State of The Rcok

State of The Rcok
NFL News and Commentary

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Longest Yard - A Masters Story

The Longest Yard
Jordan Spieth and longtime mentor Ben Crenshaw sat down with Brandel Chamblee A few days before the Masters last year.  When asked what it takes to win the masters – Crenshaw raised his hands about a yard apart and declared “These are miss-able at Augusta”. Jordan looks at Ben and lifts his right hand "shhhhh".

  


Jordan Who?
I discovered Jordan a few years earlier and had been preaching the good news of his coming for some time. He was not old enough to drink and did not even have a PGA card. I had to look up his college stats when I found his name on the bet sheets in Vegas. He was playing on exemptions when he earned them. When I mentioned his name around the course, the response was usually Jordan who? At the John Deer Classic in 2013 – he gave me the thrill of a lifetime. 

It was Sunday morning and he was 6 strokes back. I was about to turn off the TV and go play some golf of my own, when he moved up to 5 back, then 4 then 3. As my chance to get some sun faded, so did his chances to win. The leader was in the clubhouse at (-19). He was on the final hole (-18) and needed to hole a shot from the bunker for birdie to join him and have a chance at a playoff. He did it!

  
Hammerheads
He and his young caddy had been feeling their way around PGA courses - most of which - neither of them had ever seen. as Jordan climbs out of the bunker to shake his caddy's hand - he chest bumps him. Hammerheads - I love this shit! 5 playoff rounds later – he got his first win. I pocketed $900. $30 at 30-1. It was one of most of the most exciting sports victories I ever watched. It wasn’t all about the money though. Our favorite players become like family members we’ve never met. He had become a little brother. That would eventually become the case for millions of golf fans.


Magnolia Lane
Fast forward to April 2014. Tiger’s out. Its Masters week, he’s at 40-1. The media has tried to anoint Jordan as Tiger's successor. But the wins are just not there. He’s got more top 10s than any player on tour, but the pressure for him to close one out is palpable. Interest in him is waning. Most analysts feel he has a decent all-around game but nothing special in any one area and not long enough to become one of the all-time greats. I happen to disagree.  I enjoy handicapping, but I am not a big gambler, I put $100 on him, that’s a lot for me on one player. A $4000 pay off would replace a car that just blew an engine. If he was to pull off a miracle win on his first visit to Augusta, at 20 years of age - I would get custom plates and call it my “Spieth Mobile”.


Giant Killer
Win or not, he had become a giant killer.  Every time they paired him with a big name - he knocked them out in "Rocky" like fashion. Tiger by 8 strokes. Mickelson by 9. Matt Kuchar called him a "little kid" before playing him in match play at the WGC. Spieth sent him home. This week the folks at Golf channel finally caught on and called that the "Spieth factor". Jordan would face a Goliath in Rory McIlroy to begin the Masters. By Friday, Rory too had fallen. 




Exodus
By the end of the 2nd round on Friday - the cut was top 50 and ties - (4 Over) or better. Almost every Big Name in the Game Missed the Cut, some by 4 or 5 strokes. Approach Shots landing 2 feet from the Pin - had bounced and ran off the greens. This place was for real and it was scary. Rooting for Spieth was like watching your kid play in traffic. This isn't Golf - this is Frogger. How can anyone survive. But survive he did - into the weekend at Augusta. The Spieth Factor continued on Saturday. Jordan took down world #1 Adam Scott.


The Masters Final Round
Its Sunday morning, to my amazement Jordan Spieth is tied for the lead with Bubba Watson at 5 under. As he stepped on the first tee box, I was on the edge of my seat. At 20, I was still pimping beer in front of 7-11 and looking for Kegger parties. Lotta pressure for Jordan at such a young age.

He is boxed in by a thick gallery of spectators and tees it up before he is even announced. The world is watching my boy - Is he gonna hook one into the trees? 






Yes.   The good news - Bubba is in the bunker. Spieth punches one from the trees, it bounces past the pin but rolled back pin high about 16 feet from the hole. Bubba damn near hits the pin and settles about 4 feet inside Jordan. They both miss birdie puts and par. On the par 5 2nd - Bubba almost drains one from the fringe. Jordan has a 10 foot put to take the lead.
 
Announcer David Feherty - in a high pitched Irish tone, as if he's telling on someone "Oh - he leads The Masters! "After 2 holes in the final round - Jordan Spieth takes the lead - on his own."





And a Child with Lead Them
Bubba misses the green on 3 and pushes his par put left. Spieth pars. Oh My God! Is this really happening? Jordan has a 2 shot lead In the Masters. There was a buzz, an electricity in the air. There was talk of numerology and destiny. Every 17 years, The Masters produced it's youngest winner. The last was in 1997, it was 2014.


A Familiar Miracle
By the 4th hole he's in trouble. Watson sticks his approach within about 4 feet. Jordan is in the green-side bunker. Looks like a 2 shot swing for Bubba. 

















Spieth sweeps it up onto the green, it bounces twice, rolling....rolling.... hits the pin -  ITS IN!
Bubba birdies as well. Jordan's still leads by 2. He did that at John Deer!   
Something special is happening here. 
 
















Mr. Watson
Jordan's more Wally than Beaver, but there's just enough Eddie Haskell in him to keep you interested. His habit of calling his elders "Mr." was questioned in an interview the day before the Masters. He was Paired with Bubba Watson for the final on Sunday. Spieth and Watson are friends.


"Do you have an age cut off for calling someone Mr?
"Anyone older than me."
So, you will be calling Bubba Mr. Watson?
"Yes, just because I know it will mess with him."
On the Tee at the 5th. "Nice two Mr. Watson."


Upstaged 
Spieth Bogies 5 and Bubba pulls within 1 shot. Watson sticks his approach on the Par 3 6th within 10 feet. Jordan answers by throwing a dart 2 feet from the pin! 




Ruffled Feathers
Spieth looks up at Watson - like a little brother looking for approval. Bubba looks back at Spieth as if to say, "What are you trying to pull? Watson turns away, cocks his shoulders like a rooster and heads for the green with a stern look on his face. They would both Birdie. Spieth holds onto his 1 shot lead.


History in the Making
Bubba misses the green on 7. Spieth drains an 8 foot put for birdie and a 2 shot lead!






 



Is This Really Happening?
At this point I'm pinching myself. Were talking $4000 here and a chance to see my favorite golfer become a household name. You know that feeling you get - when something you knew was impossible - starts to actually happen?


Watson and Spieth have separated themselves from the field at this point. It has become a 2 man race and Jordan, with a 2 shot lead -shows no signs of cracking.

On the Par 5 8th - Jordan has little more than a tap in for par.

Paradise Lost
No! He misses it! Bogie! Watson Birdies. 2 shot swing.





His lead is gone.








 


The Longest Yard
On the 9th hole, for the 2nd time that day - a premonition from a well meaning mentor came true. Spieth misses a short put for Bogey. Watson birdies. 4 shot swing. Jordan never recovered. 

 





I can't even imagine the what was going through Jordan's head after the 9th hole. He just gave away the Masters.

 




I know what might have been on his mind as he stood over those puts on 8 and 9. "These are miss-able at Augusta”. 


Jordan is currently #1 in the world for puts between 15-25 feet
He still struggles with puts in side 10 feet.




The good news is - that's not the end of the story. 
By the end of 2014 the American media had pretty much written off Jordan Spieth.  All they talked about when his was mentioned was how he didn't win again. He flew to Australia in late November. The Aussies do not get see PGA pros very often. It's a long plane flight. They greeted Jordan with nothing but praise and adulation. He shot the lowest score in the history of the Australian Open that week. Literally destroying all of the best players in Europe.



Rory McIlroy tweeted about his performance: 
"You could give me another 100 rounds today at The Australian and I wouldn't sniff 63.... Well done @JordanSpieth very impressive!  





When he finished his round in Australia - he jumped on a plane for a 20 hour flight. Went to Tigers Hero tournament that very next weekend. He destroyed the best players in the United States by 10 shots. 





He took some time off. Won 3 weeks ago at Valspar. He placed 2nd the last 2 weeks. He tees it up again Thursday at the Masters.

As far as the "Spieth -Mobile" -  it's not a matter of "if" but "when".

This story isn't over yet.

- Rick Jansen 






























 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

On the Backs of Amatuers

Yesterday, Austin Cook,  a 21 yr old Monday qualifier -  was in the clubhouse 1 shot off the lead in Houston. If he wins, he will play at The Masters next week. Tour pros have their caddy's carry their huge tour bags. Cook sat his bag next to Mickelson's, it has a kick stand. He was pushing it around himself during the qualifier.


I am rooting hard for Jordan today, but if he doesn't win - I hope Cook does.



This morning the Golf Channel is covering the Drive Chip and Put contest at Augusta. Happy for the kids. However, unless they have rich dads, which many do - they will never play on the PGA or LPGA Tour. The First Tee promotes inner city kids learning the game. Most of them wont either. Why? Because only a select few have the talent? No. That is true, but there is another very real obstacle. Money!



As we look forward The Masters, lets not forget, A Bush was president of the USGA. 

