Category: Uncategorized (page 3 of 4)

Where Santa is a fat dude with a 9.0 index

Yes, it’s that time of year again…looks outside. Actually it isn’t. It’s 68 degrees. ON THE FIRST DAY OF WINTER. SERIOUSLY WTF IS GOING ON? Where the f*** was this weather in April when I was freezing my raisins off being an idiot in shorts? While I thought long and hard about teeing it up this morning, I compromised and went to the driving range to bid adieu to the 2013 golf year (unless it warms up again next weekend in which case I’ll be there again).

While the weather would not indicate such, it will be Christmas on Wednesday. Supposedly. I think. In the spirit of Christmas, I went shopping for my golf-related friends. Since some of these folks won’t open their gifts (and look at me being all generous), I’m going to spoil the surprise and tell you what I got them.

Columbia Association run-courses…now you haven’t always been that good this year (in fact you’ve been a bit naughty at times and that new clubhouse is all good and well but a well-maintained golf course would be nice to see), but I got you a new, online tee time system! No more having to go through the hell of having pick up the phone and try to call in to make a tee time, talk to five different people (none of whom can actually help you), and lose 25 minutes of your life you’ll never get back. Now, people can book online, and you’ll make more money! How great is that?

Timbers at Troy and Waverly Woods…you’re trying to be good so we’re going to give you improved drainage and larger, fully stocked pro shops. You’re also getting indoor simulators, so people have reasons to come visit you all year! How awesome is that? Now don’t go leaving cookies and milk for Santa…just leave a sleeve of ProV1X’s and three fingers of Glenlivet 18-year.

Northwest Park Golf Course…you’ve been really good this year to Santa. Really, really good. So Santa is going to give you a new all grass practice area on top of your existing range with mats. Just make sure that Santa keeps holing those 8-foot putts.

Redgate Golf Course…you get a lease extension to continue to operate as a course. And, since you asked and were nice to Santa (that 75 Santa shot there was very, very nice of you), Santa’s going to have them go in and give you a new 11th green. And Santa’s going to put up a net along the 14th hole to avoid left-fading drives to go onto the street.

University of Maryland golf course…you’re getting a lease extension as well to continue to operate. The University golf teams, students, and the golfing public all need you, and your funky yet challenging layout should continue to give area golfers a true hidden treat. You weren’t that nice to Santa when he played there, but that’s okay, because you’re a great course.

Golf Channel’s Michael Breed…it’s called decaf. Santa’s hooking you up. Take the hint. You’re a smart guy…but seriously…decaf.

Glen Nager of the USGA. You’re a naughty, naughty boy. You thought you could just take over the USGA and run it like your own little kingdom. Didn’t work out. You don’t really understand or get public golfers. So Santa is giving you the proverbial lump of coal, and a case of the yips, AND every time you turn a TV on you’re going to see Glenn Kessler naked while talking about The Perfect Club while Gary McCord dances around only wearing a cowboy hat and chaps. You’re welcome.

Tim Finchem of the PGA Tour. Santa already gave you your present. It’s a new format for the FedEx Cup Playoffs! It’s on this blog! Don’t make me go Full Kessler on you.

Phil Mickelson…you’ve been a good lad all year. So Santa is going to get you that one thing he knows you really, really want. You can pick it up in June at Pinehurst. But I won’t tell anyone. It’ll be our secret.

Tiger Woods…you’re a bit tough to buy for. I mean, you’ve got more money than anyone can count. But, Santa is getting you your own USGA rules seminar. I could make Brandel Chamblee your instructor, but that seems petty. We’ll do it somewhere local so you don’t have to spend time away from your new girlfriend and your kids. But let’s take notes- there will be a test.

Ian Poulter…your comments on Twitter are, if nothing else, entertaining. And judging by your tweets, you seem to have quite a bit of very nice things. But you finally called out the rubes that scream random crap at tournaments during the USPGA Championship. Which was good. So you’re going to get a Ryder Cup spot on the team (the event is better when you’re in it), and maybe, just maybe, a major championship. But let’s take it down half a notch on the “look at my toys” tweets. Nobody is asking you to give up your well-earned trappings. Half a notch.

