Thursday, April 24, 2008

Meet the Montgomeries

Best wishes to the often churlish Scot, Colin Montgomerie who swapped “I do’s” with Gaynor Knowles, widow of the late British furniture tycoon George Knowles last weekend. It is the second marriage for both and probably a relief to Monty who has been linked with many women in the UK since his divorce from his wife of 14-years, Eimear.

Reports have it that the nuptials took place at Loch Lomond Golf Club. The unusually tight security necessitated that the club and all facilities to be closed for the five days preceding the ceremony. This did not sit very well with the locals who were prevented from playing the course.

The invitation list read like a Who’s Who. RSVPs were received from Prince Charles, his brother Andrew the Duke of York, actor Hugh Grant and British rocker Robbie Williams promised to make his first live appearance in a couple of years at the reception. The only problem was none of them showed.

Hey, who needs them when Monty’s legion of friends on the European PGA Tour would fill the seats? Not so much. The only players who showed were those who are indentured to IMG who also manhandle Monty. There is a bit of irony there. When Monty finished up at Houston Baptist College, he wanted to work for IMG as an agent and decided he’d play until an opening came up. The rest, as they say, is history.

According to British tabloid reports, the wedding was very stylish featuring an off white, full length bejeweled dress and that Monty looked elegant in it. Just kidding, I couldn’t escape the Mrs. Doubtfire reference. That was Gaynor’s elegance. But not one to disappoint, Monty did wear a kilt made of the Montgomerie tartan (you can make your own Mrs. Doubtfire joke now).

The tab for the day reportedly topped the million dollar mark and was capped by a $20,000 fireworks display over the water. (I often question the wisdom of introducing a fireworks display into a marriage at anytime because they usually show up on their own at sometime or other.)

Actually, the best wishes are sincere. From Monday through Wednesday, Colin is a great guy. He’s somewhat witty, intelligent and if not outright friendly, he’s accommodating. Thursday through Sunday more often than not he can be a horse’s butt and that’s with all due apology to the horse. It’s a shame that the public only sees the Thursday through Sunday Monty, because there is a lot more.

This union may lead to a large cutback in Monty’s future playing schedule. He credits his divorce to his overloaded schedule and wrote in his biography that “Perhaps I would have been better off making half the money and spending double the time at home.”

We’ll see how all this works out. The new Mrs. Monty, a non-golfer by the way, brings four children to the dinner table to join Monty’s (he has custody) three. He has already promised to play nine weeks in a row in an effort to make the Ryder Cup team. HELLOOO! Read your own book Monty. She has $40 million, you have enough that you had to shell out $30 million to Eimear and you have to have something left. Smell the roses. Here’s hoping that you at least left the clubs home during the honeymoon. Scratch that last one. I took mine on my honeymoon, but only played once. Ahhh no, I’m not still married.

Fittingly, as Monty was tying the knot in Scotland his new buddy Boo Weekley was successfully defending his crown at the Verizon Heritage Classic on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
“Monty’s new buddy Boo Weekley?” you ask. That would be like biting an apple and having it taste like an orange, or Timmie Finchem being asked to be an usher at Greg Norman’s wedding. It doesn’t make sense.

The fact is, Monty is a big fan of the pride of Milton, Fla. Paired with Boo at an event late last season, Monty marveled at Boo’s demeanor saying his attitude on the course is perfect. He doesn’t get caught up on the last shot and is looking forward to hitting the next one. Monty also wished he could be more like that. Fat chance!
You’ve got to love Boo. Currently, he’s living in a single wide trailer on blocks and has for a while. His reasoning is perfect Boo. It has everything he and his wife need and they don’t have to walk very far to get anything.

However, he’s now in the process of having a house built. When asked if he would put his latest trophy in a case in the house, he said “Probably, but for the time being it might go in the barn for a while because there isn’t room in the trailer.”
Boo is who he is, when asked why he thinks people seem to gravitate to him, he says, “Well sir (it’s always sir or ma’am) I think it’s the name Boo because I don’t think people would think there’s anything special about Thomas Weekley.”
He’s so real and down to earth that he played with his mother in the Pro Am last week. I’d venture a guess that never occurred to any of the more “polished” players. Boo is Larry the Cable Guy in a micro fiber golf shirt. Monty thinks he’s a quality guy and if he’s good enough for Monty, well he damn well is good enough for everyone else.

Bartender, please send a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue to the Montgomerie’s table and remind the Mrs. that she’ll need nothing less than doubles when she’s with Colin between Thursday and Sunday. While you’re at it, how about a couple of cans of Natty Light for Boo and I?
See you on the first tee.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hootie made mockery of Masters

After intently watching the Masters I have come to the conclusion that former Masters chairman Hootie Johnson should be hung by his nether regions for ruining the best tournament in the world.

It was Johnson’s idea to “Tigerproof” Augusta National. Instead he ruined the essence of the tournament, or “toonimint” as he pronounces it. The element of the possibility of a Sunday back nine charge to the winner’s circle has been removed. Now, thanks to Hootie, the only charge will be down the leader board.

The damage he did starts at the then 480-yard par-4 10th hole. It just wasn’t long enough for ole Hoots. Never mind that the green sits at a perverse angle and getting the ball close to the hole with a middle to long iron is only by luck.

Then there’s the 11th hole, now a ridiculous 505-yard par 4. Hootie added trees on the right hand side taking all strategy out of the hole. This is the hole with water guarding the front left of the green. Ben Hogan used to say that if he hit the green in regulation, he’d pulled the shot. This year on Sunday, there was one birdie on 11 out of the top 25 players in the field and that was a 45-foot bomb by Tiger Woods. This is another Hootie-driven backup hole.

Due to room constrictions, even Hootie couldn’t mess up the par-3 12th and par-5 13th holes, but he got his game back on the 14th and 15th holes. He pushed back the tee on the par-4 14th and then made the toughest green on the course somewhat a joke. All that’s missing is the swinging bowling pin and the clown’s nose.

The par-5 15th was always a crowd favorite because of the dramatic second shot. The charging competitor could attempt to carry the water in front of the green setting up a possible eagle or birdie. A less than well struck shot could literally throw cold water on a challenge for the top of the board. Now, with 35-40 extra yards and trees intruding on the left side of the fairway, the drama is limited to how far back the golfer will lay up. Yawn.

He couldn’t touch the beautiful par-3 16th, but made 17 and 18 bogey holes. By adding 45-yards to 17, he assured that at least half the field couldn’t drive past the Eisenhower tree if playing into the wind. Now, players are forced to hit clubs into a green that isn’t suited for the lower trajectory shots from that distance.

Hootie finished by adding at least 50 yards to the last hole. Where golfers strategically would hit a 3-wood off the tee to avoid the bunkers at the left corner of the fairway, they now can’t get a driver to the sand. By hitting a driver, the trees on the right and left are in play. Into a strong wind, some players were hitting fairway woods for the second shot and not getting to the green. Because the hole is so severely uphill, wood, hybrid or long iron shots were coming in so hot they wouldn’t hold the green.

Right now, there’s an 80-20 chance that a golfer will shoot 40 on the back nine to lose the Masters than there is a chance of a golfer shooting 32 to come from behind and win. Instead of the drama and excitement of Sunday afternoon at the Masters, we’re going to have to find a way to gear up for that always exciting Saturday afternoon, or maybe morning round. Thanks Hootie. You took the drama and excitement of the Masters from us and left memories of Martha Burk behind.

Sick call has been answered by Tiger Woods and John Daly. I know what you’re thinking. One should never be there and the other should never leave.
Tiger had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Supposedly, this was just to clean things up a bit and there was no real damage. According to reports, this surgery had been planned last year. I wonder how serious he thought winning the Grand Slam was doable. Then again, he had won seven times on unsteady pins.

