very anti-climactic.
I felt like the author got bored with writing the book and just wrapped it up as quickly as possible. The quality of the writing towards the end was nowhere near what it was at the beginning.
The one thing I will take with me out of the book is the advice that Ben Hogan repreatedly offered young Jack, with respect to life as well as golf: "The most important shot is your next one."

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Byron Preview, Part 3 - The Course

For most major golf tournaments, the period immediately after the tournament is spent de-briefing, discussing what worked and what didn’t work, and then laying pretty low for several months before it’s time to start working on next year’s event. Two years ago, right after The Byron, it was a very different scene as bulldozers invaded the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas and went where golf carts had been only days before as a massive reconstruction commenced.
COURSE HISTORY
The course was created in 1982 by Jay Morrish, with assistance from Lord Byron himself as well as Ben Crenshaw and others. The quality of the accommodations and Byron Nelson’s presence were always big draws, but the course’s most outstanding features were it’s logistical qualities rather than the way it played. In the 90s the course underwent three phases of improvements, including the planting of over a hundred trees in 1999.
The 2007 redesign cost over $10 million, and was led by DA Weibring’s design company with DFW native Steve Wolfard as the lead architect. DA had also participated in some of the earlier improvement work. The project included behind the scenes irrigation and water management work as well as a complete rebuild of most bunkers and greens. It also softened some of the stadium mounds to make the course more aesthetically pleasing.
“We respect this golf course’s history and embrace it’s future.” DA Weibring said in 2007. “Everything we suggest in our project plan is designed to build a course that Byron Nelson would be proud to play his tournament on in 2008 and for the foreseeable future.”
For the championship the course plays at 7,166 yards to a par of 70.
PAST TOURNAMENTS
The first three players to win the Dallas PGA event were Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, and Ben Hogan, and the tournament has showcased the very biggest names in the sport over the past 65 years. Jack won two Byron’s in the early 70s, and Tom Watson won four in six years at the end of the decade. The 80s and 90s tournament winners includes Ben Crenshaw, Fred Couples, Payne Stewart, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods. In this decade some of the champions were Jesper Parnevik, Vijay Singh, and Sergio Garcia. Last year’s tournament was won by Adam Scott.
SIGNATURE HOLES
The third hole is the sternest test against par, and played at 4.396 in 2008. It’s a challenging 528 yard par 4 with water all along the right side and two fairway bunkers strategically placed at between 265 and 350 yards from the tee. A triangular green offers many challenging hole placements.
The eleventh hole is a short par 4 at 323. Historically the water in front of the green has prevented most players from going for the green, but as part of the redesign the green was moved further from the water in order to introduce more risk-reward analysis into the players’ strategy. There are dual black tees on the hole, one on the same side of the water as the green and one on the opposite side.
Most of the crowds and most of the noise will be around the 17:th green (see picture). This 198 yard par 3 is the “Party Hole”, but offers a much more significant challenge than the similarly named hole in Phoenix. Water was added in front of the green due to DA Weibring’s 1993 redesign, and in 2008 it was the third most difficult hole on the course at an average of 3.227.
THE RESORT
The Las Colinas property is everything one would expect from a Four Seasons resort, and much much more. The pool area is very elaborate, with semi-private alcoves squirreled away between the landscaping and vegetation. The spa offers sauna, massages, steam bath, hot tub, and a cold plunge, and the sports club is consistently rated as one of the top in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
The facility is conveniently located 10 minutes from DFW airport and less than 30 minutes from downtown Dallas, but once you’re on the property it maintains a truly relaxed resort athmosphere. If you enjoy the occasional urban escape you can’t beat it.
If you want to venture out of the hotel for some reason I highly recommend Cool River, which combines a premier steak house with a great looking bar. Legend has it Cool River was one of the stops for the Stanley Cup trophy on it’s journey through Dallas’ nightlife after the Stars’ victory in 1999.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Seve Trophy Sell-out

I think the French have a bit of a bum rap in this country, and not all of it is deserved, so I'm hesitant to even bring this bit of news to the forefront. In this instance, however, any French-bashing that ensues is fully deserved. You may or may not be aware that there is a biennial competition which pits Great Britain and Ireland against continental Europe. Traditionally this contest has competed for the Seve Trophy. Short and sweet name, and a very personal sign of respect towards this great golfer. Now, however, AP is reporting that starting this fall the contest will be called "Vivendi Trophy with Severiano Ballesteros" (Vivendi is a French media conglomerate.) The guy is bravely fighting off brain cancer, just recently making his first public appearance after going through waves of chemo treatments, and you're picking this time to sell out the contest that bears his name and giving him second billing? The decision was made by the European Tour, and I think it's a very ill conceived idea in the first place, with abominable timing as to the announcement.

