Jordan Spieth Needs to GROW UP!

There are a few things in this life I understand, but one of them is this: Nobody deserves to be treated like a scoundrel. Not even the media, and not even by a so-called “icon” like Jordan Spieth. Maybe you saw the disgrace in Boston today, but if not, here’s the deal: The golden boy had a not-so-golden round, and he decided not to talk to the press. If that doesn’t make you furious, it should, because it represents a new American entitlement that athletes grab onto like geese grabbing onto the golden egg. Put simply, Jordan Spieth needs to grow up.

I’ve heard of duck-duck-goose, but the way this goose ducks the press is unprecedented. And unfortunately, his goose probably won’t get cooked. And that’s not good for the goose or the gander.

The problem with Jordan Spieth runs deep, and requires a great deal of analysis. What follows is text I have pasted from the Wikipedia entry on elephants, because I don’t think people read past the headline, and I hate everybody. Elephants are herbivorous and can be found in different habitats including savannahs, forests, deserts and marshes. They prefer to stay near water. They are considered to be keystone species due to their impact on their environments. Other animals tend to keep their distance; predators such as lions, tigers, hyenas and wild dogs usually target only the young elephants (or “calves”). Females (“cows”) tend to live in family groups, which can consist of one female with her calves or several related females with offspring.

The groups are led by an individual known as the matriarch, often the oldest cow. Elephants have a fission-fusion society in which multiple family groups come together to socialise. Males (“bulls”) leave their family groups when they reach puberty, and may live alone or with other males. Adult bulls mostly interact with family groups when looking for a mate and enter a state of increased testosterone and aggression known as musth, which helps them gain dominance and reproductive success. Calves are the centre of attention in their family groups and rely on their mothers for as long as three years. Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild. They communicate by touch, sight, smell and sound; elephants use infrasound, and seismic communication over long distances. Elephant intelligence has been compared with that of primates and cetaceans. They appear to have self-awareness and show empathy for dying or dead individuals of their kind.

African elephants are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), while the Asian elephant is classed as endangered. One of the biggest threats to elephant populations is the ivory trade, as the animals are poached for their ivory tusks. Other threats to wild elephants include habitat destruction and conflicts with local people. Elephants are used as working animals in Asia. In the past they were used in war; today, they are often put on display in zoos and circuses. Elephants are highly recognisable and have been featured in art, folklore, religion, literature and popular culture.

In conclusion, I wish we could all grow up, or at least live in the forest and eat berries until we die. Jordan Spieth, you just got schooled.

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Slaying the Tiger Bonus Material: Rory vs. Kirk at the Deutsche Bank

Hey pals, this is bonus material from my original manuscript of the book Slaying the Tiger. This text didn’t find its way into the book, but I’m making it available to you, my loyal readers. TBR is the only place you’ll find this material.  If you like this, you’ll find plenty more to like in the book, available at this link. 

September

The FedEx Cup Playoffs, Part Three: Rory vs. Kirk

Then it was off to Norton, MA, and TPC Boston for the Deutsche Bank Championship. The course has a very secluded, pastoral feel, with quaint ponds and stone walls running throughout the course, and a collection of “chocolate drop mounds”—an odd duck among architectural features, and one that has fallen far out of fashion in modern course design. The earth-covered hillocks hearken back to a time when debris was cleared off early golf courses and shoveled into a pile, then covered with grass as an alternative to actually clearing it away. Later architects created artificial mounds to mimic this look, but it never became very popular, and it’s rare to find these man-made “chocolate drops” today.

With Ryder Cup captain’s picks set to be announced on Tuesday—the Deutsche Bank runs from Friday to Monday, ending on Labor Day—the Ryder Cup dominated the early week chatter. I saw Brendon Todd early that week at the Deutsche Bank, and I told him that I was in the process of writing an article about how he should be a captain’s pick because of his skill around the green. He thanked me, and I decided to take a risk.

“I think it’s going to have a huge influence on Tom Watson,” I said.

Most golfers would have already tuned me out, and the ones that didn’t would have heard that sentence and stared at me like I had three heads; self-deprecation isn’t a part of their world. Todd got the joke immediately, though—another reason to like him.

Most of the Ryder Cup drama centered on the Americans. Ryan Palmer shot an opening round 63 to shoot to the top of the leaderboard and throw his hat more fully into the ring. Keegan Bradley put up a 65, which looked it would solidify his spot, and Webb Simpson made a strong case with a 66.

Come Saturday, though, all three faded down the leaderboard, and were replaced by three other golfers who posted 66—Russell Henley, Billy Horschel, and Chris Kirk. This shift came as a big surprise for both Henley and Kirk—Henley could only shake his head and say, “it seems like the harder I try, the harder it is,” while Kirk had been so frustrated after his first round 73 that he told his caddie he wasn’t having any fun, and left the course without bothering to hit the range. Instead, he went to play putt-putt with his kids.

