Golf Buzz

April 23, 2014 - 8:00am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
2014 Zurich Classic of New Orleans | Five players to watch
USA Today Sports Images
Justin Rose has been in contention the last two years at TPC Louisiana. Will that experience help him this time around?

It typically takes a score in the mid-to-high teens under par or better to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which starts Thursday at TPC Louisiana. Defending champ Billy Horschel was victorious in 2013 with a score of 20-under par.

Needless to say, it's a birdie-fest. The putter is going to have to be hot, but the irons are also going to need to be sharp in order to spy those birdie looks.

RELATED: Zurich Classic tee times | Bubba's caddie tries to qualify | Zurich Classic insider

A solid field that includes 25 players who have won on the PGA Tour in the last two years, as well as several major champions, means it should be a shootout.

Here are five players you'll want to watch.

5. Ernie Els
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Fourth at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Reason to watch: Did you think I wouldn't pick the "Big Easy" in the Big Easy? Since that fourth-place finish in the Match Play, Els has been struggling mightily. His last six starts since have resulted in three missed cuts and a top finish of T43 at the Shell Houston Open. His last two starts in New Orleans look like this: T15 in 2013; and lost in a playoff in 2012. I think he'll find something in his game this week. It might not lead to a win, but it will snap the slump he's been in.

4. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Third at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Reason to watch: Fowler is on a little roll right now. He tied for sixth at the Shell Houston Open and followed that up with a tie for fifth at the Masters -- his first top-10 at Augusta National. He'll be refreshed after taking last week off. Fowler tied for 10th at TPC Louisiana in 2012, which was the start of an incredible four-tournament stretch that saw him win the Wells Fargo Championship the following week, tie for second the week after that at the Players Championship and then tie for fifth in his next start at Colonial.

3. Keegan Bradley
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Reason to watch: The competitor in Keegan Bradley can't be happy about that missed cut at Augusta National. After a week off, he'll continue what has been a solid 2013-14 season in which he's finished in the top 25 seven times in 12 starts. Having missed the cut the last two years in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, I get the feeling Bradley has a bone to pick with TPC Louisiana.

2. Matt Every
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Reason to watch: This has been a breakout season for Every. Along with his victory, he's got a total of five top-10 finishes in 13 starts this season. He's missed the cut twice this season, including the Masters, but bounced back with a T12 last week in the RBC Heritage.

1. Justin Rose
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Fifth at the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Rose has left something to be desired this season -- which might be a little unfair to write considering he missed time battling a shoulder injury. But, the reigning U.S. Open champ looks to be in a good place confidence-wise, coming off a tie for 14th in the Masters. He's one of those players you expect to contend every week. In 2013, he tied for 15th at the Zurich Classic. In 2012, he tied for 10th. He's got a track record and some confidence going into this week.

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

 

Categories: TPC Louisiana
Bubba Watson
University of Georgia Athletics
Bubba Watson shopped for a stuffed Bulldog for 2-year-old son Caleb in the University of Georgia bookstore during his return to campus on Monday.

Monday was a big day in the Bubba Watson camp. His caddie, Ted Scott, spent the day trying to play his way into the Zurich Classic over in New Orleans. And Bubba himself spent the day back in Athens, Ga., where he starred on the University of Georgia golf team in 2000-2001.

Watson returned to his old college haunt to speak at the Bulldogs' Student Athlete Awards Banquet – where, of course, he wore his Green Jacket. He also spent plenty of time visiting some of his coaches and teachers, hanging out at the bookstore, signing autographs and taking some pictures.

Before the banquet, Watson and Bulldogs Golf Coach Chris Haack sat down for a quick video interview with student media.

"It's always good to come back," Watson said. "This is where I learned a lot about my golf game and learned a lot about life. It's where you have to grow up – if you don't grow up in college, you're not gonna make it in the real world."

Despite winning the Masters twice in the last three seasons, Watson hasn't changed, said Haack.

