But somewhere along the line
my attitude toward Big John changed, or shall I say, became repressed. You see,
I became more fascinated at the eternal fascination of his loyal fans than
admitting I was still fascinated by the icon, even through the darkest of
Of course I was amazed when
he won the British Open, and I thought at that moment that he could complete
the Career Grand Slam. Like everyone else over the years, I was willing to
forgive some, or many, indiscretions. For instance, the number of ex-wives one
man accumulates does not necessarily
reflect poorly on his character, especially when he can joke about it on a song
called "All of My Exes Wear Rolexes."
The endurance of John Daly’s
fame and likeability may come down to his role in our media-driven society as a
Modern Everyman. Any other man with so many faults and scandals may have been
long shamed and forgotten if it weren’t for his "aw shucks" openness and, one
must emphasize, humility. He struggles with life like we all struggle at times,
and he doesn’t mind telling you about it. People identify with him because they
see in John that a person can both be responsible for his own actions and still
be a victim of them at the same time.
I don’t mean to gloss over
his periods of public infamy, when many wrote him off as hopeless. There were
years where he dropped almost completely out of favor. But that’s just the
point. Whenever he showed his face again, there were sympathetic fans and
empathetic media ready to forgive and forget.
And you only have to look at
ticket sales and crowd sizes following him around any tournament he managed to
get into to prove his enduring appeal. So now he’s on the Champions Tour and
expected to draw huge crowds there, and lead the driving distance stats as
And if you don’t see John as
humble, I’d like to quote from an interview early in his PGA Tour career
talking about his prodigious length: "Basically, it’s just something that
happened. I think it’s more natural ability than anything. It’s a God-given
talent, and I just worked at it a lot. And, you can’t really explain it... It’s
something that just happens."
So I fell under that
Everyman spell as well, and I never downplayed his talent. If your memory has
revised down the impact he had when he burst onto the scene, and the mystique
that followed, I can only say that he was revered like Paul Bunyan, John Henry,
or Buffalo Bill—or a combination of all three. His driver had to be made
of bulletproof material, for Chrissake.
His unpredictability also added
to his edge. Because cell phone cameras were not ubiquitous back in the day,
one incident was less scandalous than it might have been in today’s social
media piranha-like feeding frenzy. A little bored at an exhibition on a driving
range, John spun around and launched a full driver over the gallery behind the
range. Dangerous, maybe, but let’s be honest, he wasn’t going to miss. He never
So this past week was Big
John’s debut on the Champions Tour, and he led the field with 298-yard driving average.
That would also lead for the season stats, if he were to keep it up through the
rest of his Champions schedule. He also plans to play the PGA Championship and
the British Open. And his all-around game showed some promise, as he made 14
birdies over the 54-hole tournament.
He’s a natural talent, for
sure, and a feel player. One thing that always drove me nuts is that he takes
very little time evaluating the break of putts. Though he makes many, he also
misses more than his share of short ones. There’s one moment in golf history
that encapsulated both extremes of John’s temperament—and maddening
It was the World Golf
Championship in October 2005 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Daly and
Tiger were tied at the end of 72 holes, and a sudden death playoff ensued.
Tiger drove first, and Nick Faldo called it at almost 350 yards. (And don’t
think Tiger wasn’t trying to go toe-to-toe with the longest hitter on tour.) So
Daly steps up and outdrives Tiger by almost 15 yards.
While both had long-but-makeable
birdie putts, Tiger lagged his to two inches short before Daly blasted his by
two feet. Daly lipped out the comebacker and the tournament was over just like
that. Daly shrugged and ambled off the green, disappointed but not dismayed,
perhaps. (Just a side note, Daly was 39 at the time and Tiger was 29. Here’s the drives, and here’s the missed putt.)
Yes, I also watched the
short-lived "Being John
Daly" reality show, as well as the Feherty
episode that was oddly uncomfortable as two supposedly clean alcoholics danced
around some of the realities of being clean. Two highlights were the opening
with an "Animal House" homage and the destruction of Daly’s ugly wall mural (at
37:33) and the unveiling of a much better mural (at 42:14).
And then there’s the music.
