The Toughest Thing About the Presidents Cup . . .


. . . is being forced repeatedly to watch the PGA Tour’s guys-standing-in-line-with-pint-glasses-commercial for the Charles Schwab Cup. It would be bad enough if it were merely incomprehensible. I’ve gotten pretty fast at hitting the mute button when it comes on, but I will never be able to unsee Bernhard Langer’s leering grin.

Why Don’t All Tour Pros Follow Mickelson’s Example?

When it started to rain during the Presidents Cup, Phil Mickelson did something he’s done in nasty weather for several years: he switched to rain gloves. In an interview once, he explained why: “they can get wet and my grips can get wet and I’m not constantly trying to stay dry.” Usually, he leaves them on even to putt:

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My regular golf buddies and I all use rain gloves, too:

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They work so well that I don’t understand why so few tour pros have followed Mickelson’s example. Of course, those guys have unlimited access to new gloves, and they have caddies to dry their grips and hold their umbrellas and protect their towels, and even in nice weather they don’t seem to mind fussing around for a couple of minutes before taking a shot. Still, leather turns slimy when it becomes even slightly wet, and a caddie who has to focus on keeping gloves and grips and towels dry doesn’t have time to think about more important matters. The great thing about rain gloves is that, once you’ve put them on, the weather ceases to be an issue, for exactly the reason Mickelson gave. You can just play.

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The pros probably worry that wearing rain gloves would affect their “feel,” but, if a player as famously feel-oriented as Mickelson can handle them, so can anyone else. Besides, if you have to squeeze your clubs even slightly harder to compensate for the slickness of your grips, you’ve already abandoned feel. I would bet that most pros have never even tried them. During the Presidents Cup broadcast, Johnny Miller said that one reason Mickelson wears them is to keep his hands dry—but no one who had actually played in rain gloves could possibly think that, because they don’t:

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Rain gloves don’t keep anything dry. What they do is enable you to hang on to your clubs when your hands and grips are soaking wet—even when the two-foot-wide stream at the bottom of the second fairway looks like this:

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An Element of Golf Strategy That Even Pros Get Wrong

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When golfers play as partners, either in four-ball matches (as in the recent Solheim Cup and upcoming Presidents Cup) or in scrambles, they commonly follow a strategy in which the first partner to play hits a “safe” shot—maybe a layup on a long par 5, or a tee shot to the center of the green on a par 3—and then, if the safe shot has been successful, the next partner hits an aggressive shot, right at the flag.

This sounds sensible—guarantee the par, then go for the birdie—but mathematically it makes no sense. A better strategy is for the stronger player to play the aggressive shot first. Then, if it’s successful, the second player can hit an aggressive shot, too, thereby increasing the chance of ending up with a spectacular result. And even if the first shot doesn’t work perfectly the result may be good enough to serve as the equivalent of a safe shot—as with a favorite play of mine, the Accidental Lay-up, in which I swing so hard in my effort to reach the green in two that I top my ball and end up pretty much exactly where I would have if I’d sensibly wedged it just short of the water.