Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson had been scheduled to play in this week's Ballantine's Championship, which is set to return as usual to Incheon, South Korea, near Seoul. But early this morning, event organizers announced that the two PGA Tour stars had decided to stay home.
"They have reached this decision following perceived unrest on the Korean peninsula," the tournament said in a statement, reiterating that the event would proceed on schedule. "Ballantine's has been kept fully up to date on relevant issues and the European Tour has also been liaising with key decision makers, including the Foreign Office, who have not warned of any increased risk to those travelling to or within the country."
Tensions have risen in that part of Asia in recent weeks after the United Nations imposed further sanctions on North Korea for planning to go ahead with tests involving its nuclear program and its rocket program.
On Sunday, a South Korean news agency reported that North Korea had moved short-range missile launchers to its east coast, apparently indicating it was pushing ahead with preparations for a test launch, according to Reuters.
It would be "a stupid idea" to play at Ballantine's Championship, Spanish star Alvaro Quiros said earlier this month, announcing the change in his plans.
"I'm not going to play in Korea," the six-time European Tour winner said at the time. "I don't think it's a good moment to go there – it would be a stupid idea with the way things are. I don't want to mess with my life just to play in a golf tournament."
Dustin Johnson played the Ballantine’s in 2011 but missed last year with a back injury. Zach Johnson would have been playing his first pro event in Asia.
As things stand now, world No. 7 Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa will be the highest-ranked player in the field. Former PGA Champion Y.E. Yang, 1999 British Open winner Paul Lawrie and former European Ryder Cup player Paul Casey are also still scheduled to play.
Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif., has begun an extensive makeover under the direction of the Robert Trent Jones II architectural firm. Jones designed the course – perhaps best known as part of the rotation for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am from 1991-2009 – almost 30 years ago.
Jones is working closely with the Northern California Golf Association, which owns the course, to bring it up to modern standards, improve its playability and help it conserve water.
"The renovation will also help the golf course blend more naturally into the site rather than appearing to sit on top of the land," said RTJ II Chief Design Officer Bruce Charlton. As an example, he notes that new areas of pine straw combined with sand will bring to mind the visual appeal of such courses such as Pinehurst No. and Pine Valley.
The yearlong makeover will reduce the area of irrigated turf by 14.5 acres while simultaneously lengthening the course from 6,857 to more than 7,000 yards – a modern standard for championships, which the NCGA hopes to attract. The course also will go from its current par-72 configuration to a par 71.
As part of the refurbishment, all the teeboxes will be rebuilt and the bunkers completely repositioned and renovated to make the sand more uniformly playable. The fairways will be widened and the angles of many of its doglegs softened, and the green complexes will be remade with softer putting surface contours to accommodate faster green speeds. The hollows and slopes around the greens also will be reconstructed to serve as either a defense or an aid to players.
In addition, the entire course will be sandcapped to play firmer and faster and to improve drainage. Naturalized sandy areas that tie into the surrounding Monterey Pine forest will be added, and the cart paths will be realigned to be less obtrusive.
Finally, the yardages on many holes will be altered to lend more flexibility for daily play, to provide a wider range of club selection and to enhance tournament set-up. A natural creek buried during original construction will be restored and will serve as a hazard on the ninth hole, and a forest management program will be developed to allow more sunlight to improve turf health.
The course is scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2014.
One reason golfers miss putts is because they can't keep their putter completely steady and on line throughout their stroke. One way TaylorMade is trying to solve that problem is by counterbalancing – adding weight to the grip end to counter the weight of the clubhead.
"We started researching ways to keep the head from wavering from the intended swing path during the stroke," said Brian Bazzel, TaylorMade's product category director for putters and wedges. "We recognized that if we could make it easier to swing the putterhead on-path, we could help players roll the ball down their intended line. Counterbalance helps solve that problem."
As a result, both the new Daddy Long Legs mallet and the forthcoming Spider Blade are counterbalanced.
Adding weight to the grip end changes how the putter behaves when the golfer swings it. The grip on these new putters weighs in at 130 grams, more twice the normal weight of a grip. And properly adding that weight increases the Moment of Inertia (MOI, essentially a measure of stability) of the entire club, which makes it easier to keep the head on path during the stroke.
In fact, says TaylorMade, counterbalancing these putters makes them 60 percent more stable than a putter that isn't counterbalanced.
To get the most out of counterbalancing, you should keep about three inches of the top end of the grip above your top hand when you assume your normal stance, posture and grip, says TaylorMade. To make that possible, both the Daddy Long Legs and the Spider Blade come in two lengths: 38 inches (for players who favor a 35-inch length) and 35 inches (for players who favor a 33-inch length). Players who favor a 34-inch length putter could select either longer length, the company says.
Speaking of MOI, the Daddy Long Legs features the highest MOI of any putter TaylorMade has ever made, measuring in at 8500+ MOI. By contrast, the original TaylorMade Spider and Ghost Spider boast an MOI measurement of 6800, with the Ghost Spider S coming in at 6038 and the Itsy Bitsy Spider measuring 5375 MOI.
Blade putters, because of their rectangular design, have a lower MOI, but counterbalancing can help increase their stability as well. The Spider Blade has a 5200 MOI measurement, says TaylorMade.
"The higher the head's MOI, the more resistant it is to twisting on off-center hits, helping you roll the ball your desired distance, and on your desired line, on mis-hits," said Bazzel. "The exceptionally high MOI of the Daddy Long Legs and Spider Blade heads makes them a terrific choice for golfers seeking forgiveness in a putter."
To elevate the MOI, the head of the Daddy Long Legs consists of 16 different pieces made of eight different materials – stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum, titanium, tungsten, polycarbonate, Surlyn and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). The Surlyn is included in the PureRoll face insert, which is designed for enhanced feel. In addition, the Daddy Long Legs features a white leading edge and a single black alignment line running perpendicular to the face to make aiming easier, along with a heel-mounted, one-bend steel shaft.
It is available at retail now, with a suggested retail price of $199.
The Spider Blade's head construction consists of 11 parts made of eight materials – 304 stainless steel, 17-4 stainless steel, aluminum, 3M Foam, tungsten, polycarbonate, Surlyn and TPU. It will be available at retail on June 1, also with a suggested retail price of $199.
PGA Tour player James Driscoll grew up in the Boston suburb of Brookline, Mass., and lives in downtown Boston – about two blocks from where the twin bombs went off during the Boston Marathon.
Driscoll wasn't home on Monday; he was practicing down in Florida. He had thought about going home for the Patrriots’ Day festivities, but decided not to.
And now he's raising money for those affected by the bombing. Driscoll has pledged $1,000 for each birdie he makes this week in the RBC Heritage and at the Zurich Classic next week.
He got off to a nice start on Thursday, carding four birdies in an opening round of 3-over 74.
"I'll be happy to write a big check for this," he said on Thursday at Hilton Head.
"It was pretty traumatic a day or two after," Driscoll said. "A lot of my friends are still shaken up by it. It really hits home when it's that close to where you live."
The money he raises will go to the Boston One Fund, an organization set up by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino.
Driscoll says he appreciates the support that people everywhere are showing for Boston and its citizens, and he has no doubt the city will recover.
"Boston people are strong and they're for sure going to bounce back," he said.
He hasn't asked his fellow PGA Tour players for donations, just to help get the message out about raising funds.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
If you're looking to put some pop into your golf wardrobe this summer, Antigua might have just the clothes for you.
The Arizona-based company's Summer Performance Golf Collection for men and women continues the bolder and brighter color stories introduced this spring, and uses these trending pop colors as subtle details in the summer line-up.
"For Summer 2013, the focus of pop accent colors on less conspicuous fabrications throughout the collections shows off the styling and design features of the individual garments," said Sean Gregg, director of product development for Antigua.
This season, Antigua developed new performance fabrics with finer yarns to create ultra-lightweight knits in textures and in flat jerseys and interlocks that update the appearance of the traditional polo. And by using the finest denier yarns available, the company has achieved super-soft, super-lightweight fabrics that provide the same coverage as other polyknits but with faster wicking, more breathability and less restriction in movement.
The men's color palette includes such creatively named hues as Lapis, Margarita, Apple, Melon, Phlox and Zest, with Light Melon, Kiss, Pansy, Fountain, Margarita and Light Apple in the women's line. All the summer clothes incorporate Antigua's proprietary Desert Dry and Desert Dry Xtra-Lite moisture management technology to keep golfers as cool and dry as they are colorful.
In the men's collection, Antigua has added a pair of hybrid pullovers, known as Style Flare and Style Omega, which have the design lines of mid- to lightweight outerwear while utilizing the short-sleeve styling found on performance polos. They also feature a ¼-zip placket with a stand-up collar. The Style Flare comes in neutral colors such as Smoke, White, Black, Silver and Steel, and feature pop color contrast stitch detail. Style Omega features pop color contrast on the shoulder and polyester jacquard side insets.
Other new men's styles include the Style Balance and the Romeo. The Balance is a moisture management jersey polo with contrast printed engineered stripes, while the Romeo two-color jacquard polo comes in the entire range of this season's colors.
New styles for women include Style Gem, a short-sleeve geometric pattern jacquard polo with a five-button placket, and Style Reflect, a striped shortsleeve polo with pop color contrast underarm and on the cover stitch detail at the princess seams. In addition, the Style Escape is a lightweight interlock polo with an open V-neck placket and pop color contrast cut and sew color block details.
Two new sleeveless polo shirts join the women's collection for summer. The Jive pique sleeveless polo has a dyed-to-match flat knit collar and contrast piping detail. And for a blast of color, the Utopia sleeveless polo comes in every color of the women's color palette, and features a solid pop color on the front and a white jacquard contrast back panel that wraps around the shoulder.