Category Archives: Commentary

Why I love the Ryder Cup, even though the U.S. always loses

The Ryder Cup is golf at its best–high drama, national pride, and great golf.  Team USA has broken my heart most of my adult life, having won only two of the past 10 Ryder Cups.  But every two years, I look forward to the Ryder Cup more than just about any sporting event.  Here’s why.

I get to root for America:  I’m a well-traveled, cultured guy and all that stuff, but let me be frank…I love America!  So anytime I can root for the Stars and Stripes, count me in!  The World Cup?  Check.  The Olympics?  Check.  World’s Strongest Man competition?  Bill Kazmaier for life!  Granted, great U.S. Ryder Cup moments have been rare in the last 20 years.  But I’d be lying if I said I still don’t get pumped up watching clips of Justin Leonard draining his putt at Brookline in 1999, or Anthony Kim destroying Sergio at Valhalla in 2008.

I get to root for an underdog:  Americans love rooting for an underdog.  In fact, our most memorable moments are when the underdogs have won.  There’s the Miracle on Ice in 1980, and Rulon Gardner winning the wrestling gold medal over the undefeated Russian Alexander Karelin in 2000.  When it comes to the Ryder Cup, the U.S. is the underdog, even on home soil.  Will they beat Europe?  Probably not, which is exactly why a win would be incredible.

Match play enhances the players’ personalities:  To me, the most compelling part of watching professional golf isn’t watching great golf shots.  It’s watching the psyche of the different players.  During the average tour event, the players’ personalities sometimes seem like they are in remission.  But at the Ryder Cup, they are out in full force.  There are frontrunners like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods (in his prime) who like to get a big lead and essentially force their opponent into submission.  There are scramblers like Jordan Spieth and Graeme McDowell who can spray the ball all over, then drain a 30-foot putt that demoralizes opponents.  There are robots like Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson who can take the same great swing over and over without being phased.  And then there are the highly emotional guys like Patrick Reed and Ian Poulter who seem to perform better the more animated they get.  It’s fun to watch.

http://www.rydercup.com/usa/videoembed/video/cvp/video/24657

NBC has excellent coverage and a great theme song:  Dan Hicks is great in the lead role on NBC.  And Johnny Miller, love him or hate him, recognizes the big moments and isn’t afraid to speak his mind about them.  There’s also NBC’s Ryder Cup theme song, which has to be the best music in sports television.

During the 2014 Ryder Cup when NBC had the theme song played with the bagpipes, I almost lost my sh*t.  So good.

Does everyone else get excited about the Ryder Cup?  Feel free to share what you think makes the event great (unless you’re with Team Europe, I already know you’re answer).

AB

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2016 The Open Preview: The Predictions

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The 18th fairway at Royal Troon, host of the 2016 Open Championship, is a pretty sweet setting to finish a major tournament. 

Having recently played Royal Troon, host of this year’s Open Championship, I feel like I should have inside knowledge about what to expect.  Truth be told, I’m as clueless as ever, but that won’t stop me from making some fearless predictions.  So without further adieu, here they are.

Continue reading 2016 The Open Preview: The Predictions

2016 U.S. Open Preview: surviving Oakmont

There’s winning a U.S. Open, and then there’s winning a U.S. Open at Oakmont, host of this year’s 116th running of the event.  The Pittsburgh area course is a synonym for brutality.  It’s tight, the rough is savage, there are bunkers everywhere, there’s a 300-yard par-3, and the greens are the slickest in the world.  A win at Oakmont isn’t just another victory in a major.  It’s golf’s version of the Medal of Honor.

So…who will this week’s hero be?  Read on to find out.

Continue reading 2016 U.S. Open Preview: surviving Oakmont

Quick thoughts on my week in Scotland

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In addition to being fabulous for golf, Scotland was the most welcoming country I have ever visited.  Pictured here: The tee shot on No. 18 at North Berwick, heading back into town.  

I returned yesterday from a weeklong golfing trip to Scotland and WOW, what a trip!  As expected, I got in four rounds of golf at Royal Troon, Prestwick, North Berwick, and Carnoustie.  I also snuck in a Coldplay concert and did a little sightseeing.  I’ll have plenty of things to say and pictures to share in the near future.  But first, I wanted to share some quick thoughts about my trip.

My trip was way too short:  Going to Scotland to play four rounds of golf is like going to California to see Disneyland and nothing else.  It’s a great time, but you’re leaving a lot on the table.  There are so many fine courses in Scotland, and many of them need to be played more than once to be truly appreciated.  Four rounds is simply inadequate.  One of the guys I played with was on a 29-day trip to Scotland and had taken four previous trips to Scotland.  He’s doing it right #lifegoals.

The Scots are incredibly nice:  The folks in Scotland, without exception, were the most welcoming and friendly hosts of any country I have visited.  At every course I played, there was always a staff person or a member who showed me around and was keenly interested in learning where I was from, where I’ve played, etc…  The kindness extended beyond golf, as well.  At one pub I visited, for example, I asked the bartender what whisky I should try (I am not an expert), and she spent a good 5-10 minutes with me chatting about the different kinds and letting me taste a few.