To anyone who yells “mashed potatoes” or anything similar at a tournament…you’re getting a couple thousand fire ants in your undershorts. Just stop it. It stopped being funny a long time ago. Just stop. Please.

Sergio Garcia…where do I even start? Here’s a pair of shoes that Santa has grilled for you. Insert in mouth.

Miguel-Angel Jiminez…Santa would send you a case of rioja and cigars but it seems you’re all set. So Santa is going to give you another win, and some starts in the US. Because watching you play…makes Santa very happy and hopeful.

The LPGA Tour…Santa is going to give you perfect weather for all your events next year. It seems the least Santa can do. You deserve it after two years of rain, hail, lightning and seemingly plagues of locusts. Maybe then people will tune in and realize just how good you all are, and that you all have some serious game.

Christina Kim…a year ago you missed out at the LPGA Tour Q-School and were battling the kinds of demons that no one would ever wish on their worst enemy. And yet, you went out there and did what touring professionals do- you got into tournaments
and gave it everything you could. So Santa is giving you at least one win this upcoming season.

Nick Faldo…you’re getting a time machine where you go back to 2004! Back when you were really point-on with your analysis and weren’t spewing empty superlatives. You’re not dumb. In fact, you’re pretty sharp and you know what you’re talking about. No histrionics, but you’re a former pro who’s won several majors. Put us in the head of players. Tell me something I don’t know.

David Feherty…you’re hilarious, insightful, and possibly a savant. You’ve been good and you’re a dog person. So Santa will give you exactly what you want. You deserve it.

And on that note, I hope you get what you’re looking for this season.

Small Business Saturday in the HoCo

This past Saturday November 30th was “Small Business Saturday” which encourages folks to shop at local stores. It’s a great idea after the orgy of stupidity and mayhem that often accompanies the so-called “Black” Friday after Thanksgiving. Since golf stuffs are always in good taste and honestly- why not buy for yourself (my arguement is that I know I’ll like it, and I’ll be happy to have it…and other than maybe a bottle of good scotch there’s not much else I’d want)?

So armed with money and my sanity, I set out to find out how I could do that.

The trouble started when I did some online searching- Howard County is a lot of things, but clearly, we’re not larded up with golf retailers. And by “not larded up” I mean “none exist”…which is okay, I thought- I can go to courses and they’ll have stuff- surely they’ll want to get in on the fun, right?

Not so much. The Columbia Association courses were shuttered. Empty parking lots and dark pro shops mean no revenue (and if we’re being honest, the pro shops at Hobbit’s Glen and Fairway Hills are, at best, poorly stocked afterthoughts). Calls to Waverly Woods and Timbers at Troy found no success either. Yes- we had a horrible cold snap and we had heavy rain in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and I’m sure that this impacted things. Nonetheless, it’s frustrating when, as a consumer, you have money to spend and a desire to spend it, and you have zero luck trying to support a local business.

Having lived here, I supported the now-defunct Mammoth Golf from its infancy to its death (I was deeply saddened to see it close up) and still try, whenever possible, to support local businesses. With that being said, as a golf consumer, I had two options in Howard County- go to the dueling big-box retailers on Rt. 175 (that would be Dick’s Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy). Of the two I’ve always preferred Golf Galaxy even though they’re the same parent company- the people at Golf Galaxy are more in the know about golf.

Never mind that they don’t sell big and tall sized golf apparel (nor do they even offer it online- for golf apparel I have to shop online (I’ve had my best success buying shoes through TGW and buying apparel through Cutter and Buck’s online store)- even shoes (I have a wide foot and wear a wide width) has become an online-only episode (although at Golf Galaxy they did have a few wide sizes in a few models) as well.

I don’t want to be made to feel as though my only option for buying clothes and shoes is online. While it’s convenient, I like to try before I buy.

As much as it pains me to point this out, the Montgomery County courses had specials and did a much better job marketing Small Business Saturday (they sent out emails with specials and have indoor simulator packages).

Hopefully next year we’ll see a Small Business Saturday that golfers can participate in. I hope.

