Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: The Swinger

The Swinger is a work of fiction, written by Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck of Sports Illustrated. Generally, it is about the downfall of the world's number one golfer, Tree Tremont as seen through the eyes of sports writer Josh Dutra who is hired by Tremont to be his communications guy. Women and drugs are the life-wrecking hobbies of Tremont, but in my opinion his downfall is really brought about by his own refusal to limit himself to just doing what is right in favor of doing everything wrong. Entitlement is a strong theme in this book.  Tremont's father helped along the way with some very unfamily-like opinions about how one's life should be lived and even the death of Tremont's mother, while apparently affecting Tremont in a sensitive way, didn't have a lasting effect on his behavior.

Yes, there is the bikini-model wife, the two kids, the spectacular golfing career, that you think of when you make comparisons between Tremont and real life representatives of the sport. However, Bamberger and Shipnuck do an excellent job of preventing the reader from seeing this book as a biography. Their greatest tool in this effort is the character of Josh Dutra. Gradually, The Swinger becomes more about Dutra's life and how the Tremont scandals affect him rather than about Tremont himself.

As I read the book, I found myself thinking things like, "You're kidding me," "Seriously?!" and "Isn't it typical that the sports writer still finds the star athlete a hero after all of these scandals."  I suppose the underlying message in The Swinger would be that no one is all good or all bad, that there's good and bad in everyone. Unfortunately, I just didn't feel that the bad part of Tree was treated with the censure that I felt it deserved. There were excuses and forgiveness all around by everyone, even the bikini model wife who whacks Tree in the head after his cell phone reveals some of his betrayals. This part didn't seem all that fictional as we've seen repeatedly in real life that sports stars are given more than one chance, more than two chances, and mostly, too many chances to screw up.

This doesn't mean I was disappointed with the book. Just that I would prefer a different kind of book. (I'm usually reading romance novels and looking forward to the happy endings.)  The Swinger left me with a lot of questions about men and women and how the two sexes think about and view the same events. The book may not answer those questions, but it will have a lasting impact as I may find myself watching golf through a different set of eyes in the future.

Some aspects of the book I should mention:  Martinsen and his adoptions - reminded me of Brangelina. Boy do I want to see a Brad Pitt on the golf course.  The tabloid headlines playing with the name Tree. Hilarious. Salty Morton. I'll never season my food the same way again.

In conclusion, I think you should read the book. I don't know if you'll find it better or worse than Nancy Grace's coverage of certain historical events, but I hope it will make you think about the same things I did - how men and women think about things like fidelity, honesty and doing the right thing.  Or you could watch the movie When Harry Met Sally. But really, why would you?

(Full disclosure: while I was offered an advance copy of the book, I bought my own copy.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Spectacular Open

This was one of the greatest Opens I think I've seen. Darren Clarke deserved to win and played like it. He was jovial at times, patient with the fans, and his game was spot on. I wanted to see a first time winner and was rewarded by the golfing gods with a great one in Clarke.

Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson both had issues with their games that limited them to a T2 position. For a brief moment I actually thought Phil might do it, but he stayed true to his past. As for Johnson, for all of his close calls in majors, he still just isn't ready to keep his mind on track for four complete rounds of golf.

It was great to see Sergio Garcia finish with a top ten this week. And he was having some fun out there which is the most important part of the game, no matter what the media says about winning majors. Since Darren Clarke is over 40, I hope the media will ease off the whole "best player to have never won a major" debate and give Sergio a rest. Sergio has quite a few more years ahead of him and Clarke's win only punctuates that statement.

I would like to change the category from "the best player to have never won" to "the best player who has yet to win" a major. Let's stay positive and reserve the word 'never' for those who aren't playing the game any longer.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Back on the Blog

It's been a while since I've posted here. That darn Twitter. But I have a few things to write about that can't be summarized in 140 characters.  So, here we go....