Get a caddie: My first round in Scotland was at Royal Troon, a course known for being relatively straightforward by links golf standards.  I therefore figured a caddie was unnecessary.  Huge mistake.  Even this most basic of links courses played much differently than the courses I am used to in the United states.  I probably would have saved 10 strokes with a caddie and appreciated the course even more.  A caddie will set you back 40-50 pounds plus a tip, but it’s worth it, especially if you are already paying big bucks for a round at a famous course.  I paid for a caddie for subsequent rounds at Prestwick and Carnoustie and had a much better experience.

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Ahead of me is Mr. 29-days-in-Scotland, who was wise enough to hire a caddie for his round at Royal Troon.  I was left wandering the gorse alone.  Pictured here: Troon’s par-4 11th hole.

Expect to play with Americans:  In each of my four rounds, I was grouped exclusively with other Americans.  I asked one of my caddies if Americans make up the majority of visitors, and he said absolutely–probably about 85 percent of golfers are Yanks.

Take the train:  Every golf course I played was an easy walk from a train station.  In fact, Prestwick is literally right on the other side of the tracks from the train station.  For those visitors looking to do some big city visiting while in Scotland, I highly recommend staying in Glasgow and/or Edinburgh, then taking the train to the golf course.  Prestwick and Troon were about a 35 minute ride from Glasgow, while North Berwick was less than half an hour from Edinburgh.  Many of the other courses in the country are also next to a train station and an easy ride from a big city.

Did I try Haggis?:  Of course I did!  At multiple places.  For those who don’t know, Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish described by Wikipedia as “a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach.”  Sounds gross you say?  Wrong!  It’s freaking delicious, especially with some well prepared neeps and tatties.

What to expect on this blog in the future:  I’ll get back into my USA frame of mind by writing a quick U.S. Open Preview later this week.  After that, I’ll surely write detailed reviews of the four courses I played in Scotland, plus a few more in-depth posts about some of the highlights and lowlights of my Scotland trip.

-AB

 

 

Preview: A week in Scotland

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I’ve got my passport, a little cash, and some light reading for my plane flight.  I’m ready for Scotland.

My wife loves Coldplay.  That’s why I’m golfing in Scotland next week.  Allow me to explain.

My wife found out a while back that Coldplay would be touring in Europe this summer.  She explained to me how desperately she wanted to see them live.  I rolled my eyes at the thought of flying from San Francisco to Europe to see a concert, and told her she had no shot with Chris Martin anyway (that’s Coldplay’s lead singer).  But, being the all-around great guy that I am, I said we’d try to find a way to make it happen.  It occurred to me that we were already planning a trip to Boston at the beginning of June for a wedding, so it made sense to see if Coldplay was playing anytime the following week and, if they were, hop over the pond for an extended vacay.

So I checked tour dates.  Sure enough, Coldplay had a concert on their European tour scheduled for June 7…

In Glasgow.

My internal golf sensors exploded.  I now had an excuse to hit the links in Scotland.  So an agreement was easily reached with my wife:  I’d go see Coldplay with her, but have free rein to golf the rest of the time.  It was a win-win.

Like any avid golfer, I’ve been yearning to tee it up in the home of golf ever since I can remember.  I’ve read all about the great courses there, and I come accross stories and blog posts all the time about others who have ventured to Scotland for a golfing trip.  I’ll now be one of the lucky ones.

Read on to see my itinerary:

Continue reading Preview: A week in Scotland

Product Review: Nike RZN Tour Black vs. Srixon Z-Star XV

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Nike and Srixon won my heart by making high-performing yellow golf balls: the Nike RZN Tour Black (left) and the Srixon Z-Star XV (right). 

A few months ago, I published my manifesto on why I was going to start playing colored golf balls.  Since then, I’ve played several rounds with two high-performing yellow golf balls: the NIke RZN Tour Black and the Srixon Z-Star XV.   It’s time to share how I think they perform, and which ball I’ve decided to play.

Continue reading Product Review: Nike RZN Tour Black vs. Srixon Z-Star XV

Product Review: JINS Golf Sunglasses

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I didn’t know much about JINS before trying their GOLF sunglasses.  They turned out to be just as good as any pair I’ve owned.

Outside of clubs and golf balls, I consider sunglasses to be one of the most important pieces of equipment I own.  I live in sunny California, and I often travel to Arizona and Hawaii, which are on the shortlist of places that can claim to have stronger sunshine than the Golden State.  It’s critical for me to have sunglasses that protect my eyes and surrounding skin from the sun when I golf.  If the sunglasses can enhance my vision when I play, that’s an added bonus.

This year, I’ve had the opportunity to try sunglasses made by JINS, a Japanese company that recently opened its first USA store in my hometown of San Francisco.  As I’ll explain in this review, I was incredibly impressed by the JINS sunglasses.  They fit me perfectly and have performed exceptionally when I’ve worn them on the links.

Continue reading Product Review: JINS Golf Sunglasses