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Dan Jenkins enters the world of Twitter

india Updated: Aug 16, 2009 01:46 IST

AP
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The literary contributions of Dan Jenkins go well beyond the 201 major championships he has covered in a career that spans Ben Hogan to Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods. He started out on a manual typewriter.

Now he's on Twitter.

"I didn't have any idea what it was," Jenkins said. Jenkins wrote from his first major in 1951 at Oakland Hills, where Hogan famously brought the Monster to its knees with a 67 in the final round for a two-shot victory. Jenkins typed out his story and handed it to a Western Union clerk.

This week at the PGA Championship, the 79-year-old Jenkins dictates his observations in 140 characters or less. They are no less prescient.

"Tiger goes to sleep with the lead after the first round. Will anyone else in the field sleep?"

They are as funny as ever.

"At Hazeltine in 1970, there was nothing between the course and downtown. I had to stop and ask a cow which farm we were playing." Jenkins is among the most celebrated American sportswriters, whose career has taken him from the Fort Worth Press to the Dallas Times Herald to Sports Illustrated and Playboy. The author of more than 20 books and novels _ the latest is "Jenkins at the Majors" he still writes a monthly column for Golf Digest. The problem was deadlines.

Except for the Masters, which ends the second weekend in April, the majors are played too late in the month for his column to make the next issue. The editors of Golf Digest huddled at the start of the year to discuss how to cover golf's biggest events. Dan Jenkins on Twitter?

"It was a home run, and we knew it before he did it because of his style and his wit," said Jerry Tarde, chairman and editorial director of Golf Digest Publications. "The medium is created for Jenkins. We used to call it Texas humor, but it transcends Texas. It's golf humor."

Ross Fisher of England said he would withdraw from the final round of the British Open if his wife went into labor with their first child. He took the lead early in the final round at Turnberry until running into trouble in the rough on fifth hole, taking a quadruple bogey.

Moments later came this tweet from Jenkins: "Women say men don't know what labor is like. Ross Fisher, whose wife is due any moment, just gave birth to an 8. They'll call the child Quad." Jenkins, a journalist to the bone, still considers himself an essayist. For more than a half-century, whether he was working for a daily newspaper or a monthly magazine, he toiled over every sentence. His daughter, Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins, tried to persuade him to blog to no avail.

Twitter intrigued Jenkins, once he figured out what it was. "The minute I started doing it, I realized it was fun," he said. "The best thing is, when the tournament is over, I'm done." That's assuming the tournament ends. Jenkins began to wonder if that would be the case at the U.S. Open, which took five days to complete because of so much rain that flooded Bethpage Black. "Play was just suspended for the day. There's so much water on the 18th hole that Michael Phelps couldn't par it." His daughter was stunned when Jenkins took on the task of Twitter. After picking him up at the airport in New York to take him to the U.S. Open she realized he was traveling without a laptop. "I'm twittering," he told her.

"You're kidding," she replied.

But it made perfect sense.

"The first round is over. I've seen shorter NBA seasons," came one tweet from the rain-delayed U.S. Open.

"All these tweets would be in a magazine article," Sally Jenkins said. "What you don't get is the overall elegance. His humor overshadows his elegance, which he always understood. I miss the way he constructs a story, the architecture. He works hard at it. He's a craftsman. And you don't get to do that in a series of tweets. What you do see is incredible intelligence, wit and command of the subject."

Don't get the idea this is an exercise in one-liners. Jenkins still holds dear some of the principles that have guided him throughout his career. The media has changed, not his methods. He can seem ruthless at times, but he's usually right. "I don't think I've ever sold out accuracy for humor," Jenkins said. "I never wrote a line I didn't believe, even if it comes out funny."

Jenkins misses his typewriter. He was among the last holdouts, like giving up a Persimmons driver for metal. Typewriters forced him to choose his words more carefully, to distinguish between what was funny and relevant, and what was just funny.

Still, he relishes the freedom Twitter gives him, even with only 140 characters at his disposal.

"I see 'Squeaky' Fromme was let out of prison Friday. Maybe the Eagles will sign her."

The PGA of America honored Jenkins on Saturday for his 201st major, just as the USGA did in June.

Tarde is hopeful that this rebirth of sorts might help get Jenkins into the World Golf Hall of Fame, joining other writers like Bernard Darwin, Herb Graffis and Herbert Warren Wind. "In the publishing business, you do most things for readers and some things for advertisers, but every once in a while, you do it to advance the art," Tarde said. "Jenkins on Twitter advances the art. It brings his genius _ and I don't use that word lightly _ to another generation. ... We live in the era of Babe Ruth, and we don't recognize it."

Jenkins has filed 363 tweets from three majors. He already has close to 5,000 followers.

He even finds that amusing.

"Sally said, 'You're still 2 million behind Britney Spears,"' Jenkins said.