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Something You Don’t See Everyday

I’m a big fan of ShotTracker. I spotted something there today that doesn’t happen very often.

The Jimster, with the Longest Drive of the round. Atta boy!

Keep’em in the short stuff.

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Who The Heck Is William McGirt?

I watch a fair amount of pro golf, and I read about it both on line and in the printed press, but there still comes times when I run across a name I just don’t know anything at all about. I like to learn, so I google’em, and since you might like to learn as well I thought I’d share a few tidbits about William McGirt.

  • Born June 21:st 1979 in Fairmont, NC.
  • Graduate of Wofford College.
  • Golf influences includes his dad, grand-dad, and aunt.
  • Played on the Nationwide tour for three year.
  • Qualified for the PGA Tour by taking second place in Q-School.
  • Has made eight cuts in 21 tournaments so far this year.
  • Finished T19 at Mayakoba and T22 in Phoenix.
  • In 32:nd place in GIR percentage.
  • Plays TaylorMade equipment and wears Adidas clothing.
  • William has his own website (www.williammcgirt.com) and he’s on Facebook (www.facebook.com/people/William-McGirt/100001806263047)

Keep’em in the short stuff.

I Play Golf On Fridays

My buddy Dave sent me this story, and it was worth sharing:

———————————————————————-

Eileen and her husband Bob went for counseling after 25 years of marriage.

When asked what the problem was, Eileen went into a passionate, painful tirade listing every problem they had ever had in the 25 years they had been married.

She went on and on and on: neglect, lack of intimacy, emptiness, loneliness, feeling unloved and unlovable, an entire laundry list of unmet needs she had endured over the course of their marriage.

Finally, after allowing this to go on for a sufficient length of time, the therapist got up, walked around the desk and after asking Eileen to stand, embraced her, unbuttoned her blouse and bra, put his hands on her breasts and massaged them thoroughly, while kissing her passionately as her husband Bob watched with a raised eyebrow!

Eileen shut up, buttoned up her blouse, and quietly sat down while basking in the glow of being highly aroused.

The therapist turned to Bob and said, ‘This is what your wife needs at least three times a week.. Can you do this?’

Bob thought for a moment and replied, ‘Well, I can drop her off here on Mondays and Wednesdays, but on Fridays, I play golf.

———————————————————————-

Keep’em in the short stuff.

Surely Tiger’s Skipping The Open

Let’s do some quick math here:

  • Tiger says he won’t return to play until he’s 100% healthy.
  • He also says he hasn’t yet recovered to the point where he has been able to hit golf shots.
  • The Open is two weeks away.

Surely this adds up to him missing this event, and quite possibly the PGA as well.

(AP Photo/Jon Super)

Now the question is, why isn’t he just announcing this, so whomever is the first alternate to get his spot has ample time to prepare?

Rumor Central – Tiger’s Joining The European Tour

While he is yet to confirm or deny it, the suspicion lingers that Tiger Woods is about to join the European Golf Tour.

(AP)

In preparation for his move he has already started growing out the full beard that’s en vogue on the continent. He’s allegedly working with his swing coach on adapting his swing to wearing a popped collar on his polo shirt. A careful business observer noticed that Nike last week was buying stock in makers of pastel dyes, specifically purple and pink.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

Who the heck is Jim Renner?

I watch a fair amount of pro golf, and I read about it both on line and in the printed press, but there still comes times when I run across a name I just don’t know anything at all about. I like to learn, so I google’em, and since you might like to learn as well I thought I’d share a few tidbits about Jim Renner (who just happens to be leading the Travelers Championship after round one).

  • Born October 31, 1983 in Boston.
  • Qualified for the PGA Tour by finishing T-22 in the 2010 Q-School.
  • Won the 2005 NAIA Golf Championship representing Johnson and Wales University.
  • Also attended the University of Oklahoma alongside Anthony Kim.
  • Favorite golf course he’s played is Oakmont.
  • Has made six cuts in eleven tournaments this year.
  • 213 on the Fedex Cup coming into this week.
  • 29:th in Driving Distance with 296 yards.
  • Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jimrennergolf

Keep’em in the short stuff.

PS:  As I was writing this he double-bogeyed his third hole for the day.  My blogs are turning into the opposite of the “Colbert Bump”.  Sorry about that, Jim.

14 is Greater Than 18

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about for some time, but I have struggled with how to document it or how to test it. My theory is that the PGA Tour is deeper in talent now than ever before, and for that reason it’s much more difficult to win tournaments and majors now than it was 30 years ago or more.

There’s a group of people who claim that Jack and Tom and Lee and Gary won so many majors and so many tournaments just because they were that much better than their competition, and that today’s pros are complacent and happy to Lukedonald it. It’s the classic “Things were better in the past” dogma. I don’t necessarily disagree with at least parts of this assessment, but after some statistical analysis I’ve determined that the tour indeed is much deeper today, with a lot more players in position to win tournaments than ever.

For this reason, I feel like Tiger’s 14 majors in the past 14 years is a significantly greater achievement than Jack’s 18 between 1962 and 1986, and in my mind this confirms that Tiger Woods is a greater golfer than Jack Nicklaus.

Before I go any further I need to enter a couple of disclaimers: I’m a huge Jack fan, and I love the old champions as much as the next guy. This is in no way intended to be a slight on them in any way. Everybody knows the tour is a completely different place now than it was in days of yore, and I’m just going to pull out some numbers which I feel will demonstrate that.

Also, in no way am I insinuating that Tiger himself thinks this way. He is all about beating 18.

WHAT DID I MEASURE?

First I had to consider what it takes for a golfer to win a golf tournament. In my mind there are three aspects to this: One, you have to be a very good golfer. Two, you have to play particularly well that particular week. And three, you have to have those little things go right to separate yourself from all the other very good golfer who are playing well that week.

Now, unfortunately two of these three aspects are rather random. Even elite golfers don’t really know how they’re going to play from day to day. The same golfer with the same equipment and preparation on the same course can shoot 65 one day and a 75 the next day. This phenomenon has been around as long as there has been golf, and is best documented in Arnold Haultain’s gem “The Mystery Of Golf” from 1908.

So I had to focus on the general quality of the golfers on tour, assuming that if there are more golfers who are playing at the very highest level then there are more candidates for whom the random elements may “hit”, making them a contender that week.

But how would one measure the “general quality of golfers”? You can’t look at wins, because of the random elements that drive it. You can’t look at average scores from one decade to the next, because changes in training, equipment, and course preparation make this an unreliable variable.

I decided to look at how closely the players were grouped based on their scoring average over the whole year. I figured that any given year the players used the same equipment and played the same courses, and they all played enough tournaments to make the Scoring Average a reliable metric for the “general quality of golfers”. I focused specifically on how many of them are close to the top to measure the depth of the tour.

But even then it’s a bit more complicated. Tiger’s scoring average in 2000 was 68.17, and if I compared the masses to that my numbers would be skewed. I decided to ignore the very best averages every year, and use the 10:th best scoring average for a year as my baseline.

Then I decided to use the measurement “Within one stroke” as a means to measure the depth of the tour. Not that one stroke is that significant, but it’s a way to compare different periods of time to each other.

WHERE DID I GET MY DATA?

PGATOUR.com. They have extensive individual player statistics, as well as overall tour statistics. It’s unfortunate that their data only goes back to 1980, but as I will discuss in my “WHY WOULD THIS BE?” section below this should be far enough back to make my point.

WHAT DID I FIND?

I looked at the numbers every five years starting in 1980 and ending in 2010, and the trend is obvious. In 1980 there were 47 players within one stroke of the 10:th best scoring average, and in 2010 there were 116 players within a stroke of tenth place. I then went back to check the years between the five year intervals, and the trend most definitely holds up.

This would indicate to me that the tour is more than twice as deep now as it was 30 years ago, and for this reason there are more than twice as many possible contenders for any tournament win, including majors.

WHY WOULD THIS BE?

I think there are several reasons for this trend.

One major change took place in 1983, when the PGA Tour became an “All-Exempt” tour. Prior to 1983 only 60 players were guaranteed a place on tour from one year to the next. Now it’s 150 players. More players being exempt means more players who are able to work on their game all year without having to worry about the next Monday qualifier. I’m sure it’s coincidental, but the rate of players within a stroke of 10th place in 2010 over the same number in 1980 (116 / 47) corresponds almost exactly to rate of current exempt players to the exempt count in 1980 (150 / 60).

Money is another obvious factor, both directly and indirectly. More money in the sport means more players are comfortable enough financially to be able to work on their game and be competitive. In 1980 the number 100 player on the money list made $34,000. By today’s monetary standards this is $93,000, which in my mind would be far from comfortable given the costs involved in being on tour. In fact, 13 players on the Nationwide tour made more than $93K in 2010, and that was in only ten tournaments.

As a point of comparison, the number 100 player on the money list in 2010 made $950,000.

The increase in money in golf also contributes indirectly, as it makes the sport a lot more appealing to talented golfers, so more of them are having a go at it.

Time is a third factor in this equation. The longer a sport is in existence and the longer it continues to develop and improve, the finer the margins become at the top. This shows itself all over the place, in a variety of sports from the history of world records in Track and Field to the parity that exists in sports like today’s NFL.

CONCLUSION

It’s tougher to win these days than it was 30 years ago, and the numbers prove it out. This is a large part of the reason why we have so many different players win tournaments every year, including the majors. It’s not that today’s players are weaker, or don’t have the same passion for winning as our heroes from the past. It’s just a lot tighter, the margins are a lot smaller, and there’s a lot more competition.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

Robert Matre’s US Open Photographs

If you follow my writing at all you know what a huge fan I am of the golf photography by Robert Matre. He’s just posted some of his shots from the US Open on his website.

I highly recommend you go out to take a look … http://www.robertmatre.com/congressional2011. As always it’s a mixture of course shots, player shots, and then my favorites; where he takes regular objects and turns them into extraordinary photographs with the cunning use of angles and composition.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

Beginning Golf

I know in the mind of many women activities like fishing, hunting, and golf are things that guys get into as an excuse to be out of the house and away from the wife and family for as long as possible. This is not the case for me, and this year it’s gotten to be time to put my money where my mouth is and see about getting The Missus into the game.

(iStockphoto)

She’s never played before. She has swung clubs a few times at the range, but that’s it. Helping her get off the ground has forced me to think about the best way for someone to learn the game from scratch. I don’t know whether my approach is correct or not, and I can’t even say whether it’s the best approach for her, but here goes.

CLASSES

We have started out just going to the range, and I think we’ll continue doing this for some time before I get her into a formal class. There are several reasons for this. For one, I think less is more when it comes to the things a golfer has to think about. The swing a teacher is going to try to get her to aspire to would constitute a huge step for a beginner, and I think it would introduce a lot of frustrations and complications that are not necessary at this level.

As veterans of the game we have to make sure we keep it fun. This is a lot easier by making sure the beginner just worry about hitting the ball and not all the minutiae of the golf swing.

Also, in order to get your money’s worth out of classes you need to practice quite a bit between sessions. This requires a decent level of golf fitness. Most beginners don’t have this.

While I’m not a particularly big fan of his, this is one of the things I really agree with Harvey Penick about. I think it was his son in law who was taking up the game, and Harvey told him to hit balls by himself for six months before coming to see him.

The counter-argument is that you don’t want to develop any bad habits that are tougher to correct later on. This is a valid point, but I think it’s significantly less important than allowing her to build up her golf fitness and enjoy her time on the range.

ADVICE

I give very little advice, and I hardly ever correct her on the range, unless I see something glaring. She knows about the left arm being straight, and about not moving her head, and her grip basically along the right lines. At this point, that’s really all I want her to worry about.

Remember what’s important to a beginning golfer. When chipping, for instance, it doesn’t matter whether they’re able to get up and down. We just want to avoid having them scull it across the green or chili-dip it two feet forward. I tell her to ignore the flag and aim for the middle of the green. I currently have her chip with a 9-iron. It gets the ball air bound enough for most cases, but even if she hits it a little thin the swing is not such that the ball will shoot 20 yards over the green.

Encourage, encourage, encourage. She’s already intimidated by the fact that I hit the ball hundreds of yards. The worst thing I can do is to micro-manage and uber-critique her swing.

EQUIPMENT

She’s currently using 30 year old clubs we got at a garage sale, with new grips on them. For where she is right now, I don’t think it would make an ounce of difference if she had anything better. For one, until we know she’s going to be into it there’s no sense in spending a lot of money on gear. For two, until she starts to make somewhat consistent contact with the ball the quality of the clubs don’t matter much.

Once we determine that golf is something she likes we will upgrade her SOMEWHAT. This doesn’t mean we’re getting her a $1000 set of irons. We’ll probably get a irons-woods-bag combo for $200-$300, or something from eBay.

She currently has a half set, and again I think that’s fine when you start out. If you don’t make consistent contact and don’t hit it a consistent distance when you do make contact it won’t hurt you not to have an 8-iron.

The counter-argument here is that if you don’t have good equipment you won’t improve as fast and you are more likely to lose interest. This also is valid, but when you first start out it really doesn’t make any difference in my mind. Yes, once we know she’s going to enjoy it and stick with it we’ll get something decent. There’s already too much good money thrown after bad golfers in this sport, and I don’t want to perpetuate that.

COURSE PLAY

We’ve been out on the course a few times, and that’s useful so she learns the rhythm of the round, the rules of golf play and golf etiquette, and the applications of what she’s working on.

What I think we’ll do a lot more of, however, is to go to a par-3 pitching course. The holes are between 60 and 120 yards long. This will allow her to hole out every hole (which doesn’t always happen on the big course), and it will get her to be confident in those tricky shots around the green. I think once she has a nice foundation here it will be easier to extend her game from there. Plus, she has a real chance to get a par or a bogey here and there, and that’s really exciting to a beginner. We can’t forget how much fun it is when you have those good holes when you’re just starting out.

I don’t know who said it, but I’ve heard the theory that the best way to teach a beginner is from the green out, rather than from the Tee in. I think this makes a lot of sense.

