Monday, September 23, 2013

Why Did Driving Distance Decline on the PGA Tour in 2013?

Driving distance is down. Well down, on the PGA Tour, in 2013. The tour leader in driving distance was Luke List, whose average was 306.3 yards.

That's a big drive for mere mortals, but for long-bombing PGA Tour guys, it's a pretty puny average. For example, in 2012, the driving distance champ averaged 315.5 yards. In 2011, it was 318.4 and in 2010 315.5.

List's 306.3 average is the shortest by any Tour driving distance champ since John Daly's 301.4 average in 2000.

In 2012, Bubba Watson averaged 315.5; but in 2013, Watson's average was only 303.7. Charlie Beljan dropped from 311.6 to 295.4. Robert Garrigus's average fell from 310.3 to 302.4. Dustin Johnson's average fell from 310.2 to 305.8.

And while the fall in driving distance is more pronounced at the very top, it happened all down the line. The 10th-place finisher was at 304.6 in 2012, but 301.5 in 2013. The 25th-place finisher fell from 299.2 to 297.2. The golfer in 50th place was at 294.7 a year ago, 293.1 this year. And at 100th place, 289.4 in 2012 and 287.1 in 2013.

Here's the question: Why?

Anyone have any theories (or any actual answers)?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Michelle Wie Shooting Guns

The headline says it all.

What's going on here? Wie, along with Jane Park and Christina Kim and others, were in Austin for a girls weekend with Jeehae Lee, who is getting married. Is this the new bachelorette party? We don't know about that.

We do know this: If Wie played golf in those shorts, the LPGA's TV ratings would go up.

The Secret Society of Hogan Bootleggers

Something just jogged my memory and reminded me of an hour or so I spent with a friend, a golf pro, a few years back.

My friend had a stash of videos - almost all of them of poor quality, from having been recorded and re-recorded so many times - of Ben Hogan's swing. Golf pros and Hogan are like high school football geeks and game film. These are guys who have the game film from the game in which Kenneth Hall set the Texas state rushing record back in the 1950s, or the 1971 (or was it '72?) state championship game where Tommy Kramer led San Antonio Lee to a stirring victory. And once a month they get together with their fellow high school football geeks and watch the games all over again. (Yes, these people actually exist.)

My friend's Hogan video collection included such things as copies of television commercials Hogan made in the late 1970s and early 1980s for Ben Hogan Golf, commercials in which he was shown hitting shots. These are the scraps of video on which the Hogan bootleggers hang their hats. (Some of these have shown up YouTube.) Another was a very poor-quality clip from the 1950s of Hogan hitting balls on a range prior to the start of a PGA Tour event. My golf pro friend stopped-and-started the video, backing up, switching to slow-mo, pointing out things I couldn't even see because of the quality of the video.

Like the high school football geeks, the golf pros cart their Hogan booty to conventions and gatherings, and huddle around TV screens oohing, aahing, and comparing notes about the master.

But this golf pro's prize Hogan bootleg is a home movie shot by friends of Hogan's during a visit from The Hawk to their Florida home in the late '70s or early '80s. This is a personal videotape, friends talking, Hogan and his hosts hitting balls in the backyard - which was the Florida coastline. So there is Hogan, barefoot in the sand and surf, hitting balls into the Atlantic Ocean. My friend asked me never to reveal his identity, but the bootleg-purity of this particular video is so good that he wouldn't even tell me, privately, how he got it.

But the highlight comes when Hogan's host (or at least the person holding the camera) asks Ben to demonstrate his swing in slow-motion. The camera doesn't have a slow-mo setting, so Ben sets up to the ball, does his waggles and looks down the "fairway," takes the club back, takes it through impact, and makes his follow-through, and the whole thing takes about two minutes.

Now, many instructors are strong believers in the helpfulness of practicing one's swing in slow-motion. What was amazing about Hogan's slow-mo show for the camera was that, when the tape was speeded up, it matched exactly his actual swing. I mean, exactly. And he was in his late 60s or early 70s at the time, yet there was no difference from the swing of his prime. This was a man who knew his swing, who felt it in his bones and muscles. And Hogan's swing in slow-motion - complete with commentary from the man himself - makes this beach video the holy grail for the Hogan bootleggers.

Editor's Note: Good news - the Hogan slow-motion beach video is now online! And when you watch it, you'll notice that Bogey mis-remembered a few of the details. But no mind - watch it now. - flogger

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Urban Legend: Mrs. Palmer on 'The Tonight Show'

Is an urban legend about golf actually a suburban legend?

