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The Golfer Who Believed Malcolm Gladwell About the 10,000 Hours
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From The Atlantic:

The Average Guy Who Spent 6,003 Hours Trying to Be a Professional Golfer

Dan McLaughlin got famous for valuing hard practice over talent. Then he didn’t reach his goal.

STEPHEN PHILLIPS

… The conversation that planted the seed for the Dan Plan took place in June 2009, as McLaughlin hacked around a golf course in Omaha, Nebraska, with his brother. “We [talked] about the idea of quitting everything to pursue something single-mindedly and whole-heartedly,” McLaughlin recounts. “Did you need talent or was it all about hard work?”

“The idea of talent is [like] living in a society of kings and princes. If you don’t limit yourself by this idea … it’s more like a democracy.”
Such questions were in the air. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, the book that popularized the idea that mastery in a given field takes at least 10,000 hours of practice, had just come out, as had Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated and Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, both of which emphasized the role of dedicated practice (and discounted natural-born talent) in excellence.

McLaughlin hadn’t read these tomes. But friends pressed them on him, and the Dan Plan took shape. It would test how far practice could take you; and, taking a cue from Outliers, its time horizon would be 10,000 hours of practice. Golf fit neatly with this empirical goal. There were no barriers to entry—top golfers come in all shapes and sizes, no genetic assists for certain body types.

My impression is that while most top golfers used to be pretty average in size, they have gotten bigger over the years. At the 2004 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, for example, it seemed like about 2 out of 3 contestants were in the range of at least 6 feet and approaching 200 pounds, rather than, say, 5-10 and 170. This is probably due to more worldwide recruitment of talent and better training. It’s easier to control your body when you are small, as gymnasts would suggest, but top golfers post-Ben Hogan are so highly trained due to incessant practice, that being a wiry little gymnast-type like Hogan isn’t as useful anymore.

Fishing for advice once the project was underway, McLaughlin emailed K. Anders Ericsson, the Florida State University psychologist whose study of violin and piano virtuosi Gladwell cited in Outliers. The two struck up a correspondence.

Ericsson was impressed. In particular, he was taken with McLaughlin’s commitment to systematic, “deliberate” practice…

Playing a round of golf over 4 or 5 hours is a fun but highly inefficient way to practice golf skills. McLaughlin spent most of his hours instead at the driving range or putting green. (Most casual golfers get few chances to practice sand shots from greenside bunkers because you have to swing hard while trying to undercut the ball to make it softly pop up in the air. If you instead accidentally blade the ball, the ball can come rocketing out and put somebody’s eye out in a crowded practice area. That’s why the most obvious difference between elite and casual golfers is in blasting from sand traps.)

Enlisting a coach, McLaughlin collected data on his performance and sent it to Ericsson, who plotted his improvement. McLaughlin built his game from the hole out. For months, all he did was putt. Gradually, he moved farther from the flag, adding clubs. Eighteen months in, he played his first full round. At peak practice, he was putting in four hours on the practice green and driving range and playing 18 holes daily. He was stingy in tallying hours toward the 10,000 mark, only counting concentrated practice.

Barely over halfway through, he’d pared his handicap to an all-time low of 2.6—a mark achieved by fewer than 6 percent of golfers.

Actually, I’d bet that’s better than the 94th percentile because most 10-or-15 rounds per year casual golfers don’t have an official handicap. A 2.6 handicap means you should frequently shoot in the 70s on an average difficulty course, with a chance of shooting in the 60s if you get very lucky.

Tour pros, who play much longer, harder courses, would have handicaps in the negative five to negative ten range.

So, Dan McLaughlin got to be at least two standard deviations above average through intense practice. That’s really good.

On the other hand, he was still several standard deviations below tour pro quality and was maxing out on his potential. His handicap stopped declining and started to float up a little.

McLaughlin stuck to his task for years, but 6,003 hours in, his back would no longer comply. “I couldn’t swing a club for six months,” he says. Today, he’s fine—as long as he doesn’t try to play golf every day.

I don’t recall anybody making the men’s tour after taking up golf after their teenage years since Larry Nelson and Calvin Peete, who started golf in their early 20s and became stars in the 1980s.

At a more elite level, here’s a story about wiry Canadian golfer named Jamie Sadlowski who makes a half million per year doing long driving exhibitions. (His all time best in a long driving competition is 445 yards.) In his late 20s, he’s now working on becoming a tour pro, but he still has a long way to go to be competitive.

Golf is just a very complicated game and it’s hard to master all the skills involved, especially after your teenage years.

 
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  1. Truth says:

    Steph Curry has a 1.2 handicap.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Curry shot a 68 in a televised celebrity tournament earlier this summer.

    Unbelievable eye-hand coordination and while he's considered small for a basketball player, being a wiry 6'-3" sounds pretty ideal for a golfer. But despite all the golf retired pro jocks play, I'm not aware of any team sport star later winning on the 50+ Champions Tour since John Brodie did it once.

    On the other hand, there have been guys who were failures as tour pros in their 20s and 30s who have become Senior Tour stars.

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  2. I’m in the midst of the 10000 hour thing, too, except for piano. Started after reading Outliers. Probably 2000 – 3000 hours in, by my rough estimate.

    Am I 20% – 30% of the way to being a concern pianist? Not even close. My brain is simply wired differently than a great musician’s. With enough practice, I can learn a sonata by Beethoven or Hayden and play it reasonably well. But I have no improvisation skills whatsoever and will forget a piece I’ve learned very quickly.

    Still glad I started. Even if I’ll never be a musical genius, I still get a lot of enjoyment out of the hobby. So I’m willing to cut Gladwell some slack. As long as you take what he wrote figuratively, and get the inspiration to be dedicated and practice a skill, you will get reasonably good. If you are an idiot who buys into the whole tabula rasa, anyone can achieve anything deal, you’ve got bigger problems than finding time to become a golf pro…

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    • Replies: @Paul Jolliffe
    But did you or anyone need to read Gladwell's "Outliers" to know that spending much time on any particular activity was likely to improve performance significantly?

    If that was all that Gladwell was claiming, then the appropriate response would be "duh!"

    Being a great concert pianist is strongly "associated" with a high IQ. Note that this study won't say that a high IQ is necessary to be a great pianist - even though it is - merely that it is "associated" with it.

    Can studying music raise someone's intellectual ability a little bit?

    Probably a little.

    But in reality, the higher the IQ, then generally the more likely one is to go further in music.

    http://www.science20.com/news_releases/do_musicians_have_higher_iqs_than_non_musicians_yes_says_study
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  3. @Truth
    Steph Curry has a 1.2 handicap.

    Curry shot a 68 in a televised celebrity tournament earlier this summer.

    Unbelievable eye-hand coordination and while he’s considered small for a basketball player, being a wiry 6′-3″ sounds pretty ideal for a golfer. But despite all the golf retired pro jocks play, I’m not aware of any team sport star later winning on the 50+ Champions Tour since John Brodie did it once.

    On the other hand, there have been guys who were failures as tour pros in their 20s and 30s who have become Senior Tour stars.

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    • Replies: @Marty
    The 68 shot by Curry on a Tahoe course that's not only at altitude but also wide open was really not that impressive. More impressive was Jerry Rice's cut-missing 76-75 two years ago in a web.com event in the Bay Area, on a course set up for the pros. We'll see how Curry does later this month in that same tournament.
    , @Steve in Greensboro
    Who other than Steve Sailer can provide me a shot of dopamine by mentioning my hero Long John Brodie, the archetypal Californian of the 1950s and 1960s?

    Menlo Park native, Stanford graduate, college football and golf, pro football and senior golf. The senior tournament he won was the 1991 Security Pacific Senior Classic that he won with a birdie on the first playoff hole against George Archer and Chi Chi Rodriguez.
    , @res
    Any idea of Steph Curry's golf background? Did he play as a child? Did Dell play?
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  4. O'Really says:

    Steph Curry is a scratch golfer and just shot an extremely respectable 74/74 in a professional competition last week.

    He is well known in the basketball world for his intense practice routines and work ethic, but there is no way he has time to put in close to 6000 hours on his golf game.

    He is just exceptionally gifted genetically with respect to body control and hand-eye coordination.

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  5. On the other hand, there have been guys who were failures as tour pros in their 20s and 30s who have become Senior Tour stars.

    There was also a talented mid-amateur (post-college amateur) who turned pro at 50 and did well on the Senior Tour. He was some insurance executive, I wish I could remember his name.

    Anyway, here’s an analytical look at the difference between a scratch golfer and a Tour pro. The conclusion is that a player needs a +3 handicap to get a tour card, and at least a +5 to make enough cuts to actually support yourself financially. The Tour Pro’s main advantage is driving length: even soft-hitting pros like Zach Johnson still blast it 280 yards.

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    • Replies: @Ex-banker
    That insurance executive would be Jay Sigel, who won eight times on the senior tour. The reality is that he was a tour-level talent who played college golf at Wake Forest and would have turned pro after graduation if not for injuries. He then played high level amateur for the next thirty years. The lifestyle of the "tour mid-am" who balances a career with a national tournament schedule is pretty sweet, compared to a low level tour pro - especially if one is able to leverage golf and club connections into sales dollars.

    Stew Hagestad, the low am in the this year's Masters, chose this route. Maverick McNealy, son of Scott, was the number one am in the world, has also contemplated staying an amateur. For guys with their background, hard to argue with their choices.
    , @Barnard
    Bill Clinton said an interview with Sports Illustrated shortly before he left the White House that if he practiced hard for six months he could have played on the Senior Tour. He was an average to below average golfer who would have been lucky to break 90 in a Senior Tour event. It seems to be hard for a lot of golfers to understand how much better the pros are than the average player.
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  6. Marty says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Curry shot a 68 in a televised celebrity tournament earlier this summer.

    Unbelievable eye-hand coordination and while he's considered small for a basketball player, being a wiry 6'-3" sounds pretty ideal for a golfer. But despite all the golf retired pro jocks play, I'm not aware of any team sport star later winning on the 50+ Champions Tour since John Brodie did it once.

    On the other hand, there have been guys who were failures as tour pros in their 20s and 30s who have become Senior Tour stars.

    The 68 shot by Curry on a Tahoe course that’s not only at altitude but also wide open was really not that impressive. More impressive was Jerry Rice’s cut-missing 76-75 two years ago in a web.com event in the Bay Area, on a course set up for the pros. We’ll see how Curry does later this month in that same tournament.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I played that Lake Tahoe course around 1973. It has a beautiful 16th hole that runs downhill for 600 yards to Lake Tahoe.
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  7. Steve, you should be aware of alt-right torch marchers, even tonight – maybe 400 people – in Charlottesville VA, under #UniteTheRight. It’ll re-start officially at noon tomorrow (EDT, of course), too, but given its energy tonight it’ll probably re-start first thing in the morning. Tonight was spur-of-the-moment – the numbers tomorrow will be larger, maybe 1000.

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  8. @Marty
    The 68 shot by Curry on a Tahoe course that's not only at altitude but also wide open was really not that impressive. More impressive was Jerry Rice's cut-missing 76-75 two years ago in a web.com event in the Bay Area, on a course set up for the pros. We'll see how Curry does later this month in that same tournament.

    I played that Lake Tahoe course around 1973. It has a beautiful 16th hole that runs downhill for 600 yards to Lake Tahoe.

    Read More
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  9. anon says: • Disclaimer

    Rory is 5′ 8″. Just sayin.

