Sunday, September 09, 2007


Before I went to Elderhostel Golf Camp at Penn State University, whenever I thought about how to play a particular shot or situation I would ask myself, W.W.T.D.?
Now I want to be like Phil.

For example I read that prior to last year's British Open Tiger apparently was not hitting consistently enough with his Driver. So he "left the club in his bag" and teed off instead using something called a "One Iron" - a golfing implement that evidently only existed because someone felt it was inappropriate to begin numbering the metal-headed clubs with the number "two", and which, by all accounts, had never been used on the links in either a competitive or non-competitive situation since the invention of the sport in the mid 1500's.

Tiger felt that his odds of hitting the less spectacular and shorter-distance iron into a fairway position that allowed easy access to the green would be safer than going for the longer, less accurate drive. He calculated that over the seventy-two holes of the four day tournament this more conservative approach would earn him fewer enough strokes to win. It did.

Over the Summer I also was not hitting my driver well. (Although it is perfectly obvious, it still should be mentioned that Tiger not "hitting his driver well" is definitely not the same as me having that problem. The so-called "cone of uncertainty" for a Woodsian drive, or any golf activity, is significantly smaller and more certain than mine is - or ever will be. My drives were not only not in the fairway but more often than not so far out of the playing field as to be deemed a recovery rather than a rescue as soon as I hit them.) I too put away the errant club and replaced it with my Three Wood, shaped similarly to the Driver but smaller and easier to control.

At Penn State, even though the course was longer than our usual one and therefore really necessitated a Driver on most holes to have any chance at all for par, I stuck to my "W.W.T.D?" style of play and played the percentages (and the Three Wood). I did not use the miscreant mallet until the Twelfth hole on the first day. There, for God knows what reason, I took it out and promptly hit a shot onto the four-lane roadway that runs alongside the course a good hundred yards or so to the right. Back into the bag it went forcefully. I don't remember anything else about the rest of that hole other than when I finished all of my clubs were still intact and above-water.

I returned to my Three Wood for my next tee-off. I should say here that in three days of playing on the Thirteenth hole I still never figured out its configuration. The first time I aimed for another green that was clearly visible from the Thirteenth tee - the actual Thirteenth hole it turned out could not be seen from that location.

The fairway it turns out goes straight from the tee and then "dog legs" uphill about forty-five degrees to the right. This entire canine shank, up to and including the green, is however hidden behind an undulating mini-mountain of mid-length grass and fairway bunkers. This entire pattern is clearly discernible on the scorecard hole illustration and from the Goodyear Blimp that, for obvious reasons, was not following our foursome. Intellectually I knew this. Visually however I could not get my mind to believe it. I felt instead like I was hitting into a corn maze without a recognizable entry point. I'm certain that Tiger would not have had this same problem.

The next day on the Thirteenth tee I aimed correctly - or at least not towards the wrong flag. My swing felt pretty good, the "plunk" sounded solid, and the ball totally disappeared. I never saw it nor did my three playing partners. It was simply gone. I decided not to hit another ball but rather to look for my first shot after Mars had hit her hers. And, if I did not quickly find it, to drop another ball next to wherever hers landed and hit my second shot from there.

From the tees I used it was, I'm guessing, about 180 yards to the hip of the dog leg - and another 180 more to the green from there. Mars' shot, the result of which I had decided to play from, landed to the right of the fairway, just short of the beginning of the wavy mounds of turf and sand - another location from which the green, as well as the fairway, was invisible, except by intuition.

"Hey, why not?" as the aphorism in the Dove chocolate wrapper frequently tells me. Without the slightest hesitation, doubt, or deliberate thought, I walked up to Mars' pink golf ball, dropped one of mine next to it, selected a Three Iron, swung, and hit up and over the lush wasteland onto the green. ("Cool!") Two putts later I had my slightly less than honest par.
Then I went back to "W.W.T.D?" golf.

Last weekend Mars and I were watching a golf tournament involving Tiger and Phil Miikelson. Phil had the lead. Tiger was methodically stalking him by staying within his plan and waiting for those around him to implode. On the last hole Phil had a one-stroke lead. In the same situation W.W.T.D?

Certainly not what Phil did with his second shot. "He is taking out his big club!" breathlessly shouted the announcer (actually it was probably said in a normal tone of voice, anything above a whisper sounds like yelling at a golf match). "The crowd loves it!"

Phil then hit "his big club" clear over the green into a clump of grass that I would have had trouble walking through never mind hitting a golf ball out, and from which he extricated the tiny white orb to a spot on the green, near the hole, from which he easily putted in.

But my mind was still back on the "big club" shot and the amount of fun Phil looked like he had in trying it. It was, I am imagining, the same sense of joy and freedom I felt on the Thirteenth hole when I hit that Three iron - not when it landed (I actually never saw it come down), but when I executed my swing and saw it start to take flight.

W.W.P.D? Hit the fun shot - that's what!

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