Sunday, January 29, 2012

It works for Elk, and now it's on video

Steve Elkington is more than a championship player. He’s a questing soul, a seeker of truth and beauty in the art, science and sorcery of golf.

Last spring (The Blogolfosphere, May 10, 2011), Craig Foster got an email from Elkington, a 10-time winner on the PGA tour, including the 1995 PGA Championship. Elkington had been testing out Foster's Dynalign© system, and he wanted Foster in Houston, like right now, for a first-hand tutorial with the inventor.

Which brings us ‘round to the epidemic, maybe even pandemic, which nonetheless lies outside the jurisdiction of the Centers for Disease Control. So, too, are the USGA and the Royal and Ancient silent on the subject. Which does not mean it hasn’t caught the attention of people in high places.

It started among old people, old golfers, to be precise, but it didn’t stop there. Keegan Bradley, the twenty-something PGA Championship winner in 2011, caught the disease, and he’s living with it today.

Elkington (left) and Foster teamed to make the DynAlign video.

What “it” is is the belly putter, and it’s all the more lamentable, according to guys like Craig Foster, because it’s 100 percent preventable.

Foster, an Olympia, Wash., golf inventor and golf club technician, believes his DynAlign golf alignment system will do everything a belly putter can do, all with a traditional putter, i.e., it will firm up your stroke and take all the slack and floppy variables out of your flatstick game.

Foster, despite no help from golf’s officialdom or epidemiologists, is far from alone in decrying belly putters, which allow a golfer to jam the shaft of a long putter into his gut where it is held firm, negating the natural looseness of free-hanging arms with a normal putter in hand.

Debating the fairness of the belly putter is a losing battle, right now, and Foster would rather talk about his DynAlign system, which uses the natural physics of the arms’ skeletal structure to remove the hands and wrists from the putt.

Elkington is a true believer in DynAlign, and for good reason: it works for him. Elkington, 49, is no fogey about anything new if it enhances the golf experience, and he went on Twitter last week to shout the good news. The stats are solid as bone: In 2011 PGA Tour play, Elkington was 368-for-368 on putts of four feet and in.

Last spring, when Elkington beckoned Foster to the Champions Club in Houston, he had his fulltime video guy running a camera from the time Foster climbed into his car at the airport.

The result is “The Stroke of the Future,” a video course in DynAlign mechanics. It’s available only from Elkington’s Web site, Secret in the Dirt (, which the golf literati is learning is the place to come to steep in the craft and theory of golf.

The download from Secret in the Dirt costs $35, and to sweeten the deal a 45-page .pdf file of Foster’s original DynAlign instruction manual is included, along with a transcript of the video.

“The first person I know of who downloaded it is a guy from Madrid who joined my Dirt group a few days ago,” Foster said. “He improved his putting just by watching the promo videos, and he was very enthusiastic about DynAlign.”

Foster has stayed patient with the marketing process for DynAlign, because he, like Elkington, knows it works, and no burying a shaft in your belly necessary.

“It feels like I have just reached the top of a mountain after a long climb,” said Foster. “That's a pretty good payoff in itself.”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mother Nature and other proud mamas

Jan. 20, 2012, 12:21 a.m. PST
In the fast-twitch world of blogs and tweets and tubes, it’s only right that Mother Nature has her say, too.

It’s past midnight, and the guys are still working at the end of the street to rebuild the power pole that tilted under the weight of frozen snow and the big fir tree that cracked off mid-trunk and crashed down on the power lines over my driveway.

So I, curious if not brave, step carefully over the wire lying in the snow and slog (it’s raining now) down the block to see how the work is going.

They’re waiting on a load of gravel to pack in around the pole, then they’ll reattach the wires. Forty-eight hours, they say, ‘til we’re back to normal.

It’s cold, and wet, and I’m so grateful for the work they’re doing on my behalf that I think, gee whiz, I should whip up a batch of cookies for the boys and take it right on out. But my power’s out, and I can’t bake any fucking cookies, nor can I write or post a blog in the usual way.

So it’s longhand, for now, by cold candlelight, as I write about two men playing golf in the sunshine.

Jan. 22, 2012, 12:21 p.m. PST
Gary Christian (Blogolfosphere, Jan. 19) never really fired a shot in his first PGA Tour tournament last week, missing the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii with back-to-back 73s. This week is more like it, he will tell you.

"I played my game," said Christian — which , for him, seems to mean hitting his irons tight and making his putts — in a first-round 66, three off the lead, at the Humana Challenge (they used to call it the Bob Hope Classic) in La Quinta, Calif.

The only blight on an otherwise tidy scoreboard at the Nicklaus Resort Course was a double on No.  6, a 406-yard par-4, when he hit a hybrid into the water and then hit a flyer over the green.

As well as he was hitting it Thursday, Christian was happier about his mental toughness. His favorite hole came early on the back nine, when he drove the ball way right to a difficult lie, then, still mindful of his trials on 6, hit the "best iron I've hit in a couple months" in close, and made the putt.

"It could have been a dismal number," he said, "and I got a birdie."

On Friday, he followed up with a bogey-free 68 on the Palmer Private Course. It doesn't take a golf genius to propose that a lot of rounds like that will earn Christian, 40, a ton of money on the game's top tour.

Saturday, Christian played two-over through nine holes before the powers-that-be shut down play because of excessive high winds. He was one-under through the first seven holes at La Quinta Country Club before taking a (wind-aided?) double on No. 8 and a bogey on 9.

Mother Nature does like to stick her nose in there now and then.

Players were to resume third-round play this morning and then go right into the fourth  round. Weather permitting.

Christian is a rookie, but at 40 he's no golf newbie. TJ Bordeaux is a rookie in every traditional sense of the word. He’s young (23) and a newly minted professional, working his craft on the NGA Pro Golf Tour in Florida.

Now, he’s also a winner. He picked up his first champion’s check ($13,500) Wednesday, outlasting two veteran pros in a three-way playoff at the NGA Winter Series event at Red Tail Golf Club in Sorrento, Fla. He opened with a 64, his low score as a pro, then shot 68 and 70 in the next two rounds 

Bordeaux had a 150-yard second shot, into the strong wind of an approaching thunderstorm, on the second playoff hole, stuck it to five feet, and made his birdie putt. Danny Ellis had a similar second shot, but didn't hit it as close, and couldn't get his putt to drop.

The players got the playoff done just before the rain poured and the thunder roared, Bordeaux said.  

The win comes on the heels of a tie for fourth in his previous tournament. It's all a continuation of a process, Bordeaux says, that every new pro goes through.

"It's respect for the game," says Bordeaux, of Tacoma and the University of the Pacific. "The talent level is deep, and you have to be that much smarter and that much more confident in your game."


What links the two men, Bordeaux and Christian, the through line from Sorrento to La Quinta, is their relationship to a woman who is pretty new herself at what she does.

They are among the first signees of Heather Deranek, 31, of Seattle by way of Gig Harbor, Wash., who hung up a shingle as a sports agent just this past August.

Deranek was a proud "mama" when she heard about Bordeaux's victory.

"With his skill and hard work, this is going to be the first of many," Deranek said. "He has a bright future ahead of him, and I am thrilled to have him on  my team."


Pretty obvious, by now, that power has been restored to my working domain ... in case you were keeping track at home.

Friday, January 13, 2012

You never forget your first

When you’re 40 years old and playing in your first PGA Tour round, the word assigned to you, rather than “rookie,” might as well be “virgin.”

Gary Christian
Nobody said sportswriters are original thinkers.

Well, Gary Christian has lost his innocence, and it only took two holes.

The Englishman started his first PGA round on the back nine at Waialae Country Club, site of the Sony Open of Hawaii, and No. 10, his first hole, was smooth as silk — a birdie.

Then it got gnarly. His tee shot on No. 11, a 196-yard par-3, clipped a big frond of the palm tree just left of the green … and disappeared. The TV camera couldn’t find it, officials couldn’t find it, he couldn’t find it. All he can figure is the palm tree ate his ball. He took a drop, and a double,

“An interesting start to my PGA career,” said Christian, who went on from there to shoot 73, three over par. He sat in a tie for 89th after the first day, 10 strokes behind leader Graham DeLaet.

Christian had bogies on 15 and 16 on the first (back) nine, then played the front nine in even par, birdieing No. 9 to offset his lone bogey on No. 3.

“It was just nice to get back playing again,” said Christian, who hadn’t played a tournament round in 10 weeks. “You lose that competitive edge.”

He’ll need some birdies today (he tees off at 1:10 p.m. Honolulu time) if he wants to play on the weekend. He was upbeat about his first PGA round — he hit it solidly and was not inordinately nervous, he said.

“I just didn’t putt well enough today,” he said Thursday night.

Of the 24 PGA Tour rookies who teed off in Honolulu, Christian is the oldest.

Christian was a “decent amateur” in England, he says. He first took up a golf club when his dad cut down some hickory-shafted irons for him at age 2 or 3. Golf came naturally to him, but he didn’t pick it up again seriously until his mid-teens.

He came to the U.S. to play at a two-year college in Wallace, Ala., and did well enough to earn a scholarship to Auburn University. As a junior, he was all-Southeastern Conference; as a senior, he said, “I fell off the face of the Earth.”

He scuffled on various mini-tours, where you might pay $800 or more to enter a tournament.

"You can play pretty decent and still not make food money for the week," he said. "Every penny counts, but it’s a great proving ground. It teaches you how to win.”

HeChristian eventually went on to play 165 events on the Nationwide Tour. He broke out in 2011, when he won once (the Mylan Classic), with three top-10s and 10 top-25s, and earned more than $260,000, ninth on the Nationwide money list and solidly among “The 25” Nationwide money-winners who earn PGA Tour status.

No matter what happens today in Honolulu, or on the weekend if he makes the cut, he’ll be on TV on Sunday. Christian is among the featured players on “Ticket to the Tour,” which airs on NBC at 2:30 p.m.

“Mine’s obviously an interesting story,” Christian said. He hopes, after the first few tournaments, that he’ll be known less for his age, his rookie status and the undeniably good tale he can tell … and more for how well he’s playing.

Gary Christian, a virgin no more.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Conversation: It could save your marriage

Make no mistake, I, for one, appreciate the thought. I am very reluctant to discourage the impulse. They are the ones, after all, who love you and want you to be happy.

That they might have been slow to catch on that golf is the most important thing in your life (and still might not realize that a round of golf doesn’t really take 10 hours), well, better late than never.

So, therefore, in their dawning recognition of golf’s place in your world, they might have, in all good intentions, thought that gadgets and gimmicks and googaws are just the things you really, really need to make your golf experience complete.

If so, the golf gifts you got for Christmas are sure to be useless and not funny and not even suitable for the back shelf in the darkest corner behind the shot glass collection in your man cave (which, I’m told, is a phrase that is officially on the outs with lexicographers).

If so, you have clearly not had The Conversation. The one that begins, “Honey, I love you, but …" and goes on to say that, gee, hon, I really appreciate that you gave me a golf gift, but in the future …

However delicately you phrase it, what you need to get across is this: Go big or not at all.

On the off-chance your loved one intuited you badly need an upgrade in your irons, first you can hope they didn’t see that killer deal at Costco. Second, if you were truly frank and honest in The Conversation, your loved one might have picked up on two words that are music to the ears of a serious golfer:

Gift certificate.

If so, you might right about now be getting around to spending it. With a really big number (four figures, anyone?), you could get a new set of irons and the hybrids and wedges to match. The Razr X irons by Callaway and the Ping G20s are getting a lot of buzz, and anything TaylorMade, I’m told, is flying off the racks.

And remember that hot new set from last year? Like, say, the G15s. This year, you can still find 'em new at a reputable golf shop, and it will cost hundreds of dollars less than this year’s latest and greatest. And watch for specials … paying less is no sin.

Anybody savvy enough to have had The Conversation would know that custom-fitting that new set is an absolute must. You might be tall or short, and your clubs need to reflect that, and the off-the-shelf lie angle might not be just right for your precisely calibrated golf swing.

(That you need to be on the lookout, especially online, for counterfeit clubs that are damnably hard to tell apart from legitimate brand-name clubs is a subject for another column.)

If you’re happy with your current clubs, a mid-range certificate, say, $500, could get a smart-shopping guy a top-shelf rainsuit, or a new push-cart, and maybe have room for a pair of Footjoys and a couple-three dozen golf balls of his choice.

Smaller denominations, well, you can certainly find something useful and handy that you might not get around to owning if you were spending your own money.

So OK: If you’ve had The Conversation, and your loved one blessed you with a gift certificate, well, that gives them a little grace, because they love you and want you to be happy, if they also kick in a trinket or two.

And they will be hopeless, of course, for use in an actual game of golf, but you won’t mind putting them front and center on a shelf (even if it’s out of anyone’s actual line of sight) in your man cave … if I might be allowed to call it that.