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Opinion & Analysis

Five reasons: Tiger should not play the weekend

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Irony is working overtime this Masters weekend. Tianlang Guan was assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow play and the social media world exploded with cries of jingoism and favoritism.

Fortunately for Guan, he took the high road and indicated that he understood and would accept the penalty without complaint. It helped that he made the cut by one slim stroke. The Guan incident, since he is quite distant from the leaders, will drip into the background, thanks to another rules incident involving a competitor of a much higher profile.

Tiger Woods clanked his third shot on the 15th hole off the flagstick and into the pond fronting the green in Round 2. He then appeared to retreat to the point of the third stroke, drop a ball and play on, making bogey.

During the post-round press conference, rule 33-5 came into play, because Woods told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi that he intentionally had dropped his ball two yards behind the point of his third shot. That drop should have resulted in a penalty that Woods did not account for in his score, which means he signed an incorrect scorecard that should have disqualified him from the tournament.

Instead of disqualification, the Masters competition committee invoked a revision to rule 33-7, which gave Woods a two-shot penalty instead. This decision has not sat well with golf pundits and aficionados, who wondered why the world’s No. 1-ranked player would get off so easily.

Tiger has teed it up in Round 3 of the Masters, but here are five reasons why he is making a huge mistake.

No. 1: His reputation is at stake

Tiger’s personal difficulties sullied his on-course reputation and he has spent the last several years rebuilding his golf game. Had he disqualified himself in the spirit of personal integrity and karma, he would taken great strides to improve his reputation with sponsors and fans.

No. 2: Eliminate a perception of favoritism

Dustin Johnson (2010 PGA Championship) and Tianlang Guan (2013 Masters), among others, were assessed controversial penalties in major championships. They accepted the rulings and moved on.

Despite the fact that Tiger is adhering to the letter of the law and accepting the ruling as handed down by the Master Tournament Committee, the integrity of the game and its tournaments is exposed for debate and attack to the world. Is some sort of collusion at play to keep the most compelling figure in golf on golf’s most recognizable stage? We can’t be sure, but withdrawing would eliminate all shred of doubt.

No. 3: It’s tainted

If Tiger were to win the Masters this week, it would be tainted — plain and simple. Tiger should have known where to drop. No matter what he does over the next 36 holes, people will contrast this moment with Bobby Jones’ famous, “You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank” episode when he called a one-stroke penalty on himself for a moving ball that no one but he saw move.

No. 4: Jack Nicklaus’ record

Tiger’s motivation and impetus for greatness has always been Jack Nicklaus’ major championship record. Tiger won six amateur USGA championships (way more than Nicklaus) and now holds 14 professional major titles, second only to Nicklaus’ 18.

Imagine this scenario: Tiger storms back from five shots down to win the 2013 Masters, which serves as a springboard to him eclipsing the 18 titles for most professional major championship victories in a career . . . but he only eclipses the victory tally by one? Will anyone recognize him as the greatest major champion of all time?

No. 5: It’s nothing personal

Debatable? Yes. Revocable? No. Just as Tiger’s disqualification should not be. Tiger broke a transparent rule, one with no room for interpretation. Professional golfers are disqualified from events on a regular basis on the PGA Tour. Even the world’s No. 1 golfer can make a mistake, and like every other professional, he should be held accountable. It’s nothing personal.

Click here to read a different take by GolfWRX Featured Writer Grant Shafranski — “Blame The Rules Committee, Not Tiger.”

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. edward davison jr

    Apr 30, 2013 at 10:37 am

    In two cases — Brian Davis ticking a reed in a waste area at Hilton Head and Ian Poulter’s coin moving slightly when he dropped his ball on the green during a playoff — the players called the penalty on themselves.

