Moment of Glory: The Year Underdogs Ruled Golf by John Feinstein (Little, Brown; Hachette Audio, Unabdridged on 11 CDs)
Warning: If you’ve hated the sport of golf – or tried your best to ignore it – and wish to continue as a golf hater, avoid reading (or listening to) this book!
John Feinstein, author of the mega-selling A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour, has written a humanizing account of the game of golf in what proved to be a unique year, 2003. This was the year that Tiger Woods – who had won half of the 12 majors from 2000 to 2002 – failed to win a single major tournament. The void was filled by four unknowns, four golfers who had never before won a major. Here are the names of the four players whose names were not Tiger Woods: Mike Weir (the Masters), Jim Furyk (the U. S. Open), Ben Curtis (the British Open) and Shaun Micheel (the PGA Championship).
Feinstein’s account begins with a detailed explanation of the first fall of Woods, who arbitrarily decided to fire Butch Harmon, his talented swing coach, in order to restructure his game. Woods, golf’s reigning king, abdicated his throne for a year, permitting four commoners to enter the arena. This is covered by Feinstein in an introduction which is the weakest part of the telling. Feinstein has a maddening tendency in his intros to jump around from present to past, past to present and back again. It all becomes confusing enough to make a reader want to think about abandoning the read. But stick around because Feinstein calms down when he begins to tell the tale of four young golfers who came up the hard way.
None of the four subjects – Weir, Furyk, Curtis and Micheel – would have been placed on a list of projected winners of a major tournament in 2003. In fact, as well detailed by Feinstein, each of the winners would shock the golf world that year. Curtis, for example, had never visited England before beating everyone on the links course known as Royal St. George’s. The newly married golfer from Columbus, Ohio had been listed as a 300-1 outsider before his major win. His win was so unlikely, in fact, that when one of his best friends (and fellow golfers) was told that Curtis had won the British Open he literally fell to his knees in shock.
Micheel won the PGA Championship with an 18th hole penultimate blind shot (onto a 45-foot hill) that landed just two inches from the cup. “On the most important day of his life, he made the shot of his life.” But none of these four players broke through simply because they were lucky. Each worked for years in college and/or junior circuits (Hooters, the Nike Tour, the Hogan Tour, PGA Qualifying School) before they became overnight successes. Even if you, like this reader, know little about golf and nothing about these four men, you will finish feeling like you’ve spent quality time with each of them.
Each of the four players profiled is a likeable once-underdog, four individuals who suddenly came out of the shadow of the fist-pumping Woods. But then John Feinstein has always loved such stories… As he wrote in A Good Walk Spoiled: “I’ve always (been) someone who thinks that the unknown fighting for his life is a better story than the millionaire fighting for his next million.”
This is an absolutely perfect book to read and/or listen to on the weekend of the playing of the U. S. Open at Pebble Beach. Highly recommended.
This review is based on the audio book version of Moments of Glory, a copy of which was received from Hachette Audio (Hachette Book Group U.S.A.). The unabridged audio version is well read by L. J. Ganser. Unfortunately, Ganser’s voice sounds far too much like that of Casey Kasem of American Top 40 and his skills are sadly lacking whenever he attempts to dramatize women’s voices (quoting the wives of the four golfers profiled here). It would have been nice to have had a woman reading the women’s parts.