Plateauing Distance And The 2012 PGA Tour Average

The NY Times' Karen Crouse takes on the delicate subject of technology and tradition and I got very excited to read that the R&A's driving distance plateau talk was debunked using a little different method than the governing bodies use: the average of the 50th ranked player.

Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, said his organization and the U.S.G.A. issued a joint statement a decade ago saying they were prepared to take action if distances increased any more. “Distances have actually plateaued since then,” he said in the same conference call.

The PGA Tour statistics tell another story. In 1997, the 50th-ranked player averaged 272.3 yards. By 2002, the distance had risen to 285.0. In 2012, it was 294.7.

Typically the governing bodies will point out that in 2002 the average was 279.8 and in the case of the most recent year, the PGA Tour driving distance average was 289.1.

Because a 9.8 yard discrepancy is much more palatable than a 22.4 yard increase!

NY Times Recovers: Beta Blocker Ban And Anxiety

After a severely overplayed A1 story and a ludicrous examination of average golfers suffering extreme heartburn, The New York Times finally gets around to doing what it does best: taking a story like Charlie Beljan's panic attack and talking to experts about the efficacy of anxiety treatments and PGA Tour drug use rules that ban such treatments (with medical exemptions).

Bill Pennington saves the day reports:

The permissibility of beta blockers in golf’s top level has come into focus anew this week. Charlie Beljan won a PGA Tour event Sunday, two days after being hospitalized with a panic attack. Beljan, who said that this week he was going to consult doctors near his home in Arizona, might be treated with medication to prevent future panic attacks.

For those of you following this epic saga, Beljan got a clean bill of health Tuesday from Jim Rome, Diane Sawyer and Inside Edition. There is no mention in the linked story of the Mayo Clinic that he was supposed to visit on Tuesday (reported here, here and here.)

Anyway, back to beta blockers and their ability to help...some:

“Some level of anxiety is good for performance,” said Richard Ginsburg, a sports psychologist at the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “It keeps you on your game. A beta blocker can take away some edge, mellow you too much.”

Danforth, who twice played in the United States Women’s Open, agreed, though she added that beta blockers, purely from a golf perspective, had been likened to the stabilizing advantage some find using a long putter.

There are medical concerns for those who acquire beta blockers without a prescription, perhaps through the plethora of Web sites selling the drugs. Singh said there was a serious risk for people using beta blockers without a genuine, long-term medical need for them.

“They are a very powerful class of drugs that have enormous impact on essential bodily functions,” he said. “They are not without adverse effects.”

You can read the banned drug list here (PDF).

Pulitzer Committee Alert: NY Times Follows Up On Beljan Front Pager With Harrowing Stories Of Severe Acid Reflux

Some poor lad named Nate Schweber got the call from a golf savvy NY Times editor: justify our superfluous A1 story on Charlie Beljan's "panic attack" by finding more golfers suffering from an untold epidemic that has been quietly dooming the game.

So Schweber headed to Van Cortlandt Park where, of course, no one had read the story in spite of its A1 placement.

Mateo’s tale of an anxiety attack on the golf course was one of several that were heard during a random stop at the course in Van Cortlandt Park. None of the golfers interviewed had read about the PGA Tour player Charlie Beljan, who had had a panic attack last week, only to forge ahead to his first career victory.

But the golfers in the Bronx did not need much prompting. Told the details of Beljan’s harrowing experience, they shook their heads in recognition.

What the NY Times actually uncovered were stories of folks needing my drug of choice, Prilosec.

William Larkin, 44, the general manager of the golf course in Van Cortlandt Park, said he had an anxiety attack trying to qualify for a golf tournament in Westchester County about 15 years ago and had to be taken to a hospital.

“I was getting winded going up small hills, my mouth was dry, my left arm got stiff,” he said. “I started thinking I was having a heart attack, which made everything worse.”

He said he spent two days in the hospital having tests. His symptoms had been found to be psychosomatic except for one. His worry had caused his stomach to produce higher-than-normal quantities of acids, which rose up and caused his left arm to stiffen.

“I’ll never forget that day,” he said.