June 2, 2019

I’m going to go out on a limb here and disagree with Hank Haney’s suspension from the SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio channel for what some saw as racist comments made about Asian (in this case, Korean) LPGA competitors. Most certainly, comments that culturally stereotype any kind of group based on skin color, race, religion, gender, political affiliation, etc. etc. etc. are and should be seen as improper. But while Haney’s comments could be construed as insensitive in that regard, they not only weren’t racist or sexist, there’s more than a shred of truth in what he was alluding to in his comments. As Golfweek’s Geoff Shackelford writes:

While I agree with and understand the outrage over Haney’s remarks, particularly from players in this week’s U.S. Women’s Open at a terrific venue with strong fan support, I’m conflicted about the characterization and direction of the outrage that quickly turned to some very strong words.

…The flippant comment he made on his satellite radio show, which was in response by a remark from his co-host apparently referring to the number of women named Jeongeun Lee (there are six), is, one that I’ve heard mentioned hundreds of times over the years — including jokingly from Koreans or Korean-Americans — about the number of women with similar sounding names from Asian countries dominating the game. Sometimes it’s a compliment to the incredible depth and the devotion to craft by these women. Sometimes it’s not. This does not make Haney’s comment acceptable when expressed in condescending fashion and his disdain for the state of women’s golf may be tinged with some sexism, but the leap to racism seems like just that: a leap. I’d lean more toward ignorance of the LPGA Tour or international cultures than anything else.

I’m no big fan of Haney (while his book on Tiger Woods was entertaining, it also smacked of someone telling tales out of school and somewhat tawdry – if not unprofessional – given his profession), so it’s not like I feel any big need to defend him here. And while I’m guessing the LPGA’s powers-that-be would never discuss this publicly, anyone who doesn’t think the ladies’ tour doesn’t have somewhat of an image (or at least perception of image) problem with the amount of Asian players dominating their ranks and their leaderboards on a week in / week out basis is deluding themselves.

Look, I enjoy watching ladies golf, always have. To me their games and the way they swing and approach the game is much closer to what amateur golfers would do well to replicate. Unlike the men’s tour, it’s not just a power game of “hit it as far as you can and go make birdie”. But anyone who has been watching the LPGA telecasts on a regular basis for years knows that, apart from a handful of players, many of the Asian players who now dominate the ladies’ tour – most especially the Chinese and Korean players – are (how should I put this?) photogenically boring to both watch and play. Before anyone accuses me of being sexist, I’m not talking about appearances. If you like (or not like) watching Asian chicks play golf that’s your business – me, I could care less if I’m watching Asians or Martians. But, like most, I’m also looking to be entertained and watch players who appear to enjoy what they are doing for a living and bring something more to the telecasts than just executing (or not executing) shots.

And I don’t mean to generalize here, for there are Asian golfers who I do enjoy watching: Inbee Park always seems to have a smile on her face, Pornanong Phatlum sparkles with her ’60s go-go dancer outfits, and the Jutanugarn sisters Ariya and Moriya are always in the mix somehow. But I’ll be frank here: the Chinese and Korean chicks mostly look the same to me in the way they look, dress, and go about their business with a dour, widget-like efficiency that does nothing for me. And the fact may have similar-sounding or identical names only serves to emphasize the point. And there are a lot of them like that, and they dominate the tour from week to week.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with them as individuals, but collectively – let’s put it this way – they’re not Lexi Thompson or Michelle Wie. The LPGA needs more players who not only know how to play, but bring personas that help them to stand out over the rest of the competition (one of the reasons why Paula Creamer is so popular), and the influx of Korean and Chinese golfers appears to work against that in a medium that demands such if you’re going to pull in occasional golfers and non-golfers. Haney’s comments could be construed as awkward and culturally insensitive, but they weren’t racist or sexist (sorry Michelle, but you’re way off base here and you should be more careful with your own comments!), but it doesn’t mean he was wrong.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 10:41 | Comments Off on Hank Haney Steps Into The Soup
May 25, 2019

Target Handicap: 20.0
Location: Ocotillo Golf Club
Score: 61 + 54 = 115
MyScorecard.com Handicap: 27.2 / Change: (0.0)

If yesterday was the way golf should never be played, today’s round at the beautiful Ocotillo Golf Club – regardless of my score – was the way golf should be played. Pristine conditions, great playing partners, beautiful weather, and, if not a brisk pace, then at least a stead pace. Having a mid-to-late morning tee time on a Saturday afternoon, it’s really all one could ask. Ocotillo is a Phil Mickelson golf properties laid out as three nine-hole courses that wind its way through very expensive (if not exclusive) subdivision. I played the White and Gold courses, and there was water (and I’m not talking insignificant water) on fourteen of the eighteen holes – lakes, ponds, and creeks that made for very strategic golf. The cart paths wound through lovely gardens of flowers of every color. If any of the Goodboys ever want to come out and play golf with The Great White Shank, this is the place I would bring them.

After yesterday’s meltdown at Stonecreek Golf Club, I actually felt fairly composed as I warned up on Ocotillo’s driving range. I knew I was going to lose a bunch of balls, so I came well prepared. My primary goal warming up was to try and stick to my plan and the swing I had been crafting over the past few weeks. It’s true that it all fell apart on me on the range on Thursday and at Stonecreek, but I truly felt my fundamentals were sound and that I should try and stick with it, no matter what. I was breaking tees again with my driver as I warmed up, but all of a sudden I found a “feel” that didn’t feel as if I was over-swinging. My irons were not good, but I could feel my tempo and transition all out of kilter again. I would have to find it on the course.

While it didn’t look pretty, the 61 on the White Course front wasn’t as bad as it seemed. I made good swings on just about every hole (the triple and quad bogeys on #8 and 9 being the exception), I just couldn’t put anything together. And, as has been oh-so-predictable to date, my short game sucked – two double bogeys on the front was the best I could manage. Still, I could feel my game slowly coming together, my ball contact getting that much more crisp and my drives starting to find fairways.

The back nine on the Gold Course started similar to the front (double-triple-double-quad), but I was actually starting to drive the ball well. My chipping started to come around but putting was terrible, with three-putts on 10, 11, and 13. But all of a sudden, it was like a switch turned on. I played the final five holes bogey-par-par-bogey-bogey. On #14 I left a 5-iron short but chipped on and two-putted. On #15 – a massive 538 yard par 5 – I crushed a driver dead center followed by an equally-crushed 5-wood that left me only 114 yards to the green (do the math on that!). For once, I perfectly executed a 9-iron, leaving myself only 12 feet for birdie. I missed the putt but was happy for that green in regulation. On #16 I pushed my drive left and found myself in a low-lying area 171 yards from the pin. This time my 4-hybrid was hit on the screws, leaving me 20-feet for birdie – a shot that garnered not just healthy applause from my playing partners, but a low-five from the cart girl who drove all the way over from the other side of the green just to compliment my shot. Once again, I missed the birdie putt, but another par and green in regulation wasn’t too bad. The bogeys on #s 8 and 9 were rocking chair, allowing what had started off roughly to finish off smooth as silk.

You have rounds where the score doesn’t reflect the way you played one way or the other, and while today’s 115 might not look pretty, the significant thing was I was able to stop the bleeding left over from Thursday’s range session and allow me to regain some of the confidence I had lost. More than anything else, even with my score, today’s round was fun – it was enjoyable to play with good golfers and play at a decent pace on an exquisitely-beautiful golf course that I hope to play again. Even with all that water I enjoyed playing a course where you had to think your way around (not normally one of my strong suits); by and large I played strategically and kept the mental errors to a minimum.

It’s now time for a break. June is coming, and it promises to be a busy month around the house. I’ll probably not touch a club for a couple of weeks, which is a good thing – it’s sufficient to know from today’s round that I’m on the right path with my swing changes and just experienced an unfortunate detour into the abyss. That’s what makes golf so hard – you never know what’s going to creep into your game, and you can never say that you found “it” – at least someone of my talents and capabilities can’t. Not that there still aren’t problems – my short game and putting are just not up to snuff and I really don’t know what to about it at this point.

But I figure I’ll worry about that anew once I begin my Goodboys Invitational weekend prep come July.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 20:34 | Comments Off on Crawling Back From The Abyss
April 15, 2019

Can you imagine what the vibe was like at GOLF Channel after Tiger Woods’ win at Augusta on Sunday? Why, you just know it had to have been the golf equivalent of what it would have been like at CNN and MSNBC had Robert Mueller’s report found incontrovertible evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and that a subpoena with Donald Trump’s John Hancock on it was forthcoming. I mean, to see all that fawning coverage and over-the-top ass-kissing (yes, I’m especially talking about you, Rich Lerner) for the past, what, ever finally – finally! bear fruit had to have been very self-satisfying beyond their wildest dreams.

Now that Tiger has won his 15th major the floodgates open. The hunt for Jack’s record of 18 majors is back on.

How amazing is Tiger? Isn’t Tiger magnificent? What can Tiger do to top this?

Tiger. Tiger. Tiger. Tiger. Tiger. All Tiger all the time.

Now there’s no longer any excuse for 24/7 Tiger coverage. It’s back to open season on everything Tiger. We’ll hear about every thought, comment, and action Tiger takes for the rest of our natural lives or until his body breaks down again (whichever comes first). He’s now automatically the overwhelming favorite going into every tournament he enters. Everything that was once off the board is back on the board. No one, or nothing else, associated with professional golf – never mind the PGA TOUR – matters anymore. No matter what anyone does going forward, it will all be somehow related back to Tiger and what Tiger did or has done.

Just think of it. Say, Brooks Koepka wins, say, another U.S. Open. You just know the first question out of the media’s mouth will be, “So, Brooks, how does this win feel knowing that you missed that putt on 18 at the Masters to basically hand Tiger the tournament.” Or, say, Justin Thomas wins his second major down the line and Tiger finishes four strokes back. You just know the question will be something like, “So Justin, did having Tiger lurking behind you with a chance at his 16th major ever enter your mind?” Because that’s how it’s going to be going forward – no matter what anyone else does, or how anyone else plays, you just know the media – and especially the shills at GOLF Channel – will try and work Tiger into the conversation. You thought it was bad before today? Lemme tell, y’all, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Unless you’re an incurable Tiger flunkie, the coverage will be virtually unwatchable.

Look, I’m not trying to take anything away from Tiger’s achievement, most especially after everything he has been through since his last major win in 2008. He not only outplayed the field on a murky, threatening Sunday, he out-thought and thus out-persevered the rest of the field. I always figured if Tiger was going to win another major it would be at Augusta. Why? Because Augusta on a Sunday is unlike any other experience in professional golf. It requires, thought, patience, and strategy. It’s not just about the shot in front of you, it’s recognizing the vibe all around you and how to handle it. And, besides Phil Mickelson, there’s no one who knows Augusta, the pressure, the shot-making required, and the Sunday afternoon vibe, better than Tiger Woods.

The saying goes that the Masters doesn’t really start until the back nine on Sunday, and was there never a better example of that today? I mean, there you had Francesco Molinari on cruise control, only to be one of four – four! – players in the last two groups to find the water on the par 3 #12. And when that happened you could almost hear the gears in Tiger’s head start churning up a notch. He knew, just like everyone knew, that Molinari created an opening wide enough to drive a 16-wheeler through it, and that that was going to sting the rest of the way through. And while there were players and pretenders making mini-charges the rest of the way, you could see Tiger simply sticking to his plan, knowing that if he kept on doing what he was doing the others would find a way to fall by the wayside.

Honestly? I didn’t think Brooks Koepka was going to miss that putt on 18. After all, dude has ice water in his veins, right? I mean, of all the friggin’ putts to miss! But that’s the way it goes.

A couple of other thoughts:

1. Enough about Rory McIlroy. He’s the golf equivalent of a pretty boy who just doesn’t want to get his hands dirty. Might be the greatest guy in the world, but he made his fame and fortune too early. Whenever I hear someone say that (for all intents and purposes) it doesn’t really matter if you win or lose the Masters it won’t change who you are as a person, that tells me everything I need to know. No one will dispute his talent, but the fact is, he’s not, and never will be, a killer. And the same holds true for Justin Rose.

2. Jordan Spieth? Ditto. Listen, I absolutely love to watch the guy play golf, but it’s obvious he’s got a stubborn streak in him a mile wide. Brandel Chamblee laid out before THE PLAYERS exactly what Jordan was doing wrong and what he needed to get back to his earlier form, and you have to think “his team” saw or heard Brandel’s comments. The fact he hasn’t taken them to heart tells me everything I need to know. Regardless of his public comments, he’s got to know that his swing sucks and he has no clue where his next shot is going to go. So what’s he trying to prove?

3. Dustin Johnson misses way too many putts from ten feet in to ever win a green jacket. He played great this week, but at Augusta (as I’m sure he knows) it all comes down to putting. I think Brooks Koepka now knows this and will adjust accordingly – after all, he, unlike Rory, is a steely-eyed killer who’s going to win at least one major this year. And perhaps Augusta next year.

4. Alternatively, Xander Schauffele is a virtual lock to win a green jacket someday. He’s got the same kind of steely-eyed killer instinct that Koepka does, he’s just a little behind him yet. Justin Thomas? I’m not so sure. I think there are some tournaments and courses that make a good match for players and I don’t see Augusta being that way for JT.

5. While it was pathetic to see Adam Scott miss all those putts on Saturday, it’s just as well as he did, because if he couldn’t make them on “moving day” you knew there was no way in hell he was going to make them on Sunday when it mattered. I love his swing but as a putter he is painful to watch.

Finally, just another indicator of how Tiger Woods doesn’t just move the needle, he is the needle. After the Masters ended, I was at the PGA TOUR Superstore down the street to pick up a couple of gloves. I mentioned to the sales person Tiger’s win, and the guy tells me they expect business to increase as much as 20% over the coming weeks purely because of Tiger’s win at Augusta. Tells you something, huh?

Is it too late to make Tiger the favorite at Bethpage Black? Or maybe even sweep the majors and catch Jack after winning the Open Championship in July? Why not? After all, you just know he’s now the favorite going into all those events. Heck, he’s already a lock for golfer of the year.

Whoo whoo!!!! I’m riding the Tiger train.

I think not. But he does deserve all the congratulations in the world for finding his way back to the top of the professional golf world. Well done, Tiger.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:23 | Comments Off on Tiger Wins at Augusta, And All Is Right With The Golf World Again
April 7, 2019

It’s my favorite golf week of the year, hands down (sorry, Goodboys!). It’s Masters week, and it never gets old. And I want to hear and see it all.

I want to see the nightly GOLF Channel “Live From the Masters” shows with all those dopey, hopelessly overwrought, and sentimental Rich Lerner segments with the same sappy music playing behind them.

I want to see Rich, Brandel, Frank, and David at the desk, the familiar tree behind their set.

I want to hear Jim Nantz and his sappy but familiar “Hello, friends.” greeting.

I want to hear the stories of long past – especially if they involve Ken Venturi.

I want to feel all the emotion and the sentimentality, with lots of stories about the legends about Augusta National.

I want to hear every cliché and key moments in Masters history. I want to hear the origin of “Amen Corner” and Gene Sarazen’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”, the Ben Hogan bridge, and how you just cannot go right on #15 with the Sunday pin placement. I want to hear the phrase “It’s moving day at the Masters”, and how the Masters doesn’t really start until the back nine on Sunday.

Shit, I’ll even put up with that moron Mike Turico who totally sucks with his phony “professional announcer” voice acting like he actually knows something beyond what is constantly fed to him via TelePrompTer.

…and the 4,321,623 references to Tiger Woods that will be made throughout the week.

More than anything, I want to hear the Masters theme song 30,000 times between now and next Sunday.

Because, as far as I’m concerned, it never gets old.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 20:31 | Comments Off on It’s Masters Week!
March 28, 2019

If Spring is here it means that the MLB season is upon us. Thank goodness, because I was getting pretty sick and tired of seeing the same baseball movies being shown night after night on the MLB Channel!

I’m not quite sure if I’ll get the MLB Extra Innings package in order to get the Red Sox games out here, but I’m definitely thinking about it. I’m not picking the Red Sox to repeat, because repeating is such a difficult thing to do with such a long season ahead of them, but I will say this: my prediction is that if the Sox haven’t got their bullpen and closer situation straightened out by July 31 and the (for real this year) major league trading deadline, they’ll go get themselves a closer and automatically become the favorites to repeat – their front-line starting staff is (barring injuries, of course) in my view the best in the game.

So without further adieu:

AL East: Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: Twins, Royals, Indians, White Sox, Tigers (my surprise pick)
AL West: Astros, Athletics, Angels, Mariners, Rangers

AL Champs: Astros over Red Sox

NL East: Nationals, Mets, Braves, Phillies, Marlins
NL Central: Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Brewers, Pirates
NL West: Dodgers, Rockies, Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants

NL Champs: Cubs over Dodgers

World Series: Astros over Cubs

Play Ball!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:23 | Comments Off on Play Ball!
September 27, 2018

1. The Ryder Cup. On the surface one has to think the Americans ought to be heavily favored. This might just be one of, if not the, most talented teams ever assembled. Lots of young guys who thirst for the spotlight. And with Europe, is there anyone besides Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari that scares you right now? Rory McIlroy certainly doesn’t, and neither of the others do. I won’t be watching – I’ve got too many other things to do – but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Americans win in a rout.

2. The 2109 schedule. Man, talk about compressing your entire season into just six months! I can see a greater likelihood that someone who, say, comes out of The Players Championship (no, I’m not going to capitalize all the letters as the PGA Tour does), really hot could then run off a string of majors in short order.

3. Justin Thomas. Have to admit he’s looked a little listless and sloppy at times this year. But one has to remember that he’s still a (at least in PGA Tour terms) a kid, and he’s still learning his craft. I fully believe that in five years’ time he’ll have racked up at least three more majors and will be the dominant American player. And there aren’t many guys I know who could pull off wearing pink.

3. Jordan Spieth. Could it all have come a little too easily too early for Jordan? I love his game, but there’s something going on there that if he doesn’t get a handle on it he runs the risk of becoming a has-been at a very early age.

4. The problem is that there’s too damned much money out there. Think about it: you’re 24 years old and rich beyond your wildest dreams. And in this day and age on the PGA Tour you don’t even have to win to make oodles of dough-re-mi. It would take someone with a very high level of discipline and maturity not to let it get away from him after achieving so much success so early in his professional career.

5. Rory McIlroy. See #4 above.

6. Dustin Johnson. It’s obvious the guy has game and can hit the ball a long way. But I sense no killer instinct there, no desire to refine his game to the point where any one would fear him. Sure, the guy will make a pile of money any given season (and maybe that’s good enough for him), but in my view he’s wasting his talent. Maybe those rumors of issues in his marriage with Paulina Gretzky have something to do with it.

7. Rickie Fowler. Think Dustin Johnson without all the rumors that have dogged Johnson over the years. On the surface Rickie is squeaky-clean, and perhaps that’s true. But methinks between the money, the fame, and his character he doesn’t possess that killer instinct you need to start out hot at a major, then put your foot on the necks of the rest of the field to grab his little piece of immortality. He’s a nice player and fun to watch, but he doesn’t strike me as someone who can come from behind and snag that major by going super low on Sunday. I hope I’m wrong – would love to see it happen.

8. Phil Mickelson. I think that win in Mexico will turn out to be his last hurrah, both in terms of his game and he being the ultimate fan fave. That act he pulled at Shinnecock gave his reputation a hit (he should have either been disqualified or, more appropriately, DQ’d himself after the round ended), and his game is all over the place. He’s had a good run, but time catches up to everyone no matter how good you are.

9. Tiger Woods. And the same will happen to Tiger. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s going to get injured again – it’s a virtual guarantee. His body was old before his back surgery, and nothing has changed since then. This is a very good run for Tiger – perhaps he can keep it up for another year or two or three – but no matter how hard he works out it is unreasonable to expect him to maintain his level of play over the past month for an entire season.

10. That being said, I could see him peel off a major or two over the next few years. There are still significant headwinds facing him – the number of great players out there, his health and age, etc., but I’ll admit I never expected to see him playing at the level he has been again. So maybe all the fawning attention Golf Channel has been foisting on him all year is warranted. After all, Tiger just doesn’t move the needle as far as professional golf is concerned, he IS the needle.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:53 | Comments Off on 10 Thoughts on the PGA Tour Season Now Complete
August 13, 2018

That was a pretty entertaining Sunday at the PGA Championship, and it was probably the most exciting final round of a major this year. A few thoughts to close out this season’s majors:

Is there any doubt that Brooks Koepka is a killer, a true product of golf’s modern age? Not only can he hit it far, he can hit it straight. You see his performances at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock and the PGA at Bellerive, and you have to wonder when folks are going to start giving him his due. Dustin Johnson may be rated as the #1 golfer in the world rankings at the present time, but if given a choice between DJ and Brooks, my money would have to be on the latter.

For one thing, DJ always seems to be able to trample the field at any given PGA Tour event whenever he’s in the mood – there’s no underestimating his talent. But he seems to lack the discipline and killer instinct to put it all together at majors. DJ is the personification of today’s professional golfer. He can hit it a country mile and he makes boatloads of cash. But you can’t help but wonder if that’s really all he’s about.

Koepka, on the other hand, is a steely-eyed version of the Old West gunman who comes into town, chip on his shoulder, looking for respect as a gunslinger. He’s got DJ’s length, but he seems able to discipline himself at the majors to handle the pressure that results from hitting it so long that you ought to be able to rack up birdies when the opportunities present themselves.

And it was amazing to watch he and Adam Scott, just two groups back from the Tiger Woods circus, fire away at pins tucked only yards from the edge. Both of them were virtually unflappable, and it was a marvel to watch them both handle the pressure of the last round of a major, especially with a charging Tiger in front of them.

He made some mistakes down the stretch, but there is little doubt that Justin Thomas is going to be collecting his own share of majors over the next few years. He’s got a beautiful swing and a game you just can’t help but love to watch. He’s almost as fearless as Koepka, but you could tell he got a little rattled at the pace of play when his playing partner Shane Lowry ran into difficulties on (I think) #14. Thomas, like Koepka, likes to get up there and hit the ball – a quality to be admired. But Thomas is still learning his craft and he ought to be a force over the next decade.

I wonder what’s wrong with Rory McIlroy? Not sure if it’s physical or mental, but he’s not the same golfer he was several years ago. Maybe he should have married Caroline Wozniacki after all.

Ditto Rickie Fowler. No one doubts the guy has game, but is what he has good enough to win a major? A big question that’s only going to get bigger with every major he doesn’t win.

I think Jordan Spieth is going to look back on this year as a growing year and an important one in his career. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him pick up at least two majors next year.

Which, of course, makes Tiger Woods’s opportunities to win another major all the more daunting. Sure, he showed an incredible amount of grit out there yesterday, but if you don’t win, who cares? He’s back to grinding with the best of them. And his irons were pure, no doubt about it. But he really doesn’t drive the ball well, and his putting is just OK. There were six putts yesterday that the old Tiger would have made without any problem. But that’s what being 42 years old will do to ya. The difference in your putting might be hundredths of a second here or there, but it’s that hundredth of a second that will result in a putt left just short or one to lip out.

And Tiger is going to be facing some incredible competition in the years he has left. Hard to believe, but as good as they are, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are still learning the ropes of playing professional golf at the highest level. They’re only going to get better. You’ve got Koepka and DJ and others who just aren’t going to be intimidated by Tiger, even when he’s putting on one of his legendary charges. They respect him, for sure, but unlike his peers of 10+ years ago, these players look forward to the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with him. They relish the attention, they welcome the crowds and the attention, and they just itching to go mano a mano down the stretch of a major. As I mentioned in my last post, as long as he stays healthy (and there’s no guarantee on that) Tiger’s gonna win some tournaments. But majors? I think he’s going to find that very difficult.

One final comment about Tiger: everyone is all kissy-ass about his comeback and slobbering over his play as it has evolved over these past few months. I get it, his comeback is a great story. But they’re all placing Tiger in the same bubble he was during his prime more than ten years ago. The guy is 42, and given his history of injury, he’s an old 42. No one I heard this week expressed anything like a cautionary note that what we’re seeing now is the twilight of Tiger’s career. They’re acting as if he’s capable of dominating like he used to, and that’s just not going to be the case. I agree he’s making a great run and that it’s fun to watch, but he’s one Achilles tendon, disc, or knee issue from saying riding off into the sunset for good. And I can see it happening: he gets revved up and starts making those big, violent swings. A little dose of reality from the media in Tiger’s case wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 21:41 | Comments Off on Twilight Of The Tiger
August 11, 2018

Look, I get the interest in Tiger Woods’s comeback, but the coverage this week on Golf Channel has been nauseating to the point of insanity. It’s one thing to speculate on how he might perform during the weekend and cover it during the tournament. It’s another thing entirely to drop his name into every friggin’ discussion they’re having. A discussion about grasses? Rich Lerner has to drop a line about how Tiger played on that grass back in 2002. There’s a chance for rain? Brandel Chamblee (who, BTW, has turned into the biggest Tiger suck-up on the channel) will recall Tiger playing in the rain at Sodapop Valley back in god-knows-when. Adam Scott being rated 76th in the world? Frank Nobilo has to mention Tiger was rated 76th in the work on May 5th, 1997. My god, you would think he was the only golfer capable to hitting an iron from 127 yards out to seven feet. I’m sure that’s never been done before.

I get the fact that they’re trying to lure in the casually-interested viewer, but there are lots of golf fans who are interested in the tournament and the field in total. And (at least for me) that makes the viewing less than satisfying.

I don’t care that he’s only four strokes back. It’s fairly clear (although not 100% obvious at this point) that Woods will go another year without winning a major, making it ten – ten! – years since his last major win at the 2008 U.S. Open. Ten years. Like, a decade. It’s so hard to fathom – if someone had said in June 2008 that Tiger Woods would go at least ten years without winning a major they would have been laughed off the face of the earth. I still can’t believe it myself.

I happen to think Tiger has one, perhaps two more majors in him, but that’s not altogether certain, for sure. As I’ve said before, Golf Channel and the other sports outlets slobber over all the great shots he’s making out there, but they don’t show the putts he’s missing, the drives in the rough, the grinding his 43-year old body has to do week in, week out. It’s probably harsh to call him an ordinary PGA Tour professional at this stage in his career, but he’s certainly no better than an above average golfer. Of course, he’s got too much talent and expertise in his DNA not to play well whenever he is healthy – something he appears to be for the first time in a long time – but the level of golf he is playing just doesn’t equate to the amount of ass-kissing and non-stop coverage he’s getting. You want to focus attention on Tiger Woods? Do it from the angle of his age and the competition he is facing out there. These “young guns” may respect Tiger, but they don’t fear him. And they can hit the ball further and more consistently than he can.

