Friday, May 18, 2007

Players Championship

The Players Championship stands two chances of ever being considered a major championship—Slim and None and Slim just left town. There are four major championships and that’s the limit. The term “Grand Slam” connotes four runs as in baseball. There’s no crying in baseball and there are no five-run home runs either. Therefore, the Tour is just going to have to deal with it.

In fact, one of their own said it best. Justin Leonard, a British Open champion when asked if he considered the Players to be a major championship replied, “That would be like comparing apples and oranges. The majors are apples and the Players Championship is a very nice orange, but an orange nonetheless.”

By the way, the O’Leary history lesson of the day is the real origin of the term ‘Major Championship.”

A decade ago, I was writing a Masters advance for Senior Golfer Magazine. The subject was golfers on the Senior Tour who had won one major and it was the Masters. Fine gentlemen such as Art Wall, Charles Coody, Bob Goalby and Tommy Aaron provided some great anecdotes, but it was 1969 Masters Champion George Archer who provided the history lesson.

“The Masters was always a favorite of the guys on Tour,” said Archer. “We got to meet and spend some time with Bobby Jones and were treated real well. It was a great little tournament.
“That’s the way we all looked at the Masters,” offered Archer. “Early that week, either Tuesday, or Wednesday it rained hard. The writers were looking for a story, so they brought Jack Nicklaus into the pressroom. I guess the conversation came around to how he made out his playing schedule. Jack told them that the major focus of his schedule was around the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship. In the papers across the country the next day, everyone found out that we had four ‘majors.’ I thought I’d won a nice tournament, but I’d become known forever as a Major Champion. I wonder what would have happened if it hadn’t rained.”

Pardon my digression. This year’s Players Championship was special. The first phase of the “New Phil” was very impressive at the very least. Just three weeks into the process, it appears that Mickelson has assimilated every syllable Butch Harmon has said. His strategy was flawless. He only gambled when he thought the odds were in his favor. Okay, the iron shot from the sand through the opening in the trees on the 10th hole in the third round might have been a stretch, but you didn’t think he could quit cold turkey, did you?

The entire weekend was great stuff. Right down to the 17th hole on Sunday, there was drama on every shot. Let’s face it, rarely can a golfer who makes a quadruple bogey at the defining moment of the tournament emerge as a hero, but Sean O’Hair did. He went down firing at the pin, trying to win. All it cost him was about $750,000, but as he said, he’s going to make a lot of money, but he wanted the crystal. May his mantle be overstocked with trophies. The best part about it is, the kid is only 24. He’ll give a welcomed boost to future Ryder Cup teams.

Here’s the best part of Sunday at the Players. In the past, had “Hefty” been trying to stave off one T. Woods, he would have eventually melted into a pool of flaccid Jell-O. Now, there’s some doubt—no, make that a lot of doubt. The new, in control, in synch with the world Phil Mickelson stands a much better chance of standing up to Woods.

The great ingredient that will intensify the rivalry is that Mickelson is being coached by the teacher who built Woods. The truth be known, there’s a good chance that Tiger would not have thrown Harmon over if he didn’t start showing up in TV ads and attaining a profitable celebrity. That is the kiss of death in the Woods camp. His first caddie, Fluff Cowan was dumped when he started making commercials for low-priced motels and signing autographs at tournaments.

There’s only one driver of that bus and that’s Tiger himself. His wanting to prove that he was right in dealing with Harmon will drive him harder. It will put Tiger’s current coach Hank Haney on the hot seat.

As a contrast, in accepting the Players Championship trophy, Mickelson took time to thank his previous coach Rick Smith for guiding him through the years as well as thanking Harmon. Maybe for the first time in his career, Mickelson has an understanding of where he’s been and a true sense of where his career is heading.

Forget the trash you’ll hear about anyone making a move on Woods’ number one world ranking. He has such a lead that it would take at least two years for him to lose it. However, don’t be too surprised if championship golf becomes much more exciting over the summer and for summers to come.

The rivalry golf fans always wanted—Woods vs. Mickelson is about to come to fruition.

Bartender, please pour me another in honor of Philly Mick. This time make it a Diet Coke. We both could stand to lose some avoirdupois if you know what I mean.

See you on the tee!


Friday, May 11, 2007

Characters of the game

Recently, I was doing some research on the British Open for a magazine piece I’ve been asked to write and it stirred some memories of some of the golfers I’ve met through the years.

One of the great characters I’ve met through the years is the legendary Brian Barnes or “Barnsie,” as he’s better known. Barnsie was one of England’s finest players having won nine times on the European Tour. He finished between the fourth and eighth spot on the money list every year from 1971 and 1980. As a senior player, Barnsie won the Senior British Open in 1995 and became the first to successfully defend the title in 1996. He also won once on the U.S. Senior Tour before arthritis knocked him out of competitive golf.

Barnsie also competed in six consecutive Ryder Cups when it was just Great Britain and Ireland versus the U.S. In the format of the day two singles matches were played on one day and in 1975, he beat Jack Nicklaus twice in one day.

Barnsie posted an impressive résumé for sure, but all of it pales in comparison to his last European Tour win at the 1981 Haig Whisky Tournament Players Championship.
On the final day, Barnsie garnered an early tee time with some uninspired play during the first three days. On Sunday, however, all the suns moons and stars were perfectly in a row for the burly Scot. He tore the course apart. It was “around a 64” was his recollection.

Satisfied that he’d at least salvaged some dignity, Barnsie did what he did ritualistically after every round. He headed straight to the bar from the scorer’s tent. For hours, Barnsie regaled the local gentry with his wit and charm that increased with each and every lager he consumed. About three hours, or so later, someone from the tournament committee joined the party and asked Barnsie why he wasn’t practicing.

A stunned Barnsie asked why he would do such a thing. The committee member told him that if the leader didn’t birdie the 18th, Barnsie would be in a playoff for the title. Having already birdied the 19th hole, Barnsie grabbed a couple cans of beer and lurched towards the practice green.

“I wanted to make sure I could stand,” said Barnsie as he recounted the tale. Before he headed to the first tee for the sudden death playoff, he stuck the cans of beer in his bag.

“I knew that I’d need them,” he said. “I’d need one if I won and I’d need one if I lost.”
He hit a pair of great shots on the first hole and reached in his pocket for a coin to mark his ball. He didn’t have one. He asked his caddie for a coin. He didn’t have one either.

“I then did the next best thing,” said Barnsie, “I reached into the bag and marked the ball with a can of beer. When it was my turn to putt, I put the can to the side, made the putt, opened the can of beer, drank it and accepted the check. Thank you very much.”

The European Tour has always been a fertile ground for characters. Barnsie’s mentor and eventually his father-in-law, Max Faulkner was no slouch in this area.
Faulkner won the 1951 British Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. It’s the only time the Open Championship was played outside of mainland England. According to some historians, Faulkner was best known for his flamboyant dress that often included pink plus fours and yellow golf shoes and his quick wit.

The wit was best exemplified when at the prize ceremony at a small local tournament; Faulkner was called forward to be presented with the first prize check. He stepped to the microphone and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, big purse—big speech. Small purse—small speech. Thank you.” And he left the stage.

Personally, I’m also impressed with 19 career wins including the Open Championship.
It’s not just the players on the other side of the pond that are colorful. Stories abound about their golf writers. One such writer is Dai Davies, then with Guardian newspaper in London.
Dai also answered to the nickname “Mr. Grumpy.” In fact, he has reached the pinnacle of being a curmudgeon and proudly wears the crown. He has been my idol in this department for the 25-years I’ve known him.

Dai has always been known to flee the pressroom before an early round has been completed if, in his estimation, the leader has been identified and the story written. Remarkably, it rarely caught up with him.

One year, at the Open Championship Dai had an early dinner date after the first round. Having written and filed his story, he was heading for the car park and an early getaway. As he was walking up the path from the pressroom at Troon, he was stopped by a man who obviously was a golfer.

“Is the pressroom down there?” he asked. Dai said yes and asked why he wanted to know.
“My name is John Schroeder and I just shot 67 and I’m leading the tournament,” was the reply. Unfazed, Dai escorted Schroeder to the pressroom. Schroeder headed to the interview area and Dai to his phone.

When Dai connected with his dictationist, he calmly said, “Go to the top of my story and add this, ‘Unknown, unheralded American John Schroeder, playing the last match, recorded a remarkable 3-under par 67 to take a one-stroke lead. Had Schroeder not done this, here’s what had previously transpired.’ Go to the bottom and add this paragraph, ‘But Schroeder did record such a remarkable score and takes a one-stroke advantage into today’s second round.”
Davies put the phone down and arrived at the restaurant in time for a tall glass of red wine before dinner.

It seems both the golfers and the writers in Old Blighty have a much better time at their jobs than their American counterparts. Maybe there’s an opening at the Irish Independent?
Hey, barkeeper, how about pouring me a red wine and getting me a can of beer as I toast Dai and mark my ball in honor of my friend Barnsie.


