cover image The Majors: In Persuit of Golf's Holy Grail

The Majors: In Persuit of Golf's Holy Grail

John Feinstein. Little, Brown and Company Inc, $24.5 (480pp) ISBN 978-0-316-27971-0

With this exemplary book, Feinstein continues to exploit a formula that has worked well for him in chronicling sports subjects from college basketball (A March to Madness) to the PGA Tour (A Good Walk Spoiled): spend a year with a subject and use the experience as a way not only to tell a good story but also to illuminate the greater culture surrounding the sport. Returning to golf, Feinstein tackles the sport's four major championships: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA, as they were played in 1998. He displays a singular skill in conveying what these preeminent tournaments mean to those who contest them, and in highlighting the sometimes deeply personal struggles of people so often seen only on the grand public stage. Feinstein attributes the majors' rise in stature over the past four decades to the rivalry between Arnold Palmer, golf's first television superstar, and the younger Jack Nicklaus. From their numerous memorable duels grew the obsessive culture of today, in which unquestionably great players are forever tainted if they fail to win one of the big four. Feinstein also covers the tournaments' stewards, rigorous qualifying requisites and hallowed traditions. While stopping short of significant controversy, he looks candidly at such subjects as golf's struggle to shed its white-bread image and the attempt to deny Casey Martin, a handicapped albeit skillful golfer, the right to use a cart on tour while other players are denied that luxury. Comprehensive and immensely enjoyable, Feinstein's latest will provide veteran golfers an appreciation of how the sport is played at its most exalted level, while giving even those whose only putts have come on AstroTurf an understanding of what all the fuss is about. (Apr.)