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Opinion & Analysis

Opening round of the 2012 Masters

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By Brant Brice

GolfWRX Contributor

With over an inch of rainfall on Wednesday, and the annual par three competition a partial washout, Thursday’s forecast wasn’t much better.

Although rain threatened to stall the opening round of the 2012 Masters, the entire field was able to complete Round 1 without delay with only mild sprinkles. Apparently even Mother Nature plays hooky to catch a few holes at picturesque Augusta National.

To be cliché, tournament cannot be won on day one but surely can be lost. On a windless sunny day where birdies would abound on any other course, Augusta National proved that its uneven fairways and near perfect lightening fast greens can end many challenger’s dreams right out of the gate.

All with rounds at five over par or worse, today’s victims included Trevor Immelman (+6), Johnson Wagner (+7) , player’s champion K.J. Choi (+5), and Chez Reavie (+7); surprisingly, long hitters Alvaro Quiros (+6) and Robert Garrigus (+5) failed to score in conditions that make Augusta National play far longer than course setup and typically favor the long ball.

The majority of the field finished somewhere between three-over and one-under including notables such as last week’s winner Hunter Mahan (E), Rickie Fowler (+1), Sergio Garcia (E), Steve Stricker (-1), Aaron Baddeley (-1) and Graeme McDowell (+3.)

World No. 1 Luke Donald finished at three-over with six bogeys against three birdies. The wet conditions are a beast for shorter hitters like Donald.

Former Masters champion and crowd favorite Fred Couples finished with a great “up and down” at No. 18 to end his day at even par.

With a lost-ball triple-bogey seven on the 10th hole, Phil Mickelson scrambled his way to a surprising two-over par. His drives found him in many of the most beautiful parts of the course not often seen by television coverage.

Tiger Woods, this year’s odds on favorite to win, finished at even par. When interviewed after his round, he said he got all he could get out of his round. He conceded he was still fighting his swing of old and had some work to do on the range.

Henrik Stenson had the best round of the day at five-under going into the finishing hole. Eight shots later found him in the clubhouse with a one-under 71.

Defending Masters champion Charl Schwartzel completed his opening round defense at even par, still firmly in the hunt.

Rory McIlroy also finished with a birdie to complete his first round at one under par.

The round of the day belonged to the Lee Westwood, considered the best golfer without a major championship victory on his resume. He played an aggressive round of five-under 67 occurring on a day when two or three under should have taken the lead.

There are 12 golfers within three strokes of the lead including the likes of Bubba Watson (-3), Jason Dufner (-3), Louis Oosthuizen (-4), Jim Furyk (-2), Zack Johnson (-2) and golf boy Ben Crane (-3.)

All things considered, the big winner is once again Augusta National. It showed that well designed holes, uneven fairway lies and speedy greens strike fear in even the best of the best professional golfers.

The good news for everyone in the field is that they all have to play the same course tomorrow. It won’t get any easier nor will low scores be the norm. One good round could make up for two, even three mediocre loops around Augusta National.

Can young McIlroy currently in the clubhouse at one under 71 make up for his 2011 final round collapse? Will Tiger win his second tournament this year to win his 15th major and inch closer to Jack record 18 major championship wins? Can perennial top finisher Lee Westwood lose the title of best pro golfer without a major championship and finally win the big one? Will any of the big four be at the top after the back nine at Augusta on Sunday?

I for one will be “cough, cough” missing a few days of work and take it all in as the 2012 Masters plays out in typical dramatic style that is unlike no other!

It wouldn’t be appropriate to wrap of day one without mentioning the opening ceremonial drives. Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus were this year’s honorees.

What will stick in my mind won’t be the scowl of Jack after his drive or the incredibly youthful appearance of the 76-year-old Gary Player. It’s was the smile of Arnold Palmer after his drive. It was electrifying and reminds me why Mr. Palmer was and is so beloved. It’s impossible to quantify his contributions to the game of golf and to The Masters.

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Zak is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX.com. He's been a part of the company since 2011, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Zak developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers and golf industry professionals. He played college golf at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) and still likes to compete in tournaments. You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss his game and all the cool stuff that's part of his job.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. makaveli

    Apr 6, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    he is still gaming that G10 driver, I got 2 of em but been using the G20. maybe i should go back to the G10 with a sweet shaft and see what gives?

  2. Bill Smith

    Apr 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Fred Couples did great today! Tied for the lead. He says he’s been feeling better with Anatabloc. Here’s a clip of his recent press conference:

    http://youtu.be/MrMY7kusb-o

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Opinion & Analysis

Have you got Golfzheimers?

