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Being "The Shotmaker" means carrying around a lot of pressure to make the key drive or crucial putt on the 18th hole that defines one's reputation. Sadly, I was not the shotmaker as often as I would have liked in 2007. That being said, 2007 was a defining year for me. To date this year, I have played more than 75 rounds at more than 30 different golf courses, including seven of the top 10 courses. My dream is to one day say I have played all of the Top 100 courses. Of the more than 120 courses that I have played in my lifetime, only 29 are among the Top 100. They say "practice makes perfect." In golf it does not necessarily apply. How about "practice makes for gradual improvement"? Every time I play a great round and think I finally got it, I follow it up with a shitty round. I get depressed and think about giving up the game. Eventually, my passion for golf kicks back in and I fight my way back.
I am now fully recovered from my trauma of playing with Tiger Woods when my game sunk to an all-time low in the Buick Open in 2005. (I had never played before a mass of spectators before!)
My recovery got a big boost when Ernie Els and I beat Gary Player and Johann Rupert at Seminole in 2006 and I won the match (winning hole) on 18 with a par 5, net 4. But I took a step back earlier this year when Raymond Floyd and Rush Limbaugh beat Greg Norman and me at Old Palm.
An amazing battle took place at The Bridge where Rudy Giuliani and The Shotmaker were pitted in a fierce battle against Mel Immergut (left), David Kornstein (second form right) and Rob Goldstein (far right). The cigar smokers won!
As I write you, I am gearing up for my return to the Dunhill Links in Scotland in early October to play the St Andrews Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns with some dear friends. It's a week of great fun and hopefully great golf, especially if the weather holds up.
One of my real disappointments this year was playing Bethpage Black in 95-degree weather. Without the availability of a cart, I just could not finish. I hope to have another chance one day.
During the summer, my game declined to the point where I couldn't hit an iron straight. A one-hour lesson at The Bridge with the resident pro, Jeff Warne, helped turn my game around. My confidence and swing came back. I hadn't been turning my body and had been swinging too fast.
The Shotmaker explains the secrets of his swing to two-time major champions Greg Norman (second from left) and Raymond Floyd (second from right) over breakfast at Old Palm. Rush Limbaugh concentrates on decoding my secrets.
My big breakthrough came late in the season, on August 31 to be exact. I was playing with Steve Ross of The Related Group at The Bridge. I normally didn't take my driver all the way back, and as a result hit the ball 200 to 210 yards, but usually in the fairway, out of trouble.
Steve urged me to "extend" my backswing. I resisted his advice. He then said, "Try it. If you miss, it doesn't count." With that condition, I took the club back further and bent my wrist over my shoulder. Low and behold, the ball traveled straight down the center 240, 250 yards. I repeated this swing on every hole on the back side with the same result. I am now using the new extended swing on both my driver and fairway woods with amazing distance and accuracy.
I now can reach the greens on most par 4s in two, something I could rarely do in the past. My short game and putting were always the reliable part of my game. I am now parring the par 5s much more often and last week, playing with Gordon Mott, executive editor of Cigar Aficionado, I birdied a 510-yard par 5 at The Bridge (so did he, by the way!).
Among the highlights of my golf experiences of 2006—2007 are the following:
Toughest course -- Pine Valley, NJ
Top emotional experience (U.S.) -- Augusta National, GA
Top emotional experience (international) -- St Andrews Old Course
Most creative, original layout -- Kinloch, VA
Par 3 closest to the pin (10 inches) -- Wee Burn, CT (4th hole)
Toughest rough -- Winged Foot, NY
Trickiest par 3 -- Engineers, NY (3rd hole)
Most amazing clubhouse -- Seminole, FL
Best caddie -- Alex Lowenthal ("The Massapequa Kid"), The Bridge, NY
Best halfway house -- National, NY (peanut butter and Ritz crackers)
I still dream, every time I step up to the tee of a par 3, of getting a hole in one. Maybe one day my dream will come true.
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