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Nine Holes With the History of Golf Part One: Pre-Palmer

Feb. 14, 2012     By     Comments (4)

ProfilesUnlike sports like baseball or football, golf's eras have been primarily defined and dominated by a key one or two players. While baseball is divided into eras based on the differences of the game (Dead and Lively Ball Eras, Integration Era, Free Agency Era, Steroid Era) and football and basketball are mostly defined by mergers, golf's era are most easily divided by the dominant player, and these great players actually cut up the history of golf up quite well. Because 150 years of golf is tough to cut down, today we'll look at everything before Arnold Palmer, right up to and including the Nelson/Hogan/Snead Era.

From the ancient history of the early Open Championship days, to the relative parity of the 1980s and early 1990s, to the modern Tiger Woods era, golf is just begging to be split up and defined. So let's do it.

Five PGA Tour Rookies to Watch For in 2012

Feb. 3, 2012     By     Comments (1)

Trap Five LogoAt the beginning of the season last year, I was trying (just as I am now) to write a column documenting the various rookies on the PGA Tour. And while there were a few nice stories, there simply just wasn't enough to fill out a whole article. Fast forward to the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, when Tour rookie Keegan Bradley was in the mix, and I began lamenting not writing the column. Bradley would to be the main fixture of the article, because while he didn't start with the highest of expectations, I knew more about him than most people, since we went to the same high school. (For the record, the other names I had written down were Jamie Lovemark, Justin Hicks, Kevin Chappell, Nate Smith, and Michael Thompson).

Unfortunately, there was simply not enough there, and a year of lamenting that fact has led me to this. Luckily, 2012 has provided us with a few more big names (a full list can be found here), as well as some nice stories, so without further ado, here are five Tour rookies likely to make a splash in 2012.

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Tiger Woods in 2012: What Now?

Jan. 22, 2012     By     Comments (0)

Thrash TalkThere are two parts to me, the golf fan. The first part is the one that smirked when Zach Johnson's putt was left the entire way on the last hole at Sherwood, the part of me that jumped out of my desk chair and pumped my fist when Tiger's putt went in. That's the part of me that live chatted 2011's Masters, begging Tiger's eagle put on the 15th at the Masters to go in. The part of me that watched the entire Monday playoff in the 2008 U.S. Open, watched his chip on 16th at the 2005 Masters roll and roll and roll… and then fall. That's the part of me that hazily remembers the 1997 Masters. I call that part of me "Optimist." Otherwise known as "Irrational."

The other part, "Realist," lives in a post-2009-Thanksgiving world. A world in which Tiger Woods destroyed himself. He's not Ben Hogan and a bus didn't nearly crush him late one night. He messed up. Post-2009 me, still a fan of Tiger's on-course achievements, has felt stupid for two years for not moving on.

What am I supposed to do? Every time I think he's done, he gives me the eighth hole at the Masters. Every time I think he's back he gives me the PGA. Then he looks wholly average at the Frys.com, and event he could have dominated just two years ago. Now this. He wins an 18-man event, his own event, and I'm supposed to think he's ready for 2012? He's ready to challenge Nicklaus? He's ready to tell Rory and Rickie "Eh, not yet guys?" I don't think so.

Five Things I’m Thankful for from 2011

Jan. 22, 2012     By     Comments (0)

Trap Five LogoFellow golfers, it's that time again. No, Lee Westwood hasn't choked away another major; it's the beginning of a new year. Time to hunker down under five feet of snow, wistfully stare at the golf clubs in your basement sitting on top of the treadmill collecting dust, and game plan for next year. You're going to be a 10 handicap by June, and make it to the single-digit by August. That new driver you just got yourself for Christmas doesn't look quite as nice, as you read the Golf Digest Equipment issue, but it's a new year and you're going to hit the ball longer than ever. A 48-inch driver shaft is all you've been missing. Accuracy be damned!

All kidding aside, this is supposed to be a happy time of year full of new beginnings and fresh starts, and I have plenty of things to be thankful for, in golf, in life, and this is as good a time as any to put them into writing. Join me in helping send off 2011, will you?

Recapping My Five Predictions from 2011

Nov. 4, 2011     By     Comments (4)

Trap Five LogoThis year at The Sand Trap, we've run five prediction columns. Back in January we made some general pre-season predictions, then we picked each of the four majors. Despite the fact that no one picked a single majors champion (I blame Tiger's demise for this, five years ago these would have been no-brainers), we had a few near-misses and plenty of nuggets of insight. And if there's anything we've learned this year, it's that I am not a psychic, and that I suck big time at predicting the future.

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Nine Holes With the Guys Outside 125

Oct. 20, 2011     By     Comments (5)

Profiles Every year, the players outside of the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list get kicked to the curb, forced to either retain their Tour card by other methods (prior tournament wins, all-time money list exemptions, etc.) or enter Q-School. Some of them are up-and-comers, still on the cusp of being a full-time Tour player, and some are older guys, struggling to stay relevant. Either way, here are nine (well, 11) of the guys that struggled on the PGA Tour in 2011.

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Why Parity is Bad for Golf

Oct. 1, 2011     By     Comments (12)

Trap Five LogoParity is the name of the game in sports these days. Many leagues do everything they possibly can to make sure that any team can do well any year. The NFL, in particular, prides itself on this.

Thanks to aggressive revenue sharing, a hard salary cap, the importance of drafting, and the nature of a 16-game schedule, the NFL is set up so that a team like the Kansas City Chiefs can go 4-12 one year (2009), hire a few new coordinators, and finish 10-6 the next year to win their division. By that same token, a team like the Minnesota Vikings can go 12-4 in 2009 and then 6-10 in 2010.

Golf has none of that. It's an individual sport, so there is no regulation to spread out the finishes. Each player effectively controls his own destiny. If there is to be parity in golf, it has to come about because of the players, not because of the PGA Tour.

That's the problem golf is facing now. With a wealth of relatively equally-spaced talent, the PGA Tour is becoming increasingly, well, boring. Without a few polarizing superstars, dynasties, if you will, many of the golf tournaments this year have been downright bland. And, at least in near future, it's only going to get worse.

The PGA Tour’s Best Finishing Holes

Sep. 15, 2011     By     Comments (3)

Trap Five LogoThe 18th hole can make or break your round. It's where you finish off your opponent, come from behind, or claim the trophy. When the leaderboard is crowded it can be the most stressful hole in golf, but with a big advantage it's a time to bask in the glories of victory, the one and only time you will ever see a professional golfer take off his hat and stride towards the green, arms waving in acknowledgement of crowd.

The best 18th holes combine risk and reward, and are the crown jewels of the course that architects dream about. You want to leave the golfer with a good taste in their mouths, because 17 lackluster holes can be forgotten thanks to one great one (which is probably why I always seen to hit the fairway on the last hole when I've played an entire crappy round). You want to offer the golfer a chance to make a birdie (or even an eagle), but you also want to punish bad shots, and make double bogey possible as well. On the PGA Tour this is all the more important, as multi-million dollar tournaments typically come down to the 72nd hole.

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Who Do You Want Sponsoring You?

Sep. 13, 2011     By     Comments (13)

Trap Five LogoOne of the more frequent thread topics that pops up in the forum is the question, "If you could have any company to sponsor you as a professional golfer, who would you choose?" Because most of us don't have a prayer of ever being sponsored by a major golf company, it's interesting to hear the responses. The great thing about this question is that the answers don't have to be rational or well thought out. You can be a huge Nike fan simply because they sent you a free bag tag when you made a hole-in-one. Or you can be a fan of Callaway because you're a big Phil Mickelson guy. Many people like a certain brand because of their other product, Nike running shoes, for example. I even know some people who are fans of certain brands because of the colors (not a phenomenon that's confined to golf either, I have a friend from New Jersey who is a die-hard Miami Dolphins fan because he liked the team's colors as a kid).

It's no secret that all brands have strengths and weaknesses. Mizuno is known for their great irons, but their woods have traditionally been nothing special (though they have made strides the last few years). TaylorMade lays claim to the number one drivers in golf (if you believe the marketing), but they haven't customarily offered much in the way of irons for low handicappers. Cleveland's wedges have long been some of the best sellers in the business, but the rest of their clubs have lagged behind.

Then there are all of the smaller companies. Scratch Golf specializes in wedges, though they also offer hybrids. Adams is the most popular hybrid brand on the Champions Tour, but they have yet to made huge inroads into the rest of the industry. Furthermore, there are droves of boutique brands who'll charge you an premium just for their name and some smooth lines.

I set out to see what five brands I would chose if I was a pro and had to play with just one company, and to answer this oft-asked forum question once and for all (for me at least). I neglected money, so that smaller companies without the resources of Titleist still had a shot. As to not eliminate about 80% of brands right off the bat, I decided not to include apparel as a requirement, but as more of a bonus. Here are my top five.

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