If you said Daly’s surgery was a gastric bypass to eliminate that Miller Lite tumor hanging over his belt, I might believe it. If you said it was to scrape the tar off his lungs left by his chain smoking, I might believe it. But when they say it was to repair torn stomach muscles and that that was why he’s played so poorly for the past two years, I don’t know.

It would seem reasonable that swilling down copious amounts of Miller Lite and Jack Daniels might have been a contributor. Eating a diet that included everything except the grilled chicken and the salads from the Hooter’s menu might have been a contributor. Let’s not underplay the stress that comes from dropping yet another couple of hundred grand at a casino which might tighten the sphincter when looking at a 5-foot putt to make the cut.

Look, I was one who ascribed to the theory that if six pack abs were great, two keg abs would be spectacular. John took that theory and amplified three times. I don’t think either of us has had to worry about stomach muscles for a long time. Regardless, let’s hope that his surgeon implanted his game when he was tying up loose ends and we can once again admire JD for his tremendous game on the course rather than off.

Bartender, please pour me another. This time make it a low-cal smoothie. Pour John a double smoothie and Tiger some of his energy drink. Hootie? How about brewing him an old southern favorite—oleander tea.

See you on the first tee,


Monday, April 14, 2008

Changing professions ... finally?

I think it’s time for a career change. Before you say it, I know I should have done it years ago. Some thought I already did. Get your smartass remarks off your chest. I’ll wait … Okay, done now?

My new career is as a golf instructor and I’m only going to have one student. His name is Tiger Woods. Seriously, I think I can handle it. All I have to do is stand there and watch him swing a few times and physically position his hands in the exact same place they were before. As he launches shot after shot with pinpoint accuracy, I’ll calmly ask, “How’s that feel pro?” Naturally, he’ll say great and within two weeks, I’ll be hailed as the next great golf guru.

I figure that this attests to two things. One is how great he’s playing and two; I’m not quite as dumb as I look.

Seriously, what is going on with all the changes of instructors? Ernie Els leaves David Leadbetter after 18 years for Butch Harmon. There are many marriages that don’t last that long. Last year after spending most of his career under the tutelage of Rick Smith, Phil Mickelson drops him in favor of Harmon and wins the Players Championship within a fortnight. Did these forsaken instructors get stupid and Harmon brilliant over night? I don’t think so, but it seems now, more than ever, pros are playing musical chairs with instructors.

Of course there have been trends. How often have you heard TV commentators say about Charles Howell III, “I don’t understand why he hasn’t won more”? Or, “Michelle Wie’s game hasn’t advanced as it should.” The commonality is what is known in the golf underground as “Lead Poisoning.” Yet, Leadbetter coached Els to a pair of US Open and a British Open Championship, so why hasn’t he made other pros better?

Smith has been somewhat an enigma. His prize pupils have been Mickelson and two-time US Open champion Lee Janzen. At last report, Janzen is still with Smith, but he doesn’t have his Tour card right now and is playing at the whim of sponsors and their exemptions. Smith on the other hand, Smith might be a bit preoccupied with Tree Tops Resort in Gaylord, Michigan where he first got on the radar as an instructor. He has done so well between his teaching, his string of golf schools at sundry resorts and endorsement fees for endorsing everything you can and can’t imagine that he purchased Tree Tops.

This brings us to Hank Haney. Haney replaced Harmon as Woods’ instructor. Tiger had decided he wanted to completely change his swing. I guess winning the Masters and US Opens by record-setting margins wasn’t good enough. He had it outlined and hired Haney to look over the conversion. Prior to the Woods hookup, Haney’s claim to fame was he was Mark O’Meara’s guru and guided him to a Masters and British Open Championship.

Haney followed Woods’ wishes and the next thing you know, Haney is the latest and greatest. He almost committed the unforgivable sin of becoming too famous by appearing as a commentator during ESPN broadcasts. Harmon and former caddie Fluff Cowan did the same thing en route to the unemployment line. There’s only one driver of that bus and that’s Tiger. Employees best not try to partake of any reflected glory. By the way Tiger, I get the message. Endorsements and camera time aren’t my cup of tea.

Speaking of cups, bartender pour my new boss a cup of human kindness and myself a double of humility.

See you on the first tee,


Friday, April 4, 2008

No Monty at the Masters

What does Prayad Marksaeng, Liang Wen-hong and Jeeve Milka Singh have in common other than names that short circuit spell check? They’re ranked lower in the world rankings than Colin Montgomerie, but unlike Monty, they’ve been invited to play in the Masters.

This just in and I know you’re shocked, Monty is not a happy camper and maybe he has a legitimate gripe this time. As the sullen Scot pointed out, the invitations were issued to protect the worldwide television rights Augusta National receives, i.e. Marksaeng—Thailand, Wen-hong—China and Singh—India. This not the first time Monty has been passed by. A few years ago, he was bumped in favor of Japan’s Shingo Katayama for basically the same reason.

“Now if I were the only person in the country, a la China, I might get in,” says Monty. “It is a strange way to make up a field for a major championship—television rights. They are quite open why. It would be easier to swallow if no one was invited and it was done on sporting and not commercial criteria.”

He’s correct of course, with the minor exception that the Masters is the only major that is not a championship. It’s just the Masters. Let’s face it, Augusta National is a club comprised of businessmen—make that very successful businessmen. They look at the Masters as a business with all the benevolence of Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s their party and if you can’t do them any good, you don’t get an invitation. Is it fair? Hell no. Is it the way it is? It is what it is.

The pity is that by stating the obvious, Monty will learn that the hoi and polloi at Augusta National will do all they can to see that Monty never darkens their door again. Sometimes truth does have its consequences.

You’ve got to love 72-year old Edwin Harman of Orpington, Kent, England. Eddie was in mid-putt on a golf buddy trip to Portugal when his phone rang. It was the Mrs. informing Eddie that a Cessna had crashed into their 450,000 pound house and destroyed it.

Did Eddie jump in his cart, catch a ride to the airport and go flying home to his distraught wife? Of course not. Eddie not only finished that round, he also stayed and played the next day as well.

“I’m told there’s not much left,” Eddie was quoted as saying in the Daily Mail, “but I’m trying not to let it spoil my holiday. I’m sure my wife will look after things until I return.”

Eddie was implored by his home owner’s insurance company to return immediately to go through the rubble. Eddie said, “not so fast. I have to finish my holiday. I’ll return immediately after it’s completed.”

Fortunately, the Mrs. wasn’t home when the crash occurred. She was herself returning from her own holiday. Unfortunately, the five people in the plane were killed which leads me to wonder why listed the story in their “Lighter Side of Golf” section.

What golfer not named Tiger Woods has a chance to win the Masters? Probably no one, but if you’re determined to look for one, don’t look for another Zack Johnson - type to win the green jacket. Going by pedigree, Phil Mickelson is the next favorite. Don’t dismiss Retief Goosen. His game is finally coming back. Jim Furyk has a chance, but the course setup might be a bit long for him. Advance weather forecasts call for the usual rain interruptions that will lengthen the course even more.

The sentimental favorite is Ernie Els, who has come oh so close in the past. Like Greg Norman before him, it seems that the big South African should be destined to win at Augusta National. Unfortunately, he’s getting closer to being this generation’s Norman. It’s a mantle he’s got to shed. It just seems to me that even with the two U.S. Open championships and one British Open championship, his resume won’t be complete without a Masters to his credit.

Bartender, pour glasses of Merlot for both Messrs. Els and Norman from their own vineyards if you please. Also could you bring some cheddar for Monty—you know the one that goes so well with his whine. While you’re at it pour a spot of tea for Eddie, before he got home, the fire went out and he couldn’t heat the pot. Don’t worry about him. He can survive on the heavy helpings of cold shoulder and hot tongue the Mrs. is serving these days.

See you on the first tee,