Golf Buzz

January 28, 2013 - 3:11pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Chris Wood
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Chris Wood hit a Mizuno MP-69 6-iron 205 yards to within six feet of the final hole of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters en route to an eagle and a one-shot victory, his first triumph on the European Tour.

Golf's biggest equipment makers dominated the news last week at the PGA Merchandise Show down in Orlando, but Mizuno held its ground with the biggest of the big boys thanks to three noteworthy developments:

--Last Sunday, Charles Howell III finished second in the Humana Challenge.
--On Wednesday, Mizuno announced that it had renewed its agreement with world No. 3 Luke Donald.
--On Friday came the news that the company had re-upped its deal with reigning LPGA Tour Player of the Year Stacy Lewis.
--And on Saturday, Mizuno staff ambassador Chris Wood bagged his first European Tour victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

Donald doesn't play an entire bag of Mizuno clubs, but he does use the company’s irons and wedges, and those clubs are the backbone of his steady short game. In fact, he provided feedback throughout the development of Mizuno's new MP-64 irons and MP-T4 wedges, to the point that Mizuno describes those clubs as being designed hand-in-hand with him.

Donald even visited the the plant in Hiroshima, Japan, where the clubs are forged, last November, and spent a little time with the man who grinds his clubs. While he was in Japan last fall, he won the Dunlop Phoenix, one of the biggest tournaments on the Japan Tour, and used those MP-64 irons and MP-T4 wedges in that victory.

Donald signed on with Mizuno back in 2003, and has earned 13 professional wins with that gear. He also played those Mizuno clubs during his red-hot 2011 and 2012 seasons, in which he held the world No. 1 position for a total of 56 weeks and topped the money lists on both the PGA Tour and European Tour in 2011.

"We've refined my Mizuno equipment in the last couple of seasons and I'm really happy with what I have in the bag right now, so it gives me great pleasure to extend this relationship," Donald said. "Mizuno is the most precise, incredible clubmaker out there, and I'm honored to represent this quality brand."

Donald's renewal never seemed to be seriously in doubt, but there was considerable speculation that Lewis might sign elsewhere. She began playing Mizuno gear in college, and last year led the LPGA Tour with four victories as she rose to No. 3 in the women's world rankings. She notched 16 top-10 finishes, more than any player on the 2012 LPGA Tour, and led the tour in birdies, eagles and rounds in the 60s.

"Since my freshman year at Arkansas, Mizuno has been my equipment manufacturer of choice," said Lewis. "Mizuno has helped me reach many of my goals thus far, and I'm looking forward to building on last year's momentum for another successful season."

Lewis hasn't unveiled her club set for 2013, but she ended 2012 with this configuration:

Driver: Mizuno JPX-800 (9 degrees of loft)
3-Wood: Mizuno MP (15 degrees)
17-Degree Hybrid: Mizuno MP CLK
4-9 Irons: Mizuno JPX-800 Pro
48-Degree Wedge: Mizuno JPX-800 Pro
52-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP T-11
56-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP T-11
60-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP T-11
Putter: TaylorMade Ghost TM-110 Tour
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Wood jumped into the spotlight by tying for fifth as an amateur in the 2008 British Open and then coming in third in the 2009 British Open, and earned his spot on the European Tour at Q-School a few months later. He had struggled to win as a professional, though, before breaking through with a triumph in the Thailand Open last fall.

His victory in Qatar on Saturday was as dramatic as they come – he led after three rounds, then fell behind Sergio Garcia and George Coetzee before eagling the final hole to win by a shot. After a big drive on the par-5 18th hole, Wood hit a 6-iron 205 yards to within six feet of the hole, and drained the putt for the win. His set includes:

Driver: Mizuno MP-650 (8.5 degrees, Royal Precision Project X Black 7.0 shaft)
3-Wood: Ping G20 (15 degrees)
3-4 Irons: Mizuno MP-64 (Royal Precision Rifle 7.0 shafts)
5-9 Irons: Mizuno MP-69 (Royal Precision Rifle 7.0 shafts)
48-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP-69 (Royal Precision Rifle 7.0 shaft)
52-Degree Wedge: MP-T4
56-Degree Wedge: MP-T4
60-Degree Wedge: MP-T4
Putter: Yes! Tracy Tour
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Other prominent players who use Mizuno gear include Jonathan Byrd, Marcel Siem, Mayu Hattori and Jiyai Shin.