I followed Kirk and McIlroy on Sunday, and watched as the American made an important chip-in on the 17th hole to stem some of Rory’s typical late momentum, and nearly hole an eagle putt on the par-5 18th to end the day. He and Rory each finished with blistering 64s, and would be paired together again in the second-to-last group for Monday’s final round, two shots off the lead. Behind them, Russell Henley led the field at -12, and would play with Billy Horschel (-11), a hyperactive young Florida alum whose only career win came at the 2013 Zurich Classic, where he shot a final round 64 to win by a stroke.

For all three, a win would give them a great opportunity to snag one of Watson’s captain’s picks. Horschel made his case on Saturday night, saying that he could bring emotion and energy to a team that might be different than what they had among the nine automatic picks. He said he’d be “ecstatic” if Watson picked him. Henley was more measured, having come off a frustrating summer that let him feeling like he didn’t deserve a chance, but he allowed that it would be a “great thing” if he could win on Sunday and get a captain’s pick.

Chris Kirk, though, was in full stubborn mode, refusing to admit that it mattered to him at all.

“I would say I would love to make it, and love to have a good round here,” he said, “but no, if I deserved to make the team, then I’d already be on the team…I’m just really hoping that I’ll make the team on points next time…I just think that we’re not really as worried about it as you all wish we were. I’m not, anyway.”

It was hard to tell if he was being honest—and was therefore the only American golfer who wasn’t dying to play in the Ryder Cup—or if this was some variation on the stubbornness theme that Georgia coach Chris Haack had clued me into when we spoke. The only real insight I got from Kirk came at the tail end of our conversation, when I asked if it was annoying to be constantly asked about the Ryder Cup.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe it’d be a better story if I was like Keegan, and was freaking out about it and really, really excited and going nuts, but I’m just not.”

He gave me a little grin at that point, and finally, I thought, I understood—he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of having to campaign for himself. It fit right in with his personality—his stoic demeanor wouldn’t allow for false shows of enthusiasm. He barely even fist-pumped in competitive rounds, and he would never adopt the over-the-top showmanship of Keegan Bradley. Chris Haack endorsed this view when I spoke to him, saying that Kirk most likely found the idea of self-promotion unseemly, and made a choice to take the exact opposite approach—play golf, and trust that the results would speak for themselves. If Watson wanted to pick him, then great, but he wasn’t going to do backflips for him, since it wouldn’t matter anyway.

The unfortunate problem: Watson was looking for backflips. He wanted golfers who felt passionate about the Ryder Cup, and Kirk’s aloof posture couldn’t have gone over well with him. The two had played together in a practice round at the British Open, and when Kirk struggled on the front nine—he still had jet lag from his flight—Watson got on his back a little, and they won their match at the end. Whether Kirk appreciated the pep talk is more doubtful—he’s a self-motivator, and not the kind of person who searches for mentors. Even agreeing to play with Watson as a sort of audition probably rubbed him the wrong way, and the two hadn’t spoken since.

Making matters worse, Watson had an ego, and very much wanted players who would be excited to play for him. He saw himself as a general—tough but inspiring, harsh but well-loved—and to say he wanted a cult of worship would be too strong, but he did appreciate players like Bradley who would say the right things, and flatter his John Wayne-esque self-image. He wanted eager, loyal soldiers, and Kirk was a natural-born mercenary who adamantly refused to move even an inch toward Watson, much less to suck up or beg. The ring was extended, but Kirk wouldn’t kiss it.

That night, the personality clash could not have been more evident. Still, even though Kirk could be cold and stand-offish and probably didn’t think much of the media, I liked him, and I knew that he’d be excellent at the Ryder Cup—nor did I believe, for a second, that he was really so ambivalent about the event as he let on. I hoped that if he won on Monday, he’d overcome his stubborn streak and tell Watson what he wanted to hear. Wouldn’t it be worth it, for one day, in order to make the team?

*

On paper, playing with McIlroy for a second straight day seemed like a tall order for Kirk. His year had gone well enough after his win at the McGladrey, but his only other top tens came at the Sony Open and the Memorial, and now he was up against the no. 1 player in the world and the winner of the last two major championships. Unlike everyone else McIlroy had faced on Sundays that year, though, Kirk had the kind of personality that wouldn’t wither in the face of Rory’s ferocity and talent. In fact, it was the kind of challenge that was perfectly suited to Kirk’s rigid self-belief. He may not be able to promote himself in front of the cameras, but he wouldn’t crack just because the man across the tee box happened to be the best golfer on the planet. You could even see his refusal to budge in the way he answered questions about Rory on Saturday night:

Q. When you’re playing with Rory, you have to be on top of your game?

CHRIS KIRK: I try to play well every day. But I definitely enjoy playing with him. He’s a guy I’ve known for quite a while and been good friends with and he’s a very enjoyable guy to play with.

It was a brilliant approach, I thought. Rory didn’t impress him enough to change his game in any way, and not only was he not intimidated, but he was so up for it that he was going to have fun. Thinking back to Rory’s previous opponents, like Sergio and Rickie, it was clear to see that he’d face a different kind of challenge at the Deutsche Bank. He’d have to win by talent alone—Kirk wouldn’t fold. That still gave Rory the advantage, since he’s the most talented golfer in the world, but if he started slow, like at Valhalla, Kirk wouldn’t let him off the mat so easily.

There is very little glamor to Kirk’s personal life, past or present, and he doesn’t try to hide it—when asked what he had done between the third and fourth rounds, he told a tale of domestic headaches. For one, his two-year-old boy Sawyer was having temper tantrums, and then his wife had to get their 8-month-old son Foster to sleep. The next morning, his son acted up again when he had to pack up the toys in the toy bin for the upcoming travel—always the hardest part of every week. It gave him very little time to reflect on the upcoming duel with Rory McIlroy, which was probably a bonus, as less time to think meant less time to worry. Still, it was hard not to laugh at the contrast of his own personal life with Rory’s jet-setting, night club lifestyle.

Come Monday, Rory missed two birdie putts by mere inches on the first two holes, and Kirk had to rescue himself with an 8-foot par putt on the second after misjudging a wedge into the par-5 green. Kirk could feel the nerves moving through him, and he told me later that making the par putt might have been the most important shot of his round. Even the simple benefit of having a good feeling with his putter calmed him down, and filled him with a confidence that he was missing on the first tee.

On the par-3 third, he kept the momentum going with a 6-iron to five feet, setting up his first birdie of the day and putting him a shot up on Rory. Separately, they walked the long, wooded path between holes, and Kirk sipped water and had a muted conversation with his caddie about golf course design. “How do you see holes, standing in this shit?” he asked rhetorically, to which the caddie grunted a reply. The quiet looper was jut one of the rotating pool of caddies that Kirk keeps, refusing to stick with just one for any set length of time due to his “self-sufficiency” and, as he told Golf Week in November, not wanting to blame anyone but himself.

On the tee at the driveable par-4, Rory and Kirk chatted amiably, which was strange on both sides—Kirk isn’t talkative by nature, and Rory usually gives his playing partners the silent treatment, especially during the final round. Kirk took driver and came up short, and Rory hit 15 yards farther with his 3-wood, which showcased the difference in length between the two that would become a recurring them all day. While Rory made an easy birdie, Kirk had to land his pitch from off the green on the first cut to make sure it didn’t run by the hole, and he did well just to give himself eight feet for birdie. He holed it, and put the pressure on Rory, who sunk his own from inside five feet.

Rory made the first mistake of the round on the fifth hole when, after out-driving Kirk by 50 yards, he pushed his approach right and hit a weak chip to make bogey. He hit his drive on the sixth hole into a fairway bunker, and compounded the error by hitting his next shot straight into the lip. He was forced to chip sideways then, and did well to go up-and-down from 175 yards for another bogey, but he had dropped two shots, and he threw his ball in a nearby pond in frustration.

Kirk now trailed Henley by just a shot—another Georgia duel in the making—and Rory had fallen behind those two and Billy Horschel. He fought back with two birdies on seven and eight, but Kirk rescued himself with a terrific shot from a short-side bunker on eight, and an aggressive 7-iron on the ninth to the back left pin set him up for his third birdie of the day. By the time they hit the turn, Henley had dropped a shot, and Kirk was now tied for the lead with Horschel at -13.

The muggy heat intensified on the back nine, and Kirk gained a fan who wouldn’t stop yelling “Captain Kirk!” after each shot. Rory, who out-drove him on every hole and hit high, looping irons with that beautiful, liquid swing, looked like the better golfer—especially when you watched Kirk’s rigid, paint-by-numbers swing, and the blank, almost robotic look in his eyes. He still had the back nine left, and everyone knew that’s where he’d make his move. Still, nothing seemed to faze Kirk.

On the 10th, he hit a perfect chip to stave off a potential bogey, and reached the green on the long par-3 11th with a hybrid to set up a long two-putt. By the time he made par on no. 12, Rory had missed par putts of eight and three feet to start the back nine, and suddenly he had dropped to -9. Without a miracle, it seemed like he’d fallen out of contention. On 13, Kirk mishit his second shot—a “drop-kick,” where the club hits the ground in front of the ball, but bounces up before impact to turn a fat shot into a thin one—but got lucky when it carried the bunker and rolled onto the green anyway. From there, he stared down a 23-footer and sunk it for birdie to reach -14. He held the lead now, one ahead of Geoff Ogilvy, who had made six birdies on the day, and Billy Horschel, playing steady but unspectacular golf in the final group.