    But to the larger point … there is no doubt that pro level golfers are extremely talented. Unlike football or basketball, you can’t exactly specify what athletic trait is required. Strength and coordination — sure. But also vision and spatial perception. Tempo. Nerves when putting under pressure.

    Whatever it is, golfers learn pretty quickly if they have talent. They are the best golfers among their buddies. The best on their high school team. College. They win local and state amateur events.

    Great experiment. I’m surprised he didn’t quit earlier. After a couple of years if he couldn’t win money playing with the local guys — he should have had an idea regarding his ability.

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  10. Why didn’t he try to train his back? Though I think Tiger Woods had the same problem and apparently was at a loss what he should do about his back… so either it’s way more difficult to strengthen your back than I’d imagine or they didn’t receive top quality training advice. Maybe the coaches are specialists who know everything about golf but nothing about back issues.

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    • Replies: @The preferred nomenclature is...
    He should have hired Mark Rippetoe www.startingstrength.com for his back.
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  11. Coemgen says:

    Did the golfer consider neuroplasticity in addition to 10,000 hours of practice.

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  12. We basically live in in a society that believes or at least pretends it believes in the blank slate theory. This is an important reason why many of us here are ideologically rebelling. But nurture is still really important. If you work very hard, you can become pretty good at many things, including a majority of decent jobs.

    My grandfather told me Ty Cobb was the greatest baseball player ever (that was before sabermetricians discovered Babe Ruth was better) so I tried to copy as much of his baseball habits as I could including a crazy amount of practicing. In case you were wondering, I never became a great baseball player. If you want to reach the stars, you probably need a ton of talent, but for most things in life hard work and good values will take you pretty far.

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    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Sabermetrics did not discover that Babe Ruth was greater than Ty Cobb. Ruth was considered to be the greatest player of the twentieth century long before Bill James was even born.

    One can, however, make a strong case that as far as hitting goes, Cobb and Ruth were pretty much equal in all quantifiable measures of hitting or offensive stats. Excluding of course, the home run, which wasn't a thing during Cobb's peak performance. Although Cobb did once hit five home runs over a course of two days (something which even Ruth never attained) and that was in 1925, when he was about thirty-eight.

    What is not a good thing, however, is the detraction of a player's career stats after several decades of long consensus around the individual's career stats. For instance, up to around the late 1980's-early 1990's, Ty Cobb and other hitters among his era had their RBI's counted all the way back to when they began their careers. Given that metric, and Ty Cobb's career RBIs stand at 1,938, which is quite impressive. To put that in perspective that's more career RBI's than either Ted Williams or Willie Mays, and only about 13 RBIs behind Stan Musial and 52 RBI's behind Lou Gehrig.

    The argument appears to be that RBI's weren't officially counted til around 1920. But yet they were officially counted at least in the AL, because in 1901 the AL created the Triple Crown category, which is still in use today. The Triple Crown measures BA/HR/RBI. Therefore, the RBI category, at least in the AL, was indeed an official statistic. Ty Cobb, in fact, won the Triple Crown in 1909, by the way. So obviously RBI's had to be officially counted when he won the Triple Crown.

    RBI's are quite similar to an assist in the NBA, NHL, or professional soccer. One might ask, is an assist an important category in the NBA? Well, of course it is. Where I think that James missed it with ignoring or downplaying traditional stats like the RBI is that it helps one get a more complete picture of the hitter. For the most part, RBIs and HRs tend to go together. That is, those who lead the league in HRs or have a ton of them over their career will also tend to have a lot of RBIs as well.

    Also, regarding Cobb and Ruth, the fact that Ty Cobb batted cleanup and sometimes third in the batting order also lends credence as to how his team viewed his batting prowess: second to none in driving in runs. Cleanup would later develop into hitting HRs as well, but retained the RBI category as well. In the modern era Barry Bonds (pre-PEDS) resembles Ty Cobb: a combination of power and speed on the base paths.

    But who was the greatest hitter of all time? A case can be made for either Cobb and Ruth since their stats (aside from HRs) are very similar. The fact that they are both in the conversation tends to suggest that both are at the same level, and yet on another level, most tend to give Ruth the slight edge. Also it helped that Ruth played in ten WS and won seven, while Cobb played in three WS and won none.

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  13. Rod1963 says:

    I always thought Gladwell’s book set expectations way too high.

    Still if you’re not obsessed with trying to compete with pros. Why not take up a athletic hobby as long as you like it and it doesn’t hurt you. You get to meet like minded folks and have a good time. And that’s all good. Or for that matter music playing, wood working or anything skill based If you practice enough you’re gonna better no matter what and have something you enjoy and can be proud of.

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    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    Exactly.
    , @Another Canadian
    Sounds like good advice.
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  14. @Rod1963
    I always thought Gladwell's book set expectations way too high.

    Still if you're not obsessed with trying to compete with pros. Why not take up a athletic hobby as long as you like it and it doesn't hurt you. You get to meet like minded folks and have a good time. And that's all good. Or for that matter music playing, wood working or anything skill based If you practice enough you're gonna better no matter what and have something you enjoy and can be proud of.

    Exactly.

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  15. Steve, your eyes are off the ball.
    Recent Golf No 1 , Rory McIlroy is 5 foot 9 and 11 and a half stones ( 161 pounds, to you Yanks ), if Wikipedia is to be believed.

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  16. Danindc says:

    I see these guys regularly st tour events and was shocked st how slight many of them are

    Spieth, Rory, Justin Thomas, Richie Fowler, Jason Day look like wispy ballet types – it was shocking. They are in incredible shape….like ballet pixies.

    Big boys are making a comeback though with Jon Rahm, Tony Finau and Brooke Koepka leading the way.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    It could be a new trend.

    I went to a bunch of tournaments in 2001-2005 (going to two LPGA tournaments won by Annika Sorenstam allowed me to see how Annika had transformed from nice-looking in 2001 to massive in 2003 when she entered the men's tournament at Colonial and missed the cut by a respectable 4 strokes, as I had predicted).

    Golfers were bigger than I had expected based on going to tournaments in the 1970s. Star players then tended to be Mickey Mantle/Willie Mays/Hank Aaron-sized: Palmer and Nicklaus were a little under 6 feet, although much stronger than the average man.

    There were a lot of 6-2, 200 pounders at the US Open in 2004 where I went to 3 rounds thanks to the generosity of a regular commenter. Tiger at just over 6 feet and not as bulked up as he got in 2006-2007 when he was thinking of quitting golf to join the Navy SEALs was a little smaller than many. Phil at about 6-3 and 200+ dominated the tournament, although he shockingly finished second when he double bogeyed the 71st hole without actually hitting a bad shot.

    On the other hand, other than McIlroy and Fowler, the new generation is not small. Jordan Spieth at 6-1 and 185 is not a small man. Dustin Johnson, 6-4 and 190, strikes me as the second coming of Tom Weiskopf.

    , @EriK
    Re: Golfer size
    I played baseball with a guy that was a seriously accomplished junior golfer. He said a problem for him was when he got a lot stronger and taller (6'4") in HS. Suddenly his drives that used to stay in the fairway would go right through and into the woods. He was content with being a single digit handicap and never pushed himself to try to be a scratch player. Saved himself a lot of time I bet.
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  17. @Rod1963
    I always thought Gladwell's book set expectations way too high.

    Still if you're not obsessed with trying to compete with pros. Why not take up a athletic hobby as long as you like it and it doesn't hurt you. You get to meet like minded folks and have a good time. And that's all good. Or for that matter music playing, wood working or anything skill based If you practice enough you're gonna better no matter what and have something you enjoy and can be proud of.

    Sounds like good advice.

    Read More
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  18. midtown says:

    It’s like most everything else: 50 percent nature, 50 percent environmental factors. For most levels of competition, just training deliberately will get you to the top. But at the extreme end, the professional or D1 level, you need to have innate talent. That female athlete that Obama talked to had it exactly backward. She thought innate talent might help you succeed in middle school but that hard work helped you succeed at the collegiate level. Quite the opposite.

    The Talent Code was not as pie-in-the-sky. It suggested that talent hot spots appear in unusual places — tennis stars from Russia, baseball from Dominican Republic, golf from Korea — and that the important traits they had in common were deliberate practice, inspiration, and an excellent coach. It never claimed that anyone could do it, only that odds were improved under these circumstances.

    The tragedy of blank slatism is that people probably do have something that they are truly great at, but if they waste all their time pursuing the wrong thing, they’ll never know what that thing is. I’ve coached some athletes who were totally in the wrong sport. But it’s hard to tell them that, or at least it’s hard for them to hear that.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous

    The tragedy of blank slatism is that people probably do have something that they are truly great at, but if they waste all their time pursuing the wrong thing, they’ll never know what that thing is. I’ve coached some athletes who were totally in the wrong sport. But it’s hard to tell them that, or at least it’s hard for them to hear that.
     
    Most people will never be world class at any seriously contested activity, but almost no one will be world class at more than one thing. So for them it is important to work on that one thing, and to figure out what it is early on.

    But most of us can be fairly good at something with the right amount of effort and practice. That can make our lives a lot better and give us a sense of satisfaction and purpose.
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  19. Busby says:

    There’s a significant gulf between mastering a skill through well planned deliberate practice and performing at the professional level. It took more than 10,000 hours to qualify high school senior Jordan Spieth for an invitation to the Byron Nelson.

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  20. @Danindc
    I see these guys regularly st tour events and was shocked st how slight many of them are

    Spieth, Rory, Justin Thomas, Richie Fowler, Jason Day look like wispy ballet types - it was shocking. They are in incredible shape....like ballet pixies.

    Big boys are making a comeback though with Jon Rahm, Tony Finau and Brooke Koepka leading the way.

    It could be a new trend.

    I went to a bunch of tournaments in 2001-2005 (going to two LPGA tournaments won by Annika Sorenstam allowed me to see how Annika had transformed from nice-looking in 2001 to massive in 2003 when she entered the men’s tournament at Colonial and missed the cut by a respectable 4 strokes, as I had predicted).

    Golfers were bigger than I had expected based on going to tournaments in the 1970s. Star players then tended to be Mickey Mantle/Willie Mays/Hank Aaron-sized: Palmer and Nicklaus were a little under 6 feet, although much stronger than the average man.

    There were a lot of 6-2, 200 pounders at the US Open in 2004 where I went to 3 rounds thanks to the generosity of a regular commenter. Tiger at just over 6 feet and not as bulked up as he got in 2006-2007 when he was thinking of quitting golf to join the Navy SEALs was a little smaller than many. Phil at about 6-3 and 200+ dominated the tournament, although he shockingly finished second when he double bogeyed the 71st hole without actually hitting a bad shot.

    On the other hand, other than McIlroy and Fowler, the new generation is not small. Jordan Spieth at 6-1 and 185 is not a small man. Dustin Johnson, 6-4 and 190, strikes me as the second coming of Tom Weiskopf.

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    • Replies: @Ex-banker
    Steve,
    You heading out to watch the US Am at Riviera/Bel Air this week? Highly recommended-- small crowds, few ropes. Thursday is prob best day to go in terms of quality/stakes/access.

    Big summer in LA with Walker Cup at LACC as well.
    , @Alec Leamas
    Rickie up close is positively dainty - he seems to have gotten his frame from his Japanese grandfather. I've seen him a few times, including a month or two ago where his girlfriend was following his group and it's striking how small he is. And there's no way he's 5'9".

    I figure that the ball and club technology together with teaching proper ball striking to children are probably allowing the smaller men to compete with the 6'4" Ernie Els prototype long hitters. So while top golfers may not on average be smaller now than before, I definitely think we're seeing more small men able to compete at the top of the game.

    The interesting thing is the heavy golfers you see now, like Andrew Johnson and Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Other than Daly, have there been many of them before?
    , @JimB
    Isn't this all basic physics, or am I missing something? Taller person, longer moment arm, faster club, more momentum transfer to the ball, longer ball trajectory. Once you get on the green though I'm not sure how being tall and muscled helps.

    10,000 hours of golfing won't make your arms any longer, but you could become a first rate putter.

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  21. Arclight says:

    I am trying to figure out exactly how much I should expect if I worked on golf myself. I started playing (self taught) in my 20s, never played more than half a dozen rounds a year until I hit 40. I play on a Donald Ross course and generally shoot in the mid-upper 90s and decided I really need to invest some money in lessons to fix swing issues. If I could regularly stay under 90 I would probably be happy with that.

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  22. EriK says:
    @Danindc
    I see these guys regularly st tour events and was shocked st how slight many of them are

    Spieth, Rory, Justin Thomas, Richie Fowler, Jason Day look like wispy ballet types - it was shocking. They are in incredible shape....like ballet pixies.

    Big boys are making a comeback though with Jon Rahm, Tony Finau and Brooke Koepka leading the way.

    Re: Golfer size
    I played baseball with a guy that was a seriously accomplished junior golfer. He said a problem for him was when he got a lot stronger and taller (6’4″) in HS. Suddenly his drives that used to stay in the fairway would go right through and into the woods. He was content with being a single digit handicap and never pushed himself to try to be a scratch player. Saved himself a lot of time I bet.

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  23. @Steve Sailer
    Curry shot a 68 in a televised celebrity tournament earlier this summer.

    Unbelievable eye-hand coordination and while he's considered small for a basketball player, being a wiry 6'-3" sounds pretty ideal for a golfer. But despite all the golf retired pro jocks play, I'm not aware of any team sport star later winning on the 50+ Champions Tour since John Brodie did it once.

    On the other hand, there have been guys who were failures as tour pros in their 20s and 30s who have become Senior Tour stars.

    Who other than Steve Sailer can provide me a shot of dopamine by mentioning my hero Long John Brodie, the archetypal Californian of the 1950s and 1960s?

    Menlo Park native, Stanford graduate, college football and golf, pro football and senior golf. The senior tournament he won was the 1991 Security Pacific Senior Classic that he won with a birdie on the first playoff hole against George Archer and Chi Chi Rodriguez.

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  24. Anon says: • Disclaimer

    How I see the Majors role in selling the game to new generation.

    For 2017
    Masters and British = wizards welcome and win

    US Open and PGA = Be a Brute, if that’s not you then go back and crawl under a rock.

    If you can’t identify with the Hero you just move on to something else. Ironically the NFL has the largest variation in body types – small, medium, large, and monster- so projectioning yourself into a role is easy.

    Watching Brooks win in the US Open was absolutely soul killing to watch. Forget any Magic, 350 down the middle of the Fairway and Wedge or don’t even bother.

    The British Open hinted that regular golf might not be dead to normal humans. The PGA is looking more like the hopeless and non magical US Open.

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  25. Ex-banker says:
    @RomanCandle
    @Steve Sailer

    On the other hand, there have been guys who were failures as tour pros in their 20s and 30s who have become Senior Tour stars.
     
    There was also a talented mid-amateur (post-college amateur) who turned pro at 50 and did well on the Senior Tour. He was some insurance executive, I wish I could remember his name.

    Anyway, here's an analytical look at the difference between a scratch golfer and a Tour pro. The conclusion is that a player needs a +3 handicap to get a tour card, and at least a +5 to make enough cuts to actually support yourself financially. The Tour Pro's main advantage is driving length: even soft-hitting pros like Zach Johnson still blast it 280 yards.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfeUtY9lGuo

    That insurance executive would be Jay Sigel, who won eight times on the senior tour. The reality is that he was a tour-level talent who played college golf at Wake Forest and would have turned pro after graduation if not for injuries. He then played high level amateur for the next thirty years. The lifestyle of the “tour mid-am” who balances a career with a national tournament schedule is pretty sweet, compared to a low level tour pro – especially if one is able to leverage golf and club connections into sales dollars.

    Stew Hagestad, the low am in the this year’s Masters, chose this route. Maverick McNealy, son of Scott, was the number one am in the world, has also contemplated staying an amateur. For guys with their background, hard to argue with their choices.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    It would be cool if there were a Sportsman's Class events for the like of Tony Romo, Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, and as he age out of the PGA, Phil, where the events include a massive entry fee so that golfers are playing with their own money.
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  26. Ex-banker says:
    @Steve Sailer
    It could be a new trend.

    I went to a bunch of tournaments in 2001-2005 (going to two LPGA tournaments won by Annika Sorenstam allowed me to see how Annika had transformed from nice-looking in 2001 to massive in 2003 when she entered the men's tournament at Colonial and missed the cut by a respectable 4 strokes, as I had predicted).

    Golfers were bigger than I had expected based on going to tournaments in the 1970s. Star players then tended to be Mickey Mantle/Willie Mays/Hank Aaron-sized: Palmer and Nicklaus were a little under 6 feet, although much stronger than the average man.

    There were a lot of 6-2, 200 pounders at the US Open in 2004 where I went to 3 rounds thanks to the generosity of a regular commenter. Tiger at just over 6 feet and not as bulked up as he got in 2006-2007 when he was thinking of quitting golf to join the Navy SEALs was a little smaller than many. Phil at about 6-3 and 200+ dominated the tournament, although he shockingly finished second when he double bogeyed the 71st hole without actually hitting a bad shot.

    On the other hand, other than McIlroy and Fowler, the new generation is not small. Jordan Spieth at 6-1 and 185 is not a small man. Dustin Johnson, 6-4 and 190, strikes me as the second coming of Tom Weiskopf.

    Steve,
    You heading out to watch the US Am at Riviera/Bel Air this week? Highly recommended– small crowds, few ropes. Thursday is prob best day to go in terms of quality/stakes/access.

    Big summer in LA with Walker Cup at LACC as well.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Thanks. I want to see Bel-Air on Monday or Tuesday. I've seen Riviera a few times over the decades. But I've got my doctor checkup on Monday and I'm tired on Tuesday from writing my Taki's column. It's only $20 for an early week ticket.

    LACC for the Walker Cup on final day is $75.

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  27. @Ex-banker
    That insurance executive would be Jay Sigel, who won eight times on the senior tour. The reality is that he was a tour-level talent who played college golf at Wake Forest and would have turned pro after graduation if not for injuries. He then played high level amateur for the next thirty years. The lifestyle of the "tour mid-am" who balances a career with a national tournament schedule is pretty sweet, compared to a low level tour pro - especially if one is able to leverage golf and club connections into sales dollars.

    Stew Hagestad, the low am in the this year's Masters, chose this route. Maverick McNealy, son of Scott, was the number one am in the world, has also contemplated staying an amateur. For guys with their background, hard to argue with their choices.

    It would be cool if there were a Sportsman’s Class events for the like of Tony Romo, Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, and as he age out of the PGA, Phil, where the events include a massive entry fee so that golfers are playing with their own money.

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    • Replies: @Ex-banker
    That would be awesome. Partnering the "sportsmen" with the pros would make it particularly fun from a gambling/match perspective.
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  28. Dwright says:

    Steve is displaying height bias here. Of course he would. Of course I would notice being 5’10″
    I remember standing next to Jack Nicklaus and feeling he definitely was shorter than me. Well, sure doesn’t look taller.
    His hands by his own admission are extremely small, about 7″, he had an outline of them in a book. Same size as my 5’5″ wife.

    I quit golf after decades of frustration . My best golf was always early in the year before all the mental demons emerged.

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  29. @NJ Transit Commuter
    I'm in the midst of the 10000 hour thing, too, except for piano. Started after reading Outliers. Probably 2000 - 3000 hours in, by my rough estimate.

    Am I 20% - 30% of the way to being a concern pianist? Not even close. My brain is simply wired differently than a great musician's. With enough practice, I can learn a sonata by Beethoven or Hayden and play it reasonably well. But I have no improvisation skills whatsoever and will forget a piece I've learned very quickly.

    Still glad I started. Even if I'll never be a musical genius, I still get a lot of enjoyment out of the hobby. So I'm willing to cut Gladwell some slack. As long as you take what he wrote figuratively, and get the inspiration to be dedicated and practice a skill, you will get reasonably good. If you are an idiot who buys into the whole tabula rasa, anyone can achieve anything deal, you've got bigger problems than finding time to become a golf pro...

    But did you or anyone need to read Gladwell’s “Outliers” to know that spending much time on any particular activity was likely to improve performance significantly?

    If that was all that Gladwell was claiming, then the appropriate response would be “duh!”

    Being a great concert pianist is strongly “associated” with a high IQ. Note that this study won’t say that a high IQ is necessary to be a great pianist – even though it is – merely that it is “associated” with it.

    Can studying music raise someone’s intellectual ability a little bit?

    Probably a little.

    But in reality, the higher the IQ, then generally the more likely one is to go further in music.

    http://www.science20.com/news_releases/do_musicians_have_higher_iqs_than_non_musicians_yes_says_study

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  30. Art Deco says:

    So you’re saying that performance is derived from the interaction of talent and effort but that neither element alone can take you into elite ranks? This thesis is objectionable to whom?

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  31. @Judah Benjamin Hur
    We basically live in in a society that believes or at least pretends it believes in the blank slate theory. This is an important reason why many of us here are ideologically rebelling. But nurture is still really important. If you work very hard, you can become pretty good at many things, including a majority of decent jobs.

    My grandfather told me Ty Cobb was the greatest baseball player ever (that was before sabermetricians discovered Babe Ruth was better) so I tried to copy as much of his baseball habits as I could including a crazy amount of practicing. In case you were wondering, I never became a great baseball player. If you want to reach the stars, you probably need a ton of talent, but for most things in life hard work and good values will take you pretty far.

    Sabermetrics did not discover that Babe Ruth was greater than Ty Cobb. Ruth was considered to be the greatest player of the twentieth century long before Bill James was even born.

    One can, however, make a strong case that as far as hitting goes, Cobb and Ruth were pretty much equal in all quantifiable measures of hitting or offensive stats. Excluding of course, the home run, which wasn’t a thing during Cobb’s peak performance. Although Cobb did once hit five home runs over a course of two days (something which even Ruth never attained) and that was in 1925, when he was about thirty-eight.

    What is not a good thing, however, is the detraction of a player’s career stats after several decades of long consensus around the individual’s career stats. For instance, up to around the late 1980′s-early 1990′s, Ty Cobb and other hitters among his era had their RBI’s counted all the way back to when they began their careers. Given that metric, and Ty Cobb’s career RBIs stand at 1,938, which is quite impressive. To put that in perspective that’s more career RBI’s than either Ted Williams or Willie Mays, and only about 13 RBIs behind Stan Musial and 52 RBI’s behind Lou Gehrig.

    The argument appears to be that RBI’s weren’t officially counted til around 1920. But yet they were officially counted at least in the AL, because in 1901 the AL created the Triple Crown category, which is still in use today. The Triple Crown measures BA/HR/RBI. Therefore, the RBI category, at least in the AL, was indeed an official statistic. Ty Cobb, in fact, won the Triple Crown in 1909, by the way. So obviously RBI’s had to be officially counted when he won the Triple Crown.

    RBI’s are quite similar to an assist in the NBA, NHL, or professional soccer. One might ask, is an assist an important category in the NBA? Well, of course it is. Where I think that James missed it with ignoring or downplaying traditional stats like the RBI is that it helps one get a more complete picture of the hitter. For the most part, RBIs and HRs tend to go together. That is, those who lead the league in HRs or have a ton of them over their career will also tend to have a lot of RBIs as well.

    Also, regarding Cobb and Ruth, the fact that Ty Cobb batted cleanup and sometimes third in the batting order also lends credence as to how his team viewed his batting prowess: second to none in driving in runs. Cleanup would later develop into hitting HRs as well, but retained the RBI category as well. In the modern era Barry Bonds (pre-PEDS) resembles Ty Cobb: a combination of power and speed on the base paths.

    But who was the greatest hitter of all time? A case can be made for either Cobb and Ruth since their stats (aside from HRs) are very similar. The fact that they are both in the conversation tends to suggest that both are at the same level, and yet on another level, most tend to give Ruth the slight edge. Also it helped that Ruth played in ten WS and won seven, while Cobb played in three WS and won none.

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  32. This article is one more example of why Steve should consider writing a book on golf. Another aspect of various intricacies of the sport, made less complex thru the writer’s passion and desire to explain how and why thousands of hrs per Gladwellian theory equals a PGA in the making is in fact a bunch of bunk.

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  33. songbird says:

    Afraid I don’t know much about golf, but I wonder how he would compare against the LPGA pros?

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    At the all time peak for any woman in golf history, a ripped Annika Sorenstam in 2003, was two strokes worse per round than the median top 150 male pro. This guy at his best was maybe 6 strokes worse than Annika at her best. She was probably, say, 4 strokes per round better than the average woman tour pro. So if he got really hot at his peak he might have made the cut in an LPGA tournament, but probably would have exploded on the weekend and finished near last place. Tour pros are very good at not having catastrophic rounds, while amateurs have lots of bad rounds. The handicap system only counts the best ten of your last 20 rounds, so an impressive sounding handicap like 2.6 can cover up a lot of 85s that don't get counted.

    I doubt if he could have played at close to the level of average LPGA players.

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  34. res says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Curry shot a 68 in a televised celebrity tournament earlier this summer.

    Unbelievable eye-hand coordination and while he's considered small for a basketball player, being a wiry 6'-3" sounds pretty ideal for a golfer. But despite all the golf retired pro jocks play, I'm not aware of any team sport star later winning on the 50+ Champions Tour since John Brodie did it once.

    On the other hand, there have been guys who were failures as tour pros in their 20s and 30s who have become Senior Tour stars.

    Any idea of Steph Curry’s golf background? Did he play as a child? Did Dell play?

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    • Replies: @Ex-banker
    He did play growing up and played on the high school team at Charlotte Christian. His father is a four handicap according to GHIN.

    https://twitter.com/darrenrovell/status/681296989406019584/photo/1

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  35. I’m surprised nobody mentioned Allan Doyle who turned pro at the age of 46 and was a very successful golfer. He had an unusual hockey style swing that was very consistent.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Allen Doyle, took up golf at 14, played a lot in high school in New England summers, but played hockey in college. Got a real (non-golf) job, then in his 30s bought a driving range so he could become a driving range pro. Won some amateur tournaments, turned tour pro at 46, then won 4 major championships on the 50+ Senior/Champions Tour. Four is a lot. Bernhard Langer holds the career record with 10, followed by Gary Player with 9 and Jack Nicklaus with 8. So Doyle has won half as many Senior Majors as Jack.

    https://www.si.com/vault/1995/05/08/202986/late-riser-at-46-allen-doyle-is-earning-kudos-and-big-money-as-the-oldest-rookie-on-the-nike-tour

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  36. Ex-banker says:
    @res
    Any idea of Steph Curry's golf background? Did he play as a child? Did Dell play?

    He did play growing up and played on the high school team at Charlotte Christian. His father is a four handicap according to GHIN.

    https://twitter.com/darrenrovell/status/681296989406019584/photo/1

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  37. Ex-banker says:
    @Steve Sailer
    It would be cool if there were a Sportsman's Class events for the like of Tony Romo, Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, and as he age out of the PGA, Phil, where the events include a massive entry fee so that golfers are playing with their own money.

    That would be awesome. Partnering the “sportsmen” with the pros would make it particularly fun from a gambling/match perspective.

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  38. @reiner Tor
    Why didn't he try to train his back? Though I think Tiger Woods had the same problem and apparently was at a loss what he should do about his back... so either it's way more difficult to strengthen your back than I'd imagine or they didn't receive top quality training advice. Maybe the coaches are specialists who know everything about golf but nothing about back issues.

    He should have hired Mark Rippetoe http://www.startingstrength.com for his back.

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    • Agree: reiner Tor
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  39. a minor cavil in respect to gymnasts…
    i am not so sure about the ‘controlling their smaller body’ theory so much, as the difference between the nerve impulses of a 5-4 (whatever) ‘average’ size male gymnast, to a 6-0 ‘big’ male gymnast can not be that significant… not like we are comparing the nerve impulses/reflexes of a chimp to a dinosaur…
    .
    i think THE major factor smaller, compact male gymnasts generally have better results, is one of physics and kinetics… just a ton harder to move that bigger body against gravity when the muscle volume/strength does not increase significantly with height… longer lever arms of the tall gymnast without increasing the muscle strength to compensate… REAL tough the taller/heavier you get to compete with the smaller guys against gravity…
    .
    same reason a large majority of the successful competitors in the popular ‘american ninja’ series are smaller, gymnast body types… out of the hundreds, maybe a handful who were in the six foot range, a couple who were 6-4 or so… (AND they were real wiry stringbeans, not heavily muscled mesomorphs…)
    just sayin’…

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  40. @Steve Sailer
    It could be a new trend.

    I went to a bunch of tournaments in 2001-2005 (going to two LPGA tournaments won by Annika Sorenstam allowed me to see how Annika had transformed from nice-looking in 2001 to massive in 2003 when she entered the men's tournament at Colonial and missed the cut by a respectable 4 strokes, as I had predicted).

    Golfers were bigger than I had expected based on going to tournaments in the 1970s. Star players then tended to be Mickey Mantle/Willie Mays/Hank Aaron-sized: Palmer and Nicklaus were a little under 6 feet, although much stronger than the average man.

    There were a lot of 6-2, 200 pounders at the US Open in 2004 where I went to 3 rounds thanks to the generosity of a regular commenter. Tiger at just over 6 feet and not as bulked up as he got in 2006-2007 when he was thinking of quitting golf to join the Navy SEALs was a little smaller than many. Phil at about 6-3 and 200+ dominated the tournament, although he shockingly finished second when he double bogeyed the 71st hole without actually hitting a bad shot.

    On the other hand, other than McIlroy and Fowler, the new generation is not small. Jordan Spieth at 6-1 and 185 is not a small man. Dustin Johnson, 6-4 and 190, strikes me as the second coming of Tom Weiskopf.

    Rickie up close is positively dainty – he seems to have gotten his frame from his Japanese grandfather. I’ve seen him a few times, including a month or two ago where his girlfriend was following his group and it’s striking how small he is. And there’s no way he’s 5’9″.

    I figure that the ball and club technology together with teaching proper ball striking to children are probably allowing the smaller men to compete with the 6’4″ Ernie Els prototype long hitters. So while top golfers may not on average be smaller now than before, I definitely think we’re seeing more small men able to compete at the top of the game.

    The interesting thing is the heavy golfers you see now, like Andrew Johnson and Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Other than Daly, have there been many of them before?

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    • Replies: @Dwright
    Craig Stadler comes to mind.
    , @Steve Sailer
    But he wasn't getting any better from, say, 5000 hours to 6000 hours before his back gave out. He had plateaued.

    To put it another way, if there are two million Americans with handicaps, about 100,000 American golfers were still better than him at his best.

    On the other hand, if he'd started as fanatically practicing at age 10 rather than age 30, he might have gone even further. That's hard to say because we only have a vague idea of the balance between physical and mental skills in golf. He might never have had the physique to be a tour pro. (What it takes physically to hit a golf ball a long way isn't as obvious as what it takes physically to be an NBA or NFL player.)

    Alternatively, he might have had what it takes physically if he'd started training his mind to control his body while he was young.
    , @Steve Sailer
    Bobby Jones was not skinny.

    Nicklaus was Fat Jack until he lost 20 pounds around 1970 and grew his hair longer and suddenly looked like a movie star.

    That was a pretty interesting nurture-nature thing. In the 1960s it was common to lament that movie star-handsome Arnold Palmer was being eclipsed by homely Jack Nicklaus. Suddenly, in mid-career Nicklaus changed his body shape and hair and looked almost as glamorous as Palmer.
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  41. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    @Judah


    My grandfather told me Ty Cobb was the greatest baseball player ever (that was before sabermetricians discovered Babe Ruth was better) so I tried to copy as much of his baseball habits as I could including a crazy amount of practicing.

    There is film of Ruth at the plate shot from far down the right fieldl line. In the distance you see his big bat come around like a helicopter blade. It’s a study in power plus relaxation. Very, very smooth. Don’t know the story but I bet he had fewer back issues than other HR hitters.

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  42. Back in the 80′s when I lived in Bermuda, a friend of mine whose dad was a local golf pro played a few rounds with a guy called Michael Jordan, a very famous professional basketball player at that time. Apparently Michael fancied his chances of eventually turning pro as a golfer one he retired from flying.

    My friend and his father did not rate his chances very highly, although he was not a bad golfer at all.

    The fact is that all of the top hundred golfers in the world are virtuoso players capable of shooting incredibly low scores on courses and conditions that are to their liking, and many of them have been national champions since the age of 10, so the chance of any late developer catching up and getting close to any of them is minimal.

    However Jordan’s golfing ambitions did partly come to fruition in the form of a much younger player whose father Shawn Spieth named him after Michael Jordan, with golfing success to follow.

    So Michael Jordan can be proud of this connection, not to mention having a river and a whole country named after him.

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  43. Incidentally, my friend told me, Michael Jordan was a very popular golfer as he was not afraid to put his money where his mouth was, often to the benefit of his golfing companions, due to the fact that perhaps he rated himself a little more highly than others did.

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  44. Please, Steve, it’s mental and physical attributes, I contend all God-Given. I’m 6’1″, 200. Lots of guys carry my physique. They can run a 4.3 forty, in my prime, I could not. Whether it’s joints, muscle structure, I know not. I lined up against receivers in high school that were nearly identically built to me. But they were faster, way faster, but not stronger. Yet, they could go over my head for the ball, higher vertical jump, why? Joints, structure of the bones, again, who knows? We were all lean and mean in our twenties and in boot camp, I was the fastest White guy in my company, but a kid we called razor, a Black kid, he would beat me by a nose, later claimed he coulda beaten me by more, I believe it.

    Golf is another thing. I see Ricky Fowler and others of his physical ilk routinely drive 300-330 yds. I see identically-built guys on the munis that barely carry 200. I drive the ball ok these days at 60, routine poke 230, often 250. Pretty much the same as always except the clubs keep my distances up as I age, maybe. I see Seniors on the old-guy tour driving it 290-320. There is something that contributes to their mechanics that does the trick, short game (mental) of long game (add in the physical) The rest? Mental. Mental means a LOT too, but you need the physical attributes to begin with. Mechanics, rubber-band bodies, something generates that club-head/ball speed. Practice makes them straight, but you have to have the speed. Pors have it, duffers do not.

    QBs and pitchers. They have the rubber-band arm to throw a ball or they do not. It all starts with the physical. What they do with that after is their worth, ultimately. Lots of guys are built like/better than Brady on a paper level, but they ain’t Brady. Try to figure HIM out.

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    • Replies: @midtown
    Fast-twitch muscle fibers vs. slow-twitch probably accounts for a lot of that difference. Research indicates that much of that is genetic, although everyone can improve the fast-twitch muscles that they do have.
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  45. JimB says:
    @Steve Sailer
    It could be a new trend.

    I went to a bunch of tournaments in 2001-2005 (going to two LPGA tournaments won by Annika Sorenstam allowed me to see how Annika had transformed from nice-looking in 2001 to massive in 2003 when she entered the men's tournament at Colonial and missed the cut by a respectable 4 strokes, as I had predicted).

    Golfers were bigger than I had expected based on going to tournaments in the 1970s. Star players then tended to be Mickey Mantle/Willie Mays/Hank Aaron-sized: Palmer and Nicklaus were a little under 6 feet, although much stronger than the average man.

    There were a lot of 6-2, 200 pounders at the US Open in 2004 where I went to 3 rounds thanks to the generosity of a regular commenter. Tiger at just over 6 feet and not as bulked up as he got in 2006-2007 when he was thinking of quitting golf to join the Navy SEALs was a little smaller than many. Phil at about 6-3 and 200+ dominated the tournament, although he shockingly finished second when he double bogeyed the 71st hole without actually hitting a bad shot.

    On the other hand, other than McIlroy and Fowler, the new generation is not small. Jordan Spieth at 6-1 and 185 is not a small man. Dustin Johnson, 6-4 and 190, strikes me as the second coming of Tom Weiskopf.

    Isn’t this all basic physics, or am I missing something? Taller person, longer moment arm, faster club, more momentum transfer to the ball, longer ball trajectory. Once you get on the green though I’m not sure how being tall and muscled helps.

    10,000 hours of golfing won’t make your arms any longer, but you could become a first rate putter.

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    • Replies: @Jonathan Mason

    Isn’t this all basic physics, or am I missing something? Taller person, longer moment arm, faster club, more momentum transfer to the ball, longer ball trajectory.
     
    Ian Woosnam won the Masters and had more than 50 wins as a professional and he was only 5 feet 4 1/2 inches, though almost as wide as he was high. He was known as a long hitter.

    I think a short guy has his hands closer to the ground at the moment of impact than a tall guy, so if he used a long club the point of impact will be further away from his body, so benefiting from additional rotation.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cc/Ian_Woosnam_at_Royal_Troon_cropped.jpg/200px-Ian_Woosnam_at_Royal_Troon_cropped.jpg
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  46. Dwright says:
    @Alec Leamas
    Rickie up close is positively dainty - he seems to have gotten his frame from his Japanese grandfather. I've seen him a few times, including a month or two ago where his girlfriend was following his group and it's striking how small he is. And there's no way he's 5'9".

    I figure that the ball and club technology together with teaching proper ball striking to children are probably allowing the smaller men to compete with the 6'4" Ernie Els prototype long hitters. So while top golfers may not on average be smaller now than before, I definitely think we're seeing more small men able to compete at the top of the game.

    The interesting thing is the heavy golfers you see now, like Andrew Johnson and Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Other than Daly, have there been many of them before?

    Craig Stadler comes to mind.

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  47. He started playing golf at age 31. Before that, he had never played a full round of golf or been a competitive athlete.

    A 2.6 handicap would place him at the 94th percentile of golfers. That’s very good. That percentile only includes regular golfers, not the general population.

    Only 2 million Americans even have a handicap. So less than 1% of adults. He did better than over 9/10ths of them. So if 2000 American adults competed at golf, he’d be better than 1999 of them.

    Imagine if you were an average IQ person and, during your 30s, began studying math daily. Then you majored in engineering at MIT and got ranked at the 94th percentile of your class. That’d be amazing.

    Imagine if you were 5ft10, then became 6ft4. That represents the magnitude of the statistical improvement that this golfer made. Which is remarkable.

    Remember, he only did 6,000 hours of practice. If he did the full 10,000 hours, imagine how good he would be. If he started playing golf when he was a kid or teen, imagine where his game would be today.

    So it appears that Gladwell had a pretty good point.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    But he wasn't getting any better from, say, 5000 hours to 6000 hours before his back gave out. He had plateaued.

    To put it another way, if there are two million Americans with handicaps, about 100,000 American golfers were still better than him at his best.

    On the other hand, if he'd started as fanatically practicing at age 10 rather than age 30, he might have gone even further. That's hard to say because we only have a vague idea of the balance between physical and mental skills in golf. He might never have had the physique to be a tour pro. (What it takes physically to hit a golf ball a long way isn't as obvious as what it takes physically to be an NBA or NFL player.)

    Alternatively, he might have had what it takes physically if he'd started training his mind to control his body while he was young.
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  48. Barnard says:
    @RomanCandle
    @Steve Sailer

    On the other hand, there have been guys who were failures as tour pros in their 20s and 30s who have become Senior Tour stars.
     
    There was also a talented mid-amateur (post-college amateur) who turned pro at 50 and did well on the Senior Tour. He was some insurance executive, I wish I could remember his name.

    Anyway, here's an analytical look at the difference between a scratch golfer and a Tour pro. The conclusion is that a player needs a +3 handicap to get a tour card, and at least a +5 to make enough cuts to actually support yourself financially. The Tour Pro's main advantage is driving length: even soft-hitting pros like Zach Johnson still blast it 280 yards.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfeUtY9lGuo

    Bill Clinton said an interview with Sports Illustrated shortly before he left the White House that if he practiced hard for six months he could have played on the Senior Tour. He was an average to below average golfer who would have been lucky to break 90 in a Senior Tour event. It seems to be hard for a lot of golfers to understand how much better the pros are than the average player.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    A lot of good non-pro golfers think they are almost as good as the pros because they remember their best rounds -- I shot a 69 once! (Not me, mind you.) They forget all those bad days when they shot an 83. Pros hold it together on their bad days and limp around in, say, 73.

    Tour pros are just insanely good around the green.

    Remember there are a huge number of teaching pros below the tour pros, many of whom are spectacular golfers, but they haven't made it on tour.

    , @Triumph104
    Mike Tyson said that he could have been a doctor. Mike's money is on nurture in the nature vs. nurture fight.

    I know boxing is stereotyped as being Neanderthalic and pugnacious and stuff, but I just fell into the hands of a fight man [his late mentor and manager, Cus D’Amato] first. If I had fallen into the hands of a medical man, I would’ve been a doctor. If I would’ve fallen into the hands of a literature man, I would’ve been a writer. It’s just that he got me first, and I became a boxer.

     

    http://vegasseven.com/2012/04/05/mike-tyson/
    , @Jim Don Bob
    Bill Clinton cheats like crazy at golf, and there ain't no mulligans or gimmes on tour.
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  49. Imagine if you were an average IQ person and, during your 30s, began studying math daily. Then you majored in engineering at MIT and got ranked at the 94th percentile of your class. That’d be amazing.

    And impossible.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    The 6000 hour golfer didn't get to 94th percentile at MIT levels, he got to something like, say, 94th percentile at four-year colleges nationally level. Which is very good but not MIT 94th percentile.
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  50. @Barnard
    Bill Clinton said an interview with Sports Illustrated shortly before he left the White House that if he practiced hard for six months he could have played on the Senior Tour. He was an average to below average golfer who would have been lucky to break 90 in a Senior Tour event. It seems to be hard for a lot of golfers to understand how much better the pros are than the average player.

    A lot of good non-pro golfers think they are almost as good as the pros because they remember their best rounds — I shot a 69 once! (Not me, mind you.) They forget all those bad days when they shot an 83. Pros hold it together on their bad days and limp around in, say, 73.

    Tour pros are just insanely good around the green.

    Remember there are a huge number of teaching pros below the tour pros, many of whom are spectacular golfers, but they haven’t made it on tour.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Barnard
    Yes and as the PGA Championship demonstrates each year, those teaching pros aren't on the same level as the pros. Most of them missed the cut with two rounds in the high 70s or low 80s again this year.
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  51. Handicap doesn’t measure anything real! The only real thing is white oppression!

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  52. @James Richard

    Imagine if you were an average IQ person and, during your 30s, began studying math daily. Then you majored in engineering at MIT and got ranked at the 94th percentile of your class. That’d be amazing.
     
    And impossible.

    The 6000 hour golfer didn’t get to 94th percentile at MIT levels, he got to something like, say, 94th percentile at four-year colleges nationally level. Which is very good but not MIT 94th percentile.

    Read More
    • Replies: @James Richard
    Yes, the *average* MIT engineering student is already in the 99th percentile in mathematical ability.
    , @JohnnyWalker123
    2 million American golfers have handicap scores. They represent roughly the top 1% of the adult golf ability distribution.

    The lower 25th percentile of MIT student SAT scores corresponds to an IQ of 135 (top 1 percent of the IQ distribution).

    So the threshold IQ percentile necessary to enter MIT is similar to the threshold golf ability percentile associated with a handicap score.

    Imagine an average American (in his 30s) learning enough math to enter MIT and becoming one of the top students there. That's what this golfer did.

    Even if you assume that he “only” scored in the 94th percentile of the general college student population (not MIT), that’s pretty damn good. That’d be like raising your IQ from 100 to 130 through studying. That’s like raising your height from 5ft10 to 6ft3 through drinking a lot of milk.

    Now imagine he began his experiment when he was a much younger person. He could plausibly be a nationally ranked golfer today. Maybe not on the level of (the old) Tiger Woods, but good enough to maybe compete against him at some point.
    , @res
    To be clear, I think you also have to relax the "engineering major" portion of the original statement. I don't think there are many places where say the median American (probably not median college grad American either IMO, though that at least might be arguable) is going to succeed in an engineering program.
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  53. JackOH says:

    I’d read that 10,000 hour figure in one of Michio Kaku’s pop science books, and it made sense to me at a non-nuanced intuitive level. Apprenticeships, college degrees, residencies, and what-not–don’t they hover about a 10,000 hour mark? Again, I bring no nuance to this, and I’m not aware of Prof. Ericsson’s detailed research on “deliberate practice”.

    FWIW-as a youngster, I was an amateur musician and had good amateur chops, by my reckoning, after maybe 2000-3000 hours. I had a relative who taught at a proprietary college. She was in way over her head at first, working six and seven day weeks. She had a sort of breathrough moment one semester that happened after maybe 6000 hours of some very frazzled teaching.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    10,000 hours is a good rule of thumb. It's more or less necessary, but it's not sufficient.

    The shortest time from taking up golf to winning a major in the last three generations may have been Gary Player going from starting golf at 16 to winning the British Open at 23. So 10,000 hours is probably an understatement for being a major champion in golf.

    Tiger and Phil started swinging golf clubs as toddlers. It took Phil about 30 years to win his first major.

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  54. @Name Withheld
    I'm surprised nobody mentioned Allan Doyle who turned pro at the age of 46 and was a very successful golfer. He had an unusual hockey style swing that was very consistent.

    Allen Doyle, took up golf at 14, played a lot in high school in New England summers, but played hockey in college. Got a real (non-golf) job, then in his 30s bought a driving range so he could become a driving range pro. Won some amateur tournaments, turned tour pro at 46, then won 4 major championships on the 50+ Senior/Champions Tour. Four is a lot. Bernhard Langer holds the career record with 10, followed by Gary Player with 9 and Jack Nicklaus with 8. So Doyle has won half as many Senior Majors as Jack.

    https://www.si.com/vault/1995/05/08/202986/late-riser-at-46-allen-doyle-is-earning-kudos-and-big-money-as-the-oldest-rookie-on-the-nike-tour

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  55. @songbird
    Afraid I don't know much about golf, but I wonder how he would compare against the LPGA pros?

    At the all time peak for any woman in golf history, a ripped Annika Sorenstam in 2003, was two strokes worse per round than the median top 150 male pro. This guy at his best was maybe 6 strokes worse than Annika at her best. She was probably, say, 4 strokes per round better than the average woman tour pro. So if he got really hot at his peak he might have made the cut in an LPGA tournament, but probably would have exploded on the weekend and finished near last place. Tour pros are very good at not having catastrophic rounds, while amateurs have lots of bad rounds. The handicap system only counts the best ten of your last 20 rounds, so an impressive sounding handicap like 2.6 can cover up a lot of 85s that don’t get counted.

    I doubt if he could have played at close to the level of average LPGA players.

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  56. @JackOH
    I'd read that 10,000 hour figure in one of Michio Kaku's pop science books, and it made sense to me at a non-nuanced intuitive level. Apprenticeships, college degrees, residencies, and what-not--don't they hover about a 10,000 hour mark? Again, I bring no nuance to this, and I'm not aware of Prof. Ericsson's detailed research on "deliberate practice".

    FWIW-as a youngster, I was an amateur musician and had good amateur chops, by my reckoning, after maybe 2000-3000 hours. I had a relative who taught at a proprietary college. She was in way over her head at first, working six and seven day weeks. She had a sort of breathrough moment one semester that happened after maybe 6000 hours of some very frazzled teaching.

    10,000 hours is a good rule of thumb. It’s more or less necessary, but it’s not sufficient.

    The shortest time from taking up golf to winning a major in the last three generations may have been Gary Player going from starting golf at 16 to winning the British Open at 23. So 10,000 hours is probably an understatement for being a major champion in golf.

    Tiger and Phil started swinging golf clubs as toddlers. It took Phil about 30 years to win his first major.

    Read More
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  57. Barnard says:
    @Steve Sailer
    A lot of good non-pro golfers think they are almost as good as the pros because they remember their best rounds -- I shot a 69 once! (Not me, mind you.) They forget all those bad days when they shot an 83. Pros hold it together on their bad days and limp around in, say, 73.

    Tour pros are just insanely good around the green.

    Remember there are a huge number of teaching pros below the tour pros, many of whom are spectacular golfers, but they haven't made it on tour.

    Yes and as the PGA Championship demonstrates each year, those teaching pros aren’t on the same level as the pros. Most of them missed the cut with two rounds in the high 70s or low 80s again this year.

    Read More
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  58. @JohnnyWalker123
    He started playing golf at age 31. Before that, he had never played a full round of golf or been a competitive athlete.

    A 2.6 handicap would place him at the 94th percentile of golfers. That's very good. That percentile only includes regular golfers, not the general population.

    Only 2 million Americans even have a handicap. So less than 1% of adults. He did better than over 9/10ths of them. So if 2000 American adults competed at golf, he'd be better than 1999 of them.

    Imagine if you were an average IQ person and, during your 30s, began studying math daily. Then you majored in engineering at MIT and got ranked at the 94th percentile of your class. That'd be amazing.

    Imagine if you were 5ft10, then became 6ft4. That represents the magnitude of the statistical improvement that this golfer made. Which is remarkable.

    Remember, he only did 6,000 hours of practice. If he did the full 10,000 hours, imagine how good he would be. If he started playing golf when he was a kid or teen, imagine where his game would be today.

    So it appears that Gladwell had a pretty good point.

    But he wasn’t getting any better from, say, 5000 hours to 6000 hours before his back gave out. He had plateaued.

    To put it another way, if there are two million Americans with handicaps, about 100,000 American golfers were still better than him at his best.

    On the other hand, if he’d started as fanatically practicing at age 10 rather than age 30, he might have gone even further. That’s hard to say because we only have a vague idea of the balance between physical and mental skills in golf. He might never have had the physique to be a tour pro. (What it takes physically to hit a golf ball a long way isn’t as obvious as what it takes physically to be an NBA or NFL player.)

    Alternatively, he might have had what it takes physically if he’d started training his mind to control his body while he was young.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JohnnyWalker123

    But he wasn’t getting any better from, say, 5000 hours to 6000 hours before his back gave out. He had plateaued.
     
    That’s because he’s 39 years old. If he had started at a much younger age and put in 10,000 hours, he probably wouldn’t have gotten injured as easily. Younger people recover more easily too. Also, if you start at a young age, your body will physically and mentally adjust itself more easily.

    So rather than plateauing, he might’ve continued to improve his game. So he could’ve been even better than the 94th percentile of the top 2 million American golfers (who are the top 1 percent).
    Which suggests that Gladwell has a good point.

    Gladwell overstates the impact of his 10,000 hour rule, but he’s onto something.
    I remember when I mentioned that GSS data showed that 75 IQ people were graduating from college. Some people here refused to believe that. I suppose some of those same people might not believe that an average man could improve his golf game to the ~99.95th percentile.

    So, sure, you need natural ability to become Tiger Woods or Albert Einstein. However, even if you’re pretty average, hard work (started at an early age) can take you REALLY, REALLY far.

    The top 100,000 of American golfers is not bad. That's like having an IQ of 150.
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  59. @Alec Leamas
    Rickie up close is positively dainty - he seems to have gotten his frame from his Japanese grandfather. I've seen him a few times, including a month or two ago where his girlfriend was following his group and it's striking how small he is. And there's no way he's 5'9".

    I figure that the ball and club technology together with teaching proper ball striking to children are probably allowing the smaller men to compete with the 6'4" Ernie Els prototype long hitters. So while top golfers may not on average be smaller now than before, I definitely think we're seeing more small men able to compete at the top of the game.

    The interesting thing is the heavy golfers you see now, like Andrew Johnson and Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Other than Daly, have there been many of them before?

    But he wasn’t getting any better from, say, 5000 hours to 6000 hours before his back gave out. He had plateaued.

    To put it another way, if there are two million Americans with handicaps, about 100,000 American golfers were still better than him at his best.

    On the other hand, if he’d started as fanatically practicing at age 10 rather than age 30, he might have gone even further. That’s hard to say because we only have a vague idea of the balance between physical and mental skills in golf. He might never have had the physique to be a tour pro. (What it takes physically to hit a golf ball a long way isn’t as obvious as what it takes physically to be an NBA or NFL player.)

    Alternatively, he might have had what it takes physically if he’d started training his mind to control his body while he was young.

    Read More
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  60. midtown says:
    @Jim Christian
    Please, Steve, it's mental and physical attributes, I contend all God-Given. I'm 6'1", 200. Lots of guys carry my physique. They can run a 4.3 forty, in my prime, I could not. Whether it's joints, muscle structure, I know not. I lined up against receivers in high school that were nearly identically built to me. But they were faster, way faster, but not stronger. Yet, they could go over my head for the ball, higher vertical jump, why? Joints, structure of the bones, again, who knows? We were all lean and mean in our twenties and in boot camp, I was the fastest White guy in my company, but a kid we called razor, a Black kid, he would beat me by a nose, later claimed he coulda beaten me by more, I believe it.

    Golf is another thing. I see Ricky Fowler and others of his physical ilk routinely drive 300-330 yds. I see identically-built guys on the munis that barely carry 200. I drive the ball ok these days at 60, routine poke 230, often 250. Pretty much the same as always except the clubs keep my distances up as I age, maybe. I see Seniors on the old-guy tour driving it 290-320. There is something that contributes to their mechanics that does the trick, short game (mental) of long game (add in the physical) The rest? Mental. Mental means a LOT too, but you need the physical attributes to begin with. Mechanics, rubber-band bodies, something generates that club-head/ball speed. Practice makes them straight, but you have to have the speed. Pors have it, duffers do not.

    QBs and pitchers. They have the rubber-band arm to throw a ball or they do not. It all starts with the physical. What they do with that after is their worth, ultimately. Lots of guys are built like/better than Brady on a paper level, but they ain't Brady. Try to figure HIM out.

    Fast-twitch muscle fibers vs. slow-twitch probably accounts for a lot of that difference. Research indicates that much of that is genetic, although everyone can improve the fast-twitch muscles that they do have.

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  61. @Alec Leamas
    Rickie up close is positively dainty - he seems to have gotten his frame from his Japanese grandfather. I've seen him a few times, including a month or two ago where his girlfriend was following his group and it's striking how small he is. And there's no way he's 5'9".

    I figure that the ball and club technology together with teaching proper ball striking to children are probably allowing the smaller men to compete with the 6'4" Ernie Els prototype long hitters. So while top golfers may not on average be smaller now than before, I definitely think we're seeing more small men able to compete at the top of the game.

    The interesting thing is the heavy golfers you see now, like Andrew Johnson and Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Other than Daly, have there been many of them before?

    Bobby Jones was not skinny.

    Nicklaus was Fat Jack until he lost 20 pounds around 1970 and grew his hair longer and suddenly looked like a movie star.

    That was a pretty interesting nurture-nature thing. In the 1960s it was common to lament that movie star-handsome Arnold Palmer was being eclipsed by homely Jack Nicklaus. Suddenly, in mid-career Nicklaus changed his body shape and hair and looked almost as glamorous as Palmer.

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  62. @Steve Sailer
    The 6000 hour golfer didn't get to 94th percentile at MIT levels, he got to something like, say, 94th percentile at four-year colleges nationally level. Which is very good but not MIT 94th percentile.

    Yes, the *average* MIT engineering student is already in the 99th percentile in mathematical ability.

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  63. @Steve Sailer
    The 6000 hour golfer didn't get to 94th percentile at MIT levels, he got to something like, say, 94th percentile at four-year colleges nationally level. Which is very good but not MIT 94th percentile.

    2 million American golfers have handicap scores. They represent roughly the top 1% of the adult golf ability distribution.

    The lower 25th percentile of MIT student SAT scores corresponds to an IQ of 135 (top 1 percent of the IQ distribution).

    So the threshold IQ percentile necessary to enter MIT is similar to the threshold golf ability percentile associated with a handicap score.

    Imagine an average American (in his 30s) learning enough math to enter MIT and becoming one of the top students there. That’s what this golfer did.

    Even if you assume that he “only” scored in the 94th percentile of the general college student population (not MIT), that’s pretty damn good. That’d be like raising your IQ from 100 to 130 through studying. That’s like raising your height from 5ft10 to 6ft3 through drinking a lot of milk.

    Now imagine he began his experiment when he was a much younger person. He could plausibly be a nationally ranked golfer today. Maybe not on the level of (the old) Tiger Woods, but good enough to maybe compete against him at some point.

    Read More
    • Replies: @res

    So the threshold IQ percentile necessary to enter MIT is similar to the threshold golf ability percentile associated with a handicap score.
     
