Golf Buzz

February 18, 2014 - 11:02am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rory McIlroy
Getty Images
Rory McIlroy makes his first start on the PGA Tour in 2014 this week at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

This week, the PGA Tour takes a break from the grind of stroke play and moves on to one of the most exciting formats in golf -- match play.

The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship tees off at Dove Mountain just outside Tucson, Ariz., on Wednesday with a 64-man field. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott are all notably absent, but the field is still loaded with stars.

A hot putter is crucial in a match-play setting and -- as we've often seen in this event -- it's not uncommon for top seeds to have a short week.

Galleries: Top equipment photos | Course photos by Tour players | #PGA365

Here are five players to watch.

5. Billy Horschel
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Tied for sixth at the 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: For some players -- not all -- intensity can be a could thing when it comes to match play. Few players on Tour are as intense as Horschel. He's fun to watch and truly locked in. This will be his first start in the Match Play Championship and something you can be sure he's looking forward too. The last time Horschel was a part of a match=play situation was at the 2007 Walker Cup where he went 3-1. The new season hasn't been anything particularly special for Horschel just yet. Maybe a change of format is just what he needs to get a kick start.

4. Jordan Spieth
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Second at Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Spieth has made seven starts in the new season. One was a missed cut at the Sony Open. His next-worst finish? A T19 at the Farmers Insurance Open. If there's just one little knock on Spieth lately, it's been his difficulty with closing out tournaments when he's in contention. Keep in mind this is the same guy who had no status on Tour at the start of last season. He's come a long way in a short period of time. Spieth got a taste of match play on the professional level late last season in the Presidents Cup, where he was a member of the winning U.S. team. He's aggressive and a birdie machine -- two huge assets to command in this format.

3. Graeme McDowell
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Third at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Based on past Ryder Cup performances, I just feel that whenever McDowell is in a match-play competition, he's someone you need to watch out for. Since winning the U.S. Open at Pebble in 2010, McDowell has proven himself a fairly regular major contender (six top-14 finishes since that win). Granted, this isn't a major, but McDowell and his putter can get the job done in tough situations. Speaking of Pebble... that was McDowell's last start on Tour two weeks ago and his finished in a tie for seventh. He's feeling good about his game right now.

2. Justin Rose
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Third at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Rose missed some action the last couple of months due to a shoulder injury after tossing his golf ball to his caddie from a long distance. He appears to be back to full strength now and played at last week's Northern Trust Open, where he finished in a tie for 45th -- his first start on the PGA Tour since November. Whenever I think Justin Rose and match play now, I think back to the final day of the 2012 Ryder Cup and his singles match against Phil Mickelson. Rose was incredible down the stretch and a key factor in the amazing comeback the Europeans made that day. This tournament is far from the Ryder Cup, but over the last several years, Rose has established himself as one of the best players in the game.

1. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T6 at World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: This is McIlroy's first start on the PGA Tour since the calendar flipped to 2014. With a couple of top-10 finishes already under his belt on the European Tour -- including a T2 in Abu Dhabi -- it's looking like we can expect big things from McIlroy in 2014 after a disappointing 2013. McIlroy was the runner up in this tournament back in 2012. This truly serves as his first chance to make a big splash in 2014 and he's clearly the marquee name in the field.

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

 

February 17, 2014 - 10:36pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Nike Hyperadapt Wind jacket
Courtesy of Nike Golf
The Nike Hyperadapt Wind jacket features a four-way stretch laminate through the back, shoulders and upper arms to maximize range of motion while the lightweight outer shell provides protection and comfort.
Though it might not seem like it in many parts of the country right now, spring is coming. Promise, it is.
 
For those brisk days on the course, Nike Golf has come up with the Hyperadapt Wind jacket – the follow-up to last year's Hyperadapt Storm-FIT jacket. The new outerwear piece features the same four-way stretch technology and sweater-like feel that the Hyperadapt Storm-FIT jacket pioneered, but in a lighter, windproof and rain-resistant version.
 
''With the Hyperadapt Wind jacket, there's no need to 'size up' – it's designed to fit and move with your body,'' said Merritt Richardson, Nike Golf VP of Global Golf Apparel. ''The four-way stretch laminate through the back, shoulders and upper arms maximizes range of motion and eliminates distractions, and the lightweight outer shell provides superior protection from the elements for all-day performance and comfort on the course.''
 
 
Inspired by a car with a see-through, engine-exposing hood one of the designers saw in a parking lot on Nike’s Beaverton, Ore., campus, the HyperAdapt Wind jacket incorporates a half-zip, transparent outer shell that showcases the jacket's technical details inside and out. A V-shaped panel underneath incorporates bonded mesh within the Hyperadapt construction for added breathability and mobility where golfers need it most.
 
This new jacket is sustainable, too – Nike used recycled coffee grounds to make the windproof coating on the outer shell, which also helps reduce odor from perspiration and assists in UV protection. It also features elastic cuffs to keep the sleeves from moving up and down during the swing, as well as an adjustable waist and a back pocket for storage.
 
The jacket comes in Black/Black, Light Base Grey/Black and Venom Green/Black, and is available at retail now with a suggested retail price of $100.
 
 
February 17, 2014 - 12:28pm
Posted by:
John Kim
john.kim's picture
Mizuno Play Famously
Photo: Courtesy Mizuno.com
Mizuno is offering a sponsor contract for twelve higher handicap amateurs.

