August 19, 2005
Volume IV, Issue 13
In golf terms, he was majorless...
Athletes from many sports appreciate golf, and Ernie Banks is among them. "Mr. Cub'' was at Baltusrol Golf Club for the PGA Championship and even followed Tiger Woods inside the ropes for nine holes during the opening round. The major league Hall of Famer is now 74. He said he sees a lot of similarities between Woods and former basketball star Michael Jordan. "They just focus,'' Banks said. "During my days as a player, I can relate to that part of it and how important it is. Consistency, the way you perform. It's just amazing. But most of all, the interest to me in watching ... is to see how these players respond to the pressure they are under. How they deal with it. I didn't get a chance to play in the World Series, to understand that part of sports. That's humongous pressure. But it still amazes me.'' Banks never made it to the playoffs with the hapless Cubs, but he did hit 512 home runs in his career. Off the field, he had a career with "no runs, no drips, no errors."
After the baby arrives, she'll look back at carrying the bag as nothing...
LPGA Tour player Laura Diaz has plenty of experience with caddies. They are an integral part of life playing golf. But at the PGA Championship, Diaz got a different perspective. She caddied for her brother, Ron Philo Jr., a club pro from Amelia Island, Florida, who qualified for the tournament. She did so -- all four rounds in sweltering heat -- despite being four months pregnant. "Just trying to clean the clubs, fix the divots, rake the bunker,'' Diaz said. "As a player you demand that, and it's really hard. But I definitely got to appreciate that.'' Diaz had to beg her brother for the opportunity, and he only relented after insisting on a small, lighter bag. "Just standing on the putting green in the morning and watching all the big guns out there, it was really neat,'' she said.
What's good for golf is good for the nation, and vice versa...
Golfers, rejoice. The new energy bill that Congress sent to President Bush will have a nice benefit for golfers and course operators: more time to play. Beginning next year, Daylight Savings Time will start three weeks earlier (in March) and be extended a week later into November. That is 28 days with an extra hour of daylight, meaning golfers can squeeze in a few more holes and operators might be able to sell a few more tee times. President Bush may not have had this in mind while considering the bill, but it's a nice benefit nonetheless.
The Dollar's down against the Euro, but at least...
Another PGA Championship passed without a European-born player winning. That might not seem like a big deal until you consider it has been 75 years, the longest drought of any of the four majors. Scotland's Tommy Armour won the 1930 PGA at Fresh Meadow Country Club in Flushing, N.Y. Scotland's Paul Lawrie was the last European to win a major at the 1999 British Open. Denmark's Thomas Bjorn did give it a try, however. The eight-time winner on the European Tour missed a playoff with Phil Mickelson by one stroke at the PGA. He also tied a major championship record by shooting 63 during the third round.
Hey Charlie, when was the last time you won a foot race...
Charles Barkley has never met a microphone -- and apparently a sandwich or five -- he didn't like. The former NBA star known as the Round Mound of Rebound is now simply the Round Mound of Sound. For some reason, Barkley was part of the TNT cable network's broadcast crew at the PGA Championship. And he had opinions on everything, both on and off the air. On eventual winner Phil Mickelson, Barkley said: "Phil Mickelson is the most talented guy I've seen in my life that I've played golf with. It'll be interesting to see how he holds up as hot as it is out there. Phil's so good he just has to get out of his own way. It would really be scary if Phil were to work out as hard as Tiger (Woods) and Vijay (Singh). I would love to see that combination.''
All right, Duffer Dan, we know you can hit gargantuan drives and you never miss a green, but how is the flat stick treating you? It's a good bet even you short game specialists would like to polish up your stroke a bit. So let's get to work.
First lets determine what type of putter you are. There are two types: the Technician and the Feel Putter.
The Technician (Tom Kite) will have mechanically broken down the putting stroke into a complicated geometric equation of moving parts multiplied by velocity.
The feel player (Phil Mickelson) will just inherently know which way the green breaks and how fast it will be. Note: If this is your putting style get used to occasional three putts.
Which are you? Sure we have all felt zoned in with our feel and we have all tried to master the art of algorithmic putting, but which do you prefer? Once you know where you stand, don't sway from it. This is your natural ability as a golfer, and no person should dare to change his or her innate ability.
Now that we know what type of putter you are, we should concentrate on how you can get better.
What makes a good or bad putter better?
That's pretty much it. The ability to see the break in the green is totally dependent upon your imagination and eyesight! Knowing how hard to hit the ball comes from feel, which in turn relates directly to practice. Once you have these two things, and you have a form that you can repeat time after time, the putts will start dropping.
- Form — The best golfers in the world share many distinct similarities in their putting strokes: tempo, posture, ball placement, setup and stance. The next time you watch a good putter take notice of these things. Most good putters do not have a squared stance. Most place the ball in the middle of their stance or forward slightly. Most good putters have a confident grip (not fidgety). Most good putters extend their follow-through towards the hole.
- Feel — This comes from only one thing: practice, practice, practice. Feel in golf is another word for experience. The ability to feel the proper putting stroke comes from knowing what the proper putting stroke is. This, in turn, comes from practice. It is said that Phil Mickelson will not let himself leave the practice green until he makes 100 four footers in a row!
- Imagination — The ability to read a putt comes from one's ability to imagine what the ball is going to do after it is stroked. When standing behind the ball, you should be able to see the ball rolling toward the hole, imagining what it will do after you have started it on its way.
One last thing: be at ease on the green. Nervous hands make for off-line putts. Even when it counts, pretend it doesn't. If you miss, well there's always lawn bowling! Accept the fact that you are going to miss your share of putts. Take the pressure off having to make the putt, and your form and feel will fall into place.
Show me the money, heck, just show me the conclusion...
Golf is not immune to the greediness that rules other sports. Take what was supposed to be the Sunday conclusion of the PGA Championship in New Jersey. More than a few eyebrows were raised when the final-round tee times showed the leaders going off at 3 p.m. The forecast called for a strong chance of thunderstorms and lightning, and the PGA also had a three-hole playoff to worry about if there were a tie. Starting at 3 and ending at 7 left little room for error. Sure enough, two weather delays prompted the suspension of the fourth round until Monday morning, denying spectators who paid good money and television viewers around the country a chance to see a winner on Sunday. Had the PGA of America simply moved up the tee times an hour -- as PGA Tour events routinely do to try and beat the weather -- a thrilling conclusion could have been witnessed on Sunday. Instead, far fewer people got to see it Monday morning. PGA officials acted like there was nothing they could do, but we know why. That 6-7PM window on television is a huge ratings period. CBS-TV typically draws the most viewers during the last hour. That leads to more money for both organizations. Follow the money, and you'll understand the why.
Monday, Monday, so good to me...
Phil Mickelson's victory at the PGA was significant for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact it got him out of the one-major club. There are lots of undistinguished players throughout history who won a single major -- Larry Mize, Orville Moody, Jack Fleck and Wayne Grady are just a few that come to mind. It would be hard to argue that Mickelson has not had a great career even without a second major, but the victory puts him among the greats of the game. He became the 74th player in golf history to win two or more majors. But he also has 27 PGA Tour titles, a number surpassed among active players by only Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.
It's tough on tour...
There were only 12 players who managed to make the 36-hole cut in all four majors this year, including tops guys Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen. Ernie Els was denied the opportunity due to a knee injury that kept him out of the PGA. But it is more interesting to look at those who played in all four majors and made the cut in none of them. That booby prize goes to Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel and David Duval. Beem won the 2002 PGA, followed by Micheel in 2003. Their victories appear to be flukier and flukier by the moment. Duval is a different story. He was once the No. 1 player in the world. But he has not won since his 2001 British Open title and has battled injuries and motivation problems since. Duval has not made a cut all year. I just loved saying flukier and flukier.
Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't...
Speaking of John Daly, what's with the "my putter head is loose; think I'll finish the back 9 putting with my wedge". Unless I missed something, he didn't try driving with the putter did he? I mean come on, how does a guy who has access to the best clubs in the world come up with a defective putter? That's a convenient cover story for substandard putting. On the other hand, it forces you to putt with a wedge, which could only make matters worse and result in a terrible score. And we are talking the PGA Championship. He wouldn't do that, would he? Daly, no way, but then again...