    You are making (both here and elsewhere) a big assumption about how many potentially top golf talents are actually playing golf. IQ tests can be normed across an entire population (and are). Golf potential ability can't really be normed that way. How many top athletes in other sports (baseball seems like a decent place to look) would be good at golf as well?

    I don't think conflating measures of what is roughly innate ability (IQ) with measures of highly specific learned behavior (golf) works that well.

    Gladwell ridiculously oversold his 10,000 hours idea, but there is a valid point about people being able to accomplish much more than they think with some effort. However, I think most Americans would be better off losing however many pounds are appropriate and working on basic fitness and flexibility first and only then consider putting in the 10,000 hours.

    The thing everyone seems to forget is those top natural golf talents playing as PGA tour pros are also working 10,000 hours or more. The combination of natural talent and hard work is hard to beat.

    One related question is: how much of the natural golf talent in the world does the PGA actually attract? It can be interesting to watch what happens when a sport becomes much better at attracting those with natural ability. I think the NBA over time provides a good example of this.
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  64. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @midtown
    It's like most everything else: 50 percent nature, 50 percent environmental factors. For most levels of competition, just training deliberately will get you to the top. But at the extreme end, the professional or D1 level, you need to have innate talent. That female athlete that Obama talked to had it exactly backward. She thought innate talent might help you succeed in middle school but that hard work helped you succeed at the collegiate level. Quite the opposite.

    The Talent Code was not as pie-in-the-sky. It suggested that talent hot spots appear in unusual places -- tennis stars from Russia, baseball from Dominican Republic, golf from Korea -- and that the important traits they had in common were deliberate practice, inspiration, and an excellent coach. It never claimed that anyone could do it, only that odds were improved under these circumstances.

    The tragedy of blank slatism is that people probably do have something that they are truly great at, but if they waste all their time pursuing the wrong thing, they'll never know what that thing is. I've coached some athletes who were totally in the wrong sport. But it's hard to tell them that, or at least it's hard for them to hear that.

    The tragedy of blank slatism is that people probably do have something that they are truly great at, but if they waste all their time pursuing the wrong thing, they’ll never know what that thing is. I’ve coached some athletes who were totally in the wrong sport. But it’s hard to tell them that, or at least it’s hard for them to hear that.

    Most people will never be world class at any seriously contested activity, but almost no one will be world class at more than one thing. So for them it is important to work on that one thing, and to figure out what it is early on.

    But most of us can be fairly good at something with the right amount of effort and practice. That can make our lives a lot better and give us a sense of satisfaction and purpose.

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  65. @Steve Sailer
    But he wasn't getting any better from, say, 5000 hours to 6000 hours before his back gave out. He had plateaued.

    To put it another way, if there are two million Americans with handicaps, about 100,000 American golfers were still better than him at his best.

    On the other hand, if he'd started as fanatically practicing at age 10 rather than age 30, he might have gone even further. That's hard to say because we only have a vague idea of the balance between physical and mental skills in golf. He might never have had the physique to be a tour pro. (What it takes physically to hit a golf ball a long way isn't as obvious as what it takes physically to be an NBA or NFL player.)

    Alternatively, he might have had what it takes physically if he'd started training his mind to control his body while he was young.

    But he wasn’t getting any better from, say, 5000 hours to 6000 hours before his back gave out. He had plateaued.

    That’s because he’s 39 years old. If he had started at a much younger age and put in 10,000 hours, he probably wouldn’t have gotten injured as easily. Younger people recover more easily too. Also, if you start at a young age, your body will physically and mentally adjust itself more easily.

    So rather than plateauing, he might’ve continued to improve his game. So he could’ve been even better than the 94th percentile of the top 2 million American golfers (who are the top 1 percent).
    Which suggests that Gladwell has a good point.

    Gladwell overstates the impact of his 10,000 hour rule, but he’s onto something.
    I remember when I mentioned that GSS data showed that 75 IQ people were graduating from college. Some people here refused to believe that. I suppose some of those same people might not believe that an average man could improve his golf game to the ~99.95th percentile.

    So, sure, you need natural ability to become Tiger Woods or Albert Einstein. However, even if you’re pretty average, hard work (started at an early age) can take you REALLY, REALLY far.

    The top 100,000 of American golfers is not bad. That’s like having an IQ of 150.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I think that in golf, you have to be a lot better than top 100K to make a good living at it. You have to be in the top thousand and preferably in the top 100 before there is any money at all, don't you?


    Whereas if you are a doctor or lawyer, you just have to be licensed to make a fair living. If you are a board certified general, vascular, orthopedic surgeon, you are in the top 10 or 20 percent of doctors financially (since most doctors are family physicians or internists or such) and that would be a lot better use of your ten thousand hours than any sports activity for most people.

    Conversely, if raw physical conditioning were what made sports talent, Navy SEAL teams could put teams together in their off hours to beat the major league guys. I know of no one from the teams who has succeeded in any pro sport unless you consider professional wrestling a sport. The marines, the Army,and believe it or not even the Chair Force have elite units in comparable shape and the same is true there.
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  66. 10,000 hours BS seems to be associated with steroids and amphetamine abuse. Ordinary humans do not grind that much at all, in any line of work.

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  67. res says:
    @Steve Sailer
    The 6000 hour golfer didn't get to 94th percentile at MIT levels, he got to something like, say, 94th percentile at four-year colleges nationally level. Which is very good but not MIT 94th percentile.

    To be clear, I think you also have to relax the “engineering major” portion of the original statement. I don’t think there are many places where say the median American (probably not median college grad American either IMO, though that at least might be arguable) is going to succeed in an engineering program.

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  68. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @JohnnyWalker123

    But he wasn’t getting any better from, say, 5000 hours to 6000 hours before his back gave out. He had plateaued.
     
    That’s because he’s 39 years old. If he had started at a much younger age and put in 10,000 hours, he probably wouldn’t have gotten injured as easily. Younger people recover more easily too. Also, if you start at a young age, your body will physically and mentally adjust itself more easily.

    So rather than plateauing, he might’ve continued to improve his game. So he could’ve been even better than the 94th percentile of the top 2 million American golfers (who are the top 1 percent).
    Which suggests that Gladwell has a good point.

    Gladwell overstates the impact of his 10,000 hour rule, but he’s onto something.
    I remember when I mentioned that GSS data showed that 75 IQ people were graduating from college. Some people here refused to believe that. I suppose some of those same people might not believe that an average man could improve his golf game to the ~99.95th percentile.

    So, sure, you need natural ability to become Tiger Woods or Albert Einstein. However, even if you’re pretty average, hard work (started at an early age) can take you REALLY, REALLY far.

    The top 100,000 of American golfers is not bad. That's like having an IQ of 150.

    I think that in golf, you have to be a lot better than top 100K to make a good living at it. You have to be in the top thousand and preferably in the top 100 before there is any money at all, don’t you?

    Whereas if you are a doctor or lawyer, you just have to be licensed to make a fair living. If you are a board certified general, vascular, orthopedic surgeon, you are in the top 10 or 20 percent of doctors financially (since most doctors are family physicians or internists or such) and that would be a lot better use of your ten thousand hours than any sports activity for most people.

    Conversely, if raw physical conditioning were what made sports talent, Navy SEAL teams could put teams together in their off hours to beat the major league guys. I know of no one from the teams who has succeeded in any pro sport unless you consider professional wrestling a sport. The marines, the Army,and believe it or not even the Chair Force have elite units in comparable shape and the same is true there.

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    • Replies: @JohnnyWalker123
    Basically, yeah. Sports provides you with minimal money&fame unless you're in the super elite percentiles. A tiny number of athletes get to be rich super stars, while the overwhelming majority get some minor HS/college/minor league recognition.

    If you look at the ratio of seriously injured athletes to pro athletes, it's extremely large. Your odds of damaging your body for life far outweigh your odds of ever playing pro ball. It's unfortunate, but that's the reality. The world is full of washed up ex-athletes who never got any stardom, but live with daily knee pain and back problems.

    The SEALS may have elite level strength and conditioning, but their practical athletic skill is underdeveloped because they don't play for hours, with top coaches and trainers, daily. I'd bet that if they got regular coaching, the could become pro athletes.

    Tons of firefighters and cops are in pro athlete condition too, but they're too busy to train with coaches.
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  69. @Barnard
    Bill Clinton said an interview with Sports Illustrated shortly before he left the White House that if he practiced hard for six months he could have played on the Senior Tour. He was an average to below average golfer who would have been lucky to break 90 in a Senior Tour event. It seems to be hard for a lot of golfers to understand how much better the pros are than the average player.

    Mike Tyson said that he could have been a doctor. Mike’s money is on nurture in the nature vs. nurture fight.

    I know boxing is stereotyped as being Neanderthalic and pugnacious and stuff, but I just fell into the hands of a fight man [his late mentor and manager, Cus D’Amato] first. If I had fallen into the hands of a medical man, I would’ve been a doctor. If I would’ve fallen into the hands of a literature man, I would’ve been a writer. It’s just that he got me first, and I became a boxer.

    http://vegasseven.com/2012/04/05/mike-tyson/

    Read More
    • Replies: @anon
    "If I had fallen into the hands of a medical man, I would’ve been a doctor"
    Go see Doctor Tyson about an ear-ache and he bites your ear off.
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  70. res says:
    @JohnnyWalker123
    2 million American golfers have handicap scores. They represent roughly the top 1% of the adult golf ability distribution.

    The lower 25th percentile of MIT student SAT scores corresponds to an IQ of 135 (top 1 percent of the IQ distribution).

    So the threshold IQ percentile necessary to enter MIT is similar to the threshold golf ability percentile associated with a handicap score.

    Imagine an average American (in his 30s) learning enough math to enter MIT and becoming one of the top students there. That's what this golfer did.

    Even if you assume that he “only” scored in the 94th percentile of the general college student population (not MIT), that’s pretty damn good. That’d be like raising your IQ from 100 to 130 through studying. That’s like raising your height from 5ft10 to 6ft3 through drinking a lot of milk.

    Now imagine he began his experiment when he was a much younger person. He could plausibly be a nationally ranked golfer today. Maybe not on the level of (the old) Tiger Woods, but good enough to maybe compete against him at some point.

    So the threshold IQ percentile necessary to enter MIT is similar to the threshold golf ability percentile associated with a handicap score.

    You are making (both here and elsewhere) a big assumption about how many potentially top golf talents are actually playing golf. IQ tests can be normed across an entire population (and are). Golf potential ability can’t really be normed that way. How many top athletes in other sports (baseball seems like a decent place to look) would be good at golf as well?

    I don’t think conflating measures of what is roughly innate ability (IQ) with measures of highly specific learned behavior (golf) works that well.

    Gladwell ridiculously oversold his 10,000 hours idea, but there is a valid point about people being able to accomplish much more than they think with some effort. However, I think most Americans would be better off losing however many pounds are appropriate and working on basic fitness and flexibility first and only then consider putting in the 10,000 hours.

    The thing everyone seems to forget is those top natural golf talents playing as PGA tour pros are also working 10,000 hours or more. The combination of natural talent and hard work is hard to beat.

    One related question is: how much of the natural golf talent in the world does the PGA actually attract? It can be interesting to watch what happens when a sport becomes much better at attracting those with natural ability. I think the NBA over time provides a good example of this.

