The Virtues of Winter Golf

Winter is the best thing to happen to golf since sliced bread and the best kept secret in the game. I’m letting the cat out of the bag and my subtropical friends will soon be green with envy.

st titleWinter is in full force here in the U.S. Like every golfer in the colder climes, I find myself checking the weather forecast every day looking for a good opportunity to get out and enjoy our favorite pastime. The elusive beast that is the perfect winter golf day can be hard to find, but with some luck and some patience (let’s face it, it’s winter and I love golf, so I have nothing but time on my hands), the trifecta of perfect conditions can be found: sunny, no snow on the ground, and below 32°F. Yes! Time to go out and enjoy the best conditions the game can offer: Frozen Golf!

By now, my Southern California friends are scratching their heads and wondering “what is frozen golf?” Well my friend, while you were busy posting pictures of yourself on a golf course wearing shorts on a brisk 70° January morning, you’re missing out on one of the greatest experiences the game can offer. Golf on frozen ground is truly unique and I would argue, is better than golf in standard conditions.

Fan No More

Sergio Garcia and Gary Player both used the media tent at the 2007 Open Championship to remove their names from my “players I root for” list.

Swing ThoughtsI used to consider myself a fan of Sergio Garcia and Gary Player. Sadly, their actions at the 2007 Open Championship put an end to that.

Before the tournament even began, Gary Player saw fit to tease us with his famous “neener neener, I know a secret” announcement that “someone” was taking drugs and that “at least ten, maybe a hell of a lot more” golfers on pro tours were using drugs. I agree with Gary’s basic point – he believes strongly in drug testing and the damage that could come to the sport if players are found to be using drugs to enhance their performance – but I’m disgusted that Gary, a legend of the game, chose the biggest stage he has to make the most damaging statement he’s ever made about the game of golf. His actions lack the class befitting a champion of the game.

The Continuing Michelle Wie Saga

B.J. Wie is writing the scripts, but is Michelle Wie reading them or silently rebelling against a controlling father?

Michelle WieA few years ago I gave Michelle Wie the benefit of the doubt. Last year I stood up for her. While people were screaming “she hasn’t won anything!” (despite winning the 2003 Women’s Public Links) and declaring that she should follow the same path Tiger took to success in the world of golf, I sat back. I suggested that the Michelle Wie story will be written by Michelle Wie, and that only years (or decades) later could we sit back and judge whether Wie had taken the best path.

I was both wrong and right. It appears the story is no longer being written by Michelle Wie – she’s merely a bit player in the sad story of B.J. Wie’s corruption of his daughter. She’s the “talent” and he’s the ruthless, money-hungry stage dad who’s making all the wrong moves.

The Cheers Have Left Augusta

I hope that Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts are superglued in their coffins. If not, they’re probably spinning so fast they’re likely to pop out in China before the final round concludes on Sunday.

Masters LogoThrough most of two rounds of the 71st Masters, one thing is clear: the music has died. The cheers have died. The excitement has died.

With a first-round lead of -3 (which required a 20-putt performance by one of the two leaders) and a stroke average of 76.147, Augusta National is playing more like a U.S. Open venue than the host course of The Masters. You can not only count on one hand – no, make that half of one hand – the number of eagles we saw in the first round.

Have you ever heard less cheers at any golf tournament than you heard yesterday during the first round of The Masters?

USGA Becoming Golf’s Repo Man?

Is the USGA’s new proposal really about grooves? I think that’s only part of the story.

Swing ThoughtsGreetings from semi-retirement, Sand Trappers. I couldn’t help but chime in with a quick thought or two about the USGA’s announcement (and concurrent R&A announcement) proposing a change in the rules regarding grooves on irons and wedges.

When I first read the proposed change last week, it seemed fairly reasonable. It would only affect the best players using urethane balls, which might increase the importance of driving accuracy without taking the air out of the ball or changing driver designs. But then I wondered if this proposal has a deeper meaning that isn’t so benign.

One Ball to Rule them All?

The OGA’s uniform ball experiment was not even a success in the eyes of the anti-ball crowd.

OGA Uniform BallA few months back, the rebel Ohio Golf Association (which once legalized the tamping down of spike marks) bucked the rules once again and played their “Champions” event with a uniform ball. The results? OGA officials came to realize that golf ball technology is a complex science.

What’s more, they came to realize that a uniform ball is decidedly not the way to solve the distance dilemma some believe exists in modern golf.

Woods Can be Toppled Today at the PGA

Players believe they finally have a shot at taking down the greatest player to ever play the game when he is tied for the lead. What exactly would it take for that to happen?

Luke DonaldTiger Woods is nearly unbeatable when he is tied for the lead on Sunday at a major championship. However, after watching yesterday’s round, I think there three things that could allow us to witness one of the most incredible David versus Goliath upsets in golf history. If one of the players follows the criteria below, they might be the one holding the Wanamaker trophy today instead of Woods.

Tiger Woods stood with CBS reporter Bill McAtee after Saturday’s round and let the world know just what kind of major championship was playing out before those in attendance and on the course.

“It honestly doesn’t feel like a major,” Woods said. “I mean in a major you expect that you’re going to look for a lot of pars and hope to sprinkle in a couple of birdies when you can, but you just can’t do that and hope to contend this week at week at Medinah with that mindset. I saw all the low scores early on, and some guys were three or four-under-par through six holes – when that kept happening I knew I had to go low.”

Tiger’s Driving Accuracy

Distance may matter, but when Tiger keeps it in the fairway, he’s impossible to beat.

Swing ThoughtsWhile everyone is ranting and raving about equipment, flogging, and other factors in the distance debate, I saw one of Tiger’s stats tonight on The Golf Channel that I thought was interesting. Here are Tiger’s best tournaments since 1999 with regards to driving accuracy:

Year    Tournament        Accuracy     Result
----    ----------        --------     ------
2000    British Open       91.0%        Won
2006    British Open       83.3%*        ?
1999    Funai Classic      85.7%        Won
2000    Bay Hill           83.9%        Won
2005    British Open       83.9%        Won
2001    Memorial           82.1%        Won
2002    Buick Open         82.1%        Won
*Through three rounds

When Tiger keeps it in the short grass, he’s doing quite well. I’m willing to bet that a good portion of the above tournaments he wasn’t hitting driver much either. Tiger is feasting on Hoylake with his stinger 2-iron off the tee with a plan to stay out of trouble. I’d say that it is working so far.

Sick of Wie Whiners

The Michelle Wie boo-birds come out of the woodwork every time she tees it up, and I’m sick of hearing it.

Michelle WieJoe Ogilvie may have said it best: “She’s better than Tiger was at 16. I played with Tiger, and Tiger wasn’t this good. Everybody is like, ‘Win, win, win.’ She’s 16. Chill out. Once she gets to winning, you’ll get sick of her winning.”

I’m not a raving, ranting Michelle Wie fan. I’d like to see her win a tournament. I’d like to see her learn to crush opponents. I’d like to see her spend some more time competing against her peers.

But don’t put me in the camp of Wie detractors, either, and I’m sick of hearing from those who are.