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Ron Green In Regulation

Allow me to introduce myself with a story from the third grade. Our assignment was to appear in class on a designated day dressed to resemble a famous character from history or fiction. The assignment required little study but yours truly still managed to forget to do his homework, not the first nor the last time that happened. While my classmates arrived dressed in costume, I showed up dressed for another Tuesday. There was no way to hurriedly scribble out answers to homework questions to bail myself out so I was left to sit there, slowly melting, while the teacher went student by student through the room, hearing stories about the characters they had chosen to represent. Betsy Ross. Paul Bunyan. George Washington. And me. When the teacher asked dubiously whom I had come dressed as in my khakis, golf shirt and cardigan sweater, I said the only thing I could, “Arnold Palmer.” It was one of the great recovery shots of Arnie’s career and mine, too. Sadly, it’s also among the more memorable moments of an academic career that never approached a single-digit handicap. All these years later, my wardrobe hasn’t significantly changed nor has my attachment to the game. It’s why I’m happy to be joining Global Golf Post to write about the unconquerable game and the people who play it. I’m not sure when golf got me. Maybe it was when a skulled 7-iron shot rolled into the cup for my first par about 50 years ago or when I attended the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open and saw Sam Snead win his final PGA Tour event. The players have changed, the equipment is better and the coverage is broader but the essential charm and fascination of golf remain. Golf is the most personal game. If you’ve ever tried to hit a 6-iron or a bunker shot, you understand on some level what the best players in the world are doing. Most of us never face a 95 mph fastball or return a punt but we can relate to what we see Rory McIlroy or Justin Rose doing on a golf course, even if we can’t do it ourselves. When we watch, we see the faces. We see the sweat and the doubt, the joy and the nerves. Sometimes, it seems as if we can see inside the players. We’re at the start of a new season, still on the first hole of another golf year. Before long, the talk will turn to Augusta and then to an overdue return to Merion. The Open Championship is booked at Muirfield, the PGA Championship at Oak Hill and The Presidents Cup goes to Jack’s place at Muirfield Village in the fall. It’s a comfortable, familiar routine. The professional game is in a good place right now. It has its issues – the cumbersome three-year waiting period surrounding the prohibition of anchored putting, convincing the game’s best players that a week in Kapalua is worth the travel and John Daly’s trousers – but the big picture has a glow. We’re still in the age of Tiger Woods, and his ongoing quest to chase down the career achievements of Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus continues to drive the primary plot line. His pursuit of Nicklaus’ 18 major championship victories has idled for four years, adding to the difficulty of Tiger’s challenge but when he wins another major – yes, when, not if – the buzz will reignite. He changes the game and our interest like no one else. McIlroy is like a new love. What’s not to like? He has the often indefinable but undeniable sparkle factor. It’s in how he plays, how he walks, how he smiles and how he draws us to him. Despite what transpired in Abu Dhabi, some of what McIlroy has can be built on the practice tee and putting green but the element that separates him comes from someplace else, a cosmic magnet of some sort. Phil Mickelson has the same gift. They’re why we watch and why we care. We watch to see Dustin Johnson’s power, Rickie Fowler’s color and Bubba Watson’s imagination. We know the beauty of Amen Corner, marvel at the splendor of Pebble Beach and can smell the blowing sea air at the Open Championship. For a game that’s too slow and too expensive for too many people, it’s a game that remains fascinating, addictive and everlasting to many of us. To borrow from a soliloquy by Crash Davis in Bull Durham, I believe in The Masters, the Opens and Mike Davis. I believe in fast greens, firm fairways and David Feherty. I believe Jack Nicklaus is the game’s greatest champion and Tiger Woods has played golf better than anyone ever has. I believe 210-yard par-3s are evil, the ball goes too far and guys like Ian Poulter make the game more fun. I believe in long, slow walks with your putter, Davis Love III and a cold beer regardless of how it turns out. And I believe in Arnold Palmer, too. I have the pink shirts to prove it.


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