Short game work makes a lot of sense to golfers of any level, as a matter of fact, so playing this course is going to benefit me (a 12 handicapper) at the same time as I get to work on her game.

SUMMARY

Keep it simple. Less is more. Encourage. Make sure they have fun.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

Let’s Not Get Carried Away Here

Rory’s play was fantastic this week, and I’m ecstatic he got this first major win this early, and that he put the Augusta demons behind him. It was clearly a record setting week, and he played great.

(Photo by Getty Images)

But even as great as this performance was, it’s not even close to what Tiger did at Pebble Beach in 2000.

This week the conditions were as favorable as one can imagine, especially for a US Open. A lot of players shot good scores; Rory just shot four good scores and won by a landslide. Rookie Kevin Chappell actually played better than Rory over the last three rounds, playing them in -9 after an opening round 76. Steve Stricker had three rounds under par, and still finished T19.

At Pebble the conditions were absolutely brutal, and Tiger was the only one who appeared to have any control whatsoever over his game. It looked like the rest of the field were playing with gutta percha balls and hickory shafts. Vijay had an 80 on Saturday, and still finished T8. Ernie and Jimenez failed to break par in three of their four rounds, and they tied for second place.

So, major props to Rory. Great tournament.

But it doesn’t compare to Tiger in 2000.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

Glorious Rory

Every ten or fifteen years or so the game of golf blesses us with a tournament and a performance that’s so absolutely perfect and magnificent that it glitters above even all the other gems we get to enjoy on a week to week and year to year basis. It was Jack in ’86. Then it was Tiger in 2000. Now we get to add Rory in 2011 to the list.

(Picture by Andrew Reddington/Getty Images)

It’s been since Tiger at Pebble Beach in 2000 that a runaway victory was this spellbinding. I for one watched every minute of it. The talk on the radio and on the web started after his round on Thursday. “Can he hold on?” “McIlchoke”, they called him. Then he did it again on Friday, and it became even more interesting as his lead grew.

Towards the end of his Friday round I made a bet with a friend of mine. I took Rory, and she took the field. The wager was food and drinks at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Rory immediately went out and double-bogeyed 18, and I had a momentary sinking feeling. It’s that feeling you get when for once you don’t wear your favorite team jersey to watch a game, and they go out and start disastrous.

But the rest is history. He played a gutsy, sharp, and rock solid 36 holes of golf and never once looked frazzled. His iron play in particular was tremendous, but there’s no doubt his game is complete.

Congrats to Rory and his family on a great victory. It’s been a long time since we had a first time major champion that was this popular.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

Rory’s Laser Irons

A lot will be written about this year’s US Open, regardless of whether Rory goes on to win by 12, whether he barely hangs on, or if he somehow manages to lose this lead. I’m sure I’ll put my two cents into it as well.

But before that I need to touch on a string of holes that Rory played today that was particularly impressive. He bogied 10, and with eight more holes to play this was the time that he needed to come back to the field if it was going to happen today.

Instead, he proceeded to hit four of the purest, straightest iron shots one can imagine on 11 through 14, to settle his round and launch him into Sunday with an eight shot lead. He played these four holes in two under, and I swear every one of his approach shots were no more than a foot off the line of the flag. Now, we don’t know where he was aiming, of course. Some of it may have been a bit of luck. But to absolutely cover the flagstick again and again like that, in a critical and difficult stretch of golf, says a lot about his swing, his confidence, and his mental state.

I can’t wait for tomorrow’s round. Regardless of what’s going to happen, I will be riveted to the screen.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

Paraphrasing Crash Davis

I believe in the golfer’s soul, the driver, the putter, the gentle slope of a creek running across the fairway, the super-high peg, a hot dog after nine holes, Miller Lite, that the books by Harvey Pennick are self-indulgent, overrated crap.  I believe Bobby Jones stands alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing metal drivers and sports psychologists.  I believe in the sweet spot, LPGA calendars, playing the ball where it lies rather than using a foot wedge, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet pre-shot routines that last three days.

They Call Him “Eyebrow-Boy”

I was catching Rory’s interview after his round yesterday, when I had to do a double-take.  It had nothing to do with Rory himself, it pertained to the crowd behind him.

There’s this guy behind him who looks like a cross between Richie Cunningham and Ron Weasley.  Halfway through the interview he proceeds to … well … might as well look for yourself.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

RBC To The Heritage Rescue

Word just came down that the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has agreed to sponsor the Heritage Classic tournament for the next five years.  I’m very happy to hear that, as this is one of my favorite tournaments in any golf year. The Harbor Town course is unique and quirky, the Hilton Head vistas are second to none, and the list of champions is impressive.

Going forward the tournament is going to be called the RBC-Heritage Classic.

More plaid !!!

Keep’em in the short stuff.