Golf Buzz

June 28, 2015 - 2:39pm
mark.aumann's picture
Bubba Watson
After hitting a sand wedge to within four feet on the second hole Sunday, Bubba Watson looks around for the fan who suggested he hit a low shot under the trees.

After Bubba Watson's drive on the second hole in Sunday's final round of the Travelers Championship landed in heavy rough behind a row of trees, someone in the gallery suggested loudly that Watson ought to hit a low 4-iron under the branches.

However, Bubba had other ideas. As in, if you can't go around, go over -- with a sand wedge. Just watch:

 

 

Watson's ball landed four feet from the hole and he tapped in for his second consecutive birdie of the round. After his marvelous approach shot, Watson immediately turned toward the gallery in an attempt to catch the attention of the amateur caddie in the crowd.

Bubba Watson 1, fan in gallery 0.

Zach Johnson and Zach Johnson
PGA.com
Zach Johnson from Utah (left) is playing with a little extra spring in his step after getting an encouraging tweet from former Masters champion Zach Johnson (right) today.
 
A little before Zach Johnson teed off today at the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship, he took to Twitter to send best wishes to Zach Johnson on his round this afternoon. Wait, what?
 
Don't worry, Zach isn't losing his mind – he was just giving a shoutout to another Zach Johnson, who is making his debut in the PGA Professional National Championship today. 
 
Johnson isn't on social media, so he didn't know about the tweet until I told him about it on the practice green about half an hour before he teed off. He was genuinely touched by the gesture.
 
"That's pretty cool," he said with a big smile. "That gives me a nice bit of inspiration to take into my round."
 
MORE PGA PROFESSIONAL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Full coverage | Leaderboard
 
Johnson – 32 and a PGA Assistant Professional at Davis Park Golf Course in Fruit Heights, Utah – won the 2013 Utah Open and has finished in the top 10 of the PGA Assistant Championship twice in the last four years. His golf buddies back in Utah jokingly call him "the local Zach Johnson." 
 
The closest "the local Zach Johnson" has come to meeting 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson came back in 2009, when he received a big package from the Sony Open full of scorecards and memorabilia after he won there. "I had to call the tour," he said, "and tell them, 'you've got the wrong guy.'"
 
The two guys might actually cross paths this summer, though, if Johnson can finish in the top 20 here at the Philadelphia Cricket Club and claim a berth at the PGA Championship in August. 
 
"That," Johnson said, "would be a great place to finally meet him."
 
Here's the tweet:
 
 
June 28, 2015 - 10:23am
john.holmes's picture
Philadelphia Cricket Club
PGA.com
Signs of the Saturday's storm were nowhere to be found on the Wissahickon course Sunday morning.
 
The biggest surprise so far at the PGA Professional National Championship is that the tournament actually got underway on time this morning. 
 
The Philadelphia area – along with much of the East Coast – was battered by a huge weather system on Saturday that caused significant storms from the Carolinas up to New England. As much as 1.4 inches of rain fell on the Philadelphia Cricket Club, and the rain persisted long into the night.
 
And yet, the first round began at 7:30 a.m. sharp, with both the Militia Hill and Wissahickon courses damp but in pristine condition. They're in such good shape so soon after such bad weather, said PGA Director of Golf Jim Smith Jr., because Director of Grounds Dan Meersman and his staff got out ahead of the rain.  
 
"The biggest thing is we mowed everything tight" on Saturday, "knowing the weather was coming," Meersman explained. "We exceeded the PGA's target speed for the greens [on Saturday], knowing the greens would come back to it. We hit their goals."
 
That's even more impressive when you consider that the two courses in use this week are very different in the sense that the Wissahickon Course – a classic layout originally designed by A.W. Tillinghast that opened in 1922 – was completely renovated less than two years ago. 
 
MORE PGA PROFESSIONAL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Full coverage | Leaderboard
 
"Every blade of grass on that course is new," said Meersman, who's been at the Philadelphia Cricket Club for seven years. "We had to be a little more careful there" than on the Militia Hill course, which opened in 2002.
 
Grooming the courses so thoroughly beforehand also lessened or eliminated some of the chores that might have been difficult, or impossible, in the hours leading up to the first tee times. 
 
"We knew the bunkers would be fine," said Meersman, adding that his crew spent considerable time cleaning up the teeboxes and landing areas that couldn't be mowed without potentially damaging them because the ground was so wet.
 
Ironically, Meersman said, one of his biggest challenges was not overdoing things.
 
"Having the people available that we have is like having 100 racehorses at the starting gate," he said. "Everybody wants to do so much. But we really had to make sure we don't let our enthusiasm lead us into any mistakes."
 
June 27, 2015 - 5:10pm
mark.aumann's picture
Bubba Watson
PGA Tour/Twitter
Bubba Watson took advantage of a lucky ricochet to save par on the 15th hole Saturday.

Sometimes you make your own luck. Sometimes it's made for you.

During Saturday's third round of the Travelers Championship, co-leader Bubba Watson pulled a 7-wood so far right that it could have wound up out of bounds. But watch the video to see what kind of a lucky break Bubba got.

 

 

The sound of ball hitting tree is very evident in the audio.

Faced with a long bunker shot -- much better than what Watson probably expected when the ball left his club -- Watson dumped it into a greenside bunker near the lake. Faced then with a rare "double sandy," Watson put it within four feet and calmly sank the putt for a "routine" par.

 

Beau Brinkley
USA Today Sports Images
Beau Brinkley's real job is long snapper for the Tennessee Titans.

Charity golf tournaments have hole-in-one prizes all the time, usually for something like a new car or a vacation -- and rarely does anyone actually make an ace to win. If someone does hole out, they're usually won by someone in the community but not particularly well-known elsewhere.

But the Nashville Sports Council Golf Tournament on Thursday not only featured an unusual prize, but it was won by Beau Brinkley, who just happens to be the long snapper for the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

According to this story in the Nashville Tennesean, Brinkley aced the par-3, 182-yard eighth hole at Gaylord Springs. And since the tournament was sponsored by Jack Daniel's, Brinkley won himself an entire barrel of single barrel select premium whiskey -- both the contents and the barrel.

How big is a barrel? Well, it holds about 250 bottles of whiskey. Brinkley mentioned later in an interview with ESPN that he'd like to keep the barrel as a reminder of his once-in-a-lifetime shot. And a lifetime of shots, as well.

Although since the traditional celebration for a hole-in-one is drinks on the house, Brinkley's supply of whiskey could already be dwindling.

TaylorMade
TaylorMade
The TaylorMade R15 driver, along with the company's AeroBurner fairway woods and Rescue clubs were built for more distance and more forgiveness.

I have long been a big fan of TaylorMade's wide variety of drivers, fairway woods and rescue clubs. When the opportunity recently arose to try out the R15 driver, as well as the Aeroburner 3-wood and 3-rescue, it's safe to say I was pretty excited.

Just like everyone else, I'm always in search of more distance off the tee. I've always been pretty lucky as an accurate driver of the golf ball, but I'm not always the longest. With just a few more yards off the tee, you're set up with a shorter approach, with a more lofted club, which should lead to a more accurate shot to the greens and more looks at birdies and pars, right?

I took these clubs out for a test spin at my home course in Rhode Island. I wanted the test to be at a place I'm familiar with so I could compare landing area of shots with my game clubs. What was the difference? Was I still as accurate? Did I have shorter approach yardages?

2015 BEST OF SERIES VIDEO: Golf balls | Drivers | Hybrids/Fairway woods | Irons

I wouldn't recommend it, but my first time at the course with these beautiful new sticks was also the first time I had hit them, period. I took the plastic off in the parking lot.

The R15 driver -- I got it in white -- boats a lower and more forward center of gravity to promote higher launch and lower spin. The lower spin, obviously, allows the ball to roll out more once it hits the ground.

The 460cc head was nothing I'm not already used to. Several of my drivers in recent years were the same size, so it wasn't overwhelming. That said, as interested as I am in more distance off the tee, I'm equally as concerned with how a driver performs on mishits.

That's where the R15 really put an ear-to-ear grin on my face. The shots I mishit still felt solid and not as far off line as I would typically anticipate.

Overall, I found the driver to be very comfortable to hit right from the first tee on. Did I hit every fairway? Of course not. I've never done that. But, my misses were playable, which is important to any avid golfer.

Length-wise, I'd say the R15 was about 15 yards longer than anything I've ever hit on the button. When I walked out to some tee shots, I actually had to scratch my head because I was in spots on the course I had never seen before with my tee ball. That was fun.

While I've messed around with several drivers for the last three years, only one has remained in my bag over that period of time. Until now. It was time for an upgrade and the R15 is it. After that first round, it was immediately promoted to "gamer" status.

On to the Aeroburner 3-wood. Truth be told, my course isn't one that requires a lot of 3-wood shots. Maybe a few off the tees -- which I couldn't bring myself to hit seeing as the R15 was going further than anything I've ever unleashed -- but other than that, there's just one par 5 over water where you'd need the 3-wood even after a good poke from the tee.

That's where I used this club for the only time at the course. I would later take it to the range.

As is the case with most golfers -- I'd presume, anyway -- the aesthetics of a fairway wood are paramount to me. What does it look like at address? Anything too bulky and I'm visually intimidated. It needs to look right behind the ball, or I know I'm going to hit a lousy shot before I even pull the trigger.

At address, I immediately loved the look of the Aeroburner. That made me comfortable and I proceeded to smash that second shot from 240 yards out over the water... and over the green. Much like the R15, this club provided some extra yards I wasn't accustomed to.

The most noticeable attribute of the Aeroburner 3-wood, to me, was the sound upon impact. It just made this "pop!" like I haven't heard before with other fairway woods. Since I only hit one shot with it on the course, I was sure to take it out to the range a couple of times too.

At the range, the results were similar -- more distance than I'm used to and just a fantastic sound at impact. Like the R15, the Aeroburner 3-wood also allowed for more forgiveness on mishits. We have the Speed Pocket on the sole of the club to thank for that -- it increases the size of the sweet spot and reduces spin.

And when I really got ahold of this thing, I'd venture to guess it was traveling within 10 yards of my previous driver.

Lastly, there was the Aeroburner 3-Rescue (which I've also spent a lot of time with on the range). For me, this club was installed to replace three clubs -- a 5-wood, 3-iron and 4-iron. For years I've read and heard about how much easier it is to hit a hybrid than a long iron or fairway wood, but it's taken me time to believe in it and convert.

What I loved most about this club, which also boats a Speed Pocket on the sole, is the ease with which I was able to extract the ball from some typically tough lies. Whether it was in rough or on hardpan -- for the most part -- I didn't feel the need to hit a short iron to get the ball back in play. Instead, I could trust that this club would get through the thick grass without costing me loads of yardage. It gave me chances to save par instead of hoping to sneak away with a bogey.

I also tried it a couple of times from just off the green instead of using a putter. It was like adding another dimension to my game.

The R15 and Aeroburner clubs from TaylorMade were everything I expected and more. I can't wait to get out there with them again.

If you're interested in learning more about the clubs, visit http://taylormadegolf.com/.

The R15 driver retails for $429.99. The Aeroburner 3-wood sells for $229.99, while the Aeroburner Rescue is priced at $199.99.