Golf Buzz

September 8, 2013 - 7:09pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Thomas Aiken at the Avantha Masters
Getty Images
Thomas Aiken won the Avantha Masters trophy last spring, but likely won't get a chance to defend his title in the biggest golf event in India.

There’s good news, and a little bit of bad news, on the global tour front.

On Friday, the PGA Tour revealed two good pieces of news: The Tampa Bay Championship signed Valspar paints as its new title sponsor, while Hyundai renwed its title sponsorship of the season-opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

A few days earlier, however, the Avantha Group said it would no longer sponsor the Avantha Masters on the European Tour, likely ending the biggest golf event in India after four years. Losing the tournament is a big blow to the small but growing movement of golf in India.

"It's definitely going to affect India's golfing scenario,” Sunil Manocha, the COO of promoter Nimbus Sport, told The India Times. “This is a bad signal for things to come in the future." 

The Avantha Masters was sanctioned by the European Tour, the Asian Tour and the Professional Golf Tour of India. With its loss, India now has three international tournaments – the $300,000 SAIL-SBI Open, the $300,000 Panasonic Open India and the $1.25 million Indian Open. 

The Avantha Masters' purse proved to be its downfall, as The India Times explained that the falling Indian rupee meant that Avantha was having to put in more and more money to pay the $2.3 million purse offered in recent years. Avantha, the paper said, had to increase its cash contribution as much 57 percent this year just to sustain the event.

For now, European Tour officials are keeping the Avantha Masters' dates – the week of March 23, 2014 – open, in hopes that another sponsor steps forward. 

Meanwhile in Tampa, Valspar signed on for four years, and its 2014 Valspar Championship will be played March 13-16, keeping intact a Florida Swing of four straight PGA Tour tournaments in March. In addition, BB&T Corp., a banking concern based in Winston-Salem, N.C., will be the presenting sponsor for the next four years. 

The Valspar Championship will remain at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, which many players consider one of the best tournament courses in Florida. 

Valspar is the Tampa Bay event’s fourth title sponsor since 2003. The tournament didn’t have a title sponsor last year, and there were concerns that it might not be played in 2014 without one.

Meanwhile, Hyundai signed a two-year extension to keep its name on the PGA Tour's first tournament of the calendar year. It’ll be held Jan. 3-6 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, where the tour has opened its season since 1999. 

Next year, however, will be the first time that it won’t be the official season opener because the PGA Tour is going to a wraparound season that starts in October with six events. Its field will be made up of PGA Tour winners from the 2013 season, and those six tournaments that start the 2013-14 season. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

September 6, 2013 - 1:32pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Rob Labritz
Getty Images
PGA Professional Rob Labritz (right) will never forget this practice round at Oak Hill two days before the 95th PGA Championship where he and Keegan Bradley lost a hefty bet to Jason Dufner. Despite the loss, Labritz may now be Dufner's biggest fan.
There's no denying the fact that 2013 PGA Champion Jason Dufner has become a fan favorite. Whether it's Dufner's flat-liner approach on the golf course, the fact that he looks like a cartoon character, his cracking wit and relentless busting of buddy Keegan Bradley on Twitter, or the #Dufnering phenomenon that nearly crashed Twitter earlier this year (OK, that's a slight exaggeration), there's nothing not to love about Dufner.
Well, add this to the list of reasons to love Dufner too.
Here's the background: it's no secret that there are a lot of money games going on between players during practice rounds. This was no different at Oak Hill when Dufner and Dustin Johnson squared off against Bradley and Rob Labritz -- one of 20 PGA Professionals who qualified for the PGA Championship with a top-20 finish at the PGA Professional National Championship -- on Tuesday of Championship week. 
Aside: Labritz -- a four-time PGA Championship participant -- miraculously did this to earn a spot at Oak Hill in case you were thinking, "I've seen that name before." 
According to Sobel's report, after some discussions on the first tee, the bet was set -- $500 per man. 
From Sobel's report:
Even after birdies from Labritz on 10, 11 and 13 and one from Bradley on 14, they found themselves 4-down with four to play. On the 16th tee, they pressed for half the amount, with Bradley taking the banter to another level.
“Keegan goes, ‘Hey Rob, did I ever tell you this story? I was 4 down with five to go and I won this tournament,’” Labritz says, recalling Bradley’s needling of Dufner about the PGA Championship finish from two years earlier. “Dufner goes, ‘Hey, it ain’t going to happen that way this week.’”
After a halve on the final hole pushed a second press, Labritz and Bradley found themselves $750 in the hole -- which was a slight problem for the club pro.
Labritz, you see, didn't have $750 cash on him. He had to write a check out to Dufner and left it in his locker. In the memo, Labritz wrote:
A few days after Dufner claimed his first major title, Labritz received a surprise in the mail. His $750 check...
Sobel tells us the rest:
It included Labritz’s check with the word “VOID” written through it and a note from the champ:
The gesture floored Labritz.
“Oh my God, are you kidding me? That’s just phenomenal. It’s just a classy move,” he says. “I think he’s a great guy.”
So, we gotta ask -- how cool is that?
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
September 6, 2013 - 10:30am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Golf Stereotypes
We've all played with "The Tee Box Talker Guy" haven't we?
In the last couple of weeks here at, we brought you a story on our "Unwritten Rules of Golf," and not long after, we reached out to our Facebook friends to give us YOUR unwritten rules of golf.
Well, to add to those two pieces, we wanted to share this video we stumbled across entitled, "Stereotypes: Golf."
Created by YouTube user "Dude Perfect" the video is a humorous look at many of the of the stereotypes we encounter on the course, including "The Old Guy" -- you know, the elderly gentleman who always says, "I don't hit it long, but I hit it straight"; "The Sand Trapped Guy" -- the player who takes several tries to get out of a bunker; "The Tee Box Talker Guy" -- the person who can't keep their mouth shut when you're about to tee off; and more.
It's a good laugh and, if you've played golf for any amount of time, surely you've encountered several of these.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
September 6, 2013 - 9:08am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Salty Grips
Salty Grips
Salty Grips are cork putter grips that are a sustainable alternative to rubber.
In 2012, Mark Button and Whitfield Flowers -- two entrepreneurs with a love for both fishing and golf -- set out to combine their two passions by developing a lightweight putter grip inspired by the cork handles on fishing rods.
From that premise, Salty Grips was born.
A premium cork putter grip company based in Richmond, Va., Salty Grips aren't simply pretty grips that look different from others.
While they sure are pretty and different, the fact is Salty Grips also provide two key elements any golfer can appreciate. First, Salty Grips are a sustainable alternative to traditional rubber grips. And second, the light weight of cork and the smooth texture of the grips enhance feel and encourage a confident putting stroke. 
Unlike rubber grips, which need replacement, you can restore Salty Grips without even removing them from your putter. Simply give the grip a light brush with a fine-grit sandpaper and the cork will be restored to its original feel and hue.
"My Salty Grip is just what I need to feel quiet hands during my stroke," says Adam Smith, the 2008 Middle Atlantic PGA Section Teacher of the Year. "I teach tempo and connection during putting lessons. My students will truly improve their stroke and feel with this putter grip!"
Salty Grips are hand-crafted in Portugal and harvested from sustainable cork oak forests, and then finished, sealed and engraved in Richmond, Va. Currently, there are two grip options available: Mid-Plus Salty Grip at 40 grams (the lightest mid-plus putter grip available) and the Oversize Grip at 70 grams.
Custom engraving options are available on both grips and the grips, it should be noted, conform to USGA rules.
Salty Grips are available for purchase at, retailing from $34.95 to $39.95 with an additional cost for custom engraving. Free shipping in the U.S. and discounts on bulk orders is also available.
You can also check out Salty Grips on Facebook, or follow Salty Grips on Twitter, @SaltyGrips.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
September 4, 2013 - 8:16am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Sun Mountain
Sun Mountain
These Sun Mountain H2NO Lite bags are just two of the waterproof offerings for the company's 2014 line up.
In 2007, Sun Mountain introduced the first waterproof golf bag. New for 2014, the H2NO collection of bags will be expanded to include cart bags and carry bags, all constructed with waterproof fabric, taped seams, and waterproof zippers. The full range of H2NO golf bags will be in stores in October with retail prices from $259-$289. 
In part, here's the press release with the announcement from Sun Mountain:
Sun Mountain’s most popular bag in Europe, the H2NO carry bags feature tops with integrated handles for ease in picking up and setting down, a top-molded stand attachment for stability, Sun Mountain’s proprietary E-Z Fit Dual Strap System for a balanced carry across both shoulders, patented Roller-Bottom stand mechanism for easy leg activation, and for those rounds that you ride, H2NO stand bags feature leg lock straps and a cart-friendly bottom that will fit into a cart’s bag well. H2NO carry bags feature ample storage space, too, including a full-length clothing pocket, a velour-lined valuables pocket, and multiple accessory pockets. The 2014 collection of waterproof carry bags will include the H2NO Lite ($259), H2NO Ultra Lite ($229) and the H2NO Staff.
The H2NO Cart bag features a larger diameter, individual club-divided top, and waterproof pockets to include two full-length clothing pockets, multiple accessory pockets and a velour-lined valuables pocket ($289).
The waterproof pockets and rainhood on the H2NO bags feature the same waterproof construction as Sun Mountain’s line of rainwear to include waterproof fabric, taped seams, and YKK waterproof zippers. The extra technology required to make a bag waterproof will be much appreciated by golfers who carry items like cigars, mobile phones, and range-finders. Additionally, when used with the matching rainhood the waterproof protection of the H2NO bags extends to the clubs.
For 30 years Sun Mountain has been a pioneer in the golf industry, revolutionizing golf bags, golf outerwear and golf carts. Sun Mountain's many innovations, including the first lightweight golf bag and modern stand bag, have made it the top golf bag company in North America. Within golf outerwear, Sun Mountain redefined golf-specific performance first with the windshirt, then fleece, and again with its four-way stretch, waterproof, and breathable rainwear. The Sun Mountain Speed Cart® golf push cart transformed walking carts and created an entirely new category of golf products. Sun Mountain's "Ahead of Time Design" motto drives the company to continually design and refine golf equipment. 
For the Sun Mountain retailer nearest you call 800-227-9224 or visit
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair
September 3, 2013 - 9:51pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Mizuno MP-54 irons
Courtesy of Mizuno Golf
The long and mid irons in the Mizuno MP-54 set feature a Milled Step Muscle with a cavity cut into them to help provide extra forgiveness and a higher ball flight.

Many players get into golf by playing game-improvement irons and, sure enough, their games improve. Then what?

That was the question Mizuno's designers and engineers asked themselves. Their answer: the new MP-54 irons, the follow-up to Mizuno's MP-53 set.

"Over the past several years, Mizuno's MP iron category has expanded to a point where consumers expect a 'player' iron look and feel with the forgiveness of today's technologically advanced equipment," said Vice President of Product Management Chuck Couch of the challenge Mizuno faced.

The MP-54s are created for better players – those with handicaps from scratch up to about 12 – who want a bit more forgiveness than classic blades provide. At various stages of development and testing, Mizuno staff players including Luke Donald, Charles Howell III and Jonathan Byrd provided their feedback.

What makes them unique is the ''Milled Step Muscle'' in the 3-iron through 7-iron. As is the case with many Mizuno clubs, each MP-54 is forged from mild carbon steel, and the 3- through 7-irons feature a thick muscleback with a 4-millimeter-wide slot. 

This Milled Step Muscle allowed the engineers to reposition the removed weight around the head's perimeter, which increases stability on off-center hits. It also creates a deeper center of gravity for more forgiveness and a higher ball flight, all while maintaining the necessary heft behind the ball to deliver a solid impact. 

The scoring irons – 8-iron down through pitching wedge – don't have the slot. Instead, they feature Mizuno's Solid Muscle Design – essentially, a solid clubhead, thicker in its bottom half, to improve playability. Those attributes also are enhanced by a perimeter grind on both the heel and toe, and the clubs feature Harmonic Impact Technology (H.I.T.), in which Mizuno's engineers tune the clubhead design to maximize feel and feedback.

By comparison, Mizuno says the MP-54 clubheads will be about the same size as the MP-53s, but will offer a more heavily beveled sole for cleaner turf interaction. And, of course, the cavity cut into the MP-54s gives them a lower center of gravity than the MP-53s.

The MP-54s will be available at retail on Sept. 9 in both right-handed and left-handed models, and will carry a suggested retail price of $999.99. They come outfitted with True Temper Dynamic Gold S300 shafts and Golf Pride M-31 58 round grips, though a variety of custom shafts and grips also are available. Custom set make-ups also can be assembled from in mixed or combo sets or with MP-H4 long irons.

For more information, visit