Monday, March 24, 2008

Ib18… gonzo style

Okay, Big Daddy… wanna know what’s happened to the bigger daddy these last few days.? It’s not pretty but I learned plenty. Good and plenty, except that Choo-Choo Charlie was nowhere near the train.

It was me, the Gran Papa of Milwaukee Avenue. The Fort Dearborn Destroyer. The Baron of Bucktown. And Tiger Woods biggest nightmare. Up ‘gainst the wall.

It was those green buggers down in the pits of my lungs. Hanging out there. Not wanting to move except when beckoned by the caustic reaction between my throat and a vaccum-locked hack-up that could only muster a few flecks per minute.

The bathroom sink was not happy with me. Nor were my lungs.

And I was fucking furious. I was holed up inside the prison on Milwaukee Avenue. The same prison that gives me 3 hots, a cot and a television with nothing but Britney and Hogan’s Heroes reruns.

Are you feeling me?

Dull temps in the head just under 100 degrees. A fiery hole in the back of my throat, oozing green lava with every last hack. Eye boogers large enough to garnish your martini, body aching with every last step upon the cold wooden floor. Liquids and nothing but liquids.

DXM was no use. I tried it two nights in a row. So much for that spoonful of sugar. 2 hours on, one hour off. 2 on, one off. No sleep when needed. No motivation to call upon.

Clinically dead. Not a care.

Couldn’t get it up. Try working out into a cold sweat and having the women look at you funny at the gym. Pale & sickly.

I took up needlepoint.

And then I saw that Tiger was 5 strokes down with about 7 holes to go.

And the fever broke…

The lungs cleared.

Big Daddy was cured.

Big Daddy was ready.

Friday, March 21, 2008

WGC-CA Championship at Doral (Round 1)

The Blue Course at the Doral Resort & Spa (aka The Blue Monster) boasts a challenge of shaggy rough and fast, tricky greens, making the course a nice precursor to Augusta, albeit without trees.

Let’s get the Tiger hoopla out of the way shall we? He’s going for 4 consecutive tour victories in 2008 and 8 consecutive tour victories in his last 8 events.

His chances are pretty good. He’s won 6 out of the last 8 tournaments at Doral and 15 out of the last 26 WGC events. At Doral, Tiger is a combined 54-under par with a 67.5 scoring avg.

Tied for 3rd going into the 2nd round, he’s still the guy to beat.

But don’t tell that Miguel Angel Jimenez & Geoff Ogilvy, both of who went into the clubhouse tied for the lead at 7-under.

You may not know who Ryuji Imada is, but you will. He’s finished 2nd twice in events this season and is a lock to surpass his money totals from last year. He’s 3rd on the tour in Putting Average (1.715/hole) and currently stands at 4-under par, tied for 4th place.

Monsoon weather also had an effect on play at Doral on Thursday. Heavy downpours and gusts wreaked havoc on the greens, making putting a greater challenge, even to Tiger, who 3-putted the 18th for a bogey.

"You three putt 18, you're not going to be real happy," Woods mentioned, probably through the grit of his teeth.

If any player has a chance to take down Tiger this week, perhaps they should pray for more rain.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

We Are All Witnesses

For those are currently living under a rock, let me just recap it for you:

With his victory this past Sunday, Tiger Woods has:

- Won all 3 events he’s entered this season, so far.
- Won 6 consecutive events dating back to the 2007 BMW Championship
- Won 8 out his last 9 events
- Tied Ben Hogan on the all-time wins list with 64.
- Made a threat at Byron Nelson’s 11 consecutive tour wins.

If you’re not impressed, then you’re not a golf fan.

And for even guy like Bart Bryant (#137 World Rank) who played his heart out this past Sunday at the Palmer Invitational, he has to wonder to himself, “How in the world is Tiger making it look so easy?”

Isn’t that sort of the trick?

Isn’t that why we’re so impressed?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Arnie’s Invite (Round 3)

Normally, I wouldn’t refer to a golf tournament’s Leaderboard as the plague, but it was seemingly avoided as scores plummeted in windy conditions at Bay Hill.