The Byron Preview, Part 2 - The Salesmanship Club

When you talk about an organization with a somewhat odd or ambiguous name it's sometimes best to start with the name itself, or it might be more of a distraction than anything. This is definitely the case with The Salesmanship Club in Dallas, who puts on The HP Byron Nelson Championship every year. SALESMANSHIP The Salesmanship Club in Dallas was founded in 1920. At that time the focus in business was on sales, but in a much more general and broad term than merely getting someone to buy your product. "Salesman's News", for instance, was not a magazine strictly about selling, but a "National Educational and Inspirational Magazine". The book "The science and art of salesmanship" (by Simon Robert Hoover, 1916) states that "Everyone has something to sell, and his ability to market his commodity or services often determines the measure of his success". When a group of Dallas men felt the need to formalize an organization based on their desire to serve the community the name came very naturally to them. EARLY HISTORY Between 1921 and 1943 the Club ran a summer camp for indigent children on Bachman Lake in Dallas. In 1943 the camp was closed due to a polio epidemic that hit Texas, and the Club took the opportunity to re-evaluate it's future. The Club went in a different direction with their next facility, and in 1946 they opened a new camp. This one was year-round and residential, and focused on the therapeutic needs of troubled children. In the 1970s the scope of focus was widened to include meeting the needs of the campers' families, which resulted in much more efficient therapy.. This step in turn drove the creation of the Club's outpatient therapy programs which serves troubled children and their families who live at home. In the 1980s and 1990s the Club launched a day treatment school for kids with significant emotional difficulties, which eventually turned into the J Erik Jonsson Community School, which is a private and accredited elementary school for inner-city, at-risk children. From a fund raising point of view the Club worked with Golden Gloves boxing and various football games. For a long time the first pre-season Cowboys game was used to raise funds for the organization. CURRENT FOCUS The Salesmanship Club today focuses their work in three directions: Education, Therapy, and Sharing. They provide educational opportunities to children who may otherwise fall off the grid, and utilize family-based therapy methods to make sure that not only are the kids getting the education they need but their families will be able to provide a more stable environment for them to flourish in. The Club also reaches out by providing training opportunities to education and therapy professionals in other organizations, and there's a lot of sharing of experiences with other fund raising groups and the organizers of other golf tournaments.
The members are very passionate and dedicated to the work the Club does, and they're always looking to improve. "One of the core values of the Salesmanship Club is innovation. Our members continually challenge us to come up with new and better ways to help kids and families." says Kent Skipper, CEO of The Salesmanship Club. Today the Club has 600 members and an annual budget of about $9.5 million. It employs 100 people to run their charities, and another dozen to put on The Byron (with generous assistance from the members and other volunteers). It has three locations in the Dallas area, and their facilities touch 8,000 lives directly. THE BYRON Over it's history The Byron Nelson Championship has helped raise over $107 million to charities, which is the most of any golf tournament on the PGA Tour. When HP bought EDS they also took over the sponsoring responsibilities of the golf tournament, and the match between HP and The Salesmanship Club has proven to be a very good fit. "HP is turning out to be a great partner because of their tremendous commitment to innovation and to supporting effective approaches in education such as our lab school in Oak Cliff," Mr. Skipper explains, and he continues: "In addition to their sponsorship of the tournament HP has been very generous in providing hardware to our educational facilities." HP, in turn, has committed to sponsoring the tournament through 2014, which is a significant statement in a time when other tournaments are falling by the wayside. Over the past few years they have instituted significant changes not only to the course the tournament is played on but to the fan experience as a whole.
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The HP Byron Nelson Championship is played May 21 through May 24 2009 at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas outside Dallas, TX. The tournament is affectionately called "The Byron", and it's put on by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas. The first installment in this series of preview articles was about Byron Nelson himself. Many thanks to Mr. Kent Skipper for taking time out of his busy schedule to contribute to the writing of this article.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Byron Preview, part 1 - Byron Nelson

