Golf Buzz

July 11, 2016 - 11:43am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Zach Johnson
USA Today Sports Images
Zach Johnson will attempt to defend his title in the Open Championship at Royal Troon this week.

The season's third major championship -- The Open Championship -- is upon us this week from Royal Troon in Troon, Scotland. This week will mark the ninth time that Royal Troon will hosts the game's oldest major.

Troon hosted its first Open in 1923 when England's Arthur Havers was the victor. American Todd Hamilton defeated Ernie Els in a playoff when the Open was last held at Troon in 2004.

One thing we can be sure of -- as is always the case at the Open -- is this: weather will be a factor. Who will have the luck of the draw?

RELATED: Ryder Cup USA points standings | 2016 PGA Championship field

That's too soon to tell, but here's a look at seven pairings you'll want to watch in the first two rounds (order is listed chronologically based on first-round tee time):

7. Branden Grace, Patrick Reed, Byeong Hun An
Tee times:
8:03 a.m. Thursday; 1:04 p.m. Friday
Reason to watch: Grace has really been knocking on the door at majors over the past couple of seasons. He has three top-5 finishes in the majors since the 2015 U.S. Open, most recently a T5 in the 2016 U.S. Open. While his Open record isn't outstanding -- his best finish was a T20 last year -- it's the only major in which he has yet to miss a cut. Reed and An have yet to tally a top-10 in a major, but both players are more than capable of ending that drought this week.

6. Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Shane Lowry
Tee times:
9:03 a.m. Thursday; 2:04 p.m. Friday
Reason to watch: OK. So Spieth and Rose are a given when it comes to players to watch in any tournament. For Spieth, a win here would grab him three legs of the career Grand Slam and -- under no certain terms -- erase the Sunday meltdown at Augusta National in April so people can stop asking about it. Surprisingly for Rose, his best Open finish remains that T4 as a 17-year-old at Royal Birkdale in 1998. In fact, his only Open top-10 since was a T6 last year at St. Andrews. That brings us to Lowry who should not be overlooked. He won a World Golf Championship a year ago and has collected three top-10 finishes in major in the last three seasons, highlighted by last month's T2 in the U.S. Open. Lowry is a player who has really come into his own lately and it wouldn't be shocking at all to see him walk away from Royal Troon with the Claret Jug.

5. Danny Willett, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day
Tee times:
9:25 a.m. Thursday; 2:26 p.m. Friday
Reason to watch: This, right here, is a monster trio to follow for the first two rounds. The reigning Masters champ (Willett), the reigning PGA Champion (Day) and a player in Fowler who, though still major-less, snagged top-5 finishes in all four majors in 2014. As a major winner, Willett is now in a new stratosphere. Day enters as the world No. 1 and returns to the tournament that began his incredible run one year ago when he thought he had the tournament won, but instead finished T4. He responded by tallying seven of his 10 career PGA Tour wins since, including his first major at Whistling Straits, two PGA Tour Playoffs events and the Players Championship. Fowler had been slumping -- three missed cuts in his last five starts -- but may have found something at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a T10, in his last start.

4. Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Bubba Watson
Tee times:
9:36 a.m. Thursday; 2:37 p.m. Friday
Reason to watch: Rory McIlroy has been itching for this week to begin for two reasons. First, with all due respect to defending champ Zach Johnson, McIlroy is also sort of a defending champ this year. He won the Open at Royal Liverpool in 2014, but was unable to defend at St. Andrews a year ago after sustaining an ankle injury while playing soccer with some friends. Secondly, McIlroy is reeling from a missed cut at Oakmont in the U.S. Open a few weeks ago. It was his first missed cut in a major since the 2013 Open. Matsuyama is one of the best young players in the game and has come close in four majors, including the Open where he finished T6 in 2013. And as for Watson, the Open is his lone major without a top-5 finishe, which is surprising when you consider that he may be the most creative player in the game today with his ball-shaping abilities. Will that trend turn this week at Troon?

3. Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els
Tee times:
1:26 p.m. Thursday; 8:25 a.m. Friday
Reason to watch: Just because this trio is made up for forty-somethings, don't think of it as one for nostalgia. All three are still very capable of winning. Open Championship venues -- more so than the other three major championships -- or the kind where anyone could win. Mickelson and Els both proved that with what were sort of "surprise" wins when they turned the trick in 2013 and 2012, respectfully -- same goes for Darren Clarke who did it in 2011. Westwood has come agonizingly close to winning a major so many times. If he could get it done this week, he'd be a very popular champion.

2. Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer, Russell Knox
Tee times:
2:04 p.m. Thursday; 9:03 a.m. Friday
Reason to watch: Talk about a breath of fresh air for Dustin Johnson. For the first time in a long time, he enters a major with virtually no pressure. That's not to say he isn't going to grind like crazy to try and win. It's to note that at Oakmont, he finally became a major champ after so many near misses. Years from now, will we look back at that U.S. Open victory as a win that opened the major floodgates for Johnson the same way the 2004 Masters did for Phil Mickelson? Time will tell. But it'll be interesting to see how he fares in his first major as a major champion. Kaymer has had an incredibly slow season by his standards on the PGA Tour (no top 10s in eight starts), but is showing some flashes in Europe of late with a T5 and a T13 in consecutive weeks at the Open de France and Scottish Open, respectively. Knox, a native Scot, is enjoying his best PGA Tour season to date. Three top 10s, including a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Can he thrive on being paired alongside two major champions?

1. Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson
Tee times:
2:15 p.m. Thursday; 9:14 a.m. Friday
Reason to watch: Highlighted by defending champ Zach Johnson, this threesome is as strong as you'll find in the first two rounds with Scott and Stenson along for the stroll as well. Scott and a major-less Stenson have had more close calls at the Open than they probably care to remember. It wouldn't be the least but surprising to see these three names on the first page of the leaderboard come Sunday. 

July 11, 2016 - 9:07am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
John Daly
@ChampionsTour on Twitter
In Sunday's final round of the Dick's Sporting Goods Open on the PGA Tour Champions, John Daly began putting with just his left hand... It didn't go to well.

In Sunday's final round of the Dick's Sporting Goods Open on the PGA Tour Champions, John Daly began putting with just his left hand... It didn't go to well.

John Daly putts one-handed in final round of Champions Tour event

In case you missed it over the weekend, John Daly was in contention for his first PGA Tour Champions victory in the Dick's Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, N.Y.

After stellar twin 68s in Rounds 1 and 2, Daly entered Sunday's final round just three shots off the lead at 8 under.

Daly couldn't seem to get anything going in the final round so he decided to do something drastic: putt with one hand:

 

 

Based on what Golf Channel's Dave Marr had to say, it doesn't sound as though the switch went too well for Daly ("It's not that he hasn't made any of these," Marr said, "He hasn't even come close to making any of these.").

Daly would finish with a 1-over 73 to tie for 11th, his best finish on that Tour this season.

It seemed like an odd time to go with the one-handed stroke -- even if it is one style that many putting gurus swear by for practice drills.

Daly is proficient with the one-handed style in chipping and bunker drills, as you can see here:

 

 

 

 

Wonder if this is a style Daly might try out at Royal Troon this week in the Open Championship.

Now that would be something to watch. 

July 10, 2016 - 2:20pm
Posted by:
Austin Vaughn | PGA.com
Austin.Vaughn's picture
Bobby Jones
Rob Schumacher | USA Today Sports Images
The Georgia Amateur Golf Championship is celebrating its centennial on the same course where Bobby Jones took the first title in 1916.

You can’t mention major championship golf without thinking of the annual Masters Tournament held at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., and its co-founder, Atlanta golf legend Bobby Jones.

As reported in the Brookhaven Post, the Georgia Amateur Golf Championship is celebrating its centennial this week on the same course in Atlanta where Jones took the first Georgia Golf Amateur title in 1916, at the young age of 14.

The 100th Georgia Amateur will begin on the Capital City Golf Club’s Crabapple Course where a field of 144 Georgia amateurs will compete in individual stroke play. After 36 holes, the top 32 golfers will compete on the Brookhaven Course, where Jones played a century ago, in match play format to decide the championship.

The 100th Georgia Amateur Golf Championship will be held July 11-17. 

kasey petty, proposal, us women's open
Twitter / ShaneODonoghue
Kasey Petty may have missed the cut at the U.S. Women's Open, but there was a surprise waiting for her when she finished her round Friday.

It was already an incredible week for Kasey Petty. The 22-year-old American is a recent graduate of the University of Findlay (Ohio), and turned professional just before the U.S. Women's Open. She got to play practice rounds with Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson.

And although she was disappointed with her play, which resulted in a missed cut after scores of 81 and 83, it's a week she'll never forget.

After finishing her second round and signing her scorecard, she had a line of friends and family waiting for her. The last person in line was her boyfriend Jacob Miller, who dropped to one knee and pulled out a ring.

“I didn’t play very well,” said Petty, “but this makes up for all of that.”

(h/t to golfweek)

 

 

 

par 6, european challenge tour, 783 yard hole
Twitter / Challenge_Tour
The European Challenge Tour's stop in Slovakia includes the longest hole in Europe, a Jack Nicklaus-designed 783-yard par 6.

There was a videogame that was out when I was a little kid, I forget its name now, but it allowed you to create your own golf courses. I would always make them to be impossible, with insanely long holes and a ridiculous number of obstacles.

I always thought that those type of holes existed only in my childhood fantasies, until I heard about the 15th hole on the Legends Course at Penati Golf Resort in Slovakia.

Jack Nicklaus must have been having a bad day when he designed the 783-yard par 6. It's hard to even fathom how far 783 yards is, so here's some comparisons.

 
The course hosts this week's D+D REAL Slovakia Challenge on the European Challenge tour. Surprisingly, the hole didn't play very difficult in last year's tournament, yielding 26 eagles and 227 birdies.
 
Though it didn't happen at last year's event, it's not inconceivable that someone could score a three on the par 6, which would be an albatross. And while it would be essentially impossible, a two on the hole would be called a condor. A condor has never been recorded in professional golf, which isn't that surprising considering most weeks it would require a hole-in-one on a par 5.
 
And now what you've all been waiting for, a fly-over of the hole:
 
 
Without the benefit of professional-level length, the hole would play much more difficult for amateurs. Still, with four shots to get to the green, do you think you could birdie the longest hole in Europe?
July 7, 2016 - 8:32pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America
Do you struggle with staying calm when you get a little nervous on the golf course? PGA Professional Rob Labritz has some great advice for keeping those feelings at bay and excelling.

How many of you out there have let a great round slip away because the pressure gets to you at the worst possible moment?

We've all been there. It doesn't matter who you are.

For some of us, the meltdown might be this: You know you're playing great. You're on the verge of breaking 90 for the first time and it's weighing on you. "Wow! I'm finally going to do it."

What happens next? With three holes left, you start to tally up your score and tell yourself, "Man, all I need to do to break 90 is..."

Next thing you know you're hitting it sideways. You left "the moment" and thought too far ahead about your desired outcome.

RELATED: Tips for getting out of deep rough | Breaking 70 | 80 |90 | 100

We caught up with PGA Professional Rob Labritz to find out how the heck we can control those nerves instead of letting those nerves control us.

And Labritz would know a thing or two about that going both ways.

About 10 years ago, Labritz had a five-shot lead in the New York State Open at Bethpage Black with 3-4 holes to go. At around that time, he began thinking about how cool it was going to be to win such a big tournament at such a heralded course.

About an hour later, Labritz putted out on the last hole, signed his card and finished fourth.

"It was a crumble and I didn't know how to handle it," admitted Labritz. "I wasn't prepared for it. I told myself I had I won the tournament before I won the tournament. You can't do that in the moment."

On the other end of the spectrum are the times in recent history when Labritz has embraced the situation and used the nerves -- he prefers to call it "adrenaline" -- to his advantage. And by recent history, we're actually talking about the last week and a half.

In the PGA Professional Championship at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, N.Y., last week, Labritz knocked down an incredible 35-foot putt for birdie on the 72nd hole to secure his fifth appearance in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol in just a few weeks.

Earlier this week, Labritz joined the likes of Paul Runyon, Claude Harmon, Doug Ford and Ben Hogan as a winner in the Westchester Open. You want to talk about staying calm under pressure? The tournament was played at Labritz's home course -- GlenArbor. It's not easy to win when you've played a course more than anyone in the field, and because of that, are probably expected to do so.

So how did he do it?

"It all starts with your preparation," Labritz said. "I'm not just talking about hitting balls. You have to tell yourself -- and put yourself -- in that situation when practicing. It's 'situational practice.' Grab a club out of the bag, put the ball down, go through your full routine and say, 'I'm on the 18th hole at the club championship and I need to get this in the fairway, on the green and hit two putts for par to move on.'"

If that's the way you practice, Labritz said, it won't be foreign to you when you find yourself in the real situation.

"You need to have logged in a lot of hours," he stressed. "In that moment you've got to almost feel like you have been there in that moment before because of the practice you put in. You have to believe you're in that moment to feel that situational practice. The butterflies, the excitement, the adrenaline -- whatever you want to call that feeling -- and develop it."

For Labritz, that feeling is adrenaline. And that adrenaline rush is the reason he plays the game.

"It's definitely adrenaline for me," he said. "People confuse that with nerves. Whatever that feeling is, you're going to have to embrace it to get your desired outcome. You shake. It happens. When you're scared, the negative thoughts come out. If you embrace it, you heighten your focus. You have to embrace that state and get power from it. The more you go through it, the more you learn how to handle it. It comes with experience. There are times I have gone in and failed -- many times. But that's golf. You learn from it. "

And again, this isn't just for the competitive player. If anything, it's exactly the thing that keeps high handicappers from shooting lower scores.

"High handicappers get all messed up when they're playing well and chasing a score because they worry about crafting shots they haven't hit yet," Labritz said. "They hit a bad shot and it snowballs. Yes, you want to see yourself in the future doing great stuff, shooting lower scores, but you also have to remember you can only hit one shot at a time. Once you're in the moment, you know you're in a heightened state. Embrace it. Stay in the present and focus on the shot at hand."

You know when you hit that bad shot and let it snowball like Labritz mentioned? It's because you've talked yourself into bad things.

Don't do that.

"Talk yourself into what you want to do," Labritz said. "'I want to rip it down the middle.' Do that. And if you don't, do it on the next shot. You can't control the past, but a positive mindset and extreme focus can help you impact your future."

Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008 and 2013, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz