Thursday, March 26, 2009
Allright, now that I've come clean about my temporary violation against golf's good will, let's take a look at how Tiger did putt today. Fair warning that I have not watched today's broadcast, so I haven't seen any actual footage. This is based on statistics from PGATour.com's very cool "ShotTracker" application. I will ignore the crazy long putts, and the easy short ones. Let's see how he did inbetween, which is really where most tournaments are decided: 3 - Made four-footer. 5 - Made six-footer. 6 - Missed 18-footer. 7 - Missed 19-footer. 8 - Made five-footer. 9 - Made 13-footer. 11 - Made eight-footer. 12 - Made six-footer. 13 - Made 16-footer. 14 - Made 7-footer. 16 - Missed 17-footer. 17 - Missed 14-footer. 18 - Missed 15-footer. Basically, he made everything from 13 feet and under. I think that's pretty damned good for anyone. He was 2 for 7 in the 14 to 19 foot range. I will have to read up a bit on my statistics, but I think that this is reasonable even for a top-flight pro. Based on Tony's comments, it seems the Driver was a much bigger problem than the putter. To be continued ...
So, I had this blog written today, called "What if?', and it was a theoretical piece about what if Tiger would never regain his putting stroke. It was one of my better blogs, from a sheer writing point of view, with stirring paragraphs like: "Doubting Tiger Woods on the golf course is like thinking maybe politicians won't grand-stand every chance they get. It's like thinking people will continue buying hybrids even if gas prices drop below a buck. It's like believing a professional athlete when they say 'It's not about the money'. It's like assuming someone's going to let you onto the highway just because you're ahead of him. It's folly, madness, and sheer idiocy." and "Putting is part alchemy, part abstract art, part athleticism, and part absolute luck. You can lose your stroke because you dabble too much, and you can lose it because you stick with an old method too long. You can lose it because you put on weight, or because you lose weight. You can lose it because you practice too much, or you can lose it because you don't work on it enough. Basically, the list of potential causes is as long as the list of potential side-effects to the latest wonder-drug (You know, 'Weight gain, weight loss, constipation, diarreah, etc. etc.')."
I was quite proud of myself. In the end, I pulled it off the site less than a minute after I hit "Save and Close". I could just see it:
- Tiger really doesn't regain his putting touch.
- He finds out what I wrote.
- He comes after me.
- I make the claim that "It's because of logic like this that I wrote it in the first place".
- He doesn't get it, and hits me over the head with a seven-iron (you can always trust the seven).
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I was glad to see that American politicians don't have a monopoly on a complete lack of common sense. Oz PGA organizers are already getting grief for paying Tiger $3,000,000 to play in November. Let's just ignore the increased financial benefits for the tournament, and how much more money can be raised for charity with him in the tournament. Am I the only one who finds it amusing that Ball State has a prominent women's basketball program? Damon Hack is a golf writer for golf.com and SI. Great name. If I make it big as a writer I'm going to go by the name Steven Shank. Of course, Damon is part of the unpoppular "It's all about Tiger" crowd with his article headlined "Tiger Woods is close to finding victory once again" after day one of the CA Championship. Is Michelle Wie trying to be the only golfer who plays fewer tournaments than Tiger Woods? Liverpool is on a roll. After beating Real Madrid big a few weeks back they went on to beat Manchester United away 4-1, and then Aston Villa by a score of 5-0 last weekend. Good times to be wearing red. The next time both Tiger and Phil are on the course at the same time will be The Masters. It's going to be VERY interesting. GREAT article and portrait of Ben Crenshaw on golf.com ... http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1884413,00.html If I heard correctly Goose was 62 for 64 on putts from inside 10 feet, including an astonishing 55 for 55 from inside five feet. Putting like that, on greens like that, is the kind of putting that wins majors. Congrats to Annika Sorenstam on her pregnancy. That is all.
Took a long weekend and visited Boston, as The Missus was doing work up in that area earlier in the week and I'd never been there before. Got a nice hotel right downtown, and ditched the car. Felt very much in touch with my Euro-trash roots. The weather was cold with highs around 40, but it was sunny and dry, so we couldn't complain too much. I don't know if any of you watched the John Adams mini-series on HBO last year, but we really enjoyed it, and it was totally cool to now be able to walk around in the exact neighborhoods it took place in. We walked every step of the Freedom Trail, with frequent breaks at a few of the innumerable Irish bars and Italian and seafood restaurants along the way. The seafood was good, but the Italian food was FANTASTIC, at both places we went to. Our hotel was the Omni Parker House, which is very historic in its own right. They invented the Boston Cream Pie, and at one point Ho Chi Minh worked as a busboy there. The hotel bar, The Last Hurrah, was phenomenal for snacks, Martinis, and Scotch. I didn't even get too much grief for my Miami Dolphins sweatshirt. Not too much. We checked out Harvard for a bit as well. We determined that the answer to the question "How does a dunce like me make it to Harvard?" is "Take the red line, dummy." Beer-wise I'm not a big Sam Adams fan, as I find most their stuff too hoppy (bitter) for my palate. Luckily most everyone had Guinness on tap. The other local brewery, Harpoon, is mostly known for their IPA, but on the last night there I ran across a Porter by them called Harpoon Dark that was very tasty. All in all a great weekend. Spent all weekend quoting M*A*S*H: "All I can get out of him is that he's from BAH-ston ..."
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Stewart Cink published a great instructional piece on golf.com last year. He said many things I strongly agree with. The core thought is "Rather than bogging down your game with swing thoughts, you should work on drills that will help you become a more instinctual player," and he goes on to offer drills and comments to work on for different types of shots. http://www.golf.com/golf/instruction/article/0,28136,1838402,00.html With the driver Stewart emphasizes the importance of a "big and slow" backswing, creating a wide arc. Tips for your drives include to have your hands free from your body, and to agressively push your hands and the club away from the target on the backswing. This is something I've tried to do as long as I've played the game. I like having the feeling of someone attaching a string to my club head and pulling it backwards, causing the arms, shoulders, torso, and hips to follow suit. This helps me from getting ahead of myself in the downswing. With the irons his focus is on tempo. Again, he's concentrating on slowing down the swing. Some of the tips include trusting gravity to bring the club to the ball, and maximizing the pause at the top of your swing to make sure you're in complete balance and make a smooth transition to your downswing. I find I hit my best iron shots when I feel like I'm just steering the club down through the ball rather than actually hitting it. His wedge technique is fairly basic (keep still, play the ball back, more art and less science), but some of his comments about course strategy are very interesting: "I know a lot of smart people talk about hitting to your perfect lay-up distance, but that's too much thinking in my book. Unless there's trouble in front of the green, I just hit it as far as I can. My feeling is that the closer you are to the hole, the easier the next shot is. " This definitely rings true with me. It can't be easier to control distance from 110 yards than from 40 yards. The only benefit is that you're hitting a fuller shot, so there's less movement of the ball once it lands, but how often do amateur golfers really benefit from this? The margins for error are a lot greater at the shorter distance. In the sand he likes to just have one shot, but using different clubs to get the ball up. For a longer bunker shot he'll use a 9-iron, rather than trying to alter the power of the sand wedge shot, or taking a different amount of sand. This makes a lot of sense to me. On the green Stewart is all about feel and distance. He'll regularly practice putting with the edge of the green as the target rather than a hole, so that his sole focus is on distance.
Monday, March 16, 2009
How do I tell Tony that I read Penick's little red book, and that I wasn't all that impressed overall? I probably should read it one more time before I pass final judgement. More detail to follow. Loved Yang's attitude over the weekend. He wore his heart on his custom-printed sleeve. Kudos to fellow bloggers Devil Ball (http://sports.yahoo.com/golf/blog/devil_ball_golf) and Waggle Room (http://www.waggleroom.com/2009/3/9/786522/thank-god-that-pesky-honda) for beating on a local Florida reporter who kept making everything at the Honda about Tiger. I think my feelings on the matter have been fairly well documented (http://www.thegolfspace.com/component/option,com_myblog/show,Lazy-Stupid-Journalists.html/Itemid,0/) I wonder whether it will be possible to get my swing analysed without having the outcome be that I need $600 in lessons and $800 in new equipment. Northern Trust were pressured to repay $1.5 Billion after catching grief about their lavish entertainment at their tournament in California. Meanwhile congressman Barney Frank is crawfishing from some of his very harsh statements about sponsoring events like golf tournaments, but he still feels like there shouldn't be any client entertainment. One writer described it as "It's OK to sponsor a tournament, but you better not have any fun". So they want these companies to spend the money to sponsor tournaments, but not reap any of the benefits that will help dig them out of the financial hole they're in? That kind of logic puts the "mental" in "governmental". They paired AK and Sergio in the first two rounds of the CA Championship, along with Ern'. Smooth. Tiger's with Weir and Karlsson. Ogilvy is playing with talented youngsters Oosthuizen and Watney. Bubba and Poulter are bringing up the rear, in what will probably be the most colorful group of the day. Masters Martini, "Green Jacket", recipe #2: Zen green tea liquor, peach schnapps, and vodka. Not as good as the first iteration (which had midori instead of Zen). Sometimes contrasting flavors can mesh and become very tasty (such as cranberry and Cuantreau). This was not one of those times. I've been very intrigued by comments by Geoff Ogilvy about the mental aspects of golf, both in interviews and on a recent "Playing Tips" episode. He's talked about how in the past he's gotten trapped in the pursuit of that good feeling you get now and then when your swing is in the groove, rather than going to the range to find out how he's hitting his shots that day and then take that knowledge to the course. I'll have to study this further. "Tavistock" ... isn't that Nathan Lane's character in The Producers? I can just hear Ulla answer the phone "Tavishtock and Beh-LOOOOM". David Duval keeps saying he's close to raising his game to winning level again. This may be true, but it's also true for 200 pros who are struggling every week, struggling to make the cut and counting every dollar to make things go around. The margins are infinitesimal, and anyone who claims to know what truly makes the difference are talking out of their tuccus. Non-confirmed 7-foot fact #1: Someone said that the best way to improve your short game and avoid three putts is to work on your 6-8 foot putts. Non-confirmed 7-foot fact #2: I've read research somewhere to the effect that almost half of all putts you miss is in the 6-8 foot range. Either way, I've been working a lot in that range, and even if I don't make them all it's amazing the confidence it gives you when you're standing over a four footer. That is all.
Monday, March 9, 2009
If you look at putter grips in any reputable golf store, on line or on land, you will find quite a wide variety of sizes, styles, and technologies. You can get them big or small, shaped or round, with the USA flag on it, or the logo of your favorite sports team. The one we’re looking at today is made by Tiger Shark golf. Technology The Tiger Shark grip is oversized and roughly triangular (flat front for the thumbs, and a seam in the back). The idea is that with an oversized grip you won’t have to grip the club so tightly, and with the triangular grip you will have comfortable finger placements that provide consistent alignment of the club as well as resisting twisting in the stroke. Looks Bright colors and black. When handling the club, the grip almost invites you to grasp it. On the course My hands are big enough to where I can palm a basketball. Getting comfortable grips on my clubs are a consistent issue for me. I found that with these grips I’m able to control my putter without gripping it overly tight, and the non-circular shape added a lot of stability. The Market According to Tiger Shark they’ve sold more than a million grips over the past few years, so they’re clearly in demand. KJ Choi used one of their products when he took third at Riviera a few weeks back, and he’s used them for his last three PGA Tour victories. "It helps me to have my arms closely fit to my body." Choi has said. "It takes the wrist action out so every putt feels more comfortable." Critique If you have small hands you may not be comfortable using this grip, but I would still recommend looking into an irregularly shaped grip. Conclusion I feel like using this grip significantly improves my touch and consistency, by not making me squeeze the grip to hold on to it, and by keeping the putter aligned properly. The first thing I did with my new putter was to get a Tiger Shark grip put on it.
I've never considered myself a good short game player. I always spent too much time pounding drivers and irons, and never enough time working on the more delicate shots. These past months I've been in the position where 1) My appetite for golf has been greater than it has in a long time, and 2) My recent back surgery prevented me from doing anything other than the short game. Consequently, I worked on my short game. I'm still not a good short game player, but I'm starting to feel like I have a shot at knowing what I'm doing. I'm probably better now than I've ever been. The Ben Hogan forged wedges which used to shank once out of three tries now give me a lot of confidence. But I've been playing it safe and keeping it simple, focusing on one shot, essentially, alternating the G-Wedge and the L-Wedge. It's a knockdown shot, minimal wrist action, ball by my right foot, hands in front of the ball at impact. I lose some loft that way, but I have been making consistent contact with both clubs. For some unexpected ego-driven reason I was inspired to start adding a new shot at the greens the other day. I was working on my safe shot, but I was watching some High School kid do short flop shots to the green. He was clearly showing off (which I recognized because if I could hit shots like that I would be showing off too.) I thought maybe this was the time for me to try something different. I knew my 60 degree wedge with 4 degrees of bounce was the ideal club for that shot. I played around with it a bit the other day, and really worked on it today, and that's when it happened: I got in the zone !!! Here I was, MR Shankopotomus to you, air-mailing 50 yard lob after 50 yard lob over a bunker and landing nice and softly on the green. I felt like I was launching bottle rockets. On this shot I keep my right elbow nice and close to my body, ball far forward in my stance, and I slide the club under the ball like a spatula under a fried egg. Follow-through is imperative, or it goes nowhere. I'd say I used a 3/4 swing for these shots. I probably hit a dozen shots like that, one after the other. I didn't want to stop, in case I would never be able to hit another one. It was so much FUN. Maybe the exhileration came from the fact that if I hit one thin it would go 40 yards over the green. Maybe it was because if I try this shot again in two days I may be shanking them into the parking lot. Either way, it's been a long time since hitting golf shots provided me with such pure, unadulterated joy. I literally had to force myself to go back to work on my safe shot, which I know will be ten times more useful on the course. But now I know why Phil Mickelson walks around grinning like a Cheshire cat on the course. He knows that if he has to he can pull that shot out of his bag, and if he has to it'll be the most fun he has on the course all day