The HP Byron Nelson Championship (http://www.hpbnc.org/) is played May 21 through May 24 at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas outside Dallas, TX (http://www.fourseasons.com/dallas/golf.html). The tournament is affectionately called "The Byron", and it's put on by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas (http://www.salesmanshipclub.org/). This is the first in a series of preview articles leading up to the tournament. BYRON NELSON The numbers speak for themselves, but no matter how impressive Byron Nelson's records are it's the quality of the man people talk about first. He set records as a golfer that may never be touched, and it's only appropriate that the tournament that bears his name continues to set records every year, even after his death. BEFORE THE TOUR John Byron Nelson, Jr. was born near Waxahachie, TX on February 4, 1912. Throughout his career on the course and his life afterwards he's intrinsically linked to fellow PGA Tour greats Sam Snead and fellow Texan Ben Hogan, as the three of them were born within 6 months of each other. When Byron was 11 his family moved to Fort Worth, and he proceeded to have a close call with typhoid fever. At age 12 he was baptized, and it also marked the beginning of his life in golf, as he started caddying at the Glen Garden Country Club. The fact that caddies were not officially allowed to play on the club didn't hold Byron back, as he used to sneak onto the course to play in the dark. A couple of years later the rules were relaxed a bit, and Byron defeated fellow caddy Ben Hogan in a 9-hole playoff to win the club's caddy tournament. BYRON ON TOUR Byron Nelson turned pro at age 20 in 1932, initially splitting his time between tournament play and working as a golf pro. It was the latter capacity that took him to Texarcana, TX, where he met his wife to be Louise Shofner. Byron won his first tournament in 1935, and between then and the end of his career in 1946 he won 52 professional tournaments. His first major victory was at the burgeoning Masters tournament in 1937, when he defeated Ralph Guldahl by two strokes. He also won the US Open in 1939, the PGA Championship in 1940 and 1945, and a second Masters title in 1942. 1945 stands out in Byron Nelson's career, as he won a total of 18 tournaments, including 11 in a row. Nobody has gotten close to either record since. Tiger Woods has referred to this achievement as "one of the greatest years in the history of sports". After his retirement he played very sparingly, but made several more appearences at The Masters. Byron Nelson has a long, fluid swing which many consider the predecessor of the modern golf swing. When engineers built a robot to simulate a golf swing they based it on Byron's swing, and "Iron Byron" was born. AFTER THE TOUR Byron Nelson retired in 1946 to run a ranch, which had been a goal of his throughout his golf career. "I could see the prize money going into the ranch, buying a tractor, or a cow. It gave me incentive." He also was a popular teacher and golf commentator. The Dallas based pro tour event started playing in 1956, and Byron Nelson became the first professional golfer to have a tournament named after them in 1968. Of his involvement with the tournament and the charities that benefit from it Byron Nelson has stated "This tournament is the best thing that's ever happened to me in golf. Better than winning the Masters or the U.S. Open or eleven in a row. Because it helps people." Over the years the tournament has raised over $100 million dollars for various local charities, more than any other tournament on the PGA tour. Byron Nelson died of natural causes in 2006 at age 94. After his death, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said of Byron "Our players, young and old, looked to Byron as the consummate role model of our sport. His legacy spans across his historic performances, the gentle and dignified way he carried himself and his tremendous contributions to golf and society."

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Loudmouth Chronicles, Day 3

Another outstanding apparel selection for JD. Looks like something Robert Karlsson would wear to dress up as a medieval jester for Halloween. I think his backswing is longer than ever, which is saying something.

The Loudmouth Chronicles, Day 2

More from JD and the good people at Loudmouth Golf:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Loudmouth

Is it just me, or does it make perfect sense that John Daly wears pants from Loudmouth Golf (http://www.loudmouthgolf.com/) ?

I LOVE my new driver

I got the call from the proshop last Wednesday that my new Ping G10 driver was in. I was very excited to have it for last weekend's round. I hit a few balls with it on Friday, and it felt every bit as good as I remembered from my fitting exercise.
Played 18 at a muni in McKinney yesterday, with two of three of my usual foursome (the fourth guy had some weak excuse like taking a cab home from the bar the night before, and his girlfriend locking the keys to her car inside his car, which was still at the bar). The course is almost empty, and it's VERY windy (30-40 MPH).
I used it on all 14 long holes, and hit the fairway with half of them. When I connected it was very long. Even into the wind I would get 220-230 off the tee, and with the wind in my back I knocked one 390 straight down the gut of the fairway (my longest drive ever).
I played the Titleist ProV1x most of the time, and it really gave me a lot of pop. I tried a Pinnacle a few times, and didn't feel the same dynamic energy out of it.
We've all heard the old adage that you "Drive for show, and putt for dough", and I would probably still agree that's true. But, if you don't put the ball in play well off the tee you're putting for double-bogey, and there's very little dough in that. I was able to take 11 shots off my score from two weeks ago, and my driving was a big contributor to that.
I look forward to getting to know this club even better, and it will definitely provide a good foundation for my game going forward.