Past ramblings

My Golf Game

This category contains 16 posts

Back From Vacation

Well, I don’t know whether I deserved it or not, but I got some time off and had a thoroughly enjoyable vacation. Birthday party, baseball game, golf, lake time. It’s all good. Looking forward to getting back to the golf blog. Here are a few things I’m going to write about coming up:

  • The WGC Firestone – One of the most entertaining Saturdays of golf in a long time. It was very close, with a bunch of very talented golfers performing at the very highest level.
  • The WGC Firestone 2 – Is it just me, or is this one of the most boring courses the pros play on all year?
  • Putting Mat – I’ve been using it, and it’s helped a lot. Will contain a noteworthy Larry Legend reference.
  • Course Review of The Golf Club Of Kansas – Nice, tough course laid out in an old quarry.
  • Book Review of Golf In The Kingdom – One of my more anticipated reads.
  • Seven Days In Utopia – New golf movie. What do we know about it?
  • Best golf books ever – There are two that stand alone above the rest for me.
  • My latest swing move – Tiger and Faldo are in agreement.
  • PGA Championship – I’m done trying to predict who’s going to play well.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

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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.

>A Four Dollar Ball Cost Me Four Weeks

>So I was out playing golf with a good friend from The Golf Space about a month ago. We were having a great day, when we got to the tenth hole.

I faded my drive into someone’s yard at the side of the course. The ball was almost close enough to reach with my driver, but not quite. I’m on my tippy toes and full finger reach, leaning over the steel fence between their yard and the course. STILL can’t quite reach the ball. So I sort of thrust myself forward and up, and finally that buys me the extra fraction of an inch I needed to knock the ball in the right direction.

My chest smarts a bit, but I give it a rub and go on, and don’t think much of it. I don’t, that is, until the next time I try to swing the club. It is VERY painful, both on the backswing and on the downswing. I grin and bear it for about another four holes, but in the end I had to walk off the course.

I get home and put a lot of ice on it and take a handful of Nuprin. By now I realize it’s not my stomach muscles that’s hurt, it’s my lower right side rib.

Three days go by, and it doesn’t get any better, so I decide to go to the doctor. It’s fractured. It’s friggin’ fractured. Four to six weeks of recovery.

I’m now at about four and a half weeks, and I finally was able to swing a golf club a few days ago. It’s not pain free, but at least I was able to hit a few balls without grimacing in pain.

I’m SO getting a ball retriever.

>Be aware, be very aware

>The mental aspects of golf is something that appears to hit home and strike out equally with all levels of golfers. There are pros who consider themselves “old school” and not in need of stuff like that, and there are 30-handicappers who swear by it.

My own maturity in this area has been slow, but thanks to books like “Zen Golf” I have started to improve in this department myself, and for this hacker the benefits have been significant. It’s a wonderful journey to start being aware and able to manage the things that go on in your own noggin, and the non-golf implications to this maturity may be even greater than what it does for me on the course.

I’m not a teacher, nor a writer in this area, but what I can share with you is a concrete example that has helped me significantly. To demonstrate, I will discuss the three phases of awareness that I migrated through in order to make progress. The problem is related to the thoughts you get popping into your head when you’re partway through a better-than-average round. You start to think about what your final score might be. Maybe this will be the first time you break 90. You think about what your handicap will be after this round, or whether you have a chance to win the tournament you’re playing in. Invariably, your level of play drops drastically and irrepairably.

Phase 1 – Not-so-blissful Ignorance

At this point, you usually don’t realize these thoughts are getting into your head until it’s too late and the round is over. Looking back you sort of have an idea what was going on, but at the time you were way too busy and you had way too many things going on in your head to notice these warning signs when they first pop up, much less actually do something about it.

Phase 2 – “Oh, shit” Awareness

As you start to read about these topics and think about what’s going on in your head you eventually get to the point where you notice when your head starts drifting in the wrong direction. The problem is, you don’t know what to do about it other than to go “Oh shit, here come these thoughts again.”

Phase 3 – Awareness and management

You will notice that at no point will I discuss what to do to avoid these thoughts, or how best to get rid of them. That’s because you can’t.

So what to do, then? You need to train yourself to recognize your thoughts and emotions without labeling, judging, or fearing them. You just observe what’s going on just like you would observe a car driving in and out of your line of sight.

The second part is to be able to get your mind into the right state before the next shot. Advanced methods include just clearing your mind, but most of us have not practiced enough meditation to be able to do that at will.

What has worked for me is to have a pre-swing routine and a swing thought specific to the shot I’m about to play that I focus on. The bad thought doesn’t go away, but by having something positive and productive to think about it’s of less consequence and of less impact on my game.

It may or may not be for you, but I highly recommend you at least take a look.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

>February Practice Log

>

Well, February started out with a couple of weeks of ice and snow, but as usual in Dallas it melted off quickly and the temperatures got into the 70s in no time.

  • Fri 2/11 – 30 minutes putting indoors
  • Sat 2/12 – 30 minutes putting indoors
  • Sun 2/13 – 50 balls (9i)
  • Mon 2/14 – 50 balls (Driver)
  • Tue 2/15 – 45 minutes chipping
  • Wed 2/16 – 50 balls (8i)
  • Sat 2/19 – 45 minutes putting
  • Tue 2/22 – 50 balls (PW), 30 minutes pitching
  • Wed 2/23 – 100 balls (D, 6i, 3-ball, PW)
  • Thu 2/24 – 30 minutes chipping, 18 holes on Pitching Course.
  • Fri 2/25 – 18 holes at Oak Hollow, from the blues. Shot an 89 (42-47). Walked and carried. My game was fairly consistent, but fell apart a bit on the back nine. Got around 18 holes in two hours and 50 minutes. My handicap stayed at 12.2.

>Progressive Swing Thoughts

>”Be the ball” Ty famously preaches in Caddyshack. It’s a good line, one repeated millions of times on golf courses around the world, but as far as actual productive golf advice it’s about as useless to the average golfer as recommendations about how far you should back up your sand wedge from 80 yards.

I had a bit of a revelation on the range last fall, during a time that I was hitting the ball particularly well (for a 12 handicapper, anyway): The swing thoughts of a scratch golfer should not and could not ever be the same as that of a golfer of lesser skill. NOT EVER.

I think this is why I flip right past most advice columns in golf magazines. Not only do I think it would be damaging to my game to try to implement advice from someone who’s never seen me hit a golf ball. In addition, I think the things a pro or advanced teacher thinks about doesn’t apply to most golfers.

When you start out you have to think about a million different things. “Never keep more than 100 things in your mind during a golf swing” Dr. Parent advices in “Zen Golf”, but it sure feels like that would be quite a trick. “Left arm straight”, “Keep your eyes on the ball”, and “Don’t move your head” are just a few. And you practice and practice, and you get a little better.
Then you eventually get to the point where you have these things pretty much down pat. Now you have to start worrying about things like body turn and tempo. Maybe someting about your swing plane or your finishing position. And you practice and practice, and you get a little better still.
Now you get into the rarified air where your swing thoughts no longer have anything to do with the physical aspects of your golf swing. I’ve played golf for 35 years, and I’ve only been there once. On the range last fall I found myself with only one thought: Visualizing, in super-slow-motion, the face of the club making contact with the ball. I hit Driver and irons, and I was making beautiful contact with the ball. The shots were effortless and straight, and I was smiling from ear to ear.
It was then that I realized that if I were to tell a beginning golfer to have the same image in their head would be an absolute disaster. They’d be lucky to make contact at all without focusing on all that other crap.
It was a lot of fun being in that place, and I’m working hard to be able to get back there.
And, maybe just maybe, I will one day be able to just “Be the ball”.

>Practice Log – January 2011

>This is a new thing I’m going to do this year: I’m going to publish my practice log for every month of the year. I figured this way I’ll be more motivated to work on my game, and to work on the right things.

Firstly, let me say that I firmly believe in time on the range being the key to improving my game. I know some golfers spend a lot more time on the course than on the range, but I know if I did that I would not improve significantly at all. For me, the best ratio is 3-4 trips to the range for every round I play, and at times it’s a lot more.

I only get out to play a couple of times a month, so I feel like I owe it to golf to have my game in as good shape as possible. There are times I go to the range a dozen times between rounds.

It doesn’t hurt that I LOVE going to the range. I thoroughly enjoy hitting buckets, putting, and chipping alike. It’s one thing to hit one good golf shot, like you would do on the course. It’s quite another to be able to hit good shot after good shot after good shot, like you might do on the range. It’s VERY satisfying to me.

So here goes. Living in Dallas is wonderful if you’re a golfer, as we had some very nice days even in January, so I’ve been able to stay somewhat active:

  • 1/4 – 45 minutes, putt and chip
  • 1/13 – 100 balls
  • 1/26 – 1 hour, putt and chip
  • 1/27 – 100 balls
  • 1/28 – 30 minutes chipping, 18 holes par 3 pitching course.
  • 1/29 – 18 holes, Los Rios GC, Plano, TX.

I shot a 94 from the blues, which overall I’m OK with. I had an abysmal start to the round. My handicap remains at 12.2.

>State Of My Game

>A precious few of you may actually be following this blog, and if you do you would know where this story is coming from. For the newcomers, allow me to summarize:

Picked up the game around 13 in the old country (Sweden). Got to a 9 handicap by 17. Moved to the US. Played on HS and minor College teams, somewhat sporadically. Allowed non-golf life to get in the way and didn’t play much for about 15 years.

Had back surgery in the late fall of 2008. Bored, I asked someone to bring me the box of golf books I had in the attic. Started reading, and fell in love with golf all over again. Been working on my game fairly ardently throughout the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

In 2009 I was having a hard time breaking into the 80s consistently. I’d shoot an 89 on a par 71 or a 91 on a par 72, but rarely would I beat the imaginary bogey man. For 2010 I set myself the goal of being at a 11 handicap by the end of the season, and being a sub-10 handicap by the end of the 2011 season.

In 2010 I played much better. Clearly the work I did in 2009 carried over, and I started beating the bogey man with fair regularity. In mid summer I lost my job, which had a neutral impact on my golf game. I did have more time on my hands to practice and play, but I also had less money laying around the cost of practicing and playing. I had bought a card at my local driving range, and I continued to use that up, and I was able to get a couple of really good rounds in in the middle of the beautiful Texas fall.

Here’s another twist I threw at my game around this time: I started walking and carrying my bag, and I moved back to the blue tees from the front ones I had been playing in my beer rounds.

Now, walking and carrying at age 45 is never going to be easy. I had several new playing partners ask just how old I was, and be shocked that I’m “still carrying”. I did explain to them that I was “carrying AGAIN”. It also takes a bit to get used to the different pace of walking the course when everybody around you is driving a cart. The first couple of holes are the toughest, then you settle into a routine.

Even so, all these things considered, I played some of my best golf EVER in these rounds. I shot an 85 and an 82 from the back tees while dragging my own bag across the course, and my handicap plummeted down to a 12.2 mark. MOST satisfying. Not to feign superiority, but the only term I could come up with for these rounds is “real golf”. You walk the course, you carry your bag, you play from the appropriate tees.

I’m still out of work, so there’s no telling what 2011 will be like. One of the key parameters that’s allowed me to improve my game over the past couple of years is that I had a driving range just minutes from work. I could go there for lunch and pitch for 3o minutes, or hit a small bucket of balls. The importance of touching the clubs regularly can NOT be overstated.

I still think I can get into the single digits this year, as my goal was at the outset of 2010.

In addition I’ve added another long term goal for my game. Going into my 46:th year at a 12.2 I would like to get to a 7.4 handicap by the time I’m 50, so that I could enter into the US Senior Amateur Championship. I mean, really … how cool would it be just to be able to compete for a spot?

I love my golfing friends, and I love the game and it’s players and fanatics. Until we meet again: Keep’em in the short stuff.

>Well, Obama did his

>President Obama delivered his “State Of The Union” address this week. And Tiger Woods is making his return to professional golf. And the kilted one had done what I hoped never to do, allow myself to fall completely off the radar into the ethereal ether.

So I’m going to try to wrap my head around golf and life once again, focusing on the state of my game and the state of the tour. Some golf writers focus strictly on their own game, and tips and techniques to improve it as much as possible. Some write strictly about the tour, but as a reader I’m somewhat left to wonder about what kind of a golf game that writer enjoys on his own weekend. The good ones cover both.

>Golf and Life

>Well, the Kilted one has been in a bit of a slump for a few months here. It’s mostly job related. Got laid off, and I’ve been busy selling my soul to the highest buyer. I’ve been keeping a very positive attitude, but it’s still a drawn out and challenging time in one’s life. I think men have a harder time being laid off, as on an instinctive level we feel like we’re inadequate if we don’t provide for our family. Sure, friends and relatives are all very nice, saying all the right things, but we still feel like sh*t.

As with most everything else that happens in my life, there’s a tie to golf. Several ties, actually.

Firstly, I just haven’t had enough time, energy, and mostly peace of mind to write about golf.

Job hunting in the internet age is almost a 24/7 proposition, and it takes every bit as much of your time as having an actual job. The difference is, you leave a job to come home. You’re never far away from another jobhunting step.

Being out of work is tremendously tiring. On the days when I have an interview I’m just shot for the rest of the day. Science has proven that being out of work is more stressful than ANY job you can have.

Then there’s the peace of mind bit. Writing about golf is a luxury for me, and without having the lower rungs on my hierarchy of mental needs in place I just haven’t been able to get myself to the point where it was even possible for me to put words on paper (figuratively speaking, of course).

I go back to a partial round of golf I played back in 2003. I was deep in the throes of buying a new house, and my buddy was expecting his firstborn any day. We got about as far as 12 holes, and then we had to walk off the course. Our heads just weren’t in the game, and if they’re not 100% on the next shot there’s just no way to either have fun or play well. I remember my dad saying the same thing about a couple of instances where life got in the way of a good round.

I mean, that’s what we love about golf, right? It’s not that it’s relaxing, in and of itself. Are four foot downhill putts relaxing? Are long water carries relaxing? Are plugged lies in the bunker relaxing? Of course they’re not. The key is that while you worry about all those ups and downs of a round of golf you don’t worry about anything else that’s going on in your life. You don’t, because you can’t.

Then my mind swings around to some of the professional tour players who have had extra-curricular things on their mind this year. Tiger and Phil are the obvious ones, but there are many many pros who have life’s strikes and gutters threaten their mental 300. I’ve never dealt with a loved one having cancer, but I have gone through a divorce. The fact that these guys are even able to be basically competitive at all is a tremendous testament to their innate talent and strength of will.

I’ve been very lucky through my rough spot here that it was by far the nicest time of the year in the Dallas area, and I was able to spend some time on the range and on the course. My game is actually in pretty good shape. The OU – Texas challenge in the beginning of September was the highlight, again dominated by the Sooners. After that I made a move back one tee, to the blues from the whites, and I started walking and carrying my sticks. It took a bit to find a new rhythm, but my game has flourished. I have finished the season with a couple of rounds in the low 80s, and my handicap is at 12.2.

I still think about golf all the time, quite literally. I’ve been watching a lot of the tournaments at the end of the year, and I think the pro game is in very good shape right now.

Right now I’m on a short-term consulting gig, and even though it’s not permanent it’s enough to stop the financial bleeding and let things break even for a bit. I’m hoping to get back into my writing. I’ve also read some significant golf books, and those of you who know me know how much I love golf lit.

I look forward to re-acquainting myself with my old friends in the golf community. Until then, keep’em in the short stuff.

>Bummer Summer

>One of the first new terms I learned when I first came to this country as a 17-year old attending High School in Goddard, KS was “Bummer Summer”. I think my buddy Alan was referring to someone who had to work all summer. Well, it’s been that kind of a summer for me. I won’t get into all the gory details, but it’s been a combination of kid stuff and work stuff. On the upside I’m very lucky to have my health and to have the love of my live by my side through these chellenging times.

I’ve still been watching a lot of golf, and practicing and playing a fair amount as well. I just haven’t had the peace of mind to sit down and write about it. I’m making an effort to get back into it, as I realize that it’s as good for my mind to write as it is for my body to exercise.

I’m hoping to be able to catch up with assorted commentaries over the next couple of days. I have enjoyed some of the great play I’ve seen on tour over the last month and a half. I have also enjoyed some of my best play personally in this time, and I have had some interesting swing revelations in my time on the range. In addition I have had the pleasure of reading a very significant golf book in this period, and I look forward to writing about all these things very shortly.

Right now it’s Monday afternoon, and I wish everyone a happy Labor Day. The Deutsche Bank is on from Nawton, Mass, and I will be tweeting as I watch the rest of this tournament.

I look forward to reconnecting with all my online golf friends.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

>The Hack Shack – The Open

>This week I and my fellow Hack-Shackers discuss Goydos’ 59, golf at St. Andrews, who we like at the British Open this week, and how our own game is going.

PAUL GOYDOS SHOOTS A 59, AND STRICK WINS THE JOHN DEERE AT A RIDICULOUS 26 STROKES BELOW PAR. HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THIS?

STEFAN: I love “Sunshine”, but he gets a slight asterisk next to his score. Par is 71 on this course, and they were playing “clean and place”. This essentially means every iron shot is teed up as long as it’s in the fairway, and we all know Goydos hits a lot of fairways. The other three 59s were on par 72 courses. Strick can shoot darts with the best of them.

JEFF: How can you not like “Sunshine” Goydos? The guy is a quote a minute. I do think this is pretty significant, despite that it was on a par 71 course. These guys play PLENTY of par 71 courses throughout the year, and still this is only the 4th time it’s ever been done in history. How can you not say that’s significant?

STEFAN: Oh, it’s definitely significant, and nobody’s a bigger Goydos fan than me. Earlier in the week I was keeping my fingers crossed for a Goydos/Mediate pairing on Sunday. They would have HAD to put a mic on those guys.

JACK: Whichever way you look at it, a 59 on the PGA Tour is a 59. Incredible stuff, even though Paul Goydos was the last guy I had down to achieve such a feat. Imagine if Stricks could have gone one better on the Thursday and matched Goydos: a pair of 59s on the same day! Now that would have been significant.

TONY: That round shows you how good any regular middle tier tour player could be on any given day. They’re so beyond low handicap amateurs it is sick. How funny is it that Stricker shoots a 60 in the first round and was in 2nd place? The scores last week were very Bob Hope Desert Classic like. I don’t mind a tourney or two a year where they go super low like this. Perhaps that balances out the high scoring of the US OPEN. Any company who provides gear for Goydos has been quick to jump on the bandwagon, from ball manufacturers to club manufacturers. I think I even saw a press release from Goydos’ toothpaste manufacturer.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, EMOTIONS ABOUT ST. ANDREWS?

TONY: The home of golf. The whole town is all about golf. I can’t wait to go. Planning on going next July.

My best friend has played the old course and walked the grounds at Augusta National. He tells me the feeling he gets at the old course is far beyond what he felt at the Masters. As big a Masters fan as I am, I found that hard to believe but I’ll wait until I stand on the 1st tee at the Old Course before I judge what he said.

I love the old course and the links style golf. I play very well on links courses and I love the creativity and shots that can be played, especially ones which run and follow the contours and rolling hills.

STEFAN: I’ve never been there, and maybe I’m building it up too much in my mind, but for me it’s the Mecca of golf in every sense of the word. It’s like a portal through which all other golf experiences get funneled. Growing up in Sweden we were big Seve fans, and his win there in ’84 put it on the map for us. Then you add Bobby and Jack before that and Tiger a couple of times after that, and you can’t beat it. I’d love to see the Ryder Cup played there one day, maybe for the Centenary in 2027.

JEFF: Overall I’m not a “huge” fan of links style golf, but have to respect these players that go and can completely change their game to accommodate the course and conditions like that. St. Andrews IS the Mecca of golf and I’d give my right arm to play there some day. It’s created so many historic moments over the years and I love that The Open goes back there so often. I love watching the guys tee it up on the road hole.

JACK: First things first, I think St Andrews is slightly overrated as a course. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic, but Turnberry and Royal Birkdale stand out as two better Open Championship venues I’ve had the privilege of playing… not wanting to brag or anything. As an Open Championship venue, however, you can’t beat St Andrews. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it’s the best major venue by quite some way. The atmosphere, surroundings, fans, architecture, EVERYTHING: the place is just so special. Close your eyes at the last hole and you can almost envisage yourself on the fairways with the game’s greats – the sense of history is palpable and somewhat overwhelming.

TIME TO MAKE YOUR PICKS. I SAY WE PICK ONE PLAYER FROM THE TOP 10, ONE PLAYER FROM 11-20, ONE PLAYER FROM 21-30, AND ONE PLAYER RANKED ABOVE 30 IN THE WORLD ACCORDING TO OWGR (
http://www.officialworldgolfranking.com/rankings/default.sps). IF YOU’RE NOT PICKING TIGER OR PHIL, LET US KNOW WHY NOT.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: THOUGH THIS CONVERSATION WAS POSTED AFTER THE START OF THE TOURNAMENT, THE PICKS WERE MADE ON WEDNESDAY)

STEFAN: I’m basing my picks in part on the fact that with the exception of Nick Faldo the recent six winners at St. Andrews have been some of the longest hitters in the game (Jack, Seve, JD, Tiger).
– LEE WESTWOOD (barely edging Rory and Tiger). Beware of an injured golfer. This tournament will be a stern test to his psyche, after his performance at the US Open. He’s won here before on the Euro tour.
– JUSTIN ROSE (just ahead of Paddy). I know it’s supposed to be some sort of weird taboo to win the tournament before a major, but the way he has been playing he has to have loads of confidence at this time.
– DUSTIN JOHNSON. You know how when you hit a bad shot with a certain club on a hole you’re bound to get that very same shot on the next hole? Well, for Dustin it’s another Major, and obviously a test of his psyche as well.
– ANGEL CABRERA. He has the power and the experience to do well here. It’s about time for him to come out of nowhere to win a major again.

I think Tiger will get another Top 10 here, but I think Phil will struggle. He’s just so in love with his own game. The power of his drives, and the freaky flop shots he throws up there. I think he’s blinded to the kinds of shots he’s going to have to hit in order to do well at St. Andrews.

JACK: Top 10: Tiger Woods, who else? Yeah yeah, he’s streaky, but he’s got to win sometime soon. This is his favourite track, and it shows in the fact that he’s hoisted the Claret Jug here on the past two occasions. He’ll make it three in a row if you ask me.11 – 20: I’m with Stef on this one… Justin Rose. Made a name for himself at this tournament back in ’98 at Royal Birkdale and, based on current form, there’s no reason why he can’t go a few better and win the thing.21 – 30: Sean O’Hair, anyone? Love Sean’s game and after a decent finish at St Andrews in 2005, I think he’ll be turning a few heads come Sunday afternoon. You heard it here first.Outside 30 – Ross Fisher. Sure, this guy’s dull as dishwater, but he can’t half play golf. Let’s forget the fact that Fisher made a hash of thing at Turnberry last year, because he’s got the length and patience to contend again this week.

JEFF: From Top 10 in OWGR – Lee Westwood
He’s primed and ready for his long-awaited first Major. After the Masters I said that I didn’t think his first would be Pebble, but that St. Andrews would be. So I’ll stick with that. He’s a Major Championship shark, and he’s playing the best golf of his career. I think he’s the guy to beat this week.

11-20 in OWGR – Justin Rose – The OTHER Brit who is absolutely on fire right now. Rose is finally starting to live up to all of that potential and I would not be surprised at all to see him win this week. He’ll certainly have the crowds behind him.

21-30 in OWGR – Geoff Ogilvy – Ogilvy hasn’t been playing the best of golf this year, but to choose from this small select group of 21-30 in OWGR, I like his chances seeing his T5 finish in 2005 at St. Andrews.

Outside of Top 30 – Sergio Garcia – I know this can be somewhat laughable, but since 2001 he’s finished in Top 10 SIX times at The Open. I just like him as an outside reach/sleeper pick.

I didn’t go with Tiger or Phil for pretty obvious reasons. Tiger, as we’ve seen has had some issues with the putter, and you just don’t know what you’re going to get with him lately. Phil, doesn’t exactly have a great track record at the British either, as much as I’d love to see him win.

TONY: 1-10: Lee Westwood (arguably playing the best golf of anyone on this planet right now and will have great support from the galleries)11-20: Padraig Harrington (total stud, knows how to win Opens)21-30: Sean O’Hair (like the kid)30+: Angel Cabrera (love his attitude and he’s mega long)

WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU’RE WORKING ON WITH YOUR OWN GAME RIGHT NOW, AND HOW IS IT WORKING OUT SO FAR?

STEFAN: I’ve come to the realization that I need to spend some time in the practice bunker, so I started that last night. It was ugly. My regular muni doesn’t have a lot of sand on it, which is nice for two reasons: 1) It doesn’t have a lot of sand on it, and 2) I can wear my golf sandals to play there. When I go to a course with more bunkering (like Bali Hai last month) I tend to struggle. In addition to the difficulty of the shot there is also a lot of variation from sand to sand.

My focus is on taking a consistent amount of sand with a shallow swing. I realized last night that bunker practice takes a lot more out of you than almost anything else you do on the range. My plan was to hit a small bucket after about 45 minutes of bunker practice, and I barely made it through the bucket because I was worn out.

JEFF: I have played golf for over 23 years and despite playing on high school and college teams with coaches who would give “tips”, never had a formal/official lesson. But still got down to a 4 handicap at one point. About 2 months ago, I decided to finally take a lesson with a pro. I know there were some things in my swing that needed to be worked on. He identified 2 off the get-go. I take the club back too far, and I’m lazy with my hip turn. The club going back too far is something that is difficult (at least for me) to correct. It’s so mental to tell yourself to stop, when for 20 years you’ve been used to that backswing. I’ve been hitting the range a lot and working on it. I see much cleaner and pure contact with that shortened backswing (as well as consciously firing my hips through), but my tendency now is to pull the ball a bit, and sometimes hit it fat. It’s all a timing thing I think at this point, and just hitting the range on a regular basis I’ll hopefully get it down to where I can build that “repeatable” swing for better ball striking.

Keep’em in the short stuff.
______________________________________________

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. You can get to know us better in our introduction http://golferinkilt.blogspot.com/2010/06/introducing-hack-shack.html. 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/.His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/thegolfspace.
Jack’s blog is http://dudewheresmypar.tumblr.com/.His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/dudewheresmypar.
Jeff’s blog is http://www.goodwalkgolf.com/.His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/jpalopoli.
Stefan’s blog is http://golferinkilt.blogspot.com/.And his twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/golferinkilt.

>The Hack Shack – AT&T National

>WE’VE HAD SOME TIME TO LET THINGS MARINATE FOR A BIT: WHAT ARE THE IMPRESSIONS FROM THE US OPEN THAT YOU THINK WILL STAY WITH YOU THE LONGEST?

Stefan – Pebble continues to be one of the most beautiful places in all of golf. Great win for McDowell. I’ve liked him since watching him with Rory in the World Cup last year. I go back and forth on that 14:th hole, whether it’s fair or if now and then professional golfers can just stop the whining and play the thing. Tom Watson walking up 18 was very memorable. I still maintain Tiger is not far away from being his usual world-beating self.

Jack – I thought it was a pretty memorable US Open. I love Pebble to death and, no matter how much players whinge about it, I still feel the same: you just can’t beat that place as a Major Championship venue. Woods is not himself, but I love the fact that he still has the ability to put the spark and electricity back into a tournament and its galleries with one round. Anyway, this one was all about McDowell for me. He left himself enough breathing room to make a few mistakes on Sunday, and walked away the worthy winner.

Jeff – I think this year’s US Open was great. You can’t get a better venue than Pebble Beach, and having Tom Watson there made it that much more memorable. It was great to see him not only be there because of his history at Pebble/US Open, but because he deserved to be and played quite well, all things considered.

That 14th hole is insane and I’m up in the air if it’s fair or not. I’ve heard fom Tour players that they say while it’s unbelievably difficult, it’s also very fair. But maybe it’s those guys just not wanting to make waves! I also thought the little 7th hole added some excitement. Nowhere else in the world do you see a 100 yard par 3 give the best players in the world such a headache. It was great to see Graeme McDowell play well and hold off the big guns of Woods, Mickelson, and Els. He’s been knocking on the door for a while and it was nice to see him break through. Hopefully the 2010 Open will be remembered more for his steady play under pressure, than Dustin Johnson’s complete meltdown.

Tony – I thought it was a good open but not a great one. I loved how the USGA had Pebble prepared, with the long grass around the bunkers and the difficulty level of the greens. The cool thing about this course’s length and setup was that it brought the whole field into play, not just the bombers. That being said a bomber (Dustin Johnson) was on the brink of winning the thing until he realized he was leading the US OPEN on Sunday and completely lost it. When he hit that shank/flop on #2 I knew he was toast. I almost fell out of my chair.

Regarding 14, I’m of the belief that it was fine. If all the players play the same hole in the same conditions that is fair. I personally like US OPEN golf and seeing the big boys struggle. It makes me feel like they’re actually human. I wonder how much easier 14 would have been if the players could have played it with square grooved wedges?

What I thought was most notable on Sunday was that everyone at the top of the leaderboard, including McDowell, gagged. Nobody within reach made a run at it. It was just that McDowell gagged the least and calmed himself down enough to pull it off on the back nine. Tiger, Phil and especially Ernie all had good chances to win the thing but they all made mistakes. Both Tiger and Phil had terrible putting days. It sounds like a broken record, but Tiger’s putting was “not Tiger like.” Phil has been hot and cold in US OPEN with his putting historically so it wasn’t as big of a surprise to me.

The one person who didn’t gag and was very impressive was Gregory Havret, who shot the best final round of those on page one of the leaderboard. His swing looked as good as any I’ve seen. I wonder if that was a flash in the pan or if we’ll see more of him.

I love Tom Watson. I followed Tom around on Tuesday at this year’s Masters practice round. He was so cool and nice. I think it is amazing that he made the cut in a US OPEN at that age and it shows how much of a stud he is.

WHERE DO YOU THINK TIGER’S GAME IS AT THIS TIME, AND HOW DO YOU THINK HE’LL DO THIS YEAR AND IN THE FUTURE?

Jeff – Never having been a huge Tiger fan, I’m somewhat enjoying this levelling of the playing field. Like Jack, I think his game is around 75% back. But I’m not sure we’ll ever see the Tiger of old again and the domination he once displayed. I think he’ll win this year, but I’m not feeling it for the British. His mental sharpness is obviously not what it one was, and the British is coming up pretty soon. However, you can’t discount the guy’s two top 4’s in the Majors so far, playing well below his “A” game.

Jack – I’d say his game is at about 60%, which is obviously nowhere where he wants it be. Funny thing being is the fact he’s played nowhere near his potential and still managed to finish tied 4th in both of this year’s Majors! I think that says all you need to know really. Only a matter of time before he’s back winning Majors in my opinion. If he can steady the ship in the next few weeks then I’d say the outcome at St Andrews is a formality.

Stefan – I think Tiger’s game is closer than 75%. I know Johnny Miller won’t agree, but there’s a lot of things I don’t agree with that loudmouth on. Tiger’s ballstriking at the US Open was as good as anyone else’s.

