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Swing Thoughts: On My Mind


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By Erik J. Barzeski viat TheSandTrap.com
Tiger, 695.MB, 259 yards, and lots of ladies are on my mind as we really kick off 2006. What's on yours?

It's difficult to cope with the fact that the temperature in fahrenheit has less degrees than the loft of my hybrid right now. But cope I must, as "golf season" is a few months away for us in the northern regions of the United States.

A variety of things weigh on my mind these days, or at least flit through from time to time. The Masters will be upon us before we know it, my promise to "play as much golf as possible" will be revised almost daily by other obligations, and my fantasy golf team is in serious need of a kick in the pants. Some other things weigh on my mind, though, and as The Sand Trap is - at least in some small part - a blog, I'm going to take this opportunity to get a few out there.

stevie_williams_tiger_woods.jpgThe guy is first on many people's minds, including those of his competitors. Two for two already this year with his B or C game, we could be in for a 2000-like year. Last year Woods putted dreadfully in two majors and finished no worse than third, winning two. Indeed, Tiger Woods was a few three-putts away from an actual Grand Slam. Not that he hasn't won one already, but for those purists who insist the titles must come in the same calendar year, well, he was that close.

As much as I think Annika Sorenstam dominates her tour like no other, the golf world in large part revolves around Tiger Woods. When he's at a tournament, he's the center of attention. When he misses a tournament, it's gotten so bad that the win is almost tainted by "well, Tiger wasn't in the field…" I can't be sure, but I'd guess that around 20% of the articles here on The Sand Trap contain the word "Tiger."

The Ladies
creamer_sorenstam.jpgThis season may be the best the LPGA has ever seen. Creamer had a sensational rookie year, winning two or four times (depending on what you count), crushing Laura Davies in the Solheim Cup after pulling a Joe Namath prior to the event and guaranteeing a win, and blowing out the competition for Rookie of the Year. Natalie Gulbis may be spurred on by that same Solheim Cup to actually win something. Morgan Pressel was (justly) granted full LPGA privileges and looks to fire it up in 2006. Michelle Wie may or may not be on the scene (though only seven times or so). Grace Park, Cristie Kerr, Lorena Ochoa, and a cast of other gals who are still quite young are looking to have a good year or return to form. And there's always that Annika.

I've never been more excited about the LPGA.

More Ladies: Big Break V
big_break_v.jpgBig Break IV was a failure, in my mind. Big Break V returns to form, because most of these girls seem capable of playing golf. We've only seen two horrible shots, and both were by the "actress/model" Nikki. Gone is the Ryder Cup lame-o format. Big Break III had the Pam/Danielle thing, but it also had too much cold, wind, and rain. Thumbs up to whoever thought of the "gals + warm weather = lots of leg" formula. Thumbs down to whoever thought of the calendar.

Going the Distance
Titleist and Cobra staff members J.B. Holmes and Arron Oberholser both won events recently - Holmes at the FBR and Oberholser at historic and acclaimed Pebble Beach. Much was made of Holmes' 300+-yard driving average for the week, yet next to nothing was made of Oberholser's 259.3 yard average, ranking him 64th in the field.

Dave Koster, in The Numbers Game, has shown repeatedly that distance barely matters. Not only is it a horrible predictor for earnings and wins, but it doesn't even predict whether you'll hit the ball closer to the hole.

An anonymous article on Titleist's site, called "Where is the Balance?," points out the lack of balance and media bias in covering the long ball. I've long compared the distance debate in golf to the gun debate in the U.S. Both debates have two sides that can characterize their point of view with one of two words: "fact" or "emotion."

ball_compression_on_driver.jpgThose calling for a shorter ball often twist history, ignore common sense, or pervert a few hand-selected tidbits of information to suit their agenda and their point of view. They cry out "the game of golf is broken" without coming close to backing up the assertion. Nearly everything these days is a distance problem: the cost to play the game, the reason rounds take five hours, old courses not being suitable for major championships, etc. It's all because of the ball.

Those on the other side of the fence often use fact as their weapon of choice. They point out Arron Oberholser's seemingly paltry 259-yard average as proof that distance isn't as important and that the media is, by and large, biased. Just flip through Dave's articles and you'll see that those on the side of "fact" have plenty of ammunition.

Unfortunately, as in the gun debate, there really is no middle ground. Attempting to convince an emotionally involved individual of your fact-based point of view (or vice versa) is as effective as chewing gum as a means of putting better.

As someone trained in the sciences, I tend to be fact-based in my approach. I can't predict whether golf would be "better off" or not with a shorter ball. I don't know whether reducing or increasing the spin rate or the initial velocity is the "fairest" way to shorten the ball. Heck, I won't even talk about them because I don't even accept the premise that golf is "in ruins" or that the game (read: ball) needs to be changed at all.

Christmas in Springtime
titleist_695mb.jpgI've been using my Titleist Forged 735.CMs since they were released. What an awesome set of clubs. This year, Titleist is introducing their first (if you don't count Cobra) 460cc driver, the 905R. I like my 905S plenty, but I'll be sure to investigate the "R." I'll also try out the 695.MBs, I need a 54.10 and a 60.04 Vokey Spin-Milled Oil-Can wedge (that's a mouthful), and more. And that's just from Titleist!

Cleveland's got a HiBore driver that looks nifty. I've still yet to really try out the FT-3 or the latest irons (or fairway woods) from Callaway. Mizuno always has things I'd like to try, TaylorMade has gone "all r7, all the time" on the golf world, and so on. The only thing that remains constant year to year seems to be the golf ball I use, the Pro V1x. If you're a clubaholic, springtime is your Christmas.

How About You?
What's on your mind these days? Answer below in the comments section or or in our forum.

Photo Credits: © Lucy Nicholson/Reuters, © AP, © TechImaging, © The Golf Channel, © Titleist.

"This article is republished with permission from The Sand Trap .com and
remains copyright © The Sand Trap .com. All rights and privileges reserved."

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