Holiday Gifts on My List

It certainly not too early to start buying holiday gifts and here are some that would be a treat to find under the tree. In the case of golf clubs please consider gift certificates since purchasing a club that doesn’t fit the swing of the recipient is something to be avoided.

Club Champion Gift Certificate: Right at the top of the list is a club fitting from Club Champion. With 26 locations around the country and the ability to select the right clubhead and shaft combination from 35,000 possibilities on site, the gift of a custom club fitting is a real winner. It the same experience touring pros use to get exactly the correct clubs and every golfer will benefit. Purchase at any Club Champion or at ClubChampionGolf.com.

Bermuda Sands Polos: Bermuda Sands makes some great looking golf polos but we especially like the Hemingway, a Cuban-inspired floral tonal print fabric made with classic style. It is ideal for any occasion whether playing golf or just hanging with friends. The eight percent Spandex woven into the poly material provides just a little stretch for comfortable fit. Retail price is $77 at BerumudaSandsApparel.com.

ClubGlider by Sun Mountain: Let’s face it, air travel with golf clubs is a pain. Getting from the car to bag check and then bag check to the car, etc., is something to be endured. The usual wheeled travel bags are OK but only until you’ve done a trip with Sun Mountain’s ClubGlider. ClubGlider ($290) has rugged construction, lots of padding and useful pockets but the standout feature is it has four wheels so it is a breeze to pull, maneuver and even wait in line. The front wheels easily lock into place when needed and fold back when not. Club Glider may not be able to make transporting clubs fun but certainly less of a hassle. See more at SunMountain.com.

ECCO S-DRIVE: You can spend a lot more for golf shoes but at $160 the S-DRIVE is lightweight and comfortable and with all the performance you want on the course. The laces are off to the side, what they call asymmetrical, and provide a “close to the foot fit” for lots of stability while swinging. The upper is soft mesh bonded with microfiber and then treated for water resistance. The sole is removable, gives lots breathability and is antimicrobial. See all the features at eccousa.com.

Miura Golf: The new Miura ICL-601 driving iron–Inner Cavity Long iron–is the latest in the MG Collection and meant to compliment any of their iron sets. The confidence-inspiring address position is not usually seen in a long iron and the cavity back design compliments the wider sole, lower center of gravity and larger sweet spot. Initially being offered in 18-, 20- and 23-degrees loft they are available through Miura authorized dealers for custom fitting.

Just the facts, ma’am” – Sgt. Joe Friday

The golf world is all aflutter with the impending return of Tiger Woods and that’s a good thing.

Heaven knows golf needs all the interest and enthusiasm it can get if only to stimulate more participation, more rounds, more equipment sales…well, you get the idea.

What is not needed is another big star complaining how far the ball goes and Woods during a recent podcast joined Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Hale Irwin among others saying golf is in trouble.

Quoting Woods, “We need to do something with the golf ball. I think it’s going too far because we’re having to build golf course[s], if they want to have a championship venue, they’ve got to be 7,400 to 7,800 yards long.”

As if this weren’t indictment enough he continued, “And if the game keeps progressing the way it is with technology, I think the 8,000-yard golf course is not too far away. And that’s pretty scary because we don’t have enough property to start designing these type of golf courses and it just makes it so much more complicated.”

Really? Complicated for who? Not fans nor ordinary golfers who hit 200-yard tee shots. Not when courses are closing left and right and the number of players continues to shrink.

The reason comments from Woods or Nicklaus or Player are a concern is they are among the most respected men in the game and their opinions may eventually push the USGA into “rolling back” ball performance. Rather than being a solution such a retrenchment would be a disaster for equipment makers, recreational players and golf fans.

Some say that ball performance is not a problem and isn’t supported by facts so let’s take a look.

There’s no arguing professionals and other elite players are hitting the ball farther, much farther, and as a result the courses they play have been made longer. That makes sense and similar solutions to mitigate equipment advances have been going on for at least 150 years. Scoring however has not benefited from all this added distance. In 2017 PGA Tour scoring leader Jordan Spieth averaged 68.846 strokes and in 1980 Lee Trevino led all players with 69.73, less than 0.9 stroke improvement in 37 years.

Not exactly a case for manning the barricades to repel the bad guys. Statisticians call that level of difference “noise.”

So if scoring doesn’t support these concerns does an analysis of driving distance?

In 1968 with persimmon heads, 150 gram steel shafts and balata-covered wound balls the average driving distance on Tour was 264 yards. By 1995 it was just about the same–262.7 yards. That year Callaway Golf introduced the “huge” 265cc lightweight titanium head Great Big Bertha driver and longer, lighter graphite shafts soon followed. Predictably because drivers now weighed less swing speeds went up and by 2003 average distance was 285.9 yards—a jump of 23 yards in just eight years.

At the same time the ball also was being improved and the added distance from the new low spinning, solid core balls was readily apparent. In 1996 the 3-layer urethane cover Top Flite Strata came out but the real game-changer was Titleist’s introduction of the Pro V1 in October 2000. Within weeks it became the most played ball on Tour and quickly took over the top spot in retail sales.

From 2003 through 2017 average driving distance increased to 292.5 yards equating to about 17 inches per year in part due to development of even lighter shafts and clubfaces with higher rebound across a larger area. However, a major portion of the gain can be accounted for by course agronomy allowing drier, more closely mown fairways so the ball to rolls much farther. Additionally players are taller and stronger and have intensive physical training regimens. During the same time a huge leap forward in instruction took place as coaches used launch monitors to refine players’ swings to an extent never before possible.

The real proof though is tee ball distance is a lousy predictor of success on the PGA Tour and as might be imagined the best correlation to money won is average score. Driving distance and driving accuracy have the lowest correlation.

The conclusion is plain. Since 1964 average driving distance is 30 yards greater but after 2003 distance enhancing design improvements have been incremental…not revolutionary. Nothing goes up forever.

Finally, though Woods didn’t mention it, there’s another other oft voiced complaint. Something like, “fine old courses have been made obsolete and championships can’t be held there because they don’t have the acreage to add yardage.” Not only has that not true since many of the “fine old courses” have already been lengthened but a lot of them can’t hold professional events for reasons other than the length of the holes. There may be no room for 50,000 fans to park or for the corporate hospitality tents which are a primary source of tournament revenue or perhaps the driving range is not big enough to accommodate more than a fraction of the field.

These facts are rarely mentioned by those decrying golf ball distance gains and have nothing to do with the fact Rory McIlroy and 42 others averaged over 300 yards last season.

Golf does has problems but the distance elite players are hitting the ball is not one of them. Fans want to see the long ball from Rory, Dustin and Bubba and aren’t interested seeing their 120 mph swing send the ball the same distance it went in 1995.

The whole idea of rollback is ridiculous. It’s hard to comprehend how any lessening of ball or driver performance will help sell more tournament tickets, sponsor advertising, merchandise or equipment. The PGA Tour obviously has figured that out and hasn’t joined in with the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

It also true recreational players are not complaining and it can be argued anything making the game more fun and even a little easier benefits participation. Those who make the assumption length equates to difficulty are also making a mistake. Course design and setup for professional tournaments requires intelligence, creativity and imagination without gimmicks. Maybe something simple such as cutting the rough and fairways higher or installing bunkers on either side of a landing area are possibilities.

Some are concerned about land and water usage which is certainly a legitimate question, not one resulting from how far the ball is being hit, but of the proper use of finite resources. Course architects and maintenance experts are already finding solutions such as drought resistant grasses, course topography and hole routing. What is needed most of all is a change in the mindset of developers who specify an over-the-top expensive “championship” course to aid residential real estate sells or for a resort to put heads in beds.

Here are a couple of simple requests for Tiger. Please come back to the Tour healthy and competitive. Secondly, because of your prominence people listen to your opinion please check out the facts and perhaps your opinion will reflect a new view point…one that is less harmful to golfers and the golf industry.

Killing the Game Slowly

Observers are applauding the European Tour’s renaming the 2018 Austrian Open as the Shot Clock Masters. Putting aside a potential piracy issue around borrowing the Masters Tournament’s name, the whole idea of professionals being on a shot clock is intriguing. Unfortunately it doesn’t address the real world problem of slow play.

By way of background, on every tour and at every amateur tournament there are strong pace of play policy statements but, at least on the PGA Tour, penalties are almost unknown. The most recent was a one stroke penalty handed out to Brian Campbell and Miguel Angel Carballo during the 2017 Zurich Classic but the previous penalized infraction was in 1995.

The European Tour it seems is going to be more aggressive in changing the ways of snail’s-pace toursters and willing to try something new. At their GolfSixes team event in May (an innovative format of team six hole matches) a shot clock was tested and most players accepted it enthusiastically.

During the Shot Clock Masters an official will accompany each group and time players. Fifty seconds will be allowed for the player whose turn it is to hit first while others in the group will have 40 seconds. If a player takes longer he will get a red card, just like in soccer, and more significantly a one stroke penalty. In case of real trouble each player will get two “time outs” giving him double the time. It remains to be seen what will happen in an instance as when Jordan Spieth during the final round of the Open took 26 minutes for his second shot on the thirteenth hole from Royal Birkdale’s driving range.

The Shot Clock Master will be interesting if for no other reason than to see what will be the ruling if one of the big name stars goes over the allowable time deciding on whether it’s a two-iron or three-iron from the rough around a tree over water to a shallow green. But let’s face it, some tour guys are fast and some are slow. Players and officials know who they are.

You and I know the real problem is not with the professionals nor even elite amateurs, it’s that group of guys ahead of you Saturday morning.

There has been lots of research done and opinion voiced about pace of play ranging from less skilled players taking shot after shot without getting closer to the pin to the difficulty of course set up not to mention the distance between a green and the next tee. Some opinions are even based on a combination of ignorance and prejudice and usually have to do with ladies on the course. Or, my personal favorite perfecting illustrating the idiocy of some course managements, seven minute tee times. There are a couple courses in my area that do this and I won’t play there.  

These and other supposed reasons all miss the real cause of slow play, a lack of respect for others.

If offending players respected those being tortured back in the fairway they would simply pick up and move ahead a hole or two. It’s not a privilege to watch the complete circling of every putt twice or going to the bag for multiple club changes. The attitude demonstrated has nothing to do with, “I paid my money and I’m going to play the whole course,” and everything to do with the deep seated knowledge they deserve to play at any pace because they are more important than the guys leaning on their drivers back on the tee.

Unfortunately there probably isn’t any way to get the message across to the worst offenders not even the “While We’re Young” PSAs by Clint Eastwood and Arnold Palmer. Too bad because though the course is not the only situation where the “me-only” attitude can be seen, as far as golf is concerned it is surely killing the game slowly.

Dangerously Wrong

“Whilst delighted for all the players, it’s quite sad to see The Old Course of St Andrews brought to her knees by today’s ball & equipment,” October 8, 2017 nine time major champion, Gary Player.

Player was intense competitor, intelligent and perceptive with tremendous stature in the game but unfortunately the opinion expressed in this tweet ignores the reality of golf today. But in case your attention at the time was otherwise occupied here’s a bit of background.

Ross Fisher playing in the European Tour Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at the “home of golf,” the Old Course at St. Andrews, posted a course record 61 in a vain attempt to catch winner Tyrrell Hatton. Player seems to conclude Fisher’s record and other low scores posted during the Dunhill were due to the ball and equipment. He is not only mistaken but for everyone who plays, dangerously wrong. Let me explain.

