Editor’s Note: Why I Re-Posted “Revisiting ‘The Big Miss'”

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Photo courtesy of http://www.ibtimes.com.

          Well, we made more blog history this a.m. I just did a re-post for the first time this morning, the day after the blog broke its single-day traffic record.

Amongst the searches yesterday, and all week, has been a post I did after the Farmers Insurance Open this year about Hank Haney’s book, “The Big Miss,” published a few years ago. “The Big Miss” is Haney’s tell-all about his years coaching Tiger, and my post focused on Haney’s predictions about Tiger in majors and his pursuit of Jack’s record.

You can read the post to see how Haney’s predictions have fared, but you will notice at least one that’s quite timely. Based on Tiger’s inability to tame his driver, Haney predicted that if Tiger broke the record it would be via British Opens, the least driver-dependent major or the one that least penalized scattering the ball.

And, low and behold, Tiger had to pull driver yesterday and we all saw how that went. I turned on the Golf Channel last night and watched Tiger get completely dismantled, a day after, of course, some people had him winning the thing.  It was a veritable analyst feeding frenzy on Tiger and his game capped by analyst Steve Flesch saying, “Tiger’s a 25-handicap with his driver right now.” Ouch. Not sure Johnny M would’ve even gone there.

But Tiger puts himself on a tee, so to speak, when he does what he does and says he still expects victory despite only one competitive round since his back surgery. The criticism that he should’ve squeezed in another tourney before the British if he really expected to contend is entirely valid and also gets back to a Haney book bullet point – Tiger’s dedication.

You can love Hank or hate him, or certainly quibble with his ethics, but he’s been dead on as Tiger’s Nostradamus. (Ooops, I just gave way the ending of the re-post, but that zero in Tiger’s major record since Torrey in 2008 probably told you that.)

Personally, I wish Haney wouldn’t swing at every pitch when it comes to opportunities to criticize Tiger. Pick your spots. It’s becoming a bit much and seems a little unprofessional and piling on at this point.

Anyway, it isn’t Haney’s name that is coming up in the searches by the way. It’s Sean Foley, Tiger’s only swing coach sink Hank.  And the word “ruin” is being with “Foley” in searches.

So that’s my gauge for what people are talking about out and the blog aims to be timely and provide a place to have the debate.

Feel free to leave a comment. I appreciate the feedback and, like in this case, sometimes it can guide the content on the blog.

Enjoy the rest of the British. Rory has been something to behold. Feels like the door is slamming on the Tiger/Phil era this year and especially this week given what Phil did a year ago and how feeble he’s been in 2014. Just saying …

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Revisiting “The Big Miss” and Hank Haney’s Predictions About Tiger and Majors

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I use the word “revisit” but that’s mostly in reference to myself as I have yet to meet someone in California who actually “visited” Hank Haney’s tell-all about coaching Tiger Woods when it was released prior to the 2012 Masters.

So, for almost all of you, the passages I’m about to quote from the closing chapter of “The Big Miss” will be entirely new.  For what I remember reading at the time, that chapter, titled “Adding It Up,” didn’t get any play in the press coverage of the book, which focused almost exclusively on injuries Tiger incurred while being fixated for a time on being a Navy SEAL and training toward that end.

That was the easy tabloid takeaway at the time from a book that actually gave quite a bit of insight into Tiger and his game, enough that you never watch him the same way again after reading it.

The title ends up having multiple meanings and applications in the book, but its literal meaning is “the big miss” the pros fear off the tee. In Tiger’s case, that’s a big duck hook that comes out under pressure and can ruin runs at titles, and, in the bigger picture Tiger is always measured in, majors.

Haney contends in the book that Woods has more or less become scared of his driver and controlling his otherworldly swing speed, thus the club he rode to greatness and domination becoming his nemesis as this point in his career.

That’s why Haney concludes that if Tiger is to break Jack’s record of 19 majors, he’ll have to do it via British Opens, where the courses are hard and fast and more conducive to iron play off the tee.

Eight majors have passed for Tiger since the book was published and so far the predictions in “The Big Miss” are 8-0. I thought about this after the Farmers, when Haney and Tiger got into a media tiff about how much his emphasis on weight training has hampered his swing.

Haney certainly seems to have plenty of appetite left for his issues with Tiger, who now has not won a major since his epic U.S. Open win at Torrey in 2008, leaving him stuck on 14 majors, five short of passing Jack.

As we all recall, Tiger bombed out of the Farmers this year, not even making it to Sunday on a week that many predicted would be just another victory lap at Torrey Pines for Tiger.

That wasn’t the way anyone expected Tiger to start up a new year that followed five wins and another Player of the Year honor in 2013. Momentum seemed to be building again for him and many looked at the Tiger-friendly majors line up and had already predicted, of all things, multiple major victories for him in 2014.

You haven’t heard much from those people since Torrey, but we have heard from Haney, whose book I recently tracked down and partially re-read. Since the Jack vs. Tiger debate is always just bubbling below the surface in golf when it’s not at a full boil, I thought I’d go back and quote a few portions of the book and see how it scores two years out.

I was going to wait to do this prior to the Masters, but Tiger and Hank’s media squabble prompted me to move it up.

So here’s some of what you missed in “The Big Miss” when you missed it the first time.

         “The most asked question about Tiger is whether he’ll break Jack’s record for major championships. … Certainly there are questions of health, physique and technique to consider, but to me the most important issue is desire.”

Here’s where Haney picks up his familiar theme of questioning Tiger’s practice habits and it echoes those of people who wondered how much Tiger prepped for Torrey.

         “I’ve never known a player who lost his hunger for practice to regain that same level of hunger. Nick Faldo, who in his prime was one of the most diligent and intense workers the game has ever known, said that after he won the 1996 Masters, he lost the drive to practice. … That drop-off marked the end of his career as a champion.”

But then Haney’s tone changes and he seems to forecast Tiger being an exception.

     “If Tiger can keep his work ethic strong, he’ll sort out his golf swing. Whatever theory he’s using, he’ll find a way – either in concert with Sean Foley or another teaching or be finding his own accommodation of their theories.”

        However …

        “However, I don’t think simply solidifying his technique alone will fix his problem with the driver. There is a mental issue there that needs to be addressed, and the odds are against it ever being completely resolved.”

And here’s what mean when I talk about this book changing how you watch Tiger. Remember the British Open last year when Tiger couldn’t keep up with co-leader Lee Westwood on Saturday? Westwood was hitting driver and blowing it by him, while Tiger was settling for 3-wood/5-wood/irons and finding traps and losing ground. According to an SB Nation column from the tourney, Woods didn’t hit his first driver until the 39th hole of the tourney. You can look up the column by Emily Kay that basically reads like it came right out of Haney’s book.

Which brings us to Haney’s British Open theory.

        “(The driver issue is) a weakness that tells the most in majors. It’s why, unless he finds some kind of late-career fix with the driver, Tiger’s best chances in majors will come on courses with firm, fast-running fairways that will allow him to him irons off the tee. Of the four majors, the British Open best fits this profile.”

After a strong start, Tiger finished tied for sixth, five shots behind winner Phil Mickelson. His week at Muirfield played into Tiger’s new trend of fading on the weekends of majors.

And it’s largely due to putting. Tiger seems to lose his touch and feel for the greens, which he was already struggling with when Haney wrote his book.

Here’s Hank on Tiger’s putting:

        “I’m not sure what to make of Tiger’s putting problems. Technically, he still looks good over the ball and has a textbook stroke. But putting is undone by the smallest and most mysterious of errors, and players rarely improve their putting after their mid-30s. … His putting, both his ability to lag long ones close and his solidness in holing from within six feet, was the foundation of Tiger’s ability to close out victories when he had the lead.”

And save for a few flurries of vintage Tiger putting in 2013, he largely didn’t look like the player we’ve known.

And if you can’t putt in the clutch, you can’t close, which is what leads Haney to doing a little math about how many majors Tiger will likely need to contend in to get five major victories. And this was Hank’s math going into 2012.

         “He’s not quite the same closer kind of closer, or not quite as fortunate as he’s been, (so) it could take 15 or more such opportunities. It seems like a tall order for the Tiger who enters 2012.”

And now for the Tiger who enters 2014 staring at basically the same equation, but now at age 38.

Hank closes by playing into an argument John Miller trumpets of how intense the media scrutiny will become if/once Tiger moves off 14 and gets his majors train moving again. And this is also where Haney sees the biggest difference from Nicklaus.

         “A final factor to consider it that, whereas Jack Nicklaus’s final few majors were won in a historical vacuum and were essentially padding to his record, Tiger will face ever mounting pressure and scrutiny the closer he gets to No. 19. Assuming the erosions of age, for Tiger, the soon he can get to 18, the better.”

Haney then predicts Tiger needed a major in 2012 to put a restrictor plate on the pressure he’ll feel to go faster to catch Jack as the battle with age and time sets in. Well, we know how that turned out.

Haney closes with a hopeful note on never counting out Tiger’s genius, but then gets back to a central theme of  how Tiger’s personal turmoil caused him to lose his mental edge – and caused his biggest miss, a shot at golf history.

         “Unlike the Tiger who in his 20s and early 30s was virtually indomitable, today’s Tiger has discovered that in like real disaster lurks. … That realization creates doubt, and in competitive golf doubt is a killer.

         “The big miss found its way into his life. If it’s ingrained, primed to emerge at moments of crisis, his march toward golf history is over.”

So there you have it. You can question Hank Haney’s motivations, and especially his ethics, for writing the book, but his observations to date are spot on.

Like I said, I found the book an insightful read, though a bit of a flat one, and it adds perspective to understanding of the greatest sports chase/storyline of our lifetimes and the debate that will never die until Tiger either breaks Jack record or hangs up his clubs.

We’ve got a lot of years left on this debate, but the score for “The Big Miss” going into year three post-publish is that it hasn’t missed yet.

Rick Reilly, the Road Hole and the Story That Inspired Me to Become a Golf Writer

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If you’re a golfer, you don’t need to be told what hole this is.

I’ve known what I wanted to do with my career ever since I was a sophomore in high school. I wanted to be a sportswriter.

That dream was realized shortly thereafter when I started writing for the sports section of the local daily back in Iowa. It manifested itself more fully after I enrolled at Iowa State University. I soon found myself covering college football and basketball and even the NCAA Tournament, making me realizing how attainable my sports writing dreams really were.

The fodder for those dreams was something that arrived in the mailbox of our farmhouse in rural Iowa every week: Sports Illustrated. Without him knowing it at the time, my dad’s subscription was delivering sports writing textbooks to our door, and I was going to school. I read every issue cover to cover, even when the sport/topic (tennis, curling, fencing, etc.) didn’t interest me. I wanted to learn every literary trick and secret possible from those pages and was willing to search every paragraph and sentence to find it.

My thirst for SI continued into college, where I had my own subscription. I continued to pour over every piece and dream of the day my sports writing copy might match those pages.

Where golf comes into this story is a piece Rick Reilly wrote about attempting to par the infamous Road Hole at St. Andrews in advance of the British Open. I know I’d read golf pieces prior, but this the only one I can recall. The important thing is that it probably ranks among the 10 most influential pieces I’ve ever read. At the time, I only dabbled in actually playing the game and would watch the majors on TV. Golf didn’t bat nearly as high in the sports order for me as it does now.

Reilly’s piece made me realize, however, how fun writing about golf could be.

The gist of the story, which was published in July of 1995, was Reilly making a bet with a friend that he could par the Road Hole, widely regarded as the world’s toughest par 4. So Reilly booked a room at the Old Course Hotel and set out to do it, although noting he hadn’t made one single tee time.

What followed was Reilly flailing and failing, making all the classic strategic errors players have historically made at No. 17. After each failed attempt, Reilly would retreat to a local pub in search of a sage local caddie, Tip Anderson, who knew the secret to parring the Road Hole. He had caddie for major champions – Tom Watson, I believe – and was thereby the de factor Yoda of the Old Course.

(I should note that my original intent was to paste a link to the story. The SI Vault though at the moment seems to be working about as well as Al Capone’s. I was able to find a cached version of the story, but only able to access the first page. If you want to try, the article is headlined, “Road Test.” Search Road Hole, St. Andrews and Rick Reilly and you’ll find it quickly.)

Reilly’s search for Tip, and par, continues in vain until he’s down to his final round. He finally tracks down Anderson and gleans the wisdom of how to play the Road Hole, which generally goes like this: “If you play it for a three, you’ll make a five. But if you play it for a five, you just might make a four.”

That’s probably not 100 percent, but it’s close: Basically don’t attack it and end up on the road or in the feared Road Hole bunker.

Anywhere, here’s where the story really gets my sportswriter goose bumps going. To play the hole the final time, Reilly sneaks on the course and claims to make par – using Tip’s advice – just before security escorts him off the course.

I rediscovered the Reilly’s piece years ago in SI’s online archives – to quote “American Pie”: “God bless the Internet.” –  and had revisited it often, especially since my own move into the golf writing arena basically a year ago after relocating to California.

I’d been looking forward to writing this post since I started the blog and was waiting for the British, but Reilly’s recently announced retirement from sports writing (he was at ESPN) gives this another point of relevance.

For those who of you who didn’t grow up to do what I do (have done), Reilly’s retirement probably means little to you, but for me it matters just as much as an athlete like Michael Jordan or Walter Payton calling it a career. Those who recall reading Reilly at SI probably remember his columns, which followed his days as a long-form writer. Those days are when Reilly really shined and expanded what was possible. He and Gary Smith writing bonus pieces (the long take-outs at the back of the magazine) were like having a features line-up of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. One of them, or both, took it over the wall every issue.

When Reilly was limited to columns, it was like telling Michael Jordan to only be a jump shooter. Still effective and creative in that role, but not as breath-taking as before.

Anyway, Reilly’s Road Hole piece was fun, funny, insightful and brilliantly told. For those who grew up on George Plimpton, this was Reilly doing his own “Paper Lion,” although tryying to a par a hole on a PGA course and trying to play QB for the Lions are two totally different animals of participatory journalism.

Reilly’s piece seemed a little Plimpton, a little Hunter S. Thompson, a little modern-day David Feherty and possibly a little Anthony Bourdain at present. Come to think of it, Reilly’s piece was probably the first travel story that really stuck with me as well.

I guess more than anything, the story showed me how far you really can go with sports writing and what a golden ticket being able to tell a story really can be. I’ve had my own Reilly-at-St.-Andrews moments in my career, although I’m still waiting for that moment in golf. I’ve got a few opportunities coming up, however.

Anyway, hopefully you can read the piece and, if you care, glean a little insight into why I like to do what I do and where I’d like to see it go.

(An aside: Since moving to CA, I’ve met people who have played the Old Course. My favorite story is from a local pro who told me: “You know what isn’t awesome about the Old Course? Nothing. There’s nothing that isn’t awesome about the Old Course.”)

I hope to understand that statement even more fully in the future. The closest I’ve come is playing a replica of the Road Hole at Royal Links in Las Vegas. For the record, I parred it, carving a draw around the sign welcoming you to the course right into the fairway.

Just as St. Andrews is a bucket-list course for every golfer alive, Reilly’s piece is a bucket-list read for me. So obviously if you enjoy reading about the game as much as you do playing it, it’s worth your while to track it down.

If the SI Vault works out its glitch, I’ll repost the story on the blog in full. Thanks for reading and for all the support. I’ve enjoyed, and appreciated, every word of it. It’s a joy and privilege to be able to do what you love to do.

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My Favorite Scene in “Tin Cup”: The 7-Iron Speech

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I meant to time this to the next time the Golf Channel runs a “Tin Cup” marathon, as it periodically does, but the approaching U.S. Open as timing seems just as good a reason.

Besides being the most anticipated tournaments of the year, the majors are just a great time in general to celebrate golf. That said, I’d to like to pay tribute to my favorite scene in the greatest golf movie of all time, “Tin Cup,” which we all know culminated in Roy McAvoy playing in the fictional U.S. Open.

I’ve watched golfers quote this movie, and even sing the songs, verbatim, showing how ingrained into the golf souls of people who love the game “Tin Cup” has become since it was made 1996 with, legend has it, input from Gary McCord, among others.

I’ve never tried it, but I’m sure a debate about a favorite scene in this movie could rage on for hours in the right crowd, and why wouldn’t it? Save from the romantic comedy scenes, what golf scene in this film isn’t iconic and, many times, relatable?

Roy getting the shanks on the range? Tin Cup: “Romes (his caddy), something’s terribly wrong!” What golfer can’t relate to the hopelessness of that? Or Romeo’s diagnosis: “The shanks are like a virus. They just show up.”

There’s the scene of Roy hitting the shot as David Simms’ caddie. There’s Roy knocking the pelican off the post after a bar bet. There’s Simms’ cunning bouncing of his 7-shot down the road to win a bet with Roy. And then there’s the culminating scene where Roy holes out to take a 12 on No. 18 at the Open after refusing to lay up – again.

But out of all that, if you’re telling me I only get one scene to take with me to a desert island to watch ‘til infinity, it’s the 7-iron scene.

The 7-iron scene is where Roy blows up on the course in his first Open qualifier in a dispute with his caddie, Romeo (Cheech Marin), about laying up on a par-5. We all know what happens next: Following Romeo’s lead, Roy breaks all the clubs in his bag – except his beloved and trusted 7-iron.

I believe the dialogue that follows to be the closest thing we have to golf poetry in that it speaks to the misgivings we’ve each had at one point or another about every club in our bag, and our unshakable faith in our 7-iron. You know it’s a day gone wrong on the course when your 7-iron betrays you.

In fact, a trust hierarchy of clubs probably starts 7-iron/putter/wedge … and ends somewhere with your long irons and possibly your driver, depending on how it’s going on the time.

Anyway, besides the sheer comedy and absurdity of the scene (it’s a bit like when Gene Hackman chose to play with four in “Hoosiers), I believe it’s the innate and universal truth about golf clubs that comes out amidst Roy’s rage that I find so endearing about this scene.

So for your amusement, appreciation and study (if you’ve never bothered to slow it down and catch every word) here’s my translation of the 7-iron speech.

To set the scene, Romeo (R in the screen play) and Roy (TC) are standing over Roy’s second shot on par-5, dogleg left. Roy wants to go for the green in two (“I’m going to go over those trees, with a little draw.”) while Romeo is preaching caution (“You don’t need the course record to qualify. You need to practice playing it safe.”)

And thus a golf feud for the ages plays out …

TC: Qualify? I want the course record. Now give me the lumber.

R: You’re not going to listen to me, are you?

TC: Now give me the driver and shut up.

R: You want the driver? (Snaps it over his leg.) Hit the driver, Tin Cup.

TC: I changed my mind. Give me the 3-wood.

R: You can’t clear that dogleg with a 3-wood.

TC: Want to bet?

R: Fine, take the 3-wood. (Breaks it and throws it.)

TC: (To the gallery) Guess I’m going with the safe shot, boys. (Takes the 2-iron from the bag.)

TC: But you know, sometimes I fan that 2. (Snaps it over his leg.)

TC: You better give me the 3. (Romeo hands him the 3-iron.)

TC: And sometimes I catch that 3 a little thin, too. (Snaps it and throws it on the ground.)

TC: I’ve hit fliers with the 4. (Snap.)

R: (Softly implores while looking ashen) Hit the ball, Roy.

TC: I’ve hooked my 5. (Snap.)

TC: I’ve shanked my 6. (Snap.)

TC: I’ve skulled the 8. (Steps on it. Snap.)

TC: I’ve fatted the 9. (Snap.)

TC: I’ve chili-dipped the wedge. (Snap.)

TC: I’ve bladed the sand. (Snap.)

R: Putter? (Handing him the putter.)

TC: Yeah, there is Mr. Three Wiggle, isn’t there? (Snap.)

(Roy grabs the 7-iron with Romeo looking on in disgust.)

TC: Then there’s the 7-iron. I never miss with the 7-iron. (Kicking club debris aside.)

“It’s the only truly safe club in my bag.”

Before Roy can hit, Romeo walks off the course, shouting in exasperation, “What the hell’s wrong with you?!?”

The classic extension of Roy’s rant is that, before hitting the shot, he challenges the gallery: “Anybody want to bet me I can’t par in with a 7-iron?”

Of course, none of Roy’s supporters takes the bet, and Roy proceeds to qualify by playing out with just his 7-iron.

Anyway, most of the scenes in “Tin Cup” will stop me and pull me in when I find this movie at random, but especially the 7-iron scene. For all the reasons listed above, I believe it’s the greatest golf scene ever written not involving a fight with Bob Barker – which is for another blog post entirely.;)

I Survived Club Test 2014 – & Here’s What I Learned

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My Southland Golf connection afforded me a unique opportunity last Saturday.

I was one of about 15 or so golfers to participate in a club test for much of the latest equipment by the major manufacturers.

This was conducted at Oak Creek in Irvine, which was holding a huge demo day featuring TaylorMade, Callaway, Nike, Cobra Puma, Ping and Cleveland.

The task was to hit each company’s clubs in four categories (driver, fairway wood, hybrid and irons) and rate each 1-5 (five being the best) on performance in four characteristics – distance, control, feel and look.

If that sounds daunting, it’s because it is. Trying to be fair and thorough, it took me four hours to get through this exercise, which I didn’t completely complete (more on that later).

I’d never had a chance to test clubs en masse like this before, which is why I was eager to participate.

Through my work with Southland and my time at the Golf Academy, I was most familiar with the clubs from TaylorMade and Callaway and least familiar with Nike. I’d never hit one of their clubs before and couldn’t recall playing with even one person who had their driver.

Anyway, since equipment has become a bit of a writing niche for me, I thought this experience was essential to having me be properly knowledgeable.

I’m not going to divulge the results here (you’ll be able to find them in the April issue of Southland Golf), but what I wanted to do with this post is mostly relate the experience and relay some general findings. For now, the blog is going to avoid specific club recommendations/endorsements, but if you email me, I can help you the best I can. I’ve been getting more of these type questions recently as people are pondering purchases.

First, I should give you the set up of my bag, so you know my biases. My clubs have mostly all been fitted for me, and I consider my bag to be settled, save for a potential new driver purchase, although you’ll read later while I’m wavering on that.

So, my bag …

Driver/3-wood – the Stage 2 TaylorMade Rocketballz. Yes, it’s my driver, too, and the rock star of my golf bag. Golf friends of mine actually will get upset with me if I try to hit something else off the tee.

I actually have a Callaway Ignite 10.5 and only old TaylorMade 9.5 Steelhead I carry on occasion, mostly because they hit a straighter ball for me and my RBZ hits a great little draw – and a long way.

Hybrid – Nickent, 19 degree.

Irons – Mizuno JPX-825.

Wedges – Mizuno and Cleveland (56)

Putter – Cleveland blade that I bought used last year and love.

So this was the standard the new clubs were up against. Like I said, I feel this set up works for me and I’ve acquired nearly all of it in the last year, so I don’t feel much impulse to change at the moment.

That said, I was certainly curious to see how the new gear performs, especially after having written and read so much about it recently.

The first challenge I encountered was simply to set up a model for the test. I really wasn’t given one and wanted to come up with a method that was fair.

I decided not to judge a club’s performance until I felt I could hit five consecutive good shots with it. This allowed for some acclimation time with set up, tee height, etc., for various clubs. And of those five shots, save for driver, I wanted to hit some of them off the ground and a few off the tee to somewhat simulate a round.

Some quick math of the information provided will tell you this is a lot of golf swings. Too many, actually. Fatigue was the biggest factor. Figuring on that, I hit the least familiar clubs first, to give them my best shot, and saved the more known products for the back end of my session.

My swing hit the wall at least twice, but at times it was hard to tell if it was me or the clubs. I will say there was one manufacturer whose clubs I couldn’t hit at all, so in that case, I don’t have doubt – it was the clubs. Everything seemed to be off, to my feel and my eye, and I probably spent too much time trying to make their gear work for me.

