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Monday, September 08, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
I don't think I'm alone on this. I marvel, every time I play, that I continue to have to learn golf's same basic lessons time and time again. Here's just one example.
I started this season working on everything in my game; from full swing to putting and all the stuff in between. One by one they all progressed and I began shooting some pretty good scores. Of course there were ups and downs, but the general direction was good. I was even able to start working the ball. But nothing ever stays constant in golf. I started to get hungrier for better scores. If I can shoot 76, why not 72.
You see where I'm going with this if you have spent even one season trying to learn this game. If you play a round and make a birdie, you want two birdies the next time out. And why not. The more you play the better you should get - except if the game is golf.
The more I wanted to score better the more my scores went the other way. Every part of my game began to suffer. I started to lose confidence standing over shots, which only caused worse shots. I got to the point where I really wasn't excited about playing.
I laid off for a week and then I got an invitation from a from a friend to play a nine hole course. Why not? I'll play and I won't give a damn I said to myself. The night before I went out into the yard and just casually swung my club. It was only then that I realized I was choking the living bejessus out of it. Maybe I just needed to lighten up. Isn't this the problem that 95% of all amateurs have?
I went out the next day, kept my left arm straight (I'm a righty), pulled with the left arm on the down swing and kept the grip very very light. It's probably no surprise to anyone that I hit the ball well that day. What always surprises me, is why did I forget such a basic concept? Over the years I must have told myself to keep the grip light a hundred times. It seems that I forget something basic every other week and then it takes me weeks to figure it out again for the umpteenth time. Is golf destined to be Groundhog Day forever?
I can't help but think that most everyone else is in the same boat. I'd love to hear from others out there if your own experience is similar. I've decided to write down on a card what I think the basics for me are, keep it in my golf bag and read it before I begin a round. I'm not talking the encyclopedia, just 7 or 8 keys. I don't know if it will work, but I'm going to give it a try. Let me know what works for you.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Is it just me, or has Sergio Garcia matured as a player through the course of the last 12 months? He lost last year at the British Open in a typical Sergio emotional 'it's not fair' attitude. Then a new Sergio, a 'get it done no matter what happens' emerges at the Players Championship. Sergio was certainly emotional there, but not to the point that it kept him moving past bad luck and bad shots. Even though he barely missed winning the British Open and did well at the US Open, something was noticeably different. For one, he was right there through ups and downs. He never quit and he didn't blame his losses on outside forces.
I thought it was telling when he four putted at the PGA he said afterwards that he didn't feel that bad because he hit good putts. Now that may sound crazy, but that's the way a great putter thinks. Sergio was gracious in his losses and you could sense that instead of acting like his best opportunities for a major were slipping by, he was thinking that he was just getting closer to reeling in his first one. His ball striking is second to none and he looks like he's finding his putter. If he does, there isn't any tournament he can't win.
I think we'll know that Sergio is going to a new level of play if he goes out now and wins a couple of regular tour events between now and the Masters, either in Europe or the US. And watch him in the Ryder Cup. He's shown brightly there in the past, but this year he may actually be dominating.
Anything can happen, but what's most likely to happen? Let's look at the facts the best we can. The Europeans certainly are the favorites having won five out of the last six competitions. Maybe they haven't always had the best players on paper, but they have the winning formula in mindset and team play. They will be the most confident because of their dominant play over more than 20 years even when they've been out gunned. They'll have less pressure on them because they come from many different countries and don't have an overbearing 'you're playing for your country' attitude. They have a laid back coach in Faldo. He knows what it takes to win, which is to leave your pro players alone and make sure they enjoy themselves. He knows how to play to win, but has never lost sight of the fact that 'it's just a game'. And they have three solid anchors on the team in Harrington, Westwood and Garcia.
Can the US Team win? Certainly, anything can happen in golf as in most sports. The US has many great players on the team in the first 8 that have been announced. There's enough new blood that they won't be affected by the last 24 years - unless Azinger makes the mistake of shoving it down their young throats. Without Tiger, they are missing the solid closer. Phil always plays with too many ups and downs over the course of three days. You never know which Phil is going to show up on the next tee, he doesn't have the killer/closer instinct of Tiger and who do you pair him with.
What does the US Team have going for itself? For one, a really interesting blend of old standbys and exciting new talent. Then you might include a laid back 'best thing to happen to golf' guy in Rocco Mediate. Add in to that mix Kenny Perry, a good ole boy who has made it this years goal to play in front of his home state fans in Kentucky and who then proceeded to tear up the US tour. Azinger's job is to take the 'must win' monkey off these guys back and tell them he wants them to have the time of their lives. Imagine Rocco cracking his jokes, Boo Weekly blasting 350 yard drives and Phil playing with just one driver and four wedges. Let these guys work the crowd, sign some autographs and give a few high fives. Tell them the most important thing they have to do is smile. And then throw in a Woody Austin in full scuba gear. Do that and we'll have a competition worthy of watching, regardless of who wins.
Friday, August 08, 2008
I hadn't played this course for more than 30 years and had completely forgotten what it's like, until yesterday when I played with some friends. My jaw dropped right on the 1st tee. This thing looked like an old course - slightly meandering fairway with beautiful fairway bunkers flanked on the sides and back with natural grasses up to 15 inches high. I thought I was in Scotland. And the trees! In case you haven't noticed, most all the great courses from the Mississippi east have beautiful old trees. Triggs is filled with them. They are big enough to play under, but they shape every hole, dictating landing areas and approaches. The greens are classically undulating and sloped. Get on the wrong side of the pin and you've just given yourself another stroke 4 out of 5 times. And the greens have marvelous shapes and contours and are set at interesting angles to the fairway approach. They also have the rough high enough around the greens to penalize, but not so high that a decent golfer can't the ball close.
There are no tricked-up holes - with the exception of 16. By tricked-up, I mean those ridiculous short par 4's that have 90 degree turns in them. And I may be unfairly dinging 16 here. It does have a tight turn to it, but the real problem is two massive oaks on the corner. But you can still sneak it by them on the left or even go under them. I'm probably sour grapes because I took my first double of the day there.
After we finished playing I made the comment that if Triggs was private - meaning fewer rounds played and more money for course maintenance - it would be the best course in the state. The other golfers agreed immediately. But of course, I couldn't play it then. Triggs Memorial is a real gem. It just fits the eye perfectly. Everything is in the right proportion and it's in great shape for a public course. Bottom line; if you're from out of state play it when you're here. You won't be disappointed. If you're in state, forget I ever wrote this and go play somewhere else, please.
Don't just get one hybrid, go buy yourself a bunch. The sooner you do this the better your scoring will be. I've written about this before. I've got one in my bag and it's been great. But now I've seen the light that I only suspected was there before - these things make you better and it's not just for your 2 iron. Go ahead and replace the 3 and 4. Once you do that you'll probably go even higher.
So what's the holdup on loading up our bags with these new clubs? A little bit of pride and the old adage that habits die hard. If you're a student of golf history you probably know that Gene Sarazen designed and created the modern day sand wedge in the early 1930's. People didn't immediately take notice, until he started winning all over the place.
This is where we're at with hybrids. There are still some people who think they are whimpy - real golfers still hit 3 irons. Maybe not 2 irons, but definitely 3 irons. I confess that I was still in that camp until Tuesday. What happened to open my eyes? I played with a friend who I can beat 9 out of 10 times and we tied, that's what. This is a guy who couldn't hit anything between his 5 wood and his 7 iron. He's also a big slicer. Now he's got a bag full of hybrids and he's a new golfer. Not only can he reach greens from 150 yards and out, his confidence has gone up. This, in turn, has made him a better chipper. I guess you start getting confident over more clubs in your bag and it is catching.
He still hits a wicked slice off the tee which kills his distance. But now he's actually dangerous from the fairway. Out comes the hybrid and, voila, he's pin high. He used to think bogey was a good score, not anymore!
I've had the 3 iron out of the bag for awhile and haven't replaced it with anything - big hole. And if I'm honest with myself the 4 iron just doesn't go like it used to. Sometimes I catch it, but I can't depend on it. I have a hybrid to replace my 2 iron. Now it's time to pony up for two more to replace the 3 and 4. Who knows, the 5 may go the way of the dinosaur before this is over. Go ahead and laugh you diehards. That is until you see who's buying at the 19th hole.
Posted by John at Friday, August 08, 2008