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Royal Liverpool
Scottsdale Golf via Twitter
The changes in the course conditions at Royal Liverpool from 2006 to this week have to be seen to be fully appreciated.

The Open Championship is just now teeing off, and much of the talk this week has been on the difference in the course conditions at Royal Liverpool in 2006 and this year. 

We've heard all the talk about how brown and dry it was back in 2006, when Tiger Woods only hit his driver once en route to victory, and how lush and green it is this year. But nothing I've seen drives the point home like these then-and-now images of the 18th hole in 2006 and this week.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Follow the Open Championship along with us all week

"This is a different golf course than what we played in `06," Woods said earlier this week. "It was hot, ball was flying. It was very dusty. Now we're making ball marks on the greens, which we weren't doing then."  

For the record, the one driver Woods hit back in 2006 was on the 16th hole of the first round. The ball wound up in the 17th fairway – but he still made birdie.

Jaxson Kelly
"I've never seen a kid hit a ball like that," John Kelly says of his 2-year-old son Jaxson.
The eve of golf's oldest championship seems like a fine time to showcase one of the game's youngest practitioners.
Meet 2-year-old Jaxson Kelly of National City, Calif., who loves to hit golf balls. He got his first set of clubs a year ago at the tender age of 1, and now hits the ball as far as 50 yards.
"We saw a set of clubs at a swap meet for $5 and brought them home. He won't put them down," his mother, Felicia Baker, told KSWB-TV, the Fox affiliate in San Diego. "It was the best $5 we've ever spent."
Baker and Jaxson's dad, John Kelly, take young Jaxson out to the range as often as possible. Wielding his clubs with a left-hand-low, spread grip, he dutifully works his way through bucket after bucket of balls.
At some point when he's a little older, Kelly plans to get him out on the course. For now, though, Jaxson is cheerily honing his craft on the range.
"I've never seen a kid hit a ball like that," Kelly said "It's pretty cool."
Here's the complete report from KSWB:
July 16, 2014 - 3:00pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Bryan Brothers
Bryan Brothers
The Bryan Brothers have put together another fantastic golf, trick shot video that pays homage to the Open Championship, which tees off Thursday at Royal Liverpool.

The golf trick-shot duo known as the Bryan Brothers have just released a special Open Championship edition video complete with persimmon woods, hickory shafts, plus-four knickers, button-down shirts, neck ties, flat caps and bagpipes playing in the background.

Old Tom Morris would be proud.

RELATED: Meet the Bryan Brothers | Trick shot with live alligator | Compilation

In the latest effort, the Bryan Brothers dedicate shots to the likes of Old Tom, Walter Hagen and Harry Vardon.

Check it out here:

If you've been on at all the past few months, you've probably noticed several of these Bryan Brothers videos. While all of them are impressive, I'm going to go out on a limb and say this Open Championship video might feature two of their best shots yet:

1. The shot out of the sand that -- in mid-air -- gets pummeled with a driver.

2. The Bryan Brothers version of the "bump-and-run" -- the timing on that had to be impeccable. Making contact would have been impressive, but getting the ball airborne was insane.

Cheers, lads. Well done. 

July 16, 2014 - 9:56am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson
USA Today Sports Images
Rickie Fowler has finished in the top 5 of each of the first two majors this year. Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, is the defending champ at the Open Championship this week.

It's hard to believe, but we've already reached the third leg of the major championship season as the Open Championship tees off at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, on Thursday.

As always, there will be plenty to watch for, including the return of Tiger Woods who will be playing in his first major of the year after back surgery in March. While we probably shouldn't expect much from Woods with only two competitive rounds (the Quicken Loans National) under his belt in four months, keep in mind he did win the Open at this very venue in 2006.

RELATED: Open Championship tee times | Rose eyes Open win | Complete Open coverage

Then there's also the odd case of Phil Mickelson. He's the defending Open champion, but has yet to record a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour in the 2013-14 season. Is this the week he snaps out of the funk?

While Tiger and Phil would make for great stories with a victory, here are five others you might want to keep an eye on.

5. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T2 at the U.S. Open
Reason to watch: For the first time in his career, Fowler enters the Open Championship having finished in the top 5 at each of the season's first two majors. He tied for fifth at the Masters and tied for second at the U.S. Open. He also had a top-5 finish at the Open in 2010 (T5) and just last week at Royal Aberdeen in the Scottish Open -- on a links-style course -- he tied for eighth. Good form and he's on a roll in the majors.

4. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Playoff loss at the Honda Classic
Reason to watch: Rory has been plagued by a case of the Fridays this year. After some fantastic opening rounds, McIlroy can't seem to follow it up with a solid Friday score. That's truly the only thing holding him back. He did break through in May though at the European Tour's flagship event -- the BMW PGA Championship. Can he find the magic this week? Outside of a tie for third in 2010, the Open Championship has proven to be a struggle for McIlroy, which is surprising given that he grew up playing tons of links golf. Something's got to give for McIlroy with these disappointing second rounds. This might be the week.

3. Adam Scott
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial
Reason to watch: Since 2011, the 2013 Masters Champion has been a top-10 machine in the majors. Eight top 10s in 14 tries over that stretch, including a runner-up finish and a tie for third in each of the last two Open Championships. He's the No. 1 player in the world now. Scott is always giving himself a chance to win these days, which is exactly what you'd expect from the No. 1 player in the world. He does have demons in the Open Championship. He'd be the first to admit he probably should have won the last two of them. Perhaps the third time being in a great position to win in as many years is a charm.

2. Graeme McDowell
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Third at the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: When I think of elite players who get the most out of their respective games, the names Zach Johnson and Graeme McDowell are at the very top of that list. That's a big-time compliment. Obviously they're supremely talented players, but they also have that intangible that not everyone has -- they grind it out to the very last putt. Sure, a lot of top players do that. That's why they're the best. With Johnson and McDowell though, we're not talking about the longest hitters in the game. They truly dissect a course and play to their strengths (Johnson, for instance, laying up on the par 5s at Augusta National all week on his way to winning the 2007 Masters). Because of this, I always love McDowell's chances on a hard golf course. I also like that he's coming in having won in France just two weeks ago, overcoming an eight-shot deficit in the final round with a 67 (and a lot of help from 54-hole leader Kevin Stadler).

1. Justin Rose
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the Quicken Loans National
Reason to watch: Rose's lone top 10 finish in the Open Championship came in 1998 at Royal Birkdale when he tied for fourth... as an amateur at the age of 17. Rose fell on some hard times after that impressive showing, but over the last several years he's developed into one of the top talents in the world. And, as it turns out, there's no player hotter than Rose heading into this Open. For the first time in his career, Rose has been victorious in consecutive starts -- first at the Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour and then again last week at the Scottish Open on the European Tour. Both of those came on ridiculously difficult courses. That bodes well for this week. Pulling a hat-trick won't be easy, but Rose has got to love the way he's playing going into the tournament he covets most. 

July 16, 2014 - 8:18am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Padraig Harrington
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hit golf shots blindfolded? Padraig Harrington was curious. So he tried it out and the results were remarkable (some of them anyway).

These two videos are a couple of days old now, but it doesn't matter because they're spectacular.

Padraig Harrington, a three-time major winner, with the alignment help of longtime caddie Ronan Flood, tried hitting some shots blindfolded.

And not just any straight away shot, but shots over, around and through clusters of trees. Check it out:

A hole-out? Blindfolded? Remarkable stuff from Harrington.

As if that wasn't enough, Harrington also took a few rips with the driver, "Happy Gilmore" style. You can see that here:

Bettinardi putters for MLB all-stars
Courtesy of Bettinardi Golf
Seven Major League Baseball all-stars can hone their putting strokes with their new custom-made putters from Bettinardi.
Major League Baseball staged its annual All-Star Game on Tuesday in Minneapolis, and a handful of players are heading home with special golf-themed souvenirs of their big night.
Bettinardi Golf teamed up with Excel Sports Management to create custom putters for Excel's clients who were named as all-stars. The select seven are Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves; Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals; Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers; and Derek Jeter, Masahiro Tanaka, and Dellin Betances of the New York Yankees.
"Being a huge fan of baseball my whole life, I was pleased to team up with Excel Sports to make the highest end putters for some of the top baseball players in the world," said Bettinardi President and CEO Bob Bettinardi. "It displays our unique ability to not only produce putters for the PGA Tour, but also being able to expand and create these one-of-a-kind coveted gifts for all-star players."
The putters are made of Double-Aged Stainless Steel (D.A.S.S.) designed individually for each player with what Bettinardi calls a "golden-flame" finish. Each putter has its player's name festooned on the pocket and their jersey number on the face. Each flatsitck also came with a custom headcover.
If the name Excel Sports sounds familiar it you, it's probably because the company also represents a handful of golfers including Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar.