Golf Buzz

July 20, 2013 - 3:53pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Lee Westwood at the Open Championship
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Lee Westwood, the Open Championship 54-hole leader, is one of many players with a 2-iron in his arsenal this week.

Because it's always played on links courses, the Open Championship prompts the players to make more club changes than any other event on the calendar.

Here's a quick overview of some of the club selections at Muirfield from Sports Marketing Surveys, the company that tallies the clubs in each player's bag at the start of every European Tour event. These stats are from the full field that teed off Thursday:

--Two players didn't even have a driver in their bag.

--Among the 156 players, there were 66 hybrids, 66 utility irons and 39 2-irons. 

--53 players didn't have a 3-iron. 

--There were 506 wedges – that figures out to 3.24 wedges per player.

--15 players were using a long or belly putter. 

This week is an anomaly because of the course conditions, but I wouldn't have expected to see the same number of utility irons as hybrid clubs, even though Ernie Els won the 2012 Open with three Callaway utility irons in his bag.

The popularity of these is utility irons shows that companies like Callaway, Titleist and, most recently, Ping were definitely onto something when they decided to create a new generation of utility irons. On the flip side, it's also interesting to see so many players going without a 3-iron on a course that requires so many low, penetrating shots.

 

July 19, 2013 - 2:48pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Muirfield Golf Club clubhouse
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Muirfield, hosting the Open Championship this week, ranked just outside the top 10 by the globe's golf course architects.

With the Open Championship being played at Muirfield this week, Golf Course Architecture Magazine picked a perfect time to release its first-ever list of the world's top 100 courses. The difference between this list and all the others is that this one was selected exclusively by the men and women who make their living creating golf courses.

''It's a common criticism that many, perhaps even most golfers, judge courses on factors such as the turf condition or the quality of service in the clubhouse; well, if anyone is best placed to look beyond that at the design of the course itself, it ought to be the architects,'' Adam Lawrence, the magazine's editor, wrote in introducing the list.

Almost 250 course architects from around the globe submitted ballots. The criteria they used to make their selections? Well, there weren't any. Each voter was charged with devising his own critera – factoring in merits such as strategic value, beauty, fun and history. 

''Even if one can agree [on] set criteria against which voters should make their judgements, one doesn't have objectivity, partly because those criteria are themselves subjective, and partly because the individual voters have to be trusted to apply them in the same way, which is impossible,'' Lawrence wrote. ''We chose the opposite route: to define no criteria and to say to our voters, in true Potter Stewart fashion, 'We believe you know what good is when you see it'.''

All right, enough preamble. Let's get to the list.

Who's No. 1? The Old Course at St. Andrews, which was picked as the top course by 23 percent of the voters, and ranked in the top 10 on 69 percent of the ballots.

No. 2 is Cypress Point, while No. 3 is Pine Valley. Augusta National comes in fourth, and then the list really gets interesting with links like Royal County Down and Sandbelt layouts like Royal Melbourne jockeying with American classics like Pebble Beach and Oakmont for spots high up the ranking. 

One thing about this list as opposed to many others is that it feels more global. I certainly haven't played the majority of these courses, but I'm glad to see some of my unheralded personal overseas favorites like Lahinch and Nairn and Cruden Bay claim their places, along with some of golf's newest masterpieces, on a list that is probably 2/3rd populated by courses older than half a century.

You can download the entire list in a special .pdf file and I encourage you to do so. It is beautifully assembled, and there's a lot of interesting commentary on the individual courses as well as golf course architecture in general. Whether you agree with the choices or not, it's definitely worth a few minutes of your time.   

 

July 18, 2013 - 8:45pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Jin Park and his Big Green Egg at the Sanderson Farms Championship
Jin Park via Twitter
Jin Park took to Twitter to show off the Big Green Egg he received at the Sanderson Farms Championship.

The Open Championship is dominating the golf headlines this week, but it's not quite the only game in town.

While the game's best players are battling mighty Muirfield, the best of the rest are down in Mississippi for the Sanderson Farms Championship. The tournament has gone through title sponsors from Viking to True South in recent years.

This is the first year that Sanderson Farms has gotten involved and, as Monte Burke at Forbes.com points out, the big Mississippi-based chicken concern has gone all out to brand the event. Now, a lot of companies do a good job of putting their unique touches on the tournaments they sponsor – this week, for example, the tee markers at the LPGA Tour's Marathon Classic are little gas station pumps.

But Sanderson Farms has gone all out or, as Burke calls it, full chicken. For example:

--the tee markers are chickens painted by children in a local hospital

--the crosswalk signs are chickens

--much of the food available on the course is, of course, chicken

--the big Friday night concert features local blues artist Super Chikan

--and, to me, the kicker: The tournament's official gift to its players is a Big Green Egg! If you follow Twitter, you know that the Green Egg is an object of desire like few others among the PGA Tour players. And if anyone needed a boost after not getting into the Open, the Green Egg is just the ticket.

Apparently, Sanderson Farms is only on board for this year at this point. But if the grilling golfers in the field have any say in the matter, this could be the start of a long and happy relationship.

 

July 18, 2013 - 10:43am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Dustin Johnson
adidas Golf
Dustin Johnson at the adidas Golf, "Weather the Storm," event before the start of the Open Championship.
Before the start of the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield, the folks at adidas Golf held an event called, "Weather the storm," where Dustin Johnson and Martin Laird faced a tough test at the North Berwick course in Scotland. 
 
The point of the event was to put the new adidas GORE-TEX outerwear to the test under the most difficult and brutal of conditions.
 
 
Here's the release from adidas Golf:
 
To kick off golf's The Open Championship at Muifield in Scotland, well-known for its variety of weather conditions, adidas Golf executed an all-weather event of Hollywood proportions. The event was in celebration of adidas Golf's new line of weather wear featuring GORE-TEX, and -- appropriately -- pitted golf stars Dustin Johnson and Martin Laird against the elements in a stormy closest-to-the-hole competition during what was actually a sunny Scottish evening.
 
adidas Golf utilized a high-tech weather machine to create weather elements to showcase the strength and versatility of their new GORE-TEX outerwear, and each player spun a wheel to determine what "weather" their counterparts would encounter. Laird kicked off the event as Johnson spun the wheel to determine what weather condition he received for his first shot; DJ purposely stopped it at ‘The Perfect Storm’. The duo continued to take turns for several rounds, until the last round was selected by the adidas Golf Facebook audience. Johnson weathered the storm in a sudden-death overtime and both Tour players walked away completely dry under their new adidas Golf GORE-TEX outwear.
 
A large crowd gathered to watch these two Tour Professionals fighting the toughest of weather conditions on a 225 yard shot, and a total of 5,000 pounds was donated to a local charity of choice in North Berwick. The full press release can be viewed below my signature.
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.
 
July 17, 2013 - 3:48pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Tiger Woods at the Open Championship
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Tiger Woods has signed a new agreement with Nike Golf to replace his current seven-year deal.

Tiger Woods signed a new endorsement deal with Nike about two weeks ago, according to a report on ESPN.com Wednesday afternoon. The report was confirmed by Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg.

The new agreement replaces Woods' existing deal, which was set to expire at the end of the year. Steinberg didn't disclose the new contract's length or financial terms.

"We're comfortable with where we ended up and the career trajectory that Tiger will be on with Nike," Steinberg told ESPN.com at the Open Championship. "I'm thrilled we were able to complete this deal."

"We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Tiger," said Nike Golf President Cindy Davis in a statement released to ESPN.com. "He is one of Nike's most iconic athletes and has played an integral part in Nike Golf's growth since the very beginning. … we will continue to utilize his insights to develop the most innovative products that support golfers reaching their full potential."

Woods began his relationship with Nike upon turning professional in 1996, when he signed a five-year deal said to have been worth $40 million. That deal was followed by another five-year agreement worth $100 million, according to reports, and was followed by the seven-year deal that just now is being replaced.

Woods told ESPN.com last month that "it was just a matter of time" before the contract would be signed. Steinberg had said last month that he felt "confident [Woods] will be with Nike for the rest of his career."

 

July 17, 2013 - 10:02am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Linda Hartough, golf, book, Green Glory
Linda Hartough
"Green Glory: A Visual Tribute to the Courses of the Majors -- Golf's Renowned Venues"
If you fancy yourself a collector of great golf books, we have one you absolutely must add to your library, or better yet, your coffee table. 
 
"Green Glory: A Visual Tribute to the Courses of the Majors -- Golf's Renowned Venues" is a beautiful compilation of paintings by Linda Hartough and photographs by Stonehouse Publishing Founder and photographer Patrick Dickey.
 
Hartough, a landscape painter, has become recognized as one of golf's leading artists. That's no surprise once you see "Green Glory."
 
The book, which runs 250 breathtaking pages, features paintings and photographic images of the 69 courses that have hosted the game's four major tournaments since 1950. It's broken into four sections: The Masters; The U.S. Open; The Open Championship; and the PGA Championship.
 
This is so much more than a picture book, folks. It's a magnificent piece of art.
 
One of the best features of this book is that it isn't just gorgeous painting after gorgeous painting (though we would have been just as content with that). Along with the paintings and photographs, "Green Glory" provides a history of events that have taken place at the featured courses. 
 
Here's a brief excerpt of the portion featuring the Olympic Club, host of the 1955, 1966, 1987, 1998 and 2012 U.S. Opens:
 
"The prestigious Olympic Club in San Francisco, established in 1860, carries the distinction of being the oldest athletic club in the United States. The club's early bylaws stated its mission was "to strengthen and improve the body by gymnastic exercises," and during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Olympic fielded amateur teams in national and international competitions ranging from boxing to billiards, including many Olympic events.
 
"Golf, however, didn't become a part of the club's sports roster until 1918, when the organization took over operation of the Lakeside Golf Club, designed by Wilfred Reid. By 1922 more land had been acquired, and the Olympic Club decided to replace the Lakeside course with two 18-hole golf courses, the Lake and the Ocean, designed by Scotsman Willie Watson and constructed by superintendent Sam Whiting..."
 
The section on Olympic Club also highlights the winners of each of the course's five U.S. Opens, along with the winner's purse from each (in 1955, Jack Fleck collected $6,000 for his win, while 2012 champion Webb Simpson picked up a hefty $1,440,000 for his efforts).
 
If you're a lover of golf, "Green Glory" is one book you cannot go without.
 
 
The book is priced at $55, or $75 if signed by Hartough. You can purchase "Green Glory" here.
 
To learn more about Hartough and all her brilliant work, click here
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.