To Be the Best

tiger_kobe

Is it possible to be the best at something in which “best” is measurable and quantifiable — such as athletic championships — while being a nice person? Or is it only possible to distinguish oneself, seperate oneself from the rest, by practicing a conscious aloofness and distance that inspires fear and respect from one’s opponents?

Maybe. Anthing’s possible. Rules have exceptions, etcetera. But all the available evidence suggests that the impulse to step on throats, to win and win and win more, and by larger margins, is found most commonly and persuasively in folks with a deep vein of anger running through their soul. Guys with the metaphorical chip on their shoulder.

Will Tiger Woods find better results than pre-scandal by being a warmer, more open fellow, quicker with a smile and a wink and an autograph? Probably not. Being a happy human being, it . . . → Read More: To Be the Best

Tiger, Burning Bright

maestro of golf, tiger woods

Watching Tiger Woods do what he does better than anyone on the planet simultaneously inspires and humbles those who dare to be great — at anything. His deal is golf, a sport that poetically integrates athleticism with introspection. But it might as well be something else. Woods is clearly someone who has harnessed the dual chakras of determination and concentration. His ability to perform at the loftiest level when the stakes are highest, to do what others can do only when the stakes are low, separates him from nearly every other elite athlete. He’s an astonishing freak.

Let us not forget, however, the amount of sacrifice and single-mindedness required to be the Greatest, whether it’s a difficult to master sport like golf or an easily learned activity like playing the bongos. People like Woods who are demonstrably better at something than . . . → Read More: Tiger, Burning Bright

The Second Sunday in April

augusta national

For all the repugnant traditions the Masters golf tournament and Augusta National Golf Club have variously embodied — elitism, racism, sexism — the event is still a cherished totem during our annual dash to the next Christmas shopping season. It’s a stirring and sometimes poignant way of marking time.

Like many men who were once athletes in their youth, the Masters will always be a sporting competition that connotes history made under trying circumstances — if walking around in a sylvan playground can be said to be trying. The pressure, the moment, the ramifications — these concepts aren’t lost on the viewers (or the players), particularly since the CBS television announcing crew, which is vetted by the club, takes pains to remind us every five minutes that what we are watching is somehow more important than any other athletic competition. To win this tournament is . . . → Read More: The Second Sunday in April

Why Golf on Los Angeles Municipal Courses Takes Forever

The only ones who like the pace of play

When I play golf locally, it’s usually at a nearby Los Angeles County municipal park course in Griffith Park. What ought to be a pleasant walk among the tress and birds often feels like a death march through rush hour traffic. Four-hour rounds morph into six-hour trudges, and the joy of chasing a little white ball through a sylvan paradise is lost while you stare at the backs of duffers standing around with their hands on their hips.

The abysmal slowness isn’t necessarily because the players are bad, although wayward shots and a general lack of readiness exacerbate the situation. It’s not, as some racist observers have suggested to me, because many of the early morning tee-times are taken by Koreans, who allegedly have no awareness of golf course etiquette. And it’s not because the average hacker studies every putt from four different angles, as though he . . . → Read More: Why Golf on Los Angeles Municipal Courses Takes Forever

Golf Abides

Burningbush Cover

A couple of days after watching Jack Nicklaus play his last round of competitive major championship golf , we got a letter from an 83-year-old woman we’d met on a golf course. She reminded us that her regular foursome, composed of friends from high school, met every week to hack it around. “We really love to play,” she said. “We have a lot of laughs.”

Golf, it’s been said by many, is “the game of a lifetime.” These sages don’t mean that it takes forever to play 18 holes — although on a crowded Saturday afternoon when you’re stuck behind a trio of badly behaved foursomes it can sometimes feel that way. Golf is a game that can be enjoyed equally in youth and dotage. Rugby, basketball, and Greco-Roman wrestling are all salutary and noble pursuits that build character and endurance, not to mention . . . → Read More: Golf Abides

On Making a Hole in One

getting in the hole

After playing golf for 28 years — 17 of them seriously — it finally happened.

The Victoria Club, Riverside, California, 185-yard 13th.

With a 5-iron.

Ace!

Unless you’re an acolyte of abstinence, there’s not much at age 40 that can cost you your virginity, especially if you’ve been trying most of your adult life to lose it. I’ve come close before, leaving a couple of tee shots precariously close. But with every passing round the misses seem to have been less near, and I had resigned myself to going through my golfing existence without having enjoyed the thrill of authoring the perfect shot.

Golf is a game of imperfection, of controlled failure. Very seldom do all the things that have to happen for a golf shot to match your imagination actually occur. It’s a fleeting moment of nirvana when it does. In my case, as soon as . . . → Read More: On Making a Hole in One

The Masters: A Tradition Like No Other

Where the Proper Type of Person Plays

Every April, some of the best golfers in the world are invited to play in a tournament conducted at Augusta National Golf Club, a famously lush arboretum of magnolias and azaleas founded by the legendary amateur champion Bobby Jones. The first of the so-called “major” championships – the PGA Championship and the U.S. and British Opens are the others – this tournament, called the Masters, is televised by the CBS and USA networks, who, it is well known, are granted broadcast rights only on a year-to-year basis. If the owners of the tournament, the Augusta National Golf Club itself, don’t like the way their event is presented, they’re apt to take away the lucrative and prestigious franchise. Though CBS has managed to hang on to the rights for decades, several of their announcers have been notoriously disqualified from participating because they used language the Club found disparaging. . . . → Read More: The Masters: A Tradition Like No Other