Our Golf Clubs Ourselves

By Adam BarrJune 10, 2005, 4:00 pm
I got irons in the fire. I just don't want to get burned by my irons.
 
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.
 
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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


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“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


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The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


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It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


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Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”