Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Driver: Titleist 915D2 (Mitsubishi Diamana W-Series 70X), 8.5 degrees
3-Wood: Titleist 915Fd, 15 degrees
Hybrid: Titleist 915Hd, 20.5 degrees
Irons (4-9): Titleist CB 714; (PW): Titleist Vokey SM5
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM5 (52, 56 degrees); Titleist SM4 TVD Grind (60 degrees)
Putter: Scotty Cameron by Titleist Newport 2 SLT T10
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Rory McIlory's latest win shows just how much better he is than everyone else, including Tiger Woods
The same sort of intergalactic banishment was the collective fate of those in McIlroy's lengthy slipstream at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Four tours of the Emirates Course saw him reach 22 under par and finish three strokes clear of the runner-up, Swede Alex Noren. As a measure of the 25-year old Irishman's now prolonged level of high performance, 18 of his last 49 competitive rounds have added up to 66 or better. His last seven finishes on the European Tour: First. First. First. Second. Second. Second. First.
"He's playing a different game from the rest of them," says former BMW PGA champion Tony Johnstone, who now commentates for Sky Sports in the UK. "When Tiger was at his peak he could play at maybe 70 percent of his capability and still win. Rory has reached that level too. And when he plays close to 100 percent, it is 'goodnight boys.' He is hitting shots so good we don't have enough superlatives to adequately describe them for the viewers."
Such hyperbole is hardly misplaced. Having emerged towards the end of what history will surely label "the Tiger-years," McIlroy is fast creating his own eponymous era. Already it can be argued he is perhaps the best driver of a golf ball the game has yet seen. Tee-shots that routinely travel 350-yards and finish on short grass represent a potent coupling of distance and accuracy.
"I'd just finished my second round here when someone told me Rory hit his drive on the second hole (351-yards) 12 feet from the pin," says former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson. "I had to laugh. I hit my best drive on that hole and still had 50-yards to the flag."
Via Twitter, former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari described McIlroy's drive off the 6th tee in the final round as "simply insane!!!"
There's more to all of this than just natural talent though.
"Technically, Rory is really, really good," points out leading swing coach Pete Cowen, who works with, among others, former US Open champion Graeme McDowell and world number two Henrik Stenson. "That's why he hits his drives so far and so straight. But the key to Rory's swing is balance. He couldn't swing the club as fast as he does without great balance."
One dark cloud is currently floating over McIlroy's head. Only two days removed from his tenth European Tour victory, his presence is required in Dublin's High Court. Indeed, the way things are shaping up on and off the course, the legal action against his former management company, Horizon Sports, might be McIlroy's most hard-fought contest of 2015.
ESPN's Mike Greenberg talks about his biggest thrill in golf and how he shaved 16 strokes off his handicap
GD: We’re thrilled to talk golf again with you -- everyone at Golf Digest follows your tweets that are often themed around golf.
Greenberg: As you know, I’m golf-obsessed. I need to tell you my best golf story. This summer I was six inches from what would’ve literally been the greatest experience of my life. And even as it was, it was the best experience of my life. At Rolling Hills C.C. in Wilton, Ct., I was on the 15th tee with my son, Stevie, who's just sort of learning the game. He’s 11 years old. What better experience for a father and a son playing golf, late in the afternoon with the sun starting to set, during the summer? It’s a beautiful day. The 15th is a short par-3. And my son hits a shot up there, and it’s tracking toward the hole. It lands on the green, and takes two hops. I literally fell to the ground. I thought he had made a hole-in-one. So he’s screaming and I’m screaming. And I swear to you, it stopped six inches short of the cup. I’m actually lying on the ground. I’ve been playing golf my whole life and I’ve never made a hole-in-one. My son, Stevie, at 11, almost made one. And I can tell you, that would’ve been better for me than if I would’ve made one. And the memory of how close he got is something we still talk about to this day. And something we likely will always talk about. What could possibly be better than that? I’d give anything to be playing with my son one day and him make a hole-in-one. That’s a perfect illustration of what I’m talking about with my new Dove Men+Care commercial.
GD: Wow, is he a good player? That’s really impressive.
Greenberg: No, that’s the point. He’s a true beginner. He just started playing last year. We got him a real set of clubs. And he goes out and he plays. This would’ve been the third time in his life that he played a complete nine holes. And he almost makes a hole-in-one.
GD: I hear you’re down to a single-digit handicap? Just five years ago, you told us your life dream was to break 80. Is that true?
Greenberg: It speaks to the importance of a PGA professor. I work with Dan Tzivanis, the director of instruction at Rolling Hills. And we’ve worked really hard. I had it down to an 8.6. But on my last adjustment it went to a 9.2, which I was really disappointed about. So yes, my goal this summer is to get down to a single-digit handicap. I set a goal every single year. I’ve really improved over the last couple of years. And you know, I don’t do anything but think about golf. I love golf. I play as often as I can. I do nothing but love golf books and read Golf Digest. I’ve went through your 100 Greatest courses and now the Second 100 Greatest in that issue. I was fascinated by them as always. And I was thrilled that I have played the top four of the public courses on the list. I was very excited about that. As I’ve told everyone, I’m a huge fan of Golf Digest.
GD: Did you count how many of the 100 Greatest you've played?
Greenberg: That’s the first thing everyone does, right? Actually ironically, I’ve played more courses in the top 100 in the world than the U.S. ranking. Because I’ve traveled to Scotland and Ireland on a number of occasions. I’ve been to Royal County Down, St. Andrews, Muirfield, Royal Dornoch, Carnoustie, Royal Portrush, and many more.
That’s one thing I’d like to say. I think they have it right over there. The most elite, beautiful courses in Ireland and Scotland are available for play for guests. They set aside some time for the public to come play it. And you know what, these courses aren’t just kept a secret. The entire world gets to experience the most beautiful courses in the world. And I strongly believe they should do that in the U.S., at Augusta and Pine Valley and Cypress and all the top courses. I would be a huge advocate of that.
GD: That could certainly be a way to make the game healthier for the masses here in the U.S., and help it in the long run.
Greenberg: Listen, I’ve played Pine Valley. It’s like a religious experience. Pine Valley is my No. 1 in the world. I’m fortunate enough to have played seven of the top 10 in Golf Digest’s World 100. And I would put Pine Valley No. 1, then Muirfield (Scotland’s) No. 2, then a very, very close race between Pebble and Royal Dornoch. Then from there, I went to Bandon Dunes last year and it was an unbelievable time. Pacific Dunes is unbelievable. Just the experience at Bandon is off the charts.
GD: What was your favorite golf trip?
Greenberg: Scotland two years ago was unbelievable. We went there and it was the trip of a lifetime. But of my U.S. trips, I’d put Bandon at the top. I thought that was unbelievable. I’d go Bandon No. 1, followed by Kohler. And it’s close. The variety of good golf and the convenience of it, the accommodations. Those two are my favorite twos.
GD: Do you have a group of guys who you always go with?
Greenberg: Yes, we have a group of eight guys. And we go every year. So we alternate one year going to a domestic site, one year to an international spot. The key is the group. The key is the friendship. Because there’s no better buddy bonding time in the world than a golf trip. At least nothing I’ve had in my life. My brother-in-law is in the group, and we’ve talked about this: Our dream is for my son and my nephews to join our group someday, keeping in the same theme as our new Dove Men+Care commercial. My dream is that our boys are interested enough when they get older in the game to be a part of this group. There would be nothing I’d enjoy more. That would be almost as good as your son making a hole-in-one, having your son or daughter join you on a golf buddies trip.
GD: Is that what you enjoy the most about golf, the bonding time?
Greenberg: No question. That’s what it is. It’s the great escape. I know a lot of people do business on the golf course. And I’m not critical of them. But I’m not one of them. It’s the last thing on earth I want. I like to play with people who, the only interest while we’re on the course, is the golf itself. I’m not talking about other things. When we’re playing golf, I’m focused on the course. I’m focused on the sun and the sky. On the breeze in the air. On the leafs on the tree. And how we’re playing that day. I like golfers who like golf. And that’s what I like. So that’s my first and foremost like.
GD: You have a new commercial with Dove that is quite emotional -- speaking to the bond between a father and a son. How cool was it to be a part of it?
Greenberg: When the folks at Dove showed me the commercial, it brought my wife to tears. I literally couldn’t believe it. It is so perfectly in line with what I believe in about being a dad and real strength and caring about your kids and other responsibilities. It’s the message I try to perpetuate on my show and wherever else I have the opportunity. It was an honor to do the voice-over for it. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
GD: It's been getting a huge reaction on the Internet so far.
