Tuesday, July 27, 2010

That's Why it is Called Stonecreek!

After Friday's round, I was really excited to play again over the weekend. I asked Chad Feldheimer to play, but the sissy told me it was too hot and he was hanging up his clubs until Fall. Luckily, Ken called and he was excited about playing more golf after the way he hit the ball on Friday. We decided to play late in the afternoon at my "home course", Stonecreek Golf Club.
We teed off at about 3 and finished at 6:30 with ominous storm clouds overhead (although it did not rain). It had been hot and humid all day, but by the time that we played, the sun burned off the humidity and when we made the turn and the sun was beginning to set, it was a balmy 103 degrees with very little humidity and a little breeze.

I started off with four straight pars and very makeable birdie putts on two of the holes. At that point I started thinking about whether Chad Feldheimer would believe my score and making sure that Ken attested to the scorecard. I then proceeded to go double-bogey, double-bogey and double-bogey on holes 5 through 7 and then I righted the ship with two pars to finish the front 9 with a 41 (it is a par-35). I hit the ball really well, even on Nos. 5, 6 and 7. On the 6th hole, I hit a nice approach shot but it faded a little right and hit on the bank right next to the green and rolled into the water. On the par-5, 548 yard 7th hole, I hit my second shot into the brush in the dry stonecreek wash that crosses the fairway and took a penalty stroke (bad course management!).

On the back 9, I had three double-bogeys, I parred both par-5 holes and I had one other par to shoot a 45. On No. 10 I hit into the thickets in the dry stonecreek wash that crosses the fairway again and had to take another penalty stroke! I was +4 on the par-3 holes, +9 on the eleven par-4 holes and +2 on the three par-5 holes. I hit 7 of 18 greens-in-regulation and had 34 putts (remember I count shots on the fringe as putts and greens-in-regulation). I wanted so badly to shoot a 44 on back 9 for an 85, but I just missed and ended up with an 86. Because we played from the back tees and the course rating is 72.8 and the slope rating rating is 131, my differential was 11.4. My round on Friday at The Foothills Golf Club and this round are my two lowest rounds for USGA Handicap Index purposes. I can't wait to see my next handicap index!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Closing in on 85!

I had a great weekend of golf! Mid-July through August is monsoon season in Arizona so the temperatures go down a bit but the humidity goes up. Although it is nothing like the humidity in the Midwest or on the East Coast, when you combine humidity of 30 to 40 percent with temperatures in the low 100s, it is pretty uncomfortable. Until a couple of years ago, during this time of the year the golf courses were pretty empty, but with the advent of Golfnow.com and Golfhub.com, golf is so cheap that the locals get out and play the better courses in town for $20 to $30.

I left work mid-afternoon on Friday and played The Foothills Golf Club with my friend Ken from Phoenix Suns Charities. I had not played The Foothills in about 20 years. The course is located about 30 minutes from mid-town Phoenix by car and about 10 minutes as the crow flies. It is on the south side of South Mountain so you have to drive east about 15 miles and then drive back west about 10 miles because there is no road through the mountain (those darn environmentalists!).

The Foothills is a Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish-designed par-72 golf course that plays just under 7,000 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 72.6 and a slope rating of 128. The course was in okay condition. There were a number of brown patches in the fairways and the superintendent was watering those areas like crazy. Although it is monsoon season, we have not yet had a good rain in the Valley. The greens were very firm, smooth and fast, but they were rock hard and it was difficult to keep your approach shots on the greens. There were almost no ball marks on the greens!

I had 4 pars, 4 bogeys and one double-bogey on the front 9 for a 42. The fairways look narrow from the tee boxes, but are actually pretty wide open. I kept the ball in play off of the tees and I chipped the ball really well and made a few one putts. My double-bogey was on the par-4, 311 yard 6th hole. I drove it about 240 yards right down the middle and then I flushed a half-sand wedge over the green into the back bunker and 3-putted. How frustrating is that! I had 3 pars, 5 bogeys and 1 double-bogey on the back 9 for a 44 and an 86 total. Based on the course rating and the slope rating, my handicap differential was 11, which is my best round since I started keeping an official USGA Handicap Index. I was +2 on the par 3 holes, +10 on the par 4 holes and +2 on the par 5 holes and I had a total of 31 putts (I count my putts on the fringe and I also treat those as greens-in-regulation). I was really excited about my ball-striking and my chipping around the greens. I did not have any chili-dips or skulled shots around the green or any really fat shots, hoseled shots or badly pulled shots from the fairway. Let's see if I can keep it up!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Made in the Shade

After watching Louis Oosthuizen tear up the Old Course at St. Andrews I thought I was ready to "go low" at Orange Tree Golf Resort. The Gardener and I decided to play at Orange Tree because it has some mature shade trees and is more of a Midwestern-type course than an Arizona desert course. We played in the middle of the day and the temperature was about 108 degrees, but there was a little breeze that helped (you know, it is a "dry heat").

Orange Tree Golf Course is a 6,775 yards par-72 course from the back tees with a course rating of 70.7 and a slope rating of 121. We were paired with a couple from Topeka, Kansas on vacation. I have no idea what they were doing on vacation in Arizona in mid-July. The wife, Sheri, was about 15-20 years younger than her husband and she was about 6 feet tall and very athletically built. Starting with the first hole, she bombed the ball off of the tees and outdrove the men from the women's tees by 20+ yards or more. It was very embarrassing, but I blamed it on my surgically repaired elbow. I do not know what excuse the Gardener used. I was not hitting the ball very long, but I was hitting it about as straight as I have ever hit the ball. I hit 7 of the first 8 fairways. I was 3 under bogey when I got to the par-4 9th hole. My drive was in the fairway and I proceeded to make a 6 from the middle of the fairway! I shot a 44 on the front 9 and felt like I played better than my score. The Gardener shot a 42 on the front 9 and was hitting the ball pretty well. Both of us were having trouble on the putting surface because the greens had been aerated and sanded and were very slow.

On the back 9 I continued to drive the ball well for a while. I was 2 under bogey after 3 holes and then I double-bogeyed the par-5 13th hole. I hit a poor tee shot on the 16th hole but made a really good recovery and one putt for a par. The 18th hole at Orange Tree is the signature hole and plays to the no. 1 handicap on the course. I played the hole well and just needed a two-putt for par, but I three-putted the hole for another bogey. I shot a bookend 44 for an 88 total, which I thought was okay. However, because of the course rating and slope rating my differential was 16.2, which will not help my handicap index. The Gardener shot a 44 on the back 9 and beat me by 2 strokes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Louis Who?

I got my stitches out of my elbow and my bandages removed and I am ready to play golf again. Prior to the operation the doctor told me there may be some fluid in the elbow that may have to be drained once or twice but that is normal. Instead, the fluid in my elbow has congealed and could not be drained (that is not a pretty picture). I should absorb the fluid over a few weeks. My elbow is pretty sore but the doctor said that I can do whatever I want.

I wanted to watch the end of the Open Championship from St. Andrews so the Gardener and I made plans to play at high noon. The temperatures in Phoenix have been running between 110 degrees and 115 degrees this week with some humidity to really make it miserable. We figured there would be no other idiots on the golf course at noon. We were wrong!

The Open Championship turned into a run-a-way for the journeyman South African, gap-toothed Lauren Hutton look-a-like, Louis Oosthuizen. Although Louis missed the cut in 7 out of the last 8 majors and most golf fans (including me) had never heard of him, Louis is currently ranked 5th on the European Tour (after the results of the Open Championship ). He does have one other win and one second place finish on the European Tour this year. He is 5' 10" tall and only about 160 lbs. (72 kgs.) but he hits the ball a mile and, at least this week, straight!

On Saturday morning the announcers were asked if Louis would be leading at the end of the day. One of the announcers (I cannot remember whom) unequivocally said no way. He is eating his words now. Not only did he remain in the lead, but he increased the lead over all of the field except Paul Casey (an ASU golfer) who shot a 67. On Sunday, it looked like a match play championship between Oosthuizen and Casey and I had the feeling that Oosthuizen would crack and Casey would win his first major. When Casey hit his approach shot to about 7 feet on No. 1 I thought that it was game on, but Paul missed the putt and just never got it going. The wheels fell off on No. 12 when Casey tripled bogeyed and Oosthuizen birdied the hole. From there it was a walk in the park (a very windy park) for Oosthuizen.

What surprised me the most about Oosthuizen was that Paul Casey is one of the longest hitters off of the tees in professional golf and little Louis out-drove him by a lot on almost every hole and hit the ball right down the middle of the fairway. It would not have mattered if the fairways were 20 yards wide (rather than 100 yards wide). Also, Louis was so calm out there. On Saturday, he bogeyed the first hole and went on to have 13 pars and 4 birdies on the last 17 holes. On Sunday, he had seven straight pars and then bogeyed 8 and came back to eagle the par-4 9th hole to stop any momentum that Casey was trying to generate.

After watching Louis tame St. Andrews I was ready to hit the links at Orange Tree Golf Resort.

Monday, July 5, 2010

NBA Free Agency - A Free for All!

I have been following the NBA free agency free-for-all this week. July 1 was the first day that teams were able to talk with free agents (other than a player's own team). Free agents cannot sign contracts until July 8. The two mega-superstars of this year's free agent class are LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Any player with an opt-out had to make the decision before July 1. Amare Stoudemire opted out of the final year of his $17+ million contract, which was expected, as did Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer and, unexpectedly, Richard Jefferson. One of the reasons for opting out this year is that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires after next season and the players are trying to lock in longer term deals before the new CBA is effective or there is a lock-out.

As a Phoenix Suns fan, I knew that there were mixed feeling about giving Amare Stoudemire a maximum contract ($120 million over 6 years) because of his microfracture knee injury and multiple eye injuries, but more importantly, his lack of rebounding and defense, which may be an indication of lack of desire. I am a big Amare fan, but the rebounding and defense frustrate the heck out of me. He is one of the most physically gifted athletes in professional basketball, but he can just disappear on the defensive end of the floor. In my perfect world, the Suns would engineer a "sign and trade" deal with the Dallas Mavericks for Dirk Nowitzki, one of Steve Nash's closest friends, or with the Toronto Raptors for Chris Bosh. However, I think that the only time Mark Cuban or Bryan Colangelo makes a deal with the Suns is when hell freezes over! My back-up plan would be a sign and trade with the New York Knicks for David Lee. But once again I do not see Mike D'Antonio being very interested in making a deal with the Suns.

At this point it seems likely that Amare will be going to the Knicks and the Suns will get nothing in return. The Suns re-signed Channing Frye and expect to sign Hakeem Warrick. Hakeem averaged 10.2 points and 4.4 rebounds playing 21 minutes per game for Chicago after he was traded from Milwaukee. Unless the Suns pull something out of their collective hats it could be a long basketball season next year.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Live and Learn

My elbow is improving. It has been 8 days since the surgery and the incision looks like it is healing very well. I go back to the doctor in one week to have the stitches removed. I do not have any limitations on use of the arm or elbow. It is not in a sling or cast. The only admonition that the nurse gave me was not to get the incision wet because of possible infection. After the debacle on the first day I have been doing a good job of keeping the bandages dry.

On the first day after the surgery, I wrapped the bandages in saran wrap (per instructions from the nurse) and showered. When I got out of the shower the cotton bandages and the ace bandage were both soaked! On the second day I wrapped my forearm with a plastic garbage bag and large rubber bands at each end. This worked reasonably well, but not great. My mother told me that there are plastic protectors made specifically to go over a leg or arm cast. I found them at Walgreen's but the arm cast protector did not go up to the elbow so I bought the plastic protector for a leg cast. SO found an armband holder for an iPod with velcro and I was set. With one hand, I put the cotton wrap and ace bandage around my arm and then put the plastic leg cast protector over my hand and arm and tighten the velcro armband and a rubber band around my bicep. This keeps the cotton wrap and incision water-free!

I am getting antsy about playing some golf and seeing how the elbow feels. However, it is 116 degrees outside and 72 degrees in the office today. The person that said "the worst day on the golf course is better than the best day in the office" must not have lived in Phoenix in the summer. The temperature is supposed to drop to a balmy 107 degrees this weekend so I may have to get out on the links. By the way, my new USGA handicap index is 12.6!