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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The year was 1998 and the winners were Mark O'Meara (The Masters at Augusta National and The British Open at Royal Birkdale), Lee Janzen (The U.S. Open at the Olympic Club), and Vijay Singh (The P.G.A. Championship at Sahalee Country Club). Although all four Majors are conducted under the collaborative supervision of the U.S.G.A. and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club organizations, each has its own terms and conditions for participation as well as stages of qualification to compete with those who, for various reasons, are automatically eligible. For me, one of this book's most fascinating subjects is the qualifying process to which many are called but few are eventually chosen. Perhaps only the annual process to earn a P.G.A card creates greater tension and frustration for those involved.
To the extent that space allows, Feinstein examines wannabes as well as perennial and promising contenders for each of the championships in 1998. He includes hundreds of vignettes and anecdotes about them, thus giving human significance to the names on the scoreboard. I also appreciate having historical information which creates a context for each Major, three of which have a different course location each year. Only the Masters has a permanent site.

P.G.A. golf competition is unique among professional sports in that players are essentially self-regulated, personally assume all costs of participation (travel, accommodations, caddy, etc.), and earn nothing if they fail to make the 36-hole cut. It is not uncommon for one player to prevent another from inadvertently breaking a rule as Tom Kite once did near the end of the final round when he was in contention. Later, Kite was astonished that anyone was surprised by his initiative which probably denied him victory in that tournament. (The player he assisted won it.) Feinstein skillfully captures the flavor and nuances of what can be ferocious competition but also the fact that it is (with rare exceptions) conducted with dignity, style, and grace as well as with exceptional skill.

For those who love the game of golf and especially for golfers who are eager to know what it is like to compete in the Majors, this is the book to read. It reads more like a novel than an almanac. It reveals "the joy of victory" for some and the "agony of defeat for others" while celebrating certain values which seem to have become less common each day...except on a golf course. For whatever it may be worth, over the years I have played probably 500 rounds of golf on several dozen different golf courses (both public and private) and do not remember a single "ugly" encounter with another player. Having said that, I feel obliged to point out that "golf" is "flog" spelled backwards. On numerous occasions, it really has been for me "a good walk spoiled" but my passion for the game and my respect for those who play it so well remain undiminished.

