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>Introducing: The Hack Shack

>

The Hack Shack is a group of golf fans and golf bloggers who like to comment on the current events in the world of golf. Our first discussion is going to be this week in advance of the AT&T National, and our next conversation is in two weeks before The Open. On the electronic internets we can be located as follows:

Tony’s blog is http://www.hookedongolfblog.com/. He also runs http://www.thegolfspace.com/ and his twitter account is www.twitter.com/thegolfspace.
Jack’s blog is http://dudewheresmypar.tumblr.com/, and his twitter account is www.twitter.com/dudewheresmypar.
Jeff’s blog is http://www.goodwalkgolf.com/, and his twitter account is www.twitter.com/jpalopoli.
Stefan’s blog is http://golferinkilt.blogspot.com/, and his twitter account is www.twitter.com/golferinkilt.

In order to let you better get to know us, we have put together a few introductory questions about us and out game.

WHO ARE YOU?

Jeff – I’m currently a daytime corporate lackey (tie and all) who is secretly planning a hostile takeover of Jason Sobel’s life. I started GoodWalkGolf.com in October of 2009 as a creative outlet to write about my passion for golf and never thought it would turn in to what it has and the amazing individuals I’d meet through it.

Jack – Golfer. Writer. Blogger. Purist. Sceptic. Human.

Tony – One of the original golf bloggers (circa 2004). A golf blog cockroach which won’t die no matter how many dangerous chemicals and high scores it endures. Rock & roll drummer, dad, low single digit handicapper with bad short game, web geek.

Stefan – Ex-pat Herring-Head. I love music, mostly various generations of punk and ska combinations. I watch a lot of movies, and love movie quotes. I’m a husband and father. I support my golfing habit by performing dull IT tasks in a dull IT cubicle. I’m spiritual but not religious, and I mix the occasional mean Martini.

WHAT’S YOUR GOLF GAME LIKE?

Jeff – As a passionate golfer for almost 25 years, who seems to get to play less and less golf each year, my game seems to gets worse and worse. A one time collegiate (Div II) golfer with a 4 handicap, all I can do is estimate that I’m probably about an 8 at the moment while getting in a maximum 15 rounds of golf per year.

Jack – Shoddy, punctuated by rare moments of Ballesteros-esque brilliance. Handicap? Cough cough questionable 12 cough cough.

Tony – I play about 100 rounds per year. Low score: 68. Hole in one: yes. Lowest handicap index .9. Currently a 3 and trending up. My putting is my strength. Chipping is bad, like having the chip-yips. My bad back doesn’t allow me to make much of a turn but my granny swing can poke it out there respectably.

Stefan – I took up the game around the age of 12, and played regularly throughout college. After college I hit a lull and didn’t play regularly for about 20 years. The bug bit me again at the end of 2008 when I was recovering from back surgery and spent my days plowing through the favorite books in my golf library all over again. I probably play 2-3 times per month, and practice 8-10 times a month. I love going to the range. I’m happy when I beat bogey golf, and my current handicap is 14.

WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE HISTORICAL GOLFERS?

Jeff – My all-time favorite golfer is Payne Stewart. He carried himself with so much class and had more charisma than any other golfer you see on Tour today. Not to mention his style and that buttery swing that just made you jealous to watch. Jack Nicklaus was also my introduction to the game of golf. My father bought me his videos and we watched him on TV all the time and in the beginning I tried to emulate his swing. One of my earliest golfing memories is watching him in the ’86 Masters when I was 11 years old.

Jack – Ben Hogan for his all-round greatness, ball striking ability and five lessons on the modern funtamentals of golf. Chi-Chi Rodriguez for his swagger and style.

Tony – Bobby Jones is my all time favorite historical golfer. He did so much for the game and all as an amateur. He also created my favorite course and favorite tournament: Augusta National and the Masters. Jack Nicklaus is next on my list. Having met Jack I was impressed with how nice he was. Other favorties: Old Tom Morris, Arnie, Tom Watson, Dave Stockton, Lee Trevino.

Stefan – Walter Hagen, for his innate sense of style and class and for his powers of recovery on and off the course. Bobby Jones was probably the most purely talented golfer ever. He achieved incredible feats, and capped it with that jewel we know as Augusta National. Tom Watson was my idol when I first started playing, and he hasn’t given me a reason to waiver from that ever since.

WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE CURRENT GOLFERS:

Jeff – I really like the youth movement we are seeing right now on Tour. Guys like Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim, and Rory McIlroy are showing us the future of the Tour. Then there’s a whole host of “older” twenty somethings that are carving their niche as well. Guys like Ricky Barnes, Hunter Mahan, and Dustin Johnson. However, I’ve been a Mickelson guy for as long as I can remember. He’s sort of like a modern day Arnold Palmer with the way he gives back to the fans. I still remember when I was 16 years old at a PGA event in my hometown, Mickelson was a rookie on Tour (I think maybe 22 years old?) and I was watching him hit on the range. When he walked up I asked for his autograph and he was the friendliest guy, he invited me up to the putting range to stand with him as he worked on his putting… and of course he signed my hat too.

Jack – Rory McIlroy. I could watch that swing of all day. Also a big fan of Welsh young gun, Rhys Davies: his skills with the flatstick beggar belief.

Tony – I have a love/hate relationship with Tiger. I love Tiger the golfer and hate Tiger the phony. I’m a Phil fan. His talent level is sick. Love to watch Freddie because his swing is smooth and fluid, just like mine.

Stefan – I’ll watch Freddie or Ernie hit golf balls any time, anywhere. Spectacularly smooth swings, and both of them are good guys. I like Calc for his sense of humor. I like AK for his swagger (and because he’s a Sooner AND a Lakers fan, and he lives in Dallas). Tiger and Phil are clearly the best two players in the world right now, but I’m not a huge fan of either.

Until next time, keep’em in the short stuff.

>COURSE REVIEW: Bali Hai; Las Vegas, NV

>Both Bali Hai and Royal Links (as well as Desert Pines) are part of the Walters Golf empire in Las Vegas. Both are some of the more highly renowned courses in the area, but outside of that these corporate cousins couldn’t be more different. While Royal Links is demure and conservative in appearance, Bali Hai is flashy and tropical. The bunkers at Royal Links are sometimes as deep as they are wide, and strategically located, while Bali Hai’s sand traps sprawl for hundreds of yards and take on a beach like appearance. They’re as different as, well, Scotland and Bali themselves are.

THE NUMBERS
Bali Hai plays to par 71. It’s over 7,000 yards from the black tees, about 6,600 from the gold, 6,156 from the white tees, and 5,535 from the reds. At my 14 handicap I played from the gold, and found it to be quite challenging. The holes vary greatly in length, and you’re forced to use many different parts of your game to score well.
From the gold tees par 3 holes vary from 123 to 224 yards, par 4 holes range from 305 yards to 466 yards (with four being over 450 yards long), and the par 5s are between 495 yards and 539 yards. Water is in play on 8 holes.
LOCATION
For convenience from the strip in Vegas you can’t beat Bali Hai. It’s located less than a mile south of Mandalay Bay, right on the strip itself. In some ways this is very cool. The Vegas skyline glitters in the distance, and it’s not every day you get to line up your tee shot by aiming for the Luxor Pyramid. You can even see the famous Las Vegas sign on a few of the holes.
However, this location comes with a few drawbacks. It’s located right across from the airport, so flights thunder overhead every couple of minutes. Several holes also butt up against I-15, so on those holes you have significant traffic noise as well.
APPEARANCE
Visually you couldn’t ask for more out of any land locked golf course. It’s a truly beautiful golf course. Over 4,000 palm trees line the fairways. Water is arranged in ponds, streams, and little water falls. The large, sprawling bunkers look like they were always there, and they just built the course around them. Rocks and native plants are used strategically, and all in all the design elements create a very consistent feel throughout the course. The gorgeous clubhouse is the visual centerpiece for three of the holes.
There is one design element that’s in place at Bali Hai that I have not seen anywhere else, and that’s sand bunkers that transition seamlessly into the water hazard. There is no rock wall or platform of railroad ties or anything. With the size of these bunkers, it looks very much like a really nice, really private beach. If you don’t think about how difficult it must be to maintain such an arrangement it’s quite natural looking.
QUALITY
I believe they had just sanded the greens when I played, so they were not as good as one would expect. I found them sluggish and inconsistent, and I putted worse than I have in several months.
Sand hazards take up a lot of space on this course, and as if this is not a challenge enough I found the sand to be quite inconsistent. It’s very fine grain stuff, but the playability varied greatly depending on whether it was dry, wet and raked, or just wet. I’m by no means a good bunker player, but I lost several shots because I had a hard time predicting how it was going to play.
The fairways were great, very consistent and you just knew you were going to have a good lie anytime you could find the fairways with your tee shot.
SIGNATURE HOLE
I don’t know if it’s the official signature hole or not, but the short par 3 16:th hole (pictured) is the one I will think of first when someone brings up Bali Hai. Only 123 yards from the gold tees, it’s slightly downhill to an island green with the clubhouse behind the water. It’s didn’t hurt that I was able to hit the green.
APRES GOLF
The clubhouse is centrally located, and large without being austentatious. It’s Polynesian design fits very nicely into the tropical theme of the course. The pro shop is well stocked with logo merchandise. Food is provided by their award winning restaurant, Cili, and the facilties have sufficient space for both banquets and small weddings. I had a burger after my round, and it was spectacularly good.
RANGE
There is a driving range of sorts. It’s one of these systems that automatically tee up the next ball for you. I don’t know if these systems use a heavier ball than the normal golf ball, but it sure felt like I was hitting concrete. Also, the range hits into a net about 30 yards away, AND the range faces into the morning sun so there’s very little chance of seeing even which direction your ball goes.
SUMMARY
A challenging and diverse layout, beautifully architected, in a truly unique location. The service was spectacular overall, and the weaknesses I found were by no means show-stoppers.

