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Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius

Is there a duller movie subject than golf? Only Tin Cup breaks the jinx, if you don’t count crazy Caddyshack. Any suspense that comes in watching Jim Caviezel sink a putt as golf legend Bobby Jones fades with constant repetition. What’s left is the flat but not uninvolving story of a sickly Georgia boy with a fiery temper who went on to conquer golf. In 1930, Jones won the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Open, the British Amateur and the British Open within four months — a Grand Slam feat that’s still unmatched. Director Rowdy Herrington is at his liveliest when Jones mixes it up with sportswriter O.B. Keeler (Malcolm McDowell) and golf rival Walter Hagen (an enjoyably snarky Jeremy Northam), a pro who worships the golden calf of a high-stakes win. Jones retired at twenty-eight without turning pro. In this film’s terms, that makes him Jesus to Hagen’s Satan. Virtue is tough to act, though Caviezel did it superbly in The Passion of the Christ. He excels here, as Jones endures agony (from a spinal disorder) that led him to quit the game at the urging of his wife (the lovely Claire Forlani). Caviezel finds nuances in a Jones-family-approved script that would rather not look for complications in a man who spoke six languages, passed the Georgia bar exam and earned degrees in the classics and engineering. It’s too bad. Jones deserved better than a biopic with a TV-movie heart.

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