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    • Replies: @JohnnyWalker123
    About 10% of Americans (30 million) play golf. If he's in the top 120,000, that places him in the top 0.4% of these golfers. Which is really exceptional, especially for a guy that started in his 30s.

    Even if we assume that he's "only" in the top 6% of golfers, that's like increasing your IQ from 100 to 124.
    , @JohnnyWalker123

    I don’t think conflating measures of what is roughly innate ability (IQ) with measures of highly specific learned behavior (golf) works that well.
     
    IQ isn't really a measure of innate ability. As Ron Unz has pointed out, IQ is highly malleable and varies significantly with environment. The Flynn Effect also suggests that IQ isn't a fixed innate trait, but more of a learned ability. Professor Flynn believes that IQ is like a muscle - it can be strengthened with training or weakened by underuse.


    Gladwell ridiculously oversold his 10,000 hours idea, but there is a valid point about people being able to accomplish much more than they think with some effort. However, I think most Americans would be better off losing however many pounds are appropriate and working on basic fitness and flexibility first and only then consider putting in the 10,000 hours.
     
    Gladwell oversold his idea, but it still holds up pretty well. Hard work alone won't make you a star, but it'll take you very far. That was sort of the idea advanced by teacher Jaime Escalante, who successfully taught Advanced Placement calculus to inner city Hispanics.
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  71. I was browsing for articles on Arsen Fadzayev – possibly the greatest wrestler ever – a couple of days ago and came across this short Sports Illustrated piece from 1992 which reminded me of the 10,000 hour ‘rule’:

    Except for their shared weight class—149.5 pounds—they are diametrically different fellows. Arsen Fadzaev, a 30-year-old Russian, is a six-time world champion and 1988 Olympic gold medalist who detests training and wrestles as infrequently as he can. “I give very little time to training—three months a year, with nine months off,” he says. “I have no desire to work hard.” On the other hand, Chris Wilson, 24, of Canada, is a workhorse who trains as many as five hours a day all year long.

    Wilson has never won a major international championship…

    (Fadzayev went on to won his 2nd Olympic gold in ’92, Wilson again didn’t medal).

    Another example would be Gata Kamsky, the Russian chess player whose domineering father locked him at away to study chess 12+ hours a day at an early age to become world champion (believing everyone was ‘the same in the brain’ and sheer quantity of work could make him the best at anything – before Gladwell made it cool); he did become a top player but never champion.

    Saying ‘do something for 10,000 hours and you’ll get good at it’ is pretty… obvious stuff, really.
    But 10,000 is a lot – in certain things especially – & you tend to read how people who went on to be outstanding did some outstanding things a long time before they could feasibly have racked that amount up.

    Personally I can compare it with how I spent several years learning certain musical instruments just to be mediocre, while other instruments I got very good in just a couple of years. & I’m sure everyone can think of a subject at school they could just turn up and do well at, while other subjects took far more work to grasp in similar depth.

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  72. @res

    So the threshold IQ percentile necessary to enter MIT is similar to the threshold golf ability percentile associated with a handicap score.
     
    You are making (both here and elsewhere) a big assumption about how many potentially top golf talents are actually playing golf. IQ tests can be normed across an entire population (and are). Golf potential ability can't really be normed that way. How many top athletes in other sports (baseball seems like a decent place to look) would be good at golf as well?

    I don't think conflating measures of what is roughly innate ability (IQ) with measures of highly specific learned behavior (golf) works that well.

    Gladwell ridiculously oversold his 10,000 hours idea, but there is a valid point about people being able to accomplish much more than they think with some effort. However, I think most Americans would be better off losing however many pounds are appropriate and working on basic fitness and flexibility first and only then consider putting in the 10,000 hours.

    The thing everyone seems to forget is those top natural golf talents playing as PGA tour pros are also working 10,000 hours or more. The combination of natural talent and hard work is hard to beat.

    One related question is: how much of the natural golf talent in the world does the PGA actually attract? It can be interesting to watch what happens when a sport becomes much better at attracting those with natural ability. I think the NBA over time provides a good example of this.

    About 10% of Americans (30 million) play golf. If he’s in the top 120,000, that places him in the top 0.4% of these golfers. Which is really exceptional, especially for a guy that started in his 30s.

    Even if we assume that he’s “only” in the top 6% of golfers, that’s like increasing your IQ from 100 to 124.

    Read More
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  73. @res

    So the threshold IQ percentile necessary to enter MIT is similar to the threshold golf ability percentile associated with a handicap score.
     
    You are making (both here and elsewhere) a big assumption about how many potentially top golf talents are actually playing golf. IQ tests can be normed across an entire population (and are). Golf potential ability can't really be normed that way. How many top athletes in other sports (baseball seems like a decent place to look) would be good at golf as well?

    I don't think conflating measures of what is roughly innate ability (IQ) with measures of highly specific learned behavior (golf) works that well.

    Gladwell ridiculously oversold his 10,000 hours idea, but there is a valid point about people being able to accomplish much more than they think with some effort. However, I think most Americans would be better off losing however many pounds are appropriate and working on basic fitness and flexibility first and only then consider putting in the 10,000 hours.

    The thing everyone seems to forget is those top natural golf talents playing as PGA tour pros are also working 10,000 hours or more. The combination of natural talent and hard work is hard to beat.

    One related question is: how much of the natural golf talent in the world does the PGA actually attract? It can be interesting to watch what happens when a sport becomes much better at attracting those with natural ability. I think the NBA over time provides a good example of this.

    I don’t think conflating measures of what is roughly innate ability (IQ) with measures of highly specific learned behavior (golf) works that well.

    IQ isn’t really a measure of innate ability. As Ron Unz has pointed out, IQ is highly malleable and varies significantly with environment. The Flynn Effect also suggests that IQ isn’t a fixed innate trait, but more of a learned ability. Professor Flynn believes that IQ is like a muscle – it can be strengthened with training or weakened by underuse.

    Gladwell ridiculously oversold his 10,000 hours idea, but there is a valid point about people being able to accomplish much more than they think with some effort. However, I think most Americans would be better off losing however many pounds are appropriate and working on basic fitness and flexibility first and only then consider putting in the 10,000 hours.

    Gladwell oversold his idea, but it still holds up pretty well. Hard work alone won’t make you a star, but it’ll take you very far. That was sort of the idea advanced by teacher Jaime Escalante, who successfully taught Advanced Placement calculus to inner city Hispanics.

    Read More
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  74. @Anonymous
    I think that in golf, you have to be a lot better than top 100K to make a good living at it. You have to be in the top thousand and preferably in the top 100 before there is any money at all, don't you?


    Whereas if you are a doctor or lawyer, you just have to be licensed to make a fair living. If you are a board certified general, vascular, orthopedic surgeon, you are in the top 10 or 20 percent of doctors financially (since most doctors are family physicians or internists or such) and that would be a lot better use of your ten thousand hours than any sports activity for most people.

    Conversely, if raw physical conditioning were what made sports talent, Navy SEAL teams could put teams together in their off hours to beat the major league guys. I know of no one from the teams who has succeeded in any pro sport unless you consider professional wrestling a sport. The marines, the Army,and believe it or not even the Chair Force have elite units in comparable shape and the same is true there.

    Basically, yeah. Sports provides you with minimal money&fame unless you’re in the super elite percentiles. A tiny number of athletes get to be rich super stars, while the overwhelming majority get some minor HS/college/minor league recognition.

    If you look at the ratio of seriously injured athletes to pro athletes, it’s extremely large. Your odds of damaging your body for life far outweigh your odds of ever playing pro ball. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality. The world is full of washed up ex-athletes who never got any stardom, but live with daily knee pain and back problems.

    The SEALS may have elite level strength and conditioning, but their practical athletic skill is underdeveloped because they don’t play for hours, with top coaches and trainers, daily. I’d bet that if they got regular coaching, the could become pro athletes.

    Tons of firefighters and cops are in pro athlete condition too, but they’re too busy to train with coaches.

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  75. @JimB
    Isn't this all basic physics, or am I missing something? Taller person, longer moment arm, faster club, more momentum transfer to the ball, longer ball trajectory. Once you get on the green though I'm not sure how being tall and muscled helps.

    10,000 hours of golfing won't make your arms any longer, but you could become a first rate putter.

    Isn’t this all basic physics, or am I missing something? Taller person, longer moment arm, faster club, more momentum transfer to the ball, longer ball trajectory.

    Ian Woosnam won the Masters and had more than 50 wins as a professional and he was only 5 feet 4 1/2 inches, though almost as wide as he was high. He was known as a long hitter.

    I think a short guy has his hands closer to the ground at the moment of impact than a tall guy, so if he used a long club the point of impact will be further away from his body, so benefiting from additional rotation.

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  76. anon says: • Disclaimer
    @Triumph104
    Mike Tyson said that he could have been a doctor. Mike's money is on nurture in the nature vs. nurture fight.

    I know boxing is stereotyped as being Neanderthalic and pugnacious and stuff, but I just fell into the hands of a fight man [his late mentor and manager, Cus D’Amato] first. If I had fallen into the hands of a medical man, I would’ve been a doctor. If I would’ve fallen into the hands of a literature man, I would’ve been a writer. It’s just that he got me first, and I became a boxer.

     

    http://vegasseven.com/2012/04/05/mike-tyson/

    “If I had fallen into the hands of a medical man, I would’ve been a doctor”
    Go see Doctor Tyson about an ear-ache and he bites your ear off.

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  77. @Ex-banker
    Steve,
    You heading out to watch the US Am at Riviera/Bel Air this week? Highly recommended-- small crowds, few ropes. Thursday is prob best day to go in terms of quality/stakes/access.

    Big summer in LA with Walker Cup at LACC as well.

    Thanks. I want to see Bel-Air on Monday or Tuesday. I’ve seen Riviera a few times over the decades. But I’ve got my doctor checkup on Monday and I’m tired on Tuesday from writing my Taki’s column. It’s only $20 for an early week ticket.

    LACC for the Walker Cup on final day is $75.

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    • Replies: @Danindc
    Golf's dirty little secret....if you're really into a golf tournament the worst place to be...is at the the golf tournament. Practice rounds are great. getting an inside the ropes badge is the best though. I had one for the 2016 Ryder Cup singles match between Reed and Rory. Sadly, it was only for the back 9 after all the drama......
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  78. The Golfer who Believed Malcolm Gladwell would make an excellent Oliver Sacks title

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  79. Sadlowski turns out to be Happy Gilmore’s nephew. Genetics.

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  80. @Barnard
    Bill Clinton said an interview with Sports Illustrated shortly before he left the White House that if he practiced hard for six months he could have played on the Senior Tour. He was an average to below average golfer who would have been lucky to break 90 in a Senior Tour event. It seems to be hard for a lot of golfers to understand how much better the pros are than the average player.

    Bill Clinton cheats like crazy at golf, and there ain’t no mulligans or gimmes on tour.

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  81. Danindc says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Thanks. I want to see Bel-Air on Monday or Tuesday. I've seen Riviera a few times over the decades. But I've got my doctor checkup on Monday and I'm tired on Tuesday from writing my Taki's column. It's only $20 for an early week ticket.

    LACC for the Walker Cup on final day is $75.

    Golf’s dirty little secret….if you’re really into a golf tournament the worst place to be…is at the the golf tournament. Practice rounds are great. getting an inside the ropes badge is the best though. I had one for the 2016 Ryder Cup singles match between Reed and Rory. Sadly, it was only for the back 9 after all the drama……

    Read More
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