Oh, the life of the Tour player. The free clubs, the free clothes, being treated like royalty...all because you're pretty good at hitting a golf ball.

Well what if you didn't need to have that talent in order to be a club company endorser. What if a club company, in fact, gave you the royal treatment because you weren't that good? No, seriously.

Wouldn't that be awesome? Of course it would. But it would never happen, right? Well, actually.

Check out Mizuno's "Play Famously" here

Mizuno is looking for higher handicap golfers to "Play Famously." That is, be a brand ambassador for their JPX EZ clubs they claim have "the largest sweet spot in golf". To become one of their twelve brand ambassadors, they are asking that you demo their clubs, register at the demo location and then they will announce winners throughout the spring and summer. They did this promotion last year with great success. With a new line of clubs, they are hoping to replicate and improve on that model.

It's a pretty sweet gig if you ask me. Winners get (taken directly from their website:

A set of custom fit JPX EZ irons, JPX EZ woods, and JPX wedges
A Mizuno staff bag personalized with your name
A season's worth of high performance Mizuno apparel, headwear, gloves and accessories
An all-expenses paid trip to play in the second annual JPX Invitational, an exclusive "tour level" experience for average golfers

I'm pretty sure I'm not eligible to win. But the twelve people who will have a really sweet gig ahead of them. Whoever you are...I'm jealous. 

You can follow John Kim on Twitter at @johnkim

February 16, 2014 - 7:17pm
Posted by:
John Kim
john.kim's picture
Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National
Getty Images
The famous Eisenhower Tree has caused golfers of all levels great angst off the 17th tee at Augusta National

Really sad news out of Augusta.

The recent ice storms (two in two weeks!), not to mention an earthquake that shook the area this past weekend, has taken a toll on one of golf's most famous landmarks. The iconic Eisenhower Tree has suffered major damage and was removed over the weekend. That's right, golf's most famous pine tree - for decades guarding the left side of the 17th hole - is no more.

Read more here at the Augusta Chronicle

The Eisenhower Tree got its name because the former President and Augusta National member had a famous disdain for it. Apparently, he used to hit it quite often (it sits about 200 yards off the tee boxes) and he famously lobbied to have it removed. The limits of presidential lobbying stop at the gates apparently as club chairman Clifford Roberts overruled his efforts, thus linking the president and the tree forever.

 

 

 

Read: Augusta National begins cleanup after storms

Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National and the Masters, released a statement Sunday:

“Like so many of our family, friends and neighbors in this community, Augusta National Golf Club has been busy cleaning up after the historic ice storm last week. Everyone affected remains in our hearts and prayers, and we likewise hope for a speedy and complete recovery for all.

“The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept. We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible.

“We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and to pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history – rest assured, we will do both appropriately.

“I can report that the golf course sustained no major damage otherwise. We are now open for Member play and we will be unaffected in our preparations for the 2014 Masters Tournament.” 

More: Complete Masters Coverage

You can follow John Kim on Twitter at @johnkim

February 16, 2014 - 2:15am
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Hal Sutton
Getty Images
Hal Sutton withdrew from the ACE Group Classic after feeling pressure in his chest and having a shortness of breath on Friday, and had a stent put in his heart.
Hal Sutton suffered a mild heart attack on Friday after withdrawing from the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla.
 
"I had blockage in my heart, so yeah, it was a heart attack," Sutton, the 1983 PGA Championship winner, told The Naples Daily News from NCH Downtown Naples hospital on Saturday. ''They put a stent in and I'm fine now.''
 
The 55-year-old Sutton, who owns 14 PGA Tour titles was also served as the 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, felt pressure in his chest and a shortness of breath as he played his first round Friday morning. The discomfort felt like indigestion and he also felt lightheaded, he told the newspaper. After going 5 over through eight holes, he decided to stop.
 
''I just said, 'Something's wrong. I don't know what it is,''' he explained.
 
Sutton told the newspaper that he expects to be discharged on Sunday. And while he was disappointed to have to withdraw, he stressed that "I'm a whole lot happier that I got this problem fixed. This could have been much worse.''
 
Coincidentally, this wasn't Sutton's first experience with the Naples medical community. He's had both of his hips replaced in the last couple years – and both operations took place in Naples.
 
February 15, 2014 - 10:57pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Patrick Burch
Patrick Burch got a high-five from Aubie the Tiger after his car-winning putt at halftime of the Mississippi-State-Auburn basketball game.
The PGA Tour is out at Riviera this weekend, but the coolest putt anyone made on Saturday came on the court at halftime of the Mississippi State-Auburn basketball game. 
 
Patrick Burch of Birmingham was plucked from the crowd to attempt a full-court putt – make it and he wins a car. Burch stepped up, made a nice, smooth stroke, and rolled the ball from baseline to baseline, right into the hole – and won a new Toyota.
 
"I didn't even think I was going to hit the board," he told AL.com. "That's like 90-something feet, right? I just put it down and hit it."
 
That's amazing enough. His backstory makes his feat just mind-boggling.
 
According to the AL.com report, Burch, a 28-year-old IT specialist, had never gone to a basketball game before. Then he was selected at random from everyone in attendance at Auburn Arena for the promotion. And then he was told that no one had ever made the putt, a halftime staple at Auburn games. 
 
And the kicker: Burch doesn't play golf.
 
"Nope," he said. "I don't even putt-putt very well."
 
After his prodigious putt, Burch just might become a bigger fan of War Eagle hoops – and of golf.
 
Here's the video of his stroke of genius: