Global Golf Calendar: The desert classic

We’re getting back to normal-ish in and near Grey Goatee Global HQ, which means 52-ish Fahrenheit and precipitous, while in La Quinta, Calif., in the winter desert, it’s looking like 65 for a high all week with a chance of moisture.

So it’s not so hot, all in all, and the hot guy’s not here anyway at the CareerBuilder Challenge, but apparently they’ll still go on with the tournament without Justin Thomas. It’s tough to win on the PGA Tour, tougher yet to win in consecutive weeks, but Thomas did it in the first two weeks of January. Maybe when he wins a major this year (you read it here first) he’ll fit in the conversation with the Days and Spieths and DJs.

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas

Or maybe he’ll fade back into the field … but nobody much believes that. Last weekend at the Sony Open, he was sticking his irons, and he has another virtue in his game that will keep him around.

The little fucker hits it a long ways.

That is, when he’s in the field, which he isn’t. The defending CareerBuilder champion is Jason Dufner, who for no clear reason is a particular favorite of Grey Goatee Nation. Last year, the CareerBuilder trophy was presented to Dufner by President Bill Clinton on behalf of his (and Hil’s) Clinton Foundation. The foundation was in the news a little bit last year, you might have noticed.

Phil Mickelson is the goodwill ambassador for this year’s edition of the tournament, once known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. Mickelson is the only real star power in the desert; this tournament’s been lacking in juice for a few years. Sorry, Duf. Sorry, Big Bill.

This week in golf

PGA Tour
Jan. 19-22: CareerBuilder Challenge,  TPC Stadium Course, PGA West, La Quinta, Calif.

European Tour
Jan. 19-22: Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Speaking of star power, Rory McIlroy has dropped out with a rib injury.

PGA Tour Champions
Jan. 19-21: Mitsubishi Electric Championship, Hualalai Golf Club, Ka’upulehu-Kona, Hawaii

Out there

LPGA
Jan. 26-29: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, Ocean Club, Paradise Island, Bahamas

The Masters
April 6-9, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.

The Hawaii swing

Here in the World HQ of Grey Goatee Nation, we stare at a forecast for several inches of snow, and we sigh. A round of golf in the sunshine is a prospect seen only dimly down the days.

Thus we consider the PGA Tour, which annually opens the New Year with back-to-backers in Hawaii, the early-season silly season. These blessed souls, already the envy of gods and men for their golf games, are at the Sony Open in Honolulu this weekend playing for wads of cash on an amazing course before adoring galleries and the fawning media.

Is it making them happy? “If you assume tour players are unimaginably happy and content, I assure you that is not the case,” said master teacher Pete Cowen, quoted in the new issue of Golf Digest. “ … If there’s a fact of life I see hit home on an almost daily basis, it’s that money and fame do not bring happiness.”

Maybe not … but playing golf in the sunshine makes up for a lot.

Winners only need apply

Here at Kapalua on Maui, you got your Spieths and your Days and your DJs, and you got your guys like Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, who won the RSM Classic in a playoff. You knew that, right?

You got Aaron Baddeley, who’s here  because he won on the PGA Tour last season for the first time since 2011.

Cody Gribble, fresh off the Web.com tour, won the Sanderson Farms Championship for his first PGA victory. Fellow Texan Spieth tweeted big-ass Texas kudos.

All winners, here at the SBS Tournament of Champions, the first tournament of the 2017 part of the season, and a good sign that April is right up there not so far away.

And Duf. Dufner won last year, the CareerBuilder Challenge, and got his trophy presented to him by Bill Clinton, the wanna-be not-gonna-be First Husband. Shee-it.

1-8 update: Justin Thomas, the winner here, is not in the “who’s he” category, but neither is he in the conversation with your Spieths and your Days and your DJs … yet.

Last gasp

The foursome Patterson, Valandra, Potter, Bartlett,

The foursome Patterson, Valandra, Potter, Bartlett,

Kicked it around the golf course with three friends the other day. The friends were Bartlett, Patterson and Valandra. The course was Chambers Bay. My game was spotty, like the greens. She wind was stiff, like I wasn’t knocking it. The round, absolutely the last of the year, was maybe the best, too. I’ll think more on that, but you know what? All the pieces were there.

The Foursome: Expandable, but not to just anyone

Even when Lorenzo Romar’s University of Washington basketball teams didn’t have the Pac-12′s best talent, they always played defense and they always rebounded. It kept the Huskies in games they shouldn’t have been and helped win games over better teams.

Now Romar’s team isn’t good at all, save for a one-and-done freshman who has to be wondering how he ended up in Seattle, and they don’t play much D and they hardly ever get a rebound. The Huskies, unless they get real hot real soon and sweep UCLA and Arizona and Oregon, won’t go to the NCAAs for the fifth year in a row. Could the university really dump Romar? Unthinkable, unless you think about it.

I can see him getting fired and ending up at one of the mid-majors the Huskies have such trouble beating. That just doesn’t seem right.

