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Grouchy Golf Blog

Monday, April 09, 2007 at 11:42 PM

The Tiger-Proofed Masters

This seems to be the consensus opinion on the 2007 Masters:
  1. “Tiger-proofing” has made Augusta National too difficult
  2. As a result, birdies and eagles were rare, taking the excitement out of the event
  3. Bottom Line: It was a borefest
I must be in the minority, but I thoroughly enjoyed the 71st Masters. Maybe the setup was too difficult for a traditional Masters, but when it comes to tournament golf, I prefer attrition warfare over shootouts. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that a course can be too difficult. The 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock was a prime example of the silliness that can arise from a sadist greenskeeper gone wild. But as long as a golf course is fair, I think that it’s fine. After all, everyone plays on the same course.

The difficult conditions left a wide-open Masters for the final round. On Sunday, Stuart Appleby, Rory Sabbatini, Retief Goosen, Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods all owned a piece of the lead at some point. Call me crazy, but I find such a “neck and neck” competition much more interesting than someone trouncing the field by 5 strokes the entire day.

Unfortunately, there was one key ingredient missing from this year’s Masters that would have made it magical: a classic Tiger charge. We all expected it, but it never came. Uncharacteristically, Tiger lost a final-round lead! However, don’t blame the course for that, Tiger clearly didn’t have his A, B or even C game. But take nothing away from Zach Johnson. He did not fold under the pressure and instead played brilliant golf. Unlike many winners this year, Zach won this tournament.

But imagine if Tiger was his usual self and forced Zach Johnson into a playoff ala Bob May in the PGA Championship circa 2000. Wouldn’t that have been exciting? All of a sudden, this Masters goes down in the history books as one of the best ever. Oh well, I guess Tiger is indeed human. It's either that or the Masters has truly been "Tiger-Proofed." Regardless, I'm just glad that I watched it all unfold on CBS in 100% high def, unlike that treatment.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006 at 1:15 PM

Riviera - My Great Expectations

The boyz of the PGA are playing in my 'hood this weekend for the Nissan Open at Riviera Country Club in beautiful Pacific Palisades, CA. Opened in 1926, the course is well-known for the dominance of Ben Hogan. Over a span of 16 months, Hogan won 3 tournaments at Riviera. He won the 1947 L.A. Open, the 1948 L.A. Open and the 1948 U.S. Open. As a result, Riviera is also called "Hogan's Alley." Other notable winners at Riviera include Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Ben Crenshaw, Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Nick Faldo, and Ernie Els. But Riviera is also known for it's "Hollywood" club members. Some of those include Glen Campbell, Dean Martin, and Gregory Peck.

With all of this rich history, Riviera is considered a legendary golf course. This is especially true amongst LA-area golfers. It is one of the local courses that all LA golfers would die to play, but the majority can't because it's a private golf club. Luckily, I had the rare opportunity to play Riviera as a guest 2 summers ago.

I had circled the date of my Riviera tee time on my calendar weeks in advance like it was a major milestone in my life. The course already occupied a special place in my heart because it was the site of the first professional golf tournament that I attended as a spectator. Watching the pros play Riviera in person was one of the main reasons that I took up the game seriously. Needless to say, my expectations to actually play the course were astronomical.

But like that blockbuster movie that you've been dying to see for months, my expectations for Riviera grew to such lofty heights that only golf nirvana would have satisfied them. My actual round got off to a bad start when I learned on the famous 75-foot elevated tee of the opening hole that it's green was under repair. So the first green that I played at Riviera was a chalk outline in the fairway!

I knew that my round was bound to improve, but somehow it just didn't improve enough. I just couldn't help but think throughout my round that Riviera was like a really nicely manicured $25 green fee LA muni. I realize that it's sacrilege to write that, but that's truly how I felt and still feel to this day. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice course, but not one that blew me away.

I realize that my grossly over-inflated expectations ruined my Riviera golf experience. Since that time, I try to play all new golf courses with an open mind. I don't try to read up too much about a new course or ask people for their opinions. I've learned that, like many things in life, golf is usually best enjoyed free of hype and expectations. Remember this the next time you're invited to play Augusta National!

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005 at 12:23 AM

The Rose Bowl Parking Lot, My Home Course

The biggest game in college football history has been set. The 2006 BCS Championship Game will be played Jan. 4th at the "The Granddaddy of All Bowl Games" pitting #1 USC against #2 Texas. While the 90,000+ fans in attendance will be watching one of the most anticipated college football games of all-time, their cars will be leaking oil on my home golf course. Let me explain.

My home course, Brookside Golf Club, is adjacent to the world famous Rose Bowl. Built in 1921, the stadium's official seating capacity is 92,542. That's a lot of people, and, since it's located in must-drive Los Angeles, a lot of cars.

But there's not a lot of room around the Rose Bowl for dedicated parking. So where do you park all those darn global warming machines on wheels? You park them on the golf course, that's where! Of the 20,600 parking spaces available for events at the Rose Bowl, approximately 12,050 spaces are provided on the two golf courses of Brookside Golf Club.

Yes, anytime there's a major event at the Rose Bowl, the Brookside Golf courses undergo a dramatic transformation. Hole #18 becomes Parking Lot 1A. Ball washers and tee markers are displaced by Bimmers and Toyotas. But the real change is the people on the course. It goes from golfers who treat the course like it's a temple to drunken tailgaters who treat it like a Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat house. "We once saw people frying a turkey, and they just spilled all the oil from it on the golf course," said Noni Holt, a UCLA football season ticket holder. "We were just mad because we know it hurts the golf course, and we're mindful of that. It really is a beautiful place." But most revelers just don't give a damn. "I'm sure the course gets torn up," said Jim Guthrie, a 2003 UCLA graduate who tailgated at a UCLA home game. "But we don't care that much."

Obviously, the course is closed for golf while it works double-duty as a parking lot and tailgating wasteland. But the course never gets a rest. After moonlighting as a parking lot, a crew of over 100 cleans up the course for tee times the next morning. Yes, the next morning! As you can imagine, they can't clean up everything. If you do play the day after an event, don't be surprised to find your ball resting against unusual "loose impediments" in the form of strewn Corona bottles and Coors cans. Balls landing in a SUV tire tread or a pile of spent charcoal isn't uncommon. The golf rules for relief from standing water are sometimes applied to standing motor oil. Heck, sometimes abandoned cars are left in the middle of the fairway!

Proceeds from the $25 per car parking fees cover the money that would have been generated from greens fees. But you would think that the abuse Brookside receives as a parking lot would spell disaster for course conditions. In reality, it doesn't. Sure, it's not , but Brookside is typically in very good condition after a tailgating binge. I applaud the entire staff of Brookside who manages to maintain the course's position as one of the top 10 public courses in Southern California year after year. Once host to the LA Open, I pray that Brookside will once again host a pro golf event so that we can all park on the Rose Bowl football field for some much needed payback!

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Monday, January 24, 2005 at 10:30 AM

Torrey Pines - The Best Golf Course?

Congrats to Tiger for winning the Buick Invitational on my favorite course, Torrey Pines. Unfortunately, the word has been out for a very long time as it is easier to win PowerBall than it is to get a tee time at Torrey. But there are many reasons why it still occupies a special place in my heart.

The Price - I've been lucky enough to play Torrey at the San Diego City resident rate. At these rates, it has to be one of the best deals in golf. The twilight rate is about $20 and you can easily finish 18 holes at twilight in the spring/summer. Unfortunately, the non-resident rates are quite steep. But you can't blame them. After all, Torrey is a muni course built for the residents of San Diego. Who wants their home course overrun by outsiders?

The Setting - I'm a native Californian, so I have a special affinity for ocean courses. Torrey is bounded by mountains to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The Torrey Pines Tree is indigenous to this area and adds a unique touch.

The Courses - There are two courses, each with its own personality. The South is one monster of a course. From the tips, it is 7,607 yds. Probably the longest course I've ever played. The North is a much more reasonable 6,874 yds. and is more scenic. It's a much more enjoyable course for non-single-digit handicappers.

My Game - But the primary reason I love Torrey is that, for some reason, I've played my best golf there. I've played 4 rounds total on 3 separate trips and I each time I have played out of my head. The first time that I played Torrey, I played on the South course from the white tees (6,885 yds.). The day was marred by torrential rains and winds of up to 15 mph. However, I never played so well. Everything just clicked. I shot a 12-over 84, which might not sound so great. But considering the conditions (my friend Anth said par was probably 76 that day), an 84 was a great score for me. The next 3 rounds at Torrey were similarly fantastic. Why? I have no idea. It makes no sense, but what does in golf? Certainly not this golf blog!

Below is a picture of me at Torrey for the 1st time teeing off on the South's par-4 2nd hole. I remember that I crushed it 300 yds. (with a 15 mph tailwind!). Check out that storm coming in from the Pacific.

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Monday, August 09, 2004 at 10:02 AM

Pete Dye - Sadomasochist of Golf

Lost Canyons and Ocean Trails are two southern CA courses with uncanny similarities. For one, they are both appropriately named. Lost Canyons is where you not only lose your $5 balls, but also your patience, your swing, and evenutally, your game. Ocean Trails is where you spend more time on the ocean trails looking for your lost balls than on the actual course playing golf.

But the main similarity is that these tracks sprung from the mind of the same guy: 78 yr.-old Pete Dye. He makes John Cleese's character in those Titleist NXT commercials look like Mother Theresa.

I mean it's not like golf isn't hard enough. Old Petey kicks it up several notches utilizing every trick in the book:I'm surprised that he still hasn't employed quicksand or land mines in some diabolical manner.

I recently played Ocean Trails with my friend Jen, only because they are running an "all-you-can-play" special for $65 before they close on Aug. 18 to be rebuilt as Trump National Golf Club. Having already suffered through a couple of Dye nightmares in the past, I was ready this time. I knew that lost Pro V1s sprouted out of the rough like weeds, so I only brought Top Flite rocks. Sure enough, I found enough premium balls to last me the rest of the year.

Mentally, I told myself that this would be just a nice walk by the beach, stopping to hit a stupid white ball every now and then. Otherwise, I would have lost my mind trying to shoot a decent score. It worked, and I had a great time.

Well, the pros will have their turn in a Dye torture chamber this week at Petey's Whistling Straits, home to the 86th PGA Championship. I imagine that it will be a great event to watch, since nothing is more entertaining than to watch the pros suffer like your everyday hack.

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