Joining the social media thing

Since my feelings about social media run similar to Ron Swanson, joining Twitter was akin to getting a bad tattoo while sober. Nonetheless, I’m on twitter. You can follow my incoherent ramblings and drunken stupidity @1golferincart where I seek to perform the Twitter equivalent of 4-putting from 10 feet.

A FedEx Cup Playoff Proposal Nobody Asked For

First off- full marks to Henrik Stenson for winning both the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the European Tour Championship. To get hot like that when it counts, and be able to raise his game both in September and again in October-November is no small feat. From the system used, he won. Nonetheless, I keep wondering “is this the best system?” which led me, like many, to go have a few drinks and then go to my special thinkin’ place and work up a solution. It took me about 20 minutes. It’s fair, it’ll be easily understood by audiences, and it’s nothing silly at all.

To begin, I started by looking at playoffs in other sports. In the “big four” team sports in North America, a total of 54 teams out of 121 make the playoffs. That’s 43.9% or 44%. Less than half. In tennis, only the top 16 make the World Finals out of approximately 250 players on the circuit. In looking at the PGA Tour, factoring in past champions and current players, I came up with approximately 200 players (not counting Monday qualifiers). Half of that would be 100. However, in my system I’m all about helping certain events that don’t always get the best fields. So much like the Open Championship does, it’ll be the top 95 getting in, along with the top 5 players in the events immediately following majors (when they tend to suffer from depleted fields).

I’d use the first event and get down to the top 60. How do we do it? First- using what other leagues do, the top 10 players are automatically entered in the second week. It’s the first round bye. So from that, it’s rather simple- finish in the top 50 and you move on. In every other sport (including tennis) there’s no credit other than a first round bye or home game advantage for having a great midseason. A regular season is just that- this is the playoffs and it’s about winning when it counts.

The second event starts at 60 (top 50 from week 1 plus your top 10). Have to finish in the top 40 to move on to the 3rd event (so no more “I have a boo-boo…this course doesn’t suit my eye). If the top 10 guys can’t put it together here…too bad. You had 2 weeks to prepare. Much like the old Q-school days, if you can’t play then you’re out. The point of a playoff system is that you have to play your best golf at this point.

The third event is where I make things interesting. Instead of standard stroke play, the third event is a Stableford. The PGA Tour used to have a Stableford event. Under my system they do now. The top 16 move onto the PGA Tour Final or Tour Championship (same number as make the ATP/WTA Finals).

The fourth event is matchplay. Use the existing rankings that come out of the last event (see- there’s your reward for season-long excellence- a better seed in the final event). 1 plays 16, 2 plays 15, and so on. No math formulas, just win and you move on. You end up with one match for the $10mm first prize (I’d throw in a lifetime exemption). The average sports fan won’t understand the whole points thing, but two guys playing one match for $10mm? A true Final.

For the players who make the playoffs, there should be an incentive- your Tour card is guaranteed for the next year (that’s your reward for making the playoffs). I’d also grant automatic exemptions into the following year’s majors for anyone making the top 16.

So that’s my modest proposal. A playoff system that the average fan can understand and one that does what a playoff should do- build interest and have a Final day that rewards your champion.

Lake Presidential Course Review

I took an early start to the Labor Day weekend with a trek down to Upper Marlboro and a round at Lake Presidential Golf Club, which is part of a larger residential development. I had played a charity event at Lake Presidential back in 2009 so I was interested to see how the course had matured since then.

Lake Presidential is located off US 301; south of the Bowie/Crofton area. Because of this, your traffic time to get there can vary. If you take the Capital Beltway it’s north of Rt. 4 but south of Rt. 214. Playing early, I made easy time to get down there. I was greeted by a friendly pro shop and a cart attendant got my bag on a cart for me (they are going for the “member for a day” type of club). One nice thing is that they include range balls on their practice facility and have grass tees in season (they may use mats during the winter). Carts have GPS and the course has several sets of tees; the black tees are just over 6800 yards and have a 137 slope. The blue tees (which I played) were just under 6400 yards with a 129 slope (this I found to be a good fit). They have a championship set of tees that they normally don’t use; at over 7200 yards and a 141 slope…probably for the best. They have a grill inside and had a tented half-way hut (the grilled hot dogs were smelling pretty good), and their pro shop was very well stocked.

