August 2008


Two posts in one day!  Okay, I know this is a golf blog. And I know we talk all golf, all the time.  But give me a moment here. I can’t help myself.

THe coolest mascot in college football...in a golf cart, no less.

The coolest mascot in college football...in a golf cart, no less.

The number-one ranked Georgia Bulldogs take the field for the first time in 2008 tomorrow. An 11:30 kickoff against Georgia Southern, by far the easiest game of the year on this brutal schedule, which includes visits to South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU, Auburn and Florida in Jacksonville, with home games against Tennessee and Alabama.

God help the Dawgs. They have the talent to get through that schedule. But if they can clear it with just one loss I think a trip to the BCS Title game is guaranteed. Returning 17 of 22 starters from last year’s #2 ranked team, with Heisman Trophy candidate Knowshon Moreno and one of the top QBs in the country in Matthew Stafford. And, not to mention, the Dawgs’ most important addition–UGA VII, who will be introduced to 92,000 plus at Sanford Stadium tomorrow.

Okay, there, I just had to tell you how pumped up I am for this season. Let’s hope UGA can live up to the hype and make a legit run at the title.

Before I close up shop for the night, have a great Labor Day weekend, friends.

So, after a hard-fought battle between the Ping G10 and the Titleist D2, I bought a driver today.

Maybe I can convince Corey Pavin to use this driver.

Maybe I can convince Corey Pavin to use this driver.

I discussed my experience with the Ping the other day, but on Wednesday I took a Titleist out to the range and hit it around a little bit. It didn’t seem to pop off the club like the Ping did, and it also ballooned a bit on me. Of course, these could be shaft and loft issues. 

But, bottom line, I just chose to go with my gut. When I hit that massive drive last week, I knew right then I would buy that Ping. I wanted to do my research, so I demoed the Titleist.  I thought about demoing the Taylor Made and the Callaway. But the G10 was the first love. So I bought it today on my lunch break. Nine degree; stiff shaft. It’s a winner.

I’ll be breaking it in tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully, going to make it to play 18 early tomorrow afternoon after the Georgia game. Tomorrow’s goal with the new driver: 9 fairways. 11 greens. We’ll see what happens.

Play on…

Since my untriumphant return to golf, I’ve noticed quite a few differences between golf these days and when I played in high school and college.

As I’ve mentioned, the technology advances are staggering. Between balls like the Pro V1X and drivers like the Ping G10, Titleist D2, etc, I’ve gained 15-20 yards, at least, on average. And like I discussed on Monday, I’ve bombed a few drives, unlike I’ve ever hit a driver before.

But the biggest difference for me these days is a personal one. I’ve got a life now. In other words, the 40 hour work week and the natural busyness of married life places golf into its proper perspective.

Somewhere around the age of 23, those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to play golf for a living have to find jobs, pursue careers, and maybe even snag a date or two. When I was in my early twenties, six hours at the golf course was a typical day…these days, at the ripe young age of 32, it’s the same amount of time I spend over a two-week period.

The balance is the hard part. I love my wife more than my career. And both definitely take priority over golf. But, as I’ve said before, golf is in my blood. If I’m going to play again, if I’m going to pursue this mind-numbingly frustrating game, then I want to be good–even better than I was before.

If I’m going to beat it around to the sound of an 85 every time I play, then I’d just rather not. I’m too competitive, too stubborn, to think I can’t do better than that, to think I can’t go back out in some local and state amateur tournaments (in the near future) and compete, or at least play to the best of my ability.

But the key is this. In the midst of life, I’ve got to maximize my practice time. I’m not going out to the range once a week (every Wednesday) just to beat balls; I’m going out with a plan: my alignment, my grip, one or two particular swing thoughts.

And when I go out to play once every weekend, whether I’m playing 9 or 18, I’m setting goals. Usually, it’s not even a score that I’m shooting for; it’s more about hitting a certain number of fairways and greens every round. Ten fairways, twelve greens, something like that. Hit targets and the score will follow.

In college, I worked as a cart guy at the country club in my hometown, Cartersville, Georgia. I remember seeing dudes out there every freaking day. Some guys, married with kids, played four or five rounds a week. And these aren’t touring pros or anything, these are guys with normal careers and jobs…insurance, real estate, whatever.