From there, Kirk had to pass a series of tests. He pushed his drive into the right rough on 14, but hit a beautiful approach from a thick lie to carry a cross bunker and reach the green. It was the riskiest shot he hit all day, and also his best—the solid contact kept him away from the sand, which would likely have meant bogey or worse.

By this point, Rory had grown frustrated with his round, and when his short approach on the 15th landed an unsatisfying 16 feet away, he threw his wedge at his bag. Meanwhile, Kirk, was like a metronome, hitting shot after shot like clockwork and showing very little emotion in the process. He holed another long putt for par on 15, and made a 13-footer for birdie on the par-3 16th after Rory nearly made a hole-in-one. On that putt, a memory from an earlier round came back to him, and he realized before he hit that the ball broke away from the water on the left of the hole, which allowed him to take the proper line.

He found the right rough on 17, and his ball landed in an old divot, but he dug it out to reach the green with an easy par, and came into the 18th with a one-shot lead on Horschel, who had birdied 15. On the par-5, Kirk nearly made a monumental error when his lay-up kicked off a ridge and came close to landing in a small pot bunker in the fairway—the only one for miles around—but it held up in the rough. He still faced a dicey shot, but he landed his short approach two feet onto the green and watched it tunnel toward the hole. He left himself 10 feet for birdie, and again he remembered was something strange about the putt. This time, his memory failed him—he thought the putt broke less than it looked, and so he aimed almost straight, but in fact it broke more, and his birdie attempt swung well wide of the hole.

He made par for a bogey-free 66 and headed for the scoring tent, where his wife met him with his sons. “I have to go talk to the man, okay?” he told Sawyer in a gentle voice when the tv cameras beckoned, and the boy cried as he was passed back to his mother. In the hallway outside the scoring room, Rory McIlroy saw his assistant Sean O’Flaherty—a few sprigs of chest hair popping through the neck of the plaid shirt that matched his pastel pants, sunglasses hung backward around his neck, hair caked with gel—and grinned. “Fuckkkk,” he said, letting the word hang in the air. “So bad.”

Out on the 18th hole, still trailing by a shot, Billy Horschel bombed his drive 318 yards down the right side of the fairway. From there, he watched Kirk miss his birdie putt, and turned to his caddie Micah Fuggitt.

“I’m going to hit this on the green, I’m going to make eagle, and we’re going to win the tournament,” he said.

He took dead aim with his 6-iron from 211 yards away. Deep down, he understood that this shot gave him not only a chance to win the tournament, but to make the Ryder Cup team—unlike Kirk, he had exactly the kind of energy that Watson coveted. The ball was below his feet, but on an uphill lie relative to the hole, and before he hit, Horschel reminded himself “stay in the golf shot”—not to rise too soon and risk sending it right.

It was a sound piece of strategy, but as it turned out, he overcompensated, and caught the ball very fat. It rose up in the air, and Horschel immediately knew it was his worst shot of the day—a total chunk. When it came down, it landed in the thick native area guarding the front of the green, from which no recovery was possible. He took the penalty drop, made bogey, and finished in a three-way tie for second.

Horschel had always struggled with his anger, and after conquering his emotions for most of 2013, they had started to creep up and get the better of him in the past few months. I’d watched him kick a trash can with fury in Greensboro, and when he came into the scoring room after his chunked 6-iron, and heard from Tom Alter that he had dropped in the FedEx Cup standings because of the bogey, he let out an anguished scream and punched his own hand. Horschel’s rage is the kind that looks very frightening up close, and Alter briefly wondered if he might hurt himself by punching a wall.

He didn’t—he collected himself in time to talk to reporters, and all he could say was that he hit the ball well all day, that he believed in himself standing over the 6-iron, and that hopefully he could get a win next week.

*

Which left Chris Kirk, and the possibility of that captain’s pick. Would he advocate for himself, now that he’d won?

No chance. Doug Ferguson and I did our best to probe beyond the stubborn silence, but he just reiterated that the event didn’t mean as much to him as the other players.

“I’m not going to really base how happy I am with how I’m playing or how my year has gone on whether I make the team or not,” he said. “Obviously I would love to do it. I would love to maybe be making a bigger deal out of it than I am, but that’s just honestly how I feel.”

Ferguson gave it one last shot, hoping against hope that he might get some indication that it mattered to Kirk.

Q. You talked outside and you spoke well about not being entitled and if it happens, great. And if it’s not, look what you’ve done this week which is great in itself. Is there any part of you that’s a little bit antsy about a phone ringing with news one way or the other?

CHRIS KIRK: No.

Q. If not, can you make something up for us?

CHRIS KIRK: Like I said, I wish that I was a little bit more excited or freaking out about it, but, you know, I mean I don’t really know what else to say. I’d love to do it, but, I don’t know, I’m not worried. It’s not like there’s anything that I can do to sway it one way or another. I can’t say, hey, Tom, please, please pick me now. I don’t think that’s going to change his mind a whole lot. I think he’s probably got a pretty good idea of what he wants to do regardless of what I want to do.

And so, with a potential chance to talk his way onto the team, golf’s most stubborn player stuck to his guns, and left the course without compromise. Back at home, two-year-old Sawyer realized his dad had won, and though the concept was still abstract to him, he could pick up on the excitement. And when he got excited, that meant Foster would too, and soon both boys were wired. Kirk had to fly to Denver the next morning, and it would be a long time before he could get his sons to sleep that night. If you had seen him at that moment—this slim, slightly nerdy figure struggling to wrangle two young boys—you’d never guess that he’d just spent two days playing alongside the best golfer in the world. And it wouldn’t have crossed your mind, in a million years, that he actually won.

(Excerpted from the original manuscript of Slaying the Tiger.)

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Friends of Tiger, Episode 21: PGA Teaching Pro Joe May

This show was recorded LIVE at DSI Comedy Theater in Chapel Hill, NC. Joe May is the head pro at Hillandale Golf Course at Durham—and my teacher!—and we talk about his life in golf, and what it’s like to teach people this crazy game for a living.

For more stories from the PGA Tour, order my book, Slaying the Tiger, here.

 

We’re on iTunes now, pard. Subscribe to ‘Friends of Tiger’ here.

Download the mp3 of this episode here.

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Friends of Tiger, Episode 20: Luke Kerr-Dineen

We’re back! Luke Kerr-Dineen from the USA Today FTW blog joins me today, and we’re talking PGA Championship, the perils of being new media, the anger of old media, and Luke’s experiences writing the infamous “Spieth choked” piece. Enjoy!

For more stories from the PGA Tour, order my book, Slaying the Tiger, here.

Download the mp3 of this episode here.

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A Few Thoughts on St. Andrews

I’m in Glasgow as of today, tired as hell and at a nice reflective distance, and because I just spent the most fun week I’ve ever had covering golf, I thought I’d write a little about the non-golf aspects of my time at St. Andrews. I won’t be editing or polishing this at all, just a quick (note: Inevitably not quick) ramble about my time.

I flew in Sunday morning, DC to Heathrow, to Edinburgh, and I didn’t realize it, but Patrick Reed and team were on my plane. We orbited awkwardly around one another at the baggage claim (baggage “reclaim” as the Brits hilariously and correctly call it), and I was set to head for the train station when I saw a driver holding up a sign in the terminal that said “Mike Ryan.” I know Mike, and after accidentally having a real-life spit take where I got a bit of beer on him later in the week, I think I can call him a friend, but at that moment I saw an opportunity to mooch a ride. As it turned out, Mike had caught a different ride, and the driver, Calvin, offered me a free lift to St. Andrews.

We drove out of Edinburgh, and I tried to stay awake since I hadn’t slept at all and Calvin was very interesting. He gave me the tour of St. Andrews when we arrived in town, and right away I could tell I would love the place. There’s no mistaking it as anything other than a European city, and the reason is the stone architecture of the buildings downtown, as well as the narrowness of the roads and alleyways. Every edifice looms onto its neighbor in a way that feels charming and very old, and what might be claustrophobic ordinarily is lightened by the fact that there are secret passageways all around you that lead to courtyards and gardens and greens. The only place I’ve ever seen in America that looks that way is the north end of Boston, where Little Italy is, and it’s no coincidence that it was settled in the 1630s. The sprawl of the American landmass is evident in the town and city planning on a micro level, and in fact from my brief stints in the UK, that’s what I miss, is a sense of openness. Or I don’t miss it so much as I get the sense that if I ever spent an extended time there, it might drive me crazy—it shows how much your home influences you without you really knowing it. You can feel history metaphorically weighing down on you in the literal construction of streets and buildings, but for a week at a time, it’s just very impressive and unique.

There are three main drags in St. Andrews that run parallel to each other, South, Market, and North, and the golf course is off North Street along the North Sea. In typical British fashion, the pubs are mostly excellent while the food is mostly terrible, but though I spotted a Domino’s and Subways, for the most part, at least, the town has retained its character. Granted, that character has adapted in the past 40 years, and there’s a huge industry geared around selling things to American tourists, but I never felt like it diminished the atmosphere at all.

My main takeaway here is the surprising humility of the place. You hear about the Old Course so often, and in such reverent tones, that you expect a certain stuffiness to prevail. But it’s not like that at all—the course is basic in an impressive way, if that makes sense, the way it’s integrated with the town is really beautiful. You do immediately get the idea that this is an actual public course where people can play for a reasonable rate, and dogs are walked along the 18th fairway on Sundays, and the people see it as their club.

The best way I can put it is that St. Andrews is the opposite of Augusta National. At the former, the history speaks for itself, and there’s a common theme of inclusion and genuine niceness. Nobody has anything to prove, or any agenda, and you have to think it stems from the perfect co-existence of town and course. Anyone who has been to Augusta National, on the other hand, knows that you encounter a sad American wasteland a block outside the gates. Maybe that, plus the relative newness of the tournament, accounts for the pomposity and paranoia and exclusivity, which stands in such stark contrast to St. Andrews. Or maybe the people are just assholes. Either way, I found it impossible not to compare the two in my mind…they’re perfect polar opposites, to the point that it’s uncanny. One of my least favorite stories I heard over the week was that a group of journalists visited the grave of Old Tom Morris on midnight on Saturday (that part is cool, and I don’t blame anyone for going along) and Jim Nantz gives a speech at his grave with the same mawkish tone he uses on CBS broadcasts, without even a hint of irony. St. Andrews is not the kind of place for that bullshit—the Masters is full of phonies, so phony moralizing works there. St. Andrews is of the people and by the people, and it’s straightforward and practical and beautiful for its simplicity and history. It doesn’t need Jim Nantz.

I didn’t stay in town. Stephanie Wei, Jon McCarthy of the Toronto Sun, and I all stayed about a 20-minute walk away on Tom Morris Drive in a pretty ordinary flat that smelled faintly of mold, but not in a way I found unpleasant. It was a constant shitshow. Stephanie would wake us up every morning, including on Monday while I was trying to recover from jet lag, by yelling “are you guys up?” If she got no response, she’d climb the stairs (she stayed downstairs, we were up) and repeat as needed until I cursed her out…Jon was too polite. It was futile—Stephanie is immune to being yelled at, and eventually you just have to do what she wants. It’s like screaming at a toddler…it feels justified in the moment, but it’s pointless and you just feel bad after a while. (I say this more with affection than exasperation, by the way…)

So we’d eat cereal and bananas that Jon inevitably bought from the store while we were being thoughtless, and then we’d go to the course all day. Everything went by very quickly during the actual working hours, because with our schedules on east coast time (and my computer’s clock remaining there too), we’d work what felt like a full day and then realize it was 10pm and we still had an hour left of work. So we’d walk home to finish, and I quickly came to understand that Jon is a very good writer, but one who takes about four hours to write an 800-word story, while I prefer to cover the same amount of space in 7-10 minutes. When he finished, we’d go to the Whey Pat pub just before the West Port Gate (beautiful stone archway dating back to the 1500s, if I’m remembering correctly), where we’d chat and have as many pints as we could in the hour or so before they shouted “last call” at 12:45 and made life miserable for us until we left.

I meant to say something about the weather earlier. I walked with Spieth the entire round Sunday, and was outdoors as much as humanly possible, and had a 40-minute walking round trip commute each day anyway. It was autumnal in temperature, and spring-like in precipitation. In other words, cold and wet, and windy too. But I absolutely loved it. I got the sense that my northern European ancestry was coming out, trying to tell me that at least in a climate sense, this was where I belonged. My idea of hell was last year’s final round at the PGA Championship in the Ohio River Valley of Kentucky, with its disgusting, soul-killing humidity. It turns me into a sweat factory, and I’ll take the wind and rain every day if it makes me slightly less disgusting to be around. I even got wind-burned, which made me feel like a real ruddy Scotsman, which I enjoyed.

As far as what I wrote…my favorites were a “Tiger is done” piece that really made a lot of people viscerally angry, a piece on the plant and animal wildlife on the course and the secret wars with mother nature that the greenkeepers fight (this all followed a two-and-a-half-hour tour with the environmental manager on Saturday that was one of the most fun parts of the trip, but ps, I don’t think anybody read it because my interest in flowers and birds is not matched by most of the Internet-reading world), a quick Ben Martin story about his wife that I stumbled and executed under possibly dubious means, a look at Spieth’s mental alchemy process, and the Spieth story at the end about how close he came, which was just a blast to follow and write. And, now that I’m looking, I also enjoyed writing a DJ press conference analysis piece that I think was born out in his results under pressure, a primer on why it’s BS for the Euros to chastise us about calling it the British Open, and one where I followed John Daly around for four holes. That should keep you busy, or at least annoyed.

The week itself had a hectic feeling about it, but I liked it. It helped that I was sitting next to Alex Myers, who is very funny and with whom I shared an aesthetic about certain key topics, such as Tom Watson’s farewell. We ruined many very special moments for each other with a deranged kind of glee, and then we ate Indian food.

Later in the week, on Saturday, Jon and Stephanie and Alex and I met up with a crowd of real jerks, like D.J. Piehowski of the PGA Tour, Chris Solomon of NoLayingUp, Chad Coleman of Calloway, and Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN, with Mike Ryan making a much-appreciated cameo. Jay Busbee of Yahoo joined us the next night. I don’t want to get obnoxious about this, but it ended up being a pretty perfect combination of people, and we spent both nights laughing like jackals. It was one of those happy circumstances where we were very much on the same wavelength, except for Solomon, who I was surprised to learn was a 700-pound, 57-year-old man who wore a muumuu for convenience and kept saying “I’m No Laying Up on Twitter” to complete strangers. The rest of us were like the Algonquin round table, if the Algonquin round table only ever talked about Brooks Koepka.

I can’t say much more about our exploits, but here’s a picture of the gang from very late on Sunday night, minus Jon and Stephanie who were engaged in their 12-hour writing sessions, and Alex and Van Valkenburg, who had planes to catch and didn’t stick around long enough to be sexually harassed by a Scottish man named Neil at a night club called the Lizard Lounge:

TheChatPackAnd now it’s on to Glasgow, and a two-week vacation with my wife around Scotland. Other than the constant misery and anxiety and shame, life has lately been a gem.

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The sun

Earlier today I had to think of a name, and it came to me quickly. You can think of the delivery scientifically, synapses and neurons and chemicals and other things I don’t understand. Or you can construct a vision—the dark pathways that lead to the light. Nobody will want to credit the emotional truth, but in some ways it’s just as valid. I fell asleep on the couch today watching a TV show, which never happens. For a second it disentangled me. I was looking at a bookshelf, but the titles were blurred out because I wasn’t wearing my glasses and I can’t see that level of detail anymore. I woke up thinking, there may come a day when your brain stops responding to these commands. And in fact, I couldn’t remember the name I had to summon earlier, and I still can’t. I thought about making it up, but why disguise a failing like that? Why disguise any failure? The name was so minor, it didn’t matter. I can remember that it was a man, but that’s all. The context didn’t matter enough to stick. What mattered, maybe, was the thought that those paths could be blocked one day. I might not be able to bring the answer to mind. I might not even think to ask the question. Then again, I could go my whole life without losing that power. The delivery mechanism might slow, but I could enrich it in other ways. It happens to other people all the time, so why not me? So for a second I put the thought of change on hold. Everything is too complicated to make sudden decisions anyway, and I consoled myself with this thought of longevity.

The relief didn’t last long. The brain may never fail, but for sure, someday, the heart will. Where is your urgency?

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Tiger Woods Played a Good Tournament This Time

WEST VIRGINIA—Tiger Woods played a good tournament this time.

Before that, Tiger Woods had played a bunch of bad tournaments.

Before that, Tiger Woods played a whole lot of really good tournaments.

At one point, he had a lot of sex and crashed his car.

Tiger Woods is known around the world as a golfer.

We are not sure if the fact that he played a good tournament this time means he will have more good tournaments after this.

Buy my book.

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The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Championship Introductions

George Shea:

Ladies and gentlemen, the Bunettes and the Bun City Dancers. Bun Boy Nation.

Are you ready?

Are you ready?

Ladies and gentlemen, in his rookie year he is already ranked no. 24 in the world. From Nigeria, now residing in Morill, Georgia, he’s eaten 34 ears of sweet corn. Six feet, nine inches tall, let’s hear it for Gideon Oji!

From Dixon, CA, 6 feet 2 inches tall, ranked no. 14 in the world, he has eaten 10 pounds of boysenberry pie. He won the Lincoln, Nebraska qualifier. Let’s hear it for Steve Hendry!

He struggles to understand the nuances of our culture. The difference, for example, between a butt dial and a booty call. But he understands everything there is to know about competitive eating, and he’s widely acknowledged as a tamale-eating specialist: 50 and one half tamales in 12 minutes! From Wichita Falls, TX, the great “Nasty” Nate Miller!

Ranked no. 12 in the world, from Cleveland, Ohio, 5 feet tall, 200 pounds, he’s eaten 31 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and buns in 10 minutes, Jeff “The Beast Man” Butler.

He was gifted at birth with a flawless memory. In fact, he can remember exactly what he was thinking at this precise moment 20 years ago to the day, from today, 20 years from now… which is right now, it’s today, it’s this second obviously, so he knows what he’s thinking. He’s thinking, “why am I hear listening to this guy? I could be in the Hamptons.” Ladies and gentlemen, from Visalia, CA, Pablo Martinez!

He is the lumberjack breakfast and French string bean-eating champion of the world. He was buried alive under 60 cubic feet of popcorn, and he ate his way out to survival, which is why he’s ranked no. 19 in the world by Major League Eating. The David Blaine of the bowel, the Evel Knievel of the alimentary canal, the Houdini of the Cuisini: Crazy Legs Conti!

He is a teacher from oxford, MA. He ate 30 and one half hot dogs and buns in his first contest ever, let me hear it for Geoffrey Esper!

From Chicago, IL, 23 slumburgers, 24 hot dogs and buns, 6 pierogis and 180 guillota, ranked no. 10 in the world, let me hear it for Juan Rodriguez!

