January 06, 2010
Time to add some fun to the Silly Season
For the last two months of the year, there are unofficial events involving tour players almost every week. I have to confess that not all of it interests me, and the reason is, they lack novelty. Once the official PGA Tour, Champions Tour and LPGA Tour seasons conclude, fans need something really unusual to get their attention.The Father-Son Challenge and World Long Drive Championship are by far the most intriguing Silly Season events. The Skins Game, 3 Tour Challenge and Skills Challenge are entertaining enough, but they've been around awhile. I think something more circus-like is needed. A revival of the mixed-team event would be great; who wouldn't want to see John Daly paired again with Laura Davies? A senior-junior event featuring a Champions Tour star with a regular tour player would be fun, too.If I were a sponsor or organizer putting one of these events together, my rule would be anything but individual stroke play. Golf is competing against professional and college hoops as well as football, and if the formats aren't great, fans, just like the top players, might choose to take a couple of months off.
How balls reached the gold standard
If you started playing golf within the last 25 years, you probably don't remember the "ball ring." It was a small metal ring 1.62 inches in diameter that for tour players was an indispensable piece of equipment. The fact that I haven't seen one in more than 20 years is a testament to how good quality control in golf balls has become.Before 1980, when tour players received a shipment of balls from the manufacturer, they would take each ball and pass it through the ball ring. If it didn't fit, it went in the garbage. It was surprising how many balls wouldn't fit. Quality control was sketchy, although in my opinion the best balls performed almost as well as balls of today.The ball ring is extinct, and these days every golfer can open a box of new balls knowing they're identical--and flawless. The modern ball is the most advanced piece of equipment in the game.
Why are young girls excelling at golf?
After years of amazement at how Michelle Wie was able to compete at the top level at such a young age, the appearance of 12-year-old Alexis Thompson (See November's "On the Tee: Preteen Sensation") at the U.S. Women's Open in June came and went relatively quietly. Though she missed the cut with rounds of 76-82, it was one of the story lines of the year. The feat has never been matched in the men's U.S. Open, and likely never will be. (The youngest male qualifier was 15-year-old Tadd Fujikawa of Hawaii in 2006.) It's curious when you consider there are boys a little older than Alexis who hit the ball as far as PGA Tour players but don't have the physical and emotional tools to compete against them. Girls seem to acquire the temperament for handling the stress of competition faster than boys, and they don't appear to be intimidated by older, more experienced players.A month after the Open, Alexis reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women's Amateur. It was a dream summer for her, and it'll be interesting to see if her game levels off or if she can take it to a higher level.