I was not a big fan of
George W. Bush as president.I
didn’t vote for him, either time.If you gave me a week, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a single decision
or appointment he ever made that I agreed with.It’s strong, visceral dislike I’ve had for
the man, which I’m not proud of and at times have a hard time rationalizing.
And so, I must confess that I
was surprised last night when I found myself not loathing the guy – almost
warming to him -- as I watched the former president being interviewed on the
season finale of In Play with Jimmy
Roberts on Golf Channel. Maybe golf truly is the great humanizer.
President Bush was a golfer
long before he entered the White House.He told Jimmy Roberts, in a fairly rare post-presidency interview, that
he was introduced to the game as a 12-year-old at Cape Arundel GC, in
Kennebunkport, Maine, at his family’s summer home.
During the first two years
of his presidency, Bush played occasional rounds.He wasn’t very good and he wasn’t very
serious about the game; he played more as a release from the pressures of the
office.He quit playing altogether
during the Iraq war.
"I didn’t want some mother
whose son had died (in Iraq) to see me out playing golf," said Bush.
In the four years since he
left office, Bush has become a more frequent player – three or four
rounds a week– and a more
"I used to go out and hit
balls," he said."Now I’m trying to
be a player.I’m really trying to
get good and learn the game.I
didn’t know the game."
He can now break 80 on
occasion.He shot 77 at Augusta
National during an event for the First Tee.
In response to all yahoos
who attack Obama for playing too much golf, Bush defended the president."I know what it’s like to be in the bubble,"
he said."I know the pressures of
the job.I think it’s good for the
president to be out playing golf."
Finally, something George W.
Bush said that I agree with.
Just when I thought that
nothing about Tiger Woods’ life or career could possibly surprise me, along
comes this whole Wobblegate episode on Friday at the BMW Championship.
Of all the things I thought
we’d have to wonder about Tiger, going fuzzy on the rules of golf was not one
of them.But when I saw the video Saturday morning, I
felt like I’d been called down to the station house by the cops to watch
indisputable surveillance video of my kid shoplifting or my best friend beating
his wife.My heart sank.
Come on, Tiger, that ball moved – not much, but enough. We all saw it.Nobody ever said the rules of golf made
sense, or were especially fair, but they are what they are, we all have to live
by them and they are cast in stone.
By Saturday morning, Brandel & Boys on Golf Channel were shaking their heads
in collective dismay, or disbelief, over Tiger’s...er,
um, failure to readily recognize that the ball did, in fact, move, not
oscillate, as he contended.Truth is, Brandel & Boys walked right up
to the edge of calling Tiger a lying’, cheatin’ dog,
if you will permit me a bit of hyperbole.
They also cut to a report
that said a number of Tiger’s peers had watched the video in the locker room
and that everyone who saw it was "disturbed."
Still, Tiger was said to be
"livid" after he watched the video several times with PGA Tour official Slugger
White, who, let’s face it, is not going to come down hard on Tour’s marquee
player and cash cow unless circumstances warrant it.
Tiger’s presser on Saturday:
We didn't get a chance to chat with you yesterday after your round. How
would you best describe what happened there beside 1 green?
TIGER WOODS: Beside 1 green, I
thought it was fine. Afterwards, frustrated.
Do you feel like the two‑shot penalty was warranted?
TIGER WOODS: You know, it's
one of those things where I thought the ball oscillated, and I thought that was
it. I played the shot, played the round, and then Slugger and Tyler in
there, they replayed it and gave me two.
In a situation like that, how would you gauge your frustration level?
TIGER WOODS: I was pretty hot
because I felt like, as I said, nothing happened. I felt like the ball
oscillated and that was it. I played the rest of the round grinding my
tail off to get myself back in the tournament and then go from 5 to 7 behind, that
Was there a sense of, why is this happening to me again in 2013?
TIGER WOODS: Just kind of the
way it's been. I fought back today, which was not easy to do. Today
was a tough round, but I fought and got myself back within striking distance.
was going to say, how hard is it to concentrate when something like that
happens the following day?
TIGER WOODS: It's hard.
You know, there were a lot of thoughts going on last night, but the sun comes up
in the east, and we start a new day.
After seeing the video did you think that you deserved a two‑shot penalty after seeing the video?
TIGER WOODS: After seeing the
video I thought the ball just oscillated, and I thought that was it. I
thought that was the end of story. But they saw otherwise.
Is this one tougher to take than the penalty at Augusta? You seem to have
moved on from that one a little bit easier. This one seemed to linger.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the one at
Augusta after going through it on Saturday morning, yeah, I did take the wrong
drop. But yesterday I didn't feel like I did anything, and as I said, I
described it in there and I said, I moved the pine cone right behind my
ball. I feel like the ball oscillated, and I just left it. That's
not‑‑ evidently it wasn't enough.
And it didn't occur to you that that was going to be an issue?
TIGER WOODS: No, not at
all. We all have been in the trees before, and things can move and do
move, and I felt like I tested it and felt like it just oscillated left and
stayed in the same position, but evidently it didn't.
Was it a pine cone or a twig?
TIGER WOODS: The pine cone was
behind my ball, but there was a twig in front.
It looked like on the video that it dipped down, but I didn't see it dip back
TIGER WOODS: As I said, from
my vantage point, I thought it just oscillated and that was it.
On the video you didn't see any difference?
TIGER WOODS: They replayed it
again and again and again, and I felt the same way.
It's kind of weird when Slugger would say one thing and you would say another,
and doesn't it usually fall on the side of the player?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know, but
I went from five back to seven back real quick.
Motivationally did that change you coming in here today?
TIGER WOODS: No, today was
going to be hard, just like Saturday at Augusta was hard. When situations
like that happen, I had to fight, and I fought my tail off today, and I'm very
proud of that, and I got myself back in the tournament.
Did you watch it in the trailer before you turned in your card, and then how
many times did you watch it at home last night?
TIGER WOODS: I never watched
it at home.
How much did you argue with them about it? I mean, did you feel that you
didn't get a fair argument with them inside?
TIGER WOODS: No, we had a very
good discussion. I'll end it at that.
This is a completely
different situation from the penalty Tiger incurred at the Masters earlier this
year, when he made a bad drop, then signed an incorrect scorecard.There, blame should be laid squarely at
the feet of Masters officials, who were determined to come up with any
rationale not to have Tiger DQed heading into the
weekend ratings bonanza.
If you don’t believe me,
check out the "My Shot"
by David Eger in the current issue of Golf Digest.Eger, a Champions Tour player and former
PGA Tour rules official, is the guy who saw Tiger’s bad drop at the Masters on
TV and immediately phoned tournament officials.
It turns out that Eger and
Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters Rules Committee, aren’t each other’s
biggest fans.Here’s a pertinent,
juicy excerpt from Eger’s "My Shot:"
IN 1998, I qualified to play in the U.S. Open
at Olympic. The walking official in my group was Fred Ridley. After Casey
Martin, Ed Fryatt and I finished playing the seventh
hole, I noticed there was a wait on the eighth tee. The seventh tee also was
empty. So, I practiced putting, which is not prohibited at the U.S. Open as it
is at the Masters, the PGA Championship and on the PGA Tour. As I was stroking
the putts, Fred walked over and said practice putting wasn't allowed. It was a
serious objection, because if Ridley happened to be right, it meant I'd incur a
penalty. I suggested to Ridley that he check with another official, which he
went off to do while I continued to putt. On the tee at No. 8, Ridley returned
to inform me that practice putting was indeed allowed. A lot of years passed,
but when it became obvious he blew past my take on the Tiger drop, my 1998
opinion of his rules expertise was reinforced. In my view, Ridley's knowledge
of the Rules of Golf was, and is, suspect.
For every American and
millions of others around the world, today, Sept. 11, is a date we remember
each year for tragic reasons.For
me, Sept. 11 is also a personal anniversary.
Five years ago today, on Sept.
11, 2008, I walked out the door of The Philadelphia Inquirer for the last time,
after 26 years.When I left, I
wasn’t sure what my future held.All I knew was that the trend lines for newspapers looked bleak, that
the job I had loved so much was no longer fun or rewarding, and that the
Inquirer was looking to trim the newsroom staff by offering yet another round
As I mulled whether to take
the leap, I kept coming back to what one Inky colleague told me when he took an
earlier buyout: "You’ll know when
it’s your time."It felt like my
The idea for a golf website
or blog had been banging around in the back of my mind for a while.Initially, while I was still at the
paper, I had envisioned it as an outlet for golf stories that the Inquirer
Sports section no longer had the room, or inclination, to publish.The new Sports editor at the time
– now long gone – had made it clear he did not share my enthusiasm
Once I left the paper, I
quickly came to see a golf website as an entrepreneurial endeavor – one
that I hoped would fill a need for the local golf community, extend my career
as a golf writer and, let’s face it, make money.
We launched MyPhillyGolf.com
10 months later, in July 2009.Just
over four years hence, MyPhillyGolf is surviving and
growing, still becoming what I imagine it can be.It has changed and evolved over time, as
we have done our best to figure out what golfers and advertisers want and need.
There have been a couple of
major redesigns and too many minor tweaks to mention.We’ve added and dropped features,
welcomed and bid farewell to bloggers and moved stuff around like chess
pieces.I now realize that it is a
never-ending process.Hardly a day
passes that I don’t see something I want to improve or blow up entirely.
Five years after I left the
Inquirer, on what was a somber anniversary for the nation, I am happy to report
(mostly to myself) that there is life after newspapers.Building and maintaining MyPhillyGolf has been one of the most challenging and
fulfilling – and, at times, maddening – experiences in my
life.With your support,
there are many more anniversaries ahead.
When I saw last night that
Bev Norwood, longtime publicist for IMG, had died after a brief battle with
cancer, I sat down to write a tribute.Then I saw "remembrances" by two colleagues -- Adam
Schupak in Golfweek and Ron
Sirak in Golf World -- and decided there really wasn’t much more I could
If you covered the PGA Tour
over the past 30 years, you couldn’t help but know Bev Norwood, and he was very
much worth knowing.Because
IMG managed Tiger until a year or two ago, not only did Bev control much of the
flow of information about Tiger when Tiger was the Biggest Thing in all of
Sports, Bev was just plain fun to know.
He was diminutive man, wiry
and wry, with a drawl from having grown up in North Carolina. He was also the
source of a constant stream of commentary and wisecracks on golf and golfers,
life in general and anybody who happened to wander into his field of vision. At
tournaments, in the media center, Bev wouldn’t so much hold court as he would
walk from one writer of cluster of writers to another, confirming or debunking
rumors, or delivering the latest Tiger news that was suitable for public
consumption, or just catching up on gossip.
One of his best friends was
the legendary Dan Jenkins and the two of them (and oftentimes one or two
others) would find a corner in the dining room of the media center, a couple of
old-timers watching the world go by.You could see them people-watching, then nodding in apparent agreement
over something or somebody, or perhaps just over the absurdity of it all.
At night, Bev and often Dan
and others would repair to the bar in the media hotel, in whatever city it was
that week.They never seemed
to run out of things to talk about.
On any number of occasions,
I would find myself at lunch tables or hotel bars or sitting around the media
center with Bev.It was always a
joy.By virtue of his job, he knew
it all – the people, the places, the dirty laundry, which he was not inclined
to air publicly, and all that was about to happen or not happen, if you know
what I mean.That, and his wry,
running commentary, made Bev a man to know and like.
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.