Lost in Tiger’s Masters Victory

Understandably, all of the post tourney press is about Tiger’s comeback from professional golf oblivion. Best comeback in the history of sports many argue.

But just like a year ago, when the University of Virginia basketball team became the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed in the NCAA tournament, many no doubt missed Francesco Molinari’s master class in gracious losing.

A year ago, after the unlikeliest of defeats, Tony Bennett:

And Sunday afternoon in Augusta, Georgia, Francesco Molinari, taking a page from Bennett’s book:

“I think I made some new fans today with those two double bogeys.” Best runner up interview and line ever. If only all of us were half as centered. As with Bennett, look for Molinari in green sometime soon.

Postscript: How does one explain how Molinari could so surgically make his way around Augusta for 65 holes, then suddenly, as they sometimes say, throw up all over himself? My theory is it had nothing to do with bad swings or Tiger’s death stare, it’s that he could only hold off the weight of the spectators (spare me the “patron” bullshit) for so long. He wasn’t just battling Tiger and numerous other Americans, he was fighting the legion of Tiger fans. How dare anyone, let alone a foreign player, spoil the ending! An empty course and the two stroke cushion he began with is enough to hold Tiger off. Tiger, in other words, owes his victory to the multitudes.

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.