And finally, if Tiger Woods closes out a win at the Farmers Insurance Open this afternoon as we all expect him to, the winners of the two big events worldwide this week will be Wood and Woods. That, obviously, has never happened before.

 

January 28, 2013 - 10:32am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Tiger Woods
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The question every golf observer wants the answer to: What will the 2013 season be like for Tiger Woods?

What kind of season is 2013 going to be for Tiger Woods?

That's always the question golf observers pose, isn't it? Well, he began the season two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi and missed the cut. Today, he brings a healthy six-shot lead with just 11 holes left to play in the weather-interrupted Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines -- a place where he's been more dominant than anyone else in the game's history.

Sure, it isn't over yet, but based on his history at Torrey, we don't think Tiger will be walking away later this afternoon without Tour victory No. 75.

This, however, is just one tournament. And no doubt, winning in his 2013 season debut on the PGA Tour is exactly the way Tiger wanted to set the tone for what's to come.

But, there will be several factors Tiger will face this year that will determine the kind of success he can achieve. Many he can control and many he cannot.

BleacherReport.com's Mike Dudurich examines a number of scenarios Tiger could find himself in this season and tells us whether these scenarios will play out (fact), or not (fiction):

Tiger Woods is one of the most complex athletes in sports.

On the course, off the course, he does things that few others can do or have even dreamed of doing.

And because he is who he is, speculation, rumor and innuendo are always associated with him.

So why wouldn't it be fun to put together a list playing a little fact or fiction with all things Tiger for 2013?

Could another injury doom Tiger? Dudurich thinks so:

He seems to have rounded back into shape and appears to be healthier than he's been in several years.

His new swing, while still in its early stages, will take less of a toll on his 37-year-old body.

But because he's already had problems with his Achilles tendon and a bulging disc in his neck, he might be susceptible to problems in those areas again.

Conclusion: Fact

To read the full piece, click here.

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

January 28, 2013 - 10:14am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Congressional Country Club
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Congressional Country Club, where Tiger Woods won the 2012 AT&T National, is one of the most difficult courses players will face all year.

Not all PGA Tour golf courses are created equally. Aside from the contrast in terrain, types of grass and natural surroundings, the scores players shoot at particular courses highlights the divide between those where we expect to see a birdie-fest and those where par can be a man's best friend.

For example, Russell Henley, a Tour rookie, won in his very first start at the Sony Open in Hawaii with a remarkable 72-hole score of 24 under at Waialae Country Club. While beautiful, no doubt, Waialae is flat and lends itself to low scores.

A place like Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., which plays host to AT&T National, meanwhile, was won by Tiger Woods a year ago and his winning total of 8 under.

Mike Dudurich of BleacherReport.com recently took a look at the 10 most difficult courses on the 2013 PGA Tour schedule.

Dudurich opened the piece with this:

Numbers normally don't lie in golf. It's easy to figure out who's playing well and who isn't by looking at the statistics.

The same thing goes for courses. Players can name this course or that one as the most difficult they've ever played, but the numbers make it crystal clear as to which courses are the most difficult.

And they also make great indicators as to how courses will play in the future.

Those numbers played a definite role in this list of the 10 most difficult courses on the 2013 PGA Tour.

Here's what Dudurich wrote about Congressional:

There are good reasons for Congressional Country Club being ranked as the third-toughest course on the PGA Tour in 2012. Eighteen reasons, to be exact.

The Blue Course -- host of the AT&T -- is a collection of great and very difficult holes, including as good a group of par 4's as there is on the PGA Tour.

At 7,569 yards, tour pros averaged 73.046 strokes per round in 2012, 2.046 above par.

Only 12 eagles were recorded at Congressional last year, a very low number for the tour’s talented stars. The second, fourth and 11th holes were among the Top 25 toughest holes a year ago.

To read all of Dudurich's piece, click here.

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

January 27, 2013 - 6:58pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Lydia Ko
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Lydia Ko said she was shocked when she realized how much money she could have pocketed last year, but says she still doesn't know when she'll turn pro.

Is Lydia Ko a has-been at age 15?

She won the 2012 edition of Australia's New South Wales Open at this time last year to kick off what became an unprecedented run of success for a 14-year-old female golfer – her victory there made her the youngest player, male or female, to win a professional tour event. She went on to become the leading amateur at the U.S. Women's Open, won the U.S. Women's Amateur and then won the CN Women's Canadian Open to become the youngest LPGA Tour winner.

She returned this week to defend her New South Wales Open title, but finished all the way down in second place, two shots behind winner Caroline Hedwall of Sweden, another fast-rising young star. (Ko also finished second two years ago, at 13).

I'm kidding about the has-been part. The real news of her title defense in Sydney is that, after having several months of an offseason to ponder her future, Ko still insists that she won't turn pro for the foreseeable future.

"There's no point in me going in there when I don't think I'm ready and I'm not that confident," she said at the tournament. "I think there will be a point in time where I think it's the right time.
 
"That doesn't mean I'm going to wait many many years," she stressed. "A certain time will come suddenly without me noticing."

She admitted that she was shocked when she looked back at what she had accomplished – and the amount of money she could have collected had she been played as a pro last year.

"When I went to prize givings and people say what I have done for that year, it was like, 'Oh my God, I actually did that?'" she said. "I didn't know how much it was until the media said 'you could have got $300,000 at the Canadian Open.' That could have been a nice house."

Money isn't the only thing she's missing out on. As the New South Wales Open's defending champion, she was given the best spot in the players' parking lot. Alas, at age 15, she doesn't yet have her driver's license.

January 26, 2013 - 10:07pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Elin Nordegren's new mansion
Photo by Jeff Lichtenstein
Elin Nordegren's decision to tear down an old house and build a new one on its site was prompted by one fact unknown until now.

When the word leaked out that Tiger Woods' ex-wife Elin Nordegren was tearing down a $12 million oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach County, Fla., to build a new house on the same site, there was plenty of snickering and eye-rolling. Turns out she did the smart thing.

"Somehow unnoticed was the fact that it was infested with termites," prominent Palm Beach County Realtor Jeff Lichtenstein told The Palm Beach Post. "How this happened, no one is saying, but the house had to be torn down."

When the old mansion was destroyed, many of its amenities were donated to Habitat for Humanity. Among the donated items the newspaper listed were chandeliers, five refrigerators, 14 vanities, some controlled-temperature wine coolers and even a concrete fountain.

As you can see in the photo above, which Lichtenstein supplied to the Post, Nordegren's three-story house is coming along nicely.

"Smartly, she bought directly on the ocean, where houses soar in price over the years," he said.

The house is in the Seminole Landing community, which ranks among the top five most exclusive communities in Palm Beach County, the Post said. It is also, of course, home to the prestigious Seminole Golf Club, which ranks among the top courses in the United States.

January 25, 2013 - 5:08pm
Posted by:
Steve Eubanks
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ty votaw
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In an proactive attempt to clarify the PGA Tour's position on blogs, Twitter and other social media, Ty Votaw called PGA.com's Steve Eubanks and gave an in-depth explanation.

 In response to an earlier post on The Golf Buzz, here, PGA Tour Vice President Ty Votaw called me to clarify the tour’s position as well as offer his personal opinion on Twitter and the role social media plays in modern-day golf coverage.

“The last thing I want is for Dan Jenkins to stop tweeting,” Votaw said. “The critical words in the message I was sending – and perhaps I didn’t do a good enough job communicating this – are ‘real time’ and ‘play-by-play.’ 

“We understand the importance and the value of tweeting and blogging. If someone tweets that Ian Poulter just made four birdies in a row, that’s likely to drive people to turn on the telecast. We get that. We want that. But if an intern is sitting in an office watching Shotlink and tweeting every shot Tiger hits or Rory hits, that is proprietary information, and that’s where we have a problem.”

In that respect, the tour is no different than any other sporting league. The NFL, Major League Baseball, even big-time college football conferences like the SEC allow blogging and tweeting, but they don’t allow journalists to tweet play-by-play coverage of an event. 

Kudos to Votaw for setting the record straight.