A sampling can be found here
on MySpace, and his two albums are available on Amazon.com, but only "I
Only Know One Way" is on iTunes. Though the opening track "Hit It Hard" is very
popular and a strong country song, my favorite is his rendition of "Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door" with additional lyrics only John
Mama, I can’t hit my wedge no more
It’s getting really hard to score
I haven’t made a cut in weeks
My career looks so bleak.
Many are excited about an
ESPN "30 for 30" episode entitled "Hit It Hard," rumored to be
broadcast-debuting July 14th, the week of the British Open. And if you heard
about the bobblehead John Daly released last week but
missed it somehow, it’s
worth a look, sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise. He even looks good
in the image shown here, a head shot generously used by the GolfChannel
only two years ago, which was certainly not "accurate" at that time.
In the end, I believe most
fans give John a break because they can see has a good—even
generous—heart, has endured some tough times (whether self-imposed or
not), and has never taken himself too seriously. An eternal Everyman, if you
will, with childlike appetites caught in the webs of adult responsibility.
Just in case you missed it last month, veteran looper Fluff Cowan turned a journeyman into a star in a few
short weeks—almost immediately, actually. As his regular bag, Jim Furyk, is still recovering from injury, the tireless
68-year-old was off-duty but glad to take a call from one Sung Kang, a Web.com
You see, Kang had missed three cuts in a row in
his first Big Tour run since 2012. With Fluff on the bag, Kang almost shoots 59
on his second round with the
legendary caddie (at the Monterey Peninsula course). He finishes 17th at Pebble
Beach, 8th at Riviera, and 10th at PGA National for the Honda Classic.
So much for the overrated caddie argument.
Three cuts missed to three top-20 finishes. Not too shabby.
Just to review, Fluff’s resume is primarily
filled with long stints with Peter Jacobsen, Fred Couples, Tiger Woods, and Jim
Furyk. All marquee players in their prime, proving
the best caddies are teammates, no matter what the astute zeitgeist observer Stephen Anthony Smith opines.
Just a reminder, when Fluff got on Tiger’s bag,
after stumbling out of the gate with a low finish at the Greater Milwaukee Open,
then went 11, 5, 3, 1, 3, 1, 21, 3, 2, 1... and on to the Masters win in 1997.
The best PGA Tour caddies bring a number of
skills to the table. They have experience on the course, they know their
yardages and wind, and they stay out of the way. Many say they also play
psychologist on the golf course, delicately managing their players’ emotional
ups and downs during a round.
That may be true, but I think the most salient
talent is instilling confidence in the player at the moment of truth, right
before the swing. Fluff is one of the best at this. Others that come
immediately to mind are Bones McKay, Squeaky Medlin, and Joe LaCava. I hate to include LaCava—not
because he’s another Tiger hanger-on—but because he doesn’t have a good
There’s many things to love about Fluff,
though. He’s an International Man of Mystery: Wikipedia editors can’t confirm a
birthdate. He’s a certified Deadhead. He has fine taste in golf courses (a
member at Congressional). He made two memorable "This is SportsCenter"
commercials (This one is the better one, short and
sweet). And he tweets at @CaddyFluff, but nearly enough.
But is there just one groove? Is there one
ideal swing? Well, if you’re a fan of Adam Scott, you might be nodding your
head in the affirmative manner, emphatically.
As technically sound as Mr. Scott’s swing is,
us mortals will never come close to that level of perfection—and
repeatability. And there have been so many other odd, unteachable swings that
have been quite successful as well. It is for this reason that I believe it’s
better to make the most of what you have, and find a way to make the
instinctive work with you, not against you. As we’re rebuilding our swings for
a new season, I think this is a timely discussion.
Or, to put it another way, maybe we should
start with looking at your strengths and weaknesses, and admit where we are.
And, maybe even start with our unique anatomies, and build from there. Instead
of trying to achieve—and ultimately failing—to achieve an
unattainable ideal, let’s build a repeatable swing from the ground up, as it
were, based on our natural abilities.
I was in this vein of deliberation when I came
tip in Golf Magazine by Jessica Korda.
And I was struck by its common sense approach and the fact that I had never
heard of this tip before in all my readings and video watchings. The tip posits
that everyone has his or her own natural left hand position, and that’s the one
you should be using. It’s so easy to try, and it seems to work!