There's a story that's told about Arnold Palmer's wife appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. This would be Winnie Palmer, and the time was the late '60s. According to this legend, the following snippet was part of the conversation between Winnie and Johnny:

Johnny: Do you do anything for Arnold before a tournament as a sort of good-luck charm or superstition?

Mrs. Palmer: I kiss his balls.

Johnny: Well ... I bet that makes his putter flutter.

I've heard many people tell this story. Even had one friend who insisted that he watched it in real time.

But there are a couple problems with the story. First, why would Carson have Arnold Palmer's wife on the show? Winnie Palmer was not herself famous. Second, nobody who knew Winnie can imagine her going on a talk show, nor - especially - coming anywhere near such a double-entendre.

And, sure enough, a check of the Johnny Carson archives confirms that it never happened. Winnie Palmer was never a guest on The Tonight Show.

Urban legend. Never happened.

If that's the case, why do so many people think it happened, and why do some people claim to remember seeing it happen? Memory is a funny thing. The act of trying to remember something can actually modify or falsify existing memories, or create new ones. Hearing the story about Arnold Palmer's wife on The Tonight Show, being told that it really happened (even though it didn't), can lead to the formation of a "memory" of the non-existent event. Memory research shows over and over how easily we fool ourselves, and how easy it is to create false memories.

But how did the Winnie Palmer story get started in the first place? Probably as a joke that somebody dreamed up, later misunderstood or intentionally transformed into a supposedly real event. In other words, your standard-issue urban legend.

The urban legend website Snopes.com has an entry on the Arnold-Palmer's-wife-on-The-Tonight-Show legend, and points out that Mrs. Palmer wasn't even the first golfer's wife about whom the story was told. It's been told about Jack Nicklaus' wife, about Sam Snead's wife, and also about the wives of tennis players and couples from other sports. Basically any sport that involves balls also involves the creation of double-entendre ball jokes.

Snopes also points out that Arnold Palmer himself has said it never happened, including during an (actual) appearance of his own on the Jay Leno version of The Tonight Show in 1994. In that appearance, Leno asked Palmer about the story. Arnie told him that it was actually Carson, speaking to Arnold (not Arnold's wife), who made a ball joke:

Leno: ... apparently Johnny said, 'Is there anything your wife does to bring you good luck?'

Arnold Palmer: No, Johnny said, 'Does your wife kiss your balls before you go play?' And I said, 'I don't even go to bed without pajamas.'

Some of you reading this are shaking your heads, thinking, "but I saw Winnie Palmer on The Tonight Show!" No, you didn't. You need to wrap your mind around the fact that you are "remembering" something that never happened. Winnie Palmer never appeared on The Tonight Show (something that has been confirmed numerous times by Tonight Show archivists), and Arnie himself says it's an urban legend.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Michelle Wie's Art

I find Michelle Wie's artwork - her paintings, watercolors, drawings, stencils, multi-medias - very interesting. I'm not an art expert or an art critic, so whether or not they are good, whether or not she displays a deep well of talent for art, I can't say. I can only say that they I'm drawn to them. They seem impressive to my untrained eye. They're intriguing. Let's take a look at some of her recent efforts:

Wie posts photos of her art on her various social media platforms, particularly Instagram. She used to write on her own blog, but it's been dormant for more than a year now. However, she once wrote:

... held up the brush again in my hand and it felt glorious. it was fun to take an afternoon listening to music while painting. took my mind off everything and i love how these kinds of activities just really reset my buttons.

Another time, Wie wrote: "Sometime I can't describe how I am feeling with words...so I paint...#calming"

Here are some more examples:

Watch Michelle Wie create her art

Monday, September 2, 2013

Micheletti, Modano Now Married

Allison Micheletti and Mike Modano are now married. They got hitched at a wedding ceremony Sunday night at The Joule, a luxury hotel in Dallas. Before the ceremony, Allison tweeted this:

According to the Dallas Morning News, attendees included former hockey greats and former Modano teammates, including Brenden Morrow, Darryl Sydor, Marty Turco and Brett Hull. Some of Micheletti's former Big Break cast mates were also in attendance, including Sara Brown.

The couple's engagement was announced in early June. And we first told you about this cross-sports couple in January after they met and connected over mutual loves of golf and hockey.