Ryder Cup 2018

I slipped out of bed early Sunday morning and tiptoed downstairs in the pitch black to fire up the TIVO which had dutifully recorded the first few hours of the Ryder Cup singles matches in Paris, France.

First rule of the Ryder Cup, one must watch on tape because the pace of play is twice as slow as normal. Not to mention the steady stream of commercials.

Sports are a great diversion from more depressing matters such as the state of our (dis)union and Supreme Court.

I was rooting for the red, white, and blue, but they got clobbered. The damage was mostly done on Saturday. Sunday was perfunctory. The loss was no big deal because as I tweeted to a golf writer, I’ll take unadulterated joy over random nationalism every day of the week.

The paradoxes are so layered as to be humorous. Many of the Euros played college golf in the U.S. and have homes in the U.S. where they play on the PGA tour full time. At best, like some of their long irons, they’re Euro-American hybrids. Many of the U.S. players’ grandparents and great grandparents are from Europe. And when you have class personified in guys like Francesco Molinari (Italy) on one side and asses like Patrick Reed (USA) on the other, who really cares who wins. Just relish the drama.

And really relish the victory celebration, especially if the Euros win. Unadulterated joy. They care about it way more than the Americans. Tiger was so bored he somehow put on rain pants. DJ and Koepka, too cool to care. Phil, seemingly past his expiration date.

The simplistic analysis is that the American’s edge in power and talent is offset by their relative individualism and materialism (players don’t receive any money other than large contributions to the charity of their choice). Sometimes the conventional wisdom is right.

Others say the deciding factors were the course set up which deprived the Americans of their power advantage, Furyk’s incompetence as bossman, and the hectic September playoff schedule. On the U.S. side, the Ryder Cup is like the Senate, time for a serious turnover. Time to tag in Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Kyle Stanley and other younger, hungrier guns by 2020 in Wisconsin. And if asked, yes, I will coach.

See the Euros’ passion for the Cup and team camaraderie for yourself.

 

Monday Assorted Links

1. Michigan’s sixth man is easy to root for.

2. Some headlines are better than others.

3. American adults just keep getting fatter.

My brother and his partner, as I learned last week, walk 1 mile around their block every night without fail, right after dinner, without even picking up the kitchen.

4. Props to Bill and Melinda for acknowledging that teacher evaluation efforts haven’t shown results.

5. The worst part of Trump’s presidency so far.

 

Really Good Writing

I always appreciate really good writing, but sometimes get frustrated when uniquely talented writers write exclusively about relatively unimportant things. Take Alan Shipnuck, a fellow Bruin, who writes really well about . . . all things golf. Dig his description of TWood’s bottoming out in 2015:

“He developed a palpable stage-fright, the nadir coming on his first hole at the British Open, on the Old Course, site of some of his greatest triumphs. On the tee, wielding a mid-iron, he hit it so fat the gouge that was left behind became a macabre monument to a lost genius.”

Maybe not Pulitzer-worthy, but describing the divot as a “macabre monument to a lost genius” is, if I do say so myself, genius.

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Kelly Kraft’s Awful, Horrible, No Good Day at TPC Boston

Kelly Kraft, the 64th best player on the PGA Tour, has earned $1,638,000 so far this season. Today he’s playing in the second of the season ending four “playoff” tournaments. He has to finish in the top 70 (out of 100) to advance to the next tournament. The odds of that are not good thanks to his second hole this morning.

  • Shot 1 237 yds to unknown*, 311 yds to hole
  • Shot 2 146 yds to right rough, 166 yds to hole
  • Shot 3 155 yds to water, 36 ft 7 in. to hole
  • Shot 4 Penalty
  • Drop in right fairway, 85 yds to hole
  • Shot 5 98 yds to native area, 38 ft 2 in. to hole
  • Shot 6 3 in. to native area, 38 ft 0 in. to hole
  • Shot 7 Penalty
  • Shot 8 71 yds to water, 44 ft 0 in. to hole
  • Shot 9 Penalty
  • Drop in right fairway, 85 yds to hole
  • Shot 10 86 yds to green, 5 ft 5 in. to hole
  • Shot 11 putt 8 ft 9 in., 3 ft 3 in. to hole
  • Shot 12 in the hole

For shitssake, he was standing 166 yards from the hole lying two! So he made a “10” on a shortish par 3. Somewhere John Daly is smiling. Sadly, I have not played a round of golf all year, yet I am confident I could “break 12” on the second hole at TPC Boston given the chance. Twelve out of twelve times. I guess the silver lining is he’ll be home with his family for the start of the school year.

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*Love that phrase “to unknown”. I have driven it “to unknown” more times than I care to remember.

Dream Job

Thanks to the Pressing Pauser who sent this job announcement:

GOLF COACH NEEDED:
Pacifica Christian High, located in Newport Beach, is looking for a head coach for its varsity girls golf team as it goes into its inaugural season in the fall of 2017. Individuals with a strong background in coaching golf, working within a high school setting, and are strong in their faith are encouraged to apply. Please submit a resume and direct all application questions to. . .
Here’s how the receipt of my application would prob go down:
Athletic Director to anyone within earshot in the athletic office, “Get a load of this one. Dude lives in Washington State. Perv alert!”

What I Got Wrong About Professional Golf

I grew up playing golf.

My first job was parking golf carts and picking up range balls at Los Alamitos Golf Course. One benefit of that job was practicing and playing for free. The guy I played behind in high school, Mike Miles, is playing in the US Senior Open right now. Once, another teammate, who just happened to be wearing his golf shirt on an off-day, an act that required serious chutzpa in the pre-TWoods era, told our substitute teacher we had a match and had to leave our 11th grade English class early to warm up. That day we got a few extra holes of practice in on account of her naivete. Who knew at the time we’d both end up being college administrators.

Growing up I used to think that playing professionally would be la ultima. Traveling to exotic places, being on television, being pampered by tournament committees, making mad money, basically living large.

Fast forward to the US Open where I watched a new wave of rookies like Cheng Tsung Pan and Cameron Smith methodically go about their business. With their swing coaches, sports psychologists, nutritionists, and fitness trainers. Pan grew up in Taiwan, spent a chunk of his youth in a Florida golf academy, and starred at the University of Washington. Smith is a 21 year-old Australian who finished fourth after nearly making a “2” on the par 5 18th. On the practice range their ball flight is so consistent it’s mesmerizing. On the greens, their strokes are so silky smooth it’s stupifying. To say these guys got game is an understatement.

The thought I couldn’t shake was that the Tour is like a life saving dinghy floating in the open ocean. For every Pan and Smith that makes it on, two other guys have to be tossed overboard, most likely journeymen in their 40’s. Approximately 500-1,000 guys around the world make a decent living playing professional golf, but at least 50,000-100,000 are seriously pursuing the dream on driving ranges, courses, and tours in Asia, Australia, Europe, South Africa, South America, and Canada. Then throw in NCAA college golf and the Tony Finau’s of the world who bypass college and learn to win on the Web.com Tour and you have a hyper-competitive field of work. Take a breather at your own and your family’s risk.

Every time a PGA journeyman goes to sleep, thousands of guys on the otherside of the world—a younger Pan in Taiwan and a younger Smith in Australia for example—are honing their craft. Professional golf is la ultima, la ultima meritocracy. Every year 90-95% of the players who don’t have any kind of cushion created by victories, have to prove themselves all over again.

The top 50 in the world get a disproportionate amount of the media’s and our attention. Thus, our perspective is grossly distorted. Imagine having a few thousand driven people from all corners of the world strategizing day and night on how to displace you. Then imagine having a family and being on the road two-thirds of the time. Then imagine losing a little confidence with the flat stick (e.g., Michael Putnam, Ernie Els).

It only took me forty years to learn that for the vast majority of journey men and women golfers, it’s an extraordinarily difficult way to make a living.

US Open Postscript

Sunday’s 6-11a shift was my favorite. Left the house at 4:52a and walked onto the grounds at 5:51a. The sunrise was spectacular and it was nice watching the course slowly come to life under overcast skies and cool temps in the mid 50’s.

A lot of disabled spectators had either tired and turned to their televisions or simply slept in so I ate my annual donut, shot the breeze with fellow volunteers, walked a bit of the course, and made occasional runs around the course.

The Cowboy will be pleased to know there was a brief Holly Saunders sighting. She sped by in the passenger seat of another cart. On a related note, her post round interviews were goofy. Sane people know Fox isn’t fair or balanced, but we have to acknowledge that they are consistent when it comes to their television “talent”. Their coverage more generally was flawed relative to the much more experienced network teams. Norman’s bromance for Day was over the top, the lack of yardage, Pavin awkwardly overreacting to a Faxon dig, “What do we want to go here, best career?”, etc. However, the microphone in the hole was genius and almost compensated for all the other shortcomings.

The highlight of the day was my penultimate trip, from Central Meadows to the top of the 18th hole grandstand. A man flagged me down and said, “I had a hip replacement, and it hurts, and I need to get up to the 18th grandstand for a picture, can you take me?” I looked at his tournament pass everyone wears around their neck and it said, “Robert Trent Jones, Jr.” The course architect and his wife hopped on and we we’re off.

“I heard you interviewed on the radio a few days ago. It was a nice interview.” Phone call with someone involved with the picture and then, “The pros are really savaging the greens aren’t they?” What do you say to that? “Yeah, but everyone has to putt the same greens.” Weak I know, but I was working with 5 hours sleep. Then I said, “You should be proud of the fact that this is a spectacular event.” He shook my hand appreciatively. And told me he had an article in the Sunday Seattle Times about his dad for whom “I wouldn’t be here personally or professionally.”

The locals are too damn defensive about all the criticism of the greens, Jones’s design, noisy trains, and the spectators’ many challenges. I don’t understand why people take it so personally. Given the leaderboard and dramatic ending*, the early word from Tim Rosaforte is that all the greens will be completely redone (much less undulation, much more consistent grass) and the “footprint” will be altered to be more fan-friendly and the USGA will return in 10+ years.

How many majors will Spieth have by then?

After finishing work at 11a, I picked up a Thai Chicken Wrap, banana, and water**, and headed to the practice range. It was strange that more people weren’t there because it was the best place to see the most players up close putting, chipping, hitting balls. I watched Rose, Kopeka, Poults, HMarayauma, Mcllroy, Na, Senden, the Duf who wins the “best shoes” and “most weight lost since divorcing” competitions. At 11:45a, Spieth walked onto the practice range a few feet in front of me and headed to the putting green, exactly three hours before teeing off.

Having gotten too much sun, I headed home at noon, tired from a long week. I’m lucky my vagabond daughters are both home. The Girls Club was wanting to hike Mount Rainier sometime this week before the Eldest returns to the shadows of Wrigley Field. I suggested we take advantage of the Summer Solstice and head to Rainier and the fam proved spontaneous enough.

A glorious hike on the Deadhorse Creek trail was cappped with a picnic dinner a mile above the Paradise Visitor’s Center. After returning home, I watched the tournament which I had recorded.

A full and fun day. I’m appreciative of my health and my daughters who gave me cards with touching messages. I’m also grateful for nature, in particular the Sound that frames Chambers Bay and Mount Rainier which frames large swaths of Western Washington.

Postscript: To the golf averse, I have one more golf post in me and then it will be on to new subjects.

* One take-away from tournament week. America is seriously overweight. One culprit has to be beer. Everyone began drinking beer at around 10a and didn’t stop.

** Would have been even more dramatic if the tournament had been decided by a made putt.

12th hole. Driveable par 4. For them, not us.

12th hole. Driveable par 4. For them, not us.

This is why they're better than me. They warmup with the same balls they play.

This is why they’re better than me. They warmup with the same balls they play.

The wildflowers are in full bloom a month earlier than normal.

The wildflowers are in full bloom a month earlier than normal.