Korda instructs: "Stand behind the ball and
grip the club with your left hand only. It's simple: Just grab the handle
without looking. This sets your left hand in its natural power position." Natural power position? Could it be that
Korda goes on: "Depending on your anatomy, your
left wrist will be either flat or flexed. What's important is that you maintain
your left wrist position as you swing. Changing it disrupts your hitting
instinct. Take note of the flex and accept it."
Yes! Accept what’s natural because it
encourages and supports your hitting instinct. This idea made so much sense to
me, I ripped the page out of the magazine and have kept it out on my desk ever
But now turning to the other extreme, Mr.
Hogan, I have long had some rhetorical—and
not-so-rhetorical—questions about his alleged "secrets" bouncing around
in the back of my head. In the image here are two perplexing parts of his
elaborate ruse on the golfing public.
First, if Hogan was the greatest ball striker
ever, why doesn’t anyone today follow his advice for adjusting the stance for
the length of the club? (See image.) Every pro or accomplished player around
these days is pretty much square to the target line on every shot. In the image
on this page, the top half illustrates Hogan’s strategy on stance. His argument
is that the hips need a little more space to get out of the way of an ideal
swing plane for the longer clubs. Why no one follows this advice today is
probably a conundrum that has no answer, redundancies aside.
Another perplexingly revealed element in Mr.
Hogan’s quiverful of secrets is when he tries to describe how the wrist
(ideally) rotates and bows simultaneously near impact. The dictionary says
"supinate" means: "to turn (or hold) a hand so that the palm or sole is facing
upward or outward." But it’s always been my assertion that Mr. Hogan had a
unique definition of "supinate" in his head that he never shared. One person
brave enough to try to parse out anatomically everything that’s going in in
Hogan’s wrist at the millisecond before impact—and succeeds as well as
Miyahira, on the Around Hawaii
Of course, Kelvin says in the title of the
piece that you have absolutely no chance of replicating what Hogan does, so you
might stop trying before you start. Or maybe try strengthening your left wrist
like one Hogan legend claims he did—by banging his left fist down
repeatedly on a bedpost. Or maybe we should all just start with what comes
natural, like Ms. Korda suggests. That sounds like more fun.
Well, it was a good run. A full 40 years of the
carousel carnival ride that was Eldrick, in various but cyclical and somewhat predictable
left turns of anticipation, drama, tragedy, redemption, expectation—and
There are so many somber and clever ways to sum
up the greatness of the golfer separate from the man, but one always rang the
most true for me. It was an offhand comment by a longtime PGA Tour
color-commentator. The conditional sentence he posited crystallized how many
felt about Tiger’s obvious supremacy. If the goal of golf is to hit it far and
straight and get it into the hole the fastest, Tiger’s
particular combination of talents accomplished this with startling efficiency.
The commentator in question was Ken Venturi,
and I think he hit the nail on the head when he said conclusively (paraphrasing):
"If PGA Tour events were played on courses that consisted of 18 580-yard
par-fives, Tiger would win every tournament." Hard to argue
with that assessment.
In February 1997, two months before his dominant first Masters victory, I wrote only
"We are on the brink of a new era, an era of truth, beauty and joy
unbounded. A time of feats unequalled in any past time of human endeavor. And I
must pay witness to this new age in recorded history. The time before 1975 will
be known as B.T., and the current era, now in the year 21 A.T., will be the
boldest and strongest in the brief history of mankind...
"In addition, the look in Tiger’s eyes has an intensity that I've
seen only a couple of times before. To me, it appears that winning isn't
enough—he wants to drive his opponents into submission, to bury any
doubts of his supremacy, to lap fields of mortals, and to reveal the weaknesses
of his opponents so that they'll limp home broken men."
Bold predictions of the past now seem a good
deal less hyperbolic now.
And so we must bid adieu to an era of
unprecedented dominance. Indulge me to refer back to some highlights that you
might have forgotten, from a number of different perspectives.
First, let’s hear from the man himself, with Tiger’s favorite shot of
all time. Then there’s Tiger-worshipper Feherty, with his own favorite Tiger shot, and
an added bonus of an Ernie Els unbelieving reaction.
