Golf Buzz

April 3, 2015 - 1:50pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Fred Couples
USA Today Sports Images
We reached out to PGA.com Facebook Nation and asked: Who are your favorites to win the Masters? At least one answer had us feeling nostalgic.

The people have spoken.

After posing the question "Who's your favorite to win the Masters?" we received hundreds of answers from our 320,000+ friends in PGA.com Facebook Nation.

Here's a look at the five players that jumped off the page as your favorites:

5. Fred Couples. OK. It's not likely that the 55-year-old, 1992 Masters champ is going to wear the green jacket for a second time, but it's OK to dream, isn't it? Augusta National and Couples go together like carrots and peas. His name always seems to appear on the first page of the leaderboard at some point during the week. It's the stamina for his back that seems to be the issue. But if he could somehow pull it off and win at Augusta National nine years older than Jack Nicklaus when he became the most senior champion in the tournament's history back in 1986? Man, now that would be something.

"Freddie Couples for old times' sake," wrote Facebook fan Vicki Eckardt Browne. "He is such a gentleman."

RELATED: Masters field | 20-somethings who could win | Masters rookies to watch

4. Rickie Fowler. It hasn't been a great season thus far for Fowler, but he was the only player to finish among the top 5 in all four majors a year ago. That all started with his T5 at the Masters. He's always a popular choice. Will he snag that first major next week?

3. Jordan Spieth. In terms of improvement for this 21-year-old at the Masters, just one spot better than his tournament debut from a year ago and he'll be slipping into a green jacket come next Sunday. We all knew Spieth was a serious player long before last year's Masters, but what he did in his first start at Augusta National was still sensational. Spieth had a share of the 54-hole lead with Bubba Watson and eventually finished in a tie for second with Jonas Blixt, three behind Watson.

"Jordan Spieth," wrote Tom Goodwin. "Take a look at him in the background last year when Bubba won. He has been waiting a whole year for this and is peaking at the right time."

2. Bubba Watson. Not surprising. After all, he is the defending champion and has won the tournament in two out of the last three years. He's also been hot this season, evidenced by his four top-10 finishes in five starts, highlighted by a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Watson's lone non-top-10 finish this season was a respectable T14 at the Northern Trust Open. He finished third in his final start before the Masters at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

"Bubba has got to be the favorite, but I'll be rooting for Spieth," Brad Keith Sappington wrote.

1. Rory McIlroy. A win by McIlroy at Augusta National would make for one of the great stories in golf this season. For starters, it would complete the career grand slam for the 25-year-old. Secondly, it would be his third consecutive major win, giving him a chance to complete a "Rory Slam" if he could also win the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in June. McIlroy's best finish in the Masters is his T8 a year ago. Of course, he did take a commanding four-shot lead into the final round of the 2011 Masters, but it slipped away as he shot a final-round 80 to tie for 15th. That McIlroy, however, didn't have a major win just yet. This McIlroy has five.

"Is this a serious question?" asked Danny Burrington. "Rory."

It was a serious question, but many shared Danny's sentiment.

April 3, 2015 - 3:21am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
After a nearly two-month absence from the game for play that he termed, "not acceptable," Tiger Woods has announced he will play in the 2015 Masters.

The Tiger Woods leave of absence from the PGA Tour will end just in time for the season's first major.

The 14-time major champion -- a four-time Masters winner -- has announced that he will return from his self-imposed break from golf and avoid missing the Masters for the second straight year.

I'm playing in the Masters. Thanks for all the support. http://t.co/SYih4eSxUa

— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) April 3, 2015

 

Here is the brief statement Woods had on www.tigerwoods.com:

"I'm playing in the Masters," Tiger said Friday afternoon. "It's obviously very important to me, and I want to be there.

"I've worked a lot on my game and I'm looking forward to competing. I'm excited to get to Augusta and I appreciate everyone's support."

Speculation that Woods would return to golf for the Masters grew on March 31 when his agent, Mark Steinberg, confirmed that Woods played 18 holes at Augusta National that day.

RELATED: Woods to take leave of absence | Current Masters field list | Masters coverage

Woods released a statement on Feb. 11 to say he was stepping away from the game, stating his play was "not acceptable" to compete in tournaments just days after withdrawing from the Farmer Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

At the time, Woods said he would only return when he felt ready to compete.

Woods has not finished in the top 10 of a PGA Tour event since a tie for second at the Barclays in August of 2013.

He missed most of the 2013-14 season -- just seven starts total -- while recovering from back surgery.

In two starts this season, Woods missed the cut by 12 shots in the Waste Management Phoenix Open before the withdrawal at Torrey Pines.

That said, Augusta National has always seemed to be a comfortable place for Woods. In 17 starts there as a professional, Woods has finished in the top 10 an astounding 13 times, including the four victories. He has never missed the cut at the Masters as a professional.

Woods -- chasing the Jack Nicklaus record of 18 major championship wins -- has been stuck on 14 victories since his win at the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods last won the Masters in 2005. 

Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia
PGA Tour via YouTube
Patrick Reed (l) and Sergio Garcia found themselves in similar trouble on the par-3 ninth hole Thursday, and made identical great escapes.
The par-3 ninth hole at the Golf Club of Houston generally isn't regarded as the club's signature hole – but it sure is today, thanks to a pair of amazing chip-ins for birdie in the first round of the Shell Houston Open.
 
Hometown boy Patrick Reed crafted the first highlight after his drive wound up in the thick, slopy rough to the left of the green. Not only was his lie downhill, he also had to negotiate a bunker and land his ball on the short side of the green. 
 
Getting up and down from there would have been quite a feat. Chipping it in would have been almost unthinkable – except that's exactly what he did. 
 
 
Even better, that unlikely chip-in birdie was his last shot of the day, as he capped off his 4-under 68 in style.
 
Not long after, Sergio Garcia found himself in just about the same position. And he wound up with just the same result, with his birdie moving him to 1-under heading to his back nine.
 
Garcia's shot was extra-challenging because he had to stand in the sand with the ball a couple of inches above his feet. But Reed's lie was more downhill, and the grass seemed thicker around his ball. 
 
Here are the two shots. Check 'em out and decide for yourself which was the most memorable:
 
 
April 2, 2015 - 3:22pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Patrick Reed
PGA TOUR Twitter Account
Faced with an extremely difficult pitch shot on his final hole at the Golf Club of Houston on Thursday, Patrick Reed's execution was perfect.

It's a home game for Patrick Reed this week at the Shell Houston Open.

RELATED: Shell Houston Open scores | Mickelson chips in on first hole

The 24-year-old, four-time PGA Tour winner was clearly feeling at home too when faced with this difficult shot just outside of a bunker on the par-3 ninth hole at the Golf Club of Houston:

 

How good was that?

Even better, that was Reed's last hole of the day. The birdie capped off a 4-under 68.

Ryan Moore
USA Today Sports Images
The sole of Ryan Moore's new PXG driver features a circle of weight ports that enables extreme adjustability.
Most of us in the world of golf are spending this week looking forward to the Masters. But one newcomer to the golf industry is having a pretty good week right now.
 
Parsons Xtreme Golf signed PGA Tour player Ryan Moore to an equipment contract, and he is using the clubs at the Shell Houston Open. In fact, Moore has been using a selection of PXG clubs since January, and the endorsement deal confirms his belief in this fledgling company and its products.
 
Parsons is best known as the founder of web domain registrar GoDaddy, which coincidentally went public on Wednesday. Parsons sold his interest in the company back in 2011, is said to be worth $2 billion, and has been spending much of his time pursuing his two passions – high-performance motorcycles and golf. 
 
"Parsons Xtreme Golf was founded with the sole intent to design and develop the finest golf clubs ever made – I believe that is exactly what we have accomplished," he said. "Ryan's endorsement of our products gives testament to the quality of our equipment and I look forward to seeing the clubs in play in the hands of other professionals in the near future."
 
 
Parsons – who also owns Scottsdale National Golf Club in Arizona – enlisted a couple of well-respected industry veterans in Mike Nicollette and Brad Schweigert, both of whom spent many years designing clubs for Ping. Nicollette, formerly Ping's senior product designer, also played on the PGA Tour for almost a decade, while Schweigert, formerly Ping's director of engineering, holds more than 150 golf-related patents.
 
Charged to create the best clubs they could without any cost constraints or shortcuts, these two came up with a set that is distinctive in both appearance and technology. The heads feature a series of weight ports filled with high-density tungsten screws – 16 on the driver down to 11 on the irons – to create an adjustable weighting system that enables the golfer to determine the trajectory on each individual club.
 
Nicollette and Schweigert also created a sophisticated manufacturing process for their irons that includes forging, high-precision CNC milling, robotic plasma face welding and injection molding. To date, Parsons Xtreme Golf has received seven patents on its designs and has more than 40 additional patents pending. 
 
"The proprietary technology is one of the most innovative concepts to ever hit the market in the iron category," said Schweigert, the managing director at PXG. "The extremely thin-faced construction coupled with a proprietary thermoplastic elastomer core supports performance gains greater than a similar-sized cavity-back in both distance and forgiveness."
 
 
PXG had invited Moore – famous on the PGA Tour for eschewing club contracts so he could pick and choose the clubs he preferred – to test out their clubs and provide a little feedback. He put the prototype PXG 03x irons in play at events including the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the Waste Management Phoenix Open before signing his deal.
 
"I knew some of the guys involved in it, and they kind of asked me to look at some prototypes and sets to try," Moore told GolfDigest.com. "They sent me some, and I tried them and I really liked them. I've been searching for a set of irons, and these are the best set of irons I've hit in a really, really long time. I was excited and from the second I hit them I couldn't put them down."
 
Moore – who also owns a part of True Linkswear – has tied for 17th in Phoenix, tied for 22nd at Riviera, tied for ninth at Doral and finished fifth in Tampa.
 
His endorsement contract is the first big step for getting PXG into the public eye. The company hasn't said anything about its plans for bringing the clubs to retail or signing other brand ambassadors, though they'll obviously be very high-end when they do go on sale. Here are some other photos that PXG-related people have shared on social media: