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The Green

Those of you who follow the blog a bit, already probably figured out that I might be a junkie when it comes to golf. My wife has even given up moving my arbitrarily stashed clubs that are placed in various rooms around the house. She might have noticed I often use them as a crutch when carrying on a conversation. More often it’s to take a couple of shadow swings or chip a ball across the catwalk. Given all of that, it should come as no great surprise that I read a lot of golf related material as a supplement to my actual playing of golf. Could be a historical piece about a particular player or maybe some new information about a game changing technology. Probably read everything Dr. Bob Rotella has written….though I still struggle with the space between my ears. Every once and awhile I’ll come across a golf novel that buoys the soul. The Green by Troon McAllister was a recommendation from a playing partner in a tournament a few weeks back. I made a big putt for a birdie in this team event and he called me “a regular Eddie Caminetti”….to which I replied….”um, who is that”? For those of you who would play this off out of hand, you miss out by faking knowledge that you don’t possess. Secondly, had to be sure it wasn’t some kind of backhanded compliment delivered surreptitiously. Sure I got ribbed, something to the effect “don’t you guys read”, but I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t enjoyed this marvelous book.

Eddie Caminetti is possibly the greatest fictional golfer of all time. The Green by Troon McAllister is a fantastic novel that I had a hard time putting down. The protagonist , Eddie, is a walking dichotomy that at times can drive the reader a bit bonkers. He’s a brash, bold, unorthodox, an enigmatic fault riddled hero of the morally just. Nevertheless, he’s the guy every golfer wishes he or she could be. Confidence backed by performance able to squash the subconscious pitfalls that fail us all. Caminetti is a hustler who never makes a wager he can’t cover. A player with an edge, ready to up the ante when the opportunity arises. He’s an old school character whose game is an examination of the ruthlessly mundane. I came away enjoying the character Eddie Caminetti for all his quirks. We all may not know a true Caminetti, but if you play golf long enough, you will run into someone whose cut from the same cloth. A guy 250 straight down the fairway who can cuss on Sunday and still seem reverent in mixed company.

The Green is a book driven by rich character development quickly immersing the reader into the art of the game at the highest levels of golf. A cast of characters drawing inspiration from some of the real life heroes on the PGA Tour. Shouldn’t be too hard to figure out who’s who if you have even casually followed the tour the past 20 years. Troon McAllister weaves a well paced narrative that is inventive and loads of entertainment. I will warn you though, if you have an addiction to golf this isn’t going to help you with your issues. If anything, it will stir the caldron and you’ll be itching to play when the opportunity arises. I get nervous putting for the $2 carryover, couldn’t imagine playing for 20 large.

If you get the chance, pick up a copy of this great little book. I’ve yet to find someone disappointed after reading it. Many, many Amazon reviews are very supportive of the work. Click the link below to check it out.

Happy hitting my friends. If you don’t hit them straight, keep trying, the wind is bound to blow your way at some point. Please comment below if you have something to add to conversation. Love to hear from fellow golfers.

Steve Williams – The Review

PreShot

“Steve Williams is a badass. Glad he finally called out that scumbag Tiger”, that’s the text I got from a very dear friend whom shall remain nameless, mainly because he’s really a bastard. For the better part of 20 years this same friend has been killing me for being a fan of Tiger Woods. Busting my chops is his forte. My buddy hadn’t read the book, just using the “reported highlights” as his fuel. When the scandal hit almost 7 years ago and the veil was torn, I must admit defending the indefensible was a losing endeavor. Tiger the golden child was forever knocked from his lofty perch. In truth, reading this book, Out of the Rough, wasn’t high on my list….actually it wasn’t even on my list. Generally, gossip ridden offerings are a waste of time and the headlines and excerpts used to market the book certainly didn’t interest me. On the surface, it looked like another attack on Tiger further highlighting his shortcomings as a human being. Sure glad all the detractors lead perfect lives. Michael Collins, the up and coming superstar covering golf for ESPN, issued what amounts to a call to action (at least for me) with his comments. Maybe superstar is a little over the top, but the guy is good at what he does. Guys seem to respond candidly to his after round interviews. Collins is not quite Feherty in that respect, but he gets the goods. His video review of the book made me laugh (I mean, in the laundry room…dude is silly), but more importantly he piqued my interest and I actually wanted to read the book. Glad someone in the media doesn’t take himself too seriously…kudos Mr. Collins, keep doing what you do.

Where do we start?

Stephen A. Smith is a respected sports journalist/entertainer. His schtick is legendary. The loud uncle at Thanksgiving who knows it all when it comes to sports. I sincerely hope everyone has an uncle like that. One of my favorite uncles still thinks the Cleveland Browns are knocking on the doorstep. Can’t really knock a guy for his beliefs. ESPN tapped a nerve, understanding the dynamic Stephen A. Smith brilliantly brings to the set of First Take. If we are talking NBA, I want to hear what he has to say, he knows the NBA, he’s connected. Stephen A. Smith seems to grasp the other major sports (NFL, MLB, and of course NHL…not so much) and can competently opine accordingly, but he missed horribly with his rant on Steve Williams. First off, in his defense, he didn’t read the book and doesn’t plan to. He based his rant off of the perception of what the book is allegedly about. Like congress voting on an important bill, he didn’t read it, yet he felt confident enough to broadcast his views on the book disparaging the author along the way. While he is entitled to his opinion, like or hate the book whatever, his comments about the caddy in general were at best short sighted and misinformed. Disappointed with Stephen A. Smith on this account. Come on man….you are so much better than that!

GolfDigest.comJordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Zach Johnson might have a counter argument about just how important the roll of a good caddie plays. In the majority of cases, the caddy/player relationship goes well beyond employee/employer. In the heat of battle whether trying to make a cut or win the tournament, a caddy is your right hand man. Trusted confidant. The only other person on that island when you play professional golf. Spieth consistently held up the “team” concept when replaying his rounds in the media tent following play. Repeatedly saying “we” and “our” plan for attacking the golf course. Same with Day, his caddy carries a ton of wisdom outside the pertinent golf data that helps buoy Jason in a storm. These guys aren’t just carrying a bag and cleaning your clubs. Nor do they simply give you the yardage or their opinion on the break of a putt. Pretty sure Stephen A. Smith has played a few upper crust tracts in his time. Caddied affairs. Not that I’ve often experienced caddied golf, but when I have …oh boy, if you listen, you just might save yourself a couple of strokes. Hard to imagine the impact they can have on a professional player.

Point of View

Steve Williams had a front row seat for 13 majors and over 60 PGA tour wins in total while he worked for Tiger. To believe he didn’t play a part in the formula is ignorant. Is his book an attempt to squeeze the turnip one last time to make certain he got every last blood dollar from the exploits of his former employer? If you base your opinion on the marketing excerpts, than yes, yes he is. If you actually read the book, I think you might be enlightened by what this “caddy” had to say. After all, how many guys have caddied for 3 World Number 1’s? Or toted the bag for the legend Raymond Floyd? Bingo, this book is about so much more than Tiger Woods. If anything, his portrayal of Tiger is actually favorable in my opinion. Was he let down and disappointed by the failure of their relationship? Absolutely. Did he make critical mistakes that more than likely played a roll in the situation? He readily and rightfully admitted he did. This book is a series of recollections detailing his storied career, more than a scathing indictment of his most famous boss. A career spanning over 30 years with some of the greatest players in the game during the era. Steve Williams was a sought after helmsman in the world of championship golf. A tactician and wise sage, as valuable as a 15th club.

The Dirt

To be expected, I can’t imagine writing a book about one of the most significant periods in the history of golf and not have a little dirt. Some of which came off a bit myopic. Due to the brief media storm, my presumption was that the bulk of the dirt would be a rehash of the spectacular self destruction of Tiger’s personal life. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. Dropping the dime on his chief competitors? Yep, he went there. Not that we didn’t already know there was some genuine animosity. It’s just different when you see it in black and white, or in this case backlit E ink. We all loathe the kid who tattles in class, but man oh man, some of these glimpses are too good to pass up. My guess is Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, and Vijay Singh won’t be sending Christmas cards to the Williams household this year. The funny part, Steve Williams doesn’t care, at least that’s what I gather from his thoughts on these men. One sided stories often meet the truth halfway, but for his part the author comes off credible and more importantly bullish on his view of the events. I reckon he knew there would be consequences and from the looks of things, he’s had enough of carrying the bag around the world for the sake of another’s quest in professional golf.

My favorite dirty little anecdotes featured Steve Williams as the person in the wrong…or at least the one who could be left holding the bag so to speak. His story about Tiger’s win at Pebble Beach for the 2000 U.S. Open borders on behind the scenes legend. If you were watching that day you heard Tiger berate himself in a particularly colorful way after he duck hooked his drive on 18. To this day, that was Johnny Miller’s best call…That passage alone is a entertaining must read if you follow golf and love the game. Could you imagine telling Tiger Woods…”um, boss, that was your last ball”…that could’ve happened, but thankfully didn’t. That’s the kind of golden backstory that drives the book. Like a scene dropped straight out of Tin Cup, but Romeo doesn’t quit.

The rivalry between Phil and Tiger was real. They didn’t really understand each other. Tiger knew Phil was a threat to his run…how can you not be wary of a guy with that much talent? He didn’t want the guy to win a major because he was fearful of Phil fueled by validated confidence. Sounds a little different from todays players. A far cry from Jack, Arnie, and Gary. Somehow, I don’t see Phil and Tiger arm and arm at the Masters in their late 60’s for the ceremonial opening tee shot. Stranger things have happened I guess. Sergio and Tiger? If Phil and Tiger were a little frigid at times, Sergio and Tiger were an apocalyptic ice age. Surprised? Probably not. Neither would you be shocked that it was real disdain when Vijay and Tiger tussled. Didn’t help that Stevie had such a low opinion of Vijay stemming from his days on the old Asian Tour. These stories didn’t cast a souring light on Tiger Woods. More of an matter of fact account of those incredible days on the tour. When the PGA was must see TV and everyone tuned in to see history come Sunday. Even if you hated Tiger back then, you still watched to root against him.

The Shark! Steve Williams owns it when he talks about Greg Norman. I haven’t looked to see if there is a biography on Greg Norman, but if there is I’ll probably try and pick it up. Norman was at the tail end of his run when I really started following the PGA Tour. He will always be associated with The Masters and the heart wrenching ways he lost the tournament. Steve Williams laments with regret that he felt he cost Norman his shot at the title, by not being more assertive in helping his player make the proper club selection. In the end, the player makes the final call. There is some prime cut material within these pages.

Takeaway

This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but it was an entertaining read nonetheless. The bitter outcry against the publication is probably warranted, provided you didn’t read the book in making your assessment. Admittedly, I was in that camp in the beginning. My initial take was Steve Williams should just retire and be happy and let Tiger be. Certainly not an apologist for his former boss, but he doesn’t throw him under the bus either. At times, Steve Williams leveled the blame squarely on his own shoulders. Other times he wavered, convinced it was mostly Tiger that had done wrong by him, yet it will always take two to tango. Steve Williams isn’t a lout on any count. This isn’t a last stand money grab before fading into the sunset. I applaud the guy in his semi retirement. His professional focus has shifted to his foundation and the powerful work it does for sick children. His mission critical derived from a deep sense of responsibility to help those in need. The mettle of a man is often the sum of his deeds. You can’t demean the good he is doing in New Zealand. Not sure I had a positive opinion of Steve Williams when I began the book, but I came away a fan. The unfounded villain perspective is not unexpected given our quick consumption society. I can guarantee, if you read this book you will come away with a least a different perspective about Tiger and his former caddy. You may actually find a way to become a fan of both….probably wishful thinking. Hope old wounds heal one day, and these two blokes can enjoy a beer on the beach someday, talking about the good ole’ days.

Hogan Ft. Worth 15 Review

Ben Hogan Golf CompanyFor the record, I am not what you would call a club junkie. Never been one to swoon over the latest driver promising massive yardage gains or those newfangled irons guaranteeing pin seeking accuracy. I think the numbers bear out that new drivers aren’t actually significantly better than technology 3 years prior. Maybe in the 90’s the gains could be dramatic from year to year with the explosion of new titanium technologies. Currently, stringent performance standards set by golf’s governing bodies restrict the ability to gain 20 – 30 yards over the driver you bought last year. I think you likely gain more through proper fitting and improved technique more than that “new” technology. Sometimes though, a new club stirs the soul a bit. Urges the need to experience the new which is actually old but made new again. Say what?

When the announcement was made about the Ben Hogan Golf Company rebirth, I must admit I was intrigued. Just the name Hogan evokes principles rooted in precision, craftsmanship, a lineage to a greatness predicated on an ethos of hard work and determination. His book 5 lessons is never far from my night stand. A reference as it were to make sure I continue to key on the absolutes necessary for a repeatable swing. What of these new Hogan Ft. Worth 15 blade inspired irons? Are they game changers like their namesake?

I happened to be at Bridgemill Athletic Club early before a round a few weeks back. We had some time to kill and a Hogan dealer was on site for a club demo. As a preface, I happened to play with a guy who was an old school blade aficionado who had recently hit the Hogan’s at the PGA Superstore. On his recommendation, I made a trip to the PGA Superstore and hit a few in an open bay, nothing too extensive, but I left impressed. Generally, I don’t give much credence to hitting balls inside, I just never get a true feel for the product. Admittedly excited, I moseyed on up to the tent and chatted with the PGA Professional who is also an area rep for the Ben Hogan Golf Company. He was extremely knowledgeable about the irons, gave me the low down concerning the design and performance characteristics. He took a look at my ancient (but still very lovely) Titleist 690 MBs and tried to match up specs as best he could. Set me up with the KBS Tour 120 gram X stiff shafts in a 5 iron and gap wedge. The weighting and feel were similar as I currently game KBS 130 X-Flex Steel Iron C-Tapers.

Already warmed up, I hit a few with the gap wedge. A “set” gap wedge which I haven’t played in 15 years, opting instead for a Titleist Vokey or Cleveland wedge to accompany my irons. The Fort Worth 15s impressed from beginning to end. The feeling was very much that of a forged blade, yet there was an immediate sense of forgiveness for the less than perfect. Biblical. I knew from the strike where the ball was going, the feedback unencumbered. Turf interaction as good as any iron I’ve ever hit. The sound and ball flight are what you would expect from a players iron. Acoustically the impact was muted similar to a Mizuno forge different from the little click you would associate with a Titleist blade. As I said, this was a “set” wedge, but I would game it without hesitation.

The Ben Hogan Golf CompanyI was able to really get a true evaluation when I demoed the 5 iron. Side by side, I could hit my regular 5 iron and the Hogan 5 iron (marked 28 degree). The ball flight piercing with a medium trajectory the shots landing in similar groupings. The forgiveness was more evident with the longer irons. Finding the bottom was bit more of a challenge even though the shafts were pretty similar. That said, my misses held their line better than my Titleist. Makes sense, because the Hogan’s aren’t true blades, but I found myself regarding them as such. They look and feel like blades except when you miss. We all miss and I’ve come to appreciate the forgiveness built into my 690 MBs. Yes, they are forgiving to a point. You don’t have to hit them absolutely perfect to still achieve a good outcome. Missing with the Hogan’s was a little different. You know it on the strike, but the rebuke is less penal. Yet, the miss still encourages you do better on the next swing. You will grow to love and want the immediate gratification from a properly hit shot. That sweet feeling only achieved when you hit it pretty close to the center.

The Hogan Ft. Worth 15s are a tremendous new golf iron. They are a must demo. If you are in the market for new clubs and they aren’t in your area just yet, wait till they are. Find a way to hit them before you make an iron purchase. I’ve been a devout Titleist follower for what seems an eternity. Only Mizuno has occupied the space in my bag for periods of time. When I do replace my current irons…which is still a tall order…these Hogan’s are the only iron on the shortlist. If budgets didn’t exist, I’d already have them in my bag.


 
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