GHIN and Tonic
Yes indeed, say the supporters of the nations golf handicap system. For all intents and purposes, thats the U.S. Golf Association, the developer of the most widely accepted formula for calculating a numerical measurement of the difference between two golfers abilities. Thats developer, and still champeen: The USGA has been vindicated in a number of court cases in which it upbraided those who would try to modify or appropriate its formula and use it to sell handicap services.
But as long as you calculate handicaps in accordance with the USGA formula, what you get is a USGA Handicap. Within those constraints, you can compute the number any way you like.
We basically say, Heres the manual, go ahead, says Kevin OConnor, senior director of handicapping at the USGA. Anyone is free to develop handicapping software.
There are five major computation systems in use for the approximately 5.5 million U.S. golfers who keep handicaps. The most popular is the Golf Handicap Information Network, or GHIN. (In-the-know golf folks say the H is silent.)
To me, a longtime devotee of the idea of a world community of golf, the best thing about GHIN is the limitless peer review. Thats right: If you have the GHIN number, or even just the name, of a golfer who keeps a handicap, you can look up that persons Handicap Index and check out the last 20 scores he or she posted. Just go to www.GHIN.com and go to town.
Who can resist?
Consider your golf Freedom of Information Act request filed. Herewith, Handicap Indexes of a number of prominent golfing Americans:
Where to start, where to start? How about with the USGA? Executive director David Fay is a solid 9.4 at three clubs in northern New Jersey. Current president Reed Mackenzie, a veteran member at Hazeltine in Chaska, Minn., is a 6.3. And I know for a fact hes upset that its that high.
PGA Tour boss Tim Finchem is a 4.4 at the TPC at Sawgrass (where else?). Of course, hes too busy to play much, but hes known to be a physical fitness fan, so its not surprising he can keep it low.
Presidents? We got em, sort of. Former president George H.W. Bush (41 to his pals) isnt listed in GHIN, but Babs has a 32.6 at Cape Arundel in Maine. Possible future president and Florida governor Jeb Bush is a 9.9 at Capital City CC in Tallahassee. His brother (43 to his pals) is too busy for golf, and with good reason.
No record of a handicap for Gerald Ford. There are four people named Jimmy Carter in Georgia with Handicap Indexes ranging from 8.6 to 18.8. I called the Carter Center, the headquarters in Atlanta from which the former president organizes his efforts against war, hunger and poverty. The press people admitted this was different than the usual media inquiry, and said they would get back to me when they could. Considering the work Carter does now, I can forgive that callback for never getting here.
I didnt find a handicap for Bill Clinton, but there is a Butch Clinton in Fayetteville, Ark. with an Index of 38.6. Finally, someone I have to give strokes.
Actors and other bright-lights types: Kevin Costner doesnt have one. Somehow Im disappointed. Neither does George Clooney. But Matt Damon is a 17.9. Matt Lauer: 5.7 at Deepdale. Katie Couric:: No handicap.
Donald Trump: +0.9 at Winged Foot, but get this: He hasnt posted for more than a year, and then he shot 100. Cmon, Donald; wheres the first tee?
Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz is a stick: 1.1 at four different Atlanta-area clubs. Golf duels with his teammates are the stuff of dugout legend, and no wonder: Tom Glavine is a 4.2 at two clubs (Smoltz is a member at both. Ace Greg Maddux isnt listed, though.
Casey Martin is too good to worry about handicaps, of course. But dad King is an 11.1 at Eugene (Ore.) CC, and brother Cameron is +0.1. Five a side for the old man? Or should we just play off Caseys +6, or whatever it is? The fourth might be Caseys lawyer, Bill Wiswall, who is a 10.9 at Eugene.
Golf industry types: Acushnet chief Wally Uihlein is a 5.0. Barney Adams, always a serious player, is a 7.6 at Preston Trails in Dallas. TaylorMade-adidas Golfs Jim Stutts is at 17.0. No handicaps reported for Callaway chief Ron Drapeau (nor for any of the Callaway brass); same deal for the Solheim family at Ping.
And since I knew youd ask: Brian Hammons: 8.1; Jennifer Mills: 16.4; Mike Ritz: 5.2; Dave Marr III: 7.0 (at Shinnecock); Kraig Kann: 6.0 (and he has kids). The others are either too good or too lazy to turn in scores.
There are about 26 million golfers in the United States, and it appears that handicaps are important to only about 20 percent. Itd be nice if there were more. It only costs a few bucks per year, and its one more way golfers are held together by a web of interest and enthusiasm. Golfers arent a bunch of solitary joggers in the park or bouncers on separate aerobics mats. A few sandbaggers may try to spoil the fun occasionally, but the honor system generally works. We have the makings of a worldwide fraternity here.
Hm? Whats that? I cant hear youyou want to know what? Hang on; I think we have a bad connection
Oh, all right. Its 26.0. But Im getting better! (And I carry the card, just to make sure I dont get lynched if I happen to string together a couple pars.)
Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.
Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.
''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''
First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.
''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''
David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.
The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.
Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.
I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.
One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.
So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?
You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?
Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?
I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.
This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.
Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.
The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:
“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”
Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.
Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.
Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.
Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.
In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.
Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.
After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth.
Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.
“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”
After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).
Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129.
The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.