One thing you can be sure of — if in fact Romar even plays golf — is he has a permanent place in my Dream Foursome. You can mark that one down.

NOTE: The Huskies just got drummed in the Peach Bowl, so now that football’s over the basketball angst can kick in full-time. A win over WSU tomorrow afternoon will only forestall its full fury. But hey, they’ll be undefeated in the conference, for a few days.

Jan. 1 update: Huskies played dead at the end and gave up the game to the Cougs … 0-1 in the Pac.

***

One person who won’t have a spot in my dream foursome, infinitely expandable as it might be, is Kellyanne Conway. There are good and obvious reasons why not, the biggest being she’s smug and insufferable and the apologist for the biggest dickhead in American presidential history.

She also doesn’t play the game. She told the Washington Times, when asked how a woman can work full-time in the White House when she has four kids:

“ … I would say that I don’t play golf, and I don’t have a mistress so I have a lot of time that a lot of these other men don’t. I see people on the weekend spending a lot of time with their golf game. And that’s their right, but the kids will be with me.”

She was also quoted last week as calling The Dickhead “brilliant,” which shows she has, unlike her boss, a sense of humor. If she ever wanted to take up golf, that’s a start.

Get yer fake news here …

I saw the other night in one supermarket tabloid the headline, “I killed JFK!” Glad to have that mystery solved, and even more glad we’re back to normal crackhead shit in the ‘bloids. I like to rely on my fake news — it’s comforting to know Elvis is 81 and living in Muskogee where he was visited recently by the Dickhead Who Will Not be Named, who is said, by the way, to be considering Elvis for head of the Peanut Butter and Banana Division of the FDA.

It’s not so comforting to know Hilary operates a sex-abuse ring out of a pizza parlor in D.C. But it’s true. I read it.

***

I didn’t much like the way the Dickhead, on the campaign trail, mocked people for their appearance if he didn’t like ‘em. I won’t stoop to it. In fact, I’m happy to point out that Rudy Giuliani, this morning on CNN, looked just like the famous movie star Jackie Coogan. You know. Uncle Fester.

***

The inscrutable one — so, okay, can a serial road-hard philanderer (before he changed his ways) really be inscrutable? What does inscrutable even mean? – says he will play in The Genesis Open Feb. 16-19 at Riviera Country Club.

Tiger Woods might play before that — at Pebble? Torrey Pines? Abu Dhabi Du? Whenever he does, you can be assured you’ll read it here nowhere near first.

Inscrutable (Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, Second Edition, p. 948): Not capable of being searched into and understood by inquiry or study; incapable of being discovered, comprehended or accounted for; incomprehensible; unfathomable; completely obscure or mysterious.

Inscrutable (Grey Goatee Global Golf Dictionary, Unhinged and Unabated, First and Only Edition, p. 1): Tiger Woods.

 

Check-in: Craig Foster

There’s been some news in the news lately, you might have noticed. Like, we had an election, and I could stop right there, but then there’s the Tiger Woods re-entry into competitive golf, and it got me thinking I needed somebody to tell me how I ought to be thinking about what I’m thinking about.

It’s getting to be old news now that a major golf manufacturer is releasing irons in sets of one length, but it was news that gave me an excuse for an overdue check-in with Craig Foster.

When you talk about golf equipment with Foster, which you should do if you care even a little about your sticks, you also get to talk about music, politics and the biomechanics of the putting stroke … and maybe then you’ll talk about playing golf, which he doesn’t do because he can’t give the time to playing it well and he can’t stand playing it badly. He’d rather be playing music, anyway, which he does very well.

Craig Foster

Craig Foster

After all that, he might mention he’s a cancer survivor.

***

He was gobsmacked by the election of He Who Will Not be Named.

“To make a golf analogy, we just had a big tournament,” Foster said last week as Hilary Clinton’s popular-vote lead climbed over 2.5 million votes. “Clinton won the gross, (Dickhead) won the net.”

He sees real meat in the conflicts of interest with the president-elect and his worldwide businesses. Jimmy Carter, he reminds, had to sell his peanut farm when he was elected.

“He has a new job now,” said Foster of Dickhead. “When you get a new job, you have to quit your old job.”

***

Foster’s prediction, made week before last before the first round of the Hero World Challenge, was that Woods would finish “in the middle half to the bottom in the event, because he’s just not sharp.” Spot on.

***

His main business in golf is Craig’s Custom Clubs, which he operates out of his home in the capital of Grey Goatee Nation. A batch of  Northwest playing professionals go nowhere else with their clubs; rank beginners should count themselves lucky if somebody tells ‘em they really need to go see Foster to be fitted for their first sets.

He wasn’t taken by surprise when Cobra Golf, a few weeks back, announced its new King F7 One Length and King F7 Forged One Length iron sets featuring traditional lofts from 3-iron through pitching wedge, all at the length of a 7-iron.

