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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

This year’s Masters lived up to promise, yet with different contenders than predicted. Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen were on no one’s radar, and I mean no one’s. My ears picked up not one Golf Channel pundit uttering either name. Bubba Watson! Are you kidding me? I cringe every time I see him swing. I really do. The swing looks like a cat getting a bath. The guy has more club head rotation than a boomerang. He falls backwards as his front foot slips out to the right. He passes parallel almost as much as John Daly, but without the lovely rhythm and form of JD. The sound of his shots, at least from my limited auditory perspective on TV, is more a clunk or a clank than a click. And Bubba, when in contention, has more nervous ticks than a kipper has bones as he prances, twitching down the fairway. But damn, if Bubba Watson didn’t win the 76th Masters.

The man can curve a golf ball, can’t he. From a driver to a wedge, he can hook or slice, fade or draw, a ball at will. The wedge is the most remarkable. Nobody curves and carves a wedge like Bubba. You really shouldn’t be able to hook a wedge, but Bubba can. You really shouldn’t be able to slice a 6-iron 40 yards around a tree to the green, but Bubba can. You really shouldn’t be able to hit a 9-iron under a tree (more…)

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We’ve all felt it. A tightening of the muscles around the neck. A lump in the throat. A rising of blood to the forehead. A quickening heartbeat. Sweaty palms. In golf, it’s particularly troublesome, we are told. It’s a game that requires precision timing and coordination. It requires being in the moment, dealing only with the matter at hand, namely wielding an unwieldy metal club, attempting to hit a small white dimpled ball to a target over 300 yards away. Any tightening, sweating, beating, or blood rising beyond the norm will truncate that process and dynamite any chance for success. We feel it elsewhere too, like at work when the our supervisor comes by and asks to have a “word with you,” or when a cop pulls us over, or when our spouse “needs to talk.” Pressure greets us almost daily with its bared teeth and a scowl. An overdue phone bill. Noisy neighbors that need quieting. Humans have always known it. We have much experience dealing with it, yet it’s as difficult to handle now as it was in the caves of France thousands of years ago.

In golf, no tournament is as pressure packed as a match play event, like the one being played this week in the Arizona desert. Every hole is as pressure packed as the last, and the last may well be your last before your flight home. How do these guys handle it? How do they maintain their level of concentration? How do they keep their swings from crumbling (more…)

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He has been with us longer than Tiger now. He has played in the wake of Tiger, sometimes awash in that wake. As Tiger has made several major swing changes, Phil has essentially stuck with the same swing. It’s familiar to us, his fans. He approaches the ball like a gladiator, pulls the trigger, and whips back his flail just past parallel, and unleashes a drive that no one, no where , knows exactly where it will land. He looks apprehensively to the right or the left, as do all golfers in heaven. The very Earth tilts farther in the looking. Quakes and volcanoes trigger. Rivers flood. Fish leap. Mountains slide. Golfers spill their beer. Phil tips his cap. Earth breathes a sigh. He’s in the fairway.

Phil’s a good guy. People pull for him. People want him to win, especially lately. Phil is running out of time, and it shows.  He has some kind of arthritic condition, the name of which sounds much worse than arthritis itself. Phil has experienced a perfect storm of maladies. His wife Amy is being treated for cancer, as has Amy’s mom. One of Phil’s daughters had a seizure and spent the night in a hospital. This shouldn’t be happening to one as blessed as Phil, but Phil takes life, and golf, as it comes, with a strong dose of courage and guts and perseverance.

Phil has won four majors. He knows, we all know, it should be double that, and not just because of Tiger. Phil takes chances. Phil the Thrill, all the guys at Bennett Valley call him. A train wreck (more…)

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I was watching the first couple of tournaments recently and was astounded at how lackluster the field was. I would guess the ratings were in the tank, as the only things that would draw viewers were the warm venues. Personally, I tuned into the match between Sam Snead and Bob Hope instead of seeking out David Toms and Mark Wilson. Over at the Champions Tour, there was Brad Bryant apologizing for his 65, more surprised than anyone that he chipped and putted his way to the top of the leaderboard. Tiger hadn’t started his season yet, flying off to Dubai for a huge appearance fee and a joust with the crackerjacks of the European Tour. This blog has predicted he will win just about everything this year, and has advised him to do so then quit competitive golf and concentrate on his foundation. Bobby Jones did this, as did Byron Nelson, and they had no sex scandals to face down. Whether Tiger stays or goes, professional golf goes downhill. He could stay and dominate, or he could go and fade away. Either way, golf suffers. The current crop in their late 20s and early 30s are not strong enough to hold up the high bar of professional golf on all levels of accomplishment. Woods was the last of the lot, and look at the bloody mess he left behind, an irreparable heap of emotional horsecrap laying by the side of the road. And please, don’t feed me all the sanctimonious BS about Tiger haters. I don’t hate Tiger. I’m angry at him for taking himself down along with the game he built up.

Golf requires what the Buddhists call impeccability, which is (more…)

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Golf in the Kingdom, the movie, goes deep into the heart and soul of the game. It’s the first golf movie I’ve ever seen where the main characters actually know how to swing a golf club. And nobody talks in cliches. There’s a realness to the film that stopped me cold and made me think even as I was watching, although I really didn’t want to think given the beauty of the landscape and the moody light of a Scottish links filmed, actually, at Bandon Dunes on the Oregon coast. The light and the landscape drew me into the film, while the dialogue held me spellbound. The game of golf was the keystone, of course, but life was the sun that kept it all energized. There  are few mulligans in life, where all strokes, even ones from a wayward waggle, need to be counted and accounted for. The skeptics derisively say, “Golf: it’s not even a sport.” And I reply, “That’s right: It’s a game, the greatest game ever played.”

It’s a game, like life is a game, unfair, cruel at times–it knocks you down, (more…)

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You’ve heard it said time after time by touring pros: I just have to be patient, when asked what they’re plan is for the upcoming round. But what exactly does that mean, especially in a society where few people seem to know what it means to be patient?  How many patient drivers have you seen lately? How many patient fans have you seen at the ballpark? Who’s patient at the DMV? And what about the foursome behind you? Were they patient when you last checked?

It is no easy thing to be patient. It has long been a virtue, as Emerson wrote in the mid 19th century,”Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience”.* I learned about patience on Buddhist retreats, (more…)

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