It's Thursday, it must be time to adjust who I'm watching on pgatour.com's Shot Tracker. Fantasy golf may be the only thing that's more unpredictable than fantasy football. I must admit, seeing the PGA's significant others in pink polos, short white skirts, and kneehigh argyle socks made MY week. TO got cut by the Cowboys. Maybe JJ has some gonads after all. Quote from 2/25 in my golf quotes calendar: "Nis nerve, his memory, and I can't remember the third thing." (Lee Trevino, on the three things an aging golfer loses). Very cool feature on Notah Begay on Inside the PGA tour this week. Check it out, if you haven't already. Some of the LPGA beauties got the full red carpet treatment prior to this week's HSBC tournament. Natalie Gulbis, you may want to spend a little less time in the tanning booth!! The Tampa Bay Lightning has a very cool alternate jersey with the word "BOLTS" across the front of it. Meanwhile, my Dallas Stars have come out with an alternate third jersey too: It's a white version of the incredibly boring black jersey, with the word "Dallas" across the front. Ho-friggin'-hum. I got clearance from the medical tower to get back in the swing of things. Hitting the range tonight, the first time hitting balls in at least six months. A-Rod has a bad hip. Do you think he injured it dancing around the questions about steroid use last week? If I'm reading the schedule right, Tiger's going to play every other week up through The Masters. I don't know about you, but I'm already counting down to that tournament. So many interesting plots, above and beyond what Tiger's having for breakfast. My most read blog is the one from last week titled "Hank Haney is an idiot". Clearly, if I want readers I need to insult some very highly respected member of the golf establishment. I don't know Butch Harmon personally. I'm sure he's a very nice man, and most likely not a weenie. This blog entry, of course, is another installment in my "Ramblings from the Rough" series.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
As I'm reviewing the continuing saga about our financial woes I'm of mixed minds. I truly, honestly see both sides of the argument on several levels. The government is shelling out billions of dollars to save our ailing financial and automotive giants. On one hand I would prefer to just let them fail on sheer principle, figuring that a demand-based market system will sort itself out in the end. On the other hand, it's obvious that the impact on our overall economy if these companies go under would be devastating, and it definitely would make for a much deeper hole for the country to dig out of. The car companies got hit first because of last year's fluctuations in gas prices, and then they got a second whammy when the finance crisis hit. The government can and should regulate the price of gas as sold in this country, and part of these regulations should include an allowed price variance over a period of time. Too many people get hurt when it goes up and down like it has. While the car companies have shown a commendable eagerness to adjust their offerings to a different price level, it's not fair because it takes so much longer to re-tool factories and re-engineer cars than it does for OPEC to say "We're going to charge more next month". I know there's more to it than that, but not THAT much more. I read stories of the "Lobster-to-potato-chips" downgrades in hospitality during some of this year's earlier PGA tournaments. There was an uproar when AIG blew half a mill on a previously planned high-end spa outing for management and top performers in the middle of sitting before congress asking for handouts. The Big Three got smacked around for flying private jets to DC so they can hold their hand out. Now Northern Trust is catching grief about sponsoring a golf tournament in the middle of this kind of a crisis, and Wachovia took its name off the upcoming PTA Tour event in Charlotte, mostly due to backlash against the struggling financial institutions' spending. I totally expect the grandstanding politicians to take full advantage of the situation where taxpayers are paying for the companies to stay alive while the companies are eating caviar. Heck, one of my favorite new segments on the Daily Show is "American Grandstand". At first glance it's a dead easy argument. The point that has not yet been raised, maybe for lack of coconuts, is that we cannot take over these companies and then tell them not to market themselves, or what they can and cannot do in order to retain the qualified employees who they will rely on to take them out of the hole. Their skill and inventiveness in marketing is part of what built these companies to the size they are, and I feel like the recovery process will be prolonged if they're not allowed to market themselves along the lines they're used to. Does this really benefit the taxpayers in any way? If their top employees leave the companies, the same effect will be felt, and again, who does this benefit? Of course, there's yet another flip side to this point, as their aggressive and excessive marketing and incentives programs is part of the whole Cycle Of Greed which has driven us to where we're at today. In short, I have absolutely no answers, and I have the utmost respect for those charged with turning this economically toxic tanker around to the right direction. I don't expect the economy to ever get back to where it was a year ago, because that position was not real but built on a foundation of flimsy and hopeful anticipation, a woeful lack of controls and governance, and in some cases numbers which flat out did not exist. The question is not about how quickly we can get the Dow up above 13K again. The challenge is to re-engineer our financial system so that the next time we do get to 13K (and we will) we can actually trust it.