Friday, July 27, 2012

Who Says The PGA Tour Can't Create Exciting Online Content!


Noticed this hot video no doubt burning up the bandwidth over at PGATour.com today!  It's got everything you want in a highlight: Retief Goosen, a short-iron approach shot to 35 feet, and a two putt for par.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Minutes from Commissioner's Spring Report, 2052

Using state-of-the-art time travel technology developed by an off duty physicist at Nike's Oven Lab, Fore Right has obtained the minutes from the Commissioner's Spring Report to the PGA Tour's Board of Directors.  Forty years into the future.  Enjoy.

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COMMISSIONER'S SPRING REPORT
May 7, 2052


Meeting called to order at 10:01am by Commissioner Tim Finchem.

Opening Remarks:
  • Mr. Finchem thanks Board for recent 105th birthday celebration at the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse, says he's happy to "finally get a second use out of those blue drapes."  
New Business:
  • Commissioner confirms course changes for the upcoming Players Championship: 
    • A new tee has been approved for use on the 17th hole, stretching the island par-3 to a more competitive length of 377 yards.  
    • In turn, the old tee box for #17 will now serve as the new tee for #18.  New finisher should play 712 yards from the tips, a genuine two-shotter as originally intended.  
  • The tweaks to the FedEx Cup point algorithm seem to be working well.  Commissioner expresses confidence that the Tour can avoid last year's unfortunate scenario where the Cup Champion was ultimately decided by who won the Del Webb Father-Son Challenge. 
  • Sponsor update:
    • Cialis has abruptly canceled their advertising contract with the PGA Tour in the wake of new research showing a direct link between regular Cialis use and penis cancer.   
    • Given the financial beating they took after last year's zombie infestation, Travelers Insurance remains uncommitted to future Tour commitments at this time.
    • On the positive side, the Bureau of Tourism for the alien planet Zoltang has re-upped as title sponsor of the Zoltang Pebble Beach Pro-Am through 2054.  As part of deal, Tour agrees to let Zoltang serve as host for the 2055 WGC-Accenture Match Play (subject to Nicklaus green complex redesign).
Rules Report:
  • The USGA and R&A have clarified the confusion over rule 172-4b/1.  NO, players DO NOT need to be present to participate in a tournament PROVIDED their digital avatar is properly synced to the network server within five minutes of their assigned tee time.
  • Also, digital avatars must wear pants. 
Slow Play Report:
  • Thanks to the Tour's vigorous efforts to monitor pace of play, the average round so far in 2052 is down significantly, averaging just 10 hours and 37 minutes per threesome.  
  • In more good news, only 3 of the Tour's 19 events to date have ended on a Wednesday with the remainder finishing on schedule Tuesday night.
Technology Report:
  • The PGA Tour and its members remain split on whether surgically fixing a putter to a carved out hole in one's sternum counts as anchoring the stroke.  Further study required at this time.
Old Business:
  • Board continued their discussion on what can be done to convince Tiger Woods to play in more Champions Tour events.  
Next Meeting:
  • Thursday, June 23rd, 10am.  NOTE: In case of apocalypse, meeting will be moved to Zoltang.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My New Venture -- Don't Mess With Travis

Just wanted all of you who still follow my golf site to know I've switched gears and will be devoting much of 2012 to promoting my new novel DON'T MESS WITH TRAVIS, due out May 8th from Thomas Dunne Books.

So far the early reviews have been glowing.  To read what people are saying, to learn more about the book itself, or if you just like political comedy, click over to DontMessWithTravis.com.  Just as Fore Right was about satirizing golf, my new book (and blog) is dedicated to lampooning big government and everything that's wrong with it.

Happy New Year,
Bob

forerightbob@gmail.com

Friday, September 30, 2011

News and Thoughts from Beyond the Green...

Hey folks --

It's been a while since I've popped my head out but wanted to update you on my various writing projects along with sharing a few golf stories from the last year.