He is entirely committed to competitive eating! He will do whatever it takes to win. Three days ago he broke up with girlfriend and euthanized his dog to leave a void of emptiness inside him that he could fill today with hot dogs and buns, ladies and gentlemen. The cannoli-eating champion of the world, with 32 cannolis in  6 minutes. A marathon runner from New York City, let’s hear it for Yasir Salem!

He has eaten 30 moon pies, he can use the world “dude” as a noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective, and exclamation, dude. He is the beer pong champion of Phoenix, AZ. In fact, he is the king of all bros, the scion of the House of Bro. Ladies and gentlemen, son of D-Train, son of Steve Dawg, son of the Shermanator, son of Fitzmeister, son of J-bone himself: The great Brian “Dud Light” Dudzinski!

He is the spot shrimp and rye bread and sweet corn eating champion of the world, and yet he is most proud of his Scandinavian heritage, which he celebrates by shopping at Ikea, driving a Volvo, and cooking on a Viking Range. The no. 6 ranked eater in the world, who has consumed 34 hot dogs and buns, let me hear it for the great Erik “the Red” Denmark!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Matzah ball and green bean and donut-eating champion of the world. Are you ready?

He is the pop gurgitator extraordinaire
The one who weaves to the beat with the
no thought or care
Fridge empty, cupboards bare
The one that rips snacks out of school backpacks
Looking over your shoulder like Michael Jackson
He’ll be there, eating like pac-man
Digging into your candy dish, yo it’s a wrap song
Yo who be there? Badlands baby
No ifs ands or maybes, devour like crazy
He’s like the dog in the Looney Tunes baby
He gets the steak, he’s like what, no gravy?
Superhero with a fork and spoon
Trading like X-men in the danger room
He’s like a pirate, always procuring food, quicker than you, masticating like ….

Ladies and gentlemen, Badlands Booker!

Six feet, one inches tall, 200 pounds, 32 years of age. He is ranked no. 7 in the world. He is the crawfish eating champion of the world! He ate 36 dunked oysters down at Acme Oyster House! Ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it for the man who can eat 33 hot dogs and buns, Adrian Morgan!

He was born outside of time, a witness to all possible realities. He was there when the sea and the sky were mixed together as one, and humans floated from the depths of the Pacific to the very edge of space, where they looked out at the stars in the blackness. He was there when druids walked the earth, and he watched as mankind built great cities, developed technology, and invented complex language with combination words such as “bromance,” “labradoodle,” “manscaping,” “frenemy” and “fratacular.” One man has witnessed it all, and of all times and all realities, this is his favorite here in Coney Island. Let’s hear it for the man of mystery, EATER X!

The no. 23 eater in the world, right behind his arch-rival Joey Chestnut, a man he has beaten many times. The bacon and birthday cake and frozen yogurt and gyro and twinkie and slumburger and pumpkin pie-eating champion of the world. Fifty-six hot dogs and buns in ten minutes! Many believe he is the future of the sport: Matthew Stonie!

(Baba O’Riley plays)

You know what this means. In a world of nothing—of barren hills and cracked earth and once proud oceans drained to sand—there will still be a monument to our existence. Bleached by the sun, perhaps, and blunted by time, but everlasting. Because this man represents all that is eternal in the human experience. The courage to stand for a nation when all others fail or turn away; the strength to recognize the value of freedom and to accept its cost, no matter how great. Through the curtain of the aurora, a comet blazes to herald his arrival, and his victory shall be transcribed into every language known to history, including Klingon! The bratwurst and pierogi and Hooters chicken wing eating champion of the world! Eight-time Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating champion of the world. The no. 1 eater in the world! I give you America itself! Joey Chestnut!

Let’s get the Bunettes up here…

(commercial)

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Friends of Tiger, Episode 19: Scott Michaux of the Augusta Chronicle

We’re back where we belong in our Durham, NC studio, and today we’re welcoming Scott Michaux of the Augusta Chronicle as our featured guest. Scott and I talk about the complicated figure of Bubba Watson, this week’s Travelers Championship Winner, and beyond Bubba, we hit on everyone from Paul Casey (we like him!) to Phil (he seems to like gambling!) to Jordan Spieth (how dare he not spend the next month at St. Andrews!). It’s a fun return to form with a first-time guest, so check it out!

For more stories from the PGA Tour, order my book, Slaying the Tiger, here.

We’re on iTunes now, mister. Subscribe to ‘Friends of Tiger’ here.

Download the mp3 of this episode here.

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Episode 18: U.S. Open Wrap-Up

Jordan wins! Dustin loses…and we’ve got one more short ep before we fly back home. Check us out!

For more stories from the PGA Tour, order my book, Slaying the Tiger, here.

 

We’re on iTunes now, pard. Subscribe to ‘Friends of Tiger’ here.

Download the mp3 of this episode here.

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