After 20 minutes of futility, I moved on to more familiar equipment and the ball started jumping again immediately.

I got through three company’s sets and then broke for lunch. I then hit two more and while I was testing a TaylorMade driver, it finally happened – rip. Yep, I ripped open a blister on my pinkie finger. And I can’t remember the last time I got a golf blister.

Being a trooper, I Band-Aided it up and soldiered on, but I shortly thereafter DQ’d myself with one equipment company left to go – one I know well, so I wasn’t too concerned about not finishing.

I learned a lot about equipment and what works for me on Saturday. However, given how different swing profiles are, there’s no guarantee what works for me will work for you.

For instance, I seem to be the only golfer I know who can’t hit the mew Titleist driver. I have several friends who own it and love it. I’ve tried it a number of times now and even under optimal set up conditions on Saturday, I got ordinary results at best. I don’t get it because it feels good to me. I just doesn’t wow me after that. And, as I’ve said, I’m the outlier here.

Truth be told, most of the drivers felt heavy to me. This is partly why I favor my 3-wood. I like the lighter weight. I feel like all I have to do is pull it through and I get effortless distance.

That said, I was very curious to test the other 3-woods against my 3-wood, and I have to say they faired quite well. I was probably most impressed with the across-the-board performance in this category.

And that’s why I’m telling a lot of my friends who are inquiring about drivers, “How about a 3-wood?”

Nearly every one I tested seemed to pack a lot of pop for a smaller club. Actually, probably the longest ball I hit all day came off my first swing of a 3-wood. It launched low and was on the end of the range in a blink.

I would seriously look at this option, for performance reasons and a economic ones, before looking at making a biggest investment in a driver.

The other revelation was in hybrids. This is where I found the greatest disparity in performance, and you can really tell the difference from company to company just be looking at the them. The club head sizes ranged from tiny, and I mean the size of a candy bar, to those that were pretty plump, like a 5-wood almost. The size, for me, translated entirely to confidence in the ability to the hit the club. I couldn’t even get the smallest one off the ground. Some of the others, I hit and got surprising distance from.

If I were to make a change, adding a second hybrid is definitely something I’d consider. And as for purchases, I would definitely take your time with this one since there is such a noticeable disparity in what each company offers.

As for irons, I hit some very goods one – and found I got the best performance often with blades – but I didn’t experience anything that would prompt me to change, though I certainly know my next two preferences would be if I had to.

The only thing we didn’t test was putters, but I had my favorite conversation of the day about putters.

I was talking to a tester from LA who was lamenting not testing putters before concluding, “Ah, I always just go back to my old Ping anyway. I can’t rid of it. The thing makes putts.”

I feel the same way about the Cleveland I acquired last year. I don’t always make them, but putting and chipping are the two things I know I can roll out of bed and do every round.

But the LA tester and I got talking about how personal putters are.

“You have your most personal connection with your putter,” he said, and he’s so right. That prompted me to a realization.

When you hit a bad drive, it’s the club.

When you hit a bad iron or wedge shot, it’s the club.

When you miss a putt … it’s you.

Seriously, how often do you blame your putter. After a miss, it’s the green or the read or the stroke. The last thing it is is your putter’s fault. Maybe this is because putting can be just plain hard, but I think it goes back to bond. Our putter became our putter for a reason – at some point it made putts. Putts we obviously still recall and cherish and have endeared us to the club.

Drivers can be flaky, but for some reason, once we trust a putter, it’s considered to be the model of consistency. When it misses, we’re flawed. Maybe because it’s because we inherently hate change and changing putters is a scary thought for many of us.

Anyway, that probably should’ve been its own post, under “Ode to Putters” or something, but it just shows you that the people who tested Saturday take their equipment seriously.

I can tell you in the brief chat I had with a few other testers, we had fairly uniform consensus, so I suspect the results in the issue with be fairly declarative about what people liked and what they didn’t.

You can look forward to that issue in April, but, like I said, if you have questions feel free to email me and I’ll do my best to give insight.

For now, I can tell you Band-Aid brand is still the No. 1 Band-Aid. I’m typing this pain-free and ready for my rounds this week, same mostly reliable clubs in tow.