Wednesday, February 25, 2009
My old putter was a 30 year old Anser wanna-be with the paint peeling. I'm sure I could have learned to use it well, but I didn't love it.
I wanted a blade, since I felt I would be better able to develop touch on long putts if there was less weight in the head and I had to make more of an actual stroke on the ball. I found this Ray Cook Classic Plus 7 on eBay for $45, including shipping. It arrived today, and it's absolutely gorgeous.
The lines are clean, the head is uncluttered, and the goose-neck is VERY sexy. It has brass inserts, so the sweet spot is reasonably large.
I started playing with it on the carpet at home tonight. It feels great. I can't wait to take it out on the greens.
I will trim about an inch off the handle to accomodate my Crouching-Viking putting style. I will also put on one of those big fat triangular handles. I had one of those on my old putter, and loved being able to get a good grip on the putter without squeezing the handle.
I will call it "Boris".
The majority of non-fictional books people read are about things or people that we’re interested in, or that we enjoy. Some would say the definition of a good book is if it takes something we already like and makes us value it even more. If this is true, then “Alice Cooper, Golf Monster” is a great book because it increased my appreciation both of Alice Cooper and of the game of Golf. Most people know Alice Cooper as the 70’s shock rocker, with the funky makeup that inspired everyone from Kiss to Rocky Horror Picture Show, and with stage shows containing more special effects than most movies of that time. Some are aware that he plays a bit of golf as they catch him at the occasional Pro-Am event. Few people know that Alice (as his legal name actually is) is a comfortable five-handicap golfer who plays as many as 300 days a year, both at home in the Phoenix area and when he’s touring. “Alice Cooper, Golf Monster” is the story of his rise to rock ’n' roll fame, of his decline into drug use and alcoholism, and of his love for and addiction to the game of golf. It was published in 2007 and co-written by the twin brothers Keith and Kent Zimmerman, who have also written about Johnny Rotten, Orange County Choppers, and a bestseller about the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club. The book is organized into 12 steps, each of which has chapters about Rock 'n' Roll and chapters about Golf, which is a nice touch as the subtitle of the book is "A Rock 'n' Roller's 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict." The dedication is simple: “My liver would like to dedicate this book to me for giving up drinking and taking up golf.” The book opens with Alice getting invited by Ely Callaway to play Pine Valley. Before the round the over/under on his score was 85, and money duly changed hands. When all was said and done Alice played one of the truly monstrous courses in all of golf in 73 strokes. “Never before has an amateur come here and shot a 73,” the Caddy Master announced. From a sheer entertainment point of view the book is littered with Alice’s friendships and associations throughout the music and movie industries in LA through his years of living there. It’s not surprising to read about him hanging out with the crème de la crème of the 60s and 70s Rock scene, such as Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, John Lennon and Frank Zappa (Alice got his first break because a friend of his used to baby sit the Zappa kids). What’s more surprising is that Alice would also hang out with a virtual who’s who of non-Rock celebrities, from Salvador Dali and Peter Sellers to The Rat Pack and the Marx Brothers. “We got into the elevator and it’s me, Liza Minnelli, Linda Lovelace, and Chubby Checker all going up to meet Elvis." From the aspect of Alice Cooper the man and the human being, “Golf Monster” is highly personal and brutally honest. He openly admits his addiction and his failures, but also talks frankly about the dedication required to get clean, and the tremendous benefits of staying that way. The book ends like it starts, in the world of golf as Alice shares his “15 tips for Achieving Your Best Game." Sprinkled throughout the book are stories about the royalties of golf whom Alice has encountered in decades of Pro-Ams. CONCLUSION: BIRDIE The writing in “Golf Monster” isn’t exactly fluid, but if you like Rock ‘n’ Roll OR Golf OR celebrities in general the story itself will be plenty to keep you interested. It’s motivational and funny and smart, and it will supply your “Did you know …” drawer for years to come. In the end, Alice Cooper claims to have received three compliments in his life which he will cherish forever, and they’re indicative of his versatile talents and multi-faceted personality: 1) Groucho Marx saying that Alice Cooper was the last hope for vaudeville. 2) Bob Dylan saying ‘I think Alice Cooper is an overlooked song-writer.’ 3) Tiger Woods saying he wouldn’t give me two a side.
Here are a few of the first round matchups that appeal the most to me:
- Woods - Jones: Got to see if Tiger's got all his claws back.
- McIlroy - Oosthuizen: Two up-and-coming players, and both have been playing outstanding on the Euro tour in the Middle East. Rory's won already, and Oostie has four top ten finishes.
- Weir - Mahan: Two tremendously talented players whom nobody talks about.
- NOTE: The winner of the latter two matches will meet, and the winner of THAT match moves on to the Tiger side of the same bracket. I'd love to see Tiger against McIlroy on Friday.
- Garcia - Schwartzel: Charl is another young player who has played very well in the Middle East, and we need to see which Sergio is going to show up.
- Karlsson - Hanson: It's a pickled-herring-off. As Razor would say if Loui Eriksson pummels one of the Sedin twins into the boards: "There's some Swede-on-Swede crime right there." Word from the old country is that Hanson will be packing on the foil for this one.
I have not studied the layout at Riviera in great detail, but I did watch a fair amount of this week's tournament there. It looks like a great course, with some holes calling for power, and some calling for precision. The areas around the greens were challenging, but they also called for creativity, and the players usually had several options open for getting the ball close to the pin (Andres Romero's pitch-and-run up the hill from the valley of death on 8 was sick). But here's my initial reaction, and one which was hard to get past: Why do the fairways have to look like friggin' landing strips? A bit of contouring here and there would force the players to be even more strategic, and it would make the course fit in much better visually. I half expected some groups to have to delay teeing off on one becuase the latest shipment from Tijuana was just arriving.
It seems it only takes them about five seconds to generate the shot-tracker graphics to show the flight of the ball. If it was up to me I'd rather just wait five seconds, show shots in "pseudo-live", and see the graphics the first time we see the shot. The shot where they show the ball flying in the air is worthless, as you have no frame of reference. The next step will be where they show the flight of the ball live in a 3D virtual map of the course, with the camera tracking behind the ball. They can switch to the live shot of the ball landing.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I was encouraged by Michelle Wie's comments after last week's tournament. She's clearly focusing on the positive, and not burying herself in "Oh no, here I go again" self pity. Headline not seen after the AT&T was shortened due to rain: "Wet Johnson". I was putting quietly on the putting green a few days ago, and some loudmouth I don't know from Adam approached and started giving me tips. WTF? Shoot me if I'm ever "that guy". I'm a week and a half from starting to hit full swings again. Can't wait. Writers are jumping all over themselves to figure out what's wrong with the AT&T: It's at the wrong time of the year, they need to get rid of Bill Murray, they need to include Cypress Point again, etc. September would be a much better time to go to Northern California. Bill Murray is no better or worse than anyone else in the pro-am. Cypress is gorgeous, but based on analysis I've seen it's not very challenging for pros these days. I'm really rooting for "Hockey" Hoffman to win one this year. I have absolutely nothing to add to the Tiger watch that's running rampant in the presses. I'll be thrilled to watch him again, but until then I'll watch whoever's out there. I'm promoting the use of the word "Spinach" as slang for high rough. Usage: "I sliced it into the spinach." No copyright payments necessary. M*A*S*H may not be a "golf movie" per se, but it does have some very memorable golf related scenes. Since the first time I saw the movie I've never watched the TV show again. I'm working on a Masters Martini. The first take was Vodka, Peach Schnapps, and Midori. It was very green, tasted mostly peachy (for Georgia), and I decorated it with a slice of a peach. Quite tasty, and sweet. Chicks will dig it. I will experiment with other green liquors, and further reports will be forthcoming soon.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
The scorecard for the 2002 US Open shows another Tiger Woods major championship victory, and the leaderboard is littered with the premier golfers of the time with names like Mickelson, Garcia, Faldo, Harrington, and Price all in the Top 10. Tiger was the only golfer to break par, but this being the US Open this isn’t unfathomable, given the way the USGA has been known to condition a course for its premier tournament. One doesn’t have to look far under the covers of this tournament, however, to find out just how distinctive it was on many levels. It’s this uniqueness that John Feinstein is tapping into and is using to drive the story in “Open: Inside The Ropes At Bethpage Black” published in 2003. John Feinstein broke through to fame in 1987 with his book “A Season on the Brink”, about a season with the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team and it’s volatile coach Bob Knight. His most famous book about golf was “A Good Walk Spoiled”, which was a #1 bestseller in 1993. “Open” talks the reader through the entire process building up to the 2002 US Open, opening with an unplanned visit to Bethpage State Park in November 1994 by David Fay, then the executive director of the USGA, and ending with Fay driving into the sunset after the Sunday of the championship, listening to the broadcast of the Mets’ and Yankees’ baseball game. There are three recognizable sections to “Open”: The first grabs you, the second slows you down a bit, and the third part celebrates the tournament itself with Tiger’s thrilling finish. Initially the book deals with the birth and development of the idea to bring the nation’s championship to a municipal course for the first time, and a course that was in fairly rough shape at that. What’s very clear here is the tremendous amount of passion the golf course Bethpage Black inspired in all who played it, worked on it, and saw it. It was truly a diamond in the rough, and eventually more and more people were able to see past the dilapidated condition of the course and see the potential underneath it. In the middle of the book, or shall I say the muddle of the book, the author spends a little bit too much time describing the background of many of the people involved in bringing this project to fruition. It’s all interesting in itself, and he obviously spent a copious amount of time with the characters who were involved, but I don’t think this section of the book needed to take up this much room. The last section is the buildup to and the playing of the championship itself. Though the author is obviously biased, it’s clear that the course was as close to perfect as a championship course of this caliber can be. It was sternly challenging, but fair. I found it quite interesting to find out what all goes on behind the scenes at an event like this, and having it end with Tiger beating out Phil on the last nine on Sunday was frosting on the cake. Conclusion All in all, “Open” was a very enjoyable read. The author’s tone is light and casual, at times very humorous, and his research and preparation on the subject is spectacular. The book is relevant right now for two reasons: One, the US Open is again played on Bethpage Black in 2009; and two, the author is currently working on a book with Rocco Mediate about the 2008 US Open. This book, allegedly to be called “Are You Kidding Me?”, is due out around the time of the 2009 event.
I thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of hours of the Bailout Invitational yesterday afternoon. Nick Watney's putt on 16 is easily the most memorable moment of this young golf year. Congrats to him on a great victory, and kudos also to John Rollins for a great tournament. Camilo will get his, there's no doubt about that, but this victory surely meant a lot more to Nick than it would have to Caremark-Boy.
This is sort of a follow-up on my quick comment from earlier this week when I was wondering why CBS TV would show a bunch of players in their broadcast introduction that didn't in fact play in this tournament, starting with Tiger Woods. I know he has a 9 tournament winning streak at Torrey Pines, but he's still not the story this week, no matter how much you'd like him to be. Then Yahoo Sports decide to run with headlines like "Absent Woods still a major topic" and "Without Tiger, the Buick is anyone's game", during the run of the tournament. Now, I'm not knocking Tiger, far from it. He's the best golfer ever, and he's getting very close to being considered the best athlete of all time. We should consider ourselves lucky to get to watch him perform when he's at his peak. All I'm saying is that if you're going to report on the PGA Tour, the fact that he's not there can not be your lead story. We know he's not there. Even on a full year he doesn't play more than 15 or so tournament, which leaves 35 where he's absent. Since the first year he won a major he's won 14 of 48 majors, which is a similar ratio. There are MANY tournaments where he doesn't play, and MANY majors that someone else has miraculously managed to win, even with him in the field. The PGA Tour is full of stories, each and every week, and it's the responsibility of the paid professional who report on this tour to find these stories rather than pulling the easy Tiger-watch out of their empty note-books. And don't even get me started on those who half-jokingly suggest we should put an asterisk by each tour victory if Tiger didn't play in the tournament. It's absolutely laughable, and it's disrespectful to the golfers who do compete. Each and every player on tour is an awesome golfer. Every year dozens of players come out of every nook and cranny all over the world to try their hand against the PGA pros. They've beaten everyone they've ever played. They've won every tournament available to them. And many get to the tour and realize they're still just hacks compared to the established pros who make a living there year in and year out. PGA professionals make up the 99.999 percentile of all US golfers. That means each of them are better than 100,000 non-tour golfers. "These Guys Are Good" isn't just a clever marketing slogan, it's a scientific fact. So hold your head up high, Nick Watney and Pat Perez, and the other less known players who are competing at a very high level this year. You're the best of the best. It's not worth less because someone isn't playing, or someone else is rusty. This week, you're the story.
Before I get started, let me tell you that I'm a HUGE Coen Brothers fan. Their quirky characters, involved plotlines, and highly stylized settings are very entertaining and appealing to me. I firmly believe "The Big Lebowski" is the greatest movie of all time. That rug, it really tied the room together, did it not? Having said this I obviously was looking forward to catching "Burn Before Reading" last weekend. It's full of talented and entertaining actors, and it seemed quite promising. The last one, 2007's Academy Award winning "No Country For Old Men", was quite a departure for them, and BBR appeared to be more in the style of their earlier movies. The core of the movie is a DVD that contains the memoir of a recently fired international agent. The DVD is found by a couple of trainers at the gym. Initially they want to do the Good Samaritan thing and return it, with the chance of getting a reward, but they soon turn to blackmail as well as offering the information up to foreign powers. One of the trainers is desperately trying to finance a suite of cosmetic surgeries. Almost everybody in the movie is sleeping around with someone, and much security incompetence ensues. Perhaps I was building it up too much in my mind, but somehow I found it very disappointing. Not that parts weren't funny, and it would probably have been a perfectly respectable comedy if it wasn't measured by the Coen's high standards, but it just didn't work for me. Some aspects of the movie were quite formulaic, and obviously borrowed from some of their other movies. The plot had some promise, but the ending was quite unsatisfying. The acting is good, as one would expect with names like Pitt, Clooney, McDormand, and Malkovich, but there's not a lot to pull the characters together. In the DVD Specials the Coen's talked about this movie as a collection of roles that they'd come up with for some of their favorite actors. Maybe that's putting the cart before the horse. The DVD interview also yielded the best line of the movie, when they discussed Brad Pitt "getting in touch with his inner knuckle-head" for this movie. Maybe they were lost without the staple greatness of Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, and John Torturro. Luckily, "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" was on TV this weekend, which helped set everything right with the world.
Many factors are conspiring towards someone with a lot more money and clout than myself making a World Golf Tour reality. Events in the US which were "Must play" events decades ago are nowadays spurned by the major players (See this week's Bob Hope Bankruptcarmaker Classic, and the Byron Nelson and Colonial here in Dallas). New events, usually at TPC courses around the country, are being elevated to near-major status (The Players Championship and FBR). Top US-based pros are playing more and more tournaments in Europe and other parts of the world (Boo Weekley trying to find Chicken Fried Steak in Qatar). Many US events are already a part of the European PGA schedule (Majors and near-majors).
Various schedules would have to be worked out, of course, but a schedule could look something like this:
- January - Australia and Middle East (Dubai Desert Classic, Oz PGA).
- February through early June - US (FBR, Pebble, World Golf Championships, Masters, TPC, US Open).
- June through August - Europe (BMW International, British Open, Johnny Walker, Links).
- September through October - US (PGA, Barclays).
- November - Playoffs (FedEx Cup / Race for Dubai style, hosted alternatingly at courses around the world).
- December - No WGT events.
There's an instructional piece on golf.com right now which allegedly will teach us hackers how to practice like a pro. While this is a worthwhile goal, and the problem he identifies is real ("You go through a bucket of range balls like a wave of locusts through a cornfield"), the methods prescribed in the photo sequence boggle my mind a bit. It goes south already in slide 2, whe we're told in explicit detail how to get the ball from the bucket to a point in front of your feet. Call me naive, but I don't think this is a skill that even the most uneducated hacker needs to work on. In slide 3 we go into the actual striking of the ball, but there's no mention of a practice swing. If we are to replicate on the range the way we strike the ball on the course, shouldn't we take at least a practice swing, to get a good feel for our balance and rhythm, and to better help us visualize the shot without the pressure of the ball? Besides, practice swings are free. I find I get more value out of time on the range by buying a smaller bucket of balls and taking practice swings. By slide 6 the swing is done and we're now being told, again in excruciating detail, how to transition the club out of your golf grip and into a casual non-swinging grasp of it. You may think I'm overstating the verboseness of the descriptions, but this is what it says: "As the ball comes to a stop, remove your right hand from the grip and allow the club to slide down the fingers of your left hand until it feels light and balanced in your hand." Are you ******* kidding me? Slide 7 describes how to migrate the club from the casual grasp with the left hand, and gripping it with the right hand, preparing to strike the ball again. Again, I do agree with the premise that we should practice better, but we're not going to do it by focusing on the minutia that's covered in this article. If it was up to me it would go something like:
- Pick a target.
- Take a practice swing while you visualize striking the ball towards the target.
- Hit the ball Take your best swing at the ball.
- Evaluate your shot: If it went on target, remember the things you feel like made this happen, the things you did right in the swing. That way you're more likely to repeat those things in your next swing.
- If your shot did not go on target, think about the reason why. Did you hit it fat or thin, did you swing on the wrong plane, did you have the wrong club? Think about your correction to the problem in the next practice swing, and try again.
I'm very excited about the PGA tour being back in business, and I watched quite a bit of last weeks prime time broadcast, and I'm planning on more of the same this week. Every time my wife would walk into the room and see what I'm watching she'd shake her head and go "Bastards ... Hawaii". And she's right, of course. As if it's not bad enough they get to make a living as a professional golfer, you get to do it in Hawaii. If I hear any moaning out of those guys about ANYTHING this week I'll be sitting here playing the world's smallest violin with one hand and flipping them the bird with the other hand. I've been twice, and can't wait to go back. If you haven't visited, I HIGHLY recommend it. It's just every bit as perfect as the pictures indicate, and then some. Dinner at David Paul. Diving at Molokai. Freezing on Molokini. Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. Lunch at Aloha Mixed Plate (with macaroni salad, of course). Swimming at the North Shore. Visiting Pearl Harbor. It's all good.
I will re-post a few of my most commented-on blog entries from TGS (with the date they were originally submitted).
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I've been blogging on http://www.thegolfspace.com/ for about a month now, and will continue to do so. I will copy some of my blogs to blogger as well. It's a great site ran by a great guy, and he lets me contribute content now and then. My ID there is "4Checker", and my profile is at http://www.thegolfspace.com/4Checker .