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December 07, 2004
Volume III, Issue 18
Fringe Clippings
It's my party and I'll play what I want to...
Phil Mickelson took more than just a verbal beating when he switched equipment on the eve of the Ryder Cup. He put Callaway woods and balls in his bag and sprayed them all over Oakland Hills, bringing into question why he would make such a move at such a crucial time. You might make the same argument even after watching Mickelson's 59 at the Grand Slam of Golf. Now, Mickelson has the Callaway irons in his bag, too, and they seemed to work pretty well as he was making 11 birdies and an eagle to visit cherished territory in golf. Obviously Mickelson has gotten used to his new sticks, which could mean even more greatness for him in 2005. But the key words there are "used to.'' It takes time, even for the best players, to work in the new equipment. That decision before the Ryder Cup will rank as one of the dumbest of 2004.
Think Martha got bumped back another slot?
Steve Spurrier sure seemed happy on the sideline, playing golf and not getting his brains beat in as Washington Redskins coach. Many believed Spurrier wanted back in the college game, and there were murmurings that Lou Holtz would step down at South Carolina. The same school where a certain Augusta National chairman, Hootie Johnson, once played fullback. In fact, Holtz is an Augusta National member. Some suggested Spurrier, an avid golfer, might be enticed to the school with an Augusta membership. Perhaps that will one day happen. Spurrier did replace Holtz as head coach. But Augusta National went to extraordinary lengths to deny the story of a waiting membership for Spurrier. Johnson released a statement saying that an Augusta membership is above being used to lure job candidates. Of course, Spurrier can just play the course as a guest of Holtz.
Season over? I was just starting to warm up.
Tiger Woods returned from Asia with a lot more than $3-million in appearance fees, he came back with a victory. After a two-day exhibition in South Korea, Woods went on to capture the Dunlop Phoenix tournament, an event on the Japan Golf Tour. Sure, the competition wasn't like the PGA Tour — just 12 of the top 100 ranked players in the world were entered — but, a win is a win. No matter the competition or the course, Woods' scores of 65-67-65-67 were impressive and led the field by 8. It was his first stroke-play victory of 2004 and you can bet the victory gives him some confidence after an otherwise disappointing season on the course.
Horse is to real basketball as Skins is to real golf...
Fred Couples played well for two holes out of 18 and won $630,000. Nice gig. That's the beauty of the Skins Game, where Couples outlasted Tiger Woods in a playoff to capture the original Silly Season event. Couples, of course, doesn't think it's silly. He has banked more than $3.5-million in Skins appearances. It is the perfect format for the laid-back Couples, who can pull off a couple of great shots and profit. The winner of the 1992 Masters, Couples would have cost more than a few who would have lost the house betting that would be his only major title. He just didn't appear comfortable with all the attention, all the hoopla, that surrounds such greatness. But when it comes to events that don't count ... count on Freddie. And watch him count the cash, which spends just the same.
Paralysis by Analysis
No more bucket hats!
It is that time of year when the non-golfing significant other(s) in our lives might be purchasing hand crocheted sweater vests and 2-4-1 jiffy mart soft spike shoes as our gifts. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah or some other traditional religious or cultural holiday that has been somehow transformed into a reciprocity based retail promotion, you know that there will be bad gifts coming. And the sad part is the gifts will come from those whose sole intent is to recognize your golf fixation and bring you joy. Fear not, return-loathing recipients; I am here to save you!

In order to insure ourselves against the ball monogram giving family members, we must establish that golf equipment is as personal as roll-on deodorant vs. spray! Communicate to your family & friends. Let those who will be asked by others what to give you that you play a particular type of golf ball or really need to replace your alma mater head covers. If you are lucky enough to have an eccentric Aunt, feel free to email her your club fitting specs so she may order directly online. The key is communication, Fringe Faithful!

If the thought of hitting concrete covered golf balls makes you weak in the tees, then let your wife, girlfriend, daughter, son or personal assistant know what you need!

Golf trinkets and art can be tricky, and we may just be eternally sentenced to the taste (or lack thereof) of others. At any rate there are several sites online where one could shop for a classic print of the Azaleas at Augusta or a Swilken Bridge picture autographed by Mr. Palmer . I would offer mine, but ... well, never mind.

Do not feel intimidated to request something specific, as these are people who have taken enough interest in your life to know that you spend frivolous hours every week desperately seeking to string together 70 consecutive shots equal to the best you have ever made. If they care that much about you to take note, they want to please you. If they themselves are not golfers, there is almost no chance they will hit it on the seams without some instruction. Actually, the odds are about the same as you getting that string of 70 best shots.

For those of you reading this who will be shopping for this special person, please allow me to interject two words of wisdom for which you and your intended will be eternally grateful: GIFT CERTIFICATE!
Reading the Line
Grasshopper, be one with the ball...
Commenting on his victory at the Dunlop Phoenix tournament, Tiger Woods said, "The ball is tracking on the trajectory I want. When I make a swing, I expect the ball to be in a certain spot in the sky and it is. That's exciting.'' This comment alone may worsen my already very mediocre play. It just gives me more to think about on the course and will further cement my paralysis by analysis. Come on, do any of you Fringe faithful "expect the ball to be in a certain spot in the sky", or is it just me that finds this to be a new unchartered golf concept? I feel like such a dunce. I had thoughts of pretty shape, landing spot, but "ball in a certain spot in the sky" adds a whole new level of complexity to the game.
He probably didn't even like Lady Di...
It was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to the U.S. Ryder Cup team. England's Paul Casey, who was a rookie on this year's European team, remarked in an interview with the Sunday Times of London, that European Ryder Cup players "properly hate'' the American team. Although he didn't say it directly, Casey implied that Americans are stupid — and the British tabloids had a field day with the story. Of course, who looks stupid now? Casey lost an endorsement deal with American-based Titleist. And this is a guy who got a free ride to Arizona State and still has a home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Stupid? Casey might want to look in the mirror.
I vote for...
Annika Sorenstam won for the eighth time this year on the LPGA Tour and the accomplishment barely elicited a yawn. Maybe it is because Vijay Singh, who also did not seem to get his due, won nine times on the PGA Tour. His career year came four seasons after Tiger Woods won nine times in 2000, which followed an eight-win campaign in 1999. Just two years ago, Sorenstam won 11 times and has a minimum of five victories a year for five straight seasons. It is sort of like baseball, where Barry Bonds' pursuit of 70 home runs was not nearly as drama-filled as Mark McGwire chasing Roger Maris and 61 before that. "I think maybe people take it for granted,'' said Sorenstam after winning the ADT Championship, her eighth win on the LPGA Tour and 10th overall in 2004. "I'm very proud of this year. I think I played some excellent golf.'' No doubt. You can argue that Sorenstam's season was the best of them all. She won eight times in just 18 events; it took Singh 29 tournaments to win his nine.

Of course, there is always Mickey Wright. She was the last LPGA player before Annika to win 11 times in a single season. The year was 1964. Oh, but let's not forget 1963; Mickey Wright won 13 that year. This one's for you, Ms. Wright!
Getting a sharp stick in the eye might be more fun...
It is known as hell week. The PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, a brutal six-day, 108-hole marathon, is upon us. Every shot can seem like the end of the world. Some 168 hopefuls will assemble in California, hoping to earn one of the 30 PGA Tour cards for the 2005 season. The next 50 players get full status on the Nationwide Tour, so not all is lost. But consider this: they will play some 400 shots, and exempt status could hinge on one bad swing, one bad bounce, one poorly placed tree, one inconvenient spike mark. Perhaps as many as 25 players will miss their PGA Tour card for 2005 by the slimmest of margins. Fun? Hardly.

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