Monday, August 27, 2012

Top 5 Scariest Shots In Golf

We all have been in situations on the golf course when disaster strikes.  Be it a bad lie in a bunker, a complete and total swing breakdown, or a well struck ball that ends up in the drink, it is tough to get those bad shots out of your head.  We may be tough on the outside, but let's be honest - too often when it comes to the mental side of the game, we come up awfully small.  This got me thinking - what are the toughest shots we might face in a round?  The ones that are truly cringeworthy?  For me, these are the five shots that make me think that even in smelly, oft-worn by strangers multi-colored shoes, bowling might have been a better pick for a hobby.

5)  The 50 yard bunker shot:  Regular shots out of the bunker are hard enough.  And for many people, so is the type of flip wedge required to knock a 50 yard shot close enough to have a reasonable chance to sink the putt.  But combine to two, and it is knee-knocker time.  Do you try the super long blast (hello fat city!)?  Do you try to hit only the ball and no sand (hello skull city!)?  And whatever you do, you do not want to be in the same position for your next shot.

4) The fried egg in the bunker:  It is bad enough to have a shot end up in the bunker.  You are mad, but it is not the worst thing in the world.  Aside from your friends making the old, "You spend more time in the sand than David Hasselhoff" joke, you generally won't find anything in the bunker you can't handle.  Except for when you walk into the trap, rake and wedge in hand prepared for battle, and discover that you can only see a piece of your ball peeking out at you - mocking you, really - with the rest submerged below sand level.  That hurts.  Thanks for the stomach punch, sand.

3) The forced carry:  Golf is generally won or lost on 1 square foot of real estate - the space between your ears.  That is what makes this shot so difficult.  It can be a tee shot that requires a 150 yard carry to safely reach the other side of a valley, or a 175 yard shot over water to the green, visually, this shot is a knee knocker of the highest order.  It is a shot that just messes with your head, even if you have plenty of club to carry the trouble.  You know you have the distance to make it safely to the other side, but staring out at the abyss in front of you, it looks like trying to carry the Atlantic.

2) The 4 footer to win a match (or a 5 dollar nassau, or just to beat your friend Doug - yeah, you know who you are):  I am not breaking any news when I say that most of us are not going to have a 4 footer to win the Masters, but that doesn't mean that a short putt to beat your buddy on 18 doesn't inspire the same type of pressure the pros face on Sunday.  You know how bad you want to win, and how good the beer will taste afterwards when it is on your friend's check.

1) The shot after a shank:  It is the dirtiest word in golf.  And some would argue that the scariest shot in golf is the shank.  But I disagree.  The scariest shot is not the shank itself - after all, most of the time the shank comes out of nowhere, so you don't see it coming until you are standing there after the shot in stunned silence while your partners are looking around trying in vain to beat that image out of their heads for all of eternity.  No no, friends - the scariest shot in golf is the next one after the shank.  Because the shanks are a disease.  They are a virus that are a living, breathing organism that get in your head.  One shank thought meets another shank thought between your ears and they make little shank thought babies.  I fell disgusting just writing about this, but the truth must be told. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Carl Petterson: A Man Without A Ryder Cup Team

Associated Press/Stephen Morton
Few golfers have garnered as much attention over the last couple of weeks as has Swede Carl Petterson.  He is playing some of the best golf of his life right now, and for much of this past weekend was in the hunt for his first major at Kiawah Island.  His final round was derailed early with a brutal 2 shot penalty for nipping a leaf on his backswing in a hazard, but he responded with three straight birdies and garnered loads of fan support for how he handled the truly silly (but technically correct) ruling.

A five-time winner on the PGA Tour, Petterson has been playing well all season (he is 9th in the FedEx Cup race and won the RBC Heritage) and all he did today to rebound from his T-3 finish at the PGA Championship was shoot 62 in the opening round of the Wyndham Championship.

So a player this hot would seem to be a lock for the Ryder Cup team, right?  Well, not so much.  Petterson, who was born in Sweden (and thus seemingly eligible for the European team) but has become a United States citizen (wait, maybe he can play for the US), is a man without a homeland, as far as the Ryder Cup goes.  To be eligible for the European squad, he has to be a member of the European Tour (which he is not).  To be eligible for the US squad, he would have had to become a US citizen before his 18th birthday (which he did not).  So sadly for Carl, he is out of luck.

Logically, going by place of birth, he would seem to fit in with the European squad.  He is theoretically eligible for a Captain's Pick by Jose Maria Olazabal, but that seems unlikely.  First, Olazabal would have to convince the European Tour brass to grant an exemption and make Petterson a member of the European Tour to validate his selection - to describe that as a longshot is probably being generous, since Petterson is a member of the PGA Tour, lives in the US and is now a citizen.  Translation:  as far as the European Tour is concerned, Petterson has an American flag tattoo, loves apple pie and thinks soccer is stupid.  Second, with only two Captain's Picks (as opposed to US Captain Davis Love's four picks), the competition for those spots is truly fierce, and includes European Ryder Cup stalwarts like Ian Poulter and Sergio  Garcia.

It is a shame that the rules will block a guy like Petterson from playing, although the way he is making birdies right now, the US team may be better off with Petterson watching the matches from his couch.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Understanding "Sandy Areas" At The PGA Championship

Two words that you will hear ad nauseum this week at The PGA Championship:  sandy areas.  The PGA has (wisely) decided to play all of the bunkers as "sandy areas" instead of hazards this week.  Meaning?  None of the sand on the course will be considered a bunker within the meaning of the rules, so the players can take practice swings, remove loose impediments and ground their club.  The reason is because of the unique design of Pete Dye's masterpiece - sand, sand, everywhere.  The PGA did not want to have the players trying to figure out on their own which sandy areas were actually bunkers and which were not.

Many have incorrectly said that this is a reaction to Dustin Johnson's 18th hole debacle at Whistling Straits, when he grounded his club in a "bunker" that before his ball landed there, spectators were actually standing in.  But in fact, this is the same local rule that the PGA has put in place in its other major events held at Kiawah Island, including the 1991 Ryder Cup (famously dubbed as "The War by the Shore").

So when you see DJ ground his club in a bunker this week, don't rush to your phone to call the PGA and tattle tale - he is allowed this time.