Aching tennis stars, aging golfers and German mastery

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Don’t count the old guys out in the wake of the week in
sports
Evidently Andre Agassi had no problem slipping a little Ben Gay
through the United Arab Emirates Port in Dubai this week as the
eight-time Grand Slam Tennis Champion picked up a win over Greg
Rusedski in the opening round of the Dubai Open.
Don’t count the old guys out in the wake of the week in sports

Evidently Andre Agassi had no problem slipping a little Ben Gay through the United Arab Emirates Port in Dubai this week as the eight-time Grand Slam Tennis Champion picked up a win over Greg Rusedski in the opening round of the Dubai Open.

Agassi, 35, had been suffering this season from a series of aches and pains, including chronic back pain from a sciatic nerve injury, and missed a few events, including San Jose’s SAP Open.

Speaking of older guys, 43-year-old PGA Tour player Kirk Triplett picked up a win last week at the Tour’s Chrysler Classic of Tucson. Unlike Agassi, Triplett didn’t need to worry about getting anything past port security but with closing rounds of 64 and 63 he proved that he could sneak more putts into the hole than anyone else.

Team USA didn’t have to worry about breaching security when they lugged their 25 medals back to the America this week, but they might have felt that they were slighted a bit, in a sort of round-about way.

The official final Olympic medal tally from the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy last month has Germany with 29. The U.S. finished in second with 25. The only problem with these medal totals is that most athletes – regardless of where they are from – train year-round in the United States. They live here, train here and reap the benefits of our top-notch facilities and then go on to win a medal for some other country. It just doesn’t seem right to me.

But we all watched anyway. Or did we? It seems that more Americans watched American Idol than the Olympics. That just doesn’t seem right.

And neither does golf, lately.

With the advancement in equipment technology America’s oldest, most-storied courses have become almost obsolete.

This week the PGA Tour is making its annually trek to Doral, Florida for the Ford Championship at the Doral Resort and Spa. The tournament is played on the famed Blue Monster Course, dubbed that term in the 1960s for its long length and abundance of water holes.

Today, the “Blue Monster” is like a pitch and putt to these guys, who routinely smack the little white ball 300-plus yards.

It used to be that any hole between 390 and 450 was a long par-4. With today’s drivers that look like something that Agassi might try to use to serve up an ace with anything less than 580 yards is reachable in two now.

Just like the aluminum bat has changed amateur baseball and graphite has changed just about every other sport, today’s golf equipment is making a mockery out of the game. Jack Nicklaus has talked about it for years.

Equipment advances in all sports have allowed athletes to do and attempt things they wouldn’t have even tried just a short time ago.

I remember being able to pop-a-wheelie on a bicycle was a cool thing when I was a kid. Today, because of advances in the bikes, kids are literally leaving the bike at 40 feet in the air, pushing off on the handle bars to do a flip or doing handstands on the seat.

For the most part, equipment advances like these have been dramatically positive for the respective sports, but equipment technology is ruining golf.

So far, the short-term answer has been to keep moving the tees back, and to change par 5s into par 4s for the professionals.

In a sense the Tour has gotten away with it by taking a 7,000-yard, par 72 and making it a 7,150-yard par 70 every week.

That might work for now but what happens when the guys on the PGA Tour are bombing it 400 yards off the tee on a routine basis? That’s when America’s championship courses will become useless.

And that’s a sick thought.

The U.S. Open will never be played anymore at Merion in Pennsylvania for that very reason.

And baseball wouldn’t be played at Fenway Park or Wrigley Field either if Major Leaguers were allowed to use aluminum bats.

The British Open will still probably be held at St. Andrews because that’s where golf all began but watching the pros drive many of the Old Course’s par-4s just doesn’t seem right? What would Old Tom Morris think if he watched today’s pro hit a driver and a 9-iron into the Road Hole when he had to rip a driver and a 2-wood as hard as he could to get there? And if he got home in two on that par-4 he probably talked about it all night long in the pub.

But with today’s equipment no hole or course seems too tough for guys who play golf for a living.

Imagine if Barry Bonds could have used an aluminum bat his entire career? Because in a sense, that’s what they are allowing Tiger Woods and any other PGA Tour player to do when they tee up to hit a drive with a mammoth club head and some concoctions of titanium alloy and graphite to blast a ball.

Pebble Beach is able to get away with its modern day shortfalls because of its minuscule greens and unpredictable seaside weather.

Augusta National, the site of the Masters, is able to get away with it thanks to a major project a few years back that saw to it that the tee boxes were pushed back on several holes, the fairways were narrowed, bunkers were added and rough was grown for the first time to keep the course difficult-and the pros still shot low numbers.

Today’s game is more like playing darts. It’s about busting a drive off the tee and then grabbing a 7-, 8-, 9-iron or wedge and firing at the flag. Today’s pro can almost leave the long irons at home.

But what will tomorrow’s game be when there is no more real estate left to move the tee box back?

That’s when all of the great courses will become a chapter in a golf history book.

I say bring back the steel shafts and woodenheaded drivers before it’s too late. This is one case where technology is ruining a great sport.

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