Bryson DeChambeau, 23, is the only current PGA Tour pro using all-one-length irons, and he endorses the Cobra sets in ads.

“If he wins a tournament or two and is a solid guy for the next few years,” Foster said, “it could really be the next major change in golf equipment.”

***

Foster keeps the faith in his patented DynAlign putting alignment method, which uses the natural biomechanics of the forearms and wrists to firm up the putting stroke.

He hears the chatter about “taking the hands out of the stroke,” the supposed benefit of the jumbo putter grips some players swear by. With DynAlign, he says, a player’s dominant hand is very involved in the putting stroke.

“I’ve been preaching this for at least 20 years,” he says. “I haven’t wavered — I believe in it more than ever. It really is a superior way to putt.”

***

Not too long back he had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his intestine. Call it successful. He takes a new immunosuppressant drug to keep things on the straight and narrow.

“I’m very, very fortunate,” he says.

***

Practicing music pays off better than practicing golf for Foster.

He plays guitar, piano and saxophone … On the sax, “I’m just a blues tooter,” he says. “It’s kind of my luxury instrument. I don’t get any time to work on that.”

He’s a regular busker in and near the Olympia Farmers Market. His band is set to play Dec. 16 and 17 at the Little Creek Casino near Shelton, Wash., and he’s looking ahead to playing the newest and biggest casino in the northwestern region of Grey Goatee Nation in the near future.

“I just learned a couple great John Prine songs,” he says, “’Crazy As a Loon’ and ‘Please Don’t Bury Me.’”

He also just picked up “John Barleycorn,” the English folk tune based on a Robert Burns poem made most popular in modern times by the Steve Winwood/Traffic version.

“It’s really epic, just an exquisite song,” says Foster.

“I learn great songs all the time.”

A post in which we are not cynical

It felt so good, so positive, so un-political, and while this whole week I’ve felt like crying every day, this day it felt like the tears were for good reasons, not because an idiot racist hater was elected president of the country I live in.

On Saturday afternoon I went to watch a high school sports team play a semifinal state-tournament match and I didn’t have a notebook or a laptop or an assignment or a built-in rooting interest, and I’ve done that in my life about zero times.

This team is so cool, as players and teammates and humans, it’ll make you cry. I didn’t root out loud, because the day before I’d covered the opening rounds of the tournament for the local rag and people had seen me there with my laptop and notebook. And even if I wasn’t working I didn’t want it to look like I was cheering for this crazy-amazing group of athletes, but I was, quietly.

When they won that match, I did have tears in my eyes, and then that evening, after they finished off the state championship while I wasn’t there to see it, I got teary reading about it. Which has happened to me over a group of players and their coach I don’t even know, outside of superficial sportswriter talk, about zero times.

I’m not over it yet, but anger is not the town I want to live in.

So I keep on loving my family and make sure they know it and think of ways to make myself a better person, if it’s not too late, and maybe do some good in the ’hood … because if I can’t change the whole goddamn country I can at least do my part to keep the idiot racist hater from trashing my little slice of it.

And sports, it’s funny, but it is consolation for us wounded ones, even when teams lose games we sorely wish they would not. Lately, even a little social awareness has raised its head in the corporate big leagues and right on down.

And, sometimes, the good guys win.

An American in Calgary

At some point all the nastiness will be over and we’ll be glad of it, at least until the day we’ll wish it was just politics again. Because the election won’t end well, we know that, and too soon will come the actual governing, and we’ll have to live with who we got, and that can only mean cruel disappointment or bitter anger.

Because we know the office-holder we voted for can’t possibly measure up in the cold post-inaugural light, and the office-holder we did not vote for will be worse than our most paranoid imaginings.

We’re talking, you understand, about the election for men’s club president at the Golf Course in the Valley of the Shadow of the Brewery. I don’t care about any other election.

I wish it didn’t take so long to get a passport … they say demand is high right now. Hey, what’s the job market like for an American in Calgary? Maybe Toronto?

This week in golf and culture

Election Day
Tuesday, Nov. 8
Life as we know it for American golfers will be decided by your vote. Don’t fuck it up.

PGA Tour
Nov. 10-13: OHL Classic at Mayakoba, El Camaleon Golf Club, Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
No hard news, only rumors, of American players seeking political asylum here.

LPGA
Nov. 10-13: Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Mexico City.
The American ex-pat golferati community grows larger.

Reno edition

 It’s a night when I might as well feel good about things because the bills that are trailing me won’t catch up until, like, Tuesday and my week’s work in Reno is done and the Cubs won, Cubs won, and the bar in the Silver Legacy is perfectly happy to reward me for being a good hard-working American guy.

So I settle in and enjoy the Hatuey cigar that should be getting harsh near its nub but blessedly isn’t and I think there are other games to be played in the Biggest Little City in the World and maybe I’ll play a few of them before tucking in but right now, because I have to believe something, I believe I’ll have another Jameson, light rocks, because my plane to the world doesn’t fly ’til tomorrow.