The course was a bit worse for wear the day I played it; several greens had dead spots and the fairways were similar. I don’t think (based on my observations) that this is down to a lack of maintenance (I saw several folks out working on the course) but rather a function of some awful weather patterns.

Lake Presidential doesn’t start off easily- the first hole is a tough, tree-lined par 4 that bends to the left and will punish any wayward drives. The first par 5 is on #3 and is no slouch (in fact, all of their par 5’s are stout and have numerous challenges).

The signature hole is #8, a tight and long par 5 with a peninsula green and several danger areas. I was lucky to get off of the green with a 6. The front 9 finishes with a longish par 3 that’s all carry over water to a 2-tiered green (I had a bit of good luck to use the slope to my advantage and ended up with a 2).

The back 9 starts tough and stays tough. The 12th is a tough downhill par 3 that looks easy but can wreck your card. The 13th was unlucky for me (it’s a beauty of a hole- a par 5 with an elevated tee to a picturesque tree-lined fairway (I’m sure it was pretty- I spent the hole hacking out of trees). From there, holes 15-18 give you a chance to recover and end positively. 16 is a downhill par 3 to a large green, 17 is a short par 4 that the big hitters could go for (or you could go into the trees on the right)…which leads to 18. 18 is a par 5 that requires a longish carry over a lake to a fairly generous fairway and ends with a very tricky green (for me at least- I three-jacked it to end with a dissatisfactory bogey after 2 great shots had me thinking birdie).

Because of its proximity and relationship with the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor, they get their fair share of outings (which if we’re being honest can’t help with conditions).

All in all, it’s a tough but fun track. Would I go back? Yes assuming I could keep the ball in the fairway.

Timbers at Troy Course Review

Any time I do a course review, I try to write this for someone who hasn’t played the course, and try, to the extent possible, to present factual and balanced information about the course. So here goes.

Timbers at Troy is located in Elkridge, MD and is a partnership between Howard County with the course managed by Kemper Sports Management. The course has been open since the very early 2000’s (I played my first round there in 2003 and still have the scorecard-I have all my scorecards so when the Golf Channel starts their “Golf Hoarders” show…look me up).

For various reasons, Timbers has fallen off my rota of courses that I play, largely due to conditioning and their attitude about single golfers like myself. Even trying to get a tee time is brutally hard (their tee sheet the day I played was wide open…but if you’re a single…not happening). Nonetheless, I walked on and hoped for the best. The guy in the pro shop was friendly enough and got me on my way. There was no starter, so went off.

Unlike most courses, Timbers at Troy doesn’t give you a handshake hole; they give you a toughie from the start- a tight long par 4 with woods to the right and trees left. The day I played I noticed signs up touting that they were starting a project to improve their bunkers (good on them- their bunkers are currently in dire need of repair- you can argue about what kind of condition bunkers should be in- if you want to go the “natural” look I’m all for it…but if you’re going with a traditional tree-lined parkland course…they shouldn’t be like hitting out of rock-strewn paste). The second hole is a dogleg par 5; after that a couple short par 4’s before you hit their “signature” hole, a medium length par 3 that’s all carry over an environmental area. The 9th is a brutish par 5 with a semi-blind second shot uphill to an elevated landing area.

The day I played, the course was in mixed condition. Several fairways had clearly not fared well with the summer (June was one thunderstorm after another, July was all over the board and August has gone from cool to hot and back to cool). Despite this, I’ve played several tracks this month that are in much better condition. Greens were mixed as well- on some holes there were great, others they were a touch bumpy. I don’t know their aeration schedule but it’s probably happening later this month (their website didn’t have any information on this; if you plan on going my advice is to ask).

The back nine starts off with a brutish par 4 that requires a second shot over a hazard/environmental area to an uphill green. For me the best hole on the back 9 is 17; a dogleg par 5 that plays downhill and has a man-made lake on the left side of the green. A definite birdie opportunity and also a chance to ruin your round (everything a good par 5 should be). 18 is a longish par 4 that plays uphill (and longer). You can score here and make a number, but get wild off the tee and you can easily make double bogey or worse. You don’t need Tour length. You need acccuracy.