Thursday, May 3, 2007

Welcome to the World Golf Hall of Fame

Welcome to the World Golf Hall of Fame Curtis Strange and Hubert Green. Curtis with your 17 tournament victories including back-to-back US Open championships in 1988 at The Country Club and ’89 at Oak Hill, you’ve ascended to the Valhalla of golf. Congratulations.

Hubert, what took you so long? You’re in by virtue of the Veterans Committee vote. Why you needed that is beyond me. I’ve always thought that 19 wins including the 1977 US Open at Southern Hills under death threats and the 1985 PGA Championship at Cherry Hills when you stared down Lee Trevino and won down the stretch would be enough. Obviously, I was wrong.

People will hear in the coming weeks and months that these inductees are two of the most irascible golfers ever to play the game. I’ve got to be honest. I’ve seen that side of them on more than a couple of occasions, but I’ve seen the other side as well.

It was about 10 years ago that I was sent to Panama City, Fla. to spend a few days with Hubert so I could write a feature article for the late, lamented Senior Golfer Magazine on his turning 50 and heading to the Senior Tour. Over the years, I had dealt with Hubert strictly on a professional basis. It was basically birdies and bogies and see ya’ later. This, I knew would be different.

Prior to flying to Florida’s panhandle, I spoke with Hubert on the phone, making arrangements to meet, etc.

I finally arrived at the Hombre Golf Club and was warmly greeted by Hubert.

“Come on with me and I’ll show you around,” he said warmly. We hopped in his convertible and he gave me a tour of his section of the Red Neck Riviera. As we traveled along, he’s point to a house and say, “I had that one built…that one too…and another over there. Yep, I’ve done a lot for the local construction business. Built one for each of my ex-wives.”

He later took me to his home on the beach, a small, but nice home. As we walked through his garage into the house, I was taken by the boxes of trophies lining the walls and asked about them.

“Yeah, they’re from tournaments I won, some on Tour I’m sure,” he said. As we went inside, the first thing I noticed was a trophy. Hubert noticed my interest.

“That’s the one that counts,” he said. “That’s my US Open trophy.”

I spent the next day talking with some of Hubert’s friends and predictably got a different perspective than his public persona. Then it was time to sit down and go one on one with Hubert, a man who was always at best an adversarial interview at best.

Before I asked the first question, he looked me in the eye and said, “I’m the type of guy no one likes because all I ever tell people is the truth.”

Figuring he’d only answer with the truth, I asked some pretty tough questions. He never smiled. He’d just look me in the eye and answer. When I wrote the story, I wasn’t real sympathetic to Hubert. On the other hand, I didn’t really rip him either.

I didn’t see him until months after the article came out. I was walking past the practice green at the Bank of America Classic, when I heard this southern drawl say, “Mr. O’Leary, I want to talk with you.”

Figuring I was about to have a public confrontation, I geared up for the worst. He waited for me inside the ropes. I walked in, expecting a verbal blast.

Instead, he extended his hand and said, “That was the finest story ever written about me. It wasn’t sugarcoated. It wasn’t mean spirited. It was honest and you know I appreciate honesty.”

I’ve had a couple of “thank yous” from subjects of some of my articles, but that’s one that I’ll treasure, because he’d never have said it if he didn’t mean it.

Curtis has a similar reputation and like Hubert has another side that the public doesn’t see. It was many years ago that he was heading to Quincy, Mass. to pick up a Boston Whaler he’d ordered. He realized that there was a tournament at Pleasant Valley that coming week and had his clubs sent north from his Virginia home. He entered the tournament and had a chance to win on Sunday and finished in the top five. It was a snarling top five because anything but number one didn’t count for him.

During that week, I got to know him a lot better and became privy to a wicked sense of humor that he kept under the surface. We renewed the acquaintance at the Players Championship the following spring. I asked him about the Boston Whaler. He motioned me to sit on the bench with him.

“This isn’t for publication,” he said, “but my caddy and I took it out for a fishing trip into the bay. Well, we were having a great time. We were fishing, drinking some beer, talking, drinking some beer, drinking some beer and fishing. The next thing we know, we’re in the currents heading towards the Atlantic. Finally, we were able to make shore. It was dark and we decided to wait until morning to try to get back home. The boat was doing great. I wasn’t.”

It’s a pity that side of Curtis never came through as a player or a broadcaster. The public missed a lot.

By the way, here’s a little friendly advice. If you see either Green or Strange at a Champions Tour event, or anywhere for that matter, do yourself a huge favor and don’t call them Hubie or Curt. You’d be inviting yourself to their dark side.

In honor of the two newest members of the World Golf Hall of Fame, pour me a beer in honor of Curtis and a smooth single malt scotch, an honest whiskey if you will, in honor of Hubert.



Surviving the conditions at Ginn

I know there's no such thing as a sure thing, but I sure would have bet the ranch on Laura Davies in the final round of the Ginn Open. She was tied with Lorena Ochoa entering the final round. The weather was going to be very windy (play was stopped on two occasions for a total of two and a half hours due to high winds).

It was a perfect setup for the British veteran. The weather was very British-like with the exception of the bright sun. She also had her size going for her. Before you yell sexist pig, hear me out. In high winds, a little extra ballast helps keep one's balance. Trust me on this. I know all too well from personal experience. Besides, Laura is a big time gambler. If you get your kicks out of staring down dealers, throwing down against a couple of kids like Ochoa and Brittany Lincicome had to make Davies the chalk bet in this field.

It had to be a sure thing, but it wasn't. There was another major factor that few took into consideration. The conditions couple with the comparative lack of experience under the gun of the other two players resulted in a situation that will likely be the ruination of professional and recreational golf as well --- damn were they slow.

This drove Davies crazy. She fidgeted, then stewed, she eventually boiled over. By the end of the round, she was more concerned about making her 5:25 flight to England than winning the tournament. She even managed to unprofessionally stickhandle her way around the last green to finish third behind Lincicome and Ochoa.

All three players were at the mercy of the conditions. Shots were out of control at impact. Davies was hitting her drives off the deck without a tee. That's nice for the Monday exhibitions, but a strange strategy in the hest of battle. If you wonder why no other players try that, all you had to do was watch those uggers squirt off Davies' club face, yuck.

In a strange way it was entertaining --- much the same as watching cars skid on ice. I don't think I'd like to watch this every week, but it might get me watching LPGA golf a little more often.

The windy weekend on the east coast blew off Sunday play at the PGA Tour Verizon Classic on Hilton Head, causing a Monday finish. Boo Weekley chipped in for Pars on the last two holes to beat Ernie Els by one shot. Word has it that Els will be allowed near sharp objects again in about six weeks.

While the two top Tour events of the weekend were played under duress, there was another commonality. Lincicome and Weekly are just the start. There's a changing of the guard in professional golf and we'd better be ready for it.

Sure, the PGA Tour will have Tiger and Phil out front for a while yet, but the underpinning is about to change. Weekley, Zack Johnson, Brett Wetterich, Heath Slocum, et al are the cream rising to the top. Davis Love and company have had their day. They'll come back on occasion. Hey, somewhere there's a show featuring Fabian, Dion and KC and the Sunshine Band and people will reminisce about the good old days and the next day go back to surfing the FM dial. That, I fear is the lot of Davis, Freddy and friends. We've got to get used to it.

While we're there, we'll be seeing less and less of Annika. Her bulging disc in her neck just might be the beginning of the end. At age 36, she's looking in a lot of different life directions. While we're at it, Juli Inkster has to break down sometime. Okay—maybe not.

Hey bartender, pour me another one. Make this one Ancient Age bourbon. Nah, let's drink to the future. Make it a dram of Early Times.

See you on the 1st tee,


These guys are good!

You've just got to hand it to the PGA Tour. First, they run an extensive self-promotional campaign about the players with the catch phrase, "These guys are good!" For once they understated something. They're great. The 200th ranked player is the 200th best player in the world. Think about it. Of all the millions of golfers in the world, he's number 200.

As a guy who thinks the 15th all time home run hitter in baseball should have his credentials for the Hall of Fame carefully examined and never on the first ballot, I'm more impressed with the 200th golfer in the world.

Okay, Timmy Finchem and the boys have me sold on this one. Why didn't they just let it be? Why did they have to bollix the whole thing up?

They did you know. It started on the Florida swing and I'm sure you're going to see it elsewhere through the year. They wanted to prove to the public that in spite of all the new equipment technology and the swing gurus, golf courses wouldn't be torn apart by the rank and file of the PGA Tour.

They started with the Honda Classic that debuted at the Champions Course at PGA National. Mark Wilson captured the title in a four-way play off with a 72-hole score of 275, which they recalibrated it as five under par. The PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup were played on the same course at par 72. Evidently, a car Classic has more integrity than either of those two events. Wilson, et al finished at 13-under par in real-speak.

Let's see. Mark Calcavecchia won the PODS Championship at Innisbrook in Tarpon Springs with a 10-under 274 score. This falls well within the parameters of defending champion KJ Choi's winning 271 and 2005 victor Carl Pettersson whose 275 cashed the big check. The Copperhead Course has never played easily, nor will it ever.

Now, let's go to Bay Hill and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Oops, that par 72 course you've been playing is just too easy boys; we're going to make it a par 70.

They dared to claim that Vijay Singh's winning minus-eight score proved how tough Bay Hill played. Hellloooo! Singh's 272 score for the championship was two strokes lower than Rod Pampling's in 2006. Tougher? Easier and the numbers prove it.

Everyone seems to be hung up on the under par number. Before TV coverage, this was never a factor. It took CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian to devise the negative-plus system so viewers would know where everyone stood. The low score still won and the low score will always win. Oh, by the way, birdies sell tickets. They provide ratings. They do all sorts of good things. Golfers want to see birdies. They want to see the best at their best. They want one torture chamber a year for their heroes—the US Open and the PGA Tour doesn't run it. Let's hope they don't try.

Lorena Ochoa is poised to wrest the Best Woman Player in the World from Annika Sorenstam. She can do it with a win at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first LPGA major of the season. It's a pity that their marketing genius of a commissioner, Carolyn Bivens, doesn't get it yet. This is a showcase for woman's golf. There is one other event this weekend now that the Players Championship has moved and they have brackets in every office across America. There aren't any brackets or fantasy pools for the KNC. What are you doing knocking heads against the Final Four?

Missing from KNC this week is Michelle Wie, who is nursing a wrist injury. This could be the best injury she'll ever have. It gets her away from the game and maybe give her some perspective. Better yet, it might give her parents some perspective.

Reports are that thus far, Michelle is still on somewhat an even keel, but Mom and Pop are teetering. It seems their attitude at home doesn't have the natives welcoming them home with leis and alohas.

Word also has it that there's a couple who offered to share their home with the Wies during a previous KNC. The elder Wies wouldn't allow Michelle to mingle with the hosts and insisted that the hosts vacate so they could host a private dinner. When the home owners returned, not so much as a dish had been washed and they were left to pick up for themselves.

There's some installation of proper values in a child. Let’s hope Michelle avoids the trappings of celebrity as well as the Parent Trap.

All that Hawaiian chatter has worked up a thirst. How about a rum and pineapple juice? Hold the umbrella please.



Club House of Gloom

For many, many years, I had gone through this life happily engorged in misery. My golf game sucked. Even when I had the odd good round, I knew another lousy one was just around the corner.

I got to the point where I even reveled in physical pain. Advanced carpal tunnel in both hands? Great! A right knee that sometimes hobbled me so badly that I had to walk downstairs backwards? Fantastic! Of course, there was the innate ability to combust internally where people could watch my face turn red and see the blood rise like mercury in a thermometer. You could actually watch me come to a boil. All of this, you see, was a ready-made obvious excuse for yet another bad round. (Actually, I never used the word excuse. It was, I said, "the reason.")

As a lifelong cynic and skeptic, I greatly enjoyed morphing into a curmudgeon. It became a goal that I think I achieved, because I knew I was damned good at it.

Having comfortably settled into my cozy nest of thorns, I almost looked forward to the next bad bounce the golf gods would send my way. When I went to the practice green before a round, I'd tell my cart partner that I was going to practice my lip outs. Yessiree, I was well on my way to scripting another Indiana Jones flick for Harrison Ford; Jack O'Leary's Club House of Gloom.
I can't say that I enjoyed all the trappings of my curmudgeoness (Is that a word? Spell-check tells me no. I say it is for today), but I certainly accepted them.

Then three guys had to produce products that absolutely destroyed my merry march to misery.
First, there's John Allan at Q-Link. Actually, John who is now the president of the company gets a bye on this one. He wasn't sailing that ship when I first had this plastic and copper circle hanging on a string draped around my neck, but until I find the cur that did, John takes the hit.

The Q-Link is supposed to help control your stress level on and off the golf course. Sure—and if wrap two around my wrists, I'll wake up the next morning as Brad Pitt's double. Well, I did wear the one around my neck and after a couple of days, when I woke up, I didn't feel the pits. I guess that was a plus. On the golf course, there seemed to be a pilot light on my internal combustion for the normal course of misfortunes. OK, so I was able to override the pilot light in the direst of circumstances (that was too good a shot to hit the bank and bounce backwards into the water DAMMIT!). However, the Q-Link certainly took the edge off. It's still there today.

The next culprit is Jim Uno of Trion-Z and he doesn't get a bye; he's directly in my crosshairs.
Late last May, Jim and I were paired in a golf event in the Pinehurst area. Boy was he in for a treat. He got to see the "full O'Leary."

This was a day in which the carpal tunnel was in full bloom. On about the fifth fairway, I had all I could do to hold a club. Jim came over to me and put an elastic and plastic bracelet on my wrist. It was the Trion-Z. The plastic held two strong magnets while the cloth bracelet was filled with Japanese minerals. I learned later that the combination emits negative ions that lessen the effects of pain. By the time we got to the green, I felt a heat sensation in my hands. Jim said it was circulation that the carpal tunnel had inhibited. Within 20 minutes, the total discomfort had abated by more than half and was bearable.

My "reasons" were starting to fall by the wayside. Less stress and less discomfort in my hands were starting to bother me. What next? I found out.

Three weeks later with the Q-Link and Trion-Z adorning this temple of God, I had another "distressing" occurrence. As I got out of the car at the golf course, I stood up and noticed that something was missing. The pain in my knee that had been present for the past three years in some shape or form was gone. I couldn't believe it. The only thing I'd done differently was wear the band of magnets and minerals on my wrist. I kind of bounced up and down standing on my right leg only and there was nothing. That day, I played my first round of golf without a heavy knee brace in three years and I haven't worn it since. OK, the skeptic in me demands that I still carry the brace in my bag, but I haven't used it.

I'll get you for this Uno—if it's the last thing I do.

I was down to my last defense. I was still as negatively miserable as any golfer could be. If something bad could happen, it would and would always carry a two-stroke penalty. Enter Dr. Jerry V. Teplitz.

I know. Those of you out there in cyberspace, who know me, think it's time I see a shrink, but Dr. Jerry is a doctor of Holistic Medicine, not a psychiatrist—although he just as well could be.
Last week, I had to watch his DVD Par and Beyond: Secrets to Better Golf for a piece I was writing. Trust me on this; I've seen enough of this psycho babble to qualify me for my PHD (In my case that stands for Piled Higher and Deeper) on the subject. Prior to last Thursday, I was filing these entities under "You Can Fool Some of the People Some of the Time, etc." This was different.

Dr. Jerry's premise was set in Behavioral Kinesiology. I'd heard of that before. I didn't understand it, but I'd heard of it. In this DVD, he demonstrates tips on how to get out of whatever funk this dastardly game puts you in right there on the spot. He showed physical proof that the mind inhibits the body's performance and how to overcome it. He showed how the negative words of playing partners can effect you and what to do about it.

I've got to be going soft. I figured, what the hell? I bought into the Q-Link and I guess it's worked. I bought into the Trion-Z and I know that works. I've added a necklace to the bracelet in hopes that it will help a few other parts of the body, although Butch Harmon who endorses Trion-Z told me that this might not be what I'm looking for. I'll give Dr. Teplitz' advice a shot on Saturday.

Using the cues from Dr. Jerry, I bombed my first tee shot down the middle with a mind-released shoulder turn, hit my second shot to 12-feet and made the putt for a birdie. He had me. I was his winning fish in the bass derby. Hook, line and sinker baby!

The best was saved for last. An event occurred on the 17th green that in the past would have had me blazing a trail over the moon. A playing partner didn't get out of the way of my chip and the ball hit him, knocking me out of the hole. Instead, of becoming the personification of "The rocket's red glare" and launching my drive OB, I forgot about it by the time I addressed the tee ball. I ask you, what the hell kind of fun is that? Where's the misery?

I hit a good drive, a good second shot and a good putt to win some money in the weekly point quota game. Then it happened. I walked off the 18th green with a smile on my face. I didn't complain about anything at the 19th Hole. I was calm and in a great mood. Sorry guys, that's not golf. What am I going to do? My regular foursome is so accustomed to the sight of me riding to the green or tee with my arms folded and a frown resembling the mask of death etched in my face, they're not going to be right for a long time. Hell, they don't even know that I can smile.

Hey, before I leave, pour me another and keep pouring for those three guys until they can't take anymore. Someone has to be miserable. After all, this still is golf and I know for a fact, all the pendants, bracelets, necklaces and DVDs in the world won't do squat for a hangover. If I can't be miserable on the golf course, someone has to be tomorrow morning.



