Sal Johnson's 2008 PGA Tour Guidebook Great for Fans, Fantasy Players

By: Jay Flemma

Sal Johnson, editor-in-chief and publisher of Golf Observer, has finished his e-book previewing the entire 2008 PGA Tour season and has it available for download at Golf for a mere $12.95. Considering you'd pay $8 to $15 for the tournament program of any particular event during the year, Sal's 52-week guide is not only a bargain but an indispensable tool for handicapping the field at any event. From the majors to the "Fall Series," from Kapalua and the Mercedes Benz Championship to the "Silly Season," Sal covers every pro tournament of the year.

Sal has attended major championships and has been the TV networks' go-to PGA Tour stats guy for an entire generation. If you have a question in the media tent, Sal is your man. His book breaks down the top 105 players, not just year-to-year, but tournament-to-tournament; tracks trends in scoring, money, all phases of the game - driving through putting and everything in between; and injury history. If you need any information, from micro to macro, the 2008 PGA Tour Guidebook is an essential digest.

If there is a shortcoming, the information on the foreign players is not as thorough as it is for Americans. It would have helped to see stats for Padraig Harrington and Justin Rose from the European Tour to evaluate them during PGA Tour events. But, hey, you can pick up a newspaper for that. You sure won't find this info in any of the major monthlies. Moreover, Johnson has stats and personal information on every Q-school and Nationwide Tour grad, so you won't be caught by surprise when new faces emerge from the pack on Sunday.

Not only is there a review of each tournament on the calendar, but the e-book contains a special section on the majors written by such eminent golf writers as Len Shapiro, Jeremy Chapman, Gary Trask, Bob Harig and David Barrett. While the reviews of the golf courses for the majors and Ryder Cup - Augusta, Sawgrass, Oakland Hills, Torrey Pines and Valhalla - are all broken down with regard to which type of player performs well at each venue, there is, again, a lack of analysis of foreign players. For example, I disagree with Shapiro that Harrington is best suited for a U.S. Open layout. Swashbucklers like Harrington play better at the British Open and Masters, not the U.S. Open. I'd pick Harrington at Augusta, but I agree that no one stops Woods at Torrey, a course he flat-out owns with four victories in six starts. Also, more attention should have been paid to Rose, last year's winner of the Order of Merit as the Open Championship returns to Birkdale, site of his coming-out party in 1998.

Nevertheless, Shapiro nails the nuances of each venue, from Augusta's lengthening and slow movement away from some of the design elements of Mackenzie; to the flattish fairways amid the dunes at Royal Birkdale; from Oakland Hills's wasp-waisted fairways; to Torrey's expected change in setup from the "Cali-Swing" event to the national championship venue. His crisp analysis and smooth writing style make his chapters an easy yet informative read. Trask gives us a great breakdown of players in his who's-hot-who's-not column. Barrett, winner of last year's Golf Writers Association of America Internet Writing award, dissects newcomers from the Nationwide Tour, while Harig, one of our most venerable golf writers, critiques playing trends of Q school grads.

So for $13 you can buy a detailed, 173-page volume from Golf Observer. It includes every player, field, venue and tournament history, along with expert analyses from the leading lights on Golf Observer's masthead and golf writing in general. There are even terrific photos of your favorite player and some comical pix as well, (good lord, wait until you see Tim Clark's new moustache; he looks like a Banana Republic dictator! And the picture of Fred Funk is hysterical too, catching his colorful and energetic nature.) There's no downside here. So get yours today and smear all the chumps in your Fantasy League like the floppy grapes they are!

"The Golf Observer Guide to the 2008 Season," by Sal Johnson, 173 pages, $12.95, available online only at        

Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004,, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (, Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.