Player didn’t mention that for four days the weather was everything one could desire this time of year on Scotland’s east coast and most importantly there was little or no wind. St. Andrews has immense landing areas and greens wide open in the front which leaves the wind as its primary defense. Without wind the course is particularly vulnerable to skilled players and you can add that the course set up was not too severe since the Dunhill is a pro-am and amateurs are playing each day.

So with no wind and accessible pin locations low scores are not surprising.

At a tournament length of over 7,300 yards St. Andrews is not a pushover and though scores during the Dunhill were not what we usually see during the Open Championship, it is undeniable that over the years the course has withstood every generation’s best. Not perhaps without some lengthening. Not without reworking some of the tees, putting surfaces and bunkers but always with what my friends in Chicago call “the hawk,” the wind, being a major factor.

The tweet reflects Player’s oft expressed opinion modern clubs and balls are a problem but in truth since the gutta percha ball replaced the featherie 150 years ago someone is always opining the exact same thing after every advance in equipment technology.

The danger in Player and others beating the drum claiming such a sad state of affairs is the USGA and R&A will take it on themselves to “fix the problem.” Following the logic of “drivers are too hot,” or, “the ball goes too far,” could mean further restrictions on equipment or even creation of separate equipment standards for elite-players.

Either would be detrimental.

Both ignore how virtually all elite players follow an intense physical conditioning regimen, a rarity until Tiger Woods turned pro but exactly what Player himself has preached since the 1960s. Additionally those saying today’s equipment is a problem overlook how virtually every elite player makes extensive use of sophisticated computer imaging to dial-in their swing mechanics. Nor are the tremendous advances in agronomy taken into account allowing fairways to be so much firmer they have Stimpmeter readings on the order of greens 50 years ago.

In other words it’s not just equipment and it is overly simplistic to focus solely on the springiness of clubfaces or the improvements to the golf ball when wound balls were replaced. Yes, the ball goes farther but the contention that hurts the game is not supported by facts and is only a desire to keep things as they were, a solution to which will unduly penalize all but a few.

Put another way, do you or any of your friends think you are hitting the ball too far? Or even more simply, do you know of anyone who has given up the game because it’s too easy?

Making rules to rein in distance because it is thought a few hundred professionals and maybe a like number of the best amateurs are hitting greater distances is ignoring the reality of modern golf. It also ignores the laws of physics as pointed out by Frank Thomas (inventor of the graphite shaft and former Technical Director of the USGA) that the increase in distance due to the solid core ball and high rebound driver faces has reached its maximum.

If indeed there is a problem, and I’m not conceding there is, the Tour could solve it by simply setting up courses to be more penal though fans would immediately hate it. The fact the Tour does not do this is a tacit acknowledgement for the status quo. Fans enjoy seeing pros struggle occasionally when faced with narrow fairways, landing zone hazards and four inch rough as at a U.S. Open. But that’s once a year and the USGA not the PGA Tour runs the championship. If penal setups were the case every week it wouldn’t take toursters long to figure out it’s often best to leave the driver in the bag. Fans would lose the excitement of seeing D.J. or Jason or Bubba challenging the course with booming drives.

How much excitement is there in one plain vanilla par-4 after another calling for a three-iron tee shot then a wedge? Not much and what other entertainment business would ever propose to intentionally alienate fans?

World-class instructor Hank Haney puts it best, “Fans don’t go to a baseball game hoping to see some good bunt singles.”

And there’s another factor. If the pros had to play with a restricted equipment it would kill any OEM marketing plan that relies on “Tour validation.” Acushnet, Bridgestone, Callaway, Cobra, Ping, PXG, TaylorMade, Wilson and others spend millions for endorsements and advertising on the premise fans want to play with the same equipment as the pros.

You may argue with the premise but you can’t deny restricting the ball or drivers used by elite players would drastically change the economics of the club business…probably for the worse.

As I have written before the so-called distance problem isn’t a real problem, it’s only a conclusion drawn based on an opinion or maybe even an unacknowledged yearning for the “good old days.” The idea modern equipment hurts the “integrity” of the game is almost fatuous and certainly dangerous. It’s a triple threat with the potential to push golfers out of the game, alienate fans and jeopardize the ability of manufactures to be rewarded for their advances in equipment design.

The Nicklaus Collection from Perry Ellis

Jack Nicklaus is a golf legend and though many golfers today have never seen the Golden Bear play much less play at his best, the stories of his mastery on and off the course live on. You also can bet when he lends his name to a product, the product is special.

That’s the case with the latest Nicklaus Collection from Jack Nicklaus Apparel, a brand of Perry Ellis International.

The polos of the Collection have stylish patterns with construction of quality lightweight fabrics that have all the features you want including effective moisture wicking. They call it “StayDri” and its true perspiration management allowing air to circulate in the lightweight fabric. Each polo has UV ray protection and uses ventilated fabric plus their idea of “StayMotion” is exceptionally worthwhile. StayMotion allows seams to give a little providing a fuller range of motion without binding during the swing.

We especially liked the Textured Ombre polo that transitions from dark to light, top to bottom with graded shapes running in offset vertical lines. This one is perfect for a round of golf or around the club and you will like the price as well since all Nicklaus Collection polos are $24.99.

Shorts in the Nicklaus Collection look good on and off the course with StayDri and UV protection too plus StayMotion Plus which provides all around stretch for comfort and flexibility. Their four-pocket design has what Perry Ellis calls a “media pocket” but what I call a “smartphone pocket” and it’s a nice extra particularly if you are use your smartphone GPS rangefinder app. Nicklaus Collection shorts don’t have front pleats so they have a nice trim appearance with classic style and each is made from a blend of Spandex and polyester meaning they are easy to care for and don’t require ironing.

As far as colors are concerned, let’s face it most shorts are dull or if not dull commonplace and after all, how many of pairs khaki shorts can you own? The Textured Printed Golf Shorts in Caviar and Black from the Nicklaus Collection are a refreshing change from all that sameness. The print is a subtle pattern of unconnected horizontal stripes and can be worn with lots of different color shirts for a distinctive, winning look. Pricing of the shorts in the Collection is also a pocketbook-friendly $29.99.

The Presidents Cup Exhibition

It was fun. Fans saw a lot of quality shots hit by a couple dozen of really good golfers…some even deserving the often loosely applied label of world-class. Even the weather cooperated the final day of the Presidents Cup, an exhibition masquerading as intense competition.

It was clear even before the teams were named this was going to be a rout. The International squad just didn’t have the horsepower of Team USA. But of course, they haven’t had it for any of the twelve Presidents Cups with the exception of 1998 when a Peter Thompson led squad beat up on Jack Nicklaus’ twelve and oh yes, I almost forget, there was a tie in 2003

The U.S “Dream Team” so dominated this year it was just one-half point short of clinching the trophy at the close of play on Saturday. Had that happened, Nick Price’s Internationals would have been even more embarrassed but it also would have put the PGA Tour in an uncomfortable position with sponsors and fans.

As it was the twelve Sunday matches were almost pointless, a mere half point from being totally pointless and analyzing the Presidents Cup over its entire 23 year run leads to an inescapable conclusion.

It is just an exhibition. It is not a true competition with the gut wrenching drama of the Ryder Cup, though of course the PGA Tour would like it to be.

Things have been modified over the years starting with going from three to four days in 2000 but the basic format has been fourball and foursomes play capped the last day mano a mano single matches, just like the Ryder Cup.

Potentially thrilling except it isn’t when, as happened this year, a team’s only hope to salvage some semblance of pride is to win the majority of the last day singles matches. The International Team did but it’s hard to believe the U.S. players were really fired up with such an immense lead after day three.

