After three days of
recuperating from my brush with heat exhaustion, I was up and about yesterday, rarin’ to go.
I was feeling much better,
thank you, but the real motivating factor was the unexpected arrival in the mid-afternoon
of the new custom-fitted driver I ordered three weeks ago.The FedEx guy no sooner pulled away
than I was out the door and on the range, tipping over a large bucket.
In 45-plus years of golf, I’ve never had a custom-fitted driver.My putter is bent to my specs and, a
year ago, I took my irons in to have them bent to the proper lie and loft to
But drivers?No. I’ve played the field, aimlessly flitting from driver to
driver, a steady succession of off-the-rackers -- new
and used -- that worked, semi-worked, worked for a time or didn’t work at
all.I have to admit, it has been
a failed strategy.
I finally sprung for this
new driver because it came down to two choices: start hitting more fairways or
quit the game for the sake of my blood pressure and my sanity.
My problems date back to a
year or ago when, for no good reason, I suddenly couldn’t drive the golf
ball.What had always been one of
the strengths of my game and somehow become my Achilles heel.The longer it went on, the worse it got,
and my self-confidence spiraled out of control.
On the tee, I would stand
over the ball with an electrical storm going on in my head.The result: my first shot would generally
sail OB right; on the reload, I’d over-compensate and snap hook it left. Even if I could find that second ball,
I’d be lying three in the left rough, usually under a tree limb, with a long
approach shot.You can only endure
that for so long before you begin spending your evenings sitting alone in the
Desperate for a fix, I have
gone through every driver in my considerable basement stash: TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist,
another Callaway, Cobra, my son’s Callaway, a newer Titleist.Each one had a little different
shaft, different flex, different loft, different torque, none of which were
actually fitted to me.And none solved
my tee ball problem.
Several revelations finally
convinced me to bite the bullet and spring for the $400 custom big stick.One was playing a recent round with a
golf writer pal from New York who was in town for the AT&T at Aronimink.
This is a guy who I have
seen plumb the depths of misery and self-loathing like no one else on a golf
course.On any number of occasions,
I have witnessed this man lying on a tee box, writhing in agony, often over
another wayward tee shot.And yet,
there he was a few weeks ago, pounding tee shot after tee shot down the middle
of the fairway, smiling and whistling as he went.
He showed me his new,
custom-fitted driver.Made all the
difference in the world.
My other justification was,
hey, you hit a driver 14 times during a round.Your tee shots are the foundation, the underpinning, of your
entire round.Along with the
putter, the driver is the most important club in your bag.Rather than waste time running through
more ill-fitting, off-the-rack and out-of-the-bin drivers, why not spend the
money once and for all to get one custom-fitted.
Three weeks ago, I did just
that. I went to my nearby big-box
golf outlet, found a Fitter Guy and admitted I was powerless over my
affliction."My name is Joe and I
can’t hit a fairway," I confessed.
He nodded with understanding
Soon, I was pounding tee
shots into a net, as Fitter Guy and I studied the flight paths and patterns on
the Fitter Machine screen. My last driver was a Titleist, which I liked, even if
it didn’t like me back, so I opted to find something in the Titleist family of drivers.It really is a matter of preference;
every major manufacturer has an array of shafts and heads to suit your needs.
We quickly determined that
my driver swing speed is consistently in 90-93 mph range, meaning I still just
barely need a stiff shaft.It was
also clear that my tee shots were leaking to the right.I like to think of it as a Jim Furyk
power fade, although I don’t know who I think I’m kidding. Anyway, to compensate, I needed a shaft
with a low torque.
Next, we needed to take into
consideration launch angle and backspin.I’ve hit a low ball all my life.My natural swing is also a little steep on the steep side, especially
with a driver.Fitter Guy had me
try a half-dozen or more different combinations of shafts, lofts and head compositions;
then we compared the various ball flight data to determine which was producing
the best results forme.
Answer: Titleist 909 DComp, 10.5 loft, with Matrix Xcon5 shaft.The idea was to create a club that helps me hit tee shots higher, with
less distance-robbing backspin, while also helping me control my rightward
Yesterday, the club showed
up and I could not wait to try it out. After a dozen or so 9-iron shots to
loosen up, I gingerly unsheathed my new weapon.I was a little apprehensive as I stuck the first tee in the
ground; this first shot with a new club is a lot like a first date.First impressions matter.
My initial swing was a little
tentative but I could not have been more pleased with what I saw: the ball
sailing dead-straight and higher than my usual tee shots.
I hit another, and another,
and another, and each was as good as the last.I was deep into the bucket before I hit my first truly lousy
shot, a big banana ball that could not be blamed on the club. By the time I got
to the bottom of the bucket, I was berating myself for not doing this sooner.
Today, I plan to get in a
late-afternoon round, my maiden voyage with the new lumber. I know that this
new driver is not going to solve all my problems.I will still miss fairways, I will still hit low
screamers.The game of golf will
find ways to test our budding relationship.But deep down, I will know that my new driver and I are made
for each other.
I trust you will bring it to the member/guest next weekend in Durham and blow everyone out of the water. Should I warn Cole you have a new weapon or do you want it to be a surprise?
The Muni Golfer
[7/28/2010 9:46:53 AM]
Joe, good luck with the new driver. Hope it works out weel for you. I was at the range last night also hitting balls with a new TaylorMade R9 driver. Bought it slightly used, so itís not custom-fitted, but I think with work the head and weights Iíll get it dialed in.
Ken Venturi overcomes heat exhaustion to win í64 Open
If you play golf in this heat
wave, pay attention to signs of heat exhaustion.It’s a lesson I’ve just
learned the hard way.
As I write this Sunday
morning, I am recovering from what appears to be a classic case of heat
exhaustion.I’m weak, woozy, I
have very little appetite and the leg cramps are finally beginning to subside.
In all my years playing golf
on hot summer days, mowing lawns and, years ago, working construction on steamy
days in the South, I never felt overcome by the heat like I do now.
It began on Friday, when I drove
down to the Jersey Shore for a round that afternoon, to be followed by a second
round early Saturday morning.
When I got out of the car
near Cape May at noon on Friday, I was immediately struck by how much hotter
and more humid it felt there than it had a mere 60 miles away in
Philadelphia.A wall of heat hit
me in the face, and for a moment, I questioned the wisdom of spending the next
4½ hours on the golf course.
Naturally, we teed off
anyway and in no time at all, my shirt was drenched with sweat and I was on my
second bottle of Gatorade.By the
time we finished the front nine, I was having no fun whatsoever, dreading
another 2½ hours in this soup.
It was on No. 11 or No. 12
– three hours into the round and on my third Gatorade – that I
began to notice I was feeling a little light-headed and faint as stood over tee
As we played on, it got
worse.Over the next few holes, I became
less concerned with whether my tee ball landed in the fairway than I was with
whether I could hit it without falling over.
My putting stroke- putting requires the greatest
concentration and physical exactitude -- was a joke.I couldn’t sink a straight-in 2-footer because I had no
touch, no feel; lag putts came nowhere close to the hole.
As we slogged through the
final few holes – I was gulping Gatorade No. 4 – all I could think
of was getting off the course, getting into my car and cranking up the air
conditioning to max.
Headed north on the Garden
State Parkway, the light-headedness returned a couple of times, causing me to
consider pulling over for a few minutes.I continued on, however, because I was due at dinner
with two business associates in an hour and I badly needed a shower – the
colder, the better.
I made it to the dinner but
I had no appetite, as little waves of nausea now washed over me.I nibbled around edges of my dinner and
failed miserably at holding up my end of the conversation. All I could think about was getting back
to my room and crawling into in bed.By 9 p.m., I was between the sheets, besieged by leg cramps.
The next morning, I felt
better – not great, but well enough to show up for my 7:30 a.m. tee time.
Big mistake.Even at that early hour, it was
absurdly hot and humid, and it was due to get worse as the day wore on.
I felt okay on the first
hole, and the second, but by the third, I was beginning to feel weak and woozy all
It only got worse as I
struggled to remain standing after each shot.I couldn’t have made a 10-foot putt if I was shooting at a
By the eighth hole, despite
two more bottles of Gatorade and a steady supply of cold, wet towels that had been
placed in coolers around the course, I was toast.I couldn’t hit another shot.I told my playing partners I was done for the day. I drove
the cart, swilled bottles of Gatorade and began grabbing the cold, wet towels
two at a time.
When I got home yesterday
afternoon, I laid down on the couch and soon fell into a three-hour nap.
Today, I’m still not fully
recovered.My appetite has not
returned and I’m weak.A few
minutes ago, when I made a Gatorade run to the grocery store, the
light-headedness returned for a moment.I have a greater appreciation for Ken Venturi’s victory in the 1964 U.S. Open.
I have no plans to leave the
couch or the air-conditioning for the rest of the day. I’m told it could take a
week or more before I feel 100 percent.
Itís best to load up on water or Gatorade before playing and then keep going with plenty more as you play.
I played last Friday morning at 8am just to beat the heat.
Glad to hear youíre feeling better.
[7/27/2010 8:46:13 AM]
Thanks. I am feeling better, maybe 90 percent.
Since Sunday, Iíve pretty much moved from the couch to the computer and back again, leaving the house only to buy massive quantities of Gatorade. (Grape has replaced red as my favorite).
[7/27/2010 8:01:14 AM]
Iím glad to hear your feeling better and thereís no serious effects on your health. I had a simiular experience at Twining Valley about six years ago. I was weak, nauseous and overheating. I couldnít finish the 18th. I just ran to the clubhouse and drank 3 gatorades and stayed in the air conditioning the rest of the day. This heat this Summer is nothing to mess with. If your feeling not up to playing than your body is warning you to stay out of the Sun. hydrate well befroe going out and make sure you have cold compresses and plenty of ice on hand.
The Muni Golfer
[7/26/2010 6:43:44 AM]
Glad to hear you were smart enough to abandon your second round before it got much worse. Iím also glad to hear that nothing serous happened health-wise. I hope you are feeling better today. I had a few incidents in the past couple of years, but not quite as bad as yours. One was at Wyncote. I was walking on a very humid day in June. I manged to get through 7 holes before I needed to climb into one of my playing partnerís cart. At the turn, I went in to pay for riding the back nine and the owner, who happened to be filming an Indie golf episode that day, told me not to worry about paying, he was just happy that I had the sense to stop walking and get in a cart before they had to call paramedics. The second was at The Rookery in Delaware, which you know, like Wyncote, has very little trees and shade. I got through 14 holes and just couldnít go on. I had to sit under a little tree between the 14th green and 15th tee for about 30 minutes before I was able to play the last 4 holes.
Tigerís still knocking down $70 mil in endorsements
Sports Illustrated is out with its annual list
of the Top 50 earning American
athletes and, despite his battered and bruised image, Tiger Woods is still No. 1.
On the golf course, his
winnings in 2009 were $20.5 million,
thanks to a $10 million payout for
winning the FedEx Cup.By the magazine’s best accounting, he
pocketed another $70 million in
I’ve got one question:Who in the heck is still paying Tiger that kind money?
Seriously, $70 million?Just a few months ago, several of his biggest corporate
sponsors (AT&T, Accenture, Gatorade)
couldn’t get away from him fast enough.
Still, by SI’s tally, Tiger took an endorsement hit in 2009 of $22 million, dropping his total on-course and off-course take from $99.7 million to $90.5 million.
famously stuck around, as did EA Sports.But other than those two, you don’t see
Tiger featured in too many TV
commercials or print ad campaigns.
When it comes to favorite
golf tournaments, put me down for the British Open.
Oh, the Masters is wonderful, too, especially the first time you go, when you’re
on sensory overload, soaking up every sight, every sound, every moment. But even Augusta National in the spring, with all the dogwoods, pines and
azaleas in full bloom, comes up No. 2
against the British Open in my book.
My other favorite tournament
of the year is the U.S. Amateur,
where you get to see tomorrow’s superstars today and you can’t take two steps
without stumbling over a great human interest story begging to be told.
Of course, the trip over the
British Open is not without its
difficulties.So I’ve come up with
a list of best and worst things about golf’s oldest championship.
The golf courses.The difference between
golf over here and golf over there cannot be overstated.
Whether you’re lucky enough
to play one of the exalted courses in the British
Openrota or some no-name loop on the outskirts
of town, it is a different kind of golf in every way.You will be called upon to hit golf shots we simply don’t
have to hit over here: say, the 100-yard bump and run over an insane series of
mounds, and the 80-yard putt from the fairway, come to mind
Leave your 60-degree wedge
at home, because you won’t hit it more than twice during a week of golf in the
U.K.They play a ground game, and
you learn to adapt pretty quickly.
On many courses, another
issue is the gorse, or heather, which is a benign-sounding name for shin-deep
wiry grass that is impossible to play out of – assuming you can find your
ball.Lay your bag down in that
stuff and you can lose your bag.Which is also why, if you aren’t straight off the tee, you are wise to leave
the driver in the bag in favor of a long iron or hybrid.
The weather cannot be
ignored.During the course of a single
round, it can go from sunny and calm, to windy and raining sideways, and back
again.Never a dull moment.
Change of scenery: If the golf courses are
different, so is everything else, starting with the surroundings.
British Opens tend to be played in small towns and villages far from the big cities. To
get there, you generally must fly into a big city, then drive through small,
ancient villages that are as innocent and picturesque as something out of Robin
Hood.Once you get off the
thoroughfares, the roads areextremely
narrow, having been built in the days before modern, wide-body cars.
Because of the constant rain
in the U.K, the fields and meadows you see from those roads are the richest hues
of green and yellow that will stick in your mind forever.
It is, in short, like going
back in time, to world you may never have known existed.
St. Andrews: Of all the British Open
venues, none compares to the Old Course
and no host city compares to St. Andrews,
the small, medieval city that is the original home of golf.
Although it is home to the University
of St. Andrews, the third-oldest
university in the English-speaking world, St.
Andrews is more like a small town, with only about 16,500 residents.
There’s a downtown
commercial district several blocks away, but the heart and soul of St. Andrews is a short walk from the Old Course, where golf shops, souvenir
shops, pubs and hotels abound.
If you walk off the back of
the 18th green, turn right and proceed about 100 yards up that
narrow street, you come to a busy corner with a major tourist-attraction golf
shop on one corner and a popular restaurant/pub on the other. During Open week, laughter and well-oiled golf fans spill out into the streets.
At the 2005 Open, I shared a house with three other
writers that abuts the 18th fairway. While most of our colleagues rented dorm rooms at the University of St. Andrews, we stumbled
across this house on the internet – a one minute walk to the golf course.
The fans: You can spend an
entire week at the British Open
and never once hear anybody yell, "Get in the hole!"
British Open golf fans tend
to be very knowledgeable, very well-behaved and, above all, very, very
proper.In the event of a good
shot, they offer up a polite round of applause.If it’s a fantastic shot,they ratchet up the enthusiasm a couple of clicks.
Golf fans over there also
make sure to bring along a sweater or pullover and an umbrella for the
inevitable afternoon shower and chill, although if the sun comes out, they
slather on sunscreen so thick they look like Casper the friendly ghost.
The newspapers: Newspapers in the
U.K. are much more lively and fun to read than their serious and often bland
counterparts in the U.S.
There are a couple of earnest
and subdued papers – namely, the Times
of London and the Guardian – but most are tabloids that scream at you
from the newsstand with headlines that cannot be ignored. In the U.K.,
newspapers are more in the entertainment business than the news business.
The flight over: Most flights to the U.K. leave Philadelphia in the early evening, fly
all night (8 hours) and arrive about 8 a.m., just in time for rush hour in
If you can sleep on the
plane, you’re fine.If you cannot,
and I cannot, you arrive stiff, cramped and exhausted, just as a new day is dawning.
on the left side is not something you do without training and practice, except
for when it is.
In 1998, when I was headed
to my first British Open, I was
concerned about the 45-mile drive from the airport in Manchester, England to
Southport, home of Royal Birkdale.
One of my golf writer
buddies who I was sharing a house with told me not to worry.He was a veteran of several British Opens and of driving on the
left.He’d rent a car for the week
and I could ride shotgun.
Sounded like a plan, until
we were standing in the Hertz office
at the Manchester airport and my buddy discovered he had managed to leave his
driver’s license back home in New Jersey.Hertz would rent him a car,
but he was not allowed to drive.
"No problem," he said,
handing me the keys.
Ten minutes later, I was behind
the wheel, merging into morning rush-hour traffic on Manchester’s equivalent of
the Schuylkill Expressway.
By the end of the week, I
was an old pro, weaving in and out of traffic, whizzing around narrow, country
roads, negotiating round-abouts like a New York cabbie.
Smoking everywhere: The anti-smoking craze that swept across America
years ago has yet to reach the shores of the U.K. Restaurants, bars, media centers,
they’re all full of smoke.
The food: All
the snarky clichés you hear about how lousy the food is in the U.K. –
true, all true.
So much of cuisine is
inexplicably bland and borderline inedible, which is surprising considering we’re
talking about such an ancient and cultured part of the world.
Try starting the day with
the "Full English" breakfast (eggs, fatty bacon, fried bread and baked beans, or Bangers and Mash (fatty
sausage and mashed potatoes) or Shepherd’s Pie (minced lamb,
veggies and mashed potatoes).
While in Scotland, be sure
not to miss the haggis
(don’t even ask).
Thing is, even when it is a
food or dish you recognize and like back home, they have a way of preparing it
in the most unappetizing way.Even
the pizza joints and Chinese "take-away" places don’t measure up.
One of the favorite meals
over there – sort of their answer to a burger and fries – is fish
and chips, or fried fish and fries.Not a bad concept, except they have a way of making the fish and the
chips so limp and greasy as to be revolting.
One year, one of the guys I
was sharing a house with, left a half-eaten order of fish and chips in a paper
bag on the dining room table.The
next morning, the grease had leeched out of the bag and eaten through the
varnish on the table.
The good news is, I always
counted on the British Open to help
me lose five pounds.
The prices: Depending
on the exchange rate between the U.S.
dollar and the British pound,
figure on everything costing 50- to 100-percent more than back home.
Hotels, restaurants, car
rentals, soft drinks in a convenience store, a round of golf, everything is
expensive.You can drive yourself
nuts pinching pennies, or you can grin and bear it.
Still, minor annoyances
aside, the British Open is the best
tournament in golf.
The course, owned and
operated by Glen Mills School, the
oldest reform school in America, is profiled in a seven-minute segment on the weekly
in America, to air at 9 p.m., Tuesday, July 13.
Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports the piece, which
introduces viewers to the Bobby Weed-designed
course and explains how Glen Mills
students work on the maintenance staff, at bag drop, and in the pro shop.
In addition to a couple of
students, Glen Mills executive
director Gary Ipock and board member
Ron Pilot, who is the father and
patron saint of the golf course, are interviewed.
When Tiger Woods returned to golf in April at the Masters, we all braced for the inevitable onslaught of very awkward
questions over the mess he made of his life.
For the most part, he didn’t
get those questions.The reason is
Augusta National Golf Club, and the PGA Tour at tournaments since then, denied
credentials to the likes of the National
Enquirer, TMZ, Radar, Star magazine and the rest of
the tabloid media.
What was left, of course,
were the golf writers he had faced for years in better times, on better
terms.For the most part, they had
neither the interest nor the stomach to do the bidding of the tabloids.
Still, so as not to be
accused of giving Tiger a free pass,
the golf writers poked around the edges of Tiger’s
sexcapade, eliciting more apologies and professions of remorse.Satisfied, the golf media has since largely
moved on, as witnesses by last week’s press conference at the AT&T National at Aronmink during which Tiger allowed as how he is relieved
that questions are finally getting back to the state of his golf game again.
But now comes next week’s British Open.
face a very different media in the UK.Except for The Times
of London, and maybe the Guardian,
every paper over there is a tabloid, and they compete on a daily basis to see
who can be the raciest.It is not
by happenstance that the supermarket tabloids in the U.S. have traditionally
been edited by imports from the UK.
It all makes for great
entertainment, but the UK tabloids not averse to a little exaggeration.One of the first times I ever saw the
UK tabloids in action was during the 2002 Ryder
Cup, at The Belfrey, in England.
During one of the U.S. team’s
early-week press conferences, a UK tabloid writer asked Tiger about his practice schedule.Specifically, where did he get off practicing shortly
after sunup, as is his customer, and being off the course by the time many fans
are just arriving?
Slightly taken aback, Tiger’s response was, well, if anyone
wanted to what him practice, come out early.
I was stunned to see the
next morning’s banner headlines in the tabloids, which essentially accused Tiger of being arrogant, of hiding from
fans, of thumbing his nose them, especially little kids.
That is the media environment
Tiger is walking into at the British Open.The tabloids are the
mainstream media over there.Tiger will not be shielded.
We got a taste of it a day
ago, during a pro-am in Ireland, when a UK reporter asked Tiger point-blank if his infidelities were worth the loss of his
marriage, millions in endorsements and the respect of fans around the globe?
squirmed a little, but kept his composure.The AP account of the moment described Tiger was "curt and dismissive" and "icily firm."Having watched video of the exchange, I
didn’t think he was either.
I say that not in defense of
Tiger. What got him into his
situation is indefensible, and he continues to pay a huge price for his
All I’m saying is, next
week, at the Old Course in Scotland,
get ready for Tiger to face the media
grilling he hasn’t yet gotten in the U.S.
It would be impossible to
come away from the week of the AT&T
National at Aronimink GC and not consider it an unqualified
From the golf course, which
as drawn high praise
from the players, to the fan support (45,000-plus Friday and Saturday, 36,000
Sunday, 192,633 for the week), to Aronimink’s ability to host a modern, big-time tournament,
it has all been good.
Even the weather cooperated,
which it did not the last time Aronimink hosted a major, the 2003 Senior PGA Championship,
when it rained virtually all week.
It is no secret that even before
the AT&T came off well, Aronimink had
designs on bigger fish: namely, another major to follow up on its 1962 PGA Championship. Aroniminkpresident
David Boucher acknowledged Sunday
that the club has indeed put out feelers to the PGA of America and in conversations about a future event.
"The very early stages," Boucher said of the conversations.
Assuming the PGA of America is as enthusiastic about
how the AT&T came off, the first
available open date for a PGA Championship
is 2017.The first open date for a
Ryder Cup, which is also run by the PGA of America, in the U.S. is even
further out, in 2024.
A bid for a U.S. Open at Aronimink is not completely out
of the question, although it is less likely than a PGA Championship.The Open is coming to Merion GC in 2013, of course, and another Open wouldn’t likely return to the area for at least 10 years, or
Beyond that, U.S. Golf Association officials have
acknowledged privately that when they think of Philadelphia, they think of Merion.It has, of course, hosted more Opens (four) and more USGA championships
than any other club in the country.
In addition, clubs tend to
gravitate toward one or the other, the PGA
of America or the USGA.Merion
is clearly in the USGA camp,
has more of a history with the PGA.
One other possibility for Aronimink could
be a Presidents Cup, which is run by
the PGA Tour, as is the AT&T National.Like the Ryder Cup, the Presidents
Cup is played every other year and rotates between U.S. and International
venues. The next available date for a Presidents
Cup in the U.S. is 2017, like next available date for a PGA Championship.