Two Golf Books For The Holidays
The smaller the ball, the saying goes, the better the writing.
To be sure, it is a conceit. And, really, who among can say theyve ever read a book or a magazine article on marbles? Or pea-shooting?
That being said, a collection of golf stories recently crossed my desk and caught my attention. This is a feat in and of itself.
For the most part I am not looking to read all the golf books that arrive in the mail. If I did, I wouldnt have any spare time left to read the latest from Elmore Leonard, Robert Parker, John Sandford and Michael Connolly'to name just a few of my favorite non-golf authors.
But it was a piece on Clint Eastwood, of all people, that got me hooked on Robert Sullivans new book: Youre Still Away (Maple Street Press).
Sullivan, the editorial director of LIFE books, has anthologized golf pieces he wrote for a variety of publications. And in the one on Eastwood, he wrote about playing golf with Dirty Harry.
It made my day.
Sullivan on Eastwoods voice:
.it is a tenor, you are surprised to realize (though never has a tenor so possessed the gravitas of a baritone). It was said of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald that their voices blended perfectly, like Jack Daniels and champagne. Eastwoods speaking voice, which is extraordinarily musical, stands at the intersection of Louis and Ella'its got sand in it, and bubbles too. Its friendlier than Harrys.
Harry, for the uninitiated, is Harry Callahan, the name on the birth certificate of the fictional Dirty Harry.
Sullivan, for the uninitiated, has a writing voice that resonates, too. He knows almost as much about golf as he does about writing.
Almost lyrical are Sullivan stories about Bill Clintons mulliganitis; playing golf as a onesome; golf in Ireland; speed golf; caddies, birding, golf handicaps and much, much more.
There are minor annoyances. Like using the word golf as a verb without putting the word playing in front of it. And us golf scribes are pretty picky about writers who refer to playing the game as going golfing.
But by the time you finish Youre Still Away, Im predicting even the stodgiest golfologists will agree that Sullivan is way under par for the book.
In the foreword, the discriminating Brad Faxon points out, Sullivan freely admits he is an average golfer at best. But as a writer, hes scratch. And I dont mean scratch with a handicap of six.
The liner notes feature contributions from the Yale-educated Rees Jones and the Stanford-educated John Garrity. Garrity has combined erudition with humor and made a career out of writing first-rate golf prose for Sports Illustrated.
Of Sullivan, Garrity says, his powers of observation are preternaturally sharp. If youve got Wodehouse, Wind and Jenkins on your bookshelf, youll want to make room for Sullivan.
If youre not sold yet, so be it. Pick up Ulysses and plow your way through the turgid work of James Joyce.
But heres one more Sullivan teaser on Eastwood right from the books pages:
And as for the squint, well thats the one trademark item that is as indelible to the real Eastwood as it is to his movie characters. All day long, his eyes never open; you wonder he doesnt plow E-Z-Go into a tree. In lining up a putt, every golfer in the world squints like Clint Eastwood. But let it here be recorded: In lining up (italics start) his (end italics) putts, Clint Eastwood (start italics) really (end italics) squints like Clint Eastwood.
BY THE WAY: If youre looking for more good golf stuff in book form as the holidays approach, I highly recommend Jim Apfelbaums Golf Unplugged from Tatra Press.
Apfelbaums angle on the game is almost always coming from a different direction without flouting the tradition that caresses golf. Apfelbaum is Texas-based and well-versed in all things Penick, Jones and Hogan.
He doesnt take himself too seriously. And the strength of his book is the varietal nature of the anecdotal troves he has collected in his years observing the sport.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x