Monday, February 21, 2011

The Carpenter and His Tools

Phoenix got its last blast of Old Man Winter (hopefully) this weekend. It was cold (in the 50s and low 60s), rainy and overcast all weekend. So there was no hiking or golf this weekend. SO and I went shopping and in exchange for not whining and whimpering too much at Macy's, DSW and some other clothing stores, I got to spend an hour at the PGA Superstore in Chandler. The new Callaway RAZR Hawk Driver was released this week and I wanted to try it out. I have about $600 of PGA Superstore gift cards burning a hole in my pocket and I was a buyer today.

I took my 2008 TaylorMade Burner Driver into the store. One of the clerks marks your club with a piece of tape to indicate that it is your club and makes you leave the headcover at the front desk. Normally, this would not be a big deal, but the head cover was my new Jan Craig head cover so I was not thrilled (but I was too lazy to walk the 25 yards back to my car so I left it upfront).

The sales people at the PGA Superstore leave something to be desired. I went up to the hitting area and after waiting about a minute I interrupted a discussion between two of the sales people to see if I could get any help. One guy pointed me in the direction of the RAZR demo clubs and sent me to station 2. I hit balls for about 45 minutes in the simulator and not one sales person talked with me. I hit a number of drives with my TaylorMade Driver to determine my baseline. I hit my driver between 230 and 250 yards according to the simulator. I hit the Callaway RAZR Hawk, the Ping G15 and the TaylorMade R9 and R11 drivers. I hit all of them between 230 and 250 yards. It is possible that my "misses" were going further and straigher, but I did not notice a significant difference. By this time I am dripping with sweat and still no one has said a peep to me.

Two lessons I learned at the store (and that I am happy to impart to my followers): First, incentivizing sales people by paying commissions makes them hungrier. I was salivating to buy a new $400+ driver and no sales clerk gave me the time of day. There is a fine line between being a good salesperson and an over-aggressive boor, but I would have loved to have someone come over and talk with me about the different clubs and show me how to adjust the weights, etc. Of course, I could have tracked down a sales clerk, but why?

Second and more importantly, the old adage that "it is not the tools, but the carpenter that wields them" remains true. The difference in distance between my "ancient" 2008 TaylorMade Burner and the new 2011 drivers was negligible. The RAZR was developed in partnership with Lamborghini and it advertises that the clubface is made of forged composite and is lighter and stronger than titanium, the aerodynamic shape reduces drag by 43-percent over the FT-9 driver for more distance and the hyperbolic face technology precisely controls the face thickness, resulting in consistently higher ball speeds across the entire face. I would have gladly paid $400+ for an additional 10 yards off the tee and a little bit more accuracy, but I was not feeling it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Weekend

Since Valentine's Day is Monday, the big question this week is whether you can celebrate Valentine's Day on Saturday or Sunday when you can spend more time with your sweetheart or you should celebrate on Monday, which is the date that Hallmark chose for Valentine's Day. The restaurant owners (not the employees) love a Monday Valentine's Day because a lot of restaurants are normally closed on Monday or business is slow. Although I hate to generalize (and my followers know how politically correct I am), the Venetians (not Venice, Italy) are firm that Valentine's Day must be celebrated on February 14. The Martians, who are generally more flexible and right brain-oriented, believe that Valentine's Day can be celebrated anytime in the vicinity of February 14. One Curmudgeon Martian combines his Venetian's birthday and Valentine's Day (it is a wonder he is still married!). Because I always like to impart some pearl of wisdom to my followers, February 14 is also statehood day in Arizona. Arizona was admitted into the Union on February 14, 1912.

SO's plan was to kill me before Valentine's Day because I was being very difficult about a Valentine's Day gift (it looks like I am getting underwear again!). We hiked Camelback Mountain on the Cholla Trail. Cholla Trail is the less-crowded, "easier" route up the mountain. It is 3.5 miles roundtrip. The last half mile or so requires scrambling along the ridgeline. There were plenty of places where a misstep or a slight push in the back would send you tumbling off the side of the mountain. I got dissed by some hikers for climbing in my Skechers and not wearing my hiking boots. I hate to admit it, but they were right. The view from the top of Camelback Mountain is beautiful and well-worth the hike. After hiking, we went to the farmer's market at Vincent's Restaurant, in the heart of the city, for breakfast.

Sunday was gorgeous and I was stoked to play golf. I just got my retro Jan Craig headcovers and I was looking sharp and feeling good. I parred the first hole at the Wigwam Gold Course and it was all downhill from there. I stunk up the joint! I hit some shots that came off the clubhead so strangely I have no idea what I did. I was hitting the ball on the toe and the heel, everywhere except in the middle of the clubface. I was nothing if not (in)consistent. I shot a 48 on the front 9 and a 48 on the back 9 for a 96. The highlight of my round was the 400 yard, par-4 18th hole. This is a good finishing hole with a canal that runs just left of the green. The Sunday pin position was on the front left side of the green so if you miss the shot just a little left of the green, the ball rolls off the edge of the green into the canal. Of course, I bail out to the right. My ball lands next to the cart path and right of the greenside bunker with the green sloping away from me and toward the canal. I decide to hit a flop shot over the bunker that lands softly on the green about 10 feet from the hole and I make my only putt of the day for a par.

While I was stinking up the course, the Gardener was bombing his driver and lasering his irons. He had three gimme birdies and hit another shot about 3 feet above the flagstick and missed a tricky downhill sliding putt for a fourth birdie. He had a 38 on the front 9, but limped home with double-bogeys on the last two holes for a 44 on the back and an excellent round of 82 for the day. It was the best I have seen him hit the ball! Chad Feldheimer was making pars with a few birdies and bogeys sprinkled in. He made the turn at 37 and it looked like this might be the day he shoots par golf. On the par-5, 14th hole, Chad drove his ball into the trees, his second shot hit a tree branch and he almost shanked his third shot. His fourth shot was a medicore short iron that landed about 20 feet from the flagstick, but he drained the 20 foot putt for his par. He needed a birdie on one of the last two holes to shoot 72, but unfortuantely he bogeyed No. 17 for a very respectable 74.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sports on the Brain!

Super Bowl weekend in Phoenix is extra special because the [insert sponsor name] Phoenix Open PGA Tournament is always played on Super Bowl weekend. The Phoenix Open draws the largest crowds by far of any PGA Tour event. I think the record crowd for the Phoenix Open was over 538,000 in 2008. This year attendance was down because the Pro-Am was canceled on Wednesday and we had unseasonably cold weather with early and mid-morning frost. Total attendance was about 365,000, which will still be the largest attendance of any PGA Tour event this year. And crowd size is generally down on Sunday because of the Super Bowl festivities.

On Saturday, SO and I hiked the Go John Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park, just north of Phoenix. The trail is 4.8 miles long and is very scenic. There are a couple of steep grades, but mostly it is a nice hike on generally flat terrain. We completed the hike in 1 hour and 45 minutes. I led the way at the beginning and end of the hike and SO ran me ragged for over an hour in the middle. I could barely keep up with her! She has been working out like a demon and it is really showing in her physical conditioning. I am very proud of her.

On Super Bowl Sunday I played in the "traditional" Greenfield Lakes invitational golf tournament with SO's step-dad and his buddies. Greenfield Lakes Golf Course is a really nice par-62, 4,100 yards executive golf course with two par-5 holes, four par-4 holes and twelve par-3 holes ranging from 100 yards to over 200 yards. The par-5, 530 yard 18th hole is the signature hole with a double dogleg. I hit the ball really well and shot an 8 over par 70. I had two double-bogeys and two birdies and eight pars.

After golf, it was time for the Super Bowl. Although I did not really have a dog in this fight, I was rooting for the Packers. I hate to admit it, but I still remember Bart Starr and the Green Bay Packers winning the first two Super Bowls (I don't remember whether the games were called "Super Bowls" at that time). I was a die-hard New York Football Giants fan at the time, but everyone revered and wanted their team to emulate the Packers. The Vince Lombardi trophy deserves to be in "Title Town". The Steelers are also a great football organization and there is no family more deserving of greatness than the Rooney family, the owners of the Steelers (except maybe the Bidwills - yah right!). This was a match-up of two storied football franchises that play football the way it was meant to be played. Although the game was not the best played Super Bowl ever, it was very competitive and until the final incomplete pass you sat on the edge of your seat thinking that the Steelers might pull out a victory.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Greatest Show on Ice

While the rest of the country is buried under a foot or more of snow, the greatest golfers in the world (or at least in the United States) are in Scottsdale, Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, generally known as the "greatest show on grass", but this year re-named the "greatest show on ice".

After a 5 hour frost delay on Wednesday, the PGA finally canceled the Pro-Am tournament because any play would have damaged the fairways and greens. Temperatures have been frigid in the early mornings causing a hard freeze on the greens and in the fairways. Thursday's high temperature may not have cracked 50 and Friday's high temperature was only in the mid-50s. On Thursday, the first groups teed off from the 1st and 10th holes at 11:40 a.m. and the last groups did not tee off until about 5:25 p.m. and only finished two holes before darkness. But check out the unbelievable sunset over the golf course. The PGA made a great decision to play the final round of the tournament on Monday rather than try to play 36 holes on Sunday. After losing the Pro-Am on Wednesday, the Thunderbirds must be very pleased to add another day to the back-end of the tournament. The weekend high temperatures are supposed to be 67 degrees on Saturday, 70 degrees on Sunday and 74 degrees on Monday with sunny skies.