And we’re off...This being April 1, up here in the Northeast, the 2014 golf season is
It’s a little nippy outside as
I write this, but the Weather Channel insists it will be clear and just shy of
60 degrees by late afternoon.If
you can’t sneak away for an afternoon round, maybe you can stop off at a
driving range on the way home from work to hit a large bucket.
This day – this spring
-- has been long in coming.I’ve
lived in Philadelphiafor 32 years
and I cannot remember a winter that was so nasty, so relentless and so unforgiving.Of course, maybe that’s because I’m
suddenly tiptoeing around the ice on twin titanium hips.
I like to think of myself as
a glass-half-full kind of guy, however, so I believe that as miserable as the
winter has been, the spring an summer will be our big reward. They will be glorious, at least they will
if there is any justice in the universe.
I cannot wait to truly break
in the new set of irons I bought at the end of last season, or the new 5-wood I
ordered off the internet out of boredom and frustration, or the matching hybrid
I added to the bag in late February, just because I liked his brother the
5-wood so much.
In my last blog three weeks
ago, I mentioned that the forecast looked good enough for the coming weekend and
I was going to try to get in the first round of the year.Three golf buddies and I did, at
Scotland Run GC, in South Jersey, where the weather was perfect and the course
was brown and dormant but otherwise terrific.I had played Scotland Run in several
years and I’d forgotten what a great layout it is.A nod of respect to architect Stephen
I even shot a video of the
round, which I posted under Latest Videos.If you missed it, check it out:
Nothing gets a golfer’s
juices flowing like the Masters.I miss going.I miss
spending all week in Augusta, walking the golf course for hours, hanging for
hours at certain spots (Amen Corner, behind the 6th green, 15th
green), visiting with friends in the media center and, last but not least,
eating lunch with my old colleague Bill Lyon on the balcony of the clubhouse.
"I’ll have the club sandwich
on toasted white bread, please, and the peach cobbler with vanilla ice
cream.And a glass of iced tea." I
could repeat that line in my sleep, and probably do.
I haven’t returned to cover
the Masters since 2008, after I left the Philadelphia Inquirer.But as a member of the Golf Writers
Association of America, I am entitled to go to the Masters for a day mid-week,
on Wednesday, to attend the GWAA annual meeting that morning in the media
center.After that, I’m free to
spend the day on the golf course, which truly is one of the greatest pleasures
in any golfing life.That night,
there’s the annual GWAA dinner and awards banquet, where the food is so-so but
the company can’t be beat.
Okay I’ve just talked myself
into going next year.
Masters, Part II
This could be the first
Masters in more than 15 years in which neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson
is a factor.
Phil seems to be stuck in
the mud.So far this year, the
three-time Masters champ has finished T-19th, 14th, W/D, T-42nd,
T-19th, CUT, T-16th and W/D.That last W/D, just last week at
the Valero Texas Open, was prompted by a back muscle he strained while hitting
a shot.It did not sound encouraging
for the coming season, and surely not for the Masters.
Tiger, a four-time Masters winner,
is faring no better.In his limited
schedule so far, he has finished T-80th, W/D, and T-25th.Tiger is so battled scarred that he
pulled out of Bay Hill, one of his favorite tournaments, before it ever
started.He says it’s unclear whether
he’ll be good to go in Augusta, but my expectations are nil.
Bottom line is, we could be
witnessing one of the most important changing-of-the-guards we’ve seen in a
Sean O’Hair watch
West Chester’s Sean O’Hair
continues to struggle through his own bad patch.
The 2005 PGA Rookie of the
Year had to re-earn his PGA Tour card for this season and, so far, the results
are at best mixed. His missed
four cuts in his first five starts, although he did manage a nice T-5th
during that period at the Franklin Templeton Shootout.
Since February, O’Hair has
been all over the place again.He
finished T-56th at Pebble Beach, missed the cut at The Honda.There was one bright spot, at Bay Hill,
where he shot 69-67 on the weekend, to finish T-10th.But then he missed the cut last week in
First, I walked around
outside in shirtsleeves, which I wasn’t sure was ever going to happen
again.Gawd, I hated this
winter.Second, my golf buddy Tim
texted me with news that the forecast for Saturday at the Jersey Shore is 60
degrees and was I interested in making the trip down for the first official
round of the year?