The problem with this, as you might imagine, is that pace of play can be diabolical on weekends (or anytime the course is busy). One thing they used to do (their new scorecards don’t have this) is a recommended tee box by handicap index; I’ve seen 20-handicappers play this course from the tips (it’s one of the places six hour rounds come from). The blue tees are just over 6100 yards and will give most golfers plenty of challenge (at that you’re looking at a 70.8 rating and a 134 slope).

The course has a pro shop that has hats, balls, shirts, and a few other items for sale. There’s a snack bar that has what you’d expect (nothing fancy but it’s perfunctory).

Timbers will always be a special place for me; my career best round came there (a 73 a few years ago), but like many things, it’s changed. I wish them well and hope that their renovations bode well and they end up with a course in tip-top condition. But given the options available to me, I just don’t know how many more times I want to be treated like a third class citizen because I’m a single (if you don’t want to take tee times for singles, follow the PB Dye example and spell it out).

Plus, if you’re sending people out in the morning on the back 9, they better be able to keep up (the day I played they put a bunch of slow-moving types…and just like that, things back up and your pace of play grinds to a halt). Your time par in the morning should be a lot faster than during middle of the day.

If you’re playing as a twosome, you could do a lot worse than Timbers at Troy. There are some fun holes, and most of the people I’ve met there are friendly and want to be helpful. You might do better but you could do worse.

USGA Rights Package to Fox Say What?

Lost amid the buildup for the PGA Championship this week was news that the USGA TV rights package (which includes all USGA-conducted events including the US Open, US Women’s Open and US Senior Open) was awarded to FOX starting in 2015. Lost amid the glee of never having to deal with Chris Berman polluting my television during the US Open, was one tiny little issue- FOX has never produced nor aired a professional golf tournament in North America. Yes, BSkyB in Britain airs the US PGA tour as well as the European Tour (and the Ryder Cup), but their US coverage consists of using the US network’s feed.

When NBC acquired the rights from ABC beginning with the 1995 US Open, at least NBC had golf coverage (and Johnny Miller was already their lead analyst). FOX cannot say that, which means that their first coverage will be for the US Open in 2015 in Chambers Bay (which has hosted a US Amateur but never a US Open). They don’t have a producer (Tommy Roy and Lance Barrow handle this for NBC and CBS respectively), and they don’t have announcers.

So why did this happen? The only logical reason is money- FOX outbid NBC (John Feinstein, in his outstanding book “Open” about the 2002 US Open at Bethpage Black, detailed the negotiations between the USGA and the networks…his book revealed that NBC outbid ABC by several million dollars per year…and this was 1994 dollars).

It’s hard to see CBS or NBC allowing their announcers to go work for a competitor (and with Fox rolling out Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 later this month they won’t want to use other networks for coverage), especially with what I’m sure is no small amount of acrimony. So FOX is essentially starting from scratch. If I were running things, this would be what I’d do:

Host: Joe Buck. Novice to golf, but NBC uses Bob Costas in a similar role at the US Open. Name recognition and there’s that familiarity to boot.

Anchor: If FOX is serious, they should make a play for someone like Rich Lerner at The Golf Channel. While casual sports fans may not know him, your core golf audience does. If they have to bring someone in internally, I’d look at Thom Brennaman. Solid on baseball, and knows enough to punt to the analysts. Your wild card would be Vin Scully, who’s done golf and was pretty good. Question is does he want the gig and is he willing to travel? Which brings me to…

Main Analyst: Ken Venturi was and is the gold standard. FOX can go three directions:
1) Greg Norman. Norman tried to start a World Golf Tour (reaching out to FOX’s David Hill) in 1994…before the PGA Tour started the World Golf Championships. A light schedule of 3-4 events per year wouldn’t overly tax him (given his other business interests). He’s not afraid of speaking his mind.
2) Lee Trevino. Younger fans may not know him, but pre-Johnny Miller he worked on NBC’s golf (with Vin Scully). Your “core” audience knows him; he’s funny and always has a good story to tell. He’s won the US Open so he can speak to the pressure (and given his very modest beginnings he can speak to the “Open” part of said championships).
3) Jack Nicklaus. If you want name recognition Nicklaus is the gold standard. Like Norman, he’s already busy with his businesses but I suppose the question is would he want the gig? Only problem…he’s horrible on TV. Go watch him on the Memorial Tournament. I’m not saying he should show up with a fauxhawk and an earring but he’s not exactly known for being critical. I just don’t know if he’s able to give the viewer that expert opinion without needing 10 minutes to do so.

