Well, I’m headed out to play in the Constellation Energy Championship in Rye, New York, which I’m so excited about. It’s one of the Champion Tour’s majors, but also, from 1979 until almost 2000 I played at the Westchester Country Club, which I’ve always enjoyed the community where I’ve made many friends that have become my closest and lifelong companions. I always enjoy going back to see all the wonderful people of New York, they love their golf and have supported the PGA Tour for as long as any community. Therefore the whole PGA Tour family is also excited to be going back to Westchester.
The past few months I haven’t bogged much due to working so hard on my game and my family having so many changes taking place lately. Like John going to college last week, was a big event in our family because John is such a home body and just one of the kindest persons in the world. We were wondering how he would navigate all the happening of going away. I’m so happy to report that John has had a wonderful first week. My wife and I were so surprised that he even did a round of laundry. A couple of my friends that were very familiar with the Greek Life at Georgia helped my son settle in. John Gibbs and his brother Bill were so nice to introduce John to many friends that made him feel very welcome. He pledged KA, which made him so happy. John, Being so quiet normally, I wondered how it would all turn out, but he has passed the first real challenge of being away and school starts on Monday. It seems that college is the rite of passage with respect to getting on your own, making your own decisions for your life, and becoming a real adult. Fortunately or unfortunately, whichever way you see it, all that is left is for parents to just pray. So I’m wishing all the best to parents and children in this wonderful process of going to college.
One highlight in my life this year has been getting involved with Grip Guides For Golf. This is an adhesive product that you put on your club which will help every golfer improve his grip which in turn helps their game. Next Monday after Westchester I’m headed to Las Vegas for the fall PGA Of America Golf Show to help with the unveiling of this new product. Everyone is excited about my clinic set up on Monday to explain how Grip Guide works and how it will improve their games. Also, the Big Break contestants are going to be there and Grip Guides will have a product for each person to help them win the show. Pretty exciting stuff for a new company just hoping to get a good foot in the door. Keep an eye on Grip Guides For Golf I think they will sell like hotcakes.
Doc. Suttie and I have really worked on my game the past month, improving my driving and putting has been a life saver. What is so surprising is that I’ve actually hit the ball very poorly since the Rock Barn tournament; however, I have putted better than I have in a long time. The game is so much easier when you’re putting well. So hopefully the next few weeks will be more successful with a little more consistency in my ball striking. Doc came to our last tournament in Minneapolis, and my game showed real steady improvement. I don’t think I have played with such a neutral face position in my life. What happens when you have your backswing in the proper place there are fewer compensations to make on the downswing, giving you a freer flowing swing into the ball and through. Hale Irwin even commented to me how well I was driving the ball on Sunday when we were paired together.
On that note, Hale is probably the best wedge player that I have ever seen. For so many years, I don’t think anyone has hit it closer to the hole with his wedge than Hale. I know Steve Stricker set a remarkable record last year within a hundred yards never being outside of a few feet all year, but Hale really impresses me with how many times he hits the flag with his ball. Last Sunday he hit the flag at 16 stopping one inch from the hole and on 18 he hit another wedge close for birdie with trouble all around the hole. Watch him play his wedges if you have a chance, no one in the game is better. Also, while you watching Hale doesn’t forget to watch him drive the ball. He has won so many US Opens I forget if it’s 4 or 5, but he has the best pre-shot routine on every hole no matter how narrow or difficult the hole might be. He lives with his driver and puts it to work for him no matter what the consequences are. Some of the narrowest holes where I’m hitting three wood he takes his driver placing it 20 yards closer to the hole making the hole a lot easier for him. The 16 holes that I just mentioned in Minneapolis I hit three wood off the tee leaving myself with almost 140 yards to a very tight hole location. Hale hit his wedge one inch. Off the tee there was water all down the right side and a bunker cutting off the fairway at about 280. He just lets it go, I’m always impressed with his courage every time we play. It’s no wonder that he has won 45 times in his career. An amazing stat that will never be touched on the Champions Tour again. Congratulations Hale you are my hero! I also remember Hale at the Ryder Cup in 1991 when Dave Stockton asked him to bring in the ship at the end of the Sunday rotation. Hale didn’t bat an eye and said it would be his honor. What I knew was that at that time Hale was one of the shortest hitters on our team and played a left to right fade, which made the finishing holes the most difficult for this type of player. If you remember Mark Calcavecchia hit the water to the right of the par 3 seventeen just about every time due to the wind that was so dense with water it would move your ball right every time. Just a very difficult finish for anyone, but Hale knew he had to be up before making the turn back to the clubhouse because the last five finishing holes were so difficult. On the last hole, if you remember Bernhard Langer hit a 4 iron while Hale hit a 3 wood into the green which is quite an advantage for one player over the other. Hale just was so tough mentally that he really did “bring the ship home.” An amazing feat in my mind knowing the Ryder Cup was at stake. I have always loved Hale Irwin due to his guts and mental toughness. One of the all time greats of the game, that’s for sure.
It’s raining today, so I’m hoping to practice this afternoon. I was going to play Hudson National on the Hudson River just north of Rye, however, the weather is just too bad and the men I was scheduled to play with decided work looked better. Hudson National is probably in Tom Fazio’s top 5 courses that he has built. The finishing eighteenth is voted the best hole in New York which is truly the prettiest finishing holes in all of golf with its ten mile vista of the Hudson River. If you get a chance to play it, please do so, you’ll have a great experience on a well groomed course.
Until next time, I pray that you have a great week of golf and that we have many new great champions like Keegan Bradley who just won the PGA Championship.