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John Renslow: Demanding degree of difficulty in this game

Have you ever been out, hitting a few balls on the driving range, and every ball that you hit was perfect?

OK, well maybe some of the shots were perfect and the majority still makes us proud. Shoot, nobody hits all of them well. Or do they?

Almost every week, the efforts of tour players (past and present) are included this column. As a group, they are truly remarkable. Consider this: a person is standing away from a ball, the ball is about an inch and a half wide, the driver is nearly 4 feet long, the clubhead is just a few inches wide, and, with a world-class player, the club is moving more than 100 mph at impact.



All of this happens in the period of about a second and a half.

Generally speaking, for every degree that the clubface is off target, the ball will land approximately 10 yards offline and fairways on tour courses can be 25 yards wide (with average of 30-ish). So, after some quick math, if a player’s swing is off by one degree, that ball is not headed for the short grass, that little orb is moving toward the rough. There is not a lot a margin for error and if you want to play golf for a living, “almost perfect” is the benchmark.




For the average player on the PGA Tour, relative perfection is achieved more than 60 percent of the time and the best will hit the fairway 80 percent of the time.

If you don’t have plans for the weekend, there is a great opportunity to see “almost perfect” in action. This week the PGA Tour makes its stop at the Montreux Golf & Country Club in Reno. Starting today, 130 of the country’s best players tee it up, trying to capture a coveted tour victory.

Granted, some of the top players may not be there, due to a “World Golf Championship” event that is taking place in Firestone Country Club in Michigan. Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and their band of elites will test their skills at one of golf’s major properties half-way across the country. This is not one of golf’s ‘majors’, it is one foot in the pool of a possible global tour.

However, this week’s field for the Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreux CC does have a solid, quality group of players. David Duval, former British Open Champion and previously No. 1 ranked player in the world, starts today at 7:34 a.m. Former Master’s champion, Larry Mize, begins his round at 8:20 a.m., and former PGA champion, Steve Elkington, starts at 1:09 p.m.

Also, you might get a chance to see history, if you make the trek to Montreux CC.

Over the course of the last few years a couple of the women from the LPGA have teed it up with the boys on the PGA Tour. To date they have not played well enough to make the cut, but it has been close.

Michelle Wie, a celebrated young star, will start play with her male competitors at 1:55 p.m. Some (including LPGA great Annika Sorenstam) have questioned her continued presence at PGA Tour events, considering her failures. But, she was invited and, as reported by a Tour official, was the number one pick for the weekly, Wednesday Pro-Am.

Ms. Wie is trying to make her mark and write her name in the record books, as a female has not made a cut in a PGA Tour event since 1945 (Babe Didrikson Zaharias). In her words, “In the future, I still want to challenge the PGA TOUR and make the top 10.”

Golf, not being a game of perfection, will always demand persistence and an eye on the prize.

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at jrenslow@pga.com.


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