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:
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...