2001: Web offers multiple options in multi-slacking

Even the best of us is guilty of multi-slacking. That term, as I first heard it, was used to describe people who were sneaking stock reports, solitaire or maybe even porno traffic on their computers at work. But last April, I found myself wrapped in a far riskier variation. On Thursday morning during Masters week, I went to www.masters.org and opened a live scoring window that I was able to keep in a corner of my screen while I did other work. Thus I was able to track the progress of Tommy Aaron and Tom Kite in real time – for what reasons I do not precisely know now, although at the time it seemed gravely important.

For many people, going on the Web to “do a little research” eases them into the gloriously indolent mindset of some granny parked in front of a casino slot machine with a cup full of quarters. In Webland, even the strongest mind can pitch headlong into demented chasms, like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

If it’s authentic, go-to-hell shiftlessness you want, zap on golfmonitor.com, the equipment-junkies paradise where you can get comparison prices for sites all across the Web, plus links to club review pages like prosplay.com, in case you won’t buy a wedge unless you know that Richard Zokol has the same one in his bag. While these are unquestionably great sites for shoppers, there also is the matter of feeling your IQ ratchet in a downward spiral while you browse. In a matter of minutes you are marginally more alert than a three-toed sloth after mating season.

As anyone knows, “a matter of minutes” is a concept that takes on a new meaning when you’re cruising the Web. Especially if you visit the PGA Tour’s virtual hothouse, pgatour.com. The commercial attack of the site is quite strong, and it’s on the slow, cumbersome side, with lots of clicking and waiting. But it’s scary to think there are people accessing all the goodies they throw on the screen. On a moonlit night in Decatur, some church deacon is downloading video highlight reels of players at Tour events and replaying the swing segments over and over in slow motion, until gently reels the mind.

One highly engrossing list (for we subatomic-particle theorists who are engrossed by such matters) is the longest drive index. Says here that the chart-topper is Casey Martin, who had a 409-yard poke this season. John Daly’s 387-yarder is fourth on the list, and by the time you’ve scanned down 300 names on the list, you’re still in 300-yard territory, which means a lot of folks have been doing their stretching lately.

The Tour’s Web site naturally offers up-to-the-minute tournament news from a variety of newspaper writers, but no way are these reports going to be steaming hot, incendiary blasts on controversial matters. For that, you’ve got to visit, oh, golfweek.com. If it’s good writing you are reading on the Web, chances are damn strong that it originated in print.

If you jump across the sea to europeantour.com, for instance, you’ll feel like you’ve exited Neiman-Marcus and turned into a neighborhood cheese shop. Modest and threadbare it may be, but where else besides europeantour.com can you can get a Pro Tip such as the one offered by Miguel Angel Martin? The enigmatic Spaniard suggests the key to a good swing is good temperament. “Play with a white tee in your mouth,” he suggests. “The tee reminds me of timing and to swing with a good rhythm.”

Attention, blowhards: He said a little white tee, not a big black stogie.

Over at lpga.com, there is no long drive stat list, damn it all, but you can click on the gallery of Moms-to-Be. The LPGA offers a friendly site with easy maneuverability. Serious scholars of the golf graffiti would have to check out LPGA Message Boards, which gave me the chance to see that there are other fans of Leslie Spalding besides me. In fact, there are legions of Leslie Spalding fans. Just don’t call us horndogs.

The U.S. Golf Association’s Web site also is an apt reflection of its proprietors. It is a cool, perhaps austere site. Where usga.org is unbeatable is in its presentation of the Rules of Golf. Call them up on your screen, and you get a very readable index: The basic rules are in one column, and in a lower box are all the various decisions built around them. I looked up Decision 18-2a/23 (“Ball Knocked from Lip of Hole in Disgust – The competitor must replace the ball under penalty of one stroke”) simply because, you know, I saw someone else do it the other day. When that was settled, I found myself in a trance admininistering my own rules seminar for, oh, a matter of minutes. You have no idea how addictive it might be to study the Rules of Golf, too, especially when you have other work to do on your other screen.

– Freelance media critic Chris Hodenfield has plied his craft at Turnstile’s Golf & Travel, Golf Digest and Rolling Stone.

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