PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe book is a grab bag of mini-profiles, historical anecdotes, economic analysis, golf-swing arcana and philosophical pensées. It doesn’t so much pursue a central argument as lay out material, much of it fascinating, for readers to consider. Mr. Cyrgalis, a sportswriter for the New York Post, occasionally links the debate to the larger social challenges of balancing tradition and technology, but for the most part he sticks close to the game at hand ... Few readers will find every section...equally appealing. Mystics will probably skip the detailed explanation of how high-tech golf-swing analysis disproved a long-standing belief about ball flight; it turns out that 90% of initial direction is caused not by swing path but by the position of the clubface at impact. Tech geeks might skip everything about finding inner peace before addressing a putt. To his credit, Mr. Cyrgalis doesn’t pretend to prescribe One True Way for golfers to perfect their games, but he does end with an idyllic chapter suggesting that there are many more ways to savor the game than by shooting even par.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Bamberger’s book is...thoughtful and focuses more explicitly on peeling back the Tiger Woods enigma. Mr. Bamberger goes out of his way to be fair, clearly distinguishing between what we can know and what we will probably never know. His speculations about the private Woods, always labeled as such, are informed by his more than three decades of golf reporting and five previous books about golf, including one about caddying for a tour pro. He knows the world of professional golf, and the pressures it exacts, like few others ... And he doesn’t give Woods a free ride ... The book is rife with digressions...but patient readers will find fascinating gems tucked among them.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalWhat have we learned in the years since to warrant a new book about Stewart? Not much. But milestone anniversaries of high-profile tragedies don’t pass unnoticed, and Kevin Robbins’s The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Forever does a fine job of connecting Stewart’s life, death and final year of golf with a broader theme—the transformation of pro golf from the feel and finesse game Stewart grew up with to the athletic, high-tech power game it is today. The book’s subtitle is a stretch. Golf didn’t \'change forever\' in 1999 or any other single year ... Through interviews with Stewart’s longtime caddie, Mike Hicks, his golf coach, Chuck Cook, and others, Mr. Robbins delves convincingly into the agonizing nitty-gritty of what it takes to miss one less fairway per round, convert one more up-and-down and make one more crucial putt—the tiny improvements that spell the difference between winning a tournament and finishing in the middle of the pack. The deeper drama of Stewart’s maturation from an essentially decent but unfocused puppy dog of a man into a reflective, well-liked veteran at peace with himself is less effectively told ... Mr. Robbins compensates with informed speculation that sometimes veers into the melodramatic. He hammers hard on the notion of a spiritual quest, peppering the narrative with talk of fate, redemption, salvation and Stewart’s \'personal state of grace.\' Despite these occasional excesses, the arc of Payne Stewart’s story is inspiring.