One final thought: it’s ironic that the kind of modern-age, blast it off the tee as hard and as far as you can golf as played by the Dustin Johnsons, Justin Thomases and Brooks Koepkas of the world – the kind of golf that Tiger has to excel at in order to pass Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors is the same kind of golf Tiger himself introduced nearly two decades ago. In that regard, he’s become a victim of his own success. The fact that Tiger is playing as well as he is at this point in the year is something to celebrate; certainly no one could have expected this back in January. But enough already with the saturation coverage. After a while you just get sick of it.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 20:36 | Comments Off on Tiger Tale
June 18, 2018

Another U.S. Open, another year of controversy involving course set-up. The last time the Open was held at Shinnecock Hills the USGA admitted they let the course get away from them. Three years ago at Chambers Bay, they didn’t expect the course to respond as it did to the weather and the elements, leaving the golfers crusty brown surfaces that looked like some West Texas muni. This year, Saturday was a debacle when the USGA admitted they didn’t take into account the amount of wind and the impact it would have on the greens with the pin placements that were chosen for the day. Fortunately, for the USGA…

…Order was restored on Sunday when officials chose the side of caution, dumping plenty of water on the greens overnight and situating the cups more often than not near the center of greens, away from severe run-offs near the edges.

There were still plenty of high scores, but an average of 72.2 on the par-70 course suggested the set-up had been just about right, though it was helped by winds that did not blow quite as strongly as the previous day.

The USGA got lucky, though, in that Koepka won. He played late on Saturday.

Had Tony Finau or Daniel Berger hoisted the trophy, the criticism might well have got louder.

Both played early on Saturday, shooting 66 before the greens wilted under the baking sun, and neither would have expected to be tied for the lead at the end of the third round.

Golf is not meant to be fair but Finau and Berger, through no fault of their own, were provided with such an advantage that had either won, the victory might well have left a sour taste.

Finau was ranked 37th in the world while Berger started the week ranked 43rd — both accomplished players but yet to make their mark in major championships.

In the end, the top four finishers — Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed — all started the week ranked in the top 13, so nobody could say it was a fluke leaderboard.

There’s no question that the USGA dodged the proverbial bullet this year, but unless they seriously – and I mean seriously – reevaluate their approach to setting up future Opens, they’ll just keep running the same risk year in, year out.

I won’t hold my breath.

Methinks the whole idea of what the USGA believes the U.S. Open is supposed to prove and how the USGA sets up their courses in order to achieve that goal is both outdated and ill-advised. Clearly, they are fighting a losing battle with technology and the athleticism of today’s professional golfers, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. I think GOLF Channel’s Frank Nobilo hit the nail on the head when he said that what the USGA is now reduced to doing is taking courses that were designed some 80-100 years ago to play a certain way in a far different era and tricking them up in order to achieve the USGA’s goal of making them par as close to the winning score as possible, and the hell with everyone and everything else.

It makes no sense. What the USGA is doing is risking making our national golf championship a farce. What does “par” really mean, anyways? And why should par matter? The idea should be to create a stern test for the professional golfer around a certain philosophy that the golfer who plays the best all-around should win. Not the golfer who can best drop an approach shot from 150 or 170 yards out onto an area the size of a postage stamp. That’s not golf, and I’m certain that’s not what the original course designer – no matter who they are or were – had in mind.

So here’s an idea for the USGA: forget about par. Forget that par even exists. And, for gawdsakes, leave the stimp meters in the equipment shed. Allow the courses you choose to be themselves and set them as reasonably close to the way the original designers had in mind. If you want to squeeze the fairways and leave the rough “U.S. Open rough” – fine. But leave the greens alone. Let them run as true to average as they can. And then – most importantly – let the chips fall where they may and just count the strokes. Forget about +2, -5, +7, etc. A guys shoots 69-72-69-75? Count it as 285. No one needs to know what par is. No one should care. Put your collective egos in your pockets and your outdated ideas about what par should be and just count the strokes. The better players are going to rise to the top, and if some non-marquee or top 20 player in the world doesn’t win, accept it for what it is.

I can assure you, as much as you think the fans out there want to see the pros struggle and get embarrassed like they do in their own weekly Sunday leagues, no one wants to see Rickie Fowler shoot an 84 or Dustin Johnson shoot 77 like they did on Saturday. No one wants to see the best players in the world shooting +12 or +18 for the weekend, even if it is just one week a year. No one wants to see a putt on line just barely trickle past the hole and then pick up speed and roll off the green entirely. That’s not USGA golf, that’s clown golf.

You probably won’t listen to The Great White Shank, but if you, the USGA, just set up your courses honestly and count the strokes instead of worrying about what the winning score should be in accordance with par, you might actually be able to relax and watch the best players do what they do best instead of sitting on the edge of your seats year in, year out worrying about the weather conditions and if the course is going to “get away from you”, leaving you embarrassed and making excuses yet again.

Our national championship deserves better.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 17:28 | Comments (2)
May 22, 2018

I was tired, man.

Like, dead-tired.

Like, as dead tired as man could be coming off of suicide watch.

Like, as dead tired as a man coming off of suicide watch after being strapped into the electric chair for 45 minutes before being told, “Never mind” after the governor pardoned him for all eternity after discovering the dude never committed the crime he had been convicted of.

That kind of tired.

Last week was a bad week. Every time we thought we were “thisclose” to a breakthrough at “The Client Who Shall Remain Nameless”, there were all kinds of crap coming down on us. Then on Thursday night, we got word of a huge flaw in our workflow that threatened to send us back to the bad old days of February; I went to bed as dejected and depressed as I’d been in weeks, only to find out in the morning that the moron responsible for the QA had made a mistake and, oh, everything looked good after all. Sorry about that, fellas!

So on Friday afternoon I had to get away. I didn’t have my clubs with me, but I knew I could drive to the Golf & Ski in Nashua, NH and tell one of the salespeople there I wanted to try some new clubs out and he’d be more than willing to give me a small bucket.

Looking at all the clubs I could feel all the stress starting to lift; I was once again a kid in a candy store. I wasn’t really planning on doing anything other than hit some balls to see how my back felt, so just for yucks I grabbed three 7-irons off the rack: a Mizuno JPX 900 with a steel shaft, a Ping G with a steel shaft, and, just for the heck of it, a TaylorMade M2 with a graphite shaft. The Mizuno and the Ping I had tried a year ago when shopping around for new irons, the TaylorMade I had tried in a steel shaft at the same time.

I remembered the feels of the Ping and the Mizuno and remembered why I had settled on my final choice of the Callaway Steelhead XRs at the time. Still, it felt good just to stretch out my back and hit some balls. And while I didn’t like either of the clubs that much, I didn’t hit them bad, and the warm afternoon sun was a nice departure to the endless crises, phone calls, and the laptop. It also didn’t hurt knowing that in less than an hour’s time I’d be enjoying Mexican food and Margaritas just up the road a piece.

I’d grabbed the TaylorMade M2 as an afterthought: I’d been a “steel” man for so long I’d never even considered hitting irons with a graphite shaft. But one swing later, feeling the way the shaft responded to a solid “on the screws” hit, the ball taking a longer and higher trajectory than I’d ever seen me hit with a 7-iron hit, I was damned intrigued. Three balls later, all hit so-so, I was enthralled. A dozen balls later, I was in love-love-love. Like, “hey mister, can we make a deal on these clubs even though I can’t afford the price and I’m two thousand miles away from home” kind of love-love-love.

Well, almost. But boy, they sure felt great. Better than any iron I’d ever hit before. Better than my Steelhead XRs, for sure.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve grown to like my Callaway Steelhead XRs, but one thing that annoys me about them is that every hit kind of has a similar feel. I mean, you know when you hit them either fat or thin, but when you hit them on the screws you never get that sense of accomplishment, that sense of the club saying to you, “Dude, you done good.” With the TaylorMade M2, not only did they seem to hit the ball higher – something I really enjoyed watching – but they seemed to go longer, perhaps a club length longer for me. After hitting another mini-bucket, not only was my back feeling good, I was feeling good. Like the way hitting balls should make you feel.

A few of my Goodboys friends joined me on Sunday when I tried the M2 7-iron out again. The way the club felt only served to confirm what I felt on Friday: these were the clubs for me. And the boys were suitably impressed as well. So that was that: I had already found I could get a great deal on the clubs at the PGA Tour Superstore website (after all, TaylorMade had stopped manufacturing the M2s six months ago), and, better yet, I could also get a very decent trade-in for my Steelheads at 2ndSwing.com.

So that’s it: The Great White Shank’s “Callaway era” is over. It was OK while it lasted – not great, just OK. Had some good rounds between the old RAZR-Xs and the Steelheads, but the M2 is the first iron I’ve truly fallen in love with. They’re light (something that will force me not to over-swing), the black graphite shafts have a nice sinister look to them, and they feel really good in my hands. I’m looking forward to seeing how the other clubs hit and putting them into competition.

Oh, and as far as “The Client Who Shall Remain Nameless” is concerned? We actually had a good weekend, and I hope we’ll be past the critical phase that we’re presently in by this time next week. Something to hope for, anyways. Because I’ve got a bunch of time off I would like to start taking: time off that includes a few consecutive rounds of Friday golf with my Cobra woods and hybrids, my Ping Scottsdale putter, and my TaylorMade M2 graphite irons.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 22:49 | Comments Off on TaylorMade for The Great White Shank


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