Golf Buzz

April 3, 2014 - 12:08pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Ashworth
Ashworth Golf
Fred Couples is scheduled to wear this limited-edition Ashworth shirt commemorating his victory in the 1992 Masters in the first round of next week's Masters.

Ashworth Golf unveiled its Majors Series Apparel Collection today -- a set of six limited-edition golf shirts designed to commemorate the major victories by six of the company's Tour staff professionals: Fred Couples, Justin Rose, Stewart Cink, Justin Leonard, Paul Azinger and Retief Goosen.

The first Ashworth Major Series golf shirt in the collection is dedicated to Couples' victory at the 1992 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.

RELATED: PGA.com's special Masters coverage | Stadlers first father/son duo in same Masters

Only 275 of the shirts were made, a number that matches Couples' winning total at the 1992 Masters. The second button on the shirt features the date Couples won the Masters and there's also a limited edition Majors Series patch on the right sleeve, as well as Couples' embroidered signature inside the back neck.

"I've worn Ashworth on tour since they started in 1987 and believe it's the best shirt ever made," said Couples. "Wearing Ashworth is very special to me and I'm excited to wear this new golf shirt at The Masters, where I won my first championship."

Each player is scheduled to wear their respective piece during the first round of the major they claimed in 2014.

The Fred Couples Ashworth Majors Series Collection will be available exclusively at www.ashworthgolf.com beginning Monday, April 7, at an MSRP of $100.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
 

April 3, 2014 - 9:00am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Kevin Stadler
USA Today Sports Images
When Kevin Stadler won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February, he also earned a spot in the 2014 Masters. His dad, Craig, is also in the tournament as a result of the lifetime exemption that came with his Masters win in 1982.

There's a chance we could see the very first father-son pairing for (at least) the first two rounds of the Masters next week. Even if that doesn't happen, we're guaranteed to see the first Masters featuring a father and son in the same year.

Craig Stadler, the 1982 Masters champion, and his 34-year-old son Kevin are both in the field for the 2014 Masters.

The elder Stadler is eligible to play by virtue of his victory 32 years ago, which -- like all Masters champions -- carried a lifetime exemption to play in the tournament.

PHOTOS: First-time Masters participants | Top-20 Masters favorites | Masters International winners

The younger Stadler, meanwhile, is making his first appearance in the Masters. He's eligible this year by virtue of his victory at TPC Scottsdale in February at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

With both Stadlers in the field, it marks the first time in 78 Masters that a father and son will compete in the tournament. It will also be the last time for the Stadlers.

Craig, now 60, admitted as much after Kevin's win in Phoenix.

"It's going to be great for me because it's really my last one," Craig told GolfChannel.com after his son's first PGA Tour win. "I kept saying, you know, when he gets in, that's my last one. I'm going to have to get in a little better shape. It's going to be great."

What would make this whole experience for the Stadlers even more "feel good" would be if the two were paired together. And, in the Masters, that's not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

At the Masters, there's only one traditional pairing. Each year, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion plays the first two rounds alongside the defending Masters champion.

Otherwise, a committee of Augusta National Golf Club members determines what the pairings will be for the first two rounds. After the 36-hole cut, of course, standard procedure is back in place with pairings made based on score in relation to par -- leaders out the latest.

For those first two rounds though, pairings are made at the committee's discretion.

In case you were wondering, the Stadlers aren't the first family members to compete in the Masters.

Scott Michaux, golf writer at the Augusta Chronicle, explains:

There have been 11 father-son combos, but never in the same year. There have been 27 brothers to play at Augusta -- 18 of them in the same tournament, including 13 consecutive fraternal co-starts by Jay and Lionel Hebert. Tommy Armour III followed in his late grandfather's Augusta footsteps in 1990. The whole Haas clan -- Bill; his father, Jay; and uncles Jerry Haas and Dillard Pruitt -- are all branches of the Bob Goalby family tree.

But Kevin is the first direct descendant of a Masters winner to qualify to play Augusta. The closest anyone else ever got was Jack Nicklaus' youngest son, Gary, in a playoff on the eve of the 2000 Masters at TPC Sugarloaf. Weather washed out the final round of the Bellsouth Classic, sending 54-hole co-leaders Gary Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson to a sudden-death playoff. On the par-3 16th hole, the 31-year-old Nicklaus' tee shot buried under the lip of a front bunker and destroyed his chance of joining his father at Augusta.