Hole/walking analysts:
1) Fuzzy Zoeller. Won a US Open. And a Masters. Okay, so there was the whole foot-in-mouth at the 1997 Masters, but he’s funny and I do think that would translate to TV.
2) Tommy Armour III. Knows the game. Funny.
3) Notah Begay/Paul Goydos. Both work for the Golf Channel, but I’d look at using them. Begay played college golf with Tiger Woods so he can be…well, not exactly quick to lay on the criticism, but both know the game and translate well to television.

It is interesting that while Fox Sports 1 has landed NFL, NHL, and MLB analysts, they’ve been silent on the golf front.

Either way, the 2015 US Open should be interesting.

Mid-season thoughts

While it’s never fun to be sick and unable to play this wonderful game, to have this happen during the meat of the season is particularly frustrating. Without going into details, it’s been two weeks of maladies I wouldn’t wish on anyone and it’s kept me looking wistfully at my clubs, hoping they’ll see plenty of use before too long.

In a rare moment of smarts, the PGA Tour agreed to a ban on the anchored stroke. However, they agree that amateurs (meaning you) should be able to use these until 2024 at least. We’re finally on the way to bifurication (professionals and elite amateur events under one set of rules, and everyone else under another). With the game not growing, those that run the game have to look at ways to keep the game growing. Telling a bunch of casual golfers you can’t use a belly putter doesn’t serve that purpose.

Unfortunately we’re still dealing with slow play issues; last month’s US Open made that abundantly clear. While the USGA was running some clever “While We’re Young” ads to encourage folks to move it along, you have elite golfers taking 5 to 5 1/2 hours to get around. Not to pick on him, but Ian Poulter doesn’t help things when he points out that it would take casual golfers even longer to get around, and thus, the pros should be above criticism. He’s missing the point; it’s that people see you take 60-80 seconds on a putt, and guess what- that’s what your weekend golfers end up doing. Add that up over 18 holes and all of a sudden we’re at 6 hour rounds. And yes, Ian- you’re a great deal more talented than a 10-handicapper…which is why you’re playing for millions in prize money and you earn millions in endorsements while we pay to play.

As I’ve noted, this is something everyone collectively owns. Pointing fingers doesn’t help. Playing faster does and that’s the point.

In talking to several trusted sources and doing some sleuthing on my own, if Howard County is serious about trying to build itself as a golf destination, than I should offer up a few tips:
-Maintenance costs money. Letting bunkers at one of your few public courses fall out of disrepair doesn’t help. The management company has a case to answer on this (and yes- all the rain we’ve had isn’t helping), but people see disrepair and it doesn’t help things. Spend a little now, or spend a whole lot more later.
-Any quasi-public course that effectively blocks out the first six tee times every weekend for the same group (when the course claims that it’s available for a fairly large segment of the population) is killing itself softly. Oh, but you’re building a new clubhouse…why that’s wonderful! Never mind that the course is, by several accounts, in dire need of upkeep and maintenance. You do a great job of keeping people from playing the course (or worse, if they are lucky enough to play there…between the attitude of people working there and the conditions…they won’t come back) which generates…you know, revenue! If you talk to golfers, things like pace of play, course conditions, and friendliness of staff typically are what bring them back. Which leads me to my next point…
-Treat golfers like the customers that they are. I made a few phone calls trying to secure a tee time (because while every other course in the area allows online bookings…well, they don’t do it that way). What a gong show. If your website says “call this number for tee times”…you know what helps? Having someone to answer the phone! Oh- I need to call between only certain hours…well that makes sense. And I need to talk to only one person. And I have to have my papers. Let’s review- I’m trying to give you my money…all you need to do is to accept it. This, apparently, is too much. So this leaves Turf Valley resort (which caters to guests staying there), and the nearby Waverly Woods (sister course of Blue Mash) that seem to get it.
-There’s no way that I’m the only solo golfer out there. It would be nice to not be treated like I’m from a leper colony. Just saying. As much as it pains me, I can go to that larger county west of here, and be treated like an actual human being with courses that are either in good shape or are being renovated (Rattlewood is converting to Bermuda Grass; and on their website they have several notices about it- good on them for taking the short term hit for a long term gain). This isn’t rocket science.

