The World Cup of Mail.

She's Got the Right Idea.

She’s Got the Right Idea.

I can’t remember why I adopted Switzerland during the last El Cupo Worldo.  Was it their stifling defense?  Their unwavering neutrality?  Hard to say, but I don’t see any real reason to change my allegiances now after that smooth win over Ecuador.  After all, if the US makes a run, I can always just watch the reaction videos on YouTube and feel like I was there.

Q: You strike me as someone who might be concerned with the portion reduction and price increases going on at restaurants, thoughts?  E. Leven Fries, Topeka, KS.

A: I feel like I’ve been hearing about this increase in food prices for a while, but it has just started to sink in, leaving an unfortunate hollow feeling in my wallet and my gut.  I was at a restaurant the other day and they had the stones to charge $16 for a French Dip.  I’m sorry, I wanted a roast beef sandwich–not a DIAMOND.  So, I ordered it anyway, because I was already trapped and inside the restaurant.  Imagine my relief when they compensated by giving me a quart of “jus.”  GREAT.  So, there was my sandwich, my soup bowl of jus and some fries on the plate for sixteen bucks.  The food was perfectly fine, but COME ON.  I’ve noticed portions dwindling all over the place.  I’ve noticed a lot people asking if you want lemon in your water, which is great for me, because I DO NOT, but really?  Every other condiment is getting rationed out in a little cup, like you got one pass through the line at Fuddruckers.  It is a disturbing, disturbing trend.  I’m worried the country’s obesity epidemic could be in danger.

Q: What floor would you have to live on to take the elevator consistently, assuming you had access to one?  Second, right?  Matt Stares, Camden, NJ.  

A:  I currently live on the ground floor of a building with an elevator, and I have ridden that elevator a few times for NO PARTICULAR REASON.  It’s amazing that in these modern times an elevator can feel like such an extravagance. My elevator frame of reference is going to take me back to college where I lived on various floors of various buildings where I wasn’t exactly supposed to have elevator access.  Sophomore year we lived on the 4th floor and for a time we had access to an elevator key.  Hard to put into words how important an elevator key makes you feel. I don’t remember if it was gained through bribery, or through fake injury, but it was a coveted item.  Four flights of stairs is a lot, especially in the wee hours of the morn.  That said, I walked up and down those stairs hundreds of times and allowed myself to feel a sense of accomplishment.  I’m the guy who would walk up four flights with a pizza and scoff at the guy getting off the elevator on his way back from an 83-minute kettlebell workout.  Because my legs are bit older now than they were in college, I’m putting the cutoff at the 4th floor.  Fourth floor, I’m riding. Anything less than that I am pretending I am getting a great workout–unless I’m carrying something, like A grocery, then ride–obviously.  

Q: It’s been over 40 years since Miller High Life trotted out the 7 oz. pony bottle.  Is this a valid way to drink beer?  Yul Pint, Tacoma, WA.

A:  I’ve never had a High Life in a pony bottle.  Can anyone drink JUST 7 ounces of the champagne of beers?  Your question inspired me to do some research on the pony bottle and it seems like it was invented by YOUR Rolling Rock brewery, of Latrobe, PA, after the depression.  It seems that a full 12 oz. was a bit steep for some of the folks still getting their feet under them, so this was a way to drink after work and still MAYBE have enough money for food–or whatever.  Rolling Rock is the first beer I ever had in pony bottle, probably at some “pony party,” in college, which sounds like a great idea until you end up with twice as many empties and floaters.  Is it a valid way to drink beer?  Pretty much any way to drink beer is a valid way to drink beer.  Why would I judge?  I think Rolling Rock is horrible, so 7 ounces might be more palatable than 12, but if it’s your beer of choice and you like collecting little bottles for arts and crafts, or to put in with your kid’s lunch–BY ALL MEANS–go pony.  

Q: Is cat litter getting a bit too descriptive?  Do I need to know that it’s SUPER CLUMP?  