"He's still a prankster, jokester, still very humble," Haack said. "One of the most beautiful things about Bubba is that like me he's a big baby – we'll cry at the drop of a hat when we get emotional."

There's much more in the video interview, and there's an expansive photo gallery of Bubba's day as well.

 

 

 

Buddy Alexander with Camilo Villegas
Getty Images
Buddy Alexander coached Camilo Villegas and his teammates to the NCAA crown in 2001.

Buddy Alexander, the men's golf coach at the University of Florida for 27 seasons, will retire at the end of the current campaign, he said on Tuesday. The Gators are playing the Southeastern Conference tournament this week, and there has been no indication of who might replace him in one of the nation's top college golf jobs.

"Coaching is a young man's game and it is simply time for me to turn the reins over to someone else," Alexander said.

Alexander, 61, led the Gators to NCAA national championships in 1993 and 2001, and eight Southeastern Conference titles. More than 30 of his players have gone to on the PGA Tour, among them event winners Billy Horschel, Matt Every, Chris DiMarco, Dudley Hart and Camilo Villegas. 

"I can honestly say that I would not be in the position I'm in" without Alexander's guidance, Horschel said on Twitter, adding that Alexander was "the greatest college golf coach ever." It is "sad to see him retire but I will always seek out his advice."

"Proud to call him coach and now friend," added Will Strickler. "One of the best ever."

 
Alexander played college golf at Georgia Southern, where he was an All-American in 1974 and 1975. After college, he played on the U.S. teams in the 1986 Eisenhower Trophy and 1987 Walker Cup, and went on to win the 1986 U.S. Amateur along with several other high-profile amateur events.

He became the head coach at Georgia Southern just two years after graduation, and coached the men's and women's golf teams at LSU from 1983 to 1987, winnng SEC team titles in 1986 and 1987 while two of his players won SEC individual titles. He took over at Florida in January of 1988, and the Gators won the SEC crown in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2003 and 2011.

In all, Alexander's teams finished in the top 10 in the NCAAs 15 times, and racked up 72 tournament victories, and 31 of his players have earned All-America honors. He has been named the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) National Coach of the Year three times (1993, 2001 and 2004), and the SEC Coach of the Year seven times (1986, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2003 and 2004). He was inducted into the GCAA Coaches Hall of Fame in 2001.

"He's one of the all-time greats," said Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley. "He's had a heck of a run. There's no better Gator than Buddy Alexander."

 

April 22, 2014 - 9:35am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Ted Scott
USA Today Sports Images
Ted Scott caddies for two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson. On Monday, he attempted to qualify for the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic.

There are caddies on the PGA Tour who have plenty of game.

Add Masters Champion Bubba Watson's caddie Ted Scott to that list. With his boss sitting out most likely until the Players Championship beginning May 8, Scott attempted to qualify for this week's Zurich Classic in New Orleans on Monday.

GolfChannel.com's Ryan Lavner reports: "Scott shot 1-under 71 at LaTour Golf Club, falling four shots shy of earning a spot. He mixed four birdies with three bogeys during the qualifier."

After the qualifier, Scott sent out this tweet:

 

 

And in case you were wondering how Scott stacks up against Watson -- who won the Zurich Classic in 2011 -- he revealed it in this tweet:

 

 

In 2011, Brian Gay's caddie, Kip Henley, played in the PGA Tour's St. Jude Classic. Henley, a former contestant on the Golf Channel's Big Break, qualified for the event by virtue of winning the Tennessee PGA Section championship. With rounds of 82-78, Henley missed the cut by a wide margin.

The always funny and self-deprecating Henley left a letter in the locker room for the Tour players after missing the cut. It read:

Dear PGA Tour Players,

I Kip Henley vow to never step into your arena as a participant again.

Regrettably,
Kip Henley

But back to Scott -- kudos for giving it a try. Nice playing, too.

