Thursday, February 09, 2012

Black History Month

I am by no means an expert on Black History Month. Not even close. But I was listening to "Teed Off" on PGA Tour radio this morning and a gentleman called in with a question pertaining to Black History Month and how minorities (the caller didn't single one minority out) are treated/featured/showcased/portrayed by the golf media.  The caller's point was that when he turned on the TV, he didn't see anyone covering the sport that he could identify with, meaning there aren't many minorities covering golf.  The host of "Teed Off" kind of got off track and didn't really get what the caller was saying, but I think I did.  And I agree. The caller seemed to be saying that minority participation in golf isn't growing not only because of the expense involved, but because children don't see anyone on TV they can relate to. More minority children are likely to become meteorologists than golfers if you compare the on-air talent of the Weather Channel to that of the Golf Channel. Children, no matter their ethnicity, will find people on tv to identify with and from my experience, I know I identify with those who are more like me. I can only assume that's the way it is for everyone.  There are other elements to consider when trying to figure out how to grow the game of golf. For instance, kids are far more likely to gravitate toward football, basketball and baseball because you don't need a specialized field of play for those games. You can play them in any parking lot or back yard very easily and quickly, whereas with golf, you have to find a way to get to a golf course. Convenience is as much a contributor to the lack of minority participation in golf as TV's perceived make-up of their audience and the sport's expense.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Long And Short Of It

Is anyone else tired of the long putter debate? I'm very bored with it, especially since, traditionally, the stats don't back up the negative opinion associated with the unconventional putters.  For the last few years, I've checked in on the putting stats and most of the time the golfers with short putters lead the stats. And as I've always said, Tim Clark would be the #1 player in the world if the long putter was such an unfair advantage.

The most recent hoopla over the putter comes from Pebble Beach this week where the media asked Tiger Woods for his opinion on the long putter.  Where do I start with this?  First, should Tiger be thinking about other people's putters given his performance the last couple of years? Shouldn't he be minding his own business? Second, apparently he's taken it upon himself to discuss rule changes with the R & A? What kind of authority does he think he has to believe it's his place to make rules changes?  Third, given the many, many majors and other tournaments Tiger has won, didn't anyone tell him that if he goes out and maligns other golfers and rules in public that it's going to make him look like a jerk? When someone is that successful, the best course of action is to not criticize anyone or anything in public.

As for my opinion on the long putter, here goes: it's apparently great if you lengthen the shaft of your driver to get more distance. But you can't lengthen the shaft of your putter? Pot, meet kettle. Seriously, watch some LPGA golf and you can't help but think that the club is swinging the golfer rather than the other way around.  The only unfair advantage I see with the long putter is when you're taking relief and other guys have to make do with standard length clubs while a long putter player gets more distance.  Of course, if that's the fight you're fighting, then you have more to worry about than putters. You need to get back on the range and work on your other clubs.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Proposed Changes to Q-School

A couple of weeks ago, the PGA Tour announced some possible changes to Q-School, the PGA Tour season and the Nationwide Tour. From what I've read on the internet, these changes may include possibly starting the Tour season in the fall so some current Post FedEx Cup tournaments could have participation in the FedEx Cup series, Q-School graduates only having status on the Nationwide Tour, and the only way of earning status on the PGA Tour is through the Nationwide Tour and previous year participation on the PGA Tour.  I have a couple of opinions about these changes.  First, the European Tour had a non-traditional calendar for several years and figured out it wasn't working for them so they changed to a calendar-year based schedule. Why would the US PGA Tour make the move to something that's been proven to be a problem?  Second, Q-School, in my mind, is the toughest test a golfer can experience. Six rounds that will determine your entire year and possibly your whole career. I have so much more respect for any golfer who can survive Q-School and then follow it up with successful careers on the PGA Tour. Some notables who fit this mold are Dustin Johnson, JB Holmes and Rickie Fowler.  I think they are tougher, smarter, and stronger than the guys who have a whole year of chances to make it to the PGA Tour.

At play here, ultimately, is sponsorship and money. The PGA Tour believes that bigger purses equals success and these changes are meant to make sponsors happy (like Nationwide, chief sponsor of the Nationwide Tour). I have to think, however, that eventually, the PGA Tour will be unable to sustain the huge purses they've been offering in the last few years and that a collapse of the Tour is a real possibility. The European Tour doesn't have the money available that the US Tour does, but it has quality courses, diverse membership, and what looks like a more sound business model.  And of course, one of the contributing factors the US PGA Tour has to consider is its membership who has reportedly not responded favorably in the past to the suggestion of dialing back the size of purses in tough economic times. More, more, more isn't always the best idea. One day, the US PGA Tour may wake up to find that there is no more out there. When the well dries up, where will they be?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rock Rolls to Victory

Although I didn't watch much of the HSBC Champions tournament at Abu Dhabi, alright, I watched the final hole because I saw on the web that it looked like Robert Rock was going to win, I was thrilled to see that final hole and Rock secure a win. He beat the World #2, a lot of very good players and one over-hyped player. No matter what anyone else thinks, I think a Robert Rock win is the best thing for the European Tour. He's a well-liked player, a good, heart-felt story, and he plays a heck of a lot more on the European Tour than the other stars who some might have wanted to win. He'll pay it forward, pay it back and pay it all around with his presence, his competitive nature, and his contribution to the Tour. I for one can't wait to see him in Akron at the Bridgestone Invitational. I believe I heard one of the announcers say this win gets him in to that tournament.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Haney Hullabaloo

This week we were exposed to much discussion over the new Hank Haney book called "The Big Miss." From what I understand, no one has read this book, but that doesn't keep people from commenting on it, one of which is Tiger Woods. Reportedly, Tiger has expressed his concerns over this book and some stated he called Haney's writing of it "unprofessional." Now I have two issues with this.  One, wait until you read the book before you condemn it. It might not even be about you. Second, Woods is hardly the authority on professional behavior given his cussing, club throwing and tantrum throwing behavior on the course. I believe the correct course of action would have been to keep his mouth shut until after the book came out and then constructed some PR/politically correct response that would keep the media from blowing the whole thing out of proportion. By coming out now with a statement based on nothing but one man's speculation on what might be included in the book, it just makes Tiger look like a jerk.  Some might bring up this 'inner circle' excuse, but there is no such thing as an inner circle in an employer/employee relationship. Haney wasn't Tiger's wing man, he was Tiger's swing coach. There's a big difference there and it's called a paycheck.

I think Hank Haney will stick to the golf theme in his book and it will be some boring golf instruction manual. I don't plan to read the book, no matter the content. I don't need golf instruction as I don't play golf. And I am not a Woods fan and could care less about what he might think would be covered in this book.

Everyone will know what the big miss is later in the year when the book comes out.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Something Went Right Today

I've been doing some work on the blog today. I've selected two golfers to shine my spotlight on this year: Gary Woodland and Erik Compton.  I want to add Tom Lewis but haven't gotten to do that yet. And I've added the Places To Start section in the sidebar. Finally, I've started adding back the Blogs of Note section. That one's going to take a while because I had quite a few on the old blog. Please let me know if the links don't work. On dial-up, it takes me forever to click on each one.

At least this part of my day went well. Had a huge snafu with Rite Aid Pharmacy today. Suffice it to say, I'm never shopping there again. Of course I only ever went there for one item and I can get that elsewhere. Lesson to businesses: train your freakin' employees.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Loving the Freshness of a New Season

I love the beginning of the golf season. We get to learn about new players on Tour and find out what's changed with the established players. Tonight for instance, I'm learning about Bud Cauley.  He might be one to watch this year and it's exciting to see someone who came out on Tour last year and earned his tour card by playing tournaments. Not Q-School and not the Nationwide Tour. I still place more emphasis on the guy who wins Q-School because I think that's really the toughest test and tells us more about the player than anything else. But Cauley's efforts last year are something to talk about.

As for the established players, the one subject always on the minds of fans early in the year is equipment switches. For some reason when a player has a really good year on tour, the first thing he does is switch equipment manufacturers. The second thing the player does is have a bad year with the new equipment.

And then there are all of the injuries we're seeing this year. Paul Casey, Lucas Glover. Granted, not as accident-prone as David Feherty (who details some of his painful experiences in the February 2012 edition of Golf Magazine), these guys should still be a bit more careful and maybe take up jigsaw puzzles for a hobby rather than physical sports.

So far in 2012, the nicest treat we received was the pairing of Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo for the Tournament of Champions coverage. They were funny, insightful, and smart enough to avoid the sensationalistic confrontations that media folks everywhere were itching to see. This was a good start to the season, despite having a Monday finish.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

A Time of Change

Much like the beginning of the new season of professional golf is a time for change for those playing the game, this is also a time for change for me. Blogger decided it knew better than its customers and completely changed everything about their templates and blogging programming. This means they screwed up my blog. I have no blogs of note.  No players to watch.  No places to start. I do have all of the website addresses saved but it will be a huge, time-consuming, endeavor to put them back in. Thanks Blogger for wasting hours of my time today for all of your 'technological improvements'.  It's only an improvement in technology if it can include everything from the past into the present, not render it completely obsolete and force people to start all over.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Great Week for Europe!

Sergio Garcia, one of my favorites, won the Castello Masters by 11 shots this weekend! What a great display of golf. I wish I could have watched more of it. It was great to see him smiling, happy, and relaxed on the course. Hopefully, he will take all of these feelings with him into future tournaments and continue to do well.

Luke Donald won the Children's Miracle Network Tournament on the US PGA tour and captured the money title. Apparently, this was a full on burst of winning determination on the back nine on Sunday. Again, I wish I could have seen some of this tournament too, but I figured the announcers were talking about how great Tiger Woods is so I didn't bother watching. I do keep up on Twitter though and that's more important - I actually read the thoughts of the golfers themselves. At least those thoughts they would like to share with their fans. I would now like to see Luke Donald win the European Money title, the Race to Dubai. I want Luke, an all-around nice guy, to be a Number 1 who won both money titles. I don't care if he hasn't won a major. If majors were all that important, then those would be the only tournaments on the schedule and the golfers would spend the rest of the time practicing.  Or vacationing.  Wait, there's a player out there now who only plays a couple of times a year.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I've Been Neglectful

Yes, I've been neglectful of the blog lately. So, let's catch up.

Bill Haas won the Fed Ex Cup and the Tour Championship. I was very pleased with this result as I've been a fan of his for a while. And he received the other Presidents Cup pick. At least there will be one selection deserving of the honor.

Greg Norman picked a couple of excellent players for his team. I think the Internationals will have a very good chance of winning the Presidents Cup. They should have more experience with that course and I think they will team up better than the US players.

The Solheim Cup was very exciting this year. I was happy to see Europe win.

Brad Faxon won his first Champions Tour event this weekend. A popular win, I'm sure.

Although Jose Maria Olazabal missed the cut this past weekend, his presence was definitely felt at the tournament as he apparently has been giving some assistance to some players. Olazabal's name was mentioned a lot during the weekend coverage. I hope I get to see him play again soon.  I couldn't watch it Thursday and Friday because of that inhumane punishment called 'work'.

The golfing media went wild with the news that Tiger Woods set a course record at his home course while he's been off working on his game instead of competing. I don't see why this is so special. It would be like me being able to maneuver through my house (I've lived here 30 years) in the dark. I ought to know how to get through my house, and he ought to know where to hit the ball in his own backyard. This statistic doesn't mean anything to anyone other than those who are still trying to cash in on Woods.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Long and Short of It

So, I haven't blogged since Bridgestone. What's happened since? Keegan Bradley won the PGA which kicked off a debate over long putters that's lasted way, way too long.  My opinion on the long putters is this: Check out the putting stats on Short putters lead the stats.  Therefore, long putters do no give the player an unfair advantage. The only way a putter has that kind of impact on the game is if the game is Putt Putt Golf.

Presidents Cup also made the news in the last month with Fred Couples announcing that Tiger Woods is on the team even though qualifying isn't even over yet. Nice way to disrespect all of the other golfers competing for places on the team. I don't usually get too excited about the Presidents Cup and this decision by Couples didn't do anything to change that for me. I just hope the Captains refrain from pitting Woods and Scott against each other. Since I can't rely on Couples to make a good decision there, then I shall have to appeal to the good sense that Greg Norman might have. There's been a huge debate as to whether or not Tiger should be on the team. Some say yes because of what he used to be in Golf (meaning someone who would play 15 times a year as opposed to someone who doesn't play at all now). Some say no because his game isn't competitive and can't possibly help the team win. I think the answer to this debate is to define what the Presidents Cup's purpose is.  If the purpose of the match-up is to compete and have winners and losers then Woods certainly shouldn't be on the team. If the purpose, however, is to sell tickets and produce a sham of a 'competition' which insults the intelligence of the fans, then yes, put Woods on the team. I was under the impression from past Presidents Cup contests that the purpose was to identify winners and losers. I must have missed a memo.

Hurricane Irene shortened one of the FedEx Cup playoff events. That was a wise decision made by someone. And it looks like the PGA Tour will dodge the rain from former Tropical Storm Lee with this week's tournament wrapping up today. Some folks were complaining that if the playoff events were played out west, they wouldn't have had the weather problems they experienced last week. I bet there would have been a tornado, landslide, forest fire or some other natural disaster to get in the way of the events if they had been staged out west. Weather is everywhere. You just have to accept what you get. Plus, get some sponsors to make events out west possible and maybe you'll have a point.  Shall I mention the fall of the International? A good tournament on a great course with a unique scoring system, no longer being contested because of various factors, such has sponsorship and the Kiss Tiger's Butt and pray he gives you an interview element - remember Tiger's event took the place of the International on the schedule. Haha, until the Greenbrier next year. That's funny.

Solheim Cup is coming up. I don't watch much of this either but it was nice to see Ryann O'Toole was named to the team. She's had a strong year and should shake things up during the competition. I want to see Paula Creamer's new little puppy dressed up in Solheim Cup outfits.

The Vivendi Trophy is coming up in a couple weeks. GB & I versus the rest of Europe. Paul McGinley and Jean Van de Velde are the captains and Jose Maria Olazabal is keeping a close eye on the event as it was so closely tied to Seve Ballesteros and is an early indicator for the Ryder Cup. I hope I can check out some of this competition because it looks like it would be very good.

Thomas Bjorn has won twice in a row on the European PGA Tour. A popular double win on tour judging from all of the tweets I've seen on Twitter.

And finally, in the latest issue of Golf Magazine you have articles on Luke Donald and Erik Compton. This issue is worth buying.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Bridgestone Invitational Trip Diary 2011

This year I could only manage a day trip to Akron for the golf tournament instead of staying there at a hotel for a few days. So, I was on the road by 5:30am and drove into some rain. The Weather Channel had said the rain was on the move, but apparently it moved slower than they thought. When I got to Akron, I stopped at a Walmart and bought an umbrella, thereby ensuring that the rain was going to end. And by the time I got to the course at about 9:25am, the rain had indeed stopped. For the rest of the day, it misted and there was one light shower but that was about it.   By the way, by 9:25am, people were already drinking beer. Seriously. 9:25am.  There should be laws prohibiting sales that early. If you're drinking that early, then you have a problem.

I decided to attend the practice round day knowing there would be a risk of not seeing all the players I wanted to see. But at least I could take pictures during the practice round. Unfortunately, I didn’t see Sergio Garcia, one of my favorites who I always want to see every year. He had played with McIlroy earlier and I didn’t see them.

I started out at the practice green and saw quite a few players. There were a couple of funny anecdotes from the crowd around me. One, an older gentleman couldn’t quite say Bubba and called him Bubble Watson. I guess they don’t see too many Bubbas that far north. Another featured Graeme McDowell. Again, an older gentleman tried to tell his wife that McDowell was the guy who won the Masters this year. The wife asked, “Schwartzel?” The husband went on as if he didn’t hear her and said, “I think his name is Mac something… McAfee. He’s from England or Scotland. Or Wales. Not from Ireland.” Also, it looked as though Adam Scott and Ian Poulter were performing the same putting drill, using tees to mark off distances around the hole. A local reporter was interviewing some of the crowd around me (I dodged the camera) and apparently everyone around me was wanting to see Phil Mickelson. The reporter even asked about Tiger, and they said, “No, we’re here to see Phil.” Later in the afternoon, I heard a guy say “I don’t like him (Tiger) much no more.” Grammar aside, the sentiment was apparently shared by a lot of people, from the group of women waiting for the bus at the parking area, to people there at the course. The group of women at the parking area had some less than polite words regarding Tiger. I won’t print them here.

Anyway, eventually, I decided to eat lunch and then head out onto the course to find some players to watch. I ended up hopping between 8 tee and 13 tee with some glimpses at 7 and 12 greens. It’s a good spot at Firestone because there are real restrooms very close by as well as a concession stand. At the 13th tee, I saw Ryo Ishikawa, who people thought was Rickie Fowler just because he was wearing orange. They couldn’t be bothered to read the name on the golf bag or to see that Ryo had the new short haircut going for him. I was nearly trampled by autograph seekers trying to get to Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel. The Tiger and Phil followers weren’t that aggressive.

Phil, Jeff Overton, Keegan Bradley and Brenden Steele were playing their practice round together and it looked to me like they were getting along famously. They seemed to have fun and were kidding around with each other. It was great to see and I could tell just how genuine Phil was with them. One thing I noticed was that Phil and Jeff have huge feet. I swear you could take one of their shoes and canoe across Lake Erie in it.

I was surprised to see such a huge gallery following Nick Watney, Bo Van Pelt and Bill Haas until I realized Butch Harmon was also there. I guess they could have been following Bill Haas. I certainly had him on my list of players to see this year. I was also very excited to see Dustin Johnson, who was playing with Furyk and Stricker, and Gary Woodland who I think was on his own. 

One of the more curious practice round groups was Lee Westwood, Matteo Manassero and DA Points. I could see how Westwood and Manassero would know each other and might end up playing with each other, but I want to know how DA Points ended up in that group.

Lucas Glover is the most fan friendly player I think I’ve seen. On his way to the 13th tee, he stopped for pictures with the fans and for autographs and then after he hit his tee shot, he took even more pictures with fans. Usually the golfers only stop once on the way to the tee. Glover’s caddie is also one of the most fan friendly. He wasn’t shy at all and talked to the fans around the tee while waiting on Glover.

While waiting around at 13, I met a nice lady from Canada who is Jim Nantz’s biggest fan. She lives on the East coast and had to fly into Chicago and then from there to Akron. That seemed like a long trip to me but she was excited to be there. It was her first time at a tournament, she was staying with a friend and the trip was very economical for her.

We were very happy to have survived the Tiger Woods group as they went by. The rumor had spread over the course that Tiger was only going to play the back nine so we were curious to see if he would come our way. He finally did and even though I don’t like him, I did take a couple of pictures of him on the tee, for retirement funding purposes when I get older of course. He was playing with Hunter Mahan and Arjun Atwal and it took them an awfully long time to get off the 12th green. Tiger’s golf bag that day was a silver one with the word “fourteen” printed all over it. Probably not the best idea but then he hasn’t been blessed with many good ones. Seriously, you’d think he’d want 19 on the golf bag- you know, his goal, instead of his achievement. If I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to want to be reminded constantly of my goal, not of how fat I currently am.

