Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Golf and Life

Well, the Kilted one has been in a bit of a slump for a few months here. It's mostly job related. Got laid off, and I've been busy selling my soul to the highest buyer. I've been keeping a very positive attitude, but it's still a drawn out and challenging time in one's life. I think men have a harder time being laid off, as on an instinctive level we feel like we're inadequate if we don't provide for our family. Sure, friends and relatives are all very nice, saying all the right things, but we still feel like sh*t. As with most everything else that happens in my life, there's a tie to golf. Several ties, actually. Firstly, I just haven't had enough time, energy, and mostly peace of mind to write about golf. Job hunting in the internet age is almost a 24/7 proposition, and it takes every bit as much of your time as having an actual job. The difference is, you leave a job to come home. You're never far away from another jobhunting step. Being out of work is tremendously tiring. On the days when I have an interview I'm just shot for the rest of the day. Science has proven that being out of work is more stressful than ANY job you can have. Then there's the peace of mind bit. Writing about golf is a luxury for me, and without having the lower rungs on my hierarchy of mental needs in place I just haven't been able to get myself to the point where it was even possible for me to put words on paper (figuratively speaking, of course). I go back to a partial round of golf I played back in 2003. I was deep in the throes of buying a new house, and my buddy was expecting his firstborn any day. We got about as far as 12 holes, and then we had to walk off the course. Our heads just weren't in the game, and if they're not 100% on the next shot there's just no way to either have fun or play well. I remember my dad saying the same thing about a couple of instances where life got in the way of a good round. I mean, that's what we love about golf, right? It's not that it's relaxing, in and of itself. Are four foot downhill putts relaxing? Are long water carries relaxing? Are plugged lies in the bunker relaxing? Of course they're not. The key is that while you worry about all those ups and downs of a round of golf you don't worry about anything else that's going on in your life. You don't, because you can't. Then my mind swings around to some of the professional tour players who have had extra-curricular things on their mind this year. Tiger and Phil are the obvious ones, but there are many many pros who have life's strikes and gutters threaten their mental 300. I've never dealt with a loved one having cancer, but I have gone through a divorce. The fact that these guys are even able to be basically competitive at all is a tremendous testament to their innate talent and strength of will. I've been very lucky through my rough spot here that it was by far the nicest time of the year in the Dallas area, and I was able to spend some time on the range and on the course. My game is actually in pretty good shape. The OU - Texas challenge in the beginning of September was the highlight, again dominated by the Sooners. After that I made a move back one tee, to the blues from the whites, and I started walking and carrying my sticks. It took a bit to find a new rhythm, but my game has flourished. I have finished the season with a couple of rounds in the low 80s, and my handicap is at 12.2. I still think about golf all the time, quite literally. I've been watching a lot of the tournaments at the end of the year, and I think the pro game is in very good shape right now. Right now I'm on a short-term consulting gig, and even though it's not permanent it's enough to stop the financial bleeding and let things break even for a bit. I'm hoping to get back into my writing. I've also read some significant golf books, and those of you who know me know how much I love golf lit. I look forward to re-acquainting myself with my old friends in the golf community. Until then, keep'em in the short stuff.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Ryder Cup Picks

Corey Pavin's announcement is only minutes away, and here are the four players I would pick if I were in his shoes: TIGER WOODS - Still #1, and playing better every week. Always an intimidating name in a lineup, no matter what the Euros say about him. STEWART CINK - Hasn't won since The Open last year, but he has been playing well of late, and he's a good clubhouse presence. He has Top-20 finishes in his last four events, which include a WGC event, a major, and two playoff events. SEAN O'HAIR - Another player who hasn't won this year, but he's been very very close. Six Top-12 finishes in his last 10 events. His MC at the PGA was bothersome, as he seemed to be trending up leading into the tournament, but I still think he has the game to contribute. CHARLEY HOFFMAN - He looked great this week, and he's been playing well leading up to this tournament as well, with three Top-10s in his previous five events. If this win was a one-off he wouldn't have a chance to make the team, but he was trending in the right direction previously as well. Here are a couple of close candidates, and why I decided to leave them out: LUCAS GLOVER - No wins since his US Open at Bethpage last year. This year he has three top-10s and seven MCs. I just can't get fired up about having him on the team. ANTHONY KIM - Nobody is a bigger AK fan than I am, but I just can't do it. One T76 and four MCs since his return. Makes you wonder if he rushed back before he was really ready. I know he'll be heartbroken if he is left out, as he cares about this competition as much as anyone else on the planet. ZACH JOHNSON - One win, at Colonial this spring, but only two finishes better than T21 for the rest of the year. He'd be a steadying influence on a young team, but I just don't think he's playing well enough right now.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bummer Summer

One of the first new terms I learned when I first came to this country as a 17-year old attending High School in Goddard, KS was "Bummer Summer". I think my buddy Alan was referring to someone who had to work all summer. Well, it's been that kind of a summer for me. I won't get into all the gory details, but it's been a combination of kid stuff and work stuff. On the upside I'm very lucky to have my health and to have the love of my live by my side through these chellenging times. I've still been watching a lot of golf, and practicing and playing a fair amount as well. I just haven't had the peace of mind to sit down and write about it. I'm making an effort to get back into it, as I realize that it's as good for my mind to write as it is for my body to exercise. I'm hoping to be able to catch up with assorted commentaries over the next couple of days. I have enjoyed some of the great play I've seen on tour over the last month and a half. I have also enjoyed some of my best play personally in this time, and I have had some interesting swing revelations in my time on the range. In addition I have had the pleasure of reading a very significant golf book in this period, and I look forward to writing about all these things very shortly. Right now it's Monday afternoon, and I wish everyone a happy Labor Day. The Deutsche Bank is on from Nawton, Mass, and I will be tweeting as I watch the rest of this tournament. I look forward to reconnecting with all my online golf friends. Keep'em in the short stuff.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Interview with Josh Karp - Author of "Straight Down the Middle"

I reviewed "Straight Down the Middle" a few weeks ago. http://golferinkilt.blogspot.com/2010/07/book-review-straight-down-middle-by.html. Subsequent to reading the book I've had the pleasure of exchanging several emails with the author Josh Karp. You might enjoy getting to know him as I have, so I edited some of our conversations into an interview. FIRSTLY, ON A NON-GOLF TOPIC, HOW DO YOU GET TO BE A SOX FAN LIVING IN THE NORTHERN SUBURBS OF CHICAGO? I am surrounded by Cubs fans. I like them individually (some of my best friends) but despise them collectively. My grandfather was a Cubs fan who absolutely and completely hated the Sox because he was a fan of theirs back in 1919 when they threw the world series. That was it for him. He wouldn't even watch the AL unless it was the all-star game or the series. I probably became a Sox fan just to drive him nuts. IT'S BEEN ABOUT TWO YEARS SINCE YOU WROTE "STRAIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE". HOW HAS YOUR JOURNEY BEEN PROGRESSING SINCE THIS TIME? DID YOU BREAK 80 YET? No, not yet. I only played about 10 times last summer because after 2 years of being paid to play golf part-time the party was over and i had a hard time justifying getting out on the course. That said, I’ve had a few 80s the last two summers. I'm trying to play about once a week this year and i'm finding that even without playing as much as i would like, my game has improved in just about every way except for breaking 80. I've managed to sail past the point of implosion when i open 6 over after 3. when i get in the zone or get hot, i don't think about it in a way that will destroy the feeling, and most of all - even though i want to shoot the lowest score - I've detached from results pretty effectively. HOW HAVE YOU CONTINUED TO APPLY THE LESSONS YOU TALK ABOUT IN THE BOOK? Well, the three biggest things I take away from what I learned are this: 1) Don't keep score. I still do, but not with the avidity (if that's a word) that I once did. I can play hole to hole without thinking about what I'll have for nine or 18 and if I am counting things up it doesn't create pressure in the way it once did. 2) Loosen your grip. This is kind of related to #1 and also has improved my game immeasurably. I hit the ball so much better and even when I'm falling apart I remind myself to loosen my grip and it seems to help. and 3) Maybe most importantly, I try to go out and have good swings and enjoy swinging the club, kind of letting fortune take over. Last week was a good example. I was playing in a charity tournament with my dad, my uncle and a friend of my uncle's. It was a shotgun and i opened 6 over for what would be holes 7-9 on the back. After this I calmed down and started playing really well. I was maybe one over after 6 or 7 and hit a really nice drive and 2nd shot on a par 5. I was 130 away and grabbed my 8-iron, my 125-140 club and hit a great shot, felt perfect, was flying directly at the stick, etc. Even though the ball sailed 10 feet past and rolled off of the back of the green I was still happy with how well I hit the ball and how good it felt. This positive experience kind of negated any disappointment at not putting for birdie. IN THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK YOU DISCUSSED HOW YOUR SEARCH WAS RELATED TO IMPROVING YOUR GOLF AND YOUR LIFE, BUT IT SEEMS THAT TOWARDS THE END OF THE BOOK IT WAS ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT GOLF. WAS THIS A CONSCIOUS DECISION? I think I kind of got tired of writing about my anxieties and they began to genuinely subside as the journey went on. I had that moment flying out of Scotland where I felt completely free of everything. It didn't last, at least not in that pure of a state, but that was a huge turning point for me. I tried to tie it up in the conclusion by acknowledging that I probably wasn't going to morph into Bing Crosby, but that I was going to continue to meditate and to keep slogging away at both golf and enlightenment. I FOUND IT FUNNY HOW YOU WOULD TRAVEL TO VISIT ALL THESE DEEP THINKERS AND SPIRITUAL FOLKS TO GET THEIR ASSISTANCE WITH THE MENTAL ASPECTS OF YOUR GOLF GAME, AND THE FIRST THING THEY DID WAS TO TAKE YOU OUT TO THE DRIVING RANGE. WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THIS AT THE TIME? That was pretty much the deal. It was one of the things that i thought was hilarious about the entire idea and genre of books, and something I really wanted to explore, this idea that golf and life are somehow linked. Since I'm a journalist I'm pretty much a born cynic, which is usually just an idealist with a bad case of disillusionment. I was fairly dubious about all of it while also kind of believing it and having experienced it in bits and snatches during the course of my having played the game. In the end I think that golf is about as close to spirituality as I will find. I'm unlikely to meditate on the range again, unless I'm with a Shivas Irons outing, but I surprised myself with how I was able to buy into it. AS I READ SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE BOOK I FOUND MYSELF CONSIDERING A PARADOX: DID YOU HIT GOOD GOLFSHOTS BECAUSE YOU WERE IN A "HAPPY PLACE", OR DID YOU FEEL LIKE YOU WERE IN A "HAPPY PLACE" BECAUSE YOU JUST STRIPED A SIX-IRON. HOW DID YOU HANDLE THIS CONUNDRUM? I think it may be both. I was much more likely to stripe a six-iron if I wasn't thinking about my swing or worrying about where the ball would go, while striping the same six iron at a bad moment would definitely improve my mood. The difference was that in the past it would have made me happy and I'd have immediately started worrying about my putt. I learned to take in and appreciate each shot for what it was. The two are pretty well connected to each other and hard for me to separate. IT SEEMED YOU WERE THE HAPPIEST ON THE COURSE WHEN YOU CHOSE TO NO LONGER CARE HOW WELL YOU PLAYED, YET AT THE SAME TIME YOU HAD A VERY SPECIFIC GOAL IN MIND AS FAR AS YOUR GOLF PERFORMANCE. HOW DID YOU RECONCILE THESE TWO DIRECTIONS OF EMPHASIS? There is an amazing correlation between the amount I care about my score and the score I actually shoot. This year I've had some weird schizophrenic rounds of 50-38, 39-48, 40-49, etc. The difference between the nines corresponds to the amount I am thinking about my score or how hard I am trying. When I finally give that stuff up things get much, much better without my having to do anything but swing a club and forget about the rest. But, there is a lot of paradoxical stuff in the book and within the genre. I think that's what attracted me to it. How can one get what they care about by not caring about it? Sounds insane, but is absolutely the truth. The more you do and the less you try, the more good happens. SOME ASCRIBE TO THE "THINK ABOUT NOTHING" THEORY, WHILE OTHERS ADVOCATE WE SHOULD HOLD ON TO SOME FORM OF A SWING THOUGHT AS WE GO ABOUT HITTING A SHOT. WHAT'S YOUR OPINION? I ascribe to the idea that I should focus on nothing. If i do focus on something, it is generally a feel. I want the swing to feel good. It needs to be a thought that is vague enough so that I can't obsess about it. I've never done well with guided imagery and visualization. I'm much, much better off working on something that's difficult to quantify.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Product Review - Kentwool Socks

If there's technology in socks then clearly there's going to be technology in everything related to golf. Kentwool was founded with the intent to "create the world’s best golf sock. The innovative result is a one-of-a-kind performance product that delivers an unexpected edge for serious golfers." Kentwool socks are worn by Bubba Watson and Jonathan Byrd on the PGA Tour and Jenny Gleason and Kristy McPherson on the LPGA Tour, among other professional golfers. THE TECHNOLOGY Kentwool's socks are made of high grade "superfine" wool, which they spin themselves and combine with both natural and synthetic materials to get the properties they seek. The Socks I tested were very low, which I like, and they also make a regular crew height model as well. They have extra padding in the heel and toes for increased comfort. THE VERDICT: BIRDIE I did two tests with my socks, and I ran them through the wash a handful of times inbetween (in order to avoid the naturally good feeling of any new sock compared to what's in my golf drawer). When I opened my package my first thought was that there was no way these socks (their XL size) would fit my size 14 loaves, but I was wrong. The fabric is very flexible, and the socks fit snugly on my feet. The first time I wore them I played 18 in near-100 degree temperatures. In my second test I wore them for several hours at the range, again in very warm temperatures. Although the Kentwool socks feel thick on your foot they're very cool to wear, every bit so as any other sock I've worn. The padding make the sock feel very comfortable, and it helps to secure the shoe on your foot as well. It feels like your foot is molded into the shoe. After several washes my socks looked a little fuzzy, but their soft feel and flexibility were retained.

The Hack Shack - The Open

This week I and my fellow Hack-Shackers discuss Goydos' 59, golf at St. Andrews, who we like at the British Open this week, and how our own game is going. PAUL GOYDOS SHOOTS A 59, AND STRICK WINS THE JOHN DEERE AT A RIDICULOUS 26 STROKES BELOW PAR. HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THIS? STEFAN: I love "Sunshine", but he gets a slight asterisk next to his score. Par is 71 on this course, and they were playing "clean and place". This essentially means every iron shot is teed up as long as it's in the fairway, and we all know Goydos hits a lot of fairways. The other three 59s were on par 72 courses. Strick can shoot darts with the best of them. JEFF: How can you not like "Sunshine" Goydos? The guy is a quote a minute. I do think this is pretty significant, despite that it was on a par 71 course. These guys play PLENTY of par 71 courses throughout the year, and still this is only the 4th time it's ever been done in history. How can you not say that's significant? STEFAN: Oh, it's definitely significant, and nobody's a bigger Goydos fan than me. Earlier in the week I was keeping my fingers crossed for a Goydos/Mediate pairing on Sunday. They would have HAD to put a mic on those guys. JACK: Whichever way you look at it, a 59 on the PGA Tour is a 59. Incredible stuff, even though Paul Goydos was the last guy I had down to achieve such a feat. Imagine if Stricks could have gone one better on the Thursday and matched Goydos: a pair of 59s on the same day! Now that would have been significant. TONY: That round shows you how good any regular middle tier tour player could be on any given day. They're so beyond low handicap amateurs it is sick. How funny is it that Stricker shoots a 60 in the first round and was in 2nd place? The scores last week were very Bob Hope Desert Classic like. I don't mind a tourney or two a year where they go super low like this. Perhaps that balances out the high scoring of the US OPEN. Any company who provides gear for Goydos has been quick to jump on the bandwagon, from ball manufacturers to club manufacturers. I think I even saw a press release from Goydos’ toothpaste manufacturer. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, EMOTIONS ABOUT ST. ANDREWS? TONY: The home of golf. The whole town is all about golf. I can't wait to go. Planning on going next July. My best friend has played the old course and walked the grounds at Augusta National. He tells me the feeling he gets at the old course is far beyond what he felt at the Masters. As big a Masters fan as I am, I found that hard to believe but I'll wait until I stand on the 1st tee at the Old Course before I judge what he said. I love the old course and the links style golf. I play very well on links courses and I love the creativity and shots that can be played, especially ones which run and follow the contours and rolling hills. STEFAN: I've never been there, and maybe I'm building it up too much in my mind, but for me it's the Mecca of golf in every sense of the word. It's like a portal through which all other golf experiences get funneled. Growing up in Sweden we were big Seve fans, and his win there in '84 put it on the map for us. Then you add Bobby and Jack before that and Tiger a couple of times after that, and you can't beat it. I'd love to see the Ryder Cup played there one day, maybe for the Centenary in 2027. JEFF: Overall I'm not a "huge" fan of links style golf, but have to respect these players that go and can completely change their game to accommodate the course and conditions like that. St. Andrews IS the Mecca of golf and I'd give my right arm to play there some day. It's created so many historic moments over the years and I love that The Open goes back there so often. I love watching the guys tee it up on the road hole. JACK: First things first, I think St Andrews is slightly overrated as a course. Don't get me wrong, it's fantastic, but Turnberry and Royal Birkdale stand out as two better Open Championship venues I've had the privilege of playing... not wanting to brag or anything. As an Open Championship venue, however, you can't beat St Andrews. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that it's the best major venue by quite some way. The atmosphere, surroundings, fans, architecture, EVERYTHING: the place is just so special. Close your eyes at the last hole and you can almost envisage yourself on the fairways with the game's greats - the sense of history is palpable and somewhat overwhelming. TIME TO MAKE YOUR PICKS. I SAY WE PICK ONE PLAYER FROM THE TOP 10, ONE PLAYER FROM 11-20, ONE PLAYER FROM 21-30, AND ONE PLAYER RANKED ABOVE 30 IN THE WORLD ACCORDING TO OWGR (http://www.officialworldgolfranking.com/rankings/default.sps). IF YOU'RE NOT PICKING TIGER OR PHIL, LET US KNOW WHY NOT. (EDITOR’S NOTE: THOUGH THIS CONVERSATION WAS POSTED AFTER THE START OF THE TOURNAMENT, THE PICKS WERE MADE ON WEDNESDAY) STEFAN: I'm basing my picks in part on the fact that with the exception of Nick Faldo the recent six winners at St. Andrews have been some of the longest hitters in the game (Jack, Seve, JD, Tiger). - LEE WESTWOOD (barely edging Rory and Tiger). Beware of an injured golfer. This tournament will be a stern test to his psyche, after his performance at the US Open. He's won here before on the Euro tour. - JUSTIN ROSE (just ahead of Paddy). I know it's supposed to be some sort of weird taboo to win the tournament before a major, but the way he has been playing he has to have loads of confidence at this time. - DUSTIN JOHNSON. You know how when you hit a bad shot with a certain club on a hole you're bound to get that very same shot on the next hole? Well, for Dustin it's another Major, and obviously a test of his psyche as well. - ANGEL CABRERA. He has the power and the experience to do well here. It's about time for him to come out of nowhere to win a major again. I think Tiger will get another Top 10 here, but I think Phil will struggle. He's just so in love with his own game. The power of his drives, and the freaky flop shots he throws up there. I think he's blinded to the kinds of shots he's going to have to hit in order to do well at St. Andrews. JACK: Top 10: Tiger Woods, who else? Yeah yeah, he's streaky, but he's got to win sometime soon. This is his favourite track, and it shows in the fact that he's hoisted the Claret Jug here on the past two occasions. He'll make it three in a row if you ask me.11 - 20: I'm with Stef on this one... Justin Rose. Made a name for himself at this tournament back in '98 at Royal Birkdale and, based on current form, there's no reason why he can't go a few better and win the thing.21 - 30: Sean O'Hair, anyone? Love Sean's game and after a decent finish at St Andrews in 2005, I think he'll be turning a few heads come Sunday afternoon. You heard it here first.Outside 30 - Ross Fisher. Sure, this guy's dull as dishwater, but he can't half play golf. Let's forget the fact that Fisher made a hash of thing at Turnberry last year, because he's got the length and patience to contend again this week. JEFF: From Top 10 in OWGR - Lee Westwood He's primed and ready for his long-awaited first Major. After the Masters I said that I didn't think his first would be Pebble, but that St. Andrews would be. So I'll stick with that. He's a Major Championship shark, and he's playing the best golf of his career. I think he's the guy to beat this week. 11-20 in OWGR - Justin Rose - The OTHER Brit who is absolutely on fire right now. Rose is finally starting to live up to all of that potential and I would not be surprised at all to see him win this week. He'll certainly have the crowds behind him. 21-30 in OWGR - Geoff Ogilvy - Ogilvy hasn't been playing the best of golf this year, but to choose from this small select group of 21-30 in OWGR, I like his chances seeing his T5 finish in 2005 at St. Andrews. Outside of Top 30 - Sergio Garcia - I know this can be somewhat laughable, but since 2001 he's finished in Top 10 SIX times at The Open. I just like him as an outside reach/sleeper pick. I didn't go with Tiger or Phil for pretty obvious reasons. Tiger, as we've seen has had some issues with the putter, and you just don't know what you're going to get with him lately. Phil, doesn't exactly have a great track record at the British either, as much as I'd love to see him win. TONY: 1-10: Lee Westwood (arguably playing the best golf of anyone on this planet right now and will have great support from the galleries)11-20: Padraig Harrington (total stud, knows how to win Opens)21-30: Sean O'Hair (like the kid)30+: Angel Cabrera (love his attitude and he's mega long) WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU'RE WORKING ON WITH YOUR OWN GAME RIGHT NOW, AND HOW IS IT WORKING OUT SO FAR? STEFAN: I've come to the realization that I need to spend some time in the practice bunker, so I started that last night. It was ugly. My regular muni doesn't have a lot of sand on it, which is nice for two reasons: 1) It doesn't have a lot of sand on it, and 2) I can wear my golf sandals to play there. When I go to a course with more bunkering (like Bali Hai last month) I tend to struggle. In addition to the difficulty of the shot there is also a lot of variation from sand to sand. My focus is on taking a consistent amount of sand with a shallow swing. I realized last night that bunker practice takes a lot more out of you than almost anything else you do on the range. My plan was to hit a small bucket after about 45 minutes of bunker practice, and I barely made it through the bucket because I was worn out. JEFF: I have played golf for over 23 years and despite playing on high school and college teams with coaches who would give "tips", never had a formal/official lesson. But still got down to a 4 handicap at one point. About 2 months ago, I decided to finally take a lesson with a pro. I know there were some things in my swing that needed to be worked on. He identified 2 off the get-go. I take the club back too far, and I'm lazy with my hip turn. The club going back too far is something that is difficult (at least for me) to correct. It's so mental to tell yourself to stop, when for 20 years you've been used to that backswing. I've been hitting the range a lot and working on it. I see much cleaner and pure contact with that shortened backswing (as well as consciously firing my hips through), but my tendency now is to pull the ball a bit, and sometimes hit it fat. It's all a timing thing I think at this point, and just hitting the range on a regular basis I'll hopefully get it down to where I can build that "repeatable" swing for better ball striking. Keep'em in the short stuff. ______________________________________________ The Hack Shack is a group of golf fans and golf bloggers who like to comment on the current events in the world of golf. You can get to know us better in our introduction http://golferinkilt.blogspot.com/2010/06/introducing-hack-shack.html. On the electronic internets we can be located as follows: Tony’s blog is http://www.hookedongolfblog.com/.He also runs http://www.thegolfspace.com/.His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/thegolfspace. Jack’s blog is http://dudewheresmypar.tumblr.com/.His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/dudewheresmypar. Jeff’s blog is http://www.goodwalkgolf.com/.His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/jpalopoli. Stefan’s blog is http://golferinkilt.blogspot.com/.And his twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/golferinkilt.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A British Open Martini - The "Seve-tini"