    Dustin Johnson grounded his club in a bunker he didn’t know he was in at the PGA Championship, and the PGA of America notified him of the two-stroke penalty before he signed his card, knocking him out of a playoff. Juli Inkster also was disqualified for swinging a weighted club during a long wait on the tee. That infraction was called in by a viewer

  2. C Nas

    Apr 19, 2013 at 6:40 am

    I don’t think Tiger should have been DQ’d. The objective in any sports’ rulings is to get the call “right”. The two stroke penalty was the proper ruling for his improper drop. That’s a severe penalty. It came late (after Tiger’s TV interview) but they got it right. Initially they ruled no violation, that’s why Tiger had already signed his card. And as far as signing an incorrect card, that rule is archaic and that’s why it has been modified. The old guard cries that, “we’ve played under that rule for eons”. Hey, they used to play with hickory shafts and persimmons. Times change, rules change. What about Scott’s long putter? That may be on the way out, but it won’t mar his victory; he’s using it under the current rules. Things change. With today’s technology, everyone knows what everyone did “ON THE COURSE”. What you do in a tent after your round shouldn’t matter much anymore. Let the officials keep scores. There’s got to be a way!

  3. Dave Petersen

    Apr 15, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    So, was Tiger’s drop within the length of Scott’s putter from his original location?

  4. mike worgul

    Apr 14, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    the question i have is why they waited till sat morning to talk to tiger when they had evidence after the espn interview that he did in fact violate the as near as possible previous spot rule. i mean he did the interview right after he finished the round and im sure some official at augusta had listened to it. but ridley went out to eat with his family and more time passed.for a tournament that prides itself on getting everything right i believe in this case they did everything wrong.i wonder how palmer,nicklaus,player,and the many players really feel about this issue.all you here now is bloviating

  5. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you for all these comments and interpretations. I am encouraged by the exchange of opinions and ideas.

  6. Adam

    Apr 14, 2013 at 11:37 am

    The real issue here is that it’s a poorly written rule. “The nearest point”? How vague can you be? How many people look at that divot and where he played the drop from and think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it? Almost everyone I’m sure. Should he have tried to drop it directly in his divot? They need to ammend the rule to within a club length of the spot, same cut of grass, and no closer to the hole. That makes perfect sense and is not gaining any advantage. To say Tiger was going to hit the exact same shot and moving, essentially, one club length behind his divot gives him an advantage is ridiculous.

    The call in rule is also insanely unfair. Tiger is at a DISADVANTAGE since he gets by far the most air time. Tiger does not need to WD for the integrity of the game, he’s the first example of a positive rule change to protect players from an already outdated scorecard signing rule.

    • Rob

      Apr 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Tiger misspoke when he said he dropped a couple of yards behind his previous shot. Video review showed the distance to be closer to a foot. “As near as possible” is very vague. The main thing it seems is not to end up closer to the hole. Branded Chamblee and Nick Price are card carrying Tiger haters and acted like buffoons yesterday. The rules committee reviewed the video and found nothing wrong Friday so there should have been no penalty and that should have been the end of it.
      There’s a concerted effort to derail Tiger’s goal of eclipsing Jack’s 18 majors so this BS doesn’t surprise me.

    • rj

      Apr 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      I agree with you adam. I dont think I have ever seen anybody drop the ball in their divot. the rules committee needs to modify this rule instead of worrying about wedge grooves and putter lengths.

  7. J

    Apr 14, 2013 at 10:59 am

    It’s an invitational Tournament. Plain and simple. ANGC decides the rules, enforces the rules and they spoke. It’s not against the spirit of the rules as the rules have been modified due to self important a-holes sitting around trying to be included in something that has nothing to do with them.

    Tiger reported the drop. The officials made a decision and later changed their mind.

    Sounds like Tiger tried to get a proper ruling before signing his card, was given a ruling that was later changed… I’m unsure why all the detractors in this situation are neglecting that fact.

    It’s simple, and those calling for his withdrawal are nothing more than vultures who look for yet another reason to pile on Tiger Woods. It’s amazing the amount of emotion devoted to wishing ill-will of a stranger. Just because you see him on television doesn’t mean you know him. The rules were changed to allow for situations like this… Or does that escape everyone’s attention?

    Soooo…. He broke a rule and was punished. The punishment was handed out by the people in charge. Everyone calling for further, self imposed punishment…. Get over it. You don’t know Tiger Woods… Stop letting a stranger inspire emotion, especially negative emotion, and you might find a little more enjoyment out of watching history.

  8. john

    Apr 14, 2013 at 6:35 am

    the only reason tiger signed an incorrect scorecard is because the committee said his drop was fine and the only reason they changed their minds is because Tiger admitted on ESPN that he dropped it farther to give him an advantage which made the drop illegal in the committees mind. however tiger had already signed his scorecard at that time and did not think he signed an incorrect scorecard at the time.

    disqualification is warranted for signing an incorrect scorecard but no one has ever been disqualified for an improper drop.

    you can argue that tiger should know the rules and the committee should not have given tiger the ok but honestly if tiger knew the rules and he knew he was on national television why would he try to get away with it in front of millions of people. tigers behavior did not warrant a disqualification only a 2 stroke penalty which is what happened. i dont think there is any special treatment going on and i also dont know any other sport where a viewer can call in and influence the officials decision and also where an ESPN interview influences a committees decision. there is something at fault here but its not tiger.

  9. whids

    Apr 14, 2013 at 12:14 am

    The rules of golf are crystal clear when you hit a ball into lateral water hazard. Tiger made an incorrect drop and should have been informed of this by the Masters Rules Committee that reviewed the drop several times but, saw no wrong doing. The Rules Committee screwed up and so did Tiger, Under the current (and revised rules) Tiger was given the correct penalty. He has no reason to DQ himself, he is following the rules that are in place. If this was 3 years ago, Tiger would have been DQ’d and he would have been fine with it because those are the rules.

  10. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 13, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Jerry…I don’t share your interpretations and hopes, but I’m glad that you took the time to comment.

    • Letter of the law

      Apr 14, 2013 at 9:17 am

      The rules were administered to Tiger correctly. Plain and simple. The rule of 10 years ago does not apply. Those suggesting Tiger should withdraw are suggesting he not follow the rules but go above and beyond what the rule book requires and showing their lack of rules knowledge. Brandle Chamblee made a fool of himself yesterday saying, “This will follow him around for the rest of his career”. Sounds like a bitter Tiger hater.

      • Evan

        Apr 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

        Many of the commentators/ pros seemed to only have part of the story or only listened to the anti-Tiger viewpoint. There seems to be many Tiger haters on or around the tour these days. I believe any other player would have been penalized the same way and I believe Tiger’s negative perception is one of the only reasons this topic has escalated.

        So it’s ok to penalize Tiger to the letter of the law and even call for him to further penalize himself, yet everyone wants to give the 14 year old a pass for violating timing rules multiple times on the back nine, possibly not only giving him an advantage but possibly throwing off the timing of players behind him. Seems like a popularity contest in the public eye to me.

        • Steve

          Apr 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm

          Exactly. If it was anybody but Tiger, (A) no one would care, or (B) most of these people would be in favor of the decision.

          • TWShoot67

            Apr 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm

            Hit the nail on the head. If this happened to anyone else this story would have never been written. RONALD MONTESANO, go review the all of the Masters and see if you can find another infraction, and write with that same vigor. get real you sound like sour grapes and each time you try a new analogy you dig yourself further into the hateraid bowl!

        • Ronald Montesano

          Apr 14, 2013 at 10:14 pm

          Nope…no one but Tiger influenced Tiger. There were two other players in Guan’s threesome and one suspects they contributed to the slow play.

  11. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 13, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Blanco and Petty, at what point do we draw the line? The new interpretive revision basically lets cheaters and ignoramuses get away with whatever they desire. When I say to the police office, “ocifer, I didn’t mean to speed,” is the officer going to say “here’s your license, sir. No ticket today”?

    It would have made a statement to the professional golf world that transgressors are held accountable. If Guan can get penalized when dozens of slower tour players get away with it, why can’t Tiger? Now, other golfers will use the “Tiger Non-Ruling” as precedent for getting away with … everything!

    • Steve

      Apr 13, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      Get away with whatever they desire? You’re acting like he didn’t get penalized… He took a 2 stroke penalty and moved on.

      When I say to the police office, “ocifer, I didn’t mean to speed,” is the officer going to say “here’s your license, sir. No ticket today”?

      Is he going to suspend your license for speeding? That’s be the same as a DQ. No, he’s going to give you a fine, which would be like a penalty stroke, not a DQ. Again, Tiger didn’t get off free like you are trying to make it seem like.

      • Steve

        Apr 13, 2013 at 11:19 pm

        That’d be the same* (dang autocorrect!)

      • Ronald Montesano

        Apr 14, 2013 at 6:11 am

        Correct, he didn’t get off free. In both cases (the hypothetical speeding and the actual golf event) the intensity of the offense does determine the severity of the penalty.

        Speed far above the limit and you will lose your license, right? This was a case where Tiger (as many non-violent golfing transgressors before him) deserved to be penalized with a disqualification and got off with less.

        It is shaping up to be a fine conclusion. I give Tiger even odds to win the tournament.

  12. Jerry

    Apr 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    The rules comitee should not have been needed. Tiger and Lance are part of the same culture. Sad day for golf. Tiger needed to w/d on his own admission. Let him always be known as a cheater/loser in life with his buddies Barry and Lance and any other so called golf amateur who thinks he was ok to play today. The other pros were cowards to defend him. Like to hear from Arnie and Jack. Hopefully this leads to a continuation of no more majors like the Cubs.

  13. petty

    Apr 13, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    There are millions of eyes watching him – you really think he intentionally tried to cheat and get away with it as well?
    He made a mistake and was penalized 2 strokes – time to move on . . . .

  14. Blanco

    Apr 13, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I’ve watched the shot, the hoopla, the post hoopla, the analysis… It’s clear to me that TW felt he was within the rules at the time of the drop. It’s even more clear that despite your “tainted” moralizing, the rules of golf expressly forbid a DQ in this case. Despite your weak arguments, TW, like Guan, “took the high road” and admitted his mistake after conferring with officials.

    If he wins, and I hope he does– there will be no asterisk, no tainted legacy; just the same old armchair zebras with the same grudge.

    • Bern

      Apr 13, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      Amen

    • sam

      Apr 14, 2013 at 12:29 am

      Tiger could not have felt he was within the rules of golf. The rule says to drop the ball as near as possible to the spot it had been hit from. Instead Tiger moved it back to a spot he felt he could hit a better shot. Also the committee favored him by not calling him in to discuss drop, instead because they didn’t want him penalized at all they approved a clearly improper drop, after their “careful review”

  15. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 13, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    We’ll take these one by one…Jingo, either he’s oblivious to a rule like DJ was at Whistling Straits or he’s a cad, right?

    Amber, I agree that they went out of their way to penalize Guan, so why wouldn’t they hold a high-profile player to the same standard? I suspect that the Masters competition committee recognized a way out and took the path of lesser resistance.

    Mat, I’d love to know what in the article led you to believe that it was written for a trolling purpose. Trolling for what? Your input is important.

    Chris, we can hope that they would not have DQ’d the young man. Imagine if he had missed the cut by that one stroke and then Tiger had gotten away with his misstep in the same three-hour period. Now THAT would have given us something to write about.

  16. jingo

    Apr 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Tiger DQed – doesn’t matter his intention – what a cad!

  17. Mat

    Apr 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Oh gag me. The rules were adjusted EXACTLY for this reason. The rules officials didn’t think he did anything wrong until later in the evening. So he, his caddy, his playing partners, and none of the officials knew. Now, instead of being harsh, the rules were adjusted for all players to remove one of the dumbest outcomes in sport, and you think he should be somehow altruistic by eschewing the new rule and applying for your mythical sainthood?

    This article is basically trolling. No substance, and nothing of value.

    • Amber

      Apr 13, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      Agree with this. You’d think there would be an official on hand especially during his decision making and yet they went out of their way to approach the 14 year old. Come on, its pathetic how much people want to jump at the option of defacing Tiger more than he’s already done to himself over the years. Just let them play golf.

    • David

      Apr 13, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      The rule is for High Def slow mo replays causing wrong cards to be signed, not for people not knowing the rules.

  18. Chris

    Apr 13, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Well said!

    No doubt had it been the 14 year old Guan that signed an incorrect scorecard he would be DQ’d and watching from the sidelines.

    Two glaring examples in one tourney of how selectively the rules may be applied.

    • Evan

      Apr 14, 2013 at 9:39 am

      I think we can eliminate the idea floating out there that Tiger intended to cheat or get an advantage outside of the rules. I think commentators like Faldo are using words that make the casual golfer or non golfing spectators (which the masters has many) think that Tiger has done something intentional. Old pros say these things because they are part of an old club that thinks you should fall on your sword whenever possible. I would also like to state that I am not a ‘Tiger fan’ except for appreciating his play when it’s good. I typically root for the field.

      1. He has NO history of taking liberties outside of the rules of golf and has been the most watched golfer of all time, not even close.

      2. Anyone saying that he got off easy is crazy in my opinion. He played that hole (15) perfectly, twice, and got extremely unlucky. Without hitting the flagstick, Tiger would have most likely made 4 and would leading the tournament right now. Instead he carded what amounted to an 8 on 15 (without hitting a bad shot). I think, and most people that have played in a tournament or higher level of golf would agree that two shots on top of the already bad break he took on 15 would be devastating and no player could keep it together and stay in contention.

      3. On hole 15 and afterward (until his interview), no one questioned that any rule had been broken. Any player other than Tiger Woods would probably not have talked in detail about the drop, which was the only thing that incriminated him.

      4. I like the ruling by the committee, I think it was plenty severe especially considering what he already endured on that hole. A DQ for signing an incorrect scorecard is primarily in place to prevent players from scoring the card INCORRECTLY! The penalty needs to fit the crime… if I play a round of golf in 76 and I incorrectly (on purpose or not) score the card a 72 and it is signed, the only way to remedy my position in the tournament is a DQ. A two shot penalty at the end of the round would only give me a 74, still improving my position by two shots. That is why importance is placed on signing a properly scored card to prevent any type of score ‘fixing’, not to overlap with rulings and misinterpretations on the course.

      5. I think the rules of golf and course layouts (hazards and OB) need to be simplified. Even rules officials have to consult there USGA book. There are many important rules in golf that should be respected and upheld but there are so many variations and interpretations that it slows the game down and makes it intimidating. I think the USGA should try to revise the rules to half the size or less than the current rule book is. I don’t think it would take anything away from the game. How many pros have been penalized or DQ’d over the years for rules that simply don’t make since, are overly complicated, or we could just do without?

      • Evan

        Apr 14, 2013 at 10:02 am

        Also I might like to add that in any other sport or with any other athlete we would not be calling this ruling into question or mentioning an asterisk if he wins. Leave the rulings to the rules officials, stop playing armchair referee. I feel this has taken a bit away from a so far great Masters tournament.

        • Ronald Montesano

          Apr 14, 2013 at 11:37 am

          Evan and J (is that short for Joshua)?

          I absolutely agree that no phone call should ever be brought into a rules debate. No other sport allows it and golf should not, either.

          HOWEVER, we have to follow the rules as they are currently written in order to avoid chaos and mockery of history (J, you referenced history, right?)

          I was initially supportive of the amendment to rule 33, but if it is used like it was at the Masters, it will offer a loophole to avoid nearly every penalty on the books.

          • Evan

            Apr 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm

            I don’t believe (and neither does the Masters committee) that the ruling makes a mockery of history. I believe that they feel that what transpired does not even close to warrant a DQ and took awhile to sort out if he should even be penalized 2 shots. It seems they chose the best option within the rules. To question the Masters officials and committee members is quite bold IMO as these are some of the top officials in all of golf and the Masters is not a tournament that is swayed or intimidated by any single player. Even Tiger Woods.

          • bob

            Apr 14, 2013 at 6:13 pm

            rules committees like referees,umpires and other officials need to be reminded that the game iss played by PLAYERS ,watched by SPECTATORS ,AND CONFUSED by OFFICIATORS. O yah I am still waiting for VJs suspension.

    • TWShoot67

      Apr 14, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      your dead wrong. tiger didn’t have a ref come up to him at anytime during or after round. why don’t you leave your hatred for Tiger out of what really happened>

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Opinion & Analysis

Hear It, Feel It, Believe It: A Better Bunker Method

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The following is an excerpt from Mike Dowd‘s upcoming novel, “Coming Home.” 

After picking the last of the balls on the driving range, Tyler cornered Mack as he hit a few shots from the old practice bunker to wind down at the end of the day. Mack was hitting one after another, alternating between the three flags on the practice green and tossing them up about as softly as if he was actually lobbing them each up there underhanded.

Tyler just stood there, mesmerized at first by the mindless ease with which Mack executed the shot. Bunker shots, Tyler silently lamented, were likely the biggest hole in his game, and so after Mack had holed his third ball in a couple of dozen, Tyler finally decided he had to ask him a question.

“What are you thinking about on that shot, Mack?” Tyler interrupted him suddenly.

Mack hit one more that just lipped out of the closest hole, paused a few seconds, and then looked up at his protégé in what Tyler could only interpret as a look of confusion.

“What am I thinking about?” he finally replied. “I don’t know, Tyler… I’d hate to think how I’d be hittin’ ‘em if I actually started thinking.”

Tyler gave Mack a slightly exasperated look and put his hands on his hips as he shook his head. “You know what I mean. Your technique. I guess I should have said what exactly are you doing there from a mechanics standpoint? How do you get it to just land so softly and roll out without checking?”

Mack seemed to be genuinely considering Tyler’s more elaborately articulated question, and after a moment began, more slowly this time, as if he was simplifying his response for the benefit of a slightly thick-headed young student who wasn’t getting his point.

“You can’t think about technique, Tyler… at least not while you’re playing,” Mack replied. “There’s no quicker path back to your father’s garage than to start thinking while you’re swinging, especially thinking about technique. That’s my job.”

“Mack,” Tyler insisted, “How am I supposed to learn to hit that shot without understanding the technique? I’ve got to do something different than what I’m doing now. I’m putting too much spin on my shots, and I can’t always tell when it’s going to check and when it’s going to release a little. How do I fix that?”

“Well, not by thinking, certainly,” Mack fired right back as if it was the most ridiculous line of inquiry he’d ever heard. “A good bunker shot can be heard, Tyler, and felt, but you can’t do either of those if you’re focused on your technique. You feel it inside of you before you even think about actually hitting it. Watch, and listen.”

With that Mack swung down at the sand and made a thump sound as his club went through the soft upper layer of sand and bounced on the firmer sand below.

“You hear that?” Mack asked. “That’s what a good bunker shot sounds like. If you can hear it, then you can feel it. If you can feel it, then you can make it, but you can’t make that sound until you hear it first. Your body takes care o’ the rest. You don’t have to actually tell it what to do.”

Tyler still looked puzzled, but, knowing Mack as he did, this was the kind of explanation he knew he should have expected. Coach Pohl would have gone into an eight-part dissertation on grip, stance, club path, release points, weight transfer, and so forth, and Tyler suddenly realized how much he’d come to adopt his college coach’s way of thinking in the past four years. Mack though? He just said you’ve got to hear it.

“Get in here,” Mack said suddenly, gesturing to the bunker and offering the wedge to Tyler. “Now close your eyes.”

“What?!” Tyler almost protested.

“Just do it, will ya’?” Mack insisted.

“Okay, okay,” Tyler replied, humoring his coach.

“Can you hear it?” Mack asked.

“Hear what?” Tyler answered. “All I hear is you.”

“Hear that sound, that thump.” It was Mack’s turn to be exasperated now. “It was only moments ago when I made it for you. Can’t you still hear it?”

“Oh, remember it you mean,” Tyler said. “Okay, I know what you mean now. I remember it.”

“No, you obviously don’t know what I mean,” Mack replied. “I wanted to know if you can hear it, in your mind, hear the actual sound. Not remember that I’d made it. There’s a big difference.”

Tyler suddenly did feel kind of dumb. He wasn’t picking up what Mack was getting at, at least not exactly how he wanted him to get it, and so he sat there with his eyes closed and gripped the club like he was going to hit a shot, waggled it a bit as if he was getting ready, and then opened his eyes again.

“Okay,” he said suddenly. “I think I can hear it now.”

“Don’t open your eyes,” Mack almost hissed. “Now make it, make that sound. Make that thump.”

Tyler swung down sharply and buried the head of the wedge into the sand where it almost stopped before exiting.

“That’s not a thump,” Mack said shaking his head. “That’s a thud. You can’t even get the ball out with that pitiful effort. Give me that!”

He took the wedge back from Tyler and said, “Now watch and listen.”

Mack made a handful of swings at the sand, each one resulting in a soft thump as the club bottomed out and then deposited a handful of sand out of the bunker. Tyler watched each time as the head of the club came up sharply, went down again, hit the sand, and came back up abruptly in a slightly abbreviated elliptical arc. Each time Tyler listened to the sound, embedding it as he studied how the club entered and exited the sand. Mack stopped suddenly and handed the club back to Tyler.

“Now you make that sound,” he said, “and as you do remember how it feels in your hands, your forearms, your chest, and most importantly in your head.”

“What?” Tyler asked, looking back up at Mack, confused at his last comment.

“Just do it,” Mack said. “Hear it, feel it, then do it, but don’t do it before you can hear it and feel it. Now close your eyes.”

Tyler did as he was told, closing his eyes and then settling his feet in as he tried to picture in his mind what Mack had been doing. At first, he just stood there waggling the club until he could see the image in his mind of Mack hitting the sand repeatedly, and then he could hear the soft thump as the club hit the sand. He started to swing but was interrupted by Mack’s voice.

“Can you feel it?” Mack said. “Don’t go until you can feel it.”

“Well, at first I could see the image in my mind of you hitting that shot over and over again,” Tyler said, opening his eyes and looking at Mack, “and then I could hear it. It sort of followed right in behind it.”

“Ah, the image is a good starting point, but you can’t just see it and hear it, you need to feel it,” Mack replied, pointing to his head. “Feel it in here, and then you can feel it here,” he continued, putting his hands together like he was gripping a club. “Now close your eyes again.”

“Okay,” Tyler said, not sure he was getting it, but finally bought in. He settled in again and began waggling the club until he could see Mack swinging and hear the subtle thump of the sand. He let it just loop in his mind, over and over again, until suddenly he could feel it like he was the one doing it, and then he swung.

Thump came the sound as the flange of his wedge hit the sand. It was his swing, but it was different, maybe not to the naked eye, but in the speed, the level of tension, and the release. He opened his eyes again, almost tentatively, and looked at Mack with a combination of curiosity and amazement.

“I felt it that time,” Tyler said in a voice that seemed to resonate within from somewhere in the past. It almost sounded like Jackie’s in its exuberance.

“Yes… good,” Mack replied patiently. “Now close your eyes and do it again, but make sure you can feel it before you pull the trigger.”

Tyler settled in again, waited until, like the last time, he could see it, hear it, and then finally feel it… Thump… Something was slightly different this time, though, and Tyler opened his eyes to notice Mack kneeling down next to him. He had quietly deposited a ball into the place where Tyler had swung. Tyler looked up in the direction of the green and the target flag he had been aiming toward just in time to see a ball slow to a gentle stop about four inches from the flag.

“How’d you do that?” Tyler said, almost in wonder now.

“I didn’t,” Mack replied. “You did. You just had to stop thinking. See it, hear it, and feel it. Once you feel it, you can believe it. Anything more is more than we need. Any questions?”

As Mack turned to walk up out of the bunker, Tyler just stood there shaking his head a moment, looking at the spot in the sand, and then back up at the green as if to confirm the ball he’d seen roll to stop was still there. “I guess I’ve still got a lot to learn.”

“Well… yes and no,” Mack said cryptically as he turned back to look at him. “You pretty much know how to hit all the shots, Tyler. You’ve hit every one of them at one time or another. You’ve just got to learn how to empty your head of all those instructions so you can focus on finding the shot you need when you need it. It’s in there somewhere.”

“It’s hard to explain,” Tyler said, “but a lot of times I walk up and think I somehow just instinctively know what shot to hit without even thinking about it. I just kind of see it and feel it. It’s when I start to analyze things a bit more closely, factoring in all the things I know are important to consider like the wind, keeping away from the short side, where I want to putt from, and the best trajectory or shot shape for the situation, that I often start to second guess that feeling.”

“Ever heard the saying paralysis from analysis?” Mack asked. “It pretty much describes those moments.”

“Yeah, I get it,” Tyler replied, “but all that information is important. You have to consider everything and not just make a rash decision.”

“Sure, information is important, but you can’t get lost in it,” Mack countered. “Whether it’s golf, or just about anything else in life, Tyler, you need to learn to trust your gut. You’ve hit hundreds of thousands of shots in your life, Tyler. All those shots leave a mark. They leave an indelible little mark that gets filed away in your brain subconsciously, getting stacked one on top of the other. And after years of playing the game, those stacks and stacks of shots create an instinctive reaction to each situation. It’s like gravity. It pulls you in a certain direction so much that most of the time you almost know what club you should hit before you even know the yardage. Trust that, Tyler. Go with it, and know that first instinct comes from experience. There’s more wisdom in those gut reactions than just about anything else.”

“Thank you,” Tyler said after considering it a moment. “I think that’ll really help.”

“You’re welcome,” Mack replied. “Now rake that bunker for me and clean the balls off the green. I want to get things closed up before dark.”

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Opinion & Analysis

5 things we learned on Saturday at the 2018 U.S. Open

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Whoops, we did it again. While not as dramatic as the 7th hole concern of 2004, the Saturday of 2018 seemed eerily familiar. The commentators were divided on the question of whether the USGA was pleased with the playing conditions. The suggestion was, the grass in the rough was higher than necessary, and the cuts of the fairway and greens were just a bit too close of a shave. No matter, everyone finished and the band played on. The hashtag #KeepShinnyWeird didn’t trend, but Saturday the 16th was certainly not ordinary. Five weird things we learned, on the way.

5) Phil’s breaking point

It wasn’t violent. No outburst or hysteria. We’d seen Phil leap in triumph at Augusta. Now we’ve seen the Mickelson jog, albeit under most different circumstances. Near as we can determine, for a moment Phil forgot that he was playing a U.S. Open. After belting a downhill, sliding bogey putt well past the mark, the left-handed one discerned that the orb would not come to rest for quite some time: a lower tier beckoned. As if dancing a Tarantella, Phil sprang toward the ball and gave it a spank while still it moved. Just like that, his quadruple-bogey 8 become a 10, thanks to the 2 strokes for striking a moving ball penalty. In true warrior fashion, Mickelson accepted the penalty without questions, intimating that it saved him another stroke or two in the end. Yeesh. Phil, we feel you.

4) DJ’s front-nine free fall

Just as unlikely as Phil’s whack-and-walk was Dustin Johnson’s front nine of 41. The cool gunslinger of Thursday-Friday faced the same turmoil as the other 66 golfers remaining, and the outward nine did not go according to his plan. DJ got past the opening hole with par, after making bogey there on Friday. Number two was another story. Double bogey on the long par three was followed by 4 bogeys in 5 holes, beginning with the 4th. The irony once again was, Johnson struggled on holes that the field did not necessarily find difficult. Hole No. 2 was the 10th-ranked hole for difficulty on day 3, while 4 and 7 were 13th and 11th-ranked, respectively. Hole No. 6 and 8 did fall in the more difficult half, but not by much. At day’s end, however, the tall drink of water remained in contention for his second U.S. Open title.

3) The firm of Berger and Finau

Each likely anticipated no more than a top-15 placing after 3 days, despite posting the two low rounds of the day, 4-under 66. Those efforts brought them from +7 to +3 for the tournament, but Johnson and the other leaders had yet to tee off. Every indication was lower and deeper; then the winds picked up, blustery like the 100 acre wood of Winnie The Pooh. Both golfers posted 6 birdies against 2 bogeys, to play themselves into the cauldron of contention. Berger has one top-10 finish in major events, while Finau has 2. None of those three came in a U.S. Open, so a win tomorrow by either golfer would qualify as an absolute shock.

2) Recent winners fared well

In addition to Johnson, the 2016 champion, Justin Rose (2013) and Brooks Koepka (2017) found themselves near or in the lead for most of the afternoon. Since Shinnecock Hills offers much of what characterizes links golf, it should come as no surprise that 2016 British Open champion Henrik Stenson is also within a handful of strokes of the top spot. Rose played the best tee-to-green golf of the leaders on Saturday, but was unable to coax legitimate birdie efforts from his putter. Koepka was the most impressive putter of the day, making up to 60-feet bombs and consistently holing the clutch par saves. On another note, given his victories at Chambers Bay (2015 U.S. Open) and Royal Birkdale (2017 British Open), the missed cut by Jordan Spieth was the week’s biggest surprise.

1) The wind

The most unpredictable of nature’s weapons, the winds of Shinnecock Hills exposed flaws in the course preparation. Areas that would have held off-line putts, were dried out enough to escort those efforts off the shortest grass, into the runoff compartments. The zephyrs pushed tee balls and approach shots just far enough astray to bring all the danger zones into the recipe. Prediction for tomorrow is, any golfer within 5 shots of the lead has a chance at the title. A Miller-esque round of 63 would bring anyone into contention, if the wind continues to blow. No event appreciates drama more than the U.S. Open, and Sunday at Shinnecock promises plenty of it.

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