OUT OF LEFT FIELD
....had reason to grin
The Stealth Golfer
By STAN ISAACS
Some thoughts on
the wing while dipping in and out of the four days of the NBC
telecasts of the 112th U.S. Open golf tournament:
In the words of the legendary British TV
announcer, Henry Longhurst, the light of good fortune
shone upon Webb Simpson as he seemingly came out of
the Pacific Ocean mist at the Olympic Golf Club to win the Open.
Certainly the light of TV didnt shine upon him until late
in the final round. We saw much of Tiger Woods early and, during
the final round, Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowel and Ernie Els. Simpson
played under the radar. He made four birdies in the middle of
the final round that put him in contention. He won by a stroke
over McDowel and Michael Thompson with a 281.
Woods provided drama
on the sixth hole of the second round when his second shot landed
on a ribbon of thick grass above a sand trap. It is always most
interesting for the TV viewer when one of these titans of the
dimpled round ball is in trouble. After stomping around, pondering,
examining, analyzing the shot. Woods hit. He did not get the
ball close to the hole.
For a second he made a motion of throwng
his club, but resisted. It recalled a stunt promoted by the Druid
Hills golf course in Atlanta. It held a club-throwing contest.
The winner threw 61 yards. History does not record if it was
the legendary club-thrower, Tommy Bolt, who prevailed.
A puzzlement: when
Nick Watney knocked a ball in from 208 yards for a double eagle,
one golf writer called this an albatross. A double
eagle is a positive achievement, an albatross conjures up the
mournful image of the albatross around the ancient mariners
neck in the Taylor Coleridge poem. I would call a double eagle
a deagle. I would also call a double bogie a woegie.
Webb Simpson earned
an Arnold Palmer golf scholarship at Wake Forest. It struck home
that he won on this Olympic course on which Palmer suffered one
of the worst defeats of his career in the 1966 Open. Palmer led
by seven strokes with nine holes to play and five strokes with
four holes left. He was so intent on breaking Ben Hogans
72-hole Open record, he lost his cool and was beaten by Billy
I happened to be the only reporter in the
locker room when Jack Nicklaus came over to Palmer, slumped on
a bench with his head down. Nicklaus patted him on the shoulder,
consoling him. Palmer shook his head with a what can you
do motion. I left quietly.
NBC paired the two legendary upset winners,
Caspar and Jack Fleck, for an interview. Fleck, who upset Ben
Hogan in 1955. is 90, Caspar almost 81. Bob Costas was properly
respectful saying, Mr. Fleck, Mr. Caspar. Costas
I followed Nicklaus
one year in the British Open at Hoylake outside of Liverpool.
During a pause he told me, Have you seen the sweaters?
A terrific bargain." He referred to the Pringle sweaters
on display at a merchandise tent. I was struck by a millionaire
relishing a bargain. I dutifully visited the Pringle display
and bought Pringle sweaters that made a hero out of Nicklaus-and
me-for the four Isaacs women. I always had the feeling watching
Nicklaus that he really was never in trouble. No matter how bad
a lie, he seemed able to come up with the shot that got him into
The Open course was
too difficult. This tournament was not the entertainment that
the Masters Tournament invariably is because there were relatively
few approach shots leading to birdies. The Masters closing
holes feature make-or-break shots which excite viewers whether
they succeed or fail. I liked Bubba Watsons apt description
after not making the cut: The course beat me up.
shouters were out in full force yelling after drives; anything
to be on television
I could do without the players who diddle
and daddle to a faretheewell lining up shots, then pausing anew
before actually hitting the ball
The announcers refer to
Davis Love III. Were Davis Loves I and II so famous that this
bloke has to be differentiated with the roman numerals?...Peaacocks
are drab compared to the Orange Julius-like outfit of Ricky Fowler
in the final round
Phil Mickelson wore bankers pin-striped
dark pants, matching the Barclay Bank insignia on his shirt.
And oh, yes, for the umpteeth time: poor Phil Mickelson.
An almost comical vignette.
Lee Westwood waiting, hoping that a ball he hit onto a cypress
tree would fall, which happened to Lee Jantzen on his way to
winning the 1998 Open on this course. After at least a five-minute
wait Westwood had to go back and hit another ball.
Attention: Ray Milland:
This was Tiger Woods Lost Weekend.
©2012 by Stan Isaacs.
The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The photo
of Webb Simpson is courtesy of Wikipedia. This column first posted
June 18, 2012.
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