And let’s review the most exciting nine holes I’ve
ever witnessed, at the 2008 U.S. Open at
Torrey Pines, the back nine on Saturday. The iron shot out of the right
rough on 13 to set up an eagle is
at 15:52 is just phenomenal, and the slow motion replay at 17:11 is worth
studying for its perfection. In that same back nine, the chip-in birdie at 17
starts at 26:40, and the painful 18 tee shot starts at 28:30 (slow-mo at 29:23).
Not to mention the hobbled five-wood approach shot that set up the eagle at 18 (at
(A side note: I had forgotten this was the era
of the Tiger pre-shot right-toe-tap-pre-address-stance dance. Fun, yes... but the
importance of a consistent pre-shot routine is cannot be underestimated! A
small lesson for you kids out there.)
Now if you ever wonder why Tiger has had so
many back surgeries, take time to watch this Top Five miraculous shot compilation.
The first two crazy swings in the video, #5 and #4, would give a circus contortionist
pause, but I recommend freezing the frame at 0:59 and wincing in empathy.
Thanks for the memories, Tiger, and thank you
YouTube channel compilers for your tireless, thankless work. Revered or
smeared, lionized or oft chastised, a man of esteem or the Perennial Mr. 14, indubitably,
Eldrick the Great will be greatly missed.
I take my responsibility to
you, the readers, to scour the YouTube for the most useful/entertaining content.
It is a responsibility I do not take lightly.
If you’re bent on finding
some swing theory ideas and mechanical recommendations for your own game, there
is no better place than YouTube to disappear down the rabbit hole of high hopes
and dashed dreams. Many topnotch instructors have great ideas but
less-than-great methods for communicating those concepts.
If you scour YouTube long
enough, you’ll actually be disappointed in the amount of instruction from the
Master himself, Ben Hogan. Little snippets appear here and there and, of
course, there’s an endless supply of secondary theory building on Hogan’s
precepts outlined in the beloved "Five Lessons" tome. There is one man, under
the username "myswingevolution," who has attempted to model his swing
as absolutely close to Hogan’s as he can get. He did a decent job, actually.
But my favorite YouTube
swing analyst has to be Wayne DeFrancesco. If you’ve
lived in the Mid-Atlantic region for the last couple of decades, you’ve likely
come across his writings in Washington
Golf Monthly or GolfStylesmagazines. His articles were rather
wordy, but he always had interesting things to say, and he’s an undeniably
At Wayne’s YouTube homepage, you can
find detailed analyses of many of the greatest golf swings of all time—and
with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure. But my favorite Wayne videos
are when he takes TV analysts to task on their sloppy surmizations
(yes, I made up that word) on some of the swings they are observing on Tour.
Two of his favorite targets are Brandel Chamblee and
When Tiger was having some
control issues a few years back, one common diagnosis among commentators was
that he was "dipping" his head excessively on the downswing. After watching a
few of Wayne’s video analyses, it has become clear to this misguided golfer
that "Keep your head still" is the worst advice possible.
In one video analyzing Tiger’s swing, Wayne
demolishes Johnny Miller’s comments about the "dipping." Tiger has always done
this, as have many greats. Wayne also goes on to show how Tiger’s torso is at
an angle to the ground that few golfers have ever consistently been before or
since—about 25 degrees from the plane made by the ground. (You can go
right to that segment of that video here.) Along with head
movement, obviously, is posture.
In his analysis, Wayne also
calls out Johnny because Johnny himself had quite a "dip" in head position in
his prime. (That comes at the
3:00 mark.) Wayne points out that Tom Watson, standing behind, doesn’t even
want to watch all the movement that goes on in Johnny’s swing, lest he be
infected by it.
Indeed, in his prime, Johnny
moved just about everything in his swing in a violent fashion, including his
feet. Where his left foot started and where it ended are amazing to watch
today, as this short
video and this short video show.
The only golfer I can think of that moves their feet this much is—you
probably guessed it—Bubba Watson.
Wayne also takes dead aim at "Maintaining Posture"
in a swing, and the silliness of that concept in modern golf instruction. All
this talk, I believe, amounts to what Mac O’Grady used to call "conservation of
Think of it this way. The
closer the club is to the axis of rotation, the faster it can go. Try this
experiment. Sit in swivel office chair. Start spinning the chair as fast as you
can. Then alternately stick your arms and legs out laterally and pull them in.
You’ll find you go much faster with your limbs closer to the axis of rotation.
Food for thought, I suppose.
The most head movement I
could think of is Lorena Ochoa,
who takes it to another level. It seems many women pros are okay with "leaving"
their head back, or tilted, to promote a consistent plane and a proper release.
But that’s just my personal "surmization."
But many of the greatest
male pros of the last century had a related head movement that is subtle but
meaningful. As these players come into the impact zone, their heads, still
behind the ball, would move further behind the ball. Sam Snead is a good
example, and you can even see it in Tiger’s
swing near his prime. This move seems to transfer an extra amount of power
from the weight transfer into the ball. More YouTube research is obviously
The two holes of the week are
similar in style, but mirror images of each other. Great straightaway, or
"freeway," holes are not as easy to make interesting, so when they do, it’s an
achievement. Both of these holes have length from the tips, which gets your
attention right away. In addition, with only minimal elevation change, the
fairway hides your view of the green.
The Public Hole of the Week
is Wyncote’s straightaway par 4 #11, which has no fairway bunkers but begs you
to shoot down the left side, closer to rough on a steep slope and closer to OB.
The mirror of that is the Private Hole of the Week, straightaway #15 at
Doylestown. This hole has fairway bunkers that might come into play with some
weaker shots, and OB down the right.
Both are better played as
slight doglegs. Playing the less aggressive line will give you a bit longer
shot, but the landing area away from trouble is actually more forgiving and flatter
for your approach.
Chip Lutz has been an
integral part of golf in Berks County for a long time and, as they say, a fine ambassador
of the game and of his home turf. The newly crowned U.S. Senior Amateur
Champion started winning Berks County Amateurs at the age of 24, piling up nine
of those trophies in the ’80s and ’90s.
You could say Lutz has had
two careers—but his current career is exceptional. He’s been the No. 1 or
2 ranked Senior Amateur in the world
for the last few years, having gone on a 2nd-win-win run at the British Senior
Amateur from 2010 to 2012, right after he turned 55, among other high USGA
But when I was growing up, I
knew him as the predominant favorite in any local tournament. I got the golf
bug around 16 years old when I got my first car and could drive to a range,
right when Chip was establishing his creds at Berkshire Country Club.
The Berks Amateur is a
three-day event, Friday to Sunday, in early August every year. I was fortunate
enough to be in the small galleries that followed him around on couple of those
What did I learn? This: Good
amateur golf is boring. I mean that, in regards to Chip, with the utmost
There is nothing flashy
about his game or swing. (There still isn’t – video.) He hits it in the fairway, hits
it on the green, and either two-putts or one-putts. He makes very few bogeys
and hardly ever any "others."
The "good golf is boring"
axiom has a corollary that my one golf buddy likes to repeat: "Good golf is
easy, bad golf is hard." That saying has a few layers, one of which is: "Try to
think of it as easy, and simplify your mind, and maybe you’ll do better."
The U.S. Senior Amateur win
was Chip’s white whale. He had come close a few times, but this year he was not
to be denied. In the match play portion this year, he was only ever behind in
one match, for a grand total of three holes when he was one down. In the final
he went up early and never looked back, carding six birdies in the 15 holes
that it took to close out the title.
things that many might not know about Chip are that his family was a little
golf-crazed a generation before Chip and his brothers, Putter and Wedge (all
nicknames, just in case you were wondering). His father, Buddy Lutz, was an accomplished player as well, winning
Berks County events and two Sunnehanna Invitationals (in ’47 and ’49).
For Berks Countians, Chip’s
most impressive run as at the Hawley Quier Memorial, having won four times
there, played at Moselem Springs CC every August. Also notable was his
contribution to keeping the Berks County Golf Association up and running when
it hit some troubled times. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, one man, Gerry Gerhart,
tried to run the Berks County Amateur almost singlehandedly. At the end of some
years, Gerry was not sure there would be a Men’s Amateur the next year. But
gradually, the Amateur regained the respectability that Gerry wanted. Gerry
made his goal to "Establish your own credibility, and convince the guys that
you’re trying to make it a first-class tournament."
At a crucial time, Chip Lutz
stepped in to lend his name and reputation to the BCGA in support of what Gerry
was trying to accomplish, and things started falling into place. A mutual
friend of Chip and Gerry, attorney Tom Golden, helped draft the BCGA by-laws
based on the by-laws of the Golf Association of Philadelphia. Included in the
by-laws was a term limit on the BCGA president – Chip Lutz served for
three years, and then Tom Golden served for three.
The challenge the trio faced
at the outset was how to get all the Berks County private clubs fully on board
with the organization concept. The BCGA was going to be reborn into an
organization that served and benefited both its playing members and its member
clubs. Lutz feels Gerry’s perspective and experience from years running the
amateur were invaluable during the rebirth. The culmination of the rebirth came
when Moselem Springs joined the cause, at once giving the BCGA respectability,
strength, and stability.
Chip now calls LedgeRock Golf
Club his home course. I can attest personally that LedgeRock, as the USGA is
wont to say, is "A thorough test of golf." A test that I’ve gotten an "F" on
The picture accompanying
this article is the approach shot to the par-four #17 green at LedgeRock (a par
five by any measure but LedgeRock’s). Trying to hit a long iron up the
impossibly steep climb to a shelf green is one of the toughest golf shots in
Pennsylvania. But I’m sure it’s no big deal for Chip.
Most fun on TV: Louis Oosthuizen’s brilliant 29 on Sunday on
the back nine at the U.S. Open. Here’s a few of his shots compiled in under two minutes. Louie birdied six of last
seven holes—and he did it with such apparent ease, like he was out walking
his dog in the park.
Least fun on TV: Same day... Dustin misses eight putts from inside 10 feet. Yes, the
greens were ridiculous, but still. Here’s a list of his misses on Sunday, compiled by Gary Van Sickle at Golf.com.
Big question to ponder: Will the USGA go back to Chamber’s Bay for the U.S.
Open? My guess is yes. The USGA does not like to admit mistakes, and they
won’t, so they have to go back. My guess is 2026 or 2027.
Bomber alert: The most impressive swings I saw at the U.S. Women’s Open were by one
Morgan Pressel. Big, high draws that were placed with
precision. On Saturday on the long, uphill 18th, Morgan took a good rip at her
driver and the fans tee-side were perplexed. We all saw the ball head toward
the right fairway bunker, but Morgan quickly picked up her tee and started strutting
confidently off the tee. A few fans mumbled: "Did she hit it in the trap?" No,
actually... she flew the trap, got a decent kick forward and rolled past the
gallery crosswalk—while the fans were walking across! The TV didn’t catch
the drive, but it did broadcast the second shot.
Reviewing the DVR later, I
could hear Greg Norman’s voice betray his own mild disbelief when he said:
"Only 106 yards left, that's quite a drive." But Greg
didn’t have enough time to do the math in
his head, because no one else was anywhere near that close to the green on that
hole. The upshot: 308 yards, by my calculation.
Caddie experience: I enjoyed caddying for a friend of mine on the last day of the
Pennsylvania Open at Rolling Green Golf Club. It’s a three-day event, and he
had another friend lug his bag on the first two days, so I offered to help on
the third day because he was on quite a roll. On the first day, he made an
incredible eight birdies (but only four pars). After making the cut after two
rounds (top 40 and ties), on day three he... well... let’s just say the putts
weren’t dropping. (He wasn’t letting me read the breaks, so...)
Kudos and kudos: I cannot say enough about the Pennsylvania Golf Association and the
Golf Association of Philadelphia. These organizations run really great
tournaments. And a lot of them. The courses are set up perfectly every time,
and the staff and volunteers are excellent.
Putting clinic of another kind: Inbee Park must be one of the best putters on the planet.
I think she could give many PGA Tour pros a run for their money. She seems to
make most of her 15-20 foot putts, week in and week out. Too bad the LPGA
doesn’t have ShotLink, or her dominance on the dance
floor could be measured more thoroughly.