Golf Buzz

January 9, 2014 - 6:20pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Paulina Gretzky and Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson via Tiwtter
Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky, now that they're engaged, are spending time together on and off the golf course.
We all know that golf is a great pastime for families. So, obviously, do Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky.
 
Golf's hottest ''it couple'' this side of Tiger and Lindsey apparently have been spending some quality time on the links together. And Paulina obviously isn't just riding along in the cart.
 
On Thursday, she posted an Instagram video of her taking a swing, with the caption: ''Gettin a little better thanks to my coach djohnsonpga.''
 
I don't know how much golf Paulina has played, but in the video she's got a nice, athletic swing. And with DJ giving her advice, she likely could become quite a good player.
 
Paulina's foray onto the links comes about a year after she was first spotted with DJ. They have shared many photos on social media since then, and announced their engagement last month. But this is the first time I'm aware of that she has been shown on the golf course. If she develops the love of game that her parents and siblings have, it certainly won't be the last.
 
Here's her video. Click on the Instagram link in the tweet to see it:
 
January 8, 2014 - 7:45pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Michelle Wie
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Michelle Wie's "tabletop" putting stance might look extreme, but it's got to be a lot more comfortable than the one she tried out in the tweet below.
If you watched any women's golf last year, no doubt you saw Michelle Wie's ''tabletop'' putting stance. I know I did a double-take when I first saw her bend at the waist until her back was parallel to the ground before taking her stroke. 
 
She took a lot of ribbing for her unique stance, and even made fun of it herself on a few occasions. And during a visit to the David Leadbetter Academy on Wednesday, she jokingly showed us the latest adjustment to her stance (that's her on the right):
 
 
''The 2014 version of the 'tabletop' putting stance,'' she tweeted, adding a couple of hashtags: #donttrythisathome and #leadbetterschoolofputting. 
 
I can only agree with everyone who responded with ''Ouch!'' or some derivation thereof.
 
About an hour after she posted her photo, putter extraordinaire Luke Donald weighed in on Twitter. His verdict: ''Still too upright.''
 
As unusual as her stance looks, her putting numbers have improved pretty dramatically. She finished the 2013 season ranked 51st on the LPGA Tour in putting with an average of 29.88 putts per round – that's a big jump over 2012, in which she finished 119th with an average of 31.16 putts per round.
 
 
 
 
January 8, 2014 - 6:28pm
Posted by:
John Kim
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Getty Images
James Franklin is one of the hottest names in coaching - with many teams trying to lure away the Vanderbilt coach.

As a proud Vanderbilt alum, the last few football seasons have been nothing short of magical. Three bowl games in a row, back-to-back nine-win seasons and back-to-back bowl wins. Remember, this is Vanderbilt! In my four years there, I might have seen nine wins total. We played more Homecoming Games than we had wins each year. It was...well...sad.

So all the credit in the world has to go to Coach James Franklin. Under his guidance, the team has gone from a laughingstock to ending the last two years ranked in the top 25. Everybody associated with Vanderbilt knows his value, acknowledges it and appreciates it – especially those who have been a part of less glorious football times.

Of course, as you can imagine, other schools have noticed, too. His name is often floated as being recruited by a plethora of other "bigger name" schools. Recently, Texas, Penn State and even the NFL have been mentioned as possible next stops. It seems his days in Nashville might be numbered.

So much so that another proud alumnus, Brandt Snedeker, who still sports the Vandy logo or mascot as often as possible – and can often be seen roaming the sidelines – is taken a proactive approach in trying to keep him. Snedeker tweeted today an offer that there's no way Coach Franklin could turn down, right?

Here's hoping it works. If not, I'm sure Brandt will find a way to make the next coach feel at home – on the sideline and the golf course.

You can follow John Kim on Twitter at @johnkim 

January 8, 2014 - 12:32pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Jason Dufner
YouTube
Jason Dufner took a little time for a hike through a Hawaiian rainforest with wife, Amanda, last week in Maui.

Jason Dufner loves passion fruit. That's one of the great takeaways from this video of Dufner and wife, Amanda, taking a hike through a Hawaiian rainforest in Maui last week.

Check out the clip here:

If you like all the photos of Dufnering, you'll love this video because it's literally "Dufnering" in motion.

Here's another gem: The tour guide brings the Dufner's to a plant. She finds a seed on the plant and says, "I'll give you a hint -- it's something that you have every morning."

Dufner's response: "Tea?"

The disappointed tour guide replies: "Well, I guess it's something I have every morning. Not tea, but coffee!"

Dufner couldn't look less excited about this hike if he tried. But I'm sure he had a great time.

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

 

January 8, 2014 - 10:39am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Charles Howell III
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About the only thing Charles Howell III hasn't done in the Sony Open is win.

It's another week in paradise for the PGA Tour with this week's puddle jump from Maui to Oahu for the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Since 1965, Waialae Country Club has played host to the tournament. Several of the Tour's winners from 2013 who played in last week's Tournament of Champions at Kapalua will be in this week's field. What they'll find is a course that couldn't be more different than Kapalua's Plantation Course.

SCORES: Follow the Sony Open in Hawaii all week with PGA.com's leaderboard

Unlike the rugged terrain at Kapalua with incredible elevation changes, Waialae is -- in a word -- flat.

Here are five players to keep an eye on this week at the always birdie-friendly Waialae:

5. Russell Henley
Best finish in 2013:
Won the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: He's the defending champ. That's why. Any time a player wins as a rookie on the PGA Tour, it's a fantastic year. So, that's what 2013 was for Henley. However, he's surely looking to find more consistency in 2014 after an otherwise so-so 2013. He doesn't miss a lot of cuts -- just seven in 24 starts a year ago -- but he'd like some higher finishes. Then again, who wouldn't? Waialae would be a great place to start seeing as he'll have some great vibes and memories to draw back on from a year ago.

4. Tim Clark.
Best finish in 2013:
Second at the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: I can't be the only person who finds it nearly impossible to believe that Clark has just one win on the PGA Tour -- the 2010 Players Championship -- right? Well, he's a guy who seemingly always shines at Waialae and, in fact, has been a runner up in his last two starts there (2013, 2011). I think he'll make another run in Oahu this week.

3. Jason Dufner
Best finish in 2013:
Won the PGA Championship
Reason to watch: The reigning PGA Champion finished fifth a week ago at the Tournament of Champions. Nice little start to the year. He's also playing this week a little hurt (feelings, anyway) after watching his beloved Auburn Tigers go down in that epic BCS Championship game on Monday night to Florida State. Look for him to do well -- real well -- in Oahu to salvage an otherwise disappointing week.

2. Charles Howell III
Best finish in 2013:
Second at the Humana Challenge
Reason to watch: You know that saying, "horses for courses?" Well, that adequately describes Howell and Waialae. Howell has seven top-5 finishes at Waialae in his career. Something about the course just fits his eye beautifully. The only thing Howell hasn't done at Waialae? Win. His last two starts have yielded a tie for third (2013) and a tie for second (2012). He's got to win there eventually, right?

1. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2013:
Won the BMW Championship
Reason to watch: Johnson is simply playing out of his mind right now. He's been victorious in each of his last two starts -- the unofficial Northwestern Mutual Challenge and last week's Tournament of Champions. He's not the longest hitter in the game, but Johnson has proven time and again on big tracks like Augusta National and Kapalua most recently, that doesn't matter. He's arguably the best game manager in golf. He plays to his strengths and avoids mistakes.

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

 

January 7, 2014 - 7:34pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Graeme McDowell
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Graeme McDowell has gathered a reputation as a refreshingly forthright and insightful interview.
The Golf Writers of America has named former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell as the winner of its annual ASAP Sports/Jim Murray Award for being accommodating to the media, the association announced on Tuesday.
 
The GWAA also named Ken Duke as the winner of its Ben Hogan Award for remaining active in golf despite a physical handicap (in his case, scoliosis) or serious illness, and Rhonda Glenn as the winner of its William D. Richardson Award for consistently making outstanding contributions to golf.
 
Though McDowell went to college at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, he played primarily in Europe after turning pro in 2002. Since winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010, he has joined the PGA Tour. He added a second PGA Tour win, at the RBC Heritage, last year, and owns eight European Tour titles. 
 
Along the way, he has gathered a reputation as a refreshingly forthright and insightful interview.
 
''I take my relationship with the media very seriously,'' said McDowell. ''I'm pretty honest to a fault at times. It's very important to me. You guys give us exposure globally. You're a very important cog in the whole golf – and sports – machine. It's important – good, bad or ugly – to give you an idea of what's going on in my head and with my game.''
 
Duke, 44, earned his first PGA Tour win last summer at the Travelers Championship in his 187th tournament, a testament to his determination.
 
''I'm overwhelmed, so honored,'' said Duke, who still has the 16-inch metal rod attached to his spine that was surgically placed when he was 15. 
 
 
Forced to wear a back brace, he still played high school golf in Arkansas. He turned pro in 1994, played all over the world and on nearly every mini-tour, before finally making it onto the PGA Tour in 2004 when he was 35.
 
Asked what the iconic Hogan means to him, Duke beamed. ''A class act, probably the best to ever play the game,'' he said. ''He was a guy with an incredible work ethic. He put the time into learning to play the game.''
 
Glenn, 67, is considered the foremost authority on women’s golf and among the handful of books she has authored is ''The Illustrated History of Women's Golf,'' published in 1991. She also wrote ''Breaking the Mold,'' the story of Judy Bell, the first woman to be president of the U.S. Golf Association.
 
For 47 years before her retirement last summer, Glenn served in the communications department at the USGA, most prominently at the U.S. Women's Open, the U.S. Women's Amateur, and the U.S. Girls' Junior championships. But while Glenn remained very current, it is her grasp of history that has made her invaluable.
 
''Winning (this award) is a great honor, and also a surprise. While the award is for outstanding contributions to golf, I'm very aware that, more importantly, the game has made such an outstanding contribution to my life,'' said Glenn.
 
As a young girl, Glenn used to hit golf balls at a par-3 course in Palm Beach, Fla., where she would watch the iconic Mickey Wright practice. As fate would have it, Glenn later was paired with Wright in an LPGA Tour tournament and they grew to be close friends. It was Glenn who encouraged the USGA to house a Mickey Wright Museum at its headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.
 
Before establishing herself as the voice of women's golf, Glenn in 1981 was the first full-time national TV network female sportscaster when she began broadcasting at ESPN.
 
Duke, Glenn, and McDowell will be presented their honors April 9 at the annual GWAA Awards Dinner in Augusta, Ga.