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 …

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.

JC Golf: U.S. Open Preview & Picks By The Pros

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          As the year’s second major, the U.S. Open, arrives, storylines abound that, refreshingly, don’t involve Tiger Woods.

Unlike the Masters, Woods’ absence at Pinehurst has been barely a blip on the media radar this week. Instead, players who are actually playing in the tournament have been the storyline and, of course, the course itself.

According to my golf-centric Twitter feed, these are the lead stories going into the tournament.

  1. Can Phil Mickelson complete his career Grand Slam?

After his win at the British Open last year, Mickelson has now won them all, save for the Open, at which he’s finish second an incredible six times, including at Pinehurst 15 years ago. Despite his clout of having won five majors, a Mickelson victory seems a bit unlikely when you consider his atypically quiet year on Tour. And he’s tinkering with his putting grip (going to the claw), which is already drawing doubters. As one columnist wrote, “There goes Mickelson, out-thinking himself again.”

But a Mickelson victory would certain give the Tour season a shot in the arm. As would …

2. Will Jordan Spieth Finally Break Through?

The Next Big Thing in golf would erase the “Next” with a major championship. To do it, he’ll have to learn to close, something he’s been unable to do thus far this season. But after finishing second to Bubba Watson at the Masters, a breakthrough at the U.S. Open would announce an arrival that seems inevitable. But as Jack Nicklaus says of Tiger Woods’ major chase: You haven’t done it until you’ve done it.

3. A Classic Venue Restored

Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore oversaw a $2.5 million renovation of the No. 2 course to restore it to the original Donald Ross design and a more natural state. Among other things, that meant removing turf and restoring bunkers and waste areas. As a result, this Open isn’t expected to play like an Open in that it won’t have ankle-high rough. However, in the practice rounds the pros have reported that the greens have been tough to hit, thus the winner’s chance possible riding on a strong short game, which (back to No. 1) … hello, Lefty.

But the course setup has some forecasting controversy …

4.  Could We See A Rules Controversy Like the 2010 PGA?

The 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits is where a rules controversy erased Dustin Johnson’s best chance at a major victory. He grounded his club in what he believed to be a waste area instead of a bunker. He thus invoked a two-stroke penalty that cost him the championship.   

Similar course conditions at Pinehurst abound, meaning the rules official is certain to get a workout this week. Something to watch for, but here’s hoping we don’t have another major overshadowed by a rules controversy.

There’s also the chance for Bubba Watson to notch a second major and really put some sizzle into the Tour season. But none of our JC pros chose him. Their picks are listed below.

Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch

Rory McIlroy – I think he has momentum on his side and his game 9and mind) are now sharp enough to return to top form

Adam Scott – He has become one of the most consistent players on the planet (hence his No. 1 world ranking), he is one of the best ball-strikers in the game, so if the putter is working he should be a favorite

Long Shot…..Webb Simpson – Wait a second, a former champion as a long-shot?  After the 2012 championship, his game has fallen off, but he is getting hot at the right time and has the experience to prevail.

Jay Navarro, Tournament Director, Temecula Creek Inn –

Webb Simpson – Played well in the FedEx.

Troy Ferguson, Head Golf Professional, Twin Oaks –

Graham DeLaet. Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Blake Dodson, Director of Golf, Rancho Bernardo Inn

Jordan Spieth – Too young to be scared of the U.S. Open.

Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Reidy Creek and Oaks North

Sergio Garcia – My wife’s favorite.

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.;)

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 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 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.

My Dream Episode of “Feherty”

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Photo courtesy of newsouthfoodcompany.com

I’ve got a post coming at some point about David Feherty and how much I enjoy and appreciate his show “Feherty” on The Golf Channel and how much good I think it does for the game.

In the meantime, I’ve got something that would probably go very well as a follow-up post to that post, but alas the original isn’t written.

One of the rules of writing, especially when you’re stuck, is “Start where you can,” and tonight this is where that is.

My two favorite current television personalities are Feherty and chef Anthony Bourdain of The Food Network and the brilliant CNN series, “Parts Unknown.” I think they’ve got the two most unique and interesting voices on TV, and, in fact, were I to re-cast “60 Minutes,” a show badly in need of a line change, Feherty and Bourdain would be my lottery picks.

I admire and envy them for many things, but one thing in particular: Their ability to be social chameleons.

Feherty is equally adept interviewing people inside the game as outside of it, which is something I don’t think he gets enough credit for. The man has serious range when it to comes to interviewing. He gets more out of the pro golfers than anyone else because they relate to him, but then he can turn around and interview someone like “Seinfeld” creator Larry David and be equally brilliant, using golf as their common conversation piece.

Bourdain uses food to accomplish the same thing, basically, except he does it while traveling the globe and often goes way behind just revealing people to probing poverty, government corruption, oppressed societies and the other socio-economic conditions that plague much of our world. And he just happens to discover a great meal or 10 along the way.

So, to review, Bourdain’s conversational vehicle is food; for Feherty, it’s golf.

I’m normally against a media figure interviewing another media figure, but in this case I’m willing to make a huge exception. I find the potential results of Feherty’s self-deprocating Irish wit meeting Bourdain’s worldly wisdom and New York street smarts simply too explosively great to resist.

But here’s the rub: I’m fairly sure Bourdain doesn’t golf. First of all, while making TV shows, writing books and eating 10 meals a day traveling the globe, when would he have time?

Then it dawned on me how to get them together.

The most famous food in golf is … the pimento cheese sandwich served at the Masters.

It sounds a bit gross, and I’m assured it is, but that doesn’t matter to Bourdain. He’ the modern-day Mikey: He’ll eat anything.

Feherty could have Bourdain on his show at Augusta to review the pimento cheese sandwich – and you don’t think Feherty has a joke about that?  – and then let wackiness ensue from there.

Those two sharing world views, exploring each other’s careers and their somewhat unlikely stardom to both become the respective TV stars of their industries, all which breaking the bread of the famous Masters pimento cheese sandwich? Seriously, forget the Super Bowl. I’m watching this. (OK, I’m DVR-ing the Super Bowl.)

I see at least two stumbling blocks to this: One, the Masters isn’t exactly known for having a sense of humor (Gary McCord is still banned, right?); and I’m guessing you can’t get on the grounds at the Masters without a collared shirt. That might be a tough sell for Bourdain, but considering the current sacrifices me makes for food – the man has eating moss for Pete’s Sake – this one seems small.

So there you have it. I read a story about Feherty last year that says he has an interview wish list for his show that is topped by Bill Murray.

I’m all for that one, but, David, you now have my write-in candidate. Who’s with me?

Turf and Surf: Saturday photos from Torrey and Cardiff

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Photo courtesy of Kimberly Burditt

Just wanted to post a few shots from the day and the drive home. Stopped in Cardiff after the tournament at Torrey and got the shots below of big waves rolling in before sunset.

The above pic is the scene around the 5th green today, where Jordan Spieth hit his approach long and left of the green, had to take relief from a cart path and ended up taking double bogey. To his credit, he overcome a tough start and remains the story of the tourney – you know, if you don’t count Phil and Tiger being out of it.

I’m intrigued by Spieth and followed him for half his round today. I’m going back tomm. and we’ll see if he can really grab the golf world’s attention by finishing what he started. Should be fun.

See you at Torrey.

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Friday FIO Photos: Jordan and Tiger

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This was the closest I got to the story of the day on Friday. When Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth played No. 18 on the North Course on Friday, they passed right by the media center.

After both reaching the par-5 in two, Spieth would birdie while Woods would par, and they would go on to have dramatically different rounds after.

I’ve got some thoughts and observations on Spieth, but I knew he would dominate the post-round coverage today so I thought I’d roll them into a Saturday piece.

I can tell you Woods’ missed birdie putt on 18 was met with a gasp from the gallery; his lipped out par putt to end his round was met my gasps and few jeers by those gathered around a TV in the Lodge. Very curious to observe the great divide of sentiment that still surrounds Tiger.

But what a change in story lines we have from what was expected. Many thought this would be another victory lap for Tiger and instead Torrey Pines has been handed a scintillating rising-star storyline instead. Highly curious to see how this plays out, but no doubt Spieth’s stock went way up on Friday. He was very composed and calm about it after and seemed poised to follow it up over the weekend.

Curious side note: Was selfishly a bit glad to see Billy Horschel climb the leader board Friday after my practice round piece on him.

Spieth/Horschel in the final group on Sunday? I’d write that.

As they say, see you at Torrey.

& here’s a few more of Jordan and Tiger from Friday.

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FIO Day Two: Capturing Torrey’s Transformation

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This is my final follow-up post to the preview piece I did for the January issue of Southland Golf where I documented the maintenance practices at Torrey Pines and how they prepare the course to peak for the Farmers Insurance Open.

As a complement to that piece, I wanted to go back during the tournament and document the transformation, so, working again with Torrey’s head maintenance supervisor Paul Cushing, we ventured onto the South Course at about 3 p.m. Thursday. Because of the 30-minute fog delay to start the day, groups were still on the course, so Cushing and his crew had to wait a bit so as to not disturb play.

After spending about 45 minutes watching Cushing and his crew work, I decided it might be best to just analyze the process over one hole, so here’s a look at the work on No. 4 on the South, which is where the grounds crew started and then worked toward the clubhouse.

The following is a little photo essay about the process, which utilizes City of San Diego workers and volunteers each day to return the course to championship condition in about four hours at the end of each round. Cushing also shared that during Farmers week superintendents from across the country will fly in to work the tournament to get experience.

It was interesting to watch them work as a team and restore the shine to Torrey Pines.

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This is the maintenance crew and machinery staged near the 4th hole, awaiting the go-ahead from Cushing. The orange machine is worth noting. That’s a roller. It follows the mowers to help tighten the fairways. It’s a process Torrey added after Cushing worked the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club.

“It really makes a difference,” Cushing says. “It really tightens the turf and gives shots that extra little bounce.”

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     This captures quite a bit of the process in a snapshot. You can see the three mowers working in tandem in the fairway. They make one pass up and one pass back to keep turning to an absolute minimum. You can also see the hand-mowing on the approach and on the fringe. Then hand-watering takes place green-side and in the bunkers, but not on the green itself. To maintain green speeds, the greens to unwatered, spritzed at most, during the tournament.

One each hole, you’ve got about seven pieces of equipment and at least 12 workers working in unison.

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After the round, the bunkers are graded smooth in preparation for them to be hand-raked the next morning. Seemingly little things like bunker contours matter to players. The bunkers are raked to have the grain going toward the hole, which making it more conducive for an approach shot.

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     This shows the fairways making their return pass and, in the distance, you can see the roller working behind them.

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       This is the half-and-half look the mowers achieve. As you can see, the effect is created by simply mowing in two different directions. While pleasing in person, the look is largely done for TV, Cushing says.

“We never forget that the blimp is watching us,” he says. “That’s also why our lines have to be perfectly straight.”

The final phase of the transformation, which I neglected to get a photo of, is the volunteer crew that follows the machinery. They’re repairing the divots, which seemingly dot the fairway every two feet or less where approach shots are commonly taken.

If there’s an imperfect divot, the loose turf has to be removed and the divot filled with a seed/sand mixture. It won’t heal overnight, but it at least re-starts the process, Cushing says.

Image    And then the crew moves to the next hole and the process starts all over again until both courses – the North and South – are completed.

The one time-saver, at least on Thursday and Friday, is that hole locations don’t have to be re-cut. The pins and cups simply have to be removed and then replaced. Golfers who played the North Thursday play the South Friday and vice versa.

“They want the golfers to get the exact same golf course the other players had,” Cushing says. “It doesn’t save us a ton of time, but it is one less thing.”

I just wanted to say thanks again to Paul for sharing his time and his photos. I hope readers enjoyed this inside look at the process and gained a little appreciation for what it takes to make a championship golf course really sparkle.

Pro-Spective: No. 7 on the North Course

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Excuse the golfer on the right, who walked into my shot. This is the uphill, dog-leg right No. 7 on the North Course. It follows the dramatic downhill par-3 and is the last of the ocean holes on the North Course.

      While the pros largely can be much more aggressive on the North than the South – look at Thursday’s scoring split – Scott Bentley, our resident pro, says this is one hole the pros still have to respect.

       “It’s the tightest driving hole on the North. You’ll see a lot of 3-woods here,” he says. “You don’t want to get overaggressive here and bring in the trees on the right.”

      Playing at over 400 yards, a 3-wood off the tee still leaves a 7- or 8-iron approach, and Bentley says pros can’t afford to miss long.

     “You definitely don’t want to be over this green, because it will be sloping away from you.”

     It’ll be interesting to see today how many strokes the players who started on the South can make up on the North, including on No. 7.

FIO Day One: A Salute To A Classy Tradition

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When I arrived at the course today, I made a point to make the 14th hole on the South Course my first stop. I’d heard about the tournament’s annual tribute to the military and wanted to see it for myself.

What I witnessed is an incredibly classy use of a golf hole.

For those unfamiliar with a tradition that is now in its fifth year, the flag on 14 is an American flag. When the golfers reach the green, one of the caddies removes the flag and hands it to one of two waiting servicemen, who are in full dress.

The servicemen hold the flagstick to prevent the flag from touching the ground in a breach of flag etiquette.

When play of the hole is finished, the caddie retrieves and replaces the flagstick and then two more servicemen rotate in for the next group.

This is all staged at a hole were the grandstand, called the Patriots’ Outpost, is filled with active-duty soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guard, all of whom receive free admission to the tournament.

What a great way to give back to the veterans and honor their service.

The hole is sponsored this year by a company called ViaSat, which is a provider of network services.

ViaSat President Rick Baldridge says half his company’s business involves the military so sponsoring the hole was a natural. The sponsorship included providing the attending servicemen with free Wi-Fi at the event.

“San Diego is a great military town, and giving these guys a venue to come out and bring their families, it’s exciting to them. The military guys love golf. That’s why all the bases have golf courses.

“It’s a noble game and it’s a noble way to honor their contributions.”

I can’t improve on that, but I’ll just say I wish all, instead of some, golfers acknowledged the servicemen before moving on to the 15th tee. Doesn’t seem much to ask.

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Pro-Spective: No. 13 on the South

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         This mini-feature is an attempt to look at a pivotal hole each day through the eyes of a former pro who has played the tournament.

Our pro is Scott Bentley, who played the tournament three times in the 80s-90s, which, of course, is before the redesign of the South. Still, 11, 12, 13 was a pivotal stretch then and certainly is now.

Bentley says it’s hard to talk about 13 without mentioning the holes that precede it, 11 being a long par-3 and 12 being a notoriously tough par-4 back toward the ocean. Then 13 is a par-5 that played over 600 yards on Thursday.

“I always felt like if you bogeyed 11 or 12, or both, it deflated you a bit,” Bentley says. “But if you parred those, you were ready to score on 13.”

There are two tee boxes for No. 13, one being far right that makes the hole more of a dogleg left. That’s how it was played Thursday.

And it was a three-shotter for each of the groups I saw come through. The ones who struggled the most were those playing their second shots from the thick left rough. That included Tiger, but unlike the others, who bogeyed, he managed to save par.

The 13th green is front by tiered bunkers, making coming up short quite undesirable.

“You’ve really got to think about your second shot there if you don’t get home in two, because you want to leave it on an upslope. The greens are firm and won’t hold shorter shots.

“But if you birdie 13, it sets you up to make a little run.”

Bentley is now the Golf Course Manager at Torrey Pines and Mission Bay. He’ll give his hole insights daily here, and we thank for him volunteering.

Gearing Up

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If you haven’t yet seen it on TV, you won’t be able to miss it at the course.

Adidas is debuting it’s new adizero blue shoe at the tournament. It’s being sported by all the TaylorMade players and is prominently displayed around the course, including the patio of the clubhouse.

The shoe, in its many styles of blue, is a pleasing color contrast to the launch of the initial line and is certainly less loud that the Big Bird-yellow shoes many players wore a year ago.

It’s also worth a mention is Phil Mickelson’s blue KPMG hat is on sale at the merchandise tent on the South Course.

The proceeds of sales of the hat go to fight illiteracy.

You can learn more at philsbluehat.com.

Broadcast Byte

Tiger Woods’ 2014 tournament debut prompted another round of will-he-or-won’t-he regarding breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record for victories in major championships.

As most golfers on the planet should know, Jack’s record is 18 and Tiger has been holding at 14 for five years now.

I didn’t discover this until I got home and watched the tape of the broadcast, but The Golf Channel’s Gary McCord added a new two-cents of perspective on the chase.

McCord talked about Tiger now being age 38 and what it would take to break Jack’s record with 19 majors.

He used Phil Mickelson’s five majors as a gauge.

“So to get to 19, he’s got to have Phil’s career starting at age 38,” McCord said.

He didn’t really finish that thought, but I imagined him humming, “Things That Make You Go … Hmmm.”