Augusta didn't allow black members until 1990!  Here's a quote from former Augusta chairman Clifford Roberts:

"As long as I'm alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black.

The first woman admitted was Condoleezza Rice for Christs sake. Get the picture?

Playing golf in most states is pretty affordable. You can play a round for about $40 if you shop around. Free training videos are all over the internet. Good used clubs can be found for a few hundreds dollars. On the other hand, Competing, anywhere near the professional level, is nearly unattainable for the average inner city kid or the rest of us working class Joe's and Jill's. 

Why? 

Web.com


Eliminating Q school was a strategic, profit driven move, made by the right wing corporate whores that run this game we love. What is Q School? In essence,  they are qualifying rounds, held at the beginning of the week of a PGA tourney. You win, you play on NBC or CBS that week. Pretty American right? "Give us your poor....give us your.....Wrong!


Corporations lobbied to elimate Q school and succeeded. Just like the Nationwide tour did - Web.com (PGA) and Symetra (LPGA) - run the minor leagues of golf on the backs of amateurs. It costs around $5000 to play in just one Web.com event. Playing well there - doesn't even guarantee you entry into a PGA event.

Unless you get corporate exemptions into a PGA event, there a very few ways to ever get on the professional tour without a trust fund.  

If Austin Cook can't close today in Houston. Don't fault him. As Phil stated this week. You have to play competitive rounds to compete at this level. You have to get in that position several times, and learn how to win. Cook will probably get exemptions and more chances. However, At $5000 per event, others like him will never even get one, unless their family has money. 10 events per year, $50,000, not including travel an lodging - that's most peoples life savings.

Shell Houston, The U.S. Open, and just a handful of other events deserve a great deal of praise as the last bastions of open competition.  If the PGA truly wants to grown the game - reinstate Q School, and make Monday qualifiers mandatory at ever non major event.

- Rick Jansen 


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Snake Oil and the Light Beneath the Basket


The stories of child prodigies rarely have happy endings. Is it curiosity or jealousy that justifies our holding them to a higher standard? Cast into the spotlight by a god given talent, they are put under a microscope.  The fire that launched their success - is often snuffed out by the media frenzy, deal making, scrutiny and hangers on. The light from that fire can be hidden for years - under a basket of problems that have nothing to do with the game. I was reminded of this as two such prodigies came across my TV screen this week.

I rarely bet on the LPGA. My respect for female golfers and tennis players is immense. Any one of them could easily emasculate the average tough guy at the clubhouse bar. I just don’t follow the women’s game that closely though. I always watch this weeks Major for the jump into Poppy’s Pond.


I saw Michelle Wie at the sports book at 50-1 and couldn’t resist. I knew she was not trending, but she is still an athlete capable of performing miracles on any given weekend. As I tuned in to watch her play, the scenario was all too familiar. She was struggling to keep up with the field. Upon closer inspection, her technique looked more experimental than strategic. She was literally turned backwards at impact. Her demeanor seemed uncertain, almost whimsical. Why?



Michelle first pleyd this weeks major at 13. She turned pro at the age of 16, nearly 9 years ago. She was cast into the spotlight at an early age. Her talent and her body developed early. Like an Anna Kournikova, with a real chance not just to win, but to dominate. Just what the LPGA and the golf industrial complex needed. Her golf swing was almost technically perfect. She was long an accurate. So much so, that she was pressured into competing against the men on the PGA - which I think is awesome! However, it did not sit well with many of the old guard chauvanistic tour pros like Vijay Singh - who helped to make that a harrowing experience. She was 16 for Christs sake. What a bunch of jerks.


When her accomplishments fell short of the media’s expectations, she fell and fell hard. Eventually she left the game and went off to college. She returned to the game and won on tour last year, but she has never dominated the game to the extent her unique talent should allow. Even older female players like Annika Sorenstam have recently taken stabs at her. Golf is a head game. Through no fault of her own, hers is somewhere between swing theory, the mall and the 18th hole at Augusta. We all return to what if familiar though. When you are great at an early age, you are always great. It is jut a matter of finding it again. Unfortunately, there are obstacles and opportunists muddying the waters along the way. 

Randal Chamblee has spoken of opportunists in the game of golf on numerous occasions – most frequently the swing coach variety. They are in his mind and mine, a scourge on the game. They are for the most part - charlatans and robber barons selling snake oil. Michael Jordan didn’t need anyone teaching him how to shoot a free throw at 30. Tiger didn't need a swing coach either. Natural talent and technique gets players to the top. Swing coach’s experiment with them like lab rats in order to promote their latest theory/gimmick and make millions in the process. By the time they are done, the player may have trouble even remembering how to play the game.


I watched Wie’s swing coach working with Michelle her after her round. It was comical and sad. 
Instructors have more to learn from prodigies than to teach. 



He's just another salesman. Not picking on him in particular.  But If he did his job - he would not be giving post game instruction after her round over par. PGA professionals spend a fortune to get certified. They learn everything about golf - but nothing about how to teach it. Michelle is currently 4 over T58. I could care less about the $20 I bet on her. But, watching the industrial golf complex suck the blood out of a brilliant talent is hard to watch.



To be fair - as far as Michelle is concerned, screw the press or what I think, I just hope she’s having fun and enjoying life. Her game may not be where she wants it yet. But she seems to have come through all of this unscathed in her personal life. And is laughing all the way to the bank.




Watching Michelle and her coach did remind me of another child prodigy though, one whose career has taken a similar albeit more calamitous path. He will be teeing it up at The Masters next week.

 

A star is isolated, often more alone and vulnerable than the average person. Whether it be Scientology or a swing theory – an introduction within their inner circle to a trending mentor can change the direction of their career forever. No recent example proves this point better than the relationship between Sean Foley and Tiger Woods. Woods life was a fire storm of controversy. At that very vulnerable point in his life – he met Foley. In the years to follow – Foley would make millions off Tiger and systematically destroy every aspect of his game in the process. Foley’s need for attention and notoriety was pathological. He would literally follow Tiger to the range during tournaments in an attempt to suck up as much of the spotlight as possible. Man purse in hand, he would continue to instruct - right up to tee time. Golf is not a team sport.  If you have done your job as a coach, you are not needed on game day. 



Five years or so later, Tiger’s chronic injuries (partially caused by Foleys ridiculous swing theory) and failures on tour forced his stubborn ego to finally face reality and he cut ties with Foley. If you try to argue that Foley has helped other players on tour like Justin Rose or Mahan – check those player stats. None of them improved under Foley. He just rode their coat tails. Injuries forced Tiger to leave the game late last year. My advice at the time was for Tiger to go play golf for 6 months– Alone!  Like Jordan, he knows more about the game than any coach on the planet. Perhaps his father’s military influence left him thinking he needed to be structured. He doesn’t. He just needs to play golf.



One problem I knew Tiger would face was getting Foley’s swing thoughts out of his head. After five years of having Foley in his ear, it would be like deprogramming a Moonie. That would take about 6 months Minimum. He needed to get away from all the Gurus. To my disappointment, early this year, news of his new swing coach Chris Como demonstrating one of his theories surfaced. He was jumping off a high dive swinging an iron. The guy was just clumsily falling into the water. That was helpful.  OK, you dropped Dianetics - now you’re at the airport with a tambourine. 


Tiger needs quit listening to salesmen. Breaking Jack's records is a limited time offer. "We can't do this all day."
10,000 hours, TrakMan. Swing Speed, and “It’s a Process” are all bullshit. Simulators can ruin your game – stay off them. They were built to sell golf clubs. You want to know where your game is – play 18 and look at the score card. It doesn’t take a year to change your swing. There are 4 main disciplines in golf:  Hitting, Chipping, Putting, Course Management. Pick a  technique and practice each on a real course. If one isn't working - adjust your technique until it does. Period!


So is there a point to my rambling? Yes. Everyone has been asking me who I like at the Masters. My favorite is Jordan Spieth. One of the few young stars who seems immune to the game outside the game. Even he has to watch it. The American Media is poisonous. All they talked about last year was that he hadn't won again in 2014. He went to Australia at the end of the year. The Aussies never mentioned his lack of wins. It was like watching coverage from a year before when he first came on the scene. Nothing but praise from the Aussie press. He won by 6 strokes, against the biggest names in Europe. He got on a plane, flew for 20 hours and won by 10 strokes over best players in the world at Hero the very next week.
 
Yesterday in his post round interview - leading by a stroke - NBC confronted him with not converting his last 3 leads into wins. Poison!
Also not true. He actually converted his last two 54 hole leads. Australia and Hero we just not PGA events.  Other than Spieth - I have no idea who I'll bet at The Masters  – until I do the stats. J.B Holmes is due. Bubba hasn't played in a while but he and Walker are threats.


Tiger gave everyone the answer they wanted to hear this week. He’s playing Augusta. To be honest, I have no idea what he has been doing. He shot 74 in a practice round. He feels like he can compete. 50/50 he misses the cut. 

 


I do know this, when any pro plays a tournament he has won 4 times he has a chance. When the greatest player in history is at 40-1 I’ll take one. You never know when that light may burn through the basket.



-Rick Jansen