On the last Wednesday in January the teacher of the moment, Sean Foley, didn't have access to his stage or his star. The 42-acre driving range at Orange County National, near Orlando, where Foley usually teaches, had been co-opted by the PGA Merchandise Show for the real start of the new golf year—Demo Day. Tiger Woods, Foley's work in progress, was 2,000 miles away, in La Jolla, Calif., playing in the pro-am of his first tournament of the new year. The curtain is up.
Looking out your own window, maybe you couldn't tell. Tree limbs were sagging under the weight of fresh snow here and there and everywhere. Well, not everywhere. Not at Torrey Pines. Not in Winter Garden, Fla. When newly minted Tour millionaires are looking to set up shop, they get out a map and draw a straight line from Los Angeles to Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Anything south of the Continental Golf Divide (CGD) is in play. For most of the rest of us—the marooned—there's Golf Channel, there's golfclubatlas.com, there's the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Equipment Issue.
Did you listen to President Obama's State of the Union address last week? Or PGA CEO Joe Steranka's State of the Industry remarks? Did you try to get a table at your local Cheesecake Factory? The recession is over, folks, and you know what that means. There will be no more sweating it out over eBay auctions for $29 wedges. Oh, no. The time for children's portions is over. The big dog, tired of being cooped up, wants out.
At Demo Day, which was a mob scene, there were long waits to try the new TaylorMade R11 driver, white like the driven snow, and the new Titleist 910, which like the R11 allows you to have any loft or face angle or swing you want with a few simple clicks. Whenever golf comes out of economic hibernation, hungry players start waggling drivers again. It happened with MacGregor Eye-O-Matic drivers in the early 1950s and Big Berthas in the mid-'90s. At the PGA Show this year it looked like déjà vu all over again.
Yogi Berra, 85, was at the Bob Hope this year. Vivacious Natalie Gulbis, 28, drew stares at the PGA Show. And at Torrey Pines, Woods was remembering when the San Diego stop was named for Andy Williams, though he'll be happy to take his $18,096 check courtesy of the current sponsor, Farmers Insurance. In the U.S., business and celebrity and golf mix easily. Tiger, trotting out one of his tried-and-true lines in the Torrey press tent, was thankful for the good Southern California weather. "Get to work on your farmer tan," Woods said. No, not farmer tan, Tiger. Farmers Insurance tan. He could be fined for the dropped sponsorship op.
Back in Orlando, under the concrete roof of the Orange County Convention Center, a company called Dancin' Dogg Golf was selling golf simulators, and you know they must be good because Roger (the Golf Whisperer) Maltbie endorses them. They allow you to turn your garage into a monster par-5 with a two-tiered green. Dancin' Dogg is based in Traverse City, Mich., north of the CGD. So the folks there feel our pain.