I was listening to PGA Tour Radio this morning and some guy called in about Rory McIlroy. The subject was an interview McIlroy did in which he talked about his girlfriend. The host of the show didn't understand why McIlroy would talk about his personal relationship because back in the old days when this host was playing, the 'boys' didn't talk about family or personal life on Tour. The caller's opinion was that Rory was trying to do 'damage control'.  Now, I don't know what kind of damage was thought to have been done. McIlroy went to Haiti and held babies for the cameras.  No one can hate someone holding a baby from a poor country. All of America cheered when McIlroy won the US Open.  And he has dogs.  Pets, babies, healthy relationship, and charmed everyone in a whole country as he took their Championship back to Ireland. I don't see any damage to control.  My take on the Rory interview is this, in the UK the newspapers write as much about the wives and girlfriends as they do about the athletes, so it's probably not that big of a deal for McIlroy to have given this interview.  Also, he probably wanted to get some information out there to keep the media from hacking his phone.

Luke Donald continues to be the most underrated World Number 1 as he wins again this week in Scotland. Finally someone on the Golf Channel said he was playing like a #1 player, with a dominance.  With the way the rankings work, it takes more than being dominant for a few months, it takes two years of consistency and Donald has that. The Scottish Open was exceptional this week, unfortunately, it was mostly due to the weather. But the players had to deal with those challenges and that alone makes a tournament a tough one. The landslide on the first fairway was something to see, as was the European Tour announce crew, players and volunteers dancing to and singing "Singing in the Rain". You should go to the European Tour website to check out the video.

The LPGA is in the news this week as they finally hit a network everyone has access to (NBC) for the US Open. The conversation once again turns to the lack of star power on the Tour. I had a brief discussion with a passionate LPGA Fan on twitter about this issue. I think the Tour needs to do more to promote the tour and the media needs to do more to cover the tour.  The LPGA is on Golf Channel nearly exclusively (thanks NBC and ABC/ESPN for covering the US and British Opens). And when the LPGA is on the Golf Channel, it's usually at odd times when people can't watch. Who's going to watch after 9pm or even midnight?  Also, I thumbed through the July 2011 issue of Golf Magazine yesterday and I saw no mention of the LPGA at all. If you're going to call yourself Golf Magazine, then maybe you shouldn't exclude the women. After all, your title isn't Men's Golf Magazine. That isn't to say that a large portion of the magazine should cover the ladies, but a mention or two might be nice. And please, don't let that mention be the Big Break bikini squad. I still don't understand why the ladies on the Big Break have to prance around in bikinis but the men of the Big Break don't. It isn't like anyone can where bikinis on tour. There are dress codes.

I'm planning to read and hopefully review the new fiction novel, The Swinger, when I get it this week. I was offered an advance copy, but since I was planning to buy it anyway, I declined. It's written by Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck and is about the world's number 1 player and the pressures and trials he experiences. I caution everyone who wants to read this novel to remember that it is fiction. It's easy with today's media leaning so much toward salaciousness rather than boring old facts to forget that a work of fiction is just that. I'm sure I'll have a hard time doing it. But it does look like a good read so I'll give it a go and see what happens.  I've found several golf fiction novels on Barnes & Noble and have them downloaded to my eReader.  The problem is getting the time to read them.  Once again,  That Darn Twitter.

As for the whole Tiger thing.  My opinion is this:  sit out until the leg is 100% and change the swing to keep from injuring it in the future. From what I've seen since he got with this Foley guy, the swing thing isn't happening for him. Everyone is speculating about Tiger breaking Jack's record. He only has to win what is it, 5 more to do that, but look at how hard it's been for Roger Federer to win this last year and a half. Federer's healthy and there's no reason why he shouldn't be dominating, except for the competition. I imagine it will be like that for Tiger when he's back on tour.  Sometimes, despite your best efforts, there comes a time when the world passes you by.  Is this time now for Tiger?  Don't know. I can only say that golf has been much more exciting and personable since he's been out of the loop. I know more of the players and have seen much more emotional and exciting wins and that endears the sport to me much more than the Tiger Woods effect has ever done.