Friday, April 30, 2010

Husband and Wife Tournament - Never Again!

Last Sunday I played with my friend Digger at Moon Valley Country Club. Digger is not playing enough golf at the club and he probably does not want to figure out (or tell his lovely wife) his cost per round! I always enjoy playing with Digger because we have a good conversation and neither of us takes the game too seriously. But around the 15th hole, Digger gets a call from his wife asking why he is not yet done and when he will be home. I think Digger once played a round in 3 hours and his wife believes that is the appropriate and reasonable amount of time necessary to play 18 holes of golf. While I agree with her and wish it were true, it has not been the case. On Sunday afternoons at Moon Valley Country Club, there is always some event occurring. Last time we played on Sunday afternoon, we were behind a juniors tournament. The juniors are generally pretty good players but they grind on every shot so it is slow. This week was a husband and wife tournament. The starter squeezed us in the middle and we played as an alternative lifestyle couple. The pace of play was excrutiatingly slow. Digger and I agreed that from now on we would try to play on Saturdays!

This weekend Digger's son was supposed to be making a model of the gastrointestinal system (meaning that Digger was making the model). He had it all planned out with toilet paper rolls and other household products. I now know that the gastrointestinal system includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, anus and rectum. That was more information than I wanted to know. When Digger's wife called, he told her that she could get started without him, but I got the impression that Digger is integral to the project and no work could be commenced until he arrived. Whatever happened to making a volcano with baking soda and detergent!

Now, back to the golf. For once, I strung together two reasonably good 9s! We played from the Gold tees, which are 6,584 yards with a course rating of 71.1 and a slope rating of 120. I kept the ball in the fairway, I chipped and putted well, and I did not make any major bone-headed errors. On the front 9 I made par on the two par-5 holes and one double bogey on a par-3 hole (I hit the ball into the water) and bogeys on all of the other holes to shoot a 44. On the back 9 I had 4 pars and only one double bogey to shoot a 42 and an 86 for the round. My handicap is 14.6 right now and I think it may drop a few tenths of a stroke based on my last two scores.

Digger is hitting the ball really well off of the tees and was in the middle of the fairway on almost every hole. He was having a lot of trouble hitting his irons so he was always scrambling to just make bogey, which makes for a long day, especially when you are a 50+ year old and have to go home and build a model of the gastrointestinal system for your school project.

Arizona Grand? Not in My Book!

On Saturday, I played in the "Landsharks Scramble Golf Tournament" at the Arizona Grand Golf Resort at South Mountain in Phoenix. I think we played from the Phantom Horse tees. The course was in nice shape but "in my opinion" (included for liability purposes) it is kind of rinky-dink at only 6,300 yards from the back tees with a lot of blind shots and tricked-out holes. The course traverses through the surrounding residential subdivision and some of the holes are fairly narrow for me. I played with Chad Feldheimer, Slim Whiskey and one of Slim's clients that was the major sponsor for the tournament.

We started on the back 9. The par-5 10th hole has a deceiving green with a big swale in front. We all left our third shot short of the green and had to chip and one-putt to save par. Not an auspicious start for a scramble! I played terribly on the front 9 but Slim Whiskey and Chad Feldheimer played well and we made the turn at 5 under par. Starting the front 9, I had one of the two shots of the day. Hole No. 1 is a 362-yard par-4. It was only playing 280 yards because the resort was setting up a wedding on the Sidewinder tee box. From our tee boxes, once you clear the crest of the hill, it is fairly steep downhill and you cannot see the flagstick from the tee box. I hit driver to about 6 feet right behind the hole. Although we did not see it, the ball must have rolled just past the hole. We sunk the putt for eagle (a double eagle hole in one would have been sweet!). Of course, Chad had to steal some of my thunder by hitting a 3-wood to about 12 feet from the flagstick.

We were 11 under par when we got to the par-3 202 yard 7th hole. The creek along the right-hand side is more like a lake at this point on the course. The pin was tucked in the right-hand side of the green only a few paces from the water. Slim Whiskey led off and dunked his ball in the lake. The client followed and also put his ball in the lake. Making sure that I did not do likewise, I hooked my tee shot way left but barely playable. This is why we bring Chad Feldheimer with us on scrambles (it clearly is not because of his pleasant personality). Chad takes dead aim at the pin and fires his 5-iron. The ball looks like it may be just right of the flagstick and I am holding my breath but it draws slightly and ends up about 8 feet left of the pin (he won closest to the pin for that shot). We ended the round with a 12 under 59 and finished in third place. The awards ceremony was at Macayo's Mexican Restaurant in Ahwatukee, the tournament sponsor, and we gorged ourselves on Mexican food and tequila.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Must be in the Front Row!

