Watching Tiger Woods crumple to the ground in agony
with a "back spasm" during the final round of The Barclays was an awful, painful
spectacle, though admittedly more for him than for me.
Nowadays, every time we see Tiger, now a
high-mileage 38, wince from yet another injury, the prospects of him ever
breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors seem ever more remote.
The whole thing is enough to make me think back
to the old days, circa 2000 and 2001, when Tiger was invincible, winning eight
and nine tournaments a year, hitting shots that were previously unthinkable and
oozing the supreme confidence of an athlete in total command.
The standard line back then was that the only
things that could possibly halt the Tiger Juggernaut were a bad marriage or a
Uh, well, a dozen years later, Tiger has hit
the Daily Double in that regard.
From afar – and Tiger prefers we all
remain afar -- his personal life appears to be no longer in humiliating
upheaval.Of course, who knew what
was going on behind that gilded curtain before his notorious Thanksgiving Car
Crash ’09?And who knows when it might
all blow up again?
But for now, it is the injuries that pose the
biggest obstacles in his quest to overtake Nicklaus.Of course, the laundry list of Tiger’s injuries
– knee, knee; knee, leg, wrist, elbow – could prove to be mere
annoyances compared to a bad back.
As anybody who has ever had serious back
troubles can tell you, there is no all-consuming misery like a bum back.It owns you; it rules your life.
I have some experience with a back injury,
although nothing that would get any sympathy from Fred Couples.During a round five or six years ago, like
a fool, I tried to power a ball out of heavy rough – you know, like we’ve
all seen Tiger do a million times.
I didn’t drop to my knees on impact but I knew instantly
I’d done something to myself that was not good.I was able to finish the round but by
that evening, the muscles from my mid-back down through my lower back had seized
up.The next morning, I woke up in serious
It didn’t bother me too much until I played
another round a day or so later. I
was in pain on every shot, and it was impossible to take a decent swing at the
ball knowing what was waiting for me at impact and on the follow-through.
After that round, I gave my back a rest for a
few days, but it did little good.Every time I would try to play, the searing pain would return.It wasn’t always there on the first tee,
but at some point during the round, I would take a swing that left me doubled
over, crumpled like Tiger at The Barclays.I tired Icy Hot, ice, heat, stretching, not stretching, whirlpools and
serious couch blobbing.The relief
was always temporary.
I quit playing golf for two or three weeks to
let the muscles heal.Full of hope,
I made my eventual return to the links.Bad idea. Horrible idea. Two more failed attempts at playing later,
I shut it down for the winter, figuring three or four months layoff would surely
do the trick.
It didn’t.For the entire golf season, and much of the year after that, the
shooting back pains would return during most every round I played –
without warning and without mercyEvery
time, I’d go, "Here we go again."
Knock on wood, my back pain is finally
gone.In hindsight, I realize I was
lucky. Mine was only a pulled
muscle(s) that I repeatedly aggravated, nothing compared to spine or disc
Anyway, right now, I don’t envy Tiger.Okay, maybe a little.
I have just entered into
what I hope will be a serious and lasting bromance.
I say "bromance"
because I prefer to think of my golf clubs as guys, not gals, like some
sailboat named "Miss Misty" or a ’68 Camaro named "Little Darlin’".Insofar as my golf club has nicknames,
they are male, my long-ditched driver named dubbed "Big Bertha" by Callaway notwithstanding.
Anyway, the new arrow in my
quiver is a TaylorMade R1 Black TP.It replaces my wildly-popular white-headed
TaylorMade R-11, which had served me semi-loyally for
three or four years.
I am not one to cast aside a
semi-loyal driver without good cause, which, in this case, was the fact that
the TaylorMade R1 Black TP showed up in the mail
about a month ago, a gift from my nephew-in-law.He’s a lawyer in North Carolina and I’d done
some work to help him launch a website.Sending me the driver to say, "Thanks."
It arrived, unfortunately,
while I was sidelined from golf, recuperating from my recent hip-replacement
surgery.Initially, all I could do
was loaf on the couch and fondle the R1 Black TP -- in a very manly way, mind
you – occasionally glancing over at my old semi-loyal R-11 in the corner for
any signs of jealously.