Michaux also included this chart of father-son Masters participants in his story:

FATHER-SON IN MASTERS:

- Skip Alexander, 6 from 1948-54; Buddy Alexander, 2 in 1987-88
Butch Baird, 1977; Briny Baird, 2004
- Thomas W. Barnes, 1950; Tommy Barnes, 1966
- Julius Boros, 25 from 1950-74; Guy Boros, 1997
- Antonio Garrido, 1978; Ignacio Garrido, 1998
- Al Geiberger, 17 from 1962-80; Brent Geiberger, 2000
- Jay Haas, 22 from 1976-2005; Bill Haas, 2010-2013
- Clayton Heafner, 9 from 1940-53; Vance Heafner, 1978
- Jock Hutchison, 14 from 1935-62; Jock Hutchison Jr., 1941
- Joe Kirkwood, 1936 and 1948; Joe Kirkwood Jr., five from 1949-53
- Davis Love Jr., 1955 and 1964; Davis Love III, 19 from 1988-2011

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

 

April 2, 2014 - 11:30pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Jason Dufner framed mementos
Jason Dufner via Twitter
Jason Dufner will never forget his PGA Championship victory with this gorgeous reminder hanging on his wall.
Jason Dufner and wife Amanda have been busy building a new house down in Alabama. I haven't exactly gotten the grand tour yet, but I know one thing without even seeing the place – the birthday gift that Amanda presented Jason will forever occupy the place of honor.
 
In the wake of Dufner's PGA Championship victory last summer, Amanda collected his most precious mementos from Oak Hill and got them framed. The end result is terrific, as you can see in this photo that Dufner posted on Twitter.
 
Dufner turned 37 on March 24, and the last year has been an unforgettable one for him. As much of a whirlwind as it's been, I'm sure he's pleased to know that he'll always have this reminder of the biggest achievement of the biggest year of his career (so far). The only way it could be better is if Amanda had included my personal favorite shot of Dufner the morning after his big victory.
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 2, 2014 - 3:46pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Ground Force Trainer
Courtesy of Golf Gapper
The Grounder Force Trainer, which uses a square rotational disk, power pole and lead leg support foam pad, helps golfers hone and strengthen their backswings.
How do you hit the ball farther forward? By strengthening your backswing.
 
So says Dr. Jenni Martin, an LPGA Professional with 30 years' experience in fitness and training. She's come up with the Ground Force Trainer, a four-week program of balancing and exercises that she says will add distance to any golfer's drives.
 
Her Ground Force Trainer package includes a square rotational disk, power pole, and lead leg support foam pad along with a DVD, instruction manual and mesh carry bag. With it, golfers can hone and strengthen their backswings, which she says is where power is developed.
 
The purpose of the trainer is to help golfers strengthen their backswings by increasing their "coil" or rotational strength. To use it, a golfer takes his stance with his front foot (left foot for right-handed golfers) on the foam pad and his trail foot on the rotational disk. He grabs the power pole using his golf grip and slowly takes his backswing. If his technique isn't perfect, the trail foot will rotate on the disk; if it is correct, the trail foot will remains in its proper position.
 
 
"The Ground Force training disk creates instability, causing a specific muscular reaction that exactly mimics the sensation and strength necessary to motor-learn the proper load in the backswing and feel the connection with the ground," explains Martin, who has advanced certification in Orthopedics, Sports and Recreational Injuries as well as a Master's degree in biomechanical trauma and training in chiropractics and physical therapy.
 
"The rotational square disks act similarly to a 'lazy Susan' found in the kitchen," she adds. "They're used in Pilates to teach exercises that require movement of the lower and upper body in opposite directions, and to exercise the balance muscles." 
 
Mastering the technique the trainer teaches strengthens the core muscles and the glutes and enhances balance. Critically, it also heightens the golfer's awareness of what these muscles do during the swing and improves the muscle memory needed to groove a more balanced, consistent and powerful swing.
 
Using the system a few minutes per day for four weeks, Martin says, is guaranteed to increase a golfer's driving distance by five to 15 yards. It retails for $119 and is available from the Golf Gapper at www.thegolfgapper.com
 
April 2, 2014 - 9:20am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Rory McIlroy
USA Today Sports Images
Rory McIlroy will be getting in his final tune up this week in Houston before next week's Masters.

This is it, folks. The Shell Houston Open, which begins Thursday at Golf Club of Houston, is the final tune-up before next week's Masters. And, accordingly, the field is a strong one, featuring the likes of Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Angel Cabrera, Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els and more.

While the players will no doubt be focusing on the tournament at hand, the course set up at Golf Club of Houston is specifically tuned to emulate the conditions players will experience at Augusta National -- slick greens, fast running fairways and little rough.

RELATED: Shell Houston Open tee times | Photos: Shell Houston Open & more | Woods to miss Masters

So why are so many stars playing the week before the season's first major? Because, clearly, if you perform well in Houston, it's a confidence builder for Augusta.

Here are five players to watch this week.

5. Sergio Garcia
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Fourth at the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: In five starts on the PGA Tour this season, Garcia has yet to finish outside of the top 16. Three of those starts have resulted in a top-10 finish, highlighted by the fourth-place showing at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Garcia will most likely be one of my five to watch next week at Augusta National, but I'm interested in seeing where his game is at this week as well. Garcia hasn't played in Houston since 2009. This will be his first start on the PGA Tour since Doral. I like the decision he's made to get into competitive mode the week before the Masters.

4. Dustin Johnson
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Outside of a first-round exit in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Johnson has been absolutely on fire. Six starts, five top 10s, one win and two runner-up finishes all before the season's first major. He contends every week, it seems, and this week should be no different. He tied for fourth in Houston a year ago and then his T13 the following week at Augusta National marked his best finish in the Masters -- the only major where he has yet to record a top-10 finish.

3. Keegan Bradley
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Runner up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Reason to watch: Bradley is trending in the right direction at just the right time. That second-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational got Bradley fired up (then again, what doesn't get him fired up, right?). A tie for 10th and a tie for fourth in the last two years at Houston, respectively, tell me it's a very comfortable place for Bradley. Since he plays well so consistently, it may be hard to believe, but Bradley has not won on Tour since August of 2012 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He's due.

2. Hunter Mahan
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T4 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open
Reason to watch: This will be the first time Mahan tees it up since withdrawing from the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the final round, citing a hip injury. In his career, he's had four top-10s at the Shell Houston Open, highlighted by a victory in 2012. He's also had a few missed cuts in Houston, including last year when he was the defending champ. It's feast or famine for Mahan at Golf Club of Houston. Which of the two will this week bring?

1. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T2 at the Honda Classic
Reason to watch: I think it's safe to say two things regarding McIlroy -- 1. He's back (I know, he hasn't won yet this year, but he's been close); 2. With Tiger missing the Masters, McIlroy immediately becomes the favorite (no offense, Adam Scott). After a dominating win in the 2012 PGA Championship, McIlroy looked like a player who lived for the majors. Last year, of course, wasn't his best. This year he's back on track. I want to see where his game is at this week in Houston. I think it will be on point.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
 

April 1, 2014 - 2:19pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Bryan brothers
George Bryan IV
Brothers Wesley (left) and George Bryan IV are making a name for themselves with their amazing golf trick shots.

We've been fascinated with George Bryan IV and his brother, Wesley, the last few weeks here on PGA.com.

The Bryan Brothers are making a name for themselves, along with friend Shaw James, as incredible, golf trick-shot artists.

The initial splash came when this video surfaced:

Pretty amazing, right? At the time of this post, that video had close to 1 million views.

Since then, the Bryan Brothers have released more mind-boggling videos, including the latest, where they display their incredible accuracy by hitting shots and knocking items off a traffic cone.

RELATED: Two-man trick shot | Bryan Brothers up the ante | Trick-shot video compilation

We wanted to learn more about how this trick-shot stuff came to be, so we reached out to George for a little Q&A. 

PGA.com: Tell me a little about you guys.

George Bryan IV: I'm 26 years old and currently a professional golfer helping my dad with his golf academy and also play one-day Carolina Mountain Tour events. The last three years, I mainly played on the eGolf Professional Tour. Me and Wesley, who's 24, both played collegiately at the university of South Carolina. He'll be playing on NGA Tour and eGolf Professional Tour events this year. Shaw James, 23, is a recent graduate of Newberry College where he played on the golf team.

PGA.com: So you guys aren't just trick-shot artists? You can actually play?

George Bryan: [Laughs] Yeah. We can play. I was a three-time All-American at USC and competed in one Web.com Tour event so far. I've also played in six USGA events.

Wesley was a very highly-ranked amateur during his amateur career and has competed in 10 USGA events. He was All-SEC two times -- so we have a little bit of game!

PGA.com: Tell us about the latest video.

George Bryan IV: This video just shows basically us hitting some pretty small targets. Instead of hitting the ball in mid-air, we are going to show we are versatile and hit them from a stationary position.

PGA.com: Are all the videos shot in the same place?

George Bryan IV: Yes. Everything has been shot at my dad's golf academy, the George Bryan Golf Academy headquarters in Chapin, S.C. We have different opportunities and venues that we will be taking our trick shots to in the near future.

PGA.com: Some people claim these videos can't be real. What do you say to that?

George Bryan IV: Well we would tell those guys to come watch us do them in person! They are 100 percent real and we are lucky enough to have someone like Wesley with incredible hand-eye coordination!

PGA.com: Are you guys surprised at the reaction you've gotten to these videos?

George Bryan IV: We honestly didn't know what to expect. We knew we had some cool stuff and that people would enjoy watching them we just didn't know it would get this popular this fast. 

PGA.com: How did you start hitting trick shots and decide to post them in the first place?

George Bryan IV: We actually just started messing around with a buddy, Patrick Koone, and we saw that we could hit a lot of tough shots. So we posted to Facebook and Instagram and all of our friends loved them. So we decided to expand and make them better and now we're posting them to YouTube.

Click here to check out the Bryan Brothers on YouTube. You can also find them on Twitter, @bryanbrosgolf.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.