A:  Cat litter is an interesting product, because I’m sure some of it works better than others, but in a certain sense, none of it REALLY works.  I guarantee if your cat lets it happen and you are within nose-shot, you are going to know about it and it’s going to be unpleasant for a couple of minutes.  I guess after that the litter TAKES HOLD, but at that point the room still smells like 95% weird cat litter and 5% cat dumper.  This is what we put up with to have pets.  The cat litter process is really no more or less weird or disgusting than walking miles with digested Kibbles & Bits in a plastic baggy.  Our pets really have us by the balls sometimes.  I have not bought cat litter myself in a long time.  Every once in a while, back in the day, when we had a bunch of cats I might have to pick some up, but we just bought it in industrial sized drums.  Four Petco employees would just forklift it out to the car.  We weren’t reading slogans, we just wanted the BEST VALUE per pound of litter.  Or something.  If this is the direction we’re going though, I have a few ideas–New FRESH STEP PLUS with TURD COCOON POWER!

Q: Say we found another Earth.  Do you think the colonizers would treat it well, knowing how badly we have punished Earth One, or would history repeat itself and see the people just start immediately pumping toxic waste into the rivers?  Brooke Trout, Auburn, AL.

A: I think it’s pretty obvious Earth 2 is getting completely trashed.  It’s like if you told someone you would erase all the damage smoking has done to them over the past 40 years, do you think they’d immediately stop smoking?  No, they’d be like, YES, I now have probably a couple of years of guilt-free smoking, THEN I’LL QUIT.  Sure.  That’s what we’d do with Earth 2.  You’d want to recycle, but look at all that VIRGIN LANDFILL SPACE!  So enticing.  An ozone layer without a single hole?  Fully formed polar ice caps?  It’s a license to pollute.  Would people immediately start practicing sustainable forestry?  Or would they go right to the old growth for their kitchen floors?  I think we know how important hardwood is, so let’s not give the human race too much credit.  Earth 2 might be better off, because we probably wouldn’t be burning coal for 100 years and maybe the chemicals wouldn’t go into the rivers, etc., but I certainly wouldn’t expect any ecological utopia.  

Q: I saw a grocery store the other day selling a patio set for $300.  I do not know if this is a particularly good deal for a patio set, but who buys a patio set at a grocery store?  This wasn’t a yuppie grocery store either, this was an old-school one.  Quick and dirty.  Is a patio set an impulse buy?

A:  Was the patio set displayed by the register with the batteries and M&Ms?  Because then it might be an impulse buy.  Sometimes I think grocery stores have stuff just to fill up space.  They are big stores.  Got a little gap?  How about a giant cage of balls?  I’ve started seeing clothing with the town’s name on it–really?  Milk, eggs, and a sweatshirt that says EXTON please.  So, maybe the patio set just looks good to fill up the space in the summer.  Maybe it reminds people–SH*T, I need charcoal, or something like that and if someone happens to be stupid enough to actually buy it?  TREMENDOUS.  If not, you just trot that thing out the next year at $325.  That’s called inflation.  Of course, maybe this is a really good deal and I don’t even know. Maybe people in the know buy ALL their furniture at Giant.  I just googled “patio set,” and the prices range quite wildly.  It seems like the grocery store isn’t all the way at the bottom of the list though.  Certain outlets would be willing to put you in a patio set for as little as $199.  This furniture will turn to dust the first time it rains and probably grow wildly contaminating mold all over it, but still–SAVINGS.  

 

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All Hail Coore and Crenshaw.

These Geniuses Could Probably Fix Pickering.

These Geniuses Could Probably Fix Pickering.

I can’t wait for the U.S. Open to start this week, partly because it is possibly my favorite major, but also because I want to see what Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore have done to the place.  I’ve seen pictures.  I’ve heard stories, but I don’t think it’s going to sink in until we see the course under tournament conditions.  I have a pretty strong memory of Pinehurst.  The 1999 U.S. Open, for obvious reasons, was probably the pinnacle of my golf fandom.  Pinehurst produced an unmatched leaderboard that year, but it did so with ribbons of fairway and heavy rough.  Crenshaw and Coore have blown the place up, restoring all that original grandeur.  The fairways now meld into waste areas, the rough is non-existent, and it should be as spectacular and difficult as ever.

Coore and Crenshaw restore as well as they create.  There are several highly regarded designers out there right now (Doak, Hanse, etc), but I don’t know if anyone gets as consistently praised as these two and they deserve it.  This U.S. Open might help put golf course architect at the top of Ben Crenshaw’s resume rather than Masters Champion, and I honestly think in 50 or 100 years if we’re still playing golf and all the great courses haven’t been taken over for windmill farms, that Crenshaw could be better known for his courses than his on-course exploits.

The older the golf course and the older its designer, the more esteem we seem to give, the thought being that a new course can not instantly be great.  We’ve started to get away from that a little bit with the help of places like Bandon Dunes, or the Coore & Crenshaw masterpiece, Sand Hills.  But, I think time will only make us fonder of the work these two guys are doing.

So, what are we expecting for this U.S. Open at the digitally remastered Pinehurst?

For me there are three stories this week.  The first, is the course, which I just touched on.  Not only is this the wide release debut of the redesign, but Pinehurst is tasked with hosting back-t0-back events.  The women will have their U.S. Open on the same course next week.  So in addition to how it’s playing, there will be a level of concern about how the course is holding up.  I think it’ll do just fine.

The players will be taking center stage, though, and leading the way are Phil and Rory.  With Tiger still sidelined with his back injury, we look to Phil and Rory to fill that void and both are doing an admirable job, with on and off-course exploits.  Rory has been alternately brilliant and awful since his 17th hole split with The Woz.  The course seems to set up perfectly for what Rory does well, when he’s doing it well.  Then, there’s Phil…

Phil has had an inconsistent year at best, but he’s mostly gotten a free pass because everyone knows he’s been pointing to this week.  Phil has become all about the majors in recent years and more specifically all about the majors he hasn’t won.  The career grand slam seems to be the last realistic goal that Mickelson wants to check off his list.  He’s never going to catch Tiger, so winning the U.S. Open would give him all four titles and no longer make him “that guy who finished second 6 times.”

In true Phil fashion, Mickelson added a bit of spice to the proceedings with his involvement in an insider trading investigation.  Phil had a little impromptu meeting with some FBI agents at the Memorial, who apparently wanted to know about one of Phil’s gambling buddies and some stock activity.  Mickelson claims he has no involvement, but I guess we’ll find that out soon enough.  If you asked me to construct a list of PGA players who I thought might get caught up in an insider trading scandal, Mickelson would shoot to the top of that list, but that doesn’t mean I won’t still be surprised if he’s guilty of something.  Philly Mick couldn’t handle prison, not even fancy Martha Stewart prison.

Getting back to Phil on the course, this does seem like it’s his last chance.  Right after Payne Stewart won in 1999 he was talking about how gratifying it was to take advantage of the opportunity, because he knew deep down that his chances were going to be limited.  Stewart was 42 at the time of his tragic death just months later, but he knew that his window for serious major contention was closing.  Mickelson is 43, and while equipment has made golfers effective later into their careers, with his physical ailments, family, and the crazy depth of the modern fields, you can’t feel too confident saying Phil could win his U.S. Open at 48, or 50.  It might need to happen now at a course where he should be able to work his magic and where he has some positive memories from past results.

After this year the Open goes to two new courses in three years (Erin Hills and Chambers Bay sandwiched around Oakmont), before visiting what would be a good Phil window in 2018-2020 (Shinnecock, Pebble, Winged Foot), but by then it may be too late.

I think it’s going to be a great week at Pinehurst.  This time last year we were worrying about the torrential rains ruining Merion, and that turned out to be mostly be wasted energy, but it’s nice to head into the week with no real worries about the golf course.

The Definitive, Yet Arbitrary, Top-10:

  1. Jim Furyk
  2. Rory McIlroy
  3. Dustin Johnson
  4. Sergio Garcia
  5. Henrik Stenson
  6. Miguel Angel Jimenez
  7. Bill Haas
  8. Jason Dufner
  9. Hideki Matsuyama
  10. Jordan Spieth

 

They’re Finally Mine.

Taylor Made Still Trying To Recapture This Glory.

Taylor Made Still Trying To Recapture This Glory.

What I guess I have to admit at this point is that it takes something huge to bring me back to the blog.  In fact, maybe it takes even more than that–a cluster of news.  We’re in the midst of a pretty big week.  There’s a little golf tournament being held in Pinehurst, NC starting Thursday, maybe you’ve heard of it?  It’s called the U.S. Open.  Also starting Thursday?  El Cupo Worldo.  It’s hard to believe that it has already been four years since an extra time goal against some random country unified the nation (for about 48 hours).  Then, we lost, and soccer was handed back to the fanatics.  But, I don’t want you to feel like I’ve lost my passion for Switzerland.  They’re back.  And, they’re dangerous.

Dwarfing these global sporting events though, was the completion of a longtime goal of mine.  I acquired a set of Taylor Made Forged 300 irons over the internet.  All they cost me was $87 (and probably some stolen credit card info).

The Taylor Made Forged 300 irons burst onto the scene during what I would call the dark ages of irons.  It was probably about 2002 and irons were frightfully boring.  I was still playing my Tommy Armours, going on about eight years at that point and it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.  Cast, cavity backs irons were everywhere.  It was as if the pinnacle of forgiveness had been reached and everyone was focusing on putting new and weird metals into woods.

Goldwin Driver Anyone?

Goldwin Driver Anyone?

I honestly don’t remember seeing an iron that really caught my eye.  Callaway was happily running with their x-14, x-16 family, Titleist was making very difficult to hit irons with random three digit numbers on them, Ping was still trying to recreate the Eye 2’s success…no one cared.  I worked at a golf course during this time that probably housed 350-400 sets of clubs.  I admit now that I tried out several of these drivers, but trying out an iron?  Who cared at that point.  There was exactly one set of clubs in the entire room that interested me–Snake Eyes blades.

Forged By Smith and Wesson.

Forged By Smith and Wesson.

There was a guy who couldn’t play a lick and he had a set of these 1-PW.  That’s one-iron through pitching wedge. Obviously, I had to try that 1-iron.  My memory now is that I hit complete bullets with it, but maybe that was not the case.

I saw the Forged 300s for the first time at a college golf practice.  They immediately caught my eye.  And, even though this was just before the failed blade iron experiment of 2003, maybe in my heart I knew I would never be a guy who hit blades.  These were in the neighborhood, though.  JUST AS SHINY.  That invisible top line.  Swoon.  The four-figure price tag brought me back to reality, though and they were mostly forgotten for a year or two until I ended up at another golf course, this one in possession of a set of demo Forged 300s that were left sitting around from a prehistoric fitting cart.

That was really where I fell in love, with my Tommy Armours falling apart and my MP-14s shamefully hidden in my trunk, I’d steal 10-15 balls at a time with these clubs and I loved the feel.  I finally played a set of forged clubs about 5-6 years ago, the Callaway X-Forged, but shortly after I stopped playing so much and my game went sideways.  Back to the cast.  This didn’t stop my periodic perusal of eBay for the holy grail, but in testament to the class of these sticks, the price hovered above dabbling range for a long time.

Maybe it’s the emergence of the newer, quality forged cavity backs that finally drove the 300 Forged into my price range.  If you have $1,100 I’d recommend the Callaway Apex in a heartbeat over the 300 Forged.  They don’t look as good, but they feel nice and they go nine miles.

Distance.  Perhaps this was my last hurdle as well.  I’ve always been someone who assigned a good portion of their golf identity to how far I hit my irons.  I was never the longest with the driver, especially after the ball explosion, but there weren’t many people out there that could scorch a 9-iron like I could and when I went to the forged irons in 2008 even being at the top of my game I lost probably almost a club in distance.  I was still hitting the ball plenty long enough, but psychologically I wasn’t comfortable.  Now, I’m not as long as I was when I was 25 anyway and I’m planning on starting a hybrid revolution in my bag, so maybe it’s OK if I now hit 9-iron ONLY 150.  And, those flatware looking long irons?  Gone.

I got to play my first round with these sweeties the other day.  I had them re-gripped.  In another twist of fate, the clubs were already +1/2 inch–hooray!  It was a bit of a mixed bag of results.  I found that I still hit a lot of wedges, and there was a VERY unfortunate swing with a 5-iron (buys 26 degree hybrid), but I also completely flushed two 7-irons and if we’re being honest that worth the 80 bucks.  Easily.