From the Morning Read inbox
October 8, 2018
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Drive-and-gouge golf has been around for century
Much has been said recently about PGA Tour players who strive for distance off the tee, with no worry about ending up in the rough. If in the rough, a short iron is muscled to extricate the ball from a thick lie and get on the green.

Concerned golfers think this “drive and gouge” philosophy has eclipsed many classic tournament sites and made them obsolete, and the drive-and-gouge philosophy by American Ryder Cup members led to their recent loss on a course with tight fairways and heavy rough.

Some think that drive and gouge is something new that probably began with Tiger Woods when he joined the PGA Tour in 1996. But there have been many players over the years who liked to drive and gouge.

In the early days of international golf, there was Englishman Ted Ray, who is best remembered, along with Harry Vardon, for losing the 1913 U.S. Open to American amateur Francis Ouimet in a playoff. But Ray also was known as an avowed drive-and-gouger who stated his philosophy quite simply: “I would rather play from the rough with a niblick [an 8/9-iron] than from the fairway with my mashie [a 5/6-iron].” Cartoonists loved to depict Ray playing from the rough, teeth clenched on his pipe, wearing his standard baggy coat and ever-present trilby hat, and dirt, gorse and heather flying around him. Galleries loved his prodigious drives and his recovery shots from the rough.

Ray’s drive-and-gouge play worked for him. He won a host of tournaments, including the British Open in 1912 and the U.S. Open in 1920. His long drives helped him to victory in 1920 at Toledo’s Inverness Club. The seventh hole at Inverness was 334 yards long, with a quarry forming a dogleg. Ray played over the quarry, requiring a 275-yard carry, each of the four rounds of the Open, making a birdie each time. That gave Ray his edge to win the Open by a stroke.

The drive-and-gouge philosophy started more than 100 years ago and will continue for as long as the game is played.

John Fischer
Cincinnati

(Fischer, a retired attorney, is a golf historian who is a past president of the Golf Collectors Society and a longtime member of the USGA’s Museum and Library Committee.)


Everything to lose and nothing to gain
Let me add another excuse for the American Ryder Cup team: Attitude.

We are the best team, and we have the best tour. Why do we have to prove that every two years? We have to travel 5,000-plus miles, with no pay, and participate in something in which we have all to lose and nothing to gain. The U.S. players’ attitude: I would rather be fishing. Ryder Cup will do nothing for my career.

The Europeans have just the opposite attitude: I grew up watching these matches, and I want to be a part of them. There is no other place or thing I would rather do than to beat the Americans.

I don’t think either attitude will change. The Americans still can win, but they never will experience the thrill of victory as do the Europeans.

Jerry Adams
The Woodlands, Texas


Why can’t we all just get along?
Let's just simply celebrate the great game of golf. The fans tell the story. They are the reason why the Ryder Cup exists, not the players. The fans support everything in the game.

I have one suggestion: When it’s all over and one team wins and the other does not, celebrate together in one big room, with both teams sharing the gift that they have been given to encourage sportsmanship and not care a bit about who won or lost.

The Ryder Cup was supposed to be an event to bring us closer together. Instead, it has become something far from that. We have enough of that in the real world.

Bob Geismar
Boca Raton, Fla.



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Woods, Mickelson have no place in Ryder decisions
How can Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson be allowed to be involved in future Ryder Cup committees/decisions when you

consider their records, divisive presence and narcissistic

interests?

Larry Guli
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


A simple analysis
It seems that many observers were disappointed by the results of the Ryder Cup because there were such high hopes that the U.S. team would win.

This year's team was called one of the best ever. Why? Because there were so many winners of major championships? Consider that three out of four majors are in America. It's like giving ourselves a trophy and then saying, “Aren't we great!”

Very few Europeans even come to America to compete. And likewise, even fewer Americans go to Europe to compete in their tournaments. Yet three of the majors are held in America. And that's our basis for saying we're favored to win.

Americans are biased toward Americans, and many underestimate the quality of European golfers. Maybe the French Open should be a major.

It looks like we already are setting high expectations for the 2020 Ryder Cup. Steve Stricker will be the captain, and he's from Wisconsin and Whistling Straits is in Wisconsin. So, what? Does he have some secret knowledge about the course that he will tell the American team?

The European team just plain outplayed us.

Joe Matula
Palos Park, Ill.


Doomed from the start
I see a lot of talk from fans, analysis by sports writers and excuses (and finger-pointing) by players about why the U.S. team lost overseas again in the Ryder Cup. So, let me add to the cacophony by emphasizing two words: Preparation and leadership. The Europeans had both; the Americans had neither.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk had a group of individuals; European captain Thomas Bjorn built a team. Furyk failed in his pairings, his captain’s picks (except for Tony Finau) and his inspiration and leadership for the players at critical times.

The Europeans had played many more competitive rounds at Le Golf National than had the Americans before Ryder Cup week. Why didn’t captain Furyk insist that his team play the course before the matches? Part of that blame can go to the PGA of America for not giving him the authority to insist. Bottom line: No one, not even pros with major victories, can play well the first time upon seeing a course.

The PGA needs to go back to the drawing board and, once again, redefine what is needed to win the Ryder Cup – not just at home but overseas, as well.

Carl Nilsson
Jacksonville, Ore.


He’s had his fill of Phil
I am sick of Phil Mickelson’s behavior. It started quite a while back, but intensified since the “hockey” putt at the U.S. Open.

Mickelson repeatedly has criticized the USGA, the PGA Tour, course superintendents throughout the PGA Tour and European venues, and numerous other organizations and individuals. Senility and/or Alzheimer's usually don’t hit at age 48, but …

Maybe he should just play bingo and shuffleboard, and pingpong until he can play the senior tour.

Mickelson has made many millions and has had a truly remarkable career. He has become a whiny, ungrateful has-been. His crappy Ryder Cup performances are the captain's fault, or the course setup. Or, maybe, his go-for-broke style, wild driver and oversized ego make him a repeated also-ran (at best) or, more likely, a pathetic has-been who can't admit fault nor accept the fact that it's time to shut up and let his game speak for itself.

Though, if he decides to do that, the silence, while appreciated, might be deafening.

Mike McFerron
Prescott, Ariz.


A rough perspective on Mickelson
Friday evening, I caught the tail end of a commentator's question to Phil Mickelson about the Ryder Cup problem. Mickelson’s excuse was that the fairway was too narrow and the rough was too rough, almost to the point of being unplayable, and he doesn't play golf that way. From now on, he will play golf only on courses that play his way: wide-open fairways and 3-inch roughs.

Mickelson is supposed to be a professional golfer who can play golf anywhere, under odd conditions, but evidently, he's a prima donna to whom tournament officials must cater.

If he can't control/shape his shots for the courses, then he should leave his clubs in the garage and stay home, and stop looking for a handout.

Bobby Goforth
Bristol, Tenn.


European blueprint could reshape game
If the powers-that-be were paying attention to the results of the Ryder Cup instead of thinking about whom to blame for the American loss, there might be some valuable lessons learned about the future ways in which the PGA Tour should operate.

There has been so much talk over the past couple of years about the tremendous impact that advanced technology has had on the professional game. We now see perpetual debate on the subject. Has the technology outstripped the design of the courses? Are the players so much better today? Should the courses be modified to match the technology and the players? Should there be regulations to restrict the technology? Should the courses be lengthened? Should there be a standardized ball for all players? Should there be a different set of rules for professionals and amateurs? Does it seem reasonable that a tournament ends with the winner more than 20 under par? Should the game/courses be designed so the average professional scores par on most rounds? Should there be a professional par and an amateur par for each hole?

The course near Paris, Le Golf National, didn’t seem to elicit any of the traditional questions. Technology didn’t seem to be an issue. Perhaps this European course has the obvious answer (which, by the way, is why the Europeans won the Ryder Cup). Americans have learned a game that matches the typical North American course. When playing on a European course (especially one modified for the Ryder Cup), they don’t fare as well. It is notable that the American scores weren’t much below par on most holes for most of the players, even with all of the latest technology.

Hitting longer is no advantage if the ball misses the fairway.

Perhaps that is the answer to the debate. Perhaps if the American courses were modified to be more like the European courses, there’d be less angst about the technology. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the strategy required for professional golf. Fewer massive drives and wedge shots and more placement and course management. Who would care if a professional can hit the ball more than 330 yards if the hole doesn’t require that shot? If the objective were to place the ball more accurately rather than blast it as far as possible, why would we care about the latest design of the driver face or the shaft flexibility or the number of layers on the ball?

Detractors often shout that we don’t want to take away the long ball. Apparently, that’s what all serious golf fans want to watch. Personally, watching the inevitable TV shot of the ball flying through the air (with the obligatory zoom-in and then zoom-out) isn’t interesting sports viewing. Does it really matter how long we watch it sail through the air? Instead, I’d prefer to see them carefully manage the course and make strategic decisions with their clubs and the placement of the shot. That’s what makes them professionals. I don’t know why we are so obsessed with the long ball. I received an advertisement in my inbox entitled, “Want to crush your next tee shot farther than ever?” If courses were redesigned, ads like this one would be irrelevant.

Phil Mickelson said it perfectly. He criticized Le Golf National as being “almost unplayable.” Why? Because he wants to be able to hit it aggressively (which means long and off-line) and then recover out of the rough. He wants a course where he can bang it hard and it won’t matter whether he gets into trouble. Therein lies the problem. If they don’t fix the courses (and subsequently the strategic nature of professional golf), they will have to fix the technology. The current approach is not sustainable.

Garry Tollefson
Regina, Saskatchewan


Perhaps Mickelson would find his fountain of youth
Dear Phil Mickelson,
I totally appreciate your point of view regarding golf courses. Many of us hacks are just like you. We want to play places that suit our games. Leave those tough tracks to the masochists.

Come on over to St. Augustine, Fla., and I'll try to get you on St. Johns Golf and Country Club. It's not too long, and the rough isn't very penal. The greens are terrific. You can play from whatever tees you want. Bring 10 bucks, and you can get in our game.

Jim Kavanagh
St. Augustine, Fla.


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