September 23, 2005
Volume IV, Issue 15
Golly-gee, all this grief for breaking a lousy 90...
The PGA Tour Superstore World Amateur Handicap Championship in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is one of the biggest amateur events in the world, and typically prides itself on making sure the handicaps of its participants are legitimate. But when one of the players shot back-to-back net 58s, officials took another look. Al Simon had the low score among 3,800 participants by seven strokes. Simon, who had a 30.1 handicap index, had not posted a score in two months, according to the Myrtle Beach Sun News, and was disqualified. It was the first time in the event's 22-year history that the overall winner was disqualified. "We'd much rather have all the scenarios play out (earlier), but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way," said tournament director Steve Mays. Simon, who is from Charlotte, proclaimed his innocence amid the sandbagging charges. "It probably looks a little fishy to some people, but believe me, I just had two good days of golf."
He just keeps going and going and...
When Hale Irwin won the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach recently, it was his 43rd victory on the Champions Tour, and 17th since turning 55. That's the age when a senior golfer is supposed to see his career wane, when winning is supposed to be rare, if at all. But those 17 victories would be good enough for 15th on the all-time Champions Tour victory list. Irwin, 60, of course, leads the way with 43 total victories.
You know there must be a surgeon out there who feels the same way...
PGA Tour player Woody Austin (ranked 82 in the world) has never been one to cut himself a break. In fact, he can sometimes be his own worst critic. And he recently admitted that he can be quite hard on himself. "I've said all along, I've got as much talent as anybody," said Austin, who has two career PGA Tour victories (1995 and 2004 Buick Open). "I can hit any shot, but I've got a 2-cent brain. I don't have the mental (side of golf). I just wasn't given the mental ability to play this game as well as my physical part, and that's always held me back. But I'm not afraid to admit it. Some guys are afraid to admit it, but I'm not."
Honey, is he winking at you? No, I think he's just exercising...
New Zealand's Michael Campbell took some good-natured ribbing after winning the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, where he made frequent visits to the portable restrooms on the course. Turns out, it had nothing to do with a nervous stomach. Campbell's bathroom breaks were for eye exercises that he didn't want anyone to see him doing. They were performed to strengthen eye muscles, allowing him to see the putting line better, improve his focus and help him relax. Campbell started doing the exercises earlier this year after having his eyes tested and being told that one of his eyes was not looking at the same point as the other. Now Campbell goes through a routine every day in which he puts a tee about 15 inches in front of his face and then pulls it in until he sees two tees. Then he pushes it back until he sees one. He then moves the tee in circles and in figure-eights. It all takes about 20 seconds. "If I did that in front of the TV cameras, everyone would have thought I was loony," Campbell said, "so what I do is plot out where all the port-a-loos are." It must be working. Campbell just won the richest prize in golf, $1-million pounds (about $1.8-million) for capturing the World Match Play Championship in England. Campbell now leads the European Tour's money list.
The tax man cometh...
If you have never heard of Michael Putnam, don't be alarmed. Set to play in the U.S. Amateur, he got a sponsor's exemption into the Buick Championship and immediately turned pro. Then he went out and, remarkably, finished tied for fourth. His effort was worth $177,733. Nice start. "I didn't really think about the money until I kind of tapped in my putt on 18," he said. "I realized I just made 100 times what's in my bank account."
Social or competitive golfer, which are you?
There is an essential question looming out there among weekend warriors all over the planet. Well, there is more than one question, but whether or not Steven Segal should have to pay back everyone that ever saw one of his movies is not one we will concern ourselves with for now.
The more important question I am asking you is, "Do you play for the competition of golf or for the company you keep while playing?"
The reason this seemingly unimportant question is essential for every golfer to answer is to increase enjoyment of the game. That is the goal of both types of golfers, is it not? To enjoy the game is fundamental to the survival of both species in this case. So what we are trying to find out is what gives us enjoyment in the game. Is it the competition, the social, or a blend? Does one outweigh the other for you?
Is it the challenge of hitting the ball on the screws, straight down the fairway and becoming the envy of all those who watched your perfect sphere take flight? Or are you more enthralled by just being able to take the time necessary to cultivate your skill, regardless of the level at which you currently play?
Here is a battery of questions for you to answer for yourself. This will not be so complicated to evaluate that you need to dig to the bottom of your kid's Cap'n Crunch box for the "decoder" to figure out where you are. I think it will seem quite obvious to you who you are if you don't know already. The key to this is identifying your traits and seeking out partners of like characteristics to play with so that your enjoyment will be enhanced.
You probably knew your golf motivation before this drill. But keep in mind that sometimes your buddies may not think the same way, so consider their motivations the next time you play. You will have more fun and so will they.
- When deciding who your foursome will include do you look for members of your club you know play for money?
- When teeing off, is it more important for you to decide how many strokes the worst player in your group will get or which tees it is fair to play from?
- Do you know what a press is and if so, do you apply to its principals more than once per week?
- Is your handicap important for the club records or for the member guest tournament you have to win?
- Do you kiss your sweetie when you get home regardless of how well you played?
- Is your kids' college tuition safe when you are teeing it up?
- Why do you play, because (internally) you have to or because you have free time?
- If you had the choice of playing with average non-betting golfers at a world class course or getting a high stakes game at your home course, which one do you choose?
Here's to the "Double-presser", the "Cuban tokin'" and the "cart girl flirting maniac". I love you all and would gladly tee it up with any of you! Just don't expect me to pay up!
Good thing some golfers have short memories...
Retief Goosen, Jason Gore and Olin Browne all entered the final round of the U.S. Open in June with a chance to win. All left Pinehurst that day wondering what went wrong. Goosen shot 81, Gore 84 and Browne 80. But the trio has done okay since. Gore won three times on the Nationwide Tour to earn a promotion to the PGA Tour, then captured his first title at the 84 Lumber Classic. Goosen, the two-time U.S. Open champion who is ranked fifth in the world, won the International on the PGA Tour, and then followed with victories in China and Germany. And Browne, who shot 59 during U.S. Open qualifying, won the Deutsche Bank Championship, his first tour victory in six years.
Call Nancy, quick, call Nancy...
Tom Lehman said he would keep a close eye on the Presidents Cup matches, hoping to gain some knowledge for his captaincy of the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup team against Europe. Perhaps all Lehman needs to do is put in a call to Nancy Lopez and pick her brain. The LPGA Hall of Famer pulled all the right strings, pushed all the right buttons as the U.S. defeated Europe in the Solheim Cup.
She somehow got several young players to mesh with women old enough to be their mothers. She preached unity and togetherness and team spirit. She even made sure the players got plenty of practice on the Crooked Stick course, using the home-field to their advantage. Perhaps most remarkable of all, she got a bunch of millionaire golfers to ride a bus together from Ohio to Indiana for a practice round at Crooked Stick. Before we get carried away, let's remember that winning the Solheim Cup -- or the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup -- is not strictly about bonding and friendship and being "a team." The Europeans have reveled in waving that in the Americans' face during the Ryder Cup, and there is a good bit of truth to it. But the European Solheim Cup team has plenty of unity and still lost. The competition remains about playing good golf, making putts, finishing off matches. And Lehman will never get Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to ride on a bus together. And yet, there are still some lessons to be learned from the U.S. Solheim Cup team.
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 top 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.