So what’s the remedy or do we relegate the Presidents Cup exhibition to silly season status? There aren’t any options for improvement by expanding the inventory of eligible players as was done in the Ryder Cup when Europe was added to the team composed of Great Britain and Ireland. Frankly there aren’t many golfers outside the U.S. and Europe who are ready for prime time so creating an All-South America Team or All Africa Team and even an All Western Pacific Rim Team would seem to be futile. Additionally any plan impinging on perceived Ryder Cup prerogatives would be impossible to implement, after it is the Holy Grail of international team competition,.

My proposal some will call ridiculous or even ludicrous but change is needed to give the Presidents Cup relevance, to make it a true competitive tussle and save it from the oblivion of just another golf exhibition. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The idea would be to expand both teams by adding female professionals from the United States and around the world, including obviously Japan and Asia to both squads. How many? I don’t know, but the inherent attractiveness of male/female mixed pairings would be unique if not downright compelling for advertisers and fans.

Spice things up by awarding points (definitely not dollars) to participants, i.e., Race to the CME Globe for LPGA players on both teams, FedExCup points for PGA Tour members and even Race To Dubai points if an international is on the European Tour. Points could be allotted just for getting picked with more for each match won and more for winning the Cup.

Players couldn’t help but be enthusiastic plus and a couple of badly needed things would be accomplished. First the Presidents Cup would be rescued by giving fans something exciting and different to watch but more significantly female professionals would be showcased holding their own playing with and against the men.

The time is now for stirring the pot to fix the Presidents Cup…anybody have email addresses for Jay Monahan and Michael Whan?

Finally, I want to take a swipe at all the critics, naysayers and so-called experts who criticized Steve Stricker for selecting Phil Mickelson as a captain’s pick. The eminent philosopher and mangler of the English language Yogi Berra put it well, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Two years ago when Captain Jay Haas tapped Lefty it was the same discordant chorus but at the age of 45 he accounted for 3 ½ points tieing for the most on the team. Mickelson this year played four matches and finished with 3 ½ points only one point behind point leader Dustin Johnson.

At an age when most players, if they even still have their Tour card, are cruising to the magic five-oh and the PGA Tour Champions, Mickelson stepped up and again silenced the know-it-alls who criticized his inclusion on the team. He was ranked fifteenth in FedExCup points with the top ten being automatically getting a spot. By comparison the other captain’s pick eleventh ranked Charley Hoffman had a record of 1-2-0…not exactly stellar.

As a friend of mine said referring to Lefty’s invigorated play the last month of the regular season and his record in the Presidents Cup, “There’s a reason he’s in the Hall of Fame.”

A Couple of Trends in Equipment

Without dusting off my crystal ball—it’s got a big crack in it anyway—I see two trends worth noting in the golf club business. Both involve the development of clubs with limited appeal and at this point neither can be described as having can’t-miss prospects.

First is the appearance of ultra-high-end price clubs as exemplified by PXG custom-only models starting with the driver which carries a tag of $700 followed by fairway woods at $500 and irons at $300 or more. And since a bag full of PXGs wouldn’t be complete without the addition of one of their putter models plan on spending another $400 to $600. Add that all together and the total comes to well over $5,000…without the cost of the bag.

Of course for many years there have been custom-made clubs at prices much higher than normal but none in just two years have made as much of an impression on the overall market as PXG.

PXG founder and CEO Bob Parsons said in an interview with Golfweek he expects $100 million in sales this year and more significantly, to be profitable. Repeat that to yourself. In two years from nothing to profitability…in the golf business.

Realistically $100 million in club sales is not a very big ripple on the pond compared with Callaway who expects around $980 million in sales this year and well behind Acushnet who has forecast in the neighborhood of $1.6 billion. The importance is that major makers have even decided to enter at the ultra-high-end price point. Titleist, for example, has the C16 driver selling for $1,125 and Callaway’s new Great Big Bertha Epic Star is $700.

The story is the same with irons and illustrating with the same two companies, an eight iron set of Titleist C16 irons are $3,000 while Callaway Epic irons start at $2,000 with new Epic Star irons at $2,400.

The question of course is how big can this ultra-high-end price market be? The fact is though at least three companies (and you can add Honma, XXIO, Bettinardi plus a couple of others) are working to take advantage of what growth may be there.

The bottom line is performance has to justify the price otherwise the only players paying double or triple of what are considered “usual prices” are those whose egos make the decision.

The second trend is the increase in the number superlight clubs made specifically for those with relatively slow swing speeds, often identified as seniors and ladies. These superlights are made to answer the quest for added distance based on the idea if the club weighs less it can be swung faster and thereby generate more yardage.

A couple of examples starting with Cobra Golf’s F-Max family with the F-Max driver headlining the offering. Cobra’s approach is to use extremely light shaft with a head shaved of extra grams while the center of gravity has been positioned both to fight a slice and hit the ball on a higher trajectory. Interestingly the $300 F-Max driver is also at the bottom of the price spectrum as is the pricing of other F-Max family clubs.

Callaway has gone the other way with the Great Big Bertha Epic Star driver which follows the extremely successful Epic of last season and with all the features that made the Epic such a hit but much, much lighter. The Epic Star comes in at 286 grams versus the Epic at around 310 grams. The Epic Star ($700 as mentioned above) is for players having trouble generating even a moderate clubhead speed and a relatively modest swing speed increase of five mph can produce an additional 15 yards. The cardinal rule is more speed equals more distance.

Lightweight, even superlight, clubs especially drivers have been around since titanium heads and graphite shafts became the norm and even after clubhead sizes reached 460cc Cleveland had a 260-gram driver. As always performance will decide if these latest examples are cost effective plus of course whether a $300 driver can outsell a $700 model. In any event it would seem the market for superlight clubs is much larger than that for ultra-high-end priced clubs.

It’s going to be interesting to see how these two trends develop.

Another Fearless Prediction – Team USA Wins Presidents Cup

JERSEY CITY, NJ – OCTOBER 3: Course scenics of Liberty National Golf Club, host course of the 2017 Presidents Cup in Jersey City, New Jersey on Ocotber 3, 2016. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

Well, the teams are set for the biannual exhibition called the Presidents Cup to be played over the Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey at the end of the month.

The top ten world ranked players for the International Team and the top ten point earners for the United States team have been joined by two picks by each team captain. International captain Nick Price added the 11th ranked international player, Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo and Anirban Lahiri from India who was the 16th. Though both are strong, experienced players and join a team headed by world number three Hideki Matsuyama plus Australian’s Jason Day and Adam Scott it’s hard to conceive the Internationals will prevail.

The U.S. team is led by world number one Dustin Johnson followed by Open champion Jordan Spieth plus PGA champion and five-time winner this season Justin Thomas. Spots four through six are filled with players almost as impressive: Rickie Fowler, Daniel Berger and U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka. Let’s face it that’s a strong lineup and captain Steve Stricker made predictable choices for his two picks: Charlie Hoffman, who was 11th in points and World Golf Hall of Fame member Phil Mickelson.

The prediction (which isn’t really so fearless) is the United States will romp, maybe not by 11 points as in 2000 but it’s almost certain this year won’t be close.

As in 2015 when Mickelson was a pick by captain Jay Haas the tsk, tsk crowd has lined up to criticize Lefty’s inclusion. They don’t remember that two years ago when he was having a singularly mediocre season with his best finish being a tie for third he went 3-0-1 in the Presidents Cup. Granted past performance is no guarantee of future success, but it’s hard to argue player with low experience should be picked over even a mediocre Hall of Famer.

The other argument against Mickelson’s inclusion misses the mark entirely. I have a lot of respect for Alex Miceli but in his Morning Read column the logic was Lefty, though playing well at the Dell Technologies Championship, hasn’t had winning form since the 2013 Open and is 15th in the points list therefore younger players should be given the chance to be on the team.

