January 4, 2010

Golf Guru

Things every golfer should know

Q:__ I did not major in math, so I ask you, señor Guru, how much time would Tiger Woods have to be absent from the tour to relinquish his status as the No. 1-ranked player in the world?

Chris Visser / Stafford, VA__

After Tiger's miraculous one-legged, 12-cylinder U.S. Open win in June, his position atop the World Golf Ranking seemed truly unassailable—862 ranking points for a 21.54 average, compared to closest challenger Phil Mickelson with 449 points and a 10.21 aver-age. But Tiger's points diminish every week that goes by, and as they become two years old, they disappear entirely. According to The Golf Guru's tenuous grasp of the arcane ranking formula, and some shaky computations on the back of an envelope, if Tiger makes his return to competitive golf at the start of 2009, he will still have 479 points for an average of 11.98. Phil is going to have to raise his game to beat that. But if Tiger doesn't reappear until next year's Masters Tournament, his points total will have shrunk to 329, for an average of 8.23, in which case he might well have been caught.

Will Tiger's left leg—and the man himself—ever be the same again? It is possible in sports to have too many operations. It is possible, too, that more than half a year away from the competitive arena, with days perhaps devoted to reading great works of literature, watching majestic sunsets or gazing into the eyes of his baby girl, will have made him a different person, one who no longer can or wants to de- vote his life to hitting a ball around a field better than anyone else. But I wouldn't bet on it. The opposite might be true. Tiger won't stop being Tiger until he has beaten Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 professional majors. His win in June got him to 14. The Golf Guru predicts he'll have passed Jack by 2012. After that, who knows? One thing is certain: Tiger has been monu-mentally great for golf, but, contrary to some dire predictions, when he does finally retire, the game you and I play will carry on just fine without him.

Q:__ At a recent club event there was a big controversy. On the greens, one competitor would put his putter in front of the ball—touching the ground—then behind it before putting. The call was made that this wasn't allowed because it improved the lie. Is that correct?

Barry Chudnow / Northbrook, Ill.__

If this person (you?) was pressing down on the green in front of the ball with the putter-head, thereby improving the lie, he would indeed fall foul of Rule 13-2. But if not, there's no problem. Rule 16-1 specifically says that, on the green, "the player may place the club in front of the ball when addressing it, provided he does not press anything down." This used to be a popular way of putting, supposedly helping alignment or easing tension. Errie Ball, the last surviving competitor in the inaugural Masters Tournament of 1934, always putted that way. So did The Golf Guru's father from time to time. Nick Price and Lee Westwood have done it, too. Ball, incidentally, hit the ceremon-ial opening tee shot at the Tour Championship in September—straight down the middle. He's 97.

Send your questions to the Golf Guru.



VENTING

John Daily

Tired Of Being Left Holding The Bag

It has happened more than once that a ranger has barked at me for parking my golf bag on the tee box. Can someone please explain the logic of this? Do they really think the bag will damage the ground?

Lawn mowers that groom the area can weigh more than 1,000 pounds. But you're telling me my stand bag, which weighs a mere 23 pounds when loaded with clubs, might render the area unplayable?

Tour caddies place their players' heavy bags on the tee boxes on almost every hole. Heck, John Daly would do more damage to the tee box than a dozen bags—especially on $1 hot dog day.

I might have shared these thoughts if I hadn't been stunned that the rangers were actually working.

Ron Kaspriske