Saturday, November 14, 2009

Golfers are very tough on themselves

This is some random dude that was part of our menage a singles. He only hit 2 shots that were anything close to what he intended to hit, and they were putts. After almost every drive, which he popped up, he flung his club in disgust and uttered, "What the fuck is WRONG with you, you fucking idiot." No joke. I've been that guy, and now having seen it from the outside, it isn't a lot of fun to be around. He had a "Raytheon" cooler slung from his push cart, and I wondered if he was an engineer who was dissatisfied with his life in some way, which would explain his anger at himself.

This is another random guy I was paired with (okay, I was quarduped(?) with him) and he's one of those old guys who has a weak yet unremittingly straight shot. He had a cold and complained about it the whole time. Towards the end he started hitting shanks, and like random dude #1, was not happy, "What in the FUCK am I doing? You have got to be FUCKING kidding me."

Why are we so mercilessly cruel to ourselves?

However, one thing to remember is that dude #1 and I were wearing shorts. It was mid-November, 80s, and not a cloud in the sky. No way were these two guys going to get me down. More pics of the day:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Heaven left me

You're at the driving range. You're hitting balls, some fat, some thin. When suddenly, you notice something: you just hit a perfectly awesome shot. Like a massive pipe which has miraculously been cleared of a great jam, something is flowing through you unimpeded, and your swing opens up like a view from mountain onto a glorious plain. You wonder if it's a freak, so you go again. Another great shot. And another. And these aren't just good shots, they're the best of shots, because they're effortless. Simple. A breeze. Unconscious. You couldn't not hit a great shot if you were told to do so. Then this thought occurs, "Why, I must have discovered The Swing. My The Swing. My god, if I just keep replicating this swing, I'll never have to worry about my swing again. This is it. I'm home."

You play that weekend, and The Swing holds up. It's still there. Of course, you learn you're still prone to hitting a few off-line, but still, the guts of The Swing are present and working. You wrap up the round having a beer with your buddy, and feel satisfied, yet eager: The Swing worked, but there are a few kinks you'd like to work out before the next time you play. Easy enough. Kinks are no big deal.

You're at the driving range. Hitting balls. You think, "Okay The Swing, do your stuff!" You recall in your golfing brain how The Swing felt, what it looked like, and set about recreating that sense. And then it happens. The Swing doesn't show up. Something like The Swing appears. It has the same general shape as The Swing, and yet some essential "something" is missing. This isn't The Swing, it's its ghost. "But wait," you think, "I'm doing everything the same. Shoulders go like this, take away like this..." and yet, only the ghost remains. The flow is gone. This swing, quite unlike The Swing, is again, like all your other swings, work. "Come back to me, Swing, come back. I'm not angry at you. We can be friends, really, really good friends. Please come back." But it doesn't. The ghost of The Swing looks at you with sunken eyes, mute lips, thinning hair. It can't help you. Even it can't remember its identity, what it was like to effortlessly throw balls high into the air and land them beautifully on the flag. You stand there befuddled, wondering how to get The Swing back. But it's gone. Nothing you can do will bring it back. And you curse yourself. I had it. Now I don't. Damn the sun and the grass.

That's golf.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Ye who hurtest me

Golf takes a lot to watch. Most think you're nuts to spend hours watching a bunch of out-of-shape dudes hitting golf shots. These people have no idea where the real pain comes from:


Nantz. Azinger. Tilghman.

These people talk about golf on a professional basis, so listening to them should be a joy. But it's not, it's fingers on a chalkboard. Pain. Bleeding ears. So I present to you my best and worst picks of golf commentators.

Best golf commentator

Johnny Miller

This man is a golf God. Not only does he have the bona fides ('63 Oakmont anyone?) to call "choke" on any pro's shot, but he actually can't help himself from saying it--he has no "off button." Puke, choke, duff, and fan are all part of his lingual repetoire, and in contrast to the corporate shills who call golf at other channels, Johnny is like daylight in a musty basement.

2nd Best golf commentator

David Feherty

I have a theory that the more a person suffers the better a coversationalist they become. Feherty seems to fit the bill--a journeyman pro (suffering) who had an over-enthusiastic fondness for Scotch (more suffering) who's Irish (double suffering). This type of guy usually has a unique perspective on life and golf. Love him. Would love to have a drink with him.

3rd Best golf commentator

Roger "Rog" Maltbie.

Nothing more need be said. Except he's the ham to Johnny Miller's eggs. During a broadcast nothing makes me happier to hear, "John that was a heckuva shot."

4th Best golf commentator

Nick Faldo

Faldo is an ego (full disclosure: I worked as a cable-puller for CBS at Firestone in Akron, and he once chided a friend and coworker for moving during a putt: "You'll never work in this business again." Of course none of us worked in "the business" in the first place so we laughted pretty hard) but when he works for the Golf Channel, he's spot on with his assessment of the mindset of pro's brains. He's perceptive, irreverant, and ballsey. But once he starts calling it for CBS it's a new, boring ballgame...

5th Best golf commentator

Gary McCord

Anyone who can be banned by the crackers at Augusta National for uttering "bikini wax" is okay in my book.

Tie: Jerry Foltz, Curt Byrum, Brandel Chamblee

If only the broadcast golf guys could learn to be as straighforward as these guys.

6th Best golf commentator

Ian Baker-Finch
Like Feherty, this guy has suffered--he won the Open, and then... was never heard from again. He has humility and only calls players on failure of brain (i.e. stupid plays) and not failure of body (pushes, pulls, slices, hooks, et al). Baker-Finch carries a snarky-free zone around him when he commentates and for that I thank him.

7th Best golf commentator

Frank Nobilo
A bright spot at the Golf Channel, he's pretty fair in his crit of pro players. "Bad, not good, weak, un-smart" are never parts of his lexicon, which leads me to think he has a heart and listens to it. Frank's family is also part of a 300-year wine-producing tradition (which can never hurt my estimation of anyone.)

8th Best golf commentator

Peter "Oostie" Oosterhuis
A well-heeled Brit with impeccable decency, this dude will never, ever, ever say anything unseemly about a golfer. Although I implicitly don't trust tall golfers (he's 6'7", the extra leverage is an unfair advantage) this guy I trust.

Now, let me show you my picks for "worst" golf commentators.

1st Worst golf commentator

Jim Nantz
There are two kinds of sportscasters: those who feel lucky to witness sport's great moments and those who feel they are sport's great moments. Needless to say, Nantz is the latter. It's almost as if the golf event takes place so that Nantz can encapsulate it with a "timeless" comment (who can forget "A win for the ages" after Wood's (painfully boring) '97 Masters' win). It's especially galling to watch him call the Masters, where he tempers every boring comment against the constrictive standards of the Old Boys' Network at Augusta. Nantz is kind of like the former U.S. generals who pimped positivity for the Pentagon: bought and paid for.

2nd Worst golf commentator
Lanny Wadkins
I'll bet my paycheck that Lanny is a by-the-numbers-rich-guy-ain't-gonna-pay-no-taxes Republican, but that isn't my beef with him (though I love pointing this out). His problem is that he's boring and offers no more golf insight than a gila monster. A player hits a shot offline, Lanny responds, "Jim, that is not a good shot." Really? I didn't know you needed to jar a sand shot at the '83 Ryder Cup to have such genius insight.

3rd Worst golf commentator

Curtis Strange
Like Wadkins, Strange comes from the "painfully obvious" school of commentating. "Ian, that was not a good shot by [insert pro golfer name.] His challenge on the next shot is to hit a good one." Duh.

And what is it with pro golfers and hunting?

Peter Kostis

Greeks make good gyros but I can't figure out what Kostis's value-added contribution to golf is. He's got a great rug, but aside from that, I'm lost as to why I have to listen to him chatter-on every weekend.

Gary Koch
His only claim to fame is his fetish with 3-woods that take a divot from the tee box. Exciting.

Azinger is a weirdo. Remember the clip where a player's caddie puts his hand on the player's butt to help him into a tree to find his ball? Azinger "wouldn't put his hand there." Remember when Azinger called Fred Funk the "...most accurate driver in golf" and Faldo told him to "...hang on a tick: what about the Euros?" Azinger is, and continues to be, a mess, and the sooner he leaves broadcasting the sooner I can forget worring about his next homophobic comment.

Honorable mention best/worst commentator

Kelly Tilghman

Kelly Tilghman is not a bad golf commentator. She knows golf in and out. But she's not "one of the boys"--though she desperately tries to act the part. As an actor, she's not experienced enough to improvise (remember Tiger's "lynching"?) and she's not comfortable enough with Faldo (6-time major winner) to ham-n-egg it. She tries to be Jim Nantz (or at least who Jim Nantz thinks Jim Nantz is) when she should be happy to be Brian Hammons (or whatever the fuck his name is). If Kelly relaxed and didn't try to be the biggest dick in the booth, she'd be pretty good.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Golf nightmare comes to pass

Below is the story of something I always knew would happen:

Langer's son shoots 98-91 at Dutch Open

Published: August 24, 2007

Teenage newcomer Stefan Langer of Germany, son of two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer, improved his score Friday at the Dutch Open — but not by much.

After shooting a 98 on Thursday, Langer rebounded with a 91, finishing at 49 over par and securing last place by 28 strokes over Andrew Hastie.

In his two rounds, Langer made one birdie, nine pars, 12 bogeys, and 14 double bogeys or worse. One of the "or worse" scores was a 12 on the par-5 second hole in the first round.

His father fared much better, shooting rounds of 67-71 to finish at two under par.

That's one of those sport's nightmares that we all know could happen to us, and, honestly, there isn't an ounce of my usual schadenfreude in evidence. It's not that we'll ever face the same challenge--playing with your dad in a pro tournament and shooting close to 100--it's just that we've all needlessly felt embarrassed by similarly bad rounds, and it's sickening to watch someone else go through it. Bernhard didn't act as if he was embarrassed by his son's performance, he seemed to view it as a test of his son's character. From the online UK Mirror:

"There are two ways to react," added [Bernard] Langer. "You either stick in or put your head in the sand and give up. I don't think that's what he is made of but we will find out."

It's kind of cool to see a dad react that way, instead of seeing his son's poor scoring as a sign of weakness and using the son as an ego extension of himself. Though parents could learn something from this, there's a lesson here for all of us.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Yeah, yeah, I know--put those forged irons away

I can't help myself. Call it Freud's death urge, thanatos; call it masochism; call it foolishness. Whatever you call it doesn't matter. I can't change. I have a set of forged blades. They're not right for me. They're not right for anyone. But they're in my bag. Oh, sure, I tell myself I'm using them as part of an "experiment," to see if they cost me more strokes than my Pings. To see if "forgiveness" in irons is really all it's cracked-up to be. Deep down, though, I know. It's not an experiment. It's lust. A lust for using dense chunks of forged steal to hit dimpled white rocks. A lust to feel the "swing that isn't there"--the perfect, effortless strike. It happens. Once in a while. Not enough to keep the blades in the bag. But they're there. Shrill. Unforgiving. Even pros use blades more forgiving than mine. I don't care. I am driven to use them. I know my golf partners look in my bag and think, "Huh, old blades. What's this guy thinking?" I've even had them tell me--complete strangers, mind you--to ditch them. I don't care. Like a mouse whose brain parasite compels him to throw himself into the jaws of a cat, the blades have got me. I must play with them or... I must play with them. Like a fever, this compelling desire comes and goes, but when it has me, I am its thrall. So if you see me on the courses of Los Angeles, do not mock me, and do not hate me. Pity me. Pity a fool who knows he shouldn't be using blades, but is powerless to stop himself from doing so. As I tee off, mutter a protective blessing under your breath and be thankful that you are not me. I know I would.

Monday, August 27, 2007

We're all amateurs

There was a small brouhaha over at The Golfchick, regarding the play of LPGA players versus PGA players. Specifically, Golfchick was critiquing an article by John Huggan, in which he argues elite woman players don't have as good of short games as their male counterparts because women have been led to believe that success lies in a good long game (which I've argued, ad nauseum, is bass akwards) I think Huggan may have a point in regards to elite players, but in the real world, it's much different. Since I rarely play with anyone scratch or better (in fact, at a 12-handicap, I'm often the best player in my group, which, I don't need to remind you, isn't much of an accomplishment) I can only comment on players in the mid-handicap level. In this handicap range, good short games are a rarity, but when you do run into them, it's as often a woman as a man. Actually, since there are so fewer women playing on Los Angeles's muni courses, you'd probably have to give the edge, in terms of skill as a gender, to women, because for every one woman who can pitch, chip and putt, there are 10 men who can't. As far as I can tell, we amateurs are equally matched, gender notwithstanding, so if you take the few hundred pros out of the equation, the genders are a lot closer in golf than would be obvious.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Finchem/Woods Fedex Cup conspiracy?

Tiger Woods decided to skip The Barclay's, the first of four legs of the Fedex Cup.

"My body is spent and I need a break... This is in no way a knock on Barclays, their new event next week or the new FedEx Cup series, which I fully support... I just hope that this extra week of rest will rejuvenate me for the final three playoff events and Presidents Cup. It is still my goal to win the FedEx Cup and I am hopeful this will give me the best opportunity to finish the year strong." [courtesy of]

To even a casual observer of professional golf, Woods is the prohibitive favorite in every tournament he plays in. As much fun as it is to watch him win, it doesn't usually generate much drama to watch the rest of the field battle for second place. If Woods had jumped out to an early lead in the Fedex Cup, and it became clear after two of its tournaments that he was going to win, you think anyone would tune in to watch it? I don't think the headline, "Woods in commanding lead in Fedex Cup race" is going to turn too many non-golf fans into dedicated PGA watchers. So how do you fix it? Well, you "fix" it: have Woods sit out the first tournament, let a few other pros get close to or overtake his position at the top of the points scale, then reinsert Woods into the mix and see if he can pull out a win. Now that's drama. To wit: which Woods' moment was more memorable, his 12-stroke '97 Master's win, or his battle at the '00 PGA with Bob May?

Of course, this is all pure conjecture, but really, is anyone buying Woods' "I'm too tired" spiel? If Finchem did orchestrate Woods' absence from the Barclays, it would have to go down as the smartest, most courageous strategy ever undertaken in professional golf.