Natalie Gulbis, one of golf's most popular players, is celebrating the big 3-0 today – at Disneyland, of all places.
Despite what I'd call an unorthodox swing, she was a sensation as a junior – she won the California Women's Amateur Championship at age 14 and, at 17, she became the youngest player ever to Monday-qualify for an LPGA Tour event (a record that Michelle Wie eventually broke). She was the medalist at the 1998 U.S. Women's Amateur, and won four times during her college career at the University of Arizona.
As the 2013 golf season struggles to get off the ground out in Hawaii, I thought this would be a good time to check out the state of golf equipment usage on the world's biggest tours. Thanks to Sports Marketing Surveys – SMS is the company that tracks the gear that each player uses in European Tour events – we have a pretty good snapshot of the clubs that many of the game's best players are favoring these days.
Here are some of SMS's observations from the whole of the 2012 European Tour season:
The distance gains just keep on coming. In debuting its new X Hot drivers, Callaway Golf engineers say they have achieved gains of 13 yards as compared to their RAZR X Black drivers. These advancements are possible, they said, thanks to a host of design and engineering advancements that make the new drivers faster, hotter and more lightweight than their predecessors.
It's still several years before golf makes its return to the Olympic Games in 2016, but already world No. 1 Rory McIlroy is giving serious thought to staying home.
Why? McIlroy might skip the Olympics to avoid the controversy already being generated by the decision over which country he would play for. As a native of Northern Ireland, he – and compatriot Graeme McDowell – are eligible to play for either Ireland or Great Britain, and hard feelings are likely to result no matter what.
The folks at Nike Golf aren't taking it easy on New Year's Day. Instead of sleeping in, the Swoosh has announced that it has signed Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley away from Titleist.
Stanley's story -- crushing defeat at Torrey Pines followed the very next week by a redemptive victory in Phoenix -- is a great one, but Watney is the big story here. He's a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, with the most recent of those coming at the Barclays, the first event of the 2012 FedExCup playoffs. And, of course, he won the FedExCup in 2011.
There was a buzz around the arena during Caroline Wozniacki's first-round match at the Brisbane International tennis tournament amid rumors that she and world No. 1 golfer Rory McIlroy had gotten engaged over the Christmas holidays, according to the Australian Associated Press. But alas, Wozniacki lost her match, and then splashed cold water on the speculaton of her romantic status.
By now, I think most of us have about had our fill of reflections on the year in golf just past and are more eager to get the 2013 party started – I know I am. However, there is one last look back I'd like to share with you because it's different – and better – than any other I've seen.