Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Monty Named Ryder Cup Captain

Colin Montgomerie, the prickly Scot who has a remarkable record in the Ryder Cup, was selected to lead the European team in the 2010 matches. Montgomerie was chosen over Jose Maria Olazabal, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosman. The matches will played in Wales. Corey Pavin will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Montgomerie, who has never won a major championship, won 20 Ryder Cup matches with just nine losses and seven halves in eight Ryder Cup appearances. He has been on the winning side five times. His 23 ½ career points trails only Nick Faldo. Despite his success in the Ryder Cup, Montgomerie has not fared well in major championships and his churlish behavior and propensity to have rabbit ears has made him the European player that American fans love to hate. It will be interesting to see if Captain Monty can inspire his team of Europeans to play for him.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Gene Sauers.

John Updike, Golf Writer

Legendary American writer John Updike died yesterday at 76. Although Updike was renowned for his novels about contemporary American life, he also wrote beautifully about golf. An avid, albeit average golfer, Updike published the best of his writings on the sport in a book titled "Golf Dreams." Two of his most memorable short stories with golf themes were "The Pro" and "Farrell's Caddie." Mr. Fairway has misplaced his copy of "Golf Dreams," but he in inspired to read it again. So should you.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Dick Hart.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Haney on Swing Thoughts--Part 3

Haney stressed the importance of taking the club back on the proper plane, not too far outside (upright) or too far inside (flat). And he said to forget about taking the club back along the ground, which forces the club too far inside. “That is a wasted thought,” Haney said. Taking the club back too low and too inside does not create enough wrist hinge. On the backswing, Haney said the upper body coils and the lower body resists. The downswing, he said, starts from the ground up. He noted that Tiger tries to achieve a wider backswing and the hold his body back on the downswing as his arms and hands get moving to the ball. Recently, Tiger has been working on improving his backswing because he was taking the club back too straight.

Haney also scoffed at the notions of keeping your head down and keeping your eyes on the ball. “The ball isn’t going anywhere until you hit it,” he said. Once you hit the ball, Haney said, let your eyes follow the ball “so you can enjoy your good shot or so you can see where the ball lands with a bad shot.” Haney said everyone should have a swing thought. Tiger never hits a ball without thinking about the direction, the trajectory, etc. “His swing thought changes depending on what he’s trying to do,” Haney said. Haney said everyone, including the pros, have negative thoughts enter their head, but that you have to replace those negative thoughts with a positive thought that will allow you to hit a good shot.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Chris Perry.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Haney's Swing Concepts--Part 2

Haney preached two concepts: First, the golf swings on an arc and the golf club swings up, then down and then up again. Any swing with too much or too little of one or both of those concepts leads to problems. “Most people swing back to flat and come down too steep,” he said. Second, golfers must swing on the proper plane. Haney said golfers have different planes depending on their height but all good golfers keep the club on the proper plane. He recommended swinging the club with the club head several inches above the ball imitating the motion of opening and closing a door. Squaring the club at impact and closing it down will help eliminate spin and increase distance.

Speaking of distance, Haney said golf is a game of distance and direction. But distance is the most important factor in playing good golf. So how do you get more distance? Haney said the answer is to swing faster. “You can’t swing slower and hit the golf ball longer,” he said. Tiger can swing up to 140 miles per hour and most touring pros swing more than 126 miles per hour, Haney said. An increase on one mile per hour will send a golf ball 2.3 yards farther, Haney said. But he emphasized that swinging faster is not the same as swinging harder, noting that when golfers try to swing harder, they hold the club too tight. “You get speed by relaxing and softening your muscles, which will enable a bigger shoulder turn and more wrist cock. “To make a better swing, make a faster swing,” Haney said.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Brian Claar.

A Lesson from Hank Haney--Part 1

Mr. Fairway is walking on air because he had an hour-long golf lesson today from Hank Haney, personal teacher of one Tiger Woods. OK, in the interest of full disclosure, Haney was addressing about 400 attendees at a golf show in Northern Virginia. But Mr. Fairway had a front row seat. “Yesterday, I was teaching Tiger and today I’m talking to you,” Haney said, looking directly at Mr. Fairway. Here is the first of several posts from that session.

Haney said that all golfers, including Tiger, need a plan to get better and noted that his prize pupil’s attitude is “if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.” Haney suggested that golfers who don’t have a plan really have no chance to improve. Any plan starts with a diagnosis, Haney said. He recommended that golfers look at the ball flight of their bad shots hit with a driver to help determine where they need improvement. Golfers can diagnose their faults by looking at their ball flight. If you slice, the odds are you are swinging too upright and hitting the ball on the toe of the club. If you hook, you are swinging too flat and hitting the ball on the heel. “Without a proper diagnosis, you can’t get a good plan to fix it,” Haney said. Noting that 90 percent of all golfers hit a slice in one form or another, Haney said that to improve a golfer must fix his ball flight fault. “If you can get the golf club to do something different, you’re going to hit the ball better,” he said. Golfers cannot lower their handicaps until they fix their critical mistakes.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Woody Blackburn.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tiger to Speak at Obama Event

Tiger Woods will speak at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday as pat of President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities. Woods issued a statement on his web site on Friday confirming the invitation. “I am honored that I was invited to this historic event and look forward to participating in Sunday’s festivities,” Woods said. The event will feature entertainment by Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, U2, Beyonce, and Garth Brooks as well as appearances by Denzel Washington and Martin Luther King III. Woods, who has shied away from involvement in politics, was criticized for declining to participate in a major league baseball celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Woods called Obama’s victory in November “absolutely incredible” and told CNBC-TV that Obama “represents America. He’s multiracial. I was hoping it would happen in my lifetime. My father was hoping it would happen in his lifetime, but he didn’t get to see it. I’m lucky enough to have seen a person of color in the White House.”

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to David Peoples.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Now Hear This

Will “WHAT!” replace “FORE” as the traditional warning cry on golf courses around the world? Scientists in Scotland would have you believe that golfers who use titanium drivers risk damaging their hearing because of the sound the high tech clubs make when they strike the golf ball. Some doctor in Edinburgh said his research shows that titanium clubs “may produce sufficient sound to induce temporary or even permanent cochlear damage in susceptible individuals.” The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, recommends that golfers wear ear plugs to prevent damage and possible deafness. I know that some of the new, hot drivers produce interesting “clanks” and “dings” when they hit the ball, but causing potential hearing loss? That’s whacky. Maybe Tiger can get an endorsement from Miracle Ear.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Des Smith.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Aloha, 2009

The PGA Tour kicks off its 2009 season this week with the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Maui. The tournament is for winners from the previous year only, which means a limited field and a guaranteed pay day. Of course, not everyone will be there. Tiger Woods is still on injured reserve. Phil Mickelson doesn't start his season until the tour goes to California. Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia don't want to make the long trek to Hawaii. As much as I enjoy watching the event (especially after having played the Kapalua Plantation course a few years ago), I have a problem with this event. The money that the plays win -- no cut, remember -- counts as official money in the tour's stats. More importantly, all players earn those really important FedEx Cup points. In my mind, that's an unfair advantage. Should tournament winners be rewarded? Sure but don't over-reward them. Let them go to Hawaii in January, play a beautiful course and earn gobs of money. But call it an extension of the Silly Season and don't count the money as official and don't hand out points for it. In the meantime, take a break from football and enjoy the golf and the scenery, especially those blimp shots of the whales.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Mark Pfeil.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Golf

Happy New Year, golf fans! Mr. Fairway, who says you can't play golf every day of the year if you don't play on January 1, just returned from the course. Despite a temperature of 31 degrees and 15 mph winds, Mr. Fairway played five holes this morning. Actually, it wasn't too bad out there once he downed a Bloody Mary mixed up by another pitiful soul. He striped his first three drives of the year down the fairway, but couldn't stop the ball on the frozen greens. Four of us played five holes -- #1, #10, #11, #15 and #18 -- before heading for home to warm up and watch some bowl games. (Mr. Fairway played a full 18 holes on Dec. 30.) For the rest of you slackers, make a resolution now to play on New Year's Day, 2010.

Hitting (frozen) range balls while wondering whatever happened to David Frost.