Uh, yes, I was.
(Regular readers of this
space might recall that technically, my first rounds of the year were in late
January during a weeklong golf trip to the Dominica Republic.But I would submit that those rounds
don’t really count because they were played in a far-away, warm place, which
anybody knows is violation of what constitutes an official first round of the
It clearly states in the Official Unwritten Rules of Golf Handbook that
a first round of the year must be played, if not at your regular course or
club, at least on a course in the same climate.In other words, a round in Florida or
the Dominican Republic doesn’t count, but a round in Philadelphia, or, say,
Chicago, would count.You can look
it up.It’s in the same chapter of Unwritten Rules that addresses whether
shouting M’fugga at the top of your
lungs is inappropriate while playing with your grandmother or children under
the age of 6, and whether a cute cart girl can reasonably expect a tip if she
insists on wearing long pants and a windbreaker after Masters week.)
So, weather permitting, and
South Jersey being close enough, Tim, Jack, Lou and I will get our first rounds
of the year in on Saturday.The ground might be a little squishy, and I might wear a pullover, but
that’s okay.It will still be an
early start to a horrible, horrible winter.
Like you, I am wondering
what to make of Tiger’s horrid start to the season.The World Golf Rankings tell us he
still has a firm grip on No. 1 in the world and yet, at this point, it’s not
entirely clear that I couldn’t take him mano-a-mano, no strokes, loser buys the
hotdogs and beer.
Seriously, Tiger misses the
three-day cut at Torrey Pines, where he has been consistently winning since he
was 6 years old.He shoots 65 on
Saturday at the Honda, then WDs on Sunday with a bad back.Then, this past weekend at the WGC
tournament at Doral, just when he had put in himself in striking position on
Saturday, Tiger shoots a 78 on Sunday that was so ugly and pathetic that he had
become irrelevant by early in the back nine.So much for my theory that this was
going to be the year he won his fifth green jacket and jump-started his pursuit
of Jack Nickluas’ record of 18 majors.
Of course, as dazed and
confused as we are by Tiger’s travails, imagine how he feels.Once amazing and invincible, he’s now
either.He’s still capable of
breaking bad from time to time, on in brief spurts, but not on an ongoing or
regular basis.It’s impossible to
know what to expect from him anymore.
Somewhere, Nicklaus is
breathing a little easier and doing his best to keep the sh- -eating grin off
his face.About 10 years ago,
when Tiger was in the midst of stream-rolling golf and, it appeared, Jack’s
record, I found myself having lunch with the Golden Bear, just me and Jack, at
his club in Florida.I asked him if
he wanted Tiger to break his record.
He looked at me for a moment
and said, "Well, no..."He would
prefer that Tiger not break his record but, hey, it was out of his hands.He wasn't going to be a poor sport about
it but he also wasn’t going to lie about it.
Now, with each passing day,
Jack’s record looks safer and safer.
Red and Blackand
Reed all over
In the past day or so, since
Patrick Reed won the WGC-Cadillac and declared himself a legit Top 5 player in the
world, there has been a bit of a backlash against him for being arrogant little
pipsqueak.I say, give the kid a
The way he is playing right
now, young Reed has a right to feel like he’s a Top 5 player.And the only way he can become a Top 5 player
is by thinking like one.Trust me,
the range at any PGA Tour event is crawling with guys who think they ought to
be talked about in the same breath with Tiger, Phil, Snead and Hogan.There was a time when I thought it was
arrogance and self-absorption, until I came to understand that it was way these
guys pump themselves up.They don't
have coaches or teammates to give them pep talks.They have only themselves, their wives
and their caddies to convince them they have what it takes.
Season two of In Play with
Jimmy Roberts on Golf Channel kicks off tonight at 10 p.m. with a look
at architect Gil Hanse and his
struggles to build the golf course for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"It’s the opportunity of a
lifetime," says Hanse, who based in
As segment makes clear, the project
is also the headache of a lifetime.
Everything Hanse ever learned about designing and
building courses went right out the window in Rio, where he has fought all
manner of delays beyond his control, from environmental restrictions to local political
in-fighting to disputes over who owns the land.