Beginning in 1960, Theodore H. White wrote several "The Making of the President" accounts. I was reminded of that as I read this book, wishing that Feinstein or another author of comparable talent would write an annual volume in (let's call it) "The Making of Majors' Champions" series. This would enable avid golfers such as I to return in time to memorable moments during past Majors competition. End-of-year DVDs featuring such moments plus commentaries among special features would also be much appreciated. Meanwhile, we have Feinstein's lively as well as informative book which recreates (to the extent a text can) stirring triumphs by O'Meara, Janzen, and Singh as well as dozens of other human subplots associated with those victories eight years ago.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 December 2002
John Feinstein ranks along the greats of modern day golf writing -his chronicle of the 1994 PGA Tour " A Good Walk Spoiled" (a Sportsbook of the year winner) drawing largely on reality journeymen opened new doors into the real lives of touring golf pros on the US circuit. Great things were expected then of his next essay -an insider's view of the 1998 Majors.
Like many a good round of golf there were some good birdies but saldly there are a lot of bogies as well. The sequence on the Olympic Club's conterversial holding of the US Open is excellent but the rest is dull enough...still and all its probably a book that you will still want to try for yourself but don't say you weren't warned...!
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on 2 August 2000
The more of the game of golf's finer points you can appreciate, the more you will appreciate the game's finest moments. This fabulous account takes the golf fan closer to the lives of the sport's stars than television ever could. With fascinating retrospective accounts of the careers of names such as Phil Mickelson and David Duval readers can, perhaps for the first time, truly realise what it takes to become a player of such stature. By focusing in detail on the majors, Golf's Holy Grail the author simply fills in the detail that all fans of golf want to be know. His straightforward observational and journalistic style are far removed from the gossip and sensationalism that can become a poor substitute for great sports writing. The book provides an unparallelled insight into the lives, schedules and challenges of these champions and a rare glimpse of their respective characters. The author illustrates the depth and breadth of feeling for golf's major championships of players, spectators, officials and historians alike bringing the game's defining moments beyond the great sporting spectacle that they are today. Read about Larry Mize and his efforts to qualify for the British Open at a rainswept Hesketh for example and the anguish of top players who have not managed to get into the Masters. Enjoy the detail of what defines one major from another and how that character is preserved year on year. Go behind the scenes at Augusta and enjoy the pin placement discussion of the USGA at the 1998 US Open. I recommend this book to all fans of professional sport and it's psychology but most of all to true fans of golf.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2003
Do you want to use the winter to learn something about the Majors? This is the book to read. Even if you remember how that tournament ended, you are still kept in tension on "how will it end" in this book. His drift-away stories - he is leaving his main story all the time - are interesting and works good for me.
It works as entertainment both for golf fans and I would guess for other sports fans wanting a peek into the golf world. It is written by a US citizen and it shows, but hey .... thats part of the game and to me it is OK for others to cheer for their own.
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on 21 January 2000
If words like 'back nine on sunday, triple bogey seven and Rae's creek' make your attention spring to action, and you can keep it going through Feinstein's immense level of detail (which I personally loved, as there's so much in it), then this book is definitely worth the read. Feinstein is clearly a knowledgable man on and about the PGA, and here, its major tournaments that happen four times (some argue five - the amateurs) a year and trigger the media to fall into hysteria with coverage and stories. Feinstein steps inside the ropes and gives his readers a close up to their favourites; Mark O'Meara, Tiger, Freddy Couples, you name it.
Bear with Feinstein on this one - it'll leave you the wiser when the back nine come up on Sunday this summer in Augusta, because you'll know what these gentlemen are going through out there (and you'll know what toothpaste they use).
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on 31 January 2000
If you have ever thought you fancy the cushy life of a professional golfer this book (and Feinstien's earlier "A Good Walk Spoiled") is essential reading. Fienstein gives his reader an insight into the minds of superstars and journeyman pro's who every year set out in search of the golfing holy grail - a major title.
His knowledge of golf, and in particular the US PGA Tour is immense. To some this may prove a bit of a distraction as the storylines rarely dwell for long on the European players. However, this is not an issue if your interest is less about the worship of certain golfing superstars and more about what could possibly make someone play this infuriating, soul destroying game for a living.
Read this book before the season begins in earnest.
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on 11 September 2001
Not as good as "A Good Walk Spoiled" but still gives an interesting insight into the golf world and the majors of 1998. Written around a number of players Fred Couples , David Duval , Mark O'Meara, Jim Furyk , Steve Stricker, John Daly , Tiger Woods etc and for readers based in Europe there certainly appears to be an American bias. For instance Feinstein refers to incidents in the past for Vijay Singh (I know he's not from Europe) when he was accused of cheating but makes no such back reference to some of the American players who have been similarily accused (Mark O'Meara was referred to for a while as Mark O'Nearer for instance) I never actually felt that I got to know the real person behind the player but as a golf book it still holds the interest and was enjoyable.
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on 4 September 2001
Not as good as "A Good Walk Spoiled" but still gives an interesting insight into the golf world and the majors of 1998. Written around a number of players Fred Couples , David Duval , Mark O'Meara, Jim Furyk , Steve Stricker, John Daly , Tiger Woods etc and for readers based in Europe there certainly appears to be an American bias. For instance Feinstein refers to incidents in the past for Vigay Singh (I know he's not from Europe) when he was accused of cheating but makes no such back reference to some of the American players who have been similarily accused (Mark O'Meara was referred to for a while as Mark O'Nearer for instance) I never actually felt that I got to know the real person behind the player but as a golf book it still holds the interest and was enjoyable
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on 5 February 2001
Feinstein has compiled another entertaining and insightful account of a golfing year. His use of premiary quotes and anecdotes eluminate the reader as successfully as the excellent ' A Good Walk Spoiled '. My one criticism is that Feinstein seems to lay far greater emphasis on the superstars of the game, apart from the chapters on Steve Stricker, who, let's face it, is almost a superstar. The concentation on the O'Meeras, Couples and Woods of this world detracted from the real charm and empathy for the amateur golfer. Maybe it's because the superstars are really not that interesting. I also detected a slight euro-phobe tendancy in the epilogue, come on John golf's bigger than that.
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on 3 January 2001
For those of you who have read John Feinstein's previous golf masterpiece " a long walk spoiled" will be very familiar with the style, in this book Feinstein concentrates on the four major championships, and how different players prepare, where he stands out is that he goes to all levels,, there are plenty of top players included, but the real drama is when players are scrambling to get into the tournament and realise their dreams. it shows that the sport is not all about multi millionaries but real people.
Anyone with any interest in sport will enjoy this book, i am not a huge golf fan but found myself unable to put the book down.
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