Benchwarmer of the Week: Tiger Woods

Last week, Tiger Woods missed the cut at the PGA Championship, marking just the fourth time in his career that he failed to make the cut at a major. And it wasn’t even close. Tiger carded a pair of 74’s, putting him at 6-over for the tournament. The cut was 2-under. Tiger finished a shot behind John Daly! There’s no doubt Tiger’s back hindered his play at Valhalla, but why play, if he was fighting through pain?

In the days leading up to the tournament, Tiger claimed his back was “pain-free, just one week after withdrawing from Bridgestone because of supposedly severe back pain. At Bridgestone, Tiger said he “jarred” his back after an awkward sand shot. That makes sense–Tiger just had back surgery a few months ago. After all, nearly everyone thought Tiger was pushing it, by returning from his injury so soon. But, again: why play the PGA if Tiger’s back was in that much pain? Lots of people will say that is what athlete’s do. They play through pain, and if they win, it is that much sweeter. That’s true, sure. And the risk? Well, with a back injury like Tiger has been dealing with, the consequences to his career would be fatal. Coming back from injury too soon and further aggravating it could speed up the end of his career. Continue reading

Rory Restores Our Faith in Golf

Maybe golf isn’t so doomed after all. On a day where Rory McIlroy took home his second PGA Championship trophy, fourth Major, and third straight win, golf once again has a reason to look forward to the future. Nearly everyone is rushing to anoint the imminent, or now current, ‘Rory Era’ that is officially ending the ‘Tiger Era.’ And for good reason–Rory is tearing up the tour and dominating in a way reminiscent of Tiger. He’s bombing drives well over 300 yards, right down the middle of the fairway, sticking irons feet from the pin, and knocking down putts when he needs to. Rory is being hailed the savior and new face of the struggling sport.

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Benchwarmer of the Week: Jason Dufner

Every week, we will present to you the Benchwarmer of the Week. Athletes who have struggled recently, or provided us an especially amusing anecdote. This week, we give you Jason Dufner. The 2013 PGA Championship winner– known for his everyman appealhilariously entertaining Internet meme, and butt-grabbing after winning the PGA— struggled with the flat stick at the Bridgestone Invitational last week. Anyone who’s played golf before has had a day–or many–like that. Unfortunately for Dufner though, he struggles with the putter more than most players.

Dufner’s best friend on tour Keegan Bradley explained what it’s like to play with Dufner:

“I look away when he has the putter in his hand. I watch everything until he gets on the green, and then I’m done.”

Dufner is Benchwarmer of the Week though because of what happened last week at Bridgestone. No, he didn’t have any meme-worthy or viral YouTube clips. But he did give away his putter on the tenth hole. That’s right. He was so fed up with how he was rolling the ball that he decided his putter was better off in the hands of some kid in the gallery. He decided to literally give up on the putter and use a 3-wood on the green instead! Continue reading

Here’s How You Actually Address Golf’s Problems

Yesterday, I wrote about the recent efforts to save golf. It has a growth problem right now, and it is a sport for the old and/or those who can afford it. The proposal gaining the most traction is a 15-inch cup, nearly quadrupling the current 4.25 inch cup. Widening the cup would certainly speed the game up and make it easier. And two of the biggest gripes of beginner and/or casual golfers is that the game is too hard and too slow. The bigger hole is a bit gimmicky, but there’s something to be said for instituting different forms of golf. PGA of America President Ted Bishop makes a good point:

“Call it whatever you want, but we’ve got to get past this notion that unless you’re playing nine or 18 holes, with 4¼-inch holes, it’s not golf. This is a form of the sport, just like playing H-O-R-S-E on the backyard hoop is a form of basketball.”

Golf purists, myself one of them, fret over the 15-inch cup as the future of golf. But it makes sense if you think about it as an easier, more fun alternative for those who don’t play frequently. Playing on the bigger cups with some friends who have hardly ever played golf makes sense. Or if you simply don’t have time to slog through a four or five hour round. That way, there is a happy medium between tedious time spent on the driving range and spending a couple hours playing nine or eighteen holes. With the bigger cups as a possibility, you could get out on the course and practice swing thoughts, without the demoralizing ‘one step forward, three steps back’ feeling that often accompanies swing changes. Continue reading

Is This Really The Way to ‘Save’ Golf?

Golf is frustrating. Probably the most frustrating sport to play. All you have to do is hit that tiny white ball a couple hundred yards into a tiny little hole. It’s a mental sport, sure to test your composure and perseverance. Have a bad day on the golf course and things can seem hopeless. Players will resort to anything to change their fortune on the course. They might try swinging with their eyes closed. Others will flip through Golf Digest pages, hoping to find a hidden swing thought that will save them strokes. And others, myself included, will come to believe that practicing isn’t helping, and that time away from the course is needed to improve.

Part of golf’s allure is its difficulty. It is a sport for an entire lifetime, in the sense that you can play it until you’re 80 or 90 years old. You may only shave off five strokes over the course of five or ten years, if you’re lucky. It is a sport of patience and calmness, two virtues lacking in younger people. It is also a sport that usually takes at least four hours to play at any given time. And if you’re playing with three friends, it can easily come closer to five hours.

So golf has a problem. Young people aren’t particularly enamored with an exceedingly difficult sport, with extensive and sometimes archaic rules, that takes up so much time. A sport for one’s lifetime? More like a sport that takes a lifetime to become good at. A sport of patience and calmness? Morel like a painfully slow waste of one’s time and resolve. These are some of the criticisms of golf by the younger generations. The sport seems too stuffy, elitist, and pretentious to the outsider. What’s fun about walking off the course demoralized after a bad round in which you hit half the balls you bought into the water or woods? Continue reading

Rory Eases His Way Through a Star-Studded British Open

The other day, Rory McIlroy won the first British Open, and third major of his illustrious career. Rory dominated from start to finish, never really leaving the outcome in doubt. McIlroy joins Tiger and Jack as just the third player in the history of golf to win three majors before the age of 26.

McIlroy may not have had to outlast a vintage Tiger Woods, but the leaderboard was loaded on Sunday. Rickie Fowler finished second yesterday, after just finishing the U.S. Open tied for second, and the Masters tied for fifth. Also at the top of the leaderboard were Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, and Dustin Johnson among others. Sure, there are only two majors between those four players, but those players are ranked 1st, 5th, 10th, and 15th respectively in the world right now. And yet, the championship was never in question. Rory had it in his grasp for the entire tournament.

Rory has shown the ability, when he has it going, to blow by the field in a manner reminiscent of Tiger. He’s had an up-and-down season marred by poor second rounds, but at Hoylake he put it all together, for all four rounds. His relationship with Caroline Wozniacki was fun on social media, but ultimately seemed to compromise his focus away from the game. With McIlroy focused solely on golf, he is the heavy favorite in the world. Continue reading

Ernie Els Hits Fan With First Shot Of British Open, Melts Down On Putting Green

Ernie Els, one of the world’s best players, winner of four majors, had a meltdown on the putting green familiar to most amateurs. Els began his opening round of the British Open with a sharp hook into the gallery. And that was only the beginning of the trouble. Els’ ball hit a fan in the jaw, leaving the fan bloodied and sent to the hospital. The whole scene was jarring and left Els in pieces, mentally. Anyone who’s ever played golf knows how important it is to be focused only on the shot at hand, and that having any recurring non-golf thoughts can be enough to unravel your game. Els admitted that the scene left him in a tough spot mentally:

“I was kind of finished, and then started missing short putts. It was a nightmare. So I’d like to put it behind me. I just hope the gentleman feels better, because he looked really bad when I left him there.”

For Els, the image never left his mind–the image of the spectator he sent to the hospital. Els went on to triple-bogey the hole. Or what casual golfers know as “just gimme a seven for that hole.” More shocking was how Els tripled the hole. On the green, Els had a tap-in for bogey, but somehow managed to miss a one-foot putt, and then miss another one-footer that he putted backhanded. Judging from the backhanded putt, as well as Ernie’s facial expression after the hole, it didn’t seem like Ernie was caught up with his score too much. He looked shaken at what had just transpired.  Continue reading