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What golfers should do instead of icing injuries

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As a follow-up to “Are golfers wasting their time icing injuries?” I had a chance to speak with Gary Reinl, author of Iced! The Illusionary Treatment Option about what golfers ought to do instead of, well wasting their time icing injuries.

Reinl has spent more than 40 years in sports medicine and has done everything from train professional athletes, to develop strength-training programs for pregnant women, to orchestrate rehabilitation programs for injured workers.

With the publication of Iced!, Reinl pointed out the erroneous nature of some popular assumptions about injury and treatment and suggested a different way forward, so he seemed like a natural point of contact.

My questions, below.

Strains and pulled muscles are common for golfers. Is there any place for icing in the treatment of these routine golf injuries?

No. Unless of course you want to delay healing, increase swelling, cause additional damage, shut of the signals that alert you to harmful movement and provide false hope (make yourself believe that you are doing something good when in fact you are doing the opposite).

Hitting out of a gnarly lie in the deep rough, you badly hurt your wrist. You know you can’t continue playing, so you head back to the clubhouse. Someone fetches you a bag of ice. What do you do next?

Politely thank them and tell them that you are going to get a professional medical evaluation before you initiate treatment (until you confirm the extent of the problem, “friendly” advice is often counterproductive and almost always ill-advised).

That said, once your doctor has given you the green light to begin facilitating the healing process via muscle activation, follow this basic rule: “Use your brain, never cause pain.” If anything beyond lightly wiggling your fingers causes pain, limit activation to finger wiggling. This is not a contest or game. Think: “No pain, all gain.”

If your doctor has written an order for you to use an FDA-cleared muscle activation device, use it as directed (several hours per day for the first couple of days is pretty standard).  Regardless of how you activate your muscles, never forget that healing is contingent upon muscle activation not absolute stillness.

You’ve just walked 36 holes. You drive home and your legs are screaming. What’s the best way to deal with the situation, instead of reaching for the ice pack?

Since the “ice pack” actually makes things worse, doing nothing is better than icing.

What’s best? Lightly activate the muscles that are tired and or sore. Muscle activation or “active recovery” is not only the best way to facilitate the healing process, it is, in essence, the key to tissue regeneration. Absolute stillness is the proverbial enemy.

What are the adverse effects of icing on golf-related injuries, generally speaking?

Icing damaged tissue delays healing, increases swelling, causes additional damage, shuts of the signals that alert you to harmful movement and makes you believe that you are doing something good, when in fact you are doing the opposite. Additionally, when you fail to optimally heal, you risk dampening your golf skills and setting yourself up for further injury.

How did we get to the point where reducing swelling and inflammation via icing are seen as good things?

First of all, icing damaged tissue does not reduce swelling or inflammation. Delay it? Yes. Increase it? Yes. Reduce it? No.

How did the medical community get it so wrong?

It all started back in 1962 when a doctor named Ronald Malt reattached the severed limb of a 12-year-old boy named Everett Knowles. Since this was the first operation of its kind, it made big news around the world. When asked by reporters, “What’s the best way to protect the severed body part while transporting it to the hospital?” The doctor responded something like this: “Keep it out of the sun, keep it cool, and put it on ice if possible.”

Over the years, the public converted the doctor’s very specific recommendation that applied only to severed body parts to “put ice on any damaged tissue,” and the myth took hold: The “ice age” was born.

Interestingly, the godfather of the ice age, Gabe Mirkin, MD, recently recanted his decades-old recommendation and now says that icing damaged tissues delays healing.

Are there any times a golfer should consider using ice?

Yes! No one likes a warm margarita. Cheers!

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. bobby

    Dec 26, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    1) Icing damaged tissue delays healing
    – I ice my injury and I’m much more comfortable. reduced my pain without taking dangerous oral drugs like nsaid’s. An injury that i may have caused me to take to take 2-3 off is no 2-4 days. But I’m comfortable and in considerably less pain.

    2) Icing damaged tissue increases swelling
    – Icing damaged tissue controls the rate at which fluids reach the injured site. As well as causing tissue to constrict and disperse some of the painful inflammation. Tissues warm up and loosen up and of course due to signals still be sent throughout the body, there is a backup of fluids that rush the area. Hence why icing shouldn’t be a one time application.

    3) Icing damaged tissue causes additional damage
    – the damage proper icing may induce and far less than the potential damage from inflammation
    4) Icing damaged tissue shuts off the signals that alert you to harmful movement
    – Your basically telling the people icing may numb and reduce pain at the site of injury. Don’t forget to mention all the over the counter drugs they probably take that do the same thing. But leave out the part that if their mission is to reduce pain, as safely as possible those drugs and patches are out of the equation. Pain is the signal your body uses because it afraid of injury. That does not mean every time you are in pain you are damaging tissue.

    5) Icing damaged tissue provides false hope; you think you’re doing something good but in fact you are doing the opposite.
    – ice like drugs are never going to fix the underlying problem, why your hurt. The problem is that if you were stronger, if you have perfect mechanics and posture you will properly treating yourself and decreasing your chances of that injury “flaring up” again.

  2. bobby

    Dec 26, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    How about you guys use your brain. Do you all believe everything people tell you. At what point did you put ice on an injury and believe that you have completely stopped all the swelling.

    You ice injuries you ice torn soft tissues regardless of cause. Whether it be purposely from from training or accidentally you must “CONTROL” inflammation. Elimination is impossible. Inflammation is the bodies attempt to remove undesirable, damaged tissue before repair.

    But if you believe this crap, that icing to reduce pain and inflammation is a mistake, make sure you don’t take advil and other NSAID’s (Non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs) for you pain. Besides 300,000 hospitalized each year form NSAID’s and 10-15% of those people die. But hey ice must be the dumbest thing you can do right !?!??

    Another idea for you fools. Why is it very important for someone to undergo SURGERY IMMEDIATELY after tearing their Achilles . Its because the inflammatory process is there for debridment. To remove damaged tissue. If someone waits more than 24 hrs to have surgery the inflammation has already removed so much of the tissue that the two ends cannot reach. This means tissue beyond the initial site of injury was deemed damaged because the inflammatory process was not managed properly. Thus not allowing the body to initiate the remodeling phase.

    You sprained your ankle. You are in pain. You having swelling impairing movement and or strength. Here are your options.
    1. Take a drug that is going to be spread to your ankle, but also your brain, your liver, your heart. This sounds harmless. But is it really?

    2. You can ice your injury, REDUCE pain and inflammation. KEYWORD: reduce, we can never COMPLETELY stop our body processes. Way to complicated to accomplish.

  3. Dan M

    May 16, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Thanks to GolfWRX for bringing this information to the golf community. The theory that ice doesn’t help healing is entirely plausible to me. I’ve worked in medical research for 20 years, and theories that have been accepted as gospel for years are constantly overturned. I used to ice my sore back religiously after playing golf, but with age and laziness stopped doing it. Now my back feels better sooner — I recover faster. I stopped taking Advil for aches and pains years ago.

    Icing injuries has been so universal. It’s hard for people to accept that there is evidence now that it doesn’t help.

    • Gary Reinl

      May 17, 2014 at 11:33 am

      Hi Dan M, Thanks for your informed comments. I agree, the theory that ice “helps” the healing process was disproved years ago. That said “old habits die hard!”
      PS: If you want a free autographed copy of my book, please go to garyreinl.com and leave me a message (and your mailing address).
      The MELTDOWN continues!
      Gary Reinl
      @TheAntiIceMan

  4. Iceman

    May 15, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    Everybody, just ice it.

    Besides talking some mumbo-jumbo about activating muscles to heal or some bull stink like that, these yahoos don’t take into account that in humans, we feel PAIN with the inflammation and damage. If you don’t, then you’re numb already and or are not human at all to begin with. Tend to the pain and reduce it as well as inflammation at the same time. That’s why they’re called anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) because they do both – effectively and cheaply. Why do you think there is such a HUGE market for PEDs and other banned drugs for recovery and pain management? Because the things work and work great.

    For the rest of us, for minor bumps and bruises, ice it. You’ll feel better for it.

    • Gary Reinl

      May 17, 2014 at 9:10 am

      “Mumbo-jumbo” … fortunately, ignorance is not contagious.
      Loading, which is also known as active recovery (which activates muscle), is essential to achieving optimal healing of damaged tissue regardless as to whether you are merely tired and/or sore from a scheduled training session or significantly injured from an unplanned collision with an opponent’s outstretched leg that has left you upside down and twisted in the middle of a basketball court.
      Here’s a relevant excerpt from my book “ICED! … The Illusionary Treatment Option”.
      “Loading of Healing Bone, Fibrous Tissue, and Muscle: Implications for Orthopedic Practice:
      Joseph A. Buckwalter, M.S., M.D., & Alan J. Grodzinsky, Ph.D.
      Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons,
      September/October 1999
      One of the most important concepts in orthopedics in this
      century is the understanding that loading accelerates
      healing of bone, fibrous tissue, and skeletal muscle.”

      Join the MELTDOWN!

      Gary Reinl
      @The AntiIceMan

      • Ice Ice Baby

        May 17, 2014 at 11:52 pm

        OK. Allow me to continuously PUNCH you in the face, right above the eye over and over for about 30 minutes straight, and see if you can “activate” those muscles to aid in recovery thereafter. Or would you prefer that I use ice on it to dull the pain and to reduce inflammation and swelling?

        I will administer ice and cooling to that area of anybody who gets punched as such, as it has been shown, for a couple millennia, that icing will reduce swelling and bruising immediately.

        We’re not talking about torn muscles or tendons here – we’re talking about inflamed tissues and muscles.

        Therefore, use ICE.

        • Gary Reinl

          May 18, 2014 at 4:53 pm

          Hi Dan M, Thanks for your informed comments. I agree, the theory that ice “helps” the healing process was disproved years ago. That said “old habits die hard!”
          PS: If you want a free autographed copy of my book, please go to garyreinl.com and leave me a message (and your mailing address).
          The MELTDOWN continues!
          Gary Reinl
          @TheAntiIceMan

        • Gary Reinl

          May 18, 2014 at 4:54 pm

          Hi Ice Ice Baby,
          First off, contrary to your claim, icing damaged tissue has not been used for millennia — not even close.
          Second, as I am sure that you are aware, inflammation is the first phase of the life-saving healing process (e.g. without it, you will not heal — not even you). So, fortunately for even the least-informed, ice can only delay this process.
          Further, swelling — a product of the inflammatory process — can only be evacuated through the inherently passive lymphatic system and thus can only be accelerated through movement (e.g. muscle activation). Thus, again, you can delay swelling (and, through icing, worsen the backup of it), but not reduce it. Keep in mind, that when the tissue rewarms, the inflammatory (healing) process resumes (that is why you see boxers who get hit in the face “30 times” during a fight all swollen the next day — gasp! — even if they iced).
          Regarding your claim that ice will “dull the pain,” you are correct. Icing damaged will provide temporary pain relief. But, with that said, it will also delay healing, cause additional damage, increase swelling, shut of the signals that alert you to harmful movement, and provide false hope (you believe that you are doing something good when in fact you are doing the opposite). So, no, I wouldn’t put ice on such an injury because, obviously, the negatives far outweigh the positives.

          Gary Reinl
          @TheAntiIceMan

  5. Phil

    May 15, 2014 at 9:27 am

    What about arthritic knees?

  6. Nick

    May 15, 2014 at 1:31 am

    Love it how “buy my book” manages to appear in just about every response from the author. Classy.

  7. Charlie

    May 14, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    Any advice for a nasty case of dequervain’s tendonitis in my left hand from golf? Please help!

  8. mark d

    May 14, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Had my shoulder rebuilt in February at the Cleveland Clinic. They sent me home with little cooler/pump/jacket thing to chill my shoulder at regular intervals.

    Needless to say, all the sports med specialists at the Clinic with their many, many years of clinical training, research and success must be wrong.

    That said, “no pain, all gain.” is very good advice if you have an injury. Heal first. Work out later.

    • Gary Reinl

      May 15, 2014 at 9:17 am

      Hi mark d,
      Ironically, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic are the ones that discovered a key reason why icing damaged tissue is a bad idea (see their below article entitled “Hold the Ice” – their title, not mine).
      “Hold the Ice?
      New study shows that ice and anti-inflammatory medications may compromise healing.
      Researchers headed by Lan Zhou, MD, PhD, Neuroinflammation Research Center, Depart. of Neurosciences at the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues, found that in response to acute muscle injury, inflammatory cells (called macrophages) within the damaged muscle itself were found to produce a protein called IGF-1, which is required for muscle regeneration.
      Source: The Cleveland Clinic, October, 2010
      So why did “all the sports med specialists at the Clinic with their many, many years of clinical training, research and success” send you home with little cooler/pump/jacket thing to chill your shoulder at regular intervals? Simple — because that is what they were trained to do. Change is often avoided regardless of the facts (or who discovered them).
      Please read the excerpt from my book “ICED!” below for an additional example:
      “Do you recognize the name, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis? He is the one who figured out that doctors should wash their hands before surgery, especially if they just finished dissecting a rotting and/or diseased corpse.
      It’s creepy to even think that such a suggestion was ever even necessary – let alone controversial – but, at that point, it was actually spectacularly groundbreaking.
      Semmelweis also introduced the idea of sterilizing surgery tools. Again, this sounds like a no-brainer, right?
      Well, his suggestions were BITTERLY rejected by his fellow physicians.
      Why? Well, his observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical “beliefs” of the time. As odd as it sounds by today’s standards, the doctors simply did not believe that their filthy, contaminated hands and surgical tools could possibly be the cause someone to get sick.
      Believe it or not, some doctors were actually offended by his suggestion – OFFENDED – that they should wash their hands.
      This is a classic example of blind faith where people simply didn’t know what they didn’t know”.

  9. benseattle

    May 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Here’s where this superficial article falls down completely: You say “no ice” but DO NOT PROVIDE AN ALTERNATIVE. Heat? Rest? (No, the “expert” says that’s out too.) Vague allusions to an “FDA-approved muscle activation device” but no details about what this is, what it does, why it’s “better” or how to get one.

    Muscle activation? What’s that mean… I should walk on my sprained ankle or hit golf balls with a sore wrist?

    GOLFWRX does no-one any favors with amateur medical advice written without useful, credible details and information.