Having said that, I don’t think we’ll ever see the kind of domination that we witnessed ten years ago, but I felt that way before his injuries, surgeries, and personal upheaval. That domination was the outcome of him taking a giant leap in terms of strength, fitness, and work ethic over the bulk of the PGA players at the time. Now, the rest of the tour has caught up in a lot of these regards. In a way this makes it a lot more interesting, because now we’ll see if his pure talent is enough to maintain his #1 status.

Tony – Having gone through a divorce over the last few years (fortunately and unfortunately) I can sort of feel Tiger’s pain. The difference is that my ex didn’t get what is looking like it could be 3/4 of a billion dollars. That process had a very negative effect on my game. Even the slightest bad break, like a lip out, would finish me off for a round. My handicap has gone up a great percentage over the time of my divorce and stress, and my frustration level has been the highest ever. My psyche has been fragile. My divorce is now over and I’m trying to get my game back. Despite what some may think, Tiger is human and this has and will have a negative effect on his game for some time to come.
Will he win a major this year? Many thought he’d win at Pebble because it set up so great for him and he had such a dominant win in 2000. He didn’t. Those same pundits are saying he should dominate at St. Andrews because he plays that course so well. I have a tough time with that. As good as he is, he’s not as sharp mentally as he has been in his winning ways. In “Open” situations you can’t afford to make small mistakes. He himself said he made “three” mental mistakes in his final US OPEN round which cost him the tournament. I thought he made more than that.

DO YOU THINK THE MEDIA IS SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME COMPARING TIGER NOW TO TIGER TEN YEARS AGO?

Jack – Yep, but that was inevitably going to happen, what with his injuries and personal life revelations. Pretty pointless drawing comparisons if you ask me: every great athlete has his or her prime years and we can’t expect it to last forever. If you asked today’s pros, I’m sure the majority of ’em would give an arm and a leg to have Tiger’s current, 60 – 75% game! Bottom line being that Tiger can still compete week-in-week-out, even if he’s not as dominant as he used to be.

Jeff – Never having been a huge Tiger fan, I’m somewhat enjoying this levelling of the playing field. Like Jack, I think his game is around 75% back. But I’m not sure we’ll ever see the Tiger of old again and the domination he once displayed. I think he’ll win this year, but I’m not feeling it for the British. His mental sharpness is obviously not what it one was, and the British is coming up pretty soon. However, you can’t discount the guy’s two top 4’s in the Majors so far, playing well below his “A” game.

Stefan – I agree the media is spending too much time looking into the past. If I have to hear “that’s not the kind of missed putt we would have seen from the Tiger of old” one more time I’m going to put a Titleist through my TV.

But I think this is another expression of the laziness of the mainstream golf media. It’s much easier to re-hash some old Tiger comparisons than doing some actual research and maybe possibly tell us who the f*ck Gregory Havret is.

CHRISTIE KERR WON THE LPGA CHAMPIONSHIP LAST WEEK, AND VAULTED TO #1 IN THE WORLD, THE FIRST US WOMAN TO DO SO. HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THIS?

Jeff – It is kind of hard to believe that she is first isn’t it? I think it’s pretty significant but it was only a matter of time with all the good young American female golfers coming up through the ranks. Just watching the Solheim Cup, you could see the talent there and then with Ochoa retiring, you had to figure. It will be interesting to see how long Kerr holds on to the spot.

Tony – To me this isn’t significant at all. I don’t follow the LPGA tour much. I doubt I’ve watched any LPGA since Annika retired. I don’t find watching or following the LPGA to be interesting.

Jack – The fact that she’s the first women’s world number one is surprising more than significant in my opinion. Can’t believe it’s taken this long! Saying that, I’m not sure how long it’ll last, what with Ai Miyazato being on fire this year. Will be interesting to see those two (amongst others hopefully) battle it out over the next few years.

Stefan – It’s significant, but only for the wrong reasons. We should not have to get excited to finally have an American #1. Between that bit of statistics and the 7-month drought between American winners on the LPGA Tour (that’s a total of four events, you know), it’s no wonder they’re in dire straits financially.

IF this triggers an increase in interests and it motivates other American players to raise their game, then it’s definititely significant. Otherwise, it may be the answer to a trivia question in 2018: “Who was the first and last American #1s on the LPGA tour?”

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

=========================================

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. 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. His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/thegolfspace.
Jack’s blog is http://dudewheresmypar.tumblr.com. His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/dudewheresmypar.
Jeff’s blog is http://www.goodwalkgolf.com. His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/jpalopoli.
Stefan’s blog is http://golferinkilt.blogspot.com His twitter account is http://www.twitter.com/golferinkilt.

For more information about us as people and golfers, see http://golferinkilt.blogspot.com/2010/06/introducing-hack-shack.html

>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.

>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.