More rain…oh goody

After a 1-day respite, we got more rain. Just what we needed. Pretty sure the 90 degree rule is about to go the way of balata balls and persimmon drivers.

On the USGA and TV coverage

A heavy work schedule meant that I was spared the annual two-day assault on the senses that is ESPN’s first and second round coverage of the US Open, led by its moron-in-chief Chris Berman. I know that picking on Chris Berman’s announcing seems a bit overdone by now, but it leaves me asking two questions:
1) Who are these people who like Berman’s schtick (which was old 20 years ago)? Are they the same people who think the Internet is a fad?
2) What kind of deal with the devil has ESPN made with this rube? At least with someone like Joe Buck doing baseball or football games on Fox, his knowledge of the game is solid. Same with the NHL’s lightning rod (Pierre McGuire of NBC); while hockey blogger supremo Greg Wyshynski (you might know him better as Puck Daddy of Yahoo! Sports and the best hockey podcast “Marek v. Wyshynski) isn’t a fan, at least there’s an acknowlegement of his knowledge followed by a thorough critique of McGuire’s shortcomings (in the main I like McGuire but he was much better working with Gord Miller and Chris Cuthbert of TSN). In short, Berman’s an idiot, he comes off as unprepared, and yet, ESPN serves this up to golf fans; what should be 2 of the best days of golf on television are sullied by Berman (all you need to know is that while ESPN also has the first 2 rounds of the Masters…the Men of the Masters aren’t having it).

Berman, on the other hand, comes off like an uninformed rube with zero charm; a comic who’s bombing but doesn’t have the chops to go along with things. I feel bad for Roger Maltbie, who by Friday night appears to be a victim of Stockholm Syndrome; laughing at Berman’s tiresome and frankly useless banter. I wrote about the passing of Ken Venturi a few weeks ago; it pains me that these two cover the same sport. Nobody expects Berman to become a Venturi; but he could knock the act off a bit and try to do what a good host does- defer to those that know more about what it is you’re covering.

Which leads me to the USGA. Their new ads trying to get average golfers to play faster are well intended (and if we’re being honest, six-hour rounds isn’t the fertile breeding ground where new golfers come from). However, it’s hard to conduct a championship being played at a pace I’d charitably describe as glacial and then prattle on about picking up the pace. And as they say, this leads us to the larger problem.

At the Masters, amateur Tianlang Guan was penalized for slow play. By the reaction from the 4th estate and his fellow competitors, you’d have thought they DQ’d him and insulted his family. The problem is that everyone complains about slow play until they’re the one under the spotlight. Everyone “thinks” they’re a fast player. Except when they’re not. Nobody ever says “man I played slow out there today”…everyone uses the same boring, tiresome excuses instead of copping guilt.

What’s the answer? The usual suspects…play ready golf (forget who has the damn honor!). Continuous putting (the Ohio Golf Association did this and it cut rounds by 15 minutes). Once practice swing. If you’re at double par (or your handicap max)…pick up! Learn how to use a golf cart. If you’re in a group and a couple of the others are looking for a lost ball, hit your approach and then go help them. Limit your search to two minutes. Play the appropriate set of tees.

What can courses do? Have tees listed by handicap range (if you’re already doing this then great). Sprinklerheads should have yardages. Use local rules to avoid having golfers re-tee. Have Marshals out on the course.

And lastly…every single one of us needs to try to play faster. It starts with me. And you. And everyone else.

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