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

April 22, 2014 - 8:48am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Jason Dufner
European Tour on Twitter
Is Jason Dufner actually playing table tennis in this photo? He looks more like a spectator.

Reigning PGA Champion Jason Dufner is in China this week to play in the Volvo China Open -- an event on the European Tour's International schedule.

As is often the case before events on the European Tour, there are exhibitions before the tournament begins to promote the event and expose players to the local culture.

That was the case on Tuesday, as you can see in the picture above tweeted out by the European Tour (@European_Tour), when Ian Poulter and Dufner took part in a table tennis match.

Well... Poulter took part in the match. Dufner looks like he's enjoying himself, no doubt, but with the body language, he looks like a kid watching a baseball game who showed up with his mitt hoping to catch a foul ball. Dufner, meanwhile, showed up to watch a table tennis match with his paddle.

Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) sent out this tweet:

It all reminded us of another great Dufner picture from when he was in China last October:

 

Good stuff.

And, of course, no Dufner exhibition photo could ever beat the photo that made Dufner a cult hero and a hashtag -- #Dufnering.

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

Chambers Bay
Getty Images
Chambers Bay hosted the 2010 U.S. Amateur in part to show that the course could handle a U.S. Open.

Monday was U.S. Open Media Day at the Pinehurst Resort, where both the 2014 men's and women's U.S. Opens will be played on the famed No. 2 Course in back-to-back weeks this summer. 

The No. 2 Course, long regarded as one of America's finest courses and one of the most respected layouts ever designed by the pre-eminent course architect Donald Ross, is the centerpiece of one of the world's great golf resorts. It also offers some extra intrigue in that it recently underwent a yearlong renovation by two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw and his course architecture partner Bill Coore.

The point of the makeover was to bring the venerable course closer to its original shape and condition, and the reviews so far have been overwhelmingly positive. But in doing so, Crenshaw and Coore removed much of the rough – which, as we all know, is traditionally one of the most prominent features of U.S. Open venues. And that is quite alright with the USGA.

So, for the back-to-back Opens, wayward shots that normally would end up in the rough might instead land in sandy hardpan, wiregrass or even on what USGA Executive Director Mike Davis calls "natural vegetation." 

"Will it be easier?" Davis asked on Monday. "Probably a little bit easier, but I suppose there's an element of luck involved." 

GOLF BUZZ: Miguel Angel Jimenez eyes Ryder Cup | Michelle Wie completes unique "triathlon"

Meanwhile, across the country up in Washington state, The Seattle Times ran a long feature on how the USGA awarded next year's men's U.S. Open to Chambers Bay, a new public course built on the site of a sewage-treatment plant and gravel and sand mine that operated hundreds of feet below the surface.

"The golfing world was stunned in 2008," when the USGA named Chambers Bay as the host of the 2015 U.S. Open," Scott Hanson wrote in the newspaper. "No course built in the previous 45 years had hosted an Open, yet Chambers Bay was picked after being open for about eight months."

Allen goes on to tell the story of John Ladenburg, the head of Pierce County, who in 2001 began dreaming of creating a world-class course at the Chambers Bay site, which despite its problems also had stunning views of Puget Sound – and plenty of land for a golf course architect to work his magic. That architect turned out to be Robert Trent Jones Jr., who despite his pedigree had never created a course that had hosted a U.S. Open.

Ladenburg essentially gave Jones a blank check, and every detail of the Chambers Bay layout was designed with attracting a U.S. Open in mind. The project ended up costing a whopping $20 million, Allen explained, and the end result was a course that those involved believe can stand against the grand links courses of Great Britain.

Even so, landing a U.S. Open is an incredibly difficult task, and Allen recounts the many steps that Ladenburg took to make his case – and how one stroke of luck gave him the opportunity he so desperately sought to host a U.S. Open that will be in many ways a polar opposite to the big event at Pinehurst this summer.