My Little POTUS Election Prediction

Dear 2.5 Readers, let’s not dilly dally. I know you’re anxiously awaiting my learned and incredibly accurate prediction that would make any $25 a session palm reader jealous.

Those hoping for a possible return to fiscal sanity and a turn away from European-style social democracy at the end of Tuesday evening are going to be disappointed. President Obama will do what no POTUS has done under such tenuous economic conditions, subpar labor reports and a D-minus record and stewardship of our economy: retain The Office of The President of the United States. Not by much, mind you, but retain it he will.

After a solid month of Mitt Romney building a lead, and a huge assist from Hurricane Sandy and a panicky left-leaning media that succeeded in portraying Obama acting like a leader for once, the polls don’t look good for Mitt Romney. Oh, it’s close—overall. And sure, Mitt could pull it out. But then there are the swing states. Obama’s winning—and by numbers greater than the margins of error. Even in light of that, I predict Obama will win with less than 50% of the vote, and win by .8 to 1.5% over Mitt—all a far cry from the throttling Obama gave John McCain in 2008.

Will it be the end of the world? Will America be lost? Should you make empty threats to move Canada? Slit your America-loving wrists? Good heavens no.*

Here’s why.

Yes, my liberal friends will celebrate as only they know how: they’ll chortle, chuckle, snark, guffaw, grandstand, gloat, smirk, sneer and be smarmy about the victory—they could call the victory a mandate. My neighbor may even play “The Star Spangled Banner” on his electric guitar as he did Election Night 2008. And I’ll probably—no, most certainly—receive snide, snarky, boastful and plain dickish posts on my Facebook wall from gloating liberal “friends.” That’s okay, I’m a big boy. I can take it. Besides, I, along with my sure-to-be dour fellow GOPers, have a big old fat trump card. (No, it’s not The Donald.)

All I have to do is point to the House of Representatives, controlled by those meddling Republican kids**, and wish them and The One good luck in passing any social democratic or more fiscally inept and irresponsible pieces of legislation by anything other than a scheisty POTUS decree. And depending on how snarky the gloat, I might add a “So suck it” to the end of my reply.

Oh, one more little prediction! When we all jump off the fiscal and tax cliff next year, the GOP will most certainly wrest control of the Senate in 2014, thus further neutering Obama’s agenda and sealing his fate as the most hapless and incompetent POTUS since Jimmy Carter.

Cheer up, buckaroos! It’s the end of the election season (and I feel fine)!

But by God, if Jay Inslee beats Rob McKenna in my beloved state, I’m fucking moving to….oh, who am I kidding.

*Though opening an off-shore account isn’t a bad idea.
** Am I the only who, every time some liberal whines and complains about the GOP thwarting some piece of Obama legislation, hears the grumbling, busted villains from Scooby Doo (“…if it weren’t for those meddling kids, I’d have gotten away with it….”)? Yeah, you hear that too? Good, it’s not just me.

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The ADHD Summary of the 2012 POTUS Debates

Short attention span? Can’t hold a conversation that goes on for more than three….oh look, pretty bird! Lucky for you, Dear 2.5 Readers, I’ve got the Official ADHD Summary of the POTUS debates right here. I know you can’t sit still, so here’s how things turned out.

1st Debate Winner: Romney, in Secretariat fashion.

2nd Debate Winner: Complete tie. Don’t kid yourself.

3rd Debate Winner: Obama wins by a leg and several of his jumbo ears.

Overall Winner: Romney by the length of two RC Cola 24-packs.

Why Romney’s The Overall Winner: As of this writing, he gained then maintained the lead he acquired from the 1st Debate where he was behind by nearly 5 points then pulled ahead. See for yourself here. That equals winner. (And he’s still ahead as of this posting.)

Obama’s Most Tiring and Thoroughly Disproved Talking Point: Romney wanted Detroit to go bankrupt. He did frakkin’ not.

Romney’s Most Tiring and Thoroughly Disproved Talking Point: Obama went on an apology tour. He did frakkin’ not.

Best Obama Zinger/Moment: “Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military’s changed”. A good point that shows he understands (perhaps) the nature of asymmetrical warfare in the Global War on Terrorism*. At least until….

Most Smarmy, Condescending Liberal Jerk Moment: “We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines…” Utterly classless and disrespectful for the President of the United States. This is not an election for a city council seat.

Best Romney Zinger/Moment:

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

(Romney shoots Obama an “Oh, really? You’ll regret this…” look.)

CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…

You go right ahead assist the President, Ms. Alleged Nonpartisan Moderator. Oh wait, turns out you’re wrong, too. The transcript/record supports Romney’s contention. Oopsy!

Most Dumb Conservative Jerk Moment: “I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That’s number one.” Defunding PBS is such a feckless and petty thing to pick on when the spending is far greater on so many other useless and costly programs—though I believe NPR needs to be defunded post-haste. But this? Come on. Piss off every parent of a child under 5 years old in America, why don’t ya.

Most Inept Moderator: Jim Lehrer. Both candidates steamrolled him. By the way, Lehrer and Bob Schieffer have two things in common—1.) both look about 3 days away from death; 2.both should never be allowed to moderate anything other than Bingo scoring decisions ever again.

Best Moderator: None. All displayed liberal bias—maybe that’s because all of them admit to being so.

Best Conservative Moderator: None. Because there weren’t any. However, I nominate Brit Hume to take Lehrer’s place.

Best Factchecking Outfit: Tie. Don’t be stuck on stupid talking points, “friend up” or make daily visits to the Washington Post’s ‘Fact Checker” by Glenn Kessler and FactChecker.org.