As expected, Tiger Woods made his run up the board with 3 birdies on his 4 four holes of 3rd round play. A 4-under 66 is what he went into the clubhouse with, as 4 other players are tied with Woods for first place going into Sunday.

Nick Watney’s eagles at hole #s 6 & 12 left him at the top for a moment, only to card a quadruple-bogey 8 on the 485 yard, par-4 16th, leaving him tied for 7th. Bart Bryant found his trouble at 16 as well, but was able to salvage a bogey and keep him at 6-under with the rest of the leaders.

Salvation was found at the par-5 12th, where Brian Davis and Jim Furyk both holed-out for eagle from 100 yards away.

Vijay Singh still has the lead from yesterday, albeit he is tied with 4 others. An atrocious score of 5-over on the front side was quelled with a more consistent back nine of 2 birdies and 7 pars, keeping the mighty Fijian in the hunt.

The round of the day belonged to Sean O’Hair. His 5 birdies and eagle (no bogeys) on the 12th shot him up the leaderboard into the tie for first.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Arnold Palmer Invitation (Round 1 Recap)

Low scores were abound at Bay Hill on Thursday, as J.J. Henry & President Cup captain Fred Couples went into to the clubhouse with a share of the lead, each shooting a 5-under 65 at Arnie’s tournament in Orlando.

Ernie Els withdrew from the tournament on heels of his public announcement regarding his Ben, who suffers from Autism. His replacement, Cliff Kresge, who also has an autistic son, was the first alternate for the Invite. He made it worthwhile as he carded a 3-under 67 and a tie for 7th.

There was a bit of some shot-trickery at he 15th hole, a 425-yard dogleg right boasting low Magnolia trees on either side of the fairway.

Colin Montgomerie found the right rough on his tee shot and made a successful low-lining recovery shot from between two trees, hitting the green in two and making a birdie putt for 3.

Woody Austin found the left rough on the 15th and was literally forced to his knees. Doing his best “Dorf On Golf” impression, he hit a low-iron from his knees and rolled to the ball to within 60 feet of the hole. He carded a par for the hole.

And where’s Tiger??? Middle of the pack at Even par, and by no means out of it.

Harmon’s Full of Himself

John Daly had the dishonor of being uninvited to the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida after missing his tee time for the Pro-Am this past Wednesday.

To make matters worse, Butch Harmon, Daly’s golf coach, dropped him as a client, claiming that Daly’s alcoholism contributed to him being let go.

By the way, Harmon never called Daly to tell him this. He went to the media first and Daly had to find out second-hand that Harmon would no longer be his teacher.

Harmon said, "My whole goal for him was he's got to show me golf is the most important thing in his life. And the most important thing in his life is getting drunk.”

Granted, Daly is no saint. His battles with alcoholism have certainly taken a toll on his golf game and the fact that he missed his tee time certainly reeks of Jameson. Like him or not, is an incorrigible person and does things his way. He’s also got two major championships to his credit (’91 PGA, ’95 British), which is two more than a lot of other golfers on tour.

Therefore, I call B.S. on Butch Harmon and in a big way.

Harmon wants the public to believe that he was doing John Daly a service by trying to convince him that golf should be “the most important thing in his life”, as if Daly could be cured of his ills through golf.

Butch Harmon is nothing more than a golf teacher, pure and simple. He extols the virtues of his methods to potential clients in the hopes that the people, namely professional golfers will pay him good money in exchange for it.

For Harmon to suggest that he was there above and beyond the scope of golf is asinine. He was out for a paycheck, nothing more.

And whereas Golf should be a big part of any professional Tour player’s life, as it is part of mine as well… it shouldn’t be the most important thing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

West Palm Beach Golf Course (FL)

West Palm Beach Golf Course
7001 Parker Ave.
West Palm Beach, FL 33405
(561) 822-1591/(561) 822-1593

If there ever were a case to make for a ‘classic course’, then the WPBGC (I’m not typing out the full name throughout the course of this review) makes a strong case for being the Studebaker of South Florida.

The clubhouse has not been updated since 1947 and g-d bless ‘em, for they’ve even kept a sign in the pro shop showing the rates ‘With & Without caddy’. It was $3.50 & $2.50, respectively.

The course is a good mix of rolling fairways and tree-laden rough and best of all for the hackers, there is not one lake on the course. So leave the ball retriever in the trunk. But do not mistake the lack of water for a weak challenge. Any shot finding the rough will ultimately have a questionable lie, one that won’t allow for a clubhead to get square to the ball. Shade trees in the rough will also hinder approach shots.

WPBGC harkens back to the days pre-Golden Tee where a course didn’t need the bells & whistles of big lakes and undulating greens. The course layout forces the player to shoot straight with little room for rescue on errant shots. Distance here means nothing.

You may as well go to grandpa’s house, find his old Persimmon-wood driver, grab the first mashie you see and go play on West Palm Beach’s timeless track.

It’s worth every penny.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Winston Trails (FL)

Winston Trails Golf Club
6101 Winston Trails Blvd.
Lake Worth, FL 33463
(561) 439-3700

Golfers of all levels will appreciate the challenge that Winston Trails provides, and it’s not too hard on the pocketbook during the spring months either (at least by Southeastern Florida standards).

On the day I played, thunderstorms had moved in overnight and drenched the course. However, there was hardly any standing water on the course, meaning that Winston Trails has a good, proper drainage system.

Yeah, the sun played a part in drying up the course too, but I’ve played some places where there were more lakes than fairways after a storm. So I’m kissing the course superintendent’s ass on this one.

It’s a well-run, well-maintained course… period.

Nearly 7,000 yards from the tips, Winston Trails boasts two eerily similar holes that can completely wreck your scorecard if you are not careful.

Holes #9 & #11 both take right turns (‘doglegs’) boasting water up the right side of the fairway from tee to green. A left-to-right wind will most certainly put your drive in the drink, so think again before you grip it & rip it across the lake.

Monday, March 10, 2008

37 putts and a sunburn later…

So there I was, 3 hours early for a 12:30pm tee time, which is fine except it gives a guy a lot to think about before he puts a peg under it and plays in his first golf tournament… ever.

A lot to think about.

Thunderstorms had drenched the course at Winston Trails (Lake Worth, FL) and there was a 2-club wind (see the weather link below, I crap you negative) to boot.

But the clouds went away, the Floridian sun shone, the course dried out and above everything, I forgot to put on my sunscreen.

I practiced putts for about 30 minutes (off an on before my tee time) from about 10 feet in, using the wisdom of putting guru Cameron Strachan ( through every last putt:

Be as still as possible when reading the break. Body still, eyes still. Don’t linger too long over the putt. Just putt it, already. Count to ten. Breathe.

I easily missed 70% of the practice putts.

I carded an 88. Here’s the breakdown of putts on the day.

One-putts: 5
Two-putts: 9
Three-putts: 2
Four-putts: 2. That’s right. You putt everything in the hole in tournament play, no gimmes. You think 3-putts hurt? 4-putts make you want to bend your putter around your neck.

That’s a grand total of 37 putts on the day. All things considered, I liked my round. My putting, however, needs some improvement. If there is a ‘moral’ victory in all of this, it’s the fact that out of 18 holes, I made two-putts or less on 14 of them.

But I go back to the process and the routine that I have learned and used through Cameron Strachan and will hopefully evolve my putting struggles into an unconscious skill.

Once I do, a single-digit handicap will not be too far behind.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Smooth Move, Tripp

Golf professional and current Nationwide Tour member Tripp Isenhour should probably consult with Michael Vick’s attorney.

He has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and killing a migratory bird in the state of Florida, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 months in jail and $1,500 in fines.

