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April 22, 2005
Volume IV, Issue 6
 
Fringe Clippings
 
Yeah, but the real Lefty has a pleasant personality...
 
It's depressing enough for the casual golf observer to see how well and how effortlessly Vijay Singh hits a golf ball. But left-handed, too? Singh, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, recently was featured in an HBO Real Sports segment. He played the TPC-Sawgrass course, where he practices frequently, with host Bryant Gumble and easily hit a shot onto the par-3 17th island hole swinging from the wrong side. Singh spends a lot of time on the driving range and is known to borrow the clubs of left-handed players from time to time just for fun.
 
Let's get ready to rumble...
 
Singh was apparently miffed at the spike marks being left on the greens by none other than Mickelson, who played in the group in front of him. Singh sought out a rules official to check Phil's spikes. Seems Phil didn't appreciate it, nor Vijay's grousing about it in the Champions Locker Room afterward (both are Masters champions). Phil let the press know of his displeasure with Vijay's handling of the matter. Wasn't it just fitting when Mickelson and Singh were paired together for the final round of the tournament? It made for a very quiet and unanimated round.
 
Hope this isn't the pot calling the kettle...
 
We appreciate a golf analyst who takes a player to task. But CBS' Lanny Wadkins was off base when he questioned Chris DiMarco's decision at the 15th hole during the final round of the Masters. DiMarco trailed Tiger Woods by one shot at the time, and had a second shot from 218 yards to the front of the green on the par-5 hole that is fronted by a pond. DiMarco, not the longest of hitters, decided to lay up. Wadkins questioned his manhood and wondered if DiMarco was playing for second. "I had 236 yards to the hole, so it was either try to cut a big old 3-wood off a downhill lie and who knows where it would go," DiMarco said. "Or just kill a 2-iron and if I just came up with it a little bit it was going to go in the water. I didn't feel like that was a smart play. My wedge game was great all week." So DiMarco laid up, then stuck his wedge to 5 feet and made the putt for birdie anyway.
 
Heck Tiger, almost everyone is 0-for-life at even getting to play Augusta...
 
Tiger Woods' has mirrored Jack Nicklaus in many ways. Their pursuit of major championship greatness is also eerily similar. Nicklaus won seven majors between 1982 and 1967, and then went 0-for-12 between the 1967 U.S. Open and the 1970 British Open. Woods won the Masters at age 21, then went 10 majors without a victory before winning seven of 11. He then went another 10 without a victory before his latest Masters win earned him his 9th major title. But Woods put the whole thing in perspective. "Ten majors (between victories) is not so long," Woods said. "Some guys go 0-for-life."
 
 
Paralysis by Analysis
 
Inspired by low-ball Texans
 
Amateur golfers and professional golfers alike all must battle the challenges of Mother Nature. There are no exceptions to this reality. The trick is to learn how to minimize the negative effects of organic conditions and, when possible, to turn them into an aid.

Typically, the greatest natural weather obstacle for a golfer is wind. Rain, snow and hail certainly can affect ball flight but none are played in as regularly as a mild to wild zephyr, so for the purposes of this dialog we will be restricting our efforts to the aforementioned.

Typically, golfers in coastal areas are more adept at playing in stiff breezy weather, but even those in the middle ground - Kansas, for example - should be learning how to account for the bedeviling effect of this cruel handicap.

Here are some keys to playing in the wind that should help to keep your scorecard in double digits and closer to par:
  • Club selection - When facing into a wind (headwind) for every five miles per hour the wind appears to be blowing choose one more club. Use the opposite philosophy for hitting with the wind. Do not trick yourself into believing the wind can help you carry the ball 250 with a four iron either!

  • Swing plane - Unless you are a single digit handicapper, do not swing any differently than you normally would. If you are an accomplished player, then be sure to always take a simple 3/4 swing to avoid getting too much air under that ball.

  • Look for Tree Tops - Although the wind may appear to be blowing into your face, it does not necessarily mean that it will be doing the same thing 50 feet in the air. Look at the tops of nearby trees to indicate what direction the wind is actually blowing.

  • Balls - Choose a lower spinning ball when playing in the wind. The new line of low-trajectory, low-spinning golf balls really do perform better in the wind than high-spinning accuracy balls.
The wind can become your friend if you let it. Simply account for it by knowing where it is, how much it is blowing, follow club wind selection guidance, and then trust your judgment.

And for the record if it is snowing, lightning or hailing and you find yourself desperate for advice on how to combat the elements on the course ... seek help immediately at your local 12 step program for golfers anonymous because you have it bad! Of course, when the weather improves, call me. You sound like my kind of wild and crazy golfer.
 
 
Reading the Line
 
First win, Wie one, then you can play with the big kids...
 
Michelle Wie is in the news again, and it has nothing to do with winning a golf tournament. The 15-year-old from Hawaii has received a sponsor exemption to play in the John Deere Classic, a PGA Tour event, this summer. This is great for the tournament and no doubt will be a boon to ticket sales and television ratings. But at some point, there is going to be a revolt on the PGA Tour. Other than hit the ball a long way and show amazing potential, Wie has yet to do much of anything in golf. Sure, she's contended in a few LPGA tournaments, even finished second at one earlier this year. For her age, she is an incredible talent. But she needs to capture a few titles before PGA Tour events start giving her invites.

Wie's hometown Sony Open has done so twice, and the novelty has worn off. There comes a time when those spots should be going to professionals trying to earn a living. Sure, they are not always used for that reason, but remember the backlash when Annika Sorenstam received a spot in the Colonial? Sorenstam was on her way to the LPGA Hall of Fame, had won a bunch of tournaments, and wanted to test her game against the men. It was a hit, but still came with some negative feedback.

So what are we to make of Wie? Win some big amateur events, contend in a few LPGA tournaments, turn pro. Then let the PGA Tour invites come. Of course, golf is not just sport, it is also entertainment. Miss Wie wouldn't be getting the invite if the fans didn't enjoy seeing a pretty young girl knock the socks off a golf ball.
 
Make them play 'em all!
 
For all the talk about reducing the schedule and moving events and trying to make the product better, the PGA Tour could take a big step which would go a long way toward helping its rank-and-file tournaments. It won't be a popular move, especially not with the tour's elite. But it is necessary. The tour should implement a plan similar to the LPGA's that requires members to compete in every scheduled tournament at least once every four years. We're not talking about the tournaments opposite the majors, but the John Deere Classics and Milwaukees and Greensboros. That means they would be assured of getting Tiger Woods and Ernie Els once in a while.

True, the players are independent contractors, and they are allowed to schedule as they please. This kind of rule would cause some angst. But they should look at the big picture, too. There is no tour without the little guys. And trying to work a tournament in once in four years is not that tough of a task. Heck, some players might even find that they like certain tournaments they otherwise would have skipped.
 
Do you want more coverage?
 
Unless you were fortunate enough to be at Augusta National on the morning of the final day, you missed the incredible turnaround to the Masters, a possible record-setting run by Tiger Woods and what you could argue is the reason he eventually won the tournament. In the span of 30 minutes, Chris DiMarco double-bogeyed the 10th hole, which Woods had just birdied. Woods then went on to birdie the 11th, 12th and 13th holes. And none of it was televised. What a shame.

CBS paid lip service to what transpired Sunday morning. Only a few snippets were offered, not a detailed highlights package that would have gone a long way toward giving fans a feel for what happened in the dew-filled morning. This is where the Masters' long-time policy of "less is more" is really a disservice to the game. The Masters is the least televised of any of the majors, with a scheduled 14 hours of live coverage. That was extended this year somewhat due to the various rain delays. But when poor weather pushed the start of the third round to late Saturday afternoon, why not make an exception and show the remaining nine holes on Sunday morning? If CBS couldn't do it, how about cable partner USA Network? ESPN? The Golf Channel? There is something admirable about not over-doing it. The Masters has long resisted the urge to fall into the trap of wall-to-wall coverage. It has added a few minutes here and there over the years, while keeping commercial interruptions to a minimum. Nonetheless, my guess is people would eat it up, especially since most of the world never has a chance of attending the tournament. Here's hoping they at least adopt a policy of televising suspended rounds. A lot of golf history occurred in the morning that nobody got to see.
 
 
 

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