After Tiger’s group went through, it looked like we weren’t going to see very many other golfers out our way so I headed back to the practice green, stopping briefly to watch Ryan Moore and Jason Day. They weren’t playing together. Back at the putting green and driving range I continued to watch the golfers and listen to the crowds. Then the skies started looking seriously gloomy and I figured I’d better head back to the parking area before it rained again. I got held up between the 10th hole and the clubhouse for what seemed like an eternity. Players come off the course there and the marshals rope off the path so the players can get through. Well, Mickelson’s group was there signing autographs. He finally had to stop and told the crowd he would sign again after the round the next day and he got a round of applause. When did you ever hear of a player being applauded for not signing autographs? That’s how much they love Phil Mickelson. The marshals weren’t endearing themselves to me however. They actually thought about continuing to hold us where we were until the next group of golfers came through. There were some very vocal objections to that idea and they let us through, but as it was so disorganized and disorderly, I had serious concerns that someone was going to get stepped on. The tournament should really find a better solution for that problem.

Luck was with me at the parking area as I figured that morning that I would never be able to find my car, but it was all by itself when I got back to it and very easy to see. That was the last good luck I had for about 80 miles or so. I was leaving Akron during rush hour and traffic was horrible. I first thought I would stop and eat but then the traffic was a nightmare so I got back on the interstate and decided to just drive as far as I could before stopping again.

I got home around 8pm and boy were my Winnie and PJ happy to see me. As were the outside cats who were missing their supper. Hopefully, next year, I'll get to spend a couple of days at the tournament. It's nice there.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: The Swinger

The Swinger is a work of fiction, written by Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck of Sports Illustrated. Generally, it is about the downfall of the world's number one golfer, Tree Tremont as seen through the eyes of sports writer Josh Dutra who is hired by Tremont to be his communications guy. Women and drugs are the life-wrecking hobbies of Tremont, but in my opinion his downfall is really brought about by his own refusal to limit himself to just doing what is right in favor of doing everything wrong. Entitlement is a strong theme in this book.  Tremont's father helped along the way with some very unfamily-like opinions about how one's life should be lived and even the death of Tremont's mother, while apparently affecting Tremont in a sensitive way, didn't have a lasting effect on his behavior.

Yes, there is the bikini-model wife, the two kids, the spectacular golfing career, that you think of when you make comparisons between Tremont and real life representatives of the sport. However, Bamberger and Shipnuck do an excellent job of preventing the reader from seeing this book as a biography. Their greatest tool in this effort is the character of Josh Dutra. Gradually, The Swinger becomes more about Dutra's life and how the Tremont scandals affect him rather than about Tremont himself.

As I read the book, I found myself thinking things like, "You're kidding me," "Seriously?!" and "Isn't it typical that the sports writer still finds the star athlete a hero after all of these scandals."  I suppose the underlying message in The Swinger would be that no one is all good or all bad, that there's good and bad in everyone. Unfortunately, I just didn't feel that the bad part of Tree was treated with the censure that I felt it deserved. There were excuses and forgiveness all around by everyone, even the bikini model wife who whacks Tree in the head after his cell phone reveals some of his betrayals. This part didn't seem all that fictional as we've seen repeatedly in real life that sports stars are given more than one chance, more than two chances, and mostly, too many chances to screw up.

This doesn't mean I was disappointed with the book. Just that I would prefer a different kind of book. (I'm usually reading romance novels and looking forward to the happy endings.)  The Swinger left me with a lot of questions about men and women and how the two sexes think about and view the same events. The book may not answer those questions, but it will have a lasting impact as I may find myself watching golf through a different set of eyes in the future.

Some aspects of the book I should mention:  Martinsen and his adoptions - reminded me of Brangelina. Boy do I want to see a Brad Pitt on the golf course.  The tabloid headlines playing with the name Tree. Hilarious. Salty Morton. I'll never season my food the same way again.

In conclusion, I think you should read the book. I don't know if you'll find it better or worse than Nancy Grace's coverage of certain historical events, but I hope it will make you think about the same things I did - how men and women think about things like fidelity, honesty and doing the right thing.  Or you could watch the movie When Harry Met Sally. But really, why would you?

(Full disclosure: while I was offered an advance copy of the book, I bought my own copy.)