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Fear & Loathing on the Major Championship Trail - 2011 PGA Championship Edition

By: Jay Flemma


[Editor's Note: Cybergolf's Jay Flemma is reporting from Atlanta Athletic Club during this week's PGA Championship. This is Jay's second installment. As you will soon read, getting to Atlanta was more than half the battle for him.]

Atlanta Athletic Club - Jay's Promised Land

Lunatics! Scoundrels and heathens! Upstarts, rogues and charlatans! Drag them over carpet tacks and dip them in rubbing alcohol, the lot of 'em. Despite the best efforts of American Airlines, Delta and two scurvy-ridden dingbat bartendresses, I have arrived in Atlanta and am hotter than a hog-tied Boo Weekley whose outhouse plumbing has backed up again.

On Tuesday, my 6:00 p.m. flight on AA (Asinine Airlines) was moved to 8:00, then 10:00, but at 11:00 - 30 minutes after they told us "line up and have your boarding passes ready" - we get the following announcement:

"Because of union rules governing the maximum number of hours a flight team may be required to work, your flight has been canceled. Please line up at the counter so we may assist you with how to best salvage the hell we've made out of your day by being lazy, incompetent jackanapes."

Okay, I took some poetic license with the last phrase, but that was definitely the spirit of the sentiment. But hold on to your yarbles, sports fans. As they say in the infomercials, "But wait, there's more!" After costing me the chance to sit in on Tiger's press conference and give him shingles with hard, pointed questions, they book me on a flight I can't possibly make on another airline, Delta, costing me a $50 rebooking fee to change to the only flight left today - 6:00 p.m.

Tired, haggard and angry, I seek solace in lunch at my local Irish pub, which just hired an airhead Russian club girl as a bartender/waitress. Rave music is blaring at the volume of a devastating thunderstorm when I walk in. She's sitting on her fat ass texting. Reluctantly, she gives me a snotty, scornful look for having the audacity to make her actually, you know, do the job her boss is paying her to do by serving me a bowl of French onion soup and a glass of iced tea - high-maintenance stuff, I know.

Then she goes outside for a smoke, a clove cigarette of all things, the choice of aimless grifters and tasteless punk kids across Europe. As I walk out, she laments to whoever she's talking to on the phone, "I never get laid."

Shocking revelation? I think not.

Finally I get through airport security and sidle up to the bar at "Prime" restaurant's Delta airport location for a quick drink. After intercepting this airhead bartendress who was about to serve me Cuervo Especial - no self-respecting gentleman drinks anything less than 100% blue agave - my Bloody Maria comes . . . in a glass the size of a thimble. $12 please. What little buzz I got from the drink is, to use the common phrase, roached.

Licking my wounds, I shamble to the gate, exhausted from the wringer. The last 48 hours were as much fun as a kidney stone. I drop the bag to the floor, sink into a plush chair and close my eyes for a blessed moment of peace.

"Attention Delta passengers on the 6:00 p.m. Flight 666 to Atlanta, this plane has been delayed. We will now be leaving at 8:00. Have a nice day, and thank you for choosing Delta."

Die in the street like the filthy pigs you are.

I want some quality control in customer service, do you hear me?! Does the name Timothy Finchem mean anything in this country?

Wait . . . don't answer that.

Now it's 11:00 p.m. My caddie and player buddies are asleep, my writer buddies are 25 miles away in another hotel, my drinking buddies are back in NYC, my girl friend is in D.C. and here I sit in a lukewarm "Jacuzzi" the size of a washtub with green water and jets that have the intensity of David Feherty's flatulence.

If it were the intensity of Tiger's flatulence, that would be a different story. If he could bottle that, he might actually get a sponsorship deal from the Whirlpool spa and tubs company. On the golf course at least, he produces enough natural gas to power a small country. The same thing is true of his press conferences; it's just a different kind of hot air.

I saw the highlights of the conference. He tried to serenely play St. Eldrick - "Oh, it was time for a change. I'm at peace with it" - but we all know that's [expletive deleted]. Woods will never tell the truth if he thinks it will even remotely tarnish his perceived aura of superiority over everyone else.

So here I soak, on the eve of the year's final major, battered, burned and bruised and not a buddy or babe to commiserate with, at least for tonight. I'm here in Hotlanta, which is nothing but trees and roads and concrete buildings. I wish I could write to you about secret springs and waterfalls at sunset which, when light passes through, dazzle and delight the eye with a starburst of rainbow color, a multicolored curtain of sparkling jewels, gleaming with such an unquenchable fire that great kings would fight wars to possess . . . but I can't.

All I get to write to you about is the lugnut thug in a wife-beater shirt and Georgia Bulldogs athletic shorts who pulled out a giant Bowie knife in the 7-11 last night to impress his guffawing friend who thought it was a hoot. Hotlanta indeed.

Since two days of flights on the major airlines failed me I have, in turn, failed you, dear reader, in my sworn duty to roust out all the infernal buzzards from their roosts. I haven't asked Lee Westwood why he thinks he can push around the PGA Tour even though he's never won a major. (Note to Lee: you have to win something before you get to throw your weight around.) Of course he hasn't won a major yet! The Golf Gods are watching. They are angry Gods, they are vengeful Gods! They will send all their Furies riding down on your head on their Steeds of Vengeance in the blink of an eye.

Just ask Woods. He forgot that the mightiest man may be felled by one arrow. And he was pierced by many. There are some perils from which a man must flee, no matter how rapturous the sirens' song. Nevertheless, it wasn't so much his sins that were scandalous, but the attempted cover-up and brushing the severity of it under the rug. We forgive when people genuinely change. Tiger's behavior post-scandal has clearly been impenitent.

Even so, I don't have a story for my editor, which means I don't have a story for you, other than this jabber-jaw yammering. And as though it were my fault, the Golf Gods decided to have a little more fun with me. At midnight, after I finished the ice-cold tomato mozzarella salad that was my dinner (they completely forgot to add the "savory slices of hot soppressata" that was the reason I ordered it in the first place), my hotel room door slams shut behind me in the millisecond I step outside to put the tray in the hallway.

And there I am, locked out of my room, no keys, no cell phone, no dignity, wearing nothing but my Ominous Seapods concert t-shirt and my boxer shorts. They're blue with a pattern of lobsters all over them, for those you scoring at home.

I haven't roamed halls in such a state of undress since I spent overnights in the freshman girls' dorm at Trinity College. Twenty years ago there at least would have been a Trinity College womens' lacrosse star in the picture with me. Sadly, times change.

So what's the moral of the story, dear readers? These donkeys better get their act together next time because everyone suffers when I don't get my golf fix.

Rant over, as you were.

Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma 's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 420 nationally ranked public golf courses in 40 different states, and covered seven U.S. Opens and six PGA Championships, along with one trip to the Masters. A four-time award-winning sportswriter, Jay was called the best sports poet alive by both Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports writers and broadcasters. Jay has played about 3 million yards of golf - or close to 2,000 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf, PGA.com, Golf Magazine and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.