At one point, the segment shows
a handful of workers clearing the land with chain saws and machetes
because...well, because you have to use what equipment is available.Last year, when his invoices were going unpaid
for months, Hanse had to threaten shut
down the project and go home, if the money didn’t start flowing.
Now, all 18 holes have been
laid out and shaped, but it’s still a race against the clock to get the course
grown in and ready to host a pre-Olympics event, as is required of all Olympics
venues, from ski slopes to volleyball courts.
There are also segments on
the history of golf in the Olympics, a sit-down interview with NASCAR’s Jimmie
Johnson on how golf has helped his racing career, and a look at burn victim
Michael LaBrie’s passion for golf.
I come before you today a recharged
and revitalized man.Or, as
they said about Richard Nixon in 1968, "tan, rested and ready."
That’s what a dead-of-winter
golf trip to a warm and sunny clime will do for you, and I have recently
returned from one:a weeklong sojourn
to the Dominican Republic, where I and three golf pals played seven rounds in
seven days.I did,
anyway.They played more.After our official pro-am round each
morning, they grabbed lunch, then played another nine or 18.I, on the other hand, called it a day
golf-wise after the morning round and retired to the pool for a dip & sip
– I’d cool off in the water, then rehydrate with a couple of rum-fueled thirst-quenchers
called a Casa de Campo.
At night, we would go out to
yet another open-air restaurant, where we’d review the day’s competitiion as my teammates ate steak and I gorged myself on
seafood until I could barely waddle out the door.When we weren’t reviewing or plotting
strategy for the next day, we’d be checking our iPhones for news and weather
That’s why I didn’t post a
word while I was down there.While
it’s freezing in Philadelphia, who wants to hear about the niceties of my golf
C’mon, when I read about
other people’s golf trips, or when they subject me to their golf-trip yammerings, I mostly want to punch them in the face.I want to hear about your golf trip like
I want to hear about your gastric bypass.
But I’m back home now,
wondering why I am back home now, bitching about how damn cold it is and how I
was throwing it in there tight on the 7th at Teeth of the Dog, against
the ocean mist, only a week or so ago.I was sweating, for crying out
I only mention all this as a
reminder of what a fabulous thing a winter golf trip to a hot place is, if you
can swing it.
Rosaforte getting a lifetime achievement award at this point
in his career is sort of like Phil Mickelson getting inducted into the World
Golf Hall of Fame – it’s well-deserved and everything but the guy is
still in the middle of his career. He’s got more achieving to do.
"Rosie," as his friends call
him, is the hardest working guy in golf media.When I first met him in 1996, he was
primarily a writer for Golf World, having earlier covered golf at the Palm
Beach Post.Rosie was beginning to
make his earliest forays into TV.You’d see him around all day, dressed like the rest of us golf scribes, then
poof, he’d be in a tie and sport
coat, heading over to the Golf Channel booth to do a little commentary.Rosie has had that Yul
Brenner look for as long as I’ve known him.
Nicest guy you’d want to
meet – just like he comes off on TV.Friendly, earnest, no-bull.The players like and respect him, and so do his colleagues in the media.
In the years since those
early TV appearances, Rosie has morphed into one of the most familiars face on
Golf Channel and, now, NBC, both owned by Comcast.
For a long-range project I
am working on, I have been spending some time recently with Gil Hanse, the Malvern-based golf course architect who is
designing the 2016 Olympics course in Rio de Janeiro.
When it comes to golf courses,
I know what I like but I don’t know diddly squat
about designing them or constructing them.It’s fun to listen to Gil describe the process.
He said two things the other
day that I had never thought about but they make perfectly good sense:
If the property allows for
it, Gil prefers to start each course he designs with a three-shot par 5.
"It gives the average golfer
a chance to miss a shot and still make par or bogey," he said."For the good player, if they are not
property warmed-up, they walk off the green with a 5, or, god forbid, a 6, and
they are kicking themselves. Architecturally, at that point, you’ve got them a
little bit.But conversely, if they
make eagle or birdie, they have jump-started their round."
What you don’t want is a
reachable two-shot par 5, which could result in golfers standing in the
fairway, waiting, on the first hole.Not the way to start a round.
Instead of a blog full of my
predictions for the coming year, how about what I’d like to see happen golf-wise
in 2014?Here goes...
-- Tiger Woods finally win
his 15th major, preferably the Masters.I’m tired of waiting; we’re all tired of
waiting.It’s time for Tiger to get
back to the business of threatening Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles
(and six green jackets).Besides, if he wins in Augusta, it could set the stage for an exciting
summer of majors.
-- Phil Mickelson win the U.S.
Open at Pinehurst.It’s the one
major he doesn’t have, and the one he needs to complete the career grand
slam.Phil would become only the
sixth player in history to win all four majors, joining Tiger, Nicklaus, Ben
Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.After all his near-misses in the Open, Phil
winning the Open would be the feel-good story of the year.
-- Vijay Singh come out the
loser in his lawsuit against the PGA Tour.Not because I have any great love for the PGA Tour, but because I always
thought Vijay was a grump to deal with.In his suit over deer antler spray, which seeks millions in damages, Vijay
has managed to throw a few peers under bus and reveal himself to be the
narcissist we always knew him to be.
-- Rush Limbaugh quit
golf.As a political moderate, I
find Rush and his radio show to be objectionable.Okay, odious.I’m also concerned that his well-known
addiction to golf hurts the image of the game.Every time I make the argument that golf
should not be stereotyped as an elitist, country club sport, up pops that image
in my mind of Rush chomping a giant, phallic cigar.
-- My own game improve
sufficiently to get my handicap back to a single digit.For years, my handicap hovered
from 3 to 5, thanks to copious amounts of golf due to my job description. I took pleasure and pride in playing the
hardest courses I could find, and from the back tees.Then it all went south.I hit my late 50s, then my early
60s.I lost distance, confidence
and, eventually, hope.Just when I thought
my game had hit rock bottom, I found out I needed a new titanium hip, then six
months later, another titanium hip on the other side.Now, my handicap is 12, and that’s from
two tees forward.I don’t like
it.I don’t want it.I’m embarrassed by it.I won’t be so greedy (or delusional) as
to think I can get my handicap back down to a 4 or 5, but is 9 asking too much?
-- Michelle Wie win her first major.Against all odds, Wie
has turned out to be a first-rate player on the LPGA Tour and a first-rate young
woman.When I was following her
around golf courses a decade ago, I had her pegged as a future can’t-miss burn-out
case, ruined by fame and pressure.She
has come through it all better than I expected, even earning a degree from
Stanford while she played the LPGA Tour. She is now grounded, well-adjusted and,
by all appearances, happier.I like
the Michelle Wie of today a lot more than the
Michelle Wie of then.
-- Another effort at
Philadelphia getting a regular PGA Tour stop.With the Open at Merion, the world got another
demonstration of what a great golf city this is.Granted, Merion isn’t interested in
becoming an annual tour stop, but there are plenty of other worthy clubs that would
be. Unfortunately, I’m not hearing
-- Sean O’Hair revive his
career.O’Hair, the West Chester
resident and 2005 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, has struggled for the past
couple of years, falling so far last season he had to re-qualify for the Tour
this year.O’Hair is too young, and
he has too much talent, to continue spinning his wheels forever.
-- The Cobbs
Creek restoration project come to fruition.For months now, the city, prodded
by the Friends
of Cobbs Creek, has been poised to announce that
the restoration (paid for by private money) is actually going to happen.The wheels of progress grind slowly, but
they do grind.
-- Something, or somebody,
infuse new life and new pizazz into the PGA Tour.This kid Jordan Spieth is fun to watch, even if he more white bread than
Wally Cleaver.But on too many
non-major weeks, Tour fields are filled with guys I couldn‘t pick out of a
police lineup.(See: Sony Open in
Hawaii).They are mostly blonde,
with taut bodies and tight clothes (I did spot a few schlubs
at the Sony), and have perfect swings and perfect teeth.
-- The U.S. pull out a victory
in the Ryder Cup.I’m probably
kidding myself here. As much as I
like the idea of Tom Watson as captain of the U.S. squad, the man cannot work
miracles.Forget what it
looks like "on paper."The problem
is what it looks like Sunday night "on the leaderbord."The Europeans are too good, they want it
more, and they will be defending the Cup on home turf.
-- The sun go down on the
golf course more often this year.To me, the absolute best time to play golf is in the late afternoon, when
you’re trying to get in that last hole before dark. This year, whenever possible, I
plan to shut my laptop, grab my sticks and walk a quick nine before dinner,
often solo.You cannot beat the
fresh air and exercise – and it does wonders to settle your mind.
My hopes and dreams of a
balmy December came to a screeching halt over the past 10 days, as we got hit
once, twice, three times with snow.It’s snowing as I write this.My 2013 golf season, I’m
afraid, is over.
That leaves me no
alternative but to fill some of my idle time by banging out a series of
end-of-the-year blogs about my Year in Golf.Today, I start with:
Favorite Round of 2013:Let’s face it, this was not a banner year for me in golf.Thanks to two surgeries (see previous
blog post), I only played about two dozen rounds, and three of those were
9-hole outings that I mostly hobbled through.
I did team with my longtime
friend and regular golf partner Jack McMahon, the well-known defense attorney,
in a couple of early-season club tournaments, shortly before the pain in my hip
became unbearable.We didn’t win
jack----, owing mostly to the fact that I limped and whimpered and generally
stunk up the joint.I was so bad
that Jack was embarrassed for me, which is saying something, if you ever saw
In April, I played a very
enjoyable round at Glen Mills with Jeff Silverman, a
golfer writer pal; Eric Stake, a mutual friend and gentle soul who is a
psychiatrist; and Gil Hanse, another pal and international superstar golf
course architect.Here is a
video I shot that day of Gil discussing the 2016 Olympics golf course in Brazil
that he is designing.
But for my favorite round of
the year in 2013, I’m going to go with the day I spent playing with my son
Travis, my daughter’s boyfriend Quinn, and Quinn’s dad, Mike.It was a lazy Sunday morning in
September.The weather was ideal,
and so was the company.Travis and
I were guests of Quinn’s at Philadelphia Cricket’s Militia Hill course.
Travis, who has never taken
golf as seriously as I do, was just back from a year-long deployment in Kuwait,
with the Pennsylvania National Guard.It was my first round with Quinn, who enjoys golf, but, like Travis, doesn’t
seem lose any sleep over a bad shot or a lousy round.Other than one dinner together, it was
the first chance I’d had to spend any time with Mike, a partner at a big Center
City law firm. Travis and I
rode in one cart; Quinn and Mike rode in the other.
None of us played all that
well, and none of us seemed to care.Travis was rusty; I was still recovering from hip replacement
surgery.I’m sure Quinn and Mike
would have plausible excuses, if I asked them.
Of course, the day wasn’t
really about golf; it was about spending time together, about getting to know
each other better and about appreciating the hands that life has dealt us.The older I get, the more those become the
reasons I enjoy golf so much.
I couldn’t tell you what I
shot that day.I had a birdie on a
par 5, and a handful of pars, but I also had an "x" or two on my card.Travis must’ve lost a half-dozen balls,
which is not easy to do on the wide-open Militia Hill course.Did he care?Not a bit.He’ll drop one and hit a mulligan in the
blink of an eye.If Travis, hits
three or four good shots during a round, he’s happy.Over in the other cart, Quinn and Mike
were having just as much fun.
After the round, we headed
to the clubhouse for a beer and to watch the tail end of the Eagles loss to the
Chargers.We must’ve talked for an
hour or more and I don’t think the round we had just played ever came up.Mike told us all about how he got drafted
out of law school and sent to Vietnam.Travis regaled us with tales from the front lines in Kuwait, where his
shift in a guard tower began at 4 a.m., but he did find time to win a ping pong
tournament. Quinn and I mostly
When it was time to part
ways, Mike was off to his home in Chestnut Hill.Quinn and Travis left together for
Center City, where they both live, and I headed home to Ambler.As I drove, I remember thinking, hey, that
was one great day of golf, even if I didn’t play well.
Before I could get home, my
cell phone rang.I was my daughter,
Kelly."Sooo?" she asked."How did it go?Did you have fun?"
I don’t know about you, but I am watching the
weather forecast very closely these days.Please, please, golfing gods,
grant unto us another day of decent golfing weather.Or two.Or three, at the risk of getting greedy.
Here in the Northeast, December is the month
that can go either way.We’ve all
seen Decembers that were extensions of late October and November – cool
and crisp, but also clear and completely golf-able.We’ve also seen Decembers that were
snow-covered and frozen and of no use whatsoever to any golfer with designs on sneaking
in a few more rounds.
I hate those Decembers, and I’m hoping this is
not going to be one of them.As of
this moment, I’ve got my eye on Thursday, Dec. 5, when for now the forecast says
it’s going to be cloudy, with a
high of 57.I can work with that.
I’m particularly antsy to get in another round or
two this December.I’ve got some
serious testing to do.Regular
readers of this blog know that I underwent my second hip replacement surgery in
June, making for a 2½-month layoff from golf.
With great fanfare – at least in my own
mind, if not in the minds of my golf buddies – I made my return to in
late September/early October.I
felt good and invigorated, even if my swing didn’t look good or invigorated.Thing is, I was healed, more or less,
but it’s hard to trust your swing when you know you’ve got titanium parts
clanking around inside you, even if they don’t make a sound.
The ugly reality was a slow-motion swing with a
hip turn that groaned like the raising and lowering of a drawbridge at a Medieval
castle.I didn’t so much turn on
the ball as I made some pathetic swaying motion, like a grandpa trying to dance
with the bride at her wedding.
"You’re all arms, you’re not turning," my golf
buddy Tim pointed out one day.
I sighed with resignation."I know."
The net result, of course, is that I couldn’t
hit the ball out of my shadow.I’d
bust a drive as well as I could bust it and I’d still be 40-50 yards behind
where my tee shots landed only a year ago.On approach shots, I was coming up at least a club short, sometimes two
clubs.Clearly, I’d lost swing
speed.The question was, would I
ever get it back?
That question was still hanging in the air when
a visit to my family doctor confirmed what I already suspected:I had a hernia.He sent me to a surgeon.
I was standing there in the surgeon’s examining
room, trying to maintain my dignity with my trousers down around my ankles, when
he announced his findings:
"You don’t have a hernia," he said. "You have a double hernia.Both
Fabulous!Two hips, now this!
My final round.Or was
I played what I figured was going to be my
final round of the year on Sunday, Nov. 3, the day before hernia surgery bright
and early the following morning.Despite the horrifying videos on YouTube that I never should have
watched, hernia surgery turned out to be a piece of cake compared to the
hips.There was almost no pain (a
nod here to something called a "pain pump" and to Vicodin)
and in little time at all, I was up off the couch and swaying around the house
like grandpa rockin’ out to a Barry White CD.
Still, any kind of serious exertion was out of
the question, so for my golf fix I had no choice but to gorge myself on Golf
Channel and take to the internet.It was during one of my marathon internet surfing sessions that I stumbled
across a set of irons I had fancied a year ago -- on sale, $400 off the originalprice.True, they were last year’s model but
then, so am I.
It was easy to rationalize the purchase.For one thing, even if I didn’t really
need a new set of irons, they were $400 off.I mean, c’mon. But the main reason, the real reason, is
I had decided it was time for me to downgrade from the stiff shafts I’ve played
for 45 years to regular shafts.Why deny the obvious?My
swing speed, like the newspaper industry I worked in for 35 years, simply ain’t coming back.
Four days later, I had a new set of irons that
I could admire and grip but couldn’t swing just yet without doing serious
damage to my nether regions.
A new day, a new December
But that was a lifetime ago, even if,
technically, it was only three weeks ago.Now I have clearance from my surgeon to make my triumphant return to
golf for second time in a single season.Again, with my pants down around my ankles, he announced his findings: Looks
good, very good.He meant the
I was cleared to resume normal physical
activity, including golf, so long as I wasn’t a dumbass about it.
"Go slowly," he counseled."Listen to your body."
Okay, my body is telling me I need to break in those
new irons.My body is telling me
that the golf season is not over.My body is telling me it is ready to sway like a grandpa until the bride
begs off to take a breather.
We’re talking about golf, people.We’re talking about life.Onward and upward.Just don’t be a dumbass about it.