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Grouchy Golf Blog

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 at 8:42 PM

This Month Marks Two Years of Grouchy Golf!

About two years ago, I was dying to get one of those newfangled Gmail beta accounts. At the time, they were hard to come by, and I was too cheap to buy one on eBay.

I had heard that Google was giving away gmail accounts to users of Blogger, a subsidiary of Google. I figured, what the heck? I'll sign up for a stupid Blogger account to receive a Gmail account. That's easy. I waited and waited, and no gmail invite. I reasoned that I needed to actually use Blogger to receive that coveted Gmail invite. I had never even heard of "blogging". But I was so determined to get that friggin' Gmail account, I started a shill blog called "Grouchy Golf". My first post was short and sweet, because I figured that one post would qualify me for a Gmail account. But when I still didn't receive a Gmail invite, I created another post to better my chances. That began a vicious cycle: no invite, new post, spin cycle, repeat. Eventually, I directed some friends to Grouchy Golf for fun. They got a kick out of it so I continued to create new posts for our amusement. Two years later, and I'm still going strong! The ironic thing is that I never did receive that dog-gone Gmail invite from Blogger! Newman!

Sunday, June 18, 2006 at 10:15 PM

FIGJAM - Ego Cost Phil Mickelson the U.S. Open

Have you ever heard of the term "FIGJAM"? Apparently, it is widely used on the PGA Tour to describe fan-favorite Phil Mickelson. FIGJAM is an acronym standing for "F#ck I'm Good, Just Ask Me." According to an article in GQ magazine, "There are a bunch of pros who think he and his whole smiley, happy face are a fraud. They think he's preening and insincere."

That's what I've thought all along. It's convenient that Phil's peers, the people who truly know him the best, have already coined a term to describe him so accurately. Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhenever I see that pompous on TV, my mind automatically superimposes a cartoon-like thought bubble next to his head filled with those words, "F#ck I'm Good, Just Ask Me." That phrase fits his expression to a tee!

But being a FIGJAM, by definition, requires a massive ego. Unfortunately, such megalomania often clouds sound decision-making. That was exactly what happened to Phil at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

Playing in front of a Phil-friendly crowd, Phil was determined to show off his golf skills at every available opportunity. Time and time again, Phil chose to dazzle rather than to play it smart. For the most part, he got away with it, flashing that FIGJAM smile whenever he did. But when you laugh in the faces of the Golf Gods, expect to be struck down.

Holding a one shot lead on the 18th tee, Mickelson only needed a par for the victory. A safe fairway wood off the tee would have been the wise choice, but that's beneath a FIGJAM. No, a FIGJAM needs to hit driver to impress. Phil sliced his drive so badly off the tee that it hit a hospitality tent and landed between the trees onto the spectator-trampled rough. Chipping back onto the fairway would have all but guaranteed a bogey and a playoff with Geoff Ogilvy, but again, that's beneath a FIGJAM. Phil just couldn't resist the temptation of bringing the house down with a miraculous 3-iron through the trees and onto the green. Only the miracle didn't happen. Phil's ill-advised 2nd shot hit a tree and dashed his hopes of winning.

"Discretion is the better part of valor" is an old expression derived from Shakespeare's King Henry the Fourth. It means that caution is preferable to rash bravery. Phil must not have paid much attention in English class because it is a lesson that he continues to ignore and this time it cost him a U.S. Open. But I don't think that he was too upset by it since he was smiling the whole time.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006 at 11:15 PM

Is Carolyn Bivens Running the LPGA into the Ground?

I enjoy watching LPGA events just as much as that of the PGA. In certain cases, I prefer the LPGA. For example, given the choice between watching an LPGA major or a non-major PGA event, I always choose the LPGA.

That was the situation I was expecting to face this weekend as I sat down on my comfy leather couch. I took a sip of my tasty beverage and powered up the old boob tube. I knew that the LPGA's 2nd Major, the McDonald's LPGA Championship, had just started. I flipped the channels to find the television coverage. NBC - nada. ABC - zilch. CBS - the Barclays Classic. What's the dealio?

I checked my trusty TV Guide. My worst fears were confirmed. None of the major networks were televising the McDonald's LPGA! Instead, the Golf Channel was covering all four rounds. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the Golf Channel. However, I had to drop it from my cable service after it moved into the premium sports tier and pushed my monthly cable bill over a Benjamin.

Regardless, I was just dumbfounded that no major broadcast network picked up the final rounds of an LPGA major at a minimum. Since I had nothing else to do, I jumped onto the internet to find out the scoop. According to the article, "The McDonald's turns to TGC" by Jay A. Coffin in the April 18, 2006 issue of Golfweek:
The McDonald's LPGA Championship will receive four more hours of coverage this year but it will not be shown on network television for the first time in nearly two decades. After 15 years on CBS, the tournament announced April 17 a three-year deal with The Golf Channel, making it the first major championship on the LPGA broadcast solely by the network.
Had the major networks simply lost interest in the LPGA? Apparently not. According to "Major savings?" by Ron Sirak in the May 26, 2006 issue of Golf World:
Jon Miller, NBC's senior vice president of sports, said when NBC learned CBS was giving up the McDonald's (because tournament officials wouldn't agree to the network's request for a 3 p.m. Sunday finish), he called the LPGA and told commissioner Carolyn Bivens his network would like to take over the telecast. But Miller says Bivens told him McDonald's officials had already decided to go with The Golf Channel; when Miller pressed her on it, Bivens told him the decision was "out of the LPGA's hands."

Why would any tournament, particularly a major, opt to give up broadcast network coverage? Money is the most obvious answer. A source familiar with the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said McDonald's saved $1.2 million a year by going to The Golf Channel instead of a network. Unlike the PGA Tour, the LPGA buys network time for its tournament broadcasts, then sells the commercials itself to try to recoup its cost. The source told Golf World it would have cost $1.5 million to put the McDonald's on CBS (or, presumably, NBC), but just $300,000 on The Golf Channel.
Unfriggin'believable. Sure, it's cheaper to broadcast an event on The Golf Channel, but the revenue opportunities are a lot less as well. Also, with the emergence of new and exciting young female golfers such as Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer, etc., isn't this the best time for the LPGA to invest in the tour's exposure? These future golf stars deserve the spotlight of broadcast network coverage to capitalize on a new wave of viewer interest. The Golf Channel's miniscule audience just doesn't cut it.

How could the LPGA let this happen? Someone clearly dropped the ball big-time. Ultimately, Bivens must take responsibility for this sorry state of affairs. If her blunders persist, she will lose the support of the players, including one that's not yet a member but may be key to the LPGA's future: Michelle Wie.

Many people have been critical of Michelle Wie's limited LPGA schedule. The fact of the matter is that Wie is not an LPGA member and is limited to playing a maximum number of eight LPGA events this year. Not only is Wie playing as many LPGA events that she can, but she actually entered a much more difficult U.S. Open Sectional qualifier to be able to play in the McDonald's. She could have easily skipped the McDonald's to play in a much easier U.S. Open Sectional qualifier that would have almost guaranteed her chances to make history at Winged Foot. That's a pretty big sacrifice. How much more could Wie do for the LPGA? Outside of maxing out LPGA events, Wie plays in the best events that she is invited, whether it be a men's or women's event. Considering that , it makes a whole lot of sense.

If Carolyn Bivens continues to penny-pinch the LPGA into obscurity, maybe Wie would be better off to remain a part-timer on the LPGA. Why play on a tour where only a fraction of the population can view it? I wouldn't blame Wie if she were to bypass the LPGA altogether. I'd be in favor if it meant that I could watch her more often. Bivens needs to increase the LPGA's visibility, not lessen it. If she can't grasp this obvious and simple concept, she is totally clueless and needs to step down immediately. After only ten months as the queen bee, Bivens has already seen the departure of seven senior LPGA executives, two of them she had hired. Asked why she bolted from her post as the senior vice president of golf, Deb Richard responded, "I've lost faith in the leadership." Let me translate that cryptic message for you, "Carolyn Bivens is running the LPGA into the ground and I'd better bail out now before the $hit really hits the fan." Ty Votaw, you are sorely missed.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006 at 10:42 AM

Avoid Golf on a Driving Range Mat!

When I first started playing golf, there were no grass driving ranges in my area. By default, I was forced to practice on artificial grass range mats. Not knowing any better, I believed that they were just as good as the real thing. Boy was I wrong. Indeed, I became pretty proficient hitting golf balls off padded Astro Turf. But that's a lot like saying you can fly a plane well after only piloting a video flight simulator.

While hitting a teed ball off range mats doesn't pose a problem, hitting unteed balls off range mats can adversely affect your swing. The main problem with range mats is that they don't allow you to take divots. When an iron impacts real grass, it digs in and scoops out a chunk of turf leaving the so-called divot. When this happens in relation to contact with the golf ball is all the difference with iron ball-striking. When hit properly, the iron contacts the ball before it impacts with the turf. If the iron hits the turf before the ball, the turf will interfere with the iron on ball contact resulting in the so-called "fat" shot (see picture). Besides the dreaded , the fat shot is the ugliest shot in golf. Laying sod is for landscaping your yard, not for hitting a golf ball.

Practicing on real turf gives you the necessary feedback to learn . Hit a fat shot on real turf, and the ball behaves just like it does on the golf course - it goes nowhere. The beauty is knowing that you must have done something incorrectly to produce such a poor result. However, a fat shot on a range mat will likely produce a somewhat acceptable result. How do you improve if you don't know when you are doing something wrong?

Another problem with range mats is that they are unyielding to the impact from a properly struck iron. As a result, golfers may try to minimize contact with the mat, adversely affecting their swing. I certainly felt that extensive practice on range mats caused me to develop an overly shallow swing and become a "picker" of the golf ball. In other words, I was hitting the golf ball without taking a divot whatsoever.

While I don't think that there's anything significantly wrong with being a "picker", the margin for error is much less for a picker. Strike the ball one or two lower than normal on the clubface, and a picker will hit it thin. A steeper swing will forgive such faults.

Lastly, the firmness of mats may actually start to alter your clubs! If you have soft, forged irons, the constant pounding against a range mat could bend the club's lie angle. Be sure to have the lie angles of your forged irons checked if you've been hitting off a mat.

Thankfully my local course now has a full-time 100% real grass driving range. I realize that my extensive practice on range mats was not only largely fruitless, but also detrimental. I now refuse to practice on range mats, using them only to warm-up before a round in the absence of a grass range. As Cheech and Chong might say, "there's just no substitute for real grass."

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