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While it has taken more than a quarter century of teaching golf to arrive at this point, I have come to the conclusion that there is an as-yet-unnamed epidemic condition afflicting a great majority of players. This condition is so prevalent that I think it is high time it was given a name. So let me be the first to navigate those uncharted waters and give it one in hopes that, once formally recognized, it will begin to be more seriously studied in search for a cure. I will call this condition “Golfzheimers,” as it is the complete inability most golfers have to remember the vast majority of good shots they have ever hit (even those hit only moments before), while having the uncanny ability to instantly recall every chunk, shank, skull, and chili-dip they’ve hit since sometime back around when balls were still covered with balata.

Now trust me, I’m not making light of a very troubling and serious disease. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s, and it is a heartbreaking condition.  n truth, I could have just as easily named this “A Golfer’s Senior Moment,” since the term is ubiquitous enough, if I really believed someone would actually take offense (and I am truly sorry if you do).  I didn’t, though, because it was after a conversation with my late grandmother one day that I was suddenly struck with how oddly similar her lack of short-term memory, combined with her ability to vividly remember things that happened 40 or 50 years ago, was in some ways to how most golfers tend to think.

As long as I have been playing and teaching, I’ve been searching for different ways to learn to accept bad shots, keep them in perspective, and move on without letting them affect the next shot, hole, or round. When it comes to swinging the golf club, I can generally teach someone how to hit pretty good shots in a fairly short period of time, but teaching them to remember them with the same level of clarity as those of the more wayward variety often seems like trying to teach a blind man to see. Despite a general awareness of this phenomenon by most players and its detrimental effect upon their golf game, little has been suggested until now as to why it exists and what if anything golfers can do about it. And while research in the field of neuroscience suggests that our brains are hard-wired from the caveman days to catalogue and assign more importance to events that are considered dangerous or threatening, what about the game can have become so dangerous (other than to our egos) that we all seem to be fighting such an uphill battle?

Numerous psychological studies have found that the majority of people can remember five bad experiences more readily than five good ones, and assuming this is true, it speaks a great deal about how we have been conditioned to think since an early age.  The concept of scarcity, a term popularized in the self-help world, essentially describes a lens through which many of us have been conditioned to look upon our world, our lives, and apparently our games, with far too much regularity. It is through the use of this concept that many of our parents kept us at the dinner table as children, far beyond our wishes and long after our dinners were cold. We were guilt-ridden, not because we might be unappreciative of the time and money that went into providing us with that dinner, but because there were millions of starving children in China or some other far-off country that would have been tripping over themselves for even the remnants of that liver and onions our mothers had beset upon us.

As a proud parent, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve used the scarcity tactic a time or two myself during moments of desperation. Being naturally an optimist, though, I try to avoid succumbing to its siren song because I prefer to teach my daughters a far better lesson. At the same time, my girls are proof positive of these same studies and our ability to recall, as evidenced by another thing we do at that very same dinner table — we play a game called high and low. I’m sure you’ve heard of it; it’s where you ask your kids what their high and low moments were during the day. With my kids, I ask them to tell me the low first, preferring to close their day’s reflection with something positive, but it’s uncanny how often recalling something positive makes them really pause and reflect, while if something negative occurred, their recall of it is nearly instant and typically very descriptive.

The good news for both my daughters and the general golfing public, however, is there is a very effective way to short-circuit this type of thinking, and it comes from the field of hypnosis. From this moment forward, make a point not only to remember every good thing that happens to you, but to stop and savor it. If you are paid a compliment, don’t just brush it off. Stop to relish it for a moment and recognize the responsible person with more than just the perfunctory, “Thanks.” If you accomplish a goal, regardless of how small, reward yourself in at least some small way, all the while reminding yourself how good it feels to follow through on your intentions. And if you actually hit a golf shot well, reflect a moment, make a point to enjoy it and remember the moment vividly, and actually thank your partners when they say, “Nice shot” rather than blowing it off with some sort of, “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while” type of comment.

Hitting the golf ball well is actually a near miraculous achievement when you consider the complexity of the swing and the incredible timing and hand-eye coordination it requires. Enjoy it (or anything else for that matter) when it actually comes off right. Do it several times a day for a month or more and there will be subtle changes in your brain chemistry, how you feel, and your outlook on life. You will notice, and so will those closest to you.  Make it a long-term habit and you might even be able to avoid ever having your playing partners ask this unfortunate question: “Have you got Golfzheimers?”

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Opinion & Analysis

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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Podcasts

Two Guys Talkin’ Golf: “Are pro golfers actually underpaid?”

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Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX editor Andrew Tursky argue whether PGA Tour players are actually underpaid or not. They also discuss Blades vs. Cavity backs, Jordan Spieth vs. Justin Thomas and John Daly’s ridiculous 142 mph clubhead speed.

Click here to listen on iTunes.

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