Religion politics and Tiger

By Michael FechterAugust 1, 2008, 4:00 pm
There are two topics mothers warn their children to never discuss in public: Religion and politics.
My mother should have added a third: The mere mention of Tiger Woods and retirement.
A couple of weeks ago, I did that. Me, the winner of the 1980 Al Esposito Junior Invitational, suggested that perhaps the greatest golfer of all time hang up the spikes at 32. . . you'd've thought I suggested that Kobayashi retire from competitive eating out of concern for his health.
There was, shall we say, a passionate response to my suggestion. Tiger is a near-billionaire who drives TV ratings and endorsement deals to a level unimaginable before he joined the Tour. His avid followers number in the millions. They wear his clothes, they drink his electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks, they are members in the same credit card club, and they sit on their butts for hours watching his every move on TV.
They do not, however, play golf. At least, not nearly enough.
OK, OK, I dont need another 743 e-mails telling me how lacking I am or that Tiger has inspired you to marry a Swedish nanny. Those who visit tend to be avid golfers who play many more rounds of golf per year than the average person. I get it.
And, the golf industry as a whole has had a tremendous growth spurt that started more or less at the same time Tiger first put fear into the hearts of every other touring pro. New courses were built. More rounds were played each year than the previous. It was a trend that just couldnt stop until it did.
Now, we have more and more courses competing for fewer and fewer paid rounds. Young people are not coming into the game like they once did. Heck, Tigers in rehab, and apparently Ive started a world-wide rumor that hes about to retire. There is much behind the scenes hand wringing. 'What can be done?' Golf course owners, the U.S. Golf Association, the PGA of America and equipment manufacturers all wonder.
Fortunately, I am here to save golf.
My primary job as the 'Ambassador of Fun' for golf courses from Malibu Country Club to Battle Creek in Tulsa is to come up with ways to make the game more enjoyable. The more fun golfers have, the more rounds they will play.
Sometimes that means putting large helium balloons on the range so that people have a new target and can work on the trajectory of their shots. Were also setting up the 'Bach and Beatle's Open' which is a day of tournament play followed by the local symphony playing Bach and The Beatles outdoors under the stars. Thoroughly enjoyable.
But, the easiest, most cost-effective way to enjoy the game more is to simply play faster. If we can speed up play, more people will take up the game. And owners will be able to get more people on the course during any given day.
The USGA and other golf officials feel that slow play drives avid golfers out of the game and discourages new golfers from committing to a recreation that is time consuming. Its a new problem that used to be golfs greatest virtue. My father had nine reasons to play golf every chance he could ' those being his eight kids and his wife. Golf kept the man sane.
But, those were the days before rampant divorce. Now, we time-share our children, and if even one visitation is delayed by 15 minutes due to a round with the boys, off to family court you shall go.

Recently, I discovered that it is really fun to run to your ball after your tee shot. That 285-yard jog down the middle. . . .or, rather, my 206-yard trot to the first cut of rough on the right is heart smart and just plain fun. And then whacking the ball again and chasing it down is even better. It's like combining golf and ultimate Frisbee.
There are now these fantastic new 'push' carts that make it possible to really move on a golf course. These new carts move with the ease that Madonna beds sports stars.
I must admit that running after your shots is nothing new. For years, I have heard of 'speed golf' where a person runs the course while another person follows in a motorized cart with their clubs. Well, with these new push carts, a chauffeur is no longer needed. With a push cart, golf can even be a bit of an upper body workout. Thats something that has never been said about golf before. But, its something that seems to have done Tiger Woods and the other 'athletes' of golf great good.
To test my theory, my writing partner, Tom, and I recently jogged our local Charleston Municipal Golf Course. We started at 6:30 p.m., after a rain when the course was clear and we played 18 holes in just under 2 hours.
Thats about how long it used to take me to play the same course years ago in the early mornings with two 80-year-old speed walkers, Mr. Mac and Mr. Robinson. Mr. Robinson carried a portable oxygen tank in his bag in case he got winded. I carried an asthma inhaler and a flare gun in case I got left behind. We were kindred spirits.
So, what does it say that I can barely jog a course now faster than I could once 'speed walk' it with two 80-year-old men? Well, lets just say that the U.S. Track and Field Selection Committee has never called me and probably never will.
That, and Tom needs to stop pushing his tee shots onto Maybank Highway. Police tend to view running immediately after driving a ball into oncoming traffic with a different eye than a dedicated speed golfer.
We can all play faster, have more fun in doing it and still have time to spend with our children. It's good for the game. And its good for you.
Email your thoughts to Michael Fecheter
Editor's note: Michael Fechter, orphan worker and humorist, has the best job in golf: he's paid to be the Ambassador of Fun for golf courses across America. His 'job' is to make the courses he represents across America more interesting, unique and fun. Enjoy his humorous series on getting back into the game as he struggles to get his game into the shape it was nearly 30 years ago when he won his only personal junior 'major,' the Al Esposito, on America's easiest muni with rounds of 71-71-75.
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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

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    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”