Greenberg: Yes -- actually my sister-in-law emailed my wife a link to the commercial in which my voice didn’t appear. It was one of the first takes. And so she wrote to my wife: “Watch this commercial, it’ll make you cry.” So my wife, Stacy, responded: “Is this a joke, or do you know this is Michael’s commercial?” The commercial is touching and beautiful in all the right ways. I’m thrilled to be connected to it.
Mike Greenberg (right) with his wife, Stacy, and children Nicole and Stephen in 2009 at a golf fundraiser. Photo courtesy of WestportNow.com.
GD: You play at Rolling Hills, but where do you play otherwise?
Greenberg: I try to play golf as often as I can and at all different venues. I signed with an agent in Los Angeles to handle my publishing and producing. But I signed him because he’s a member of Riviera. And part of my agreement is every time I come out to L.A., he has to take me out to play one round. I’d put Riviera unquestionably in my top-10 golf courses. The whole experience. The locker room. The pictures of the movie stars. It’s unreal. It was an unwritten entry in the contract.
GD: Love it. Alright, we gotta discuss your golf game more. How did you improve so fast?
Greenberg: In 2010, my Index was a 20.4. And I was a 24-handicap. In all honesty, it came from working with a pro. He changed my grip, then he changed my swing path. And that was painful. It was like a new language. But he told me: Mike, I see what’s wrong. Let’s make it work right. It’s all about practice. And the reality is, once you get to a certain level it’s all about your short game. I spend time in the bunker, here at Rolling Hills we have a beautiful new sand facility, so I’ll spend so much time in there working on my bunker play. And I’ll take a bucket of balls out to a hole and I’ll hit a bunch of balls anywhere from 50-80 yards from the green. Because that’s where the game is. You gotta turn the bogeys to pars if you want to improve. And that’s where your scoring will improve the most.
GD: Amazing. Are you a big equipment guy, too? Have you been fit for clubs?
Greenberg: I was invited to come down to the TaylorMade facility at Trump Doral. And I’m really looking forward to that because I’ve never been fit before and I know the benefits that come with it. I’m going down the week after the Super Bowl and I couldn’t be more excited.Related: Our 2008 Golf Digest Interview with Mike Greenberg
GD: You used to play in some pro-ams, right? Any good stories from there?
Greenberg: Mike [Golic] and I used to play in the Shell Houston Open pro-am every year. And the first year I was playing with Ben Curtis. And we’re going to the first tee. Not playing from the same tees obviously. But I’m really nervous, because there are legitimate galleries who came out to support me and Golic and obviously more so the pros. And I was really nervous. I hit a pretty good drive up the left center of the fairway. Ben hits a good drive, too. We both hit our approach shots just off the green. He chips up to about 10 feet. I hit my chip inside his to about eight feet. He goes up and misses his putt, and I make mine. So now there’s a walking scorer with our group, actually some dude carrying a sign, and there it says: Curtis +1. Greenberg Even. So for one entire hole, I was beating a British Open champ. It was so awesome. Obviously, you want to talk about a short game. From 180 yards and in, he’s hitting the ball to five feet routine. But that was my favorite story on the tour.
GD: Any other legendary golf moments in the life of Greeny?
Greenberg: Well, the other thing was shooting a 77 at Muirfield. And I was playing as a 15 handicap at the time. So I think it qualifies as one of the greatest rounds of golf ever played (joking). But when the British Open was back at Muirfield two years ago, I was watching, and a lot of people shot 78 and above. So in my mind, I beat them. So I was extraordinarily proud of that.
Greenberg's wife caught Mike reading our 2014 Hot List issue when he was sick in bed last year.
GD: Being a huge fan of golf, do you have a routine for the majors? Masters Sunday?
Greenberg: I’ve said it before, but to me, Masters Sunday is my Super Bowl Sunday. There’s no sporting event I love more. And there’s so many memorable moments. I’d say Adam Scott versus Angel Cabrera in the playoff at the 2013 Masters was special. Bubba versus Louis Oosthuizen was unbelievable, too. Bubba’s shot to win was forget it. But almost every year, the Masters provides more thrills as a sports fan for me than pretty much any other event that I watch.
GD: You guys do the Myrtle Beach Monday after the Masters thing. Do you watch the Masters down there?
Greenberg: Yep, we do the charity event with the guys from Hootie and the Blowfish. So I’m down there every year. They put us in these beautiful hotel rooms. And usually, it’s still cold where we are in the Northeast since it’s just the start of spring. So I open all the windows in the room, sit down in a comfortable chair and there’s a huge TV, I order in food, shut off my phone and I don’t talk to anybody. I just want to be left alone and watch the golf.
Paul Azinger, now an ESPN analyst and among the more astute observers of the game, finally weighed in on Woods' issues that included a career-worst score of 82 in the second round of the Waste Management Open here, and none of what he had to say was complimentary.
“When Tiger says rust, to me it’s a signal that he doesn’t know what the problem is,” Azinger said on ESPN Saturday morning. “I feel he’s as confused as he’s ever been in his career. Byron Nelson used to say there’s two kinds of players, those that need to know a little and those that need to know it all. Which one do you think’s easier?
“Tiger’s in a mode where he has to know it all. Technically and physically I think he felt like he peaked and that he needed more information to get better. In his quest to get better, Tiger’s actually gotten worse and now he’s confused.”
Woods’ on-course demeanor is different, too, he said, and not in a productive way.
“I see him walking down the fairway with Patrick Reed the other day,” he said. “Tiger used to be uncomfortable if you were comfortable with him. Now he’s uncomfortable if you’re not comfortable with him. That’s a big difference for a guy who used to show up on Sunday with black pants and a shirt the color of blood. He wanted to intimidate guys like Patrick Reed, not bond with them.
“Tiger wants to be accepted by the players more. That’s a major paradigm shift in his personality. Tiger was the kind of guy who once he got you down he would step on your back. Tiger was always more comfortable if you were uncomfortable with him and that has really changed and it’s changed to his detriment.”
GolfDigest.com regularly highlights golf books we find of interest to readers. This week is:
Two Golf Balls Rolled Into A Bar
Edited by Jeff Sloane
CreateSpace Independent Publishing, $8.96, paperback, 92 pages
When 80-year-old Bob Morris, who goes by Bogey Bob, achieved a dream of doing stand-up comedy in the last two years, he moved on to his next ambition of writing his own golf book. The effort, called “Two Golf Balls Rolled Into a Bar," is backed by Bogey Bob’s assurance that “the hundreds of golf jokes never before published will knock the head covers off your clubs.”
Whether “Two Golf Balls” (available in print or e-book format at amazon.com or originalgolfjokes.com) rattles your funny bone or not, it does add to something that is kind of funny: the regular flow of golf joke books, each trying to outdo the other in prestige. Just put “golf jokes” into Amazon’s book search function and prepare for a steady stream of golf joke books, each of which try to claim they’re the ultimate collection. Some sound downright biblical (“The Greatest Golf Jokes Ever Told”), some sound pitiful (“The World’s Worst Golf Jokes”), some too accommodating (“Great Jokes for Every Golfer”) while others just want to be the final say in joke-telling (“The World’s Greatest Golf Jokes” and “The World’s Best Golf Jokes”). Another had “501 golf jokes for almost all occasions,” from the first tee to the 18th green. How would that work to tell a joke or two to the guy you just took money off of?
Golf joke books came at a slow pace until the 1970s. A vintage sampler: Golf Digest co-founder Howard Gill’s “Fun in the Rough” in 1957 was a rare entry, and a pair of Golf Digest joke books in the 1970s, edited by Larry Sheehan, stood alone on that subject: “Best Golf Humor from Golf Digest” in 1972 and 1979’s “Great Golf Humor from Golf Digest. But the last 30 years have seen a regular lineup of joke titles.
Checking with Amazon or alibris.com (a great used-book site) for golf joke books will give you many options. In addition to the classic books already mentioned, I’d also recommend these titles: “101 Great Golf Jokes and Stories” and “The World’s Greatest Golf Jokes,” both by Stan McDougal from Citadel Press; “A Round of Golf Jokes,” by Helen Exley; “Golf Shorts: 1,001 of the Game’s Funniest One-Liners,” by Glenn Liebman; “The Official Golf Lovers Joke Book,” by Larry Wilde; “1,000 Best Golf Jokes & Stories,” by Ron and Sheila Stewart, and “God Loves Golfers Best: The Best Jokes, Quotes and Cartoons for Golfers,” by Ray Foley.
If you’re into the funnies, I recommend “The New Yorker Book of Golf Cartoons,” edited by Robert Mankoff; “Golf in the Comic Strips,” by Len Ziehm and Bob Hope, and the golf cartoon books of Jeff MacNelly.
Humor is subjective, so the jokes that make me chuckle might produce a yawn with others. But we leave with one of the classics that originated in various forms in English periodicals decades ago and has been handed down since:
Outraged Golfer: “You must be absolutely the worst caddie in the world.”