I actually played golf both days this weekend, but I don't have enough time to blog about golf today. Hopefully, I will get to it later this week. I am working on a large financing transaction that is taking up all of my time. Given the lack of liquidity in the credit markets it is nice to have a deal at all! The pre-closing is scheduled for Thursday and the funding is scheduled for Friday morning so I should be back on the links this weekend.

As a gift for my work on the transaction, the client gave me two tickets to the Suns playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night. The series was tied 2 games each and the 5th game of a seven game series is oftentimes the pivotal game in the series. I am a HUGE Suns fans! When SO and I got to the will-call window the person behind the glass could not find the tickets so she called over the manager and they ultimately found our tickets. The tickets were in row 1 at center court! Row 1 is right behind the three rows of floor seats but the seats are raised so you get a better view. I think that Suge Knight and one of his posse were sitting right beside us (or else it was someone that looked just like him). Lute Olson and his wife were sitting in the floor seats right in front of us.

The game started off miserably. The Trail Blazers came flying out of the gate and made their first 8 shots and 10 of their first 11 shots. The score was 9 -0 and 18 - 4. After 6 minutes in the first quarter, I think the score was about 23 - 9. SO tried to cheer me up, but I may have been a bit testy with her. The rest of the game was a romp for the Suns. The crowd was crazy and the Suns ran the Trail Blazers off of the court. By the end of the first quarter the Suns cut the Portland lead to one point. By halftime, the Suns were leading by 10 and by the end of the third quarter the Suns were winning by 20. At one point in the fourth quarter the Suns had built up a 27 point lead. The final score was 107 - 88. The Suns reserves played really well. Channing Frye had 20 points, including a 4 point play, and Jared Dudley had 19 points. For the first time in a long time, the Suns have a bench that can keep the team in the game when the starters are resting and oftentimes increase the lead or cut the deficit. Steve Nash is 36 and Grant Hill is 37 so being able to rest those players and reduce their minutes during the season and into the playoffs is a huge advantage. Also, this team can actually rebound and play some defense, which have not been trade marks of recent Suns teams. Coming into the playoffs, the Suns were the hottest team in the NBA. If Robin Lopez is able to return for the second round of the playoffs, the Suns may be able to compete for an NBA championship.

The 6th game of the series is this Thursday at the Rose Garden in Portland. It would be nice if the Suns continue to play like they did on Monday and end the series without having to worry about a game 7 back at home. In the other western division series, Oklahoma City's young guns won the last two games against the top-seeded Lakers to tie the series at 2 games each; the Suns' nemesis, San Antonio, is finally healthy and is beating Dallas 3 games to 1 and Utah is leading Denver 3 games to 1. If Los Angeles, Dallas and Denver all lose and the Suns win, the Suns would be the highest remaining seed in the west and would have home court advantage in the next two series. The stars may be aligning perfectly for the Suns (except for those pesky Spurs)!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rule 13.4 - Ball in Hazard - A Reed or Twig?

The Curmudgeon, Chad Feldheimer and I had a spirited discussion today about the penalty that Brian Davis called on himself on the first playoff hole of the Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, this weekend. Davis, who has never won on the PGA Tour dramatically sinks a birdie putt on the 18th hole to tie Jim Furyk and force a playoff. Furyk and Davis then start the playoff at the same hole and Davis hits his second shot onto the edge of the green and the golf ball rolls off into the hazard next to the green. The hazard has a sandy base next to a pile of grass, twigs and reeds. From there you can see the video. Davis did not ground his club in the hazard, but on his backswing he barely clips a reed or twig that is lying on the ground. Davis calls Slugger White, the Rules official, over to discuss the potential infraction and after due consideration and a review of the videotape, Slugger (nice name) agrees with Davis and Davis is penalized two strokes for moving a loose impediment in the hazard in violation of Rule 13.4 of the Rules of Golf.

Rule 13.4 of the Rules of Golf in plain English provides that when you are in a hazard before making a stroke at the golf ball you must not touch a loose impediment in the hazard. One of the exceptions to this Rule is that you can touch any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing at any time, including at address or in the backswing. A loose impediment is defined to include stones, leaves, twigs and branches (as well as dung and worms and insects and casts or heaps made by them for future information). Anything that is fixed, growing or solidly embedded is not a loose impediment.

If Davis touched a reed, there is probably no penalty because a reed is a type of grass in which case it falls within the exception to Rule 13.4. But if Davis touched a twig there is probably a 2-stroke penalty unless you can argue that the twig is a "growing thing". Although I am not a botanist I have seen those nature shows where you hear the branch scream as it is being cut from the tree and I would bet that a twig continues to grow for some time after it is cut (like hair or fingernails on a corpse!). Alterntively, if you want to create new law in the world of golf, you could argue that Davis touched the twig on his backswing while making a stroke at the ball, which takes this out of the Rule completely (but the definition of "stroke" is the forward movement of the club only). This argument would require overturning clear precedent by Slugger, which would probably cause him to be excommunicated from the USGA. And finally, I think that the intent of the original drafters of the Rules of Golf at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club was that the player should not be able to improve his lie, stance or swing or test the condition of the hazard by grounding his club, touching the ground with his hand or clearing away any loose impediments before intending to strike the golf ball. If you are a strict constructionist (and want to suck up to the USGA and R&A) you impose the 2-stroke penalty like Slugger, but if you have any heart and are a judicial activist you snub the USGA and R&A and give Davis a fighting chance to scramble and make par and possibly win his first PGA Tournament.

I am sure that all of my "World Of" golf buddies that religiously read my blog will chime in with their analysis of this case.

Editor's Note: Unless the hazard was a water hazard, since the twigs interfered with Davis' backswing, he could have elected to take relief under Rule 25-1b(ii) of the Rules of Golf without a penalty.

Monday, April 19, 2010

SunRidge Canyon - Man Up!

I am beginning to get writer's block on this blog! I can now truly appreciate the effort and work that goes into coming up with ideas and writing a blog or column every day. Although my blogging has been disappointing my golf game seems to be getting a little better. I played this weekend with Chad Feldheimer and Slim Whiskey at SunRidge Canyon Golf Club. SunRidge Canyon is located in Fountain Hills, about 35 minutes from central Phoenix. It is considered one of the more difficult public golf courses in the Valley. We picked a heck of a day to play this course. The high temperature on Sunday was 96 degrees, which was only 4 degrees below the record for that date. As you can tell by the name, SunRidge Canyon is located in a canyon and the temperature in the canyon had to be well over 100 degrees.

Notwithstanding a little whining from Slim Whiskey, we "manned up" and played from the black or championship tees. The course is only 6,823 yards from the black tees but the course rating is 72.6 and the slope rating is 142. The signature hole is the par-3 209 yard 17th hole. All three of us started off par - par and we looked like we knew what we were doing. I also parred the 3rd hole. The front 9 is 3,536 yards but many of the holes are downhill and downwind. After getting off to such a great start I was nine over par on the last 6 holes and finished with a 45. I hit the ball really well, but a small mistake on this course can lead to a double or triple bogey. If you miss the green by more than a yard or two, your ball nestles in this gnarly grass. Normally, I would putt the ball from that close, but I had to chip instead and it was very difficult to get the club to and through the ball. The greens were also very shaggy so you really had to whack the putts to get them to the hole. I never did get a good feel for the speed of the greens. I three-putted 3 of the final 6 holes and I probably lost another stroke or two chipping and pitching on the front 9.

As we made the turn, Slim Whiskey told us that the back 9 was shorter and easier. Like the dummies that we are, Chad Feldheimer and I believed him! Since we played the front 9 down from the ridge into the canyon, we now started to play our way out of the canyon. Each hole was uphill and into the wind and, after the short par-4 10th hole, long. The par-4 holes are all over 420 yards and the par-5 holes are 533 and 578 yards. I was hitting 1, 3 and 4 hybrids from the fairways, including my third shot into the par-5 holes! I do not think that I took my 5, 6 or 7 iron out of the bag the entire round. I parred two of the three par-3 holes and one of the par-4 holes on the back 9, but had a lot of double and triple bogeys and shot a 47 on the back 9 and a 92 for the round. Although I really would have liked to break 90 on this course, I was pretty pleased with my score. I hit the ball solidly all day and only had a few errant tee shots and approach shots. I lost a lot of strokes on and around the green and turned a couple of bogeys into triple bogeys by blading a chip shot or chili dipping a pitch shot or misjudging the speed of the greens.

Monday, April 12, 2010

2010 Masters - One for the Ages

Wow! What a great Masters! There were so many great story lines this year. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus with the ceremonial first drives. Tom Watson near the top of the leaderboard after round 1. Fred Couples, at 50 years old, trying to become the oldest Masters champion and hitting it longer than the young guns. Phil Mickelson playing his heart out for his wife who was too weak from her breast cancer treatment to attend the event until Sunday afternoon. Lee Westwood trying to win his first major after falling out of the top 100 golfers in the world a few years ago. Anthony Kim, the possible future of American golf. And, of course, Tiger Woods returning to competitive golf after an eventful 5 month hiatus.

And what spectacular golf! Phil Mickelson's stretch of eagle, eagle, birdie (missing an eagle by inches) on holes 13, 14 and 15 on Saturday was unbelievable. His bogey-free 67 on Sunday splitting the trees from the pine needles on No. 14, carrying Ray's Creek and stopping 5 feet from the flagstick ranks up there with some of the great shots in Master's lore. Lee Westwood's steady nerves and clutch shot-making and putting in the midst of Mickelson's barrage on Saturday and Sunday showed everyone that it is only a matter of time until he wins his first major. And Tiger Woods shooting 11 under par at the Masters without playing competitive golf for 5 months.

Tiger's round on Sunday was both bizarre and beautiful, although not at the same time. Tiger started out +3 through five holes and did not hit one good shot. He then holes a shot from the fairway on No. 7 for an eagle and birdies No. 8 and No. 9 to finish the front 9 at -1. On the back nine, Tiger either cannot find the fairway with his driver or pops up his drive like a mid-iron, and when he hits a great iron into No. 14 he misses the birdie putt and then misses the par putt! Somehow, Tiger grinds and makes some spectacular shots and finishes the back nine at -2 for a 69 (some of my "World Of" friends thought that the 69 score was apropos for Tiger). If Tiger plays the first five holes at even par and makes the short birdie putt on No. 14, Phil needs to make the birdie on No. 18 to force a playoff.

Now that the Masters is over, I need to get back to the important business of breaking 85 and reducing my handicap to single digits.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pay Your Money, Take Your Chances

Chad Feldheimer turned me on to Stonecreek Golf Club. The course is very conveniently located in the heart of Phoenix at 48th Street and Cactus Road. The course is very well maintained and the fairways and rough areas were both overseeded and very lush. The golf course gets a lot of play so the greens are a little beat up, but pretty good for a public course. Stonecreek wash runs throughout the course and creates a lot of problems, especially for those golfers that slice the ball off of the tee. From the Championship tees the course is 6,871 yards with a course rating of 72.8 and a slope rating of 131.

Once again I could not find anyone to play golf with me (this is becoming a trend!). So I decided to sign up as a single and take my chances with the pairings. I signed up for a 3 p.m. tee time. Playing with people that you do not know can be a little intimidating if you are an average golfer. You do not want to make a fool of yourself on the first tee. In this case, that was not a problem. I played with a father and his two sons. One son, Patrick, was 15 and the other son, Christian, was 13. They were good folks but none of them had played golf more than a couple of times. I played from the Championship tees, as did the father and older son. There were some very big swings and a couple of whiffs on the first tee before we got moving (and that was just me!). I walked and carried my bag. It was excruciatingly slow playing with this group but the groups ahead of us were not going any faster so somehow we were able to stay on pace. I was hitting the ball pretty well, but it was hard concentrating because of the time in between strokes (now I know how Chad feels playing with me!). After a while I just stopped keeping score and started hitting extra balls when time permitted (pretty much all of the time).

We made the turn at about 5 p.m. and I knew that there was no way we would finish 18 holes. Since there was no one teeing off on the No. 1 hole at this time, I decided to grab a cart and play the front 9 again. I bid farewell to my threesome and sped off. I hit the ball really well playing by myself and sped around the course in 1 hour and 10 minutes. I did not run into anyone until the 8th hole when I caught the single that started about 30 minutes before me. I puttered around on the 7th hole to let him finish the hole and then played in. I hit two balls off of most of the tees so I did not keep score, but I was making pars or bogeys with both balls (I did hit one ball into the Stonecreek wash). On the 9th hole, which is a 410 yard par-4, I hit my drive to 113 yards based on the GPS in the cart (the hole was actually playing 390 yards) and then stiffed my wedge to "gimme" range for a birdie.