>Spackler Foursome

>So we’re playing our bi-monthly round with the usual suspects. Ale-man and Stout-man. Snoop and Trainwreck. Different walks of life, connected through links and relationships near and far.

We make tee-time reservations under the name Spackler. We LOVE Caddyshack. The last time some guy showed up in a kilt. If we can’t come up with a better theme for our outing, that’s our fallback.

(that’s Ale-Man tending the flag, and Stout-Man trying to make a short putt)

So this last round I decided to get in touch with my inner Ty, and Ale-Man reached out for an ugly orange shirt and matching ugly orange hat to channel his Danny. Trainwreck got his Spackler on, and a good time was had by all.

>US Open thoughts

>Big props to Greame McDowell for his glorious victory in the US Open at Pebble Beach. Put your name right there next to Nicklaus, Watson, and Woods. You’ve earned it.

(most excellent photo by Robert Matre … www.robertmatre.com)

The USGA is probably happy with a winner who didn’t lose as much against par as his competitors. I can respect that. I can respect it, but I sure don’t like it. I prefer the roars of Augusta to the groans of the US Open. Now, I don’t want them shooting -25 to win the thing, but I do want the course to hit the kind of a balance where a hot player can shoot -5 on the back nine on Sunday to make a run for it.

There are a lot of more senior golfers than Greame that are kicking themselves after this tournament, as it truly was ripe for the picking. Phil. No check. Tiger. No check. Ernie. No check. Maybe the course just didn’t allow for a run, but there were plenty of clean opportunities that went wasted as well. It’s not ALL on the course.

That 14:th hole is bullshit. I know you like hearing that too, you sick bastards. I know everybody has to play it just the same as everybody else, but for crying out loud; let’s give these guys a chance to shine, won’t you?

Two players shot 66s in this tournament. They’re the two highest ranked golfers in the world. Coincidence? I dont’ think so. For one, I’m too old to believe in coincidences. Secondly, Phil and Tiger just showed what can be done when they’re hot. They are a head above everybody else.

Writers are saying this may have been one of the last shots for Ernie, but they’re predicting a long and glorious future for Phil. They’re both 40. Let’s face it, we have NO idea how their future is going to fare. Right now I’d pick Tiger above either of them at St. Andrews.

I feel for DJ. He will need a large dose of confidence to rebound from this experience. If he keeps going back to this week he may never contend in another tournament ever again.

Kucher’s 68 was very nice, but he had nowhere near the pressure of the final groups. We saw what it did to Glover and Barnes last year. I know Lucas came around to win it, but after 9 holes it sure didn’t look like he was going to.

My GOD does that course look fabulous. I guess it’s $495, and you don’t even need to stay in the Lodge in order to play any more. I’ve already made requests for my 50:th birthday.

Having said that, it looked a bit rough over the weekend. At times it was very difficult to discern the hole from the splotchy patches on the green.

It didn’t help that the broadcast was less than stellar. I felt like they focused on the wrong thing at the wrong time too much, and they wound up missing some of the action. Luckily Miller put his foot in his mouth again, so that’s all everybody is talking about.

>Seve Month

>Allright, I’m upping the ante on GolfChannel’s 7-day celebration of really friggin’ fantastic golf events. I know there’s a lot of golf to be played between now and The Open at St. Andrew’s, and I know I’ve been critical of tournaments and organizations who in the past have toed the line of their week-long moment of fame as being disrespectful of the prior tournament.

But this is not about a tournament. Mind you, if it WAS going to be about a tournament, The Open at St. Andrews is probably the one I’d pick. But it’s not about that tournament and all it’s history, and it’s not about that POS course that everybody wants to play but nobody truly likes to play. It’s about the man. It’s about Seve.

Most people acknowledge Severiano Ballesteros as being one of the true geniuses of the short game in golf. I can’t possibly argue with that. What most everyday US golf fans don’t realize is just how mythical Seve is to all European golf fans of my generations (born in the mid-sixties).
Seve was one of the first continental European golfers who went on to be true world-beaters. And I’m from Sweden. My country isn’t even on the continent. But sure as snot, we claimed him as our own as true as if he’d grown up in Hassleholm. When he’d come to play in SEO, he would draw record crowds, regardless of who else was playing.
He’s a top-10 golfer of all time, and like Hogan much of his career was curtailed by injuries. He’s right up there with Hagen and Jones and Benjamin and Nicklaus and Faldo and Watson and Woods. In his career Seve won 91 pro tournaments, 50 of which were on the European tour. He still holds this record. With five major championships he’s only exceeded by about a dozen other golfers.
You know he’s been sick. I don’t know about you, but the article in last month’s Golf Digest brought tears to my eye, and I almost never cry about golf. This year he’s agreed to participate in the celebration of 150 years of British Open golf by participating in a four-hole tournament on The Open week. He won the British Open at St. Andrews in 1979 in spectacular fashion, the same way he played every round of golf before or since.
Without further ado, welcome to SEVE MONTH. Four weeks dedicated to a true living master of the craft of golf. I’d love to hear your Seve stories and your Seve memories. I will try to do my part by recounting the story of his life and the Top 10 Seve Moments of his career.
Truly, in every sense of the word, I’m not worthy.

>Ramblings From The Rough

>I know the USGA is obsessed with making the US Open courses difficult and challenging, but I still feel like they should give good players a chance to make good shots if their game is on. By all accounts, there are some approach shots that just have no chance. If the best players in the world chose to plan for the right miss rather than hitting a good shot you’ve gone too far.

Everybody is gaga about the past US Opens at Pebble, and I can’t disagree with history. It’s been spectacular. What I do disagree about is the intuitive leap to the conclusion that because of this history this year’s winner must be of the same caliber as those in the past. If we learned anything from last year’s majors it’s that any one out of about fifty golfers can win this thing if they get hot for four days.

One week after my best round in a couple of decades I had my worst round in years. Got to love this game. I blame it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol.

Clearly the USGA doesn’t read my blog, or they’d know they shouldn’t pair Furyk with Cabrera. Watching them play together at Colonial was PAINFUL. El Pato had his tee in the ground on the next hole by the time Furyk putted out.

I go back and forth about whether I’d rather play Pebble Beach or Cypress Point if I had the opportunity to only play one.

I found it interesting how everybody gets on Lee Westwood for not being a good closer, but they give Phil credit for his five second place finishes at the US Open. I read that Phil has been within four strokes of the lead heading into the back 9 on Sunday six times in the US Open, and he’s shot over par all six times.

Even my wife is excited about Erik Compton playing in this US Open, and she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about golf.

Does anyone have the stats on if there’s been a grandfather pairing in the US Open like this year, with Tom Watson having Ryo and Rory bouncing on one knee each?

Happy 40:th Phil. I turned 40 on crutches (due to a snapped achilles tendon), so I’m glad to see he’s doing much better than I was at that age.

I love how everybody were so very ready to launch David Duval’s career recovery bandwagon after last year’s US Open. How did that work out for you?

Who will be this year’s recovery surprise? Garcia? KP? Ty? Ogilvy? Immelman?

Earlier this week I had a premonition about Phil holing out a chip on 17 on Sunday to beat Tiger for the win. Golf writers everywhere would just cream their pants. “Finally, an easy story”.

That is all.

>2010 US Open Picks

>It’s the eve of the US Open at Pebble Beach, and it’s time to pick another fab four who I think will contend this week. At Augusta I had Tiger, Lee, Charl, and DJ. For a while on Friday they were all still under par, but by the time the weekend rolled around the youngsters had frittered away as if pulled by a Death Star homing beacon.

My picks for the US Open have been modified a couple of times over this past week. I initially had Dustin Johnson again in the mix because of his good play at Pebble over the past two years, but the more interviews I heard the more it became clear that Pebble in February and Pebble in June are two animals who are so distinct from each other as to only be related by the rules that govern the play. I still love DJ’s game, but I think it’s too loose for a US Open venue. Any pro in the country would tell him he needs to stabilize that left leg to play consistently.

Then I had Paul Casey as one of my top four. I felt like he had a unique combination of power and precision that would work well at this event. In the end, I think he’s still not 100%.

So here goes, in no particular order, my picks for the 2010 US Open, and why.

LEE WESTWOOD – In my mind he’s played more consistently good golf over the past 12 months than anyone else. He has the complete game. He’s long enough to compete on any course, and his shotmaking with the irons is as good as anyone’s.
In addition to this, I love his attitude. He’s not letting the writers get him down about his near misses, but rather he’s taking positives from being that close in the first place. Lee loves the course, and that’s good golf karma.
JIM FURYK – Two wins this year, and a US Open title already on his resume. He’s foremost an accurate player, but longer than people give him credit for. They’re saying this is a shot-maker’s course this week, and there’s nobody I’d rather have hitting golf shots for me Jim.
LUKE DONALD – Luke’s a player who’s stock has risen as this week has gone by. He has one win and seven Top 10 finishes this year, and he’s gone T2, 1, 3 in his last three starts. He’s no longer just a verb (Usage: “He’s just Luke Donalding it, he’s not even working hard …”), but a bona fide contender.
TIGER WOODS – Yes, Tiger. He’s a victim of his own incredibly highly set bar. If he’s not beating people by 15 he’s over the hill. Well, I don’t know a lot of golfers who could play 4 rounds at Muirfield with 3/4 of their game and not go above par. If he tweaks his game just a bit he’ll beat the world by five shots. By all accounts, his game is coming along just nicely, and that’s trouble for everybody else.
EVERYBODY ELSE
PHIL – I really don’t know how he continues to play as well as he does in the US Open. His game doesn’t fit these courses at all. I feel like Phil is obsessed with distance off the tee, and he’s sacrificing a lot of control and accuracy in the process. At Colonial he was booming his drives 20-30 yards past already long hitting Bo Van Pelt, but Bo was the one with the Top 10 finish, and Phil had to leave early.
STRICK – I don’t think he’s long enough. It’s almost as if the game has passed him by. He’s deadly with the wedge, but he’s having to hit seven-iron where others are hitting their wedges, and that’s no way to win a golf tournament.
ERNIE – I loved seeing him get a couple of wins this year, but he’s been inconsistent afterwards. I’m a huge fan, and if he’s in contention I’ll be cheering for him all the way, but I just don’t see it this week.
POULTS – Another guy I like (even though he cheers for Arsenal), but after the Match Play his game has gone in the toilet to the tune of T24, T37, MC, T10, MC, MC, 76, MC.
RORY – Best chance of a sub-25 player, but I don’t think this is his time. I give him a good shot at The Open or the PGA later on this year.
10 hours of coverage tomorrow. I’m psyched.

>Kilted Golf Haiku #2

>You’re putting better

But don’t tease the Golf karma

Or three-putts will come

>Kilted Golf Haiku #1

>

A troublesome lie
The blades of grass grabbing at
The blade of the club
(photo courtesy of Getty Images)

>COURSE REVIEW: Stonebriar/Fazio course; Frisco, TX

>If you live in a major metropolitan area, and you have not yet discovered the infinite joys of the “urban escape”, then I highly recommend you send me an email and I’ll tell you all about it. It’s just fantastic. I know it’s silly and financially irresponsible to spend over a hundred dollars for a hotel room that’s located less than 15 minutes from where you live, but MAN can it be a good time.

For me, one of my new favorite places to escape off to is the Westin in Frisco, TX (less than 30 minutes north of Dallas). The hotel itself is nice, and the pool area is wonderful. The area has a lot of restaurant and bar opportunities, but mostly I like it because I get a chance to play the Fazio course at Stonebriar CC.
This is my second time playing this course. I find that just playing a course once doesn’t really give you the opportunity to appreciate it, as you’re too busy finding your way around. By the second round I’m a lot more able to make an objective assessment.
THE DEAL
Let me start right there. The course is part of the private Stonebriar CC, but guests of the hotel are allowed to play (for a fee, of course). The best deal is the Stay ‘n’ Play package, which at the time of the writing of this blog was $179 for one golfer, which included one breakfast (best to be left behind for The Missus to hit the buffett around 11:00 AM).
THE DESIGNER
Tom Fazio has over 120 course designs to his name, he has more courses ranked in the Top 100 in the US than any other designer, and he’s been awarded Golf Digest’s “Best Modern Golf Course Architect” three times. Born in 1945, he’s a throwback to the Alister MacKenzie school of thought whereby a golf course should naturally fit into it’s surroundings. Having said that, he did manage to move 600,000 yards of dirt to construct this course. He also feels that a good course should be challenging to the good player but still playable for the average player. This assessment is fairly universally agreed on.
THE COURSE
Firstly, it’s a Par 72 course. Am I the only one who’s a stickler about this (on tour or at the local muni)? From the blues it’s over 7,000 yards; from the whites it’s a bit over 6,600, and from the Reds it’s around 5,200 yards. The course stretches over wetlands to the west of the Westin hotel in Frisco, TX. It was ranked as the #6 public course in Dallas/Fort Worth by the Dallas Morning News in 2009, ahead of such notables as the TPC Four Seasons (home of The Byron).
The fairways, as a whole, are fairly forgiving and in good condition. If you miss the fairway by a bit you’re likely to get a good bounce back into the short stuff. If you miss it by more than that, you’re going to be up among the pine trees, or in the 5-foot deep wild grass, or in the next fairway (should you be so lucky).
I have a feeling that the more I play this course the more I will appreciate the little nuances of the design. The bunkering is very strategic, and visually appealing. The sand is perfect, and very playable.
The greens have a reputation as being very fast, and I guess they are, but they’re also very true. I’m not a good putter by any means but I found a very distinct sense of confidence on these greens. If you get hot, you can make a LOT of putts here.
BEST HOLES
There are a couple of really good, really challenging shortish par four holes on this course.
The first one hits you once you catch your breath after the easy downhill #1 hole. #2 is a dogleg right hole that’s uphill on the tee shot and downhill back to the green (378 yards from the white tees). There are good bunkers in the fairway, and the green is protected by a couple of deep bunkers, a clump of trees to the left, and a creek about 30 yards in front of the green to catch any weak approach.
The view towards the green as you get to the crest of the fairway is spectacular. This hole ate my lunch the first time I played it, but I managed a tap-in bogey this time, hitting the green-side bunkers on my second shot.
The most scenic hole on the course is #11 (pictured above, 379 yards from the white tees). A big pond to the right is about all you see off the tee, but the hole is fair as it curves to the right around the water. Big volumes of sand are at hand if you try to cut the corner and don’t hit it well enough, or if you bomb it straight and go through the fairway. More sand is located to the right of the green, but at least there is the option of a safe fail to the left of the green, void of either ocean or desert.
IN SUMMARY
A great course for players of all levels. It will challenge the good players, especially from the blues, but it’s still playable for a more average player. It’s well maintained all around, and the service from the Pro Shop in the hotel to the starter is nothing short of immaculate. If you’re visiting the area north of Dallas and have some time on your hands I highly recommend this hotel for your expense report and this course for your golf game.

>The Full Monty

>So, our dear dear friend Colin Montgomerie is admitting to an affair now. This is the same guy who made public jokes about Tiger not playing in the Ryder Cup because “there wouldn’t be enough room for all his mistresses”, right?

Monty has always rubbed me the wrong way. From walking in other golfers’ putting line to sticking his arrogant foot in his mouth, I’ve just never been able to see a lot of redeeming qualities in him. And I’m a guy who can see redeeming qualities in Sergio Garcia, so you should know I’m pretty openminded.

The big discussion today can loosely be umbrella’d under the heading “Where is the outrage?”. Writers who slammed Tiger to the ground is now called on the carpet for not doing the same to Monty. It’s just a matter of time until someone plays the Race Card and claims Monty’s getting a free ride because he’s white while Tiger’s is the scary evil black man who’s taking all our women (I paraphrase, of course).

Race has nothing to do with this. IF Monty gets a free ride (and I’m not sure he is), it’s for this reason: Just look at the dumpy fellow !!!

Tiger is incredibly rich, famous, popular, athletic, and good looking. Monty is, well, somewhat famous. From the point of view of charm and looks, he’s a lot more like the lager louts down at the pub than the golfer on the cover of a video game.

Monty having an affair is like Billy Joel cheating on Christie Brinkley. It’s Puffy calling a 900 number in the shower while married to Jennifer Lopez. It defies explanation, and it makes us shake our head back and forth in a very Lewisblackesque manner. WTF?

>Quite Possibly My Favorite Golf Picture Of All Time

>There are fantastic shots of beautiful holes and courses around the world, there are snapshots of supremely talented golfers executing impossible shots, and there are snapshots that capture moments in time that are as exciting as any in all of sports. How could you possibly pick one to be your favorite? How do you compare the waves crashing against the shore at Pebble with Jack sinking a birdie putt on 17 at Augusta in 1986? Do you prefer a full metal Tiger fist pump or an aerial view of Cape Kidnappers?

For me, strangely, the picture that I keep coming back to is neither of the above, but a casual picture of Lloyd Mangrum lighting up a cigarette after a round at Augusta.

(Photo courtesy of Ron Watts Private Collection/Edwin Watts Golf)

More than any other picture, this captures the coolness and the style of the game of golf.

Lloyd Mangrum is in many ways a forgotten figure when you talk about golf in the 40s and 50s. Coming out of Texas, as it seemed half the tour did at this time, he won 35 tournaments, including the 1946 US Open.

Mangrum was highly respected by his fellow professionals. Byron Nelson called him “The Forgotten Star”, and Bing Crosby said he possessed a combination of “Rhythm, balance, and style.”

Mangrum won two Purple Hearts during WW2, and declined a pro job at an Army golf club which would have allowed him to avoid combat. His best golf was after the war, when he rattled off ten straight Masters Top 10 finishes, and five straight US Open Top 10s.

Maybe it’s the mysteriousness of the picture that makes it so alluring. Like Howard Hughes, he gives the impression that he might be anywhere in the world 24 hours from now. Nobody has covered this period in golf better than Dan Jenkins, and for all the amazing stories he tells about life on tour at this time, you’d have to think the stories that are still untold are even better.

>My Day at The Colonial

>It’s VERY early Friday morning, and for starters it’s odd to get up at five o’clock in the morning, and to be heading to a golf course, but to not be worrying about how I’m going to be playing today. But the Colonial is in town, and JD is going out in one of the very first groups, so I need to hit the road.

As I’m enjoying my breakfast burritos the moon is clear and full in the sky. If it’s that clear in Texas at the end of May, I’m thinking it’s going to be hot. I was right.

I get to the grounds around 7:30, and head straight for the practice tee. The course looks absolutely gorgeous. I’m not the kind of a golfer who gets to play courses like this on a regular basis, and I must say I was thoroughly impressed by the condition of the course.

Nobody likes the look of bunkers, right, but LORD these bunkers look beautiful. Intimidating, yes. Ball-sucking, yes, but also beautiful. They’re clean, and crisp, and perfectly maintained, and an absolute pain in the ass of any golfer who gets up close and personal.

On the practice tee are all sorts of talented golfers and major winners, such as Paul Casey, my countryman Henrik Stenson, Trevor Immelman, and Angel Cabrera. I love watching pros prepare for their round. Shot after shot appears to this 14-handicapper to be absolutely perfect. I know they’re not, but they sure sound and look like the real thing.

My plan is to split my day between John Daly’s group, the Furyk/Cink/Cabrera group, and watching Phil. This is not necessarily because those are my favorite golfers, but they were lined up pretty well one after the other starting on the 10:th tee. I chose to bypass the keg of Coors Light in the media center at 7:30 in the morning, and I go about catching up with JD at the Colonial.

I get to the 12:th tee and I ask if John has played that hole yet. There was not a glimmer of doubt in the answer. Everybody who were standing around that tee knew exactly where JD was, and how close he was to their location. From a sporting point of view he hasn’t been relevant in years, but the people of Fort Worth, Texas knew exactly when this golfer was going to get to their vantage point. This was not a surpise to me. The golf fans who are my friends in Dallas, and the golfers I work with, they all love John. Hell, I’m no differnt myself. His personality, his talent, and even his failures makes him the kind of a person and athlete that this state can relate to in a big way. And at eight o’clock in the morning on a Friday, I don’t think anyone had a bigger following than John Daly.

JD’s hitting the ball well, with a lot of confidence, but not the kind of control he needs on a course like Colonial. His 125% swing is not really a good fit here, but he does a great job of scrambling for pars here and there, which is one of the things a good player has to do.

Walking with his group, I’m amazed at the amount of support he’s getting. Volunteers who allegedly haven’t said a word all day now go out of their way to call out to JD. I stick with their group for about five holes, and then hang out to let the Cabrera group catch up to me.

It’s a totally differnt dynamic to this group. I like them both, but Jim Furyk and Angel Cabrera may have been as ill suited partners as you will find. Three major winners, partnered with Stewart Cink, this group also attracts a lot of crowd attention. The fans are a lot more demure, and the most entertaining aspect of this grouping is to see how far towards the next tee Angel Cabrera can get by the time Furyk putts out. I think if they both were to play a round on their own without any contention Angel would finish a good two hours quicker than Jim. You can tell Angel is antsy, as he’s ready to march down the fairway before his partners are even done teeing off.

Watching and hearing Angel hit a golf ball is a thing of beauty. He’s very natural, and he makes great contact. His iron shot into the green on 18 for a tap-in birdie was magnicent.

I join up with Phil’s group, including Dallas resident Y E Yang and hard hitting youngster Bo Van Pelt, on the third hole (their 12:th for the day), and Phil is already in trouble. After mostly pars on the front nine he’s missed the fairway way right, and he’s got major tree trouble on the dogleg left. He manages to get through the fauna with nary a few leaves to spare, but makes a bogey.

On the long par 3 fourth (247 yards on this day), Phil launches an IRON but again looses it out to the right. A good pitch, but a missed putt, and another bogey.

On the fifth hole Phil goes with an iron off the tee, for no apparant reason. It’s a long par 4, but not tight enough for either of his competitors to play anything remotely that conservative on their first shor. This feels a lot like the kind of experimentation he put us through at Torrey Pines a few years ago, where he absconded from the driver, and still had a hard time keeping the ball in the short stuff. Well, this time he left a long iron way out to the left, and had no choice but to punch out and settle for another bogey. By the time a few more holes go by it’s clear the world #2 is not going to make the cut.

I know he’s won here twice, but The Colonial is really not a good fit for Phil’s game. This is a tight course with small greens. Most pro players seem to like it, but it definitely puts a premium on accuracy. It’s no surprise at all that a guy like Zach Johnson is doing well.

The weather over days one and two has been hot and void of wind, which is unusual for any Texas golfer. At slightly over 7,000 yards and a par of 70, the course is ripe for the picking if there’s no wind, and the scores reflect it.