There. Done. You are now free to put your head back in the sand and vote for….hey, is that a ostrich outside my window!?

*Though how one can have a war against a tactic escapes me.

Scotland—18 Favorite Holes

Wait, you mean I forgot to tell you, Dear 2.5 Readers, that I went to Scotland for two weeks in June on an epic golf pilgrimage to some of the famous course on the planet? It’s true, I did. How could I have forgotten to tell you? Chalk it up to to forgetfulness, laziness, daydreaming, lack of motivation, slothfulness, just good old life being life or a combination thereof. I just forgot.

It’s been a few months now and I’ve been thinking about my favorite par 3s, 4s and 5s from our trip. We played roughly 280 holes of golf on some golf’s most legendary and famous courses. In order, we played: Turnberry (Alisa Course), Pretwick, Nairn (36), Royal Dornoch (36), Castle Stuart, Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay (36), Carnoustie, Kingsbarns (I did not play), St. Andrews (Old Course), St. Andrews (New Course), North Berwick and Muirfield. Four of those are in The Open rotation; the history of all as rich and alluring as can be.

Truth be told, some courses and holes we loved; others, not so much. This is about the holes I loved. They might not be the most popular or even memorable among my fellow golfing lads, but that’s okay. For me, these were the cream of the crop; the holes that I would love to play again and again. Ranking them in order really isn’t important—and, besides, it would be insanely difficult to rank the par 4s. I can, however, rank the par 5s and 3s in order. But if a par 4 holds a special place in my golfing heart, you’ll know it. For the format, I’ll go with a traditional 10 par 4s, 4 par 5s and 4 par 3s.

If you’re ever as fortunate and blessed as I was play these courses, I hope you enjoy these holes as much as I did.

PAR 4s.

#5 (The Buck), Cruden Bay, 440 yards. An elevated tee looking down on mounded, grassy dunes guarding the length of the hole. Deceptively large landing area, even with smashed drives, a 4-iron+ into a large green. A quietly magnificent and big hole that was likely overlooked by my travelmates.

The Buck at Cruden Bay.. Just a big ol’ golf hole.

#1 (Railway), Prestwick, 346 yards.Nerve-jarring tee box in front of the clubhouse. OB is a stone wall down the entire right side. A tightly bunkered undulating green. The ghost of Old Tom Morris tapping you on the shoulder. Everything a short opening hole should be. Oh, and it only held the first 12 Open Championships, so it wasn’t intimidating at all. Not.

Nick demonstrates how to flirt with the wall and play Railway at Prestwick.

#12 (Monument), Turnberry (Ailsa Course). The history of the hole–used as a practice landing strip in WW1 and features a monument dedicated to the pilots who had trained at Turnberry and died in the Great War and WW2—coupled with the spotty showers and the wind at my back just stirred my heart. After I smashed a 3 wood down the middle between the bunkers, I let Nick and Jon walk ahead of me so I could whisper up to God to thank Him for the privilege. I really did.

#14 (Whins), Cruden Bay 361 yards. Played 36 here, and on the second 18 I was standing in the middle of the fairway, just 4 over. After walking off the green I was 8 over, still I love this great driving hole. Big elevation difference between the right side of the fairway and left. A rudimentary box on the tee tells you where the pin is on your 100% blind second shot to a green set in a bowl between two dunes. Simply beautiful.

#1, (Burn), St. Andrews (Old Course), 384 yards.First tee. St. Andrews. 7:30am on Monday morning. Golfers and average Joes milling about, watching. Never has a 128-yard wide fairway looked so hard to hit. (I know how you feel Ian Baker-Finch.) I felt like throwing up. But hit the fairway I did, and without puking or topping the ball too. 8 iron over the bern to inside 12 feet. Missed the bird but it helped shake off the nerves. Easy hole.

“Gentlemen, Welcome to St. Andrews, the Old Course…” And if that doesn’t make you nervous to the point of being nauseous, brother, check your pulse. Yours truly driving it solid but with a slight pull.

#18 (Old Tom Morris) St. Andrews (Old Course), 357 yards. 128 yard wide fairway, again. Swilcan Bridge in front. Burn in front. Worst that could happen? Take out a few car windows, maybe peg a guest exiting one of the hotels on the right. No worries. Just aim for the Martyr’s Monument in a left to right wind and smash one down the middle over the road. Hit a wedge to 12 feet or so and sink the putt for birdie. Have the smiles of Nick, Joel and Tim congratulating you etched in your memory forever. Sit down behind green afterward and shed a few quiet tears of joy the guys hopefully won’t see, and you have the hole of a lifetime.

#13 (Pit) North Berwick (West Links), 362 yards. A wall—not a bunker, not a mound—guards the front of the green (see the pic). Still, a birdie hole—unless you hook your tee shot, and badly, like I did. Hacked out of the kack into the bunker and made the best long bunker shot of my life over the wall. Missed the par putt but walked off wanting to play this hole endlessly.

Nick tackles Pit at North Berwick

Nick tackles Pit at North Berwick

Me, picking it clean out of the bunker and going over the wall on Pit. (One of my favorite shots from the trip.)

Me, picking it clean out of the bunker and going over the wall on Pit. (One of my favorite shots from the trip.)

#5 (Nets) Nairn Golf Club, 361 yards. One of our Dream 18 competition holes for good reason. Sea to the right, gaping maw of a bunker to the left, false-front green, lovely raised grassy mounds surround the green that act as inverted bunkers. A subtly tricky and tough hole in spite of its somewhat short length.

#8 (Dunrobin) Royal Dornoch, 389 yards. Leaving any RD par 4 off this list would be criminal. While I could easily pick #14, Foxy, the critic’s pick for its fascinating and difficult challenges, Dunrobin with its split-level fairway is a multiple choice hole, making it unique to RD in my view. Lay back and look down on the hole or go over and the downslope and hope your ball holds on the left-to-right fairway where you’ll face a shorter, but blind approach. I played it both ways and I preferred going over the slope, though I flirted with the kack. Hole #17 is Dunrobin’s twin on the In 9.

Dunrobin–a split-level fairway wonder.

#2 (Sea), North Berwick, 429 yards. Take the 18th at Pebble Beach, remove the trees, move the green more inland, have rocks and beach, make it a par 4, then flip the entire hole so the water is on the right and you get the aptly named “Sea” at NB. Any block right is in the rocks or on the beach. Find the fairway like I happily did and you’ll still be faced with a very long second off a likely uneven lie—in my case, a blind anduneven thanks to girthy mounds. (Nutted my hybrid on my second and made par.) After a benign and uneventful start at #1, NB changes its tune with Sea. #3 is a beast too. Again, I think a hole that was likely overlooked.

Chris fearlessly launches one on Sea at North Berwick.

Honorable Mentions: #17 at St. Andrews (Old Course). #12 at Muirfield. #3 at Cruden Bay.

THE PAR 5s

#17 (nameless), Muirfield, 505 yards. Muirfield has two really good 5s–each of which played uphill. When we played them they were also dead into a solid, damp and cool east wind. I judge a good par 5 by the challenge that the second shot presents. So many par 5s simply require the golfer to mindlessly bang their second shots as far up the fairway as possible. #17? Not so much. Never have I a put more thought into a second shot than I did on #17. I nutted my drive, and as one would expect from “the best bunkered course in the world,” a minefield of large and small bunkers stood between me and the green. As memory serves, I needed a carry of 175+ yards—into the east wind, even more—just to reach pitching range yardage. So I layed up with a short iron—with a 7 iron, which says something about the wind. Then I was faced with a slightly blind approach to a green beautiully nestled in between grassy dunes. Unfortnatuely, I hung my third short and right and found the right front bunker; banged that out and 3 jacked from there for a 7. Again, I bet my travelmates overlooked this gem.

#6 (Bluidy Burn), Cruden Bay, 504 yards. A true 3-shotter that doglegs sharply to the left the last 130 or so yards, and goes up back into the dunes. The tee shot is relatively easy. But, as I noted on Muirfield’s 17th hole, the second shot is everything. Without a caddy or detailed course notes, the second is very difficult to judge. With a slightly left-to-right sloping fairway, a trio of bunkers on the right is ready to gobble up any half-executed shot. Try to cut off the dogleg and the Bluidy Burn awaits. The third is no piece of cake, either. Going straight back up and into the dunes the green is one the small side and not very wide. Come up and short and you’ll either find he bunker; or, go too far left and short and the slope will feed balls back toward the burn. A tough, tough but fun hole.

Joel navigates up and over the railroad ties on Cardinal at Prestwick.

#3 (Cardinal) Prestwick, 482 yards. On a par 5 one would expect to pull the driver out of the bag. Unless your name is Bubba that isn’t an option here. Why? This is a split level, uphill par 5 and near the apex uphill and at about 225 yards is a massive mostly hidden bunker (see the pic), so, laying back with a long iron or hybrid is the call. The second shot is completely blind and made to a landing area that is—how can I describe this?—a 140-yard strip of body bags, to steal a phrase from Gary McCord. Even a perfectly struck online shot can bounce six different ways from Sunday leaving you with an utterly awkward third shot thanks to the mounding. The third is to a two-tiered, undulating green–a good way to end a short par 5.

#13 (Bents) Cruden Bay, 536 yards. Playing right alongside the dune that guards the beach, the landing area is fairly generous. Just don’t go too long as anything 275+ off the tee flirts with the snaking burn that dissects the fairway. The second shot isn’t too challenging but it still has to stay out of the “whiskers”/rough on the right and needs to be fairly long and a tad left. Even then, the third is short and mostly blind with a rotund grassy dune guarding the green of the green which runs right to left and slightly away from the player. A mostly straight and calming yet challenging hole.

Honorable mentions: #17 (Lang Whang) at Turnberry. #13 (Wall) at Prestwick. #17 (South America) at Carnoustie

THE PAR 3s

#11, (High), St. Andrews (Old Course), 175 yards. I blathered on endlessly about the greatness of this hole in my recent rant about long par 3. All I can add here are the scores from our foursome as I recall them: 3, 4 (me), 5 and 8. Simply a magnificent hole.

#4, (Bunker), Nairn Golf Club, 135 yards. Tucked in between grass covered sandy dunes and playing back into the wind toward the Moray Firth, this is simply one of my favorite par 3s ever. A chubby bunker fronts the right side and cuts into the narrow green; another deep, slightly raised and gaping pot bunker cuts in from the left to create a bowl-shaped green. But catch the slope on the green coming off one of those bunkers and the ball can easily shoot off the green and toward the back leaving a hard two-putt. A beauty of a hole.

#10, (Fuaran), Royal Dornoch, 142 yards. Think the name of the hole is hard to pronounce? Try hitting the green. The stroke index is a mysterious 16. Ask any of the guys on our trip if it was that easy and some might say “yeah, I can see it as a 16…” then they’ll remember their scores. Anything short, left or right is almost a certain bogey—which I had both times during our 36 holes.

#15, (Blin’ Dunt), Cruden Bay, 190 yards. Prestwick’s “Himalayas” could supplant Blin’ Dunt as my favorite blind par 3—but this one wins out because it’s a dog-leg, too. Yes, a blind dog-leg par 3. What in the name of Old Tom Morris was Old Tom Morris thinking? Maybe a little too much Scotch while designing? Who knows. The hole is imminently playable and raucous fun despite it being an intimidating tee shot. Plus, hey, you get to ring a bell after clearing the green. And really, who doesn’t like ringing a big bell.

A blind par 3 will illicit great reactions

A blind par 3 will illicit great reactions

Honorable mentions: #6 (Himalayas) at Prestwick. #11 (XXX) at Castle Stuart, #11 at Carnoustie. #7 at Muirfield

How The U.S. Really Lost the Ryder Cup

Whatever you want to call it—The Meltdown at Medinah or The Miracle at Medinah, etc.—much has been said as to how the USA, with a 10-6 lead going into Sunday’s singles matches, lost the Ryder Cup.

Every commentator and pundit has examined and passed blame around like candy on Halloween. Blame Tiger Woods’ ego for wanting to be paired with Stricker. Blame Phil “Tits” Mickelson for wanting to sit on Saturday. Blame Davis Love III for not top-loading his squad against what surely would have been a top-loaded Euro squad. Blame the hyperactive Keegan Bradley. Blame the cop who helped Rory McIlroy get him to the tee on time. Blame D3 for picking Jim Furyk or any of the captain’s picks. Blame Tiger (again) and his ego for wanting to carry the torch as the last US singles player. Blame it on the Ghost of Seve. Heck, blame the U.S.’s nap-inducing outfits.

This all makes fun endless watercooler talk and fills talk show minutes and column inches. And while many of the things being said are valid and compelling, none of them guarantees that the outcome would have been any different. The important thing to keep in mind is this: In golf, you play the ball as it lies and the situation for what it is then execute the shot to the best of your ability.* On Sunday, the lineup was what it was, the lead was what it was and the only thing that would have guaranteed a different outcome was the execution—or, lack thereof—on two shots by Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker—with one caddy sharing some of the blame, as well.

JIM FURYK”S “TIN CUP” MENTAL COLLAPSE ON 18
Let’s just forget about Furyk’s terrible shot out of the bunker on 17. Fast forward to Furyk in the right fairway bunker on 18; Sergio Garcia’s in the fairway, looking pretty and has the first shot. The match is all square. Subtly, almost imperceptibly, Garcia makes one of the best physical and strategic shots of the day on 18: he comes up just short of the green and faces a putt or chip up the hill, all but guaranteeing himself a par and halve of the match. Furyk and his caddie, Fluff, have to see this. By now they should have also heard, or at least know from their hole notes, that being long on 18 is an incredibly difficult two putt. (Oh, and being right and long was an almost certain bogey.) What does Furyk do? He launches one to the back of the green. For you and me, we’d be happy with any shot out of a fairway bunker that found the green. But for a pro, this is a shot they can easily control, putting it where they want almost at will. So how did his ball ended up 50+ feet behind the hole? I have no idea. Could it have been adrenaline-caused physical error? Sure. So where was Fluff telling him to settle down and club down? Everything about that situation screams “be short, be short…guarantee par…Sergio’s virtually in the cup with his.” Again, where was Fluff? Again, i don’t know. But by God, Fluff should have been screaming at him and making him aware of the situation.

After missing his par putt on 18, Furyk, with both hands on both knees, stared into the ground in horror. But it wasn’t over the putt.

Years from now, when he’s sipping his billionth 5-Hour Energy Drink and watching the scene from “Tin Cup” where Romeo tells Roy McAvoy ,”You don’t need to be thinking immortality—you need to be thinking hit the 7 iron! (aka: lay up)”, Jimmy will nod his head and agree.

STRICKER’S SKULLED CHIP ON 17
Steve Stricker, who had been battling a resurrected Martin Kaymer all day long, made a terrific shot on the long par 3 17th that trickled just off the collar and into the primary cut—one of the best shots on 17 all day. Kaymer made an unglamorous but decent approach, leaving him with an uphill 50+ foot putt. Stricker’s lie was fine. For a pro, the backswing needed to go about 16-18 inches at most, making the shot a virtual shoe in to get within 2 feet of the cup. What happened next requires a bit of scathing honesty. His chip was just about the worst chip I’ve ever seen a pro make. Really, it was fucking horrendous. I nearly jumped off my buddy Nick’s couch, “Oh my god, he skulled it!” The shot zipped by 6+ feet—a putt that even the pros make only 70% of the time. The uphill putt had too much gas and rimmed out. But it was the horrid chip that lead to the missed putt. There’s simply no way around it.

Was Stricker, who was tied at the time with Kaymer, trying to make the chip? Possibly, it certainly was a chip pros make all the time. But in this situation is that really what you want to be doing? I’ll choose to second guess this decision for years.

That’s it. Two simple shots that could have overcome Bubba’s throttling at the hands of Luke Donald; Brent Snedekar’s disappearing act; Justin Rose’s insane final 3 holes against Phil Mickelson; and people, wrongly, second guessing Davis Love until the start of the next Ryder Cup—now two very long years out.

*Hell, you try to, anyway.

Remember, If You Make a Birth Certificate Joke, You’re a RAAAAACIST!!!

Whoa, whoa, hold on there Neliie.

So, if you make light of your birth certificate, it’s a joke. If someone other than yourself makes light of your birth certificate and the surrounding controversy, it’s not a joke; he’s ginning up the racists and “not standing up to the voices in his party.”

Damnit, I’m confused. Oh well, double standards have a way of doing that to a fella.

Ridding Golf of The Long Par 3

Legendary golf course architect Alister Mackenzie once described the 11th hole at The Old Course at St. Andrews as the “closest hole to perfection” in golf. In his book, “The Spirit of St. Andrews,” MacKenzie raves about the hole—noting how it can be played myriad ways based on the wind direction and the pin placement in proximity to the two bunkers, Hill and Strath.

Jack Nicklaus described it as “the best short par 5 I’ve ever played.”

Bobby Jones tore up his scorecard after playing it, famously walking off green and vowing never to return. (He did, of course. Golfers were drama queens even back then.)

And recently, on an epic golf trip to Scotland, I was lucky to walk away with a bogey after putting the Strath bunker between myself and the pin on my tee shot. One of my playing partners wasn’t so fortunate. He landed in Strath and walked away with a snowman on his card. (To his credit, he smiled about it afterward.)

The 11ith at St. Andrews. Hill bunker, left, Strath bunker right. (Bunker front and right part of the 8th hole.)

That all speaks volumes about a hole that’s just 174 yards.

I used the word “just” unconsciously, I really did. And I believe that’s because in today’s golf culture it’s become ingrained at all levels, from course architects to Saturday morning hackers, to dismiss the short par 3 as being inferior design. This is a big mistake.

What got me thinking about the subject was I was reviewing my recent round at the Tumble Creek Course in Suncadia. Tom Doak, the world-renowned architect genius behind Pacific Dunes at Bandon Dunes, designed the Tumble tract, so I had looked forward to playing the course. It’s a fine challenging mountain course, but something gnawed at me about the design. It wasn’t the long, but fair par 4s—all featuring excellent landing areas and thoughtful, well-placed bunkers. It wasn’t the par 5s that, save for the 4th, were fairly nondescript and forgettable. It was the par 3s. Except for the masterful 11th, three of the five par 3s were 200+ yards long—some playing longer thanks to a headwind. Worse still, they were all straight ahead, flat and feature-less bores with nondescript bunkers that were design afterthoughts and rarely came into play. The more I thought about this group of par 3s, the more they irritated me. I expected more from Doak. A lot more.

Doak isn’t alone, though. The long 200+yard par 3 has become an ingrained lazy and uninspired convention of modern golf architects who, through their own faulty reasoning, believe they have to account for modern equipment and tournament play. It’s as if architects have dismissed the possibility that a short hole can be just as challenging (if not more so) as a long par 3. They also seemingly forget that the majority of the golfing population has little shot at par on a 215-yard par 3, no matter how flat and friendly the design.

#2 at Tumble Creek—one of the three uninspiring 200+ yard par 3s. We played this right at 200.

Outside of golf architects, the bloated egos of many good or even marginally good players believe short par 3s are not a real or stern test of golf. What rubbish. The off-the-top-of-my-head list of short, famous and instantly recognizable par 3s (to most devout golfers, anyway) would far surpass a similar list of long par 3s: #7 and #17 at Pebble Beach; #12 and #16 at Augusta; #3 at Spyglass; #17 at Sawgrass; #8 at Kapalua; #15 at Chambers Bay and the aforementioned #11 at St. Andrews. All of them punish even the slightest inaccuracy with a short club—and all are well under 200 yads.

The long par 3 list? Well, there’s only one long, noteworthy and memorable par 3 in the world, and you most of us can’t play it—the 16th hole Cypress Point, another McKenzie masterpiece.

The short, well-guarded and slippery par 3 15th at Chambers Bay.

Nothing easy about the 130-yard 11th at Castle Stuart, Scotland. Misjudging the wind, I hit an 8 iron down on the beach. Double bogey.

Let me make clear that I don’t believe it’s the intention or purpose of a par 3, or “one-shotters” as McKenzie called them, to act as respite from the rest of the course. No, sir. Like all holes, they should act as a chance to challenge a player’s skill—only with a short club in just one shot. The holes in question at Tumble Creek utterly failed to do this, with most requiring a hybrid or very long iron for players above a 7 handicap—including myself.

I appreciate and respect Doak’s philosophy of wanting to move as little earth as possible when designing a course—it’s an honorable nod to McKenzie’s philosophy and aesthetic. Yet nowhere was that present at Tumble. Doak could have shortened many of these holes and incorporated more of the surrounding forest features—kept logs, rocks and manzanita shrubs near the green sides, creates mounded or plateaued or rolling greens, etc. For example, on the slightly uphill 205-yard 17th, he could have shortened the hole, moved it left and closer to a natural marshy area, kept some of the mature log pole pines and, like Pinehurst, let the pine needles act as the rough. During my round, it played closer to 225 thanks to a post-thunderstorm headwind and wet, heavy air that required me to use a three-quarter 3-wood to reach the green. A 3-wood. On a par 3. Ridiculous. (I parred the hole.) And yes, I know that some short par 3s–particularly in the UK—can require a hybrid or more but that’s largely due to the conditions–not based on the hole’s original layout and length.

In the end, this is a siren call to course architects everywhere: get rid of the 200-yard+ par 3. All of them. Blow them up and rethink them. If you need to build them for professional play, fine, build back tees. But let imagination and creativity and the surrounding land inspire to create par 3s of greatness, not length. Players will come back to play again and again. i guarantee it.

Sometimes It’s Best to Shut Up and Let Others Do the Writing

By now, unless you’re so hip, cool and above it all that you can’t be bothered following election news, everyone’s heard about Vice President Joe Biden’s “he gonna put y’all back in chains.” gaffe. If you’re one of those mildly annoying hipsters, here’s what the rest of heard:

I was thinking about writing a post about it, but damn the editors at the National Review, they not only stole my thunder, they stole the lightning and the rain in the storm, too:

“Mitt Romney has an impeccable record on civil-rights issues, having learned at the knee of his father, a Republican who campaigned on civil rights in the 1960s. To suggest as Biden did that Romney’s program has something — anything — in common with slave-trading is vile even by the standards of Democratic campaign rhetoric. That no Democrat of note has spoken up against it is a testament to the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the party and the political movement it represents….He should be ashamed of himself, and those who associate with him should be ashamed of themselves…An honorable president would dismiss Biden. Barack Obama probably will buy him a beer.”

To paraphrase writer Mary McCarthy, other than agreeing with every word—including “and” and “the”—I’ve got nothing to add.

Piles

Aside from the loveable, frenetic greeting from the German Shepard, Sasha, and the many welcomed hugs from nieces and nephews, one of the first things to greet you at my in-laws’ house is The Pile. Lest anyone think I’m referring to my mother-in-law, I am not. The Pile is far more shy, even reclusive, but it makes its presence known the instant you walk into the kitchen.

There it is: an 18″ high, mountain of unopened bills, payments, checks, letters, magazines, coupon offers, flyers, local newspapers, more bills, more local offers and brochures. It’s impossible to miss–and sometimes it’s impossible to not suffer a broken rib bumping into. The Pile leans and tilts and spills in every direction–often onto burners #5 and #6 of the 6-burner stove. Which isn’t problem unless you accidentally turn on the wrong burner like I did once. And no one dares to touch the pile, except to feed it.

For years we’d go back home, my wife did her best Jason of the Argonauts and took on The Pile. Every time she would go home to visit on business trips, she would tackle it, reducing and whittling it down, only to see it rise again like a volcano rebuilding itself after a cataclysmic eruption. She’s since given up, realizing the futility of her honorable and thoughtful endeavor.

After my sister and brother in-law and their kids moved into my in-laws large house, The Pile had offspring. They popped up all around the house. There was The Pile of Obsolete and No Longer Loved Video Games, The Pile of Unwatched, Unplayable VCR Movies, The Pile of “Broken” Video Game Machines, The Pile of Tschotskes Brought Back from Trips and The Pile of Half-Opened Boxes and Mail. In other rooms, there was The Pile of Romance Novels, The Pile of Unironed Clothing, The Son of Unplayable VCR Movies and The Pile of Smelly Bathroom Powders of Salts and The Pile of Computer Parts.

But lurking far out of view, was (and still is) The Mother of All Piles:The Garage Pile. When I first saw it years ago upon visiting my future in-laws house for the first time, I knew how Ripley felt when she first met the mother alien in “Aliens 2.” I was asked to go into the garage to fetch something and I knew I might never get out alive. The tentacles of The Garage Pile reached out in an incoherent, menacing manner–bags filled with recycling bottles, unused wiring, rusty hardware, bins of papers and more magazines, broken pieces of furniture, rusty and dated sports equipment, posters, and boxes filled with, well, other boxes, and that’s just what you can see. The Garage Pile is musically inclined also, as a full, dusty drum kit sits unbeaten, un-played. In the middle of the garage is the spine of The Garage Pile–two rows of metal file cabinets, at least 6 feet high, filled with papers. The right side? Remember the bomb shelter from the movie “The Road,” filled with canned and dried goods? Imagine that, but only more—and most of it gone bad, even the dry stuff, like the entire shelf of spices. Next to the Wall of Dry Goods Gone Bad, is The Freezer Pile—a freezer engorged with so much frozen pasta sauce it would take the entire Italian population a year to get through it all. (Last Christmas, my brother-in-law, a chef, made 10 gallons of pasta sauce. Why? I have no clue.)

Finally, there’s The Refrigerator Pile next to The Freezer Pile. It’s filled with questionable milk and eggs, outdated beer, various Tupperware containers filled with leftovers from recent meals (how recent is anyone’s guess), wilted and squishy vegetables and, of course, they ever-present pool of mystery goo oozing from underneath refrigerator drawers. To this day, I quietly refuse to eat or drink anything from The Refrigerator Pile that I didn’t personally put in there—yes, even the beer.

Now, should my poor in-laws get wind of this post—and they probably will, and I’m secretly hoping they do—and think that I’m picking on them, they should know this: They’re not alone. My mother has her own Pile Monsters as well. My favorite is the Cupboard of Plastic Containers and Lids Pile. Small or big, round or rectangle, if it comes in plastic and it has a lid, my mother saves it because, by God, she will find a use for it. Whether it’s to hold 1 oz. of sauce, 3 leftover ravioli, uneaten potatoes or a pot of chili, she has a container for it. I’d have an easier matching one side of a Rubik’s Cube than finding a matching lid, though.

Closely related to my mother’s Cupboard of Plastic Containers and Lids, is the Pile of Containers of Unknown Contents located in the refrigerator. They populate every shelf  and every rack in the ‘fridge, and only my mother knows what’s in them. I’ve begged and pleaded with her to throw out the 1/5 oz of marmalade or the tablespoon of steak sauce, but to avail. Once, I tried to pour and ounce or two of an unused sauce down the drain while she wasn’t looking. She asked me what happened to the sauce, and I told her her. You’d think i had committed culinary genocide. “I’ could’ve used that sauce! Why did you do that? Damnit…” Never again have I tried to dump even an ounce of sauce. I simply leave the pot and the picking of the right container up to her.

Armchair sociologists will think this penchant for keeping our Piles is a uniquely Western trait and a sign of our greedy capitalist/consumerist society and culture. Know what that is? A Pile of Bunk. Mankind has been doing this for thousands of years. Think The Great Pyramids of Egypt were built as an homage to kings? No, no. They’re actually the world’s first Public Storage units–only they’re filled with King’s Piles of Gold-Laden Goodies. And hieroglyphics? Archeologists think they depict a king’s life. Nope, wrong again. What they really depict is a giant moving party of the King’s Piles into the pyramid—sans free pizza and beer.

The point is we all have our piles, stuff we don’t need or no longer use. Our Piles just sit there doing nothing, helping no one. But we keep our Pile near us anyway, just tucked out-of-the-way–or so we think. We cherish it, even get sentimental over idiotic things like furniture that’s hasn’t been handed down generation to generation but came from Ikea a few years ago. (“Oh, I had this futon in college. Those were such good days. Let’s keep it downstairs. Jimmy might use one day when he goes off to college.”) Truth is, Jimmy doesn’t want your beer and Top Ramen -stained, Marlboro-smelling lumpy crap of a futon, mom. But get it rid of it? Never. People have an easier time quitting smoking than they do parting with their beloved crap. This despite the fact that our friends the pharaohs gave us bumper-sticker adage of “You can’t take it with you” several thousands years ago. Do we heed it? Nope. We still think we can take it with us. So down in the basement goes mom’s futon.

For most, our Piles are fairly innocent, a closet of shoes, a drawer of favorite t-shirts, a collection of baseball cards; for others, the Piles are a real sign of mental sickness, people who are literally and slowly burying themselves to death in their own homes. (Watch the show “Hoarders” some time.)

I believe there’s something deeper at play, however. Our parish priest once gave a homily noting the rise in storage units popping up around the country. He made the observation that, by filling our lives with stuff, we are unconsciously attempting to fill the spiritual void in our lives we have from ignoring God. Though an atheist would disagree, I find a lot of truth to that. At least I think so for now. Maybe as I grow older and closer to my inevitable demise, I’ll get a Pile golf balls or golf towels or sea salts or greeting cards from past birthdays or baseball hats….oh wait, I already do that. Aw, crap. I’m already starting. Quick, I need a garbage bag and the address of the nearest St. Vincent de Paul’s.

5 Smarter Ways Golfers Can Practice

A few years ago when I began to resurrect my dormant (or is that door mat?) golf game and swing, the teacher asked me how I practiced. I recall looking at him quizzically then giving him what I hoped would sound like a good answer: I worked my way through my wedges, irons and finished with my driver. He laughed, looked back me with an equally quizzically look and said, “Really?” Sigh. Clearly the wrong answer. He then proceeded to go over a few ways I could practice better (two of which I’ll cover here). Since then, I’ve observed some really, well, not-so smart ways golfers (even the good ones) practice since my humble dressing down by the golf instructor.

Bucket ‘o Balls Misuse
Mistake: For the sake of this example, let’s assume you’re a 15 handicap (avg. 87 on a par 72 course.) Now divide out those shots. You’ll hit approximately 14 shots with the driver, 10 approach shots with irons, 4 woods/hybrids on par 5s, 4 par-3 iron shots and, say, 34 putts. The typical bucket of large balls contains roughly 90-100 balls (100 for easy math), or about a bad round for you. So, like I used to do, you start off hitting a few wedges, quickly move up to the irons then start pounding away at the driver for roughly half a bucket. Stop. What are you doing? Did you forget about the 21 unaccounted for shots in your round? And what about those 10 approach shots? Not all of them will be with irons; some will be wedges. In fact, a lot of them will be pitches from inside 100 yards, under bushes and trees and over bunkers. You’re ignoring 25% of the shots in your round. Tsk, tsk.
A Better Way (per the golf instructor): You’re at the range, so throw out the 34 putts. Divide out the bucket by the percentage of time you’ll be hitting X club then roughly double it. For example, 25% of your shots are wedges, so at least 25% of your bucket should dedicated to wedges and pitches of varying yardages; then nearly double it and make it 40. 15% of your bucket to the driver (20-25); 20% to irons (30-35). Yeah, that doesn’t equal 100, but you get the idea: unless you’re working on something specific with your driver, get a feel for the toughest shots in the game: any pitch inside 100 yards.

Hanging Yourself By The Collar
Mistake: Why do people drop balls down on the collar and practice chipping to pins that are 20 feet away? Unless you’re practicing bump ‘n run or chip and check (yeah, you’re a 15, who are you kidding) techniques, this is the most pointless shot to practice. You’ll almost never need it, and even when you encounter this scenario, you should almost never, ever use a wedge.
A Better Way: Put. The. Wedge. Away. Use the putter, almost exclusively. To paraphrase Hank Haney and others, your worst putt is almost always better than your best chip.

Getting Your Groove On
Mistake: You’ve seen this player. Carrying his wedge, he goes to a far corner of the practice green, places a tee down in an open area (or commandeers a hole), then dumps out 10-15 balls from his little green bag and proceeds to practice the 40-foot chip shot to that spot. And my, does the hole look pretty, surrounded by 10-15 balls within 3 feet of the cup! Then he goes back and does it again. And again. Each time the shot pattern gets tighter and tighter. Congratulations, pal, you just mastered the 40 foot chip! Now what about the 23 footer, 65 footer; and the downhill, sidehill and uphill chip? Oops, forgot about those, didn’t ya? There are players who do the same thing with the putter.
A Better Way: When practicing chip shots, I use no more than 3 balls to any one pin position then I move on to another position and lie. This gives me a feel for distances and how to execute a shot. Doing this allows you to learn and remember more from your bad chips than you will from mentally brushing them aside and moving on to next ball.

Putting Green? What’s That?
Mistake: Remember those 34 putts? They account for almost 40% of the shots we make in a round—almost half. So why is it hard to find a stall at the range on Saturday but the putting green is a ghost town? Reason? Driving the ball is sex; feeling confident over 5 footers, not so much.
A Better Way: Spend at least 60% of your practice time on and around the green. You’ll drop strokes like Jerrod from Subway drops pant sizes. As proof, some of my Dear 2.5 Readers may recall my putting has haunted my short game the last 2 years. Not so much these days. Thanks to practicing the techniques outlined in that post, I’ve been pretty much lights out with the new blade and short game so far this year, gaining confidence over those 5-7 footers and long lag putts.

Lacking Creativity in Practice
Mistake: This one is a close relative of the Misuse of The Bucket ‘O Balls, and I saw it recently on the practice chipping and putting green. A guy who appeared to be a pretty golfer was aimlessly swatting chip shots to and fro. Every shot had the same trajectory; he took about a second between each ball and he cared not a whit about his lie. No flops, no chip and checks, no chunk and runs, etc. And it all showed in a lousy shot pattern—of which he didn’t seem to care about either.
A Better Way: Flop it. Run it. Chip and check it. Stick the ball between two clumps of grass. Bury it. Fluff it up. Play from a matted down lie. And so on. Oh, and try to get them all within that magical 3-foot circle. At the range, “play” some holes. I like to play the first 4-5 holes of my course on the range. And yup, if I snap hook my driver as I “play” the first, I’m hitting a punch shot under the trees and up the fairway. I go through my little routine before I hit, too. The point is to mimic real-round scenarios.

So, will any of this help? Even though I fired a miserable 88 and only hit 3 greens in regulation in my last round (gee, guess what I’ll be working on during my next range visit), I believe so. By avoiding the poor practice methods I’ve become a smarter, more creative player and better player.

Peyton Manning’s Disappointing (and Poor) Decision

There are 95 million reasons why Peyton Manning went to the Most Evil NFL Team Ever, the Denver Broncos.  He’s 36 years old, wants to secure his future, his family’s future, etc. blah, blah. BS. $95M is hard to pass up. I get that part. In full disclosure, let’s also put aside that, as a Raiders fan, I hate the Broncos (gee, could ya tell?) and that he’ll likely destroy my Raiders over the course of the next 3-4 seasons. But For the life of me, I can’t understand why he didn’t take a deal with The Second Most Evil NFL Team Ever, the SF 49ers.

Really, I don’t get it.

If I’m Peyton manning and I’m literally putting my neck on the line at age 36, why would I go to a team that’s not even half the team the 49ers are right now—a team that literally came within 2 of the Most Braindead Special Teams Plays Ever of going to the Super Bowl? And it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to look at the four keys areas and figure the more prudent and better decision. Let’s quickly look at ’em.

OFFENSE:
As a QB, you want offensive weapons, right? Right. The Niners have ’em in droves over the Broncos—WRs Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Ted Ginn Jr. (loads of untapped talent), TE Vernon Davis and RB Frank Gore (and an above average backup in Kendall Hunter). And, heck, they just got Randy Moss for giggles.

The Broncos have, well, uh,….oh yeah, RB WIllis McGahee (injury prone)! And, uh, WR Eddie Royal! No wait, he just went to the Chargers via free agency. There’s WR Eric Decker! Who? And the TE is Icant Namehim. Next, and apart from his inability to make a decision in the pocket, there were two other reasons why Tim Tebow ran like a banshee last year: 1.) The run-oriented line didn’t allow enough time for WRs to get open and 2.) the line isn’t that good when it comes to pass protection, giving up 42 sacks (the Niners 44)—and it would have been more if not for Tebow’s legs. Manning and his 36-year old legs won’t be so lucky.
EDGE: Niners by a smidge.

DEFENSE:
Granted they play in the worst division in football (more on that in a second), but the Niners still had one of the more stout Ds last 2-3 years. Denver? A soft schedule last year may have inflated their stature, though they played tough at times. Still they ranked 20th in D. The Niners? #4.
EDGE: Niners, and hugely so.

COACHING:
John Fox was a darn good coach for the Carolina Panthers turned the mid 2000s, but he hasn’t really done anything since ’05. For Jim Harbaugh, well, in his first and only season as an NFL coach, he took an underachieving team to within 2 of the Most Braindead Special Teams Plays Ever of the Super Bowl. Oh, and he did pretty well at Stanford, too. Plus, he’s an offense-minded coach.
EDGE: Niners

DIVISION:
The NFC West is the single worst division in football. Some might argue that the AFC West could beat it out, but I don’t think so. The Broncos have to contend with the Chargers and Chiefs, both very respectable and decent teams. As it stands now, the Niners can stamp a ticket to the playoffs for the next 3-4 years because there’s really no one to challenge them. Peyton would then likely get to face Little Bro (ahem, the one with two Lombardi trophies in his case vs. Big Bro’s one) in the playoffs.
EDGE: Niners

Four simple categories for Peyton to review and make a sound professional decision, one that quite possibly could have led to one or two Super Bowl visits, if not victories. That didn’t happen, though. Instead Peyton opted for the Benjamins in Broncoville under the BS ruse that he’ll play for one of the game’s greatest QBs, John Elway. (Guess he forgot about Joe Montana, Steve Young and John Brodie and their legacies in S.F.). Maybe the Niners couldn’t get anywhere near Denver’s offer, who knows. Still, at this point in his career, what is the point of playing if not to win championships? He has as much money as he’ll ever need from his contracts and the $38M he earned in endorsements in ’11. Bronco fans will probably deny all this but there’s no getting around Peyton’s decision to play in Denver was based on selfishness and personal, and was not at all football related. What a disappointing move coming from one of the more likable players in the NFL.