You would think a Martini based on the British Open would have Gin in it, and I can see your point. But I think that what we'd drink at Royal Liverpool and what we'd drink at St. Andrew's are two completely different things. Gin is the official drink of the British Empire. Gin is wonderful. On a hot day, a Gin 'n' Tonic or a Gin Pixie (Gin and Sprite) is a perfectly wonderful beverage. But it's not Scotland. Everybody knows about Scotch, but this concoction intends to introduce you to a quite marvelous Scotch-based liquor called Drambuie. It's thick and sweet and syrupy, and absolutely awesome on a cold day. The most popular cocktail using it is a Rusty Nail, which is half Drambuie and half Scotch. I was all geared up to celebrate Seve's return to St. Andrews this year. The Golf Digest feature last month brought tears to my eyes. Growing up in Sweden, we claimed Seve as our very own world-beater, and the stories of his shots and accomplishments were nothing short of legendary in every sense of the word. He was "El Hombre" before Tiger got out of diapers. Then sadly, his health has prevented him from attending this year's celebratory event. Knowing what I know about Seve the man, that tells me he's close to death, because there are very few things that could have prevented him from going north this week. So, here's a tribute to Seve the best way I know how: A Martini. Like Seve's game it's strong and surprising and sweet and unpredictable, all the while combining the flavors of Scotland and Spain.
RECIPE:
1 oz Drambuie
1 oz Cuantreau
2 oz Belvidere Vodka
INSTRUCTIONS:
Combine ingredients over lots of ice in a shaker.
Shake heartily.
Wait a minute.
Shake heartily again.
Wait 30 seconds.
Pour into your favorite Martini glass.
Decorate with a slice of orange, and golf accutriments.
Enjoy
"Viva Seve !!!"

British Open Picks

Going forward I'm going to use the following criteria to pick who I think will do well in golf tournaments: I will pick one player in the top 10 of OWGR (www.officialworldgolfranking.com/rankings/default.sps), one player in the next 10, one in the third 10, and one player ranked above 30. I'm basing my picks in part on the fact that with the exception of Nick Faldo the recent six winners at St. Andrews have been some of the longest hitters in the game (Jack, Seve, JD, Tiger).
LEE WESTWOOD (barely edging Rory and Tiger). Beware of an injured golfer. This tournament will be a stern test to his psyche, after his performance at the US Open. He's won here before on the Euro tour.
JUSTIN ROSE (just ahead of Paddy). I know it's supposed to be some sort of weird taboo to win the tournament before a major, but the way he has been playing he has to have loads of confidence at this time.
DUSTIN JOHNSON. You know how when you hit a bad shot with a certain club on a hole you're bound to get that very same shot on the next hole? Well, for Dustin it's another Major, and obviously a test of his psyche as well.
ANGEL CABRERA. He has the power and the experience to do well here. It's about time for him to come out of nowhere to win a major again.
I think Tiger will get another Top 10 here, but I think Phil will struggle. He's just so in love with his own game. The power of his drives, and the freaky flop shots he throws up there. I think he's blinded to the kinds of shots he's going to have to hit in order to do well at St. Andrews.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Review - "Straight Down the Middle" by Josh Karp

If it's true what I've heard that Jerry Garcia actually carried a 12 handicap at Olympic in the 70s then "What a long and winding road it's been" may well have been written about a struggling golfer's journey similar to the one Josh Karp took in writing this book. He's all over the place. He visits Zen Masters and martial artists, authors, physicists, and philosophers, and his travels take him to Scotland and Wisconsin and points inbetween. Going on the supposition that what works in golf also works in life, he tries to improve his handicap in both fields.
THE AUTHOR
Josh Karp is a native and resident of Glencoe, Illinois, in the high-faluting northern suburbs of Chicago. After college he stumbled around in marketing, law, and baked goods before getting a journalism degree from Northwestern. In his own words. he "found something that he was not bad at". His written pieces have appeared in Salon, Premier, and the LA Times, and he's the author of "A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comdey Forever". He currently teaches journalism to other students who presumably are not bad at it either.
THE STORY
Josh first played golf in sixth grade and hacked his way around golf teams in high school and college. He wasn't very good, but then neither were his teams. As an adult he found himself carrying an 18 handicap and a more than healthy dose of curiosity and open-mindedness about methods which may help his golf game.
Inspired by books like "Golf in the Kingdom" and "Zen Golf" he sets out to further explore the links between Zen Buddhism and meditation to success on the golf course and in life.
He explores the "effortless swing" of Yoni Zaluski, and Steve Yellin tries to help him get "in the zone". He spends time with Doctor Joe Parent, and an assortment of other thinkers of varying magnitude. He visits Buddhists in Scotland, and the Shivas Irons society's outing in Wisconsin.
By the end of his travels and travails his handicap is down to 11, and he's gotten very close to one of his goals, to break 80.
VERDICT: BIRDIE
Josh's writing is very casual and personal. At times it's painfully intimate, and at other times it's uproaringly funny. Deep philosophical concepts are described in very matter-of-fact terminology, and he doesn't let the fact that he writes about spirituality keep him from dropping the occasional F-bomb.
"This is psychic power, mind over matter. It's high-level shit. When you hole out a chip, sink a long putt, or paint a picture that flows directly from your mind to the canvas - that's the creative unconscious. For guys like you and me - it's pretty much magic. For Tiger, it's normal."
His journey is inspiring in it's honesty and candidness, and his descriptions of his adventures are colorful and moving:
"His shots make almost no noise. They say that Sam Snead's irons sounded like the door of a Rolls-Royce being slammed. Mine are loud as well, but never like a Rolls. More like a Buick on good shots, and akin to a Yugo being sideswiped by a Gremlin on the bad ones."
If you're at all intersted in the mental side of golf, and if you have an open mind to the pseudo-magical, non-plane aspects of improving your golf game then "Straight Down the Middle" will touch you deeply. Even if you're not into these things you'll still be very amused.

Open Championship groupings

The groupings are out for The Open this week, and here are some of the highlights: Fernandez-Castano/Moore/Schwartzel - Very talented young players. I've been a fan of Charl since the beginning of 2009. Poulter/Els/Cink - Two winners this year, along with last year's Champion Golfer. Woods/Rose/Villegas - Clearly the premier group. Rose is as hot as anyone right now. Tiger will do well just to keep up at the rate he's going now. Harrington/Ishikawa/Watson - Interesting mix of cultures and eras. It would be surprising to see Tom compete again, but who knows. Paddy has been a disappointment this year. He ended last year playing so very well, but it hasn't transferred. Casey/Cabrera/Fowler - Is it time for Angel to jump up and win a major again? Is Casey over his injuries? How will Golfer Smurf do on the links? Jimenez/Westwood/Scott - We'll really see how tough Lee Westwood is, after his huge disappointment at the US Open. Jimenez won last week, and Scott has been playing well also. Montgomerie/Mickelson/Goosen - Interesting mix of personalities and styles of game. ESPN's broadcast starts at 4:00 AM ET on Thursday. Might as well sleep on the couch Wed night.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Review: "The Match" by Mark Frost

I picked the right time of the year to read this book. It just fit very nicely to take in a book that is largely about Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson while the PGA Tour was playing it's Dallas events that are so closely tied to those golfing greats.
"The Match" is about a round of golf played on Cypress Point in 1956, which pitted a pro team of Hogan and Nelson against the top amateurs of the time Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi. The round was played during the buildup to Bing Crosby's clambake, which at that time was a major event on the PGA Tour.
"The Match" was published in 2007.
THE AUTHOR
Mark Frost is a bestselling author as well as a producer and director in both TV and movies. He worked on such significant creations as Hill Street Blues, Twin Peaks, and Fantastic Four. Other books about golf include "The Grand Slam" about Bobby Jones, and "The Greatest Game Ever Played" about Francis Ouimet's US Open victory.
THE STORY
In the 1950's, the golf world was still debating whether the game belonged completely to the professional tour players, or if there was still a chance the amateur game could be competitive. Bobby Jones had retired decades earlier, and nobody had stepped up to be the champion of the amateur cause.
The money on the PGA Tour was growing, but it was not a sport in which you were able to accumulate great personal wealth. If you were very good, you could make it go around, but that was about it. Some in the golf community held on to the amateur ideals with great passion and fervor, while others had hitched their wagon to the pro train.
Eddie Lowery was a San Francisco car dealer, and a rich one at that. He was also a great fan of golf, and amateur golf in particular. He often employed top amateur talent at his dealership, and his support made it possible for them to attend the major amateur tournaments and to work on their game.
In one of the many parties leading up to The Clambake in 1956 he got into an argument with fellow rich guy George Coleman. Eddie claimed that his best amateur players could beat any two professionals. George and Eddie decided to put some money on it, and George went about finding himself a couple of pros. Lucky for him, he was close to the Texas golf contingent, and he was able to round up none other than Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan.
"The Match" is about the ensuing game. Every shot is covered in great detail. Interspersed with the retelling of the round the author covers the personal history of the four golfers, as well as how their lives turned out after this round.
VERDICT - Birdie
I must admit, when I first heard about The Match I was a little sceptical. It's a book about one round of golf. Surely there's no way to make that spellbinding in any way.
Well, Mark Frost manages to do just that. By weaving the personal histories of each of the players in and out of his retelling of the round itself he keeps every chapter fresh and the story moves forward at a very comfortable pace. His writing is casual and easy to read.
As I was reading it I had to wonder how much of this story was truly real. Because of the setting and the participants, it sort of felt like "Magic and Bird One-On-One at the YMCA on the corner". At the end of the book he retells the research he did in writing the book, and by all accounts it's a true representation of a great day of golf. I think he would have been better served to have this documentation up front.
I highly recommend "The Match" to any golfer or golf fan.

The Hack Shack - AT&T National

WE'VE HAD SOME TIME TO LET THINGS MARINATE FOR A BIT: WHAT ARE THE IMPRESSIONS FROM THE US OPEN THAT YOU THINK WILL STAY WITH YOU THE LONGEST? Stefan - Pebble continues to be one of the most beautiful places in all of golf. Great win for McDowell. I've liked him since watching him with Rory in the World Cup last year. I go back and forth on that 14:th hole, whether it's fair or if now and then professional golfers can just stop the whining and play the thing. Tom Watson walking up 18 was very memorable. I still maintain Tiger is not far away from being his usual world-beating self. Jack - I thought it was a pretty memorable US Open. I love Pebble to death and, no matter how much players whinge about it, I still feel the same: you just can't beat that place as a Major Championship venue. Woods is not himself, but I love the fact that he still has the ability to put the spark and electricity back into a tournament and its galleries with one round. Anyway, this one was all about McDowell for me. He left himself enough breathing room to make a few mistakes on Sunday, and walked away the worthy winner. Jeff - I think this year's US Open was great. You can't get a better venue than Pebble Beach, and having Tom Watson there made it that much more memorable. It was great to see him not only be there because of his history at Pebble/US Open, but because he deserved to be and played quite well, all things considered. That 14th hole is insane and I'm up in the air if it's fair or not. I've heard fom Tour players that they say while it's unbelievably difficult, it's also very fair. But maybe it's those guys just not wanting to make waves! I also thought the little 7th hole added some excitement. Nowhere else in the world do you see a 100 yard par 3 give the best players in the world such a headache. It was great to see Graeme McDowell play well and hold off the big guns of Woods, Mickelson, and Els. He's been knocking on the door for a while and it was nice to see him break through. Hopefully the 2010 Open will be remembered more for his steady play under pressure, than Dustin Johnson's complete meltdown. Tony - I thought it was a good open but not a great one. I loved how the USGA had Pebble prepared, with the long grass around the bunkers and the difficulty level of the greens. The cool thing about this course's length and setup was that it brought the whole field into play, not just the bombers. That being said a bomber (Dustin Johnson) was on the brink of winning the thing until he realized he was leading the US OPEN on Sunday and completely lost it. When he hit that shank/flop on #2 I knew he was toast. I almost fell out of my chair. Regarding 14, I'm of the belief that it was fine. If all the players play the same hole in the same conditions that is fair. I personally like US OPEN golf and seeing the big boys struggle. It makes me feel like they're actually human. I wonder how much easier 14 would have been if the players could have played it with square grooved wedges? What I thought was most notable on Sunday was that everyone at the top of the leaderboard, including McDowell, gagged. Nobody within reach made a run at it. It was just that McDowell gagged the least and calmed himself down enough to pull it off on the back nine. Tiger, Phil and especially Ernie all had good chances to win the thing but they all made mistakes. Both Tiger and Phil had terrible putting days. It sounds like a broken record, but Tiger's putting was "not Tiger like." Phil has been hot and cold in US OPEN with his putting historically so it wasn't as big of a surprise to me. The one person who didn't gag and was very impressive was Gregory Havret, who shot the best final round of those on page one of the leaderboard. His swing looked as good as any I've seen. I wonder if that was a flash in the pan or if we'll see more of him. I love Tom Watson. I followed Tom around on Tuesday at this year's Masters practice round. He was so cool and nice. I think it is amazing that he made the cut in a US OPEN at that age and it shows how much of a stud he is. WHERE DO YOU THINK TIGER'S GAME IS AT THIS TIME, AND HOW DO YOU THINK HE'LL DO THIS YEAR AND IN THE FUTURE? Jeff - Never having been a huge Tiger fan, I'm somewhat enjoying this levelling of the playing field. Like Jack, I think his game is around 75% back. But I'm not sure we'll ever see the Tiger of old again and the domination he once displayed. I think he'll win this year, but I'm not feeling it for the British. His mental sharpness is obviously not what it one was, and the British is coming up pretty soon. However, you can't discount the guy's two top 4's in the Majors so far, playing well below his "A" game. Jack - I'd say his game is at about 60%, which is obviously nowhere where he wants it be. Funny thing being is the fact he's played nowhere near his potential and still managed to finish tied 4th in both of this year's Majors! I think that says all you need to know really. Only a matter of time before he's back winning Majors in my opinion. If he can steady the ship in the next few weeks then I'd say the outcome at St Andrews is a formality. Stefan - I think Tiger's game is closer than 75%. I know Johnny Miller won't agree, but there's a lot of things I don't agree with that loudmouth on. Tiger's ballstriking at the US Open was as good as anyone else's. Having said that, I don't think we'll ever see the kind of domination that we witnessed ten years ago, but I felt that way before his injuries, surgeries, and personal upheaval. That domination was the outcome of him taking a giant leap in terms of strength, fitness, and work ethic over the bulk of the PGA players at the time. Now, the rest of the tour has caught up in a lot of these regards. In a way this makes it a lot more interesting, because now we'll see if his pure talent is enough to maintain his #1 status. Tony - Having gone through a divorce over the last few years (fortunately and unfortunately) I can sort of feel Tiger's pain. The difference is that my ex didn't get what is looking like it could be 3/4 of a billion dollars. That process had a very negative effect on my game. Even the slightest bad break, like a lip out, would finish me off for a round. My handicap has gone up a great percentage over the time of my divorce and stress, and my frustration level has been the highest ever. My psyche has been fragile. My divorce is now over and I'm trying to get my game back. Despite what some may think, Tiger is human and this has and will have a negative effect on his game for some time to come. Will he win a major this year? Many thought he'd win at Pebble because it set up so great for him and he had such a dominant win in 2000. He didn't. Those same pundits are saying he should dominate at St. Andrews because he plays that course so well. I have a tough time with that. As good as he is, he's not as sharp mentally as he has been in his winning ways. In "Open" situations you can't afford to make small mistakes. He himself said he made "three" mental mistakes in his final US OPEN round which cost him the tournament. I thought he made more than that. DO YOU THINK THE MEDIA IS SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME COMPARING TIGER NOW TO TIGER TEN YEARS AGO? Jack - Yep, but that was inevitably going to happen, what with his injuries and personal life revelations. Pretty pointless drawing comparisons if you ask me: every great athlete has his or her prime years and we can't expect it to last forever. If you asked today's pros, I'm sure the majority of 'em would give an arm and a leg to have Tiger's current, 60 - 75% game! Bottom line being that Tiger can still compete week-in-week-out, even if he's not as dominant as he used to be. Jeff - Never having been a huge Tiger fan, I'm somewhat enjoying this levelling of the playing field. Like Jack, I think his game is around 75% back. But I'm not sure we'll ever see the Tiger of old again and the domination he once displayed. I think he'll win this year, but I'm not feeling it for the British. His mental sharpness is obviously not what it one was, and the British is coming up pretty soon. However, you can't discount the guy's two top 4's in the Majors so far, playing well below his "A" game. Stefan - I agree the media is spending too much time looking into the past. If I have to hear "that's not the kind of missed putt we would have seen from the Tiger of old" one more time I'm going to put a Titleist through my TV. But I think this is another expression of the laziness of the mainstream golf media. It's much easier to re-hash some old Tiger comparisons than doing some actual research and maybe possibly tell us who the f*ck Gregory Havret is. CHRISTIE KERR WON THE LPGA CHAMPIONSHIP LAST WEEK, AND VAULTED TO #1 IN THE WORLD, THE FIRST US WOMAN TO DO SO. HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THIS? Jeff - It is kind of hard to believe that she is first isn't it? I think it's pretty significant but it was only a matter of time with all the good young American female golfers coming up through the ranks. Just watching the Solheim Cup, you could see the talent there and then with Ochoa retiring, you had to figure. It will be interesting to see how long Kerr holds on to the spot. Tony - To me this isn't significant at all. I don't follow the LPGA tour much. I doubt I've watched any LPGA since Annika retired. I don't find watching or following the LPGA to be interesting. Jack - The fact that she's the first women's world number one is surprising more than significant in my opinion. Can't believe it's taken this long! Saying that, I'm not sure how long it'll last, what with Ai Miyazato being on fire this year. Will be interesting to see those two (amongst others hopefully) battle it out over the next few years. Stefan - It's significant, but only for the wrong reasons. We should not have to get excited to finally have an American #1. Between that bit of statistics and the 7-month drought between American winners on the LPGA Tour (that's a total of four events, you know), it's no wonder they're in dire straits financially. IF this triggers an increase in interests and it motivates other American players to raise their game, then it's definititely significant. Otherwise, it may be the answer to a trivia question in 2018: "Who was the first and last American #1s on the LPGA tour?" Until next time, keep'em in the short grass. ========================================= The Hack Shack is a group of golf fans and golf bloggers who like to comment on the current events in the world of golf. On the electronic internets we can be located as follows: Tony’s blog is http://www.hookedongolfblog.com. He also runs http://www.thegolfspace.com. His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/thegolfspace. Jack’s blog is http://dudewheresmypar.tumblr.com. His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/dudewheresmypar. Jeff’s blog is http://www.goodwalkgolf.com. His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/jpalopoli. Stefan’s blog is http://golferinkilt.blogspot.com His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/golferinkilt. For more information about us as people and golfers, see http://golferinkilt.blogspot.com/2010/06/introducing-hack-shack.html

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Introducing: The Hack Shack

The Hack Shack is a group of golf fans and golf bloggers who like to comment on the current events in the world of golf. Our first discussion is going to be this week in advance of the AT&T National, and our next conversation is in two weeks before The Open. On the electronic internets we can be located as follows: Tony's blog is http://www.hookedongolfblog.com/. He also runs http://www.thegolfspace.com/ and his twitter account is www.twitter.com/thegolfspace. Jack's blog is http://dudewheresmypar.tumblr.com/, and his twitter account is www.twitter.com/dudewheresmypar. Jeff's blog is http://www.goodwalkgolf.com/, and his twitter account is www.twitter.com/jpalopoli. Stefan's blog is http://golferinkilt.blogspot.com/, and his twitter account is www.twitter.com/golferinkilt. In order to let you better get to know us, we have put together a few introductory questions about us and out game. WHO ARE YOU? Jeff - I'm currently a daytime corporate lackey (tie and all) who is secretly planning a hostile takeover of Jason Sobel's life. I started GoodWalkGolf.com in October of 2009 as a creative outlet to write about my passion for golf and never thought it would turn in to what it has and the amazing individuals I'd meet through it. Jack - Golfer. Writer. Blogger. Purist. Sceptic. Human. Tony - One of the original golf bloggers (circa 2004). A golf blog cockroach which won't die no matter how many dangerous chemicals and high scores it endures. Rock & roll drummer, dad, low single digit handicapper with bad short game, web geek. Stefan - Ex-pat Herring-Head. I love music, mostly various generations of punk and ska combinations. I watch a lot of movies, and love movie quotes. I'm a husband and father. I support my golfing habit by performing dull IT tasks in a dull IT cubicle. I'm spiritual but not religious, and I mix the occasional mean Martini. WHAT'S YOUR GOLF GAME LIKE? Jeff - As a passionate golfer for almost 25 years, who seems to get to play less and less golf each year, my game seems to gets worse and worse. A one time collegiate (Div II) golfer with a 4 handicap, all I can do is estimate that I'm probably about an 8 at the moment while getting in a maximum 15 rounds of golf per year. Jack - Shoddy, punctuated by rare moments of Ballesteros-esque brilliance. Handicap? Cough cough questionable 12 cough cough. Tony - I play about 100 rounds per year. Low score: 68. Hole in one: yes. Lowest handicap index .9. Currently a 3 and trending up. My putting is my strength. Chipping is bad, like having the chip-yips. My bad back doesn't allow me to make much of a turn but my granny swing can poke it out there respectably. Stefan - I took up the game around the age of 12, and played regularly throughout college. After college I hit a lull and didn't play regularly for about 20 years. The bug bit me again at the end of 2008 when I was recovering from back surgery and spent my days plowing through the favorite books in my golf library all over again. I probably play 2-3 times per month, and practice 8-10 times a month. I love going to the range. I'm happy when I beat bogey golf, and my current handicap is 14.

WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE HISTORICAL GOLFERS? Jeff - My all-time favorite golfer is Payne Stewart. He carried himself with so much class and had more charisma than any other golfer you see on Tour today. Not to mention his style and that buttery swing that just made you jealous to watch. Jack Nicklaus was also my introduction to the game of golf. My father bought me his videos and we watched him on TV all the time and in the beginning I tried to emulate his swing. One of my earliest golfing memories is watching him in the '86 Masters when I was 11 years old. Jack - Ben Hogan for his all-round greatness, ball striking ability and five lessons on the modern funtamentals of golf. Chi-Chi Rodriguez for his swagger and style. Tony - Bobby Jones is my all time favorite historical golfer. He did so much for the game and all as an amateur. He also created my favorite course and favorite tournament: Augusta National and the Masters. Jack Nicklaus is next on my list. Having met Jack I was impressed with how nice he was. Other favorties: Old Tom Morris, Arnie, Tom Watson, Dave Stockton, Lee Trevino. Stefan - Walter Hagen, for his innate sense of style and class and for his powers of recovery on and off the course. Bobby Jones was probably the most purely talented golfer ever. He achieved incredible feats, and capped it with that jewel we know as Augusta National. Tom Watson was my idol when I first started playing, and he hasn't given me a reason to waiver from that ever since. WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE CURRENT GOLFERS: Jeff - I really like the youth movement we are seeing right now on Tour. Guys like Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim, and Rory McIlroy are showing us the future of the Tour. Then there's a whole host of "older" twenty somethings that are carving their niche as well. Guys like Ricky Barnes, Hunter Mahan, and Dustin Johnson. However, I've been a Mickelson guy for as long as I can remember. He's sort of like a modern day Arnold Palmer with the way he gives back to the fans. I still remember when I was 16 years old at a PGA event in my hometown, Mickelson was a rookie on Tour (I think maybe 22 years old?) and I was watching him hit on the range. When he walked up I asked for his autograph and he was the friendliest guy, he invited me up to the putting range to stand with him as he worked on his putting... and of course he signed my hat too. Jack - Rory McIlroy. I could watch that swing of all day. Also a big fan of Welsh young gun, Rhys Davies: his skills with the flatstick beggar belief. Tony - I have a love/hate relationship with Tiger. I love Tiger the golfer and hate Tiger the phony. I'm a Phil fan. His talent level is sick. Love to watch Freddie because his swing is smooth and fluid, just like mine. Stefan - I'll watch Freddie or Ernie hit golf balls any time, anywhere. Spectacularly smooth swings, and both of them are good guys. I like Calc for his sense of humor. I like AK for his swagger (and because he's a Sooner AND a Lakers fan, and he lives in Dallas). Tiger and Phil are clearly the best two players in the world right now, but I'm not a huge fan of either. Until next time, keep'em in the short stuff.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

