I can't profess to have read any of John Feinstein's books prior to this one. Once on myself I had a copy of his acclaimed book "A Good Walk Spoiled", but I never knew what happened to it. I considered over the years reading some of his other books, but the reviews always seem mixed, and I found other things to read. Finally I became determined to read his latest offering when I saw it was scheduled for a May release, and I am glad that I did. I'm a casual golf fan these days, and haven't picked up a club since 2003. I'm more likely to turn on the PGA Tour if Tiger Woods is in contention, but at the same time I do keep aware of the other players on the PGA Tour because there are plenty of phenomenal golfers out there. Feinstein decided with this book to focus on the 4 majors of the 2003 PGA season when all of the majors were won by players not named Tiger Woods. Most know Tiger began the process of retooling his swing at this point and only seriously contended at one major that year; the Open Championship.
Naturally Tiger Woods has to be discussed in this book. There is simply no way to write this story without discussing him in some form because it is central to the main point Feinstein makes. The book starts off in June of 2002 during the United States Open at Bethpage Black on the driving range with Tiger and his then swing coach Butch Harmon. At this point Tiger was becoming less pleased with his golf swing, and was looking to improve it in spite of absolutely dominating the majors starting in June of 2000. A month later at the 2002 Open Championship, Tiger would tell Butch Harmon his services were no longer required thus ending their long partnership. Ironically, Feinstein's book comes out a few weeks after Hank Haney decided to part ways with Tiger Woods. According to Feinstein, the firing of Butch Harmon in order to rebuild his golf swing under Haney is the underlying cause for underdogs winning majors in 2003. In this case he would be absolutely correct.
The book is written chronologically in the order of the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship, and the PGA Championship. We start off with Mike Weir, then Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis, and lastly Shaun Micheel, all of whom won the majors that year. Along the way, we get information about each of these golfers as well as others who played large roles in those majors. The brief stories of Len Mattiace who lost in a playoff to Weir at the Masters and Thomas Bjorn who collapsed at the Open Championship are tough to read especially when both men have never really been the same since then. Winning one of golf's majors is an absolute life-changing experience to those who win, and even more so in the case of Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel's victories because those were the first tournaments won by both men. However, losing can also serve as a life-changing experience in the case of Mattiace and Bjorn. For example Bjorn's collapse in the bunker on 16 at the Open Championship was really just as brutal as Jean Van De Velde's collapse at the 1999 Open. But as mentioned in the book the main difference was Bjorn's collapse happened on 16 instead of 18 so no one remembers it as much. However for Bjorn, he still refuses to talk about what happened in 2003 and declined to even discuss it with the author, which was telling about the impact it had on him.
For the serious golf fan the book may not break any new ground since most serious fans I know, follow what happens weekly regardless of whether Tiger is in contention or not in any tournament. What I also appreciated was the time Feinstein spent discussing how hard the golfers worked in some cases to just make it onto the PGA Tour only to have to continually go back to `Q' School since they did not finish high enough on the money list.
The only real complaint I had with this book was that the pacing of the book seemed to shift noticeably in the second half of the book. Feinstein's pacing seemed excellent when discussing Weir and Furyk's backgrounds, but seems to rush a bit more by the time we get to Shaun Micheel. It is the one thing that keeps me from giving the book a 5 star rating.
What is nice is that instead of simply ending the book, the closing chapters are spent discussing lives of the winners after the 2003 season as well as the guys who finished 2nd. The winners have experienced their shares of up and downs since 2003, as well as some difficulty in adjusting to life following that major victory. Jim Furyk had less to deal with because he was already a proven winner prior to his U.S. Open victory. Outside of this it's an excellent book that shows there is an actual tour outside of Tiger Woods. Of course it makes one question how good it is that the tour is so dependent on Woods, since the media unless forced to, often ignores the low-profile players until they have no choice like when they win. The book is highly recommended for the average golf fan (or Feinstein fan) that is looking to get a fresh look at the PGA Tour instead of the Tiger-centric PGA Tour. For the more serious golfers, there may not be much new here, but I do suggest taking a look anyhow.