Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cure For The Ryder Cup

Most of us watched at least some of the Ryder Cup matches. If you didn't get caught up in the hype or nationalism you saw some pretty good golf along the way. There were lots of chip-ins, tough shots made under intense pressure and even two holes-in-one. Despite all that, the Ryder Cup is on the verge of becoming ho-hum. The outcome has become as predictable as sunrise. If history teaches us something, viewer interest will begin to wane big time once we realize we know who's always going to win. I think we've reached that point.

Forget all the ideas about 'fixing' what's wrong with the US Team. It isn't going to happen. We breed a certain kind of player here. When you reward players one way for 99% of the matches they're in, it's silly to think you can counter all that for one competition that happens every two years that doesn't really do anything for their pocketbook. The way the Ryder Cup is now played, it favors Europeans and the kind of golf they play on the European tour. The Majors favor the kind of golf that is played on the American tour. The facts seem to prove that.

So instead of trying to do the impossible, the powers that be should change the Ryder Cup if they want to save it from the 'who cares' scrap pile. They don't even have to change the format of the matches. After all, team play is what makes the Cup worthwhile watching in the first place. Otherwise, it would never rank up there in popularity with the Majors.

Just add a third team, thereby letting the rest of the world play. It would mean more great golf in a team format. We'd get to see everyone we get now, plus Singh, Els, Goosen, Ogilvy et al. Ryder Cup golf stands out because almost every shot counts. In regular tournament play it's only the top few players that matter on Sunday. On the PGA Tour, if Jim Furyk hits a shot into the water on 18, it's not even worth a mention if he's not in the top 6 or 7. In Ryder Cup it's major. All this adds up to more golf shots that matter than your normal tournament, even a major.

EXCEPT, that is, if one of the teams is out of the competition almost from the start. Maybe the Asia/Africa/Australia team could pick up the slack from the Americans. The announcers and odds-makers could all go crazy trying to figure out the expanded number of hypothetical outcomes generated by a third team, the pundits would have 50% more to write about, and the excitement might go back into the game for the viewers. Looks like a Win Win Win to me!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Ryder Cup Blues

Most of us watched at least some of the Ryder Cup matches. If you didn't get caught up in the hype or nationalism you saw some pretty good golf along the way. There were lots of chip-ins, tough shots made under intense pressure and even two holes-in-one. Despite all that, the Ryder Cup is on the verge of becoming Ho-Hum. The outcome has become as predictable as sunrise. If history teaches us something, viewer interest will begin to wane big time once we realize we know who's always going to win.

Don't let the media pundits scam you. Forget all the hoopla about the US needing better - read tougher - captains. These are the best players in the world. Having some hard ass yell in the faces of multi-millionaire golfing studs is not going to get them to play better. Telling the likes of Tiger Woods, Chris DiMarco and Jim Furyk to start yukking it while they play isn't going to work either.

More than half the strength of Tiger's game is his psyche. When he gets that 'look' no one is going to beat him straight up. We've all seen him when he gets in 'the zone'. Something only he seems able to maintain for 18 holes. Stevie could drop 12 clubs in the drink and he could still win when he has that look in his eye. But behind every strength is a weakness. Ask Tiger to play with someone else, engage with them in banter and read each other's putts and you have a prescription for failure. Tiger is Tiger because of the 'zone'. When he's taken out of it, he's just another good pro golfer.

On the other hand, look at Sergio. He's never lived up to his potential in regular tournament play. Five years ago who wouldn't have predicted he'd have multiple majors by now. Turns out his volatile persona works against him on Sunday. He can't find and stay in the zone. But put him in team play and he's proving to be the best 'team' golfer in the world. It plays to his emotional volatility. He feeds off it.

Americans should forget about focusing on the team captain. The best a Ryder Cup captain can do is to manage the peripheral items like travel, accommodations, press relations, and making sure that players that despise each other don't have to play together. If you want to be controversial, then bench Tiger for the foursomes. It's not his game.

Tomorrow I'll tell the powers at be how to save the Ryder Cup.

Friday, September 15, 2006

AJ Bonar - Who's zooming who?

I read a lot of the golf magazines that are out there. Partly they're interesting and partly it's my job to be up on what's happening in the world of golf. I past most attention to the intsructional pieces, of which there seem to be thousands. Maybe there's too much advice floating around to be useful, but on technical analysis most of it is sound. The problem for most of us amateurs is what 3 things to focus on out of the hundreds of possibilites we are given.

But something out of the norm caught my eye in the most recent GOLF magazine. It's an article about a 'secret' move or to quote the story 'the biggest secret you've never been told'. So what is this wonderful tip that the 'best players already make'? According to the story, which is about a teacher called A.J. Bonar, it's rolling your wrists through impact.

Somebody help me out, is this really a secret. Either I'm a savant or this is what every instructional book I've read or looked at (and that must be at least 30) has talked about. It's not the 'only' thing a golfer has to do for sure, but it seems like a basic component of every modern teacher's instruction.

I take exception with the article because 1) it presents the information like it's something that no amateur has ever heard about and 2) intimates that renowned teachers like McLean, Leadbetter and Flick don't teach it. Who's zooming who here. I can't decipher if it's A. J. Bonar or an editor of GOLF magazine. I'd guess that the aforementioned teachers would take exception to the claims of the article. Of course, with headlines like "Everything you know about the swing is wrong" you might expect to sell more magazines. But how often can you challenge your readers intelligence before they catch on. And how does that help promote the game of golf which everyone in the golf industry needs to survive. Golf isn't growing in the US and it appears that the powers that be don't know how to change this sad fact.

Michelle Wie, Your Not A Kid Anymore!

Michelle Wie is the teenage phenomenon of women's golf. Or at least her handlers - read father in this case - has billed her that way. She's done alright on the LPGA and though she hasn't won, I'm sure she will some day. She hits the ball a long way for a 16 year old. Her short game appears to need some work.

There was a certain anticipation the first time she got an exemption to play in a PGA tournament. It was informative, but not successful. The experiment should have been over at that point. From then on she should have had to earn her spot through a qualifier or Q School like most everyone else.

Now each new attempt she makes at the men's game is more annoying than the last. If you're not caught up in the hype, you can't help but notice that it's all about Michelle Wie. Her father must think it's good for her 'image', gets her name out there and somehow the hype adds to her ability to draw an audience. I've got some advice. The public will give you the benefit of the doubt for only so long even in this media crazed world. Where once you were cute and a novelty, now you are starting to make a mockery of golf itself. If you're going to play in the big leagues, then you no longer can excuse yourself because you're a kid. Professional golf is for adults and when a kid steps on the stage then she's chosen to be an adult whether she's ready or not. Parents are supposed to have the perspective to see what their kids are capable of and advise then accordingly.

Golf is a game steeped in tradition and rules. Professional golfers are supposed to make it on their own. If you play well you get some money, if you don't then better luck next time. There are no guaranteed pay days. If you're an amateur superstar, then you might get an exemption or two. If you don't make it then you go to Q School like everybody else. The clubs are supposed to do the talking.

Michelle Wie certainly knows something about playing the game, but it appears she doesn't know much about the game. I'll give her a pass on her first couple of exemptions just because it brought the game itself some notoriety and was probably motivating to young budding golfers. But my patience has now warn out. From here on in earn your playing time by respecting the game and what others have to go through to get the breaks you've already been given. And I'll be there cheering if you win.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Amazing Tri-Bag

Do yourself a favor and take a look at this innovative new golf bag from Tri Bag. It is quite unique in that it can be pulled OR carried. By pulling the bag, the senior player can save their back much wear and stress, but also have the flexibility to carry at select times, for example, one could then carry the bag to the green if you were not sure what club to use in a short game situation. Conversely, if you are a young adult or junior player pulling your bag it might make sense to pull in multi-day tournaments or the second (or third) round in a loooooong day of golf and, of course, you have the flexibility to carry.

Some other features of the Tri-Bag include:

• Adjustable dual harness - meaning you can shoulder it or "backpack" it

• Featherframe - a unique ultra-light, ultra-thin yet radically rigid polypropylene tube exoskeleton gives outstanding stability and protects your precious back

• Switchblade Handgrip - fully retractable telescoping swan neck grip rotates for right or left hand use and distributes weight evenly for even and smooth pull stability

• Slickwheel System - give optimum terrain traction and bag stability. Wheels detachable in one snap with separate nylon drawstring wheelbag for storage. Sealed twin bearing for cleaner, smoother running. Pull out mud cover protects your car interior

• Color combinations include: black/red, black/silver, black/blue, black/green, royal/pink, pink/white

• ALL Tri Bags include a removeable club rain hood and a separate bag for wheel storage (when not in use)

We encourage you to investigate this state-of-the-art golf cart/bag and see what it can do to further your performance and enjoyment of the game.

Interested in purchasing a Tri-Bag? Then please contact Tri-Bag via their website below who will direct you to your nearest on course, off course or online retailer.

Visit the Tri-Bag website here:

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tiger – Please be reasonable with TPC surgery

Thanks to James Brown for this blog's title. I noticed in the local paper today that the TPC of Boston - the site of Tiger's 5th consecutive win for those living under a rock - will undergo major renovationions for next year's tournament. Alone, this isn't very big news as it seems to happen weekly at this or that major course. But, two facts make this story different; 1) they probably will shorten the course and 2) Tiger's going to be involved.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly, the word is SHORTEN. Seems impossible with every pro hitting the fall further now than they did 20 years ago, especially when you consider this is true for those who went from 25 to 45 years old over that period. For many golf fans this is a very troubling development in the game they love. You can put me in that category. So, when I hear someone say they intend to shorten a course where major championships are held it sure gets my attention. Could there possibly be a refreshing change in the wind? And might the guy whose name is synonymous with long be part of this movement. It certainly is too early to tell, but let's daydream for a moment to see what might be possible.

It's natural to expect that Tiger, sooner rather than later, would get involved with course design. It's been the tradition for the last 30 years that the top pros must also become prolific modern course designers, a la Nicklaus, Player and Palmer. You could certainly make an argument that being a top pro is not a guarantee that you can design a great course, no more than you can say that being a great quarterback will make you a hall of fame coach. Don't get me wrong, I'm not implying the opposite. However, history is replete with example after example of men and women who were great players of some game, but not great in any other aspect of it. Sorry, but isn't being a great athlete blessing enough.

Let's get back to the main point. I'm excited that Tiger is going to get involved in course design, particularly as his own game has taken a much more cerebral approach of late. Isn't this the guy who left his driver in the bag at The Open and who now beats opponents regularly by hitting 4 irons to 15 feet. Tiger's gone from over-powering a course to dissecting them.

When you get proficient at something, like a sport, it's natural to forget what it's like to be a beginner. In the case of golf pros it's almost impossible to remember what it's like to be a bogey golfer with a slice you can't lose for love nor money. When I was a ski instructor, the best thing you could do to teach beginners was to go be a beginner at some other sport yourself so you could remember what it was like. Maybe today's designing pros should try that and rediscover aspects of the game they haven't known since they were using junior clubs and wearing diapers.

Is this going someplace? My point is that modern courses, in the US anyway, are all too typical. There are about 4 variations of one theme - target golf. As much as the likes of Nicklaus, Player and Palmer have claimed to have designed 'links' courses, have they really. If a links course is what they have in Scotland and Ireland, then I think not. Everything in this country is too developed, too 'clean'. God forbid that the traps shouldn't be raked perfectly or have unruly fescue growing around their borders. And fairways must be framed so you know exactly where they are - and aren't. And you've got to use a lot of earth moving equipment to flatten and grade out nature's handiwork. After all, the playing public won't tolerate it, right? Wrong! I think they've greatly misjudged us.

If you've seen the 60 minutes interview with Tiger, you probably remember him saying that as a kid he liked to throw golf balls into the woods and then try to score. Why? because it was fun. And if there's a place on the course that the designers haven't touched it's the woods. But for Tiger, that's where the fun and challenge was. Hmmm.

Tiger still seems to be the guy who has the most fun playing the game and I think that's a more important credential for a course designer than being the best player in the world. Too many of today's designers have lost the subtleties of course design that the classic architects like Alister MacKenzie where geniuses at. The Old Course at St. Andrews may be the best example of classic design, which means it's as challenging for Tiger as it is for you and me. Imagine that - we can both play the same course and have a great time and Tiger doesn't have to be playing from the Tiger tees.

Now that Tiger is developing the best thinking game on top of the best ball striking game, he just may be the messiah that will change modern golf architecture. It's a lot to ask because being the arguably best player ever is more than enough on its own. But Tiger has already shown that he's multi-talented and maybe even a visionary. If you don't understand that, then take a closer look at what he's doing with the Tiger Woods Learning Center.

Home, home on the range
Where the traps are eschew
The fairway is too
And the pros and beginners all play

Golfing is fun
The place is mostly undone
And the skies are not cloudy all day

(My apologies to songwriters everywhere)

Tiger (and Brad Faxon), please, please, please help make golf a fun game again. And the powers that be, please chip in and help them. We need more golfers playing more rounds and what you've been doing for the last 20 years isn't working. Take a walk on the wild side.

P.S. please take a look a limiting ball flight while you're at it.