First with the career stuff:

--I can officially announce that my novel DON'T MESS WITH TRAVIS is now locked in for a May 8th, 2012 publication date from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press.  Political, laugh out loud funny, incredibly relevant... it's a perfect election year novel that should find a wide audience on both sides of the political divide.  Keep checking in here, at my other landing site, or on my Twitter feed for updates as the release date approaches.

--I also just finished writing a Goonies-type TV pilot for Disney XD called NIGHT OWLS.  Should know its fate soon.

--Also some movie stuff, which is still under wraps for the time being.

Now the golf stuff:

--Back in February I had the opportunity to play two rounds of golf with 1986 PGA Championship winner and current Champions Tour player Bob Tway.  Over two days, Tway shot 66-67.  And that 67 included a hoseled iron into the desert on the par-3 17th.  He laughed and said, "I do that about once a year..." then dropped a second ball and knocked it to 4 feet.

Anytime I see high-caliber golf up close, I'm reminded of how good golf is not complicated:
Fairway.
Green.
1-putt or 2-putt.
The occasional sand shot.
And that's it.

The only x-factor is putting.  When pros put well, they go low.  When they don't, they shoot around par.

The biggest takeaway from Tway was his "system."  Having spent 30 years playing professional golf, there are no blind spots in his golf swing.  He knows precisely how his swing should operate to generate a shot that goes directly toward his target on a straight line.  When he finds his ball is starting to bend slightly to the left or right, he goes to the range and hits balls until the curve is gone.  And unlike most of us amateurs, he's not trying things at random.  He scientifically goes through each element of his golf swing until he finds the element (grip, alignment, plane, etc.) that is slightly off.  He makes the tweak, his shots are once again flying straight, and his work is done.  Amazing.

--I know I'm joining the chorus of many golf writers, but it's really amazing that the PGA Tour hasn't revamped the FedEx Cup in any meaningful fashion.  From the first week of the season in January, we're told the FedEx Cup point standings.  Scoreboards at Tour events have been overtaken by rankings and points... and yet, in the final moments of the Tour Championship, even Bill Haas doesn't know where he stands.  And who can blame him?  It's an embarrassment to a sport whose basic concept is so simple: knock it in the hole in less strokes than your opponent.  The Cup race should be just as simple.  Some argue for a Match Play finish.  Or a stroke play on Sunday with the Final 4 points leaders.

I'm not picky.  I'll take any format that doesn't require a calculator to determine the winner.

--In personal golf news, I think I have discovered the secret to me playing well.  I know, I know, everyone thinks they figure it out and then it vanishes.  I'll admit, I've thought this before.  Many times.  But I mean it this time.  Really.  It started after I played two of the worst rounds of my life with Bob Tway.  I'd tell you what I shot but I lost so many balls and picked up so many times that both scores were un-recordable by the turn.

I returned home distraught over how I once again could be so lost in a game that was once easy.

Like I have for the last few years, I returned to the wisdom I gleaned from Fred Shoemaker back in 2008 and focused on what I was feeling (or not feeling) when I swung the golf club.  That meant going to the range, hitting balls and forcing myself not to care where the ball was going.  That's not easy in a world where we're so focused on immediate performance.  Slowly I was able to divorce myself from results and focus on feel. As I did, I was terrified to discover that for the middle 85% of my swing, I had no idea where the clubhead was.  swing.  Was it way inside?  Way outside?  Open? Closed?  I had no clue.  I lost any feeling for it shortly after pulling the club back and only felt it again at impact.  In short, I was flat out guessing on every single shot.

And so I went back to another Fred Shoemaker adage (here's his website if you're up for a golf weekend that will revolutionize the way you think about the game) and hit balls with the goal not being to hit it straight or solid, but simply to make a swing where I could feel the clubhead for the entire swing.  To accomplish that meant I had to swing slowly.  Very slowly.  To me, it felt like I was swinging slower than the Konica Minolta Bizhub camera.

I was sure people at the range were whispering, "What's wrong with that guy?"  But something amazing happened.  When I hit the ball, it went just as far.  Sometimes farther.  And straighter.  All with a swing that I was sure could not have propelled a ball more than twenty feet.  What felt like complete slow-motion to me was nothing more than a simple, smooth swing.

The net result: I know the clubhead is now.  I have regained control.  And when things get wild, I know I need to slow down again... and feel the clubhead.  From the take away through the finish.  Luke Donald doesn't swing hard to be a great golfer.  There's no reason you have to either.

--The best news is that with work projects wrapping up, I might finally have some time this fall to get in some good golf.  Yes, my state is basically bankrupt, its citizens are overtaxed and business are strangled in regulations, but hey, at least there are lots of good California golf courses to choose from.  Let me know if you want to join me!

Okay, until next time...
Bob

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bob Update...

Just wanted to post something here for the first time in a good nine months (sorry) to let you know what I've been up to, since obviously that hasn't included much golf.  Or at least writing about golf.

But I have been writing -- furiously, in fact.  I recently finished a novel that was bought by Thomas Dunne books in New York and is due out within the year.  Can't say much about the book now.  There is golf in it, but it's not a golf book.  It's political.  Satirical.  Very funny.  Very relevant.  It's the best thing I've ever written.

I've also been busy writing screenplays and developing some TV pilots, and am excited about the prospects for both.

With the novel done, you may even see me pop up again over at ESPN.com.  If so, I'll of course link to it here.

But this site is sort of a dinosaur at this point.  So to really stay on top of things, head on over to my new catch-all site: BobSmiley.me.  There you can find my Twitter feed, and, eventually, links to everything else I'm up to in one easy-to-digest place.

Thanks,
Bob

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hard to Watch...

I'll admit, Tiger Woods was a backup starter on my fantasy team this week, because up until this week I'd believed that his game had to snap back at some point and why not at Firestone, a course he destroys.

But it's sad to watch.  Am I the only one who heard his post-round press conference on Thursday and swore he choked up briefly when asked about his round?

He's embarrassing himself, both by his play and the fact that he's so clearly just going through the motions.  That I think is the greater tragedy, the lack of his focus.  That was always the factor that separated him from his peers more than anything else.  It was what made him so admirable.  He always cared. And right now he doesn't.

I don't know if he will find his game, to be honest.  My guess is he'll work like mad between now and next April to return to form in 2011 and show the world he has plenty of great golf in him.  But if he works that hard and continues to struggle, then who knows?  I don't think his disappearance from the sport altogether is completely out of the question.  It would be the final chapter in a tragic story of a broken man.

  

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Must-read Interview with Hank Haney...

Just off the phone with Tee off with Jamie Watson, my favorite Maryland golf show (and host), and we spent a while talking about the recent interview on GolfDigest.com with Hank Haney.  LINK HERE.  It's a must read.  Very enlightening look at the unique relationship between the world's best golfer and his swing coach... 2004-2010.  Confirmed a few of my suspicions and shed light on things I never knew were so dysfunctional.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why Hank Left Tiger...

I had plenty of time to observe the Tiger/Haney relationship in 2008, and at the end of 2008, I had the opportunity to sit down with Hank for a Men's Journal assignment and talk a bit about what it's like to be the swing coach to the greatest golfer of our generation.  It was obvious that Hank was not so much a coach in the classic hands-on sense of the word, but really a set of highly-trained eyes for Tiger. 
Hank wasn't hired to tell Tiger what to change in his golf swing.  By the time he hired Hank in 2004, Tiger knew what he wanted to change in his golf swing, and Hank's job was to help achieve that technical goal.  It was something that a number of swing coaches could theoretically do, but Hank's persona fit the mold Tiger was looking for -- quiet, focused, disciplined and loyal.  And despite the title of "coach," it was clear that Tiger would always be the master, even while being the student.  Or as Hank explained it to me at the time, "Tiger steers this ship.  I'm just lucky enough to ride on it." 

Of course that was before the S.S. Woods ran aground and knocked over a fire hydrant.

And in an instant, Tiger had a whole set of issues affecting his game that he never had before.  With Tiger facing personal distractions, a detioriorating body and maybe even some self-doubt, I've got to believe that Hank has realized that Tiger is facing a set of problems that no longer line up with his skill set.  Hank is very technical in his approach ("drill drill drill"... swing plane... mechanics over feel) but struggles mightily to coach when mental hurdles are in a player's way -- Season 1 of the Haney Project should be all the evidence one needs to support that theory.  Why stay with Tiger if he no longer believes he can help him? 

And yet even if Hank felt he could help Tiger, he has very little to gain by staying.  Hank's six-year tenure (and six major titles won) with Tiger is a calling card for the rest of his life.  He has golf schools, books, a deal with Golf Digest, a TV show...  Cutting ties now means less travel, less discussions with his new wife about what he and Tiger are doing away from the course when he's gone, and, if you want to be cynical, less responsibility for whatever Tiger does in his golf career going forward. 

Any regrets?  You bet.  I'm sure Hank just wishes he'd made this decision last September.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

One Reason to Appreciate Phil...

For having the guts to say things on record that few other players would, like this one regarding Quail Hollow:

"For as beautifully designed as this golf course is tee to green, the greens are by far the worst designed greens we play on TOUR. Even though they're in immaculate shape, I would say that 18 would be the worst green that we have on TOUR, except that it's not even the worst on this golf course. 12 is."

Monday, April 5, 2010

MASTERS IM-PRESSER: "It's not about championships. It's about how you live your life."

To many people's surprise, including mine, there were plenty of great things to come out of Tiger's Monday morning press conference.

Did he say what type of treatment he was in? No, but he said he's never received treatment for Ambien/Vicodin, which essentially answers that lingering question. Did he give any more details of the late-night crash? No.

BUT there were so many other things that seemed honest and genuine about Tiger Woods this morning, that he's either been taking acting classes in between rehab, or we are indeed seeing a different and better person.

**He said that it was "wrong of him" to ignore fans. That he "under appreciated" them. And that he will be making a conscious effort to behave differently (at least during practice rounds) to give them a little more love.

**He also admitted he'd been getting too "hot" on the course, and that he won't be as emotional. But that also goes for his exuberance when he wins. That's what golf fans call a win-lose.

**He said he started taking Ambien when his dad was sick and Vicodin on and off because of knee problems but has never needed treatment for either.

**He tore his Achilles in December 2008 while training for his return to golf in February. His ankle was wrapped for most of 2009 and affected how far he could hit it. And yet the guy still won 6 times in 2009?! Amazing.

**He missed his son's first birthday in February because he was in treatment and said it's a regret of his he will never forget. When you think of how devoted Earl was to Tiger, you understand how true this must be.

But to me the biggest wow moments were the following:

**Regarding his on course accomplishments over the last few years:

"The fact I won golf tournaments is irrelevant."

**Regarding playing golf again:

"It feels fun again. That's something I've been missing." And why hasn't it been fun? "Why? Look at what I've been engaged in."

**And regarding his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's 18 majors, the thing that has been Tiger's motivation and the sole focus of Team IMG for years...

"It's not about championships. It's about how you live your life.... I need to be a better man than I was before... If I win championships along the way, so be it."

WHOA. Who is this guy?

What made me respect and appreciate Tiger Woods over the course of 2008 was his focus, his commitment to improvement, his pursuit of excellence and showing that wanting to win is not a bad thing.

He still wants to win, that's the goal when he tees it up Thursday. But it's not as important as other things. Tiger has said just that for years, "family first..." but obviously that was a hollow sentiment. Now I think he believes it. And to that he must be given some credit. It's what I'd hoped he would do back in December but had no idea if he would or could.

Only time will tell if the reorganization of Tiger's priorities will have an adverse affect on the number of Green Jackets, Claret Jugs, U.S. Open and Wanamaker trophies he has in his house. For now at least, Tiger Woods seems more concerned with who's in his family room, than what's on the wall.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Interviews...

In evaluating the value of tonight's two, five-minute, restriction-free Tiger interviews, I've analyzed them in the most basic of ways. By asking one simple question:

What did we learn?

That is, after all, the purpose of an interview, yes? To get answers to questions the interviewee has yet to answer.

Okay, good. With that in mind, here's what I came up with:

--Tiger's nervous about fan reaction when he returns.

--Tiger has a new bracelet which he will wear for the rest of his life.

And.... yep, I guess that's pretty much it.

I'm really not trying to be cynical here, and correct me if I'm wrong, but this was the only new information, yes?

In light of this, I think it's a little difficult to compare this to David Frost sitting down with Richard Nixon.

I don't want to look like one of those people who will never be satisfied with anything Tiger says, but when you can't be straightforward about the type of treatment you've been receiving and still won't give even the most general of explanations regarding a very bizarre late-night car crash, he makes it hard to move on.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nathan Green Takes One...Actually 3, for the Team

With Camilo Villegas running away with a win at the Honda yesterday, the most compelling two minutes of the tournament came when Australia's Nathan Green tried (and then tried again) (and then again) to extricate his ball from the sludge just short of the 17th green.

In case you missed it, he progressively got wetter and muddier with each swing, as the ball popped up, flew a few yards and then rolled back through the rough and into the water. His 3rd attempt was the most impressive, for he not only moved his ball a few feet, he also uncovered another ball that was buried beneath his own, somehow moving that one farther than his own.

The whole thing reminded me of the time in high school golf where my teammate J.C.'s ball had trickled into one of the many algae-filled lakes at Olivas Links, our home course an hour north of LA which was recently re-designed and made a heck of a lot of fun. (You can usually find a good rate for it on my favorite golf course finder.) So. J.C.'s ball is sitting a good two inches beneath the surface of the water and his initial reaction was to take the penalty and drop, but we convinced him that it was totally playable.

"Just pretend the water isn't there," we said. "Oh, and swing hard." J.C. grabs a short iron, hovers his club above the lake and swings as hard as he can. The club never even touched the ball. But it sent a wave of water over J.C., drenching him in foul, reclaimed, muny water. As far as I know, J.C. never grew an extra toe or a tail, but we were all reminded that unless most of the ball is sitting above the water line, don't even try.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Yes, Dear" Speaketh the Truth...

Thanks to my friend David for sending along this YouTube video from a 2005 Yes, Dear episode where we unknowingly predicted Tiger's fall from grace. I'd completely forgotten about this joke but will go ahead and take credit for it since after 5 years, no one can remember who wrote what...


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Weighing in on Laying Up...

Everyone else has given their criticism or defense of Rickie Fowler's lay up on TPC Scottsdale's 15th hole, but I'm not sure anyone has poked the hole in what I saw as the total mathematical misfire in Fowler's brain as he assessed his situation.

Fowler's said afterwards that considering he was only one shot back at the time, he figured that even if he didn't make a birdie on 15, there were multiple birdie opportunities coming in, including the short 17th. Makes sense.

However, by that same logic, shouldn't he be assuming there was a decent chance that Hunter Mahan would birdie that same 17th hole as well? If that had happened, Rickie's failure to make a 4 on the 15th would leave him two behind Mahan with three holes to play.

I'm also not sure I buy the math about laying up being the higher percentage birdie for Fowler, despite Waggle Room's attempt to sell me on it.

Now beware, I was an English major... But from 200+ yards, Fowler hits the green 51% of the time (49th on Tour this year). From the sand, he gets up and down half of the time. Put those two stats together and it means if Fowler goes for the green ten times, five times he's got no worse than a two-putt for birdie and another two (or three) times he's got a sandy birdie. That's seven out of ten.

While Fowler is pretty good with a wedge from 80 yards, he's not getting up and down 70% of the time from there. No way.

But what the attempt from 200+ does bring into play is the water. And the big number. And the chance that Fowler ultimately loses the tourney on the 15th hole. But when it was all said and done, the truth is he lost it there anyway.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fowler to Eventually Make it to Florida

Phoenix Open runner-up Rickie Fowler confirmed Sunday that he really wants to make it to next week's Honda Classic by Monday, but isn't sure he can make it all the way to Palm Beach in one flight.

Explained Fowler, "Phoenix to Florida? All at once? That's crazy talk." Fowler's current itinerary calls for stops in Santa Fe, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Montgomery, and Tampa.

A win at TPC Scottsdale would have guaranteed the 21-year-old Fowler an invitation to the Masters.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thoughts From Beyond the Blue Drapes...

Since it's been made clear that enough of you care about what I think about TW's statement, I'm weighing in, despite the irrational desire to forget that any of this is happening.

THE GOOD:

-Was glad to hear him recognize that he reached an ugly point in his life where he felt the rules didn't apply and that he was "entitled" to every desire he had. That seemed like a mature point.

-It felt evident that salvaging his marriage is his number one priority. This didn't sound like a guy going through the motions to trick us into liking him again.

-Liked the insinuation that he was also going to work on being more "respectful of the game." I assume that means the swearing and club-throwing will finally get the attention it deserves from him. Like I've written, I don't buy that Tiger can achieve anything he wants in golf but can't figure out how to master the fine art of not slamming clubs into the turf.

-Appreciated the lack of Nike logos on his suit.

THE BAD:

-Wish it wasn't so scripted. I get that we were essentially just watching him go through step #whatever in his rehab and he had to do all these specific tasks via this talk, but it wasn't like he was delivering some speech on 16th Century Italian Art or something. While I appreciated that he looked at the camera to apologize to fans, I also guarantee that his speech said in bold "LOOK AT CAMERA HERE!!"

-The whole thing (blue drapes, family/friends sitting in silence) felt like some weird Scientology funeral. As much as I've felt he needed to address the public, this just felt uncomfortable from beginning to end, independent of the topic.

-When Tiger apologized to his friends and business partners, I couldn't help but think about all those friends and business partners who enabled a lot of his behavior. While Tiger is ultimately responsible for his actions, there needs to be some cleaning house of those who helped keep this charade going.

THE SAD:

-My lingering thought 12 hours removed from Tiger's statement is just how sad this all is. I wasn't sad like Charlie Rymer was sad on Golf Channel, but I was sad at the brokenness of what Tiger Woods has become.

You know how when you were a kid and your grandmother or grandfather suddenly got real sick and your parents made you visit them in the hospital and you didn't really want to? That's how I felt waiting for Tiger to come out. And it's how I still felt when he left. It's a strange and empty collection of pity and nostalgia for what once was, followed quickly by a desire to just run away, or in this case change the channel. The Tiger Woods many of us watched in complete awe is gone. Extinct.

That's not to say that a new Tiger Woods won't rise from these ashes and win America's heart with his resiliency, humility and (at long last) humanity. Of course I hope that happens. That Tiger Woods would likely be far more relatable than the old.

But I'll miss the old Tiger. The old Tiger didn't want to be relatable. He wanted to be better than everyone else at everything he did. By being impenetrable, he helped his peers see where they were weak. And in doing so, he single-handedly raised the bar of achievement.

This new Tiger wants us to learn from his frailty and ultimate redemption. A worthwhile lesson, for sure. But it's one we've already learned many times before, from people far greater than he.