He’s correct that Lefty hasn’t lit it up recently though who can deny his memorable fight against Henrik Stenson for the 2016 Open shooting a final round 65. Unfortunately Stenson posted a 63 to take the Claret Jug home to Sweden but Mickelson was magnificent that Sunday to say the least.

The reason Stricker picked Mickelson was not so much for his record in international team play nor the level of his game this year but because his maturity and leadership are undeniable…an immense asset to the team. If younger players should be given a chance they should just play better and get in by virtue of the points system.

Cedar Creek Collection for Fall from Bermuda Sands

The Cedar Creek fall line from Bermuda Sands is typical of their history for using quality fabrics and construction with enduring designs in their apparel and what first attracted me to the brand when they hit the shops back in 2009.

The Fall Cedar Creek Collection is interesting and includes items from polo tees to pullovers and consumers will attracted for several reasons such as the mid-range pricing.

Starting with fall golf outwear there’s Perfection, a lightweight pullover in a choice of three colors: Blue Sky, Crimson, Deep Violet, Mineral Green and Black. Made from 100% poly with a stylish collar and quarter zipper front they are priced at $75.

Noda is Bermuda Sands name for a heavier pullover great if temperatures are little chiller and it is also 100% poly but with a micro fleece lining. The price is a value at $77 and there’s a color selection in Blue Sky, Crimson or Dark Steel Grey.

In short sleeve polos the Cedar Creek collection has the Woodland and my favorite, because of the tone on tone fabric pattern, the Hemingway.

Woodland polos come in either Mineral Green, Crimson, Black, Blue Sky or Deep Violet for $75. This new take on the classic Bermuda Sands polo shirt uses a striated heather look with detailing on the chest and is a 92/8 poly/spandex, which means there’s little “give” for the wearer.

Finally, I like the Hemingway with what they are calling a “Cuban-inspired” floral print that’s most attractive in an understated way. Like the Woodland, Hemingway is a 92/8 blend. Retailing for $77 you have choice of three colors: Iron, Blue Sky and Deep Violet.

Ten Rounds with Caddy Daddy Ranger

A quick nine after work. Taking the kids for a few holes on a Sunday afternoon. A bucket of balls on the range as a decompression treatment for life’s hassles.

All are great ideas, keep our interest and skills fresh and don’t require a full complement of clubs. Enter the Caddy Daddy Ranger.

Here in Florida everyone knows that golf, especially golf in the summer, is only played from a cart and that’s true except when teeing it up for an early morning nine holes at a local walking-only course. The Ranger is perfect.

It’s also become a habit of mine, for a break away from sitting in front of a computer keyboard, to slip out and hit a bucket of balls. Again the Ranger is perfect. Traveling to visit family, none of who are golf-addicted, the Ranger was ideal taking up little room but always available.

At three pounds the Ranger is light and adding a driver, 5-iron, 8-iron, putter, two wedges six Pro V1s, half a dozen tees and a towel it tops out to just over nine pounds so it’s easy to carry and comfortable on the shoulder. By way of contrast my regular bag (a standup-carry model) similarly equipped but with 14 clubs is almost exactly double in weight.

The 5-inch diameter Ranger has rigid sides, three pockets, padded strap and even a towel ring. The zippered padded top is attached and protects the clubs if you’re caught in the rain or when checking it at the airport. What more could you ask for? The price is $49.99 at CaddyDaddyGolf.com and they offered free shipping plus a one-year warranty.

Negatives: Nothing major, though when picking the Ranger up to put on your shoulder the padded top often gets in the way of gripping the handle or the strap plus the strap’s shoulder cushion has no way to fix it in place so it requires a little adjustment each time.

Recommendation: If you want a well-designed and constructed Sunday bag that will hold up to half your usual complement of sticks the Caddy Daddy Ranger is a great choice.