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Insight and laughs: Rick Reilly on Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the world’s best in his new book

The New York Times bestselling author’s new release digs deep into his love of the game and the characters who play it at the highest level.

Following on from the success of Commander in Chief: How Golf Explains Trump, a brilliant expose of the relentless cheating of Donald Trump and golf's equally relentless enabling of his behaviour, Rick Reilly has turned to happier aspects of his favourite sport.

So Help Me Golf is a series of 80 original pieces that deal with the sport from bottom to top.

It includes a journey taking in his 18 favourite holes around the world, discussion of the big topics (why is Jack Nicklaus better than Tiger Woods), and tales about his love of playing the game.

Former Sports Illustrated and ESPN man Reilly has always had the knack of unearthing great anecdotes that reveal the golfer and of also putting those tales together in fast-paced and funny narratives - So Help Me Golf is a romp that maintains all those trends.

Here are our 10 favourite insights into characters on and around the PGA Tour.

Tiger Woods

Reilly admires the golf of Woods but he is spiky about the man.
"I hear this all the time," he writes. "'Poor Tiger.' As in … 'Oh, look what poor Tiger's been through.'
"Nearly everything that Tiger Woods has 'been through' have been unforced errors."
He later adds: "He's terrible with fans, a rotten tipper, and has something eating at him that he doesn't seem to want to deal with."
It's an interesting counter to plenty of the gushing about the 15-time Major winner.

Phil Mickelson #1

Reilly tells a Phil Mickelson tale from the 2009 Presidents Cup.
USA badly needed a point, Woods had 235-yards to the hole and took 3-iron. In the team room Mickelson, other teammates and caddies were watching closely.
Woods stiffed it, Mickelson jumped in in celebration and hollered: "Boys, doesn't it feel great to be on the right side of that s**t for a change?"

Phil Mickelson #2

Reilly is a Phil man.

He tells you many things that are good about Mickelson and has to also add plenty that are bad. He's more forgiving of Phil than Tiger.

Why Phil and not Tiger? "Here's why," he writes, "Phil lets us into his life. Tiger stations Dobermans at the door of his."

Truth be told, there are a handful of words tossed into this essay to accommodate Phil's Saudi indiscretion. A few more might have been advisable. But there are plenty of insights that add nicely to the riddle of Phil.

Greg Norman

Talking of Saudi, one chapter involves a celebration of David Feherty and closes with a series of observations by him. His thoughts on Greg Norman are remarkably prescient.

"Greg Norman was Tiger before Tiger was Tiger," Reilly reports him saying. "He had just an amazing sort of presence, this incredible confidence. Really, that confidence was one of the reasons he made such big mistakes. He was absolutely 1,000% committed to every shot, so if it was wrong, it was really wrong."

Jordan Spieth

Reilly on Spieth is another example of his ability to write a great intro.
"You know the self-doubting, worrywart, inner-demon dialogue you have with yourself before you're about to hit a golf shot?
"Jordan Spieth says all that stuff out loud."
Come for the intro, stay for the stories - lots of them - that follow about Spieth and caddie Michael Greller.

Severiano Ballesteros

A great line Reilly reports from Seve's days on the PGA Tour:
"'This place, this Tour, iz not for me,' he said. 'These players, they are not my friends. They don't want me here. The food. I am not happy in this place.'"

Ernie Els

Reilly says he loves boring folk with golf detail. Here's a good one:
"Whenever Ernie Els makes a birdie, he throws out the ball. He believes no golf ball has more than one birdie in it."

Lucas Glover

As Reilly highlights, the Lucas Glover story is a bizarre one. He was quick to win on the PGA Tour, became the US Open champion and then it all went wrong, both on and off the course.
A wrangle with his wife and mother went public, his birth father showed up years after deserting him midway through a tournament, and he got the yips.
But as Reilly writes: "The game was screaming at him to quit and Glover wouldn't listen."

Jim Nantz

His first line does it: "I'm sick of being happy for Jim Nantz."
It's a terrific essay that captures the enigma of the great broadcaster whose love of schmaltz ought to make him a figure of fun but he has an element of magic that wins everyone over. Reilly gets it spot on.

So Help Me Golf: Why we love the game by Rick Reilly, published by Headline, is out now.

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