By: Pro From Dover
We know what you’re thinking today.
You’re looking out the window at what may become a historic blizzard. You are envisioning your favorite local course covered with deep, heavy, grass smothering snow. You’re despairing that summer will never come. The Governor has just announced driving is banned so you can’t even seek solace at your local indoor range. Golf is so far away. Misery.
On the other hand:
March 21 is only 41 days away. We’re over the mid winter hump.
We now have more than ten hours of daylight. The days are getting longer. And, according to health experts, once we get to February 10, at this global latitude, the sun on your skin creates vitamin D. That’s a big deal.
Around Boston last year, we had almost 20% less rain than normal. January this year had very little. That’s not good. But this water laden storm will be a great step toward bringing the water tables up to normal, if not higher. We need the water. Really. And heavy snow is the best way to ensure that it seeps deep. Short term pain :: long term gain.
The Pebble Beach Pro Am is on, now! Golf Channel…now. One of the most beautiful courses in the world. Jack Nicklaus said if he had only one more round to play, it would be on Pebble Beach…and he didn’t even design it. For your amusement, some of the vainest, most narcissistic, ego centric people on the planet display their golf ineptitude. The best part is most of them actually think they’re pretty good. It makes us feel better about our games.
Belichick is playing. No hoody. Certainly not headed for the Golf Hall of Fame.
Tomorrow the storm will be over and you’ll be able to hit balls somewhere; begin getting your golf muscles toned up. What are the chances of two historic storms coming in one winter? It’s all downhill from here. Ya gotta have faith.
Your next door neighbor has been teasing you that he is flying to Florida tonight for a few days of golf. Uh, uh. Schadenfreude.
The Cape is getting some snow but within a week or so some of those courses will be open again. Promise.
We got a break last year. Your pro played all winter long on his home course and you probably did too. Consider this nature evening things out.
My father used to consider March 21 the real New Year and I adopted that view of life from him. All kinds of good things begin around then the most important being the golf season in New England.
41 days. Hang in there.
By: Pro From Dover
It has probably happened in the past but your scribe can’t find it with a quick check PGA Tour records. So many leads lost by so many talented players. Eleven times this season, almost a third of tournaments played, the 54 hole leader has failed to win.
The final hole at the Bridgestone in Akron, OH added to this year’s carnage. Jim Furyk lead the tournament for 71 holes. He was one shot up on a red hot Keegan Bradley on the par four 18th hole. What happened?
Furyk hooked his tee shot but through what seemed to be divine intervention the ball hit a tree and rebounded back toward the fairway. A mid iron in hand, he proceeded to push his approach just to the right of a green side bunker. With one foot in the sand and the other in the rough, he flubbed his pitch but he got another break when it cleared the sand and came to rest in rough beside the green.
Meanwhile, Bradley from the middle of the fairway pushed a short iron into a fried egg lie in the same bunker. He splashed it out and left a 15 foot putt for par.
So, they’re both lying three.
Furyk almost double hit another muffed chip and had about six feet for bogie.
Bradley sank his putt so now Furyk, about as experienced as one can be, needed his for bogie and a play-off. It was an embarrassing effort. He missed the putt two inches right of the hole and knocked it four feet beyond.
And there goes another tournament! Wow.
On the bright side, as we noted in our last post, for us hackers this is a form of redemption. Those guys that “can really play,” can’t all the time. Last week we gave up a one hole lead with three to play because we couldn’t make a par down the stretch, like Adam Scott at The Open. Somehow, we don’t feel so bad.
Outspoken, grizzled, veteran player, Lanny Watkins, weighed in and said today’s players just aren’t mentally tough like the guys of yesteryear (read: 60’s, 70’s) who knew how to close it out when they had a lead. The money was shorter, the competition and conditions tougher and they had to earn it the hard way. The inference is that there is so much money to win that simply making cuts and occasionally posting a top ten will make for a very nice living.
Can’t say we disagree with Lanny. Something surely is amiss when so many are blowing so much so often.
By: Pro From Dover
There’s something in the air around professional golf tournaments this season. We touched on it in our last post. Tournaments lost or given away by established and not so established players at an astonishing rate.
And now appears The Open played at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s. Coughed up by a veteran Aussie, Adam Scott, who bogied the last four holes on the final day.
It was a bitter sweet ending because the beneficiary was one of the wonderful people in the game, Ernie Els, who shot one of the handful of sub par rounds Sunday, capping it with a 12 foot birdie putt on the 18th. Then he watched or rather listened (since he declined the offer to watch the finish in the clubhouse and opted to remain on the practice green) as Scott let it slip away.
Among other flubs, Scott missed a three foot putt on 16 and then, inexplicably to some, hit a three wood on the 413 yard 18th that found a deep bunker. As it was, the bunker was only 156 yards from the green so he could have hit a long iron off the tee and then maybe a five iron to the green. Sounds as if some bad thinking came into play. Jean Van de Velde, deux?
Schadenfreude: a German word meaning glee at another’s misfortune. Who? Moi? Mais non.
Amateurs like us often choke under the pressure of a two dollar nassau. Not long ago, a pal of mine who is a five handicap, was two under par in the middle of the 17th fairway 140 yards out. With nothing at stake other than his pride, he ended the round double, double.
Which reminds us of the old joke about the player who had such a dismal round he sat in front of his locker and slashed his wrists. As he watched his life pour from his arteries a buddy rounded the corner and said, “We need a fourth for tomorrow.” The player pressed his wrists against one another to stop the blood flow and said, “I’m in; what time?”
We’ve written often about the attraction of this maddening game. At its core, it’s a game against ones self. A battle to summon the calm and presence of the moment to do what we know we can do with a golf ball. We fail often. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we are so engaged watching the professionals because we can relate to the calamities they confront. Even the very best fail from time to time.
Els, in his acceptance speech, showed great empathy for his good friend, Scott. Els commented that just about everything bad that can happen in a tournament has happened to him and he knew exactly what Scott was feeling.
There’s an old sports locker room adage:
“Pain, agony, grief and sorrow; here today, gone tomorrow.”
By: Pro From Dover
It has been a four ticket ride at the US professional golf carnival this year.
Six different first time winners on the regular PGA Tour. Name them. Didn’t think you could. Neither can we without cheating.
Very dramatic final days and first time major winners at Augusta and Olympic. Bubba Watson’s extraordinary recovery shot in the playoff and Webb Simpson watching everyone blow the Open from the comfort of the 19th hole were riveting. Regarding Bubba: how the heck can you hook a sky high wedge 40 yards?
Tiger has won, is probably the leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year and may be the Player of the Year. He’s not bullet proof as he once was but he’s dangerous and lurking in the brush. The question now is whether he has the nerves to win a major knowing that his legacy will be defined by how many he has. Age, injuries and Jack’s shadow impose urgency and pressure.
The Champions Tour has become the Jay Haas-Loren Roberts personal annuity with them winning almost half the 15 events. But for pure fun, You Tube Fuzzy Zoeller’s hole in one. He pulled his tee shot on a 173 yard par three into the rough next to the green. Watch what happened.
A seemingly dominant champion on the LPGA circuit, Chinese born Yani Tseng, got hot and then wilted in the summer sun. From untouchable to barely breaking 80 in a few months?
How about some nostalgia? The third James Bond movie, Goldfinger, was released in 1964. Early on, Bond set up a golf game with Auric Goldfinger at a course outside London (Stoke Park Club, for you trivia mavens.) Goldfinger’s Korean manservant, Oddjob, caddies dressed in formal attire with the bag slung awkwardly over his shoulder. When he observes Bond’s surprise, Goldfinger comments derisively that, “golf is not yet the national sport of Korea.”
How things have changed almost 50 years later. There are eight Korean born men with full PGA Tour status this year. It’s not just Charlie Wi and K. J. Choi anymore. A guy named John Huh won in Puerto Rico. Huh?
On the LPGA four of the top 10 ladies are Korean as are 37 of the top 100.
So when Na Yeon Choi won the USGA Women’s Open, no one was surprised. Second went to Amy Yang, of Korea, also not shocking. Chinese and Koreans dominated the top ten.
Simpson, winner of the aforementioned US Open at Olympic, threw up on his shoes at Greenbriar with four bogies on the final nine to lose the lead. In fact, being the leader going into the final day of a tour event has not been a swell thing. Among others, Kyle Stanley, Spencer Levin, Charlie Wi and the Golf Hall of Fame headed Ernie Els and Jim Furyk all ran out of air supply when holding a lead on day four.
Newton’s James Driscoll had a share of the lead at the Traveler’s in Hartford standing on the tenth tee on the final day. He went double and quadruple in the next three holes.
Furyk duck hooking his tee ball on the birdie-able 16th hole on the final day at Olympic was more than surprising. Then he yanked a wedge into a bunker on 18. How could a major winner and the Fed Ex Cup $10,000,000 prize champion of a couple of years ago hit such abominable shots on relatively easy holes when it counted?
The PGA Tour announced it is about to eliminate one of the most compelling competitions in sports: Q School. It’s the unique death march undertaken by almost anyone who has the entry fee to gain some kind of status on the Tour. Watching talented players double bogey the last couple of holes to let a dream slip away was hard but almost impossible to ignore.
No more. After one last dance this Fall, the Nationwide Tour is where they will have to earn their bones…oops. Well, ah, it’s no longer Nationwide. It’s now the Web.com Tour, whatever the heck that means. We’d make a small wager the CEO of Web.com plays the game.
So we have the British at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s and the PGA championship at Kiawah (pray for wind) around the corner and then best of all, The Ryder Cup. It’s setting up to be a glorious few months of golf spectating.
By: Pro From Dover
Professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man” sang “we’ve got trouble right here in River City.” He was bewailing a game with balls and sticks and holes. Pool, not golf, was the demon.
Out of the recently completed annual PGA Merchandise show in Orlando, FL emanated a similar lament: we’ve got trouble in golf.
According to those who keep count, in the past couple of years, the number of regular golfers has declined a the rate of about one million per year…net. So, the base of 28,000,000 players in the U.S. continues to shrink. No doubt some of that is due to the excruciating recession of the past four years from which we may or may not be emerging.
But anecdotal information as well as industry research reveals there is more to it.
People are giving up the game in droves and the industry needs to figure out a way to cauterize the wound and generate growth. Often cited as reasons people quit are expense, time and difficulty to master as the three major culprits.
We don’t know what the right answer is but there are a lot ideas being floated by people smarter than us. Here are just some we’ve heard recently:
- Have different (read: more lenient) rules for amateurs and pros. Dispense with the stroke and distance penalties, permit preferred lies everywhere and, our personal favorite, make the cup bigger.
- Ease up the courses. Since the 1980s course architects seem to compete to see who can build the most difficult golf course. It’s crazy and defeating to the game to build water laden, 7500 yard monster courses that are impossible for most amateurs and take five hours to play. Stupid.
- Play shorter rounds. Nine holes seems to have an implication of inadequacy for no good reason. Why not play nine or 12? The idea is to play the game. 18 holes was just an arbitrary decision by some long dead Scots, anyway.
- Market different, more forgiving clubs and hotter balls to amateurs. Yup, the manufacturers know how to do that. They won’t invest in them, though, until the ruling authorities legalize the equipment.
- Shorten courses. The USGA and PGA have partnered to promote the idea of “Play It Forward”. It’s a wonderful idea. Not long ago most courses had just three sets of tees. Forward for ladies, middle (regular) for just about all amateurs and the back for the big hitters. Now courses have added one or two more sets. One might be shorter than the standard ladies’ distance and the other between the ladies’ and regular tees.
- Enforce pace of play rules and penalize slow play. Heck, hang one person one time in front of the clubhouse and word will get around.
- With regard to expense, one of the only good things coming out of difficult economic times is there are deals everywhere for greens fees and memberships. With demand shrinking, the suppliers have responded. Even formerly exclusive private clubs have greatly reduced or abandoned initiation fees and lowered dues. Wait lists are almost a thing of the past.
The essence of this game we love is the challenge of playing it, the exercise it offers and the collegial atmosphere of spending time with pals. We need to preserve it, protect it, curry it and prepare it for the next generation.
As with most things, change is inevitable. The solution to golf’s current ills probably lies in a combination of actions. But one thing is clear. We need to change and modify the way the game we love is played or, too soon, it will be a distant memory to too many people.
By: Pro From Dover
Watching the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club we were struck by one over-whelming thought: Thank God we don’t have to play it every day!
It seems we weren’t alone with that notion. Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald and several others weighed in during the week with sharp criticism of the course. Mickelson was quoted as saying that he felt sorry for members who had to play the course, especially the 18th hole.
PFD has never set foot on the property and it’s certainly difficult to get a feel of a course just by watching it on television. Before criticisms started to fly, when we first caught a glimpse of the finishing holes we were struck by their difficulty and seeming unfairness. Then the barbs started to fly confirming our impression.
Read the rest of this entry »
By: Pro From Dover
That would be the British Open. Called the Open because it was the first and they’re British. Works for me.
It’s wonderful when the right person wins a big event. You will be hard pressed to find a knowledgeable golf fan who is not thrilled with Darren Clarke’s convincing victory.
We’ve had the good fortune of meeting and spending a few minutes with Clarke away from a tournament venue and he is a funny, charming, entertaining, welcoming soul. Having endured the heart wrenching death of his wife five years ago, he continues to soldier on choosing happiness over bitterness.
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By: Pro From Dover
Our game has been deteriorating for a couple of years. After having played for more than five decades at a pretty good level, we knew it was slipping away. We have gone from a seven to a 13 in three years.
We’ve always played a left to right game and even when a round started poorly, we were able to find something in our mental filing cabinet that would get us through the game without a calamity. “Let’s go to swing number 27B shall we.”
But, now when rounds started badly, they continued that way.
Several years ago a good friend who is a pro observed that if we continued to swing as we were, with age, our game would begin circling the drain. Nostradamus as teaching pro. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Pro from Dover
The television networks hate it, tournament directors avoid it and galleries aren’t too crazy about it, either. We love it!
Match play golf is the subject.
The Accenture Match Play Championship ended Sunday in snow covered Tuscon, AZ and it reminded us why we love the format. (How much did you love seeing that weather after the winter we’ve had up here?)
The reason the TV networks hate it are at least threefold. First, there is absolutely no guarantee who will reach the weekend semis and finals. This year, marquee names were scattered along the tournament waste areas like so much road kill before the weekend. Tiger-out. Phil-out. Padraig, Lee, Graeme-out, out and out. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Pro From Dover
Staring at the relentless winter. Will the snow melt by August? Will we ever again feel the soft green under our feet? Will our pals in Florida stop braying about their wonderful weather?
Almost every day we receive emails containing aphorisms about golf. Cute little sayings and observations meant to amuse. Some are clever, some are insightful and a few capture the true sense of our game. The best ones have a tinge of irony which is, at the end of the day, a fundamental part of the game. They aren’t hilarious but rather they elicit a mental nod of understanding. Read the rest of this entry »