Our Golf Clubs Ourselves
It's part of my job -- a fun part -- to occasionally try irons. Although my swing is like one of those pop radio station promises -- you know, no repeats all day -- there's still a lot I can learn by swinging the latest innovations. I swing, I ponder, I pass the clubs on to other players at TGC for their input.
This can cause problems when I return to my own set, which of course has been fitted for me. Whatever compensations I made to get good contact out of standard-length-upright can complicate a game based on inch-long and two degrees flat. And one thing my game does not need is more complication.
O.K., enough about my game. (Proposed golf axiom: Whoever you are, nothing is more fascinating to you and more boring to the rest of the world than the details of your game.) I bring it up only as an introduction to some thoughts about who -- or what -- is really responsible for that perfectly struck 5-iron you just pushed into the bunker.
So I submit: When it's time to get bent, it's time get bent.
Your irons, that is. Or wedges. Or woods. Loft, lie angle. Shaft choice, flex, kick. Whatever.
Golf is a game of many variables. Everything from what you had for breakfast to a renegade gust of wind can divide success from failure. Why, then, have we been so thoroughly conditioned to blame ourselves every time things go wrong? You know the old saw: With everything that can go screwy in the swing and the flight of a golf ball, its astounding that anyone can do it, ever.
A more virulent strain of the It must be me disease is the tendency some golfers have to attribute all good results to luck (instead of their ability) and all bad breaks to their inadequacies alone. But if theres one thing Ive learned in years of covering golf equipment, its this:
Its not always your fault.
Yes, your gear can betray you. Poor fitting, swing changes, age, fatigue ' all these things and more can change what were once the answer to your prayers into a set of devil sticks. The real challenge for any golfer, especially those who like to fine-tune their bags, is judgment. When is it me, and when is it the gear?
And if you think about it, that fits. Golfs deepest allure rests in judgment. Hitting the ball, seeing it go where you aimed it, beating the course or your opponent ' thats all great. But the greatest obstacle, the one thats most satisfying to overcome, is judgment in everything from club selection to grip pressure. When do you pummel a drive instead of feathering an iron around the corner of the dogleg? How much do you add to the break because it hasnt rained in weeks? When do you go for it, when do you lay up? What is the wind doing, and will it do it until the ball lands? Just how good is this guy youre playing down the stretch in the city championship?
This issue, or rather the feeling you get when it arises, will not be unfamiliar to most of you. How many times have you indeed put an excellent swing on a 5-iron on a non-windy dayand seen the ball tail into a bunker? How many times have you nutted a drive and not cleared the 150 pole? You look at the club, scratch your head, feel the disconnectoh, and wait a sec, the same %$ thing happened on 8 and again on 12. Dang. I wonder if
At this point, you may do what I did and put the club down in the hitting positionand sure enough, the toe is in the air. Or the leading edge looks funny. Or something. Its always something.
But that something may not be you.
Now, in most cases, we all know that the perfect swing and the completely defective result dont always happen together. Chances are theres some combination of factors ' a slightly anemic swing, a trashy ball flight ' that come together to make you wonder. Its the recurrence of the bad result that really gets us thinking.
Well, it should. This is what drives tour players to the range after rounds. They are doing what we should do ' eliminating variables, making good swings, and watching. Watching, listening and feeling to see whats happening. I have seen golfers of all skill levels do this. Some actually talk to themselves, under their breath.
Oh, oh; I was coming at it from ' [another swing] ' thaaats better. O.K., again. [swing] Hm. Still pushing. But when I took that lesson[swing]. Push. Darn.
Now, I have as much, maybe more, tendency to blame myself than anyone. But when this last happened to me, I took my stance, looked at my irons, and there it was. You could fit a ham sandwich under the toe. These are great irons, so I wondered what could cause this. Swing change? Sure; I got flatter on purpose. Stance better? Could be. Weight loss? Maybe.
In the end, I went to my local golf shop, got some advice, and got bent. Two degrees down. The hardest part was waiting for the next chance to hit the irons. I dont know about you, but I lay awake at night worrying about this stuff. The mortgage? Who cares? Hows my seven gonna fly?
I wont bore you with the details, but so far, so good. Bottom line: Sure, take responsibility for your game. But that doesnt mean you have to take all the blame. Have the patience not to jump to conclusions. Go easy on yourself. Get information.
And when its time to get bent.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.