    • Gary Reinl

      May 14, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      Hi benseattle,
      Your comments are all reasonable. I apologize for my brevity. First, the alternative to ice is muscle activation (also known as active recovery). There are several very good FDA cleared muscle activation devises on the market. Here’s a link to one the best known trainers in the world of golf explaining which brand he recommends: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LL35EXTTtc . If you want to get one go to Marcpro.com and enter the promo code “TEAM “ to receive the maximum discount available.
      Regarding walking on a sprained ankle or hitting golf balls with a sore wrist, please re-read Ben’s interview with me (e.g. “that said, once your doctor has given you the green light to begin facilitating the healing process via muscle activation, follow this basic rule: ‘Use your brain, never cause pain.’ If anything beyond lightly wiggling your fingers causes pain, limit activation to finger wiggling. This is not a contest or game. Think: ‘No pain, all gain.’ If your doctor has written an order for you to use an FDA- pretty standard). Regardless of how you activate your muscles, never forget that healing is contingent upon muscle activation not absolute stillness”).
      Regarding your comment about “amateur medical advice written without useful, credible details and information,” this article contained no medical advice. Instead, it contained facts regarding the consequences of icing damaged tissue; not opinions, but scientifically proven facts published in multiple peer-reviewed journals (which are well documented in my book). By the way, in the third paragraph of Ben’s article he stated “With the publication of Iced!, Reinl pointed out the erroneous nature of some popular assumptions about injury and treatment and suggested a different way forward, so he seemed like a natural point of contact.”
      Since it is impractical to include the entire contents of a book in a short article, Ben mentioned my book before he introduced my responses to his questions. That said, if you want to read my book and learn all of these details, go garyreinl.com and send me a message that includes your mailing address and I will gladly send you a free copy.

      • leftright

        May 14, 2014 at 7:58 pm

        You speak of muscle activation. Ice reduces swelling allowing you to use the muscle sooner rather than later. Swelling reduces blood flow and decreases the bodies ability to recover by retaining fluid within the lymph tissues around the affected body part. I am sorry to sound so cynical but I have observed the effectiveness of ice over 4 decades and find your article borderline negligent when pertaining to sport medicine injuries. You and the doctor are in a very small minority of healthcare professionals.

        • Gary Reinl

          May 17, 2014 at 8:27 am

          Hi leftright,
          This is an excerpt from my book quoting the Textbook of Medical Physiology, “The lymphatic system is a ‘scavenger’ system that removes excess fluid, protein molecules, debris, and other matter from the tissue spaces. When fluid enters the terminal lymphatic capillaries, any motion in the tissues that intermittently compresses the lymphatic capillaries propels the lymph forward through the lymphatic system, eventually emptying the lymph back into the circulation.”
          Now, since swelling is essentially the accumulation of waste at the end of the inflammatory cycle, the only way to move that waste is via the lymphatic system, and the lymphatic system is basically a passive system nearly fully reliant on muscle activation around the lymphatic vessels; how could shutting off the signals between the muscles and the nerves — which is precisely what happens when you ice damaged tissue — accomplish that task?”
          Answer: it doesn’t (icing damaged tissue does not reduce swelling). You sir/madam are simply wrong.
          That said, you are correct when you state that “You (me) and the doctor are in a very small minority of healthcare professionals,” however I am not sure that I understand your point. Are you suggesting that those of us that have taken the time to evaluate, organize, and understand the facts should empty our brains and follow you?
          PS: I don’t know what you do each day, but I spend my time working with my clients (trainers, doctors and therapist from over 80 professional athletic teams and scores of other elites).

  10. Bruce Jones

    May 14, 2014 at 11:59 am

    You may find this article helpful, written by the doctor who first coined the term “RICE”.

    drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html

    Also the American Journal of Sports Medicine, July 2013 has an article that supports the idea that the use of ice does not improve healing.

    • Bruce Jones

      May 14, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Oops, make that June 2013 for the Journal article.

    • Gary Reinl

      May 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks Bruce. By the way, there have been at least three other comprehensive reviews regarding the topic of icing damaged tissue published by reputable peer-reviewed journals since 2004 and they all came to the same conclusion. All, by the way, referenced and clearly documented in my book: ICED! The Illusionary Treatment Option: Learn the Fascinating Story, Scientific Breakdown, Alternative, & How To Lead Others Out Of The Ice Age”. No doubt some “experts” are finding the facts difficult to accept.

  11. Dave

    May 14, 2014 at 11:14 am

    When I saw the title to this article I immediately became interested. After reading through it I feel I just wasted time. This article contains nothing in it other than opinions. Useless article.

  12. Willy

    May 13, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I have multiple injuries. Including having a shoulder replacement Dec 13. Ice has been and always will be my friend!

  13. Alex the Athletic Trainer

    May 13, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    How does ice increase swelling? “Shutting off signals alerting harmful movements” don’t you mean temporarily numbing (analgesic) the area. To which, this effect only lasts for a short period of time. I agree with a lot of my colleagues that icing after the first 24-48 hours is strictly for the analgesic effect.
    If icing truly caused so many problems, how am I still able to return an athlete to play within 4-10 days post ankle sprain while using a GameReady machine for the first 2 days of treatment?

    • Gary Reinl

      May 14, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      Hi Alex, Regarding your question about swelling … please read this:
      Enter the lymphatic vessels
      Meeusen’s careful research has uncovered another important fact: when ice is applied to a body part for a prolonged period, nearby lymphatic vessels begin to dramatically increase their permeability (lymphatic vessels are ‘dead-end’ tubes which ordinarily help carry excess tissue fluids back into the cardiovascular system). As the lymphatic permeability is enhanced, large amounts of fluid begin to pour from the lymphatics ‘in the wrong direction’ (into the injured area), increasing the amount of local swelling and pressure and potentially contributing to greater pain (‘The Use of Cryotherapy in Sports Injuries,’ Sports Medicine, Vol. 3, pp. 398-414, 1986). If the icing goes on for too long, the lymphatic vessels can actually be nearly obliterated, losing all of their fluid to the surrounding tissues and thus failing to carry excess water away from the injured area (6th European Congress of Sports Medicine, Budapest, Hungary, p. 179, 17-20 June, 1991). If you want more, read the related sections of my book and/or read Guyton and Hall’s Textbook of Medical Physiology.

      Regarding your next comment …
      Making the area numb does shut off the signals that alert you to harmful movement. I feel that we agree on this point. I also agree that you and a lot of your colleagues believe that icing after the first 24-48 hours is strictly for the analgesic effect. The problem is that reputable clinicians don’t recommend ice after 24-48 hours. Dr. Mirkin, the godfather of the ice age, says there is no reason to use it after 6 hours.
      That said, knowing the downside, why would you do it at all? Here’s how I see it: A clinician using ice to “make the area numb” is like the sympatric bartender that gives an alcoholic a drink so he can temporally “feel” better. Does it help? Not really. Does it hurt? Yes.
      Regarding your “4 to 10 day” question; I am very confident that if you considered all of the facts you would abandon your ice-based protocol.

      Join the MELTDOWN!

      Gary Reinl
      @TheAntiIceMan

      • Iceman

        May 15, 2014 at 11:47 pm

        What about BURNS? You’re not going to tell the world that they can’t ice something they burned on their persons, are you? No, you wouldn’t, because you would be insane.
        Inflammation MUST and NEED to be have its HEAT (inflamed! duh!) removed and reduced, otherwise it would not heal as quickly nor will the pain be tolerable!

        You’re bogus and you know it.

  14. Gary McCormick

    May 13, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Poor article — contains no explanation of WHY icing is contra-indicated.

    For soft tissue injuries I have always used light application of ice, removed after a few minutes. The body reacts to the cooled-down area by dilating capillaries to increase blood flow, which aids healing. If that’s wrong, I’d like to hear an explanation why, rather than just “Don’t do it — because we said so!”

    • leftright

      May 14, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      Gary Reinhl is an idiot. We have mentally ill ideologues running the country with PhD’s and government experience but that does not mean they know what they are doing. Ice helps and that is through pure observation. To not ice a lateral or medial epicondylitis after playing golf or tennis is paramount to negligence on the athletes part. NSAIDS will help also if taken appropriately. Ultimately rest will heal the offending part but who can rest these days, who wants to rest but sometimes that is what we have to do. If you want to heal faster and have less pain don’t listen to this guy, he is a quack and in a very very small minority of sports trainers and specialists. I know a Internal Medicine doctor who put all his Insulin dependent diabetes patients on Chromium supplements. Most ending up back in the ER in Diabetic Ketoacidosis in several days. Trace Chromium is an essential mineral but the body processes what it wants and adding did not help these patients. He might as well said “go lick you car bumper.”

    • Gary Reinl

      May 14, 2014 at 8:58 pm

      Hi Gary, No explanation of WHY icing is contra-indicated? OK. Please allow me to try again.
      1) Icing damaged tissue delays healing
      2) Icing damaged tissue increases swelling
      3) Icing damaged tissue causes additional damage
      4) Icing damaged tissue shuts off the signals that alert you to harmful movement
      5) Icing damaged tissue provides false hope; you think you’re doing something good but in fact you are doing the opposite.

      If it’s proof you want, I suggest you read my book. I literally spent years traveling the country interviewing hundreds of elite trainers, doctors, therapists and athletes and read hundreds of related articles and a dozen or so books. I organized and presented the facts in such a way that even the ice gurus avoid debating me. Sure, every once in while some “expert” will claim that I got something wrong or referenced it out of context … but, thus far, not a single claim has turned into a legitimate issue.
      Regarding your “dilating capillaries to increase blood flow” comment … are you aware the your innate intelligence does precisely that in response to damage? Meaning, the damaged vessels constrict and the surrounding healthy vessels dilate and increase perfusion. Seems odd to me that you believe you can better regulate this process than your innate intelligence … and that you do it with an ordinary ice cube!

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GolfWRX Morning 9: Carnoustie is king | Gritty Molinari | Tiger in context

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In case you’ve missed it, or you prefer to read on site rather than in your email, we’re including it here. Check out today’s Morning 9 below.

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

 

July 23, 2018

Good Monday morning, golf fans. .
1. Bravo, Francesco!
Scanning the headlines this morning, and a morsel of Italian is apparently necessary in any Molinari-related headline.
  • Beyond this, a common narrative: the idea that while Molinari’s recent form has been incredible, he takes a leap forward and validates his work with a mental game coach by both outplaying Tiger Woods on Sunday and steadily outmarching some of the best golfers in the game. Regardless of recent form, few believed the Italian had much of a chance of emerging from a stacked leaderboard as the victor. Perhaps the old Francesco would have agreed, but the Champion Golfer of the Year knew better.
2. Carnoustie is king
Beyond praise for the steady Molinari, whom Michael Bamberger described as looking like an “Italian detective,” which is quite accurate, but neither here nor there: plaudits for Carnoustie (and the R&A’s setup philosophy) were everywhere.
  • Geoff Shackelford writes...”Light rough, record roll and mostly light breezes rendered the infamously difficult links more strategic and lovable than anyone in modern times thought possible. If the strong scoring over the first 54 holes put a little dent in its reputation as the rota’s most sinister links, the week also helped Carnoustie erase expectations of freakishness looming around every corner.”
  • “Venue stature is a fickle thing in the major championship hosting world these days. Past Opens here have left a sour taste in the R&A’s mouth. That “something” Casey speaks of can go from a blessing to a curse with the slightest setup missteps. Consider the reputation of Shinnecock Hills, one of the world’s architectural masterpieces and perfectly managed agronomically heading into the U.S. Open.”
  • “The Southampton course’s reputation, still the talk of insiders and players at Carnoustie grasping to understand what went wrong, has now been stained by two setups gone bad. What should have been a joyous opportunity to play majors on William Flynn’s masterwork has now become a burden. Instead, Shinnecock has that “something” and few are entirely sure what that is following the 2018 U.S. Open.”
  • “Carnoustie, on the other hand, sends the world’s best away fully-tested but in no way feeling deprived of chances to display their immense skill.”
3. Tiger
As Tiger Woods made the turn Sunday, it looked like the stars were aligning for the 14-time major champion. Those ahead of him folded, and although the winds were freshening, he had to now anything under par on the back nine would likely secure the Claret Jug.
  • Instead, agonizingly, Woods missed the fairway with iron off the tee at the 11th and 12th holes, doubling and bogeying, respectively. He came in in 37. 34 would have done it.
  • Rather than dissect what went wrong or right, consider this passage from Alan Shipnuck putting the new Woods in context…”To cheer for Woods now is to believe in the power of redemption. Over the last decade he’s been to hell and back: tabloid infamy, sex addiction therapy, divorce, the police blotter, rehab for an addiction to painkillers, and a slew of back problems that literally brought him to his knees on the course.”
  • “In his heyday Woods was revered but never beloved. Now he has reinvented himself as a vulnerable 42-year-old single dad eager for connection – with his fellow players and the fans. In the wake of his scandals he has reconnected with his Buddhist roots; the underpinning of that religion is gratitude. You could feel that in the air at Carnoustie: Woods grateful to be back where he belongs, the rest of us mesmerized to bear witness.”
4. What happened, Jordan?
If you took a straw poll Saturday night, most would have expected Jordan Spieth to hoist the claret jug. Instead, the recently shorn Texan stumbled.
  • Sean Zak: “Sixty minutes had passed between that must-make birdie putt and when he signed for a 76. Of those last aforementioned 28 players to tee off, his score was the worst. Meeting one last time with the media, Spieth was happy to talk about his pace of play, which was put on the clock. He was glad to talk about Molinari’s victory, the green speeds and if Woods’s performance was a fluke. Ten questions in, he was being pulled from the mic. His agent was annoyed, but Spieth continued. This British Open wasn’t his. It was someone else’s, so let’s talk about it. Acceptance can be a good thing, and that was the theme of his evening.”
  • Jay Coffin…”Jordan Spieth was the 54-hole co-leader of The Open. He was looking for his fourth career major and second consecutive claret jug. He also has been in the biggest victory drought of his career, extending back to last year at Royal Birkdale.
  • “Spieth shot 5-over 76 – his worst final round in a major – failed to make a birdie – the first time he’s failed to pick up any strokes in a major – and tied for ninth place, four shots behind Francesco Molinari. He got over it quickly.”
  • “I’ve already gone through the frustration,” Spieth said, about 20 minutes after his round. “I’m kind of on acceptance now…When you put yourself in position enough times, it goes your way sometimes, it doesn’t go your way sometimes.”
5. McIlroy on Woods
Rory put together a solid final round to finish tied for second at The Open. Instead of focusing on that however, let’s take a look at the candid Ulsterman’s articulation of what we’ll call the Top Young Players’ Attitude toward Competing with Tiger.
  • Via Bob Harig…”Not the Tiger that Phil (Mickelson) and Ernie (Els) and those guys had to deal with,” McIlroy said. “It’s a different version. But he’s right there. He’s getting himself in the mix. He looked good in D.C. a couple weeks back (at the Quicken Loans). He’s looked good here.
  • “He’s played a full schedule. He’s healthy. I wouldn’t say we’re worried about him, but he’s one of those guy that’s always in with a shot.”
  • “With the Tiger we have to face, he does things that maybe he didn’t do 10, 15 years ago,” he said. “But it’s still great to have him back. It’s still great for golf. It will be interesting to see going forward, but this was his first taste of a major championship … drama, I guess, for quite a while. Even though he’s won 14, you have to learn how to get back.”
6. Pepperell
 Eddie Pepperell is never dull. The Englishman’s candor, articulateness, and skill with a pen make him a great follow on Twitter and beyond.
  • But even given standard Peperellian forthrightness, it was surprising to hear this: Pepperell was hungover during the final round at Carnoustie…a round in which he fired a 4-under 67.
  • Pepperell finished tied for sixth at 5-under, three strokes behind Francesco Molinari, and he offered this admission in his final-round press conference.
  • “I was a little hungover...I had too much to drink last night. And I was so frustrated yesterday, that today was really, I wouldn’t say a write-off, but I didn’t feel I was in the golf tournament. Whether I shot 69 or 73 today, it wouldn’t have been heartbreaking. But as it happens, I shot 67. So, you know, it’s a funny game.”
7. A study in composure
Michael Bamberger writes…:Which leads us to Tiger’s playing partner, Francesco Molinari…with his implacable, world-weary demeanor and just-the-facts-ma’am exchanges with his caddie, with reporters, with officialdom. He’s 35, but you would guess older. He’s remarkable, just the kind of guy Woods tends to admire: Without signs of otherworldly gifts, he has made himself one of the best players in the world.”
  • “When Molinari won on Sunday, Woods said, “Francesco played really solidly today. He chipped it beautifully. You could see him actually try and hit a couple with cut spin, a couple of draw spin. You know, he was working the ball around the greens, and that was cool to see.” In those sentences is Woods’s highest praise, and he gave it to himself after his Saturday 66: He saw in Molinari a golfer who was in complete control of his game.”
8. Top 25 islands
Now for something completely different...Links, err LINKS, takes on the Herculean labor of determining the 25 best islands for golf in the word..
“Okay, we’ll admit it. This is an audacious list. Indeed, it would be fair of you to ask, how can we possibly rate and rank the islands of the world according to their golf appeal? How can we possibly compare Amelia to Australia, Hainan to Hilton Head, Pawleys to Puerto Rico? Well, if you’re LINKS Magazine, you find a way.”
  • “As we began to apply our criteria, certain islands quickly sorted themselves to the top (or bottom). In the end, however, the numerical rankings came down to a series of matches. For example, we asked ourselves, if confined to golf on just one island, which would it be, Long Island or Hawaii? If the answer was Long Island, we asked whether that would still be the answer if the alternative were Ireland or Australia, or any of the two dozen others. Eventually, one island won all its “matches” and thus became our number one, a second island won every match except the one against island number one, so that became number two, and so on until we had our list of 25.”
  • “With more golf courses than any island on the planet-in fact, almost 1,000 more including over 30 of the world’s top 100-the sceptered isle is clearly in a class by itself. It may also be the most fun place to visit, whether on a buddy trip or with your significant other, the charm of its cities and citizens almost equal to the challenge of its courses.”
  • “The only major contender in that regard would be world island No. 2, Ireland (which in this case includes both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland). Navigating the narrow winding roads can at times be a challenge, but the journey usually ends at a course with jaw-dropping views.”
9. Molinari’s retirement plan
Wesley Bryan took to Twitter on Sunday to note that earlier this season, Molinari revealed elements of his “retirement plan.”
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Andiamo! Molinari claims first major title for Italia at Carnoustie

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Forecasters had suggested that Francesco Molinari was rounding into proper form as the 147th Open championship at Carnoustie approached. He had finished in the top 25 of the last three major championships, including a tie for 2nd at last summer’s PGA Championship. To reach the Claret Jug as champion golfer of the year, he would have to manage his emotions in a pairing with Tiger Woods, and would have to defeat defending champion Jordan Spieth, resurgent Rory McIlroy, inspired Justin Rose, and a host of other, worthy golfers. The golfer from Torino, Italia, was up to the task, and raised the golf world’s loveliest trophy in celebration, Italy’s first major golf champion.

His play over the first portion of the course

Molinari began his round on Sunday with zero birdies and zero bogeys over the first 13 holes. Even as Tiger Woods electrified the crowd with his move to the top of the leaderboard, Molinari ground out par after par, biding his time. His game from tee to green was on point, and when he missed the target, his short game got him to safety.

His approach to 18

It may have looked like a bowling alley, but Molinari was staring down golf’s greatest gauntlet. With unforgiving Barry Burn lurking, with out of bounds so close up the fairway’s port side, no approach shot was easy. With a deep breath and light hands, Molinari played the iron of the tournament, to four short feet.

His putt on 18

Four feet, four miles. Molinari took care of business with a putt that he may not have needed, but a putt that forced Xander Schauffele and others to push that little bit harder. Knowing that the two-time Ryder Cup representative was in at 8 under meant that they needed more than just one birdie. Justin Rose knew that his excellent 6 under would not be good enough. And thus spake Molinari, certain to represent Europe in this fall’s 2018 Ryder Cup.

Perhaps it was fate that Woods presented Molinari with the last Quicken Loans National champion’s trophy earlier this month. A bit more than a fortnight later, Woods would escort Molinari on his walk to golfing greatness. Consider, too, these fateful words from the champion, on the eve of the fourth day: It’s not a day to be aggressive. It’s more a day to make as many pars as possible. 16 pars, along with those two late birdies, were the proper amount.

Forza, Francesco!

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5 things we learned Saturday at the British Open

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Yes, CarNASTY is fun, but CarNICEty is electrifying. The former demands that we empathize with the greats of the game, as they stumble and bumble toward numbers we know well. The Nice version of the course along the river Tay offers birdies and eagles (and perhaps even an albatross?) and keeps us glued to sofas, chairs and yoga balls. I’m hoping for the Nice version on Sunday, because I want excitement with my morning Joe. Let’s toss out five things we learned today, and see if you agree that they matter.

1. What the Royal and Ancient does properly

It allows magic to happen, but only when the wizard properly wields the wand. Jordan Spieth’s driver-putter combination for eagle at the 1st on Saturday was brilliant. Other major championships, thanks mostly to being held on topsoil courses, cannot permit such vagaries. Brilliance is rewarded at Open rota courses, but beware: tomorrow is another day, and should the weather turn, the winds pick up, the raindrops fall, we just might see the antithesis of that result.

2. Jordan Spieth may be a golfer for the ages

Haircuts aside, we will know on Sunday around 3 pm, eastern standard time, but the young Texan relishes the limelight, the pressure cooker, and the major victories. As he admitted in interviews this week, he’s not afraid to press the STOP button and recharge the batteries, clear the mind, whatever it takes. Long game, short game, common shot, creativity required, Spieth played flawless golf on Sunday, beginning with THAT eagle, then adding four birdies over the remaining 17 holes. Sure, he sometimes looks pouty, but he’s hard to bet, or root, against. A win on Sunday would be the first second victory in a major (still with us?) and might set him in the Watson/Vardon/Thomson track for all-time Open winners.

3. Tomato, TomAHto, Zander, Xander, let’s call the whole thing golf

Both golfers have shown us that uncommon names/nicknames are a nice conversation point, but stellar golf in a major championship is something else. Zander Lombard has been completely off form this year, but Carnoustie brought out his finest golf. Xander Schauffele was the surprise of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season, and has revealed a major championship-level skillset during his time alongside the Tay and the Barry. Xander enters day four in a first-place tie with Spieth and Kisner. He’ll play in the final pairing on Sunday with Spieth. Zander sits 5 back of the leading triumvirate, and if his finish on Saturday serves as motivation, he will be part of the conversation on July 22nd.

4. Growl

Johnny Miller said it best today, when he opined that Tiger Woods was ready to burst out and challenge, if not win. Woods 2.0 played marvelous shots on day 3, and other than Spieth, worked his way around Carnoustie better than any other golfer in the field. If the 3-time champion golfer of the year combines mental fortitude with a hot putter, this writer predicts that he will hoist Claret No. 4 on Sunday.

5. Kisner proved me wrong, and might do so again on Sunday

It was Zach, and not Kevin, who failed to manage the closing stretch of Hogan’s Alley. Kisner’s putter stayed warm and his mind remained sharp. He learned from his faux pas on the 36th hole, and played within himself over the final 18 holes. 3 birdies and 15 pars brought the pride of Aiken, South Carolina, to the top of the firs page again. He’ll play with that other Kevin (Chappell) in the penultimate pair on day the fourth. Kisner knows the major pressure from recent touts with immortality, and might break through for a deserved major title.

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