USGA sells its wares

Alright, we all knew it would happen, but that doesn't mean we have to like it. The USGA has put its wares on sale and found a buyer. They've seduced and taken on an "automotive partner." In most states, the world's oldest profession is illegal. Now, it seems in the state of golf it's profitable.

The USGA announced during the PGA Merchandise Show that Lexus would be their first automotive partner in their 112-year history. This "partnership" is a multi-year relationship and will include the U.S. Open, the U.S. Woman's Open, the U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Amateur Championship.

I find it hard to believe that this relationship was found necessary due to financial hardship when just a few years ago, the USGA was handing out big buck grants to just about anyone who promoted the game so they wouldn't lose their non-profit status. I also don't believe they just handed the "partnership" to the Japanese giant. So, why is there a need for this "partnership" now?

There are 10 other national championships that the USGA can sell. What are we looking forward to in the future---the Mary Kay Woman's Amateur? The Viagra Senior Amateur? The Botox Senior Woman's Amateur? How about the Toys R Us Junior Championship? Regrettably the possibilities are endless and now possibly a reality.

Some things in golf shouldn't be for sale and our national championships should be at the top of that list.

Ah yes, the PGA Merchandise Show...

This show used to be the ultimate golfer's candy store. Now, it's evolved into more of a snack shop. Gone are the days when the newest and brightest equipment was first shown to the world. Now, the big players are releasing their newest technology randomly, so any of the big guys who exhibit at the show are showing off stuff that's been out for a while.

This year was more of a golf lifestyle exhibition with gadgets and widgets that surround the game more than affect the playing of the game. If there's any one segment of the industry that benefits from the timing of the show, it's the apparel side. The end of January time slot works well for them.

The show is now a stage for the startup companies and the training aid industry---the latter being somewhat a freak show. They have golfers putting their bodies in positions the human body should never be, all in pursuit of be able to hit a little white ball, or qualify for traction.

One other factor that really stuck out at the show was the globalization of golf. Not only were there destinations on display, but there were a lot of companies participating that were headquartered in other countries. It shows what has long been surmised; that while the industry may be flat in this country, it's having a healthy growth spurt around the globe.

In honor of golf's globalization, it's time for maybe a pint of Guiness, or perhaps a Stoly on the rocks. Nah, make it an ice cold Crown lager from South Africa and after you pour me that one---pour me another one.


Golf Channel shakeup

Just a few thoughts on this young golf season.

The Golf Channel is working hard to get their production headed in the right direction. Rich Lerner does a good job in the role of Jack Whittaker and will be better once he acquires the elder statesman look. With the exception of Nick Faldo, everyone has to get comfortable in their role and loosen up a bit.

It appears obvious that Kelly Tilghman still thinks she's in charge as the first woman anchor of a golf telecast. Kelly, the truth is it's Nick's show and Nick's alone. You're main role thus far, is to fill the dead air when Faldo takes a break. Let's face it, working with the right straight men, Faldo and Johnny Miller are in a class of their own.

It will be interesting to see how the season plays out. They can actually make a difference in the way the first two rounds are seen by the public. Personally, some of the most intense golf I've seen has been played between 4 and 5:30 on Friday afternoons. That's when a missed putt can equal a missed cut and no paycheck for the week. Trust me; TV ratings go through the roof in every PGA Tour locker room between those hours. Let's hope TGC can capture the moment.
This is the week of the 2007 PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

For the past four or five years, the show appeared to be in decline. Titleist, TaylorMade and a few other staples of the industry rethought their strategy and passed on the show. This allowed Callaway to flourish and gave Nike the impetus and sales to sign a few more stars, dress them in black and stand them behind Tiger in yet another overpriced ad.

This year, TaylorMade returns to the show trying to reinstate their prominence in the industry. They'll find a different beast than they left.

What was first thought to be a decline by the various pundits wasn't a decline at all. It was more a correction in direction. It became a forum for smaller companies in front of the largest collection of buyers in the world. The little guy had a chance and took advantage of it. TaylorMade won't dominate the show; they're going to have to learn how to coexist.
As in every year, there is one product that makes you think, "what were they thinking of?"
This year a release landed in my e-mail box about the Windage. It's a container of "fine powder" reads the release. The golfer is spray the powder into the air, watch it closely and be able to tell exactly the direction in which the wind is blowing.

In truth, this is the second generation of a product called "Windfloater." That was a container of what appeared to be lint. You'd take it out of this hockey puck-shaped container, throw it in the air and watch it fly.

I thought at the time about a guy who had thought and planned for years to invent the greatest golf gadget of all times. When he finally had it, he proudly showed it off to a friend and the friend turned to him and asked, "Have you heard of grass?"

As a side note to the Windage people. The USGA and the R&A have ruled that such tools that gauge the wind are outside elements. Every time you spray the powder or toss some lint, it's a two-stroke penalty.

Like I said, what were they thinking?

Hey, on that note, Pour Me Another One. I'm working on this gadget sets off a buzzer every time I start the club back off line. It fits in the glove. No one will ever know. This is such a great idea---make it a double.


The Season Opens

"Pour Me Another One" is an editorial column by Jack O'Leary that contain his musings on what is going on in the world of golf. The views expressed in his columns in no way reflect the views or opinions of Golf Marketing Services. Check back on a regular basis to find out what thoughts the golf scribe has imparted to his public.

Ah yes, it's the first week of the PGA Tour and the 2007 Mercedes Championship at the Kapalua Resort on Maui where the 2006 tournament winners congregate to divvy up another few mill.

It's similar to the Tour Championship where the rich get rewarded for getting rich over the season with a 30-player field, no-cut cash fest. Only last year, it was a 28-player field as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson passed on the opportunity. Come to think of it, Phil never plays in that event. Usually, he's had a full pot of subglutaenous fat (read money) by then and goes home.

For the past three years this event has garnered a bit more mainland coverage then normal, because a 13, no 14, no 15-year old girl was going to play in the Sony Open the following week in Hawaii. She'll be there this week as a 16-year old as well. Rather than her appearance being considered her challenge to the men, the fourth estate looks at it as a sponsor's appearance for Sony, one of her largest benefactors.

She was amazing as a 13-year old; precocious as a 14-year old; fraught with possibilities as a 15-year old and now just another sponsor's exemption as a 16-year old. If she's going to earn her way back into the golf public's heart, she's going to have to do something positive and do it this year.

It's time for a strategic reconstruction. She's a lot closer to a beautiful woman than a little girl. It's time her schedule reflects that. She could be walking down the aisle towards her coronation as Queen of woman's golf, but it's a long ceremony and the procession has to start now.
Not only does she have the presence and the style to carry this off, she also has the perfect foil for years to come in Morgan Pressel. Judging by her snipes at Wie over the past few years, the potential for not only a rivalry highlighted by tremendous golf is possible, the cat fights would be very entertaining. It would finally give the LPGA a spotlight.

Here's a real coincidence. Golf's two names with the biggest buzz in recent vintage have been Woods and Wie. They both play equipment ostensibly manufactured by the company with the swoosh. It wasn't many years ago that Mickelson publicly marveled at Woods' record saying, "it's amazing considering he's using inferior equipment." It must be said, that that was about four, or five major championships ago for Tiger. However, in a recent pre-holiday during a golf version of a 10,000 mile checkup, it was reported by "someone who was there," that there was barely a correctly constructed club in Wie's bag. Evidently, her equipment needs a bigger makeover than Rosie O'Donnell.

This can't happen when there's the future of a real prodigy at stake. Bad equipment yields bad swing habits which in turn yields bad years. You know the rest. Diligence people, diligence.
There was a bit of to do about Wie being accepted to Stanford. After all, she can't play golf there, having turned professional and all. Also, isn't there a tremendous financial opportunity out on the fairways of the LPGA directly ahead?

Don't be taken in by her desire to go to college. Sure she wants to go, but it will be mostly by a virtual classroom that she can connect to whenever needed (most likely connected by a Sony product).

This is a great deal for Stanford. There's a veritable plethora young Oriental students who want to study in the U.S. Most of those don't have to worry about a grant-in-aid, if you know what I mean. So a letter from Michelle inviting them to join her at Stanford accompanied by an autographed picture should be well worth the free ride she'll receive. Judging from the recent talent on the LPGA Tour, the Stanford woman's golf team won't suffer from this move either.

This could be the year for Michelle Wie. A few less appearances in the John Deere Classics, et al and a few more on the regular LPGA schedule would be a very positive career move and you can believe she's in need of something positive on the golf course.

All right, she can try to qualify for the U.S. Open. If she makes it to Oakmont, than she will have earned the headlines against the men. Until then, become a golfer and not just a story.
By the way. You don't have to pour me another this week---the holidays, you know (I need a little break).

See you soon,