COURSE REVIEW: Bali Hai; Las Vegas, NV

Both Bali Hai and Royal Links (as well as Desert Pines) are part of the Walters Golf empire in Las Vegas. Both are some of the more highly renowned courses in the area, but outside of that these corporate cousins couldn't be more different. While Royal Links is demure and conservative in appearance, Bali Hai is flashy and tropical. The bunkers at Royal Links are sometimes as deep as they are wide, and strategically located, while Bali Hai's sand traps sprawl for hundreds of yards and take on a beach like appearance. They're as different as, well, Scotland and Bali themselves are.
THE NUMBERS
Bali Hai plays to par 71. It's over 7,000 yards from the black tees, about 6,600 from the gold, 6,156 from the white tees, and 5,535 from the reds. At my 14 handicap I played from the gold, and found it to be quite challenging. The holes vary greatly in length, and you're forced to use many different parts of your game to score well.
From the gold tees par 3 holes vary from 123 to 224 yards, par 4 holes range from 305 yards to 466 yards (with four being over 450 yards long), and the par 5s are between 495 yards and 539 yards. Water is in play on 8 holes.
LOCATION
For convenience from the strip in Vegas you can't beat Bali Hai. It's located less than a mile south of Mandalay Bay, right on the strip itself. In some ways this is very cool. The Vegas skyline glitters in the distance, and it's not every day you get to line up your tee shot by aiming for the Luxor Pyramid. You can even see the famous Las Vegas sign on a few of the holes.
However, this location comes with a few drawbacks. It's located right across from the airport, so flights thunder overhead every couple of minutes. Several holes also butt up against I-15, so on those holes you have significant traffic noise as well.
APPEARANCE
Visually you couldn't ask for more out of any land locked golf course. It's a truly beautiful golf course. Over 4,000 palm trees line the fairways. Water is arranged in ponds, streams, and little water falls. The large, sprawling bunkers look like they were always there, and they just built the course around them. Rocks and native plants are used strategically, and all in all the design elements create a very consistent feel throughout the course. The gorgeous clubhouse is the visual centerpiece for three of the holes.
There is one design element that's in place at Bali Hai that I have not seen anywhere else, and that's sand bunkers that transition seamlessly into the water hazard. There is no rock wall or platform of railroad ties or anything. With the size of these bunkers, it looks very much like a really nice, really private beach. If you don't think about how difficult it must be to maintain such an arrangement it's quite natural looking.
QUALITY
I believe they had just sanded the greens when I played, so they were not as good as one would expect. I found them sluggish and inconsistent, and I putted worse than I have in several months.
Sand hazards take up a lot of space on this course, and as if this is not a challenge enough I found the sand to be quite inconsistent. It's very fine grain stuff, but the playability varied greatly depending on whether it was dry, wet and raked, or just wet. I'm by no means a good bunker player, but I lost several shots because I had a hard time predicting how it was going to play.
The fairways were great, very consistent and you just knew you were going to have a good lie anytime you could find the fairways with your tee shot.
SIGNATURE HOLE
I don't know if it's the official signature hole or not, but the short par 3 16:th hole (pictured) is the one I will think of first when someone brings up Bali Hai. Only 123 yards from the gold tees, it's slightly downhill to an island green with the clubhouse behind the water. It's didn't hurt that I was able to hit the green.
APRES GOLF
The clubhouse is centrally located, and large without being austentatious. It's Polynesian design fits very nicely into the tropical theme of the course. The pro shop is well stocked with logo merchandise. Food is provided by their award winning restaurant, Cili, and the facilties have sufficient space for both banquets and small weddings. I had a burger after my round, and it was spectacularly good.
RANGE
There is a driving range of sorts. It's one of these systems that automatically tee up the next ball for you. I don't know if these systems use a heavier ball than the normal golf ball, but it sure felt like I was hitting concrete. Also, the range hits into a net about 30 yards away, AND the range faces into the morning sun so there's very little chance of seeing even which direction your ball goes.
SUMMARY
A challenging and diverse layout, beautifully architected, in a truly unique location. The service was spectacular overall, and the weaknesses I found were by no means show-stoppers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Spackler Foursome

So we're playing our bi-monthly round with the usual suspects. Ale-man and Stout-man. Snoop and Trainwreck. Different walks of life, connected through links and relationships near and far. We make tee-time reservations under the name Spackler. We LOVE Caddyshack. The last time some guy showed up in a kilt. If we can't come up with a better theme for our outing, that's our fallback.
(that's Ale-Man tending the flag, and Stout-Man trying to make a short putt)
So this last round I decided to get in touch with my inner Ty, and Ale-Man reached out for an ugly orange shirt and matching ugly orange hat to channel his Danny. Trainwreck got his Spackler on, and a good time was had by all.

US Open thoughts

Big props to Greame McDowell for his glorious victory in the US Open at Pebble Beach. Put your name right there next to Nicklaus, Watson, and Woods. You've earned it.
(most excellent photo by Robert Matre ... www.robertmatre.com)
The USGA is probably happy with a winner who didn't lose as much against par as his competitors. I can respect that. I can respect it, but I sure don't like it. I prefer the roars of Augusta to the groans of the US Open. Now, I don't want them shooting -25 to win the thing, but I do want the course to hit the kind of a balance where a hot player can shoot -5 on the back nine on Sunday to make a run for it. There are a lot of more senior golfers than Greame that are kicking themselves after this tournament, as it truly was ripe for the picking. Phil. No check. Tiger. No check. Ernie. No check. Maybe the course just didn't allow for a run, but there were plenty of clean opportunities that went wasted as well. It's not ALL on the course. That 14:th hole is bullshit. I know you like hearing that too, you sick bastards. I know everybody has to play it just the same as everybody else, but for crying out loud; let's give these guys a chance to shine, won't you? Two players shot 66s in this tournament. They're the two highest ranked golfers in the world. Coincidence? I dont' think so. For one, I'm too old to believe in coincidences. Secondly, Phil and Tiger just showed what can be done when they're hot. They are a head above everybody else. Writers are saying this may have been one of the last shots for Ernie, but they're predicting a long and glorious future for Phil. They're both 40. Let's face it, we have NO idea how their future is going to fare. Right now I'd pick Tiger above either of them at St. Andrews. I feel for DJ. He will need a large dose of confidence to rebound from this experience. If he keeps going back to this week he may never contend in another tournament ever again. Kucher's 68 was very nice, but he had nowhere near the pressure of the final groups. We saw what it did to Glover and Barnes last year. I know Lucas came around to win it, but after 9 holes it sure didn't look like he was going to. My GOD does that course look fabulous. I guess it's $495, and you don't even need to stay in the Lodge in order to play any more. I've already made requests for my 50:th birthday. Having said that, it looked a bit rough over the weekend. At times it was very difficult to discern the hole from the splotchy patches on the green. It didn't help that the broadcast was less than stellar. I felt like they focused on the wrong thing at the wrong time too much, and they wound up missing some of the action. Luckily Miller put his foot in his mouth again, so that's all everybody is talking about.

Seve Month

Allright, I'm upping the ante on GolfChannel's 7-day celebration of really friggin' fantastic golf events. I know there's a lot of golf to be played between now and The Open at St. Andrew's, and I know I've been critical of tournaments and organizations who in the past have toed the line of their week-long moment of fame as being disrespectful of the prior tournament. But this is not about a tournament. Mind you, if it WAS going to be about a tournament, The Open at St. Andrews is probably the one I'd pick. But it's not about that tournament and all it's history, and it's not about that POS course that everybody wants to play but nobody truly likes to play. It's about the man. It's about Seve.
Most people acknowledge Severiano Ballesteros as being one of the true geniuses of the short game in golf. I can't possibly argue with that. What most everyday US golf fans don't realize is just how mythical Seve is to all European golf fans of my generations (born in the mid-sixties).
Seve was one of the first continental European golfers who went on to be true world-beaters. And I'm from Sweden. My country isn't even on the continent. But sure as snot, we claimed him as our own as true as if he'd grown up in Hassleholm. When he'd come to play in SEO, he would draw record crowds, regardless of who else was playing.
He's a top-10 golfer of all time, and like Hogan much of his career was curtailed by injuries. He's right up there with Hagen and Jones and Benjamin and Nicklaus and Faldo and Watson and Woods. In his career Seve won 91 pro tournaments, 50 of which were on the European tour. He still holds this record. With five major championships he's only exceeded by about a dozen other golfers.
You know he's been sick. I don't know about you, but the article in last month's Golf Digest brought tears to my eye, and I almost never cry about golf. This year he's agreed to participate in the celebration of 150 years of British Open golf by participating in a four-hole tournament on The Open week. He won the British Open at St. Andrews in 1979 in spectacular fashion, the same way he played every round of golf before or since.
Without further ado, welcome to SEVE MONTH. Four weeks dedicated to a true living master of the craft of golf. I'd love to hear your Seve stories and your Seve memories. I will try to do my part by recounting the story of his life and the Top 10 Seve Moments of his career.
Truly, in every sense of the word, I'm not worthy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ramblings From The Rough

I know the USGA is obsessed with making the US Open courses difficult and challenging, but I still feel like they should give good players a chance to make good shots if their game is on. By all accounts, there are some approach shots that just have no chance. If the best players in the world chose to plan for the right miss rather than hitting a good shot you've gone too far. Everybody is gaga about the past US Opens at Pebble, and I can't disagree with history. It's been spectacular. What I do disagree about is the intuitive leap to the conclusion that because of this history this year's winner must be of the same caliber as those in the past. If we learned anything from last year's majors it's that any one out of about fifty golfers can win this thing if they get hot for four days. One week after my best round in a couple of decades I had my worst round in years. Got to love this game. I blame it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol. Clearly the USGA doesn't read my blog, or they'd know they shouldn't pair Furyk with Cabrera. Watching them play together at Colonial was PAINFUL. El Pato had his tee in the ground on the next hole by the time Furyk putted out. I go back and forth about whether I'd rather play Pebble Beach or Cypress Point if I had the opportunity to only play one. I found it interesting how everybody gets on Lee Westwood for not being a good closer, but they give Phil credit for his five second place finishes at the US Open. I read that Phil has been within four strokes of the lead heading into the back 9 on Sunday six times in the US Open, and he's shot over par all six times. Even my wife is excited about Erik Compton playing in this US Open, and she doesn't give a rat's ass about golf. Does anyone have the stats on if there's been a grandfather pairing in the US Open like this year, with Tom Watson having Ryo and Rory bouncing on one knee each? Happy 40:th Phil. I turned 40 on crutches (due to a snapped achilles tendon), so I'm glad to see he's doing much better than I was at that age. I love how everybody were so very ready to launch David Duval's career recovery bandwagon after last year's US Open. How did that work out for you? Who will be this year's recovery surprise? Garcia? KP? Ty? Ogilvy? Immelman? Earlier this week I had a premonition about Phil holing out a chip on 17 on Sunday to beat Tiger for the win. Golf writers everywhere would just cream their pants. "Finally, an easy story". That is all.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

2010 US Open Picks

It's the eve of the US Open at Pebble Beach, and it's time to pick another fab four who I think will contend this week. At Augusta I had Tiger, Lee, Charl, and DJ. For a while on Friday they were all still under par, but by the time the weekend rolled around the youngsters had frittered away as if pulled by a Death Star homing beacon. My picks for the US Open have been modified a couple of times over this past week. I initially had Dustin Johnson again in the mix because of his good play at Pebble over the past two years, but the more interviews I heard the more it became clear that Pebble in February and Pebble in June are two animals who are so distinct from each other as to only be related by the rules that govern the play. I still love DJ's game, but I think it's too loose for a US Open venue. Any pro in the country would tell him he needs to stabilize that left leg to play consistently. Then I had Paul Casey as one of my top four. I felt like he had a unique combination of power and precision that would work well at this event. In the end, I think he's still not 100%. So here goes, in no particular order, my picks for the 2010 US Open, and why.
LEE WESTWOOD - In my mind he's played more consistently good golf over the past 12 months than anyone else. He has the complete game. He's long enough to compete on any course, and his shotmaking with the irons is as good as anyone's.
In addition to this, I love his attitude. He's not letting the writers get him down about his near misses, but rather he's taking positives from being that close in the first place. Lee loves the course, and that's good golf karma.
JIM FURYK - Two wins this year, and a US Open title already on his resume. He's foremost an accurate player, but longer than people give him credit for. They're saying this is a shot-maker's course this week, and there's nobody I'd rather have hitting golf shots for me Jim.
LUKE DONALD - Luke's a player who's stock has risen as this week has gone by. He has one win and seven Top 10 finishes this year, and he's gone T2, 1, 3 in his last three starts. He's no longer just a verb (Usage: "He's just Luke Donalding it, he's not even working hard ..."), but a bona fide contender.
TIGER WOODS - Yes, Tiger. He's a victim of his own incredibly highly set bar. If he's not beating people by 15 he's over the hill. Well, I don't know a lot of golfers who could play 4 rounds at Muirfield with 3/4 of their game and not go above par. If he tweaks his game just a bit he'll beat the world by five shots. By all accounts, his game is coming along just nicely, and that's trouble for everybody else.
EVERYBODY ELSE
PHIL - I really don't know how he continues to play as well as he does in the US Open. His game doesn't fit these courses at all. I feel like Phil is obsessed with distance off the tee, and he's sacrificing a lot of control and accuracy in the process. At Colonial he was booming his drives 20-30 yards past already long hitting Bo Van Pelt, but Bo was the one with the Top 10 finish, and Phil had to leave early.
STRICK - I don't think he's long enough. It's almost as if the game has passed him by. He's deadly with the wedge, but he's having to hit seven-iron where others are hitting their wedges, and that's no way to win a golf tournament.
ERNIE - I loved seeing him get a couple of wins this year, but he's been inconsistent afterwards. I'm a huge fan, and if he's in contention I'll be cheering for him all the way, but I just don't see it this week.
POULTS - Another guy I like (even though he cheers for Arsenal), but after the Match Play his game has gone in the toilet to the tune of T24, T37, MC, T10, MC, MC, 76, MC.
RORY - Best chance of a sub-25 player, but I don't think this is his time. I give him a good shot at The Open or the PGA later on this year.
10 hours of coverage tomorrow. I'm psyched.

Kilted Golf Haiku #2

You're putting better But don't tease the Golf karma Or three-putts will come

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kilted Golf Haiku #1

A troublesome lie
The blades of grass grabbing at
The blade of the club
(photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Monday, June 7, 2010

COURSE REVIEW: Stonebriar/Fazio course; Frisco, TX

If you live in a major metropolitan area, and you have not yet discovered the infinite joys of the "urban escape", then I highly recommend you send me an email and I'll tell you all about it. It's just fantastic. I know it's silly and financially irresponsible to spend over a hundred dollars for a hotel room that's located less than 15 minutes from where you live, but MAN can it be a good time.
For me, one of my new favorite places to escape off to is the Westin in Frisco, TX (less than 30 minutes north of Dallas). The hotel itself is nice, and the pool area is wonderful. The area has a lot of restaurant and bar opportunities, but mostly I like it because I get a chance to play the Fazio course at Stonebriar CC.
This is my second time playing this course. I find that just playing a course once doesn't really give you the opportunity to appreciate it, as you're too busy finding your way around. By the second round I'm a lot more able to make an objective assessment.
THE DEAL
Let me start right there. The course is part of the private Stonebriar CC, but guests of the hotel are allowed to play (for a fee, of course). The best deal is the Stay 'n' Play package, which at the time of the writing of this blog was $179 for one golfer, which included one breakfast (best to be left behind for The Missus to hit the buffett around 11:00 AM).
THE DESIGNER
Tom Fazio has over 120 course designs to his name, he has more courses ranked in the Top 100 in the US than any other designer, and he's been awarded Golf Digest's "Best Modern Golf Course Architect" three times. Born in 1945, he's a throwback to the Alister MacKenzie school of thought whereby a golf course should naturally fit into it's surroundings. Having said that, he did manage to move 600,000 yards of dirt to construct this course. He also feels that a good course should be challenging to the good player but still playable for the average player. This assessment is fairly universally agreed on.
THE COURSE
Firstly, it's a Par 72 course. Am I the only one who's a stickler about this (on tour or at the local muni)? From the blues it's over 7,000 yards; from the whites it's a bit over 6,600, and from the Reds it's around 5,200 yards. The course stretches over wetlands to the west of the Westin hotel in Frisco, TX. It was ranked as the #6 public course in Dallas/Fort Worth by the Dallas Morning News in 2009, ahead of such notables as the TPC Four Seasons (home of The Byron).
The fairways, as a whole, are fairly forgiving and in good condition. If you miss the fairway by a bit you're likely to get a good bounce back into the short stuff. If you miss it by more than that, you're going to be up among the pine trees, or in the 5-foot deep wild grass, or in the next fairway (should you be so lucky).
I have a feeling that the more I play this course the more I will appreciate the little nuances of the design. The bunkering is very strategic, and visually appealing. The sand is perfect, and very playable.
The greens have a reputation as being very fast, and I guess they are, but they're also very true. I'm not a good putter by any means but I found a very distinct sense of confidence on these greens. If you get hot, you can make a LOT of putts here.
BEST HOLES
There are a couple of really good, really challenging shortish par four holes on this course.
The first one hits you once you catch your breath after the easy downhill #1 hole. #2 is a dogleg right hole that's uphill on the tee shot and downhill back to the green (378 yards from the white tees). There are good bunkers in the fairway, and the green is protected by a couple of deep bunkers, a clump of trees to the left, and a creek about 30 yards in front of the green to catch any weak approach.
The view towards the green as you get to the crest of the fairway is spectacular. This hole ate my lunch the first time I played it, but I managed a tap-in bogey this time, hitting the green-side bunkers on my second shot.
The most scenic hole on the course is #11 (pictured above, 379 yards from the white tees). A big pond to the right is about all you see off the tee, but the hole is fair as it curves to the right around the water. Big volumes of sand are at hand if you try to cut the corner and don't hit it well enough, or if you bomb it straight and go through the fairway. More sand is located to the right of the green, but at least there is the option of a safe fail to the left of the green, void of either ocean or desert.
IN SUMMARY
A great course for players of all levels. It will challenge the good players, especially from the blues, but it's still playable for a more average player. It's well maintained all around, and the service from the Pro Shop in the hotel to the starter is nothing short of immaculate. If you're visiting the area north of Dallas and have some time on your hands I highly recommend this hotel for your expense report and this course for your golf game.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Full Monty

So, our dear dear friend Colin Montgomerie is admitting to an affair now. This is the same guy who made public jokes about Tiger not playing in the Ryder Cup because "there wouldn't be enough room for all his mistresses", right?
Monty has always rubbed me the wrong way. From walking in other golfers' putting line to sticking his arrogant foot in his mouth, I've just never been able to see a lot of redeeming qualities in him. And I'm a guy who can see redeeming qualities in Sergio Garcia, so you should know I'm pretty openminded. The big discussion today can loosely be umbrella'd under the heading "Where is the outrage?". Writers who slammed Tiger to the ground is now called on the carpet for not doing the same to Monty. It's just a matter of time until someone plays the Race Card and claims Monty's getting a free ride because he's white while Tiger's is the scary evil black man who's taking all our women (I paraphrase, of course). Race has nothing to do with this. IF Monty gets a free ride (and I'm not sure he is), it's for this reason: Just look at the dumpy fellow !!! Tiger is incredibly rich, famous, popular, athletic, and good looking. Monty is, well, somewhat famous. From the point of view of charm and looks, he's a lot more like the lager louts down at the pub than the golfer on the cover of a video game. Monty having an affair is like Billy Joel cheating on Christie Brinkley. It's Puffy calling a 900 number in the shower while married to Jennifer Lopez. It defies explanation, and it makes us shake our head back and forth in a very Lewisblackesque manner. WTF?

