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Archive for the ‘Tiger Woods’ Category

More than any other golf tournament in the world, the Masters carries a mystique that elevates golf to the gods. This year Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer, three of the greatest who ever played the game, will hit ceremonial balls off the first tee to start the tournament. Can you name another tournament that starts like this? All past Masters winners gather for a dinner the night before the start to feast on a meal sponsored by last year’s winner. Can you name another tournament that does that? The Masters was conceived and developed by Bobby Jones, winner of the Grand Slam, and perhaps the greatest golfer ever, all things considered. Can you name another tournament with those bona fides and ancestry? While we still debate whether to call The Open, the British Open, only one word is needed to identify the Masters, worldwide. And a win (or a loss) at the Masters can define a career.

Take Fred Couples, when, in 1992, we all held our collective breath as his tee ball somehow stopped on the steep embankment in front of the par 3 12th green. One more turn and it would have tumbled into Rae’s Creek, his Masters hopes dashed as he battled the formidable Raymond Floyd for the title. In 1996, we remember the loser much more than the winner. Greg Norman took a 6-shot lead into the final round, only to lose by five to Nick Faldo. Faldo shot 67 to Norman’s 78, (more…)

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We hear a lot about what golf needs to thrive. First, let me say golf will survive now and for as long as people walk this beautiful Earth. Golf will never not be. The bug was released the first time a Scotsman fashioned a club and struck a ball of some sort. Others saw this, tried it for themselves, heard and felt a certain clickit, or thrump, or whompit, and needed to try that again. Golf is not a sport or game: It’s a habit, and it embeds deep within. My father tried to play golf but his extra-ego wouldn’t allow it. Golf will pulverize an extra-ego. He gave his Bobby Jones signature clubs to me and inadvertently got me started on a lifelong journey. I was the first in my family to play the game and would have turned pro if I’d gotten any support to do so. But once I’d experienced the exhilaration of a finely hit golf shot, I was hooked, and have stayed hooked (with a few years off the hook for good behavior) for over 50 years.

So not to worry about the fate of the game. As long as a ball stings the sweet spot of a club from time to time, the game will remain intact. It might ebb and flow according to the vicissitudes of society, TV ratings may vary according to whether Tiger is in the field, golf courses may go bankrupt, but golf will endure. There are, though, a few things that golf needs and doesn’t need.

1. Power carts. Seeing a couple of 25 year old yahoos in carts is an abomination of what golf was intended. Golf was and is a game (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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Winter is a time to prepare for the new golf season, mentally and physically. Golf is tough enough for you to try to play much in winter. When I was a kid just starting to play the game in Philly, I’d put on three sweatshirts and play Cobbs Creek for 50 cents on frozen ground with 25 degrees temps. Cold? What cold? I felt no cold as the ball would roll about a million miles (as Rocco would put it), much to my delight. But that was then. Now, in my older middle age, my body and mind just can’t take the cold, wind, rain, and mud of winter, even in relatively mild northern California (I do get out a bit more this winter as we’ve had practically no rain and temps in the 60s so far). Instead, I watch the pros start off the season in Hawaii, swing a bit on my patio, putt  on the rug with a device that guides me into a slight open/close pendulum stroke, joined a gym, and have purchased some very helpful apps for my iPhone/iPad.

My favorite app is Golf My Way by Jack Nicklaus. I love Jack’s breezy, personal style, from filming made at the height of his powers back in the early (more…)

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There are two Tiger Woods. One is Tournament Tiger with the game face, with the head down, determined, focused, take no prisoners attitude, give no succor, defeat all comers, Sir Lanciliger who will even dally with whores to satisfy his desires. This Tiger ignores his fans, speaks only to his caddy, gives clipped interviews, considers no others, will go to any means to win, answers no questions, is in a state of recalcitrance. The other is Twitter Tiger, kicking back, smiling, one of the boys, joking, hanging, easy, cool, cap on backwards, T and shorts, playing with his kids, watching TV on a Saturday night by himself, helping Notah with his foundation, helping thousands, if not millions, of kids with his own foundation. Yes, despite the scandals and obnoxious behavior on and off the course, Tiger has continued to help children succeed and gain confidence with his very effective foundation. Let’s not forget that. He does not profit from this work, as far as I know. It is a self-less giving to the community that his father, Earl, and he started in 1996.

Woods is proud of his foundation, and rightly so. You can see it in his face when he is pictured with some of the kids he’s helped or leading a clinic. It’s that old Tiger smile, relaxed yet energized, humble yet excited for what he has accomplished, impassioned.

Here’s my advice to Tiger Woods, for what it’s worth, on this second day of 2012. As did Bobby Jones, set yourself the task of winning the Grand Slam this year. Upon succeeding and having a ticker tape parade in New York, retire from competitive golf, as did Jones, tied at 18 majors with Jack Nicklaus, and devote the rest of your life to the Tiger Woods Foundation. Judging from your last two tournaments, you could accomplish this. You’ve got your mojo back. Your name would be immortalized in the annals of golf for you would have done a noble deed, sharing the podium with Jack, and leaving the game a hero, as did Jones and Nelson before you. They decided enough was enough, putting ambition aside, assuming an emeritus role in golf’s highest echelons. Even if you didn’t achieve the Grand Slam, even if you fell short of Jack’s record, such an action would tell the world you are a man with a higher purpose than just to win golf tournaments. Your Foundation, and the children it helps, would still prosper, perhaps more so than now. And most of all, you would know and feel the spirit of your father smiling down upon you. Wishing you well in the New Year, Tiger. Thanks for helping all those children.

And you, dear reader, a very happy, healthy New Year. May this game of ours bring you continued pleasure and joy.

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OK, it’s not a penalty (as I’ve discovered from a number of readers who’ve commented), but why does one of the best players in golf history have to resort to looking in another player’s bag. Have you ever seen Nicklaus do it? Or Palmer? Or Player? Or McIlroy? Or Greg Norman? Or Hogan? Or Tom Watson? Or any of the other greats (OK, I’ll admit Snead might have)? TV would’ve revealed it. And why would Woods care what Zach is hitting? Their games are just a tad different.

He looked in his bag because the day before he hit into the water, and the man is so obsessed with winning, he’ll do something seedy like that, just to get a little edge. It’s true: a decision related to one of the rules of golf says a player can visually look into another player’s bag, but Tiger Woods checking out Zach Johnson’s bag to make his club selection? Come on. Give me a break.

What kind of model is that for a kid in the First Tee? In golf, we play against the course, and we can look at that course and the weather from all sides to Sunday. That’s part of the game: size up your shot and make your own club selection, not go nosing around in someone else’s bag. It’s legal but it’s unethical. It’s against the spirit of the game. It’s sneaky. It’s legal but it shouldn’t be. Spitting on greens is legal also, but should Woods and Garcia have done this when they did?

OK, Tiger, go ahead and keep your Chevron trophy, but play your own game, pal.

And one more thing: When Zach Johnson walked towards the first tee at the final round of the Chevron, he stopped to shake the hand of each tournament official who stood there by the grandstand. Class.

Tiger Woods walked to that same tee just after Zach and ignored all the officials. Ass.

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Golf involves such an intricate array of muscle movements that if you are out of balance just slightly, the flight of the ball will be affected negatively. Being a student of meditation and a teacher of Tai Chi, I have observed how a loss of balance can catapult you out the present moment and into a precarious flirtation with chaos. In golf, that chaos translates as miss-hit shots, poor decisions around course management, and letting big numbers affect your entire day. In life, losing one’s balance can be much more catastrophic, like the sad case of three hikers in Yosemite who waded into a pool above Vernal Fall, slipping, and going over the edge to their death. Other examples include elderly people who land in nursing homes because of a fall, and those who lose their emotional balance, resulting in serious psychological disorders. With golf, the effects of imbalance are not as dramatic as I’ve just described–it’s a game, after all–but if you’re serious about golf, it can be no less frustrating and aggravating when (more…)

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The words Human Growth Hormone are key to this question. If I used the word steroids, it would be much more confusing and confounding. A growth hormone is a steroid but it is so much more descriptive of what it does to the body. A growth hormone causes the body to grow, i.e. muscles and musculature. For athletes in the 21st century, the prospect of growing muscle mass is tempting, offering the possibility of hitting whatever ball they’re hitting farther with more record shattering results, which is exactly what happened with the likes of Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire.

As for golf, the same temptations lure the ambitious player, and, arguably, no player in the history of golf has been more ambitious than Tiger Woods. When Woods turned pro in 1996, (more…)

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In winning the 2011 U.S. Open, Rory McIlroy broke 12 records, the most significant of which was the number of strokes he took to do it: 268. The previous best: 272 by Jack Nicklaus. That is a monumental achievement. And this is the most endearing character in golf since Wee Bobby Jones. This man has talent, guts, and class. He looks the camera in the eye and answers whatever question put before him with honesty, sincerity, and wit. He is truly the real deal.

I expect he will win a fair share of majors. Is he the next Tiger Woods? No. He is Rory McIlroy, a man of much more integrity than Woods. Not only did Woods fail off the course, I suspect he used steroids to accomplish his feats on the course. Rory will have none of that nor any suspicion of that. This lad from Northern Ireland just loves golf, and shows it (more…)

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The U.S. Open is arguably the greatest tournament in golf. It is open to all comers, for one thing. If you qualify, you’re in. True, that is a daunting proposition. Even well ranked touring pros don’t make it, so if you do qualify, it’s a major accomplishment (no pun intended). Open courses are tough, set up to punish any wayward shots. Since it’s played in June, the temperatures are often hot and baked. U.S Open greens are as slick as pool tables but with ridges and breaks and false fronts. Three-putts can send the Open competitor into mental misery faster than a meter maid writing a ticket. And the whole world, seemingly, is watching.

When I was a kid I’d fantasize about playing in the Open. Those were heady days of hope when Palmer and Nicklaus were slugging it out, Kennedy was in the White House, and I was second man on my high school golf, a shy kid who could chip and putt my way to pars. Obviously I didn’t realize my Open dreams, but I’d watch the Open each year and be there vicariously. 1960: Palmer charging from seven (more…)

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