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.

Golf: Stories, The 90’s

In the 90’s, I went full circle, when it came to golf. I played a lot for the first 4 years, then hardly played at all for 19 months, and finally, went full bore at the end of the decade, as I played on my first professional tour. My years at Rolling Hills will be included in the 90’s stories, even though I joined Rolling Hills Country Club in September of 1986. I went to putting left handed in the the 90’s. During this time, my veterinary practice had its greatest years, that would continue into the 2000’s, until I sold it, in 2004. I would not record a hole in one during the decade, which would mark the only decade that I did not have a spectacular shot. Even though I did not record a hole and one in the 2010’s, I did get an albatross, in 2017. I did hit a lot of good shots during my years at Rolling Hills.

I spent 7 full golf seasons at Rolling Hills. The odd thing about my play there, is that I holed out more shots from the fairway during those years, than I did anytime before or since in my entire golfing life. I did not make a hole in one but I eagled every other hole there, with exception of the long par 4 17th hole. Some of the hole outs were fairly long shots. A 3 iron,(remember that club), from 200 yards out on number 9. Various wedges on numbers 1,2,4,6,10,11,12,16, and 18. Short irons on 5,8,13, and 15. During the 7 seasons, I had 20 hole outs of 50 yards or longer. I saw many odd shots at Rolling Hills. Once one of my playing companions hit a high pulled iron into a tree to the left of the 8th green, we saw two things drop from the tree. I thought it was just some leaves on a branch. When we got up to the green, we saw his ball and a dead squirrel. Knowing my profession, he wanted to know if I could revive it. I saw many shots that were hit to the left of the 18th green, hit a retaining wall, or the clubhouse balcony, and bounce onto the green. This tee shot on the first hole, however, tops them all. There was an electrical tower, just to the left of the first tee. Odd isn’t it. In one of the club events, this player started his round, by lining a low left hard hit heeler. The ball hit a brick, that surrounded a flower bed, just to the left of the first tee. It flew straight up into the air, to the top of the electrical tower, and noisily rattled around. It flew out of the tower even further to the left, then it hit the awning of the pro shop, and bounced across the practice putting green, where people had to scatter, and wound up about 25 yards to left and behind where he had teed up. Since this was an event, the putting green had to be cleared so he could hit his second shot. Even though I enjoyed my years at Rolling Hills, golf was becoming something, that I was not enjoying, so I decided to take a hiatus from the game. I remember when I made the decision. I was sitting in the men’s grill, on a rainy Sunday morning, waiting to see, if we would get to play, and suddenly, it was like I was the only one in the room. Everybody was talking to other people, and for once, I was not talking. It just hit me right then, that I was going to quit. About 2 weeks before we had just qualified to go to Orlando for the National Oldsmobile Scramble, in late September, early October. I knew that would be my last golf, for awhile. Everybody was shocked, that I was going to quit playing golf. Some thought I joined some kind of cult, and had to give up something to belong. Some thought I was devastated by my 4 runner up finishes in the club championship.

Why did I give up the game for awhile? Like most decisions, there were a lot of little things that just added up. I had hit a wall in playing the game and was getting frustrated as hell. There were many other reasons, some not even related to golf, but I knew I just had to get away from the game. First, I always knew that I would take it back up, in fact I continued to hit balls, and I did play in various scrambles, and did get a chance to play Scioto Country Club. I played about 6 rounds of golf over that 19 month period of time. I really did not miss the game at all. I ran 5K and 10K races every weekend, and I had lots of other things to do to keep me busy. In fact looking back on it, the only mistake I made was coming back too soon. I should have waited until the spring of 97, to start playing again. Once I came back, I was still having the same problems I had, when I left the game. It was then, I decided to putt left handed, and that started a nice turn around. I have lefty in me, as I throw left handed and my left eye is my dominant eye. I turned 48 in 98, and many senior tours allowed you to start playing on them, at the age of 48. I played on what was called the Tornado Tour, beginning in the spring of 98. It was in the eastern part of Ohio and it played the events on Wednesday or Thursday. I played on that tour for 4 years until it went belly up and actually won one event. I still don’t know how I did that, but it had no carry over affect in future competitive endeavors.

As the nineties came to a conclusion, I was firing on all cylinders in every aspect of my life. I was keeping a brutal pace for someone just about to turn 50. I admit I was loving every minute of it, but in the end, I really could not get it together on the golf course. By the end of the next decade I was ready to quit the game again, and this time for good. Instead I decided to start blogging in 2010 and have kept playing every since. I felt there was some kind of unknown quality about the game, and there was a better and easier way to play the game. I am still looking.

Golf: A Very Interesting Video.

I watch a golf instructional video the other day, in fact it was probably about 3 to 4 weeks ago. I can’t find the site that I watched the video. I think I get e mails telling me when this site posts something, but I can’t find it on my Word Press site, which doesn’t surprise me. Anyhow, this was a golf instructional video about putting. It was done by a couple of pros from England, and they were in the US, shooting this with a pro, who had invented this putting aid. It was a flat piece of material with one side wide and the other side just wide enough that if you put 2 tees at the end of it, on either side, it left just enough room for a ball to pass in between. I assume there was some kind of an alignment aid at the end you struck the putt. The idea is to strike the putt between the tees which looked to be about 3 inches ahead of the ball. One of the English pros used the aid. He read a putt of about 7 feet. He read the putt to break about 3 inches to the right. Everything was set up, so that the device was aim at his projected target. He struck the first putt and hit the left tee, and of course, the ball caromed off, and stop way short. The pro made the adjustment and consistently put the ball between the tees at a good speed. However, his read was bad, and he missed all the putts low, by about 2 to 3 inches. He hit about 3 putts, so it was very obvious the read was wrong. The putting instructor reset everything to play more break. This time, when the pro took his first putt, he hit the right tee barely, and it threw the ball off line. He made the adjustment again and started to put the ball through the tees consistently. This time, although the putts were better, with what I call perfect speed, he was burning the left edge of the cup. When he hit one putt with dying speed, the ball fell into the hole. This device was to give a golfer proper feedback and groove a perfect stroke. This was not what I found interesting about the video. I am sure this device is great and it did what it is supposed to do very well. Here is what makes this video interesting, and extremely fascinating.

Remember, this was a PGA professional, who was doing the putting. He read the putt, and until he putted the first ball, we did not know that he had under read the left to right breaking putt. This type of putt is always more difficult, it seems for a right handed putter. His first putt hit the left tee, which means he had pulled his putt. However, this combination, of under read and pulled putt may have found the hole. By watching all three putts miss on the low side, the instructor moved the aim point about another 2 inches to the left. Naturally, there was a break in the action. When the pro hit the first putt with the new line, he wound up hitting the right tee, and again the ball was taken off line. He barely grazed it. He got right on track with the second putt, but his first couple, just grazed the left side of the cup. He died one in on the third putt. There it was on video, the famous disconnect, that I have seen all my life. Even with an experienced pro, something inside of him, which he did not realize, told him the putt was going to break more than he read. Even though he was trying to put the ball between the tees he pulled the putt on what most likely was the proper line, and didn’t even know it. Even with more knowledge, and a better, but not perfect line, he pushed the putt, on what would have been the line to take for the putt to go in with perfect speed. How does some part of us know this, but we can not communicate it, to what I call the conscious being? I have no clue to what the answer is, to that scenario. What happens to me a lot of times, in that situation, when my read is wrong, I will simply hit a weak putt. Nine times out of ten, the putt will wind up short, and drifts off in the opposite direction that I thought it was going to go. Is our subconscious that good at reading putts, and we don’t even know it. This is one conclusion that I have drawn from this. Is there a way to tap into such brilliance. Maybe Jack and Tiger already have, but just aren’t telling us. I don’t really think so, because they spent a lot of time reading putts. The purpose of the device, and the video was to show that the pros get feedback, so they know what they are doing. That may be true, but it showed a phenomenon that may be the key to finding great success on the greens.

Golf: Unusual Injury and a Feel Good Story.

I have haven’t written about my own game lately, which usually means that I am basically stinking out the joint, and this is no exception this time. I am having my usual putting problems, and short game blues. My ball striking as been ok, particularly my driving, and my iron game has been up and down. There have been two interesting things happen this year, that I think warrants some blogging. First, I had this very unusual injury related to playing golf. I have been playing this game for a long time, since 1958, and I thought I would never do this to myself, by swinging a golf club. On March 17, I was playing, on a fairly pleasant day, in other words no extreme conditions. I took a swing with an iron, and felt this pain on the inside of my forearm. It wasn’t excruciating, but I noticed it all the same. It was only on that shot. It never recurred the rest of the round, and I really never gave it another thought. Then due to the weather, I did not play for 3 days. The next time I played, I started out fine, but I felt the same pain in my forearm around the 3rd hole, like a small knot in the forearm. This time, it did not go away entirely. Then on the 7th hole, I hit a Gap wedge fat, and the forearm became very painful. I could feel a distinct knot on the inside of the forearm. Naturally, I played out the round, but I protected the arm, and although it was painful, I massaged it, which seemed to make it feel better. I left the course right away, went home, put some ice on it and massage it some more. When I woke up the next morning it felt a little better, but when I looked in the mirror, this is what I saw.

Holy shit!!! The only good news, is that it didn’t feel all that bad. I guess you would call that a severe contusion. As you can see, it goes from the top of the wrist to just below the elbow. I did have some elbow pain. When I hurt it with the fat wedge shot, the pain was only isolated in the inner part of my right forearm. I never expected to see anything like that, the next day. Believe it or not I played golf that day, but did protect the arm. When I showed this picture to my daughter, she thought I fell out of the golf cart. I played 3 of the next four days, with a little different swing, because the weather was just too damn gorgeous, not to play. I only had pain when I did not move my wrist for awhile, and it would wake me up at night, because of way I was positioned at times. I never really did anything for it, and it just slowly went away. I have not had any problems since, and it has been 5 weeks, since I did it. I admit, I have made some permanent changes in my swing, which I hope will avoid doing the same thing. I don’t know if this is necessary, but I do not want to go through this again.

Now for a feel good story. On March 30, we had an 11:16 tee time at Scenic Valley, but because of a frost delay we were pushed back to 11:45. The place was packed, because it was developing into a beautiful day. I was there with my buddy Pete, and we were joined with another twosome, which was fine with us. We went down to the putting green, to kill some time, and when we came back, we found out, that the twosome we were supposed to play with, got joined with another twosome, who were ahead of us. We were joined by a single, by the name of Alli, who is 85 years old and had only been playing golf for about 10 years. Both Pete and he played from the senior tees and Alli moved the ball pretty well with a homemade swing. Number 6 is the first par 3 at Scenic, and from the senior tees it is about 140 yards. Yep, you guessed it. Alli took a mighty swing with his driver, and hit a very nice looking shot, that landed about 20 yards short of the green, took some nice hops toward the pin, and went right in the hole for an ace. Naturally, it was his first ace, in his brief 10 year golf career. Alli bought the beers and the course bought the hot dogs, and it was just a grand day. I looked at Pete and said ” Look what we would have missed, if we had gone out with who we were originally paired with”. Golf is one great game.

Meditation: Results

When you read or hear anything about life, or life coaching, it is always about the journey not the destination. It is about the process, not the outcome. This subject, results, could have been written under any of the titles, that I discuss. Food, how does it taste? Golf, what did you shoot? Sports, what was the final score? Meditation, what are the benefits? All the answers to those questions, have nothing to do with the process, but the results. On your job, you need to have results. What is the bottom line? Every boss has said, at one time or another, I do not want to hear about any excuses, I want results. We all want to get to our destination, whatever that may be. People set a goal, and some will have a plan to achieve that goal. The best laid plans can go awry, due to many unforeseeable circumstances. This philosophy, that what’s important is the journey, or the process, is just a way to help handle failure. I am not too sure, if that’s the reason, that coaches try to get their clients to think this way, but to have this results only attitude, is not something that is going to improve your health.

There is no question, the sports fan is at the top of the list, of the results only philosophy. You will see many fans tweet, that if my team does not reach the championship game or series the season is a failure. Now in professional sports you are really fighting the odds. There are 30 to 32 teams in each of the four major sports leagues. That means, that with everything being equal, there is only about 3% chance, that your team is going to win the championship. Now, we all know that everything is not equal, so there are going to be some teams that have a better chance than others, to win the title. The teams that do win the title, seem to have some process, or plan, and when it succeeds, then everybody tries to copy them to some degree, with various results, that are usually not as successful as the original team. One thing about the process it is not ignored, especially in golf. In fact the process is given too much credit, by some professional golfers, who have had success in the past. They have a had a great stretch of golf covering years, and run into a bump in the road, and will change coaches, and swings, to see if they can recapture their previous success. Sometimes they don’t even need a bump in the road, to completely revamp their swing, supposedly, trying to get better. The best example I know of this, is Tiger Woods. After winning the Masters by 12 shots, he changed his swing. Now because he went on to have great success, that decision is not questioned, as much as it should be. There are many other examples of this in golf, the most recent is Rory Mcilroy, who is going through this process right now. He is only ranked 11th in the world, I would be changing my swing, too. Is it really the journey, and process, and what are we to do if the results are not what we want?

To get the first part of question out of the way quickly, the answer is a resounding no. If this kind of thinking helps you, then go ahead and continue, but do not delude yourself into thinking, that results do not matter. The one factor that is forgotten about, when there is any successful outcomes, whether it be on a small or short term scale, or a large or long term scale, is luck. Yes, that’s right good old luck. We never give luck enough credit, whether it be good or bad luck. The reason for this, is if we think luck played a major role in our success or failure, it takes the results, out of our hands. It can also, make it seem like all the hard work we put in, may have been wasted, if we were not lucky. Instead of being grateful for our good fortune, we brush it under the rug, and try to forget about it, because we do not want to lessen our accomplishment. This doesn’t really lessen the accomplishment, it is just our perception. When our luck is bad, we don’t talk much about it then, because it looks like complaining. If it is not the journey or the process that is important, how are we to handle the less than desirable outcomes or failures. You have to handle failure with acceptance. In other words you almost have to be happy to fail. This will not stem your desire to succeed, but it will allow you to move on, and possibly try again, or move into a totally new direction, with a new plan. It is the process that allows you to try and find your path. There is that fine line between having faith in yourself, and continuing on the journey, or finding a new path toward a different life goal. It is the hardest part of the whole process, of finding your way through this life. Results are important, but the most important part of any result, is what you do with it once you get it.

Golf: Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods, is the third member of the group, who should be considered the greatest golfer of all time, and thanks to the alphabet, I have saved the best for last. Despite the fact that I wrote, that Sam Snead should be in this group, the debate always boils down to Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. Those that feel that Nicklaus is the best, will always point to his major championship record, which is second to none. There is no doubt that people look at the performances in major championships, as golf’s holy grail. We need a little historical background on major championships, to put them in a proper prospective. Although Tiger Wood’s major championship record is not as good as Nicklaus’s, it is not all that far behind, when you look at the entire history of golf.

When Nicklaus was trying to win the most major championships of all time, he was chasing Bobby Jones. Jones had won 13 major championships, which included the U. S. and British Amateur, where he won 5 and 1 respectively. He won 4 US Opens and 3 British Opens to round out his 13 majors. When Nicklaus was making his run at Jones, he had won 2 US Amateur titles, before turning pro in 1962. Walter Hagen had 11 professional major titles. He won 3 US Open, 3 British Opens, and 5 PGA Championships. He won 4 PGA’s in a row when the event was all match play. Speaking of greatness, he is the greatest match play player of all time. It was convenient when Nicklaus won his 14th major, which included his 2 amateur wins, he broke Jones’s major record, and Hagen’s professional major record, at the same time. As the years went by Nicklaus’s majors number always included his amateur wins. When he won that memorable Masters in 1986, it was stated that this was his 20th major championship, which in 1986, looked like a record that would never be approached, let alone broken. Then, along comes Tiger, and all of a sudden, the talk is only about the 18 professional majors that Nicklaus won, like the US amateur is not considered a major any more. No one had the guts, to write that the great Bob Jones, now only had 7 majors. If you count Tiger’s 3 US Amateur wins, then that brings his total to 18 and only 2 behind Nicklaus. They both have won the 4 professional majors, 3 times each. Jack has won one more Masters, one more US Open, and one more PGA, thus the 2 more career majors. You just can not change, what is considered a major as time goes by. If it was counted as a major in 1980, then it is a major today. Even though Jack’s record in the majors, is still the best, Tiger is a close second, for sure.

Tiger is the G.O.A.T, because he just has done too many things that no one has ever done, plain and simple. The only person to win 3 US Amateurs in a row. The youngest to win all 4 majors, doing it when he was 24, about 2 years younger than Nicklaus. His making the cut 142 straight times, should be enough to put him at the top. He broke Byron Nelson’s record of 111 and Jack made a good run, with 105. Hale Irwin follows with 86 and Dow Finsterwald is 5th at 72, just a little above half of Tiger’s mark. Tiger was the only player to win 4 professional majors in a row. See, I know how to sneak that professional word in too. He has the lowest career scoring average. He is tied with Sam Snead for 82 wins. He has led the money list 10 times, Nicklaus is second with 8, and Tom Watson and Ben Hogan did it 5 times, each. Biggest victory margin in the US Open 15, next Willie Anderson 11 in 1899. Biggest victory margin in the Masters 12, Jack second with 9. Biggest victory margin in British Open 8. Two other golfers matched this record, J. H. Taylor, 1900 and 1913, and James Braid in 1908. The major he does not have the biggest victory margin, is the PGA, where he did win by 5 once, but Rory has the record at 8. He has 41 European Tour wins which is 3rd all time. Tiger has won Bay Hill 8 times, and The World Invitational at Firestone 8 times, tying him with Snead for the most wins at one event. He is 14 and 1 when holding or sharing the third round lead in a major. He has won a record 22.8% of his starts on the PGA tour. Nicklaus won about 12% of his. There may one player on tour today, who is close to 10%, but that is about it. He won the Vardon Trophy a record 9 times. Last but not least his playoff record is 15-2. Ben Hogan’s playoff record is 2 and 9. Any questions. Tiger is it, baby.

Golf: Sam Snead

Sam Snead is the golfer, that is most overlooked, when talking about the greatest golfers of all time. Other than Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, there is not a lot of argument given, for anybody, to join them. in the discussion of the greatest golfer of all time. In fact, in some rankings, you might find Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Walter Hagen, and even Harry Vardon ranked ahead of Snead. The biggest reason for this, is that Snead has this gaping hole in his record, of never being able to win the U. S. Open. He finished 2ond four times, and the one that stands out, is the 1939 Open, where he needed just a par to win the tournament, and made a triple bogey 8, to fall to 5th place. Snead said, that he thought he needed a birdie to just tie for the lead, and played the hole aggressively, which resulted in the 8. Such a thing would have never happened today, with all the scoreboards around. It is not to say that he would have parred the hole, but he certainly would have played it differently. But Snead’s career had many more highlights, than lowlights.

He won 7 major titles, 3 Masters, 3 PGA’s, when it was a match play tournament, and one British Open. He has 82 official PGA tour wins, and but also a total of 142 professional wins, including being the only man to win an LPGA event. It was in 1962, a par 3 event in Florida, and Snead defeated 14 LPGA players including Mickey Wright. It was held the previous year with 24 men and women playing, and Snead finished 3rd, losing by 2 shots to Louise Suggs. Snead joined the tour in 1937, and over the next 25 seasons won at least one tournament every year, except for 1943, due to military service, 1947, and 1959. He won the Greensboro Open for the 8th time, in 1965, at the age of 54, making him the oldest winner of a PGA tour event, to this day. He won on the senior tour in 1980, making him the only golfer to win senior and regular tour events over 6 decades. Snead made a lot of noise on the PGA tour, even when he was in his sixties. He made the cut at the U.S. Open at age 61, which is a record. He finished in the top ten in three consecutive PGA Championships at ages 60 to 62. In 1974 at 61-62 years of age, he played in 13 events, made the cut 11 times, and finished in the top five 3 times, a 2ond, a 3rd, and a 4th. In 1979 at age 67, still competing on the PGA tour, he was the youngest player to ever shoot his age. On longevity alone, this man could be considered the greatest of all time. His greatest year was 1950. Playing in 25 tournaments, he won 11, finished second in 5 and 3rd in 2. Yet, Ben Hogan was voted player of the year, because of his comeback, and winning the U.S. Open, his only win that year. Before Tiger, Golf Digest voted Snead the 3rd greatest golfer of all time, behind Nicklaus and Hogan. There has always been, some kind of prejudice against Snead, for some reason, in the golfing press.

Snead had this kind of down home folksy persona, but he was, also, pretty much of a skin flint, and was always looking for ways to make money, from everyday activities. There were many stories from the Greenbriar, where he was the pro, where he would ask to join a group, then ask for 100 dollars, from each member of the threesome, to do so. He was notorious for not tipping caddies, and for keeping all his money in cans, buried in the back yard. Nobody in the media, really wanted to ordain this guy, with the G.O.A.T. tag. The U.S.G.A. never seem to like Snead either. The method of croquet putting, where you straddle the line, was invented around 1961, and was being used in sanctioned professional events. It wasn’t until Snead started using it in 1967, to combat the yips, that the USGA got all up in arms about it, and banned the method in 1968. Snead was considered double jointed, meaning he had hypermotility in his joints. There is the famous picture of Snead kicking the top of a door frame when he was in his seventies. How much this helped his swing will never be known. Sam Snead was just a better and more natural player than Ben Hogan. When you think of the greatest golfer of all time you can not simply look at statistics. Think of a beautiful and powerful swing that created some of the finest shots in the history of golf. Think of somebody who played competitively, on the PGA tour, for over 40 years. Think of Sam Snead.

Golf: Jack Nicklaus

These next three blogs on golf, are going to be about, who I consider the best three golfers of all time. They are going to be in alphabetical order, so just because I am leading off with Jack, does not mean I think he is the best. Doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s the best, either. Most people feel there is only a top 2, but I do feel there is a third golfer, who deserves to be in the conversation, when talking about the greatest golfer of all time. I am going to mention each golfer’s record, but I am going to emphasize more, of what made these three unique that made them so great. After these three I do not think anybody else is really close, but in future blogs I will discuss some of the other greats, who fall outside of the top 3. Nicklaus’s record in major championships is second to none. He won 2 U.S. amateur championships, and then won 18 professional majors. He also finished 2ond an amazing 19 times. It is not inconceivable to think, that a lip out here, or a bad bounce there, and he might have won 25 to 30 major championships. Despite all those 2ond place finishes, there is still not a major, that anyone thinks that Jack Nicklaus gave away. He simply got outplayed. The only time I ever heard any criticism of Jack’s play in a major, where he contended, was in the 1972 British Open. Lee Trevino beat him by one shot with a lucky chip in, for par at the par 5, 17th hole. Many in the press, said that Jack played too conservative in the first 3 rounds, and if he would have been more aggressive early, he would have won the third leg of the grand slam, that year. Jack won 73 tournaments on the PGA tour, which is third all time. But here is what set Jack Nicklaus apart from everybody else.

There were two things. First, he was the master of what I called the killer putt. This was a putt late in the final round of a tournament that just knocked the wind out of his opponents. One of his most famous, was the putt he made up the hill at the 16th hole in the final round of the 1975 Masters which enabled him to edge out Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller, for the green jacket. Second, was the Nicklaus brain. I not taking about mental toughness, or the ability to stay calm and focused under pressure. I am talking about his golf swing brain. This is what Nicklaus had to say about his golf swing and what he is thinking when he is playing tournament golf.

“You know, every shot I play, I think of exactly what I want to do with the swing. I never just let it happen. Ever. Never. Even today, I can think of four or five things during a swing and do all of them. And I probably use to be able to do more. Most people say to think of one or maybe one and a half, but I’ve always been able to think of several things to do during the swing. And I do those things.”

This, in the day of having one swing thought, or no swing thoughts, here is one of the greatest players of all time, thinking about four or five things to do during the swing, and maybe even more, in his prime. One of Nicklaus’s most famous shots, was his one iron on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach in the fourth round of the U.S. Open. In a very strong headwind, he hit a laser like one iron that hit the green, took one big hop, hit the pin and dropped right by the hole, for a kick in birdie, to seal his 3rd U.S. Open title. This is what he said about this shot and swing. “I remember I took it back a little inside and shut. I felt that happening but I couldn’t stop, so I adjusted the swing by holding on a little throughout it and hit the ball dead flush. My timing was terrific that week. I was able to adjust within the swing.” That is one great brain, obviously made for golf. In my view, that made Nicklaus totally unique, and one of the all time greats, in the game of golf.

Golf: Intention

When you look at the title of this blog, you may think, that intention should be under meditation. If you google intention, you will find many sites related to life goals, and ways to make powerful intentions. Intention may be the one tool, that we are leaving out of our golf games. I was going to hold off on this blog for awhile, because I think intention is the thing that as sparked my own golf game, but I wanted to get more rounds under my belt, before I wrote about it. I have played 13 rounds using intention as my main thought process. What prompted me to write about this now, was watching the Phoenix Open. I do not think I have seen so many top players struggle so much, during a final round. The leaders were putting balls in the water, in the cacti, in sand traps, and missing more putts than I could count. When Brooks Koepka pitched in for an eagle on the 17th hole, I clapped, and said out loud, somebody finally did something. It was the winning shot of the tournament. After watching so much failure, from the best players in the world, it made me think that maybe everybody is missing intention in their golf game.

Intention can be defined in different ways. Intention can be something that you want, and plan to do. Intentions can be how you want to feel, or simply what you’d like to get out of the day. There are websites dedicated to how to go about setting intentions, to make your life powerful and strong. This is a breakdown of what most of them say. Set an intention and let it go. Set these intentions when you are feeling content and not when you feel you are lacking something. Detach yourself from the outcome. Allow the universe to handle the outcome. Try keeping the mind quiet. Keep things on the short term. Keep things positive and make sure that your intentions are always evolving. Try to stay in the present moment. You can see how all of this can be applied to golf. One of my favorites is keeping things on the short term. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Another one I like, is to keep your intentions evolving, because that is what the round is going to do, evolve. Before we move forward, we need to differentiate between intent and visualization, since visualization is so much a part of golf. There is some debate on this subject, but I do believe there is a distinct difference. Intent is a determination to do something. Visualization is related to mental imagery. You can visualize golf shots, but you must apply intention, as the final step. I will say, visualization is not as big a part of my game, since I have applied intention. We have all been there when our golf games have abandoned us. Here are some examples of things that have affected my own game. Hitting the poor tee shot into trouble. This may happen about 5 to 7 holes into the round. It does not really matter how I am scoring. I have hit 4 or 5 drivers in the round, and they have all been very good to excellent drives. The holes, however, have been fairly easy driving holes and now the 8th hole has some trouble on it. I do not care where the trouble is, left or right or on both sides, just a narrow driving hole. I have hit good drives up to this point, but sure enough my drive on this hole finds the woods, water, or worse the out of bounds. Another good example, I am hitting the driver well all day, even on the tight holes, but my irons into the green are atrocious. Then, there is the day that on the par 3’s I am hitting great iron shots, but I am driving so bad, that you never get to take advantage of your good iron play. Finally, there is putting. Of course putting would be involved, when you are thinking about missed opportunities, or bad shots. I may start out a round not playing all that great, but my putting is holding the round together, because I am making some nice par saves by sinking a handful of 6 to 10 footers, or longer. Then like many times in golf, I hit a good shot out of the blue, to about 10 feet, for a birdie, and of course, I miss the putt. This is where I believe intention can help reduce and eventually eliminate these bad shots.

How do you apply intention to your golf game? When those bad shots happened in the past, I would look at various things to help correct the problem. I would look at my swing. In fact there is one train of thought that your driver swing and iron swing are two different swings. I got away from that process, and also got away from swing thoughts on the golf course. But that does not mean I do not think about anything. On driving, the old thought process would be to try and visualize the shot and try to avoid trouble when the situation called for it. When it came to iron shots, the first thing I would have to do is to figure out what club to hit. In that process you weigh things like the wind, and where the trouble is around the green, and whether I would hit a draw or fade. This thinking would sometimes lead to a lot of indecision. On short shots you would try to visualized the shot, and you would do the same thing on putting. When you begin to put intention into your game you wind up making the game much simpler. It comes as close to trying to play with a blank mind as you can get. Now, when I have a driver in my hand, I go through my routine, but now I think simply of where I want the ball to go, which is the middle of the fairway, no matter what the hole is like. With irons I still have to go through the process of picking a club, but once the club is chosen, I simply think of where I want the ball on the green. With the short game and putting I think of where I want the ball to end up, in the hole. One little adjustment I make, which I think is critical, is that before I execute the shot, I look at the spot where I think I will pick up the ball, when I look up. On full shots I look at spot in the sky, and at about the height, I think the ball will be. On short shots, I look where I think the ball will be when I look up. I do the same think on putts. Since I have been doing this, I work the ball less consciously, but I work it more intuitively. I am aware of, but pretty much ignore trouble. Since I have been letting intention be my main focus during a round, my scores have been, between 72 and 84 with 9 out of 13 rounds being in the 70’s. One of the biggest improvements of my game has been the rhythm of my swing. I can’t say it never gets out of whack anymore, but it does not happen very often. Intention is something that is simple, but can be hard to put into practice, with the usual things going on when playing golf. Only time will tell if this will be a permanent, and beneficial way for me to play golf. It may take a lot of time, since we are in a winter wonderland right now, in Western Pa., with no end in sight.