But I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to sacrifice one thing for another. I don’t want to sacrifice my marriage or the relationship with my future kids for the faint hope that I may shoot a 67 or win 50 bucks in a game. That’s what we call screwed up priorities. Now, if my son picks up golf, then, oh yeah, that’s a different story.

I just want to keep getting better. Maybe it’s unrealistic for me to think that I can play once or twice a week and still maintain a 2 handicap, as I did as a young whippersnapper. But I don’t think so. Now that I have a life, and golf is down the priority list, I put a lot less pressure on myself. Nothing to lose.

The end goal is to be a good amateur golfer, to compete in some sanctioned state tournaments. No longer is it to be in the one tenth of one percent of the guys who make it on Tour. The only way I’m making it on Tour is if I’m there with a pen in my hand. Is the PGA Tour hiring freelance writers?

Anyway, I’m big on goals and mission statements these days…mostly as a result of the incredible place at which I work. And this little blog is starting to pick up in traffic. So I figured I’d let you know a little bit about myself, about why I’m writing a golf blog that isn’t just random news bits, like a lot of sports blogs out there.

I’ve decided to include some personal stuff, like this post, because without a personal angle, this blog is just a news site, or some cliched “crazy blogger guy” with an over-the-top opinion. There’s enough of that out there. And, quite frankly, it’s not original. Not too say that I won’t be reporting news and offering opinions, but there’s more to this than that.

I didn’t just flip the switch on this little writing project without a plan in mind. Right now, it’s just to find a pleasant little balance between golf and life. And now that I’ve reached my quota for golf rambling for today, I must leave on an abrupt note.

Until next time…

So what’s the over/under on the number of weeks before the ACLU gets involved on this one?

Today, the LPGA announced that all of its card-carrying members will be required to be proficient in English. Beginning next season, players will kicked to the penalty box (i.e suspended) if they cannot pass an oral evaluation test.

According to AP, there are 121 international players on the LPGA tour, including 45 from South Korea–whose players will be most affected by the decision. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Koreans are kicking booty on the tour.

AP quotes LPGA Deputy Commish Libba Galloway: “Why now? Athletes now have more responsibilities and we want to help their professional development. There are more fans, more media and more sponsors. We want to help our athletes as best we can succeed off the golf course as well as on it.”

Read, more sponsors. In other words, make sure the big wigs at the Monday Pro-Ams know what the crap you are saying.

I don’t really watch the LPGA, but I’ll be following this. It will be a huge precedent, and as much it seems reasonable in theory, it will definitely affect the quality of play if a bunch of players get suspended.

What’s more interesting, though–what if Major League Baseball or the NBA were to take this approach? MLB has a massive amount of Latino players who don’t speak a lick of English. Same issue, but no way in hades is Bud Selig going to ever do something like this. Maybe, help them speak English, but no way he’d suspend them.

Not a big deal to me if they don’t speak English. If I were an LPGA fan, I’d just want to see the best players. But the sponsors, i.e. the money, drive these decisions…it’s obviously something that is affecting their tour much more than other sports associations and leagues like MLB, so I guess it’s something they gotta do.

Mark it down, though. Lawsuits on the way.

Golf technology. Holy crap. It’s awesome.

Please excuse my inability to articulate today. I’m still at a loss for words for the utter pounding I placed upon a couple of golf balls at the course yesterday. The 77 was decent, respectable. But the drives. Oh, the drives.

The driver of the gods.

The driver of the gods.

I’m demoing a Ping G10 driver from a local golf store. So I took it to the range on Saturday afternoon and hit it pretty well…definitely noticed a difference between the Ping and my old Bertha.  Nothing overly dramatic, but I could tell I was hitting the ball a bit further.

Now, keep in mind: I am not a long hitter. With my old Callaway, 250-255 yards is an average poke. If I knock it 270, I’m feeling proud.

But then…oh, but then. So I played a round yesterday. The first few holes, I sprayed it a bit—military golf, as they say…right, left, right left.  Then we reached the 8th hole, a 520 yard par 5.

This Ping G10 totally destroyed that little helpless Titleist. When I made contact with the ball, it felt like I was hitting one of the small, plastic whiffle balls. The lightweight, spherical object rocketed off the club face and then just kept going, and going, and going. Then it violently struck the ground and kept rolling, and rolling, and rolling.

Nice, beautiful ball flight. Not too high; not too low. Perfect amount of draw. By the time it was over I had about 210 left to the green, a 310 yard drive. Outside of cart-path-bounce drives, that definitely was  my longest driver, ever. And it felt like it, too. My approach with a 3-iron fell just short (a hybrid is the next purchase) and I made a miserable par. The short game misery continues.

But, who cares about that?  Let’s talk about this driver. I followed up the drive on the 8th hole with a couple of other long knocks, ranging 280-300, and a couple of other wide rights.

We may have a winner on the driver search. I would like to demo a Taylor Made R7, but Jack’s is only carrying the Burner right now because the new R7s, or their equivalent, are coming out soon.And this particular shop is the only place around here I can find that will let you take a club out on the range—so you don’t have to hit the ball in those God-awful simulators.  

I did spray the Ping a bit more than my old club. But I’m thinking that was more from just getting acclimated to a new club. The shaft seemed about right (stiff flex) and the club was a 9 degree loft.

Somebody, particularly any current or former pro golfers reading this blog—you know who you are—tell me…is it worth it to track down an R7 to demo? Any other suggestions?

I’ve always been a fan of John Feinstein’s writing. In fact, A Good Walk Spoiled was one of my first introductions to true sports writing—the personal profiles and portraits of professional athletes, the “other” side of the sports we love, not just the AP-style canned articles that appear in newspapers across the country every day.

I picked up The Open (published 2003) over the summer, with expectations to read the entire book over an extended weekend vacation around July 4th. Well, I just finished. Truth is, The Open is another wonderful book by Feinstein, but it wasn’t exactly what I expected—and that’s my fault.

In A Good Walk Spoiled and Tales From Q School—another of Feinstein’s notable golf works—he focuses on the players themselves, the intricacies of their lives, how they interact with the sport they love, tying in personal stories of successes and failures throughout.

With The Open, Feinstein’s focus is squared on the USGA (United States Golf Association), and the enormous task of planning, implementing, and conducting a major championship. The story centers on the 2002 Open–the first U.S. Open ever conducted on a municipal course, Bethpage Black.

Beginning with USGA head David Fay’s impromptu, late evening visit to the poorly maintained, unkempt Black course in 1994 (a visit in which Fay first dreamed of massively renovating the Black course to U.S. Open standards) Feinstein details the incredibly involved process of the 2002 Open, from the planning phase to Tiger Woods‘ trophy presentation.

You don’t really understand the magnitude of planning an event like the Open until you read about it–and I’m sure Feinstein really can only hit the high points in just a few hundred pages.

The Open does ocassionally dive into the player’s stories, and their unique perspective on the event. But, no doubt, this book is about the men behind the scenes, those who make the US Open tick–the greenskeepers, the tournament directors, the volunteers, and the hundreds of USGA employees who make this event happen every June.

One story that stands out to me is Tiger Woods secretive visit to Bethpage Black in the weeks before the Open began. Short of the President visiting the course (which he almost did during the 2002 Open), nothing sets off security alerts like a notification that Tiger will be visiting a public course.

Bethpage was closed to the public in the weeks before the tournament started, but Woods, along with his buddy Mark O’ Meara, were escorted off a side road to the third tee, so as not to cause a stir among staff members and USGA employees on-site. Two men, however, were quite fortunate. Two of the Black’s greenskeepers were given the privilege of caddying for Woods and O’Meara during the round.

Both men were told the day before that they would be “looping” for some high-profile guests, they were required to wear “nice clothes,” but neither knew who would be visiting until Woods and his entourage pulled up to the tee. Quite a pleasant shock, I’m sure.

In all, The Open is another great read offered by John Feinstein. But, as a golfer and sports enthusiast, I’m still drawn to the stories of the players themselves, not the tournament organizers. Great read. But, in this man’s opinion, not quite up to the level of A Good Walk Spoiled, Tales from Q School, and The Majors.

As we move into the post-season of golf, I present to you some opinions, as well as some other duly noted random thoughts for this week.

Random Thought 1:

So is it just me or have you heard anything about this year’s Fed Ex Cup playoffs? As far as ESPN is concerned, it seems that golf failed to exist after the PGA Championship, or, more appropriately, after Tiger got hurt.

But, really, the whole system is so convoluted and screwy, it’s nearly impossible to follow in the first place. So only 125 players keep their tour cards, but 144 make the playoffs? Huh? What kind of a screwed up playoff system do we have when a guy can qualify for the “post-season” without even being guaranteed a spot on tour next season?

Of course, the field narrows down with each of the final four tournaments. But the system seems to reward the player who gets hot over the course of the last month.  No offense to Lee Janzen, he’s always been one of my favorite golfers, but he qualified at 144, on the number. How does he deserve to be on level ground with a guy like Kenny Perry or Mickelson, who have played well all season?

 Why not take the top 16 and create a match play tournament to close the year? Best golfers in the world, head-to-head. I know the PGA Tour would never do that because they would lose the thrill of the Tour Championship to close the season. We already have one match play tourney, etc. But what about when it mattered most, to claim the championship?

tiger

Image: scubaeddie32/Flickr

I think it would be golf at its finest. Imagine Tiger versus Phil, head to head, to win the Fed Ex Cup. This playoff system is nonsense, and it’s some jumbled crap that the Tour came up with to replicate NASCAR, and you know it sucks if they are copying NASCAR. 

For the record, I have two picks to win this meaningless playoff. Let’s go with Steve Stricker, a favorite here at Game Under Repair. We like his last name. It reminds us of when we almost use the F word. Then there’s the perennial underdog favorite here at Game Under Repair, everyone’s champion, the one and only Corey Pavin. You may think he’s too old, too short, too cleanly shaven, but you, my friend, are wrong. Watch out for the 4 wood. Watch out for the 4 wood.

Moving on…

Random Thought #2: There’s a great story in the August Golf Magazine about touring pro, Arjun Atwal. After the media drilled the guy for months, and charges were levied against him for vehicular homicide in an the alleged street racing death of John Park in Orlando, the Orlando Police eventually dropped the case in March. 

Both men were allegedly going at high speeds down a road in Orlando when Park lost control and swerved off the road, losing his life not long after the accident. Atwal lost control as well, but managed to control the car to a safe stop.

What’s striking about his story is that just ten minutes before this street racing incident, he was playing with Tiger Woods and John Cook at their home course in Windemere, Florida, just outside Orlando. I remember my wife and I watching Atwal on the putting green before the Bellsouth Classic a few years back. This was just hours before his final round 64, which put him in a playoff with five other guys, including Phil Mickelson. He was something like the 20th alternate for the tournament before the week begun, and because of the rain-shortened event, he was able to sneak in. He opened with 77 before firing 67-64 to close. Impressive.

Alan Bastable does a nice job of setting up the story, and we get a clear picture that Atwal feels the charges were unjust, but we never really hear Atwal explain why said charges were unjust. He admits to going over 55 mph with the other driver. They both went off the road at different times. Why the high speed? Cops said he was going 80+ with Park, on a road known for street racing.

I wish Bastable would have delved into this a little deeper. I think the writer either failed in explaining this, or Atwal never explained himself, which still deserved some clarification on Bastable’s part.

Great article. But, in the end, I’m left to discern the truth between Atwal’s version of the truth and the witnesses’ version of the truth. Who to believe? 

Random Thought #3: Some say Tiger is Jesus. Well, EA Sports would agree.

The company sponsored a contest last year, the purpose of which was to make a commercial for Tiger Woods ’09. The winning commercial would be featured by the company in their marketing efforts for this year’s game, to be released next Tuesday August 26th (Expect a game review soon.)

So here is your winner. Small explanation for non-Tiger Woods players–there is a bug in the 2008 game where Tiger can, apparently, hit a ball off water, presumably walking on water to get there. That’s all that needs to be said. Watch for yourself.

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