As my hip improved, I was
able assume the position and take a few half swings in the living room, pining
for the day I could actually put the R1 Black TP into action.That day arrived on Tuesday, nine weeks
to the day since my surgery.I
played nine holes with a couple of guys I know my club’s Thursday night Men’s
R1 Black TP and I got off to
a great start together.After
hitting a few dodgy warm-up tee shots on the range that had had me concerned, I
proceeded to bust my opening drive long and straight.This, of course, was an unlikely
development with an unfamiliar club, aside from the three-month layoff.
Not only was my maiden tee
shot with the R1 Black TP long and straight, it was high-- an even unlikelier development.Normally, I do not, in fact cannot,
hit high shots.All my golfing
life, I have hit a low ball, and not necessarily by choice.But this maiden tee shot with the R1
Black TP, and two or three that followed, virtually soared where eagles fly.
I could lie and tell you it
was some swing change I made, but more than likely it was because I had used
the little wrench that comes with the club to dial the clubface up to as high
as it would go, something in the range of 12 degrees loft.
True enough, I hit a couple
of crappy tee shots toward the end of the nine, but that’s because I was
getting tired and because it is hard to learn to trust your swing when you’ve
got two titanium hips and a relatively fresh 6-inch scar.
As satisfying as my return
nine holes was, I am not inclined to get all swept up in a crazy love affair
with the R1 Black TP.I know it
will betray me soon enough.I know
I will be hitting low-ball worm-burners before too long. I have played golf long
enough to know that they honeymoon with my new R1 Black TP won't last forever.Just to be clear, I should refer to our
journey together as a buddy trip, not as a honeymoon.
Now, however, is not the
time to fret about the future, or ask too many questions.Now is the time to swing for the
fences and take the long, straight, high tee shots for as long as they come.
I realized it was Thursday a
little while ago, which means the start of another PGA Tour event, so I turned
on the TV for some background noise.Lo and behold, this week’s tournament was the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club
in Greensboro, N.C.I stopped what
I was doing and sat down to watch for a while.
To most golf fans, the
Wyndham Championship is a second-tier tournament with a so-so field.It falls the week after a major –
in this case the PGA Championship -- so the big names like Tiger and Phil are
nowhere to be found; they’re home resting, or, more likely, off reaping the
rewards of the millions they knock down.
For me, the Wyndham
Championship will always occupy a special place in my heart.Years ago, before every tournament had
its sponsor’s name in the title, the Wyndham Championship was known simply as
the Greater Greensboro Open, or the GGO for short. I grew up in a small town 2½ hours
east of Greensboro.
The 1961 GGO, when I was 10,
was the first PGA Tour event I ever attended, not long after my father
discovered golf and quickly became addicted.At the same time, my father bought
me my first set of junior clubs and I, too, quickly became addicted.
On our maiden trip to the
GGO, my father and I were both awestruck by the whole scene -- the pros with their big bags and
confident swings, the TV cameras and Sedgefield CC, a
fancy club with a hilly Donald Ross layout that was nothing like our scruffy
little 9-hole club back home.The trip to the GGO became an annual father/son ritual that lasted for the
next four or five years.
This was so long ago, it was
in the years before the PGA Tour felt the need to put up ropes between the pros
and the fans.You could stroll up
the middle of the fairway, which I did.Once, I remember walking along with some pro, who put his arm around my
shoulder and asked me about myself and about my trip to a big-time golf
tournament.Whew, have times changed.
We would drive up to Greensboro early Saturday morning,
attend the GGO until the last shot was struck, then head to our room at the
nearby Howard Johnson Hotel.One
year, as we ate breakfast in the HoJo’s restaurant on
a Sunday morning, in walked a couple of pros.I have a vague recollection that one of
them was George Bayer,
a good player and a bear of a man.But I know for sure that the other was Bobby Nichols, who a year or two later would win the 1964 PGA Championship.
Nichols and Bayer no sooner took
a seat on a couple of stools at the counter before my father began prodding me
to go ask them for their autographs.I was a shy, scrawny kid, but after much hemming and hawing, I finally screwed
the courage to give it a shot, to approach these exotic golf pros.I don’t know why I say "give it a shot"
because they couldn’t have been nicer when I interrupted their first cup of coffee.I think Bobby Nichols signed my HoJo’s place mat.
I also have a distinct
memory of the 1963 GGO, won by Doug Sanders, he of the short
backswing, colorful outfits and reputation for fast living.On that Sunday afternoon, as Sanders
stepped to the 18th tee at Sedgefield with
the victory on the line, the fans were stirring with excitement.Feeling the pressure, Sanders backed off
his tee shot and asked for fans around the tee to settle down, let him hit his
"Come on, folks," said
Sanders, "I need to win this thing because I’ve got a big alimony payment to
The last time I sat down to
write a blog for MyPhillyGolf was June 17, the Monday
after the U.S. Open at Merion, plus the birthday of both my sisters, 15 years
apart.But that’s another story.
The next morning, before
sunrise, I drove to Pennsylvania Hospital in Center City, four blocks from
Independence Hall (and where both my children were born), to undergo total
right hip replacement surgery.It
had been less than a year since I underwent total left hip replacement surgery.
Granted, most people would
call that a lousy year for hips in the Logan household, except that both
surgeries went well and my doctor assures me I will be back on the golf course
in a few weeks.He is less
enthusiastic about my future as an Irish dancer.
Total hip replacement, in
all honesty, is not that much fun.It involves a gruesome incision along the side of your hip, about were
your pants pocket is.It also
involves a surgical pry bar, a power saw and a titanium rod and ball joint that
are snapped back into place.After
they stitch you up, you get through the next couple of weeks or so on powerful,
mind-numbing narcotic painkillers.As much as I needed them, I absolutely hate them, and for the life of
me, I cannot imagine how anyone gets addicted to them.They do the job on the pain, but for me,
it comes at a cost of a dark, thick mental fog.I couldn’t think clearly and I
certainly couldn’t write anything coherent or worth posting here.I spent most of the first two or three
weeks post-hospital tossing and turning in bed at night, then sleeping on the
couch all day.(You do not want to
roll over on your bad hip in the middle of the night.)
There were days at a time
that I didn’t go on the internet, check my email or read one of the dozen
newspapers and magazines I subscribe to.I laid on the couch watching TV – well, I laid there; whether I
was actually watching is debatable.Come to think of it, I must have been watching, because I have developed
a pathological hate for cable news (CNN, MSNBC, Fox).Last year, when I had my left hip done,
the big story on cable news was the murder trial of Casey Anthony.You could not escape it.This time, it was George Zimmerman’s
trial for shooting Trayvon Martin.
In the middle of it all, my
big-screen, high-def TV died.One of my first trips out of the house,
using my cane but still limping horribly, was to go to Costco to buy an even
bigger, high-def-ier TV.In a sign of how far we have come as a
civilization, my ex-wife’s husband came over and did the heavy lifting to
install the new TV. I thanked him and promptly returned to the couch and took a
If there was a highlight of
my time on the couch, it had to be Phil Mickelson’s two weeks in Scotland.I did not miss one minute of either the
Scottish Open (I’d had to turn down an assignment to cover it for a magazine)
and the British Open.No sport benefits
more from the advancements in big-screen high-def-erythan golf.Castle Stuart, site of the Scottish
Open, was designed by homey Gil Hanse, and it looked
amazing on TV.We swapped
emails and he was thrilled for Mickelson to win.
A week later, I am still
walking with a cane but I am off the drugs, stronger and trying to climb back
onto the horse, if not into the golf cart just yet.I am surfing the web with zest, I
am reading my email and my magazines -- I am plugging back into life.Today, I even sat down and wrote
this.It’s a start.
-- What a spectacular U.S.
Open for Merion!The City of Philadelphia
thanks you, Philadelphia sports fans thank you, the entire world of golf thanks
you and hails you.
Merion put its neck and its
reputation on the line to host this Open and worked out better than anyone ever
could have imagined.No player finished
under par?That’s astonishing,
especially after all the predictions (I made a few myself) that these guys
could go low and embarrass Merion in the process.
-- Who deserves the most
credit? I’ve got two names.One is Matt Shaffer, the superintendent
at Merion.That guy could grow
grass in a cave.He worked miracles
and he never panicked, even when rains of Biblical proportions early in the
week threatened to wash away the course and the Open.
The other is Mike Davis,
executive director of the U.S. Golf Association.If you had to pick one guy to stand up
and take a bow for the success of the Open, it would be Davis.He was the junior staffer who was
sent to Merion in the early 2000s to tell the club it was no longer a viable candidate
to host the Open.What he saw, and
the people he met, changed his mind.
Davis, in turn, convinced his
boss, then-executive director David Fay.Together, they sold the USGA Executive Committee.When Fay retired a couple years ago and
Davis succeeded him, the Open at Merion became his baby, right down to setting
up the course each day.If you
could buy stock in Mike Davis, I’d bet the family farm.
-- One guy who deserved a
share of the spotlight this week slipped in an out of town very quietly,
walking the course for two days but otherwise drawing no attention. I am
referring to Bill Greenwood, who was the chairman of Merion’s Green Committee
from 1994 to 2006;he was
instrumental in masterminding and ramrodding the restoration project that made
the Open possible.
Greenwood lives on Cape Cod
these days and is no longer even a member of Merion but, arguably, none of this
would have happened if not for him.Greenwood was at Merion on Tuesday and Friday, walking with Buddy Marucci and Brad Bradbeer, both
members of the Green Committee with him back in the crucial years of the
I spoke to Greenwood by
phone on Saturday, and he was happy for Merion and happy to see the work of his
committee come to full fruition."Everybody is thrilled," said Greenwood.
As Greenwood tells the
story, it was the summer of 1995 and Merion was hustling to re-grass its greens
in time for a 100-year anniversary celebration of the club the following
year,which was going to include a
members-only tournament on the East Course.Problem was, over the years, trees had
been planted all over the course that had grown to cast long shadows over
fairways and, more problematic, over several greens.
the superintendent at the time, told Greenwood."I can’t grow grass in the shade."
Two days later, when they
took out a tree that was blocking the sun from getting to the 15th green, Grenwood and Latshaw liked what
they saw.It opened up the hole so
much, they began looking at other trees, other shade patterns.One thing led to another, until the
full-blown restoration project was born,
"This is Merion’s big
moment," Greenwood said Saturday.Did he miss being part of the hoopla of the Open? "Nah, my big moment was
six years ago."
-- I know we all were
pulling for Phil Mickelson to win the Open, and he would have been a great
champion.But Justin Rose is
a great substitute.An proper Englishman,
Rose is a gentleman, very popular among his peers, and he has as a gorgeous
golf swing.He was on the short
list of great players who hadn’t yet won a major.Now that he has, look for him to win
more.Rose is a fine addition to
the list of remarkable championship Merion has produced.
-- Working for the week in
the big media center next to the big merchandise tent was a pleasure,
especially listening to out-of-towners marvel at Merion and Philadelphia.Because there is hasn’t been a major
here since 1981, and there is no regular PGA Tour stop, many of my media
colleagues hadn’t been to Philadelphia before and knew very little about the
city.What they saw, they
loved.Most of them could not
believe that cool little Merion had been quietly sitting here for all these years
and they didn’t know a thing about her.
-- Just because the Open was
a success, don’t necessarily expect Merion to be back in the U.S. Open rota of courses every 10 years or so.I’d be surprised if they want to host
another Open for another 20 to 30 years.Despite all the great publicity for Merion and the city, hosting an Open
is a hassle and an imposition on the club and its members for years.Merion needs and deserves a breather.
There’s another thing, which
I hadn’t thought about until a Merion mentioned it to me the other day:There’s a bit of the
passing-of-the-torch going on inside Merion right now.The U.S. Amatuer
in 2005, the Walker Cup in 2009 and now the Open were the work of an older
generation of very active Merion members.Now, their work is done.They are ready to step back and let a younger generation of members assume
leadership roles at the club.It’s
up to those younger people to want and seek out future Opens.
-- Finally, this is my last
blog post for a week, maybe two.Last summer, I was out of commission for a month or so because of left
hip replacement surgery.Less than
a year later, same thing on my right side.
Assuming the surgery goes as
well as it did last time, I’ll be back at my laptop in a couple of weeks playing
golf again in 8-9 weeks, in mid- to late-August.
Until then, I am your
faithful golf correspondent.
I agree completely but I think a debt of gratitude is also owed to the local townships, the neighbors and the volunteers. They were all great hosts and very friendly. Philadelpphia which always takes a black eye from the national media looked like the major league city we always knew it was. A speedy recovery Joe.
Woods, Rory McIlory and Adam Scott are still on the
course in the first round, but the inescapable conclusion so for is that Mike
Davis was right and most of the rest of the world of golf was wrong: Merion can
still host a U.S. Open.
of course, is the executive director of the U.S. Golf Association.He was also the staffer, back in the
early 2000s, who was dispatched to Philadelphia by
then-executive director David Fay to break the news to Merion that it was no
longer a candidate to host an Open.
at Merion, Davis saw enough to convince him otherwise.He returned to Golf House and informed
his boss that he thought the conventional wisdom was wrong, that if everybody put
their heads together, Merion was up to the task.
months, Fay made his own trip to Merion, played the course, and came around to
Davis’ way of thinking.Together,
they convinced the Executive Committee of the USGA.
Fay is gone, and the Open at Merion has become Davis’ baby.The master plan, or the vision, is in
his head.It was also Davis who told
Merion superintendent Matt Shaffer how to prepare the course, and Davis who sets
it up each day.So far, Davis is
looking very, very smart.
Mickelson has the lead, with an opening round of 3-under 67, on a day that he felt
Merion played as easy as it possibly could.It seems unlikely that anybody is going
to go truly low, embarrassing Merion in the process.
the looks of things, Merion is going to hold up just fine.The Open is off to a good start.
How about a round of
applause for Golf Channel for Monday’s wall-to-wall coverage of U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying, which they dubbed "Golf’s Longest Day."
Starting with their "Morning
Drive" show until they signed off at midnight from Merion GC, Golf Channel had
reporters filing live reports from all 11 Sectional Qualifying sites.I don’t know about you, but I checked in
a bunch of times throughout the day, then settled in last night for three or
four straight hours.
What they captured was
precisely what I like about the Open-- that it’s open, at least to anybody with a 1.4 USGA index or
better.If you’ve got the game and
a check for $150, sign up and give it your best shot.
Yesterday, like every year,
there were stories of joy and triumph and there were stories of heartbreak and disappointment.One of those guys coming up just short was
18-year-old Brandon Matthews, who has been a standout on Temple’s golf team all
At the 36th hole at
Century CC in Purchase, N.Y., Matthews was forced to take an unplayable lie,
just off the green.He figured he
needed to get up-and-down to perhaps get into a playoff, or qualify as an
alternate for the Open.Instead, Matthews
proceeded to hit a flop shot into the hole, for a 67, and what appeared to be a
spot in the field at Merion.Alas,
a few holes behind him, another 18-year-old amateur, Gavin Hall, birdied the
final four holes to deny Matthews’ dream.
For every sad story, there
were stories of success – Gavin Hall, for example.Golf Channel was all over them.
Unless you see these things
play out, it’s easy to forget that the best stories from the Open often come
from the journey to get there, not the actual championship.Few of these Monday qualifiers will make
the 36-hole cut at Merion.We’ve seen them time and time again – guys who shot 67-68 to get
into the Open then shoot 81-82 once they get there.
I’ve interviewed a hundred
of them over the years.They’re
amateurs like Brandon Matthews and Gavin Hall, or club pros who give it a shot
every year.It’s the pressure, or
the grand stage, or maybe they just spent everything they had in the
Qualifier.Even when they miss the
cut by a mile, they generally have one thing in common: a smile on their face.
So what if they missed the
cut?They made it into a U.S. Open
and, at least for a week, got treated like golfing royalty.They get that sense of accomplishment
and they get the excitement of sharing the experience with their friends and
families.They get issued player’s
badge, which they can keep for the rest of their lives, and they often get assigned
a locker three or four lockers down from Tiger or Phil or Rory.It’s all they can do not to jump up and
down like a kid on Christmas morning.For most of these guys, making it to the Open is a dream come true, the
highlight of their golfing life.Even if they miss they cut, you can never take that a way from them.
So, thanks, Golf Channel,
for reminding us of what the Open is all about.