According to a report filed by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, a Red-shouldered hawk constantly interrupted Isenhour during the taping of an instructional video. Isenhour hit golf balls at the bird from distances of 300 yards, but to no avail. Finally, when the bird moved within 75 yards, he took a few more shots before finally connecting and killing the hawk, a protected migratory species.

Should the Commission’s report be true, and in matters of animal cruelty I tend to side with the law, let me state unequivocally that what Isenhour was wrong.

Allegedly, Isenhour did say, “I’ll get him now,” and took aim for the hawk.

To address the ball and aim purposefully at the bird shows that Isenhour did this with malicious intent. This also displays his impatience, which doesn’t really bode well in a sport like golf.

Oh, and he’s opened the door for those grandstanding PETA douche-bags as well.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Two-Way Cabin Fever

As some of you may or may not know, I will be traveling to West Palm Beach, Florida for my first of what I hope will be many tournaments on The Golf Channel’s Amateur Tour.

I’ve been reading up on my rules, hitting balls at the dome, even practicing putting in my apartment. I’m psyched but I’m also realistic with my expectations. To come home with some hardware would be nice, but that would simply be the cherry on top of the sundae.

Visualization, focus, straightforward thinking, breathing, patience. These are attributes, amongst others that I know, if applied correctly, should contribute to a low score and hopefully, victory.

I have to say that after days of going between shoveling snow and being homebound due to sub-zero Arctic chill, it’s time to actually get something done, like post a score.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Blame The Ecomony, If You Wish

I saw the headline of this article and was irked to say the least.

Paul Vitello’s piece in the New York Times referred to some numbers from the National Golf Foundation, which stated that the number of people who play golf 25 times a year or more had fallen nearly 33% since the year 2000. The number of ‘casual’ players (8 rounds or less/year) was also dwindling.

And the golf industry (namely the golf industry on Long Island, NY) needed to get creative to make ends meet. Golf facilities like the Great Rock Golf Club erected a 4,000 square foot tent at their golf course (just off the 18th green) for social gatherings, weddings, and the like.

The article goes on to explain other mitigating factors behind this decline:

TIME CONSTRAINTS – golf is supposed to be a four-hour round (5 hours for hackers and dipsticks who don’t play ‘Ready Golf’) and for some people with families, it’s too much time out of the day.

DECLINE IN OUTDOOR ACTIVITY – more people are staying indoors and watching TV, kids/teens are playing video games.

OVERBUILDING/COMPETITION – according to the article, between 1990 and 2003, more than 3,000 golf courses were built in the US, riding golf’s popularity and capitalizing on a Baby Boomer generation that would be going into retirement.

Let me say that all of these are viable reasons, but what I believe the article is lacking…

Let me rephrase that.

The one factor that isn’t mentioned is CONSUMER INSIGHT.

Let me give you an example:

Some time ago, I played a course near Tucson, Arizona called The Pines of Marana. Overall, their facility was crappy at best. There was too much standing water on the course and it’s on the edge of the Sonoran Desert. The layout reminded me of Golden Tee and it’s proximity to the highway made it abnormally windy. Last but not least, their halfway house didn't have any food ready to go, making me wait 15 minutes for a boiled hot dog, chips & drink.

It’s safe to say that I will never play there again. Through my blog, I have urged other golfers to do the same.

My point is that golf courses, like restaurants and retail stores, despite their setbacks, controllable or uncontrollable, will always be at the mercy of the golfer’s (consumers) expectations and not wholly on socio-economic criteria.

Golf clubs like Great Rock aren’t necessarily suffering because of a dwindling golf population.

I would ask the brass at Great Rock to ask their consumers what they think of their course. It may be suffering because their golfers are spending their money on a different course that may be nicer, better groomed, better staffed and operated more professionally.

I'm not sure if this aspect was covered by Vitello and there's no evidence that the golf clubs he profiled are worth their salt.

Bottom line, if a golf course isn’t worth greens fee and the ground it lays upon, the consumer simply won’t play it again.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Easy Does It

Some Tour professionals may never win an event. For some pros, it can be a decade between victories. But for Ernie Els, 3 years and 5 months was long enough, as his final round score of 67 propelled him to victory on Sunday at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

"We play out here to win," Els said. "I guess we get addicted to that feeling and, when you don't get your rush, so to speak, you miss it. I definitely missed winning over here."

Els carded 4 birdies on the front nine and was able avoid trouble on the back, making his only bogey of the day at the 17th hole, the tail end of the Jack Nicklaus-designed “Bear Trap”.

The leaders going into Sunday couldn’t stay there. Luke Donald, Matt Jones and Mark Calcavecchia each played their rounds over par and could not drop enough strokes to catch Els.

It wasn’t easy for Ernie. His 1st-round exit at the WGC-Accenture as well as a painful loss at this years’ Dubai Desert Classic (he missed two par putts within 5 feet on the final two holes) put the 38 year-old South African under the microscope.

This was a much-needed victory for Els, whom many thought was heading for the downside of his career and losing his touch. But that hardly matters to Els.

"I am 38 right now and I can, quite easily, go and enjoy my kids and go build golf courses and stuff," he explained. "But I really still want to achieve a lot in the game and I still want to win a lot."

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Donald Ducks Nothing

Luke Donald rebounded from his poor outing on Friday to a tie for the lead at the Honda Classic, carding a 3rd round score of 66. He made 4 birdies on the day including 2 at the Bear Trap on hole #s 16 & 17. Much like his opening round, Donald went bogey-less.

Donald shares the lead with Australian Matt Jones and Veteran tour player Mark Calcavecchia, who likes the proximity of the tournament to his house.

"It'd be pretty special to win a tour event three miles from your driveway," said Calcavecchia, who is no stranger to the tournament or the course. A two-time Honda Classic champion (1987, 1998) and part-time resident of Palm Beach Gardens, the 48 year-old has played relatively flawless golf, with all 3 of his rounds coming in at Even-par or better.

Matt Jones has made the cut in all 6 events he’s entered this season. After grinding it out on the Nationwide Tour, he was able to finish 7th on the Nationwide Money List and automatically gained his PGA Tour card.

Jones believes he’s ready to succeed.

“I might not have been ready to come out here two, three years ago. It might have been hurtful if I had," Jones said. "I think playing the Nationwide Tour was the best thing that could have happened."

Should Jones win the Honda, he may have a new ‘best thing’.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Namaste’ and Nine-Irons

It’s not like golf was non-existent in India.

Under British rule, there were 100 golf courses, usually under the operation of the Royal British Forces. After India gained its independence in 1947, about another 100 courses were built. That makes 200 courses for roughly 1 billion people, which, one would surmise, make tee times rare and at a premium.

Or, take into account that India’s middle class has yet to really blossom. Almost 28% of India’s population still lives below the poverty line, with just over 80% of the population living on less than $2 (USD)/per day.

Or, take into account that Cricket has always been the most popular sport in India.

However, with their recent loss in the Cricket World Cup, golf has gained popular ground in India through some of its own countrymen.

SSP Chowrasia, recently won the Indian Masters, the European PGA Tour’s first-ever event in India. Arjun Atwal has been a touring professional since 1995, and is now back on the Nationwide Tour after a 4-year stint on the PGA circuit.

But nobody has assisted the ascension of golf’s popularity better than Sir Jeev Milkha Singh. Singh, who was given the esteemed “Padma Shri” by the President of India (kind of like being knighted), recently accepted an invitation to the 2008 Masters at Augusta National.

Also on his list of Indian firsts:

First to play PGA European Tour, first to play in US PGA Tour qualifying, and was the first Indian golfer to play in a US Open (1997-Bethpage).

This week, the city of New Delhi hosts the Johnnie Walker Classic. This is the 2nd of three golf tournaments the country will host this year.

With its burgeoning economy and relative position in the ‘global’ economy, it’s easy to see why the game of Golf has taken a firm hold in India.

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