Caddie: “I doubt it, sir.”
Outraged Golfer: “Why?”
Caddie: “Too much of a coincidence."
Darren Clarke has come to the defense of his friend Tiger Woods. “It would be wrong to read any more into how Tiger played in Phoenix other than to say that any time you make major swing changes in your game you are going to have to crawl before you walk," Clarke said in this Reuters story by Bernie McGuire. “He’ll be fine. He’s too good a player not to be.”
“[Woods] had until the commitment deadline of 5 p.m. Eastern to withdraw without any questions asked. He did not, which means that, barring injury or illness, he will bring his shockingly bad golf game to the site of some of his greatest triumphs,” Tod Leonard of the UT-San Diego writes, setting up Woods’ next tournament, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines next week.
The world of golf paid tribute to Australian legend and British Open champion Kel Nagle, who died last week. Gary Player called him “the great gentleman of golf.” Nagle is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. “In a speech marking the occasion,” the Australian Associated Press writes, “[Peter] Thomson said he had never known Nagle to drink, smoke, or say a bad word about anyone. ‘Of all the people I have ever met in the world of golf, this fellow is the finest.’”
Danny Calihan, the tournament chairman of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, offered sponsor exemptions to Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and amateur Jon Rahm, an Arizona State junior. All three are on the leader board. “A spot in a PGA golf tournament is a valued thing and we know it means a lot to the players, so we try very hard to make sure we make worthy selections,” Calihan said in this story by Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
OK, so they're actually high school graduates, class of 2011, and college dropouts. But already they are making an impact on the PGA Tour.
"Our graduating class of 2011 has probably eight or nine tour players that will come out of it," the trendsetter among them, Jordan Spieth, said. "There's, what, three or four on the PGA Tour, another couple on the [Web.com Tour] already, and we should still be in school."
Two of this group turned up on the leader board midway through the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Friday -- Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas. Each is 21 and turned professional after their sophomore years in college, Berger from Florida State and Thomas from Alabama.
And suddenly, Phil Mickelson, 44, and Tiger Woods, 39, look even older, having missed the cut here.
Spieth, Thomas and Berger have been competing against one another since their junior golf days. Thomas and Spieth, meanwhile, are close friends, who clearly enjoy the banter.
"I hope we can compete, getting in the thick of things," Spieth said. "It's been awhile, a couple of college events we've been able to do so together. I will bring up a couple of those events, like the national championship. We played a match against each other. He hates when I bring that up."
Spieth already is a tour winner and a factor, and Thomas is closing quickly, having finished in the top seven in three of his last four tour events, including a tie for seventh in the Humana Challenge last week.
"The last three winners of the Haskins Award [as college player of the year] have all been 2011s," Thomas, the 2012 winner, said. Patrick Rodgers of Stanford won it last year and Michael Kim of California in 2013.
"I think it's really cool, because in two, three, four, five years there will be a lot of us up there."
We played Spyglass and Pebble last Sunday, at Maggie McFly's. Here’s Mike B., holding the stick for me on the second green at Pebble:
The weather had been so bad that playing anywhere but on the simulators wasn’t a possibility. Then the weather got worse. The snowstorm that the Weather Channel had such a cow about earlier this week turned out to be a dud in our part of New England, but we still got six or seven inches Then on Friday morning we got a few more. As a consequence, I’ve spent a lot of time staring at a bird feeder my wife gave me for one of the windows in my office -- which our dog has also been interested in. Anyway, I think I’ve figured out where my close personal friend Donald Trump got his hairstyle: nuthatches.
I mentioned in a recent post that Jagermeister’s official sponsorship of the Sunday Morning Group had had a measurable impact on sales because Other Gene’s wife had ordered some in a restaurant and a non-golf-playing bridge partner of mine in Mississippi was thinking about buying a bottle. I’d now like to update those results: my non-golf-playing bridge partner in Mississippi not only did buy a bottle; he also served it to three people he has been teaching to play bridge:
"Each of the guys said he hadn't drunk any since college," my friend reported. "The one with the baseball cap said his first and only experience with it had been at a Cornell fraternity party he went to his freshman year. He drank so much that night that he ended up throwing up from a balcony at the front of the fraternity house, and a crowd gathered below to cheer him on. The other guy said his story was similar, but he didn't tell it." They're grown-ups now, though, and I think I can safely put all four of them in the plus column, along with Other Gene's wife.
Let's check that bird feeder again: