Golf: U. S. Open Impressions

Yesterday, Jon Rahm won the U. S. Open in grand style, by birdieing the last two holes. He played a great round of golf, and was a very deserving winner. I watch some of every round in this U. S. Open, and the entire final round. This was one of the best Opens in a long time. The venue was set up perfectly and the weather co-operated by not having a lot of high winds. The leader board was crowded with some of the top players in the game, and some regular tour players, trying to make the big splash. In the middle of the final round, there were about 10 players within two shots of the lead. Everybody seemed to be going along just fine, when all hell broke loose on the back nine, and just about everybody fell apart, except Rahm and Lois Oosthuizen. It wasn’t until Oosthuizen took a very aggressive line on 17, and knocked his drive in the hazard, and barely missed a par saving putt, that you felt that Jon Rahm had the victory. I have to give Oosthuizen some credit, for taking the aggressive route, and really trying to make birdie on that hole, but unfortunately it did not work out. During the final round, there were many players, who had a chance to win, but none more so than Bryson DeChambeau. When he almost made the hole in one on No. 8 to take the outright lead, I thought we were going to have a repeat champion. Then after making a par on the par 4 10th hole, he decided to take 40 blows on the last 8 holes to fall all the way to 26th place. Bryson characterized his back nine as having bad breaks and just being “golf”. Let’s take a closer look, and also go back to Fridays round.

Bryson blamed a lot of his back nine on bad luck. I attribute his horrible back nine to some of the worse thinking I have ever seen by a top player. I am not talking about bad thinking on one particular hole, like Jean van de Velde did at the final hole of the 1999 British Open, where he made a triple bogey, when he only needed a double bogey to win the tournament. DeChambeau’s bad thinking, is an overall bad approach to the game. It showed up on Friday, when he tried to reach I believe the first par 5 on the back nine in two. He hit a great shot, but it was just short, and rolled back down the hill about 50 yards, into a sand filled divot. That was a very bad break. This was time to take your medicine, and hit a nice little lob wedge, right into the throat of the green, which would have put him about 30 to 40 feet, right of the pin, for a birdie putt. Instead, he tried to hit the ball directly at the pin, over a bunker. He chunked the shot, right into that bunker, and exploded the ball over the green, and was lucky to chip back, and make a bogey. Then, when he drove it into the rough on Sunday, on the same par 5, instead of trying to get the ball back in the fairway, where he probably could have gotten home in three, he continued to hit the ball down the rough and wound up making a double bogey 7. He has a philosophy, that he can hit any shot he pleases, and get away with it. He has done this, in other tournaments, as his whole game lacks any type of strategy. When things go wrong for Bryson, he calls it just golf, and really learns nothing. Unless this philosophy changes, I do not see him ever winning another major. Only time will tell, of course. One things for sure, it is not for the lack of a golf game.

My overall impressions of the tournament were many. These guys make a lot of putts and shots around the greens. One of the odd things about this Open, was the number of truly great shots from fairway bunkers. Many times, the player who hit from the fairway bunker got closer to the hole, than his playing partner did, from the middle of the fairway. I am not going into specific instances, but it was interesting to see, that all the rough was not created equal. There were some spots that were particularly thick and then other areas where it was not near as penal. I am not talking about areas that were trampled down by the fans, speaking of which, it was also interesting to see players, trying to hit in these areas on purpose, rather than the fairway. It shows you, even the best players in the world are affected by hazards, that are close in play. It seems like no matter who you are you are not immune from the pressure of the U. S. Open. You saw it all Sunday, drives out of bound, impossible lies in bunkers, shanks, and even balls stuck in trees. Now, that’s bad luck Bryson. There are many golfers who have been in contention over the years that just don’t seem to be able to seal the deal. You have to wonder are they really trying to do anything different or are they just looking for the answer, too. In the end Jon Rahm stood out as the best player of the week, and took home the greatest prize in golf, the United States Open.

Golf: Frustration

My last post was about frustration in general. This post is about what has frustrated me the most in my life, and that is golf. There is nothing, that even comes a close second. I have been playing golf since I was 8 years old, beginning in 1958. There were two years, 1964 and 1995, where I did not play at all. There have been years that I have played very little golf, due to other commitments. Since 1996 I have played regularly, at least 2 to 3 times per week. Since 2010, I have played at least 100 rounds every year. When I tell people this, they will comment that I should be able to play well, playing that often. If you are playing badly, it doesn’t make any difference how often you play, you are just playing badly often. The game has many ups and downs, which can be expected in any endeavor, but golf takes this to an extreme. What makes golf so frustrating? Let me count the ways.

Golf has many unique qualities, when compared with other sports, and I have written about them before. These unique qualities do contribute to some of the frustrations, but they are far from being the most frustrating thing about the game. The biggest frustration with golf, is how much your game changes from day to day. If I drove a car, like I play golf, I would have an accident, about every third trip. Right now I am going through a down time in my game, which has developed, into what I call, a full blown slump. About 10 days ago, I had, out of the blue, one my best rounds of the year, which enabled me to shoot my age of 71. In fact, I was going to write a blog about this accomplishment, going into fine detail about the round. However, I slowly, but surely, got back to my slump levels, which dampened my desire to write about the round, which now seemed like such a fluke. The next day I shot 76, and then the following day ballooned to an 86. Last week, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was only able to play two rounds, and did not break 80, either round. Naturally, I was doing some certain swing feelings, when I shot the 71, and I thought wow, this could be what is going to lead me out of this slump. Wrong yip master. This happens all the time. The other frustrating thing about golf is just hitting horrible shots, that should be easy. Missing short putts is another wonderful facet of the game. Not being able to perform at your normal level, when the round is more important, is mystifying and frustrating. Playing well for about 14 holes and then shooting terrible for the last 4 is just another fun part of the game. It does not help, that you see all the same problems and issues at the highest level of the game.

So, how do I deal with the frustrations of my golf game? I have tossed wedges into the woods, never to be found. I have thrown at least 100 balls into various lakes and woods. Slamming a clubhead into the ground seems to relieve a lot of stress. Swearing seems like a nice senseless thing to do. Trying to put my foot trough the bottom of a golf cart, when I hit the accelerator, was another method, that seemed to have some merit. Frustration was a big part of the reason I did not play in 1995, and I almost quit in 2010. I just read my blog about frustration, and I don’t seem to recommend any of these methods. Maybe I am going to have to rewrite that blog. Anybody who plays golf at any level, goes through exactly what I have been describing. It is the nature of the game. If the frustrations of the game are just too hard to overcome, then getting away from it for awhile, or permanently, is a viable solution. Even though I wrote previously, that seeing the greatest players in the world go through the same thing, does not help, but there is some comfort in the fact, that you are not alone. My recommendation to avoid frustration with your golf game, is truly the only way to handle the problem. Other than quitting, how is that accomplished? It is not easy, but I believe there are a couple of things you can do. Have no expectation for any round of golf. When you have that unexpected great round, be happy, and then forget about it. Be ready for the surprises that can happen in any round of golf, good or bad. If you are ready for anything, then whatever happens is not a surprise. Remember, there is a solution out there, we just haven’t found it, yet.

Meditation: Frustration

Frustration is defined as the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something. That definition is pretty tame, when you consider the emotions that frustration can bring on. I put this topic under meditation but it could apply to any of the subjects I write about, which will be covered in future blogs. Frustration has been divided into two types. Internal frustration is where an individual faces challenges in fulfilling personal goals, desires, instinctual drives  and needs, or dealing with perceived deficiencies, such as a lack of confidence or fear  of social situations. External frustration  involves conditions outside an individual’s control, such as a physical roadblock, a difficult task, or the perception of wasting time. We all seem to go through periods of frustration, at some time in our lives and some individuals seem to be frustrated all the time. We are always frustrated with a lack of success. I am always fascinated by fan’s frustration over the performance of the their sports teams. People will get frustrated over what another person is doing or not doing. How many times have you heard some say, I can’t believe he, she, or they did that. Frustration is an emotion, that can lead directly to other emotions, that some people feel can be good and then, there are some not so good.

If you are getting frustrated with some aspect of you life, you can always do something about it. I do mean always. Many people look at a situation and do not see a solution. There is a solution to every problem or desire. The trick is in finding it. That doesn’t mean that you won’t still feel frustration over a situation. Once a solution is found, the next step is to execute it. Sometimes, that can be harder to do than anticipated. If you fail to execute the solution, then that can lead, right back to frustration. The external frustrations can even be more of a problem. Frustrations with other people, companies, government policies, retail services, and certain situations, can evoke strong emotions, that often times lead to no good. There is the added “benefit” of taking out your frustrations on someone or something else, rather than being frustrated with your self. This is where frustration will lead to anger and even violence. A lot of little frustrations, can lead to one major blow up. If you allow frustration to get the best of you, it will lead to regret and remorse. Is it better, to somehow, not ever get frustrated, or do you have to find a better way to handle the frustration, you are feeling?

It may seem unrealistic, to keep from getting frustrated. I can see getting frustrated over getting frustrated. However, despite what people say about frustration leading to some positive emotions, like trying to do better, and having more resolve, for the most part, frustration is simply not a good thing. The easy frustration to avoid, is external frustration. I am literally having external frustration, as I write this blog, because I can not get through to a restaurant, that I am trying to make a Friday night reservation. I am not feeling any frustration at all. Remember, I golf, so I really know what frustration feels like. My only feeling, right at the moment, is that if I never get through, this restaurant is not going to get my business. For external frustrations, you can always have alternative good thoughts. If you are stuck in traffic, because of an accident, be grateful you are not in the accident. If you think you are not being treated fairly, and even have suffered some financial loss, you will know not to do business, with that individual, again. Take legal action if the money loss is severe. Never get frustrated with an individual you know. Accept whatever they are doing, or don’t have the relationship. Remember, when it comes to interactions, never do anything you really don’t want to do. Trying to avoid being frustrated with yourself, is much harder to do, but it can be done. Frustration is usually brought about by failure. Failure to lose weight, failure to perform up to your expectation, and failure to achieve, are just some to the things that can lead to internal frustration. I am not one to say that failure is to be embraced, but realize that the only way not to fail, is not to do. If you fail, accept it and move on. Look for the solution, and try again. Frustration is not to be handled, it is to be avoided at all cost. By the way, I made my reservation.

Sports: Pirates, Not Waiting Till June Too Take A Swoon

When we last took a look at the Pirates, they were 14-19, and were barely hanging on, to make something of the season. They nose dived, in more ways than one, to lose 14 of the next 20 games, gave up 20 runs in one game, and made one of the biggest bonehead plays, in the history of baseball. Two to the wins were walk offs, and one was in extra innings, or it could have been even worse. The collapse was a team effort, as all of their pitching, batting, and fielding stats fell dramatically. Their highest rank is FIP and Defensive Efficiency coming in at 19th and 20th, respectively. The rest of the pitching and batting stats are pretty pathetic with ERA+ and Runs scored coming in at 29th each. No one has hit less home runs than the Pirates. They have taken the deadening of the ball seriously. Even though I have called this a team “effort”, there have been players that have stood out by their extremely poor play. Some have not been surprising, but others had some better expectations.

Expected putrid players, that have lived down to their expectations, are Erik Gonzalez, Gregory Polanco, Wilmer Difo, Michael Perez, and 4 of the 5 in the starting rotation. The most disappointing players, who had higher expectations going into the season, are Kevin Newman and Phillip Evans. These players could be some of the worst players in Major League Baseball history. I am not going to waste my finger energy going over some of their pathetic slash lines. Some of their OPSes are not above the league leaders in slugging. As a group their plate discipline is terrible, with Erik Gonzalez being the worse, and they are all allergic to the walk. This group of players is the main reason the Pirates can not score runs. In the starting rotation there is only one pitcher, J.T. Brubaker, who has an ERA+ over the league average 100, at 107. OPS+ and ERA+ are statistics that compare player performances taking in ballparks and other conditions, with the league average being 100. Bryan Reynolds OPS+ is 143, and he has a WAR of 2.2. He is on his way to having an All Star season. Check out these OPS+: Gonzalez 50, Newman 40, Polanco 89, being paid 11 million this year, Perez 37, Difo 81, Evans 89. Now these ERA+: Keller 61, Kuhl 63, Cahill 59, Anderson 86, who if you listen to the Pirate announcers, you would think he is Sandy Koufax. Then, you had the Will Craig gaffe, with Javier Baez at first base, that cost the Pirates eventually 2 runs in a game they lost. I will say one thing in his defense. Why wasn’t someone on the field yelling at him, to tell him what to do. Both the radio and TV broadcast booths sure as hell were. Was it out of respect, or was the whole team dumbfounded speechless, on what they were seeing on the field. Perez could have taken one step, and tagged Baez, instead of trying to tag the runner. On one of the most bizarre plays in major league history, even though Craig took most of the heat, for the huge mistake, you could say, it was a team effort. Is there any hope for this team?

The short answer is no. I am always the optimist, however, and hopefully some good things could happen. Supposedly Hayes is going to be activated this week. That should move Gonzalez to the bench. Moran will come back this month I assume, and his bat, but not his glove, should be an improvement overall for the team. The sad thing about the rotation, is that the fill ins, have pitched better than the regular rotation. I see no hope for Chad Kuhl. The two, that I am hoping, will turn things around, are Newman and Keller. In 2019 Newman hit over .300 and I don’t mind typing this slash line, .309/353/.446, with an OPS+ of 109, and a solid WAR of 3. If he can approach those numbers anytime soon, it would be a huge lift for this team. Keller, who has become every other start Keller, needs to become every start Keller. Hopefully he can find some kind of consistency, and become a top of the rotation guy. I admit these last 20 games have been discouraging, in more ways than one, and I do not know what the schedule looks like this month, but if Hayes comes back, totally able to play, then maybe this team can have a competitive month. The rotation must improve, by finding some arms. If not, then sadly be ready for that 100 loss season. YUK!!!! I’ll next visit the Pirates, July 1.