Quite Possibly My Favorite Golf Picture Of All Time

There are fantastic shots of beautiful holes and courses around the world, there are snapshots of supremely talented golfers executing impossible shots, and there are snapshots that capture moments in time that are as exciting as any in all of sports. How could you possibly pick one to be your favorite? How do you compare the waves crashing against the shore at Pebble with Jack sinking a birdie putt on 17 at Augusta in 1986? Do you prefer a full metal Tiger fist pump or an aerial view of Cape Kidnappers? For me, strangely, the picture that I keep coming back to is neither of the above, but a casual picture of Lloyd Mangrum lighting up a cigarette after a round at Augusta.

(Photo courtesy of Ron Watts Private Collection/Edwin Watts Golf) More than any other picture, this captures the coolness and the style of the game of golf. Lloyd Mangrum is in many ways a forgotten figure when you talk about golf in the 40s and 50s. Coming out of Texas, as it seemed half the tour did at this time, he won 35 tournaments, including the 1946 US Open. Mangrum was highly respected by his fellow professionals. Byron Nelson called him "The Forgotten Star", and Bing Crosby said he possessed a combination of "Rhythm, balance, and style." Mangrum won two Purple Hearts during WW2, and declined a pro job at an Army golf club which would have allowed him to avoid combat. His best golf was after the war, when he rattled off ten straight Masters Top 10 finishes, and five straight US Open Top 10s. Maybe it's the mysteriousness of the picture that makes it so alluring. Like Howard Hughes, he gives the impression that he might be anywhere in the world 24 hours from now. Nobody has covered this period in golf better than Dan Jenkins, and for all the amazing stories he tells about life on tour at this time, you'd have to think the stories that are still untold are even better.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Day at The Colonial

It's VERY early Friday morning, and for starters it's odd to get up at five o'clock in the morning, and to be heading to a golf course, but to not be worrying about how I'm going to be playing today. But the Colonial is in town, and JD is going out in one of the very first groups, so I need to hit the road. As I'm enjoying my breakfast burritos the moon is clear and full in the sky. If it's that clear in Texas at the end of May, I'm thinking it's going to be hot. I was right. I get to the grounds around 7:30, and head straight for the practice tee. The course looks absolutely gorgeous. I'm not the kind of a golfer who gets to play courses like this on a regular basis, and I must say I was thoroughly impressed by the condition of the course. Nobody likes the look of bunkers, right, but LORD these bunkers look beautiful. Intimidating, yes. Ball-sucking, yes, but also beautiful. They're clean, and crisp, and perfectly maintained, and an absolute pain in the ass of any golfer who gets up close and personal. On the practice tee are all sorts of talented golfers and major winners, such as Paul Casey, my countryman Henrik Stenson, Trevor Immelman, and Angel Cabrera. I love watching pros prepare for their round. Shot after shot appears to this 14-handicapper to be absolutely perfect. I know they're not, but they sure sound and look like the real thing. My plan is to split my day between John Daly's group, the Furyk/Cink/Cabrera group, and watching Phil. This is not necessarily because those are my favorite golfers, but they were lined up pretty well one after the other starting on the 10:th tee. I chose to bypass the keg of Coors Light in the media center at 7:30 in the morning, and I go about catching up with JD at the Colonial. I get to the 12:th tee and I ask if John has played that hole yet. There was not a glimmer of doubt in the answer. Everybody who were standing around that tee knew exactly where JD was, and how close he was to their location. From a sporting point of view he hasn't been relevant in years, but the people of Fort Worth, Texas knew exactly when this golfer was going to get to their vantage point. This was not a surpise to me. The golf fans who are my friends in Dallas, and the golfers I work with, they all love John. Hell, I'm no differnt myself. His personality, his talent, and even his failures makes him the kind of a person and athlete that this state can relate to in a big way. And at eight o'clock in the morning on a Friday, I don't think anyone had a bigger following than John Daly. JD's hitting the ball well, with a lot of confidence, but not the kind of control he needs on a course like Colonial. His 125% swing is not really a good fit here, but he does a great job of scrambling for pars here and there, which is one of the things a good player has to do. Walking with his group, I'm amazed at the amount of support he's getting. Volunteers who allegedly haven't said a word all day now go out of their way to call out to JD. I stick with their group for about five holes, and then hang out to let the Cabrera group catch up to me. It's a totally differnt dynamic to this group. I like them both, but Jim Furyk and Angel Cabrera may have been as ill suited partners as you will find. Three major winners, partnered with Stewart Cink, this group also attracts a lot of crowd attention. The fans are a lot more demure, and the most entertaining aspect of this grouping is to see how far towards the next tee Angel Cabrera can get by the time Furyk putts out. I think if they both were to play a round on their own without any contention Angel would finish a good two hours quicker than Jim. You can tell Angel is antsy, as he's ready to march down the fairway before his partners are even done teeing off. Watching and hearing Angel hit a golf ball is a thing of beauty. He's very natural, and he makes great contact. His iron shot into the green on 18 for a tap-in birdie was magnicent. I join up with Phil's group, including Dallas resident Y E Yang and hard hitting youngster Bo Van Pelt, on the third hole (their 12:th for the day), and Phil is already in trouble. After mostly pars on the front nine he's missed the fairway way right, and he's got major tree trouble on the dogleg left. He manages to get through the fauna with nary a few leaves to spare, but makes a bogey. On the long par 3 fourth (247 yards on this day), Phil launches an IRON but again looses it out to the right. A good pitch, but a missed putt, and another bogey. On the fifth hole Phil goes with an iron off the tee, for no apparant reason. It's a long par 4, but not tight enough for either of his competitors to play anything remotely that conservative on their first shor. This feels a lot like the kind of experimentation he put us through at Torrey Pines a few years ago, where he absconded from the driver, and still had a hard time keeping the ball in the short stuff. Well, this time he left a long iron way out to the left, and had no choice but to punch out and settle for another bogey. By the time a few more holes go by it's clear the world #2 is not going to make the cut. I know he's won here twice, but The Colonial is really not a good fit for Phil's game. This is a tight course with small greens. Most pro players seem to like it, but it definitely puts a premium on accuracy. It's no surprise at all that a guy like Zach Johnson is doing well. The weather over days one and two has been hot and void of wind, which is unusual for any Texas golfer. At slightly over 7,000 yards and a par of 70, the course is ripe for the picking if there's no wind, and the scores reflect it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Colonial - Preview

This week the PGA Tour concludes it's Texas Swing with it's Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, or "The Colonial" for short. No offense to the fine sponsors from Crowne Plaza, I give them props for keeping the name Colonial in the official title, but when a tournament has been around as long as The Colonial has it takes more than a sponsor to change the vernacular. Few events on tour have as much history as The Colonial, and the tournament is a living testament to the fact that it's quite possible for a good old tournament to not only survive but to prosper, to be successful, and to attract a world class field. You don't have to play on some new-fangled course with the letters TPC in it. You don't have to have a Greek urn as a trophy and call yourself World something or another. And you don't have to trick out your course to put the cut line at a handful of shots above par. Look at The Colonial, and you can see that you can get it done by being respectful of the past heroes and appreciative of the current heroes, and by putting in front of them a golf course which has been liked by professional golfers for decades. HISTORY The tournament has been played at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, TX since 1946. Only The Masters has been played longer on the same venue. The event has it's origins in the 1941 US Open, which was played on the course and which was very well received, and the Invitational tournament was launched shortly thereafter. The connection between the tournament and hometown hero Ben Hogan was established before the event even became official, as Hogan considered the Colonial CC to be his home course. Hogan won the first two tournaments held, and three more subsequently. In the history of golf few golfers have dominated an event the way Ben did at "Hogan's Alley". Other winners through the years includes Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry, and in 2009 Steve Stricker. Only Hogan has won the event more than twice.
THE COURSE The Colonial CC was founded in 1936 in part as an argicultural experiment with bentgrass greens in the Metroplex area. Attempts to lay them at an existing course failed, so Marvin Leonard contracted John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell to design Colonial. The course plays to 7,054 yards and a par of 70. It's known as a shot-maker's course where distance isn't always rewarded, but it's generally very well liked by all types of players. The hardest hole is #5, a beast of a par 4 at 481 yards, and the last in a series of holes known as "The horseshoe" that are generally thought to be the most difficult stretch on the course. The average score over the past 25 years on this hole is 4.259. THIS YEAR'S EVENT In 2010 the tournament has drawn an elite field which includes Five of the top ten in the world rankings, and six of the top ten money and FedEx Cup point earners for the season. In addition, the last five major winners and 15 of the 22 winners this year are in the field. Put names like Mickelson, Stricker, Furyk, Poulter, Casey, Clark, Johnson, Kuchar, and Crane on a leaderboard; make them play a fair traditional layout in warm Texas weather, and it's bound to be a treat for golf-fans everywhere. Watch for the "Pink Out" on Saturday, when fans (and players) wear pink to honor the battle against breast cancer. This young tradition was started last year to honor Amy Mickelson's battle, as Phil had to pull out of the event.